Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Top Ten European Songs

In another of my completely subjective bimonthly surveys for e!Sharp magazine, I list the Top Ten European Pop Songs:

Top Ten European Pop Songs

By Craig Winneker

1. Imagine
John Lennon
Here we go again with another sure-fire argument-starter. Europe has a long and varied tradition of popular music going all the way back to the Middle Ages, when troubadours in tights roamed the landscape singing of chivalric deeds. But enough about Iron Maiden – we’re here to talk about the greatest pop songs the continent has produced.

Continent, you ask? Well, it’s true that by European pop songs, I mostly mean British, since the continent itself just doesn’t seem to really get what makes a good pop song. Sure, there is an occasionally worthy hit from Spain or Germany or France (usually it’s a novelty number), but most of the classics originate a few miles off shore. Fighting words? You’ll find me at the bar, humming Serge Gainsbourg.

So what is Europe’s greatest popular song? Well, I start off immediately with controversy, because even though I consider the Beatles the greatest pop group of all time, I think it would be wrong to pick one or even a handful of their songs for this list. It just isn’t fair to the rest of the genre. So I’ll give them their due by picking the best song ever written by one of their individual members. John Lennon once called “Imagine” an “anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic” song, and it’s true that it is naive in the way that anything utopian is. But it still manages to be a superb pop-song, heartfelt and pure, melodic and catchy.

Rolling Stone magazine called “Imagine” the third greatest song of all-time (but it should be noted that their first two choices were a song with the words Rolling Stone in the title and a song by a band called the Rolling Stones). “Imagine” is a singular piece of music that manages to transcend the pop chart or the passing fad. Here’s hoping it will never turn up in an iPod advert.

2. Anarchy in the UK
The Sex Pistols
Sometimes referred to as the first punk song (though the Ramones had released “Blitzkrieg Bop” a year before, and the MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams” was in 1969, etc.), this classic nevertheless put punk on the map in Europe and around the world when it hit the charts in November 1976. The Pistols were terrible musicians but masters of satire and attitude; plus, they managed to show up for more gigs than Babyshambles.

With “Anarchy in the UK”, they didn’t so much as incite violence as strike and outrageous pose and crack a joke or two: “Your future dream is a shopping scheme”, and so on. It’s ironic now to consider that the standard-bearers for the punk movement were actually entirely a marketing creation. Some things never change.

3. 99 Luftballons
Released in 1983, this New Wave wonder reached the top of the charts in West Germany and in the UK. It also fared well in the US, in both English and German versions, thanks in part to a video featuring sultry Nena and her bottle-black hair in the halcyon early days of MTV. The song’s story line, about a nuclear war triggered when the military overreacts to a release of balloons, was all-too-timely; when it was released, the US was deploying Pershing missiles in West Germany and Europeans feared the breakout of nuclear war. Back then it had ominous political resonance; now we can be (mostly) thankful it’s just a sure-fire happy-hour sing-a-long.

4. One
An incredibly beautiful song from what is probably U2’s finest record, “Achtung Baby”, this song is a fan favourite that consistently makes lists of the best songs of all time. U2 legend has it that the band were on the verge of breaking up when they wrote it, but that discovering its gorgeous melody gave them a new sense of optimism. The song’s heart-wrenching lyrics have been interpreted in many ways –a lovers’ lament; Bono’s troubled relationship with his father; even an allusion to German reunification (the song was recorded in Berlin). Cover versions by Johnny Cash and Mary J. Blige are as memorable as the original.

5. My Generation
The Who
Roger Daltrey, at age 62, is still singing what must be Pete Townshend’s most memorable lyric: “Hope I die before I get old.” Now it can be served up with lashings of irony along with Townshend’s still ear-splitting guitar riffs. But when it first came out in 1965 “My Generation” was serious business, an expression of youth anger and frustration at boring old Britain. Daltrey’s distinctive stuttering on some of the words was meant to evoke a teenager on speed, but there was another reason for the unusual effect: In 1965, singing “Why dontcha all f-f-f...” was the only way to say the F-word – or at least imply it – and still get played on the Beeb.

6. Bohemian Rhapsody
Frequently voted in British and other European polls as the greatest pop song of all time. Well, maybe. But it’s certainly the most outlandish and, at times, irresistibly catchy. Plus, it has made “scaramouch” a household word. Combining elements of opera, metal, and soppy ballad, the song is five minutes and 55 seconds of pure bliss, courtesy of Queen’s legendary frontman, Freddie Mercury, and a couple hundred overdubbed backing vocals. An Indian Parsi born in Zanzibar, Mercury showed just how far a precocious colonial homosexual could go in Britain – all the way to the top – before his tragic death from AIDS in 1991.

7. Dancing Queen
Yes, you could make a case for “Waterloo,” which won the Eurovision Song Contest (one of the few times a song with any staying power has taken the top prize) and catapulted these Swedes to international stardom. But “Dancing Queen” is the better song by far, a pocket pop symphony worthy of Brian Wilson or Phil Spector. Released in the summer of 1976, it was soon topping the charts all over the world, and is the only one of ABBA’s many hits to be included in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. When you’re on the dance floor, you can’t resist it..

8. Boys (Summertime Love)
Well, we had to pick one example of the disco novelty hit, a warm-weather tradition in Europe – proof that kids baked too long in the Ibizan sun will listen to anything. We might have chosen any number of other songs from the European (s)hit parade: “Aserejé (The Ketchup Song)” by Spanish girl group Las Ketchup, anything by the Spice Girls, or even that horrifically catchy Moldovan number that took Europe by storm a couple years back. But what the heck, we’ll take this one, from pneumatic Italian model Sabrina Salerno. “Boys”, a top-five hit all across Europe, was cranked out by the legendary production team of Stock Aitken and Waterman, whose chart successes by the likes of Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley and Bananarama can only be described as “craptacular”.

9. Comme d’Habitude
Claude François
The French have made many invaluable contributions to Western culture, but popular music is not, to put it mildly, one of them. Whether its depressing chanson, embarrassing novelty tunes sung by the Lolita-du-jour, or just lazy French translations of English or American pop hits (did we really need a Francophone “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”?), the French pop oeuvre is truly lamentable. There are a few exceptions, an occasional triumph from Brel or Gainsbourg. Legendary French performer Claude François specialized in French covers (“Si j’avais un marteau,” etc.). But with the classic “Comme d’Habitude” he scored a nearly unprecedented coup – a French song that would be translated into English as Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”. Your present author has made the French version his karaoke signature tune.

10. Whole Lotta Love
Led Zeppelin
Never mind that it was a blatant rip-off of a Willie Dixon song (a fact which eventually won the blues legend a court settlement) or that its fusion of irresistible riff with spaced out wank-rock would spawn hundreds of unworthy imitators and millions of garage-band wannabes. In fact, that’s the best thing about this song, Led Zeppelin’s first and biggest international hit. It gave birth to heavy metal as we know it – pompous and carefree at the same time, the music would become especially popular in communist eastern Europe, where it inspired mullets and moptops from Leipzig to Kiev. Long live rock.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mexico Jane, the Search Continues....

Eight new chapters in the continuing saga of the search for Mexico Jane -- which seems stuck for the moment in boozy, smoky, talky South Wales but appears headed for Basque country and presumably the New World in forthcoming installments -- are now posted on Kalimotxo.

The author goes by the handle Duvel99, who says the plot idea came to him "in a dream, a bit like Samuel Taylor Coleridge when he wrote ‘Kubla Khan’ in his nightie". His epic adventure "aims to be part Ken Follett and part Jack Kerouac but will most likely end up being all Len Deighton" He's promising lots of future chapters of Mexico Jane, "like Charles Dickens when he wrote ‘a Tale of Two Cities’ in 472 parts [though] he probably had a bit more of a plot in his head when he started..."

Click here to read...

Here's an excerpt from Part 22:

We meandered back through the village towards Crackity’s car. ‘We need a plan’, he announced decisively and gave me a sly look. ‘Bilbao’s our first stop. Would you mind if we popped down to Brittany on the way?’ he asked airily. ‘Not at all Crackity’ I said sarcastically, ‘I’m in no rush to find Jane after all. Why don’t we have a few weeks in St.Tropez while we’re at it?’ He looked hurt when I said this and so I reluctantly agreed. He clapped me on the back and grinned hugely. ‘Great, we’ll go to Douarnanez, it’s famous for communism and sardines; you’ll love it.’ I had to agree it was a good mix even though I was worried that we’d never get to Spain at this rate...

Pussy Cats

Playing at being a music critic again...this time for The Bulletin, Brussels' weekly expat magazine.... too tired to put links in for the albums, you can find them on Amazon, etc....

Pussy Cats Redux

Classic album remakes have a mixed history, from gimmicky (‘Radiodread’, an all-reggae version of ‘OK Computer’), to it-must-have-seemed-like-a-good-idea-after-all-those-bong-hits (Camper Van Beethoven’s song-for-song reinterpretation of the Fleetwood Mac flop ‘Tusk’) to just plain unnecessary (Danger Mouse’s ‘Gray Album’).

But New York-based indie rockers the Walkmen doubly redeem the genre with their new CD, ‘Pussy Cats’: a shambolic yet faithful remake that also shines much-deserved new light on the original album, released by Harry Nilsson and produced by John Lennon in 1974.

Recorded during Lennon’s infamous ‘lost weekend’, several months during which he was separated from Yoko Ono and tomcatting around Los Angeles, the Nilsson album features an all-star cast – er, make that an all-drunken-star cast, including Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Rolling Stones sax maniac Bobby Keys and someone named Sneaky Pete.

This madcap, brandy-Alexander-fueled bunch turned out a strange assortment of sappy ballads, rollicking boogies, a children’s ditty or two, and even a proto-punk reinterpretation of ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’.

The album was an unfortunate turning point for Nilsson’s career, which had previously been on a meandering but nevertheless upward trajectory. Instead of a gifted songwriter with a three-octave voice, he would become known mostly as Lennon’s drinking buddy.

It was an unfair characterization, but not without some justification. Nilsson’s once poetic lyrics became lazier and more coarse. His carousing during the recording of the album took its toll on his delicate tenor, turning it into a harsh growl.

Fans were shocked to hear Nilsson’s voice on 'Pussy Cats’' opening single, the Jimmy Cliff classic ‘Many Rivers to Cross’. The album was a critical and commercial failure. Lennon went back to Yoko and stay-at-home daddyhood, and Nilsson went on to release a string of inconsistent but occasionally interesting albums.

Thanks to the Walkmen, the original ‘Pussy Cats’ rates another listen – and has the last laugh. As enjoyable as the new CD is, the old one is better. Nilsson’s performance on ‘Many Rivers’, which turned off so many of his fans in 1974, sends a chill up my spine every time I hear it.
As for the original recording, it makes you wish Lennon had done more producing. Yes, he had a tendency – probably absorbed from his frequent collaborator Phil Spector – to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. Think Wall of Sound – with somebody’s head smashed through it. The ‘Pussy Cats’ closing track, a rousing ‘Rock Around the Clock’, sounds as if it were recorded with The Electric Mayhem, better known as the Muppet Show band. It’s a gem.

But back to the Walkmen. Their good-natured, low-fi rocking suits the tracks perfectly, as does singer Hamilton Leithauser’s sandpaper voice. On a couple of numbers the guys even manage to outshine the originals, but mostly they’re just having fun playing songs they love (the Nilsson album having been a tour-bus fave). And ponder this: Nilsson was mainly covering other songs; by covering him the Walkmen have given us what must be the first ever meta-cover album.

I should note that The Walkmen have also just released a very fine record of their own material, ‘A Hundred Miles Off’. Their version of ‘Pussy Cats’ is available this month, and the Nilsson original has been reissued with bonus tracks. A nice Christmas prezzie pair for your best drinking mate.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Brit Prog Rock Lit Crit Blog

The multi-talented former "Baywatch" star David Hasselhoff is at it again -- he isn't just a fine actor and pop legend, he also writes music reviews... well, actually, it's my mate Martin Jones, in a typically brilliant Kalimotxo article, reviewing the recent concert given by Fish, former lead singer of prog-rock dinosaurs Marillion.

Martin, er, Hasselhoff dragged me along to the show and I actually liked it. Fish is a kind of discount Peter Gabriel, except, at 38euros a ticket, he ain't much of a discount. In 'Hoff's review, I play the part of Yasmin Bleeth.

For the full article, click here. Excerpt below:

Hi fellow Kalimotxeros. This week I’m in Brussels watching the mighty ‘Fish’, ex-lead singer of prog rock greats Marillion. For this tour he is going to play the whole of their amazing 1985 concept album ‘Misplaced Childhood’ in one go. Dude, that’s so prog rock! He’s also playing some solo stuff (uh-oh) plus some really old Marillion stuff which is almost as good as Tin Machine. I rushed down to the Ancienne Belgique from my Spanish course where I’d learnt from my teacher that Fish is known ‘El Pescado’ in Andalucia and ‘El Rey de Prrrrog Rrrrrrock – si no incluido Pedro Gabrrriel’.

My friend Jan-Michael Vincent from Airwolf had to cancel as he had forgotten he had to go to a firework display in Crymerch so I decided to give his ticket to Yasmin Bleeth. I met her in a Lebanese pitta place... [click here to read more]

Friday, November 10, 2006

Quiz Scandal!

Last night's CAF Pub Quiz was a big success, thanks to all who came out to play and help out for a good cause. And, yes, as the Tippler pointed out last night and again today on his blog, it was Little Jimmy Osmond, not Donny, who sang "Long Haired Lover from Liverpool"... I didn't write the question, but still I should have remembered the Brits' fondness for American novelty acts...

Proof below:

Country New Wave

Some performers just have it. Not sure what "it" is in this case...
The kid in the pyjamas does a great robot dance...

Monday, November 06, 2006

America Votes 2006

Many of you have been waiting for my election predictions... and why not? I've been wrong so many times before! This year, TCS Daily asked a selected few of its writers to predict the outcome of tomorrow's mid-term Congressional contest: read the full article here, or see below for my section:

CRAIG WINNEKER, Editor, This Europe

Conventional wisdom holds that Democrats will recapture the House - giving them at least two years in which to get medieval on the Republican administration. I for one relish the prospect of Nancy Pelosi staring down George W. Bush in a contest of which deer is in whose headlights.

Democrats had a chance to snag the Senate, too, until last Thursday, when a Zogby poll showed them actually doing it. This was the guy who, on the afternoon of Election Day 2004, predicted a John Kerry landslide. Study hard, get good grades, and you, too, can become a pollster or even a political analyst.

It will all come down to turnout. Yawn. What an election-eve cliché. What it really comes down to is which party will be better able to suppress the potential voting activities of its opponent. One big question mark: will the clandestinely-gay-fundamentalist-Christian-dad vote be mobilized or discouraged by recent news events? I think when push comes to shove these guys will descend from Brokeback Mountain and swarm polling places. They'll probably give Conrad Burns another six years.

Then there is the biennial carping about how democracy suffers because so few Americans bother to go to the polls. I live in Belgium, where election turnout is always 100 percent; citizens are required by law to vote. Well, the electoral system here produces just as many nincompoops as the American one - and the most successful political party has its roots in the SS. So be careful how much turnout you wish for.

My prediction? Democrats "win" in a landslide, but Republicans manage to keep control of the House and Senate. How will this be possible? Not sure, really, but I'm hoping Vanity Fair will explain it to me sometime soon.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar

Tired of being lectured on politics by rock stars and celebrities in general? Take a look at this diatribe on TCS Daily.

Memo to Steve Earle: I still love you!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How to Build a Laser Gun -- The Latest!

The laser-gun conspiracy I've written about before continues to spread. Every day I get more hits on this website from people around the world looking for information on how to build a laser gun.

Today, persons unknown in Iran, Turkey and Colorado all typed the words "build a laser gun" into Google and then linked to my site. I'm not sure which scares me the most.

Here's the proof, courtesy of Site Meter:

Domain Name (Unknown)
IP Address 85.185.64.# (Shabeke Gostar Company ,Internet Service Provider)
ISP Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI)
Location Continent : Asia
Country : Iran, Islamic Republic of (Facts)
State/Region : Hamadan
City : Gostar
Lat/Long : 35.4667, 48.8833 (Map)

Language Farsi
Operating System Microsoft WinXP
Browser Internet Explorer 7.0
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727)
Javascript version 1.3
Monitor Resolution : 1024 x 768
Color Depth : 32 bits

Time of Visit Oct 18 2006 6:01:30 am
Last Page View Oct 18 2006 6:01:30 am
Visit Length 0 seconds
Page Views 1
Referring URL http://www.google.co...fa&q=build laser gun
Search Engine google.com
Search Words build laser gun
Visit Entry Page http://winneker.blog...build-laser-gun.html
Visit Exit Page http://winneker.blog...build-laser-gun.html
Out Click
Time Zone UTC+2:00
Visitor's Time Oct 18 2006 1:31:30 pm
Visit Number 4,114


Friday, October 13, 2006

Belgo-American Relations

The Bulletin, Brussels' expat weekly magazine, asked me to chart the history of US-Belgian relations, and try to figure out how one of Europe's most pro-American countries became decidedly less so. I took a stab at it.

A Special Relationship

By Craig Winneker

It wasn’t easy for an American eight-year-old to adjust to life in Belgium in the mid-1970s. For one thing, there was no peanut butter.

Not to mention no McDonald’s, few TV shows in English other than the occasional episode of “The Six Million Dollar Man”, schoolteachers with funny accents and disturbingly little sunshine. I thought I’d never survive the three years my father’s employer, a soon-to-be-vilified American multinational, had posted us here. But I did, and returned to the US with a decent adolescent command of French, an early passion for travel, and an understanding that the world was bigger than just America.

Twenty-five years later, when I moved back to Belgium, much had changed. American products were plentiful here, even if supermarkets still weren’t open long enough to make them obtainable outside work hours. The expat community had grown exponentially, along with EU enlargement and globalisation in general, but there seemed to be fewer Americans. The weather? Well, at least it’s getting warmer.

No one seems to know for sure how many of us Yanks now live in Belgium; estimates from the US embassy and the Belgian government range anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000. When I lived here in the 1970s, the number tossed around was 40,000. American businesses back then tended to parachute in mid-level managers. Nowadays they hire locals.

Jim Begg is one of many Americans who moved to Belgium in that earlier expat era and who’ve made it a permanent home. He first came to Brussels in 1962 as a trainee with Culligan, the water-softener company (as in, “Hey, Culligan man!”) He eventually started his own advertising agency, and recently retired after selling it to a big international firm. He shuttles between his homes in Brussels and the South of France.

“I’m an American européanisé,” he says. “But people still say to me, ‘You sound so American!’ And I say, ‘Well, I am American.’”

It’s true that with his flat Midwestern accent, you might mistake Begg for someone just off the proverbial boat. But he’s been in Europe long enough (and has a Dutch wife, and two French-speaking Dutch-American kids) to have experienced the various ups and downs in the Belgian-American relationship.

Like me, he sees two high points, if you will, in the chart-line of US-Belgian solidarity: the aftermath of World War II and the days immediately following 9/11. Like me, he’s watched Europe’s good will towards America waver since the start of the Iraq war. And, like me, he thinks that this anti-Americanism is really only skin deep, that Belgium is still a welcoming place for Americans.

“There’s still a deep feeling here about America and about its values,” he says. “But there’s also a concern about where America is going right now. I’m often the ‘token American’ at dinner parties, and people always start questioning me about what’s going on in the US. They really want to know what the Americans are thinking.”

The implication there, though Begg doesn’t spell it out, is that they want to know what the hell the American administration is thinking – or not thinking, as the case may be.

But he also gets to see another facet of the Belgian view of America. Through his work with the American Overseas Memorial Day Association, Begg is involved in organizing annual ceremonies honouring the 14,000 Americans who died on Belgian soil during World War II. It’s in this work that he still feels Belgians’ love and appreciation for the U.S.

“I spend a lot of time in these small Belgian villages,” he says, “and it’s an amazing feeling, how pro-American these people are. They will never forget what Americans did for them.” He says mayors in small Belgian towns are doing their best to involve young people in the commemorations, so that they learn the history of Belgian-American friendship. Every year on the U.S. Memorial Day a group of schoolchildren from Waregem sing the American national anthem.

Belgians of a certain generation agree with this sentiment, but also see obvious changes in how America is perceived here. “When we speak of Americans we always say we’ll never forget what they did in World War II,” says Marie-Louise Toisoul, who has lived in Brussels her whole life and was in high-school when Allied (mostly British) troops liberated the city in September 1944 and when American soldiers fought the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes throughout that winter. She points out that many in her country are also aware of the food aid given by the US after both world wars, when many Belgians were starving.

But she acknowledges that the goodwill Belgians have traditionally had for Americans – certainly after the world wars, but also after 9/11 – has waned. “Our attitude has changed somewhat,” Toisoul says. “But the so-called ‘anti-Americanism’ is always directed at George Bush – not at the American people. Of course, there are certain sectors of the population who feel that all Americans simply want to dominate the world.”

Her husband, Jean-Pierre Storrer, notes that not everyone in Belgium these days knows what they know about America. “There’s a difference between those who remember the war and those who came after,” he says.

Part of it may have to do with the lopsided balance of power in the world. As Toisoul points out, with the fall of the Soviet bloc, the US is the only so-called hyperpower on the planet, so it’s a big target for criticism and resentment.

This attitude manifests itself in ways that range from merely annoying to somewhat disturbing. Yes, it’s amusing to watch dreadlocked, bongo-beating ULB students staging some anti-American demo even as they swig Cokes and wear vintage Nikes. And who can really get too upset about the occasional condescending remark at a cocktail party or meathead comment from a rock performer who shouts a Bush-related obscenity from the stage as a cheap applause line?

Or there’s the kind of finely textured sentiment offered up by Flemish singer Raymond Van Het Groenewoed., whose “Weg Met Amerika” (“Down With America”), released last year, attacked Yanks as “the cause of the general decay/Short-sighted thinking, loud talking/Sticking to one-liners forever” and advocated sticking “a hot pick up their ass”. One pro-American Flemish commentator wondered why Van Het Groenewoed hadn’t been arrested, as it is illegal in Belgium to incite hatred against people based on their nationality. Instead, the song was played on Belgian state radio.

But one experience I had will always stand out as especially surprising – and even a bit embarrassing. Two colleagues from the US were visiting me in early 2003 and I wanted to take them to dinner at Aux Armes de Bruxelles. This required running the Ilot-Sacre gauntlet of mediocre restaurants and their infamous barkers, who lure unsuspecting tourists by feigning multilingual geniality.

One of them was giving us his spiel when he heard us speaking American English. He quickly became angry and started shouting, “Why don’t you go drop some bombs on Iraqi children?” I informed him that this was not a good way to attract business, and suggested that perhaps we start the bombing by targeting his bordel of a restaurant. We continued on our way to a pleasant dinner, but I had to explain to my guests that this was by no means an indicator of the town’s mood.

Or was it? One American consultant in town thinks the anti-Americanism is getting worse in Belgium – “worse that it was two years ago even. Brussels is a little out of touch with the rest of the country. A lot of people here just want to join in on anything that’s anti-American. People in Brussels are right in the middle of the propaganda machine. It’s not the Belgians, it’s the kind of people who work in Brussels. It’s the Europeans.”

Well, what about the Belgians? “I love the American people,” says Toisoul. “But it’s true that they often believe that America is the best at everything and nothing from anywhere else is any good.” True, I tell her, and isn’t that one of the ways we are so very like the French or the Italians?

American Michael Steinman is a relative newcomer in Belgium, having lived here for 18 months, but isn’t a part of the Brussels or Antwerp expat scene. He’s a sergeant in the US Army, based in Mons, where he is a trombonist in the SHAPE international band and NATO jazz orchestra. In addition to his military service, which takes him all over Europe, he plays a lot of music on the side, interacting often with jazz-loving Belgians.

“The musicians I meet are almost always enthusiastic and we have a great time on and off the bandstand,” he says. “I feel accepted by them, and as an American jazz player, they are really happy to play with what they consider to be the ‘real thing’. They have never brought up US policies or politics or the fact that I’m a service member in any negative way.”

Steinman does, however, confirm the common view among expats that it is hard to get close to the natives. Belgians are family oriented and not known for being especially warm to strangers – understandable for a country that has for centuries played unwilling (or at least reluctant) host to them. After a hard day at work speaking two or three languages that aren’t your mother tongue, you deserve some down-time.

“I barely know my neighbours,” says Steinman. “I’ve heard that in Belgium you can live 20 years in a house and never see the inside of your neighbour’s house. And I guess it’s kind of true. We say ‘bonjour’ to each other and chit-chat, but always outside in the street. They seemed taken aback when I invited a few in for beers once.”

Despite the well-known coolness to outsiders that its people exhibit, Belgium was once among the most pro-American countries in Europe. Belgians loved everything American – even things we shouldn’t be proud of introducing to them, like instant coffee. (“Oh, Nescafé, that was such a revelation!” gushes Toisoul.) They loved our hamburger meat so much they didn’t want to spoil it by cooking it. They bought our big Yankee cars – tailfin Chevys and stretch Cadillacs, even Buicks.

Toisoul remembers that in 1946 and ‘47 “we were all driving big American cars, Studebakers. Nobody wanted to have these little French cars. We wanted American. Nowadays you only see people riding in them for weddings.”

In fact, business is still fairly good for American marques not seen in similar numbers elsewhere in Europe, though an attempt last year by the Belgian government to restrict imports of American cars – by refusing to issue required safety certificates – held up shipments for months and nearly drove some Belgian specialty car dealers out of business. In the US media, the move was seen as another petty example of Belgian anti-Americanism, especially since Japanese imports weren’t getting the same treatment.

In fact, Belgians’ consumption of American products still seems pretty brisk. They still drink Coke, they still wear Nikes. There’s a restaurant on Place Brugmann called Le Balmoral, which is done up to look like a kitschy American diner of the 1950s, complete with Marilyn Monroe and James Dean figurines. You’d think it would be a real American hangout. The only time I’ve ever gone there – I hadn’t heard of it but a French TV journalist tricked me into taping an interview there because she figured it illustrated US politics – the place was full of Belgians.

Is Belgium slowly becoming more American? Is that where the resentment comes from, if it comes at all? The TV channels are now chock full of American entertainment, both good and bad.Yes, the supermarkets here now carry peanut butter, although you have to search pretty hard for it. They’ve got a hundred kinds of sugary breakfast cereal. And they’re even catching on to the brilliance of pre-packaged Tex-Mex fixins.

Maybe, but the Belgian-American bond works both ways. Not long after I left the U.S. to move to Brussels, America entered something of a Belgophile phase. A couple of frites stands set up shop in Manhattan. Neuhaus opened a store in DC, selling chocolates at even higher prices than they do here. And, a few steps from where I used to live in Washington, D.C., a new restaurant quickly became the trendiest eatery on Capitol Hill. It’s called Belga Cafe.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Well, the Foley story gets weirder. But let me make one thing perfectly clear:

While I was at the party mentioned in this article, and was a journalist colleague of the author, I was not the focus of Rep. Foley's attentions...

But of course I know who was. And can confirm the story.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Fair and Balanced!

Oh, you've probably seen this already, but it' s just too good to resist. The fine folks at Fox News have figured out how to help Republicans handle the Foley scandal: turn him into a Democrat!

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Foley Fiasco

Oh dear. And I thought the Mel Reynolds transcript was about as creepy as it could get for a Congressman on the make. Now there's the Mark Foley fiasco -- you can read the lurid details here -- although despite ABC News' warning of READER DISCRETION!!!! SICK DISGUSTING CONTENT AHEAD, it's pretty tame stuff. Still, to think I used to go to cocktail parties at this guy's Capitol Hill bachelor pad...

Actually, for the most thoughtful comment on this story, see Andrew Sullivan's blog.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Philosopher King

Need help understanding what's going on in Washington right now? Nobody cuts through the crap like Jon Stewart:

Monday, September 25, 2006

Our Polls Are Rising!

I'm still searching for new ways to make this site a more fulfilling experience for you, gentle reader. I'm toying with the idea of renaming this blog, even though it's already got a nice enough handle. So, I thought I might take the pulse of my readership:

Do you support the idea of having a poll to choose a new name for this website?
Yes, it's a great idea that helps me feel more a part of the online community
No, your website is not a democracy so why should you trust a bunch of strangers who happen to come across your site?
I really don't care, yet it appears I care enough to choose this answer and click 'vote'
Why, can't you come up with something yourself?
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Friday, September 22, 2006

Transatlantic War of Words

My Brussels readers will know the Tippler, if not by his online handle then by the elbow grooves he's left in every seedy bar in town. He's blogging (I can just see him in the corner at Fat Boy's bashing away at his computer, trying not to drop ashes in his keyboard), mostly about his efforts to shag some poor bird whose name I hope he has changed for public consumption.

His webpage is becoming a guilty pleasure -- one I'd hoped to keep secret. But this week he took a swipe at Americans for the way we, like, talk, you know? So I had to engage.

OK, so he's technically right about our spelling and pronunciation of aluminum (or aluminium, as its known everywhere else in the world), but I mean, who cares? How often does this come up on conversation? I suppose if you're discussing the tensile strength of varying sized containers of Strongbow, it might be an issue. Anyway, I posted the following comment on his website.

Craig Winneker said...
um, i would make two points on your observations on American language:

1) what a crock of shit

2) check out Wikipedia's interesting entry on the subject, in which you will read that American English more closely resembles so-called Old English, before Norman Invasion changes spellings to use the superfluous "u" and ridiculous "s" instead of "z". In other words, you Brits are really speaking bastardized French.
Also, as an editor, you should abhor the British tendency to use seven words when one will do. We Americans have been streamlining, baby, yeah!

Ok, I'm done.
The Tippler, or Tony, as I know him, he's a good bloke and has a way with words when he's sober and even when he isn't, which is more than most of us can say. He replied cheerfully and hey, we're only havin' a bit o' fun.

I'm eagerly awaiting a blog post from him explaining his mysterious switch from beer to cider... Scary...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Change Is Good

Big changes at TCS Daily, where I've been working as Europe Editor since 2002. The website has been sold by DCI Group to its editor, Nick Schulz. For more on the story, see Nick's article here, and DCI's press release here.

Nick is a brilliant editor and a great human being. I know he'll build on the success he's already made of TCS. Jim Glassman, the founder of TCS and a friend and mentor to me since our days at Roll Call, is now working on re-launching The American Enterprise magazine as The American. This is going to be really big -- everything Jim touches turns to gold.

I'm leaving the TCS staff but will continue as a contributor. I hope to make something more of the blog you're now reading in the coming weeks and months, but I'm also working hard on a new project called ThisEurope. Check it out, and sign up for updates!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cool Meets Cool

Bart Simpson meets the White Stripes....

Maybe you've seen this before, but Flemish TV seems to have stopped buying "Simpsons" episodes about eight seasons ago... So it's new to me.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Critic's Corner

The Bulletin, Brussels' weekly expat magazine, has just published my short review of a very long book, William T. Vollmann's Europe Central. You can't read Bulletin articles online, so I post my original version below (this way you can read it without antiquated English spellings!).

Europe Central
William T. Vollmann
Alma Books Ltd. (£12.99)
800 pages

Reviewed by Craig Winneker

Confronted with a clear moral choice in the face of overwhelming and pervasive evil – submit and have a chance to live, or do the right thing and most certainly die – what would you do?

This was the stark question unfortunately faced by many Europeans in the first half of the 20th century. We all know what most chose. In his astounding new book, Europe Central, William T. Vollmann, perhaps America’s greatest unknown author, looks at Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia before, during and immediately after World War II, and tries to come to grips with why.

Among the real-life characters he portrays are Soviet composer Dimitri Shostakovich, who struggled to stay true to his art even as Stalinism exerted unrelenting political pressure on him and his loved ones; Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, who commanded the German troops at Stalingrad and, against his better judgment, followed Hitler’s order to fight to the last man (but disobeyed the one dictating that he die rather than surrender); and SS ‘hygiene’ officer Kurt Gerstein, who, while participating in the mass killing of Jews in several concentration camps, secretly tried to alert a Swedish diplomat and the Catholic Church to the Holocaust as it was happening.

Also featured: Russian documentary filmmaker Roman Karmen, German painter and sculptor Käthe Kollwitz, Russian General Andrei Vlasov, unsuccessful Lenin assassin Fanya Kaplan, and the mysterious muse Elena Konstaninovskaya. (Had he waited another year to finish the book, Vollmann might have thrown in a sensitive German teenager drafted by the Waffen SS who would go on to win a Nobel Prize for Literature and self-appointed moral arbiter of post-war Germany, all the while concealing his true background. No doubt he would have provided a more revealing analysis than we’ll get from Günter Grass’ new autobiography.)

In a structure that recalls John Dos Passos’ monumental U.S.A. trilogy (written before, during and after World War I), Vollmann weaves fictional and real characters throughout a series of short stories, and uses intimate personal experience to punctuate historical sweep. In an extensive notes section, he documents his fabrications as meticulously as his accuracies.

Winner of the National Book Award for fiction, Europe Central has brought a smattering of long-overdue fame to Vollmann, a prolific and immensely gifted writer whose works typically inhabit the world’s seedier realms and explore its darker issues. (Before publishing Europe Central he managed to abridge his seven-volume, 3,300-page attempt to devise a moral calculus for violence, Rising Up and Rising Down, to a somewhat more portable 750 pages.)

Europe Central has been available on these shores since May, albeit with much less attractive cover art than the US edition, which featured a stunningly stylized 1935 German poster, ‘Deutschland, das Land der Musik’; the European edition, with its helmeted German soldier and overflying bombers, resembles a military comic book.

Like its British equivalent, the Booker Prize, a National Book Award (not to mention the universally glowing reviews Vollmann has earned for this and nearly all of his other works) usually ensures bestseller status. But Europe Central’s sheer size and daunting subject matter no doubt turn readers away. Have no fear – choose to read it.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Europe's Economic Boom?

Occasionally I venture, oh so gingerly, into business journalism. Here I try my hand at analyzing recent European economic trends in a piece for TCS Daily. Caveat lector...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Europe's Rising Stars

Check out my somewhat unusual and completely random and subjective article on Ten European Rising Stars in the new issue of e!Sharp. You can flip through pages on their website, here or read the article in .pdf format here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Rock and Roll Confidential

Chuck Prophet is a phenomenally gifted and criminally unknown guitarist and songwriter who's enjoyed critical success in his solo career (seven albums, each one better than the last). He's currently touring with his old mates in Green on Red, a mid-1980s band out of Tucson and L.A. that also weren't very well known but influenced a lot of alt.country, Americana and grunge-type bands that followed.

Green on Red have been playing club dates and festivals around Europe (where they have a small but loyal following of aging punkers and recovering hipsters). I saw their gig this week in the tiny town of Eeklo, Belgium. I made the hour-long drive from Brussels on a Sunday night to see them mainly because I'm a fan of Prophet's sublime albums and his right-on guitar picking. It was worth the trip: a great, garage-y rock show in a hot, sweaty venue. What more could you ask for?

Anyway, Chuck's keeping an online diary of the tour. It's funny and insightful -- and, like his songs, well-written. He talks about sharing a bill with Guns 'n' Roses, passes along some road-life culinary advice once given him by Exene Cervenka, and just generally riffs on being an itinerant rocker. Here's a sample entry.

Party Like It's 1969!

Party Like It's 1969

Does this guy know how to analyze a party scene, or what?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

thisEurope on myspace.com!

What is thiseurope.com, you might well ask? Click here to find out, and to sign up for updates on our progress. Or, if you're a myspace kind of person, check out thiseurope on myspace.com...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

My Other Blog

Expatriate Act has updated for the first time in months. Curious?

Europe's Greatest Speeches

Another bimonthly issue of e!Sharp magazine means another chance for me to conjure up a completely subjective Top Ten list. This time around I look at great speeches in European history. You can read the article (in .pdf format) by clicking here. Click here to take a look at the revamped e!Sharp website, which allows you to flip through the pages of the mag with a mouseclick. Pretty cool.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Laser Beam Next Door

Here's the text of my Wall Street Journal Europe article on secret laser projects around the world. Enjoy!

Laser Tag

August 4, 2006

I recently started my own blog because, like most normal people, I wanted to share various random and mundane thoughts -- as well as any Internet links to which they might correspond -- with anyone interested enough to stumble across them. Little did I know that some crude yet effective blogging technology would help me uncover a terrorist threat simmering simultaneously on every continent in the world.

You read it here first: A disturbing number of people are trying to build a laser gun.

It all began when I was still learning how to blog, tweaking the various features of my Web site to make them more attractive to the online passerby. Just for fun I posted a link to a page I'd come across that includes instructions for building a laser.

In case the existence of such a site worries you, rest assured that the required components for this particular model include a chain saw, a moped, 20 gallons of Vitalis and three cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. It's likely to cause very little damage to anyone but the person attempting to build it. (The Web site, by the way, will also show you how to teach your monkey kung fu, build a time machine and, perhaps most usefully, make fruit salad.) I found it funny and figured others would, too. Hence the link.

Months went by without much happening -- at least in the way of people other than myself visiting my blog. Then, as I was figuring out how to configure my new Site Meter, a Web site hit counter, so that it would ignore my (quite frequent) hits on my own blog, I discovered something else. I could track individual visits to my page, discovering where the surfers were and what search terms they were using to reach me.

A few people were looking for strings of words I'd happened to have posted as titles with various articles I'd written. For example, researchers looking for the "top 10 European movies of all time" have been linking to a magazine article I wrote on the subject and subsequently stuck on my blog. Someone at the University of Leuven in Belgium was seeking "opinion on Interbrew choosing Stella Artois as a flagship brand"; typing those words into Google conjures my blog, where I'd posted a newspaper feature on beer marketing that provides said opinion.

Needless to say, I became obsessed with the people who were reading my site. I was stalking my would-be stalkers. Occasionally someone even searched on my name. That's always a bit spine-chilling -- but not as scary as what I found next. By far, the No. 1 search term bringing people to my Web site, thanks to the abovementioned blog entry, is "how to build a laser gun."

The first such link was from a browser in Terry, Mississippi. No big deal. Probably just some overachiever fed up with having to study intelligent design in school all day. But the next person was in Amman, Jordan. This caught my interest. We've become conditioned to fear the WMD-focused ambitions of people in the Middle East.

Then the next day there was a Web search from Madrid, Spain, where there had been a terror attack a few years ago and where there are still suspected al Qaeda cells. I was beginning to suspect a network. More hits followed, all looking for information on how to make laser guns.

Here's a partial list of hits and their origins: Kingston, Jamaica; Pierre, South Dakota; College Park, Maryland; Pendle Hills, Australia; Brooklyn, New York; Stafford, Virginia (home of Quantico Marine Base); Allahabad, India; Sao Paolo, Brazil; Kelaniya, Sri Lanka; Qiryat Gat, Israel; Lebanon (!), Tennessee.

Every day I check my site stats. About every third day I find someone looking to build a death ray.

Site Meter offers a few other intriguing clues about these would-be mad scientists, occasionally providing more detailed information. A visitor to my site from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, in the U.K., was searching from the premises of Research Machines, an educational software company. Another wasn't just from Maine: He or she was from the Maine Bureau of Taxation, raising disturbing questions about regulators run amok.

By the way, these people are not just searching "how to build a laser." They want to know "how to build a laser gun." The former search string will get you a couple of junior-college FAQ Web sites that tell you how to rig up a crude laser. Add "gun" and you get the original site I found so funny, a few online gaming forums and my blog.

You may say I'm crazy to be worried. But I'm stocking up on Vitalis and Pabst.

Mr. Winneker is a writer in Brussels. Check out his blog at http://www.craigwinneker.com. If you want to know how to build a laser gun, visit www.wwujd.com/makealaser.htm.

Copyright 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Friday, August 04, 2006

How to Build a Laser Gun II

My piece on the worldwide laser gun conspiracy is published in the Wall Street Journal Europe today. You can read it at WSJ Online. I'll post the text on this site soon for those who don't have a WSJ Online subscription. (Updated: click here to read article.) If you've linked to this site via WSJ Online, welcome! And check this out!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Europe's Greatest Cars!

The latest installment of my regular column for e!Sharp magazine is a completely subjective listing of the Top Ten European Cars of all time... You can read it in .pdf format here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

All the Pretty Crowes

I went to a really great Black Crowes concert in Amsterdam last week. I didn't see Cormac McCarthy there, but he seems to have reviewed the show for my friend Martin Jones' website Kalimotxo.... Check it out here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Great European Films

The most recent installment of my regular column for e!Sharp magazine is a list of the Top Ten European Films of All Time. Of course it is ridiculous to try to compile such a list, but I did it anyway. And, in fact, these aren't even really the greatest European films of all time; they're just a small sampling of movies I think are brilliant. I'm already starting to second-guess myself...

1. Trois Couleurs: Bleu, Blanc, Rouge
Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1993-94
Europe has produced many of the greatest films in history, but in recent years has suffered from an identity crisis. Under attack from the relentless Hollywood blockbuster (into whose gaping maw European audiences unashamedly flock), the prototypically artsy continental film has suffered. The EU and its member governments struggle to protect their supposedly vulnerable European culture with subsidy programs. Meanwhile, unfortunately, some recent European film offerings have acquired a Hollywood sheen – that is to say, they have become crap-tacular.

Compiling a list of the best movies in any category is a difficult and frequently pointless task. But it’s usually a good way to start an argument or at least spice up a dull dinner conversation. So here goes…

My nomination for the greatest European film comes from a man who started his career producing such documentary classics as The Principles of Safety and Hygiene in a Copper Mine and ended it (prematurely, dying just after their completion) with a series of masterpieces. In his Three Colors trilogy of the early 1990s, Red, White and Blue, Poland’s Krzysztof Kieslowski captured a Europe in transition by focusing on grand themes (liberty, equality and fraternity) as they related to intensely provocative individual situations. Never clichéd, always interesting, uniformly unpredictable, these understated films probably do not top anyone else’s list and may seem less momentous than some of the others on mine. But they are so uniquely European in their scope and execution that they ultimately outpace the rest of the bunch.

2. La Grande Illusion
Jean Renoir, 1937
A classic ever since it was first released, this movie has only become more influential over the passing decades. Directors continue to try to remake the war-movie genre, but none has ever topped Renoir’s take, which focuses on the personal relations between men who have become enemies for reasons beyond their control. In portraying Europe’s descent into fascism, the director focuses not on jingoism, but on human interplay that transcends national borders. It may be the first pan-European movie. Needless to say, it had enemies, and was nearly destroyed after the Nazi regime seized Paris in 1940. Prints and negatives, thought lost forever, were rediscovered in 1958. A restored version is available on DVD and should be in your collection.

3. A Bout de Souffle (Breathless)
Jean-Luc Godard, 1960
The movie that changed all the rules, this may have been the first truly “independent” film. Produced on a low budget and left with purposely rough edges, the movie feels as if it were made up as the director and actors went along. Co-stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg are so sexy you can’t take your eyes off them. This was the first film to use cross-cutting and seemingly nonsensical flash-forwards – techniques that have now become commonplace. It’s also a movie about movies, with references and homages to everything from Humphrey Bogart to Godard’s Nouvelle Vague compatriots. Breathless is perhaps not as sublime as other Godard movies, but is so revolutionary it makes this list.

4. Lawrence of Arabia
David Lean, 1962
As a piece of epic filmmaking, it is unrivalled. No movie made in Europe or America (the Lord of the Rings trilogy was made in New Zealand) has ever matched Lawrence of Arabia’s combination of cinematic vision, historic sweep, compelling character, stunning set-pieces and just plain huge-ness. What this film also has is class and, rare for a production of this scale, restraint. It manages to hold our interest through a four-hour running time not with gadgetry and gore but with good old-fashioned storytelling and brilliant acting. It’s often said about other movies but it’s especially true of this one: They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

5. Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (Aguirre, the Wrath of God)
Werner Herzog, 1972
A relentlessly riveting performance by the mad German acting legend Klaus Kinski anchors this tale of a Spanish conquistador disappearing up his own Amazon in the early 16th century. Just as with Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now a few years later, the audience gets the sense that the filmmaker and his star are exploring their personal hearts of darkness in this movie. European colonialism is boiled down to an insanity-fueled quest for wealth and power as Aguirre seeks the fabled El Dorado. And there are a lot of monkeys. Perfect.

6. La Dolce Vita
Federico Fellini, 1960
Yes, it may be that 8 1/2, his more astringently personal work, is the greater film. And yes, lately it has become more fashionable to cite La Strada or Amarcord as Fellini’s best films. But I stick with this iconic classic – maybe because it portrays journalism in such an, er, interesting light. The story follows a disillusioned gossip columnist as he makes his way through a seedy underworld of sex, booze and superficiality. One of its minor characters, the photographer Papparazzo, would forever enter our degenerate mass-media lexicon.

7. Det Sjunde Inseglet, (The Seventh Seal)
Ingmar Bergman, 1957
A friend of mine once told me that as a teenager he sneaked into a showing of this film thinking it would be a Swedish skin-flick. Boy was he in for a surprise. Dark, austere, surreal, this meditation on life, death and the existence of God won’t please moviegoers looking for a good time. A knight plays chess against the Grim Reaper as Europe struggles with the Black Death all around them. The story and the acting are tight but it’s the stark and distorted imagery that stays with you.

8. A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick, 1971
Ultraviolence, multimedia over-saturation, moral decay, societal breakdown, incomprehensible lingo, irritating electronica: this ever-controversial film predicted much that we’ve come to take for granted in the modern world. That it still turns our stomachs after more than 30 years is a remarkable testament to the vision of director Kubrick (an American who for most of his career worked exclusively in Britain, where at his request this film is still not shown). The film also features Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony way before it ever became the EU anthem.

9. No Man’s Land
Danis Tanovic, 2001
Though it depicts Europe in what was undeniably not its finest hour, this film is one of European cinema’s finest hours-and-a-half. The tragic international debacle that was the Balkan conflict is concentrated on three wounded soldiers – two Bosnians, one Serb –trapped in a trench between enemy lines. They come to terms with the crisis even as the international observers around them – UN diplomats, a British journalist, a French soldier – cannot. A truly pan-European production with funding from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, France, Slovenia, the UK and Italy.

10. Zentropa
Lars Von Trier, 1991
Von Trier before he became dogmatic, didactic, misogynistic and anti-American. Though his more famous films Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark are undeniably astounding and at times downright revolutionary, this earlier work is more European (it was even called Europa in some markets) and holds up better on second or third viewings. Its mesmerizing use of narration and suspenseful Third Man feel (heightened by stunning black-and-white photography) perfectly suit the story of a young American caught up in post-war European intrigue.

Honorable mentions: Wings of Desire, Withnail & I, The Battleship Potemkin, The Life of Brian, Underground, Au Revoir Les Enfants...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Report from Belarus

An opposition activist in Belarus reports the following, from last night:

According to the press release distributed by the office of the single candidate from the unified Belarusian opposition, Alyaxandr Milinkevich, this morning, after a meeting of Milinkevich with voters in the "Byarestse" cinema theater, five representatives of his team, including Vintsuk Viachorka were held by the police and driven away. The opposition activists might have been beaten. For the moment, it is not clear where they are. Their mobile phones are switched off.

For more information, please go to [links in Belarusian]:


Update: today the source reports that last night the Milinkevich workers "have been found in one of the detention centers in Minsk. A court hearing is supposed to be taking place right now."

For more on the situation in Belarus as the presidential "election" approaches, read this. And this.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


I am blogging this week for The Bulletin, the local expat magazine here in Brussels. They've just re-launched their website, and are still feeling their way through cyberspace (their blog, isn't really a blog yet, but give them time). Surf on over...

Friday, January 20, 2006

A Soldier, Not a Spy

Here's a great op-ed piece from my friend Grant Doty, published recently in The Washington Post. Grant is an officer in the United States Army who not long ago returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. He has some thoughts on the current US administration's policy on domestic surveillance...

What's French for Google?

I don't know Jim Warren of The Hague, but his letter to the editor in today's International Herald Tribune is priceless:

The Google challenge

The article "Europeans weigh plan for search engine" (Jan. 18) provides a very interesting comparison of cultures and economies. In the United States, two motivated young guys with a vision start a company from scratch, hire a bunch of smart people who aren't afraid to innovate and work long hours, and in relatively short order build a massive company. Google is now not only one of the world's most successful and valuable companies, but it is also profoundly changing the way we use the Internet.

In Europe, two governments announce a billion-euro tax-funded program to develop a government-subsidized research center that will hire a bunch of smart people who will work 35 hours per week with guaranteed pensions and who will labor under a dozen layers of management to ultimately deliver, many years from now, a more complicated and unwieldy version of what Google is already doing today.

Anyone who still can't understand why there's a large - and growing - competitive imbalance between "Old Europe" and the rest of the world need look no further than this to see the problem.

Jim Warren, The Hague

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What Happens in Vegas...

My most recent article for TCSDaily (the website formerly known as TechCentralStation) is on the huge Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas... You'll find it here.