Archive for December, 2007

Flandering

Posted in Images, Personal, Travel on December 27, 2007 by Elephant Talk

Looks like my time in Belgium is coming to a close. It’s been a really enjoyable leg of the trip — the ‘family’ portion, you might say. My cousin and his family have been enormously gracious and generous during my time in Brussels. He is a gourmet cook and has been serving up oysters, venison, some great cheeses and sausages, and good beer and wine.

Yesterday was of course Christmas, so we all went to a nice chateau in Groot Bijgaarden. It’s an impressive castle with a nice layout of green gardens and stone buildings.

You can walk around inside, where various rooms are decorated in various Christmas themes.

Today we went to Brugge, about an hour’s drive west of Brussels. It’s one of those great old cobble-stone towns with fantastic architecture and a nice series of stone bridges.

The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwkerk church houses a Michelangelo sculpture of the Virgin Mary. It’s one of the very few Michelangelo works that exists outside of Italy.

I had a great lunch of roast hare in beer sauce. I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten rabbit before, but it was damned tasty.

We were lucky that we arrived fairly early and saw everything we wanted to see right away. The crowds were light — and the sun was out! — but around 3pm the clutter of people got quite stifling. We left soon after that.

Tomorrow I’m heading out of Belgium, to a little finger of the Netherlands and a city called Maastricht. I’ll stay overnight and then it’s back to Brussels just in time to catch my flight to Slovenia.

Advertisements

Merry Christmas…

Posted in Images, Travel on December 24, 2007 by Elephant Talk

…from Brussels.

Phlegm

Posted in News, Personal, Travel on December 24, 2007 by Elephant Talk

Before I crash out for the night, I should mention that the Belgian government is back in business, and I successfully rode the subway without incident.

I do want to write a bit more about Belgian politics because, wow, I had no idea. Funny how language can be such a big deal. Maybe I’ll touch on that another time.

Brussels, Day 1

Posted in Images, Korea, Travel on December 24, 2007 by Elephant Talk

Today was my first full day in Brussels, and it was a great day.

Driving into the center of town, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the city. It seemed like long stretches of buildings with streets devoid of people. We got out and walked past the music museum, then down into the market squares, and then things came alive. There were the big open squares and narrow, cobble-stone streets filled with restaurants that I suppose are typical of Europe. But having never “done” Europe properly, I found it all new and a great atmosphere. I really liked staring up at the Renaissance era building facades, with their impressive sculpturing and ornate detail.

For lunch, we ate mussels and potatoes (French fries, really, but I can’t remember the French word), and then went to an English language bookstore. We then went back to the main square where I met Pierre, a friend I met at a film festival my university in Busan hosted. We spent the next several hours pub hopping, enjoying the variety of Belgian beers, walking all around the various parts of the city, and chatting about a variety of topics.

The weather here is as I’ve heard — damp and chilly — but it’s not as cold as it was before, and the sun even peeked through for part of the day.

It’s been too long since I’ve posted photos, so here’s a sampling…
Continue reading

Goodbye Bochum, hello Brussels

Posted in Personal, Travel on December 23, 2007 by Elephant Talk

The last day of the conference turned out to be one of the best. The panels were really nice, and there was a great wrap-up party. I got some more good advice on my paper, and had some really cool conversations. I wish I knew more about documentary to give back a little bit, because what I gained far outstripped what I gave.

I’m in Brussels now, visiting my cousin and his family. I feel as though I’m being antisocial, clicking away on my MacBook. So this will have to do for now.

VE 3&4

Posted in Academics, Film & TV, Sound, Travel on December 21, 2007 by Elephant Talk

Things continue to go well at the conference, although I feel a bit out of my element. I’m not a documentary scholar, so much of this stuff goes over my head. I find myself wishing I could just watch these great documentaries they’re referencing. But still, I manage to find some value in the panels, and I’m storing away mental data for future retrieval.

The events have been the best part. Wednesday night was a screening of a fantastic documentary called The Halfmoon Files by German director Philipp Scheffner. It’s a somewhat reflexive film about a documentarian’s effort to give life and story to Indian POWs in WWI through a series of phonograph recordings that were made. The sound design was incredible, really inspiring. It’s touring the festival circuit now, so keep an eye out for it.

Last night was a keynote (actually more of a guest lecture) by Marina Abramovic, a fairly well-known and highly influential performance artist. She was a pioneer in physical performance art, wherein she would harm or manipulate her body in various ways. During one of her shows (“Rhythm 0”), she encouraged an audience to interact with her physically, in any manner, without boundaries. She even placed various objects nearby, one being a gun and a bullet, for people to use on her if they felt so inclined. Pretty intense stuff.

I wish I could recall some of the more interesting things she said. At one point she said (and I’m highly, highly paraphrasing) that in performance art, you first create a structure (either figurative or literal), and then you step into that (literally or figuratively) and move with it in time. She admitted that performance art has a tendency to be long and boring. Her joke: “How many performance artists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” “I don’t know, I was only there for the first 4 hours.” But she mentioned something John Cage once said, that boring is necessary. You need to get to that point in order to move past it. Once you do that, you can relax, remove expectation, and see things in a different way. I like that.

I hope I’m remembering all that right. I’d hate to misrepresent her words. Anyway, it was a great lecture. Today’s the last day, and then there’s a final reception party. Then it’s on to Aachen and into Belgium tomorrow.

VE day 2

Posted in Academics, Personal, Travel on December 19, 2007 by Elephant Talk

I think I’ll have lunch at this Turkish place every day. The food kicks butt, it’s cheap, and… it’s the only place I can find with free wireless.

My presentation finished about two hours ago. I think it went well. No technical issues, and people seemed to enjoy it. I got a few questions afterward — usually the scariest but coolest part — and some people talked to me after. One of the other panelists also mentioned something about my presentation I’d never thought of. If I ever publish this puppy, she’ll at least get a footnote.

That’s pretty much what these conferences are about. Listening to ideas and sharing knowledge. And meeting people. I’ve met a few folks already who are pretty cool. The global representation is a pretty wide net, as are the topics discussed.

Now I can just sit back, listen, learn, and enjoy the panels and screenings for the next two and a half days.

I’m also really liking Bochum. There’s nothing too special about it, but it’s got a nice vibe. There are lots of young people, due to the university nearby, and some great pubs and restaurants. And you can’t beat Christmas time in Germany. They really know how to deck things out and make a festive environment. The whole downtown area is packed with makeshift outdoor pubs and bratwurst stands, there are Santas everywhere, magic shows and full-on outdoor theater for the kids. In fact the one here in Bochum outdoes the one I saw in Berlin.

Burr…. I need to buy new gloves.