Self-Indulgent Sunday

  1. Lie-in in a double bed, listening to the rain.
  2. 2 paracetamol – either a strain headache as I need to go to the opticians or beer consumption last night.
  3. Several cups of tea.
  4. Another snooze.
  5. Call to v cool sister to tell her I am looking forward to seeing her Friday.
  6. Cinema by oneself. Law Abiding Citizen – no Oscar winner but Jamie and Gerard are hot. The shaky script and litres of blood are forgiven because of the inexplicable strip-scene. Does it makes sense? No, but it makes for a great Sunday.
  7. Home made lasagna.
  8. A little Facebook.
  9. Watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona on the sofa, underneath a blanket. Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall are portraying annoying Americans but Javier and Penelope make it all worth it.
  10. Chocolate in the form of cake and an early Terry’s Orange with volcano popping candy.
  11. Writing a blog entry full of ideas about happiness and laced with Sartre, only to decide after 3 hours to not publish it: let’s not spoil the gorgeousness of a lovely Sunday.

The power of entertainment

As I am writing this I might well still be suffering with the remnants of a midweek hangover. However, despite the fact that I had peaked at 11am today, I clearly feel so strongly about this that I’d like to share it with you.

See once, in what seems a life-time ago, I wrote an essay on the efficacy and entertainment of socio-political theatre. I was reminded of this tonight as I attended another Open Arts Cafe evening with the theme of Rebellion. Naturally most of the evening’s performances/ exhibitions had a political edge but with varying success. The audience of OAC are a young group, with young I mean mostly 20somethings to 40somethings. Fairly liberal, openminded art-loving people. They are mostly nice people, they want to be supportive to the beginning artists, they want to be there on the night, they are so to speak a very willing audience. Still I felt that some performances just didn’t reach the full potential of what they were trying to or possibly could achieve.

Because surely that is the point of political art: it wants to communicate a message to the audience in order to make people think about the status quo and/or instigate social change.  L’art pour l’art this is not.

It means that when the audience switches off, the message has not come across and the performance or the piece has lost its efficiency. This why the entertainment part of political art is so essential and yet it is oh so often neglected.

Let’s be clear: entertainment is not just laughter, I would describe it as ‘being pleasurably engaged’. As an artist it is your job to consider your audience. Yes I can hear you rebels roar: but I am making a stand! I will not have to conform to the masses. That is great and you are right, you do not have to. Should you aspire to change the masses however, you might want to interact with them now and then.(Simple illustration: I wanted to change the world when I was 17, I soon realised that I didn’t know what I wanted to change because I hadn’t experienced the world yet. You cannot change what you do not know.)

Engagement/Entertainment was lacking with some of the acts tonight. Sometimes it had to do with technique: microphone technique – speak in the microphone and people might actually hear you. It also helps to be enthusiastic or charming or charismatic. Che Guevara was a good looking man and Freddie Mercury wasn’t necessarily but they both could still engage people. Speech technique – a lovely photographer tried to explain her work but went off on a rant about Tibet and how we could place bets on her pictures downstairs and the best bet could win. Speech was a little long and unstructured, leaving me a little confused on both Tibet and any bets in general. I don’t think I was the only one as there was only one name on the piece of paper which said ‘Bet’.

The poor girl also didn’t have timing on her side, the interval was already announced when they squeezed her speech; everyone was already distractedly eyeing up the drinks.

One act was an black muslim rapper from Mozambique, he was good. He has formed the first muslim/ jewish hip-hop group with a partner to rebel against their leaders. Great stuff. Now, for the actual performance he was on his own rapping with out music the lyrics of a song meant for two. It seemed a little strange. His stuff was mostly religious, which despite the event being held in a synagogue the audience didn’t have a great affinity with or so I suspected. His praise to Allah and Mohammed was commendable but seemed more for himself than an invite to join the revolution. I missed the connection, the audience could cheer for him but was reluctant to cheer for a life with God. ( If it doesn’t feel right than you are living a lie – deep but also very personal to people. People usually don’t want to get pushed to God, they like to think they can find their own way.)

Even when he had the crowd singing in his last song ( told you, they are nice supportive people) he had a whole group of mainly white non-muslims chanting: Mozambique, Mozambique! I wonder if you had given half of them a map, how many could actually point out the country. I couldn’t. The repetition line at the end of: No More War! We Want Peace! sounded so performed by the audience, with performed I mean ironically enough dispassionate/fake, that I nearly wanted him to shout something unPC as Heil Hitler just to see whether people would still repeat after him as a social experiment.

There was an act I liked, and yes I am biased as I know Broderick Chow, but still. Though his post-maxism stand-up comedy (yes really) has potential to be heavy-duty stuff, he steers it well. He is very aware of the effect of his material on his audience. He knows when he is leading us into the abyss of dark and deep material and he addresses this during his performance and by acknowledging it he let’s the audience know:’ hey its ok, i know it is a bit serious right now but stick with me because I will need this for the set up for the punchline.’ He also has a nice amount light and frilly easy digestible and understandable stuff which has great laughs. By using ‘light entertainment’ he places his philosophical points in an understandable context, connecting with the audience and at the same time his philosophical points strengthen the punchline of what could be a simple cheap laugh.

My message to all those political artisits: don’t forget the power of entertainment. It connects you to your audience which will encrease the chances of you fully realising the potential of your project.

There’s my argument on entertainment and efficacy in socio-political art, practically my whole MA thesis in one blog entry; no wonder my degree became such a beautiful paperhat!

Time and Dreams a destined tragedy?

Today I have mostly spend in the Barbican Centre where Sura ( I told you she is excellent company for most occasions) and I watched Roman Tragedies by Toneelgroep Amsterdam. That’s right: plural. We just sat our way through six hours of Shakespeare. In Dutch. With surtitles for those who did not understand the language though I have to say, they got short-changed. Apart from the general shoddiness in the translations, the improvised sentences were often the best and the funniest.

Improv? In Shakespeare? I hear you (aspiring) thespians think. Yes, so it was a free-flow translation of Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. Free-flow in more than one, there were no intervals the plays just moved on into eachother. It was also set in modern times, with movable set and the audience was actively encouraged to join the actors on stage and see the parts of the play from the sofas that made up the set. The bar was on stage as well, as were a few computers with access to the internet and the hair and make-up table for the actors. It was ace. We managed to get the best places in the audience though so we only went for a quick wander around during the mini-breaks (which were the set changes and were 5-10min every 30-45 min or so.) Time was counted down on the tv-screens which were spread on stage. They also functioned as a place for the surtitles for audience on stage – everyone else just looked on the big screen on top of the stage. They also used cameras to film and project on screen, enacting news bulletins but also clever use of stage as they didn’t have to play everything to the fourth wall, and could just do a scene in the backcorner. ( is that upstage, stage left?) All was seen from different angles by the cameras anyway.

It was a great way to spend a Sunday and it made me a little melancholic on the way home. Toneelgroep Amsterdam has excellent actors .Some I saw tonight for the first time, Fred Goessens, Marieke Heebink (comedy genius) and Chris Nielt. Others like Frieda Pittoors and Fedja van Huet I had seen in the Leenane Trilogy ( another play that goes on for hours – but really gripping and at the time the staging was controversial with Virgin Mary statues that were broken and people walked out in disgust.) Fedja had broken his leg at the time and as he had two characters to play he played one on crutches and one in a wheelchair.

This time it was actor Hans Kesting who was in plaster but who managed to portray a powerful and charismatic Mark Anthony all the same. It was strange to think that I have seen this man stark-naked during a performance of Bacchae in Amsterdam. ( Again: Dutch…) It was an excursion for Latin A-levels I believe. We were 17 and the first one who spoke said: ‘Did you see that tattoo?’ Yes hadn’t we all seen the tattoo which he has on his lower belly…. It became even better when we bumped into him whilst waiting for our teacher to come out of the theatre and had a chat whilst he got his bicycle.

The memories reminded me that all this ( Leenane Trilogy, Bacchae) was seven years ago, maybe even nearer eight than I’d like to admit. It was before I moved to the UK, when I last lived at home: I was opinionated, passionate and excited. I couldn’t wait for my life to begin, for my chance to experience it. What it meant I couldn’t even grasp but to have the freedom to make something of your life…

So here I am: in my bedroom in London, typing this something which  I wouldn’t even have thought of back then. To be honest as I am nearing it, I am also aware that (nearing) 25 wasn’t even on my radar at that time. Short-sightedness or self-protection? Bit of both and perhaps also a certain stroke of not caring: to cross bridges when we get to it, surely is the prerogative of the inexperienced. My heart became a little sad for all the dreams I once had and not yet have realised (yes mother, youth is wasted on the young…) Still let’s take comfort that yet is just a very short word to describe a million thoughts.

Epitome of cool: my sister- an introduction

When it came to dividing the coolness gene, my parents held back on me. I am the proto-type ( Daughter v1.1) and my younger sister is pretty much how they meant it to be: – installed with Coolness application. 

I shall describe to you how cool my sister is. Though really, you’d have to meet her. Even in secondary school I was completely upstaged the day she came walking in. I was 14, she just turned 12 and my friends took one look at her and were: ‘That’s Clarissa’s really cool sister.’ I kid you not. It happened. Her coolness oozed from her walk: imagine John Travolta in the late 70s before he lost his neck. When I asked her about it, she just shrugged and said in perfect American English ( SHE WAS 12!): ‘It’s not an attitude…it’s a lifestyle’

She is incredible; way ahead of time, of any craze. I sometimes wonder if she invents them. Don’t follow the crowds people, follow her if you want to know what’s going on. Her music collection is a work of art in itself, from big names to small bands who (inevitably) will be big names. Once the illustrous meet the light though, she gets less interested and moves on to another project. She used to go through crazy phases like only eating banana’s or crackers or soup. She doesn’t eat bread because she doesn’t like it. She doesn’t do mornings, but still managed to join the rowing team at uni; getting up 6am for training everyday despite her being as tall as the short lady who just shouts all the time. She trained herself into muscle, I’d look at her and think: Man if only I did excercise, that’s what I’d look like.

She is clever, has just finished a post-grad degree in Forensic Anthropology ( YES CSI! Haha she hates that… She buried dead animals for her degree, I followed my hand with my breath for mine) and got herself a tattoo on her foot. Not just a tattoo, a classy tattoo: it makes all the difference.

When she danced on my cousin’s wedding I realised it was the first time I had seen her dance. ( Apart from our coffeemug shuffle which we sometimes did in our livingroom in the morning. She has also been consuming black coffee on dripfeed since the age of 14) Anyway the way she moved was understated and confident and…cool.

Later that evening when a very drunk friend of my cousin’s came to introduce himself to me, she turned into the best wingwoman one can have in those situations. She chatted with his mate but kept an eye on the situation. She doesn’t talk about men in her life, but I have this feeling there might be. She is pretty, confident and free-spirited.(though anyone who breaks her heart will have his balls surgically removed with a teaspoon.)

Once she used to play in a band obviously. She taught herself the guitar ( I remember her with headphones on listening to a song over and over again for a weekend and then go: Hey listen to this… and played me the entire solo of Stairway to Heaven.) When the band needed a singer, she taught herself the bass and sang. But when they hired a singer, she was happy to just be the lead guitar and do some background vocals. See she has amazing strong points; she is clever, skilled and funny and doesn’t seem to have the need to show off. She just shows it.

Her coolness balances my hot-headedness and one day she will win the Nobelprize for the sheer amount of lives she has saved. If I am the loud one trying so hard to prove myself to a world that doesn’t care, she is the quiet one who has already achieved greatness by just being.

In 14 days when I get of a 5 hour trainride and she walks towards me with the now legendary Travolta walk at the station, I will only be able to beam. Look at her, can you see her? That’s my sister.

I cannot wait.

Let’s talk about sex, baby /(The condom launch)

Oh how we laughed… The subject of sex in the UK still seems to be something to giggle about. Being Dutch it really does surprise me sometimes how funny the Brits are about the matter. So when I accepted the invite to go to a new condom launch ( it was in Mayfair, in a club, free cocktails!) the giggling just didn’t stop. Everyone wanted to know when I was going and what I was going to wear and whether there would be men. The answers were simple: Wednesday night, just what I was wearing to work – it’s a product launch not a dating night, and yes since half the population of the world are men, chances were there were going to be a few around.

I took my friend Sura, who is excellent company for any occasion and we went after having some dinner . Long and short of it: It started promising, but it was boring.

Ah there were the free cocktails (Apparently you need to lavish British people with alcohol before they even come near a condom, and even then some aren’t keen), the silly games ( burst the blown up condom filled with glitter and a sex-quote from celebrities. Quote as in ‘something they said’, not a price list – that would have made it interesting perhaps), a table with toys which was widely avoided, the sex-expert who really just wanted to promote herself (‘I have written for many magazines, I coach celebrities at the moment, but I really would like to get in touch with the common people.’), and a little entertainment.

The entertainment was two men, breakdancing, topless. That’s right. That’s how sexy it got. Sura was in bloody stitches over my lap whilst I was really aware that the camera filming this thing was also picking us up as we were right behind the guys in the light. ( Table by the dancefloor, seemed a good idea at the time.) They were probably going for the Chippendale approach, it was more – I quote: ‘Take That in the early nineties.’ Minus the jelly. So imagine Howard spinning Mark on his head – that would be Mark on Howard’s head, it was a move I had never experienced before. When the dancers retreated, a small man wearing a hat and funnily enough heels, followed them ‘backstage’. Unfortunately for them ‘backstage’ was a backlit screen, so everyone could see the massive argument erupting in an amusing shadowplay. Something had clearly gone wrong. Whatever it was, the smallest dancer came out in a huff, wearing what can only be described as a small dead polarbear on his head. At least it was entertaining.

That was it. Cheap and nasty canapes, cocktail sausages, mini fishcakes and penis-shaped chocolates – thank god we had eaten -and more alcohol. So ninety minutes after we walked in, we decided to walk out again pretty much sober and slightly bored. All the ingredients for a good party and yet it was as if we were ten again: boys to left, girls to the right and really bad music.

We did make some observations about sex I’d like to share with you – feel free to skip this if you are squeamish:

  1. It is remarkably easy to spot the girls who are comfortable with sex. They are not necessarily the prettiest ones around in the room, but it is in the way they move.
  2. Beware of men who are good-looking and self absorbed. Self absorbed people don’t make good team players.
  3. Men who make a joke at the dispense of the size of their penis are not just larking about, they are warning you. Smile politely, laugh if you must, mumble an excuse and run.
  4. According to the press-release I got, most British couples only manage three different positions during their entire sex life. I am still a little bit in shock.
  5. Food is a good indicator for sex. Anorexics are not known for their amazing love lives, nor are fussy eaters. Food like sex is great and needs to be enjoyed with pleasant company. There is something to say for cheap and dirty food ( like that kebab after an alcohol-fest) but we all  know it just leaves a nasty taste in the morning…

Lastly, people who talk about sex a lot, don’t get it a lot. As Oliver Martinez ( ex Mr Kylie Minogue) once said in an interview: ‘I don’t talk about sex, I have it.’ So you understand the cruel irony of Sura’s enthusiasm by filling my bag ( hers was in the cloakroom) plus a goodybag, resulting in 36 newly launched condoms on my dining room table and no man in sight…

(PS: Oh hang on there is! Having just realised the only explanation for the body-movements in my neighbours’ appartment, which I can see from my table ( either that or they are testing their new trampoline. In the livingroom.) I’m tempted to show my social side and donate them a pack with a note: ‘ Enjoy, but please close the curtains.’  Oh oh oh, so bitter, so twisted…)

Le Premier Jour du Reste de Ta Vie

This film is beautiful and touching, a true masterpiece, see this if you can. Centered around a family, a normal family ( ok,ok with extremely good-looking children, but hey cinema if anything should be visually pleasing) with its up and downs.

Everyone in the family gets highlighted, followed on an a day on which life changes. Changes not instigated by massive drama, alien abductions or drugs abuse necessarily but just through what every single character comes across on their way in life. It is touching because it is so recognisable. Every situation is imaginable, real. The situations that occur and their consequences for the each family member are subtly played out.  All members of this family are just going through life, all with their own believes and own ways to deal with life. It shows how family interweaves these different ways and how it connects people despite their differences. The art of this film is in the balance of dramatic and comic moments, in subtlety of situations and relations; we all know that family has the most complicated relationships in our lives.

Because the days that were portrayed were spread over 12 years, you could get ‘the bigger picture’: incidents which happened in the past, still influence current decisions. Instead of depressing, it is somehow re-assuring to see the connection between different days on a time-line. It reassured me at least, that every day (good or bad) will one day turn out to be a just small piece of the puzzle.

The cast – told you, beautiful people portraying ordinary lives

What little boys are made of…

At work we are all roped into charity this year; we are making Christmas shoe boxes. For those unfamiliar, you fill a shoe box with little presents for a little boy or girl in a deprived area of the world. Here we could start a whole debate about the ethics of involuntary ‘good deeds’ which are, even worse, attached to ‘a religion’. ( This is because God doesn’t love children who don’t believe in Jesus and thus they don’t get presents – luckily the organisation pops in an extra booklet about Christ, just in case…) but let us not.

Anyway I was cynical. Especially because the piece of paper said the boxes go to Africa, Eastern Europe Asia and then advises to pack things like: a scarf, gloves, sunglasses… Ok, now they probably have cold nights in Africa, but really generally? Surely I cannot pack for every change of weather in a shoebox ( though I seem to have practised when flying Ryan Air – which I am now boycotting by the way. It is ridiculous that they charge to take a bloody bag! I do admit it helps I live near London City Airport, it is easier to have principles that are also convenient… )

So this evening I found myself in a local big supermarket and to make this seemingly labourious exercise fun, I had challenged myself to create a box for an 8-yr old boy. See I am from a family which has only girls: me, my sister and then three younger cousins and three older cousins; of which the eldest managed to procreate and delighted us with ( you guessed it) another girl.

Little boys are not my territory, I once spend a week with my friend’s two boys and though they are gorgeous they just surprised me every time. They were boys, physical lots of play-fighting, running, lots of screaming, into creepy crawly scary stuff, they wanted to be knights and Jedi warriors. They also ate a lot and they hadn’t even reached year 3 primary school yet.

Back in the store I felt a little out of my depth, what would a little boy like? Everywhere I could see perfect pink little presents, full of fluff and glitter that would have made my life so much easier. Fairies, wings, purple elephants…But I stuck to it: I picked up several things and put them back again. Once I finally found the right car ( cliche, I know but will I really change the world by giving a deprived boy a gender-borders(con)fusing shoebox: I thought not.) I really got into it. Got a cap, bouncy balls, plastic mini reptiles, a mini calculator, a lion cuddly toy – the most manly I could find obviously -, a drawing pad with colouring pencils, a pencil sharpener, pen, sweets  including one that is bright blue and functions as a rattle – it will drive people insane! and a toothbrush with Bart Simpson Bad Boy toothpaste ( yes mother, it seems your dental hygiene issues all rubbed off in the end)

It was incredibly satisfying and it was actually quiet nice to think of little boys as little human beings. Because I forgot to tell you about the times that the two boys I looked after saved me from many a monster in their games, how they sat on my lap and we did art-stuff together,and how when they were cuddled up to me as we were reading stories, I got surprised by a spontaneous marriage proposal. ( Which I politely, yet stupidly declined: I should have post-poned it another decade, chances were this one was going to be a looker – I feel sorry for the many broken hearts on the playground all ready.)

Ladies, it seems that the men we interact with, who we find so confusing and frustrating at times, were once little boys who were sweet and cheeky and dreamed about becoming Jedi-knights who saved Princess Leia from evil monsters only to marry her and live happily ever after. When you think of it: probably not too different to the dreams of little girls.

In my room I tried to find a shoebox to put all my gifts in and found one with irony: some little boy will hopefully be happily surprised opening the shoebox of my £110 shoes which I have worn exactly once. In any case, it will finally turn out to be great value.