Thursday, February 25, 2010

Riot on the Centraal front

Football fans can get a little intense in Europe. In the Netherlands there are actually long standing ties of hate between leagues dating back to the 1900s, particularly between Amsterdam's Ajax and ADO Den Haag.
These groups basically use matches as an opportunity to get hammered on Heinekens then whoop each other's asses. Anything that gets between them and these two objectives ends up a casualty.
The mess has gotten so out of hand that ADO Den Haag fans were actually banned from attending the latest Ajax game against Italian team Juventus.
Unfortunately, that didn't solve the problem. In the early evening - before the game even started! - nearly 600 fans broke out in riots at Centraal Station, and I got to witness the entire spectacle.
Turns out these aren't your typical Dutch hooligans - they're actually fans from a Polish club, in town to start some trouble. And as they are literally beating everything in sight (each other, buses, trams, trash cans!) massive numbers of riot police flooded the scene.
Imagine waiting for the train after work, only to be greeted by the Dutch forces on horseback and with shields fighting drunk teenagers.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one fascinated with the display. I was quickly joined by a group of tourists wearing typical 'Amsterdam' hats and taking pictures.
Suddenly I realised I didn't look like a local anymore. Most of the Dutchies had only taken a cursory glance at the scene and continued on their way (chalk that up to their famous 'tolerance'). I decided to do the same, and walked home.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Celebrating black history month - Dutch style

Black History Month is really something only American's speak of - despite the fact the Netherlands supplied the world with thousands more slaves than North America.

In fact, the first slaves to grace the USA came thanks to the Dutch themselves. In 1626, the Dutch West Indies Company unloaded the first 11 Africans in their colony New Amsterdam, or present day NYC.

The West Indies Company went on to be known as "unquestionably the dominant European slave trader in Africa" throughout the mid-1600s, according to Herbert Klein's The Atlantic Slave Trade.

It's no surprise then that Stephen Colbert found the irony (and the humour!) in America's biggest Black History Month faux paux.

"Come and celebrate Black History Month with Heineken!"

Apparently, the folks at Heineken aren't so familiar with thier producing country's history.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Celebrate Black History Month With Heineken
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorSkate Expectations

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Getting up at 7am is a lot harder when the sky looks about the same as it did when you went to bed. This week, I've been commuting from Amsterdam to Nieuw Vennep for work, which means a big change from my usual leisurely cycle.
Each morning I enjoy nearly all forms of public transportation, ranging from the tram to the bus, to the high-speed rail, and of course, bicycle.
Luckily, the rail system pumps out a number of trains heading my direction, so I can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

I'm the only one who brings a bike to work. Despite all the harassment I endure, I can proudly say I've been an eco-friendly non-driver for the past six years. Holler!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hats for people

Amsterdam gets a tid bit nipply during the winter months, and this year has been no exception. Between the freezing canals and the crisp, cold air a lovely group of ladies found the courage to stand outside all morning last Saturday in an effort to make this a better world.

And just how did this motley crew of women expect to do something so grand? With handmade wool hats, that's how!

In a project called "Mutsen voor Mensen," beautiful hats were given away for free to 275 passerby's at the Spui square in Amsterdam. Anna, one of the project leaders who spoke to me said the idea was to do something good that doesn't cost money. "It's to show that you can do nice things without materialism or expecting in return," she said.

I was luck enough to be one of the first to recieve a hat, and even had the pleasure of meeting its maker, Anneke. She was a lovely woman who happily declared the hat "was made for you!" I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Guest blogger: Vector

You can spot lots of celebrities in Los Angeles, but all pale in comparison our favorite Dutch master Rembrandt Van Rijn who was spotted at the Getty Museum with a few of his closest pals. An exhibit entitled, "Drawings by Rembrandt and his pupils: Telling the difference" hands out lots of backhanded compliments to anybody whose name isn't Rembrandt. "Nice drawing Fritz, but let's see how Rembrandt would have done that..." I'm joking (no i'm not). The show slices and dices the elements of Rembrandt's drawing style so that viewers can clearly see what makes the master so masterful. Some of the most interesting pieces are drawings made by his students and corrected by Rembrandt with some fierce marks. You can tell he was an advocate of 'tough love.'

The Getty Center, btw, is an incredible piece of modernist architecture in and of itself. Designed by Richard Meier, it sits on a hill overlooking Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. You can even bring your own wine and picnic on the museum grounds for free. If you love the Dutch, art, and happen to be in LA between now and February 28, 2010 -- you should probably learn how to draw for realz.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I like eating animals

Last night I went to a book reading with Jonathan Safran Foer. The novelist was discussing his latest and first non-fiction work, Eating Animals.

The book is a personal story about Foer's innate sense of vegetarianism. Chronicling his 20-year long struggle accepting the vegetarian lifestyle (which he only fully accepted after the birth of his son), he juxtaposes the
personal story with startling facts, figures, and images from factory farms.

I have been thinking about the food I put in my body a lot lately. For me, it is incredibly difficult to turn away from meat. But Foer reveals that factory farmed animals, produced for nothing other than our consumption, are treated worse than our family dog or cat - and that just ain't right.

Becoming a vegetarian is a battle though, as Foer describes it. One that is more of a slow, personal evolution than a black and white decision. It isn't important that you are a picky eater, but that you make smarter food decisions.

Certainly some food for thought from Foer and the John Adam's Institute who hosted the event. The cultural organisation hosts regular conferences, lectures, and readings like this in the Amsterdam area.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Eye on Dutch design - From the living room

It's been nearly a month since I've updated this. My bad. But, the time away has been well spent and I have a new perspective on approaching this blog. I hope you like.

In the meantime, check out the interior design skillz of these average Dutchies from Utrecht.

Susanne Gilsing and 12 of her neighbours shared the decorating techniques used in the front room of their commercial housing project. Despite the fact each of these guys has basically the same living space, the slideshow is an interesting vision of individualism and home decoration.