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Friday, October 17, 2003

Almost 6 months since I wrote in this blog. Time to either resurrect it or kill it off. All those authors who say never read/listen to your critics are right. One person says my blog is boring and I grind to a halt. How pathetic !

The last few weeks have given me ample opportunity to sample the best of the Belgian medical services. I had a miscarriage and Claudio had a near fatal car crash (and is still in hospital with a broken pelvis). Yes almost at the same time. The Belgian health system vs NHS - discuss. Have to say that the Belgian system wins easily. From the patients perspective: a room shared with only one other person, a TV and video player, own bathroom, personal telephone, appointments with specialists with no waiting list etc. Have to say that hospital food is universally unappealing and unnourishing though. Claudio has taken to calling me an requesting I pass by our favourite restaurants for a take out. Better resourcing makes all the difference. Performance indicators do not.

This week I had an invitation to a private screening of the German film "Goodbye Lenin" about a German family in East Berlin at the time of the fall of the wall. It's excellent - a good summary of the history from the perspective of one family, funny, sad, using various film techniques and a great comment on the social/personal construction of reality.

Afterwards we had a "lecon de cinema" from Alain Berliner, the Belgian film director responsible for the excellent "Ma Vie en Rose", which was interesting and insightful but far too late after the film - the following "reception" was also a bit late and the East German-themed cocktail snacks were definitely a no-no. Ten points to the EC and UGC Cinemas for launching this kind of evening, 2 points for the poor structuring of the evening and nul points for the cocktail snacks.

Berliner's discourse reminded me of an interview with Alan Parker on the DVD I recently rented of his film "the Life of David Gale". It's fascinating to hear a film director explain how they construct their vision of the story and how they use light and music to reinforce their themes. I heartily approve of this trend to include interviews with film-makers and actors on DVDs although most I have seen are rather tedious montages of out-takes and ego-massaging luvvie commentaries.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Not adding to my blog could become a source of guilt. Thank goodness I'm not a Catholic ! Oops, perhaps I shouldn't mention that to the Italian in-laws !

Brussels has been pretty dead over Easter. No demonstrations, no rain (hurray !), and hardly any (non-Belgian) people. Rather pleasant really.

Had a scrumptious Easter lunch with Charles and Maurice - a farewell lunch as they are about to leave Brusselsproutland forever and go run a gorgeous 19th century upmarket Bed and Breakfast in upstate New York. So now I know where we are going to spend our wedding anniversary ! More good friends leaving Brusselsproutlandd is saddening but predictable - the non-Belgians are bound to move on eventually.

Take a look at the nominees for the 7th annual Webby awards page - there's some amazing sites nominated. I am especially impressed with the wizardry of this one called nobodyhere and the off-the-wall-ness of this one about the pole-shift (something a bit different to worry about when you've had enough of Iraq/USA/elections etc. !).

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Claudio and I went to see "Daredevil" last night. Ripping action but all the graphic violence (for me, I am a wimp) had me wringing my hands and closing my eyes. And I kept getting distracted by how Ben Affleck could pretend he was blind by not moving his eye balls or blinking - and could I do that? Well, maybe yes if the camera was only pointing at me for 3 seconds and then the images were computer enhanced. The other amazing aspect of this trip to the cinema for a dose of American culture was the huge amount of food Claudio managed to consume. Perhaps the dumber the film, the greater the number of calories needed to stay alive ? Not quite an intellectual experience.
Well, after a promising start, this blog ground to a halt. I just couldn't get on to Blogger once the war started. And now all my previous ramblings are overshadowed by circumstances.

I can't believe how heated some people are getting over what they are reading in the press. Like it's all true.
When I was but a young undergraduate in media studies (yes, you can laugh and snort if you like, but I loved it) I did some research on the way the British press reported the "situation in Northern Ireland" and the IRA. It was a revelation of the extreme bias and propoganda we are fed on a daily basis. The war in Iraq is no exception. Where to go for info on what's really happening ? Keep reading the blogs, of course. Strangely enough, I keep going back to blogs that have views very different to my own. Knowing all sides of an argument is important to us Librans.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

It's almost a week since I posted anything. Brussels has been unusually sunny and gorgeous and I've been out of doors as much as possible with Sarah and Claudio (earlier known as MFI - the real name of My Favourite Italian revealed due to demand. Thanks for the feedback). We visited the excellent Children's Museum in Brussels on Sunday afternoon - more like a big interactive educational adventure playground. We all had a fabulous time learning about being an imigrant, evolution of writing, nutrition through the ages etc etc and Sarah now wants to go every week.

Yesterday at work we were all clicking regularly on the BBC news site (and other news sources) for regular updates. Today we had an urgent meeting about security. Being a Brit in a foreign land just got a bit more dangerous although we find it hard to take threat's seriously in Brussels.

Found this quote today which sends chills down my spine:

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, a parliament or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

Hermann Goering, Nuremburg 1946

Found a great blog for news from the frontline - check out Kevin's reports.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

UN quits, over to the EU… Kofi Annan’s given up on Cyprus “after 15 hours of talks, we’ve reached the end of the road”. So the referendum to take place on 30 March will decide if Cyprus will be joining the EU in Spring 2004 as a divided country or not.

More anti-Europe fuel for Bush…. I see that at the end of last week the EU was visiting Cuba – one of the few markets where we don’t compete against the USA – and formally opened up the first EU delegation office in Havana. This opens up the road for Cuba to receive a whole load of stuff from Europe. Bet that is going down well in the White House.

American ships waiting just offshore of Turkey in readiness for offloading 60,000 troops are not getting a great reception from the Turks….

And just to keep the temperature going in an upward direction, the Prime Minister of Serbia has just been assassinated in Belgrade. Let’s hope this is not an Archduke Ferdinand situation revisited, the UN is a little stretched right now. And meanwhile in the vicinity, another historic moment in EU history – our first security venture as we succeed UN troops in Macedonia with our own forces.

New Europe meets New York…. The city of Riga in Latvia is considering banning mobile phones from public places, just like NYC. And this is what Latvia’s mobile telephone operator LMT president Juris Binde said “use of cellulars during the show at the opera, theatre or cinema, for example, is indeed disturbing, therefore more education campaigns should be organised to promote the cultural use of mobile phones.” A glass of Belgian beer to the first person with the best suggestion for promoting the “cultural use of mobile phones”. In the meantime, please please please can all countries ban mobiles on all forms of public transport and in restaurants ?

More job opportunities in Ireland as Google sets up shop in Dublin. Meanwhile marchers in Liege, Belgium are protesting about the closure of Cockerill, the biggest employer in the (ex-steel industry) city. It’s not looking good for Liege which one newspaper here describes as a living dead town.

Now MFI husband comes from the fair city of Liege and wouldn’t be too happy at being described as a zombie on the basis of the economic problems of his home town. On my frequent visits to Liege, I have to bite my tongue and say nothing about my experiences during the Thatcher years of living in Sheffield, England during the decimation of both steel and coal industry and how this all looks very familiar…

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Turkey just named their new Prime Minister which means a new vote on the deployment of US troops is coming up soon in the Turkish parliament. Gulp. Or should that be "gobble, gobble, run for your lives !" ?
Is there anybody out there ? Analysis of radio signals from space has scientists thinking we will make contact with aliens in the next 20 years..... and no this is not from the National Enquirer.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

My Favourite Italian (MFI ?) and I went and picked up the last of our wedding gifts this weekend (yes, I know it has taken us 6 months). For all those of you out there that contributed - thank you !

This was a weekend for the cinema - there was a choice between a late night special of 4 hours of clips from B movies (Night of Bad Taste) or one of the usual box office pics. After all the hype about the Eminem film, we went to see "8 mile". Hmmmm nicely done though pretty Hollywood. Good rappers obviously have an amazing poetic capacity and huge vocabulary even if a lot of it is in the vernacular. Impressive wars of words. The rest of it is classic American dream stuff - boy from poor neighbourhood chooses own path to success against all odds. And here's everyone else's opinion on M&M and his movie MFI and I liked it but then he loves rap and he watches The Godfather Trilogy over and over again and I have a (no-longer) secret soft spot for trashy films.