Saturday, May 21, 2005

World's best DJ joke

Someone wonderful told me one of the cleverest DJ jokes last night. Not hugely funny, but spot on.

2 DJs are talking and one says to the other, "I went to see the new Star Wars
film last night." "Oh, really?" said the other, "Who was the projectionist?"

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Fawin' Down

In January, for the second time in my short and lustrious(?) life, I went skiing. Skiing is the art of staying upright on a slippery surface and is the richer cousin of skating. When I first when skating, some 15 years ago, I took to it like a fish to a food processor. It hurt. I went home with a wet, bruised arse. Something I don't want from any of my hobbies.

When I went skiing for the first time, some 5 years ago, I took to it like a fish to vodka. I was not completely at home in it and it made me very unsteady, but I soon adapted a little. Actually I progressed very well in that week.

This time round, my progress was not so marked. It was still quite impressive, but very soon, I found myself left behind.

Our instructor, Jean-Pierre - or as Joanna could only say, Champignon - was of the school that there should always be one person in the group who makes the rest look better. I was impressed at the way he did this, so that on the first day, there was one guy we were always waiting for who seemed to spend most of his time getting out of snow drifts. By the second day, he had given up, and two days later it dawned on me the group loser - the guy who came home more snowman than human - was me. I was the one who did the spectacular falls. I was the one who would always have to go off and search for his skis. or sticks. Or gloves.

Joanna sounded like the one he was nurturing in the snowboarding group. His only advice to her consisted of "Don't fall, Joanna, don't fall." A less helpful thing to say is not imaginable.

The last few days, I dropped out of ski accademy 102, leaving the group to find a nother 'bottom of the class' to land on his ass. This was after a superb fall finding me landing on my shoulder with the full weight of my body. Pain came instantly, and I was almost rude to the French girl who came to help me, as I did not want help up. I just wanted to lie there and nurse my shoulder. Eventually, I made it to my feet, but found most bodily movements caused my shoulder to let forth shots of pain. I skied down slowly went home and found even climbing into bed gave me great pain.

Nothing was broken, but for several days most bodily movements made me want to give up and go back to bed. Except going to bed was painful as I was on the top bunk.

The journey there had been overnight on a coach packed with excitable girl students from Leiden. It had been uncomfortable and there had been an incessant schoolgirl chatter.

The journey back should have been worse for the injury, but somehow my expectation of it being unbearable and the fact that the group of gaggling girls was on another bus, meant it exceded expectations, whilst not being in any way good.

After this holiday I made a proclamation - one I made after the last time - that skiing, whilst fun, is not for me. It is a very active holiday, whereas I like mine to have some time for writing and relaxation. I would probably never go again. A few days later, Jochem - organiser of the trip - announced next year the group would be even bigger and even more fun. We'll see how this proclamation holds up, shall we.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Squeak Squeak

Just to show that the whole mice thing isn't new, here's something I wrote early 2001 shortly after arriving in the Netherlands. The only people I know in the Netherlands who don't complain about mice, have cats. So you have to make your choice.

Mouse Hunt.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Dubya Dubya 2

American President and Commander in Chief of the Safekeeping of the English Language, George W. Bush was in the country this weekend to celebrate the liberation of the Netherlands at the end of WW2. (Note: The W in Bush's name does not stand for the same thing as either of these two W's, apparently.)

As ever, there were protests. Not about WW2 or the liberation of the country by the Americans or Canadians, but about a more recent conflict, namely the liberation of mineral deposits from the Iraqi authorities.

I mention this because reading about it reminded me that here was a president whose policies and those in his international alliance had inspired even me to protest. ME! I am the laziest, most indifferent, most cynical man who ever put digit to blog (modern equivalent of pen to paper), yet I got off my skinny, uninterested arse, went out into the cold and joined hundreds of thousands of others who marched the streets of Amsterdam along a path marked out for us by police-horse shit (or is it police horse-shit?). Twice!!

"Do you think this will change anything?" asked a co-marcher on one of those days. "No," I relied with my own version of absolute certainty, which probably didn't sound like it. But I was sure it wouldn't. I was not there because I thought I or even we could change something, I'm far too cynical for that. I was there to make my views felt. I was there to increase the number of official count of protesters by 0.5.

When I was in the US a few months later - after the war was won, but the peace being very hard fought - I was introduced to the concept of counter protesting. This is where you march at the same time as the protestors and protest at their protesting. Or rather you promote that which is being protested about. My fear for this method, apart from the fact that it can appear to be anti-freedom-of-speech, is that if there is much less of you that the protesters, it makes them seem like the majority. And it is not as if the other side needs to be made any more visible. In this case every time Messrs Bush, Rumsfelt, Blair, Rice, and Fox News open their mouths, this point of view is promoted.

One of the reasons people feel compelled to counter-protest is that on protest marches there are usually people shouting to go beyond the changing of immoral foreign policies and to bringing down the whole country. The trouble is, any protest, from Keeping the Library Open to bringing about an end to WW2 and restoring Europe to the German people is going to bring out extremists. These people are always there and protesting is part of what they do. No, it isn't such people that the pre-Iraqi-invasion protests were remarkable for, but for the sheer number of people out protesting for the first time. People like yours truly, who have never protested at anything in their life - except at the age of 10 when they threatened to remove a mobile classroom from my school (but that's a different story) - and probably never will again.

My favourite image from around the world was from the London march. It showed a little old lady who probably lived through the Blitz and waved flags when the fleet came home The Falklands, holing aloft a placard saying "Make Tea, Not War."

Hear, hear. I take milk and no sugar.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Is Googling the new Stalking?

Chances are, you've been googled very recently. I have recently discovered it is the new way to find out about your friends. It's cheaper than hiring a private detective, more socially acceptable than stalking and much, much easier than phone tapping.

I have a friend who seems to think the more times you are mentioned on the internet the more you exist. Alas this is merely an indication of the amount of spare time you have and how prepared you are to use it to do things on the web. Having your own website helps.

What also helps to be found is having an unusual name. If your name is Robert Smith, you will get lost in amongst all of the other Robert Smiths in the world, not to mention all of the many sites dedicated to the lead singer of The Cure.

However, if your name is Hazibob Mansolatournicapopolous, you can be pretty sure there are less people with that name, but you can also be sure people will often spell it wrong, so people may not find all the references to you.

Another secret I have realised is to post articles, pictures or trivia about famous people that internet users are obsessed with (and believe me, most of them are obsessed with something). If you post a picture of Jean-Luc Picard you painted or a song about Star Wars to the tune of a rock classic, this will get propagated around the net by a process known as Spodmosis and very soon one search for your name reveals hundreds of sites mentioning you.

It also helps a great deal if you are famous in the real world or at least have some sort of role (such as performer, writer, CEO or guru) that will mean you are mentioned by other people.

Thus the most prevalent person on the web that I know personally is Claartje van Swaaij who has everything: her own web site (, the unusual name, she performs, she posts frequently and she paints lots of pictures of Jim Carrey.

My other friend Sarah Smith, who has great difficulties with computers, is unemployed, rarely goes out and doesn't paint or watch TV seems to not exist on the Internet at all. In fact I cannot be sure I didn't just make her up. Sorry Sarah.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Gig Review: London Calling @ Paradiso, 30/4/05

Why the Paradiso scheduled this great gig on Queen's Day I don't know. Normally I love to go to this regular showcase of up-and-coming (usually) British bands, but the timing actually made it a tough decision. In the end, I went for the latter part of the second day rather than the whole thing.

When we arrived, already tired by a day spent floating in the sun, Nine Black Alps were already playing (they were not the first band). We only caught the end of them, but they sounded good. But without listening to more and/or undergoing deep hypnosis to remember it better, I can't comment any more than this. Will try to check them out and give you a more informed update.

After this, we crammed ourselves into the Kleinezaal and saw wunderkind, Tom Vek. Tom Vek makes you think of David Byrne and a little bit of Prince as I remember. But mostly David Byrne. He is a little enigmatic, but didn't seem entirely at home - a charge I would lay at the door of most of the acts there.

Next up came The Others, the answer to the question "Could Echo and the Bunny Men ever happen again?" The answer is an equivocal "yes." The music was enjoyable but nothing to grab you by the shirt collar and shake you. But there was something likable about them, and the fact they hang out with The Libertines (constantly in the British press due to drug abuse and the more shameful dating of supermodels) they will probably do well.

New Rhodes followed in the small room. Erm. My memory fails me here. I think they were enjoyable but not enough to make me go into the room rather than watching them on the screen. The live editing within the Paradiso was first rate. It was so good, it made you think you were watching a video that had been edited after the fact. Well done chaps.

Next up on the main stage were the band everyone was talking about, The Kaiser Chiefs. Kaiser Chiefs sit very much on the retro boat that pretty much all bands sit on these days. They have a similar sound / influences / attitude as Franz Ferdinand, who also have the Germanic name thing going on. The Kaiser Chiefs took the stage whereas other bands had just stood on it. The entertained and played their upbeat mix of influences. Sometimes making you ponder Madness in their rockier moments. Sometime making you say "Ooh, The Jam." But mostly you don't care about the influences, but enjoy a band playing good songs well together. Everything they do is tinged with humour and some lines just tingle. NB This was the only band I bought a CD for.

The small room then played host to Engineers, who follow the tradition also continued by British Sea Power of chugging out well-crafted tunes that you can't always hum, but that you don't mind that they can last for ten minutes.

By the time the last band came on, the place had emptied out considerably. It was the early hours of Sunday, and most people had been out wearing orange all day. Plus the last band, I Am X, apparently fronted by a former Sneaker Pimp, were pure electro. Retro electro. A New New Order with a harder edge, but after a long day in the sun and on the booze, not able to keep most people from their beds. Your reporter included.

In summary: British guitar pop music in better shape than it has been since the mornington glory days of Brit Pop. They all owe so much to The Clash in the same way that Brit Pop owed so much to the Beatles.

Pete’s tips for the future: There will be many, many more bands with Germanic names sounding like Franz Ferdinand / Kaiser Chiefs. E.g.: Der Wünder Bars; The Auf Wedersehen Pets; München Gladrags; Heil Kevin; Kapitein Zensible; and Einstürzende Neubauten.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Queen's Day

There are a few crazy days on the Dutch calendar. None is more so than Queen's Day - Koninginnedag. This is when the whole country goes on a mild-mannered drinking and profiteering spree.

The whole shebang kicks off on the night before, Queen's Night as it is called. This is the night those with any form of partying streak go out and celebrate the forthcoming (official) birthday of the Queen in the traditional manner of cramming themselves into or around bars and downing quite a few jars of the golden happy juice.

That night, I met an increasing number of friends in a bar on one of the "Nine Streets," so named because there are nine of them, and they are streets.

Despite the sheer numbers of people out, there is rarely any trouble. It's all very good natured and thoroughly friendly. A great night to meet new people. In many cities in the world, especially in the UK, this number of people drinking this amount of alcohol would have resulted in fights every five minutes and police on every corner.

The following day is Queen's Day. Supposedly the Queen's birthday, it's actually the birthday of her mother. But who cares. So how do people celebrate this day? Well, by royal decree, anything goes. People are permitted to wear what they like, so they wear as much orange as is humanly possible. They are permitted to buy and sell things on the street, so from early morning, people set up stalls and sell stuff they don't want. 95% of it is stuff that no one else wants either, but there are usually some good little bargains to be had and the Dutch, who have trading in their blood, get up early to snap them up. This means for those of us with nothing that morning in their blood except alcohol find that when they emerge to buy things, the things that are left are not even attractive to people who are hung-over and sleep-deprived.

This Queen's Day was spent on a boat. It's my first time on a boat on Queen's Day, and whilst the canals do at times get very congested, it is actually less congested that the roads get over certain narrow bridges. And tro get stuck in the middle of several dozen boats is a pleasure compared to being stuck between several hundred people. At least in my opinion. Some people may prefer the other way round.

Trends this year included: boats of people wearing all white instead of the traditional mostly orange (Is white the new orange?); Then later a boat of people all dressed in black (Is black the new white?).

As ever there were constants: Hastily erected podiums at key spots and the Museumplein turned into a music festival; People (mostly men, but not exclusively) urinating in every half-unused corner.

As ever the low percentage of police and trouble was a source of amazement. It must be something about the occasion and the soothing effects of the colour orange. Because it ain't the same when Ajax play Feyenoord, that's for sure.

After the boat trip - for which I will release some pictures soon - there was a mini-festival of up-and-coming British bands, London Calling. But this I will speak of later.

So I say, enjoy the weather (if it's nice where you are) and wear orange as often as possible. Even if it clashes with your hair.