Thursday, November 27, 2008

Everything is beautiful:

My mind is doing so many confusing somersaults. I don't even know what to think.My mind is working in overdrive lately. This is a common theme here in AMS. And no, I am not high. Though if I wanted to be, this city would certainly be the place for it. There is so much tourism here, and with many coming only to 'smoke that', that it creates an interesting accepted sub-layer, within society. Gedoogbeleid, they call it–'tolerance', roughly, in English.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I'm growing up in Amsterdam:

The stars of my future are aligning. An opportunity that would allow me to stay in Amsterdam is slowly presenting itself to me. What one looks for, one will find; I have been looking for a 'window', since I arrived, that would lead to a 'door'–one that I could walk through, and one that would propel me toward the next progression within my life. In fact, I've been able to see this 'window' even before I arrived in Amsterdam, in my mind; I just wasn't sure what it would look like–until now. I knew before I ever set foot on Dutch soil, that Amsterdam would allow me to flourish in ways that I would have never thought imaginable. It feels as if everything I have ever wanted within my life–academic, romantic, professional, and personal–it all seems to be here, for me. But can I make it mine? The challenges ahead are numerous. Where will my life in Amsterdam take me? Perhaps, and I hope, beyond me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bill Bryson:

He is one of my favorite authors, ever. I've read a many of his books, and aspire to continue reading the rest. No rush. I don't plan on dying anytime soon. That I know of at least. Last week I ordered Bryson's new book Shakespeare: The World as Stage, from the American Book Center (abbreviated as: ABC–nicest people ever, by the way)–here in Amsterdam. The fact that I have to even go to a place called 'the American Book Center' to buy a book (in English, if I want a good selection) is strange enough enough as it is. I received an e-mail that my specially ordered book had arrived in store, and I'm cycling to the city center tonight to pick it up, and divulge into it completely–this evening. I finally started running again this past friday–after having taken a week off and it's amazing how much better I feel when I run; which I did on Friday and Sunday, about 10K each day. Running must be good for the mind; it is so meditative.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Adventures in Cooking:

The Smitten Kitchen is one of the greatest food publications. Ever. I had never made one of her (her being Deb, the publication's writer) recipes before–until this weekend. Having nothing else to do, other than read a book all day. I proceeded to cycle my way to the grocery, buy some red wine (and drink half the bottle), a pint of vanilla soy ice cream (and eat the whole thing), as well as all the ingredients needed for an appetizing dinner. I decided to try my hands at one of her latest posts–the ever elusive Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel. Seeing as how I've never purchased fennel and have no idea where to even begin looking here in Amsterdam–let alone know how to spell fennel in Dutch–I left the fennel out, and piled on some extra mustard for good measure instead. (Update, January 2014: If I could only being to explain how many times I haven eaten fennel since November 2008–countless.) While I don't have any pictures of my final baked creation (sadly it was too dark outside, and artificial lighting for photographing food is no good at all) I do have some pictures of the process, which was ever so enjoyable. The house smelt like simmering onion the rest of the evening–which was wonderful. I also had the chance to bake some bread this weekend; something I do most weekends, so that I have a fresh loaf for breakfast throughout the week ahead. This week: Cinnamon Raisin Bread.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sunrise, Sunset:

As I've said many times, the most beautiful sunsets occur in Amsterdam. During the summer months, spectacular arrays of color would fan out across the sky and I always had free admission to the show, via my back porch. As times, and season, change, so do the viewing areas. As the world turns, literally, the sun sets earlier and no longer in my backyard, but rather a bit more westerly. These days, the best views come as I look directly toward my street, in the direction of the Olympic Stadium–this view was from Tuesday November 11, 2008, at 17:35.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

FRAME Magazine:


'Geared mainly toward architects, designers and entrepreneurs, Dutch design magazine FRAME allows its readers to feast upon its pages on the world’s latest additions to highly attractive, yet functional, commercial spaces.

Through FRAME magazine’s eyes, seeing (and reading) is believing. Showcased in its thick pages are innovative clothing boutiques, pushing the envelope in interior design. From Denmark to Tokyo, beauty parlors turned into flower gardens, brand stores transformed into futuristic landscapes, runway shows into sleek alleyways as man-made wooden waves crashed onto the catwalk.

Design is also part of fashion. The word ebbs through Frame’s pages to the structure of the book, the colorful photographs, even down to the graphic harmony of the words and images. It is the same for a clothing store. Higher end stores understand this marriage between design and fashion. They illuminate each accessory and each garment, attributing them a quality that cannot be defined by mere dollar signs. Thus creating an experience a shopper may not forget.

An example of Frame’s latest issue on design and fashion was Prada’s Spring/Summer 2008 runway show. While elfin dresses and block patterns made up the bulk of the collection, attendees sat in a maze of blocked roads and printed arrows, all that was missing were the traffic lights.
At Prada’s show, anywhere is a good view.

Subscribe to the Dutch magazine in either digital or print versions, or swing by Chapters or Archambault to pick up a copy at $20 a piece. Every penny invested in it would be worth it.'

I feel as if I am truly a part of something special. And it is still difficult for me to fathom, that my words now line the pages of FRAME magazine. What an exciting new world I have entered.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

John does Berlin:

In March 2008 I journeyed from Düsseldorf to Berlin, by plane–jet setting to the North of the country. It was my first trip to Berlin, ever. The city is overwhelming; it is one metropolis of juxtapositions.



Saturday, November 1, 2008

Castles in Europe:

Ever since being able to call myself a 'professional writer', in Europe–British English has entered my life (which actually has more differences from American English than you might think). I now find my self typing words like: colour, favourite, theatre, centre, and using commas in ways they were never meant to be used. But, my (American) computer never seems to agree with me on the spelling. It refuses to morph into a full pledge European, as its owner is currently attempting to do–or attempting to understand the culture around me, at least. I happened upon these beautiful sketches online; they're conceptual and of Merryweather by Frank Thomas–one of the original members of Walt Disney's 'Nine Old Men'. He was subsequently responsible for animating some of Disney's most famous films ('the classics' they're referred to)–including: Bambi, Snow White, Pinnochio, Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella. These movies make me happy; they're design treasures. It's interesting to note, that as I continue to spend more and more of my life living outside of the USA (a year and a half to date), aspects of my life that I considered staples of most int the Western world's youth (aka: Disney Classics), aren't necessarily that well known outside the USA. Or they're dubbed. Bummer for Europeans. Disney was responsible for shaping who I am today, in so many ways, and was incredibly instrumental in molding my life–and creativity. Last summer, when traveling throughout Europe, I made it a point to visit Disneyland Paris; even if no one wanted to go with me. I had a fabulous time, alone, but I didn't go for the rides or even the shows (which were stunning, by the way). I instead went to compare the European park to that of its American counterparts, in terms of planning, grandeur and the like. Different? Yes. Smaller? Yes. European? Totally. And although alike in nature, the park in Paris just doesn't compare to those in the USA (even if the castle is more magical and less 'painted styrofoam block' looking). See for yourself: Cinderella Castle, Disneyworld, Orlando, Florida USA; Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant, Paris, France. The castle at Disneyworld was modeled after Neuschwanstein Castle, which is nestled in the Swiss Alps in Füssen, southwest BavariaGermany. This past March, while living in Düsselldorf, I made it a point to take a Bavarian excursion one weekend, heading south to see Neuschwanstein, Münich and Würzburg (where I also made it a point to seek out the famed Residenz, and its amazing staircase). The sign reads: 'Tegelberg two and three quarter hours that way. Only use this route in summer, deadly when it snows!' Whoops! It should be noted that Germans have no idea why people visit this place in Füssen, and I'll admit, it is a huge tourist trap and the only other people on my tour were Asians–and Americans–just like my co-workers said it would be. But, I didn't go for the reason most do. Clearly. The Walt Disney Company continues to intrigue me to this day–clearly–and I've been reading this great book called Disney War. It's been an ongoing process for four years now. Since 2004. The book is just so damn thick that every time I get so deep into it, I stop for a bit, only to resume and forget everything (as dozens of names are thrown around on each page; it's hard to keep track, and I'm a visual kind of guy). It's all about the secrets and insides of the company, encompassing everything. It's over 700 pages. Maybe I'll pull it out from the shelf, again, tonight–as it made its way to Amsterdam with me, when I moved. Page one, here we go, again.