Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Paul Verhoeven, Director

There's an interesting Cafebabel.com 'snack' on the Dutch film director responsible for ‘Total Recall’, ‘Robocop’ and ‘Basic Instinct’ ...

Paul Verhoeven answers questions and talks about his latest movie, Black Book ('Zwartboek', 2006).

What is special about this Dutch director? Well, besides his enviable sense of timing, he has an acceptance of human beings that has allowed him to connect with many types of public, whilst acknowledging criticism at the same time. ‘It would be a lie to say that the world is full of decent people, because man will be man; nearly all of us lie at some point. There aren’t goodies and baddies in real life. This is the case with the Nazis in my last film. Over the years, a stereotype has developed of the German soldier whose only mission is to kill, kill, kill. It just wasn’t like that. There were also decent people who were not involved in all of that.’ As the words pour out of his mouth, his gaze is fixed on mine. His tone of voice, somewhere between the serious and the sarcastic, belongs to somebody who really believes what he is saying. He has convinced me.
If you want to build a ship, don´t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.

- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Thanks to Workhappy.net .

Monday, January 29, 2007

Day Two - Belgie

We wandered today ... through het Steen, along streets dotted with small boutiques full of end of sale season specials, into het Elfde Gebod for a hearty lunch and later, a German Kaffeehaus for good coffee to sustain us.

Gert whipped up a fish dish and tonight is all about 'what happened to Joe?' on an unnamed British drama.

A good day ... if one doesn't mention the horror and laughter that followed the tram door closing unexpectedly, leaving Yakup to run after us as fast as he could.

Lisen and I climbed out at the next stop, just a few hundred metres down the track and waited ... just typing this has me giggling again.

And there was the problem with the 10-ride tram and bus ticket ... you can't put it in twice for 2 people dammit. I wandered off to confirm it was true and paid for a new single ride ticket ... wisely because close to the city the ticket inspectors boarded the tram and one really doesn't want to be caught in an unticketed state.

A good day ... really!

How to describe these last few days ...

And really, it has only been two days, but so full of good things that it feels like I'm trying to write of a week ...

Saturday we finished cleaning the apartment.
Some muttering took place but we survived all and drove towards Brussels after lunch, heading to the country home of two New Zealanders.

Mike, Sue, Forrest and Frodo made us welcome, standing the camera and my 'just one more' style of photography. The 'boys' are my new poster dogs.

Pineapple lumps, packets of NZ raspberry jelly and a Hone Tuwhare cd were treasures to be taken away when we left and dinner was stunning. It was a truly delicious part of our Saturday.

We drove off into the night around 9pm, heading for Brussels Airport where Lisen and Yakup were arriving, fresh from Istanbul and a teaching life continued after I left.

Lisen was my mentor, colleague and friend at Sisli Terakki and it was finally time for us to catch up. They came laden with gifts we simply didn't know to expect ... white Turkish cheese and olives, a Tupperware container of my beloved Borek, dolma in cans, almond biscuits, chocolate covered coffee beans and a new treat I didn't know.

There was a stunning Paşabahçe bowl as a wedding gift and a much-missed Turkish teapot - 2 pots high and specially for making cay Turkish-style.

We had informed them that they had to bring swimsuits and plan nothing for Sunday. They obeyed, although Yakup did ask Lisen if I was expecting them to swim in the sea here ... as if I would.

Sunday morning brunch and we headed for Spa ... our small gift to them, 3 hours in Thermes de Spa . I had been racking my brain for some way to fastforward Lisen relaxing after a challenging year and we succeeded, if the people we picked up after 3 hours were a measure of success. They had loved it - thank you Alison .

Part of the delight I find in having people come stay is the conversations we have. We had so many 'people and work stories' to catch up on and of course, my life has changed so dramatically from those Istanbul days when we were oftentimes stressed beyond measure ... stress that was usually balanced out by the city and the treasures found there.

Today is the Antwerpen city tour day ... trams and old city wandering, a secondhand bookshop perhaps, designer clothing streets and department stores on the Meir.

Tot straks.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

She entered the story knowing she would emerge from it feeling she had been immersed in the lives of others, in plots that had stretched back twenty years, her body full of sentences and moments, as if awaking from sleep with a heaviness caused by unremembered dreams.

Michael Ondaatje.
from The English Patient

Friday, January 26, 2007

Albert Normandin, Photographer

Manic found another unusual and delicious photography website and sent word of it.

Albert Normandin's website is fun to wander through and his about can do nothing but make you smile.

Thanks Manic.

Antwerpen - Matadi - Buenos Aires, National Day of Poetry

My camera and I wandered along to the National Day of Poetry performance at ATLAS, here in Antwerpen.

According to the publicity material, the gathering was given the title Antwerpen - Matadi - Buenos Aires, in recognition of the history of trade between those 3 continents back in the 16th century.

Ships would sail to Matadi, in the Congo and take slaves to America where they were sold. The ships would then fill their holds with goods from the plantations ... destination Europe.

The poets names give you a taste of the multi-national flavour of the evening: Ivan Godfroid, Orlando Verde, Giuliana Chirinos, Antonio Caminos, Gerardo Salinas, Daniël Tuyizere, Jah Pablo Black and Wilfried Defillet

It was superb. Poems were read in Dutch, English, Spanish and French by the performing poets who easily held audience attention. Musical interludes by Ara Akopian on his violin and accordianist Bernard Van Lent were simply delicious and made me wish for that flash ... now.

Anyway, favourite photograph from the evening was this one ... the hands of a poet as he read.


Brother, originally uploaded by - di.

Today's Photo Friday challenge was titled Brother.

Goksin Sipahioglu, a knight of the Légion d'honneur

PDN Online is running the story of how Turkish photographer Goksin Sipahioglu, the founder of the Sipa Press photo agency, was awarded one of France's highest honors on Friday.

He was recently the subject of a solo retrospective at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art called "Right Place Right Time."

Sipahioglu was born in Turkey in 1926. He studied at the University of Istanbul and went on to work as a newspaper reporter and editor in Turkey. He came to France in 1966 to work as the Paris correspondent for a Turkish newspaper.

Sipahioglu founded Sipa Press in France in 1969 with American journalist Phyllis Springer, his future wife. Sipa Press nurtured many beginning photojournalists and grew to rival larger agencies Gamma and Sygma.

Sipa, now part of French media company Sud Communication, employs more than 100 people in its Paris office and has 25 million images in its archive, according to the company's Web site.

The Légion d'honneur, an order established by Napoleon in 1802, recognizes outstanding distinction in fields such as the military, government, arts, teaching and industry.

Tim Mitchell's Website

Manic sent news of some photographic treasure he discovered online ...

Tim Mitchell, artist representative, has a rather stunning site , where many photographers display their portfolios.

It's worth wandering through if you have time.

Thanks Manic.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Travel and Life Writing Journey to Morocco

Kasbahs, Mint Tea & Medinas

Why do we travel?
Why do we write?
What and how do we see'?
And how do we convey what we see?

I had mail from Sandy over at The View from Fez this morning ... he sent news of a rather stunning opportunity for people to travel and write in Morocco.

Read on ...

The mail is written for anyone who might like to flit off to explore "kasbahs, mint tea and medinas" with Sandy McCutcheon and Beth this March.

They are leading a travel/life-writing study tour of Casablanca, Tangier, Fez and Marrakech, with 9 days in a traditional riad in the labyrinthine medina of Fez.

This tour's specialty is not only new eyes to snap word-pictures with, but writer and broadcaster Sandy's insider knowledge of Morocco (where he lives half the year in a restored 400 yr old riad) allowing us access to local writers, artisans and customs/knowledge.

This is a tour for those who want to experience writing 'in place' (outside of our own place), while getting under the skin of a foreign country and culture.

Note: there are prices for flying out of Australia and seperate prices for those who begin their journey in Morocco.

I shall now go and find grief counselling for myself - as I'm not financially ready for that particular delicious adventure however maybe you are ...

And just by the way, Sandy's a successful and much-published writer. I enjoyed his book Black Widow , devouring it as only good books are devoured. You can find a list of his books here and just click on the title for a review.

About Bacon ...

Happiness is ... realising that there are 2 rashers of bacon left in the fridge and that they are all yours, to do with what you please. We rarely have bacon.

And while I can discuss, sympathise, empathise and appear to agree with all the reasons why one shouldn't eat pork, or meat for that matter ... the smell of bacon cooking is a childhood memory from those days when life was simple and good.

As I type this, those 2 rashers of bacon are tucked into 2 slices of bread, cooking with cheese in the toastie pie maker ... ahhh alles goed.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tafelgenoten, Antwerpen

Late last year, my phone rang as I was boarding a tram carrying 5 enlarged photographs and a bag of groceries. It was Andy Fierens, inviting me and my native English to take part in a poetry exposition called Tafelgenoten .

When I left New Zealand, I made myself a small promise that I would say yes to all adventures that didn't appear to involve the police and foreign jails, with one or two other safety promises installed in the small print.

Andy explained that the project involved me reading a poem into a camera, with the film then being installed inside a book where it would become part of a larger exhibition of many voices ... Spanish, Iraqi, Dutch, Polish and etc, to be displayed at Permeke, one of Antwerpen's public libraries.

Of course I said yes, it sounded like a marvellous adventure ... if you discounted the fact that the photographer who hates to be photographed had to read for a camera.

The poem arrived ... ee cummings 'I like my body when it is with your' .

Coming from a country that was settled by Victorians and dour religious folk from Scotland, I blushed. New Zealand, American and Canadian friends fell about laughing ... 'You're going to read that?!'

Indeed I was, not only that but when I mentioned the raunchiness of said poem to the Europeans, they were surprised ... wondering what the problem was. I muttered something about the childlike innocence of the 'colonials'.

Last night those who read were invited to the official opening of Tafelgenoten. We were able to view the collection.

It was fantastic. The concept is brilliant ... they had selected a range of voices from the many languages that are spoken in the city of Antwerpen - last count, I heard that there are something like 165 different nationalities living here - filmed us, inserted the film into a rather nice little collection of hardcover books with a translation in Dutch on the inside and laid them out on tables with headphones attached.

I survived viewing my little book film, having been so involved in reading the poem, I had no real memory of anything else that I might have done ... had I fidgeted or twitched, blushed or stammered. From memory, last night I was the serious woman reading one of 2 English poems. The other poem was read by Nigel Williams, a rather famous English stand-up comedian who lives here and performs in Dutch.

Afterwards, we all moved to the cafe attached to the library ... and it was there that I met a poet or two, a photojournalist and Mario, the cameraman and film editor for the project. Websites came up, as they do ... and it turns out that you can visit his his cultural magazine-style website here .

It's well worth exploring and he has a superb interview, in English, with Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author of the book Shadow of the Wind online. To reach it, click on 'Meer Boeken op Kingkong', then select 'interviews' and you'll come to a list ...

Anyway, grand adventure over, here are the details of Tafelgenoten:
Tafelgenoten loopt van 25 januari 2007 (Gedichtendag!) tot 24 maart 2007.
Locatie: Bibliotheek Permeke - Comprimeerzone eerste verdieping, De Coninckplein, 2060 Antwerpen
De toegang is gratis. De tentoonstelling kan worden bezocht tijdens de openingsuren van de bibliotheek.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gert came home and invited me to attend a political reception with him last night and I went, curious to meet these people I had made assumptions about for a year without meeting them.

They were lovely.
One couple had family who had moved to New Zealand and they were taking a cruise there, flying into and departing from Australia. Not only that, they had been teachers and are travellers ... we had plenty to talk about.

I met a Greek woman who had been here so long, and the chairwoman was so much more than I had imagined ...

The reality of people is often disarming I think.
Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will—whatever we may think. They flower spontaneously out of the demands of our natures—and the best of them lead us not only outwards in space, but inwards as well. Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.

—Laurence Durrel,
Bitter Lemons

I haven't wandered enough ...

Found over at the Travel Rants blog . Thanks Darren.

Letter on the Road, Pablo Neruda

A little bit of yum for your day ... that would be 'yum' according to Di.
You can find more translated Neruda poetry over at Red Poppy.net

Letter on the Road

Farewell, but you will be
with me, you will go within
a drop of blood circulating in my veins
or outside, a kiss that burns my face
or a belt of fire at my waist.
My sweet, accept
the great love that came out of my life
and that in you found no territory
like the explorer lost
in the isles of bread and honey.
I found you after
the storm,
the rain washed the air
and in the water
your sweet feet gleamed like fishes.

Adored one, I am off to my fighting...

Translation by Donald S. Walsh,
Pablo to Matilde, 1952

Interview with Pam Mandel, Nerds Eye View Blogger

Pam is a freelance writer who divides her time between Seattle, Washington, and her husband’s tiny town in the middle of Austria. She has written about destinations for Snowshoe Magazine, World Hum, Travelblogs, International Living.

You can check out her blog here .

Erasmus and Cafe Babel

'Erasmus is the symbol of what Europe does best. A Europe of facts, of results.'

I love finding new Cafe Babel articles in my inbox and one of the titles turned my head today.

Subject: Erasmus .

Wandering through the stunningly beautiful streets that wind round the university of Salamanca, I remember wishing my daughter had had the opportunity to have the experience of international study in a place like Spain.

Anyway, the Eramsmus Project turns 20 this year ... an interesting selection of articles here.

Is it possible to locate a man given only his photograph and first name?

You have a little time ...?

The story goes like this ...

A UK-based game company is testing the theory of six degrees of separation. They have given us a photograph of a man, a name, and the Japanese characters that translate to "Find me".

We are each only five to seven people away from any target in the world. Someone, somewhere, knows Satoshi. Help spread the word and track down this person.

Found via the blogs of Shashikiran and Pogue .

Don't Dream It's Over, Crowded House

A little musical interlude so that I can immerse myself in some homesickness ...

Thanks Liza.

3rd Culture Kids

What is a third culture kid ?

"An individual who, having spent a significant part of the developmental years in a culture other than the parents' culture, develops a sense of relationship to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Elements from each culture are incorporated into the life experience, but the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar experience."
-- David C. Pollock

An interesting subject that I first read of over on beyond the desert .

You can read more, if curious, over on Among Worlds Magazine .

It struck a chord, not because I was a child who lived everywhere but because I have moved constantly since turning 20 ... and while I love New Zealand and have that place as the place where my roots went deep into the land, I also fell in love with living in Istanbul, and related to Italy and Spain as places I would love to live for a while ... perhaps.

Who knows.

beyond the desert, a blog

I discovered a rather delicious blog this morning ... beyond the desert .

The writer has a way with words that is really rather beautiful; an idea enhanced perhaps because she captured so beautifully the way that I felt once upon a time ...

I want to copy and paste the entire post over here but I'll give you a taste of it instead and if you like it, then you can wander over at will.

An excerpt:
I didn’t foresee that separating
Would lead to unexpected encounters and engrossing conversations with people I had never met before.
I didn’t expect the outpouring of warmth, compassion and support that I have experienced since I moved out.
I didn’t know that I would find myself looking forward
To the rest of my life.
I didn’t believe that I would feel stronger
Now that I am on my own.
I didn’t think that I would have the confidence
To face the constant challenges and carry on.
I never dreamed that I would be in this place at this time in my life
And that it would feel OK.
I didn’t realize to what extent an ending
Can turn out to be a new beginning.

Monday, January 22, 2007

V-grrrl's White Chili Soup

Last week, v-grrrl whipped up this stunning soup while I was visiting her.

White Chili Recipe

About 1 quart of chicken broth
2-3 cans of plain Great Northern Beans
1 or 2 4 oz. cans of diced green chiles
About 1 c. water
About two cups of cooked chicken or turkey
1 medium to large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Saute the onion and garlic in a splash of olive oil until tender. If necessary, you can can cook two diced boneless chicken breasts in the oil at the same time.

Add the broth and water. I normally drain the beans of most of the liquid before adding them. I don't drain the chiles. (I only added one can when Di was here.)

Add the dry seasonings, bring to a boil and then lower temp. Cover and let simmer for about an hour.

You can adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. You can add corn to this recipe too, if you like.

Makes about eight servings.

It's truly delicious!


This seems like a useful site for women who want to travel alone.

Their newsletters arrive in my inbox periodically ... I thought I would just pass it on.

Andris Apse and Radio New Zealand

I loved Radio New Zealand , most specifically Kim Hill interviews with interesting people on Saturday mornings.

I went searching this morning, exploring podcast technology actually and found Kim interviewing Andris Apse ... a leading New Zealand landscape photographer. You can see his photography here .

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hrant Dink News from Erkan Saka's anthropological blog

Erkan is covering the media reports on the death of journalist Hrant Dink .

He posts: What Did Turkish Columnists Write About Hrant Dink's Murder?

“I have never called anyone a “traitor” in my whole life. I have not even called Ali Kemal a “traitor.” I am using this word for the first time for [Dink's] murderer. Yes, who ever did this, is a true traitor [to Turkey]. He is an enemy of Turkey, the Turkish Republic and all her citizens... Trust me, this murder will make two groups of people very happy – the racist Turks and the racist Armenians. All others should go into a deep mourning starting today.”
-- Ertugrul Ozkok, Hurriyet
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
and you know what you know.
And you are the one who’ll decide where you’ll go.
Oh the places you’ll go.

Dr. Seuss

Borrowed from Ascender Rises Above .
Thank you.

Omniglot ... who knew

I found this site that has Bon appétit in many languages.

Might be useful ...
PDnewswire wrote about PhotoInduced.com. I went searching and read the about over there ...

PhotoInduced.com is the first stop for all of your photographic needs. Whether you need help taking a better snapshot of your kids or you need reviews on the latest professional software.

We’ll help point you in the right direction for the answers.

While digital innovations in photography continue to provide us with amazing ways to share our lives, they can often be somewhat overwhelming to approach and use.

PhotoInduced.com will give you the means and knowledge to use these technologies.

Why wade through scores of search pages to find the information you need, when you can go to one main source?

We do the searching for you and put it all in one convenient location.
Have you ever found yourself wondering about bioluminescent organisms ?

Matthew pointed me in the direction of this Bioglyphs Project .

Dank u wel, Matthew.

Guests coming ...

Rumour has it that the freezing 'real winter' weather is due to arrive here in Antwerpen next week meanwhile we have the excitement of friends flying in from Turkey next weekend ... therefore today is the day we spring clean.

We're wanting Lisen and Yakup to taste as much of this part of Europe as is possible, without exhausting anyone in the process. We have lots of Belgie on the list, with them wandering over to Amsterdam and Paris alone.

I love preparing for guests ... the cleaning that I find so uninspiring on a day to day basis isn't so bad when friends are flying in. Planning the local food and the drink, studying up on special places in Antwerpen, Brussels, Bruges and Ghent ... hoping to slip Leuven and Ieper into the mix ... we'll see how their stamina and our time management goes.

There's a lunch at Het Elfde Gebod and another lunch over at El Vergel in Brussels. There is the sculpture museum, Rubens House and parks like Rivierenhof and/or Tevuren ... and then there's a B&B in the Alsace region calling their name.

Back to the cleaning ... I'll leave you with a photograph from Gert's Istanbul collection ... he took this one in the Underground Cistern in Sultanahmet.

Tot straks.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Imagine ....

Few would even dare swim the Amazon river bank to bank but Slovenian Martin Strel plans to swim 3,375 miles down the world's greatest river, defying piranhas, snakes, crocodiles and even sharks.

ViV Photo Gallery

I recently discovered ViV Photo Gallery and was wandering there this afternoon when I found this stunning bird photograph amongst the gallery images.

Vincent is a Belgian photographer moonlighting as a senior project manager (or that's how it seems to me, as some of his work is quite stunning). You can read more about him here

Friday, January 19, 2007

For years the memory of that beauty and that fear fermented in me until I realized it wasn't about the lizard. I wanted to capture something that was even more elusive: I wanted to find the limits of my imagination itself.

Jim Bridwell, climber

The Essential Pablo Neruda

I've been searching for information about a book with the title The Essential Neruda - Selected Poems .

I found the site of the editor, Mark Eisner , and he writes of the journey that was his role in the book: Then, on one of my frequent visits to La Chascona, his house in Santiago, I met a young Chilean woman. She was working for Neruda’s Foundation while doing graduate work in feminist Latin American literature at the poet’s old school, the University of Chile.

She let me sit at Pablo’s desk, with his framed picture of Walt Whitman on it. She introduced me to her professors and members of the Foundation, and it was in these conservations there that the idea for this book was conceived: in honor of the centennial of Neruda’s birth in the year 2004, a new book of translations would be born as a fresh voice, involving an unprecedented collaboration with academics to better empower the translator-poets.

Red Poppy has a lovely write-up and a place to purchase the book here .

Mark also has a blog, In Search of Pablo Neruda .

Thursday, January 18, 2007

It's been an odd few days ... I find myself trying to avoid reading newspapers and if not avoiding, then I stop myself from writing news of what I find there.

Der Spiegel comes into my inbox daily, as do Poynter Online articles and reading the bad news and idiocy of those in power has become exhausting.

Today I started to write up the article about the German Turk held in one of the 21st concentration camps but why would I do that ... why would I continue to write up the story of a man who was abandoned by 2, possibly 3 governments ... why would I write a challenge to those who rule countries.

It's tiring, they don't listen ... they don't change.

A stormy day in Antwerpen

There's a storm rattling the windows as I sit here ...

I was out early this morning, re-reading the ee cummings poems for the exhibition on language that opens next week. First time round there was too much background noise on the video.

I arrived at our meeting and felt like the 'wild colonial' due to my windblown, rained-on appearance. Anyway, it was good to see Andy and Mario again, with Andy kindly teaching me to say 'I spit on you' in Antwerp dialect. I thought I might greet Gert with that tonight ... a little fluency from the kiwi.

You know, we have these heavy double-glazed windows in the lounge and the glass is moving far more than glass should move inside aluminium frames.
Happy I'm not.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Part II

Well the day I was out photographing the donkey below, I was out with Alison and she was photographing me photographing the donkey.

The donkey and I had no idea but here's the result ... it made me smile.

PA Required, urgently

I need a PA ...

I have never had need of one and hadn't even really clearly defined what a PA was about ... now I NEED one.

I need someone who can act on my ideas, who is artistic, creative and can cook Spanish or Turkish food on a daily basis, getting into the Spanish habit of nice breakfast, fabulous 2pm lunch, with a little tapas and red wine in the evenings, someone who can pick up on my inefficencies.

Not only that, I need a teacher of either Spanish or Turkish.

So, to bullet point my needs:
-a creative, artistic personal assistant to bring Di's 'ideas' into being
-organised and efficient, managing all paperwork and real world demands placed on Di
-able to cook either Spanish or Turkish cruisine
-fluent and able to teach either Spanish or Turkish to a New Zealander who has generations of mono-lingual ancestors in her genetic make-up

I guess this is all about having an active and successful fantasy life ...
There's an interesting article on Middle Eastern blogging over here .

Written by Alan D Abbey he talks of how Middle Eastern bloggers may be cracking open the closed doors of the sealed societies in Arab countries.
There are things that can be controlled and things that can't.
Somewhere in the spaces between the two, we fashion our art and our lives.

Jim Bridwell, climber

Of course ... if you just come here for the odd pieces news

Then this might infuriate you or make you lose hope that anything resembling intelligent thought goes on in the minds of the people who run countries ...

Are you ready?

The Pentagon is ironically responsible for the illegal sale to China and Iran of United States-made missile components and high-technology parts for US fighter jets and helicopters.

So says the Associated Press. In an exclusive expose, AP reports that the US defense department sold fighter jet parts to a broker who was secretly working for Iran ... even after the US customs service had intercepted that same equipment on its way to Iran from a previous sale to another broker. Those parts were for F-14 Tomcat fighters.

Wikio is the new online news surface being touted as something close to the perfect online news service according to Katja Riefler at Poynter Online

She writes: Pierre Chappaz started the site because he thought Europe needed a Digg of its own. Wikio describes itself as being "a personalized page of news, including a news search engine that searches media sites, blogs and member publications." Like Google News, it automatically compiles news by crawling a lot of news sites.

Subject: Posts lost, posts rewritten

You know those days when you create a post that took you an hour of wandering because you were wanting to put together a particular collection of sites that inspire you ...

And you worked away happily because you knew it would be useful as a resource and reminder in future ...

And you went to this site that promised good photography and something odd happened and you were trapped there by an error message and so you selected control alt delete and EVERYTHING closed and you lost that blog post you had almost completed ...

Coincidently, Ani DeFranco's song Untouchable Face was playing and much as I prefer not to use bad language here, you can imagine that something like the chorus of that song might have been said as I lost all I had written and researched... and the coincidence of the song playing ... the song that continued to play here despite every other page closing ... didn't make me smile at all ... (Later: thanks Alison, the song title I had was the other, less polite title)

Starting again ...

I was looking for inspiring sites to get me and my camera working together again after this horrible flu/cold emptied me ... after a Christmas break that doesn't feel real due to me locating myself in the northern hemisphere where, weatherwise, all is wrong over Christmas which is really about summer and long holidays, Central Otago and happy people.

I had begun my search with an old favourite of mine, opening Sabrina Ward Harrison's site . Her story of all this is inspiring.

She led me into Hearts and Bones and there was an interesting interview with his arty family here .

Then I remembered Paris Parfait's post about a year of living gorgeously and links found over there.

WorkHappy.com turned my head with this quote by Steve Jobs and lured me in to for a read.
I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.

If it wasn't midmorning, I would definately raise a glass to the idea of perseverance paying off when establishing a business ...

Okay, I think this is all.

It goes without saying that my first post was far better ...

An interesting article on the Sarkozy creature

The Guardian newspaper is running story on French politician Mr Sarkozy who was elected as the official candidate of the centre-right UMP party. Yet, given that his was the only name on the ballot paper, he made strikingly heavy weather of his victory.

Mr Sarkozy is provocative and ruthless and his electoral appeal - which combines anti-immigrant populism, middle-class social conservatism and extensive economic deregulation

Thanks Erkan .

Seth Godin and the smartest orgs online

I discovered Seth Godin's blog this morning and was impressed by his post listing the 59 Smartest Orgs Online .

He's a bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change and I thought people might be interested in checking him out.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Europe's Shame ...

Der Speigel is running depressing EU news ...

Bulgaria and Romania's accession to the EU has allowed Europe's far-right parties to form a new political group in the European Parliament.

When blogs speak European and an interview with Claudio Magris

‘I feel European, but for me, Europe is best described by a citation from Saint Augustin: When I don't ask myself what it is, I know what it is. When I ask myself, I no longer know.

Cafe Babel is always full of interesting articles and interviews ...

They ran a series on Blogging back in December with a series of articles from across the spectrum.

And then there's the interview with Claudio Magris – ‘When Europe is one state’

Magris can't wait until ‘Europe is one state - maybe a federal one, but with a real parliament.’ And this needs to happen at the earliest possible opportunity. Europe, unlike Oriental or American culture, maintains a ‘peculiar relationship with the individual and the whole. It’s a society in which the emphasis has always been placed on the individual, but not in an anarchic way.’

Europe thrives on its cultural, historical, social and literary heritage which brings the individual to a ‘progressive self-interest in which the ‘I’ also encompasses the community.’

Sunday, January 14, 2007

This week was National Delurking Week ... it's the time when people who read regularly but never leave comments, take pity on my intense curiousity about everything ... including them, and leave me a comment, just to say hi maybe.

If you have blogs, I'd love to wander over and read the people who visit me here. I started this blog so that I wouldn't have to write 40 seperate letters to friends and family round the world and ended up with a more varied audience than I expected.

And if you're not comfortable with commenting, then no worries ... just a thank you for finding things here that keep bringing you back.

Thanks Mausi , I 'borrowed' the delurk badge from you ;)
Got to love Pam's humour ...

I almost died laughing when I read her comment on a recent post ...

I'll pick up anyone who braves Seattle customs in an orange jumpsuit that says "Tourist" on the back.

Anyone up for it?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Haghia Sophia, Istanbul - Photographer, Gert

Mary Lee Settle captured Haghia Sophia so well that I wanted to record her words here. It was one of my favourite buildings in the beautiful, chaotic, crazy, wonderful city called Istanbul. Haghia Sophia shared its number one spot with the view from Galata Tower.

Gert took this photograph that gives you an idea of its magnificence ... my copyright is only to keep it safe on the web.

Mary Lee describes Haghia Sophia as being more than a museum, too - I have walked many times through its great doors, and I have never heard a voice raised. The first sight of its captured space of golden light and twilight is more than breathtaking. I can only use the overused word: awe, an experience of awe.

She captures it so precisely ... it's the quality of the light, the golden light, and the warmth that seems to have permeated the entire building. No mean feat when you realise that the building covers more than four acres. It is wider than a football field is long, and yet there is not the overpowering sense of diminishment and human frailty that I find in the great dark spaces of the Gothic Cathedrals.

It is like walking into a field that contains the last sunset, under a dome that is a reflection of the sky, in the golden light of an early evening after a sunny day; a dome that rises to the height of a fifteen story building and yet seems to shelter and not to intimidate.

Turkish Reflections by Mary Lee Settle

I was reading Mary Lee Settle's book, Turkish Reflections on the tram yesterday and was overcome by a longing to return to the delicious people-warmth I knew in Istanbul.

Mary Lee wrote: I had forgotten Turkish manners. I was met at the airport by the colleague of a friend of a friend. Already I was being handed from arkadas to arkadas - that word for friendship, one of the most important words in the Turkish language.

It is a way of living, a self-expectation as old as the nomads, although the people who are so hospitable must have long forgotten why they do it. They just do it. It is as natural as kindness or anger.

She continued: He may never have read Ibn Battuta, the 14th-century traveler who was handed from akhis to akhis, an old Turkish word for the generous organizations of young men who followed the standards of futawwa - an ideal of nobility, honesty, loyalty, and courage - but was following, without considering anything else, the same rules of hospitality.


I found Tailrank today ... or should I say, Tailrank found me by virtue of a post I wrote .

Tailrank is a memetracker which finds the hottest posts from thousands of blogs so you don't have to by tracking conversations between blogs.

It takes into consideration linking behavior, the text of the post, links in common with other users, text relevance, weblog ranking, past performance, and various other factors for recommendations.

It seems like an interesting news source and well worth checking out.
Pam put together an interesting post over on Blogher. It's titled Roundup: Treating Tourists Like Criminals Hurts US Tourism. Duh

I wandered through what she had written and selected snippets to post on over here.

Reuters is running a story titled U.S. is most unfriendly country to visitors: survey .

Sadly my personal response to the draconian measures imposed on incoming foreigners to the U.S are more generally representative than some people seem to realise.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rude immigration officials and long delays in processing visas have turned the United States into the world's most unfriendly country for international travelers, according to a global survey released on Monday.

The survey showed that the United States was ranked "the worst" in terms of visas and immigration procedures by twice the percentage of travelers as the next destination regarded as unfriendly -- the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent.

The survey, of 2,011 international travelers in 16 countries, was conducted by the polling firm RT Strategies for the Discover America Partnership, a business-backed group launched in September to promote travel to the United States and improve the country's image abroad.

Public Diplomacy Watch writes, The TTAB's report says that the United States' declining share of the global international travel market since 1992 - down 35 percent since 1992, from 9.4 percent that year to 6.1 percent now - represents a loss of some $286 billion in economic growth.

While global travel has grown by a fifth, the the US travel industry’s share of the world tourism market has shrunk by a third, from 9% to 6%.

What people need to realise it's not because I like American people any less, it's actually about what experience I want my tourist dollar to pay for and it's certainly not, 'let's pretend the police have arrested me' on arriving in the States.

A babysitting update ...

Spending time with children, think like children ...

We had fun watching Chicken Run, the movie.

Blue Eyes Magazine and Mikhael Subotzky

Blueeyes Magazine is an online documentary photography magazine devoted to publishing new long-term project work. It is a labor of love created by a dedicated group of people who believe in the power of still photography. The magazine was created in 2003 in response to declining editorial space for documentary images, following in the footsteps of the now defunct Untitled Magazine to publish pictures that support and celebrate passionate and personal photography.

The photo essays can be incredibly powerful, as seen in this one titled Die Vier Hoeke & Umjiegwana , by Mikhael Subotzky

These words introduce the photographic essay ... South Africa is in the midst of an unprecedented crime wave which is causing very real suffering and widespread panic. Swept away by the public's fear, stories of the criminals themselves are seldom heard, and the complex and environmental reasons behind these crimes rarely properly understood.

South Africa's prison system is bursting at its seams and is increasingly unable to contain the dramatically increasing criminal population. For many prisoners and former inmates, life in South Africa itself is so difficult that the wall separating prison and freedom has come to represent very little.

Whether inside or out, many men and their families living around Cape Town are stuck in a desperate cycle. Die Vier Hoeke is gang terminology which refers to the inside of the prisons. It translates directly to "The Four Corners." Umjiegwana means "The Outside."

The Places in Between by Rory Stewart

... a striding, glorious book. But it's more than great journalism. It's a great travel narrative. Learned but gentle, tough but humane, Stewart — a Scottish journalist who has served in both the British Army and the Foreign Office — seems hewn from 19th-century DNA, yet he's also blessed with a 21st-century motherboard. He writes with a mystic's appreciation of the natural world, a novelist's sense of character and a comedian's sense of timing.

Spending an entire Saturday babysitting can lead to multiple blog posts as a way to ward off boredom ... I'm sorry.

Babysitting has been something I've suffered since I was old enough to be put out for hire amongst the young families in my childhood neighbourhood and it seems I am doomed to have suburbia follow me as I travel through life ...

Anyway, an interesting book, she writes, wishing to ward off misery with the instantaneous arrival of both the documentary movie I blogged about a few posts down and this book. I could curl up for the day, losing myself in them ... did I mention the housework that's demanding attention.

Photographer to huisvrouw in the blink of an unwilling eye ...

The book is titled The Places in Between and it's written by Rory Stewart.

Tom Bissell reviews it for the New York Times saying, Paul Theroux once described a certain kind of travel book as having mainly "human sacrifice" allure, and how close Stewart comes to being killed on his journey won't be disclosed here. He is, however, sternly warned before he begins his walk. "You are the first tourist in Afghanistan," observes an Afghan from the country's recently resurrected Security Service. "It is mid-winter," he adds. "There are three meters of snow on the high passes, there are wolves, and this is a war. You will die, I can guarantee." For perhaps the first time in the history of travel writing, a secret-police goon emerges as the voice of sobriety and reason.

I smiled over over the final paragraph ... Open land undefiled by sheep droppings has most likely been mined. If you're taking your donkey to high altitudes, slice open its nostrils to allow greater oxygen flow. Don't carry detailed maps, since they tend to suggest 007 affinities. If, finally, you're determined to do something as recklessly stupid as walk across a war zone, your surest bet to quash all the inevitable criticism is to write a flat-out masterpiece. Stewart did. Stewart has. "The Places in Between" is, in very nearly every sense, too good to be true.

High on the list of 'disgusting' acts ... a senior Pentagon official

The New York Times ... The senior Pentagon official in charge of military detainees suspected of terrorism said in an interview this week that he was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation’s top firms were representing prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms’ corporate clients should consider ending their business ties.

Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University and an authority on legal ethics replied ... “It’s possible that lawyers willing to undertake what has been long viewed as an admirable chore will decline to do so for fear of antagonizing important clients.

“We have a senior government official suggesting that representing these people somehow compromises American interests, and he even names the firms, giving a target to corporate America.”

Robert Fisk's 'take' on 21st century 'language' ...

Robert Fisk made me smile often as I read through his rather scathing article about the jargon disease that is choking language .

A taste ... There is something repulsive about this vocabulary, an aggressive language of superiority in which "key players" can "interact" with each other, can "impact" society, "outsource" their business - or "downsize" the number of their employees. They need "feedback" and "input". They think "outside the box" or "push the envelope". They have a "work space", not a desk. They need "personal space" - they need to be left alone - and sometimes they need "time and space", a commodity much in demand when marriages are failing.

These lies and obfuscations are infuriating. "Downsizing" employees means firing them; "outsourcing" means hiring someone else to do your dirty work. "Feedback" means "reaction", "input" means "advice". Thinking "outside the box" means, does it not, to be "imaginative"?

In need of a wee smile ... ?

I was just listening to the JCB Song and thought I would repost it ... everyone needs a little music in their life and this song is lovely.

It takes me someplace back in my past ... nothing is clear, maybe it's simply the memory of hanging out with my Dad on his plastering/painting jobs, drinking black tea from the thermos flask and eating white bread cheese sandwiches for lunch ... sitting on big old tool boxes in unfinished houses talking about whatever it was that I talked with with my Dad before I was 10 years old.

The about is worth reading, there's more to this song than you might first imagine.

It begins: Being dyslexic in the early 80's (oh the irony - give people who can't spell a word that nobody can spell). Luke's school days weren't always easy. Indeed he was victimised at school, not just by the bullies but by the school itself - so when he sings of "all the bullies, the teachers and their pets ..." he knows what he's talking about and this very much comes from the heart.

There were school days when Luke's Dad decided he needed some 'compassionate leave' and would take him to work, where the 5 year old would ride proudly on the toolbox of the old JBC and cook up vivid imaginings ...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Take a Blogger to Lunch, by Keith W. Jenkins

There was an interesting post over at Poynter Online this morning ....

Keith Jenkins has written: Journalists, here's some food for thought: What we do is going away because it has to. We can no longer claim the higher ground. There will be no "transition to the Web" -- the Web exists and is as different from 20th-century journalism as apples are from hand grenades.

He goes on to say, Instead, we should be inventing this new world with people who already populate it. Real bloggers, photobloggers and vloggers -- embrace them and learn from them. Only then can we continue to be relevant.

It's a thought-provoking piece.

Journalists killed in 2006

CPJ research indicates that the following individuals have been killed in 2006 because of their work as journalists. They either died in the line of duty or were deliberately targeted for assassination because of their reporting or their affiliation with a news organization.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Pettiness of New Line Cinema ... or is it merely Robert Shaye

The Guardian newspaper has an article about how one petty little man called Robert Shaye has the power to stop the spectacular Tolkien series from being completed by an incredibly talented director simply because that director wants an audit done due to possible financial irregularites discovered in the first of the movies Shayne's company financed ... ahhh democracy, alive and well I see ...

Mr Shayne really should place more trust in the proven kiwi director called Peter Jackson, the man who produced the Lord of the Rings trilogy and earned New Line Cinema a profit of $3billion - Shayne is merely a money man ... nothing more.

I will make a point of blacklisting anything put out by New Line Cinema because quite frankly, I'm appalled by their actions.

The story?

Peter Jackson's long-cherished Hobbit movie appeared to be dead in the water after the director was effectively blacklisted by his former backers, New Line Cinema.

"I do not want to make a movie with somebody who is suing me," Shaye said in an interview with the Sci Fi Channel. "So the answer is that he will never make any movies with New Line Cinema again while I'm still working for the company."

New Line currently controls the film rights to The Hobbit, the Tolkien fantasy that paved the way for The Lord of the Rings.

Initially regarded as a high-risk gamble, the Lord of the Rings trilogy wound up making nearly $3bn at the global box office. But Jackson's production company launched a lawsuit against New Line following the alleged discovery of financial anomalies in a partial audit of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first film of the trilogy. Jackson contends that the studio has refused to agree to an audit of the other two films, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

"Fundamentally our legal action is about holding New Line to its contractual obligations and promises," Jackson said in a statement. "It is regrettable that Bob has chosen to make it personal."

The original article can be found here in SciFi.com and Peter Jackson's reply is here .

Lest we forget ...

A surreal moment for a former Guantanamo Bay prison inmate ...

Mr Begg is standing in front of the US embassy in Grosvenor Square in central London on a grey January day as more than 300 demonstrators play out the mock Guantánamo Bay camp scenario to mark the the fifth anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees to the US naval base in Cuba.

Other protests are being held across the globe, from Brisbane to Washington DC and from Hungary to Cuba itself. Mr Begg, a British citizen, was held for four years before finally gaining his freedom after pressure from the US government. In total, 780 detainees have been held at the camp. More than 400 of those there today have had no contact with their families throughout their detention. Many are without access to lawyers, and none has been charged.

Canadian Spy Scandal ... just when you thought you had read it all

I was over reading Lisa at Raison D’être and I thought she was teasing when she wrote 'The American government is now targeting Canada for spying - with super secret Canadian spy money no less! (could it get any cooler or more 50’s?) According to Department of Defense reports, the evil Canadian Overlords are planting tiny radio frequency transmitters inside innocent looking Canadian coins, which are then planted on American contractors to track their movements.'

I followed her link into Yahoo news and there it was under the title U.S. warns about Canadian spy coins .
Alison sent me this .

It defies description, all I know is that had it been in my childhood home, my brothers would have been strangers to me, with one potentially killing the other for ownership of said equipment.

How can I say things like that about them with impunity?
Ahhhh that would be because they don't read my blog ... cue evil laughter.

Note: a short advertisement runs before the news item.

David Shedden, Poynter Institute

I had some interesting email from the Poynter Institute today ...

David Shedden has written an article about an audio slideshow he created from his trip to England. What captured my attention while reading the article was the fact that David had never produced an online slideshow or written a personal essay before being encouraged to create what reads like a rather stunning record of his trip to England. If he could do it, maybe I could too ...

He wrote that while visiting England, he had used Murrow's descriptive CBS radio stories from 1938 to 1946 as a way to understand both the country and the city of London.

He wrote of user-friendly technology: Soundslides describes itself as "ridiculously simple storytelling." It creates simple audio slideshows for people who are not familiar with Flash and other multimedia tools. Since I didn't know what I was doing, it sounded perfect for me. Read the online Soundslides FAQ to learn about this easy-to-use multimedia program.

You can view his work titled In Search of Murrow's England here.

The Brussels Connection

I was searching for the name of yesterday's restuarant and found an interesting website.

It's called The Brussels Connection and I liked what I saw. I thought Belgian and Belgian-based readers might find it interesting.

They introduce themselves: It all began a year ago with a group of friends from EU affairs consultancies, trade associations, the European Parliament and the Commission who wanted to help each other improve their professional skills while having fun and being together.

Due to a lack of available time we achieved the fun but still missed the professional improvement. As each of us spends quite some time on the net searching for vital information, we believe that this online magazine is our solution.

The idea behind the Brussels Connection is that professional progress feeds on the exchange of knowledge and experience, as well as the stimulation of creativity by exposing new forms of art or innovative ideas. Work and pleasure should be addressed with equal attention and enthusiasm. We intend to simplify our readers’ lives, by including links to a variety of indispensable websites.

El Vergel and a day spent in Brussels

Wednesday in Brussels was rather delicious ...

Shannon and I met at Centraal Station in Brussels and wandered off to find a cafe. My bag was bulging with English teaching resources I had collected while teaching in Istanbul and so over coffee and croissant, we talked of which online English courses she could do, moving on to resources and brainstorming ideas for private teaching in Belgium.

It was all fun and has definately inspired me to advertise for a few students in my neighbourhood here ...

One of the things I most enjoy about living in different countries is meeting the people. Teaching English is a lovely way to get out there and talking with people.

Alison arrived and we travelled on to a restaurant that is fast becoming my favourite place to eat over in Brussels. El Vergel always has fabulous food, the staff are lovely, there's a good atmosphere and the prices are good.

The rains came down but the American, the Canadian and the Kiwi talked on, almost oblivious to the weather outside. It was good to catch up with them and we only left when the lunch chairs were being stacked on the tables around us.

Shannon led us further into the back streets where heavy rain drove us into a cosy pub with the most appalling red wine I've attempted to drink in years. Both Shannon and I gave up in the end, Alison soldiered on with her slightly better bio red.

Then there was the 'getting home' which turned into one of 'those' experiences.
I was lucky, the Belgian student of politics on the bus was kind when I asked her about where the Centraal Station stop might be. The bus I was on had steamy windows and it was getting dark fast as I rode back through the city to my train. I know Antwerpen well but am less certain sure of my way around Brussels.

She was an interesting woman and had travelled through places like Vietnam and Nepal. Station found, I arrived just in time to catch the 5.10pm back to Antwerpen.

I thought I was on a 4 stop train however ... 5 stops into the journey I realised that, once again, steamy windows and darkness were going to cause problems with identifying which stop was mine.

And I had boarded a packed commuter train ... I was amused when a guy pushed his way onto what I had imagined was a 2-person train seat, squeezing himself in between an older gentleman and a young woman. I was tempted to look round for the Candid Camera camera because his behaviour reminded me so much of a Mr Bean skit. It was all I could do not to laugh aloud.

The laughter soon turned to accomodation, as a well-dressed business woman squeezed in between me and the guy I was sitting next to. Ahhh, so this is how one finds a seat on packed commuter trains.

The train kept on stopping so I called Gert and he looked up the train schedule ... telling me how many stops until my stop, only trying to put me off one stop too early. Things did improve as the train emptied out, the window steam cleared and if I watched carefully, I could read the lit station signs as they sped by.

Home and in bed reading by 8.30pm ... just for a few minutes. I woke briefly at midnight and it was 4.30am when I realised here was no more sleep left inside of me. I climbed out of bed and came to the computer to read for a while. I was lucky, there were some lovely emails and comments waiting here on the computer.

Buika is quietly singing in the background and I haven't suffered too much. Let's see how the day goes.

Good morning greetings to all those who read this at the appropriate time ... a new day has begun.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Imagine ...

All men are world citizens by birth.
Every man has the right to go and settle anywhere and to live like a human being.

Shrii Prabhat R. Sarkar, Indian poet, linguist, and philosopher

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Proust Questions

I was searching for information on The Proust Questions .

The young Marcel was asked to fill out questionnaires at two social events: one when he was 13, another when he was 20. These were the questions he was asked as a 20 year old. I thought them interesting ....

Norman Mailer answered the Proust questions in Vanity Fair.

Your most marked characteristic?

The quality you most like in a man?

The quality you most like in a woman?

What do you most value in your friends?

What is your principle defect?

and etc ...

A little of this and a little of that

It's one thing to clean the house from top to bottom, more or less ... it's quite another saying sorry for cleaning the alarm clock into an 'off' position as Gert runs out the door horribly late.

And now for my next trick ... sigh.

I moved furniture, opened doors and windows and cleaned yesterday ... long overdue after so long feeling sorry for my sick little self. Today I'm planning my first jaunt for the city ... a little one.

I've been listening to some nice music lately ... Erin introduced us to Buika, and I discovered Anna Nalik's Breathe and Damhnait Doyle's Another California Song. Mark introduced me to Ani DiFranco and I love her song, 32 Flavors. Toot Thieleman, often plays to me, joining Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong when I need that sound.

Other news, friends are flying in from Istanbul at the end of the month. We've begun planning some little tours for them to give them a taste of the sights to be seen around our neighbourhood.

Excitingly enough, Paris is up there on their list, as is Amsterdam and Germany. We hope to get into the Alsace and spend a couple of nights in an old-fashioned B&B out in the country. Stories and photographs for later for sure.

I've marked in Antwerpen, Brussels, Bruges, Ieper and Ghent for this part of the journey. Let's see how we do as hosts.

Tot ziens.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Guiding Rules of Photography by Bob Croxford

I found this quote while searching through photography quotes for my website and loved it too much not to share it.

Technique is a matter of individual preferences. It bores me. I am only interested in results. However I do offer a few guiding rules of photography.

1. My essential equipment includes an alarm clock towake up early and a compass to find where the sun is going to be. I also have a small double pointed quartz crystal which sits in my camera bag with the exposed film and helps to increase sharpness!

2. The best light occurs when I am stuck in the office with the VAT man or have left my camera at home.

3. If I wait for perfect conditions someone will park a truck in the view.

4. The most I have waited in the rain for conditions to improve was five days. The picture wasn't worth waiting for and isn't in this book.

5. Having walked for miles for a good picture I often find the best photo when I return is right next to my car. The only problem beeing that I've parked right in the middle of the view.

6. Nothing is repeatable especially the light.

7. Those pictures which require the most perspiration and imagination to take are always the ones that look the easiest.

8. Don't run out of film.

-Bob Croxford,
"From Cornwall With Love" by Bob Croxford

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Freedom Writers

A grey day in Belgie and I've been web-wandering ...

The New York Times had an article about an interesting movie.
Searching for more, I came to the source of the movie's inspiration ... the Freedom Writers Foundation .

Their mission statement begins with: The Freedom Writers Foundation s a charitable organization that promotes tolerance in the classroom and empowers teachers and underserved students, specifically economically disadvantaged and “at-risk” youth nationwide.

Ghosts, a movie by Nick Broomfield

"Immigration is a very emotional thing," Broomfield explains. "It's about people leaving something they love and know, and coming to a very strange place."

My immigration into Belgie was accidental ... I met Gert while out in Istanbul teaching and the rest became an irritating history as I dealt with the associated paperwork.

So many don't have the luxury of choice that I had and become prey for so-called legitimate and illegitimate business people in the lands they find themselves in ... think of the horrendous act of sex-trafficking Eastern European women into countries like Belgium, Germany, Holland, Italy and ecetera ... think of the 23 dead Chinese immigrants who imagined themselves making a better life in England.

It seems that Nick Broomfield has been thinking about it and put together Ghost's, his first feature film . The topic is the 2004 tragedy of Morecambe Bay and he does the unusual, hiring non-actors and hiring a woman who survived the tragedy, as lead actress.

The Morecambe Bay tragedy ... that would be when 23 illegal Chinese immigrants drowned while picking cockles on the sands.

The Broomfield movie follows a young single mother from a Fujian province who despairs of ever providing a better life for her baby son, and so borrows a vast sum to be smuggled to England, only to find herself little more than a slave.

What should shock us is those who take advantage of illegal immigrants. We're told, Jobs might last a few days or weeks or months, but they were all atrociously paid.

"The bosses didn't ever look at my documents. They knew I was illegal, and they always used my status against me. One of the factories actually told me directly, if you have status you get paid £3.50, if not £2.50."

Where's there's demand, there will always be supply ...


Samir has written up The thirteenth annual FES FESTIVAL OF WORLD SACRED MUSIC 2007 over at The View from Fez.

Sandy describes it as 'a celebration of the 800th anniversary of the birth of the Sufi poet, Jalaludin Rumi'.

ScrittureGiovani - a European Literary Project

ScrittureGiovani is the newest slice of European literature projects. Five writers, five different countries, five short stories, one theme - the focus is on young literary talents, they write over at Cafebabel.

WANTED: poet or novelist under 32. Must have written at least one work, as yet untranslated, and be ready for European tour. Destinations: Mantua, Berlin, Hay-on-Wye and Molde.

‘It's been widely anticipated by the public, and it's also a chance for young writers to make themselves known abroad,’ explains Marella Paramatti, committee member of the famous Italian festival. ‘Each festival chooses an author that will take part in the project,’ she adds. As well as the four selected by the festivals, a fifth writer is picked from a different country.

Thanks Erkan.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Day at our place ...

Yesterday Gert went to work for the first time since before Christmas ...

The re-election of his boss meant that the office is beginning its period of transformation ... he needed to be there. Then there was the meeting he had to attend last night.

He came in exhausted and this morning he woke in full fever.
Phoning in he found they were expecting his call ... he has slept the day away on the couch. This is an incredibly fierce flu, to the point where he's been grouchy but obedient about taking medication suggested by me.

So ... his illness led to my first real day out of the house. I walked to the Apoteek in 7 degrees celsius and it was okay but for my cough.
Then a light rain began to fall ... sigh, then came the wind.

The Apoteek found all I wanted for Gert, then we discussed my cough and laughing, he told me that yes, it would go away naturally if that's how I wanted to do it.

It was nice to catch up with the baker ...
Much to Gert's bemusement, I call her shop the German Bakery ... it's all about the fact that her shop looks like something you might see in the Black Forest and less about actuality.

Finally the supermarket, where I mortified myself by sounding like a disease-ridden creature. I'm sure I saw the staff wince ... I wanted to reassure them with the fact I was no longer contagious but who would have believed me.

Home again, I felt like I'd been out and hunted me down a dinosaur. In keeping with this incredible feat, I fell asleep not long after Gert and all was silent for a few afternoon hours at our place.


Sometimes I sign up to interesting sites and their newsletters simply fail to arrive. I forget and then get a delicious surprise when, months later, their latest news lands in my inbox.

PDNewswire arrived today and it's full of interesting news and photographers.

The photo gallery is worth checking out ...

The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo by Peter Orner

Salon asked a selection of their favorite writers to tell them about their favorite books of the year. Contributors included Booker-prize winner John Banville, best-selling New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, "In Her Shoes" author Jennifer Weiner and feminist icon Erica Jong.

One that really stood out in terms of rave reviews, was The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo
I reviewed a lot of books this past year and the best (by far) was Peter Orner's "The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo." The novel documents the restless daily routines of the staff at a primary school in a forgotten corner of Namibia, but it is properly understood as a series of meditations -- brief, lyric chapters that celebrate the small moments in which life resides.

It is a book unlike any I have ever read, a miraculous feat of empathy that manages to unearth -- in the unlikeliest of locales -- the infinite possibilities of the human heart. If it were up to me, Orner would have won both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. The novel is that astonishing. At the very least, he has joined the first rank of American writers.

Sister - Photo Friday

Today's Photo Friday challenge is simply titled Sister ...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

32 Flavors, Ani DiFranco

Thanks Mark .

Arroz con Pollo and viva Espana

I was just thinking, as I was stirring until the rice is semi-dry but some liquid remains ... that while I haven't learned to worship anything in particular, I could be convinced about becoming a fan of the Spanish way of life.

Tonight I am cooking Arroz con Pollo, otherwise known as Chicken and Rice however ... don't be misled by the English, we're really not talking ordinary chicken and rice.

We're talking 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a chopped onion with 4 tablespoons of chopped garlic and 6 of chopped parsely ... fried together in said oil once the chicken is done.

How civilised is that ... ?!
It smells stunning.

Unfortunately, due to ill health and beginner status, my arroz con pollo lacks piquillo peppers, smoked paprika and that pinch of saffron and yes, I did have to use red wine instead of the white ... but, it smells so good, I am hopeful that I will be forgiven by the gods of good food.

The worst of being ill was the 2pm craving for a Spanish lunch ... that meal that left me filled and content until breakfast the next day.

Tot ziens from the chef.

Tanya and Whispers of Waitaha

I found Tanya's site a while ago and enjoyed reading of her New Zealand ... a voice from home however she isn't only a blogger, she's an artist too.

She recently wrote of a project she's involved in and I wanted to know more after reading her comment ...'as I am publishing the grandmothers children's stories, ancient legends of my ancestors of Waitaha. Their stories date back to the beginning of time, they were a tribe of mixed races that lived together in peace and harmony with each other and their environment. I think that this is a time when these stories are needed - especially for the children as they are the hope of the future.'

She gave me the link into the Whispers of Waitaha site and wandering through it today, it seems delicious.

Who can resist the stories of grandmothers ...

‘Whispers of Waitaha - Traditions of a Nation’ are the words of our Grandmothers, written in this time to spread the message of Peace & Hope.

Ata whakarongo ake e moko,
Ki enei korero o ou matua tupuna,
I haere tawhiti mai ki tata.

Listen carefully moko
to these the words of your parents
and grandparents that have come here from afar.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Something Spanish

Stork, Toro, originally uploaded by - di.

We're feeling better ... you can imagine a sing-song happy voice if you like.

We're midway through cooking something Spanish for dinner ... let's see how we do.

1 cup olive oil
4 large potatoes, peel and slice into 2mm pieces
salt to taste
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 large eggs

Heat the oil in a 9inch thick skillet and add potato slices, one slice at a time so that they don't stick. Alternate layers of potato and onion.
Cook slowly, medium flame.
Don't fry or brown them - turn them occasionally till the potatoes are tender.
They need to remain loose and not form a cake.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl with a fork, add salt to taste, drain the potatoes and add them to the eggs mixture, pressing them down so they are completely covered by egg.

Let them sit for 15 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add the potato and egg mix, spreading it quickly.
Lower the heat to medium-high.
It's crucial that you shake the frying pan to prevent sticking.
When the potatoes begin to brown, put a plate on top of the fry pan and flip the mix so as to cook the other side, adding another tablespoon of oil.
Brown on the other side ... flip 3 or 4 time for best cooking.

Buen apetito!

The Alpine Mega-Tunnel

Der Spiegel is running an interesting story titled The Alpine Mega-Tunnel

The new Gotthard railway tunnel in the Swiss Alps will be the longest in the world. The unmanned elevator races down the shaft and comes groaning to a halt right in the warm, damp belly of the Tgom mountain. Perfectly on schedule, it will shortly take half a dozen construction workers almost one kilometer (0.6 miles) up to the mountain's surface.

Almost 1,000 meters of mica slate and gneiss lie above the enormous rocky cavern. Warm water seeps through its walls. An elaborate ventilation system lowers the air temperature in the huge space from more than 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) to about 28 degrees (82.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Since 1993, excavation work has been going on at this construction site and three others. A total of 13 million cubic meters (459 million cubic feet) of rock -- the equivalent of five Cheops pyramids -- will have to be removed from the mountain massif so that high-speed trains travelling at 250 kilometers an hour (155 mph) will be able to race through the Alps ten years from now.
An update ... okay manic, something for you to read, as per your instructions.

It seems that this flu has emptied me, although my mind is slowly returning to life and I'm not sleeping away huge parts of the day.

Gert's parents came over today, bringing supplies and leftovers from the feast we missed yesterday. We, the feverish coughing creatures, were pathetically grateful.

I'm in the middle of a bit of a downer, missing home and etc ... as you do during Christmas and after being ill. It's normal, I'm sure of it.

Hmmm good news ... well, we did download some Spanish recipes just before lunch, and we are planning a mission that involves Gert driving me to the supermarket and me leaping inside to purchase ingredients so we can cook something Spanish tonight. I have been seeing hopeful signs of return to normal life in craving those huge Spanish meat lunches that filled me until breakfast the following day.

And although red wine accompanying those stunning lunches is part of the vision, I have no desire for any as yet ... I guess wanting wine will be the indicator of a full return to health.

I cancelled the dentist this morning ... obviously this wasn't a difficult cancellation, unlike the previous two photography sessions with the superb people at PINA.

Hmmmm and my eyebrows were to be reshaped tomorrow but I don't think I dare take this cough there ... My beautician caught the strange stomach bug I had after the party ... the stomach bug that wasn't a hangover.

I felt quite guilty about that one, I'll cancel that now ...

I did read my way through some blogs today. It was good to catch up on those worlds and be smiling over all kinds of news.

Sal wrote a delicious post about Christmas with his family and Paris Parfait had her daughter with her over Christmas but found time for serious news too. Doberman has a new Canon EOS 400D which can do nothing but bring him a million hours of happiness in the year ahead. Erkan soldiers on, mixing serious news with youtube humour , opening the world for people like me.

Manic bowed out, citing exam pressure, v-grrl wrote of her Christmas - creating warm images of family. Lisa named her Christmas turkey, making me laugh as usual.

There's more reading to do, I'm way behind but in a way, the long break from serious blogging has left me with a treasure trove of stories to catch up on.

Erkan challenged me to post my new year's resolutions but I'm thinking serious thoughts about them and need time to be sure that they're do-able.

My photography website needs a little more tweaking then it's done, I have to find an accountant and then start work on advertising ... serious resolutions are surely called for this year.

Voila Manic, now back to your studying ;)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Another beautiful doorway, Spain

Another beautiful doorway, Spain, originally uploaded by - di.

I was fortunate, I was ill enough to ignore Saddam's execution ... fortunate because I don't agree with executions and couldn't think of any other world leaders who had recently been executed.

Something seemed 'off' in this instance.

I went searching and found Riverbend's take on the event. Titled the lynching , it gives one Iraqi's point of view ... from a woman whose voice has been twice honoured by the 'west' as a voice telling a truth.

I read on down through her preceding post ... End of another year post:

You know your country is in trouble when:
and sixth on her list was Your country is purportedly 'selling' 2 million barrels of oil a day, but you are standing in line for 4 hours for black market gasoline for the generator.

And as usual, the end of her post devastated me ...

Because she continues to lose hope and she's a valuable barometer of events in Iraq ... an intelligent, well-educated rational woman who is changing in front of my eyes ... whenever I dare to go over and read her ... 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month.

Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years?