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off to japan

Days and months are travellers of eternity. So are the years that pass by. Those who steer a boat across the sea, or drive a horse over the earth till they succumb to the weight of years, spend every minute of their lives travelling. There are a great number of ancients, too, who died on the road. I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind - filled with a strong desire to wander.

- Bashō, from 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North', his famous travel diary / poetry collection.

Here's a map of the road he took, on foot, in 1689.

ghentian hecklers

Gentse Feesten - 1

Gentse Feesten - 2

Spectators at the Gentse Feesten, frowned upon by an opera house of Statler and Waldorfs...


Rialtoscuro n. disorientation when you step outside a movie theater into unexpected darkness, a twinge of jet lag from two hours of escapist fun which only diverts you from making the sequel to your youth - an old cult classic with wild shifts in tone, dropped subplots, major characters that appear out of nowhere only to vanish without explanation, and an ambiguous ending - but this time, it's personal.

From 'The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows', which contains some spot-on coinages among its baroquely savvy wordplay.

pennies from heaven

A long time ago, a million years BC
The best things in life were absolutely free
But no one appreciated a sky that was always blue
And no one congratulated a moon that was always new

So it was planned that they would vanish now and then
And you must pay before you get them back again
That's what storms were made for
And you shouldn't be afraid for

Every time it rains it rains
Pennies from heaven
Don't you know each cloud contains
Pennies from heaven

You'll find your fortune falling all over town
Be sure that your umbrella is upside down
Trade them for a package of sunshine and flowers
If you want the things you love

You must have showers
So when you hear it thunder
Don't run under a tree
There'll be pennies from heaven for you and me

- Johnny Burke and Arthur Johnston

The song was immortalized in Dennis Potter's television series 'Pennies from Heaven' (1978), still a highpoint in the history of the small screen, where story (a daring tale of frustrated naivety) and form (Potter's unique brand of musical) fit each other perfectly.

There's a collection of song and dance clips from the series online - great appetizers for (re)watching the whole thing.

kill the referee

In all the World Cup excitement it's easy to forget there is another, parallel tournament going on, with just as much pressure, politics and sportsmanship - that of the referees.

The Belgian documentary 'Kill the Referee' (more soberly titled 'Les Arbitres' in French) offers a fascinating insight into the world of international football referees. The filmmakers had unique behind the scenes and on the field access to Euro 2008, following several referees, including Howard Webb, who was the center of some hotheaded controversy during the tournament but has gone on to be the referee of Sunday's final.

By far the most interesting and suspenseful parts of the documentary take place on the field, where we hear the comments of the referees and linesmen over their headsets. It's football in a way you've never seen before, with three men frantically trying to direct the action of 22 tatooed madmen in the great pressure cooker of a roaring stadium.

Holland Doc had the film online (with Dutch subtitles), but it appears to be gone. Here's the trailer though, and I'm sure you can find the whole thing online too.