Skin deep

Skin deep d284fce82eda540bc68c71a071b81753 Sitting in the bus back home, I’m in a sort of sedative state. I see the world around me but I’m not seeing it really. I’m in my own world. Virtual. Spaced out. I nearly missed my stop. Buzzed. I feel strong but extremely vulnerable at the same time. Happy and sad. Exhausted but with a weird kind of energy. No I’m not drunk. No, I’m not even under the influence of any legal or illegal substances. I’m simply in that particular kind of flow. Probably due to the hormones the body gives you at a certain point when or after you’re in big pain. I was advised by Valentin to have a good meal; he claims my body will need it. That there was a serious attack on that body, and that it will crave a real meal. In his eyes that is a steak or a hamburger. He’s a far better artist than food expert 🙂 (In my eyes a good meal means a quinoa salad or a falafel. But I’m not into food right now.) I’m in the bus 104 after an afternoon of pain and pleasure, being tattooed by Valentin Hirsch in his small tattoo studio in Neukölln, Berlin. I didn’t know what to expect at first. Valentin, rising star in the tattoo world and one of the very few accepted by the contemporary art world, has his own way of working: you say what design (he’s totally into animals) you would like to have on your body, and on which body part you would like it. You need to be patient. He works alone and the waiting list is huge. I gave him some instructions a couple of months ago but it’s only on the day of the actual tattoo session that he shows me his design. And even then you see only the rough lines. He will fill in the drawing on the spot. He made something I didn’t expect. I expected a deer. I got a parrot. Which eventually matched completely with what I wanted. A little scary at first, I admit. The sketch on paper looked good, but not fantastic. I can always withdraw. But I knew his work. He’s a damn good inker. (Can’t wait to see his other art, etchings and other stuff, Valentin, if you read this, keep me posted please!). I was proud to be there. And I knew more or less how it will look like in a couple of hours. I’m was so ready for this. Four hours later I feel like if somebody scratched his testament on my back. Maybe Valentin really did, in a peculiar way. He puts after all, a part of his soul in it. He can’t do otherwise. So I think. I think I would anyway. Drawing a piece of art into a person’s body is not something you do lightly. Their body is your canvas. Your drawing becomes theirs. And after a couple of hours, it walks through that door and you will probably never see it again. Letting needles deep inside your body is not something you do lightly neither. Or at least you shouldn’t. What I underestimated it the intenseness of the whole process. Not only you go naked metaphorically spoken but also sometimes you do have to take some cloths off. For a shy woman like me, that’s already a whole mountain to overcome.


One of Valentin’s designs.

And you spend a couple of hours together, hands on skin, needle in skin. You don’t talk. There is fantastic music playing. You are in pain; your suffering is under his hands, from where it runs through his body before he lets it loose again. He concentrates. Your body speaks. He hears it, even if he’s not listening. I don’t like pain. But pain also reminds me that I’m alive. It’s an exchange of energy that is rather intense. I love intense. After the session, I have a look in the mirror and the result is above all expectations. Wow. Beautiful. Soft. Delicate. This will grow old with me. That feels comforting. I feel blessed and in a strange way protected. You know, like wearing a talisman, or having an Indian God statue in your pocket. You know it doesn’t work and you totally don’t believe in it, but in a strange way, those things comfort you. But I can’t deny the fact that my back sends pain messages to my neck, my brain, and my breasts. Reminding me that my body is one, that it’s not a collection of different parts. I’m not a man machine. Living in Berlin is living with many nationalities, a lot of poverty, weird scenes on the street, bar stories that are so lonely you could die, a lot of hustle, many stories, many ambitions, great imagination. And also a big underground scene. There aren’t many white collars out here. Berlin is a poor city. Most of the people in restaurants and bars or shops have tattoos, piercings or whatever other crazy (or not) body ornament. Most of them are not nicer or less well behaved than the ones without. Philipp; a friend and fashion photographer, says that “yes indeed, it is a real hype; you cannot find models anymore without a tattoo. It’s like everybody’s having it.” He’s not really happy with it. It’s a hype, a trend. Philipp joins Ozzy Osborne in this case. Ozzy once remarked to his daughter Kelly, ‘If you want to be different, don’t get a tattoo.’ Getting NOT tattooed is probably the most hipster thing to do which is totally understandable. Trends come and go. But I don’t give a damn about being hip or not. And I survived already a couple of trends. Even the worst. I was a teenager in the eighties: How bad do you think it gets? Tattoo subculture is a significant part of the Berlin culture. Body art is going completely avant-garde. Compared to 10 years ago is that it has nothing to do anymore with social circles. Musicians, artists, gallery owners, designers, but also the paperboy, or the girl in the supermarket. They all joined the tat-club. 10348362_751455218261784_262458873590717673_n tumblr_lw7urj60Tz1qba4mto1_1280There is still the old school, the classic, the sailors, the rockers, the Celtic and Maori designs etc. But there’s a new generation there. People who have a passion, a knowledge, a talent, a vision. Most of the times went to art school. No mass products for this avant-garde. This new generation of tattoo artist threw away conformity and a new aesthetic is born. People like Chaim Mavlev, Valentin Plessy, Peter Aurisch and Valentin Hirsch just to name a few, are working on a totally new level. And these are all people that are working in Berlin. I’ve always had a passion for tattoos. It is probably one of the more honest art forms. It is visceral. How close can you get to a text, a piece of art? It’s skin deep. It’s there to stay. For as long as you live. And even longer. The fact that you can scratch so deep into your skin that a work stays on your body for that long is amazing. It’s really nothing new. The art of tattooing is 5000 years old. I wrote down a short history underneath this post if you would like to read about it. We all like to think that the tattoo is the permanent expression of a certain feeling on a certain point in our lives. But I think it’s just the image that might be permanent or semi-permanent. The interpretation of the image is fluid. And thus will change through the years. Probably. But as I said, that evolves. That changes. Some women say it helps them to reclaim their body after bad experiences. Some people just do it because it’s trendy. Some people want their dog forever written on their skin. There are plenty of reasons. Not all of them are good, that’s for sure. “The melting pot that is the United States has no rites of passage as a single American culture,” says Ken Brown, a tattoo artist in Fredericksburg, Virginia, who finds inspiration in National Geographic photographs “On some levels, getting a tattoo is like a milestone that marks a certain moment in a person’s life.” Ken still remembers one customer, an 80-year-old former marine who had always wanted a tattoo but had been too afraid to get one. “He came to me for his first tattoo,” Ken says, “and he told me, ‘I figure I got five or six good years left in me, and I’m not going out without one.’ ” I love that last quote so much! What is it about tattoos that make them so popular? Why would somebody for Buddha’s sake would like to have needles in their bodies, at more than 100 times a second? In this video you can see exactly how it looks like in slow motion. Mesmerizing. Don’t ask me why, but I just love a beautiful tattoo. It is always an immense pleasure to look at a beautifully decorated body. I really consider it as an art form. Pity most of the designs are ugly as hell. Same shit as in the other arts. Maybe this nouvelle vague will lead to more talented tattoo artists and too more good taste in general. I so understand the people who always want more. Guess they feel naked without them. And there might be addicted to the ritual of getting tattooed. It’s a whole process of course. The thinking of the theme, the drawing itself, the first meeting with a tattoo artist, the studio, the stencil on your body and then that noise, the specific noise of that machine. The different needles. With their different noises and the different pains they create. The state in which you are after a couple of hours of pain, sometimes hardly bearable. Sometimes soft and almost tender. Everybody is afraid how the tattoos will look when we get old. Well, we hopefully all grow old, aren’t we? My friend Katharina puts it this way.” I’ll grow old and wrinkled with my tattoos, you will grow old and wrinkled without them.” Enough said. And the very last quotation comes from my son: “Wow. That is awesome! Finally I have a cool mum”, he exclaimed when he saw my tattoo for the first time. I don’t agree with him. I was always a cool mum, even before the ink 😉       More on tattoo art in Berlin here and in Belgium here. The blogs are not super up to date and don’t claim to be complete.     A short history of tattoos     Tattoos arise from a rich cultural history dating back 5,000 years. In fact, the earliest record of tattoos was found in 1991 on the frozen remains of Ötzi. Big parts of his body were marked with small line, made by rubbing powdered charcoal into vertical cuts. Scientists discovered that he had bone degeneration at the site of each tattoo. This led leading to believe that Ötzi’s people, ancestors of contemporary central and northern Europeans, may have used tattoos as medical treatment to reduce pain. Poor Ötzi! Later, the meaning of tattoos changed. Take Egyptian funerary figures of female dancers from around 2000 B.C. They display the same abstract dot-and-dash tattoos on their bodies as those found on female mummies from that time period. Bes, god of fertility and revelry is seen in later images. In ancient Romans the found no reason to celebrate tattoos. They believed in the purity of the human form. Except as brands for criminals and the condemned, tattoos were banned. (Criminals and tattoos…hey that rings a bell!). But over time, even the Roman attitudes toward tattoos changed. Fighting an army of Britons who wore their tattoos as badges of honor, some Romans came to admire their enemies’ ferocity as well as the symbols that represented it. Soon Roman soldiers were wearing their own body marks; Roman doctors even perfected the art of application and removal. During the Crusades of the 11th and 12th centuries, warriors identified themselves with the mark of the Jerusalem cross so that they could be given a proper Christian burial if they died in battle. After the Crusades, tattooing largely disappeared in the West for a time, but continued to flourish in other places. By the early 18th century, European sailors encountered the inhabitants of the South and Central Pacific islands. There, tattoos were an important part of the culture. When a Tahitian girl reached the age of sexual maturity, her buttocks were tattooed black, a tradition that continues among some today. When in mourning, Hawaiians tattooed their tongues with three dots. In Borneo, natives tattooed an eye on the palm of their hands as a spiritual guide that would lead them to the next life. In 1769, Capt. James Cook landed in Tahiti, where the word “tattoo” originated from tatau, which means to tap the mark into the body. One method island practitioners used for working their designs into the skin was with a razor-edged shell attached to the end of a stick. In New Zealand, Maori leaders signed treaties by drawing precise replicas of their moko, or personal facial tattoo. Such designs are still used to identify the wearer as a member of a certain family and to symbolize a person’s achievements in life. In the 1820s, Europeans began the macabre practice of trading guns for tattooed heads of Maori warriors. To keep up with demand, Maori traders took slaves and commoners captured in battle, tattooed them, killed them, and sold their heads. The practice ended in 1831 when the British government made the importation of human heads illegal. Tattooing has been practiced in Japan since around the 5th century B.C. Repressive laws gave rise to the exquisite Japanese designs known today. Restricted from wearing the ornate kimonos that adorned royalty and the elite, outraged merchants and the lower classes rebelled by wearing tattooed body suits. Covering their torsos with illustrations that began at the neck and extended to the elbow and above the knee, wearers hid the intricate designs beneath their clothing. Viewing the practice as subversive, the government outlawed tattoos in 1870 as it entered a new era of international relationships. As a result, tattooists went underground, where the art flourished as an expression of the wearer’s inner longings and impulses. The yakuza, the Japanese gangster class, embraced the body suits—even more so because they were illegal. Those tattoos required long periods of pain from the artist’s bundles of needles, endured by wearers as a show of allegiance to their beliefs. Today, Japanese tattoo wearers are devoted to the most colorful, complete, and exotic expression of the art. New York inventor Samuel O’Reilly patented the first electric tattoo machine in 1891, making traditional tools a thing of the past in the West. By the end of the 1920s, American circuses employed more than 300 people with full-body tattoos who could earn an unprecedented $200 per week.

Maud Wagner. 1907.

Maud Wagner. 1907. First known female tattoo artist in the US.  Circus performer.

For the next 50 years, tattoos gained a reputation as a mark of American fringe cultures, sailors, and World War II veterans In the 1970s everything changed and real artists appeared. It was moved out of the danger zone. Katherine Irwin, associate professor of sociology at the University of Hawaii, has studied the cultural significance of the rise of tattooing among mainstream people in the West. “They became a symbol of working class masculinity. Now they are being recrafted into a middle class symbol.But she points out that in 19th Century Europe it was fashionable among some sections of the upper class to have discreet tattoos, of family crests and other aristocratic emblems. Tattoos have gone in and out of the mainstream, she insists. “They like to play with fringe identities without sacrificing their middle class status. They get a tattoo that is thumbing their nose at middle class society in a way that is so mainstream that it would be hard to push them out. “They don’t get anything super-fringe, they weren’t doing bloody skull and crossbones.” The promise of the tattoo is that the ordinary unadorned stretch of arm or leg or stomach will be transformed into a canvas for a statement, either artistic or counter-cultural, of cool. The most popular explanation of the motive for getting a tattoo is about “reasserting control over your own body”. In a Western world where body image, plastic surgery, anorexia and the depiction of women is a topic of daily debate, tattoos represent a different current of thought. I think we’re on the edge of a totally new vision of body art. Tattooing has become adult. Can’t wait to see what the future brings.     Sources: Pictures: Please contact me if you are the photographer, I couldn’t find the credits for some of them!


One of those typical Berlin weekends

UnknownIt is the last weekend before school starts again. So what does a Belgian forty something does in Berlin when she’s not working on her book? This for instance:

An ideal way to start a long weekend is with a lunch on Friday. As mentioned before on this blog, cheap, healthy lunches aren’t hard to find in Berlin. Even in our tourist crowded neighbourhood which is called Scheunenviertel. I often take my kids out to lunch and today is no exception. Today, Elmo and I try Il Mercante del Sud, an authentic Italian cantina situated in front of the Jewish Friedhof, in de Große Hamburgerstr. 21. This is an aera of Berlin crowded with tourists but this friendly place is a relief compared to all the tourists traps around us.


Authentic Italian food (today no fresh pasta which is wirklich schade), and authentic Italian (from the Marche region) atmosphere. Large wooden tables where you can just join other foodies. The open kitchen is huge and homey. No professional geer here  but cooking like I would do it at home if I cooked on electricity. A menu is optional but there is one: it is written on the inside of a pizza cardboard box 🙂


The linguine al ragu comes with lots of veggies and my pasta arrabiata is excellent but unfortunately not arrabiata. Guess the chef isn’t arrabiata (enraged) enough today. A little spicy oil will do the trick. And yes, their home made spicy oil is really spicy. One menu (salad, pasta + drink) and one pasta + drink costs 17,5 Euro. Not super cheap for Berlin. But considering the atmosphere and the quality of the food it’s an excellent price/quality. And chef, don”t forget to spice it up next time, per favore 🙂 !

On Friday evening, I leave my cosy work desk at home to go to Alt Stralau to see an opera. Yep. Indeed. An opera in a hipster club. Why not ?  While I’m sitting there in the garden one of Berlin’s most famous clubs called Salon Zur Wilden Renate I can’t help thinking that Berlin hipsters are ruling Berlin’s art scene. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, I don’t give a damn.

DSC_2831~2Tonight is the premier of the Kiez Oper (see my last year’s post here) called The Fairy Queen. Alex J. Eccleston & Rowan Hellier, two twenty something producers,  try to tame a talented baroque ensemble conducted by Benjamin Bayl (Staatsoper) and Julia Burbach, the director of Royal Opera House (London) fame,  together with an international bunch of singers and actors. Here is a video of their last year ‘s performance. The public is essentially composed by international hipsters and I have to admit it: they are better dressed than I am to face this rather cold August night. Kiez Oper is a great initiative: to bring the opera to young (or relatively young) people in awkward places at a great price (12 Euro!) is indeed a fantastic idea. It’s anti-elitist, it’s fun, it’s beauty, it’s art. But this doesn’t come easy. To act and sing in a place like this, crowded ( I think there must be about 600 people!), with bars, people, big trees and hanging boats everywhere is not easy. And acting and singing and performing in relatively cold circumstances is a challenge.


Photo: Jack Snow

The Fairy-Queen is a masque or semi-opera by Henry Purcell from the end of the 17th Century. The libretto is an anonymous adaptation of Shakespeare’s wedding comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was performed for the first time three years before Purcell’s dead. Following his death, the score was lost and only rediscovered early in the twentieth century. Filled with fairies, nymphs and transvestites, fire breathers along with the great location it looks like it is everything I like. It is indeed very contemporary even if it’s more than 300 years old.  And yes, there’s even a counter tenor. Buddha knows how much I love baroque music and countertenors. So why did I leave about an hour later not totally satisfied? The piece is really beautiful and the musicians excellent. But although I was on time I was too far from where most of the action was (although they did try to use the whole setting) and the trees and lack of stage were too big a handicap. Too bad I’m not professional enough to say something intelligent of the  quality of the singers. I was particularly surprised by the drag queen countertenor who really moved me when he started to sing his lamento  O let me weep. The setting, and he alone on that huge balcony…just perfect. But the small technical problems (2 times the microphones failed) , the sound of glasses and bottles at the bar, the fact that some singers were not understandable (and no program given so the story was lost on me), the disrespectful laughter of people in the back at the bar…that doesn’t forgive.

Some acting performances were not strong enough to be able to move the audience. And when there’s no emotion, there is something wrong. It would have no doubt been different if I was closer to the front. But please please please continue, I know the challenge and the (above all: technical) difficulties encountered are immens, but the idea is fantastic, and it makes me and hundreds of other people with me discover music we otherwise would never have known. And promised: next time, I’ll come earlier and sit in the front.

Here are some fantastic recordings of Purcell with Philippe Jaroussky,  divine as always. And then there’s this: Christina Pluhar and het Arpeggiata ensemble at her best.


On Saturday I skip the cue (I heard later that some had to wait 3 hours!) at the Martin Gropius Bau because I bought an internet ticket for the David Bowie Exposition.

Always a bit sceptical on those expos that turns artists into gods but the expo beats everything I saw before. The concert room is simply overwhelming and larger than life. And when a guard sees me taking notes, she kindly invites me to sit on the bench. Not just a bench, but THE bench that used to be in the Dschungle, that famous club in West Berlin where Blixa Bargeld, Bowie, Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, Grace Jones and Depeche Mode spend most of their nights during their Berlin years. And for my freaky music friends: in that same room you’ll see a AKS 1979 Synthi. It was a gift to The Thin White Duke by a certain Brian Eno :-).

More than 2 hours later I’m totally happy and rather excited when I bike home in the sun. I’m the luckiest of bikers, feeling totally free and happy to have know most of Bowie’s repertoire, and to live in this fantastic city. Back home, my kids are starving so I’m making dinner they can’t refuse. Hmm, in fact, they did, my red curry is a little bit too spicy 😦 If i’m really honest: it is a hell of a lot too spicy. Seems like I will have to eat it myself for the next couple of days 🙂 Arrabiata it will be.

In the evening, one kid stays home alone while the big one (home from a trip around Europe that lasted 3 weeks so still pretty exhausted) and I are going to the Museum Insel where there will be a screening of the digitally restored classical expressionist masterpiece Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene) with live music from the Solistenensemble of the Film Orchestra of Babelsberg.


Although I attended film school a long long time ago (it was the eighties and Belgian film schools sucked) I never saw the movie. It is indeed, a masterpiece, nothing more, nothing less. Thinking it was made in 1919-1920, cinema only a decade or 2 old, and already being able to make such a statement is simply overwhelming. These fantastic decors, the intenseness of the actors ( Conrad Veidt, Werner Krauss…), the great music, I’m very grateful to be able to share this with my 19 year old.


On Sunday, a trip to the famous flea market known for its excellent buskers is cancelled due to the rain but in the afternoon I try some tango dance moves in the open air milonga at the famous Strandbar Mitte before heading to tango class in the Kreuzberg district where we did practised our improvisation skills along with some new barridas, pasadas, ganchos and whatever the other steps are called.

Tango © Marine Queyras

Tango © Marine Queyras

I ‘m dancing for 6 months now, 2 times a week, almost never miss a course and I’m still an absolute beginner. Although this is so frustrating, I will not give up this time. I can be stubborn sometimes.


Home again, there is still time for a heavy discussion (“I don’t want to go to school tomorrow, school is hell”) but also a cuddle and a story with my son who will start school tomorrow and who’s not -you guessed that part didn’t you?-very amused by that fact. And that…is a hell of an understatement. Guess he might be a little… arrabiato.


Telling Tales. A writing workshop, tons of stories and beautiful people

Wedding. Red Wedding that is. One of the few parts of Berlin never to vote for the Nazis. Wedding is still a largely working class area, very multicultural too. It is also probably the most authentic district of Berlin. And as other parts of Berlin are raising their prices on every level, Wedding is still affordable although the artists are slowly discovering the area which means the gentrification slowly begins. That also means that you can already have a damn good soy cappuccino for a humble 2 euros. I am not against gentle gentrification as long as it doesn’t kill the identity of the Kiez.

It was the first summer intensive 2014 course organised by The Reader Berlin and it took place at The Alte Kantine. In Wedding that is, but you got that, didn’t you? 🙂 For 5 days, we, that is 9 participants, focused on the art of telling tales, crafting narratives from real life experiences. Trying to shape them into stories. Readable stories that is. Stories with punch.With a heart, with a need to burst out of our system.

Tutors, mentors, life savers and je ne sais quoi were best selling author Rory Maclean (check out his website here!) and American journalist par excellence Kimberly Bradley.

There were also 2 evening events. One was a reading by famous journalist Tim Butcher who gave birth to his acclaimed new book THE TRIGGER. It’s a book about the teenage assassin named Gavrilo Princip who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand which brought the world to war in 1914.

On Wednesday Rory Maclean read from his new book BERLIN: IMAGINE A CITY and took part in a Q&A with Sharmaine Lovegrove . The last one took place in the Soho House Hotel. I missed the first event for personal reasons (and I regret it every hour since) but I went to the second one to see and hear my teacher/tutor in the Red Room of the members-only and super-posh-hotel-which-hosts-Madonna-and George Clooney-just-to-name-a-few. Rory was exactly as I expected him to be: the humble, funny, easy going super professional traveller and extreme Berlin lover. And yes, he did go dancing with David Bowie in the seventies and yes he did met Marlene Dietrich.


After his reading some of us went straight to the roof of the hotel. Posh bar, swimming pool, view on the Fernsehturm on Alexanderplatz and full moon. I have to admit, I’ve seen worse places in the world. We stayed for a drink or two. When I left the hotel, I was looking for my bike. A little too concentrated maybe (it can also lies in the fact that the bartenders aren’t really stingy when it comes to filling glasses) because I didn’t see the step in front of the hotel doors. I fell right on my knees. It hurted like hell but hey, I got up and went on with my life 🙂 I couldn’t help laughing all the way home because it was such a huge life lesson. After all that poshy, shabby chic stuff at the hotel, the universe put me right back where I belong. With my feet (well on my knees in this case) on the ground that is!

But back to the Alte Kantine. We listened to Kimberly’s and Rory’s stories, sucked in their tips on good writing, learned the soft way that fear of writing is as divers and common as the amount of Imbiss (fast food joints) in this city, and finally accepted that we will never be able to overcome them all. We have to embrace some, just to be able to go on, to go further, to go where no one…well you got my point.

The journalist versus travel author duo works remarkably well. A man and a woman. A Canadian and an American (if you have any doubt of who’s what, just ask them to pronounce ‘process’, hilarious). Totally different personalities. But both passionate, humble and extremely professional. And damn good observers. And so were the participants. Real people with real stories to tell. All of us. No exception.

Although most of us were used to get out of comfort zone regularly we were sometimes forced to go a little further. The hardest part was on Thursday where we had to dive deep into our personal traumas just to be able to write about them from a different perspective. To look at ourselves from another perspective. Rory wrote a book around one of his personal traumas and although I haven’t read it yet, I intent to do it, because the way he talks about it, is insanely beautiful. Only one of us course members had the courage to read his story aloud. But that was so strong it left the rest of us voiceless.

And for those of you readers who think writers are boring and fucked up intellectuals. I confess: we are, totally. But only during working time 🙂  The rest of the time we are very much alive and kicking, Moleskine in one hand, pen in the other, always looking for stories, always living intense and ready to step right out of these boring boxes.

And that’s exactly how some of us ended that week. How many of you did make it to a High Heels lesson at Madonna’s Hard Candy, huh ?!?


This blogpost was NOT edited and I’m afraid it shows. I’m the only one to blame :-)))

De mens achter Max Raabe


Credits: Gregor Hohenberg


Muzikanten in pak. Ik heb er een zwak voor. Want een kostuum, dat is altijd goe. Neen,ik heb het hier niet over de strak in het pak zittende testosteronbommen van ons aller Triggerfinger maar over de goeie ouwe tijd van de big bands. Laat de trompetten, contra-en andere bassen, pupitters, mannen in pak en vrouwen in avondkleed maar aanrukken. En dan die muziek van Cole Porter of Kurt Weil. Ik zwijmel. Een gouden combinatie. Ik had de eer en het genoegen zulk een combinatie mee te maken met een optreden van Max Raabe en zijn Palast Orchester in het historische Admiralspalast in de Friedrichstr. Raabe is wereldbekend geworden met zijn vertolkingen van liederen uit de tijd van de Weimarer Republiek dus eind jaren ’20, begin jaren ’30.  Hij schrijft ook zélf songs en de combinatie droge teksten met balorkest is eigenlijk erg goed. Neem bijvoorbeeld een nummer als “Küssen kann man nicht alleine‘. De titel alleen al is een literaire prijs waard 🙂

Luister en kijk hier.

Mijn verwachtingen waren dan ook erg groot. Altijd gevaarlijk. Ik heb in 2001 Duveltjeskermis gezien, gehoord en van dichtbij meegemaakt. Zo’n grote klasse legt de lat erg hoog natuurlijk!Afbeelding

Gistern vrijdag, maakte de Duitse televisie opnames voor de nieuwe Raabe DVD. Er wordt op een internationaal publiek gerekend wat ook te merken is aan de keuze van de songs. De opname is gespreid over twee dagen. Gisteren werden de close ups ingeblikt. Vandaag zaterdag, volgen de andere opnames. Groot budget. Groot project. Maar liefst 14 camerastandpunten. Het houdt ook in dat alles piekfijn volgens schema moet verlopen. Wat het denk ik, altijd wel doet, maar daar heb ik natuurlijk het raden naar.

De boomlange Max Raabe is eigenlijk een geschoold bariton zanger. Hij heeft het Palast Orchester reeds in 1986 opgericht en steeds koppig zijn zin gedaan en zijn liefde voor dit toch wel erg speciale muziekgenre blijven volgen.
Ik zie een erg goed geöliede machine op de (overigens prachtige) scène. Raabe en zijn 12 muzikanten zien er geweldig uit. De zanger is wel ontzettend stijf en onderkoeld. Je zou hem zo bij Kraftwerk kunnen laten meespelen als je begrijpt wat ik bedoel.

De keuze van de liederen is divers. Het gaat van een a capella versie van“ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss” tot “Smoke gets in your eyes” of “Mackie Messer’ (Mack the Knife) in de versie van Kurt Weil en Bertold Brecht. “Somewhere over the rainbow” wordt door de pianist op een glazen piano gespeeld. Je weet wel: dat zijn glazen die met water zijn gevuld en dan moet je over de rand wrijven om het kristal te laten “zingen”. Origineel is het wel , maar raken doet het niet echt. Ik herken andere songs uit vroege Fred Astaire films. Nog andere, vooral de Duitse, zijn me dan volledig onbekend maar erg mooi. Raabe’s stem en uitstraling is perfect voor de Duitse nummers. Daar werkt zijn onderkoelde humor perfect. Ik heb meer moeite met de Amerikaanse songs. Die zijn al zo vaak en zo ontzettend goed en gevoelig vertolkt, dat hij hier toch te kort schiet. En de rumba die hier ten gehore werd gebracht, was absoluut niet geslaagd. Rumba moet swingen als de beesten, en dat deed het niet.

Het publiek bestaat voornamelijk uit vrouwelijke 60+ (Raabe is zeker niet onaantrekkelijk) Een paar jonge meiden in jaren ’20 kleding fleuren het geheel op. Merkwaardig toch, deze muziek is eigenlijk super hip. Waar blijven al die Berlijnse hipsters als je ze nodig hebt?
Want de aanpak is tijdloos en de humor van Raabe zo kurkdroog dat ik er zelfs bij het neerpennen van dit verslag, spontaan dorst van krijg.

Eén keer is Max Raabe uit zijn rol gevallen. Heel even was hij zijn tekst kwijt. Heerlijk moment was dat: het kleine falen. Dat menselijke. Hij loste het uiteraard super professioneel op maar ik was gelukkig. Ik had namelijk de mens achter de performer gezien.

Het laatste nummer heette toepasselijk “Am Ende kommt immer der Schluss”.

Een oorverdovend applaus later, krijgen we nog drie bisnummers met een ontzettend mooi slaapliedje als allerlaatste song.


WIE? Max Raabe & Palast Orchester

WAAR? Admiralpalast, Berlin

WANNEER? Vrijdag 23 en zaterdag 24 mei om 20:00.

TICKETS? vandaag misschien nog aan de kassa te verkrijgen

OORDEEL? knap, maar te weinig emoties




Ze zijn niet allemaal even goed, de Berlijnse straatmuzikanten.

Maar eentje steekt naar mijn bescheiden mening hoog boven de anderen uit.

Niet dat hij zoveel beter is, dat is hij namelijk niet.

Je hebt in deze stad namelijk ronduit geweldige muzikanten. Charity Children, Frederik Konradsen (volgens Rolling Stone dé beste busker van Berlijn!), Teresa Bergman , de geweldige drummer aan het Mauerpark, de super funky Rupert’s Kitchen Orchestra aan de Haeckescher Markt om er maar een paar op te noemen.

Hier zie je een Video Mr. Funky van Rupert’s Kitchen opgenomen aan het Mauerpark.

En hier een foto van de geweldige Charity Children, hier op de Alexanderplatz.


En hier dan weer een filmpje van 2 onbekende maar zeer zwaar getalenteerde gitaristen aan het Bode Museum(met mijn excuses voor de slechte kwaliteit).

Maar het is de combinatie van instrument, persoonlijkheid, sfeer, lucht en energie die maakt dat ‘mijn’ muzikant met stip op één staat in mijn lijst van favoriete straatmuzikanten (ook ‘buskers’ genoemd). Hij speelt hobo in het midden van de Friedrichsbrücke.

Geen catchy melodiën, geen zang, geen enkele toegeving naar het publiek. Er is dan ook geen publiek. Enkel passanten. Deze meneer is niet geïnteresseerd in het ophitsen van het publiek. Hij studeert gewoon, heeft zelfs geen pupiter, kijkt gewoon naar de partituren die op de grond liggen. Het is een vorm van jazz. Geen gemakkelijke vorm, zeker absoluut niet toegankelijk

De Friedrichsbrücke verbindt Berlin Mitte met het Museuminsel. Momenteel (eind april 2014) wordt de brug verdubbeld tot de historische breedte van 27 meter dus als je op zoek gaat naar mijn Favoriete Busker aller tijden, kom je van een koude reis terug.

De stad en haar toeristen slapen nog, maar mijn hond en ik zijn klaarwakker. Nu ja, hij een beetje meer dan ik, misschien stop ik wel ergens voor een koffietje. En die warme klanken van dat instrument zijn al van ver te horen en begeleiden ons op een flink stuk van de wandeling.

Er ligt geld in zijn kist. Een beetje.

Zijn schoenen zijn versleten, zijn muts staat scheef op zijn hoofd. Is hij arm? Zijn het zijn muziek-fetisj-schoenen? Denkt hij op die manier meer geld te verdienen door medelijden op te roepen? Neuh, denk het niet. Hij is wat hij is. Hij ziet er vriendelijk uit. Amerikaans. Zou zo weggelopen kunnen zijn uit een film van Martin Scorsese. Ik schat hem een jaar of 45.

Ik gooi een Euro in zijn kist, daar in het midden van de Friedrichsbrücke. Hij kijkt zelfs niet op.

Achter me ligt het Bodemuseum, voor me de Berliner Dom. Ik laat de warme klanken van het instrument verder tot me doordringen. Als een welgekomen regenbui op een (te) warme zomerdag. Als een super smart ochtendsmoothie die je helemaal klaarstoomt voor de moeilijke dag.

En dat allemaal in dat magische ochtendlicht, boven de Spreerivier, ergens op een brug in hartje Berlijn.

Als afsluiter nog dit: je hoeft niet getalenteerd te zijn om een geweldige performance neer te zetten, met een beetje hulp lukt het ook zonder :-).










A Day with Frederick the Great aka Old Fritz


Living in Berlin city centre can be so comfy and so nice-especially with this exceptional sunny winter-that I rarely leave my huge comfort zone.

Last week, I made an exception so I took my daughter on a daytrip to Potsdam, bus tour included.

We dressed up as tourists (camera on the belly, map of the city in one hand and a vegan currywurst in the other) and took the S-Bahn to Potsdam Hauptbahnhof. It takes about 45 minutes from Haeckescher Markt.

Potsdam is now the capital of Brandenburg, it’s a relatively small city (158 000 inhabitants) but the historical importance of this place is enormous.

If you are interested in Cold War history (like I am) you go completely nuts.

I personally find this city particularly interesting because of the fact that it was until 1989 an Eastern German town, with lots of typical DDR buildings still standing. Their ugliness against the glamour of the Prussian baroque is extremely interesting.

Anyway, we take a green bus tour that will lead us to a couple of interesting sites.

First stop is the Glinieckerbridge. Incredibly beautiful. It’s connects Potsdam with Berlin and was until 1989 a point of (often spectacular) exchange for secret agents of the East and the West who had been taken prisoner.

The bus takes us then to the Cecilienhof Palace; build in Tudor style from 1914 to 1917 for Crown Prince William and his wife Cecilie von Mecklenburg-Schwerin. It is the last construction of a castle of the Hohenzollern dynasty.


This castle is today an historic memorial because of the Potsdam Conference of 1945. Churchill, Truman and Stalin wrote world history here.

Afbeelding2014-03-14 12.52.02

On our way to the Sanssouci palace, we admire the Russian colony called Alexandrowka. It is fantastic: it was a gift from Frederick William III to the Russian Czar Alexander who was a close friend. The entire area of green spaces, orchards and wooden houses is part of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.

But the biggest World Heritage Site in Germany is the complex of parks and palaces of Sanssouci.


The famous mini Versailles, the actual Sans Souci Palace, was the home of Frederick the Great, the great and ruthless Prussian leader but also a musician and a friend of Voltaire He wanted to be buried like a philosopher but he had to wait until 1991, on the 205th anniversary of his death and in a controversial ceremony, to see his final wish granted.

2014-03-14 13.29.43It’s a beautiful small grave. And 11 other graves just near him: the graves of his beloved Italian greyhounds.

Frederick the Great had a terraced garden designed in 1744 so they could cultivate plums, figs and wine. But as the view was so lovely, he decided to make a large and pompous summer residence above the terrace. He actually never stayed there while he preferred the smaller Sans Souci castle. Our guide emphasised the fact that Fritz used to dump his guests here, so that he could be alone and quiet in Sanssouci.

Our last stop is city centre of Potsdam, which is a little too clean for our taste. So after a stroll through the baroque houses of the Brandenburger Strasse and the Dutch quarter, we decided it was time to go back to fuzzy Berlin. On our way to the station, we enjoyed the mixture of DDR architecture and the perfectly renewed historical buildings.


2014-03-14 15.50.41 2014-03-14 15.50.15 2014-03-14 15.47.50

All photos (except for the historical ones) taken by Nathalie Dewalhens or Louise Vangilbergen.

Een doodgewone zondag op de rommelmarkt

Het Bodemuseum tijdens Het Feest van het Licht

Het Bodemuseum tijdens Het Feest van het Licht

Eén van mijn favoriete rommelmarkten in Berlijn is die aan het Bodemuseum. Elke zaterdag en zondag proberen hier (winter én zomer) allerhande lui hun waren aan de man of vrouw te brengen. Officieel is het een boekenmarkt. De meeste boeken kosten 1 Euro. Ik heb er al pareltjes gevonden.  Zoals obscure DDR platen met geweldig lelijke hoezen. Het snuisteren is vaak nog leuker dan het kopen zelf.  Vorig weekend heb ik wel heel erg zot gedaan: ik heb namelijk 8 (acht) Euro uitgegeven.

Een mooie ruil, zie zelf maar wat die luttele euro’s me hebben opgebracht:


Een heruitgave uit 1950 van de twee brievenboeken van Rainer Maria Rilke in excellente staat (auf Deutsch, naturlich!, al staan er ook heel veel Franse brieven o.a. aan Rodin in)

Een  gebonden  versie van Margaret AtwoodsThe Year of the Flood” uit 2009 .

Een plaat van de Beatles: ”Beatles Greatest”,  Nederlandse persing

Zo’n dingen maken me immens gelukkig.  Want een kamer zonder boeken is als een lichaam zonder ziel zei er ooit iemand. Over muziek kan men overigens hetzelfde zeggen.

Wat  me minder gelukkig maakt is het gesprek dat ik heb gehad met de platenverkoper.

Wat leuk is aan deze Beatlesplaat, is dat de tekst in het Nederlands is, het is nl. een Nederlandse persing.” zeg ik hem, terwijl de hond onder de platenbakken kijkt om te zien of er nog iets te bikken valt.

Echt, oh, dat had ik nog geeneens gezien! Bent u een Nederlandse dan?”

Neen hoor, dat ben ik niet, ik ben een Belgische.”

Oh ik zie.” Even stilte en dan komt het:

Wat zijn er toch veel extreem rechtse mensen in België!”


Wablieft? Waarom zegt u dat, hoezo??”

Kijk, ik krijg hier elke week weer Belgen aan mijn kraam die vragen naar oorlogsmemorabilia. Naar oude nazi geschriften en zo.  Dat hou je toch niet mogelijk!! Hebben ze dan helemaal niks geleerd uit de geschiedenis?”

Ik weet natuurlijk dat dat soort volk bestaat. Ik negeer het vaak, verberg deze kennis in een kamer van mijn brein die eigenlijk al overvol is. De verhalen van mijn grootouders én ouders over “Den Duits” ben ik nog lang niet vergeten. Ik weet nog uit de eerste hand wat oorlog kan aanrichten.

Bovendien ben ik nog onder de indruk van Der Kriegerin, een Duitse film die ik deze week heb gezien over Duitse neo-nazis . De film is niet zonder fouten maar drukt je wel met je op de feiten.

En ze zijn duidelijk niet alleen in Duitsland. Het gespuis zit overal.

Ik leg hem uit dat er bij de laatste verkiezingen in België in 2010 “slechts” 7,8 % procent van de Vlamingen op het Vlaams Belang hebben gestemd en een luttele 0,5 %  procent van de Walen op het Front National. Beide naar mijn weten de enige extreem rechtse partijen van België. Onze buurlanden (met uitzondering van Duitsland) doen het veel slechter. Zie bijvoorbeeld deze kaart overgenomen uit Le Monde Diplomatique van maart 2014.


Ik betwijfel of  alle stemmers op deze partijen ook echt extreem rechtse zakken zijn. Ik hoop dat het proteststemmen zijn. Laat mij hopen.

Ikzelf ben telg uit een Waals en uit een Vlaams geslacht. Ik ben ook tweetalig opgevoed. Spreek Frans met mijn zus en Nederlands met mijn broer. Heb 9 jaar in Frankrijk gewoond maar heb eigenlijk voornamelijk Vlaamse vrienden. Belgischer maak je ze niet meer. Of misschien wel: mijn zoon spreekt ondertussen de 3 landstalen en zijn zus volgt met rasse schreden.

Ik leg de verkoper uit dat zulke rommelmarkten misschien ook zulk soort volk aantrekken. Niet zelden zie je immers heelder oorlogsmemorabilia uitgestald of hele foute boeken, of bepaalde militaire prullen die immens populair zijn bij dat soort mensen. Openbaarheid van fascistische symbolen is in Duitsland verboden en zal je dus nooit vinden maar er gebeurt heel veel, in de woorden van mijn verkoper, “onder de tafel”.

Totaal verbijsterd ben ik. Ik wil helemaal niet behoren tot een volk dat bekend staat om zijn totaal verwerpelijke denkbeelden! Over het algemeen zijn Belgen net overal zo’n graag geziene gasten. Omdat ze eenvoudig zijn, bescheiden, open en gastvrij. Daar wil ik me mee vereenzelvigen!  Ik ben niet beschaamd om Belg te zijn, verre van, maar ik ben er ook niet bepaald fier op. Ik voel me een wereldburger. We zijn binnenkort met 10 miljard en delen voorlopig slechts 1 planeet die we dan nog met tal van andere niet menselijke dieren moeten delen. We kunnen maar beter goed met elkaar opschieten. Of tenminste goeie afspraken maken. Ik Het belang van onderwijs en opvoeding kan niet genoeg benadrukt worden, en met onderwijs bedoel ik niet zozeer het klassieke onderwijs , daartegen heb ik hier maar ook hier al zwaar gefulmineerd, maar een moderne opvoeding en dito onderwijs gebaseerd op vrije wil, op openheid, op interesses kortom op GOESTING. En bitte, zorg nu eens eindelijk voor dat basisinkomen voor iedereen, zodat niemand nog met de vinger gewezen kan worden. Maar ik wijk af.

Ik tik de verkoper op de arm: “oh denk maar niet dat alle Belgen zo zijn hoor, de meesten van ons, zijn gastvrij, vriendelijk en lief. “

Hij denkt weer even na.

Da’s waar, dat heb ik in België op vakantie ook ervaren.”

Oef. Zo hoort het.


Bron: RBB museum.
J. Charlier, Multiple timbre-poste, 49 x 39 cm, Zeefdruk op papier, collectie van de Nationale Bank van België, Inv. nr. A001669, 2000. – Een ander duidelijk voorbeeld van het Belgicisme in het werk van Charlier; een postzegel met de personificatie van België wordt voorgesteld met de symbolen van haar drie gewesten: de leeuw, de iris en de haan

Clooney fever


It’s that time of the year again!

Yesterday was the first day of the Berlinale. One of the world’s finest film feasts.

Temperatures were going up  to 10 degrees outside while it should be snowing and icing instead of being sunny and relatively warm.

So the city literally warms up to welcome the stars. It’s the biggest feast of the year, bigger than the Fashion Week, Art week or whatever week you can think of. Berlin and movies, they are simply made for each other.

George Clooney ist auch wieder da! The fact that cinema’s biggest G-spot is in the city is no suprise as he’s coming will be presenting his latest movie “The Monuments Man” .

This movie was filmed partly in Babelsberg, near Berlin (just like Inglorious Basterds to name only one). It’s not that long ago that the city was buzzing with rumours: “Clooney is here, Clooney is here”. He was actually. He was looking for extras for his film to come. He was looking mainly for males youngsters who could play Canadian, American, French or German soldiers.

From what I’ve heard he was always friendly, cordial and above all very professional.

Whenever in Berlin, he stays in the fantastic Soho Hotel, in de Torstrasse just a few blocks away from my apartment.

It’s time to make a little confession here. I respect  G-Man since I first saw him in the American series ER. He played an empathic but troubled pediatrist and had a beautiful love affair with a nurse, played by the incredible Julianne Margulies. (now of The Good Wife fame).

His role was minor but when he was on, he occupied the screen. That is so strange because he’s not particularly handsome, or tall, he doesn’t even have a sixpack like all the other dudes 🙂 But the camera just loves him. His role asked for lots of empathy and this rather good looking guy was just breathing calmness and zenitude.

He left the series for the big screen and hits hard with Roberto Rodriguez “From Dusk till Down”, a trashy horror movie. Excellent choice, because it mad him immediately accepted by the hipster movie people.

That calmness of him is probably only on the outside. I suspect him to be a seriously hyperactive case.

He’s been particulaly touched by the civil war Sudan since a long time and his Satellite Sentinel Project just raised more than a million dollars by organising a contest: “win a date with George Clooney”. A 42 year-young woman won it. It was her first date since 4 years and she shared it with her daughter. (I like that). She went with Clooney to the NY festival on the world premiere of “The Monuments Men.”

Afbeelding And she saw what a madhouse it was. I can easily imagine how fucked up you turn out to be when the world is at your feet. But hey, G. Seems to handle it quiet well.

Here you can see it for yourself.

Clooney is an actor (a good one) and a director (a very good one). One of my favourite movies by his hand is Ides of March but that is probably due to the fact that there’s a certain Ryan Gosling playing a major role.


Ides of March featured also Philip Seymour Hoffman, another favorite actor of me, who died last week, probably of an overdose.

Click here to hear  what Clooney and his co-stars has to say about the death of his friend Hoffman on the same day he presented his movie.

Afbeelding That’s the kind of person he is.

I think the world needs more G-men.

PS: Berlin Film Festival will honour Philip Seymour Hoffmans life with a special screening of his classic film Capote

 PS 2 (February 12, 2014): I just wanted to add this because it’s simply a wonderful gesture: Clooney wears a Vivienne Westwood T-shirt under his tuxedo with the simple message: save the arctic!

You’ll find some more explanation here. You rock Vivienne!

Save the artic

(No) dinner in Berlin tonight

(No) dinner in Berlin


Tonight, at Stattbar, the bistro of Stattbad the well known sixties swimming pool /event space, the Lost in Wedding pop up culinary crew host their very first vegan supper. These suppers normally take place every Tuesday evening (on reservation only) and were  vegetarian or omnivore. But not tonight. The moment I received this message in my mailbox, I tried to make a reservation but damn! Ausgebucht, since yesterday apparently, you have to be very quick. I’ll remember that for next week, that’s for sure.

Look at this and try not to be hungry:

(taken from their Facebook events page)

Classic-Vegan-Menu: 7,00 €

( NEW!!! ) Giant-Vegan-Menu: 10,00 €

This tuesday are Herr Dampf (Hans & Dampf Crew) and the Weddinger Suppenkaspa (Klopse für das Elbsandsteingebirge/ 1. Berliner Kochgangbang) behind the pots to create a vegan 3 course meal.
:::::Starter::::mango-chili-coconut panna cotta, lukewarm cauliflower marsala puree, coriander-lime dressing, gaszpacho a la wedding *, herbs cracker

:::::Main Course:::::Mille Feuille of mushrooms, onions, peas, parsley and turnip, potato straw, porcini polenta, spicy lamb’s lettuce-cashew pesto

:::::Dessert:::::vanilla-rosemary biscuit, lemon balm jelly, salty lemon, orange salad, melissa, dark chocolate, balsamic reduction

Please RSVP : PM or

(Please note the start time, the number of guests and the kind of menu)

More info:


Berlin Fashion Week, part one (blogpost in English)

Looking good isn’t important. It’s everything.”  Ben Sherman


Two weeks ago the special police forces found 140 kg of cocaine hidden among bananas. That was in 5 different Aldi stores in Berlin. The Aldi !  You know, that discounter supermarket. I’ve been there so many times; I even bought bananas. Ohne coco that was.  It is the second biggest catch since 35 years in Berlin.

Cocaine is ,a non exactly low budget drug,  very popular in the higher classes. It’s what gets them going as the society demands so much of them. That’s what they say, at least. Some of those high classed people.

Lots of classy, beautiful people in Berlin this week, it was after all the Berlin fashion week . Officially called the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week by the way.

I happen to live in the fancy Mitte of Berlin where lots of hipsters doing lots of hipsters things.

While I was coming home from my German course on Tuesday I noticed the crowd. Lots of very hipster Asians. The Adidas store made a huge fuzz about the new Stan Smiths shoes. I had some of those back in the eighties. They weren’t the original but they were the second “original”. I think I threw them away. Pity, they are worth a fortune now  in hipster vintage stores. But last week, on the 15th of January, those hipster Stan smith shoes got re-released. In different colours. The original green one. The second generation blue ones and now also in red and even in black.

Big fuzz in the city about this. I went to see it and the Stan Smiths (originally from 1973) occupy indeed a huge space in the shop. Outside on the etalage, they are showing the picture of Stan Smith now (he’s still alive and kicking) with his”new” shoes.



Not only the Adidas store is full of people but really are the shops around the Weinmeisterstrasse are crowded. Unbelievable. The post-Christmas sales are still on and I need a few things so  I drop in one of my favourite and affordable brand stores called COS. And even here, you can’t escape these fashion people. I’m shocked by the way many of them are wearing fur and leather. It’s all over town and in the shops as well.  Animal welfare? Dogs skinned alive for real and even for fake fur (dogs are cheaper than polyester that’s why some fake fur is actually real fur).I guess they never thought about that. Knowing those things suck, I know. I would love to buy a fake fur jacket but since I don’t know if it’s a fake fake and thus a real…Well, you understand what I mean 🙂 

Stores where you don’t see those people: H & M (that used to be different back in the early nineties, since it was the first label that finally brought cheap but fancy fashion) or Mango f.e.

But I’m very happy seeing that COS is hip. That means that I am hip. Or am I making the wrong presumption here?? Haha.

Parties and openings and vernissages all over town. Not that I’m invited. I’m not a fashionista. But I have to admit I love to see these people obsessed with clothes and appearences. They look so superbly intelligent and interesting. Thirthy years ago I might even have worshipped them. Thinking there are far better people than I am. They are rich and they have good taste and they know so many interesting people. They are never lonely. They never behave badly (at least not in public) and they are never extremely sad or happy. They can wear whatever they want and still find a way to look good.

They look like they read all the books in the world and seen all the art and theater and what else that ever existed.

ImageOf course they are not. Of course these people are exactly like you and me. They love, they hate, they struggle. But hey, you have to admit it: they do it in style. Always.