Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On Making Content Glamorous:

'The Dutch make make the rest of us look rather dull. But then, they alway did.' –Ada Louise Huxtable, On Architecture, pp. 278

So proclaims the masterly architectural critic, and so right is she. Many travel journalist tends to write of the Netherlands' tulips, windmills, and cheese; but this country's not really about all that. Well, it is, but it also isn't. Or, perhaps it is about that to an outsider. At this point I am not so sure as to what I see when I look out across or onto a Dutch landscape. What used to once delight and inspire me–wrought iron fences, seventeenth century gables, and tiny brick streets–are now familiarities; cycling past the same buildings, seeing the same streets, living my life within a select few neighborhoods. I'm always a fan of adding more bubbles onto my bubble of the world, so I make it a point to often cycle in different directions on the ways to my destinations, just to shake things up, and I regularly make small adventures for myself that require crossing the city, or something similar. But, for all my time in Amsterdam so far, the longer I live in my tiny slice of it, it becomes ever more clear to me that this really is my home, this is my street, and these are my neighbors–not someone else's, but mine. The Dutch do make everyone else look rather dull, as Ada states above. But it's not that the Dutch are more explosive in their un-dull-ness, either. The Dutch have a certain something that shows only their glamour; the Dutch make liberal use of sprezzatura. I've always considered myself something of a sprezzatura master: dashing off on a never ending quest to communicate spaces, information, and ideals accessibly, visually, and in ways that surprise, and then delight. Let's make it more glamorousI'm great at that.

Recent consciousness of my body has led to my body being a very wonderful clothes hanger of sorts, for very beautiful clothes, which have recently found their way to my wardrobe. That's what's fun about growing up: the ability to design my life. This year the Amsterdam marathon has my name on its registration list, and so, the long runs ahead of me in preparation for this 44K in late October will certainly slim me down beyond my current body's proportions. Hello toothpick arms; I can almost feel them again. But, of course, proper nutrition does make one's body sufficiently restored after a long run. I am totally excited to run this marathon, which will be my second full marathon–alongside many other non-marathon road races. Having such a nimble runner's body only amplifies this desire for beautiful clothes. But I'm always looking for quality, and durability, eh–I ride my bike to work everyday; my clothes have to be that way! They are mostly solid, both literally and figuratively (prints are not my thing), functional, with just a hint of the out-of-the-ordinary (like a cut that's far beyond the everyday), that still sort of fades in when you squint, or when you want to you can see it: that's me in a nutshell. Naturally the fashion I choose to cloth myself silently projects the affiliations of my personality type, to the world. Or so everyone seems to think. In the past two years I've taken to learning my body, how it responds to fabrics and cuts, shoes and hairstyles, and food and exercise (running). I've done a bit of glamorizing to myself these past few years, both internally and externally. I feel as if my outside finally matches my inside, and vice versa. As Jean-Luc Godard has said, 'Style is the outside of content, and content the inside of style, like the outside and the inside of the human body–both go together, and they can't be separated.'

For some time now I've become aware of the worlds I interact with, in ways that extend my vision of them far beyond the surface, extending orbitally into others. It's exciting to see other worlds. One door leads to yet another, and everyone you meet could potentially take you to, or show you, a whole new 'world' you never knew of; or, they could potentially play a respectable role in you life in the years ahead. It's difficult to know. But I do know who I want to be, or at least I have an idea in mind. For years I worked on my personality; like all things, personalities too, can be trained. And moving to Amsterdam, and all of my experiences in Europe thus far, have served to strengthen traits and interests of mine in the mannerism and customs of both American and European peoples. That was one phase on my time in this city (see the archives from 2008-09), but I'm far beyond that now, in ways that even I don't think clamor for my attention. My outlook on life in the Netherlands, and within Europe, in relation to the larger world around it has flourished beyond belief. I'm conscious of all that's happening around me, via the internet, and instantaneous access to information. Unlike living in New York, or anywhere in the USA, I feel more connected to the world, living in Europe, given its strategic location between Asia and the Americas, and, naturally, above Africa. The pulse of the world is much easier to feel in Amsterdam than it is in New York, but not in the sense of being 100% part of the world's pulse in a large way that's spread through mass media–that is New York indeed. Rather, Amsterdam takes the backseat, staying mainstream in its quench for world knowledge, yet local enough to evolve and maintain a thriving independent cultural community far-from the mainstream media. Amsterdam creates; it doesn't follow.

Inspired by the lovely square just out front, the Athenaeum Nieuwscentrum's magazines persistently call my name. I'm luckily enough to be able to see the magazines industry, and the content and quality of the physical objects they produce. I'm critical. But that's only because I'm searching for something that goes beyond what I already know. Something that speaks to my soul. It won't be new, as new is hardly ever truly new, and when something is new, the world is often unkind to it. But magazines whose pages speak volumes, both in words and visuals, are something I cant refuse to purchase. I'm addicted to paper. I'll admit. But, I do recycle. I'm also aware that all magazines, or books, that I may buy, have many stories and emotions that fueled their being brought into existence within the world. Resources were used, knowledge was culled, and content was created. Most often, with magazines, production is funded through advertising, which attempts to make emotional-and-instantaneous connections with readers, carefully tucked between editorial spreads. Will the magazine industry model continue thriving? Chance are that won't be the case. The coveted September issue of American Vogue hits newsstands any day now, in the Netherlands at least, and I'm quite excited. Though a book full of advertisements–2/3rd's, to be exact–isn't normally my kind of magazine, but I read Vogue as an object, not literally. It's the complete package that matters most, and everything else inside is just a small component of that. So it's obvious who's on top here.

Lately I have been re-listening to the 'Design Matters' interviews of Dominque Browning and Margaret Roach, both former editors of super-sized magazines fueled by millions–deciphering and decoding their every last word. It's helpful to understand that the fantasies being shown inside the pages of magazines are not real, and they never were, nor never will they ever be. Any photo or text that's been smashed onto a 'roughly' A4 sized paper and bound with others, to make a magazine, has certainly been edited. A magazine is an edited experience. As is a good building, and a great space, and a superb book. The list really goes on and on. When one has an edited experience, the experience one has, has been designed for them. People pay for these types of experiences! That's why people go to amusement parks, and that's why people go to city parks: to escape and experience a break between daily routines. There is a lot to know about editing a magazine, yes–but equally as important is why the magazine is being made, with what content, for whom, and at what price? Business is, unless you attended business school, not something everyone enjoys–some people are producers. That's why a great team, is always composed of more than just one: balancing business with content is key to achieving positive end results, but, not always. I imagine that, no matter which experiences one engages in, one can always edit out non-wanted experiences, from their lives. That must be so. Editing visuals and copy, in order to make something new, takes my mind to new heights. What a concept: putting life on the page, cast in a stillness of spreads using the structure of a helix, mapping and mixing imagery with words.

That visual process, when editing, makes me very happy. While pouring over the pages of an aged AF Quarterly from 1999, art direction by Sam Shahid, I confirmed that editing is totally my thing. Making content glamorous is what I do, and I'm armed with an intellectual determination and I set that allows for this to flourish. I've come to embrace that; this newly fully embraced talent of mine. It might just be my best yet. So I'm going to keep spraying the glamour on everything I touch, making it clear, consistent, and concise in its communication and arrangement, whether that be a space or a page. I am also really coming to have a highly refined eye for graphic design, and I like that; thank you Debbie Millman. So, let's edit. That's all. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

To Norway and Back:

There are those who revel in scheduling their life into hourly increments, and those who do not; I am of the latter. That is quite un-Dutch of me. Nederlanders love agendas. Everything here needs to be scheduled. It's just another of those cultural differences I've grown accustomed to. Those small cultural differences between the Netherlands and every other country around it, really are small. For all our differences, we have more similarities uniting us that we're readily willing to admit. Our genetic make-up a lone unites us all. 'Many inhumane acts happen because someone failed to see how another could be in the world', says 'Design Anthropologist' Dori Tunstall. There are many different ways to be in the world; none too right, none too wrong. And after spending just over two weeks and a day in the Nordic–back in May–and after about three days back in North Holland, I readily admitted that I had missed it, quite a lot. Amsterdam is just one of the best cities of them all, out of the many cities I saw on that trip... and I saw many on the long long drive to Bergen, Norway–and back (Lübeck, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Aurland, Balestrand, Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Hamburg; to name but a few). I missed my bike, my house, and my own bed. Returning home from holiday is returning to your sanctuary within the world. A tiny little slice of the Earth, for one, if not two.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

Spending my young-20s in the Netherlands:

Moving across the ocean alone at 22: a formidable task, for anyone. Since that age I have spent the most impressionable years of my life, thus far, living in the Netherlands. I turn 27 in November. And as the 'six' makes way for the 'seven', I feel as if this little online-publication of mine, has become a billet-doux of sorts; it is a resource and record of my visual-life and my mental-swirls, sprinkled with my goals, hopes, dreams, and desires. I may only be 26, but I can't help but become jubilated when pondering the the years, adventures, and surprises still ahead of me, as well as those that have passed. My ideals are constantly being remolded and reshaped by and within this tiny city–tumbling about each and every day, and in doing so, propelling me forward. I enjoy that. And, so, here's to 27, in just a few months.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer, in Amsterdam:

Most of this year's 'summer' has been full of rain here in Amsterdam. But, this past week, and this weekend, the sun is finally shining bright and the temperature is hovering at a crisp (which makes me think it's autumn and we've actually missed/skipped summer this year) 28C. Amsterdam is the most jovial when the spirits of the city's inhabitants are showered in sun:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Every so often I dwell on the familiar, or, equally as often, the distant–romanticism. Each and every day it becomes more clear that this is my home; this is the life I've created for myself; these are the responsibilities I have to myself, and to others; this is what makes me happy. I am growing up, and I'm aware of that fact. I enjoy that, very much.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Movement in Amsterdam:

Another (and one of the most subconscious, at that) of the reasons this emerald and lush city is so spectacular, is the movement that occurs within it; throughout its streets, and up and over its delightful bridges. Those in the know, in Amsterdam, are fully aware of the unspoken steps to its intricate urban-dance, itself composed of an ensemble of characters: foot-goers, cyclists, buses, boats, trams, autos, scooters, and, the occasionally battery-powered wheelchair cruising down a bike lane. Without so many modes of transport weaving in and out of this city's streets, those same streets would certainly be less full of commotion, and equally important, lacking in life. Like many aspects of life that require some outside oversight for the greater good, one has to know how to read the signals, symbols, and signs around them. Cycling alongside Amsterdam's majestic canals, full speed, while tumbling up and over bridges, dodging people and cyclists and autos, is overtly exhilarating. Especially if your iPod's volume is high–makes the experience all the more thrilling, though most likely largely unsafe. Likewise, those who don't know the steps to this city's urban-dance are easily spotted; they're the ones that laugh when they almost get hit by a bike, commissioning to their friends, 'Wasn't that so funny!?'; they're the ones that ride the bus and don't account for balancing out the bus' movements with their bodies, and so, those same bodies get through against a window, or if standing, shuffled around so that they almost fall over; they're the ones that hold up the line when buying a ticket on the tram; they're the ones that walk in the bike lanes even though it's clearly not a path to be utilized by those on foot; lastly, they're the ones that ride the bikes not knowing that bikes, in this city, have their own lanes, with their own traffic-lights and turn lanes, and, that in addition to you, on your bike, there are many others also pedaling past and around you, at all times. Be sure to read the signals, signs, and symbols being projected by those around you–wherever you may be–they're more than likely trying to tell you something. So much of life's communication is non-verbal. Sometimes, I feel, that's the best type there is.

Yes–cycling in Amsterdam is firmly integrated into lifestyles of those in this city, but only alongside the many other means of transportation. As such, the life within Amsterdam owes much to its movement. By bike, boat, or otherwise...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Life gets more exciting...

Life gets more exciting each and every day. I feel as if I am young in body, yet wise in the mind, beyond my finite self. Today, while waltzing past Leidseplein, and thus viewing it from a whole new perspective, I came to fully appreciate the suggestion that life, is all about perspective. I see one thing; you might see another; and the other might see yet another, thing. I feel as if so many of the events that I wanted to occur in my life have already happened, and most of them only recently. And so I ask myself: What's next? What will I continue to strive for as I age? What are my goals and priorities? I feel as if I am doing great things with my life, and that I am living it to the fullest, and yet part of me can't help but feel as if something has not yet fallen into place. Living outside of your own country is a wondrous experience; it absolutely teaches you many lessons about life, and ways of combatting the world–plus a whole new language. I am so tired of Dutch lessons; I am really over them. I am already a B1 Nederlands speaker, and I can only improve from there. I am scheduled for my 'official' Dutch language test later this year; I am confident in my language abilities. And I am rather excited to get this out of the way–there is enough Dutch in my life already, so I expect to pass with flying colors. Amsterdam continues unraveling itself to me with each new day. New people come into my life and old acquaintances' light fades; so is life I imagine–people come, and people go. I am not one to find comfort or security in a set group of friends. I have always been somewhat of a drifter, not meaning I'm not willing to readapt, but I prefer solitude to plurality. I find social situations draining; though I'm American, so I can still talk when needed–it is a given gift, talking in such fluently North American English. It is completely interesting to notice how my English has changed over the past few years; people keep asking me to correct their English. I'm not sure what's incorrect with non-native English syntax at first eavesdrop or glance. It all sounds fine to me; as long as the words are correct on the page or the screen. Communicating is, above all, about being understood. No matter how that is accomplished.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Artis' flamingos make me terribly happy:

Most days, when it's not raining, I wake up and go running. Feeling my heart pounding, blood pumping, and sweat dripping–all before 9:00–really makes me mentally prepared for the day ahead. Instead of approaching my days; after I run, I attack them. Running brings a certain fierceness and competitive edge to the subsequent discussions and activities I fill my days with. Balancing out this fierceness, when I run down a certain street on the way back home, are a few of my favorite feathered friends in this city, always proudly strutting their stuff. They are just one of the almost-daily joys I allow into my life. Artis' flamingos make me terribly happy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Amsterdam Welcomes All:

Stepping into this tiny village on the North Sea at once brings to life an almost ancient surreal fairytale setting that frequently defies the senses. Its alpha-world city status compliments its Renaissance inspired city planning, from which stems what is today arguably one of the city's most charming features: its majestic seventeenth century canals. What Amsterdam, a city layered to extremes–similar to Manhattan–does best, is envelope its visitors and residents alike with a false sense of urban solitude, even when countless others are clearly in sight. Housing density within this hybrid modern-yet-mediaeval cluster of a city ensures someone is always nearby; Amsterdam was made for people, by people, and as such its built environment exudes a more human-centered scale when compared to its contemporaries. Founded in the thirteenth century and named after a dam on the river Amstel, the city reached its glory days in the seventeenth century–the Golden Age–declining and fluctuating in status ever since, and never quite reaching its former heights. Today the city continues reclaiming its uniquely democratic position in the world–easily achieved, being so fluidly linked to the world by water–exporting its notions of trade, tolerance, and contentment to all. While the city has the heartbeat of a massive world player, its soul lies in the city's harbor, purposely built to allow the inward flow of the world’s riches, adding weight to the city’s already heavy heart of gold. Similar to a gathering of humbly open-minded individuals, Amsterdam welcomes all.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tactile Scandinavia: Part 1

During my trip, Scandinavia was looking quite 'tactile', in its blossoms and twigs, and I couldn't help but attempt to capture such a symphony of ravishingly muted color: