All entries for May 2007

May 31, 2007

Enkele van de beste albums van de jaren '90: Meer

Grof Geschut - MeerIk kwam er vandaag pas achter dat Grof Geschut niet meer bestaat. Maar vier jaar muzikale activiteit heeft wel een van de mooiste Nederlandstalige albums van de jaren ‘90 nagelaten.

In de trein op weg naar huis luisterde ik het eerste album Meer weer sinds lange tijd. Het doet me altijd weer wat om het te horen. Men schrijft het jaar 1999, ik zat op de middelbare school, en begon in mijn eerste bandjes te spelen. Op mijn verjaardag liet mijn broer me kiezen tussen twee albums: This is Hardcore van Pulp, of Meer van Grof Geschut. Een band wiens naam al eens gevallen was, een albumkeuze waar ik nooit spijt van heb gehad.

Meer heeft een heel direct, krachtig geluid. Het is het geluid van vakmanschap, en hoe gek het ook klinkt, een dergelijk geluid hoor je tegenwoordig niet vaak meer, ik zou het haast als iets van de jaren ’90 beschouwen. Muziek zonder opsmuk en aankleding bestaat nog steeds wel, maar dan kom je uit op iets minimalistisch, à la White Stripes. En tja, over de experimenten en waarin vele bands tegenwoordig verdwaald raken, wil ik niet eens beginnen.

Nee, Grof Geschut bracht iets anders: een doordringend, levendig en vaak melancholiek geluid, niet op zijn minst door het enigmatische stemgeluid van zangeres Leonie van der Klein. Sterke achtergrondkoortjes, fraaie strijkarrangementen alleen waar ze nodig zijn, hetgeen ze niet overdadig doet klinken. Gitaarrock met strijkers, ik kan alleen op het Engelse Bush (Razorblade Suitcase) komen die dit even vakkundig en toch op een eigen manier deden rond tien jaar geleden. Meer nodigde uit zich intens te laten beluisteren, en doet dit nog steeds.

Maar dat het niet lang ging duren, verbaast me eigenlijk niets. Ondanks erkenning van collega-muzikanten (GG deed tournees en concerten met o.a. Kane, Skik, Van Dik Hout en Bløf) hakte het er niet in bij het grote publiek. Bovendien zagen de bandleden het relaxt aan, misschien iets te relaxt. Ze bleven er maar nuchter onder. Twee bandleden verlieten gelijk na de opnamen van het eerste album de band. Ik interviewde Grof Geschut in 1999 in Hilversum waar ze voor een vrijwel lege zaal speelden. Ze bleven er onbewogen door, geloofden in wat ze deden, beloofden ons niet op zijn minst een culturele storm te brengen; maar we mochten wel een biertje met ze meedrinken.

Typerend ook hoe ze uit elkaar gingen. Na acht jaar en meer dan 250 concerten besloten ze dat ze eigenlijk maar vier jaar hadden bestaan.


May 29, 2007

Ashamed to Be Dutch–Polish

..anti-social element...Writing about these two stories: Teletubbies in Poland, Kidney show in the Netherlands.

It’s a schezophrenic existence sometimes, being the son of a Dutch father and a Polish mother. The child of two national legacies, arguably the world’s rediculously most liberal country and Europe’s most conservatively Catholic nation, I find myself standing between two at times metrically opposed world view points.

In Poland, a government official that dares to call herself “children’s rights spokesperson”, Ewa Sowinska, singled out the Teletubbies’ Tinky Winky as a potential danger to Polish kids. The ultraconservative current government is having child psychologists looking into the case: they want to know whether Tinky Winky is gay, because that would be bad. Not long ago one of the governing Kaczynski brothers (they are Prime Minister and President respectively) said in a conference that he had no problem with gays taking public positions, as long as they keep it to themselves. Soon kids in school will be kept away from any “homosexual propaganda”. It’s loathsome.

And then the Netherlands, paradise of the free. A tv show is to be broadcasted on tv in which a terminally ill woman will decide to whom she will donate her kidney after she dies. The chairman of BNN, the network that is to air this show, defends it as a useful contribution. The chance for a kidney for the contestants is 33%,” he said. “This is much higher than that for people on a waiting list. You would expect it to be better, but it is worse”, he said. Turning peoples hopes of survival and a longer life into educational entertainment, how disgusting is that? I cannot believe people who come up with something that terrible can respect what they see when they look in the mirror. And I can’t believe this is what people make of a country when they are given the freedom.

Today I feel ashamed of what people must think of me when I tell them where I come from. I’d rather be the son of a Danish cartoonist.


A Nightmare: Butter Mountains

I have been working on my essay about the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) all day yesterday. So much money wasted, spent on the wrong people for misguided porposes. So much food wasted, so many livelihoods destroyed.

Then I dreamt this night. I was standing by the side of a huge butter mountain. With a breakfast knive, taking tufts of butter off to spread on my bread. I tried to be a good European citizen, to finish the butter, but I couldn’t. I ate and ate, until I was full. It went from smiling to crying. In Berlin, Grenoble, Milano, Seville, everybody tried to do the same. But it was too much, and the mountains never shrank.

So we had to get rid of it. We melted it until it leaked into the seas, but the seas got greasy and started to rise. So we threw the remainder across the Mediterranean into the African continent. Where people had just been coming our way, to sell us butter.


May 27, 2007

Blues

Joseph Brodsky
Eighteen years I’ve spent in Manhattan.
The landlord was good,but he turned bad.
A scumbag, actually. Man, I hate him.
Money is green, but it flows like blood.

I guess I’ve got to move across the river.
New Jersey beckons with its sulphur glow.
Say, numbered years are a lesser evil.
Money is green, but it doesn’t grow.

I’ll take away my furniture, my old sofa.
But what should I do with my window’s view?
I feel like I’ve been married to it, or something.
Money is green, but it makes you blue.

A body on the whole knows where it’s going.
I guess it’s one’s soul that makes one pray,
even though above it’s just a Boeing.
Money is green, and I am gray.

Joseph Brodsky, “Blues”. In: Word of Mouth. Poems featured on NPR’s All Thing Considered Catherine Bowman (ed.)


May 23, 2007

Add Your Voice to Oxfam´s Message to the G8

Writing about web page http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what_you_can_do/campaign/g8/index.htm?p=2007VLE012&ito=2441

We have something to tell you...This year´s annual G8 meeting, starting on the 6th, is to take place in Germany.

Throughout the first few years of this millenium, it can finally be said that the poverty issue has gathered some momentum in international politics. Once again, it is at least being discussed.

Now it´s important that the rich and privileged part of the world with a heart and conscience does not lose that momentum. The G8 countries have an enormous potential impact on improving lives and even simply chances of survival for billions around the world living in grave destitution.

So please go to the petition page and let Blair and Merkel know that you haven´t forgotten about it. If you, like me, find it worrying that almost half of this world lives on $2 or less a day.

Join the G8 Wait
(And go to this page to add the banner above to your web site.)


May 21, 2007

België en Zijn Taalstrijd

Het is een warme maandagmiddag op de universiteit Autònoma en mijn hoofd drijft van de verplichte werklast af naar zaken van belangrijker statuur.

Taalgrens in België

Ik moet denken aan een tijdje terug toen we met een groep Europese studenten uit eten gingen. Met ons waren mijn Vlaamse vrienden en verder nog enkele Walen. Ze spraken met elkaar in het Frans, want dat kenden mijn vrienden allebei. Van één van hen weet ik in elk geval dat ze een uitzonderlijk geval vormt, want ze zat als bijna enige Nederlandstalige leerling op een Frans college in Brussel. Als ik echter het gesprek binnenkom, zijn wij vanwege mijn gebrekkige Frans genoodzaakt over te stappen op Spaans. Het Engels beheersen veel Walen ook niet goed, alhoewel mijn Vlaamse vrienden ook daar geen enkele moeite mee zouden hebben.

Bijna alle Vlamingen die ik ken spreken naast het Nederlands goed Frans en Engels. Veel Walen ken ik niet, ze lijken niet veel in het buitenland te zitten. Maar van die paar die ik er ken spreekt er niet één redelijk tot goed Nederlands. Dit terwijl bij mijn weten het Nederlands net zoveel jaren wordt onderwezen aan de Walen als het Frans aan de Vlamingen, en daarbij 60% van de bevolking (6 miljoen Belgen) als eerste taal Nederlands spreekt. In het dagelijks leven vormen Wallonië en Vlaanderen op elk denkbaar niveau dus bijna geheel gescheiden gemeenschappen.

Helaas voor de Walen is België echter wel degelijk één land en één economie. Waarin Wallonië al jaren lang het armere en minder productieve deel vormt. De Vlamingen pikken vanwege hun sterkere talenkennis alle betere baantjes in en hun bedrijven vormen (ook relatief naar bevolking) met afstand het grotere deel van de inkomsten.

Het “Iq sprrreeq un beetju Nèderlondz” dat de Walen mij grijnzend geven irriteert de Vlamingen dus steeds meer. Ik als Nederlander val daar niet zo over. Wij als Nederlanders zijn het wel gewend van Franssprekenden, voelen ons klein, een minderheid tussen al dat Frans. Intuïtief verbaast het me niet dat een Franssprekende geen Nederlands leert.

Maar in België liggen de verhouding inmiddels allang anders. Vlaanderen maakt immers al jaren de dienst uit in de politiek en in Brussel is, ondanks het overwicht, het percentage Franstaligen gedaald ten voordeel van het Nederlands en andere talen.

De Vlaamse schudt haar hoofd. “En dit spreken ze na zoveel jaren Nederlands op school: ik begrijp het écht niet.” Ik, met mijn gebrekkige Frans na 5 jaar onderwijs, kan haar verontwaardiging niet delen. Maar misschien moet ik er maar eens aan wennen: Nederlandstalig overwicht op het Frans. Met dank aan de door onze taalgebieden beheerste economie.


May 16, 2007

Vago

VagoThis photo quite effectively captures me over the last few weeks.

I have become hopelessly lazy.

Since the beginning of this year I have developed strange sleeping patterns. I might sleep an average of 10 hours a day by now. I quite often don´t get up for classes anymore – especially if they are on Monday at 9, and are taught in Catalan.

I have started to develop a split personality, the two most extreme representations of which you might describe as Nighttime Maarten and Morning Maarten. Nighttime Maarten insists on staying until the party is over. And then to look for another party. He believes classes the next day will be just fine. Morning Maarten is also quite relaxed. He shuts the alarm clock and tells me classes aren´t that important anyway. I probably won´t miss too much. And anyway, I need my rest, it´s no good to miss sleep. Morning Maarten dominates me the entire morning, until around 12 am.

And I don´t seem to be the only one. The Other Other Natalie writes that she sleeps about 10-12 hours a night in the Netherlands. A friend of mine writes me that he hasn´t gotten up for classes for months in Italy, except for a one-time tree-hugging class (?). And well, more evidence is right under my nose. Many of my friends here are not unaccustomed to sleeping past midday on a normal weekday.

What are the reasons? I figured them out I think.

a) Total lack of motivation. At Monday 9 am classes I am not likely to pick up much of the Catalan lecture anyway. Discussion of materials is sometimes school-styledly simple. I work for a week on an essay full of references and get a 55%. I do one in 24 hours and get 90%.

b) Nighttime Maarten is more popular here in Barcelona. More fun and important stuff happens at night. I would not be fully integrated if I did not recognise that fact.

c) Warwick anticipation. I fear my last year at Warwick like hell. So I try to do as little as I can as long as it lasts.

The Spanish word for lazy is “vago”. I think the linguistic development is no coincidence. Not doing anything makes me feel a bit less like myself, vague, undefined. Being lazy means being only the potential of Maarten. But for the moment, I kind of like it that way.


May 15, 2007

Barceloooonaaaa!

Mercury & Caballe: Barceloooonaaaa!Forever in search of noteworthy and odd things related to my current city Barcelona, I recently heard Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe with their memorable song “Barcelona” for the first time since years (I dare say: decades!). This song was performed during the ceremonies for the Olympic Games when they came to the city in 1992.

By the way, how many of you knew that Freddie Mercury was actually an Indian parcy originally named Farrokh Bulsara, who spent much of his childhood in Panchgani, India?


May 14, 2007

Watching the Eurovision Song Contest

Man or woman?Over the last few years, the Eurovision Song Contest has become every time more something I don’t want to miss. Although I already used to watch with mom and dad on the sofa when I was five, I have now made myself believe it has something of a great significance, perhaps even of political importance. So do my friends, although some for reasons of genuine musical interest, something I find kind of hard to grasp, but no matter.

We decided to watch it together – a mixed audience of Spanish, French, Swiss, Belgian and Taiwanese students in a friend’s appartment. Although I arrived late due to some metro issues (the gates refused to recognise my somewhat wrinkled metro card), I managed to see a few of the songs, one of even more appaling quality than the other, and what’s more, with very few songs that stood out for anything.

There are some facts about the Eurovision you might not know, but that I think, if you managed to read thus far, might interest you. Here’s one: the four countries that contribute most to the European Broadcasting Corporation – the UK, France, Germany and Spain – enter automatically in the finals, even if their song is of such poor quality that it didn’t manage to get through the semifinals. I didn’t think the UK’s contribution was too bad though, the others I didn’t see. That brings us to the next fact. France and the UK, most notably the latter, traditionally receive very little to no points; I believe some PhD studies have been done about it.

Fact three. Russia on the contrary generally scores all the top points from its neighbouring countries. Most curious were Estonia’s 12 points for Russia, even though the two countries have a less than amicable relationship lately. Or am I mistaken in seeing politics in innocent pop? One other explanation may be the high percentage of Russian minorities in former Soviet states. In any case, Poland defyingly granted its 12 points to Georgia, new in Eurovisionland, and with an English-lyriced tune. Turkey by now traditionally scores the Netherlands’ and Germany’s 12 points. Only just not enough to make it to the top three.

And to finish this anyway overpoliticed piece in a further political tone: how come Israel participates in the Eurovision Song Contest? It’s not like they haven’t done so for the last x number of years, but geographically they really aren’t part of the European continent. If Israel is in it, shouldn’t Lebanon too, really? I’m sure there’s some politics behind that.

To go short, not much new under the sun. Another edition, another tiny country on the perifery added, another host of strangely glamorous artist taken from an inexhaustable stock – a really wonder what these types do throughout the year – another bombastic song wins the games in a year that won’t be remembered for its extravaganza. Serbia, take it away!


May 13, 2007

It Could Happen To You

On a hot evening I’m walking through the streets on my way to a friend’s house. Two Filipino-looking women pass me by, apparently mother and daughter, quietly in conversation.

The mother wears a t-shirt that says:

“They say I’ve been naughty. But at least I know how to spank a cute ass!”


May 2007

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