Anyone who has been to Charleroi, Belgium knows its particular mix of worn and torn houses, industrial greyness and general sadness that is contagious if you stay there too long. The city has a reputation for crime and violence, but has many good sides related to food, culture and even sightseeing if you give it a fair chance. However, it is a huge contrast to other nicer and possibly more economically sound Walloon cities like Namur and Liège, and surely like nothing you’ll ever find in the tidy, shiny Netherlands.
The film ‘Bienvenue à Charleroi’ (‘Welcome to Charleroi’) was shot by Dutch director Jelle Dijkstra and his good friend co-director and co-editor Derk Zijlker.
Charleroi was voted ‘ugliest city in the world’ in 2008 by readers of Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. High unemployment, crime and poverty rates, political and social scandals, abandoned factories and ghost undergrounds all contributed to this negative image.
Watch the film here and find out for yourself if it’s really that bad (English subtitles). At 5:59 there’s a sign in French that roughly reads ‘Life isn’t easy when what you see is black’ (as in being depressed).
(Link: www.vice.com, Photo of Charleroi by Gerard Stolk, some rights reserved)
Tags: Belgium, Charleroi, Jelle Dijkstra
On 8 January a crowd watched world’s biggest and most expensive vessel ever built, the Pieter Schelte, float into the Port of Rotterdam. The ship was named after Pieter Schelte Heerema, founder of the Swiss-based Allseas group and a maritime engineer, but also a member of the Nazi Waffen SS, convicted and sent to prison for three years for his crimes against humanity in WWII.
The ship is owned by Schelte’s son, Dutch businessman Edward Heerema who has received much flack and petitions from Jewish groups and others to change its name. The Dutch government had given Allseas’ Netherlands subsidiary a $1 million tax break for its part in designing the ship, adding to the ship’s controversial nature. “While Mr Heerema’s father had been recognised by the courts as providing “very important” services to the resistance, he was earlier a “prominent” figure among Dutch collaborators with the Nazis,” according to the Netherlands Governmental Institute for War Documentation.
Edward Heerema distances himself from his father’s past, stating that the ship was named after “the offshore pioneer that he was”. Read more about this huge vessel and see more pictures.
(Links: www.ad.nl, www.jpost.com, Photo of Pieter Schelte ship by FaceMePLS, some rights reserved)
Tags: Nazis, Rotterdam, ship, vessel
British geography professor and author Miles Ogborn’s book ‘Indian Ink: Script and Print in the Making of the English East India Company’ has an image of a Dutchman performing waterboarding on an English pamphlet of 1624. The image depicts an English merchant being restrained while a Dutchman pours a jug of water over his cloth-wrapped face.
Wikipedia explains the Dutch-style waterboarding in more detail:
“It consisted of wrapping cloth around the victim’s head, after which the torturers “poured the water softly upon his head until the cloth was full, up to the mouth and nostrils, and somewhat higher, so that he could not draw breath but he must suck in all the water”. In one case, the torturer applied water three or four times successively until the victim’s “body was swollen twice or thrice as big as before, his cheeks like great bladders, and his eyes staring and strutting out beyond his forehead”.
In colonial times Dutch and English merchants fought over spices in the East, giving rise to acts of torture, with both sides publishing pamphlets to try and discredit the other, like a 17th century flame war. In 1623 on the island of Amboyna In the Molucca Islands, the Dutch East India Company led by Dutch Governor Herman van Speult was said to have tortured and executed English, Japanese and Portuguese prisoners. English pamphlets featuring ‘gory frontispieces’ were refuted in turn by Dutch publications, but the affair was never settled. Van Speult thought that English merchants together with Japanese samurai mercenaries and possibly some Portuguese planned to kill him and overwhelm the Dutch garrison once an English ship arrived for support, justifying his actions.
(Link and image: resobscura.blogspot.nl, thanks Greg!)
Tags: colonialism, colonies, torture, waterboarding
Late November’s opening of the temporary exhibition ‘Sense of Smell’ of the Avans Hogeschool in Breda, a research project entitled ‘Famous Deaths’ featured a metal morgue-like box with the smells depicting the last five minutes of four famous people: Whitney Houston, Princess Diana, Muammar Gaddafi and John F. Kennedy.
“Those wanting to experience Houston’s final moments are transported to a bathtub at the upmarket Beverly Hills hotel where the diva died in February 2012. To the sounds of splashing water and Houston’s voice, a visitor first gets a whiff of generic cleaner, used in hotels around the world, followed by the olive oil the singer used in her tub. Then a strong chemical odour, similar to that of cocaine fills the box, grabbing its occupant by the throat, followed by the sound of rushing water and then silence.”
The metal boxes were completely dark inside and rigged with pipes leading to bottles containing pressurised smells. A soundtrack is played and on queue different scents are released into the box to recreate a specific final moment.
Avans mentioned that other institutions showed interest in the installation, so who knows what dead person we may have the chance to smell in 2015.
(Links: www.bndestem.nl, www.businessinsider.com)
Tags: Breda, celebrities, death, smell
The New Netherland Museum in Albany, New York will soon be saying ‘bon voyage’ to their Half Moon (‘Halve Maen’) replica, originally a Dutch ship from 1609. Owing to financial difficulties, the city of Hoorn, North Holland that already serves as a retirement home for many old vessels, has agreed to care for the 1989 replica, with the museum retaining ownership.
The Half Moon was used for educational purposes, teaching people about explorer Henry Hudson who came to the New World in 1609 for the Dutch East India Company on board the Dutch ship. Nobody knows yet how the ship will actually cross the Atlantic.
“From the moment the keel of the Half Moon was laid, it has been my ambition to see the Half Moon sail in Dutch waters,” said Andrew A. Hendricks, founder and chairman of the New Netherland Museum/Half Moon Replica. “After 25 years of service as the unofficial flagship of the state of New York, the Half Moon will have the opportunity to sail in the Netherlands.”
(Links: www.timesunion.com, en.wikipedia.org, Photo of Half Moon ship by Katy Silberger, some rights reserved)
Tags: Half Moon, Hoorn, New York, North Holland, ship, vessel
Dutch-American Saskia Sassen, 67, is a professor of sociology at Columbia University in New York City whose Nazi collaborator father is part of a recently translated book from German into English entitled ‘Eichmann Before Jerusalem’ written by German philosopher Bettina Stangneth in 2011. Sassen’s father, Willem Sassen was a Nazi journalist and close to Adolf Eichmann when they both lived in Argentina in the 1950s. Sassen would extensively interview Adolf Eichmann, a major Holocaust figure, at their home in Argentina on Sundays, which upset Saskia’s mother a great deal and had her parents arguing after he left.
For a long time Saskia Sassen refused to talk about that chapter of her life, leading a very successful career as a professor author and authority on many subjects in her own right. However, in recent years Sassen has, “found herself repeatedly confronting this missing chapter of her biography, as archival records emerge and scholars, journalists, and filmmakers seek her participation in projects connected to her father’s history.”
In 1948 Willem Sassen escaped with his family to Argentina, where he met a group of local and refugee Nazis who were obsessed with discrediting what they saw as enemy propaganda about the Holocaust. Sassen was horrified by the bloody details he learned about the concentration camps, but was sure Eichmann had been manipulated into organizing such crimes. Sassen wanted to write a book about it all, but it never materialised. In 1960, Israeli agents abducted Eichmann and rumors spread in Argentina that Sassen had betrayed him.
The rest reads like a thriller and could make an excellent holiday gift for some of you.
Tags: Adolf Eichmann, Argentina, holocaust, Nazis
A 500,000-year-old shell found on Java in Indonesia is said to feature the oldest ever engraved geometrical pattern. The zig zag pattern, which can only be seen with oblique lighting, is said to be older than the weathering processes on the shell arising from fossilisation. As well, the study excluded the possibility that the pattern was created by animals or natural weathering processes.
The shell will be on display in the Naturalis museum in Leiden from 4 December onward.
By applying two dating methods, researchers at the VU University Amsterdam and Wageningen University have determined that the shell with the engraving is minimally 430,000 and maximally 540,000 years old.This means that the engraving is at least four times older than the previously oldest known engravings, found in Africa. An international team of researchers, led by Leiden archaeologist José Joordens, published this discovery on 3 December in the periodical ‘Nature’.
(Link and photo: www.sciencedaily.com)
Tags: engraving, Leiden, shell
The Historical Museum of The Hague is currently holding an exhibition entitled ‘Courtly Rivals: Elizabeth Stuart and Amalia van Solms’ that features locked letters of the 17th century. The letters have been brought to life thanks to some videos made by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). MIT Libraries’ conservator, Jana Dambrogio and others helped film six videos on the science of 17th century letterlocking.
‘Courtly Rivals’ is based on Dutch professor Nadine Akkerman’s publication by the same name, exploring the tense relationship between two of the most influential women in the Dutch Republic during the 17th century – Elizabeth Stuart, sometime Queen of Bohemia and her former lady-in-waiting Amalia von Solms, who became Princess of Orange in 1625. Elizabeth’s corpus of over 2,000 letters shows she was an astute politician, with a vast network of kings, queens, generals, ministers, church leaders, courtiers, and spies. Amalia’s correspondence has just come to light, but it appears she was no different. Both ladies, their secretaries, and their correspondents resorted to intricate methods to lock their letters shut.
(Links: www.haagshistorischmuseum.nl, libraries.mit.edu)
Tags: 17th century, letter writing, museum, The Hague
The name Wim is as Dutch as it gets, but how long will it remain in use? A 2009 booklet called Lang Leve Wim (Long Live Wim) by linguist Wim (!) Daniëls sounds the alarm.
I haven’t read the book myself, but one review quotes what appears to be the introduction: “In the past few years only a couple of Wims have been born. The peak for the name Wim was between 1950 and 1960 in the Netherlands and between 1970 and 1980 in Flanders.”
The Meertens Institute says there are still a good number of Wims walking around the country. Based on census data the institute estimates there are still about 3,500 men called Wim in the Netherlands, or 0.05% of the population. Sociale Verzekeringsbank (SVB), the agency responsible for child support, says 13 baby boys were named Wim in 2013. That is definitely more than the ‘couple’ Daniëls speaks of, but not a chink in the armour of the top five of boys’ names in the Netherlands for 2013, Sem, Levi, Bram, Daan and Finn, which were given to sons more than 700 times each.
The situation is not as bad however as Wim Daniëls says. He has to use a trick to uphold his disaster story of dewimmification. As Bill is the short version of William in English, so is Wim the short version of Willem in Dutch. In 2013, again according to SVB, 264 boys were called Willem, and with a king bearing the same name I estimate the likeliness of that number to drop by much is low. Which, in the end, I think is a good thing. As Daniëls says, what would a world be without Wimmen?
(Link: Holly Moors)
Tags: language, names, Willem, Wim
These pictures of the Netherlands were taken by a Northumbrian photographer and show what the Dutch wore some 100 years ago. The women are not wearing national dress as the source indicates, but regional dress because the Netherlands is big enough to have had different styles. True, the past was “crisp, sharp and as high resolution” as today. And no, the little girl on the left is probably not smoking, but enjoying a traditional ‘stroopsoldaatje’ (‘syrup soldier’), a small paper cone filled with syrup, which you can still buy today.
The woman on the right below with different traditional attire than the girls looks like a woman from Zeeland, like this woman and margarine brand Zeeuws meisje. Looking more closely at the photograph, the ‘cafe restaurant’ on the right has a sign that says ‘on parle français’, (‘we speak French’), which tells me this is Zeeland as it borders Belgium, and back then the Flemish spoke a lot of French. Research tells me the ‘book, music and art store’ in the back could be 1465 De Koninklijke Boek-, Muziek- en Kunsthandel van F.B. den Boer in Middelburg, Zeeland on the corner of Lange Delft and Markt. There’s also a woman on the far right dressed quite normal for her era.
For a modern-day version of looking at Dutch people wearing traditional garb, you can visit the religious community of Staphorst, Overijssel who still dress according to local tradition.
(Link and photos: www.bbc.com, Tip: Thanks Fred!)
Tags: candy, Middelburg, Overijssel, Staphorst, sweets, traditional dress, Zeeland