Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Shard

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012


On July 5 the Shard will be inaugurated in London. What an immense, intransigent building. When I first saw the Shard it was perhaps a year ago, I think the structure was mostly finished but the top floors were still naked. I had come off a late-night easyjet flight to Stansted, or Gatwick – it’s all the same, a dance of machines you participate in, and I guess that’s the point. At London Bridge station a friend picked me up and we chatted a bit, walking across the bridge towards Shoreditch. I was still a bit dazed from the airport handling, or perhaps I was already a bit sick. Everything had the color of nicotine fingers and the few stragglers and the odd cab or Vauxhall speeding by just made the place seem more desolate. When we crossed the bridge I turned and saw it, if not beautiful, then spectacularly fitting, a jagged mess of metal rising up into the sky like a wrecked spaceship, just a stone’s throw from the London Tower and the Tower Bridge, with HMS Belfast in between, all these symbols of power, riddling sphinxes glowering in the dark.

The Endless Summer

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

The Endless Summer is timeless like the ocean. You can swim in it for hours or dive in any time for a quick dip. When you get out you feel happier, healthier, refreshed.

This excerpt is about a Malibu surfer named Mickey Dora. Just waves and foam and a man in black shorts on a surfboard. And this beautiful, beautiful voice, the most natural thing in the world, right there with you.

The ultimate thing for most of us is to have an endless summer.

Space is big, space is dark

Monday, September 14th, 2009


Space is big, space is dark, it’s hard to find a place to park

– unknown

Parking along the canals is now so expensive that you can fit a bus in the empty spots.

For those who can afford it, it is convenient. I saw a Porsche Cayenna Turbo S with a license plate from Monaco the other day. Creamy white it was.

I believe cars have been a driving force for social progress – indeed perhaps one of the most democratizing, most emancipatory, most liberating forces of the twentieth century. It is sad to see that they are, once again, becoming a plaything for the rich.


Friday, July 3rd, 2009

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I noticed him standing in front of me in the checkout line of the supermarket. He was buying some bread rolls and a couple of cans of catfood. As the cashier scanned them the prices flashed blue across the display. Fifty-nine cents, fifty-nine cents, fifty-nine cents, eighty-seven cents…

I recognized his face. He’s a street musician who often stands at the crossroads near the market square. He plays tunes on a standing bass, mostly golden oldies and folk songs. The enormous instrument sways gently to and fro as his hands carress the strings and neck, almost as if he is dancing with it. He stamps his feet on a wooden box for a beat. His voice is hoarse, the words almost shouted.

The man is an absolute gentleman, always dressed in a dark suit with polished black shoes. But his trademark is the hat, which he raises or at least touches for every donation, no matter how small. He does this without exception, regardless of whether he receives a single donation or ten in a row – he will raise his hat for every single person, continuining to play the bass and muttering “thanks, thank you, thanks” to each person individually, with a smile that betrays only gratitude and grace.

He works the bass, and the bass works him. Sweating and singing, he bangs out basslines, day in day out, raising his hat and smiling his smile.

And now here he is, with the same smile, the same gentle demeanour, the same suit and hat, buying bread rolls and catfood.

I wondered about the catfood. I had never seen him with a cat, or any kind of pet for that matter. I had a hard time imagining it – this man was so humane that there seemed something inappropriate about the image of him roaming the city with an animal in tow. It just seemed … below him.

Then I realized the catfood was for him.

Did you find my weed?

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

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This from a friend:

Did you find my weed?

About half a gram of tasman haze from de Tweede Kamer.

I left it in a phone booth at Waterloo square, Amsterdam on Sunday 28 June, at 03:44 in the morning.

Did you find it?

I hope you like it.

I left it there for you.

Cat on a hot tin roof

Thursday, June 11th, 2009


You’re not a good person because you don’t drink, or because you don’t eat meat, or because you recycle your garbage. It’s not as simple as getting rid of bad habits or being true to doctrine.

This endless parade of experts dishing out well intended advice on how to optimize your performance in bed, how to maximize your productivity at work, how to stay fit at any age – but for what? A life of neverending self-improvement, full of furious potential, signifying nothing?


Late last night, slouched on the couch, remote control in hand, I zapped through the TV landscape. There were a couple of options: Discovery channel was showing a documentary on Future Weapons, Fashion TV had the latest swimwear trends for 2009, and then there was Turner Classic Movies. I switched back and forth, but kept coming back to TCM. The color and atmosphere in these old movies is enchanting. You just have to catch another glimpse, like at a beautiful woman passing by on the street.

That night TCM broadcast the 1958 movie “Cat on a hot tin roof“, with the glorious Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman, pictured above in a scene of marital crisis. Newman plays son Brick, who is destined to inherit his father’s massive estate. But Brick is a troubled soul, who fights his demons with large quantities of whiskey. Worse, he snubs his wife in the bedroom and seems hesitant to establish a family of his own.

The inevitable confrontation between Brick and his father, Big Daddy, plays out during a get-together at the family ranch. With Brick drunk and Big Daddy suffering from “spastic bowels” (a euphemism for cancer), they chase eachother around the house, pleading, confessing, trading accusations and insults, thrusting and parrying like bulls. The son lectures his father on hypocrisy and sincerity, the father ridicules his son for his refusal to accept responsibility.

The father is a fat hulking tyrant, the son a hopeless drunk. But they don’t argue about diets and 12-step detox programs. They argue about what it means to live a good life. They argue about purity and sacrifice and love.


We do not need more experts to tell us how to indefinitely preserve ourselves like pickles. We need experts like Big Daddy and Brick. Flawed experts, who argue with us and confuse us and convince us, about what it means to be a good person, and who remind us of our shared destiny.

We need experts who remind us that the expiration date on our packaging is not a threat. Instead it is a promise – a promise of freshness and fitness for purpose.

Queensday 2009

Thursday, April 30th, 2009


Around 12 o’clock today, a 38 year old man drove a Suzuki Swift at high speed towards the bus holding Beatrix, Queen of the Netherlands and her family, injuring 13 people and killing four. The queen and her family were celebrating Queensday in Apeldoorn.

This event joins the murders on Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh as one of the most serious in the (formerly) uneventful and politically stable Netherlands.

The mayor and police chief of Apeldoorn are currently giving a press conference. Festivities in Apeldoorn and Rotterdam have been cancelled.

Job Cohen, mayor of Amsterdam, has not announced any actions yet. Apparently the Amsterdam council is worried that stopping the festivities will cause chaos. As the full significance of what has happened is sinking in, their hesitation is looking more and more inappropriate.

Similarly, the decision by Dutch internal affairs minister Guusje ter Horst to leave matters to the council of Apeldoorn instead of taking charge, when everything indicates that there has been an assasination attempt on the Dutch Head of State, at a time where the Dutch monarchy is in a period of transition, shows a disturbingly bureaucratic sensibility that can only serve to deepen the disconnect between the people and the political class.

Mister mayor, shut down Queensday – now.

Garden Relais

Monday, April 13th, 2009

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The sun burns hot on the mountains around Bassano. On the mountains, on the grass, on the pavement. Hot air tries to escape fom the hot fields. It turns into wind and rises up, up, up, taking paragliders and hanggliders higher, higher, higher.

The winds are strong – too strong to fly for us. We can only fly early in the morning, when the mountains are still asleep and the sun has not reached its full power yet.

Meanwhile Germans and Italians and Poles are celebrating. It is Easter, and they have come to see the Fiera Air sports festival. The terraces are full, the waitresses are stressed, the parking lot packed.

It is the final day of the festival. People are packing up and watching as the athletes perform their final feats. Cheering them on from the terrace, raising their huge pale yellow glasses of beer. They are preparing for dinner.

Moving on

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

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In the chipped flakes of paint on the side of the van;

And the faded directions on a washed-out sticker;

Where the yellow light scatters on wet asphalt spots;

And silver trails shimmer in oil-soaked concrete.

Where the seams don’t fit on old perspex signs;

And the dirt gets in.


In the faded remains of a sprawling brown stain;

Where the mold left a scar with a raggedy edge;

The smear of blue ink on a printed receipt;

The gravelly earth where the roads do not quite meet.

In the insect remains between glass and aluminum frame;

Drawn by the lure of a fluorescent flame.


Wednesday, December 24th, 2008


The sign says: “Watch out! Bikes will really be removed!” (I’ll try to make a better picture when I come around again)

The city is littered with signs like that. It seems to be something that insurance companies require businesses to do in order to qualify for glass insurance. And, well, parked bikes can be a nuisance.

Normally I don’t pay attention to the signs. Few people do judging by the amount of bikes and bike remains littered throughout town. But this one stood out. Because it was attached to a locksmith business. That lends an acute credibility to the threat, and sure enough, no bikes to be found anywhere near the building.

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Then there is stuff like the above, seen in France in 2004. According to the sign, this sad building belongs, or belonged, to Caron Securite. This ostensibly is a company that you can pay to look after you and your property. But for whatever reason, they clearly did not deem it necessary to extend the same service to their own property.

What happened here? Did the company intrude on someone else’s turf? Did an established competitor wish to forcefully express his disagreement with capitalist tenets such as competition and free choice? Or did the company have the electrical wiring installed by cousin Alain, who fell on his head as a child and accepts payment in pallets of wine? …

Alas, reality is less dramatic. This is a training ground used to recreate fires. On the other side of the building, a charred sign proclaims, somewhat ironically: “Contre le feu!”

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Coffeeshop “Happyness”, 2001.

And then there’s times when irony descends into naked cynicism.

What cruel business man hides behind this travesty? Weighed down by sorrow and the daily grind, this is where the hopeless come for a few moments of forgetfulness. Not bliss, mind you. For getting stoned offers no escape, but is itself part of their Sisyphean suffering. They buy their Afghan, stir their tea, and smoke in silence. Then shuffle out the door to sleep a dreamless sleep. And wake to do the whole thing over again.

It is a life, to be sure. To be sure, there is a profit to be made and someone has to make it. But what heartless reptile paints this pit of despair in rainbow colors and calls it “Happyness”?