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Archive for May, 2009

A recent municipal flyer with the text: "prevent nuisance on the water" with a second text line added by me: "Prevent nuisance on the land"
A recent municipal flyer with the text: “prevent nuisance on the water” introducing more strict rules for pleasure boats on the Amsterdam canals, with a second text line added by me: “Prevent nuisance on the land”, as lately a new vehicle appeared in the streets of Amsterdam, the fietscafé (bicycle café) a contraption on four or more wheels with a beer bar with ten or more seats  fitted with a set of pedals connected to a central conveyer system that makes the thing move with all its noisy clients peddling, drinking, sweating and shouting!

Maybe Amsterdam has always been “A-Party-City” even in the old days for the sailors who managed to get back alive after a trip to the East or West Indies (under the most appalling conditions), having their jenever (Dutch kind of gin) in quantities beyond our imagination and roaming the streets in a drunken state;  also the merry-making during special markets, the ‘kermesse’ (originally a fair to celebrate the church patron of a town) with intoxicated and bawdy public behavior, transposed to the football fan celebrations, the Queens-Day and Gay Parade extravaganza of now-a-days. With its Red Light district and ‘coffeeshops’, ‘paddoshops’ and other places and opportunities to consume recreational drugs, a major part of the tourists choosing this town, choose it to go partying, to get stoned and drunk, whereby  sex – if  it can be performed at all in such a state  – will often be more in the tourist’s imagination than for real.

One man’s pleasure easily turns into the other man’s burden and in certain tourist hot spots of town the negative effects of this kind of tourism are felt on a daily basis by the inhabitants. The cheap package deals of Easy Jet and the like have introduced plain-loads of partying-tourists who congregate in the Red Light District, around the Nieuwmarkt, Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein. The Britons have carved out their niche in the area with the highest number of whores, bars and pot-sellers and are known for roaming around in flocks and – as herd animals – tend to be more noisy, than the more individual Latin and Teutonic city roamers. This may all sound like some form of calvinist abhorrence of  (public) pleasure display, coupled with a tourist-phobia, but, as can be expected, it is the Dutch themselves who tend to make most of the noise and nuisance. Forgone are the days that popular outbursts of gaiety and pleasure where happening only on the aforementioned ‘patrons days’, as a kind of social safety valve in the tradition of the Roman maxim “give the people bread and games.” Partying has become the central core of Dutch society as has been recently researched and visualized in a splendid way by the Algerian/Belgian photographer Morad Bouchakour in his book “PARTY! in the Netherlands”, published in 2002.

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Click image for a link to a library description of this book by worldcat.org

Let me quote just a few lines from the introduction of this book by Bas Heijne: “if there is so much concern in the Netherlands about how traditions are allegedly no longer being honored, then why are the Dutch throwing so many parties? If there’s one thing this country has, it’s a party culture. No occasion escapes unnoticed. There is isn’t a day without an excuse to celebrate.” The book depicts “almost every conceivable type of party, at every level of society” in the Netherlands and, however amazing the book maybe in its visuals, we are spared the noise on which most of the parties shown are thriving.

Noise – loud and unappreciated sound if you wish – is a spatial thing. It invades, often far beyond what can directly be seen, it may bounce on water, from walls, come back under unexpected angles, it may creep in through resonating floors or ceilings, it may be high pitched or subsonic, it may be continuous or bursting in with a sudden shock. A loud party of the neighbors is something one may need to tolerate once in a while, but it always is an intrusive act upon one’s personal living environment, lest one chooses to join the neighbors party or flee one’s house.

The inner city of Amsterdam is a network of canals, a product of  its original watery and muddy environment and the needs for local transport and its initial function as a European staple market with traders houses and warehouses along what the Dutch call ‘grachten’. Most of the inner city is situated on, or nearby these waterways. As the original transport functions were lost, modern forms of tourism took over the canals with rather big motor boats equipped with panoramic windows and sound systems used by a guide explaining all the views. This last thing has – over the years – been modernized and most tourist boats are now fitted with localized small speakers at the individual seats, so the people living or working along the canals have been freed from the echoing simplistic explanations with each passing of yet another tourist boat. Another considerate measure toward people living in the museum-like inner town, have been a municipal policy to supplant the polluting diesel motors of the tourists boats with electrical motors, a slow process of enforcing that has taken many years, but has really improved the ‘soundscape’ of the city.

Nothing but good news one would say, till the moment that the growing affluence of certain layers of Dutch society – who have a liking of showing off their wealth – combined with the miniaturization of electrical equipment, especially amplifiers and loudspeakers. The phenomenon of the party-boat parade was born. Luxury boats with drinks, loud chatter to cross over even louder amplified music. The nuisance of a party at your neighbors was exported to the canals of the inner city of Amsterdam. So ghetto-blasters changed their function and became yuppie-blasters, the crumbling walls of the ghetto were supplanted by the facades of  lordly houses and the acoustic properties of  the water surface combined with the bricks of the historic buildings worked together to give an optimum impact.

Some sample pictures taken by tourists visiting Amsterdam of local part-boats of the better situated classes parading during summer through the canals of Amsterdam. Beer and wine coolers, sound systems and comfortable deck seats characterize these boats. It is a phenomenon that only developed in the last two decades with the new rich enjoying the parade of their success.
Some sample pictures taken by tourists visiting Amsterdam of local party-boats of the better situated classes parading during summer through the canals of Amsterdam. Beer and wine coolers, sound systems and comfortable deck seats characterize these boats. It is a phenomenon that only developed in the last two decades with the new rich enjoying the parade of their success. Click the picture for a full size view.
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People living on house boats in the same canals, and also the inhabitants of some of the smaller canals or next to a lock and the like have been complaining for many years now about these pleasure outtings with no consideration at all of the discomfort for the inhabitants on or next to the water ways of the inner city of Amsterdam. Click the picture for a full size view of this happy crowd.

It is also in this period that smaller and smaller, and cheaper and cheaper sound-systems, were capable of producing more and more volume and so next to poor man’s ghetto-blaster, came the low class car sound system, that can turn a tiny car into a mobile discotheque. Once this mobility had been discovered, the separation of the private and the public came to a sudden end. Any fool may nowadays becomes a broadcaster of their own favorite music without any need for a radio license. One takes one’s car drives into the city, pushes up the volume knob and the capacity of the newest equipment is such that the car owner does not even need to open the window to let the passerby and even the inhabitant of adjacent buildings join into someone’s car-casts. At first something derived at by using bigger and bigger speaker boxes, and recently a even more bodily experience of loudness has been made possible whereby any part of the car’s body can be vibrated and becomes a sounding device. It was but a tiny step to transfer these systems to any kind of boat and go on a pleasure water tour.

The municipal flyer has this arguing texts to convince the party-boat people that they should behave in a more considerate way: "Sound over water reaches much further than over land. It is a nuisance for the inhabitant. We are not speaking about 'cozy' chatting on little boats. But purposeless shouting and much too loud music. Think abot the children that try and to sleep."
The municipal flyer has this arguing texts to convince the party-boat people that they should behave in a more considerate way: “Sound over water reaches much further than over land. It is a nuisance for the inhabitant. We are not speaking about ‘cozy’ chatting on little boats. But purposeless shouting and much too loud music. Think about the children that try to sleep.”
The less fortunate classes enjoying their boat party during Queens-Day in the canals of Amsterdam; notice the big sound system packed in the small boat in the left hand picture element
The somewhat less fortunate classes enjoying their boat party during Queens-Day in the canals of Amsterdam; notice the big sound system packed in the small boat in the left hand picture element; the wooden shoe boat has once be made as an advertisement boat for Heineken beer, probably recycled later as a pleasure boat, I remember seeing it for years parked in the Prinsengracht near the bridge of the Vijzelstraat. Click the picture for a full size view.

These sound systems have become also an integrated party of partying on the water in Amsterdam, especially during the two yearly grand parades of Queens Day in April and the Gay Parade through the canals of Amsterdam in August. No environmental and lest health rules seemed to apply to these pleasure boating events, which on the other hand do force many inhabitants out of the city during these days, especially people living on one of the hundreds of housing boats along the cities canals.

After many complaints and petitions the local authorities have started to limit some of the loudness excesses, but the tolerated massive sound pollution on Queens Day and the Gay Parade, have made public loudness somehow socially acceptable. A person – like me – complaining about it would get a standard reaction from police and other authorities, like “well then you should not live in the inner town” and I remember some organizers of the Gay Parade responding on my complaint posted at their web site with “what is your age? maybe you better move to the countryside” (so much for the gay emancipation movement  recursing to age-discrimination). 

It was a most happy moment when last week I spotted several big size A0 posters on public billboards next to the river close to my house with the new municipal campaign: “prevent nuisance on the water.”  The graphic language in rebus format did catch the eye immediately . Finally some officials caring about ‘ the sound of the city’, also attempting to argue instead of  menacing with punishments or fines.

The municpal flyer reads: "Too much alcohol by a boatsman is as bad as driving with too much alcohol.."
The municpal flyer reads: “Too much alcohol by a helmsman is as bad as behind a steering wheel of a car.

It must have been the same day, that a sudden  moving sound of a whole group of drunks cut through the relative tranquility of our double glassed home… it could not be the usual football fans that load themselves with beer across the river at the Rembrandtplein before diving en masse into the subway that brings them to the big Ajax football stadium in the outskirts… the sound differed from this dispersed unstable crowds crossing the bridge … so I looked out of the window and saw and heard a vehicle – a Beer-Bar-Cycle passing (as depicted and described below). “What a shame”, these were my first words and of course I knew this kind of vehicle that until that day hardly choose to move through my part of town. 

An example of a what is called a Fietscafé (Bicycle Cafe) in the inner town of Amsterdam; one can hear them coming, passing and disappearing on a long distance as bouts of drunken shouts accompany the pedalling exercise

An example of a what is called a Fietscafé (Bicycle Cafe) in the inner town of Amsterdam; one can hear them coming, passing and disappearing from a long distance as bouts of drunken shouts accompany the pedalling exercise. On the one hand professional alcoholics are constantly moved from the streets, especially in the inner town, while this display of public drunkenness is allowed as long as the main “driver” has signed a contract that she/he will stay sober during the rental trip.

The municipal slogan was still fresh in my mind: “Prevent nuisance on the water” and so I thought “but what about nuisance on the land?”  Which drove me to produce another rebus-banner to be posted soon on the streets of Amsterdam. 

My rendering of a new rebus to stop the Bicycle-Beer-Bar or Fietscafé pestering the inner town neighborhoods with public display of drunkeness.
My rendering of a new rebus to stop the Bicycle-Beer-Bar or Fietscafé pestering the inner town neighborhoods with public display of noisy drunkenness.

 

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Three impressions taken of the Bike-O-Beer, Fietscafé, Party Bike, or whatever other name this device has been given, taken from Flickr.

“Fietscafe, aka bike-bar -only in Amsterdam says lludovic’s photostream; “weekend in amsterdam (yes, it’s a mobile bar powered by pedals under their feet and a barman in the middle keeping them hydrated)” says M Baskett;  “Ubriacarsi pedalando. Si sale, si ordina una birra, si pedala in libertà, tra schiamazzi e risate… una cosa così la trovi solo ad Amsterdam” (Getting drunk while peddling. You go out, you order a beer, you pedal in liberty, from shrieks to bouts of (hysterical) laughter… such a thing one only finds in Amsterdam”  says Tioma

The official municipal folder nuisance on the water can be found at the web site of the department of inner waters of the town: BBA.

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An earlier post of the Limping Messenger of May 6th. 2009 about the armed robbery of the Scheringa Museum in the Netherlands (The museum of lootings and the looting of museums) displayed a picture of one of the two works of art that had been stolen, a Salvador Dali gouache of 1941. I already mentioned I was not sure whether I had found the right picture of that Dali work, and yesterday I did find the correct picture on a special page of the website of  the DSB bank – related to the Scheringa Museum – that has only recently be published.

De werken zijn van grote kunsthistorische waarde en praktisch onvervangbaar. Tamara de Lempicka schilderde slechts een aantal werken van deze kwaliteit. Er verschijnt zeer zelden een dergelijk schilderij op de markt. Voor een Dalí uit deze periode geldt hetzelfde. Dirk Scheringa had de buitenkans het werk via een goed bevriende Parijse kunsthandelaar te verwerven, dat het werk aan het Scheringa Museum gunde.
‘Adolescence’ (1941) van Salvador Dalí, gouache painted on a page of the French magazine ‘Pour Vous.’ The fusion of images is a mountain landscape that is at the same time a portrait of a famou actress of that time Betty Stockfeld., while it displays at the same time a mother and child sitting at the waterside. (a fragile work mounted in a gilded frame under glass; 45 x 30 cm).
here comes a caption
‘La Musicienne’ (1929) van Tamara de Lempickan (1898-1980), the Scheringa Museum, an “Art Deco” painting (116 x 73 cm).

The web page of the bank also reveals that the rare work by Dali has been personally acquired from a Parisian art dealer by Dirk Scheringa, the owner of the DSB bank and gives detailed of the vulnerability of the gouache in its gilded frame. Tips of the whereabouts of the artworks can be communicated to the bank of Scheringa via this web page. One wonders whether The DSB bank and its related web of financial firms in the field of mortgage and insurance has also insured these two artworks and for which amount of money. This last question of mine relates to recent  written-questions asked  by a member of  the dutch parliament Jolande Sap of the Green Left party (GroenLinks) to the minister of Finance Wouter Bos (social democrat party/PvdA). Jolande Sap (an economist who says she has an allergy for injustice) wanted to know whether the mortgage activities of the DSB bank involving frequent over-validation of real estate property and related high commission fees for the bank or its intermediaries leading to subsequently risks for their clients, was not going beyond the existing rules and what it socially acceptable. The answer of the Finance minister was – as to be expected – evading, though between the lines one can read that the controlling bodies of the Dutch government for the financial world (The National Bank and the AFM) will be enhancing their scrutiny on such issues and in some needed cases, will put sanctions on deviating financial institutions. Earlier this year (April 13)  a national television critical consumers program Radar had exposed some of the practices of the DSB bank and its (art collecting) director Scheringa, and that is not all. For some reason this bank founded in 1975 and named after his founder Dirk Scheringa, plus the word ‘Beheer’ (meaning: management, control, supervision) keeps coming in a negative way in the news. Last week it became known that a newly appointed director of the bank, a former liberal party (VVD) minister of Defense, Frank de Grave, left his new position within a period of two months, which is a rare phenomenon in the bank world and this has given rise to speculations of  him finding some skeletons in the closet, or worse, in the safe.
So, to come back to the Dali gouache and the other stolen artwork (Lempickan’s painting ‘La Muscienne’), have they been insured according to the same alleged DSB principles of validation? A press statement as published in the NRC/Handelsblad said that the value of the works has not been released. The blog arthostage (which claims to be the only that “reveals the truth about art crime investigation”) comes up with at least some price indication of the Tamara de Lempickan painting and states that it was traded at the Impressionist & Modern Art, Part One auction of Sotheby’s in May 2002, for US $ 2,649,500 and, when I do read their somewhat vague blog-post correctly, later  acquired for 3 million dollar by Scheringa.

As the value of a house may still has some objective criteria, especially now after the ‘housing bubble’ has been deflated by the ‘financial crisis’ it helped to create, the value of an art work is known to be ‘what a fool wants to pay for it.’  The ‘trading of wind’ is an old Dutch craft (windhandel) and one need not be surprised when a modern form is practiced in the windy quarters of the northern province of Holland where Dirk Scheringa has set up his quarters. Art collections are often used as safety reservoirs for speculative economic activities, as there can be big differences between the acquisition costs and the actual taxation value at a later point in time. Scheringa’s collection is still a modest enterprise encompassing just over one thousand art objects centred around the idea of ‘realism’ in modern art  as represented by surrealists and magic realists. The collection is now housed in a former school building in the small village of Spanbroek, but a new accommodation is under construction nearby and scheduled to open in 2010. If it is still a total private collection museum of Dirk Scheringa is difficult to say, several foundations have been created around the collection and the DSB bank and its sub-division DSB Vastgoed (DSB Real Estate) is the development company of the new museum building. Scheringa is known as a weaver of complex organizational tapestries not just in the banking and insurance world, but also as the main financer of a succesful football club in the region, AZ (they won the national professional football competition this year). Dirk Scheringa has many assets to juggle before he will have drifted out of sight …

De Zeppelin / The Blimp (1933). Artist: Carel Willink (The Netherlands 1900-1983). Collection: heirs Carel Willink Located until 06-01-2008: ‘Scheringa Museum For Realisme’ Spanbroek The Netherlands.
De Zeppelin / The Blimp (1933). Artist: Carel Willink (The Netherlands 1900-1983). Collection: heirs Carel Willink Located until 06-01-2008: ‘Scheringa Museum For Realisme’ Spanbroek The Netherlands. (with a “magical realist” apparition; click image for a full view)

NB the word ‘blimp’ may not be anymore known today, so here are two possible meanings:
blimp (as in “Colonel Blimp”) n. : (British) any elderly pompous reactionary ultranationalistic person (after the cartoon character created by Sir David Low)
blimp (as in “airship”) n. : a small nonrigid airship used for observation or as a barrage balloon

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It was a few days after the tragic drama on Queens-Day in the city of Apeldoorn on April 30th 2009 that the Dutch prince Constantijn fulfilled one of his official duties as patron of World Press Photo and handed the WWP 2008 prize to American photographer Anthony Suau during a ceremony in Het Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam.

The winning photograph depicts Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department detective Robert Kole with his gun ensuring that the residents have fully moved out of their home, after a mortgage foreclosure and eviction. The photograph appeared in Time Magazine as a part of a story on the U.S. economy in crisis. Anthony Suau took this picture on March 26, 2008, during a two day ride-along with a sheriff's officer and describes how he experienced these two reportage days: "Every second I was there [in Clevelan, I was walking into another moment of human tragedy (...) I worked from morning to night in that place and there was never a moment's rest." (details found at Photo District News, a professional photographer magazine/PDN web site)"

The winning photograph depicts Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department detective Robert Kole with his gun ensuring that the residents have fully moved out of their home, after a mortgage foreclosure and eviction. The photograph appeared in Time Magazine as a part of a story on the U.S. economy in crisis. Anthony Suau took this picture on March 26, 2008, during a two day ride-along with a sheriff’s officer and describes how he experienced these two reportage days: “Every second I was there [in Cleveland, I was walking into another moment of human tragedy (…) I worked from morning to night in that place and there was never a moment’s rest.”

In the February 13 issue of Photo District News (PDN), a professional photographer magazine, the difficulties of Suau to get the story published and his own continuous struggle as a social engaged photographer to find assignments and commissions are described in detail.

The Prince started of his speech with a reference to the assault of a car driver steering straight through a festive crowd awaiting a special open bus, in which he and the rest of the royal family were standing and waving during Queens-Day parade in Apeldoorn. If the driver of the car -Karsten T. – was aiming at the royal family, or if he was committing public self murder choosing the royals as witnesses, are only two, of possible more, interpretations of the event, resulting in the death of seven bystanders, several wounded and the end of the life of the assaulter. Karsten T. missed his alleged target by far and bumped into the iron frame around a stone monument next to  a crossroad almost at the same moment the royal bus appeared  at the crossing from another direction. Police sources were surprisingly quick in spreading the news that the assaulter – however badly wounded he was – still had enough wits to state or confess that the queen or royals were his actual targets. These police sources failed – and fail till today – to give any details on how this last statement of the assaulter had been taken and by whom. The whole case is still under investigation, but already the same day circumstantial details became known: Karsten T. had lost his job; could not afford the rent of his house anymore; had informed the house owner he was leaving and would give back the key of the house the next day.  Karsten T. most probably had no other place to stay, nowhere to go, did not want his parents to know about his dire situation… In other words he was a desperate man ready for a desperate act.

Let us listen now to Prince Constantijn. He had instructed the State Press Service (RVD) that in his speech during the award ceremonial of World Press Photo a brief statement on how he had experienced the Apeldoorn drama a few days before, so he was assured of a full press coverage. (I have taken these lines from the web site of the Dutch Royal family to be sure that no deformation of what was said by the prince may occur):

Excellencies, dear guests,

As the tragic events in Apeldoorn are so fresh on our minds, please allow me the opportunity to say a few words. First and foremost, our thoughts are with the people whose loved ones have been torn away so suddenly, and with those who were injured. The images keep passing before my eyes, and the sounds echo in my ears. There is no “why”; no reasoning; there is only devastation and a useless, tragic loss of life. A senseless, horrific act ripping apart lives, shocking a nation, which feels like an attack on much that is dear to the Dutch as represented in Queen’s Day: a joyfulness that is inclusive, open, unifying, friendly and innocent, which I hope ultimately will remain intact.

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands; the day on which we remember not to forget. We retell the stories and review the powerful images that have become part of our collective memories. These photos have captured our past and continue to do so for the future. Photography has certain advantages over film, as it is easier to store and review. Moreover, we need these ‘stills’ to project the news into, to have a peg from which we can hang our own memories and associations.

Photo 1) Apeldoorn 30 of April 2009: a photograph that did appear in the international press (possibly made by Albert Nieboer a photographer specialized in documenting royals) and that may be send it for the next World Press Photo competition and standing a good chance becuase of its complexity; with two (press) photographers being halted or interrupted in their trade right after the moment that Karsten T. crashed into the monument (with frieze pictures of the grandmother and father of Queen Beatrix visible), while in the open bus in the background the actual Dutch queen Beatrix (red costume and hat) can be seen.  This picture must have been made with a tele-lens which gives the wrong impression of the royal bus being very close to the monument and crashed car. This photograph is also taken at a short while after the car has crashed into the monument, A the moment of impact the royal bus was starting to make a curve and  arriving at the crossing. I added a red arrow that points at Prince Constantijn in the bus. The policeman at the left with the blue shirt seems to grab for his pistol and one wonders why he is doing so.  In the available pictures and videos of the Apeldoorn drama in the press and on the Internet I could not find any policeman or security officer grabbing or pointing a gun during the short moment of the deadly trajectory of the assault car.  It looks as if the policeman in the blue shirt tries to halt the photographing activity of the man with the light blue shirt and many camera's. The guys with the suits must be security officers of the royal family.

Photo 1) Apeldoorn 30 of April 2009: a photograph that did appear in the international press, a complex picture with two (press) photographers being halted or interrupted in their trade right after the moment that Karsten T. crashed into the monument (with frieze pictures of the grandmother and father of Queen Beatrix visible), while in the open bus in the background the actual Dutch queen Beatrix (red costume and hat) can be seen. This picture must have been made with a tele-lens which gives the wrong impression of the royal bus being very close to the monument and crashed car. This photograph is also taken at a short while after the car has crashed into the monument, A the moment of impact the royal bus was starting to make a curve and arriving at the crossing. I added a red arrow that points at Prince Constantijn in the bus. The policeman at the left with the blue shirt seems to grab for his pistol and one wonders why he is doing so. In the available pictures and videos of the Apeldoorn drama in the press and on the Internet I could not find any policeman or security officer grabbing or pointing a gun during the short moment of the deadly trajectory of the assault car. It looks as if the policeman in the blue shirt tries to halt the photographing activity of the man with the light blue shirt and many camera's. The guys with the suits must be security officers of the royal family.

This picture is possibly made by Albert Nieboer a photographer specialized in documenting royals and did a.o. appear in the New York Times.

“A peg from which we can hang our own memories and associations” says Constantijn and it made me wonder why he fails to make the obvious association, linking the subject of the winning World Press photograph of Anthony Suau with the pictures of the Apeldoorn drama, in which – he himself – even played a role. Both photographed scenes have a hidden story, from the pictures alone we can not derive what really happened. The modern spectator is supposed to be an active member of  ‘media society’ and its connotations, at least that has been the opinion of the World Press Photo jury, they take it for granted that connotations of a news photograph are actively gathered by the public:  newspaper headlines and associated pictures; emblematic television news visuals; the promises of advertisements and its friction with what is experienced as reality; repetitious cross referencing between texts and images. The ravaged house with the policeman and his pistol about to enter a door – to another room – in full concentration, can not be recognized as a house where the owner has been forced to leave because of failure to pay the mortgage as a result of the financial crisis, let alone  that the viewer of this picture could know, that the house only had been vandalized after the owner had left, and that there was some evidence that the vandals had taken a weapon from the house, which explains the pistol in hand search as photographed by Suau. There is a subtext to news images, be it the post eviction photograph of a house in the USA or pictures taken of the Queens-Day drama in Apeldoorn.

Quiet a lot of circumstantial information is needed to get in the real meaning of the photograph. For the jury members of World Press Photo these hidden meanings gave the picture an extra value, as chair MaryAnne Golon said: “The strength of the picture is in its opposites. It’s a double entendre. It looks like a classic conflict photograph, but it is simply the eviction of people from a house following foreclosure. Now war in its classic sense is coming into people’s houses because they can’t pay their mortgages.”

Quiet a lot of circumstantial information is needed to get in the real meaning of the photograph. For the jury members of World Press Photo these hidden meanings gave the picture an extra value, as chair MaryAnne Golon said: “The strength of the picture is in its opposites. It’s a double entendre. It looks like a classic conflict photograph, but it is simply the eviction of people from a house following foreclosure. Now war in its classic sense is coming into people’s houses because they can’t pay their mortgages.”

“Double entendre”, two ways to understand it says WPP jury member Golon, pointing at the figure of speech derived from the French whereby there is a twist to the obvious. One needs to read below the surface “go to the root of the problem” as prince Constantijn says in his speech when he comes to the moment where he directly speaks about the photograph that out of 96,268 pictures send in, won the contest. Is this the same prince who in the opening statement of his World Press Photo speech refers to his own involvement in a drama, only a few days ago, saying: “The images keep passing before my eyes, and the sounds echo in my ears. There is no “why”; no reasoning; there is only devastation and a useless, tragic loss of life.” Does Constantijn not read any newspapers, does he not look at the television news, does he not check the internet? He has studied law, works now for the Brussels office of the American ‘think thank’ organization RAND, so one supposes he is generally speaking, an informed man. Why does he not give one word to the publicly known facts – as anybody knows them today – that the ‘root of the problem’ can be found in a personal crisis of a man who had no job anymore and who could – most probably – not even afford to pay the rent of a non-luxury apartment. How is it possible that a few minutes before he will describe “the particular type of war zone” that Suau has depicted, he typifies the context in which the drama of Apeldoorn enfolded as a Dutch expression of “joyfulness that is inclusive, open, unifying, friendly and innocence”? Where is his imagination? However uncomfortable it may be for a royal to acknowledge, there was a “why”, there has been “a reasoning” – if only in the mind of Karsten T. – which led to the assault, public self-killing or some other explanation for his deed which still is to be found. The “inclusive joyfulness” of a Dutch Queens Day parade may even have been the actual trigger for Karsten T., may well have been ‘at the root of the problem’.

My guess is that Constantijn does not lack imagination. He is intelligent enough to somehow guess how such dramatic strings of events may be triggered, but being straightjacketed in the strictly organized Dutch royal family – even though he is only fifth reserve king in line – he can and he will, say nothing meaningful. His “memories and associations” will be hidden from us. Active self-censorhip is his trade. In the privacy of his home there may be several “pegs” on which pictures are hung with his own memories and associations. One of the pictures maybe this one showing his brother Willem Alexander and his sister in law Maxima clasping their hands on their mouths in bewilderment. Constantijn himself is only partly visible in this picture, that may tell – in World Press Photo aesthetics – in its simplicity the story better than the complex scenery of the Apeldoorn 1) photograph in this post.

Photo 2 Apeldoorn 30 of April 2009: Maxima clamps her one hand on the railing of the bus and the other over her mouth and nostrils, as she watches the totally unexpected terrible scene in front of her; Willem Alexander is captured with his mouth visible through his fingers in an inelegant way, one of the rare moments were his trained  official mask has fallen of; their eyes survey the disastrous scenery but also seem to be turned inward, thoughts racing through their minds; "was this aimed at us?"; seeing the victims on the street and people rushing up to help them; seeing the crashed car; curious is that the face of the one policeman that can be seen in full profile looks the other way, as if he has not seen what has just happened and it is a face without any sign of having witnessed a disaster; it could be that as the policemen stand lower their view is blocked; nobody is seen in a pose of shrinking back from an approaching danger, or pulling themselves together after such a fear. The overall impression is that of spectators in awe.

Photo 2 Apeldoorn 30 of April 2009: Maxima clamps her one hand on the railing of the bus and the other over her mouth and nostrils, as she watches the totally unexpected terrible scene in front of her; Willem Alexander is captured with his mouth visible through his fingers in an inelegant way, one of the rare moments were his trained official mask has fallen of; the hand over mouse gesture can be seen as a subconscious gesture that indicates that a person is perplexed by what just have been seen or heard, also to stop oneself from shouting; their eyes survey the disastrous scenery but also seem to be turned inward, thoughts racing through their minds, "was this aimed at us?"; feelings of empathy also, seeing the sprawled victims on the pavement and people rushing up to help them; dismay as well, because this act brutally puts an end to what Prince Constantijn described as "joyful", "friendly" and "innocent"; Willem Alexander and Maxima see the crashed car and must have asked themselves what the motive of the car driver could have been, including flashes of their public role and, apparently, not being loved by everybody; thoughts how this will effect their personal life and how it relates to their public role in the future. Curious is that the face of the one policeman that can be seen in full profile looks the other way, as if he has not seen what has just happened and it is a face without any sign of having witnessed a disaster; it could be that as the policemen stand lower and their view is blocked by people in front of them; also a strong tele-lens must have been used drawing together what in reality is far apart; nobody is seen in a pose of shrinking back from an approaching danger, or pulling themselves together after such an automatic body gesture of fear; the overall impression is that of spectators in shock and awe.

The pictures above appeared on a website of Daylife.com, that relates it to Reuter, but there are other agencies that have what seems to be a similar photograph, most probably a cut-out of this picture; that one is ascribed to the Dutch photographer Patrick van Katwijk (possibly related to dutchphotopress that has a set of pictures of what they call “Queensday Accident” which carries yet another link to Monarchy Press Europe (these two last agencies seem to be specialized in photographing royals).

There is a very long tradition of patronage of the arts by royals and artists and intellectuals under royal protection are not necessarily  total uncritical supporters of  a ruling power. Famous example is the Spanish painter Goya who had four kings as his patron, including a foreign occupying king (one of the brothers of Napoleon) and who combined big painting commissions for the aristocracy with  – on the side –  graphical works with biting social criticism. Goya’s well known works on the horrors of war depict the national Spanish rising against the French occupationand as such fitted the Spanish royal ‘canon’. Czarina Catherina II of Russia entertained foreign critical minds like Voltaire at her court, but merciless prosecuted local intellectuals with enlightened ideas like the writer Alexander Radishchev (influenced by Rousseau) who was send to a Siberian exile and later committed suicide. There is evidence that the French King Louis XIV wanted to invite Spinoza to his court, in the period that French armies had occupied half of the Dutch Republic, but the ‘caute’ (cautiousness) of this radical philosopher made him rightly refuse that offer. Somewhat later on John Locke who had been in opposition to the catholic monarchy of England found a refuge in the Netherlands where he published his work on Tolerance (Epistola de Tolerantia), eleaborated on his ideas about “ultimate sovereignty of the people”, and joined forces with the Dutch Prince William of Orange III, in the Glorious Revolution of  1688, which made the British isles a constitutional kingdom under the reign of a Dutch prince.

When it comes of patronage or support of critical intellectuals and artists, there is always some form of interest from the point of view of a king or aristocrat, to do so. The late husband of Queen Beatrix and the father of Prince Constantijn, Prince Claus has left as a legacy a foundation that supports “culture and development” directing its activities mainly at what the foundation publications (still) calls “The Third World”. One of the recent spearpoints of this patronage is the program “Creating Spaces of Freedom” directed at “people who are oppressed or who express opinions that differ from the general consensus.”  The publication on this specific project of the Prince Claus Fund classifies its support aim clearly: “defiant culture”, which means ‘boldly resisting authority or an opposing force.’ A publication on this subject supported by the fund, summarizes its intent, to look at “the role of art in places where subversion is the only way to challenge the status quo.” So the patronage of the Dutch royals maybe conservative at home and at the same time most radical in ‘far away countries’. Though, there is a policy of  some local critical intellectuals being invited for cultural events where the royals give acte de présence, and even anti-monarchist may be invited for a palace or other royal events, with names ranging from Peter Schat (once prosecuted for being involved in a lèse majesté cartoon case depicting the mother of Beatrix, Juliana, as a Dutch whore sitting in a window (with her yearly salary as a price tag) or lateley during National Remembrance Day on May 4. 2009, a speech – attended by the royals- by Wim de Bie, a Dutch comedian who has masterminded (together with Kees van Koten) over the last decades several television sketches poking jokes at the Queen and her extravaganza.

Must this particular Dutch policy of royal patronage of the arts be seen in a Marcusian sense as a form of “repressive tolerance” (Herbert Marcuse “Repressive Tolerance” 1965) ? Or is such a traditional left-wing branding too easy: “what is proclaimed and practiced as tolerance today, is in many of its most effective manifestations serving the cause of oppression.” Can there be still a creative and liberating role for hereditary queens and princes in the 21st. century?   The royal family and Prince Constantijn  had a shocking experience:  “The images keep passing before my eyes, and the sounds echo in my ears”, said the prince, but when he further deliberates on this dramatic subject his imagination is not only poor, it is a void.

If the role of patron of the competition World Press Photo would have been the only public function of this prince, I would not have even written this exposé, what alarmed me is that recently I did read a newspaper announcement in which I could read that Prince Constantijn had been installed as a board member of  the Supervison Council (Raad van Toezicht) of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (Museum of Modern Art Amsterdam). The press release has hardly any information except the fact that the prince “has a lot of experience in European and international governance” and also that “his liking of modern art makes him an extra good candidate for this position.”  The Stedelijk Museum is a municipal museum, the municipality is formally governed by a municipal council that is democratically elected. This policy of nominating new members of a public governing body by co-optation is a shocking undemocratic act. Patronage of the arts thus becomes a form of Paternalism.

The State Press Service (RVD) choose this photograph of Prince Constantijn to go with the news item on the Stedelijk Museum Supervising Board memeberschip

The State Press Service (RVD) choose this photograph of Prince Constantijn to go with the news item on his Stedelijk Museum Supervising Board membership, beginning of April 2009.

It would lead too far to detail now how the other members of this “Super-vision Council” of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam opted in and out, but for the non-locals of Amsterdam it may be interesting to know that at the same time that Prince Constantijn moves in, the chairman of the council has moved out. And… who is this chairman? Rijkman Groenink, former director of the ABN/AMRO Bank who has made a reputation for himself by his adventurous banking and the demise of  Fortis and the whole string of other banks involved in the construction of the economic crisis we live today, a man who managed to leave the sinking ship, that his bank had become, with an extravagant personal bonus. Maybe Constantijn will also peg a picture of banker Rijkman Groenink (in Dutch, his first name means literal ‘rich man’) on his wall and refresh his memories and let his imagination provide the manifold associations with this picture.

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The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant carried today an article about the Dutch electricity firm TenneT (that manages the national high power electricity transport network over high power lines) making a settlement for possible future damages with nine inhabitants that live close to a newly planned transmission line in the province of Zuid-Holland. The electro-magnetic field of high power lines (both over-head and underground) is suspected to have negative health effects, whereby especially leukemia and Alzheimer are mentioned. Scientific prove of a direct relation between such radiation and the aforementioned health risks has been debated over decades, still the Dutch government has given in a while ago to the arguments as their monitoring institute (RIVM) also could not prove the opposite. A study on the number of people in the Netherlands living within a possible electro-magnetic risk zone counts 23.000 houses. This implies that thousands of people should move out and such a draconic measure would amount to an average cost of 650 thousand Euro for each house, with a stunning total of 15 milliard Euros. A Swiss report (the source not mentioned in the newspaper article) of last year has shown a correlation between living next to a high power transmission line and mortality caused by Alzheimer for those who live longer than 15 years within a distance of 50 meters from such a line. Of course it has not been proven that there is a one to one relationship for a higher death rate of those who are neighbors to electricity highways. The Dutch institution RIVM estimates that of the 110 cases of leukemia a year, at the highest one death a year and at the lowest one death in five years may occur.

YoungPowerOverPeople1973
The headline on electro-magnetic radiation made me think back at some work done in the Documentation Center of Modern Social Movements at the University Library of Amsterdam that I helped setting up in 1973 and whereby the then young ecological movement was one of our many focusses. Sometimes I would also buy a personal copy of a book which struck me as important and – today – I climbed my small ladder to reach into one of the top-shelves to find a copy of Lousie B. Young’s book “Power over People”. This book describes the struggle in a small village in Ohio/USA against a high power line of 765kv. The most graphic demonstration is shown on the back cover of the book… let me scan this now …

The text maybe too small so I put it again in this caption: "Louise B. Young demonstrates how "power" has won out over "people" as she stands under a 765kv power line near Beecher, Illinois. She is holding two fluorescent bulbs that are lighted without benefit of cords, batteries, metallic connections to the ground, or sleigh of hand, but by the intense electric field in the vicinity of the power line."

The text maybe too small and also for the sake of search engines, I put it again in this caption: "Louise B. Young demonstrates how "power" has won out over "people" as she stands under a 765kv power line near Beecher, Illinois. She is holding two fluorescent bulbs that are lighted without benefit of cords, batteries, metallic connections to the ground, or sleigh of hand, but by the intense electric field in the vicinity of the power line."

Now the voltage level of the Dutch lines – as mentioned in the Volkskrant article of today – is 380kV as the campaign described in the book by Louise B. Young speaks about twice that number (765kV), but here I need to mention the fundamental question whether or not it is the intensity of the radiation that causes bad health effects. It can be that so called ‘low-level-radiation’ may cause more malicious effects than certain medium or higher levels of radiation. This is for instance the case in the realm of radioactive radiation, also called ionizing radiation (subatomic particles of electronic magnetic waves). In the bibliography of  Young’s book one will find a specialist of this field of research John W. Gofman (1918-2007) a medical physicist who has been involved in The Manhattan atomic research project and who has since the sixties contested the official norms of acceptable levels of radiation as used for the implementation of commercial nuclear plants. As Gofman’s view was hampering the development of  nuclear electricity production, he has been side-tracked by the academic world and became a figure-head in the anti-nuclear movement. He has predicted high numbers of possible negative health effects and death as a result of nuclear incidents like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, numbers which are refuted by the official data, but as this data may be open to debate and his expertise in the field of medicine and  radiation as such has never been contested, his work and proposed methods of research remain valid to this very day.

Back to the subject after this side-track. Rereading some parts of the “power over People” book, there are apart from the specific issues some general themes that may be of use in the actual situation in the Netherlands. Young describes how a whole rural area is endangered by this super high voltage system that will serve the big cities Chicago and Detroit because environmental activists in these cities had been opposing the building of local coal-based-electric power stations. The book goes also in great detail in the different kind of cables and how they differ in the amount of energy that is lost (into the surroundings) and how a more evenly adapted network of power-lines and power-plants would improve the situation. There is a special chapter on alternatives for high-power transmission lines and of course the themes may sound all too familiar: localized generation and consumption; underground transmission with special cables reducing the radiation effect; fuel-cell system  transferring gas directly to electricity; using gas as an intermediate in the transport process; development of hydrogen technology…

Overhead-electricity  masts are an undeniable part of the Dutch landscape. Distribution of electricity  has changed economies and thus landscapes all over the world. Coal and oil have been the main transportable carriers of energy with devastating effects for man and nature. Strip mining of coal, brown coal and uranium have turned vast areas of the globe into waste land.  Shipping routes, pipelines and railways form the imperial ‘high way’ of energy, linking wells and mines  to ovens, nuclear reactors and turbines producing… electricity. How many human (and animal) lives are lost in this process, how much harm is done to the environment  is hard to calculate. It certainly is a million fold more than the tiny side-effects caused by the impact of electricity ‘by-ways’ on our landscape and its inhabitants – the last part of the energy trail – as described in the article that triggered these thoughts. It raises a moral question also: are we not bound to compensate everybody in the long trail of energy?

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==========Liberal Party poster in Amsterdam subwat station Wibautsraat with in the right corner a A4 leaflet stuck with a piece of tape "From now on for / everyone that deserves something lovely: / something lovely (liefs in Dutch can also be translated as 'sweet' or 'dear')

Liberal Party poster in Amsterdam subway station Wibautsraat with in the right corner an A4 leaflet stuck with a piece of tape "From now on for / everyone that deserves something lovely: / something lovely (liefs in Dutch can also be translated as 'sweet' or 'dear')

Since a week or so Amsterdam subway stations show a poster campaign by the Dutch liberal party VVD (the word liberal has everyweher in the world a different national/local connotation, I will explain later how one could read the Dutch word ‘liberal’ now). It is a text only poster with the following curious sentence:

From now on

for

everyone

that deserves (can also be read as ‘earns’)

punishment:

punishment
 

At the bottom of the poster the logo of the party is shown + two cryptic words: “The Netherlands once again” (Nederland opnieuw).
There is a flashing website of the VVD party where this, and other slogans for the European election campaign, are displayed. Interesting is that these posters seem to appear only in subway stations, bus-stops and the like, many of them providing a dreary frame for this typographic exercise that is supposed to collect votes for the liberal party. The VVD in full  Party for Freedom and Democracy (Partij Voor Vrijheid en Democratie) has been founded in 1948 and has her roots in de Vrijzinnig Democratische Bond (Liberal Democratic Union) which was founded at the beginning of the 20th century  and has at that time  actively campaigned for the right of women to vote and developed ideas of how the state should be an instrument to steer economics for the common good (so a derivation of classical liberalism). The party had limited influence in the inter-bellum and showed good democratic behavior during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. During that period links with the Dutch social-democrat party were forged, but at the brink of the cold war in 1948 a need for a new separate liberal party  was felt. The party held for decades some middle position in Dutch politics, being in and out government coalitions with social-democrats or christian parties. In the last decade with new right wing parties (in two cases split offs from the VVD) and neo-Dutch nationalist populism (mostly driven by islamophobia) the party had to compete with the Dutch New Right and has adapted their policies and slogans. Multi-culturalism (as practized by Dutch governments in the seventies and eighties of last century) has become a dirty word and hardliner rhetorics have found its way into Dutch political discourse.

The colors of the text and underlining (blue and orange) are in fact a historic reference to the flag of the Prince of Orange and also used by the Dutch rebels against the Spanish empire the Geuzen in the 16th century (Orange White  Blue (“Orange Blanche Blue”, or in Dutch: “Oranje Wit Blauw”/”Oranje Blanje Bleu”); the flag of the The Netherlands is Red, White, Blue). So one may ask if there is a suggestion here that us Dutch should go back to morals of the Dutch founding father, Prince Willem van Oranje? My first association seeing the poster was somewhat pleasurable I did read it as a SM reference with a slave waiting for the master to give a few pleasure whips, the master shouting “do you deserve punishment?” …. “yes master”…zackkk — “thank you master!” but that association faded away in a split second and gave way to other associations.

My second flash was of course  VVD party leader Rutte finally getting what he deserves, after years of running free, and I will not describe all the others that had to climb the scaffold of my imagination. In fact the poster faded from my mind within an hour or so, till the moment, last night, when I saw a short news item on local television of a lovely young lady taping over the words straf/punishment with the word ‘love’. The young reporter asked her why she was doing this and she answered that she did get such a dreary feeling of seeing these posters, especially in such depressing environments like the subway. She was light and joyful about her personal initiative and said she did it first of all for herself to wash off the bad vibes.

A quick check today did find of course a whole series of what the situationists call a ‘détournement’, a twist of meaning, without the authors having any idea that fifty years or so ago, some guys in Brussels thought up a theory of the ‘détournement’ as a cross-fertilization of pre-war surrealism and post-war lettrism. I just have thrown a few of these meaning twisters together, and one should differentiate between the real actionists doing it for real and the virtual activists limiting their activity just to their blogs.

For non-Dutch readers: zon = sun; straf = punishment; geld = money; verdient = derserves & also earns; weinig = litlle; minder = even less; bier = beer; and least: tieten = tits, the rest is international enough to be understood

For non-Dutch readers: iedereen = everyone; zon = sun; straf = punishment; geld = money; verdient = derserves & also earns; weinig = litlle; minder = even less; bier = beer; and ... last: tieten = tits, the rest is international enough to be understood

 

 

A bad taste remains even after seeing these often no-fun exercises twisting a party slogan around. Who is to be punished, how these punishments will be done, by whom? Is it a call for  liberal vigilantes to take to the street and catch those who “deserve to be punished”? Who will do the punishing and how? I can see nothing liberal and democratic in this unwise poster action, it thrives on rancour in general, it is much too unspecific to belong to any party political process. In short it’s a shame for what was once the Dutch liberal and democratic legacy.

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At a most public moment, the opening of the Freedom-Day festival on 5 of May 2009 in Zwolle , Dutch prime-minister Balkenende claimed that the attack on April 30 in Apeldoorn was a an assault on the royal family. These are the words of Balkenende  broadcasted on Dutch television news on that day:

“This moment also we think back at last week thursday, at our queen and the members of the  royal family, because the assault was directed at them.”

This is said while several independent official investigations into the incident have been announced with the results to be made public in June this year. How is it possible that in a constitutional state, like the Netherlands, which claims to have independent courts and juridical procedures,  a prime minister gives his personal opinion on a criminal act (The Karsten T. incident)  at such a public ceremonial moment? He has created a situation whereby investigators and judges will be hampered in their tasks, because they may be forced to either contradict or approve the minister-president of the country on this case. The regular behavior in such case by members of the parliament  is that they say “I will not” or “I can not comment on something that is still in the hands of the court.” What we observe here is in fact unconstitutional behavior of the highest ranking politician of our country in a clumsy attempt to strengthen the constitutional monarchy. As the incident with Karsten T. can be explained in several ways and where doubts exist if it really was an assault on the royal family or not, such a statement may in the end weaken the position of the royal house and the victimhood which has for political reasons been imposed on them.

The broadcasted text spoken by Balkenende in Dutch was:

“Ook nu denken wij terug aan vorige week donderdag aan onze koningin en de leden van de koninklijke familie, want de aanslag was op hen gericht.”

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Rifka Weehuizen, a researcher at the University of Maastricht of the joint realm of  economy and psychology, published an article today in one of the main dailies of the Netherlands De Volkskrant on the assault on Queens-day 30 of April 2009 in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, by Karsten T. under the headline: “Of [the like of] Karst T. there are hundreds” (Van Karst T. zijn er vele honderden).  The author describes the common psychic features of people who do get unemployed and points to the fact that suicide of the unemployed is twice as high as with regular employed people. “The aim of a suicide mostly is to put an end to what is experienced as unbearable emotional suffering without a way out in sight.”  Weehuizen then sums up several common known factors in personal life, possibly in combination with personality dysfunctions, and rates them against the profile of Karsten T.. She also puts this in a wider perspective mentioning the effects of economic recession as expressed in an increase of unemployment, on mental health and a resulting increase of suicide, especially among men. She also points to the secularized society of the Netherlands where social contacts – especially of single persons – are derived primarily from the job circle. When a person loses income and has no job anymore it may result in a personal social and psychological disaster. Resulting loss of identity and meaning in life may lead to anger, aggression, being victimized, urge to revenge and loss of self-control. Weehuizen continues to argue  that such a dissatisfaction with the economical situation or society in general is too abstract for directing strong feelings against,  that under such circumstances the royal family  may have appeared to Karsten as a symbol, not only of  Dutch society, but also of people who appear to be rich, happy and loved; having everything the perpetrator was lacking. The focus of Weehuizen gets back now at the trajectory of the car of Karsten T. that ultimately crashed into an iron fence around a stone monument just after the moment the royal cortege in their special bus had passed a road with joyful bystanders awaiting an historical parade in honnor of the queeen. She proposes two interpretations of Karsten’s violent act: 1) the victims among the bystanders where just collateral damage standing in the way of his royal target; 2) they were part of his plan. Weehuizen comes to her end conclusion by stating that it is probable that the attack on this royal parade was nothing less and nothing more than [what in military terms are called ‘targets of opportunity’ (this is term is added by me here to clarify)] , that the objective could as well have been his former school, or former workplace.

Small picture of article by Rifka Weehuizen in De Volkskrant 6 of April 2009

Small picture of article by Rifka Weehuizen in De Volkskrant 6 of April 2009

You can also download the article in the orginal lay-out of the newspaper article (in Dutch) in pdf format via this link below (may take a while) d_vkkarttweeshuizen

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