Own life

Stars Without Number

For all my life, I’ve been obsessed with a small number of niche subjects. Most people wouldn’t even know, as I have learned to keep my fascination to myself. No one cares and I learned the hard way that a person talking your ear off about something you honestly couldn’t be bothered about, is one of the most depressingly boring things to have happen to you. So I try and keep them on the down low.

Since I have no one to talk to about them, usually I practice my hobbies by my lonesome. I look up videos about orbital mechanics simulated in computer games. I write fiction about love in zero-gravity. I wonder what, in an age of complete self-reconstruction, words like gender or heritage still could mean. I re-watch some obscure episode of Ghost in the Shell because it had a fascinating scene with a sniper mentally connecting to an imaging satellite. I misspell “sattelite” for the millionth time. I try to envision a universe where mankind spreads beyond its own star system.

Not only do I find these things infinitely interesting, I can’t possibly imagine how anyone could not. Every little thing that you learn about any of these subjects stops you dead in your tracks, to stand, gawk and wonder what this means to your own identity and your presumptions about the world around you.

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Into The Fray

Fast forward a couple months. While on paper, Belgium seems to be doing poorly when it comes to Covid-19 numbers, that is mostly because it is very inclusive when it comes to adding up the tally. “Suspicious” deaths in elderly homes are universally included for example, making it seem like our healthcare system is failing.

It isn’t. In fact, our country appears to be a prime example of the right measures taken at the right time, or at least within the available knowledge at the time. And those measures are gradually melting away, and so far the new liberties have had little effect on the volatile ‘people infected’ graph. It seems that so far, luckily, my theories about the second wave have been wrong.

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My Take

Yes this post is about the Corona virus because what the fuck else are we going to talk about. It’s an attempt to collect my thoughts and see if there’s anything else to conclude from them, and spread a message to those who might need it.
Fair warning: You won’t find good news here. I am not that kind of person. I have hope, but I put it into realistic scenarios and even those are a little bleak.
If you must read anything of what I write, read this:

We will get through this. Help those who might not.

We will get through this. Help those who might not.

We will get through this. Help those who might not.

 

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The Silence

My phone rings. It’s an 80’s chiptune that once served as the soundtrack of Alleycat, which was one of the first video games that I got to play as a kid. The protagonist, a cat that wastes all his 9 lives to get laid, is one I still identify with.

“ALARMCENTRALE”
My mind starts racing already, coming up with dozens of scenarios, between but not excluding zombie apocalypse, military coup, and criminal martial arts showdown.
The man on the line asks for a password. I give it to him, a little proud of my talent for coming up with foreboding passwords.

“You just had an alarm triggered in zone 12. Only there.” He doesn’t know where zone 12 might be. I know it’s at work, inside a building that should be dark and empty right now. I tell him to hold off the police, people don’t break into theaters at 9:30 pm. Probably someone who’s screwed up the locking procedure and neglected to call the number on the note that SPECIFICALLY tells them to.

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Press Brain to Continue

Just like regular people, gamers like me have ways of simplifying the world’s ways to an understandable level. And like those gamers do, consciously or not, I see our blue marble and life on it as a terrible cliché: A game. I would do this much more actively when I was young but it stuck with me since. I still mentally call people without direct involvement in my life “NPCs” and I still tend to boil down people’s personalities to simple character traits and alignment. I like to think of myself as chaotic good. As does everyone, I reckon.

When this gamers’ analogy breaks down, I understandably get shaken a little. When there’s more to a person than I anticipated (“A Happy Little Accident” -Bob Ross). Or when a new area of the world opens up unexpectedly. Or when NPCs turn into PCs. In bed. Good times, but confusing nonetheless.

None of the above abides by gaming logic: These things just don’t happen in a coded environment because the intricacy would take way too long to implement. So folks who enjoy and follow the code might get blindsided when it gets broken. It’s startling. Happy little accidents like I said, with one great exception: When it turns out your estimation of your own, traditionally unchanging character sheet didn’t follow your own realistic development, it’s a little disconcerting.

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Letter to Hugo

Dear Hugo,

Hi.

I’d introduce myself but you remember me. You would.
We worked together through 4 whole productions, my very first jobs resembling the things I do today. You, the director with too much experience for anyone to measure, both of us somehow involved with a rapidly aging theater group. I say “work” but neither of us got paid. Me, a big step up. For you, a step down.

There are many things about that transitional period in my life that I remember vividly. The actors, the dancers, the venue that was in all honesty, an inferno waiting to happen. I remember your direction, not just of the actors, but the crew as well. I had never seen anything like it, and I chalked that up to my limited experience. My mistake.

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Why I’m an Asshole

They were going out partying- friends of my sister. One of them, a woman I particularly liked, turned to me and invited me along. A pleasant surprise. But then she seemed to changed her mind, “Ah right, Maarten doesn’t dance.” I protested. Of course I dance. In fact I love to dance. But that night she was right: I did not dance. I stayed home.

I seem to have built up a reputation of being a grumpy fellow who got stuck in his professional mindset and doesn’t know how to relax. I get reminded of it frequently and to be perfectly honest, who woulda thunk it, it pisses me off.

Under that resting bitch face, beyond the arm length I keep from you, there just might be more? But maybe the person you’ll find there is a bit of a weirdo. Maybe you might not agree with his ideas, or like the things he likes, and he might not dance like you.

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Hitler’s Caricature

There’s a news article about Roger Hallam that I’m looking at right now. If you don’t know him, you’re probably older than 25. He’s one of the founders of activist group “Extinction Rebellion”.
The article is about him saying relativistic things about the holocaust. How, compared to other genocides and war crimes, it falls into standard human behavior and how he calls it “just another fuckery in human history.”

He also said that if a democratic society acts amorally, democracy itself becomes irrelevant. The climate is more important than democracy.

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Polymorph

People have weird turn-ons. Some get off on hands, or feet, or other various extremities that may or may not be present from birth, and may or may not be literal. Some are attracted to intelligence, some to confidence, some to silence.

Me, I have the weirdest fascination for things outside my perspective. It runs deep. Queer things in all senses of the word. Experiences I have never considered, aspects of life I never visited, points of view that come from such a fundamentally different basis, that I’d have to go back to my essence to fully grasp their line of thinking, if I ever could to begin with.

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Male Feminism

Alright, let’s pull up something that’s been on my chest for a few years now. Those usually don’t look very good, so bear with me. It’s about feminism, and when a white guy regurgitates stuff about feminism… Again, it won’t look good. Just… Y’know.

download

 

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The Accent

Since I’m raising a little hybrid, it is my job to teach him his heritage. On one hand, I consider love for one’s country to be utterly wasted, on the other… I am shaped by my environment, which in turn was shaped by its history. The path of my people -if there even is such a thing in these parts- is my own, and it’s identity, part of mine. Valid or not, I am proud of my heritage and I hope he will be, too.

StroppendragersA large part of the above revolves around language. While technically Dutch speaking, we wouldn’t be Flemish if we wouldn’t overcomplicate matters until no one can make sense of it anymore.
Only just a few hundred years ago, western Europe was basically a large collection of city states. Ghent was governed by the Spanish, the Dutch, the Germans, the French, and I’m sure the British too got their noodle wet in the great cluster fuck that is Belgium, but most cities and especially Ghent, well known for its hard-headed citizens, had always maintained a high degree of autonomy.
It was a privilege we would abuse, until Charles V lost his patience and forced the elite to parade the streets with a demonstrative noose around their necks. In folklore, we Ghentians are known as the “noose bearers” ever since.

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Workaholism

My name is Maarten and I have a problem. One that never once in my life, I thought I’d have.

Early on in life, I started to feel a most peculiar thing when involved in some project, sometimes given the most mundane and repetitive tasks: I felt useful. I never really fit in at school so being someplace where people were happy to see me, was quite novel. Little by little, I began to see labor as my merit to others, and because I got good at it, conveniently used it to measure my worth.

In the end, I managed the ultimate success: I made my hobby my job, and I never worked another day in my life.
What they forget to include in this woefully simplified slogan though, is that you’ll find yourself fresh out of hobbies.

If you are working towards this state, good. It’s a wonderful life and I hope you get there. But it’s not all great: As your job grows to be a part of your personality, it gets increasingly hard to separate one from the other. Already I define myself as a “stage technician” more than anything. I take my work home and I am at home at work, until the two become hard to distinguish.

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On Desperate Ground

The rule was simple: No politics. As in life, there aren’t many rules when it comes to writing.
As in life, the first one is: Break rules. So here goes.

Yesterday or the day before (who cares) elections were held for the Flemish parliament or some such (who cares). Our most popular and very right-wing party lost a few points or seats or whatever (who cares), giving way to the current #2: An even more right-wing party! And if you hear the despicable nonsense uttered by the big heads of party #1, you’d be surprised there even is one.

As I am generally surrounded by leftists, my social media channels and life are filled to the brim with political messages. Messages of frustration, of regret, but also hope. Hope that there is a better future to look forward to. Any day but today, when we lost. We lost.

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Micro Niceness

I’d love to be the good guy in this story. I assume, so do you. It seems easy enough: Don’t be a dick, a feat easily accomplished by not doing dickish things. It isn’t.

Our minds, yours and mine, not only wants to be the hero, it must. For some reason it has a hard time coping with any exception, which I noticed first hand when I realized I was the mean ex in the story of my girlfriend and her new lover. It was a tough nut to swallow.

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The Refuge💀

The first boarding school I went to -I’m looking at you, OLV Ledeberg- was nothing short of a well-constructed prison and you will never hear me say a good word about it. It’s a place where childhoods come to die.

But lock up a group of individuals long enough and somehow, someway, they’ll start to build a small community. One with a hierarchy, a culture, and norms. In its dynamics, it rewards certain character traits (in this case, for example, an unhealthy dose of sadism) and punishes others. Given enough time and social skill, you learn to play the system and rise through the ranks.

So I grew up with a certain sense of community and I caught myself being sensitive to it. Growing up, I always wanted to learn some useful skill that would allow me to be of use in such a group, and given time (not so much social skill), grow not only accepted, but respected.

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Celcius 451

I am a big proponent of electric vehicles. I pushed the company towards selling our old diesel truck and buy a share in our local electric car sharing cooperative. It was our collective decision but I brought it up and did the research.
Similarly, I am doing the same for a change to LED regarding our theater spots. I am hoping to bring down our stage power consumption down by about 3/4ths.

I love the idea of clean energy, of short-chain economy, of lab-grown meat and biofuels but I strongly believe none of these things is going to save our planet. None of them will put a stop to our current trajectory until it’s too late. (more…)


Warm, Calm Moments

Riding a bike in a kilt ain’t easy, I know that now. I learned it in the American deserts, where stoner rock was born, and dust eaten for lunch. But I was enjoying myself to my full capacity, taking a break in the literal middle of nowhere. I had spotted a tent in the distance and wanted to check it out. Now that I could see that it had ‘ADVICE’ written on it, I wasn’t so sure if I wanted to approach. But what the heck, I figured. It’s what we’re here for.

He didn’t look up when I set my dursty bowler hat on the table and sat down, as if he didn’t care what I looked like. Not as much as the sight of the mountain range in the distance. I mirrored his look until he greeted me. Hey.

“I got a special one for ya,” I began without the frills of an introduction. I noticed I was picking up the local accent. I didn’t mind. He laughed, but only a little. I’m sure he could see that I was dead serious.  (more…)


Manspleption

Good day, gentlemen. Have a seat. Let’s talk. And by that I mean stfu and hear me out.

We were born in a world with expectations of us. Even before then, when our penis was spotted by some person with a sonar poking our mothers’ bellies, an enormous cascade of assumptions were triggered that interweaved with the rest of our lives. A role was designated for us and deviating from it would be met with prejudice, and punishment.

As men, we would be the caretaker. The leader. The fixer. As we grew up, we were trained to be just that: Whenever we needed help, people (generally) would not only help us, but explain how we could do without their help next time. Know-how and handiness were strongly encouraged. Figuring things out for yourself rather than stop and ask for assistance was the way we were taught. Because we are men, and men don’t ask for directions. Men read their map, point, and say ‘this way’, regardless of how sure they are of their conclusion.

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Pole Star

I think I get it now.

In a previous life, I was once trained to be a camera salesman. I figured my passion for photography and technology would overcome my anxiety enough to push me and become a more social person. I was wrong.

But what they taught me there was, “If you want to reach a parent, talk to the child.” With how everyone agreed unanimously, I felt like I had missed a meeting somewhere. Like I often do.
Even though it didn’t fully make sense to me then, it got me on a train of thought that has now reached a new station. I think I get it now.

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Handholds

I get told that I am an asshole quite often. In some way or another, people like to drop me a hint that perhaps I should reconsider my behavior and quit acting like a douche.
Surprise: Naw.
This information isn’t new. It’s something I’ve known for a long time and in some sense, something I consciously decided upon.

I think we can generally state that life is harder than we imagined it to be when we were little. We could blame society or capitalism or politics but when push comes to shove, we are the ones now responsible for our own existence and it gets surprisingly complicated. (more…)


Soul for Hire

I’ve been diagnosed with all kinds of abnormalities, by professionals and not-so-professionals. Psychopathy, ADHD, I had one girlfriend pushing me to consider the possibility I was somewhere in the autism spectrum. Another friend called me a juggalo. I took well to neither.

Perhaps they’re all wrong, or maybe right to some degree. I just like to call it my warm and cute personality.
If there is one thing I might be leaning towards, I think it might be sociopathy. Especially when I was a teenager and young adult, I had the hardest time caring about how other people felt. It served its purpose well, keeping the influence of teachers and educators to a minimum while I walked my own path. Many thought I was lost.

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The Pieces Fit

I have grown sensitive with age. Give me a couple years of wine and roses to let my guard down and now that we’ve arrived at this point, I either forgot how to turn it back, or I am not willing to pay the price. I haven’t figured that part out, yet.

I haven’t been this afraid since I was bombed with the news that I was going to be a father. That all-encompassing feeling of the world and everything you took for granted, crumbling while there is nothing you can do, is enough to ignite a blind panic if you let it- and occasionally if even if you don’t.  (more…)


The Smithy

Change is the name of the game. If you went from art schools to boarding schools, squats to an army base, freelancing stagehand to technician in a city theater, you’ll know what it means to adapt to the situation. One survival strategy will not work in another environment and unless you get to changing your behavior, you will start moving in the opposite direction from where your goals are supposed to be.

Friends who know me long enough often mention that I’ve changed in just about every way, several times over. And when I thought I was finally comfortable in my skin, a baby boy was born and I had to start all over again.

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Armor

One of my current colleagues happens to be an old classmate of mine, from when I was 12. We get along quite well and that’s funny, because we couldn’t stand each other in school. I’m pretty sure we got into a physical fight at some point, though I’m not sure- it’s hard to keep track.

We have spent a little time raking up memories, wondering what came of our old friends. I look back on that period with mixed feelings, it was a tumultuous time. From there, we talked about our educations. We only knew each other 2 years before we each went our own way, that’s how long our ‘freinet’ school took students. She, with most others to a nearby school. I, to a different city, to learn photography. And from there, to boarding school.
She perked up with surprising interest and asked which one.

Ledeberg. The catholic school behind the church, discernable by its high, featureless walls.

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