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Romancing the Thread: the Story of Dyneema®

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I was asked to write the story of Dyneema®. As world’s strongest, lightest fiber, this plastic works to stop bullets, moor oil rigs and repair human joints. It’s also been behind some of the more iconic images of recent times: upturning the stranded cruise ship Costa Concordia in Italy, placing the crown on the Freedom Tower in NYC, and the tethering of satellites in outer space.

As I talked to the various players behind its decades-long march to market, I discovered that chemistry can be a very rock’n'roll game: “involving multiple co-inventors, dismissive managers, happy accidents, quantum technological leaps, commercial innovations and a few experiments that under current regulations would be considered safety violations.”

One killer quote: “One Saturday I remember asking someone to go get us some coffees but he couldn’t walk because the rubber of his shoes had partially dissolved and he was glued to the floor.”

Another killer quote: “Excuse me, could you please tell me what the value is of a cooked soldier?”

And a third: “It’s funny to think it all just started with some stirring in a pot.”

Read the full feature HERE.


(Thanks to DSM-Dyneema and Super Stories for arranging the access. I learned stuff!)

Posted: March 30, 2016 at 11:02 am.

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How to be a dictator and sell cola at the same time

DUF is a Dutch-language book-magazine for 12- to 18-year-olds. It’s a ‘cluster bomb’ of text and visuals. Edition three is out now and acts as a primer in navigating our world’s media insanity. Buy it. It’ll blow your mind and your kid’s. There’s even dirty pictures. Below is my contribution in its original English.

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COLA & PROPAGANDA

Do you want to lord over your friends, parents and – why not? – the whole freaking world? Learn now how you can become a dictator and sell cola at the same time! In seven easy lessons!

by Steve Korver, for DUF 3 (2012)

What is the difference between advertising and propaganda? Um, good question. Advertising aims to sell a service or product (‘Mmm that’s the best cheeseburger ever!’). Propaganda aims to sell a particular ideology (‘Yippee, we’re the happiest country in the world!’) or goal (‘This war is justified.’) Meanwhile in most Spanish-speaking countries, when people say ‘propaganda’ they mean ‘advertising’.

Both advertising and propaganda tries to influence human behaviour – to get you to open your wallet for a cheeseburger, or to sign along the dotted line at an army recruitment office. They both play on your emotions and not your intelligence. So it’s not ridiculous that both dictators and marketeers use the same box of tricks.

BIG SECRET NUMBER 1:
People are sooooooooo stuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuupid! But…
‘There’s a sucker born every minute,’ the American circus showman PT Barnum allegedly said. And it’s true. So keep it simple. But remember that people NEVER consider themselves as stupid. Half the time they are not even aware they are being brainwashed. Yes, humans suffer from overconfidence.

So it’s very important to not make your target audience feel stupid otherwise they will find someone else to get brainwashed by. The easiest way to do this is by dumbing down. Be folksy. Be a regular person who represents regular wants and needs. Be the Joneses or be Henk & Ingrid. In short: posh it down and sincere it up! Continue Reading…

Posted: November 29, 2012 at 3:44 pm.

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ROAD TO GAGARIN ON FACEBOOK

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Please join our ROAD TO GAGARIN Facebook group.

On 12 April 1961, Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934-68) yelled ‘Let’s Go!’ as he was launched for a 108-minute circuit around the earth to become the first human in space. For the last decade, photographer René Nuijens and I have been re-visiting Russia to document the major settings of Gagarin’s bizarre and dramatic life, and talking to people who were close to him. In the process, we are capturing the essence of both the man who is dead and his myth that is still very much alive. He remains the most popular 20th-century figure in Russia, where he has the legend status of a JFK or a Bruce Lee – inspiring love, art and conspiracy theories. We believe, like many others, Yuri should become more of a global icon again.

To be published in 2011, the book Road to Gagarin – In Search of the First Man in Space combines photography, travel writing, archival material and a tasty selection of cosmonautic kitsch. Yuri was our rocket into Russia. We recommend the ride to anyone.

 

Posted: February 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm.

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Patatje Kapsalon

For Unfold Amsterdam, I wrote a new installment about food  or rather: grease. You can also read it below:

Are You Finished with That?
Episode 2: Will the ‘hairdresser’ enter the Global Grease Canon?

by Steve Korver

On my first encounter with the patatje kapsalon – ‘hairdresser fries’ – I did not actually taste, or even see, the product. I was merely a witness to its after-effects. I had dropped by the practice space of some friends who usually play a rather rigorous rock n roll. But this time when I walked in, they were all lying around lost in some sort of space jam. Occasionally one of them would fart. And then apologise (they may be rock n roll but they are also polite and well brought-up boys). After the seventh apology they admitted to indulging in a kapsalonnetje from a nearby Turkish snackbar. Continue Reading…

Posted: February 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm.

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Bad Buzz/Lost in the Space Age

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My old friends the Anacondas have just released their third album of post-surf tunes: Bad Buzz/Lost in the Space Age. It comes with a story. After they recorded it a year or so ago, they asked me to help turn it into a ‘concept’ album. Since making a ‘concept’ album out of something that’s already recorded seemed pretty high-‘concept’ in itself, I naturally said yes. And anyway, I always do like a nice ‘concept’. And it’s really quite amazing what some liner notes, visuals and overdubs can do when it comes to fleshing out the ‘conceptual’.

The album’s ‘concept’ is really quite simple — like any good ‘concept’. It begins with the anger we all share: that the shiny space age we were promised never actually showed up (Where are our jetpacks? Where are our slow food pill packs? Who can we lynch?). Now try to imagine how pissed off and bitter a jaded and washed up astronaut would be. Of course: he would be really, really pissed off and bitter. And so Bad Buzz as a ‘concept’ was born. And from there we only told the absolute truth. And as Bad Buzz, I was given the opportunity to rant anti-hippie poetry while wandering the deserts high on Tang crystals, and sound like a psychobilly singer from Pluto (the non-planet) while grunting out the tale of a hotrod rocket race between Major Tom and Barbarella. And for these experiences I would like to say: Thanks fellas! But yes, it’s now best for all parties if they return to their instrumental ways.

The release party is at Amsterdam’s Paradiso on November 6. Oh, and the coolest thing: this album is also available in vinyl. Now there’s a ‘concept’! And a big thanks to Unfold for indulging the above advertorial. Maybe next time they’ll actually get paid — yet another ‘concept’.

Posted: October 29, 2010 at 2:16 pm.

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SOME THOUGHTS ON ORANGE

orangeUsually I don’t have a lot to say about orange. And  certainly my football strap starts twanging hollow as soon as I have played out my two basic one-liners:  

‘Wouldn’t two balls solve the whole problem?’

‘If two teams can’t get it together to share, what hope is there for the bleeding billion different teams that make up this planet?’

It would be easy to smirk my way through some smart-ass facts like orange being the colour of the sex ’n’ spleen chakra, or that orange was considered by Goethe as the colour of the rough and uneducated, or that orange is the favourite colour of everybody’s favourite god of wine ’n’ bonking, Bacchus.

I could even dwell on the irony of orange — despite advertising’s Golden Rule: ‘Never Use Orange’ — becoming a marketing phenomena where seemingly everything that is now currently being sold in this country, from condoms to contact lenses, is orange.

But actually I’ve been getting into the spirit of things and now when those orange guys score, I even catch myself jumping to my feet as if an industrious fart of mine has suddenly harnessed the secrets of rocket science. So out of respect, I choose to discuss the aesthetics of football. It is such a purty sport after all…

For instance, when the mass psychosis surrounding the game gets too much for my weak and dicky ticker, I let my eyes glaze over and randomly follow the lil’ orange blobs darting about the green field until the sport takes on the vibe of fireflies darting about in a kid’s glass jar (or flames randomly darting about in a campfire…). It is all so very relaxing and probably similar in effect to staring into an orange hypno-pinwheel and getting very, very sleepy.

But before I get too lost in these visual games and a dull-voice inside my mind starts chanting ‘Must… Buy… Orange… Products… Must… Buy… Orange… Products’, I redirect my focus to take in the equally pleasing rhythmics of relaxation to be found within the stadium crowd scenes. The texture reminds me of those scrambly computer-generated pictures that you stare at until a 3D image pops out at you. And yes, invariably out of the sea of distorted orange comes a freaking huge orange clog to kick me upside the ass and onto my feet again and thereby forcing me — albeit happily — to start the whole process again of trying to regain my preferred state of freestyle floating.

But I wouldn’t dare to come across all flaky like psychic spoon-bender Uri Geller who has spent a lot of energy trying to convince people that if enough fans of a particular team focus on an orange dot placed on their TV screen, the resulting convergence of cosmic energies will lead to certain victory for your team… I’m no jock pundit, but that sort of stuff doesn’t strike me as very sporting.

But whatever. Off to the stamkroeg.

Posted: July 2, 2010 at 1:34 pm.

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Keep your paws off my city

Blijf van me stad af. Positive city propaganda from amsterhoppers Surya & Pharao.

Posted: January 21, 2010 at 1:30 pm.

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Amsterdam cops with Harry Enfield and Chums

The accent is quite uncanny… While the military police can often look like illustrations from A Field Guide to the Inbred, I’ve always regarded the local police as nothing less than cute and cuddly. And it’s that warm fuzzy feeling that is reinforced when watching this clip.

Posted: January 21, 2010 at 1:03 pm.

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Ai ai ai Amsterdam

iamsterdamlogoonmoveThe local anti-vertrutting (“anti-frumpication”)  action group AI! Amsterdam,  who this summer successfully lobbied for the easing of terrace laws, has changed their logo after being threatened with legal action from the city since their  original logo was a  parody of  the I Amsterdam city marketing campaign. Hmm so not having a sense of humour is good for the city brand?

These are complicated times we live in. It was all much simpler back in the 1970s. To entice more people to visit Amsterdam all you had to do was put out some posters cajoling long-haired  American targets to “Fly KLM, sleep in the Vondelpark”. Word of mouth did the rest.

And then there was the tourist board’s Get In Touch With The Dutch campaign during the 1960s. This one just gets me all misty-eyed; those must have truly been the most innocent of times.

And for the last few years, it’s been I amsterdam. I can imagine it can work to help attract tourists and business.  I only start seeing red when  it peddles the  delusional idea that it also works to  unify regular Amsterdammers. It’s as if the local government  actually believes that culture is not a grassroots phenomena but rather something that can be shoved down  our throats from the top down.

OK, it’s easy to criticise. Marketing a city can’t be easy. I certainly can’t come up with anything better. “Ich bin ein Amsterdammertje” would probably generate the same confusion and controversy as JFK’s grammatical gaffe, “Ich bin ein Berliner”. And “Handy Airport. Lotsa Coffeeshops”, while appealing to both the business- and leisure-minded, lacks a certain elegance.

I think I’d just opt for golden oldies like ‘Amsterdamned’ or ‘Amsterdamaged’. I regard these  lines as way more effective ambassadors.  After all, the visiting dope smokers of today may just hold our city’s future in their hands. I figure it was mostly sentimental ex-hippies who invested in this city during the booming 1990s. They figured it would be a good excuse to come and visit a few times a year, and maybe recreate certain perfect relaxed coffeeshop moments from decades past. (And these investments  got the city thinking that they could get even more by  coming up with  that era’s  ho-hum city marketing ploys — “Gateway to Europe”   and “Capital of Inspiration” — that resulted in the building of lots of  new office space that today stands largely empty…).

Anyway… it was short-sighted to force  Ai! Amsterdam to change their logo. The city is losing  a perfect co-branding opportunity with a group that is both  grassroots and community-driven.

Posted: September 17, 2009 at 9:04 am.

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A monumental day

freemasonryNow what kind of self-respecting secret society opens its doors on “Open Monument Day“? The Freemasons that’s who. Yep, as a boy’s club they’ve been coming out of the closet for a while now–apparently membership numbers have been dropping steady for some years now.   And so just like everyone else these days they are going through a rebranding process. Today I  saw  both their “red temple” and their “blue temple” at their lodge at the corner of Vondelstraat and 1e Constantijn Huygenstraat. Sadly, I did not get to see the beer-tapping room donated by Freddy Heineken‘s dad Henry Pierre…

The general impression was, um, it’s a tad shabby. Yo Grandmaster: time for a paint job and some new carpeting, perhaps?  But I shouldn’t judge: maybe  seeking world domination isn’t the high-paying gig we all assume it is. Or maybe they really  are just some fellows banded together who use building metaphors in their voyage towards  self-discovery. The  Freemason I talked to said their  secretive reputation comes only from the fact that they are  protective about their rituals so that when new members experience them they are more emotionally affected.  Regardless, they certainly aren’t Bilderberg. [Please note: out of respect for the  Freemason's  once-secretive reputation,  I only took a picture from the outside.]

 

bellamysmitI also got to look inside some of the houses along one of my favourite residential streets, Bellamystraat, that runs up from the center of Ten Katenstraat market. At number 74,  small-scale industry is alive and well in the form of the blacksmith company GF Meister en Zonen who have been at it since 1909. Compared to the Freemasons, this place is more manly than merely men-only.

Posted: September 13, 2009 at 3:31 pm.

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