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vol. 5 #3 – 20 December 2011

The Sentinel Amsterdam

Integrity, heart, humour


the christmas tree trends

christmas 2 Lifestyles Opinion REVIEW Technology FILM TRENDS Cartoon Sport Classifieds





In this issue FEATURE

p. 04 lifestyles P. 12 TECHNOLOGY

The Christmas Tree ‘A yuletide tale for children of all ages’


Queer as folk in Amsterdam

TechBit: Sio-Bytes

‘Engage with the ‘right’ crowd and paint the town pink’

p. 30 sport

Christmas Squared

p. 22

‘Places was potentially a game changer’

p. 34 more:

The Gold Room

REVIEW Ladies night

p. 18

SPOTTED p. 26 Where is this in Amsterdam?

‘Turning the more prominent city squares into wintry, Christmas theme park-like areas’


p. 27 p. 28


ColoPHon The Sentinel Amsterdam e-mail: website: The Sentinel Amsterdam does not intentionally include unaccredited photos/illustrations that are subject to copyright. If you consider your copyright to have been infringed, please contact us at

Editors – Gary Rudland & Denson Pierre Design, realisation and form – Andrei Barburas & Webmaster – Webhost –

Contributors: Sharmin de Vries, Lennie St Luce, Simon Owusu, Dirkje Bakker-Pierre, David King & Colin Bentley All original drawings including front cover copyright Pieter Bakker



The christmas tree A yuletide tale for children of all ages By Gary Rudland



‘I am: a Nordmann fir tree’

I am 12 years old and was raised in Western Europe, but my ancestors come from the mountains of Turkey, Georgia and the Russian Caucasus. It takes a long time for me to reach adolescence. In fact, if I was left to grow, I might reach a height of 60 metres, or even taller. As it is, I’m a little less than two metres tall, which is about average for a 12-year-old. I have a few gaps around my middle, but a nice bushy base, a good crown and a single peak. My needles are glossy, dark green and have rounded tips, so I don’t scratch people. Since I am already relatively mature, I don’t shed my needles easily, even after being cut down. All of this makes me a perfect Christmas tree and that is what I am: a Nordmann fir tree. Since I was raised specifically to be a Christmas tree, being cut down is something I’ve anticipated all my life. All of us know that this signals our final days, but we don’t mind because this is our main reason for being. I was sawn down about a week ago and transported to the Netherlands, which I think means the lands below. My friends and I were wrapped up, to protect us, and loaded on to a lorry. Most of my friends were sent off to other places, but some of us were delivered to a shopping street in Amsterdam and placed alongside other kinds of Christmas tree. For the past few days, I’ve been standing outside in the icy cold wind, but I don’t mind because I’m among friends and we’re used to being outdoors. People come and go, moving us around to have a good look at us, and friends depart to their new homes but, so far, no-one has chosen me.

Christmas Eve

The day is at its end and it’s dark already. The shops are closing and all the other trees have gone to their Christmas homes. I can see one of them in a window on the other side of the road. She looks so proud in her fine decorations: sparkling tinsel, shiny baubles and twinkling fairy lights. I’ve started to feel a little weaker over the past day, or two.

‘I haven’t had a drink for weeks and it’s been hard seeing all of my friends find new homes’ I haven’t had a drink for weeks and it’s been hard seeing all of my friends find new homes, leaving me behind all on my own. It makes me sad but I try not to show it as they leave. I’m happy that my friends have found homes but it’s starting to look like I’ve missed my chance. A little girl, about seven years old, is passing by. She looks at me, smiling all the way past, and starts pulling at her mother, trying to stop her with her little mitten-clad hand. “Come on, sweetheart, the shops will be closing in a minute,” says the mother. “Look, Mummy, here’s one,” says the little girl. “I told you we couldn’t afford a tree this year?” says the mother, “and certainly not one this size. Besides, it’s not the best looking Christmas tree I’ve ever seen.” “Oh, please, Mummy,” says the little girl. “I think he’s perfect.”


I don’t know how she knew I was a male tree but she was right about that, at least.


the road. It’s the shopkeeper. “Ah, there you are,” he says. “I was just about to give up.”

“How much is this one?” the mother asks the shopkeeper, as he appears from inside the shop. “Well, since it’s Christmas Eve and I’d only have to get rid of it myself next time I open up, you can take it off my hands. I can’t say fairer than that,” says the shopkeeper with a broad smile. “Please, please, please, Mummy,” says the little girl, with pleading eyes.

‘Don’t be too long. I want to get home for Christmas, too.’

The mother’s heart melts and she says to the shopkeeper, “Alright then, but would you mind holding on to it for a few minutes, while I pop into the supermarket?” “Of course,” says the shopkeeper, “but don’t be too long. I want to get home for Christmas, too.” They go to the supermarket but it takes longer than expected, because everyone seems to be doing last-minute shopping. When they get back to the tree shop, it’s closed and there are no lights on. “Mummy, mummy, where’s our tree?” says the little girl, with tears welling up in her eyes. “I don’t know,” the mother replies, “there doesn’t seem to be anyone here anymore.” They look up and down the brightly lit shopping street but they neither the shopkeeper nor their tree are anywhere to be seen. “Perhaps he had to leave and someone else took it,” says the mother. “I’m sorry, darling, but it’s getting late and it’s very cold. We’d better get home in the warm. We’ll just have to make do with what we’ve got.” The little girl is very sad but she tries very hard not to cry. She knows Mummy did the best she could and she was right, it was very cold outside. Just then, a man emerges from a van parked at the side of

He walks around to the back of the van and pulls out their Christmas tree. “There you go,” he says, “Merry Christmas!” “Oh, thank you, thank you,” says the little girl, “and Merry Christmas to you, too!” A gust of cold wind must have caught her eye, because a tear starts to fall from it. She even helps to carry me back to their apartment, which is just around the corner, not far away.

‘There are lots of different colours and they all work. They even twinkle!’ That evening is the best of my entire life. The little girl and her mother stand me right in front of the window in their living room. They bring out a big box of decorations and start taking things out. First, they plug in the fairy lights. There are lots of different colours and they all work. They even twinkle! They wrap the lights around me and then drape gold and silver tinsel over my branches. It’s lovely and warm inside. As warm as the summers when I was growing up. The little girl and her mother hang shiny baubles from the end of my branches. Some of them are difficult to hold up, but I gather my strength and try to keep them up as best I can. When most of my branches are decorated, they finish off by placing a beautiful fairy on my peak, with a pretty dress and a shiny wand. I feel so proud and handsome in all my finery, standing in the window so that passers-by can see me. The little girl and her mother must think I’m handsome, too, because I keep noticing them looking at me, right up to bedtime. I’m so glad to be doing what I was meant to. Now I know what Christmas really feels like.







Christmas Day

The little girl wakes up early on Christmas Day. She’d been dreaming about a boy teasing her at school and it takes her a few seconds to realise where she is and what day it is. Suddenly, she remembers. It’s Christmas Day! She immediately sits up straight in her bed. There’s a night light in a socket on the wall and by its faint light she can see that there is a stocking at the end of her bed. She squeals with excitement and empties it out on to the bed. Along with a tangerine and a few walnuts, there are several small, wrapped gifts, which she opens straight away. The little girl is busy playing with her new toys when her mother enters the room with breakfast on a tray: tea and toast for Mum, juice and porridge for her. After breakfast, they enter the living room, where the mother has already turned on my lights. It’s still dark outside, so they twinkle and glisten, reflecting in the baubles and tinsel. The mother has arranged five or six beautifully wrapped presents around my base and the little girl’s eyes nearly pop out of her head when she sees them. She immediately runs over, asking if she can open them. The mother says, “Of course,” and the little girl rips open the wrapping around the closest gift. You should see her face as she opens each new present; a doll with her own house and lots of other things she’d wished for.

‘I feel admired and loved all day long, and all the following days’ She spends all day playing with her new toys, laughing, singing Christmas carols and eating lots of lovely food. But I still notice her staring at me, every now and again. She seems mesmerised by my twinkling lights and perhaps she’s imagining what it’s like to be a fairy. I feel admired and loved all day long, and all the following days. Friends and relatives pop by and nearly all of them remark, “What a lovely tree,” and suchlike. I repay their admiration by standing tall and keeping a vigil at night. As New Year comes and goes, I know my days are numbered but I still feel the warmth of their eyes upon me, as well as gratitude to them for welcoming me into their home.

Twelfth Night

It’s the sixth of January, which people call Twelfth Night. Tradition says that Christmas decorations have to be taken down by midnight tonight. I’ve held on pretty well, considering. All of the moisture in my trunk has been used up and a few needles have started to drop from my branches, but not many. The little girl and her mother seem very pleased.

‘The lights come off next and, like me, they’ve lasted all Christmas’ They’ve removed all the baubles from my branches and the tinsel is being put back in its box. The lights come off next and, like me, they’ve lasted all Christmas. The little girl and her mother remove me from my base and carry me outside. Luckily, the little girl is wearing a woolly hat and gloves, because it’s very cold.

‘We’re all smiling inside, because we’ve brought so much happiness to so many families.’ They lay me down beside some old friends and other trees that I’ve never met before. As they set me down, I almost breathe a sigh of relief. It’s been an immense effort holding on to my needles and now they begin to fall to the ground in greater numbers. I am among friends again. We’re reaching the end of our lives but we’re all smiling inside, because we’ve brought so much happiness to so many families. I feel content, because not only have I brought them pleasure, but they’ve also shown me love. I may not have been the best looking tree in the world, but they certainly made me feel like I was. I envy the tree that ends up in their home next Christmas. As I drift off into eternity, the little girl says “Thank you Mr Christmas Tree. I’ll never forget you”. And she never did.







Queer as folk in Amsterdam ‘The pub thrives on retaining its old-Amsterdam traditional brown bar style, but with permanent Christmas decorations’



By Sharmin De Vries

If you’re looking for an alternative way to enjoy Amsterdam’s vibrant nightlife, why not engage with the ‘right’ crowd and paint the town pink in some of the city’s most notorious gay venues? If you don’t mind large crowds, the occasional fumble right in front of you and loud, almost certainly cheesy music, you can have a whale of a time and view Amsterdam in one of its other lights. An absolutely legendary bar that has made a name for not only mixing in old Dutch classics with more recent danceable hits, but also for its star-studded clientele consisting of various Dutch gay entertainers, is Montmartre, just off Rembrandtplein. If you are really lucky you will see one of our most prominent singers, Gerard Joling, hanging out at the bar while his own music blasts loudly through the speakers. Now how is that for a treat? Don’t expect any fancy frills at Montmartre; the pub thrives on retaining its old-Amsterdam traditional brown bar style, but with permanent Christmas decorations hanging from the ceiling. For a continuation of a jolly night in cheeseville, you might consider another pub near to Montmartre, called Chez René. What’s in a name? Well, as you may have guessed, the owner is called René. Much like Montmartre, Chez René has retained the classic brown bar style, mixed in with funky music and equally large crowds, making it just as hard, if not harder, to move around. In contrast, though, I have found Chez René to be lacking in that merry atmosphere that Montmartre clearly boasts. Where Montmartre has elevated the status of cheap to epic proportions, Chez René boasts the cheap, but without the cheerful.

If a bit more gleam and sheen is what you’re after, head over to Amsterdam’s gay strip, Reguliersdwarsstraat, and immerse yourself in a somewhat classier setting at Arc. This predominantly hip, young and gay bar attracts a large, more upscale crowd on weekends. During the week, however, the bar is frequented by tourists or people who have just been to see a film and want to have a drink and perhaps something to eat, since Arc is also a restaurant. The setting is very black and mysterious with a choice of bars. Reguliersdwarsstraat has been a prime strip of gay hotspots for many years with cafés, bars and clubs dotted along the street. Most of the larger establishments in the area were owned by Dutch hospitality magnate Sjoerd Kooistra. After a huge conflict with Heineken, in 2010, Kooistra took his own life, resulting in the collapse of his hospitality empire. The most prominent gay clubs and bars on the Reguliersdwarsstraat were consequently closed down, causing a huge blow to the entire gay nightlife scene in Amsterdam. Recently, however, clubs and bars have reopened and the pink vibe is well and truly back. The key to enjoying a pink night out on the town is to keep an open mind, go with the flow and perhaps, if you don’t already speak it, learn Dutch so you can sing along to some of the cheesiest Dutch classics you will hear anywhere.

‘This predominantly hip, young and gay bar attracts a large, more upscale crowd on weekends’




‘the pink vibe is well and truly back’







‘The bar is closed to men, which gives rise to hilarity and a certain amount of good-natured raucousness’

Ladies’ Night




By Lennie St Luce

‘Ladies’ night’ is generally held on the third Friday of the month at the tiny Hemp Hotel; Frederiksplein 15 at the Weteringschans end of Amsterdam’s Utrechtsestraat. From 17.00 to 22.00 hours, the bar is closed to men, which gives rise to hilarity and a certain amount of good-natured raucousness when men inadvertently enter. ‘Hippies’ love the five themed rooms and booking in advance is advised: The name comes from the wish to promote the positives of hemp, an amazing plant from seed to sinew. Hemp, which contains no THC* and therefore no high, enjoyed a long, valid and noble history among humankind, until those advocating the positives of the (THC-laden) buds produced by segregated female plants fell foul of lawmakers. See http:// for a potted history. Various THC-free hemp products are used throughout the hotel and most are available for purchase. Narrow and dark though the bar is, this intimacy bodes well for ladies’ night. Invitations are sent out by e-mail, often just a few days beforehand, although all women are welcome. Many attendees bring food and the bar is covered with delectable fare. There have been clothes swaps and a fashion show but most evenings are non-themed and consist of meeting a wide range of women from all over the world. Some have in common a (former) fondness for the aforementioned buds but an increasing number of non-’tokers’ come for

the unusual experience of being in female-only company. The evening is hosted by Mila Jansen; a successful businesswoman, owner of the hotel, Pollinator© (http://www. and subject of the recent, award-winning documentary ‘Mila’s Journey’ (http://www.milasjourney. com/Trailer/). After seeing this I wrote: “The film is a paean to a people, a world, a way of thinking, a landscape, that will never return; that has morphed, can never be re-found, recreated... being part of incredible passages through priceless diamonds of human history”. Famed in the world of cannabis and an original Sixties hip chick, legend has it Mila opened the very first ‘coffee shop’. She is an inspiration, friendly, open and welcoming, as is Ladies’ night. For an invitation, mail: *

‘An inspiration, friendly, open and welcoming’







‘Facebook would be able to collate all this information and make it available to advertising companies’

Location, locat TechBit: Sio-Bytes By Simon Owusu

In 2010, to compete with popular location services such as Foursquare and Gowalla, Facebook introduced Facebook Places. It was billed as the Foursquare killer, since Foursquare was the dominant service. Facebook already had more than five hundred million users who were sharing varying degrees of information about where they were, where they had been, where they were going and who they were with via their status updates. With the rise in smartphones, tablets and ultra-portable laptops, people on the move were connected to the internet and sharing their locations with friends, so Places was potentially a game changer. Facebook had created a service on its popular platform, accessible from multiple devices ‘on-the-move’, to share where you had been, where you were and where you were going. In the world of social networking, this was a huge coup. Facebook would be able to collate all this information and make it available to advertising companies at a price. By knowing your movements, such as the sushi restaurants you visit, Facebook could quite cleverly advertise special offers from other sushi restaurants in your vicinity on your profile page.

A year later and completely out of the blue, Facebook decided to kill off this service to concentrate on ‘other services’, as they put it with no further explanation. That was early this year and in the last few weeks, Facebook has announced the acquisition of Gowalla, the biggest competitor to the current king of the hill, Foursquare. An interesting aspect to the acquisition was the announcement that Facebook will not be continuing the Gowalla service or taking over Gowalla’s membership, location data or technology. The acquisition was primarily made to capture the Gowalla team members and no doubt incorporate them into some bigger plan for location-based services that Facebook has up its sleeve.

‘An interesting aspect to the acquisition was the announcement that Facebook will not be continuing the Gowalla service’ So why does one company buy another company operating a similar service to one that it had killed off itself after only a year? Taking into account that Gowalla’s biggest competitor is Foursquare, which is valued at US$ 600 million, why would Facebook spend anywhere near that to acquire just a team? Perhaps it’s worth examining why



tion, location Foursquare, which is very similar to Gowalla, is worth so much and what it has to offer. Many people don’t get Foursquare. The basic premise is that when you are out and about, you use the service to pinpoint your location and then you ‘check-in’. Once this is done, your friends who also have the service know your whereabouts and can meet up with you if they want, provided you haven’t already moved on to a new location in the meantime. This is the social aspect of the service and there is a fun gaming element, as well. Whoever checks into a location the most in a month is designated ‘The Mayor’ of that venue. The designation alone is a special accomplishment, embellished further by the owners of those locations providing special offers to ‘their’ mayors. People who check-in to locations can also leave ‘To-Do’ activities for other people to complete, such as trying the special burgers in a particular bar. Tips such as the best spot to sit in a club can be left for people to see when they check-in and you can also collect badges for achievements like being a frequent flyer (always in airports) or being in swarm (a very popular place with lots of check-ins during a short time period). The accumulation of mayorships and achievement badges at different locations makes the whole experience more of a fun game than a location-based sharing tool. So, why was it Gowalla for Facebook? Firstly, I think with Foursquare being so much more popular compared to

Gowalla (10 million subscribers vs. 2 million), Facebook did not want to run the Foursquare service alongside its own operations. Killing the Gowalla service was a more acceptable solution, since this involved upsetting 2 million users instead of 10 million. Also, it would not have made sense to kill a service as popular as Foursquare, just for the sake of a few key team members. Secondly, Facebook Places was deemed to be another Facebook invasion of personal privacy and people thought their movements were being monitored for the sole purpose of profit with nothing in return. With the acquisition of a company behind a location service that is equally as fun and adventurous as it is dutiful in tracking your location-based activities, the extent to which your privacy is invaded is cleverly masked. In time, Facebook will be back in the location-based service business, but in a more subtle and socially fun way, and maybe this time it might really be the Foursquare killer. Watch out!

‘The basic premise is that when you are out and about, you use the service to pinpoint your location and then you ‘check-in’’






Where is this in Amsterdam? By David King

Answer to:


Film review

Room 2c film By dpmotions

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) This is a chance to glimpse a youthful Robert Duvall in his first feature film appearance and enjoy a masterclass in leading man role playing by Gregory Peck. The subtlety of this movie is its most moving quality as it holds up a mirror to the social brutalities of 1930s southern United States, seen through the innocent eyes of a curious and kind-hearted little girl. I dare you not to love this movie (and book).

By David King

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

Could we even begin to imagine our body being paralysed? In this true story the editor of Elle magazine suffers a stroke and is only able to communicate by blinking his left eye. This amazing French-made film shows the power of the mind as our star visits people and far off places never seen, while dictating a book, all from his hospital bed. Uplifting indeed.


SPOTTED cartoon

22 28

Cartoon By Colin Bentley

We interrupt our story on the conker famine to bring you some breaking news

Answer to:

It didn’t take Thatch long to earn the nickname “Thatch the Snatch” Young man, I will have no free pints given to the customers!

Notorious pub landlord, Thatch, has announced that he is to retire. We take a look back at the career of the eccentric grocer’s son from Belfast.

You may want to turn on the football, but the lady is not for turning.



Charm offensive - Sharing football banter with the customers.

Is that Manchester United in the yellow shirts?

Christmas won’t be the same without Thatch.

A tearful Thatch leaves for the last time.

No, it won’t, the bugger’s taken the Christmas tree with him!



SPOTTED trends


‘The unlimited number of lights and colours, millions of them glittering away against the dark winter skies’

Christmas squared

By Dirkje Bakker-Pierre

A huge and unstoppable trend over the past few years in Amsterdam has been a growing habit of turning the more prominent city squares into wintry, Christmas theme parklike areas when December comes around. The number of Christmas lights, decorations, huge Santa Clauses, reindeer made out of lights, glittery trees, gluhwein stalls and oliebol vendors is steadily growing every year. It is as if all of a sudden there is a whole other city within the city, like being thrown into another reality. I have no idea how the numbers work but it feels like on these squares the number of horeca establishments grows by at least 50% in this period. You can hang out in a rough timber, ‘après-ski’ bar near a fireplace, enjoy a hot drink outside wearing your coat, ice skate on one of the tiny artificial rinks or shoot a rifle in a carnival booth to win a nice cuddly bear to give to your girlfriend.

On Rembrandtplein, a complete village called Winterland is created just for the occasion. Made out of little wooden buildings or ‘chalets’ and timber structures, it is put together around the statue of the famous Dutch painter (you can actually skate around him in little circles). There are numerous little food stands, shops and cafés, and everything is decorated to the brim with rainbow-coloured lights like a Christmas fairytale. Leidseplein features a larger skating rink and cafés, whereas Museumplein and Dam Square feature ice skating rinks only. It’s a fascinating combination of après-ski/Switzerland and a Disneyworld kind of feel that takes over the Dam each December. Stop by to be dazzled by the unlimited number of lights and colours, millions of them glittering away against the dark winter skies, the warmth of the cosy après-ski bars, the joy of Jagermeister drunk tourists, the ultimate sweet Christmas cliché packed in a gluhwein ridden haze, the smells of the fried and sweet food, the smiles on the fat Santas faces, the plastic shine of the reindeer standing in the cold Dutch winter air, waiting to fly back to the North pole after the season of joy is over, but for the moment, enjoying it all to the fullest.



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The Gold Room By Denson Pierre

As the year draws to an end, I thought it time for a bit of big dinner table trivia. So, how do you get both Yaya Toure and Vinnie Jones into one meaningful paragraph on football? As it is, I’ve managed to come up with the fact that they are both Juggernauts. To put things into relief, Vinnie Jones played the Marvel comic book character of that name in X-Men: The Last Stand and Yaya Toure regularly demonstrates similar unstoppable qualities on the football pitch. If, as it appears, Manchester City are to remain contenders for the Premier League and FA Cup titles, I see no other player at the Etihad stadium having a greater influence in driving the Mancunians from the heart of midfield to glory. In honest and proper footballing terms, Yaya would be better compared with an actual league-winning great of the immediately preceding generation, and not to the limited and loutish Vinnie Jones. Not only does he share the same height (1.92m) and the same West African, long-legged, rhythmic running style as Manchester City’s current Football Development Executive, Patrick Vieira, but they both play in a similar key position and role for their team. Vieira, of course, was the chief destroyer and momentum controller at Arsenal, ten years ago, and Yaya performs similar functions at Manchester City today. The fact that may be freaking out other teams across Europe is that once you have such a domineering midfielder taking on two or three opposition players at a time and muscling through to advantage, it creates plenty of room for his flair colleagues to express themselves and

score with greater ease. Heading in the other direction, players like Vieira and Yaya are invariably difficult to get past using skill alone, since they bring bruising muscle into the dynamic. Vieira, in his day, was somewhat more prone to personal confrontations and, at times, dangerous and malicious tackling, while Yaya is generally cooler and appears much less naturally inclined to seek out the painful impacts that are easily possible in the game. He also has many more ‘tough guy’ teammates to keep the opposition under constant physical pressure, unlike Vieira, who was surrounded by a very delicate French- and Dutchinfluenced band of expansive football creatives under Arsene Wenger. This could be a career-defining season for Yaya Toure. Were he to be able to help carry Manchester City to major honours, it could be an earlier than expected start to a dynasty of winners in East Manchester. At twenty-eight, he has at least another three seasons during which he can effectively haul his massive frame around at Premier League pace and Champions League skill and ability levels. All of this could help heal the wounds left by being shifted away from Barcelona FC where, in truth, they do not appreciate the slightly brutish nature of his game as much as they do in England and at most other great clubs. At Barcelona, Sergio Busquets has emerged to take his place and is a player with a fair bit more élan and Catalonian feel. But this has not prevented Yaya Toure from instead developing into the indispensible hub of the wealthiest club in the world. For FFG-CL managers, the word is to get him in now, before the New Year, when everyone with a chance of winning in the fantasy and real world will need him to power their midfields, score goals, accumulate bonus points and draw new admirers to a muscular brand of football.



Yaya Toure - Manchester City




The Sentinel Amsterdam vol. 5#3  

The Sentinel, Amsterdam tri-weekly e-zine with all that is good and informative on lifestyles with perspectives, opinion and sport from Amst...

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