Tag Archives: swr

ChristmaSassy

8 Dec

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I used to absolutely despise Christmas. That was something I was very well known for among my friends. Everyone knew to not wish me a merry Christmas, get me any presents or expect any from me, and, when I was working for SWR Television, my boss knew it was me on the phone, telling her: “If you have work during Christmas, call me. I’ll be on duty for you for all the days.”

I was generally in an awful mood those days. When a friend introduced me to this song, I felt understood.

That was simply my mood. I just wasn’t a Christmas fan.

A week or so ago, I posted the following picture on my Instagram account:

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We’re going from Lisa Hannigan’s solo straight to that. A friend commented: “You used to hate Christmas, now look at you!” And I have to confess that this post is very much a response to this singular comment, because since she wrote it, it’s been bugging me. So, girl, this one is for you!

This is also a post about why we choose to celebrate certain events. It’s not necessarily about what Christmas means us personally, but about why we celebrate at allTo my friend’s comment on Instagram, I replied that I was taking every opportunity life gave me to celebrate LIFE.

And yet the question didn’t seem fully answered, because her comment continued to resonate in my mind.

I think, ultimately, what happened is the United Kingdom. I’m going to go about this analysis as an anthropologist would, because my question is essentially as socio-cultural one.

 

Point 1

Being a university student, I am strongly exposed to the world of social media. I know in Germany most of my friends don’t use Twitter, few have Instagram and some are still resisting Facebook. To the UK, that sounds a bit Middle Ages! All our circus society news is shared on our Facebook page, such as impromptu trainings or hilarious/beautiful pictures from our last sessions. I communicate with all my university friends on Facebook (because I’m in the Middle Ages and still don’t have a cell phone); I hashtag vicariously and hey! I blog.

Living half my life on the internet, one of my guilty pleasures is googling memes. Memes can be as smart, stupid or delightful as you desire, and in the midst of all the memes, I found one that is just my sense of humour, touching upon my touchiest topic.

GRUMPY CAT!

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People don’t know this, but I am terribly attracted to grumpiness. Again an SWR Television anecdote: a colleague called me to inform me that I would, unfortunately, be working with a certain camera man who I shall only call P. I asked her, “Why ‘unfortunately’?” She replied: “Because you’re such a ball of sunshine and he’s more on the grumpy side.”

I hide very well just how grumpy I am, because I’m usually sitting behind a book somewhere chanting Pacha Mama, Pacha Mama.

Hell, I loved working with Patrick. YES I SAID IT. Much like Garfield, he acted like he had bathed in dark matter, wore dark clouds as rings under his eyes, and when working with him, I knew to always bring him coffee. I adored him; he was sharp-witted, straight-edged, said what he thought and didn’t suck-up to the journalists. I respected him greatly for it. Here is a very old photo of us with a fellow camera man, at the firm’s Christmas (ironic) party. And yes, my sweater had the fattest stripes.

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But back to Grumpy Cat.

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In a world where Grumpy Cat exists, I think I can deal with Christmas just a little bit more.

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Point 2

After spending the majority of 2012 in Perú, a country where every second week a new national holiday is celebrated, I moved to Scotland. Scotland is cold. During the winter, the sun begins to set around 3pm. And in the midst of all this darkness, I became exposed to a fine British tradition. Tacky Christmas jumpers.

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And these really aren’t the tackiest. I will try to hunt some tacky ones down and photograph them for you.

The best part is that it’s mostly men who wear these, so we have grown men prancing about our uni campus sporting the most appalling jumpers, so cringe-worthy, that they are nothing short of brilliant. When one of our circus members showed up to our Christmas dinner without wearing something festive, we dressed him up in this:

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When you rock Santa’s belly, he HO HO HO’s endlessly. We did it non-stop.

Considering this new level of self deprecating humour on behalf of the Brits, you really can’t hate Christmas because you will burt into laughter just walking aroun campus. And if that isn’t enough, there’s always the ostentatious-creative side to it.

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This is what she means: Photo 08-12-2014 01 12 56

Yes, you can get them on Ebay: http://www.ebay.co.uk/bhp/christmas-nail-stickers

Celebrating in Germany was never as mad as this. We were always quite calm, with hot chocolate.

This, on the other hand, is what a Christmas tree looks like in Peru:

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So perhaps I genetically sign up to the mode of living that is 50% more lavish, more ostentatious and, well, more mad.

But how to celebrate in Scotland? My friends at Studio 202 suggested I fill my Christmas tree up with X-Men figurines, aerialists and pole dancers. A friend of mine decorated her entire flat, including the bathroom, with Christmas decorations to the point that we diagnosed her with OCD, Obsessive Christmas Disorder. And just when we thought we had seen it all…

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Conclusion

These are people who are having so much fun with Christmas – and by that I don’t mean Christmas-carolling about how peaceful the world is (here’s a link to BBC News), or how silent (lend an ear to Ferguson, or to the entire country of Syria), or how much they’re going to let it go, let it go, the snow never bothered me anyway – because that’s what I enjoyed about Lisa Hannigan’s version in the first place: it wasn’t hypocritical. It was explaining how people actually feel during Christmas, and the shocking truth that not everyone is jolly on Christmas. A lot of people are alone, don’t want to / can’t see their families and avoid public spaces because they can’t stand the Christmas jingles anymore; many people suffer from depressions, suffer silently, and pray these days will be over soon and the world will go back to normal. We really need to think about these people more.

No – these are people making fun with Christmas. Just as they ignore the nay-sayers who state Halloween is merely a commercial byproduct of the United States, and get all dressed up nonetheless, they’re celebrating life. They are making fun with what they’re given, and I want to be a part of that fun.

I must conclude that I, the project subject, have started enjoying Christmas due to the influence of what “celebrating Christmas” means in the British socio-cultural environment.

And I can’t wait to see what Grumpy Cat does on Easter.

 

The ChristmaSassy Idea 

So I’d like to end this post with a small idea. Wherever you are, however you’re spending Christmas, JOIN ME and post up your very own ChristmaSassy Memes. You can go mad on Photoshop/Gimp (a free, OpenSource version), or you can download a meme-creating app onto your phone like MakeAMeme+

You can make as many or as few as you like. Send them to me via Twitter/Instagram @rittisoncco, or rittisoncco@gmail.com. If we get a decent collection, I’ll post them up on my next post! You can always google for inspiration; you’ll see they can be whatever you want.

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Another way to Make Fun With Xmas: here’s a silly Christmas Drinking Game I heard about. Put a Christmas hat on your tv. Every time someone wears it, take a shot.

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And yes, I’m aware that all this is very First World Problems. That just happens to be where I am at the moment. So wherever you are, whatever you want to say – say it & send it to me. I look forward to it very very much.

Now, I really should get back to studying for my exams.

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Loneliness, Love and Discipline

16 Jan

I know what I'm doing

I was thinking a lot about this blog in the last month, especially the question: Why does anyone read it??? And yesterday, while chatting with friends, they both – simultaneously and spontaneously – thanked me for my blog.

Independent of one another, they suddenly answered my unspoken question.

Friend 1 said:

Reading your blog sometimes makes me really melancholic and I wish to drink some vinho tinto (red wine) with you. I miss crazy lovely people like you….it is difficult to find some of those in this hardcore scientist community.

Friend 2 said:

you know, with my studies being very scientific and chemistry and machines and all that, reading your blog gives me the creative and literary input that is missing in my studies. although i really like what i do, it is always so refreshing to read your blog and something that gives me a lot is that you let us be a part of your creative process.

Scientists! So that’s what’s going on.

If you read my because you want to know what it’s like to make a living as an artist, because you want to see a life different from yours, or because you like the creative input and challenges –  well, I can provide all that, but in doing so, I vow to be honest. All the dirty, sad, hungry, exotic, tender truth.

a vow

I was recently at a dinner party, and there was some confusion as to what it is I actually do. I don’t have a routine: I give aerial silks training once a week, occasionally I give a circus or film workshop somewhere, and every now and then I have an aerial performance or give a reading. Other than that, I’m free to wander about or stare at my socks.

“I imagine that the most difficult thing is having the discipline to sit down, every day, and write,” someone said.

My answer surprised even me: “Actually, the most difficult thing is not getting a job. When you’re hungry, and worried about how to pay the rent, the most normal reaction would be to GET A JOB. But if you’re an artist, a film maker, or a writer, then that’s a wrong move. What you need to do is make money with your art. If you’re hungry and worried about the rent – what better motivation than to start publishing, start painting, start making films.

One week later, I have to say I was wrong. I’m looking for a part-time job at the moment, just to have the security of next month’s rent, and to get out of the house. I’m too good at isolating myself. My loneliness is my own fault.

Also: a part-time job is a good distraction from your art. It can give you surprisingly good input, and might just reinforce your artist career choice: “Thank god this is temporary, I could not do this the rest of my life…” You might just go home and write a little harder.

Amanda Palmer made a good point about being productive members of society, and how artists work in today’s society. I’m mostly just including this because I liked it a lot.

I spent the pre-Christmas days thinking a lot about discipline. I was supposed to be editing a film, and I just couldn’t get my shit together to do it. I had bad Christmas blues and my socialising was only happening online.

… And suddenly, SWR televison called. (This might seem a bit random so for a quick recap: I worked for SWR for 4 years and am still friendly with everyone at the radio & tv studio. I have given a few interviews on my work for both SWR radio and TV in the past. They call every now and then when they need an actress to do something strange or funny. The first time they called, they needed a Neanderthal. I have that video somewhere.)

usually, I did this

usually, I did this

I rarely got to do this, but when I did, I made sure I documented it with many pictures!

sometimes I got to do this

Back to pre-Christmas 2012! Journalist Bernd Schlecker wanted to do a piece about motivation and overcoming your “inner hound” (that’s a bit lost in translation – German: “innerer Schweinehund”). He wanted me to act and give a short interview on what it’s like being an artist who has to constantly overcome the inner fiend.

Just when I was thinking about that topic… television calls. How often in life can you say that?!?!

We filmed in my new apartment. We even filmed my bookshelf. Pictures by Mr Benjamin Paul.

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They came over bearing gifts: ice-cream, chocolates, and even more chocolates. The deal was that I eat everything for the film. I did my best.

shovelling ice-cream with cookies

the shovelling-ice-cream scene

the relaxing-on-bed scene

the relaxing-on-bed scene

On the 2nd January 2013, the piece aired on SWR. I was still on the road back from Hamburg, so I missed it (and missed telling you), but that’s okay, because you can watch it on the SWR Website:

http://www.swr.de/landesschau-bw/zoom/-/id=7263158/did=10798798/pv=video/nid=7263158/2q2qcg/index.html

Or here:

So… With all this going on… Why does my life still sometimes feel so empty? Am I ungrateful if I say that I sometimes feel like I’m missing my purpose?

For me, I think it all comes back to what I said in the beginning: when you’re an artist / writer, you can structure your life yourself … and mostly, you end up not structuring it at all. I said to a friend today: “Perhaps I should be living up the artist side of it more: I should get drunk, do drugs, go to sleazy bars…” Honestly? I don’t want to. So I mostly educate myself by reading, edit films, and write emails to convince people to hire my workshops.

Being a writer is such an abstract thing. I don’t have a painting or film I can point at. I have a book, but it’s not loud and it doesn’t come with colourful pictures. Complaining to Ben today, he agreed: “As a writer, you don’t really get feedback until your work is over.

And I realised: “Yes… BUT I HAVE MY BLOG.”

And with the blog, sometimes, just sometimes, things like this happen:

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I celebrate every word of feedback, every email, and every card. This card was waiting for me in the mail. Among many beautiful lines, here is one I read over and over again:

I am excited about your novels, after the short extract I really can not wait for the whole book.

When I talk about LONELINESS, I mean my self-doubt and my isolation.

When I talk about LOVE, I mean your feedback. My work has been getting a lot of love. Thank you.

When I talk about DISCIPLINE, I mean my inspiration fuelled by you the audience – somehow interested, somehow touched.

You may think that I don’t know what I’m doing. Just because I don’t have a plan. I don’t have a plan. But I know what I’m doing, I do. I’m struggling to be a writer who needs to find out how to structure a writer’s life.

To Qayqa: It’s been a long Christmas break. Mark and I are meeting again this week to continue work on the illustrations.

To Munay: This is the book my notes are in. photoTranscribe notes into computer. Finish Munay. This is my year to focus on being a writer 100%. START. WRITING.

To all you artists / writers / film makers / dreamers out there: I’m scared too. I think too much. I stare at my socks (what SWR filmed is true). I don’t hide in sleazy bars, but I know plenty of artists who do.

But everyone I admire was scared, lonely and depressed. Everyone I admire thought they couldn’t do it.

I don’t know why we hide from what we love. I’m glad I have my blog to remind me that People Are Interested. Right now, I’m putting my words out into the wide internet, and I’m feeling understood. Tomorrow: Discipline.