Courting Hedgehogs

There was something in the garden making an awful lot of ruchus. It sounded like snorting, chirping, moaning, puffing, snuffling, bristling, grunting, whistling and buzzing all rolled into one. I went out to look what was making the noise. It was already pitch black outside, but I managed to distinguish some blobs on the grass.
After the hedgehog debacle I am very pleased to announce:
The big dark blobs on the grass are actually two hedgehogs courting in the garden (hence the noises)! I managed to take a good picture of one, the other one scuttled away as soon as I tried to take another (it's probably camera shy).


Better for the environment

Here's a timewaster. Just click to pop.

Not satisfied? Want MOAR?
Click on the post title and check the maniac mode. Enjoy!


An interesting read

Some notes on Robert Hughes' book American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America.
It was a very entertaining read. Here are some highlights of the sections I enjoyed most (paraphrasing on the quotes):

Stuart Davis chafing at the neverending complaints of conservative academics artists from the American scene and social realists about the un-pure and unamerican that was latently present in the modernistic embrace of European styles. America was a melting pot, a land of immigrants, why couldn't art be that too?

"I am as American as any other American painter...Over here we are racially English-American, Irish-American, Russian- or Jewish-American - and artistically we are all Rembrandt-American and Picasso-American. But since we all live and paint here we are, first of all, American."

I was also very touched by the Rivera fiasco in the Rockerfellor Centre and disgusted at the over-painting of Brooks' work.

On the uprise of early modernisme in the twenties and on the work of Georgia O'Keefe:

She (O'Keefe) refused to confirm the erotic explenations about her work (the close-up flowers from the twenties). It would be mad to deny the sexual gravitas of a painting as Black Iris (1926). Those who can't see it have got sand in their eyes. O'Keefe was actively involved with the pictures Stieglitz (her husband) made of her and those are the most daring ode to eroticism a photographer has ever created. Her persistent denials can only be seen as a defencer against the army of wet blankets (what in puritain America translates into nearly all Americans), who cannot tell erotica from pornography.


I was surfing the net to see how the book was hailed ten years ago on its publication. I found a really balanced one and a really nasty one. But both worth a read and touching on some interesting points.


Similar but not the same

I was happily driving along on one of the many badly maintained motorways the little country I traverse has, when I was overtaken by one of the, what I find, most classy, beguiling automobiles out on the road today. The Bentley. I have seen quite a few about in the last week or so. It could of course be the same car. I'll have to look out for the number plate. I was actually rater struck by the “B” Bentley logo.
I had never given it much thought, but it has an uncanny resemblance to the "B" logo of the National Railway Company of Belgium. The Bentley logo has the same typeset capital B. Or is it the other way round?
The logo was already on the Bentley 3.5 Litre, first car to be developed under the Rolls Royce ownership. Production on this fine car was started in 1933. Click here for pictures of one of the early 3.5 Bentleys. As you will clearly see, the winged logo is already firmly fixed underneath that radiator knob.
The Belgian Railway logo was designed by Henri Van de Velde in 1936. He was an artistic adviser to the Belgian cabinet at the time and could have nudged the board of directors to choose (t)his design.
In November 2001 The Art collections Weimar (Kunstsammlungen zu Weimar) started to compile a catalog of Henry van de Velde's works, and the designs for the logo should be among them. I haven't seen them and don't know how the different designs looked or evolved before van de Velde actually settled on the logo still used today. We could assume he was familiar with the Bentley design and we could also assume this is just a case of coincidence. Just a sign of the times? Similar but not the same?
I think it is doubly interesting to see the wings of the Bentley logo resemble the emblem a lot of European railways used last century: the winged wheel, the ubiquitous Beaux Arts symbol of progress.
The railwheel combined with Mercuri's wings embodying the symbol of technological progress and swiftness. There are many versions of these still about on station buildings, more recently one has been restored to its original place.

On a side note: With the way things are going in this little country, it will be cheaper to run a Bentley in the near future instead of taking the train. If you're older than 26 and aren't yet enjoying your pension, public transport is more expensive than just filling up the car, even with soaring petrol and diesel prices today.



As seen by Dr Livingstone:
(click on image to enlarge)

Just one for the road: from failblog.org. I just can't stop laughing.

It changed what?

One of the weirdest messages I have ever seen on Facebook. Seriously.

I thank God I wore my corset, because I think my sides have split

More power to me!

The man from UPS just left! Thank you Dr Livingstone! I'm tickled pink!
My sweetheart wanted to surprise me with a little prezzie.
(Nothing gets by me, so I already knew, the confirmation was in the mailbox). He ordered a brand new battery for my little computer. I'm really wireless again now! I was umbilically attached to the power net for the past couple of months. The battery life had deteriorated quite rapidly over the last half year. I think it was at 576 cycles last time I looked. Not too bad considering I've had my little white ibookers for nearly three years now.


Red Bats with Teeth

Not exactly red bats with teeth. More of a soft reddish-brown with a black snub nose. But I always think of the Angelo Badalamenti track from Lost Highway if I think of bats. So I had to slip in the movie reference.

Holy reference, Batman!

I couldn't sleep as the sun was just about to rise and I saw an awful lot of bats out and about when I looked out the window. There are at least five (that is the highest number of critters I managed to fit in 1 picture, but I'm sure there's a lot more of them. They don't exactly keep still to have their picture taken in mid flight. Mouser was outside too and saw them fluttering in the early dawn. Kitteh stared and looked puzzeled: "Flying mice? Whatever next?"

Holy puzzle, Batman!

I made a small collage of some bats I managed to snap. Me thinkst they are all Pipistrellus pipistrellus.
They are those small, dark shapes fluttering about around dusk all year round. They have a quick, rather jerky flight pattern that makes the bat's small size (3.5-5 cm and 27-30 cm wingspan) very obvious. So these are the guys you'll most probably see when you're washing down those nicely grilled sausages with a beer on the patio when the charcoal is already cooling down and the sun has just set but there is still enough light not to trip over the parasol stand.

Holy barbecue, Batman!

My little garden book says:
Breeding takes place between August and November. A male has up to 10 females to breed with, but fertilization is put on hold until the following April. The female them gives birth to one youngster in June or July.

That is amazing.

When Dr Livingstone gets back I want to go and have a look at the attic. Maybe we can see them hanging in the rafters or something while they're asleep.

To the batcave!

Everyman's theology

I was waiting to check out some books from our village library. I overheard the conversation between the librarian and the elderly man in front of me.
Elderly Man: "So I said to him, going to heaven is very fine and all that, but what are you going to do there once you get there? Sit on a cloud and twiddle your thumbs for all eternity?"
Librarian: "When Cardinal Suenens turned 70, he got a visit from Danneels. His successor wished him all the best, many more years and expressed the hope he wouldn't go off to heaven for a little while.
And you know what Cardinal Suenens said to him? "If I was to go to heaven that would be a shame. All the interesting woman would be in hell".
Elderly Man: 'There, you see. I couldn't have put it better. That's exactly what I think! Now, I'll have to go and see why my wife is taking so long..."


I was kinda hoping to hear more and see how this dialogue panned out.
I bet he wants his wife to go to heaven and he'll prefer spending eternity in hell on his own (he's probably already had a lifetime's worth of it here on earth already.)


Do as thou wilt

So I had some good news: I passed all of my exams. First class honours. Yay me!
So well on the way then.
I didn't think I did too well on Literary History. I got a 16 which isn't bad, could have been much, much worse. This was the second time round I had to study for this subject. The first time, back in February, I was stuck in Room 101 on the eve of the test. So I got an exemption and was able to take the test on Saturday.
The written part was easy, got about 20 little fragments of texts and/or a short description of a story and I had to name author and title of the work. Fellow students thought that the toughest part of it all. I think I got all of them right but I'm not to good at ad libbing on oral questions without any prep time.
I'm going to have to do a bit of extra reading on Petrarch (don't like him just because he was a tourist from the Middle Ages climbing the Mont Ventoux.) If he would have been alive today, I'd bet ¼ Sou he would have been there with his family in their caravan, listening to Radio Tour, waiting for the coureurs to come by.
And I need to read some more François Rabelais. I find him hilarious. Just because he was on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum makes it worth the while. Funnily enough, I had a quick glance at the list of most notable writers on it and I own or have read at least one work of nearly every author. I think that is also partly the reason why I have such an extensive library. If I get round to it I'll put all my books on librarything.com and then you can all speculate in what circle of hell I'll be spending eternity.


Please float the other way

dOOdz! You're scaring me AND the cows in the field across the road. That burst of air really made me jump out of my lethargic loitering out on the patio. Oh, and don't yell at me from that wicker basket. I'm not going to wave back at you, whoever you elevated tv people may be. I'm down here, sipping some lovely milk, reading a nice book, living the hedonist lifestyle. Tough on you being stuck up there. No toilet, no ladder and not entirely sure when or if you'll land.
Fortunately there is still a very strong north westerly breeze abreast so I was quite fast shod of these Icarus wannabees.

Nonoh Cherry

Go go gadget arms!
Mr Mole Slayer's™ cherry tree is in the full swing of doing what it does best: Having those delicious, sweet cherries dangle on its branches. They don't seem to be interested in harvesting any, which is a shame. So all the birds are raiding this open all hours store. And their dog is eating all the ones it can reach on hind legs. Blackbirds are the chief diners, they have their little pick nick in our garden, it is strewn with cherry pits.
The only thing I can really do is collect them and make them into a cushion.


Welcome to the Pleasure Dome

Frequent readers of this blog will have already noticed I am not partial to animals that are able to sting me, bite me or feed off me. Ticks are on top of my avoid 'at any cost' list.
But that does not stop me from appreciating the beauty of nature. I am truly in awe of all those tiny creatures lurking about, going about their business without disturbing anyone. And some freak me out too. Like those spiders clutching their egg coccoon like there's no tomorrow. It somehow always reminds me of that thing clinging to John Hurt's face in that Alien movie. I have just enlarged a few pictures I took. The woods have eyes and I really do mean that in a creepy sense because they are literally teeming with egg sack hugging spiders and it is creeping me out right now. The Pisaura mirabilis or, as my little book says, the gentle sounding Nursery Web Spider. I have another book on garden insects and they call it the Big Wolf Spider. That sounds more like it! I bet it's got some nasty fangs to stun its victim.

Like the other species waiting in the other picture. I can just hear it think: 'Welcome to the Pleasure Dome. Muhahaha' (in big booming dramatic voice with plenty of reverb).



I really lack will power to clean my car. And time. I have my final exam today.
Tomorrow's a great day for cleaning cars, isn't it what most people in suburbia do?


Hello there

I thought my eyesight was failing. I saw something scurry into the garage upon my return home from my daily hike.
It was this adorable little Martes foina. It decided to hide for a bit under one of Dr Livingstone's hairy cases. Chappy looked very fluffy, exhausted and sleepy (bit like me right now, minus fur). It looked at me for a little while. It couldn't leg it, I was kinda blocking its escape route. So I sat myself down, took my camera and let the creature dart off outside.
So now we know in future: If Dr Livingstone claims he cleaned up the garage and it still looks like a mess, it propably was the marter! Mihi. Just kidding, dear!

Badly shorn sheep v 2.0™

Neighbour's Badly Shorn Sheep v 1.0™ is still roaming around his bare patch of green pasture. It has lost a bit of wool here and there but only because it got entangled in some barbed wire a little while ago and it struggled to get free and in the process of doing so shedded some of its excess wool. But it made up for the loss by just growing some more.
Apparently Mr Amateur Farmer™ has had another stab at the shaving bit. I don't know if he was wearing a blindfold at the time, but a quick glance over the fence confirms this could well have been the modus operandi. We can now also see versions 2.0 and 3.0 running about.
On a non sheep note: I'm really glad he's got three daughters and not three sons. I dread to think what kind of brutal and horrible accidents might have taken place there if he had to explain and show them how to shave when hitting puberty.


Panic Stations

I woke up yesterday and Mouser was still fast asleep on top of the dresser. I went over for a little cuddle. Velvet Claws stirred and then I saw its poor little eye. He held it fast and it was all watery around the edges . It'd been indoors all night so if anything had happened it would have been just before Kitteh came in for the night and its eye had gotten worse during.
Rang the local vet, but he'd only be in after seven in the evening. That was too long a wait. I called round and found a vet in the nearby city and they were open for busines. Good. Mr Mole Slayer™ was out and about trimming his hedges and I asked him if he had a carrier case of some kind I could use. He didn't. Their dog barely fits in the boot of a car. I don't think they make carrier cases that big.
So now a problem stared me in the face: How do I get Mouser there? It's never been in a box, in a car or to a vet.
I had to prepare this very carefully. Cat was still asleep so I could slip into my clothes, get the car door, fold one of those removal boxes and get some heavy duty tape ready.
Getting the cat in the box was easy. He thought I wanted to play a game. Before Mouser could snap out of his amazement I folded down the sides and taped it shut. A few times. It didn't hold very well. Kitteh was not amused. I had laid down it's blanket, so it had something familiar smelling with it in the box, but that didn't seem to keep it calm.
He started clawing at the holes where you usually put your hands to carry the box. I could see some whiskers and claws poking out at times, poor thing was in a desperate struggle to break out of its cardboard prison.
I put the box on the passenger seat. Wails of terror arose. It was only a ten minute drive, but long enough for me and Mouser. On the drive over there the Escape From Alcatraz acts ensued, at one time it'd managed to sneak a paw out of the top of the box.
The very friendly doctor saw Mouser straight away. It was time to open Pandora's box. Mouser didn't budge. Cat looked up in amazement when the top was folded open.
Who was that?
Where am I?
Do I smell dog wee?
Why are my paws sweaty?

A drop of sedative in the eye, some yellow colouring, an observant vet: I'm afraid it's got a tear in its cornea.
Mouser didn't like the sound of that, nore the goo that was being rubbed into it.
She then went on to examine Kitteh. I don't know why Mouser looked so weird. Was it the eye drops or the sight of the rectal thermometer? Yearly inoculation. Velvet Claws was being very cooperative and didn't claw, hiss or bite.
Mouser was lifted back in the box, we taped it shut and twenty minutes later I was back home releasing the poor little sod that had been whimpering from start to finish. Last leg of the journey it had been a bit quieter, I think it peed in the box, the blanket was a bit damp.
Kitteh didn't run away when I let it out, it kinda stared at me and at the garden, completely flabbergasted at seeing some familiar surroundings. But that was only the start of the real adventure! Oh yes! I still have to treat her for 10 to 14 days. Make sure it heals properly and it doesn't get worse. And how do I do that you may well ask?
Ointment. Yes. 4 times a day in the eye. Yes, In a CAT's eye, FOUR times a day.
We're at day two now, Mouser doesn't like it, but it's not having a go at me. Which is good. Yesterday evening Cat was on the bed, I gave it the pommage and it made some noise, but went back to sleep in the wink of an eye (geddit?).
Mouser had not left the vicinity of the house or garden all day, I think it's vision was a bit blurred and cat was still a bit shaken, not stirred, by the catnapping I had subjected it to earlier. Poor kitteh must have been knackered, it fell asleep the moment it had huddled itself in the firefox formation. I saw it breathe very hurriedly and move all of its velvety claws and whiskers as if it was still trapped inside the box in its dream.
Mouser seems ok today, it even brought me back a mouse in the evening. Hope all goes well and it heals up nicely.


Solstice Moon Illusion

I might have known it'll be today. It's clouding up as we speak. If you've got clear skies and a clear view of the horizon, grab a loved one and behold the Great Moon Illusion!
In case it's not visible, here's a picture I took yesterday. Nasa science info here.

I told you so

I had an inkling they'd have it in for me. After my post on the noisy AWACS, I kinda felt it was going that way.
Yes, the fighter planes were out and about today. Goodie. The sound drowned out not only the Chansons de Geste but also Tristan & Iseult in the afternoon.

The World According to Me - Year 1

So one year gone and I'm still rambling online.

*gives herself meaningless pat on back*

I've only started to keep user stats since the 23rd of May, so I can't really give you a run down on how this blog has been doing.
But I can let you all into a little secret: In a good three weeks time my blog has been read (or bits of it) by people from all over the world.
I have had readers from nearly every continent. Except one.
Yes. Antarctica is still missing.
Maybe if I slip in some penguin references or the huge amount of condoms that were shipped there I might see some action in the hits area from that part of the world.
I could just try and go for name dropping:
Alain Hubert, Adrien de Gerlache, Zero Emission Antarctic Base Princess Elisabeth.

Or slip in something cheeky for people already on Antarctica who have some time to waste on the internet now winter is setting in. If they Google/Yahoo/AOL it I might get lucky.

Here are some things that spring to mind and might work like the moth to the flame:

The does and don'ts for scientists in Antarctica.

Twenty of the hottest scientists work and live on Antarctica.

How to get your Antarctic research published.

How to never be cold and lonely again in Antarctica.

Let your hair down in Antarctica.

Eating out, places to eat and restaurant guide. The essential guide for eating out in Antarctica.

Are you looking for a free Antarctic dating site?. Do you want to find singles on Antarctica looking for a date and that live on Antarctica for free?

Now we just sit back and wait...

Right. I'm going to get plastered. Oh wait, I can't my final exam's on Saturday. Blast. It'll have to wait until Sunday.


NATO has really crossed the line

Right. That is the final straw. I'll have to call NATO and ask them to postpone their exercises 'till next week because that bleedin' AWACS is disturbing the tranquillity around here. If that noisy piece of E3 Sentry fails to land the first time, does it really need to do a 360 right over my house for a second try? Next thing are probably those screeching F-16's roaring through the skies because they can finally do a bit of fancy flying now the weather has cleared up.
I mean, what does a girl need to do to get a little peace and quiet around here?


The Mouse Problem

O hi! I was just looking for that Monty Python DVD.
You know, the one with The Mouse Problem sketch on it?


All hail to the ale

Thanks Dr Livingstone, up in Mother Russia, for telling me about Al Murray, The Pub Landlord. That finally woke me up. That and some more coffee.

"If you've come to this site looking for an internet wife from Eastern Europe, you're in the wrong place" - The Pub Landlord



Today is Caturday.


Vader Sessions

I know nearly three million people have seen it before, but this made me smile today:

Best way to get a woman in bed is to get her naked and in a bath first...

Mr. Wyzanski...i've been extremely impressed by the way your work has improved over the course of the semester.

In 19...24. I posed for another sculpture. IT was a nude one. It depicted me, singing, "Deep River"



Of black cats and broomsticks

'Hey Mrs B, does this thing still work?
Let's go for a spin.'

No Mouser. Witches only fly on broomsticks in fairy tales.
A modern day witch like myself prefers to drive a Mini.


I've been blogging now for nearly a year and still haven't sussed out how all this blog and internet stuff works to the full extent. It's like using traffic lights every day of the year and never wondering how and when they change colours. I'm a template person. A few clicks and Bob's your uncle. I can just about manage to link bits to urls with some kind of code. And I have to copy/paste that too every time I use it. Why am I rambling on about my incapability to get to grips with what the rest of the blogging community can do with their eyes closed?

Pietel has set up a little web-experiment with his boss and it turns out be rather an interesting challenge. How to get as much google hits as possible using the term Breehorn.

Pietel's trying to get his readers to link as often as poss to the word Breehorn (and his boss' related urls). But he's lacking some kind of incentive (how's that for managerial speak?). I mean, bloggers don't need much to start linking to anything remotely interesting (or boring). But he came up with an, still unconfirmed, interesting idea. How about getting people to link to Breehorn through means of a freebie? I'll write as much stories about my perfect day sailing on a Breehorn sailboat as you like. Hell, I'll even link to anything Breehorn related. (It would actually make a really good name for a brandy too).

But then I read something that sounded familiar: Trackback.
I have come across this word many a time, but I still do not grasp the concept to the full extent.
A trackback is my equivalent of a blonde not getting the joke about a blonde: It's just above my head.

Linking is fine. It's just something you click on and it goes to another site. That is easy for me to comprehend. So if I link to Breehorn or breehorn.wordpress.com, it will only direct someone to my site if they google those words. But the Breehorn will show up in the google hit stats and climb accordingly, even if they do not visit the site. Is that how it works? But that is not the aim of the exercise. We're talking techno here. The target is how to get a big google score.

Trackback is something I do not have on my blogger thingy.
And I did look at a few sites, but that involves more codes and they've lost me after five sentences. As soon if they hit the 'you'll need a plug in' line I've lost all interest. From what I fathom, it's some kind of notification that sends a code to the url you've linked to to make them aware of the fact you've -eh- linked to them.

So I'm looking at this from a non-technical standpoint. If the aim is getting as much google hits as you can, how does that tie in with a trackback? I suppose my ignorance is probably apparent by asking such a silly question.
The aim is to get more people to use the word Breehorn so the google count goes up.
Personally, I would never google 'Breehorn'. I expect only people who own one or are into sailing might, and some bloggers who want a freebie sailing trip. Like me. I just did. So the google hit thing works like this: Google 'Breehorn' and then count the links the word is mentioned in. The counter is currently at 17.100. If I add my post will it go up to 17.101? Let's see shall we. I've mentioned Breehorn at least ten times now, it better show up somewhere.


Left in the lurch

I always keep an eye out for when farmers start mowing their fields. That's my cue to go and get cracking in my own garden. I didn't make time to do it earlier this week, I had an exam yesterday so I left it 'till a more convenient time. There is a saying 'Saint Barnabas, mow the grass'. The 11th of June is his feast day. So a good day according to popular folklore to not beat around the bush and mow it instead.
So I had a pint of milk and a can of spinach and set about this task. Almost halfway I ran into some trouble. My lawnmower left me in the lurch. Everything still worked, but the traction was gone. Just like that. So I had a look, everything was still in order. Tension on the thing you pull to move the leaver, the belt was ok...
The biggest impediment of the whole unfortunate condition was where the thing ceased to cooperate with my trimming activities. Only in the middle of the bloody garden! (see picture)
The lawn now had the appearance of a bad shaving job on a porn star.
So I nipped next door, I had to entice Mr Mole Slayer™ into getting to peel himself off the sofa (apparently there is some European Football Cup on). He very kindly lent me his mower, he even offered to take a look at the thing. 'Yep, it's fucked' was his diagnosis.
I thought Saint Peter was the patron saint of mowers. Barnabas was called upon against hailstorms. Nice work boys. I can clearly see you are not conferring on this one.


Brandy grows on trees

My neighbour (aka Mr Mole Slayer™) planted a small tree in the back of the garden. I only noticed it was there because of the strange label attached to it. Without my glasses from a distance it looked like a picture of 5 eggs. We all know eggs don't grow on trees (although this one kinda might) so it had to be something else. Upon closer inspection (after I zoomed in on the picture I took) it appeared to be a fruit tree. Mirabelles are a type of plum, not a variety. It is believed that the plum was cultivated from a wild fruit grown in Asia Minor. You can either eat it fresh from the tree or make it into Brandy. It ripens in August.
So I'll have to speak to Mr Slayer™ and persuade him to make make some brandy from these prunes. Slivovitz is made from plums and is the national beverage in some Balkan countries, so it can't be bad at all.
And Mr Slayer™ just put a new kitchen in, so no excuse to start cracking after the plucking.
I'm hoping for a good nice summer season and hope this little tree will not dash my hopes and brings forth some fruit. The last trees they ever planted on the same patch of land didn't make it. Last years Christmas tree didn't see the winter through and the other one was a symbolic love bond tree the eldest son planted together with his girlfriend. That withered too.


Soothing marble

As promised
some more pictures of the newly renovated Islamic Art wing at the Museum of Art and History in Brussels' Cinquentenaire park.
Top L: Hunter having to flee up a tree for a vicious looking beclawed animal nibbling at his horse.
Top R: velvet Osman textile with çintamani pattern.
Bottom L: strange piece of 16th century textile with image of naked woman
Bottom R: sumptuous carving on a reconstructed front of a mosque from N. Pakistan

Top L: section of the new wing
Top R: planispheric astrolabe (alas incomplete)
Bottom L: reconstructed wooden mosque entrance with minbar at the end of the gallery
Bottom R: Nice display of brightly coloured glazed pot fragments and water filters inscribed with kaligraphy.

Once again I recommend visiting the collection (and of course the rest of the museum).
Even if it is too hot outside, a stroll around in this agreeable climate is an educational feast for the eyes and brain. The soothing calmness of the marble interior, the delicacy of the artefacts and crystal clear info on each big period is a winning combination.


The mystery of the stolen head

I was back at the KMKG in Brussels yesterday looking at some Brabantine and Antwerp retables and got to hear some interesting anecdotes on some strange goings on in the museum. We hardly ever hear about these in the mainstream press. One of the events involved a retable.

Due to a lack of funds there is practically no security around. If you bump into one guard on a three hour visit, that could count as a lot. There are some camera's about, but most of them don't work half of the time. Most works are not fitted with alarms either. But there has been a considerable improvement over the years. A majority are now covered with some perspex up to a certain height.
No one will walk off with an entire retable, but there have been some thefts in the past and there still are several in this day and age.

I wanted to talk about a theft in the 1950's. There are several rooms dedicated to Brabantine retables. One of the masterpieces is the breathtaking St George
retable made by Jan Borremans the elder (1493). It depicts several scenes from his martyrdom. It is supposed to be read from right to left, that is unnusual. All other retables are meant to be viewed from left to right in chronological order (e.g. crowing -> crucifiction -> resurrection of Christ).
The retable shows us all these forms of inventive torture (my favourites include being sawed in half and being boiled in a copper ox) first, but finally, his opponents have had enough and want to finish the job once and for all. The scene on the outer left wing depicts the beheading of Saint George. His lifeless body is sprawled on the floor. The executioner is ready to swing his sword again to behead Alexandra, wife of proconsul Dacianus. The emperor Diocletian sporting a knotted beard looks on approvingly in the background.
In 1950 someone stole the head of Alexandra. It must have been easy to lift, no guards around, the centuries old glue hardly bonding anything. It was replaced with a replica. No one had a clue as to who, when or why. Experts thought it lost forever.

Four decades later, on a random day, a little parcel was delivered at the entrance. They were not able to trace who left it there.
It was a little carton container, one of those small boxes that holds a light bulb. Upon opening, amazement and bewilderment took hold of the museum staff.
It was the long lost head!
Why was it returned? Someone having remorse on his deathbed? A will asking to return the item hidden under the squeaky floorboard behind the kitchen dresser?
We will have to guess forever. So, ironically, contrary to what the scene actually depicts, the head was joined again with the retable after an absence of 40 years.


Museum pieces in graphic novels

When browsing the KMKG's bookshop, I picked up a nice little catalogue of an exhibition that was held in the KMKG, Brussels (1996). Comic strips were celebrating their centenary that year. The expo was unimaginatively titled "Museumpieces as extras in a comic book" (Museumstukken als figuranten in een stripverhaal - Quand la BD s'inspire des objets du Musée).
It's a fairly small catalogue but I actually consider it a good effort to popularise some history using your own collection and rich museum history and have a 'new' approach to comic books. Well, it was, dans le temps. All things considering, it has been 12 years and been rehashed without adding anything new.
It puts figurines and historic artifacts side by side with their drawn derivatives. A lot of the material is borrowed from E.P. Jacobs, one of the masters of egyptologising comics (He made 2 fabulous graphic novels 'The Secret of the Great Pyramid'). Hergé's work (creator of Belgian icon Tintin) also features prominently. Jacobs lived only a few blocks away from the museum and could be found sketching for hours upon end and so was very well acquinted with the collection.
Most famous exhibit known all over the world is the Chimú figurine. It may not have a familiar ring to it, but if I say 'Arumbaya-fetish' it may clear up some clouds. Yes. That is the statuette Tintin tries to track down in 'The Broken Ear'.

The museum also sports the inspirational artifact of a Peruvian portrait vase as seen in the graves Tintin stumbles upon after falling through a waterfall in 'The Sun Temple' and again in the antiquarian's shop where Tintin and Captain Haddock buy some diving gear to look for "Red Rackham's Treasure". And of course the mummy that inspired 'Rascar Capac' in 'The 7 Christal Balls'. (Oh, this reminds me of one of those 'rehashed' expo's: the Tintin and Peru exhibition they had in '02).

Alas, the South American art wing is still closed, so a lot of the collection is currently not on display. I hope that, in the near future, all will be accessible again. I think the museum could benefit yet again from an influx of visitors and tourists in the wake of the Tintin movies announced last year and set to take to the silver screens in 2009.

But then they mustn't forget to put one of those big perspex boxes for donations. Or rather where everyone can get rid of their change. I seem to remember there was one like it when I was a kid (when the main entrance was closed and what is now called the group entrance served as the main one). It could boost the museum's annual revenue a bit.

In the catalogue's epilogue the museum launches a little plea for help as it were. They call upon everyone spotting more museum pieces in comic books to come forward.

Well, ok, but only if there is a reward involved. Or I could just write a little paper on it and submit it as a proposal for a new exhibition and see it as a moral incentive.

The catalogue is still available in the museum book shop and is only 6€. So hurry while stocks lasts!
And just so you know: They usually have a habit of putting old stuff they can't shift in the entrance lobby (opposite the hat & cloak bar). Today I picked up a free copy of an old catalogue of a 1979 exhibition on the Bellevue house and the Royal district.

Ps: In case you're wondering: I voted NO on the little poll.


Life on Mars?

Photographic evidence of the first cat on Mars?
No, not really.
There was a massive mud slide because of the heavy rainfall we've experienced here over the past couple of days. Thanks to intensive 'soil management' as it is referred to in this modern cryptic age, land is eroding away at an excruciating pace every time there is a drash national. The remnants of mud reminded me of the pictures we get from the Mars missions.
Trust to have Mouser muck about and spoil the smooth virgin surface.
Cat got bogged down a few times, pads don't do too well on mushy goo.
And later on the obligatory little pitter-patter of muddy paws all over the house.


I want to but I can't.
If the train doesn't move soon I shall become it very much so.
The red light in between it tells me to wait.
I won't be awarded one for being patient.
It's just something I'll have to bear.


Same sound as ever

As seen on the back entrance of a theatre.



I am one of those thousands of listeners who listen to Charles Hodgson's voice every day. I have always found his podcast Podictionary very entertaining and informative. Sometimes it makes me snigger, sometimes it makes me wonder and sometimes I go: 'Ooh, I didn't know that'.
Having a logophile recount the origin of a word and how its usage changed through centuries is not a dry, ex cathedra way of gaining knowledge but a most refreshing, agreeable way of learning.
History can be very silly and anecdotal at times and this is what makes podictionary worth listening to.

Subscribe today if you haven't done already.

When Charles was plugging his first book last year, I pre-ordered it at Amazon and am now a proud owner of Carnal Knowledge: A Navel Gazer's Dictionary of Anatomy, Etymology and Trivia.
So I could say Charles' etymology empire, as he likes to call it, has already annexed a few centimeters of my bookshelf space and on another continent at that!

I think it quite wonderful that someone puts a lot of time and effort into a daring enterprise and is able to make a career out of it, even though his bankbook says it's a hobby. So this little plug, on my humble blog, may not amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, but it is my way of saying: Thank you Charles!

I wish you all the best and a bright future for all of your wordy escapades, I am looking forward to the new book.

So I enlist in the empire's army and hope for citizenship and a patch of land upon my return!


The Belgian Postal Services going for gold

This morning I went out to empty the letter box. There was a competition leaflet from De Post, The Belgian Postal Services.

De Post is giving all of Belgium the chance to win a trip to the Olympics and cheer on its athletes.

Great. Why not?

The promotional poster looks very promising. The nine athletes look like some kind of Star Trek cast. And really look like they mean business. That's good. Give 'em the stare and scare the opponent. I like that tactic.
Also: the catchphrase is hilarious.

'1,3 billion Chinese supporters
10 million Belgian supporters
We're gonna need all your postcards'

Do you think they have a similar promo campaign in China? Anyone who doesn't send back their postcard gets it?
Even the weather has to comply (think of cloud seeding).
To put it in the immortal words of the late great Perry DeAngelis:

"Yes I believe China will control the weather. If it doesn't cooperate they'll have it shot."

So I decided to have a stab at the quiz and answer the four questions.
But then I got to question number 2:
"Which Belgian athlete, who won a gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, collaborated on a promotional campaign for the Bank van de Post's savings account?"

And then you can tick one of the three boxes to answer:
a. I. Bergmans
b. E. Merckx
c. D. Monami

Alas there is no option d. none of the above.

Why would I go for d.? By 1988, Eddy Merckx had long since retired as a pro, Dominique Monami won a bronze medal in doubles but not until 2000 in Sydney.
So we're left with Ingrid Bergmans. Granted, she did the savings account promo BUT woman's judo was only a demonstration sport in 1988. So technically it doesn't count as a full-fledged Olympic medal. She's not even on the official Olympic medal winners list anywhere. So strictly speaking she never won never won an Olympic medal.
Which is stupid. It was a legit competition at a top level. She deserves that extra recognition. Because I still think she is one of the best athletes that has ever come out of little Belgium. She was every girl's role model in the eighties. She still holds the record for most world titles (6) and 11 medals overall (6 gold, 4 silver & 1 bronze).

So I call shenanigans on this competition and demand a free ticket to Peking!

Oh and: Go Belgium!


Dynastically mine

Dynasties are doing my head in.
Umayyad, Abbasid, Seldjuk, Fatimid, Nasrid, Ilkahan, Timurid, Ottoman, Mughal, Safavid, Mamluk, Almohad , Almoravid,...
Last read through and then I'm off for the exam.

Well, whaddayaknow. How's this for a coincidence: The above text was written a couple of hours before I had to do my exam on Art of the Islamic World. To illustrate my little snippit post I linked to a photograph of one of the beautiful iwans on the Registan square in Uzbekistan. Guess what? For my main question on architecture I got shown a picture of the Registan square and asked to situate and date, talk a bit about the Timurid dynasty and explain the main features of the buildings and the glazed tiled patterns.
With flying colours I should think.


The Tom and Jerry Routine

We're all familiar with the Elvis impersonators. Once you've seen one you've seen them all.
Even if they don't resemble The King in the slightest possible sense, there is always something to recognize him by: gelled hair, fancy costume, quivering knees.
The internet is rampant with cat owners claiming their cat, when running around answering one of the calls of nature (no, not that one, I mean chasing mice), is doing the old Tom and Jerry routine. Well pooh with nobs on to all of them !
I think Mouser has come closest so far into emulating the dynamic cat and mouse duo that once graced the silver screen a good six decades ago.
I caught Mouser and his unnamed sidekick in the act of imitation this afternoon. And you know how the saying about practice goes.
Rehearsals are going a bit slower than expected because Mouser keeps eating his little rodent friend. Two scenes are being rehearsed at the moment, you will all be treated to a little sneak preview below:

The first is a moment taken from 'Sordid Serenade' from 1946. Mouse's tail is nearly perfect, Mouser needs to work on the 'show more claws' bit. And his whiskers are pointing down. They should point up. But otherwise a very good effort. No room for improvisation.

The second one is a little action taken from 'Puss Gets The Boot', 1940. The resemblance is uncanny. See how he cleverly steps on mouse's tail so it can't move? Mouse needs to look as though it is trying harder to run away. Mouser looks like he's miles away, should adopt a more smug expression, like Jasper.
But a good effort nonetheless and I found it most entertaining. Keep up the good work boys and don't forget:
Practice makes purrrfect!

-Sorry. I just had to slip that in-

Little Black Mouserhood

'Granny, what big ears you've got'

'All the better to hear you with' said the wolf