Léon de Bruxelles (Chez Léon)   Leave a comment

chez-leonsOne thing I really like is a good pot of Mussels and Chips (mosselen en frieten, moules-frites, mosselen-friet), which was one of the two things I really liked about Belgian food.  The beer is pretty good as well, but I really like moules-frites.  I got hooked at the original Léon de Bruxelles,  Chez Léon, at Rue De Bouchers/Beenhouwersstraat 18 in Brussels when I lived there.  I knew that the restaurant had spread to France since that was where we ended up eating most of the time.

I’ll be honest, the place is a bit like a Belgian McDonalds serving up moules-frites in a sit down setting with a quality and price that is pretty predictable.  I’ve had loads of better moules-frites in places like Belgo, but it was nice to see a familiar face in Paris: especially since the Parisians can be nearly as bad as New Yorkers for not making you feel very welcome.  Parisians are definitely food snobs with an inflated reputation and opinion of themselves (Lyon has a better culinary reputation).

Unlike McDonalds, Léon is a family business:

Léon Vanlancker set up his original business, a five-table restaurant called A la Ville d’Anvers in 1867. In 1893, he moved a few meters from there to 18 rue des Bouchers and opened fr:Chez Léon.  Real growth started from 1958 when Brussels became known as the capital of mussels and French fries. Since then, the Vanlancker business has continued to expand. Today, it extends to nine buildings and more than one thousand meals are served every day. The Vanlacker family opened the first Léon restaurant in Paris at Place de la République.  There are 67 Léon de Bruxelles restaurants across France.Hulot

Anyway, there were more Léon’s restaurants in Paris than there were in all of Belgium when I was there at the turn of the millennium.  Not that moules-frites aren’t French, but they are pretty much a Belgian dish.  The Irish who call mussels “famine food” somehow never put mussels and chips together for some odd reason. Although, I know that Denis Blais and Andre Plisnier will happily point out that Frites are Belgian (and gave me points on how to properly cook them).

Where this is going is that the Léon de Bruxelles headquarters appears to be in Lille, France!  Not only that, they opened a store in London in the Covent Garden area a couple of years back (that’s sort of close to Belgo Centraal).  I am also having a desire for some Léon’s moules-frites, even though I live close to a really good moules-frites restaurant! Actually, there is a recent Zagat article that mentions 8 places to get them near me and  I’ve been to most of them!

Seriously, there is this part of me that wishes that people in the US would discover moules-frites.  I know that “boardwalk fries” are something that people eat in the US, but I am not sure if there are many places to get moules-frites.  Then again, I haven’t been to the place I would like to see them, Dewey Beach, in a long while.  I’d also like to see a hotel like the one in M. Hulot’s Holiday, but I understand that one is now a five star hotel (Hotel De La Plage in Saint Nazaire, France) and you will pay a fortune for the room he stayed in.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Anyway, I no longer need to imagine I am on the Belgian coast.



Happy Birthday, Laci (the real dog).   Leave a comment

To an amazing companion of over 11 years.  I think this song pretty much sums you up:

Happy Birthday.  May we have many more years of cool adventures together.

Scalia may have proven I am correct (well, sort of).

I made this statement in the post Words to remember:

Some people forget what happens when Catholics are allowed to have power.

Some people forget what happens when Catholics are allowed to have power.

Well, maybe Scalia WILL find that Catholics need to be burned at the stake since the founding fathers were strongly anti-Catholic.

I thought I had made another comment about him finding it OK to discriminate against Catholics in general, but that was the only quote that came up quickly.

Anyway, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. will prove to be yet another disaster for the Robert’s Court as it has opened up one of the worst cans of worms around since any governmental action must be religiously neutral.  But, this was a monumental fuck up upon monumental fuck ups from the Robert’s court.

Scalia has demonstrated he plays fast and loose with precedent in his Heller decision, but even Scalia is know to ignore Scalia (i.e., himself) to make a total buffoon of himself.

The real question is how far can a company go in claiming its religious beliefs don’t allow for something?  Hobby Lobby claims it doesn’t believe in abortion, yet it does loads of business with China, which has some seriously “anti-life” laws.

While some may say it is hypocritical to get down on Hobby Lobby for its 401k plan, which invests in the same products that Hobby Lobby denies its employees.  That is sheer bullshit.  If the 401k makes money from abortificants, then it seems that an employee should have access to the same products.  Also, Hobby Lobby can probably find a 401k which shares its beliefs, but may be as fucked up as the companies policies are for performance.

Even better:

“Hobby Lobby provided this coverage before they decided to drop it to file suit, which was politically motivated,” she said.

We can’t determine if politics motivated the company, but we did wonder whether Hobby Lobby covered the types of birth control at issue in its lawsuit but dropped the coverage before filing its complaint.

If Hobby Lobby feels strongly about the health care choices of its employees–it should also find a 401k that reflects its values.

Anyway, my family came to the US as refugees from Catholic discrimination–it only seems fair that we should be able to return the favour.  Especially if the Catholics bring their bullshit to this country.

I would add that anti-Catholic sentiment has been strong in the US: especially at the time of the Revolution and Constitution, which is why the links to this go to the Know Nothings or American Party as it was officially known.

Anyway, judicial sanction of discrimination should not be tolerated: especially if it is based upon religion since that is a violation of the First Amendment.

But, if the papists wish to continue the religious rubbish which many people came to this country to flee–I say “bring it”.

Going, going by Philip Larkin

A good poem about the environment.  It’s over 40 years old, but probably more important to heed now.

Going, going

I thought it would last my time -
The sense that, beyond the town,
There would always be fields and farms,
Where the village louts could climb
Such trees as were not cut down;
I knew there’d be false alarms

In the papers about old streets
And split level shopping, but some
Have always been left so far;
And when the old part retreats
As the bleak high-risers come
We can always escape in the car.

Things are tougher than we are, just
As earth will always respond
However we mess it about;
Chuck filth in the sea, if you must:
The tides will be clean beyond.
- But what do I feel now? Doubt?

Or age, simply? The crowd
Is young in the M1 cafe;
Their kids are screaming for more -
More houses, more parking allowed,
More caravan sites, more pay.
On the Business Page, a score

Of spectacled grins approve
Some takeover bid that entails
Five per cent profit (and ten
Per cent more in the estuaries): move
Your works to the unspoilt dales
(Grey area grants)! And when

You try to get near the sea
In summer . . .
It seems, just now,
To be happening so very fast;
Despite all the land left free
For the first time I feel somehow
That it isn’t going to last,

That before I snuff it, the whole
Boiling will be bricked in
Except for the tourist parts -
First slum of Europe: a role
It won’t be hard to win,
With a cast of crooks and tarts.

And that will be England gone,
The shadows, the meadows, the lanes,
The guildhalls, the carved choirs.
There’ll be books; it will linger on
In galleries; but all that remains
For us will be concrete and tyres.

Most things are never meant.
This won’t be, most likely; but greeds
And garbage are too thick-strewn
To be swept up now, or invent
Excuses that make them all needs.
I just think it will happen, soon.


Yes, there are English subtitles for un village français.

un village francais screen cap

Screen cap from S2E1: La loterie

I found it amusing that the first DVD I popped into my player had an anti-piracy warning since getting subtitles for this series is an “after market” affair. There are subtitles availble on the internet. Not the best, but subtitles nonetheless.

And they are free.

Unfortunately, the DVDs don’t make it easy to use the subtitles since there is copy protection which makes it hard to use something like VLC media player to watch them (and load the subtitle track). Although, one can download the subtitle file from the internet, which makes me wonder why the people who sell the disks didn’t put them on in the first place. After all, there was an article in the New York Times that praised this series.

That means that you have to make the episodes viewable in a source that can load a separate subtitle track since the DVD is unplayable as is through VLC.  As I said, VLC media player allows you to load a subtitle by going to menu>video>subtitle track  or subtitle>add subtitle track and then selecting the appropriate subtitle file.

Don’t complain about piracy as a reason for losing sales if you are not catering to the marketplace. Especially if the customer has to go elsewhere for the subtitles!  Even worse if the best way to watch your series is using a copy that was ripped, or even downloaded (I bought mine and do not advocate using downloaded copies if “official” versions are available).

I found the subtitles I use here:  www.addic7ed.com/show/3685.  These subtitles are by R. Clarke of Whitby, Ontario, Canada.

As I said, these are OK.  They were free and you get what you pay for.   They were not that helpful during the picnic scene since they either weren’t present or were up for too short a time.  I could probably make do without subtitles, but I find having English subtitles are far more helpful than the French ones were.   The French ones were more annoying than helpful.

But given that I paid 58.49 for the set (US$83.33, £47.60), I’m not unhappy with the end result.  I am unhappy that  have to take up hard disk space to be able to watch something I have on DVD.

Addition: as I’ve been ripping my disks for VLC, I’ve noticed that some of the subtitles aren’t very complete, but it seems that the addic7ed site has the only “complete” set of subtitles for this series.  I can’t vouch for how good they all are as I have only seen one complete episode, but these are (1) available and (2) somewhat complete.  Perhaps, the subtitle files may be updated at addic7ed to fix the incomplete/inaccurate ones.  At this point, the addic7ed site is the best source I’ve found.

Another note: I was QCing S5E3 and noticed that the subtitles were off timing.  There was Another scene which was not on the official DVD that was subtitled before the action began.  I’m not sure how to edit these, but that might be what needs to be done.

Also, the subtitles end at Series 5 episode 7 at this time (29 May 14).  Maybe some of the corrections will be made by someone.  I’d like to figure out how to edit the subtitles.  I just downloaded Jubler and may work on fixing these.  I will post them at addicted if I do (a) fix or (b) create subtitles.

This isn’t news to me

For some reason, the US national characteristic of anti-intellectualism is being noticed in the press with MacLeans (Canada) America Dumbs Down and the New York Review of Books, Age of Ignorance. I’ve also been doing posts on this since 2010, and am not the only person to have noticed this trend. As I said, this isn’t really news since Richard Hofstadter won the 1964 Pulitzer prize for a book titled Anti-intellectualism in American Life.  Hofstadter attributed this trend toward the democratisation of knowledge.

in 2008, journalist Susan Jacoby was warning that the denseness—“a virulent mixture of anti-rationalism and low expectations”—was more of a permanent state. In her book, The Age of American Unreason, she posited that it trickled down from the top, fuelled by faux-populist politicians striving to make themselves sound approachable rather than smart.  Perhaps we can add media consolidation to the contributing factors with fewer good news sources being available in the US and even public broadcasting being throttled by crypto-commercials called “underwriting”.

Hofstadter’s book was the landmark work on the topic, even though there have been a few more significant books and articles on anti-intellectualism preceded it (most notably Merle Curti’s The Growth of American Thought in 1943), and even though it has been followed, in recent years, by well known books from the Left and Right, including Russell Jacoby’s The Last Intellectuals, Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, Richard Posner’s Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, and so on. The list lengthens if one adds in broader books about the “dumbing down” of American society.

Of course, some of the US founders were intellectuals (Jefferson and Franklin) who founded Universities or who praised education (Madison), yet the trend toward anti-intellectualism has taken grasp in the US.  Hoffstadter pointed out that there is a conflict between access to education and excellence in education (although, I am of the opinion that one does not need to be formally educated to contributes to this trend, which is reiterated in the MacLeans article where a US Second Grader wrote to the South Carolina legislature that she believed the States should have a fossil, but was rebuffed by fundamentalist spewing mumbo-jumbo about evolution.\

Charles Simic point out in the NYRB piece that:

It took years of indifference and stupidity to make us as ignorant as we are today. Anyone who has taught college over the last forty years, as I have, can tell you how much less students coming out of high school know every year. At first it was shocking, but it no longer surprises any college instructor that the nice and eager young people enrolled in your classes have no ability to grasp most of the material being taught. Teaching American literature, as I have been doing, has become harder and harder in recent years, since the students read little literature before coming to college and often lack the most basic historical information about the period in which the novel or the poem was written, including what important ideas and issues occupied thinking people at the time.

Even better is where Simic points out:

In the past, if someone knew nothing and talked nonsense, no one paid any attention to him. No more. Now such people are courted and flattered by conservative politicians and ideologues as “Real Americans” defending their country against big government and educated liberal elites. The press interviews them and reports their opinions seriously without pointing out the imbecility of what they believe. The hucksters, who manipulate them for the powerful financial interests, know that they can be made to believe anything, because, to the ignorant and the bigoted, lies always sound better than truth

It seems that the big push for ignorance comes from the right since an educated, well-informed population, which is required by a functioning democracy, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country.  It is much easier to spread disinformation to a population which is incapable of critical thinking skills than one which only hears the things which they agree.  That was one of the reason for the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press: to have a healthy and informed debate on public policy.  But one cannot have such a debate if the field is filled with rubbish spread by those who have their own interests at heart.

To some extent, Hofstadter is correct when he mentions the democratisation of knowledge, where someone who has no real grasp of the topic gives an opinion and weight is given to that opinion which is out of line with its value.  The opinion of someone who has no knowledge of a topic does not have the same weight as someone who has studied the topic and developed an expertise of the matter.

Simic points out the common misconceptions which are being pushed and offers this conclusion for why anti-intellectualism has become epidemic:

Christians are persecuted in this country.
The government is coming to get your guns.
Obama is a Muslim.
Global Warming is a hoax.
The president is forcing open homosexuality on the military.
Schools push a left-wing agenda.
Social Security is an entitlement, no different from welfare.
Obama hates white people.
The life on earth is 10,000 years old and so is the universe.
The safety net contributes to poverty.
The government is taking money from you and giving it to sex-crazed college women to pay for their birth control.

One could easily list many more such commonplace delusions believed by Americans. They are kept in circulation by hundreds of right-wing political and religious media outlets whose function is to fabricate an alternate reality for their viewers and their listeners. “Stupidity is sometimes the greatest of historical forces,” Sidney Hook said once. No doubt. What we have in this country is the rebellion of dull minds against the intellect. That’s why they love politicians who rail against teachers indoctrinating children against their parents’ values and resent the ones who show ability to think seriously and independently. Despite their bravado, these fools can always be counted on to vote against their self-interest. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is why millions are being spent to keep my fellow citizens ignorant.

See also:

Bumme Heure

This is my response and message to the New York Times’ Aleesandra Stanley for her Article: The Elusive Pleasures of French TV Series– ‘Spiral’ and 3 Other French Shows Worth Seeking Out.  I agree with her that Engrenages (Spiral) is really good as is The Killing (which is also what it was called when broadcast in the UK, which was Danish and not French–so, I’m not sure why she mentioned it, but…).  Anyway: here’s my comment.

Really elusive for one of them: Un Village Francais.  That is the only one of them which has no English subtitles.  It’s also fairly expensive too boot since it’s pretty much a region two item.  Amazon UK has the first series on sale for £30 (it’s the only one with subtitles–French subtitles).

My french is good enough that I probably don’t need the subtitles, but I also don’t want to spend between £30 and 125 for the series!

Only the Returned (Les Revenants) and Spiral are available on Netflix.  I’m not sure if Maison Close is available in the US.

On the other hand, there is a fifth show for this list: Braquo, which I think is a US relase, but also not on Netflix.  I have a region 2 copy, which happened to be cheaper (As was Maison Close series 1).

I have to add to this that I have been wanting to see Un Village Francais since Audrey Fleurot and Thierry Godard from Spiral are in it.  I’ve been looking for a copy and your article made me a bit hopeful.

Everyone who has seen it has said it is really good: so, it’s kind of a bumme heure that it’s not available en anglais.

And expensive to boot!

Anyway, I haven’t seen two of these, Returned (Les Revenants)  and Maison Close, and will take her advice.  I am upset that no one has decided to market a subtitled Un Village Francais since everyone who has seen it has said how good it it,  I’m pretty sure a UK (or Aussie version) would be a whole lot less expensive than the current French release.

Also, one other point it seems that the French release of Un Village Francais only has French subtitles on series one.  The rest of them have no subtitles.

Also, I decided to price check Amazon.fr for this.  The series DVDs are pretty expensive, but L’Integral (series 1-5) works out to be 58,49 (about US$84.54).  That would be the best option, except that it doesn’t come with English (or French subtitles other than Series 1).  I hate ordering a DVD only to have it become available later with subtitles.  Also, having subtitles lets me share it with my friends.


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