Archive for May, 2011

Roger Waters – The Wall

Ever since I learned to operate a cd player, I’ve known about Pink Floyd. My father had “Meddle” laying around and the first song on it was “One of These Days,” a masterful piece written as an act of aggression towards an arrogant local radio show host. I would skip the voice part because it scared the life out of me and rewind the guitar solo’s until I could sing them along with high-pitched voice and previously undiscovered vowels.

Pink Floyd has been with me for as long as I can remember and my appreciation for their music came in phases, but it was pretty early when I realized that they were, objectively reasoned, the best band that ever walked the earth. I came to accept that the parts I didn’t like were just too complex for me to grasp and used them as a central axis to base my music taste around. It is no coincidence that my favorite band is Tool, who show many parallel influences in their music.

It broke my heart when I heard that Pink Floyd didn’t actually exist anymore, even though all band members were at the time still alive. They had separated and in a truly professional way, distributing the rights to their work amongst themselves. Pieces of epic art such as the “The Wall” tour however, were lost forever.

The Wall never really worked to begin with. They did four shows on that tour and then went bankrupt, because the logistics necessary just couldn’t be done without immense costs. Also, the band members couldn’t stand each other anymore so the whole thing was doomed from the start. They broke up and The Wall was buried.

However- those were the seventies, and this is the um, tenties? Science made life easy on us and egos had the time to deflate, just enough for Roger Waters, the old lead singer, to give it another try- albeit with hired musicians. As an all-time fan, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when I was told The Wall would be touring again. In Belgium, even. Under Live Nation and thus, with us as their local crew.

I’ll be honest: My expectations were high. Not just for the show, but also for the production. When they called for volunteers to climb and build the actual “wall” itself, I jumped forward and into climbing gear 4 sizes too big. I was about to build Pink Floyd’s wall.

Six hours later, I had build Pink Floyd’s wall. And, I didn’t really feel any different. I was still excited about the whole idea but the immense release of satisfaction didn’t come. It might have been because I had to get up at 3 fucking 30 in the morning and was too tired to get very excited about anything, combined with the suicidal trickery we had to pull to install the scaffolding on a 45° slope, unique to the Antwerp Sportpaleis. Quoting our American colleague:

“You guys are crazy, you know that? In any other country they’d be like, “Fuck this shit” but you just carry on.”

I did some research and the show was indeed almost an exact copy of what they did 35 years ago, with modern technology. What was absolutely groundbreaking back then, was still mind blowing: During the show the wall is slowly built with white cardboard blocks (SPOILER ALERT by the way) and used as a projection screen for some of the most insane images I have ever seen. Every single song had its own gimmick and adding all the costs, I was amazed to think they even made it to the break-even point this time around.

To give you an idea: The show opened with a fucking airplane flying through the room and crashing into the wall. Lights, both automatic and human operated, were swung through the venue like they didn’t give a fuck, and no less than 15 of the largest projectors available (the size of a vintage Mini) made the whole thing light up with projections everywhere. Monstrous puppets, 20 meters tall, suddenly emerge where you least expect them, inflate, and shoot fucking light from their eyes. I wondered if they could have made it any more bombastic and snickered to myself. “Yeah. When pigs fly.” And then a pig flew by.

It’s a well-known gimmick by now: The flying pig. They stuff it with the right cocktail of helium gas and normal air so that it’s stationary, and then tie a set of propellers to it and the next thing you know, you’ve got a gigantic pig merrily floating around like a boss.

The sound was… flawless. It’s yet another thing Pink Floyd turned into an art: Surround sound. Subwoofers in the front and back of the venue, and holy shit, 5 stacks of speakers divided above the crowd. While so many speakers generally lead to a complete saturation of frequencies and intelligible music, the sound tech, using no less than three different, enormous mixing desks, mixed that shit like a pro and served it to us on a silver platter. It blew me away how good he got it, through superior equipment and skill.

The light too was true to the original show and handled well. It’s much more difficult for me still to find flaws there so I guess I’ll stick with “nobody stood in the dark needlessly”. Through I must say, the mirror-type spots were a good choice (they don’t have heavy rotating heads so they don’t make the truss wobble) and making them fly all over stage? Magnificent.

So here I stood, hanging on for dear life while an explosion of awesome took place before my very eyes: History repeating its most epic moments. And I felt… Disappointed.

Like I said before, my expectations were perhaps unreasonably high. But I am convinced that, along with everything awesome that they adopted from the original gig, they also copied the bad parts. The things that are simply no longer done today because they fuck the show up.

Hiding the band. Okay, I get it: The wall is The Wall. It needs to be there. But hiding the entire band behind for 2/3rds of the show is just rude, in my humble opinion. The stack was high enough to hide the second projection screen and great portion of the light show, and I feel like we’ve only seen a small part of the actual show. The band never even left the stage: just continued to play for what was for them, a white façade. Kind of painful to watch.

On top of that, Sir Waters, dressed in black (black!), didn’t have the charisma to fill the stage. Blah blah sacrilege, I know, but I really do think that. Despite all his grand moves and lots of running, he still had the whole stage Plus the empty wall behind him to fill, and he couldn’t do it. The special effects sent him right home and I personally would have preferred him behind the wall and the band in front of it, because the music was a hell of a lot more interesting than the visual interpretation of it that he gave in the form of what seemed greatly exaggerated sign language. It was embarrassing and distracting to watch. I’m talking air guitar, literally depicting the lyrics, pointing at grey faces in the crowd… He looked like a clown.

When David Gilmour performs (fuck you, I’ll compare you to who ever I like, Roger) he does it with an actual guitar, with the whole band. “Pink Floyd”, not “David and Co.” And “that’s what the original show was like” doesn’t count as a valid excuse to like it, in my book. Let’s see how you like the original Shakespeare. Not to mention David sings a hell of a lot better than Roger. It’s painful but do a quick comparison and tell me I’m wrong.

I’m not finished. What bothered me most of all were the countless empty slogans and icons tossed around. If one side of your pig is saying “Capitalism doesn’t work,” don’t write on the other side “Communism doesn’t work” without providing an alternative. Anyone can use and abuse icons like the Christian cross, Soviet flag, and too many Nazi references to count (I’m seriously getting sick of those). It’s old.

I’ll be honest however: These are details that fade to nothing in comparison to the amount of genius that was channeled into this performance. It reminds me a of a story of an emperor who told Mozart he had “too many notes” in his newest composition. Mozart nodded and asked, “Which ones should I take out, then?”

I enjoyed the gig immensely. Because it played my childhood, because I recognized the amazing when I saw it, but not because of the points I mentioned earlier. Combined with my high expectations… Disappointment was inevitable. Next time, let David have the rights to The Wall, instead?
Ohhhh I went there.

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Manliness in a Pickle Jar

I think by most standards, I could pass for a pacifist. I would bother to explain but I’ll just sound like a treefucking hippie (which apparently, I am) so suffice to say, “War is bad, peace is good”.

On the other side of the spectrum of war-mongering dicks who think it’s justified to pillage and murder to bring down gas prices, there’s the kind of people Europe is filled to the brink with: I call them Passivists. Why? Because they would sit passively on their stoned ass and watch while our country is pulled straight down to hell. And in case you hadn’t guessed: I don’t entirely agree with them, either.

I refrain from going into discussion with these numbskulls for one simple reason: I know how it will go and it never goes well. Usually I just get angry with the fuck, pull his head off and he won’t resist me because it’s against his principles. True story.

They have dozens of reasons and while at first glance they might make sense in some 60’s John Lennon kind of way, they have nothing to do with the fact that, hypothetically, the fucking nazis are banging the front door. Sure, our weapons would be provided by companies that get rich off our war, and sure, you can’t possibly avoid civilian casualties (those lemmings seem to get in the way of every military conflict). But let me try again: The Nazis. Are Here. What will you do about it? Hug them to death?

Yes, I am a pacifist, a militant pacifist, even. I am willing to fight for my peace. I would like to highlight that this does not mean I think it is justified to wage war, but if some misguided cocksucker plans to change my life and country in a way that I don’t agree with (such as the systematical slaughter of innocents), I’m getting me an FN Pfucking90 first thing in the morning and emptying it, point blank if possible, between his eyes. Always wanted to shoot one of those. Nazis, I mean.

All joking aside: While leaving fighting as a last resort, I will not allow any nation with “god on their side” to waltz in here. How would the future generation remember us then? If we can’t stop them, the least we should do is resist them, no? We owe the lives we have today to those who have done it before us. Three generations and we’ve already come to the point where we’re gladly forgetting all about it.

Of course this was back in the days and we’re not living in the past. Germans are people now too despite their filthy fucking language (kidding!) and we’ve moved on since. Did you know though, they are still paying off their debts to us? There’s about 6 Belgians still alive who were actually in the war but everybody seems to think it righteous for the German nation to still be paying ours. I call that disgraceful.
Nowadays we are simply manipulated into working for “their” (whoever that is) agenda and in grotesque 1984 style, are controlled like sheep. There’s different ways of combatting that but that’s besides the point, today. The point is that passively sitting by isn’t going to make an already fucked up situation, any better. In some cases it’s wise to fight fire with fire and I for one, am prepared to meet the threat should it ever arise.

Promises, promises.


On one of my last days as an intern (I hope I never have to be an intern again) my parents came to watch the show. I say “parents” because it’s shorter than “my father and stepmother” which is basically what it boils down to. We all hate her guts but you know, she’s human and so are we so I suppose we might as well get along. From a distance.

The artist was someone she’s a huge fan of (some guy named Derek) who did a tribute to Bob Dylan. He failed miserably because he could sing. I saw Bob recently and all he did was cough as if some doctor had his hand under his nuts and told him to (it’s medical procedure, ladies). I don’t know what came over me but I contacted my parents and told them about the gig, and after now 7 years of working like a motherfucker in showbiz, my parents came to see the show.

My mentor put me in charge of the lights, start to finish, design to execution, as a final test of my abilities after two months of learning the ropes. And I must say, I did put some effort into it: I reset all spots so I could start from scratch, researched complimentary colors and used unconventional, asymmetrical schemes. Seeing me work, my mentor joked, “It’s about time this kid leaves, he’s getting better than me!” That’s how much work I put into it.

I was eager to show my father what I had learned. He knows I can work, but hasn’t seen me use my head for something since I quit school.
They say it’s bad luck for a technician to have his wallet in his pocket during the show. While I’m not superstitious, I too take out my wallet, and even put my Leatherman to the side: When you’re being a light/sound tech, you are nothing else. You are part of the structure and anything that says otherwise, is nothing but a distraction. The only thing you are using is your mind, with the table as a translator for your intentions. So yes, I take my work very serious at this point, and very personal.

So then, imagine my face when suddenly, in the middle of the show, the singer goes,

“I would like to take a moment to thank Maarten, on the lights tonight. It’s his last job as an intern here and I want to congratulate him on a job well done.”

Everyone turned and stared in my direction as if I was supposed to provide some reaction. After an awkward moment I guessed I’d prove his point by rather than saying something, simply pointing a spot at myself and giving a thankful little wave.
When shoved into the light like that (although I did that part myself) you don’t really know what to think first. I was glad my father was reminded of the fact that I was doing all that, enjoying my fifteen seconds of glory, and hoping it would score me a blowjob or paid job of a different kind. Or a paid blowjob. One can only hope.

After the gig I went and found my father, slightly drunk. He seemed different than usual, something about him I had seen before, but I couldn’t place my finger on it right away. My stepmother was in line for the bathroom so we had a moment or two to talk, and nearly immediately he asked, “Don’t you wonder what your mother would think if she were here to see this?” And then it hit me: He had been crying. And he doesn’t give a shit about Bob, so that couldn’t have been it; He had been thinking about my mother and that she couldn’t be there to see it. He had been crying because he was proud of me, and believed that my mother would be, too.

I truthfully told him that no, I had other (unmentioned) things on my mind at the time. But yes, I often do wonder what she’d think about all of this. I know she’d approve, but can’t tell if she’d really be proud or just rolling her eyes saying, “About damn time.” I do think I got my cynical side from her.
Believing she would be proud of me is tied to the feeling of being proud of myself.
Since I have now two people inside my psyche, fully aware of my intentions, methods and so on, it’s twice as difficult for me to state that I should be congratulating myself. That she should be. I can’t know if she would be, so I can’t really figure out if I am. I continue to kind of just, do my thing, totally oblivious if it’s good enough and hoping to do slightly better next time. It’s like running blind but there’s no point in obsessing about it.

Do better next time, under one condition: It’s got to be immediately rewarding. Even if the job itself sucks, it’s got to be part of something I like doing, or I won’t even consider it. It’s a combination of laziness and diligence that’s working out rather well for me- Even my father said I’m actually living his dream, that he would have loved to do what I am doing today.

All in all, getting where I am today didn’t cost me all that much energy. It took one or two hard decisions but it’s not like I worked hard and long to get this far. I just did what I loved doing and persisted in that. The question is, really, if that’s something to be proud of, or not. I have great respect for people who work their bollocks off all their lives to feed their families and themselves, but I just can’t pull that off if I have a choice at all. I can’t figure out if that puts me in a position to envy, or despise. Or both, as it often goes.

Blah I give up. I’ll get back to you when I’m happily married and raised three children. Or is that just average, still? Fuckit.


Life Among the Dirty: Conclusion?

IMG_8092Yesterday was my last technical job for the Vieze Gasten. My incredibly short two-month internship has come to an end, after an incredibly short training as “Assistant Stage Technician” of 7 months or so. The amount of input in this period, on social, educational, intellectual, conversational and Maynard knows what other levels has been overwhelming, and I predict a major “black hole” experience when all this will end abruptly.

People have come to recognize me there by now. It seems I’ve made myself quite popular in the little restaurant next door with a rant to a drunk who called us all “sheep”. I suppose that the defense that I held in the name of everyone there (before kicking his arrogant ass out) must have been rather flattering because they welcome me now as though I was their missing son.

IMG_8063And it’s a strange underlying theme through the whole internship: Most people just seem thrilled to have me there. I thought I’d have to prove myself repeatedly to get from under my mentor’s shadow (he’s made quite a name for himself over time), especially considering their last two interns who fucked up enough to make them consider not having any over, ever again. But this hasn’t been the case; In fact, they all seem sad to see me leave and are asking if they’ll ever see me again. Since I’m not the most sociable person, I haven’t really spoken to many of the locals but now they’re walking up to me saying,

unIMG_7534“Maarten, right? I heard great things about you.”

My experience as a stagehand and –builder (and don’t they know it, with my daily stories) taught me plenty about installing the lights so pretty much the only bad (though constructive) comments I had were about the controlling of them. I sometimes forget to put the emphasis where it’s needed, am too slow to adjust to circumstances and enjoy experimenting a little too much, occasionally. Oh and apparently, I take criticism badly, though I personally disagree with that. I realize the irony but I’m serious.

After doing the very last gig all by myself (from design to operation) I could focus on helping with a side project inside a bigger effort to liven up a troubled neighborhood. At a nearby IMG_8138park, a team of volunteers are building a series of 77 gates out of willow trees, in which artwork in the form of a cloth of some kind will later be hung- All based on an existing project that took place in Central Park, NYC. Of course it’s still a troubled neighborhood, and the works have been slowed by theft and vandalism. Regardless, we are now struggling through the last couple days, smack on schedule, and everyone is curious and thrilled about what we’re doing. Everyone except that old cunt with her heel-biting little runt. Here’s to that thing dying on her.

On technical level, I learned very little. About everything but stage technics… I could barely keep up.

After this: 3 more days of school and then… Nothing. No wait, that’s not true.

IMG_7937The person responsible of the gates project has his own company, and he wants to concentrate on working with bamboo to build scaffolding structures and such. Next job I’ll be working for him voluntarily again, and I really hope to do that more often (but paid) as the company grows.

My mentor offered me a short-term job… A group of contemporary dance is going on tour in September and have asked him to join as a light tech. He won’t be able to make it but plans to recommend me, instead. We are going to match agendas one of these days and see if it works out, but it’s looking good so far. This would mean that I’ll be doing the lights for a dance production in motherfucking Paris. I am nervous as I am excited about this.

aIMG_8117I don’t want to presume too much but maybe it could sort of maybe be possible that a part-time job becomes available with the Vieze Gasten themselves. I offered myself as volunteer for the time being but if I could land that job, I’ll be a part-time Dirty Guy.

Apart from that? Time will tell.

Yes I know my formatting sucks. Kiss my ass.


Vermin at the Movies

City of Ember

I’ve always been horribly disappointed with steampunk art. If you don’t know what I’m even talking about, do a quick google image search and get back to me. You can thank me for getting you addicted later.

Steampunk is the awesomesaucest thing since Luis Royo but for some reason, isn’t properly understood by anyone in the entire fucking world. If you’re going to re-write history and base our modern-day society on steam powered machines, you’re not stopping until you’ve got brains with cogs in them and skulls with fucking chimneys- it’s the fucking law and since you can draw and I cannot, you are hereby obliged to materialize my fantasies to scrape in the cash to feed your family. You should have thought twice about becoming an artist- there’s quicker ways into the gutter.

Steampunk is so damn underdeveloped, that it’s a breath of fresh air when something new comes along that dares to press the genre, if even a little. City of Ember is one of those somethings and will amaze you right until the moment when Bill god damn Murray walks into screen, after which it will proceed to blow your mind.

City of Ember is about an underground city, built by none other than “the builders,” who had planned to keep it running for 200 years while the whole world goes tits-up. After this period, a key is released and a series of instructions should be followed to free the population and start a brave, new world.

This raised a few questions with me. Especially inbreeding became a bit of an issue to consider, especially when taking into account that the whole city contains around three or four fuckable actors. 200 years is a long time for incest to stay productive, let alone crap out a whole new civilization after that.
But that is besides the point.

Both the key and instructions get respectively lost, freed, found and eaten. This kind of complicates the survival of mankind, especially since the city is way past its expiry date (kind of like Antwerp) and the generator that illuminates the city (they’re clever enough to build an underground city but too daft to use more efficient lighting than tungsten) is breaking down. Blackouts, aka “scenes under dim blue light” become frequent and shit’s breaking down all over the place. Time to go- but where?

What follows are a series of implausible events sort-of acted out by one-dimensional characters and a kid clinging to their back like Baby Monkey on a Pig (HA HA HA HA) as a metaphor for hope for survival as a species. Bo-ring.
No, what makes this movie awesome is that it’s steampunk to the fucking hilt. For once it’s not called that for a single cog spotted in the background like some Disney phallus making it a porno, but in fact a complete setting based on steampunk technology. Thank you, director whose name was too boring to read in the credits.

Grotesque machines with jets of steam everywhere, inefficient tungsten light bulbs, brass pipes, questionable tools, you name it: Steampunk at its best. Or, almost: still no fucking psychological terror through heat-powered four column beam engines built into the face.


Black Snake Moan

All innuendo aside, Black Snake Moan actually stands for an emotion, a voice that brings out the worst in us. It is also the name of a song sung by none other than the Samuel L. Jackson on guitar, with a blonde little chick “about yay high” clung to his crotch. Ladies and gentlemen: my introduction.

And whadoyouknow, Black Snake Moan is also the name of an epic picture about (are you sitting down?) love, hate, redemption, lust, past, future, BDSM, friendship, religion and a damn lot more.

A girl, or let’s call her “fuck machine,” screws around after her boyfriend left to join the army. He didn’t even have the chance to get into the car and she was already boning some black bouncer-type pimp. On that very same night she gets done by around three guys. A fourth, who is always giving her a hard time because he’s to chickenshit to get into her pants (I can seriously relate to this guy) tries, gets ridiculed for the size of his pork sword, and instead decides to beat her into a bloody pulp.

A black farmer finds her the next morning, still drugged out of her skull and barely conscious, and takes her in to nurse her back to health. In the few days that it takes for her mind to clear, he hears all kinds of stories (not to mention sees her trip out) and decides that her mental health too, is his responsibility. For convenience, he chains her to his plumbing and voila: a movie ensues.

I don’t know about you but besides the fact that girls in chains do it for me like redheads on a hot day, I also happen to be very intrigued to how the mind reacts to these situations. I once had a conversation with somebody who claimed to be “a slave” of her relationship. When I asked her how she could live with that, she said she wouldn’t have it any other way. Without him, she worries about the next day when going to bed: The chores she will have to do, what she’ll eat, and so on. But when he’s near, she doesn’t worry. She just takes care of him, and he decides the rest.
In a similar way, the girl in the movie (Rae I think? I suck at remembering names) eventually learns to accept the chain and in the end, even grows attached to it (har, har). It becomes part of her psyche and the physical restraint becomes a mental one, allowing her to keep her own emotions (read: horniness) in check.

The movie had 120% of my attention right up until the scene where he sets her free, and even the musical part (spoiler but so worth it) after that. It digs deep into the personalities of both characters and will grip even non-blues lovers like myself roughly by the hair.
After that, it all goes downhill.

Sure sure, the movie needed a conclusion and yes the psychological factor still plays in the rest of the movie, but ‘and they lived happily ever after’ would have worked, too. It’s like some assistant director was pulling the big man’s sleeve nagging “we still got 83 more pages in the script, and you keep going on about page 4 where she wakes up in chains”. And the director did his best, you can tell, but by then I no longer gave a fuck how Justin Bieber –No wait, the other guy- Justin Timberlake felt about this whole situation. I bet he’s not used to being the weakest link but there you go.

If you’re even remotely interested in the mental effects of physical restraint and dominance and submission, this one’s for you.


I wrote these two reviews in 30 minutes so if you find any spelling mistakes, please contact the Grammar Nazis who will send me to a warfront labor camp where I belong.


Gloat

Something I mentioned: I have this group of friends I obtained through my first ex, who make about six times my usual wage each, have different hobbies, interests and friend groups and are some of the best friends I could possibly wish for. For the past few years, I’ve been a real drag on them because I broke up with her, and they couldn’t invite us both at the same time because in short, we both had a sex addiction to quit “cold turkey”. Man did I ever fail that plan.

ANYWAY Now that we can stand being near each other, it’s her boyfriend that’s now being difficult. I ran into him recently and wrote about it, you’ll probably get the following a lot better if you read back on that.

One thing these friends like to do is organize stuff, which I gratefully take advantage of. It seems they have a limitless imagination when it comes to things to do: Since they all have 9-to-5 jobs I suppose that’s not surprising. So now they’re facing the choice between inviting me and inviting my ex’ current boyfriend. It’s a race in my favor but the shitty thing is that he won’t allow her to come, either, because apparently he’s aware that my dick is bigger. Or something, don’t care.

Instead of choosing this time, they just invited us both and waited to see what happens. Since I recently came to the grand revelation that it’s much less a waste of time to accept people instead of killing them, I agreed to come regardless if he was- Maybe it would give us a chance to do some talking. I would be lying if I stated that my stomach didn’t turn when I heard he would be coming, but I had accepted it.

It didn’t occur to our friends to let the merry couple know I would be there, too. When they did, the two of them were already halfway there. And you know what he did? He turned around and went home. Torn between us and him, she chose him and turned back, too. This news was of course pretty devastating to the friend group, and put me in the position of party pooper.

Imagine being in my situation. Two people just turned back because of you, two friends who were invited. It took me a few minutes but fuck you, I wasn’t going to be the reason for all of this. It was going to hurt like a motherfucker, but I knew what I had to do. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed her number.

She was crying on the phone. After promising I’d eat his face if he ever hurt her, she was sitting outside, crying because of his cowardly attitude. After checking with her, I asked her to put him on.
Putting aside my pride and ego to reach out to him, is possibly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, especially after the stunt he just pulled. After everything that has passed, I turned out to be the one waving a little white flag. It gave me a foul taste in the mouth, and in all honesty I felt a hint of relief when she passed him the phone, and he hung up without a word.
She called back and explained that it wasn’t accidental, that he had seen my name on the screen.

All these recent revelations, personal epiphanies and fucking milestones all came down to a dead phone, and somehow it made me feel fucking great for the rest of the evening.
Not because he wasn’t there, although that certainly didn’t hurt (I never claimed to be a saint), but because in the end, I showed that I could be the better man. That in itself doesn’t really have much to do with him anymore, I’m just proud because I passed the test and didn’t have to pay for it with a lousy evening. I had to reach out a hell of a lot further than him and I did, while he did not. Even without making the obvious comparison, I surprised everyone with being prepared to do some talking. That speaks in my favor, doesn’t it? The fact that he hung up on me, only emphasized that and made me one proud monkey.

Perhaps next time we’ll get a chance to talk. That’ll be a next step, and a whole new flavor of painful that I’m glad got postponed.
One step closer to dealing with my ex and not having to write about her ever again.


Anything sufficiently complicated can be hacked.

Tell me: What is the most complicated thing you could possibly grasp?
If you said “My own mind since it fits its own capabilities flawlessly” you would most likely be right. If you were to use 100% of your brain for one purpose only, the best it could do is to understand its own carbon state and structure before frying like a broken light bulb.

Most brains tick to the same beat. Our DNA is 99% the same, and we grow up in the same reality. See the same things, hear the same sounds. Feel the same pain, learn to avoid it in the same way. We eat, sleep, live, die, all in the same world. Basically, we are copies of each other and our ways of thinking can be boiled down to chemical processes and physical logic that is identical.

Anything sufficiently complicated can be hacked.
The human mind… can be hacked, on a global scale.

It seems absurd, but it happens on a daily basis. Our thoughts and actions are so predictable that we base global structures on it. And we can be deceived, by magicians and con artists, on a constant basis.

Mindhacks. They’re real, and surprisingly easy. A producer I know is amazingly good at it, because he dedicated his studies on human behavior and how to steer it. I saw him hold out his hand to somebody, who reached out to shake it. He proceeded to lift his hand higher, palm down, and the other followed as if magnetically attracted, without touching, until they reached eye level, where he stopped and accepted the touch. The other person didn’t even realize it was happening until then. I started paying attention to it then, and realized this wasn’t the only trick in his book: Even as you talk to him, you feel an urge to sit down and lower your voice, and adopt his own peaceful demeanor. A remarkable man, to say the least, and I can’t help but wonder what I could learn from him.

Such things have a magical feel to them. Because our thoughts have a pattern, they have certain ”blind spots” where something perfectly normal can happen while we can’t even grasp it. I’m sure you know the experiment where you count the white team’s ball passes? There’s so much that deludes us because we don’t know to look out for it, or focus on something else.

I think that a good knowledge in this game can have some very interesting results. And not just that- they arm us against making the same mistakes, ourselves. If you’ve seen (and realized!) what mass hysteria can do, you will understand the importance of taking a moment and thinking for yourself, or going the opposite way simply for the heck of it. Things like patriotism, religion and morals are much more influenced than you might think and clinging to them to form your frame of reference is extremely dangerous, since you won’t realize it being shifted until you cross the line. Does the Milgram Experiment ring a bell? (Pay close attention to how the scientist urges to continue, these are recurring techniques. I suggest you check the statistical results as well)

We are only still human and every pitfall covered will produce another one, unless we can exceed our own biological shortcomings. Still, I think there’s a lot to be learned about ourselves as both individuals and race by seeing where the glitches are. And just for fun, exploit the hell out of them.


26 years to learn

Ok lookie a new category.

26 THINGS THAT TOOK ME 26 YEARS TO LEARN:

1. Simultaneously brushing teeth while taking a piss is surprisingly awkward in execution.
2. Good things bring good things bring good things and so on. The first step is to leave the house.
3. There are still people out there that don’t have a stage builder’s resilience to sarcasm.
4. When flesh and steel meet, flesh loses.
5. Bananas peel a hell of a lot easier when you turn them around and squeeze the tip.
6. Disrespectful language gets you nowhere- Except maybe laid.
7. Lefty loosy, righty tighty.
8. If she’s into spanking, she’s a keeper.
9. Besides maybe childbirth, there is no pain more fucked up than getting Reflex Spray on your balls.
10. Any kind of power comes with some kind of responsibility.
11. Never roleplay, in any possible way, without a safeword.
12. Never go into a coughing fit on empty lungs. It takes about a week for your ribcage to stop hurting.
13. If you’re a pretty girl and you’re sick, you’re the cutest, saddest thing in the whole wide world.
14. Cell phones come with voice mail functions and people really appreciate you using those when you’re being called in the middle of something.
15. Statistically speaking, falling in love is the worst thing you can do. And you’ll be fucked before you can do anything about it.
16. Every privately owned company, big or small, whether it is a news station, pharmaceutical company, record company, whatever; without one single exception, is after one thing and one thing alone: Your money. And as long as you keep that in mind, there is nothing wrong with it.
17. “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” –Einstein
18. There’s a certain level of stiffness where new shoes start to walk you in, instead of the other way around.
19. There’s a surprising amount of things that are really tasty when brought to laptop fan temperature.
20. The dumbest words in their respective language are “could have,” “would have,” and “should have.” If you hear yourself speaking them; stop, pause for a moment and think hard what you’re really trying to say. Then say it, or shut up.
21. Never be honest; Always be sincere.
22. It may seem paradoxical, but always do what you want to, rather than what you have to, and you will come a lot further in life.
23. Peanut butter and Nutella sandwiches, bitches.
24. Bravery is not the same as a lack of fear.
25. Leave the apologies for after sex. Holy shit does it kill the mood.
26. The key to a successful household is a toilet and a vacuum cleaner that can make anything disappear.


Open Letter

I’ve been asked by a theater group I worked for, to provide some feedback regarding our working conditions and details of my methods used. I gave them a list as accurately as I could remember it, and a few remarks on the side. I’ll do you a favor and skip all the boring bits.

I am going to take this opportunity to dedicate this to all my future employers, and sincerely hope they fucking read this.

First of all I would like to share, I loved working for [bleep]. I learned a lot about technics and co-operation and I was proud of the results, rightly so. I was equally proud of my colleagues, whose contribution cannot be overestimated.

This being said.

Somebody once gave me the advice that it would be absurd to drop a paid job (since I work with day contracts) so I could work for free. While for some this seems indeed absurd, for others it is only logic. If I had continued to go to work regularly during the month leading up to the premiere, it wouldn’t have made any difference if I hadn’t agreed to help at all. Because of my usual working hours, every evening performance of preparation meant that I lost a whole day of work. And while yes, this costs me money, I think there are more important things. Of course, there are limits to this: The idea is to keep it fun.

One contribution that I did not list was the moral support for and from my colleagues. We sometimes had to drag each other through, by phone, on the workfloor or at the local pub. Several times we were ready to break, which would be unsurprising considering the fact there was only 3 of us. Of course we occasionally had help, but I can’t recall anyone else who came to the theater every single day to finish everything in time.

Parallel to a shortage of working people, there was a lack of efficient leadership. There was enough checking going around what the progress was and where the budget was going to, but when 5we needed urgent decisions (transportation, size of the budget), they were consistently late, for a good part because perfectly foreseeable problems weren’t tackled beforehand. I don’t know the structure of the company enough to point the finger, but I would like to point out to the entire board that “at the meeting in 2 weeks” is too late for decisions we need made by tomorrow.

Communication among colleagues went smoothly because we get along well and we can work independently. Communication to and from the board on the other hand was difficult, and I blame this most of all on a lack of middleman. I believe someone was appointed for this and I respect his other duties, but every workday, there must be someone present who can contact the entire board (or the person in charge) on the spot if necessary, and dares to make decisions. This is a standard for every workspace and will benefit safety, atmosphere and efficiency. Should this prove impossible, a phone call can help a great deal, too.

In my humble opinion, respect isn’t shown in thank-yous in envelopes (although they are very welcome), but with a constant care for the people who, in turn, constantly care for your production. This way, alienation like we saw it that time, will be avoided.

If anyone feels personally offended, I suggest they read the first paragraph of this chapter over. As far as I am concerned, available time is the only condition to work here again, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the chance of working together.

Sincerely,

Maarten De Pue


Self-Surgery

I did the light for a theater production today: “De Revue” by the Vieze Gasten themselves. Afterwards, my mentor, two actors and myself sat around a table, with the dull booming of the afterparty beneath our feet, to discuss some serious issues. Like politics.

While there was some drinking involved which clearly loosened some tongues, no one was really drunk and for once, I can really say I got some valuable input regarding my many theories, and some insight in those of the others. All of the men present were double my age or older and had some rich stories of the “old days” to tell, and have a better view on how things changed since. But while it was all very interesting, it were the last 30 minutes that really stretched my mind.

Let’s go back 16 years first, to sketch some background.
My mother died when I was 10 years old. Something popped inside her brain and just like that, she disappeared from my life. It happened so fast that I didn’t even have time to say goodbye: One morning she was there, by the evening she was in the hospital. 2 days later, she passed away before I could go there to see her.
My father was quick to start a new relationship, and a couple more. Naturally, my sister and I loathed any woman who came into our house. Accepting them felt like betrayal to the love for our mother, and this lead to some very bad things said and done.

Yesterday, as it turned out, no less than 2 people were in the exact same situation, but from another point of view: They ended up in a relationship with a woman whose children refused to accept them, for similar reasons as mine. I listened as they spilled their thoughts and feelings, which were of course quite difficult for them to deal with. The woman couldn’t just go and make a choice between them and their own children, and the end result is a situation in which no one is happy.

I told them my situation, as it was as I grew up. I told them how the aggression towards the newcomer was a way to deal with the pain, and should get better over time as they come to terms with their loss. It’s not personal- It’s their presence that is the problem, not their personality.

Another flashback.
Two weeks ago I worked for a production, a final project of a music student to prove his worth. He had collected a number of musicians around him to bring a successful mix of reggae and blues. It was all great and awesome, until I recognized the lead singer:
My ex’ boyfriend. The one I had sworn to kill, was standing onstage singing in a girly voice, presenting himself as “rastafari” with imitated Jamaican accent and skin color.
Knowing full well that he was in increasing danger the closer he came, he kept his distance and didn’t speak a single word to me the whole evening- In fact, I didn’t even see his face except when he was onstage. Lucky for him, I did the lights that night or he’d be deaf right now.

Seeing him again damn near destroyed me the next two days. I didn’t even know it was possible for someone’s mere presence to fuck me up that much, for that long. In the end, I didn’t kill him but spent too much time wondering if I should.

Why is this relevant?
As I was sitting there, talking to these men, telling me it was alright and they would be forgiven, I felt like I was saying something I should have said years ago, to different people. It felt as if I could find some kind of closure by explaining to them, that it was the pain from the loss that made good kids do bad things.

I explained that I understood what they were going through, and perhaps more importantly, how their girlfriends (is it still considered a “girlfriend” at their age?) felt. This “understanding” bit is extremely important because when I was 10, I didn’t. I didn’t get why my father needed someone if he had his children to take care of. I didn’t see my father as anything else than a father, and heavily blamed him for his shortcomings as such. I never once considered that he might be sorry, and needed someone to hold on to, lest he would collapse under the pressure of raising his children on his own. I didn’t know why he stayed so passive while his children fought his new wife, hoping it would work out alright without him having to choose between his blood and sanity.

It felt now as though I had the power, the ability to forgive. To understand their pain, because I had seen it myself from other angles. These are things I never got to tell my own father, despite the many things left unresolved. That he is forgiven for his flaws as a father, his human need to be loved. That many things my sister and I said weren’t personal, but out of sheer pain from the loss he too had suffered.

My talk tonight made me realize (and this is where the ex’ boyfriend part comes in) that a loss can be handled in different ways. The pain can be calmly processed, or aggressively directed towards others. The latter is most definitely easier and gives you a feeling of dignity- After all, this way your pain cannot be ignored by others and they will better watch the fuck out what they do. But it will never give you the kind of peace you need, in the end. It’s exhausting, and like these children who find another man instead of their father, I too will have to come to terms with the fact that another cocksucker shares the bed with my ex. My ex, my ex-girlfriend. My mother. They won’t come back, and all the hate in the world won’t change that fact. And I can know, I’ve been carrying a damn big chunk of it.

The past 2 weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster for me. I was going to write about it but decided not to, in order to get over it as quickly as possible (there’s a lot of events that I never write about because of this). Tonight brought this… mess up on the table, and brought a real, old-fashioned climax to deal with it.

After leaving work I met up with some friends, and one girl present, remarkably observant (not to mention cute) suddenly said, “You seem very pensive tonight.” And all this, All of this here, came pouring out before I could stop myself. I apologized briefly halfway and simply continued until I was finished, and noticed her just kind of staring quietly, poor thing. Little did she know, I had just come to my conclusion and felt like a weight had fallen off my shoulders.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Maarten has decided not to hate out of personal regret anymore. Clearly my empty promises to break that asshole’s neck aren’t doing me any favors and while a peace treaty of sorts may seem like a hell of a lot less manly thing to do, at least it won’t leave me in a mess for two days in a row next time I see his faggot face.
It’s not something I’ll be able to do overnight (obviously) but I suppose I’ll get there eventually. The decision in itself feels like literal enlightenment so I think dead simple forgiveness, of that boyfriend and my father, his wife and my mother, might just help me forward a lot more than I expected…

Just writing about it hurts like a bitch, as I expected it would. But it’s a brand new flavor, some kind that feels a lot less worrying than what I’ve had to swim though the past couple years.


Hmm I got caught again. On a tower crane this time, and again I was not alone. I’ve taken someone up three times and two of those, we got caught. Luckily there were hot chicks involved every time so our trespassing, break-in and ignoring of safety regulations went unpunished even though the worst they could do is imprisonment.

It seems that two people have a much higher profile than two times one, when it comes to climbing unseen. Makes sense though: the movement and mass is a lot bigger and the possibility that someone just needs to check the machinery becomes less plausible. So by the time we got down, there was an army of cops waiting patiently- I’m talking 10 of them, as if we were planning to multiply and start a riot up there. I must say, their authoritarian display did have an impressive effect as they became bigger and bigger while we climbed closer to them.

They checked our names and let us go, and we promised we would do everything within our power not to get caught again. That’s not the exact wording they used, but it sure was what I meant. As for handling them (we handle cops you know, not the other way around), I think we did pretty well. Yes Sir, No Sir, I understand Sir. Sorry for the inconvenience. Suck up, take the abuse like a bitch, and they’ll co-operate. Luckily Gent’s cops have the consistency of whipped cream and they’ll melt on the spot when they see my companion’s doe eyes, which I conveniently hid behind.

What the real problem was (besides the people on the nearby terrace who ratted us out) was that they were worried we would jump. Not shitting you: They gathered a dozen of themselves to watch us plunge to our deaths. What were they going to do, catch us? That one fat guy might have done the trick by himself. But as it turned out, we weren’t a suicidal couple (which strikes me as morbidly romantic though) and no one got hurt, fined or raped in jail (ditto).

It seems I got a little overconfident. In itself no more than a lesson learned if it weren’t for the fact that I was having someone with me, who didn’t ask for the trouble they got into. We went up in daylight, smack in the center of town where people could watch us bypass the fences (Leatherman will get you anywhere) and start our climb- a critical moment. It was a calculated risk, but a great one.

unIMG_7136The idea was to watch the sunset and see the city lights go on, a strong impression I’ve been wanting to share. Her reaction kind of went like “Ohhhh my god I feel like the kind of the w- Hey, is that policeman pointing at us?” That’s how long we spent up there. But let me tell you, the view was worth every fucking second.

Regardless: How will we avoid being spotted, next time? I seem to be pushing the limits of what physically possible without being caught. I’m trying to find that little tweak, that small hack that would allow us to do these things yet still remain unnoticed. If people will sit and die in a burning theater because of their passive nature (actually happened), surely there must be a trick to make them all watch something fucking else than the two little delinquents climbing up the scaffolding.

More research must be done, so I guess I’ve got no other choice than to do it again. But alone this time, like I’m used to. It’s a feeling that’s great to share, but simply too risky. Another lesson learned. I’ll get my Gargoyle people, yet.

 


Life Among the Dirty: Halfway

IMG_7266I’m one month into my internship and thus, halfway. Finding my place has been easy and quick, and I suspect I might even come over as a little arrogant now and then with how mouthy I’ve become. I try not to, but it’s how I am so that’s the way it comes out.

Considering the type of people I attract, I suppose it’s not a coincidence that I often run into people I know. I already worked with 4 teachers of mine and got the chance to talk to old colleagues, classmates and long lost acquaintances. At record speed, I am making new friends and contacts and even get some work done in between.

Not much, though. After all, when the stage, lights and sound are already installed, what more could you do in preparation for a live gig? Sure, we change the spots around a little, so by the end of the day (which starts in the late afternoon) I held around 4 par-blazers and crawled up a ladder once or twice.
aIMG_6794Even at its most stressful, work pace never rises above “slowly but steadily”. I think you can see it in my demeanor by now too, as I’ve grown used to a “Provence Tourist” kind of walk while fetching a cable or two.

It’s a lifestyle I’m not used to and while I enjoy it, it gets a little too much now and then. So when I heard my old company was doing a gig nearby, I bluffed my way backstage (it’s amazing how easy that is) and lent them a hand. I didn’t get paid but it did score me another workday doing the set of Sade. And I must say, it felt great being on the frontline again, with all the thrills and dangers and around-the-clock workdays. I was amazed at how smoothly I can still work together with my colleagues, and found a joy in working I thought I had lost.

IMG_7079The challenges with the Vieze Gasten are more of a mental kind. Sometimes they’ll leave me alone to handle a production by my lonely self, or make me responsible for a project over several days. These are about the biggest jobs they have in terms of difficulty and while they can be a little overwhelming, I haven’t had any considerable problem with them. Although 24 straight hours behind a mixing desk was problematic, alright. I literally fell asleep while the last band was on- until suddenly, the power died.

I’ve said before that I consider the Vieze Gasten the business end of culture, and I’m sticking with it. There is some ghost present here- some sense of community that has all but disappeared in modern society. It’s like you’re brought back to a time when we didn’t all have MP3 players and computer games, and only had each other for company. Stories of “the old days” are shared, and what do you know, actually prove interesting when you take the time to listen.

IMG_7296Frankly I don’t think I have much news to report. My confidence that the Gasten are the best thing since ball tickling has only grown, and I am incredibly proud to be a part of this dying race. At the moment, we are working on a project based on “The Gates” in NY’s Central Park- using a far less high-tech and more natural approach using willow trunks. It’s going to take over 25 days to build everything and I am eager to help. In fact, I don’t get how you couldn’t be; just working on this is a thrilling experience. Another thing modern society seems to have forgotten: How fun work can be.

The only thing I miss is that feeling when you’re really working, that endorphin buzz that can keep you going straight through any lack of sleep or physical pain. I spend most of my time sitting still and while that doesn’t mean I’m not having fun, it just doesn’t satisfy my adrenalin addiction.