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Van Dammed if We Do, Van Dammed if We Don't

Oh I see what's happening. Very clever, those Belgians. I guess you don't get to be the world's leading exporter of pharmaceuticals by being slow on the uptake.

I speak, of course, of the continuing crisis with that small European country, whose KBC Group bank is demanding $43 million from Metro. Yesterday a judge ordered the sides to work things out, while suggesting that the Belgian bank should accept Metro's offer of $17 million.

Meanwhile, several troubling developments have come to light. Most unsettling, it appears that Jean-Claude Van Damme--the so-called "Muscle From Brussels"--has a new movie coming out. It's called "JCVD" and, no, it's not about STDs in Biblical times. It's a "clever, stylish perception-teaser of a comic drama" that's in the mind-bending tradition of "Being John Malkovich." Jean-Claude Van Damme portrays a character called "Jean-Claude Van Damme" who is involved in a custody dispute. There is also punching.

It's the high-concept identity-blurring explorations of Charlie Kaufman combined with the mad karate skillz of Jet Li. What American moviegoer will be able to resist it? In short, it's the first salvo in Belgium's propaganda war. Audiences will be moved to think of Van Damme not as a steroid-crazed lunkhead but as a gifted, complicated actor. It's a short leap from there to seeing Belgium not as the land of rapacious warmongers but as creators of quality cinematic experiences. I say: Resist. Think not of Jean-Claude Van Damme as Kevin Spacey with a scissor-kick. Remember the true Van Damme, the "actor" in such works as "Bloodsport," "Death Warrant," "Sudden Death," "Until Death," "Wake of Death," "Hard Target," "Death Target," "Sudden Hard Death Warrant Target" and "Flowers for Algernon II: Bloodfeast."

Okay, I made a couple of those titles up, but you get the idea. There is a way to avoid war and I'm embarrassed to say it only came to me this morning. If Belgium wants its cash Metro simply has to adjust its fare structure to get it. I don't know how many Belgian tourists visit Washington each year but perhaps the Farecard machines could read:
Regular fare: $4.50 maximum
Reduced fare: $2.35 maximum
Belgian fare: $850,000 maximum

All we need is 50 Belgians to go through the turnstiles and we've raised the money. And if that doesn't work I suggest we all start practicing our one-handed push-ups and roundhouse punches.

Photo Extra
We didn't have room for a photo with my column yesterday about atheists advertising on Metrobuses, but here's an exclusive for "John Kelly's Common" readers:


By John Kelly  |  November 13, 2008; 10:00 AM ET
 | Tags: Belgium, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Metro  
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Next: Have You Finished Your Home Work?


Is "You are not alone" a deliberate reference to the older idea that you are not alone because God is always with you (in Coleridge's poem, the Ancient Mariner felt so lonely that God himself scarcely seemed to be there) or is the reference accidental?

Posted by: cktirumalai | November 13, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

So, what will "les belgiques" do if Metro doesn't cough up? Will they send cargo ships over to pick up the broken escalators? Will Brussels suddenly "sprout" mobile home developments that look suspiciously suspiciously like they are populated railcars made by Breda? I say Metro needs to call their bluff. Or, we could just invite them to park in a metro lot and then take away their smart cards once they are inside.

Posted by: mfromalexva | November 13, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

As an atheist, I am very bothered by organized atheism, with an agenda. I have no desire to convert anyone to atheism; I am very happy to have people have their own belief systems. I don't want any atheists preaching to anyone, or trying to do anything in a organized way. I am not part of a club and don't want to be. So do not assume that organized atheists represent me or others like me in any way.

Posted by: jn22 | November 13, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

My athiest friends tell me they worship Nogod. "I believe in Nogod" they say. "Nogod exists and Nogod is all powerful," and "Nogod created each and every one of us" they keep telling me. Now they say "You are not alone". Sure, Nogod is with us.

Posted by: prokaryote | November 14, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I hope that the judge orders the Belgium to take over and run Metro. Fitting punishment for them. And who knows, maybe it would be an improvement.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | November 14, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

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