Sunday, October 7, 2012


October is Buy Nothing New month. An initiative that started in Australia, and now also has a Dutch version. The idea: not to buy anything new for a month (and enjoy what you already have). When I registered for the Challenge, which mainly means you promise to participate in exchange for tips and ideas, I was asked for my motivation. My answer: I think that this idea is already part of my lifestyle. 

Maybe it's the books that I've read and the documentaries that I saw about the excessive use of stuff, raw materials and especially the impact on the environment, global warming, climate change. Maybe it's because I never really outgrown my student life. Anyway: I buy very little new stuff. My last major purchase by this horrible Swedish furniture company was about four years ago, when due to circumstances, I had to buy half of my furniture new. Only for the convenience - and not for the money - I dragged myself on a weekday through their shop to get my pre-selected couch and bookcases from the warehouse. After that, everything I bought for my house has been second hand stuff.

As far as my clothes go, I have limited myself to the closet space that I currently have (2 cabinets from that same Swedish company, bought when I moved to a bigger student room). This fits both my summer and winter collection, and there's only room for something new when something old goes out, which rarely happens. When I see something nice or beautiful, I always wonder if I really need it, which 9 out of 10 times results in not buying it. Because I really don't need it after all.

My big temptation are bookstores and shops that sell paper and paint. I can not go into a bookstore without buying a book. My solution: only going in to buy a present. That way, I can fulfill my need, without having another book at home. And once in a while, I let myself walk around a paper shop, where I can feel the different paper, and look at all the different patterns they have. Sometimes, I let myself buy some of them.

Since the beginning of this month, the only thing I've wanted to buy new is a frying pan. The one I have is crooked, which makes my food slide to one side when I'm cooking. But hey, as long as I stir enough, it's not a real problem.

I have decided a long time ago that I won't ever buy anything from the Swedish furniture company anymore. And so far, so good!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Het is alweer een paar weken geleden, maar de beelden schieten nog steeds door mijn hoofd. Het enorme podium, de gekte van Defoe, die zich inleeft in het verhaal dat hij vertelt, terwijl de beelden naast en achter hem aan het publiek voorbij trekken, de strakke blik van Marina, wanneer ze haar moeder speelt en natuurlijk, natuurlijk, Antony, die in een prachtig gewaad letterlijk voor me stond waardoor de rest van Carre leek te verdwijnen en hij alleen voor mij zong. Vooraf wist ik van de hype. Ik had gehoord over de run op kaarten, en besloot niet mee te doen. Ik kende die hele Abramovic niet echt, en voor zo'n bedrag hoefde ik haar ook niet te leren kennen. Tot de mogelijkheid zich voordeed om voor een dubbeltje op de eerste rang te zitten. En ik letterlijk voor het podium zat en het geweld aan beelden, teksten en muziek over me heen liet komen. Toen begreep ik de hype die door Amsterdam zoemde. En na afloop wilde ik meer. Meer Marina, meer verhalen. Met dank aan Holland Doc kreeg ik meer. Profiel besteedde een hele aflevering aan haar project Meet the artiest, waarin ze drie maanden lang in Moma voor zich uit staarde, en keek naar de personen die tegenover haar plaats namen. Het verhaal kende ik, en ook de ontroering van de bezoekers. Maar ik begreep het niet. Pas toen ik haar zag, en haar performance, en de mensen die allen op hun eigen manier terug keken. Toen begreep ik het. En zat ik met tranen in mijn ogen naar de televisie te kijken. Sterker nog, ik huilde. Net als de mensen tegenover haar. Net als zijzelf soms. Hoewel ik al weken mijn best doe om uit te zoeken wat het nou precies is dat zo ontroert, kom ik niet op de juiste beschrijving. Maar waarschijnlijk is het precies dat: er zijn geen woorden voor, en daarom ontroert het. Zo hoort kunst te zijn.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Train 2

On the second day, I'm having breakfast in the observation car. Opposite of me sits a man who first only throws me some looks but finally starts a conversation. When I tell him I'm from Amsterdam, he nods: "You all speak English in Denmark, right?" I nod too. We talk about the surroundings, where he grew up in. Then, the blogger from last night joins us. He takes pictures of everything that can be seen. I try to help him and point out other photo moments.

Then a guy from New York joins us. He carries several cans with vegan food. The conversation switches to food and what is healthy to eat. The guy is a raw-follower, he only eats food that hasn't been heated over 40 degrees celsius. The man from Denver keeps repeating that humans are carnivores. "Cows eat gras, we eat cows, why not cut out the middle man," the Raw guy says. I keep quiet.

We start talking about cars, and all three guys find a mutual interest. The carnivore shows us pictures of his seven cars. Flashy colors, a lot of convertables and of course all made in America. One of the pictures is of a real American pick-up truck, taken from down below, with the Stars and Stripes waving over it. "A real American car, the American flag, taken on the fouth of July," he says, full of pride. I ask him if he's a patriot. "Very much," he answers. The Raw guy and the blogger look at all the pictures and keep saying: "that is so sick!". The carnivore looks up: "Is that something bad?" he asks.
The others tell him that it means it's very cool.

 In one of the short breaks, I'm standing outside on the platform, catching some fresh air. Then, Ben starts talking to me. He is as high as my waist, has a crooked face and wears clothes that remind me of the Little House on the Prairie. He's from Pensilvania and is Amish. This is the first time he travels by himself to the west coast. Normally, his wife travels with him, but since their garden needs to be harvested these days, she decided to stay home this time. He tells me he wanted to talk to me on our way to Chicago, because he likes to talk to tourists. He and his wife even started a small B&B, to accommodate visitors to the Amish area. He talks about his family - he has six children - and his life style. " I love to meet people with different life styles, because I always learn new thugs," he says. I ask him how hard it is to hold on to their way of living, with all the new techniques forcing themselves into our society. He answers that he likes the piece and quiet. "I see all these people on th train using electronic devices. But I like looking outside and talk to people."

Later, I'm writing on my laptop when Ben passes me and gives me a friendly pad on my shoulder.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


The guy who at first had put his bags in the chairs behind us, starts talking to us and says he wants to sit next to a nice girl. "You seem nice, but I think you'e a couple," he says to me and walks away. Ten minutes later, he reappears, moves his bags and sits in the chairs next to us. He starts to make phone calls. With two phones. At the same time. He's on his way to Oakland, to do some course. His name is Terrence.

In the observation car, which has big windows and relaxing couches, is Randy, who's wearing sunglasses both on his nose and on his forehead. He wears a black shirt which says in glitter letters I love Soho. He talks to everyone who sits near him about his adventure in some hotel where he got to stay for free and got a free breakfast on top of it, about his job as a truck driver and stand-up comedian and about his girl friend, who just left him but who he still loves so much. Then, he pulls out a pork shop out of a paper bag and starts eating it while starting up a new conversation with other people. 

Opposite me, a guy with long hair is working like a madman on his laptop. Every three minutes, he grabs his camera to take pictures from the landscape. The train moves too fast, his pictures are moved. He pulls his hair and shakes his head. Then he disappears behind his computer again and starts writing on his blog.

One table further sits Alex, who just pulled up his shirt to show the dj who is also going to Burning Man and Randy his scars from Vietnam. They talk about the murder on Kennedy, Michelle Obama, the current political situation and the politics that kept the Bush family in power. Terrence joins the conversation and talks about his experiences in Iraq. He's been there five times.

Next to me, a nice looking, middle aged, couple sits down. They look at the guys in front of us and softy talk to each other. Then Randy walks up to them and starts talking. When he bursts out in a song, they quickly get up and give me a friendly nod while they leave. We have been traveling for an hour. Fifty two more to go.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Easter is the time of suffering and reflection, but fewer people know about the Christian meaning of Easter - even less know about Ascension Day and Pentecost. In the next days, everyone will have decorated eggs, Easter bread and fresh orange juice for breakfast, but none of us has consumed less food for the last fourty days to reach this reflexion. Carnaval nowadays only refers to partying and costumes, not to the beginning of Lent.

We live in a society that adheres to the Judeo-Christien tradition. Honour thy father and thy mother, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal. I personally believe that those basic principles already existed before the start of religions, only not in writing. Then, someone had the idea to establish those principles, and figured that it was easier to tell them in stories that people could remember. Those stories also contained other valuable information for the people of that time: it's easier to get sick from pork then from veal, so don't eat pork, seperate meat and other food for hygene and instead of forcing himself on to every woman he sees, a man should stick to three or four women and call them his wives.

I don't believe the writers realized that all these stories would dictate for centuries how billions of people should live. Nor that in name of their stories, wars would be conducted. I believe they wanted to entertain people, and probably wanted to teach them something at the same time, and perhaps they hoped their stories would survive them. But I do not believe that they wanted their stories cause billions of people to die of AIDS in 2012, because they were told it is sinful to use condoms, or that young boys would be abused because the so-called true believers apparently have no sex drive, and that whole populations would declare that their faith is the true one, and all wish hell and damnation to all others.

Let it be clear that I am an atheist. My great grandfather was offered less work in the mines because he didn't attend church on Sundays. My dad threatened the diocese to actively commit all sorts of immoral actions in order to be able to quit his church membership, which he was denied at the first try. Instead of having my first communion, my parents threw me a Gentile party.. I still curse when I walk into a church with my choir to sing the beautiful music of Mozart, Bach and Fauré. Childish, I know. But no less childish than people who hide behind all the good qualities of a true believer, yet despise anyone who doens't share his or her views. Love they neighbor, but only those who are like thou?

Some time ago, I read a wonderful book of Dutch writer Guus Kuijer, Hoe een klein rotgodje god vermoorde (How a little nasty god murdered God), in which he discusses in a clarifying way the real stories and how they deformed to the myths of today. I just saw a speech by Stephen Fry, about his idea of the Catholic Church, which, in my opinion, articulates very well what is wrong with religious institutes, like in this case the Catholic Church. Lastly, Alain de Botton preaches a new gospel: Atheism 2.0, which gives modern atheists that don't want to subject themselves to the institutes, on one hand get the oppertunity to enjoy the positive contributions of religion to our society (beautiful churches, rituals, the frescoes of Assisi) and on the other hand also adopt some religious aspects into secular society.

For anyone who is looking for reflexion in this time of the year...

Stephen Fry (2009) part 1:

Stephen Fry (2009) part 2:

Alain de Botton at TEDGlobal 2011:

Monday, April 2, 2012


Is my job my identity? Am I satisfied with the identity that I get from my work? These questions come up at the most inconvenient moments.

After working one temporary job after the other for several years, I decided almost six years ago that I had to look for a permanent job. The idea alone already freaked me out, the fear for eventually not daring to leave anymore had kept me from commiting all those years. In fact, the only activity on my resume that showed any form of commitment was (and still is) singing in my choir. But I also got tired of the anxiety of always having to look for the next job, while I was just starting at a new place.
Now, I'm working at one and the same place for almost five and a half years, and whenever I describe my job to others, they roll their eyes in envy. I have a job that other people are jealous of. Yet, for years already, I'm restless, and think that I need to look for something new, that I want to do something new. The current economic situation makes these kind of thoughts frightening, because who in his right mind gives notice to a nice job and the security that comes with it, without knowing what's coming next? On the other hand, the adventure calls and there is the - perhaps inappropriate - hope that in the end, everything will be fine.

Luckily, I'm not the only one with this dilemma. Among my friends,there are countless similar cases. And there are so many other Thirty-somethings who share our struggle. Fortunately, there are tv-shows like the Dutch show I am: I work therefor I am. Here, philosopher Stine Jenssen explains how in our current work obsessed economy, having a job and working hard for it, are seen as high values. You work to develop yourself and your job gives you your identity. But the freedom we think we pursue is an illusion, because even though employers tell us to be self-reliant, eventually we all depend on the system, and the prevailing norms and values are so strong that they leave little room for freedom.

All of this can lead to interesting discussions and lots of thoughts while cycling, taking a shower, or during boring meetings. For me, I am still contemplating my thoughts. I'm anxious to leave and to try new things, but I'm also afraid of leaving a great job that so many people would love to have, and never find anything like it anymore. In other words: to be continued...

Thursday, March 1, 2012


December 31, 2001 was the last time I ate meat at a barbecue in the Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand. I celebrated new years eve with a bunch of strangers and decided that from now on, I no longer wanted to be a part of an industry that mistreats animals and makes people increasingly unhealthy.

I had just read Fast Food Nation, a book by Erik Schlosser on the American Fast Food industry, in which different parts of the industry (potatoes, meat, corn and marketing on children) are discussed. During my eight month trip, I already started to realize that the world is not nearly as nice as I thought, but the facts that I read in Fast Food Nation were loathsome.

Beside the fact that eating fast food is obviously not really healthy, and that they put a lot of stuff in it to make it taste good, the industry behind the food you can order at a fast food counter is disastrous. For example, all small potato farmers were bought by a large mega company that now owns the whole potato industry in America. And a similar thing happened in the corn business. Of course, it's no difference in Europe, where the French company Nestle and the Dutch-Britisch company Unilever hold the majority of the market.

If you think of fast food, you think burgers. Which are made from cows who have little or no space to move, who get to eat recycled food and, in the U.S., often carry the e-coli bacteria. The industry refuses to vaccinate all cows at once, because the costs of potential lawsuits from people who got sick of it, are lower than the vaccinations. These cows are being killed in massive slaughter houses, where the calculated time for the processing of one cow is so short that some of the animals are not well slaughtered and are often still alive when they are cut open to proceed to the next step of the process.

And it's not only the animals that are treated badly. The people who work in those slaughter houses (in America often illegal immigrants) are risking their lives by cleaning up dangerous machinery, working in unhealthy conditions and making long hours, which makes them tired and inattentive. The employees of McDonalds restaurants may join a union, but if too many employees of a franchise have joined, McDonalds closes the restaurant, only to rebuild a new one a hundred yards away. Of course, they only rehire the staff that didn't join the union at the new location.

I know that by not eating meat, I cannot save the world. And I know that I also, by the choices I make in the supermarket and in restaurants, am part of a large system that slowly destroys everything. But I am convinced that consciousness can lead to change, and that my decision, ten years ago, was a very small contribution.
There are too many facts and stories that show how the fast food industry works. In 2006, Schlosser made a film with the same title as the book, which was followed by Food Inc. in 2008. Watch them and at least realize what you eat, when you order a Big Mac.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Koot en Bie

When I think of Sunday evenings when I was little, I think of how I would sit on the couch, with my wet hair after taking a bath, watching the sports programm with family. While my brother and father would listen to the commentary of that guy whose name I don't know, my mom and I would comment on the looks of the players. We had already eaten our sandwiches (on sunday, dinner would be at noon, which in my teens was just after getting up. First a cup of tea, then soup) and the week was ending.

After the sports came the news and then... Koot en BIe, a sort of SNL programm, where two Dutch comedians would comment on news that happened that week. In the beginning, I didn't understand the humour completely and it was mainly my dads laughter - which was a rare thing to hear this loud - that made me laugh. Later, I found the characters funny, but I still didn't get the jokes. Koot en Bie, together with Freek de Jonge, (another Dutch comedian) formed my understanding of humour. And also contributed to a large extend to my typical Sunday-evening-feeling.

Coen Verbraak made a documentary about Van Kooten en Die Bie in which they talk about their friendschip, how they started their carreer and the creation of their characters. I watched out of nostalgia, but gradually realized how great their programms were. The old pieces of their shows are so much better compared to all the comedy stuff that is shown on television these days.
I suddenly longed back for those Sunday evenings on the couch and I realized how I never understood how great they really were.

Perhaps, I'm getting old, or at least old enough to long for the old days. But maybe, somethings just really were better before. I don't want to return to the Guilder, I don't miss Loekie the Lion, and I find the internet a wonderful invention that I wouldn't want to miss anymore. But beautiful scenes that last for four to five minutes with only on or two cuts, that weren't about extreme situations but about how normal weird people are, and how they interact, I want that back immediately! Preferably with Koot en Bie in the lead.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


It had taken me almost twenty-four hours to arrive in Brooklyn. Many hours later I awoke, with the sound of the aircraft engines still in my ears, out of the coma I landed in after coming home. The jet lag, or the echo after flying, would still take some time. Although I felt awake and ready for the day, it was hard to start moving. Everything I normally do quickly, now took hours.

I decided to go outside and spend part of this day seeing Brooklyn. As I cycled around on my bike, I tried to think of a plan to go somewhere. In itself, drinking coffee is always a good thing to do in New York, but I wanted to have done more than to cycle a couple of blocks just to get a shot of caffeine. I decided to go to BAM, one of Brooklyns cultural centers, where, among other things, they screen great films. Based on the time it would start, I found a movie that would get me home in time for dinner, The Artist. I didn't even read the tagline, when I sat down in the room. Before me sat a middle aged couple with their teenage son. I found it funny that these three people went to the cinema together at this time of the day.

The film began as an old classic silent film. I remember thinking: 'what a weird beginning', but soon I realised that this was the movie. A silent film, like the old days. The story itself wasn't the most catchy one, and it wasn't the surprising end that made it a special film. I found it a very special film because I suddenly realized that I almost never experience silence. There is always noise everywhere. And now, I was sitting in a large room with fifty other people, with nothing more than some silly music.

The absence of dialogue, combined with the fatigue I was still feeling, sometimes, my thoughts wandered of, only to get back and focus on the film and its cinematic techniques that were used to keep the audience attention. I thought about the theater week when we worked with masks and how I discovered how the facial expression is such a big part of interaction, and how you need to compensate for that if you can't use your face. A few months ago, I made a film without words, without dialogue, without sound, run on a 16 mm camera. Then also, the image had to speak for itself.

The Artist is a wonderful film, which makes you long for the old times. When we didn't have all those thousands of images and sounds a day we get now. A little more peace and quiet wouldn't be so bad. It's like traveling: although you can fly your body to New York in eight hours, it takes a few days before the mind gets there too. And while you wait for those two to come together, you need to take it easy, buy watching films and drinking coffee.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I saw Kontakthof during the Holland Festival in 2003, when I worked there for a month, tucked away in the darkness of the main box office. At night, I could see performances, including this beautiful dance with twenty older dancers, a remake from 1978. I still clearly remember the thrill I had in Carré, one of the main theaters in Amsterdam. I knew I saw something special. Not only the concept of the older dancers, or the mere fact of seeing a show in Carré, but most of all it was special because it was a show of the Great Pina: a woman who was so well known, that I felt ashamed for not having seen any of her other performances.

Her Rite of Spring I knew, if only because three years earlier, again during the HF, I had tried to learn as much as possible about the Rite while working at the show ZIngaro. The latest version of Kontakthof was modest and fragile, but The Rite was violently, intense, exhaustive. Even behind my computer screen, I could feel the breath of the dancers, I smelled the earth.

And that happened again a few weeks ago, while sitting in the BAM cinema in Brooklyn, wearing 3D glasses, watching Wim Wenders film about her, for her, Pina. I usually don't like 3D movies that much, since I'm not so interested in the special effect. But in this movie, it was different. It was tactile, with beautiful images, where it felt like you could touch the dancers, as if they were dancing around you. Sometimes, a dress nearly blew in your face, or you had to push away a curtain to see them again. It was like standing beside them.

The images created by Pina herself of course, were very important too in this experience. Improbable situations, like a huge rock on stage, with an endless waterfall next to it, where dancers moved through the water like insects. Or a glass chamber in a forrest, where, when the dancers finally open the doors and ran out, you could smell the trees and the soil, that were only visible through the glass at first. And of course, The Rite.

She's hardly in it, in the film that bears her name. But one of the few things she says is: when there are no more words, dance starts. And with that, she expresses exactly what I felt as I watched.

PINA - Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost - International Trailer from neueroadmovies on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Me and a friend went to see About Canto, a film about the music piece Canto Ostinato. The film is not about the music itself though, it's about the impact it has had on different people. Which could make an interesting film, if the characters would be interesting. And by that, I don't mean it should include more friends of Dutch actrice Halina Reijn - who had to dance on the Canto in acting school - I am saying that of some of the people that were chosen now, had no interesting Canto story to tell: "I just listened to it when I was little and played with my lego," a student tells us, while sitting behind a grand piano in her tiny student room.
Eventually, however, the cinematic choices of director Ramon Gieling were more annoying than the characters and made me and my friend (him in lesser extent) very giggly while the film proceeded.

In a master class Rene Appel (who directed Zij gelooft in mij about the Dutch singer Andre Hazes), said that he never showed what the people in his films talked about. You should not weaken the story with accompanying pictures, he said. Gieling should have attended that master class, because the flashbacks that accompanied the stories in About Canto are absolutely terrible and they are not correct. When the girl talks about lego, you don't let her play with wooden blocks in the flaschback. Furthermore, it seemed that the makers had found a cd with sound effects, and had used them whenever they found it appropriate. Bird sounds. Rain drops. Everything was so loud, it seemed like the sound engineer had glued them on to his microphone.

In each interview, the voice of the director is audible at some point, saying things like: "You told me earlier that you ... (then an anecdote followed) .. can you elaborate on that?" Why does Gieling want to be present in his own film? Why do we need to know he had earlier conversations with his characters? I'd rather hear them tell their stories. Even if they all came down to one same thing: The Canto Ostinato had made a tremendous impression and changed their life. We got that message after three times already.

One of the interesting characters, musicologist Henkjan Honing, was filmed from below, while giving a lecture in an almost empty auditorium of the University of Amsterdam, with some female students scattered in the large room, supposedly looking up to him. The irritation of the camera angles was greater than the attention to his interesting content.
The pictures behind researcher Johannes Bentz showed roundabouts - which is what the Canto reminds him of - and were beautiful. Just like the scenes of a roundabout, where at some point it really seems to show how a pedestrian is hit by a car. Is it a joke of the film maker?

Then, at the end, 'the master himself', composer Simeon ten Holt is being interviewd, and again, Gieling refers to earlier discussions. At that time, I already lost my focus and could only stare at the old composer, whose body seemed to be one big blob, which made me wonder if he was wearing a snuggy? When he then - in our opinion slightly irritated - answered Gielings questions, I really believed we got fooled and we were watching one of Wim de Bie's characters. Of course, I can't blame Ten Holt nor Gieling this, but the hilarity that I had slowly built up during the film, now turned into the giggles, which I had not experienced in a long time.

Thanks for that, Ramon Gieling. And my apologies to the other cinema audience.

The music itself is beautiful though:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


June 24, 2010 must be the most recorded day ever. Worldwide, people responded to the call of Ridley Scott and Kevin MacDonald, to record a moment of that day, and share it on youtube. They got 4500 hours of material that they turned into the film Life in a Day.

I realized that one day on this world actually takes about 36 hours, from the time it turns 12 AM in the most eastern part of the world, untill it is 11.59 PM at the most western point. I have no idea where that may be, but one of the major candidates for the latter, has recently changed into a candidate for the first.

The day begins in the night, when people are drunk, sleeping, feeding their babies and watch the moon. And while the sun slowly rises and thousands of people put their feet on the floor, coffe gets made in so many different ways, people make breakfast, lovers wake up, the days slowly progresses. Between all the quick cut scenes, abruptly abandoned stories return and you start discovering a fragment of somebodies life.

People answer some simple questions in their own films, that unfold the simplicity of this world. What's in your pocket, is one of these questions. The answers? Money, phones, keys of a Lamborghinis, but also knives, guns, flags of all the countries from the ancestors of a (presumably) autistic woman and nothing. Or a stick of a of the Neem tree, that one can use as a tooth brush.

How simple is life? Some have everything, others nothing. It's simple and unfair. And even though no-one complaints, you can't deny this fact. When asked What do you love?, people answer: 'my family', 'my cat', 'cleaning very dirty things so you can see results', God, the Lord and our Saviour' and 'driving 150 miles an hour with my car'. We are all different, but we;re not. All over the world, people get married, they all eat their own strange foods, and everyone tries to make the best of it. The sick mother, with her battered body and her young son. The Berber and his fourteen children who live in a house without electricity or running water. The American girl whose husband fights in Afghanistan, the Korean guy who cycles the world and who gets emotional by Nepalese flies, because they are just as big as the flies in his home country.

And as the day progresses, and the evening falls, the Love Parade turns into a drama, fires burn down houses, people cry in their bed, the West celebrates life with dancing cheerleaders and half naked women, somewhere fireworks lighten the sky and in other places, a thunder storm does. As the moon rises, and it's 11.58, a girl films herself at the last minute. "I hoped that something special would happen today, so I could show the world that something special happens everyday somewhere. But nothing did. And even so, I still have the feeling that something special has happened.

Life in a day.