Raveleijn by Paul van Loon, a book review.

Hi my hot cute girly geeks and boy geeks of course. So here’s the thing. I read a Dutch book, but since I run this blog in English, I’ll review this book in English on my blog and post a Dutch review on Goodreads. I know it’s double the work, but I’d like non Dutchies to be able to read this review as well. Oh and remember as always, spoilers.

Raveleijn

About the book:

  • Published: April 2011 by J.H. Leopold
  • Children’s novel
  • ISBN: 9025857817 (ISBN13: 9789025857813)
  • edition language: Dutch
  • Author: Paul van Loon

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Synopsis according to Goodreads (and translated by myself, since the synopsis is in Dutch):

Thomas, Joost, their brother Maurits and twin sisters Emma and Lisa may look like ordinary children… until Joost precedes them, trough the gateway into the magical city of Raveleijn (city of the ravens). To their surprise they turn into horsemen and there’s a reason for that.

According to ancient prophecies they have an important quest. They need to free Raveleijn and its inhabitants from their tyrant: count Olaf Grafhart (Grave Heart). The five children have each other; they have their horses and special weapons, and enough courage to battle the monstrous creatures they find on their path. But how did they get their magical powers they need to conquest Olaf Grafhart? And what about the terrible and unknown horror still waiting for them?

My thoughts:

First of all, let me state that Paul van Loon is one of my favourite Dutch children’s book authors ever. He wrote a lot of books about vampires and children horror stories, or as he like to call it a combination between humour and horror. He and fellow authors that wrote in the same genre even founded the horror club for children, with its own newspaper and a yearly club day where you could meet all the authors in real life, cosplay contests and everything. Needless to say I joined that club when I was about 13 years old. I still have all the books and even a couple of them signed as well, I actually met Paul van Loon a couple of times.

Second, this book is specially written for the Efteling, an amusement park in the Netherlands. A couple of years ago Paul van Loon and the people of the Efteling worked together to design a new amusement show, this probably because Paul van Loon lives in that area of the Netherlands (and the same area I’m from as well). The amusement show tells the story as is described in the book and it was even turned into a TV show for children as well. (now according to inside information, the show prior to the one now on display (2013) in the Efteling wasn’t that good, so they mixed things up a bit and the result you can see for yourself in the Efteling).

As I said before, Paul van Loon is one of my favourite children’s book authors and I must say I really enjoyed reading this book, even if it’s for children. Although it’s a bit different from what I’m used to reading from Paul van Loon.

The book is really modern, the children depicted in the book use a lot of modern catchphrases as well and it isn’t as sinister as his other books. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good story.

Although the pace seems high in the book and the story unravels fast, keep in mind this is a children’s book. The chapters are short, the children funny and curious, and the epic battle between good and evil really well portrayed. The eldest child needs to make difficult choices by either rescuing the townspeople of Raveleijn or choose the safety of his own siblings and it’s that kind of dilemma, at least I think so, what makes it all the more real.

Also I must say, the book itself is beautiful. Hardcover edition, sturdy pages and beautiful artwork inside the book. It’s a shame it’s not mentioned who the artist is who did the drawings for the book, only the Efteling is mentioned.

And I do find it too bad that, as far as I know, the book isn’t translated in other languages, and you can only buy it in Dutch. It’s a great way for tourists to get to know Paul van Loon as a writer and take that story home with you for your kids.

Where to buy the book:

First of all, you can buy the book in the Efteling itself. They also have a web shop where you can order it. And as it turns out, Amazon does have the book as well, just keep in mind it is not a translated version, the book is only available in Dutch!

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My ratings:

I rate this book 8 out of 10. And that’s because of the whole experience, seeing the show in the Efteling first, then reading the book, and also because the edition is amazingly done with the drawings and everything. The story was very entertaining and for a children’s book enough excitement and a fast pace to keeps things interesting.

PS: link to the Dutch review on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/725763540

YouTube Sunday (finally!)

Hi my hot cute girly geeks and boy geeks of course. Sigh; finally have the time to do a proper YouTube Sunday again. This last month has been crazy. I had to pick up the workload for a colleague who went on a 4 week holiday and after that I had my own vacation break. But that also meant I was to freaking tired during the week to gather geek vids for you guys. When I encountered one I saved it. But I never posted them. So now, on the last day of my holiday (eugh, I need to start working again tomorrow) I’ll post them all at once.

So now, still in my pyjamas, cause you know, it’s Sunday, I’ll be sorting through about 40 vids I collected. I hope you’ll enjoy them. Some may be a bit old, but nevertheless fun to watch. Enjoy!

Seeing as the movie How to train your dragon 2 is coming out June 2014, here’s something to kill the hiatus for you in between waits. The making of part 1: http://youtu.be/PQMBA4896pU if you go to the geek who posted it, there is more where that came from 😉

I first encountered the song Sail by Awolnation in a fanvid made for Sherlock: http://youtu.be/tderL0tZ2jo and I think this is one of the most awesome fanmade vids with this song; it fits in every way possible. And now I found a Supernatural one as well!: http://youtu.be/IbQEyH9bdlg  I mean, this song, is just perfect if you’re having a crappy day and want to get it out of your system by playing angry music and shouting along with it. It’s one of my favourite songs on my mp3 player.

Ok, this is old news for a lot of Sherlockians and a lot of rumours online as we wait for season 3. But fake scenes??? What?: http://youtu.be/epIch_VCVp8 (no Setlock involved in this vid)

A bit of Sherlock season 3 in this drama trailer by BBC: http://youtu.be/ThHEcmDBXpg when is the wait finally over!

The Little Flavour teaser trailer has finally landed, and when it came out, my social media exploded, it’s short, it’s bloody and I need more: http://youtu.be/7mghu5ELe_c

Neutron creme! I’m talking about Star Trek obviously, this vid is a crappy quality, but Karl Urban explains a bit about is: http://youtu.be/xPdrKDh_olw

Talking about Star trek, here’s the honest trailer: http://youtu.be/6B22Uy7SBe4

So what happens if you cross Harry Potter with Doctor Who? http://youtu.be/3aLBLb8DQO4  another fanvid.

There are countless of version online for the cup song (song by Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect the movie), but I really like this one as it’s in Gaelic: http://youtu.be/nFtfk0bZVRM

I’m going to Gent in two weeks to see the Julian Assange movie ‘the Fifth Estate’ here’s Julian’s reaction to Benedict’s accent: http://youtu.be/C-X8dxsuOOw I can’t wait to see this movie! Oh and a bit more Fifth Estate: http://youtu.be/ZTzCpjT2ds8

More Benedict? Yes please: another interview with Benedict: http://youtu.be/VtfOxmOzcec  and one more: http://youtu.be/JeEQ2wbRxHY  oh ok, I’ll give you another one: http://youtu.be/iY9lcIHzREc

Although I haven’t watched Merlin (seriously I tried, several times) I did enjoy this children’s in need vid the cast made: http://youtu.be/5k0DinFR5rw

Winter is coming, but not season 4 of Game of Thrones, we still have to wait for some time. Until then, enjoy this extended version of the intro: http://youtu.be/EyJUx2co12c

Season 8 gagreel Supernatural!!! http://youtu.be/6Xlste6kFmk they are the best! Ladies, hold on to your ovaries for this one.

Spoilers people, for Supernatural season 9: http://youtu.be/DfcKMlFCqiU Oh god, is it October yet? Also a nice Castiel and & Crowley promo (insert exploding ovaries here…): http://youtu.be/3anPgm0NQXY (can I make that into a ringtone ‘Hello Crowley here, aka the King of Hell) and of course the extended promo, again, spoilers: http://youtu.be/wgH-oNilKGc

Tom Hiddleston and Cookie monster, do I need to explain myself?: http://youtu.be/b_ubVVnWglk

This is seriously one of the craziest vids I have seen. And it’s a big hit on tumblr as well, what does the fox say: http://youtu.be/jofNR_WkoCE

Since we are still waiting for the 50th trailer to come out, at least for the ones who didn’t go to ComicCon, there are a lot of fanmade trailers popping up, enjoy this one: http://youtu.be/_PBlVhQcGT4  also a fanmade intro for Peter Capaldi: http://youtu.be/oXOBHnWiinY

And also a bit of behind the scenes for Doctor Who as well: http://youtu.be/QPqmOrf1Y9E and a vid about the 10th Doctor’s sonic screwdriver universal remote control: http://youtu.be/9f16q0ZQ2D8 just shut up and take my money!

Neville what happened to you? Innuendo bingo with Matthew Lewis: http://youtu.be/UZoAl8-XQmo

Vlogbrothers and Neil Gaiman? God yes please: http://youtu.be/X9Em3v9CqdU

My name is Khan on a 20 min loop; kuddo’s if you can actually watch this for 20 min I made it to 2: http://youtu.be/3eM-P1bEQYI

David Tennant on the Proclaimers: http://youtu.be/l5RXMt7rIXo  Oh god, that accent.

Ohhh new trailer for you guys, Disney’s frozen: http://youtu.be/TbQm5doF_Uc  Seriously, I’m just a big kid, geeking out over this trailer.

For the Avenger fans, a Thor featurette: http://youtu.be/LL8VHNR0wIU

I love Simon Pegg, haven’t seen the Worlds End yet, but here he is explaining the 12 stages of drunkenness: http://youtu.be/-LO4xWk7_cI

We end this YouTube Sunday with a nerdy chat with Steven Moffat: http://youtu.be/JeCM7LiThEs

I hope you guys enjoyed this YouTube Sunday; I know I did, for the full playlist, check this link: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkqAzbSKwpFCliQ8XYXop4SnDqYE-KVnY

Love, your own hot cute girly geek, Mendy.

Defiance, season 1

Hi my hot cute girly geeks, and boy geeks of course. As I said before, I am catching up with my TV series and this one was recommended to me by one of my followers. And I wouldn’t be a good blogger if I didn’t follow up on it, now would I? images

 

Seeing as I recommended Defiance in my 2013 ‘Winter is coming, and so is the start of a new season filled with TV series.’ And in case you missed it, read it here. It was time I naamlooswatched the first season. And although we have to wait until next year (grrrrrrr) it was every minute well spend.

Synopsis according to the official website:

In the year 2046, it’s a new Earth – with new rules. Over thirty years after various alien races arrived on Earth, the landscape is completely altered, terraformed nearly beyond imagesCAKUZ3BRrecognition. To the town of Defiance, on what used to be St. Louis, comes the mysterious Nolan (Grant Bowler) and his charge, Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas). As they settle into town – overseen by the mayor, Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) and filled with residents like the powerful Rafe McCawley (Graham Greene), enterprising lounge owner Kenya (Mia Kirshner) and the ambitious, alien Tarrs (Tony Curran and Jaime Murray) – events begin to unfold that threaten the fragile peace this border town has fought for.

My thoughts:imagesCAXB5LE5

It clearly is a show developed by SyFy channel. They have a certain feel to their series and everything about this just screams SyFy. Not that it’s a bad thing. I mean, they made ‘a town called Eureka’ and ‘Warehouse 13’ two series I absolutely love! And I think this series is a sort of mix between the two shows, together with a hint of flavour from another science fiction show called ‘Adromeda’ and it also reminded me a bit of  ‘the fifth Element.’

First of all, let’s start with the cast and some familiar faces. We have Grant Bowler, playing Joshua Nolan (you may know him from True Blood as Cooter) a renegade former military man, scavenger and now Chief Lawkeeper in Defiance. He’s a tad too violent and has a lot of secrets in his past that slowly unravel throughout the first season.

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Next up Julie Benz, playing Mayor Amanda Rosewater, and for us geeks we all know Julie as the twisted vampire Darla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off series Angel, oh and she also had a role in Dexter, but I stopped watching after one season. Mayor Rosewater is actually not elected and temporarily stepping up to do the job after interning for the previous mayor who had to step down, only three weeks into the job she has to put up with a lot of difficulties from outside town as well as from the inside.

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Mia Kirshner plays the role of Kenya Rosewater; you guessed it, Amanda’s sister. You might recognize her from the Vampire Diaries as Isobel or as Sarah from the Crow: City of Angels. She is the owner of NeedWant in Defiance, the local bar and brothel. And she is a hard worker indeed. Her husband, who mysteriously disappeared, was the previous owner, but now the bar flourishes with its new owner.bg_kenya_default_0

Stephanie Leonidas plays the role of the alien Irisa, although she is a bit unrecognizable in her role. Dutchies may remember her from the movie ‘Kruistocht in Spijkerbroek’ although I recommend you read the book. Irisa is an Irathient, one of the alien races now inhabiting the earth and she was rescued by Nolan when she was a young girl. This girl has a troubled past, PTSD and is very trigger happy. She is torn between the upbringing as a human by Nolan and the way of her own people. Also, her PTSD may not be properly diagnosed after all.cast_irisa

Tony Curran plays the role of alien Datak Tarr, and again a bit unrecognizable because of all the make-up, but he indeed played Vincent van Gogh in Doctor Who, you may also know him from X-Men: first class, Covert Affairs, Medium, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Blade II, Underworld Evolution, and many more geeky series and movies. Datak Tarr is a Castithan, again another humanoid alien race inhabiting earth and the head of Defiance’s underworld. He is cruel ruthless and will stop at nothing to gain more power together with his wife and son.cast_datak

Jaime Murray plays Stahma Tarr, wife of Datak Tarr and she is a familiar for SyFy watchers as we know her from Warehouse 13, playing H.G. Wells. As the popular saying goes, behind every great man stands a strong woman, and this is no exception to that rule. She may play the docile wife most of the times, but beware of her. She is one mean and scary bitch.cast_stahma

Graham Greene plays the human Rafe McCawley, one of the richest inhabitants of Defiance and owner of the mines. He has two sons and a daughter who is madly in love with the Tarr boy. And of course both families disagree with this love (what’s a good show without a bit of Shakespearean love interest) and Rafe has a nasty secret about his dead wife.cast_rafe

The last member of cast I will mention is Trenna Keating, playing Doc Yewll, a humanoid alien from the Indogene race. She is one smart Doctor and I love her sarcastic and snidy bedside manners. But as most of Defiance members of society she also has a few tricks up her sleeve and dark, very dark secrets in her past.cast_doc_yewll_0

Ok, what is it with these people and their pasts. Basically everyone who lives in Defiance has done some nasty shit during the ‘war’ and I don’t mean some simple smuggling. But that’s what makes it interesting, doesn’t it.

DefianceCast5Although I would love to have a bit more back ground information about how the war and terraforming of earth started, it’s interesting to see how humans imagesCA98PDVEadapted with the newcomer aliens and their own cultures they bring with them. These different races are truly amazing to see and beautifully created, even with their own languages and everything and you soon start to pick up on it as well.

This science fiction series is filled with all sorts of new alien tech, new alien species, strong female leads, intrigues, a good deal of violence and bloodshed, Defiance - Season 1humour, sex and a sort of post apocalyptic world. The pace is high, the secrets not too easily discovered upon first glance and of course a major cliff hanger, wanting more of this show and hating the hiatus until June 2014.

So if you love sci-fi series, I do recommend you watch it and let me know what you think of it. Like I said, I can’t wait for next year’s season premier.

Love, your own hot cute girly geek, Mendy.

Sleepy Hollow, 2 episodes in and my thoughts and hopes for this new series.

Hi my hot cute girly geeks and boy geeks of course. Since I still have some days left before going to work I decided to catch up on my TV series. I am currently way behind on watching some of my favourite shows and the new season are already starting so I am dividing my few days left between writing, reading and watching TV. Basically vegging on the couch and such. So expect a few blogs coming your way the next couple of days if I can keep up writing them.

Let’s start with Sleepy Hollow. One of the new shows I’ve been looking forward to watching. The first two episodes aired in the States and here is my review or opinion about it, also if you haven’t seen it yet, be beware of spoilers 😉

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Synopsis according to the official website:

Welcome to SLEEPY HOLLOW, the thrilling new mystery-adventure drama from co-creators/executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (the “Star Trek” and “Transformers” franchises, “Fringe”).

In this modern-day twist on Washington Irving’s classic, ICHABOD CRANE (Tom Mison, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”) is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers. Revived alongside Ichabod is the infamous Headless Horseman who is on a murderous rampage in present-day Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod quickly realizes that stopping Headless is just the beginning, as the resurrected rider is but the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and only one of the many formidable foes that Ichabod must face to protect not only Sleepy Hollow, but the world.

As Ichabod finds himself in 2013’s Sleepy Hollow, he discovers a town he no longer recognizes and grapples to understand. Teaming up with Lt. ABBIE MILLS (Nicole Beharie, “42,” “The Good Wife,” “Shame”), a young cop who has her own supernatural experiences, the two embark on a mission to stop the evil that has awoken along with Ichabod and that now is seeping into this once-sleepy town.

Clues from the past enlighten mysteries in the present, as each episode features a flashback to Ichabod’s life in 1776. Ripe with untold stories from American history and cloaked in mythology, the divide between present and past becomes dangerously blurred. Lives are in the balance, including that of Ichabod’s late wife, KATRINA (Katia Winter, “Dexter”), who is trapped in a mysterious netherworld. In his pursuit to save her, Ichabod uncovers secrets about her, leaving him with countless questions.

Not everyone believes Ichabod’s tales of 1776 and supernatural evils, especially the new head of Abbie’s police precinct, Captain FRANK IRVING (Orlando Jones, “The Chicago 8,” “Drumline”). When faced with bizarre events he can’t explain, Capt. Irving reluctantly turns to Ichabod and Abbie to investigate.

Ichabod’s extensive first-hand knowledge of our country’s hidden history, coupled with Abbie’s superior profiling and modern threat assessment skills, make them a formidable duo. The complex pasts of the pair, from Ichabod’s inclusion in the powerful and secretive Freemasons Society to Abbie’s childhood visions, will help them solve the intricate puzzles of Sleepy Hollow in order to protect its – and the world’s – future. As history repeats itself, the oddly-linked pair will draw on the real stories and secrets this nation was founded on in their quest to stop an increasingly vicious cycle of evil.

My thoughts:

I absolutely love it! Seriously! The first episode started with the famous music ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by the Rolling Stones! How freaking awesome! But let’s start at the beginning as we see Ichabod Crane, played by the (sorry lads, a very hunky Tom Mison, seriously, the guy is one year older than I am, can I have a piece of him please?) You may know him from Parade’s End or Lost in Austen. Back to what I was saying, so we see Crane on the battlefield, fighting and dying 250 years ago and then waking up in modern day Sleepy Hollow.

Sleepy-Hollow

At the same time Lt. Abbie Mills (played by Nicole Beharie) and her partner the Sheriff (Clancy Brown) respond to some spooked horses. Basically, not only Ichabod woke up, but the headless horseman as well, he kills the Sheriff, Ichabod is arrested as the suspect, a wild Sulu appears, Lt. Mills and Ichabod have a nice chat about crazy stuff happening, they team up and a new OTP is in the making boys and girls.fall_tv_preview_sleepyhollow1

So that’s how it begins. Why do I love it? First of all, I love strong female leads. And although I described the pairing of our two main characters as an OTP (I haven’t checked tumblr yet, but there is bound to be some smutt written by now), I love the fact that it probably ain’t gonna happen. Mainly because Ichabod Crane is still in contact with his ‘not so dead’ wife Katherine, who’s a witch and lost in between the worlds. Not every freaking show needs a romance happening.

Also, it’s funny as hell to see Ichabod Crane adjusting to the new world around him. He is smart as hell (I do love smart guys) and his reaction is just priceless.

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And I love that, the funny bit I mean. I love me a show where characters speak their minds, make mistakes, screw up, are sarcastic and all is mixed up with some good old fashioned horror bits, the apocalypse rising, witches, a headless horsemen and a tall dark and British guy. (Although, why all the German? Still don’t get it.)

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No, but seriously. The first two episodes left me speechless on the couch and I hate that I have to wait until next week for the next episode. If the writers keep up the pace, don’t make all the different storylines and flashbacks to complicated, leave out the freaking romance, and add some more gory stuff this show is bound to be a winner. I am already looking forward to next week’s episode and I’ll leave you with the trailer for episode two and three (beware of spoilers).

All I can say is watch it. Especially my US based followers, keep up those viewing ratings so we get to enjoy more episodes!

If you have seen the episodes, let me know what you think!

Love, your own hot cute girly geek, Mendy.

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Hot cute girly geek, the Dutchie version (or what happend when 2 bloggers meet-up).

Hi my hot cute girly geeks and boy geeks of course. As you all know, my fellow blogger Theta and I have been planning to meet each other, and now it finally happened!!! Can I get a whoop, whoop?!

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I met Theta when I first started blogging and soon we became very good online friends. We talk to each other regularly on Skype, tweet a lot and basically annoy the hell out of each other 😉 What started out as a joke a year ago, him wanting to visit the Netherlands and I offering to play tour guide in Amsterdam, quickly changed into something more serious.

He bought plane tickets and I invited him over to my house, since I have a guestroom, why pay for a hotel? And after what seemed like an awfully long wait, last week he finally arrived at Schiphol airport!

DSC_0078So what do you get when two fellow geeky bloggers meet-up? First of all, a much stressed hot cute girly geek wanting to get everything perfect and inDSCF3312 desperate need of cleaning my house. Second of all, a lot of geeky hugs, inside whovian jokes, playing yellow car for 6 days straight (btw I won), going on rollarcoasters, look cake! And much, much more. This will be a more general account on what we did for 6 days and I will post separate blogs later about the museums and stuff.

As I said, we started with me being very stressed and almost running late picking Theta up from the airport. Since I don’t have a drivers license, public transport was the way to go for the next couple of days. But luckily I got there just in time, had an enormous hug and introduced Theta to his first view of the Netherlands.DSC_0082

After dumping his suitcase back home we went into the city centre of the lovely and picturesque (nah not really) town of Gouda, where I live. Let’s just say we decided after that night to do the rest of our travelling either by walking or public transport after a minor biking accident. Guess the old Dutch saying of you’ll never forget how to ride a bike doesn’t take in account you actually have to be Dutch for it to work.

We had a lovely dinner at one of our local restaurants, went back home and it was time for presents. Since it’s hard for me to get hold of the Doctor Who magazine (I can get hold of it, but it is truly overprized) Theta brought a stack of them just for me! Along with some awesome Doctor Who related novels, DVDs and proper English tea! We watched some Doctor Who of course and went to bed early, cause our second day we were supposed to go to the Efteling. Our largest and most famous amusement park!

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DSCF3067Although us Dutchies bitch a lot about the national rail service, turns out, it isn’t as bad as the British one. At least they inform us when stuff happens.DSC_0289 But we had a smooth trip to the Efteling and pretty much behaved like 12 year olds, going on all rollercoasters and walking around fairytale forest. If you ever get the chance as a non Dutchie to visit the Efteling, you should do so, it’s amazing! Theta ate his first ‘Bossche Bol’. Oh and I got a chance to buy a new book by one of my favourite Dutch children’s book authors. He wrote the story specially for the Efteling, since one of the shows and rides is based on this.

Day three of the ultimate geeky blogger meet-up and we went to Amsterdam! First stop the tourism office to buy ourselves an I love Amsterdam card. Basically it gives you free travel in the Amsterdam public transport and a lot of free access to a lot of museums and a discount for other museums. Even for Dutchies who want to spend the day in Amsterdam going to museums I would recommend buying such a card. Check the website for the up-to-date list of museums and restaurants you can get a discount for and the prices and such:  http://www.iamsterdam.com/en-GB/Experience/Deals/I%20amsterdam%20City%20Card

DSC_0287Our second stop after walking through the main shopping area was Marks & Spencers. As far as I know, the only one in the Netherlands and since I don’t go that often to Amsterdam it’s a good store to stock up on British products. (I must confess I’m addicted to their chicken sandwiches, I basically live on those when I’m in the UK) and I also bought a bag of jelly babies. How can I host a 50th anniversary whovian birthday party without jelly babies?

And what would a visit to Amsterdam be without checking out Waterstones. Seriously, I’m not capable of leaving a bookstore without buying a book. IDSC_0290 bought Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and together with Theta we bought a present for Lokke, one of my fellow DCC members who happens to celebrate her birthday in a couple of days and who would be playing tour guide the next day. And across from Waterstones there’s the English DSC_0291bookstore, basically the English version of what we Dutchies call the ‘witte boekhandel’.  I picked up the princess bride and Theta bought another book for Lokke.

After the necessary shopping we went to see the ‘van Gogh’ museum. A must visit for a whovian or a museum geek, take your pick. I’ll be posting a separate blog about this later this week or maybe next week. Let me just say it was brilliant! DSCF3199

With the ‘van Gogh’ museum checked of our to-do list the next stop was the ‘Rijksmuseum’. As a Dutchie I must confess it was the first time I went and saw the famous ‘Nachtwacht’ painting.DSC_0251

Although not as amazing as the ‘van Gogh’ museum, we still had a good time and Theta felt right at home as a British person with all the queuing we had to do to enter the museum. Seriously, first a queue to get into the museum, then a queue for buying tickets and the last queue to drop of our bags, seeing as you can’t bring your bags into the museum.

As the day was nearing its end we decided to do a ‘canal tour’ as last activity for the day. Packed with tourists I was probably the only Dutchie on board. Our tour guide was a local and he loved to take the piss out of people, which nobody understood as he did it in Dutch. I had the time of my life, and tried to translate as much as I could for Theta.

We were both pretty much dead after two days of running around and it was a good thing I planned a relaxed day in between. Sunday was reserved for a slow day in Delft, meeting up with my fellow DCC member and friend Lokke. She showed us around Delft, introduced us to the best apple pie ever (seriously, Dean would freaking love that apple pie, it was worth it), Theta had his first experience with a ‘Haagse Hopje’ and herring, and basically we had a good time.DSC_0258

Monday was again another day in Amsterdam and we started with the Anne Frank house. Because I know this is a popular place to visit we did this first thing, but if you plan on visiting it, no matter what time of day, prepare to wait at least an hour before you can get it.

I have visited the Anne Frank house when I was about 12 years old, but it still got to me. I’ll try to write a proper blog about it later this week. But I will say one thing. You are not allowed to take pictures inside the museum. This is because of the fact that for a lot of people the visit is really emotional and out of respect you are simply not allowed. And there are signs saying you’re not allowed. And, excuse my language, bloody stupid American tourists, you can read English! Don’t take pictures!!! (Ok, rant is over now)

We needed a bit of a cheer-up after the visit and decided to stop drinks and ‘bitterballen’ before our next visit to the Hermitage.DSC_0267

The hermitage is linked to the one in St-Petersburg and since I’m such a geek for Russian culture I wanted to visit it. We were being told the old exhibit was still open next to the new one, but when we arrived we missed it by a day. But it was still lovely to see. (Again, expect a blog post later this week).

DSC_0270Oh and in between we stopped for lunch at an Irish pub located at ‘Rembrandt plein’  St. James. Best burgers ever!

And our final museum visit was foam. Normally I’m not that big on photography, but they did an expose about David Bowie and we decided it was something we both liked to see. The main museum wasn’t that interesting, but the Bowie expose was amazing. (You guessed it, blog post is coming later).

After foam it was time to make a quick stop at the American and British sweetshop in Amsterdam to stock up with all sorts of goodies. (And again, buying stuff for my birthday party, jammie dodgers anyone?) http://eichholtzdeli.nl/welcome/index.html DSC_0286

Our visit to Amsterdam ended in Waterstones where I picked up an amazing and newly published Doctor Who book and got myself a Waterstones card as well.

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This was our last evening together and what better way to spend it with a couple of beers and ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ seeing all the paintings we saw in real life a few days prior.

DSC_0281And, insert sad face here, our final day. We did a quick tour through the city centre of Gouda, bought ourselves a giant syrup waffle, he bought cheese and I treated him to an ‘oliebol’  and it was time to drop Theta off at the airport again. We said our goodbyes with a big hug and I am sure we’ll team up another time, probably me going over to the UK. In the mean time we’ll continue to Skype and tweet and annoy the hell out of each other.

Thanks for the amazing time sweetie 😉

Love, your own hot cute girly geek, Mendy.

Manga 101

Hey everybody!

Since I’m going to blog about manga and anime, I thought it was fun to start with a ‘101’ about manga. This time I will introduce you to the world of manga, the next time I will do a 101 about anime, and in the future I plan to do 101’s about genres, visual novels, dating sims and many other aspects of Japanese visual culture.

The word ‘manga’ literary means ‘whimsical drawings’. But in common use it just means ‘Japanese comics’. There is more to it than you might think, because it is really important that that the comic is made in Japan and/or by a Japanese artist. So comics made in China (Manhua) or Korea (manhwa) are not manga. Comics that have the drawing style of manga (see later in this blog) but are made in the US or Europe or any other place are not manga. But if a Japanese artist is coincidentally is in a foreign country while he is drawing a few pages for his story, it is a manga. There even is an US artist who moved to Japan and learned the language because he wanted to make manga (Peepo Choo by Felipe Smith). But comics such as W.I.T.C.H. (which was very popular in the early 2000’s) is not manga because it is made in Italy.

The left one is manga, the right is not.

Like a said before, manga (the plural of manga is manga, and not manga’s) have a very distinctive style. Although there are no rules for style and there are tons of exceptions, you can recognize most manga by a few features: characters have long legs, big eyes, hair in unusual colours, and backgrounds are very detailed. Except for style, there are also a few fundamental differences with western comics. First of all, you read manga from right to left (although some official translators flip the pages), and second, manga are printed in black and white on a cheap but sturdy kind of paper. Why? Time and money. In Japan, manga is read by everybody. It’s not exclusive for nerds and geeks, but it’s for businessmen, housewives, children, teens, elderly, ect. There are manga for all kinds of demographic groups and there is a huge amount of genres (which I will focus on in a future 101). Artists (which are called mangaka) sometimes only have one week to finish a new chapter, so there is no time to colour the pages and it’s too expensive for publishers to colourprint such large quantities on high quality paper.

Typical manga-styled characters with a detailed background and reading order

  

Manga is usually released in chapters varying from 15-30 pages. They are published in weekly or monthly magazines (monthly chapters tend to be longer than weekly) such as Weekly Shonen Jump. Every five chapters, they are bundled in a tankobon, a small thick booklet which contains five chapters of the same series, with a coloured cover, and most of the time a few coloured pages and some extra’s.  Scanlators (fans who scan ‘raws’ (original Japanese chapters), translate them in English and publish them online) usually scanlate each new chapter as soon as it comes out, so we don’t have to wait until it’s translated in English. And most of the series never even make it to an English release. But there are plenty of manga which are officially translated in English, Spanish, French, German, Dutch, ect., which are released in tankobon-format. The only disadvantage is that it’s usually waaaay behind on the Japanese releases.

Dragon Ball Tankobon (not my own pic)

Most manga are original stories or based on a light novel, but there are manga that are based on visual novels and anime. If you want more information about those, read the next 101!

F.Y.I.: I’m not only going to do 101’s! I’m also going to do reviews, blogs, and top 10’s!

Until next time!

Review – Doctor Who: Vincent And The Doctor (Writer: Richard Curtis)

As some long term readers of this blog will know, I have been invited by my good friend Mendy to visit her in The Netherlands later this week.  It’s our intention, as part of my trip, to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Whilst we are waiting for the good Doctor to return in his birthday celebration in November, we decided that it would be a great idea to tie in my visit with a review of my favourite story in the Matt Smith era, so far, in “Vincent And The Doctor”.  Now, my knowledge of Van Gogh himself is shamefully meager (as somebody who couldn’t draw or paint in my school years, I didn’t get the opportunity to do art appreciation).  However, I am a fan of Richard Curtis’s work on films like “Love Actually” and “Notting Hill”, so I was fascinated as to what he would bring to the Whoniverse, especially a story which featured such a human focus as Vincent’s depression, and the issue of depression and mental health in general.

The framework for this story is firmly established with the opening shot of Vincent painting the famous masterpiece “Wheatfield With Crows” which alludes to the ensuing chaos caused by the Krafrayis creature, and which segues into the opening monologue by Bill Nighy in the role of Doctor Black.  This opening dialogue demonstrates the obvious admiration by Richard Curtis on a humanitarian level as Black compares the body of work in the twilight of Vincent’s life with Shakespeare creating a series of his masterpieces during a summer vacation.  This dialogue also highlights cruel reality the Vincent was not recognised for the artist that he would become during his lifetime.

This opening scene also highlights the story’s other theme of people’s ignorance of the unlike.  This is seen through the Doctor’s behaviour when he sees the painting of “The Church At Auvers” and immediately pre-judges the Krafayis as “evil” rather than how the viewer, along with the Doctor, Amy and Vincent sees the creature towards the end of the story.

Once the story properly commences, we are, again led into an iconic Van Gogh painting, in this case his “Cafe Terrace At Night”.  However, this isn’t simply using another painting simply for iconography’s sake.  We are greeted with a “living” example of Dr Black’s statement that Van Gogh’s art was not recognised in his lifetime as he is unable to sell one of his self portraits for a glass of wine due to the patron not believing that the painting has any value in addition to his assertion that it will scare off the customers.

This scene also sets the stall of what is, for me, Karen Gillan’s star turn in the role of Amy Pond in Series 5.  Whereas it is usually the Doctor with his unique brand of direct action which usually leads to the guest “hero” character joining in with the adventure, in this episode it is Amy’s compassion for Vincent’s plight that opens the door to his participation, which conversely leads to Amy’s ultimate heartbreak at the end of the story.

The cafe scene also enables a clever use of the TARDIS’s translation matrix to make use of Karen Gillan’s and Tony Curran’s, the actor who portrays Vincent Van Gogh, natural Scottish accent.  Whereas in stories like “The Fires Of Pompeii” we have the joke of Donna Noble being translated into “Celt” because she speaks Latin, the story uses the device of Gillan’s and Curran’s Scottish accents to be translated into Dutch – thereby building an emotional bond between pair beyond the obvious visual cue of their ginger hair.

As in all the Doctor’s adventures, death is never too far away and the death of the one of the girls in the town at the end of the cafe scene, and the subsequent reaction of fear by her mother along with her attack on Vincent, the Doctor and Amy, highlights the lack of knowledge of mental health issues and, again, mirrors the Doctor’s pre-judgement of the nature of the Krafayis as an evil creature.

The following scene in which Vincent invites the Doctor and Amy to stay at his house enables Curtis to name drop another of Van Gogh’s paintings in “The Starry Night”.  This cleverly book ends the episode for an amazing scene in the story’s coda that I will speak of later.  It is also in this scene where we are, again, shown that Van Gogh’s work was not seen as commercially successful in his lifetime as Vincent himself dismisses his paintings as “junk”, which could also be seen as an allusion to the low self esteem that people with mental health issues like depression have to undergo.

However, this scene also highlights the vibrancy and life within Van Gogh’s work as the character of Vincent speaks of his view of art holding “more wonders in the universe”, something like the way the Doctor behaves with his companions.  Conversely though, the fact that Vincent has a passion for the way he sees the world around him leads the Doctor to see his behaviour as some form of mania, rather than any form of insight.

This leads me to the scene where Vincent, the Doctor and Amy fall victim to the first Krafayis “attack”, namely that Vincent can see the creature, whilst it is invisible to everyone else (well, until the Doctor uses his invisible monster gizmo that he holds within the TARDIS).  On the one hand, it could be thought of that the fact that Vincent sees the creature could be a symptom of his condition, whilst on the other – and I feel is more credible – hand the fact that Vincent sees the Krafayis means that he has a unique gift of insight into the world around him.

Another thing that is telling in this scene is the fact that the Doctor attempts to persuade Vincent that he can see the creature and he continues to attack thin air once the creature has departed.  This lack of empathy on the Doctor’s part emphasises the lack of the Doctor’s basic humanity due to the fact that he is alien to humans.  Whilst on the one hand this could be seen as ignorance of Vincent’s well-being on the Doctor’s part, it could also be seen as what makes Vincent all the more human and remarkable as a person.

The following scene sees the Doctor picking up his “invisible creature gizmo” and leads to mirroring in two respects.  On the one hand, the Doctor is as snobbish as the patron of the cafe about Vincent’s work when he attempts to get the device to recognise the Krafayis from Vincent’s sketch, bemoaning that it cannot recognise the creature because it was drawn by an impressionist artist like Van Gogh rather than, in his opinion, a “proper” artist like Gainsborough.

The other way that he mirrors is in the way he externalises his thoughts about returning the Krafayis to a home.  This compassion for the well-being of the creature mirrors Amy’s compassion throughout the episode for Vincent which leads to her surprise for him by flooding his courtyard with sunflowers, a visual cue to the end of the episode.

Once the Doctor persuades Vincent to paint the church to set up the painting at the beginning of the episode, there is, to my mind a cheeky steal from the film “Field Of Dreams”.  Whereas Ray Kinsella, portrayed by Kevin Costner, is told by a mysterious voice that “If you build it, he will come”, the Doctor says that “If you paint it, he will come” – meaning that it is pre-destined that the Krafayis seen in the painting will be noticed.  This also leads to a regular topic in the current incarnation of “Doctor Who” of time having fixed points as well as fluid points – in this instance that if Vincent gets killed during the course of the adventure, the body of work that Dr Black spoke of at the start of the episode would no longer exist.  It also leads to a second issue regarding time that I will point out later.

Following this scene comes a powerful, yet sensitive portrayal of Vincent at his lowest ebb within the story as Tony Curran sells the point that despite the intervention of the Doctor who, despite the darkness that he has seen, happens to be the embodiment of the eternal optimist, Vincent can see no possibility of hope beyond his illness.  It also highlights that even with the Doctor’s lack of knowledge of the human condition, he realises that people can only be pushed, prodded or cajoled so far before they have a breaking point.  It also points towards Amy’s stubborness in refusing to accept that she is unable to make a difference to Vincent’s ultimate fate – again, more on this later.

Amy becomes the focus of the following scene as Vincent shows his skills of perception with his assertion that “Amy Pond can soldier on” despite her sadness.  At this time, Amy does not know that she is sad as she has had the memory of Rory’s death and existence erased from her timeline in the previous episode “Cold Blood” as a result of the ongoing “Crack In Time” story arc which dominated Series 5.

The following scene at the church leads to a couple of great examples of “Who” lore.  The first is the way that the Doctor names drops figures from history – in this instance Michelangelo and Picasso whilst he waits for Vincent to carry out his painting.  This painting leads to the second point, which is referenced again in the Series 7 episode “The Power Of Three” being the Doctor’s impatience at the nature of linear time (in the “Waiting is for Wimps” scene).  Whilst the Doctor can jump in and out of time at will through the use of the TARDIS, he is unable to accept or tolerate that there is a linear progression in time which needs to be played out.

The scene also enables the Doctor and Vincent to relate to the Krafayis.  With the Doctor, he uses the fact that he is alone as the last of the Time Lords as way of trying to get the creature to empathise with him.  Vincent empathises that the creature’s affliction of a lack of sight leads to it being seen as a monster, whilst his own mental health leads him to be seen as a monster by the less enlightened townspeople.

Ultimately, the creature’s lack of sight and fear because of it is realised too late by the Doctor and once the creature is accidentally killed by Vincent, it is the Doctor who observes that “Sometimes winning… winning is no fun at all.”

Which leads us to the coda of the story, which is in itself broken into three parts.

The first part refers back to the “Starry Night” reference at the beginning of the story when Vincent persuades the Doctor and Amy to see the night sky as he sees it, full of vivid swirls of yellow, purple, blue and black.  Is this because the Doctor and Amy have come round to Vincent’s way of thinking, or is the Doctor using his telepathic abilities as an enabler for him and Amy to be granted access to Vincent’s idea of the universe around him?

This scene could also be seen as a parallel to an additional scene that was released on the Series 5 box set where the Doctor admits that he has to travel with companions because he no longer sees the wonder of the universe, unless it’s through the eyes of a companion, because it has become his “back yard”.

The next scene which leads to the trip to the Musee D’Orsay, sees a demonstration of how the Doctor empowers people for the better as Vincent admits that he doesn’t think that he will be able to cope without the Doctor’s and Amy’s intervention into his life.  The demonstration of empowerment comes in the form of the trip to the exhibition at the start of the episode and leads to the most powerful scene in the episode and, for me, one of the most – if not the most – beautifully written and played out scene in “Doctor Who”‘s fifty year history.

The way this scene works is through a fantastic combination of Richard Curtis’s dialogue, masterfully allied with Bill Nighy’s well nuanced performance as Doctor Black, where he explains Van Gogh’s importance to the art and human history through the use of his pain of his mental health condition to show the absolute vibrancy and beauty of the world in which he lived.  This dialogue alongside Tony Curran’s perfectly pitched reaction, the camera work to emphasise Vincent’s disorientation and the use of the track “Chances” by Athlete all combine to make this a perfect scene.  (I’ve never been able to listen to that track in the same way since and I still get a lump in my throat when I watch the scene or hear that track).

The fact that the trip into the future imbues Vincent with a new found confidence leads to the second trip to the art museum to have the right level of emotional punch as the viewer, alongside the Doctor, that Amy’s optimism that time can be rewritten is ill founded despite her best wishes.

However, ultimately, this story isn’t about changing or interfering with history, albeit with Amy’s friendship being acknowledged in the famous “Sunflowers” painting which is alluded to in the scene where Amy fills Vincent’s courtyard with the eponymous flowers, it is summed up in the Doctor’s words that an individual has the gift to help other people by adding to their “pile of good things” and using that power to help people see the beauty in the universe around them.