Archive for February, 2010

Moving Subjects

This is a gift, it comes with a price
Who is the lamb and who is the knife
Midas is king and he holds me so tight And turns me to gold in the sunlight

I ran into an old colleague the other day (at work, holy donkeyshow batman). I always loved working around him and it was great catching up while scooping the last of Disney’s ice into dump trucks. The inevitable “So how have you been lately?” came after a generous time and as usual, I was unsure what to say. “I’m okay, I guess,” I shrugged, and he blatantly rolled his eyes. I can’t blame him, I too hate such indescript updates like “Okay”. But seriously, that’s how I felt at the time. Too much had happened to sum up without sounding as self-centered as I would like to be, so I summed it up for him, finishing with:

“I picked up photography again.”

He grinned and shook his head. “You’re really…” He gestured with his hand. “Here and there, aren’t you?”

I had to agree. I mean, it’s true; what haven’t I done in the past few years? Who haven’t I pretended to be?
Capoeirista, medic, climber, sound, lighting and video technician, stencil artist, writer,… And now a photographer.
Mind you, I can give you examples of compliments I’ve gotten on all of these, and provide the references on a piece of paper. But that’s because I’ve never truly been tested on any. I always made a good beginner, but I never went further than that.

Take Capoeira, for instance. Years ago it seemed like a huge new thing; a big challenge. After doing a workshop, my mind was made up: I would sign up. Soon, I followed classes twice a week, and practiced in my garden. I was asked if I had done this before, because I caught on very easily.
Today, it has been months since I last trained, and not even with my own group. My teacher asked me why I wasn’t coming anymore, and I explained him I just don’t have the time and money. Which is true! Classes cost well over €100 for one season. For a whole year, twice a week, we’re talking more than €500. I can’t cough that up.

What I didn’t mention however, is why I can’t. It’s because I’ve been investing my time and money in other things. Travelling last year, equipment this year. Either I spent all my money living it up, or I’m working my ass off to recover. Something else has come along, not necessarily more interesting but definitely more refreshing. I seem to throw myself onto one hobby after the other, dreaming of one day being one of the best, until I reach a sort of mediocrity where my initial knowledge and excitement fade in importance, and then move on to be awesome at something else.

I bet it must seem a little depressing to some, to never finish what you start. I can’t say it has bothered me much in the past: I was in it for the fun and that’s exactly what I got.
Photography however, is different. This isn’t just some other hobby I’m going to slack at. All my life I’ve had this in the back of my head and I should have started a long time ago. In fact, I shouldn’t have failed art school. There, I said it. Fuck industrial science, copy machines and western languages. This is one school I deeply regret quitting.

The difference now, is that my goal is not to meet the challenge or go with the flow for as long as it’s fun. The idea is to catch up with time and become what I once intended to, before I believed that I could do anything at all.

Here’s a piece of criticism I received the other day regarding this photo:

"Apparently the servers here dislike my entire gargoyle set." (The servers rejected my photo’s)
I don’t blame them. This is not very good. I suppose this is a picture of gargoyles and you want to emphasize these architectural features. Neither seems to be sharp or to stand out from the background. The blue/green line running through the nose of the first gargoyle does not help. The back gargoyle is really out of focus and lost in the clutter. I also fail to see how the rest of the image works. The patterns of the window panes are not that interesting and just detract from the center(s) of interest. Impact and interest are poor. Technique is poor with flat lighting and lack of contrast. Composition appears accidental. It looks like someone saw some interesting gargoyles and just snapped a picture. Yup, I am on the side of the servers.

What happened to “Dude, you’re awesome for someone who bought his camera last week”? I asked a professional for his blunt opinion, is what. Not because I’m looking for praise for once, but for improvement. I’m going to play this to the hilt.

 

 

Where is this… life, that my father spoke of?

Where are these… responsibilities… that my teachers warned me about?

Whatever were those ghost stories about?

Am I doing something wrong here, or am I the only one getting it right? My troubles aren’t anything like those described to me when I grew up. While the world turns from nine to five, I wake up halfway and wonder which can to open. And if I work, I receive both enjoyment and cold, hard cash.

I both receive and give as little as possible, so I can focus on my own business rather than society’s. When I was ten years old, I would have expected to be struck by lightning at this rate, because to be a citizen means to work hard, raise a family, and die from cancer. Would you mind if I passed on all three? They sure don’t sound appealing, at least to me.

I do what I like, all day, every day. I invest in people, work and hobbies because I enjoy all three. Just when should this exhausting, boring, sorry excuse for a life begin? I think I missed that meeting.

It’s really nothing personal, but please, fuck you all. Keep your little world and its little problems, I have better things to do- like decide on pizza for tonight. Please? If it’s not too much to ask.

Don’t mind if I dance a little longer. Look the other way while I break one more law. Your ways and rules take place outside my head. It seems I was the only one given a life, so…
Don’t mind if I do.


Friction

“There is someone behind the treeline.”

I turn my head to glare at her, but find myself distracted by her profile, silhouetted against the evening sky. I still manage to make my voice sound cold enough.

– “I am aware of that.”

She isn’t smiling, even after such an obvious observation. Instead, she continues to play dumb.

– “Why won’t you come out?”

– “Not this again.” I roll my eyes, increasingly annoyed. “How many time will I need to explain this?”

– “Repeat it a thousand times, and it still won’t make sense. For every step you are approached, you wait for the next one. I can see you move, run even, in all directions but mine. Why?”

I follow her eyes with my own and I too, trace the thing in the forest. My incarnation. My self. And indeed, it won’t come closer. Not enough, anyway; it has, in fact, made progress over time. A nose-length, hardly an accomplishment compared to the distance that needs covered, but progress nonetheless.

The wind picks up and rustles the grass of the circular opening in the forest, the place that I call home. The place where she stands, beside me. Beautiful as always, perhaps even more so over time. As I turn my attention back to the shadow, he has disappeared. Of course he would.

– “So why don’t you?”

But fuck those questions of hers.

– “Because I can’t.”

– “You’re not trying.”

– “Tie a chain to your innards and run it loose from the wall. Let’s see how hard you try.”

– “Drama queen.”

I snicker, despite myself. “I blame you, you know.”

– “I know.”

– “No, you don’t.” She knows, but I still want to tell her. “You have no idea what you did.”

Silence.

I can’t. Okay? I wish I could, I would cry you a river if it changed anything, but it all stays the fucking same. I may not advance as easily as you, but god damn it, do not underestimate the effort I make. For each pace of yours, I could have made a million in any other direction. I’d learn tricks for you, I would murder if you only asked. I just won’t come -out-. So stop asking, and more importantly, stop wondering why. It’s a waste of effort you should be spending in getting used to the shadow. This so-called approach of yours? It’s a joke. It’s a challenge, a tease. Stop playing around or find another damn forest to frolic in.”

I turn around briskly; I am done talking and I know she won’t answer. I can feel her look my way in lieu of a proper goodbye, and it doesn’t miss its purpose. I curse once again as I step into the cool shade and continue until I know she can no longer distinguish me from the shapes around me. Only then do I pause, turn… and watch, In silence.


Wolves

Like a true nature’s child,
We were born,
Born to be wild.

I got a message the other day of someone wanting to get back in touch the platoon we were in at boot camp. There was a kid sleeping in our room, full of energy but a little difficult at times (who isn’t). I often wondered if he, along with everyone else, got to finish his training course and join the unit he enlisted for, in his case the airborne commando’s.
On the fourteenth of April 2007, he got into an accident and was killed. I’m not sure about the exact dates but I don’t think he could have finished his two year training. It fucking sucks to hear this. They never mentioned accidents as a cause of death in basic, and somehow I just didn’t consider it a possibility.

I can’t say I missed him as much as my time in the army, but now this whole dream-like memory just got a face. I just wish he could have made it, but if I were to decide anything he wouldn’t be dead in the first place. I only knew him as a soldier, so that’s what I’ll remember him by.

We slept together, we ate together, we pissed together, we showered together. We dug makeshift foxholes together and got scolded for our sorry excuse of one. I only knew him for two months but the news of his death really stung, and hasn’t let me go since.
Nowadays, when I mention anything of my time there, I generally just see people roll their eyes around me. I can’t blame them, I hardly look like army material, even as a medic for the red cross. I don’t mind much, either, because I hate everything the army stands for. There should be no need for one, but sadly, there is, and I make no excuses for the fact that I volunteered and when the shit hits the fan, I will again.
I’m not sure what his motivation was, I do know that he often poked fun at me because I (theoretically) had the easiest training in the whole Belgian army. My usual response was that, if he ever got in trouble, I would be the one to carry him home.

The above quote comes from a website dedicated to him. They’re the lyrics to “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf (no peeking) and continue as follows:

We can climb so high,
I never wanna die…

Along with his parents and loved ones, I will remember my colleague for as long as I will live.
Somehow, that makes me proud. It feels like I can keep the promise I made him.

 

 

-I pity you.

-Therese… How I longed for those words. Now I can forget about all those times I watched your light go out, and knew that you were not alone.

-Where is your pride, Gabriel?

-You can’t have pride when the rain turns you half blind, or if you can’t see for a meter without thick glasses. I am twenty-five and still afraid of thunderstorms.

 

My voluntary job as light technician / sound technician / carpenter in theater group “De Balsemblomme” has come on an end. Not for long I suspect, but this production is finished and I don’t regret it much. It was certainly an interesting piece, but seeing it for over a dozen times ruins every bit of suspense, no matter how well acted.

The script this time, titles “The shadow of Mart”, was about a son killing his mother. A mix of circumstance, deeply rooted issues and some Oedipus complex causes a young man to lose his marbles when seeing the supposed love of his life being won over by arrogant but successful men. I can relate to that, and not just because I am supposed to. After what must have been the seventh performance, I got to thinking why that was, since I caught myself reflecting the most, not when this girl was involved, but while conversing with his mother about his deceased brother.

-Why don’t you love me!?

-Because you are ugly! …I mean… Because you have ugly thoughts.

I was very different than today when I was a child. Besides the obvious, I mean. I wet my bed and had a bad case of lazy eye. I matured slowly (still do) and had to take Ritalin by the truckloads. I was weak: When I was asked to move a bench in school for gymnastics together with someone else, my end didn’t even leave the floor.
I was an annoyance to most and I distinctly recall hearing my mother cry and ask my father why I had turned out that way, something that touched me surprisingly little at the time.

Today, I am a roadie and have little to compensate for regarding strength. I can run faster and longer than practically anyone. My eye has magically healed itself: it’s still not as good as the other but tests for the army gave it a 10/10 rating, which must make the other one 11/10 or something. I know what I’m doing and I know why, and have accomplished things that seem to impress some people. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of room for improvement, but at least on a physical level, it seems like I was cured from some curse or other.

I suppose then, it comes as no surprise that I’ve grown this obsession with enjoying life, now that I was given the full opportunity to do so. My refusal to acknowledge and tendency to fully compensate for weaknesses is easily explained by the fact that I don’t want to lose what seems to have come as a gift. Somehow, this both mentally and physically weak child escaped these defects, and seemed reborn along the way. It appears that a certain gratitude for life and compulsive urge to enjoy it to the fullest would only be appropriate, considering how easy (and even logical) it would have been to turn out differently, in a way that wouldn’t allow for this kind of lifestyle.

-Is this your first time here, Victor?

-Yes?

-And you just drop down on the couch like that?

-Oh, well, the couch is a lot more comfortable when things… eventuate, if you know what I mean?

-No, Victor. I do not.

It’s all nice in theory, but I seriously wonder if it actually reaches back this far. Freud would stain his panties if he heard all this, and I suppose everything that you are originates from what you went through in the past. The question is just, how much. I know of one man who could help me out on these questions, and perhaps help me figure out why the fuck I can’t approach anything potentially menstruating. But you see…

The director, a charming young lady, went around passing gifts to everyone. I too, got a small paper bag, with something scribbled on it:

Dear Maarten,

A few small gadgets to thank you for everything. Post-its, to help you remember (I forgot my queue list ONCE). Superglue because you were the “fixer”. Your dedication and engagement were clear and that was an enormous relief for me (and the players). There is a first for everything, don’t let this be a one-time only. It was great working with you.
Kiss.
[Name here]

The fixer.
I may not be a smooth-talker. I may not know how to look a girl in the eye. But I’ll fix their stuff, any time of the week. There’s better things than sex (I’m sure) and if not, there are at least other things. There’s plenty wrong with me but the contrast between Quasimodo on ADHD to “the fixer” is pretty much black and white. I am worth something. I contribute. I have sufficient reason to believe I am a good guy, and that counts at least for something. If not for them, at least for me.


Princess Wishes

Walt Disney: Single-handedly responsible for a multi-zillion dollar empire and ridiculous standards for us male population to live up to. A good chunk of this white prince propaganda is Disney on Ice, which ironically does not involve Walt on skates, but fictional characters represented by absurd costumes doing complicated skate patterns. Skate fans hate it because it’s retarded, kids hate it because the most interesting thing Jasmine ever did was fall on her ass.

All in all, this money machine will perform around twenty shows in three different venues around Belgium, all of which will be attended by myself and seven colleagues of mine, operating the followspots meant to keep Lumière well lit (See what I did there?). We are connected through intercom, which fills the room with radio waves of crooked jokes, anecdotes and discussion on which of Triton’s daughters looks the hottest. I swear by Ariel but that’s because she’s the only redhead. Technically there’s nine of us, if you count the American technician giving us queues. It’s remarkable what ensues when nine people are forcibly connected by voice for hours on end.

-“Three euro’s for a coke here? What a ripoff!”

-“Dude, you’re the one charging ten euro’s for fricken’ popcorn.”

It’s funny because it’s true. In the lobby by the front entrance stands are placed, selling all sorts of the most random junk you can imagine, for post-war prices. If Disney were dead, which I don’t think he is because he sold his soul to the devil at some stage, he would roll over in his grave. When the lights go out, you see just how many of these rotten kids got one of those spinning light… things, with Mickey Mouse’s dumb grin on top. In my opinion it’s a sure way to get your kid to gauge its eye out but I don’t want to enforce my parental ethics on a multinational company.

Speaking of which though, I think those same ethics draw the line somewhere below the outfits that some of these characters wear. And if you know there’s a 56-year old Russian under Ursula’s costume, you might begin to think that there’s an underlying message that we are all somehow missing. What I do know, is that Daddy isn’t coming along to see the dragon get slain. Not while Tinkerbell is special guest. Jesus fucking christ, I have to keep my light on Sebastian the Salt-Water crab while that life-sized pixie is shaking that barely-covered bum.

The day of the first show, I arrived several hours early because of my own mistake. A boring few hours it were, but only because I went to see the skaters rehearse for the last half hour or so. Now, I know just how much I’m reinforcing the same old cliché, but there’s just something entrancing about these trim little girls hop on the ice and pretend to be seduced by a two-story monster while bending in ways that would make my bones snap. These guys have to be gay (which coincidentally, they are) if they can hold her like that without going primal.

There seems to be a shift in ethics when ice or dancing is involved, and this doesn’t just concern bedtime stories. While outside the Lotto arena you could be arrested for an indecent proposal, it seems perfectly normal to bend over on the set in ways that I call sexually provocative. Also, a little thought I would like to throw into the group:
Is Ariel, or anyone for that matter, aware that she was just lifted off her skates by nothing but her hoohah? He is literally holding her over his head with outstretched arm, while she is spreading all fours. Is she permanently numb down there or something? I look around, but I don’t see any children’s eyes being covered. Alright then, I suppose it must be a common thing.

Followspotting up to three shows a day can be bittersweet torture for people like me, by which I mean the warm-blooded type. Snow White’s little song fades to the background when she manages to spin in such a way that makes her skirt rise up to her forehead. I’m sorry, I know how this sounds, but it’s true! If this were to happen in public, it would make the fucking news! How did this reach such a level of normality that it made its way into child entertainment? Is there some subliminal issue to this? Trying to appeal to the adults, as well? It’s a mystery to me. But in the end, it makes followspot jobs somewhat more entertaining.