mirrormask painting

How to... write a convincing and polite letter of decline

Dear Sir,

On account of threateningly being approached by a giant spider which wishes to devour me for lunchies, I’m afraid I won’t be able to attend your mightily interesting conference, and I must therefore decline your kind invitation. It obviously pains my heart to bereave you of my presence, yet I am forced by circumstances beyond my power. I was sitting here quietly when I noticed it advance on me rather menacingly. It is now looming over me,

So hurriedly,
And most sincerely,

(Having been eaten now, I nevertheless wish to add a postscript. In case you’d wish to pay your last respects, please not the white flowers.)

What do you think? Would it work?
  • Current Music
    Sonata for cello, op. 8 - Kodaly
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As the party inside was in full swing she left and sat outside on the balcony, taking her glass with her. Sitting cross-legged on the ground and looking up at the night sky she stayed there for a good while. Brooding. Later, he stepped outside as well to escape the hot rooms, a nest of busy, sweating people practising sycophancy over champagne. Upon seeing her he hesitated for a moment.

“I’m sorry, am I disturbing your thoughts?”

She drained her glass. "Definitely not. My current thoughts were entirely insignificant and meaningless."

"Why would you say that?" he raised an eyebrow in honest surprise.

"I consider any thought that ponders the meaning of life to be just that, as this meaning is something we ourselves must create. No, I’d say you came just on time." She smiled.
  • Current Mood
    amused Bemused
Norns by Arthur Rackham

Throwing a Bottle

 Death is, unfortunately, for most people a chronic condition they suffer from even though when considered from a technical point of view, their hearts are still beating and they're breathing.

That is what I thought this morning upon waking, receiving a book from the mailman (Who Killed Amanda Palmer - I have been waiting a long time for it and undoubtedly will mention it later again), eating pancakes, drinking tea, making a shopping list (Tagus Creek 2007 red wine on it), hoping that a month has passed and I get to collect my repaired fountain-pen again, reading my, today scarce, email. Sometimes, I really like mornings.

Long time no seen, my lovelies. I have been to Ireland for twelve days and this is what I brought back:
Stories to go with them.

I think I will post them, one every week, until I have run out. Do you think I should? They are all rather marvellous and fantastic and short. I like them but some I find very strange. I want to do something with them but don't know what. They would make nice postcards, perhaps. I could send them out? If I throw a bottle from my bedroom window and throw it hard enough, where would it land? The clouds are not the sea, I know that.
  • Current Music
    Malena Ernman - Sempre Libera
Norns by Arthur Rackham

From pantheons to Sandman's Death: job applications for anthropomorphic personifications

There’s shoe polish on my first volume of Foucault’s History of Sexuality, white chocolate dissolves in muffin batter resulting in divinity on a whole new level the Norse pantheon would fight gargantuan battles about and Julia Kristeva, mistress of intertextuality, would have a word to say about this last caelestic figure of speech.

Here come my thoughts behind this last string of apparently incoherent musings. As you probably know, in the Norse pantheon the enemies of the Gods are the giants, and they threaten this world. Gargantua and Pantagruel are giants as well, literary characters created by renaissance author Rabelais. Can you feel the intertextuality breathing down your neck?

If mythology still has a right to be actively present in our minds and lives, Intertextuality should be the tenth muse and she’d wear black jeans and when you’d meet her on the streets she’d smile. If Neil Gaiman’s Death wanted to do something else for a change, she could apply for the job and I’d hire her straight away. Hasn’t she proven to be more than apt at it already, after all? I cannot immediately think of a name this shapeshifting lady would have though... Possible suggestions and fun ideas are welcome!

Read away, my lovelies!
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Stories can be whispered or shouted, and they all need to be heard

  I got the chance to interview Emilie Autumn at her show in Antwerp on April 24th '09. In this lovely interview she tells us a lot about herself, her interests, her history and her music. I loved doing it and love watching it, and I hope you do too.

Camera and montage by Kris

Doing this was absolutely great. I met one of my greatest idols, and more will probably follow. Travelling and having these little adventures are what make life worth its while, isn't it? And being able to hear some very interesting people's thoughts and visions on the way is tea for my thirsty little soul. Pink tea. Or, as right now, red wine. 

Let me also take a moment to hype this wonderful short story. Someone on the Emilie Autumn forum posted a link to it and I absolutely love it. If I were Titania, this story would be a flower I'd cup in my hand, and I would look at it and poke it and try to understand. Maybe I wouldn't see that the flower had come to understand me instead?

 I also linked to it from my facebook account and wrote this little summary to go with it:
"This short story was written by an oncologist and tells the story of the rulers of Fairie, Titania and Oberon, and their little changeling, who falls ill with leukemia. Their reactions offer surprising insights in the human character. "A Tiny Feast" is a beautiful, tiny feast of storytelling that deserves to be read and thought about. Cherish it!"

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When a general feeling of disappointment in selected mankind rises up

 Hello, and look. I like this picture. It’s me all right, taken in Italy two weeks ago, at the lago superiore in Mantova. If metaphotography is not yet a term, I coin it now! In truth, the view was much more beautiful than this picture could convey. I love the Alps.


Being there was exactly as I thought it would be: doing the things you like without any of the stuff on the fringes, to see the world in the simplifying colours of academics that render complex systems to simpler ones. It is an addicting feeling, the one of displacement. No later than when you have arrived home, you long to leave again.


I think I soaked up culture, stories, geographical formations, people, like a sponge. I would share them all with pleasure, but somehow that seems tedious as well. Some things are experienced only for the experience, not for the recounting. I’d rather decide to see them again with you, as no story could do justice to any sort of sentiment that could have been involved at the time.


It was also a great time to think about the events of the last couple of months. When you’re twenty-something, you might begin to wonder about what this whole life is leading to - with excitement at times, fear on other days. I must say I am not much troubled by this sentiment, but people around me seem to be. One thing I do cling to, and that is the belief that if something doesn’t work out right away, there’s still plenty of time to try something else. 


That is, until someone your age dies. And a month later someone else. It’s a bit strange, but I never quite had thought that I’d see my former class thinning out so soon already. It is a bit disconcerting. 


And it makes one wonder about the people around you. Some seem to be screwing up their lives masterfully as of late. It happens, just like that, naturally, but sometimes I wonder why we waste time on trying to fit certain things into ordered systems of thought, things that obviously don’t fit into such defined categories. We would save ourselves a lot of trouble if only we could overcome this bad habit.


Maybe we’re all just characters in a Douglas Coupland novel. And the truly tragic yet hilarious fact is, we write it ourselves. 

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An excerpt from a novel

 An excerpt,

De prinsessendrama's, Elfriede Jelinek.

De dood en het meisje III  (p. 30 - 32)

(Rosamunde:) "Nu ik zo lang heb gezocht, over de wereld heb gedwaald zonder mijn schrijftafel te verlaten, zo lang en hoe dan ook alleen, nu zal er toch niet op het laatste moment nog iemand wonen, even ongemakkelijk als ik, op het scherp van dit mes? Hoe komt het dat er hier opeens zo veel ongemakkelijken wonen? Veel ongemakkelijker dan ik? Dat kan niet waar zijn! Mijn meeslepende vaart heeft mij hier gebracht, en nu blijken ook al veel anderen vaart te hebben gezet zoals ik zie, nee, dat is niet mogelijk! (...) Eens zal ze koningin zijn, en dan wiegt haar hart pas goed, veroordeeld tot zichzelf, zo heel alleen op de golven. Geen ogen blikken vriend'lijk neder, geen woordenvloed waar zij op drijft, geen bliksem flitst voor haar alleen, geen omwolking, speciaal gemaakt van die grijze stof die ik mij heb toegeëigend omdat hij vrij goedkoop was. Schreeuw niet zo, ik heb er nog stapels van! Golven die mij lieflijk spieg'len, die kijken mij tenminste aan, nou ja, dat dacht ik, maar het was een ongeluk met de auto. Zelfs van het remlicht van mijn voorligger kon ik niet echt genieten. Ik hield het voor mijn eigen licht en volgde dat zo vele jaren, kwiek en lui tegelijk, een koppig licht dat voor mij uit fladderde, en toen bleek het toch alleen maar het mijne te zijn! En een wijzer zie ik blinken, wijst mij op de steden toe. Eenzaam zal ik echter sterven. Zo. Maar dat spijt me nu, dat er met mij wordt gespot alleen omdat ik me vastklamp aan die watermassa die mij slechts naar binnen wil trekken, daar wank'len alle bloemen, geen ster die mij iets vraagt. Ik deed zoals het beekje, dat nooit zijn loop vertraagt. Dat had ik dus beter niet kunnen doen, met die volkomen versleten banden van mij, vandaar dit ernstige, volstrekt onvermijdelijke ongeluk, eigen schuld. Iedereen zou meteen gezien hebben dat dit water alleen maar wachtte tot het mij kon vermoorden. Alleen ik was weer eens blind. Ik heb beweerd dat ik een zieneres was, maar wat ik daar voor mijn ogen voorbij zag vliegen, dat waren slechts de uren van mijn leven. Ik moest thuis blijven als een hond die geen lam heeft om te verscheuren. Ik lees zo mooie boeken daar in het hoge dal, maar wat doe ik nu in het water, ik heerlijke vrouw, al moet ik bitter wenen?"


This is a novel containing five theatre dialogues between famous fairy tale women and their male counterparts, the princes. (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, ...) They talk about death; death in the most literal sense as being juxtaposed to life, and death in a more metaphorical sense: the death of a woman's identity living in a patriarchal society in which her husband's name overshadows everything she ever embodied, every shred of identity that was once hers. If you know anything about fairy tale analysis, this should come as no surprise, and if per chance you are a subscriber  of the exquisite website Project Muse you can look up some articles there. (it is quite possible that your university has a subscription)

Apart from these themes and the theoretical frameworks that inevitably accompany them, it is also a novel that picks out words from their paradigms with consideration and touches them as if they were feathers - such carefully selected language - and that chooses or abandons metre at all the right moments. It treats universal subjects, holds pieces of wisdom and plain human stupidity and looks for answers people always have looked for. It is delightful.

Originally written in German.
Norns by Arthur Rackham

Mythology as we read in books and as we create it

However modern our means of transportation are, my imagination needs very little help to feel as if I've entered the 19th century when travelling by train. It's a very design train, a double decker, with power plugs for laptopped people (sounds funny, doesn't it), but I don't think the essential feeling of travelling ever changes if only you let it in. The boundaries between reality and imagination become a tiny bit more fluid, it is easier to let go of reality and enter that shady world in between your waking subconscious and fantasy. Who knows what could happen. You depart from a certain fixed point at a certain fixed time, and arrive at similarly exact coordinates, but everything in between is less demarcated. As if you're floating between here and there, not quite as defined.

And your modern train needs not much help at all to travel back in time during that two hour journey. (to cross Belgium from west to east you don't need any more time) I like to work creatively when going somewhere, and ideas stream in like water in my shed during a heavy downpour, but to work with them is much more difficult. Too many things swarming around your mind is not a good thing, just you try to pick one out to focus on... they're all fighting for equal attention.

Anyway, I've seen Valkyrie yesterday and if you can get over Tom Cruise and over the language issue (which I had a hard time doing) it is a good film! With language issue I mean that the Germans are speaking American, British, and everything in between. Except German. Seeing Tom Cruise as Stauffenberg makes this very hard, as the Hollywood hero tends to take over more than once. But don't get me wrong, I was impressed at a proper level. And I had ice cream. Which was great as well.

More film news from my small corner of planet earth in me learning that Coraline opens at my birthday in Belgium, which would be a wonderful birthday gift if only it wasn't that unhumanly far away. I am most grumpy about that on this otherwise wonderful Friday morning. Then, I want to go and see Brendan and the Secret of Kells next week, as well as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Let me promote the first one to you: here is the film blog by director Tom Moore, and here is the official website. The animations are based on medieval manuscripts and are as such just as authentic as the story, which is unsurprisingly very much infused with the epic Irish mythology as we know it from the Book of Kells itself (which you can see in Trinity College, and I have not done so myself but was told by several people that it is smaller than one would expect. Of course, an object with as rich a history as this one cannot but take on unrealistic proportions before our mind's eye.) It is a small film, probably not venturing outside of Europe, but it deserves every bit of attention it gets and much more as it is such a beautiful production. That is why I shamelessly wish to promote it and encourage each and everyone of you to see it and say how wonderful it is. Which is also why I will make this black and white blog a bit more colourful with this image:

Let me move back to my train with which I begun. I'm one of the laptopped people I mentioned, and it is an ideal moment to do some things you otherwise never do because internet is so very distracting. So here is my question of the... week is not it, nor is it month... Here is my question which sometimes appears at irregular intervals. How do you prefer to work on a text, whether it is personal of academic in nature and everything else that flies somewhere in or around that spectrum. Here is my own answer: iWork '09 has a wonderful new option called full screen, which disables any possible distractions and just gives you your sheet of people, surrounded by pretty black. I love it.

Time to move to some things that really beg to be done now!

Norns by Arthur Rackham

Stories come in different sizes as well, and I don't know which one I like best

 Which kind of story do you prefer? The ones you read to know how the story ends, or the ones you read for the text as a whole?

And just to inform you of this basic fact of life: after thinking about Poe I went to buy his collected works this evening as I realised I did not yet have them.

One of the nice things of blogging is finding a way to keep the writing vibe alive, but equally precious is the possibility for an exchange of thoughts. Interesting turns as my mind might take, it gets boring after a while talking to yourself. Ah, indulge me :)