A sculpture in northern Italy depicting a crucified green frog holding a beer mug and an egg could be soon removed from display after Pope Benedict condemned it as blasphemous.

The board of the Museion museum in the city of Bolzano was meeting today to decide whether to comply with the wishes of the Pope and other opponents of the 1.3m (4ft) wooden sculpture, Reuters reported.

The work by the late German artist Martin Kippenberger is called Zuerst die Füsse (Feet First). The frog with its tongue hanging out is wearing a green loin cloth and is nailed through the hands and feet on a brown cross in the manner of Jesus Christ.

Museum officials in the Alto Adige region near the Austrian border said Kippenberger, who died in 1997, considered it a self-portrait illustrating human angst.

But Franz Pahl, the president of the regional government, was so enraged by the sculpture he went on hunger strike to demand its removal and consequently ended up in hospital during the summer.

"Surely this is not a work of art but a blasphemy and a disgusting piece of trash that upsets many people," he told Reuters before the start of the board meeting.

In a letter of support for Pahl, the Vatican said the sculpture "wounds the religious sentiments of so many people who see in the cross the symbol of God's love".

However, Claudio Strinati, a superintendent for Rome's state museums, told an Italian newspaper today that censoring the work would be wrong.

"Art must always be free and the artist should not have any restrictions on freedom of expression," he said.

Kippenberger's work has been shown at Tate Modern and the Saatchi Gallery in London, and the Venice Biennale. Retrospectives are planned in Los Angeles and New York.

From The Guardian



Another warning label has caught my attention. This time I noticed it when sitting at my other desk. The one with the flush, the plethora of magazines and the triple layered bog rolls. It's on the back of one of those spray cans that make it smell -eh- different after you've done the business. Like someone has just emptied his bowels in the middle of a Canadian pine apple wood or lavender field in the Provence instead of a small claustrophobic inducing water closet.
It is probably pretty obvious to anyone but me what the meaning of this little icon is. The clear, unambiguous message should be screaming out: "Keep the rugrats away from this Air Freshener".
But you are reading The World According to Mrs B, so: To me it looks like a girl reaching for a lap top and wave haired women with ditto dress carrying an articulated table leg. It really does, doesn't it?
And, yes, that doesn't make any sense at all. After all, pareidolia is in the eye of the beholder.
But I think this little Magritte-esque table leg tribute adds a quaint little surreal dimension to the boring object that is the common air freshner.



Tia Hellebaut wins Olympic gold medal!

Eat that Croatia! Hah!



4 pieces of silver!


It's moving!

This has been driving me round the bend. (click on the image to see the bigger version)
Damn you brain!


I ain't gettin' on no plane, fool

Just got back from the 25th annual International Old Timer Fly-In. It was awesome. Just like last year. Nice weather and nice planes. Middle Teen™ went with me. She bought herself a model of a German Seaking helicopter. For those of you living close by: It is a fun day out. I'd recommend it to anyone. Grab camera, binoculars, kids and your anorak and grab a seat along the runway strip. The sights and sounds of these old timers roaring by is something beyond words. It is very well organised and the people from the Diest Aero Club are very nice and helpful. Pilots are very keen to tell you all about their planes and if you ask nicely some will even take you up with them.
But too tired to write anything up on the whole day, so only some pictures including a very nicely kept 1943 Stearman called "The Old Crow".

Info on the event taken from the press kit:
Since Diest Aero Club organized the first fly-in in 1979, our Fly-In itself has also become an 'old timer' with a tradition of more than 20 years. History repeats itself at Schaffen airfield during this international meeting of Old Timer 'flying machines'. Once again we expect hundreds of old timer airplanes to arrive on the airfield of Schaffen-Diest. As usual, the main-day of the Fly-In will be on Saturday August 16th, when the majority of the airplanes arrive.

The first edition, in 1979, was looked upon with suspicion and disbelief. "Look at them, pilots and airplanes that barely can fly..." That first edition, 45 airplanes older than 25 years made it to Schaffen airfield. But year after year,the number of aircraft, vintage and modern alike, grew. New records were set, as the Fly-In of Schaffen became one of Europe's major light aviation events. In 1996, 405 aircraft landed at EBDT, and one year later, 449 aeroplanes set a record that still stands today.

Due to the tragic accident on the Ostend Airshow in 1997, Diest Aero Club was no longer authorised to organize the fly-ins of 1997 and 1998. Our unique event was broken-winged for two years. Everybody was relieved, when the authorities finally agreed that a fly-in could not be compared with a traditional airshow.
So, after 2 years of involuntary interruption, 1999 meant a new start for the Fly-In in Schaffen.

Where do they all come from? Belgium, of course, but also France, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, England etc. The International Old Timer Fly-in is not an airshow, but a pleasant meeting of historical airplanes and their pilots. Some pilots are barely older than their airplanes, while others are young and passioned about restoring these planes in their original condition.
Something you can't see on the fly-in is the amount of hours, days, weeks, months, yes even years, of dedicated work that passed before, the wreck they found, became an airworthy plane. But here they are, shiny as new. If these airplanes could speak, you could hear long stories on how John, Otto, Michel, Karel, and the others, kept on trying to straighten that wing, looking for that last missing bolt, fixing the canopy etc. etc. just to get them airborne again. This is not a challenge, it's a passion, a way of life. And they are happy to meet all the others once a year at Schaffen airfield.

So what is a Fly-In ?
An airshow can be defined as a public exhibition, on the ground or in the air, by one or more airplanes, during which these airplanes evolve. So called aerobatics or demonstrations are being performed. During such exhibition a tight schedule and timing is applied.
An old timer fly-in however is a free meeting of old airplanes. There's no timing, no schedule and no aerobatics. Though, simply because we take the safety aspect very serious, we will apply the same safety rules that are applied to airshows, without losing the specific characteristics of a fly-in.

Oh, and it has cars too. Middle Teen™ had to drag me away from a 1963 Aston Martin because I was dribbling all over it.

More on my day out straight from the horse's mouth at a later time...

EDIT: Before I get 10+ comments: I know it's a picture of a Buick and not the divine, shapely AM.


Explosive Olympics

Am I the only one that finds this sidesplittingly funny?
Mr Pang wins the olympic gold. Know in what sport?

-wait for it-

Shooting (10 meter air pistol).

The List

I'm half way. Or rather stuck half way. The other half is still on my to do list. Not for today, there's a strong wind up and it has been raining quite a bit. Ah, the joys of summer.


Pendulum Dowsing for computers


/wipes tears from eyes


Wink wink nudge nudge

I've never had a mouse wink at me.
I suppose there has to be a first time for everything.


The Other Boleyn Bird

Mouser has been beheading quite a few birds.
For no reason.
Historic or other.
And then leaving them for us to admire and praise.
Leave the wrens alone, Mouser.
Get with the mice!
Sick 'em, Mouser! Sick!


Weatherpixie disappears

...and reemerges.
What has my weatherpixie been up to? She's been off and online more than a pair of socks the last couple of weeks -dare I say- months.
I think she's been on a shopping spree.
I know I can be harsh sometimes, as you could read in my january post on the pixie clothing matter. But matters have taken a turn for the better. My weatherpixie has been decked out in some lavish glam summer skirts. So thank you Tamsin!

For future reference to troubleshoot your weatherpixie:
weatherpixie offline = weatherpixie gone shopping

That'll be all.


Esther Rantzen smile

This has got to be, without any exception, the most foul tasting, revolting toothpaste I have ever used in my life.
We got two samples from our dentist after our twice yearly check up. It's supposed to (actually confirmed in controlled study) strenghen and reduce bleeding gums and gingivitis. I like that word. Gingivitis.

Oh, and the colour.
It's brown.
Brown toothpaste.
The chocolate pudding variety colour. Very appetising indeed.

It even has these smilies on the back of the tube. They are supposed to reflect how your brushing experience should evolve over a fortnight:
Day 1 :-(
In between :-|
Day 15 :-)

I've been using it since Friday and it still makes my stomach churn, my mouth water and give me an Esther Rantzen smile.
I can only describe it as sprinkling your toothbrush with a mixture of salt, liquorice and a hint of mint. It doesn't sound bad, summing it up like this, but on my scouts honour, brushing my teeth has become a horrendous experience. It is not the kind of taste in your mouth to start your day off feeling fresh and revived.
I do however recommend trying it, it's supposed to work like a charm and it'll give you an experience you've never had before.
Note to Glaxo Kline: I expect that cheque will be in the post very soon.
For comparison's sake, you may have tasted it before:
-If you've been a student and had to drink some revolting concoction on your student baptism
-If you've crossed the Equator and experienced the rite of passage when you receive a chalice from the hands of Neptune
-If you've been duped into brushing with cigar ash, lemon juice, the bark of walnut tree, apple cider vinegar, hard wood ash, rock salt or indeed a mix of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to whiten you teeth as this site recommends.

So give it a try. It might turn out to be ParoDOntax.
Or indeed ParoDON'Tax.
I'll let you know where I stand on the matter in ten days time and if this product receives the much sought after 'Mrs B approves' stamp. Or not...


Positively hungry

I've missed London. Ever since my dad moved away, and it has been over ten years now, I haven't been back to the city. Now I am here in the capacity of a tourist.

[/shudders visibly]

Much has changed. And a lot hasn't.
Some things have changed for the better and new things have emerged too. What am I talking about? I've got one word for you, dear reader: Wagamama.

Last time Dr Livingstone and myself had a really nice oriental meal together was up in the Glasgow restaurant. We got hooked on dining at W's in Birmingham: it was a non smoking restaurant (years prior to the ban), it had oriental food, an informal environment and pricing was reasonable. And Dr Livingstone was trying out some noodle diet at the time I seem to remember.
When he's touring and has a day off, he rings and usually tells me he's going into town for a meal. We always seem to talk about the city in question if it has a Wagamama.
While in London we settled on a meal at Wagamama's on the Embankment. There are over 20 venues to choose from in the capital, but we settled on this one after the Teens™ had had their first taste of sightseeing. A brisk walk in the blistering heat through Hyde Park, along Albert Memorial, a short shopping spree in Harrods, some tube changeovers, and a quick march via Westminster abbey, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.
The Teens™ absolutely loved eating there. They're very unadventurous when it comes to eating. But this was a real hit. Even the most difficult of diners in our midst, Youngest Teen™, fully embraced the experience. We did have some difficulty choosing the right dish together:
a) I had to translate bits of the menu and I'm no culinary expert. I just don't know what some stuff on the menu is.
b) She's not keen on vegetables. Of any kind.
I think carrots and cucumbers are an exception. If you serve her something that contains -say- tomatoes, she'll perform an autopsy on the dish until every single shred has been removed. But then again, if you don't mention there are veggies in there she doesn't like, she'll eat it all the same without noticing. I'm one for not putting up with her food tantrums, but Dr Livingstone usually gives in.

The gyoza's (both the veggie and beef ones) were gone in the blink of an Eye (geddit?).
Fresh helpings of fruit juice, different ramen dishes, a curry chicken, something with tofu for Eldest Veggie Teen™, some noodles for the Dr, ice creams and several chilled litre bottles of water with plenty of ice.

Note to self: when 30 ºC outside in the shade, never order chili based dish.

Several years ago Dr Livingstone bought me the Wagamama Cookbook by Hugo Arnold when in Dublin.
Could have a stab at making something in near future. i just need to find a good chinese supermarket in the neighbourhood that sell some of the much needed oriental ingredients.

Must go and try the only Wagamama in Belgium. It's in Antwerp. But I think someone should have a sub-franchise in another part of the country. Leuven could be a good place. Fat chance, as there are only 6 other countries in Europe (including Switserland, Cyprus and Denmark) that have a Wagamama.

WANT! I'm getting a helluva craving by just looking at the cookbook again. Got the munchies man.

Right, that's settled then. Next time kids are here, I'll be playing the Waga trump card to entice them into visiting the Rubens House or something first... No need to argue. Just need to eat.

Note to self: Stop blogging about food when hungry.


London's little secret

For those of you who have never been to London or don't know what to see next or are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle from the City for a quiet moment: I'd recommend Jason's Trip.
No, it's not a little hidden, clandestine shop in Camden selling hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Jason is the name of a century old canal boat that was used as a cargo transport before it was fitted with an engine and converted to hold passengers. Before they were driven out of business by the faster means of transport by railway. Absolutely anything was shipped by canal (Coal, gunpowder, timber, grain, ice,...). Canal boats could carry an average 30 tons at a time with only one horse pulling (more than ten times the amount possible with a horse drawn cart over land). If you want a little sample of how it looked in those days, watch the The Wench Is Dead episode from the Inspector Morse series, or alternatively visit the London Canal Museum.

You can either board Jason at Jason's Wharf (in Little Venice) or at Camden Lock (stop off opposite Cafe Crema). A one way trip takes about 45 minutes. If you are too early for departure, take a short stroll down to the Little Venice basin and stop at The Waterside Cafe. They do excellent egg rolls and have delectable no-nonsense coffee. In a large mug. And plenty of it.

The narrow boat tour starts out with a little information about what a narrow boat is (not a barge), why it was used, a brief history on the canals and how a boat was propelled prior to the invention of the diesel engine...

As you glide into the Regent's Canal you pass a toll point. Fees for using the canal and horses had to be paid here. Most are privately owned now, but there are still a good few of them scattered along the canal.
About half a mile east towards Camden, underneath the picturesque Café Laville, the Maida Vale Tunnel is located. This small tunnel is just big enough to let a single narrow boat navigate through. When we wanted to enter, a garbage scooping contraption from British Waterways was already traversing the artificial underground passage and we had to wait to give way.
Those floating garbage collectors always remind me of the scene in Amsterdamned where a similar canal maintenance device drags up a body. But not in this case. Not a hack saw job by a mad diver in sight.

In the early days of the water highways there was no engine to propel the narrow boats, horses drew them along the towing path (last one as late as 1956). When the vessels had to enter the tunnel, the stepper could not follow (there is only one tunnel with a tow path inside along the route we sailed). So in order for the boat to get through people had to 'leg it'. They had to lie on their backs on planks and keep the boat moving by walking; pushing on the wall with their legs.
There are still a lot of marks left by the horses' ropes in stones on bridges. Some have metal plates to protect the brickwork, these display similar wear stigma.

The urban planning for the Regent's Canal was designed by John Nash.
He first intended to have the Regent's Canal run through the middle of the Regent's Park. According to folklore he thought the bad language of the Navvies (short for nautical engineers) might offend the sophisticated residents of the area so he changed his plans. He intended to build over 50 villa's, only eight were actually built.
As we glide onward amid the quiet green rustling leaves and picturesque jetties, a cluster of beautiful white mansions appear to our right. These were built according to Nash's original designs but executed decades after he had first drawn them. Built during the late 1980's and early 90's, these properties are off the mark when talking about lease prices.
Next bridge to pass under is officially called Macclesfield Bridge. Its nickname 'Blow Up Bridge' derives from an incident in 1874. A boat carrying gunpowder blew up beneath it. Althought the bridge was destroyed, its supporting columns were saved. Rope marks indicate the columns were placed upside down, the grooves can be seen on both sides.

We continue our nautical adventure. As we cut right through London Zoo, no animals are visible. Only some signs warning us for 'Dangerous Animals'. The only mammals to be seen are humans. To the left the famous Aviary, now listed as a Grade II, designed by Lord Snowdon.

St John's Wood church trickles through the trees. Some anglers are enjoying the nice warm sun. The water flow of the canal is controlled, water quality is excellent and the canal is teeming with fish and very diverse wildlife.

It is striking how different the pace of life is here on the canal. The boat's top speed is around 5 mph. While we are boating along at a gentle pace, London traffic is standing still just a couple of yards away.

Before mooring in Camden Lock, we pass the Feng Shang, a hidious floating Chinese restaurant and the famous The Pirate Club. When constructed a license to crennelate (put crenels on top of the building) had to be sought from the Queen.
The canal hasn't changed at all since last time I took this boating trip, and that has been well over a decade now.
After a short while Camden Lock pulls into view. Boating folk are operating the lock, another narrow boat from the Waterbus Company turns and manoeuvres just in time for us to see just how much skill is involved in turning the boat around.
Weather is fine and I am looking forward to an invigorating pub lunch and a pint of Strongbow...

Granite balls-up

Dr Livingstone was meeting some mates at the O2 Arena (formerly known as the Millennium Dome).
Leading up to the entrance on Peninsula Square there are paved lines that run parallel to thePrime meridian. They are about 18 meters apart, that would equal about one tenth of a second of longitude.
Here and there some words on granite slabs interrupt the lines. All text relates to Greenwich, time, longitude etc.

Following text on tile struck me:
"John Harrison - 1764 Invents the H4 marine chronometer"

Call me a pedant any day, but that date stinks.

As mentioned in a previous post, I have been reading the little Dava Sobel paperback Longitude on the life of John Harrison. I'd picked up a copy in a second hand bookstore.
And a very interesting read it turned out to be. I recommend it to everyone with an interest in, be it, history, navigation, astronomy or the science of clocks.
So, why is 1764 wrong?

From memory, this has several reasons according to me:
-H4 was completed in 1759. If the date is anything to go by; there is a signature near the plate's perimeter that reads: 'John Harrison & Son 1759'
I'd say that's an open & shut case. I could only make an allowance for a later date based on the acknowledgement by the Board of Longitude.
-H4 was presented to the Board in the summer of 1760, but no where near the 1764 date.
So what about receiving actual recognition of the H4? Could we fiddle that date and push it a bit later?
Erm, no. Granted, H4 had two trial runs. The Board was not very keen on handing Harrison the 20,000£ and there was one member eager to promote his own lunar distance calculation and reap the reward.
So the first trial run was in 1762 and the second some two years later in 1764. And they only agreed in 1765 the watch complied with the Longitude Act. In 1773 Harrison would finally receive the full reward for solving the longitude problem.

So to hang the issue on semantics; in this case H4 was not 'invented' in 1764. It had been completed a good 5 years earlier, after two years of construction. And it was not an entirely new item. H4 bears a very close resemblance to a watch for personal use designed by Harrison and executed by Jeffreys in 1753.

So there. That was my little rant on the granite balls-up.

H4 can be seen in a display case in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.



Mrs B: "Look at that cloud. What a strange bit dangling on the end!"

Dr Livingstone: "That must be where the propeller is"

[/Mrs B chokes in fit of laughter]