Tag Archives: Brussels

Goodbye Odessa

Georgian singer Nino Katamadze, live at Ibiza Club, Odessa

Either my social skills are improving, or folks here are really nice, I say to myself walking up to the pulpit to witness the marriage between new friends. Barely a week in, and I have already found what I’d come looking for: the meeting point betwixt east and west. Zhe melting pot entre Beijing and Brussels. Yulia, the happy bride, has the blood of Genghis Khan in her (or at least a Chinese father). In terms of red goo I go no further than so many steaks saignant, or hearing white-robed men mumble incoherently about imbibing the juice of Jesus or some such nonsense.

Here, in the city formerly known as Khadjibey, most of the facades are Tsarist Russian, but Ottoman influences can be spotted everywhere in the um, architectural… ancient crossing of the caravans… and so on and so forth [copy-paste your favorite wikipedia entry]. The gist of it: everything’s kinda glued together. The minutes and eons. Mass-ish tourism and the type of coffee place that serves Americano as Espresso, adulterated at will by means of hot water served on a wooden cutting board. I’m talking hip, and the deadly beauty that hasn’t taken any prisoners since world war II. The vacant strut that says “What?” with every step, well-heeled against impossible odds, high-heeled on impossible cobbles.

Odessa is special,” someone said. “It’s not Ukrainian. It’s not Russian.” The latter are staying away since the latest fracas further east. Their place is taken by Ukrainians, who used to vacation in the Crimea. Cry me a river… And Egyptians, I couldn’t help but overhear from a particularly jolly table adjacent ours, Turks, Romanians, Germans, the list goes on. As pots go; what has been melted, cannot be unmolten.

The city shrugs off the centuries, self-proclaimed sentries be damned. Minorities become majorities and vice versa. Somewhere a supernova explodes. It don’t matter to Jesus. One’s thoughts wander to that other town, from Odessa to Brussels, Black Sea to backseat. Another such place whose soul is not one thing, however much its constituent parts partaking in the muddle muscle to pretend (now repeat!).

Identity is plural. Place is nothing without time. Flags don’t mean a thing. Blood is thicker than water but to dust we all return must.


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Filed under Europe, History, International Affairs, Multiculturalism, Travel

De Kansmachine

De Kansmachine – in de boekhandel vanaf 27 mei.

A Billion Worlds – in English later this year… stay tuned.


312 pagina’s
Eerste druk: Manteau, Antwerpen (België)

De Kansmachine

De Kansmachine

Martine Brumagne gaat aan de slag als secretaresse bij een Brussels bedrijf. Ze moet wel. De boerderij van haar echtgenoot staat op de rand van het bankroet. Terwijl ze terugblikt op een leven van verkeerde keuzes, maakt Brussel iets in haar wakker. Plots zijn er weer mogelijkheden. Zoveel dat het haar duizelt. Haar collega Jennifer zwalpt intussen van de ene onenightstand naar de andere. Haar ouders wachten op kleinkinderen. Zij wacht op… ja, waarop eigenlijk? Of op wie? Alvast niet op de ver van pientere Miko, die haar bespioneert in opdracht van de Amerikaanse inlichtingendienst – althans, zo denkt hij. Of grote baas Serge Huissier, oudgediende van het vreemdelingenlegioen, versierder en beste maatjes met meer dan één corrupte Afrikaanse kolonel, generaal, rebellenleider, noem maar op. Een man met meer dan één geheim ook. Een e-mailtje van Miko dreigt er daar eentje van te onthullen: in het Brusselse misdaadmilieu werkt Huissier aan een betere wereld. Niet zomaar een betere wereld – de beste van alle mogelijke werelden. En daarvoor is hij bereid over lijken te gaan.

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Filed under Books, Thriller

Back asswards

These are tough times. “But not end times,” as Jon Stewart put it.
Still, there’s something in the air. A bit of a rumble. Like an empty stomach, or heads churning to try and make sense of what seems like a polar shift afoot. Where’s all the money gone?

It certainly hasn’t gone to that lady over there. The lady who’s asleep -one hopes- underneath a bench on the feted Place de Brouckère in Brussels, exalted by Jacques Brel, adorned by the Hotel Metropole; the only 19th Century hotel still in operation, birthplace of the Black Russian cocktail, and backdrop to the famous 1911 ‘Conseil’ Solvay, the first global physics conference attended by such luminaries as Marie Curie, Ernst Rutherford, Max Planck, Henri Poincaré, and Hendrik Lorentz. Not to mention a certain Albert Einstein.

That lady over there has turned her back on lapsed glory -the part of her back that often goes by another name. A can of Gordon’s sits on top of the bench; the second floor, if you will, of the recumbent lady’s abode. Shocked passers-by cast a quick glance at the half-exposed derriere and, well, pass by. The bleakness of the skin, the motionlessness of this prone human form begs the question: Is she alive at all? Has anybody called anyone?

I decide to flag a police cruiser, and am happy to discover someone else has had the same idea. Accosted in French and Flemish at once, the officers pull over. To protect and to serve and, in this case, immediately don surgical gloves. The bright side: if you’re not at the doctor’s, and people put on latex gloves before even approaching you, the only way is up. One of the officers leans over a bit and starts talking to her, snapping his fingers above her head for added effect. The other patrolman thinks gently shoving her backside with his boots is the way forward.

Then there is movement. An arm rises up as to a charmer’s tune. Rather dizzily. She’s alive. Thank God. The finger-clicking policeman finally does her the courtesy of trying to nudge her coat to conceal the pallid flesh. The other policeman kicks the woman’s backside once more before finally reaching behind the bench and hauling her to an acceptable state of disrepair. Gloves are binned, and off they go. A job well done. These aren’t end times, but one wonders, how much further down is it?

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Filed under Brussels, homeless, Poverty

TECH CORNER – On World Wars and Wifi in Brussels

TECH CORNER – On World Wars and Wifi in Brussels

Logo_belgacom_tcm326-119106Alright, I’m a techie. Self-avowed nerd, if you will. I believe in salvation through technology. The integrated circuit will save us. That sort of thing. All electro-induced problems should be solved with better stuff, rather than a Ludite club-wielding run on the factory. You catch my drift. Here’s to looking at the future.

And yet… And yet. I am not an expert. I am a user. As it’s part of my new job to oversee the computing, networking, and printing needs of about a dozen people, I’ve taken it upon myself to relate my experiences. In as entertaining a way as possible, mind you. Don’t run away, my technofobic friends. This concerns you! I will advocate your concerns. This is not some “Java update 3.13 kernel node integration error” –type mumbo jumbo. I am not an IT guy. Never will be. I haven’t spent four years of my life on this mortal coil studying code. I deem it a basic and inalienable human right not to know html. May NATO bomb all who disagree back to the Stone Age. Where you belong.

My approach is this; I bought a shiny little box. Whatever shiny box, ok? I plugged it in the shiny box. Now, does it work? Yes or No. That’s all there is to the matter. A simple Yes or No. Everything else is techno-fascism. Fuck you. Plain and simple. Everything else is Metropolis, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Here’s a digital divide even smart people can’t bridge. Here’s ten thousand years of bran over brain reversed. The ultimate revenge of the nerds.

Having spent century upon century confined to dungeons and ill-lit monastic alcoves hiding from Inquisitions and knuckle-dragging mobs, the geeks have emerged victorious. Having failed at wiping out the masses by means of ever-deadlier technological means applied in the killing fields of the Twentieth Century, they have changed tack. The Twenty-first Century will be one of domination through gobbledygook.

Vista Basic. Vista Home. Vista Business. Vista Ultimate. Vista Uebermensch. Microsoft is but the tip of the iceberg that will sink, if unchecked, Western civilization as we know it. Their Gulag revolution must be stopped. Rosicrucians, if any of you are of yet unbought by this creeping venom, to arms! Here’s to keeping the ‘human’ in humankind, and striking ‘kind’ from our dealings with the Radioshack usurpers. To arms! Anywayz, I’m having a little trouble getting my Mobistar wifi up and running. If you are living in Belgium, and you own an Apple computer, it may worth your while to read the following. A sequence of events;

1. I ordered an internet connection at the Mobistar shop around the corner. Their task was to deliver a wireless “Livebox” adsl modem. Then, a Belgacom guy would come to my home and check the phone connections, and that would be the proverbial that. By means of a simple clickie-here, clickie-there, I’d be up and running in no time.

2. Three days later, my parents call up to say they’ve received a large box from Mobistar. Now, I had a Mobistar mobile phone subscription four years ago, but was already living in Brussels at the time. The chick at the Mobistar shop took my new Brussels address straight from my ID card, so why, I’m at wit’s end to fathom, and how goddamned, did they manage to ship this thing a full one hundred kilometers off course? But hey, mistaking’s human, so that’s a good sign, right?

3. On the morning of the Belgacom visit, I get a call from Mobistar. “Belgacom came round to your place, but you weren’t there. Here’s the guy’s phone number so you can arrange a rendez-vous. So I call the guy, and he goes “Nu’uh, I haven’t been to your place yet, I should be there in two hours. Ok.”

4. The Belgacom technician arrives. He see-eth, and in less than fifteen minutes, he install-eth. With a little help from the Mobistar help-desk I’m up and running. In no time indeed.

5. But! There’s no wifi reception in the room next to where the modem is, so I unplug and reposition…. Nothing! So I go back, and replug in the living room. So what if I can only surf in the living room, ey? The machine, however, disagrees, and cuts off completely.

6. Help-desk: “Okay, unplugging the modem was unwise. The machine is confused now, so you’ll have to re-set the firmware using the CD-rom. Unfortunately, that function is not available for Mac computers. Do you have a friend with a PC?”

7. Irate, I take the Livebox to the Mobistar shack around the corner and attempt to explain the situation. There’s something special about their PC’s that makes is impossible to help me out so they get the help-desk on the phone. Michael tells me; “My colleague is full of BS. Resetting’s the easiest thing. Even on a Mac. Go home, call me back, and we’ll tackle this baby.”

8. I go home, after a little to-and-fro I get Michael again. He has me fiddle some buttons on the Livebox after which he concludes; “Sorry, it’s beyond help. I’ll have a new box sent to your Mobistar shop. Should be there in a couple of days. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

9. Six days hence have past now without a word, and I’m still borrowing wifi from the school across the street.

To arms!

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