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donderdag 30 april 2009

Witch Hunter

C.L. Werner's Witch Hunter is the first book in the trilogy surrounding Mathias Thulmann, a (you guessed it) witch hunter living in the human areas (the Empire) of the Warhammer fantasy world. He is a sort of inquisitor tracking down the undead, necromancers and everybody and anything that has something to do with the Chaos gods. In short, he's a über-righteous bad-ass motherfucker. In this story he has been send, together with a mercenary called Streng, to investigate a series of strange murders in the territory of Lord Wilhelm Klausner, a former witch hunter. He finally unravels a dreadful mystery surrounding the Klausner family, which set in motion events which no doubt can be read in the following two books.

The book makes for an enjoyable read in the evening, althoug it cannot be counted among the literary greats. The story in itself has the right amount of tension, mystery and plot twists to keep the story interesting. The pace keeps going at a steady rate up until the ending in a cliffhanger. I have started the story now, so I'll probably buy the next volumes as well. However, it is a good book, not a great one. What is mostly lacking is proper character development. All the characters are relatively flat, having only a little more depth than Harry Potter. The only people I could feel for were the weakened Lord Klausner and his honest son Gregor. But only slightly. All in all it makes good bedtime reading, but not more than that.

The God Delusion

The first time I saw Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion I was a bit reluctant to pick it up. Not so long before I had read Michel Onfray's Traité sur l'Athéologie (in a Dutch translation), which bored me to death. The man basically bitches for 200 pages how bad the world, and more importantly, himself, has been treated by organized religion, while making a few shortcuts in his historic analysis. The book actually got on my nerves after about page 50. His rantings did not support my atheism in any way. In fact, the history of ideas within the great religions as depicted by Karen Armstrong in The Great Transformation has given my atheism a much better basis (although arguably this was not the author's intention). I saw Dawkins' book in several bookstores, and each time I was bit tempted, but the memory of Onfray's bitching steered my away from the counter. I finally decided that I did want to read it after seeing one of Dawkins' speeches (video). The man was not boring, he wasn't ranting. He was very scientific, witty, and entertaining. I've recently been on a holiday overseas. While we were waiting to board our plane, my girlfriend and I were wandering a bit throught the duty-free shops. On an impulse I bought The God Delusion.

The book's object is to analyse the god hypothesis as explanation for life, the universe, and everything from an evolutionary, scientific standpoint. Dawkins takes all the arguments believers generally make for religion and/or against the evolution theory, and deconstructs them one by one. All the things you kind of sense that are wrong with the religious myths are duly thought out and spelled out for you. If you ever needed some sources to back you up when you're trying to get a christian/muslim/whatever of your back, they're all there. Especially the part about morality was interesting. He argues that all our moral choices stem from a universal, human approach to morality (a sort of blueprint in your mind if you will) coupled with the current zeitgeist. This is also true for religious people, who justify the "right" morals for their time by picking and choosing the appropiate parts of their scriptures (instead of it being the other way around). This book is a perfect support for my atheism. The only part where it falls short on is the explanation about the "beginning" of it all. Science does not cover that aspect to date. Maybe one day it will. At least adherents of science dare to say that they don't have all the answers. Attributing this lack of knowledge to some god(s) however is just plain intellectual laziness.

As a conclusion, I'd like to say that I really enjoyed reading this book. It is to the point, well written (save the abuse of the sentence "have your consciousness lifted by Darwin" in the middle chapter), and build upon solid science. In general I don't discuss religion too much with people who are not interested in an intellectual discussion. And when I do I don't really try to prove religious people wrong. Since reading this book, I probably keep the same attitude, apart from one thing: I have lost a part of my cultural relativism. When parts of a culture/religion is wrong, people should be called out on that. Gay people are not the scum of the earth, hitting your wife is wrong in all circumstances, ...

maandag 27 april 2009

Moments for Miel

Last Friday I went to a tribute to Miel Vanattenhoven with my dad, Hammy and my man Reck. Miel Vanattenhoven was one, if not thé, leading forces behind the Jazz scene in Belgium. He has run Jazz Middelheim up until his untimely death not so long ago. During his lifetime he has helped many musicians in Belgium and he has introduced many others to each other.

In honor of his work, the Flagey organized a tribute concert with a.o. Freddy Thielemans, Fred Van Hove, The Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Toots Thielemans and a few members of Grazzhoppa's DJ Bigband.

We arrived a bit late, so we missed the first concerts. Fortunately we were in time to see the divine Toots Thielemans play. For those of you who don't know who Toots is: shame on you if you're a Jazz fan!, if you're not check his website. He played with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra once more. They started off with arrangemants by Maria Schneider, an excellent contemporary composer. They played more laid back orchestral arrangements. After the first tracks, Toots joined them to play his (Dat Mistige Rooie Beest, Bluesette, ...) and other's (Summertime, Wonderful world, ...). As usual the man was ûber dope. Especially when he was talking about how Jazz is like a virus (Grafitti headz know what I mean).

After the concerts a jam between the DJ Bigband members and Toots and other members of the bands that played took place. This was interesting to see, although it didn't really go anywhere. It was clear that neither the DJ's nor the musicians were used to playing together, especially when switching styles (turntablism vs. jazz).

At any rate it was a lovely evening and I think Miel would have approved.