Last Saturday my cousin Ruben got married to his boyfriend, part of the reason of my coming back to the homeland now. It was one heck of a party and lots of fun . It was good (in most instances) to see some family and friends back I had not seen in years. Heather had a blast as well, danced her legs down to the knees, got very sore feet the next day. I on the other hand, was plagued more by a sore head. Belgian Stella definitely is stronger than the water downed version we get in the states....
Things are pretty nice here in Belgium. I gave my oldest brother's two kids some American sports gear: a mini football and a foam basball bat and rubber baseball. I think they may have to stick with soccer. Stan (5) taking a swing at a baseball invariably ends with him missing the baseball by a foot and knocking himself to the ground and Daan (6) is also not wide receiver material, and I am being generous. When they started hitting the football with the baseball bat, I decided to give up on this attempt at American sports imperialism. Daan has gotten better at soccer though, not a natural, but he has been going to soccer training and has developed some skills. Still, I ended up beating him 6-5 in our one-on-one. In his face! Afterwards he told his dad that he had not been playing all out against me.
I am back in Belgium for a little while, so as the rules of the Baslog dictate, we will be speaking English here for a while... I flew in yesterday around 7.30 am, trailed by Heather who flew in 35 mins later. I flew United, which is a pretty decent airline it turns out. Very friendly crew. One flight attendant was making a remark about the mess I made while eating dinner then looked at my bare ring fingers and said, "well you are not married yet, so we can still train you." That put a smile on my face, wish she could have done the same with the crying baby a couple of rows in front of us. Second only to men of middle eastern descent smelling like rose water frantically reciting Koran verses, babies are the least welcomed sight on a plane these days. I appreciate babies, especially when prepared well, but I think it is time to have a special section for them on airplanes. Maybe where they stow the pets? Anywhere where you cannot use a cell phone you should not be able to take babies.
On the plane I read how soccer explains the world, a book by an American journalist and soccer fanatic that explores the intersection between soccer and globalization, in some way or other. It makes for some very entertaining chapters, the chapter on Serbian war criminal and soccer hooligan/team owner Arkan is fascinating and I also liked his account of the Celtic-Rangers rivalry in Glasgow, but some of the claims he makes are just very wide generalizations lacking subtlety and a deep understanding of the soul of the game. Plus the guy is annoyingly politically correct. In one of the chapters he follows a Nigerian player playing for Ukrainian side Karpaty Lviv, coming up with all kind of explanations why the gifted Nigerian does not break through in his Ukrainian side: racism of the team mates and the fact that the playful and inventive play of Nigerian players does not do well in a league dominated by the physical play of the robot-like Ukrainians. The fact that Julius Aghahowa is one of the star players of Ukrainean side sjakter donetsk is conveniently overlooked, as is the possibility that the guy, despite his playful and inventive soccer, just may not be good enough. The theory that African footballers cannot do well in the physical style of play of Europe, is despite all its political correctness also a racist claim repudiated by facts. I remember how one of the first African players of my favorite team, Senegalese Tew Mamadou entertained us mainly by unleashing terror on the opponent's forwards, the guy was nothing if not physical. But always with a smile.
Franklin Four is Jewish, and two of the book's chapters deal extensively with Jewishness and anti Semitism in soccer. He talks about Ajax Amsterdam as a team that proudly displays it Jewish history and tradition. He talks about how the Ajax of the seventies, spear headed by Johan Cruyff emanated a certain kind of Jewishness. Though none of the players were Jewish, they seemed to adopt Jewish culture and traditions in the way they talked and interacted. In an example of sociology gone bad, the author then speculates that this embracing of Jewish culture is out of a collective feeling of guilt on the part of Dutch society for not having protected their Jewish population during the war. Give me a break. Really. The Ajax team of the seventies was indeed a fascinating bunch of cocky, mouthy young lads that somehow marked the transition of the sixties to the seventies, from idealism to materialism. They entered the stage as iconoclasts in the tradition of the sixties, became champions of Europe and then started counting their cash to move to bigger and better.... and richer. I don't think the Dutch war history had much to do with it, and Foer really displays more his obsession with the Jewish question than a deep insight in the Dutch psyche.
And he really got on my nerves when he started his ode to Barcelona, his favorite team since....1994. Any sports team you did not support as a child you cannot claim a pashernate love for as far as I am concerned. Defeats of a team you "picked" as an adult can never be as crushing and victories as redemptive as from a team you first started following sitting on the lap of your dad. His passion for Barca somehow feels empty and without soul, because he picked a team based on a set of criteria he developed in his adulthood, while as far as I am concerned, you are assigned a team to suport in your younger years and you stick with it, and try to come up with rationalizations for why your team is worthy of your support later. It is not always easy, I sometimes cringed when fans of my favorite team, Club Bruges, start making monkey sounds at black players of the opposite team, I guess it is a bit a red neck team, but it is not a reason to turn your back on your team. This is what Four did. He picked Barca because basically all the other teams in Europe are full of racists or are in the hands of corrupt power hungry tyrants while Barcelona is the example of the club full of enlightened classy worldly liberals, the club that stood up against the Franco regime etc. Never mind that those classy fans throw pig's heads at players who had the audacity to move to Real Madrid. I like Barca too, for more or less the same reasons, but after a while his sanctimonious rant got on my nerves a bit.
Overall the book is a good read, but it does not fulfill the promise of its title. The author is a journalist and his grasp of theories of globalization is very sketchy, reducing complex theories to quoatable one liners, and his soccer knowledge comes mainly from books rather than lived experience. Anyhow, I think I left the book on the plane without reading some of the final chapters. Despite its shortcomings still an ok read for plane rides. And for some reason, rubbing the corners of the book against my cheeks gave me a pleasant sensation. I hope whoever will be in seat 25C from Brussels to Washington Dulles will enjoy it.
Vorige week speelde het Schotse Sons and Daughters in the 7th Street Entry, het bijzaaltje van First Avenue. Sons and daughters -op hun laatste album althans- hebben een beetje de nerveuze, bezeten en bevreemdende sound van vroege (pre-ballads) Nick Cave en P.J. Harvey. Ik had het album via Itunes de dag van het concert aangeschaft, en hoewel ik niet helemaal "smitten" was met hun muziek, besloot ik toch maar richting downtown te trekken en nog eens een concertje mee te pikken. Ik kwam rond 10 uur aan, telde de 8$ inkom neer en zag dat Sons and Daughters maar om half twaalf op gingen. Daar anderhalf uur in mijn ukkie staan blinken zei me niks, dus maar even de stad ingelopen en een kroeg binnengestapt waar er happy hour aan de gang was. Onder het nuttigen van een paar 2$ blue moons naar Agassi-Blake gekeken zodat ik in een geschikte stemming tegen half twaalf op post was toen de Schotten het podium betraden. Blijkbaar waren nogal wat mensen gekomen voor de support acts, want bij het begin van het optreden waren er nog hoogstens 70 aanwezigen, maar in een klein zaaltje zoals de 7th entry geeft dat niet. Het was voorwaar een fijn optreden. De zangeres met gitzwart haar en rode baljurk had charisma bij de hopen, danste alsof ze aan een elektriciteitskabel had gelikt en zong alsof ze drngend een paar demonen moest verdrijven. De bassiste had het cool van Kim Deal in haar beste dagen, en had nogal wat aanbidders. De songs klonken live even rauw, strak en aanjagend als op plaat. Great show.
Als Bush misschien niet zo veel geeft om de minder begoeden in de samenleving heeft hij dat wellicht via zijn moeder meegekregen. Barbara Bush vind namelijk dat al die mensen wiens huis weggespoeld is het nogal getroffen hebben, want ze waren toch al zo arm en nu zitten ze tenminste in een beautiful texas. Deze wijsheden verspreidde ze in een radio interview naar aanleiding van een bezoek dat zij en haar man hadden gebracht aan de Astrodome in Texas, waar vele vluchtelingen voorlopig onderdak gevonden hebben.
"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. Almost everyone I've talked to says: 'We're going to move to Houston. So many of the people here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."
Iemand in de Bush kringen zou mamaBush maar eens moeten duidelijk maken dat het ok is om de woorden "no comment" te gebruiken als ze door de media iets gevraagd wordt. Of anders moeten ze haar maar een spuitje geven, wat volgens haar eigen denkwijze eigenlijk niet eens zo's slechte oplossing zou zijn, because She was old and would have died anyway. So it would be working out very well for her.