donderdag 31 juli 2008

Norwegian humour

If this is typical Norwegian humour, then people there must be really disturbing.
This is a clip of a Norwegian comedian who playbacks a song from the Dutch comedy singer Wim Sonneveld (I think). If that is not funny enough for the audience, he puts his head in a fish. Hard to describe, you better watch it:

Then he goes to Holland and tries to talk to people in quotes from Sonneveld:

I am preparing to playback a Norwegian classic with my head in a rabbit.

donderdag 24 juli 2008

The link between Kasparov and Karadzic

For anyone who think that in Russia you have the evil Putin-Medvedev tandem and the good Kasparov opposition, here's something that doesn't get so much attention in the Western press.

One of the most important participants in Kasparov's coalition is the National Bolshevik Party, headed by the Russian writer Eduard Limonov. Here is a video of Limonov shooting at Sarajevo during the siege in the nineties, on a visit to his buddy Radovan Karadzic:

An inconvenient truth, as Al Gore would put it. This is just to put some nuance in the reports about the Russian democracy movement.

maandag 7 april 2008

The laptop miracle

This is a story I find hard to believe. But since it happened to me, I have no choice. I was meeting friends in Gogol. Internet at home wasn't working, so I went a bit earlier to do some work on my laptop in the cafe (almost any place in Moscow has wifi). Like it goes on evenings when you plan just to have one drink, I left the place at three o clock in the morning, drunk enough to forget my laptop.

The next morning I woke up by the ring of my phone. Some guy told me something about selling computer. I had no idea what he was talking about, told him he had dialled the wrong number and went to sleep again. Only then it occured to me that I left my laptop in Gogol. And that the guy that just called me probably stole it, and wanted to sell it back to me. My phone rang again. It was the same guy, telling me that he would call me later. He swore that he was not interested in money, what made everything even more puzzling, and told me that later in the morning, someone from the police would call me.

Now I was convinced that this guy not only took my laptop, but also wanted to rob me in some elaborate scam that involved 'the police'. An hour later, 'the police' called, and gave me an address where I could pick up my computer.

I decide to go there anyway together with a friend. We decided not to go inside if there was not a police station on the address.

There was.

It turned out someone indeed took my laptop, which he tried to sell to one of the hordes of people that lurk around some specific place in Moscow to buy stolen goods. He chose exactly the one undercover cop that was posing as one of them. They first had to find out I was actually the owner of the laptop, which explained the mysterious phone calls.

They let their foreign guest do the paperwork in the reception hall, where my friend made this picture:

It's blurry, but since he had to do this secretly I am happy it worked at all.

After the paperwork we were standing in the corridor with the undercover cop, seemingly without a point. The cop took my friend aside and told him the point: if I was still planning to show my 'gratitude' for his work. I put a 1000 rouble bill under the coat of my friend. The law abiding, crime busting undercover cop took the money and looked a bit disappointed.

When I came home I switched on my computer, it was in standby mode. I saw that either the thief or the cop had been playing Hearts on my computer. It was in the middle of a game.

Moscow objects (2)

Dog vs crab

As seen on the beach of Tanote bay, Ko Tao, Thailand. The crab won, after been thrown around a couple of times. It retreated discreetly into the sea, claws drawn.

zondag 27 januari 2008

A killer gives to charity

I read the following story in a Dutch newspaper:

Two young guys rob a bakery early in the morning. They duct tape the baker and stuff him in a closet where he later dies of suffocation. They leave with a safe containing 750 euros. The guys are arrested. They are convicted . How many years, I don't know, it wasn't mentioned in the lead, which I think is bad.

However sad the story, these things happen all over the world all the time.

But there were two things mentioned in the article that made me wonder if this was typically Dutch.

One: From the 750 euro's booty, one of the suspects gave 'somewhere around 20 euros' to charity.

Two: During a police reconstruction of the robbery, one of the suspects refuses to take part. He thinks a doll, representing the baker, looks scary. Suspect: "That was scary, I didn't feel like taking part." The article doesn't mention whether he was forced to take part anyway.

Cool vending machine

This vending machine stands in the lobby of the Clay Hotel in Miami. Every morning I bought a bottle of water from the machine, because it was pretty futuristic. Have a look:

I was thinking what the point was of this mechanism, apart from that it just looks plain cool. My theory: this way your soda has a soft landing and will not explode on opening.

Metal dandruff

Twice in my life I felt dirtier after I took a shower than before.

The first time was on Iceland. The Icelandians, or whatever they are called, are lucky to have hot water spurting from the depths of the earth, for free! And good for the environment. The downside is that the water is full of sulphur that reeks of rotten eggs. So after you take a shower you stink like a skunk. I guess they Icelandians dont notice because everyone reeks. A little bit like two people that had garlic.

The second time was last week in Moscow, when I took a shower after some repairs on the water mains. Normally they do this in the summer, when the hot water is switched off in every apartment in Moscow for two to three weeks.

I only realized how dirty the water was after it left some horrible residue in the bathtub. During the press conference to which I had to run there were pieces of iron falling from my hair. Metal dandruff.

zaterdag 12 januari 2008

Moscow objects (1)

Great journalism

Two articles caught my attention. One, in the New York Times was a detailed article on migrant workers in Iraq. Most workers come from the Philippines and Southern Asia, and don't even know where they are heading when they are handled by human traffickers.

The other article appeared in Moscow Times:

Swiss Man Asks Minsk for Asylum, Then Leaves

A Swiss citizen who asked for refugee status in Belarus has returned to Switzerland without explanation after spending 10 days in the country, Belarussian officials said.

The Swiss asylum seeker, 32, entered Belarus on Nov. 28 at a checkpoint on the Poland-Belarus border, saying he wanted to live and work in Belarus, said Vitaly Aksyonov, head of the citizenship and migration department in the Brest region of Belarus.

Aksyonov dealt directly with the request of the Swiss man, whom he declined to identify at the foreigner's request.

"He filled out an application for refugee status," Aksyonov said Friday.

Since he had no entry visa, applying for asylum was the only way the Swiss man could be allowed into Belarus, Aksyonov said.

The man cited no political motives for leaving Switzerland. "Nobody oppressed him there," Aksyonov said.

The Swiss man arrived at the border driving a Lada with a collection of books authored by Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin in the trunk, Noviye Izvestia reported Friday. He claimed that Belarus, Venezuela and Cuba were the best countries in the world.

While his asylum application was being processed, Belarussian authorities checked the foreigner into a hotel in Brest and allowed him to move around the city of 300,000, which is located near the Polish border, Aksyonov said.

The one condition was that he return to the hotel before 11 p.m. for safety reasons.

"Such a decision was made because it gets dark early in winter, and the man doesn't know the city and could easily get lost," Aksyonov said. "We didn't have the means to provide him with a personal guide to show him around."

The Belarussian migration service began preparing the Swiss man's asylum paperwork, but before it could be completed, the would-be refugee suddenly changed his mind and left Belarus on Dec. 7, Aksyonov said.

Belarussian Interior Ministry spokesman Oleg Slepchenko and Belarussian Border Guard Service spokesman Yury Kozachenko confirmed the curious case but would not provide further details.

Komsomolskaya Pravda suggested on Friday that the asylum application might have been a scheme dreamed up by the Swiss man to get a free 10-day vacation -- a theory Aksyonov dismissed.

"I don't think so, because he didn't go anywhere else [in Belarus] except Brest," Aksyonov said. "He could have bought a [train] ticket for himself and gone anywhere he wanted. He had money with him."

A Swiss Embassy official in Minsk said by telephone that the embassy was aware of the case from the media but that it could not get involved because the country in which a refugee asks for asylum has no right to disclose information about the applicant. "Especially to the country where he is from," said the official, Dietrich Dreyer.

Swiss authorities will not investigate the case, Dietrich said. "Switzerland is a free country, and any of its citizens can do whatever he wants," Dietrich said.

Belarus has been dubbed in the West as Europe's last dictatorship. In April 2006, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree simplifying the procedure for granting asylum to foreigners.

A migrant worker in Iraq. An asylum seeker in Minsk. These articles change the way I looked at reality. And I think that is the real purpose of journalism. Wish there were more articles like these around.

Why I am writing in English

Maybe it looks pretentious, a Dutch guy writing in English. My English isn't even that good! But I figured that, since the Dutch understand English, and the English understand well, English, as does half the world population, I might as well write in English.

I like Dutch, I am Dutch. It's officially the most beautiful language in the world. But this blog will be in English.