Thursday, 31 May 2007

my magniloquent dictionary

Besides quotes I also collect words. Interesting words. (But I'm the judge of what's interesting or not, of course.) I try to keep up with the several words-of-the-day I receive by email every day, but usually I have quite a hefty backlog to go through.

Some interesting examples from "today's" harvest:

Adoption of female clothing and manners by a male.
1. Excessive or flashy ornamentation or decoration.
2. A fuss over a matter of little importance.

Totall random picks:

A fabled submarine hall where a magician or sorcerer met with his disciples: placed by Cazotte ‘under the sea near Tunis’, by Southey ‘under the roots of the ocean’; used by Carlyle in the sense of ‘infernal cave’, ‘den of iniquity’.
Interpretive or explanatory.
1. A fellowship or association.
2. In the Roman Catholic Church, a lay society for devotional or charitable purposes.
a A woman who prostitutes herself for hire; a prostitute, harlot.
b. More generally: An unchaste or lewd woman; a fornicatress or adulteress. to play the whore (of a woman), to commit fornication or adultery.
c. A male prostitute; any promiscuous or unprincipled person. (Esp. as a term of abuse.)

And finally:

Lofty or grandiose in speech or expression; using a high-flown style of discourse; bombastic.


A huge one is just passing by, I saw the inkblack cloud rolling in from the southeast, soon shrouding us in a strange kind of twilight. It's just the electrical storm, no rain or wind - yet, this is a very wet country so it may still happen...

I was just in the kitchen and was momentarily blinded by one of the flashes. I wasn't even looking outside, I was parallel to the window, maybe 6 feet away from it. But I have to say, lightning is extremely fascinating. I used to watch in awe through my window, or later when we moved from the balcony that I could access from my bedroom, late at night.

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, and snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.

-- John Ruskin (1819-1900) --
English critic, essayist, & reformer

still sane

- if you don't count the fact that as of today I'm officially registered at a mental health organisation as having a mood disorder...

But I felt I was taken seriously and the person I talked to was genuinely interested in helping me. She is there to help me find the best help in the quickest possible way. But she was very honest too: "Of course," she told me, "if you were having a serious depression right now, I would get help immediately, but it could take two months for you to get the help you need." In the meantime I might be put on the same course she was proposing for me now.

Asked what kind of help I wanted, I told her I wanted help to recognise and prevent sliding back into that black hole I experienced several times before. And apparently they have a group thing to help predict and prevent problems from arising in the future. (There might be people in many different stages there, that's why she.) I shall be going to the website she gave me and answer a lot of questions later tonight, after which I'll probably be invited for another talk, an "intake" conversation. The group thing doesn't sound much like me, I'll have to see exactly what my health insurance will cover.

She also seems to have a slightly different view on the meds than my doctor, she sounded quite enthusiastic whereas he has so far been willing to prescribe them, but seems to hold on to this idea of a six-month spell. She warned me to only stop under supervision, but said it in such a way that put the choice of stopping with me.

I also changed my quote at the top right of the page, something I'm thinking about doing more often. Or perhaps not:
Some for renown, on scraps of learning dote,
And think they grow immortal as they quote.

-- Edward Young (1683-1765) --
English poet
in: Love of Fame (satire I, l. 89)

Wednesday, 30 May 2007


Tomorrow may (or may not, of course, medical bureaucracy wheels grind very slowly) be a significant day in the history of my mental health. I have no idea what to expect from this, I don't even know if it is meant to be a talk to see who to refer me to (or not) or if I would, in the normal course of things, be seeing the same person again.

I'm also seeing my doctor in the afternoon, which is good because I need a new recipe. I have one pill left after tonight and that's only because I forgot yesterday - no ill effects to report besides a headache, fortunately. K doesn't know, he would worry too much.

Monday, 28 May 2007


This company might have thought a bit longer before publishing its promotion for flights to New York. I certainly did a double take when I saw the words "New York" and "WTC" so close together.

It reads: "Free [flight] to New York? text "WTC" to 4411"

Of course if you read futher down, it says the company is called World Ticket Center, but still. And I wasn't the only one as proven by the publication in one of the four or five (!) free daily newspapers we have here now. Mario Jonkman from Heeten sent in the picture and says: "You seriously wonder if they realise? I mean the link WTC New York won't bother some people, but others will be quite upset. And with reason."

just when you think it's all laid to rest

...(or at least Jerry Falwell was), the Polish government agency that watches out for children's rights announces that it's investigating Teletubbies, over suspicious behaviour by:

Tinky Winky!

Following in the late Jerry Falwell's footsteps, they find a male character in a children's program carrying a purse suspicious. Suspiciously gay, that is.

They will be consulting with experts such as psychologists to find out whether the Teletubbies promote homosexuality, as announced in an interview on Monday by Ewa Sowinska of this organisation. "Tinky Winky's handbag may have a homosexual connection. I recognised it as a ladies' purse but didn't realise until later that Tinky Winky is a boy."

(You can google this story to see if it has appeared elsewhere yet, but so far I only managed to find it in several Polish, German and Dutch publications. I'm assuming very few of my - small - readership understands those languages. But here's the article on the free Dutch newspaper Spits' website.)

In honour of Jerry and Ewa, I am organising a Tinky Winky Colouring Contest. The rules are simple: pick one of the pictures provided, make sure to click on it to embiggen, and be creative!

You can send your efforts to and get an honorable mention after the contest closes. Which is Wednesday June 7th at 12 midnight CET.

You can do whatever you like, but remember you have to be able to digitise your entry and send it to me by email.

Sunday, 27 May 2007


voters are worse than ignorant; they are, in a word, irrational — and vote accordingly

I found this article on the New York Times website. I'm copying it because although it goes against anything I feel as a democrat (note the small "d", those of you who don't realise I'm not American) part of me also worries about this. How can whole nations make such strange decisions?

most Americans do not think like economists

But the proposed solutions are probably even scarier than the current situation. I'm not a real economist myself, of course, although I have taken quite a few courses at university and graduated in economic and social history. And I offer no solutions except better education, which is a long-term project and may very well be 'sabotaged' by the same uninformed public it's trying to help. Just to clarify, I'm not bashing the US here, it's the same for other countries.

(I have pulled a couple of quotes, but left the main article, because using the predefined layout for quotes would make such a long text too difficult to read.)


Published: May 27, 2007

Of all the people who deserve some blame for the debacle in Iraq, don’t forget the American public. Today, about two-thirds of Americans oppose the war. But back in March 2003, when United States troops stormed into Iraq, nearly three out of four Americans supported the invasion. Doves say that the public was suckered into war by a deceitful White House, and hawks say that the press has since led the public to lose its nerve — but the two sides implicitly agree that the public has been dangerously unsure, or easily propagandized, or ignorant.

The disaster in Iraq has also fed a contradiction in American thinking about democracy. On the one hand, Americans continue to share the triumphalist, post-Soviet conviction that no other system of government has any real legitimacy. On the other hand, there is a deepening despair about whether and how the United States should spread democracy, prompted not just by Iraq but also by the endurance of authoritarianism in booming China and Vietnam and the disheartening Palestinian and Lebanese experiments in democratization.

Now Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University, has attracted notice for raising a pointed question: Do voters have any idea what they are doing? In his provocative new book, “The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies,” Caplan argues that “voters are worse than ignorant; they are, in a word, irrational — and vote accordingly.” Caplan’s complaint is not that special-interest groups might subvert the will of the people, or that government might ignore the will of the people. He objects to the will of the people itself.

In defending democracy, theorists of public choice sometimes invoke what they call “the miracle of aggregation.” It might seem obvious that few voters fully understand the intricacies of, say, single-payer universal health care. (I certainly don’t.) But imagine, Caplan writes, that just 1 percent of voters are fully informed and the other 99 percent are so ignorant that they vote at random. In a campaign between two candidates, one of whom has an excellent health care plan and the other a horrible plan, the candidates evenly split the ignorant voters’ ballots. Since all the well-informed voters opt for the candidate with the good health care plan, she wins. Thus, even in a democracy composed almost exclusively of the ignorant, we achieve first-rate health care.

The hitch, as Caplan points out, is that this miracle of aggregation works only if the errors are random. When that’s the case, the thousands of ill-informed votes in favor of the bad health plan are canceled out by thousands of equally ignorant votes in favor of the good plan. But Caplan argues that in the real world, voters make systematic mistakes about economic policy — and probably other policy issues too.

Caplan’s own evidence for the systematic folly of voters comes from a 1996 survey comparing the views of Ph.D. economists and the general public. To the exasperation of the libertarian-minded Caplan, most Americans do not think like economists. They are biased against free markets and against trade with foreigners. Absurdly, they think that the American economy is being hurt by too much spending on foreign aid; they also exaggerate the potential economic harms of immigration. In a similar vein, Scott L. Althaus, a University of Illinois political scientist, finds that if the public were better informed, it would overcome its ingrained biases and make different political decisions. According to his studies, such a public would be more progressive on social issues like abortion and gay rights, more ideologically conservative in preferring markets to government intervention and less isolationist but more dovish in foreign policy.

If the public doesn’t know how to think, is there a solution? Caplan has some radical medicine in mind. To encourage greater economic literacy, he suggests tests of voter competence, or “giving extra votes to individuals or groups with greater economic literacy.” Until 1949, he points out, Britain gave extra votes to some business owners and graduates of elite universities. (Since worse-educated citizens are less likely to vote, Caplan dislikes efforts to increase voter turnout.) Most provocatively, perhaps, in an online essay Caplan has suggested a curious twist on the tradition of judicial review: If the Supreme Court can strike down laws as unconstitutional, why shouldn’t the Council of Economic Advisers be able to strike down laws as “uneconomical”? (Caplan’s book has been warmly recommended by N. Gregory Mankiw, the former chairman of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, although Mankiw did not allude to this particular proposal.) Caplan also suggests changing the educational curriculum to stamp out biased beliefs in voters and policy makers alike — a suggestion as old as Plato’s wish that a city’s ruling guardians be schooled in the “royal science” of governance, which has seemingly been reincarnated as economics.

Caplan’s argument has kicked off some stormy Internet debates. The liberal blogger Ezra Klein wrote: “Obviously I, like most coastal-bred elitists, don’t think voters make terribly good decisions. But I also don’t think economic actors are particularly rational.” He might have added that many policy issues cannot be decided on the basis of avowedly rational expert judgment alone. Take immigration, where governments weigh not just economic costs and benefits but also demands of national identity and cosmopolitanism. Or war: it’s very complicated, so should we abandon military planning to the professional generals?

Caplan’s view of democracy is all about efficiency, not legitimacy. But some time ago, the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington pointed out the weakness of dictatorships that justify their rule by only the quality of their job performance: as soon as something goes wrong — a war is lost or inflation skyrockets — the public has no further reason to put up with a despot. If the public asked Caplan’s Council of Economic Advisers by what authority it struck down a law, the council members could point only to their diplomas and peer-reviewed articles. A democratic public may not always like — or understand — the government’s policy, but the consent of the governed gives the citizens a reason not to reject the whole system.

Caplan recognizes that politicians, like voters, are prone to error. In his zeal to question the public’s judgment, however, he may underplay the role of political elites in shaping that judgment. Would the public choose badly if it had better guidance? John R. Zaller, a U.C.L.A. political scientist, argues that even the more politically aware citizens are driven largely by partisanship and by the cues they take from political leaders. That sounds like George W. Bush leading the country into war in Iraq or, more happily, Bill Clinton tirelessly explaining how deficit reduction would reduce long-term interest rates and thus strengthen the economy — quite a complex argument. Maybe the public doesn’t measure up because the politicians are not doing their job properly, not the other way around.

Gary J. Bass, an associate professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, is writing a book on humanitarian intervention.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

she works hard for the money

She works hard for the money
So hard for it honey
She works hard for the money
So you better treat her right!

*cough*still waiting for your comments, dear...*cough*

By the way, the start of the video reminded me of the video for Joan As Policewoman's Eternal Flame. (Joan Wasser was Jeff Buckley's girlfriend at the time of his death, she also played and toured with Rufus Wainwright a lot and released her own album in 2006.)

Whereas the first video was a bit of fun on my part, I'm very serious about the second one. I was almost embarrassed at the time I first heard her songs that I couldn't really get into them. But now, listening to this song again, I can't only see its merits in a clinical sense, but finally allow myself to drift away on its beauty.

seeing blue

And I'm not talking about the news that viagra may help against jet-leg.

The last couple of days I have noticed a LOT of police officers out on the streets. I've seen them as I walked to and from the station, as I was waiting for the bus, they were on foot, on bikes, in cars, lots of them! And it wasn't just one force, it was in my home town, in the town that I work and on the stations, that's three different forces (the third being the railway police).

PS. Today this blog not only reached but strode across the 1,000-view limit at a brisk pace. The counter wasn't there from the start, so it's not completely accurate. But traffic was even lower back then so it can't be that far off to the actual figure...

Thanks for stopping by and do visit us again soon!

Monday, 21 May 2007

Fernando and Carlos become daddies

Isn't that cute? Two male flamingos in the UK have become the proud fathers of a newborn chick after a six-year relationship. They were so desperate to become parents that they even tried intimidation to steal eggs:

Carlos and Fernando had been desperate to start a family, even chasing other flamingos from their nests to take over their eggs at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in Slimbridge near Bristol.
(source: yahoo)

According to The Sun, the egg hatched hours after it was whisked off to an incubator because it was abandoned.

staff were concerned the flamboyant duo would not bond with the newborn because the process normally begins when the chicks are "calling" them from inside the egg.

So the chick was carefully placed in an old eggshell, which was taped up and returned to the unsuspecting couple's empty nest.

The pair were soon seen 'talking' to the chick inside the egg and a little while later it hatched for a second time - to be greeted by its loving new foster parents.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell

The Classic Leading Man Test

Your Score: Cary Grant

You scored 23% Tough, 19% Roguish, 23% Friendly, and 33% Charming!

You are the epitome of charm and style, the smooth operator who steals the show with your sophisticated wit and quiet confidence. You are able to catch any woman you want just by flashing that disarming smile. When you walk into a room, the women are instantly intrigued and even the men are impressed. When you find yourself in trouble, you are easily able to charm your way out of it, or convince others to help you. You're seen as dashing, suave and romantic. Your co-stars include Katharine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, and Joan Fontaine, stylish women who know a class act when they see it.

Link: The Classic Leading Man Test written by gidgetgoes on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

The Classic Dames Test

Your Score: Rosalind Russell

You scored 11% grit, 47% wit, 33% flair, and 19% class!

You are one wise-cracking lady, always quick with a clever remark and easily able to keep up with the quips and puns that come along with the nutty situations you find yourself in. You're usually able to talk your way out of any jam, and even if you can't, you at least make it more interesting with your biting wit. You can match the smartest guy around line for line, and you've got an open mind that allows you to get what you want, even if you don't recognize it at first. Your leading men include Cary Grant and Clark Gable, men who can keep up with you.

Link: The Classic Dames Test written by gidgetgoes on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test


Check out this video of Scissor Sisters performing Filthy/Gorgeous last night at Radio One's Big Weekend. At the start Jake is simulating auto-erotic asphyxiation - which may look hot, but do NOT do it at home (or any hotel rooms *cough*MichaelHutchence*cough*). In fact ANY kind of "breath play" is very dangerous because it's completely unpredictable.

Here's the makeover of Jo Whiley that they mentioned. Other clips from the show:

Paul McCartney
I Don't Feel Like Dancing (I don't like to mention this, but there's a very noticeable bum note from Del at the start. MMMMMMM... Del's bum...)

Saturday, 19 May 2007

you're the cream in my coffee

I'll be honest here, I stole this idea from Roger Bourland, but how could I resist? I have recently developed a taste for cream (or in my case condensed milk, I've been told it's a Dutch thing, we call it "coffeemilk") in my coffee. I also can't help but see funny shapes in them. I'll leave the top one to your own imagination, the bottom is obviously a fried egg...

These pictures were taken by Irene Müller, check out the link, there's a whole series of them, isn't it uncanny how she managed to capture these moments?


click me to read this post

Click the picture to read the full post. Click the link below for the BUTT website:

BUTT magazine

EDIT: I couldn't resist, so sue me. Here's a gratuitous repeat of Jake Shears posing for BUTT:

good day to die

Cos your head is a brick wall
And your heart is a football
And your eyes broken windows
When you cry
It's a good day to die
-- Travis -- Good Day To Die

Here's a nice cheerful test result:

According to our research, you'll be dead by



at age 85

You have 18292.9 days left on this earth.

You've already lived 41% of your life.

Trying to copy and sort out the code for these things, especially but not exclusively, when they're not provided can be such a drag...

my IQ

I'm a little disappointed at this result, I usually score higher. (I also edited some of the spelling/punctuation in this text; if you think it's atrocious now, just think how bad it was before.)

Your Score: Gifted

You scored 122 Intelligence!

Aww... you're basically a genius. 132 is the IQ where Mensa accepts you. How about giving it a try? You were probably the kid who got all A's in high school... or you could be like me, a brilliant slacker... too smart for your own good. It goes both ways. You are very gifted.

Link: The You think you've got a high IQ Test written by idrankitaway on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

my dating persona: the intern

Act 2, Scene 1
An attractive young woman, the INTERN, sits at her desk. ROSS and MACGRUDER, two sales associates, stand near the water cooler.

MACGRUDER: Whoa! Get a load of the new intern! I'd like to file my proposal in her drawers.

ROSS: Easy there, MacGruder, you'll get us fired. [aside] I agree.

The Intern
Deliberate Gentle Sex Dreamer (DGSD)

Capable. Trustworthy. Carnal. The Intern.

From our experience, Interns are nice girls who would really, really like us to come on to them. They, like you, must be looking for sex, preferably from someone good-looking and successful. So... what are you doing later? Oh, okay, cool. Well, maybe next time? Okay, okay, jeez.

Your exact female opposite:
The Sudden Departure

Random Brutal Love Master

The thing is, you're a little bit quiet, so men think you're waiting for them to start things. You do like sex a lot, they're right about that, but few of them realize you're a genuinely thoughful person.

You're choosy, not wanting to get mixed up with just anyone. Girls can get away with this kind of selectiveness for some reason. Most guys have to take whatever's lying around, passed out.

You're not necessarily looking for a steady relationship right now; that's cool. Be careful to avoid people trying to tie you down to anything other than bedposts.

ALWAYS AVOID: The False Messiah (DBLM), The Vapor Trail (RBLM)

CONSIDER: The Bachelor (DGSM)

Link: The Online Dating Persona Test @ OkCupid - free online dating.
My profile name: : SubtleKnife

some bragging about my English skills...

Your Score: Advanced

You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 93% Advanced, and 73% Expert!

You have an extremely good understanding of beginner, intermediate, and advanced level commonly confused English words, getting at least 75% of each of these three levels' questions correct. This is an exceptional score. Remember, these are commonly confused English words, which means most people don't use them properly. You got an extremely respectable score.

Thank you so much for taking my test. I hope you enjoyed it!

For the complete Answer Key, visit my blog:

Link: The Commonly Confused Words Test written by shortredhead78 on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

star wars

Your Star Wars Name And Title

Your Star Wars Name: Markn Desch

Your Star Wars Title: Retcho of Yellehs

child of the 80s

You Are 52% A Child of the 80s

Back in the day, you were totally 80s.
Tubular, totally tubular.

semi-naked bear!

I was chatting with G and she sent me the link to this picture. I suggested she post it on the bear lust icons thread on the Scissor Sisters Messageboard, but I also didn't want to keep it from any visitors from other directions.

Isn't he adorable? But I'm afraid I won't be able to look at my own teddy (he still lives in my bedroom but we live separate lives nowadays) the same way ever again.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

it's not a choice


Today is the fifth International Day Against Homophobia. This year's theme is "Sexual Orientation is Not a Choice". According to the President of Fondation Émergence (the organisation taking the initiative for this day):

perceptions are still deep-rooted despite how, on the one hand, science has been leaning toward proving that people cannot change their sexual orientation and that, on the other hand, no one is in a position to say outright that they have chosen their sexual orientation be it homosexual or heterosexual.

Yesterday Human Rights Watch released a "Hall of Shame", highlighting those world leaders "who have lent their authority to denying basic human rights," according to Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. Here's a link to the full text of The 2007 Hall of Shame.

And here are the five "highlights":
  • For undermining families: Pope Benedict XVI.

  • For jeopardizing health: George W. Bush, President of the United States.

  • For endangering children: Roman Giertych, Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister of Poland.

  • For trying to force his sexual orientation on others: Representative Bienvenido Abante, Chair, House Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights, Philippines.

  • For creating public and private scandals: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.
I would like to take this opportunity to dispell a vicious rumour and make it absolutely clear that I did not choose to be straight, I was born this way. As always, many thanks to Joe for alerting me.

PS. I finally realised what I was doing wrong when using Paint Shop Pro 9 to resize pictures. I hope this looks a lot better. If you click the poster, you will get the original hi-res version.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

going to another town

In my previous post just now I said

Wow, a glut of posts today...

and I haven't even told you the big news!

Rufus Wainwright is coming to the Netherlands after all!

I was afraid he would skip my little country this summer, the tour to promote Release The Stars is still not much more than a "tourette". (Thank you, Kate McGarrigle! At least I think the phrase was coined during some banter between Rufus and his mother...)

The details:
Oosterpoort, Groningen: Thursday, July 5, 2007 8:30 PM - and I have tickets.

It's funny, I also have tickets for Scissor Sisters in Amsterdam the night before, and on the following Sunday I'm going waterskiing (I hope by brother and future sister-in-law haven't found this page...)

EDIT: I got the Friday after the concert off, which is just as well, because it's a three to four hour trip.

high priestess

Wow, a glut of posts today... I found this test on Big Ass Belle:

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

And here's my result:

You are The High Priestess

Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education.

The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she might, or might not reveal to you. The moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see, reveal the secrets you need to know. The High Priestess is also associated with the moon however and can also indicate change or fluxuation, particularily when it comes to your moods.

You may now bow down and kiss my ring.

back when I loved Eurovision

The Eurovision Songcontest doesn't interest me anymore. In fact it hasn't since the late '80s. But Joe. My. God. posted about it, mystified American that he is, so I decided to collect a few Eurovision Songcontest "memories" (some of these happened before I was born):

1960 -- Rudi Carrell -- Wat Een Geluk

1969 -- Lenny Kuhr -- De Troubadour

(one of FOUR! entries to tie for first place, one of the others was Lulu for Great Britain with Boom Bang-a-Bang)

1980 -- Johnny Logan -- What's Another Year?

1982 -- Nicole -- Ein Bißchen Frieden

1984 -- Herreys -- Diggi-loo, Diggi-ley

1987 -- Johnny Logan -- Hold Me Now

(yes, him again)

The next year Celine Dion won for Switzerland and although I'd like to blame her for many things, I think it was just a coincidence my interest in the Eurovision Songcontest started to wane at the same time.

I found a link to a page called The Diggiloo Thrush (what a name!) with lyrics and translations.

sailing on a summer breeze

I was humming this tune as I was cycling home from the station.

Everybody's talking at me
I don't hear a word they're saying
Only the echoes of my mind
-- Harry Nilsson -- Everybody's Talking

That was me only a few months ago. Now I no longer try not to think, shutting out all thoughts and feelings for fear of the ones that hurt. I'm more alert and it feels as if my mind is a lot more active, burning loads of calories; except at night, when it no longer races when I try to go to sleep.

Sadly YouTube won't let me embed this video in a blog.

Friday, 11 May 2007

poppies in whichever field...

I was sure I posted about this song before, but I can't find it... Have I gone crazy at last?

Wise Men
(Kate McGarrigle)

In the desert, where the stars are bright
And constellations rule your life
Long ago, three kings set out
To follow a peculiar light

What did they see, up in the sky?
That made them take leave of their land
And carry gifts on camelback
Over the hills of endless sand

Through cloudless days and cloudless night
The bells upon the camels ringing
And the wind playing on ribs of sand
Must be the voices of angels singing

Gold to crown his loftiness
Myrrh for the man upon his death
Frankincense for godliness

Black smoke hides the stars tonight
And mines explode in golden sands
Underground black gold does flow
In Afghan fields the poppies grow

Gold to crown his loftiness
Myrrh for the man upon his death
Frankincense for godliness
Frankincense for godliness

Last Tuesday, May 8th, was VE-Day, which of course stands for Victory in Europe day. The above picture was taken at the 60th anniversary celebrations in London (although they weren't actually held on VE Day, sorry for misnaming it). As you can see, the crowds at the Mall were showered with red poppies. This is the inspiration behind the poppy tradition:

In Flanders Fields
John McCrae

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Here is the video that Anna's children Sylvan and Lily made for their aunt Kate:

songbook: Going To A Town revisited

Oh, right, Going To A Town, which is the next, I don’t know, this is a whole other philosophy. Being that the voice is all of a sudden very dry and very forward in the track. And the meaning is very plain, namely that I’m having problems with the United States (laugh) at the moment – as we all are – and we’re all, you know, we all love America, I think everybody does in a certain way, but we have to admit that there’s just been too many mistakes made in the recent past over too many issues and that, you know, we just gotta deal with that fact and mourn it and then move on. So that’s sort of what this next song is about.

I really don’t intend it to be a kind of indictment, even, it’s more of a, it’s like a break-up song from a lover who you’ve, you know, once were enthralled with and then were somewhat cheated on, perhaps.


Soon I’ll be making the video for this song. I want there to be a lot of fire (laugh). I did wanna blow something up in it, but I thought that would be a little much in the end. I’d be cruising for a bruising a little bit.

And it’s also going to be the single, which, could go either way really. I hope that, the reason that I chose it as a single is because it has an immediacy that a lot of, that I don’t usually have. A lot of my songs usually, you know, they kinda grow on you, you kind of are seduced by them eventually, but this one really kind of hits you immediately with what it wants to say and whether you agree or not you’re kind of forced to go along with it and think. Which I think singles should do, I think songs should make you think more, so, we’ll see what happens.

(transcribed from Rufus Wainwright's commentary on Going To A Town on his myspace page.)

Sunday, 6 May 2007

the golden compass

I love the His Dark Materials trilogy - as you may have guessed from my screenname, which is the title of the second book. As a movie adaptation is scheduled to be released in December, the publicity campaign is gearing up. Like all movies these days, The Golden Compass has it's own website, where you can find out what your "daemon" is.

... a person's soul lives on the outside of their body, in the form of a daemon - an animal spirit that accompanies them through life.

A child's daemon can change shape, assuming all the forms that a child's potential inspires, but as a person ages, their daemon gradually settles into one form, according to their character and nature.

There's a test on their website to find your own daemon, but please take a few seconds to assess the test I took by answering a few questions. (Just click on the picture of Arion, it should stay in this same window.) I think it suit me better now than a few months ago and may fit even better in another few.

Thanks to Wikipedia I know the origin of the name His Dark Materials, John Milton's Paradise Lost (I admit I would never have figured that out by myself):

Into this wilde Abyss,
The Womb of nature and perhaps her Grave,
Of neither Sea, nor Shore, nor Air, nor Fire,
But all these in thir pregnant causes mix't
Confus'dly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless th' Almighty Maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more Worlds,
Into this wilde Abyss the warie fiend
Stood on the brink of Hell and look'd a while,
Pondering his Voyage...

Thursday, 3 May 2007

songbook: Going To A Town

A little while ago I wrote a blog about Going To A Town by Rufus Wainwright in which I made a start with my "analysis" of the lyrics. What follows is an elaboration of my feelings and associations. Let me stress that I don't claim to know what Rufus really meant by it when he wrote it.

I think I will be adding more of these later, including ones from previous albums. For want of a better title I decided to go with "songbook". And this way I'll be able to add other artists to it, if I feel like it.

Rufus Wainwright - Going To A Town

I’m going to a town that has already been burned down
I’m going to a place that has already been disgraced
I’m gonna see some folks who have already been let down
I’m so tired of America

Much has been speculated about which town Rufus is singing. Personally I think it’s a mixture of two towns:

We’ve been told by agnusdei on the Rufus Wainwright Messageboard that Rufus wrote it just before or just after visiting New Orleans for a concert (he played at Tulane University on April 9th, 2006, that is eight months after Hurricane Katrina). But it is also widely known – in the “right” circles, anyway – that Rufus spent a lot of time in Berlin last year to record Release The Stars, the album GTAT is on and I’m fairly certain Berlin, one of the cities (in)famously bombed by the Allies in World War II, was on his mind. He must have seen the scars that are still visible in places, most famously of course at the Gedächtniskirche, but also the new buildings being or having recently been constructed along the scar of the East-West divide.

(Personally, I also remember the recently departed Kurt Vonnegut, who famously wrote about the bombing and the following firestorm in another German city, Dresden, in Slaugherhouse Five. K is a big fan and quite distraught at his death.)

I’m gonna make it up for all of the Sunday Times
I’m gonna make it up for all of the nursery rhymes
They never really seem to want to tell the truth
I’m so tired of you, America

I don’t understand this part, the Sunday Times and nursery rhymes point to criticism, denigration, mockery or some other form of damage to reputation. Whose, though? New Orleans’? Germany’s? Apparently whatever it was, was done by America.

Making my own way home
Ain’t gonna be alone
I got a life to lead, America
I got a life to lead

This is Rufus saying he can no longer bear living in America and he has to turn his back on it. He’s going to be with Jörn in Germany and lead his own life. Of course he did return to New York later, as did Jörn, who has taken a job in the Big Apple. But then New Yorkers seem to think their city isn’t really part of the US anyway...

Tell me, do you really think you go to hell for having loved
Tell me, enough of thinking everything that you’ve done is good
I really need to know, after soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood
I’m so tired of America

For some reason I always associate “soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood” with Mel Gibson’s snuff movie The Passion of the Christ. But I suspect it has more to do with the relationship between Christian fundamentalists and the U.S. government – specifically in relation to both those parties’ seeming enthusiasm for sending American soldiers off to die in Iraq.

I really need to know
I may just never see you again, or might as well
You took advantage of a world that loved you well
I’m going to a town that has already been burned down
I’m so tired of you, America

It does really feel to me like he’s decided to leave America for another town, outside of the USA, the one that was burned down decades ago: Berlin. Beside the general meaning of the song, the phrase “a world that loved you well” particularly saddens me.

Making my own way home, ain’t gonna be alone
I got a life to lead, America
I got a life to lead
I got a soul to feed
I got a dream to heed
And that’s all I need

Making my own way home
Ain’t gonna be alone
I’m going to a town
That has already been burned down

He reiterates that he has to take care of himself, of his own sanity and his own future. Take himself out of the situation that is hurting him so badly. I wonder if he believes it actually worked, or if he was reminded of it no matter where he went.

I can definitely understand his disappointment with the US government over the handling of the Katrina aftermath. Just recently an article in the Washington Post, saying Most Katrina Aid From Overseas Went Unclaimed:

Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.

In addition, valuable supplies and services -- such as cellphone systems, medicine and cruise ships -- were delayed or declined because the government could not handle them. In some cases, supplies were wasted.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

say cheese!

K told me some time ago that "cheese" is spelled "K-R-A-F-T" by Americans. Apparently ex UK Army Lieutenant Paul thinks so too. Told by Sir Alan Sugar to sell the best of British food products on a French market in Calais, he chose to buy a truckload (maybe a bit less) of breeze block-shaped Cheddar cheese from a cash-and-carry that was only on their list of suppliers for odds and ends, not the actual food, that was supposed to come from quality producers.

Odds and ends like frying pans, which they needed for Paul's other brilliant idea: pork sausages. Actually, the sausages weren't a bad idea, but instead of investing in a cheap gas burner, he instructed one of his teammates to construct one with the help of a can of beans - that had to be emptied first. After two hours the sausages were still not safe to hand out as samples. In Paul's absense teammate Kristina then took matters into her own hands and found a local restaurant that would let her fry them.

Meanwhile Paul was selling the sausages, at cost prize to some local businesses. One of the highlights was him and his buddy Katie walking into a halal kebab shop and not only trying to sell the pork sausages, but offering the owner a sample during Ramadan.

O yeah, out of the 30 kilos of cheese they bought, 16 were dumped at the harbour before returning to the UK. They made a £225 (or thereabouts) loss.

what's "up" with Mika and Perez?

After having forcibly "outed" Lance Bass and Neil Patrick Harris, Hilton said on his own site:

"Today is a victory. Today is another step towards full equality under the law for gays and lesbians. … We are so proud (despite the naysayers) in having a hand in bringing about change. … The closet no longer exists if you are a celebrity or a politician! … We are throwing down the gauntlet and issue a challenge to all the closeted celebrities out there: Come out. Come out NOW! Come out in droves!!"

Oh really? "The closet no longer exists"? How interesting, then, that Hilton is now an honorary member of the PR posse of a man who flat-out refuses to discuss his sexuality publicly. Isn't Mika exactly the kind of celeb that Perez would usually attack for his coyness?

Some have criticised this AfterElton blog because they thought it was urging P.H. to take a stronger stance against Mika.

As I see it, the author is simply pointing out how strange it is that Hilton should go after others with such ferocity and - apart from a very early mention ("Oh yeah, and it just so happens that he's gay!") - has spared Mika the relentless hounding. In fact he tirelessly promotes the Britis singer, something I can only applaud, of course.

Now I do suspect that Mika is gay, but I don't believe anyone should be outed (or maybe a few hypocrites spring to mind - but Mika's an artist, he's not exactly out to persecute homosexuals). I have no urge to find out either way. It wouldn't change my enjoyment of his music if he turned out to be straight and I can't believe it would Perez'.

The blogger is absolutely right, it is peculiar that P.H. doesn't keep referring to Mika's "sexual ambiguity" or that he's not making up stories about his gayness. After all, he's done it before to prove his point... So what's in it for Hilton?

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

bloody hell I wish I could see this!

(This is my 101st blog post, by the way...)

This sounds amazing: Brecht, Weil and Martha Wainwright, it almost cannot get any better than that. Although this review isn't too positive, I love Martha's style so I don't think this should be a problem for me:

Wainwright's distinctive, folky voice is amplified to fill the Royal Opera House. As in her own material, she will sing softly, almost crooning, then let rip in raw, belted notes. She uses that gear-change to emphasise unexpected moments, putting a climax in the middle of a phrase, highlighting a small word. It's striking, but the device soon becomes predictable. She doesn't vary it from sin to sin, overlooking Weill's shifts of mood. Her diction comes and goes. Some phrases jump out; others are so blurred that I often lost track of which sin I was watching. Nor does Tuckett's production emphasise the contrasts.

I wish I could make it...