Sunday, November 30, 2008

Conference of Jared Diamond

On 17 November we attended the conference of Jared Diamond at the Economics faculty. He is a well-known American evolutionary biologist, physiologist and geographer, who has worked in a lot of universities (Cambridge, UCLA…). The man spoke for half an hour about the reasons why past and present societies succeed or fail when they have to cope with problems. After having exemplified what he said, he added we had to learn from the past. He meant that we had to pay attention to environmental problems and the attitude of the wealthy classes. Moreover he focused on the fact that the world today is more dangerous than he has ever been. Now we have to take the best decision to minimise the risk of a global collapse.

We have mixed feelings about the conference as you can deduce from our opinions:

When I sent the email to book a seat for the conference, I did not know what I was going to attend. In fact I am not really accustomed to conferences. Yet, I thought it would be an interesting hour during which I would learn new things concerning the changes of the world. This was not the case at all. Everything that was being said was already known by everyone except the first part of the speech during which mister Diamond talked about the civilizations of the past. All the rest was only the enumeration of problems that the world knows nowadays. I do not really understand why Jared Diamond is so famous because of his writings. He never gives us clear explanations about phenomena. At the end, there was a ‘question time’ and this part of the conference confirms what I just said. There were very interesting questions that were being asked to him, but these questions were not easy to answer. For example, somebody asked “Africa suffers a lot because of the lack of water, however it is the continent that respects the most this resource. When is Europe going to realize that it is absolutely necessary to spare more water?” The answer was “When the Europeans will encounter the same problems as the Africans!” and there is no need to be a seer to be able to give this answer. The fact is not that I hated this conference, but more that I did not learn anything new. Positive aspects were that it was great to hear a perfect American pronunciation and also that the first man who talked to introduce Jared Diamond made us laugh a lot. He had a very bad English accent, I had never heard that before.

Marie-Eve Vandoorne

As a way of introduction to this lecture, the audience heard a brief speech from the vice rector of the University of Namur. Unfortunately it was not really structured, too long as well as very badly pronounced. Therefore, we got a quite negative impression about the conference from the beginning.

As far as the conference in itself is concerned, I feel, however, much more satisfied. The speech of Jared Diamond was clear and understandable despite his American accent. He mainly dealt with current ecological changes and with the way societies can respond to them. That is why it was interesting, even for inexperienced people. This issue concerns all of us and cannot leave insensible.

However, it seems to me that he did not really bring something new or unknown to the issue. In this sense, it was a bit disappointing. Besides, many questions were asked to him in this respect and he gave no real answer.

Elodie Coene

I must admit that I was first reluctant about going to this conference. However it looked to be quite interesting and … surprising! I was first surprised by the great amount of students and academics in the Adam Smith: there were indeed so many people that some of them must follow the whole conference sitting on the stairs. It is important to note that a number of students were forced to attend the conference as it was part of their lessons… Secondly I was (negatively) surprised by the speeches preceding the conference in itself. Even if they were very interesting, it was not so easy to follow as the speakers’ pronunciation was a French pronunciation of English words… However it is worthy to note that the speakers made a big effort by daring to speak in front of so many people with a not so good pronunciation. Speaking about Mister Diamond’s conference I can easily argue that it was interesting, but a bit too repetitive. As he further goes in his explanations, I had the feeling of “having heard that before”. Speaking about societies, the conference was quite interesting. At the end there was also a short time for a few questions. Here you could chose to ask your question either in English or in French. Quite surprisingly most of them were asked in English. The conference ends with a short speech of the dean of the Economics faculty, in which he of course thanks a lot Jared Diamond for coming to Namur. I think that the dean was right to thank him gratefully because the conference was interesting, speaking about an important theme. Moreover J. Diamond sometimes adds some kind of humour but yet not too much…

Hélène Vancompernolle

I must admit that I didn’t know exactly what the conference will be about before entering the room. Hopefully, thanks to the notes given at the entry I had a clearer idea of the subject. Jared Diamond was also really clear in his ideas and managed to draw the spectators’ attention from the beginning until the end of the conference thanks to his humour, speech tone and subject. His speech was indeed full of anecdotes about his wife. His speech tone varied and was not at all monotonous. Finally his subject was interesting and new. It is indeed different from what we usually hear and still interesting for our kind of studies. We also speak a lot about the civilisations in our studies and it was nice to hear about it from another point of view.

Catherine Lanthier

It was very interesting to listen to Mr Diamond. He was keen on his topic, which dealt with how civilizations have coped with change since the Antiquity. He spoke on a spontaneous, passionate way and his pronunciation was easy to understand. It was unluckily not the case of the people who spoke before he did. This man has shown that his job can represent more than a salary, it is a passion. Now I am curious to put an eye on one of his books. Mr Diamond also answered a lot of questions but I have one more remaining: why did we receive such a thick hand-out with things which were not told during the conference?

Céline Piette

The Economy Faculty invited an American speaker to give a conference on issues which are part of everybody’s life, that is to say, the adaptation of a number of societies or the failure of others when they have to face challenges such as environmental problems. Such a conference is quite a big event for a small university like Namur and requires a whole organisation. Jared Diamond was first introduced by the vice-president of the university, whose English was really awful. Most students were ashamed of such a welcome speech. The subject of the conference seemed to be attractive. Indeed, there were no seats left, a few students had to seat on the stairs and some people couldn’t even come in and listen to the lecture. People who attended the lecture were mainly students in economy, which was quite expected since the subject was in relation with their field of study. However, everybody should feel concerned with those societal problems. Also a number of adults, probably teachers from the University of Namur, but also from other universities were part of the public. Talking about the conference, the important point that Jared Diamond really insisted on was that the role of the social elite is extremely important for a society, because if the elite suffers from the same problems as everybody, they are motivated to do something to help their society. He gave the example of Holland to illustrate this statement. If the elite don’t react to solve the environmental problems, the sea will keep going up and they will all drown (rich and poor).

Personally, I think the conference was really interesting and the speaker was easy to understand. But I know it wasn’t that easy for everybody. I asked, for example, a few students from the Economy Faculty if they could understand him easily, and they answered that they understood maybe a third of his lecture.

Sybille Bataille

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona

The new movie by Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, tells the story of two American friends, Vicky and Cristina, who decided to go on holiday to Barcelona. Vicky is serious, engaged with a man and is writing her thesis about Catalan customs. On the other hand Critina is frivolous, does not know what she wants and enjoys her stay in Barcelona. They meet a mysterious Spanish artist named Juan Antonio who is still in love with his ex-wife Maria Elena. This guy will disturb their quiet lives… The last thing we will say is: Go and watch it!

Even if we did not go at the same time to the cinema, we all enjoyed the movie as you can read below:

As a lot of people know, Woody Allen’s movies are very often ambiguous. For this reason I wanted to see his new movie, namely Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Starring famous actors such as Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Scarlett Johansson, the movie begins with a beautiful song. Thanks to this Spanish song you are immediately immersed in the atmosphere of Barcelona and of the movie more generally. During the first part I was stricken by a positive feeling about the movie. But in the middle of the film I found it a bit too repetitive: when Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) is not with one wife, he is with another and you can imagine what is going to happen when his ex-wife Maria Elena (performed by Penélope Cruz) comes back in his life. After this short feeling of being bored, Woody Allen’s storyline achieves to captivate my attention back up to the end of the movie. That is why I would argue that it is worthy to go and watch this movie. In fact it is not only one of Woody Allen’s movies with an ambiguous but still clear storyline, but it is also a piece of evidence of a good performance. Moreover it gives you the envy to leave our rainy Belgium for Spain, and more specifically for Barcelona. So… why are you still reading this review? Go to the nearest cinema to see Vicky Cristina Barcelona…


This film of Woody Allen is really terrific. It leads us to the city of Barcelona in the sunny Spain to discover a lot of passion and art with the original architecture of Gaudi in the background. Well-known actors like Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem give a very great performance. My eyes were quickly like glued to the screen, so that I did not lose a part of the dialogues and of the rapt storyline. There are a lot of wonderful places, some of them having become immortal by the camera of the character Cristina (played by S. Johansson). I enjoyed being absorbed in a world of artists searching for inspiration. It is as if holidays represent a free part of our life, when we can do anything we want. It does not matter because it is forgotten afterwards. Moreover, the film is partly in English and partly in Spanish, which is very useful to train our listening skills in both languages. It is another good reason to buy a ticket as soon as possible!


Before entering the cinema I knew I was going to love that movie! Simply because Woody Allen, Barcelona and the actors are legendary! The fact that I’m hispanoholic makes also a lot to the fact that I appreciate very much the movie. The hysteric Penélope Cruz, the sexy and young Scarlett Johansson and the engaging Javier Bardem were perfect. Barcelona itself may be considered as an actress. At least this how I understand the title *Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona*. The story couldn’t be elsewhere. Barcelona brings a special atmosphere. An atmosphere of holidays but also tensions makes the spectators standing open-mouthed. You want to know what will happen to the characters. Captivating, funny and loving, this is how I would describe this movie!


The new film of Woody Allen… it already seems interesting in itself! Indeed, I feel very enthusiastic about this love story. The director reconsiders common perceptions about love and feelings. Like most of his previous films, “Vicky Christina Barcelona” has also something special about it. Love is considered among three individuals, and not two. That is why this film is so captivating. Passion and sex are undeniably strong features of this film too.
What also catches the eye of the spectator is the beautiful sunny landscapes as well as this surprising story. It indeed reminded us of our last holidays in a sunny land.
Moreover this beautiful love story is played by famous actresses such as Scarlett Johansson and Penélope Cruz. Two different styles of artist which both fits very well to this screenplay. Besides these two celebrities we can also admire Javier Bardem who seems to be the best actor to play this role.


After Match Point, Scoop and a few other films, Woody Allen comes back with a new production, namely Vicky Cristina Barcelona, whose theme will no surprise us. Like in his other films, his last one also deals with love torment. This beautiful, complex, and sensual movie gives us an image of a three person’s relation in a very modest manner. In this trio, Javier Bardem is acting as a kind of Don Juan who is going to disturb the married Rebecca Hall. Scarlett Johnson, who has fallen in love with this original artist, doesn’t know how to react when she meets the crazy Penelop Cruz, a person filled with complex feelings towards her ex-husband. The spectator is carried away by the sweet voice of the narrator, who wants to convince us that only the trio will bring happiness. After a complex story, full of different intrigues, the actors finally leave us with no changes in their lives. The situation is just the same one than at the beginning of the story but we wonder how the two girls will forget about that strange artist. We can conclude that nothing is easy in love and that dissatisfaction is always around us.


I must admit that I was a bit reluctant at the idea of watching this movie at first. I wondered indeed if the new Woody Allen would be as weird as his last Match Point. I was surprised… but positively! Thanks to the music you feel immediately absorbed in the bright and sunny atmosphere of Barcelona. The film stars a beautiful quatuor: Vicky (Rebecca Hall), Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) and Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz). While the sensible and engaged Vicky is certain of knowing what she wants in life and sexy and dreamy Cristina does not, the Latin lover Juan Antonio comes and upset everything. Concerning his beautiful but unstable ex-wife Maria Elena, Penélope Cruz impressed me a lot in her talented manner of switching from English to Spanish so easily! I also admired the nearly perfect English accent of Javier Bardem.
Congratulations thus to the director for this Spanish mini-trip lots of humour, love, frivolity and strange conception of what a happy couple is. It is with the music of a Catalan guitar in the ears that I say: “Do not wait anymore, go and see the new Woody!


I think that Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a good movie for several reasons.
First of all I liked the summer atmosphere of the film. There was a somewhat festive and pleasant atmosphere created by the music, the sun and Barcelona. When I left the cinema I really felt like going to Spain for a few days!
Secondly I liked the way human relations were represented in the film. As the film is wearing on we discover the complexity and the ambiguity of the relationships between the characters. The two American friends are attracted by the same man, Juan Antonio, a mysterious painter and there is a strange relationship between Cristina, Juan Antonio and his ex-wife.
As far as the actors are concerned they play extremely good, Penélope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson are very sensual. It is therefore worth seing this film, it is full of passion and you will spent a great time if you go and see it.


From the moment I saw the preview on the Internet I have wanted to watch this movie. I had only seen one film of Woody Allen before Match Point and I really liked it. I like movies concerning complicated love stories and troubled minds. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is one of this kind of films. This movie gives a sample of different sorts of women. Vicky (Rebecca Hall): the rational girl, engaged with a boring man, who is working for her thesis; Cristina (Scarlett Johansson): the frivolous girl who is just enjoying her trip in Barcelona and who does not know what she wants and Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz): the divorced woman who is still in love with her ex-husband with whom she can not be happy. The lives of these three women are centred on one single man, namely Juan Antonio interpreted by the charming Javier Bardem. This man is the perfect macho man. He tries everything to get the women he wants and he manages to get them. In my opinion the actors were well chosen and interpreted their roles in a perfect way. This movie is just great and I really recommend you to go and watch it. Yet, if you are a jealous girl, do not go there with your boyfriend because the three actresses are very beautiful and instead of enjoying the film you could hate it ;).


Here is the link to the trailer...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A great experience in Nijmegen

Hi everybody!

It has been a very long time since I have had news of you all who are studying in Namur and elsewhere. I hope that the beginning of the year was good and that you are all proud of being third year’s students! As you have noticed I have temporarily left the University of Namur to join that of Nijmegen but I assure you I will be back in February to spend the second half of the year with you.

I arrived in the oldest city of the Netherlands at mid-August for the so-called introduction week reserved to all the Erasmus students like me. We were mixed in groups of fifteen people and together, we spent ten fantastic days partying almost every night. There could not have been anything better to discover the city (and the many pubs!!!) and meet new people from all horizons. September marked the beginning of the academic year. Until now I have followed five classes, some in Dutch and some in English and like in every university, some are very interesting and others are rather boring but that is part of a student’s life! I have more or less fifteen hours a week, which is not a lot but the work to provide at home is huge so I do not have one second to be bored. This week I have just started the second period of the semester after a first exam session that lasted two weeks. I am still waiting impatiently for the results.

Apart from that I really enjoy living in the city of Nijmegen. I rent a student room situated between the university and the city centre and the bike is of course my favourite means of transport like it is the case for all the Dutch. The facilities around the university are really great especially the sport centre, which I find absolutely fabulous. All the sports you can imagine are represented here so I reassure you all: there is no need to worry about my physical condition! In ten days I participate in a famous race (“De Zevenheuvelenloop”) of 15 kilometres around the city. I will run in the middle of no less than 22 000 athletes and I hope to be a good representative of Belgium. I think I have told you the essential about my unforgettable experience in Nijmegen and I hope it has given you the desire to visit that terrific place. See you all in February.