Het belang van sport in de samenleving wordt sterk overgewaardeerd. Dat komt niet alleen tot uiting in de sociale dwang om aan sport te doen vanuit “healthism” (het beoordelen van het geheel aan menselijke gedragingen vanuit gezondheidsperspectief); het goedpraten en financieren van hooliganisme, en het voortdurend bijstaan door gemeentes van bijna failliete voetbalclubs vanwege het zogenaamde “maatschappelijk belang”; maar eerst en vooral in het organiseren van miljarden verslindende, maatschappelijk ontwrichtende megalomane sportfeestjes zoals de Olympische Spelen en het WK voetbal. Sport is goed, dat is een axioma, en daar moet alles voor wijken.
Zo is de stad Londen in aanloop naar de Olympische Spelen dit jaar veranderd in een militaire zone: waar hordes zoemende drones de stad bespieden, en veiligheidscamera’s iedereen in de gaten houden; waar burgerrechten sterk zijn ingeperkt en het recht op demonstratie opgeschort wordt; waar meer militairen (13.500) op de been zijn dan in Afghanistan, en sinds de Tweede Wereldoorlog; waar een vliegdekschip in de Thames afgemeerd ligt en antiraketsystemen de lucht afscannen; waar private security bedrijven in de straten zullen patrouilleren, en biometrische ID-kaarten ingevoerd worden, en gezichtsherkenning, en waar een 80 miljoen pond kostend elektrisch hek van 500,000 volt het “Olympisch gebied” van de rest van de samenleving zal scheiden.
Leuk hè, de Olympische Spelen?
In Nederland willen we om een of andere reden ook een Olympische Spelen. Althans, de politiek. En dat willen ze zelfs zo graag, dat de ambtelijke top van een ministerie en een minister de werkelijke kosten van het evenement wilden verzwijgen voor de Tweede Kamer. Omdat dit afbreuk zou doen aan het draagvlak; het risico bestond dat ‘de Olympische ambitie’ zou worden ‘afgeschoten’. Goh, zou het? De kosten worden voorzichtig ingeschat op 8 miljard; daar kun je heel wat PGB’s, natuurgebieden, sociale werkplaatsen, en openbaar vervoer mee in stand houden. Zonder dat je je land paramilitariseert, en, evenals bij het WK, het primaat van de wetgever overdraagt aan een dubieuze oligarchische organisatie zoals het IOC.
Nee, laten we dit idee snel vergeten, en er nooit meer op terugkomen. Zo belangrijk is sport nou ook weer niet.
Niet alleen lagere ambtenaren, maar ook de hoogste ambtenaar op het ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport (VWS) wilde niet dat de kosten voor het mogelijk binnenhalen van de Olympische Spelen 2028 in een brief aan de Tweede Kamer zouden belanden. Dat blijkt uit een document waar RTL Nieuws vandaag de hand op wist te leggen.
De VWS-ambtenaren wilden de hoogte van het bedrag, 8 miljard euro, niet opnemen in het schrijven omdat dat slecht zou zijn voor het politieke draagvlak. De secretaris-generaal van het ministerie adviseerde om in de brief, die in 2011 werd gestuurd, geen bedragen op te nemen wegens ‘het risico dat de Olympische ambitie wordt afgeschoten’. Lagere ambtenaren zouden eerder al zoiets hebben aangeraden, berichtte RTL maandag.
In 2016 moet een keuze worden gemaakt over de Nederlandse kandidatuur voor de Spelen.
I didn’t watch the marriage ceremony of Prince William and Kate Middleton today. Frankly, I’ve been baffled the last few days (when the subject intrusively pushed itself into the realm of my involuntary attention) about the whole fuss about it. This afternoon, when by chance I did get to watch a couple of minutes of the spectacle, I was most amused by William’s increasing and by now apparent baldness, which offers Schadenfreude to common people like your blogger truly (not to mention that other guy), who cope with similar cosmetic problems.
So I’m pretty pleased with this article by Matt Soller Seitz on Salon.com, who points out the mind-numbing stupidity of the whole affair, particularly the fact that it is apparently watched by two billion people worldwide. Wtf. Of course, ‘critical’ articles like Seitz’s are about as predictable as the royal ceremony itself, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be said. Because the guy is right.
If you’ve been watching and drooling about this thing: please grow up.
I’m off, getting drunk in an orange lion-tailed jump suit on Queens Day.
The hours of breathless coverage about Britain’s monarchy played into our collective serf mentality.
So Prince William and Kate Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge, are married. They exchanged vows before the Archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey on the morning of April 29, 2011, with planes roaring overhead and Union Jacks waving and hundreds of thousands of people in the London streets and millions upon millions upon millions of people watching on international television.
“It really is something special,” anchor Diane Sawyer said on ABC a few minutes after their first public kiss. Then she added a few minutes later, in a rundown of factoids, “He knows how to line dance!”
The moment capped four straight hours of continuous coverage on every major broadcast network and cable news channel. The news organizations never cut away except for commercials. And they managed to forgo those breaks when it seemed as if something exciting, or “exciting,” was about to happen – such as the newly-hitched royal couple’s first kiss, which was so brief that the TV organizations played it back in slow motion, and their second kiss, which presumably was an attempt to improve on the first one.
“I’m a hard-hearted old cynic, but I must admit I did shed a tear,” said ABC’s Buckingham Palace correspondent Nick Watt, who then stopped just short of taking credit for the chant in the crowd that pushed William and Kate to kiss a second time. “I’d like to think I played a small part in that,” Watt said, beaming.
I wish the royal couple the very best. They seem like nice people, truly. Fellow human beings, at the very least. And that’s why I hope that when in the unlikely event that they ever read this, that they won’t take it personally when I say that the coverage of this whole ceremony and its run-up was revoltingly obsequious and almost entirely devoid of news value, and so altogether bubble-brained that it makes me think that if there is such a thing as karmic payback for wrong priorities, we’re due for some major trauma.
As you read this, the big three morning shows — “Good Morning America,” “Today” and “The CBS Morning News” — are continuing to re-hash, analyze and replay the ceremony on tape while going live to various correspondents and experts in England and elsewhere. The morning shows usually run two hours — more if an affiliate takes their built-in spillover, but for the sake of argument let’s just say they did two hours’ worth, and add that to the overnight coverage, which ran four hours, bringing the total to six. And then let’s ask ourselves this question: When’s the last time the top guns of the American electronic media covered an event, any event, for six hours straight without any significant interruption, at any hour of the day or night?
The New Statesman has done an interview with the Libyans who are squatting the London mansion of Moammar Gadhafi’s son Saif, a property which is worth over 10 million pounds. These are not “a bunch of anarchists” as some British tabloids have called them, but young men who are making a serious political statement by commandeering one of Gaddafi’s homes. They have renamed the house “Free Libyan Embassy”.
…We drink stewed tea from Saif’s best china and eat cheese sandwiches using his silver cutlery, while the young man, Abdulla, tells me about how his uncle was “disappeared” by Saif’s father. “In Libya, people disappear all the time. There was a prison massacre where 1,200 people died. They poured cement over the bodies.” Abdulla nervously adjusts his glasses. “It’s important that people know we’re not creating a civil war for no reason.”
Nearly every room in this enormous house boasts a large, flat-screen television. The occupiers have set each one to al-Jazeera, for rolling coverage of the people’s revolutions that are sweeping the Arab world. Televised gunfire echoes in the marble hallway as Jay, 25, explains how activists from the London squatter movement took over the Gaddafi mansion, moving in secretly and putting up notices declaring their intention to hold the empty house under English common law. “We wanted to show our solidarity the best way we know how,” he says.
“It’s a symbolic and practical reclamation of private property that belongs to the Libyan people. It’s about their struggle, which is why the place has been handed over to the Libyans as a place to organise and a safe space for refugees,” Jay says. “People have been arriving in support from all over the UK.” The tabloids have portrayed the occupiers as drunken anarchists but this is, in Jay’s words, “total bollocks”. “On the first night, people came down thinking there would be a squat party and we turned them away. They didn’t seem to realise how seriously we’re taking this,” he explains.
Fearing the spectacle of bailiffs dragging Libyans out of the private property of a Gaddafi, at a time when the UK government is desperately downplaying its erstwhile support for the dictator, the authorities have kept their distance. But that doesn’t mean that there have been no attempts to get the occupiers to leave.
“Last night, at about four in the morning, someone came to the door,” Jay says. According to Abdulla, “It was a well-dressed Arab person, [wearing] nice clothes and gold. When I asked him what he was doing here so late, he said, ‘I want to make you an offer.’ He told us: ‘I have £40,000 in cash. You can have it if you leave immediately.’ No amount of money could make us leave this house. It’s not a financial issue.”
“The resources that come out of Libya should belong to the people but that petrol money goes somewhere else,” says Abdulla. “All those close to Gaddafi have places like this to live. There are some who are heartless and will do anything for a comfortable life.”
An influx of neighbours bearing food terminates the interview. A young man wearing a Libyan flag like a cape takes the cups politely to the sink. He is a long way from home. “We all want to go home,” says Abdulla. “But not to Libya as it is now.”
This film was made over two nights in and around Battersea power station in November 2010 by Dentsu London, using a technology developed by sensaa.com and shot on a Canon 5D Mark II. You can read more about it here on their blog bit.ly/laser_murals_gtc
If you happen to be in London, this may be interesting. The Wellcome Trust has an exhibition running until February called High Society, exploring “the role of mind-altering drugs in history and culture”, which challenges “the perception that drugs are a disease of modern life”.
From ancient Egyptian poppy tinctures to Victorian cocaine eye drops, Native American peyote rites to the salons of the French Romantics, mind-altering drugs have a rich history. ‘High Society’ will explore the paths by which these drugs were first discovered – from apothecaries’ workshops to state-of-the-art laboratories – and how they came to be simultaneously fetishised and demonised in today’s culture.
Mind-altering drugs have been used in many ways throughout history – as medicines, sacraments and status symbols, to investigate the brain, inspire works of art or encounter the divine, or simply as an escape from the experience.
Exhibits will include: Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’ manuscript, said to have been written after an opium dream; a hand-written manuscript by Captain Thomas Bowrey describing his crew’s experiments with Bhang – a cannabis drink – in 17th-century Bengal; a bottle of cocaine eye drops; and a hallucinogenic snuff set collected in the Amazon by the Victorian explorer Richard Spruce. The exhibition will also feature contemporary art pieces exploring drug use and culture, including Tracy Moffat’s Laudanum portrait series and a recreation of the Joshua Light Show by Joshua White and Seth Kirby.
Every society on earth is a high society. As the sun rises in the east, caffeine is infused and sipped across China in countless forms of dried, smoked and fermented tea. From the archipelagos of Indonesia and New Guinea through Thailand, Burma and India, a hundred million chewers of betel prepare their quids of areca nut, pepper leaf and caustic lime ash, press it between their teeth and expectorate the day’s first mouthful of crimson saliva. Across the cities of Thailand, Korea and China, potent and illicit preparations such as ya’aba, home-cooked amphetamine pills swallowed or smoked, propel a young generation through the double working shifts of economic boomtime, or burn up the empty hours of unemployment, before igniting the clubs and bars of the urban nightscape.
As the sun tracks across towards the afternoon, the rooftop terraces of Yemen’s medieval mud-brick cities fill with men gathering to converse and chew khat through the scorching heat of the day. Across the concrete jungles of the Middle East, millions without the means for a midday meal make do with a heap of sugar stirred into a small cup of strong black tea. As the working day in Europe draws to a close, the traffic through the bars of the city squares begins to pick up, and high-denomination euro notes are surreptitiously exchanged for wraps of cocaine and ecstasy.
Boris Johnson, my favourite television comedian (and Mayor of London), has a scathing column in The Telegraph, already a week old but still relevant, on the legacy of George W. Bush. And note: this is a prominent politician of the Conservative Party in Great Britain.
Johnson, with his flamboyant Oxford demeanour, is, I believe, not always taken seriously, but with this piece he decidedly redeems himself, in my view.
It is not yet clear whether George W Bush is planning to cross the Atlantic to flog us his memoirs, but if I were his PR people I would urge caution. As book tours go, this one would be an absolute corker. It is not just that every European capital would be brought to a standstill, as book-signings turned into anti-war riots. The real trouble — from the Bush point of view — is that he might never see Texas again.
One moment he might be holding forth to a great perspiring tent at Hay-on-Wye. The next moment, click, some embarrassed member of the Welsh constabulary could walk on stage, place some handcuffs on the former leader of the Free World, and take him away to be charged. Of course, we are told this scenario is unlikely. Dubya is the former leader of a friendly power, with whom this country is determined to have good relations. But that is what torture-authorising Augusto Pinochet thought. And unlike Pinochet, Mr Bush is making no bones about what he has done.
Unless the 43rd president of the United States has been grievously misrepresented, he has admitted to authorising and sponsoring the use of torture. Asked whether he approved of “waterboarding” in three specific cases, he told his interviewer that “damn right” he did, and that this practice had saved lives in America and Britain. It is hard to overstate the enormity of this admission.
“Waterboarding” is a disgusting practice by which the victim is deliberately made to think that he is drowning. It is not some cunning new psych-ops technique conceived by the CIA. It has been used in the dungeons of dictators for centuries. It is not compatible either with the US constitution or the UN convention against torture. It is deemed to be torture in this country, and above all there is no evidence whatever that it has ever succeeded in doing what Mr Bush claimed. It does not work.
It does not produce much valuable information — and therefore it does not save lives. Of course we are all tempted, from time to time, by the utilitarian argument. We might become reluctant supporters of “extreme interrogation techniques” if we could really persuade ourselves that half an hour of waterboarding could really save a hundred lives — or indeed a single life. In reality, no such calculus is possible. When people are tortured, they will generally say anything to bring the agony to an end — which is why any such evidence is inadmissible in court.
All the policy has achieved is to degrade America in the eyes of the world, and to allow America’s enemies to utter great whoops of vindication.
[If] your end is the spread of freedom and the rule of law, you cannot hope to achieve that end by means that are patently vile and illegal.
How could America complain to the Burmese generals about the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, when a president authorised torture? How can we talk about human rights in Beijing, when our number one ally and friend seems to be defending this kind of behaviour? I can’t think of any other American president, in my lifetime, who would have spoken in this way. Mr Bush should have remembered the words of the great Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who said in 1863 that “military necessity does not admit of cruelty”. Damn right.
For some reason, images of Britain and London always work well in post-apocalyptic or otherwise futuristic imaginings (see, for example, the movies 1984, Richard III, 48 Days Later, V for Vendetta, and Children of Men).
The series london futures, currently on display at the Museum of London, imagines the impact of climate change related events on the city of London.
Climate change is central to London’s future. It will affect every aspect of the city, from buildings and public spaces to the way Londoners live and work.
What impact will climate change have?
A display of 14 arresting images will be on display at the Museum of London from 1 October 2010 to 6 March 2011. Like ‘Postcards From The Future’, familiar views of the capital have been digitally transformed by illustrators Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones.
The display brings home the full impact of global warming, food scarcity, rising sea levels and how all Londoners will need to innovate and adapt to survive. Examples of the striking images that will be on show include Parliament Square put to work as a rice paddy, ice skating down the Thames, Buckingham Palace surrounded by a sea of shanty housing and the Gherkin occupied by thousands of eco-refugees highlight the shocking realities we could face.
The result is a number of forceful pictures:
The climate refugee crisis reaches epic proportions. The vast shanty town that stretches across London’s centre leaves historic buildings marooned, including Buckingham Palace.
The Royal family is surrounded in their London home. Everybody is on the move and the flooded city centre is now uninhabitable and empty – apart from the thousands of shanty-dwellers. But should empty buildings and land be opened up to climate refugees?
Traditional rituals have altered beyond recognition, along with the climate. Here, on Horse Guards Parade, horses have been replaced by camels – animals that can withstand the heat of the parade ground. The change was controversial but the London Tourist Board argued strongly in favour. Tourism remains important for London’s economy.
Feet firmly on the ground Ben Eine teamed up with RYCA yesterday to paint these new hoardings in Hackney, East London. With a font comprised entirely of dots with smiley faces it turned into a marathon session with Ben choosing the wording ‘The Strangest Week’ as a fitting comment on 7 days which saw one of his paintings gifted to President Obama and hung in the White House.
I love it that people like this still exist. Well, this guy doesn’t exist anymore, as he’s dead. But still, what an example. Sebastian Horsley, born to alcoholics, lover of heroin and whores, let himself be crucified on the Philippines, and a great painter and a writer.
Eight days after the West End premiere of the play based on his autobiography, Dandy in the Underworld, top-hatted London-based extreme artist and lifestylist Sebastian Horsley was found dead this morning at age 47 of an apparent heroin overdose.
Born to wealthy alcoholics, Horsley is best known for traveling to the Philippines to be crucified as part of his research for a set of paintings dealing with the topic. But besides his arcane fashion sense, penchant for whoring, and ability to make the scene—running with the likes of Nick Cave, Current 93, Coil and others—Horsley was an accomplished painter and writer, and a guy with a drawling accent who could hold court in a red velvet chair with the best of them.
The Soho Theatre cancelled tonight’s performance of Dandy…, but will continue on tomorrow. Our own Richard Metzger put it best when told the news: “How sad that the world has one less total pervert.”
My childhood days were the happiest of my life which is only a reflection of the misery I have endured since. I grew up in a house riddled with standards of living. High Hall could have accommodated an entire family of Catholics. It was a soaring, rambling red-brick mansion with a maze of rooms to get lost in. At the heart of it all was the great balconied entrance hall. It was here that the sequoia-sized Christmas tree was every year planted, festooned with tinsel and piled with gifts. It was here that my parents and their coterie annually assembled to turn away the local carol-singers, to drink themselves stupid and collapse insentient instead. Yes, every luxury was lavished on me at Christmas: atheism, alcoholism and insanity.
This year will be my 45th Christmas. But how many since childhood can I actually remember? Only two. The first, I spent in Amsterdam alone I wanted to wake up on Christmas morning in the arms of someone I loved. I checked into the Grand Hotel. When the day dawned, I rose in solitary splendour and prepared myself to dazzle the prettily frost-dusted world. The streets were abandoned. The ice glistened on the canals. Down a side street, two lovers were leaning together and laughing. Away in a backyard a chained dog was yapping. Sparrows scuffled for dropped crumbs on a bridge. Solitude moaned across the city like fog horns over the sea.
But the Salvation Army was open. The true spirit of Christmas lies in people being helped by people other than me, of course. I joined the small congregation and sang. The service was touching. Men fear loneliness because it opens a glimpse into life’s emptiness. But every taut sense thrills when you are alone on a day like this. Every footstep becomes philosophical. Every decision takes on a romantic cast.
I spent the afternoon chained in the arms of a whore. The brothel is a true home to the spiritual. You go there to pray. Stripped of your finery, you step into the holy of holies. You offer yourself up, your beating soul laid bare. On your knees, you discover that virtue and sin can exist in everything. This is the holy prostitution of the human spirit.
The other Christmas which I can remember was spent in company. There was no snow on the streets. But that didn’t matter. I had made the preparations. And I was dreaming of a brown Christmas that year. Our presents came gift-wrapped in Cellophane. I and my friend proceeded happily to unwrap them: a sparkling mountain of extremely dangerous drugs.
Our living-room looked like a police narcotics laboratory. We spent the day roasting heroin on an open fire.
Like all creatures with a habit we did nothing. And then we did it again and we looked great not doing it. We shared our day. We slobbered sentimentally. A storm as turbulent as the traditional Christmas argument may have been brewing about us. We may have been utterly at sea. But we were jolly in our lifeboat. We pulled on another Christmas crack pipe together. The cold turkey only came later.