Stories Written

De werkdag van Kees

De werkdag van Kees

Dé Haagse straatmuzikant, Chuck Deely, is overleden. Nou ben ik geen bewoner van Den Haag en heb ik hem nooit horen spelen, maar een onvoorziene link naar deze man heb ik wel.

Najaar 2015 heb ik de schrijftraining van de Schrijversvakschool gevolgd. In Den Haag. Er zaten dan ook niet verbazingwekkend Hagenezen in mijn trainingsgroep. Eén van de middagen werden we gevraagd een beschrijving te geven van een karakter dat je in een verhaal zou kunnen gebruiken. Elk van ons beschreef een persoon waar ze nieuwsgierig naar waren. Zo kwam ook Chuck voorbij. De opdracht daarna was om, geïnspireerd door de korte beschrijvingen van de anderen, er een uit te pikken en er een kort verhaal van te maken.

Toen de training al afgelopen was en ik op zoek was naar inspiratie voor mijn ochtendschrijfsessie kwam ik deze karakterbeschrijving weer tegen. Mijn geest maakte er een dag uit het leven van een zwervende muzikant van, geïnspireerd op Chuck en mensen die onderdeel van het Enschedese straatleven zijn.

Elke gelijkenis is niet geheel toevallig, maar dit beschrijft op geen enkele manier het daadwerkelijke leven van Chuck.

Dit verhaal heb ik eerder al verzonden via mijn Random Stories.


De werkdag van Kees

9:00 uur
Leo doet de deur achter hem op slot. Kees verliet als laatste de ontbijtzaal, want elke minuut binnen in de warmte is weer een minuut minder in de kou. Nu is de opvang dicht en moet hij zich de hele dag op straat vermaken. Hij blijft nog even voor de deur staan. Het vriest zo te voelen nog steeds. Kees blaast met opzet door zijn mond uit en kijkt zijn adem na. Het wordt een lange dag. Hij slingert zijn gitaar op z’n rug en pakt de versterker in z’n hand. De rest van z’n bezit bungelt in twee versleten plastic tassen van de Aldi aan zijn riem. Dan sjokt hij de straat op.

9:05
Kees voelt in zijn geheime jaszak. Als het goed is heeft hij nog een Eurootje over van gister. Na lang grabbelen heeft hij ‘m te pakken. Nou kan ‘ie de Aldi in.

9:07
Kees staat met twee blikken bier bij de kassa.
“Goedemorgen, Kees! Koud is het nog zeg. Je hebt toch wel handschoenen?”
Hoe kan het toch bestaan, vrolijke mensen op de vroege ochtend.
“Da’s een eurootje, Kees.”
Kees legt de Euro op de kassa.
“Veel succes vandaag weer, hè?”

9:23
Kees zet z’n versterker neer op z’n vaste stek. Even knikt hij naar de bekende gezichten in de winkels. Hij ploft neer op de versterker en trekt het eerste blik open. Eerst even wakker worden.

10:03
Z’n vingers zijn te stijf. De snaren kan hij maar met moeite indrukken, laat staan dat het lukt de juiste akkoorden te pakken. Wat een pokkeweer vandaag. Voorbijgangers hebben nauwelijks zin om de handen uit de jaszak te halen om hem een muntje in de pet te gooien.

10:21
Tijd voor het tweede blikkie.

10:32
Dat hielp. Kees voelt zich weer een stuk warmer van binnen en zijn vingers glijden soepel over de hals.

10:58
Nog maar een keer Hey Jude dan.

11:19
Al genoeg voor een bezoek aan de bakker? Dat wel, maar nog te weinig voor bier. Even doorzetten nog.

12:05
“Ha Kees”, roept de bakkersvrouw, “zelfde recept?”
Kees knikt.
“Vandaag is ‘ie van ‘t huis, Kees, omdat het zo koud is. En een lekkere grote mok koffie erbij. Kun je lekker je handen opwarmen.”
Kees neemt de koffie en z’n broodje aan en gaat zitten aan het achterste tafeltje in de hoek. Nooit gedacht dat het luxe zou zijn, om je even op te kunnen warmen.

12:58
Nu toch nog geld voor bier over. Meteen maar even naar de slijter voor de middagvoorraad.

13:10
Pokkeversterker. De accu kan niet tegen de kou. Het geluid wordt vervormd tot een iele toon die niet meer Jimi Hendrix waardig is.

14:00
De versterker heeft het opgegeven. Toch nog maar even door zonder.

14:49
Drie blikkies verder. Kees vindt dat het spelen hem goed afgaat vanmiddag.

15:23
Pokkeleven dit zeg. Mensen herkennen de kwaliteit van zijn spel niet eens.

15:46
Het bier is bijna op, z’n handen zijn stijf. Zo had hij zich het leven van een professionele gitaarspeler niet voorgesteld. Kees kapt ermee voor vandaag.

16:06
De opvang gaat pas om 20:00 uur open. Tot die tijd maar in de stationshal op een bankje wachten.

17:56
Het laatste blikkie is nu ook op. Nog een eurootje over. Kees heeft ‘m in zijn geheime jaszak gestopt. Die is voor morgen.

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My Maker Moment

My Maker Moment

Yesterday, Phil Shapiro shared two of what he calls Maker Moments in his life.

People who are makers are sometimes blessed with a moment in their lives that gives them great pride in being a maker.

His first moment was during the early nineties, when he got into a classroom with slightly retarded kids glued to the computer screen, playing his puzzle game.

When the bell rang at the end of class, the students refused to leave the computer lab, even though another class was waiting to come into the computer lab. They wanted to play “just one more puzzle.”

The second moment he shares is when someone  emails him out of the blue to tell that:

“Our school in India loves your children’s storiesand we’ve printed them all out in braille.” […]

I tried visualizing these students passing their fingers over the braille pages, reading stories I had written. Half a world away, students whom I’ll never meet were enjoying stories I conjured up in my mind. That realization gave me great joy and pride of craftsmanship.

Phil’s stories triggered  some memories of my own. I wouldn’t coin myself a maker (yet), but I am a creator, so I know the feeling he refers to. My most recent experience with creating something special for others was when I organized the event Make Stuff that Matters together with my husband last June.

We invited friends, colleagues, clients and family to our home to introduce them to all the cool tools that can create almost anything and inspire them to become makers. We hosted over 40 people during that day and since most of them had only read about 3D-printers and laser cutters, but never used one, we designed a process to get them from non-makers to makers within one day. It’s what we hoped to achieve, but we’d never done this before, so we felt very nervous whether we could pull it off.

My Maker Moment was around 4:30PM that day.

The build up to my moment starts just after lunch.

We arranged for five 3D-printers and a mobile FabLab to give people ample opportunity to actually make something themselves. During the morning we took time for people to get to know each other and create persona’s in small groups that they could design things for. It was only after lunch that we were finally ready to start using the cool tools.

We hooked up Doodle 3D to all the printers as a easy starting point for people to create their first objects. Doodle 3D is a very easy to use interface to draw something and send it to the 3D-printer. It resembles drawing on paper and works particularly good on tablets. The software allows you to determine the height and rotation of your drawing, which results in a printed object that can stand on its own.

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‘Harry’ needed love, so someone Doodled a heart for him.

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Typical Doodle 3D objects.

It only took about an hour after the group first started making things, when the first participants asked me about the software they could use to create proper 3D-models. A little while after that, the first person showed up with a SD-card and asked me how to print the file. Of course they didn’t know about using Cura to translate the 3D-model into a printable object, so I showed them where to download the software and how to load and save the model for printing.

More and more people were tackling more complex things within hours of their first sketches. The knowledge what software to use, and which files to export to for printing, spread through the group rapidly and one by one, the Doodle 3D’s needed to be removed from the printers so people could print proper 3D-models.

It was around 4:30PM, having spent most afternoon explaining how to use the software, the 3D-printer, fixing design issues and solving printer issues, that I stood still for a moment in the middle of my home and looked around. Everywhere around me I saw people buried in their screen, fixing details on their designs, either on their own or in pairs. People were printing cool things, and handling the machines without even asking for my help. People were smiling. People were chatting. Adults were proudly showing what they created, as if they wanted to share their delight with their teacher.

IMG_7046

MSTM14

MSTM14

I stood there for a moment, looking at my friends, colleagues, family members, new friends (there are always wonderful people showing up whom I’ve never met before, but are in our online circles). We actually got them from non-makers to makers within a day and that was the moment that I realized our plan worked. It brought tears to my eyes then, and it brings tears to my eyes now.

My best Maker Moment so far.

What is yours?

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Creating alone together

Creating alone together

The past five weeks have been overly creative for me. The reason for that is that between doing proper paid for work for a client, I hooked up with Melina at a party of a mutual friend of ours. Both of us have been talking about meeting each other more often, but somehow we never came to the point of actually meeting. This time, end of January something clicked at last. We both were looking for a way of doing something creative. At the same time, we both acknowledged that it would work much better if we could do it together with someone, so there would be a real reason to produce (or in this case, a real person to produce for). Thus we arranged for our first meeting together and I’ll tell you about the creative process we created for ourselves.

During that first meeting at Melina’s wonderful apartment (a house I would love to move into: modern, bright, huge living-/kitchen area and hidden corners for desks and clutter) we talked, over coffee and sweets, about our interests and the projects we’re working on and have done in the past. At some point we started talking about the Lego-workshop I participated in a few months ago. Melina used to work at Lego HQ for a while and she showed me some mood boards she created. Based on our joined joint enthusiasm for Lego, we decided what our first step in the creative process we were trying to establish would be: build something using Lego based on our conversations and show that to the other in one week’s time.

Phase one: build something based on our conversation.

Amongst the many things we discussed, Melina told me about her latest project, in which she tries to connect the local art scene to the place where she’s from: Palo Alto, a sister city of Enschede. Keywords were crossing borders and building bridges. At home, I opened my Lego box (yes, I bought Lego for myself, because you’re never too old to play with Lego) and found some artwork built by friends’ kids visiting us a month before. One of them, neatly stacked bricks to create a big cube, inspired me to just take it and expand it. Co-creation beyond borders (the kids live in Switserland), generations and time! I used the stacks of 2×2 bricks, created a bit of space between them and build bridges.

My build:

My build for the creative process with Melina. Abstract translation of building bridges. Can you spot my ‘easter egg’?

One week after our first meeting we showed our objects to each other. Melina actually had to buy some Lego first so she went to our local shop and actually found (and bought) a wonderful retro piece. This is what she showed me:

L1010074

A retro piece on the left, brand new on the right. A representation of her quest to bring the funkiness (right) into the perfect dream (left), mixing the best of both.

Melina’s story was that the old piece was such a representation of the perfect (American) dream house, which in itself turned out to be not so pretty. The build on the right is very funky with a lot of unknown bits and pieces, which in itself is perhaps not entirely what you want either. Her ‘quest’ is to bring the funky bits and people into the perfect dream. Combined it will be something that works for everyone.

Phase 2: Create a poster based on the Lego piece and its representation.

Taking the pieces and the stories told around our objects, we would both create a poster. I like digital, Melina likes paper, so we both were allowed the methods we prefer.

I used this phase to get to know Illustrator a bit better and tried a lot of things. I had an abstract image in my mind, with on one side a perfect square and on the other side random spots. In the middle, where perfect meets random, something exciting should happen. Somehow, I couldn’t translate what I pictured in my mind to the screen (in paint I would be able to, but I didn’t have the time to arrange for that), so in the end I used the pictures I took of Melina’s build and tried all various manipulations on the photo’s. The thing that stuck was the option to create a mosaic of the photo’s, each square representing just the one dominant color in that square.

I decided to create a triptych: one of the perfect retro piece, one of the funky piece and one of both of them combined. To make the poster complete, I googled for quotes on perfectionism and I found a beautiful one from Hannah Arendt.

This is the poster I created:

drieluik_mozaiek_perfectionism

The poster I created for Melina, using the pictures I took of her builds, creating a mosaic of both sides and overlapping them (on the right).

One of the things that struck me when overlapping the two pictures, that it lost vibrant contrast compared to each of the pictures separate. So would it actually be a good idea to mix them? I don’t expect an answer 😉

In return, this is the poster Melina created:

IMG_0009_2

The poster Melina created for me, using magazine clippings and words to match the key terms in our conversations.

Melina took the classic approach, clipping magazines for things that reminded her of our conversations and sticking key words to it. Kragel? The keyword from the Lego-movie, which according to Melina covered exactly what we have been talking about. I still have to see the movie so I have to take her word for it ;-).

Phase 3: take the poster as an inspiration to make something.

There were many things on Melina’s poster that I connected with. Especially the object bottom left. After Googling a bit, we discovered it is called Centennial Chromagraph and represents the history of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. Together with the other piece of data visualization on the poster, I wanted to create my own piece of tangible data with the 3D-printer I recently acquired. The perfect incentive to finally start learning to draw in 3D, using Rhino (still available for free for Mac, due to developing stage).

First step was to find a relevant dataset that would be easily translated into a model (read: few data to add manually). I stumbled upon an article on people living cross-border in Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. I took the dataset of Germans and Dutch living in the border region, a theme that fits right in with the whole building bridges and cross-border theme we have running during the whole process. Not knowing how to create 3D models, I searched for tutorials and found one on creating a cup. I used this to create two separate vases, with each layer representing one bar from the chart.

Step one: finding the Data

The number of Dutch and Germans living in the border region between 1996 and 2010.

The number of Dutch and Germans living in the border region between 1996 and 2010.

 

Step 2: Creating the model

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In Rhino, I created a vase for each dataset, each layer representing one bar from the original chart. Using techniques I learned from this video.

 

Step three: Printing the models

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The two small vases that represent a dataset. Left: Dutch living in German border region. Right: Germans living in Dutch border region. 1996 is the bottom, 2010 the top.

Tadaa! My very first 3D data models.

Of course there are lessons learned. Biggest one: if you print something that becomes wider at the top, you have to take into account that the plastic needs to land on something. Doh! The model on the right printed beautifully, but of course the 90 degrees extensions of the model on the left are not 3D print friendly. The first layers are printed in…air.

I discovered the option to print the object with support material and I reprinted the bigger vase. Yet, it turns out to be not a very good solution. It was really hard to remove the material, resulting in damaging the print surface of the vase while removing it. Plus, the print quality underneath the extensions was still a bit…bad.

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On the left the vase without support material. Notice the threads hanging loose. On the right the same vase, with support material still attached.

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I had to use a knife and screw driver to remove the support material with a lot of force.

L1020047

Just to proof it really is the same vase ;-). A lot of surplus material and a lot of extra printing time. Advise: design it at an angle that will print without support material. For PLA I read somewhere that you can go up to an angle of about 60 degrees.

The second main lesson about 3D designing: it is really an effort to learn to use 3D modeling software, but even when you stick some basic objects together, you can still surprise yourself. Plus: once you have a model, it is super easy to get it scaled to whatever size you want in the software that comes with the 3D printer.

We created alone together!

Melina didn’t have time to create her thing based on my poster yet. She wants to create a big triptych for her house, so that might take a while. For now, the process seems done. In two weeks time we meet again and see what we will come up with next. It might be a new process with a new theme, or it might be with someone else or it might be nothing at all.

Having to produce for someone else, allowing ourselves to explore big themes together, creating things in our own pace and style. It were the right ingredients to get into a creative flow these past five weeks. A big gift!

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Spontaneous poetry

Spontaneous poetry

The death of Mandela led to many of my friends from all over the world posting something on Facebook, either a quote, a picture or an article. It touched me that so many people felt the need to say something and they inspired me to write this:

The bees are humming quietly
The leopards rest their claws
No ant today will cross his steps
And snakes will keep their rattle still
Merely the birds fly high and wild
For all have lost their precious child

No single man is ignorant
No woman left untouched
The captured firmly fold their hands
And free men raise their hopeful arms
Merely the baby cries out loud
For all have lost their precious child

The willows weep their silent song
The roses bow their heads
No river’s running wild today
And wind is keeping to himself
Merely dust whispers soothing sound
For all have lost their precious child

– Elmine Wijnia –

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