Another day, another triplet

Colour is weird. I take it for granted, as in, I don’t think about it at all most days. Even quite rarely when I’m working with it professionally. But you can’t avoid them forever. Today’s shocker comes from a sweater.

This has nagged me all day. Because it ain’t purple. Can you guess what it is?

Soon : the answer!

(8/365)

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What is the mechanism of making friends?

I still don’t know how people decide do make friend. I’ve seen seen the obvious. I’ve met good friends sharing hobbies and interests. I’ve met good friends sharing ambitions. I’ve met good friend out of necessity. I’ve met friends by elimination. And, above all, I’ve met people by drawing a line through the sand, and finding ourselves on the same side of it. And I mean this as the reason to form the friendship, not to maintain it. That is a topic for another time.

Wen I look at my friends, there are so many reasons why we came at this point. I once made a friend, because we both liked to put strange things in our mouth and call it food. I once made a friend because we both thought people were taking themselves too serious, and we would have liked to put a small hat on their head. I made a friend, because we were bored, and being friend would make it less so. I made a friend, because the universe is fundamentally unfair, and it owes us. I made a friend a friend, because we were all alone in the desert, and what else are you going to do? I made a friend, because she was a free spirit, and I wanted to do all I could to keep her flying all around. I made a friend because it would be easier to make fun of my sister. I made a friend because we weren’t.

My friends are an eclectic, random bunch of people. They adhere 3 religions, and one non-religion, 5 continents, too many nationalities, all the binary/non-binary/non/fluid genders. Some of them are weird to most of them. Some of them would be downright hostile to others. A couple of them are free-market liberals. A couple don’t believe in soap. Some of them believe in communism. Others believe in capitalist-libertarianism.

I love each and every one of them

(7/365)

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Out there

I’m sorta committed to put something out there every day, for the entirety of 2017. No particular reason why, I stole it from someone on twitter. But it seemed like a good idea. Weirdly enough, forcing yourself to put something out often forces you to create something within. And I’m happy to say, not only am I already behind more days then I’ve completed, I’ve already counted low effort quote tweets as “one thing put out there”. I’m also cheekily counting this one! I probably will start repeating stories I’ve told before as well, so just file those under “greatest hits”.

The important thing I wanted to say is, I am resurrecting this blog, but it will probably look a quite a bit different then before. I’m expecting to start posting a lot of varied thought on video games, music, programming, and other random thoughts that I wouldn’t find it’s way here before. I’ve thought about putting it another place (eg medium.com), but I’m not a fan of “cloud services” -at all-, and I’m dead certain this is better in the longer run.

So I hope you enjoy it!

(6/365)

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Wishbone

Discussing with my father about one of the crossroads in his/our lives. In ’91, he had to choose between staying in the US (we moved there about 2 years prior), or coming back to Belgium. The choice was pretty much made for him, due to some bad luck. We moved back, and I barely remember any of my time there.

But it’s fun to wonder what would have happened if we stayed. My father thinks he’d probably have an extra house and a boat in the Ozarks. There would be a gate to pass before we got to our street. As a 6 year old, I’d pledge every day, and quickly forget about my native language. Me and my sibling would be a quite embarrassed about our family “back home”, and especially our grandfather, who didn’t own a pair shoes till he turned 12. We’d take the oath at 18. My brother would work somewhere in DC, my sister probably at the Pentagon, and I’d be in California. Instead of hanging out with the wrong crowd in Berlin, it would’ve been the wrong crowd in Berkley. We’d see each other at Thanksgiving and Xmas, weddings and funerals. Our extended family would come and visit, but there’s so many I would never remember their names.

I guess it wouldn’t be too different from staying. But imagine these are parallel universes, and through a fluke, they get merged. What I really wonder is: would American me get along with European me? Or would it be similar to listening to your own voice through a tape recorder?

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The longest day

Mustard yellow cotton trousers. Grey sneakers. Dark blue vest, leather patches. Grey striped, long sleeved Boss shirt. I’m dressed for a wedding. Unfortunately, it’s the 24th of December, and I’m going to a funeral. It’s cold outside. 2016 is a parody of itself. I hitch a ride with some college friends, and we’re off.

The deceased is Pol, the father of one of my friends. One of my oldest friends. And that means the funeral will be held in my home town, where I haven’t really returned to in the last 14 years. For lack of a good reason to do so. The service is about as good as it gets, considering the circumstances. Pol went too soon (oldest grandchild is barely in kindergarten), which makes everything a bit brutal, but as far as I can tell, the speeches accurately portray his personality & particularities. It’s all a bit unfair. My own father keeps telling me he wants to be chucked off the levee, so we can skip ahead to the pie and coffee. I think I want that too.

My disorientation begins on the way to the coffee table, about 500 meters further. I’m starting to get my bearing, and recognize where I am. We pass my primary school. No matter how much I want to take a peek, the gate is shut and the wall is too high. Once we get to the coffee table, things start going downhill. I’ve been pretty terrible at social occasions lately, and now I’m faced with family of, friends of family of, … A couple of people I used to go to school with, who never have left this place. I wish it wasn’t like this, but I really didn’t manage the situation well. Lately I’ve literally been a social moron (more on that later, perhaps), and everything was too complicated. Luckily my best friend is the husband of my friend, Pol’s daughter. Even though he has a million things more important to do today, he manages the time to take care of me. I’m a lucky bastard sometimes.

The gathering ends, and I’m pretty much stuck in this town for the next couple of hours. I need to go to a completely different part of the country, and things are awkward enough that it involves a lot of busing and transferring. Which I guess is coincidence’s way of telling I need to take a walk down memory lane. Literally, as I need to walk past the house I grew up in, my high school (both sites), houses of friends, places of public acts of drunk and disorderly, and more then a decade of formative years. It wasn’t pretty. The literal road I walk on is definitely not pretty. This town became known for it’s proximity to the highway, and this road runs straight from the on-ramp to center of town. It’s the closest equivalent we have to a strip mall, except it’s individual buildings, often big offices, and it’s 2 miles long.

Maybe it’s all projection, but everything is incredibly grey. Most of the empty space is a parking lot, and what isn’t, is a unkempt grass and weeds. Everything is badly maintained, dirty concrete and water damaged brick. Even the “inviting” signage manages to depressed. And I seem to remember all of it. The closest I can get to a metaphor is LA. I walk to my old home, but I do most of my remembering before I get there. Of course I know the exact layout, but I also remember all the furniture, the correct places for all the groceries, magazines, and flotsam. The size of the yard, and the amount of trips to the compost I needed to do when mowing the lawn. The old color of the bricks my grandfather put, before the new owners painted it. His sadness at the fact that there are new owners at all. The small shortcut to the main road. The bridge over the highway to a friend I haven’t seen since the 80′s. I ring the bell, but nobody is home. It’s probably for the best. Even though I can, I’m starting to think this whole thing was a big mistake. I walk around in my old high school, the playground behind the library, pass by the bars where we would pre/post drink major exams. The places we were awkward, the places I crashed my bike, the places we (completely unrelated) were drunk.

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I’m a bit disoriented, and a bit dizzy. Everything is ugly and grey. My mood is not especially bad, I’ve seen other places like this before. It’s just a lot different then I remember. So much smaller then I remember myself. On the playground, I can find a single tile I’ve probably spend over a hundred hours sitting on during recess. It’s dark grey concrete, with moss. It’s loose, and a corner is missing. I pass a street that is literally called “the emptiness”. I’m done.

I am incredibly relieved when my bus arrives and I can start the 3-hour journey to a place 50km away as the crow flies. It’s interrupted by a one hour wait in a bar, with a couple of people who don’t have any place in particular to be on Christmas Eve. I like bars, this is fun. I drink my drink, eavesdrop some conversation, and I’m on my way again. Another hour of bussing, an hour of driving, and I’m at my extended family’s gathering, mother’s side. Everything’s fine. I talk a lot, I listen a lot. I have some tough conversation with my mother, and we drink some more. I fall asleep when I first catch a glimpse of my bed.

When I arrive the next day at my father’s place, my brother is already there. I wish I could have showered before he came, as he starts laughing at how disheveled I look. I certainly felt that way.

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Apple ballet massacre

We made a thing I’m proud of

Apple, Ballet, Slaughter from El Marcel on Vimeo.

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Berlin (the infinite)

Back in Berlin for a bit over a week. I’m realizing I’ve never really written a good text on this city, and would be hard pressed to do it now. A lot of things have changed here, but nothing truly new. There’s Zapatist coffee, and laughter yoga therapy. My friends are into banjo’s, Catalan folk songs, and the correct way to pronounce hummus.

I’m feeling quite self-conscious about my cynicism, and wonder if it’s really a productive state to be in. But by virtue of having it, any other way of being is easily dismissed as disingenuous. Hoping it won’t descend into sarcasm and misanthropy :)

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Popeman

The pope pontificated everyone who doesn’t have/want children selfish.

I spend a long time deciding to be indignant over AIDS, overpopulation or the moral compass of the catholic church. But we’re gonna keep it simle.

Et tu, fucker?

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A couple of hours, tops

This is a story from a couple of years ago. I don’t quite remember the day or month, and it isn’t particularly relevant. There were a lot of people around the house, and even that isn’t particularly relevant. She was there. In the beginning, just as a lot of other people were there. But we got to talking. We talked small, in a small group, as you do. Probably over a couple of cheap, half liter beers. But she mentions she keeps an diary. An art diary, in particular. I ask her if I might have a look at it, but she’s not keen, and she’s sending me signals that she’s really not keen. I make my first mistake of the evening by insisting.

It’s a very nice diary, filled with watercolor, sketches, portraits, and a few short lines in a language I don’t speak. It’s very impressive, and speaks volumes. It moves me to make my second mistake of the evening. There’s a tiny doodle of two grassy hills, and a few flowers. The whole thing is a couple of square centimeters. And I call her out on it. I tell her exactly where she was when she drew it, not only which park, but exactly where she was sitting and which direction she was facing. And I shouldn’t have told her that, because there’s no way I could have known that. This is a city of millions, it’s huge. But I knew. And she knows that I couldn’t have known that. Today, I still don’t know how I could have known. But I did. And it changed everything.

Suddenly, we are not talking small anymore. We’re talking big. People drift into our conversation, and quickly drift out again. Nobody speaks our language anymore, but we’re perfectly intelligible to each other. It could have been confusing and extraordinary, but at that time it seemed to make perfect sense. We understood each other perfectly clear, and we were only occupied with what was outside our mutual understanding. It was as if we were lifted clear off the ground, and looking down on the everything from afar. As if this was how things normally are. And weirdly enough, that was all it was, a simple togetherness. And nothing else. But nothing external seemed to matter either.

We drank more beer, moved outside to smoke, because that’s what you do, and it suddenly was 4 in the morning, and I vaguely remember I had to get go to work in a couple of hours, because that is what happens. I made a half hearted attempt to get her to stay, as if both of us are control of what happens, but we both agreed there and then that everything comes to an end.

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Medina (Morocco volume 1)

I write Medina with  a capital letter. It seems only fitting, as it is both principal and personal. When I arrived in Morocco, my first impressions were as faulty as my expectations. For 20 minutes we cruised leisurely past nondescript apartment blocks, neon, and old city walls. For one minute, one might imagine one has mistakenly taken a flight to a bad copy of Brussels. This impressions is quickly dispelled as one reaches the frontier of The Medina.

The road ceases to be a strip of tarmac lined by sidewalks, and devolves into a jumble of brickwork, tiles, and packed dirt. Floors and walls can only be distinguished through their orientation. Roads lead into roads, twist and turn, intersect, go under another road, become a courtyard before turning into another road. But you know this road! You started on this road. You can reach it again if you keep walking forward. The way to move forward, is to keep turning. Unless it’s a dead end, in which case you will turn around and you will find yourself in another street then the one you entered through. This is because The Medina folds back on itself. It’s not a sub-divided space, it’s a collection of places and their relationships. A road might be lined with shops, but some shops are roads. One might be invited to go to the top if this shop for a view of the Medina, and one will be faced with an infinite amount of  ramshackle balconies, drying laundry, antennas and minarets, all stretching towards the horizon. Don’t be fooled. Scientist have measured The Medina to be only one kilometer across. If you would look closely, you would be able to see the back of your own head on another balcony.

One copes. Maps are useless, as it insists on categorizing things as “buildings” and “roads”, which are soft guidelines here. To a lesser extent, so are the locals. One is either enthusiastically and confidently helped, to be led somewhere else, or to a plead for monetary mercy. Or one is is helpfully, but uncertainly told of one or two turns, even by the eldest members. This is probably due to the fact that The Medina is to all effects and purposes infinite in all directions. One might open a tiny door under a bridge, to arrive at an impossibly large and airy courtyard, with a blue sky that where it was night on the other side of the door. The only way to go somewhere in The Medina is to go outside, and learn. Walk for hours, days. Learn how everything connects.

The Medina is not only infinite in all directions, it is also timeless. A man might be smiting a cooking pot by hand, next to the mobile phone vendor. This is not far from the food stall that sells entire sheep heads. That’s where we saw the man on a scooter, leading a perfectly black stallion past the medresse. It is full of children, yet some people look older then time. The Medina has been the capital of an empire multiple times, and has outlived it every time. It has it’s secrets, but they’re hard to uncover.

To be honest, I wanted to leave The Medina, but you don’t leave the Medina. You escape.

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