Archive for the ‘The downside of leisure industry’ Category

The Guardian June 5th: “London 2012 security operation investigating 500,000 people”

click picture for full size view of this ‘whole mind scanner’

These associated lyrics (from 1968 at the end of the roaring sixties) will certainly let many alarm bells ring when Paul McCartney will pass the check point prior to his opening performance of the 2012 Olympics Games in London. Automated surveillance systems now massively used to prevent any unrest during the London Olympics also checking out this humble WordPress blog – are unintelligent and will just gather that there  is a pattern of ‘adjacent words’ with a recurring frequency of the terms:

‘revolution’, ‘change’, ‘world’, ‘destruction’, ‘money’, ‘hate’, ‘constitution’, ‘chairman’, and ‘Mao’.

M16 and Scotland Yard on-line surveyors vetting each person entering the Olympic perimeters, will rush to their screens alarmed by the perfect Big Brother System – operational and tested already for months – and in the embedded earphones of the female constable’s hat, a voice will say…. “take this man apart for questioning.”

And…, of course there will be excuses afterward and an embarrassed smile, when human intelligence will have been applied. “Please Sir McCartney, come and join the opening ceremony, there never has been any harm in your songs, … excuse us for those stupid machines.”

You say you want a revolution

Well, you know

We all want to change the world

You tell me that it’s evolution

Well, you know

We all want to change the world

But when you talk about destruction

Don’t you know that you can count me out

Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right

All right, all right

You say you got a real solution

Well, you know

We’d all love to see the plan

You ask me for a contribution

Well, you know

We’re doing what we can

But when you want money

For people with minds that hate

All I can tell is brother you have to wait

Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right

All right, all right


Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah…

You say you’ll change the constitution

Well, you know

We all want to change your head

You tell me it’s the institution

Well, you know

You better free you mind instead

But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao

You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow

Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right

All right, all right

All right, all right, all right

All right, all right, all right

The good old Birtish National Council for Civil Liberties (founded in 1934) now renamed ‘Liberty’, has already for a long time this subdued polite commend on their web page about the impact of surveillance on the London 2012 Olympics:

There is no doubting that police and security will be faced with demanding challenges during the London Olympics. Nevertheless, infringements on basic civil liberties like the right to free speech and peaceful protest are not the solution to a secure Games. It would also be completely contrary to the spirit of the Olympics for 2012 to become an excuse for mass surveillance and loss of liberties. What a shameful legacy for London 2012 that would be.

The remark about “the spirit of the Olympics 2012” in London and how state surveillance would be contrary to the original intentions of the Olympic Games, points to an implicit positive enlightening view of the history of the Olympic Games, that is widely found. It is surprising that even serious people, like those of the ‘Liberty’ organisation, stick to the idealised vision of international brother- and sisterhood with the emphasis not on winning but on competing in a good manner, thus promoting international understanding and peace. In the words of the founder of the movement Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937):

L’important dans la vie ce n’est point le triomphe, mais le combat, l’essentiel ce n’est pas d’avoir vaincu mais de s’être bien battu. (The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.)

Coubertin’s view of the origin of the Olympic Games was highly idealised and selective  in his historic references. He created of course a new concept and with it the myth of the peaceful fair play internationalism. As always with a good myth, it is not just fantasy, there are some historical relevant elements in it, be it that there is no serious search for the original context of these ‘elements’.  Nigel Spivey of the University of Cambridge did seven years ago a serious attempt to re-contextualise the Olympic Myth in his book “The Ancient Olympics: War Minus the Shooting”, published by Oxford University Press and with several pages on-line available at Amazon.co.uk or at GoogleBooks, this worldcat.org link tells you in which nearby library you can his book. The summary of the book makes clear that it may be a good read for this summer of the London 2012 Olympics:

The word “athletics” is derived from the Greek verb “to struggle or to suffer for a prize.” As Nigel Spivey reveals in this engaging account of the Olympics in ancient Greece, “suffer” is putting it mildly. Indeed, the Olympics were not so much a graceful display of Greek beauty as a war fought by other means. Nigel Spivey paints a portrait of the Greek Olympics as they really were–fierce contexts between bitter rivals, in which victors won kudos and rewards, and losers faced scorn and even assault. Victory was almost worth dying for, the author notes, and a number of athletes did just that. Many more resorted to cheating and bribery. Contested always bitterly and often bloodily, the ancient Olympics were no an idealistic celebration of unity, but a clash of military powers in an arena not far removed from the battlefield. The author explores what the events were, the rules for competitors, training and diet, the pervasiveness of cheating and bribery, the prizes on offer, the exclusion of “barbarians,” and protocols on pederasty. He also peels back the mythology surrounding the games today and investigates where our current conception of the Olympics has come from and how the Greek notions of beauty and competitiveness have influenced our modern culture.”  

There are several editions of the book with differing covers. I like this cover the best. It appears in a critical review in the magazine World Archeology; c;ick cover image to go to the review…

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hit the picture for a full size view

A nice sunday with lots of sun and people enjoying the outside calm of town, or letting some of the outside world in through opening their windows, should be a peaceful and enjoyable thing, where it not for the endemic (*) Buzz Bikers driving their purposely loudest possible  roaring motorbikes (**) through the inner town – especially – to ventilate themselves and their ego’s.

My mind game is imagining the BuzzSwat in action, applied with the same mercy urbanised humans tend to have for an annoying buzz-fly:  SWATTT!

The local police is invisible – seems to enjoy football matches on television in their stations – and something like an ‘Anti-Bikers-Buzz-Squat’ has never been thought of in this permissive city, once home of the bicycle-beer-café with peddling drunken tourists having a good drink and shout (***). Bikers, also,  can freely van their egos around here in Amsterdam.

This message will also be send to our burgomaster who is the first mayor of this town in decades who shows some – hesitant – concern of how “his” city sounds…

We do have all the technology needed to pick these ‘guys’ (no noisy girls on bikes as far as I can see, some but only on the back seat) from the road: sound sensors, fast cameras, helicopters, name it. I am not a biker so I do not know if these bikes have one or modes of operation, within the official noise limit, and outside these limits. If the exhaust system of these bikes have been tampered with, a kind of ‘art of noise’ tuning, to produce maximum effect, the motorbikes are in an illegal state and should be taken off the road on the spot. If the noise production can be hidden at one moment and still be produced at another, a combined system of instant sound and image capture could be used, to collect the needed proof for prosecution and seizure.

I think it will be necessary to also check the motorbike trade for selling and altering such “leisure” products. Motorbikes purposely made noisy, that has no other sense than produce the joy some people must feel, to terrorise their fellow citizens, by temporarily possessing the space and time that is shared with others with the noise they make.

The BUZZ Bikers are criminals stealing the civility of public space.

The poetics of noise, a picture I made March 11. posted on my Facebook page (seems to have vanished there thanks mr. Zucker…) this year when we had a few days of softer weather announcing a spring that was – in hindsight – slow to come. First nice sunday of the year… forget about listening to the birds, “roarrrrr” the bikers take their monsters out for a ride.

Picture I made May 22. when we had a first nice summer temperature evening… and it was spoiled by a constant parade of these motor devils… (posted on that day on The Limping Messenger)

(*) Endemic (as in “disease”) n. : a disease that is constantly present to a greater or lesser degree in people of a certain class or in people living in a particular location

(**) The police of the city of Amsterdam do have special actions and brigades against the disturbance of young scooter drivers, being both a danger because of wild driving and a nuisance because of the noise produced. Also scooters are so high on the wish-list of youngsters that the ones that are not fortunate enough, will steal them. I have witnessed these squads several times and noticed that especially young Moroccan guys were singled out as they seem to excel in breaching a few laws while driving these fancy scooters (though a xenophobic bias can be not excluded at the same time). I asked an officer of such a squad once why they did not also target the noise of the more affluent big motorbike drivers and the hellish noise they produce, as well as super high speed traversing through the inner town, often passing several police stations without any counter action. I was told, that this was “not a priority.”

(***) After years of complaints, beer-bike-cafés have been – almost – forbidden since after a whole series of court cases. The discussion was whether or not a bicycle-beer-bar was still a bicycle or not. A court decided that the maximum width of a bicycle or tricycle was 1,50 meter. Most of the versions going around where more than this measure limit, though inventive entrepreneurs did develop a beer-cycle-bar that stays within the law-limit.

See also my two earlier articles on
– 25/5/2009: ‘Cycling Cafes’: Cycling Cafes and Drunken Skippers in Party City Amsterdam
3/6/2009: Cycling Cafes down the hill in Amsterdam

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De volledige tekst van mijn brief waarop dit een antwoord is staat elders op dit blog.

Antwoord van 10 februari 2012 van burgermeester Aboutaleb van Rotterdam op mijn (open) brief aan hem van 6 februari 2012; kenmerk 886366.

Geachte heer Van Tijen,

Naar aanleiding van uw e-mail van 6 februari jongstleden, waarin u aandacht vraagt voor Europees stadiumverbod [*] voor hooligans, bericht ik u als volgt.

Allereerst wik ik u bedanken voor uw email en de signalen die u daarin kenbaar heeft gemaakt. Het is prettig te lezen dat u meedenkt dat stel ik zeer op prijs. U geeft in uw e-mail aan dat u mijn reactie snapt, maar ook dat u vindt dat er onvoldoende is nagedacht over de bijwerkingen op langere termijn. Ik wil u laten weten dat ik uw overwegingen begrijp en er inderdaad goed moet worden uitgezocht of dit een goed en effectief middel is en zodoende het werkelijke probleem wordt opgelost.

Niettemin ben ik enthousiast over het feit dat dit probleem in Europa ook aandacht krijgt. Hoe het daadwerkelijk vorm gaat geven [sic **] zal te zijner tijd uitvoerig worden onderzocht, uw argumenten neem ik dan zeker mee.

Ik vertrouw erop u hiermee voldoende te hebben geïnformeerd.

Met vriendelijke groet,

Ing. A. Aboutaleb

(*) “stadiumverbod” staat er, moet zijn ”stadionverbod‘. Zie opmerking van een trouwe en goede lezer over mijn slordigheid in spelling daar waar ik zelf steeds ‘stadiumverbod’ schreef in mijn oorspronkelijke brief  aan Aboutaleb, te vinden onderaan dit bericht.

(**) “vorm gaat geven”  staat er, denk dat daar bedoeld wordt ‘vorm zal krijgen’.

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Geachte heer Aboutaleb,

ik reageer op uw positieve reactie op het besluit van het Europese Parlement aangaande EU-breed stadiumverbod voor voetbalhooligans: “Aboutaleb juicht Europees stadionverbod toe.” (1)

Ik begrijp uw reactie, maar denk dat u onvoldoende heeft nagedacht over de ongewenste bijwerkingen op langere termijn op het gebied van burgerrechten, doordat hiermee een precedent geschapen wordt voor groepsgewijs uitsluiten van onrust veroorzakende groepen burgers (ook hooligans zijn burgers), daar waar ik denk dat onze rechtstaat gegrondvest is op individuele burgers en hun individuele verantwoordelijkheid.

Hoe kan een Rotterdams bestuurder een in Italië of Kroatië uitgevaardigd stadiumverbod handhaven? Buitenproportionele controle zal het gevolg zijn. Een stadiumverbod is een heel ander middel dan een bestraffing voor een geweldsdelict. Een veroordeling in een ander land automatisch tot een veroordeling voor het gehele EU gebied te verklaren en het uitvaardigingen van (omstreden) uitreisverboden zoals nu voorgesteld wordt door Groot Brittannië (2), heeft enkel oog voor de taak van orderhandhaving, maar niet voor de fundamentele rechten op bewegingsvrijheid van Europese burgers.

Als iemand geweld gebruikt dient deze gestraft te worden. Vrijheidsbeneming met gebruikmaking van de gevangenis is daartoe het middel. De straf zal afhankelijk zijn van de aard van het vergrijp, maar een straf eenmaal uitgezeten is daarmee dan ook afgehandeld. De trend die wij nu zien is tegengesteld, bovenop taak en gevangenisstraffen worden nu ook andere strafmaatregelen gestapeld, terwijl het grondprincipe toch zou moeten zijn dat je maar éénmaal voor een vergrijp gestraft kan worden. Levenslange stadiumverboden zoals die nu in door media opgezweepte overreacties opgelegd worden, zijn juridische wangedrochten. Gedwongen groepstherapie zou in uitzonderlijke gevallen meer op zijn plaats zijn dan opsluiting en daarover hoor ik maar weinig.

Het stadiumverbod is een heel ander ding dan een gevangenisstraf, het beperkt de bewegingsvrijheid van burgers op bepaalde momenten en plaatsen. Niet alleen is dat een inperking van grondrechten, ook de handhaving ervan  is zeer problematisch. (3)

Ik vraag u nog eens goed na te denken voor zoiets toe te juichen. U, als orderhandhaver van de stad Rotterdam, zal de groots mogelijke moeite hebben om op basis van computerbestanden hele volksmassa’s bij een voetbal stadion te screenen.

Het kan toch niet zo zijn dat door het gedrag van een zeer beperkte groep hooligans het overgrote deel van de voetballiefhebbers aan de methodes van een politiestaat blootgesteld worden. Hoe denkt u dat het gaat? Politieagenten die op vermoeden van ‘hooliganisme’ met een draadloos apparaat en wellicht een iris-scan (zoals gebruikt wordt in Irak en Afghanistan door de US en NATO troepen) mensen aanhouden, om hun legitimatie verzoeken? (4) Een cordon om een stadion leggen, met checkpoints vol elektronische apparatuur en gekoppelde persoonsgegevens, zoals bij de overgangen tussen Israel en de Gazastrook?

Ook is er de al gememoreerde ‘precedentwerking’, waarbij een regeling en vooral een operationeel controlesysteem (centrale database, mobiele controle eenheden die gebruik maken van draagbare biometrische apparatuur voor vingerafdrukken, gelaats- en oogherkenning) zonder veel moeite op andere niet ordelijke sociale groepen toegepast kan gaan worden. De strijd tegen voetbal hooligans ontaard op deze wijze in het experimenteren op burgers met hoog technologische controle-systemen en heeft een grensverleggende werking voor wat maatschappelijk aanvaardbaar geacht wordt aan overheidscontrole. (5) Eenmaal ingevoerd is er nauwelijks een weg terug, zoals de wildgroei aan video-bewaking in de publieke ruimte laat zien. Technologie wordt in de plaats van gemeenschappelijke menselijke sociale controle gesteld.

Als u de gehele tekst van het sport-paket aan maatregelen van het Europese Parlement van 2 februari 2012 leest, dan ziet u dat de maatregel tegen ‘hooligans’ een oneigenlijke onderdeel van een overigens positief aantal maatregelen is (geen doping, geen uitsluiting van vrouwen, enzovoorts).

Het voorgestelde EU-wijde stadiumverbod is uiteindelijk een strafrechtelijke maatregel, die om een grotere zorgvuldigheid van het afwegen van voor- en nadelen vraagt, dan nu het geval is geweest, door dit onderwerp als één van een serie van vijf  ‘sport-maatregel’ te presenteren. (1) Nu is het niet meer dan een aanbeveling van het EU parlement aan de regeringen (“Procedure: Non-legislative resolution; REF.20120201IPR36950”).

Het lijkt mij dat hooliganisme niet bestreden dient te worden in haar uitwassen, maar in haar ontstaan. Hooliganisme is iets dat in Groot Brittannië, heel anders is dan in Italië, zo ook Nederland, enzovoorts. Het behoeft een lokale aanpak en geen EU-wijde ‘ukaze’. Een lokale aanpak, die vragen bij heel de massasport industrie en cultuur (in die volgorde) dient te stellen, vragen over levensomstandigheden van de bevolking van een stad, opvoeding, onderwijs, werk.. en vertier. Een gemeentelijk beleid dat karakter en wenselijkheid van steeds maar weer grotere massa-evenmenten zou moeten onderzoeken en daarvoor andere vormen zou moeten proberen te vinden. Dat is meer een kwestie van creativiteit dan van repressie. Een sociaal-culturele taak, hoe ouderwets dat ook in dit tijdsgewricht mag klinken.

Het levensklimaat van een stad is iets wat vormgegeven kan worden door betrokkenheid van burgers en bestuur, verdergaand dan enkel de ‘vrije krachten van de markt’.

De oplossing van voetbalhooliganisme dient u – en al uw collega’s in andere EU landen – lokaal te vinden, ‘bottom up’. Al uw energie lijkt nu te gaan naar een ‘lik-op-stuk’ beleid, terwijl structurele initiatieven niet genomen worden.


Tjebbe van Tijen, Amsterdam 5 februari 2012


Video =  “Alles los met DJ Paul Elstak in de Legioenzaal na afloop van Feyenoord-Ajax”, 7 februari 2010, met de gescandeerde leuze “Rotterdam Hooligans” door een hossende jolige menigte van heel veel mannen tussen de 20 en 40 en zo te zien ook een paar vrouwen.

“Rotterdam hooligans” is hier een ‘geuzennaam’ en dat is niet verwonderlijk, saamhorigheid en uitstoting gaan altijd samen. Aan de orde is hoe saamhorigheid met voetbal als mobilisatiepunt vorm krijgt. Dat wat eens anders was, kan dus ook weer veranderen in de toekomst. Wie weet van de huidige jonge generatie wat het woord ‘nozem‘ of ‘bromnozem’ betekent, terwijl daarmee toch een halve eeuw terug een gelijk ervaren maatschappelijk probleem aangeduid werd, met Amsterdamse straatgevechten tussen ‘pleiners’ en ‘dijkers’? Zo zal het ook met het woord ‘hooligan’ voor volgende generaties gaan. Sociale bewegingen, sociale problematiek schuiven over het podium en verdwijnen uit het zicht. De overmaat aan electorale gelegenheidswetgeving is al wat er van overblijft, terwijl iedere staat echt al genoeg ‘stokken heeft om de hond mee te slaan‘.

In plaats van ‘wetgeving’ zou ‘vormgeving’ moeten komen. Vormgeving van het uitgaansleven en dan niet enkel voor de bovenste strata van onze samenleving met tennis- en golfbanen, musea en theaterzalen. Ik aarzel om voetbalhooliganisme zuiver als een een klasse-verschijnsel te definiëren, maar  niemand kan toch de grote sociale samenhang van een groot deel van deelnemers eraan, ontkennen. Het zijn zeker niet de meest bevoordeelden in onze samenleving die hier hun vermaak vinden. Voetbalvandalisme (de aanvankelijke term, later geïnternationaliseerd tot ‘hooliganism’) is een jonge ‘tak van sport’. Een ontzettende hoeveelheid energie die – kort geleefd – groepsgewijs tot ontlading gebracht wordt. Ontladingen die zich van het voetbalveld – door toenemende controle daar – verplaatst hebben naar andere ontmoetings- en confrontatie-plaatsen, tot aan de rand van de snelweg. Voetbal vaak niet meer dan een aanleiding voor afleiding.

Zelf vormgegeven toernooien met extra mediabelangstelling als trofee. Kortstondige roem binnen de groep, waar ‘leiders’ en ‘volgers’ dynamisch uitwisselbare rollen zijn. ‘Meeloophooligan’ lijkt mij een ‘dubbel-op-term’. De poging om het klassieke model van misdaadbestrijding, het aanpakken van de ‘boevenbaas’  en daarmee de ‘knechten’,  te projecteren op de Hollandse Hooligan gemeenschap en zelfs te verankeren in een Voetbalwet, is een wereldvreemde Haagse parlementaire gedachte. (6)

Voetbaldveldjes met een enkele tribune zijn heel bewust omgevormd tot arena’s met torende etages rondom. ‘Arena’ komt van het Latijnse woord ‘harena’ en dat betekent zand, een speciaal soort zand dat gebruikt werd om het bloed dat vloeide – bij gladiatoren en andere wrede spektakels – in de enorme publieke Romeinse theaters  – op te slurpen. Het is die schaalvergroting en heel de commercie die daar aan mee geholpen heeft, die de grondvesten voor het hooliganisme gelegd heeft en  die  belang heeft om die constellatie in stand houden. Nu deze voetbalindustrie en de daarmee verweven bier-conglemeraten in toenemende mate onaangenaam geconfronteerd worden met de uitwassen van hun eigen schepping, is het onaanvaardbaar dat enkel de hooligan gemeenschap gecriminaliseerd wordt  en het zakenleven buiten schot blijft. Deze omstandigheid draagt een geur van ‘klasse-justitie’ met zich mee.

Sport als spectaculair schouwspel heeft zijn grenzen bereikt. De verhouding passief consumeren en actief deelnemen is geheel en al zoek. Er is een hele hoop energie in hooliganisme waar iets anders mee gedaan kan worden dan nu gebeurd. Zo wij spreken van milieuvervuiling en na lang aarzelen proberen daar wat aan te doen, zo kan ook analoog gesproken worden van ‘sportvervuiling’ en is aan ons allen de taak om daar iets van te maken waar velen plezier aan beleven en hun energie op een prettige wijze in kwijt kunnen raken. ‘Verduurzaamheid’ zou een nieuwe ambtelijke term voor massa sport kunnen worden. Sport waar mensen elkaar weer weten te ‘verduren’.

(1) European Parliament 2012/2/2: “Sport: EU tackles hooligans, corrupt agents and illegal betting.” Five issues in one resolution: Promote sport for girls; – Blacklist hooligans; – Make doping a criminal offence; – Regulate sport agents; -Combine learning and training.
“Blacklist hooligans – Parliament asks that supporters who are known to be violent or to engage in discriminatory behaviour be banned from all European stadiums. A European data base should enable national authorities to ensure that the ban applies to any international matches played on their territory. MEPs also call on Member States and sports governing bodies to commit to tackling homophobia and racism against athletes.”

(2) The Guardian 2010/06/17 Rupert Meyers: “Football banning orders are out of control Our draconian anti-hooliganism legislation unfairly infringes the free movement of football supporters”

(3) Relevante grondrechten
Universele Rechten van de Mens:  “artikel 13 Een ieder heeft het recht zich vrijelijk te verplaatsen en te vertoeven binnen de grenzen van elke Staat.”
EuropaNu.nl (voorlichtings site EU): “Binnen de Europese Unie mag u vrij reizen. Dit betekent dat u slechts een geldig paspoort of een geldige identiteitskaart nodig heeft om naar andere EU-landen i te kunnen reizen. Als burger van een EU-lidstaat bent u geen toerist of reiziger als alle andere, maar heeft u specifieke rechten en mogelijkheden. Zo mag u naar alle andere lidstaten reizen en daar tijdelijk wonen.”

(4) Reuters 2012/02/03: “Football fans in one German state may have to pass through “face scanners” at stadiums, according to interior ministry proposals designed to eradicate hooliganism.”

(5)  The Football Forum 2009/1/13: “Police to target hooligans with fingerprint scanners.” Football Supporters’ Federation fears its use may cause problems for law-abiding fans. A spokesman said: “As far as we’re concerned, football fans should be policed on their behaviour, not their reputation.”

(6) Zie mijn notitie op The Limping Messenger 2012/1/27: “Hooligans sport for ephemeral fame”

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‎”Ultrasone geluiden kunnen mannen onvruchtbaar maken” (Utrasone sound can make men infertile) is a belated news article in a Dutch daily today, as the news item dates back to the year 2010. The research is financed by the Bill Gates foundation with the idea that it might be a tool to make men temporarily infertile for 6 month or so by directing ultrasound to their scrotum. A research till now on rats in labs, but we know that lots of people like to experiment with the sound limits and pleasures of their bodies in the laboratory of the discotheque.

Ultrasound scan are a must nowadays, no pregnancy without a video-photograph of the unborn, though recently unnecessary fun scans for inpatient parents are under debate. There is even a CD (UltraSound – Music for the Unborn Child) to let your child listen to music before it is born still on sale at Amazon with Debussy, Bach, Schubert and Chopin… The news item made me think, how come that ultrasound is used so often and even propagated on the one hand, while on the other it restricts and even stops male sperm production and may harm the fetus.

NaturalNews.com US web site did have the same question two years ago and tries to come up with some answers… and doubts. http://www.naturalnews.com/028853_ultrasound_fetus.html My tableau fuses the CD cover with spermatozoids fleeing the ultrasound.

If my association of ultrasound in discotheques and other spaces with ultra loud music for leisure with bodily harm and specifically fertility and unborn babies, has any ground in science, I could not yet find out. The association remains, nevertheless.

In a visual narrative scroll “Orbis Digitalium Pictus” I made a few years ago for an international theatre science congress ‘Orbis Pictus – Theatrum Mundi’ there is a small section  on ultrasound, a way of visualisation known to me also directly in circumstances that were properly diagnostic. Likewise I have had the “pleasure” to be examined with such a sonar device as well, because ultrasound certainly is not just a ladies thing. In its origin it comes from industrial testing of materials and has had over half a century now of being applied in medicine.

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CDA: Meeloophooligans ook de klos” CDAer Çörüz legt uit in het massaochtendblad De Spits: “de minister moet bij het Openbaar Ministerie (OM) eisen dat ook de meelopers worden vervolgd (…) onder het motto ‘Je was erbij, je bent erbij’.” Het lijkt een aanpak met massa-arresaties zo overgenomen van kameraad Alexander Lukashenko uit Wit Rusland, nu nog vast te leggen in een nieuwe Voetbalwet, straks gemakkelijk van toepassing verklaart op de komende woelingen in Hollands winkelstraten en andere sociale onrust. Wie geeft er nog om het behoud van ‘de rechtsstaat‘? Misdrijven worden gepleegd door individuen en groepsgewijze aanrekening dient gebaseerd te zijn op bewijslast per individu. Met dit massa-arrest voorstel wordt niet de oorsprong van het probleem aangepakt, maar enkel de uitwassen.

De-massificatie (*) van de sport en ander vertier, dat zou op de agenda van de kamerleden dienen te staan. “Zinloos geweld” bestrijden heet het, maar wat te doen met een samenleving waar voor velen de zin van het leven onvindbaar is? ‘Zingeving’ heet dat deftig en als de door de commercie tot massa gemaakte verveelde mens haar eigen zin – zelf vormgegeven spanning en sensatie – doet, dan zijn ze rijp voor massa-arrestatie. Er moet een oorzakelijk verband zijn tussen ‘meeloopkamerleden’, ‘meeloopkiezers’ en ‘meeloophooligans’: “erbij willen horen.”
(*) “Hooligans zijn een product van de vermaaksindustrie en in het veranderen van de culturele waarden van die industrietak zal de oplossing van het hooligan probleem gezocht moeten worden, om het even of het nu om een voetbalstadion of een strandfeest bij Hoek van Holland gaat.” zie mijn betoog eerder op dit blog naar aanleiding van het dodelijke schietincident op het strand van Hoek van Holland, september 2009:  ‘t Hoekje om bij Hoek van Holland: “zoooo wat een kanker er wordt gewoon helemaal geschoten”

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新的一年大爆炸的奢侈品是傳統的中國火藥的發明 (luxury of new year big bangs is the legacy of the invention of Chinese gunpowder)

The Netherlands is part of what can be called ‘the European war-exempted-zone’. Firework is a popular craze here from 10 in the morning December 31 to 2 at night January 1, to drive out the old year. 60 to 70 million Euro value of explosives goes up in the air, 200 to 300 eye operation as a result, 20 to 30 blind, hardly any dead. Many youngsters do test their ammunition before hand, especially near my house next top a night outgoing district. Most of the Dutch have no direct war or terrorism connotation when they here a big bang nearby in these last days of the year, though the Party for the Animals and Green Left have called for a total ban on private/personal firework use.

Firework sales for New Years Eve in the Netherlands in 1959 as I remember it as a boy counting all the pocket money I have saved and scanning the window of the only shop or so in town for my acquisitions. My parents knew the sound of real big bangs and my mother told me how she stand on the balcony of her house in The Hague and patting my back to make me not afraid of the bangs and billowing smoke at the horizon: the big mistake of a RAF bombardment hitting a civilian quarter (Bezuiden Hout) of The Hague right opposite the home of my grand mother. I was just a baby so can not remember it. I did play in the ruins - left for a decade or so - as a kid when staying with my grand mother... she did not appreciate much my rejoicing of "the ban bangs"...

Enjoying explosives is a real LUXURY as can be learned from the United Nations bulletin ‘ExplosiveWeapons.info’ published by the United Nations Disarmament Research Institute in Geneva. The “End of Year Explosive Violence Review” is summing it up: “Sadly, in over 70 countries, explosive weapons have caused severe harm to individuals and communities and furthered suffering by damaging vital infrastructure. But recognition is growing that the use of explosive weapons in places where civilians live, work or gather constitutes a serious humanitarian problem that needs to be addressed.”

See http://explosiveweapons.info/2011/12/29/end-of-year-explosive-violence-review/

Not only in the Netherlands, there are initiatives to come to a ban on firework as a citizen’s demand,  in all parts of the world similar initiatives have been taken, Philippines, New Zealand, Great Britain, South Africa, Italy, the United States, which can be read about in detail on the web site of  stop-fireworks.org, Some initiatives propose alternative forms of New Year celebration like in the USA to bang drums instead of firing explosives…

Fireworks in the Binnen Bantammerstraat part of the then still tiny Chinese Quarter of Amsterdam in the winter of 1971-72, a photograph by Koen Wessing (1942-2011).

When living in Amsterdam in the early seventies next to the small Chinese quarter, still growing at that time around the Binnen Bantammerstraat, there was always a big display of Chinese fireworks by the restaurant holders in that street on Western calendar New Years Eve. The Chinese had these long rolls of big firecrackers, one after another, we called them ‘pakora’s’, sometimes hung from the top of the house fronts or all along the street, twelve and more meter long. There was also the swaying around of firework on ropes within a dense circle in a crowd of people, the first ranks shrieking back each time a mass of glowing and sputtering ‘saltpeter’ passed their faces. The next morning the whole Chinese area looked like covered with a deep soft red carpet, with eager youngsters rummaging around to fire the ones that failed to explode during midnight. We had a squatted neighbourhood action centre straight next to this scene and always did throw new year midnight parties there. The photographer of this picture Koen Wessing was one of the supporters of our action group and it was only today I discovered this photograph by him, while doing a little research for this article.

The first part of this year I lived and worked for half a year in Hong Kong and on the first day of Chinese New year I was waiting for a massive popular display of fire work in my neighbourhood close to the popular district of Shek Kip Mei in Kowloon. To my surprise nothing happened at all, the only fireworks visible were the ones on the television set. The city panorama below my apartment – situated on a rock with a wide view – remained completely empty. It was only later I learned that all firework in the then Crown Colony of Hong Kong of the Brits had been forbidden in 1967, a year that almost saw a Cultural Revolution Rising in Hong Kong by local Maoists. Gunpowder of firework had been used in that turbulent year to make street bombs that would be exploded to raise the level of unrest in the city. That firework ban has remained in force ever since, with only some exceptions for the inhabitants of Hong Kong’s New territories villages during their special traditional spring and summer festivals.

A labour dispute at a factory making artificial plastic flowers in San Po Kong, Kowloon was the event triggering the 1967 Hong Kong rising; production output levels being raised for the same wage; breakdown hours of machines as non paid work time and so on...The picture taken May 11 1967 shows police forces firing tear gas grenades and wooden bullets at demonstrators assembling in front of the high rise factory building. Objects had been dropped on some police men before from the rooftops. A young boy later was beaten up and died.

When studying more of the history of the conflict in 1967 (“Hong Kong’s watershed: the 1967 riots” by Gary Ka-wai Cheung; 2009) I learned that some of those street bombs had warning signs on them (like “compatriots do not come close”) when planted, but the message was written in Chinese characters only. Most of these bombs were primitive home-made contraptions on the basis of gunpowder taken from firework stock (others used gunpowder used by fishermen). Firework bombs were most often thrown directly at colonial targets, mostly police stations and of the ones planted in the street many were fake bomb, just to “fire” social unrest. During almost a year 8352 suspected bombs had been planted of which only 1420 proved to be “genuine”, 1167 targeted the colonial police force, 253 were detonated in an uncontrolled way. The bombs hailed by the underground Maoist Communist Party of Hong Kong as a form of “People’s Warfare” could not fail to also hit ‘the people’ themselves and when in August 1967 a street bomb killed an eight year girl and a two year old boy, the public reaction backfired at the anti-colonial insurgents. An existing relative sympathy under broad layers of the population for the cause of these left wing revolutionaries fighting the colonial power, was progressively lost. The disruption of the  daily life in the colony by the firework bombs -which were in a military sense minor weapons – had been significant. Hindering traffic and most of all having a psychological impact. At a certain moment during that year the British governor even worked secretly on a new emergency evacuation plan,  for the non Chinese population, just in case. In the end it proved that the local underground Communist Party had for a great deal acted on their own and failed to generated the needed support from party authorities in Bejing. Mainland China was – at that time –  too much in a political turmoil with lots of fractional infighting, to allow itself to take the small Colony of Hong Kong by force. Neo-colonial Hong Kong, “the goose with the golden eggs” was of more importance to the Mainland China than a banking, manufacturing and trading centre, which would certainly collapse after a forceful take-over.

Till this very day, the firework bombs remain a legacy associated with the Communist Party of Hong Kong, that, though not formally part of the restraint political landscape of Hong Kong (see “Underground front: the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong” by Christine Loh; 2010), is the central force of power in what is now The ‘Special Administrative Region of China Hong Kong’ (SAR Hong Kong). The highest governmental functions in SAR Hong Kong are reserved for (secret) Communist Party members only. As the history of this central core of Hong Kong power remains covered in secretive haze, debatable events in its history remain a subject which is mostly  avoided. Who –  for instance – visits the Hong Kong Historical Museum will find just one or two photographs of the 1967 struggle with a superficial caption. In popular memory though, the firework bombs and the effects of some indiscriminate targeting of the primitive firework bombs from 1967, lingers on.

A painted silk flag from the 10th century in China showing gunpowder used as a weapon on the end of a sort of spear gun.

Saltpeter  (potassium nitrate) is a substance that forms through the decomposition of organic materials, a whitish salt like material since long known for its quality of burning fiercely even in non favourite circumstances for  fire. We know that Taoist alchemists in China were experimenting with it already in the 8th century in their quest for life prolonging elixirs. While trying out all kind of combinations of substances and materials, they discovered the explosive properties of mixing  saltpeter with sulphur and charcoal. The mix we call now in English ‘gunpowder’ (‘buskruit’ in Dutch *). Aside from try-outs  to swallow small quantities as a medicine, the aesthetic and ceremonial qualities of the substance were discovered and all kind of ways to fire it for spectacular display were developed. Spring, Autumn and New Year festivals with their staged dances of mythical animals like dragons and lions, were amplified with display of fireworks. Bamboo tubes were used at first, which lead also to experiments to use the explosive mix for war purposes. First devices were spears with at the end bamboo tubes filled with gunpowder that were directed at an enemy during a battle. Soon more elaborate war use was found by finding out the propulsive qualities of certain mixes that could drive out one or more arrows from wooden containers. Closing up such bamboo containers would give yet another effect of bursting wood fibre and so also what we call now a grenade, has been invented over one thousand years ago.

Healing, celebration and warfare all used the same substance: gunpowder. Moments of celebration punctuated by explosions, but also new powerful bangs of explosions on the battlefield, which before was less loud with just clanging of lances, swords, shields and the shouts of warriors. Up to this very day the awe of a big bang may be just a carrier of celebration, but once someone has witnessed an explosion as a part of an act of terrorism or war, the aesthetic appreciation of a firework spectacle may be lost – for her or him – forever.

* Etymology of the Dutch word for ‘gunpowder’:
buskruit zn. ‘explosief poeder’
Mnl. bussen cruyt ‘buskruit’ [1441; Van der Meulen 1942a], busskruit ‘id.’ [1481-83; MNW bussecloot], met daarnaast vormen als donderbuspoeder [ca. 1400-50; MNW stampen], donderbuscruut, dondercruut [MNHW].
Het eerste lid is mnl. busse ‘(kamer in een) vuurwapen, vuurroer’, zie → bus 1; het tweede lid is mnl. cruyt ‘(tover)kruid’, zie → kruid, → kruit.
Buskruit werd in Europa vanaf de 14e eeuw gebruikt.

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In het Parool van vandaag staat een stukje “Is één Jordaanfestival niet genoeg?” over de stammenstrijd der Jordanezen en hoe twee festivals  die het nooit zo bestaande verleden van deze roemrijke buurt in herinnering denken te roepen elkaar op leven en brood beconcurreren om wie het meest lawaai mag gaan maken.

De stekker eruit! Dat lost alles op…. gewoon autistisch en akoestisch blèren voor wie er lol in heeft en er  vlakbij omheen gaan staan. Vooruit een accordeon maakt genoeg geluid en “als je niet genoeg stem heb dan doe je het maar voor je eige onder de doesj” Het is de bulderboks, het is de ritmeboks en de elektriese dreunkasten die er een probleem van maken… Terug naar de wortel van de Jordaan en als je zonodig een podium nodig hebt neem dan een stijfselkissie om op te staan. Nog beter is er een werkelijk Jordaanfestival van te maken, voor de hele Jordaan, alle straatjes en grachtjes krijgen een beurt… niets is mooier als het aanzwellen en wegstervende van de klanken van een lopend orkestje in de stadsruimte. Dat is het enige werkelijke alternatief voor de door velen verafschuwde dronkenlappen aantrekkende  elektronische ‘hoenkie boenk terreur’.

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FROM LOVE PARADE TO LOVE STAMPEDE 21 deaths (*) and 500 wounded, in a traffic tunnel in Duisburg/Germany – such news does not come as a surprise – such things were bound to happen with the massified need of people to congregate physically as an answer to the paradox of a virtual and electronic interconnected world on the one hand and personal feelings of  isolation in the daily routine of  ‘urban atomisation’, at the other. Being connected electronically does not imply being connected socially.  With the new and ubiquitous media there seems to be no bounds when it comes to the exploitation of this form of loneliness. To name just three of thousands of web sites that announced the Duisburg Love Parade: www.festival.pig.com; carnaval2010.org; http://www.sex-up.net. This last site  carries the headline “The art of love to be unraveled completely at the Love Parade 2010” and an enthusiastic vision of what will happen: “… Duisburg dreams, will see millions from all over who will gather to experience the grandeur that is synonym to the Love Parade.”

HIGH WAY MASS 2008: 19 July Dortmund. Rainer Schaller Love-Parade-chief and manger for McFit the main sponsor of this event on the web-site of Love Parade Dortmund: “This is the Wonder of Dortmund: we have written history. A giant spectacle, a roaring party, a music explosion: here in Dortmund we did rejoice in a party of superlatives and aside we settled a new record (1.6 million people).”

Slogans like “Millions from all over the world” (carnaval2010.org) or “Duisburg feiert die grösste Party der Welt” (www.sex-up.net) expresses the mix of fantasy and commercialism from which such giga-events are born.  The dangerous reality of such quantities have been criticised  in the last years, but commercial and prestige interest proved to be stronger. The specific case of the ‘Love Parade’ enterprise originates in Berlin and grew from just a group of 150 friends in 1989 to it’s first 100.00 participants in 1994 and it’s first million in 1997. With some ups and downs it became 1.2 million in the year 2006 and this was more than the fortunate locals-  living next to the huge part ground – could bear. Who want to barricade his garden with barbed wire, who wants to clean up the shit and piss from his doorstep?

Growth in numbers has also meant growth of revenues with all kind of commercial interest. There must have been a direct link with the reunification of the two Germanies when one looks at the sudden jump of ravers joining the Love Parade in Berlin in 1993. The parade became a tool to put Berlin – not longer a fenced island within the DDR – on the party-tourism map of the new Europe. What started as as a cultural underground initiative in 1989  with a mini-parade with a big idea: “political demonstration for peace and international understanding through love and music”, soon became a main-stream event, and thus the initial idealism and cultural revolution ideas were erased. I did not find yet good English sources on this ‘commodification process’, but for those who read German the gibschub.de blog has some good reports on debates around this metamorphosis. This comment dates from a year or so back in time: “Die Loveparade war das Symbol für eine der größten Hoffnungen der neueren Musikgeschichte und mittlerweile weint ihr keiner mehr eine Träne nach. Verraten, missbraucht, ausgepresst…” (The Loveparade was one of the biggest symbols of  hope for a  new music history and meanwhile nobody will let a tear because of it. Betrayed, misused, squeezed out…

I made a more graphic version of data found on the Wikipedia page on ‘Love Parade’ with this remark: “The “Participants” figure is the estimate given by the organizers. Police estimates have been as much as 30% lower. Accurate counts are not available since entry is free and uncontrolled. The mayor of Dortmund and the police confirmed the number of participants in Dortmund.” A few days after the disaster several newspapers started to cite insiders related to the organisation of ‘love parades’ in the past who (opportunistically) claimed that the number of participants had been systematically inflated to boost the commercialisation of the music event. The numbers in the last decade tended to be three times too high they said.

The logistic management of human bodies for crowds beyond one hundred thousand people is a science still in its infancy, which apparently lays outside the limited and eager scope of  mass event entrepreneurs and the civil authorities that blindly support their enterprise. When there is no catastrophe there is glory for the daring authorities who are willing to take the risk, as is expressed in this citation of the mayor Langemeyer of Dortmund in 2008: “That the B1 (high road cleaving through the town) in Dortmund once would electrify 1.6 million people from all over the world, I could not have foreseen that  before – even with all my imagination. The ‘Highway to Love’ has become the Dancing floor of superlatives and has found ist way into the history of the Loveparade.” Mayor Adolf Sauerland of Duisburg had another story to tell to the international press, together with Love Parade organiser Rainer Schaller at a press conference on July 25th 2010. The evading remarks of the responsible authorities at this press conference only postponed the unmasking for a few hours. As each chief and each department tries to save their skin, the whole city apparatus started leaking and now we can read how already in 2009 a police commander – Rolf Cebin – who uttered his disapproval of the planned event because of safety risks had been side-tracked and accused by major Sauerland of causing “Imageschande” (image shame) to the town of Duisburg. Who will formally be held responsible is yet an unanswered question. The usual blaming game is on. On saturday July 31, the German daily TAZ has an informative list of who blames whom, “Wer beschuldigt wen?” with five main players from organiser Rainer Schaller and  city mayor Adolf Sauerland to Ralf Jäger the interior minister of the Landesregierung and Fritz Pleitgen chief of the ‘European cultural  capital city’ organisation.

VIRTUAL MASS 2007: This still image is from a 4-D interactive model of crowd evacuation dynamics in a dense urban setting, used to explore individual and collective behavior under emergency scenarios. (Credit: Paul Torrens, Arizona State University)..click picture for link

There is a price to sheer unlimited mobility and connectivity amplified by the need and greed that make people wanting to meet in such numbers.

PLEASURE CLASS 2010: shown in a still from a video posted on Youtube  wit the initial heading 15 death in Duisburg… One can see several camera’s held high over the heads of the crowd… so these are people recording their own misery of being trapped in a crowd… (how come? a sense of history before  the more primal sense of survival? reportage of  participatory panic?) click picture for link to Youtube

I have to think back at the German playwright Ernst Toller and his world famous theatre drama from 1920: “Masse Mensch” which warns against faceless massification… Let me cite the chorus”

WORKING CLASS 1910-20: Images of the city displayed in woodcuts by the Belgian artist Frans Masereel … left the right hand picture shows Berlin and is by Ludwig Meidner (1913)


We, eternally wedged into

Caverns of towering houses,

We, abandoned to mechanisms of mocking systems,

We, faceless in the night of tears,

We eternally severed from our mothers,

From the depths of the factories we call!

When will we live in love?

When will we work our will?

When will we be saved?”

RETURN TICKET BECOMES A ONE WAY TICKET FOR SOME: Advertisement of today… this web site still had a link to buy a ticket for 29 Euro…

Just selected a fragment from one of my 2008 scroll projects, “Dionysia & other Pleasure Parades”, as a counter point image. One sees the ‘Siegesäule’ in Berlin towering over the masses- a few years ago – masses that by commercialism have been redirected  to their tunnel of death in Duisburg: from Parade to Stampede…

CRITICAL MASS BERLIN 2006: 1.2 million participants in last ‘Love Parade’ in this town.

“When will we live in love?” is the question from 1920 by Toller, posed – once again – 90 years later. I am not afraid to go against the fashionable current of the quest for ever and ever bigger,  more loud and more grandiose events… at a certain scale a party becomes a war and a parade will become a death march.

MASS CONTROL 2010: Image from Spiegel TV that had several camera crews already the day before in Duisburg to document the event, showing the Central Command room of the municipal management team for the  Love Parade 2010, the day before the catastrophe. Everything seemed under control. On the wall are the maps that – when seen in High Definition mode – show clearly the fenced area and the singular entry point. This video also shows the moment when a mass of people coming from the inner town breaks through the clumsy and rusty crowd barriers set up by the local police to prevent more people to enter the enclosed festival ground while from the other side people were leaving. Language is German… no translated version (yet?). The reportage also shows the arrival of  a high spirited crowd on the railway station and the ensuing first confrontations with the well behaving local police force.  It helps to reflect on 21st century Dionysia… Click picture to see the video…

Let’s run away  from the the crowd barriers and throw a party within the horizons of our limited means of human communication, affection and pleasure, to be lovable with our own and other faces recognisable once again.

LEISURE CLASS 1788: Goya “The Meadow of San Isidro on his Feast Day” 1788; click picture for full size viiew

Additional considerations

The Dutch crowd incidents last year during a massive beach party at Hoek van Holland and this year during a National Commemoration at Dam square Amsterdam, lead me to study a bit more the ideas and development of crowd control science and technology. Doing a check once again after the Duisburg Love Stampede made me find two videos that visualise very recent research relevant for the Duisburg case. One shows a model of  a very orderly leaving of a mass of football fans in a nearby football stadium (Esprit Arena Düsseldorf):

This visualisation is a product from the research project HERMES of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and was published on July first 2010 at the web site of in PhysicsWorld.com of the British Institute of Physics: “new project called Hermes, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, aims to protect and save lives by developing an “evacuation assistant” that could allow stadiums and other venues hosting large events to be cleared quickly and more safely than is possible now. The Hermes system is designed to use information about a current situation to predict what will happen when extrapolated to the future.”

The second video (dated June 30 2010) is from the same source and depicts the principles of a situation when through a corridor situation a mass of people is moving from two opposite sides. This is what happened in the tunnel of the Duisburg Love Stampede, though the size of the corridor and the volume of the crowd were different. What is shown – the dynamic evading of pedestrians – is a known phenomenon in the crowd control study field. There is more than just a failure of authorities to plan in the right way or being ignorant of the techniques of crowd control. When individuals become crowds and crowds are modelled in a multi dimensional calculation space, something has happened that needs attention beyond technical solutions. We are faced here with a problem of social order… Humans are not calculation particles. There must be some upper limit of size  for leisure industry events. Not just for the sake of safety, but for the sake of sanity as well. Ant heaps do have a certain size, heaping up humans does have it limits also. Why is it necessary to state the obvious that people need to be valued as human beings NOT as particles or ‘mass-milked cattle’.

There is a report dating from 2009 and updated in 2010 from the Federal Ministry of Education and Reserach of Germany with the title “Research for Civil Security- rescue and protection of people”. It gives an introduction to the need of improvement of civil security and an overview of 17 research programs for which the government has put aside 123 million Euro. There is a special page on the phenomenon of mass concerts and even the ‘Love Parade’ is mentioned in the chapter on “Risks associated with major public events – Planning, assessment, EVAcuation and rescue concepts.” The introduction paragraph reads: “Major public events have become very popular. They attract more and more visitors who want to share occasions such as concerts or football matches. As a consequence, many people gather in close quarters during such events. Without information on the expected number of visitors and possible visitor behaviour, it is virtually impossible to develop accurate estimates of the rescue forces needed – which in turn also makes it extremely difficult to plan successfully for such events.” (page 14)

MASS SECURITY 2009: “High Tech Strategy” is the catch word of this research paper, where we better have a ‘social strategy’ first…Maybe people need to be protected from commercial mass leisure entrepreneurs, or even from themselves, like a municipality  would put a fence at the edge of a cliff .  Click picture to download PDF version of this 2010 government report

The next paragraph mentions the ‘Love Parade’ events, also its growing size, but does not go any further than asking the question about size, about critical mass. This publication does not give any scientific answer to the question it poses, but  reality in Duisburg came up with the answer. When I read the many commentaries on the Duisburg Love Stampede, many comments tend to focus too much on the failure of  either the organiser or the authorities or both, while it would be more honest and realistic to ask why it was that during all the mass events in the previous years, from Berlin to Essen and Dortmund, nothing real bad happened.

click picture for full size view

Was it because of the great precautions, the excellent planning, the different spacial circumstances? Or was it sheer luck? When one looks back at the aerial and crowd pictures of these events, many potential dangerous situations can be observed. When one checks a tentative list of other ‘stampedes‘ in history it will proof that often some odd coincidence made that what could have proceeded without too much problem, ended up in disaster. It has now been proven beyond doubt that a critical mass have been reached in mass mobilisation for leisure. There is a danger that a technocratic response to the Duisburg case would be to keep going with mass events as such and invest in high tech innovations of  crowd control. It will be better to find an answer to the fundamental question why such commercialised mass gatherings are needed at all and invent new forms of  human size pleasure parades to find again the old Dionysian spirit that has been lost in massification.


One of the researches in the government report above has the code name HERMES. The chosen name for the German Federal governmental study HERMES did get a very special unintended meaning with the Duisburg Love Stampede. Hermes comes from the Greeks (Mercurius for the Romans) and  is a god with many  associating faculties. He is not just the messenger and trade supporting god, but also protector of thieves and sailors, inventor of the lute (made of the skin of a turtle), slayer of the giant Argus the watchful giant who he lures to sleep and kills him. What strikes me most that Hermes is also one of the few gods that has access to the underworld, and his task is to deliver dead souls to the eternal realm of the underworld  managed by Hades. He is what the greek call a ψυχοπομπóς psychopomp who escorts newly deceased souls to their after-life.

visual summary of Hermes as the psychopomp delivering dead souls to the underworld; click picture for full size view

This is the fifth article in the series “The downside of the Leisure Industry” on this blog.

*) the death toll has risen from 15 at the day of the stampede to 21 on 28/7/2010

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“Het was fantastisch! Het zonnetje scheen volop en de sfeer zat er goed in. Zaterdag 5 juni vond op het strand van Scheveningen de eerste editie van het BankGiro Loterij Royal Beach Concert plaats. Niemand minder dan Bon Jovi, Kane en DI-RECT zorgten voor een muzikaal spektakel. Het Royal Beach Concert, gesponsord door de BankGiro Loterij, wordt één van de grootste, jaarlijks terugkerende openluchtconcerten van Europa. Wellicht tot volgend jaar met vast weer fantastische artiesten!”

Aldus de juichende berichtgeving op de web site van de Bank Giro Loterij: “een dag vol muziek en genieten van zon, zee en strand…the Royal Beach Concert!.” Een muisklikje ver is het maar naar de aparte web site die dit groots spektakel help realiseren en zelfs een computergebruiker moet het aangeboden geluidsniveau wat enkel maar een web-sitje is, naar beneden draaien om niet al te veel overweldigd te worden in de huiskamer.

Geheel onwetend van deze geplande aanslag op de  rustzoekende mens & milieu wandelden wij afgelopen zaterdagmiddag in de duinen bij de Wassenaarseslag (na afloop van een kort bezoek aan een privé galerie in dit villadorp). Slingerende fiets- en voetgangerspaden over ondulerende duinruggen, geen auto’s meer, met enige regelmaat bordjes met “Geen Toegang/Beschermd Natuurgebied”, hè, hè, eindelijk rust. Al gauw werd duidelijk dat die bescherming niet gold voor het geluidslandschap van dat wat behoort tot de Haagse Waterleiding duinen. Een grommend geluid kwam over de duintoppen gekropen met de vlagen van de lichte bries die vlak aan de kust pleegt te waaien. Toen wij eenmaal over de laatste ‘blanke top der duinen’ heen waren, ploeterend in het nog traditioneel mulle zand, vervluchtigde plotsklaps alle verwachte dimensies van het landschap door wat ik sinds jaar en dag de ‘boenkie boenk’ noem, nu in een speciaal gunstige acoustische omgeving van het vlakke strand.  Diepdoordringende lage basgeluiden, die met hoge regelmaat stuiterend kwamen aanstuiven over de klankast van de verhardende vloedlijn bij eb, terugkaatsend over vlakke waterspiegels van drooggevallen zandbanken, al surfend omhooggeheven op de golven. “Doenke, doenke, doenke doenk”, ‘da capo al fine’, maar ook dat laatste kwam niet, op heel onze wandeling met de rug naar de gleuidsbron, tot op de kleine strandboulevard van het dorp Katwijk, bleef ons dit geluid onafgebroken achtervolgen.

Enigszins was ik voorbereid op de oncontroleerbaarheid van de huidige generatie van geluidsversterkers die bij de minste aanleiding ingezet worden om de zozeer gevreesde stilte te verdrijven. Daarom hadden wij ook de duinweg bij Wassenaarseslag gekozen en waren expres eerst nog eens enkele kilometers door de duinen gelopen in noordelijke richting, om het genoegen te smaken van het over de laatste duintop te zwoegen en dan omarmd te worden door het vervloeiende geluid van de branding op een dag met weinig wind.

Niets van dat alles… kijk maar eens goed naar de industriële  proporties van de luidspreker-batterij die door het cultuur en natuur stimulerende ‘loterij fonds’ op het verbrede stuk strand aan de noordzijde van Scheveningen haven geplaatst was. Ik tel zo al een tiental gigantische conussen die electro-magnetisch gepulseerd de strijd met iedere dondergod aan kunnen gaan. Waren er dan geen voorschriften, zijn er dan geen maximaal toegestane aantallen decibels die geproduceerd mogen worden – al was het maar voor toekomstige bezuinigingen op gehoorstellen voor de party-generatie – want de politiek zegt toch vooruit te willen denken? (*)

Als ik de berichtgeving vooraf bekijk over deze geluidsterreur manifestatie (het geproduceerde volume moet regelmatig over de medisch vastgestelde pijngrens zijn gegaan) dan zie ik dat het merendeel van de Scheveningse Hagenezen al doof is en dus geen moeite meer heeft met zulke vormen van niet fijnzinnige geluidsvolumes. Het klein debat vooraf over de te verlenen vergunning concentreert zich op de logistiek van het aan- en afvoeren van het luistervee en een lichte vrees bij burgermeester Jozias van Aartsen (VVD) om vlak voor de verkiezingen zijn taak als liberale ‘dat moet kunnen’ burgervader niet te kunnen vervullen (immers het recente Amsterdamse straatverbodverbod op biertap en mega-voetbalschermen tijdens de WK van de PvdA werd door de plaatselijke VVD weggehoond, die hiermee nog wat stemmen uit het Oranjejelegioen hopen te winnen). Grootste vrees was dan nog de niet erg “royal” op een schietpartij uitgelopen “beach party” op het strand bij Hoek van Holland verleden jaar, waardoor burgermeester Ahmed Aboutaleb (PvdA) van Rotterdam bijna ten val kwam.

“Wij zullen er alles aan doen om de overlast voor u als bewoner zoveel mogelijk te beperken. Wij vertrouwen er op u hiermee voldoende informatie te hebben verschaft over de gang van zaken en bieden bij voorbaat excuses aan voor de mogelijke (over)last”, staat te lezen in een brief “aan de bewoners in de omgeving Scheveningen StrandHaven” die ik op het internet vind.

Is die brief dan ook voor mij bedoeld geweest, strandwandelaar op afstand beginnend op 8 kilometer tot op 14 kilometer afstand? Hoe zit het met de gevoelige oren van dieren in de natuurgebieden? Of is dat enkel wat voor wetenschappers om zich druk over te maken? Ik ga dan maar helemaal niet nadenken hoe het was voor al die bedlegerigen of erger die hun woning in de nabije omgeving van het goede-doelen-loterij-fonds niet konden ontvluchten. Nederlands is wat dat betreft een meedogenloze samenleving geworden. Of ligt het alleen maar aan mij, behoor ik tot de de laatste gehoor-ongestoorden van Nederland?

Blijf terugdenken aan wat mij nu bezielde om nog over over de “blanke top der duinen” op zoek te gaan naar een Noordzee “vriendelijk bruisend”, want bij het opzoeken van de precieze liedtekst blijkt dit ooit bij de NSB populaire lied ook gekaapt te zijn door het meer recente Stormfront en andere blanke Hollandse organisaties die ik niet welgezind ben en is het pathetisch nationale lied van weleer nu ook in een soort punkrock/skinhead versie op het web te vinden… even oorverdovend als de Scheveninger Beach Party van zaterdag 5 juni 2010.

Waar de blanke top der duinen

Schittert in den zonnegloed,

En de Noordzee, vriend’lijk bruisend

Neêrlands smalle kust begroet,

Juich ik aan het vlakke strand:

Juich ik aan het vlakke strand:

‘k Heb u lief, mijn Nederland!

‘k Heb u lief, mijn Nederland!

After a visit to a privat gallery in a Wasenaar villa this saturday ... we decided to walk through the dunes to the beach and to the next village in northern direction: Katwijk. One of the few places in the over urbanized West of the Netherlands where there are no cars, a long strip of protected nature, with its special soundscape with squeaking seagulls and the calming undertow sound of the waves breaking on the beach. WRONG! this is something from the past... as a growling sound could be perceived already in the dunes... and once we arrived on the beach there was the full spectre of subsonic base sounds of some rock concert down in the south at the beach next to the harbour of Scheveningen. We were at 8 kilometers or so from the noise source and still after an hour more walking away from it, the pestering base sounds were still there. When I checked the internet today it proved to be the 'Royal Beach Party' thrown by the National Ducth Lotery... The map shows the spacial dimension of the the disruption. The city of The Hague (with a VVD party member as burgomaster) gave permission. There are no limits in the Netherlands when it comes to partying. Yet I do not think that the fear of silence is inborn. Click map for full size view.

Ik heb niet kunnen achterhalen of de koninklijke prijzen van de kaartjes van deze ‘Royal Beach Party’ nu uiteindelijk ten goede zullen komen aan een goed doel  via de ‘De BankGiro Loterij’ of dat dit concert van deze instelling omgekeerd juist een subsidie heeft gekregen. Voor alle duidelijkheid heb ik maar even een historisch screenshot van de feestgangers webpagina gemaakt… In deze visie hadden wij op tien kilometer en meer afstand een gratis kaartje in vak X of Y voor de ‘Boenkie Boenk’.

Prices for the Royal Beach Party... so later in the afternoon I had a 'free ticket' in Section x or Y on a distance of 10 and more kilometers from the main stage...

De spottende toon van dit artikel ten spijt, mag het duidelijk zijn dat in een dichtbevolkt en van lawaai bezwangerd landje als Nederland het ontoelaatbaar is dat de schaarse stiltegebieden die ons resten ons ontnomen worden door  geluidsterreur. Verenigingen van natuurliefhebbers, dierenvrienden, dierenpartijen, groene partijen fluister het de bestuurders en politici in, dat de relatieve stilte van dat beetje natuur dat wij nog hebben er niet is om te verstoren, maar om er van te genieten.

(*)  Wie een beleidsnota van een grote gemeente als Den Haag met veelvuldige buitenfestival, met name pop- en rock-muziek zoekt vindt ook na een half uur proberen niets (ik houd mij natuurlijk aan bevolen voor suggesties van het tegendeel). Wel is er een Algemene Plaatselijk Verordening die nogal potsierlijk aandoet in dit tijdperk van gigantische volumes onder handbereik van iedere idioot die een lekker stoer wil doen:
“Artikel 2:9
Straatartiest en muziek
1. Het is verboden, op door de Burgemeester aangewezen wegen en tijden* op of aan de weg als
straatartiest op te treden of muziek ten gehore te brengen.
* Zie uitvoeringsbesluit
2. Op andere dan de in het eerste lid vermelde plaatsen, is het verboden, zonder vergunning van de
burgemeester als straatartiest op te treden of muziek ten gehore te brengen.
3. Het bepaalde in het tweede lid is niet van toepassing mits degene die voornemens is deze
activiteiten te verrichten voor aanvang daarvan naam en adres heeft opgegeven bij het
politiebureau waar de plaats van uitvoering onder ressorteert, indien:
a. met ten hoogste drie personen wordt opgetreden;
b. er geen draaiorgels, geluidversterkende apparatuur of slaginstrumenten, zoals
trommels, bongo’s en dergelijke, worden gebruikt;
c. de activiteiten niet langer duren dan een half uur;
d. de activiteiten slechts worden verricht tussen 08.00 en 21.00 uur en op zondag
tussen 13.00 en 21.00 uur.
4. Indien op grond van dit artikel een vergunning is vereist, kan de burgemeester te dien
aanzien de belangen in aanmerking nemen die zijn bedoeld in artikel 2:25, zesde lid.
Afdeling 5: Bruikbaarheid en aanzien van de weg

Artikel 4:6
Overige geluidhinder
1. Het is verboden toestellen of geluidsapparaten in werking te hebben of handelingen te
verrichten op een zodanige wijze dat voor een omwonende of overigens voor de omgeving
geluidhinder wordt veroorzaakt.
2. Het college kan van het verbod ontheffing verlenen.
3. Het verbod geldt niet, voor zover artikel 2:56, de op de Wet milieubeheer gebaseerde
voorschriften, de Wet geluidhinder, de Wegenverkeerswet 1994, de Zondagswet, het Wetboek
van Strafrecht, de Luchtvaartwet, het Reglement verkeerstekens en verkeersregels 1990, de
Bouwverordening of het Vuurwerkbesluit van toepassing zijn.

De popfestival industrie lijkt ook gevangen in de zucht naar oorverdovende concertbelevenissen. In een recente nota van de ‘Vereniging Nederlandse Pop-podia en festivals” vind ik wel een statistiek waar gewag wordt gemaakt van het mogelijke gevaar van gehoorbeschadiging van arbeiders in deze industrietak, maar de aangegeven geluidsniveaus bij grote concerten zijn op zich al ver boven het gangbare niveau van omstreeks de 90 dBA (waarbij de door mij genoemde effecten van verdragende lage basgeluiden niet in beschouwing zijn genomen en bedacht moet worden dat geluid volgens een logaritmische schaal gemeten wordt en enkele ‘graden’ meer op de geluidsthermometer een verdubbeling of verdriedubbeling in kunnen houden.

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Two KLM posters from the fifties combined (*) with a Google Earth view of Amsterdam and 7 examples of cut-out, non montaged real street photographs of oversized Dutch wooden shoes (klompen) that can be found in all tourists areas of the town outside the shops that sell tourist gadgets; tourist like to pose for their family  or friends in these disproportioned footwear; an uncountable number of such photographs can be found in personal collection all over the world as a reminder of a visit to the city of Amsterdam

Two KLM airway posters from the fifties combined (*) with a Google Earth view of Amsterdam and seven examples of cut-out, non montaged real street photographs of oversized Dutch wooden shoes (klompen) that can be found in all tourists areas of the town, outside the shops that sell tourist gadgets. Tourist like to pose standing in them for a picture – by their family or friends. An uncountable number of such photographs of people in disproportioned Dutch footwear must be around in personal collection all over the world as a reminder of a visit to the city of Amsterdam. It keeps me wondering, was it really fun? Did they have any association wearing these big clogs, like the word ‘sabot’ for wooden feetwear of workers in French, from which comes the word ‘sabotage’? The Dutch wooden shoes, ‘klompen’, have mostly disappeared from daily  life in the Low Countries, though some farmers and workers in the fields may still use them. The footwear was meant only for outside and would be left at the porch, so one was walking inside on ‘socks-feet’ (op kousenvoeten). ‘Klompen’ for the Dutch themselves associates strongly with no-fuss, sometimes even rough behavior, something fragile being trodden by a sabot. The most frequently used Dutch expression referring to ‘klompen’ is “dat kun je op je klompen aanvoelen” (you can sense that with your wooden-shoes on). Click picture for full size view of the collage.

Splendid weather yesterday,  a late September saturday afternoon, it made my friend and me decide to walk to the Lindengracht market at the other side of the town center. So, the Red Light district, the major shopping streets and one of  the soft-drug tourism arteries, the Haarlemmerstraat had to be crossed. These are areas which I always try to avoid when going by bicycle, but now we were on a social-geographic survey of these parts of town, which I had not seen for quite a while.The streets were bustling with tourists and their non-directional pace of walking: halting to study their maps without concern for the other pedestrians and cyclists – often in the middle of the road; whimsically crossing as if the streets were empty; framing their camera pictures while forgetting about the world outside their viewer – causing frequent near accidents; being absorbed in consuming their walk-about-lunch; trying to keep group cohesion despite the fragmented Amsterdam public sidewalks with their thresholds and anti-car parking poles. A mixed aroma of exhausting fumes, hashish and the smell of cheap pizza touches our nostrils as we manage to proceed slowly in the direction of our evening meal shopping market in the Jordaan neighborhood.

I montaged two modernistic tourist photographs in this illustration, found on Flickr made by what seems to be amn under the alias 'Urbandiscount' who has a talent for catching the scenery beyond the regular flat tourist pictures (*). Click Picture for full size view.

I montaged two modernistic tourist photographs in this illustration, photographs I found on Flickr, made by a man posting under the alias ‘Urbandiscount’; a photographer with a talent for catching the atmosphere, better than most regular flat tourist photographs (**). Click picture for full size view.

Two views in one of the yourist crowds in the Warmoesstraat

Amsterdam, Warmoesstraat, at two different moments montaged in one view, showing the regular tourist crowds. Click picture to study the text and images on the sign posts.

As this walk was meant a survey as well, I scan the street fronts of the houses and shops for apparent changes, and there were many. The main trend is not typical for the inner town of Amsterdam, but maybe more outspoken and dramatic than elsewhere. Most of the surviving shops that had some direct function for the life of the locals are gone: grocery and green grocers, the traditional coffee-burning and grinding shops, tobacconists, hardware shops, dry cleaning and the like, with one exception, the bakery shops, the last ones seem to survive all modern massification and monopolization and are thriving with new tourist customers. Venues like the open front walk in ‘coffeeshops’ are examples of replacements. Coffeeshops (the Dutch way of spelling it) whose business is in fact selling hashish and offering smoking facilities for those who claim to smoke it pure… (so the anti-smoke law for public spaces does not apply). Waves of  loud music pour from these establishments and there seem to be no more local residents left at the floors above who could rightfully protest against the reproduced sound levels. Shops specializing in ‘recreational drugs’ paraphernalia pop up with regular intervals along our trajectory, also tattoo and piercing studios, male and female lingerie boutiques  and sex cinemas. The condom shop is still there (called ‘Condomerie’) it exists already for twenty years in the Warmoesstraat, once started as a fun idea in  one of the groundfloor shops of the then squatted housing block ‘Blauwlakenblok’, developing into a regular business enterprise soon after. A bit further on, in the direction of the train station, many gay bars, hotels and ‘darkrooms’ (mainly male) have settled in the last two decades. A historical function one may say, as the Warmoeststraat has done the sexual catering for both the sailors and local inhabitants for centuries. What is different though – compared to the past – is the density of such facilities now, and the fact that homosexual services are openly promoted. House after house in the Warmoesstraat and surroundings have been taken over by a ‘troika’ of the recreational sex and drug industry combined with what we Dutch call ‘horeca’ (snackbars, restaurants, cafés). The ‘horeca’ is there mainly to supply the armies of ‘lurkers’ – those who are just watching – with an alibi to have a drink and snack, wander around and stare. Step by step this troika has pushed out services providing for the daily needs of local residents. I still remember the area as a mixture of cafés, restaurants, sex business, small workshops and family living. I have not seen statistics yet on the dwindling number of normal resident houses or apartments in the Red Light district and adjacent areas, but that it is strongly diminishing is something anyone “can feel with their wooden-shoes on.”

"The pink margin of dark Amsterdam,  rise of the homosexual bar-culture in Amsterdam 1930-1970" a publication from 1992 by Gert Hekma and his wide circle of informants. With a map showing the location of bars over 60 years.

“The pink margin of dark Amsterdam, rise of the homosexual bar-culture in Amsterdam 1930-1970” a 1992 publication by Gert Hekma (University of Amsterdam) and his wide circle of informants, with a map showing the location of bars over 60 years. Each dark triangle in the rosettes on the map represents a decade. At the left a facade drawing I found in the municipal archive of Warmoesstraat 20, where from 1955 to 1971 Hotel Tiemersma with its pre-darkroom facilities had its abode. I have slightly colored the facade drawing because it would otherwise hardly be visible. To be able to see the details you have to click the picture..

What was – only forty years ago – a very much needed sexual emancipation of suppressed gay people, has grown into an industry concentrating to such a level in certain areas of town, that other social and economical functions are marginalized by it, or cease to exist. In a very instructive little book “De roze rand van donker Amsterdam” (the pink margin of dark Amsterdam) delivered by Gert Hekma of the University of Amsterdam in 1992, one can read about the very slow rise of “a homosexual bar-culture” in the period 1930-1970 and the inventive ways of gay people  to congregate in times that homosexuality was a thing not even mentioned. It is only in the fifties that the worse forms of police prosecution are over and several membership clubs start to offer some sort of safe heaven for (mostly male) homosexuals to meet, like the drab DOK cellar at the Singel (in ‘gebouw Odeon’) seen – once forty years ago – as the biggest gay dancing in Europe. The Warmoesstraat and its surroundings do have over half a century of history  in supplying gay entertainment. A pioneering place was Hotel Tiemersma, once a tobacco shop at number 20 of the Warmoestraat, started by a sailor man Sako Jan Tiemersma. From the early fifties the hotel also had a tiny bar (without a permit at first) with a permissive barkeeper that allowed some forms of intimacy. The hotel rooms had no lock and the clientèle also behaved with little restrictions and a kind of ‘darkrooms’ avant-la-lettre existed there. The hotel was a meeting point for the early leather scene (‘leerwereld’ in Dutch, which is a funny word as it also means ‘world of learning’), a scene that heralded the shift from the feminine tot the macho-type of homosexual behavior. The Amsterdam homo community before WWII had its  division in active penetrating males (called ‘tules’) and passive receiving feminine males (called ‘nichten’). It was a community in which sexual partners from the twilight zone of heterosexuality also participated as ‘tules’. With the advent of the leather scene this attitude changed, as  Hekma puts it “The ‘homos’ now could fornicate each other and horniness, to be satisfied, needed the outside world much less.” [my free rendering of his sentence on page 73; tj.] Any nowadays sex tourist can find the new gay-meeting points by a quick search on the internet, zooming in at leisure to specialized areas like the Warmoesstraat and reads about: – Argos at number 95 “The oldest and possibly most famous leather bar in Amsterdam. Sexy, cruisey and heavy. S.O.S. (Sex on Sundays)”; – Dirty Dicks at number 86 “A late night leather bar. This place really lives up to it’s name”; – Stable Master at number 23 “Bar and Hotel famous for it’s jack off / wanking / masturbation parties in the downstairs bar held regularly.”

Indirect depiction of the dark room phenomenon a sling and smeared walls exposed by  a flash light from a camera.

Indirect depiction of the dark room phenomenon without real action: a sling and smeared walls exposed by a flash light from a camera. In the middle a reflection in a puddle of a Warmoestraat gay bar by a talented photographer I found on Flickr using the long alias name “AmsterS@m – The Wicked Reflectah’s photostream” (***)

When emancipation of homosexuals ends up in a commercialized segregation of leisure and pleasure with expanding specialized zones clustering around Amstel-Rembrandtplein-Utrechtsestraat-Reguliersdwarsstraat, Warmoestraat-Zeedijk, and Kerkstraat-Leidesplein,  I am tempted to ask what about “equality” as one of the important substances of my own idea of what emancipation is about? Why not have fun all together, beyond the tender and gender divide? Why this self-imposed social Apartheid? Also, what about the level of, say ‘homosexual’ emancipation and ‘tolerance’ of drugs in all the countries of origin of the hordes of sex and drugs tourists filling the Amsterdam inner town? Did they vote Berlusconi, Sarkozy, Merkel, Putin and thus can’t they smoke a joint at home or in a pub in peace? Is it the Pope, an imman, a rural evangelic fundamentalist that keeps them from doing or at least inquiring about unknown sensual territories at home? And … most important for us locals, is the blunt commercial exploitation through which the tourists are paraded in Amsterdam, – with some side-tripping to Anne Frank and Vincent van Gogh – something we should be proud of? Is that what we want to present to the world? Or is it this, what is most typical Dutch after all, only about making a good buck… on anybody using any opportunity?

Recent Indonesian history depiction of the arrival of Cornelis Houtman at Bantam in 1596

Recent Indonesian history depiction of the arrival of the brothers Cornelis and Frederik de Houtman at the Bantam (west coast of Java) in 1596, the picture does not show the firing of ship canons at the native settlements  as a result of animosity between the locals, the Portugese and the Dutch. The middle picture is a drawing of the pepper plant from the VOC archives, at the right Robert Jasper Grootveld (1977) while talking about the origin of Dutch drug-trade and the importance to keep everything ‘droog’ (dry),  the origin of the word ‘drugs’.

“DROOG, here in the Netherlands, is the most important word.” All the coffeeshop signs with cannabis leaves, in the streets we passed through – this saturday afternoon  September 2009-  made me think back at that sentence which starts a brilliant and humorous discourse by Amsterdam’s city shaman Robert Jasper Grootveld back in 1977.  Grootveld (1932 – 2009) spoke about Amsterdam’s historical role as a market for spices, dried plants and herbs – from far away places like the East Indies – in a documentary movie by filmmaker Louis van Gasteren: “Allemaal Rebellen” (all of them rebels) about Amsterdam radicals of the fifties and sixties. Droog in Dutch is ‘dry’ in English and most lexicographers point to the possible origin of the the word ‘drugs’ in English, ‘drogue’ in French, ‘droga’ in Italian, ‘Drogen’ in German and so on, from the Dutch word ‘droog’.  “Dry,  here in the Netherlands, is the most important word, a land that had to be drained from a swamp (…) that did send its sailors to the other part of the world – whereby half the crew did not make it back- which was a human offering! … why all that? What you could find there, was something extra, to give some spicy jolt to life: pepper, mace, nutmeg and other plantlike products … and there was only one way to get that from there to here, namely by keeping it: dry (droog).” In this lively interview Grootveld reminds us of the staple-market economy of Amsterdam in the 17th century and the importance within that constellation of – what he properly calls – the “drug-trade” (drugshandel). Grootveld is not an academic, his associations and actions do have a strong persistency nevertheless. The Dutch involvement in opium trade from 1613 up to 1942, during the 19th century even a monopoly of the state from the beginning of the 19th century onward, is something Grootveld certainly knew, but does not mention during this interview. In 1928 the law curtailing the use of  opium and other narcotic drugs is proclaimed in the Netherlands, though at the same time keeping the opium trade in the colonies of the Dutch East Indies outside of these regulations. Ewald Vanvugt has written an extensive book on this matter “Wettig Opium” (Lawful opium) in 1985, no translations exists in English, but there is a short interesting online English reference by Dirk Teeuwen (2007), about Dutch state opium trade.

Natives smoking opium in Batavia (Djakarta) 1925 and a view of the Jl. Salemba opium factory in Batavia, 1925 with machines for mechanical filling of tubes with opium.

Natives smoking opium in Batavia (Djakarta) 1925 and a view of the Dutch Jl. Salemba opium factory in Batavia, 1925 with machines for mechanical filling of tubes with opium. The opium production and trade was a Dutch state monopoly starting in 1827 in the East Indies and lasting till 1942.

Back from sidestepping and continuing our trip.. As we walked the streets and struggled through the tourist crowd, I had a short fantasy of my own, being a telepathic guide, able to impress my views of the town and its history on each of the leisurely wandering tourists that catched my eye:

“What you see is the product of Double Dutch standards, moral sermons at home, covering up far away exploitive practices. Like our prime-minister Jan Peter Balkenende who does not get tired to preach about the Golden Age and the ‘spirit of enterprise’ of the Dutch East Indian Company (VOC) which we should try to regain today, forgetting to mention the black pages of history of the trading and maltreatment of black slaves, let alone the life of the 17th century poor in the Low Countrries. The historical ‘freedom of trade’, which found once in the city of Amsterdam one of its important bases,  was nothing more than the freedoms one can allow oneself when making bad deals – for the natives – backed up by warships with canons. Half the number of poor souls that were crimped into VOC service as sailors died on their voyage to the east. Recruitment officers would round up bums in taverns and on the street, even imprison them, till the moment their ship sailed away. The Dutch that nowadays like to praise themselves for their development aid to poor countries, still fail to recognize that they were fighting colonial wars up to 1961, officially called – to this very day – pacifying ‘police actions’ (“politionele acties” in Indonesia 1945 – 1949 against the Indonesian War of Independence)… “

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende opening the exhibition "Power and Glory" shipping in the Golden Age, in March 2008 in the Maritime Museum of Rotterdam

At the left a (not montaged) photograph of  Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende opening the exhibition “Power and Glory: shipping in the Golden Age”,  March 2008 in the Maritime Museum of Rotterdam; overlayed at the right with an allegoric painting commemorating a century (1602 – 1702) of VOC (United East Indies Company) business in Amsterdam  by the painter Nicolaas Verkolje (who made  in the same period a painting depicting Ovidius’s “The theft of Europe”, the ‘theft of Asia’ was a theme far beyond the imagination of any European artist of that time). The painting is part of the Rijksmuseum collection. Click picture for a full size view. Note at the right hand side of the painting two cherubs with a cornucopia from which spices pour: cinnamon and nutmeg, the last is even a tiny bit hallucinatory when used in big quantities.

As it is just a fantasy, I do not get out of breath and my audience does not walk away from the historical hootch their guide is offering,  I even manage – for myself – to make a desperate link between things of the past and the present, between the historical void in the brains of the oversized tourist crowds and my own agitated feelings of having lost something, the town I knew, the town I liked… and I explain to my imaginary audience once more, before taking a side street out of the Red Light district:

“The 17th century Dutch trade mentality still lingers on in the veins of the city,  sips through the pavement,  leaks into the cellars, pollutes the drinking water, but its object has changed. It is is not any more wealth gathered in faraway countries brought back to the Netherlands, instead, there is a progressively developing reversal: tourists flying en masse to Amsterdam and trading the city  away. The wooden shoes, once the trademark of this country, its firmness, its endurance in the fight  against wind, rain and sea, have grown to an absurd size and – as in a fairy tale – they fit only the tourists, who have great fun banging around in them, not on purpose, just unconscious of the fragility of the city’s civil structures they encounter.”

Crossing the main streets to the Central Station, The Damrak and Nieuwe Zijds Voorburgwal, brings us out of the Red Light district and the number of sex facilities decreases, though the occurrence of coffeeshops only diminishes when we reach the more classy areas of what is called ‘de grachtengordel’ (the girdle of canals). This has a historical reason as the old city ordinances prohibited the construction of alleys and houses of the poor in this area. Also here something has fundamentally changed lately: terraces have sprang up at the most odd and unhandy places, leaving even less space to walk as in the traditional sidewalk layout of this part of town. Where from the fifties onward cars had invaded the inner city and lined all the canals to supply the needed parking space, a new and more profitable development can be noticed: tiny terraces scattered on the sidewalks, along the waterfront and at the sides of bridges. As it was a very warm and sunny September afternoon, all terraces were filled to the brink and so the glasses of the customers, making what was once a quiet zone into yet another bustling boulevard, a scenery even further enlivened by a parade of private pleasure boats in the canals with their ostensibly wealthy and joyful drinking passengers and the traditional big tourist boats maneuvering in between them…

Canal side frenzy with neo-colonial rickshaw services, rentable canalbikes and terraces filling each empty corner.

It can not be helped, describing the scenery of  the overcrowded inner town of Amsterdam, ends up in a discouraging and irritating litany  …  we did arrive in the end at the Lindengracht market and that was not a happy ending. I could have known it, the gentrification of the Jordaan neighborhood have downgraded the variety of foodstuff and upgraded the prices. It did not compete in any way with our regular trip to the Albert Cuyp Market in the 19th century neighborhood of  De Pijp. “It looks like a market, but it is only a visual suggestion of it” was my friend’s comment.

On our way back – this time evading the Red Light district – I pondered over the question whether there is any limit to which extend a town can be consumed? What it is that needs to be done to alert people about the negative effects of oversized tourism. A comparative study of mass tourism might be an idea. Paris, Rome and London certainly are not a model because they are much bigger in size and city layout than Amsterdam.  Venezia, Firenze  are smaller but have a much more cultural oriented clientèle. The Amsterdam city authorities are far from even envisaging such a studious exercise, they may try and shift away the focus from sex and drugs to culture (there are many reports about that), but whatever their fancy, growth of the number of tourists is their uncontested prime policy. Debating tourist policy is anyhow a very unpopular subject with many of my fellow citizens. There are those who do not care because they do not live in the city center or are fortunate enough to find themselves in some of the non-tourists corners. Next comes the economic argument, that it brings a lot of necessary income for the town.  As I do not sell beer or drugs and do not own a hotel or restaurant I can see very little direct profit coming my way and indirectly I only notice the rising of municipal taxes over the years as I am supposed to live on what is called a  A-locations and taxes are determined by real-estate market value. Nobody has seen it fit yet to study the nuisance of the tourist and party-industry in the inner town and translated that in a tax reduction equal to the level of suffering inflicted on the inhabitants. Is it unacceptable egoism that makes me wish to exclude all those suburbia prisoners that are craving for a real city experience and buy a temporal escape ticket to Amsterdam?

"Hands of my town" (blijf van mijn stad af) somewhere near the Jordaan on our walk I saw a poster with this text

“Hands of my town” (blijf van mijn stad af) somewhere near the Jordaan during our walk I saw a poster with this slogan and I thought at first “Ah! these are people which are fed up also with the down side of the leisure industry.” WRONG! At home I searched for their web site and soon discovered that this is a local pressure group that wants less limitations on terraces, red light district, and other rules regulating inner city life. They are the organizers of a recent ‘drink inn’ to protest against a new local rule that forbids people on terraces to gather and drink while standing (an odd rule that has some rationale in exceptional cases where a whole street will be filled with a drinking crowd). They plan to hold a city referendum turning back all kind of regulations they see as limiting their freedom. Little can be read in their manifesto about neighbors who need some sort of rest, some sort of subdued city silence and one wonders where all the signatories of their petition are living. Certainly not straight above a popular terrace frequented by a “freedom loving” crowd, is my guess. When you read Dutch you may enjoy their argumentation that sounds similar to the good old VOC time rethoric of our prime-minister: “Amsterdam, once the center of the world. Where Rembrandt harvested his fame, Michiel de Ruyter (a Dutch admiral) began his voyages, the great philosophers Descartes and Spinoza wrote their most important works…” Well let me stop here, enough nonsense as De Ruyter was mainly fighting wars and was not a discoverer, which is suggested, Descartes was traveling a lot and only spent two years in Amsterdam, and Spinoza had to flee Amsterdam after conflict with religious and city authorities, doing his writing in Rijnsburg, Voorburg and The Hague. What to think about the concluding paragraph on the city of Amsterdam: “A fantastic place where especially freedom of the way of life and enterprise is signed on its banner for centuries” (Een fantastische plek waar juist vrijheid in leven en ondernemen al eeuwen lang hoog in het vaandel staat). The relativity of the notion of freedom must have escaped this bunch of happy hour drinkers, who direct most of their person oriented anger at the head of the inner city council. Click the picture to have a look at their web site.

Is there some hope in recent developments of  Dutch cities next to the Belgian border, that have closed all coffeeshops and organized even a kind of razzias against cross-border drug tourism? No, in spite of all my observations and negative appreciation of the Amsterdam drug tourist scene, I dislike this abrupt and oppressive option. Like the homosexual emancipation there has also been an emancipation of the drug user, from a persecuted criminal to a tolerated recreational consumer. The liberating mind expanding aspects of soft drugs as formulated by idealists of the sixties may have long faded away and turned into hard core business, but the basic assumptions remains valid: to be master of one’s own mind and body and decide by one’s own reasoning instead of external coercion.

There are many options and levels of steering, controlling, and arguing which could bring the transborder soft drug users and the international leisure industry back to acceptable proportions and some sort of balance with the social environment they share with others. When only those who are profiting have a say, when authorities are deaf for the complaints of their citizens and turn a blind eye on the degrading effects of mass tourism, one has to wait for the occurence of some sort of tragic incident before the extravaganza of oversized tourism, of Klompenmania, will be countered.


Maybe we should replicate Amsterdam a few times and post it on each continent in the appropriate theme park. A pioneering exercise has already be done in Japan, Nagasaki with the Dutch Theme Park Huis ten Bosch, which has its canals, cosy European alleys and a detailed replica of the Central Station in Amsterdam (this by the way is the second time that this building has been replicated in Japan, Tokyo Central Station

Maybe we should replicate Amsterdam a few times and post it on each continent in an appropriate theme park. A pioneering exercise has already be done in Japan, Nagasaki with the Dutch Theme Park Huis ten Bosch, which has its canals, cosy European alleys and a detailed replica of the Central Station in Amsterdam (*****)

Maybe it is time for the ’emancipation’ of  city dwellers, recognizing their  “equal rights” on the use of the city, not treating them anymore as Disney actors in their own town, appreciating them for their living knowledge of their house, their street, their neighborhood, their city. The first step toward a city dwellers emancipation is the recognition that injustice has been done, that it is time for measuring tourism, to fit it to the existing scale of a city and not the other way around.


The association in the article with Robert Jasper Grootveld and his discourse on ‘droog’ and ‘drugs’ may seem somehow beside the point  for those who have not witnessed the rise of  the recreational drug tourism in Amsterdam from the early sixties onward. So I feel a need to explain why it is essential for me. Grootveld has played an important dual role in the history of Amsterdam as a soft drug tourist center, both as one of the first street campaigner against the smoking of tobacco and the dangers of cancer, and as a propagator of the smoking of marihuana, instead. Tobacco was for him not only a health danger, but also an example of of consumer manipulation. He aimed his playful actions at first against the big tobacco industries and their psychological tricks – their “hidden persuaders” – that lured people into satisfying needs constructed by the advertisement industry. His utmost primitive duplicated magazine “De Hippe Zweter” was pointing to the book “Hidden persuaders” By Vance Packard (1957). His actions – an odd mix of dadaism and ‘urban shamanism’ – were aimed at “the liberation of the addicted consumer of tomorrow.”  Grootveld’s actions fell in fertile ground. The Amsterdam scene of the sixties was a constant turmoil in which dissidents from the artistic, political and esoteric realms mixed. The people involved came from different backgrounds but still had something strongly in common: egalitarian and communal principles. This  has laid the basis for all kinds of social movements that – over the years – freed Dutch society from its authoritarian straightjacket.  It is unfortunate  that by now this heritage  has been spoiled and the  former liberating principles only remain as an “imago”. Grootveld’s vision of  1962, a “Magic Amsterdam” as a center of the “Western asphalt jungle”, was already taken over by KLM and the Dutch Tourist Agency (VVV) in the mid sixties and started the influx of beatniks and hippies and  other ‘sleeping-bag-tourists’. Only an echo of it rings in the 21st century advertisement agency slogan “I Am Amsterdam” commissioned by the municipality, a faked tourist industry imago that is eagerly consumed by a new generation of  ‘addicted city hopping  consumers’.


This photograph by Cor Jaring (****) is from 1971 and shows the boat ‘De Witte Raaf’ (the White Raven) moored straight opposite the local Amsterdam police station of Kattenburg, selling marihuana plants, for one guilder each. We see Kees Hoekert at the left and on the right (with a spade and ‘klompen’) Robert Jasper Grootveld. It is a playful subversive enterprise under the name “Lowland Weed Company.” At that time someone had studied the Dutch anti-opium law and had discovered that it banned only explicitly the dried leaves of this plant. Growing plants were not subject to this law and it is through this loophole in the jurisdiction that the wide  use of  this soft-drug and the soft drug tolerance policy of Dutch authorities came into existence. Grootveld who had been active as an anti-smoke-magician fighting the big Tobacco industry in his own unique ways (because of cancer danger of regular cigarets) had been using and propagating marihuana (instead) from early on. It is at the end of the sixties and the very beginning of the seventies, with the influx of hippies and other young people traveling around cheaply by hitchhiking, that a new form of tourism started to develop in Amsterdam. At first the young people often slept outdoors on the steps of the National Monument at the Dam Square and in the Vondelpark. Outdoor sleeping was soon regulated by limiting the permitted areas and providing cheap accommodation called ‘sleep-inns’, a kind of hip youth hostels, that often provide some cultural program at the side. Youth clubs came into existence, some of them squatted at first but soon legalized, others initiated by the city government who tried to get the youngsters of the street by offering them music and dancing halls. Local cannabis production (nederwiet) was sold in small quantities in these venues. The whole multi-million  recreational drug industry originates in this chain of sub-cultural events.

Almost four decades lay between the “Lowland Weed Comapny” of Kees Hoekert, Robert Jasper Grootveld and others, run from a crummy houseboat, a little bit offside the town center,  and new cannabis businessmen like Arjan Roskam and Olaf van Tulder. The businessmen own  a chain of  enterprises with different outlets: coffeeshops, a clothing and accessory line and luxurious rental apartments in the town center (several coffeeshop owners have started to diversify their businesses, in case the tolerance policy will change). There is a Youtube movie of the opening ceremony of their sumptuous coffeeshop at the Haarlemmerstraat (opposite the historical building of the Dutch West Indian Company). First speaker is August  de Loor, a former street-corner worker helping hard-drug-addicts for decades, now presented in the movie as a “Drugsexpert”, his speech is about the legal front door for the customers, the half legal shady back door where the drugs come in and the threat of a possible change in the liberal soft drug policy of the government. The proud owners explain the decorations in the different rooms of their new establishment, including their own depiction in Delft Blue tiles, dressed up  as “King of Cannabis” and “Lieutenant Admiral of  Greenhouse.”

In january this year a new coffeeshop (from the Greenhouse chain) has opened in the Haarlemmerstraat, where the owners have chosen to display themselves on the walls in colonial settings in newly made ’Delft Blue’ tile tableaus. The shop owners and managers can be seen on deck of a 17th century sailing ships. A banner text is partly visible and seems to read: “…those who have the history … will shape … the future.” In a Youtube video owner Arjan Gorter speaks about “the inspirational history of Amsterdam in the Golden Age” which has been brought back in the interior. It is as if I hear Prime Minister Balkenende speak similar words, about a national past that never existed.


(*) The two KLM posters that have been fused in the left hand part of the Klompenmania collage can be found on the web site of  the “Urban Nebula” study group. The site has some flash animation installed which does not allow me to make a precise link, you have to search the checkerboard of poster details to find your way.
(**) Warmoesstraat pictures by “urbandiscount” posted on
(***) “Some guys and a Sexshop on the Warmoesstraat, reflected in a puddle in Amsterdam”, artistic photographs of Amsterdam reflexions in rain puddles  by “AmsterS@m – The Wicked Reflectah’s photostream” posted on
Web site of photographer of Cor Jaring, a must for anyone interested in Amsterdam history  as seen form the margin.
(*****) The
website of Huis ten Bosch Nagasaki can be found here.
This by the way is the second time that this building (Amsterdam central Station) has been replicated in Japan, Tokyo Central Station, dating from 1914 is somewhat freely modeled by the Japanese architect Tatsuno Kingo after the creation of P.J.H. Cuypers from 1889, though ther are archiecture historians who deny it; I personally know both station well and must say that I was struck by their ananlogies from the first moment I entered the Tokyo version.

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De ondertitel van deze post is een letterlijk citaat (0:40 – 0:50 min.) van een door “Karim1001” op op Youtube geplaatst telefoon-video-filmpje van het  Veronica strandfeest bij Hoek van Holland op 23 augustus 2009. Het werd gezegd tijdens het schietincident waarbij meerdere gewonden en een dodelijk slachtoffer viel. Er is weinig te zien maar destemeer te horen op deze video, de herhaalde schoten en de telefoonfilmer die zijn vriend sommeert om te gaan liggen en de reactie van zijn vriend “het kan geen echte zijn dat is onmogelijk …” en het antwoord van de filmer “geloof mij op mijn moeder dat is echt….”  (2:20 – 2:30 min).

Two screenshots from mobile phone videos uploaded to the Internet that document a mass beech party in Hoek van Holland, The Netherlands on August 23. 2009, during a riot whereby the police at that spot felt so threatened that they fired their arms which left a few wounded and one man dead. If the alleged Rotterdam hooligans

Two screenshots merged into one picture from mobile phone videos uploaded to the Internet that document a mass free beech party with DJs in Hoek van Holland, The Netherlands on August 23. 2009. Video taken during a riot at the end of the party, whereby the police felt so threatened by a crowd that they fired their arms which left a few wounded and one man dead. If the alleged 'Rotterdam Hooligans' have also used firearms has not been established, though it was suggested at first. See footnote (*) for the video sources. Click image for a full size view.

“Bezoekers van strandfeest onder invloed van drank en drugs” lees ik in de meeste berichtgeving over wat nu een verdwaalde kogel van de politie heet te zijn, die een omstander dodelijk trof tijdens het door omroeporganisatie Veronica georganiseerde vrije toegankelijke Sunset Groove festival  in Hoek van Holland (vlakbij Rotterdam). In sommige berichten lijkt het wel of enkel de daar gesignaleerde ‘Rotterdam Hooligans’ onder invloed van drank en drugs verkeerden. Ook lees je in veel berichten over deze affaire iets over het ontstaan van een “grimmige sfeer.” Deze laatse combinatie van de woorden ‘grimmig’ en ‘sfeer’ gekoppeld met de woorden dance en party levert 56 Google hits en als ik dit resultaat van een internet-zoektochtje vernauw met de naam van de plek Hoek van Holland blijft er een twintigtal hits over. Er moet iets structueels aan de hand zijn met zulke feesten en het woord “grimmig”.
Enlarged screenshot at 2 minutes and 12 seconds of the Youtube mobile telephone movie on Youtube posted by Karim1001. I have lightened up the picture information in Photoshop with the 'curve tool'  because otherwise one sees only a dark screen with some moving lights. The conversation just before, during, and just after this moment goes as follows: "kanker, kanker hee... [pif paf poef paf ik hoorde gewoon die kogel daar afketsen [poef paf poef pif hee ga liggen Matti ga liggen  vriend..." (cancer, cancer hey [bang bang] I just heard that bullet rebounding [beng bang] hey go dug down Matti, go and lay down). When one more listens than looks at this 2 minute movie and counts the rounds of shooting the level of police panic can be well understood. The fact that one of the boys in this movie shouts after just hearing a bullet rebounding indicates that the gun shots were not just warning shots into the air. Click picture for a full size view.

Enlarged screenshot at 2 minutes and 12 seconds of the Youtube mobile telephone movie  posted by Karim1001. I have lightened up the picture information in Photoshop with the ‘curve tool’  because otherwise one sees only a dark screen with some moving lights. The conversation just before, during, and just after this moment goes as follows: “kanker, kanker hee… [pif paf poef]  ik hoorde gewoon die kogel daar afketsen [poef paf poef pif] hee ga liggen Matti ga liggen  vriend…” (cancer, cancer hey [bang bang] I just heard that bullet rebounding [beng bang] hey go and dodge Matti, go and lay down). When one listens more, than looks at this 2 minute movie, and counts the rounds of shots, the level of police panic can be well understood. The fact that one of the boys in this movie shouts after just hearing a bullet rebounding, indicates that the gun shots were not just warning shots into the air. Click picture for a full size view.

Ik beken direct niet alle berichten in alle kranten over het doodschieten door de plaatselijke politie van een danser op een strandfeest  te hebben gelezen, maar in de berichten die ik wel heb kunnen bestuderen vind ik vrijwel nergens – buiten de beschuldigende vingers wijzend naar niet bij name genoemde hooligans – iets over hoe het nu kwam dat de sfeer van dit feestje grimmig werd. Ik neem dan aan dat het gratis strandpartijtje niet grimmig begonnen is, maar dat het naar verloop van tijd pas dat karakter kreeg. Kan de opzet, schaal, inrichting, vormgeving en het geluidsniveau mede van invloed geweest zijn op de veranderende sfeer op dat strand?  Is er iemand die een geluidsmeting gemaakt heeft van het festijn? Zijn er – op zijn minst aan de landkant van het strand – omwonenden die iets kunnen zeggen over het geluidsniveau geproduceerd vanaf de podia van dit feest, zoals waar te nemen op zo en zoveel afstand (ik neem aan meerdere kilometers), of blijft het een onbeantwoorde vraag aan de meeuwen?

Is het mogelijk dat er enig verband bestaat tussen het geproduceerde, waarschijnlijk continue, geluidsniveau van dit massafeest, de invallende duisternis en daarbij op te tellen gebruik van ‘zinnenbeinvloedende middelen’ die allen tezamen de grondvesten hebben gelegd voor wat dan later een “grimmige sfeer” genoemd gaat worden? Luide muziek – hoezeer ik die zelf ook mag haten – hoeft op zich niet aggressief te zijn. Als ik als vader van een dochter van 16 naar de televisiebeelden van Lowlands 2009 popfestival kijk zie ik enkel blijde gezichten (alhoewel ik natuurlijk het geluidsniveau van het festival door middel van mijn afstandsbediening ver beneden het originele volume van Lowlands gebracht heb). Het volume van de huidige versterkers-installaties en bijbehorende vibrerende kunststoffen conussen is hoger dan ooit tevoren en kan met gemak de pijngrens overschrijden en zelfs schade aan ons gehoor toebrengen. Wie deelneemt aan, of foto’s bekijkt van, massale dance parties in Rotterdam of Berlijn ,ziet in toenemende mate mensen met oorbeschermers, of ouders met peuters op de schouders met grote geluidsdempers over kleine gezichtjes. Zo ook DJs die hun eigen oren beschermen, terwijl zij hun publiek aan de fysieke gevaren van overmatig luide muziek blootstellen. Voor het publiek is het een vrijwillige keuze, voor omwonenden niet, vandaar dat het Veronica festival wellicht op een min of meer afgelegen stuk strand gehouden werd.

Three images of the Dance Parade Rotterdam  2009 where publicity drives the show and just young ears are protected.

Three images of the Dance Parade Rotterdam 2009 where publicity drives the show and just young ears are protected. Click image for full size view.

Hard geluid kan in extreme omstandigheden als martelwerktuig gebruikt worden, even verschrikkelijk als het herhaald onderdompelen van iemands hoofd in een watervat. Tromgeroffel en snerpende doedelzakken begeleiden de infanterist die zich in het krijgsgewoel gaat storten. Opgefokte discogangers, die uit hun lawaaihallen de stad in stromen, zijn sinds jaar en dag een gevreesd fenomeen. In de tijden dat bij mij over de  brug nog de IT gevestigd was in de Amsterdamse Amstelstraat, in kennerskringen geroemd om het aldaar geproduceerde geluidsvolume – doordringend tot in buik en darmen – werd de vroege-ochtend-stilte op de weekeinden steeds rauw verstoord door de opgeladen agressie van de pleziergangers die, de in hun binnenste opgewonden energie, op de één of andere wijze een uitweg moesten geven. Verkeersborden, lantarenpalen, reclamezuilen en tram-abris boden daartoe een goede uitweg. Ik zegen nog de dag dat een gemeentelijke maatregel voor de Amsterdamse binnenstad bedacht werd die bepaalde dat voorafgaande aan het sluitingsuur de muziek stapsgewijs tot een lager niveau teruggebracht moest worden, waarbij ook nog de aanbeveling gedaan werd om de alcoholverzadigde magen van de nachtbrakers met een gratis broodje wat meer tot rust te brengen. Dat leverde een waarneembare verbetering van het leefklimaat voor de omwonenden op. Het is niet dat ik hier tegen duivelse opzwepende muziekpraktijken ten strijde wil trekken, maar een zeker psychologisch effect van constant aanwezige en zeer zeer luide muziek kan niet ontkend worden en dient bij de nu komende analyze van wat er op het strand van Hoek van Holland gebeurd is, meegenomen te worden.

Dat psychologisch effect hoeft niet altijd het opwekken van agressie te zijn, maar laten wij eerlijk zijn, het is het dikwijls wel. Zo zijn de rijdende disco’s, die een ieder zich in dit land straffeloos kan aanmeten, vaak medebepalend voor een agressief verlopend verkeersincident. De gemeeente Rotterdam op zich heeft dan nog een bestuurspraktijk waar amusement en lawaai onverbrekelijk met elkaar verbonden lijken te zijn. Formule 1 raceauto’s die door de stad scheuren, stuntvliegtuigen over de Maas en verschillende urenlange optochten met vrachtauto’s en bussen beladen met uitzinnige versterker-apparatuur elkaar in geluidssterkte overtreffend. Een oorverdovend cultuurbeleid daar in de Maasstad als een historische hunkering wellicht naar het gehamer op stalen scheepswanden pal naast arbeiderswijken, scheepsfluiten, stoommachines en bolderwagens die deze stad ooit kenmerkten (en – by the way – niet doordrongen tot de rustige villawijken van fabrieksdirecteuren, havenbaronnen en aanverwanten).

Bavaria beer sponsored City Race with Formule I cars and Red Bull Air Race in Loud & proud Rotterdam. Click picture for full size view.

Bavaria beer sponsored City Race with Formule I racing cars and Red Bull Air Race commercial mass culture in the loud & proud city of Rotterdam. Click picture for full size view.

Hoe ging het met dat opstootje op het strand dat pas op het eind van de avond ontstaan lijkt te zijn? Verzocht de politie de organisatoren, of deden ze het uit zichzelf, om het geluid uit te zetten, toen het uit de hand dreigde te lopen? (Vaak een probaat middel in een café als de speakerknop aan de bar resoluut omgedraaid wordt: “laatste ronde!” .. werkt altijd uiterst kalmerende op de door harde muziek opgezweepte stamgasten). Nadat ik verschillende met de mobiele telefoon gemaakte filmpjes van het Veronica strandfeest die op Youtube en andere populaire video-sites door bezoekers geplaatst zijn, herhaaldelijk bekeken heb, merk ik dat op bepaalde delen van het strandterrein de muziek (en de daarbij behorende lichtshow) gewoon doorgingen. De standaard stroboscopische lichteffecten hebben wellicht ook gemaakt dat delen van het terrein in het duister werden gehouden om het effect van deze lichtflitsen en de projecties of feloplichtende schermen met LCD lampen beter tot hun recht te laten komen. Op zich een gebruikelijk tafreel bij zulke festivals, maar de publiekssamenstelling op het strand van Hoek van Holland is waarschijnlijk door de gratis toegang hetrogener geweest dan bij gelijkogende manifestaties waarbij juist door de gezamenlijkheid van de interesse voor een bepaalde muziek of dansstijl een positieve onderlinge band van het publiek kan ontstaan. Bij zo’n gratis feest en een bezoekersaantal van meerdere tienduizenden die waarschijnlijk niet allen gericht voor  het geboden programma gekomen zijn, komt zo’n saamhorigheidsgevoel minder makkelijk of misschien helemaal niet tot stand. Het lijkt mij belangrijk om ook het programma van die avond – dat als ik de aankonding lees en de fimpjes bekijk merendeels uit DJpresentaties bestaat, in het aangekondigde onderzoek te betrekken. Het persoonlijke karakter van afzonderlijke bands die vlak naar elkaar optreden lijkt mij een andere sfeer onder het publiek te geven dan de eenzame figuur van een door lichtflitsen omgeven DJ achter zijn regietafel. Een kort onderzoek naar on-line geplaatste telefoonvideo filmpjes van die avond leert al dat er vele tientallen registraties van om en nabij hetzelfde moment te vinden zijn die allemaal door de duisternis, lichtflitsen en het geringe aantal pixels dat die cameras kunnen vangen behoorlijk vaag zijn. Wel valt op dat er  niet echt sprake is van een focus op een enkel optreden op een podium, maar meer van losse rondlopende groepjes mensen waarvan velen niet geboeid lijken te zijn door het geboden programma. Hoe te omschrijven wat er  op die video’s te zien is? Het lijkt mij een mengsel van lol en weggeduwde verveling. In elk geval  heb ik moeite dat wat in een van de vele enthousiaste vooraankondigingen op het internet te lezen staat over het “Sunset Groove Veronica Strandfeest” in die videobeelden te herkennen.

Aan het einde van een zinderde zomerdag maakt het geruis van de branding plaats voor groovy sounds en de lekkerste beats. Vanaf een indrukwekkend podium torenen vele nummer 1 club DJ’s hoog boven het strand uit. Zij laten iedereen, met hun beste sets, ook dit jaar weer compleet uit hun dak gaan! En vanzelfsprekend zijn alle sets weer gegoten in een zeer spectaculaire show!

Toch is het domweg verbieden van massale dance parties  teveel een schrikreactie, gespeend van enige behoefte om het karakter van zulk soort feesten  te leren begrijpen. Zoiets kan enkel door alle aspecten te onderzoeken. Symptoombestrijding door eenzijdig zondebokken aanwijzen is al te gemakkelijk. Oorlogsverklaringen en banvloeken vanaf de gemeentekansel, zoals door de Rotterdamse burgermeeester, zijn niet meer dan bezweringen van een volgende mogelijke verkiezingsnederlaag van zijn partij.

The new mayor of Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb and his challenge to go beyond scapegoating as he declared war on a group labeled as 'hooligans' which makes one think back half a century when the Ducth 'nozems' (teddy boys) were branded as enemies of city authorities.

The new mayor of Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb and his challenge to go beyond scapegoating as he - declared war on a group he labeled 'hooligans', after the shooting incident of Hoek van Holland. An official inquiry is under way but as usual public authorities know already where to put the blame. This makes one think back half a century when the Ducth 'nozems' (teddy boys) were group branded as well and were declared enemies of the state by all city authorities. Blaming individuals as a group tends to strengthen their collective identity. Abusive words against group identities are often taken as honoures titles, from the Dutch 'provo' movement of the sixties to the international 'punk' movement of the late seventies and beyond; or back in Dutch history with the abusive French name used for the Dutch insurrectionists at the court of the ruler of the low countries "gueuses" (beggars) that was taken as a name of honnor and survives till today in the Dutch language as Geuzen. This does not imply that the alleged today Rotterdam Hooligans can be equalled in any way with the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule, my intention is only to point to the dangers of hasty and over-simplified scapegoating. For an impression of what the Rotterdam Hooligan football supporters group stands for see footnote (**). Click the picture to see a full size view.

Een latere cultuurhistorische terugblik zal verbanden weten te leggen tussen het de schuldgeven aan de nozem van de 20e en de hooligan van de 21e eeuw en zal ook de positie en gezichtpunten van stadsbetuurder, politieman, feestuitbater en feestganger  in het geding en in onderling verband weten te brengen. In het prille begin van de popfestivals in Nederland liep het op kleinere schaal ook wel eens uit de hand van de boerenveilinghal in Blokker, de veehallen in den Bosch tot de Jaarbeurshallen in Utrecht. In die laatse stad verordoneerde nu veertig jaar geleden de burgermeester dat bossen politiemannen verdekt achter de podia opgesteld moesten worden om op elk moment te kunnen ingrijpen (iets wat naderhand volstrek onnodig bleek te zijn). Elders in het land was het gebruikelijk dat een zaalbeheerder op het nog vroege avonduur die ene stekker van die ene geluidsinstallatie uit het stopcontact trok waarna enkel de drummer nog in staat was om zijn spel voort te zetten en het publiek binnen de kortst mogelijke keren mokkend afdroop. De stelselmatige schaalvergroting van pop-evenementen in de afgelopen decennia en de commercieële belangen die daarmee gemoeid zijn en de invloed die dat heeft op wat er aan programma geboden wordt, dienen ter sprake gebracht te worden als het gaat om hoe het anders zou kunnen. Verbieden is een slecht idee. Bezinning op doel en middelen van zulke feesten is onoverkomenlijk. Niet de beheersing van oncontroleerbare massa’s als een politievraagstuk moet op de agenda van bestuurders, organisatoren, publiek en wie er maar meer zich mee wil bemoeien, geplaatst worden, maar een nieuw vormgeven van een ander mengsel van cultuur en vermaak, dat de nu alles overheersende geluidsbarrière van de vermaaksindustrie met haar consumptiedwang en massificatie zal weten te doorbreken.

Hooligans zijn een product van de vermaaksindustrie en in het veranderen van de culturele waarden van die industrietak zal de oplossing van het hooligan probleem gezocht moeten worden, om het even of  het nu om een voetbalstadion of een strandfeest bij Hoek van Holland gaat.

Hooligans are a product of the the entertainment industry and to solve the hooligan problem the cultural value system of this branch of our economy needs to be changed, irrespective whether it is about a football stadium or a beach party at Hoek van Holland.
Video posted by Karim1001 op Youtube met het volgende bijschrift: “Politie schiet tijdens een strandfeest op hoek van holland in het wilde weg op omstanders je hoord de kogels om je oren vliegen.” (police shoots at random at bystanders during beach party at Hoek van Holland, je heard the bullets flying by).

(*) Video posted by Dinnemeester op DINN/Dit is Nou Nederland.nl onder de titel: Op Sunset Groove Veronica. Filmpje begin schietpartij met 4 agenten.”

(**) Video posted on Dailymotion.com “Welcome to Rotterdam Hooligans” which give some insight in their activities; one sees mainly confrontations between rival football supporters groups and intervening riot police and the last ones becoming a target as well. The candid camera (videophone) shots are montaged on a continuous music track which may be compared to the DJ type music performed at the Veronica beach party. A fast pulsing beat with a transformed voice-over with the text “the dynamo of the universe is war”. This seems to be an early hard core cult song (other sources name it hard style gabber music) by a group/artist under the name Knightvision… That sentence in relation to the Rotterdam Hooligans puzzles me a bit, so I did yet another search on some discreet parts of that sentence and what may be a connection is an American evangelist Wilbert L. McLeod (1918-) of a Baptist church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan who is said to have had a vision in 1971 whereby he was connected to the “dynamo of the universe” (see Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism page 439); the term “dynamo of the universe” is apparently also used in astronomy as a metaphor for the sun. I see this motto also appear in some forums of game players. I will not further dwell here on the aesthetics and possible inter-textuality of the Rotterdam Hooligans (but one may not exclude such groups of having their own set of historical references), it could simply be just the favorite song of the maker of this video. Someone with a claim to know it better, is invited to denounce or correct my academic bullshit, right here, on the spot.

Epilogue  ————————–

Almost half a million people have watched this video posted by Karim1001 on Youtube and almost 2000 reactions have been written by the people who have seen it.

Almost half a million people have watched this video posted by Karim1001 on Youtube and almost 2000 reactions have been written by the people who have seen it. We are entering a new area of public scrutiny, police inquiry and instant sociology, with this available for all document and several other comparable recordings from different points of view, both in the sense of space and mentality and life comments of their makers. What will be the effect of this transparency whereby mass-media potential lays in the hands of any one with an up-to-date mobile phone and access to the internet. Almost two decades ago there was the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles, where police brutality had been captured by a personal video camcorder and became evidence in the court case. As this footage had been distributed publicly on local television networks, many people had been able to see with their own eyes what bad things had happened to Rodney King. When later an implicated police officer was acquited by the court a mass revolt broke out. This event became an inspirational source for an international media activist conference held in 1993 in Amsterdam with the name Next 5 Minutes International Festival of Tactical Media. I did get involved in the archiving of the mass of conference materials of this first and later conferences on tactical media (in total 5 conferences have been held over the years). A few hundred video-tapes of the Next 5 Minutes conferences have been catalogued and can now be found in the archives of the International Institute of Social History. The Youtube footage of the beach riot in Hoek van Holland made me associate - at a certain level - these crude videophone images with the crude camcorder materials of the 90s in the Los Angeles incident. I can not yet say who are the goodies and baddies of the Hoek van Holland incident, but media-distribution-wise interesting comparisons can be made. In some way the intermediate function of established television channel media in distributing camcorder footage, has become obsolete. The statistics of the Karim1001 video on Youtube proves that. Almost half a million viewers and mostly in the Netherlands is some kind of audience comparable to a print run of a national newspaper or a non prime-time television coverage. The Youtube video-footage as such - on the other hand - has not been contextualized at all. It has been thrown just as raw footage on-line and did generate the forementioned 2000 reactions ,which are most of them as wild as the imagery taken at those confusing moments on the beach. Whoever reads Dutch and can handle strong language in a cool way, may like to access the links to the video and read through some of the many comments. In between scolding, hefty speech, macho talk and sporadic racist remarks, one finds what may be useful witness accounts, sane observations and frequent rebuttals of of nonsense entries and sloppy ways of arguing. The video itself does proves little, but still conveys strongly the atmosphere of the moment and - more importantly - the apparent loss of control of the police officers (or whoever else used firearms at that moment) who seem to fire in an uncontrolled way above and also into, the dark beach environment lighted up by random flashes of the party projection system, with the lcd-screens of mobile phones swirling like fire flies through all this. The fact that there were several casualties, one dead and six or seven wounded, attests to this. To conclude... all the tools are there for anyone to make their own inquiry and publish it... to challenge whatever the official reports will tell. Will that happen at all? Time will learn. tj.

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How to do a poll on the level of appreciation of animals of human loud music festivals in public parks and if needed to take appropriate measures? As policy change can be slow, I just designed a set of earmuffs for the rabbits of the Amsterdam Oosterpark (as they have an extreme sensitive hearing apparatus)

When human city culture gets in the red level the park rabbits will be handed out specially adapted earmuffs.

When human city culture gets in the red decibel-zone the park rabbits will be handed out specially adapted earmuffs.

The ‘partying nation’ Holland will not fail to use any occasion to throw a public manifestation of leisurely fun which, since  ubiquitous cheap electronic sound amplifying devices have become available, means lots of noise enhanced by  lots of drinks. One of the favorite venues for these undertakings is the Amsterdam Oosterpark which recently hosted a festival called ‘Appelsap‘ (apple juice) organized by a bunch of  friends, all hip hop aficionados, which was certainly not non-alcoholic, with Heineken as one of the main sponsors. “THE best) Dutch hiphop-events. In the beautiful Oosterpark we take hiphop back to its roots”, reads their web site. Lots of fun for sure: out, proud & loud … but what about  … the roots of the park and what makes up its  innate beauty?

This a one of the many Youtube renderings of the recent Appelsap hiphop event in the Oosterpark, the sound must have been so loud and/or the recording equipment may have had no special dimming switch, because the sound track  is totally overmodulated, so rejoice the noise….

A triptiche of chance in original intend and actual usage of the musique kiosk/dome at the Amsterdam Oosterpark.

Change of original design intend and actual usage of the musique kiosk/dome at the Amsterdam Oosterpark; both options could coexist but when one takes in account the frequency of such loud events the question can be raised if animals and vegetation of our city parks can cope with the crowd and its noise. I also found some web-traces of a Christian evangelic organization that used the same music temple for their 2009 Pentecost praise-the-lord meeting... so who knows what paradisal scenes could have been observed at that other instant of park life.

This spring a local city councilman Martin Verbeet (of the social-democrat party/PvdA) made an attempt at restoring the park to its “historic function” by banning all alcohol usage within the park confines. This measure was aimed primary at full-time  alcoholics, a species that traditionally congregrates in public parks (can be seen all over the world). In fact the alcohol-habit people disturb not too much and even give a certain security by their daylong presence on the park benches  withholding  more badly inclined park visitors from trespassing upon non-assertive park dwellers. Side effect of this zealous municipal policy was that local inhabitants who like to have a nice drink with their picnic  would also fall under the new alcohol ban. Apart from the feared diaspora of debased alcoholics onto the doorsteps of the neighboring streets, the new regulation had a surprising exception paragraph for major events like Queens-day (the 30th of April, a Dionysian national bacchanal in the Netherlands). Who knows if  beer-multinational Heineken has been lobbying, or it could have been the feared loss of votes from the partying minded masses,  within a few weeks the zero-alcohol-in-the-park campaign was withdrawn by the local council. Some park visitors regret this sudden retreat and signal that the group of drinkers can get so big that certain people feel menaced and do not dare to pass the drinkers benches….

The official Amsterdam city sign that makes many people, not just tourists, wonder what this could mean and next to it a make shift bar during the Appelsap (apple juice) festival which had more than just soft drinks.

The official Amsterdam city sign that makes many people, not just tourists, wonder what this could mean and next to it a make shift bar during the Appelsap (apple juice) festival which had more than just soft drinks.

Fellow councillors of other parties have been mocking the zero-alcohol measures of their colleague Verbeet (chairman of the local council), some (D66 party members) even have held an illegal demonstrative drinking party, the local daily newspaper Het Parool wrote negatively about the alcohol ban, and members of  Verbeet his own party choose  not to support him on this topic. A personal démasqué for Martin Verbeet, but maybe some of the good intentions of the councillor may have been overlooked.  In november last year the local party fraction of the social democrats made a research on the functioning of the Oosterpark (102 respondents, 81 on-line inquiry, 21 written reactions/ street interviews) and it must have been upon the outcome of this small research that the zero-alcohol measures have been decided.

-Alcoholics -Drug addicts -Children -Adolescents -Sporters -Picnicers -Other
-Alcoholics -Drug addicts -Children -Adolescents -Sporters -Picnickers -Other issues

There is a lot of moaning in the bare 13 pages of this report from gays that frequent the bushes for back to nature outdoor sex, to the obligatory complaints about dog shit, befouling humans, public toilets, unleashed dogs and dog fights, mopeds and bicycles on pedestrian ways … Surprising is that – apart from dogs – animals are hardly mentioned in the report, or it must be the escaped or freed green parakeets that some  people hold to be a nuisance and of course the arch enemies of any human: the rats who criss cross the park at will. Geese, moor-hens, swans and herons are taken for granted, rabbits remain unnoticed and I am sure that a tiny corner of the arch of Noah should be reserved for other more discrete park inhabitants that have managed to escape our attention.

Noise nuisance, sound pollution if you want, is mentioned by several interviewees, especially late night drumming, screaming and  other forms of  rambunctious behavior. There is also a positive approach to the park, an attempt to formulate what it can or should be, as shown in the following statistic.

-Green lung for the town -Play=area for children -Sporting area - Oasis of tranquility -Hang-out spot for youngsters -Art stage -Other

-Green lung for the town -Play area for children -Sporting area - Oasis of tranquility -Hang-out spot for youngsters -Art stage -Other functions: tai chi spot; picnic and party; garden architecture; café, terrace environment (...)

Again animals are only implicitly represented in the report as part of the “green lung of the town” or the “oasis of tranquility”, though tranquility may for some people exclude even the communication of birds. There are known instances of deportations – organized by a team of city-biologists – of whole troops of geese whose claxoning was found to be unbearable by human city dwellers. Which tempts me to deviate to the somewhat reversed subject of birds dialoguing with the city sounds of ambulances and car alarms (I do have at times whistling conversations with birds that reside in the tree across my kitchen window). This to emphasis that an insight in the animal experience of human sound production and its cornucopia of amplifying devices is very much needed. What are they doing when there is an influx of a rock, hiphop or jembee drums? Are they fleeing? Hiding? Creeping deep in a hole safely below the roots of a tree? Do they leave the park forever after yet another blast-out?  Just play the Appelsap Youtube video once again and let your imagination work. When the hiphoppers speak about roots, let me do so so as well:

What then,was the idea of having a city park? Bringing nature -in an organized human format – into the city? Giving the experience of a garden to those who did not have one? Breathing fresh air? A practicing ground for civic behavior? A place to show yourself and  your family if you were wealthy enough? A way to get some understanding of nature – for alienated city dwellers? Or is all that totally out of fashion and should we better think about  a dropping-ground for children, a jogging parcours,  a skaters circuit, a music esplanade, a juvenile hang-out, a cruising area,  a chill-out spot? Is there any possibility to fuse modern city culture with its apparent need for loud sounds and mass audiences with an ecological attitude that can be branded ‘modern’ as well?  Can these two practices  be reconciled at all? Might it be an idea to get as aware of people’s “noise habits” as we are of  people’s “drinking habits?”


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click the picture to see the 2009 holliday 'tableau vivant' Caribbean Paradise Tragedy

A week ago there was yet another news item on a disaster with Haitian boat migrants of the Caicos Islands in the midst of what is for many people the period of their summer holidays. Over one hundred people drowned in the water of what is elsewhere often described as a Caribbean Paradise. Recently I have started to study (again) the migration question and so I had discovered some video footage at the web site of the American Coast Guard – dating back to 2007 – showing a primitive overloaded sailing boat full of migrants in full sea. The video footage is just after first contact between the migrant-boat and the coast guard and as a standard precaution procedure swimming vests are given to all boat people first. So what you see in the work below is already a tiny bit more safe as the actual situation with a boat full of people without any safety equipment and many who can not swim.

What gripped me the most was that the people on the boat – in spite of having been discovered and under threat to be send back – were all singing to a rhythm beaten on a djembe drum. And in my mind’s eye I combined this scene with the promising imagery of tourist flyers. What can be seen on the simple documented web page made for this purpose is but a primitive rendering of such a vision… You can click the image above to see the first of a series of holidays 2009 ‘tableaux vivants’: “caribbean Paradise Tragedy”.

NB You can stop the looping video on the tableau vivant web site by clicking the moving image.

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See also first post about this subject on ...

See also first post about this subject on May 25 on this blog...

On May 23 a bicycle bar serving eleven ladies  went down a slope in the northern part of town miscalculating the height of the mobile bar and an underpass that laid ahead. The impact of the cycle bar (bierfiets) on the roof of the traffic tunnel was such that three ladies landed in the hospital, two with neck fractures one lady lost a finger bone. This kind of absurd incident put the phenomenon of the combined sport of cycling, beer drinking and shouting once again in in unfavorable light. Today I had the pleasure of getting an answer of one of the members of the local city council for the Green Left party, on my request to stop the bicycle beer bars in Amsterdam. The city councillor had asked the alderman (local minister) for traffic affairs if this accident combined with a ban in several areas of the inner town on the bicycle bar because of of complaints about shouting, would not necessitate more stringent measures against this display of public drunkenness. The city authorities may want to wait  till a foreseeable future accident with a whole cycle café plunging in a canal after attempting to take one of the sharp and steep corners typical of the Amsterdam inner city bridges and I can assure you our ‘grachten’ are not yet filled with beer . It could be the cycle café will survive after all, with swimming vests and safety helmets…

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A recent municipal flyer with the text: "prevent nuisance on the water" with a second text line added by me: "Prevent nuisance on the land"
A recent municipal flyer with the text: “prevent nuisance on the water” introducing more strict rules for pleasure boats on the Amsterdam canals, with a second text line added by me: “Prevent nuisance on the land”, as lately a new vehicle appeared in the streets of Amsterdam, the fietscafé (bicycle café) a contraption on four or more wheels with a beer bar with ten or more seats  fitted with a set of pedals connected to a central conveyer system that makes the thing move with all its noisy clients peddling, drinking, sweating and shouting!

Maybe Amsterdam has always been “A-Party-City” even in the old days for the sailors who managed to get back alive after a trip to the East or West Indies (under the most appalling conditions), having their jenever (Dutch kind of gin) in quantities beyond our imagination and roaming the streets in a drunken state;  also the merry-making during special markets, the ‘kermesse’ (originally a fair to celebrate the church patron of a town) with intoxicated and bawdy public behavior, transposed to the football fan celebrations, the Queens-Day and Gay Parade extravaganza of now-a-days. With its Red Light district and ‘coffeeshops’, ‘paddoshops’ and other places and opportunities to consume recreational drugs, a major part of the tourists choosing this town, choose it to go partying, to get stoned and drunk, whereby  sex – if  it can be performed at all in such a state  – will often be more in the tourist’s imagination than for real.

One man’s pleasure easily turns into the other man’s burden and in certain tourist hot spots of town the negative effects of this kind of tourism are felt on a daily basis by the inhabitants. The cheap package deals of Easy Jet and the like have introduced plain-loads of partying-tourists who congregate in the Red Light District, around the Nieuwmarkt, Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein. The Britons have carved out their niche in the area with the highest number of whores, bars and pot-sellers and are known for roaming around in flocks and – as herd animals – tend to be more noisy, than the more individual Latin and Teutonic city roamers. This may all sound like some form of calvinist abhorrence of  (public) pleasure display, coupled with a tourist-phobia, but, as can be expected, it is the Dutch themselves who tend to make most of the noise and nuisance. Forgone are the days that popular outbursts of gaiety and pleasure where happening only on the aforementioned ‘patrons days’, as a kind of social safety valve in the tradition of the Roman maxim “give the people bread and games.” Partying has become the central core of Dutch society as has been recently researched and visualized in a splendid way by the Algerian/Belgian photographer Morad Bouchakour in his book “PARTY! in the Netherlands”, published in 2002.

Click image for a link to a library description of this book by worldcat.org

Let me quote just a few lines from the introduction of this book by Bas Heijne: “if there is so much concern in the Netherlands about how traditions are allegedly no longer being honored, then why are the Dutch throwing so many parties? If there’s one thing this country has, it’s a party culture. No occasion escapes unnoticed. There is isn’t a day without an excuse to celebrate.” The book depicts “almost every conceivable type of party, at every level of society” in the Netherlands and, however amazing the book maybe in its visuals, we are spared the noise on which most of the parties shown are thriving.

Noise – loud and unappreciated sound if you wish – is a spatial thing. It invades, often far beyond what can directly be seen, it may bounce on water, from walls, come back under unexpected angles, it may creep in through resonating floors or ceilings, it may be high pitched or subsonic, it may be continuous or bursting in with a sudden shock. A loud party of the neighbors is something one may need to tolerate once in a while, but it always is an intrusive act upon one’s personal living environment, lest one chooses to join the neighbors party or flee one’s house.

The inner city of Amsterdam is a network of canals, a product of  its original watery and muddy environment and the needs for local transport and its initial function as a European staple market with traders houses and warehouses along what the Dutch call ‘grachten’. Most of the inner city is situated on, or nearby these waterways. As the original transport functions were lost, modern forms of tourism took over the canals with rather big motor boats equipped with panoramic windows and sound systems used by a guide explaining all the views. This last thing has – over the years – been modernized and most tourist boats are now fitted with localized small speakers at the individual seats, so the people living or working along the canals have been freed from the echoing simplistic explanations with each passing of yet another tourist boat. Another considerate measure toward people living in the museum-like inner town, have been a municipal policy to supplant the polluting diesel motors of the tourists boats with electrical motors, a slow process of enforcing that has taken many years, but has really improved the ‘soundscape’ of the city.

Nothing but good news one would say, till the moment that the growing affluence of certain layers of Dutch society – who have a liking of showing off their wealth – combined with the miniaturization of electrical equipment, especially amplifiers and loudspeakers. The phenomenon of the party-boat parade was born. Luxury boats with drinks, loud chatter to cross over even louder amplified music. The nuisance of a party at your neighbors was exported to the canals of the inner city of Amsterdam. So ghetto-blasters changed their function and became yuppie-blasters, the crumbling walls of the ghetto were supplanted by the facades of  lordly houses and the acoustic properties of  the water surface combined with the bricks of the historic buildings worked together to give an optimum impact.

Some sample pictures taken by tourists visiting Amsterdam of local part-boats of the better situated classes parading during summer through the canals of Amsterdam. Beer and wine coolers, sound systems and comfortable deck seats characterize these boats. It is a phenomenon that only developed in the last two decades with the new rich enjoying the parade of their success.
Some sample pictures taken by tourists visiting Amsterdam of local party-boats of the better situated classes parading during summer through the canals of Amsterdam. Beer and wine coolers, sound systems and comfortable deck seats characterize these boats. It is a phenomenon that only developed in the last two decades with the new rich enjoying the parade of their success. Click the picture for a full size view.
People living on house boats in the same canals, and also the inhabitants of some of the smaller canals or next to a lock and the like have been complaining for many years now about these pleasure outtings with no consideration at all of the discomfort for the inhabitants on or next to the water ways of the inner city of Amsterdam. Click the picture for a full size view of this happy crowd.

It is also in this period that smaller and smaller, and cheaper and cheaper sound-systems, were capable of producing more and more volume and so next to poor man’s ghetto-blaster, came the low class car sound system, that can turn a tiny car into a mobile discotheque. Once this mobility had been discovered, the separation of the private and the public came to a sudden end. Any fool may nowadays becomes a broadcaster of their own favorite music without any need for a radio license. One takes one’s car drives into the city, pushes up the volume knob and the capacity of the newest equipment is such that the car owner does not even need to open the window to let the passerby and even the inhabitant of adjacent buildings join into someone’s car-casts. At first something derived at by using bigger and bigger speaker boxes, and recently a even more bodily experience of loudness has been made possible whereby any part of the car’s body can be vibrated and becomes a sounding device. It was but a tiny step to transfer these systems to any kind of boat and go on a pleasure water tour.

The municipal flyer has this arguing texts to convince the party-boat people that they should behave in a more considerate way: "Sound over water reaches much further than over land. It is a nuisance for the inhabitant. We are not speaking about 'cozy' chatting on little boats. But purposeless shouting and much too loud music. Think abot the children that try and to sleep."
The municipal flyer has this arguing texts to convince the party-boat people that they should behave in a more considerate way: “Sound over water reaches much further than over land. It is a nuisance for the inhabitant. We are not speaking about ‘cozy’ chatting on little boats. But purposeless shouting and much too loud music. Think about the children that try to sleep.”
The less fortunate classes enjoying their boat party during Queens-Day in the canals of Amsterdam; notice the big sound system packed in the small boat in the left hand picture element
The somewhat less fortunate classes enjoying their boat party during Queens-Day in the canals of Amsterdam; notice the big sound system packed in the small boat in the left hand picture element; the wooden shoe boat has once be made as an advertisement boat for Heineken beer, probably recycled later as a pleasure boat, I remember seeing it for years parked in the Prinsengracht near the bridge of the Vijzelstraat. Click the picture for a full size view.

These sound systems have become also an integrated party of partying on the water in Amsterdam, especially during the two yearly grand parades of Queens Day in April and the Gay Parade through the canals of Amsterdam in August. No environmental and lest health rules seemed to apply to these pleasure boating events, which on the other hand do force many inhabitants out of the city during these days, especially people living on one of the hundreds of housing boats along the cities canals.

After many complaints and petitions the local authorities have started to limit some of the loudness excesses, but the tolerated massive sound pollution on Queens Day and the Gay Parade, have made public loudness somehow socially acceptable. A person – like me – complaining about it would get a standard reaction from police and other authorities, like “well then you should not live in the inner town” and I remember some organizers of the Gay Parade responding on my complaint posted at their web site with “what is your age? maybe you better move to the countryside” (so much for the gay emancipation movement  recursing to age-discrimination). 

It was a most happy moment when last week I spotted several big size A0 posters on public billboards next to the river close to my house with the new municipal campaign: “prevent nuisance on the water.”  The graphic language in rebus format did catch the eye immediately . Finally some officials caring about ‘ the sound of the city’, also attempting to argue instead of  menacing with punishments or fines.

The municpal flyer reads: "Too much alcohol by a boatsman is as bad as driving with too much alcohol.."
The municpal flyer reads: “Too much alcohol by a helmsman is as bad as behind a steering wheel of a car.

It must have been the same day, that a sudden  moving sound of a whole group of drunks cut through the relative tranquility of our double glassed home… it could not be the usual football fans that load themselves with beer across the river at the Rembrandtplein before diving en masse into the subway that brings them to the big Ajax football stadium in the outskirts… the sound differed from this dispersed unstable crowds crossing the bridge … so I looked out of the window and saw and heard a vehicle – a Beer-Bar-Cycle passing (as depicted and described below). “What a shame”, these were my first words and of course I knew this kind of vehicle that until that day hardly choose to move through my part of town. 

An example of a what is called a Fietscafé (Bicycle Cafe) in the inner town of Amsterdam; one can hear them coming, passing and disappearing on a long distance as bouts of drunken shouts accompany the pedalling exercise

An example of a what is called a Fietscafé (Bicycle Cafe) in the inner town of Amsterdam; one can hear them coming, passing and disappearing from a long distance as bouts of drunken shouts accompany the pedalling exercise. On the one hand professional alcoholics are constantly moved from the streets, especially in the inner town, while this display of public drunkenness is allowed as long as the main “driver” has signed a contract that she/he will stay sober during the rental trip.

The municipal slogan was still fresh in my mind: “Prevent nuisance on the water” and so I thought “but what about nuisance on the land?”  Which drove me to produce another rebus-banner to be posted soon on the streets of Amsterdam. 

My rendering of a new rebus to stop the Bicycle-Beer-Bar or Fietscafé pestering the inner town neighborhoods with public display of drunkeness.
My rendering of a new rebus to stop the Bicycle-Beer-Bar or Fietscafé pestering the inner town neighborhoods with public display of noisy drunkenness.



Three impressions taken of the Bike-O-Beer, Fietscafé, Party Bike, or whatever other name this device has been given, taken from Flickr.

“Fietscafe, aka bike-bar -only in Amsterdam says lludovic’s photostream; “weekend in amsterdam (yes, it’s a mobile bar powered by pedals under their feet and a barman in the middle keeping them hydrated)” says M Baskett;  “Ubriacarsi pedalando. Si sale, si ordina una birra, si pedala in libertà, tra schiamazzi e risate… una cosa così la trovi solo ad Amsterdam” (Getting drunk while peddling. You go out, you order a beer, you pedal in liberty, from shrieks to bouts of (hysterical) laughter… such a thing one only finds in Amsterdam”  says Tioma

The official municipal folder nuisance on the water can be found at the web site of the department of inner waters of the town: BBA.

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Oranjelol/Orange Jinks: 1894 - 2009

Oranjelol/Orange Jinks: 1894 - 2009

Oranjelol (Orange Jinks!) is getting drunk publicly in support of the royal House of Orange, a yearly event in the Netherlands on April the 30th. This quick & dirty collage is made on ‘the day after’ the first of May, having seen the workmen cleaning the mass of debris left by the partying crowd in the center of Amsterdam, where I happen to live. The picture elements are from left to right: a drawing published in 1894 in the October issue of an early socialist paper “De Roode Duivel” (the red devil) by Louis Hermans (1861 – 1943) and reads: “Famous Temporaries: Lady Ka Flower Pot from Utrecht preparing herself for an Orange Jink (on the table a bottle of a cheap liqueur called ‘Orange Bitter’); next a mix of two Flickr photo-reportage pictures from the yearly Queens party on the Magere Brug (meagre bridge) over the Amstel river in Amsterdam with a drunken crowd and a blasting disco (2007; the parties look the same each year so why bother to find one for 2009?). Commentary in 1894 by Hermans on the Orange craze and the success of the Dutch new royals (the Kingdom has been established by Von Metternich’s Wiener Congress in 1814): “..an astonishing success, which can be understood easily because most members of the thinking part’ of the nation have as much brains in their head as the ass of the devil.”

The systematic policy of constant centering public attention on herself and her family by the Dutch Queen – who firmly believes “her task” is a godgiven one – showed yesterday (April 30 2009) its mirror side in the unwanted attention of a suicidal man who performed his yet unclear attack on an Orangist crowd and possibly the royal family – doing their waving from an open bus during a royal entry into the city of Apeldoorn. On the same day drunken crowds swarmed the street and canals of Amsterdam. In spite of the speed of news of modern media the public display of pleasure went on for several hours after the alleged attentat; the happy crowd wanted their party first of all. For the non Dutch – this alcoholistic euphoria is only a new tradition which has developed during the reign of Queen Beatrix starting in the mid eighties when supporters of the national football team manifested their support more and more through their public drinking habbits and dressing up in all sorts of orange paraphernalia. Critical distance as existed during the sixties and seventies toward a system of a hereditary kingdom, slowly evaporated. This was caused by the creation of a national football fever during international competitions: clad in orange and fed by endless amounts of beer. Commercial interests from beer companies and bar-owners combined with the acclaim of local authorities for this new Dutch nationalism which for them seemed to be a way out of the antagonizing effects of the multi-cultural society of the Netherlands. The partying under the orange banner seems to reunite what has been broken up.

A new national consciousness without any real political content, purely based on having a jolly good time together. When one observes the loud orange crowds pouring into the inner city streets of the main towns, one may smell other sentiments: this is suburbia taking over the city, you better join in and be happy with them and you better do not show any disapproval of the bad behaviour of throwing debris, public pissing, and shouting. I have not yet seen statistics on which percentage of the crowd is just merry and mellow and whether the aggressive ones are a mere minority. My impression is that the same group of persons may cycle during the day through all this behavioural stages depending on their intake of drugs, food and level of endurance during their pleasure drifting between the ultra loud music stages spread all over town. Just over half a million orange party-goers left thousands of kilos of tins, broken bottles and plastic cups all over town. Bar owners and free tstreet traders have made their big buck and leave their debris to the municipal workmen. Like real royals the orangist crowd have partied and left their shit behind for the servants to clean up. That is today the first of May, indeed a sad sight: orange Jinks!.

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