July 7, 2014

Van der Elsken’s beehive girl has a name

Filed under: Photography by Branko Collin @ 12:27 pm


‘Funfair on the Nieuwmarkt, girl with beehive’ (‘Kermis op de Nieuwmarkt, meisje met suikerspinkapsel) is one of the main pieces of Ed van der Elsken’s retrospective exhibition at the the municipal archive of Amsterdam, but until recently the subject of the photo remained unknown.

The archive asked its Facebook followers if they knew who this girls was. As it turns out her widower recognised her in a previous exhibition and was all too happy to share her name: Margriet Swart.

Van der Elsken (1925-1990) was a street photographer and an important chronicler for Amsterdam during one of its most interesting periods, the 1950s and 1960s, when nozems (Dutch black leather jacket ‘bad boy’ type) provos (Dutch anti-establishment ‘bad boy’ type) made the city an interesting place to be again.

De Groene Amsterdammer explains his role: “Van der Elsken had an eye for what was brewing under that grey reality, a sense for rebellion and bold adventure, against the long leather coats and the bull pizzles of the police. This brewing is visible everywhere in Van der Elsken’s photos, in the faces of the boys hanging out in the streets and in the eyes of the girls at the funfairs.”

The exhibition, Amsterdam!, runs until 14 September 2014.

(Link: PhotoQ; illustration: PhotoQ / Ed van der Elsken)

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August 27, 2013

Essay: who cares about Unesco?

Filed under: Architecture by Branko Collin @ 7:00 am

When I wrote Unesco pulls trigger on Amsterdam in 2010 I was unaware that a day later urbanist Michiel van Iersel would tackle the same subject a day later in NRC.

At the time Unesco had added Amsterdam’s historic city centre to its famous World Heritage List. Critics feared that Amsterdam would fare the same way as Bruges, a city in Belgium that has a lot mediaeval architecture still intact, but that also has the reputation to be staid and boring. They were afraid that the municipal government would turn the city into a museum in which nothing could be changed.

In an essay called Who cares about Unesco? Van Iersel counters these criticisms by saying that “in fairness it should be pointed out that the Belgian town was well on its way to being a museum exhibit before it was included on the list in the year 2000”. He adds that a Unesco listing is unlikely to act as a Trojan horse because if anything, Unesco’s rules are vague and ambiguous.

So, should Amsterdam embrace its Unesco listing? Van Iersel doesn’t seem to care either way. He feels the great number of sites on the World Heritage List has made it the Starbucks of distinctions. He proposes that Amsterdam should “pretend that UNESCO does not exist.” It doesn’t seem to matter much if you’re on it, because everybody else is, too. In fact, when Unesco dropped Dresden from its list for building a bridge, the joke was on Unesco: “in opting for innovation Dresden gave up its place on the list, while UNESCO lost one of its sites and also the support of some of its partisans.”

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July 24, 2012

War on Fun to choke Amsterdam’s famous fry stand

Filed under: Food & Drink by Orangemaster @ 11:31 am

Another blow to downtown Amsterdam, part of the War on Fun or ‘cleaning up the city because we want to do that Unesco thing like Bruges in Belgium did’, the city is pressuring a famous local fry stand to close down for reasons unknown.

Homemade fries Vleminckx anno 1887 on the Voetboogstraat will no longer be given its permit to sell on the street because Amsterdam wants to get rid of places that sell to people queueing on the street. To be able to get another type of permit, the counter would have to be moved 80 cm indoors in a space that is a tight 10,5 m to start off with, install a door and other things that make little sense.

Yes, it closes at 6 pm on weekdays and 5:30 pm on weekends, yes you often have to queue, but shutting this place down in such a manner is a total shame. This place is tasty and famous. I say go and get yourself some fries at least one more time while you still can.

(Link: www.parool.nl, The fries depicted here are from Brussels with andalouse sauce)

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March 11, 2011

Amsterdam to pay hookers and marijuana parlours to quit

Filed under: Weird by Branko Collin @ 5:56 am

The downtown district of Amsterdam will start offering subsidies to ‘undesirable’ companies if they change their type of business. The district lists so called coffeeshops (marijuana parlours), currency exchanges, massage parlours, prostitutes, small supermarkets, and other businesses that draw tourists to the city as eligible for a subsidy.

The borough wants to kill all kinds of economic activities in order to increase the variety of economic activities. Don’t ask me, I just live here.

See also: Unesco pulls trigger on Amsterdam.

Link: Plein Plus. Photo by Wikimedia user Bachrach44 who placed it in the public domain.

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August 1, 2010

Unesco pulls trigger on Amsterdam

Filed under: Architecture,General,History by Branko Collin @ 1:35 pm

Amsterdam’s city hall scored a major victory in the War on Fun today when Unesco added the city’s historical centre to its World Heritage list.

The appointment fits right into the city government’s fantasies of turning the city into Anton Pieck‘s wet dream. A group critical of—and therefore silenced by—the municipality, pointed to the damning example of staid Bruges in Belgium earlier.

Publicist Rogier van Kralingen told Radio Netherlands: “People don’t visit Amsterdam just because it gives them a flavour of the past, but because it has a strong spirit of freedom. The city has an open-hearted, liberal feel to it. If a city wants to create a good environment for its residents and international businesses – which, let’s face it, will have to provide most of our income – you need to maintain a healthy balance between tourism, recreation and people’s freedom to do what they want.”

It’s not like the city and borough councils needed more ammunition: here’s a list of things they have already outlawed. And what’s keeping the Robert-Jasper Grootveld statue?

The Unesco decision makes downtown Amsterdam the seventh World Heritage site in the kingdom.

(Photo by Colleen Taugher, some rights reserved)

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December 13, 2009

Collection of 2,400 ecstasy pills stolen

Filed under: Weird by Branko Collin @ 4:11 pm

When Jan from Eerbeek, Gelderland noticed last Thursday that his extensive ecstasy collection had been stolen, he immediately notified the police. Even though it is believed that the collection is illegal, the 46-year-old sounded the alarm because he fears some of the pills may be poisonous.

The man started his collection 20 years ago. The last 10 years he has hardly worked on it, according to an article in De Stentor. The collector, who tried ecstasy once but didn’t like it, hopes for clemency from the Department of Justice.

“It is a great pity I lost the collection. I would have liked to preserve it for the ages.”

Ecstasy pills are often colourful and come in a great variety of prints. BoingBoing moderator Arkizzle explains the magnitude of the loss of the collection of 2,400 pills:

Pill marks in illicit drug manufacturing are lovely ephemeral things, that come and go as the brand is made and fades. Drugs, obviously, don’t tend to get saved for posterity, so this collection was probably unique. Also, I understand that owning the stamping dies is legally akin to having forgery plates, so they are unlikely to be reproducible.

I once saw a fantastic exhibition of acid blotters in London; original and reprints. Lots of ‘Dead-style artwork, amongst cartoon characters and repeating geometric shapes.

(Photo: DEA. Link: Edmonton Sun / AP / Toby Sterling.)

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November 28, 2009

Yab Yum the musical

Filed under: Shows by Branko Collin @ 2:37 pm

Gossip ‘journalist’ Henk van der Meyden and sex boss Theo Heuft have teamed up to produce a musical about the latter’s former brothel, Yab Yum.

Yab Yum, named after a Tantric position called ‘woman on top’ in the West, was the iconic brothel of the Netherlands until it was closed down last year by the city of Amsterdam using the dubious Bibob law, which allows local governments to refuse permits on the basis of rumours.

Speaking of which, it was rumoured that Yab Yum was the place where one brought business associates if deals needed to be closed.

According to Radio Netherlands, Heuft told the Telegraaf (Van der Meyden’s employer):

It’s an honour that there’s going to be a musical about my life’s work. That’s what Yab Yum was. I mounted prostitution in a golden frame.

[The musical will allow us] to enter a world of beautiful young women, of glamour and glitter.

(Photo by Chana de Wolf, some rights reserved.)

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September 3, 2009

Amsterdam bullies critical group into dropping name and logo

Filed under: Architecture,General by Branko Collin @ 10:08 am

A group of Amsterdam citizens critical of the way the city is run has decided to change its name and logo under heavy pressure of the city government, Volkskrant reported last week (Dutch).

The group called Ai! Amsterdam (meaning Ouch! Amsterdam, a play on the official city marketing slogan of the city, I Amsterdam) has publicly criticized the city’s ban on drinking-while-standing, the gradual closing down of the Red Light district, and other less illuminated measures. The city has threatened with costly legal procedures if the group do not give up their name and logo, procedures which the group estimate would cost them tens of thousands of euro.

Ai! Amsterdam points out to De Pers (Dutch) that the city centre’s candidacy for becoming a UNESCO world heritage site (not just the canals, the entire city centre!) threatens the liveliness and openness of the city even further, creating a real risk of Amsterdam becoming just as staid as Bruges, Belgium, which is also a world heritage site. I think the group are underexaggerating things. At least Bruges started out boring. Amsterdam on the other hand has something to lose.

Ironically, the official I Amsterdam manifesto proclaims: “It’s time for Amsterdam to speak out for itself and make its relevance known in a proud, supportive and positive manner.”

(Illustration: the old Ai! Amsterdam logo, source: Ai!)

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July 11, 2009

Calvin’s 500th birthday luxuries sell briskly

Filed under: History,Religion by Branko Collin @ 11:27 am

The granddaddy of the War on Fun must surely be Jean Cauvin (1509 – 1564), the French protestant priest who is seen around these parts as more influential than Luther himself. The man was a big believer in hard work and no (earthly) reward, so it is perhaps odd that the trinkets that are being sold in honour of his 500th anniversary are selling like hot cakes.

Brabants Dagblad reports (Dutch) that a small lake of Calvijn jenever has already been sold (500+ bottles), and that the 25,000 print run of the Calvijn glossy has completely sold out. The exhibition about his life in Dordrecht has so far attracted more than 60,000 visitors. It is unknown if all these people gorged themselves on nectar and ambrosia right after, but there are ten restaurants in Dordrecht that offer special Calvin meals. Perhaps just a pea on a plate, who knows?

Novelist Maarten ‘t Hart points out delicately in NRC Handelsblad (Dutch) that some of the rules of sobriety of Calvin derive from Roman stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger, who did not like music and dancing (“[there is] a time to dance”, Ecc. 3:4) and other exuberances, such as wearing anything other than dark clothes (“Let thy garments be always white”, Ecc. 9:8).

Meanwhile, in the same paper (Dutch) liberal politician Boris van der Ham points out that the celebration of 500 years sobriety is also the celebration of 400 years resistance against the Calvinist philosophy. The States of Holland had a session in 1608 in which theologian Arminius pleaded for the free will of people: “And so I think that man tries to think well, want well and act well.” But Van der Ham also points out that the Dutch reputation as being straight-shooters to the point of being rude is firmly rooted in Calvinism. “In other countries ‘sins’ were often allowed in a don’t-ask,-don’t-tell way, here the curtains were drawn wide open. […] If other countries sometimes look with bewilderment at our freedoms, it’s not because of the freedoms themselves, but because we are so open and honest about them, in what is essentially a Calvinist way.”

(Photo: Calvijn Dordrecht.)

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March 23, 2009

First bar where smoking is legal?

Filed under: Dutch first by Branko Collin @ 10:29 am

When the smoking ban for bars was introduced last year, it hit Groningen bar De Balk as hard as any other café. Owner Aethne McGhie, originally from Scotland, turned a storage room into a smoking room, but the result was that the bar area itself looked absolutely dead. Her remaining customers came up with an idea: why not turn things around, move the actual bar into the storage room, and the former bar area into the smoking area. And so it was done. The result is that people now have to walk to the former storage room to get their drinks, but, McGhie told Parool (Dutch), even the toughest customers soon learned how to play nice.

The professional busy bodies who have to enforce the ban on fun, the Voedsel en Warenautoriteit (VWA), grudgingly admitted to De Telegraaf (Dutch) that this ploy is actually legal. “But we wouldn’t necessarily call it a legal bar,” a spokesperson said. Turns out that they found a technicality with which they can still cause problems for De Balk. Apparently, the law that says that a room where drinks are served must have a minimal size hasn’t been adapted to take the new circumstances that the smoking ban created into account.

Another entity that won’t call De Balk “the first legal smoking bar” is perhaps not surprisingly Hiermaghetwel.nl (Dutch), the website that keeps track of all the bars in the Netherlands where you can legally smoke. They point out that Café Populair in Amsterdam was the first to come up with the idea of a small bar section and large smoking area, way back in September last year (AT5, Dutch).

Source photo: Google Street View, a Dutch version of which was introduced a couple of days ago.

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