Five Things #22

Domesticated by Timothy Bastek is a zombie story that reminds me of the fact that I never got around to seeing Fido.

Denzil delves into the strange history of Neutral Moresnet.

Tremors recently turned 30. Jennifer Ouellette celebrates the most perfect B movie creature feature ever made.

First it was wolves, now it is otters. Thirty years after they were declared extinct in Flanders, the animals have started to make a comeback. There’s still a long way to go, but things are looking positive.

Jamie Foster and Christopher H. Hendon explain how to make the perfect cup of coffee – with a little help from science.

Of beer and beavers

Sunday saw Macsen competing in the Flemish karate championship, which left me at home with William and Alexandre. After a morning playing board games, we decided to take advantage of the bright, dry (but cold) weather and head out to the Totterpad, a nearby nature walk.

Bernard the beaver lives in his beaver castle next to the visitor center. When he wakes up one morning, he notices unknown footprints around his castle. He decides to look for the maker of those strange traces. Along the way he has to walk over a tree bridge, crawl into a bird’s nest, do a totter trail and much more.

It’s a nice walk, and one we have followed a fair few times. It’s not too long, but there is plenty of opportunity for exploration and several activities along the way.

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I am also rather fond of the fact that the walk ends (or starts) at the recently refurbished visitor centre and bar, De Watermolen.

The pub was a lot busier than I’d expected so, after having ordered a drink each for all of us, we had a bit of a trek to find an available seat. While looking for a seat, I kept hold of the hot chocolates in order to minimise the risk of hot drink spillage in a crowded bar. This left the twins to handle everything else.

I think the sight of a nine-year-old wandering around a bar, beer in hand, may have raised a few eyebrows.

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The walk home was shorter and more relaxed, the boys having finally burnt off some of their energy, until we reached the point at which we exited the path. Here there is a dry ditch surrounding a picnic table and the twins thought it would be a good idea to roll down the hill.

It’s been dry all weekend, so I thought nothing of it. Until they stood up. Covered, from head to foot, in mud.

This is why we have a washing machine.

Macsen came fourth in the championship. A good result that only just missed his being on the podium.

Five Things #21

KT Bryski provides a very different take on the story of Red Riding Hood in The Path of Pins, the Path of Needles.

In 2008 Rian Dundon spent 9 months on the road with Fan Bingbing, China’s biggest movie star, and gained a firsthand look at the country’s celebrity-industrial complex.

There are exactly two wolves in the wild in Flanders at present. Pups could be on the way.

Nick Tyrone discusses three things the left gets wrong. Repeatedly.

Ben Orlin presents The Game of Snakes. All you need is a pen and a bit of paper.

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results

In Belgium, rumour has it that the latest pair of royal informants to take on the role of forming a federal government is looking to make a coalition proposal which could consist of the Francophone socialists and the Flemish nationalists.

The elections were held in May of last year and there have been several (failed, obviously) attempts to assemble a government.

The problem here is that Belgium has no national parties — the Flemish parties campaign in Flanders and the Francophone parties campaign in Wallonia. Because of this, national elections look more like a pair of regional elections that happen to be held at the same time. This is compounded by the fact that Wallonia tends to vote left and Flanders tends to vote right, and exacerbated by the fact that none of the Francophone parties trust the separatists of the N-VA, who are the largest party in Flanders by some distance.

We’ve been here before. I’m far from convinced that things will be any different this time around.

Five Things #20

Water: A History by KJ Kabza is a remarkable and moving story of human colonists on the planet of Quányuán which is arid to the point of being uninhabitable. Wetness is a concept left back on Earth but this doesn’t stop one elderly woman from stepping outside the safety of the colony whenever she can for the brief opportunity to fully experience the outside world.

Christine McLaren meets the citizen scientists in Australia who are reforesting the ocean.

Denzil visits The See-Through Church of Borgloon.

Steve Royston reminds us that political movements are fine, as long as they’re regular.

Chris Grey looks ahead at what happens next with Brexit and the battle between remembering and forgetting.

The Future of Fireworks

Bruges replaces New Year’s Eve fireworks with drone show

It’s official – the city of Bruges will replace its annual fireworks show on New Year’s Eve with a light display by drones, with no intention of ever going back to traditional means.

The picturesque city has been granted approval for one hundred computer-controlled drones to be used to form figures, texts and images in the sky to celebrate the new year.

We’re not planning to be in Bruges for the New Year this time around. But if they do this again, I will certainly be keen to see what can be done with 100 drones.

Ratings

One thing that surprised me when we first moved to Belgium was the apparent lack of any film ratings. It turned out that there is a very crude classification of films — suitable for under 16s and not suitable for under 16s — which doesn’t help much if you are a parent trying to navigate a trip to the cinema.

This is set to change in January with the adoption of the Dutch Kijkwijzer categories which has five age ratings plus a handy set of icons to indicate why the film has the rating it has.

The article linked to suggests there will be seven age ratings. It’s not clear to me whether this means that Belgium will have it’s own version of the system, of if the journalist just got her facts slightly wrong.

If it’s the latter, then this will not be that much of a change. DVDs already carry Kijkwijzer ratings — in Flanders, at least — and I can’t see it being too much of a challenge for cinemas to add a couple of icons to their (digitally displayed) listings. It also appears to be an entirely voluntary system which, as I understand it, is the case with the current classifications.

I have, over the years, become quite familiar with Kijkwijzer and it does provide a clear summary of both the what and why of a film’s rating (Rated 9 for horror, for example). If you go to the website, you can also drill down a little and see what age classification was given to each of the categories, which helps if there is something you particularly want to avoid.

My only criticism is that it is very much a checklist driven approach and this can make for a bit of a blunt instrument that us unable to take full account of tone and context. Sometimes context matters and, in these cases, the (admittedly much more labour intensive) approach of the BBFC can be a lot more useful (Barbarella, for example is rated 6 on Kijkwijzer and 15 by the BBFC).

That said, the two classification systems line up a lot more often than not, and more information is always better. I shall look forward to seeing how this works in practice in the new year.

It’s not even December…

The Sint hasn’t been yet…

But there is a Christmas Tree in Brussels.

At around 6:00 AM on Thursday the Christmas tree bound for Grand Place finished its journey to Brussels, ready to prepare for the launch of the seasonal festival in the city at the end of November.

Welcomed by Alderman for Culture, Delphine Houba, the tree was erected shortly before 8:00 AM under the eye of Mayor Philippe Close.

I was going to wander out at lunchtime to take a look but work got in the way. Luckily, however, you can watch it on the webcam.

It doesn’t move much.