Archive for May, 2006

The Constantine Complex

This system has confused me before, but now they’ve entirely lost me.

Apparently, because I work, I have a right to paid vacation. The concept of which sounds completely absurd to me to start with, but I work with day contracts! Not even contracts! I don’t even have an official employer! I take my vacation whenever the fuck I want!

I got a letter in the mail. From the "state service for paid vacation". I thought they had to be kidding, but I seem to be wrong. It has a whole list with numbers and figures on it that you need an economy degree for to understand, but I didn’t really care cause most numbers were "0.00" anyway. I just thought they had sent me yet another letter saying "we have nothing to report. Have a nice day." Until I reached the bottom.

"To be received: 790.79 EUR"

Dude what the fuck. They’re Giving. Me. a small 800 euros, for no reason other than a loophole in the system.

WHAT THE FUCK’S THE MATTER WITH THEM!? They point the finger all goddamn day long because I receive unemployment money, and then they dump this fucking truckload of money, that I would otherwise have to save 3 months for (without spending anything at all) smack on my lawn. "Oh by the way we owed you this, BRING IT ON BOYS!!" *dump*

Morons. Obey the system mindlessly, without opinion or conscience. Well I’m keeping this money, suckers.

 

For some strange reason I often get the feeling the world is doing better these days. Racism, violence, it all doesn’t seem that big a deal anymore. I can talk of course, from behind my computer in a comfortable house.

Newspapers claim otherwise though. Not too long ago a boy was stabbed by 2 underage immigrants for his MP3 player, and more recently, a man went out, bought a rifle, and shot two women as a racist act. This is absolutely horrible and my heart goes out to the families and victims, but I’m quite happy with how the Belgians responded to both crimes. No cries of "legalize weapons entirely so we can defend ourselves", no "it’s those fucking Turks again". Dialogues were started and ways are being sought to prevent this in the future. Not by handing out murder weapons, but by looking how youth can be integrated into our society.

However, there is one thing today that bothered me. Investigators are now busying themselves with wondering if the game Grand Theft Auto has caused the rifle-man to do what he did. Just like Marilyn Manson and Doom were blamed for the Columbine murderers.

Obviously, even I can tell you that, they’re wasting their time. It is known that the killer was a big fan of games such as GTA, and yes, his behaviour was most likely influenced by the game. Yes, the Columbine kids learned to kill on a computer. But neither PC games or shock-rock wannabes were the cause of these tragedies. Duh.

Any human being driven to this act obviously has a screw loose, and it ain’t computer games that did that. Whatever makes someone do such things, has to be a continuous pattern over time that eventually makes these people believe their murders are justified. Social exclusion, poverty, racism. Even without computer games or aggressive music, these people would have done terrible things. Blaming those is only a way to close your eyes for the real problem: We got freaks among us and turning our backs only makes it worse. These people most likely weren’t even Born with these dysfunctions. Parenting, peer pressure, we’re all to blame. Blaming and possibly banning or censoring (because that’s what it is) media will solve nothing.

 

My lack of education may be a great handicap, when I’m around people my age, I often experience it as an advantage.

We all had the "When I grow up, I want to be" and so on. Fireman, pilot, Freud would lose it if he’d hear it all. If your grades are okay, you continue your way to high school, university, and so on.

Let’s take my girlfriend as an example. She has always been an excellent student, with extraordinary talent for languages. "Low school" (hell if I know what that is in English) was a breeze. She was about 12 when she had to decide what she wanted to do: Languages or mathematics. 12 years old. Of course, she also could have done wood working, metal working, industrial science, graphical techniques, or audio-visual or other art types. And that’s just a few of the dozens of options. But she didn’t know that at the time, because no one bothered to tell her, because that was "way below her potential". Language or math. 12 years old.

She was 18 when she finished high school, and had to choose her classes in the "hogeschool" or university. She had little more than a month to decide. I’m sure there were plenty of options, but I never saw much of those so I can’t tell for sure. She was good at languages, so she decided "I guess I’ll do translation". Now she’s learning to be a translator, Spanish-French.

She quoted a philosopher a little while back who’s name I forgot: "The older we get, the unhappier we become". I didn’t agree to it, but I can imagine it being so if you have your whole life laid out for you like that. Now she’s hearing "when you’ll be a translator, you’ll have to…", all day long. For 4 years. What is her conclusion when she graduates? "I have to be a translator." Where did the "When I grow up" dream go? She doesn’t have to be a translator at all. With her diploma, she can do everything I can do, and more. But she thinks she has to become a translator, or interpreter.

Fulfilling dreams doesn’t bring happiness. Striving to fulfill them does. If your main goal when you’re 21 is, "I have to become what I studied for", congratulations, 2 years later you’ll have probably succeeded, and it’s time to build your own little house (a Belgian is born with a brick in his tummy), with a little garden with a little tree. Then, the next 40 years, you’ll have 3 weeks vacation per year. Your childhood dreams of travelling the world, becoming a rock star, or even being who or what You wanted to be, will be put on hold until you’re 60. You have the job, house and marriage you wanted, so why do you feel there’s something missing? You’re a productive citizen of society, you should be happy!

Is it really that complicated, that no one sees it? A friend wants to use the money she gets for graduation to buy a car. So she can… drive around. Sure, she wants to go on a trip around the world, but that can wait, can’t it?

It’s a matter of priorities. Cars, houses, little trees, they’re just Things! Objects, material stuff for material people. They don’t complete you in any way once-in-a-lifetime experiences can. Why am I the only one with this opinion? Every day I hear it: get a driver’s licence. Get married. Your own house. I’m Not Finished!! And neither are they! What time is This to settle and commit to any fucking thing but childhood dreams?? Get out there, Fucking Live!

 

If you’re feeling like watching a movie with your friends, and someone suggests a flick that ties your stomach in a knot and makes you want to vomit, because you know what you see is real, see ‘Warriors’.

I discussed the military with a co-worker once, and he said something like "yeah I bet it’s tough. I saw ‘Full Metal Jacket." Let me state one thing, which I told him, as well: ‘Full Metal Jacket’ is a parody. A comedy, and it is made to be exactly that. Don’t take it seriously, it’s not supposed to be.

On topic, the title is from the short name for the FV510 Warrior Mechanised Combat Vehicle, a British sort-of tank/APC used in the UN blue-helmet ops in Bosnia. The story is about those people, British soldiers providing assistance to the victims of the ethnic cleansing that was going on there between 1992 and 1995. The only problem was, when are you a victim? Officially, their job was to stay neutral and care for the wounded in the name of the Red Cross. So basically, they had to watch while an entire family was being tortured and killed, children first, and then transport the few survivors to a hospital.

One of the main characters (sorry, I’m horrible with names and I Always miss the beginning, damnit) is a British officer who feels attracted to a girl of the Muslim minority that is being swept away. No Hollywood-ish love scenes, no breathtaking special effects, even the music is kept to a minimum. The movie focuses entirely on the psychological and physical hell that these soldiers went through, and the inhuman horrors inflicted upon the minorities in Bosnia. Nearing the end of the film, the soldiers arrive home, an entirely different person.

From all the war movies I’ve ever seen, this one come closes to the taste I got in boot camp. ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘Band of Brothers’, even ‘The Longest Day’, they’re all nice to watch but they don’t even come close to reality. Want a glimpse of it, watch this film.

 

I’ve only gone working one day this week and it was an absolute disaster. Only half a day work, in the pouring rain. We had to break down a tent, and it was kind of cool until we took the skins off. After that, it was all just one wet, cold, shitty ordeal.

Luckily I learned a trick in the army: I took off my sweater and put it in the car, and worked in my tee shirt. As long as you’re working it’s not too bad, and whenever we were standing still I put on my nice dry sweater. It’s a bitch to put on the tee shirt again when we have to get out in the rain again, though.

 

You’re the only one who can hold your head up high,
shake your fists at the gate, saying
I’ve come home now.
Fetch me the spirit, the son and the father,
tell them their pillar of faith has ascended.
It’s time now!
My time now!
Give me my,
Give me my wings!

10,000 days, both the album and the song, still capture me more each day. I never expected anything less, of course, even though I’m becoming convinced 10,000 days is not Tool’s best work so far. Great album, reaching Tool standards, but not as great at Lateralus or even Aenima. The anger and the art of ascension from which, is completely gone, and the subject changes to things like drugs and dead relatives. Nothing wrong with that, but they can do better.

Nevertheless, if you haven’t bought their album so far, do so now. Make them rich.


Officer Leroy

With kids like me, yelling won’t help. Neither will threatening, punishing, or begging. It’s way too late for that, it should have been done years ago.

I’m saying "kids like me" because I’m not talking about myself this time, but about my sister. My father failed to raise the both of us, and now he has to face consequences. We don’t respect him, let alone listen to him. He’s yelling, threatening, punishing and begging, but it’s too little, too late. My sister is following in my footsteps, failing school just like I did. I had a talk with her and told her she’d end up like me, but it only worked for a short time.

We’re not wired that way. When we’re facing a task we don’t want to do, we don’t try to work out how we can get it over with, we look for a way around it. Always. So when my sister has to study for her exams, she will do just like I did, and try and figure out ways how she can still go out, and not study. The only effect that has are bad grades, but that’s only numbers on a sheet of paper and tomorrow’s problem anyway. Today, we’re going out!

The reason why we think that way is because we can. At least could, because now we’re burdened with a thing called responsibility. No one ever really checked out grades, no one told us to go to bed at night, or eat with knife and fork. No one was ever around, so we just did as we pleased. We’ve become quite skilled at avoiding consequences, using lies and deceit. I like to think I’ve grown out of that behavior (although I could be wrong), but she’s still at it, adding to the distance between us and our father.

It’s 4am and our family is about to roll into its next crisis. Everyone is up and fighting. I have to start paying for eating at the same table, and my sister has to announce her plans to go out tonight either an hour in advance so she can be scolded and make false promises, or on the exact moment the door is closing behind her. My stepmother is having convenient migraine attacks, and my stepsister comes and goes as she likes and throws parties for kids 3 years older than her the moment my parents are out of the house again. My father, well… I’m not going to open his book. I’m not That pissed.

Ladies and Gents, the house I grew up in.

 

Work has increased so explosively I’m pretty much caught by surprise. Not that I mind, I love my work. But it has had quite an impact on my personal life, too.

The good part about it is that I’m home less, and that I’m slowly getting "less broke". It would help of course if I spent a little less, but hey my addictions don’t pay for themselves, you know.

The not-so-good part, however, is that the little time I have left is unequally divided between me and my girlfriend. She gets most of it, even though I’m rather fond of my time alone. We’ve had quite a few arguments about it and although it has calmed down somewhat, the problem still exists: she wants us to see each other more, I want us to see each other less. I took the weekend off to be with her, but now she has to study and she can’t come over before 8 o’clock tonight. So she still insists I drop by when I get home in the week, getting pissed when I rather play games at the cyber cafe (why are cyber cafes never actually used for cybering?) or sit with a friend and talk about absolutely nothing, instead of wanting to tell her how my day went and listening to hers.

I love her and I love spending time with her, but the daily scene about me not going straight to her place when I’m done working, isn’t really motivating me to do exactly that. And the circle is round.

 

The most perceptive among us already noticed I update my "own life" spewings during the weekends. Last week I skipped a beat, because I was in Paris at the time.

A friend of mine told me she was going to Paris with a bunch of people, and asked if I didn’t want to come along. In case I hadn’t mentioned, one of my earlier mentioned addictions is getting out of Belgium. It didn’t take me a lot of thinking to reach a decision. That sort of pissed off my girlfriend a bit, since it’s the 3rd time in 6 months I’m going away without her. So after some last-minute arrangements she came along. The youth hostel (les 3 canards) we were staying at was fully booked by then, so she and I had to sleep in one bed. Not comfortable, so after the first night we threw 2 mattresses on the floor and slept on those.

It wasn’t my personal preference, but there were 11 of us and the majority just wanted to go and play tourist for the 3 days we were there, so I just skitted along. Eiffel tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, and that big-ass graveyard with Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, and that English writer who died in prison because he was gay (he must have loved it there), we saw it all. Some were boring, some were stunning, all in all a great 3 days. Not because of the views and certainly not because of the weather, but mainly because of the group we were with.

You couldn’t imagine a more heterogeneous group. There was a 36-year old ADHD kid, a guy who lost function in his right foot and hand in an accident, but could still walk, a hyper little fat girl, the list goes on. Everyone made their contribution to the group, too. The hyper girl had an indestructible optimism, the limping guy (no pun intended) knew certain spots in Paris, even I could help out with my experience with fitting backpacks and reading maps. I was useful!

It was great seeing us hop around in Paris, getting along so easily.

 

Open your mouth about idealistic advertisements with anorexic models to my girlfriend, and prepare for a small tirade, losing your nose and some hair in the process. It’s her good right, but I happen to disagree with it.

Darwin spelled it out for us: It’s called sexual selection. Men dig thin girls because they have the time to work out and spend effort on staying thin, and healthy, therefor make good mothers for their offspring. Also, these women Make time, showing that they want to look good for men, so men can expect a certain sexual submission (work with me here).

Society’s overall vision of the perfect woman dictates these advertisements’ content, not the other way around. Companies, including sex-and-other magazines, are often blamed for girls suffering from anorexia nervosa or a severe inferiority complex, but in my opinion, these companies are merely a display of a problem rooted far more deeply.

Some girls are not attractive. This is purely by chance (unless you managed to fuck yourself up by smoking or drugs, in which case, meh) so it is unfair for them to have to suffer because of it. Which brings us to another earlier mentioned, fucked up fact: Life isn’t fair. I wish I had a normally functioning brain, but like not meeting society’s beauty standards, it’s something I have to live with.

The real problem is simply the fact that men have a sexual preference. This preference, and the need for something to answer to it, leads to multiple companies exploiting it. H&M started a whole scene years ago because their models were too skinny, magazines are criticized time and time again because all their models look the same.

I think, if we really want to solve the problem, we should handle it very differently. But as far as I know, there’s little we can do about it. Men are Weak and women are no different. They buy at clothing shops because they want to look like the models on those posters, and men buy dirty mags to get some serotonin into their system, or to get something else out. It’s our weakness and we know it very well, utilizing it to influence each other.


pro’s and cons

Strange week, it has been.

The first few days I had to help set up the Bon Jovi stage, as a testbuild for their new "Have A Nice Day" tour. Lots of fun, by the way. The third day, the load-in was almost complete, and they only needed just a few people to round up. All this was at the StageCo site, where their warehouses are at. Coincidentally, a colleague and myself had to help out some in one of these, instead of the stage, which we had been doing for 2 weeks. This wasn’t properly mentioned in our text message, so we just assumed we were asked to do some more stage.

We sat around at the catering for a full hour before our colleagues started pouring in, and told us we were expected somewhere else. That was the first we heard about that, so quite confused we reported to the right person, and got to work. Arranging ledgers, painting, easy, boring work. In the afternoon my boss called, telling me "there had been complaints about us". He called because he couldn’t believe that, which was quite the compliment, but I was still amazed to hear we seemed to have done something wrong. I checked up with StageCo and it turned out, they had asked our boss for someone else because "we were an hour late". I explained but of course, it didn’t do much good. Oh, well.

So the next day, we were put back with the Bon Jovi crew, who were now busy with the load-out already. I got to climb some, the whole thing was my playground. I love jobs like this, and I work best there.

Thursday, I couldn’t find the goddamn key to my bike. Someone else now was picking me up in Gent at 6am, so I had to get up around 5, which is way too early for a bus. Eventually I found it, and was 5 minutes late in Gent. 5 minutes. Any respectable human being would at least Fucking Wait, but not this guy. At 6 sharp he said "oh fuckit, he’s not coming" and drove off. This lead to me having to take the train and eventually being a full hour late. It’s an hour drive by car and we arrive 15 minutes early, so it Wouldn’t Even Have Fucking Mattered if he’d just Waited for me.

Little did I know, of the 16 people assigned to do the stage, two people arrived in time: the crew chief and her ride.

Our boss just, fucking exploded.

People who had overslept called him to ask if they still had to make their way there, but he just yelled "No! In fact, why don’t you just go and enjoy the Sun some more!". I was the only one smart enough just not to ask and get there myself. The crew chief was quite happy to see me, I even got a hug. Our boss, on the other hand, was furious at all of us. This was the first time this happened since 1998, go figure. StageCo, our client, wasn’t particularly happy about it either, which only pissed him off even more.

Around noon, all of us received a message, saying we had to report to the office tomorrow 4pm, or prepare to kiss our jobs goodbye.

Before I decided anything, I sat down and asked myself if it really was worth all this. Driving 100km by train, having to pay for it, just to get scolded at the office. Eventually I went, I figured I’d just tell him to go fuck himself if he’d get too rude.

In the end, things remained very civilized. We had some words but none of us got angry. Both parties suggested a few solutions, and I now know I can always call the hotline for any given problem, even if it’s just because I’m 5 minutes late.

 

No one that I know has to take this kind of crap from his employer. I realize very well other employees could have said "fuck that, I’m not going" without any consequence, simply because they know they can’t be missed. I may be a familiar face around but I’m not "hard-core" like them, mostly because I don’t have my own transportation, so I didn’t want to risk that.

Hey, no one that I know loves his job like I do, either. If only it were paid a little better and would be more reliable, I’d do it for the rest of my life for all I care.