2.18.2003 1. I brought more clothing to Amsterdam than I ever thought I would need in a week of traveling--I simply have too much clothing and I don't like to play favorites. Fortunately, I vastly underestimated how much clothing I would need, and I have in fact, with the exception of two pairs of underwear, already worn every article of clothing I brought abroad. But what's more surprising, what I never would have foreseen in designing a wardrobe with which to travel, is that I wear every single one of those articles every time I go out. I brought three pairs of pants, and right now I'm wearing them all. My chest has six layers! I look like a greatly bloated version of myself. If at any point I get hit by a car--which, with my poor understanding of traffic in Amsterdam, may very well happen soon (and more than once)--I'm padded enough to fair the blow quite well.
2. Last night we were in a store inspecting a wall of decorative wooden shoes, deciding whether or not they were meant to be worn. On the one hand, they come in every size imaginable, suggesting that they're more than just peculiar wall-hangings. But on the other hands, they're very carefully painted, and I can't imagine clogging around the garden wearing elaborately-painted shoes which pictorially describe Van Gogh's childhood. We were comparing the hanging shoes and arguing. I felt the inside of one of them with the tip of one of my fingers, and the string suspending them tore in half, causing the shoes to fall crashing down, taking with them in their fall at least one pair of shoes from each of the subsequent levels, of which there were four or five. The end result was a mess of noise, wood falling everywhere and women rushing from behind a counter to do their part in adding to the embarrassment.
3. We arrived Saturday, the day of the protest in New York. Walking around, we passed dozens and dozens of people carrying large signs and banners with different anti-war slogans, many directed not at America, but at Bush himself. Being characteristically uninformed Americans, my brother and I assumed that the signs were indicative of the liberal city's natural opposition to the war--signs of protest that had probably been apparent for weeks, and would remain until the threat of war has passed--and not particularly reflective of anything greater. We ate lunch. We smoked a joint of hash. And walking home, we accidentally made our way, high and cold, into the largest mass of people I'd ever seen. What could have been fifty-thousand people formed around us and took over the whole of Dam Square and all of the adjoining streets. We found ourselves, without any particular desire to be there, amongst what felt like the whole of Europe and repeated chants of "America! Go Home!" Fortunately, many of their chants were in Dutch, so no ones feelings were hurt too bad--but every once in a while, one of us would be pressed-up face-to-face with someone who'd ask where we were visiting from. "Canada. We're visiting from Canada. Eh." It took us an hour and a half to make it a distance of forty meters, pressing the whole time against those surrounding us on every side and watching eagerly for the one rude guy who pushes his way through the crowd, and inevitably leads a stream of people to safety. It was an amazing feeling, sandwiched there in that pickpocket's orgasm, deafened by chanting against a war we didn't agree with and were explicitly being blamed for. We didn't even know there was going to be a protest.
4. The traffic system here--a horrible confusion of bikes and cars and trams and pedestrians--is completely Greek to me. It's more Greek to me than Dutch, which, to me, besides being a horrid language, is fairly Greek. We Americans have bikes like everyone else, but none of us are quite sure what to do with them. We pool at the various stoplights, and watch to see what a Dutch person does. Ten or fifteen Americans on bikes, all following the Dutch person. None of us have a sense of what is proper here, and it's actually quite funny. Of course, the leader isn't necessarily Dutch at all--he or she may simply be the rudest American. It's not as if any of us following know the difference.
5. In the Red Light district, women (or, more frankly, girls my age in their underwear) sell themselves by standing behind tall glass windows in cramped spaces flooded with red light. When an interested party (or, more frankly, a fat, middle-aged German man) wishes to "partake," he approaches the glass and they work out some sort of deal. This all takes place at night. Yesterday afternoon we were walking around downtown, and we passed a series of cramped white accounting offices, each with a large front window, each with an old man inside working. The obvious similarities of these old mens' offices to the red-lit rooms hit me all at once, and I couldn't stop laughing. My brother didn't get it. "You know," I said, pointing, "for people with studious old man fetishes!" My brother was not terribly impressed.
6. I woke up this morning to the loud sound of an Irishman brushing his teeth. I had no idea that Irish people brushed their teeth so loudly. And the process was different as well--he continually wet his toothbrush as if he was trying to sip water from the spaces between the bristles. I don't know any other Irish people, so I'm just going to assume that all Irish people brush their teeth that way, and maybe even consider their country inferior. That seems to be the American way to do things.
2.15.2003 Because we arrived so late in the morning, the hostel didn't have a room with two empty beds, and my brother and I were forced to split up. I took the first of the two rooms, and he took the one down the hall. There were six beds in mine, only one of which was free. Since none of my roommates were around, I did the usual hey-look-I'm-alone things (no, not that). I whistled loudly. I changed my clothes. I pulled the bathroom mirror off the wall pretending it was a medicine cabinet. While I was trying to reinstall the mirror, a guy around my age entered the room.
I stuck out my hand and told him my name, naturally assuming he was one of my five roommates. He responded with a puzzled look.
"Wait, you're bunking in this room? Wow, Ben--you may be the luckiest guy in this entire hostel."
"You'll see when you meet your roommates."
As it turns out, there are rooms for men, and rooms for women. And my bed is in a womens' room. Which is fine with me. No snoring. No great danger of them stealing my things. But you really should have seen the looks on their faces when they opened the door to find me standing there.
2.11.2003 Wow. Wow. This propaganda piece is even more ridiculous than the first one I posted. In this one, they've got the little girl (who may or may not be pregnant) blaming a woman for killing her. How did she kill her? She bought drugs which funded terrorists.
Voiceover: "Marijuana gives money to terrorists. It's more dangerous than we thought."
2.09.2003 High-larious. I love this commercial. Dave sent it to me, and the first couple times I watched it, I was under the impression that it was a joke. The first time I actually laughed out loud. I was shocked to realize that this is an actual commercial, intended to be taken seriously. Frankly, it's much stronger as satire.
I love the idea of this eleven year-old girl smoking weed and having sex. Not because I'm a horrible pervert, but because implied in the statement "marijuana impairs judgement" is the notion of a choice. It would be a very different commercial--and probably are far more realistic one--if the doped-up child had been forced into having sex. However, the narration of the clip benefits her a will, and attributes marijuana, the laziest, least sexy drug I know, to its apparent impairment.
I think I'd like to make my millions directing scare-campaigns. God knows they're popular right now. Fade-in to a shot of a teenager, leaning with his back up against the side of a car, taking the last drag of a joint before crushing it under his foot. Fade to black. Fade back in to his car pulling out of the parking lot. Inside the car, he uses his right hand to turn up the volume of the stereo. He bounces his head with the beat. Fade to black. Fade back in to a shot from above, and a bend in the road in the distance. Inside the car, he presses his foot down against the brake to slow for the bend. And nothing happens. A look of shocked concern. Shot of his foot slamming the brake down against the floor over and over. Close with a shot of the car careening over the edge of the road, rocketing into empty space before crashing to the base of the ravine. Of course, he's screaming the whole time. Fade to black.
Voiceover: "Marijuana can cut your brake lines. It's more dangerous than we thought."
I'm angry. My mouse has randomly and inexplicably stopped working. Ten minutes ago it was working perfectly, and then it just...stopped. The cursor chose a destination, affixed itself, and has remained there since. I've never realized how poorly equipped Windows is for this sort of situation. At this point, having grown tired of pressing "tab" until the object of my interest became highlighted, I'm navigating my way around my computer, very slowly, with the number pad of my keyboard. And I'm only becoming angrier.