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2008-05-19 17:03

Stuff and other stuff

Item:We have a diploma! We are now employable, in principle, in highly-educated Dutch-speaking environments! (In practice, most of the highly-educated environments speak Engleesh, but it is after all the principle that counts.) More usefully, we are thereby exempted from any hassle in applying for Dutch citizenship - it is just a question of residency now.

Item: We have a new tent! After two(2) years holidaying in a second-hand plastic tent of modest proportions, the addition of Boris van het Blad to our touring party has its replacement. (Also it started leaking in the miserable weather that graced northern Yoorp last summer.)


The new tent is a glorious cotton pyramid tent, in the traditional Dutch style, and we are very grateful to our brother-in-law for the use of it - he is now the proud owner of a caravan, which is even more traditionally Dutch.

Item: Pinksterkamp this year was in sunny Twente, with temperatures in the thirties and a strong showing from the family (two(2) caravans, two(2) tents, eight(8) adults and three(3) children).

It is in the nature of Pinksterkamp that it is weather-dependent, and with this year's weather it could hardly fail to be excellent. (Boris found it a bit on the hot side, and the bed a little too unfamiliar, but he didn't mind that much.)

Also, local heroes FC Twente chose that period to refute the hated Ajax's misguided assumption that they belong in foopball's Champions League[sic]. You would think that after years of not winning anything Ajax would have got the message, but they still haven't. (We particularly hate Ajax because they tend to swipe the best players of FC Groningen. Bah!)

Item: Zwemming with the baby.

We are, it turns out, the sort of persons who take their baby to babyzwemming. It further turns out that Dutch diploma's don't cover understanding instructions shouted in a zwemming pool, which is certainly a regrettable lapse.

Boris isn't really very convinced about it all, but he neglects to cry and that is most of what we ask for.

Item: La belle France!

After Danmark and Chermany, we are setting off to the Champagne region of France for this summer's Big Holiday. As a bonus, one pair of Duko's many aunties and uncles will be intersecting our path on their way down to Provence, so we will have another family camp.

Item: Cherman

As we understand it, our shiny new diploma means that we never have to study Dutch again if we don't feel like it, and we celebrated its arrival by digging out some Cherman pulps. Professor Zamorra of the publishing house Bastei, has, we feel, a slight edge on his stablemat, the geisterjger, if only (and let's face it it is only) because Zamorra's cover art is more likely to feature ladies whose attitude to emperilment is that it is certainly better faced without the encumbrance of clothing.

(A minor triumph of Pinksterkamp was that our seven(7)-year-old nephew was spared, to his considerable reluctance, the cover art of a Professor Zamorra volume we probably obtained in Berlin a few years ago.)

We're now reading a trilogy from the rival Keltner house of pulp - a short-lived reissue of a short-lived series starring prohibition's very own Eliot Ness, presumably published as a spoiler to Bastei's own shortlived prohibition-era krimi, Chicago.

(This is very much not the golden age of pulp fiction, and the adjective short-lived is depressingly widely applicable. Even our personal favourite Jerry Cotton Classic - reissues from the sixties but set in a woozy whiskey-soaked hat-wearing dame-chasing pulpiverse that clearly has its roots much earlier has been unable to stay the course. Bah!)

The boring doctors and nurses, or the dorps and dirndels stuff favoured by lady readers seems to be holding up better than gentlemen's adventure stories, but we do after all have some standards.)

Item: Belgium, man! Belgium!

We're going to Brussels in a week or so for the second time, nearly ten years after the first. It will be interesting to see if it lives up to our recollections - we were (as most persons apparently are not) smitten with Brussels at our first encounter. We still don't have time to do everything there is to do - and there is certainly not enough time before the heat-death of the Universe for us to consider going to the Atomium - but we should be able to make either the comics museum or whichever museum it is that has all the Magrittes.

If we're super-lucky they may even lay on a constitutional crisis for us, but even we can't remember when exactly the next falling-out over the status of BVH is scheduled.

Item: That's yer lot for now.

2008-03-27 22:22

Sneeuw ==> Kaos

The original title for this story was the mealy-mouthed "Trein en auto hebben last van sneeuw" (Trains and cars have trouble with sneeuw), but thankfully they have come to their senses and changed it to "Chaos in spits door sneeuw" ("Sneeuw causes rushhour kaos").

One unwelcome detail is that this year we were ourself driving in the sneeuw at kaos o'clock, and we can see how it causes problems. It is - and our Varied Reader will surely be reading it here first - slippery stuff.

2008-03-27 22:13

Great Internet radio feeds of our time - an occasional series

If our Varied Reader wishes - as we most certainly wish - to work to the accompaniment of Espanish-langwidge base-ball commentary, then he or she will lose no time in registering for the privilege.

We're supporting the Piratas de Campeche, given that there are no teams of Robots, Monkeys or Ninjas, although we are somewhat hampered by our almost total ignorance of Espanish, to the extent that we never know if they are winning or losing and the end always comes as a surprise.

In regular life we don't hold much of a candle for Espain or its many langwidges, but we are sufficiently a sucker for the honkbal that we're almost tempted. What holds us back is that we wouldn't listen to it if we did understand it - that's too distracting. (This is also why we no longer listen to Dutch stations at work, unless they're Belgian and there's cycling on.)

2008-03-17 21:12

Moondag review of stuff

No Dutch childhood would be complete without a subscription to Donald Duck Weekblad (like a vekobladet, only in the local dialect of Zwedish).

In the interest of, amongst other things, science we have been previewing this magazine on behalf of little Boris van 't Blad. It's not that bad, and the best of it is that it is short enough for even the shortest of attention spans.

We vaguely remember that there is a world of grown-up pursuits and interests, and we have misty recollections of taking part in it ourself, but lately if we're not at work we're at home, and if we're at home we're preoccupied with the Boris.

We're looking forward to reading a grown-up book eventually, and when we do we'll be sure to let our Varied Reader know.

2008-03-17 20:56

Moondag review of stuff

De Smurfen - Doktersmurf

The smurfs are fifty(50) years old this year, and the (prominent national chain of) Albert Heijn zupermarkts celebrated with various tie-in promotions, including old-fashioned plastic smurfs.

These were both widely agreed to be Not As Good as the old rubber smurfs of the thirty(30)-something childhoods and even more widely sought, collected, swapped and generally coveted.

(We got almost a full set, even though baby stuff didn't count towards the promotion.)

Additionally, the zupermarkts had some cheap editions of smurf comic albums, dont the above, and it is really fairly OK. It is - and it really is - also partly a satire on the ways in which medical authority is legitimised, with particular attention to "alternative" medicine, and it is also a fun story.

2008-03-17 20:43

Moonday Review of Stuff

(Sorry to appear on an actual Moondag, but it's not like we can afford to be fussy about material or timing these days.)



We don't really know the Franco-Belgian comic tradition all that well, apart from Asterix, which we have always loved, but we get along well as a latecomer with Lucky Luke and even the Smurfs, as well as adolescent thrillery stuff.

But there is one thing we didn't get as a child and have continued not to get as the decades passed, and that something is Tintin. What, we ask or enquire, is supposed to be the point of Tintin?

His adventures appear to be - bearing in mind that we generally only read one a decade - completely gormless. The thrills are not thrilling, the jokes are not at all funny, the plots are tooth-grindingly contrived and the alleged hero lacks all forms of charm known to mankind. Nothing is good or even adequate about them, in our considered opinion.

Of course, we feel more or less the same about the wretched Mouse, who continues to deface the publications properly concerned with Donald Duck, and it belatedly occurs to us that they have a certain grating can-do chirpiness and their stories contain a wearing reliance on deuses and machinas.

But everyone, quite properly, loathes and detests the Mouse so why does Tintin get cut so much slack?

2008-03-17 20:39

Fascinating accounts of child cognitive development

Little Boris van 't Blad - for it is he! - has decided that this talking thing sounds like an excellent game and he wishes to play too.

Now all he needs is some words or, when singing, a sense of pitch or rhythm. Currently, these are all things he lacks, although we cannot fault his enthusiasm.

2008-03-02 11:42

No better than we ought to be

It is Amin Malouf, who has concluded his ponderings on behalf of the European Commission with the theory that everyone in the EU "should" adopt a foreign langwidge (excluding, naturally, the Silly Engleesh).

De adoptietaal moet intensief geleerd en vloeiend gesproken worden, en degene die de taal geadopteerd heeft, verplicht zich ook om de cultuur en geschiedenis te leren van de gemeenschap die de taal gebruikt.

The adopted langwidge must be "intensively studied and fluently sproken, and he or she who has adopted the langwidge is obliged to also study the culture and history of the community using the language.

The NRC's commentators - Marc van Oostendorp and Gertjan Postma - observe with justice that this is more than usually preposterous, and propose instead a more moderate programme, in which persons instead seek to acquire a passive knowledge of one or (preferably more) EU langwidge or langwidges.

Which is to say, having rejected wishing for a magical flying pony as impracticle they urge the restrained wish for just an ordinary thoroughbred instead.

We do not currently have any urgent desire to study Maltese, Bulgerian or Latvian, we freely admit, but if we did we would find our desires difficult to gratify, even here in a university city. And to achieve the goal of reading a newspaper, mentioned in the article, is not in fact that straightforward, if the newspaper is to be worth reading. (And even then, it is a surprisingly terrible way to keep up with current events of a foreign country, since they will assume a level of background knowlege and ambient wonkishness you are likely to lack, and unlikely to be able to aquire conveniently.)

But of course all this is destined to go the way of all such lofty "ought"s, and good riddance.

2008-01-09 22:15

When a Boris is born

When it becomes time for a Dutch female to bear her young she retreats into the woods for the occasion, since the fresh air is considered exceptionally healthful. (A mountain top is particularly recommended, but circumstances rarely permit.)

The proceedings are attended by twelve elderly men in the traditional dress of seventeenth-century Calvinists, but their involvement is restricted to stern disapproval of any untoward utterances on behalf of the mother.

The mother then makes her way home barefoot, and is then treated to a cup of lukewarm tea (and, if the family has been practising Catholicism for at least three(3) generations, a slice of stale white bread with dripping).

The father, meanwhile, negociates the formidable labyrinth of the local bureaucracy in an attempt - whose success is by no means guaranteed - to register the infant as a new citizen. This typically involves defeating an pack of wild boar armed only with a tulip bulb, although there are regional variations in the protocol. (The practice of inviting mothers-in-law armed with crossbows is thankfully now obsolete: good arrows are probitively expensive these days.)

Once home, a flottila of bossy matrons is dispatched to contradict the new parents about everything from interior decoration to their political and religious affiliations, and the baby is locked in a cupboard until it learns how to conduct itself in polite society.

Which is to say that our son and heir, little Boris von Bladet, is finally arrived in this world, and we are absurdly thrilled about that. Mother and baby are both home and doing well, after a precautionary overnighting in the kraamhotel (a room inside a hospital thoughtfully stripped of everything that might make it more like a hospital than not, up to and including doctors and anaesthetics, and in this we kid you not).

PS: Not everything we say about the habits and customs of the Dutch is exact in every particular. Or even in spirit - everyone has in fact been exceptonally competent and agreeable, not least the Countess.

PPS: The entire proceedings were and continue to be conducted in Dutch, including by ourself. We didn't do any of the difficult bits, though. (Unless you count the attempt to extract ointments from the apothek, but they deserve a post of their own.)

2008-01-06 18:40

New Year - No News

1. Still waiting for Boris

So Boris is late, which is to say that s/he is unborn. Uncooperative little thing, s/he is! In a little over a week, measures will be taken, if still needed. It is of course the Countess we feel sorry for - she is more than a little fed up with the situation.

2. Janne the Manne!

After an unremarkable season last year, he has once again triumphed in the Quadrohopp, and hoorah for that!

3. The sneeuwchaos is over, in Norway

Kaoset over p Srlandet

4. A notebook

We found an old notebook, recently, and a year on from the last entry, most of the to-do list still applied.

We're getting better at Dutch, of course: last year we couldn't understand any of the tradition End of Year cabaret year overview, this year we could understand almost all of it (modulo some injokes), albeit with subtitles.

And we've made some progress with Cherman too, but learning langwidges is a slow process.

5. New hobby!

We've started studying the art of cartooning. Samples won't be along for some time, though. In these hyperconnected days of Ultimate Gadgeteering it's reassuring that pencil and paper can still be so much fun (which is not to say that we're not curious about graphics tablets).

6. Becoming a clich

Once upon a time, Nederland was divided into social groups (AKA pillars, or zuilen), which operated in somewhat parallel. Notably, they each ran (from the days of radio onward) their own broadcasting corporations, which still exist and share out time across the three(3) public channels.

And until fairly recently, their membership was established by subscription to each of their separate TV guides.

We get the VPRO TV guide , and it is disturbing just how closely we fit the profile of VPRO persons. (VPRO was once the independently-minded protestants, but now it is largely just the most lah-di-dah public broadcaster.)

We watch their programs, obviously, (and without even trying) but we also take their approach to holidays (camping rather than package trips), books and films (arty by preference) and economics, having as we do well over the local median income.

7. Christmas dinner

It's become a FAQ: What do the Dutch have for Christmas dinner?

The answer is of course "Whatever they like", albeit with an emphasis on fancypants stuff - game (venison, boar, various kinds of gamebird) are very popular, but by no means compulsory. Even turkey is making inroads, sadly.

8. New Year

We had our very own fireworks, for the first time ever.

Shortly before midnight it misted up horribly for that authentic WWI trench warfare atmostphere, and all the expensive fireworks knalled unseen in the foggy distances. Our cheap rockets, on the other hand, were splendid.

9. Belgium

According to our instruments, Belgium is still with us, and Guy Verhofstadt is still prime minister. W00t!

10. Parental leave - we will has it.

And when we do, we'll blog more. That's a resolution!

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