Stoned Tourists: R.I.P.? A YouTube tribute…

It’s currently a pretty sweet deal for tourists in the Netherlands. They can strut through the front door of a coffeeshop, smugly engage in a simple transaction, and then smoke the sweet smoke. They can exit the same front door: wiggly, wasted and most importantly — for they have done no wrong — free of paranoia. The glitch is that the wobbly law that allows them this simple pleasure neglected to deal with how the wacky weed got there in the first place. The ‘back door’ where the produce arrives by the kilo is still a gateway to an illegal distribution system.

It’s a typical situation in the Netherlands. It may not be legal but it’s ‘tolerated’. This is why the Dutch national government has been regularly re-introducing the debate of how to deal with this situation — and all those silly, stoned tourists. Whenever this debate reared its head an editor from a foreign newspaper would call me and ask ‘Hey what’s going on? Are they really closing the coffeeshops?’ And then I would have to kill any work opportunity by going ‘No it’s all just talk’. But now the national coalition seems more serious. Crazy. But serious. They plan to institutionalise a ‘weed pass’ whereby only locals would have access to coffeeshops. Were these zealots stoned when they came up with this idea? Now don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a weed pass. I could then show it off to friends back in Canada so they can go: ‘A weed pass!?! You’re kidding right?!?Continue Reading…

Posted: May 31, 2011 at 1:53 pm.


Amsterdam Chase Scenes

For some reason I’m enjoying chase scenes set in Amsterdam. Perhaps I am being chased? Or am I chasing something? Or I just want to experience this city in a more speedy way? Regardless, I’ll try not to read too much into it.

The oldest clip comes from Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940). Since he was filming it at the dawn of WWII, Hitchcock was forced to ask Hollywood set-builders to build a fake Amsterdam complete with ‘a few hotels, a Dutch windmill and a bit of the Dutch countryside’. It resulted in an 80-metre windmill and a 10-acre reconstruction of an Amsterdam square (with Hotel L’Europe becoming ‘Hotel Europe’), complete with sewer for the simulated storm scenes. The cameraman sent to get background footage in the real Amsterdam lost his equipment when his ship got torpedoed. But he did eventually film the Jordaan for the chase scene. Unfortunately after a jarring left-turn, the viewer lands in a countryside with an oddly Spanish-styled windmill (sadly, this lack of research also flawed the windmill scene in the South Park movie’s ‘Kyle’s Mom is a Bitch’ segment). However Foreign Correspondent does retain a realistic sense of location thanks to all the cheese references. Continue Reading…

Posted: May 25, 2011 at 2:12 pm.


Bad Buzz/Lost in the Space Age


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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Reed van Bee

Round N Round from Reed Van Bee on Vimeo.

Check out the work of my cherished pal and ex-colleague Reed van Brunschot. She makes wacky videos. Not only did she once cast me (after years of being typecast as a newsman or peckerhead) as the green colour bar, but she also recently cast dog Billy (see above) for whom I act as secondary caregiver. Thanks Reed, for letting both a cad and a canine live out their dreams and stretch out their repetoire.

Posted: October 25, 2010 at 12:44 pm.

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Confessions of a Canadian Liberator

trees-allaboutamsterdamToday is Liberation Day. And it was 65 years ago that Canada liberated the Netherlands from Nazi German occupation. Sure, it was more of an “Allied” operation and the Poles did their bit to help out, but Canadians soldiers truly left their mark as they lingered in Amsterdam for months after. They even had their own Amsterdam guide book (pictured left, see full scan here).

By early 1946, venereal disease was skyrocketing and over 7000 babies were born out of wedlock (which is coincidentally  around the  same number as those Canadians who had died). Even today, when Canadian soldiers return to take part in the Remembrance Day ceremonies they are greeted by aging women with signs asking ‘Are you my Daddy?’.

I was clued into the raw sex appeal Canadians enjoyed back then by a friend’s octogenarian grandmother. She had been there to welcome the Canadians when they came marching into town. She described how handsome and muscular they looked, especially when compared to the local lads who had just come out of the ‘Hunger Winter’. She also mentioned how great it was to get chocolate and fresh stockings. She really went on and on… Then I got a little creeped out when I realised she was actually reliving the raw lust she felt back then for these strapping Canadians. Talk about living memories!

Later I heard that a lot of those ‘Hunger Winter’ Dutch boys remembered something else: how when the Canadians rode through the cheering masses, the soldiers would lift up women onto their tanks and trucks by picking them up like a 10-pin bowling balls… (Which is kind of weird since one of the marks of Canadian identity is a preference for 5-pin bowling.)

trees_00011000734But anyway, I decided to just focus on the purely liberation part of the story. I started to bring my Canadian passport with me on Liberation Days in the hopes of scamming free beer for the sacrifices my country had made. Actually, I just tried it on a befriended bartender. And when he wasn’t immediately forthcoming with the free beer, I tried to suggest that he really owed me: after all, maybe I was his Daddy. After a brief lecture in mathematics he finally relented and gave me a beer. But his true gift came later. As I exited I shouted goodbye to him across the crowded bar. He returned with a: “Hey man, thanks for the liberation!” And just before the door swung shut behind me I had time to yell “Hey man, anytime!”.

It was the best bar exit scene ever. So of course I tried to relive this magic moment every year. Until a regular who had witnessed my ploys pointed out to me: ‘Yes, liberation is all fine and good, but occupation is not.’ I knew then that I had worn out my welcome as Canadian Beer Liberator.

But it still felt like destiny a couple of years ago when I was cast as a Canadian major liberating Holland in the film Snuf de Hond in Oorlogstijd [‘Snuf the Dog in Wartime’],  which was based on a children book series about a Lassie-like dog who became a hero of the Dutch Resistance. Basically I played a gullible Canadian peckerhead who falls for the stories of a traitor who is supposed to show  us the enemy German positions but is instead setting us up for a trap. Luckily, Snuf comes in just in time to save the day. You could say the Canadians came off quite badly in this movie. Or you could say I was being typecast as usual.

But my favourite story related to the Liberation by the Canadians  I heard  while taking a cab to Schiphol airport. The cabbie was an old Dutch guy and after I told him that I was heading back to Canada to visit my family he said: ‘I got a story you will just love.’

He told me how he was born a few years before WWII in the south of Holland and how during the war he acted as his blind grandfather’s seeing-eye dog. One night, his Opa and he were walking under the cover of darkness to a nearby village to trade food, milk, tulip bulbs, whatever. Suddenly his Opa heard some sort of heavy transport coming in their direction. Worried that it was the Germans, they hid behind a fence. But as it came closer, his Opa realised that the engines sounded different. So they came out of hiding and saw a whole procession of tanks and trucks. The leading tank stopped in front of them, the top popped up and a soldier appeared and asked in English: ‘Is this the way to Arnhem?’ Opa replied in the affirmative and then asked back in English: ‘Are you Americans?’

The soldier looked down at blind  Opa with disgust and answered “No way old man. We’re fucking Canadians!

trees-heeft-een-canadees--collectie-hugo-keesing-1994Now isn’t that a heart-warming tale? Isn’t it nice to know that such a well-developed sense of Canadian-ness already existed back in 1945? Isn’t it enough to make a Canadian nationalist out of you?

Of course, I became a fierce Canadian nationalist once I stopped living there 20 years ago. For a long time, I would always be ready to natter on about Canada’s natural beauty, expansive spaces, nice folks, un-American-ness, reasonable immigration policies, multiculturalism as a matter-of-fact and not a matter of endless circular discussions…

However my nationalism eventually got dimmed by a friend in Amsterdam who happened to have  an estranged Canadian lumberjack father. He once interrupted one of my pro-Canadian rants with: ‘You want to know what I think about when I think of Canada? I think of a drunk that used to beat me.’

Indeed. ‘Where’s my Daddy?

Posted: May 5, 2010 at 10:43 am.

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StrangerFestival (2)

BREAKING NEWS… While I was working on the StrangerFestival newspaper (see here),  word got out  about me having been typecast as anchorman in the past. So now this Saturday  17 October, I will be “Richard Ambrosius”, reporting live from  the StrangerFestival’s AwardShow, along with my co-anchor “Claudine Bell” (Esther Mugambi). It will be streamed live from the StrangerFestival website  between 20.30 and 23.00 (CEST). It should be slapstick…

Posted: October 15, 2009 at 8:55 am.

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