Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Notes from around town

StormThe summer thunderstorms continue to rumble though almost daily, arriving from the south and darkening the skies behind the apartment.  It’s caused the gutters to overflow across the top of the building, leading to a deluge inside the windowframes.  Towels and basins are keeping it contained until the builder and the landlord arrive on Monday.

The downside of infrastructure investment is road construction.,  Belgium seems particularly bad this summer, with every major highway afflicted with narrowing and backups.  Brussels's Ring Road is particularly bad – I lose a half hour around Zavendum every trip though.

Summer afternoons, coffee in the café, people watching.  And I have to notice that ever more of the male-people are sporting a particularly gruesome haircut.  Long,slicked straight back, overgelled, it’s a bit 50’s, somewhat urban, not at all appealing.  I think that the style peaked when the mannequins start to sport the look – hopefully it will pass when “gel freezes over”, in November. 

Andre Rieu is putting the movie of his summer 2011 Maastricht show on the big screen.  The Vrijthof spectacular is being shown across the US in September.

The best Albert Heijn stores (the local grocer) always seemed to be located across the river (Plein 1992, to be exact).  Sad approximations were kept between Markt Square and the Vrijthof.  Suddenly, the announcement that the smaller one is closing, the larger is updating.  PlanetThe result is wonderful: better selection, upscale decor, friendly clerks.

Even better is the conversion of the Liege Carrefour to Carrefour Planet.  An upscale take on the acres-of-aisles hypermarket, it is better organized, easier on the eye, and better specialty selections.  The checkout is still crowded and the groceries are still expensive, but the experience is so good you almost don’t notice.

How can you monetize artistic creativity?  In the current downturn, artists are struggling more than most.  I think the alternatives are to sell works, teach, take commissions, or merchandise the works (keychains and postcards).  Cutting prices and increasing volume seems to be the favored strategy – but it’s a race to the bottom.  Better marketing, ascending the know-like-trust hierarchy, would seem to be a better approach. But when I look at their websites and business cards, they seem strikingly bad. Maybe it needs better networking opportunities outside of exhibitions – Pitch ‘n Mix for the creative arts?

PenguinsAnd this is my favorite store window in town this summer…maybe watching for the next thunderstorm.

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