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

July 2005 Archive

July 01, 2005

I never felt magic crazy as this, I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea, I never held emotion in the palm of my hand or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree. But now you're here, brighten my northern sky. I've been a long time that I'm waiting, been a long that I'm blown. I've been a long time that I've wandered through the people I have known. Oh, if you would and you could straighten my new mind's eye.

One of the better definitions of love that I heard so far came from a very unlikely place — an American movie, of all things. It's in As Good As It Gets, where Jack Nicholson's character says at one point to Helen Hunt's character, "You make me want to be a better person".

As contrived as this may sound, it's actually a very true sentiment, one that I've had with only very few people. I don't think you're really in love unless you feel that way.

Posted by Horst at 12:03 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

July 04, 2005

Not that I think it's going to change much, but I'll place this banner here today to remind you of something with a potentially huge impact on how we use computers:

Tomorrow we can expect the European Parliament's decision on software patents in the European Union. The EP already voted against it once; but this time, thanks to intensive lobbying on part of the big software companies, it seems possible that the Conservative and Liberal parties will vote in favour of it, and that would mean that the law is passed and Microsoft etc. have achieved a huge step in getting rid of Linux and other open source projects.

Posted by Horst at 09:23 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

July 05, 2005

The other day I was at this restaurant where the customers are being served by telepathic waiters.

The weather was still fine then, and they had tables outside, and there was this one waiter who went to every table to take orders whenever a new customer arrived, and he would jot down everything on a minuscule paper notepad, and he would be running from one table to the next the whole time.

I watched this for a while. until at some point I got the feeling that something was wrong. Then it suddenly hit me that while he did write down the orders, he never actually went into the restaurant itself to bring the orders to the kitchen. He was happily running to and fro, but never in and out.

Oddly enough, other waiters would appear from the restaurant from time to time and bring food to the tables. Even I eventually got my lunch, despite the fact that I had monitored the waiter with the notepad the whole time and he had never entered the restaurant, given any of his tiny pieces of paper to anyone else, or even talked to one of the other waiters.

Telepathy, obviously. And apparently they hadn't perfected it fully yet, because I didn't get my mineral water until after I had finished my lunch. It seemed they could read each other's minds, but not their customers'. Which, on the other hand, is a good thing, I suppose.

Posted by Horst at 06:24 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

July 06, 2005

I have been contemplating the cucumber and tomato lately. That's because one slice of cucumber and one slice of tomato can be found in just about every sandwich that you buy somewhere in Vienna, no matter what kind of sandwich it is, and I find that their presence is both tragic and reassuring at the same time.

It's reassuring because no matter where you buy your sandwich, you can expect them to be there. It's like proof that Einstein was wrong, and there is not just one constant in the universe, there are in fact two: the speed of light and the presence of the cucumber and tomato.

It's also reassuring because they're never alone: they always appear together, and it's a comforting reminder that wherever you are, there will always be someone who's with you, there's the right partner for every human just like there's the slice of cucumber for every slice of tomato.

But then it's also tragic because they never seem to be there at their own will: often cut hastily, of more or less shabby appearance, sometimes not even very fresh, they seem to be there just because they have to be there, not because it would make any sense for them to be there. Like they're really a stand-in for some other vegetable, the token slices to create the illusion of freshness, but all they really do is to give you stomach cramps.

It'd be interesting to accelerate a sandwich to the speed of light and see what happens to the cucumber and tomato. My guess is the rest of the sandwich will disintegrate at some point, but the cucumber and tomato will prevail.

Posted by Horst at 05:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

July 07, 2005

July 09, 2005

Much as the coverage of the London bombings by weblogs has been lauded pretty much everywhere, I'm appalled by some of the responses out there. I've been extensively thinking about what to write myself, and I must have written and discarded some eight or nine versions of this posting, basically because I didn't want it to sound cheesy, which seems to be really hard to avoid.

Like two years ago I was invited to write an anti-war poem and in the process I found that it was next to impossible to write anything that wasn't clichéd, or sentimental, or cheesy, or all three at the same time. I ended up submitting this:

I fold this stone
into a banana leaf; I take
comfort in slumber — I throw the stone
at the nearest wall

I greet the day
like a gift from God; I grease
my machine gun — I lead the sheep
out onto the field

I write a letter
to somebody I know; I open
a yellow parcel — I drive the car
through this checkpoint

I fly a plane
over this country; I prepare
tea for friends — I buy some fruit
at the market

I sit on a truck
in the desert; I make love
to my wife — I dream,
I dream.

(also published in Cursed)

The reaction was mixed; I guess most people didn't know what to do with it. Even I don't know whether this isn't just as clichéd as what I was trying to avoid, only in a different way, but then apparently it's like walking a thin line:

A clear indication that to provoke an immediate response to an authoritative instruction — the cliché is essential. However, remember this, in creative endeavour one benchmark which separates sheep from goats is the ability to stroke a cliché until it purrs like a metaphor. (Alan Fletcher, The art of looking sideways, Phaidon Press, London 2001, p. 202).

I suppose I'll just end today's jumbled entry with this, an Underground map showing the open lines after the bombings:

London Underground 8 July 2005

It seems as if all my friends in London are alive and well. Which is really more important than anything else.

Posted by Horst at 11:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 11, 2005

Too much work to blog. Oh, and JavaScript can be more fun than I thought. If you have a good reference book.

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

July 14, 2005

In my recent story about the cucumber and tomato, I forgot to mention that cucumbers tend to give me stomach cramps, so I usually remove the slice of cucumber from the sandwich and throw it away, eating only the tomato.

I realize this adds a terribly tragic twist to the story about the two of them being virtually inseparable, but hey, such is life.

Posted by Horst at 12:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 15, 2005

And then there's this pan-Asian restaurant (not the one that's around the corner from where I live, which received a particularly scathing review in yesterday's Der Standard) where everything, no matter what you order, tastes like red Thai curry.

They call it "Szechuan" or "lime sauce" or "bulgogi" or "satay", or, you wouldn't believe it, even "red Thai curry", but all of them taste essentially like red Thai curry (okay, so the lime sauce does taste mostly like a sickly sweet lemon custard with a twist of Thai basil.

I realize that of course it's more economical to just cook one basic sauce and base every dish on it, but Indian restaurants seem to be able to do the same thing and still produce a variety of different tastes. Makes me wonder whether the idea of a pan-Asian restaurant is actually to put all possible ingredients into one sauce rather than make different sauces from all possible ingredients.

And there are people who genuinely like this place. The reviews were favourable (well, the red Thai curry isn't bad), a colleague of mine goes there at least once a week (for meals with different names that all taste the same), and it's almost always packed. I eat there sometimes when I need something to complain about. Works every time.

Posted by Horst at 05:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 16, 2005

As of today, this weblog will be switching to the summer schedule, which means that the blogging frequency will be more or less erratic. Under no circumstances will there be daily updates.

Regular updates should resume at some point in late August.

Posted by Horst at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 17, 2005


No, I don't have it yet. No, I don't intend to buy it. No, I don't have any of the others. Yes, I tried to read the first one, honestly, but it bored me stiff after about 30 pages, so I stopped. No, I don't want to hear any more about it. Yes, I think it's hugely overrated. Yes, I want to be as rich as Ms Rowling.

Posted by Horst at 11:59 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

July 20, 2005

Poster seen on a train recently:

The person sitting next to you wasn't sleeping.
He was dreaming.
That your battery was empty.

Please be discreet when using your mobile phone on the train.

Obviously, I'm not talking about Austria.

Another one, just for the fun of it:

There are 71 potential millionaires on this coach.
Because they all heard the instructions that you gave to your stock broker.

Please be discreet when using your mobile phone on the train.

Interesting how some countries developed an etiquette when the menace of ubiquitous and permanent mobile phone calls emerged, and others just stood by and let chaos ensue. In some countries people don't even think twice qbout standing up and leving the compartment immediately when their mobile phone rings, whereas in others you can't travel in peace without an iPod any longer because everybody's chatting away on their mobile phones at the top of their voices.

Of course there are also countries where you can travel in peace without an iPod because the people still don't have mobile phones in such numbers. But these countries are becoming rare.

Posted by Horst at 07:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 22, 2005

You enter an underground train, and you don't think about the bombs for a second, and you notice that (a) all the people around you are reading, and (b) the titles of the books they are reading are Dostoyevsky's Idiot, Camus' The Plague and Tolstoy's Crime and Punishment, and you think it's such a cliché.

Me, I was reading Joann Sfar's Piano, more about which later.

Posted by Horst at 03:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 25, 2005

May I remind you that this blog is still on a summer schedule, meaning there'll be much fewer postings here than usual. If you're looking for entertainment, be sure to check out my fiction blog Messages from the lost continent — the perfect antidote against Harry Potter... :-)

Posted by Horst at 01:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 26, 2005

The Swiss must really like mountains. So much that they are building their cities not between, but all over them. Rome may be built on seven hills, but Lausanne is built on at least seven mountains. I wonder if the inhabitants of Lausanne are physically fitter than inhabitants of other cities, simply because they have to climb and descend all those mountains (ok, I am slightly exaggerating here) on a daily basis.

I spent seven hours in Lausanne today, where I was supposed to meet a fellow blogger, who unfortunately didn't show up, which was partly due to her and my old age -- she forgot that she was supposed to pick me up at the station and I had accidentally left the piece of paper with her cell phone number on it at home. I set off two emergency e-mails from one of the cool hi-tech phone boxes at the railway station, but apparently they did not arrive in time. Therefore, no meeting. What a bummer.

I wonder what would have happened in the age before mobile phones. Or what if I had a mobile phone myself. A friend recently told me that she felt odd when she was meeting me and couldn't call me on the mobile to tell me she was late. Like, a few years ago, it was obvious I'd wait. But nowadays, she said, it seemed unlikely to her that anyone would wait if they didn't get a phone call.

Well, I suppose I'm old-fashioned that way. I wait.

By the way, for the best lahmacun that I've ever had, go to Lausanne. Better than Berlin, better than Istanbul even. I am not kidding. Half way up the hill immediately across the street from the railway station. Take it with spicy sauce and salad, but without extra doner. 6 Swiss francs well spent. Yum.

Posted by Horst at 09:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

July 27, 2005

You're living in the UK, but your visa has expired. As you enter your underground station, a few guys yell at you. Policemen? You cannot afford to be sent back to your home country now, so you decide to run. They yell at you to stop. You run faster. What can happen? Policemen in the UK aren't armed anyway. You're on the platform, and you're lucky, there's a train waiting there. As you jump in, you suddenly feel a sharp pain in the back. You may or you may not realize that you've just been shot in the back. You fall to the floor, the three guys yell at you and pin you to the floor, one of them has his pistol in his hand and moves it dangerously close to your head. What do you think in the split second before he blows your brain out with seven bullets?

According to the news, Jean Charles de Menezes was shot on 22 July because his visa had expired and there was no way that he could have known that the three men who were after him were armed plain clothes policemen who thought he was a terrorist and who had orders to shoot to kill.

I am not criticizing these orders here. I am just pointing out that in response to terrorism, the western democracies are radically changing.

George Bush said that Al-Quaeda is attacking the western democracies because they hate our democratic system, our civil liberties and our values and want to destroy them.

I say: if that is indeed the case, then Osama bin-Laden (or whoever is behind these attacks) has been pretty successful: in the USA, the Patriot Act has done away with many very basic civil liberties, human rights even. Several EU countries have passed laws that allow for the unlimited detainment of people on the basis of the mere assumption that they might know someone who could be involced in some terrorist activity. Laws that allow the recording and archiving of all our telephone and internet communications are on the way.

And in London, you can be shot for having an expired visa. Whither democracy? Whither civil liberties? They are washed down the drain, and it's not really Osama bin-Laden who's to blame for this.

Posted by Horst at 03:02 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (1)

July 31, 2005

Like Adalbert, I recently got stuck on that stupid sports quiz, and this time the task seemed fairly simple. They showed three playing cards that looked something like this:

playing cards

and the question was: "count all the diamonds".

Just as in the weight quiz, people phoned in giving the strangest answers, and I forced myself to watch the program until the end just to find out if the correct answer in the card quiz (worth € 15,000) would be as strange as the one in the weight quiz.

It was.

In the latest Aardvark Prize Draw, here's your chance to win something if you tell me the correct answer according to the quiz programme. Leave your name and solution (but no explanation) in the comments. One answer per person only please. If nobody gets it right, the person who comes closest gets the prize (which, by the way, is not € 15,000 — sorry).

Answer and Winner will be published on the blog on Friday.

Posted by Horst at 04:54 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack (1)

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