Friday, April 29, 2011

Belgium in the news #4

Song of the week: Scala & Kolacny Brothers - Creep (Radiohead cover)

Scala & Kolacny Brothers is a Belgian girls' choir, conducted by Stijn Kolacny and arranged and accompanied by Steven Kolacny on the piano. Formed in Aarschot in Flanders in 1996, they have released five studio albums, mostly composed of covers of songs by artists such as Bj√∂rk, Radiohead, U2, Nirvana, Depeche Mode, Muse, and Rammstein.

In July 2010, a trailer for the film The Social Network was released featuring an edited version Scala's cover of Radiohead's "Creep". This trailer had been seen over 260 million times in cinemas, on TV and online.

Here's the trailer (you can hear the full song further down).

The full song:

Lyrics link

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hallerbos bluebell blossom 2011

I've already showed you what Hallerbos looks like in late autumn, but it is the blossoming bluebells of spring that make the forest famous. Here are several photos.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Belgian of the week: Roger Vangheluwe

If you think being "Belgian of the week" necessarily means that I like you, this should help you to think otherwise.

Roger Vangheluwe. (Wikipedia)
Roger Vangheluwe (b. 1936 in Roeselare) was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1963. In December 1984, he was made Bishop of Bruges by Pope John Paul II. He held this position for twenty-five years.

In April 2010, he became the first Roman Catholic bishop in history to resign after being revealed to be a criminal paedophile. He admitted to having abused his nephew repeatedly for 13 years, starting when the boy was 5 years old. The abuse began when he was a priest and continued after Vangheluwe was made a bishop.

Since he could not be formally persecuted (child abuse crimes expire after 10 years in Belgium), Vangheluwe could safely retreat to Westvleteren Abbey, famous for its monk-brewed Trappist beer. Although he had resigned as Bishop of Bruges, he was reported to be receiving a state pension of about €2,500 a month.

On 19 November 2010, seven months after the abuse had been made public, the Vatican announced that they had started a formal investigation of Roger Vangheluwe.

The family and attorneys of Vangheluwe's nephew, several prominent Belgian politicians, and the people of Belgium have called out to the Vatican, the only authority that now has any power in the matter, to bring about some justice and punish the the old bastard. Were their prayers heard? On 9 April 2011 came this statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:
Roger Vangheluwe has to leave Belgium and accept a period of spiritual and psychological treatment.
After receiving this sentence, Vangheluwe relocated to the Loire Valley in France. On April 14 he was approached by a Flemish TV network, to which he gave his most controversial interview yet.

The ex-bishop admitted to having abused a second nephew. He called the sexual relationship with his first nephew "a game" and said that it "never went much beyond that". He emphasized that rape or physical violence never occurred. He clarified that he had never been naked in the presence of his nephew.

In short, he chose to trivialize his crimes rather than repent.

So far, ex-bishop Vangheluwe has had the protection and support of the Roman Catholic Church. Taking the last couple of days into consideration, I would say it's only a question of time before even the high hats at the Vatican realize that they need to cut their losses and wash their hands of this man, lest he pull them down with him.

Actually, that would be great.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Song of the week: Milow - You and Me (In My Pocket)

Jonathan Vandenbroeck AKA Milow is a singer-songwriter from Leuven. His newest album has been out for a couple of weeks now, and the lead single "You and me (In my pocket)" is currently at #7. It's a great song and, considering the competition, it definitely deserves an even higher place on the charts.


wish you smelled a little funny
Not just funny really bad
We could roam the streets forever
Just like cats but we'd never stray
I sometimes wish you were a mermaid
I could raise you in the tub at home
We could take a swim together
On weekly day trips to the bay

Oh you and me
It would be only you and me
Oh you and me
It would be only you and me

I wish you were a little bigger
Not just big but really fat
Doors you would no longer fit through
In my bed you would have to stay
I often wish that you had feathers
I'd keep you in a giant cage
All day long I'd sit and watch you
I'd sing for you and that would be okay

People say there are plenty of fish
In the sea, baby, all I do is wish

I wish you were a little slower
Not just slow but paralyzed
Then I could plug you into a socket
So you could never run away
I really wish that you were smaller
Not just small but really really short
So I could put you in my pocket
And carry you around all day

BONUS: Here's Milow's cover of 50 Cent's "Ayo Technology".

Passchendaele and the Ypres Salient

EDIT: Joski has some great pictures of trench warfare in Belgium on his blog. Click here to read the post.

Ieper (French: Ypres) is a West Flemish town 12 km from the border to France. Its name has become synonymous with the terrors on the West Front of the First World War (1914-1918). Thousands of war graves and memorials bear witness to the five major battles that took place near Ieper.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Tour of Flanders 2011

I can't do a blog about Belgium without mentioning the Tour of Flanders (De Ronde Van Vlaanderen), the 94-year-old road cycling race that has become Belgium's biggest sporting event. It took place yesterday, with 1.1 million Belgians watching it from the safety of their couches and tens of thousands of spectators lining up along the route to watch the wielrenners zoom by.

I can't really do justice to this annual epic of cyclistship, so I will pass the mic to The Sydney Morning Herald and their very informative article titled "'It's bloody mad' - Belgium's cobblestone classic a monument to chaos, carnage and a road warrior's courage". I also have a clip of the final moments of this year's race. The winner, as you will soon see, was Belgium's own Nick Nuyens. Enjoy!

BONUS: In case you need to be reminded of how much Belgians love cycling, check out this video.

Carnaval Halle 2011: day 2 (continued)

As it turns out, Saturday's spectacle was only an appetizer to Sunday's main parade. Having put the rowdiness of the previous night firmly behind them, people lined up in the thousands to see dozens of colourful floats float by through the confetti- and candy-covered streets of Halle.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Carnaval Halle 2011: day 2 (morning)

I didn't spend the evening with the revellers down-town, but thankfully De Morgen provides a full run-down of the night. Apparently, the beautiful weather caused people to start their drinking earlier than usual (see for yourself in my previous post). This led to a hitherto unmatched number of hospitalizations and arrests.
Last night, 30 people were taken to hospital, compared to last year's 19. Forty-one people received assistance at an aid station; in 2010 this number was 30% lower.
De Morgen is surprisingly vague about whether they think this is a good or a bad thing.
There were fewer fights than last year. Around 9 PM, thirty or so teenagers had a brawl in the Handbooghof, and there was also fighting on the Stationsplein. There, a wounded person was taken to a hospital. In the course of the night, six people were arrested for drinking and driving.
If this is an improvement, I'm glad I wasn't here last year!

Carnaval Halle 2011.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Carnaval Halle 2011: day 1

From Wikipedia:
Every year, in the middle of Lent, Carnival is celebrated during three days. This is a colourful event, where various groups make floats and costumes or perform dances. The Halle carnival has been organized since 1905 and has grown to be one of the biggest carnivals in Belgium.
No kidding.

We went to see today's celebration, which turned out to be a storm of confetti, crowds, candy, free beer, flashy costumes, drag queens, and a barrage of loud and lousy dance music. (Well, to be honest, I didn't hate the polka version of Duck Sauce's "Barbra Streisand".)

Song of the week: Yevgueni - Welkenraedt

Yevgueni (formed 2001 in Leuven) is one of the most beloved Belgian bands in the kleinkunst genre - a term used in Flanders about artists in the pop, rock and indie genres who perform songs in Dutch. (Further reading: An introduction to Belgian music)

Their first two albums, Kannibaal (2005) and Aan De Arbeid (2007), were not major hits but helped the band build a faithful Flemish fanbase. When the third album, We Zijn Hier Nu Toch, hit the shelves in 2009, it went all the way to number one. Expectations were sky-high for their 2011 release, Welkenraedt. The expectations were fulfilled: Most reviewers have given the album 4 out of 5 stars or more.