Sunday, August 31, 2008

Airlines Lie


So, it emerges that what Dutch police initially treated as a "possible" hijacking at Rotterdam airport last week was just a drug addict named "Coco" putting in a hoax call as part of a jealous love affair.


At least as reported in the Dutch press, "Fatih", the male half of the couple that was initially arrested, was unemployed, yet he was going on a 22-day vacation to Turkey.

Only in Holland.

(steve wampler)

Coco was a friend of Fatih's who was having an affair with Fatih's girlfriend "Hinda," the female half of the couple. Coco was desparate to keep them from spending so much time together. Hinda was playing along with Coco, and cooperated by arriving too late for their initial flight out of Amsterdam.


Then when Fatih and Hinda were given a second flight out of Rotterdam anyway, Coco got desperate and called in the threat.

Now Coco and Hinda are in jail, and Fatih has been released to reconsider his future plans.

(random ideal)

But I digress. Digression continues:

The part of this story that has my attention is not so much that in the year 2008, it took the Dutch authorities more than 5 hours to decide what to do with a (hoax) phone call threat against a flight.


What gets me is that the airline, believing there was a hijacking threat, lied to the passengers the entire time, telling them there were technical difficulties and changes to the flight schedules.

(from De Telegraaf):

"You can get away with that kind of story for two hours, but this took too long," said a spokeswoman from Transavia. "People can see there's nothing happening to the plane."
She said the crew had a tough time too. They tried everything they could to keep everybody comfortable.
"We tried as best as we could to explain to them what happened and that Transavia couldn't do much about it. Unfortunately the spokespeople for the border police and the prosecutor's office were completely unreachable for us."

Man, I know *that* feeling.


Anyhow, call me naive, but isn't this just proof that pilots and the crew will always lie to you about the seriousness of the situation?

Now that we know that, how can we ever trust them not to be lying to us about how serious problem "X" is?


The answer is, we can't.

They don't want to cause a panic, it wouldn't do you any good to know, etc., etc.

I still would rather just know. And there ought to be a law against them keeping you on the plane for more than 2 hours.

I don't have a lot of flight anxiety _ I always accept that my fate is completely out of my hands, and the odds of getting in an accident are kind of like the odds of winning a lottery. A negative lottery, obviously.

(An aside for linguists: the word "lot" meaning "fate" is still very active in Dutch _ exists in English too, but rarely used by Americans).

My brother is a pilot. On his advice I once read "Fate is the Hunter." It's a great book, I highly recommend it.
(auntie rain)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Telegraaf: U.S. to bomb Iran

(AIVD headquarters, photo by facemepls)

The Oracle of Amsterdam says this is bogus, but let it be recorded:

De Telegraaf, reporting on the basis of anonymous sources within the Dutch AIVD, or secret service, says that the Netherlands expects the U.S. to strike various targets in Iran in the next several weeks.

The Dutch have pulled back one spy who had infiltrated the Iranian nuclear program and helped designate targets, the paper says.

Article in Dutch.

I frequently rail against De Telegraaf, the country's biggest paper, for its questionable reliability & taste. But like other tabloids, it is responsible for many scoops, thanks to good sources inside various defense and law enforcement agencies.


One noteworthy additional footnote: the story was published under the joint byline of two reporters, Joost de Haas and Bart Mos, who exposed corruption within the AIVD in 2006, and were first wiretapped and then jailed for their efforts.

All of this adds to the seriousness of the report. But in the world of cloaks and daggers, it also raises the possibility that they are now being fed false information to damage their reputations...

I would also add, in order to keep its negotiating hand as strong as possible, the Bush administration wants to keep the option of a bombing attack on the table. Or at least make it appear to be on the table.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Interesting Stories Brewing

There are several interesting stories brewing in the Dutch media right now, all of which need further vetting.

(links are to de Telegraaf, in Dutch).

First, a blood bank that has lost 37,000 donors after the salaries of the top three managers came out _ a combined EUR800,000.

File that one among the "the righteous Dutch anger at pay inequalities." It's an area where I think a lot of people understand where our Dutch brethren are coming from. The real question is why Americans are so easygoing about CEOs who get paid massive amounts to fail.


But in this case I do wonder: what do other blood bank directors make? And, does this mean there is now a blood shortage?

Second, Greenpeace is feeling a little heat after dropping large rocks in the North Sea to screw up fishermen. Reportedly this is a lethal danger for the fishermen. because it could cause a boat to capsize, and bad for the marine life to boot.

I wonder: is it really so dangerous, and does the marine life really suffer? Is it flat-out against the law to go dumping big rocks in the sea? And does Greenpeace stand by the action as a good idea or was it a one-off mistake?

(johnny shaw)

And third, the incredibly sad story of a 28 year old guy who reportedly had himself euthanized after a stabbing left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Dutch media are focusing on whether the stabber here should be charged with murder or attempted murder. One other matter needs more reporting though please: did the doctors really agree to euthanize somebody who's only 28 years old?

I have only sympathy for the man who died and his family.

My question is, I understood that legal euthanasia was only for the terminally ill, suffering great pain, with no hope of recovery...surely this report must be wrong?

(lingual x)

On a lighter note, there's also the "Penis Plant to Bloom" story, but I think I'll just leave that one to, uh, unfold.

The "Penis Plant" is better known to you and I as Amorphophallus Titanum, the reuzenaronskelk, titan arum, or just plain old "schwanz."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tampon Hockey, Ook Leuk

I took this photo at a youth hostel two summers ago while on vacation in Enschede. I have to say, it's one of those things that strikes ya kinda funny for about 0.5 seconds and then you move on.

By chance I posted it to my Flickr feed (which I stopped using after they started asking me for money _ I'm open to suggestions for a better free service).

Anyhow, now it's on a website called that's a ripoff of

I would never have known, except somebody took the trouble to send a message to me that Engrishfunny had posted it.

I don't really care whether anybody uses that photo; a few other photos have been lifted from my Flickr stream for commercial purposes, but I'm not interested in trying to make any money off them (reasons: can't be bothered / not worth that much anyway / let people be creative / etc. ). But people do usually tell me when they use one.

Well, as far as I know.

Follow all that?

Now, a side issue is that some of the posters at Engrishfunny are bashing the photo as not being true Engrish since "Tampon Hockey" is correct Dutch.

I just thought it was kinda funny, you know?

But what's REALLY got my curiosity is, why did some guy bother to tell me my photo was being used w/o permission?

Theory 1 (rose colored glasses): Guy was just being altruistic and concerned.
Theory 2 (battle-hardened cynic reporter): Guy is affiliated with and annoyed that Engrishfunny is getting a free ride off my photo.

Ha, what a world!

I have posted another mildly amusing photo to this blog, it awaits those who click "more" below.

Engrish or Engrishfunny: whoever is quickest gets to use it free!

Sorry for the blur ... I couldn't use my flash. Maybe it's funnier if you crop the photo...

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Well, after seeing that, what else is there left to say? I'm convinced.

The definitive proof of Bigfoot's existence is released in Palo Alto of all places, it's the biggest thing to come out of my hometown since "The Wave" and I missed it by less than a month. Looks like Jane Goodall was right about Sasquatch after all...

I can't believe it's the 21st century and these shitwits couldn't think of anything better than blurry photographs and "we're keeping the body in a safe place."

I mean, even a photoshopped image and "it ran away" would be more credible.

I also am amused by the media reaction. I remember vividly back in '02 when some lady claimed to have cloned a human. She timed it, with genius, for Dec. 27, a slow news day _ which meant that understaffed news agencies jumped on the story and then were left with no way to refute a claim... and the woman got the attention that she wanted for her cult or what have you.

Yes I played a small sad role in that...

In this Bigfoot case, last week was a heavy news week, what with a war on in Georgia, and the Olympics in Beijing _ so how did the old Bigfoot manage to strike such a chord?

I still think it's something about the timing. Like, it's been a long while since there was a big silly weird news item.

And what do you do with it once it's caught on, as responsible media? Ignore a story like this at your peril. Mild skepticism and tongue-in-cheek remarks seem to be the only solutions people came up with.

Did anybody even attempt just discrediting the story (not my favored approach) or better, out-bizarring them?

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

-Hunter S. Thompson.

So, like, the first question to the hunters/ex cops should have been: "Isn't it true, sir, that you have been romantically linked with Amy Winehouse?"


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Shall Be Released


After a long interruption, my Dylan Project continues.

The best description I ever heard of why "The Lord of the Rings" is so enchanting came from some guy who I was working in a cafeteria with, cleaning and bussing trays. I was 14 years old and he was 19, so older and wiser.

Anyway what he said was "it's as if (Tolkien) just went into an attic somewhere and found some old maps."

So too, for Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." It's hard to believe Dylan even wrote this, that it isn't a cover of some traditional jail (or slavery) ballad he found among a collection of old folk song recordings. But as far as I know it's really attributed to Dylan. All the more impressive.

With the jail theme, I can't resist speculating it's no coincidence it was written the same year "Cool Hand Luke" came out: 1967. Cool Hand Luke being one of the greatest movies ever made, though these days people get more excited about the pretty-damn-good "Shawshank Redemption."


Dylan didn't put the song out in any form (there are several) until 1971.

Simplicity, when it's pulled off well, demonstrates the greatest mastery of all.

This song's sweet melody, direct lyrics, and lazy pace combine to create the powerful emotion of a weary person longing to be released.

Above all, that twangy harmony brings in the element of pain.

"Any da-ay now, any wa-ay now."

Because on past 'Dylan Project' songs I've noticed a lot of people come to the page while searching for an interpretation of the lyrics, I'm going to oblige and break down as much as I think I understand (after the "More.")

Just hope y'all ain't high school kids robbing me for an English essay...actually what do I care? Knock yourselves out.

The executive summary: This is a deeply Christian song that operates on two levels: the profane and the sacred. It's about a man in prison / all men (people). He wants physical release / spiritual release. By recognition of his innocence / by absolution of his sins.

In addition to everything else, I have to say I love the way Dylan's frolicky picking hops its way down the guitar until the strumming starts (on the version linked above).

Version II
This version is more mournful.

I Shall Be Released

They say ev'rything can be replaced,
Yet ev'ry distance is not near.
So I remember ev'ry face
Of ev'ry man who put me here.
I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east.
Any day now, any day now,
I shall be released.

The first words of the first verse are by far the hardest to interpret (and some versions don't use this verse at all, or put it in a different spot).

They say every thing can be replaced = every injustice can be set right, returned to where it was before something went wrong.
Yet every distance is not near = but some things can't be replaced: for instance, time a man has served for a crime he didn't commit.

So I remember every face of every man who put me here: for revenge, at first glance, from a false accuser or a corrupt prosecutor or judge. But on second thought: even if the jailed man is "guilty as charged," then how responsible is he or any criminal is for his actions?
His parents, his external influences _ even the God who gave him free will have conspired against him, in some sense.

I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east.
Any day now, any day now,
I shall be released

The light is the light of divine justice. At sunset, and on Judgment Day, the light shines from West to East.
The release could mean release from prison or release by death and god's absolution for the things _ criminal or otherwise _ the singer has done wrong.


They say ev'ry man must need protection,
They say ev'ry man must fall.
Yet I swear I see my reflection
Some place so high above the wall.
I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east.
Any day now, any day now,
I shall be released.

This is the first verse on some versions.

Every man must need "protection" = Provided by God or a guard.
Every man must fall = We will all sin, and we will all die. By God's will, or the warden's.

Yet I swear I see my reflection some place so high above this wall.

This is maybe the best line in the song, so multilayered.

On the first level, the wrongly jailed man can daydream of flying free past the walls, or of his spirit at least being freed and rising toward heaven after his death.

On the second level, a guilty jailed man can imagine a reflection, perhaps of a better version of himself that didn't commit the crime _ being free.

But most importantly, man was made in god's image. So guilty or innocent, he will see his reflection in the sky: either way, god made him what he is, and put him behind bars. God will let him go when the test is over.

(maia c)

Standing next to me in this lonely crowd,
Is a man who swears he's not to blame.
All day long I hear him shout so loud,
Crying out that he been framed.
I see my light come shining
From the west down to the east.
Any day now, any day now,
I shall be released.

The man NEXT to the singer claims to be innocent (just like the singer does).
He SWEARS he's not to blame, he's been framed (just like the singer does).

Perhaps this person next to the singer 'doth protest too much' _ his constant complaining may lend credibility or doubt to his cause.

Not like the singer: he really is innocent. Or is he really any different from the person next to him, singing out that he's been framed?

In some versions it's not clear the singer isn't the person in the crowd. Either they're the same person or they're people who are the same.

One has been framed. Both have been framed. Neither has been framed.

But the whole lonely crowd will one day be released.

(shawshank ship)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympic Games protest on the Dam

I'm not 100 percent sure what to call yesterday's protest timed to coincide with the opening of the Beijing Olympics. The predominant theme was "Free Tibet" but there were a lot of advocates of other causes there too, notably from Myanmar.

I kept hunting for an answer to the question "why hold this protest today" (obvious answers being, in order to embarrass Beijing and cash in on the publicity to promote their various causes) but no one seemed willing or able to express that.


I had quite an interesting discussion with a young Tibetan who had come a long, long way from a monastery through torture by Chinese police and a dangerous escape through the Himalayas to freedom in Nepal. He eventually ended up living in Amsterdam _ which might as well be the planet Mars from his perspective.

This was the kind of conversation that was at about 1/1000th of the depth it could have been ... hearing the bare facts of such a tale is like knowing an onion by its husk. My mother died while I was young.

Moments such as his expulsion from the monastery and the pain of leaving home on a treacherous walk with danger behind and total unknown ahead. Ay.

And in the midst of those thoughts I was also thinking how bittersweet it is that his life will always be circumscribed by those experiences. There is no possible future in which _ for instance _ he becomes a stock broker or a concert pianist.

Nor will I be a Tibetan monk. It's all one.

The most interesting comments about reasons TO protest came from a German woman I spoke to. She told me:

"I feel really unhappy that our leaders are now in China because I think human rights are more important than economic interests."

But weren't the Olympics begun in order to give us a respite from political disagreements?

"Everything is politics. When the Olympics started in Greece, the games were held among free countries. If we do not concentrate on human rights, treatment of people and freedom, then we lose the ideals of the Olympics."


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dutch Nanny State, Muslims and Media

(martin q)

I saw a news story today on NOS that said a Dutch company that is paid to check up on people who falsely claim that they're sick has launched overseas operations.

So now they're checking up on people who call in sick while on vacation.

At first I thought the most amazing thing about this story was the implication that it's possible to call in sick while on vacation. Then I thought the most amazing thing is that there is a company in the Netherlands whose main function is to check up on whether workers are lying when they call in sick. Like professional narcs.

Well, those parts of the story are definitely true (you can call in sick while on vacation here in order not to waste any of your 25 days; the company that's made a business out of busting cheats is called VCC Groep).

It reminded me of another recent story that Dutch schools have started posting truancy officers ('leerplichtambtenaren') at Schiphol airport two days before the start of summer vacation to make sure that parents weren't sneaking their kids out of school early to avoid the crowds.


Anyway it turns out the NOS story was actually a derivative version of a slightly more interesting story in my favorite paper De Telegraaf(Dutch).

What a different impression we take away when we read the Telegraaf version:

"AMSTERDAM _ Special for Dutch employees of Moroccan and Turkish heritage, a new service is being set up to check up on those who call in sick during their vacations in those countries.

(akbar simonse)

"By calling in sick with a false doctor's declaration at the end of their vacation in Morocco or Turkey, they are able to milk out extra days in the sun for weeks at a time, healthy but paid. The doctor declares that the employee can't travel because of illness."

"It's striking that it happens primarily with Dutch of Moroccan and Turkish origin," says director Paul Chaillet of VCC Groep. ... "Usually a visit to the doctor who gave the false declaration is enough to get it retracted. But you do need to have a person there."


"The company primarily concerns itself with cleaners and production workers who 'arrange' a longer vacation."

I guess the text pretty much speaks for itself.

Personally, I've always been fascinated with the phenomenon of apparently healthy 'white' Dutch who don't work because they've been able (I guess) to swing a doctor's excuse but continue to draw their salary.


Every day, summer or winter, I see well-dressed white people relaxing in the cafes or doorways reading their newspapers with a coffee as I bike to work, and I think, "what do they do?"

Can we have a story about that, please, Telegraaf?

Oh Bollocks

(alex clark)

"How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world."

I'm just tired of it. Can't get my damn computer to convert .mts files to something usable without the sound going screwy.

Then the hi-rez films end up looking like crap on GoogleTube or the Internets anyhow. What's the point?

I wish I had somebody to blame for me buying this stupid expensive camera. I'm just itching for it to tell me "PC Load Letter" so I can finish the job.

(from the film classic "Office Space."

What have you, my good friends, deserv'd at the hands of
Fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?

Prison, my lord?

Technology's a prison.

Then is the world one.

A goodly one, in which there are many confines, wards, and
dungeons, Technology being one o' th' worst.

We think not so, my lord.

Why then 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or
bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Gay Pride 2008

A friend of mine called Cralan said that Amsterdam deserves a medal for Gay Pride day. Sure, every city has one nowadays, but Amsterdam in our opinion is really something special.

I bet, though I can't prove it, that more heteros than homos attend. But who knows.

Anyhow, it's always fun and funny.

Without much more ado, a few photos and film clips taken with my shiny new video camera, the only thing of value I bought back in the U.S.

*APOLOGIES, especially to people I interviewed Saturday. I really couldn't get things working tonight (Sunday) with the videos and I have to sleep. This post will be updated with more material soon...

Your locator:

Along the scenic banks of the Amstel river

The party begins

Q: What are these ladies laughing at?

A: This poor dude who was having problems performing in public, so to speak.

Jesse Helms' fears about the Teletubbies are confirmed:

This one remind anybody of the incident at Queen's Day?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Water on Mars

(from geenstijl)

Forgive me.

I'm just saying. It seems like every 3 months for the past 7 years we see headlines saying "Water discovered on Mars."
Okay, we know that now. What else?