Saturday, January 28, 2012

Week Thirty Eight and a Half: The Final Amsterdam.

Amsterdam, Part Three: When will she hush up already.

Just be grateful it wasn't a three day weekend in Paris. Then you'd never hear the end of it.

Okay, so we purchase 24 hour Iamsterdam cards to explore the city with the first night, and activated them the second day. If you ever go to Amsterdam, save yourself hundreds of dollars and get these. For 40 Euro, or about $50, you can enter any participating museums for free, or discount rates, and you get a 24 hour tram/boat/bus ticker. This boat is supposed to be the hop on hop off one. This card is well worth the price.

Why? Because bar minimum, you save 25% on tickets the run around 15 Euro on average, if not much more, and are never ever less than 10. Ten euro is basically the super cheap museums. We used these yesterday, but if we got up early enough and hurried then we had enough time for one more free museum before we left. We managed two.

Our targets? The Hermitage Amsterdam and the Rembrandt House. Mission Successful! Loved it!

Okay, so Van Gogh and I don't get along, but when it comes to Baroque Art, I am totally in seventh heave. (Van Gogh's more famous art pieces are modern or semi-classical.) So the Hermitage Amsterdam, a branch of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, was like standing at the Pearly Gates.

It was a large museum, despite being 'only' a branch, and it had a lot of small art 'cabinets' surrounding the man room. These were about the size of a walk in closer. Apparently, due to size constraints, they only do one exhibit at a time.

This time was a Rubens, Van Dyck, and Jordaens exhibit. All three are Flemish master artists who worked closely together. all three are also baroque artists which explains my earlier squealing.

There were several hunting scenes there, many still life paintings with an assortment of dead birds and flowers in them, and lots of religious artworks, mythological artworks, and of course portraits. Aft all, for centuries, religion and portraits were how artists earned their bread and butter.

So I enjoyed it greatly and learned loads about painting and how to! This, as a very amateur hobby artist, gave me great pleasure.

Apparently, a lot of paintings are able to have the artist determined by the sketching style, or at least the main artist. Those life size paintings the 'masters' produced? Often, a lot of it was painted in by the artist's pupils are the master had done the initial painting. Gasp!

That would be some kind of scandal today.

I mentioned that I learned a bit about how to paint? Well, that was due to videos about the artist that were playing. Rubens was known for his ability to make the colors pop. How? He had three layers of paint on all his paintings, and the initial layer was grey, not white. Hm...

They also showed side by side comparisons of a lot of initial sketches. From the sketch, for especially large artworks, a quick oil painting model would be painted, sans a lot of the fine details. This looked like a lot of the oil paintings a friend of mine did in high school. Always knew she was great.

My favorite two paints were a family portrait and one of Aphrodite and Adonis, as Aphrodite begged Adonis not to go on the hunt which would end his life, wee Eros trying to stop the handsome man as well. She had a prophetic dream, you see. I'm sure you can find the myth if you look it up.

My other favorite was a family of six. What stood out to be was how casual it was, the family at ease with each other, the toddler's ribbon leash gently clasped in the mother's hand.

Oh, you thought child leashes were new? Hardly. Ribbons used to sen onto the back of their clothes for the mother to keep their adventurous tot close.

The sheer amount of art there was astounding and mind blowing. However, in comparison to the Rembrandt House, it was positively empty. Yet the Hermitage held much more.

The difference was in the organization. Rembrandt's house was organized how it had been in his life, based on inventory and sketches. As Rembrandt sold his art from his canal side home, the art was everywhere. I was very overwhelmed by it all, but as a result, more unimpressed than anything else. Too much good art at once makes it all look bad. This house was, of course, our next spot.

Once out of his show areas, I grew much more impressed. The museum had a wealth of his sketches and engravings. While he may be known now for his painting, he also sketched and engraved expertly. In fact, he was known them more for his engravings, which show a seriously frightening attention to detail.

I almost want to try engraving myself after seeing some of his work, though I don't think my hands are near steady enough.

After this, we planed on going to an art exhibit of Jewish artifacts and history, but our Iamsterdam cards hard run out and ticker were, well, I like to say prohibitively expensive, but you might say $42 a pop.

Ha. No.

You are not the Louvre. You are an old church, with Jewish things inside. I'm not paying that much to learn about what I can read in my bible and a history book. Like I said though. the Iamsterdam card is worth it, if only because otherwise museum tickets are scary expensive.

We finished off our time in Amsterdam at an Irish pub. I had the tuna panini, and if it isn't obvious, I'm a tuna fan. I absolutely adored the atmosphere. It had a bar, but it wasn't a bar, if you know what I mean.

Okay, so a few things my flow of thought just did not leave room for: bike garages, witty graffiti, color changing buildings, and Wall Street in the Red Light district.

No joke, there was a three story garage that held about 400 bikes per level and there still isn't enough bike parking in Amsterdam! One clever individual 'parked' his bike with two bike locks on the, ah, water side of the bridge's railing. Well, at least no one will steal his parking space?

Also, if it wasn't just a name or initials in chrome, much of the graffiti consisted of witty statement in English. Less artistic than German graffiti, but less prolific over all as well. Smaller too in general. Most I saw was just about size 60 font. Maybe I jsut didn't see the good graffiti? Either way, the stuff in France is the most artistic so far.

We did walk through the Red Light district to get to our tram. I didn't see the big fuss. The ladies of the night were behind glass, clothes in bikinis and with the most bored looks on their face as they wiggled. I can't call it dancing. It'd be an insult to dancing.

No the best part of it all was where Wall Street was. That would be inside the boundaries of the Red Light district. What does this say about Wall Street? I mean, I can think of several things, but I suspect they would be rather rude to say and write.

Just outside the district was Occupy Amsterdam, which I could not get my family to stop at. The stock exchange is in the Red Light district and the protestors are not. That's a commentary on society right there, in some obscure way I'm sure my English professors would be proud of.

Oh yeah, and the color changing building was the World Fashion something or another. Gorgeous at night, but during the day a dull stone building.

On the way back home, we went under a grass animal bridge that I do not know how I missed the first time. This one is bother wider than and more natural than others I've seen, so I think it's much more likely to be used.

As for my loot: five pins (three Rembrandt, one Holland, one Amsterdam), a Van Gogh transforming cube with lots of art on it, a series of post cards from the Anne Frank house showing the book case closed, a deck of cards from the Rijk museum detailing a famous tulip painting.

No photos. I completely forgot my camera, and wouldn't be able to take pictures inside the museums anyway. I might get the photos from my step sister or my dad. Maybe.

One Final Byte: I saw so many things I didn't say.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Week Thirty Eight: Amsterdam: Part Two!

Amsterdam: Day Two

So it looks like you'll be getting a third blog on Amsterdam instead of it all finished up here. It will be up Saturday.

First Stop! The Rijks Museum. No I don't know how to say that. Righk? Reek? Well, it's the R museum. This museum is about Holland. Or Holland's art history at least. It was absolutely beautiful. It was likt a history of the evolution of art. The museum was largely closed due to construction, but looked like, when it all reopened, it’d be about the size of the Denver Art Museum.

I enjoyed it. The first room had a ship's cannon in it. I learned about Holland just walking through the museum! There was a painting of a whale oil factory that caught my attention. also, the only painting of Protestants pulling down the icons during the Reformation where there. It was actually painted sixty years later, but still. There was also a painting called Fishing for souls. Protestants too on the left bank, Catholics on the right bank, and both sides had boats in the water to pull out 'lost souls.' Now, it'd be a lake in an odd shape!

There was a giant doll house there,a bout seven foot tall I suppose, that was custom made and gorgeous. The woman it was commissioned for paid for it by giving the artist a modest canal side house. It came with dolls, furniture, dishes, and cutlery all made to proportion. The only doll still in existence lay in a cradle int he nursery, which I could not see in.

there was a room of delft pottery which included everything from pots, to dishes to, get this, a violin.

No joke, there was a delft violin with horse hair strings. I assume a matching bow may have been made, but I'm pretty certain it couldn't be played. Isn't the vibration of the wood important in instruments?

So anyway, we also say hybrid European-Asian furniture in one room, brought in courtesy of the V.O.C. which was a dutch trading company that existed at the same time as the East India Trading Company.

The next room over held a giant sword, a cane, and large chest in the same glass display. There was a 70 year old mane in history who used the ivory handled can to walk up the steps to his own execution. He was dealt with by the sword in the glass, a broad executioner's sword with a skinny handle.

Now I know for a fact that swords are a messy way to go. Generally, I recall being informed that a single stroke doesn't do the job, because of the spinal cord getting in the way.

But this one. This one I can believe in. It was a hand and a half sword with a handle about the width of a skinny finger, and a thickness of an old wooden ruler. The blade, by contrast, was the width of a large mane's hand, or about the width of my brother in law's hand. While no longer sharp, the edge had clearly once held a good bite to it. There was no decoration on the blade or the handle. For some reason this austerity made it all the more deadly.

As for the contents of the chest, nowhere did it say, or identify. But considering it shard a glass box, I suspect it was the old man's chest. Or perhaps his coffin.

There were two delicate carved hollow porcelain decorative jars, only slightly thick than rice paper, and in some places held together with rice paper and glue. And of course, there were portraits galore!

I can't forget the large room dedicated to Rembrandt and his contemporaries. Lots of formal portraits and still life paints. Mostly portraits. My favorite was of a young man playing a lyre, with a joyful look on his face and about him. This was painted by a famous female artist of the time. Second would be the young girl of around eight dressed in a green velvet woman's dress and very formally.

Then we walked on and saw more including a single Andy Warhol of Queen Beatrice shortly after the coronation of her husband.

The next museum was Van Gogh. Van Gogh was one of my mother's favorite artist. He and I however are 'eh.' In fact, I find most of his art very 'eh.' His beginning work is very dark, lots of browns and somber and serious. Then he delved into more colorful Japanese style art, and from there discovered the wonderful world of color. A lot of color. And dashes. Dashed paint was Van Gogh's pointillism.

There were a few Claude Monet's in there, which were all okay. My favorite painting was of a woman in a blue dress with a pearl necklace, dark hair, and large hooded eyes. I cannot remember the artist name.

Okay, I admit. I am not a fan of this period of art at all. I prefer my Rembrandt's to you Van Gogh's. Something about the period drives me wacky, and I've just never seen why Van Gogh was so famous, minus the ear debacle which was only hinted at, never mentioned.

Following a delicious tuna melt lunch, we went to the Anne Frank House.

This is the house the Anne Frank and seven others hid away in, after having moved from Frankfurt Germany to Amsterdam to escape the Germans. We walked in the hiding places, the secret annex behind the moving bookcase. There was little in the House, but mementos on the wall. The pictures Anne pasted on to her wall were still there, behind glass. The original diary, along with other notebooks, were there as well. It was a quiet, somber place. I liked it, but it made me sad.

From there we went on a boat ride around the canals and through the harbor. Their harbor is, by the way, fresh water from the Amster River. The sea is cut off from the city 'by two works' according the the tour.

It was a beautiful boat ride. The canal side houses are all beautiful, even the so called 'plain' ones. And get this: Because stair cases where thin, winding, and steep to conserve space, each house comes with a hoisting hook to lift goods and furniture, and they're still being used!

We saw several house boats, wide enough my brother in law could lay across the width with a few inches to space (He makes a good measuring unit.) and about, well, the were long enough to have the same floor space as a decent apartment in the suburbs. Curtains seemed rare, no that anyone seemed to mind.

Indeed, one nicely furnished, if ugly, home with very modern furniture and a pink light in the living room held a couple kissing in it. This was no chaste peck either. He had her bent backwards in a passionately deep kiss that would make Gomez and Morticia Addams be awed.

Predictably, the boat gave a cheer.

That man had to have planned it too. The tour boat comes by at least once an hour. He knew they were coming. I bet the woman was really flustered.

Also, there was this random house boat in the same of a 17th century boat that I have no clue how they got it in there. I mean, the bridges were low, and most of the house boats would have scrapped the top of their house on the bottom of the bride. I wonder....

so then we walked around down town some and saw the Old Church. Yes, that really is the name. It was, by that time, too late to enter, but still. The brick work was astounding, a series of different architectural themes as the church was added onto form about the 1300s. A Victorian church was juxtapositioned with a medieval one, and a modern once. I wish we could have gone in!

The again, in Amsterdam, I noticed ti wasn't unusual for a Victorian town house to be next to a modern high rise.

So ends Day 2.

One Final Byte: Always open new file, lest your work poofs.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Week Thirty-Seven: Amsterdam! (Part One)

Hi everyone! Normally, I'd be going on about political things. This week was planned about how cities should become more bike friendly, as so many of them are, frankly, terrifying to ride a bike it! But I had a bit of a problem,and that problem is Amsterdam.

You see, my family and I traveled there for MLK weekend. And, well, I did a rough draft of what I wanted to talk about each evening before I slept.

And then I looked it over.

It's an awful lot, so rather than one shortish post and then one super long post, I'm going to divide it in half! You're regularly scheduled opinion post will be in two weeks time, just like it's supposed to be. But now! To Amsterdam!

Okay, so, it's probably a good thing that Germany and the Netherlands are a part of the E.U, because my passport has been temporarily misplaced due to bout of cleaning. In other words, once again, I cleaned my room, but the important document in a secure obvious place...and promptly could not find it. It is in here somewhere though! I swear!

Seriously, I need to choose a place and stick with it.

So the entire time up the road, I spent listening to A Red Badge of Courage, which isn't my usual style, but I wanted something to listen to, not to read. I needed my eyes to observe everything new and amazing, after all!

Honestly? There wasn't that much difference in appearance. I promise, you can not tell the exact point you crossover, and there was not even a welcome to our country sign!One moment were were in GErmany, and the next, in a town with a name I am not even going to attempt to spell or say.

But there were a few fun sights in Holland! Like two or three Shetland pony farms! They are so tiny and cute. It's like someone squished a horse! "Well, technically it is a mini horse, but still. Shetland ponies are adorable, and all these had their winter coats, and some where wear clothes.
I was amused. Shaggy winter coat Shetland ponies, in a horse blanket made to look like human clothes. Some one out there had a seriously sense of humor.

The fences fascinated me and I spent a good twenty minutes staring at them, trying to determine if they were one fence, or two. The answer? One. But the bottom third looks like two! Why? Well, take two fences, lay them so the holes don't match, and you have what those bottom thirds looked like! A finer mesh, with holes a quarter the size of what they had been! The visual effect was curious indeed!

There were also two solar farms, of solar panels on hill sides where they'd get sun all day long. Then there were the light posts! Dutch light posts look like grass, tapered at the top and bent slightly, like in France. Only in France,when you have two lights on a poles, it splits off so the lights are on separate levels. No so in Holland! It looks like a split hair at the top when it shares a pole.

Oh! I also noticed something about the license plates. They all have the initials of the country they're from under the EU circle of stars. I hadn't noticed before, but German license plates tend to be less standardized. Or rather, the license plates from other EU countries were yellow with a blue EU flag on the right. There were the initials of the country under the circle. Now, German plates can have a similar format, but are white, not yellow! I suppose that's why I hadn't noticed. German plates though are odd. Some are rectangular, some are square. I don't quite understand them yet.

Oh so, we got there about 3ish and checked into to out hotel, which was near the World Fashion School or Shop or what have you, but at night the colors of the building changed thanks to the lights shinning on it, which rocked. Mostly, we walked around the central station that day for several hours. We went into a museum that said it was a history of intercourse, but wasn't. Or if it was, it was rather pitiful. Either way, it was a very boring museum over all, and I was tempted to take a nap in one of the chairs. It would have been a good nap.

Then we ate at the Grasshopper which had excellent food, wonderful service and a good atmosphere, but was pricy for the placement and offerings, and had a very small menu. Oh well. It was good food still.

So we skirted the Red Light district which is basically Right Next to Central station and if you cut through it, you can reach other tram stops, that take much longer to get to by tram. Really though, there was nothing to see there but shops selling what Amsterdam is famous for among the young and foolish. Personally, I found it offered more than those two things. The next day would be a big one, so we bought pass cards for 24 hours, to be activated the next day, then returned to the hotel to gt some sleep. Oh! The hotel!

The room was in reds and browns and the beds were comfy. There were, in fact, four beds in a room that would be a double bed suite in America. They were smaller than a traditional twin bed, but still comfortable. Any way, that's all for this post, but don't worry, there's plenty for the next!

One Final Byte: Look up your politician's voting history. Be Shocked!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Week Thirty-Six: Accidents in Scheduling

So, it turns out, rather than schedule blogs for January. I keep scheduling them for other months. Whoops! I got the order wrong again. I really have to stop that.

Anyway, this is the time when I discuss what's happened to me!

The biggest thing is that my shift at work has changed, thus the hours I am awake have changed. This means I sleep earlier and wake up earlier than before. Also, it's been warm enough to bike! Yay, biking! Mind you, it's still very, very wet. It solves a lot of transportation issues though.

I did find an old math test of my little sister's the other day. I take the blame for her answer, as we used multiplication charts to check her answers in math once she was done.

Question: How can you find the answer to 11 x 12?
Her Answer: A Multiplication chart.

The teacher did not count this correct why? That's how I would find the answer. Or a calculator. Or in my head. I mean really. That's totally the right answer. I've also applied at the University of Alabama Huntsville, and will submit the blasted application once it accepts credit cards again. I'm assured this will be soon.

Oh yes! A German New Year! I gotta discuss this.

So I was supposed to work the next morning, but ended up not going in. Either way, I skipped out on the work party because I knew I'd be too tired. Instead, I spent it with my family. Our neighbors spent it firing off firework. In fact, the whole town, in town limits and everything, were firing Fireworks off that barely went above the houses in some cases. Our neighbors were aims above their house...but went off about ten feet from our balcony!

Fireworks are big here for the New Year We had a good two hours worth, I assure you. Two hours of fireworks, starting about 30 minutes before and ending around 2 am. They like the fireworks here, and most of these were from our next door neighbor, who set off a new one every five seconds it seemed. It was beautiful. And Auld Lang Syne makes a beautiful back drop for this, absolutely gorgeous.

I've also enrolled in Psychics, General Aeronautics, and one other course that I just cannot recall the name of but it also relevant to my degree. I can't wait to get started, but that's not until the fifteenth, of course.

Also, I burned rice. I was reading at the time. Cooking and Reading do not go hand in hand!

Not much else has happened that I can recall. Anyway, I'll see you all next week.

One Final Byte: Biking weather: No Freezing Rain, above 36 degrees.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Week Thirty-Five: The holidays

I'm sad to tell you that I can't help but be extraordinarily pleased that the holiday season is over with. It isn't the songs, or the gifts, or the holidays themselves. What makes me dread, and nearly loathe the holidays is the consumers. An odd enough statement, but entirely true.

I wasn't certain if I wanted to write this blog, to tell the truth, considering part of what I'm going to be discussing here is my job, and that can be a dangerous thing. But I feel it to be a necessity, to talk about this, and to talk about it quite seriously.

It's possible that the readers may have worked in retail or fast food before. If you have, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't you are a very lucky person. The holidays in fast food, and likely retail, are days to dread, not to celebrate. They are days where, instead of spending time with your family, people are forced to work, with compensation that is dubious at best. Money, after all, does not solve everything. It in fact solves very little.

Unfortunately, money is the only compensation offered to people who give up holidays in order to work, in order to serve the privileged few that have never worked fast food or retail.

Why do I call them privileged? I call them privileged because someone who has been forced to work on a holiday will know how it feels to be made to work on those days. It isn't a good feeling. It's the type of feeling that makes you sad at heart. Even those without family nearby ought to give these days of celebration off, so they too can celebrate! Instead, heartless men and women come in.

Worse, it is a time when all businesses are shorthanded. When all companies don't have enough people for the constant rush. On Christmas Eve, we had a rush at the last minute. We were short handed, as usual during the holiday season, or even the winter due to sickness or vacation, and people had to wait.

My father came to pick me up. He mentioned told me this: "I was standing next to a man in line. We were talking, and I asked him why he was there on Christmas Eve. He said it was a family tradition." A family tradition, not to eat around a table of delicious home cooked food, more tasty because of the love than anything else, but to eat out at a fast food burger joint.

A family tradition?

It made me sad. These families, I occasionally joke, need to learn to make a sandwich, or burgers of their own, because that's all most of them order. Burger meat with cheese on top. Lettuce, mayo, tomatoes, onions, ketchup and pickles. That is all that's on our sandwiches at Burger King. Nothing fancy. Nothing you can't do at home. No secret sauce, and the meat isn't spiced special. On holidays, you'd wait less if you put it together at home, and it'd taste better too. Probably save you money.

My biggest problem is that people don't spend time with their family on Christmas, or on New Years Eve, rather than celebrating with family and friend's, they rush through the drive thru, and eat quickly. One person ordered cheeseburgers for her party. Creative, I suppose, but I suspect the rest of the food will also lack that personal touch.

I want, one day, every business to be closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving, and to close early and open late on New Year's Eve. I want people to realize that money can't solve the world's woes, and nor can running constantly. Sometimes, people really do need to stop, pause, and relax. It's one of the best things a person can do, to stop the constant daily rush, and to realize life is more than what you can do as fast as possible. Life is about experience, not rushing around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to please the world.

So, world, take a step back. Spend your holidays out of stores, even the gas station if you can. Spend it with those you love, and with your friends.

And do yourself a favor and disconnect from the rush of the daily grind. Forget a daily grind. Try a daily adventure. It'll happen if you just stop rushing.

One Final Byte: One more year til the next long count!