Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Governance without Slapstick

A paper with a purpose

I thought this a lovely paragraph from a Max Hastings article in today's UK Guardian:
"Whatever happens in the months ahead, the circumstances of Blair's departure will be at best undignified, at worst humiliating. Whatever Gordon Brown does on inheriting the mantle, he will find himself in the position of an aged Broadway star summoned to London to revive the fortunes of a flagging musical - deprived even of its custard-pie turn with the announcement that John Prescott is 'resting', as he surely soon will be."
The article, with the incredible title 'Poise and style, wisdom and wit - yes, Cameron has left me starstruck', follows its sycophantic title, and is summed up by a commenter, DiogenesAX:
"The Guardian prints this because in olden times you needed something to wipe your arse on in your outside loo."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Primitive Awakened

The subject of invasion of privacy versus public safety unleashes some xenophobic reactions in this blog post about a police search in Amsterdam last November.

The post starts with a video of the stop-and-search. The most shocking aspect is not the video itself, but the enraged hostility of many commenters towards the blogger - an American they assume is a tourist, in a time when the US administration has made itself unpopular.

The comments give a worrying picture of the potential for disintegration of our behaviour towards one another as security measures tighten up our lives.

We are primitives still. Ripe material for Leaders to mould.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Doing Something Forbidden

Want to taste forbidden fruits whilst you still have the chance, but maybe feel too nervous to try? Here's a comment posted on Amsterdam Coffeeshop Directory. Four people from Germany travel to Amsterdam and try cannabis for the first time; though only one of the four enjoys the experience.
Michael from Germany. Sent 6 Apr 2005.
"We took a trip to Amsterdam in order to "once in our lives do something forbidden". Since no one of us smokes, we had to go for some "sweets". We found this shop [Chocolata] and the girl (quite a sweet one) behind the counter was quite helpful and friendly. We bought some slices of the "Hash-Cake" and some "Bon bons". I had a piece of the cake and my friends had half a piece of cake and one of the Hash Bon Bons. The girl had told us that it would take about an hour to hit. And we were stupid enough to run around the city and visit a steak house. We almost believed that nothing at all would happen. When suddenly one by one we started to feel the effect. We sat there and couldn't stop giggling and felt sort of dizzy. Can't remember having laughed that much and hard for a long time. Still some of my friends didn't like the trip at all and felt really uncomfortable with it. But this was mostly due to the fact that we were sitting in a foreign country in a steak house and felt sort of embarrassed. All in all 3 out of the 4 of us will probably not try hash again. I must admit I rather liked it! It was in fact yummy and really did the trick. Would definitely try it again. Still I am just one of four. If you really wanna try this for the first time, please be sure to have at least one sober person with a clear mind next to you. Also try going back to your hotel room before you eat the sweets or just stay at your coffeeshop for about the next 4 hours."
Thanks to Amsterdam Coffeeshop Directory and Michael from Germany for permission to reproduce the comment.

What is it like?

A staunch non-smoker for most of his life, an American describes his time in Amsterdam:
"One of the first and most surprising observations I had about marijuana is that it wasn't at all like I imagined it would be. Somehow, although I had no experience with it, I had developed my own ideas about what it would be like: I sort of figured it would be like watching a really strange movie, or having a bizarre dream. However, it isn't like that at all. It's more like you're IN the movie, or the bizarre dream. It's not a passive experience; instead, it changes the way you perceive things.

Attempting to describe what it's like is actually rather difficult. It's like trying to look at something that moves out of sight whenever you look it its direction. Marijuana does not make things look different, or sound different, or taste different... and yet, it does. You tend to notice things you'd never noticed before. You appreciate more fully details that you'd otherwise have skipped. But they are nonetheless no different than they were before you got stoned."
After meeting many people who use cannabis, he concludes:
"Which leads me to the most surprising lesson of all, and the thing that conservatives will have the hardest time accepting. The shocking truth about marijuana is, that for many Americans, it's a Family Value. Those of you who've never tried it will not be able to comprehend this, but I now am able to see that this really is true, and why. You see, contrary to the lies, pot doesn't make you crazy or violent. Fact is, it makes you relaxed and sociable. It puts you in a very good frame of mind for spending leisure time with other people. It's a bonding activity. It's something you do with someone else, an experience you share. It promotes togetherness."
"This place is like Disneyland for grown-ups!"
"This analogy came up over and over again during our stay. In a city as magical and entertaining, and clean and beautiful as Amsterdam, it was hard for it not to. As the week progressed, we heard people say it over and over again: "This place is like Disneyland for grown-ups!"
He describes The Bulldog Palace Coffeeshop:
"Imagine a typical American bar. It's three steps down from street level, and even though it's daylight outside, it's dim and smoky inside. You go in, and you take a seat at the bar.

Now, imagine you look up at the signs behind the bar and the first thing you notice is a sign that says "Drinks required - No Alcohol." What kind of bar is this? It looks basically like any normal bar... but no alcohol? If there's no beer or booze, what is there?

As a non-drinker, I've never liked bars. The floor is always sticky, the counter has beer spilled on it, and the people there are getting drunk and rambunctious as they watch the football game on TV. Nothing about that picture is appealing to me. Yet it's a popular setting all across America and the world.

This, however, was a bar that I really enjoyed spending time in. For the first time in my life, I've been able to see the appeal of a cozy neighborhood spot such as this."

A safe city

The Internet Guide to Amsterdam says:
"Amsterdam is a safe city, and there is nothing to fear from walking in any part of the city. Even in the red-light district around the Oude Kerk, there are always lots of tourists wandering around."

For information and comments on coffeeshops and a superb hotel booking service, visit Amsterdam Coffeeshop Directory.

Photo: Hotel Doelen reflection © 2006 R deCinabre