10 Moody Snapshots From Rollende Keukens 2014

Nothing more, nothing less…

roll8 roll11 roll10 roll9

roll5 roll4 roll3 roll2 roll1 roll6

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Premature Requiem for a Taco Shop

I’m sad to say that I may have had my last Super Burrito ever last night at The Taco Shop in Amsterdam. The owner hails from Colorado and has decided that it’s time to move home after 14 years in Europe. He’s hoping to sell the operation to someone willing to carry the torch but there haven’t been any takers, as of yet.

Not only does The Taco Shop offer the best Mexican food in the country (colossal/tasty tacos and burritos at downright reasonable prices), the walls are covered in bumper stickers and old concert posters. The place looks like it was airlifted into Amsterdam from some random small town in California.


Weirdly enough, there’s also a Cannon Beach sticker on the front door. I was born and raised in Oregon and have spent many a summer day on the shores of Cannon Beach, OR. It’s pretty weird to see any mention of it all the way over here. 

The Taco Shop an oasis in this country’s wasteland of “meh” or overpriced Mexi-offerings. I will miss this place terribly if it goes the way of the dodo.

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Showgirls is a serious drama!

This morning, one of the Dutch channels was airing a chat with John Wilson, the founder of the Golden Raspberry Awards. The interviewer decided to grill him about Showgirls, the super-campy film directed by Netherlands native Paul Verhoeven.

The interview couldn’t figure out why Wilson and his crew gave the movie the 1996 award for Worst Film of the Year. An excerpt from their conversation (not verbatim).

INTERVIEWER: “In my country, we understood that Showgirls was a serious satire all about Las Vegas, Hollywood and the sex industry…”

WILSON: “Really? With all those boobs and bad dialog flying around at a million miles a second?”

INTERVIEWER: “Yes. A lot of Dutch people thought that you Americans just didn’t get what Verhoeven was trying to accomplish.”

Then the editors cheekily cut to a clip of Verhoeven accepting the award with good humor. Did Dutch audiences really take that movie seriously back in the ’90s? Sure, there’s plenty of satire in there but it’s shrouded by some of the most ridiculous dialog and acting ever seen in a major Hollywood film.

I really wish I had the clip to post but here’s the trailer for Showgirls instead…

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Attention Vampire Fans and Appreciators of Overdressed Ghouls in General!

Are you tired of what passes quality vampiric entertainment lately?

Do you find True Blood impossibly dumb?

Do the tedious antics of the Twilight twits make you want to drive a stake through their heads?

Then I’ve got the movie for you. It’s headed to the US in April.

OK, the title is pretty dang pretentious but bear with me here. It’s called Only Lovers Left Alive and, not only is it a damn good vampire flick, it’s one of celebrated director Jim Jarmusch’s best films. It stars Tom “Loki from Those Thor Movies” Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as two vamps that have been together for centuries.

It’s the sort of tale I’ve been wanting to come across for years and it elegantly explains how much of a flippin’ drag it would be immortal. Centuries of living have rendered Hiddleston’s character as world weary as it gets. They’re the most intelligent couple on the planet and there’s broad hints throughout the film that vampires are secretly responsible for everything from the works of Shakespeare to the inventions of Tesla. What do you do when you’re the smartest creatures alive but you’re beholden to repetitious mistakes of history and can’t do squat about it?

Hiddelston, who is holed up in a rotting house in an abandoned neighborhood, spends much of film muttering about how stupid humans are when he isn’t buzzing around the streets of Detroit in a vintage sports car fueled by Tesla tech. These scenes, which include hypnotic shots of the ravages of the Motor City, are flippin’ gorgeous.

Like much of Jarmusch’s movies, not much happens but the dialog and performance are all great and I dare say there’s more plot and thought in its 122 minutes than the entirety of those god awful Twilight movies. The soundtrack is killer too and John Hurt shows up as an undead Christopher Marlowe that’s still pissed that Billy Shakes got all the credit for the plays he penned. It might be too languid for most viewers and it’s goofy n’ pompous (what vampire movie isn’t?) but I loved the hell out of it. In a perfect world, this the movie all the world’s goth tweens would pour over.

Here’s the trailer.

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Snapshots From the 44th Edition of IFFR

I made it to the final night of International Film Festival Rotterdam (AKA “#IFFR” on Twitter) over the weekend. Wikipedia tells me that the fest is “approximately comparable in size to other major European festivals such as Cannes, Venice, Berlin, and Locarno [citation needed].”


Take that for what you will but, for what it’s worth, IFFR certainly looks like a big deal. The main corridor of Rotterdam Centraal was lined with banners bearing the fest’s iconic tiger mascot as I passed through on Saturday night. Far stranger were the two gigantic plaster heads sitting near the train station’s main entrance. I later learned that they open up along their noses and serve as info kiosks during daylight hours.


A long, illuminated red carpet guided me to the front doors of the Pathé Schouwburgplein. Once inside, I felt under-dressed but more at ease once three incredibly drunk guys sat down next to me in the theater’s IMAX auditorium. I tried and failed to get my Twitter account blocked from the running ticker on one of the fest’s pre-show interactive screens. I guess there’s always next year.


I was there to see The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji, the latest bit of cinematic weirdness from Japanese director Takashi Miike. The first half held the drunk guys’ interest but, once the movie set aside its madcap violence and T & A for some crime/drama pathos worthy of Heat, all three of them passed out.

I obviously procrastinated so I missed out on the likes of Nebraska and Big Bad Wolves, Quentin Tarantino’s pick for the best film of 2013. Oh, well. The Mole Song was a refreshing oddity and well worth the trip. I lost a glove somewhere along the way though.


Wherever you are, glove, I dedicate this blog post to you.

Posted in Holland, movies, weird | Comments Off on Snapshots From the 44th Edition of IFFR

I Am [Not] Ozzy


Last week, I found myself stuck at Heathrow for three hours. I had eight pounds worth of loose change bouncing around in my pocket. Rather than blow it all on candy, I bought a copy of Ozzy Osbourne’s autobiography I Am Ozzy.

I wasn’t expecting much. After catching a few episodes of The Osbournes back in the early ’00s, I figured that Ozzy’s years of reckless self abuse had rendered him a blubbering, monosyllabic train wreck. I thought wrong.

Maybe it’s primarily due to the efforts of his co-author but Ozzy proves himself to be one hell of a storyteller. I’m at about the halfway mark and I’m ready to proclaim I Am Ozzy one of the top 3 music autobiographies of all time. It warrants a spot alongside Cash by Johnny Cash and David Lee Roth’s Crazy From the Heat.

Ozzy’s prose goes from wild to heartbreaking to disgusting to enraging, sometimes all within a few pages. He’s the ultimate real world anti-hero; a man who was a legitimate psychopath for much of his life but a charming one, for what it’s worth. During one passage, he recalls going on a drug-fueled, midnight rampage across his estate with a samurai sword after returning home from a US tour in the late ’70s. The things he does are terrifying. After hearing all of the calamity, his elderly neighbor goes outside and tracks him down. Upon finding him blood-soaked and manic, she coolly remarks, “Ah, Mr. Osbourne. I see you’ve returned from America. *Unwinding* are we?” before returning to bed.

It’s this sort of pitch-black humor that makes the book impossible to put down. Additional anecdotes include Ozzy happily mocking Black Sabbath’s satanic followers, the first time he played one of his records for his staunch/conservative father and why he didn’t wear shoes for much of the late ’60s.

I’ll leave you with this bit from page 83:

“I don’t remember when we first played ‘Black Sabbath’ but I sure as hell remember the audience’s reaction: all the girls ran out of the venue, screaming. ‘Isn’t the whole point of being in a band to get a shag, not to make chicks run away?’ I complained to the others, afterwards.

‘They’ll get used to it,’ Geezer responded.”

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Why I Wound Up Buying a Toshiba Ultrabook: An Epic Tale of Epic Woe and Epic-er Frustration

It’s been a while. Sorry about that.

I spent the holidays in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. One of the things that I absolutely had to do while I was in town was to buy a new laptop. My former machine, a low-end Dell, had become very worn out and tired. I attempted to make an informed decision. I asked for advice on Facebook from people who know more about these things than me and I read a ton of reviews on Amazon. I tried to buy one on Cyber Monday but couldn’t find anything that was quite right.

More than anything, there’s two features that I had to have: a keyboard without a keypad and a machine with a screen that wouldn’t bounce around while I type. As has been noted by others, I pound on keyboards and the power of my frantic keystrokes are worthy of Jerry Lee Lewis circa 1959 after he’s downed a bottle of pep pills and a fifth of whiskey. I don’t play PC games and don’t care about processor speeds? Uh, what the hell is a processor?

I put off the chore until after Christmas. My father urged me to check out the laptops at Costco but I figured that, while their prices probably couldn’t be beat, their selection would be minimal. Fry’s, a popular chain of electronics-clogged warehouses, wasn’t an option because it was all the way down in Wilsonville and I heard that they restock returned computers as new. One thing I hadn’t considered: “big box” retailers are becoming extinct. Where the bloody hell do Americans buy computers anymore? I had no clue. Circuit City? The one near my parents’ place had been replaced with a colossal pizza parlor. When did that happen?

According to my sister, who works in IT and is, as far as I’m considered, a Gandalf the Grey and a Gandalf the White rolled up into one when it comes to all things computers, “normal people” don’t buy laptops in stores anymore. Everyone goes looking for them online but I’m of the opinion that are some things that you shouldn’t buy sight unseen. Among them: underpants, normal pants, cars and laptops.

So I wound up at the Windows Store in downtown Portland, where every laptop on hand was a newfangled/overpriced monstrosity with off-centered keyboards and totally superfluous touchscreens (does anybody actually use those things? If so, how do they prevent them from becoming smeared with fingerprints?). By this point, the clock was ticking and I was getting desperate enough to even consider buying a Mac.

Yeah, I’m not much of a fan of Apple. While there’s no denying that their hardware is as solidly built as the door of a bank vault, I can’t stand their OS. Plus, man, oh man, they’re stuff is Ex. Spens. Ive.

I headed over to the Apple Store in Pioneer Place. HUGE MISTAKE. It was packed to the gills and, it should go without saying, the cheapest machine in there was way out of my price range. I had to almost, literally, claw my way to the door. It was a consumer feeding frenzy worthy of Henry David Thoreau’s worst fever dreams.

On my last day in Portland, tired and weary, I staggered into the Best Buy in Tigard. Only three machines there were gonna work for me: two super cheap HPs that seemed as delicate as Faberge eggs and the laptop I’m typing on now. Like just about all Windows-based laptops these days, it has an annoyingly glossy screen that renders it almost useless whenever it’s placed near an actual window during daylight hours (a pox on whoever decided to make all laptop screens over-reflective crapulence). It also has a touchscreen that, after just a few swipes, is already smeared with fingerprints. But it has a solid keyboard and the screen barely twerked while I was typing this.

Now if I could only prevent all these godforsaken clocks and widgets from popping up every 25 seconds. %@#$@#! TECHNOLOGY!

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Janelle Monáe at People’s Place in Amsterdam

Jannelle Monáe is one of those preternaturally talented musicians that comes along every fifteen years or so. She’s been compared to James Brown, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Outkast and Prince. While she may not yet be worthy of those comparisons, I’m of the opinion that she’s well on her way. Plus, music critics can’t seem to stop writing glowing articles about her. If she had been born in the ’60s and was making her musical debut in the early ’80s, I honestly think she’d be a household name and as big as a Thriller-era Jackson. Don’t believe me? Give “Tightrope,” a song off her first full-length album The ArchAndroid,  a listen and just try to keep your toes from tapping. It’s physically impossible.


But due to the peculiarities of fandom and the music industry in 2013, that ain’t the case and Monáe may never hit those stratospheric heights. Maybe she’s just too dang weird for super-stardom (she records concept albums about androids and seems to have an unhealthy obsession with tuxedos), although that hasn’t stopped Lada Gaga. I guess that’s a good thing for her fans though. In any other era,  Monáe would be selling out large theaters or arenas. Instead of all that, she still plays much more intimate venues like People’s Place in Amsterdam.

People’s Place doesn’t look like it was built for music. It’s way too small and a gigantic post blocks a good chunk of the stage.  Nevertheless, it’s been used for plenty of live gigs over the years. Worse yet, Monáe’s show there last Saturday night was oversold and the temperature inside felt like it was soaring past the 30 C mark by the time she hit the stage.

But any great performer can transcend a shitty venue and Monáe and her crew did that with ease. She had the fussy, sweat-soaked crowd in the palm of her hand by the time she picked up a zebra-colored lightsaber 10 minutes into the show and “slayed” two dudes in Grim Reaper costumes. She stayed in character throughout the night and pretended to break down just like a real android savior from the 28th century might during her 90-minute set. Her back-up dancers carried her backstage for quick repairs every now and then.

The crowd ate all of these sci-fi theatrics up with a spoon and it’s always great to go to a live show and not have to deal with indifferent scenesters talking through the performance. For “Come Alive,” the last song of the night, Monáe ordered everybody in the room to get down on their knees and they obliged. Then she jumped down into the crowd and scat-sang her way towards the back. A stage dive and a few more minutes of mayhem later, the show was over. You can watch all of this go down on the YouTube clip posted above if you’re curious.

On my way out, I overheard a gigantic, 6-foot-5 security guard buzzing about what he had just seen. I’ve gone to a lot of live shows in my time but I’ve never witnessed that.

Posted in Holland, music, video | Comments Off on Janelle Monáe at People’s Place in Amsterdam

An Obituary For an Extraordinary Cat

I first spotted Danger Cat climbing around on the roof of the student house across the street from our apartment in the spring of 2012. My first thought: “what kind of a maniac would allow their kitten to run around in a rain gutter three stories over a cobblestone street?” At the time, he was about six or so months old and was wearing a bright, red collar that wasn’t long for this world. It was the one and only time I ever saw him wearing it.

It was an early sign that this was one kitty who was beholden to no one. His extreme distaste for collars was comparable to his passion for exploring the world around him. Danger Cat belonged to the students and served as a sort of mascot for their house. As I’ve noted elsewhere on this blog, the Dutch love felines and many cafes and businesses keep “shop cats” around to control rodents and because, well, everybody loves the little furballs.


When I heard that the students were ready to let Danger Cat become an outdoor kitty, I was rather perturbed. Our neighborhood sits in the middle of downtown Leiden. While the narrow streets here are laden with cobblestones, shoppers and sidewalk terraces, these obstructions do little to sway local motorists from bombing down them at positively insane speeds. I tried to warn the students about the dangers but they were unswayed. Plenty of other outdoor cats live in the neighborhood. Feeling like an overprotective backseat driver, I kept my further objections to myself.

Over the course of the remainder of 2012, Danger Cat quickly became a local celebrity. His insatiable curiosity, indomitable personality and love for human company kept him perpetually on the move. He happily wandered in and out of many of the cafes, pubs, offices and shops in the neighborhood, becoming a regular at many of them. While not everybody approved of a cocky tomcat wandering into their place of business like he owned it (I once saw the feline blast out of an art gallery at top speed after quickly wearing out his welcome), many doors were open to him.

Danger Cat could typically be found sitting on the counter at Velvet Records when he wasn’t listening to live jazz bands at De Twee Spieghels, a bar a few blocks away from the student house. He became a common fixture at the Cafe Jantje van Leiden and could often be spotted sitting on a bench outside on warm days (he would typically hang out at the Leiden Bierwinkel, a bottle shop across the street, during inclement weather). Danger Cat also spent many a night snoozing on the bar (not just in but *on* the bar itself) or one of the stools when he didn’t feel like going home. Unlike all of Jantje’s other barflies, he was the one that never got booted out at closing time.  He was practically the tiny, furry equivalent of Norm from Cheers. It wasn’t uncommon to hear the regulars shout “BLEDDER!” as he entered, much like the character on that old American sitcom.


My girlfriend and I dubbed him “Danger Cat” because, for one thing, at the time we didn’t know his real name and, for another, there was no escaping the fact that he was a reckless adventurer, the feline equivalent of James Bond or Indiana Jones. He no qualms about running out in front of everything from bikes to scooters and delivery trucks. It was almost like a game for him.

One afternoon, Danger Cat decided to take up swimming and dived into a canal around the corner. He was rescued by one of the students and his trusty field hockey stick. On another occasion, Danger Cat found himself stuck out on the roof of the student house after a window swung closed behind him. His owners were off on a weekend retreat and he sat up there all night and through a pretty scary thunderstorm. My girlfriend discovered him the next morning, very angry but no worse for wear. We called the Leiden Fire Department and they sent out a truck to rescue him.  The very second the long arm of the truck’s retractable ladder hit the ground, he ran down the street and into the stairwell leading up to our apartment.

A local business owner caught wind of his adventures and decided to start a Facebook page for the cat that, at the time of this writing, has attracted exactly 700 fans from around the world. The page caught the eye of reporters at the daily paper in Leiden and De Telegraaf, a national daily. Both wrote wrote stories about the cat, one of which revealed that he was know by many names around town. In addition to Danger Cat, folks around here knew him as “Prinsje,” “Champagne,” and “Sweetheart” but his real name, the one given to him by the students, was Jacco. Meanwhile, on his Facebook page he was known as “Buurtpoes Bledder,” which roughly translates as “Neighborhood Soccer Cat.” He was given this title due to his white and black coloring, which resembled a soccer ball, in addition to his tendency to get under people’s feet.


At some point last autumn, he decided that our apartment would become one of his preferred crash pads. On many a morning, we opened up our front curtains and found him sitting outside the student house waiting for us to get out of bed, perhaps well aware that it would be 11 AM or later before his owners woke up. One of us would go downstairs to let him in. Almost like clockwork he would give us each a quick rub before darting over to his food bowl. After eating his fill, he would typically jump onto the couch and pass out for anywhere from 5 minutes to 7 hours. Being a freelancer, I work from home and he kept me company on many a weekday. I often run out for coffee in the mornings and it became routine to have Danger Cat greet me upon my return, sometimes even running down the street so he could follow me back to our front door like Mary’s Little Lamb.

People who knew the late comedian John Belushi have told countless stories about his insatiable appetites and irresistible charms. While working on location during the filming of a movie, it wouldn’t be uncommon for Belushi, typically exhausted from far too much partying, to wander over to the nearest house, knock on the door and ask, “Do you know who I am? Ever seen Animal House? Fantastic, can I have a snack?” He would then help himself to fridge and pass out on their couch where he would later be found by a frustrated member of the production crew.

Much like Belushi,  nearly every door was open to Danger Cat and behind every one of them was a potential meal or a comfortable place to plonk. No matter how badly each of them behaved, it was impossible not to love them.  On dozens of Sunday mornings, the cat blasted into our apartment like one of Belushi’s freewheeling characters or Kramer on Seinfeld. If he could have spoken, I’m sure he would have regaled us each time with his prior night’s adventures. “Oh, man. You wouldn’t believe what was going down at Jantje’s. Het was zo vet! After closing, I wasn’t tired so I snuck into the church and bombed around the bell tower to wake up all the pigeons! Serves ’em right, lazy bastards! Then I headed over to the bakery to hang out with the guys down there until dawn. Honestly, I’m completely and utterly zonked. What’s for breakfast?”

The entire neighborhood freaked out when Danger Cat went missing last January. We all assumed the worse. After three weeks of worrying, he was returned to the student house by a married couple who live nearby. They had come across him and, given his hatred of collars, they assumed he was a stray. It wasn’t until someone told them about the cat’s Facebook page that they realized he was a local celebrity. While we all fretted, he was living high on the hog. According to the couple, Danger Cat spent these weeks, the coldest of the winter, snoozing next to a heater in their living room when he wasn’t gorging himself on free kibble.

Given Danger Cat’s perpetual hunger for freedom and excitement (except when it was too cold or rainy outside), it was impossible to keep him indoors when he felt like it was time to hit the road. Pity the poor fool that tried. At our place, he had a way of making his desires known that involved everything from jumping on the nearest shelf with beloved heirlooms to climbing the laundry rack. Sometimes, when he was in more of a hurry, he’d jump in our laps and stare at us intently. If all else failed, he’d bite whatever appendage he could get his teeth on. While the students were visiting their families over Christmas, we babysat Danger Cat for a few days. He spent Christmas morning shredding wrapping paper and diving in and out of a stack of it in our living room.

Last night, a night like so many others, he greeted my girlfriend as she got from work and followed her upstairs. He ate a bit, had a quick snooze and was ready to head back out around 9:30. I followed him downstairs and watched as he darted over to Jantje’s. Figuring that he wanted inside the tavern, I walked over and opened the front door. In typical Danger Cat fashion, he changed his mind, refused to enter and decided that he’d rather wander off down the street. As I headed back to our apartment, I looked over my shoulder and muttered, “Ugh, stupid cat.”

40 minutes later, our doorbell rang. It was one of the students. There had been a terrible accident. My girlfriend and I headed downstairs where we found a group of regulars at the tavern standing in the street. One of them, a lady named Anne-Marie warned us. “Niet goed…niet goed….” Around the corner, outside a wine bar, another regular was holding the cat in her arms. She was bawling her eyes out.

Minutes prior, a car had hit Danger Cat about thirty feet from the front door of Jantje’s. With what little strength he had left, he crawled over to the sidewalk and collapsed. He did not suffer. His death was a quick one.

They say that cats have nine lives but Danger Cat is feline that had at least 30. He cheated the Kitty Grim Reaper more times that I can count on my fingers and toes. Like so many celebrities before him, his appetites eventually got the better of him and last night he moved out of danger’s path a little too slow. For this little kitty who charmed so many in his short life, perhaps it was better to burn out than it was to rust. So goes the cliche. He experienced and lived and loved more than most cats ever will.

UPDATE: There’s been an outpouring of grief from Danger Cat’s fans, both here in the Netherlands and abroad. There’s currently hundreds of condolences on his Facebook page. De Telegraaf posted a news segment on their website about his passing and a film crew from TV West is interviewing the students for another segment while I’m trying this. The Leidsch Dagblad also ran a short obit about him in today’s edition. Here it is:


Posted in ani-pals, Holland | 1 Comment

A Shop Cat in De 9 Straatjes

De 9 Straatjes (“The Nine Streets”) is a series of side streets in Amsterdam lined with boutiques, restaurants and places where you can pay 60 Euros for a haircut. It’s all totally adorable. Tourists and locals alike go there to shop, frolic, drink coffee and take photos of shop cats, like this one here:


Many residents would love it if the entire city was more like De 9 Stratjes and a lot less like the Red Light District. Policies and civic efforts including “Project 1012” seek to clean up Amsterdam’s core and give it a more respectable reputation. Crass gentrification or a necessity, I’ll let you decide.

For those who can’t be troubled with such political matters, look at the kitty! Isn’t he cuuuuuuute?

Posted in ani-pals, Holland, politics | Comments Off on A Shop Cat in De 9 Straatjes