Category Archives: Art

Manneken Pis — The Great Symbol of Brussels

Manneken Pis in Action

Paris has the Eiffel Tower, San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge, and New York has the Statue of Liberty. See any of these iconic images, and you instantly know what they symbolize, and where you are.

For the last 400 years, Brussels has had Manneken Pis, a two-foot-high sculpture of a naked little boy, urinating into a fountain.

The intersection where Manneken Pis lives is always crowded with tourists trying to capture the perfect shot of the Great Symbol of Brussels. Shops in the area sell everything from life-size duplicates of the statue to smaller replicas made of Belgian chocolate.

The statue is usually nude, but sometimes it’s dressed in one of the thousand or so costumes that have been approved by the non-profit association that reviews the designs submitted each year, and accepts a small number of them. The earliest costume came from France’s King Louis XV in 1747, as an apology for a plot by French soldiers to steal the statue.

Dark Thoughts on an Easter Morning

Dracula Pis

I first saw Manneken Pis dressed as Dracula on Easter morning, and couldn’t help but wonder if someone was making a very subtle, very dark joke.

It seemed a strange choice for the holiday. Let’s see…besides Dracula, who else do we know who died, but then rose from the grave and went out in search of people to convert?

Of course, the use of that particular costume on Easter Sunday could have been just a coincidence, and any analogy might exist only in my mind—there’s no denying that I have a morbid taste for transgressive humour—but I sort of doubt it.


In the Cathedral

I’m not at all religious, but when I’m traveling, I like to visit churches. They’re usually warm and dry and quiet—good places to get away from the hectic life outside their doors. You can easily lose yourself in the beauty of the architecture and the stained glass. I can’t imagine being in Paris without spending some time in Sainte-Chapelle or in Krakow without a stop at St. Mary’s Basilica.

In Brussels, there’s Cathedrale St-Michel et Ste-Gudule, with its wonderful windows.

I (Unintentionally) Turn to the Dark Side.

As I was leaving the cathedral, I crossed paths with a large, distressed, American family group. They were trying to get to the vault on the church’s lower level, but to do that, they first had to pay the admission fee at a turnstile, which accepted nothing but €1 coins. They didn’t have enough of the correct currency. I had a lot of loose change, so I offered to trade.

It was only after the transaction that I realized the deplorable thing I’d done: Without ever intending to, I’d become one of the proverbial Moneychangers in the Temple.

I scurried away before anyone could throw me out.

More Massive Attack

A few days back, I posted a video of Norwegian singer Aurora’s cover version of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”. It was probably inevitable that I’d follow it down the rabbit hole, which led me to another video.

Kaleidoscopic, not to mention psychedelic. You’ll want to dim the lights and go full screen on this one,

Here’s an audio-only of “Paradise Circus”, one of my favourite Massive Attack songs.

The Breathtaking Brilliance of David Bowie is at the Brooklyn Museum

David Bowie is at the Brooklyn Museum is the most exciting, dynamic, and fascinating show you’ll see this year.

Here are some of the things you can see or hear at the exhibition:

“Highlights of the exhibition include more than 60 custom-made performance costumes…85 handwritten lyric sheets, including those from “Fame” and “Fashion”… drawings, including a sketch for the Young Americans album cover; and oil paintings, including two of musician Iggy Pop, all by Bowie…more than 40 pioneering music videos, television clips, and filmed roles as well as a multimedia presentation of international tour footage…custom audio mix made up of snippets of Bowie’s songs…”

—from the exhibition’s web page


The show originated at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, in 2013. Since then, it has been on a tour that took it to 10 cities on five continents. David Bowie is has been seen by more people than any other show in the V&A’s 166-year history.

These reviews, from Vogue (“Go. Just go.”) and Rolling Stone (“Stunning”), describe parts of the show, and explain why it’s the Must See exhibition of 2018.

It runs through 15 July 2018. This is the last stop of the tour, so once it’s gone, it’s gone.


Even if you can’t get to the exhibition itself, you can buy the David Bowie cotton tote bag ($10) or the lavishly illustrated David Bowie is exhibition catalogue ($45 softcover, $55 hardcover). All available at the Brooklyn Museum’s shop.

(Photography wasn’t allowed, so all these pictures are from the museum’s website.)

David Bowie is…in Brooklyn

Big News

I’ve been waiting for this for five years.

“David Bowie is”, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s magnificent exhibition chronicling the life of Ziggy Stardust, has returned to North America. It opened at the Brooklyn Museum last Friday, and will run through 15 July 2018.

I’ve already got my ticket.

I saw “David Bowie is” in 2013, in Toronto, the first stop of what was to be a five-year, five-continent, 10-city tour. It ran at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and it was possibly the most brilliantly staged museum exhibition I’d ever seen.

It was worthy of Bowie.

Here’s what I wrote at the time.

More Game of Thrones Goes Postal — Giants and Direwolves and Dragons, Oh My

The British Royal Mail isn’t ignoring the non-human players of the Game of Thrones. In addition to the 10 contestants in the set of postage stamps that I wrote about yesterday, the Royal Mail is also issuing a sheet of stamps featuring some of the less hominoid characters in the Game.

There are direwolves, who are friends of the good guys…

…giants and dragons, who play both sides of the field…

…and, of course, the Big Bad himself, the Night King.

At the center of it all, the Iron Throne.

The stamps will be sold at UK Post Office branches starting on 23 January 2018, and are already available for pre-ordered on the Royal Mail website.

Game of Thrones Goes Postal

Imagine this: There’s been an incident in King’s Landing. Two or three royals die of festering paper cuts, a deranged pig farmer blows up the national cathedral, the Queen announces that she’s pregnant by her six-years-dead husband, flying monkeys attack the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion, whatever. Just another day in Westeros, really, but you feel an urgent need to get word of the event to the Watchers at the Wall.

You go to your aviary, only to discover that your fastest, most reliable raven is lying motionless at the bottom of his cage, little claws in the air, pining for the fjords. What to do?

British Royal Mail to the rescue!

On 23 January 2018, UK Post Office branches will begin selling stamps celebrating characters from the world’s most popular TV show, Game of Thrones. Even better, the stamps are available for pre-ordered on the Royal Mail website.

The stamps depict 10 characters, eight of whom are played by British actors.  Here’s are close-ups of the individual stamps:

Beautifully done, aren’t they?