Aug 30, 2010
10. Whatever I've forgotten. I've done my best to try to recall the most horrible musical travesties of the past decade, but as I finish this post, I just know I've forgotten something that definitely deserves to be on this list. The trouble is, I know there's something missing, but I haven't got a clue what it is. It's in your face, but you can't grab it. This is. What is it? (submissions accepted)
9. Dragonforce - the fact that they exist. There have been a lot of unbelievably hideous things going on in heavy metal in the 00's, but Dragonforce is far and away the worst of them. I don't know which song to pick, as I've never been able to listen to a whole one. There are YouTube videos where their songs have been either slowed down to half speed or speeded up to double. As far as I know, Dragonforce is only band in the history of music who actually benefit from this treatment: their songs sound better at half or double speed.
In a sense, Dragonforce takes the heritage of Yngwie Malmsteen to its logical extreme, and manages to produce something that sounds even stupider. And to pre-empt the inevitable counter-argument: no, it isn't funny. Not funny as in "ha ha", not funny as in pointing and laughing like Nelson on the Simpsons, not funny as in a British engineer tank on D-Day, or in any other sense of funny. It's just rubbish. The less we see of this musically retarded insult to heavy metal, the better.
8. Lady Gaga - Pokerface. Making pop music has long been an industry on par with any other, but few of its products seem as mass-produced, bland and manufactured as Lady Gaga. Maybe she's a genuine artist in her own right, but every single song she's put out so far has been too generic to describe. Pokerface doesn't feel like a song that was created by a composer and writer; it feels like an industrial product designed by a computer. Which is really what it is.
What makes it worse is that the form of expression they've chosen is basically 90's techno, which is something we do not need to have brought back. This kind of pop can no longer claim to be expressing any kind of artistic vision or communicating any content at all, even on the basest level: it is merely a scientifically engineered collection of beats, hooks and vocals designed to get stuck in people's heads. Far be it from me to argue that pop music has ever been decisively more intelligent or evocative, but this isn't a song any more, it's the musical equivalent of a computer virus. Hearing it on the radio or TV is exactly like having Form C on your hard drive: a slightly annoying viral infection that is, in the end, totally pointless.
7. Metallica - Frantic, or the general failure of heavy metal. In the 90's, we had heavy metal that was innovative, interesting and diverse. In the 00's, we had a whole bunch of heavy metal bands seemingly straight out of the cloning vats, all sounding and looking almost exactly alike. As heavy metal made its way into the album charts, much of it became more radio- and kid-friendly, resulting in insipid bullshit like Linkin Park, and as a counterreaction, the more "edgy" bands became intolerable. System of a Down is a fair example of the other extreme, with Serj Tankian's pseudo-political bleating combining with abrupt shifts in tempo and the worst aspects of death metal to create something that is truly impossible for any even mildly civilized person to listen to without feeling physical pain.
In between the Scylla of Linkin Park and the Charybdis of System of a Down was a vast wasteland of identical-sounding neo-death metal bands that even fans have difficulty telling apart. As if this wasn't bad enough, several genuinely good bands of the 90's turned into parodies of themselves: Metallica and Iron Maiden sound like half-assed tribute bands to themselves, and all the new material Metallica has produced since Load is horrible enough to warrant headlining this entry. Frantic was the moment when I stopped being a Metallica fan, because I don't want to be associated with crap like that in any way. One of my favorite bands from the 90's, Paradise Lost, sold out and began churning out horrible gormless shit that sounds more like Limp Bizkit than Draconian Times. In these conditions it's nothing short of astonishing that perhaps the most unlikely 90's revival, Alice In Chains, is actually damn good.
All in all, this has been an awful decade for heavy metal. All of the innovation, attitude and edge of the 90's is completely gone, and metal is even more bloated, self-indulgent and boring than stadium rock in its heyday. I can't even say I'm a heavy metal fan any more, for fear that people will think I listen to Slipknot or Disturbed. In mere years, Headbangers' Ball has become the most boring music program on MTV. I'd rather watch The Hills.
6. Béyonce - Single Ladies. I'm now going to irrevocably make myself old, but I have to ask: is this even music any more? The jerky rhythm, the seemingly randomly shouted vocals and the epileptic dancing made me think I was watching a parody of a music video. Béyonce's duet with the strangely gyrating South American dwarf whose name I've forgotten could qualify for this spot as well, but the fact that anyone can actually listen to her wheeze through her nose and call it singing is testament to the sheer power of midget porn.
Béyonce, on the other hand, is demonstrably capable of doing much better, but in this decade, she can come up with Single Ladies and see it top the charts. Of course, its denial sparked Kanye West's memorable scene at the MTV awards, highlighting the ultimate problem: rap, hip-hop and r'n'b are disappearing up their own collective ass. All of this music is becoming more self-indulgent, masturbatory and divorced from reality than a Michael Lynche performance on American Idol. I fully expect the next Béyonce hit to be a totally atonal noise with a video where she jerks around like a disfigured puppet. No, wait, she did that with Lady Gaga already.
5. Anything by Franz Ferdinand, My Chemical Romance, 30 Seconds to Mars, and everyone else who looks, sounds and acts exactly like them. Sadly, because I avoid all of this garbage like the plague, I don't really know which particular song to pick to represent the steaming pile of shit that these bands are. Actually, that's not sad at all. These morons in eyeliner weren't content with making utterly forgettable, plain bad rock; they had the effrontery to pretend they were punk. Watching that guy from My Chemical Romance have what looks like an epileptic fit but he probably thinks is performing, or Jared Leto poncing around pretending to be emo, is painful, as are Franz Ferdinand's look-everyone-we-went-to-art-school music videos, but by far the worst part is the actual music. This crap is, quite simply, the worst "rock" in decades.
An awful combination of inept rock and pseudo-intellectual pretentiousness, the sooner everyone realizes that "30 Seconds to Mars" is one of the most appalling band names in history and leaves this toxic dump of music behind them, the better.
4. The Black Eyed Peas - My Humps. Ah, the Black Eyed Peas. Made up of three men who pretend they can rap, and an ex-heroin addict who pretends she's hot. Everything they get their hands on turns to shit. At best, the Black Eyed Peas produce mindless, pointless pop that isn't really offensive in any way; it's simply rubbish. Everything I said about Lady Gaga applies even more strongly to them. At worst, they come up with My Humps. It's a song so brutal that even Dick Cheney couldn't bring himself to add it to the Guantanamo Bay playlist. It is literally so bad that I had a hard time justifying placing anything above it on this list, as I don't think any other song released in this decade can legitimately be considered a crime against humanity. "My Humps" proves that you don't have to believe in a god to experience blasphemy, as this song insults the entire universe.
To make things worse, this is one of those songs that's going to turn up on a "best of the 00's" list twenty years from now, and your children will ask you what the hell was wrong with your generation. And you don't have an answer.
And now, the top three.
3. Green Day - American Idiot.
Ah, Green Day. Once a decent punk rock band, they disappeared from the music scene in the late 90's. I don't know if they ran out of money or what, but as the 2000's rolled around Green Day sold out. As far as I can tell, their record company re-packaged them as an edgy, supposedly political parody of themselves. Thus we were treated to the spectacle of children thinking they're rebelling against authority by watching MTV and buying albums from multinational corporations. In a sense I think it's positive that pseudo-leftist antiauthoritarianism has been co-opted by corporate America as another money-making tool, because I have zero sympathy for the faux-political crud that Green Day spew. Overall, I consider it intellectually pathetic that this mockery of both music and politics can be so popular.
As I said, I've had a hard time coming to the conclusion that any of the songs in this Top 3 are actually worse than the atrocity that is "My Humps". I'll try to justify this. Throughout the history of rock, there has been political rock music, and other kinds of political music as well. I have nothing against politics in music, even if they disagree with my own views; on the contrary. Some of it has been immensely influential; most of it has a very powerful quality. What makes Green Day worse than "My Humps" is that it makes a mockery of this tradition. There is no actual musical or political content here; there is simply the greedy, cynical calculation of the record execs. So anyone who fell for the political play-acting and musical debility of this song and album is, indeed, an idiot.
2. Coldplay - Viva La Vida.
I mentioned this song already in a previous post, but really, there isn't enough disk space on the Blogger servers to adequately describe what an insult to music this piece of shit is. Coldplay as a whole is a fair definition of pretentiousness. Musically, they're as engaging and emotionally charged as muzak, and their lyrics have an artistic quality on par with a badly machine-translated user manual: the best that can be said for them is that they're occasionally inadvertently amusing. This combination is delivered by some of the laziest musicians I've ever heard on a record, and the insipid whining of their sorry excuse for a lead vocalist. Again, the most shocking thing by far is that they're popular. For reasons I cannot begin to imagine, several thousand people seemed to mistake this pathetic pseudo-lounge music for a rock band, and for a while at least, it was impossible to avoid Coldplay.
A few years back they apparently decided to test how gullible their fans really were, and released a shitty techno song with a stupid title: "viva La Vida". Even in the heyday of Eurotechno, this rubbish would have been seen for what it is. The 90's techno beat, pathetic clock sound effect and whiny vocals add up to what may well be one of the most cynical attempts to abuse the music-buying public's gullibility for years. Judging from the rotation it got on MTV, they didn't underestimate that gullibility. The video is as awful as the song; as if it wasn't bad enough to have to watch Jenson Button's gay little brother in the first place, it's even worse through a pathetic Photoshop effect. The best thing I can say about Coldplay is that they're one of those bands that no-one will remember five years from now.
The one thing that makes this horrible crap worse than "My Humps" is the fact that its fans seemed to genuinely think they were listening to proper music. I've never heard anyone claim that the Black Eyed Peas make music that touches your soul, but a shockingly large number of people were taking Coldplay seriously, and looking down their noses at people who didn't like it. Surely that makes them even worse than "My Humps".
1. Rihanna - Umbrella.
I said "My Humps" will show up on lists of top music videos of the "noughties". So will this song, and if you think you'll have a hard time explaining that, try this one.
Rihanna is the current manifestation of an old pop-industry cash cow: the Caribbean import. Not many people seem to know that Bob Marley was one of the pioneers of this particular marketing ploy; his first international album was entirely played by studio musicians in Britain. After his success, the record multinationals have regularly foisted a Caribbean artist on us. In the early years of the decade, we got the inadvertently hilarious Sean Paul, whose videos can still reduce us to giggling. This time around, it's Rihanna. Somehow, her song about music from the speakers running through your sneakers became a runaway hit, and she rocketed to inexplicable popularity. The lyrical and musical quality of her material has, if anything, declined since then, with "Umbrella" capping her résume. The key lyric is, after all: Umberella, ella, ella, ee, ee, ee.
Even for a brainless pop song, "Umbrella" is astonishingly idiotic. The plodding, repetitive music, the mentally deficient lyrics and the awful video combine for a mind-blasting experience. This is the only music video I've ever seen that's left me speechless. The first time I saw it, I was unable to react to it in any way. I had to start by checking that I wasn't dreaming. Throughout the whole time that MTV had "Umbrella" on heavy rotation, I quietly wondered if the entire world around me had gone completely insane. I was scared to talk to people, because if they thought "Umbrella" was a good song and video, they would probably think the proper way to reply to "Good morning" was "Albatross 16 brouhaha". If a person was capable of going to a record store to buy music and coming out with Rihanna's "Umbrella", what would they bring me if I ordered lunch? If "My Humps" is too horrible to use as torture, "Umbrella" transcends torture. Had the US Army interrogators at Guantanamo Bay played "Umbrella" to the inmates, they would all have gone stark raving mad and started eating their flesh and piling up their furniture.
At the end of the day, "Umbrella" is unquestionably more horrible than "My Humps" because it made me question my sense of reality. The Black Eyed Peas give you the ordinary, dull annoyance of bad music; "Umbrella" opens up a gaping vista of eldritch horror in which all of your perceptions about the world are hideously warped. Can people who bought this song be, in fact, people? If my perceptions differ from theirs this fundamentally on this topic, who's to say they agree on anything else? When I'm not around, do they remove their masks and gibber and sway to the tune of "Umbrella" at the foot of some unspeakable idol to the Elder Gods? To me, the popularity of "Umbrella" is incontrovertible proof that a substantial percentage of the world's population perceives a different reality from mine. In this sense, it upsets my conception of the universe. I didn't think music could do that.
So not only is "Umbrella" a terrible mockery of a song, but its very existence threatens my sanity. No other song in the history of pop has been able to do that. At the very least, "Umbrella" is the worst pop song of the decade. It may be the worst pop song ever.
Aug 27, 2010
In Hitler's Empire, he writes:
Postwar, a collective amnesia seized countries like Italy, Hungary and Romania that had fought alongside Hitler and run parallel occupations of their own. The Croats and Slovaks had acquired their own states, Bulgaria had swallowed up neighbours' lands, and Hungary regained mych of the territory it had lost in 1918. Mussolini had dreamed of a new Roman empire and sent his conscripts to the Cyclades if they were lucky and the Sahara, Slovenia or Somaliland if they were not. Romania had administered the Ukraine, festooned Odessa with corpses and hurled hundreds of thousands of soldiers into the struggle with the Red Army. Baltic, Belorussian and Ukrainian nationalists had all fought on the German side too in the hope that they might benefit.
One country that also ran its own parallel occupation was Finland. Risto Ryti and Mannerheim dreamed of a Finnish empire encompassing the Kola Peninsula and Eastern Karelia, with Finno-Ugrian client states stretching all the way to the Urals. Finnish troops divided up the population of Soviet Karelia into arbitrary racial groups and shut the Slavs up in concentration camps, in preparation for turning them over to the Germans. Finnish East Karelia was to be populated by war veterans turned smallholders in a scheme that almost exactly mirrored Nazi plans for occupied East Europe.
In today's Finland, the Finnish imperial project is conveniently forgotten or glossed over. The "collective amnesia" is so strong that even Mazower's book totally omits any mention of the Finnish occupation. On page 327, he even goes as far as to claim that Finland was "only interested in fighting... for security". This is said without footnotes or references, as if it is an obvious enough fact to not need a source at all.
Certainly there are definitions of security by which Finland invaded the Soviet Union and tried to establish its own eastern empire in the interests of "security", but in that case we will have to argue that Stalin also invaded Finland in 1939 for reasons of "security". Patriotic Finnish historians do in fact maintain that Finland is entirely blameless in everything connected to the Second World War, and even the fact that Finland invaded the Soviet Union is the Soviets' own fault. That this is precisely what Stalin's regime said of the Winter War doesn't trouble them at all, because the Soviet Union was intrinsically evil and Finland is intrinsically good.
Similarly, according to Finnish patriotism, because Finland is intrinsically good and Hitler's Germany was intrinsically evil, nothing the two countries did can be compared to each other. In this way Finnish historians can bemoan the terrible atrocities of Stalin and Hitler, and simultaneously consign Finland's own aggression and dreams of a racial empire to convenient oblivion. Our collective amnesia stretches comfortably into the 21st century.
Mazower's otherwise excellent book provides a telling example of practical amnesia. He has no sources for any of his statements on Finland in the war, but thanks his colleagues in the acknowledgements. One of them is Finnish professor Martti Koskenniemi, who we may guess is at least one of Mazower's sources on matters relating to Finland. So either a distinguished Finnish historian is totally unaware of Finland's imperial project, or has chosen to tell his colleague that Finland "only fought for its security", omitting any mention of an occupation and imperial ambition that is fully documented in Finnish academic literature.
The other alternative is that Mr. Mazower hasn't done any research at all into Finland's policies and war aims in the Second World War, and has simply assumed that they were essentially defensive. Whatever the truth, it's bizarre to read a fairly involved account of Romania's occupation policies on the Eastern Front right next to a denial of the very existence of any Finnish occupation at all.
Aug 25, 2010
Although this award was instituted for the NHL, hence the name, we feel it would be wrong to restrict it to just hockey. After all, this blog also follows F1.
Now, we could simply nominate Lewis Hamilton and the entire McLaren team for the ridiculous fiasco that was their holier-than-thou commentary on Ferrari's team orders at this year's German GP. Martin Whitmarsh said that McLaren would "never give team orders like Ferrari", and Hamilton agreed. He told the BBC that McLaren would never give team orders, and adding:
"I personally would not want to win the championship other than by winning it fairly."
Although you would apparently have been fine with winning one in a stolen car. And obviously when Heikki Kovalainen was told to let Hamilton past him at the 2008 German GP, that wasn't a team order, even though Kovalainen did tell Finnish media that he was ordered to let Hamilton pass. Funny how McLaren didn't get a fine for that, by the way. So based on what he's said, we expect him to turn in his 2008 driver's championship. Ha.
For another example, here's what our "favorite" driver had to say after the Chinese GP this year:
The Guardian: Lewis Hamilton's feud with Fernando Alonso simmers ahead of Spanish GP
The rivalry that has long existed between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso has simmered again ahead of Sunday's Spanish grand prix.
Alonso last week made no secret of what he thought of Hamilton's moves in the Malaysian and Chinese grands prix that have resulted in him being labeled as "aggressive" by some of his fellow drivers.
Hamilton, though, has not missed the opportunity to respond. Assessing Alonso's passing manoeuvre on his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa in the pitlane in China, the 25-year-old was defiant.
"On the track you race and you overtake professionally and as cleanly as possible," said Hamilton. "I've never done that [Alonso's move], and it's definitely not in my nature to do what he did. That could have turned out really badly for Felipe. He could have been out of the race."
Sounds fair, doesn't it? In reality, what Alonso did was, as Hamilton said, dangerous and ill-advised, especially given that Massa is his team-mate. However, here's a reminder of what the Guardian didn't say.
USA Today: Hamilton, Vettel reprimanded in China
SHANGHAI — A chaotic Chinese Grand Prix prompted a post-race stewards' hearing and recriminations among several drivers following contentious incidents in the first half of the race.
The race featured two pitlane passing attempts -- one between teammates -- and a frightening first-lap crash that took out three drivers.
Stewards investigated the incident between McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel after the pair almost collided on the entry to pitlane. After their stops, they raced wheel-to-wheel along the pitlane.
Both drivers received an official post-race reprimand for driving "in a dangerous manner."
"At the stop I was ahead; I don't know why he pulled to the left and was keen to touch me. I hoped I didn't get a puncture from that -- I don't really understand why he did that as I was a bit ahead of him and had the advantage anyway," Vettel said.
It was the second straight race Hamilton had been cautioned by stewards, after weaving to block a following car in Malaysia.
Hamilton had pulled off nearly exactly the same move in the same race. Finland's MTV3 remembered, but apparently the Grauniad wasn't paying that much attention. Given that Hamilton is known, and the way we've heard it, positively loathed on the paddock for his over-aggressive driving and complete disregard for the rules, the mere notion of him coming out and saying something like this is breathtaking. On top of that, the comments he made after the German GP are beyond hypocritical.
After all this, he's the undisputed winner of this year's Brooks Orpik Hypocrisy Award. His notion that "he's not that kind of guy" is a ridiculous lie, given that he did precisely the same thing himself. He obviously won't be turning in his 2008 world title, which by his own alleged standards he won unfairly, because team orders that favor him aren't team orders. We don't know if he's just plain delusional or what's wrong with him, but we do know he's just won this award.
The Brooks Orpik Hypocrisy Award is given by the writers of this blog to the athlete who makes the most preposterously hypocritical comment of the year.
2009 - Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL
Aug 23, 2010
First of all, "Sonisphere" is the dumbest name for a music festival I've ever heard in my life. Seriously. Secondly, the arrangements are barbaric. At least in the old days, when I went to festivals in Finland, you got yourself a ticket and they gave you a bracelet or something so you could come and go as you liked. Not so at Sonisphere: once you check in for the day, you can't check in again. So you're stuck in the small, cramped festival area, eating "pizzas" the size of CDs for 8e and drinking 6e pints of beer. Of course, bringing drinks of your own is prohibited. And this year too, they ran out of drinks, or at least non-alcoholic ones.
Overall, Sonisphere Finland is a dreary, poorly organized experience. It's a made-up festival; don't go.
This year, Sonisphere Finland was hit by a freakishly strong downburst, meaning very strong straight-line winds and intense rain. We were right in the middle of it.
We were in front of the smaller stage, waiting for the Stooges to come on, when a thunderhead rocketed across the sky toward us. It started raining, and we thought what the hell, so we'll get wet. It's not like there's anywhere on the grounds you can really find shelter anyway. The rain got stronger, and a lot stronger, and rather alarmingly, it tilted. One minute the raindrops were falling on your head, the next minute they were hitting your back hard. Then it changed into hail. All I can say is it felt like somebody threw a bucket of ice at my back.
The whole thing lasted for maybe ten minutes, which we spent getting completely soaked and fairly oblivious to things around us. When the rain suddenly stopped, we saw both stages were ruined. Falling debris had totally trashed Alice Cooper's drums, and we later learned that all of Mötley Crüe's and the Stooges' stuff was destroyed in the storm. 40 people were injured, one of whom died later in hospital.
Although we came out of it uninjured, on the whole the downburst wasn't much fun either. If you're offered a chance to be in one, I wouldn't do it.
At one point, some people sitting next to us on the grass were going on about how great Slayer was. "They played all the songs exactly like they are on the albums!" Yeah. They did. It was mortally boring. And, sadly, so was Alice in Chains. They didn't connect with the audience at all, and the whole show was just indifferent. I'd been looking forward to the "new" Alice in Chains for a long time, and was really disappointed. Very dull, by-the-numbers performance.
As I said, the Stooges' stuff was destroyed by the storm. When Mötley Crüe heard their stuff was gone, they immediately left without playing a single song or even showing their faces. Which is ridiculous. Iggy, on the other hand, came on stage to say that they'll play whatever they can, given that their gear was destroyed and the stage was in ruins. Eventually, the roadies managed to hook up a guitar and a mike for Iggy, so he and their guitarist did a four-song acoustic set for us. They brought out the sax for "I Wanna Be Your Dog", but they didn't have a mike for it, so whenever Iggy finished a verse, he held his mike up to the sax so we could hear it.
It was awesome. I can now report that the Stooges totally kick ass. In a way, that experience alone was worth the price of admission. Of course, it also helped that Alice Cooper announced he's playing his full set no matter what, so as soon as the stage was cleared he did, and kicked ass too. Alice was simply great. Good, old-fashioned rock'n'roll from the man who invented shock rock.
Iron Maiden headlined the festival, and after an endless delay, they too eventually came on stage. I should admit that I don't particularly like the "new" Iron Maiden. Ever since Bruce came back, Maiden have felt like a tribute band to themselves, knocking out identical, massively boring records that just sound like ripoffs of "classic" Maiden. To make things worse, they played new stuff on this tour as well, including at least one track from their upcoming album, which lasted for hours and was terrible.
They were as boring as hell and their new music is frankly shit. On top of that, Bruce Dickinson is apparently so much in love with his voice that he would blather on at the audience for minutes on end. Shit, if I wanted to listen to an overweight airline captain tell bad jokes, I'd take a plane. Preferably somewhere Iron Maiden aren't playing. They're a bloated, boring parody of themselves.
So, to sum up, Maiden, Slayer and Alice in Chains sucked, the Stooges and Alice Cooper kicked ass, and Mötley Crüe are a bunch of faggots.
We left for the festival on Saturday morning. It turned out that someone had left the bow gate on the locomotive open, and it sank at Järvenpää. After waiting at the station for an hour, we got moving again, but without any air conditioning. The geniuses who've designed VR's current passenger cars haven't left a single window, hatch or aperture that can be opened from inside while the train is moving, so if the aircon isn't working, no air gets in or out. It was uncomfortable.
After another hour's wait at Hämeenlinna, we eventually got to Tampere well over two hours late, and missed our connection to Pori, thereby also missing the Cult.
The return trip wasn't any better. The festival train we were returning on had "Jazz train" signs on it, presumably because it's the same service they run from the Pori jazz festival. Jazz is gay, annoying and takes forever, so they were the right signs.
First, the train was delayed by hours because the festival was delayed, which is fine. However, the storm had knocked over several trees onto the tracks, and we had to wait for an incoming local train to clear the track because we could leave, leading to a delay of well over an hour. Once we finally got moving, we got as far as Tampere before the locomotive broke down and we had to wait for around an hour for a new one. In the meantime, everything was fine except for the vaguely piss-colored water swilling around the floor of the car.
After Tampere, we got a move on southward, and everything went fine until someone jumped in front of the train at Hyvinkää and got run over and killed. His body ended up right under my window, which I only noticed after it was covered up. Naturally, this led to another half-hour wait, and all in all we eventually arrived at Helsinki hours late.
With VR, you'll usually eventually get there, but remember this: The schedule is a lie.
Don't go to Sonisphere. Especially if Iron Maiden are playing.
Aug 20, 2010
German experts have confirmed the authenticity of photographs that purport to show PKK fighters killed by chemical weapons. The evidence puts increasing pressure on the Turkish government, which has long been suspected of using such weapons against Kurdish rebels. German politicians are demanding an investigation.
It would be difficult to exceed the horror shown in the photos, which feature burned, maimed and scorched body parts. The victims are scarcely even recognizable as human beings.
As I'm writing this well before it'll be published, more information on this story may well have broken. Sounds like mustard gas to me, for what it's worth. It's good to see someone carrying on Saddam Hussein's minority policies.
Whether the story turns out to be true or not, the condition of the Kurds is something worth remembering. In 2008, the Kurds made up 18% of the population of Turkey. Ever since Turkey was founded in 1923, the central government has vigorously persecuted the Kurds. Until the 1990's, their objective was nothing less than total cultural genocide. The very existence of the Kurds was categorically denied; they were classed in censuses as either "mountain Turks" or "eastern Turks" to avoid even admitting that there were such people in Turkey. Their language was banned, and over a million people were forcibly relocated.
Unsurprisingly, the Kurds rebelled against this treatment, and the army was sent in. Eighty years later, they're still at it, now with chemical weapons.
It's worth remembering that the Turks actually invented genocide. From 1915 onward, the Turks killed somewhere between half a million and 1,5 million Armenians in the Armenian genocide. The full panoply of ethnic cleansing was deployed for the first time by the Turks, with forced relocations, concentration camps and death squads.
In international politics, the Turks also still illegally occupy Northern Cyprus, in defiance of the UN and the international community. In what may be a world record of sorts, no country other than Turkey has recognized Northern Cyprus as a state.
Turkey has been seeking membership in the European Union for a good while now. Most of the discussion around their membership revolves around Islam and, frankly, xenophobia, but a real issue that should get a lot more attention is their genocidal policy against the Kurds and the continuing debacle of the Cypriot occupation. A country that behaves like this should have no place in the European Union.
Aug 18, 2010
Who can forget the beautiful "Terminatrix" of T3? She managed to be beautiful and frighteningly robotic at the same time, rather like a violent catwalk model, but also do an excellent fight scene where she and Arnold smash each other through walls. Her finishing move on Arnie's Terminator is one of the most brutal movie moments of the decade.
10. Kelly Hu
The beautiful model and actress took an interest in martial arts at an early age, and according to Wikipedia, her brother would get her to beat guys up. Now that's hot.
In: the surprisingly decent Cradle 2 the Grave, in the running for worst movie title of the decade, or opposite our favorite wrestler-turned-actor, the Rock, in Scorpion King. Don't watch her in X-Men 2; it was awful.
9. Jordana Brewster
Panama's most beautiful export has appeared in some very forgettable movies, but she's still hot.
In: D.E.B.S. A great movie, made even better by her.
8. Emma Watson
This may seem a bit wrong to more prudish people, but hey, she's an adult these days, and really, prudish people have no business reading this blog in the first place. As the Harry Potter books gradually make their way onto the big screen, we've watched her grow from a kinda-cute little girl to a genuinely beautiful woman.
In: The latest installment of the Harry Potter saga. The earlier ones are, in this context, just plain wrong.
7. Denise Richards
Who can forget Wild Things? Hardly a cinematic highlight of the 90's in any other respect, but it firmly established Denise Richards' place in every young man's conceptions of sexuality at the time. Since then, she's mostly been busy with a failed marriage, but she stayed gorgeous in the 00's as well, and found time for a stunning Playboy shoot, which I can't recommend too highly.
In: Playboy. I'd love to post some of the pictures, but someone would report me to Blogger.
6. Jessica Biel
Justin Timberlake's ex-girlfriend may not come with a hugely impressive résume of movies, but she is incredibly beautiful. I once had such a crush on her that I actually watched Stealth.
In: Blade: Trinity. I liked the first Blade movie, and I liked this one as well. She was also pleasantly pornographic in the pointless Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.
5. Keira Knightley
A true English rose, who somehow managed to enter a world where Kate Moss and her ilk had taken the whole heroin chic light-years too far and still be skinny to the point of famine, but look stunningly beautiful. She's simply captivating to watch, and being a good actor makes it even better. Because of her, I even managed to sit through the totally senseless Pirates of the Caribbean 2: The Amusement Park Ride.
In: For acting, I was pleasantly surprised by her take on Pride and Prejudice, despite being an unrepentant fan of the BBC TV version. Seeing her as Elizabeth Bennett is a fair shot at an image of the ideal woman. For pornography, see the otherwise questionable Domino.
4. Emmanuelle Béart
One of France's many gifts to the world of cinema, Emmanuelle Béart is simply beautiful. In the legendary Jacques Rivette's four-hour epic La Belle Noiseuse, she ascends from an actor to an object of worship, and does it with a nonchalance that is uniquely French.
In: if you like musicals, 8 Women. If you like art house cinema, La Belle Noiseuse, a genuinely good movie. If neither is really your cup of tea, just google her; she's obliged us with several hot ad campaigns and nude appearances in French magazines. I have a difficult time understanding how anyone can dislike a nation where women like her appear naked in magazines as a matter of course.
3. Angelina Jolie
How could anyone go through the turn of the millenium and not have an opinion on Angelina Jolie? She won an Oscar for an excellent performance on Girl. Interrupted, stealing the spotlight from Winona Ryder; between that and creating the ultimate celebrity supercouple with Brad Pitt, she seemed to spend at least as much time talking about her sexuality as she did about her movies. Frankly, why not; she was gorgeous then, and after giving birth to several children and adopting enough to make up a Foreign Legion battalion, she's still gorgeous.
In: For acting and fun, Mr. and Mrs. Smith; for pornography, Tomb Raider.
2. Kiana Tom
I introduced the Hawaiian-born bodybuilder and actress in one of my previous posts. She may only have appeared in one JC movie, but she pushes pretty much all of my buttons.
In: Universal Soldier: The Return. Note that I'm not saying you should watch it. Even for her. Despite having Jean-Claude van Damme, her and Goldberg (!) in it, it still manages to suck. Luckily, she posed for an excellent Playboy pictorial in the May 2002 issue.
1. Rhona Mitra
The fabulous Anglo-Indian-Irish actress-model-singer was easily the most beautiful woman in the movies in the last decade.
In: Doomsday. She also makes a scantily clad appearance in the otherwise thoroughly forgettable Hollow Man.
Aug 17, 2010
TOKYO — Japan prides itself on the world's longest life expectancy but is struggling with a disturbing footnote to that statistic — revelations that hundreds of people listed as its oldest citizens are either long dead or haven't been heard from for decades.
The mystery of the missing centenarians has captured the attention of this rapidly graying nation with reports of scamming relatives and overworked social workers and sad tales of old people, isolated and forgotten, simply slipping out of touch with society.
The story unfolded in late July when police discovered that Sogen Kato, who would have been 111 and was thought to be Tokyo's oldest man, had actually been dead for 32 years, his decayed and partially mummified body still in his home.
Police are investigating his family for possible abandonment and pension fraud.
That discovery led officials around the country to check up on the centenarians in their own districts, and what they found has been shocking.
Of course, the big question is this: what will this do to their life expectancy statistics?
Aug 16, 2010
Here's the question: how long do you think it will take for the Finnish police to get unrestricted access to the fingerprint register?
Yesterday, the minister of the interior announced that the ministry is looking into allowing the police access to the register "to solve serious drug and sex crimes". Now, I'd argue that under Finnish law, there is no such thing as a serious sex crime (see here), but nonetheless, this is what they're doing (sez Hesari).
If all goes as usual, the next parliament will probably approve this. After all, they'll use it to catch paedophiles. You don't hate children, do you? After that, how long until the definition of "serious crime" gets expanded? And, after all, the Finnish police will never exceed their authority.
Funny but true: according to Finnish Wikipedia, the slippery slope argument is a fallacy.
Aug 13, 2010
Now here's something you don't see every day, at least in the supposedly civilized West. The Ontario cabinet secretly changed the law just before the G20 summit, to give the police wider powers to arrest people. There's a story here.
At Queen’s Park, NDP justice critic and lawyer Peter Kormos said: “This law was not only passed in secret, it was kept secret.
“This is the stuff Kafka wrote novels about. Secret laws that the citizenry is not aware of are the hallmarks of tin pot dictatorships.”
The measure, carrying a penalty of up to two months in jail or a $500 fine upon conviction, was revealed after a 31-year-old York University master’s student refused to show identification near the fence and was arrested based on a regulation few knew existed. He was held for five hours in a pen at a temporary holding centre on Eastern Ave.
Later, the CBC reported that there actually wasn't a secret law requiring people to show ID near a police fence, but there was a secret law nonetheless:
Premier Dalton McGuinty still hasn't explained why cabinet passed the regulation change in secret, and then kept it secret.
Even though it wasn't accurate, the public was left to believe the province had given officers the power to demand identification and detain anyone within five metres of the G20 site.
All weekend there were reports of police stopping people throughout downtown Toronto — often in areas nowhere near the G20 zone — demanding identification and to search bags and backpacks.
Seriously. A country that calls itself a democracy passes laws in secret to give the police additional powers. I rather liked what councillor Howard Moscoe said:
“These are police state regulations — we fought wars to protect freedoms like these,” thundered Councillor Howard Moscoe.
Amusingly, we've done similar things in Finland, only more like a police state. Before the infamous Smash ASEM protests in Helsinki in 2006, police participating in suppressing the protests had been explicitly told by their superiors that normal laws on detaining people would not apply today, and they should detain anyone they think is suspicious and hold them overnight.
Let me repeat myself: they had been told that the law doesn't apply. And they went with that.
Of course, when things were sussed out later their superiors obviously denied having ever said that. Nonetheless, the Finnish parliament's ombudsman, who's in charge of investigating these things, found the police had acted directly against the law several times in suppressing the protests. Of course, because this is Finland, none of that matters: a couple of officers were given a meaningless reprimand for directly violating the laws they're supposed to be upholding, and policemen who ordered others to break the law got nothing at all.
So really, while Canada passes secret laws and doesn't tell people about it, Finland doesn't even bother. For another proud example of the Finnish police and the rule of law, see here.
Civil liberties, eh?
Aug 9, 2010
Aug 6, 2010
We'll start with an improbable creature: a good-looking hammer thrower.
For those of you not up on your track and field, hammer throwers are usually gargantuan, barrel-shaped, sexless things. Not Italy's Silvia Salis:
To take a purely pornographic line for a moment, I have to admit I do find athletic bodies absolutely beautiful. Based on the past weekend, I might have to admit I have a thing for Eastern European track. Here's the Ukraine's Yelizaveta Bryzhina to kick things off:
Russia's lovely Mariya Savinova conquered the 800m race:
And her countrywoman, Anna Alminova, competed in the 1500m:
One of my favorite sports to watch is the pole vault, even though the fantastic Yelena Isinbayeva is taking the year off. Her predecessor as women's record setter, Svetlana Feofanova, predictably took the gold at Barcelona, but Silke Spiegelburg put in a good performance to win the silver medal.
Finishing a very respectable third was the young Lisa Ryzih, Russian-born but representing Germany. Those of you who watch the women's pole vault probably remember that Isinbayeva has a habit of talking to her pole. Ryzih does a similar thing. When she was trying to gear up for her last shot at 475, she harangued not only the pole but the crowd and probably the whole world. Her preparation was a sight.
Sadly, she didn't make the 475, but she'd already broken her personal record by clearing 465cm, and took home a bronze medal. Well done! At some point, she apparently also found time to pose for a German magazine:
That's right: when you want Lady Gaga and pole vaulting, you come to this blog.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Czech Republic's Jiřina Ptáčníková, who finished a respectable fifth and looked damn good doing it.
Now that I mentioned Lisa Ryzih's harangues at the world, it's only fair I also note German high jump bronze medalist Ariane Friedrich, who also psychs herself up quite impressively.
The beautiful Jessica Ennis is a world champion heptathlete, and she just won the gold medal at Barcelona as well.
I have a huge amount of respect for all multi-event athletes. In my opinion, it's much easier to optimize for a single event than for seven. So the way I see it, what she does is awesome, and she looks great. Therefore, Jessica Ennis is the queen of Barcelona.
Explain to me again why I shouldn't like sports.
Aug 2, 2010
“I don’t think there is an anti-jihadist movement anymore,” Johnson said. “It’s all a bunch of kooks. I’ve watched some people who I thought were reputable, and who I trusted, hook up with racists and Nazis. I see a lot of them promoting stories and causes that I think are completely nuts.”
So, why do I post a link to this now? Some of you might guess.
Last week, Finland's premier racist web forum was shut down for the night (HS). Conflict and controversy erupted, because Finnish racists are mobilizing themselves into a political party for the next parliamentary elections, with the solidly unimaginative title of "Change 2011". The founder of "Change 2011" decided to quit the web forum and the whole party (HS), in part because he found out that - shockingly - the party founded on rampant islamophobia and racism is full of crazy racists.
I wonder what he thought these people were on about when they posted their racist rants online and went on to form a web forum seemingly dedicated to bringing together Finnish racists? I mean, what did he think their political line was going to be? What puzzles me about both of the above examples is really just that. What kind of people did they think they were going to be associating with?
I have to admit it is somewhat fun watching this "movement" implode.