Sunday, December 31, 2006

All the best in 2007

Hey there, writes the woman who sounds like a 100-year-old woman who has spent her entire life chainsmoking when she coughs.

The flu seems to be almost done with me, I took less painkillers, cough mixture and slept less today ... a good day in retrospect, or as compared to the last few days.

Anyway, and more importantly ... HAPPY NEW YEAR and all the best to everyone in 2007.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Today was the day I had been looking forward to for a long time ... I was meant to photograph the Antwerpen offerfeest, otherwise known as Aid Al-Adha.

Sadly my Spanish cold is a nasty one and all I've done for the last two days is sleep, cough, take painkillers and cough syrup (too late to avoid coughing my throat raw) and sleep somemore.

The worst thing about getting sick in a country that's not your own is that all the remedies and comforts passed down to you by your mother and nana are gone.

I need ice blocks for my throat ... back in New Zealand I would have bought Popsicles or Fru-Jus but they're not available here.

I would have squeezed lemons, added honey and disprin for a hot drink ...
No way.

We have our New Year's Day feast at een uur on Mandag. Fingers crossed that I can beat back this flu cold by then.

Tot ziens from the miserable one.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The good news is that the sun is out in Belgium ... the less good news is that I'm feeling terrible.

I have a cold - with throat, head and body aches, accompanied by an unattractive cough. My bed is my constant companion ...

Last time I was this sick I was teaching in Istanbul. I'm not happy to find my old foe has followed me here.

Will get back to you when feeling better.

Tot ziens.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”Douglas H. Everett

Ascender Rises Above is a blog that often has stunning art work for sale, combined with poetry and extracts like the above.

I loved this quote, with its associated painting and poem .

Meet my granddaughter ...

One of the most frustrating things about immigrating to Europe has been the time it has taken ...

I was an accidental immigrant - in that I did it without thinking, never imagining that falling in love with a European might be an offence punishable by paperwork.

Along the way I lost things but the worst of it has been the longer than normal seperation from my daughter ... and granddaughter.

On the bright side, and there almost always has to be one ... my daughter is a stunning photographer and she sent me a new batch of photographs for Christmas ... so, meet my beautiful granddaughter.

So ...

It's been a bumpy landing, this homecoming ...

Everyday we spent in Spain gifted us skies like those in the first photograph here.

With last winter as my guide I can tell you that we had skies like those in the second photograph, taken today, for more than 2 winter months and so it will be again, if the gods of the weather map decide that is how it is to be.

The other cause of this low mood today is about the fact that I sympathised with Erin when she woke 2 mornings ago with a cold that had gone straight to her chest. Today the sympathy has turned to heartfelt empathy ... it seems that the sibling of her cold is a traveller and decided on a quick trip to Belgium so here I am - unwilling host of the moment.

I know, I know ... it's post-travel settling back in, normal in fact.
And I'll gamely reply ... 'No wurries mate', hoping to impress all with the casual downunder way of dealing with life.

Meanwhile, I need to go find some chorizo and cook down some wine for the sauce ... am fighting an almost overwhelming desire for a nice tapas lunch.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas !!!

Forgive me for not replying to comments for now ... I´m reading and smiling then releasing them but that´s all I have time for in these days ... snatched moments at the internet cafe as Erin´s connection is down for the duration ... and who has time to blog anyway ;)

Erin´s Spain is a truly incredible place.

Yesterday we drove 60 kilometres to Toro where we wandered, tasted wine and ate a lunch that left us no desire for more food until breakfast this morning.

Today we drove 75kms to a small mountain village in the Sierrra ... a stunning ancient village whose name escapes me for now, and even if I did remember it, my spelling would make ´place´a wild guess for any reader.

We were shown around the pueblo, located above 1000metres, fed a lunch that, once again won´t see us needing to eat until the morning.

Tradition is alive and well up in La Alberca (yes, I leaned over and harassed Erin for location and spelling).

But enough, photographs to follow when we are home again.
Words won´t capture a quarter of what we are seeing.

All the best to everyone reading here ... have the happiest Christmas with family and friends, be safe, be happy.

All the best

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Salamanca ...

is stunning ...!

We´ve been here 24 hours and already there are 400 photographs needing checked.

Erin has given us an evening in tapas bars ... red wine and food to quietly die for ... walked us through the old city, golden sandstone that turns pink as the light changes, deep blue sky that almost makes you forget the occasionally cutting wind.

We´ve heard legends, explored ancient buildings and met some very nice people.

This is only a quick report on my way to other work here at the computer but just so you know, alles goed here in Spain.

Tot ziens.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Woman Wandering ...

Almost all is done ... clothes washed, gifts bought and wrapped, passport found, camera bag packed; most of the long 'to-do' list is done.

Glasses picked up from where they were left yesterday, wine and a lovely afternoon spent with a friend,eyebrows reshaped ... hmmmm, must phone home before I fly out.

We're wandering - heading for Spain, guests of that other wanderingwoman .

So that's us, the crowd of three, celebrating a multi-national Christmas ... an American, a Belgian and the New Zealander in Spain.

I can't imagine not blogging, so I'll hold back on the Merry Christmas for now.

Take care and tot binnenkort ...

Monday, December 18, 2006

I've just come in from a most interesting day ...

I was filmed reading an ee cummings poem ... but of course.

Andy Fierens phoned recently, a lovely surprise on my cellphone. He had been given my name and told I was a native English speaker living in Antwerpen. He needed one for an exhibition about poetry and people here in the city, opening January 2007.

Andy's a whole other story it seems ... or series of interesting stories if google has served me well but more than that, he and Mario, the cameraman, made the experience of reading 'the' poem so much more fun than I could have imagined.

Anyway, for those curious here is the poem Di read ...

i like my body when it is with your

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric furr, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh....And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A thought-provoking BBC drama

Something that hits me again and again here in Europe, is the plight of the immigrant ... most particularly the ones who aren't wanted ... wrong colour, wrong race, wrong religion, illegal or political refugees. And while everyone is busy with learning why they should hate and fear them, often they're people just like you and me, people who are just trying to live.

I was watching a BBC drama tonight and was impressed by the 'reality' aspect of it. I went web-wandering and found the write up... Born Equal started life as a film about homelessness but, as the director Dominic Savage embarked upon his research, a markedly different film began to take shape.

"I knew then that one of the issues I really wanted to deal with was the extremes of difference in people's lives - and, in a place like London, those extremes can be experienced within just a few streets. People can be in hugely different worlds but sharing the same space.

"The film shows huge contrasts between people and how they live, their ideas, what they've got and what they haven't got," says Savage, who points out that although the film is set in London, the same contrasts can be seen all over Britain.

"In the end, what the film aspires to achieve is to encourage people to think more about others, care about the less fortunate and be more aware of what's going on around them."

It's worth seeing.

Peter Lik, Photographer

Gert's brother just sent us a link to a rather stunning photography website.

If you feel like wandering through Australia or America then you might quite enjoy looking through Peter Lik's photography website .

Peter Lik is the world’s most innovative and prolific landscape photographers.
His passion and dedication to his craft are unsurpassed, and Peter is recognized as the leaders in his field.
He was born in Melbourne Australia and is the only son of Czech immigrant parents. Completely self taught, Peter’s talent for photography was evident from an early age.

He first picked up a camera at the age of eight, and has retained a spirit and enthusiasm for his work that is equaled only by his unbounded energy and deep affinity for the land.

It was while travelling in Alaska in 1994 that Peter’s fascination with photography took a dramatic turn. Previously only working with 35mm cameras, he discovered the encompassing view of the panoramic camera and he was converted. It opened up a whole new world of creative possibilities and took him to another level in his photography.

Out and About in December

For the second year in a row, I found myself standing in a square here in the city, taking in the sights and the sounds and the smells of Antwerpen's Christmas Market.

It's warmer this year but the ice rink is up and operational over in Grote Markt and I felt something like nostalgia when the big red A's lit up the buildings surrounding the square as the afternoon darkened.

We had paused for a lunch of super-large bratworst in a bread roll, with that odd tasting, almost cinnamon tomato ketchup they've been serving up lately.

We found me a warm jersey and wandered back to the square ... smoutebollen were next on the list of things that must be eaten. We shared a paper cone filled with 7 icing sugar-covered piping hot smoutebollen. Gert claimed they weren't hot, I say they were.

He devoured 4 in the time it took me to gingerly nibble my way through two. He waited a while after his first two but I told him to chomp on ... clearly this is some kind of natural talent.

He then horrified me by putting an entire smoutebol in his mouth ... I continued to knaw away at mine.

The day had begun with a jaunt to the Rosada factory outlet in the Netherlands. It's about 45kms from Antwerpen and it's a little collection of shops that sell Levis, Nike and etc.

Gert found some shoes, I resisted all, finding nothing that tempted me. I have a tendency to fall in love with my clothing and avoid settling for less than that love-thing unless I'm caught in an in-process immigrant kind of experience where money and the life you knew before aren't really options.

no matter ... Rosada Factory Outlet can be found here .

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I gave up reading the news for a week, more or less ... I didn't feel like it.

Yesterday woke me again. I was reading Der Spiegel's article about tax evading prostitutes in Cologne, stunned by the gap in the article that concludes that there appears to be a significant number of tax evaders.

How did they deduce this ... well they worked out how many prostitutes there were in Germany and did the math.

But ... they only needed to research a little further and discover the reality of prostitution in Europe ... that human traffiking is alive and well.

In an article about taxing prostitutues in Antwerp - referring to the 'tax' as a tax on 'the windows they or their owners hire' you quickly discover what the German tax inspectors are overlooking:

You can read: But even here (in Antwerp), human trafficking endures just outside the zone. Police say illegal prostitutes still outnumber legal ones and about a quarter of the total are the victims of human trafficking or work for pimps. In Germany, aid groups say there are three times as many illegal prostitutes as legally registered ones. In the Netherlands, only 5 percent to 10 percent of the nearly 20,000 prostitutes pay taxes, according to the Prostitution Information Center in Amsterdam.

Dated May 2005 you can read the rest of that article here .

Sometimes the big papers don't tell it like it is and so perhaps I need to keep reading the news because the gaps frighten me.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I haven't blogged much this week, I've felt like rubbish since Sunday morning ... it comes and it goes, I've had busy moments in between. No matter, I plan on curing myself at the weekend.

And there's talk of finding me a warm winter coat in the Netherlands tomorrow and then there's our preparations for a Christmas in Spain ... did I mention that yet?

I guess that's one of the oddest things about being a New Zealander on this side of the world ... places like Spain are so much closer than they ever were back home on the wee island-continent.

Belgium Split ...

I've been busy this last 36 hours and completely missed the latest uproar in Belgium.

Note: Peter did a much more well-informed and interesting post on it over here .

Erin wrote asking about 'it' and I took advice from my Belgian on what she was talking about.'

He was smiling when told me of this (yes, he's Flemish): RTBF's CEO, Jean-Paul Philippot, takes full responsibility for a fake news bulletin that portrayed the splitting of Flanders from the rest of Belgium in real time.

It's certainly the craziest idea and best kept secret ever to take shape in the hallways of the headquarters of radio and television company for Belgian Francophones RTBF, on Reyers' Boulevard, reports Le Soir newspaper.

A team of journalists from the RTBF shocked the nation as they broadcast this fictional news bulletin portraying the scission of Flanders live from outside the Flemish Parliament; discussing these unlikely events with journalist, politicians and celebrities.

Several prominent Flemish politicians took part in the broadcast including the speaker of the chamber of representatives, Flemish Liberal Herman Decroo.

The concept had been kept secret for several months and all the interviewees were well-versed in their roles.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Still slightly seedy this morning but the nausea is definately easing.

I had to laugh when I saw the difference in the way that I treat myself if I think the illness is self-induced and when it's a flu.

I suffered with the hangover, I even confessed here just because blogging was the very last thing that I felt like but then, as the days went on and the blogging fairy stayed quiet, I began to question the hangover theory.

Of course, I always start with the worst-case scenario. My mother and nana both died very soon after diagnosis a few years ago and some events scar a person some, whether they're conscious or not.

Yesterday, Gert filled my little worried heart with joy as he confessed to feeling quite ill.

It's a flu!
This woman who hasn't had a flu for years is just coming out the other side of her first Belgian flu.
Life is good.

Yesterday I received the poem I'm reading for the camera on Monday.
I'll post after the event. That's a retrospective story methinks ...

Off to the city today.

Tot ziens.
-Your life is up to you.
Life provides the canvas; you do the painting.

Borrowed from Erin

Thanks :)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Okay, the sickness continues ... I blogged incorrectly, that was no hangover or perhaps a little one but it's Wednesday and I'm still a bit crook, as we say back in New Zealand (sick, ill ... )

No matter, last night was a good night here in Belgie. The NZIB (New Zealanders in Belgium) had their annual Christmas party, made all the better because it was hosted by and included some Australians.

For all the mocking that goes on between Australia and New Zealand, we do enjoy catching up with each other. I realised the game of it when both my brothers married Australians and so many friends made good lives for themselves over in Australia.

We just prefer to win when competing against them and happily, I could mention the All Blacks with pride ;)

Life is speeding along here.

My photography website is soon to go live, largely thanks to the people I find around me in these days. It's one thing to be able to take the photographs but quite another to have experts in PR, website development, photographers and creative types working with me.

Slowly but surely ...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Saturday night in Antwerpen

Responding to Meneer Manic's nagging I'm finally updating my blog, although his comment did correspond with an improvement in my health and I just want to say, 'that'was more than a hangover. I didn't drink enough to stay ill for 2 days ... really, I didn't.

So I slept until lunchtime today and now I'm slowly but surely rebooting life as normal.
It's good to be back actually.

The party on Saturday ... well I looked round the room at one point and thought 'What really nice people.'

Numbers were down due to various friends and acquaintences flying home for their Christmas celebrations or they had been pre-booked, which is common enough at this time of year but still, our lounge ended up with a few small groups of interesting people chatting about all manner of things.

There's a moment I look for when partying ... it's like a small 'ting'; that moment when you realise it's going to be okay, people are talking, mingling ... alles goed.

Shannon, Alison and I started up this party tradition where we keep opening the circle. So each party, we invite folk we've met along the way. Shannon and Gabe's first party like this was spectacular as Shannon invited her entire French class ...

Out here in the world, I meet the most incredible people and it's a real pleasure to bring everyone together; a privilege to be allowed to know them really.

So yes, Saturday night was a good night, according to me.

Jahangir Razmi, Pulitzer Prize winner

I found this fascinating story in The Wall Street Journal.

Here are some extracts but the entire story is interesting ...

TEHRAN - On Aug. 27, 1979, two parallel lines of 11 men formed on a field of dry dirt in Sanandaj, Iran. One group wore blindfolds. The other held rifles. The command came in Farsi to fire: "Atesh!" Behind the soldier farthest to the right, a 12th man also shot, his Nikon camera and Kodak film preserving in black and white a mass execution.

Within hours, the photo ran across six columns in Ettela'at, the oldest newspaper in Iran. Within days, it appeared on front pages around the world. Within weeks, the new Iranian government annexed the offending paper. Within months, the photo won the Pulitzer Prize.

Ettela'at, however, didn't print the photographer's name, fearing his safety. The Pulitzer was officially awarded to "an unnamed photographer of United Press International," the news service that distributed the photo in the U.S. It remains the only time the award has ever been given to an anonymous recipient.

In fact, nearly three decades after the epochal photograph first appeared, almost no one knows who took it.

But Mr. Razmi, who is now 58, said part of him always wanted to step forward. He was disappointed when he first saw that his photo didn't carry his name. He was irked when others took credit, people who "never feel the danger," he said. And all the time, he was weighted by his secret, that of an ordinary man witness to extraordinary events. "Without this picture," he said, "I wouldn't be anything."

Emboldened by time and dismayed by the opportunism of his fellow photographers, Mr. Razmi decided the moment was right to tell his tale after this newspaper approached him. "My name should be there," he said.

Says Mr. Razmi: "There's no more reason to hide."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A slow day today

I really hate the fact that being sorry for drinking a little too much doesn't fix anything ... one still has to suffer the consequences.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My lovely blog writing anthropologist friend Erkan wrote about me ...
Tesekkür Erkan Bey:)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Another good day ...

Sometimes my days are sublime ...

I started out sluggish, there was no other word for it. I was tired after Germany and I had to clean up breakfast before my 'office-space' was pleasing to me. Sometimes I mumble about that. Gert has a cleaning lady who cleans up his office as he sleeps ... I want one too.

I had some 40x60cm enlargements waiting for me in the city.
Seeing them would give me some idea of print enlargement quality on images from my little EOS Canon 350D. I was scared I might be left wanting more ... a bigger digital, more pixels 'n stuff.

I dragged myself out of the house wishing my umbrella was bigger ... rain.

At the shop and I loved the results!

Later, as I was about to climb on the tram, I missed a call on my cellphone. Digging around in my bag, I pressed redial and greeted the caller warmly, assuming I knew them.

He hastily said, 'You don't know me' and was quietly worried Just how friendly was I ...?

He needed my help, he told me.
Curious I listened as I boarded the tram ... no mean feat with a full bag of groceries, a flimsy plastic bag of fragile photographs and a handbag.

He needed a native English speaker for an exposition in the city next year.
He talked some more, describing a rather delicious sounding project where I will be filmed reading a poem and that's all I'm telling for now. I need to know a little more before attempting to explain.

I said yes because out in the world, I promised myself I would say yes to as many new adventures as I had the courage for ... this seemed like a good one.

Then ... as if my cup hadn't already runneth over ... I received an email about photographing the Offerfeest here in the city at the end of December.

Stunned and delighted I am.

In 2001 I discovered anthropology while studying literature and I took as many classes in anth as was possible.

These days I'm living a dream I didn't have the imagination to dream.

It was a good day ...

Who knew ...

Joe Sharkey at The New York Times wrote an article that sent chills through me ...

Because it's yet another sign that America is no longer the land of the free.

A lot of business travelers are walking around with laptops that contain private corporate information that their employers really do not want outsiders to see.

Until recently, their biggest concern was that someone might steal the laptop. But now there's a new worry - that the laptop will be seized or its contents scrutinized at U.S. customs and immigration checkpoints upon entering the United States from abroad.

Although much of the evidence for the confiscations remains anecdotal, it's a hot topic this week among more than a thousand corporate travel managers and travel industry officials meeting in Barcelona at a conference of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives.

Last week, an informal survey by the association, which has about 2,500 members worldwide, indicated that almost 90 percent of its members were not aware that customs officials have the authority to scrutinize the contents of travelers' laptops and even confiscate laptops for a period of time, without giving a reason.

"One member who responded to our survey said she has been waiting for a year to get her laptop and its contents back," said Susan Gurley, the group's executive director. "She said it was randomly seized. And since she hasn't been arrested, I assume she was just a regular business traveler, not a criminal."

... Appeals are under way in some cases, but the law is clear. "They don't need probable cause to perform these searches under the current law," said Tim Kane, a Washington lawyer who is researching the matter for corporate clients. "They can do it without suspicion or without really revealing their motivations."

Oddly enough, it becomes another reason not to fly to the US ... love the people, can't deal with the politics and paranoia of the president and those who make his policies.

Thanks for passing it on Erin ...

Christmas Markets In Germany

Der Spiegel is running a story about Germany's Christmas markets ...

Antwerpen's Christmas Market opens tonight. This article gives you a taste of the winter Christmas tradition that is everywhere here.

For hundreds of years, merchants have erected small wooden huts in the ancient centers of cities and towns all across Germany at Christmas, where artisans peddle handicrafts, baked goods, regional cuisine and millions of liters of Glühwein (mulled wine) to help keep Jack Frost away. For the month of December, right up to the 24th, and in some cases until New Year's, the country's world-famous Christmas markets offer a sort of mini Oktoberfest all across the country, where dirndl-clad Bavarian bar wenches, beer and pretzels are replaced with Saint Nicholas, Glühwein, gingerbread, fruitcake, speculatius and other holiday delights.

"Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck."

-Iris Murdoch, 1973

Sample questions on your test for entry to Britain ...

I can only hope that I'm not faced with this line of questioning on re-entering New Zealand because after spending most of my life there ... well, let's just say I'm clearly not worthy of inclusion in the society there ;)

Migration to Britain: Where have migrants come from in the past and why? What sort of work have they done?

The changing role of women: Do women have equal rights and has this always been the case? Are there as many women in education or work as men? Do women get the same pay as men? Do women with children work?

Children, family and young people: How many young people are there in the UK? Do many children live in single parent families or step-families? When do children leave home? What sort of work do children do? When do children take tests at school? How many go on to higher education? What are the minimum ages for buying alcohol and tobacco? What drugs are illegal? How interested are young people in politics? What do they see as the main issues today?

Population: How many people live in the countries of the UK? What is the census and how is census data collected and used? How many people belong to an ethnic minority and which are the largest minority groups? Where are there large ethnic communities?

Religion and tolerance: How many people say they have a religion and how many attend religious services? What are the largest religious groups? What is the Church of England and who is its head? What are the main Christian groups?

The regions of Britain: Where are Geordie, Cockney and Scouse dialects spoken?

Customs and traditions: Do people tend to live in the cities or in the country? What and when are the national days of the four countries of the UK? What are bank holidays? What and when are the main Christian festivals? What other traditional days are celebrated?

The working system of government: What are MPs? How often are elections held and who forms the government? What is the role of the Prime Minister? Who advises them and what are the main roles in the Cabinet? What type of constitution does the UK have? What is Her Majesty's Opposition and what is the role of the Leader of the Opposition? How is political debate reported? Are newspapers free to publish opinions or do they have to remain impartial?

The formal institutions – 1: What is the Queen's official role and what ceremonial duties does she have? How do elections for the House of Commons work? How are candidates selected? What do the Speaker and Whips do? What is the House of Lords and who are its members? How can you visit Parliament?

The formal institutions – 2: How are judges appointed and how do they apply the law? How are the police organised and who controls their administration? What is the civil service and how do civil servants work with government? How are local services managed, governed and paid for?

Devolved administration: What is proportional representation and where is it used? What are the powers of the devolved administrations? Which areas of policy remain under the control of the UK government? What are quangos and non-departmental public bodies?

Britain in Europe and the world: What are the roles and powers of the main institutions of Europe? How is European law organised? What rights do citizens of European Union states have to travel and work? What is the Commonwealth? What is the United Nations and what is Britain's role within it?

The ordinary citizen: What rights and duties do UK citizens have? Who has the right to vote and at what age? How and when do you register to vote? Who can stand for public office? How do you contact an elected representative?

Sourced from Telegraph News .

Erkan Saka, Anthropologist and Blogger

Watching the headlines spin by over here in Europe or is that 'headlines spun about Turkey here in Europe', I can begin to imagine how Turks might feel about their 'path' to the EU.

I found the cartoon over on Erkan's website .

I often source information from Erkan's site but I haven't written about who he is for quite some time. Erkan Saka is a Ph.D candidate in the Anthropology Department of Rice University and a teaching assistant at the Media and Communication Systems Department of Istanbul Bilgi University.

He uses his blog to register his fieldwork for his dissertation thesis project on Turkish journalism and the European Union (EU).

His blog is an interesting source of news, commentaries, casual analyses, documents, fieldnotes etc related to Turkey, the EU and his research as well as his posts on anthropology, journalism, cyberculture, football (soccer), reading notes and other field attractions ...

As usual ... thanks Erkan :)

Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Lecture, 2006

Erkan posted an extract from Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Lecture this year ... a speech that you probably won't find mentioned on mainstream television channels however, no matter, it is their loss.

He also posted a link to Orhan's moving Nobel lecture ... .

Some extracts: A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him, and the world that makes him who he is: when I speak of writing, what comes first to my mind is not a novel, a poem, or literary tradition, it is a person who shuts himself up in a room, sits down at a table, and alone, turns inward; amid its shadows, he builds a new world with words.

He can write poems, plays, or novels, as I do. All these differences come after the crucial task of sitting down at the table and patiently turning inwards. To write is to turn this inward gaze into words, to study the world into which that person passes when he retires into himself, and to do so with patience, obstinacy, and joy.

As I sit at my table, for days, months, years, slowly adding new words to the empty page, I feel as if I am creating a new world, as if I am bringing into being that other person inside me, in the same way someone might build a bridge or a dome, stone by stone.

The stones we writers use are words. As we hold them in our hands, sensing the ways in which each of them is connected to the others, looking at them sometimes from afar, sometimes almost caressing them with our fingers and the tips of our pens, weighing them, moving them around, year in and year out, patiently and hopefully, we create new worlds.

The writer's secret is not inspiration – for it is never clear where it comes from – it is his stubbornness, his patience. That lovely Turkish saying – to dig a well with a needle – seems to me to have been said with writers in mind.

...I believe literature to be the most valuable hoard that humanity has gathered in its quest to understand itself. Societies, tribes, and peoples grow more intelligent, richer, and more advanced as they pay attention to the troubled words of their authors, and, as we all know, the burning of books and the denigration of writers are both signals that dark and improvident times are upon us.

But literature is never just a national concern. The writer who shuts himself up in a room and first goes on a journey inside himself will, over the years, discover literature's eternal rule: he must have the artistry to tell his own stories as if they are other people's stories, and to tell other people's stories as if they were his own, for this is what literature is. But we must first travel through other peoples' stories and books.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Off to Germany for the day ...

The Canucks have invited this Kiwi to travel with them to Koeln (Cologne) ... curious I am to see what is there.

Weather Underground reports 8 celsius and cloudy.
No mention of the horrendous rain expected in Belgie today ...

Tot ziens.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A couple of memorable quotes from Der Spiegel ...

Wolfowitz is the textbook example of the coexistence of cleverness and stupidity or, to put it more politely, for the coexistence of intellectualism and naiveté in a single person.

They go on through the list of those serving America ... Yet another irony of fate: Bolton, the blockhead and America First type, as UN ambassador. As a diplomat.

But the article is there for all to read.
Gerhard Spörl titled his piece Bye Bye Blockheads ...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It's been a day ...

I'm writing this post from Gert's office in the city ...

He foresaw problems with me hanging out here for a couple of hours on this wet, dark, rainy, windy day and offered me a colleague's computer. Or he may have been compelled by pity as he watched me struggling to handwrite a letter to an old friend. I seem to have lost the power of writing.

It's been one of those days ...

I had my 4th dental appointment this morning and like a boxer going into the ring, I have my preparation time beforehand.
I was alone and contemplative.

I left in time to be 5 minutes early, my dentist was running at least 30 minutes behind however it was okay, I chatted with the policewoman who had travelled 2 hours on the train simply because she had heard my dentist was so good.
I confirmed both dentists in the practice were superb.

We exchanged phone numbers and will have coffee next time she's in the city.

Then, having had a filling removed from the very back of my mouth ... my very small mouth ... I wasn't quite feeling myself and blocked Gert's money card with too many attempts.

And so here I am, having met Gert who unblocked the money card, waiting for my 6.30pm photography appointment with interesting people in the city.

Last time I tried meeting a similar group, I was running late due to babysitting Gert's son, although I would have made it on time ... until my tramline was blocked by a bus crash.

The Chinese Englishman, a Nigerian guy from Brussels, a silent Chinese woman and I made our way through the rain darkened streets in search of a bus on the other side of the accident.
Really, we did.

We talked as we walked ... the English guy had recently been bankrupted and was having trouble with baliffs but he was a friendly soul.

The Nigerian was married but couldn't get his wife into Belgium.
The Chinese woman smiled and said nothing.

We parted ways when my destination came in to view.

Once there, I was told by a woman that I was in the wrong place. She gave me a map, telling me that if I walked back a few blocks I would arrive where I was meant to be. Gert had another meeting and I was only free for a short time ... I went home.

It turned out she was wrong. I'm going back there today, let's see how it goes.

Sometimes, I feel just like Alice must have felt when she found herself down the rabbit hole ... hmmm, and I do believe I've found a nice place to hang out on the cold rainy days. Now to tell Gert ...
Erin posted and it's too delicious not to pass on ...

And travelling is also a way of creating, because you retain all that you see and all that you hear, in the memory and in the retina, in order to later try to interpret it, as if you were an artist, a painter facing the palette, facing the faces and the shapes, a musician open to sound, to voices and rhythms, and perhaps in the end, a poet. Travel converts us into free beings; allows us to see ourselves paused in time while the world runs along beside us.
Javier Reverte

Gracias Erin.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Persian Chicken

Carolien commented on the Persian Chicken recipe, here it is:

2 large onions, 1 cup water, 1cup red wine, 2 teaspoons chicken stock powder, 1 teaspoon curry powder, 1 tablespoon tomato puree, 1 kg cooked chicken meat, 250g small button mushrooms, 3 spring onions, 1 cup green or black grapes, 400g can apricots drained and sliced (optional), 1/2cup coarsely chopped parsley, 1/2cup prepared mayonnaise, 1 cup lightly whipped cream.

Still with me ...?

You roughly chop the onions and place them in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or fry pan.
Add the water, wine, chicken stock powder, curry powder and tomato puree.
Simmer for 30 minutes until liquid has been reduced and the mixture has a chutney-like appearance. Stir frequently during cooking time.

Add the diced chicken, the washed whole mushrooms (I slice and lightly pre-cook the mushrooms), spring onions, grapes and apricots.
Cook for about 5 minutes to warm the chicken through and then fold in the parsley, mayonnaise and cream.

Serve immediately with something like rice, noodles or a crispy salad.

Shannon, it's for you too.

Excellent news ... John Bolton Resigns from the UN

The Washington Post is running the story that John Bolton has resigned from his temporary UN appointment.

Unable to win Senate confirmation, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton will step down when his temporary appointment expires within weeks, the White House said Monday.

Bolton's nomination has languished in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than a year, blocked by Democrats and several Republicans. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a moderate Republican who lost in the midterm elections Nov. 7 that swept Democrats to power in both houses of Congress, was adamantly opposed to Bolton.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Saturday Night surprise ...

Gert and I were watching a BBC drama last night when my phone rang ... a lovely friend, who shall remain anonymous, was calling.

She said, 'What number are you?'
I told her.
I see it, she said.
Laughing I said, 'Are you here for the party?'

Yes, we are.
Giggling I had to tell her, 'That would be the party that's next week ...?'

She said something along the lines of 'Noooooooooo!'
Still laughing I told her to come up, leaving Gert to open the doors while I ran to change out of my 'around-home-only-trousers'.

And so it was that our lovely New Zealand-friend-living-in-Brussels arrived, Australian sparkling wine in hand and her delightful English friend in tow.

Greetings and laughter exchanged, the wine was opened and we had a little Saturday company.

It turned out we were lucky she made the mistake ... she flies out to New Zealand next week, one day before the party. Meanwhile she has offered to bring me something from home and like a kid in a sweet shop, I've been thinking and thinking about what I would most love ... it will come to me.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Last night's Persian Chicken was one of the best that I've ever cooked ... as a follow-up to my post about cooking last night.

This morning was all about photography and lovely people. Afterwards Gert and I drove over to Antwerpen's Ikea. We were looking for all kinds of things.

Sinterklaas comes to the children of Belgie on 6 December but tomorrow we're all off to Gert's parents so the kids can pick up their gifts from bomma and bompi (nana and grandad back in my world) and Gert has decided to give his kids their Sinterklaas gifts in the morning.

We were searching for zitzakken ... beanbags of course. Ikea had none but they had other things that we 'needed' and we walked away smiling, having finally bought frames so we can enlarge and hang some of my photography up on our walls.

We drove all over the city, locating the zitzakken at 4pm and they're here in the lounge waiting for morning.

It's so strange for me to be celebrating Christmas as we descend into winter ... it's not really real to me. Let's see how we do, as we have magnificent plans for our Christmas period.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Persian Chicken in Antwerp tonight ...

Those who knew me in Istanbul will know what I'm talking about when I write that I'm whipping up Persian Chicken tonight ...

It was a meal, a stunning meal, that could be cooked on the stovetop. I had two homes in Istanbul, and the neither had ovens that worked ... and so it was that I became a stovetop and toaster chick ... oh, and take-out borek with red wine after the particularly bad day with 7F.

I haven't made Persian Chicken here yet ... Gert cooks.
He claims that he de-stresses from work during the process of cooking.
I can only respect this kind of claim, being the polite kiwi creature I am and being lazier than a lazy thing on occasions.

So it's good night from me as I disappear into the kitchen again ... I hope your week was a good one.

Tot ziens.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Web Diarists Are Challenging Censors

Der Spiegel are running a story that about equates with my idea of the only place where democracy actually has room to be ...

Authoritarian states like China, Iran and Egypt are having trouble dealing with the burgeoning number of critical online diaries. These blogs, which multiply by the second, expose news about incidents that many regimes would prefer to keep hushed up. In many countries, blogs are giving people their first real taste of democracy.

Vote for the 2006 Word of the Year

Merriam-Webster is an American publisher of language-related reference works and they're calling for submissions for the 2006 word of the year ...

They write: We're trying something a little different this year. Instead of reviewing millions of searches in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary to find our most frequently looked-up words, we're asking you to submit your choice for the one single word that sums up 2006. Which one of the hundreds of words you've encountered this year do you think best represents the year now quickly drawing to a close? Maybe it's one you've seen again and again in the headlines of newspapers and magazines, or one that seems to be a particular favorite in the blogosphere, or maybe it's a word you've heard bandied about ad nauseam by various TV and radio pundits. No matter where you've seen or heard it, every word is eligible to take the top honors for 2006.

You can find out more here .

Thanks to David, at Public Address
Peter has an interesting post titled Is Microsoft Vista “Policeware"?

He begins: Although Microsoft will do its utmost to make you believe otherwise, its new VISTA operating system is actually disempowering the user. You no longer decide what can be done with your “Personal Computer”, VISTA (ie Microsoft) decides. Not convinced? Let me give you a couple of url’s to relevant articles.

Orhan Pamuk, Writer

You can skip this if you like but I love reading of Orhan Pamuk and The New York Times has a lovely article on him here .

I like what he has to say about his life, lived inside and out of his beloved Istanbul ... “As I waver back and forth,” he wrote in his memoir, “sometimes seeing the city from within and sometimes from without, I feel as I do when I am wandering the streets, caught in a stream of slippery contradictory thoughts, not quite belonging to this place and not quite a stranger.”

Thank you Erkan .

Pulitzer Prize and Blogs

As usual, Erkan is posting interesting things ...

He linked to Bloggers where you can find the latest news on the Pulitzer Prize and bloggers.

New guidelines for the prestigious Pulitzer Prizes allow the submission of a blogs. A press release from the Pulitzer Board discusses the widening of the range of online journalims to include blogs and other online content.

The purpose of the new category is to encourage and honor exemplary local journalism, marked by strong reporting across a spectrum of potential subjects. "The Pulitzer Prizes have long valued such reporting," Gissler said, "but this makes our interest much more explicit."

While the local category replaces the Beat Reporting category that was created in 1991, the work of beat reporters remains eligible for entry in a wide range of categories that include-depending on the specialty involved-national, investigative, and explanatory reporting, as well as the new local category.

With its new rules for online submissions, the Pulitzer Board will require each online element to be a single, discretely designated presentation, such as a database, blog, interactive graphic, slide show, or video presentation. Each designated element will count as one item in the total number of items, print or online, that are permitted in an entry.

The 'How to Submit a Entry' PDF File can be found here

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dental Visit 3, Belgie

The numbing injection is taking so long to wear off and I'm not meant to eat until I can feel my mouth again ... I'm starving, and so ends another dental appointment.

It was better this time, no root canal but worse because she realised that a crack in the tooth next to the one she was working on was causing the pain. Needless to say, I have to go back next week.

She told me an interesting thing ... those black fillings I had put in over the years have a tendency to expand with hot drinks and food, causing cracks in the teeth and it was this that contributed to me losing points on 3 different teeth over the last couple of years.

It is exacerbated by the fact that I grind my teeth while I sleep but mmmm, all the best people do ... she hopes to repair the tooth crack she discovered today, before it snaps off and then there's the final known snapped point to work on on the other side of my mouth.

It's lovely to have found a dentist I trust but still ...

Istanbul Wanderer

Istanbul Wanderer, originally uploaded by - di.

I was going through some of the Istanbul images I had stored on cd and found this one.

My Australian friend and I spent the day wandering through the streets of Istanbul - she was saying goodbye to the city that had been her home for awhile and I was saying bye to her.

It was a magical day in terms of results ... I took some of my best photographs in the city that day.

We stopped for a coffee in Taksim ...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 - Let's talk European

I enjoy the online version of Der Spiegel but today they led me to a new online news source called

Signandsight offers an informative view of cultural and intellectual life in Germany. In Today's Feuilletons summarises the highlights of the cultural pages of the major German language newspapers.

The magazine roundup seems interesting and it's only a small selection of what is on offer there: Merkur testifies to the eccentricity of Europeans. In L'Espresso, Umberto Eco reads the Koran and Tertullian. The Weltwoche interviews Ahmed Scheikh of Al Jazeera. In Figaro, Alain Finkielkraut protects Robert Redeker from his "Yes, but..." defenders. The TLS is fed up with political moral apostles and writings from the new politics of values. The British are buying Bulgaria, says Przekroj. And Nepszabadsag longs for capitalism with a human face.

MEPs to shame 11 EU states in final CIA report, EU Observer

The EU Observer is running an interesting article ... The European Parliament in its final report on alleged CIA kidnappings and prisons in Europe is set to name and shame 11 EU member states with Poland coming in for some of the heaviest criticism, Polish press agency PAP reveals ahead of the study's Wednesday (29 November) publication date.

Italy, the UK, Germany, Sweden and Austria saw terrorism suspects snatched on their territory the report by Italian socialist MEP Claudio Fava will say, while the UK, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Romania and Poland hosted hundreds of secret CIA flights.

The density of the flights - suspected of being used for "extraordinary renditions" or transfer of prisoners without trial or legal redress to sites such as Guantanamo Bay or Uzbekistan - was the greatest in Germany (336), the UK (170) and Ireland (147).

... EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini has in the past clarified that any EU member states caught violating "fundamental human rights" could face suspension of EU voting privileges under articles six and seven of the EU Treaty.

Amy Gahran, Content Strategist, Info-Provocateur

An intriguing post over at Amy Gahran's Poynter Online column ... Smart Blogger or Photo Vigilante?

There are other bloggers who have snapped their attackers in action ...

It's a subject that raises interesting questions.

Amy writes: On Nov. 24, Jackie Danicki (an American blogger and social media consultant living in London) was physically and verbally assaulted by two men in the London Underground. She reports, "The assault took place on the southbound Bakerloo line platform at Baker Street, and the abuse continued from there to Piccadilly Circus." She also noted that this abuse went on for 15 minutes before anyone tried to intervene.

Danicki went one step beyond what most people -- probably even me -- would have done in that situation. She took a photo of one of her alleged assailants. After she returned from making a lengthy police report, she posted that photo to her weblog along with a description of what happened, and asked people to identify this man to the British Transport Police. In the comments, she also included a description of the second alleged attacker.

Neal, Nowhere To Go But Up

Coming in as Point I on Neal's About New Zealand post was: I) Kiwis are nice, almost to a fault. I never saw a kiwi get so much as agitated. Granted, most of the people that I dealt with were in the tourist industry, so it's their job to be nice. Even when I stayed with the locals, they were just really positive and happy.

I guess when you live in paradise, it's hard to find a reason to get annoyed.

He's an American who has been blogging on Nowhere to go but up down in the South Pole for the last year. Who can resist reading a person who writes in little 'about me' piece that I used to just be a nerd, now I'm an action nerd.

Meanwhile, an old friend called Paul has just arrived at the South Pole and doesn't yet realise that regular updates will be expected ...
I was reading Expatica this morning and noticed an odd story about a rather odd little man who has set up a group to deny the Holocaust happened.

Reynouard moved to Brussels in 2002 to create a neo-Nazi group, 'Vision historique objective' (VHO) or objective historical perspective. This group, which principally aims to deny the Holocaust and the existence of concentration camps during WWII, is the French-speaking branch of the 'Vrij historisch onderzoek' a neo-Nazi group created in 1985 by the leaders of the Vlaams Blok, renamed the Vlaams Belang from November 2004.

What does he hope to achieve?
Will his next group be established to deny that the sky is blue?

This affair is likely to have repercussions for Reynouard's contacts in Brussels, who supported him and helped him propagate his writings. Reynouard was housed by a catholic community in Ixelles, the same community who took in Olivier Mathieu in the 90's, another French neo-Nazi.

Monday, November 27, 2006

This is why I want to go home ...

I grew up living with nature.
Bare feet were commonplace in summer, the beaches and rivers were places we ate and sunbathed between swimming. Horses, dogs and cats lived on an open-door policy ... an inside pet was unimaginable and my dogs always had some kind of swimming area close by.

The people are some of the friendliest in the world, the air is so clean I almost cry everytime I go home.

What am I doing out here in Europe ...?
You know what, sometimes I really don't know.

Jeff Derosa, Astute Bloke

Jeff Derosa wrote this superb description of New Zealand's South Island ... otherwise known as Di's Place.

He wrote, But New Zealand’s beauty is in a league all by itself. Another way to describe the South island is if you took an area the size of the state of Maine and then picked out the best of the Maine Coast, Colorado’s mountains, Ireland’s country side, tropical-looking water, and placed a cool city like Charleston, SC in the middle of it all … that would be New Zealand’s South Island.

In terms of both culture and natural beauty, is there a more attractive country on this planet? If so, let me know!

Well Jeff ... I don't think there is any place more attractive actually.

Poi E and the Patea Maori Club

I am beginning to love Public Address , a community of New Zealand-centric weblogs.

Graeme Edgeler posted this youtube over there as a kind of blast from the past ... it's dated but full of memories for people like me.

There's an interesting 'how it happened and what it all means here .

They write, The whole Poi-E concept was born in 1982 after linguist Ngoi Pewhairangi asked musician Maui Dalvanius Prime how he would teach the younger generation to be proud of being Maori and Kiwi. He told her he could do it by giving them their language and culture through the medium they were comfortable with.

Poi-E became a huge hit and was 22 weeks on the NZ hit charts in 1984, charting at number 1 for 4 weeks. It was also a big hit overseas, Dalvanius taking the Patea Maori Club on a tour which included The London Palladium, the Edinburgh Festival and a Royal Command Performance.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

24 hours in Antwerpen

It's been frustrating moving to Belgie, I might have mentioned it once or twice ... and every now and again I've ask myself ... would I do it all again if I knew how it was going to be?
Lately the answer has been yes.

I still get angry about the ridiculous paperwork and time wasted in arriving but ... if it hadn't taken so long, I wouldn't have developed as a blogger and photographer, I wouldn't have had time for the projects I'm working on with all kinds of interesting people, and I simply wouldn't be living the kind of life that involves me singing the Antwerp football supporters song at the top of my lungs in a smoke-filled pub with the family and friends of an Alderman celebrating his 40th birthday, then picking myself up the next morning to take photographs at a cultural exhibition and breakfast ... two completely unrelated events that allow me to see how it is to really live in this city I'm coming to love.

For me, travelling in other countries has to be about people ... without people, the experience feels one-dimensional. When I went to Rome, I was fortunate. Marco took me home to his family on the back of his scooter, his wife cooked Roman food for me and their family made me feel welcome in a country that wasn't my own.

I met two Paolo's, an artist who took me to coffee and a tour guide friend of a friend, who took me to lunch and showed me some of the city. And then there was Enzo, my waiter for the evening ... the man who made my last evening hilariously memorable by showering his attentions on me, that blushing kiwi woman trying to work out how to be less visible alone in a restuarant in Rome.

Turkey was superb ... the people, the people and the people. The Turks are surely amongst the kindest and most hospitable people in the world. I still miss them today and am happy to be moving in circles that will bring me in contact with the ones who live here.

Australia and my brother's friends and family there welcomed me in ... how I loved it, such a surprise after years of 'friendly' traditional rivalry.

Fiji and a taxi driver took us under his wing, showing us the island while we were stranded there on the way home once.

Belgium has been more difficult. Belgians don't rush in and embrace the foreigner, that's how it is here. Sometimes I have despaired, wanting out, wondering what had made me so unpalatable in this new world ... but slowly, give them time and there are moments of people magic to be had in this country too.

So, reporting from Belgium today ... I'm saying 'Alles goed' and 'tot straks'.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Final Score

New Zealand 45 - Wales 10

I hope never to have to listen to a BBC commentary again ... the French was so much better. I don't understand French.

Running out to an Alderman's birthday party.

Tot ziens.

Welcome to the PC 21st century in Welsh Rugby

Halftime score: New Zealand 28 - Wales 3.

But there was no haka at the start of this weekend's All Black's rugby match against Wales ...

Stunned, I googled it and discovered some silly little men felt menaced by the throat-slitting gesture at the end of the latest haka ...

The same gesture that made me laugh when I saw it.
New Zealanders are known the world around for their peaceful natures.
We don't have rugby fans acting out in deadly fighting during and after matches.
What are these pc idiots talking about?

Okay, so I'll come down off my soapbox and report coherently. Wales great Gerald Davies has become the latest leading rugby figure to say the All Blacks should drop the "throat-slitting" haka pre-match ritual, insisting it was "unworthy of New Zealand rugby" and had "no place on the playing field."

"We await with interest to see which one of the two hakas the All Blacks will perform on their tour of Europe," Davies, one of the outstanding wings of his generation and a star of the victorious British and Irish Lions side which triumphed in New Zealand in 1971, wrote in his column Thursday in The Times.

Well Gerald, they decided to perform behind closed doors so as to not psychologically traumatise those forced to watch this traditional pre-match display.

"It is devoutly to be hoped that they have left behind closed doors the one they chose to offer us last year.

"The one, that is, with the somewhat-menacing slitting-of-the-throat gesture," added Davies ahead of Sunday's match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham.

In New Zealand, this kind of nonsense would result in dear Gerald being addressed as 'Girl's blouse'.

The New Zealand newspapers are already reporting that The move wasn't warmly accepted by the 74,000-strong crowd at Millennium Stadium, with boos ringing out when it became clear there would be no haka performed.

Dervla Murphy, Stories from Siberia

The Independent is an interesting paper to wander through ...

Today I discovered this article about what draws the veteran travel writer Dervla Murphy to this coldest of places?

Nick Coelman asks: Its vastness, the quality of the silence, the sheer beauty of the landscape ... a few of the reasons why she chose it as the subject of her new book.

Alexander Litvinenko

Paris Parfait wrote on the death of Alexander Litvineko.

Pointing her readers in the direction of an Independent article

They wrote Alexander Litvinenko was a man who could be taught little about the seamy side of modern Russia. A KGB agent for 18 years, he occupied a world where intrigue, betrayal and ruthless trickery were the tools of working life.

But even a man whose job was to fight organised crime and counter subversion in the name of the Kremlin would have been surprised at an event as mired in low chicanery, high drama and cold-blooded cunning as his own passing. The spy novel saga of the life and death of the 43-year-old secret agent turned vehement critic of Vladimir Putin entered its most extraordinary phase yesterday when it was revealed that he died from exposure to a radioactive poison.

Last night, the Government was dealing with a public health alert and diplomatic crisis after traces of polonium 210, a by-product of uranium, were found at Mr Litvinenko's home as well as a sushi restaurant and London hotel he visited on 1 November.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) confirmed that traces of the heavy metal, which is lethal if ingested in tiny quantities, were found in Mr Litvinenko's urine.

"Urban sprawl in Europe – the ignored challenge"

By 2020, some member states' population will be up to 90 percent urbanised with EU funding contributing to uncontrolled sprawl in some cities, a new environment study has said.

Paulo Coelho, Writer

Aart left news in my comments section ... telling me of Paulo Coelho's website and blog . And there is a FAQ section for those curious about his life.

Thank you Aart.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Erkan posted news of an interesting study ...

A 34-page discussion paper that examines the social integration of immigrants into host countries within Europe .
I had the loveliest time this afternoon ...

I went visiting and spent a couple of hours drinking a little of the Spanish version of Beaujolais Nouveau, snacking on herring, olives and yummy cheese while looking through photographs and talking.

Lut had invited me over and had a delicious pile of photographs from her recent visit to Turkey ... not only that, she has a gorgeous old dog who was happy with the attention I paid him. I miss dogs here in Belgie ... Gert isn't convinced by my need for one.

Her photographs captured a Turkey I recognised and I sighed over breakfasts and dinners but there was more ... boats on a stunningly blue Mediterranean, pink graves cut into a hillside and stone stairways that had led ancient people up hidden pathways on a now abandoned island.

It was dark by the time Lut's husband lifted my bike down the steps of their house ... hmmmm, we noted my bike doesn't have a dynamo for the lights and Gert wasn't answering his phone and then there was the fact I wasn't biking home through the park in the dark which meant ... hmmm.

I walked on. My conditioning is a lifetime of riding on the left side of the road ... I figured this wasn't the best plan when biking without lights and a little uncertain of the way home. I walked a while, made a plan and the phone rang.

I talked Gert through my route home and being a patient man, he pretended he needed talked through my route home ... he corrected me and there I was, back on a cycle path and relatively safe. He updated me with the news that my bike has never had a dynamo ... my battery-powered bike lights were at home in the basket in the washhouse, but of course.

I came home with a bag full of goodies. There's the delicious jar of Turkish honey and nuts, and the Irish cds which are playing as I type this.

Dank u wel Lut, I had the loveliest time.

Wear Sunscreen ...

Dank u wel Peter .
Last time I listened to this I was younger ... it's true about knees.
"I believe in the concept of 'anima mundi' (soul of the world), where each person, through total dedication to what he does, comes into contact with the inspiration of the universe."

Paulo Coelho

Live and Let Live ...

Guardian Unlimited covers a range of topics. I did smile when I found this one ... Flap over a tale of gay penguins .

It was a love story that touched the heart of New Yorkers. Two gay penguins at Central Park Zoo who - after trying unsuccessfully to hatch a rock - were given a fertilised egg and raised their own little chick called Tango.

The tale of Roy and Silo was even made into a children's book called 'And Tango Makes Three'. But, while liberal Manhattanites may have sighed at the sweetness of it all, not every American seems quite so pleased. The book has caused controversy in a number of small towns in the American heartland, where teachers and parents have complained that it is not suitable for children. In Shiloh, Illinois, some parents insisted that the village school library restrict access to the cartoon tome.

Translating Poetry

People say translated poetry is like the back of embroidery, same colours but rather a mess, but a really good version gives you two poems for the price of one.

I enjoyed this article found on The Guardian website.

Ruth Padel wrote : Having my poetry translated in Córdoba last week brought out the best and worst of me in Spanish.

What I must give up ... as soon as I come down

I know I shouldn't eat M&Ms ...

There are a million reasons, or the side-effects are so bad that they feel like the million reasons not to eat them.

But what's with selling them in bags big enough to allow people to feel like death as the resulting sugar and colouring high kicks in????

It's like constantly improving cars so that they do 160km per hour effortlessly then slapping the 100km per hour New Zealand speed limit on them.

So okay, we shouldn't do it ... but we can!!!

I'm sitting here, remembering to breathe and waiting for my head to stop spinning, wondering if my 3 monthly binges have cumalative side-effects.

So yes, I slip and M&M binge about every 3 months, I'm improving ... but 3 months is only long enough to make me forget how very bad I feel aftewards ... long enough to make me imagine I might have matured enough to 'STOP PUTTING THE M&Ms IN MY OWN MOUTH'.

I was wrong ... again, and these effects are only the consequence of a portion of a 250g bag.

I think this is it ... the last time, from now on the only substance I'm going to abuse is red wine.

It's so very much nicer than shiny dangerous mouthfuls of brightly-coloured candy-coated chocolate.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Catch of the day

I found this while out wandering ...

Titled Catch of the Day , it's an article by Guardian film writer Diana Dobson.

Whangara is home of the Ngati Konohi people and inspiration behind Witi Ihimaera’s Whale Rider . She writes, The tribes of Whangara have thrived in spiritual harmony ever since Paikea, the whale rider, travelled across the Pacific to the east coast of New Zealand 30 generations ago. We hook up with the modern-day wave riders who keep these Maori traditions alive

Today in Antwerpen

I have averaged about 50euro per dental visit recently however 3 visits and my root canal filling is finally done.

The good news is that the Belgian government refunds some of the cost so okay, I'll pay my taxes and Gert will continue to pay his massively high taxes. Somehow the refund takes a little of the sting out of both the dental treatment and the high tax rates.

Now for the other two teeth ... I'm back there next Wednesday.

Children, look after your teeth and when moving countries, try not to get tied up 'in process' for excessively long periods of time.

Everyone else, check that your travel insurance offers realistic help with dental treatment ... it's very important because my cover just wasn't good enough.

I've got an exciting outing on on Sunday ...
There's a rather special breakfast here in the city and I'm popping along to take photographs.
A volunteer's life can be a highly interesting one ...

Gert had one of 'those' phone calls today.
'Hi Gert.'
'I'm on Korte Beeldekens straat. Can you tell me how to get back to the main street?'
'Where are you?'
'Korte Beeldekens straat and I've just come to Laange van Bloer straat now.'
'I see ...'

He's silent while he pulls his city map up on the screen.
Some time passes ... 'Where are you again?'
'Well you know the street with the big concrete lions at the entrance to the Chinese area?'
'I'm meant to be there but I'm not ... '
'Okay, I've found you ... how did you get there???'
'I think I turned right 2 streets too soon.'
'I see...okay, so turn right and then left onto Kerkstraat ... then walk straight ahead and that should take you back to the main street.'
'You're a good man, thank you. I was so very very lost this time.'
'I noticed ...'
Knowing that I treat my blog a little like my own personal scrapbook, a place for storing precious things ... you'll forgive for posting this version of the All Blacks Rugby Haka from this year.

It's the best I've seen yet and the commentary gives you a taste of New Zealand.

Thanks to Rob over at Public Address .

C-List Blogger

The Middle Authority Group
[C-List Bloggers]
(10-99 blogs linking in the last 6 months)
This contrasts somewhat with the second group, which enjoys an average age not much older than the first at 260 days and which posts 50% more frequently than the first. There is a clear correlation between posting volume and Technorati authority ranking.

You can check your ranking here .

Ummm ... thanks Erkan .
BBC is running an interesting story on the suppression of freedom of expression on the internet.

A list of 13 "enemies of the internet" has been released by human rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

For the first time, Egypt has been added to the list while Nepal, Libya and the Maldives have all been removed.

RSF has been outspoken in its condemnation of Yahoo. The search engine has been criticised along with other companies for helping the Chinese authorities block access to some online material.

Oh those New Zealanders ...

Houtlust posted this image from a New Zealand road-safety campaign.

The faster you go the bigger the mess.

They describe themselves as being about nonprofit advertising and social campaigns. On the edge of marketing and activism, it's a meetingplace about communication for all you folks of the advertising industry, good samaritans, grassroots, activists and social entrepreneurs.
Thanks Erkan .

An Accidental Immigrant writes:

I can see that I'll do what they want sooner or later ... and get out of Europe.

Disturbing but increasingly common in European countries: 'Far-right politician Geert Wilders gained an unexpectedly high number of nine seats having run a campaign with strong anti-immigration tones'.

The The EUobserver reports: The Netherlands faces difficult coalition talks and potential complications for its position on the EU stage after Wednesday's elections saw huge gains for leftists and the far-right, with prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende scoring a victory over Labour.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Blogging About ...

I'm heading out for photographs and lunch soon but I was web-wandering, as I do and found this post over on Stepping Stones.

Kim had written under the title Important Reading that James, an American in Amsterdam, has a fantastic post of an article written by Oliver Thomas.

And so I trotted off to the site of American in Amsterdam and read.

It's worth exploring if you've ever questioned the Church as the moral authority on the topic of homosexuality.

A little of this and a little of that

I was writing a post on my 3 most-loved fictional television dramas, complaining about the fact that two of them tell me far too much of medical conditions I would rather not know details about however the actors and storylines are superb.

And the third almost required me to sign up for counselling last week ... and then I wandered into the last of the sites for a link and it did something nasty and I had to crash out of it, losing all.

Anyway, it's probably for the best if I don't put my tv addiction out there for judgement, although those who would have mocked me back home rarely, if ever, read my blog.

Did that happen to anyone else ... that thing where you move away from home and 4-gazillon friends and family want you emailing them regularly and at length and so you start blogging and they pretty much all reject the blog because they only want to know how you are, or they want more personal stuff than you're prepared to blog about, or they don't like the news and information items you put out there, or you simply blog too often.

The end result?
Well these days I don't think anyone I started the blog for actually reads it.

Meanwhile Gert has left his mp3 player on my desk ... well his desk but possession is 9/10ths of the law. Who knew he listened to ... 'In de hemel is geen Dylan'

The photo ... taken in my beloved Istanbul. He was a sweet guy, woken up by his friends laughter as they watched me photograph him.

Postscript: Mark phoned me to remind me that he reads my blog, as does my sister (who never leaves comments). My dad says I write too much and he wants to know more about me without all the other stuff. My brothers have a history of criminal neglect of their sisters (and live far enough away not to be able to beat me a little should they happen upon this). And my lovely friend Corryl reads me. Hmmm, I think that's about it ... however I have met a whole world of new people out here in the blog world, and that's been delicious too.

Sorry Mark.

An update on Josh Wolf, Blogger

ABC News blog, The Blotter , is running this story on Josh Wolf, who now could end up spending almost a year in prison for his refusal to turn over unedited video of a San Francisco protest he filmed over a year ago.

Morillon says jailing journalists for protecting sources is becoming a "chilling trend" in the United States. "More and more journalists are being subpoenaed by federal courts; they are being forced to reveal their sources," she says. "If confidentiality of sources can't be granted, where is journalism going to go?"

Last month in the annual ranking of press freedom by Reporters Without Borders, the United States dropped nine places to number 53, in line with such countries as Botswana, Croatia and Tonga.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen

I've never heard Jack Kerouac speak before ...

Here he is in a youtube on the Steve Allen Show back in 1959

Thanks to Rolf Potts and Boing Boing .

Iran Chamber Society and Shirin Neshat, Photographer

Iran Chamber Society offers an interesting taste of Iranian life.

They write: In the absence of a well-documented, comprehensive and permanent source on Iran/Persia that can accommodate many viewers' needs and wishes in providing information on all aspects of Iranian/Persian history and culture, and in compliance with the needs of those who are concerned with Iran/Persia and its issues, "Iran Chamber Society" (Andjoman-e Otagh-e Iran) was founded in 2001. "Iran chamber Society" is nonprofit without any political, religious and otherwise affiliations with any governmental institutions.

It was here that I found more on Shirin Neshat , born 1957, Qazvin, Iran. Although she lives and works in New York, the United States, her artwork explores issues of her native society, Iran, especially the position of women. She uses the specifics of her background culture to create works that communicate universal ideas about loss, meaning, and memory.

George Soros

"An open society is an imperfect society which holds itself open to improvement."
George Soros.

EU is running an interesting piece ...

US billionaire financier and liberal political activist George Soros has said the EU should "shelve" its planned constitution and instead take concrete steps to effectively promote a "global open society."

The Hungarian-born US citizen, who became famous as a financial speculator in the 1980s and 1990s, currently heads the Open Society Institute which promotes liberal democracy worldwide and which has been particularly active in the former Soviet bloc.

Speaking at the European Policy Centre in Brussels on 20 November, Mr Soros hailed the EU as an "inspiring" example of what he calls an "open society," with none of the member states dominating and with human rights prevailing.

"To my mind the EU embodies the principles of an open society," Mr Soros said also referring to the "step by step" building process of the union since the 1950s, with Europe's founding fathers gradually exploring new forms of co-operation while being aware of their "imperfections."

You can read more about George Soros and his Open Society Institute here .

Wikipedia have written him up here.

Who knew it was possible ...

Director Peter Jackson has been told he will not be hired to direct a movie based on J.R.R. Tolkien novel "The Hobbit," despite the nearly $3 billion global box office success of his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, according to a letter Jackson wrote to fan site

In his letter, Jackson said he and his producing partners have refused to discuss a "Hobbit" film until the lawsuit is settled, and he added that New Line informed him the studio had limited time to make the film so it must move on.

"Given that New Line are committed to this course of action, we felt at the very least, we owed you, the fans, a straightforward account of events as they have unfolded for us," Jackson wrote.
Haddock has written up Resveratrol and its presence in red wine over on his blog. I went searching and liked most of what I found ...

Resveratrol is a phytoalexin produced by several plants that is sold as a nutritional supplement. it has a number of beneficial health effects, such as anti-cancer, antiviral, neuroprotective, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and life-prolonging effects have been reported.

Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes and as a constituent of red wine may explain the “French paradox” that the incidence of coronary heart disease is relatively low in southern France despite high dietary intake of saturated fats.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Blogger is having technical difficulties and won't allow me to release peoples comments onto my blog ...

The message goes like this: This server is currently experiencing a problem. An engineer has been notified and will investigate.

Status code: 1-500-3

Thanks to Amanda, Manic and Galip for comments.
I'll publish them as soon as the machine allows it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Laura Fraser, Writer

After finishing the delicious curl-up-on-a-cold-Saturday book, I went searching to see if the author had an online presence ....

She does.

You can find Laura Fraser's site here.

She writes: Hi, welcome to my website. I'm a journalist, author, writing teacher, traveler, Italophile, and long-time San Franciscan. My last book, a travel memoir called An Italian Affair , was a New York Times bestseller. My previous book was an exposé of the diet industry called Losing It.

I work with several other San Francisco writers and filmmakers in a collective called the Grotto . I don't have another book coming out soon, but thanks for asking.

News from New Zealand

Mathew sent news of an iceberg floating close to my home city, back in Dunedin New Zealand ...

An iceberg has been spotted from the New Zealand shore for the first time in 75 years, one of about 100 that have been drifting south of the country.

The giant ice chunk was visible Thursday from Dunedin on South Island but has since moved away, driven by winds and ocean currents. The flotilla of icebergs — some as big as houses — were first spotted south of New Zealand early this month.

Scientists have been reluctant to blame global warming.

"We've been monitoring these things for such a short time, it's impossible to see. To say this is unusual and related to global warming is just not possible," Paul Augustinus, an Auckland University glacial geomorphology lecturer, told the New Zealand Herald earlier this month.

"It's a fairly frequent occurrence; it's just unusual for such large bergs to get so far north," he added.

Poets Against

Ascender Rises Above left a comment on my post about poets as legislators of the world, directing me to this website ... Poets Against

It's worth checking out.

Thanks Jacquelyn.

Robert Pirsig, An Interview

Metaphysics is a restaurant where they give you a 30,000 page menu and no food.
Robert Pirsig

The Guardian has this superb interview with the man who wrote 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'

The Seventies bestseller Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was the biggest-selling philosophy book ever. But for the reclusive author life was bitter-sweet. Here, he talks frankly about anxiety, depression, the death of his son and the road trip that inspired a classic.

Poets as Legislators of the world, Adrienne Rich

In this piece from The Guardian newspaper, Adrienne Rich argues that in our dark times we need poetry more than ever,

Extracts: I'm both a poet and one of the "everybodies" of my country. I live with manipulated fear, ignorance, cultural confusion and social antagonism huddling together on the faultline of an empire.

I hope never to idealise poetry - it has suffered enough from that. Poetry is not a healing lotion, an emotional massage, a kind of linguistic aromatherapy. Neither is it a blueprint, nor an instruction manual, nor a billboard.

There is no universal Poetry, anyway, only poetries and poetics, and the streaming, intertwining histories to which they belong. There is room, indeed necessity, for both Neruda and César Valléjo, for Pier Paolo Pasolini and Alfonsina Storni, for both Ezra Pound and Nelly Sachs.

Poetries are no more pure and simple than human histories are pure and simple. And there are colonised poetics and resilient poetics, transmissions across frontiers not easily traced.

And, Poetry has the capacity to remind us of something we are forbidden to see. A forgotten future: a still uncreated site whose moral architecture is founded not on ownership and dispossession, the subjection of women, outcast and tribe, but on the continuous redefining of freedom - that word now held under house arrest by the rhetoric of the "free" market. This on-going future, written-off over and over, is still within view. All over the world its paths are being rediscovered and reinvented.

There is always that in poetry which will not be grasped, which cannot be described, which survives our ardent attention, our critical theories, our late-night arguments.

There is always (I am quoting the poet/translator Américo Ferrari) "an unspeakable where, perhaps, the nucleus of the living relation between the poem and the world resides".