Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

Amsterdam In the Afternoon

January 11, 2008

I received my first comment the other day.  It came from someone in Amsterdam, who wins a free subscription to this blog.  To claim your prize, just click ‘subscribe to this blog’ in the drop down menu at the top on the right when you read this.  It made me think about Amsterdam, and when I think of Amsterdam I think of Vondel Park.

Vondel Park is a great little oasis of calm off of Leidsplein where you can escape the open drug market that is Amsterdam.  There are more spectacular or beautiful parks in other cities, but Vondel Park does the trick and left an impression on me.  After passing under an overpass, there is an open air stage and stands where you can sit and while away the time letting your thoughts take you where they will.

When you enter the green area of the park, there is a nice pond in the middle where people have picnic lunches, read, or just relax.  The path, which takes you through trees for a pleasant walk, goes in a loop so the stoned tourists won’t get lost.  That doesn’t mean you won’t see signs of bizarre behaviour on their part.  I came across a couple of American girls hiding in a bush, rolling a spliff.  They giggled as I approached.  Apparently, they were the only two people in the city who didn’t know…

If you’re lucky you might find some interesting arts and performances nearby, aside from the usual and ubiquitous street performers and buskers.  Turning right onto Leidsplein after leaving the park, I walked a short distance and heard a crowd behind a small warehouse.  I decided to take a look and found a wonderful theatrical performamce involving mechanical dragons, birds, and other creatures, as well as what appeared to be a Japanese warrior, and other humans.

All in all, it made for a very nice afternoon and evening in a city full of tourists shouting about the availability of hash.  My sympathies to the people of Amsterdam who have to live there day in day out.  It must get to them.  So, it’s no wonder the locals like Vondel Park.

How to End a Movie – With Conviction

January 8, 2008

I watched ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ last night.  This is a movie I ignored on its release, dismissing it as an attempt to glorify religion.  Sometimes, first impressions are accurate.  Sometimes, they’re off the mark.

To my pleasant surprise, it turned out to be the kind of movie I would like to make about the crusades.  My only complaint is that it didn’t go far enough.  Like some other films framed by a religious context, it pulls back from the brink of the logical, sensible conclusion.  The slaughter in the name of one god or another, carried out by fanatics obsessed with the idea of owning ‘heaven’, should be enough to put anyone off the idea of religion.  There are a couple lines in the film that drive home the fact that we’d be better off without it altogether.  “You have taught me a lot about religion…”, comes to mind.

But then, near the end, the main character’s Muslim counterpart, another one of the few ‘decent’ people able to see past the different brands of chicanery and superstition and that how one person treats another is a better judge of how good he is, says something like, “Why do you think god does not love you, with all you have achieved?”  Why reassert faith in god at this point?  It seems obvious to me that there were no gods willing this carnage – that we, and we alone, decide on a course of action, choose to take life or not, and achieve things.  Faith in oneself and one another seemed to be the message throughout the movie.  Maybe the producers were afraid of a backlash if they appeared to be advocating atheism.

A couple of Canadian films are guilty of the same thing.  ‘Water’ is an excellent movie set in a Hindu ashram, or widows’ home, in which one young woman is reduced to prostitution and a child, widowed before reaching puberty, is raped.  Yet, even this story of institutionalised abuse and confinement has a character saying “Never lose your faith”.  All I could think was, “For your own good, that child’s good, and the good of humanity, please lose your faith”.

‘The Black Robe’ is another Canadian movie about a 17th century Jesuit missionary who travels with Indian guides to a mission far from anything he recognizes as civilization.  It’s clear throughout the story that he is in the wrong and yet, at the end, when he seems to realize this and that his faith has been misplaced, the Indians, who have been ravaged by disease brought by the other missionaries and now have a choice of killing him or accepting baptism, choose baptism.  The closing shot is a cross with the sun shining behind it, which seems to assert the very religion which has been presented as inadequate and misguided.

Are we really so afraid of offending religious interests that we don’t even have the courage of our convictions to reach a logical conclusion?  Could it be that we have taken respect for religion too far?

Legendary Law of Attraction

January 7, 2008

I was browsing around to see what other blogs are out there.  As I mentioned before, blogging provides insight into other minds and lives.  They range from the mundane to the predictable to the unusual.  It all depends on the beholder, I suppose.  But I came across one blog that deals a lot with the ‘Law of Attraction’.  It’s basically a new age sounding explanation for something that’s essentially common sense.  Mindsets attract similar mindsets and, so, associate with each other.  Hence successful people are surrounded by other successful people and… well, you get the picture.

Anyway, this reminded me of the web site of a woman I met once.  It also mentions the Law of Attraction and a variation of it, the exact name of which escapes me at the moment.  I found the site after reading about her in a magazine.  Let me backtrack for you.

It was about a year and a half ago, the spring of 2006.  I was standing on a bus and turned towards the back.  I found myself looking at a girl with a big, beautiful, flower in one side of her hair.  She immediately said “Hi”, in a sweet voice.  I replied in kind and complimented her on the flower.  I asked her her name and then what she does.  She said, “I’m a burlesque dancer”.

As it happens, I had recently been told by a woman in my neighbourhood I’d met several times over the past few years that she, too, was a burlesque dancer.  I mentioned this and, of course, the girl on the bus knew her.  I commented that its unusual that I should meet two burlesque dancers and that there seemed to be some kind of revival.  She explained that there was.  We talked a little more then I told her I hoped to meet her again some time as I got off at my stop.  I didn’t.

A couple months ago I saw her on a magazine cover.  I read the article, which proclaimed her “legendary”, and learned some about her life story and her “spiritual” approach to burlesque.  It was endearing and interesting, but I felt a little uncomfortable because I realized I’d still like to see her again some time but I felt like I’d spied on her, somehow.  It wouldn’t be fair if we met again because I know more about her than she does about me.

Meeting again always was going to be difficult, read ‘awkward’, at best.  Imagine the scenario.  I go to a burlesque show to find her and then look for her back stage or at the afterparty or something.  I walk up to her and say, “Hi, I enjoyed watching you… taking off your clothes.  Let’s go somewhere for a drink.”  I’ll bet she’s never heard that one before.

More recently, I checked out her web site and found out more about her and that she also teaches self healing, among other things, and coaches people towards self-fulfillment using a variant of the Law of Attraction.

So, what does the Law of Attraction have to say about all this?  That we’re attracted to each other?  She spoke to me first, after all, but I understand a lot of where she’s coming from.  That she thinks I’d make a good client?  Or is the ‘Law’ telling me that, because I keep running into burlesque dancers, they are my ‘tribe’ and that I’m missing out on a great career in the adult entertainment industry?

To tell the truth, I don’t care about the legend.  I just remember the nice girl on the bus who said “Hi”, because she seemed to like me.  Sometimes I wish I’d stayed on a little longer.

I’m So Excited… By Statistics

January 6, 2008

Have you seen the chart?  It’s a hell of a start!  This could be made into a monster if we all pull together as a team!

Apologies to Pink Floyd for borrowing their lyrics but they happen to fit.  Just three days and three posts into this project and I’ve already had eight readers.  Actual readers!  Registered eyeballs.  I’M AN AUTHOR!  And the graph!  A beautiful upward curve.  If I was an investment advisor I’d rate me a solid ‘Buy’.  I may not be riding the gravy train yet, folks, but get your shares in this now while you can.  This is a ground floor opportunity not to be missed.  At no point will the growth curve be longer.

I haven’t even tried to link to any other sites or resources, yet.  I’ll have to look into that to see if I can really get things going.  But people are finding me, anyway.  If the ‘spam’-marked comment can be believed, someone has even bookmarked me.  That means they intend to come back and read me again.  A fan!  A devoted follower!  A repeat customer!  Someone likes what I have to say and how I say it.  I matter.

One of the great things about blogs is the insight they offer into the minds of others.  From a safe distance we can offer up and observe views and opinions that would otherwise be difficult to share in most face to face situations.  You can’t tell people what you really think at work because it wouldn’t contribute to a constructive and efficient environment.  You can’t do it while socialising without running the risk of offending someone or being asked to lighten up.  And, if your family is anything like mine, you can’t even talk openly with them without an argument erupting.  How five siblings could all be so different is a mystery to me.  It’s like we all grew up in different houses.  If your family isn’t like mine, consider yourself lucky and know that at least one person envies you.

 In order to function, we have to live in a neutral world.  Bland.  Beige.  But a functional life is not enough.  There is ‘I am’.  Then there is ‘I am someone’.  By spewing words onto the screen and a file stored on some server somewhere, some unseen, insignificant nobody becomes somebody again.

A Blast From the Past, Indeed

January 5, 2008

I was listening to Talking Heads for a blast from the past.  The track ‘Listening Wind’ was playing.  It’s one of those songs that makes my skin tingle because it seems so true – it cuts through all the bullshit and tells you what’s what and tells it like it is.  It’s also very unique and, hence, ‘cool’.

But, it also got to me for another reason.  It got to me because it’s STILL true, about twenty-five years after its release.  It’s just as relevant and, in fact, could have been written yesterday.  Aside from the fact that I used to have hair down to my ass when I listened in the past and, well, now I don’t, nothing has changed.  Not a thing.  A quarter of a century.  More than a generation.  The middle east is still a mess with American foreign policy still fuelling resentment and making things worse rather than better.  And the news stories still invade my home.

 This may seem a bit callous, but I actually feel a certain resentment.  For my entire life, the middle east has dominated the foreign news.  Ever since I was old enough to notice the news the middle east has been the big story, with wars, bombs, civil wars, terrorists, religious nuts, revolutions, hardliners, and the rest getting in my face every day.  I feel imposed upon.   How dare they come into my home and dump their stupid hatred and arguments on me.  And all because they insist on a religious based state of one kind or another.

When will these idiots realise that religion and government are a terrible combination?  Religion is fuel for fires started by heated political debates or situations.  So, two peoples need water in an arid region?  A skirmish over control of the source of the only two rivers in the region grows into an extended, decades long religious conflict encompassing ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ wars.

Do you think people would want or support half the wars if they were presented with the facts – that they are about water, oil, resources, or land and, ultimately, money rather than religion or “To protect/defend our values/way of life”, as they’re told?  I doubt it.  There are lies, damned lies, and then there’s politics or business masquerading as religion.

“The wind in my heart

The dust in my head”

Introduction

January 3, 2008

So I’ve decided to partake in this cultural phenomenon known as blogging.  For anyone who’s interested in following this, I’m challenging myself to write something every day for a year.  Why?  Because the world needs my voice, I tell myself.  Because I want to discipline myself to write more.  Because I have to get things off my chest, blow off steam, impart knowledge, enlighten, express, and create.  Because Mavis Beacon says I need the practice.  Because, regardless of what anyone thinks of it, I’m now a ‘published’ author, and no one can take that away from me.  Along the way I’ll share my thoughts, observations, and insights on people, culture, society, art, politics, the world.  You know – life, the universe, and everything.  Inevitably, subjective opinions will be expressed which means some people may have their own opinions and beliefs challenged and possibly feel offended.  Oh well.  I’ll try to keep it civil. 

I don’t get paid for creative or intellectual pursuits and I don’t make enough money from my recently launched business to live on, yet, so I’ll also have to keep another job.  The end result could be either a total meltdown or greater self-awareness by the end of the year.  Whatever the case may be, it should be interesting.