Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Party tonight!!!

You are tired, depressed, in a bad mood or still anxious about your future?
Relax!!! I have got the solution or rather JIM CARREY has got it.
Why don't you go out with your friends? You don't know how to do it?
This is child's play!
This video which is now very famous and belongs to the great classics of video on the Internet will give you all the instructions you need to have a good time;-)

IRELAND... where rainbows end and fairy tales begin...

Twelve and a half weeks ago, Florence and I arrived in Ireland. We were really excited, though at first we didn’t know exactly what was going to happen. After one and a half hours on the plane and about 6 hours on a coach (or more), we arrived in Cork, in Victoria Lodge, which was going to be our house for this semester. After a few days alone in my apartment, my flatmates arrived: three of them are Irish (from Limerick) and the last one is American. Apartment 85 is situated on the sixth and last floor of the building and often, at night, the winds are whistling so much that it sounds like some kind of music which helps me to sleep! And just in front of my kitchen window is Cork County Hall which is the second highest building of Ireland if I am right (about 16 floors high to give you an idea!). About three days after our arrival, we had already met at least 30 Erasmus students (many of them from Germany, Italy, France, USA and Austria)! This number has, of course, increased since then. We often go to pubs and nightclubs with them or have parties at their apartments. They are all very nice and friendly and they teach us cultural elements of their own countries and we also do the same about Belgium. With French people, we often laugh at differences in the French language from France or Belgium.
Let's turn to university now: University Cork College (UCC). The buildings are far more beautiful than in Namur (where the science building is not as stable as before if I am not mistaken). UCC is a huge campus but this is normal for it has to welcome 14,500 Irish as well as nearly 1,000 international students! We did not have many lectures per week, but this seemed to be normal. Just as it was normal that lectures began 5 minutes after the hour and finished 5 minutes before.
Another thing I should talk about are clubs and societies. They are a mix between Belgian 'kots-à-projet' and 'cercles'. People with common interests are invited to meet weekly and take part in shared activities. Actually, we can say that clubs are sport societies. For example, we often went to the choir (and at the moment we are taking part in Christmas concerts), the photo, the film societies and we have also joined the pirate society and the aquagym and orienteering clubs. And on Fridays we used to go to parties organized by the International Students Society. All these meetings were free and trips were often organized where we had a lot of fun (or a lot of CRAIC as irish people say). Thanks to those trips, we travelled Ireland quite a lot and it was really worth it for it is a wonderful country. We have already visited Kinsale, Galway, Connemara, the Ring of Kerry, Kilkenny, Dublin and we intend to go to Northern Ireland soon. Apparently, we visited Ireland more than Irish do because none of my flatmates has ever visited all those cities. Ireland does not only mean, as one might expect, the colour green, sheep, ginger-haired people and Guinness everywhere. This is not entirely true! Ireland is also a country of pubs (at least 5 in every street), of beer and whisky, of rainbows (and in order to get rainbows you need clouds and rain as well as sunshine), of people so kind that they are always ready to help you in all circumstances, of wonderful landscapes, of live traditional music and so forth and so on.
This week has been very intense for we had essays and tests but this is also our last week with our international friends. Most of them are leaving to spend Christmas at home and will come back for New Year’s Eve; we just do the opposite. But we hope to see them soon, maybe at Saint Patrick’s Day, when we really would like to come back.

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to discover this great country and to live the amazing adventure which I have been living for more than 12 weeks.
See you soon

Tot weerziens

Bis Bald

Hasta luego

A presto

A bientot

Sláng go fóil

NB: I already wish you all the best for Christmas!

Saturday, November 25, 2006


you're wondering what to do during your free time and you'd like to improve your English? then you should have some fun with words. you can play different games as hangman, boggle, and other free games and challenge people from all over the world.

If you don't like playing you can still look up définitions and examples of palindromes, spoonerisms, oxymorons, tongue twisters and much more!

Further interested in wordplays? Then check what acrostic doublespeak is

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A day in the life of... Prince Charles

From the website of the Prince of Wales, you can watch the first in a series of videos Prince Charles plans to make available online, in which the Prince and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall (also known as Camilla), are followed around by cameras all day on their visit to different locations in Birmingham before being flown back by helicopter to host a reception for charity. Not your average everyman's life, that's for sure ;)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Words belong to each other

Here's an extraordinary website to add to your bookmarks: the BBC Four Interviews website hosts a wealth of audio recordings of actors, architects, philosophers, painters, writers, playwrights, poets, and so on, including the likes of Auden, Betjeman, Burroughs, Cummings, Gordimer, Nabokov, Pinter, Rushdie, Shaw, Thomas, Woolf, Yeats, eh... oh yes, and Chomsky. And many more. Warmly recommended!

To take just one example, the audio recording available for Virginia Woolf has her reading out a 'Eulogy for words' (eulo-what?), from which the title of this entry was taken. Speaking, in the same text, of the hundreds of professors teaching literature, the thousands of critics reviewing it, and the hundreds upon hundreds of students studying it, she asks

Do we write better? Do we read better than we read and wrote four hundred years ago, when we were unlectured, uncriticised, untaught?

Not your average multiple choice quiz question, this ;)

P.S. More 'literary' BBC audio is available from the Poetry Out Loud page, which features, well, poets reading their work out loud.

Thanksgiving: turkey, football and Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Thanksgiving Day is getting closer. This North American holiday is celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November, in other words, on the 23th this year. Most families will be sitting in their sofa's watching Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC: marching bands, dancers, Dora and other cartoon characters parading across Broadway. There are also men who, on the one hand, will be watching the National Football League ( NFL) while, on the other hand, their wives will be cooking the traditional stuffed turkey and pumpkin pie for dinner. But originally Thanksgiving was not all of this, it is rather a day to be thankful for daily gifts: food, shelter, clothing, good health, friendship,... So cartoons and football have actually nothing to do with Thanksgiving. Haven't holidays got commercialized? This video sure shows that Thanksgiving has.
At school, children learn about
the first Thanksgiving when the pilgrims, in the autumn of 1621, invited their neighbour Native Americans to celebrate the colony's first successful harvest. They also made it a "thank you" celebration to the Indian tribe for teaching them the survival skills they needed to make it in the New World. But all the Americans seem to remember today is the big feast where the pilgrims and the Native Americans ate together which originally was not the aim of the celebration. They even have transformed some of it: e.g. the pumpkin pie could not have been cooked at that time since the supply of flour had been long diminished, so there was no bread or pastries of any kind.
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is celebrating its 80th birthday this year, shows each year less and less about Thanksgiving. It is rather showing more and more about Christmas as if they want us to pass from one holiday to an other. In addition, one can see during this famous parade giant balloons looking like cartoon characters or like the last toy in vogue floating through New York and driving kids nuts. This rather looks like an ad for Disney and all sorts of toys.
The most surprising "new tradition" - as it calls itself - is the NFL, as if the pilgrims could play a match against the Native Americans after their so-called feast. But where does this tradition come from? This is another mystery to be solved concerning the way Americans celebrate their holidays.
All this seems to confirm the sad trend of
commercializing holidays. People transform holidays and adopt them to their times and thus - what the 21th century concerns - give them a new economic aspect.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


In a remarkable end-of-year campaign, Oxfam, with the help of various public figures including Elio Di Rupo, Guy Verhofstadt, Tom Barman and others, is trying to raise awareness of fair trade. On Oxfam's campaign website, you can also see a few snapshots from "the making of" these striking images by the well-known Flemish photographer Lieve Blancquaert.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Queen, Tuesday 21 November, UGC Toison d'Or

Students who are able to and would like to go and see the recent film The Queen with us on Tuesday 21 November will find all the practical information on the poster on the noticeboard or online.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Stern Review

Talking about this dear mister Blair, a 600 pages long report has been published in the UK recently: The Stern Review. The later has been called after Sir Nicholas Stern, the Head of the Government Economic Service in the UK and the former chief economist of the World Bank in Washington. This report is the first to evaluate the cost of climate change. Anaïs and I are in an English course entitled ‘Focus on environmental engineering and energy management’. What a program! But in fact it is really interesting; we are reading scientific articles and talking about the climate changes and about what we could do to limit the damage and so on. To illustrate what we are studying, I will summarize the opinions of different important persons on this subject.
A report concerning the climate change has been presented a few days ago. Tony Blair has supported it and has asked other countries to do the same. A BBC correspondent has asked several persons about the Stern Review.
Steve Radley, who is the Chief Economist for the Engineering Employers association, tells the correspondent that it is a great danger for employment. Actually, companies can be interested in relocating their companies to countries where there is less strict control. He thinks about China where the control is, at the moment, much less stringent. This kind of ‘relocation’ is starting to happen. Radley admits that he is himself paying attention to where the best countries for creating companies are. He wants to send a message to the government, asking them not to be so strict! The world needs a global solution and we should not forget that the UK produces only 2% of the greenhouse gazes.
Professor Peter Smith, Alternative Energy Expert, praises the Stern Review and he says that this report puts Gordon Brown, the possible successor to Tony Blair, in the limelight. He is being tested by this particular report and people are anxious about his response. He insists on a particular point: where will the money from the green tax go? He says that it is stupid if the money from the tax serves for hospitals, schools or stuff like that. This is not acceptable. At the question whether he thinks Gordon Brown will be enthusiastic about the idea of ‘green taxes’, he answers that in his opinion Gordon Brown has never been enthusiastic about anything. Smith remembers the ‘Smokey days’ in London in 1953. It took him 3 days to get out of London. Smoke from chimneys had reduced the visibility considerably. He gives this example to illustrate that the pollution has been reduced; the smoke regulation has had an impact on soot.
Finally, Manus Cranny, Stock Market Expert of Cantor Index, insists on the fact that the reality of this report may have a pretty negative impact for global industry and employment. Many countries have the ambition to reduce carbon emissions but since 1997 and the signature of the Kyoto treaty there has been a progress! The US blocks the good evolution of this treaty. If the 7 richest countries do not cooperate, there will be no significant changes. We shouldn’t forget that the oil industries make money from producing energy NOT from reducing the carbon emissions in the environment!!

Autobiography at a train station

For all you fellow train commuters: here's the poem the first sentence of which always comes to my mind when, due to train delays, I miss my connection and eventually arrive with half an hour's delay. Admittedly the poem does not deal with a train delay but with a rather sizeable delay at an airport, but the attitude expressed in "Delay, well, travellers must expect / Delay" sums up the general lesson in humility and resignation which any kind of delay that is entirely outside one's own control can teach us... much against our will ;-) It was written by probably my favourite British poet, Philip Larkin.

Autobiography at an Air-Station

Delay, well, travellers must expect
Delay. For how long? No one seems to know.
With all the luggage weighed, the tickets checked,
It can't be long... We amble to and fro,
Sit in steel chairs, buy cigarettes and sweets
And tea, unfold the papers. Ought we to smile,
Perhaps make friends? No: in the race for seats
You're best alone. Friendship is not worth while.

Six hours pass: if I'd gone by boat last night
I'd be there now. Well, it's too late for that.
The kiosk girl is yawning. I feel staled,
Stupefied, by inaction - and, as light
Begins to ebb outside, by fear; I set
So much on this Assumption. Now it's failed.

Philip Larkin (6 December 1953)

Monday, November 13, 2006

"It's an argument isn't it" (Tony Blair)

Here's Tony Blair reacting (about a week ago) to the news about Saddam Hussein's death sentence, reiterating essentially the general UK policy to oppose the execution of the death sentence, but taking it as a stark reminder of the atrocities committed under Saddam's regime. BBC News has a rather interesting analysis by a military historian on the options available for punishing awful crimes against humanity.

Most of the above video, however, sees Blair trying to answer a journalist's question as to the large number of British citizens disagreeing with the UK's Iraq policy, and finding US president George W. Bush a great danger to world peace. The underlying criticism is that the invasion of Iraq has made the world less rather than more safe. In this connection, it is interesting to note that in a rare public statement Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of the UK's Security Service (more widely known as MI5) has recently spoken out on the seriousness and extent of the terror threat in the UK. (Click the 'video and audio news' link from the last page to see video news coverage.) In the country that was shocked by bombings in its metro network in July 2005, such news is of course taken very seriously indeed. As a reminder, here is Tony Blair's address to the nation on that day, which was also the opening day of an important G8 summit:

P.S. As this entry shows, a source such as YouTube, widely used for entertainment purposes, can also be used for more serious purposes, such as posting important footage documenting recent historical events. Even extracts from Newsnight sometimes make it onto YouTube, such as this report covering Tony Blair's swan song speech at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester in September. Moving back into entertainment, however, many a playful montage featuring Blair and/or Bush has found its way onto YouTube. Here is one example, raising the question partly answered in the conference speech just mentioned, on when Blair will step down as Prime Minister:

Vasteloavend!Vasteloavend! Tschingelingelingenboem!

The 11th of November is also the launching of the carnival season in North-Brabant and Limburg as well as in the Rhineland; the whole region beyond the border (Aachen, Köln...). Thus in Maastricht too there was a celebration. Everything started the 11/11 at 11.11 in the morning. It is called in the local dialect(the Limburgs) "vasteloavend" (/vasteloːvənd/ literally "Fasting evening", although that strictly refers only to the last day). Of course, it is the occasion to sing the many tunes (Vasteloavend Leedsjes) typically associated with the event!

I wish everybody "inne noekketieje vasteloavend"(a happy 'vasteloavend')!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Remembrance day

11 November is variously known as Armistice Day or as Remembrance Day. In the UK, in fact, while a two minutes' silence is observed at 11am on 11 November, the second Sunday of November is officially Remembrance Sunday, and most official ceremonies take place that day.

Undoubtedly the best-known symbol of remembrance, particularly in the English-speaking world, is the poppy, a type of flower that springs up in disturbed earth and so was widely in evidence in the North of France and in Flanders during the First World War. John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields, written in 1915 near Ieper, starts with the memorable lines

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place

It is with these famous lines in mind that Ieper now has a widely visited In Flanders Fields museum, where over 60% of visitors each year are British. Around this time of the year, many British schoolchildren visit the area around Ieper, a tradition which is kept alive (and affordable) with UK government support.

Apart from covering news surrounding Remembrance Day, including reports on the controversy over white vs. 'politically correct' red poppies, or on the question when one should start wearing poppies in public, the BBC also maintains an impressive Remembrance website with historical information, testimonies, war poetry, and much more. Well worth a virtual stop, if only to keep the memory of the war dead alive, and to stop and think about the immense human cost of war. Such is also the message in the conclusion to McCrae's poem:

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

[The image included in this entry is by Andrew Dunn and is used by permission under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 license.]

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Simpsons in real life

Sky One, a British entertainment tv channel, hired a set of real actors to bring the intro to the popular cartoon series The Simpsons to ('real') life. An overview of some other striking YouTube videos (including, of course, the unavoidable Daerden video) is available (in Dutch) from De Standaard.

P.S. If you want to post YouTube videos onto blogs, you should register with YouTube and then use the 'Post video' link underneath the relevant video. Piece of cake! ;)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Blogging in Farsi

According to Technorati, a company currently tracking over 59 billion blogs worldwide, every day about 100,000 new blogs are created and well over a million entries posted. As the BBC reports, English, Japanese and Chinese are the most popular languages in the blogosphere, but recently Farsi (a Persian language spoken in Iran and Afghanistan) has entered the top ten, which probably reflects intensified online debate on the unstable political climate in the region.

Anyone who is still not feeling confident as to what blogging is all about may want to turn to either the BBC's or Technocrati's quick guide to blogs and blogging.

Waiting for next wednesday

Hi everybody! I hope everything is all right for you. As for me, I really looking forward to coming to the "germa-supper". I can't wait to see you all of you back (even if I saw many of you recently).

I find on the website of the university library a page with some pictures, so I thought that I could give you the link, just for you to have a (very small) overview of the place where we spend a lot of our time here.

See you next wednseday "in live"!


Monday, November 06, 2006

Ciné-Club ELV: Capote, 13 November

Next Monday at 8 pm the ELV is screening the excellent film 'Capote' (Bennett Miller, 2005) based on the life of American novelist Truman Capote, and more particularly on the genesis of his novel In Cold Blood. Lead actor Philip Seymour Hoffman won both a BAFTA Award and an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. An absolute must if you haven't seen it yet and you can make it!