Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Antwerp Central Station

This would have been a great photo if I hadn't been so rushed taking it. I like the composition of the three police officers standing there, their shadows overlapping each other. The women in the background is also great.

When I moved here, Antwerp central station was only one floor, and trains that came in there had to turn around again to get out. It wasn't a through way. Now it's very modern with several levels built into the ground. I hadn't been there in years. It turned out well. They preserved the old roof, and the original brick work of the old station. The contrast between the ultra-modern levels, and the charming old station works well. It's spectacular going up the several escalators while looking up at the old roof and brick work. A very nice station.

Just an after thought on Belgian police officers. They always remind me of the Congo in their blue uniforms and caps. I read a book about the terror Belgium inflicted in the Congo. If a villager refused to cooperate in becoming a Belgian slave, the policy was to cut that person's hand off. I guess a lot of the wealth in Western countries is based on plunder and exploitation.

Basking in Shade

It only takes a few seconds, but I made the decision to take this photograph with the tram in the shade, instead of half in, half out of the shade. Both decisions have merit. Half in, half out would be an interesting choice. The tram has animal stripes, and is probably about 30 years old. It would be a nice contrast. But I also like that the tram is totally covered in shade, and the street is empty. The tram rails make a nice zip of a line. The tram becomes an entity with the the shade, and the street is a clear, if dusty, plain.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Stark Shadow

Don't you love the shadows cast on the buildings of this Antwerp street? They're so sharp, you can see the outline perfectly.

Wonderful Shadow

I love the contrast here of sun and shadow on an Antwerp church.

Finally, in my tenth year. Finally, I am finally happy now to be here.

What will I have to write about now? ;->

Sun Stripe

It's stripes like these that make a girl happy to be here! :-)

Sunday Afternoon in Antwerp

I thought this snapshot turned out well, although I should have superimposed my head over "hers."

Medieval Pinup

This medieval French painting of Mother Mary with Jesus on her lap looks surprisingly modern.

Lucas Cranach

I've always loved Lucas Cranach's depiction of Eva.


Funny that I was never very interested in Peter Paul Rubins until looking back at the photos I took in the Konnilijke Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerp this weekend. Now I can see what a truly remarkable painter he was.

Hans Memling

Funny. This Hans Memling painting of an Italian man really does look like Keanau Reeves, don't you think?

I love Hans Memling.

Cast Iron Heaters

I found it odd that they have these black cast iron heaters in the center of the galleries at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp.

The black sculpture of a man bowing is a Rodin.

An Antwerp Fire Hydrant

I thought this fire hydrant looked like a person with two arms extended holding things in his fists.

This hydrant is on a side lawn of the art museum in Antwerp. Kind of an odd place for a hydrant.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rotterdam Skyline

Here's a photo I took of the Rotterdam skyline yesterday. The tallest building here is the tallest in Rotterdam, and in The Netherlands. It isn't very high by world standards, but they like to keep 'em low here. It's the Nationale Nederlanden building, an insurance company. Rotterdam is the home of Dutch "sky scrapers." The city center was wiped out during the war, which gave them the opportunity to build a new city, making Rotterdam into the largest port city in the world, until Singapore eclipsed them two years ago.

For many years Rotterdam had the tallest building in Europe, the "White House," built in 1897. It's still around, having survived the 1944 bombing. A charming building.

Whether the Weather

It's actually been sunny here this past week. It's quite unusual when the sun shines in The Netherlands, the country of perpetual clouds.

Here's a photo I took a few days ago of the Rotterdam museum Boijmans van Beuningen. They a wonderful collection of paintings, including Breugel's The Tower of Babel, and Bosch's The Peddler (Marskramer).

The larger than life bowed screw, pictured, is by Claes Oldenburg.

It's a wonderful museum. You can have almost it all to yourself almost any day of the week. The last time I was there it was surprisingly crowded. A peaceful place to visit on a nice afternoon.

The Dream Cafe

This theme bar in downtown Rotterdam used to be called "The American Dream Cafe," until Bush's wars started, when they ripped "American" from the awning. They still serve American beer, and they also didn't change any of the other decor, including the flag, and the old Western saloon style house featured here. Since I dislike theme cafes, I've never been. I'll never go there, ever.

Dutch Girl Hat

I sort of liked the peach colored hat in the center here. It's in the old Dutch style of Zeeland, but with a modern twist. I held back buying it to save money. Now that I see this photo, I'm glad I didn't buy it. At first I thought it would be funny to wear a hat with a traditional Dutch twist. In this case, "Zeuuwse Meijse." But now that I see it in this photo, I realize that I would look stupid in it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Today Onwards

From now on I'm going to be happy. Reasons to feel happiness are just as abundant as reasons to feel misery. Really, I have no excuse not to be happy. There is no reason not to experience joy at every moment of the day. Joy to be living. Joy for life. Joy for health. Joy for the beauty all around. Happy, happy, I'm going to be happy. From this day forth I will skip through life. I'll grasp each day with spirit.

Totally Deluded

I'm just an ordinary person with delusions of grandeur.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Peace, Unity, Happiness

It is the nature of human beings to yearn for freedom, equality and dignity. If we accept that others have a right to peace and happiness equal to our own, do we not have a responsibility to help those in need? All human beings, whatever their cultural or historical background, suffer when they are intimidated, imprisoned, tortured or discriminated against. The question of human rights is so fundamentally important that there should be no difference of views on this.

Peaceful living is about trusting those on whom we depend and caring for those who depend on us. Even if only a few individuals try to create mental peace and happiness within themselves and act responsibly and kind-heartedly towards others, they will have a positive influence in their community. As well as being equally capable, women have an equal responsibility to do this.

To begin with, I would like to present briefly the Buddhist view of interdependence. We may comprehend this principle, also called dependent origination, on different levels, beginning with that of causality, the law of cause and effect accepted by all four schools of Buddhist philosophy. There is another way to understand this principle, to see it in relation to the fact that a whole depends on its parts. Indeed, any existent thing is considered to be a whole, that is, composed of parts. Since it is made up of parts, it depends upon them. Its very existence depends on its parts and it cannot exist in an autonomous or independent manner.

If you must be selfish, then be wise and not narrow-minded in your selfishness. The key point lies in the sense of universal responsibility. That is the real source of strength, the real source of happiness. If we exploit everything available, such as trees, water and minerals, and if we don't plan for our next generation, for the future, then we're at fault, aren't we? However, if we have a genuine sense of universal responsibility as our central motivation, then our relations with the environment, and with all our neighbours, will be well balanced.

We can say, therefore, that this ultimate source, clear light, is close to the notion of a Creator, since all phenomena, whether they belong to samsara or nirvana, originate therein. But we must be careful in speaking of this source, we must not be led into error. I do not mean chat there exists somewhere, there, a sort of collective clear light, analogous to the non-Buddhist concept of Brahma as a substratum. We must not be inclined to deify this luminous space. We must understand that when we speak of ultimate or inherent clear light, we are speaking on an individual level.

The sixth point which I would like to go into regarding Dharma centres concerns our oft-invoked prayer: "May all beings find happiness and its causes." This is something we should apply directly by doing something useful for society. engaging in social activity in the community, by trying to help those who are In difficulty, such as those with mental or other problems, for example. This does not necessarily mean we should teach them the Dharma, but rather use the teachings ourselves in order to help them. I think such activity directed toward others is something we should develop. It is the natural conclusion of another common prayer: "May all beings attain happiness and be free from suffering." On this principle, if we can bring good, even if only to one person, we are fulfilling in part the vow we have made. Moreover, the entire Buddhist community of these centres should participate in social engagement by assisting others, and I think this is something very important with regard to the operation of these centres.

My last point--you must keep your mind happy and know how to laugh!

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

Friday, February 8, 2008

Reap the Benefits

After all these years of social isolation, I'm starting to question my position even more. After wanting to leave The Netherlands for so long, detesting the place, feeling resentful of the natives who don't appear open to anything or anyone new, I'm starting to actually value my position. I wouldn't advise this course to anyone. I'm sure there are few people who would be able or willing to tolerate what I've gone through here. Most people would have left, gotten a job, or done something long ago. But it's because I hold on to the idea of a creative life that I haven't made any of the obvious choices. Well, it's more complicated than that, of course. I'm sure I could pursue a lot of things, but none of it seems very attractive at all to me. Only the dream holds its allure, through all of the nagging loneliness, and feelings of utter dejection, I still haven't given up the idea that someday I will experience a great outpouring. A lot of the raw material is already there, and there are many reasons I've left it where it is. A lot of it has to do with anxiety, and again, the pain of social isolation, which has been eating away at me for all of these years.

I've often believed that if I had a supportive social network, I could accomplish more. I've craved the social support that would make my creativity possible. It's been one of my dreams, and I've been trying all of these years to build it up, little by little. Certainly, it would be better for my children if I had more friends. But I think I've reached a stalemate. I've made a few friends, and certain contacts go on, but I'm coming to view my social isolation as a valuable asset. Sure, there are lots of nice people. I'm not going to sit here and say that there isn't anyone of value out there. I've met some here, and I'm sure that little by little, I will meet more. I'm no people hater. But I will say that people disappoint. There aren't too many people out there I can rely upon to any degree. I'm not being very clear because I'm holding back here. I guess what I'm saying is, my isolation causes me pain, but many of the people I've met have also caused me pain. Not all of them, of course, but I've spent time licking my wounds, and I'm always forgiving people in my mind. I give people the benefit of the doubt, but I wonder if it's worth feeling mistreated to do so.

I wouldn't like to find myself in a position where I have no stimulating contacts left with people. A terrible position to find oneself in. I decry the day when that happens. I hope it never does. Over the years I've put a lot of hope in the new people I meet, because I'm not a hopeless person. And it's happened that the one or two people I've put my hope in have let me down again and again, which brings me back to my isolation. Maybe I'll turn into one of those people who creates art out of great despair, but I'm a mother, so I can't allow myself to become a creative, raving mad woman.

What I am saying is that, after all of the years living here in misery, really, it's almost like a total white-out, a blank, it's been so traumatic, I'm starting to think it isn't so bad. I think I can actually work my way out of my dysfunction. I really do. I really do believe that I have not suffered in vain. After all, extreme social isolation is a unique position to be in, a well-spring. I have very few social obligations, a lot of time to waste, and hey, I'm not feeling too much pain now, which could be a little scary, but it could also be a time of personal revolution.

It's still difficult, uncomfortable, irksome, when I pick up my children from school, and the people there, including the teachers, ignore me. It makes me angry. I really can't figure out what I've ever done to deserve to be ignored so totally. They won't even look at me. There are two mothers who will talk to me now, and two or three others who will say hello occasionally. This is supposed to be one of the best schools in Rotterdam, but the people there treat me like I've committed a heinous crime. You'd think I reeked of dead fish, or that my body was oozing puss from every pore. These are the parents of children my children associate with five days a week, so there's definitely something wrong with these people. I'm not sure what I'll do, or how I'll feel after another six years of this, or if I'll be able to tolerate going there another year. Obviously, it's untenable, but that's what I keep saying. I will be here for ten years in August, and I keep saying the same things. It's inhumane, and I've been reeling from it for years, and I'm still a person, after all. Everyone wants acceptance. It will never cease to amaze how stingy and xenophobic this populace is. But I'm coming to believe that I'm better off not knowing them. I've spent a lot of time feeling hurt and dejected, but it's really better. Why would I want to be friends with people like that, anyhow. It would be nice if they were capable of granting me a minimum amount of basic respect. I'm not asking for great friendship. I'm just asking for basic kindness, fellow consideration. I'm not sure what gives them the right to snub me so outrightly, but they do. Oh well. If I did have contact with them, my children might end up playing at their houses, and driving with them in their cars without proper child safety restraints, so maybe I should be thankful.

Since I don't have very much money at all, I sometimes mine my bookshelves for books I bought, and never read. Lately I've been reading Susan Sontag essays, after having read a review of a book her son wrote on her death in The New York Review of Books, and I'm very happy to be reading it. It makes me feel a little better about my situation to read "The artist as exemplary sufferer," and other essays. Mostly I feel trapped in my suffering. Mostly, most days, I'm scrambling around, looking for a way out of it. I have pills, I exercise, I stopped drinking alcohol, for the most part. I'm working on becoming stable, normal. I've been trying to turn things around as much as possible, and it's working. The periods when I walk around on the verge of tears seem to becoming a thing of the past. I am starting to be able to walk past all of those snobbish, rich, Dutch assholes, without wondering what's wrong with me. Should I dress better, do I need a haircut?

It's funny, I thought it would be better to send my kids to that school. It's supposed to be very good. They have high test scores. I thought I would have more of a social network going there. I thought perhaps my world would broaden, but it hasn't exactly happened that way, and it's costing me my plane fare home every year to send them there.

But I guess I just need to forget about all of it, and forge on into my life as a writer.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Saint Genet

"'Abjection is a methodical conversion, like Cartesian doubt and Husserlian epoché: it establishes the world as a closed system which consciousness regards from without, in the manner of the divine understanding. The superiority of this method to the other two lies in its being lived in pain and pride. It therefore does not lead to the transcendental and universal consciousness of Husserl, the formal and abstract thinking of the Stoics, or the substantial cogito of Descartes, but to an individual existence at its highest degree of tension and lucidity.'...

Throughout his life the profligate Baudelaire needed bourgeois morality to condemn him. Genet is a true revolutionist. In Genet, freedom is won for freedom's sake. Genet's triumph, his "sanctity," is that he broke through the social framework against unbelievable odds to found his own morality. Sartre shows us Genet making a lucid, coherent system out of le mal. Unlike Baudeliare, Genet is free of self-deception.

What Sartre wants to show is how Genet, by means of action and reflection, has spent his whole life attaining the lucid free act. Cast from his birth in the role of the Other, the outcast, Genet chose himself. The original choice is asserted through three different metamorphoses—the criminal, the aesthete, the writer. Each one is necessary to fulfill freedom's demand for a push beyond the self. Each new level of freedom carries with it a new knowledge of the self. Thus the whole discussion of Genet may be read as a dark travesty on Hegel's analysis of the relations between self and other. Sartre speaks of the works of Genet as being, each one of them, small editions of The Phenomenology of Mind...."

--Susan Sontag on Sartre's Saint Genet

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Happiness is Two Kinds of Ice Cream...

It's funny, and a truism to say that different things can pop up in a person's mind becoming more or less personal or important depending on the thought you confront yourself with at any given moment. Thought is a continuum, a constant wave to be ridden. I guess I have an amusement park ride in mind. One that steadily vacillates back and forth on a squiggly, continuous flow. Not too fast, steady. Not too slow, but with a definite rythm to it. At least that's my vision now.

The things that become most important to you, who you are, and what you value can all come as a great surprise, can contradict what you "stood for" initially, if you're open to challenge, and if you're learning, or trying to learn and keep yourself stimulated. It can be important to step outside of the square box you're stuck in in your daily routine. Don't be afraid to take a different route, or to pick up something new, or to dig deeper into something that sparks your interest.

Of course, there are no perfect worlds. There is no paradise out there. There is no peaceable kingdom, which is what I'd hoped for, what I dreamt of, or deluded myself with all along, perfection. I guess supremity in anything would get boring after a while, after all, supreme beauty, supreme happiness. Happiness is defined by what it's not, which reminds me of the Wallace Steven's poem Sunday Morning:

Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Kathy Acker Documentary

Last year I went to Munich for the opening of a friend who was including a story of mine in his art catalog. While we were sitting around watching a video of him in his apartment in Kathy Acker's black dress, he told me that my writing reminded him of her writing. He wanted to know if I'd ever read her work, but I'd never heard of her before.

Call me conservative, conventional, out of it, under-educated. Sure, I would say, I'm all of these things. Not to mention being buried under a depression for most of my life. God, spare me from its clutches, please, for the rest of my life, please....

My friend advised me to read Acker, and I told him I would, but then forgot her name completely by the time I left Munich again. Who was this woman, anyway? The dress was huge. Of course, my friend is an extremely thin man, so lacking in every form of curve. He described the dress as "Goth." So I imagined a large woman with dried out died black hair, ripped fishnet stockings, lots of black eyeliner, and black lipstick. Maybe a little purple thrown in somewhere for a dash of color.

I decided to dismiss his recommendation to read her work, since I knew that I'd never remember her name again, and we haven't been in touch since I left Munich. His art career is taking off, and I can't imagine him wasting too much more time with someone like me, although I could be wrong.

On the recommendation of a volunteer at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, I booked a ticket to see "Who's Afraid of Kathy Acker," a documentary by an Austrian woman, Barbara Caspar.

It all came together, and I realized she was the writer he compared me to.

Gosh, I can't imagine my writing is too much like hers, but my friend is very well read and educated. Maybe he was giving me an undeserved compliment, or making an attempt at associating my work with a greater trend or tradition. After seeing the documentary, I'm sure I'm quite the opposite in demeanor to Ms. Acker. Certainly, I haven't got her ambition, drive, connections. I certainly do not care, and am not trying to emanate anyone at all.

It was when they interviewed my friend's mentor Carolee Schneemann, that I was reminded of his comment. It all came together. The black dress, and all.

Since I prefer lyrical prose, and really should have been a musician or a singer, I wonder if I would even be capable of appreciating her work. She comes highly recommended, but I wonder about the literary merit of her writing. She struck me as more of a performer, or performance artist, but she also amassed a body of writing, fiction, non-fiction, essays. I heard her perform some of her work in the documentary, and I thought, my writing, at its best, "sounds" better.

There are moments when I have grandiose, delusional fantasies of success, or of doing something great, but mostly I realize that I'm too lazy, my self-esteem is too low, and I'm too confused to carry out any grand scheme. I'm content to write a few little stories when I'm feeling up to it, and I've been thinking more and more, it would be nice to earn enough money to go "home" more often. I think that if I can manage to raise two well-balanced people, that will be my greatest achievement.

Delusion is a funny thing, though. Sometimes, when I have them, I can imagine that I'd have to be interviewed, answer questions, go on tour, and then I think, oh, I could never do that. They always ask you things like, what are your influences? Well, who the hell are they, I wonder? I could scratch up a few. There's Dorris Lessing. I could rattle off a bunch of poets. There are a lot of writers I've enjoyed reading. Jane Smiley was good. Alice Sebold told me to read Alice Adams, so I did. Acker idolizes Rimbaud, whose work I've read in English, but I can't say he's an influence. Of course there's Raymond Carver, right? I've read philosophy, but I've never immersed myself in it, and I've never so much as dabbed my toes in people like Baudrillard or Deleuze, which probably puts me out of the cool mainstream clicking hipster types. I always kind of wondered why it was necessary to place oneself into a line of thought in order to write a few stories, and it's not. I say. It's not.

When I get beyond the fantasies, though, I do believe obscurity is preferable. We grow up with the notion that fame seeking is a desirable goal, that glory is the highest form of attainment but really, this is a misguided notion. Toiling away in obscurity, going on your way in anonymity. We need a new language for this.... Sometimes I think it's best not having anyone to talk to at all, my head rings with conversation so irritably sometimes hours after an exchange with someone, when I was quite happy thinking to myself. Too often potential contacts or friendships disappoint, so why should I want to be famous. I think fame is boring, an irritation, a distration.

In the film they interviewed young New York female college students talking about how much Kathy Acker speaks to them. Her voice is their voice, they said. Her most notorious book is about the incestuous love affair between a father and his ten-year-old daughter.

I realize incest is something we shouldn't keep quiet about. It really is too much of a taboo subject. People need to be more aware of it in order to stop it, I think. There are too many taboos, and we really are pushed far too much into uniform conformity. I won't argue that point. I guess the talk show phenomenon touches on this a bit, but I never watch them.

I sort of doubt, though, considering the content, that Acker's novel on incest could speak to me much, or that I would consider that she's speaking for me. I really don't know what to say. I suppose I ought to read the work before commenting. It just struck me. I think it would disturb me a lot to read it, and I can't imagine it being edifying in any way. There are so many other stories to read out there.

As a teenager in New York I once responded to an advertisement in the Village Voice to work in a nightclub. When I called, the woman on the other end of the line made it clear that it would entail more than collecting tickets and smiling, or serving drinks. I had the impression that nightclub work paid well, and I wanted to earn some good money. Plus, it seemed exciting, glamorous, "happening." I don't remember exactly what the woman asked me, but she wanted to know how open I'd be to certain things, and I said, sorry, but my sister is here, I can't talk about this now, to which the woman replied, well, how old is your sister, and i said 16. Then she told me, "You know, you're too much of a nice girl for this job. Thank you." The world is in need of nice gals like me, ain't it. We're the ones keeping this world spinin' around, baby.



This seems to be the best clip of Django Reinhardt playing available on YouTube...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Film Festival Writer?

I had intended on writing reports on all the twenty or so odd films I saw at the Rotterdam Film Festival, but it's already moving so faraway into the past, it's becoming clouded already by everything that's moving in to replace it. Writing becomes a bit like stealing. Stealing time to write, pushing every other distraction out of the way in order to write. When I'm not writing, I'm dreaming of writing. Writing is always a vague notion for me. It's always lurking in the hazy regions of my thought. Writing requires the ability to insist on your right to it to yourself, to the people around you. Writing requires carving a space for yourself, to borrow a cliché. The funny thing is, when I'm not writing, and think that I really ought to be doing other more responsible things, I become so overwhelmed, I'm not capable of doing those things, either. Amid this lack, I may as well be writing.

Things to Do....

Listen to Nina Simone and cry about everything you've lost, the people you miss. Remember, sadness is normal.">

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Rotterdam Film Festival Wrap-up

I wound down the Rotterdam International Film Festival with James Benning's filming of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake, Utah.

The first shot is of the Jetty in 1970, spanning intermittent years up until last year. The years I recall are 70, 71, 74, 84, 88, 2002-2007. The years touch upon everyplace I've lived. One year, I think '88, he even filmed one day after my birthday! What glorious weather it was.

It was a great canvas upon which to cast my thought, which as so often, was whirling.

It was almost a challenging act in meditation. In a packed theater there are so many potential distractions. The mind can wander, especially in such a "blank," film, without narrative pull. I found myself creating a narrative of my own, which wasn't too much of a challenge, since I lived in Utah. I imagined how old I was in 1970 (I was a baby), and then in consecutive years of the Jetty filming.... How old were my siblings. What were we doing, where were we living in relation to the Jetty. It became a personal internal narrative, a game that I played with myself while observing the water, the rocks, Antelope Island, the clouds. There was so much to see. At a certain point, he had a shot of some boulders so caked in salt, they looked like animal sculpture. It's true. In other shots, the boulders were covered in snow. Toward the end were shots of the rocks caked in moss. It made me want to go float in the salt water and brine next to the Jetty like I did when I was twelve. It made me think it's time to live in Utah again.

When I fly in and out of Salt Lake, I can see the Jetty from the plane. It's such a graceful, curling line, jutting out of the Salt Lake. Nature there undisturbed by nearly anything else constructed by human beings. It's just the lake and a spattering of mountains. Such calm. Antelope Island is visible in the distance in many of Benning's shots. It's an island I've wanted to visit. People say there are Buffalo living there.

More on the festival soon. I saw a lot, and have been busy. It's over, so now I have more time again for blog meanderings.