Tuesday, October 31, 2006

If on an autumn day a traveller ...

I've just been out, braving the elements in search of props now that autumn might be doing its thing and leading us on down the path into winter ...

It turned out that once outside not too much bravery was required - light drizzle, low grey sky and later, a 'playful' breeze couldn't dampen my smiles as I walked home.

I found two polar fleece blankets for future photography excursions to Tervuren and Rivierenhof Parks at very nice prices. Then, inspired by the absolutely stunning cuteness of a puppy that passed by me, I stopped its owner and asked if I might photograph said puppy for my photography website.

It seemed that perhaps she was as delighted as I was ...

Smiling, I went into the Apoteek for some aspirin and there I discovered the pharmacist was the nephew of a past Belgian ambassador to New Zealand ... he regretted only being 14 when his uncle invited him over.

The discussion had come about after I tried to prepare him for my vowel sounds ... asking for Sedergine has caused me problems in both Turkey and Belgium. Those who have heard me can imagine, I'm sure.

I've discovered that i's and e's become particularly distressing vowel sounds outside of New Zealand and Australia.

He was superb and knew what I was talking of first time ... no writing it down for him.

(Note: apologies to Italo Calvino)

The Best Potato Salad ...

According to Laura, this man makes the most amazing potato salad and she wrote up the recipe here .

I went wandering and visited this man and laughed (serious as most of it is) over his list of Five Reasons Why You Need an Editor:
*Your reputation is on the line.
*Even the best writer needs an editor. And the best editor needs another editor.
*Publishers won’t give you a reason why your manuscript was rejected. An editor will.
*E-publishing has no safety net to prevent embarrassment.
*Your mother thinks that everything you do is wonderful.
I was catching up on Paris Parfait's blog this morning ... it's grey here in Belgium and I have a cold threatening me - I'm not sure which way it's going to go so I'm home in my stunning purple longjohns, warm socks with hotwater bottle, polar fleece, and Mr Bocelli for company.

Anyway, Tara had mentioned meeting a talented artist and fascinating woman ... Laura of Laurelines .

I loved the artwork I found over on Laura's site ... if you want to take a tour of Paris but can't quite make it there yet, I recommended a wander through her blog ... it's stunning :)

Thanks Tara.
You know, this is why we need the internet ...

It seems to me that it's one of the few places the concept of democracy actually works.

Fons Tuinstra writes about a recent incident in China, where videos of a riot escaped police control and spread over the internet.

On Tuesday it looked like Chinese government could effectively remove those videos, but then they popped up everywhere.

How bizarre but perhaps I don't understand ...

Fons Tuinstra writes: Google has to pay at least a fine of €34 million (currently about $43,231,000 USD) because it has been unable to comply with a Belgian court order to remove all links to French- and German-language Belgian news sources as of September 5, 2006. I learned this from Dutch media, since the Belgian media disappeared from my radar.

Google was unable to find out which domain names where covered by the court order and so could not clean up its database. Google has now asked the publishers to help identify these domains, so it can comply with the court order.

After Google asked for their help, the publishers agreed last Friday to halt the daily €1 million fine. Google and the Wallonian media are currently negotiating an agreement.
Meneer Manic came to the city yesterday ... it was lovely to finally catch up with the voice often read in my comments section.

Taking time out from a busy university schedule, he arrived in the city just after 4. He was taking a tour with a 'local' ... a special kind of 'local', made obvious when we popped in to Sint Jacobskerk to visit with Rubens and he had to take over the guiding because I didn't really know what I was looking at.

He's a very useful Belgian when it comes to both the interior workings of churches or if you need something read or said in a range of languages.

But Sint Jacobskerk ... quite stunning. Let me copy from the pamphlet for you:
Pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela still set off from Sint Jacobskerk. The baroque furnishings in this late-Gothic church (ca. 1506-1656)are sumptuous and include 23 altars - a feast of marble - and a spectacular art collection boasting names like Jordaens, Rubens and Van Balen.

The church also contains Ruben's burial chapel; indeed, Rubens' House is just 300 metres away. His parish church still exudes the grandeur of this once prosperous parish, now a student quarter.

My other booklet tells me that: this church is still the city's richest because it was one of the few that wasn't plundered by French troops. Most visitors come to see Rubens' tomb and the painting he made for his own burial monument.

Mozart's father once wrote that he was most impressed.

Manic and I wandered on ... through the street of the designer stores, finding Vlaeykensgang - the 16th century shoemakers alley, on down to the river for a quick wander round the outside of Antwerp's medieval fortress, the Steen.

No visit to Antwerpen is complete without popping into Het Elfde Gebod, which Manic could, of course, pronounce fluently.

Gert cooked a rather nice salmon pasta for dinner and I listened as he and Manic gave me examples of their own dialects. I don't know if I've mentioned this before but dialects between villages, towns and cities can vary quite dramatically here. Oftentimes, not even the Belgians can understand the dialect of another Belgian ... it's even more frightening when you're foreigner and you imagine that you are getting somewhere with your Nederlands.

My first experience of something unintelligeable was at a farmhouse on Flanders Fields. Martin saw my surprise and laughed when he said, 'Don't even try to understand ...' and sure enough, last night Manic and Gert had very different ways of saying the same thing ... right down to the rhythm of their particular dialect Dutch.

Today is a day of working with photographs and catching up on long overdue mails ... sorry Fiona.

Tot ziens.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I couldn't have the information blurb on my blog without upsetting the layout ... so I've written up the results of How Many of Me.com .

There are 538,444 people in the U.S. with the first name Diane.
Statistically it's the 98th most popular first name.

There are 32,997 people in the U.S. with the last name Mackey.

There are 59 people in the U.S. named Diane Mackey.

More than you ever wanted to know ...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Seal Press, Publishers

I was looking for Anik See's website but didn't find one however I did find this while I was web-wandering. Their travel page is worth checking out ...

Seal Press was founded in 1976 to provide a forum for women writers and feminist issues. Since then, Seal has published groundbreaking books that represent the diverse voices and interests of women—their lives, literature, and concerns. Fueled by the radical thinking and daring work of our authors, Seal’s list includes books on women's health, parenting, outdoor adventure and travel, popular culture, gender and women's studies, and current affairs. Among our many notable authors are Tsitsi Dangarembga, Ariel Gore, Ayun Halliday, Inga Muscio, Barbara Sjoholm, and Michelle Tea.

Anik See, Writer

If I had money, I would buy everyone a copy of Anik See's A Taste For Adventure for Christmas ... it's a stunningly good travel book, in my humble opinion.

Anik wanders the world in it and each chapter gives a taste of a new country travelled 'her way' ... biking, staying with the locals, sleeping on floors, being invited to festivals ... she writes of partaking in a little of every new culture she enters and there are recipes.

An example, in Northern Argentina where she's just come back to the village after exploring some ruins ...

I walk in and hear a big cheer in the distance. The restaurant is completely empty except for a man sitting at the bar. He has his head on the counter, asleep. I hear some faint, tinny music and voices in the back, so I walk past the bar, around a dark corner and into a courtyard, suddenly blinded by sunlight.

I hear a pin drop. I blink. I stand, sunburned, weatherbeaten, dusty in my cycling clothes before a group of two hundred stunning, Brylcreemed, lipsticked, every-hair-in-place individuals seated at an enormous table. I blink again. Directly in front of me sit a woman and a man, he in a tuxedo, she in a sequinned white bodice and flowing skirts, a tiara placed delicately upon her perfect head.

Ah. The wedding.

"Hola," I say, and the group lets out a wild cheer. I am grabbed and shoved down the length of the table where there is an empty seat and am plonked down into it. Someone snaps a napkin open and drags it across my lap, another person hands me a glass filled with wine. All two hundred guests hoist their glasses and we toast the bride and groom.

Anik See
from, A Taste for Adventure
Ohhhh, ik ben verkouden ...

Saturday morning and Gert woke to the explosive sound of 3 Di Sneezes.

They were simply spectacular or so my dad always told me. Gert survived, no mean feat when you are deeply asleep at 7.30am on a Saturday.

The sneezing stopped on the train over to Brussels and didn't come back till this morning when I woke with one of those cold headaches.

We have a Belgian guest coming tomorrow ... I think we'll be fine, hmmm I wonder if we should give him an option about exposing himself to our slightly germ-laden air.

No ... he's a university student, if Ghent is anything like my university back home in New Zealand, colds and flus whip through the student population periodically ... he might just get a headstart on this one :) And he reads this ... he'll let me know.

News from New Zealand ...

My daughter has decided she won't move to my world, she wants to attend university first and is signing up for 2007.

Oh and Happy Halloween from the Georgia and Katie witches ... my much-missed nieces from back home in New Zealand.


I was curious when I saw an article on knuckle-cracking. I used to do it when I was a child ... to horrify usually. I grew out of it fast and don't like the sensation. Then I moved to Turkey ... a country of knuckle-crackers. I remember Kagan's delight over my horrified response to his knuckle-cracking ...

They write: We are not entirely sure what causes that noise, but most of us believe that the sound is elicited from small gas bubbles popping or bursting when under pressure. As you know some find it very easy to repetitively create the sound, and some even get addicted to doing this. While it may be annoying to those around us, and of great concern to many parents, most orthopedic surgeons believe that there is no harm in cracking your knuckles. I believe that an occasional knuckle crack is fine and can be combined with some simple stretches. I do not however suggest that you do this all day long especially if you are already hypermobile or loose jointed.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Not quite but it was a day of travel ...

I caught the train to Brussels, the metro to Stokel and the tram to Tervuren Park.
A humbling experience ... there's nothing quite like asking a fellow passenger on the metro where to punch your 10 ride ticket and discovering that no, you click it on the way in.

Do you know how mean ticket inspectors are in Belgium?
Had I been found lacking a clicked ticket, they would have quite possibly brought on the foreign tram police ... a big fine and much humiliation.

I sat very quietly waiting for Stockel and once there I resisted the temptation to explain why I was punching in my metro card after asking directions to the Tervuren tram ... that is, after clearing the metro area.

I looked like a crazy foreigner when in actuality I was merely a slightly ditzy foreigner.

I was out taking photographs in Tervuren Park today, with stunning results.
It's not that I'm not humble but the family I photographed were purely delightful and you can see it in the results.

I'm sorry but my word will have to be taken on this. I can't post anything until I get their permission and even then, they are completely free to say no ...

Tot ziens.

Katherine Mansfield, At The Bay

Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.
Katherine Mansfield

At the Bay, by Katherine Mansfield, is one of my favourite pieces of writing by a New Zealander. She captures something so very recognisable to me in her opening scene of that particular short story. I went back and located this on my blog after visiting her brother's grave in Flanders Fields yesterday.

Very early morning. The sun was not yet risen, and the whole of Crescent Bay was hidden under a white sea-mist. The big bush-covered hills at the back were smothered. You could not see where they ended and the paddocks and bungalows began. The sandy road was gone and the paddocks and bungalows the other side of it; there were no white dunes covered with reddish grass beyond them; there was nothing to mark which was beach and where was the sea. A heavy dew had fallen. The grass was blue. Big drops hung on the bushes and just did not fall; the silvery, fluffy toi-toi was limp on its long stalks, and all the marigolds and the pinks in the bungalow gardens were bowed to the earth with wetness. Drenched were the cold fuchsias, round pearls of dew lay on the flat nasturtium leaves. It looked as though the sea had beaten up softly in the darkness, as though one immense wave had come rippling, rippling—how far? Perhaps if you had waked up in the middle of the night you might have seen a big fish flicking in at the window and gone again...

Ah-Aah! sounded the sleepy sea. And from the bush there came the sound of little streams flowing, quickly, lightly, slipping between the smooth stones, gushing into ferny basins and out again; and there was the splashing of big drops on large leaves, and something else—what was it?—a faint stirring and shaking, the snapping of a twig and then such silence that it seemed some one was listening.

Round the corner of Crescent Bay, between the piled-up masses of broken rock, a flock of sheep came pattering. They were huddled together, a small, tossing, woolly mass, and their thin, stick-like legs trotted along quickly as if the cold and the quiet had frightened them. Behind them an old sheep-dog, his soaking paws covered with sand, ran along with his nose to the ground, but carelessly, as if thinking of something else. And then in the rocky gateway the shepherd himself appeared. He was a lean, upright old man, in a frieze coat that was covered with a web of tiny drops, velvet trousers tied under the knee, and a wide-awake with a folded blue handkerchief round the brim. One hand was crammed into his belt, the other grasped a beautifully smooth yellow stick. And as he walked, taking his time, he kept up a very soft light whistling, an airy, far-away fluting that sounded mournful and tender. The old dog cut an ancient caper or two and then drew up sharp, ashamed of his levity, and walked a few dignified paces by his master’s side. The sheep ran forward in little pattering rushes; they began to bleat, and ghostly flocks and herds answered them from under the sea. “Baa! Baaa!” For a time they seemed to be always on the same piece of ground. There ahead was stretched the sandy road with shallow puddles; the same soaking bushes showed on either side and the same shadowy palings. Then something immense came into view; an enormous shock-haired giant with his arms stretched out. It was the big gum-tree outside Mrs. Stubbs’ shop, and as they passed by there was a strong whiff of eucalyptus. And now big spots of light gleamed in the mist. The shepherd stopped whistling; he rubbed his red nose and wet beard on his wet sleeve and, screwing up his eyes, glanced in the direction of the sea. The sun was rising. It was marvellous how quickly the mist thinned, sped away, dissolved from the shallow plain, rolled up from the bush and was gone as if in a hurry to escape; big twists and curls jostled and shouldered each other as the silvery beams broadened. The far-away sky—a bright, pure blue—was reflected in the puddles, and the drops, swimming along the telegraph poles, flashed into points of light. Now the leaping, glittering sea was so bright it made one’s eyes ache to look at it. The shepherd drew a pipe, the bowl as small as an acorn, out of his breast pocket, fumbled for a chunk of speckled tobacco, pared off a few shavings and stuffed the bowl. He was a grave, fine-looking old man. As he lit up and the blue smoke wreathed his head, the dog, watching, looked proud of him.

“Baa! Baaa!” The sheep spread out into a fan. They were just clear of the summer colony before the first sleeper turned over and lifted a drowsy head; their cry sounded in the dreams of little children...who lifted their arms to drag down, to cuddle the darling little woolly lambs of sleep. Then the first inhabitant appeared; it was the Burnells’ cat Florrie, sitting on the gatepost, far too early as usual, looking for their milk- girl. When she saw the old sheep-dog she sprang up quickly, arched her back, drew in her tabby head, and seemed to give a little fastidious shiver. “Ugh! What a coarse, revolting creature!” said Florrie. But the old sheep-dog, not looking up, waggled past, flinging out his legs from side to side. Only one of his ears twitched to prove that he saw, and thought her a silly young female.

The breeze of morning lifted in the bush and the smell of leaves and wet black earth mingled with the sharp smell of the sea. Myriads of birds were singing. A goldfinch flew over the shepherd’s head and, perching on the tiptop of a spray, it turned to the sun, ruffling its small breast feathers. And now they had passed the fisherman’s hut, passed the charred-looking little whare where Leila the milk-girl lived with her old Gran. The sheep strayed over a yellow swamp and Wag, the sheep-dog, padded after, rounded them up and headed them for the steeper, narrower rocky pass that led out of Crescent Bay and towards Daylight Cove. “Baa! Baa!” Faint the cry came as they rocked along the fast-drying road. The shepherd put away his pipe, dropping it into his breast-pocket so that the little bowl hung over. And straightway the soft airy whistling began again. Wag ran out along a ledge of rock after something that smelled, and ran back again disgusted. Then pushing, nudging, hurrying, the sheep rounded the bend and the shepherd followed after out of sight.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Travelling to Flanders Fields

Imagine ... you're travelling at over 100kms down a highway somewhere in Belgium and your driver shares with you that he's wearing trifocal glasses.

It took a little time to process this information ...

'And that means ...?' I asked.

'They're like bi-focal glasses but better - there's the main lens and then one lens for close reading and another for reading the computer screen.

It wasn't the best news I'd ever heard from a driver but we had a good day - a good meeting, interesting people and some nice photos I hope.

Unplanned Adventures

They're the best kind perhaps ...

I'm off to Mesen today. I just had a phone call inviting me - all kinds of things are afoot. The sun is only just climbing into the sky at 9am and it looks like it's going to be a rather spectacular autumnal day.

We're off to a meeting with a man from a New Zealand war museum and then we'll tour some of the Flanders Fields war cemeteries afterwards.

I've been told to bring my camera gear.

So tot ziens from me for now.

Peter Pan - de musical, Antwerpen

Last night, we were fortunate enough to find ourselves in possession of free tickets to the Premiere of Peter Pan, the musical.

It seems that each theatre production I attend here in Belgie, outdoes the production that went before and last night's show was no exception - it took a quantum leap towards stunning.

We were lucky, 5th row back from the stage - seated quietly amongst the VIPs, we could see everything. The live orchestra was superb and even managed to amuse when the double bass player's view of the conductor was obscured by dry ice flowing down over him in the orchestral pit. Both the musician and the conductor were laughing quietly for quite some time.

The cast was stunning. Peter Pan was played by actor and childrens television presenter Aron Wade, a man who caused Gert's 11 year old daughter to squeal with excitement when she saw his name on the programme.

Peter, Tinkerbell, Wendy, John and Micheal all 'really' flew and Captain Hook's boats actually sailed ... on a thick sea of very believable dry ice.

I wanted to explore the stage. Even I was stunned when a pirate ship rose up from from below ... a massive ship, full of singing pirates. The stage sets were stunningly good and the scenery changes were smoothly carried out.

And then there was the singing ...!! Karel Deruwe played Captain Hook (Kapitein Haak actually) and his voice was superb although it took me awhile to tear my eyes away from his little red-heeled woman's shoes ... it was odd to see the dastardly pirate daintly tripping about in them.

I had previously photographed Smee at a political function ... and Luc Caals was the perfect Smee. A short round man with an excellent singing voice - so good at slapstick-type comedy that we all fell in love with him and no protests were made when Smee moved into the Darling family home with the Lost Boys at the end.

Something else that impressed me was the physical strength that was surely required to fly round the stage. Priske Dehandschtter played Tinkelbel and climbed, ran, jumped and flew with courage.

The children actors were professional beyond their years. They performed singing and dance routines with the adults, matching them easily. They acted, sang and danced flawlessly.

Ik word nooit groot was the song of de wilde jongens of Nooit of Nimmerland. (I'll never grow up was the song of the wild boys of Never Neverland.)

Nooit of Nimmerland ... riding home on the tram I practised saying it, amused by the sound of old knowledge made new when said in Nederlands.

You can find ticket information here and information about the actors here .

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gerhard Schröder, in Der Spiegel

Der Spiegel has an interesting section titled A Cheat Sheet to Schröder's Memoirs.

They point out that Gerhard Schröder's stint as chancellor, from 1998 to 2005, marked the coming of age of the New Germany. The country took an increasingly prominent role on the international stage -- be it in the Balkans, the war on terror or Berlin's outspoken opposition to the Iraq war.

Schröder's just-published memoirs provide a unique glimpse into that transformation. SPIEGEL ONLINE provides a cheat sheet.
Things happen over which we have no control. But in order for these things to affect us, we must leave ourselves open and vulnerable, and in order for those things to affect us in a wonderful way, there cannot be any guilt. It is destructive! Useless! Completamente.
A Chilean cartographer speaks with Anik See,
from A Taste For Adventure.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ooops ... what was the George?

Found over at Viral Video Chart.com

I had to laugh over their Blurb: We scan several million blogs a day to see which online videos people are talking about the most. We count the number of times each video is linked to and the number of times each video is embedded.

Every morning, after we've had a cup of coffee, we publish a list of the 25 videos that generated the most buzz over the previous day. We reckon this is a pretty good yardstick of what's hot and what's not.

At the moment we only look for references to videos on the three most influential video sharing sites: YouTube, Google Video and MySpace. We tried looking for references to videos on some other sites for a while, but nothing ever made the top 25 so we stopped.

We also considered wiretapping your email and IM to see what you were talking about, but figured it was illegal ;)

A shameful story of cowardice ....

Saturday evening, eating glorious Turkish food and something hard shoots up into one of my teeth.

I try to remove it with a toothpick and lift up my filling.
Unhappy, I panic ...

Gert, do you have emergency dentists in your country?
We do but what do you need it for?
I explain.
He isn't convinced.

I get a mirror and look.
OHMYGOD, I notice the back of my capped tooth is black!!

Gert, look ... the back of my capped tooth is completely black!
Hasn't it always been like that?
No, and have a look at the loose filling.

Are you sure it's loose?
I'm sure, look ... I have to push it back in with my tongue.

He sighs. His back is incredibly painful and it's a Saturday night.

He points out I finally have a dental appointment on Tuesday. (I have a social security card. It's changing my life).

I reply, 'And what if I choke on my filling when it falls out in the night?' ... silently thinking, the night before my birthday no less.

He asked why I thought it might fall out and choke me.
I explain that when I was young, a man down the road choked to death on his false teeth in the night.

He snorted with laughter then realised I was serious.
Are you sure? he asked.

I am, I replied very earnestly.

For a while he tried to rationalise things with me ... pointing out that the filling had probably been loose for a long time ... that there was no reason to believe it would fall out in the night.

I withdrew into silence.

Today I went to the dentist.
A young guy came in while I was waiting.
We talked ... well I did, asking him if he'd been there before.
He told me yes, that he'd had a tooth out there just recently.
My eyes widened, I probably paled ... realising that the secrets I've kept in my mouth while an in-process immigrant on travel insurance could mean I might lose a tooth.

'She's good', he said when he noticed my look.
I tried to go back to my book then realised that we were there at the same time ... therefore we had different dentists!

I asked him which one was his.
He pointed. She called my name ...
I'm sorry stranger but YAY, I thought as I went into her office.

She looked in my mouth and asked me if I had some pain.
I hesitated ... not sure what the right answer might be - that would be the answer that avoided work.

I courageously confessed to eating only on the left side in these days.
She suggested I continue to do so until she can repair me.

So it seems I will live.
I walked home telling myself 'It's not a car accident ... it's not bomb ... it's not a terrible medical diagnosis ... it's only 3 teeth with a point snapped off, containing 2 broken fillings that will be repaired in a couple of weeks. It's only ... it's only ... it's only.'

And the black tooth?
Well, they put porcelain on the front and metal on the back of capped teeth. It's always been like that since they replaced the tooth that I unsuccessfully tried to catch a basketball with back when I was a teenager.

And how do you spell my last name?
Ohhhhh that would be ... N-E-U-R-O-T-I-C.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A woman wandering in Spain

Erin wrote a delicious post titled And the Angels Sing over on her blog. It's worth checking out ... as are her stories of life in Salamanca in Spain found here and and here .

She also called me an 'upstart wanderer', almost causing me to fall off my chair laughing. It was affection, not criticism.

Her comment was inspired by a quote that I posted ... she loved it.
First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.

by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945

Twitches writes of this poem here .

France denies ..., Der Spiegel

Der Spiegel is running an interesting story ... asking Did French troops facilitate the 1994 slaughter of some 800,000 in Rwanda? A military tribunal is currently addressing accusations that they did.

Twelve years after a 100 day long killing spree left some 800,000 Rwandans dead, the tiny African nation continues to search for accountability and some sense of justice. Perhaps the most surprising of the accused is a force that was sent there to protect against the genocide -- the French military. Not only did French soldiers fail to prevent the massacre, says the Rwandan government, they actually facilitated it.

France denies having any role in the atrocities, but they have set up a military tribunal last year that is currently investigating accusations by six Tutsis that French troops were complicit in the genocide. Last year, a former French soldier claimed that French troops had trained Rwanda militia during the two years prior to the genocide.

Martin, Taskmaster

Martin and I have been working on a rather exciting, kind-of-secret project for quite some time now.

Being the saintly folk that we are, we're donating our time and creating quite the wee dossier of work.

Martin, being the older ... (he might try to claim wiser and more knowlegeable) half of the team has quite naturally assumed the position of leader.

I made the mistake of returning his call today when in actuality I should have simply ignored him. Calling him back just earned me a truly shocking list of interesting tasks to be done as soon as possibe ...

I'm sorry, no clues manic, it's just another one of those small mysteries for now however when the launching day comes, I'll post it here first.


Houtlust is about nonprofit advertising and social campaigns. On the edge of marketing and activism.

Houtlust is the meetingplace about communication for all you folks of the advertising industry, good samaritans, grassroots, activists and social entrepreneurs.

Erkan posted a link to Houtlust's post to a Guerilla campaign from the French Médecins du Monde.

You thought France is one of the most civilized countries in the World? Last winter many homeless and poor elderly people died because of the cold.

In this guerilla campaign crucifixes are made from street poles with the text: “Every winter, hundreds of homeless die on the sidewalks. React Agency Euro RSCG C&O

Monday, October 23, 2006

Shannon in Antwerpen

Shannon came over and took me out for a birthday lunch today ... it was lovely.

We went out on the bikes and it all seemed very manageable. A short ride to the pub and then a leisurely tour round a new park I had found near the apartment.

The park is a stunning one and I have to go back with my camera.
There's this bridge you see, and a still pond that reflects it perfectly if you peer through the autumn foliage the surrounds it at the moment.

I may have mentioned to Shannon that I thought I knew how to bike to the city ...
Shannon may have raised an eyebrow, indicated an interest in that kind of expedition.

I stopped my bike and unwound the scarf I was wearing, stuffing it into my backpack.
She asked what I was doing.
I said, 'Belgian drivers ...'
She looked confused and perhaps a little bemused.
I explained. 'They're ... quite aggressive. I don't want my scarf getting caught as they scrape by me on my bicycle.'

But of course.
Shannon humoured me.

We set off and she might be American but everything I saw today, indicated that she has some crazy Dutch/Belgian bicycle blood in her.

Here in the city of bike paths, the etiquette is as follows: if someone comes up behind you, they sound their bell and you move to one side. Of course, I later completely failed to observe this particular rule.

Apparently there was a 5-year-old ringing his bell and I didn't move to the right side of the path ... I didn't hear him but anyway I had no idea which side the right side might be. Shannon was laughing as she described the scene to Gert over dinner ... apparently the wee man was tail-gating me and doing everything in his powers to overtake.

So Shannon was out there, ringing her bell as required (and mortifying enough, when it wasn't required on ocassion), eliciting an apology from two young men who pulled out of a carpark without checking the bike path ... raising her fist in a triumphant 'Yes!' as she disappeared into the distance.

We biked all the way to het Elfde Gebod. She had a cherry beer and I had a white wine ... the Belgians have this thing going with me at the moment. I order 'rode wijn' and they bring me white. I guess this means that my pronunciation skills are deteriorating at speed ... the sad thing is that I tried both Dutch and English for red, to be sure I was clear.

We talked and laughed outside in the sun there. The waiter came over and leaned on a table, chatting with us for a while.

I'm not sure that Shannon realised I had only a very loose idea of the way home.

I made one phone call to Gert enroute, just to be sure about turning left or right, and we cycled on, only causing Belgian bike commuters one or two minor annoyances.

I popped a roast in the oven once home ... yes I know, it's a developing trend, and we opened a bottle of Australian red.

Shannon wandered off through the rain about 10pm and here I am, hoping my legs stop aching enough for me to sleep

It was a good day.

A Taste for Adventure, Anik See

Seeing the plane pass overhead yesterday reminded me of this ...

Right now I'm sitting on a dock on the Rideau Canal in eastern Canada. I'm looking up, and in the sky there is the shiny glint of a jet airplane caught in the sun's grasp, pushing silently east; I'm thinking, there are four hundred people going somewhere else.

I'm hoping most of them realise the freedom of being 38,000 feet up and headed somewhere new. I want everyone on that plane to be on their way to a place they have always wanted to go - maps already perused and worn in the folds from curious fingers following streets, emergency cab fare handy in a coat pocket - but intending to walk everywhere, to soak everything in.

I want everyone to have already envisioned the park bench or alleyway or restaurant where they will sit or walk or close their eyes and taste something they have never tasted before and realize that they are finally here, that they have been waiting for so long and they are finally here.

The prospect of others experiencing a culture new to them, no matter how shiny or raw, makes me dreamy. Wouldn't that be something? A planeload of people going somewhere they've always wanted to go, doing something they've always wanted to do.


Anik See
from, A Taste For Adventure
There's a beautiful park over in Brussels ... Tervuren Park.

It's a massive space where anything is possible ... families with babies in strollers, large groups of Scouts covered in flour, massive planes bound for places unknown - still in an almost vertical climb from their take-off nearby and then there's the people riding beautiful horses.

It's an open-air space, city-style and yesterday Tervuren was full of people making the most of a warm autumn day.

We met under the statue of elephant, near the Congo Museum at 3pm - a family of four expat-Americans, Gert and I.

The weather had held; a thunderstorm during the night and heavy rain later, as we drove home from Brussels at 9pm. Writing this at 10am on a Monday, all seems serene weatherwise for the moment.

It seems I'm hanging out with the Americans these days ... Shannon is popping over from Brussels sometime this morning and I've had various American guests come stay this year ... it's lovely, and do you know, they make some really good food.

Pam cooked her Fish Wednesday while she was visiting, Mary and Al wined and dined us as we travelled with them, Cindy threw a Tex-Mex farewell party over in Brussels, Erin introduced me to the delights of Spanish tapas food, and last night we were served up stunningly tasty burgers with salad and the best homemade baked beans I've had in my life.

It was a lovely day out.

Immigration has been on my mind this morning.
I've been a little embarassed about my process ...
Mentioning it here made me feel like a baby and yet I was compelled to mention it because it was changing my life in ways that were completely out of my control; changing it in ways that were often difficult to stand.

But it seems that the more I talk of my experience, the more I hear of similar experiences... and there's this attached embarassment because we're living in Europe, our lives are exciting and different at times but for me there's also this anger that sits just below the surface.

It's almost as if those who work in immigration ... those who make the rules about immigration - want to make it as painful and as difficult as can be imagined which stuns me when you realise that many of these countries were colonisers who stole land, moved settlers on and took the best for themselves ... then again, perhaps that's what they protect themselves from now.

On the bright side, and there is one, I wouldn't have had this time to explore what was possible under normal conditions ... and I understand that but I want to start breathing properly one day soon.

I was talking to my sister this moring and she said, 'Take up yoga or tai-chi'.
I said, 'Sure, in Dutch?'
She said, 'Watch what the other people are doing.'
I told her I would, as long as she came over and attended with me.
She laughed ... my sister has an evil streak that reveals itself in her laughter. She has already told me she would never take me to yoga again ... apparently I fell asleep last time we tried back in New Zealand, there on my mat on the floor next to her and my sister would have me and everyone else believe that I even snored quietly.
She still laughs when she talks of it.

But the thing most likely to convulse her in gales of hysteria would be me phoning up to tell her I'm pregnant. It's her dream I think ... she's that kind of little sister, a really naughty one who is entirely lovable when I'm not driving her crazy with the weird and unusual things that seem to dog my occasionally shambolic life.

Gert's was fussing over my birthday gift ...
I finally asked him if he would just give me his time and build me my photography website.

He wasn't sure it was a gift.
I'm sure ... it's going to take hours and hours, I've since told him he should resign himself to being my man-slave this year as I set up the business.

It seems my sister and I share a similar humour ;)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday 22nd October, 2006

Running down the hall this morning, eyes closed, I remember realising my hand was completely numb.

My father was phoning to wish me a happy birthday.
It's not such a bad way to wake on a Sunday morning.

Dad is just back from Australia ... all of his children, except for my little sister, have made their homes in countries not their own. My brothers married Australians who took them back home. The fate of his children it seems ... he must have made something good ;)

He had lovely stories of sights seen and good people met, of grandchildren and daughters in law ... he sounded happy. He's seen everyone but for me now. I've been out of town for over 2 years.

Back home, he told me the rhubarb is ripe, the hens are giving 5 eggs a day and the potato shoots are up - which means there will be new potatoes for Christmas. Mmmmm, homesickness kicked in.

He asked how I would be spending the day and I laughed.
I said, 'Remember I was taking photographs at a wine and cheese evening the night before Gert and I married ...? Today I'm photographing a family in Brussels and I'm delighted to be doing it.'

He laughed.
I said, 'It's what I love doing.'

And it's true ... there's probably not much I love more than going out to meet up with new people to capture who they are with my camera ... it's the best way to spend the day that celebrates my ... birthday.

Tot ziens, writing the laughing one.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Happiest Little Yabanci in the World ...

I'm full of durum, doner and ayran ...

Ayran - 60% yogurt, Su, tuz.
(a Turkish drink made of yoghurt, water and salt)

We've discovered a great little Turkish takeaway near our home ... it's delicious.

Hmmm, a stranger or foreigner ... me while I was living there.

Laura Young, Blogger and so much more ...

Laura is one of the generous women I've 'met'over this last rather fraught week.

Today she wrote a post titled What Exactly is a Holy Moment and What Does It Have to Do with Photography?

I enjoyed both her post and the associated youtube ... it took me back to university and deep conversations about delicious things.


Why does important distracting email never arrive when you're trying to find reasons why you shouldn't clean the house?

Thank you to all those who abandoned me today ...

I shall go clean.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Who can resist a book when the dedication reads like this:

This book is dedicated to my grandparents, who not only handed down their thirst for new places, but also passed on their spirit of adventure and a healthy desire for being humbled by different cultures.

These are the only things a traveller should leave home with.

Anik See
from, A Taste of Adventure

I didn't know this was still happening ...

A friend sent this film footage of Chinese soldiers shooting and killing Tibetan pilgrims.

Pro Tv cameraman Sergiu Matei returned to Romania after climbing in the Himalaya and brought the tape home with him, making a lie of the Chinese News Agency report on the incident.

The International Herald Tribune is also running the story .

A Tibetan exile group said Thursday that Chinese border guards opened fire on dozens of refugees, killing two and wounding several more as they tried to sneak into Nepal from Tibet over the weekend.

The Tibetan refugees were crossing the Nangpa La pass, near Mount Everest on China's side of the border, when Chinese soldiers opened fire, said Lhundup Dorjee of the Tibet Refugee Center in Katmandu.

"Around 42 of them managed to escape and cross in to Nepal, but we don't know what happened to the rest of them," Dorjee said.

Neither Chinese nor Nepali officials were immediately available for comment on the reported shootings, which allegedly took place on Sept. 30 at the 5,800-meter (19,000-foot) pass just west Mount Everest.

The Right to Deny Genocide by Timothy Garton Ash

An interesting article titled Passing laws that criminalize denying past atrocities is no way to address historical grievances.

TIMOTHY GARTON ASH is professor of European studies at Oxford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
October 19, 2006

WHAT A magnificent blow for truth, justice and humanity the French National Assembly has struck. Last week, it voted for a bill that would make it a crime to deny that the Turks committed genocide against the Armenians during World War I. Bravo! Chapeau bas! Vive la France! But let this only be a beginning in a brave new chapter of European history.

Let Britain's Parliament now make it a crime to deny that it was Russians who murdered Polish officers at Katyn in 1940. Let the Turkish parliament make it a crime to deny that France used torture against insurgents in Algeria. Let the German parliament pass a bill making it a crime to deny the existence of the Soviet gulag. Let the Irish parliament criminalize denial of the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition. Let the Spanish parliament mandate a minimum of 10 years imprisonment for anyone who claims that the Serbs did not attempt genocide against Albanians in Kosovo.

And the European Parliament should pass into European law a bill making it obligatory to describe as genocide the American colonists' treatment of American Indians. The only pity is that we, in the European Union, can't impose the death sentence for these heinous thought crimes. But perhaps, with time, we may change that too.

Let he who is without sin throw the first stone ... useful in moments like these.

Thanks Erkan .

Kamini, Marly - Gomont

I'm sorry but French Rap is kind of cool ...

If you're curious, Manic writes: I was browsing through Youtube and I found this incredible rap clip. It's about this black guy who is living in Marly-Gomont.

Yes, I don't know where Marly-Gomont is as well. It seems to be somewhere in the middle of France where they have a lot of cows, tractors and mobilettes. It kind of reminds me of how Belgium was, or still is, well yea. It's an image you don't get a lot of Europe, but it exists and just as the south is winning of importance in the US, so is the countryside winning importance in otherwise so 'modern' Europe.

Orhan Pamuk and Erkan

Orhan Pamuk has been in the news lately ... it happens when one wins the Nobel Prize for Literature.

If you've been wondering about what his work is like, Erkan has put together an interesting post titled A brief-recent-history of Erkan thru Orhan Pamuk's novels...

By the way, Erkan links to a Der Spiegel interview with Orhan here .

Anna Politkovskaya and Seymour Hersh

"We're going to make this an issue. We're going to make the American people collectively ashamed that they cared more about Monica Lewinsky than what's going on in their own neighborhood."

Hersh is howling again. Sounds like music.

Salon.com, Jan. 18, 2000.

Der Spiegel wrote an article on the murdered Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya ... comparing her to Seymour Hersh.

She liked to wear old-fashioned wool sweaters. She was neither left- nor right-wing, but a kind of moral watchdog who kept an eye on Russian politicians. In some ways, she was to Russia what investigative journalist Seymour Hersh is to the United States: someone incorruptible and driven. Some of her colleagues thought she was fanatical and even biased. Politkovskaya tried to impose moral norms on post-Soviet Russia.

Seymour Hersh ... I thought 'Who?' and went searching.

If curious, there's an interesting piece on him in Salon.com, dated January 18, 2000


Turkey is melodramatic, in colours, politics, religion, secularism. All its flavours stick with me and resurface daily, even when I am five thousand miles from it. It is the only place I have ever felt bathed simultaneously in aroma, sound, colour and the history of several empires. The wailing muzzins reverberates through air saturated with the smell of tea and spices, calls to prayer bounce from minaret to minaret so hauntingly that I remember them now with absolute clarity.
Anik See
from, A Taste for Adventure

A small idea of why I love Istanbul so very very much.
No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.
Edward R. Murrow

The trials of this blogger's life.

I move between terrorities ... here in this land of two desks.

Moving between them in the way I hope to move between countries one day soon.

There are the confusions of two different keyboards ... I stumble over the @ and _, touch-typing on Gert's Belgian keyboard when I'm here at his desk. I suspect it will be like that when I'm wandering again ... the confusions.

I was replying to Pam just before 6am because my night ended at 4.30am for reasons unknown to me. I looked through her photographs from her Seattle and thought 'urgh'.

You see, I'm on the run in these days. I'm am tortured by American friends describing their lives in places beginning with S ... (and see what happens when one wakes up too early ... life is connected and it's all about me).

So Pam's back in her other world, moving between her terrorities of Austria and Seattle.

Tara is studying Spanish in Seville and some her posts simply destroy me, and I flee as only a blogger can ... closing her site with a rush and no comment.

And then there's Erin , making her life in Salamanca ... her descriptions of autumn and daily life there are envy-making in the extreme.

I told you I won Ariana Huffington's book On Becoming Fearless and I found this delicious little piece in it by Marja Adriance, on why it can be great to be on your own.

I won't list them all but this one seemed just about perfect, applicable whether I'm partnered or alone. It reads: Because I fall in love every day with my amazing friends, none of whom are hanging out with me only because I'm having sex with them.

Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge

Amy Gahran at Poynter Online writes: I love it when my e-mail inbox yields hope first thing in the morning.

Today it brought me an announcement of the Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge -- a new program that will award $5 million in grants in 2007 to "new ideas, pilot projects, commercial products and leadership initiatives that will improve the flow of information and news in the public interest."

What's got me jazzed is that this program is open to anyone -- individuals, organizations, or businesses. Of course, news organizations are welcome to enter -- but I'll bet that many of the best ideas will come from people who never had anything to do with the "news business."

The categories are deliberately vague, to foster creativity:
You can read more here .

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Will Governments Ever Stop Lying to the People?

Der Spiegel is running a story about Murat Kurnaz , the German mistakenly picked up and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay ... a man who spent more than 4 years isolated and in chains according to newspaper reports.

Shortly after Murat Kurnaz was released from the United States military prison at Guantanamo Bay and returned to Germany in late August, the Bremen resident went public with the accusation that he was physically abused by two unknown German soldiers. Officials in Berlin were quick to denounce the claims made by the Turkish national, who was born and raised in Germany, as unfounded.

But a different picture began to emerge on Wednesday, when the Defense Ministry was forced to admit that German Special Forces -- the so-called KSK -- had in fact been guarding the US prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan five years ago, and that they had contact with Kurnaz during the time of the alleged abuses. However, the ministry claims there is no evidence of any abuse against Kurnaz.

The parliamentary committee investigating the German military's activities during the war in Iraq has also been unable to find evidence to substantiate Kurnaz's claim that the soldiers had pulled him by the hair and thrown his head against the ground.

Ummm well ... it happened over 4 years ago but it seems like something I'd remember - why not allow Murat the dignity of having one person finally believe him? Oh that's right, he was telling the truth all along.

Dear Parliamentary committee ...why not try adding up what we know of conditions in Guantanamo and I quote 'conditions at the American prison at Guantanamo Bay recall the "torture chambers of a dictator", the shameful treatment your country has so far afforded Murat and then move on from there ... think 'human' as opposed to 'committee'.

Dank u wel.

On remembering to breathe ...

Well ... the good news that it seems to be only the official Belgian postal system that steals ... I mean loses, my parcels.

Marylou had sent me a book I had won over at Blogher ... couriered it, and goodness ... disappearing parcels spell broken, it arrived.

I am now the owner of one Ariana Huffington book titled 'On Becoming Fearless' and I have to say that the first two chapters have spoken directly to my little fear-filled heart.

The first time I couldn't breathe I was 9 years old and my teacher had just told us that we children wouldn't probably survive much past the age of 16 ... the oceans were becoming polluted with oil slicks, nuclear power was a dangerous reality, the oil would run out and basically we were all doomed.

I had been put ahead a year and was then held back in his class for a second year, just to be sure that no mistakes were being made with those 6 of us moved ahead of ourselves.

I suffered that man for two years ... even worse, I had no idea that his word wasn't gospel. I had panic attacks that no one could understand ... not even me.

The next time I had trouble breathing, I was living at home for a few months while I went to university for my belated degree. My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and over that time, my breathing once again became shallow and left me quietly gasping on occasion.

My old foe has come back to haunt me. I ignored it at first, imagining some technicolour disease that must be ignored however it just occured to me that setting myself up in business in a country not my own must be up there on the list of 'stressful things one can do in one's life'.

I didn't know what to expect from Ariana's book, and had to smile when I realised I was furtively reading it just now on the tram ... fearful of judgement I guess.

Already I've marked some of the pages: 'The most common response to this crisis of self is conformity: 'The individual,' Erich Fromm writes in Escape from Freedom, 'ceases to be himself' he adopts entirely the kind of personality offered to him by cultural patterns; and he therefore becomes exactly as all others are and as they expect him to be ... This mechanism can be compared with the protective colouring some animals assume.'

I thought, okay ... so I will go on with my unprecedented belief in self because I surely can't conform to the society around me.

My ex-husband once told me that 'I marched to the beat of a different drum' and he said it like it was a good thing.

He later divorced me ;)

So here's to the different drumbeat leading me out into life yet again ... and to remembering to breathe and breathe deeply.

Tot ziens.

Brussels, with Cafe Babel

I love Cafe Babel, most particularly Brunch with ... .

I just received a Cafe Babel mail that lets me know they are running an interesting feature on Brussels .

It's worth checking out if you're curious about the city itself or stories like: Unpaid, enthusiastic, EU interns speak out .

Or Brussels, a soft capital : “Brussels is made up of an area of 19 municipalities and about one million inhabitants. For administrative purposes it is called the Bruxelles-Capitale region," explains Bruno Clerbaux, President of the Chambre des Urbanistes de Belgique.

"Brussels has always been paradoxical: the city, in which approximately 90% of inhabitants are francophone, is situated in the middle of the beautiful region of Flanders, where the majority of the population are Flemish! The population therefore is accustomed to multiculturalism ".

Moreover there are approximately 75,000 citizens from North Africa. But this is not all. More than 105,000 people living in Brussels are involved in the EU microcosm. This sector represents 10% of the region’s GDP and that occupies 3.5 million square meters of offices out of twelve. "This heterogeneity is easily visible when moving from one area to another," continues Clerbeau.

Sphere it ...

I was just coming out the other side of a difficult morning and opened my mail to see if anyone had written.

Sphere had written telling me that they wanted to give you a heads up that your blog has a link from Time.com's web site, powered by Sphere. To see your featured post, go to www.time.com and look within the story: "Washington's Worst-Kept Secret: Changes are Coming in Iraq Policy." Then, look for the orange sphere it! logo and click on it. You should see your post in the first two pages of results.

Sphere is working with Time and other publishers to get great blogs like yours in front of more people. We think this is pretty cool and a great way for people to discover blogs as well as introduce a broader, more mainstream audience to great blog content like yours.

And they gave me a badge for my blog.

The German newspaper Der Spiegel has linked to my blog as one who is discussing a particular story a few times but no badge ... the kid in me likes the wee badge :)

So I researched them some on their site and then here on the web.

Seems like a good idea ...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Everyday's a Saturday, Elemeno P

Hey manic ... Mark's been blogging New Zealand music. I have to share it :)

He provided a translation, just in case.

Everyday's a Saturday

I got a pocket full of your kisses
And i know that I'm never coming back
I've been warned but I long for your embrace
I keep calling save me,save me
Cup of coffee and a packet of cigarettes
Up late cause lectures don't start yet
Bowl of Weetbix and a plate of bacon and eggs
Sunday morning gonna do it all again

Every day's a Saturday
Every night's a night like this
Every time that we draw close
Every time a perfect miss

Called up my friends and I'm thinking of a barbeque
Mid afternoon and there's nothing better to do
Feeling good and they sky seems extra blue
I can almost see Utopia

What's New Pussycat

I'm sorry but when I was a child I loved this song ... so much!!
I was just little and it was so cool.

I noticed Calamity Tat over on Sal's site , went wandering and found this YouTube on her blog.

Apologies to those who find it offensive ...

Blogging the 'delighted Di dance'

I was looking around for someone to do the 'delighted Di dance' with but the apartment is empty ... so here I am blogging.

I've finally finished work on my Sunday portrait collection.
80 images passed my strict guidelines and there are some that I simply (and immodestly I guess) love.

I do hope my beautiful Belgian likes how I captured her.
She was lovely to work with and we have a range ... different light, different tops, different hairstyles.

There was a lot of laughter.
I caused the most when I lay down on the wet grass to photograph her from a particular angle. When I stood up, my trousers were soaked and she was delighted ... probably because I was the photographer and up until that point had found it seriously amusing to say, 'And now, relax ... pretend there's no camera'.

I love the photos I took ... but that's been a journey of fault-finding, discarding and rechecking again and again until I was sure of my selection.

I love photography, did you know it?

Memories of Home, Part I

This memory has to be about thick white bread slices cut by myself, slathered in butter then reverently covered with pieces of cold roast lamb arranged for maximum coverage, finished off with a sprinkling of salt ...

For this 21st horror I am torn when placing blame ... my father who loved to eat cold roast meat in this way, or Nana ... who would heat up the kettle on her old coal burning stove and make a strong tea - milk and 2 sugars - to wash down that sandwich.

Still with me? asks a laughing wandering woman, imagining cholestral levels rising and tastebuds protesting just from the reading of this post.

Dinner last night ... I promised to tell.
The roast lamb, was slightly superb and I was victorious over the demon gas oven, this time.

Having travelled far from Nana's hot cup of tea, I chose to invite an old neighbour to partake in our evening meal last night ... a little Jacob's Creek Merlot had called out a greeting to me in the supermarket.

And who am I to ignore old friends, especially when the price is within what I have on my person at that point in time.

It was a good dinner.
And I have managed to answer the doubters of Di's culinary skills once again.
.......Yes, France is one of a dozen European countries that have laws against denying the Holocaust. There is an argument that they, too, violate freedom of expression. But those laws at least are based on the threat posed by die-hard anti- Semites who still subscribe to Hitler's racist theories. The Armenian question poses no dangers in France. Playing politics with it trivializes not only the Holocaust, but also the Armenian genocide.

International Herald Tribune
October 17, 2006

Thanks Erkan .

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Like a piece of ice on a hot stove, a poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being but may not be worried into being.
R. Frost
Preface, "Collected Poems"

Keeping up with the neighbours ...

Tonight, the real food smells are coming from my apartment ... I'm so proud.

Usually the neighbours are making me wish someone would adopt me and cook my dinners because whatever they're cooking smells so veryvery good.

Today I dared to take on the very 'special' gas oven Gert bought pre-me.
It loves him and hates me.

The temperature goes unmeasured and its heat supply is erratic ...
Imagine the horror of it.

I'll get back to you about the roast New Zealand lamb, pumpkin and potatoes.

Tot ziens.

tuckova, blogger

Pam wrote pre-departure from Austria with news of a blog that she thought I might enjoy ...

I wandered over to tuckova and think everyone should.

She's superb.

An extract from her About Me will give you a small taste of her style. See what you think: so, i’m a US citizen living in the czech republic. i used to live in japan, but i got burned out. I tried to go back to the states but it was not for me. i realized that despite the probable inevitable cultural burnout wherever i went, i was really not as happy in the U.S. as i had been out of it, so i left again in 1994 and came here, to brno, which was smallish (pop: 500,000) and greyish (although a lot of things have been restored, over the last 9 years, and it’s less crumbling beauty than it was) and bitterish (that’s the same), and absolutely took my heart like no city ever has.

i used to teach, but after my son was born, i switched full-time to editing. medical papers, legal documents, university theses– not really much money, but it bought the basics and worked around my erratic inclination to work, as well as other things like sudden bursts of travel, very well. then last year i lucked into an editing job for an american website (a “lessons for busy teachers” kind of thing), which pays dollars. very nice. it’s also nice to do something i’m really good at, which is correct other people’s mistakes.

Setting up my business in Belgium

A little good news ... the first 5000euro I earn is tax free, I only need to be sure of earning 200euro per month to pay the accountant and social security.

Foolish me ... I had used the 'Tax on your income above the minimum exempt amount' chart and that said: 0euro to 7,100 euro = 25%

In actuality, had I read on I would have found 'You pay no tax on the first 5,780euro'.

I'm learning important things like starting your own business is tough. You have to believe in your product and then sell.

And what would I do without friends who ask me the difficult questions that make life so much more simple ... So what are you afraid of? What do you have to lose exactly?? What's the worst thing that could happen if you now declare yourself professional.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
from, In Decisions

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tessa distinguished absolutely between pain observed and pain shared.

Pain observed is journalistic pain. It's diplomatic pain. It's television pain, over as soon as you switch off the beastly set.

Those who watch suffering and do nothing about it, in her book, were little better than those who inflicted it.

from, The Constant Gardener.

Thanks Mark .

Better Blogging Tips

A nice little piece on Better Blogging from Any Gahran's Poynter Online post.

# A blog entry is a stub for conversation.
# Think about the perspectives of your audience.
# Write tight headlines that encourage interest.
# Make points or lists and make then scan-friendly.
# Link to the context.
# Quote indirectly and link.
# Format long documents for print.
# Never delete anything.
# Troll the blogosphere for secondary conversation.
# Be active in your own conversations.
# Create buzz everywhere.

She links back to Vince Maher's post titled 11 Tips For Managing A Good Blog Entry .

I wonder what Mr Jefferson would think of George

"The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers...

[A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers.

This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper."

Thomas Jefferson to G. K. van Hogendorp,
Oct. 13, 1785.

France cuts freedom of speech ...

“You have made Voltaire turn in his grave!”Andrew Duff,
the English member of the EP for East England to the French assembly.

The Zaman Daily carries the news that Brussels has been deeply troubled by the approval of the French bill making it illegal to deny the alleged Armenian genocide despite warnings from the European Union and the European Parliament (EP).

While negative reactions from EP members continue, one of the harshest criticisms came from Joost Lagendijk, chairman of European Union-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Commission, whose description of the bill was “foolish and far from belonging to Europe.”

Camiel Eurlings, the Turkey reporter of the EP, noted that France’s decision to cut down on freedom of speech had made things more difficult for Turkey, especially at a time when it was trying to establish freedom of speech and thought.

Eurlings further noted that “Politicians cannot write history; let’s leave this to historians.”

Friday, October 13, 2006

Pam's photographs from the Antwerpen supermarket

Pam posted a link to these photographs over on her write-up about Antwerpen but I felt they needed a post all of their own ... they really need to be seen to be believed.

I was only carrying my telephoto lense meanwhile she had wisely put on a better lens, one that could be relied upon in the meat section of our exotic supermarket.

Yes really ... the uterus sign is the real thing.

So, the translations:
Uterus is uterus
Varken long = pork lung
Runds long = cow lung
Dikke darm = bowel
Pens = tripe (that's stomach lining isn't it? My grandparents tortured me with it when I was a child.)

And then there were the Jonge Patrijzen ... Young Partridge I presume.
The feet and feathers are a nice touch.

Click on the photograph if you want a bigger image to examine.

Mark and New Zealand humour

I wanted to link to amusing extracts from Mark's post but I'm sure he won't mind if I lift most of it for context.

I liked his description of New Zealanders way of viewing the world, and his link to the Trade Me site lead me into some simply delicious comment from home ...

Mark wrote: I noticed on David Farrar's Kiwiblog that there is an auction on trademe featuring the New Zealand Labour Party's election pledge card.

I love the comments.

Humour is a large part of what makes a New Zealander. Our dry wit, and our under-statement speaks volumes. You can never take yourself too seriously here because there's always someone around who will absolutely take the piss, and you will regret it - trust me.

The Trademe comments run something like this and it helps if you know something of the current NZ government, although charges of lying and corruption probably fit many governments:

Question:Is this the famous "get out of jail free" card? Monopoly isnt much fun when the Govt owns everything you know posted by: hotrodtodd1 (24 ) 4:38 pm, Fri 13 Oct

Answer: Taxpayer error in your favour. Collect $446,000. 1:07 am, Sat 14 Oct

Question: Do you have one of the cards that show Helen topless? posted by: duchess6 (33 ) 10:11 pm, Fri 13 Oct

Answer: No. I've got one that shows her shameless though. 2:35 am, Sat 14 Oct
"You have to try to put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt."

Henri Cartier-Bresson,

Remember 'that' France ...?

"France should keep this love of freedom of expression and the diversity of cultures and peoples".

Born in Iran and granted French citizenship, Reza set up both his Webistan agency and the non-governmental organisation, Aïna, which works in Afghanistan, in Paris.

In the 1970s Reza was sentenced to three years in prison for political activism against the regime of the Shah. "There was only one book in my cell, left there by chance. It was How to Learn French," he says, smiling.

When he came out of prison the revolution had begun. He reported on the repression of the Kurds by the new regime, published in particular in the French magazine, Paris Match. In 1981 he was wounded while covering the Iran-Iraq war, and treated at a hospital in Paris.

Learning that the Iranian secret police were looking for him, he settled in France, the country which "recognised the quality of my work" he says with feeling. "France should keep this love of freedom of expression and the diversity of cultures and peoples".

I was researching the famous Turkish photographer, Göksin Sipahioglu, and found this interesting site .

Göksin Sipahioglu is a Turk who has lived in Paris for almost forty years. He founded one of the biggest photographic agencies in the world, Sipa Press in 1973.

From the time he first started out as a journalist and photographer in Turkey, Göksin Sipahioglu knew that in Paris he would find the media to publish his reports. He was not mistaken.

In 1965, sent as a correspondent to the French capital by the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, he decided to stay.

"Paris was a centre for the international press. From here I could easily leave to cover stories anywhere at all and then come back and sell them to newspapers all over the world. That wasn’t possible anywhere else!" he explains.
"When will our consciences
grow so tender that we will
act to prevent human misery
rather than avenge it?"

Eleanor Roosevelt

Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Prize Winner

The Nobel Prize in Literature goes to Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk.

On the Nobel site they simply write: "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures".

I have his 'Istanbul' book. I took it away as a memory of my life in Istanbul and it's delicious to read straight through or visit with, dipping in and out of his remembered life in that city.

Erkan once speculated on the powerfully negative response Pamuk sometimes earns back home in Turkey ... I believe, he is well beyond the gatekeepers of Turkish literature, that is, he is difficult to classify and analyze.

He is successful, he managed to be a best selling but unread novelists. So there must also be an element of jealousy.

He does not have any particular political allegiances.

He is too elite to be liked by leftists, too modern to be liked by islamists, too liberal to be liked by Kemalists, too westernist to be liked by nationalists...

Reporters without Boders

At a time when violence against journalists is at an exceptionally high level, the city of Bayeux in Normandy is preparing with Reporters Without Borders to inaugurate a memorial to all the journalists who have been killed in the course of their work throughout the world since 1944.

Entirely given over to journalists and press freedom, the site will be the first of its kind in Europe. It will consist of a landscaped promenade with white stones bearing the names of nearly 2,000 journalists.

Reporters Without Borders appeals to all those throughout the world who are committed to press freedom to help ensure that no one is omitted from the Memorial’s list of journalists killed. If you know the names of any journalists who have been killed or who have died in the course of their work since 1944, send all the information at your disposal (names of the victims, media they worked for, and date and place of their death) by email to Reporters Without Borders at this address: memorial@rsf.org. After the information has been verified, their names will be inscribed one of the stones.

Anna Politkovskaya, Investigative Reporter

“Anna Politkovskaya died for us, but also because of us, because we hardly listened to her and because the people we elected are unfailingly indulgent towards the Russian authorities.”
André Glucksmann,

Reporters without Borders writes of an interesting Russian journalist, recently gunned down in a lift in Russia ... After a minute’s silence, Politkovskaya’s colleagues spoke of her professionalism and determination as a journalist. “They killed her in order to silence her, but we will do everything to ensure that her words are read and bear witness to her commitment to freedom,” said Vera Michalsky, her editor and friend.

The Guardian Unlimited writes : If one word sums up the life and work of Anna Politkovskaya, Russia's foremost investigative reporter assassinated at the age of 48, it is bravery. She could have chosen another life. Born and raised in New York, the daughter of Ukrainian UN diplomats, she was part of a Soviet elite that looked after its own. As a child, she had the best of both worlds: her parents could smuggle banned books out of the country, so she could write her dissertation about whomever she pleased. She alighted upon a poet shunned by Moscow, the émigré Marina Tsvetayeva.

Her final unfinished article was published in the Independent Online this morning...

Dozens of files cross my desk every day. They are copies of criminal cases against people jailed for "terrorism" or refer to people who are still being investigated. Why have I put the word "terrorism" in quotation marks here?

Because the overwhelming majority of these people have been "fitted up" as terrorists by the authorities. In 2006 the practice of "fitting up" people as terrorists has supplanted any genuine anti-terrorist struggle. And it has allowed people who are revenge-minded to have their revenge - on so-called potential terrorists.
One day, I was lucky enough to meet Jean-Luc Godard. We had a simple chat and I gained 10 years’ worth of lessons about life.

Valérie Favre,
Swiss artist.

She gave this interesting interview to Cafe Babel.com.

Turkish Despair ... Who can stop the anti-western, anti-EU feelings now?

EUOBSERVER - The European Commission has condemned a French parliament vote in support of a law criminalising denial that Armenians suffered genocide by the Ottoman Turks, saying the move is likely to hinder open dialogue on Armenia in would-be EU member state Turkey.

Erkan is a Ph.D candidate at the Anthropology Department of Rice University and a teaching assistant at the Media and Communication Systems Department of Istanbul Bilgi University.

He writes an enjoyable, intelligent blog that is full of information and occasionally includes his thoughts on political events as they occur around him. His blog is very much about his dissertation thesis project on Turkish journalism and the European Union (EU).

This morning, it occured to me that he is an important barometer for Turkish feeling because by virtue of his thesis and his position amongst Turkish intellectuals and media, he can be deemed a voice of reason ... someone who is very much parcitipating in a culture under attack by many European countries ...

When he loses heart, be sure that many others lost heart before him.

Today I discovered that he had written of the recent farce in France ... it's worth reading if you are truly interested in a voice that isn't composed of media spin ... a voice that says, 'Hey we're human just like you and this is how your sad little political games affect the reality of our lives' ...

He writes: Today has been a sad day. Not always do I get sad with broader political happenings around me as I am quite used to politics by now, but I can't help being upset this time. And many people around me seem to be upset.

Anger turned into a kind of despair. A national parliament of a very significant country explicitly takes aim at Turkey. Despite all threats of sanctions, most of the Turks know that they are helpless.

This French arrogance at such an highest level will go unpunished. In our bohemian circle in a super smoky café, our chitchat agenda during card playing was that the West has no standards any more.

Whatever the Socialists of French parliaments babble, it is just too apparent that they serve for a very strong lobbying effort. If only I could believe in that they really aim to do something good in this life, I would be thinking more positively....

This situtation leads to well supported conspiracy theories in the mean time. Even in some intellectual circles some connect the Nobel prize and the parliament vote. Be like Mr. Pamuk and get rewarded otherwise you are condemned...

Who can sto p the anti-western, anti-EU feelings now?

Friday, 3.12am

Pam caught a train to the far-away airport and flew back to Austria today. After saying goodbye, I wandered into the city for an interview with a local business owner here.

Once there I spent a couple of truly fascinating hours listening to this man answer my questions. He was a generous soul and took me back to his place to show me through some of his books on Antwerp's early history.

Not only that, he gave me a tour of his quirky yet stunning home.

Yes that one ... the building pressed up and sharing its back wall with one of Antwerpen's most stunning monuments.

Such are the blessed confusions and experiences of this expat, immigrant life of mine ...

Sometimes it's all slightly incredible ... other times it feels a little like I'm Alice attending a Wonderland teaparty, listening while the white rabbit engages Kafka's characters in conversation.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pam, Blogger and Wanderer

Pam writes like an angel I've decided ... having just read her post on her visit to Antwerpen.

I loved the way that she wrote of my place in the world.

But anyway, you can judge for yourself here .

The link between peace and news coverage

"Good news coverage can be essential to peace.
Accurate information ... can often reduce conflict."

Geir Lundestad ,
Secretary of the Nobel peace prize committee.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Antwerp, Expats and Diamonds

Pam flew in from Austria last night and we're off wandering in the city today.

She's curious about the Antwerpen's diamond district and I've only been there on a Sunday when all is quiet. Seems like a nice kind thing to do with a day.

I'll let you know.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mark, Cellular Engineer

Our first problem was how to spell his job title ...

His next problem was persuading me not to write what I wanted to write ... he was laughing, I promise.

The third problem was the lack of photographic evidence of his existence ... hmmm, although I know there's an anonymous group photograph on his blog that I could cut and paste him out of.

Sharing this realisation with him earned me a series of photographs from his childhood.
Good enough, said I ... for now.

Yes, you might say I woke in a particular mood this morning.
There are days when I wake slightly demonic and your best hope is to be out of my reach.

The day began badly again ... this time I completely forgot to light the gas ring for the kettle, as opposed to merely forgetting to put the kettle over the flame ... clearly evolution and ancestral knowledge has passed me by in some areas.

And before you laugh, realise you could be witnessing the sad beginning of my descent into forgetfulness.

Anyway Mark brought this post on himself by demanding my presence on skype via sms. I obeyed and began ... I felt his 'ohdeargod' down the skype line.

He's known me long enough to recognise this mood and the dangers of engaging me in conversation when it's upon me.

Could he keep up with me conversationally?
He tried.

Was it wise for him to critique the photographs I sent him for his opinion?
He learnt it was not.

How do I know him you ask?His dad was the principal of my primary school when we were little. He and his brothers were the boys-next-door who partook in many a game of bullrush and other childhood pursuits.

These days I am his European chorus; the one who sings 'Come to Europe, and drink wine with me ... you need to wander and there are many beautiful women over here'.

Beautiful women?
Well I had to think of something that would appeal to this Kiwi bloke-friend of mine. I pointed out there are many women here who need a man who speaks with an amusing accent, enriching their lives in the ways that I enrich Gert's life ... yes, Gert now says things like 'I'll have a wee bit of that' and 'Actually' but he pronounces it my way ... as in 'exually'.

Although successful in life, Mark has many questions about the quality of it. Oddly enough, shy though I clearly am, I also want answers to his difficult questions like ...

If he is such a good photographer, why is he messing around with his career in the telecommunication field? Sure, he's successful and his life is good and he has money but what happens to the photographer's muse if not exercised?

Why doesn't he travel more and why isn't he out in the world, pursuing M.S.M ... the American love of his life? Okay, that might be more about the resulting police interest if caught 'in pursuit' of Mary, the famous actress.

Anyway, this is part one in an ongoing series of 'Mark'. I'm hoping that his family and friends will read and write in, sending more photographs ... most particularly BB, who now owes him for sending me the photograph of him and his little ukelele.

Tot ziens.

Rene Magritte, Belgian Painter -This is not a Pipe

Another day in Di World and Gert woke to one of those 'What is wrong with your country and how we can fix things' lectures by Di.

I'm thinking of writing to the Prime Minister before the national elections ... I feel I have things to offer this country.

Gert didn't confirm this and was defensive at times, laughing helplessly at other times. This shouldn't take anything away from the very serious nature of my 'lecture' but at least he can stand those mornings when I wake from a tough dreamscape with the lucidity to speak fluently and at length on various Belgian issues.

Do I have the right?
Well yes, it's my birthday soon and I just know the Belgian post is going to steal and redistribute anything that might come in the mail.

So far, I haven't had one parcel arrive in the post ... this does give me material for morning lectures.

Hmmm, perhaps I should video and youtube them.
It may lead to a lucrative career ... although I'll probably have to give 75% of what I earn to various Belgian agencies now that I'm legal.

Anyway, on the subject of Kafka and Belgium ... Cindy in Brusssels just tried to fly out of Belgium ... pour a drink, put your feet up and have a wee read if you're in the mood for the absurd on this rainy grey Belgian day.

Damien Rice - The Blowers Daughter

Mark insisted I listen to this ... he was right, I love it.

Dank u wel!

Monday, October 09, 2006

One man's study of Europe's political insurgies

Extreme Right Politics as Professor Douglas Holmes sees them ... Initially coalescing among a tiny group of activists, the ideas that animate this movement have relentlessly made their way into mainstream political discourse shaping the consciousness of an ever-wider community of adherents and sympathizers. These people no longer perceive the discriminatory values they embrace as extremist, but articulate them as a matter of fact.

I studied political anthropoly papers with Professor Douglas Holmes for 2 years back in early 2000, just after he'd written his book titled Integral Europe: Fast-Capitalism, Multiculturalism, Neofascism . In it he describes the forces shaping and impelling the extreme right movement in Europe.

I researched him today, in the wake of the election results and found this update on his projects on the university website: I am continuing with the work I started in the 1990s at the European Parliament (in Brussels and Strasbourg) and that I subsequently pursued on the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London. The project examines political insurgencies spawned by the supranational project of the European Union.

The research began by looking at how Jean-Marie Le Pen, from his vantage point as an elected member of the European Parliament, discovered that his message, designed to address a tiny conservative, if not reactionary, French public could be re-crafted to give it wide currency inspiring radical forms of activism beyond the borders of France.

I have termed the intellectual insurgency formulated by Le Pen, “integralism.” As Le Pen's integralist agenda evolved during the early 1990s it was gradually adopted by his colleagues representing similar small regionalist and nationalist groupings within the European Parliament and then later in the decade by a wide range of new or reconstituted political movements across the EU.

Thus, by the opening of the twenty first century Le Pen had crafted a model of political engagement, which has entered the political discourse across the 25 member states of the EU. It is a model for activism that despite its often cloying appeals to nostalgia is emphatically about contemporary European society as a moral framework, analytical construct, and empirical fact. I described the forces shaping and impelling this movement in Integral Europe: Fast-capitalism, multiculturalism, neofascism .

I am now examining the expanding nature of this insurgency—an insurgency predicated on ideas about human affinity and difference that not only have deep roots in European intellectual history, but also represent a keen understanding of contemporary European political economy.