Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Red Nose Day

Red Nose Day is the most famous and important way in which Comic Relief raises money. Comic Relief is a charity organisation which was founded in the UK in 1985 to help to reduce famine in Ethiopia. But now it also collects money for Africa (HIV, AIDS, helping women to read,...) and helps British people who are in need.
Comic Relief is composed of two main activities. One is called Sport Relief: sport is used to improve life. The other one is Red Nose Day. Its name comes from the red noses that are sold and that people wear. On that day, sketches are also played by famous people. The purpose of all this is to make people laugh for a good cause, i.e. winning money for the organisation. Red Nose Day first appeared in 1988. Since, this event takes place every 2 years. Its supporters are the BBC which is responsible for the live programme and Sainsbury's for example sells the red noses.
Each time the nose is different. "The big one" appeared in March 2007 and was named because of its enormous success and the big size of the nose. The BBC programme of the day included for instance "A Question of Comedy", "The Vicar of Dibley" or "Am I bovvored?"( Am I bothered?). All these were parodies of real episodes.

The global sum of the noses and donations of Red Nose Day 2007 reached £67 million. What a difference compared to £15 million raised in 1988. An important fact is that every pound is spent on charitable projects.
With the money collected the organisation wants to help young people (alcohol or mental health problems, prostitution,…), older people (loneliness, Alzheimer, age discrimination,…) refugees and so on. It also fights against domestic violence and child abuse.
The Red Nose Day is very important because it is one of the most famous charity events in the UK. Similar campaigns can be found all around the world like in Germany, Australia or Russia. On the other hand, the US has only copied the principle of Comic Relief and not of the Red Nose Day. One of their recent events was to collect money to help people who were affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Even if Red Nose Day brings a lot of help and joy, some people criticize it. Several Catholic schools protest, because sometimes the money is used for abortions in Africa.
To conclude, its success will probably increase, because the way to get money to solve serious problems is carried out with humour and because everyone can participate.

And here you can listen to the Red Nose Day Schools' song ("Make Someone Happy") published in 2007

Coralie Laurent and Aurélie Lhoas

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Boeing Boeing"

If you are a theatre lover, if you have time, a bit of money and the taste of adventure, why not cross the Channel and visit the fabulous city of London! The English capital city offers a huge choice of performances, which delight the London population and tourists. The majority of shows are performed around the same area called Leicester Square. The latter is a well-known touristic place in London, where a lot of box offices sell half-price tickets and where people face long cues. I waited there a long time before deciding amongst dramas, comedies and musicals, to finally pitch for Boeing Boeing, a popular French farce. It’s directed by Matthew Warchus and well valued by all the critics in the UK. It was said to be “by many an airmile the funniest show on the london stage” (Daily Telegraph) and “absolutely terrific” (Time Out). Actually first written and directed in 1960 by the French playwright Marc Camoletti, Boeing Boeing is all around the world the most successfully performed French comedy and is listed for this reason in the Guiness Book of Records. The play casts Bernard, a well-off architect working in Paris, who has three fiancées at the same time. They all work as air hostesses and have different timetables, which allows the bachelor to cope easily with each one of them. His daily task is to ensure that the three fiancées never meet and never discover his deceptions. One day, however, the arrival of the new double speed Super Boeing changes the schedules of the three air hostesses. The three fiancées –unsurprisingly- arrive the same day in Paris, leaving Bernard in a delicate situation where his ingenious system does not work anymore. The rest of the play shows Bernard and his old friend Robert attempting to prevent the three hostesses meeting in the house. The farce ends unexpectedly happily without Bernard paying for his bad behaviour. Though the show was very entertaining, the description of the play as “brilliantly funny” is in my opinion rather exaggerated. The English audience was in fits of laughter most of the time, which made me wonder whether I had understood correctly the actors’retorts! I think the play’s typical English kind of humor, which is essentially first-degree, just isn’t my cup of tea! However, I admired the terrific actors who represented national stereotypes to the perfection. Their talent was obvious and it was a real pleasure to see them performing this French play.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Keywords and icons of anglophone cultures: Online and offline conference

As a follow-up to last year's interesting student conference, this year will see two smaller student conferences devoted to the theme of cultural keywords and icons, one with second year students in first term, and another with third year students in second term. Topics in first term include
  • for the United Kingdom and Ireland: red nose day, the Routemaster, baked beans, wellies, Morrissey, and haggis,
  • for the United States of America and Canada: Michael Moore, Charlie Parker, Walt Disney, and Arcade Fire,
  • for Australia and New Zealand: Ayers Rock, Germaine Greer, and the film Once Were Warriors.

While some excellent sites already deal in some depth with these icons and keywords (most notably perhaps the wonderful Icons of England website), the aim here was to present the most interesting and noteworthy information based on a variety of sources in a concise text of about 200 to 500 words, with some relevant links and pictures and/or video excerpts. The first of these contributions, on wellies, has already appeared; the remaining blog entries should appear online no later than 12 December.

Offline student conference

As a companion to the online conference, BA2 students will be presenting the results of their research in short presentations on Tuesday 18 December between 2 and 4 pm. Click on the poster to see a bigger image.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

If you didn't have your feet in your wellies

Do you ever wear wellies? Or maybe you’ll recognise the term “Welly boots”, or “Wellington boots”? Well, if you still don’t see what we mean, then look at this…

Wellies are those green rubber boots that you probably wore when you were a child and when the weather was rainy and grey, exactly like the Great British weather, where these boots come from. They actually date back to the 19th century when Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, asked his shoemaker to improve the model of the Hessian boot (a model essentially worn by soldiers) which was uncomfortable.

The boots have changed a lot since their creation round 1840. The first real boots, ordered by the Duke, were mid-calf high and made in calfskin leather. By 1850, the boots were made higher, reaching the top of the calf. From this time onwards, the boots were then made in rubber. However, round 1860, a new version was made, lower than the other versions, only stretching up to the ankle this time. Nowadays, the normal size of wellies is just below the knee.

Wellies have always had a great success among the British ever since they were invented. The initial success was to be seen in the aristocracy. Gentlemen wanted to imitate their hero from the Napoleonic war: the Duke of Wellington. Later, when the boots were made in rubber, the success reached the farmers who could go back home with their feet dry and mud-free. The wellies are in fact useful to walk on a wet or muddy ground and to protect ones feet from heavy showers. The popularity of the wellies stretches to Canada where the ground can be muddy due to melting snows, and to a lot of other countries.

As part of the British culture, wellies have fostered other ideas in peoples’ minds. “Welly wanging” for example, is a kind of sport where you have to throw your welly boot as far as possible. It’s absolutely serious, there is even a championship.

Another example is the Welly boot dance which originated in Africa. Mine workers put bells on their boots to break the monotony of the work. The sound made by the bells inspired a kind of spiritual dance. This remained as the welly boot dance (also called gumboots dance).

Last but not least, the Welly boot song created by Billy Connolly, a Scotsman. The lyrics show that life without wellies is impossible. Here is the chorus:

If it wasna for your wellies where would you be?
You'd be in the hospital or infirmary,
Cause you would have a dose of the flu or even pluracy,
If you didna have your feet in your wellies!

To end, modern designers have changed the traditional welly boot into a fashionable product.

So, what are you waiting for to put your wellies on and go for a walk?!

Catherine & Charles

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mary Stuart

Last Saturday I accompanied Morgane to see the theater play Mary Stuart. I will try not to repeat what she already said and I will try to focus on different aspects of this afternoon. First of all we spent about an hour trying to find our way but we eventually arrived on time at the Warehouse Studio Theatre were the representation took place. We were quite astonished by the relatively small size of the theater building. Indeed it could only contain an audience of more or less fifty people. That can explain why it was not easy to get places for the performance. The public was essentially composed of English-speaking people. They all seemed to know each other and that’s why Morgane and I felt a bit lonely among them. Nevertheless they were really friendly and welcoming.
I must recognize that at the beginning I was not really enthusiastic about the idea of watching a play that lasted three hour but in fact I really enjoyed it. It was really interesting to learn things about the history of Great Britain through a play. To be honest I didn’t remember Mary Stuart from Mr Delabastita’s course. So I was pleased to discover who she was again.
There were about fifteen actors on stage and their performance was remarkable. I really liked the acting of the actress who played the role of Queen Elizabeth: she played very well with a lot of emotion. Even if the set was not very impressive the costumes were beautiful. Moreover I also appreciated the fact that even if it is a serious play which deals with historical events there were sometimes hints of humor. Nevertheless I agree with Morgane on the fact that the first two acts were monotonous: there were long monologues which made the play a bit boring. On the contrary I especially appreciated the end of the play, perhaps because there were more action and more actors on stage.

British Vision

The “ British Vision ” exhibition takes place in Ghent until 13th January 2008. There are 14 different themes situated in 14 rooms, such as British people during the industrial revolution, British humour, landscapes and modern art. Some paintings are really impressive, for example Beata Beatrix, which is painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. It represents his dying wife, Elizabeth Siddal, who committed suicide after giving birth to a dead child.

Another painting, that impressed me because of the realism of the couple’s faces, is Ford Madox Brown’s painting The Last of England. It is about British people and emigration and depicts a man and his wife leaving England and the white cliffs of Dover (on the top right of the painting). The two main figures are in fact Brown himself and his wife Emma. We can also notice a blonde-haired little girl on the left; who is Brown and Emma’s daughter, Catherine. The painting is also influenced by the industrial revolution; this can be seen through the clothes of the depicted couple. The man and his wife are wearing clothes of the middle class and not of the higher class.

I found the exhibition interesting, especially the first rooms. But it was rather too long and I skipped the comments of the last rooms. The day was brought to a nice end by visiting a part of the beautiful city of Ghent.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

België knuffelt / Les Belges s'embrassent

Tomorrow (21 November), 2 pm, Ladeuzeplein Leuven: students from (mainly) Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve give each other hugs in support of solidarity between Flemings and Walloons. Most of you can't be there I guess, for obvious educational reasons, but of course there are Flemings and Walloons in Namur as well, so why not do this to an unsuspecting victim:

Embrasse un Flamand et bois une bière avec lui!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mr. Brooks

Mr. and Mrs. Brooks (Kevin Costner and Demi Moore) live a perfectly normal, trouble free and happy life. Jane, their daughter is studying at university, Mr. Brooks is a well-known businessman and seems really attached to his family. But there is a dark side in Mr. Brooks' life; he is addicted to killing people. Nobody knows this, not even his wife. In fact, he has “an imaginary friend”- his alter ego-called Charlie Marshall (William Hurt), who tells him to commit all these murders. Brooks is extremely intelligent because he never leaves any traces on the murder scenes, explaining why the police never catch him. He goes to an AA group to help him to quit his addiction but it does not work.
His daughter Jane arrives one day at his office without her car. She tells him a friend will bring it back soon but he knows she is lying and that there is another reason. She also tells him she does not want to go back to university. At the same moment, he opens an envelope that contains photos of him killing a naked couple. This is where his problems begin...
Kevin Costner and William Hurt are a good duo; they laugh at the same time, have the same gestures, etc. The special effects are also well-done: when Mr. Brooks talks to Charlie, nobody else can see him.
This thriller reminded me of the documentary "Bowling for Columbine ", in which people got killed with no reason. It really makes you think about the meaning of life, when you know that someone, who you do not even know can kill you in a second…

Sunday, November 18, 2007

My stay in Maastricht

Hello everybody!
As promised, here is some news from Maastricht.
The educational system here is very different from Namur. The year is divided in blocs of eight weeks. In each bloc we have only one course; that means a mere six hours of class… but contrary to what you may think that does not mean that we have nothing to do! It is actually very demanding and a lot of self-study and research is required. We have to read and to find a lot by ourselves so that we remember it better afterwards. I am now in the middle of the second bloc. As far as the first bloc is concerned, I had chosen a course about Greek tragedy and philosophy. I found it very interesting even if I did not expect so much philosophy in the lectures and in the texts. I met some very interesting Dutch-speaking people in this course and I try to keep in touch with them even if we do not see each other a lot any more now since the course is finished. I took the exam two weeks ago and I am still waiting for the results… Now, in the second bloc, I have a course about the European institutions. It is interesting but I am almost the only one who does not study politics in its home country, which means that I do not have the same background as the others and that it is sometimes difficult for me to follow. I also met some interesting people but I would have liked to stay with the people I met in the first bloc and I find it weird to start everything again after eight weeks.
Concerning extra activities, I have continued my table tennis training here. I have enrolled in a table tennis club, where I met some very nice people too. There are free trainings, where you have the opportunity to talk more with the other players and this is also a good opportunity for me to speak Dutch the whole evening.
In my student apartment (the Guesthouse), people come from everywhere in the world and I like the mixing of cultures. Every Wednesday of September, we organized “international dinners” in which everybody cooked for the others; I cooked meatballs and crepes to represent Belgium :-).
So, now you have a little overview of my stay in Maastricht!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

British vision

British Vision is an exhibition that traces back two centuries of British art by gathering more than 300 works in 14 rooms, each dealing with a different step of its evolution. It begins in the middle of the 18th century,
which is a period of great change marked by the emerging modern society. The industrial revolution and the social changes that took place at that time also influenced the way in which artists painted. Indeed, they began to portray people from the middle class, and not only people from the higher classes anymore. The consequences of the industrial revolution were also reflected in art, with the painters representing both the technical progesses it brought, but also its drawbacks. This period is thus marked by a strong social realism: the painter has to observe man and society and render them in a realistic way.
The overview then spans a number of different successive stages, starting with the growing interest for British landscape art. During that period, the technique of water-color was very popular. The artists were at first only interested in spectacular and ideal landscapes, but gradually, their attention turned to the ordinary and familiar environment. They then began to attach great importance to details in their representaion of nature.
The next step is characterized by a confrontation between the “old masters” and modern art which is marked by a visionary outlook. The artists became eccentric in their way of interpreting traditional subjects. The visionary tradition did not only concern paintings, but also involved book illustrations, the creation of books and so on. The key figure here is William Blake, the author of the painting above (Whirlwind of lovers) .
The end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century are marked by a fascination for landscape art with once again, a great attention to detail and observation.
The art of the 20th century can be seen as a kind of return to the beginning, with a renewed interest for the observation of the yet modern society. We can thus see the evolution as a kind of cycle. Portraits of everyday life become once again very popular, alongside photographs (which allow a direct and realistic rendering), drawings and illustrations. This interest for realistic rendering of man and the modern society was reinforced after World War II.
This exhibition was particularly interesting and covered these two centuries in a quite complete way. I especially enjoyed the section on detailed landscape painting. It was, in my view, very well done.

Friday, November 16, 2007

5 Metal Female Voice Fest is back!

A few weeks ago, more precisely on 19 and 20 October 2007, the little village of Wieze, located in the middle of nowhere (well...near Brussels in fact) welcomed the 5th edition of the Metal Female Voice Fest. This festival is becoming more and more important over the years, but the atmosphere remains as great as it was before. What can you do in a Metal festival? Well, first of all you can eat and drink (not only beer! People are used to drinking a lot of...soft!), which is quite important consider that the festival goes on the whole day (and we wouldn't miss a group for anything!). You can also do a lot of other things, like listening to great music, meeting artists and greeting them, taking pictures with them, even talking to them (and not just about the weather!) and, of course, talking with other people, either in Dutch, English or German (yes yes! This festival is very famous abroad, that is why a lot of people come from France, Germany, the Netherlands or even Britain).

At this point, it seems important to explain what symphonic metal is. Take wonderful melodies, often played with keyboards or by a symphonic orchestra (80 musicians at least!), add heavy riffs of electric guitar and powerful hard drums. Then, mix everything up with a marvellous female voice singing lyrics which often talk about philosophy or mythology. Yes, you’ve got it! The most famous symphonic band is Nightwish (a Finnish band, as you will see, a lot of great bands come from Scandinavia or the Netherlands). Nightwish can be seen as a pioneering band in symphonic metal. Their first album, "Angels Fall First", was released in 1991.

They were soon followed by Within Temptation, a Dutch band, lead by Sharon Den Adel.

Back to Wieze. The 5th MFVF line-up was as remarkable and unique as expected. Among other bands: Walkyre, Imperia, Sirenia, Battlelore, but also Epica, Leaves’ Eyes and Delain. First of all, let’s talk about the Dutch metal band Epica. They mixed their wonderful music together with fireworks and pyrotechnics, huge energy and enthusiasm. The result? Amazing atmosphere with people clapping their hands and singing along with Simone, the lead singer. Leaves’ Eyes did the same, even though technical problems darkened their show. But as it was recorded for the purpose of their new DVD “En Saga i Belgica”, we can easily imagine engineers will solve the problem easily!
Anyway, we can thank the people who organize this amazing festival, full of wonderful music. When one listens to this music, one is flying towards another world of magic, fantasy and emotions. That is one of the aims of music, and I think the organisers of the MFVF have understood it. Let's hope next year's line-up will be as great as this one, so that MFVF will see me back!

Paul McCarthy

“Dear visitors, please take into consideration that certain works of Paul McCarthy can be experienced as confrontational and explicit.” This sentence is what we first noticed in entering the exhibition. Indeed this artist was completely unknown to us and we were very surprised when we discovered the exhibition. McCarthy is a modern, impressive and multi-talented artist, whose works consist in paintings, films, pictures, modern creations made of fiberglass, metal, porcelain and so on. The artist tends to be quite shocking.
His works actually aim at confronting the visitors with cultural and social traumas. Most of his creations indeed express strong criticism of The American Dream and of our consumer society. An illustration of this is his representation of president Bush having sex with a pig or his criticism of pop-culture by his portrayal of Michael Jackson with feet resembling a penis. During the visit we were constantly confronted with disturbing and offputting pictures and films showing scenes of torture, rape and mutilation. All the figures represented looked more or less the same: they were humans with big bellies, big noses and big ears. They actually parodied Caribbean pirates, who appeared in violent and sexual activities.
The blood, symbolised by Ketchup, and the man’s urge-driven, libidinous personality are actually recurrent themes in many of the artist’s creations. McCarthy represents the human condition in a very negative and dark view and relates sexuality to everything.
What shocked us most is “The Garden” (1992), a monumental creation parodying a popular TV western series “Bonanza”. The scene shows two mechanical figures, standing in the forest, a father having sex with a tree and his son also having sex, but with a hole in the ground! You can easily imagine how surprised we were to discover this perverse and traumatising sexuality in a kind of “virgin forest”!
We both found that McCarthy was provocative, all his work being very shocking. However, it was interesting to see how it is possible to express such negative views of the current society through art. If we go a bit further than what we see, we realize that all his creations are not the result of madness but have a deeper meaning. For those who are sick and tired of classic art, this exhibition can be an alternative entertainment! The exhibition is currently being held at the S.M.A.K ( in Gent until February 2008.

Amandine and Aurore

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New Buzzcocks!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year over on BBC Two, Thursdays are funny. Now that the first series of The Life and Time of Vivienne Vyle and The Peter Serafinowicz Show have come to an end, two classics return to the screen. At 10.30 there's Lead Balloon, very enjoyable understated comedy starring stand-up comedian Jack Dee as, well, stand-up comedian Rick Spleen.

More eagerly awaited still, however, at least as far as I'm concerned, is the return of Never Mind the Buzzcocks at 10 pm, BBC's outrageously hilarious (and notorious) pop quiz (its name, incidentally, is a blend of the name of British punk rock band Buzzcocks and the famous Sex Pistols album Never Mind the Bollocks).

For many years Never Mind the Buzzcocks was presented by Mark Lamarr. After he left there was first a period with alternating guest hosts, until one of those, Simon Amstell, took over as permanent host. While team captains Phil Jupitus and Bill Bailey and their team members are often very funny, Amstell is the real star of the show -- he's young, gay, Jewish, and incredibly witty. He first rose to tv prominence on Channel 4's programme Popworld, where he was famous for taking the piss out of his celebrity guests in mock interviews in which he would, for instance, dress up as a horse, or shout questions through a megaphone across a car park, or do the interview in the style of a psychiatrist. Here's the YouTube video of his notorious "Si-Chiatrist" (again, a blend of "Simon" and "psychiatrist") interview of British band The Kooks, in which he really goes quite far in confronting lead singer Luke Pritchard with his failed relationship with Katie Melua (apparently also a singer), asking at one point whether he never called her Katie Manure:

There is a lot of YouTube footage of the first series of NMTB hosted by Amstell which, if you're interested, is well worth checking out. Some of the most memorable guests in the previous season include Amy Winehouse and Preston. In the episode with Amy Winehouse Amstell kept referring to her drugs and drink problems ("this isn't even a pop quiz anymore, this is an intervention Amy, we care about you", with Bill Bailey adding in the nice rhyme "stop! step away from the Chardonnay!") which, to her credit, she took in her stride:

(There's Katie Melua again in the excerpt: asked if she shouldn't collaborate with her rather than with alleged drug addict Pete Doherty, Amy doesn't need much time to answer in the negative: "I'd rather have cat aids".)

Preston is the lead singer of some insignificant boy band known mainly for his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother and the (short-lived) marriage to its winner, Chantelle Houghton. When Simon Amstell kept reading excerpts from this then-wife's autobiography, Preston got increasingly annoyed and in the end walked out. At this point team captain (and comedian) Bill Bailey got up and walked into the audience to find a suitable replacement for Preston. Quite a memorable day for audience member Ed Seymour, who was unsuspectingly enjoying the show until he was suddenly thrust into the job of panelist.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Yesterday I had the chance to see a wonderful theatre play: Mary Stuart. The representation was organised by the Brussels Shakespeare Society and took place in Schaerbeek. The playwright is Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, a very famous German writer and thinker of the 18th century. The performance I saw yesterday was a new English version written by peter Oswald; it was directed by Diane Gray (a seasoned actor and director within the Brussels’ English theatre community). The main actresses are Tracie Ryan and Ruth England, playing Mary and Elizabeth respectively. The play is divided in six acts, each of them set in a different place.

The story begins with Mary (queen of Scotland), being kept in jail by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, because she has killed her husband (it seems, however, that her reasons for imprisoning Mary are quite different: she is apparently afraid of losing the English crown). Mary is longing for her freedom, and hopes for a reprieve. But everything gets very complicated and everyone is preparing plots. A great moment is the meeting of the two queens, where Mary loses controls of herself and begins to insult Elizabeth (this confrontation did, apparently, never take place in reality). You can read a brief summary of the plot here: summary (wikipedia).

The performance was quite long: three hour, but it was so remarkable that it was too quickly over. The actors were very talented, even if their dialogues lacked variation during the first two acts (there was a lot of emotion, but there weren’t enough pauses and everything was said on the same tone: there was maybe too much emotion). The costumes, in addition, were quite pretty.
We were quite lucky to get places to this performance because we booked them quite late and everything was quickly complete. We had some difficulties to find the theatre were it was to take place, but we had a great time!

Last night a TA saved my life

It's funny how students sometimes think that their teachers have no social life. Students may do sport, drink themselves into oblivion or engage in activities that are better not named on a public blog, but teachers... no, THEY can't be doing anything more than... teach or grade papers. Sorry, but this could not be further from the truth. I for one have a perfectly normal and healthy social life, but needless to say I won't go into detail here (that's just private, right). There's one thing I'm willing to share with you: my love of electronic music. I'm even willing to dj at one of your student parties, provided you like the music I usually play of course. I've included a few links to some stuff I'm listening to right now. If you like this kind of stuff, you might like my dj sets. Enjoy
Buy Now -- For Sale

Riot In Belgium -- La Musique

The Proxy -- Destroy

ZZT (aka Zombie Nation and Tiga) -- Lower States of Consciousness (Justice Rmx)

Tomas ANderson -- Washing Up (Tiga Rmx)

Ecstacy Club -- Jesus Loves the Acid

Surkin -- Radio Fireworks

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

British vision

A few weeks ago we went to Ghent to visit British Vision which took place in het museum der Schone Kunsten. This exhibition covers two centuries of British art. The paintings were spread in 14 rooms and according to specific themes: atmosphere and detail, everyday landscape, British humour, and so forth and so on.

It was really interesting to discover all those artists since most of them were unknown to us. However, thanks to Mr Noiret, we were able to recognize some famous artists such as Francis Bacon, whose work we didn't find attractive at all. But we were delighted to see many works of William Blake. A very impressive room was the one containing landscapes paintings. It was quite beautiful because the painters managed to illustrate the true nature of the landscapes. Furthermore landscapes painters mostly used very huge canvases, which was very impressive. In the exercise of painting lanscapes John Constable was by far our favourite painter, especially his masterpiece "Flatford Mill" (which you can see on the picture). The way he uses light and shadow increases the beauty his work.

We enjoyed the exhibition and we learned a lot of things about british artits and culture. Unfortunately, we were unable to visit the other exhibition, because we were in a hurry. The only drawback was the price: 6 € is quite expensive for students.

Morgane, Cindy and Jonathan.

TED: "Ideas worth sharing"

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an annual conference that has been organized since 1984 and has recently added an extensive online archive of currently around 150 talks to its offline activities. The aim of TED is to challenge the best 'thinkers and doers' to 'give the talk of their lives' in under 18 minutes. From what I've seen so far they certainly deliver on their promises. The online TED talks are not only interesting in terms of contents (some talks that struck me on just glancing through the archive include talks by Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, a well-known ape language researcher whose bonobo Kanzi is something of a non-human primate celebrity, by Steven Pinker, a professor of linguistics who has written several popular books about language, and by a Nokia researcher about our emotional bond with our mobile phone and about the future of mobile phones); because the quality of the video recordings is so good and the speakers are so skilled they also offer very good listening comprehension practice.

One talk featured in the "Words about words" theme section deserves your special attention, as it deals with words and dictionaries. The speaker is Erin McKean, who apart from writing about dresses on her blog A dress a day and editing a journal 'for the layperson' interested in language and linguistics is also Chief Consulting Editor for American Dictionaries at Oxford University Press, and in this capacity she was the editor in chief of the second edition (2005) of the New Oxford American Dictionary. In a very entertaining and accessible way, comparing 'dictionary problems' with ordinary, day-to-day problems like traffic or cooking, McKean tries to explain that there is no such thing as 'good words' (which are in the dictionary) vs. 'bad words' (which aren't), as well as showing what lexicographers do, what the difference between electronic and print dictionaries amounts to (not that much, really), and how anyone can help re-write the dictionary (sounds familiar, to those of you with Balderdash & Piffle on your mind). Highly recommended!

(Note: For some strange reason the embedded video seems to stall after 14 seconds -- if that happens, just go to the source website and watch the video from there.)


  • Apart from her blog about dresses, Erin McKean also blogs about dictionaries over at Dictionary Evangelist.

  • Another fun word-related blog is Wordlustitude, written by Mark Peters, who describes himself as a "dictionary-licking, English-major, word-nut". Wordlustitude is an online, ever-expanding dictionary of nonce words -- new coinages illustrated with citations from existing blogs as well as with an additional invented example. Here's the made-up citation for the rather horrifying verb denutify:

If God decided to denutify all men and start over with a race of self-replicating super-women, do you think I could hide on the moon from his ball-busting wrath?