Monday, 30 June 2008

the thrill of the chase

Recently I've slowly started to take more interest again in Rufus Wainwright's more recent work. For some reason I had been neglecting the gossip and the new songs for some time, so I have some catching up to do.

There is also the ever-expanding project of cataloguing all the songs, movies, interviews and other assorted Rufusian rarities I've collected over the years - plus the ones I have yet to get my hands on.

Suddenly I found myself on eBay, ordering promo single CDs and such like and praying for album versions with bonus tracks (I couldn't find any that I didn't have already - why aren't the ones I don't have out there?)

I've bought four so far and I'm waiting for the auction on a fifth to close. I can see how this stuff could be addictive. 37 minutes until I find out.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

location, location, location – a musical post

This morning I was on the sofa, resting my leg and listening to Amy MacDonald's album This Is The Life when the hidden track Caledonia came on. I thought I wasn't really thinking of anything, but apparently my brains were mulling things over, because suddenly I knew I would have to post a list of Rufus Wainwright songs about towns and places. He has written quite a few (and sung several more by others, but I excluded those from the first list) and without further ado - and in no particular order of preference - here is my top ten:

14th Street
Barçelona
California
Leaving for Paris
Memphis Skyline
Katonah
Tulsa
Sanssouci
Going to a Town
Tiergarten


As a bonus, I'm adding another list, which I like to call "Heavenly bodies" (I'm not planning on making a regular list feature, so I don't have to save it for next time). These are not all songs written by Rufus himself, but the list grew spontaneously as I was compiling the songs about towns and places theme:

Release the Stars
Oh What A World
In Heaven
It's Only A Paper Moon
Vicious World
In A Graveyard*
Across the Universe
Shut Down the World
I'll Build A Stairway to Paradise
Over The Rainbow


* Perhaps it doesn't seem this one should be part of the list, certainly it is the only song that doesn't qualify because of its title. However it has the most amazing lyrics:
Wandering properties of death
Arresting moons within our eyes and smiles
We did rest
Amongst the granite tombs to catch our breath

Worldly sounds of endless warring
Were for just a moment silent stars
Worldly boundaries of dying
Were for just a moment never ours
All was new
Just as the black horizon's blue

Then along the bending path away
I smiled in knowing I’d be back one day

Love,

MJ

ouch!

Last night Doctor Who night was quite short, I arrived at K's fifteen minutes before it started and went home about the same time after it ended. I had ten minutes to catch my train (a direct train goes every thirty minutes) and I knew I could easily catch it, so I walked at a brisk pace, but didn't hurry.

As I reache the station, I thought I was home safe. All I had to do was get up the escalator to the platform and the nearest train door would probably be three steps away.

But there was a snag. At the bottom of the stairs a pair of security guys (grey suits, little V-shaped badge on their lapels) were checking tickets. This is something that has happened in recent years. Before that the rail company itself would organise such checks and the people conducting them would be, well, conductors. They understood passengers, if a train was about to leave, they'd wave you through. Unlike them, the security staff have no such consideration, the service part of transporting people from one place to another efficiently doesn't matter to them, rules are rules and that's it.

Having finally taken that hurdle, I ran up the escalator, trying to ignore a pang in my right calf muscle about halfway up. Having been slowed down by the guards and the pain in my leg, I found the doors on the train closing just as I reached the platform. But I know that the conductor always closes his or her door last and that sometimes they're friendly enough to wait for stragglers. Looking left and right I spotted a young blond conductor in an open door at the front of the train, which, fortunately was not that far away, about four compartments from me.

I sprinted towards her. At least, I tried. Another and more painful, I can only call it a snap, occured in my calf. I was in pain, still hobbling towards the door. Only when I got on did I truly realise the agony and spent a good few minutes leaning over the railing (it was a double-decker train) puffing and groaning. I don't know what happened exactly, it truly felt like something snapped and now it's pretty painful to stretch my leg - but I try to do it anyway, otherwise it seizes up. Fortunately I managed to sleep without too much trouble, I was afraid of waking up with a terrible cramp and/or unable to move it at all. So for now I'll keep trying to stretch it from time to time and if there's any fetching and carrying at work tomorrow, my colleagues can do it.

Monday night update: The pain, which could only be described as hell before, has subsided to something more like purgatory.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Friday

Fridays are always pretty quiet at work, but today is extreme. Strange how most of those who left late last night are here, when quite a few who left early or didn't come at all aren't.

I felt great after four hours of sleep and not at all hung over. But then I was never drunk to begin with, that's the good thing about drinking beer when you're used to strong liquour and wine. It's also a danger, he you start slamming them - I did find my glass empty surprisingly fast a few times, but nothing serious.

There was a bit of a dip before lunch when I was just waiting for a new script to enter a lot of data (with a couple of interruptions it took three hours, it would have taken a person a week) as I revised the working instruction I wrote for it. No, I don't code, I sat next to a guy who can and told him what we needed it to do. Not being able to use the computer for anything else is a drawback, though.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

I AM noticeable!

These are good days for my confidence: work is going well, last night a bus driver made a pass at me - I intend to have coffee as he suggested - and this morning I realised that the free newspaper people (I walk by about six of them every morning, handing out free papers at the station) recognise me.

When I change my route or routine, or a new person appears, it only takes a few days to remember me among all the other people rushing by them on a daily basis. I rarely take their offerings, but I always smile and say good morning. After just a few days they will hold back their prize, so eagerly proffered to others, smile and bid me good morning before I have the chance to say it to them.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

I hope he likes what he sees

Jesus is Watching you Masturbate


(If not, I just got a bus driver's phone number. Am I glad the strike is over!)

Monday, 23 June 2008

we've got Tsvangirai

Morgan Tsvangirai

Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has taken refuge in the Dutch embassy in the capital, Harare.

The former presidential candidate apparently fled to the Dutch embassy yesterday after a police raid targeting the headquarters of his Movement for Democratic Change. The police told AFP that people were removed from the MDC headquarters "for hygiene reasons".

This is how Tsvangirai looked after an arrest in March 2007, so you can imagine he wasn't looking forward to a repeat performance:

Tsvangirai after arrest, March 2007

On a much less serious note, there's a funny gaffe on the BBC website (the emphasis is mine):

MaxiMe Verhagen"Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said that if Mr Tsvangirai was looking for safety at the diplomatic mission, he was welcome.

'We've seen the last weeks a new low in the tortured history of Zimbabwe and I think that Mr Mugabe no longer has any moral legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Zimbabwe,' she told the BBC."

That's Maxime, not Maxine, dear Auntie Beeb...

Sunday, 22 June 2008

a friend is

...someone who buys two PedEggs and gives one to you.

(Tell him it works very well, Sunshine.)

dustbowl

Riding on a train through the fields recently bereft of tulips and hyacinths, the world seems to have been transformed into one big dustbowl until we reach the save haven of luscious grass fields further south. This is my Holland.

things you don't expect to see in a gay bar

Last night, observant readers will know, was Doctor Who night at K's. I'm going through yet another crochet phase, so I hauled the spool of yarn and the almost-blanket-sized project with me on the train. I was there in no-time.

There were also quite a few - aside: my train of thought keeps getting interrupted by K walking in naked. He just informed me today's projects are finding him a gym and me some clothes that fit - quite a few people dressed in orange on the trains, being loud in more than one way. I assume they were going to watch Holland play in the quarter finals of the European Championships and were taking an advance on the party.

At K's, we enjoyed a takeaway Chinese and an excellent episode of Doctor Who, then went out to Prik. Walking over there, Sunshine mentioned they might be showing the football there, but we quickly shrugged it off; watching football in a gay bar? come on!

As it turns out, there was football on a big screen in the back of the bar. At first we hung around at the front, until I noticed some space opening up outside. K was surprised I didn't want to hang around and watch, after all football and gay bars are two of my favourite things.

But somehow it didn't work for me, so we had a nice chat with some guys outside (I was going to say "nice chaps", but that might have caused unnecessary confusion).

EDIT: On our way to Prik we always pass by the Scientology chapel here in Amsterdam. To my surprise a large number of people had gathered there to watch the game. I wonder what they think caused the defeat of the Dutch...

EDIT - bis: My dear friend Wyllym (not the one from Willy or Won't He, although if he lived any farther north he would be Canadian too...) and I chatted about scientology and how I find it interesting probably because I've always liked science fiction. He sent me L. Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth series, which I should upload to my preccious to read on the 90-minute commute (that's 90 minutes one way).

Saturday, 21 June 2008

playing house

This morning I received an e-mail from a real estate site telling me that the price for a duplex I've been following has been dropped by 7,000 euro. It's starting to get very tempting now, although even at its current price I'm not quite sure if I can swing the mortgage.

I still don't understand that: if I wanted to rent a similar space I'd be expected to pay twice as much per month, I have a steady job, I can afford it. But this is just over the upper limit, so maybe it'll work out.

As it is Saturday I'll be going over to K's tonight to watch Doctor Who. Apparently I woke him up with my call at 12.33 PM and he just missed it. Of course he didn't bother to call me back, but I talked to Sunshine on MSN a bit later and found out. He also relayed K's request to bring dinner and some cleaning tablets for the toilet. I'm out of those and my toilet could probably do with some too, so I'm off to go shopping now.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Murphy's Lesser Known Laws

These were included in the European UU newsletter I received last week.

Murphy's Lesser Known Laws

Light travels faster than sound.
This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

He who laughs last, thinks slowest.

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.

Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

The 50-50-90 rule:
Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.

If you lined up all the cars in the world end to end, someone would be stupid enough to try to pass them, five or six at a time, on a hill, in the fog.

If the shoe fits, get another one just like it.

The things that come to those who wait will be the things left by those who got there first.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat all day drinking beer.

Flashlight: A case for holding dead batteries.

The shin bone is a device for finding furniture in a dark room.

A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.

Manna from heaven

Mind Fuck by Manna FrancisThank you very much Casperian Books for sending me the first two books in Manna Francis' Administration Series.

And of course thank you Manna for writing them and for e-mailing me about the release of Quid Pro Quo.

They arrived yesterday and I'm halfway through Mind Fuck. I'm re-reading it, because I read it first on her website. I must say it's great of Casperian not just to publish something that has been out there on the interwebz for a while, but also allow her to keep it up there.

Quid Pro Quo by Manna FrancisPlease, go and read some of the stories at Manna's Own Slashfic Archive and if you like what you've read, I strongly recommend you buy the books!

They're a snip at only $15.00 each and if you're in Europe, that's very good news: I paid €25,00 or 26,00 for both, including shipping.

PS. Sorry about the pun. I'm sure she hasn't heard it before, though...

I'm going back to my reading.

madness

fans in Bern

Every two years this country goes absolutely crazy. Fortunately for Dutch football, but rather unfortunately for me, The Netherlands tend to always qualify for the major tournaments.

It's not that I don't wish my country well, I would honestly love to see them win - if only I could be sure there would be no Dutchmen acting like idiots, dressed in every item of orange clothing (this term taken loosely enough to include such things as tea cosies) they could find, likely to put on a repeat performance of the last time we actually won one of there major tournaments in 1988 when thousands celebrating in the streets and on the canals of Amsterdam, causing several canalboats to sink and damaging many others.

But it's not the damage that I'm worried about particularly - not owning a canalboat helps in that department - it's the frenzy, the mass hysteria that caused it. Part of the problem is undoubtedly that I simply don't 'get' the feeling of togetherness. I tried to lose myself in the crowd at Feyenoord for a few years but realised when I found myself reading Plato on the terraces that I was still very much an outsider. Another is the complete disregard of the consequences.

any street in my home townHow could someone on the roof of a canalboat not realise they were wrecking it? How could the people shouting, screaming and lighting fireworks after The Netherlands' first match at this year's European Championships not realise that I had to in to work in the morning? And then there are all the strings of orange flags and, even worse, every variety of tacky, orange merchandise you can think of, hurting my eyes every step I set outside my door. How can they not see that their yobbish behaviour is ruining my enjoyment of the game.

Honestly, I want "my" team to do well. I was the first to shout YES! when they scored (particularly since I discovered that the BBC coverage, through some technical wizardry, is a fraction of a second faster), all seven times they have scored in their two matches so far, beating the winner and runner-up of the last World Championship respectively. But sometimes it seems much more pleasant to just do without the Dutch team in the final stages. Perhaps my feelings have been shaped by the first tournament I consciously followed, the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, in which The Netherlands didn't take part. I probably saw the majority of matches and all kinds of countries and great players. Like the "other" Maradona goal during the Argentina vs England quarter-final - the one that wasn't scored by "the hand of God" as he called it. It was voted Goal of the Century, the best goal in World Cup history:



I enjoyed myself watching the teams and players, appreciated their stragegies and skills without any of the hype and crassness that overshadows tournaments as long as Holland is still in them. That's why I've often hoped for an early exit for Orange.

vote Republican!

I acknowledge that I'm probably concentrating too much on American politics, but just look at this video and you'll understand:

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

unbelievable (AD 2003)



Thanks to the wonderful fount of Doctor Who news and knowledge that is Gallifrey One I found this cameo appearance by The Doctor in an American artist's cartoon. I'm surprised he expects his readers to recognise him, I didn't think our Time Lord was that well known across the pond... (With the exception of a few very clever people, some of whom might read this so I have to mention them.)

The * leads to a comment that reads "joke stolen from our friend Jon Schwarz", in case you were wondering.

Tom Tomorrow (blog) gives us This Modern World (at salon.com). In case the one I took this from is no longer the newest cartoon on those sites when you go there, here is the whole thing.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

those smart folk at Apple...



Thanks to See My Briefs.

the L word

Yes, it's a law-suit.
Three islanders from Lesbos told a court Tuesday that gay women insult their home's identity by calling themselves lesbians.

says the Associated Press.

To be fair, the BBC already reported on this when they first sought to sue a Greek gay rights group:
The islanders say that if they are successful they may then start to fight the word lesbian internationally.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Siddhartha

Do you remember the stolen meme from a while back? Not too much later Sageweb posted her answer to the page 123 meme:

picking the closest book is technically not what I did. All my books are in a bookshelf, so I went over a picked a favorite, Vagina Monologues. It onlys have 118 pages so I went to my most favoritist book of all time, Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse.
This book has 132 pages so I got lucky, here it goes.

For a long time a beautiful courtesan was my teacher, and a rich merchant was my teacher, and so were several dicers. Once, a wandering disciple of the Buddha was my teacher; he sat with me during his pilgrimage when I had fallen a sleep in the forest. I learned from him too, I was thankful to him too, very thankful.

This reminded me that I also love that book. Just for fun I opened it at page 123 of my copy, found the fifth sentence and posted the following three:

Siddhartha aber stieg wieder in das Boot und fuhr zu der Hütte zurück, seines Vaters gedenkend, seines Sohnes gedenkend, vom Flusse verlacht, mich sich selbst im Streit, geneigt zur Verzweiflung, und nicht minder geneigt, über sich und die ganze Welt laut mitzulachen. Ach, noch blühte die Wund nicht, noch wehrte sein Herz sich wider das Schicksal, noch strahlte nicht Heiterkeit und Sieg aus seinem Leide. Duch fühlte er Hoffnung, und da er zur Hütte zurückgekehrt war, spürte er ein unbesiegbares Verlangen, sich vor Vasudeva zu öffnen, ihm alles zu zeigen, ihm, dem Meister des Zuhörens, alles zu sagen.

Now I'm re-reading the whole book again. Thanks to Sageweb - and of course Hermann Hesse.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

What does Unitarian Universalism mean to YOU?

Last Sunday was the anniversary of the very first Unitarian Universalist meeting I ever attended. It was also the very first Unitarian Universalist service I led. Following the Articulating Your UU Faith course we took, a group of us - minus a couple who had to be overseas - led a service inspired by what we learned and what we went through. We had readings about five different aspects: talking about UU to others, searching for your individual belief, that we may have different individual beliefs, but that we are stil motivated to form a community and finally the discussion amongst ourselves that helps us to keep on learning from each other.

I led the opening, the lighting of the chalice and the sharing of joys and concerns, then said a few words about how difficult it can be to explain UU to others, who may know very little, or in the case of most of the people I know, nothing at all about it. We sang Spirit of Life and a hymn called Gather The Spirit and we had two responsive readings and I felt the closeness and the community of these people.

Then we did a little thing I invented, we asked everyone to answer a question that I had written on cards. I had pencils and coloured pens with me and they all seemed so enthusiastic that we actually took a ten-minute (which I think lasted 20) break so that they could draw and write their answers. The question was "What does Unitarian Universalism mean to YOU?" and the response was fantastic. People were so articulate, even though we had more or less sprung this question on them, there were drawings and very wise words, it was beautiful.

I'm still waiting for a reply over posting them on the NUUF website, but if it takes too long, I'll put them up here instead. Afterwards our minister Derek took over and asked if anyone wanted to sign the book. I think I was up before he finished the sentence.

As a member I immediately got to sit in on the Annual General Meeting which is usually held after the last meeting of the season (with so many expats in our community we take a break for the summer because many of them will be elsewhere) and was immediately elected as head of the Worship Committee stroke Secretary.

I guess Unitarian Universalism to me means quick promotions! ;-)

Spirit of Life

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.

Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.

Roots hold me close;
Wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me

EDIT: K sent me this link with some of our European UU friends (Was this at the Münster retreat? I'm not sure...) performing the song:

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

if natural selection exists, why are these people still around?

This quote from the New York Times made me snort (emphasis mine):

Opponents of teaching evolution, in a natural selection of sorts, have gradually shed those strategies that have not survived the courts.

It's the opening sentence from an article titled Opponents of Evolution Adopting a New Strategy, pointing to a new round of discussions in the “evolution debate” - which in my humble opinion isn't (a debate, that is).

Starting this summer, the [Texas] state education board will determine the curriculum for the next decade and decide whether the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution should be taught. The benign-sounding phrase, some argue, is a reasonable effort at balance. But critics say it is a new strategy taking shape across the nation to undermine the teaching of evolution, a way for students to hear religious objections under the heading of scientific discourse.

This is an important decision, because Texas buys a lot of textbooks and if the intelligent design camp wins, those books might find their way into schools elsewhere too.

The chairman of the state education board, Dr. Don McLeroy, a dentist in Central Texas, denies that the phrase “is subterfuge for bringing in creationism.” (He) sees the debate as being between “two systems of science.”

“You’ve got a creationist system and a naturalist system," he said.

Dr. McLeroy believes that Earth’s appearance is a recent geologic event — thousands of years old, not 4.5 billion. “I believe a lot of incredible things,” he said, “The most incredible thing I believe is the Christmas story. That little baby born in the manger was the god that created the universe.”

But Dr. McLeroy says his rejection of evolution — “I just don’t think it’s true or it’s ever happened” — is not based on religious grounds. Courts have clearly ruled that teachings of faith are not allowed in a science classroom, but when he considers the case for evolution, Dr. McLeroy said, “it’s just not there.”

“My personal religious beliefs are going to make no difference in how well our students are going to learn science,” he said.

I would like to comment, but I simply can't get my head around this. The author helpfully added a little explanation about why evolution theory isn't just a theory:

Evolution as a principle is not disputed in the scientific mainstream, where the term “theory” does not mean a hunch, but an explanation backed by abundant observation, and where gaps in knowledge are not seen as grounds for doubt but points for future understanding. Over time, research has strengthened the basic tenets of evolution, especially as advances in molecular genetics have allowed biologists to read the history recorded in the DNA of animals and plants.

tripping

When I walk down stairs (up, too, but mostly down) the thing I fear most is not tripping and hurting myself, it's tripping and hurting someone else.

Thanks to the bus drivers' strike I may not be able to bring you these insights from a fat woman's perspective much longer. I wish.