Friday, November 2, 2012

Jukebox Friday: Selah Sue - Fyah Fyah (live on SK sessions)

Sometimes, a new talent comes along and lowers your opinion of all the new music you've heard in the past five years.

Right now, that talent is Selah Sue AKA Sanne Putseys, a 23-year-old singer-songwriter from Leefdaal near Leuven. Her intense blend of soul and reggae has made her one of the most exciting new artist in this corner of the world for the past couple of years.

Selah Sue began touring the Belgian festival scene in 2010, with her eponymous debut album appearing in 2011. It peaked at number one in Belgium, where it went to triple platinum. The album was also a hit in the Netherlands and France.

This Friday's track is "Fyah Fyah", performed on Soul Kitchen Sessions (it's French) in December 2010. I will publicly question the sanity of anybody who doesn't feel like going to a Selah Sue show immediately after watching and listening to this.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Jukebox Friday: Triggerfinger - I Follow Rivers (Lykke Li cover)

(See my last Triggerfinger post here.)

This one's a twofer.

"I Follow Rivers" was originally recorded by Swedish artist Lykke Li and appears on her second studio album, Wounded Rhymes (2011). The song charted all over Europe, grabbing the top spot in Germany, Romania, and Belgium.

Triggerfinger's version was recorded live on the Dutch radio show GIEL in January 2012. The performance is notable for its sparse instrumentation, which consists of a guitar, a simple drum machine beat, a knife, a cup, and a glass.

Original Lykke Li version:

Triggerfinger version:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jukebox Friday: Arbeid Adelt! - De Dag Dat Het Zonlicht Niet Meer Scheen

It's hard to explain this mad video without feeling the urge to simply shrug and say: It was the eighties.

Arbeid Adelt! (lit. "work ennobles") was founded in 1981 by Marcel Vanthilt (AKA Max Alexander) and Jan Van Roelen (AKA David Salamon).

"De Dag Dat Het Zonlicht Niet Meer Scheen" (1982) was Arbeid Adelt!'s breakthrough hit. The title of the song led to a conflict with the schlager singer John Terra, who had previously released a song with the same title. Considering the stylistic gap between the two acts, it's easy to imagine why Terra wasn't happy.

The song doesn't exactly reinvent the new wave movement, but the video is simply unignorable. Marcel Vanthilt steals the show completely with his quirky intensity and painfully precise articulation. On top of that, he's made up to look like a cross between the Frankstein monster and the Corpse Bride.

Vanthilt has since become one of the most recognizable people on Flemish television, hosting shows like the summer hit Villa Vanthilt and Ook getest op mensen ("also tested on humans"), an interactive talk show providing insights and opinions on health, fitness and nutrition. This gem is from his Wikipedia page:
From 1996 to 1998, Vanthilt moved to the United States, in pursuit of his wife.

Original lyrics:

De dag, de dag, de dag dat het zonlicht niet meer scheen
Was de dag, de dag, dat John met mijn vriend verdween
"Vreemde, vreemde!" riep hij in die bar
Maar Johnnie, Johnnie had een grote kar
Hij was wel geen filatelist maar was benauwd als ik me van pil had vergist

De dag, de dag, de dag dat het zonlicht niet meer scheen
Was de dag, de dag, dat John met mijn vriend verdween

Nu stolt het bloed in deze hersens
Nicotine kraakt mijn zeven wervens
Wat moet er met me? Ik raak niet op dreef
Oh oh, als hij me maar eens schreef

Dank U dank U John, vooral voor wat je deed
Zo vergeet ik nooit de dag dat het zonlicht niet meer scheen

Warme wijn, warme melk, warme thee citroen.
Vitamine C.
Vitamine B. 1-6-12
Vitamine B. 1-6-12

Niets helpt, het overstelpt.
De cholestorol slaat weer op hol.
Dat was de dag, de dag, de dag.
Dat was de dag, de dag, de dag.
Dat was de dag, de dag, de dag.
Dat was de dag.

O schat kom in mijn armen
dat ik je dag en nacht kan verwarmen.
Wat weet John daar toch van,
hij is toch maar een prismaman.

De dag. De dag. De dag dat het zonlicht niet meer scheen
was de dag. de dag dat John met mijn vriend verdween.

Dat was de dag, de dag, de dag.
Dat was de dag, de dag, de dag.
Dat was de dag, de dag, de dag.

English translation:

The day, the day, the day that the sunlight shone no more
Was the day, the day, that John took my friend away

"Stranger! Stranger!", he shouted in that bar
But Johnnie had a huge car
He was not a collector of stamps
but was frightened when I took the wrong pills

The day, the day, the day that the sunlight shone no more
Was the day, the day, that John took my friend away

Now the blood is clotting in these brains
Nicotine cracks my 7 vertebrae
What can I do? I have no energy to do anything
Oh if only he would write me...

Thank you, thank you, John, for all you did
That way I will never forget the day the sunlight shone no more
Warm milk, warm milk, lemon, vitamine C
Vitamine B. 1-6-12
Vitamine B. 1-6-12

Nothing helps, it overwhelms
The cholesterol is beyond control

That was the day, the day, the day...

Oh darling, come into my arms
so I can warm you day after day
What does John know of that?
He is only a prisma guy

That was the day, the day, the day...
that the sunlight shone no more...

Thanks to Gerrit for sharing the song and providing the lyrics and background info.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Saturday Brew: Westvleteren Blond

Exactly how I acquired a bottle of the most exclusive monk beer in Belgium must remain a secret. Suffice to say that some people's kindness and generosity extends far beyond the norm.

The Westvleteren Brewery was founded by the monks at the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Westvleteren in 1838. It was the third Belgian Trappist brewery to commence production, after Rochefort (1595) and Westmalle (1836). Today there are seven breweries currently brewing and selling beer with the logo of the International Trappist Association, and all but one are located in Belgium. Out of all these, folks say, Westvleteren is the best.

Even though the beer has grown in popularity, production has remained at around 4 500 hectoliters a year since 1945. In comparison, the Trappist Breweries Westmalle and Chimay each have an annual output of over 120 000 hl. The reason for the small production at Westvleteren is that the beer is brewed with the single purpose of financing the day-to-day costs of running the abbey. All extra profits go to charity.

Because of the recent rise in popularity, the abbey has had to place some restrictions on the sale of its beer to ensure that as many people as possible are given the chance to enjoy the product. The beer can only be bought at the abbey itself, and you have to call to a special "beerphone" to make an advance reservation, specifying the type and amount you will buy. You can only buy one or two 24-bottle crates at a time, depending on the type of beer. The Westvleteren 12, the priciest and most highly treasured brew, can only be bought one crate at a time. Resale to third parties is highly discouraged. Customers have their phone number and license plate number registered, to ensure that they don't violate the obligatory 60-day waiting time between reservations. It's easy to understand why a man who brings home a crate of Westvleteren beer must feel like Jim Hawkins bringing home a sackful of gold at the end of Treasure Island.

The three Westvleteren brews. From left to right: 12, 8,
and Blond, with Westvleteren 12 in the glass. (Source)

I could go on and on about the monastery, the brewery, the history, the countless times Westvleteren has been hailed as the best beer in the world... But let's get down to business. Let's get down to Westvleteren Blond.

I don't have a Westvleteren glass, but Wikimedia does.

As mentioned in my introduction to this column, I don't have the talent to write an interesting beer review. So instead, here's this week's crowdsourced review, from Goblinmunkey7 at Beer Advocate.

Appearance: Pale gold. Hazy. Head is tiny, bright-white and bubbly.

Smell: Heavy Belgian yeast. Clove an banana layered over a faint pepper note. Lemon and grass. Hay and bright melon. Yeast dominates and gives moderate ground to sweet pale malts. Esters. Apple.

Taste: Aggressive yeast from the start. Clove, banana and slight bubblegum. So much spice. Faint hints of lemon and pale malt, but it's all about the yeast. Aggressively Belgian. Slight hay and tons of fresh cut grass. Earthy. It's like a handful of spiced sand.

Mouthfeel: Light and dry. Moderate to high carbonation. Lingering yeast.

Overall: This is single-handedly the most Belgian beer I've ever tasted. Unrelenting and intense. Even though I'm not a fan of the style, this really shows how you craft it. Crazy flavor but nice and drinkable.

Read more reviews of Westvleteren Blond at

All I can say of my own experience is, I hope this wasn't my last bottle of Westvleteren Blond. I'm also looking forward to trying out the other two Westvleteren beers, if luck be a lady. After all, this is what makes Belgium Belgium.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Douglas Adams on Belgium

From "Fit the Ninth", an episode of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series, comes a description of the rudest word in existence. Originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 22 January 1980.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

News and links, week 35

In 2011, 57% of Belgium's power came from its two
nuclear power stations in Doel (pictured) and Tihange.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Why don't the Belgians speak Belgian?

In Henry Miller's outrageous 1956 novel Quiet Days In Clichy, the following exchange takes place between a couple of American expats and a young French girl:
Before I had time to answer, the girl turned to him, and almost as if frightened, asked what language we were speaking.
"Don't you know English when you hear it?" said Carl, giving me a glance which said I told you she wasn't very bright.
Blushing with confusion, the girl explained quickly that it sounded at first like German, or perhaps Belgian.
"There is no Belgian!" snorted Carl. (...)
The truth in Carl's remark might be obvious to some, but you don't have to be ignorant or illiterate to assume that Belgians speak Belgian. To make it absolutely clear, they don't. The official languages of Belgium are French, Dutch, and German.

Why not Belgian? The answer is, as many things regarding this little country are, complicated.

In fact, there may have been a Belgian language once. It was first hypothesized by the Flemish linguist Maurits Gysseling (1919-1997). He proposed that the Belgae, a tribal people who inhabited northern Gaul around 300 B.C., spoke a language different from that of their neighbors, the Gauls, who were a Celtic people. This claim is supported by Julius Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War, which details Caesar's conquest of, among many other tribes, the Belgae. In the Commentaries, Caesar mentions that the Gauls and the Belgae spoke different languages.

After Caesar's conquest, the Belgae became assimilated into Celtic culture, losing their language in the process. Carl is right; there is no Belgian.

So which languages do the Belgians speak, and how come?

Since Caesar first invaded Gaul, the territory we now know as Belgium has changed hands a number of times. (If you want a closer look at the region's complex history, here's an impressive timeline of the Low Countries from Wikipedia.)

Two major powers have influenced the culture and languages of the region more than any other: the Netherlands and France. This is why the northern half of Belgium (Flanders) speaks mainly Dutch, while the southern half (Wallonia) speaks mainly French.

The Belgian Revolution of 1830 gave rise to a language struggle which continues to this day. While the two language communities were roughly equal in size, the Revolution was decidedly pro-French, dominated by the French-speaking cultural elite and the then-strong economy of the industrialized, French-speaking southern part of the country. As a result of this, French became the official language of Belgium.

The Belgian Revolution of 1830 placed French firmly at the top of the
Belgian language pyramid, where it remained for almost a century.
Painting by Gustave Wappers (1803-1874).

It wasn't until the early 20th century that Dutch became the official language in the northern provinces and was also given equal status to French in the Brussels capital region. In 1962 Belgium's official language borders were defined, which significantly raised the status of the different languages in their respective areas. In addition to the French-speaking south, the Dutch-speaking north and the bilingual capital region, nine of the easternmost municipalities in Belgium now have German as an official language. They are part of the East Cantons, which were annexed from Germany after World War I.

The Belgian language may died two thousand years ago, but in the meantime, the Belgians have found no fewer than three worthy replacements. Since then, the challenge has been how, when and where to use and impose these languages. Meanwhile, the status of the Belgian regional dialects is shaky at best. But that's a story for another time.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Henry Miller on the Belgians

New column: The Saturday Brew

I'm no expert on beer, nor do I aspire to be one, but I do appreciate the fact that I now live in one of the greatest beer nations in the world, and that there are many who would give an arm (after all, you only need one to raise a glass) and a leg to be in my position to explore this wonderfully rich side of Belgian cuisine.

To satisfy the needs of the thirsty for knowledge and tips, I'm starting up a beer review column. Unsurprisingly to faithful readers, it will include plenty of background information on breweries and other interesting facts. Because I'm such a novice at the actual tasting and reviewing, I will supplement the posts with opinions from around the web, effectively crowdsourcing my reviews.

What I'm aiming for is a column you can enjoy both as a connoisseur looking for an "inside scoop" and as a casual appreciator of good beer.

Each beer will be rated Norwegian-style, using a die with a value between 1 and 6.

Opinions are highly appreciated, especially with regards to the quaint working title of the column.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Jukebox Friday: Gotye - Save Me

"Save Me" is from Gotye's latest studio album, 2011's Making Mirrors. The video was released on Wednesday and has so far racked up 98,000 hits on YouTube. Will it repeat the success of "Somebody That I Used To Know" with its 297 million views? Only you and I can make that happen.

The video is mesmerizing in every way. Traditional animation is a rare treasure these days, and "Save Me" is both innovative and nostalgic in its style and execution. Please enjoy the story of two humanoid robot-like creatures that find each other in an otherwise empty world and are completely transformed by the experience.


In the mornings
I was anxious
It was better just to stay in bed
Didn't want to fail myself again

Running through all the options
And the endings
Were rolling out in front of me
But I couldn't choose a thread to begin

And I could not love
'Cause I could not love myself
Never good enough, no
That was all I'd tell myself
And I was not well
But I could not help myself
I was giving up on living

In the morning
You were leaving
Traveling south again
And you said you were not unprepared

And all the dead ends
And disappointments
Were fading from your memory
Ready for that lonely life to end

And you gave me love
When I could not love myself
And you made me turn
From the way I saw myself
And you're patient, love
And you help me help myself
And you save me,
You save me,
You save me

Friday, July 13, 2012

Jukebox Friday: Jacques Brel - Amsterdam

I've already mentioned Jacques Brel in my introduction to Belgian music. Thanks to a recent Guardian article, I've discovered another gem of his.

Recorded on Brel's live album Enregistrement Public à l'Olympia 1964, "Amsterdam" is a haunting depiction of the exploits of sailors on shore leave in the eponymous city. The song has been covered by artists including David Bowie, The Dresden Dolls and John Denver.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

False friends in Dutch and Norwegian #2

If you don't know what a false friend is, you can check out my first post on the subject.

WARNING: Some of the words listed here may be offensive to some Dutch- or Norwegian-speakers. Read them at your own risk.

Word Dutch meaning Norwegian meaning
eieren eggs the owner
gammel flimsy old
glad slippery happy
uur/ur hour clock
horen hear the whore
pikken to steal the dick
ikke I, me (slang) not/don't
teen toe the tea
recept/resept recipe prescription
plas/plass puddle place

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dunglish #1: famous examples

Wikipedia explains:
Dunglish (a portmanteau of Dutch and English) or Dutch English are the mistakes native Dutch speakers make when speaking English.
The Dutch and English languages are in contact on multiple fronts such as politics and culture. Being closely related, they are mutually easy to learn, but the closeness also makes for some interesting mistakes, especially in the realms of pronunciation, syntax and word meaning. The result is known as Dunglish, or in Dutch, steenkolenengels ("coal English"), supposedly a reference to the rudimentary English employed by 20th-century Dutch port workers when talking to English coal ship sailors. Here are some famous examples for your amusement.

  • While discussing expenditure in the European Union, Dutch politician Frits Bolkestein famously referred to economic prospects as "golden showers", unaware of the term's sexual connotation.
  • Using a literal translation of the Dutch word ondernemer, which means "entrepreneur", former Dutch prime-minister Joop den Uyl once remarked that "the Dutch are a nation of undertakers".
  • The Dutch word goedendag can mean both "hello" and "goodbye". At a meeting between former Dutch prime-minister Gerbrandy and Winston Churchill, Gerbrandy greeted Churchill thus: "Goodbye!" Churchill responded: "This is the shortest meeting I have ever had."
  • In a conversation with John F. Kennedy, Dutch foreign minister Joseph Luns told the American President about his hobby: "I fok horses". (The Dutch verb fokken means "to breed"). Kennedy replied, "Pardon?", a word which Luns then mistook as the Dutch word for horses. He responded enthusiastically, "Yes, paarden!"
  • The Dutch word eventueel means "potentially", not "eventually". This mistake caused a row between the Scottish and Belgian football associations when the Belgian football association invited delegates from various associations over for the "eventual qualification of the Belgian national football team" before the beginning of the play-offs against Scotland. While the Scottish federation accused the Belgians of sheer arrogance, the Belgian association had actually meant to hold the drink after a "possible qualification".
  • Former Dutch ambassador and prime minister Dries van Agt supposedly once said "I can stand my little man", a direct translation of ik kan mijn mannetje staan, which means "I can stand up for myself".

BONUS: Eneco, a Dutch energy company, have an ad using Dunglish for comedic effect. It's not as funny if you don't speak Dutch, but it's still worth a watch.

More Dunglish on the web:
Dunglish on Wikipedia
A Dunglish blog

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Brussels Palace of Justice

Brussels is arguably most famous for Manneken Pis, a tiny statue of a peeing boy that dresses up in a new outfit several times each week. If you're looking for something more imposing, make your way to the top of Galgenberg (lit. 'Gallows Hill'), where the thieves and murderers of Brussels once went to their final judgment. Here, overlooking the city core 20 meters below, stands the Palace of Justice. It stands at 104 meters (341 ft) tall and is 160 by 150 meters (520 x 490 ft) in diameter, which makes it the largest building constructed in the 19th century.

The Palace of Justice is the center of the Court of Appeal in the Brussels Region and the City of Brussels. It was built between 1861 and 1883 by the native architect Joseph Poelaert, who was assigned to the task by the ministry of justice after a design competition had failed to produce any acceptable designs.

Poelaert designed the building in the eclectic style, drawing on multiple sources of inspiration. The design is heavily influenced by classical antiquity, utilizing columns from all of the five classical orders as well as classically-inspired entablatures and door- and window frames. The building is also remarkable for being one of the very first buildings designed with the golden ratio, which has been incorporated into parts of the interior.

View of the cupola from the foyer below.

When the groundwork for the building was laid, much of the ancient Marollen district was demolished and the inhabitants relocated. This action was highly unpopular with the locals, who took to using "architect" as a curse word.

The building was partly destroyed when the Germans tried to burn it during their retreat from Brussels at the end of World War II. It was repaired by 1947, this time with an even taller cupola. More recently, a large-scale renovation of the facade has been going on since 2003. This is very visible, as the dome is now collared by unsightly scaffolding. The completion of this project will restore one of the true highlights of Brussels' scanty skyline to its former glory.

All photos in this post and more can be found on Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, July 2, 2012

"I will show them how a Belgian woman can die."

This article was written by Josse M., a prolific blogger who happens to be my father-in-law. He has graciously granted me permission to translate one of his articles for A Norwegian in Belgium. You can find the original article (in Dutch and with more pictures) on his blog.

Gabrielle Petit (20 February 1893 – 1 April 1916) was a heroine of the Belgian resistance in World War I.

Gabrielle Petit (1893-1916).

Her father placed her, together with her sister, in an orphanage after her mother died. When she turns 16, she leaves the orphanage and goes to live by herself in Brussels. As a single woman, life is anything but easy. She is often depressive, and even attempts to commit suicide.

When World War I breaks out, she is engaged to a soldier. She volunteers for the Red Cross.

She joins the British Secret Service. She goes to England via the Netherlands. Here she undergoes a brief training to prepare her for railway espionage. Her code name is “Legrand”. She reports German troop movements by railway to the Allies. She travels through Belgium in disguise. She writes the reports on small sheets of silk paper which she hides inside her clothes.

Back in Belgium she began her work in the area between Ypres (Ieper) and Maubeuge in France. She constantly ventured into enemy territory, where she observed and reported the German troop movements. Sometimes she did it disguised as a commercial traveler and refugee, sometimes as a nanny. Her reports were precise and quick and amazed her superiors.

Aside from intelligence work, she kept herself busy with the distribution of the secret newspaper La Libre Belgique.

She also helped in the expansion of an underground mail service (‟Mot du Soldatˮ – The Word of the Soldier) and succeeded in smuggling several men over the Dutch border. It was a life on the razor's edge.

In June 1915 she was arrested for the first time, and was released due to lack of evidence. The Germans, however, keep following her, and on 20 January 1916 she is arrested. She was betrayed by a German posing as a Dutchman. Throughout her detention she remained standhaft (German for ‟steadfastˮ, as it says in the interrogation reports). She didn't betray the name of a single one of her fellow combatants.

One small detail: the Germans were looking for Miss "Legrand".

One month later the verdict fell: she got the death penalty. She refused to appeal for pardon and wrote on the wall in her cell in the prison in Saint-Gilles: ‟I do not ask for a pardon, to show the [Germans] that I don't give a damn about them.ˮ On 1 April, at six o'clock in the morning, the time had come. A police van drove her to the execution grounds in Schaerbeek. 45 minutes later the sentence had been carried out. The next day, a German poster reported that "the saleswoman Gabrielle Petit" had been executed for her "richly paid" intelligence services.

Her statue can be seen on Place Saint-Jean in Brussels. Her cell in Saint-Gilles has served as a place of pilgrimage for some time.

After the war, in May 1919, her body was exhumed to be reburied at the cemetery in Schaerbeek. In her honor, Gebrielle Petit was given a state funeral in the presence of Queen ElisabethCardinal Mercier and Prime Minister Delacroix.

The statue on Place Saint-Jean in Brussels is a faithful reconstruction of that final moment. With clenched fists and her head held high, Gabrielle Petit looks the German firing squad in the eyes. She has refused to wear the blindfold. The inscription on the base reads, in French: ‟(...) I will show them how a Belgian woman can die.ˮ Also inscribed are her legendary last words: ‟Vive la Belgique! [...] Vive le...ˮ – the shots fell before she could shout ‟Roiˮ - King.

Memorial to Gabrielle Petit on Place Saint-Jean in Brussels.

If you're one of my Dutch-speaking readers, you may want to check out Joski's other writings on his blogs Berichten uit het verleden and Ochtendhumeur, nostalgie, verhaaltjes, plaatjes, originals, flauwe kul en...brede opklaringen.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Belgium in the news, week 26

Campine landscapes

I was recently at a birthday party in the Campine (Dutch: Kempen), a natural region in the east of Flanders (not to be confused with East Flanders). Having spent so much time in a crowded Ghent, I was struck by the pastoral beauty of this area.

The name of the region comes from the Latin Campinia or Campina, which can be translated as 'region of fields', i.e. 'countryside'. Campania in southern Italy was named in a similar way. It's easy to see where the name comes from when you find yourself among the vast fields and (slightly less vast) forests. It reminded me of Normandy, which I consider a compliment.

The Campine is rich with folklore, perhaps most notably the tale of Kyrië the Gnome King (Dutch: Kabouterkoning Kyrië). According to the legend, the hundreds of gnomes that inhabited the Campine disappeared after the Gnome King was killed by a hunter's rifle.

A statue of Kyrië the Gnome King can be seen
in Hoogeloon, Netherlands.

Here are some pictures to illustrate the beauty of this region. Click the pictures to embiggen - you'll be glad you did.

Photo: Encephalartos.

Photo: Encephalartos.

Photo: Encephalartos.

Photo: Encephalartos.

Photo: Geert Orye.

A wildlife overpass in the Campine. Photo: Paul Hermans.

Photo: Peter Van Osta.

Photo: Paul Hermans.

Photo: Donderwolk.

Campine landscape painting by Frans Van Giel.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Teen bullying video kindles outrage across the nation

From (full story here):
The mother of a 13-year-old school girl from Tielt (West Flanders) has posted a video on Facebook to show how her daughter is being brutally bullied by other pupils. She put the footage online to support her daughter, hoping that such incidents can be avoided in the future.

The video goes back to last Tuesday. The victim is waiting at the Roeselare bus station when a group of other pupils from her school arrive. One girl starts bullying her, with the support of her friends and with one pupil making a four-minute movie.

The victim is being told to stand up. The verbal aggression is followed by physical aggression. The girl is being slapped in the face and kicked, and is being pulled by the hair several times.
This is the video. (Apparently it's not visible in Google Reader, so you'll have to click through to the post to see it.)

Kayleigh was bullied because she's an easy target - she has autism. These kids decided to make her last school day memorable by putting her through several minutes of physical and emotional abuse. Now the most shameful moment of their lives is online for all to see, and the reactions are unanimous.
The mother wanted to share the video to support her daughter and to make a statement. It worked: the film was shared over 70,000 times in a couple of days. Most viewers express their support for the victim and some have very hard comments towards the bullies. A Facebook hate group was created against the 15-year-old girl that takes the lead in the incident. She also received death threats.
The bullies now risk expulsion from school.

I'm glad to see the spotlight being put on bullying in such an explicit way. However, death threats are by no means the right way to stop bullying. The bullies are now receiving much of the same treatment they put Kayleigh through. If we want to make the world a better place, we need to condemn all kinds of harassment, including the revenge-based sort.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Belgium in the news, week 22

Francis Currey poses with the weapons he used to defend
his company in Malmedy, Belgium on 21 December, 1944.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jukebox Friday: Urban Trad - Sanomi

As predicted, Belgium did not do very well at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. It was as much as I had expected, but I still think it's unfair that Iris lost to that screaming, vampiric woman with the dreadlocks.

As a shaft of sunlight breaking through the clouds of depression now descending upon the Belgians, I offer a flashback to the glory days of their participation at the ESC. The year is 2003, and Urban Trad enter the competition with "Sanomi", a haunting folk song with an electronic beat. It was the first ESC song with lyrics in a constructed language, which prompted the following comment from BBC's Terry Wogan: "Three languages to choose from and they had to make up their own."

Europe obviously didn't care about the lyrical content, because "Sanomi" soared to the highest score of any Belgian song since Sandra Kim's "J'aime La Vie", which won the Contest in 1986. Unfortunately, 2003 was the year of another great song, Sertab Erener's "Everyway That I Can", arguably the best ESC performance in history. When the points had been dealt and the dust had settled, "Sanomi" was still two points behind the Turkish winner.

Today I celebrate 2003's runner-up: "Sanomi", a song too awesome for words. That is, words in any comprehensible language. Lyrics below the video.

Sanomi Helé
Manilla Keranu
Aliya Irema Nia Lago
Ture Madilé

Sanomi Helé
Manilla Keranu
Aliya Irema Nia Madilé

Kenatu Narilé
Lakenatu Narilé
Pasema Niamo Ture Saro

Kenatu Narilé
Lakenatu Narilé
Pasema Niamo Ture Sanisi

Sanomi Helé
Manilla Keranu
Aliya Irema Nia Lago
Ture Madilé

Sanomi Helé
Manilla Keranu
Aliya Irema Nia Madilé

Kenatu Narilé
Lakenatu Narilé
Pasema Niamo Ture Saro

Kenatu Narilé
Lakenatu Narilé
Pasema Niamo Ture Sanisi

Léala Léala Sorimana Sorimana
Léala Léala Sorimanao
Léala Léala Sorimana Sorimana
Léala Léala Sorimana Soléo

Sanomi Helé
Manilla Keranu
Aliya Irema Nia Madilé

Léala Léala Sorimana Sorimana
Léala Léala Sorimanao
Léala Léala Sorimana Sorimana

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Happy birthday Norway!

Today it's been 198 years since Norway got its Constitution, ending its 278 years as a de facto tributary to Denmark. I plan to celebrate with a traditional Norwegian dish: spaghetti bolognese. Happy Constitution Day!

Photo: Our Vie Sammen

Friday, May 4, 2012

SlimKicker, a fitness app for the future

I've been a member of this great new site called SlimKicker for a while now, and I really want to tell you how great it is. I've been racking my brain for the past two weeks trying to find a way to tell you about it while keeping on topic. On topic as in, at least a little bit Belgium-related. I think I've finally cracked it.

(Home shopping voice)

Are you tired of gaining excess weight from waffles, chocolate, Trappist beer and French fries? Do you want to get into shape the fun way?

This is a Belgian Blue bull.

You could become just as butch as this strapping young animal if you sign up for SlimKicker today. SlimKicker is a free web community that makes health and exercise fun by employing elements from video games. For every meal or training session you log to your personal profile, you earn experience points. As you level up, you unlock rewards of your choosing. You earn extra points by doing "challenges" in categories such as willpower, emotional, nutrition, and fitness. Examples of challenges are "No Snacks After Dinner", "A Salad A Day", and "Sprint Once a Week".

Many people just need a little nudge to get started with changing their lives. Joining a budding community of like-minded people is a great way to get that nudge. On top of that, the site looks great and has an easy-to-use menu system. There's also a mobile app, which I haven't tried because I'm a poor loser with a Nokia 1616.

Just like Tintin, SlimKicker will help anybody in need. However, it is especially suited for gamers, since the concept is modeled after the reward systems used in video games. Experience points are a well-known feature of role-playing games, and the challenges on SlimKicker are similar to XBox Live achievements (except that they mean something). Also, gamers know how fun online co-operation can be. So why not join an online community that will help you get in shape? After all, we don't want to end up like Cartman in "Make Love, Not Warcraft". Or maybe you do? Then I say good luck to you, sir or madam.

Belgian safety group teaches kids how to text safely while driving (video)

That is, they teach them what a stupid idea it is to text while driving.

A driving school in Brussels recently subjected some of their students to a (fake) new road safety measure. Before beginning the day's lesson, the instructor explained to each student that he or she must display an ability to text while driving. The students willingly obliged, and the results are both entertaining and frightening.

The experiment was staged by the Belgian safety group Responsible Young Drivers with the intention of showing that texting while driving is about the most inane thing you could do.

But then again, you know how to do it safely, don't you?

[Story: Responsible Young Drivers via Neatorama via]

Thursday, May 3, 2012

2 years and counting

It's been two years and three days since I left Norway and moved to Belgium with my then-fiance Bika. Aside from my better half, all I brought with me was a head full of dreams and a suitcase stuffed with clothes, books, and papers.

Having left so much behind, I went looking for what this new and exciting country had to offer. I was not disappointed. I've met some wonderful people, including my wife's friends and family. I've discovered some wonderful places, both new and old, from the cobbled streets of medieval Bruges to the steel-and-glass facades of Brussels' European Quarter. I've learned a wonderful new language. I've attended a Flemish university and have seen how Belgium prepares its maturing generation to rule the future. I've had the privilege of following the 2010 election drama from up close. I've been robbed twice. I've eaten more chocolates, waffles and fries than I care to remember. And I've gotten married to the woman I love.

This is a thanks to everyone who's splashed the past 734 days of my life with brilliance and excitement. If you like what you've seen so far, stick around for the next adventure.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Jukebox Friday: Iris - Would You

The Eurovision Song Contest 2012 will be held on 22, 24 and 26 May at the Baku Crystal Hall in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The contest was brought to Azerbaijan by last year's winners Eldar & Nigar, the first mixed-gender duo to win the ESC since 1963.

While Belgium has traditionally chosen their ESC contestant by popular vote, this time the public Flemish broadcaster VRT has made the decision internally. This could be motivated by the good results achieved by Tom Dice ("Me And My Guitar"), who was chosen internally as well in 2010.

This year's Belgian contestant is Iris, a 17-year-old girl from the province of Antwerp. The song, "Would You", was selected by popular vote.

It is a love song in English, describing a difficult turning point in a relationship. Iris' voice is fragile but sincere, and she manages to travel through the vocal realms of Leona Lewis, Mariah Carey, and every Idol and X-Factor winner in history without entirely losing her individuality. This already sets her apart from a great deal of ESC contestants.

But is that enough to win?

Sadly, I don't think so. Belgium's last win at the ESC was in 1986 (read more about that here), and I don't think that will change this year. To have any chance against the tsunami of exotic dances, drums, costumes and primeval energy, a love ballad must be brutally well-written and terrifically well-sung. "Would You" may make a ton of money upon release, but it won't do anything for those party-hungry, fiercely political Europeans.

Anyway, it's only entertainment. Good luck in Baku, Iris!


Come and find me, I’ve been hiding from you
Come and get me, running from you
It’s been easy, easy for you to believe me
When I say I love you

But what would you do when my house was empty?
My life in a bag and away from you
You took my love for granted, would you really miss me?
Any other guy would do, but would you?

It’s a secret and a question for you
Where are they now? What are you gonna do?
If you run here and wait for me now, are we done here?
Or starting somehow?

But what would you do when my house was empty?
My life in a bag and away from you
You took my love for granted, would you really miss me?
Any other guy would do, but would you? Would you?

It’s a two-way street
And I know that
But don’t look back
Still I wonder, still I wonder

But what would you do when my house was empty?
My life in a bag just to be with you
But when I’m at your door will you say you miss me?
Any other guy would do
Yeah, other guy would do, but would you?

But would you?
Oh would you?
I love you

BONUS: My hot tip for this year's winner. (Go Nordics!)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Belgians completely shut off from The Pirate Bay! ...?

Photo: Steve Rhode.

As a true, cod-blooded Scandinavian, I have a close and personal relationship with a little Swedish web site called The Pirate Bay. Frequenting TPB is like having an ultra-cool friend who knows what you like and gives it to you for free. It's as if Fonzie and Santa Claus had a baby, and you adopted the baby and stuck it inside your computer. (Of course, I would never do that to a computer.)

The Pirate Bay has sailed the seas of the interwebs for over eight years now, and has navigated some dangerous waters. Just as the vikings of old ran into (and subsequently ran through) people who disagreed with their lifestyle of rape and pillage, so have the Swedes of today encountered trouble abroad, most recently right here in Belgium. Long gone are the days when rivaling armies could turn the Westhoek and the Ardennes into a playing field for their martial antics. Belgium is rising to the Swedish threat. But is it working?

Depending on who you ask, this is either the most useful or the most criminal website in the world.

Last October two Belgian ISPs were ordered by the Antwerp Court of Appeal to block subscriber access to 11 domains connected to The Pirate Bay. The Swedes replied by registering a new domain name, Now this has been blocked as well.

Is this a crushing victory for Belgian justice? The Internet says no. The commenters on the TorrentFreak article provide at least five ways to bypass the legislation. It seems that instead of restricting the possibilities of file sharers, lawgivers have only diminished the judicial system's coin purse.

The moral of the story is: Don't mess with vikings with computers.

Source: TorrentFreak: Belgium Blocks Alternative Pirate Bay Domain

Saturday, April 14, 2012

TNT: Push to add drama

This has been popping up everywhere in the past few days, and it's pretty great, so here it is.

The following is a commercial for the new Belgian TNT network. The new TV channel features mostly drama series and films, and the ad attempts to give an impression of the kind of entertainment you can expect from viewing it. It's a brilliantly choreographed spin on the flash mob, complete with gunfire, cops, women on motorbikes, and American football players. It's the best thing you'll see online this weekend. Enjoy!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Jukebox Friday: The Clement Peerens Explosition - Dikke Lu

The Clement Peerens Explosition (CPeX) would have been the greatest Belgian band of all time, had they only been real.

The outspoken character Clement Peerens was created by Hugo Matthysen in the radio show Het Leugenpaleis (1988-1998), which Matthysen hosted together with Bart Peeters, another member of CPeX. Peerens was well-known for his Antwerp dialect and outrageous stories about the many rock stars he supposedly knew.

In 1994, Matthysen and Peeters formed The Clement Peerens Explosition together with Ronny Mosuse, who played the bassist Sylvain Aertbeliën. Matthysen/Peerens was the frontman and lead guitarist, while Peeters (AKA François "Vettige Swa" De Bock) played the drums. Their first hit, Dikke Lu, was released the same year. The band went on to do a string of studio albums and live performances. Other famous songs include "Boecht van Dunaldy" ("Rubbish from Aldi", a take on a certain Germany-based discount supermarket chain), "Gefd da kaske nah is ier" ("Give the remote control to me"), and "Vinde gij mijn gat (niet te dik in deze rok)" ("Don't you think my butt looks too big in this skirt?").

In November 2011, the band was featured in a hilarious mockumentary on the Canvas network which carved out the background and "true" story of The Clement Peerens Explosition. If you speak Dutch and haven't seen it yet, it's well worth a watch. (Click to watch part 1 of the programme.)


Lyrics (original Antwerp dialect):

Are you ready for den dikke Lu? ja!
are you ready for den dikke Lu? absoluut!

Wa was da meh' den dikke, den dikke, den dikke
wa was da meh' den dikke Lu
da kan ekik ni pikke, ni pikke, ni pikke
da kan ekik ni pikke dedzju

En da' ge, is gêre,
en da' g'is gêren e klappeke dóe da kan ekik góe' verstaan
daar eed elke serieuze mens al is beóefte aan
mor komd mij ni vertelle da' gij iêl de nacht lang klapt
meh' zoe'n vaerke, schat, gefd tóe dat 'em meh ae eed aangepapt

En was 't alliên wa smosse, en een bitshe tetteke rös?
of ed' oek ligge vosse, schat, oe vaer ging da' gemös?

Wa was da meh' den dikke, den dikke, den dikke
wa was da meh' den dikke Lu
da kan ekik ni pikke, ni pikke, ni pikke
da kan ekik ni pikke dedzju

Wa was da meh' den dikke
da kan ekik ni pikke
lotte gij mij stikke
diê gast diê moet z'n fikke
thuisouwe schat

Wa was da meh' den dikke, den dikke, den dikke
wa was da meh' den dikke Lu
da kan ekik ni pikke, ni pikke, ni pikke
da kan ekik ni pikke dedzju

Dutch translation:

Wat was dat met de dikke, de dikke Lu?
Dat kan ik niet accepteren, niet accepteren, verdorie!

En dat je eens graag een praatje slaat, dat kan ik goed begrijpen
Daar heeft elk serieus mens wel eens behoefte aan
Maar kom me niet vertellen dat jij heel de nacht lang praat
met zo'n varken .... Geef toe dat hij met jou heeft aangepapt
En was het enkel wat kussen en borsten strelen?
Of heb je ook liggen neuken? Schat, hoe ver ging dat geflirt?

Wat was dat met de dikke, de dikke, de dikke Lu?
Dat kan ik niet accepteren, niet accepteren, verdorie!

Wat was dat met die dikke? Laat jij mij nou stikken?
Die gast moet zijn handen thuishouden, schat!

English translation:

Are you ready for the fat Lu? (Yeah!)
Are you ready for the fat Lu? (Absolutely?)

What happened with the fat, the fat, the fat Lu?
I cannot accept this, accept this, accept this, god damn!

What happened with the fat, the fat, the fat Lu?
I cannot accept this, accept this, accept this, god damn!

And that you like to have a good chat, I can very well understand
Every serious person needs that from time to time
But please don't make me believe that you've been talking all night long
with such a pig ; come on, admit that he has been flirting with you
And was it just some kissing and touching breasts?
Or have you also been f**king darling? How far did this go?

What happened with the fat, the fat, the fat Lu?
I cannot accept this, accept this, accept this, god damn!

What was that with that fat guy? Are you gonna leave me?
That guy has to keep his hands to himself, baby!

A big thanks to Gerrit for introducing me to this band, and for providing the translations.

Friday, March 30, 2012

False friends in Dutch and Norwegian

(Artwork: Revilo.)

WARNING: naughty words ahead.

This one's for Norwegians and Dutch-speakers who want to learn each other's languages while avoiding mistakes like saying "Does it bother you if I masturbate a lot at night?" or "Where can I get some gasoline for my buttock?"

We don't want to end up like John Cleese in the Hungarian Dictionary sketch, after all.

A false friend is, according to the Collins English Dictionary,
a word or expression in one language that, because it resembles one in another language, is often wrongly taken to have the same meaning, for example, the French agenda which means diary, not agenda
My brilliant wife wrote her BA dissertation on false friends in Danish and Norwegian. Below are some false friends in Dutch and Norwegian for you all to peruse.

Note: In cases where the spelling of the two words is the same, the written word has been used. When the similarity lies in the pronunciation, I've used my own (per)version of the International Phonetic Alphabet.

WordDutch meaningNorwegian meaning
friet/fritt("French") fryfree
traan/tranteardropcod liver oil
feitenfactsfatty (insult)
kakafeces (informal)cake
knul/knullboysexual intercourse (vulgar)
kut/kuttvagina (vulgar)cut

A brilliant start to the Easter holidays

Erlend: 0
Belgian bicycle thieves: 1

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday Dutch lesson: going to bed

slapen - to sleep
naar bed gaan - to go to bed
welterusten / slaap lekker - good night
in de armen van Morpheus - in the arms of Morpheus
slapen als een roos - to sleep like a rose

Friday, March 16, 2012

A moment of silence

One hour into today's lecture on language and text structures, the professor glanced at his watch and saw that it was nearly eleven.

We all knew what was coming. "A day of national mourning has been declared," he said (in Dutch), "for the victims of the tragedy that happened in Switzerland on Tuesday evening." He then called for a moment of silence.

The room, and the six hundred students in it, fell completely silent. The auditorium, which normally hummed with stealthy conversation, was as quiet as a tomb.

An emptiness filled the room. It was like an echo of another, more horrible kind of emptiness, one that only those directly affected by the disaster would know.

What went through our minds in those moments of silence? I remembered waking up on Wednesday morning and groggily hearing a 90s pop song crossfade into a news bulletin. A bus full of Belgian school children had crashed into a tunnel wall on the way home from a ski camp in Switzerland.

The tragedy unfolded as the day progressed. The twisted wreckage of the bus was put on display. The death toll went up to 28, 21 of which were Belgians, 6 were Dutch, and 1 was German. 22 of the victims were twelve-year-old students. Two of the survivors are still in a coma.

To say that the nation is in shock is an understatement. Prime minister Elio Di Rupo held a press conference, stating that there are no words to describe the loss of a child.

Mr. Di Rupo is right. If anyone thinks otherwise, I would ask them to look at the little caskets that arrived by plane at Melsbroek military airport this morning.

The last time I observed a moment of silence, I was alone in the room. On my computer screen was the Norwegian prime minister. He was standing on the city square in Oslo, talking to a crowd of some 100,000 people. It was three days after the bombing in Oslo and the shootings on Utøya. As the minute of silence went on, the screen showed long panning shots of the crowd, and a sea of flowers laid down in front of Oslo cathedral.

Last year's terrorist attack and this week's tragedy are different in many ways, but the one thing they have in common is the loss of many young lives. Nothing is worse than losing a child, something far too many of us can attest. A young life, so full of energy and potential, so irreplaceable, yet somehow not there anymore. Sometimes it's too terrible to believe. One thinks of all the years that could have been, all the wasted potential, all the dreams that were never to be. The parents live on, remembering birthdays and wondering what life might have been like, if only...

The hopeless question: Why do such things happen to children?

At the carnival in Halle this weekend, the participants have chosen to wear white ribbons as a sign of remembrance and hope for the future. My wish is that we all somehow, eventually, regain that hope. Until then, my heart goes out to all the victims of this terrible tragedy, those who were lost and the ones who are left behind.

You can read articles and watch newscasts on this topic in English on