January 31, 2006

J'ai vu tuer Ben Barka - an IFFR review

As promised last week a quick review of the films that I’ve seen at the International Film Festival Rotterdam - which is still on until this weekend by the way, so if you haven’t been yet: go!

We saw two films:
J’ai vu tuer Ben Barka – a French/Spanish/Moroccan film about the assassination of Mehdi Ben Barka in 1965. A true event which involved the French secret service and police, but also French intellectuals such as Marguerite Duras and Georges Franju.

Ça m’est égal si demain n’arrive pas - a Belgian film (French spoken) which the director classified as an ‘experiment’ in the Q&A afterwards. Uhm, yeah, right. And why did you need to show us your experiment? I won’t bother with a more detailed review. Suffice to say that it had nice images, lovely music but I think this will be forgotten fairly quickly.

But, back to J’ai vu.

Unfortunately we walked in a few minutes late, so we didn’t catch the beginning of the film. And partly because of that it was pretty overwhelming and difficult to get into at the beginning.
As I mentioned, the film describes a true event in 1965. The director afterwards had to confirm this a few more times in the Q&A-session, as especially for non-French it is a very unknown topic. It describes the development of a plot to assassinate Mehdi Ben Barka, a Moroccan who was a prominent opposition leader in Morocco (I got the impression from the story that he was also involved with the Non-Aligned Movement, although after a quick Google I can’t find anything definite about that yet).

The film was divided into different parts (about five, if I remember correctly) which looked at the story from different perspectives and characters. Many people were involved, knowingly but also unknowingly such as the above mentioned intellectuals, and it uses these groups of people to give more detail to the story. Many people from the audience commented afterwards that the whole setting with the music and atmosphere felt like a film noir.

It was an impressive film. Because of the subject matter obviously, but also the good acting, the format of the film and so on.
It was also very interesting as French colonial history (which this was indirectly linked to) is something I hardly know anything about.

January 29, 2006

I'm extending the weekend


[I do have to work tomorrow, so I guess it doesn't count like a proper extension of making it into a long weekend.]

LTJ Bukem and MC Conrad at Off_Corso.
One of the best dnb-parties I've ever been too, and that was two years ago. Hopefully tomorrow will be just as good.

January 27, 2006

The Cabaret Saga continues...

Bwhahaha! We appear to have tickets :-D
None of us know how this has happened but we now miraculously seem to have eight tickets. Yay!

January 25, 2006

The eternal job search

I don’t think I’ve complained about this whole jobhunting saga quite enough on here.

In my weekly/daily search for new job ads I recently came across a couple from Japanese organisations. After an interview at one such organisation a few weeks ago I have decided that I definitely don’t want to work in the ‘Japan-community’, so to speak. It just feels too limiting and constraining. I wouldn’t mind at all if Japan and Japan-related things would be part of a job, but I don’t want to be involved exclusively with Japan. There’s so much more out there that I want to become involved with!
[and yes, this may sound weird coming from someone whose life has been centered around Japan fairly intensively - but luckily, not exclusively - for the past eight years]

But anyway, as I said, job ads.

It surprises me how unprofessionally Japanese organisations deal with recruiting. I have become used to ads which have all the information you could want for most other organisations. And if that information wouldn’t be enough, it gives you plenty of ways of getting in touch with the organisation to get more. And, most things go by email or an online application. Which is really the way I think it should be.

Not so with Japanese organisations. One ad was quite surprising. The qualifications/requirements specifically stated (and these were first on the list) that the successful applicant has to be female and between 25-30 years old. Isn’t that illegal in many countries? I thought it wasn’t allowed to select on age/gender/appearance.
Another ad asked to send a photograph along with the cv and cover letter. I thought it was a bit weird, but I’ve heard that it’s common in other countries to always include a photograph (it is in Japan, at least).

What else, most ads do not give any names or phonenumbers to contact for questions about the vacancy or the selection process. Even the letter I received after applying for the above job didn’t include any way for me to contact the organisation for feedback on my interview (it’s beside the point that I don’t need/want to do that).

Maybe I should become a HR-person for these organisations. At least these last few months have given me plenty of insight on recruitment!

January 24, 2006

Phone etiquette (#1)

Please, when you call me but can't reach me, leave a voicemail message if you're calling from an unknown number. There's a reason why you have that option.


[Am obsessing about a missed call today. It now looks as if it really is a jobrelated call, which only makes it worse that I missed it. They'll call back, right? At exactly the moment that I'm free to talk without my colleagues around?]

[update: okay, that was a bit of a rant. I don't like phones. I should have just called back of course. In the end, they called back and left a message. It's not about a job. Gah. It's about a volunteer thing though, which is cool, except that since making my interest known to this organisation for volunteering I have found two other volunteer projects that I'd much rather do... I guess I'm going to be busy this year... ]

January 22, 2006

I felt like a few more pictures....

In the Barri Gotic

@ Parc Guell

Casa Battlo (which we couldn't see from the inside due to maintenance unfortunately...)

The weekend highlight

After the very exhausting weekend last week, this one was much more relaxing. The best part of it was Saturday night.

As a belated birthday present to T., M. and I had bought tickets to see a play by the largest (and best?) theatre company in the Netherlands: Toneelgroep Amsterdam. We saw the play Kruistochten (Crusades) by Alan Ayckbourn.

I was a bit hesitant at first: the play started at 6pm, and was scheduled to last for five hours. Now I like theatre, but suspected that this might be a bit too much. I was very wrong.

Instead of it being one play for five hours non-stop, it consisted of three seperate plays of approximately 80 minutes each, with 30 minute breaks in between. After the first part, we all agreed it was very good and promising. But, considering that the three plays were supposed to tell the same story we were wondering how they would keep it interesting until the end.

Somehow every play had a twist to it which kept it interesting. It was funny, the actors were great - hmmm, Roeland Fernhout...;) -, despite a very sober decor the visual effects and music used made it original, and the cat! How could I forget Jaap, the cat. It was on stage for the full five hours, just sleeping, yawning, well you know, doing cat stuff. Very mysterious actually.
Every part highlighted different aspects of the story, gave a more prominent role to some of the actors, etc which gave you more and more details of the story. At the end, all of the pieces of the puzzle fitted together perfectly.

Anyway, what I mean, for the Dutchies reading this, go and see it!
It is part of the 'topstukken 05/06' series, a selection of the best four plays of this season. Kruistochten has a very deserved place in this selection, as far as I'm concerned.

January 21, 2006

Some shots from Barcelona!

Entrance to Parc Guell

View from the Sagrada Familia

Inside the Sagrada Familia

Yummy food

January 20, 2006

Should the situation ever arise, remind me then...

... to never get drunk when I still have to give a speech, or to never get up and give an impromptu speech after I got drunk. It tends to lead to embarrassing situations...

Today's new year's lunch from work was (again) an obvious example.
It was a lunch, ffs, but some people were pretty wasted by 4pm.
Especially embarassing when some colleagues constantly interrupted the department head during his speech. And when one scientist, who doesn't even directly work for us, got up and spent ten minutes telling us over and over again how much he appreciated our work and support for the science community, and how he regarded himself to be a brilliant scientist, whatever others might say.
Uhuh, and this was obviously the way to prove that. Right...

The speeches were weird, as always. The group of people at the top is a pretty tight in-crowd and they are constantly half-joking, half-insulting the people in that group and everyone else. These occassions are always fascinating as an anthropological study though. The group dynamic can be pretty surreal...
The catchphrase of today, though, was: "Well, actually, this is secret so I can't tell you. But I'll tell you anyway."

And one of the few jobs I would want to stay for is the secretarial position for exactly the man saying that. Everyone else was scaring me and making me completely nervous when I had to replace his secretary (a.k.a. my boss) last week. But he's actually the best manager I've had to work for so far!

[The discrepancy between his image and reality became clearer later last week, when he started panicking about me being away for one day and how he would have to put up with any of the other, much more experienced, secretaries. Quite funny. He just seems to be picky about the people he works with. But all you need to do is do your work well. And I've already discovered that some people could use plenty of improvements in their way of working!]

But well, what am I talking about.
We all know I couldn't bear to be stuck in a secretarial job ... Although it would make life a lot easier!

January 19, 2006

Movie time!

I've been studying the programme of the International Filmfestival Rotterdam, which was released today, this evening.

How am I ever supposed to make up my mind? The festival is playing 220 movies and documentaries... Even if I would want to look more specific (say, only Japanese movies) I still have too much choice!

We're planning on going with a group of five on one night (and will probably go with other people on other nights). Hopefully they won't be too picky! I don't really care, it's always been fun. I've seen Greek tragedies transposed to modern Brazil, Japanese horror, Irish drama, etc etc and it's always been good. Or if not good, at least interesting and something different than the usual Hollywood-stuff...

Reviews will follow after I've seen a few!

January 16, 2006


[Update nr. 2]
I've officially given up. From today onwards you can download a form to order tickets. Everything that's in by the 23rd gets put into a lottery. I really can't be bothered anymore so I won't be going this year.

Ah well, Barcelona did enough harm to my bank account as it is so 'tis not so bad. Something else fun will come up I'm sure. Speaking of which, it's Leiden's jazz week next week! Should be fun :)

So after the disaster on Monday, my friends and I were all ready at 15:00h for round 2 of ordering tickets for the Leids Cabaret Festival.

What followed were a bunch of error messages.

At 15:06 all four evenings were supposedly sold out.

A few minutes later only the final night was partly sold out, but still only error messages when trying to order.

At 15:45 the site went down again....

I'm sure it can be difficult to have such an event go smoothly, but this is getting out of hand.
Oh well, only 1,5 hours more of work, and then it's the weekend: Barcelona!!

Buying pre-sale tickets for a hugely popular event sucks!

On my initiative a group of my friends want to go to the Leids Cabaret Festival next month.
Tickets came on sale 50 minutes ago. We've decided on the semi-final which means that we're only allowed two tickets per person [try to organize this amongst a group of working people... it took all week to figure out who has internet access, who has a creditcard etc].

Of course, the site has been down since the sale started...

This isn't even anything like a mega-concert for U2 or any of those things that sell out immediately. I can't believe it's always so difficult to get tickets for this.

Of course, each time that I've been was loads of fun, but this is just really really annoying... [especially since I'm not very sure now if all 9 of us will be able to get tickets].

One of my friends just spoke to one of the people of the organisation. Apparently there's smoke coming from the server! Haha, I sure hope they'll organize this slightly better next year. [but in the meantime, no tickets yet...]

Just home from work and French tutorial to find the website for the LCF announcing that due to technical problems tickets will now go on sale on Thursday. Is it just me or is this totally non-professional? I kind of think they should have seen such a crash on the site coming...

January 15, 2006

Back from Barcelona

The weekend was fabulous.
Barcelona is an amazing city, the trip was too short (with too long travelling hours) but it felt as if we were away for a much longer time.

A few highlights:

* lunch in the sun under palm trees (at Placa Reial, and in January!)

* cava and oysters as a start of a gorgeous dinner

* Barcelona views from Parc Guell

* dancing and drinking at La Paloma; or, how a ballroom dance event for 40+ aged Barcelonites changes into a packed techno-night in seconds

* and much more: Sagrada Familia, Fondacio Joan Miro, Barri Gotic, El Raval etc etc.

* oh and, on the flight back the sky was clear blue and I spent ages gazing out at the French Alps... Tall mountains, all completely snowed under, breathtaking views that went on forever.

To keep a bit of the Barcelona feeling, I'll be starting in Carlos Ruis Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind.

(and I hope to have pictures up soon too!)

January 10, 2006


It's been a long time but finally: a Japan post!

KitKat has a tendency to invent weird KitKat's. I wrote about one of them here (Uji Maccha) And through Tokyo Metrobloggers I discovered their most recent invention: sakura KitKat!

Obviously this particular one is pink. Yes, pink chocolate...
I suppose the taste would be similar to sakura mochi, without the mochi? Hmm, quite curious!

For the campaign KitKat is using the same slogan as last spring: Kitto Sakura Saku yo, 「きっとサクラサクよ」, which I've always interpreted as "Don't worry, the blossoms will definitely bloom." [a.k.a.: no matter what happens, no matter how hard your exams might seem, you'll pull through, everything will be alright! and imagine lots of happy Japanese smiling and speaking in encouraging voices at the same time]

Usually I'm not very impressed with Japanese advertising and graphic design in posters/ads/etc (with some notable exceptions of course, such as the recent Sony Bravia commercials). The KitKat campaign was done really well I thought. It showed that they had actually thought out an audience and a strategy to promote their products which is usually lacking in Japanese advertising.

The campaign was huge in February and March last year during the period of university entrance exams. Sakura is of course THE symbol of a new beginning: spring is starting, anything can happen in the new season. And for many teenagers finishing senior high school it is a huge new start: university. So, therefore it was mostly aimed at 18-year-olds, and students graduating from university to start their life as a shakaijin. And I guess they are also an audience who'll buy lots of chocolate!

But still... pink chocolate... hmm.
(I also heard about the red wine KitKat that they put in the shops a while back. That sounds just vile!)

January 08, 2006


Well, not really.

While unpacking some last house stuff I came across lots of stuff from Australia!

I can't believe I haven't been there for so long. Had a quiet night, listening to some old cd's: Things of Stone and Wood, Violent Femmes [ok, not an Oz band, but one that belongs to my time in Tasmania], Hunters & Collectors, Silverchair ... seriously hadn't listened to those for years. And well, just generally thinking that Hobart is a great place :)

January 07, 2006

Japanese vs. French

I'm confused.

After coming back from Tokyo last summer I decided that it was time again to start working on my French. I've studied it for 6 years in high school, but having spent the years after that solely on Japanese my knowledge of French was now pretty much non-existent.

So, I have a French tutor, a regular French lunchdate and I do bits and pieces myself. And have hardly touched any Japanese stuff since.

Don't like this at all though. My French is not improving as quickly as I had hoped (mostly because I'm too lazy to work for it!), but I'm also afraid to lose my Japanese. Gah. The last week or so I've started reading Japanese again but I know that once my French lessons start up again (in two days, this weekend should really be spent doing my homework) I need to stop because it'll just interfere.

Solutions anyone? How do you juggle languages?

Maybe I should just forget both and join my colleagues on Monday for their intensive Russian course! Who knows, Kazakhstan might not be so far away after all then ;)

Movies! From penguins to samurai to Jedi

It's been quite the movieweek the last few days. And it's taking some time to adjust to each new movie too!

The last few nights I went from the penguin-documentary (beautifully shot, but pleeeaase stop the annoying Dutch/Flemish narration) to a Japanese version of King Lear, a.k.a. Ran (乱) from Kurosawa (I'm turning into a fan, can someone please get me the dvd-collectors-boxes? Both sets?) to Jedi-warfare in Revenge of the Sith (entertaining enough for a Friday night, although good acting is clearly not required).

As I'm writing, my tv is on another Japanese samurai film: Gohatto from Nagisa Oshima. It looks interesting, with a major role for Takeshi Kitano, but I think this will go on my Still To Watch-movielist...

Am impatiently waiting for the programme of the IFFR to become public. I try to go when I'm around and it hasn't disappointed yet. It's always unusual, and the movies are not always equally good but it definitely makes for an interesting night (or two).

For now though, おやすみ!

January 04, 2006

La guerre du gaz

I wonder what this year will bring if the first major news story is about energy issues. The newspapers (in Europe, at least) have been reporting non-stop since Sunday about the gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The French in Le Monde are calling it the first official war declaration of the 21st century and are talking about a 'guerre du gaz'.

After spending much of last year researching Russian energy issues from a Northeast Asian point of view these topics remain interesting.
It's good to hear that the conflict is solved, for now. And it has confronted much of Europe with the negative effects of being dependent on only a few suppliers.

As my paper put it yesterday, 'energy is politics'. It hasn't been part of economic policy for a while, it is now more and more about politics and strategy.

Accordingly, it's time to get my jobhunting going again... (but first I'm off to watch some penguins!)


Blogs are funny things, aren't they?

You sort of ramble on into infinity about stuff that probably only you care about. People read. People comment. And you ramble on a bit more. Quite entertaining really.

I was quite surprised to see that people still check back here (thanks!) every now and then, even when I'm not posting.
Maybe that should be a 2006 resolution: post more and keep the blog interesting. If I fail (don't be afraid to tell me), I'll just stop completely with this whole thing, okay?

2006: Resurrecting a social life

I seem to have a thing about thinking that I’m not making the most of my time. As in, I should be out and about more, meeting new people, doing a bit more of the so many fun things that are out there.
Okay, put it like this, and it all sounds a bit compulsive obsessive. Luckily, it’s not that bad. I do actually enjoy the stuff I do.

But, the last couple of weeks/months have been a bit too quiet for my own good. So it seems that January is becoming a month of making plans. Which I like.

So far I have added to my agenda since Monday:
* Barcelona! (okay, not really since Monday, but I'm finally reading up on what I'm supposed to go and do there)
* March of the Penguins
* Bad Attitude@SugarFactory
* Michelangelo@Teylers Museum
* Rotterdam Filmfestival
* Kruistochten
* Camp

Yay! Fun!

Now I just need to get my volunteer thingy's started, throw in some social engagement stuff, and oh yeah, get a proper job but this year should be good. (And I'm expecting those new people to come automatically by being out more)

Looks like this newyear’s resolution might actually be working...