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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On the Dissolution of Belgium

posted by on September 30 at 14:08 PM

So Belgium is trying to break up with itself, like it has since the 19th century when its two ethnic groups—the Flemish (who are slovenly and have chronic coughs) and the Walloons (who are adorable and favor yellow galoshes)—resolved to stop getting along.

The political crisis has paralyzed its government, enhungered its illegal immigrants, and compromised its masculinity.

Which is too bad, since the combined forces of the Flemish and the Walloons have produced some of the world’s greatest inventions, including beer, colonialism, and awkward silences.

And, of course, Plastic Bertrand

… who is, in fact, the new identity of Joseph Pujol, aka Le Pétomane, le grande fartiste.


Some of the highlights of his stage act involved playing a flute through a rubber tube in his anus, farting sound effects of cannon fire and thunderstorms as well as farting La Marseillaise. He could also blow out a candle from several yards away. His audience included Edward, Prince of Wales, King Leopold II of the Belgians and Sigmund Freud.

Mr. Pujol faked his own death in 1945—to get away from child stalkers who followed him around with cigarette lighters—and reinvented himself as Plastic Bertrand.

When asked for comment on the delicate political situation in Belgium, he responded with a YouTube video (be sure to watch when your boss is standing right behind you):

Also: Belgium is an anagram for “I be glum.”

I think we all finally understand why.

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Also, before he was Plastic Bertrand, he was in a group called Hubble Bubble who are fantastic, as are The Kids, Raxola, and a handful of others in a similar vein. Wait... where was I? Oh yeah, Belgian women are kinda hot, but not as hot as Danish women.

Posted by Dougsf | September 30, 2008 2:25 PM

"Belgium is a country created by the English to annoy the French"--Charles DeGaulle.

Posted by inkweary | September 30, 2008 2:31 PM

This one little post contains so much.

Posted by Aislinn | September 30, 2008 2:37 PM

Most excellent, they will even be easier to crush next time around! Long live the Fatherland!!!

Posted by The New Kaiser | September 30, 2008 2:41 PM

I've been fascinated by Belgium since I first started reading about the government crisis. It's kind of amazing that it exists.

Posted by Abby | September 30, 2008 2:43 PM

I highly recommend Luc Sante's "The Factory of Facts", a memoir of his childhood in Belgium and an investigation of all aspects of Belgianism. Oh, and you forgot French Fries; they're Belgian, too.

Posted by Fnarf | September 30, 2008 2:55 PM

only 2 belgian artists have ever made #1 on the US pop charts:
1. soeur sourire, aka the singing nun, "dominique"
2. technotronic, "pump up the jam"

i met a flemish businessman on a train from paris last october, and they think the dissolution can't come too soon - according to him, the walloons are backwards ass lazy fucks.

Posted by max solomon | September 30, 2008 2:57 PM

Won't somebody think of the frites?!

Posted by Ziggity | September 30, 2008 3:01 PM

I banged a guy in Ghent into the next week...under a Vlaams Blok poster hanging above his bed.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | September 30, 2008 3:06 PM

why bother thinking of them at all?

fat, belgian bastards.

Posted by michael strangeways | September 30, 2008 3:16 PM

Thanks for the jolt. I remember the first time I heard Ca plane pour moi played at CBGB. Amazing.

Posted by kk | September 30, 2008 3:17 PM

The Belgians have been huge in 21st century fashion.

Posted by It's Mark Mitchell | September 30, 2008 3:17 PM

Plastic Bertrand! Oh my god, I haven't heard THAT since I was in junior high. Bonus points to anyone who can find Elton Motello's "Jet Boy, Jet Girl", which is the same music with much racier lyrics, in English.

I studied in Belgium in 1980-81 and haven't set foot in the country since. "Petit pays, petit esprit." ("Small country, small minds.")

Posted by MichaelPgh | September 30, 2008 3:20 PM

We really only care about the chocolate. Please say my chocolate supply line will be fine!

Posted by NaFun | September 30, 2008 3:22 PM

Ankle Bindery
Lanky Inbreed
Bran Dyke Line
Arid By Kennel
Dank Briny Eel
Rainy Bend Elk
Yank Bed Liner

Posted by dollface | September 30, 2008 3:28 PM

I used to have that Elton Motello single. Damn, I wish I still did. I liked the Frenchie version a lot better, though.

Posted by Fnarf | September 30, 2008 4:02 PM

#13 and #16 - As do I! There's a convoluted story about how the two songs are connected that I forget, but the same folks were involved with both.

Posted by Dougsf | September 30, 2008 4:08 PM

how do we do this?! cascadians are an ethnic group, right? why do all these other countries have weird nebulous "ethnic groups"? we need to secede or else our ethnic tensions might escalate to an ethnic war with the midwesterners and southerners.

Posted by jrrrl | September 30, 2008 4:23 PM

@18: get our borders constantly re-drawn by royals playing power games/handing areas over for marriage contracts.

But seceding would be neat.

Posted by Abby | September 30, 2008 4:26 PM

Brendan...are you trying to start up some weird sort of "Facts about Chuck Norris" thing with this Plastic Bertrand = Joseph Pujol thing?

Because...there are people on The Stranger foolish enough to think that you're serious.

(And for those of you who are confused, let me crush Brendan's fun by pointing out that Joseph Pujol would have been 101 years old when Roger Jouret--the actual Plastic Bertrand--was born...and 120 when "Ca Plane Pour Moi" came out. Which would have been totally punk rock.)

And I always thought Elton Motello sucked, but to prove that viewpoint to be ironic in hindsight, here's a link to the whole "JBJG vs. Ca Plane" thing:


Posted by pgreyy | September 30, 2008 4:31 PM


It's easier to find once one realizes it's "Plastic Bertrand" and not "Plastik Bertrand".

Posted by Q*bert H. Humphrey | September 30, 2008 4:37 PM

I remember the first time hearing Ça Plane Pour Moi on KZAM-AM, the "Rock of the 80s". Which must make me old, dammit. It's a great song, though.

Posted by litlnemo | September 30, 2008 4:44 PM

In high school I was once told by a Belgian about how his older sister had to come back home to Belgium after living in New York for a time, simply because "American had no culture."

I said nothing at the time since I had no idea what on earth he was talking about.

But in my adult years I've always since thought how sad that comment was, coming from a Belgian...

Posted by Simac | September 30, 2008 4:51 PM

13, 16:

jet boy jet girl is on the "A Date with John Waters" CD. the whole story is on there - basically, they recorded the 'dirty' version first, then did the french version for 'commercial viability'.

oh, and 13: doesn't 'esprit' mean 'spirit'?

Posted by max solomon | September 30, 2008 5:16 PM

Do you not read your own links? The politics in Belgium have nothing to do with Volvo cutting jobs. The jobs in Ghent and two cities in Sweden are being cut due to the declining demand for lorries in Europe.

Posted by kraskland | September 30, 2008 11:16 PM

We're not going to split up. We wouldn't know what to do with Brussels!
What paralysed our government is the fact that the biggest centre right party formed a coalition with Flemish nationalists, who couldn't compromise on anything because they'd lose votes. They're now out of the picture and we can get back to being our hypocritical selves and worry about community borders and language barriers.
As it says in the article: "a wide majority in Flanders reject Flemish separatism. Most people just want more autonomy within the Belgian state. "

Posted by Griet | October 1, 2008 12:13 AM

It's always funny to see Belgium pop up in American and British media. It's just so hard to explain what the heck is going on in our politics right now. It is, however, a lot more complicated than the bbc article says.

There's a whole mess where certain Flemish towns (such as the one I live in) are able to vote for Walloon political parties (as if they were in the officially bilingual part of the country, around Brussels). The Flemish parties, and I absolutely support them in this since it only makes sense, want this to stop, but the Walloons refuse to, since it makes it much harder for them to attain a majority.
The problem, besides that, is that the Flemish parties made stopping this a demand before they would form a government, but the Walloon parties refuse to accept it. The mess grows from there.

Posted by Lisa | October 1, 2008 11:55 AM

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