Monday, June 27, 2011

These are desperate trains

The Belgian train system can be a nuisance sometimes, but today was pure hell.

I normally go to Ghent via Brussels at 8 o'clock in the morning for my Dutch classes. Most days, I go home around 12.30. Sometimes, however, I stay in Ghent a little while longer, cuddling up at the library, looking in book shops or enjoying the sun in one of the city's beautiful parks.

Today I should have gone straight home and saved myself a mountain of trouble.

My train from Ghent to Brussels left at the usual time with no unusual events. Then, five minutes into the trip, we had to make an unscheduled stop thanks to a technical problem. I baked in the sun on the platform while waiting for the problem to be solved.

Thankfully, we were able to ride further only 30 minutes later, and we managed to regain 20 of those minutes. I linked up with my fiancé along the way, and we arrived in Brussels dreaming of cold drinks and the electric fan in our bedroom.

Then we saw the departure screens.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Song of the week: Kommil Foo - Ruimtevaarder

Yet another song of the week that was discovered in my textbook for Dutch. (The lessons are going great, by the way.)

This week I give you a tender moment from brothers Raf Walschaerts and Mich Walschaerts. Born and raised in Essen in the province of Antwerp, the two brothers formed the cabaret duo Kommil Foo in 1987. The name is a twist on the French comme il faut ("as it should be").

Kommil Foo playing live in Ghent, 2006. Photo: Michel Vuijlsteke/Wikimedia

This song is music as it should be. "Ruimtevaarder" (literally: "space traveler") is the Dutch word for astronaut. The lyrics are in the form of a letter to a schoolmaster from a young pupil who has found his real purpose in life.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wordle and word clouds

I just stumbled across Wordle in a recent post from the official Last.fm blog. Worlde is a site which lets you create stylish word clouds from any body of text or web page.

I'm not quite sure how to put this discovery to proper use, but it is a great tool for giving new visitors an idea of what a web site is all about. Here's a cloud representing the most common words on my blog (click to embiggen):


I've no idea why 'pump' should be in there, though.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Song of the week: Red Zebra - Spit On The City

This one is dedicated to Gerrit, who has recently helped me to expand my musical horizon.

Here's a quick and dirty track from Red Zebra, a band formed in Bruges in 1978. Their biggest hit is "I Can't Live In A Living Room" from 1980, now considered a true punk classic.

Red Zebra.

"Spit On The City" features on Kookaburra, which was released last January. The song is a straightforward rejection of modern society, with a decisively rougher edge to the lyrics than your average Green Day track. In other words, don't play this if you can't stand the mental image of a gigantic man dropping his pants and relieving himself onto an urban area.



Lyrics:

I don't need an elevator
'Cause I'm running up the stairs
'Till I reach the top of a building
The only place where my thoughts are clear

I'm gonna spit on the city
Spit on the walls
Spit on all the blocks
and the shopping malls
Spit on the traffic
Spit on the cars
Spit on all the restaurants and bars

I don't need to watch television
To find out what's wrong with this world
I just take a look around me
The more I see, the more it hurts

I'm gonna spit on the city
Spit on the walls
Spit on all the blocks
and the shopping malls
Spit on the traffic
Spit on the cars
Spit on all the restaurants and bars

We don't need
another McDonalds
We don't need
another Starbucks
We don't need, we don't need, we don't need
another McDonalds
We don't need, we don't need, we don't need
another Starbucks

I'm gonna spit on the city
I' m gonna shit on the city
Spit, shit, spit, shit, spit, shit, spit, shit

I'm gonna spit on the city
Spit on the walls
Spit on all the blocks
And the shopping malls
Spit on the traffic
Spit on the cars
Spit on all the restaurants and bars

Let's have a ball on the ruins of the city
Let's have a ball on the ruins of the city
Let's have a ball on the ruins of the city
Let's have a ball on the ruins of the city

Let's have a ball
Let's have a ball
Let's have a ball
Let's have a ball

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Adecco Brussels' apartheid policy

The hottest document in Belgium right now (aside from the prime minister's latest Twitter accident) is a list which a Brussels branch of the Adecco employment agency used as a guide for screening candidates.

The story is elegantly summed up on the website of the left-wing PVDA party, who leaked the controversial list two days ago:

(Translated by me - original here)
Following a complaint to the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism, the Public Prosecutor in Brussels opened an investigation of Adecco in 2001. The company was said to discriminate in the recruitment of temporary employees. Eight years later, the company was let off the hook due to the fact that there never was any serious investigation. But the General Federation of Belgian Labour and SOS Racism got involved, and on May 31 of this year, Adecco was convicted. But the names of the companies that did not want to employ temporary workers of foreign origin were never made public. Solidarity (the newspaper of the PVDA) now makes up for this 'oversight'.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Elections +366 (or Plan 9 From Brussels)

Lacking any original insight to comment on the perpetual government negotiations, I wrote this.

Yesterday was exactly one year after the general election here in Belgium. There is no indication that this country will have a new government in the foreseeable future. You can almost hear the chirping of crickets in the night.

One thing is certain: Belgian politicians have patience. A lot of it. And they're not very afraid of having to hold new elections.

They should keep in mind, though, that the future is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. They better remember that future events will affect all of us. In the future.

Will the Belgian people show the same patience as their politicians, or will they rise up, this time taking more drastic measures than growing their beards?

I doubt it. Have a lovely evening.

Political pressure poll: results

The results from my poll are in. It turns out that not very many people think it's a good idea to take off your clothes in public or grow a beard to get a new government. On the other hand, giving out free fries and forcing politicians into a sex strike are both popular options.

Let's hope someone finally decides to take up that last piece of advice. I'm sure it will work like a charm. We might have some very grumpy-looking politicians for a while, though.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Belgian of the week: Erik Van Looy

Erik Van Looy. Photo: zita.be
Erik Ludovicus Maria Van Looy (b. 1962 in Deurne near Antwerp) is a Flemish film director and television presenter. He is now in Hollywood, directing a remake of his 2008 hit thriller Loft.

Van Looy studied film at the Erasmushogeschool in Brussels. He made several short films before directing his first feature, Ad Fundum, in 1993.

His major breakthrough as a director came in 2003 with the thriller The Memory of a Killer (Dutch: De Zaak Alzheimer)The film was based on a novel by Jef Geeraerts. It stars the indomitable Jan Decleir as a hitman who begins to grow a conscience just as his memory starts to fade. International trailer below.



Van Looy has also hosted the popular Flemish quiz show De Slimste Mens Ter Wereld between 2004 and 2011. I've always thought that you can learn a lot about someone from the way they laugh, so here's a compilation of Van Looy laughing on the show.



As previously mentioned in the blog, there is a Hollywood remake of Loft in the works. It will not be the first remake of the film, since the Dutch already did one in 2010. However, this time Van Looy himself is directing. This time it will be done right.

Loft is the story of five married men who share ownership of a loft which they use to discreetly meet with their respective mistresses. When the mutilated corpse of a young woman shows up in the loft, the men begin to suspect each other.

The following people will star in the film: Patrick Wilson (Watchmen), James Marsden (X-Men), Rachael Taylor (Transformers), Wentworth Miller (Prison Break), Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings), Isabel Lucas (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), and Matthias Schoenaerts, who played the same character in the original Loft. The film is planned for a 2013 release.

I'll wrap this up with the (Dutch-language only) trailer for the original Loft from 2008.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Song of the week: Editors - No Sound But The Wind (Live at Rock Werchter 2010)

This song is not Belgian. However, it represents a fond musical memory which took place last summer in a field north of Leuven.

Cormac McCarthy's The Road,
first published in 2006.
Birmingham band Editors first performed the song "No Sound But The Wind" at Glastonbury in 2008. According to Tom Smith, the band's front-man, he was inspired to write the song after reading Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel The Road. If you've read the book or seen the film starring Viggo Mortensen, you may see a connection to the story in the song's chorus:
Help me to carry the fire
To keep it alight together
Help me to carry the fire
This road won't go on forever.

Monday, June 6, 2011

How to steal a bicycle in Antwerp

Pieterdeflieter, the uploader of this video, describes it thus:
After my 3th bike got stolen I discovered how easy it is to steal a bike in Antwerp...
BTW: in this video I steal my own bike as an example
Watch and enjoy.



[via De Morgen]

Friday, June 3, 2011

Jukebox Friday: Anveld - Wals Pour Marie-Claude

Anveld is an Old Dutch word meaning 'anvil'. It is also the name of a Belgian folk band formed in 2002 by Eddy Vanacker. They have played at the Dranouter Folk Festival, the Festival van het Zeemanslied, the Deerlycke Folkfestival, the Gentse Feesten (here's a great clip from 2006), and the Fers Folkfestival in the Netherlands.

Although this band hasn't been heard from in years, the power of YouTube allows us to enjoy this amazing instrumental track.



If you happen to have any information about the fate of this devilishly interesting group, please tell me in the comments!