Sunday, November 22, 2009

Flamenco in Oudenaarde

Flamenco is a Spanish music genre, originally created by Andalusian gypsies, that many of us, tens of millions really, like you and I love to our heart. I often enjoyed the music on radio, movies or CDs but never had the opportunity to watch a live performance. Until yesterday. A group of five artists, from Sevilla itself, going with the name of DOS, were here yesterday in our home town of Oudenaarde, East Flanders. By the way, "coming from Flanders" is translated in Spanish as Flamenco, because native Spaniards believed that gypsies arrived in Andalusia from Flanders... In all honesty, I haven't met that many gypsies in Flanders in more than 30 years!

I coudn't resist using my iPhone and live record a tune or two. I loved one song in particular, and had I been much younger, I might have danced on my chair and shout Olé with the rest of the crowd. With the spouse next to me though, who would dare do such a thing... Whatever! Here it is for you to enjoy too. Has got something to do with 'Vida' (life), I think, and I would appreciate if someone recognized the lyrics and post them here as comments. It really sounds so cool that song!

Anyway, there's no way to describe the virtuosity of the guitar players and the group's couple of flamenco dancers. Simply A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! The two guitar players, El Rizos and Diego Rocha were like from another planet. I had the impression these dudes had at least 8 fingers in each of their hands. Each one played one guitar but you had the impression there was a whole orchestra with at least a dozen guitars on stage. The group's female singer, Carmen Fernandez, sang so typical flamenco and the concert hall was literally shaking from the volume of her voice. You could feel it inside your guts. And then, there were those two flamenco dancers... a couple, Irene Alvarez and Federico Ordonez... What could I add here?! I rather shut my mouth, or I risk to spoil it for y'all.

Would you honestly believe a performance like that could ever have a snowball's chance in hell to take place in our little 'hole' in the middle of nowhere, our very own Oudenaarde of all places? I wouldn't...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm a Turk! I'm leavin' this cunt country (sic) for good!

Hilarious and tragic. I wish you understood Dutch to grasp the dialog. In summary, a TV crew accompanies a Dutch Highway Patrol chasing offensive drivers. In this clip, they appear to be chasing an S-Class Merc at 167 km/h in an area of 100 km/h legal limit, that eventually appears to be driven by a Turkish immigrant, resident in the Netherlands since 30 years. The dude initially reacts cool (within limits) and tries to excuse himself that he's been talking to his passengers, whom he picked in Brussels, and that he didn't pay much attention to his dashboard... bla... bla... bla... but, when he hears the officer saying that, at that speed he was gonna lose his driver's license, the dude goes literally bananas. The saddest part of the incident is that he starts blaming the policemen for 'racism' and 'jealousy' because he happens to be a Turk and driving a S-Class Mercedes. Quite a few immigrants in the Low Lands (that includes Belgium too) try singing that song to defend themselves against local authorities. It's so bloody pathetic. And then, he starts cursing the country itself (kutland, kut=cunt) and the police officers. Then, he turns to offend the camera crew (calls them klootzakken=testicles)... Admit it! In 30 years the dude became quite fluent in Dutch slang!

What a monumental ass! I mean, really, if you know a more tolerant place on our planet than the Netherlands, please tell me... I'll move there tomorrow. I wish the dude tried this in Turkey. They'd beat the livin' shit outta him, throw him behind bars and let him rot there... to only let go after he paid them the equivalent of his S-Class in bribes... small notes! Remember Midnight Express? Or, for fun, he should try that behavior in another Western country... kinda like Texas for a change. Patrol officers would first shoot his brains off his skull onto the pavement, and then... cuff him!

Morale of the story: Dutch Patrol Officers are way too cool!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Big Government suckz!

A good friend of mine from the UK, and one of my best regular suppliers of Internet jokes, sent me this one this morning, being both hilarious and tragic at the same time . But so true! Enjoy the reading as much as I did:

A letter from a concerned citizen to a UK Government Service:

"Dear  Sirs,
I'm in the process of renewing my passport, and still cannot believe this. How is it that Sky Television has my address and telephone number and knows that I bought a bleeding satellite dish from them back in 1977, and yet, the Government is still asking me where I was bloody born and on what date.
For Christ sakes, do you guys do this by hand?  My birth date you have on my pension book, and it is on all the income tax forms I've filled for the past 30 years. It is on my National Health card, my driving license, my car insurance, on the last eight damn passports I've had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I've had to fill out before being allowed off the plane over the last 30 years, and all those insufferable census forms.
Would somebody please take note, once and for all, that my mother's name is Mary Anne, my father's name is Robert and I'd be abso-fucking-lutely astounded if that ever changed between now and when I die!!!!!!
I apologize, I'm really pissed off this morning. Between you an' me, I've had enough of  this bullshit!  You just sent this application to my house, then you ask me for my fucking address !!!!
What is going on?  Do you have a gang of Neanderthal arseholes workin' there?  Look at my damn  picture.  Do I look  like Bin Laden?  I don't want to  dig up Yasser Arafat, for shit sakes.  I just want to go and park my arse on some sandy beach somewhere. And would someone please tell me, why would you give a shit whether I plan on visiting a farm in the  next 15 days?   If I ever got the urge to do something weird to a chicken or a goat, believe you me, you'd be the last fucking people I'd want to tell!
Well, I have to go now, 'cause I have to go to the other end of the poxy city to get another fucking copy of my birth certificate, to the tune of £30.  Would it be so complicated  to have all the services in the same spot to assist in the issuance of a new passport the same day?? Nooooooooooooo, that'd be too damn easy and maybe makes sense. You'd  rather have us running all over the fuckin' place like chickens with our heads cut off, then have to find some arsehole to confirm that it's really me on the damn picture - you know, the one where we're not allowed to smile?! (bureaucratic fuckin' morons) Hey, do you know why we couldn't smile if we wanted to?
Because we're totally pissed off!
An Irate Citizen.
P.S. Remember what I said above about the picture and getting someone to confirm that it's me?  Well, my family has been in this country since 1776 ........ I have served in the military for something over 30 years and have had full security clearances over 25 of those years enabling me to serve my country all over the world. However, I have to get someone 'important' to verify who I am - you know, someone like my doctor WHO WAS BORN AND RAISED IN FUCKING PAKISTAN !
You Sure The Hell Should Know Who."


Sunday, November 8, 2009

ἓν οἶδα ὅτι οὐδὲν οἶδα

One (ἓν) I know (οἶδα) that (ὅτι) I know (οἶδα) nothing (οὐδὲν)! In other words: I know f@ck all! That's about what Sokrates (to whom the quote is attributed) must have said and thought when he spoke that quote sometime during the 5th century BC. What he didn't say though is how frustrating it must be to realize its deep meaning for oneself. We all learn things during our short lives, and often we are so proud of what we know, at least some of us, and consider ourselves big shot SME's (sounds cool, innit... it stands for Subject Matter Experts - Wow!). And we even walk around with our heads leaning left or right from the weight of our overcharged neurons... true story! Problem is, brain neurons are finite. The more knowledge we accumulate each day the more neurons get connected in our brains to form the new memory of the things we just learned, but, gosh, there's gotta be a limit to those connections. And then, as your brain gets busy connecting more neurons, you must be darn sure there's another bunch of neurons some place else in your skull that goes bananas... if it didn't your brain would just explode and even Greg House wouldn't be able to save your ass. So, you wake up one bright morning having forgotten your login password (that's still ok), and as you follow the procedure to recover it from the system (here's the hard bit), the system's like, (...secret question): What is your mother's maiden name? No shit! And you are like...Euh... Euh... WTF! My God, I got Alzheimers! I forgot my mom's name!

Well, as we age, some of these connections naturally fall apart... they must do! (Gosh, what a lesson in pseudoscience you are getting from me today! Whatever...) I'm a living proof of this! I've been residing in this country since mid seventies, but before then I was born, raised, and resided in Greece, all in Greek... until I came here to Belgium to seek and find my 'fortune' in the rich West.

My parents only spoke Greek and no foreign tongue whatsoever, except for my mom, who during the war did learn a few German words from a tiny little book that Nazi's distributed to the natives for propaganda (they might have thought they'd stay there for ever, filthy morons!). And she used to sing to me "Wie einst Lili Marleen...' into the fifties and sixties... And I also remember my grandpa's few swearing 'English' words Yankee style, that he learned when he tried moving to the US at the turn of the century, and worked for six months in an Illinois slaughterhouse, until he realized "it ain't no better place than that good 'ol Smyrna* home". A strike of luck that was. He came back to his wife and newly born twins indeed and later conceived his last daughter, my mom! I wouldn't be here to write this if it wasn't for that funny thought who sent him back home from Chicago. The Butterfly effect! We are all children of Chaos!

Ten years into this country, that's more than 20 years ago now, I came to realize that, indeed, I wasn't capable of forming one descent sentence in the language I had written my Master's thesis on Marine Engineering back in 1975! Forgot my mother tongue all-fokking-together!!! Jesus-Mary-Josef! I was ashamed to admit it. But it's still like this. Cross me! Shoot me! I'll have to work for days to translate any single of these blogs of my own writing into my mother tongue! Yep... those damn language neurons in my skull gave way to new formations for my learning of Dutch and French. And so, I ended up as someone who can't speak one single language properly! A real shame!

One thing I hadn't forgotten though, never ever. Counting and swearing! I don't know about counting, but swearing only feels good when you do it in your mother tongue, trust me! Don't know why, but that's the way it is. You'll never forget swearing. I still remember hilarious moments of flabbergasted compatriots of mine who met me after all these years to find out that I couldn't even phrase the very basics, but still remained more than fluent in swearing and counting. Even so, I hadn't lost my Alexandroupolis accent of the North East either (με και σε) despite the five years I spent in college, in Athens. How about my non-Greek colleagues laughing their ass off hearing me giving hours long lectures in Dutch or English but still fall back to my mother tongue to do simple arithmetics (προπαίδεια). Curious, innit? I'm sure some real scientists will have an explanation for all this.

Is there hope for us? If you believe Ray Kurzweil and the folks of The Long Now Foundation, there must be. By Ray's beliefs, there's soon to be the singularity point (in say, fifty years something or even less) when computers will become smarter than man, and when, nanobot implants in our brains would connect us subconsciously via some sort of future wireless connectivity to large knowledge bases and instantaneously turn us into Nobel Prize laureates! Or something. I said that once to a friend and she was like, I'm glad I'll be dead by then! How about you? Do admit though, with our human knowledge accumulating at the pace we witness today, unless something like those intelligence enhancing nanobots came up, our great-great-grand children will have to go to school until their mid thirties to even learn how to sell shoes... or they'll have to become Utopia citizens on another planet like those armchair lying fatsos we saw in Wall-e!


*Yep, my family from my mother's side initially lived in a small village not far from Smyrna (modern day Izmir), until they got pushed into the Eastern Aegean sea by the Kemal troops during the last and largest Greek-Turkish conflict almost 100 yrs ago... Was a tough war... both sides forgot their 'human origins' and acted like the filthiest vermin, cutting young pregnant women with their bayonets to massacre unborn babies out of their mother's womb. Yep, both Greek and Turkish 'soldiers' loved that sport!

Saturday, November 7, 2009


As I was relaxing yesterday after a 'hard' day's work (no shit) and minding my own business, I decided to watch this week's Cranky Geeks videocast with Dvorak & Co. At a given moment they started a conversation about this iPhone app, called Looptastic that I never heard before. One of the cranks on the show started demoing a tune while composing the song in real time, based on samples (created earlier) turned into mashup loops. Watch the YT clip to see how it works. The whole thing was taking place on his iPhone that he had connected to a set of amplified loudspeakers. The app has a free version with some free loops as well. Those of you with an iPhone or iPod Touch, go download it and have fun. There are various versions of Looptastic but I went to buy the Gold version (a few dollars worth). They also offer in-app purchases of additional loops. For less than 4 dollars you can buy a loop edition (Hip-Hop, Ambient, Progressive House, Minimal House, ...) Each edition is subdivided in 10 groups of 10 loops each. You can't combine loops from two different groups, mind you.

Once you start 'composing' you let your creativity fly... loads of useless crap comes out for sure. Eventually you are ready to go for a pro recording... you start from scratch again and play your loops  to your heart's desire, just like a pro DJ (like the kid on the clip, with electronic effects and all). Eventually you decide to close down your session; you then save your next 'platinum' track under some cool killer name. Next, you export all your tracks you recorded into your PC or Mac . That works via your home WLAN (in AIF sound format). The app establishes a wifi pipe using HTTP, meaning you just start your browser and link to a resource that Looptastic told you to go look for. You find a nice page with all your 'creative compositions' sitting there one by one. A simple click on any of them and there fly the megabytes from your iPhone into the downloads folder in you laptop storage, or whatever other box you care to use.

After importing,  I normally use Audacity (free and cool) for some minor sound edits and then import the MP3s to iTunes. From there on the route to the National hit-parade is only a matter of days! Go check one of mine here... Why did I call that one 'pirates', you sez??? Don't ask!