Friday, November 22, 2013

Jukebox Friday: Gorki - Mia



Belgian melancholy:
Nostalgic and scrutinizing,
pained but carefree,
beautiful and ugly,
important and useless -
Gimme some.


Lyrics (original Dutch):

Toen ik honger had kwam ik naar je toe
Je zei: Eten kan als je de afwas doet
Mensen als jij moeten niet moeilijk doen
Geef ze een kans voor ze stom gaan doen

De middenstand regeert het land
Beter dan ooit tevoren
Mia heeft het licht gezien
Ze zegt: Niemand gaat verloren

Voorlopig gaan we nog even door
Op het lichtend pad, het verkeerde spoor
Mensen als ik vind je overal
Op de arbeidsmarkt in dit tranendal

Sterren komen, sterren gaan
Alleen Elvis blijft bestaan
Mia heeft nooit afgezien
Ze vraagt: Kun jij nog dromen?

De middenstand regeert het land
Beter dan ooit tevoren
Mia heeft het licht gezien
Ze zegt: Niemand gaat verloren

Sterren komen, sterren gaan
Alleen Elvis blijft bestaan
Mia heeft nooit afgezien
Ze vraagt: Kun jij nog dromen?

Sterren komen, sterren gaan
Alleen Elvis blijft bestaan
Mia heeft nooit afgezien
Ze vraagt: Kun jij nog dromen?


Lyrics (English translation):

When I was hungry, I came to you
you said you can eat, if you wash the dishes
people like you shouldn’t behave difficult
give them a chance before they do stupid things

the middle class rules the country,
better than ever before
Mia has seen the light
she says: nobody gets lost.

For now we'll go on
on the lighted path, the wrong track
people like me can be found anywhere,
on the job market in this valley of tears

stars come, stars go,
only Elvis stays around
Mia never suffered
She asks: can you still dream?

the middle class rules the country,
better than ever before
Mia has seen the light
she says: nobody gets lost.

stars come, stars go,
only Elvis stays around
Mia never suffered
She asks: can you still dream?

stars come, stars go,
only Elvis stays around
Mia never suffered
She asks: can you still dream?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Friday, November 8, 2013

Amsterdam city council acknowledge Black Pete racism

Tradition holds that the last couple of months of the year be spent debating the Low Countries' blackface antics. I am, of course, talking about Zwarte Piet ("Black Pete"), who has been a staple of the Sinterklaas celebration of December 5-6 since he was invented by a school teacher in Amsterdam in 1845.

This year, the mayor of Amsterdam - where each year, Sinterklaas and his black-skinned (sorry, blackface) servants make their grand entrance on a steamboat disturbingly reminiscent of a refugee ship heading for Lampedusa - met with some of the Zwarte Piet opponents. They wanted the entire spectacle to be cancelled, which of course didn't happen.



Instead it was decided that the Pieten will from now on wear lipstick of different colours, rather than just red, and "a variety of black hair" rather than the traditional black curls. It has also previously been decided that the cosplayers will not be allowed to wear gold earrings.

Of course, by changing the character's appearance, the city council recognizes the overt racism in the original representation of the Zwarte Piet character.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The one about euthanasia

Belgian legislators, doctors and clergy have entered the spotlight these past few weeks, after PM Elio Di Rupo's Socialist party proposed a bill extending the right of euthanasia to children and dementia patients.

I've seen plenty of reactions to this news in foreign media, most of it cooly sceptical/intensely PC about the whole thing, some of it horrified at this supposed crime against humanity.

You may accuse me of reductionism, but to me, the real question regarding euthanasia is this:

Should people's responsibility for their own lives include the right to choose between life and death?

Until I hear a good argument to the opposite, my answer is a roaring yes. And I'm not talking about vague prophecies about a "culture of death". And if I hear the word "non-Christian", I will dismiss every word following it as based on a delusion.

Pro-choice is my objective approach, but I can't tell you how I would feel if anyone close to me were to become terminally ill or handicapped in a way that would make a comfortable life impossible. I would probably want them around for as long as possible, regardless of their own feelings or discomfort.

But wouldn't that be selfish?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Jukebox Friday: Yevgueni - Als Ze Lacht



Video source: YouTube channel Klein Kunst.

This is one of my favorite Belgian songs of all time.

"Als Ze Lacht" ("When She Laughs") is the opening track and first single from Yevgueni's (pronounced yev-GEH-nee) debut album, Kannibaal (2005). It topped the charts for ten weeks upon release.

Unlike some of Yevgueni's politically-themed songs, this one's a pure head-over-heels love song: a testimony to love's miraculous ability to blot out any pain and to color your world with light and warmth. This was one of the first Belgian songs my wife shared with me, and I can't describe how great it feels to finally be able to listen to the song and fully understand the lyrics for the first time.

A note, to make sure that the second verse makes any sense: The lyric about "Martine" refers to a Flemish news anchor.

Lyrics (original Dutch):

Ze is niet altijd even vrolijk
en dat ligt ook wel eens aan mij
En een beetje aan de weerman,
maar die maakt ook niemand blij
Met al zijn miezerige buien,
daar heeft zij geen boodschap aan
zij wil alle dagen zon
en als het moet eens een orkaan

Maar net als hem blijf ik proberen,
elke dag een flauwe mop
En plots is daar dan toch die glimlach,
en dan klaart alles hier weer op

Want als ze lacht breekt de hele hemel open
Echt ik waan me in de tropen
't is echt machtig als ze lacht
Als ze lacht baad ik uren in de zon,
ik wou dat ik dat voor haar kon,
wat zij voor mij doet als ze lacht

'k Ben ook niet altijd even vrolijk
maar dat ligt echt wel niet aan mij
want zelfs met Martine om zeven
is er maar zelden goed nieuws bij
Of toch, een nieuwe prins geboren,
zelfs nog beter een dolfijn
Maar dan een stuk of honderd plaatsen
waar ze weer aan't vechten zijn

Er is nochtans niet zoveel nodig,
misschien meer vrouwen aan de macht
Dan zeg ik schat jij zou dat kunnen,
en echt ik meen het, maar zij lacht

En als ze lacht, is het even wereldvrede
is de laatste strijd gestreden
't is echt machtig als ze lacht
Als ze lacht, baad ik uren in de zon
ik wou dat ik dat voor haar kon
wat zij voor mij doet als ze lacht
Ja, ik wou echt dat ik dat voor haar kon zijn


Lyrics (English translation):

She isn't always cheerful
and that's sometimes my fault
And a little bit the weather man's fault
but he never makes anybody happy
With all his stupid showers,
it tells her nothing
she wants sunshine every day
and sometimes a hurricane if necessary

But just like him I keep trying,
every day a lame joke
And suddenly there's that smile after all
and everything clears up again

'Cause when she laughs the whole sky opens up
I feel like I'm in the tropics
It's really powerful when she laughs
When she laughs I bathe for hours in the sun,
I wish I could do for her
what she does for me when she laughs

I'm not always cheerful
but that's really not my fault
because even with Martine at seven
there is rarely any good news
Or maybe a new prince has been born,
or even better, a dolphin
But then there's a hundred places
where they're fighting again

Still, it wouldn't take much
perhaps more women in charge
Then I say honey, you could do that,
and I really mean it, I really mean it
but she laughs

And when she laughs, there's a moment of world peace
the last battle has been fought
It's really powerful when she laughs
When she laughs, I bathe for hours in the sun
I wish I could do for her
what she does for me when she laughs

Yes, I really wish I could do that for her...

BONUS: This song has been masterfully reworked on more than once occasion. I send you off with a lovely acoustic version from a concert Bika and I happened to attend two years ago.