Monday, March 24, 2003

Late Night Recovery

It's nearly one in the morning here in Voorshoven, Belgium, and, in spite of my intention and determination to get some blogging done this morning, afternoon, or early evening, I'm still looking at a week's worth of posts not my own. Yes, it's nearly one in the morning here in one of Flanders' many fields, and Katrien is none too shy about letting me know the time for writing should soon be replaced by sleeping. ["I think and communicate better later at night, dear," I say. "No, it only seems that way because nobody else is awake to listen to you," she dutifully replies.] Apologies in advance if this post becomes weird.

First of all, thanks to my guest bloggers. If you've not yet read the one-shot post about "Ana," I recommend that you do so immediately. And if you love mysteriously allusive, slightly sneering sports writing, Silentio is the place for you. Follow the rest of the tournament here, as one basketball-obsessed man seeks to discover how to juggle two jobs, a new girlfriend, a black-and-white television, and the NCAA tournament. Round two updates will be posted shortly -- I think.

As for me. Well, the past week has been a whirlwind. A couple of unrequested notes and observations regarding my week:

  • I've almost finalised everything for the academic day conference I'm hosting in a couple of weeks -- "Characterising Religion: Herman Melville & Religion," if you're curious of the title and topic. The only thing now, I suppose, is making sure I have a paper of my own to read!

  • I packed up my bags and flew back to Belgium for a couple of weeks. Nothing new here, since I do this about once a month; but, it always takes at least a couple of days to reestablish myself. Belgium is, by and large, as I left it. Ah, but not everything. A bit of history is needed for me to continue: Brussels is not my favorite city in the world. It's not even in the top ten. In fact, it took me about four or five months to really warm up to it at all. Much of this had to do with my affection for Leuven, where I spent many a spring and summer day with Katrien, and the incredible contrast between the cities; but perhaps even more has to do with the fact that Katrien's been robbed in Brussels a couple of times, I've stepped in one too many piles of dog poo, and a gentleman once very nearly peed on my shoes while I was waiting for a tram. Less significantly, I've been proposited by some of the ugliest prostitutes I've ever seen, and I believe I've slept, due to one of the aforementioned robberies, in one of the seedier B&Bs some of the prostitutes undoubtedly go about their business. But alas, the city, to some extent anyway, won me over. How? Westmalle Triple and really bad pop music. Most of my American readers can figure out the latter, but might not know that the former is an extraordinarily good Belgian Trappist ale that I try to consume on a bacchanalian level, when afforded the opportunity (it's not as good, incidentally, as Westvleteren, but far more accessible in the city's cafes). Anyway, I tell you this only to say that on Tuesday evening, upon my arrival to Brussels, I discovered that my favorite Irish pub -- which, when it's not showing truly awful Premiership football that I inexplicably know a lot about, is playing exquisitely awful pop music that I cannot help but sing along to (you've not lived, my friends, until you've heard me singing to the classics of Billy Ocean and/or Lionel Richie) -- was no longer serving Westmalle Triple! A quiet haze fell over my eyes as the downy-skinned, dumb-eyed waitress told me the news: "We stopped selling Westmalle." Those fateful words were repeated on Wednesday evening, when Katrien and I stopped by to confirm the tragic news. I weep a tear even now as I type them. You Belgian readers out there, particularly those in the Brussels-area (I know there's at least one of you out there), do you have any suggestions for a good replacement -- preferably one in the De Brouckere area? I'm going back to Glasgow at the beginning of April, but will return five days later for the rest of the month. Help!!

  • Since I'm not drinking too much, I'm watching lots of movies. Katrien tells me I watched a lot before, and blames the alcohol on my fading lucidity when it comes to this matter. No matter. Since arriving, I've watched, either on the big screen or at home, The Hours, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Untouchables, Starship Troopers, Three Kings, and The Pianist. Of these I will say but two things: Whoo-Hoo, for Adrian Brody at the Oscars; boo-hoo, for Julianne Moore.

  • When I wasn't watching movies, I was walking through the evening streets of Maaseik, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather, and trying to remember why in the world I (a) watched all those movies, and (b) where I left the British Library's copy of Friedrich Schlegel's Dialogue on Poetry. For any readers who happened to be at Glasgow-Prestwick airport last Tuesday, please, if you should find it near the slot machine I was sitting, please return it to the helpful staff of RyanAir.

  • Oh, and yes, how could I forget, I sought an escape (only to find this is impossible) from the "military action" in Iraq. I will not promise to not blog about the war in the coming days, weeks, months, etc.; but I will hold off for now. In the meantime, check out:

    ** The Agonist for, bar none, the best minute-by-minute (no exaggeration!) coverage, from sources all over the world;

    ** Nate Thayer for a harrowing first-hand piece about journalistic life in Baghdad at the moment;

    ** Oh, and don't forget about periodic updates updates on the economic boom this war is bringing you and me alike;

    ** And lastly, a positively dire forecast for one proposed plan for the seige of Baghdad.

Yikes! It's nearly two. Sorry about the autobiographical posts. I don't do those too often, I don't think. I'll try to return to reclusive anonymity tomorrow after a bit of sleep.