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Out-of-body button

Today I read a short newsarticle that made me wonder. Doctors in Antwerp were operating on a man’s ear. They accidentally activated a part of the his brain that gave him an out-of-body experience. It proves that these experiences could be repeated ‘as often as they wanted’ so to say, they weren’t ‘lucky shots’. The experiences were about 15 to 21 seconds each and made the man feel like he was floating about halve a meter diagonally behind his body. Meanwhile two parts of the brain became hyper active. Does this ‘button’ imply that there is a connection between the body and the soul and that the latter can be ‘forced out’ by use of ‘the button’ or is it simply that the brain misinterprets incoming signals and give an idea of separation? Does the man have out-of-body experiences (does he see his body) or is his system just shaken up a little? A nice point to investigate for a neurologist I suppose! (And maybe also for ‘spiritually minded’ people.)

On art

“Art” a concept that I have some problems with. When I go to a museum, especially one of “modern” or “contemporary art” I always have to think of the idea that Ananda Coomaraswamy had about art. “Real art” in the eyes of Coomaraswamy is produced when an artist raises him-/herself upto the heavens, takes the ‘idea’ down and makes a good ‘copy’ of it in our domain. (Compare the idea to the world of ideas of Plato.) The work of art is something usefull, something that is used in daily life. With this in mind, a spoon is a work of art, a painting in most cases not. So did the word “art” undergo a grave degeneration? Did the meaning change so drastically that art can now be a large piece of canvas painted black or is there something else? In several books Coomaraswamy questions the usefullness and necessity of museums. Why look at things that should actually be used and if the pieces cannot be used, what is the use of them? Does what we call art today still serve a purpose or is art nothing more than estheticism or the result of someone’s creativity? In most cases it is “look but don’t touch”, now and then something interactive may be made. Also it seems that 99% of the works of art are made to be displayed in a museum, in some public space or elsewhere.
When in New York we visited three museums of modern art; the famous MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), the even more famous Guggenheim and DIA: a bit “upstate” in Beacon. DIA: is an enormous factory complex turned into a museum with large rooms. It has some dull pieces, such as circles and squares on the floor of a large room or dozens of almost-the-same Warhol paintings on the four sides of a large room and enormous metal objects. Nice to look at maybe (sometimes), but is this what we call art nowadays? The Guggenheim has an exhibition of Richard Prince. This exhibition goes from too all-American photos of bikers, biker-women, streetcars, etc. to large plates with jokes to sculptures made from car-parts. Here and there these things are come up with nicely, but in general it all was too American for me. When I was ahead of my girlfriend a bit too far, I sat down and started to listen to the audio-set that was pushed into my hands when entering the museum (which I didn’t really want) and heard some of the background of the artist, the exhibition and the ideas behind the pieces that are shown. It proved that the artist wanted to enlarge typical American things as a form of criticism. When listening further the ideas were actually quite interesting and the exhibition became more enjoyable even when I didn’t really like most of the pieces. Also my girlfriend bought a DVD about and including interviews with Joseph Beuys who supposedly has been a major figure and influence in the field of modern art. Beuys had some peculiar and sometimes interesting ideas and obviously wanted to convey a message with his weird installations, a spiritual message even. It seems that afterall this kind of art does have a message, or at least wants to confuse people so that they start to think. The purpose of art seems to have shifted from material usefullness to ‘mental usefullness’. The point with many contemporary artists is -though- that you won’t get the message if you don’t know the idea behind the works. Moreover, art has become a matter of esthetics and taste. While a spoon not necessarily has to be beautiful, a contemporary artist won’t make it just because of his or her message. Some art-scene-bigcheese will have to like the work in order to bring it to museums and to bring some acknowledgement to the artist.
All in all, modern art is not really my thing. Sometimes there is some amasement, but when I see that most museums of modern art, whether in Europe or America, mostly have the same artists and styles and that “modern” often means 50 years old, I have my doubt about the ‘groundbreakingness’ of modern art or even the esthetic value. It seems that what used to be called art, is nowadays called “craft” and what was creativity is now called art. Museums seem mostly to be for recreation and art to provide the people something different from daily life. The way concepts change…
So what do you think? Is shit in a can in a museum, art? Is a painting of Mondriaan art? And a painting by Rembrandt? What makes art, art?

NYC

We have just been in New York City for just over a week. It was mostly as expected: huge buildings, millions of people, a too-American society (in a way, at least). We have seen the usual things, the “WTC Site” (ground zero), Lower Manhatten with its financial district (huge shiny office skyscrapers) and Battery Park with a view on the Statue Of Liberty (because of the amount of tourists we didn’t take the ferry to have a closer look), the popular modern art museums (MoMA, Gugenheim and DIA up north), Time Square (awfull, but impressive for its amount of people and advertisement), the hip neighbourhoods in Soho and “The Village”, we some some of the major churches (Thomas, Trinity, Patrick’s, etc.), strolled through Central Park (tip: take the Northern half), shopped at Strands and the Virgin Mega Store, etc., etc. You surely need a guide in the city, because it’s not like everything is nicely in an overseeable area and even with the subway you sometimes have to travel long, but I think I’ve got an idea of the city. It’s amazing how prominent the (what I call) hiphop livestyle is, especially in neighbourhoods in Brooklyn that are mainly black (for a short time to come, since they are being taken over by hip white people). Also it is weird to see that there are so many different cultures (Afro, Latin, Hispanic, Jewish, you name it) with all their own culture and their own language, while in my country everybody is more or less forced to be the same) and these cultures mainly live right alongside eachother without much interaction. The latter goes for the city as a whole. Everybody is so stressed and in a hurry, that they don’t even have/take the time to argue or have a fight, so generally speaking, NYC is a very modest city where you don’t have to worry about looking the wrong way to someone. When in traffic, a New Yorker becomes a madman though. Pedestrians wait for that tiny hole in a long line of cars in the middle of the road and just to get on the other side when the sign still says “don’t walk”. Cars zigzag over the streets with massive speeds, avoiding the few pedestrians that did wait for “walk” and if half a second of delay seems at hand, its honking, honking, honking. Honking all day long (imagine that with thousands of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks driving through the town). NYC is so noisy that your ears start to hurt and you are forced into one of the larger parks, or even better: leave town. A city that never sleeps, where you can get anything you want, 24/7. A city full of surprises, but I’m glad I’m just back behind my computer in my own, tranquil neighbourhood.

Heart of Hrungnir

On page 157 of The Destiny Of The Warrior (see book reviews section) Georges Dumézil speaks about the battle of Thor and Thjalfi with the giant Hrungnir and his clay dummy. In this well-known passage it is said that Hrungnir has a heart of stone, a heart with three corners (or “horns” in the translation of Dumézil) “which then became that of the runic sign called the ‘heart of Hrungnir’.” Often this heart of Hrungnir is taken to be the Valknutr, but Dumézil, in a note, writes the following: “A vertical stroke with two diagonal strokes branching upward from the middle of the vertical, each half as long as the vertical and at right angles to each other; this sign equals hr (van Langenhove).” This can hardly be seen as a description of a Valknutr! But what to make of it then…?

The upper line as three interpretations of the description of Dumézil, the bottom line the two runes that are the H and the R. I cannot think of a combination of these two runes that come even close to Dumézil’s description! Does anybody have a better idea and/or know this Van Langenhove that Dumézil refers to?

Hotlinks

However I still am unable to prevent other websites than my own to use images from my server, I did find a way to see what images are hotlinked to (I thought the term was “deeplink”, but “hotlink” as a term results in more and better information). Go to Google image search and in the search field type: site:yourwebsite.com. You will see the images that Google has indexed and under each image you can see the source. If this source is not yourwebsite.com, then you found a hotlink. Of course this doesn’t work with forums that work with usernames and logins (and unfortunately also not with Myspace…), but for example weblogs are easily detected. What I didn’t think of immediately and what is also pretty irritating, is that hotlinks to images on Monas.nl are also redirected to Gangleri. The hotlinker doesn’t get an image, but I do get a hit and a note in my webstats which become a total mess (“referrers” that never sent a visitor through, etc.). Oh well, a result of the overly-public internet. I will look into it some more, maybe the Google tip is something for you if you have a similar problem with your images.

Ask for your translations

Today I discovered the most hilarious thing. I was looking for something with Ask.com (as alternative for Google) and then I thought to try out how high Gangleri would come out if I looked for something. I wasn’t disappointed by the result, but my eye immediately fell on the line “translate this site”. When I clicked on it, I was directed to an Ask.com page, on which in the lower half -after some waiting- Gangleri appeared, in Dutch! The translation is of course cracky and hilarious with band- and labelnames, musical styles, etc., etc. translated. I had the laugh of the week!! So, if you happen to have a not-English Windows (or Mac), you may want to read a site just as mine in ‘your own language’ with the help of Ask.com.

La Fura dels Baus

The theatre season here usually opens with an enormous outside spectacle. I have never been to any, because there are always just a few shows which are immediately sold out. Not this year. The town theatre has plenty shows, inside and the sales do not go too fast. And so we decided to go and see the Spanish “total theatre group’ La Fura dels Baus and their show “Imperium”. It was promised to be a spectacle and it sure was.
We entered the completely emptied “Philips room” (in the new part of the “Parktheater”) which slowly filled with hundreds of people, making it pretty crowded already. The show started with actors running through the audience, pushing people away, shouting and waving all kinds of weapons. Then massive pieces of stage started to be rolled through the room and the audience had to make way in order not to be ran over. This happened the whole hour and started to become pretty annoying, because we were not particularly politely asked to go and stand somewhere else (usually there was nowhere to go because everybody had to make way).
The ‘story’ can be given in three words: suppression, revolt, war, there is nothing much more to say about the ‘content’ or ‘message’ of the show. It just acted like a hook to hang on fighting scenes of girls in sexy outfits (topless), stripshows and the throwing with eaten apple, champagne, water, powder, rice, etc. and all that under music at an insane volume. Spectacular, for sure, amusing at times, but personally I found it all quickly becoming irritating and the ‘story’ didn’t make things more interesting. The reactions of the audience seem to be from both extremes. Some people completely ‘got into the story’ and found it all magnificent, others were annoyed because of their wrecked suits, wet dresses and hurting ears. I myself ‘got away’ with all the filth relatively untouched, enjoyed the weird findings and S&M like show and the pretty industrial soundtrack, but overall I am not convinced. There is too much violence, some scenes are rather long, the few words spoken are in Spanish and there should have been more story to it.
Should this text have caught your interest, you can still visit “Imperium” in Eindhoven (Netherlands) on the following every evening from 5 to 9 September (none of the shows are curently sold out). Be sure to wear good shoes, cloths that have to be washed anyway and bring ear-plugs.

Links: Parktheater, La Fura dels Baus

Germanic studies at the university

Indiana University at Bloomington has a Germanic Studies department with M.A. and Ph.D. programs concentrating on older Germanic and Scandinavian language and cultue. Kari Ellen Gade (author of The Structure of Old Norse Dróttvnætt Poetry [1995]) teaches courses in Old Norse language and literature, runes and runic inscriptions, Viking culture and sagas, as well as older Germanic languages including Gothic, Old Saxo, Old High German, and Middle High German.

In this maybe not too pleasent, but highly informative read, from Symbel issue one Michael Moynihan describes the courses in Germanic and Scandinavian languages, mythology, etc. given at American universities late 2006. However the introduction describes a downfall in such courses, I am still very impressed by the amount and variety of studies in the field that can be followed by students in America. The article also makes me wonder what list would appear if a similar investigation was done for Europe. In my own country I know about studies in Celtic language and a bit of mythology in Utrecht, I suppose that programs on the German language has something about Old High German and maybe some deparment of history may have something about Germans, but as specific as in the quote? Of course I never went to university so I don’t have a good insight, but it would be interesting if a similar investigation for Europe would be done, because at least in my country the serious interest of youths surely grows and it would be great if an interested youth would be able to find out where (s)he could turn to to study.

Sport’s vicious circle

Somehow the watching of other people sporting became a very important part of our lives, so important that sport became big business. People spend a great deal of time (and some a great deal of money) to watching soccer, tennis, baseball, cycling or whatever and sportsmen became heroes. A strange development that became an even stranger vicious circle. In order to get more attraction and more money, sport has to become bigger and bigger. Ridiculous amounts of money is paid for players, salaries are absurd and the money that TV-stations are willing to pay for the rights to broadcasts the plays is beyond belief. Especially in the case of soccer there is an unnatural rivalry between ‘supporters; of different teams who think that they can demolish entire cities to ‘make their point’. What irritates me most, is that even the main news makes time to tell us all about the world of sports, as if there is no more important news to give. The last week this has reached its top. I don’t care about the cyclists in France and if I did, I would watch the ‘sports news’, so why do I have to see half of the news dedicated to the Tour de France? Things get worse. Because the runners have to perform, they look for ways to do this better. This results in the use of all kinds of ‘medications’. Then runners have to sign that they are not into that, well that is news! Some runners of course can’t resist the temptation and now the news is all about the “scandals”, as if the average news-watcher is interested in that. I am not the least bit interested in it all, but I wouldn’t know how to learn about things that are more important without having hear all about ‘sports’. What is it that fascinates people so much in it and why do they keep being fascinated when it all turns out to be a farce? Isn’t there something better to do?

Developments

Now that all Monas.nl has been transferred, I can point my arrows towards some functionalities that I want to add to the website.
Partly on request, I have added a Google search function in every section to allow you to search the entire website and not just the section. The fact that this works with an off-site link is not completely what I want, but it will do for now.
Also I have added word-verifications for comments, because the spam-machines were a bit too active for my liking. However I believe everything works, I get almost no more comments. If something doesn’t work (in one section, some browser or not at all), please contact me by email (click “into” above). If for some other reason the verification keeps you from commenting, let me know as well. It is true that your first comment has to be verified by myself, later posts (in the same section I suppose) will be visible immediately.
My latest effort is the “recent comments” line in the “sidebar”. I wanted something like this, but I couldn’t find or make a good one. What you see now comes pretty close, but it not perfect yet.
Now I hope to find something about the ‘archiving issue’. Suggestion (especially by fellow WordPressers) are welcome.

The last thing I want to say it about the very section that you are now reading. The idea was a combination between a “blog” and a news-page for the other sections. I have the idea that the “blog function” gets a bit ‘undersnowed’ (as we say here). Therefor I added the category “blog” (I dislike the term, but most people will know what I mean at least) which also covers the “announcement”, “quotes” sections (I left this for ‘differentiating purposes’). Also I changed the title of the section. I hope this will prove to be an improvement.