Maandelijks archief: januari 2009

Sex on canvas

In general I am a cultural lumberjack, and I cultivate that notion. However, I have one weak point. You may call it a passion too. I’m a big fan of Impressionism.

I know, I know, it’s a bit of a cliche. Everyone seems to like van Gogh, Seurat and Monet these days. But for a good reason. They are fantastic. Their paintings hit the right spot: perched between the masterful painting techniques of the old masters and the inventions of modernism. I could go on and rationalise it to death, but that would be the very antithesis of what impressionism is all about. Just look at the works and slowly let them absorb you. Personally I love that feeling; it’s a thing that I rarely get. And I had it twice these past few weeks. I’m a better man because of it.

Take these two works of art. They are both from Monet, from his water lilies series. The first I saw in the Tate Modern, with Bhuvanesh who emotionally broke down on  the spot when she saw it. It is simply called “Water Lilies”.

water-lilies

Sorry, couldn’t find a picture without men holding it. But men, these patches of purple. Genius!

The other one was in the National Gallery, which is one of the most impressive galleries I have ever seen. Happy happy joy joy when I entered the Monet room. Several of my favourite paintings brought together. One of my all time favourites, “Water Lilies Japanese Bridge” will not be given proper rights by displaying a picture of it here. Eelco, however, proved that it takes just an Iphone and a keen eye to capture the “Water Lily Pond”. He is very proud to have this picture as his background, and with good reason. Here it is. Fucking hell, what a painting. Soul-shattering … Sex on canvas!

photo

Draconisch?

Zo, eens kijken of ik een leuk discussietje kan opwekken. Het onderwerp klinkt misschien saai, maar is in principe controversieel: plastic tasjes.

plasticbagwasteIn Azie heb ik me regelmatig geergerd aan de zinloze overdaad aan plastic tasjes. Bij elk product wat je koopt, ook al is het 1 snijboon, krijg je een plastic tasje mee. Zelfs als je zelf een draagtas bij je hebt en die op de counter legt, wordt nog steeds vrijwel elk product in een tasje gefrommeld. Als je zegt geen tasje nodig te hebben, wordt er soms met onbegrip gereageerd. Een enkele keer leek de verkoper in kwestie zich zelfs beledigd te voelen, aangezien ik zijn service weigerde.

Het klinkt pietluttig, maar er is natuurlijk heel veel tegen die krengen op te werpen. Het kost meer tijd aan de counter, met langere wachttijden als gevolg. Je huis slibt langzaam dicht met al die nutteloze tasjes. Het kost de verkoper geld. Maar het belangrijkste is natuurlijk duurzaamheid. Vplastic-bird3rijwel alle zakjes komen in het milieu terecht en zijn zo onafbreekbaar als de pest. Plus het feit dat plastic voor een deel uit olie wordt bereid, en laten we daar niet al te veel meer van hebben. Redenen genoeg dus om wat minder lichtzinnig met die dingen om te gaan. Helaas dat werkt in Azie (en eigenlijk in de rest van de wereld) niet zo. De meerderheid van de mensen stelt nou eenmaal hun eigen gemak boven algemeen goed. Tegen gemakzucht en egoisme valt niet op te redeneren.

garbage-in-maldives-001Intussen begint Azie op sommige plekken dicht te slibben. Notoire voorbeelden zijn het vuileiland in de Maldiven en de verstikte rivieren in China. Maar natuurlijk spant ubervervuiler India weer de kroon. Rond Delhi is zwervend plastic zo’n probleem geworden, dat de overheid heeft besloten tot een draconische maatregel. Hou je vast. Iemand die een plastic tasje meegeeft aan een klant, krijgt tot 5 jaar lang gevangenisstraf. Je leest dit goed: 5 jaar de cel in voor 1 lullig plastic tasje. Als je als klant er een aanneemt, krijg je een boete van ongeveer 1400 euro.

Ik zelf vind dit eigenlijk prima. Laat de mensen maar eens met hun neus op de feiten worden gedrukt. Afgelopen met die instelling van als ik het makkelijk vind moet het kunnen. Mensen zijn nou eenmaal zelf te dom om rekening te houden met een groter goed, en al helemaal niet op de langere termijn. Dan moeten we het maar anders duidelijk maken.
Dus India: goed gedaan! Hopelijk volgt de rest van de wereld. Bangladesh and Rwanda hebben ook al een verbod. Zo moeilijk moet het verdorie toch niet zijn om gewoon je eigen draagtas mee te nemen? Maar ik kan me voorstellen dat mensen de Indiase maatregel absurd vinden. Prima, laat ze dat vooral uiteenzetten. Mijn comment box staat voor ze open.

Ode to no-one

That no-one being george w bush. Because honour where honour is due.

“Corrupt, you corrupt,
and Bring corruption to all that you touch.

Hold, you’ll behold,
And be holden for all that you’ve done.

Spell, cast a spell,
Cast a spell on the country you run.

And risk, you will risk,
You will risk all their lives and their souls.

And burn, you will burn,
You will burn in hell, yeah you’ll burn in hell.
You’ll burn in hell, yeah you’ll burn in hell for your sins.

Ooohhh.
Our freedom’s consuming itself,
What we’ve become is contrary to what we want
Take a bow.

Death, you bring death and destruction to all that you touch.

Pay, you must pay
You must pay for your crimes against the earth.

Hex, feed the hex
Feed the hex on the country you love

And Beg, you will beg
You will beg for their lives and their souls.

Yeah,
Burn, you will burn,
You will burn in hell, yeah you’ll burn in hell,
You’ll burn in hell, yeah you’ll burn in hell,
Burn in hell, yeah you’ll burn in hell for your sins.

So long and fuck you, mysogenic cunt.

(Lyrics from Take a bow, Muse)

Now THAT is a good column!

In my previous post I mentioned an article I read in the Daily Mirror. The daily that flies in the face of all things good about logic, reason and evidence. I found so much wrong with this despicable, miserable attempt of a newspaper, I could fill half of the internet with my annoyances. But I won’t. Why spend time on such worthless drivel, when one could also present one of the best columns ever published. In the Guardian, by a guy called TA Frank. Judge for yourself.

“No one thought Al Gore would be a loveable president, but, after eight years in the White House, he has gotten truly tiresome. The droning voice, the purchase of an eco-friendly robot dog, the campaign for carbon-free diamonds – all these things were hard to take, and he has been way too smug about reversing global warming. I think we’ve gone too far in the opposite direction, especially in light of the glacier that recently crushed Wasilla.

I think I started to dislike Gore when he stirred up a media storm after the Feds broke up the terrorist ring conspiring to fly airplanes into buildings back in 2001. He could have let it pass quietly, as Bill Clinton did with the millennium plot arrests in 2000. Instead, Gore held a press conference to milk it for political gain and scare us into a 15 cent per gallon gas tax. But who can afford to pay over a dollar and a half per gallon? No wonder we’re resorting to electric cars these days.

And why did he pressure the universally admired Fed chairman Alan Greenspan to step down early in 2002? Replacing him with that old warhorse Paul Volcker was a nasty surprise, especially when Volcker choked off a promising housing boom in 2002 and imposed old, outdated regulations on lenders. Some properties lost as much as 8% of their value that year. Now housing prices are rising really slowly, and GDP barely grew by 3% this year.

To be sure, Gore did accomplish some good things in foreign policy. The Middle East is definitely better off now that Israel and Palestine are separate states. It was clever to transfer the most diehard West Bank settlers to the Gore Biosphere in North Dakota. But in Iraq, even after the demise of Saddam from virulent salmonella, Qusay has proved to be no more agreeable than his father, and Uday is simply out of control. (Grinding up the players of the national football team and roasting the remains on a stadium-sized spit was the nadir of his coaching.) When a group of foreign-policy luminaries – from Bill Kristol to Paul Wolfowitz and Kenneth Pollack – urged Gore to invade Iraq and remake the entire Middle East, the president didn’t even listen. That’s rude.

Then, of course, there were the countless scandals and ethics problems. Recall that in 2003 a department of justice official failed to report receiving a bottle of Bordeaux wine from the French government, even though experts agree that its value would be in excess of the amount permitted as a gift. Then there was the case of politicising federal agencies, when Gore officials were accused of changing the wording in a report on global warming to say that it was a “severe” rather than a “serious” threat. The Republicans held hearings on that for weeks.

Of course, the biggest disappointment was Gore’s failure to handle Hurricane Katrina properly. Not only did the massive evacuation of New Orleans prove a costly and time-consuming overreaction, since the levees – fortified in 2003 – held up fine. The emergency management agency also took over 24 hours to set up trailers for evacuees along the Gulf Coast, leaving them without government housing assistance for a full day. And Gore’s decision to single-handedly venture into a flattened house in Mississippi and free a trapped two-year-old showed him to be an irresponsible showboat. Sure, President Gore knows CPR, hears like a German shepherd, and has the strength of 10 men – but we didn’t need to see it.

All in all, the Gore combination of psychodrama and condescension won’t be missed. It’s also time for the Democrat stranglehold on power to end. What we need now is a bit of adult behaviour: a Dick Cheney presidency won’t be eventful, but at least it will be calm.”

Four days and counting down …

In four days the world will finally emerge from one of its darkest eras: the presidency of george w bush, easily the worst, dumbest, most dishonest and hypocrit leader of a democratic state ever. Not to say that things will go better immediately, there is a lot of work to do on the smoking ruins that the idiot has left behind. But at least we know that he will fuck off and never return. That alone warrants a much more positive outlook on the future.

Now I don’t know what’s worse. Hardcore bush fans denying that the asshole did such a bad job after all, either out of complete ignorance or utter dishonesty, or reporters claiming the same thing, under the false pretense of  what they consider to be a necessary balance in opinion. A particular wry example I found in the Daily Mail, presumably as good as conservative media get in the UK.  (Don’t get me started …)
The journalist in question tried to make the case that bush is not the stupid, illiterate person almost everybody holds him for. Under the heading “So did we misunderestimate him?”, being only the sixteenth article I saw this week with this very same title, she argues that he is not just less stupid then we think, no, he actually is highly intelligent. Her evidence for this bold claim? She started with the following anecdote.
While personally interviewing him on his private jet, she found him quite charming and complimented him for that. His reply was that he thought she was the nicest British person on board. When she replied “Of course, I am the only one here” he sniggered long and loud because he apparently got it. That was it. I am frickin serious here, that was the main argument. So this journalist thinks that any person capable of exchanging tired, old, childish routines and actually laugh at them must be highly intelligent. What the fuck, conservatives put the bar for genius very low these days.

Of course she had more arguments. The second was that “w” went to Harvard and Yale and had higher marks than, for example, Al Gore. Now we can of course debate whether getting higher marks is a direct proof of being more intelligent. Also we are talking about business courses here, hardly the most mind-challenging subject one can study. But that doesn’t matter. What the writer forgets is that Bush is a member of a very powerful dynasty, which in the USA makes it a lot easier to get to the right schools and get nice marks. Even if you are a complete alcoholic moron, as numerous records showed he was at the time. And unfortunately this is not confined to the USA alone. Willem Alexander anyone?

But it was the third argument that really did it for me. Our thruthful reporter claimed that it was not true that Bush rarely reads. In fact, so continued, he reads about 100 books a year. All of them historical biographies. And then shot herself in the foot by stating, just one paragraph further, that Bush is official dyslectic and therefore may strike people as a bit dumb.
So she wants us to believe that a dyslectic person reads one book in three days, even if this person has one of the busiest jobs on earth? Then either those must be very thin books or indeed he hasn’t done much presiding at all. Apart from that, note the historical biographies part. Supposed that is true, it is hardly a sign for being an intelligent reader. Biographies … one of the lowest and most useless forms of print. Does he ever read a book on economics, science, ethics or philosophy? Or just a good work of literature? Apparently not. Georgie goes to bed each night, takes a torchlight under the sheets and reads about the lives of Ceasar, Napoleon and general Grant. Secretly he dreams away about the day that books like this will be written about himself, the last in a line of truely great commanders. He hopes that these books will be printed in big letters and with hy-phens be-tween the syl-la-bles, so he will be a-ble to read them with-out the help of Lau-ra.

But anyway, it isn’t true of course. In the beginning of his presidency, Bush boasted that he rarely read. No newspapers, no scolar books and no fiction. It inspired a comic show to the hilarious line “I am elected to lead, not read!” (although that was about the Governator). However, when it became painfully clear that his policies were failing all over the line, he tried to repair that image by claiming that he is in fact an “ecelectic” reader. This interview says it all, really …

Bunch of Stones or Spiritual Epiphany?

boefhofstonehengeI went to Stonehenge last week, accompanied by Boef alias the black version of Bridget Jones, … sorry there, the BROWN version of Bridget Jones, before I get in trouble again. I had really expected a lot of it (Stonehenge, not Bridget Jones), otherwise I wouldn’t have gone through all the trouble getting there. Trouble being:

COLD!

FAR AWAY LAH!

LAST NIGHT TOO MUCH BEER LAH!

DID I MENTION COLD?

BRITISH TRAINS!

FUCKING ARSE FREEZING OFF!

So that may give you a bit of an idea about how our journey went. In a nutshell: the temperature was low. However, we figured that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Given the probability that we must be the only two idiots who decide to spend stonehnge2their Saturday morning travelling to a bunch of stones in the middle of fucking nowhere at minus 10, we would be all alone there, leaving the serenity and mysticality of the place to just the two of us, thereby creating a spiritual epiphany never experienced on the British isles before.

stomnehnegfullAnd so we went … to get stuck up in an endless stream of Japanese, German, Korean, French, Chinese and British tourists waddling their way around the monument. The nearest you can get to the thing is about 200 m, which is perfectly sensible given its share of hooliganism that Stonehenge has received during the years, but it doesn’t really make for an awe-inspiring experience. The day was beautiful, the sky was blue and the shadows long, I was in good companion, we had fun but the place just didn’t work for me. Seen from afar, with all these other people knocking you over to get the best pictures, it was just what I was afraid it would be: a bunch of stones.

boefstonehengeI’m glad to say however that Bridget had her epiphany. Look how enlightened she is, I didn’t even know that brown people could get enlightened anyway. Yes yes, I learn everyday. Anyway, to conclude a happy day she thought it  fitting to buy some self-help CD’s, most notably one of Pink. Somehow I can’t connect the dots between the antics of Pink and the mystics of Stonehenge, but that’s okay. As long as Boef can. I guess they both helped to epiphane her up in their own right. How awefully eclectic.

Boef and Hof do Natural History Museum

Boef has gone back to Singapore and I’ve done my homework for this week. Time to work on my sadly neglected blog.

natural-museumWe have visited a couple of museums this week. There is a handfull of top-class museums in London, all of which are free. Except for the big expositions, but the queues for those are so big that we didn’t try anyhow.
First off was the Natural History Museum. They have an incredibly extensive display of fossils, stuffed animals, minerals and all other interesting stuff on earth. And the building is extremely beautiful, although a bit crowded.
The biggest crowd-pleaser is the dinosaur exhibition, including a robot T-Rex at life-size scale. It is a bit dodgy but a good way to impress little children. I found the fossil of this smaller dinosaur more interesting, since it has fossilised prey in its stomach. Just think of what scientists were able to conclude from that …
fossilfoodEven more fascinating were the remains of a mystery species of dinosaur, of which just the claws have been preserved. And they alone were awesome. About 2 meters wide and equipped with four very sharp nails. The rest of he beast must have been incredibly fierce. Or maybe just a fluffy little bunny with a growth on his paws. Who knows.

transitionIn the light of the ongoing discussion on “transitional” fossils (a bit of a bullshit discussion since every fossil is a transitional one; strictly seen every living thing that ever existed was a transition, as are you and me), I was delighted to see that the museum displayed a few recent discoveries. Among which this freaky creature. Some mixture between an armadillo, a hedgehog and an aardvark.

I am not a big fan of minerals and stones, but I must say the collection in the NHM was impressive. For example they have a piece of meteor with a bit of dust that was formed during the explosion of a star a few billion years ago. Boef marbleand I were fascinated by the display which read: “Look very carefully. These tiny spects of dust are the oldest things you will ever see.”
Less imaginative but quite cute was this piece of unworked marble that features the imprint of a quite lifelike natural landscape. Clearly proof of intelligent design. I mean, what are the odds of a piece of stone evolving by mere chance to exactly resemble this particular landscape? 😉