The Free State
"Man, in a word, has no nature. What he has is - history."

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Almost 1000 dead in Baghdad stampede

For now the number is 841 according to CNN and 695 according to the BBC. It's likely to go up. Pretty damn crazy that in this place people have become so terrified and edgy (with good reason) that it seems that a mere panic can expand into a stampede and kill hundreds of people. It's not known if the panic was caused by a real suicide bomber, or just a rumour of one.

It's a fluke, a mass of death completely beyond the intentions of either side. Ironically, the stampede happened while the Shi'a were honouring the death of an important 8th century Imam.

Some of the better pictures:

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Part III: Krakow, the Regal Capital, is gorgeous

We landed in Poland safe and sound. After a light lunch, we found the bus to our hostel easily enough. It was kinda of a shock that we essentially could no longer read any signs whatsoever. Though enough people knew English for us to get by easily enough. Poland still has a lot of peasants and it shows. On the bus (and later trains) we could see lots of farmland and quaint cottages with often little machinery. There was also lots of men sporting extravagant and long (which, actually, felt very eastern Europeanish) moustaches.

We got to our hostel easily enough and were struck by the gorgeous receptionist there. Hint: Polish girls during our stay tended to be ****ing hot. We quickly dropped off our stuff and went for dinner in the City. We had dinner in a nice restaurant (cheap too!) who happened to have a hot waitress with flawless English. All restaurants had these fancy statues in front of them. This is when I was, I don't know, seduced by the town. We began walking around the Stare Miasto (Old Town) and the whole place is made up of beautiful centuries old buildings. Krakow is one of the few towns of Poland that was not flattened during WW2. There is a huge square in Krakow surrounded on all sides with beautiful buildings, a statue in the middle and lights all around, the photos I took are all ugly. Here's one to give you an idea. Unlike Berlin, Krakow was also easy to visit, you just walked around and enjoyed the atmosphere.

The next day I noticed this at the bus stop. Wicked, capitalism emerging ^^ We got to town and had some giant Polish bread-pretzels. Not bad. Then Wyatt went into some sort of fit, something about no one speaking German. Given my navigation was total crap, we were sort of stranded for a while. We walked around a bit, seeing some of that gorgeous architecture. And then some more. Some of it was surprisingly post-modern and ununderstandable. We eventually got to Wawel Hill. On it is the Cathedral used to crown Polish Kings as well as a huge palace. All nice.

We only spent 1 full day in Krakow though, and by the next day we were on a train (took a while to find it) to Warsaw. I'd have to say, Krakow was probably the most pleasant town we visited. Gorgeous buildings, nice atmosphere, not too many friggin' tourists and easy to walk around. Very nice. On the train, Wyatt took a picture of me apparently writing a will while apparently diseased.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Consensus: new design has kinks but is sexy

It's taken me some time and effort, some fun photoshopping and ripping other people's HTML code... but voila, the thing has been redone and I like it. The banner wasn't too hard to do, but when I made it, well, I had to change the blog to go with it. The threatening policeman is, obviously, Canadian.

Also added some links, the irreplaceable PoFo, Tom Toles an excellent cartoonist, the Daily Show is laughs, Cox and Forkum who are my favourite libertarian bigot cartoonists, nationmaster an good source of stats in any debate and 3 mates' blogs Mah-Lon, Fabio and Nui.

So yeah, I hope you like it as much as I do :-P

Saturday, August 20, 2005


I was reading Wiki's feature article yesterday on George Kennan (who, shock horror, died this year and I didn't know :-/ ) and it got me reading an early Cold War report called NSC-68 and it's full of nitwitry. They just didn't have a clue back in the day either.

Inspired me to make some sigs and posters:

The next looks a bit weird...

...so I made another a bit different

People who cannot distinguish between the USSR and other commies are foos.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Part II: Glory, Kinky Commies and the East Prussian Hypothetically Jewish Guy

Our stay in Berlin continued with a much nicer day. Now we could really start sight-seeing. Before that, we saw this in the aisle outside our room desperately trying to block out the light and sleep. Our quest for shampoo, as we had both forgotten it, was fruitful (seems so minor now... but was a big thing at the time :-P).

After a long walk through a Berlin park (I think we got lost, meh), we made our way to the Victory Column Round-About. On the outskirts of which were statues of the victorious generals/politicians of the Franco-Prussian War. Most noticeably the ever-sexy Bismarck. Even that monument is pretty big, me and Wyt spent a bit looking at the nooks and crannies of the thing and I had to take a pic of this guy. Very manly. We got a closer look of Victory and climbed up the thing. Took aaaages, once at the top we saw something which pretty much epitomizes Berlin and much of eastern Europe. The whole place is filled with reconstruction, building and rebirth. Let's remember this tower was built essentially as a nationalist dick-wag to France, you know, to say: "We won the war!! Neener neener you froggy pussies!" I wonder if the builders could have conceived something like this inside such a monument to the glorification of the nation.

We succumbed to temptation and watched a 3D IMAX movie in German, about Sharks and stuff, was neat. We walked around some more and found the unrepaired church. More walking and, inevitable for any trip to Berlin, we checked out the wall. Very ominous. We also saw checkpoint charlie, but thought better as it was obscenely expensive. And of course, we went by Wall Street. We stopped by the Berlin souvenir shop and spent loaaads of time there looking at busts of Bismarck and Queen Luise, flags of Prussia and Brandenburg and GDR stuff. I got me a GDR beltbuckle, Wyt got a Prussian flag. Not far from there we got souvenirs from a street-shop, the guy looked like your usual impoverished South Asian migrant.
Wyatt started haggling with him for a GDR flag. The price was 10 euro, but the guy accepted to drive it down to 9. Wyt's bargaining skills weren't bad, but while talking he had accidentally revealed the huge wad of 20 euro bills his dad had put in his wallet. I got an overpriced 20 euro item slightly too small for my head (I can here the jokes now) a kinky GDR hat.

We had seen this monument before, but now that it was a glorious day, we opted to the Reichstag again and go in. All of Berlin was dripping with similarly glorious neoclassical buildings. We had to wait in line a long time to get in, so I took a pic from (very) far. See the guy in the coat? We started talking, he was, I don't know, at least 80? We chatted a bit about Germany, Prussian Kings, his Balto-Old Prussian lineage and Teutonic knights. Lovely stuff, quite amazing we stumbled upon him. We visited the inside of the Reichstag with him and he offered us dinner in this Italian place. Was pretty cool, he told us of his experience, apparently he was from East Prussia (now part of Poland) and lived near an imperial estate. He fled the place after WW2 for Canada and had returned to catch up with others of his generation/area. He may have been Jewish on account of he asked us a couple of times if we visited the Jewish memorials and he kinda looked it. We told him of our trip, he seemed pretty impressed. Was really cool to meet him, really made the day 10x.

After dinner we practically had to force him to tell us his name and email. According to my notebook, it's "Mr M.Pflug". He gave us an email and scribbled this site. Weird! But upon inspection of the site, he is the husband of the namesake of the site, a Canadian artist who apparently knew Vieira da Silva. I'm looking at the site as I type this... I'm definitely going to email him now.

Now we zoom back to Berlin, he grabbed a taxi and we walked past Brandenburg gate and where they had setup a projector and movie about WW2. Was pretty surreal. We got back to the hostel soon after. The next day decided to go to Alexanderplatz with our American friends, I took this picture as it seemed somewhat like an epitome. We chatted at Dunkin' Donuts, the coffee and donuts were excellent. We contemplated going up the Alexanderplatz Radio Tower but figured we didnt have time before our flight to Krakow. It is perhaps the only bulding built by the Communists that looks sexy (better than our Liverpuddlian stick eh?).

After some goodbyes, we left for the airport. Cripes that was stressful. We were somewhat late, once in the airport, we fiddled with those fangled ticket distribution machines to get our tickets. That was hell. Then we had to find the gate, which was hard, 'cause they were redoing some stuff and the signs were all pointing the wrong way. Luckily a guy pointed us in the right direction, for some reason he spoke French. G'bye Berlin, next stop, the Kingdom capital of Poland, Krakow.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Part I: Across the Curtain and an East Berlin Day

Thanks to Wyatt’s mostly meticulous planning, we were speedily away from that hellhole to Germany. The days before had been rather short, when we arrived in Berlin, it didn’t quite sink in for either of us that we were gone and away. Wyatt was throughout our stay in Berlin confounded by the fact that despite his very good German, everyone would automatically respond in perfect English. We were both rather aloof as we ate schnitzels near the S-bahn (sp?). On our way to our hostel, the first thing we saw when we got of the S-bahn was what we had come here to see all along. Soviet architecture in all it’s glory (if one thing can be said about Nazis VS Commies, Nazis have style).

The hostel we stayed at was very sexy/furistic and CHEAP. A place called Generator, it was outstanding. We met some very friendly typical North Americans from Seattle. Our first real day in Berlin is when we found out what a tough city it is to visit (everything is sprawled out all over the place). It was fun though, we were quickly intercepted by a bearded blonde-haired man who began speaking to us tremendously quickly in German. Puzzled, he handed to us a booklet which had "Kommunistisches Manifest". Turns out they didn't quite root out all the Commies here. Wyatt then explained that he Canadian and I was English but we lived in France. At that point the fast-talking bearded man sort of blanked us and left. Though I would spot him again at some point.. bumping into people we wre somewhat acquainted with would be a recurring theme during the trip.

We visited a few museums like an interesting Stasi museum with gadgets and stuff and especially monuments. But this was clearly a grey and very grumpy East Berlin day. We saw a suitably grim Soviet Memorial which went on about the Independence of the Soviet Union and generally chastising the Germans. The brand-spanking new multi-million Euro Jewish memorial was pretty impressive and cool to walk around. The pigeons however, had made their views crystal clear. We also visited this fancy square where all the massive modern buildings and the Canadian Embassy were, which I did dignify with a photo. There was however, more confimation of our worst suspicions. Another odd thing is I showed my ignorance regarding Russia's aeroflot and their mostly harmless logo. We also discovered, however, that East Germans had some style. Specifically, they do they have the nifiest stop/go signs people signs or what?

After that day of visiting dreary monuments (and looking forward to a brighter day tomorow) we sat down to some beer and dinner. I believe I had this fancy thing called Gulash. We discussed our day, and how to get shampoo as we'd both forgotten it. Nonetheless is was a promising start to our Post-Commie Trip with many wacky people awaiting us...

Post-Commie Trip

A few weeks ago, Wyatt and I finished our trip through post-Communist Europe. Yes! We valiantly trekked across 6 different countries and back to discover what had become of the commies. Here’s a breakdown of the trip.