Friday, December 30, 2011

In Public

I tried to remember when I first heard of 'the internet'. Sometime in '98, I created my first email address with a Dutch internet host that long ceased to exist. As with most things, I'm always running way behind the facts. So I joined the Dutch version of facebook, Hyves, when its popularity had already faded, I still use hotmail, it took fifty Facebook invitations before I finally joined and posting blogs online is of course far from being cool. I share part of my life online, sometimes more than others, but have determined my own limits. Sometimes, I wish I was a pioneer, knowing what the next hype will be, so I can take advantage from it and maybe even earn some money with it.

Like Josh Harris, "the greatst internet pioneer you've never heard of", the "Warhol of the Web". Harris started the first online television network, Pseudo.com, with which he tried to create a world that was totally unknown and new then, but nowadays has become reality. Then, he conceived the project Quiet, in which a hundred people were locked up together for thirty days, without having any privacy. Unlike Big Brother, (that started at the same time in the Netherlands) where people had some privacy in the toilet and shower, here everybody was filmed constantly and they could watch each other on screens all the time. According to Harris, this again was a prediction of what our lives would look like in the future. After Harris used others as guinea pigs for his fascinations, for the next project he and his girlfriend were under 24 hour camera surveillance, and their viewers could chat with them and react to their actions. Eventually, the comments of the viewers became more important than their life and relationship, and the anonymous followers drove them apart.



It can all be seen in the documentary We Live in Public, made by Ondi Timoner in 2009, long after Harris moved to another continent, away from the internet and old debts. When his girlfriend left him and their house full of cameras, the amount of online followers dropped from 100 to 15. "I feel useless," Harris said. It made me think about the Postsecret app on my phone. The website provides moving and recognizable moments for thousands of followers on a weekly base. But the phone app has become a world of its own, where people criticize, comment and anonymously threaten eacht other. Made up secrets, threats "heart this and I won't kill myself", photographs of other people with accusing text, it's all there.



Harris predicted a world that has become reality. He was a pioneer and made money by exploiting others and himself, and made ordinary life into a public good. And while I am just as addicted to checking my email and facebook and reading secrets of strangers, I would rather not want to be part of it all. I like the part where I can stay in touch with my friends all over the world, and where secret stories can move me. But I don't like the other side of that world. So instead of leading the world into new undefined areas, I'd rather walk at the end of the line.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Melancholia

Years ago, friends and I went to the movies. We went for dinner before, had some wines and were having a typical 'girls night out'. One of those things that make me shiver a little when I read it, but we were really having a fun night. We didn't know a lot about the film we were about to see, just the name of the director and the leading role. Chattering and joking, we walked in, oblivious about what was about to happen. I suspect that I was the first who started to weep, but gradually, the others followed me with a lot of tears. Afterwards, we sat there, still, holding each others hands. In silence we walked out and drank some more wine.
A few months later, I went to see the same movie again. Slightly nervous, with the last melt down still in my memory, but now I knew what was coming. At the same moment, in the first half of the film, I started to cry again, and I could not stop until the end. As I was trying to stuff the pile of paper towels in my pocket, the girl next to me turned to her boy friend and sighed: What a terrible movie, it doesn't relate to anything that can move me.".
I decided to never, never, never watch Dancer in the Dark again.

I liked Lars von Triers previous movies though, so when his next one came out, I went to see it. Dogville. In which he managed again to create a terrible world. Afterwards, while trying to forget about it with a strong drink, I decided officially to never see a Von Trier movie again.



But then a few months ago, I found myself in the movie theatre, waiting for his latest movie to start. Melancholia. Again, I was totally unprepared. But this time, I found the painful family situations that always occur humorous. The images were beautiful, the conversations intriguing, the little gestures and looks disturbing. But it was beautiful. Then, the planet took over the lead, and the standard Von Trier drama suddenly became a very exciting film! While the end was rapidly getting closer and got more and more threatening, I wondered how he was going to do this visually. How would he, in line with everything he already did, complete his story in a beautiful and satisfying end? The final scene began, I suspected that this was his solution, Understandable, and beautiful. Melancholic even. But then, he zoomed, and the real end began. After everything turned black, I sat there for ten minutes with my jaw dropped to my knees, staring at the screen. Not knowing what to do or to say. But filled with wonder and amazement, stunned and impressed.

I told myself never to intend again, not to see a Von Trier movie.

Since then, my life has changed. I can't watch the moon, without imagining how it would feel if it were another planet. The sky suddenly seems less peaceful and beautiful. It is an infinite mass of potential trouble. You can't see the danger.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cosy

While I slowely walked forward in line, along extremely decorated stalls, eating people and dressed up pilgrims who tried to make music on triangles and tambourines, I wondered why this was considered to be 'gezellig', a Dutch word that is best translated by 'cosy', although it's more than that. People looked with indifferent glances at the stalls at the displayed goods: beaded necklaces, nose flutes, expensive olive oil, those terrible crystal animal figurines and the latest results of the community centres Christmas workshop. Actually, they mainly were making their way to another food stall, the sausage came after the mini cheese fondue, then the marinated mushrooms, the potato cookies, and then crepes, waffles and ice cream with whipped cream. The stalls in between offered a moment of piece to taste the newly acquired taste sensation, before plunging in the next culinary adventure.

The Christmas market.

I grew up with this phenomenon, although the German version is much better and bigger. Maybe that explains my antipathy to this annual ritual. Maybe it's the memory of Christmas, and the forced conviviality that in my case lasted for three days, or that we tried to enforce upon each other, which makes my hair stand on end at the mere thought of it. There probably will be a lot of psychological reasons for my behavior.



But frankly, I think it mostly has to do with the excess, the mindless consumption, and easy marketing that gets so many people to walk in line like sheep in a meadow. Is there a crisis? Are we having hard times? I can't see it. Here, on an estate in Germany, thousands of people pay five euro, just to get into the area where they are going to spend a lot of money on stuff they don't really use.

Although I try not to sound patronizing, and I do not want to condemn the visitors - what's wrong with good food and nice stuff to buy or watch, and hey, you're outside too - I realize that I fail miserably. Because well, I just don't get it. I don't understand that you buy on impulse, I don't understand why it's fun to wait in line for an expensive sausage that can be bought cheaper and probably with better taste, somewhere where there's no line. I don't understand why people don't get annoyed by standing in line, walking in a slow pace, with people behind you that kick your shoes off your heels, and the mustard you suddenly find on your jacket because the guy that just passed you didn't bother to clean his hands.

And what stuck me most: few people looked happy. There was little joy to be seen. Yes, the sellers, they radiated joy, and they added a little more when they saw a potential new buyer coming towards them. And my large group of friends, of which eleven of the twenty had never been to a Christmas market. They were happy too. They danced in the tent where the glühwein was sold, and they enjoyed all the crazy food and trinkets. But hey, they had never been on a German Christmas market before.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Time

Time seems to fly. Has wings. Or disappears into a black hole. Is lost on indefinable 'things'. Slips away unnoticed. Time, in other words, goes too fast. Hours turn into days, and those days suddenly were weeks ago.
For three years, I regularly wrote down my thoughts. In recent months, I just could think them. Because the time to write them down, just didn't present itself. Or because I did not make the time to write them down. Since that's the course of time: you have to make it. And then, it might be there.
So I took the time to visit Berlin. And to work. To go to see films with friends. To drink coffee. To get inspired. To sit in theatres. I took, in other words, the time to do the things I wanted to do. And writing was just not one of those things.

But that is not entirely true. Because I did write. In my head. A whole series of writings still awaits for the moment that they appear on the screen in front of me. Once in a while, they fight their way forward and suddenly loom in my mind. If they are lucky, they turn into a few words, that one day have to lead to a story. But they are in a long line with other thoughts, that also managed to manifest themselves, and are just as important and scream just as loud for attention. And in the mean time, the strides striding forward, and another week passed, in which still no thoughts are being written down, and the line of stories to write has grown because of new adventures.

Then, suddenly, there is something that makes you realise that you really need to take the time, and that the time is now. The inspiration this time, is not a book by Eckhart Tolle, or a TED Talk about spending valuable time. The inspiration comes from Woody Allen and is wonderful latest film, Midnight in Paris. Where the desire for another time magically becomes a reality, but where the present seems to win. Paris in the Fin the Siecle or in the twenties of last century, opposite the Paris of today. Which is not less good, but maybe less romantic. Because, in the end, some people always long for lost times. Two days before seeing the film, I was in the Van Gogh Museum, and looked at paintings from that same period of the end of the ninteenth century. I saw how Van Gogh painted dark and gray apples in the Netherlands, and how, two years later, influenced by exactly the same Paris, he burst out in colour and feelings.

It's time to get back to work. To choose for the things that are important. It's time to write. To share.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

Protest

I cycle through Berlin. It's warm, the sun shines brightly, and I've spend hours already, in search for the perfect place to sip some coffee and read. I cycle past large buildings that carry memories of times that I can't recall. The Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate. All of East Berlin. I stop at the Topography of Terror, a corridor where once the headquarters of the SS and the secret State Police stood and where now the remains of the walls still bear witness to remind us of that time. A few blocks away I wander through the maze of pillars of the Holocaust Memorial, where silence comes and goes between the heavy concrete blocks. The diaries and letters that are displayed below recall familiar images that are still intriguing, sickening and disturbing.

Later, on a terrace in the sun, I loose myself into the harsh world of José Saramago, who describes in his book Blindness how, after an unexplained blindness epedimic first the government, and then the crowd reacts. The nasty, degrading and violent world he describes makes me forget about the sun. The fear that governs and that accepts inhuman behavior so easily, the power that is abused as quickly as possible by anyone who holds it, the indifference and brutal violence that people apply when they apparently feel forced to do so, it's all not really encouraging. The few attempts of compassion can not compete with the trouble that is accepted by the masses, but also implemented by them. It's every man for himself.

When I go online a little later I see the images of New York. Here, a big mass of people makes its voice heard, to challenge systems that are larger than they are. While the media is silent I see police officers with sticks strike bystanders, I see how people are dragged over the ground, how the crowd talks with one voice. I'm looking for coverage online, but time and again, I can only find videos and personal stories that seek their way to the rest of the world through modern media.

Afterwards, it's always easy to talk about such things like who is the villain and who is the hero. As is presented in films too. I wonder how the resistance during the Second World War was seen by the masses back then. As heroes? Or as crazy people, who did not know what they were doing? I think of the woman who stands up against the abuses in the city of the blind: the only one who can see when the rest has been blinded. The protests in the Middle East were seen as a new, fresh and hopeful movement, but no-one speaks about what is happening right now. First, thousands of people have to get arrested, beaten and humiliated. Only after more people move to the streets, and all around the world they raise their voices, the media start talking about it. I wish I could already look back on these times.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sweat

The windows of an old caravan are covered in steam, from a little pipe on the roof, small puffs of smoke are blown into the crisp air. Two large buttocks are pressed against the window and slide down, a broad back leans against it. In the next shot, two naked men sit together in the caravan. They remain silent, gazing into space.

No, this is not the beginning of a raunchy porn, it's a scene from The Steam of Life, a documentary about Finnish men in saunas. Why Finnish men? Because there are enough films about women in saunas, and because the makers wanted to show that Finnish men have feelings too and are not just rough and closed.

An ex-soldier talks about his broken marriage, a divorced father cries because he doesn't get to see his daughter grow up, an ex-criminal recounts how he almost went down, but eventually managed to turn his life around. In the next shot he washes one of his three sons, who sit beside him in the sauna. An old man lives with his bear, a wood worker talks about how his stepfather abused him. It's a succession of sad life stories, told by tough men, who don't look at each other, but who put a clumsy arm around a shoulder, when the other person is silently weeping. And in the meantime, they throw water on the hot coals. With buckets, bowls and soup spoons.

The heavy conversations in small spaces are joined by breathtakingly beautiful Finnish scenery: huge forests, deep blue lakes, meadows. The seasons change, but the silence of nature is always present. The saunas are the structures in these landscapes, they are built in caravans, tents, and even an old phone booth, on the side of the road.

Two homeless men, carrying all their possessions, walk down the streets of Reykjavik. They enter a building, peel the layers of clothes of their bodies and wash each others backs before they go into the public sauna. Even if you have nothing, you can get steam in Finland.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fifteen Minutes

The concept is simple, the idea inspiring, but then you have to execute it. Put a number of people, who may or may not know each other, together for a weekend and give each one fifteen minutes to say something.

Once, I had a conversation with a friend about how little we actually knew about the work of each other and and our friends. After our time at university, when we talked a lot about classes and research, we became increasingly removed from substantive conversations about our daily activities. When we were studying, we spend more time in the pub and had less to do during the days, so logically, after ten beers we eventually started talking about our thesis subjects. After graduating, we all disappeared in different directions and hid behind doors and walls to work at computers, doing work that we liked but that we wouldn't talk about a lot. Most of my friends know I do 'something' at CREA that also involves organizing summer courses, for which I have to make long hours. What this organization exactly involves and what I do in those hours, they don't know. Just as I know little of other friends. What does M do as an assistent to a professor? And why is J traveling through Europe for the mediainstitute that he works at? I know V. works online a lot, but why exactly? And S. conducts research, and coaches people, but in what? The idea was born to gather together and talk about it. But even though we're still interested, apparently there was no energy to actually organize it. And who would we invite? Do I want to know about L.'s brothers work at his high school?

In the end, the idea evolved with another friend into Fifteen Minutes of Fame. A weekend where you get fifteen minutes to talk about anything you like. It can be about your job, but also about the book you recently read, or your favorite computer game. The only restriction is that it should be done in fifteen minutes.

Last weekend was the third edition, with twelve people, of whom not one knew everyone. With strangers, acquaintances and friends, we drank, we danced and we ate. We swam in the sea, we walked through the dunes. But mostly we listened, and we anticipated. We brainstormed on projects, we learned about associative thinking. We judged different products on their taste instead of brand, we improvised, we discussed.

What is special about these weekends is that everyone talks about their passion or about what's on their mind. Even though the presentations can be incredibly different, they always lead to further talks in the remaining time. Even though we didn't know each other in the beginning, we parted as friends. Because when someone shares something personal and show his or her vulnerability, you can no longer be strangers.

I love bringing people together and share things with my friends. But I am very grateful that friend A. decided to actually start organizing these weekends. Now we have parted and thanks to the social media, we can stay in touch with eachother. And guess what? We all write about our experience and keep sharing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Social Network Friends

I can devide my friends into many different groups: based on how long we know each other, the frequency in which we see each other or the corresponding level of interests. More and more, however, the devision that seems to be emerging is that of the social media. Relatively few of my friends are not a member of one of the social network sites. The few who distant themselves from these things, often bring it as a statement: "I do not participate in that sort of nonsense" or "I'm way too busy for those things". It's all fine by me, I don't really care. But I have been noticing a few things.

First, the people who are supposedly rebelling against "those things", are often people who do not work at the computer. Often they teach in high schools, are traveling artists or doctors who work their way through patients charts. When you work at least eight hours a day behind a computer, doing work that mainly get generated by receiving and processing emails, it's lovely to get distracted by status updates from friends. Of course, it's another matter how ethical it is to check your private email on your bosses time, but it's relatively easy to open Facebook, Twitter or whatever site in another tab in your browser.

Secondly, and I actually think this is more important, brings Facebook (in my case) a whole lot of pleasure. In fact, I believe it has enriched my life. Of course I'm not interested in every single status update of each of the people I've befriended online. (It's a social experiment in itself to examine the criteria people use whether or not to befriend others). I also suspect that not all of those people are eagerly waiting for the things I decide to share.
But I think it's a very easy and nice way to be aware of the things that are going on in my friends lives. People who I cannot all meet with on a very regular basis. By reading their updates and watching their photo's, I keep up with their lives a little and it makes it much more easier to catch up during our half-yearly talks. Of course it doesn't replace the real conversations in the bar, but it is an addition to our friendship.
Also, over the last few years, I have enjoyed all the little gifts I got from my Facebook Friends: the funny, touching and beautiful films, links, websites and thoughts they have posted and on which I decided to click. I discovered new bands, inspiring websites and had to laugh out loud a lot over funny or bizarre comments, discussions and links.

On other words: I think Facebook is a gift. And I don't mind spending time on that.









Thursday, July 28, 2011

Addiction

In high school, all the cool kids stood outside to smoke. My friends and I sat inside, a few tables further than the geeks and decided that smoking was for losers, by which we elevated ourselves from both parties. Just before I turned eightteen, I moved to Amsterdam and my great aunt blamed my dad for sending his only daughter to the Dutch Sodom and Gomorra. Her prediction that I would earn my money as a heroin hooker so far hasn't come true. On an incredible vague evening, just before graduating, I ate two slices of space cake and lost it in such a way that I avoided any use of drugs for years to come. When, in a belate adolescent fit, I deiced to start smoking when I was twentytwo, I always needed alcohol and other smokers to actually do it.

Since then, I only smoke when in company of others, and once in a while I can be persuaded into using soft drugs (the latter only abroad) and a few nights per week, I drink some beer, wine or whisky. Everything in moderation. In other words: I really tried, but I find it hard to get addicted to something. I can even put aside sugar, as appeared for the last couple of weeks.

There's one thing though, that makes me lose control, and puts me away as an languishing pile, longing for more, surrendered to the uncontrolable force that can be found in every cell of my body: television shows. I don't watch tv, I see them on the internet, where I - or the force in my cells - can watch them on every desirable time of day. Mostly till late at night. I surrender myself, my time and my intellect defenselessly to storylines, characters and cliffhangers. Once in a while I indulge myself with socalled 'bad series' that don't really have a plot but are lovely to watch mindlessly, like Sex and the city or Grey's Anatomy. More dangerous are the 'good series', with good acting, exciting storylines and great characters. Like Six Feet Under, Dexter or In Treatment.

And now, there is the West Wing. The last show was broadcasted in 2006 and all that time, I could resist the longing. Knowing I had to protect myself, I didn't listen to any of the stories about the show, refused to get any dvd set in my house and when the last thing did happen, I put it away in a deep closet. Untill I recently was in a cleaning mood and found it again. I blew the dust off, like an alcoholic would do with a good bottle of wine. I looked at it, held it, read the label and took the first dvd out of its cover. While crying, I put it into my computer, knowing I was lost.

Now, halfway the fifth of seven seasons, I am sleep deprived, have no social contacts because I always run home to watch more, I dream about my new friends CJ, Toby, Josh and Donna, and I try to change the subject through American politics to the series. My world exists out of the West Wing and I know it has to end soon, I have to go outside again, face reality.
Untill then, I vote: Bartlet for president!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The slope

When the ferry hit the land, the soft sound of a music beat could be heard afar. Other than that, the only other sound was the rain, that had been poring down all day. The slope was surrounded by fences, with one opening for the entrance where security guards were checking bags and visitors for hidden drugs.

The slope, where once ships went into water, this time was home to Henk on the Slope. Where on other days ordinary people shopped for bargains on a flea market, and where once a year beautiful theatre performances from Over 't IJ festival play, now there were dj sets, party tents and bars that sold beer, wine, coke and vodka. In a corner on top of the slope, a long line of people waited for the grilled vegetables, hamburgers and pasta salads to get ready.

Apart from my clothes, that were soaking wet and that made me want to go home and take a hot shower more than anything, I didn't like the dance and trance music that was typical to this festival. I wondered why I let my friend persuade me into going, or why I accepted her invitation and left my cosy and warm home for this cold and noise. My friends new boyfriend was the reason. Henk op de helling isn't only music beats and drinks, there are also art project, among which The Fisherman (Den Visscher) from Piet. Piet, who walked around in a green fishermen suit, his blond hair tied in a tail. Other people suspected him to be Henk. Piet told his story in a little boat, for which you had to climb a long ladder to enter it and that fitted seven people but only with their legs pulled in, who would listen to him. One of those people was Paul, a twenty year old who looked at me with wide open pupils and started an incoherent story about his passion,that consisted of partying, drinking and taking pills.



Next to Piets boat, there was a poetry stage, where writers and poets mumbled their thoughts into a mic, in front of a tribune that was filled with people who sought shelter from the weather and weren't really interested in poetry. "This is so tiring," the girl next to me sighed to her friend. Both of them were wearing short skirts and t-shirts, and had pulled their hair in a ponytail. they were eating some grilled vegetables. And while the wind blew the rain along the slope, they jumped up and slowly walked to the party tents. I found shelter in the little boat of Piet, where my clothes dried while we drank juttersbitter. Like you should on a boat.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Freddy

Looking back at it, he probably was the first of several homo- and bisexual artists that mercilessly captured my heart. Although its impossible that none of the New Kids on the Block, whose music I loved before that, was gay, in his case it was more obvious. It wasn't as much his looks, nor his choice of clothes that did it for me. It all began with his death. My fascination started when they announced his passing, which was obviously quite intense then, and even more the vulnerable song that was released immediately after that. That was what moved my teenage feelings. Which also explains why his looks - hair, teeth, skinny body - didn't do it for me. I was thirteen years old and unable to visualize what you could do with a male body.

What did do it for me was his incredible presence. His stage behaviour, his shameless desire to be present, to express himself and to show who he was. Which he did by all the means that were possible: spandex suits, flags, fur coats, torches. And his music. Or, his bands music. Because there were three more musicians behind him, who only stood in the spotlights when he had dissappeared. On my list of 'things i wish I had done', a stadion concert of Queen is ranked pretty high.

Once in a while, I indulge myself to their exhilarating drum- and guitarsolos, and especially to Freddy's voice. In my short existence as a Queen fan, I was lucky to also listen to their less known songs, like the great Breakthru, You take my breath away, and Love of my life. But, eventually, their more well known songs are also the songs that I carry around in my mind for days: Killer Queen, Fat bottomed girls, Somebody to love and my favorite is the song below, on which I can really swing along on my bike.

Since I'm finally out of the closet about my preference for homosexual singers, I also can admit that Freddy's suits turn me on a little, that I can see how his teeth add to his extravagant persona and that I would have loved to run my hand through his hair.

RIP Freddy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Suspecting we had to go on

We gathered next to one of the large hangars on the outskirts of the festival, while eliminating the taste of vegetarian roti and beer with a peppermint. Then the sound of a voice, and the group that had gathered started to move. We passed other visitors, and left the festival behind us. The northern waterfront, the unexplored area, the new buildings that were resurrected from the sand. The group moved along between the brick offices. At the end of a parking lot, where the road just made a small bend, stood a tribune.

We sat down, put on the headphones on command. We heard nothing and looked out onto an empty street. Just as the man next to me jokingly said he really loved the music, we heard the sound of the sea. Crackling footsteps in gravel. In front of us, there was the empty street. A voice hummed softly in our ears, in the distance a car stopped at the intersection and pulled back slowly. Everyone held his breath. Was that supposed to happen? The voice sang softly, the footsteps multiplied. Two men walked. Sighed that it was too far. That they had left the sea behind them. That they did not know where they came from. The emptyness in front of us, was filled with meaningful coincidences. Cars. Walkers. Cyclists, who cycled with a surprised look on their face towards the corner, looking at a hundred people watching them.

In the distance two figures were visible, who behaved like the voices in our head had predicted. "I think I'll lie down." "Then I walk back and forth." Minimalist texts in an almost panoramic landscape. A small woman came into the picture, her clothes betrayed she belonged to the story. She moved around. The men came closer. The small woman could be heard by the presence of the men. The sea rustled in our ears.

But they had to go on. The men. So the woman stayed behind, and the men disappeared. In the silence right before the applause started, the sigh of the audience before everyone finishes the story in their head and starts clapping, two bypassers walked into the picture. Just in time to receive a huge round of applause.

Bambie, one of the best theater groups in the Netherlands, plays on the IJ Festival. Do not miss it!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Art in images

Films about art. Is that fun? Does it work? Is it possible to visualize other forms of art and, indeed, tell an interesting story about it? Without getting into a deep discussion about the subject, I would like to plead in favour of these films. And even that, although not every film succeeds in its attampt, there are beautiful examples that argue my point of view.

Starting with Untitled. A somewhat bizar movie, that premiered in the US in 2009 and took two years before getting to the Amsterdam art house cinema scene, about two failed New York artists. Failed might not be the right word though. When are you a failure? Adrian composes avant-garde music, where people have to kick buckets, where clarinet players have to scream and where paper is being torn in two. Is brother Josh makes paintings of dots and circles. His work can be seen everywhere: in hotels, in banks, at all these different places where no one expects art and where no one experiences his paintings as art. "I give myself three more years, if I haven't made it by then," Adrian says, "-then you take a job," replies his brother. "No, then I kill myself."
The great things about Untitled are the meaningless conversations, the semi intelligent comments, the superior critics, that all show you exactly what you've been thinking all along: the world of art is one big fantasy world, in which no one really knows what he or she is doing, As an ultimate proof of this, there's the artist that makes art of the world around him. By putting name tags on stuff, saying that they are exactly what they are. "Wall surrounding space." "Pencil." Instead of bringing the ordinary world into a museum, like Duchamps did, he turns the world into a museum.



Later this week, I saw Howl, about Allen Ginsbergs poem, which he wrote in the fifties. After it got published, the explicit language caused a lot of commotion, and the publisher got sued for obscene language. Next to Ginsbergs story, filmed in a documentary style, in black and white, the film also shows the trial in color. The nonchalance and artistry of an artist and his world against the official world of 'grown-ups', where people discuss terms like context, intention and use - in art. Does a poet need to use certain words, or could he use other words that just as well could describe is story, but in a decent way? The rythm of the film comes from the recitation of Howl by the actor playing Ginsberg, in a small, smokey room, in the presence of his friends, still unaware of the impact that his words will have later on. His words, that gain more meaning in other pieces of the film, the speed, the volume. And next to that, animations, that clarify the story of the poem even more.

Untitled made me happy, but also slightly depressed by the meaninglessness of art, but Howl is inspiring, exciting, provocative. Art is a personal experience, as was obvious when my movie friend started to roll a cigaret near the end of the film. When I pointed at it with a surprised look on my face, he whispered: "I think it will finish in a minute."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rabat

Although I love Dutch FIlm, and especially the Dutch Documentary Film, when it really comes down to it, I must admit I'm rather sarcastic. I'm too childish to leave factual inaccuracies behind, which makes it hard to really get into the story, and often, I've seen the actors so many times before, that I keep having thoughts like 'That Barry Atsma guy isn't getting any younger' or 'What new project is Carice van Houten working on right now?' That last argument could also count for Films in general, not only the Dutch versions, but I blame the size - or the lack of it - of the Netherlands here. I don't ever think these thoughts when I see Johnny Depp or Heath Ledger in a film.

After Sonny Boy, the last Dutch film I saw this winter, I decided I was done with Dutch Films. So when the media campaign of the movie Rabat started, I didn't feel any urge to rush to a movie theatre to see this new Dutch Pearl. The hip-ness of the producers Habbekrats doesn't interest me, and vaguely, parts of that other cool Dutch movie forced themselves into my mind. A movie that actually kept me out of the theatres for a while, or one in particular, the one that specializes in Dutch movies, since I got so frustrated while watching that I couldn't stop commenting during the film, after which I was afraid to return to that place.



But faith brought me and Rabat together. On a very pleasant evening, that started with the vegetarian version of Kebabs and a Morrocan mint tea to get into the right vibe. In the beginning, I watched with bated breath. The sound wasn't really good and the 'real' Morrocan accent sometimes was difficult to understand. But once the guys started driving, and when they apparently realized they had to change something about the sound, and once you get used to the accent, it turns into a great road movie!

With beautiful images, really, beautiful, and great scenes. With characters that you start to love along the way and with all the Big Themes that belong to road movies.

I had a wonderful time. Apparently, it is possible, great Dutch movies. But I wonder if it's a coincidence that this film was made on a tiny budget, with a lot of love and little pretentions. Especially in a time where Dutch actors and artists walk a March for Civilization, these guys show us that the Art that really HAS to be made, will be made. Hey cat, right on!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Legitimacy

In my opinion, in the Dutch society, it's all about your education and the job you're doing.
When first meeting someone, the first question usually is: "what do you do?", which you are supposed to answer by telling about your profession, and not with the things that you're actually doing at that time (well, I just shook your hand, we're talking, I'm at a party, I'm in a bar). And by talking about your profession, you tell them who you are. "I'm a doctor' means: I make a good living, I own a nice house, I have a subscription to the magazine 'Doctors and cars', I have a high endurance, I'm very good at remembering Latin words, I chose chemistry in high school and if necessary, I can save someone. "I'm a cashier at the supermarket" can either mean that you're a middle aged woman, who's older husband suddenly drove her crazy when he retired, which made her decide to leave the house and get a job herself, or you're a teenage girl, who works on Saturdays and who checks out less beers for her boyfriend so they both can drink enough before going to a party later that night.

I know that I'm modest in using prejudices.
But that's because these are the prejudices that torture me when I try to define what I do and therefor who I am. When I answer hesitantly that "later, when I'm a grown-up, I want to make films", people always ask next: "Oh, did you go to film school?". No, dear, I didn't. I've studies long enough and worked even longer since to not wanting to return to school and have classes with nineteen year olds. This answer doesn't help the conversation. Neither does elaborating about how this legitimacy of my efforts to creativity is exactly what is on my mind for years now, and that this is what is keeping me from choosing it so I can be who I want to be.

A dear friend of mine in New York - the city where everyone can be who they want to be and where people react to my first answer (later, grown-up, film making) with the comment: "that's great, what kind of films?", after which a nice conversation about film making can start - I learned that I have to reply in a simple way: "No, I did it differently, I did it on my own terms and just started filming".

The next video was very inspiring to me, where Shea Hembrey talks about the hundered artists he invented. After deciding to organize an international art show, and then realizing how difficult it was to find good artists, he decided to make up the artists himself and make their art. Especially the way he talks about his characters is great: for him, they are all alive.

As long as you convinced yourself, and believe in it, I think it comes down to that. So, starting now, when someone asks me what I do: I make films, I write and I make collages. What about you?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Subway Musicians

New York is music. The city has a rhytm, a sound, a swing. At your first arrival you want to dance, because you're in New York! After spending some time in the city, you slowly discover each neighbourhood has its own melody, its own genre.
Times Square and its surroundings feels like a piece of Philip Glass, a busy, constantly repeating built up of sound, that sometimes seems to disappear for a moment, but that will return even louder than before. Chelsea sounds like the old Standards of Sinatra and Garland, swinging, longing, sometimes exited. Williamsburg is bursting of modern pop and the Upper West Side has a somewhat stiff opera sound. Bed-Stuy is of course rap. Rap 'n Roll.

Not only above ground, but also underneath, there is music. Everywhere. It's almost impossible to find a train station that hasn't a musician in it, who fills the narrow hallways with his voice or his instrument. Musicians, wanna-be musicians and true geniuses are performing everywhere, in the hope to earn some money. Some have other jobs to attend, others live from the life underground.

The subway musicians made the soundtrack of my travels through the city. On my way to work, the toothless Cuban and the melancholic music of his home country, would start my day in a special way. On my way back home, the two hipster boys and their happy songs would make me forget about my hunger, the drummer on 6th Ave and 14th st, whose sounds were hearable from afar, would fill up the train tubes all the way to Union Square and Joe, who regularly could be found at Metropolitan Station, didn't only fill my heart with his music, but, unknowingly, created even more love during a spontaneous jam session.

I filmed them, the subway musicians who give more color to New York. Hours of clips, of people perfroming their passion with love, are waiting to be edited into a story. And of course, I'm not the only one who sees them. The number of film makers, wanna-be film makers and geniuses that have just as much and even more material is countless. Although I'd rather be the only one to make a film about this subject (apart from Hedy Honigman who made the beautiful film The Underground Orchestra years ago), I realised that all the stories that are being filmed, together tell the real story. Or, at least, come close to the real story, that exists of all those different stories of musicians, listeners and travelers.

Two of the first musicians I filmed.


And this is a film about my New York subway friends

Monday, June 13, 2011

Happiness

Everything and everyone seems to be focussed on only one thing nowadays: happiness. Every magazinehas at least one article about how to reach it, some are even devotedto the subject. At Barnes and Noble, both Philosophy and Religion and Inspiration are filled with paperbacks and hardbacks that lead you in x steps closer to this desirable state of being. TED offers hours of inspiring speeches about exactly those steps and other succesful experiments.

It's possible to spend days and weeks learning about happiness. But then what? After spending all that valuable time, that you could also have spend sitting in the sun with your love or with friends and good food, on a huge amount of information. Then what?

Will you start using all the advice you got? Will you make a list, so you can check of the things you've done - because that's what makes the average person happy - and did you put some simple tasks on that list - because that makes you feel satisfied and leads to more action? Or do you try to let go of everything - because only than, real happiness appears - and do you move to a mountain in Asia to start meditating in a colorful dress - because there, people understand happiness better?

Let me be clear: I've spend many hours of reading articles and watching films that inspire for a happier life. Of course, I would do anything to make my life even richer. Because I also need to say: I'm pretty happy already. One of my friends rolled his eyes and asked: "Oh, no, not one of those books about how small things make you happier and spending time in the sun with friends and good food does too?" I just started talking about The Happiness Project, a book by Gretchen Rubin, who experiments with little changes in her life to become an even happier person.

On one hand, of course he's right. We've heard it all before. On the other hand, I do believe that you cannot hear it too many times. Because apparently, listening is pretty hard and it's not that easy to start making those little changes. Rubins book show how you don't have to change your life to become a happier person. A little more sleep, a little more love and attention can make a huge difference already. And that, I believe, is not a bad message to all those people - including me - who sometimes wonder: what to do now?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Routine

The alarm goes at eight, for half an hour of snoozing. Too warm. Too cosy.
Too late. Douche, tea, down the stairs with wet hair.
Two blocks to Lafayette, take a left to Bedford. Hi men at the bodega. Hi men at the bus stop.
Down the stairs. To the fright down stairs. Walk to the end because the train only stops there. Waiting.
Getting in. Standing at the door on the other side.
Myrtle-Willoughby. Flushing. Broadway. Metropolitan.
Watch other people.
Walk up the stairs, against the line of people trying to get down. Running along with the rest.
Down and up the stairs. Listening if the train is coming already.
Walk to the second posters on the platform.
Getting in. Trying to find a seat.
Bedford. 1st Ave. 3rd Ave. Union Square. 6th Ave.
Getting out and take the stairs to the left. Hoping the F is about to arrive.
Walk up to the wooden bench. Maybe see a subway performer to film.
Getting in. Standing in the isle.
23rd.
Get out and walk up the stairs on the left.
Fresh air. Rain or sun? Right turn to 6th Ave.
Cross the street halfway down the block if the traffic allows it.
A large earl grey tea with milk please.
$2.45
Cross 24st
Walk towards the green canopy. Paws in Chelsea.
Leave the barking dogs down stairs and take the elevator to the second floor.
Let the day begin.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Marketing

I'm sitting behind my Apple laptop, with in my hand a new opened bottle of Mountain Spring water from Trader Joe's. Next to my computer are the remains of a Wholefoods scone. With my blue Wolky boots, I slowly tap the floor while I'm searching for the right sentences. The label of my Victoria Secrets bra scratches my back, forgot to remove it. I take another sip of water and get up to make some Twinnings Earl Grey tea. In the meantime, I try to figure out where I will eat later today. At one of the nearby restaurants, or at one of the bigger chains, like Humus Place or Sushi Samba?
Too much choice.

I want to see a movie, and luckily, there's no Pathe here in New York. I can choose either Angelica or IFC. My eye, with contacts of Bausch & Lomb, catches The greatest movie ever sold. I take the MTA subway to Broadway and Lafayette and not much later, I sink in the red chair.

When the lights go out, commercial images follow each other for one and a half hours on the screen. It's going fast and I distrust everything I see. Why do we find it so normal that companies and organizations crush us with their messages of dream worlds on a daily basis? How did we let this happen, that we don't think of something to do ourselves, but that we need others to tell us? And, even more important: why do we buy it? Why do we shrug our shoulders and move on? Doing exactly what the corporations have told us we want to do?

After the film, I walk outside feeling dizzy. I'm thirsty. I walk into a bodega and by a POM drink. Weird, I never wanted to buy that before.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bill

Bill

New York is like all other metropoles. The real New Yorkers have moved out of the city. Just like all real Amsterdammers mostly live somewhere in Almere, most New Yorkers have moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx. So to who does New York belong to? The tourists, that wander the island with forty-seven million every year? Or the eight point two million INWONERS, who moved here from all over the world to this place to try their luck in the city where everything is possible?

Do the bankers own the city, in their little southern tip of the island, an area that involves just a few square miles, where they make decisions that influence the rest of the world? Or is the city owned by the companies, that are all trying to earn something on the energy that is a part of the city? Or is it owned by the artists, the Andy Warhols and Woody Allens, who create the cultural values of all these different genres?

If it would be possible to say that someone owns New York, I think it's the city of Bill Cunningham. He moved to New York in 1948, and since then has not only photographed special events in the city, but also the fashion that he sees on the streets. His first spread in the New York Times was the beginning of an ongoing collection of pictures that show fashionable New York in a wonderful way. Bill brings the catwalk to the streets and shows how 'normal' women invent their own creations after the fashion of the big designers.



The film Bill Cunningham New York shows a portrait of a very amiable and moving man of eighty. A man with a big smile that opens his face and his eyes. A man who, despite his age, still crosses the city on his bike, from one society event to the other, where he chats with the guests - who all know him of course - but where he won't ever eat or drink. "I'm working there," he says. A man who lived over forty years in one of the artist lofts of Carnegie Hall, until new regulations drove him and his fellow artist to other places, who filled his small room with archives of his pictures and who slept on a single bed between his files, with just a sheet and a blanket. In his new apartment with a view over Central Park, he asked the movers to tear down the kitchen, to make place for his cabinets. A man who will always wear his blue coat, because this is the only one that can stand the movement of the camera without breaking. A man who has a million friends, but who keeps everyone at a distance. No one knows his history, no one knows wether he's been in love or who his 'real' friends are. A man who doesn't want to be at the centre of the attention, who doesn't think about the impact he has on others, but has one without a doubt. A man who knows exactly what to say in images, but who stops talking when he's the subject of the conversation. A man that belongs to New York, who lives from the city and gave his life to the city. By being there and by capturing what he saw.

"He who seeks art will find it," he says in the end. Indeed.



Bill still works for the Times.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Earthalujah!

New York is the city of consumption. Food, clothes, stuff, ideas, experiences. Everything is for sale. Thousands of restaurants, diners and bars try to lure get you inside to eat your next meal. Stores seduce you with cheaper, more expensive, better or more special clothes than others. In Manhattan, every street with beautiful and desirable stuff follows another, leaving you in a world of greed.

A while ago, before leaving for New York, I decided to consume as little as possible. Why would I need so much things in my house? Why should I buy new clothes that often? With these questions in mind, I try to be aware of my choices. Why do I want that, do I really want it? Does it make me happier?
Partly it's easy: it's impossible to buy everything, to own everything. My shrinking bank account, helps me to pass those beautiful and tempting stores without a lot of trouble. But on the other hand, I sometimes wish I would have a pot of gold, so I could buy beautiful notebooks, that desirable bag and wonderful shoes and all the great food that stares back at me from the counters.

I have been searching for soul mates for a long time, people that share my beliefs. Then, I found Reverend Billy and the Church of Earthalujah, who not only share my beliefs, but also act on them. Much better than I do. During the sunday service, the Stop Life After Shopping Choir sings songs like 'Stop Shopping, Shop no more, We won't shop again, forever and amen' , 'Earth is speaking, do you speak earth? Got to listen harder, put your ear to the dirt'.



But apart from their weekly services in the theatre, they also act out outside, in parks, squares and preferably in shops, where they try to awaken consumers and DUIVEL KASSA. They have organized events against Starbucks, Victoria Secret and shopping in general, but also have different campaigns that are all part of their bigger goals:

* stimulating and pleading for sustainable consumption
* stimulating strong local economies
* defending the First Amendment and public space.

This all lead to campaigns for the conservation of Union Square park, Coney Island and more recently Mountaintop Removal,which means that mountain tops are destroyed for cole mining.

Reverend Billy and his choir have inspired me. Apart from their high entertainment level, they have a strong message that I support. Their way of viewing the world is one that I'm likely to adapt, and that I want to share with others. In other words: I am a believer.


Earthalujah!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Choreography

People are standing, spread out. Some sit on wooden benches. Everyone seems to be in their own world, staring in front of them, playing a game on their phone. Some people are wearing head phones, that produce parts of music. All those different songs create a new sound in which some songs sometimes are better heard then others.

Then, a loud sound. Two lights that come closer. The sound of doors opening. The mass moves. All the different positions move to one and the same place, they mingle with others, passing characters in a life.

Speed takes over and gives a rhythm to the people. Together, they move to the left, to the right. Little movements, perfectly coordinated, at the same time. Every one holds on, some sit, others lean to doors or poles. But they share the rhythm. It seems uncontrolled, sudden.

Every one keeps staring. In front of them, or down, in books or phones. They try not to touch and move away when people get to close. But sometimes, with or without purpose, they touch. A foot touches a leg, a hand touches a back. Small signs of solidarity, of being part of a group. Confirmations of each others existence. Sometimes, looks cross. One nods, sometimes smiles.

When the doors open, the ritual repeats itself. Old passengers leave the group, new ones arrive and blend in with the rhythm of the speed.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bike Lane War

Buying a bike, a couple of weeks ago, was accompanied by a lot of good advice of fellow bikers about cycling without a helmet and the urgency of good locks - which I answered with cynical looks. Don't tell a girl from Amsterdam about locks (although I must admit, my laziness has led to the use of a single lock without any problems so far), and especially don't tell them to wear a helmet. I'd rather be found dead. Over and over again, people told me I couldn't compare New York with that lovely little town called Amsterdam. No, here in the city of crime and lunatics, cycling is a life threatening experience that has to be taken seriously, just as one should do with safety and theft.

So far, I enjoy my helmet-less bike rides a lot. The craziness is far less crazy then I suspected, although I do pay a little more attention while paddle from Ave to Ave. But a wilderness? No. On the contrary: nothing beats feeling the wind in your hair while crossing the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan (be aware of the tourists!), or getting a coffee in Williamsburg without taking the train to get there.

While doing the last thing, I recently discovered a hidden history that was totally new to me.

To get to the hipster part of Williamsburg, where the nice cafe and restaurants are, I have to cycle from Bed-Stuy through the neighbourhood of the Hassidic Jews. Men with high black hats and ringlets, women with wigs, head scarfs, long skirts and similar jackets and children with the same ringlets and clothes from the eighteenth century. They're everywhere. On one of my walks, I felt out of place. I realized that my short skirt was ruining the streetscape, so I could imagine - with a little effort - that this not only made them ignore me completely while passing me, but that it also made them cross the street before encountering me at all. Cycling through that neighbourhood made me realize that their behavior was a hazard for my own safety, because their urgency of ignoring me led to dangerous situations in which they quickly tried to cross the street or run over me and my bike. I literally was their blind spot, as an outsider of their community.

I got very frustrated about religion, tolerance, superiority and more of the like. While rambling about this to a friend, she told me about the bike lane war that happened in 2009.



New York creates more and more bike lanes and bike routes, among which the Bedford bike lane, that crosses through Brooklyn and that safely brought me to the Williamsburg Bridge, cafes and yoga. The Hassidic community took it upon themselves to complain about this bike lane because of the dangers for safety and religion. The first because of their children that had to cross the lanes after departing the school busses, the latter because the dress code of the hipsters was conflicting their religious rules of not looking at uncovered skin. The Department of Transportation decided to remove the bike lane, but forgot about the hipsters, who repainted the lane in the night themselves and organized a Freedom Ride to enforce their dissatisfaction. A heavy snow storm prevented a topless bike ride through the neighbourhood, but could't stop the hipsters from cycling around with plastic breasts over their winter coats.
The result? A better and safe bike lane a few blocks away and a busy, often used and visible bike lane on Bedford. You would suspect that in a city like New York, the city of immigrants, different people choose to live together. If it's not possible here, then how can we have hope for all those other places of intolerance in this world?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Socks

Socks

There is a world of socks. Socks with a story and a character. They live in a world in which one sock is incomparable to the other. Because no sock is the same.
This world of socks is similar to our world. There is music, there is television, and of course, they are on Facebook and Myspace. And this sock world has a god. Whose name is Marty Allen. And who creates characters of ordinary socks. After which he films them, and composes music for them. And he sells their pictures, in frames that he bought in China. That have a description of the sock puppets personality. Portraits that will tell you a lot about the sock in the front.

Talking to Marty, at his stall on Union Square, is a challenge. He's a fast talker. Really fast. And he uses the words sock puppets several times per sentence. Anyway, these socks are his live. And they make his living.

It might have been the charm and energy of their creator or their great appearance, either way, I walked away with one of the portraits. Carefully wrapped in bubble wrap, because Marty wouldn't let me take them without it. He wanted to take care of them before they left his house.

My sock-portrait-adoption-friend chose Lillith Lollybottom, who gazed at him in a sensual and slightly drunk way. I had to chose between Plim and Zimmy Zambini. Plim looked cool, like a rock star, with hair that was blown to one side in a very nonchalant way. Zimmy on the other hand looked like she just saw a ghost, or maybe just herself in a mirror. Her hair stood straight up, her mouth was still open after a loud and scary scream. It felt like I had to save her.

Marty assured me: Zimmy is Plim and Ploms smart sister. Together, they are The Fabulous Flying Zambinis: a very famous acrobat family, whose parents were crushed by an elephant when the children were still small. The other circus artist took care of them and now they take care of each other. Zimmy is the virtuous sibling but as a tender soul.

The choice then was easily made. Plim could take care of himself. I choose Zimmy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sketchbook

Once a year, thousands of empty notebooks travel the world. Where people are waiting impatiently until their new blank treasure arrives, so they can start poring their hart and soul in it. You could compare it to a diary. But where diaries, once they are filled with all the tears, sorrow and joy of previous times, are stored on a shelve or in a box, these notebooks are returned to sender. Their temporary owners fill them with writings, drawings, unique little art works and all the others things they want to share, and then return them to the Art Library in Brooklyn.

The Sketchbook Project: 2011

The Sketchbook Project is a collection of worlds. Of words, drawings, fabric, paint, stickers. Of sweet little angles who present beautiful sayings and one eyed monsters that stare at you in a cold way from the dark pages that produce them. Some notebooks burst with information and need to be tied together with rope and rubber bands, others are missing pages, leaving holes that create new forms.
Above all, it's a collection of love. Besides their different content and the different lives of their creators, all of them have put their love, time and energy in creating a unique little book. They have thought about it and have taken the effort to wrap their little world and send it back to Brooklyn.

And because of all those people, thousands of little books are traveling America. Standing next to each other, brotherly, waiting for other, unknown, people to select them from the shelves and explore them. Little books that move or impress their audience. Make people laugh, or fall quiet for a moment. To tell the story of their creators to strangers.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Imagination

Maybe all relationships are fake, because thy only exist in our imagination. Don't we all have our own concepts of friendship, love and hate? What is the value of friendship if both parties have different perspectives on the issue? And - even worse - what is the value of love for that matter? Two people, pretending to share something, but in the end, only trying to fit the other person in their own concept of love?

These all seem like cynical thoughts, but they only arose after seeing two special films that touch on these issues. A dilemma that can be overwhelming. Because the whole concept of perspective is so personal. We all agree on what is 'green', but do I define the same colour as 'green' as you do? Or is your concept of 'green' similar to my concept of 'red'? I can get lost in thoughts like these. So it's nice to watch a film that deals with them for you.

In Les amours imaginaires , two friends, Marie and Francis, are looking for true love. Both think the young and pretty Niko, who slowly grows to be their Adonis can give it to them but Niko is an undecisiive and slightly arrogant boy who chooses no one and lives in his own imaginary world. He claims to love both, but chooses neither and leaves them broken. Both Marie and Francis think they have a chance with him, both have hope and imagine themselves with him, and forgetting about their own friendship while becoming rivals. It would have been a sad and tearful story if it wasn't filmed as beautiful as it is. Francis looking like a new James Dean, who nervously combs his hair. Marie wearing enviously beautiful vintage dresses and lace gloves, smoking cigarettes to a pastel background. Close up of body parts, details, looks, that show so many feelings at the same time.



In Certified Copy, a man and a woman meet at his lecture about real and fake art. Their conversation about when someone or something is real, first seems to built up to a beautiful romance, but slowly develops at a meta level about the reality of the film. instead of talking about real and fake, their relationship changes and uses the audience in a game about the same concepts. All expectations an audience can have about their relationship, but also about the relationship between the film and the audience are being tested. First, you think you go along in the game that they start playing, but at a certain point, you wonder if what first seemed reality might have been a game to start with.



So, what is real? I try to trust my own feelings. I can only trust the value I give them myself. Although, even that sometimes changes, looking back at things…

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Teddy

I only need three things to be happy. A stage. A man. An instrument. The intensity of the happiness depends on the intimacy of the stage, the attractiveness of the man and the kind of instrument. I get more exited from a piano or a guitar than from a triangle, but that doesn't mean there won't ever be a really good, hopefully attractive triangle player who can touch me in the core of my heart.
For now, it's mainly piano's and guitars that do the work. I don't think I'm asking for much. Because even in the worse case - a big stage far away with an ugly guy who cannot sing and has an off tone instrument - I can still be moved by the setting.

This night had all the good variables, in terms of the stage, the man and the instrument. And it also was at a special location, namely the RMH, that organizes monthly NS evenings. Evenings on which the stage doesn't hold more but a singer and his (or hers) instrument, and maybe a mic. In this case, the mic wasn't on. It was only there for the musician to stand behind.

Teddy Thompson, the man I'm talking about, was acting incredibly nonchalant. Jeans, a vest, long sleeve t-shirt and a guitar. It seemd like he was jogging through Chelsea, ran pass the museum and decided he could just as well play some tunes there. He started of without saying anything. He appeared a bit unease, standing alone on that stage. But slowly he loosened up and talked about not having a playlist. He repeatedly had to get his iPod out of his pocket to find out the chords of his songs. He explained his relaxedness from just returning from California.

I realized that, even though I know and have listened to his music for years now, I don't know any of his lyrics, but only the melodies. Neither did I know any of the titles of his songs, like other people in the audience that tried to help him pick another song for his playlist. "No, can't do that one without band". "That one is too difficult to sing alone." "I haven't song that in a long time, don't remember the lyrics."

Because it was just him and his guitar, without all the other instruments that normally are in his songs, there was not much left but the lyrics. So for the first time, I heard about his longing, his deceptions. He wants her to leave, misses her, feels rejected, wonders why they're still together. Teddies songs are all about love! And of course, that makes him even more attractive.



One of my favorites:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Audience

SCRIPT AUDIENCE WARM-UP

Scene 1. Outside in line.
Mini girl with a huge mouth comes by with papers, pen and a blocnote. On her belt hangs a walky-talky that beeps regularly. In a high voice:

HEY guys! So great to see you! How are we doing today? Good? That's Grreat! Thanks for coming! Are you a party of two? Here are you're seating tickets. Have a GRREAT time ya'll!

The girl walks on to the people next in line and repeats with the same exhausting enhousiasme exactly the same words.

Scene 2. Reception room
Mini girl is lifted on a table by a touch bodyguard.

HI EVERYBODY! Welcome at The Colbert Report! Are you all exited to be here? -a hundered and ten people cheer - That is GRREAT! In a minute, you're all going into the studio's for the taping, and of course we need you to be exited! Are You EXITED? - a hundered and ten people cheer again - Grreat! Inside the studio you canNOT eat, drink or use any recording equipment. If you do, one of the security guys can confiscate your equipment and that would be, well, A BUMMER! - a hundered and ten people laugh - So first, you're getting a warm-up by a real STAND-UP Comedian (names a totally unknown name). Isn't that GRREAT? - cheering again - You're going to have So Much Fun! And then, Stephen will come out and TALK to you Guys! OUT OF CHARACTER! How Cool is that! - a hundered and ten people go wild - You'll be able to ask him some questions. BUT you cannot give him something or ask him to sign something for you. And you cannot ask him certain question. Questins concerning everything underneath the waist and above the knees, you better keep to yourself - a hundered and ten people laugh - So, just a Few More Minutes Guys. LET'S HAVE SOME FUN!

Scene 3: entrance of the studio
Guy with earplugs stands on a box and talks to the audience:

HI EVERYBODY! Welcome at The Colbert Report! Are you all exited to be here? -a hundered and ten people cheer - That is GREAT! In a minute, you're all going into the studio's for the taping, and of course we need you to be exited! Are You EXITED? - a hundered and ten people cheer again- So we all need you to be VERY EXITED - more cheering-. That's Great! Stephen is a stand-up comedian, but he needs YOU as an audience to help him. The more you support him and cheer, the BETTER the show will be. And that is what we ALL want, right? A GREAT SHOW! - more cheering - I'm going to let you in in just a minute, and we're going to do that in numerological order. First, people with number one to thirteen please, ONE to THIRTHEEN. - people wait for their numbers and calmly walk into the studio - HAVE A GREAT TIME GUYS!

Scene 4: in de studio
Stand-up comedian during the warm-up
Hey GUYS, we need you to be very EXITED of course, and I KNOW you ARE, but sometimes, we need you to go Apeshit. For example, when I introduce Stephen to you, you really have to go apeshit and stand up and clap and yell for him. That will give him the energy to make it a GREAT SHOW, and that is what YOU came for, RIGHT? - a hundered and ten people laugh and clap - And then, sometimes we just need you to enjoy yourself without going apeshit, but we need you to enjoy yourself LOUD - people laugh and clap - Because Stephen needs to hear you, and the people that whatch the show on tv need to hear you too. So if you're having a GREAT time, show it! And if you are not enjoying yourself, if you like don't have any sence of humour, you can always follow your neighbour - people laugh - you know, when your neighbour laughs, YOU laugh too!
So, since we cannot be sure that you go apeshit when we need you to, here's Tom the floormanager - audience claps - who will show you when you need to go apeshit. Let's practise one time, Tom can you make the gesture? -Tom counts down, makes a waiving gesture with the script in his hands and a hundered and ten people get up to cheer, clap and yell - THAT is GREAT guys, keep doing that later! So, you're about to meet Stephen OUT OF CHARACHTER! Please tell me you all know it's a CHARACTER! - audience laughs and claps - We are ready to start, are YOU ready? - a hundered and eleven people cheer - Well, than, GIVE IT UP FOOOORRRRR.......STEPHEN COLBERT!!!!!!! -a hundered and ten people go apeshit while The Man walks into the studio.

End of audience warm-up.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Card

Je are who you want to be.
At least, in New York.

In an ideal world, you can be who you want to be and get accepted by others. But in an ideal world, there's world peace, no global warming and chocolate's growing on bushes, so you can reach it easily.

There is no ideal world. But New York comes close to it. Depending on the subject.
On the matter of global warming, I messed up my ten years of turning-of-lights-when-i'm-not-in-the-room and recycle-paper-and-plastic and don't-shower-too-long and getting-chargers-out-of-the-outlet-when-you're-not-charging-anything in about three weeks. Everything here is served in plastic trays, with plastic forks and plastic knives, preferably packed in plastic bags and put together in a bigger plastic bag. Sorry, earth.
I wouldn't pick chocolate from bushes here, but the sweets that can be found - organic chocolate cakes, freshly baked muffins, home made cookies as my personal favorites - are delicious.
And then there's peace on earth. Which ain't here either. Like the kid on the packed train in the morning, who attacked someone who accidentally touched him while walking out, and gave that person an extra push and said: 'don't touch me'. Honey, if you don't want to be touched, don't take a train at this part of the day. Ride your bike. I have admired people who were standing in inhumane positions, trying to hold on to one of the poles or even the ceiling, while peacefully reading their book. And I myself have experienced some interesting situations in which I didn't know where my limbs were in between that pile of bags, legs and bodies, hoping I would retrieve them undamaged.

New York does offer a part of an ideal world. Everyone can be who he or she wants to be. I met a girl who told me: "I'm a singer, and that's why I came to New York, but I really need to start doing that." After which she admitted she'd been working at a hair dresser for the past five years. In this city, everyone who serves you your coffee, takes your order or checks out your groceries is an artist. It doesn't matter if they actually do something in the arts or just think about being an artist. You are who you want to be.

Depending on the location though, you also are what you do. At an event of the Netherlands-America-Foundation, I couldn't get away with: I'm just enjoying myself. People were working at banks, were graduating at well known universities or were working at important businesses. Luckily, I just found an activity to keep myself busy, which meant I was a somebody. The only problem was I didn't have a card.

You can be who you want to be, you can do what you want to do and still want to be something different and become that person, you can not think about who or what you are, as long as you have a card. Everyone who calls themselves something, has a card that can prove it. Every day, I walk home with at least two new cards, of people who put the to prove their existence in my hands.

In other words: I need to go to Kinko's..