Two years ago, a North Korean restaurant (now closed) in the West of Amsterdam had caused quite the commotion having been accused of spreading propaganda and all that jazz. But at least there was after dinner singing.
Now in the East part of town restaurant Haedanghwa features North Korean food with traditional after dinner songs sung by North Korean girls in traditional garb. The fun part is, they sing their rendition of the Dutch standard ‘Aan de Amsterdamse Grachten’ (roughly, At the Canals of Amsterdam) that they apparently worked very hard not only to sing, but to understand. They practiced for a few weeks and now you can enjoy the video.
(Link: www.vice.com, Photo of Pyongyang restaurant by Comicbase, some rights reserved)
Tags: Amsterdam, North Korean
In 2011 Amsterdam challenged and eventually won in high court the right to designate certain areas as as non-pot smoking zones. Rotterdam recently challenged the law as well and has also won its case. If smoking pot in these areas is deemed unsafe, then it becomes a matter of public order and can be legally enforced, as long as the cities take this up in their local public ordinance.
The reason why this wasn’t cut and dry was that the Opium Law governing soft drugs basically states that marijuana is illegal, again something many people still don’t know because the law is willfully ignored. And since marijuana is illegal you can’t forbid it again, as that would be crazy talk.
However, due to the oddness of the Dutch situation both cities now have a workaround. Stopping people from smoking altogether is often enough, but in many places people are allowed to smoke outside, regardless of how funny their cigarette smells.
(Link: www.nieuws.nl, Photo of No-blow (and no drinking) sign by Erik Joling, some rights reserved)
Tags: Amsterdam, law, marijuana, pot, Rotterdam, smoking
The tourist video ‘Going Dutch’ premiered in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam last November and yes, it is well shot. I very much like the voiceover with its impeccable pronunciation, as it has the right tone for that in-flight video feel. In fact, if you wanted to convince some friends and family abroad to visit the country this video wouldn’t be a bad place to start. The film does focus heavily on Amsterdam, which is often the first place people visit and then unfortunately associate with the entire country. Although you may learn something, I mostly saw stereotypes being reinforced like a dam with a leak in it.
Some 5 minutes into the film when basking in the past glory of Dutch football accomplishments, they actually mention that ‘women’s football has been given a boost in recent years’ although let’s face it, nobody here gives a rat’s ass about it. At about 7 minutes in we get into Dutch art, which again relies on the classics, but that is to be expected.
We continue on to 10 minutes in and ‘Dutch craftsmanship’ pushes top Dutch brands Philips and Bols — music and booze if you will. About two minutes later at 12 odd minutes, the ‘Dutch water’ bit focuses on in and around Rotterdam, with dams and shipping containers. At around 15 minutes, it’s about Dutch food and it shows herring and haute cuisine side by side, which doesn’t reflect reality at all. However, the cheese tour makes up for it and the white blonde Dutch narrator dares call himself a ‘cheese head’.
The testosterone-induced business atmosphere of the Zuidas, where a few wannabee skyscrapers are clustered, doesn’t work for me at all, but then it is often forced into every business film to make it look like we have a proper financial district. Speaking of getting down to business, Dutch music gets its bit at 20 odd minutes in after having used a picture of internationally famous singer Caro Emerald but completely ignoring her and skipping to classical music on the one hand and Dutch dance DJs (all men) on the other. By then I’ve seen three visual references to Tiësto, then finally a female DJ is on screen, but oh no, she starts praising the success of her male colleagues abroad.
In the end, the narrator is in what I think – and I am guessing here — Monnickendam, giving two blonde women passing by a badly acted once-over, as he says “come see for yourself what the Netherlands has to offer.” [Insert facepalm here].
Don’t get me wrong, we wouldn’t be writing this blog if we didn’t think the Netherlands (the entire country, not just Amsterdam) had tons to offer, but giving the impression to foreigners that everything is mostly done by white men in 2013 is scary and unrealistic. The only time ethnic minorities are shown on screen is when they plug the tolerance cliché and the muliticulti one (filmed in Amsterdam) because ethnic minorities don’t seem to be of any use otherwise, not even in the food part.
It’s safe to say that history is basically repeating itself.
Tags: Amsterdam, Bols, cheese, Philips, Tiësto, tourism, Zuidas
A computerised car sharing system from the 1970s was way ahead of its time and a product of the Dutch precursor of the hippie movement.
The video shown here from the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision contains a short news item about the Witkar (literally White Car) invented by famous provo Luud Schimmelpennink. Witkars were battery powered and available to members for a small price. A PDP-11 computer acted as a central control system and swipe cards gave you access to one of the two-seater Witkars. Their action radius was limited, making them suitable mostly for urban areas. Originally 1,000 vehicles were planned, but the project never got beyond the first 35 cars and 5 charging stations.
A problem that plagued the Witkar was that the battery drained quickly and had to be charged often. As a result not all of the Witkars were always available, as they were busy charging. Another issue with the Witkar was that some destinations were more popular than others. The project ran until 1986.
The Witkar was the product of one the White Plans, a series of plans by provos from Amsterdam that tried to improve daily for everybody. White Bicycles were a bike share project, White Housing promoted squatting, White Kids tried to tackle the daycare problem and so on.
A recent car sharing program called Car2go by Daimler (which had Witkar 2.0 as a working title) tries to prevent these problems by giving bonus minutes to people who actual bother to park the car at a charging station.
Somebody made an English translation of a part of the video.
(Photo: crop of the video)
Tags: 1970s, Amsterdam, car sharing, Car2go, Luud Schimmelpennink, Provo, Witkar
Local TV station AT5 tells us that only 7% of street names in Amsterdam are named after women, and that the mayor has promised to change that in the future. Of course, Amsterdam’s streets are named after a whole bunch of other things like bridges and canals, but we do live in 2014 and it wouldn’t kill the city to make this kind of upgrade.
A Master’s thesis by Rob Koolos on Street names in Noord-Brabant and Holland — this includes Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague — explains the situation when it comes to streets named after women:
Except for the Royal Family (and the wives of William of Orange), before the Second World War, streets named after women were very, very scarce. Aagje Deken and Betje Wolff (writers) and Thérèse Schwartze (painter) were the only women that appeared in more than one of the researched cities. [...] After the Second World War, with the second feminist wave and a rapidly growing list of important women, this situation did improve slightly. Leiden and Alphen aan de Rijn for example decided to use only women to name the streets in their new quarters.
I’ve seen street names in Amsterdam named after women like doctors, the wives of famous men, artists and even fictional characters. And if Leiden and Alphen aan de Rijn can do it, so can Amsterdam.
(Link: www.welingelichtekringen.nl, Photo of Warmoesstraat by Olivier Bruchez, some rights reserved)
Tags: Amsterdam, streets, women
Michiel van Eyck, owner of the Totalitarian Art Gallery in Amsterdam was questioned by police for an hour recently on the sale of Adolf Hitler’s memoirs Mein Kampf.
You see, the sale of Mein Kampf is banned in the Netherlands under anti-discrimination laws. Sure, you can just score it online instead, which is legal and makes the ban absurd and not very useful.
Van Eyck feels that selling the famous memoirs is not inciting hatred, as he also sells books written by Stalin, Mao and the likes. He hopes to go to court to have what he feels is an outdated ban overturned.
Tags: Amsterdam, books, censorship, Hitler
About 9,000 citizens of Amsterdam received an unexpected Christmas bonus yesterday, Parool reports.
The municipal tax office accidentally floated a comma the wrong way and instead of paying out a housing benefit of 155 euro it transferred 15,500 euro and sometimes even 30,000 euro into its clients’ bank accounts.
The annual benefit is paid on top of a similar federal subsidy that is intended to help the poorest Dutch people make ends meet. The tax office is frantically trying to retrieve the money. Parool says the office fears “most recipients will be unwilling to see a mistake in this”. In total the city has paid out 188 million euro.
“We want to deal with this in a nice way”, a spokesperson told Telegraaf. But one of the accidental recipients who called the tax office was told that if he touched the money, he’d be in trouble, AT5 reports.
Although it is funny to think of the poorest of society being ‘rich’ for a few days, I fear that for some this mistake may only mean more problems in the end.
(Photo of unrelated costume jewellery by GlitzUK, some rights reserved)
Tags: Amsterdam, benefits, housing benefit, money, rent control, social security
A bit in the same vein as a Dutch talent show jury not recognising an established singer-songwriter, this time a fake artist peddles copies of works by Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich in the hopes of being accepted to two possible art academies. Watch the video to find out more about why that is.
Someone actually does recognise the suprematist style of the candidate’s portfolio, with one man claiming to be ‘walking through art history’ when browsing through it. The general consensus is that the candidate’s work is ‘at the very early stages’ and not good enough to get into art school. However, these same works are worth millions of euro, some of which I believe are currently on display at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum for the Kazimir Malevich and the Russian Avant-Garde exhibition.
In Dutch, with English titles and subtitles, with a nice facepalm factor:
(Link: www.amsterdamadblog.com, Photo of Malevich’s works by ngEdwin, some rights reserved)
Tags: Amsterdam, Malevich, Stedelijk
Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars of Amsterdam, known internationally for projects such as his building to be built using a 3D printer, has designed a house with a 360 degree view (video).
Inspired by the Russian game Tetris, Ruijssenaars thought up a row house made of blocks placed in such a way that every room has a different view of outside instead of just being able to see out the front or out the back. His idea was based on a building contest in Peru in 2009 which was about increasing density. By having more people use the same space, he was able to increase the density as well as the quality of the residences.
It remains to be seen who will be the first to build these houses. And although different, they do remind me of Habitat 67 in Montreal by Moshe Safdie.
(Link: www.telegraaf.nlPhoto of Tetris cookies by Rakka, some rights reserved)
Tags: Amsterdam, Janjaap Ruijssenaars, Tetris
Amsterdam’s famous canal ring turned 400 this year and as part of the celebrations an art exhibit is being held in 15 historical canal houses.
The houses include the mayor’s residence just past the Golden Bend. The artists were selected by curator Siebe Tettero because they had some connection with Amsterdam. They include current darlings of the Dutch art scene Joep van Lieshout and Viviane Sassen.
The exhibit—called Chambres des Canaux—started this week and will run until 17 November except on Mondays. You can buy a ticket for 14 euro at the tourists offices which will give you access to all the venues.
Getting access to the former homes of rich traders sounds like a pretty unique in itself. Should you not be able to make it before 17 November, there is always the Museum Willet-Holthuysen on the Herengracht, which is the home of 19th century art collector Abraham Willet and which has been preserved in the style of its last residents.
(Link: I Amsterdam. Illustration: Gerrit Adriaensz Berckheyde, public domain)
Tags: Amsterdam, canals, Joep van Lieshout, Vivianne Sassen