A heritage is something you might carry with you, no matter whether you like it or not. In architecture this is most vivid and visible. On the 2023 heritage day i Brussels many monuments and institutions open their prestigious buildings to the public and show off their “silver” or gold plated walls and ceilings. Just next to Royal Palace is the home of princesses and princes now inhabited by the Royal Academy. Even the stables have been packed with books now, all in all 19 km of shelves packed with papers of all sorts. Great that many academics and academies have shifted to electronic publishing so that the CO2 footprint of science and art can finally be reduced as well. Of course, we adore the old postcards to learn about historical trajectories of architecture and specific buildings. The collection is a great collective memory.
In inner cities, plagued by horrible traffic jams and pollution by cars and lorries, we dearly await at least the one day per year without this nuisance. Mobility can be organized differently. Brussels demonstrates this in an exemplary fashion. Many families gear up for this one day to teach kids how to cycle technically without the dangers of the fight for space, speed and breathable air. Older persons also feel much more save then and walk or cycle longer distances than they usually do. So many winners and only a few forced to not use their cars during 10 hours. Massive health benefits for the whole city, especially on too warm a day in autumn 2023. All these kinds of ideas were already discussed before the COVID-19 crisis on a mobility fair in Brussels. It is not the ideas that are missing, but the political will and courage to try new ways forward. Learning that walking and cycling in cities do not hurt you, prepares the readiness to go further along this path. Just do it. And do it faster than in the past. The planet needs it, people seem to really like it, too. Enjoy.
“Don’t worry, be happy”. Most people might remember the song of the late 1980s by Bobby McFerrin. Very popular at that time already, it simply took a popular phrase from an Indian mystical preacher and then take this and compose an easy-going melody. Simplicity is the art here, not the complex arrangement of voices or orchestration. Similar to the shifting mood of the late 1980s when eventually even the Berlin wall came down, we are still in need of finding simplicity again.
This is a kind of a good starting point for the visit of the happiness exhibition in Brussels. At the beginning of the exhibition, you do a bit of reading on the neuro-psychological and sociological foundation of happiness to then move on to the more fun part of the exhibition: immergence into rooms of light and colours. Sound complements the visual experience decently. It is interesting to witness that children are immediately seduced by the joyful atmosphere and feel very comfortable in the rooms. Adults are more reluctant to let lose. Drop defences and walls we have become used to and just let go of our concerns of day-to-day hustle. “Don’t worry, be happy”, at least for a while. You deserve it.
The entry price of 16€ at the door is a not-to-be underestimated as an impediment to an entry into the world of happiness in Brussels. Children are free of charge, most of them are happy anyway if their parents spend time together with them. Happiness for many in society remains still a challenge. Art could contribute more in this direction as well. On the “Mont des Arts” happiness is near, it takes just some time and you are very likely to feel the effect of the artist’s creation through splendid interior design taking our senses and emotions seriously.
Wer heutzutage mit dem Zug verreisen möchte braucht starke Nerven. Eine lange im Voraus geplante kostengünstige Reise kann dann schon mal zu unerwarteten Kapriolen führen. Jede Person wird wissen, dass eine Reise zum 14.Juli nach Paris ein besonderer Anlass ist. Normalerweise wird Revolution gemütlich gefeiert und nicht Revolution gemacht. Die Befürchtung ist jedoch im Juli 2023 könnte das anders sein. Die Gewalt an Jugendlichen und in der Folge von Jugendlichen war schließlich erst vor einigen Tagen mehrfach eskaliert. SozialwissenschaftlicherInnen führen dabei nebenbei Feldstudien durch. Aber eigentlich war die Reise mit dem Zug schon Monate vorher geplant. Jetzt kommt es anders. Die THALYS Gesellschaft hat in ihrer App allerdings eine Gebühr für das Umbuchen fest verankert, selbst wenn es eine erzwungene Umbuchung ist. Also rein ins Geschäft, Wartenummer ziehen und Warten, Warten und nochmals, na was schon, Warten. Zum Zeitvertreib wird ein Geschichtendrucker bereitgestellt. Ouf, Kurzgeschichten und Comics. Das macht Hoffnung beim, na was schon, Warten. Aber irgendwann fahren wir dann ganz schnell mit dem Hochgeschwindigkeitszug nach Paris. Aber da wir doch bitte 30 Minuten vorher auf dem Bahnsteig sein sollten, wissen wir schon, wir werden, na was schon, Warten. Mein Mantra bleibt: Mit der Bimmelbahn mag ich gerne fahren, die fährt langsam und kommt trotzdem an.
The are many forms of a jury. In many judicial processes a jury accompanies judges or the president of a jury in the preparing and voting on the verdict. In sports competitions or arts contests it is also common practice to have a jury of several persons to assist in the decision-making process. In academia we are also used to sit on juries to award Ph.Ds or academic positions or fundings. From famous film festivals (Cannes or Berlin) we know the tricky part to select jury members and supervise the proceedings of the jury to follow the official rules of how to accord prices according to a set of predefined rules. The basic proceedings are very similar irrespective of field of application, academia, film, music. Decision-making of the jury is usually based on some voting procedures, attribution of scores and summarising across jury members (to avoid or minimize the effect of corruption for example). Of course, there is a scientific literature on fallacies to avoid for juries themselves or in the selection of jury members.
The Concours Reine Elisabeth in Brussels 2023 has large jury. This year the enlarged diversity of the jury included the amazing lyric soprano Sumi Jo. The slightly more diverse jury (compared to 2018 song competition) might have contributed to the impressive participation of Asian singers in 2023. In competitions the quality of the jury has already a role in the number of international submissions you are likely to receive. Signalling diversity in the jury, therefore, is an important element of diversity of participants and probably intensifies competition through a broader reach. The winner of 2023 Baryton singer Taehan Kim performs a repertoire of Lieder and Arias in at least double the required 2 (European) languages. The impressive performances in the Demi-final with piano accompaniment and then the Final with the full Orchestra were cheered by the jury (in points) and the audiences as well. The repertoire of Taehan Kim ranges from Beethoven, Donizetti, Poulenc, Schubert, Verdi, Tschaikovsky to Schoenberg in the semi-final and from Wagner, Mahler, Korngold to Verdi in the final performance. Born in 2020, he certainly has a steep career in front of him, in addition to a potentially genetical predisposition as researchers just published in Science Advances 2023. Praise goes to the accompanying pianist, the orchestra and the jury as well, which has encouraged diversity in applications and throughout the competition. An important training in cross-cultural competence for all performers involved. Rather than having a contest behind a curtain, for performers and/or the jury, the whole competition is an excellent piece of daring far reaching transparency of a jury’s work. Everybody online can still listen to the competition performances and judge (or train judgement) for themselves, because “the jury is still out”.
We teach about the process of gentrification and segregation in sociology in most of our courses. Consulting is also busy with telling policy makers, urban planners and architects about this fundamental social process. A mathematical description of the process has been provided by Schelling as well. A recent striking depiction of the process evolving over years in Brussels is produced by Karim Douieb (dataViz and Jetpack, image below! and more, THANKS). The data is from the Brussels institute of statistics and analysis. Policy-makers have a hard time to work against the well-known tendency: birds of the same feather, gather together. Humans do not seem to be much different, at least when it comes to large metropolitan cities. Only a small China town is missing in Brussels.
What is masked in the grouping by nationalities of residents, is the underlying mechanisms that drive this gentrification. Even previously mixed parts of the city might suffer a slow process of erosion due to educational, job, wealth, poverty and housing differentiation between people and Brussels communities. Falling behind in educational achievement, then higher unemployment leads to lower credit worthiness and residence in less comfortable housing. The Belgian and EU15 residents are much more likely to follow virtuous upward mobility. Hence the process of gentrification trickles down through subsequent generations. Start with learning and socialising of kids and adult learning to overcome the discriminatory process. Ethnic communities will also have to open up to interact with locals. Social progress is hard work for all.