The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

January 2004 Archive


January 01, 2004

Doesn't feel all that different so far.

Posted by Horst at 11:11 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)



January 02, 2004

In response to a spoof London Underground map that is currently travelling through the blogosphere, Annie Mole has posted a link to her list of alternative Tube maps.

This reminded me that I myself created a Vienna Underground map in English and a Vienna Underground map in French a while ago. The English map is a bit tongue-in-cheek; where a sensible translation wasn't possible, I went ultra-literal, so that you have lovely little idyllic sounding names like "Seven Shepherds" (an accurate translation) next to mindboggling, almost Zen-like absurdities such as "Brown Silence Lane" (which, I admit, was translated with some liberty). The French map is a more serious affair and pretty accurate in meaning. Enjoy.

(In case you were wondering, I live near Brick Lane station. Lots of Indian restaurants here in the area too, though not as many as in London's Brick Lane.)

Update: Since a few people found my tongue-in-cheek translations a bit too liberal, I've added a map with a more serious English translation.

Posted by Horst at 06:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


January 03, 2004

The Blogma manifesto has been published, an attempt to keep weblogs pure and non-commercial. Somehow reminds me of our own blogging manifesto, which we published back in October. Which we wrote without knowing about the Blogma2001 manifesto, which had already been published back in 2001. And then a Google search revealed the Blogma03 manifesto. So what is this then? Synchronicity? Inspiration? Or, God forbid, even plagiarism?

Well, whatever. I still think that our manifesto is the best of the four. At least it's obvious that it shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Posted by Horst at 01:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


January 04, 2004

I've become pretty good at predicting American action movies. Give me any American action movie, and after 30 minutes or less I can tell you how it's going to end, who is going to die and/or who the truly bad guy is. Most American movies are knit so close to a fixed pattern that figuring these things out is totally trivial.

As predicting American movies is no longer much of a challenge, I have now begun trying to predict the allegedly most predictable of movies, Bollywood blockbusters. And while I can say that I'm getting better at it, cultural differences seem big enough to take me by surprise ever and ever again.

Only yesterday, I saw a movie, Aankhen ("Eyes"), where American rules of predictability didn't apply at all. While the ending was not too surprising, the way it was reached was; however, the selection of characters who had to die was totally un-American.

I had predicted two of the main characters would die; I was right about that. I got one of them correctly, even though he would probably have survived in an American movie; the second one took me totally by surprise. Let's do a quiz:

Aankhen is about a bank manager who is sacked because he does not have his aggressions under control. He vows to take revenge by robbing the bank. For this purpose he kidnaps the 10 year-old brother of a teacher for blind people and forces her to train three blind men to rob the bank. Sounds totally absurd? Well, absurd it may be, but it creates a lot of suspense when things go awry later on.

Anyway, there's five man characters. Pick the two which you think are going to die:

  • Mr Rajput (Amitabh Bachchan), the former bank manager. In his sixties, very tall, imposing, extremely intelligent, but schizophrenic and unable to control his aggressions, so that he can switch from restrained professional to dangerous madman at any moment. He is the mastermind of the plan, but does not reveal himself to the blind men until after the robbery.

  • Neha (Sushmita Sen), the teacher. An intelligent, very attractive woman in her mid-twenties with a strong sense of justice and morality. She would never be part of the plan if Rajput hadn't kidnapped her little brother, but forces herself to train the three blind men with utmost efficioency so as not to endanger her brother's life.

  • Vishwas (Akshay Kumar), an very handsome, very intelligent former athlete in his mid-twenties. He got blinded not long ago in an accident when he tried to stop a bus full of people that had gone out of control. He has a kind of sixth sense and is aware that Rajput's plans may not be what they seem to be, but has no qualms about carrying out the plan.

  • Arjun (Arjun Rampal), a handsome guy in his early twenties, not quite as intelligent or as skilfull as Vishwas, but with a stronger sense of morality. He has doubts about the plan and does not want to be part of it, but stays on when Neha tells him that her little brother will have to die if they don't carry it out. He falls in love with Neha, but is in constant conflict with himself because he knows what he does is wrong.

  • Ilyas (Paresh Rawal), a short man in his fifties, who usually begs in railway stations and trains. He lost his parents when he was five years old and then was blinded by a crook who forced him to beg for him. He is very talkative, a bit clumsy, not cool and detached at all; in fact he nearly causes the plan to fail at one point. He may not seem too intelligent at first, but is extremely street-wise.

So which two of the five would die in an American movie, and which two do you think would die in an Indian movie? Post your answers in the comments. There are no prizes this time, but you may learn something about the cultural differences between American and Indian movies. :-)

Posted by Horst at 11:07 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)


January 05, 2004

One of the reasons why I prefer to fly with Austrian Airlines is not patriotism, but the fact that they have really well-trained pilots, which was proved again today in an incident which could have ended badly.

Thanks to a slow economy and the priorities of our government, which are, alas, on other matters (like selling state property to private investors), Austria now has the highest unemployment rate since 1953.

Snow in Vienna. Lots of snow. In fact, there's barely anything other than snow visible outside.

Posted by Horst at 11:16 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


January 06, 2004

Only two weeks ago, the new express train service between Vienna and Vienna Airport went into operation, and it seems that the first complaints are already coming in: it is being criticised as a "first-rate tourist trap". And people say such nasty things about it because of this:

If you arrive on an Austrian Airlines flight, right after landing the cabin crew will tell you about the new express train. When you collect your baggage from the conveyor belts, there is a ticket machine where you can buy the €9 tickets for the airport express. And as you walk into the arrivals hall, you'll see lots of signs directing you to the platform where the express train leaves every 30 minutes.

Should you, however, follow a significantly smaller sign with a train symbol on it, you'll arrive at a different platform, where a different train service leaves for Vienna every 30 minutes. Only if you already bought the €9 airport express ticket, you're out of luck: it isn't valid on this train. This other train requires a different kind of ticket, which costs €3.

Only nobody ever told you that you could get to the city on a slightly less comfortable, slightly slower train for a third of the price (and never mind that the €3 ticket allows you to continue your journey by underground, tramway or bus, whereas if you have the €9 ticket, you need to buy an additional €1.50 ticket for underground, tram or bus).

Several people told me that tourists who have just spent hundreds of euros for a flight don't care what they pay for the transfer to the city anyway, and most of them won't probably never find out that there are cheaper options to get to the city. Knowing the cheap spots and the good restaurants is, after all, a privilege of the local residents. And most tourists know that, don't they?

Update: On second thought, not having to travel with a hundred grumpy Viennese commuters is perhaps worth the €6 surcharge.

Posted by Horst at 08:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Graydon Carter: "Any city that allows you to keep a loaded gun in your office but not an ashtray is one with its priorities seriously out of whack." — Discuss.

Posted by The Duck at 08:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


January 07, 2004

Here are a number of things that I found a bit spooky lately:

  • The one-legged beggar on Mariahilfer Strasse who had his leg severed below his knee and who seems to take some kind of pleasure in rotating the stump of his missing leg.
  • The woman who seems to attend mass in church at least every time when I go there, and who has "I SAY NO TO DEVIL" [sic!] written with marker pen on the back of every shirt and jacket she's wearing.
  • Some members of our government, who seem to be invoking and/or thanking God for just about everything they're doing.
  • God, if he is really helping or influencing those politicians who constantly talk about him.
Posted by Horst at 04:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

If you want to know how well you know me, take this test:

Some of the questions have already been answered on ths weblog, some you'll have to guess. You can score a maximum of 100 points. Enjoy!

If you're concerned about spam, don't enter an e-mail address after the quiz results are displayed. Your result will still be counted.

Posted by Horst at 07:44 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Please nominate me for the Bloggies 2004 awards. I'd suggest that you enter The Aardvark Speaks for "Best European weblog" and that you enter my tagline Essence, Evanescence, Obscurity in the "Best Tagline" category. Other than that, feel free to nominate whatever you like.

I already nominated all my friends, so if you consider me your friend, please return the favour. I personally don't mind not winning, but Haldur will be devastated if we don't win anything this time.

Update: Yes, I know that fishing for votes like this is totally pathetic. But there's nothing I wouldn't do for a moose in despair.

Update: The nomination process is now over. Thanks if you nominated me. Not that I would stand the slightest chance of winning anything, but I appreciate your sign of support.

Posted by Horst at 07:45 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)


January 08, 2004

  1. "definately"
  2. "lay" (where "lie" is intended)
  3. "there" (where "their" is intended)
  4. "wierd"
  5. "it's" (where "its" is intended)
  6. "I would of"
Posted by Horst at 06:34 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)


January 09, 2004

Do you know the feeling: a while ago you saw a movie at the cinema, now you're watching it again, and you can't help but notice that certain things seem to be different — like a scene is missing or it's suddenly there although you're sure it wasn't there the first time. And you never know whether it's your memory that's failing you or whether there are in fact two versions.

I usually blame my memory, because it's mostly minor scenes that seem to appear or disappear. Then, a while ago, I saw one of the most famous Bollywood movies of all times, Sholay, again, and was totally stunned at the end, when the villain died — quite a radical departure from the ending I remembered, in which he was merely arrested. I remembered, or thought I remembered, that I'd been fairly disappointed that the Thakur had gone to such lengths to find the villain, only to have him taken away by the police before he could take his revenge. And now the Thakur got his revenge after all? Odd.

I convinced myself that I must have mixed it up with some similar, but different movie, but the thing kept nagging me. And thanks to Google, I found out that I had been right after all and am not suffering from memory loss: there are indeed two different versions of Sholay, with two different endings, and a couple of additional scenes in one version.

Now I'm beginning to doubt how often I had wrongly doubted my memory; perhaps there are more video and DVD versions of movies that are different from the original versions. One thing I know for sure is that Austrian television frequently cuts violent scenes from movies. But I kind of had expected video/DVD editions to be identical. Seems I'm too optimistic.

Posted by Horst at 05:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Now that 17 people have posted their guesses in the Do you know Horst? quiz, it is with some delight and amusement that I find that I have been quite successful in misleading you, my dear readers, about my true self. Of a possible 100 points, the maximum scored so far is 72 points, which is, I might add, a disappointing result. About as disappointing as the fact that there are people who don't know the name of my favourite moose. And then there's the one question that no-one guessed correctly so far. And it's not the one about the Bollywood actresses, which surprisingly many got right.

The other thing is that you seem to be as keen on misleading me as I have been misleading you — of all the people who took the quiz only two chose a name by which I could identify them. The remaining 15 chose to use weird pseudonyms. Why they would do that is totally beyond me.

Anyway, if you haven't had your try yet, do it now. Perhaps somebody will manage to get more than 72 points after all.

Posted by Horst at 06:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


January 10, 2004

It looks as if I'm going to spend much of today filling out this form and this form with the help of these instructions. And what is your idea of fun?

Posted by Horst at 12:29 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)


January 11, 2004

Okay, so why should only Horst's friends have fun with the quiz from friendtest.com — now all my friends can participate in this quiz:

(You need to scroll down 1 page.)

Posted by Haldur Gislufsson at 03:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


January 14, 2004

My employer lost its name. Vienna University Library is no more. Thanks to recent restructuring it's now called "Vienna University, Department of library and archival services". In a desperate attempt to preserve some kind of corporate identity, the current interim heads of library services did, however, manage to preserve at least part of the name. So the former "Vienna University Library" is now "Vienna University, Department of library and archival services" and the former "main library" is now the "university library". Oh, and the former 60 "special libraries" have been regrouped and renamed to 49 "special area libraries". I think we can verily call this the victory of economic policy over common sense.

Speaking about names and common sense, the newly founded joint library of physics, chemistry and mathematics was christened "Central Library of Physics and Special Area Libraries of Chemistry and of Mathematics, Statistics and Informatics".

Anyway, I'm currently spending a lot of time rewriting the library's website to replace "Vienna University Library" with "Vienna University, Department of library and archival services", "main library" with "university library", and "special library" with "special area library". Fun, fun, fun!

Posted by Horst at 02:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


January 15, 2004

I went to see the skin doctor to have a mole removed and to talk about a patch of irritated skin that has been bugging me for a while, and at some point we came to talk about my allergies. "Well, cats, birch tree pollen and cucumbers, mostly," I said.

She nodded in acknowledgement. "If you say birch tree pollen and cucumber, I wouldn't be surprised if you also had some kind of reaction to pears, ..." - I nodded - "...kiwi fruit,..." - I nodded - "...plums,..." - I nodded - "...peaches and that kind of fruit. Basically, it's the same substance in all of these that you're allergic to."

"Yes", I said, "but in these cases the reaction is very mild and pretty harmless compared to birch trees and cucumbers."

And then she said: "Oh, and curry spices, of course."

I went, "WHAT?"

Actually, I'm not allergic to curry spices. Well, that is I think I'm not. It would be a real problem if I were. As you may have noticed, I like curries a lot. I cook curries a lot. I eat curries a lot. It would be pretty nasty to find out that I have some allergic reaction to them.

Or even worse, the knowledge that there is some substance in curry spices that I could be theoretically allergic to might actually cause a psychosomatic reaction that may initiate the allergic reaction that I didn't have until now.

This is frightening.

Posted by Horst at 11:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


January 16, 2004

Austrian government ministers may or may not be the most competent in the European Union (considering that the Supreme Court recently declared a number of newly-passed laws unconstitutional), but they are certainly the best-paid in the EU, by quite a margin. Actually, these numbers are quite obscene.

In the meanwhile, students have occupied the Rector's office and the senate's meeting room at the University of Vienna to protest against the new organisation plan, which gives all power to the Rector and takes away all participatory rights from the students.

Apparently eating Scottish smoked salmon is one of the worst things that you can do for your health. Apparently it's full of cancer-causing toxins. So why has absolutely no news of this reached Austria yet, especially as things may yet get worse?

A while ago, we mentioned that the FBI thinks that people who buy almanacs are likely to be terrorists. Now Tom Tomorrow's latest cartoon reveals all about how books and libraries are instruments of terror. [thx Exploded Library]

A series of articles in Nature talks about how terror paranoia and recent visa restrictions are restricting the flow of foreign researchers into the United States — for the benefit of other countries. The balance of scientific power might be about to shift. [thx SWR]

Posted by The Duck at 06:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

At The Library Formerly Known As Vienna University Library (TLFKAVUL), we have the so-called "mystery cloakroom". It's an unremarkable, semi-subterranean room (actually, it's on the first floor, but it looks subterranean) with several hundred small lockers. You choose one of the empty lockers, put your stuff inside, insert a €2 coin, lock the locker, remove the key, go and read something, then return after a while, insert the key, open the locker, and take out your stuff and your €2 coin.

Theoretically.

Lately, we've had a lot of students who came to the information desk, saying that they had inserted the €2 coin, but the lock still didn't work. So on seven or eight occasions during the past few weeks, I went with them to the locker, opened the lock with a special screwdriver and noticed that there was no coin inside. None whatsoever.

Now I'm not sure what smells fishy about this, but either we are having a distortion of the time-space continuum that makes coins disappear from inside the locks, or we are having a significant number of students with juvenile dementia, or something else is going on here. I'm just not sure what.

Posted by Horst at 08:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


January 17, 2004

I welcome the recent changes in version 2.66 of Movable Type to fight comment spam, but I guess there's the side effect that it will not just lower the Google page rank of spammers' web sites, but of course also that of many weblogs, as there are no longer any direct links from people's comments to their weblogs.

In only slightly related news, one side effect of weblogs is that links disappear from the main page after a while. However, you can still participate in the "How well do you know Horst?" and "How well do you know Haldur?" quizzes.

And, also not particularly related, one of the side effects of writing reviews is that there will always be people who don't like them. Yet another Indian restaurant owner has written and told me to remove the review of his restaurant from my Indian restaurants in Vienna website. This is getting increasingly unfunny. If things continue this way, in a while the page will only consist of restaurants that I praise and restaurants with the "Removed by request of the owner" notice. Maybe I should change the page myself so that it only contains my favourte 15 restaurants. This could change the tone of incoming mails from "please remove me from your site" to "please add me to your site". Even though this significantly reduces the value of the site, it seems an idea worth considering.

Update: Done. If you understand both English and German, you can compare the German version (all restaurants) and the English version (favourites only). Any comments on which you find better?

Posted by Horst at 11:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)


January 19, 2004

Haldur is totally devastated

Haldur is totally devastated because we didn't get on any of the 2004 Bloggie awards shortlists. Not even Rudolph, the toy he got from Ralf for Christmas (pictured left), could cheer him up.

Posted by Horst at 09:29 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)


January 20, 2004

Recently, an article by Mark Twain on the German language has been making the rounds in the German blogosphere. In this (satirical) text, Twain argues that there is no other language so "slipshod and systemless, and so slippery and elusive to the grasp" as German, and concludes that it's not only impossible for a learner to ever understand it, it's also a miracle that German speakers understand each other.

And while the text may be funny for English speakers, it's not funny at all for German speakers. Not because we don't like criticism, but because the things that Twain describes are the most normal things on earth, which we normally totally ignore.

Grammatical genders of words, for example. At some point the English decided that they could do without genders and replaced all articles with "the". To distinguish between male, female and neutral terms they started using the natural gender of these beings and objects. German, like many other languages, has grammatical genders, but it's such an everyday thing that grammatical genders, as opposed to natural genders, are totally ignored. So while a spoon is masculine, a fork feminine and a knife neutral (or, as in Twain's example a turnip feminine and a youg girl neutral), this doesn't mean they're perceived as male, female or neuter.

The one thing that is confusing the heck out of me is that for some reason many, but not all French terms have the opposite gender of their German counterparts. "Bahnhof" ("railway station") is masculine, but "gare" is feminine. "Brücke" ("bridge") is feminine, but "pont" is masculine. And to make matters worse, all French loanwords ending in -age are feminine in German, but are masculine in French.

Twain also goes to great lengths to argue that it's impossible to understand a German sentence, because verbs are usually at the end. Well, big deal. The Romans had the same thing in Latin, and they still built an empire.

Twain's probably joking argument isn't really funny because we all know verbs aren't all that significant. In fact, if you take a sentence and omit the verb, the other words will offer enough guidance so that in most cases you'll still have a rough idea of what's going on. In fact, even in very short sentences like the following there's a very limited choice of what can be done in these situations:

  • Er hat auf dem Dachboden eine Kiste _________ .
    He __________ a chest in the attic.
  • Sie hat den Teig _______ .
    She _________ the dough.

Unless this is absurd poetry, the choices of verbs are limited to activities that you can do in an attic with chests, or with dough. So German can either establish a situation with the objects involved and then supply the verb or start with the verb and then disclose the objects; English only does the latter.

Sometimes the modal verbs and/or grammatical case help you along:

  • Er ist auf dem Stuhl ________ .
  • Er hat auf dem Stuhl ________ .
  • Er ist auf den Stuhl ________ .
  • Er hat auf den Stuhl ________ .

In English, all of these translate as:

  • He _________ on the chair.

You see that the missing verb is crucial in the English sentence, because it's next to impossible to guess it. In the German sentences, you already have so much information from the preceding words that you can narrow things down to a small number of sensible choices for the verb.

Sentence 1 would call for verbs such as "sat", "stood" or "lay".
Sentence 2 would call for verbs such as "worked", "slept" or "danced".
Sentence 3 would call for verbs such as "jumped" or "climbed".
Sentence 4 would call for verbs such as "wrote" or "spit".

Add a context and in most cases, only one verb makes sense. So whatever the verb at the end actually is, in some cases it doesn't matter, because you already know what's going on.

As Mark Twain was a learned man, I suppose he knew about this. I don't know why he would write this article and think it's funny, when all of it can be easily explained or doesn't matter at all to the speakers. Probably it's just a rant that emanated from his frustration as a non-native speaker trying to learn the language. Which, I admit, is tough.

Posted by Horst at 08:15 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The I SAY NO TO DEVIL woman has disappeared. Oddly, not seeing her on a regular basis is just as spooky as seeing her.

The Library Mistress alerted me that Tori Amos's new album is entitled Tales of a Librarian and has the songs grouped by DDC. Unfortunately, it's just a Greatest Hits compilation album, but the idea is nice enough.

The Fall are yet again (for the fourth time or so) re-issuing their early albums. This will most likely make a number of people who bought the last remasters one year ago (like myself) rather angry. Looking forward to the remaster of Grotesque though, the last one really sucked. And while I'm at it, is anybody really buying those pointless Fall compilations of useless junk that are being issued every other month?

Due to an error (must have forgotten to click a Confirm button on the Combine Orders page), I am receiving my Six Feet Under Series 1 DVD Set much sooner than expected. Well, things could be worse, I guess. Meanwhile, an order from a French seller for a cult comic, which was apparently dispatched almost two weeks ago, still hasn't materialised in my mailbox.

And finally, the best analysis of what might be going on in Michael Jackson's head comes from Bob Mould (yes, he of Hüsker Dü fame. And he has a weblog).

Posted by Horst at 08:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


January 21, 2004

Bob J. Jones has just referred to the October 2002 archive of The Aardvark Speaks as "the best blog ever". Wow. Needless to say, even though I have no idea who Bob J. Jones is, I am flattered.

His praise made me have another look at what I wrote back then, and I must say I was impressed by what I found. After all, October 2002 was my third month of blogging.

The material has stood the test of time pretty well. It's still readable, and it's still not boring or stale. It's also radically different from what I'm doing now, in fact so radically different that I couldn't say which version of the weblog I like better, because they're so hard to compare.

And it's totally incredible how much I was blogging back then. Ten entries per day seem to have been the average. Of course, most of it was thanks to Radio UserLand's excellent news aggregator and was only relayed stuff, whereas these days I'm trying to do my own writing — which seems, in fact, to take more time than the myriads of postings in October 2002. At any rate, with nothing but your own stuff it's a lot harder to stay interesting. An awful lot harder. Especially for a boring person like myself.

Posted by Horst at 12:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

The students here in Vienna are getting angrier because of the recent university reorganisation: yesterday somebody (presumably an angry student, not Noel Godin) "pied" the Rector of Vienna University by throwing a cream cake into his face (the incident was filmed; you can watch the video here). The perpetrator managed to escape; now the Office for the Prevention of Terrorist Activities [sic!] is investigating the case.

Minnie made me aware of the Visited Countries Map, which is an idea which I had been toying with myself for a while. Only I never put it into practice because my programming skills are somewhat poor and because I am well aware that in terms of visited countries I'm a bit eurocentric. But 20 countries is not all that bad, is it?

So after all the Austrian media created a mass panic, urging people to get flu shots by all means because this year's virus is supposed to be deadly and "tens of thousands could die", I got a flu shot a few months ago. Now an article in today's newspaper reveals that this year's serum does not work against the virus that has so far infected 13,400 people in Vienna. Now why do I feel like a dumb victim of the pharmaceuticals industry?

If some defunct weblog gets lots of hits every day, it is usually because of Google search results that point to the archive. But if some defunct weblog from which all archives have been deleted still gets lots of hits every day (actually more hits than the non-defunct weblog that you are reading just now), I suppose it's mostly because the world is unfair.

Bob Mould is a nice blogger, as he seems to link back to any weblog that brings readers to his site (like yours truly). I wonder if he is also taking a look at these weblogs. So if I, for example, asked myself if the stylistic change that took place between Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade and Warehouse albums was due to the band getting older, getting more proficient with their instruments, getting bored with the noise or if it had to do with their change of record labels, would I get an answer?

Posted by Horst at 04:29 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (1)


January 22, 2004

It's now the 22nd of January and I still haven't met the Taurus woman with whom, according to my Bunte love horoscope, I am supposed to "indulge in bizarre fantasies" with in January and/or February.

As time is slowly running out, would any Vienna-based Taurus woman with or without bizarre fantasies (if you don't have any, I'm sure we'll be able to think of something), who'd like to indulge in them, please contact me? I'd really hate it if that horoscope should turn out to be useless, especially as it promised very nice things for later this year.

Posted by Horst at 12:01 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)


January 23, 2004

Today, for the first time ever, I used Internet Explorer 6 to have a look at my old weblog archive and noticed much to my horror that all text was centered on the page.

Mind you, it's not centered on Mozilla. It's not centered on Netscape 4, 6 and 7. It's not centered on Opera. It's not centered on Safari. It's not even centered on bloody Internet Explorer 5.

So why the f*ck is it centered on Internet Explorer 6? To make hapless people's (read: people who don't have IE6) page layouts look awful, even if they adhere to HTML and XHTML specifications? Is the sole purpose of the clueless nerds working at Microsoft to make people's lives miserable?

Never mind that it was easy to fix — one additional line in my style sheet. But from now on I mustn't forget to add text-align:left to every bloody TD tag style just because Microsoft is unable to do things the same way as everybody else.

Sorry for this somewhat aggressive rant. Less aggressively voiced reasons why I think Microsoft software is best avoided can be found over at my other blog, The Evil Empire.

Posted by Horst at 02:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


January 24, 2004

I'm back from an extended session watching 11 episodes of Six Feet Under. You could say I'm hooked. I'm also slightly spooked because of a few uncanny parallels to my also fairly complicated life that involve a woman who is also practicing shiatsu (but who, fortunately, lacks a psychotic brother). Then, in an attempt to buy some groceries, I ended up with this slightly infernal bill:

infernal bill

As you can see, the sum amounts to €6.66, so apparently I bought the Dinner Of The Beast yet again. Yes, again — it has happened before, but this time I kept the proof. And if you like, you can think about why I'm buying these absurd items. In fact, I wasn't planning to. It was as if something controlled me. I mean bread, artichokes, cured ham and potato dumplings — does that make sense to you?

Speaking of bills, I finally managed to see Tarantino's Kill Bill, Vol.1 today and was slightly surprised to see it ranks at number 97 of the IMDB's Top 250 list. Which is a bit inappropriate because technically, half the film is missing, thus there's very little plot to speak of, and even the coolest Uma Thurman of all times can't make this fragment of a samurai splatter movie the 97th best movie of all times. I usually watch the whole movie before I decide that.

Update: More infernal shopping over at The Morning News, where Matthew Baldwin provides an IKEA walkthrough. I wish I'd had that earlier.

Posted by Horst at 11:53 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)


January 26, 2004

I have been going to cinemas a lot lately, and as no other exciting stuff is happening in my life (still no sign of a Taurus woman), I thought I'd write a couple of brief reviews.

Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation was one of the winners at the Golden Globe ceremony yesterday, and quite rightly so. It's a very tender movie, an excellent portrait of two displaced characters (displaced both geographically and emotionally) who seem to be looking for their place in life. This is perhaps Bill Murray's best role to date, which allows him to combine an intense depth of character with Robert Mitchum-ish ironic detachment. As for Scarlett Johansson, I don't know if she's had plastic surgery yet, but I certainly hope she never gets any. It's her minor imperfections that make her so perfect, and it's totally stunning how totally this 18 year-old girl gets into the skin of her character. This movie will be one of this year's high points.

Also enjoyable, if on a totally different level, was Calendar Girls, the story of a couple of middle-aged women who pose for a nude calendar for charity. It's a good picture that lacks the brouhaha of The Full Monty, but towards the end it goes totally awry when the screenplay enforces a conflict between two characters that may be kind of credible, only the way it's acted out between them is totally out of character and doesn't really make sense. Still, it was a good movie with likeable characters, and Helen Mirren is a prime example of a good actress aging with grace.

Clint Eastwood's Mystic river was also a pretty good movie with profound acting from Sean Penn and Tim Robbins that concentrated a lot on the inner conflict of the two characters. However, I'm not sure if I get the last five minutes; what makes the Laura Linney character suddenly turn into Lady Macbeth? If anything, it's ultimately a statement about the immorality of the world and the lack of any justice, but somehow this is at odds with the rest of the movie. I'm somewhat confused about this.

Ram Gopal Varma's Company is one of the most dense, compelling gangster movies I have ever seen. It's also one of the best Bollywood movies I've seen so far. In fact, Ajay Devgan's gangster boss is on par with any gangster boss that Robert de Niro has ever played — and he's a lot cooler in what must be his best performance that I've seen so far. This film is just one further example that Indian films are unjustly underrated.

I've also seen what must be one of the most romantic movies I've ever seen (only slightly short of Harold and Maude actually), but as it's not romantic in the conventional sense (well, neither is Harold and Maude), I won't mention the title, or you'll think I'm seriously twisted, which might easily happen because I've mentioned the words "bizarre fantasies" on this weblog far too often lately. Not that this movie was all that bizarre, mind you.

Posted by Horst at 05:18 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)


January 27, 2004

There is this bakery shop in one particular Vienna subway station (I won't mention which one, for obvious reasons), whose employees seem to be on a mission to spread disease.

There is this one woman who always seems to have a cold. I think I have never seen her with anything other than a red nose, constantly sniffing. Perhaps she has a flour allergy, but if so, why on earth is she working in a bakery? Then there's this other woman who keeps dropping things. Constantly. It seems like she's putting them away after picking them up, but at the rate at which she's dropping them, the whole shop would very soon be out of bread; so my guess is that they must be selling the dropped items after a while.

Then there is the third woman, who seemed healthy and who doesn't keep dropping things, but the last time I was there (which was a long time ago, I assure you), she had this cough attack. Thankfully, she covered her mouth while coughing. Unthankfully, the hand with which she covered her mouth also held a paper bag with my croissant in it.

What is it with people? No wonder 13,400 people get the flu in Vienna on one single day if this bakery is in any way representative. Employers seem to be as unkeen on properly training their employees (like, "don't ever cough on the croissants") as they seem on sacking them for spreading germs. Mind you, they are fired for lesser offences.

But then I remember this incident during my army service, where we had to run around the barracks ten times with the 80lb backpacks for not having washed out the wastebasket, whereas nothing at all happened when somebody's loaded, unsecured gun went off in a tent.

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January 28, 2004

The students here at Vienna University are getting more desperate: after pieing the rector last week resulted in somewhat hostile reactions from the press and the government, they are now throwing cream cakes at each other in protest against the reorganisation of Austrian universities. They were also sneezing and coughing at one particular librarian, who now has a cold.

In an article for Stern, political science professor Wilhelm Hennis says that today's political elite is "totally miscast"; irresponsibility and mediocrity rule; sincerity and long-term planning don't matter any longer. The same is also true of Austria, of course. [via SWR]

And while a new mass-mailing worm is infecting millions of Windows (and only Windows) PCs, Bill Gates calls Windows the most secure operating system. More over at The Evil Empire.

Posted by Horst at 11:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


January 30, 2004

Recently, I was talking about a very romantic movie, which started me thinking about other movies that I felt were romantic. Consequently, in true Nick Hornby fashion, I wanted to compile two lists for this weblog — one of my top 5 romantic movie scenes and one of the top 5 scenes that always move me to tears.

Only, I can't seem to be able to think of five truly romantic scenes. A couple of online lists [1] [2] [3] I consulted only produced mostly totally unromantic movies. It seems that people's concepts of "romantic" vary highly. As I consider myself a hopeless romantic, it comes as a bit of a shock that my idea of romantic seems to be totally off the norm.

Anyway, I'm kind of stuck with just two highly romantic scenes, which is not really much of a list. And although I remember being very moved by a film recently, I can't remember which one it was. Compiling these lists seems to be more difficult than I thought. If you'd like to share your favourite romantic and moving moments on film, feel free to post a comment.

Posted by Horst at 11:17 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)


January 31, 2004

Arnold Schwarzenegger has just killed the first person who was not a movie character. Funny though, how American and Austrian press accounts differ on this.

In the meantime, a politician from Schwarzenegger's Austrian home province of Styria has demanded that Austrian politicians should now keep a greater distance to the "terminator": "To punish a human being with death is a contradiction of humanity, ethics and Christian values. [...] [Schwarzenegger's decision] is despicable and should be condemned."

Posted by Richard Ellenson at 12:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (2)



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