Monday, December 27, 2010


It;s such a simple question. But such a difficult answer to give.

Why do you do what you do?

It's not just about knowing what you, it's also knowing about your reasons.

I tried to use it in conversations with total strangers. I asked them why they're doing what they do. Most of the times, the answer is 'because it's my job', of 'just because'. But that's not the point. One can be apart from the other. Mostly, the answer has to do with income, a job. But that can be something different from what it really is that you're doing, and why you're doing that.
You can clean toilets every day, but still just be focussed on giving people some comfort, no matter how. Or you can be an important lawyer but actually, you just want to have fun. Everything is possible.
Just asking this question can get you some terrific answers. And even better conversations.

Online, there are innumarable photo's, collages and cards on which people try to answer this question as honest as possible. I recently heard about it when my friend J edited the video you can find below. At Burning Man, the same artist was asking the same question. It took me days to come up with a good answer. And I'm not sure if I would answer the same thing if you'd ask me know.

I can only ask you: why do YOU do what you do?

Js stop-motion video:

Find more videos like this on wdydwyd?

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Aren't we all looking for safety and security? Isn't that why we get married, become parents and cycle to the same desk every day for years to do our job? Isn't that why we always go on holiday to the same French village, where the backery at the corner has fresh croissants on Sundays? Why would you go into unknown areas on adventures that have unsure endings, without knowing if it will be fun? Why would you put yourself in scary situations?

Because you never know hoe it will enrich your life.
Because you can amaze yourself.
Because afterwards, you can often conclude that those were the moments you remember.

For me, it was leaving Limburg years ago to study in Amsterdam, years ago and fall in love with a city for the first time. It was pacing my backpack and traveling to the other side of the world, to find out I could have fun and make new friends everywhere. It's traveling to other continents and realizing that all those prejudices are only prejudices. It's putting my blog on Facebook and finding out that people actually read it. It's saying 'yes' to weird proposals and ending up in surprising situations. It's doing a stand-up comedy course and tell jokes to an audience for eight minutes.

Not everything has to be successful though. Sometimes, the situations that follow from weird proposals are just weird or boring and joking for eight minutes doesn't mean you will become a famous comedian. Not everything I write is great. But that's not the point. The point is that if something scares you, you shouldn't walk away from it. you should walk up to it instead. Towards new adventures, new discoveries.

So, what scares you? When are you going to walk, and which way?

Monday, December 20, 2010


I just want to talk again about one of the best things of November: the IDFA. One of my favorite programs is the DocLab, the new media program. On one hand, DocLab shows the new technologies in the world of digital storytelling (like mobile phones, cameras that capture 360 degrees etc) and on the other hand, DocLab brings to bring digital media to the big screen.

I'm frightened by the amount of inspiring projects that can be found online. Even by knowing just a small amount of everything that is offered, I'm overwhelmed. This year, just like last year, DocLab showed several special websites that are worth visiting.

For instance, Zach Wise, who works on the multi media department of the NYT, talked about his bookmarks. Like Everynone, where you can find beautiful films, The Archive, a film about dedication and music and a little film about stoopsitting, a typical American habit that I would love to introduce in Amsterdam. Or the film about the The Lost Tribes of New York. Things that make a person happy.

One of the most beautiful projects in my opinion, is Highrise, Out of my Window. A project that shows different high rise buildings on the inside and outside, in different cities in the world. It has beautiful collages of the surroundings, where you can scroll through and click on films and stories.

Telling stories can be done in a thousand different ways, as is shown by DocLab. Why would one restrict themselves to just words or images? All stories ask for their own form, it's up to the stoy tellers to find the right form and use it as good as possible to give the story its true value. That's why it was, in my opinion, so inspiring to be treated to a real story telling evening, on one of the DocLab nights.

I must shamefully confess that I never heard of it before, but I immediately fell in love with the concept: brought to Amsterdam from - of course - the US, once a month in comedy club Toomler, and for one time in Tuschinski: Echt Gebeurde Verhalen told stories. Real stories. Of all the stories and all the different possibilities to tell them, that DocLab offers, this is the most honest and simple one: one person, one microphone, one light. And then, just tell the story.

The Lost Tribes of New York City from Carolyn London on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Tuesday night, six thirty in the queue at the register:

- Are you planning to put all those oranges on the counter, miss?
- Yes, actually I was.
- But miss, you cannot do that! You have to put them in a plastic bag!
- Well sir, I'm actually trying to use as less plastic as possible.
- But that will bother other people, if you refuse to use plastic bags.
- I think it will work out fine and it won't bother other people that much. We'll see when I put them on the counter, I guess.
- To be honest, I don't get why you don't want to use a plastic bag. This won't work!
- Well, sir, I have my reasons.
- But it won't work! This will cost too much time!
- Sir, if it bothers you that much, I'm happy to let you go first. So you don't have to be afraid of waiting longer than needed.
- Well, yes, please. But I understand you refuse to discuss this with me?
- Sir, I'm tired and indeed, not really up for this discussion.
- So you're tired and now other people will be bothered by that as well.
- As far as I can see sir, you're the only one who is really bothered by it.
- So if I understand well, you're about to put all those oranges on the counter without putting them in a bag, and you don't want to discuss that with me.
- I think you nailed it there sir.

Short siilence
- I don't understand why you don't want to discuss this.
- Sir, I would never even think of talking to people the way you do. I think you're extremely negative and I don't want to behave in the same way. If I could be bothered, I would have enough arguments for an interesting discussion, but unfortunately, I'm just to tired today.

The girl at the counter weighs the oranges without any problem and takes another item to check out.

- Thank you miss for that. And you sir, have a good night. And good luck with packing your groceries.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

IDFA: Music

Every year, it's the same story. Or song in this case.
There are shocking, moving, unbelievable and inspiring documentaries, but the best are still the music documentaries. I remember To Tulsa and Back, a road movie about J.J. Cale in 2005, The Power of Song about folk singer Peete Seeger in 2007, The Audition of last year about young singers that participate in an opera contest and of course, I'm your Man, the film about Leonard Cohen that literary changed my life.

This year too, IDFA presented some music surprises that made me forget about all the bad things in this world.
Staring with Kinshasa Symphony, a film about an amateur orchestra in Congos capital city, a country that is torn by wars and crimes. This film doesn't show all of that. This film shows how music brings people together. The Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste started fifteen years ago and now exists of two hundred musicians and singers. We meet a few of them, who talk about their instrument, about rehearsing seperatly (by listening to a cd) and about the role of classical music in an African society. The film ends with a performance of the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven, and when the singers sing, in German, All people will be brothers, you realise that it's the post colonial mind of the Europeans that is surprised by the combination of people, location and music. The performers are performing their music. That's it.

Music brings people together, as Socalled in The Socalled Movie also proofs. Socalled is a Canadian artist whose versatility can only be showed in eighteen short films. This musician invented klezmerhop and klezmerfunk, the magician shows several tricks that he learned by endless rehearsals, and the film maker takes over a part of the documentary himself.
Socalled made me happy. He's someone who seems to be afraid of nothing and who can bring people together who otherwise never would have met. A lot of inspiration!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

IDFA: Facts

Some documentaries carry out a clear message, a one-liner that often is part of its title, of subtitle. Other documentaries need a whole film to explain their point. Those are documentaries that try to explain an event, a theory or a phenomenon. Films that need to use statistics and graphics to prove what they're saying. I've seen several this year, that made me happy I was carrying my notebook so I could write down all the numbers to remember later.

Inside Job talks about the financial crisis, and mainly the road towards it. It's about how in the Eighties under the Reagan government and its policy to deregulate, American banks could start making a profit. It's about the greed that followed and how that greed caused the terrible situation of this era. Banks could turn loans into CDOs (Collateral Debt Obligations) that were sold to other investers, who got rating agencies to give these loans a tripple A status. AIG traded in Credit Default Swaps, insurance that would give the banks back their money, if a CDO would lose it's value. But, even if you didn't have a CDO yourself, you could buy the CDS of AIG, and earn money if others would lose money. More shocking is that not only the FBI but also the Federal Reserve knew all of this and deliberately helped keeping in keeping this policy. In the end, we saw on television the suited men who were attacked on the streets, but who, in the meantime, earned billions of dollars and got away with bonusses. Many of them now work at their new well payed jobs at Harvard, Columbia, or for the Obama administration, where they included a special clausule that says that they can perform other jobs - like consultancy - without losing their salary.

In American Coup, the story is told about the coup that America comitted in Iran in 1953. The democratic elected president Mossadeq decided that the British Oil Company, who owned all the Iranian oil wasn't the actual owner of the oil and that they aquired these right under the wrong, colonial, circumstances and therefor they were illegal. England accused Iran of breeching the contract and first stopped all ships that tried to collect Iranian oil. Eventually they asked the help of president Eisenhower, who send Kermit Roosenveld (grand son of the former president) to Iran. His job was to create chaos, by bribing several people, by pushing different groups to fight eachother and to seduce the press to discribe Mossadeq as a communist. After receiving five million dollar of the CIA, the shah returned to Iran and gave the British and their company BP back their rights to use the Iranian oil. One of the interviewees wonders at the end of the film how Iran and the whole region would have looked like, if Iran would have been a democratic country all that time.

Freakonomics is based on the famous book, and shows in simular ways in a quick and funny way how:
a) your name has no influence on your future. You background, upbringing, the neighbourhood you lived in, they do. And those, or at least you parents ones, influence the name you get.
b) you can find patterns everywhere, and economists can retrace everything, based on them.
c) the reduction of crime rates in NY aren't connected to the strict policy of Giuliani, but primarily with a new abortion law that was installed fifteen years earlier, that reduced the rate of unwanted childbirth in the poorer areas.
d) how everyone reacts on incentives that encourage a certain behaviour.
In other words: bring a notebook. So if you end up in a discussion later, you can use all the new knowledge you just gained (if your memory fails as mine does).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

IDFA: Afghanistan

in the end, everything is connected. It seems that way anyway, when you watch hours and hours of documentaries about so many different subjects. In the end, you keep hearing the same names, you see paterns that were never seen before and you realise that the world is smaller than it seems. There are small connections, farfetched connections and obvious connections.

In this case, it's the last one: Afghanistan. Two films, one land. The land I want to visit since I first flew over it in 2002. The land that, after seeing several documentaries about it and reading those two famous books, only seems more appealing to visit. The problem is, it's not a lot of fun. At least for a lot of people.

In The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan, an old but illegal tradition is shown. Little boys of the age of ten are, with or without the permission of their parents, are being taken by... how should I call them? Criminals, wealthy mafia, dirty old men? The boys are being trained to become dancers, are dressed up like women and have to dance for the older men. They get an 'education' and 'food and lodging', but they cannot leave. They are not allowed to go on the street without their owners - because that is what they are - and they cannot talk to the interviewer seperately in a room. They are being told what to answer to the questions they're being asked. It's scary and alarming. Beautiful boys, who have to serve people not only with their profession, but also in other ways. "Some ask for sex themselves,' says an army leader, who got rid of his own boy when he got married.

At first, you're happy that both Jabar and Zahir are not in that situation. At least, for the first minute of Addicted in Afghanistan, because afterwards you witness their heroin use for more than an hour. They lie in their houses, sit in the streets, order their sisters. But they are mostly high. With sunken eyes, they sit next to eachother. Their knees pulled up to their ears, their thin arms around their legs. They repeatedly try to get clean, but they fail every time. Their friendship brings them down. Every time, one seduces the other to take another shot. Professionally, they heat the almuinium, breath in the smoke and fall asleep.

The IDFA shows you the faces behind the small articles in the news papers, the ones you barely notice and forget about before you've turned the page. But they are there: Zahir, Jabar and all those boys that right now, while I'm writing this, are dancing like a girl in front of old men, not knowing what this night might bring for them.

The dancing boys of Afghanistan

Addicted in Afghanistan

Friday, December 3, 2010


Imagine, you're a British explorer. You are one of the sixty-eight British explorers that can be found on Wikipedia. King George IV gave you a ship to sail the seas of the world. On that ship, together with a crew of a hundred men, you sail away on the Thames. Even before reaching the Northsea to sail down the coast of France, you enter a big storm. You realise that this trip won't be easy.

For days, you and your crew sail southwards. When you've reached the southern part of Spain, you can see Morocco from afar, and you turn to the East. You know this area, you've been here before. This time, you go on, to the Nile delta. There, you go ashore and you work on the preparations of an expedition for weeks. You hire carriers, mules and materials and finally you can leave. In the unbearable heat, that seizes you every day and makes you wonder if you're even going to see the Big Ben again, you travel to the desert.
The stories about geometrical buildings already reached England a few years before, but it took some years before the king finally raised all the money from the conquerred areas in France in order to pay for this expedition. You know what you should be looking for, but when the triangles appear in a far distance, you finally understand what people were talking about. the closer you get, the bigger they become, and the smaller you feel. These are real miracles!
When you reach your destination, you put up your camp on the base of on one of the piramids. The strange scientist, who was also on a mission for the king, and who hadn't said anything during the trip, started his work. He orders some of the men to force one of the doors and enters the magical building. You are scared that he won't come back, but after several hours, he returns with the men. They carry strange attributes and keep going back into the black hole to bring out more stuff. You wait for weeks and let the scientist do his job. Then, you break up the camp and start with the long journey back to the ship. The men carry all the stuff that the collected from the piramids on your ship. Not only vases and spoons, but also dead animals and tombs are brought on board. You put everything in the hold below the deck. You don't think about it, you just want to return home, to see your wife.
You sail back as fast as you can, to get rid of this strange freight. At night, you dream of the looks of the egyptians who stood besides the road where you and your men passed through their villages. Sometimes they were frightened, sometimes aggressive. You didn't understand the things they said, but you know what they meant.
Back in London, you offer the king the treasure you found. You shake the hand of the scientist and hurry back home where you kiss your wife.

It was this scenario I had to think about, when I saw all those treasures in the Brittish Museum. While the public slowly passed the showcases, and whispered jokes about the teeth of the mummy, I stood there for ten minutes, wondering how it was possible that I was looking at a dead person, who ate a loaf of bread about three thousand years ago. A person that died and, in hope of an after life, had its body embalmed. Now he was lying there: in a showcase of glass, in a huge museum in a rainy land in Northern Europe. I don't think this was the idea of incarnation that they were thinking about: the after life of the twenty first century.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Last weekend, I walked through a little forrest near Apeldoorn, where the leaves were piled up to my knees. We had been inside for several days, partly because of our main reason of being there: rehearsing, and partly because of the rain. But on Sunday, the sun was shining. It was cold, in the late afternoon, but we were longing to go out. So we walked through the leaves, on invisible paths.

Sometimes, you find yourself in an old memory. It can be because of a smell or a sence. I suddenly walked through the forrest were I walked when I was six years old. Together with a friend who came for a sleep-over during the fall holidays. We were searching for acorns and leaves, to make little puppets when we got home. The sent of wet and yellowed leaves, the moss on old branches, the cold in the air, mushrooms on trunks.
But it was mostly that feeling: running through the piles of leaves, allowed to become dirty because you were wearing your old clothes, not knowing how big the forrest really was because you had no idea about the size of things in this world.

We didn't know about the scents, the feelings. Only now, more than twentyfive years later, was I able to put a feeling to a moment that existed long ago. And even though I now know about the moss, the wet leaves and the cold air, for a moment I felt the feeling of an endless week of vacation, running through leaves and how our feet disappeared between them.

All of this just flashed through my head in a few seconds. Then, I found myself in the forrest near Apeldoorn, searching for mushrooms with my friends.

Monday, November 15, 2010


When summer is over and normal life takes over, when the air is getting colder again and the wind blows over the canals, when the supermarkets are filled up with sweets and other Christmas stuff, and when those awfull winter feelings start spreading and people start talking about new years eve parties... then there is this one special event that brings light to my life, before I dwell in those short, cold days that will rule life for the next months.

The IDFA is about to start.
The IDFA brings, in dark film venues, inspiration, adventure, reality and amazement. For ten days, I will sink into my chair, with a bag filled with everything I need (water, something to eat, something to drink, an extra scarf and of course pen and paper) and I’ll travel the world. And even though I can’t wait and I’m counting down the days, before the IDFA starts, there is this other great moment; the arrival of the program.
With a pot of tea, a pen and a sharpie, I’m going to sit down and read for hours. I read every description of every film, and use my special rating system for the flms I want to see, need to see and must see. And then the puzzle starts... Which film is screened when and how can I fit it into my efficient schedule that includes rehearsals, courses and yoga.
IDFA is opening up its archive and so I stumbled upon a nice film that was shown during one of the previous festivals: Peter en Ben. A film about a special friendship..

Street Art

My parents used to take me and my brother to museums that didn’t really interest me at the age of seven. When I was ten, I once was tired and sat down on a chair that apparently was one of the exibition items. In the years that followed, I started to appreciate modern art, due to my parents enthousiasm and pressure, and slowly developped my own taste, that started with Hundertwasser and Klimt, like all teen girls.
A couple of years ago, I stopped forcing myself to first visit a museum when I visited a new city. I prefer to stroll around, talking to people and drinking coffee in small coffeeshops that you can only find accidentally.
The more I look, the more I see small pieces of art, hidden in the city. I’m not talking about the statues on squares or on roundabouts, I’m talking about drawings and tags on walls, on the sidewalk, on electricity boxes. During highschool, I saw the sayings of Loesje that would put life in perspective, nowadays, Laser 3.14 gets to me with his beautiful sayings.
I have to admit that I only recently got introduced to the world of Banksy. Luckily, just in time to know I had to see his movie, Exit through the giftshop. A film that starts like a story of playfull guys that think of innovative ways to spread their message. Men who live in the night, who use darkness to reach out to the plebs and try to break through the routine of every day life with unexpected thoughts. Halfway through, the film takes a turn and shows how all art can be commercialized. As a viewer, you start to doubt: is this about art or about money? Or are they making art of making money? Its not only the buyers of the mass produced and very expensive art that is being fooled, even in the theatre, you start to feel uncomfortable. How seriously are they taking their audience?
Afterwards, I realised that I too had fallen for a name, a constructed identity. Of a man who nevertheless, makes beautifull things. Including this film.
Apart from Banksy, Space Invader and the other street artist that are being mentioned in this film, there are so many more. Their work is litteraly on the street. You just have to open your eyes to see it and be inspired!

Friday, November 5, 2010


During the long drive on the road that swirled through the landscape, we felt how the tension grew. When the clouds drifted together and it started to rain, just when we arrived in the long queue near the entrance, we could only assume we were really nearby. But as dusk started, and the dark clouds had disappeared, we could see Him from afar. After setting up camp, the first thing we did was walking, almost running, towards Him. It almost seemed unreal, unbelievable, that we were finally there. Al those preperations, all those things we had to take care of beforehand. Everything had lead us exactly to this moment: standing at the foot of The Man, looking around the playa and realising that is all really does exist.

Everything concerning Burning Man is being pictured by His image. Stickers, websites, posters, but also notes in shop windows in San Fransisco, where you could buy special Burning Man clothes or materials: everywhere, you’ll find The Man. The Icon. The Symbol.

During the festival, He is literally the centre of the crowd: all roads lead to The Man. Once, about twentyfive years ago, He only was a little doll, not more than two meters high. Now, he is standing on top of a four floor tower, and overlooks everything. During the day you can see him standing: steady, waiting for everything that is about to happen. In the night, He joins the party, with coloured led lights that show His contours. Whenever you feel slightly lost in the maze of camps, roads and lighted Art cars, you look for The Man and the world around you falls into place.

During the entire week, everyone wishes you a ‘great burn’. If you tell someone it will be your first one, they start behaving like you’ll soon be included in a special secret. Like when your parents told you Santa didn’t exist, but you had to keep it a secret for your little brother. On Saturday, the day of the burn, you can feel the tension growing. Finally, when it is dark, you can see everyhing and everyone slowly moving towards the playa. All energy seems to just head to one direction.

We were one of the lucky ones, who got to sit in the front rows of the circle that was formed around The Man. Behind us, more people gathered, sitting and standing, and behind them the Art cars, who carried even more people. In the circle, the show started, with poi dancers, a dragon, firebreathers and more things that involved flames. Then, a fifteen minute lasting firework show started, that didn’t seem to end. Every apotheosis of uncomprehensive colours got overruled by more colours and even more impressive explosions. Finally, the tower caught fire, and not long after that, The Man himself. During the week, he stood there, with His arms along His body, fighting the dust storms. Now, His arms rose up to heaven, as if He'd surrendered to the dust and the flames. I felt sorry for Him. With the flames, the exitement grew, as everybody was waiting for the tower and The Man to collapse. When they fiinally did, after thirty minutes, there were bigger parties than before, more lights and people that dances around the fire for hours and hours.

That night, and the following day, the festival wasn’t like it was before. Everyone seemed to cycle without a goal, searching for directions. I got lost several times at night, because the beacon had disappeared. A lot of people left right after the burn, others, like us, stayed for the temple Burn on Sunday. It all felt empty compared to the rest of the week. He was gone. It will take 355 days for Him to reappear again.


Waiting rooms have their own rules. You behave quietly, nod to the other people and won’t seek contact. With anyone. At least, that’s the case with general practisioners, dentist, pharmacies the ER and more of the like. Those are places where you want to sink into a deep anonimity. Apart from keeping your own ailment a secret to others, preferably, others will keep theirs a secret too. You don’t want to know about the itch of that woman next to you, or the sort of pills the guy who nearly emptied his longs in your lap has to take. The other day, I had the extraordinary experience of visiting a doctor that I knew from parties a long time ago. I’m easily embaressed by sharing humiliating things with experts, this time, I had to that after talking about the good old days.

I had to think of this weird situation when I was sitting in the waiting room of the veterinarian, a couple of days later. Here, the opposite is the case: people want to talk to each other. In the above, the common ground consist peronal and intimite things, in this case, you share one big thing: your love for your pet. Without talking about what is actually wrong with it (the reason why you’re there), you can easily have a great conversation about having pets in general.
Add to that that sick animals are really good in being quiet, adorable and pitful, which causes an extra shared problem: how to explain a sick animal what’s happening will actually help them in the end. It feels like you’re friends, even before you know the names, of the other pets.

That was another observation: at the vet, you loose your whole identity and you become just one thing: the boss of... All communication will be done through your animal, not only with the staff, but also with other pet owners: ‘My oh my, you are a cute little dog, aren’t you?’ ‘Yes, she is only nine weeks old.’

Which is not convenient, expecially if the dogs boss hapens to be an attractive guy, who looks even cuter when he’s playing with his pup. Obviously, you won’t ask the dog if her boss is still available and if he would llike to have a drink one day. In this case, the situation was pretty hopeless to start with, since my sick cat was quietly lying in her basket. In every other situation, the whole cat issue could have been postponed untill the third date, so he would have know how great I am, before I told him I belong to the other group of people. You’re either a dog lover or a cat lover. And my love was gazing at the attractive guy with big, pitful eyes.

He didn’t notice anything. He was just playing with his pup.