Monday, November 22, 2004

Red vs Blue

No, I am not talking about the quite famous Halo parody site. I mean the division that seems to be happening in the US between so called Blue (Democrat) and Red (Republican) states. The internet seems full of very angry people in the Blue states over the past election. It seems the past election has stirred up quite a few frustrations.

What I wonder is if things also where like this during, for example, the Vietnam war? Sometimes when seeing old footage here you see how in the past the US also was bitterly divided. I am curious if it's different this time around and if so why? To be honest I don't know enough of US culture to say. My main concern generally is with their global politics' because it also effects the rest of the world. All I can say is that I never saw this division before. But the Internet being so widely spread this days might also have something to do with that.

Examples of the division online:
http://www.fuckthesouth.com/
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/11/3/142836/638

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Liberators

Liberators
http://www.ucomics.com/nonsequitur/2004/11/18/

Friday, November 19, 2004

Forgive them father...

People often hide behind noble terminology and ideologies to push forward their own agenda that has little to do with the idea's they are hiding behind. Or they misapply it without probably realising it themselves, devolving noble causes into no more then curse-fests and an outlet for hate or ignorance. A prime example of the first would of course be Communism, which hid behind the guise of socialism. The system of course had nothing at all to do with socialism and it was just a smoke-screen to hide a cruel dictatorship behind. The second one you can encounter on a day-to-day basis in your own life.

It's this second misuse and in my eyes rape of noble goals that seems to have exploded since the great "war-president" and "leader of the free-people" (personally I prefer the terms warmonger and religious zealot) took over office in the US and started quite a few pointless wars. Most notably in Iraq.

I can never express how much I disagree with this war or war in general. But what bothers me is that many people here use this as an excuse to show blatant hate for their fellow human-beings under the guise of "peace-movement" or being "anti-war". People going off on how all American soldiers are cowards to deserve a painful death, think it's perfectly okay that Islamic extremists are decapitating civilians, and overall caricature Americans and especially American soldiers.

I think partly this has to do with sheer ignorance, and party forgetting that soldiers are human beings as well. As I understand it most American soldiers absolutely do not want to be there and are just trying to survive best they can. It's easy to comment on this from the comfort of your own home, when you never had to answer to the barrel of a gun. A comfort I fully admit I also enjoy. But take into account that most soldiers probably truly went to Iraq in the expectation they would be seen as liberators originally. The demoralising effect that not only are they seen as the bad-guys, but they also can not tell friend from foe apart is something that is very hard to imagine. In this sense it's the Vietnam scenario. Unlike more conventional "old wars" where you could clearly recognise your enemy.

This obviously all does not make war any more clean or the killing going on any less bad. But if I look for someone to blame, I look to Bush and Co. and not the ground soldiers fighting his wars for him. To a lesser extent I also look to the people who again voted Bush into power. But I honestly do believe with most they can not be held accountable for their sins under the "forgive them father, for they know not what they do" clause. Ignorance does not vindicate the effect, but it does vindicate blame sometimes.

What I also often hear are complaints about so called "collateral damage" and blame the soldiers personally. I fully agree this is something most horrid. Both the deaths of soldiers and civilians in war is exactly why war should be banished from this planet. But I find it a cheap shot at the soldiers who fight these wars. Obviously circumstances differ, but the practice of willingly targeting civilians got abandoned by western countries after World War II as far as I am aware off.

In Word War II this was still a practice for both sides. Both believing it caused demoralisation and as such would help them win the war. Studying the Second World War they discovered it actually works the exact opposite way. So that modern armies stopped applying the technique is perhaps not even so much for moral and humanitarian causes as for strategic ones.

What you never hear any of these people about is criticising those hostage takers and real terrorists. In fact when you mention this your often suddenly attacked as being pro-Bush and you just don't understand they poor plight. The fact that these people DO target civilians who are innocent gets excused all of a sudden. The fact they took (and I believe killed) a woman who has worked and lived for 30 years in Iraq trying to help Iraqi people gets ignored. The fact that most of these people, just like Bush, live to perpetuate an eternal war with no actual goal of actually rebuilding a nation gets ignored (most are not even from Iraq). The fact that these people kill many Iraqi's as well gets ignored. In fact all their crimes are either ignored or through spin doctoring get excused. Sounding very much like the same way some over patriotic Americans dislike hearing any criticism about their side.

Personally I think the second you take sides you can not claim anymore you are anti-war. You have in fact become pro-war. And hiding behind an anti-war image only hurts the true anti-war cause. But in this too I guess ignorance is bliss?

Black-metal ist Krieg!

listen to me!
(listen to me!)


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Aiming for perfection...

ShakiraI am in my own way quite the music-snob. Owning over 800 CDs alone of many different genres I do believe I have developed quite a good taste in music. Despite owning such a huge number of albums and knowing probably ten fold that amount of albums, for me very few albums ever fit the label "perfect". In fact I think I can count those albums on one hand. Omitting many albums I love with the undying devotion a mother has for her children, and many classic albums from classic artists.

Yesterday I decided to extent this very exclusive personal list with an album I bought some time ago for just a few Euro's from a discount bin because "some songs on it sounded alright". And I know this choice will make all music-snob's cringle with disgust and forever make them look on me. And they are all.... wrong!

I am talking about Shakira's 'Laundry Service'. I know, within the musical circles I generally move about this is probably considered a crime. But I believe this is mostly founded on the popular image surrounding Shakira and her target audience. Not because anybody (including most of her fans) have really ever stopped to analyse her music.

Having the album on repeat for most of the day yesterday it suddenly hit me however. There is not one wrong song, not one wrong note, not one wrong vocal-line, there simply is not a single imperfection on this album. From song-writing to execution, to production that perfectly fits. The music is 100% perfectly tailored for it's intent. As such I can draw no other conclusion that this album is as such, perfect. Going along side albums such as Tori Amos's 'Little Earthquakes', Arcturus's 'La Masquerade Infernale', My Dying Bride's 'Turn Loose the Swans' (despite being totally bored with that album), Leonard Cohen's mighty 'The Songs of Leonard Cohen', Depeche Mode 'Music for the Masses', Iron Maiden's 'Dance of Death', Aimee Mann's 'Lost in Space', Miranda Sex Garden's 'Fairytales of Slavery', Skepticism's 'Lead and Aether', VNV Nation's 'Empires' and Limbonic Art's 'In Abhorrence Dementia' along side with a few more.

In the end I also realised it's not that surprising. 'Laundry Service' does not only mark the period when Shakira decided to dye her hair blond, translate her song to English and went off to conquer teen-land. It also is in a sense a best-off album, compromising the best of her song translated to English. Unlike other popular female pop-stars she does write her own lryics and music. And did so long before she got famous, being a perfectionist when doing so. Which amazingly showcases in for example that vocal-lines and lyrical structure could easily be transferred from Spanish to English.

The lyrical topic's also seem much more down to earth then most of her contemporaries. The lyrics much more focusing on small idea's, and insecurity in relationships (much like Dido) then the slick-written-over-the-top lyrics of her peers (clearly written by professional song-writers, regurgitating the same idea's over and over again). Even a song like 'Underneath your clothes', which lyrically most resembles a typical pop-song as such retains it's endearing factor. Not to mention we need more female vocalists who sing about being proud to have small breasts and that men should stop focusing on breast size (I counted two songs where she does that). You go girl!

So while I know no music-snob will ever take me serious anymore (if they ever did), Shakira for me proudly enters the selected few who have recorded a perfect album. Not "nearly perfection" as so many artists I love, but perfect.

Note: when talking about perfect albums I only look at contemporary music (of this and the past century). Classical music is to much in a league of it's own to compare to contemporary musical genre's and the number of perfect compositions there are too numerous to mention.

Disclaimer: I know my list does not include many classic's. This is because I do not consider the two to be the same. Black Sabbath's S/t, most of Led Zeppelin's early albums, early Pentagram, Deep Purple, etc. the list of classic's continues to pile up into the hundreds as far as I am concerned, and they do not by definition are "perfect". Perfect means not a single note might be off, the intent, atmosphere, emotions, everything fitting perfectly. As such "simple dance album" can be perfect, yet a ground-breaking classic can not. At least in my view.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The reason for lack of Blog updates

(Off saving the universe)

Note: I did finnish it today, but multiplayer mayhem awaits!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Crude statement for the day

Liberty is not having to fit inside any box or categorisation.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Contemplating little big things

I have a simple quiz question for today, a little brain teaser if you will. Nothing of the usual kind you might expect in some glossy magazine. Not a trick question, nor does it resemble a puzzle in anyway. Just a random question for a random visitor like yourself.

A recent study showed that the average Dutch person is very contempt with his or her life, yet feels discontempt with the general state of affairs. I am in this no exception I believe. Different people probably have different reasons for being unhappy with the general state of affairs, but being quite selfish I'll focus on little old me. So here is my question, why would somebody who lives a fairly good life and has no troubles either in the present or on the horizon be so concerned with the state or world?

Hint: The object of this little exercise is actually not to "get it right", but think about the state of this world and what it means to us. And what it means to worry about the faith of others, you have never met and might not even agree with. Mostly why this is important (at least to me).

Bible disclaimer

Looking at another weblog (yes, it really is) I found a link to a small article/post about a trial going on in the US regarding the evolution theory vs. creationism. All I can say is that just as Kathryn of yes, it really is, I 100% agree.

The article: a modest proposal

Monday, November 08, 2004

Games for sale on Ebay

Today no political comments. All I have to offer is a bit of shameless self promotion. I am selling a few games (PC, Playstation2 and Game Cube) on E-bay. All are for the European/Dutch market. But perhaps somebody reading this might be interested. If so, follow the pretty link at the bottom of this post.

Ebay auctions

Saturday, November 06, 2004

All animals are equal but...

‘My sight is failing,’ she said finally. ‘Even when I was young I could not have read what was written there. But it appears to me that that wall looks different. Are the Seven Commandments the same as they used to be, Benjamin?’

For once Benjamin consented to break his rule, and he read out to her what was written on the wall. There was nothing there now except a single Commandment. It ran:

ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE
EQUAL THAN OTHERS

Source: George Orwell 'Animal Farm'

Goodbye Holland

I am a natural born Dutch male. My entire family line is Dutch. In appearance I am as Caucasian as they get. I have had a higher education and I made a good living, having a good solid career. But I think I need to leave my own country!

Why you may ask? Well, there is such a thing in our country as a course for immigrants they need to take. If they fail the exam connected to it by more then nine mistakes, they are forced to leave the country. A member of a political party put the exam questions online, I took the exam and lord behold. I have 13 mistakes! So I guess I need to pack my bags asap now?

Mind you, in my view some questions where completely irrelevant, in some cares some multiple answers of the multiple-choice answers where correct (like where to get a phone card), one was actually plain wrong (when you need to have your identification with you), two questions had to do with driving skills for a driving licence (I failed both and woops, I have a drivers licence!), various where ambiguous and down to personal choice. Questions about if I need to bring a gift to my neighbours, I like my neighbours very much but unlike according to this test I never felt the urge to give them gifts.

I understand the need to educate immigrants on our country, culture and customs. I think it's a good thing they learns about this and learn to speak the language. But this test, especially considering the consciences of failing it, is an outrage! Any university in the Netherlands daring to pass of such questions in a test would be sued by it's students.

The Questions (dutch)
The Answers (dutch)

Follow me the wiseman said, but he walked behind

I have been trying to avoid a topic that has been on my mind the last few days. I regretfully decided not to speak about it, for the reason I actually have to much to say about it. Somehow I feel that whatever I could say about it, would not be enough. Without a doubt various points would be left unmentioned where they should be mentioned. And without a shadow of a doubt I know all will be misinterpreted.

The issue at hand would be that of the recent killing of Dutch film director, TV maker, media-personality and columnist Theo van Gogh. For those who do not know, he was shot dead a few days ago now by a radical Muslim. Apparently because this person did not agree with the way van Gogh talked about Muslims. Which indeed wasn't very respectfully usually. Van Gogh never was respectful towards anything however. While I disagree with most he said, it seems he actively sought confrontations and debates for the sake of confronting people. To stir up debate, to get people to think about issues. And because he believed that every view, however wrong, should be allowed to be said. The most radical form of freedom of speech. In his world he was allowed to call Muslims stupid and they where allowed to call him an asshole for it. As long as it remained a clash of words, of debates.

As I just mentioned, I in general did not agree with his opinions. I even question the nature of his logic, because words can also have great implications and cause damage. There is no crime in taking other people's feelings into account sometimes. But in essence we should indeed all be allowed to say what we want. If a line is crossed (say by for example inciting to hatred and violence) there are legal ways to deal with this. At least there are in The Netherlands. The government can act against such extremes. To kill somebody for speaking his or her mind is sickening. Actually all murder is, and in almost all cases the reasons escape logic. That this happened has truly been sickening and sad.

What bothers me even more is the aftermath however. And this also means I finally get to the core of what I want to say. His death has now been used by politicians, racists and an array of very clueless individuals for their own agenda's. There are various issues here that really bother me.

The first being that various politicians have called it a terrorist attack on our nation. Apparently the man who did this was involved in some sort of fundamentalist group. Still I object to the term terrorism being used. I doubt this was a coordinated attack by a well organised terrorist cell. In fact I am quite sure that we are simply dealing with a religious lunatic pulling a one-man action. But politicians and media need to drop the buzzword "terrorism" regardless. Do we honestly think this is a mighty terrorist attack? Come from the same people that brought us bombing embassies with hundreds death, driving aeroplanes into the WTC with thousands dead, blowing up trains and train stations in Madrid with countless dead, killing dozens of people every day in Iraq? Their next master plan to top all this is... to kill a movie director only know in The Netherlands who made a movie against the Islam? Are we collectively stupid or are the the luckiest nation in the world in the sense that where other nations suffer hundreds to thousands of innocent random casualties we get away with a single murder? I know we are a small nation, but come-on! This is just all politics'.

And this brings me to point two that bothers me. Suddenly this is now used as an excuse to pass new laws to limit privacy and give more rights to law-enforcement. It's used to openly discriminate based on race (I will get to this later) and we can suddenly spend as much government money as possible on it. All because now we are "at war". With whom exactly? Our entire nation has been attacked by one lone lunatic. Yes, there are fundamentalists (I think they identified about 150 on a population of 16 or 17 million!) and yes they need to be dealt with. But this really is overkill. At least when they needlessly took away civil rights in the US they truly had been attacked.

Also lets look at how effective such measures would be. It's not the amount of data you gather. It's how you analyse it and what you do with it. It's not about even more freedom for the police. They already can't process the data they are gathering now. The fact this killer was known by them, but his data was wrongly analysed and no action was taken tells us this more then anything. Anybody involved in Information Technology can tell you that there is a difference between raw data and something called "Information". It's the ability to process data into correct information that is the problem, not gathering even more data to make that job even harder!

The third point that bothers me is how everybody is confusing everything in order to openly become racists. Suddenly immigrants need to be better adjusted. The killer was born in the Netherlands, graduated from a good school, spoke perfect Dutch and until recently was even involved in helping out his neighbourhood at a community centre. His behaviour apparently changed after the death of his mother.

Also he had a double nationality. Dutch and Moroccan. So suddenly those with less brains then a single-celled organism think the solution lies in then taking away the Dutch nationality of people who commit crimes (or are even suspected of committing crimes!). Not only does this not solve anything at all, it also means you are now adopting a double standard for your citizens. You have in effect created the notion that "all men are equal... some are just more equal then others". And obviously such a measure stops neither crime and certainly not real terrorism (if I have to explain that one, I probably already am wasting my breath).

We often accuse Americans of "asking 'why do they hate us?' but then not wanting to listen to the answer". And now we are doing the same thing. Don't get me wrong, Muslim fundamentalists should be crushed as quickly as possible. These people deserve no respect for their ideas and how they want to oppose them with violence on the world. But we never wonder where they come from? People don't out of the blue decide to go "hey, you know what? Today I'll go fundamentalist on your ass!". Of course not all go into it because we did something wrong either. Some are truly misguided or criminal.

But what I do sense is that with the rise of racism in The Netherlands groups like the Muslims have been pushed out of our society even more then before. Good, honest hard working people are suddenly looked down upon because of their faith or the colour of their skin. We are so busy feeling threatened by their presence we missed that we made them feel so unwanted that a counter reaction is only to be expected. Hate feeds on hate.

Terrorism and fundamentalism are serious problems. And very difficult to solve. In fact it's something there are no sound bite solutions for. What I do think is that it works like quicksand. The harder you blindly struggle, the more trapped you get. The more we turn Muslims into outcasts, the more they will (and rightly so) dislike us for it. That doesn't mean some people aren't simply vile by nature, and among them are Muslims, Christians, non believers. The lot of them. It also doesn't mean you should close your eyes to problems that do exist when different cultures intermix, because you fear you will else be labelled a racist. Nor does it mean that religion, or any other form of group-behaviour can not have a bad influence on people. But the issue is not solved by all these measures they are taking. In fact they make it worse.

The world is polarising, and those who wish to depolarise have always been out-numbered by those who are clueless to an extent it is dangerous. Acknowledging that there may not be a solution, and as such do damage control, and see what parts can be solved in some way, works better then just throwing hollow solutions at a problem like poring gasoline on fire. When it comes to matters of sociality and psychology, things are infinitely complex.

Things are actually infinitely more complex even then I could write them down here. But this already has become more then a little lengthy, so perhaps a good note is to end on my favourite quote of one of the greater minds in history Bertrand Russel "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves. But wise people so full of doubts".

The man who would be the messiah

I came across this quite shocking article about Bush, it was shocking before his re-election. More shocking afterwards.

Because it's a lengthy article two key quotes from it that struck me:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

"I don't know why you're talking about Sweden," Bush said. "They're the neutral one. They don't have an army."
Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: "Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army." Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.
Bush held to his view. "No, no, it's Sweden that has no army."

Full article [New York Times]

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

How the mad-emperor Nero got re-elected

Today I have been torn between anger, amazement, frustration and disbelieve, finally to settle into a more tranquil state of mind again. Yesterday and today's events have left me lost for words, yet with a distinct feeling to shout out frustration in a sheer avalanche of words at the same time.

I am on the one hand not surprised, but all the more saddened by the choice of the majority of the US people. One would think that a man who has lied, committed fraud, started wars without reason, ruined the economy, divided America and the world among other numerous lesser crimes would be spit out, puked out by a general public. But it seems not to be the case.

Before this election day I could still say to myself, well the Americans have a bad leader, but at least they never elected him and he got in power by fraud. But with the US election of 2004 over, the majority of Americans has said that yes, they want a corrupt, war starting, economy ruining, racial dividing, incorrectly religious zealous madman as a leader. Yes, they do approve his actions.

A man who when his nation was under attack didn't know what to do and just sat in a class-room with a wondering look on his face. Where was this so-called "war-president" then? A man who has given the terrorists more then they ever could have asked for. One of the major goals of the terrorists is probably to rule in the middle-east. So Bush removes one of the biggest obstacles, a man known for oppressing Muslim fundamentalism and terrorism. Not for noble reasons, but because it interferes with his own power base and state-terror on his own people: Saddam Hussein. The US is slowly withdrawing troops from Saudi Arabia, another thing in favour of the terrorists. And the polarisation between the west and the Islamic world has been sharpened, with an added "bonus" that the West has become divided. The amounts of blunders Bush has made over the years are only outshined by his corruption and money-grabbing from the poor to middle-class Americans to enrich those with more money then they could ever spend in a life-time.

Generations of Americans will already be left with the economic, political and environmental damage this man did in just 4 years. As such he's been re-elected? Sometimes the world truly amazes me in it's pure stupidity. Then again, Hitler was also elected.

I also feel very sorry for those poor Americans who did see through the lies, the deceit and tv stations like Fox News (which in a resident study has shown to make people less educated about the world and factual evidence!). I, in that sense, am glad to live in old (and wiser) Europe. Where we have our problems, but at least it's not as bad yet as in the US. It must be hard for those Americans to live in the same nation with people who still live in the dark-ages. To live in the same country as people with no real sense of morality, justice, honesty, moral values and everything else that is right, fair and just in the world. Because in my eyes a vote for Bush was a vote against all that is fair and just in the world. A vote for a mad modern-day emperor Nero, who speaks about morality, but acts quite differently.

I do think this is a bad sign of things yet to come. Perhaps even the first real cracks of the decline of our "Western Empire". With the things Bush has said about Europe and other nations, I would think cooperating with the US has become close to impossible. Especially with the US voters legitimising his actions and words now. His re-election will only bring more misery, pain, despair and hurt. Future generations of Americans have been condemned with their votes, and perhaps much more of the world I fear.

It would not even surprise me if by the end of Bush his second term we would either be involved in an all out global religious war or that the fundamentalist Muslims would be the dominant force in large parts of the world. Sadly a best outcome scenario probably involves just the US ruining itself economically for generations to come. Something practically already in effect. The US already shows many characteristic's of a third-world nation and I fear by the end of Bush his reign it will be close to impossible to spot the difference between them. Aside of course from the US large amounts of weapons of mass-destruction. A third-world nation with the fire-power to set the world ablaze.

Still, in a sense I remain optimistic. As always the majority of the people destroy (generally by accident), do not see the bigger picture and make the wrong choices. It will be left to those who do see to clean up after them, to pick up the pieces once it all falls down. It's a thankless job, because most often those who really do what is rightious, who really stand for the ever illusive "greater good" are looked upon just the opposite by the general mass. The mass that either out of their ignorance or pure stupidity created the entire mess we are in, in the first place. So we will have to wait it out four more years, hope the damage will be limited and then again see if there is a chance to pick up the pieces and see if there is some order left to restore in this world.

Disclaimer: any reference to Emperor Nero is to the popular myth regarding Nero, not the actual historical figure.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

...

...

Monday, November 01, 2004

Mistakes

mistakes