This week a parachutist man was found dead in grassland near Teuge #NL. It turned out that he died 9 days before, after a failed para-jump. Failed? We do not know yet what happened exactly. Right now we know that he lived alone and no-one had missed him. No-one. Not at the paraclub. Not at home. Not at work. And if they did miss him, no-one went out to search! him.
Stoner must have been a man like this para!
Last weekend I finished reading John Williams' book 'Stoner' (1965) in a Dutch translation. I wanted to read this novel to "feel" what it's like to live a little remarkable life. Stoner failed in being a teacher. Stoner failed in love. He eventually dies in anonymity. A mediocre life of a mediocre teacher. Nothing fancy.
The book did disappoint me. It did not meet my expectations. Did I expect too much? What did I expect? For me it was too much a novel. It could have been someone's biography. But it isn't. It's an invented life.
I did not feel sorry for Stoner. No look of recognition. Nothing resonating in my heart. Did not think much of him. Just nothing.
The coming two weeks I'm on holiday. Natal. Ano Novo. Ice-skating with the kids. Little jobs in the house. B. gets her own room. Only one book to read on my to-read-list: Stedman's Surinam. Life in an Eighteenth-Century Slave Society. An Abridged, Modernized Edition of 'Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam'.
In Norwegian they talk about 'Lengsel'. In German about 'Sehnsucht'. In Portuguese about 'Saudade'.
And in Dutch? In The Netherlands we don't have specific words for
longing for what is lost or disappeared behind the horizon: Saudade
longing for moving to places (or knowledge) where you are not right now: Lengsel
longing for an ideal world that surpasses everything that's unfinished or imperfect in one's life: Sehnsucht
In Dutch we stick to 'Bij de buren is het gras altijd groener'. Translated in English 'The grass in the neighbors garden is always greener'. In a way "we" Dutch are more down to Earth. More sober. We can long for what we lost, what we long for or what we dream of. At the same time realizing that it's never perfect. Even if it may seem so in the neighbors garden but that is - just take a better look: near-sight (myopia). At the same time realizing that you have to stick with what you have right now.
Mark that 'the neighbors garden' is a metaphor for 'everything in one's life'!
Do I have an answer to every question or problem? No, it's quite to opposite. All my answers are temporary. In a way a hypothesis. One cloud. One word. One song. One strange look. One touch. One kiss. One ... - it's always a pleasant surprise - and suddenly I just don't know what to do or answer next.
Clarice Lispector: "So long as I have questions to which there are no answers, I shall go on writing."
Sophie was 36. Felix 28. They fell in love. Both of them! She wants Felix but marries skipper Vilhelm Dreyer. And Felix? He was young and wanted to discover the planet. He wanted freedom. He became a journalist, travelling around the world. When he realized what happened she, his love-of-his-life, was married and mother of two kids.
For thirty years they wrote letters - in Norwegian - to each other. In 1941 the last letter was sent from Sophie Unger (1874-1962) to Felix Rutten (1882-1971). And more than 20 years later they died. She in Norway. He in Rome.
This weekend I read Adri Gorissen's book 'Een Noorse Liefde' (2012). Book in Dutch. Title in English 'A Norwegian Love'. I bought one book of 500 copies.
They met in Sittard (The Netherlands) in 1910. He taught her French. In return she taught him Norwegian. After a few months they met in Bergen (Norway). There they decided not to get engaged. She married someone else. And he started travelling. Writing letters and postcards to each other. They met five times: February/ March 1910 in The Netherlands; August 1910 in Norway; 1912 in Norway; 1923 in Brugge (Belgium); 1928 in Norway. Both realizing that they made the wrong decision in 1910 and didn't consume their love-of-their-life. Didn't!
In this book her 29 letters and postcards to him are translated. There are no letters left from Felix to Sophie. She was his 'middernachtzon in mijn eenzaam leven' (English 'midnight sun in my lonely life'). Forever linked. A sun that cannot set down. Kissing and words redundant.
A lovely book. Sad. Inspirational. Questions. Lots of questions - for him and her - that never will be answered. A love that is "lost" forever with the death of these two lovers. Melted like snow for the sun.
P.S. Felix was married between 1919-1929 to a Dutch woman. When his marriage came to an end he immediately planned a trip to Norway. Back to Sophie! In 1928 he wanted to meet Sophie for a second time but she asked him not to come. Her husband was jealous and Sophie wanted peace. They never met again - as far as we can tell from the sources we have.
Why do I love Música Popular Brasileira #MPB? Why do I love Bruna, Ana Carolina, Ana Moura and many others?
Let me first say that MPB is for me a hat-rack. I like to listen to: #MPB #Fado and #BossaNova. These three music trends are in my mind, fused into "MPB". Regardless of whether this is justified by music theorists.
I love Bruna Caram's voice, smile, elegance and joy of living. She reminds me of you.
Ana Carolina's voice is sexy. Her lyrics are deep. She exudes sensuality. Nothing beats her song 'Confesso'. She reminds me of ...
I like Ana Moura best with her eyes closed. She is intense and pure. Shy. She reminds me ...
Marisa Monte's 'Bem Que Se Quis' is my favorite Friday afternoon song. She is sexy! Desire! She reminds ...
The singer that moves me most is Zélia Duncan. I never talk and think much about her. I don't want to. For me she is danger. Elegant. Deep. Sexo. Sober. Her songs are like poems. In a way I deny my attraction and longing for her. ...
Bruna Caram's CD 'Será Bem-Vindo Qualquer Sorriso' (English 'Will Welcome Any Smile') was released on 16 November, 2012. I downloaded it the next morning via iTunes for my new iPhone5.
Bruna is very satisfied and content with her new CD. With this CD she wants the audience to know her "completely". If she had a 'lâmpada mágica' her request would be: her singing spread across the world!
She made a short summary for every song. Format: 1 tweet. I translated those tweets in English:
I love these 3 songs best:
'Esfera' (Paulo Novaes). Try to allow each new act of love. And if you have to relieve: cry.
'Flor de Medo' (Djavan). Come and kiss me once. You think too much. Come to me, body and soul.
'Segredo' (Dalva de Oliveira). There is no remedy. Nobody is to blame for our disunity. Original from Dalva (1947): here.
If you ever see this on a military uniform you can be sure he (or she) is a fraudster. Or it's carnaval ;)
Every war has its winners and losers. Or is this the wrong image on war? For the soldiers there are different rewards for their bravery or leadership. After winning World War II, for freeing the "Free World", Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was offered twice a Duke title. With the firm understanding that he would not accept. Bernard Montgomery (1887-1976) was offered, for his military leadership, a lower rank in the Peerage: Viscount title.
I strolled a bit on the internet and to be honest I couldn't find the (better: an) answer. In 2010, at the age of 91, the granddaughter (1919?-2010) of Marthe de Florian died. On the inheritance list an apartment was discovered in Paris. An apartment she left in 1940 - she went to live in the South of France - and never went back there. All those 70 years she faithfully paid the rent. For what?
In the apartment an unknown Boldini portrait was found of her grandmother. Worth 2.1 million euro. And a lot of love-letters.
P.S. Somewhere in the weeks/ months to come I'll puzzle on this.
White tiles. Every time when I enter a small place with white tiles and dimmed light I'm in the belly of fort Douaumont again. For me it's a fact ... I've no idea how associations are formed.
A couple of years ago I went to Verdun, France. To smell and feel this place where so many French and German soldiers died in World War I.
Patton (1885-1945) calls this place in his book 'War As I Knew It' the "folly of defensive warfare". A place where a couple of 100,000 brave men died to maintain something, "they could have saved much more easily by attacking".
Look at the sleeping cat. Look at the tiger chasing a gazelle. Look at sparrows fighting about a piece of bread. Look at Sofia who cheats her boyfriend Júlio with Afonso for jewellery, expensive clothes, traveling and luxury dinners. Look at Júlio who wants to kill Afonso at his 60th birthday ... but in the end kills himself and not Afonso.
What distinguishes 'homo sapiens' from the other species on planet Earth? Suicide! Only human beings are able to commit suicide. No other animal ever will.
Last weekend I read Dulce Maria Cardoso's book 'O Chão dos Pardais' (2009). Translated in English its title is 'The Floor of Sparrows'. (Mark that this book can only be read in Portuguese. It's not translated in any other language, yet.) Lovely book. Full of wisdom. Dulce doesn't condemn or judge. She is registering. She records how people's lives evolve. Can evolve. Usually evolve. And could have evolved completely differently by a breeze. An almost-breeze.
This is one of those books you should read yourselves and not some book review. If not, you would not grasp the opening poem and more than 10 "philosophical" quotes which serve as chapter titles.
This book is not about Afonso who cheats his wife Alice with a girlfriend. This time her name is Sofia. It's not about his wife Alice who has many more reasons than Júlio to kill Afonso. But never found a good alibi to actually do it. It's not about their children Manuel and Clara. Nor about migrant, maid Elizaveta who falls in love with lesbian Clara. Nor about Manuel who after many months finally meets his online chat-lover Lilly.
This book is about the cruel art of desert (read: Mother Nature). The cruel art of human beings - the only species that is able to commit suicide - that fight like sparrows on the ground (read: planet Earth) for ...? Money? Beauty? Privileges? Intelligence? Bread? Or ...?
P.S. The blog above presents my interpretation of Dulce's message in her book. It's not my message ;)
Daddy. Employee. Manager. Lover. Historian. Excel expert. Business intelligence expert. Reader of books. Listener of music. Just a random pick of the things that define me. I'm not any one of those attributes. I'm all of them! All!
Just like you. Just like every 'homo sapien' on planet Earth.
If the above is true, why is it so hard for people to accept that singers want to be a writer too? Or a writer an actor too? Or an actor, a singer? Or a singer, a diplomat, writer, poet, painter, priest, or ... whatever?
Two weeks ago I heard on the radio a discussion about the Dutch actress Carice van Houten. The same discussion was in my newspaper. She recorded a music album 'See You On The Ice'. Her first one. In a way "people" did not accept her as a singer, she was an actress.
How strange! I bought her album and played it a couple of times in my car. I love her music. Listen to 'Broken Shells' and 'Still I Dream of It'. You will like it.
Something that puzzled me for some weeks. 'Was gleich nach der Liebe komt'? It's German for 'That what comes right after Love'? What do you think: what comes right after love?
P.S. I was so happy to read that Carice loves Brazilian singer Marisa Monte. It's the first time that I have heard her name in my country.
Blind spots! I've blind spots too :( I thought I knew all there is to know about military aviation (and its history) but Martin van Creveld's book 'The Age of Airpower' (2011) showed me that I have blind spots too.
My three blind spots:
1. Since World War II the countries with nuclear weapons only fight with countries that don't have nukes. All their wars are low scale and are never a real threat of the homeland. And the glory and power of military aviation in Yugoslavia, Irak and Libya? Low scale wars against non-nuclear dwarfs.
2. When it comes to deciding what is and is not a threat, airpower is often of no use at all. We need (wo)man on the ground who determine who is an enemy and who is not.
3. Military degeneration. The combination of very high quality, small numbers, growing cost and slowing down of technological innovation is a typical sign of military degeneration of jets. Just like the development of ancient Greek warships (centuries BC), full suits of armoured knights (around 1525) and floating steel warships (around 1939). Their tasks are to be overtaken by other "systems": satellites, SSBMs, ICBMs, (cruise) missiles and UAVs.
It's getting colder and colder in my country. The first fields of corn is harvested. It's fall again.
Admission is free. Only for visitors by prior arrangement by snail- or e-mail. Weeks in advance! I love moguls like these. Good that the treasures of Palacio de Liria - the private home of Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba and her family - in Madrid (Spain) are hidden behind walls and weeks.
For me moguls like this are Chinese Gardens. Remember the blog I wrote on this? It changes our way of breathing. It changes our way of breathing ... once in a while.
Not directly accessible! How is/ will this be handled by the present generation, our kids? Too much trouble? Waste of energy? Old-fashioned? Not 24/7 proof? Off-line?
I will write an e-mail and after reserving my tickets, I'll book an airplane and hotel. Just the two of us - what else?
Just finished Steve Jobs' 'De Biografie'. I cried a couple of times. More exact: finished the second half of the book. I started reading right after the pictures. Friday evening this book was lent to me from one of the colleagues of my history club. I borrowed it. I did not want to buy it - I can't really tell why.
It's "always" the same story! I start with one fresh, new book and two weeks later I'm reading three, four or more books at the same time. I am so used to my own habit that I am no longer surprised. In a way it's my way of not getting bored and locked in one book. It's my way to follow my own curiosity and not get frozen.
Two weeks (and a few days) ago I started reading with Ileen Montijn's 'Hoog Geboren' book in Dutch about the nobility of my country of the last 250 years. When I went to Amsterdam in the train, I started reading Athanius van Alexandrië's 'Verleidingen in de woestijn. Het leven van de heilige Antonius'. I wanted a thin and light book that fitted in my bag. It's a biography on Anthony the Great (circa 251-356) and since Friday evening I'm reading about Steve Jobs.
I guess tonight I'll start reading the first part of Jobs' book. But maybe the postman will bring something more urgent. It can be the wind. A song. A quote on the radio. Some image. A memory. Or ... that gives an impulse to read something else.
P.S. In the end I finish reading "all" the books I once started. Exceptions: two or three books.
Aren't we - inside our head - filled up with pictures, films, sentences, colours and smells? Of travels, books, lovers, people we met or things that impressed our senses? Every now and then one pops-up. For me, most of the time, by surprise.
Saturday evening I was in Amsterdam. Cristina Branco gave a concert in the 'Concertgebouw'. I loved to see her singing. Her face. The shape of her body. To hear her songs sung live, which are so familiar to me. Most of them were from her new album 'Fado Tango'. She was in control. Sang professionally. In a way it was too perfect. No mistakes. I guess I missed "real" emotion.
I was not allowed to take pictures during the show. After the show I saw her, on my way back to the hotel, by accident, at the back of the Concertgebouw. At a distance of 3 meters. I looked at her. She looked at me. I did not say anything. I did not take a picture. I simply nodded my head and smiled.
In the years to come every now and then pieces of Cristina's show will pop-up. Just like so many things: big and small, old and new, important or not, connected to you or not, intense or superficial. Just like 'that kiss'. Ours!
It took me less than two hours to walk from Mas Pinell to the small town Torroella de Montgrí (Spain). I started walking around 7am in the morning. Taking care that I would be back before the sun would become too hot.
Alone. Water. Bread. Toilet roll. Mobile phone. Camera. And a cap! I have required one since 2 years ago ... if not, my head would get burned :(
From the town up to the Castell del Montgrí took me almost 1 hour (or was it less?). Steep hill. No road. Only a small donkey path. I was pretty tired when I entered the Castle that was built between 1294 and 1301. The view was worth the sweat. What a view!
Most castles in Europe are empty skeletons. But the story of this castle is even more strange. It's a castle that never was completed. No-one knows why. Out of money? Changed political and/ or military alliances? Or ...?
I enjoyed the view. Took a few pictures. Drank 'Caffe Americano' and 'Fanta lemon' - and ate some sweet cake - in Torroella. And walked back to the Mediterranean Sea.
By 2pm I was swimming in the sea. Tired but satisfied. Wondering - a sensation I always have when I swim in the Mediterranean - how the Egyptian soldiers felt when they were swimming in the Suez Canal on October 6, 1973. Doing their routine activities as deception while the first bullets were shot of the Yom Kippur War. Were they misguided too by their officers? Did they survive the war?
Marcos' search for the perfect pecan pie (portuguese 'torta de nozes'), in his expat country, remembered me of a quote that gives direction to my life for so long. It's a quote I discovered more than 30 years ago in the book 'Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance' from Robert Pirsig, page 84:
She nodded dutifully and went out. But just before her next class she came back in real distress, tears this time, distress that had obviously been there for a long time. She still couldn’t think of anything to say, and couldn’t understand why, if she couldn’t think of anything about all of Bozeman, she should be able to think of something about just one street.
He was furious. "You’re not looking!" he said. A memory came back of his own dismissal from the University for having too much to say. For every fact there is an infinity of hypotheses. The more you look the more you see. She really wasn’t looking and yet somehow didn’t understand this.
He told her angrily, "Narrow it down to the front of one building on the main street of Bozeman. The Opera House. Start with the upper left-hand brick."
Her eyes, behind the thick-lensed glasses, opened wide. She came in the next class with a puzzled look and handed him a fivethousand-word essay on the front of the Opera House on the main street of Bozeman, Montana. "I sat in the hamburger stand across the street," she said, "and started writing about the first brick, and the second brick, and then by the third brick it all started to come and I couldn’t stop."
The image of focusing on just one random brick in a building makes it so easy for me to: write a blogpost, listen to music, share a dream, pick a book to read or start a conversation. It's sooooooooo obvious for me but I realize that it's not a natural modus for everyone.
Start with This pecan pie. Start with That pecan pie. Perfect pecan pies are born ... step by step ... brick by brick. Out of patience and concentration. Breath in. Breath out.
P.S. I'm on holiday for the next 4 weeks. Write me a letter every day :)
By accident - really accidently? - I heard two more this week. The first one in the song 'Open Your Heart' of Madonna: Lock and Key.
"Open your heart to me, baby
I hold the lock and you hold the key
Open your heart to me, darlin'
I'll give you love if you, turn the key"
The second: Account. Ana Moura sings in her song 'Por Minha Conta' that the night is cold and hazy. Everything is empty. She is lost and looking for a hiding - that's a third image. The bills have to be paid by or you (Portuguese 'sua') or me ('minha'). And not by us ('nossa'). There's nothing mutual right now.
I guess we could collect more than 99 images of love. Don't you think so too? I already know what image number 100 is. And you?
Did you ever visit my Chinese Garden? In a way it's my image of our time and age. Everything seems so transparent and easily accessible today. It seems we are able to grasp other people by checking out their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etcetera profiles. But the painful truth is we only take a look on their surfaces. Never (better: almost never) too deep! The only thing I see on TV are one-liners and jokes.
Are we patient enough? Am I? Are you? Patient enough to listen, talk and learn to deal with weaknesses, uncertainties and 'I don't know. Let me think about it!'? Of me, you and Others?
A couple of years ago - I can't remember how long ago - I read Ryszard Kapuscinski's book 'The Other'. His masterclass in eight quotes:
"Deep curiosity about the world is not a common phenomenon either. Most people have little interest in it."
"For many people the world outside is a source of anxiety, arousing fear of the unexpected, or even the terror of death."
"All civilisations have a tendency towards narcissism, and the stronger the civilisation, the more clearly this tendency will appear."
"The myths of many tribes and people include a belief that only we are human, the members of our clan, our society, and the Others - all Others - are subhuman, or not human at all."
"Human experience shows that at the first moment, as a first reflex a person reacts to an Other with reserve and restraint, mistrust or plain reluctance, or even with hostility."
"And so the three possibilities I have mentioned have always stood before man whenever he has encountered an Other: he could choose war, he could fence himself in behind a wall, or he could start up a dialogue."
"Other, let us repeat, are mirror in which I look at myself, and which tells me who I am."
"That we accept the Other, although he is different, and that this difference, this otherness is rich and valuable, it is a good thing. Yet at the same time this difference does not erase my identification with the Other: 'I am someone Other'."
Some days are more busy than others. Today is one of those 'more busy' days.
This morning I exchanged the new big screen TV for the new kids' room. This room will be ready in 3 weeks. Bought three new bottles 'Vieille Réserve' from Paul Giraud. Right now I'm dreaming about taking a hot bath - do you want to join me ;) - and a bathroom filled with the smell of prunier and chocolate. Also bought four bottles of Italian red wine: 'Insoglio del cinghiale, Campo di Sasso, Bibbona (Toscana) 2010' and 'Massimo, Lenotti (Bardolino) 2008'. Two bottles each. Too expensive but I wanted to buy them anyway.
Lunch with the kids. At 16h T gymnastics. At 18h join X at his camping party with his primary school class. Next year he will go to high school. I'll be home around 1h :(
P.S. I've to check out Curt Backeberg (1894-1966) he wrote 'Stachliche Wildnis' on his travels searching for cacti in South-America. In fact he was a hunter. Hunting on cacti.
P.P.S. What is your favorite read wine? And white wine? And champagne?
P.P.P.S. Between 1630-1654 "we" Dutch ruled over Dutch Brazil or New Holland. I don't know anything about this colony and its history.
I guess it's not completely your cup of tea but I am impressed by our smart 'homo sapiens' ancestors. They were effective, efficient, used fallback scenarios and worked as a team. Sounds pretty modern, doesn't it?
Let's go back in time. 6,000 years ago our ancestors worked together in mining flint in Rijckholt-St Geertruid. In a part of the world we now call The Netherlands. They dug shafts with a diameter of 1 metre. Until they arrived at the level (around 4-12 metres) with the rich flint chunks.
There they gathered the flint in galleries of maximum 8 metres deep. No deeper because the sunlight doesn't shine any further. After gallery 1 they dug gallery 2. Gallery 1 was filled with the debris of gallery 2. Gallery 2 with 3. Gallery 3 with 4. And gallery 5? This gallery was left empty as an (extra) escape route for shaft 2.
What did they harvest in these prehistoric flint mines? Flint! Upstairs the big flint chunks were knapped with hammer-stones into useful smaller, tradable, ready-to-use chunks. These chunks travelled as raw material sometimes hundreds of kilometres and were manufactured, on the spot, into useful flint tools: knives, axes, scythes, scrapers, pierces, arrow-heads, etc. Sounds pretty modern, doesn't it?
Time slips away. Most of the time we are not aware of it and trample time, light-heeled, with our bird's feet.
Remember? As told so many times: I'll never put you - meu melro - in a cage behind a door. Just sit down in the palm of my flat hand. I'll talk sweet to you and enchant you with whatever I can think of: words, books, poems, pictures, food, wine, dreams or ... - there must be more. You can fly away whenever you want to. I'll not squeeze. Feel free to come and go. Fly birdie. Fly! And drop in whenever ...
What more to say than listen with you to this beautiful song from Tom Jobim: 'Fotografia'