Sunday, May 30, 2010

A year in the merde

"There are lots of French people who are not at all hypocritical, inefficient, treacherous, intolerant, adulterous or incredibly sexy … They just didn't make it into my book."


I think it was Anno who recommended this book "A year in the merde" in one of her posts and I had written it down on my "to read" list. A satire on the cultural differences between the British and the French...had to be good.

The narrator Paul West arrives on a one-year contract in Paris to start up a range of English tea-rooms for a French meat concern. Right from the start he starts mocking the horrible accent of his French colleagues and I thought "what a jerk, at least they try to talk English to you...you only know 2 French phrases from your Berlitz tape".

Along with him I mocked the French morning office ritual where everyone parades by everyone kissing good morning, only to be repeated in the evening when they go home again. Immediately I had flash-backs to my months spent in Strasbourg and to the long breaks at the coffee machine after the also long lunches from my French colleagues in The Hague. When Paul West gets fed up about the long inefficient meetings in which nothing at all gets decided and all gets discussed over again and over again, I was knodding. And obviously no decisions are written down so anything that might have been decided is open for interpretation and new discussions again later on. Oh yes, nasty flashbacks again. And the love of endless talking is already obvious when you dare to turn on any French radio. They don't talk in between the music...no no they play a song now and then in between the talking.

But I also snuggled at Paul West's culinary ignorance and wanted to slap him in the face when he pulled up his nose for excellent cheeses etc. He truly is a jerk only out in Paris to score French girls but he clearly didn't understand how to approach them. There's surely lots of English people who respect women but they were not featured in the book either :p.

His language confusion was lost on me since I'm not used to translate English to French and vice versa so I am less aware of the similarities in some words that do have a totally different meaning. I was reading a Dutch translation of the book which showed as they sometimes had to leave the original French or English word in order to show the confusion. So reading it in English is probably better.

Don't expect any political correctness in this book, but the intrigues quickly spin around and grow. I finished the book in 1,5 days as it reads super smoothly and is excellent relaxation literature.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

It's Eurovision time

It's that one and only night that we as little kids could stay up late...
that only night that I watched as a kid with open mouth...
that only night that I taped on video and watched over again (hah my young innocent foolishness)
that only night that for more than a decade I felt way too good to watch ...who wanted to admit to watch and love that kitch huh?
that only night I amuse myself in sharing my random opinions with the world as they cross my head when I watch this show full of (lack of) talent and horrendous costumes, funny dances and surprise acts. It's truly the only way I can survive this long evening with 25 competing countries. By chatting, commenting on everybody commenting on FB, twitter and blogs. Fun and entertaining in one big interactive community :p


Azerbeidjan:
this one of the favourites? really? in what way would this plain song stick out?
Jan thinks she didn't have enough money to buy a complete set of gloves.


Spain:
oh gosh, Leuven in scène seems to be on tv...I see ballerina's, tin soldiers and clowns posing on a stereotypical circus tone. It would be pleasant and charming in a circus tent but here on Eurovision? Can they seriously think this can win? Eurovision is one big maddness, but circus is weird anyway.
Aaaah haaaa that weirdo without circus costume but with a funny red hat wasn't part of the act. hahaha someone got on stage. Brilliant.
(bravo for the commentators who immediately know that this has happened as well in '63...how many facts and figures would they have in front of them to look up.)


Norway:
oh a singer in suit with lot of pathos, with a serious face and with big arm gestures reinforced by the backing vocals. and there's fireworks at the end and a long long final note. Back to the eighties I think with boring songs. Seen this a thousand times and I've forgotten the song already. Next

Moldavia:
a violonist on a turning plate? how dizzy can you get
oh it's that lady with half a face of blue eye shadow again that I've seen in the semi-finals. I think it said 'eye & sheek shadow' on her make-up box, hence the result. And she stole her hairstyle from Pink while her dress is some sort of iron cast ballerina dress.
Weird weird I can see the punk hyperactive violonist running around and sticking out his tongue, but I can hardly hear that violin.
Pfff lets forget this act quickly.

Cyprus
a guy with a guitar, hence a competitor for Belgium it is said.
Baby face boy.
the backing vocals do the stereotypical "i switch my balance from left foot to right foot and swing my arms alternatively forward". Pretty annoying if you start watching that.

Bosnia Herzegovina
foggy stage, lots of guitars (only one visible)
some background dancers making big catwalk steps forward in slow motion
I think this group could be a good rock group but they've also added a bit too much pathos in their song and too little rock.

Belgium:
the little lonely boy on the little stage among the people, he almost looks shy in his slow start as if he doesn't dare do this. His sore throat doesn't seem to effect his singing fortunately.

Oh yeah audience applauds again in the mid-song. They don't do that for all, can we feel proud now?
"Come on Oslo" ...who Tom seeks interaction...not shy after all.
The audience truly seems enthousiastic or am I biased now?

Serbia:
I love that intro...it sounds like Shantel. I'm a sucker for Balkan gypsy influences.
But then that singer comes out...how stereotypical gay can you look? He should fire his hair stylist right away! Turning a flower pot upside down on someones head and then cutting the edges of hair is truly not a best practise to cut one's hair!!

Come on balkan, hop hop....yep I can live through this song with my eyes closed.

(intermezzo announcement: Spain can bring their song again at the end as they had been interrupted)

Belarus:
right, it's time for that butterfly act.
intimate piano / singer start. the dresses from the backings are too glittering with those lights on them.
BOOOOOOOOORIING 5 static people waving a bit with their hands is boring even if you move your arms nicely up when you say "fly up"

ok there they are, the dresses open up into hideous huge butterflies. In case someone couldn't understand the text I suppose but if you've seen it already in the semi-finals.

Ireland:
One redheaded singer in some sort of purple sausage dress, opening up a bit at the feet
She does smile genuinely as if she's having fun
a bit of traditional flute as intermezzo which sounds very Irish. Look look I see some green hills in front of me.

oh an entire crew of backings has marched up, they almost missed the party. Glad they could make it.
And the windmachine made it in time as well

Greece:
My favourite in the semi-finals....let's party in Greekish style. Hoppaa...5 white dressed man with black boots jumping around . It sounds very energetic & very Greek. They would be very popular as act in one of the many hotels.

"Hey", "Ho" "Whoappa" some drumming...oh there's fireworks coming out of the drums. They really deserve a 5-star hotel.

Opaaaaa....I'm awake again.

UK:
one of the 5 direct finalist since they pay enough to the Eurovision organization not to need to go through the semi-finals.
Huh? they are locked up in a closet. Nice visual stage set.

Oh gosh Stock Aitken & Waterman are back again. Back to the eighties in a 13 in a dozen song. (oh my and it's true...it is written by Stock & Waterman)
Yikes the backings are out of tune.
They must realise this makes all of us sleepy since they are already waving some sheets.
Good, they go back into their closet, what a relief.

Ouch ouch my ears.
(the vocals were even messier than the golf of Mexico at the moment according to our commentators :p)

Georgia:
oh really, does Georgia take part in Eurovison. Every year I have the feeling that the concept of Europe grows drastically.

the wind machine has already been turned out from the start...the poor girl risks to get a cold if they exaggerate!
can someone tell the director not to take those airshots as the spots in the floor are way to reflecting and I don't have my sunglasses nearby? Thank you!

Girl girl, you don't need to yell so much, you do have a microphone on. I hope you realise that.
You have a good voice ...I recommend applying for a musical part.

Turkey:
yeah rock on Eurovision, more of that please!
Guitars, a drumset & a dj table....what a relief to not see a stereotypical arm-waving backing vocal group behind a long dressed singer in front for once!
Quite an 'un-Turkish' act though s ince they usually sound quite ethnic and usually I like it. But this is good too.

Ooh look look robocop came alive and spits fire. And of course they had to have some fireworks as well in order to be taken seriously.

Albania:
another song with some energy and rhythm. Good good, Jan might even wake up again if this continues.
A femme fatale rocking against a crazy violin playing Einstein....it's catchy.
Look look , my foot is tapping along. More of this.

Iceland:
oh yes I remember her from the semi-finals. Big lady with a big impressive voice.
hmm it seems to swing more than I remember. Or have I watched this show already too long that it affects my judgment?

Ukraine:
A big cape
A low voice that sounds uncomfortable and a blond girl coming out of the hood. I think she's telling some sort of fairytale but I don't know if it has a happy ending yet or not. Seems to be quite dramatic...wide arm movements again.
And a wind machine as well, but that's kinda obvious in this Eurovision edition. Although it's a bit stormy, her hair & dress is going to fly away. Wouldn't that be something?
Strong impressive voice, but not a song that sticks around.

Too much eye shadow again...would they sell the same brand of make-up as in Moldavia?

France:
Ollez ola olé ....Senegalese soccer song for the world championship in a few weeks in South Africa.

Allez allez, lets all dance and swing our hips on the beach under a coconut tree. Shake shake .
Here's a big summer hit... we are going to hear this so much in the coming weeks I bet until we are so sick of it.
I even bet the aerobics class will use this, it has the right stepping rhythm; Ole olaaaa

Hey drumming on imaginary drums with some fireworks on the background is a bit silly but we forgive you because you got me moving.

But yes it's a hit for sure.

Romania:
Look look there's a transparent double sided piano on stage.
pfff square marching rhythm and I don't fall for ladies in a skintight leather suite. I wonder how they'll peel that off her tonight.

Not my piece of cake.

Russia:
there's snow falling on stage! or would it be some ashes from Iceland? After all Oslo isn't too far of the vulcano right?

This must be part of some Doctor Zhivago musical

I told you the wind machine was too hard, the poor guy needs to wear a scarf!

Armenia:
An ethnic flute
help, the dress is too tight for this pretty girl, her boobs will pop out any moment! There's a difference between push-up and painfully looking pressure that is no longer attractive.

What's the price of extensions lately? They've made quite an investment in that hair below her bottom. Pretty annoying if you need to make a ponytail before you can go to the toilet!

Germany:
I heard this on youtube a couple of weeks ago and loved it right away. Catchy ear worm, happy and spontaneous. This will get my vote tonight. I think that just for once Germany will not end on the bottom of the result list where they usually keep Belgium company.
she's a mixture of kate nash and Lilly Allan with a funny accent.

Yep, I still like it

Portugal:
Too much arm gestures. Seems like a girl doing an audition in layered wedding dress for a musical part. Boring.
one more to go we can move on for another year....oh damn, that's not true, the Spanish circus gets to go on stage again because of the dressed streaker from Catalonia who managed to get on stage.

Israel:
Another ballad with piano
Is it because there's a professional jury again that there's so many ballads this year? Surely a record amount of people are truly singing again this year. Except for fireworks and wind machines there's been strangely little weird acts this year. Who would have thought we might miss the abundance of kitch? Ok not quite but now we have an overload of musical type songs!!! Give us some rhythm please.

Denmark:
oh a blind date stage with a wall between the couple
this sounds familiar, the guitar line is known...cheaters

oh look the couple came from behind the wall, walking hand in hand and they hopefully live happy for ever more...but first we need some fireworks and a wind machine obviously.

Spain:
the walzing circus again....no more audience who decides to join them on stage




update after half of the votes:
Germany takes a healthy lead
Belgium & Turkey take turns on nr 2 and 3
Denmark& Greece seem to complete the top 5

hmm funny Belgium gave the maximum score to Greece.


Final result: Belgium ends in 6th place. The last ten countries voting all of a sudden stopped giving us high marks so we lowered a bit but it's the best Flemish result ever.
Germany wins again after 28 years...hurray for them and next year we'll go to Berlin.

This edition was definitely better than before with the fresh German pop song winning, some rock from Turkey scoring well etc and more attention to singing and less exuberant acts....good evolution. Now a little less pathos and more fun & spontenaity and I am all for again



Plaats Land Puntentotaal
1 Duitsland 246
2 Turkije 170
3 Roemenië 162
4 Denemarken 149
5 Azerbeidzjan 145
6 België 143
7 Armenië 141
8 Griekenland 140
9 Georgië 136
10 Oekraïne 108
11 Rusland 90
12 Frankrijk 82
13 Servië 72
14 Israël 71
15 Spanje 68
16 Albanië 62
17 Bosnië-Herzegovina 51
18 Portugal 43
19 IJsland 41
20 Noorwegen 35
21 Cyprus 27
22 Moldavië 27
23 Ierland 25
24 Wit-Rusland 18
25 Groot-Brittannië 10

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Leuven in Scènes: Fous de bassins by Ilotopie

The main attraction of Leuven in Scène was a spectacle on the canal where we'd get to see some sort of "Cirque de Soleil" on water according to the festival's program. They had already performed in Paris, Rome, London, Chicago etc and now it was Leuven's turn. There was 45 min between the performance of Voala which was sufficient to walk the 30 min walk from the city centre to the canal....but I imagined that it would be quite tight to find a good spot to view it all.

Sure enough , in the midst of Voala's show there was a distinct stream of people leaving. Nevertheless we heard afterwards that the turnout of the crowd was so immense that the vast majority had not seen anything. A lot of disappointed people had attempted to see in vain while the organization was totally taken by surprise by the approx 20000 people in the street.

But it looked so cool so we were very motivated on Sunday to go well in time in advance and ensure we'd have a good spot. 80 minutes before the start we stood on the second row in the middle of the canal's winding hole. Frequently the first 10 to 20 rows of people were asked to sit down to give a possibility to the rows behind to get a glimpse of the show. Since I can't sit well yet, I more or less lay down. The big disadvantage of sitting down at the front rows is that we were now looking through the security fences...but I understood that it was the only way to increase the capacity. When a bit further some stubborn people didn't want to go sit down, the atmosphere got rather hostile with lots of yelling back and forth.

Sure enough by 11PM the entire canal was packed again: 30000 people had found their way along the canal and we praised ourselves lucky behind the safety fence at the midst of the action!

"Fous de Bassin" is a magical show where commuters seem to float over the water, a little volkswagen parks on the water, beds are rowed across the canal and a janitor can fish up a functioning street lamp. Strange bizar and magical. You're transformed into a magical world that doesn't make sense at all but which is highly intriguing and never dull. The water queen is throdden by on a huge water wheel, the boat that carries Poseidon has fireworks while other boast show a fire joust fight, the commuter's hair is magically on fire constantly.... It was hard to follow what was going on as we were sucked into a utopian world that is not ours but it was hard not to keep our eyes away from the touches of light and colours and fireworks in front of us.

I tried to take some pictures but the moving objects in the dark from behind a fence were impossible to take. Check out the excellent pictures made Erik O and Kris Luckermans on their blog.

I've attempted to film a bit with a tiny hand camera but since it was dark and I never found the zoom & on/off button easily and I was constantly distracted about all the things moving and exploding in front of me, I'll make you all seasick watching :p.
Anyway, here's some of my little films bu









Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Made in Belgium: Tom Dice

It's Eurovision time again! Hurray for the yearly parade of kitsh & bad taste that we all claim to hate yet we all watch it so we have something to talk about the next day :).

I thought that was a good reason to post my weekly "Made in Belgium" a day early to introduce you all to Belgium's contestant: Tom Dice.

Tom Who? was the first thing that crossed my mind when I read the newspapers that the Flemish tv had selected their candidate. Seriously, I had never heard of the guy before but apparently he was in an X-factor contest. Hmm, I really don't watch any of those talent/dance/sing/mock the poor candidate formats at all. ....except for Eurovision I guess, but that's European folklore, right?

Despite the huge popularity of the bi-annual Eurovision selection shows in Flanders (Flanders & Wallonia alternate each year to send a contestant...heaven forbids we might actually send a 'national' artist right), which always peaked the tv ratings and 'discovered' a lot of new popular artists/pulp...the Flemish artists assigned after a 6-week popularity tv race have scored very very poorly over the last years. As a matter of fact, since the introduction of semi-finals in the Eurovision songcontest, we've never made it to the finals anymore I think. Televoting Flanders clearly is not televoting Europe.
So it was time for a new approach, copied from Wallonia who has been more successful over the last decades more specifically with the selection of Urban Trad, some unknown jury from the Flemish broadcasting company selected Tom Who without any tv selection shows.


"Me and my guitar" is an honest modest nice ballad stripped from all the pooha which usually surrounds the Eurovision. The modesty of the act is our gamble to stick out. I fear that we'll loose that gamble even though the song is kinda nice. Not sure if "less is more" will work in a circus like Eurovision but I'll be able to update you all on that later on this evening.

So if you like it and you live in another European country, don't hesitate to vote for Tom. It would be nice to make the finals for a change.




Update at 11 PM:


We made it! Woohoo for the first time since there's semi-finals in the Eurovision song contest, we've passed to the finals. He did stick out very much from the fairy tale Poland, the out of tune Latvia, the Greek Whoappa drumming , the Slovakian wood, the pathetic ballad from Portugal, the set of huge butterflies from Belarus, the huge dress & voice from Iceland, the falling snow for Russia , the Serbian showbizz Bart, ...

It almost looked sad how he stood there alone on stage with his guitar....but he sang well.


Damn, that means we have to watch again on Thursday to see the competition and on Saturday. Can you get ill from an overdosis Eurovision?

Hey Snookspot, let's make a deal: I'll vote for Germany if you vote for us on Saturday, ok???

Monday, May 24, 2010

Leuven in Scène: Circus and acrobatic wedding


Leuven has a big circus school and several circus organizations so it is no surprise that circus acts take up a big portion of Leuven in Scène. In the afternoon the park Bruul was transformed in a buzzing place full of acrobats and performances in all corners while in the other corners, the kids could try & learn some circus skills themselves.

Many many people had arrived from all corners to see it all, some dressed as minimalistic as possible on this early hot summer day, some dressed in rather strange outfits as if they had just jumped out of an Ensor painting ....



When there's a party, there's got to be happy music :)


Cie altitude biking above the crowd


Hors cycles combining bike stunts with trampoline jumping


And then decided Kai Leclerc to walk a bit on the ceiling above us and ....sweep the floor upside down, play a bit of basketbal and try to have a dring. Crazy Italian Canadian! Pretty spectacular.





After arriving late at a wedding party on Saturday we had learned to be well in time for our second attempt at Sunday. We were welcomed by a ceremonial master on stelts and found a spot on the square well in advance to see the wedding party arrive.





The bride & groom were wedded by the same deputy mayor who wedded us a year ago but the ceremony was often interrupted/entertained by the crazy acrobatic wedding party and some ended up on the trampolines, poles or trapezes. Good times.





Leuven in Scène: Voala

The big square of Ladeuze filled twice last weekend for the Argentinian air ballet brought by Voala. When some business men miss their last train and meet some nimfs, a fairy tale spectacle starts in front of the university library, that brings ballet and skydiving skills at the same time with splending visual acts. Magnificent!


















Sunday, May 23, 2010

Leuven in Scène: the big market and the park

The bi-annual festival "Leuven in Scène" is on again this long hot sunny Pentecoast weekend and the historic city center of Leuven has been transformed to one big stage for multiple circus & theatre acts.

Last times we had always been restricted to a short walk through the city to get some quick impressions due to other obligations in our agenda. But this year I want to enjoy this visual spectacle as much as possible.

We first headed to the Grote Markt (big market square) where the little golden angels were still watching the crowd down below on the gothic city hall in the golden light of the sunset.


Georg Traber amused himself by building huge bamboo towers up and down all afternoon.



A bit further Jan thought he had seen an angel that looked just like me. Hmm surely he must be mistaken.



After sunset we headed to the city park to enjoy some drinks at the magical fountain bar




and we watched the performance of MakadamKannibal were some poor circus artists seemed to have a relationship with the necessary ups and downs . When the poor guy hadn't noticed immediately that his lady had fallen off their old bike pulling their wagon, she simply set his back on fire. Ouch.
A few minutes later they had made up again though and let a puppet dance on a cord which was held via their noses connected to their mouth on which they pulled each other back and forth. I'm afraid I was too empathic to not feel like I was chocking when seeing that part of their weird act. Oh gross, doesn't that hurt?



At 11PM one of the slotacts was performed by "Entre terre et ciel" which brought a fire act. It was nice to watch but I wouldn't have put it on the program as a top act. She was clearly very skilled and balanced her multiple torches like some fans , dancing with them graciousy like a gipsy or using them as wings of an angel but most of the time she simply seemed to perform some slow Thai Chi movements in her circle of flames which couldn't keep us entertained for the full 45 minutes. Watching it the nearby crowd lighted up by her circle of fire did give some cosy campfire feeling though.




Saturday, May 22, 2010

Library changes

I've been a library member since before I could read. I happily strolled along on my little legs with my big sister and my parents and I filled their cards up to the limit with the picture books I found in the boxes on the floor, when they thought it was time to get me my own library card. Yahoo then I could take more books home :).

I remember very well the old library building in my home town near the school, housed in the previous town hall. The youth section was at the street side with the big neo gothic windows. The first books I could read were located at the entrance to the right and I was quickly addicted to the Pietje Puk series. The next year I could move more to the left and I moved on to Meester Pompelmoes.

And then the library moved to a brand new building 1 block further and the youth organisations in my town helped moving and it all got inaugurated with a marching band etc. Good fun.
I really loved the new library, it was so modern & light and had nice sitting corners and a play house for the little kids (which I no longer was). I devoured books and I could find my favourite authors just by location on the racks.

That's something which has never changed. The fact that I worked as a teenager a few summer jobs in the library putting away all the returned books in the racks, probably largely contributed to that (and the fact that I still have the compulsion to reorganize books alphabetically when I see mistakes and to put them all aligned and up straight is to blame on those jobs too).
Anyway, when entering the library, I was first greeted by Isabel Allende and only science fiction I've ever enjoyed by Asimov. The successful Belgian police detectives in Bruges written by Aspe were already on the backside of that rack. Since the John Grishams in Dutch were always unavailable, I had to turn left to the small English section and grab one in English right at the point where the racks made a curve on the shelf just below eye level. All the Agatha Christies were near the street window, authors with a K or L stood near the comic strips and the historic novels by Sinoué were way at the back at the bottom shelf.

When I lived in Ghent, I could still go back and forth to my familiar library in my home town, but driving up & down from Leuven is a bit too far so I became member of the local library here.
At first I couldn't find my way there. The strict architecture of the former technical school, designed by the famous Belgian art nouveau architect Henry Van De Velde with the abundance of big windows, patio's and the all white shelves aligned in the same direction gave a cold & very modern & strict feeling, very much in contrast with the many cosy corners, colours & carpets I was used to in my home town library. But I grew to love it very much and I point out to Jan when "Man bijt Hond " is on tv that the library shoots there are taken in Leuven as if he wouldn't be aware of that.

The organization of the books was quite different: different categories (much more than I was used to) such as "true stories" , "travel stories", "biographies", "phantasy", ... were in separate racks apart from the other novels. Sometimes it's quite hard to know whether to look up an author or book among the generic novels or in one of the special categories a. As a result I often need to search the location of a book on the computers to ensure the book simply isn't in or whether I'm looking at the wrong spot. But after 3 years I started to know what is where.

And then the library closed last month for reorganization and my location based memory is again completely at loss since I walked in the first time after they have been reopened. Gone was the quite-up-in-your-face wall of lockers where many signs repeatedly told you to leave all your bags before entering the building (ok there's still lockers but hidden now on the backside of a wall), gone is the ugly conveyor belt at the entrance on which you had to leave your returned books....replaced by some sort of computer wall which I have not tried yet since I had dropped off all my last books in the street side deposit box during their closure.
The entrance looked much more open and wide since the restricting entrance gates had been replaced by more modest transparent open detection panels where you could freely walk by (with bags...since it wasn't so obvious anymore where the lockers were hidden) . Where used to be the desks & personnel's cabinets were some lower self-scan tables and a long set of benches to sit down.

I walked in towards Michael Connelly but he was gone....replaced by non-fiction books. Huh? Where are the novels? Where they were the travel guides used to be....euh nope still non-fiction there. Jodi Picoult was also replaced by non-fiction. I made some confused turns next to some very pretty & colourful design lounge chairs where some people at the spot where reading where the special categories books used to be.

After some thought I realized that fiction must have moved to the first floor where I had never been before so cautiously I walked up and made a slow walk or two along the isles to re-inventorise my brain. My first visit was probably not sufficient to breeze the next time straight to the books I am looking for but at least I was able to find all what I was looking for after looking around a bit. Pretty annoying that there's still quite a few "special categories" but that they've changed once again. Why is there some Jodi Picoult's in the detectives shelves and others among the generic novels? That's is simply confusing. I'd like to have all the books by one author at least at the same location.

When it was time to check-out I put my books on one of the many nice new self-service check-out desks that are located at both floors where some flyers announced the library reorganization and also asked for some patience during the test month May when some problems still might occur. Immediately a nice lady hurried to me. "Is it the first time you need to use this? Let me show you how it's done". Hmm either they clearly anticipate problems or they now excel in customer service.
Indeed there was a problem...one of the books I had chosen refused to be self-scanned so I had to tag along to one of the rare populated desks anyway so the book could get fixed. At the same time my library registration got extended for another year, after which I was simply sent back to the self-scanner to register that last book on my card, this time on my own. Nevertheless a young guy who had been sitting on one of the benches nearby hurried up but then returned when clearly I had already figured out how to register my book. Hehe they must be trained to sit invisibly near a self-scan table and jump up when somebody is going to use them. I'm sure you can do some jokes right now :p.

At the building's exit I still had to pay the fee for my library registration in a paying automate since none of the desks accepts payments anymore. Also that is self-service but that had been the case already since a year.

Well I'll have to get used to the changes but the new library did give me a much more relaxed, open, loungy atmosphere, where you just walk in and out, take a book, scan it, walk on, read a bit, scan another book and walk out again. I think I'll get used to it again. I hope their security is tight enough to notice if not all books get scanned before leaving the building or when fees are too far overdue. But please stop rearranging the author's locations now. I do enjoy it if that's stable!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Made in Belgium: Soeur Sourire

In this Made In Belgium series on Wednesday I must surely include the one and only hit that made it to the number 1 position in the American charts.

In 1963 the nuns of the Dominican Fichermont Convent in Waterloo recorded some songs on a record which they would give out as a gift or sell to visitors in their convent as a source of income. The recording company Philips immediately saw potential in the song Dominique sung by Soeur Sourire and asked if they could launch it as a single, which was permitted.

The Singing Nun became an instant hit in many many countries and Soeur Sourire found herself to be a global celebrity. In 1966 the movie "The Singing Nun" about the life of Soeur Sourire was nominated already for some Oscars.

However that was not the beginning of a fairy tale story. Jeanine Deckers (her birthname) quit the monastical life in 1967 to focus on her music career but failed in being succesfull. With her female friend she founded a school for authistic children.

Nevertheless the Belgian tax authorities went after her to claim income tax on her earned royalties....whome had gone to the convent but she couldn't prove that. So she was broke.
In '82 she recorded a disco version of Dominique , just for once again under the name Soeur Sourire which she had previously given up, in order to gain money to pay of her debts but that wasn't succesfull either. She committed suicide with her friend in 1985.



Dominique - 1963






Dominique - 1982

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Getting out a little bit

Last week I've enjoyed the first communion of one of my cousin's son's from the sofa with excellent view on the playing kids.



(by the way, a dinosaur excavation kit seems like a popular gift. I had never seen it before, but pretty cool)

Last Sunday the sun convinced me to go try walking through town on a slow pace, where I got to see some of the provincial bike championship. It felt good to be outside!



The city hall is decorated full with little golden angels to announce next weekend's open air bi-annual theatre festival "Leuven in scène". I'm looking forward to being a lot better by then to fully enjoy getting outside again :)

Overdosis

Day-time tv sucks. Shopping channels and telephone games or webcams in radio studio's alternated with some Oprah & Dr Phil. The comic shows at the start of the evening are repeated in the early morning and there's only so much nature documentaries you can deal with on a day.

How sad is it that I was relieved to discover there's 5 episodes of Frasier on each day? 5! Talk about an overdosis of Kelsey Grammer but I must say I've never enjoyed the inside jokes as much as I do now :p although they are almost becoming repetitive.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Busy nights

No wonder I sometimes wake up feeling not rested at all. I live amazing adventures at night that often make Jan shake his head and roll his eyes in the morning when I tell him.

I've been decorating tree huts over the last weeks and placed metal plant holders in my mom's former colleague's daughter's basement. Yeah I don't really know how I ended up in neither place.

I've also been on a mountain bike trip in Istanbul lately. The view over the city and the Bosporus was magnificent and I could point out the Hagia Sofia and the Topkapi Palace from the mountain top to my friends. Bummer that we needed to adjust some of our plans as the trails were covered with snow and as a result we had to move out of our rural hostel last minute.
(yes I mixed snow, rural and Istanbul in one view...pretty spectacular I admit) (although the idea of me on a mountain bike trip is as spectacular)

When I lost my hiking boot a few weeks ago I was rather pissed off in the morning. I had really neatly placed my boots in between the bike racks like everyone else when I went into the student restaurant in Ghent. But when I had come outside, one of them was gone. All the racks were still full of neatly placed hiking boots, except for my missing shoe of course. Argh. And none of the students walking by seemed to care at all that I was missing a shoe. It wasn't fair. It sucks walking home on one shoe! Those were really good comfortable shoes. Argh.
(it felt so real that the next morning, I did check my shoes in the closet, just to make sure).

Much more interesting was last time I walked back from my former music academy to my former high school only to get passed by one of the nuns on a skateboard and another one on a step. They sure progressed since their only workout was some circles on their bikes around the high school's volleyball court. They sure seemed to have a hell lot more fun now.

Last Tuesday night I had a fright. I was housesitting in a friend's apartment when all of a sudden out of a box on top of the wardrobe a monstrous big monitor lizard escaped and jumped the furniture around the apartment. I had no idea she had pets and screamed like hell. Fortunately Jan didn't hesitated long and jumped the animal in the kitchen, fought it and killed it with one of the nearby knives. He's my hero. After we had settled over the first shock , we discovered another smaller lizard in the room, but we've let that live. I don't think it's good practise to kill all pets if you are house sitting somewhere, right?

Anyway, my best nights are those when I don't remember my absurd dreams though. But I am sometimes amazed about the original images I come up with. How about you?

It all depends on the expectations I suppose

Take pain level x and mobility k

If you expected just after surgery a pain level y (y being bigger than x) and mobility l (l being smaller than k), then you feel optimistic & energetic. If after one week you expect a pain level less than x and mobility greater than k, then that same experience becomes a source of frustration and disappointment. Bleh.

While in the end it's just the same experience, right? So I just need to convince my mind.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Made in Belgium: Urban Trad

In the beginning of this decade I was walking with a friend on the Gentse Feesten when we stopped at the stage of Sint-Jacobs. There was a folk group performing that was really contageous and it didn't take much time before my body decided to start moving to the music. I remember they showed a green CD cover.

The next summer I was letting myself getting seduced again at the CD-shop at the Folk festival at Dranouter and all of a sudden a recognised the green CD-cover. Urban Trad...Urban Trad was the band that I was looking for :). And I found them on a folk day in Antwerp and on Dranouter and on the big market square in Brussels, etc.

In 2003 the Wallonian broadcasting assigned Urban Trad as the Belgian group to go to the Eurovision song contest. At that point they became known to the Belgian public, also the non-folk lovers, although I think "Sanomi" is a song that is rather un-Urban Trad. I miss the drive in the song, that element that always makes my feet start dancing. Nevertheless the stuck out at the contest and we missed one point to win the 2003 edition. 1 point! Argh.

Since then I've seen them more on Dranouter and also in Leuven on Beleuvenissen Folk in 2007 but that must have been the last time. While I'm typing this post I realise I urgently must buy their latest CD since that Scottish à la Tête down below is so incredibly contageous. So forgive me but I have some dancing through the living room to do right now (ok....very very gently that would be at the moment, but it's the thought that counts). Who's joining me?


Vodka Time



Sanomi 2003




Kerua



Scottish de la Tête

Monday, May 10, 2010

Moving on

Sometimes you blog about spring walks, but you don't add that you were glad to get out off the house to get your mind off some persistent worries that have popped up again.

Sometimes you blog about upcoming concerts but you don't add that you are crossing your fingers that you won't have to cancel for the same reason you did last year.

Sometimes you're glad that there's some pre-scheduled music posts appearing on your blog so it doesn't look so silent.

But sometimes some issues do come (back) no matter how hard you curse them away and then you just need to swallow that pill again. And if you're lucky that pill isn't so bitter as you feared it would be anyway.

So here I am, recovering from some surgery again and I'm doing ok. Let's just hope this truly was the last time. Third time's the charm, right?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Made in Belgium: Stromae

One morning 2-3 weeks ago I was standing in the bathroom still half asleep when I heard a catchy song on the radio. Quite mesmerizing, quite sticky in my ear, making me move slightly in my subconscious state. All of a sudden I heard the DJ mention that this was a Belgian song. Ha, since I started this "Made in Belgium" series half a year ago, I have become much more attentive to Belgium music so this remark woke me up slightly.

A few days later I heard the tune again and this time I understood the name of the performer: Stromae . Much to my surprise I noticed that this Belgian-Rwandan artist had scored a number one hit in Wallonia (already 32 weeks in the charts!), France, Germany, Switserland & Austria at the start of the year. Only a few weeks ago the number got released in Flanders. And within 2 weeks it has become a hit. It also holds the number one position in the Netherlands. Way to go. It sticks to my mind and I like it so let's play it some more :).


Alors on danse




Sunday, May 2, 2010

The joy of dry sweatpants

The predicted rain had arrived when I got outside and was confronted with a curtain of wetness. Bravely I closed my jacket and headed forward on on the rhythm of the tick-tocking on my hood.

The cows don't seem to care and wobble their yummy hug bums through the field while looking for some green delicacies in the field. The asphalt looked intensely grey now that all the dust was getting washed away and little drops jumped into all directions. It reminded me of a geography class about raindrop erosion.

The mallard in the pond floats a bit aimlessly through the surface that now bubbles heavily by the increased force of the rain coming down.

My jeans is colouring darker and darker and sticks cold & heavy to my legs and I realize that my shoes aren't water proof either. Argh, 5 more minutes before I'm home...
and then I can strip these wet pants and change into warm soft sweatpants and enjoy the tinteling in my legs when they warm up again. Sweet.

Flash-back

When seeing a big challenge game on tv with teams representing Belgian & Dutch cities getting challenges such as crossing a pool over a lot of moving objects, it feels like a bad flashback to the eighties.

And I wonder: did adults enjoy this type of shows back then? Do I feel this is so bad now because I'm grown up or because it's a very outdated concept?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A stroll through Leuven on May 1st

I had forgotten it's a holiday today so I was pretty surprised to see the nearby pharmacy closed forcing me to look-up the one on holiday duty. Obviously I knew it was Labour Day. More specifically I had been frustrated last week about "losing" a holiday due to the weekend whereas my Dutch colleagues were more than happy to announce several times that they could not be reached last Friday due to Koninginnedag while all my UK suppliers are off on Monday due to their Bank Holiday. Yet it had not sunk in that other people might be working so if Labour Day is on a Saturday, it does result in all stores being closed and the city being pretty empty as a result.
Well it wasn't totally deserted. Judging the sight of the future generation of university students happily strolling through the streets followed by some stressed out parents holding a map in front of them and discussing directions loudly, the hunt for student housing has been opened again.

In the historic centre we all of a sudden noticed happy music seemingly played for the empty streets. Around the corner we saw the end of the socialist parade going through the city to celebrate Labour Day. Despite the happy marching band all dressed up in red & black, there wasn't a big turnout although we probably missed the dignitaries such as our socialist mayor Louis Tobback proudly smiling at the head of the parade. The faces of the drivers who had mistakingly turned into this street and got themselves caught in the line-up at walking pace behind the parade, showed annoyed acceptance.

We made a small detour to walk through the harbour area that is in the middle of a big urbanization project. What used to be an area full of deserted depots and industrial sites of the historic Stella Artois brewery site in the shadow of the current AB InBev headquarters & modern brewery, is slowly transforming to a site with new apartment blocks, horeca, hotels etc.
We're not quite there yet, but it would be cool if this could become a new area buzzing with activity. It's got a lot of potential.







On the other side some organizations profited from the holiday to organize some "Harbour" days with a flee market and some music stands and other stuff but all in all it didn't seem to busy there.
After another stroll along the canal to the "open door" of a local dive store we came back via the train station, where on the square the socialist union had placed a lot of tents and was having a cosy family afternoon for their members with music & entertainment & food & drinks.

We also found a cockchafer. Big coincidence as at the start of our walk I had claimed to Jan that I hadn't seen any cockchafers since my childhood anymore. And there all of a sudden on a big billboard at a travel agency Jan points one out to me.What can I say, ...we call them "May beetles" for something. They too knew it was the start of May :).


I hope you all had a good May 1st, holiday or not