Enjoy! If you need me, I'll be on the couch with a nice glass of Pinot Gris and Dr. House.
Tuesday, 28 October 2008
Enjoy! If you need me, I'll be on the couch with a nice glass of Pinot Gris and Dr. House.
Monday, 27 October 2008
This band will forever be special to me because I grew up listening to their music. Saturday mornings I would literally vibrate out of my bed, as my dad would crank up the speakers and start the weekend with us dancing around the living room, playing air guitar with random objects, or playing the drums on pots and pans. "Made in Heaven" was the last studio album featuring the legendary Freddie Mercury, and I've always loved the video for "You don't fool me".
And because I am a sucker for bombastic musical displays, here's showman Mercury once again, this time with the lovely Montserrat Caballé in a powerful performance of "Barcelona".
The Dutch government has become increasingly xenophobic in their immigration policy in recent years, and have no problem locking underaged asylum seekers in prison. But when our own citizens are concerned they're very forgiving, and for the less fortunate there are many safety nets in place. The Dutch vagabond is therefore a special breed. They are either radical anarchists who find the concept of housing a petty-bourgeois expression of decadence, or incurable heroin addicts, but the vast majority consists of mental patients who refuse to be medicated. This makes for some pretty entertaining hobo encounters. There was the guy who smashed a hole in his mini keg and threatened to spray everyone at the bus stop with beer. I came to the aid of a rather immobile old lady sitting there, and ended up being chased for five blocks. And for as long as I can remember there has been one very loud tramp in the Eindhoven city centre, holding up signs with erratic slogans and screaming at the top of his lungs "Men lie, because women believe lies!".
Just a few weeks ago I was walking to my local supermarket, when I was cornered by a very creepy looking toothless creature, who demanded to know why I dared to walk there dressed like that (I live in the Utrecht red light district, which is just a tiny old street with prostitutes behind the windows on both sides). I was slightly offended by that question, since I did not find my skirt and boots particularly whorish looking, but I answered him with a "Why wouldn't I?" and a disgruntled stare, when his face suddenly cleared up and he belted "Wow, you must really have a sense of self-esteem, good for you!".
But my most formative Dutch hobo encounter happened almost nine years ago. I was fresh out of high school when I arrived early that morning at the Tilburg train station. Not being very punctual, I had missed breakfast and bought a nice cheese baguette before hopping on the bus. On my way there however, I spotted a homeless man eating out of a garbage bin. Bright eyed and overflowing with good intentions I walked up to him, offering him my sandwich. He looked in the bag, grunted, and handed it back to me, saying "I don't like cheese". After which he proceeded to stuff his face with cold mouldy fries from the bin.
"When dealing with the insane, the best method is to pretend to be sane."Hermann Hesse (1877 - 1962)
Saturday, 25 October 2008
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
So if you could just elect the sane, non-creepy and coherent one that would mean a lot. Thanks!
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
I'm ashamed to admit I was never that into Johnny Cash, until I heard this song. The lyrics are great and it always reminds me of a fantastic time had around the camp fire on the Wild Coast in Coffee Bay, when we were drunk and merry and screamed together;
"My name is Sue, how do you do, now you gonna die!"Here's "A boy named Sue".
Monday, 20 October 2008
It was a cold morning when the phone rang. I had the day off, and was going to spend it in bed with a book and some music, or so I thought. "The last biopsy tested positive for carcinoma something or other." The voice on the phone suddenly seemed very far away. It said that this would change nothing, everything would be fine, and to go ahead with my round the world trip as planned. I told the voice not to be stupid. More news would soon follow, there was no need for me to come home, unless I wanted to. In a daze of tears and panic I knocked on my flatmate's door.
This is what I'd feared all along. For over a year now, her doctor kept assuring my mother that the lumps in her neck were nothing to worry about. But of course he was wrong. I had been trying to convince her to go to a different (bigger) hospital, but she always refused. Never having gone to college, my mother had an endless amount of faith in medical professionals. I tried to explain that slacker D students and frankly complete idiots can end up becoming doctors, and that getting a second opinion was very normal these days. But it was no use, and eventually I gave up. You start to feel a bit weird when you keep trying to convince someone who feels fine and literally has a clean bill of health that they might have a life threatening disease. And of course I wanted to believe she was healthy too.
I spilled my guts with my flatmate and tried to compose myself. Then I went home. When I got there the general mood was optimistic, no, scratch that, it was determent. Dad had been on the phone all day, and it had been decided that her treatment would be continued at the Anthony van Leeuwenhoek hospital (also known as the Dutch Cancer Institute). The staff there were great from the very beginning, making sure all waiting was kept to an absolute minimum, and in general just being very helpfull and warm and smart about everything. It turned out the cancer had spread to the lymph notes in her neck (hence the lumps) but the tumor itself was nowhere to be found. Many tests later, it turned out to be tongue cancer. A very rare form that usually only strikes very old, heavy smoking males. Not fit and healthy 49 year old women (my mother quit smoking about 25 years ago).
They were very worried the cancer would spread to her lungs (in which case her prospects would be bleak), so they had to act fast. Surgery was scheduled to remove the damaged lymph notes and the tumor would be attacked with a severe combination of chemo therapy and radiation. My mum was fine with everything. From day one she literally said; "I'm not going to die, I don't care whatever I have to do, I refuse to let this beat me." I have never seen such grace under pressure. Throughout the months that followed, my mother was the one that kept us all sane. She is a pillar of her community, and it was strange to see how friends and neighbours all burst into tears on our couch while my mother comforted them and assured everyone all would be well. It was also very cool to see how many people love my parents, and for over a year she received cards, flowers, gifts and emails every single day! On her birthday she was ambushed by her art school friends "The Lolas" and surprised with a champagne breakfast and a car full of gifts, one of which being a portrait they had made of her, each painting a section from a photo they took. Of course she was very level-headed about the outpour of affection. She said; "We invest in people, and now it's our turn to cash in." You can't argue with that kind of logic...
The first time I actually saw my mother the patient, was after her surgery. A giant scar that ran from behind her ear down to the front of her shoulder marked the gap the operation had left in her neck, and it was obvious she was in a lot of pain. My parents initially didn't want my sister and me to see her like this, but I assured them that nothing we could find in that hospital bed would be half as scary as what we were imagening in our heads. It was frightening and awful to see someone you love so much in such a state, but we have never been closer as a family. Almost immediately after the surgery my mother had to report back for chemo and radiation. Having cancelled my travel plans and being the one living closest to the hospital, I spent a lot of time with her there and I am still very happy with every minute. It's a rare comfort to actually be able to do something when life is cruel to your loved ones, and those hours spent reading to her, playing cards with her or just sitting there, felt like the most important job in the world to me. It's no fun to watch poison eat away at your mother, but it's a lot better than not being there and feeling powerless.
We were all on our best behaviour, mostly saving our self-pity and bitching for private moments with friends, and trying to be strong for eachother, but towards the end of my mother's treatment, our thin saint-like veneer was starting to crack. It was the shittiest christmas ever. We didn't mean for it to be like that, but the whole thing was wearing us out. Because my mother couldn't enjoy food, we made no effort to do the whole christmas dinner thing, especially since my parents had to leave for the final week of chemo treatment on boxing day. We were snapping at eachother left and right and frankly, we just couldn't stand to hear the word cancer one more time. On boxing day, my sister went to have christmas dinner with her boyfriend's family, my parents left for Amsterdam, and since my boyfriend at the time was in Cambodia and I didn't want to bug my friends, I stayed at home with my shitty shitty mood. And that's when the phone rang. "Yeah, so we're putting a dinner together with some people, nothing fancy just six of us with some food and wine, and you're coming. I don't care how you get here or when, but you are coming and we're going to have a laugh and a drink together tonight." Naturally I was very happy to oblige, and this is just one example of the way my friends have been fantastic throughout the whole thing.
Two years have past since that dreadful phone call and it was weird to once again be back in that hospital. There are no sore thumbs here. Everyone you see either has cancer or is visiting someone who has it, so the atmosphere is very subdued and respectful. Sitting in the waiting room we saw two sisters coming out of a doctor's office, obviously having received horrible news. As we watched them collapse into eachother's arms we looked straight ahead in silence. We both hoped they'd would be okay, but mainly never to be in their shoes ever again.
Being the absolute champ that she is, my mother passed all the tests with flying colours, and we were out of there in no time.
I love you mama!
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Here's "El Tango de Roxanne", a brilliant mix of the Police's "Roxanne" and Maestro Mariano Mores's "Tanguera". I much prefer the album to the movie version, but unfortunately I wasn't able to find a good clip with it.
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Holyshit! These people are allowed to vote? Unsurprisingly, these are exactly the kind of uninformed yokels who fall for Karl Rove's underhanded tactics and repeat his blatant lies without criticism. I've been to Pennsyltucky and was on an eight hour bus ride with some of these relentless dumbasses. It was August of last year and even though there was hardly a political debate going on during that ride, when I got off I had no doubt as to which side these people would end up voting for. This is why democracy is a flawed system. Let's go back to an aristocracy, only this time based on IQ points. If you can't hit the 110 mark you should stay at home on election day and be made to read a book (that isn't the bible).
First up is 'Paint it Black'. When I was little I used to love 'Tour of Duty' and it's soundtrack has stuck with me long after the memories of it's characters started to fade. Here's a hilariously awful lip-synch performance from 1967.
The 1997 album 'Bridges to Babylon' certainly wasn't their best, but I've always had a thing about this song. And when I looked it up on YouTube I realised that freaking Angelina Jolie is in the video! Who knew? (presumably everyone but me...) Here's 'Anybody seen my baby'.
This is clearly one of the best songs in the world, and somehow Pharrel Williams managed to make it even better (the hot video helps). Here is the Neptunes remix of 'Sympathy for the Devil'.
The Wikipedia page devoted to journalists killed in Russia (the fact that such a page exists is frightening enough in itself) contains over 75 names and only goes back as far as 1994. It's a terrifying number which speaks volumes about the lack of freedom the Russian press endure, but it also says a lot about a government that is so arrogant that they barely try to conceal their content when another critical voice is silenced.
Diplomatic relations with Russia have also been notoriously difficult for years. The language used by the Kremlin and it's representatives is nothing short of hostile, if not aggressive. We should not kid ourselves into believing the harsh political climate is of a temporary nature. Putin has been buiding an empire from the start, and it will take enormous international effort to prevent Russia from becoming an even bigger threat to the former Soviet region than it already is.
What I don't get is how it got this far, again! The Russian people (historically, I'm sad to say I've never been there myself) seem to have a strange addiction to totalitarianism. They suffered the Tsars and the communist dictators, then a period of confusion (Gorbachev) and drunkeness (Yeltsin), and went back to business with a ruthless former KGB chief who would sooner give the whole Russian presscore radiation poisoning than answer to one of them about his policies. Why won't real democracy stick? Is it the old ideal of a strong leader who will make everything better if you just grant him enough power? Fear to express your opinions that has been passed on from generation to generation? A deeply rooted mistrust of western liberal values?
I don't have the answer of course, but I do hope the brave voices of the free press will not allow themselves to be silenced, because 'pravda' must prevail.
And especially, why we can't allow this loathsome toad to get anywhere near the White House ever again.
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Friday, 10 October 2008
A friend of mine organised it and the workshops look quite interesting, so I'll give it a whirl. Who knows, maybe I'll get a cool story out of it. Have a fantasticly mischievous weekend everyone!
Thursday, 9 October 2008
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
It got me thinking about my own stance on this topic and how it has subtly changed over the years, or maybe I'm just better able to explain it as I get older.
I don't believe in god. I can't prove that he/she/it doesn't exist, but I agree with Richard Dawkins that there seems to be more scientific evidence for the absence of a supreme being, than for a presence. I don't really care if you call me an agnostic, atheist or nontheist. Infadel is also fine, because it's true.
One could argue that the absence of a higher power makes life more difficult. There is no one to pray to when life gets hard, nor is there the promise of an afterlife. So when the shit hits the fan, you better start mopping, because you haven't much time before you up and die and it will all be over. When you make up your mind about right and wrong, there is no handy ancient manual that has all the answers. There is only your conscience, the things you have learned in your short life, and many, many shades of grey. Where do your rights end and those of others you disagree with begin? And when do you speak, and when do you shut up?
When I was a kid I went to a Catholic school for a few years (because we lived in a rural area and it was the only school there) where I had to pray every morning and prepare for my first communion even though I wasn't raised Christian. I still know the songs. It wasn't a very strict school with nuns and corporal punishment and such, so my parents didn't see the harm, and in hindsight neither do I. When I was in high school we learned about all the different religions and world views (as is compulsory in the Netherlands) and it wasn't really untill after 9/11 when the issues with fundamentalism exploded in all our faces that I was forced to voice my objections with organised religion in any other than a humorous fashion for the first time. All of a sudden it was us against them, and I was feeling very uncomfortable being painted with the same brush as people whose objection to what happened on 9/11 was based on faith, not moral outrage.
Richard Dawkins wants atheists to stand up, unite and rise against the religious oppression that has snuck into many aspects of our daily lives. I must admit when I first read his book "The god delusion" I agreed completely, but as I'm thinking further about the implications such a rise would have, I'm taking a step back. As he has said it is vital that the division between church and state is protected, but I do not think atheism has any more of a place in government and politics than religion does. I fear those who hate me for my lack of belief, but I fear more what will happen if we make the right not to believe a political battle ground.
People should be able to believe whatever they want to. I think there is much beauty and wisdom in the ancient scriptures of the Thora, Koran and Testaments. Personally I've always liked Matthew 7:12 "Do unto others what you would have them do to you". A message a lot of religions share. In principle they have a lot in common, however, the Christians think they are right in identifying Jesus Christ as their saviour, whilst the Muslims disagree and even though they also dig Jesus, they see Mohammed as their one true prophet. The Jews think both the Christians ànd the Muslims are full of it, because their savior is yet to come and they've obviously been had. (Yes this is a gross oversimplification of what the three religions stand for but I'm trying to make a point here.)
So whilst I respect that there are many thruths in these scriptures I also think there is a lot of outdated and scary gibberish in there that is not meant to be taken literally, especially in the year 2008. If people find solace and hope in believing in a higher power, then who am I to say that is a bad thing? But I feel that with all the different religions and spin-offs and cults, all the different groups that claim their truth is the only one, that maybe it's best not to grant any one of those groups too much power. Because they can't all be right, and what kind of god would play such a sorted game anyway? The greek gods definitely would. Theirs was a religion I could understand and found fitting for the unfair world we live in. Just a bunch of drunken megalomaniacs sitting on mount Olympus, playing mean spirited games with the people of earth for their own amusement. It's not a very nice picture of divinity, but one that sure as shit matches what I read in the papers every day.
But I digress. Faith comes in many shapes and sizes and religious fundamentalism is (though incredibly relevant and dangerous) not a fair measuring stick. A lot of people believe in something, a thruth they are comfortable with, based on what they have read, scripture as well as history and science, what they have experienced and what they know to be right. Faith does not equal ignorance. You can read the exact same things I do and come to a different conclusion, and that is just fine. I don't have any say about what anyone else believes and that is how it should be. I make my choices based on my perception of right and wrong and so should everyone else, provided they respect the laws of the land (and provided they live some place where the laws are reasonable). You can hate gays, infadels, abortion doctors and stem cell researchers all you want in the privacy of your own head, but luckily if you try to act on that, we can throw your ass in the slammer. We might be going to hell for it, but that's a risk I for one am willing to take.
Monday, 6 October 2008
Friday, 3 October 2008
My (naive) understanding of what a debate entails, is that an unbiased party asks a series of questions which all parties are then asked to answer within a certain time frame, in response to the question and each other's answers. Boy was I wrong!
Now, I admit that during this debate, I was enganging in some friendly online fun poking at Gvn. Palin at http://www.pajiba.com/palin-vs-biden.htm#comments so I might have been destracted at times. And when I did pay close attention, I got so pissed off at Palin's constant evading of the questions, merely spouting soundbites on que, that I stormed off to the fridge a few times to get a cold beer, fighting the urge to throw my tv out the window. So that's why I just read the whole transcript again on CNN to make sure that I wasn't full of it. Turns out I really wasn't...
WTF, why didn't this woman answer over half the questions she was asked, and why didn't anyone call her on it? This is really frustrating to me. Shouldn't at some point someone have gone "Ehm, I'm sorry governor, but what you're talking about has absolutely nothing to do with the question at hand, if you wouldn't mind terribly just to ANSWER THE MOTHEREFFING QUESTION!".
Now how is that answering the question in any way, shape or form? It's not! But the problem is her job tonight was not to answer the questions to the best of her abilities, as is a reasonable expectation from a potential vice president. Her job was not to embarrass herself too much (as she has done over the past few weeks) and especially not to think for herself. The bar was lowered considerably for her, and as I'm watching the post debate discourse, she is being judged on that level. It's infuriating! Any reasonable mind would find Joe Biden the uncontested winner of this debate, but that is not what counts. Because this election is not going to be decided by reasonable minds, it's going to be decided by people who 'feel' that Palin is genuine (a laughable thought, I haven't seen a shark this big since I went cage diving in South Africa), who 'feel' (shiver) that she is just like them. There is nothing more I can add to that discussion because many have stated my point earlier, more eloquent than I would have, and ad nauseum, so let me just say that it scares the bejeezus out of me. You know, if ever there ever had been any jesus in there...
IFILL: Let's talk conventional wisdom for a moment. The conventional wisdom, Gov. Palin with you, is that your Achilles heel is that you lack experience. Your conventional wisdom against you is that your Achilles heel is that you lack discipline, Sen. Biden. What id it really for you, Gov. Palin? What is it really for you, Sen. Biden? Start with you, governor.
PALIN: My experience as an executive will be put to good use as a mayor and business owner and oil and gas regulator and then as governor of a huge state, a huge energy producing state that is accounting for much progress towards getting our nation energy independence and that's extremely important. But it wasn't just that
experience tapped into, it was my connection to the heartland of America. Being a mom, one very concerned about a son in the war, about a special needs child, about kids heading off to college, how are we going to pay those tuition bills? About times and Todd and our marriage in our past where we didn't have health insurance and we know what other Americans are going through as they sit around the kitchen table and try to figure out how are they going to pay out-of-pocket for health care? We've been there also so that connection was important. But even more important is that world view that I share with John McCain. That world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are unapologetic here. We are not perfect as a nation. But together, we represent a perfect ideal. And that is democracy and tolerance and freedom and equal rights. Those things that we stand for that can be put to good use as a force for good in this world.John McCain and I share that. You combine all that with being a team with the only track record of making a really, a difference in where we've been and reforming, that's a good team, it's a good ticket.
Read the entire transcript on http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/02/debate.transcript/index.html
SNL's version. Very true to life. Hilarious but oh so scary... http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/vp-debate-open-palin-biden/727421/
Another perspective on tonight's debate http://www.deusexmalcontent.com/2008/10/vice-work-if-you-can-get-it.html
I would´ve loved to embed some of my favourite Krezip songs such as "Get it on", "Mine" and "Hey there love", but there isn´t a lot of quality video that I could find. So for now I´ll leave you with a beautiful live radio performance of "Forget what I said".