Saturday, January 29, 2022

WHAT'S DONE IS DONE (Macbeth III,2,12)

Ukraine is a Freudian paradox. Seldom was there more talk about a country stuck in collective indifference. This spade is just a spade, a victim of historical mismanagement, unloved by all and claimed by one unsuitable suitor. The crisis led to the involvement of too many while generating the emotions of too few. 

Kiev suffers from being historically mortaged and from having been unable to shed the contamination of the Soviet years. There are many legitmate links with Russia but it is the Soviet embrace which sticks. The crocodile tears or the German hemets sent in solidarity with a beleagered country cannot hide the basic fact that the talks and drama sound hollow. Public opinion in the West is more "touched" by the goings on in Kabul than by the travesty on this far eastern border. 

The Biden Administration and most Europeans are more annoyed than really preocupied. In reality, President Putin holds all the cards, knowing he has the gas and is cognizant of the Europeans' lack of empathy. The Helsinki commitments are burried next to many other historical skeletons.  Putin's many transgressions rest in peace. The Crimea ranks already in the category of misdemeanors. It is doubtful that Russia would risk direct military unpleasant turbulence instead of leaving Ukraine commuting into a Rump failed state, on an improved Belarus model. 

Mr. Stoltenberg's NATO utterances are unconvincing. Probably President Biden's slip of the tongue was more indicative of the real thinking in Washington than of an age-related lapse. Probably the Americans are too happy to let the Normandy formula (Russia, Ukraine, France, Germany) run its course, hoping that the Europeans come up with a face-saving compromise wherein Ukraine might be lured into the well-known prefered former Soviet Filandisation anesthesia, an existence in between brackets.  Guilty "understandings" go a long stretch.

Policy without any emotion becomes unsustainable. Public opinion in the West doesn't care as long as the roads to the French Riviera remain open and energy abounds. So much for democracy and the rule of law. Putin should learn from China's mercy killing of Hong Kong. That is finesse. Nobody is perfect.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022


Ricky Gervais has created a chamber music-like sitcom, surprising some who know him from his more agressive tirades (directed at Hollywood).

Here in few vignettes, occupied by ordinary people, he allows us to enter both men and women's mellow, melancholic moodswings. The causes are as banal as the effects and therefore both feel right. These smallish stories  provide for an existential pleasure that doesn't need to overwhelm to move us. 

Seldom was the ordinary made so comforting.

Monday, January 24, 2022


Le 23 Janvier des miliers de manifestants ont défilé à Bruxelles pour exprimer leur opposition aux mesures sanitaires prises par les gouvernements pour endiguer la pandémie.

C'était leur droit. Malheureusement les casseurs, au rendez-vous, sont intervenus.

Plusieures personnes ont été arretées. Suggestion : Qu'elles soient obligées à passer un mois dans les services hospitaliers ou sont soignés les patients Covid. Pareil stage pourrait contribuer à ouvrir les yeux, les coeurs et l'intelligence.


Ukraine, in the West, has a lot of followers and few suitors. Like anyone or anything that came too close to Moscow, it is cursed. Its citizens pay the price for years of structural corruption and unfortunate geography. That joint journey in history, too close to Moscow, left Ukraine with a perverse chip on the shoulder .

All these ingredients combined are catnip for Putin. He knows what he wants.  His playing for time shouldn't hide the harsh reality. Ukraine will only be what he allows it to be. He will not be deterred by diplomatic finesse or sanctions. He knows too well that Kiev remains largely an unwelcome intrusion in the current, mostly economic, US and EU preoccupations

Most Ukranians are opposed to Russia. They would prefer to be considered part of the EU and NATO. Moscow has already made certain that such an outcome is, once and for all, off the table. The US is sending sophisticated weaponry and is starting to make stronger statements, which are supposed to rectify President Biden's soliloqui last week.  Nothing transpired after the Blinken/Lavrov meeting in Geneva. The Russian side continues to demand Washington's written reply regarding Ukraine's future. The trap is laid but the Americans are smart enough to forego the bait.

Former formulas (Normandy format, Minsk, summitry) all failed. The energy crisis plays further into Putin's hands. The "hard" noise coming out of London and Berlin is yet another cause for derision for Moscow. 

Sanctions will certainly hurt and could well make Russia a pariah in the international monetary and financial systems. Count on the Chinese to alleviate the inconvenience.

The Russian federation remains a poor country. It compensates the lack of quality by an overdose of quantity in all forms. The West might look like a pathetic observer but the Russians must be incredulous when confronted with the cost of an ambition in a country where the GDP doesn't even come close to that of Italy. 

In the end, Putin might find the considered overdrive too costly after all. He may prefer an inglorious status quo to an incertain prospect whivh might sink his economy and his standing. The Ukranians would fight after all...and only that is certain. It is doubtful that Putin wants the world to remember other past Soviet "incursions" in Budapest and Prague.



Iedereen is nu stilaan vertrouwd met de allergie aan alles wat Belgisch klinkt in de psyche van Homans, Bourgeois &  Co. Binnen de Vlaamse regering wordt daarom  gewerkt aan een Vlaamse "Niebelungen historiek".

Vlaamse media beginnen nu de Belgische moeilijkheid te omzeilen door te refereren naar "ons land". Er wordt gescgreven over Frankrijk of de Verenigde Staten, maar Belgie wordt dan plotseling her-uitgevonden als "ons land". De voetbal is voorlopig nog vrijgesteld van deze spraak-Anschluss. Cyclo-cross is totaal ingepalmd door bodem, modder en leeuwenvlaggen.

Wat gaat gebeuren met het nieuw Antwerps Museum is een andere klus. De allergie aan "belgisch" zal voorzeker leiden tot de meest onwaarschijnlijke referenties. Vele kunstenaars hebben nu al laten weten niet gevonden te zijn voor een  Heimat verkaveling.

Jan Jambon is de belichaming van kultuur op zijn Vlaams, waarin  de groene gordel en de zangfeesten overheersen . Hij kan daarbij rekenen op de steun van de vendelzwaaiers van Vlaams belang. 

 Tuymans en Delvoye o.a. moeten er het hunne over denken.

Sunday, January 16, 2022


Seldom has so much been said about a country the West knows so little about.

Historically Russia did everything to erase Ukraine's identity, renaming it Little Russia, enforcing the Orthodox church and considering Kiev as an ancient Russian city.  Still on December 1, 1991, 91% of Ukranians, including the majority of the Russian minority, voted in a referendum for independence.

They did not realize that their "independence" was mortgaged from the start. Their room for manoeuvre was left in limbo. Putin never got over the demise of the Soviet Union, and the West chose not to push the advantage it had then. 

Ukraine became some ersatz of a Sudetenland in Russia's political games, Now the permanent crisis arrives at an artificial breaking point. It is no longer that important to guess what Moscow will do, since it has already achieved most of its goals. Ukraine will neither be a NATO or EU member.  It lost the Krim. The northern border is just a Russian protectorat. The EU has its hands full and its pockets empty. The Americans probably care more about Tigrae than about Kiev. 

It sounds cynical but most things that are Russia related are hard to sell. Even the Chinese do better in understanding imagery. Ukraine pays the price of being for too long obliged to cavort with the Russian bear. This befell others in similar historical situations, but none came as close, to be considered part of the Russian psyche.

Here again the terminal villain is Trump. He considered Ukraine as, yet again, just a means to arrive at a selfish purpose, while sending his minions to Kiev to find dirt on the son of now President Biden. He would never have lifted a finger to embarass Putin, and would have been too willing to send Ukraine to the scaffold in return for whatever blackmail material the Kremlin might have about his conduct.

It is doubtful that Russia will invade Ukraine. The sanctions would be real and hurting. The blame would be almost universal.  Putin has no desire to end up in a St. Helena of his own making. He enjoys a nibble but is enough of a health freak not to risk indigestion.

The world gets more cynical by the day and in the prelude of the 2024 US presidential elections, these years belong to the sociopaths.

Saturday, January 15, 2022


Emily in Paris fait craquer les télé les producteurs. Le scénario, fort mince, met en scène et en Seine, le personnage d'un chaperon rouge américain qui dompte les méchants Parisiens. Les images de Paris (sans banlieue) sont extraordinaires. Il fait toujours beau, les terrasses sont irrésistibles et personne n'est vraiment stressé. Dans ce théatre d'Epinal, les hommes sont sexy, les femmes égales à leur réputation et les Américains Américains genre Disney.

La garde-robe d'Emily &  Co. défie le bon sens et épisodiquement l'insupportable, mais ça passe. La méchante Sylvie, genre Parisienne rencontrée dans l'immobilier, sauve la mise. Curieusement tous ces personnages, mis ensemble, sont en fin de compte aussi irréels que sympas. Paris est sublime comme en réalité elle ne l'est pas. Tout le monde qui y a vécu connait trop son état d'àme, qui frise une hystérie permanente, pour se laisser piéger par cette démonstration eau de rose.

Le montage fabriqué ne saurait évidemment occulter l'aspect vraiment enchanteur d'une ville qui reste surtout et malgré tout magnifique. Nul n'avait besoin d'Emiliy pour le savoir.

Aucune ville en Europe ne pourrait se prèter à ce type d'atmosphère , si ce n'est Rome, et encore...Figurez-Vous Emily arrivant gare du Midi à Bruxelles, se cassant les talons sur les pavés du Sablon ou cherchant le tunnel Annie Cordy ? C'est trop cruel.

Pendant ce temps-là les réalisateurs d'Emily sont déjà sous pression pour trouver de quoi remplir deux nouvelles saisons....comme quoi l'exagération du superficiel est rentable.

Friday, January 7, 2022


Most people are familiar with Hockney's work which has been on view everywhere. The frisson of the bigger Splash period is a given in the contemporary arts lexicon.

The show in Beaux Arts suffers from the well-known Brussels ailments.

Despite the efforts from Paul Dujardin, Beaux Arts is a sad place, aged, unpleasant and user/visitor unfriendly. Nevertheless, Horta's virtuosity in this play of volumes and overlapping levels was again rediscovered. Unfortunately, the circus-like programation Rue de la Régence is vulgar and superfluous. The proximity of the new hideous Fortis building is totally unacceptable. For some who had hopes that "brutalism" in Brussels was a thing of the past, this wake-up call must be a slap in the face. Fortis looks like a whale ready to swallow Beaux Arts.

The Hockney exhibition should be a luminous affair, a hint of southern California but, alas, the skies, light and pools, the alluring boys and ambiguities are swallowed by the cavernous environment made for still lives from another age. The gloom outside invades the space inside and visitors walk aimlessly through a funeral home which offsets the pleasure one remembers from previous shows in Paris, London or New York.

Other venues in Brussels suffer from the same mix, wherein lack of money, rule of politics and absent sponsors only aggravate a feeling of dereliction. The Palais de Justice saga and Brussel's decay are emblematic of the urban clogged arteries. Some will answer that the Beer Museum and the Cat Museum are on the way....quod demonstrandum est.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022


Professor Mark Elchardus schreef een opmerkelijk boek. "Reset" is ambitieus en treffend geargumenteerd. Het ontbreekt wel opnieuw de angelsaksische "knack" voor de formule of boutade die worden afgevuurd en zonder de welke de thesis minder boeit. Fukuyama, Bloom, Hutchinson of Nye o.a. wisten genoeg dat wat niet "onderhoudend" is de verdiende relevantie dreigt te verliezen. Maar de Vlaming is nu eenmaal zwaar op de hand.

Dit boek heeft ook een soort perverse nasmaak. De dominerende gemeenschap component daarin en de frontale aanval op "WOKE" kunnen misbruikt worden in een hybriede opvolging van Trumpisme . De clown die een natie runde (Stijn De Paepe) is niet van het toneel verdwenen, integendeel. Zijn demagogie blijft naleven. Veel van zijn meest bizare uitlatingen vormen nu het gedachtengoed van (terecht) gefrustreerde individuen die zich bedrogen voelen in de cultuur-, migratie, identiteit- en vaccinatie loopgraven conflicten. 

Professor  Elchardus pleit voor een herwaardering van de gemeenschap versus de Woke stroming in het algemeen en de liberale trends in het bijzonder. Het is foutief dit te willen amalgameren met Belgische toestanden, alhoewel Brussel daarin duidelijk  een referentie is. Het slaat meer op de verdenking die trouwens in vele democratien bestaat en waarin aan latente frustratie een hoofdrol wordt toebedeeld. 

Toegegeven, de meer individualistiche richting gaat niet vrij uit want zij draagt een grote verantwoordelijkheid in de afdwaling van oorspronkelijk aanbevelenswaardige doeleinden van EU. Ook hier mogen  de zonden van vroeger en de freelancers in het Oosten niet worden gemanipuleerd voor een afrekening zonder verdediging.

Op 6 januari verjaart Trump's putch van 2021. De beelden, de slogans, de voorafgaande opwarming spreken voor zichzelf. Het is  onrechtvaardig alle beeldenstormers  te beschouwen als louter plebs. Er bestaat inderdaad een heimelijke Kulturkampf  tussen stad en platteland, tussen agnostisme en geloof, tussen liberalime en populisme. De oplossing ligt mider in de overwinning van een kamp op het andere dan in het verwijderen van de ballast die elke vorm van toenadering en begrip met de dag moeilijker maakt. De Westerse maatschappij is aan een vernieuwing toe. Het betonneren van opvattingen als vooropgesteld in "Reset" is riskant en kan worden misbruikt voor een gedachtengoed die geen vrijsprak verdient.