How time got the better of me

“Another year has passed. It has gone by so quickly.”

That’s what most of us will say, tonight, tomorrow, as we celebrate new beginnings.
For me, it’s not so much the swiftness of time, but the overall lack of it.
And while that may seem similar, it isn’t.
This year was a slow one, and it seemed to last forever.
Still, I never seemed to be able to do all the things I wanted to do.
I admit, I sometimes set unrealistic goals for myself:
read a 500 page book, reply to all 120 emails, clean the house, cook a meal, work out, write a paper, backup my hard drive, go swimming, finally start writing a novel, reread that paper, play a game, interview my grandparents and write their life story, backup my hard drive again, make YouTube videos, watch all Sorkin series again, make good YouTube videos, learn sign language (just because), see some friends, pay all my bills and get a haircut.
Yes, I do understand that all of that is impossible in just one day.
But in the mornings, it really seems doable…
I’ve learned to pause at the end of each day, and list some of the things that I did manage to do.

I’ve decided to do the same for the year that has just gone by.

2015
Not all good, not all bad. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.
This year I sidestepped the loss and sometimes fell face down in it.
Last year, my father passed away. And so 2015 was the first year “without”, the first birthdays, fatherdays, holidays, performances, winnings and losses, coming home to an empty chair. And while 2014 was mostly horrible, as watching someone suffer and caring for them day after day, night after night, drains every last bit of energy from your body, we also had amazing moments together. A year of long goodbyes. 2015 often made me wish for those days again.

As of tomorrow, the sentence “no, he died last year”, will have to be replaced by “he died two years ago”. The addition of that extra year implies distance and closure and the ludicrous idea that we have all somehow moved passed the loss.
And of course, we haven’t. We move around it and with it, never passed it.

In 2015 I have seen friends move, get married, have children, start lives they never thought they’d have. I have seen some happier than ever, and saw another stumble into a psychosis, and bravely climb her way out, holding on to hope when there seemed to be none. I saw my family and friends at their best, sometimes during their worst days. And while you could read all this in a corny, cheesy voice (go for it), there’s an honest and neutral truth to it all.
I have learned so much from all of them.

2015 is the year in which I said goodbye to the man I thought I’d love forever.  But the end of my relationship coincided with finding a new passion, for telling stories in a different way: using all the media I use, letting myself be scattered across platforms and allowing my mental chaos to be visualized. The stage didn’t seem like such a scary place anymore. Just a stage. Really. For all the things I wanted to say. See, there’s a corny metaphor for life in that, but I didn’t say that, ‘cause, you know, that’d be corny.

With all the terrible things happening in the world around us, there are so many things I’m thankful for and looking forward to.

Here’s to a new year.
May it be better and brighter, but move ever so slowly.

Dream big, it’s only the beginning.

X

La Persistencia de la Memoria

This is the audio piece I made for the Dutch radio competition Korte Golf (2015). It’s in Dutch, but I’m currently working on some video and English subtitles to share it better with all of you.

The criteria for the competition were: (1) the title has to be the title of a famous painting, (2) the audio must include a discovery, (3) you must use a meaningful sigh.

My piece ended up in the top five, and was played on Dutch and Belgian radio, in the programmes “Nooit meer slapen”, “Bar du Matin”, and “Late Night Shift”.

Who knew my dad and I would still reach the airwaves together.

Bookmark Dictionary

Yes. I’m a literature nerd. I guess that explains why I studied Literature and Linguistics, and why I wanted a second Master’s degree in Literary Studies. But, honestly, there is no valid excuse for how far my nerdiness goes… Hopefully, some of you kindred spirits will geek out about this as much as I did!

Reading for me has always been an intense experience, and it only intensified with my studies. Having to write papers on prize winning novels and analysing the genesis of manuscripts has made me adopt an even more scrutinizing and eager-to-learn approach to reading. During the first years of university, I wanted to expand my English vocabulary as best I could, seeing as how it would always be hard as a second-language learner to get my writing up to par with that of native English speakers. So whenever I encountered a word, while reading, that I had not heard of before, I would underline it with pencil or pen and make sure to look it up afterwards. But the more books we were required to read, the harder it was for me to keep up with this somewhat obsessive habit of mine. Not to mention, inefficient: I would usually interrupt my reading to look up a word, or wait until I had finished reading and then go through my notes and try to rediscover the context of the underlined words before looking up their definitions.

Last year I discovered a practical application to help save time and effort. This handy little gadget is an electronic dictionary as well as a bookmark. Its creators have used the Collins English Dictionary and inserted 38000 definitions in this tiny, flat device. It’s extremely easy to look up a word, or even use the arrows if you simply want to browse through the rest of the dictionary. Not surprising that it won the prize “Gift of the Year” in 2011. Very surprising however, that it has not reached Belgium in the form of a translation dictionary. But perhaps, this will soon come. Since recently other languages have also become available:
Spanish
English-French
English-Italian
English-German

It’s extremely cheap, especially considering the high priced dictionary volumes you’d otherwise be getting, and very compact.
The only downside I find is that the plastic back of the gadget can cause it to slide out from between the pages. But I’m pretty sure that’s only a problem for women like me, who carry around their books in bags that are way too big for the amount of stuff they need to carry around – causing the books to move around too much.

You can buy it directly from That Company Called If or try to find one through an ebay seller that ships to your area. It’s available in international English as well as US English for only £24,99 (USD 38,41 / EUR 29). But I got mine on ebay for £14 (€16 / $21), so definitely look around the great interwebz for the cheapest way to get yours.

The Newsroom

Aaron Sorkin’s latest show about a (fictional) news channel, featuring a smug but endearing news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and his overly competent news crew, has returned for a second season. While I loved the first season, almost with the same obsessive idolatry I share for all of Sorkin’s creations, I must admit there were a few chinks in the armor.

The first season’s opening was a combination of black-and-white stills followed by fast-paced contemporary newsroom scenes. To me, both the music and images reeked of nostalgia and longing for the good old West Wing days. Except, this intro was not as fitting to the show as The West Wing’s was. While the quick pacing and the walk-and-talk are typical Sorkin elements that befit the intelligent and witty dialogue, the new shaky-cam filming akin to documentaries and mockumentaries felt out of place.

It was mostly this shaky-cam style that bothered me throughout the first season. While the dialogues as well as the movements are extremely rapid and perhaps at times as hard to follow for the cameraman, as they are for the viewer, I wished they wouldn’t show that.

But much like the ABC Network imposed laugh track for Sorkin’s 1998 show Sports Night (the behind-the-scenes of a struggling sports news show), this was soon resolved as the creator got his bearings. The uncontrollable shaky camera got more steady along the way. Returning to a slightly more stable filming, I was able to fully enjoy what it is that got me so hooked on Sorkin’s work to begin with; the authenticity to all his settings and scenes, the casting expertise which always provides the most suitable actors, the funny but true-to-life dialogue and the witty asides throughout.

Season 2

The first episode of the second season showed a very different introduction. One more suitable to the style of the show, having its own unqiue qualities that need not remind Sorkin’s fans of his previous successes. The West Wing-like music remains, but the images are simple, current and beautifully filmed.

While a few episodes of the first season seemed a bit too sentimental or at times “Americanized”, I have full faith in The Newsroom’s second season. The first episode promised to continue questioning all issues related not only to American journalism, but to journalism in general. Integrity compromises and journalism’s moral crises are brought to the fore – prioritizing of profit, ratings, demographics, and popularity, are not only questioned but also condemned. Despite value judgments, Sorkin shows it’s not always easy or at all possible “to do the right thing”.

As an internet addict, I am always delighted to see references to social media and internet memes made correctly. I cringe at the bad research done by most TV writers when they make their characters refer to “twittering” or “tweeting on someone’s wall” or, God forbid, “checking their MySpace page”.  So of course I was giggling a bit when Jeff Daniels started singing Rebecca Black’s Friday, and I couldn’t have been happier at the mention of SOPA. The research that has gone into the writing of this show is without doubt unprecedented, as much as Sorkin’s ability to create an unbelievable authenticity and on-set chemistry.

Criticism

Variety’s TV columnist Brian Lowry discusses the show’s flaws, comparing the outbursts of harsh critique towards media and politics in The Newsroom as a sort of “force-feeding”. Lowry is convinced of hearing Sorkin’s own voice and opinions shine through in his characters’ lines. And while my skepticism towards that statement could have more to do with a loyalty and an all-forgiving love for Sorkin, I do believe it is dangerous to imply the author’s intent and liken him or his attributes to those of his fictional characters. Perhaps the implied author here is really just a large portion of the population. Admittedly, the words and opinions sound better in Sorkinese and are more grammatically correct and accurately formulated than most of us could manage. But this does not take away the truthfulness of their content, and their accordance with and applicability to daily life.

I’ve loved Sorkin’s writing since the age of 14 and I discovered during my West Wing addiction that my favorite movie at the time (A Few Good Men) was also his. It took me a while to discover Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and I was through the roof when I heard Sorkin was to write the screenplay for The Social Network. I have moved on to Sorkin’s plays and have only been able to get my hands on a copy of The Farnsworth Invention, but the same incomparable intelligence and care has gone into this as in all his other creations. His work is unparalleled and despite the typical first season beginner flaws, I am positive that The Newsroom’s second season will once again prove this to be true.

So don’t go anywhere, give the show some room to grow, and cherish the fact that we’ve all been given an extra Sorkin year. Here’s to many more!

5 hearts white backgr