Archive for January, 2009


Music: Ani DiFranco likes her new president

“President Obama, its an honor just to say it
I used to hide my passport now I want to display it”
-Ani DiFranco

It comes as no surprise that Ani DiFranco, who was looking forward to the US elections when I saw her in October, is very pleased that Mr. Barack Hussein Obama is her new president. Who wouldn’t be?

Ani DiFranco wrote a lovely, hopeful song called November 4, 2008 about the 44th president of the USA, which you can watch on her website:

The lyrics are (taken from


November 4, 2008

The victory was ours and you were the first to say it
never known so many people donate time to a campaign
and when you were elected there was a global wave of joy
who knew a world gone mad could still go sane
and we poured into the streets
and we danced and we cheered
and the neighborhood was a neighborhood
like it hadnt been in years
all eyes meeting, filled with tears

yes we prayed you were coming
and we saw you were here
you are black, you are white
you are red, you are blue
you are green and orange with a purple and yellow hue
and youve risen like a phoenix from each flame that they threw
youve been everything that we asked of you

President Obama, its an honor just to say it
I used to hide my passport now I want to display it
Thank you for our democracy, through you it’s resurrected
Thank you for our decency, in you it is reflected
Thank you America for being more than I expected

Yes we can, yes we can, yes we can
Yes we can, yes we can, yes we can

And President Obama you do not have to be perfect
I trust that you are a public servant
Steady as Abraham Lincoln,
Ready as Martin Luther King
Is the spirit that you bring
And we vow to uphold you through these tricky times
Keep you safe in our hearts and informed with our minds
And we will uphold each other
We wont divide and attack
There is no going back
There is no going back
There is no going back

Yes we can, yes we can, yes we can,
Yes we can, yes we can, yes we can
The victory was ours and you were the first to say


Rambling: Evil Sinusitis…

I got hit hard (or should I say “punched out”?) by a severe case of Sinusitis, as my doctor tells me, and boy, those sinuses are not kidding around…

It started on Friday when, in the afternoon at work, I felt a slight scratch in my throat. It got a bit annoying but didn’t seem at all serious. Later that night I started feeling really sick, so I went to bed, hoping a good night’s sleep would cure me. Then I spent a great deal of Saturday and Sunday lying down, until I finally went to see Dr. Eva on Monday. Her diagnosis was basically that I had too much mucus in my head to work and should stay home for the week.

So my mom drove 6 hours to pick me up and take me home and try to get me all healthy again, and I got powerful antibiotics that also help against cholera and syphillis. I actually read all the side effects of these antibiotics and was expecting them to seriously frak me up in the most unpleasant of ways, but instead I hardly notice any change. My food tastes funny and there’s likely still too much mucus in my little head. Yay for no side effects, I guess.

I still have enough antibiotics for five days, so whatever the bacteria in my body are up to, I’m sure that stuff will give them a mighty tough time.


Books: The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut

The Eden Express is a book by Mark Vonnegut, who will likely be forever known as “Kurt Vonnegut’s son”. I admit, that’s why I read it, too, and while it is – as I expected – not at all like a Kurt Vonnegut book, it is still well-written, interesting and has a point.

The book starts with Mark talking about how he just graduated from college (in 1969) and was trying to figure out what to do next. He was a hippie and entertained the thought of starting a commune with some friends. So they did. They moved up to British Columbia and bought some property miles and miles away from civilization. It all goes well, until Mark suddenly (or not so suddenly) becomes mentally ill and needs to go to a mental institution. He’s schizophrenic.

I very much liked the part where he described how they set up the commune and how people came and went and so on, but the important part of the book is his description of his mental illness, of the symptoms, of how he thought he had caused an earthquake in California, how he thought losing at a chess game would mean all of humanity was going to die, etc. It’s very interesting to read about his “insanity” from the inside, to see what it means to suffer from mental illness. His Wikipedia article states (albeit without actually giving any sources):

The book is widely cited as useful for those coping with schizophrenia.

Also interesting for Kurt Vonnegut fans is the occasional mention of Mark’s father, but he is never the center of the story and only appears as a side character.

The impressive thing about Mark’s story is that he eventually overcame his mental illness, he’s dealing well with it now, and he went back to college to become a pediatrician. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.

[The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut ** Read in 11 days ** 7 Jan 2009 – 17 Jan 2009]


Books: The Pulitzer Project

I just came across this interesting site of The Pulitzer Project, which is about “reading all 82 winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.” Please click on the link to see the complete list of all the winners.

I’ve only read these so far:
1961 – To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee)
1953 – The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway)

To Kill A Mockingbird was excellent and I recommend it wholeheartedly. The Old Man and the Sea was also pretty good, but I read it in Spanish and it took me a while to get through it and I probably missed a lot of the beauty of it because I was way too lazy to look up every unfamiliar word.

So hey, only 80 more books to go! :)


Architecture: More Defensible Space

Today I found out that Oscar Newman’s book about Defensible Space can be downloaded for free on Oscar Newman’s Website in .PDF format.

Part of his fascinating theory is that there will be less crime and vandalism if people identify with their surroundings or feel a sense of responsibility. If there is something they feel is their property, they care about it. “Where only two families shared a landing, it was clean and well-maintained,” (p. 11) he writes about an otherwise catastrophic housing project (Pruitt-Igoe). It makes sense. If you feel the landing is your responsibility, you will take care of it. If you, however, walk through a corridor that is shared by everybody and their uncle, you don’t care about it. You won’t pick up the trash, if there’s graffiti it has nothing to do with you, etc.

This actually reminds me much of when I still went to school. The wooden tables we had there had names scratched in them, things scribbled on them, they had plenty of dents and a gross bubble gum coating on the underside. I actually once saw an otherwise cleanly, tidy, well-adjusted young girl stick her old bubble gum under one of these tables, and when she saw my look of utter disbelief, she just shrugged and said: “Everybody else is doing it, too.”
To me this shows that these kids (ehm, we) simply didn’t value school property. It wasn’t theirs, they were just using it for a year or two. That young girl would never ever have stuck chewing gum under her desk at home, she would never scratch or write her name on it either. Additionally, the kids didn’t feel obliged to take good care of the desks either, because the school is an abstract entity that can’t be mad at them. Not like when they borrow daddy’s binoculars and make damn sure they don’t scratch or drop it, so as not to disappoint him.

Something to think about!


Architecture: Defensible Space

Every once in a while when I have nothing to do, my interest in architecture attracts my attention again and I surf the web looking for all sorts of info on urban sprawl or interesting buildings or I browse the architecture category on Wikipedia.

Today I came across a list of unfinished buildings on Wikipedia, which is also somewhat interesting. I knew of course about the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona that has been under construction for the past 125 years (I’ve been there), but had never heard of the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang.

“Construction began in 1987 and ceased in 1992, due to the government’s financial difficulties,” Wikipedia says, and while it’s often said that you should aim for the stars and think big and so forth, it must be a huge disappointment to see your huge project just sitting unfinished and slowly decaying for 20 years, reminding you every day what a failure you are. (I bet the architects don’t live in Pyongyang.)

My search led me further to Pruitt-Igoe, a big housing project in St. Louis, Missouri. It was completed in 1955 and completely demolished by 1978 after it had basically decayed and become a ghetto plagued with crime and more crime. More about Pruitt-Igoe can be found in an interesting term paper by Kevin Law, entitled Pruitt-Igoe: A High-rise Public Housing Failure (here’s the term paper as PDF).

Related to this is the theory of Defensible Space by Oscar Newman, which is also explained better in the article High Rise Hell by Roger Cohn.

If you’re interested in architecture, too, this should make for an interesting reading list.


Music: Gert & Sarah Bettens

Since I have a day off today (which is fading away way too quickly) I decided to browse through some of my bookmarks and I came across an interesting review of a Sarah Bettens concert.

You should know, of course, that Sarah Bettens (who I’ve written about before) used to play in the Band K’s Choice with her brother Gert Bettens, which was swell for as long as it lasted. I just recently had a long lost friend call me and he was playing Almost Happy in the background and telling me how it always reminds him of me. Flattering. It is a great album.

Anyway, after K’s Choice split, their music started getting dull. Somehow Sarah’s lyrics became pretty boring and the music didn’t do much for me anymore, with a few exceptions.

Woodface on the other hand (Gert’s solo project) brought out an album I still haven’t heard entirely, mostly for this reason:

Woodface CD for 56,99 EUR

Maybe it’s good, but I refuse to pay 56,99 EUR for a CD. WHY is it so expensive?

As for the review mentioned above, it quotes the following setlist:

* I heard it through the grapevine [Marvin Gaye]
* Ev’rytime we say goodbye [Ella Fitzgerald]
* I can do better than you [Sarah Bettens]
* Just the two of us [Bill Withers]
* Three times a lady [The Commodores]
* Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing [Stevie Wonder]
* Do that to me one more time [Captain & Tennille]
* Sitting on the dock of the bay [Otis Redding]
* Cry me a river [Julie London]
* Ne me quitte pas [Jacques Brel]
* Money, money, money [ABBA]
* Win me over [Sarah Bettens]
* Little red corvette [Prince]
* At seventeen [Janis Ian]
* Shine [Sarah Bettens]
* I will carry you [Woodface]
* A long December [Counting Crows]
* Slow you down [Sarah Bettens]
* I can’t make you love me [Bonnie Raitt]

I would absolutely love to get a bootleg of this show. Sarah Bettens doing the Counting Crows, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye and Bonnie Raitt? Sadly, a click on Sarah Bettens’ store only has tour CD with all her music on it, none of the covers. I’d spend the $20 for the CD if it had the covers, but for some live versions of her solo stuff? Not so much.

Anyway, I still hope they will reunite again soon and complement each other like they used to. Sometimes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.