Wednesday, May 18, 2011


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



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


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.