Monday, 8 February 2010

A Weekend in Brussels

It was Elaine's birthday on Friday, so we went to Brussels for the weekend.  We've been to Belgium before, but never as far south.  Almost immediately, I was struck by the shift to French as compared to the Vlaamse-heavy north.  It was a perfect chance for Elaine to work on her French and for me to learn to embarass myself less in French, but we could still take advantage of our Dutch as well.

We stayed at the Welcome Hotel, which had a nice atmosphere, a good location, and set the right mood.  We stayed in the Silk Road suite (it was her birthday after all), and the jacuzzi was a nice way to relax after walking the soles off our shoes per the usual.

We ate a few notable meals, including frites and mossels (of course).  Our favorite meal of the trip had to be at Comocomo, a Tapas restaurant where the dishes come out on a conveyor belt as soon as they're made.  It reminded me of Frying Fish in L.A., good variety, good quality, and reasonable prices.  They have about 45 dishes on the menu, and we tried 15, I guess we'll have to try again at their Antwerp location.

We spent most of our time at three museums.  First, we spent an afternoon at the Koninklijke Musea, wandering through their ancient and modern art collections.  My favorites there had to be the statue of Father Damian (it hasn't been retitled since his canonization), Matthieu Kessels sculpture "The Deluge", and Paul Delvaux's "Crucifixion".  If you'd like to see more items from the collection, there's a large group of them on Flickr.  We also visited the comic strip museum, in a lovely Art Nouveau building, and caught a small but wildly popular Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Musee de Beaux Arts ("Bozart").

We took a few pictures while we were in Brussels, click Elaine's picture below to see the set on Flickr:

Elaine and the Manikin Pis

Friday, 5 February 2010

"Spock Must Die" by James Blish

James Blish is a great writer.  Each of his books is a carefully considered meal prepared for the reader, complex, but balanced and enjoyable.  His "Okie" novels are like a fusion chef's take on cowboy cuisine, full of pioneer spirit, but nuanced.  His "Black Easter" is a solid meal which is made memorable by the dessert at the end of "Day of Judgement".

"Spock Must Die" (one of Blish's novels set in the Star Trek universe) reminds me of a gourmet hamburger, unabashed entertainment mixed with style and intelligence.  Blish uses only the freshest ingredients (his firm grounding in philophy and science, the moral center of his characters), but he's still aiming for something tasty and accessible to the mainstream.

If you have any interest at all in Star Trek, "Spock Must Die" is a great way to encounter Blish, and if you have any familiarity with Blish, it's nice to see him having a bit of fun with the material.  Highly recommended.