July 26th, 2002

emu

life update

I realise that my entries are getting a bit boring lately. The thing is, all I do is watch the Tour de France, sit on the computer and read some books. For the last three weeks the cycling race has taken over my life, it is a great way to spend my school holidays. I've got several book reports lining up, though I can't be bothered to write more than one a day. They can wait. However, it'll be a while, because from next week on, I won't be posting much at all. I try to combine my duty with pleasure. I have to go to Spain, to visit some students on their work placement. The deal is simple. I sacrifice part of my holiday, school has to pay for the flight and lodging (need to arrange something soon...). On Wednesday I'll fly to Tenerife, one visit, a few days of work and hopefully some time off to do a bit of sightseeing. Then the next Monday I'll continue to Torremolinos, where that pattern will repeat itself. After that, I planned nearly a week of, in which I plan to do some sightseeing in the south of Spain. I haven't got a clue where I'll go yet, but I'm sure I can find a nice place to visit. Sevilla, Granada and Gibraltar do spring to mind. Back mid-august, a few days later school starts again and holiday time is over. Time flies when you're having fun.
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emu

Concert memories (9) Mano Negra, Oosterpoort Groningen, 13 Feb 1990

Concert memories (9) Mano Negra, Oosterpoort Groningen, 13 Feb 1990

I had to admit that I had never heard of the band, when I sat on the train to Groningen. However, as a student you take the opportunity for a night out, I always preferred a concert to a discotheque. According to the friends who told me to come, they had a song out that was due to become a hit: King Kong five. They were French, in the early nineties not exactly a country you'd expect a good band to come from.

The entrance was cheap, we were early, sat on the seats of the small hall (in the big one there was some classical music) and waited for the band to start. No opening act, we were just waiting. A row in front of us, we saw some students I knew from my hometown, the world is small.

The band came on stage, I was amazed by the number of people playing or filling some role. The band burst out and the crowd is immediately affected. I had never heard something like this before. Within a couple of songs, nobody was sitting down anymore, even though this was a theatre, not a concert hall, in front of the first row of seats a small crowd soon was dancing and pogoing as if their life depended on it. Describing the music is impossible. At some point they seemed a normal rock band, then the next song started of like a country song, just by the time the surprise was over they switched to a Latin folk song. Within the first hour, several other styles came past. Another problem we faced was the lyrics. There were English songs, French as well, as one would expect, though Spanish seemed to come back a few times in-between as well. Even Arabic wasn't avoided. Basically all backgrounds from all band members were used in their music. One thing was clear though: this band was made to play live.

Their semi-hit came by and I had to admit I had heard the song on the radio at some point, I'm sure plenty of people had, because we were all listening to the beat of the salsa, buzzing in our heads..
Not a single second this band turned out to be boring, not one second the effort became less. A dozen or so were on stage, they were giving it their best, as if there was no tomorrow. It was impossible to sit and watch. You would have to do a real effort to ever catch me on the dance floor, but with this music, it was difficult to avoid moving. Soon I was standing on the benches, soaking up their music.

The first stage diver appeared. This was something new then, at least up north where we were, he crawled on to the stage, jumped a few times, did some moves, similar to the eighties new wavers, who always seemed to be looking for some lost coins on the dance floor, then moved towards the edge of the stage and jumped back into the mass that was heaving there. A few times, he managed to do this, until the end of the set. He just made it back on the stage, when the last song stopped and he stood next to singer Manu Chao. Manu looked at him, he just hugged Manu and decided it was time to jump back into the crowd. As the music had stopped, they suddenly had full attention for him and split like the Dead Sea (or was it the Red Sea?) did for Moses in the old days. He pretended to do a few more moves and tried again on the other side of the stage. The same effect. In the end, he just had to step of the stage again, avoiding looking at all the others who were laughing in his face.

Mano Negra came back to do some encores and soon enough sweat was floating everywhere again. What a great band, what a great show.
emu

Mart Smeets - Dertig (02-025)

Mart Smeets - Dertig (02-025)

Smeets is always producing new books. This time he looks back on thirty years of Tour de France. This year is the last time he is reporting from the Tour, a good moment to look back over his shoulder and see what has happened in 30 years as a journalist in the biggest sporting event every summer.

Luckily, he does not choose for the yearly approach. I do not like reading books that just sum up what happened over a period. They are good to put on the shelves, have a flip through and then pick up again 12 years later when you try to find an answer to a trivia question. This book is nothing like that. He describes the differences between the media circus from now in comparison to the first time he went, early seventies. He dedicates a whole chapter to Jean Nelissen, the best cycling journalist this country has ever seen, a walking encyclopaedia, a respected colleague therefore. He also describes the different styles of the journalists from other countries. Every year again they sit on the press stand near the finish line, like chickens in a breeding factory, reporting about the madness that is called the Tour. His point of view on doping gets fairly clear. As a journalist, you've got to talk about it, but if you're not 100% sure, it is easier to not say anything. So, it is clear that he knows much more than he will ever talk about, but can't prove it all, therefore prefers to stay out of trouble. Trouble that was plenty a couple of years ago with soigneurs caught with all kind of forbidden products, cyclists getting arrested, team managers ending up in court. But whatever happens, the Tour goes on. That could be the simple conclusion of this book. Emotionally he talks about Casartelli's death, about Armstrong's disease. Angrily he recalls incidents where sportsmen lied in his face, just because they were in front of a camera. Ten minutes earlier, they had told him the truth, now the truth seemed to be completely different. The good things in life get mentioned a few times throughout the book, we know he is no saint, plenty of booze and women around.

His style really suits the reader, it is difficult to put the book down, and his inside information make it a book worth reading. And whatever happens, even should he not be there anymore next year, as announced, the Tour de France will go on.
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emu

Cees Nooteboom - Philip en de anderen (02-026)

Cees Nooteboom - Philip en de anderen (02-026)

His first novel. I have read more of his work, but I'm still not convinced. The thing is, he is translated in all kind of different languages, and critics all over the world praise his work. In an important German television show about books, the best-known German critic took him as an example for the whole German literature. They can't all be wrong, can they? I'm not sure. He does write a lot of travel literature, not exactly out of my framework I'd say, but somehow we never hit it off yet.

Same with this book. The young Philip starts on a search for a Chinese girl he might have seen in a glimpse, might have imagined as well. Good start in my opinion, it gives the author plenty of angles on a good story. Until halfway, I was really sucked into the book, the story went well. But soon enough he falls back on all kind of deep stuff, I don't know if I just don't get it (I could be not clever enough), if it is too philosophical for me, or if it is just crap. At the moment, I tend to think of the last conclusion, but I'm sure somebody can convince me otherwise. In the end, he does find her. Or does he?
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