Tintin: first trailer!

Tintin is part of Belgian heritage when it comes to comic books. I’ve read all of them as a kid. (In Dutch we call him Kuifje.) The cartoons on television weren’t bad either.

But I am a bit sceptical on the movie though. Even with names like Spielberg and Jackson… as long as they capture his spirit. That’s what’s important. Very curious about it.


Ode to Ostend

Best be warned, I’m going to rhyme again. I’m not that good at it, but I don’t care. One must amuse oneself with something, right?

I’ve visited Ostend only twice

and to me this city is so awfully nice

Where Marvin Gaye wrote Sexual Healing

this coastal city has a particular feeling

 for many it’s just a beach and a place for shoppin’

but  for Permeke and Ensor ‘t was their home to paint in

noteworthy museums, where you can explore

works by the COBRA movement, of Belgium post war

the Peperbusse is all that today can be found

of the church – now replaced –  that burned to the ground

museums, the pier promenade, casino and more

the Mercator marina, what can you wish more?

my weekend in Ostend was too short, that I’m sure

I’ll surely be back, for a day or even more

Rundskop (2011) (Bullhead)

New Belgian movie by Michaël R. Roskam. It touches the subject of the hormone mafia, which is a sensitive topic here in Belgium.


The story centers on Jacky Vanmarsenille, a cattle farmer in Limburg, that deals in hormone induced cattle. Together with a friend veterinarian, he is taking part in a possible deal to do business with a shady beef handler of West-Flanders. But he senses that something’s not right with this beef handler… that the deal is a dodgey one.

At the same time, the police are investigating the murder of one of their investigators, who was known to be after the hormone maffia. Diederick, an informant to the police, works for the beef handler who is responsible for the cop murder.

It is when the beef handler and Diederick meet Jacky and the veterinarian to meet as to discuss the deal, that Jacky takes us back to when he was a kid. Back then, Diderick and Jacky were best friends and hung out at Jacky’s father’s farm. Untill that one day…


I really liked the movie. It is dramatic and it takes you completely in the life of Jacky in a very profound way. I was intrigued by this character that is huge and raw.

I thought this was really a movie just on the hormone mafia and what had been in the news a few years back, but that was just the backdrop to the story. It really is mainly on Jacky… described by the police as Bullhead.


Carless Brussels, just for a day

This Sunday it was again carless Sunday in Brussels, as was in many other major cities, I heard.

It was fun to see how bicycles and pedestrians took over the roads again. Though some guys, and I don’t mean to put a bull’s-eye on anyone in particular like the man who was driving his Porsche Carrera, could just not get into the spirit of things and leave the ol’ four wheels at home.

What is great is that it coincides with monument’s day, which means that most monuments or institutions are free to visit. Cause some you need to pay for during the year and others are closed to the public.

We visited the Brussels Stock Exchange, or La Bourse de Bruxelles, which other times is closed. The building is located centrally in Brussels and is most times a meeting point for people living in Brussels, when going out. Or surrounded by tourists, taking many pictures. I had never entered it and must say that the main hall is big and beautiful. But that was a bit all of it. We got a guide telling us the history of the building and it’s activities. What was nice were the sculptures by Rodin. I’m trying to find online what they represent, but haven’t found it yet. The last woman represents Victory and the second one Craftsmanship… but am not entirely sure.

But as much as I love carless Sundays, I think if we want to shake things up and make people aware of the level of pollution and air quality, to do so during a week day… but that would just be messing the system up…

Daan “Icon”, Belgium’s answer to Johnny Cash

I shouldn’t say that actually. Because you cannot compare Daan’s work to Cash’s. Just that this song has a similar feel, and the voice has a hint of the man.

It’s been stuck in my head since they’ve played it on the radio. It’s from his new album “Manhay”.
I’ve put the lyrics below, cause it’s just delicious to sing along to. Enjoy.

Continue reading “Daan “Icon”, Belgium’s answer to Johnny Cash”

Unspoken (2008)

The new movie by Fien Troch is one about a couple, Grace and Lucas, whose daughter disappeared 4 years before.

The story takes a look at how the couple goes on, in some way living rather next to each other than with each other. The focus of the movies does not lie on finding the girl again. Though that is what is unspoken for Lucas, the father. To him she is still out there. He sees her in his dreams or when he lies awake at night. She suddenly stands there in the room, watching him, though it can’t be. He even goes out to see if she could be working the streets or in sleazy bars… He is not dealing and even takes off for a while leaving Grace with another disappearance to cope with.

Grace, however, does not tell Lucas how she is coping with having lost Lisa. In her mind she isn’t coming back. Though contradictory, she does hang out at the train station, just to look if she mightn’t spot her somewhere in the crowd. Both Grace and Lucas have this inability, it seems, to really be outspoken about how they feel. Does Grace feel love for Lucas? She can’t even say it back to him. Though it’s clear she needs him. But is need the same as love?

Lucas loves his wife, he tells her in a passionate moment, but on the other hand, he has been with another woman.

The film is strong and makes you focus on the couple because of the use of close-ups. Almost every shot makes it impossible for you to see what is going on in the background, because you are drawn to their faces, their subtle changes in features, emotions layed bare. That makes it a strong movie in my eyes because whether you like it or not, as a viewer, you feel the pain and hurt and awkwardness of the persons on screen.

I’d recommend this movie. It’s worthwhile.

Zinneke Parade 2008

This Saturday, the fifth annual Zinneke Parade was held in Brussels.

Zinneke Parade? What is that? The parade is a city project that has as goal to bring the inhabitants of Brussels, associations and clubs, schools and artists from the different parts of Brussels (which also includes 19 Brussels’ communities next to the city centre). It’s actually a social and an artistic project that has as goal to bring people together. But it even goes further than Brussels. There was even a collaboration with associations from Bologna (to make the human tumultuous wave!).

What does Zinneke stand for then? It is the name the inhabitants of Brussels gave to the Little Zenne, the river that surrounds the city and keeps it safe from floods. But it also is the name for street dogs… that in the old days, I’m speaking medieval times, got thrown into the river when too many street dogs were around. But today, you call someone a Zinneke when: it stands for someone of a non identified background, symbol of the cosmopolitan and multicultural Brussels.

The parade took place in the city centre of Brussels and wherever you stood along the parade track, you were sure to see every group, because for 3 hours scheduled, they went in a loop so that they got to the point they started a second time.

The theme this year was water. As a source for life, the molecule H2O, water in myths and legends with stories about pirates or water as a metaphor for cleanliness… Each group in the parade chose an aspect of water to portray. Either political in the sense of how water distribution is done or waited. Or magical with pirate ships and enormous swans, while people dressed in blue acted out a tumultuous wave going back and forth.

It was the first time I went to see this parade. I never knew of it existence. Maybe because outside of Brussels I hadn’t noticed any posters. I do love these kinds of events, where people join in the streets to have a good time, friends and family. And seeing how much fun the participants have, how much fun they must have gotten while preparing their costumes and in the rehearsals. Inter cultural. It has again made me appreciate Brussels in a new way.

To make an exact text, I used as a source the official website of the Zinneke Parade.

Brussels: a New Year’s Eve without fireworks? Come on!?

Today on the news (Dutch article/videoEnglish article), they said that the mayor of Brussels, Freddy Thielemans, decided after a coordination meeting with the Crisis Team of Foreign Affairs, not to have fireworks at midnight in Brussels on the Mont des Art/Kunstberg. We have been in an alert phase during the entire holidays to prevent possible attacks during the festivities. And they will be upheld till January 3rd.

The Christmas fair “Winter Wonders” is going to close that evening at 6 P.M. instead of 10 P.M. as usual (the ice rink at 8 P.M.). Good thing I went yesterday then! (not that I skate or so, just like walking around and soak up the atmosphere.) And caught a ride on the Big Wheel to see the city illuminated from above. It was the fanciest wheel I ever set foot in: closed, cosy and heated gondolas! It was as comfy as the inside of a car! Never seen!

I’m a bit bummed about the fireworks thing. I was looking forward to go and see that. How can I kiss my boyfriend at midnight if there are no ear drum havocking sounds of gigantic fireworks around! With many of the usual and fun animations and attractions closed – it will be a strange evening I guess – and the bars will be really full as well, more so then usual I suspect.

Anyway – it is sad that what should be the start of a new year full of promise and new beginnings, fear and caution rule. We might not live in war and sometimes have the feeling it is far from our beds and all, yet it all still creeps through in our day-to-day live. Such things make me think.

previous Christmas in Brussels at Grand Place (Grande Place/ Grote Markt)

“De Japanse tuin” by Pieter Aspe

Dutch translation below – no literal transcription!!

Pieter Aspe is a famous crime novelist in Flanders (Belgium). His novel series with Deputy Commissioner Pieter Van In, in the setting of Bruges received several awards. In 2001 he won the Hercule Poirot Award for his novel Sweet Sacrifice (Zoenoffer).

Unfortunately, the novels are not translated into English. A pity actually, because next to the Colin Dexter’s (Inspector Morse) and Grisham’s of the world, Pieter Aspe is right up there.

There is even a television series called Aspe with actor Herbert Flack in the lead role, shot entirely in Bruges. I haven’t read all his books, just a couple. De Japanse tuin or The Japanese Garden is one of two short novels he wrote besides the known series with Van In, only 128 pages – very short considering his other work. This detective thriller is set in Hasselt, another major city in Flanders.

Hasselt. Outside a nightclub a young girl finds the body of a young man in the water. Chief Inspector Lies Rutten and her collegue Rudi Nelissen, lead the investigation. Their only clue to the boy’s identity is his library card. But when this takes them to a squatted building, they find a whole other story to what goes on in the city of Hasselt.

It reads easily and you can get through it in less than an afternoon. The characters aren’t flawless: Lies made some mistakes in the past that haunt her and Rudi tries to kick the bottle sinds his son was found dead. The story itself is exiting, but I feel that if Aspe would have written a longer version, he could have tied some loose ends. And halfway the story, I got the feeling something didn’t add up in continuation. Although the main story concluded, the side stories could have closed in an other way. nevertheless, good read.
Wie in Vlaanderen kent misdaadschrijver Pieter Aspe niet? Ik durf het niet te vragen – hoewel ik het net deed.
Ik heb onlangs De Japanse tuin gelezen, één van Aspe’s twee korte novellen naast de gekende Van In serie. Het telt slechts 128 pagina’s, wat in vergelijking met zijn ander werk toch kort is. Deze triller situeert zich in Hasselt. (wiki-link)

Hasselt. Buiten een discotheek vindt een meisje het lichaam van een jongen in het water. Hoofdinspecteur Lies Rutten en haar collega Rudi Nelissen krijgen de leiding over het onderzoek. Op het lichaam van de jongen vinden ze enkel een Hasseltse bibliotheekkaart, het enige spoor naar zijn identiteit. Wanneer dit spoor hen leidt naar een kraakpand, vinden ze er het lichaam van zijn vriendin, een junky. Wat volgt werpt een ander licht op het leven en praktijken in de Hasseltse stad.

Het leest zo vlot dat je op minder dan een namiddag het boek uit hebt. De personages zijn niet zonder fouten: Lies wordt geconfronteerd met enkele misstappen uit haar verleden en Rudi vecht tegen zijn drankproblemen sinds de dood van zijn zoon.
Het verhaal is spannend, maar toch heb ik het gevoel dat enkele zaken onverklaard bleven. Wat misschien niet het geval had geweest indien Aspe een langere versie zou hebben geschreven. Verder had ik het gevoel dat er iets niet klopte, maar ik kan er mijn vinger niet op leggen wat.
Hoewel het hoofdverhaal mooi werd afgerond, had hij de secundaire verhaallijnen beter kunnen uitdiepen. Toch een goed boekje.

The illusion of happiness, or not

I stumbled on an article called: ‘Belgians should be happier’ http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?subchannel_id=24&story_id=38605

Feeling addressed, I just wanted to know how happy they believe I should be. Apparently, young adults in general are happy, but pure happiness really kicks in after 55. Something to look forward to, I guess. Although many ‘over 55ers’ I know do nothing but complain about how things were better or used to be or talk about the fact they’ve started eating prunes in the morning (why do I meet such people? Prunes! I hate prunes.)

Location, location, location is key in being happy in Belgium as well, according to the writer. In the north, Flanders, you should imagine a scene from Snow White with little birdies and bunnies jumping along in the sunshine … and in the south, Wallonia, still sunshine but less birdies and bunnies. Hm. I live right in between both? So sunshine and one bunny for me?

Who did they consult for this poll? I don’t remember being asked? Can you generalize happiness to an entire nation? Yes, they take income, education, relationships into consideration. All valid elements to use. But it’s a bit personal and depends on what happens around you.

Maybe as a Belgian I should be happier than I am. Happiness, it’s something we all reach for, fingers outstretched. Catching it is a goal in life, saying it isn’t is lying. But people shouldn’t occupy themselves by telling others how they should be feeling. This article made me question the way my life is going and I don’t like it when articles do that. A little ignorance is bliss (as Calvin would say to Hobbes!).