The ties that bind and the ties that don’t

posted in Media, personal stuff on April 15th, 2007

I just finished reading a book called “Mijn Leven met Tikker” (Living with Tikker), a very interesting story about trust, bonding, love, respect and the pain that eventually follows all of this. I’ve been a dog owner for 14 years, until my dog died during the winter of 2004 and at times, Tikker’s story feels like the story of my own dog, Timmy.

The author, who was the actual owner of the dog, shares his impressions about living with a canine. The book talks about how hard it can be to teach a dog to do certain things but also goes into detail about how rewarding it is to face the challenge about raising a non-human being. The story goes on to talk about eventually illnesses many dogs acquire in the last years of their lives and how this dog had to cope with it. Some scenes are described in such vivid detail that I actually had the feeling that I was standing right there with the dog and his handler and experiencing the whole thing first-hand.

Humans often think that canines are incapable of showing high-level emotions but in fact, canines are very capable of displaying their mood. My dog, like Tikker, became self-conscious when he discovered that he couldn’t do certain things anymore, he didn’t want me to see how weak he had become, probably even began to question if I till loved him.

That, simply, is how dogs are, most of them will stick by you for the duration of their life, if you let them. If you manhandle them, they will hold a grudge for some time, but eventually give you another chance, at least, that’s what I’ve been hearing. Can’t imagine manhandling my dog (or any other benign for that matter).

All in all, the book is very interesting and if you are able to read Dutch, I’d highly recommend reading this book. It’s a very interesting story and if you ever had a dog, you will most certainly be able to understand the hardships the author had to and has to endure, now that his dog is gone.

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It’s all about the research

posted in College, Projects on January 30th, 2007

When I first started drafting scenes for my movie project, I decided that I wanted this project to be as intensive and educational as a standard college project. I wanted to have the feeling that it wasn’t just a fun thing to do, I wanted to learn something, I wanted to expand my knowledge in ways that would later benefit me, both personally as well as professionally.

I started out with a basic planning that included the various steps. First of all, to write a credible story, I had to get a better understanding of the way people “down there” think. What might be totally acceptable to us (think: revealing clothes worn by females) is totally unacceptable in other cultures. Sure, I did know that much, but all the knowledge I had, prior to getting accustomed to the culture, wasn’t nearly enough.

Sure, I’m a westerner, my target audience are westerners, but there’s such a thing as sticking to the facts and even though it was going to be a fictitious story, I wanted every aspect of it to be as real as possible. Every last piece of information I gathered had to be able to withstand scrutiny.

Local movies are a great way to get to know a culture better, but it’s hard to find the right kind of movie. There are lots and lots of televised stories out there that label themselves “local” but many of them are actually made to appeal to a broad, western-oriented audience. Well, long story short - I found a couple of movies, most of them lacking good subtitles (not to say there were no subtitles available, but the quality of the subtitles was well below par) and decided to not watch them for the story but rather for the people.

One of the movies I analyzed is called “Kurtlar vadisi - Irak“, (translation: “Valley of the Wolves - Iraq”), a movie which starts out after the infamous hood event that took place on July 4th, 2003, shortly after the war began. The movie focuses on the way the people feel after being treated like animals and while the director exercised his artistic freedom to amend the story a little, I think he did a great job in portraying the issues that arise during the situations that were discussed in the movie. It might not have been the best research material I could get, but it certainly had many valid points and taught me a lot about the subject I was researching.

Other than a couple of movies, I also read a lot, both online and in books I retrieved from my mother, who spent a considerable amount of time in middle eastern countries. She also helped me in getting some parts of the cultural information I had compiled right as far as interpersonal contact was concerned. Thanks for that, mom!

After getting myself acquainted with the subject, I, by accident, came across two people, one, a Native Farsi Speaker, who moved around a lot and ended up in Canada and a person who moved from Iraq to the UK. Both of them were more than willing to elaborate in detail how they felt about their respective cultural background and about how they perceived daily life in the Middle East.

While books and movies are a great way to get to know something, I find that talking to people who actually experienced these situations, a lot more informative and a lot more entertaining.

After getting my facts right for the Middle Eastern side of the story, I wanted to get some more information about the American side. Once again, Wikipedia was able to provide me with a lot of the information I looked for and thanks to it’s great cross linking system, I came across many other resources that taught me about various other aspects that would later contribute to my story.

As fate would have it, I met an ex Marine who immediately jumped at the movie idea and agreed to help with the tactical information and experience I was lacking.

Yes, it is a movie, a very-low-budget one at that and yes, 99% of the people watching it will not catch small things like troops that cover each other in a very specific way or radio chatter that is very “to the point”, but for me personally, these things are important. I believe that these are the details that either make or break a product.

In a few days, you should be able to judge for yourself if my research paid off. I already know that it did, I’ve gotten to know some pretty interesting people and learned a fair bit about Arabic countries.

So, as far as the research is concerned, I think that the amount of time I put into it certainly meets the expectations I had before I started out. I think I’ve done more and better research for this one project than I’ve done for quite a few, bigger, projects in the past.

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micro relationships

posted in personal stuff on December 14th, 2006

Twenty years ago when people referenced their friends, they generally talked about people they knew for a very long time. Relationships lasted long, friendships lasted even longer. Basically, most friends you made back then were going to stick around till the bitter end and you’d meet up with them on various occasions.

I’m no researcher, but I think that the above concept of relationships and friendships is outdated. Don’t get me wrong, I value people who stick around for a long time, stand by you during the good and the bad times and help you overcome obstacles, but I personally don’t see it happening for many people I know.

Let me elaborate, during the last decades, our mobility increased by 500%, going shopping in London in the weekend (no matter where you live) is easily accomplished. Participating in a relationship with someone who’s living some 2,000 miles away is doable. Making acquaintances all over the globe and meeting them at some point is daily life for some people.

With all the added mobility however, comes another feat: priority and prioritizing. Many people have various levels of friendship – there are the close friends, the very close friends, the good friends, the normal friends, the friends –friends, the yeah-I-heard-his-name-kind-of-guys (and gals). Two decades ago you had best friends, friends and people you knew. Now, with all these added layers, people are prioritizing, some on a conscious level, most on a subconscious level.

Friends are like information in today’s world. Everyone has a story to tell, everyone has one quirk or another and we have to remember each and every one of them, or at least a great deal. One might note all this information in a notebook, another might use digital technology to track the attributes of their friends and someone else might just remember most stuff. Either way, people have to cope with loads of extra information that wasn’t available (because of the lack of different layers) twenty years ago.

Naturally, it’s important to remember many attributes of your friends; after all, that is what partially makes you a good friend. Supporting each other, no matter if romance is involved or not is still as important as it was two decades ago, but today you have a lot more choices. Do you want to talk to your best friend or your partner? To which one are you going to talk to? The one you are romantically involved with or the one you’ve been dating a year ago?

Added layers mean lower intensity. At least, they do for me. I have a certain amount of time I’m willing and am able to spend on friends every day, week, month and the more friends you have, the more you need to spread that time out in a fair way. If you have loads of friends, you’re probably not spending half as much time as you should (and would like to) with them, if you have few friends, you can focus a lot more on the individual, but you lack the added information; information that can be turned into knowledge to improve yourself, your character or your creations, in the most broad sense possible.

All in all, I personally experience micro relationships as very positive. I believe that these relationships are a lot more flexible and they don’t have a clearly defined beginning (or end). You meet ad-hoc, whenever it suits both persons, you have fewer expectations to meet, yet you can still contribute a lot to such friendship, it’s all up to you.

Naturally the concept of micro relationships doesn’t apply to people in a marriage, but then again, some might argue that marriages are a form of the past too …

I wonder what others are thinking - feel free to contribute.