Archive for July, 2009

Holiday bar

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009


From the famous Dutch poet Cerberus Platvis:

Het café is op vakantie

De kastelein die leest

Een lege bar vol lege krukken

Nog niet van hun plek geweest


Van de ellebogen aan de toog

Resteert alleen verweerde lak

Een krant ligt netjes opgevouwen

In de hoek een korrel muizenkak


Glanzend weerkaatsen de rijen met glazen

Gestapelde sarcofagen van glas

Even klinkt er geen muziek

Zachtjes zoemt het motormechaniek

Dust to dust

Monday, July 6th, 2009


Over the weekend, AWACS died.

AWACS was my first “PC” (as opposed to the Macs and Atari’s I used before), and the first and last computer I ever built from parts.

I bought it as a set of parts from Overseas Computing, perhaps the shadiest, but certainly the least friendly computer equipment retailer ever.

Sure enough, when I got home, it didn’t work. I read the manual and tried a few jumper settings, then spent the rest of the night staring at the dead box.

When I took it back the next day, the store clerk replaced what turned out to be a broken power supply. Instead of an apology, he gave me a reprimand. “You shouldn’t be doing this if you haven’t done it before!” I still remember this because it struck me as illogical and frankly indefensible at the time, a shining example of everything that is wrong with people in particular and the whole world in general.

But he may have been right in a sense.

I bought a dual Pentium II motherboard. It could seat two Pentium II processors, which was quite advanced at the time. But the processors were quite expensive, so I got just one. The idea was to get another processor when I had more money. Of course that never happened. By the time I was able to buy a second processor, that specific model had become antiquated and possibly even more expensive. It’s best to never think ahead when it comes to technology.

I ended up spending a lot more money, buying a new motherboard and two new Pentium III CPUs in Slot 1 packaging , big heavy slabs of silicon and plastic. The old motherboard I gave to an old friend, someone I first met through the dial-up BBS “Archie” run by the VPRO in the late eighties/early nineties.

AWACS was the last computer my father gave to me. Now after more than a decade of uninterrupted service the plastics have become yellow and brittle and the efficient whirr-click of the drives has turned into a laborious whine. The optical drives died a long time ago.

And this weekend, one of the hard drives died. After some gentle prodding I managed to bring it back to life, sort of. Then I went out and bought a new machine – just the first thing that seemed decent and wasn’t too expensive.

I copied across a decade worth of files, rebooted, and logged in. Everything was there, like nothing ever happened. Machines have no sense of ceremony.

I’ve called the new machine Ripley – after the greatest female character in film ever.

Ode to summer

Friday, July 3rd, 2009


From the famous Dutch poet Cerberus Platvis:

Als je tot laat op het terras kunt zitten bomen met een fles wijn terwijl de stad wordt verzwolgen door een bloedrode schemering en de meisjes gretig de laatste restjes van hun toetjes met Drambuie van hun lippen likken;

Het glinsterende water als zwart fluweel de kademuur streelt en je onbekommerd keuvelend luistert naar haar snakkend gekabbel en gespat in de zware muskusnacht;

Een fonkelende druppel langzaam verdampt in het glanzende donshaar op de schouders van een blonde jongen die aan de rand van het zwembad zit op te drogen;

De felrode hakken van een getrouwde vrouw als kletterende sabels over de stoeptegels glijden en een verborgen gedachte als een schittering door de ogen achter haar zonnebril speelt;

Het grijs van de slapende stad verbleekt onder het geroffel van de bundels licht die zich onverzadigbaar op de muren en de mortel en de raamkozijnen storten om dwars door de ruiten tot in iedere stoffige plooi van de betonnen huizen door te dringen;

Als de lucht in het park trilt van vermoeidheid, het gras dor en geel is van hitte en stof, en de nacht neerdaalt als een kus in het donker…

Dan is het zomer


Friday, July 3rd, 2009

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I noticed him standing in front of me in the checkout line of the supermarket. He was buying some bread rolls and a couple of cans of catfood. As the cashier scanned them the prices flashed blue across the display. Fifty-nine cents, fifty-nine cents, fifty-nine cents, eighty-seven cents…

I recognized his face. He’s a street musician who often stands at the crossroads near the market square. He plays tunes on a standing bass, mostly golden oldies and folk songs. The enormous instrument sways gently to and fro as his hands carress the strings and neck, almost as if he is dancing with it. He stamps his feet on a wooden box for a beat. His voice is hoarse, the words almost shouted.

The man is an absolute gentleman, always dressed in a dark suit with polished black shoes. But his trademark is the hat, which he raises or at least touches for every donation, no matter how small. He does this without exception, regardless of whether he receives a single donation or ten in a row – he will raise his hat for every single person, continuining to play the bass and muttering “thanks, thank you, thanks” to each person individually, with a smile that betrays only gratitude and grace.

He works the bass, and the bass works him. Sweating and singing, he bangs out basslines, day in day out, raising his hat and smiling his smile.

And now here he is, with the same smile, the same gentle demeanour, the same suit and hat, buying bread rolls and catfood.

I wondered about the catfood. I had never seen him with a cat, or any kind of pet for that matter. I had a hard time imagining it – this man was so humane that there seemed something inappropriate about the image of him roaming the city with an animal in tow. It just seemed … below him.

Then I realized the catfood was for him.