Archive for February, 2011

Working Title

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a genuine Yes Man. Ask me anything and unless someone beat you to it, there’s a very good chance I’ll do it for you- From bar duty over building your house to finding a cure for cancer overnight; Sure, why not. The only condition is me enjoying it, and I happen to have a very broad interest.

I do so because I like doing so. I like to work and I like the challenges it brings. It creates opportunity and makes everybody fucking thrilled to have me around- what more could I ask for?
Among these things lately, I’ve learned to support bands and performing artists technically, and of course soon requests came leaking in.

I like doing this kind of thing, so it saddens me to be reaching that stage where I have to start asking money. I think I can deliver enough quality (as I’ve proven repeatedly) and I need to start getting into the habit of making a living off of this. Direct result of course, will be that my biggest fans won’t think twice about losing me like a bad habit.

I hope their appreciation will last through this, but I’m not counting on it much. Chances are, I’ll be looking for a completely different target audience soon- the kind that doesn’t take mistakes lightly. I’m slowly entering the snake pit, and any mistake now will last me through the rest of my career, whatever it might be.


What’s more awesome than inventing systems and learning electronics from scratch and proceed to build an epic theater set? Doing it twice.

We’re doing re-runs of our last performance with the usual theater group, which means that our three-headed stage team has to go through the exhausting process of building the whole damn thing, all over again. For those who might remember: This is the gig I built an electro-magnet system from scratch for, and for which I installed a wireless 450 LED circuit under a table. Both things I had never done, before.

Tonight was the first show, tomorrow the second and last, unless we get selected for a “best of the best” festival in November? Did I mention our shit was epic? It looks like we’re in but we’ll know in 3-4 weeks.

Our crew consists of a retired carpenter (They don’t make ‘em any better than him), a rather dashing fashion designer, and a stage builder/technician, which is me. Without pride or bias, I can say we are as good as it gets. The three of us made the impossible happen, routinely. We rock and there’s no other way to see it.
Officially there are five of us, so I should mention the other two: There’s the “manager” who hasn’t shown his face at work for more than four hours (although his help is appreciated), and the local light technician providing us with the light design and installation. Design of the set, building of it, development of mechanic systems, making drapes, designing costumes, making costumes, designing flyer and poster and controlling light schemes, is left to the rest of us. Among other things.

Part of what makes this production such a challenge is because organization is non-existing. My friend who was sound tech last time, wasn’t even included in the mailing list when details were sent around, and as a result he couldn’t make it. Stagehands are promised but never show up- they later claim to have been contacted only the previous day. A choir was supposed to be booked; never happened. It’s a disaster.

An actress, who hasn’t spoken more than four words to me since I joined the group 4 years ago, came up to me today and said out of the blue, “I’m really sorry for what you have to go through to do all this for us. I don’t know what we will do without you.”

You see, my colleagues don’t have the stage builder’s nihilistic resilience to organizational fuck-ups, and have to vent this to others. I don’t mind- at least my opinion is represented without me having to make a fuss. But, it has come so far that one of us is quitting, and the other two, me included, will have other things to do the next production. The situation, thus, is as following:
As of the end of this production, the theater group will have zero technicians, and zero stage builders. Rehearsals are already underway for the next play, which will be premiering 1st of April. Yes, that’s in 4 weeks. Where we were halfway done with the design last time, they don’t even have any volunteers, yet.

I give them two weeks before I expect an email.

“Hey.

We’re a little short on hands here because of our incompetence. We have a few stagehands, none in fact, but we still need someone for a few details which is, fucking everything. Would you know anyone? Like, yourself?

Thanks for nothing,
Señor dickweed.”

I promised myself I actively wouldn’t give a damn about the next production because I have my own festival to build for school, not to mention classes and internships in between. If I start caring one rat’s ass, I just know I’ll be sucked in, wanting to get things done right and thus doing them myself. I’m not going to do that to myself. I need to concentrate or I’ll end up doing everything half-assed, giving me frustration instead of any kind of satisfaction.

Yes, satisfaction, because don’t get me wrong, I love this job. I love creating things from loose parts, learning as I go, and being an essential part of something so effective and creative as our team. I literally never thought myself capable of the things I pulled off recently. I’ll miss it terribly, but I have other priorities now. The overlooking management will have to do the very thing they suck most at:
Manage.


Peace, Love and Cynicism

Valentine’s day passed with only about a dozen little hearts in sight, and I am very grateful for that. The past week was an awesome one and I don’t feel like spoiling it with snuggly-wuggly little couples stabbing my eyes.

Do you know the legend of Saint Valentine? No? Neither do I, and seriously, I don’t give a shit. In fact, it is my right not to give a shit. My ex’ boyfriend (not to be mistaken for my ex-boyfriend) asked me to “take care” of her while he was abroad, and I kindly told him to go fuck himself. Good thing he was drunk. But seriously, since “getting her drunk and raped” isn’t considered romantic enough for today’s society (fucking materialists), so I refuse to bear the burden while someone else gets to run off with the privileges.

I do wish “fuck day” would have been implemented. It was an idea of two guys on a television show: The day before Valentine’s was to become “Fuck Day” (that shit cracks me up) and would officially, for one day, detach casual sex from emotional baggage. Now, I too know that sex can’t compensate for a relationship, but I always wanted to walk up to a girl and ask, “So, you doing anything on fuck day?” Nowadays, no one remembers that show so I’d just get my nuts cracked. Not to mention I had no less than four people staying over on that day and yes, they were all of a female variety, but I like my suggestions not to have an unintentional undertone of “…or else I’ll throw you on the streets”.
Besides, four…? I might not live.

They’re all in Bruges now by the way, which is officially the most romantic city in Eurasia. They promised me they’d get loaded and ruin as many cute couples’ days. I should have married them before they left but that seems counter-productive, somehow. Life goes on.

This is me, in a good mood. Can you tell? It’s as close as I get to being my former, 20-year old self, which raises the question whether I was a happier person back then. Not that it makes a lick of difference.

Oddly enough, I haven’t really spent one moment of this year hating Valentine’s day. Instead, it served as my personal amusement and every moment I was reminded of it, was in jest. Hell, this was fun. We should do this every year.

Alžběta Čížková has written the following reference about you on your profile:

Four girls vs. the one guy and he survived!
Well the main destination of our trip was Bruges, but Maarten and his friends caused, that all of us totally felt in love with Gent. Sweet Valentine´s Bruges was just like something after it (even if vomiting on cute couples of lovers was quite fun)…
Maarten is the coolist guy with the coolist flat (and also a haircut). If you want to taste the best frites in Gent, or to visit „The Vietnam War“ birthday party with free beer (and like a bonus have a great pics of these actions), he is your man!
It really sucks, that my English is so bad, because I would like to chat with him more. His sense of humour and music taste was likeable :)
Thanks a lot!

P.S. My name is written right. He is also clever

It is true. I have a haircut.


Now that my finances are back in place, I subscribed to Capoeira training again. Today is the first class and I won’t be able to go, but that’s okay. At least I know I’m back in action.

I really missed it so much. Indoor training sessions are one thing, but by coming you keep updated on events and workshops, in massive halls or outside in the sun. There is nothing as satisfying as capoeira in open air. Also- I’ll get kicked in the face again. Most fun you can have with your pants on.

When I tell people I do capoeira, their reactions are easily divided into two categories: The first goes “That’s some kind of dance, right?” and the second, “That’s some kind of martial art, right?” Contrary to what you might expect, I am far more annoyed with category two than number one. Because then, the inevitable next question is, “…But it doesn’t really stand up against other martial arts, right?”

This bullshit of “which martial art is TEH GREATEST” needs to end. People are obsessed with who’s the strongest, the fastest, yada yada. They would match every martial art to every other in every possible situation before declaring Muay Thai the ultimate kick-ass method. It’s an attitude sponsored by Hollywood that misses the point in so many ways, it makes everyone dumber just hearing the question asked.

I heard a teacher once ramble about how Raphaelo the TMNT holds his daggers (called sais) wrong, always, without exception. He then demonstrated the proper way, after which a student commented, “So he uses one dagger exclusively for defense? Why not just use a shield, then?”
Why not just bring a gun, then? Why not just let your president nuke the fucker and be done with it? Any more stupid questions?

Martial arts are situation-specific. Learning to disarm an opponent is for situations in which you forgot to bring your assault rifle, obviously. Jiu Jitsu for example is widely considered one of the most effective martial arts, but get this: It has almost no attack moves. Does that make it inefficient? Clearly not.

On top of that, Capoeira, especially Capoeira Angola, distances itself from eastern martial arts by focusing on culture rather than combat. Of course doing a little dance isn’t the most effective way to kill an attacker, but I can guarantee you, it is by far the most exciting. It is rich with rhythm, music and playfulness, and focuses on the fun of beating each other up by not beating each other up and thus ending the fight within twelve seconds.

So how would a capoeirista stand up in a fight? He would certainly have an edge, with trained reflexes and practice in balance, but since capoeira never bothered to enter this cock-race, it wouldn’t hold its ground against a similarly trained martial artist in let’s say, karate. So let’s drop this whole issue, please?


Building

I want to spill something I’ve had to turn around and face a few times too many, recently. Bear with me.

Almost exactly two years ago, at this very moment, I was preparing for my hiking trip to Scotland with four of the best friends anyone could wish for. I had just returned from a two month search for myself in Ireland, England, Norway and everywhere in between. A search that failed.

I purposefully got lost in hope of steering away from the depression I was sinking into. That too, failed. I was a mess. I missed everything I once had, with such heart-wrenching passion that for brief moments, it felt like I could have it all back through wishful thinking. Moments that ended all too soon and were, in turn, missed.

It was here, in this room, that I decided to “hang on until Scotland”- my exact words. Just cling on to something to live for and see it as my light at the end of the tunnel, desperately hoping it would lead somewhere.

Despite my rock solid philosophy that life should be enjoyed and my self-humor, the little but strong optimism that I have, I can honestly tell you that I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have that one trip to Scotland. Maybe that decision to find something to look forward to was a sign of re-emerging strength, or maybe it was my last hope before things would have gone really bad for me. Or, perhaps, I would have worked up the courage to tell my friends that I needed help, when the time came. I really don’t know.

It didn’t take more than two weeks for me to start my recovery.
What happened? Couchsurfing happened. Two American squatters stayed over and I showed them how beautiful my city is, how warm its people. And just like that, I started believing it myself, again. Summer was beginning and brought a new dawn that I had failed to see. And oh irony, all I had to do was show someone else before I saw.
Though they are utterly clueless, these two dumpster divers just might have saved my life. When I finally arrived in Scotland, all I wanted was to go home and spend time with my girlfriend.

I’ve hit rock bottom more than once and every time, it was something small that turned me around, something that seems trivial to others. Please, I beg you, keep this in mind. Some people don’t see the world like we do and all it might take are the little things that make life worth living. When you get a chance, be such a little thing. A light at the end of the tunnel. God knows how many eyes you’ve opened that way, already.


I decided to move today. The decision hit me like a train, and I can even tell you exactly when and why:

The cold makes my walls turn humid, because they were made in the fifties with the cheapest materials available and the previous owner decided to fuck them up royally in every possible way. But okay, I can live with that. It’s not overly obvious and only in one location. Shitty thing is, the humidity is wearing down my walls and the outer layer of material, whatever it is, is flaking off. In itself not disastrous maybe, but it’s right smack above my couch.

It has been more or less clinging on so far, but tonight I’m having couchsurfers (no less than four- a personal record) and one of them will have to sleep there. So I decided to get up there, armed with an industrial grade vacuum cleaner, and clean it up a little. It looks patchy now but at least I’m sure nothing will be coming down.

It’s bad, I know, but for a “cité” house like this, this is fairly normal and I knew what I was getting into before moving here. Mind you, the rent and location are about the best you can get in this town, so I had the feeling all this cancelled each other out somehow.

No, what made me go “fuck this” was that, while I was up there, I found mushrooms growing out of my wall- I am not shitting you. My wall is about as nurturing for fungi as a fucking forest floor. It doesn’t actually have any fungus growing on the inside thank Maynard, but who knows what the inside of the walls and ceiling must look like?? For all I know, I’m letting these people sleep smack by a flourishing biotope and before I know it, they claim to have been molested by some primate.

There’s no way I can afford a different place right now, but that’s why I’m in school. Although I’m still not looking forward to getting a “real” job, I am quite happy to finally be making a real living so I can find a more healthy place to live.

It seems my priorities have been shifting, but that’s no surprise when you literally see the walls crumble around you.


Steam

Wow. I knew MIDI was boring, but I wasn’t prepared for this.

Otherwise, classes are going fine. We’ve entered the exciting world of light design and studio recording, both completely new to me. I don’t think I’m alone in this: Even though we’re clueless as to how a mixing desk actually works, most people are aware that the sliding things stand for the volumes of different instruments, and those are basically what it’s all about. But ask them how a light desk works? Or how an album is recorded? Cows staring at trains have more intelligent expressions than the ones you’ll get.

Even though I’ve seen it happen a million times, the technical details are a complete marvel to me, too. It seems I am more of a light person than a sound person, especially after seeing a demonstration with a minimum of lights and their different combinations. There’s a chance for creativity that you’ll never find in the rigid structure of live sound. And that’s because everyone has some opinion or other about how music is supposed to sound, but nobody knows how it’s supposed to look. You literally have all the freedom and if it looks good, people are happy.

There’s more good news. This Saturday I’ll be doing my first day of internship with a local cultural center called “De Vieze Gasten.” Translated, “The Dirty Guys.” They’re a borderline anarchist group, working to bring out the best of the troubled neighborhood they are located in. A merry bunch with their own theater where they can use an intern light technician. How shweet is that. Took them long enough to decide, too: I got no less than five emails full of “yes, no, maybe” before they agreed.
Apparently, their last two interns left a bad aftertaste, so I have a lot to prove. Pardon me while I waltz in there and restore their faith in humanity?

What’s also drawing near is our final exams, in the form of a festival we have to organize from scratch. Yes a fucking festival.
Headline will be
D’Onderhond (but as a faithful reader you knew this), a band I am proud to say I suggested and contacted. Others include a cover band called Feel Good and some… thing, Sue Me Charlie. Animation in between will be covered by um yeah. Something they seem to find amusing in Antwerp.
No, I don’t agree with all bands but frankly, I don’t really care. I just want to do my job right, which I am doing quite terribly, so far. They put me in charge of a team responsible for promotion and sponsoring, and from the fact that you probably didn’t have a clue about any of this proves that I suck donkey balls at it. I did contact a company where I thought I had a foot in the door, but it took them exactly 20 seconds to compose their answer to my elaborate request:

“No.”

Our budget is €1,000, which will buy us catering (if we’re lucky) and the artists’ transportation.
We’re screwed.
It’s on April first, by the way, at
this location. Be there!

We will be recording my sister’s band soon now, that is if we can find a date when we are all available. The bits of recording we’ve done as exercise so far have shown it’s not all quite as hard as it’s cooked up to be, and I do think we have a great team of technicians. One of us is good with sound, one (me) is better with technical stuff, and one is an accomplished artist, himself. As long as we manage to get along (it’s been hit and miss so far), I think we can pull it off quite well.

Additionally (it won’t end!), we’re doing re-runs of our last theater production, Grote Kinderen. Given my busy schedule, the load-in will prove to be yet another nightmare, and I for one have my fingers crossed.

So yeah… When I tell my friends I’ve been “rather busy” lately, I’m not lying. But that’s good; very good, even. They’re all things I love to do, and what more could you want?
I could use a massage though, since you’re asking.


Little Hunter

When I was little (HA HA), my religion teacher was a hauntingly beautiful, pale woman with a grudge against Madonna and a hopelessly naïve view on morals. She was my first crush, although I should be careful saying that because I frequently run into her husband as he works for festival security.

When I was 7 or 8, I was explained all about truth and lies by her. How lies are bad, and we should always speak the truth without exception. It’s a universal law because God wanted it this way: Truth = good, lies = bad. It’s indoctrinated into every child for the sake of simplicity.

It took me 10 years to un-learn what I so readily believed. And I wish everybody would, if for a second, because the assumption of good and evil leads to many logical fallacies and biases.
Today, I believe honesty has no ethical repercussion. It’s just like most other things: It completely depends on the context.

I believe it is critical not to be honest out of principle, but instead be sincere. Often the truth will do far more damage than the lie, and for some reason people still stick to it because they believe it is the “right” thing to do.
If you care about someone and you know a lie, however blatant, will make a situation better (permanently), how could you hesitate? Living a lie, in the end, is often far better than having to live with the truth.

This of course, puts the decision smack in your hands, something a lot of people have difficulties with. You will have to decide whether a lie is out of self preservation or goodwill. And it’s not always an easy decision, but until recently I thought I had it pretty well figured out.

So this is what I was coming to: A person like me, who is a little hard to keep as a friend, should have all the more motivation to be careful with his. And I wasn’t- I just lost at my own game. I really can’t go into detail but suffice to say that I fucked up. So did they, but that’s their story; I’ve got enough work correcting myself.

Live and learn, right? Yeah. But at this pace, I’m losing more than I bargained for. And making the mistake of being honest rather than sincere, I destroyed much more than I thought possible.


"Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives… and to the ‘good life,’ whatever it is and wherever it happens to be."
-Hunter S. Thompson

After mocking your new years resolutions and revealing them as the fake, useless, pointless, unfound illusions that they are, I decided to make a few of my own. Okay well- One:

A better diet. While this habit of pizza and sandwiches might be quick and easy, it’s not doing me many favors. On top of that am I getting tired of the lack of decent fucking martino subs around here. All this leads to one inevitable conclusion:

Maarten has to learn to cook.

Now wipe that smug grin off your face, because no matter how easy you might think it is, I suck worse at it than Die Antwoord sucks at street cred. I can’t boil a potato without killing my self or neighbors.

So! Starting tonight, I’m learning to cook. I have two burgers waiting downstairs and no intention whatsoever to take them out of my backpack before I die of starvation, so I at least made it this far already. I was clever enough (Know Thy Self!) not to have anything else edible in the house, save from dry spaghetti that seems awfully tasty right now.

Of course, this has to be about a hell of a lot more than cooking. I’ve been trying to get my act together a little lately, in an attempt to work myself of this marginal position I grew accustomed to. Sure, it’s an easy life, hardly having to pay rent for this drafty place with nothing to do but myself all day, but it only gets me this far. Literally. I keep thinking it wouldn’t be a bad idea to grow out of this some time soon, so now I’m taking the first steps. I’m not impressing anyone living on potato chips, least of all myself.


Zone

Last weekend must have been the most random weekend of my life so far. You know it’s good when you catch yourself going, “…Wait, how did I end up here?” several times a day. (That and “Ooh… That’s going to leave a stain.”)

Sleeping out and helping my father move furniture wasn’t all that special, but I don’t mind these things starting off slow. Things picked up when I had to arrange a contract with a band called “D’Onderhond” (literally translates to Th’Underdog) I invited to come play at our festival (more on that later). For the record, yes, I think these guys are fucking awesome and if you disagree, that’s because you have a grudge about them fucking your sister. All nine of them. Also, they happen to consist of a merry gang of squatters so after taking forever tracking them down, I eventually spotted a couple of them huddled up in an old gas station named after a puma. They’ve been having trouble with uptight neighbors so they weren’t specifically thrilled to see me at their door with a paper for them to sign. Luckily they understood it was for our school’s paperwork, and while their cow-sized dog was loving me all over the floor, they filled in the details that they could (which excludes address and bank account number).

The rest of they day was spent intricately photographing the local light festival (more on that later too), with two friends with identical camera bodies. What I also got was a professional, expensive-ass backpack that can fit both my laptop and camera equipment along with a sweet pair of fingerless gloves, all in preparation for the next day.

Queue Flashback: The artists from Brussels we did the sound for on the radio recently, later performed at a local club. Since my colleague was doing the sound, I had my hands free to shoot pictures and do some experimental filming with my modest DSLR. They seemed impressed when I gave them the results later, but they opted for their own laptop footage for promotion so I didn’t really bother further with it.

Two days later I got a phone call: They liked my stuff so much, they invited me to come shoot for their next video, in the Ardennes. Now if you want to compliment me, this is exactly how.

So it was on this foggy Sunday morning that I stood, with my shining new equipment and a tripod heavier than myself over the shoulder, staring at the valley below. I think I spoke out loud when I mused, “What an odd place to find oneself at a time like this.” On a hillside in the biting cold, at a time I am usually in bed.

We spent the whole day shooting and I got the chance to really get into “the zone” at times, where I can pour my whole self into what I’m doing- something I still miss from doing capoeira. The actors and crew were awesome people, and the owner of the place, one of the richest families in Belgium, bombarded us with pizza and homemade apple juice. Motherfucker do I love artisanal apple juice.

It’s no coincidence that I preferred to exchange images before going home as we arrived in Brussels, even though it was getting late: I was having a great time and home was the last place I wanted to go. We stayed up chatting, joking and sharing music tastes long after the sun went down, and inevitably, it became too late to catch a train home. So I just crashed there, and they put me in one bed with a very cute chick (who looked younger than me but happened to be seven years older), who mistook me for her boyfriend several times that night. I deserve a medal for keeping my paws to myself but needless to say, didn’t get much sleep- Though getting surprise-spooned must be the best alternative.

Today is Monday, and I’ve been kind of wobbling around at school. The weekend now seems so surreal there is something telling me it was only a dream- but I have the pictures to show otherwise. I’m not going to put them up by the way, because they would spoil something creative that isn’t mine, and not because there’s 95 of them and I don’t feel like fucking editing them all right now.



I just went and saw “Blood into Wine” and paid heaps of money for it because I support the artist and multi-million dollar making production houses. This puts me drop dead smack in the middle of the “I’ll follow Maynard to the end of the world and buy anything his ass cheeks let through” category, because, frankly, I’ll follow Maynard to the end of the world and will buy anything his ass cheeks let through. Never in my life have I seen a movie about wine making, but I’ll watch anything of and about Maynard James Keenan. I can’t even remember the other people’s names and this was like, 20 minutes ago.

Neither do I give a flying fuck about wine. It’s got alcohol in it so I won’t drink it, it just tastes like grapes and piss to me. I know I sound exactly like those two talk show hosts in the movie but the difference is that I’m aware of it (or so I keep telling myself). I know the art is about subtlety and practice sharpens your senses to detect much more than the flavor of some liquid, but I still couldn’t care to save my life, I’m sorry!
However, the only reason why I didn’t go and buy Maynard’s nightshop urine (two bottles, one for me and one for my father) is because it was sold out, pecked dry by people like me but with better timing.

This is the kind of irony Banksy (another one of my idols) gets hard on: Idolizing someone despite realizing the absurdity of which. But! I have a valid reason, which is the fact that I was aiming for a particular cabernet sauvignon by the name of (Nagual del) Judith, which is the name of Maynard’s deceased mother. That’s right, he named that red excrement after his mother, whose ashes he spread over the vineyard so that she can travel the world.

When looking up to someone as globally loved as Maynard James Keenan, it’s natural to seek something to have in common, so that while he doesn’t even know of my existence, he knows that he is not alone in his loss and, just as I know, that others have lost loved ones. In a painful sense, I am happy to share the most influential occurrence in his life. It proves that in some sense, we are alike and not alone.

Watching the hype around rock ‘n roll and red wine on screen, it stings to see just how many idiots like me are around. But where else would you turn? It’s important to believe in oneself, but even God has Batman to look up to. It’s the natural course of things and I’m not escaping it.

And it seems like I’ll have to wait until autumn to get my claws on some wine. Which is, coincidentally, remarkably close to my birthday hint nudge wink.