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

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, 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?