maandag 24 september 2007
We took a bus from Habana to Viñales. During the drive we met a Dutch girl, Santa Lucia, who thought we were speaking South African. And we´ve been hanging out together since. We´ve also met a lot of Flemish people. And, everybody is here for the same reason: let´s go before el Jefe is dead.
Anyway, like I said Viñales was great. A quiet, peaceful village with only one bar with live music, some shops, and a lot of nature. The day after our arrival we went on a horse-back ride through the hills. Our guide was quite talkative, and explained to us the different things we saw, like pineapple crops, and the cooperative farms and such. After about an hour or three we stopped at the house of a local campesino ( farmer), who farmed tobacco. There we smoked a hand-rolled cigar, which was way better than any factory-made cigar you´ll ever have. Next, we took a swim in a local pool, next to a smallish waterfall and some palm trees. In one word: the bomb.
The next day we went up to the local beach, for a day of relaxing (and unfortunately a lot of mosquito bites). There I got a serious sunburn. You win some, you lose some I guess.
After a day or three, and great mojito´s, we had seen enough of the (nonetheless beautiful) environment of Viñales. Next stop: Trinidad. There are only two ways (besides hithchiking) to get there: bus or taxi. The bus goes to Habana, and after a 2 hour lay-over there is another one to Trinidad. This takes about 11 hours. By taxi, it takes 6 hours more or less. If you can pool a cab it costs a few CUC more, but it´s a lot easier. So, Hammy, me and Santa Lucia hooked up with two guys from Antwerp we met by chance and booked us a cab. This makes 5 people, while a normal cab only takes 4. So, we chartered a minivan. Since Cubans don´t like to waste anything, they filled out the bus with 2 Austrian girls and 1 Israeli girl (who were going to Cienfuegos, which is on the way).
Trinidad is a Unesco Heritage site with a lot of colonial houses, a church and some museums. We got around the center in half a day. In that time you get to see pretty much all there is to see (including of course jiniteros). Here again the country-side is amazing. There is hiking to be done, horse-back riding, a great beach, a trip with a steam train (if it didn´t break down about a week ago), etc. Yesterday evening and the day before we got together with the Belgians we met at de Casa de Musica, where (you guessed it) there is live music to dance to, and cocktails to be had.
Today we went up to the amazing pearly-white beach we dreamed about. Unfortunately it started raining hard after an hour or two. It´s peculiar to see the blazing sun over the water, and extremely dark clouds over the beach. After an hour or so, it cleared up though. Tomorrow we´ll be going for a Seafari, which is a catamaran trip to an island, where we should get to see some coral reefs, beautiful fish, and iguanas strolling on the beach.
The most amazing part of Trinidad is our Casa Particular though. Our hostess is extremely friendly. Her husband is a musician (trovadores in Cuba, or Mariachi in Mexico). One morning he sung a serenade at our window to wake us up. Yesterday we had lobster outside, just the two of us. Before our meal he sang us several classical Cuban songs. How cool is that!
So, on wednesday we´re driving up to Varadero, via the mausoleum of Che in Santa Clara. Thursday we´ll head to the beach one more time to watch the all-inclusive-don´t-want-to-know-the-inland-tourists (just like a zoo). Friday it´s off to Habana again, for some live jazz. The day after, we´ll be taking a last stroll in the town center, and then (boo hoo!!!) our time here is up.
woensdag 19 september 2007
donderdag 13 september 2007
For accounts of the aftermath of the plane attacks that are not propaganda by either side there are two possibilities. For an American view you can check the so-called milblogs (military blogs) or warblogs. Blogs written by soldiers in the field. They provide an inside view of the wars that are being fought right now. They firsft appeared during the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan. They represent a unique historical account of wartime experiences. As such, they should be preserved for posterity, which in the volatile world of the internet is not always easy. Luckily there are some archivists who are thinking about this problem (I forgot where I read about it), so, hopefully, a solution will be found in the near future. For an Iraqi version of the war, the now defunct blog by Saad Eskander is an interesting read. Mr. Eskander is the head of the National Gallery of Iraq. During about 6 months or so he published his day to day activities as an archivist in a war zone. He talked about the daily problems he and his personnel encountered, and how he tried (and probably tries) to keep the documents, the building, and, more importantly, his staff intact. Finally he stopped posting out of ethical considerations. When reading his stories you have to wonder where these people still get the courage to get out of their beds every morning and manage to get some work done amidst violence, bureaucracy, sectarianism, political rivalries and a lack of basic services.
 “Since 1994, the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University has used digital media and computer technology to democratize history—to incorporate multiple voices, reach diverse audiences, and encourage popular participation in presenting and preserving the past. We sponsor more than two dozen digital history projects and offer free tools and resources for historians.”
 The American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning aims to revitalize interest in history by challenging the traditional ways that people learn about the past.”
dinsdag 11 september 2007
August 18 2007 till March 16 2008 you can visit the exposition Leonardo Da Vinci. The European Genius at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, also known as the Basilica of Koekelberg (Brussels). Since they have used the available room in the fifth largest church in the world, it is a fairly large exhibit. Without really dawdling it took my girlfriend and me about two hours and a half to get through.
The exhibition is divided into several themes:
The person: the first part is constructed as a biographical sketch by means of paintings, statues and video images of the places he’s been. You start in Vinci, with a video wall that shows the house he was born in for instance. Then you go to Tuscany, where he developed his love for nature and science. Next is Florence where he worked as an apprentice with renowned artists. His drawings from that period are excellent. Next you are taken to Milan, Venice, Rome, the Adriatic and Val de Loire for his period of patronage (by the Medicis, Sforzas and the French King François I). It was nice to see how his ideas and skills developed over time, but, although it is an interesting introduction, for me it took a bit too long to get through. Especially because there was not much art to be seen from the hand of Leonardo. Most of it was comprised by works from other, contemporary artists. Nothing wrong with that as such, but that’s not what we were there for. Although the pieces that were there, were good, they weren’t extraordinary. A nice touch were the works that were inspired by him, e.g. Verochio’s statue of David, where Leonardo supposedly stood model for, Rafael's School of Athens (this was a lithography I think), where his face was used for Plato and Louis Gallet's painting of his death with King François I at his side (based on a popular French rumor). A bonus was his famed self portrait (or so I thought, in fact it is a "remake").
The artist: this was a mixture of paintings, drawings and video images with small documentaries about specific parts of his work. The most important piece in the first room of this part of the exhibit is the, well known, Vitruvian Man, depicting the perfect proportions of man. Together with the Mona Lisa, this image has become emblematic for Leonardo. So I enjoyed seeing it for real instead of on some poster. How wrong I was. But more on that later. Other works include different paintings and drawings by his hand, as well as mechanical sketches and a handbook that he had compiled. A bit further paintings of his students could be seen, some of which were quite remarkable. After this came the best paintings of the exhibition: Madonna (or Virgin) of the Rocks, the newly accredited Maria Magdalena and the Tongerlo abbey’s copy of the Last Supper.
Three copies exist of the Madonna of the Rocks, one in the National Gallery of London, one in the Louvre in Paris, and the one on display here coming from a private collection. In 1483 Leonardo and the de Predis brothers were commissioned by the Milanese Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception to paint a work celebrating the Immaculate Conception for their new chapel. The images to be portrayed were stipulated in a contract. Although Leonardo did paint what was asked he gave it his own interpretation. However he finished the painting too late, which led to a legal dispute. Eventually he made several versions with each a slightly different emphasis.
Maria Magdalena: this is the pièce de resistance of the exposition. The first mention of this painting was in a reproduction in a monograph of 1929 by Wilhelm Suida, who exhibited it in 1949. Since, this work was only shown to the public once, in Ancône in 2005. Although it has been named Maria Magdalena, there are virtually no elements of the traditional iconography to be seen. We see a woman with a scarlet cloak, bare breasted, holding a tip of the cloth in her left hand. Scans show that underneath the part of the cloak that is being held, there used to be something else. What, cannot be seen. One theory states that this was a dagger. If this is the case, it is reminiscent of Lucrezia Romana. The famous Roman Historian Titus Livius tells her story. She was raped by a nobleman, after which she takes her own life with a dagger.
The Last Supper: well, who doesn’t know this painting? The copy of the abbey of Tongerlo, of which we get to see a huge poster, is one of the best. Thanks to a different technique it is extremely well kept and still shows certain elements indiscernible on the original (whose decay took place within years of completion).
The engineer: here of course we were able to see the mechanical improvements and other inventions of his. On display were wooden models of his tanks, flying machines and bridges, among other things, flanked by his drawings on the subject.
The humanist: in the last rooms his (original) illustrations and codices were shown in the field of anatomy. His attributions to our understanding of the human body can hardly be underestimated. After years of studies he comes to understand the human anatomy on an unprecedented level, as revealed in his mirrored writing and detailed illustrations.
Although it is definitely an interesting exhibit if you don’t know anything about Leonardo Da Vinci, it cannot be said that it was more than that. The concept of the themes has an instructional value, but at some points there wasn’t enough contextualization to really do justice to the offered information and ideas. Just before seeing the machines you walk through a room portraying the mechanical ideas of Leonardo. Drawings are on display and video images show certain principles. Which principles isn’t clear since no explanation is being offered. All in all, these are only minor annoyances; the real letdown was the fact that hardly any original work by Da Vinci is to be seen. Except for the anatomical studies at the end of the exhibit, and the Madonna of the Rocks and Maria Magdalena, all of Leonardo’s works are copies, including his self-portrait at the beginning. Even the Vitruvian Man is a facsimile. Luckily I was able to get in for free thanks to my teaching staff card (I’m not a teacher though, for the moment I’m working for the College of Antwerp, Hogeschool Antwerpen) while my girlfriend got a discount because she’s still a student. If not, €10 for an, albeit elaborate, exhibition of mostly fakes is quite expensive.
Conclusion: this exposition is ideally suited for a visit by a school to instruct their students about the importance of Leonardo, but a tad expensive if you already know more about his life and work. If you want to see something amazing go to the Louvre or the National Gallery in London. It was nice to see models of his machines. Another way of seeing them is to go to Le Clos Luce Chateau in Amboise (France).
As we all know China is the strongest growing market in the world right now. To make sure that their products live up to international standards and to reinsure foreign customers, the China Top Brand quality label is awarded to certain companies every year, since 2001 (a few months before becoming a member of the WTO). “In the official interpretation of "China Top Brand," […] logo actually represent four arrowhead-shaped objects that symbolize economic development. Together the objects formed the character for fame [...] in China Top Brand as well as the character for quality [...] in Quality Top Brand. The four arrowheads also represent four Arabic number one's, which symbolize the four quality standards, the four evaluation criteria, the four concepts and the four evaluation principles necessary to become a China Top Brand.” Unfortunately this design resembles something, which could deter European, American and Israeli customers from buying a product with this logo on it. What do you think?
 Some humorous cross-cultural advertising gaffes! http://www.takingontobacco.org/intro/funny.html, September 11, 2007
 It is quite possible that it was an African country, where the local language is written from right to left. So, don’t shoot if I’m wrong, but you get the general idea.
 45 Businesses Scoop Top Brand Gongs. In: China Daily, September 3 2001, http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/english/200109/03/eng20010903_79159.html, September 11, 2007
 Renwei, T. "China Top Brand" Logo Resembles that of Nazi SS? In: Southern Metropolis Daily, April 27 2007, http://zonaeuropa.com/20070427_1.htm, September 11, 2007
maandag 10 september 2007
If we can find some internet over there I'll be posting our adventures. I can't wait to see sixties cars, hear dope music, smoke cigars and drink rum all day.
Another reason for the appearance of the site was to give students, historians, and all those who were interested, more possibilities to research KGB archives. One more important reason was the appearance of memoirs of KGB workers and their supporters in recent years. The authors of these reminiscences not only tried to whitewash their reputations, but also clearly rewrote modern history. In their publications, they called KGB workers true patriots, and portrayed dissidents, partisans, their messengers and their families as dunces who did not know why or what they were fighting for, and, even more, most of them were portrayed as common criminals. What information does the site http://www.kgbdocuments.eu/ carry?
First of all, it will be possible to read about the structure and work of the NKVD–NKGB–MGB–KGB in the Baltic States. Then, there are documents of different KGB departments, which show the differences in their work in the countries. All the documents, scanned from the originals, have descriptions. It will be possible to find them by name, place and date, KGB department, title of the document, and so on.
Visitors to the site will find news and articles about research into the work of the KGB. "
woensdag 5 september 2007
Live @ UGHH.com Store
Commander in Chief
The sound of Philadelphia
Army of the Pharaohs: Tear it down
Army of the Pharaohs: Battle cry
Army of the Pharaohs: All shall perish
Here's a Army of the Pharaohs torrent link.
dinsdag 4 september 2007
In this view humans are seen as the scourge of the planet. Everything we touch seems to be destroyed. The very christian thought that we have inherited the sins of the world is being reused. Because la condition humaine seems to be one of pain and anguish (or dukkha according to the buddhists) we need to protect ourselves as much as possible against anything ill that might befall us. Up to a certain point this proposition holds. Because of this idea a car has an airbag and the maintenance of airplanes is checked regularly. A problem only arises when people go too far in their protective measures. E.g. apparently “a growing number of school districts are going so far as to ban the game of tag and are even posting signs that read ‘no running on the playground.’”  The advocates of these restrictions say that most of the traditional play equipment is dangerous. Their precious offspring might hurt themselves while using the swing or merry-go-rounds. In my opinion that’s completely ridiculous. Yes, kids run around while playing, and, yes, sometimes they hurt themselves. That’s all part of growing up. You take small risks, you try out the limits of this fantastic new gear that you’ve been given, i.e. your body. When you fall, you can get bruised, that’s life. And then, to paraphrase Frank Sinatra, you pick yourself up and get back in the race. “In Salem, an elementary education director says "we don't encourage the game of tag because it encourages fights."” Well, in playground fights you learn how to stand up for yourself. If you don’t learn it then, you will learn it later when the fight’s more serious, only you’ll have less experience.
I’ve been giving examples from American cases, but you can see the same attitude trickling down to Europe as well. Back in my high school days, when I got bad grades my parents would ask me why I didn’t study enough. Nowadays the parents show up at school to complain. A friend of mine, who works in a school, told me there were complaints about the English teacher. Why? His students didn’t understand him because, get this, he spoke English during the English course. Our children obviously need to be pampered. Every time they go out we need to wrap’em up in protective gear, and every time they get the smallest amount of criticism we need to let out our motherly roar.
If we don’t watch out we’ll end up with a generation of pussies, who won’t be able to keep out the hordes of the barbarians when they threaten to invade the borders of the empire. Maybe that last statement goes a bit to far. But, the idea is that if we have to be afraid of everything that might happen to us, we wouldn’t get anything done. In this way, Roosevelt’s adage the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself” becomes eerily true.
 Jacobs, H. Het eeuwige heden van de angst. In: Knack, vol. 37, nr. 31
 Furedi, F. Epidemic of fear. In: spiked, 15 March 2002, http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/00000002D46C.htm , 14 August 2007
 Armstrong, K. The great transformation: the beginning of our religious traditions. New York: Knopf, 2006, p.
 Harding, S. Is litigation taking the ‘play’ out of kids’ playgrounds? In: Katu.com2, 20 August 2006, http://www.katu.com/news/3637901.html, 16 August 2007
 Sinatra, F. That’s life. http://www.lyrics007.com/Frank%20Sinatra%20Lyrics/That
 Harding, S. Idem
Personally I'd rather not care if someone is straight or gay and judge someone on their merits as a good person or their professional accomplishments. But, it's funny though.
Here's another one:
"Some occultist tried to tempt me with a dream about pornography last night. I sent the dream back on him/her with eternal impetence. I can only imagine what that occultist must be going through right now. All that lust, with no release!"
Just remember, keep it in your pants: