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vol. 5 #4 – 10 Januari 2012

The Sentinel Amsterdam

Integrity, heart, humour

FEATURE

the VIKINGS persepectives

CRISIS Lifestyles Opinion REVIEW Technology FILM TRENDS Sport Classifieds


Contents

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CONTENTS

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In this issue FEATURE

p. 04 perspectives P. 14 review

p. 20

The Vikings

Crisis

Mind the fat

‘Modern Danes could also have such a lust for battle and love’

‘I can’t really empathise with the Dutch crisis everyone is intensively talking about’

‘The squat graphic is its own and only appeals to those who are part of it’

technology

p.26 sport

TechBit: Sio-Bytes – Death of specs

p. 36 more:

The Gold Room

book REVIEW American Psycho

SPOTTED p. 30 Where is this in Amsterdam?

‘The personal computing (PC) era is ending’

FILM REVIEW Room 2C

p. 31

TRENDS Super Crisis

p. 32

CLASSIFIEDS

ColoPHon The Sentinel Amsterdam e-mail: sentinelpost@gmail.com website: www.thesentinel.eu 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 sentinelpost@gmail.com.

p. 31

Editors – Gary Rudland & Denson Pierre Design, realisation and form – Andrei Barburas & No-Office.nl Webmaster – www.sio-bytes.tumblr.com Webhost – Amsterjammin.com

Contributors: Valeria Scimia, Simon Owusu, Monica Lopes and Dirkje Bakker-Pierre


fEATURe

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The vikings By Denson Pierre

‘We had come to experience the transition of 2011 into 2012’


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feature

Coincidentally, just as I was towelling myself off after a shower, in preparation for my first ever trip to Copenhagen and Denmark, I experienced another first. The television was tuned to MGM Classics and a movie from 1958 caught my eye, featuring Kirk Douglas, spectacular scenery and period-costumed adventure. The movie was fittingly called The Vikings and I had never seen it before. I had to pinch myself for believing further that the modern Danes could also have such a lust for battle and love as those proffered by Hollywood in an age past. The city of Copenhagen, like many others, is ridiculously easy to get to by air from Amsterdam. Indeed, the trip from my door to the door of our host in the suburbs of Copenhagen took all of three hours, aided by hyper-efficient public transport at both ends. We had come to experience the transition of 2011 into 2012 and have a bit of fun and learning at the same time. With my wife in tow and regularly reminding me that we were in the capital of trendy European fashion shopping, I was alert to the need to set routes away from time- and money-consuming streets. This was made even easier as our world-wise host and friend is equally trained in the fine art of finding that which is interesting in people and cultures, and not what defines their need to simply pose and over-consume.

‘We were not simply tourists blindly trying to extract meaningful experiences in the very short period of four days’

Our host, Stan Smith, is an anthropologist and has now lived in Copenhagen for more than twelve years, since leaving us in Amsterdam. Before that he had travelled and worked extensively around his own United States. This made it easier for us, since we were not simply tourists blindly trying to extract meaningful experiences in the very short period of four days. Denmark is a very complex society within modern Europe and while appearances there do not deceive, they do not tell the full story, either. Maybe the first thing that strikes you about Copenhagen in daylight is that it is slick and sleek. Not many of the older cities around Europe can make Amsterdam appear shabby but this one certainly does. The city is beautiful with similarly historic low-profiled buildings in the old central area and some brave, new, yet also low-rise architecture around the edges, as well as on what was previously waste ground. Many aspects of the ‘new builds’ for accommodation are similar to the modern-day prefabricated units we have in places like IJburg.

‘The first thing that strikes you about Copenhagen in daylight is that it is slick and sleek’ It is easy to fall in love with this city, superficially, as even though the population is similar to Amsterdam’s, the solid underfoot rock constitution of the islands that make up the city means roads and walkways are wider, and many buildings more robustly built and more imposing, compared to our fair city of doll houses and tiny apartments. It feels tremendously spacious. As to whether one is actually better than the other in which to live I cannot decide since, cost-wise, the rates and almost everything else in Copenhagen seems to be many percentage points higher. The city teeters on the edge of being prohibitively expensive.


fEATURe

‘They are only slowly coming to realise that the very flashy, over-fashioned, luxuryproduct-filled lives they wish to live cannot really be afforded’ This factor has not led to too many accommodation units being abandoned or empty, or restaurants and cafes visibly experiencing a crisis, but Danes are having to check themselves carefully as the global economic travails have also heavily impacted there and will continue to do so markedly, just like everywhere else. It can appear to be a more affluent country than the Netherlands but this is misleading. Danish insular economic planning means that they are only slowly coming to realise that the very flashy, over-fashioned, luxury-product-filled lives they wish to live cannot really be afforded, and no one should be fooled into thinking otherwise. This is not Norway. The slump in the housing market and the overly elaborate and supragenerous welfare and education system mean that sums no longer add up and politicians are chiselling away at the edges in an effort to bring ‘expected’ living standard levels down to something that is actually affordable, and not just another credit-led illusion. For New Year’s Eve we went traditional and attended a house party hosted by Stan’s extended family. There was great pressure to be on time; that is, before 18.00 hours, when tradition dictates that we all watch/listen to Queen

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Margrethe II’s speech. Once that was over, the partying up to the following year could begin in earnest. Champagne must have been available on special offer, since there was a fair amount available leading up to a very lavish traditional dinner of at least four courses. We were full after two. The chef for the evening managed to procure huge portions of freshly shot deer, which he brought over from the very nearby Swedish countryside to serve up as part of the main course. Wine, beer and extremely goodnatured revelry ensued, involving all the family across the generations. And then, suddenly, it was fifteen minutes to midnight. The countdown to the New Year is televised live from the royal court and is full of choreographed, celebratory military drills and Lutheran church scenes with choirs singing in the dawn of another year. As soon as the official acts are done and the Danes have jumped (literally: some of our hosts stood on the edge of the main couch and sprang into the New Year as the main city clock struck midnight!) into 2012, all Chinese firework hell broke loose in the skies. At this point I did not miss Amsterdam, as I am sure it would have been much more of a racket there with so many more extreme explosives making it through to its narrow streets, courtyards and squares. Sleep is good. After the previous full Copenhagen day, during which it experienced the first hard frost and freezing temperatures of the winter, the next day was about heading into the city for an extensive tourist stroll. With this holiday falling on a Sunday, the commercial fire was not alight. Danes are not one of the European nations to indulge New Year’s Day as another party day out. Even the museums were closed. We managed to make do with the small number of welcoming establishments open for food and drink, and once more breathed the fresh air of this fine and perplexing city, which I look forward to visiting again soon.


feature

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fEATURe

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FEATURE

‘Wine, beer and extremely good-natured revelry ensued, involving all the family across the generations’

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fEATURe

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FEATURE

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cLASSiFiEDS SpORT

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cLASSiFiEDS

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perspectives

Crisis; what crisis?

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perspectives

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‘There are reasons why this machine called the Netherlands runs so smoothly’ By Valeria Scimia

Everyone is talking about the economic crisis that has hit Europe and, inevitably, the Netherlands. As someone from the much more economically troubled country of Italy, I can’t really empathise with the Dutch crisis everyone is intensively talking about. I have a notion that most people who, like me, have lived here for more than a decade may feel the same way. The unemployment rate, for instance, is still relatively low and social welfare and pensions are still being paid out to the needy and elderly. These are all luxuries when compared to places like Italy, Greece or even the United States. In the Netherlands, human rights are also still taken into consideration and treated as such, as far as I’m aware. There are reasons why this machine called the Netherlands runs so smoothly. Having lived here for so long myself, I can observe the cycles of re-adjustment this country goes through at three-to-five year intervals. Companies, for example, tend to restructure, causing many people to lose their jobs and the employment rates to change for a brief time. After this cyclical restructuring, the country seems to start running smoothly again. Companies that fired hundreds of people a few months previously end up hiring more or less the same number of people again. Employment rates don’t appear to have changed too dramatically within the international community, either.

‘Employment rates don’t appear to have changed too dramatically within the international community’ But why does this happen? Why is it that, every now and then, companies need to restructure and dispense with so many employees? In my opinion, this is due to the fact that

the Netherlands is such a small country, in which the economy and lifestyle must flow easily and cannot be allowed to become jammed, or there could be direct negative consequences. We all have seen how entire workforces can strike if they are not happy with how a country is going, and the Dutch are not going to risk the safety and peace of their people just because we, the international residents, can’t accept changes. Dutch people themselves adapt well and are generally very flexible in accepting changes. It is maybe time to adjust our perspective. To view the current ‘crisis’ in a different way, because one definition of the word ‘crisis’ is: a crucial or decisive point or situation; a turning point (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ crisis). We should agree that the world has constantly been changing, along with its zeitgeist, and that a state of perpetual ‘crisis’ should have been declared ages ago. Instead, this word is negatively applied by many media to changes that are actually needed to improve the status of things that were old or no longer indicative of our society. History, with its repetitions, should teach us this. I suggest that people should see the changes not as a crisis but as an opportunity, defined as: a chance for progress or advancement (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/opportunity). Psychological research tells us how the perception we apply to a situation or word can determine the way we approach an actual situation. Negative perceptions produce negativity and positive ones produce positivity. Considering that we live in a cyclical natural environment, changes are needed to move to the next level. It’s ecological. The Netherlands is one of the quickest countries to accept, apply and adapt to changes, as exemplified by the quick scrapping of the €1 & 2 cent pieces a couple of years after the currency was introduced. The Dutch authorities immediately figured out what didn’t work for them and changed it. We should learn from this flexible attitude, because it is a proactive approach to life and its natural flow. As jazz musician Stefon Harris once said, “Something seems like a mistake only because we don’t react to it and learn”. So, don’t worry, give it half a year, let the Dutch do their cyclical readjustments and everything will soon be back to normal. What is normal, you may ask? That’s a whole new subject, in itself, and one that I will address in a future instalment.


perspectives

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pERSpEcTivES

‘economy and lifestyle must flow easily and cannot be allowed to become jammed’

‘We should agree that the world has constantly been changing, along with its zeitgeist’

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cLASSiFiEDS

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cLASSiFiEDS

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review

‘The kitchen and eating area in question likes to announce itself as an anarchist establishment’

Mind the fat

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review

‘Volunteers with a dab hand at cooking, as well as other rather more accomplished exponents, take turns at turning out classic middle-European vegetarian fare’ By Denson Pierre

It has been many years since I last bothered going out for a meal at an Amsterdam vegetarian, alternative (non-restaurant-based) kitchen. These are usually run by groups as part of the squat scene. There are several reasons for this abstinence that are almost entirely political, closely followed by concerns over the very matter of the prepared food on offer. I never fret about decor and ambiance in such instances, since the squat graphic is its own and only appeals to those who are part of it, or who wish to be enticed into the lifestyle it advertises; middle class Dutch youngsters trying to ‘drop-out’ and other mainly Central and Eastern European newcomers making a statement and generally trying to positively add to the culture. I say positive, although the kitchen and eating area in question likes to announce itself as an anarchist establishment full of strict vegetarians. This is all a bit of a yawn, since Amsterdam makes such posturing moot to the point of being sublimely ridiculous. Nonetheless, I can recommend an evening meal at Miltvuur Keuken Zuid (MKZ) very highly, especially if you are part of a group looking for a fresh and healthy meal, while being able to easily afford your fill of drink without having to arrange an overdraft. I can understand the punkish shock factor the ‘administrators’ of this non-profit initiative wish to cause, but wonder why they would choose a name so profoundly unappealing to most people? Miltvuur Keuken Zuid translates most easily as Anthrax Kitchen South, which sounds more like the name of a punk band. Why would you wish to convey in your name one of the more anti-health, panic-forming associations out there, when you are dealing with food? In any case, they manage to pull it off and it would be nit-picking not to judge the place on more conventional restaurant review grounds. MKZ is a variation on the collective kitchen, in which volunteers with a dab hand at cooking, as well as other rather more accomplished exponents, take turns at turning out classic middle-European vegetarian fare in three courses. The presentation is all

fun, as there is a very high level of interactivity possible between the kitchen crew and the eager non-flesh-eating clientele and their guests. The atmosphere is very friendly and, for me, the biggest compliment possible is that both the food and the playful vibe are excellent for young kids. There is none of the ‘alien to children’ confusion associated with taking food in a formal setting surrounded by adults role-playing during the dining out experience. The youngsters just love it and there is nothing nicer than seeing young children deal with easily managed nutrition and having fun doing it. My own luck was in, as I was the guest of the Portuguese sub-set of people associated with MKZ. This afforded me the chance to enjoy the food and delicious Belgian beers at prices that made me feel as though I was eating and drinking for free. Impressively, they have kept ‘real’ pricing and not done the rip-off and paradoxical thing through which so many other squat kitchens pushed away the ‘alternative-minded-but-not-busy-with-the-extravagantsub-culture-styling’ mass. Collectives enjoying squat rates but charging restaurant prices tarnished the entire scene for way too many Amsterdammers for a very long time. Back in the room and the experience was topped off nicely when the Portuguese ‘anarchists’ produced a bottle of that Porto regional favourite: Favaito (yes, looks like you are allowed to bring and share beverages not sold there, within reason). Although I am no connoisseur of wines and port, this was a scrumptious complement to the dry yeasty beers, lightly spiced food and yummy desert. All in all, a memorable evening was had and this was not simply due to the first storm of winter raging outside. The people here have got a fair bit right and maybe it is time they shared this simple way with many more Amsterdammers, rather than keeping it so close to themselves. I mean, when did you last hear of eating well, drinking much and having uplifting conversations, all for less than b 20, in present-day Amsterdam central districts? To put this into perspective, the number one (two Michelin starred) restaurant in Amsterdam sits obliquely opposite MKZ and for b 20 there, they may allow you to maybe, just about, have a look inside the door. Call and book a table, as it is a pleasantly surprising and refreshingly different: http://binnenpr.home.xs4all.nl/ mkz.htm


review

‘The youngsters just love it and there is nothing nicer than seeing young children deal with easily managed nutrition and having fun doing it’

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review

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‘The people here have got a fair bit right and maybe it is time they shared this simple way with many more Amsterdammers’


classifieds

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cLASSiFiEDS

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technology

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‘We are now at the point where the current wave of smartphones and tablets outnumber the desktop computers of the previous era’

Death of specs

TechBit: Sio-Bytes By Simon Owusu

For a New Year to begin the previous one has to end. Such is the circle of life in our world, and also in the world of computing. The personal computing (PC) era is ending and a new one is beginning. With the dawn of the Post-PC era, the demise of technical specifications in computing has begun. To understand the implications of this, we first need to understand what the Post-PC era is. From room-filling mainframes to personal computers sitting on desktops, through to tablets and smartphones in our bags and pockets; computing evolves from era to era, with each era having its own distinctive characteristics. When these characteristics start changing, we start seeing a shift into a new era. Historically, an era is always dwarfed by its successive era and the Post-PC era into which we are currently transitioning is no different. We are now at the point where the current wave of smartphones and tablets outnumber the desktop computers of the previous era. As the distinctive characteristics of each era change, the relationship between users and their computing devices also changes. Some of the characteristic changes we are now seeing are from stationary to ubiquitous, formal to

informal and abstract to physical. Computing has traditionally been place-dependent (stationary) in a structured work environment (formal) and controlled by a keyboard, mouse or stylus (abstract). In the Post-PC era, computing now occurs anywhere and everywhere (ubiquitous) and interaction takes place through our fingers, via multi-touch screens, aided by voice-recognition controls (physical). There are no boundaries to where we use our computing devices, as we use them for work and play in our offices, and also in our homes (informal). These changes clearly identify a new era, one that will bring about the imminent demise of technical specifications in Post-PC computing. Lists detailing a computing device’s processing speed, memory and storage, among other internal component metrics, are becoming meaningless. There was a time and place when these were relevant, and that was in the PC era. In the previous era, during which Windows ruled, specifications fulfilled a purpose. With Windows being the operating system on almost all desktop devices, the hardware became a differentiator and its technical specifications therefore made sense in gauging performance. In the past, the equation of more speed + more memory + larger hard drives translated into better performance, meaning that technical specifications prevailed. In the new era of tablets and smartphones, this is all changing. With the internet, cloud computing, broadband


TEchnOLOgy

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s ‘Computing devices are now more than capable of performing most users’ tasks and we have moved on from needing more to having more than enough’ connectivity and Moore’s Law, computing devices are now more than capable of performing most users’ tasks and we have moved on from needing more to having more than enough, performance-wise. More no longer equals better. A computing device’s user experience, ecosystem, price and value, among other factors, have all become more important. For example, based on technical specifications alone, the Barnes and Noble tablet, the Nook Color, is a better device (faster processor, more memory) than the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, which has a similar price and operates on the same Android system. Yet the Amazon Kindle Fire outsold the Nook Color by a multiple of four over the festive period. Amazon’s ecosystem, the Amazon store, which allows purchasing of music, books and video content, is a better value proposition compared to a device with just a faster processor and more memory. The Nook

Color, even with its better technical specifications, was slated in multiple reviews for its poor user experience, compared to the less powerful Kindle Fire. In the new era, user experience outweighs technical specifications as the leading factor in the perception of what makes a good computing device and how it performs. This has become very evident in computing companies’ current advertising. Technical specifications now play a secondary role, if any at all, in how devices are sold. The likes of HP, Google, Amazon and Apple now tout user experience, features and design, using non-technical language over gigahertz and gigabytes. How a device moves smoothly between web pages is more important than how much memory it has. IPad users know their tablets are the fastest on the market, yet the majority don’t know or don’t even care about processor speed or the amount of memory in the device. What they do care about is that it works and not what powers it to work in the way it does. This is testament to the new-age thinking in the new computing era, where technical specifications no longer matter.

‘In the new era, user experience outweighs technical specifications’


cLASSiFiEDS

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cLASSiFiEDS

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SPOTTED

Where is this in Amsterdam? Answer to: sentinelpost@gmail.com

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Film review

Room 2c film By dpmotions

Robocop (1987) Few Hollywood movies have had their name enter so easily into the cultural lexicon, in the way this movie has. After twenty-five years, it is now a classic. It depicts a near future in a fictional Detroit, which has a high level of lawlessness and brutality, as well as underlying humour, and the heroism and technology developed by authorities to fight it. An action movie containing gripping scenes, exciting direction by Paul Verhoeven and creditable lead acting from Peter Weller.

A book at lunchtime By Monica Lopes

American Psycho Bret Easton Ellis, 1991 Patrick Bateman is a twenty-six year old vice-president of a Wall Street investment firm. He wakes up at dawn in his Manhattan apartment, wearing his Ralph Lauren silk pyjamas, and slips on a paisley, ancient, madder robe. He changes into Ralph Lauren monogrammed boxer shorts and a Fair Isle sweater then slides into silk polka-dot Enrico Hidolin slippers for his morning stretching exercises. In the shower he first uses water-activated gel cleanser, followed by a honey-almond body scrub and exfoliating gel scrub on the face. On weekdays he uses Vidal Sassoon shampoo, which is very good at getting rid of dried perspiration, salts, oils, airborne pollutants and dirt that can make you look older, as well as a silicone technology conditioner, which doesn’t weigh down the hair and also prevents the appearance of ageing. On Wednesday, after lunch, he tries to bite off the fingers of the date he did not manage to nail down, almost succeeding on her left thumb, which he manages to chew all the flesh away from, leaving the bone exposed, before macing her again. He sets up the Sony palm-sized Handycam so he can film all of what follows. He begins by cutting off her dress with a pair of scissors and when he reaches her chest he occasionally stabs at her breasts, slicing off one of her nipples through the bra. She starts screaming again once he’s ripped off her dress, leaving her only in her bra with the right cup darkened by blood and her panties, soaked with urine, which he saves for later. Sick? Yes. Brilliant? Yes. I’m sure you’ve heard about this novel, as it is undoubtedly a modern American classic.·

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trends

‘A depression apparently leads to more eating and that means more overall consumption’

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TREnDS

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Super Crisis By Dirkje Bakker-Pierre

In this period of recession and depression, when the euro currency seems to be dropping into the abyss of eternal darkness without hope for rescue, Greece has become a teary eyed economic orphan, Italy has been let down by the mafia and let’s face it, the entire southern part of Europe, including ‘Mediterranean Ireland’, seems to be sinking into that same sea, due to lack of monetary funds to keep themselves afloat. Things are looking very, very bleak for Europeans. With little visible hope for recovery, Christmas, as I am quoting from a wide selection of famous Christmas movies, seemed to be in danger this year because families couldn’t afford anything anymore and weren’t able to create a nice Christmassy atmosphere, make lavish dinners or buy presents in this time of need. On the other hand, during this very winter, this actual holiday season just past, Dutch supermarkets broke their sales records and made more than eight-hundred million euros, compared to only seven-hundred and fifty million in 2010. This represents an increase of 6.25% in the week leading up to and including Christmas.

A threatened shortage of ‘gourmet-schotels’ in Albert Heijn almost led to a completely new and even more dangerous Christmas dinner crisis, as Holland’s favourite way to eat during the holidays is purely dependent upon Uncle Albert cutting different types of meat into little pieces and putting them on an aluminium foil dish, with a garnish of two sprigs of flat-leafed parsley. One million of these were sold by just one of the bigger supermarket chains. This does not even factor in all of the other chains our little country counts. Suffice to say, a depression apparently leads to more eating and that means more overall consumption. So maybe, just maybe, we have saved the economy after all this past Christmas. Or even better, Christmas has saved the economy.


classifieds

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Get advice on housing, rental contracts and apartments in Amsterdam www.wswonen.nl/english

we are looking for: - Account Manager Market Media - (Internship) International Marketing Executive www.consultancymarketmedia.com


cLASSiFiEDS

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www.yourtuliptour.com


sport

The Gold Room By Denson Pierre

“Legend is a word bandied about too easily nowadays.” This phrase itself is used so often that it, too, has fallen on its own sword of redundancy. How else, though, do we go about thanking Ryan Giggs for what he has given to football at the highest level? At the beginning of 2012, the year in which pop Mayan prophecy analysis says we have mere months left before the earth turns over and eats itself and everyone on it, we may actually be seeing the last of Giggs as a fundamental part of the first-team squad at one of the world’s great clubs. There is a playful reason why I do not need to mention the club’s name. Giggs has become so synonymous with it over the past twenty-two seasons that if you were not already screaming it in your head, you should not be reading this dedication. Ryan Giggs has been playing at this rarefied level for so long now, there are teammates, eminent football journalists and bloggers out there who are half his age. All the facts, awards and decorations surrounding this Welshman make him, if not the greatest footballer we have ever seen or the saint the marketers tried to make us believe in buying, far and away the greatest professional footballer the English top flight has ever known. It looks like I will end up buying and reading his autobiography before that of my own all-time favourite footballer: Glenn Hoddle. Farewell Ryan Giggs, master of the Gold Room universe.

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sport

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Ryan Giggs

Š pieter bakker


cLASSiFiEDS

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CZECH REPUBLIC STUNNINGLY DIFFERENT !

www.czechtourism.com

The Sentinel Amsterdam vol. 5 #4  

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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