Far from the maddening crowd

stukjeisadoraguyIt wasn’t really fair, to put Matthias Schoenaerts forward as the silent, swooning, tortured farmer in Thomas Vinterberg’s lates film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel by the same name, Far from the madding crowd (much recommend!). To stamp such a face upon marriage as an institution would make anyone eager to marry. Well, as long as he looks exactly like the Flemish blue-eyed gem. I’m getting carried away. But really, it did catch me off guard. I went to see the movie yesterday with my boyfriend, and I couldn’t help but being dissapointed with him afterwards. Where Carey Mulligan seemed to have three marriage proposals over the time span of 5 years, I’ve had none whatsoever. “It’s just the era, baby”, he says. I suppose he’s right, but still, I feel myself falling into the hopeless abyss of feminine stupidity, I am a romantic at heart, take it or leave it, and MY GOD MATTHIAS why are you so beautiful!! I feel like a teenager all over again. I’m getting carried away. My goal here was a speech about how marriage is a bad institution and limits us all and really should only be done for practical reasons and whatnot. So I’ll do my best.

About a month ago, I attended a wedding of someone I did not know, a friend of my boyfriend’s who he grew up with. It was rather lovely really. Situated in the North of Amsterdam, by a little church amidst green fields and 20-degree weather. Matthias Schoenaerts. What? Oh yes, well the priest was god-awful. He kept going on about the foundation of the church, and kept telling the audience to clap at unreasonable moments: “Well this deserves a clap doesn’t it!” (Regarding the bride and groom running together). He was doing the best with what he had, but I think someone of his position should have done his homework better. It was rather maddening. Of course, despite the hideous puff of a dress and the rather uncomfortable ceremony, I cried muffled tears and pinched my man a little too hard. We received a glass of champagne by the gazebo out back, which I all too gladly chucked into my mouth in one go, in order to be a little more chatty. All these people I didn’t know. Did they even know each other? Did the happily married couple know what marriage entails? Or where they’d be five years from now? Working to keep up the mortgage and sending their children to school. Every-goddamn-day. Barbeque afterwards. Open bar. Let’s eat!

I talked as much as possible. “Yes, her dress was lovely wasn’t it!” and “Well I wouldn’t know, what do you think darling, is it in the stars for us?” and Matthias Schoenaerts. What? Oh yes, so they had vegetarian hamburgers! That was very un-heteronormative of them. Kudos for that. Reception in the town meeting center. Dutch folk music, Flugel shots, the “polonaise”. The poor bride was so drunk, we pictured her in a little white heap in the corner two hours from then, drowning away her sorrows. I didn’t know these people. I didn’t know this was how one is supposed to celebrate love. Is it? We left at 10.30 PM.

In France, many people sign a PAC. A fairly recent introduction, a contract between two individual, adult people, of different or same sex, with the aim of organising their life together. There we go. Simple. Practical. Have a party at your home, invite only the people you know; the people you love; the people you want witnessing the love you share with your partner. Matthias Schoenaerts. What? Oh yes, just the people you know. Far from the maddening crowd.



Why writing poetry is better than going to the gym

gympoemRead on to the end for an additional exercise!

  1. You haven’t been to the loo yet (the loo, loo, if you know what I mean) and feel your stomach going up and down and making loud noises and you’re all clogged up inside and have to stop running after 5 minutes for fear of exploding.
  2. You’re on the treadmill next to a really goodlooking guy strutting his stuff and after a certain amount of time you realise he’s been tindering all along. Just swiping them girls to the left. He then sees you. In the dream world, he’d look at you and see the girl he’d been looking for on his phone, but in the real world, he gets off the machine and goes elsewhere.
  3. You forget your card, and no one is bbehind the till. You wait 10 minutes and then decide to squeeze past the little iron gates at the entrance (hm… the gym is paying off after all, huh).
  4. You decide to take a short sauna after your hard workout, only to walk into the hot, small room filled with muscular (but very hairy!) men and have your towel fall off and then, of course, you trip over it. They didn’t seem to mind. Which was a plus. But I minded.
  5. – 100. All the times people ask you if you’re alright, and you say “Yes, yes I’m totally cool working it you know!” but then you see yourself in the mirror in the dressingrooms and realise why they asked you because you look like you’re about to die. And then you hate all the beautiful blonde thin people who seem to be going for it yet are not red at all and have the sexy sweaty look down. (HOW DO THEY DO IT?)

I’ve stopped going to the gym. I write poetry now (or attempt to). It’s so much better. You know why? Poet Jane Hirshfield once suggested that one reason to write a poem is “to flush from the deep thickets of the self some thought, feeling, comprehension, question, music, you didn’t know was in you, or in the world.” One could say this is like going to gym. Because it entails self-discipline, determination. But what exercise lacks, is creativity. It is really only training the self to be better, but in a highly mechanical way. Sure, it causes endorphins to rise and thus our levels of happiness to grow. But so what. There’s no innovation. No feeling, except exhaustion. She says of other forms of writing—scientific papers, political analysis, most journalism— thay they attempt to capture and comprehend something known. This is the same for exercise. Poetry then, is a release of something previously unknown. You write to invite that, to make of yourself a gathering of the unexpected and, with luck, of the unexpectable. I try to write as much as possible, because it makes me feel alive; productive; worthy of living. However, I must note, that I do still exercise. Those endorphins must keep on flowing. But I run outside. In nature if possible, because nature is different, the opposite of a gym.

A marvellous author, Roberson Davies, once wrote that: “The recognition of oneself as a part of nature, and reliance on natural things, is disappearing for hundreds of millions of people who do not know that anything is being lost. I am not digging into such things because I think the old ways are necessarily better than the new ways, but I think there may be some of the old ways that we would be wise to look into before all knowledge of them disappears from the earth—the knowledge and the kind of thinking that lay behind it.” This rings so true to me. It seems so much is disappearing in this day and age of the Internet. People don’t run in the woods. They have a little TV screen in front of their hometrainer feigning the woods.

Wildness in nature is irrational in such a way that is comforting. Without it I think you’ll stray from your instinct and your ability to construe goodness from what’s around you. This is why the outside is important. And you can’t write poetry without influence of the oustide. At least I can’t. So at this, I will invite you to, as earlier suggested, make of yourself a gathering of the unexpected and, with luck, of the unexpectable:

Pick a piece of writing (from a short story, novel or poem) you love. Write down why you love it, and then for the next hour, write something inspired by it. It needn’t necessarily look like it, but it can. Enjoy, rejoice, and magnetize your mind. And afterwards, go for a run in the park. If you’d like to look at my creation, find below the links. The first is the original (Richard Siken’s Saying Your Names) and the second is my version (You). [1]

  1. http://yupnet.org/siken/2008/03/19/saying-your-names/
  2. http://isadorajane.tumblr.com/post/115297792272/you


[1] All credit goes to Jane Lewty, who gave some of us priviliged students this exercise in her Creative Writing Class. Thank you!

I thought 5 KM far away enough: A Review of Carlos Marques-Marcet’s 10,000 KM


The opening shot of this minimalist gem is an amazingly controlled and choreographed twenty-something minute record of intimacy, shot inside a Barcelona apartment in which a couple – photographer Alex (Natalia Tena, Harry Potter’s Nymphadora Tonks) and student Sergi (David Verdaguer, a smouldering Devendra Banhart type) are making love, after which they go about their morning routine: showering, teeth brushing, the occasional ass-grab and peek around the corner with a flushed smile – things you wouldn’t necessarily expect of a long-term couple. During breakfast however, Alex reveals she’s been offered a yearlong residency in L.A. David is shocked and sad to see Alex contemplating whether to stay or go (whilst watching this scene, my mind wandered to my own relationship, where I find even a meagre 5 KM too much). She does go. And this is their first crack.

Continue reading “I thought 5 KM far away enough: A Review of Carlos Marques-Marcet’s 10,000 KM”

Lunatics Unite


It’s nine o’clock on a Friday morning and I’m standing in the kitchen waiting for the water to boil, although it has already boiled twice. I push the on-button for the third time, the way I looked at the clock three times last night in the time span of no more than one minute, unable to fall asleep. My mind is restless like my body has been for the past three days. It’s a full moon. Yes. I am one of those people who Googles “full moon superstitions”, finding comfort in the first hit’s title being: “Why Do People Go Crazy During A Full Moon?”, because I do, somewhat, lose my head. There’s this unease to all that goes wrong, everything – from me forgetting my keys for the umptieth time to my best friend cancelling on me because she’s ill – feels unfair. Of course, I am a woman, and my closest surroundings don’t hesitate to attribute my behavior during full moon days to my “feminine vulnerability”, which really makes it all the more unfair.

For years people have theorized that the full moon has a negative impact on us. How is it that you fail your driving exam, are left at the altar; or that your dog gets run over exactly in those full moon days? Believers – or might I aptly call them lunatics ? – suggest that the craziness that ensues with a full moon sprouts from our experiencing of its tidal, affecting our internal organ liquids (hm…); or that we’re evolving mindlessly, in unison, with the lunar cycle; or perhaps the light coming from the moon affects our visual cortex in a such a way that it stimulates the animalistic parts of the brain? Crazy as this may all sound, certainly for me, there is legitimacy in these beliefs. Their consequences so often ring true to me.

But sadly, the first hit on Google tells me it’s all a myth. Behavioral changes due to tidal effects are a complete scam. We experience two high and low tides every day, which has nothing to do with the phase of the moon. No…wait a minute, whenever a full moon strikes, there is too much unease and lack of sleep that can be attributed to this to ignore. I feel down. Like the world is a little bit darker when there’s actually more light. This whole extra hour of time that was given to us some fortnights ago doesn’t really help either.

Then again, we don’t notice all the mishaps when there isn’t a full moon. We don’t categorize them as superior because they happen with lack of superstitious excuse. There’s nothing “more” to your bike being stolen or losing your sock in a room you never left when there’s nothing to blame it on, or is there? We’ll simply forget these instances. After I’ve finally had my cup of coffee that took so long to create, I start off my day outside by going back inside again into the nearest-by bakery. I’m eating my croissant, looking out of the window whilst two female friends, one with a pushchair, are sitting on the bench out front. The door is open so I can hear their talk about not being able to sleep well last night. I smile, feeling energized by this merging of three lunatics. In a couple of days, it will all be over, and I can go back to the unsuperstitious darkness.


Header image courtesy of The Telegraph.


Introduction to the Deep Dark World of Cyberpunk Fiction

cyberpunk by mjbauer

My academic year started on a rather chaotic note. Four days before the first semester was to start, I realised I hadn’t enrolled in any courses. Thankfully I ended up managing to enroll in whatever courses caught my eye (that is, in my 1-second glance of hurry-up-hysteria). Consequently, I found myself stranded in a classroom with a PowerPoint on in the background, displaying grey buildings, computer screens, and an overall immense amount of green little numbers in diagonal columns (you know, like the ones they have in The Matrix, which turns out to be my first and foremost point of reference when trying to say anything remotely intelligent about Science Fiction cyberpunk or whatever dystopian genre you find to your liking). Now, if you’re like me, naively trying to broaden your horizon but then finding yourself gob-smacked at all the talk of technology and cybernetics, with a face that can convey you have NO IDEA what is going on and would VERY MUCH like a PRECISE definition of WHAT THE HELL cyberpunk is… well, then you’re in the right place.

My parents have always encouraged me to read. It was the thing to do before bedtime: “only ten more minutes and then lights go out,” was a regular. At the age of eleven I had mastered the secret ‘under the duvet cover with a flashlight’ move. I like emotional books. Humorous ones occasionally. Science fiction was an utterly unknown genre to me. Not that the aforementioned qualities can’t be found in SF, the latter certainly can, but in the context of technological infrastructures and cyborgs I seem to not be able to appreciate these notions, because the whole thing has to be real for me. Well, all right then, “what is real,” you might ask.

Questions similar to “what is real?” come up in class, but they often seem hopelessly unsolvable to me. I mean: are we really going to delve into subjects like that? The notion of consciousness has also been quite a conversational topic, but its complexity mainly poses a really good excuse for me to drift off into the realms of Half-Awake and Half-Asleep. There, I think about the latest Siri Hustvedt book I just bought, plan on how to factor ‘me-time reading’ into ‘cyber-time’ reading, because yes, rather than the dystopian notion of technology taking over ones life, the reading of cyberpunk fiction has taken over mine.

After about three classes I finally managed to somewhat consciously follow what was going on. The reading was Burning Chrome, written by the grandfather of cyberpunk, William Gibson, and I had read the story, but apparently neglected to understand the part where the main characters were in cyberspace, This meant that they didn’t have bodies, which meant that the sentence “Bodiless, we flew through space” did, in fact, make sense. Eureka! I felt on a roll after this one, read back my notes from the first class and what did I find hidden within my illegible writing? The answer to your prayers: the definition we’ve all been waiting for. No, cyberpunk is not a Sex Pistols song recorded in space. Rather, it contains the word “punk” because it embodies everything describing countercultures, shifts in lifestyles and societal rules. The punk era consisted of putting diaper pins in ears rather than in babies’ diapers, so the function of pins here, was warped. The “cyber” aspect of course stems from “cyberspace”: an imitation of the real world consisting of information. This combination of punk and cyber makes for a highly dystopian genre causing much time and space confusion. It is up to you to choose whether you want to be confused in a realm of floating around in identity crises, organized information systems and despondent thoughts about humanity. But I think my chaotic mind calls for floating around in the here and now, casually reading a SF book here and there, but mostly enjoying the daylight outside which frequently permeates my light reading.



Header image by mjbaur on deviantart.