Archive for October, 2009

Weightlifting

I sometimes wonder if there’s anything I won’t do if people asked me. Within reason obviously, which is usually the case. My initial reaction might be “Fuck No” but if I get the feeling they’re being serious, I am usually easily persuaded.

Three or four years ago, a theatre group contacted me through my sister, who babysat one of their kids, with the urgent message that they had fallen without sound technician. I would have to master the concept of a sound table and computer-controlled sound effects in two hours, do a single complete rerun, and then proceed to help with live performances. Naturally I said yes.

I’ve had a close relationship with this group (though no individual in particular) ever since, and they still regularly contact me for similar jobs. Even though I don’t get paid for up to a dozen nights of work, I have yet to refuse.
I’m not sure what it is; I know just about anyone would have walked away by now. I on the other hand, only get more and more involved.

I think it’s safe to say I stand out there. Not only am I easily the youngest, but this is a non-profit organization of order loving, law-abiding elderly citizens with, in my opinion, often naive views on the world. Every time when I walk into the room and all heads turn (the door makes a lot of noise), I have the feeling I just broke into the wrong building.
Still, I feel very accepted. My usual greeting, rather than the whole kiss-on-cheek ritual, is provide them with a crooked grin and broad wave, mumbling ‘good morning’ (At 7pm) from behind the sandwich that is my dinner. They ask me to do crossfades at random, operate the video projector -that projects the screen of the laptop that I use for audio- at the same time, and I spend hours mastering whatever they come up with next. Obviously they would notice I don’t look like anyone else there, even with a show going, and that I have a different perspective. But rather than give me stupid (read: negative) remarks or questions, they leave me be and respect me as a colleague without fuss. I can’t remember when I’ve felt less judged.
Why? Because I confidently believe that I am the right guy for the job. I don’t just do it for them, I do it well. While the professional light technician regularly fucks up to the point where it’s noticeable, I make no mistakes. One of Flanders’ biggest directors has complimented me publicly. I hate to boast but for once, I can be genuinely proud of myself.

The group (named Balsemblomme by the way) is now nominated for a prize for a performance they did while I was in Norway earlier this year. Fantastic as that might be, it means that they have to organize another couple gigs. This time, I get to help. We’ve done two now and we’re switching venues next time.
They showed me pictures of the set they used last time. They made me look up and ask, “You built this?”
The set builders, an elderly couple, are very creative people and have many talents. But the scaffolding they built to hang up a whole house worth of furniture from, could have killed people. Just about every rule I picked up about structural solidity, was broken in a single one of those snapshots. On top of that, they informed me that it took them two days to build it. I took a second look, and said, “I can do that in two hours.”

And that is how I fucked myself in the ass.

Okay, it took me well over two hours. More like four, which, I would like to point out, is 1/12th (or 8.333%) of two days. And I did it alone, and stable as a house despite the shortage of diagonals. At one point, an actor dryly mentioned, “Actually the jury liked how the furniture jiggled whenever someone touched the scaffolding, last time.” She shook a standard, which did absolutely nothing. They actually remarked that I had built the thing too well.

We took it down again today and will be rebuilding on Friday, elsewhere. Because I climb and work from the structure itself rather than ladders, I can do a lot of work in a short time while they go and take care of other stuff. At the end of the day, though exhausted, I go home feeling pretty awesome about myself.

I realize that these people aren’t as young as I am, anymore, and that it’s quite easy to stand out if the job at hand happens to be something you do every summer. My contribution isn’t bigger than the others’, just different.
What makes me pat myself on the back, is the fact that I do this for them. It’s very hard work, and technically I’m not even in the group. I can’t think of many colleagues who would follow me in this, especially free of charge. Have I mentioned that this is all voluntary?

I’m awesome.

 

 

Until recently, the most I ever drank was on New Years Eve 2008, in Dublin. If I remember correctly, I threw back two Baby Guinness (coffee liqueur and Bailey’s layered in a shot glass) and a glass of Bailey’s, which I happened to like. I was… light-headed, at best, and though I had fun, I found the whole Irish Pub scene rather bland. In fact, I found pretty much any club scene dull as a sheep farm. Any attempts to get me drunk have failed spectacularly and among my friends I’m known to be sober at all times. This bothered me for several reasons.

First of all, I am thoroughly convinced that, besides the obviously stupid, one should try everything at least once in life. If for no better reason, to know what you’re not choosing for.
And secondly and more importantly, I repeat: Among my friends I’m known to be sober at all times. The bore of the party. I can have fun at a party whether I drink or not, but as the night progresses I am distanced from my friends more and more. They go on and on about stuff I don’t care about, and I am left to make my own fun. While there’s nothing really wrong with that, it’s getting… old.

So when two friends decided, “LET’S GET YOUR DRY ASS DRUNK” I responded as I lately tend to: I shrugged and said “Sure.”
I didn’t expect them to actually succeed, though. I gravely underestimated their skills at getting “so washted”. Two hours later, I nearly stumbled to my face when getting off my barstool. My first reaction? “What the fucking fuck.”
Before I knew it, I was unable to walk or piss straight, talking random shit to strangers and groping people not made for that purpose. And everywhere I looked, I saw… sober people. One guy didn’t even drink (Like, fucking EVER can you IMAGINE THAT) and when I declared him a hero for it, he smiled a little and nodded coolly to me. In a flash, I recognized myself, being talked to by some dickweed on alcohol poisoning and subtly wanting to end the conversation. I felt so terribly sorry for myself, and I celebrated with vodka and orange juice.

I think it’s safe to say I genuinely scared myself. My thoughts seemed coherent at all times but I did things I would otherwise consider “too far”. I did have my clear moments, though: I quickly learned how to focus and assess the situation, coming impressively close to a non-drunk state for at least four consecutive seconds. It was when the decision taking happened, such as “Don’t punch him no matter how ugly he is” and “Time to stop drinking.” The night could have gone infinitely worse if I hadn’t managed to do that. Hurray for me.

What’s left (no hangover yay) is a lot of doubts about what happened and why, and a sound warning for next time. Because there will be a next time, although I will not turn this into a habit. This was an exception to the rule and it will never go beyond that, end of fucking story. No matter how awesome my friends might have found me, I have better shit to do than party all night.
I’ll let you know when I come up with an example.

-EDIT-
One little thing I forgot to mention: I was lying there. It was actually me who came up with the idea of drinking. I was asked to join in and figured it was as good a time as any to get loaded. Didn’t expect to succeed, though.

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Bullshit

America is the home of, among many many other things, two individuals that go by the name of Ben and Teller. They’re the hosts of a show called “Bullshit,” in which they point out the ridiculousness (yay for spellchack) of many systems and habits in modern day’s society. I used to watch with much interest, because they think outside the box -and the law- and fall back on common sense and reasoning rather than some status quo. As a European, I was thrilled to see they had a new episode out, called “Gun control”. I for one, hate the very idea of a nation packing guns, so I sat back to listen what they had to say about it.
As always, they started off with dozens of examples on the list, but this time my confusion only grew as I couldn’t make out what their point was. And then, also as always, they came to the conclusion and introduction to the show: “Gun Control… is Bullshit.” My jaw dropped.

Halfway though the show, I closed the window and never watched those two again. While before the idea was to point out the senselessness of the law and why it doesn’t work, they now used a literal interpretation of it as an argument. In fact, they brought up a case trial in which it came down to a comma in the constitution that made the difference. That was their argument: A comma. In the fucking law.
Apparently Winston Churchill (or some other president, I’m not sure) wrote that the US people should be actively armed, like a militia, so that the government would fear repercussion when abusing their power. Apparently his idea of a healthy nation is one where the decision takers have to fear for their lives with every signature they put down, because I don’t think many of them will please everyone, least of all in the States.
Newsflash, world. Your government is not afraid of you. You are manipulated and lied to, on a small scale if not on a large one. You can have all the guns in the world, the government that you elected will still fuck you over a barrel if they so feel like it. And what are you going to do? Shoot them?

Not long ago I found and posted a video, 10 minutes of high-speed recordings of bullet impacts on various kinds of material. I encountered it on someone’s blog site, and he mentioned that he can’t think of any reason why these hollow tips aren’t outlawed. In the reactions I found something in the vicinity of,

“If some nutcase breaks into my house, I want to hit him with the best tip available.”

Understandable, yes, but also unforgivable, in my eyes. What if this “nutcase” is your son, coming home when you think he’s out on holiday? What if this is someone else’s son, who happens to have gotten stuck on the wrong track and needs some quick money to get out of debt? Because it is always someone’s son. Do you think that stolen TV is worth more than an explosion in the gut? Or maybe, is an ordinary 9mil to the knee, that isn’t fabricated to fuck people’s insides up as much as technologically possible, inadequate to stop someone dead in his tracks? Have you even felt anything like it?

It’s psychotic. It’s schizophrenic. It is madness.
From a perspective of someone living in a country where guns are heavily regulated and registered, it seems that people thinking this way are all out to harm each other. Yes, I know, no one gets killed at a gun meeting. But tell me, since we’re playing God now anyway: What would it take for someone to die? A threat? A fistfight? Someone eating the cake before the reception starts? If you’re so insistent on deciding over life and death, you immediately show that you are incapable of doing so.

Yes, we too have nutcases out to kill others. But here’s the difference: they don’t have the means to murder half of your neighborhood’s school. Just recently a man walked into a nursery school and proceeded to stab several teachers and children. As horrible an act as that may have been, when I heard the news I thanked Europe for not letting this man get his claws on a semi-automatic, or worse.

 

 

Senses are a funny thing. No seriously: have you ever decently considered them? Despite what certain (cough female cough) people might go on and on, and on and on and on about, we have five. Each. The only thing I might consider a sixth sense is reasoning, since it, like the others, can give you information about your surroundings.

Senses are through which we perceive our reality. It’s only natural that you sit down and have a good hard think about them. It might go a little like this:

Senses. They are undeniable, although subjective. They’re here to stay. In order of importance, they would most likely be smell, taste, eyesight/hearing, and touch. Touch being the most important because it seems kind of relevant to know if something hurts or not. Of all people born with some sense impaired or missing, those without the sense of touch are the most proper fucked. They do exist, you know. Although usually not for long.

Although smell could be considered least essential, it is still a very important aspect of everyday life. First of all, it is crucial for taste to function. If you don’t believe me, try eating a tablespoon of cinnamon with your nose pinched shut. It will taste like flour with a slight sting to it. Secondly, from what I heard it is an important factor in social interaction. Things like someone’s scent and even pheromone spread are all perceived that way.

Taste… not much to say about it aside from the fact that from evolution’s perspective, ours has gone haywire. We choke on sugars because they’re our primary source of short-term energy. In a civilization where food is abundant, sugars are largely expendable and even bad for the body in larger quantities. We eat all kinds of shit that we aren’t supposed to and why? Because it tastes good. It’s nature’s way of saying “You’ll be back.”

Now, hearing and sight are the most interesting, in my humble opinion. I kind of linked them together in importance because they each have their unique attributes. First of all, socially, it is more interesting to be blind than deaf. It is extremely hard to have a conversation with a deaf person, especially if they’ve been deaf from birth. Their speech is hard to make out at all and lip-reading only works that well.
However other than music, there’s not all that much you’re missing out. Whenever I go out I have my headphones on and don’t hear jack shit, and hardly even notice. If I were to be wearing a blindfold however, that would be a different story.

Your eyes are strange things. They’re not open, even when your eyelids are. you just angle them somehow and they give you unimaginable loads of information about what’s in front of you. Like little radars, they pick up astronomic radiation and translate them into information.
Ears on the other hand, don’t need to be angled or tuned. They remain pretty much idle until something happens around you that causes vibrations. With a four degrees accuracy, you can tell where it came from, and most often make an educated guess about what the cause might be.

Here’s a funny thing: We have two ears, one on either side of the head. It makes sense that if something sounds to your left, you can tell where it came from because both ears give a very different sound image. But what if something happens dead in front, or behind you? Both ears perceive the exact same sound, so technically there should be no way for you to determine if the sound came from behind or in front of you, or above you for that matter.
The answer lies in the shape of the shells, that morph the sound depending on where it came. In other words, subtle differences in sound image tell you where the vibrations came from. I think it will be a while before they can replicate that on robots…

One’s life could be divided into five unequal parts that represent our senses. With each one missing, you miss out on a great deal of life and living. Lose them all and (I don’t easily say this) you might as well be dead.

To me, it goes without saying that thankfulness is more than appropriate. If not to some god or other, then to life itself. Or, perhaps those that have to make without.

A little while ago I posted some unpopular thoughts on the relation of space and time. I used whatever limited knowledge I had and attempted to follow the reasoning of actual scientists in reaching their conclusion. According to Lawrence Krauss however, both I and those Italians were dead wrong. And I have to believe him because he’s the scientist and I’m the roadie.

When I try to comprehend reality, my equations look very much like the one I used to retrace those thoughts and in the end, deduce that time is slowing down:

\bar{\mathbf{v}} = \frac{\Delta \mathbf{x}}{\Delta t}.

And that is putting it more complicated than I perceive it. However, I do remember (and no I didn’t cheat) that the triangle is called ‘delta’ and means “difference in”. V is a vector because that’s what velocity is, it has a direction, sense and value. X is distance, and t is time. In English: Speed equals difference in distance divided by difference in time. Speed equals distance divided by time.
Equations that scientists use are more of this category, though:


\begin{align}
\int_r^\infty gm \left(\frac{r}{s}\right)^2 \, ds
& = gmr^2 \int_r^\infty s^{-2}\,ds
= gmr^2 \left[-s^{-1}\right]_{s:=r}^{s:=\infty} \\
& = gmr^2\left(0-(-r^{-1})\right)=gmr.
\end{align}

This regards escape velocity somehow, which is the speed needed for an object to escape a gravitational field. However to me, this spells:

FUCK YOU, YOU WORM

If you disagree, you’re only reading this for a good laugh.
What troubles me about astrology, theoretical physics and all that scientific masturbation, is that it’s so god damn incomprehensible for mere humans like myself. I read an article on the multiverse and string theory the other day, and while I appreciate them putting things into understandable language for me, it quickly turns into the extremely absurd. Before you know it, they will tell you that reality has a color, taste and smell, can be folded over itself, and does karaoke with its many real girlfriends on every Saturday night. And I have to buy that, because they know about this, and I… don’t.

Another frustrating aspect about quantum physics combined with astrophysics is its humbling effect. As our friend Lawrence puts it:

This completes, in some sense, the ultimate Copernical (Copernicus was the astrologist who first stated that the earth revolves around the sun, not vice versa) principle. Copernicus told us we didn’t live in any place special. We now know (…) one thing:
This tells us that we are more insignificant than we ever imagined. If you take the universe, everything we see, (…) if you get rid of it, the universe is essentially the same.

Again, let’s put it simple:
We are irrelevant. Our perception is irrelevant. Our presence is irrelevant. Our universe is irrelevant. Our reality is irrelevant. And worst of all: Our opinion, is irrelevant. All of this, separate and combined, is as insignificant as if none of it ever existed to begin with.
The big bang theory now includes that the universe is created through quantum fluctuations, which balance themselves out. If those quantums or whatever the fuck they are happen to “whoops” fluctuate the other way, we would reach that point of zero again before reality would be fundamentally redefined. We would simply, coldly cease to exist before noticing our very atoms are suddenly impossible.

Frightening, no? One moment we are here, the next moment reality gets an itch and we vanish. It’s been fun, goodbye. Never to appear again. Nothing we could possibly do to stop it.
I’m all for modesty, but reducing myself to the significance of a grain of sand on a beach on a continent on a planet in a galaxy in a universe in a reality that never existed in the first place?
Ouch, man.


The fire

The following is fiction, but very relevant. See it as an experiment.

 

I always wanted a cabin like this. Constructed of stacked timber, with nothing but snow and reindeer outside the smallish window. It’s hot in here though, like a sauna. The blazing fireplace might have something to do with it. I’m not bothered by it, my thoughts are elsewhere right now. I don’t even wonder about my rather stylish clothes and glass of Cointreau between my fingers. Then finally, I hear the door and the person I had been waiting for, enters from the blizzard. I turn my head just enough to make myself heard.

“You’re late.” I refrain from adding, “As usual.” Still, it sounded sharper than I meant it.

-“Traffic.” Her voice sounds equally harsh, and I assume it was just as unintentional.

I let out a short, joyless chuckle. A woman. Figures. And a redhead too, I notice, as she walks into sight and takes a seat in the chaise opposite mine. She is gorgeous, and a familiar awkwardness steals over me. I angle my eyes towards the fire so I don’t have to look her in the eyes. As if to the flames, I do the talking.

“I was hoping this encounter would mean as much to you as it does to me. I would have stayed for days if necessary. I’m sorry to see it isn’t mutual.” I can never be angry for long, especially with her. Immediately, I am done scolding her. “I hope you are well.” Who talks like that? I glance her way to see her nod in thought.

“Can’t complain. Life as usual, you know?” She’s damn right I know. That unfulfilling bore of a life. Out there, in the cold. I don’t want to be reminded. Luckily her casual outfit, tight enough to hug her skin, provides some distraction. Still I don’t know what her face looks like, I can’t bring myself to going there.

-“Nothing special? No one making it… unusual, for you?”

-“Don’t you start,” she bites. “I don’t expect you to be happy for me but spare me your jealousy.”

I grunt and look down at my glass. I don’t even drink alcohol. Swirling the liquor around, I blow gently over the rim. Alcohol sticks to the sides, increasing the surface area, which, along with the increased ventilation, should make for a quick evaporation and leave a much less potent drink behind. I realize that most likely, “they” have already worked up a formula that would at least approach the effect of each of these factors. I would lose interest at first sight of it. Thinking like this makes me fear for my sanity, sometimes. Brandon, that babyfaced whore, had no idea what he was saying when he told his entourage, “Yes, I’m a little crazy sometimes.” Son of a bitch.

“We fight a lot, don’t we.” I had my words ready minutes ago but hadn’t worked up the guts to address the real problem. Another awkward silence follows. “I wish we didn’t. Look- it’s hard without you. I know you’re here, but I can’t connect. I miss you so bad, it’s paralyzing. You’re everywhere, yet nowhere to be found.” I’m repeating myself now, so I shut up. There’s a dark little poet inside me that never managed to grow up. It’s embarrassing.

-“I’m not the one who needs to change in order to-“

-“I know that, already! I fucking,… already know that.” My voice breaks up as I bark at her. “You’re not very helpful either, are you. I can’t even tell if you’re interested in any of this.” She sets her jaw and I can tell my words are hurting her, but I’ve reached that point where I no longer care. She is so incredibly difficult to read. Even though I am looking straight at her now, I still fail to see her clearly. Giving up, I bring my glass to my lips. The disgusting taste makes me feel like an idiot, but since it’s alcohol I am allowed to drink it without being thirsty, and the urge to buy an excuse not to speak is too strong. She catches me staring at the pelt on the floor, and reads my mind as easily as she tends to.

“You men are all the same.” She rolls her eyes.

-“You know I’m not. You know the difference.” My glare forces me to face her again.

-“Yes, yes. How selfless you are in your egocentric need.”

I set down my glass, and stand. “Time for me to go.” She knows she is the reason, but does not protest as I turn my back. It makes me hesitate as I reach the door. Part of me wishes I could keep her forever, but the realization that I never had her to begin with, brings my hand up to push the door open. With the first step in the endless cold, the whole building disappears soundlessly behind my back, and with it, its warmth. But I know that the fire won’t die, no matter what. Between frustration and regret, I am glad that these moments still provide some heat to go on with. Urgently so, because my alarm clock is two steps away.


VNV Nation – Of Faith, Power and Glory tour

There was a time when I disliked electronic music. Anything involving computers in the creative process was moneyspunk and distorted guitars were the only actual instruments capable of sounding enjoyable, except when your name was Nickelback. Much like feelings of bicuriosity, any positive thoughts provoked by techno were to be killed at birth to avoid cascading into hedonism.

And then VNV Nation came along. For the thick: VNV stands for “Victory, Not Vengeance” and the band consists of two members, originally from the UK and Ireland but now residing in Germany. If the one currently underneath your ass is your home planet, you might realize by now that Germany is one of, if not the most important source of techno music (with all its subgenres), and “the Queen’s” UK excels in thought-provoking context. Mix those together and you have poetry to a trance beat. Bring it live, and you’ve got VNV fucking Nation in Antwerp last night.

I’ll admit it from the start: I paid for my ticket. In fact, I did so no less than twenty minutes after I was informed (thanks Redrum) and got one extra for good measure. No one likes going to concerts alone. So, for a change I wasn’t there for professional reasons. I came with my sister solely to enjoy the show- and enjoy we did.

The support acts were um, a chick with a drummer and a nutcase with a drummer. Respectively, they were “not bad” and “not worth the hearing damage”. There.
Some might be surprised to see VNV appear with no less than four. They actually hire two extra musicians from the States to stand around behind their laptops, either providing tunes to the beat -delivered by Mark Jackson on electronic drums- or IM-ing youtube links to each other, it’s hard to tell. I suppose it keeps the others from having to press ‘play’ when then next song starts, like the aforementioned chick had to.
Ronan Harris in the mean time, does all the rest. And by that I mean singing, dancing, bouncing, running, yelling at every offbeat chance, and cracking jokes- oh my god, the jokes. He must have filled four songs worth of time with nothing but yakking in his microphone. Luckily he has a good sense of humor, but enough is enough.
I like him though, I really do. He shows intellect in his lyrics and explanations, and interacts with the audience on a much more personal level than most artists. He has conversations with individuals, and even grabbed the cell phone of someone wanting to share the experience, to hold it by his ear while singing. His strong personality contributes to the whole experience the way kerosene burns a candle.

The band’s music varies from slow pop songs to murderous hard-trance beats. The only constant is Ronan’s voice, low and intense yet pure enough, sharing thoughts and ideas. If you haven’t heard “Nemesis” then you don’t know the power of words turned against injustice, and those that don’t know “Beloved” will never find the words to address a long lost soulmate. This, to me, is the true strength of VNV. Translate that into a live gig and it’s only natural how responsive the crowd was, and how thick the atmosphere.
However! They recently brought out a new album (Of Faith, Power and Glory) and I really don’t think I’m the only one hoping this new stuff is a trend that won’t continue for much longer. Okay, it’s still VNV and a certain quality is reached, but when listening to the material I can’t help but feel worried. I’m afraid that they actually gave this their whole effort, and came up with this. I’m concerned, that they didn’t just wanted to finish their contract and quickly cook something together. Because although I hope they didn’t feel too disappointed with the crowd’s lukewarm response to their newest single, I also pray that they draw their conclusions:
”Of Faith, Power and Glory” sucks big island donkeyballs. Before you shoot me, please sit down and consider their career, if you’ve been aware of it at all. Although they subtly change style from time, their power is consistent. But lately, they’re slacking. I hope this “faith and power” isn’t supposed to come from us, to cover for a poor effort on their side.

Another killer was the production’s light technician. He must have been new, no doubt about that. If he wasn’t, then he should have been fired before the gig and replaced by a random volunteer from the audience. Between every single song, and this is something utterly unacceptable for a pro, Ronan had to direct him on what to do. The front truss-spots were set to “scorch” at every given opportunity and I can understand not wanting to put the lead singer in the dark while he’s talking, but usually you don’t want to start a song in a setting that mimics broad daylight. It came up to the point where the lights went on and immediately off again, with a frustrated, Inglorious Basterds-like “Nein, nein!” in the speakers. I did not want to be in his shoes that night.

In short, I loved it even more than last time. I danced my little bollocks off along with everyone else, and even an unbiased critic would call the atmosphere at least “epic”. Four stars, and several minutes of continued clapping and singing after the show. Impressive. See these guys if you ever get the chance.

Let there be
Let there always be
Neverending light

Let there be
Let there always be
Neverending light


By Request

I was spoilt rotten as a child. Not that my parents gave me anything I wanted, but still more than I deserved. I was one of those obnoxious little shits that can’t leave you the fuck alone and insist on harassing everyone, preferably in public. I was a severe case of ADHD, or that’s what the diagnose was after I ran around with wires glued to my head for two days. The recording device was an ordinary tape recorder, believe it or not, making me afraid of thinking all the wrong things in the dark. It broke and no information could be recovered, but in retrospect the doctors didn’t think it was necessary anyway- not after making me sit still for two hours to remove the glue.

I was also very afraid of many things. I couldn’t cross an everyday bridge or take a train without taking all sorts of precautions “just in case”. I still have this reflex: give me a wall and I will stand out of its reach: all it takes is for me to “notice”. It took me a long time to learn to ignore the fear itself.
Other than that, I was as careless as they came. My grades were decent although I never studied, and my condition gave me a development setback that made me bounce third grade despite very good grades. But, nothing bothered me much as long as I got to play.

That all changed when I was 10, and my mother passed away.

Three days was all it took, during which I never saw her. In fact, the last time I had seen her was in a huge fight about homework. I had reached the limit of what I could learn independently and my grades were dropping. It stressed my mother out and she suffered from thrombosis in the brain. I remember like it was yesterday, how my father came to pick me up from scouts camp, yelling at me because “I made my mother sick with my behavior”. It took me seven years to get over the paralyzing feelings of guilt stuck in my head.

What was left was a broken home, a family of three. My father, my younger sister, and I. I think my sister took it the worst; she looked up to our mother. It was hard to see her suffer but there was nothing we could do. She also lost a good friend in time, a girl living down the street. Much to her frustration, I had started liking girls and the little redhead was the first thing in sight. Puppy love maybe, but the relationship was to last many years.

My father, although he is a good man, is a terrible parent. He couldn’t take care of us any more than himself. Additionally, he has a weakness for women, and soon one followed the other. Eventually he found someone, a friend from his youth, to live in with us. She too had a daughter, and thus our family suddenly counted five.

It’s a long time ago and a blur now, but I don’t think I took this change well. I froze up and turned inside. My actions literally became slow, much to the frustration of this new woman. She would scream at me in the morning while I tied my shoes, taking forever.
Where we were used to living in a happy family, life had hardened her and she had grown used to living by herself. Her daughter was her everything, which in turn angered my father. Things went from bad to worse and one morning, she was no longer there.

Everything was awkward. No one spoke anymore. The relationship between the remaining three of us was sour and we only communicated when repeating the same old arguments. My father let me have the freedom of going to art school to do photography. Not only did I fail, I also abused that trust to get involved in one problem after the other. Several types of drugs passed the revue, and I learned to fight- all this away from my father and girlfriend’s eyes. I was happy though, the world was a confusing place but life was interesting.

At the end of his wit, my father suddenly switched to the opposite extreme: He found the harshest catholic boarding school he could find, and locked me up in there.
The principal was an abusive nun, and she and her army of “educator” did everything in their power to keep us at bay. I learned one thing and one thing alone behind those bars: You did nothing wrong until you get caught. It was a year filled to the edge with crimes, vandalism, fighting, and Maynard knows what else. Two major breakthroughs however: First of all, I discovered the healing power of music. I started off with Papa Roach and Limp Bizkit, and evolved further towards Metallica.
The second was sexual exploration. I loved my girlfriend passionately and despite several flat-out offers, was unconditionally faithful to her. It wasn’t even hard for me, up to the final days I had never even considered cheating. But after five days spent like a caged animal, she would know when I got home. I kept track of her periods, so I knew when it was a bad weekend to rape her behind the kitchen door.

I had taken the lessons I learned in the outside world, to heart: I let my hair grow, and marked my clothes with a red anarchy symbol on the arm. Oh they tried, but they couldn’t beat it out of me. At the end of the year, as my father came to “continue the contract”, they told him I was no longer welcome. Although I rarely did anything wrong (as far as they know), they couldn’t punish me for what I was. They had the scum of the city in there, but at least they could be beaten into behaving. While I behaved, I still managed to quietly protest by simply being different. My arguments made sense, and they couldn’t handle it.

So, another boarding school. Although I didn’t lose my demeanor or clothing style (picture torn jeans and the biggest shirts I could find), I was much happier there. We played indoor football (soccer for the americans) every night, and I became the best goalkeeper of the school. Metaphorically, my room bare kept absolutely bare. Where others made it into their private little home, I did no more than hang up a drawing of my girlfriend, and toss a coarse blanket over my mattress. I never even bothered to wash it, as if I would be leaving the next day. I just didn’t care.

Although I had a couple of good friends there, I couldn’t really express what was on my mind. So I started to write. Whatever questions needed an educated answer, I could ask the family therapist my father paid to save our already destroyed family, but those were exceptions. Two years in a row, I wrote, every day. I gave my findings to my girlfriend, I didn’t need them. I reasoned through writing, and whatever was on paper, I would know for the rest of my life. Today, I still strongly believe in the ideas I then developed, and often encounter them in reasoning followed by actual philosophers.
This same therapist by the way, helped me to get over my guilt issues. After seven years, he told me, "Try. Try to think that maybe, it was bound to happen. She had a condition no one was aware about, and it’s not really your fault. Think that for me." I did. I had the physical sensation of a huge weight falling off my shoulders, and suddenly everything looked different. I should send this man a thank you note some time.

But, my grades never improved. On my eighteenth birthday, I was still in fourth grade (tenth in US counting) and failing again. Confident that I had all the answers I needed, I dropped out and went to see the world.
My father had found another girlfriend by then, and this time she had not one, but two daughters. He ended up marrying her, despite her intense hate for his children: my sister and myself. I moved back home, and suddenly the house had no less than 6 people. As could be expected, my father kicked me out whenever he had the chance, so I would find a job and place to live. I did look, but no more than a few hours every week. The days in between I spent in the cyber cafe, heavily addicted to something new my friend had introduced me to:
DartMUD.
An expert by now in lying, cheating and stealing, I had little trouble getting my claws on the cash I needed to play hours, days on end. And when I was done, I would go home empty-handed and play there.

I did find a job, eventually: Industrial Cleaning. Surrounded by illegal immigrants and borderline retards, I would clean factories. It was the worst job in the world, an assault on all your senses, but it made fortunes. And looking at my colleagues and seeing their dirty faces and clothes, I smiled, because I knew I was different and this was only to make some quick cash.
Or was it? As I came home and looked into the mirror, all I saw was another one of those faces. Within weeks, I grew more and more sick of this job, and even more of myself. I needed drastic change and I knew it.

And that change came, the day I enlisted. My long hair, uncut since my first year of boarding school and symbol of my freedom loving nature, made room for a “coupe militaire”. People gave me a second look when I told, and all asked the same thing. “You do know what the army is like, right?” I knew. But I was motivated, and that was all it ever took. Not wanting to end up in situations where I would have to murder fellow humans, I took training as a medic. Although I was a good shot (like it matters) and mentally strong enough to compensate for my smallish size, my big mouth often got me in trouble. But, I needed something life changing, and life changing it was. Two years later, after politely refusing a continuation of my contract, I walked away a different person. Sure, I was still game addicted (much to my girlfriend’s despair) and a loud-mouth kid with an answer to everything, but I learned to take matters into my own hands.

And so I did. I found a job as a roadie, and found it to be everything I ever wanted in a job- except for a good wage. My relationship on the other hand, collapsed under the strain of time spent behind a computer, and provided me with the most difficult year so far. I owe pretty much everything to a friend who put up with me for that dark time, a favor I never managed to return. But she came back to me, and we continued our twisted relationship for two more years, during which I moved three times. She ended up cheating on me, because there were too many issues she couldn’t talk to me about. Whose fault it is, I am tired of thinking about. It took many, very drastic things for me to set my mind straight again, and learn to be happy again.

Today, I think “alone” is the key word. I don’t have anyone extremely close to me, and somehow I end up pushing people away in favor of spending time by myself. I still love my job, but perhaps it is time to move on. I feel like I’m reaching another pivoting point, a sort of “reset” before the next chapter in life. What it will be, time will tell.


We’ve Been Framed

Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road passed underneath the chicken depends on your point of reference. Duh.

Italian scientists have cooked up a theory that explains why the universe is expanding at accelerating rate. When I first hear about this, I assumed the same as Einstein did: there must be some force working on the bodies that pushes them outwards. Since there is no resistance, even the slightest push would result in acceleration.

Welp, I was dead wrong. In my defense, so was Einstein. A far more acceptable theory is that time is simply slowing down. Ta daa, you dimwits.
Upon pondering this, it did not make sense to me, at first. If the speed is a constant, say 100km/h, but time is slowing down, you would need more “hour” to cover the same speed, since it’s worth less. Where previously 60 minutes would cover it, you now need 65min. Speed is distance divided by time, and since it is now divided by “more time”, its value lessens and you have an object that now moves slower, instead. Take that, Italians.

Again I was wrong, but this time I figured it out, myself. By changing the equation, you change the speed of the object after determining it as a constant. You can’t do that. The speed is 100km/h and stays that way. You can’t turn it into 100km / 1.05h. Instead, it remains as it was but you have less value for your hour (much like economic inflation: your €/$/£/¥/₡/₱/¢/﷼/₪/₩/₭/₮/₦/฿/₴/؋/ƒ -did a bit of research there- is only worth half as much) (Copy-pasting those symbols just reversed the arrows of my keyboard, I’m not even kidding) and therefore divide by a smaller number, with a larger number as result. And thus, a faster object. Intelligent enough to comprehend? Want a banana?

The point was, however, that time is slowing to a standstill. What does that mean? I’ll spell it out: we’re fucked in every possible way and in several ways theoretically impossible. According to the scientists, everything will basically squeak to a halt and we’d be frozen for eternity and three days. Again I disagree: the planets prove that everything is, quite the contrary, speeding up. We cover the same distances in less time, so we’re only getting faster. And since time happens to be our frame of reference and not speed, we don’t even notice. Everything just seems closer by. We think faster, too, so in the end, subjectively nothing changes. Ta daa.

So riddle me this when you go to bed tonight: In a couple zillion years, we will freeze to universal popsicles until reality decides to go tits-up, but here’s the good news: nothing changes. We just beat time at its own game. I don’t think “zing” really covers it here.

I can’t remember when I last felt truly alive. Oh no wait, I can; About 10 months ago, on top of a mountain, hanging on for dear life while wind and rain blew right through me. Face numb on one side from the cold, soaked to my shorts and keeping an eye out for kids flying by. That is when I have the feeling I’m at 100% of my potential. And even then, I couldn’t help feel disappointed afterwards that it wasn’t just that tiny bit more difficult.

The further away you go from that, to where I am today, the more I suck at life. The other day my ex asked me, after partying her tits off in the Netherlands, what I had been up to. I shrugged (as well as possible on msn) and said, “Nothing much.” Her response? “Didn’t think so.” Yes of course, I had been to a friend’s birthday party and played roadie/technician for my sister’s shiny new band, but if you’re asking me to sum it up, that would be “nothing much”. I didn’t run from the cops, I didn’t protest anything, or mutilated the city with my “art”.

I seem to live for one adrenalin rush to the next. The closest I get is work, and my colleagues will agree that if I don’t get my rush there, I’ll fabricate it myself by putting us all in danger (Seriously, sorry guys). It leads to some people around me to think I’m boring as fuck because I never feel like doing anything if it doesn’t involve near death experiences. I just sit on my ass and “keep busy” all day.

I have €20 in my back pocket and up until yesterday, it was the only money I had. Technically, I didn’t even own it: I owed the bank €250, my landlord €200, The Belgian government €400, and a good friend (can you believe I had to check this) €100. That’s €950 of debt. Now; the bank has its cold hard cash, my rent is paid (but not my debt to him) and I have €600 left to get through the month. A disaster for some, but more than doable for me. You see, I wasn’t planning on flirting with the Reaper any time soon (it’s a she, you know) so I’ve got nothing to do but sit around and be mocked by the socially more adept.

However. You know it’s time for some drastic changes when you start the month with €100 in red. Figure this: I actually have to earn money now to be broke. This would be the perfect time to die if it wasn’t for the fact that I rather live. I’m going to take a long walk today, and talk to a few people. With my level of education (none) I can get a job whenever I like (ironic, isn’t it) and the government -in the form of the unemployment agency that conned me- might be open for debate on how the fuck I am going to pay them. They assume I still collect unemployment income (which I don’t) and they banned me for three weeks, while asking me to couch up a small fortune. It seems they have yet to evolve self-awareness in that corner of civilization.

Wish me luck. Or better yet: 063-9311766-92
I’ll just… throw that in the middle. Do with it what you like. Nothing under fifty plskthx.


Tori Amos – Sinful Attraction

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been suggested I should do something with my writing instead of just talking to myself. It has inspired me to find a music magazine to write reviews for. It’s the perfect combination: I love music, I can offer a whole different perspective and after seeing over 200 shows, I think I can say what I’m talking about. I will probably need a portfolio of sorts, however, so consider yourselves graced with the construction of it. It will be tagged “The Local Perspective” on my website. Here goes.

 

Tori Amos – Sinful Attraction tour

 

Music I enjoy and music I respect are divided into two respective groups. They overlap, but there is plenty of enjoyable stuff that I consider qualitative rubbish, and vice versa. In the second case, this often involves artists that, despite their efforts to make intelligent and insightful music, I simply don’t listen to. I am prepared to courageously take the blame for this, and say that these tunes are simply too clever for me. Bands like Muse, The Mars Volta, and others just fail to make a connection, and I will soon switch back to my Moby records.

Among them sits Tori Amos, a singer-songwriter with mad skillz on the piano. She has long ago proved her worthiness as an artist by bringing delicate melodies that graze the charts without selling out, but more importantly, through her collaboration projects with Tool’s Maynard James Keenan. It’s that easy: if Maynard likes you, I will love you to the point where you merely need to ask if you want your salad tossed. Mwah.

However, try as I might, I never truly managed to enjoy listening to her. Even her duet with Maynard (“Muhammed My Friend” for the illiterate) couldn’t inspire me. So when asked if I could work for her gig in Antwerp’s Lotto Arena, I had mixed feelings. I would gladly provide my services for meaningful music, but something told me I would have to try hard to sit out the entire show.

The work itself was laughable. There were 12 of us to install two trailers worth equipment, and since we were a forklift driver short I didn’t even have to lift a finger. We were done by noon, including the midsection chairs and crash barriers.

 

Tori Amos is a redhead, which gives her a head start (I’m so funny). On top of that, she is blessed with a natural grace and jaw-dropping singing voice. Combined with her natural talent, you’ve got the perfect cocktail for a successful gig. It wasn’t made easy for her, however. Sure, the set was gorgeously sober and the music low in volume and crystal clear, which by the way is the way to do it no matter what your big-bucks promoter might tell you, but dear lord, her dress.
There is an acute radio silence between the artists and their clothing designer, and it shows time and time again. I’ve seen Anette Olzon (Nightwish) jump around in a tube top that she had to fix over her mammilla’s every two luscious bounces, and An Pierlé (White Velvet) take off those god damn elbow gloves and throw them aside after they kept coming off. In the case of poor Tori, they fit her with a stylish red dress that accentuated her hair rather nicely. The skirt, long in the back and short in front, might have been useful for prancing around on the catwalk or at a reception, talking about small dogs and clinging to your alienated husband’s side to make him look good, but not for sitting wide-legged on a piano stool, fixing that motherfucking loosely hanging flap under your high heels.
Fucking duh.

She can’t be blamed for her sitting posture, often she would have to spin 180 degrees to switch keyboards. Since it’s unprofessional to sit with your back towards the audience, well… It meant she had to keep her knees apart wide enough to welcome a hockey team and give the whole arena a wide-angle view of her crotch. “If you can’t hide it, show it,” her designer must have thought, because the sight was countered by the glare of the spotlights bouncing off the shiny silver pantyhose she was wearing. The result was an unsightly view of pornographic grace.

But let’s talk music. Not one of my colleagues was anywhere near impressed, but they are a horde of minimum wage workers who don’t seem to understand the subtle, finer things in live, like a nice sunset, or a book with a quantity of wine less than a bottle. Piano music is one of those things; you have to be in the right mindset, it takes effort. I did enjoy it most of the time, but to my shame, I am not very familiar with her music and had a hard time keeping up attention. The piano itself seemed heavily compressed (by which I mean the tones, obviously), because it was difficult to separate nuance from melody. Losing yourself in the music was a challenge, I could never really get into it. I was about to get up and raid the catering, when she suddenly started a cover of “Love Song” by The Cure. If it is possible to make it sound any more bittersweet than Robert Smith can, she nailed it. It’s a song with great personal value to me, and sitting out the concert was a breeze from then on.

The band, if you can call it that, consisted of two extremely talented musicians with each their own little riser in the darkness near the far corners of the stage. I found myself wishing the drummer would take it a little easier from time to time, but what do I know.
I have always been intensely jealous of musicians with enough talent and willpower to make it as far as they have. You may not get rich as quickly as the frontman/woman, but the audience has no expectations about you regarding style or message, so you aren’t stuck in a particular genre like they are. They do their thing, enjoy what they do, and accomplish things mediocre musicians can only dream of. Kudos.

All in all I can’t say I would have paid for tickets, though perhaps I would have given them to someone I know would enjoy it more.