From this weekend’s trip to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. You’re not allowed to take pictures, but I snuck a few in with my phone anyway. One of those shots was this one of the painting Almond Blossom. It’s my favourite painting of his, even more so than classics like Starry Night. Too bad the museum chose to cover many paintings with a glass plate. It makes for ugly reflections.
After buying another cheap day ticket for the train last month, I suggested to Gert we should go to Amsterdam again. He immediately mentioned he’d never been to the Van Gogh museum. And just like that, we had plans. And yesterday was the day to execute said plans.
We left Grunn early so we would be in Amsterdam somewhat early as well. We arrived at the central station around 10:30 and, priorities, went to Starbucks for a drink. We then got on a tram to the museum square where the Van Gogh Museum is.
When we got out, the sun was shining, the weather was nice (albeit cold) and across the field we could see the museum. As we crossed we saw a lot of people outside the museum. When we got close enough, we saw it was the queue.
And not just a queue to get in the museum, no, the queue to get a ticket. Every minute or so, yellow-jacketed hosts would let another handful of people through to the queue at the door where they could go in to buy their tickets.
We had talked about pre-ordering tickets online but forgot to do so. But it gave us an idea. We checked with a host, and indeed, it would work. So, on Gert’s phone we ordered tickets online. He immediately got them in his mailbox and we could skip the queue and go straight to the entrance 😀
Disappointingly it was not allowed to take pictures in the museum. Not even just flash-less pics, no, not at all. This did not stop us from sneaking in a few phone pictures anyway.
The building has several floors that thematically lead you through Van Gogh’s life. Starting with an Eye to Eye section with nothing but self portraits to his final works before committing suicide. There were sections for his early work after he had decided he wanted to be an artist, leading up to the Potato Eaters, his moving to France where he got in contact with impressionism and such making his work lighter and brighter. Also his Japanese inspired works, his period in the institution, and the brief period after he got out and before he killed himself.
Our second plan for the day was to hit the book shops. When in Amsterdam we also tend to go to the American Book Center. This time around we decided to add The Book Exchange to the mix. This is a large second-hand bookstore with nothing but English works. Since this shop would close earlier, it became our first stop after we finished in the museum. We got on the tram again, but accidentally picked the one going the wrong way. So we got off again two stops further. Reassessing our priorities, we hit another Starbucks for a drink, and for Gert to charge his phone.
After a well deserved break, we got back on the tram, the right one this time, and headed for the city center. From there it was just a few minutes to get to The Book Exchange. We dove straight into the basement where they keep the scifi and fantasy books. I picked out some Star Trek books and then went around the room alphabetically. I found several books that had been on my list, or are sequels to works I have. I found Elizabeth Bear’s first books (the Jenny Casey trilogy) that I’ve been wanting. I found the follow-up to C.F. Bentley’s Harmony and also the sequels to Robert Sawyer’s Hominids. I’ve been looking for these last two for ages! They also had a fun Stargate book, and two Kim Harrison books that I still needed. And, in a surprise, twist, part four in that trilogy I got at the local thrift store on Wednesday…
A quiet hour later, we both had our arms full of books and decided to call it quits for now. With packed bags we stood outside and quickly agreed to skip the American Book Center for today. We walked back towards the city center. Gert bought himself a pink waffle with sprinkles. (I tasted, it’s ridiculously sweet)
In the morning we had sort of decided to eat Asian for dinner. But after what we spent on books, we decided on cheap food. KFC was our first choice but it was insanely crowded so we skedaddled. McDonalds was close by so we tried that. The first one we found was out of Maestro Burgers so we picked another one just a few hundred yards further. This one did have the Maestro’s, which are glorious.
After eating, we headed back to the station to go home. It was a good day 🙂
May 2016 be good to you all 🙂
I’ve been colouring my new Cat colouring book, it has really fun pictures.
I also received one of the Kickstarter rewards that I was waiting on. It’s a book called Dry Season Only, about a trip to Botswana. A group of artists went on a two week trip there with the express purpose to get inspired and make art. The kickstarter was to raise funds for the trip and the printing of the book. The book is absolutely beautiful. Filled with travel journals from all of them with text, drawings, paintings, photographs and tutorials how some of the bigger art pieces were made. A very fine showcase of the beauty that is Africa’s wild nature.
Yesterday was a fun day, in so far as national-blow-shit-up day can be fun. I worked during the day so that was business as usual. In the evening we watched TV, ate tasty shit and even played a board game. At Nienke’s suggestion.
So I pulled out a game I got a while ago but had’t gotten around to playing yet. It’s a game based on Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. The game has three characters that move around the board. That board is divided in three parts.
In the first part all characters move separately without being tied to a player. That means that every player can move whichever character they want. The goal of the first part is to collect items. When the first character reaches the lake, the second part starts.
Now, all characters get on the raft and try to cross the lake. Again, each player can move the raft and the goal for the players is to collect items. When they get to the other side, the end is in sight. All they need to do is go up the lava stream and reach the exit. The players take turns and pay for the moves with the items they’ve collected. When the characters have reached the exit, the points of the remaining items are tallied. Player with the most points wins.
I got lucky with my item finds and won the game.
Today was a work day. At work we had divided the three holidays between the six of us. I chose today. There wasn’t a lot of work to actually do so it was a nice and quiet day of working at home. Followed by a nice and quiet day of relaxing at home 😀
Time for a new Nerd Block! Theme for this month is ‘Tis the Season. I didn’t really see the theme in the items, except for the shirt and the shot glass.
The first item that I saw when opening the box was a Titan vinyl figure of Sherlock. This is from the same brand as the Tenth Doctor and Spike figures from earlier boxes. I’m becoming a fan of these vinyls as the faces are a bit more detailed and each figure comes with a prop. In Sherlock’s case, a magnifying glass. Or maybe a slide for under a microscope.
Aother fantastic item is a Serenity ornament. A metallic painted model of the ship from Firefly, which is one of my favourite scifi shows.
Continuing with scifi, the next item is a Star Wars desktop calendar. I have no use for this and since 2016 is getting nearer, I don’t know if I can find someone to give this to in time.
Then, the shot glass. This is a plastic item and comes from The National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I’ve never seen that movie, nor do I want to. The shot glass is funny, though, so I’ll keep it for now. Maybe I can use it for laughs at my next birthday.
The shirt is a mash-up of Back to the Future and The Nightmare Before Christmas. I like the shirt, the graphic is pretty, the colour is nice. I’m not a big Back to the Future fan, but I do love The Nightmare Before Christmas.
On the bottom of the box I found an art print of Bill Murray and I love it. I’m a big fan of Murray and this is a very fine addition to my slowly growing collection of art prints.
This month’s theme was Hyperspace. There were only five items in the box as opposed to the six or seven in previous months which was a little bit disappointing.
I love the little springy USS Enterprise, even if it feels somewhat cheap. The plushie BB-8 looks fantastic. I like it’s feel and design, but I don’t know yet if I’ll keep it. I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, I’ve seen the older movies once, a long time ago. I will be seeing the new movie once it’s out, so I’m keeping the plushie at least until then. Depending on what I think of the movie, and BB-8’s part in it, I’ll keep it or put it in the gift bin.
The Jurassic Galaxy art print is fantastic! It mashes Guardians of the Galaxy with Jurassic World with cameo appearances of Terminator and Star Wars. Beyond this print and the Doctor Who one from a previous box I’ve acquired some more art print or small poster stuff that I want to display. I haven’t quite figured out how I want to do that, though. but I am really excited about it.
The shirt this month is a Battlestar Galactica one combining the two versions of Cylons in a mash-up resembling a Daft Punk album cover. The last item was a Funko mystery box with a random Supernatural mini. I got Castiel, which I absolutely love! I am a bit puzzled though how Supernatural fits the theme.
Overall, I’m impressed with the individual items, but it did feel less as a whole with only five items of which only four fit the theme.
I’ve been interested in subscription boxes lately. A subscription box is a system where you subscribe to receive a mystery box of stuff. There are many different boxes, many different themes. There are ones where you get a bag of make-up and related products every month, boxes with stuff for your dog or cat, an assortment of craft supplies and so on. There’s also a couple boxes that are geared toward geeks.
Once I decided I wanted to try out a box, I figured a geeky box would suit me best. Two of the more well-known ones in that genre are LootCrate and Nerd Block. After comparing previous boxes I went with Nerd Block. Nerd Block costs $19,99 which, with shipping, ends up to be about €30, which I think is a reasonable price for a box that always includes a t-shirt and several other pieces of merchandise.
Today, I received my first box. The theme was Britain, so I was hoping for some Doctor Who. I was not disappointed 😀 Besides a Doctor Who Vinyl figure there was also an very pretty art print.
The Mr. Bean bendable figure was okay. I used to watch Mr. Bean a lot as a kid but I’m not that interested in the show beyond that. The Bean Teddy Bear, though, is very cute.
Monty Python’s magnetic words are hilarious, they’ll be fun to play with on the fridge. And the Sherlock shirt was the icing on the cake!
Okay, so I went to see Michiel de Ruyter tonight. It’s a Dutch movie about one of our best known admirals, back in the 17th century. As a lover of history, I had been intrigued about the movie ever since I saw trailers, so Gert and I decided we had to go see.
I didn’t remember a lot about Michiel de Ruyter himself from my history classes. I recognised some names of characters, and I remembered the brothers De Witt as I’d seen a painting of them last year at the Rijksmuseum.
The movie starts with a sea battle in which fleet admiral Maarten Tromp dies, witnessed by Michiel de Ruyter. After, when Michiel comes home he has been
on the road out on the oceans for the better part of the last fifteen years with only occasional breaks and he’s tired of it. As Michiel gets used to home life again with Anna, his wife, and his three remaining children (an older boy and two young girls) we cut to politics. And from here on out, there be many spoilers. Be forewarned!
Johan de Witt is named the Grand Pensionary of the States of Holland, and as a consequence of that, due to the power of Holland, the de facto leader of the whole of the United Provinces. At this time, the Anglo-Dutch War is going on, and Johan realises they need a strong man to lead their navy. Unfortunately, with the admiral of the fleet dead, he needs a new one.
Cue Michiel de Ruyter. Michiel doesn’t want to, he wants to retire. But Johan is his friend, and Michiel is dedicated to his fatherland so he relents and accepts the commission. We then get shown, in quick succession, a number of sea battles Michiel leads, winning most of them. Taking pointers from The Matrix, every time a cannon ball hits a ship we see sailors and crewmen flying around the decks in slow-motion, accompanied by a blast of sawdust and splinters.
While well-shot battle scenes, using replicas of period ships for the main action and filling it in with CGI for background, this sequence got tiresome as it was very repetitive, and besides on screen titles naming the battles, there were no dates to indicate flow of time.
During one of these battles his second in command Cornelis Tromp snaps and disobeys an order. As the son of the previous admiral, who was a hero to his men, he fully expected to take over the job. He doesn’t like Michiel and doesn’t trust his strategies. So he breaks formation to pursue two straggler ships and as a consequence, the battle is lost. Michiel is furious and fires him on the spot.
On the whole, though, the Dutch are decimating the English, culminating in a sneak attack on the Medway near London where they burn part of the English fleet anchored there, and steal the flagship. This is also the founding of the Dutch Marine Corps. The English are then somewhat willing to sign a peace treaty. Charles II of England (very well played by Charles Dance, aka Tywin Lannister) is pissed of at this, though, and conspires with the French.
At the same time, in the United Provinces, William III of Orange (nephew of Charles) is unhappy because he isn’t Stadtholder yet, and there are continuing clashes between republicans (anti-him) and orangists (pro-him). He is also a bit of a wet blanket. However, the peace treaty also comes with a demand by Charles for a better position for William so he ends up Stadtholder after all.
As time goes on, the unrest grows, the peace is broken, battles keep on happening. Political scheming also increases greatly. Meanwhile, the French are knocking at our doors in the south and Louis XIV‘s armies invade, secretly helped by Charles II. The orangists are getting really sick of Johan de Witt and his brother and conspire to have them killed. This is done in a rather gruesome way, matching the earlier mentioned, and shown here, painting.
Michiel is devastated, Johan was his best friend, but he remains first and foremost loyal to his country. Despite being a republican, William likes De Ruyter and wants to keep him on as Admiral. He reinstates Tromp and orders them to put on their big boy pants, suck it up and work together. Despite no love between them, they shake hands and seal the deal. As strategies are devised and battles planned, Tromp begins to see that Michiel is a really brilliant strategist with an excellent grasp of battle dynamics, and the role the ocean plays.
William is influenced by his power-hungry orangist retinue and starts to distrust Michiel. After a glorious victory, William announces it was thanks to Tromp’s achievements they won and Michiel realises he’s pretty fucked. He tries to retire again, so he and his wife and kids can live out their lives in (relative) peace. William has other ideas, however. After a wee shouting match in the hallways, they part. Only for William to stop him at the last minute. Michiel has declared his continuing loyalty to the land and has reaffirmed he will follow orders during the argument. So William sends him, severely outgunned, to the Mediterranean to fight.
There, Michiel and his men, knowing they will not survive, engage the enemy. When indeed he gets shot down and dies, the French they are fighting stop and give him a gun salute. Michiel is brought back home, and given a state funeral.
Overall I really enjoyed the movie. It is of an un-Dutch style and grandeur and evokes patriotism in an almost American way (think lots of flags flying and grand-standing speeches). I am personally rather allergic to patriotism, but even I could not escape it wholly while watching the film. And I don’t think I would’ve wanted it any other way. Michiel de Ruyter is, after all, one of the heroes of our tiny country. There’s some ruckus about this now, because he also did things that we now see as bad (slavery, whaling) so some people are clamoring we shouldn’t see him as a hero.
But we must keep in mind that this is centuries ago, in a society, a world, with different morals, different laws, and frankly, a different reality. Within that context, Michiel gave everything for our country and worked tirelessly to keep us free, free to trade, free to live. Looking back on that now, we should realise that, as morality and ethics have changed over the years, so has our reality. We enacted new laws, stopped practices we now deem wrong. So yes, definitely acknowledge our history, good ánd bad, so we can learn from that, but stop overlaying (y)our current moral viewpoint on a time and place where it is not (fully) applicable.
The actors are good, with one or two exceptions, and I liked most of the characterisations. I especially enjoyed Frank Lammers (Michiel), Sanne Langelaar (Anna) and Barry Atsma (Johan de Witt). I found William III (Egbert Jan Weeber) and his boy-toy Hans William Bentinck (Jelle de Jong) to be played rather as if they were prissy weaklings, which annoyed me.
Other than that, the movie is rife with historical inaccuracies. The writer(s) played loose and fast with the timeline, both compressing it, and rearranging events as they liked it. Historically speaking, the movie covers a period of about 25 years. In the movie, it can’t be more than about three years. And even that is a stretch. There are never any dates shown, but his children at the beginning of the movie are played by the same actors as at the end, and none of them are aged in any way. Therefore, it can’t be more than just a few years.
And speaking of his children, as an example of things changed in the movie, Michiel de Ruyter married and then lost that wife, as well as the child, in childbirth. He then later married again and, with that wife, had a son named Adriaen, a daughter named Cornelia (Neeltje), a child that died a few days old, another daughter named Alida (Aaltje), and another son named Engel. His wife then died about a year later, and two years after that, in 1652, he marries Anna. This is the wife he has in the movie.
Anna was a widow at that time, with a son and a daughter from a previous marriage. Together, they have two more daughters, Margaretha in 1652 and Anna in 1655. Also in 1655, his oldest son Adriaen dies, leaving them with six or seven living children between them (I couldn’t find if the daughter is still alive at this point).
In the movie, Anna is pregnant at the beginning. She gives birth and loses that baby. Beyond that, they have a son, Engel, and two daughters, Neeltje and Greetje. So, the number of kids is wrong, the order of the kids is wrong, and the names of the kids are wrong. And none of these kids have aged in any way at the end of the movie… This while Engel in actuality also went out to sea, fought alongside his father and separately, rising to a rank of vice-admiral two years after his father’s death.
Having said that, I recommend you watch the movie, and then spent an hour or two reading up on Actual History. The Wikipedia articles I linked are an excellent starting point. If you read Dutch, though, I recommend the nl varieties of he Wikipedia links, they are more in depth.
“Each edition of the paper contained dozens of these announcements, every one more mundane and unimportant than the last. It seemed to me that these were nothing more than Facebook updates. The only purpose they served was to keep a community of people — in this case whoever had access to the newspaper — updated about what was going on in someone else’s life. We often talk about social media as some sort of new invention of the technological age, but here was the evidence that it has existed for much longer.”
“The largest NASA Hubble Space Telescope image ever assembled, this sweeping bird’s-eye view of a portion of the Andromeda galaxy (M31) is the sharpest large composite image ever taken of our galactic next-door neighbor. Though the galaxy is over 2 million light-years away, The Hubble Space Telescope is powerful enough to resolve individual stars in a 61,000-light-year-long stretch of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disk. It’s like photographing a beach and resolving individual grains of sand. And there are lots of stars in this sweeping view — over 100 million, with some of them in thousands of star clusters seen embedded in the disk.”
“Because the galaxy is only 2.5 million light-years from Earth, it is a much bigger target in the sky than the myriad galaxies Hubble routinely photographs that are billions of light-years away. This means that the Hubble survey is assembled together into a mosaic image using 7,398 exposures taken over 411 individual pointings.”
“The panorama is the product of the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT) program. Images were obtained from viewing the galaxy in near-ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared wavelengths, using the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3 aboard Hubble. This cropped view shows a 48,000-light-year-long stretch of the galaxy in its natural visible-light color, as photographed with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in red and blue filters.”
So, the image above isn’t even all of it 😀 See the full article here, and see the video below for a fly-through of the panorama.
And, finally, over at FatCatArt, Zarathustra the Cat gets inserted into well known art pieces.
“Indeed, it is not very trustworthy that humans are gazing just at birds, they are not cats to be entertained by flying creatures! But humans love to watch cats doing most weird things endlessly.
So Our version is true one.
Thus speaks Zarathustra the Cat”
Been spending time expanding my genealogy some more. Trying to go back further than I already am. It is proving more and more difficult, though, as I’m firmly in the territory where names are repeated all over the place, there are very few reliable surnames and registration of events is sketchy at best.
I also started drawing again. I picked up another of my curved line sketches from 2012 or so to finish. This one is called Lines II: Mother Earth. It was coloured on the 18th and 19th, I think about 7 hours or so together.
Watched some movies on Friday with Kim and Nienke, Accepted and Not Another Happy Ending. They were fun.
Today Ingrid came by. Ostensibly to borrow my tent, but also because it was an excellent idea to drink tea, chat and play games. So we played UWO, Settlers of Catan and Blue Moon.
After she had left, a storm came by, and along with it, a refugee in the house: a small from. It hipped across and around the kitchen before I managed to grab it and release it outside. Milo was quite intrigued with the hoppy little thing.
Right, so I’m part of a pen pal club, the League of Extraordinary Pen Pals. And every month there’s a newsletter with, among other things, a member spsotlight. And a little while ago Julie, one of the fearless leaders of the club, approached me if I wanted to be it for this July’s newsletter. Of course I said yes 🙂
The kicker? It comes with a portrait drawing 😀 In the club we all have a superhero name, and mine is Captain Colour. So after sending in my interview answers, and give some colour choices, here’s my fabulous portrait by the talented Ciara Barsotti.
For completeness, the interview.
Why are you called Captain Colour?
I’m a very visual person, I love visual texture and most of all colours and how they work. Like looking at a painting up close and seeing all the brush strokes and the different pigments and the relief of the paint on the canvas and then as you walk further back it smooths out and becomes a recognisable image. Colour is so versatile a colour change can change the mood and atmosphere of something completely. Paint a wall in a room red, and the vibe will be completely different than if you painted it blue, or green or… or… I also love to colour things. Both in doing paintings and drawings but also colouring books. And I love rainbows, too. But Captain Rainbow didn’t quite have the same ring to it 😀
What are your superhero penpal strengths?
I’m always decorating the stationery and envelope, especially with stickers. I like it when the recipients not only have something fun to read, but also to look at. I sometimes try to match the decorating to what I think my pal will like. But I do more often tend to go with just what I like, and hope my pal will like it, too. It’s an addition to the letter, another way to get to know me and who I am and what I like.
What is your superhero kryptonite?
Stickers! And pretty paper in all shapes and sizes and textures. And colouring books. Especially those Dover historic ones like time periods, or period fashions.
Do you use any special weapons while fighting crime?
Pens. A whole belt of pointy pens, ready to throw at any criminal crossing my path. Plus a surplus of ribbon and string to tie them up.
Who is your arch-nemesis and why?
Time. I never have enough time for all the things I want to do. Plus I’m somewhat of a procrastinator, too. Which is so not an ideal combination :S
What does your superhero lair look like?
Big, with lots of nooks and crannies and oodles of built in storage. Shelves, drawers, baskets, all neatly labelled and sorted. Several tables for all different kinds of projects and windows looking out all around over fields and wide landscapes. *dreams on*
In real life, though, my lair is a still fairly large room, with shelves and drawers holding all my crafty stuff. Book shelves for the non-fiction and reference books (fiction lives in the living room), a work table where I write letters and do crafts and where my laptop usually lives so also the place I write other things and play games and so on. There’s another (old) table for projects that are at risk of damaging the furniture like modding water/toy guns into steampunk/scifi things and so on.
How do you relax after a long day of saving the world?
Books mainly, they are my life’s blood. Other than that, cuddling my cats 🙂 Also making/editing things or playing games on the iPad and the computer.
What kind of penpal are you?
A somewhat slow one. Referring back to my arch-nemesis above, I try to reply speedily, but there will often be a few weeks in between receiving a letter and having a reply ready to mail out. I want to stress, though, this does not mean I don’t want to write anymore, or don’t like you, I’m just not that fast 🙂 Once we’re corresponding, though, I am loyal. It might take me a while to reply, but I will reply.
Are you open to new superhero penpals? If so, what types & how can they reach you?
I’m always open to new pals, as long as they keep the above in mind 🙂 I am in the database with my interests (they are legion but include books, cats, scifi/fantasy, geeky stuff, mythology, language, nature/animals, spirituality, sociology, tv/movies and so on) and I also have a postable (www.postable.com/erikmulder)
In your opinion, what is the best thing about being part of the League of Extraordinary Penpals?
I love the inclusiveness. We accept each other’s quirks and oddities and we’re always there for each other in good times and bad. Plus we don’t make fun of our members for what they do and like. specially as a dude, often people look at you funny when you say you like crafting and making pretty things and so on. But here, it is embraced, and I think it shows in the influx of more guys into our ranks. So keep being awesome everyone!