When I took this picture I thought it was a rather unusual piece of grafitti. Confined as it is to the rectangle of the grate and with the undefinable shape at the bottom, to me it looked more like a painting than grafitti usually does. I did see there was some green paint outside of the rectangle, but still the penny didn't drop. It was only after I uploaded it to Flickr that I saw what it is- the remains of a large "piece" that has been removed from the side of the train.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Sometimes people ask me "shouldn't that be muggenzifter?", and by this show they are mugge(n)zifters themselves. The word literally means "gnat-sifter", and it is usually translated as nit-picker.
Many people are uncertain about the correct spelling, because of a recent spelling reform which added an "n" in the middle of a lot of similarly stuctured words- for instance, "kippesoep" (chicken soup) became "kippensoep", which looks strange, because by the old rule this would imply the soup is always made using more than one chicken.
In true mugge(n)zifting spirit, I went to the library to consult old and new dictionaries on the subject. To my surprise I found all but one of them have "muggenzifter" and do not even mention the "muggezifter" variant. The exception is "Van Dale's Hedendaags Nederlands" ("Van Dale's Contemporary Dutch") from 1994. It only has "muggezifter" and doesn't mention the other version, which is odd, because its parent dictionary has it the other way round. Have I stumbled on a cold war that divided Van Dale's editorial offices during the 90s?
Finally I turned to the monumental "Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal", a dictionary that took from 1864 to 1998 to be published. For every word it gives sample quotations from between the 15th century and 1921 (originally the compilers tried to stay up to date, but when they found the language was changing more quickly than the dictionary could be completed, 1921 was chosen as the closing year)
The WNT gives "muggenzifter" as the correct spelling, but 3 of the 5 examples are missing the n. So I'm off the hook; if "muggezifter" was good enough for Justus van Effen, it's good enough for me. Interestingly, most of the quotations combine the word with some version of "kemelverslinder" ("devourer of camels"), a word I wasn't aware of. The implication is that such a person likes to point out small mistakes but will happily swallow large absurdities. I like that word. If I ever need another nick...
The WNT makes a point of mentioning that the female version ("muggenzifster") is "uncommon". I won't comment on that.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
I can remember how the moon changed in 1969. It had always been a light in the sky, or at best a big ball that hung high above our heads. Now it suddenly was a place.
It even had a topography. Many exciting new names entered the collective consciousness. Fra Mauro, Tycho, Mare Imbrium, Mare Tranquillitatis. I could point them out on the map that hung on my wall, courtesy of BP.
I built plastic kit models of the LEM and the Apollo capsule. The complete Saturn V was sadly out of reach, financially.
My father filmed the 'splashdown' with his 8mm camera from the tv screen (in black and white, of course). Countdown, lift-off, splashdown - these must have been among the first English words that I knew. I'm sure it was the first time I encountered the word "rendezvous", and it was some years before I knew this could refer to the meeting of other things than space vehicles. The USA was as least as much an alien world as the moon.
I remember feeling that something had happened during my lifetime that would be part of world history for centuries to come, even when the rest of the 20th century would have been forgotten by non-specialists. I still believe that now. Maybe it does not look so big from 2006. It is like when you have one building in a city that is substantially higher than all the other ones. You don't see that when you are in the city itself. Maybe from many places you can not even see this building because other buildings are in the way. But when you look at the city from a distance, it clearly sticks out.
I'm still in paradise. These granite balls are there to prevent people from parking on the pavement. Each of them wears a fluorescent belt, to keep people from driving their cars into them at night.
In this environment all behaviour that's slightly out of the ordinary attracts attention. Although there are few people in the streets, I get more commented upon when I'm photographing than usual.
When I'm taking this picture, a young woman drives past in a small car. She slows down and yells "now that's interesting". I'm tempted to ask her if she's got something more interesting to show me, but I decide against it.
I took the metro to the end of the line. This neighborhood is very different from the parts of Rotterdam I'm used to. Everything is new and clean. The streets are wide and park-like. On the one hand it's like paradise - on the other hand it's kind of dead. Once I get away from the station the streets are almost deserted.
I'm looking for things to photograph, but there is not much that catches my eye. Everything is too new, too intentional. If I would photograph the streets, it would be like copying the architects' drawings. It looks like nothing has happended here yet.
Do I look like this? I suppose the camera doesn't lie - but people who've known me for years have failed to recognize me in this picture.
I'm more unshaven than usual, and I'm tired. When I'm this tired I take off my glasses. I'm in the train and I want to be home, now, not in an hour.
The black and white makes me look my age.
To myself it looks plausible enough - I can look at this face and feel that it's mine. This is my face when I'm alone.
Friday, June 16, 2006
As I was not completely satisfied with the results of my attempt to photograph raindrops, I tried to recreate the phenomenon under laboratory conditions- i.e. I took my camera into the shower.
The flash was too strong for the white reflecting walls, so I had to cover it with my finger. This worked, but because the light was filtered by my flesh, the pictures came out very red. That is why I converted them to black and white.
It is amazing to see how what we perceive as a continuous jet of water is in reality more like a string of pearls.
Last week has been very hot and uncomfortable. So when tuesday ended in a thunderstorm. I went out into the garden and got thoroughly soaked. It was wonderful. The raindrops were big and soft and left my skin tingling.
I decided to try and photograph the rain. I went back inside and got my camera and an umbrella.
The result is not too spectacular, but you can see the raindrops, small spheres of water in the air, catching the light.
I was a bit surprised how few and far between they were in the split second of the flash, but the surface of the water in the pool shows how heavy the rain was at that moment.