Oscar Weekend Recap

This last weekend was our 5th annual Parool Oscar Weekend.  You know, where you go to the Pathe de Munt movie theater at Muntplein in Amsterdam and sit for 2 full days watching back to back Oscar nominated movies.  I love it.

If you haven’t noticed, on the right side of this blog page I am now posting my Twitter feed.  During this weekend event I sent out tweets summarizing my movie review and giving each movie a score out of 10.  I’ll just expand on that a little bit here.  Warning, it’s full of spoiler alerts.  But then, you should already know how Lincoln and Argo end.

Saturday we started at 10:30am with Lincoln.  This is the movie that starred Daniel Day-Lewis, who won his 3rd Oscar as Best Actor.  I really enjoyed this movie.  It helps if you are raised in the U.S. and know a bit of the history and can relate to the story and the times.  It also helps if you are a native English speaker.  The language in the movie is not simple or easy but it is beautiful and thoughtful and lovely to listen to.  As a language lover, I really appreciated the care they used in recreating the sound of the times.  It is also so interesting to contrast politics of that era with politics of today.  In both cases it’s a dirty business.  But in both cases there is one party that is ignorant and wishes the country to remain ignorant.  What’s interesting is that those parties have switched titles over these 160-odd years.  I highly recommend the film and gave it a 9/10.

Next, with a 30 minute break in between we saw Beasts of the Southern Wild.  I really didn’t know what to expect of this movie.  The main character is a 6 or 7 year old girl who lives with her father and a few scrappy characters in a swampy island that has been abandoned by the government and society.  They are all a bit wacko.  When a big storm comes most of them leave but not the most crazy ones and this girl must stay with her father.  They end up at the end in a shelter, but then escape, and go back to the swamp where he father dies of some disease.  Some parts of the movie were touching.  Some parts were just more of the same.  It wasn’t my kind of movie really.  It went no where and didn’t seem to have a place it should go.  I gave it a 6/10.

Finally Saturday we saw Argo, yet another historical fact/fiction movie about getting Iran hostages out of Iran.  This movie was so suspenseful, even though you know how it’s going to end, that it had my stomach in knots.  The acting was good and I have to say that Ben Affleck really outdid himself as actor and director both.  And he doesn’t look half bad in a beard.  It did remind me of All the President’s Men in look and feel, which is not a bad thing.  I can see how it won best picture as everything was so real you lost sight of which parts were historical film reels and which was recent movie making.  I gave it 8/10.  It’s as well made as Lincoln, but there was something beautiful about Lincoln that got it the extra point for me.

And that’s all we saw Saturday.  We had a concert to go to in Paradiso that night so cut it short at 6pm and only 3 movies seen.  But we were back at it Sunday morning at 10:30 again!

We started Sunday morning with The Master.  After reading the synopsis I was looking forward to seeing this movie.  The first 30 minutes had me sucked in and I was really intrigued.  And then it just droned on and on and on making the same points over and over and over again.  Finally we end up in England for no apparent reason.  The movie should have been 20 minutes shorter, or found something else unique to say.  Having said all that, Joaquin Phoenix was exceptional in the lead role.  Now this is acting folks, every bit as good as Daniel Day-Lewis.  Too bad the movie was such a let down.  I gave it a 6/10.

Next up: Prometheus.  Seriously?  Yes, seriously.  And seriously bad.  This is the pre-quel to Alien and poor Ridley Scott just can’t let it go.  This movie was nominated for visual effects and that, folks, is ALL it had going for it.  Laughable science, deadly predictable script.  The very best part was the very last scene, which ties this movie to Alien.  That’s it.  About 20 seconds.  5/10.

Movie 3 on Sunday was Django Unchained.  Some people don’t appreciate Quentin Tarantino’s movies or his point of view or his humor, but I’m a fan.  Maybe you have to be a fan to be excited about seeing this movie.  I think it’s his best in years.  It was clever, funny, punchy, bloody, and never ever dull.  Jamie Foxx is perfect in the lead and Christofer Waltz won best supporting actor as the German bounty hunter.  If you like dark humor you have to go see this movie.  8/10.  Oh, one thing, here’s a tip Quentin: don’t act in your own movies.  It ain’t your forte son.

Finally, the last film for Sunday was Silver Linings Playbook.  It’s your typical dysfunctional feel good movie.  Screwed up boy meets screwed up girl, lots of screwed up stuff happens and finally they get together.  That’s the plot.  That’s it.  What makes it so entertaining are the actors and the stuff that is just crazy enough to be real and just real enough to be crazy.  You can see these people living next door to you.  You feel for them.  You root for them.  You want them to be happy.  When such a simple plot can do that to you then it’s a highly successful movie.  8/10.  Go see it.  Everyone should laugh and smile at the movies now and then.

And that’s it!  Last year we saw NINE movies, this year only 7.  Next year I’m aiming for 9 again.  I can’t wait.

Indulgence on Friday

I had been meaning to get to the FOAM for months now to see the Diane Arbus exhibit there.  Today we finally made it.  We got there early before it got busy, which is good.  The FOAM is small with lots of hallways taking you from one small room to the next and I imagine if it’s crowded it wouldn’t be much fun.  I hate having to negotiate space with people in order to see things on walls.

If you want to see this exhibit, hurry, it ends 14 January.  There are not only photos taken by Dian Arbus, but what I found really interesting was the section about her life, how she became a photographer, what cameras she used, who hired her and what media she was involved with.

What DB and I both found curious about the photos chosen for the exhibit is that they were all so somber.  Looking at the books in the shop later, and looking at her original proof sheets on display, she had a lot of photos of happy looking people.  For some reason, whoever chose these particular photos to hang on the walls, didn’t use them.  No happy people allowed.  Curious.

Like all highly acclaimed artists, she makes her art look easy.  If you didn’t know better you’d come away thinking “well, I could have taken those photos”.  Well, no you couldn’t.  Look at how she used light.  Look how she used contrast.  What has she chosen to include, and more importantly exclude, in the picture frame.  That takes an eye that nearly everyone else doesn’t have.  When you look at the cameras she used it is even more amazing that she got those shots.  Even with all our fancy camera equipment available these days, that is fairly affordable, we take snapshots that no one will look twice at.  And I won’t even start about Instagram, something I really hate….

Looking at her first Nikon on display I had a momentary longing for my first 35mm camera, a Pentax with a 50mm lens.  Totally manual.  I took B&W film and developed the negatives and made prints in the darkroom at school.  It would take me days, even weeks, to come up with something I liked and would show anyone else.  A far cry from our instant everything digital world.

Going to this exhibit was inspiring for me.  If nothing else, it made me realize again that I need to carry my camera with me at all times.  Using my iPhone camera is just plain laziness.

Oh, btw, after the FOAM, we had lunch at an Irish pub.  We pretended to be tourists and had the full Irish breakfast.

Then we went to Soap and had hour long massages.  It was indeed a self indulgent day.

Today in Amsterdam

Today I went to see my friend Ginni at her school.  First we had lunch on Haarlemmerdijk then went to talk about web sites and shops and html code and stuff like that.  As I walked down the street to meet her I took this photo of a shop window.  It’s actually an eyeglass shop. You’d never know it by looking in their window.  The cat is always there, no matter what the other decorations are.

Ginni and I also talked about shopping.  Neither of us likes to shop for clothes.  It’s not fun to always be faced with the fact that your figure isn’t what it used to be and all the clothes in shops are designed and sized for the figure you no longer have.  Shoes, however, are another story.  I don’t mind shopping for shoes.  My legs are my best feature, despite their lack of length.  On my way home from Ginni’s I decided to stop into a shop on Haarlemmerdijk and bought these –

I’d say it was a very successful afternoon in Amsterdam!

 

Creative Sunday

Yesterday was a very crafty day.  I went to a spindle spinning class at Penelope Craft in Amsterdam, taught by the very talented Christopher.  He’s a wizard with a spindle, with any kind of fiber, and can stand there making lace weight perfect singles while talking to us at the same time.  He’s also a professional singer and musician.  Such a talented guy!

Some of the students had done this before, but most of us had not.  It’s much harder than Chris makes it look.  My feeble attempts came out like bulky weight thick/thin singles.  The only fiber that I was really happy with was the pure silk.  It was just easier for me to draft for some reason.  I find that drafting (pulling the fiber out it just the right amount at the right speed) is so difficult to get right.  I know, practice makes perfect.  Chris kept reminding us about how long it took us to get really good at knitting and not to be disappointed in our first 3 hours of spinning.  We all seemed to be perfectionists who want results NOW.  Silly us.

At the same time as this class was going on, Ginni was having a craft market at her studio, DIY Textile School.  I didn’t want to miss it so I ran out of Penelope Craft just at 3pm and headed to the other side of Amsterdam as fast as I could.  I got there in time to buy a necklace of crocheted steel and beads, and a pair of earrings made with vintage beads.  And I had a tiny piece of the most amazing chocolate pecan pie.

If you are in Amsterdam at the weekend before Christmas, I think the Sunday Market at the Westergasfabriek will be pretty amazing.  I won’t be able to make it because I’ll be busy painting our downstairs toilet (more on that later).  But go there if you can.  Happy crafting everyone!

Kaffe Fasset in Amsterdam

Last night Kaffee Fassett had a book signing and a gave a short talk in Amsterdam.  It was sponsored by the American Book Center (ABC).  The book signing took place on the ground floor of the ABC shop and the talk was just a short walk away at the ABC Treehouse.

That’s Kaffe, seated, signing books and laughing with customers/admirers.  Brandon Mably stands nearby.  Kaffe is so animated and is always moving, making it a challenge to get a good photo of him!

He has just published his memoirs, titled “Dreaming in Color – an autobiography”, which is the reason behind the book tour.  I have yet to read it, but given the amazing life this man has lead, I’m sure it’s going to be a page turner!

During the talk at the Treehouse he showed us some of his work.  It was just a tease.  But still nice to see some of his things in person.  I first saw both Kaffe and Brandon on the Vogue Knitting Tour to Alaska in 1999.  They tried to teach us how to use color in free and organic ways.  I think I failed.  At that time I just couldn’t get my mind wrapped around knitting without a chart to tell me what to do.  I think today I would be a much better student.

Here are some photos from last night.

Of course I wore my Tumbling Blocks Kaffee Fassett sweater.  I made it in 1990 as far as I remember.  I definitely remember cursing at all the ends I had to weave in in the back!  That sweater is over 20 years old but it’s still going strong.  I don’t wear it very often anymore because the style is rather out of date (remember big 80’s sweaters?).  But for this occasion I had to wear it.  When Kaffe was signing my book I showed him the sweater, then I showed him my copy of his first book that has that sweater pattern in it.  He signed that book too and seemed really happy to see someone carrying it around.

I just wish that he would have talked longer.  Much longer.  The talk seemed really short and constrained by the ABC’s timing issues.  I would have loved to hear about his amazing life.  I’ll just have to read about it instead.

 

The Natural

There he is, number 25780, the natural runner of the family.  This was his second half marathon in 3 weeks.  Three weeks ago he ran in Haarlem with a time of 1:45.  Three weeks later he ran in Amsterdam with a time of 1:43.  He was SURE his Amsterdam time would be slower than Haarlem.  I had more belief in him than he did!

The Amsterdam marathon began at 9:30am.  The half marathon began at 1:30pm.  The slowest of the marathon runners were still running when the half marathoners started coming in to the finish.  The photo below was taken in the Vondelpark, 4.5 hours after these people had started running.  Let me say it again.  They had been running for nearly 5 hours when they got to the park.  They still had 3km to go.  Respect.

DB was so enthusiastic after this race that he signed up for Egmond that same evening.  And I must admit that seeing all these people running (15,000 of them just for the half marathon) made me pretty enthusiastic too.  I signed up for the Egmond 10k.  It’s in January.  I have time to get ready.  Yes, January.  In the cold.  On the beach.  Yes, we are crazy.

My Precious

Yesterday I did something I’ve been meaning to do for years.  I had some jewelry that I didn’t wear anymore and traded it for something very much older.

Here’s my new ring, my precious.

The center stone is a Moonstone and there are little diamonds all around it.

From the side you can see the filigree gold work and two more little diamonds on the side.  It was made some time in the 1920’s.  A real antique!

I just love it.  In fact, it was love at first sight.  The woman at the shop showed me 4 trays of rings but when I saw this, the deal was done.  She didn’t know that I used to walk Moonstone Beach in Humboldt County, picking up rough moonstones and wondering what I could do with them.  This ring really spoke to me.

The shop I went to is one that I’ve walked past and looked in their windows for many years – Lyppens Juwelier on the Langebrugsteeg in Amsterdam.  They were so nice and very helpful. I highly recommend going there if you are looking for old, or even not so old, jewelry.  They also have silverware such as spoons or candle holders or trays.

Segway, again

Yesterday we went on a Segway tour of Amsterdam with BestDam Segway Tours.  It was my second time, DB’s first time.  This second time for me was certainly much warmer!  My first time on a Segway was in January and it was SO COLD!  Yesterday was warm and sunny and perfect.

The guys that run BestDam are great.  They make sure you are able and comfortable on your Segway before heading out onto the street. First you have to get set up on your Segway.

Then you practice inside with little cones.  You learn to stop and go and weave in between the cones.

And then we’re out on the street, negotiating bike, pedestrian, car and tram traffic.  We did the architecture tour, so every few minutes we’d stop and Daniel would tell us about the buildings we were looking at.  Most of the tour took place in the Jordaan, but also around the Dam (top photo).  I’m a little surprised that they take people into such crowded and busy areas.  We are used to the amount and type of traffic on the streets of Amsterdam, but most people are not.  I wonder how many people fall off or get into problems on a Segway in the city center.

WE had a great time!  I’d do it again. And again.

 

Old Turf and Music Weekend

This morning we drove to Sloterplas, in West Amsterdam, for our Sunday run.  It’s a 6km loop around a small lake and most of the running route looks like the above – nice trees and park setting.  This is my old running turf.  I just did a search of my blog on “Sloterplas” and am reminded that the first time I ran here was May 11, 2008.  Four years ago almost to the day.  Funny.  In my mind I thought it was actually a year earlier than that.  Time plays tricks on the mind often.

When we lived in Amsterdam and I ran here I would listen to Brenda Dayne.  Today I listened to Science Friday.  It makes the time and the running just fly by (again, a trick of time).  They talked about an extinct giant turtle the size of a Smart car, and why humans are omnivorous, and working towards a commercially available tomato that actually tastes good.  Science Friday is always interesting.

There were a lot of joggers making their way around the lake today.  There were also quite a few Muslim women doing a fast walk, and some even jogging, dressed as they are always dressed, in long dresses or pants and a long coat over the top, plus headscarf of course.  I can’t imagine trying to be sporty wearing so many clothes.  They must be sweating and so very hot in there.  Hats off to them.  That’s sporting dedication for sure.

After my short 6km run I took a few photos with my phone, trying to capture the feeling of so much green and water.  This is the best I can do.  It makes me feel peaceful – always a good thing.

The rest of my Sunday?  I finished sewing a top that I want to take on vacation with me – photos tomorrow.  And watched Pink Pop on tv.  Why pay to go stand with 30,000 other sweaty sun burned people when you can sit on your couch and get a front seat view to (nearly all) the bands?  Here’s a fun one we watched – “Boss Hog”, a band from Berlin who take Top 40 songs and transform them into Texas country-rock, complete with the hats, boots and Texas accents.  They were great fun!  If you live in NL, tune in to channel Cultura 24 to watch it live, or watch it streaming on your computer on the 3voor12 site, or listen to it on national Radio 3 FM.  Plenty of choices for choice music this weekend!

Friends in Amsterdam

Yesterday I met up with two groups of friends in Amsterdam.  First I went to a talk by Dr. Herbert Puchta at Cambridge University Press.  The topic was “Bored students? Try Emotional Engagement!”.  It was interesting, but frankly having just finished a CELTA course, his ideas and suggestions were not much different from what we had been practicing for 12 weeks.  The best part about going to the event was meeting up with 3 CELTA colleagues!  We went for a drink afterwards and walked a bit through the center of Amsterdam.

That’s me in the pink jacket, optimistically thinking the weather would be warm into the evening.

Ivana really wanted this photo!  Here you go!

At the end of the afternoon I headed to the public library to hang out and wait for my other friends to end their work day and go to dinner.  We went to Casa di David where we met up with another friend who isn’t working any more.  Here are photos of my friends.  There isn’t a photo of me because I can’t keep my eyes open when faced with a flash.  Seriously.  I just can’t.  It’s a reflex I can’t stop and makes for a really lousy photo.

The food was pretty good, but not great, and it was expensive for what you get.  The best part of the meal was the starter.  We got the special di David which is a little bit of everything.  Most of the plate was covered with food that wasn’t actually cooked, just good ingredients laid out.  I guess that’s what they are good at?  I had zeeduivel (gosh, what is that in English? Monk fish.  I had to look it up) which was obviously frozen for a long while.  The texture wasn’t that of a very fresh fish.  The least impressive was dessert.  I had pannacotta which had chocolate sauce over the top and whipped cream on top of that.  The pannacotta itself was tasteless.  The chocolate sauce was cheap stuff out of a bottle and there was way too much whipped cream.  Ah well.  Someone else had tiramisu and it was the best dessert we had.  I’ll have to put a review on iens.nl.  If you want reliable restaurant reviews for the Netherlands, use that site.

It was a fun day out and great to see friends in Amsterdam.  Sometimes I wonder why we moved to Haarlem when I spend so much time going back to Amsterdam.  But then I remember the dunes and the beach and my little patch of garden and my attic space in the house and know that it was the right decision.