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Digital Sketches

digital citizen media, ict with a focus on Central Asia and the Middle East.

Category Archives: miscellaneous

The Mongol army led by Genghis Khan subjugated more lands and people in twenty-five years than the Romans did in four hundred. Jack Weatherford is the author of Genghis Khan, and the making of the modern world did not want to write a autobiography of Khan or a book about the Mongols. He rather wanted to describe and analyse the impact of the Mongols on the world.

Many reviews and articles have been written since the book was published in 2004 and even Wikipedia consists of an article on the book.

I just want to point out  some paragraphs that stroke me while reading the book.

– Genghis Khan together with his sons and grandsons, conquered the most densely populated civilizations of the thirteenth century.  (..) The majority of the people today live in countries conquered by the Mongols; on the modern map Genghis Kahn’s conquests include thirty countries with well over 3 billion people. The most astonishing aspect of this achievement is that the entire Mongol tribe under him numbered around a million, smaller than a workforce of some modern corporations.  From this million he recruited his army which was comprised of no more than one hundred thousand warriors – a group that could comfortable fit into a larger sports stadium. (..) As Genghis Kahn’s cavalry charged across the thirteenth century, he redrew boundaries of the world. His architecture was not in stone but in nations.  (xviii)

– Genghis Khan’s empire connected and amalgamated the many civilizations around him into a new world order. (..) He smashed the feudal system of aristocratic privilege and birth, he built a new and unique system  based on individual merit, loyalty and achievement. He took the disjointed and languorous trading towns along the Silk Route and organized them into history’s largest free-trade zone. he lowered taxes for everyone and abolished them altogether for doctors, teachers, priests and educational institutions. he established a regular census and created the first international postal system. His was not an empire that hoarded wealth and treasure; insisted he widely distributed the goods acquired in combat so that they could make their way back into commercial circulation. He created a international law and recognized the ultimate supreme law of the Eternal Blue Sky over all people. At a time when most rulers consider themselves to be above the law, Genghis Kahn insisted on laws holding rulers as equally accountable as the lowest herder.  (xix)

The next episode will tell about warring queens, the origin of the word assassin, paper money and other inventions. To be continued…

Friday late afternoon I spent some time with friends at cafe Maxwell, one of the many nice pubs in my quarter. Winding down from a busy week and looking forward to  the long Easter weekend ahead. The sun was shining and the beer was tasty. The conversation took a spin after I mentioned a interesting experience with Twitter.  I am not twittering myself but I find it a fascinating phenomenon. I think Twitter and more of these digital tools are still very primitive and mainly appealing to playful and curious early adopters.

My friends reacted sceptically on Twitter. Their reaction was so full of mistrust that it took me aback. Their conservative views on new tools and media were annoying.  You should at least try them before you judge. Twitter is dead simple and after one hour playing you can find out for your self: this offers me opportunities and can be fun or this is too time consuming and not my cup of tea.  Instead of jumping to conclusions based on information you have read about-the-hype-that-is-called-twitter in the mainstream newspapers.

Digital technology is developing fast. Digital natives are born with their fingers glued to the keyboard and mobiles are growing out of their ears. This generation is not afraid of technology because they are growing up together. Meanwhile the majority of my generation – people in their forties and fifties – is not used to new technology. Most of them avoid it as much and as long as possible. Except the group of older early adopters. These people – amongst whom a lot of (former) hippies, squatters , scientists, artists and some journalists – are really putting in an effort to keep up.

We can not all be genius. Still, it is strange that most of my generation is not interested at all or even afraid of new technology. In the near future they will definitely benefit enormously from digital tools after these have matured in user friendliness and many other ways. In ten to twenty years time they will thank God on their bare knees for the advantages of digital technology.  There will be screens everywhere. Including many (wireless and mobile) possibilities to keep in touch with friends and to stay in business even when ones own mobility slows down.

I know digital technology – like everything and everyone else that is new – is looked upon with a certain waiting attitude and sometimes even distrust. Though it is much wiser to approach new tools with keen and critical curiosity. Please explore and enjoy them!

For me the International Filmfestival Rotterdam (IFFR) 2009 was:

The Hungry Ghosts (NYC): entertaining citystories

Blind Pig who wants to fly (Indonesia): surrealistic, wonderful disorientating, puzzeling visual poetry. Quote:  ‘Schiet met je boog, maar niet in mijn oog. Want mijn oog is voor iedereen, en mijn hart alleen voor jou.’ I just called to say I love you by Stevie Wonder will never sound innocent again.

Also see Dana Linssen’s excellent review about this weird film.

The Fixer, The taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi (VS): not one second of fiction, a great journalistic documentary. ‘ Truth is much stranger than fiction’ (Mark Twain)

Jalainur (China): nice scenery of Mongolia, lots of snow and steaming trains, still do not have a clue what the story was about

Native Dancer (Kazakhstan): magical film about some crooks (petrol dollar gangsters) and a healer. The story is based on an real character who lives about seven kilometres outside Almaty. An intense story, with a heart breaking ending: neither happy, nor sad. Director Gulshat Omarova witnessed several rituals (seldom without blood) and told in the Q&A she sincerely believes in the power of this witchcraft. Currently Omarova lives in Rotterdam: ‘a great city to write scenarios’ and she travels to Kazakhstan three, four times a year. In 2006 she was asistant director of The Mongul.

Last night Nitin Sawhney performed in Amsterdam. His concert in de Melkweg was part of the Amsterdam India festival. This concert tour is also to promote his latest album, London Undersound. It discusses how London has changed in the last few years – particularly since the London bombings of 7/7/2005. The album tells how Nitin and his collaborators have perceived that change.

I always try to attend his concerts in Holland because a night with Nitin is a wonderful experience. He is serious and playful, he has with a nose for good musicians and he dares to be silent. Years ago he started mixing flamenco, Indian voices and tablas, drum’n’ bass, rai etcetera. The result might sometimes be a bit slick, but most of the times wonderful balanced and surprisingly powerful. As was the case last night in the packed Melkweg.

After the concert he signed the new cd, as he did two years ago after his concert in Paradiso. Like real fans, I took a picture of my old-time friend Astrid with our hero.


Last night a rumour was spreading Nitin and Natacha Atlas will perform together in 013 in Tilburg, somewhere mid January. That really sounds tempting! I will certainly reserve some space for this event in my new agenda. Have a look at and listen to Nintin Sawhney on You Tube. Enjoy!

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Prinses Irene
Iedere woensdag werd Folia opgemaakt op de zetterij van Vrij Nederland in een zijstraat van de Kalverstraat. Op een dag sta ik in de lift met een zeer gedistingeerde dame die me bekend voorkomt. Het blijkt prinses Irene, die onder kantoortijd een bezoekje brengt aan haar dan nog geheime scharrel, Vrij Nederland-hoofdredacteur Joop van Tijn.

Onder de sollicitanten voor een jaarcontract als leerling-redacteur was er een die een knoop op tafel legde. ‘Deze knoop’, zei hij, ‘komt van het colbert van minister Deetman. Die heb ik er persoonlijk van afgerukt bij de opening van het P.C. Hoofthuis.’ Voor de sollicitatiecommissie stond de geschiktheid van de kandidaat daarmee onomstotelijk vast. De jongeman werd aangenomen en heeft nog jaren voor Folia gewerkt.

Lekker kontje
De getalenteerde en veelzijdige leerling-redacteur Beau van Erven Dorens werd op reportage gestuurd naar OV-jaarkaart BV in Rotterdam, om hem ook eens iets  serieus te laten doen. De dag erop bibberde een fax binnen van de directeur: er zaten nogal wat fouten in het conceptartikel. Maar verder was de Folia-verslaggever ‘toch wel een lieve jongen’ geweest met bovendien ‘een lekker kontje’. De naam van de directeur van OV-jaarkaart BV: Pim Fortuyn.

Enkele anekdotes van Sjaak Priester, mijn oude hoofdredacteur. Meer Folia herinneringen op Folia60jaar

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