Kruithof and rat poison

I do like entertaining lectures.
So far my professor of Philosophy has told us:
-he murdered his wife by putting rat poison in her tea
-he has monsters inside his head
-his mother in law can't tell a joke because she gives away the pointe at the beginning
-he sleeps with a mathematician

I wonder what the lover of reason will share with us tomorrow.

Speaking of philosophers: Jaap Kruithof died today.
The world has lost yet another humanist thinker.
I met him once when I was in filmschool.
The man was a walking chimney.


The Sound of Silence

Well, I've lost my voice. Thanks to laryngitis.
It started out with a sore throat, some swollen glands and it has ended in silencing the Chatterbox Extraordinaire™, a.k.a. moi.
I went to see the doctor and he forbade me to try and utter a single word.
'I'll prescribe you a saying', he said: 'Silence is golden'.
Yeah right. But my eyes still see.
I have to communicate with Dr Livingstone. It started out with writing down words on paper, but he has trouble reading my handwriting (I should have been a doctor).
The most efficient way of communication is writing on a blank page on a word processor program in a type 76 font.
It is much quicker to type anyway.
When I'm away from either paper or lap top I try and resort to some kind of charades, but they don't always work.
Middle Teen™ was wathcing the news yesterday and she saw an item on two convicts escaping from a prison by helicopter. Dr Livingstone asked her where this was and she didn't know. I knew. As we were in the kitchen, I had no means to express myself. So I thought a quick way of explaining would be to show the leading folkloric custom associated with the country. So I went to the table, I had already set it, and picked up a plate and made a gesture of smashing it by throwing it to the floor. Yep, you guessed it. It was in Greece.
But they didn't get it, it only confused them even more.
Even Mouser is confused. Usually I respond when my fourlegged friend makes noises. I can only make smacking or whistling noises, snap my fingers or clap my hands to get its, or anyones, attention.
I hope my medication will help out and I will be able to function on a normal level again by the weekend.


Ring peace to the world

The history of my university carillon started with a tragedy. On the 25th of August 1914, during the night, German occupation troops were dealing out death and destruction in the inner city of Louvain.
Even the ancient library in the university hall was maliciously set alight. The immense number of burnt ancient manuscripts and books shocked the Western world and in several countries initiatives were set to raise funds to help the martyred Oxford of the Low Countries with the rebuilding.

American universities and other institutes donated a new library. The American architect Whitney Warren designed a magnificent building that was lavishly endowed with symbols of war. Or should I say symbols of peace to remind us of war.
In the New York Times article from 1920 he says after learning of his nomination: "Aside from the honour, I should be only too happy to do my part in this work, which is but part of the debt we owe to bleeding Belgium."

The tower clock and the carillon formed a memorial for the American engineers who lost their lives in Europe.
The 48 stars on the dial of the clock (green arrow on the tower picture) and the same number of bells of the carillon symbolised the then number of American States. At this level we can also see the automatic carillon that uses only six bells. The little drum triggers the bells by jerking some hammers and every quarter the 'Reuzegom' melody can be heard. The drum has no little holes in it so it cannot be 'reprogrammed' to play a different tune. After 75 years this melody is to Louvain what the Big Ben melody is to London. Albeit nothing has happened to it like in that Albeit not as exciting as in Captain Scarlet episode.
The library and carillon were inaugurated on the Fourth of July in 1928.
When the new library burned again during the second World War on the 16th of May 1940, the tower and carillon were miraculously spared. After 1945, sadly, the instrument started to fall into decay.

When American carrionneur Margo Halsted visited she was shocked to find the carillon in a dilapidated state. She rallied support and in 1983 the instrument was thoroughly renovated and was enlarged to 63 bells. Sixteen bells were made redundant, but can now be heard in the Sint-Jan-de-Doperkerk every half hour. All bells weigh around 35 tons. Only the carillon of the Romboutstower in Mechelen is heavier.
Since that time, it is considered one of the most beautiful carillons of the world. It is praised because of its warm sound of the base bells. The 32 heaviest bells were made in England by Gillett & Johnston. The other 31 were cast by Eijsbouts in Asten in 1983.

I visited the carillon last Thursday.
It was absolutely brilliant.
There were two other visitors, a South African and an American lady.

Together with the carillonneur, or should I say carillonneuse, An Lommelen, we ascended the winding staircase of the bell tower. It got colder as we climbed the 289 steps to reach the level where the clavier sits.
It was already pitch dark when we reached the balcony overlooking the city (red arrow on the tower picture). What a view. I must come back in spring when I can see everything during sunset.
As we turned round, we saw the enormous Liberty Bell of Louvain behind us. It weighs a whopping 7 Tons.
Unlike its Philadelphian counterpart, it does not have an epic crack.
The bourdon has an inscription on the front:

This Carillon in memory of the engineers of the United States of America who gave their lives in the service of their country and its allies in The Great War 1914-1918

Bell º4's message of peace to the world reads in translation:

My sounds reveal the changes of life
I sing about fortune in good and bad days
Let there be peace and understanding on earth
This is my wish to you all from this tower

We resumed our climb to the clavier. A very narrow staircase, or should I say sturdy ladder, led us to a trap door and we gained access to the clavier, a small floor just above the Liberty and other big bells (blue arrow on the tower picture). Through another little hatch pulled ajar we could see the smaller bells above us.

The carillonneur had just finished adjusting the tension on the chords that link the clavier and the hammers and set herself down, and then we heard it.
Seven massive strikes on the Liberty Bell. It was seven o'clock. What a sound! It was amazing. We were all looking silently at each other and taking in the massive thuds and trembles.
Then An started playing. First some traditional carillon music. Then some different popular tunes. While she was ringing the bells we gathered round her and started singing the words to the tunes we were familiar with. Little Peter Rabbit was one of them.
There we were, four women from three different continents who had never seen each other before, one playing and three singing along. It was magical. An turned round after she had finished: "That was very special. This has only been the second time people have sung along. When I play people probably sing or hum along on the streets too, but I can never hear them, I'm a bit too far up.
But the carillon in my opinion is truly an instrument for the people. When I play everyone in the whole city can hear it.
And the carillon is the biggest as instruments tend to go. Hang those silly little buffet piano's, harpsichords or accordions.

Anyway, the most exciting bit for me was still to come: I got to ring a few bells myself! I chose some from the lower register. They sound so thunderingly awesome.

I highly recommend a visiting this wonderful instrument. It is free of charge, but you need to send an email in advance to arrange time and date.


The Bad Bunch

Dr Livingstone's mother came to visit us past weekend. She bought me another bunch of tulips.
I had just arranged them in a vase on the living room table and then the Doctor did something interesting. I've never seen Dr Livingstone leap into impro action around the house involving domestic things so quickly.
He took the vase and mumbled something like: 'There's not enough room on the table to put the drinks anywhere and they're blocking my view' and he took them off to the kitchen.
Now that's what I call thinking on your feet.
So we're shod of the flowers and the pungent smell they emit.
In the living room that is.
Now the kitchen is riddled with the stench.


Surprise Treat

We had a bit of a surprise treat yesterday. Our habitual makeshift spot in the stairwell of the museum where we usually have our classes was occupied by a catering business for some kind of evening do. Alternatively we were ushered into the Council Chamber. It used to be the boardroom for the painters guild of Saint Luke. A tiled wall above the impressive (yet slightly tacky) fireplace cannot be overlooked. I was seated right in the middle of the table facing the dominating wall.
Very nice. Very swanky. During our five minute brake we gazed at and ogled some of the 17th century artworks adorning the room; a still life by Jan Baptist Bosschaert (1667-1746), 'Animal concert' by Jan Van Kessel I (1626-1679), 'Oriental Port' by Hendrik van Minderhout (1630-1696).
On a side note, it struck me as being too hot in the room even for a conservatory plant like myself. There was a humidity controller and one of those paper graph scroll thingies on the buffet, but the lights glaring full blaze combined with excessive heating will probably not do the masterworks any favour.

The table we were using for our readers and course papers looked like it was being used for an emergency meeting called together during a cabinet crisis.


Tapestry spoof

This caturday tapistry spoof made me LOL.


Fitness, statistics and intelligence expelled

I went for a new cardio/aerobe test at the gym I've been frequenting.
The last one wasn't good, I had a blocked nose then and my result had gone down compared to the previous one.
But I'm still at the top of the league table. According to my heart recuperating thingy, I'm one of the healthiest people frequenting the gym.
Moi? Healthy?
And then my coach brought me down to earth again: "You're that high on the fitness scale because of your weight."
The program kinda takes into account how much you weigh. It comes up with some magic number after the test, devided by your weight and then you get a value. The higher the number, the healthier you seem compared to the average of your age group.
So actually I don't know if I'm really that healthy. What if some fat slob is healthier but the results get skewed due to the math involving weight?
Damn, I wish I had payed more attention when I learned statistics.

Oh, I must blog about my adventures in the gym, I don't think I have before. The things I hear and see. Me oh my.
And they have daytime-tv. Most of those exercise torture racks have these built-in screens. It's disgustingly mind-numbing. Yesterday I saw dickwad evolution denier Ben Stein host America's Smartest Model. Oh boy. I don't even know where to start.


My Lost Highway

Every night when I drive home from school, I get this eery feeling I'm in Lost Highway. The road resembles it. At least the credits. Just the yellow markings in the middle of the road appear to be the only things missing.
And I can here David Bowie singing I'm Deranged in the back of my head.

'I like to remember things my own way'
'What do you mean by that?'
'How I remembered them, not necessarily the way they happened.'

Classic. I think I'm going to watch the movie again this week. And then I might just go look for the drivel I came up with when I was still in film school when the movie came out and have a stab at rewriting it.



I got a pretty bunch of tulips, but they smell awfull.


Erastosthenes' sieve

I need some cheering up. My final exam on Medieval Art and Architecture tomorrow.
I feel as if my head is like a sieve with too big a holes.
Now if it were as efficient as the one Erastosthenes had, I'd be fine. But my memory does not like having to hold vast quantities of information I could just go and look up.


Bring a Friend

Another cat has been prowling around the house of late.
It sits outside on the table in front of the window a looks in. It's kinda like a stalker, but in a zoomorphic sense.
Mouser is on the inside looking out.
Yesterday it had a little catnap in the sun.
It looks like it's Mouser's furry friend. But I bet they get into a scrap now and then.