Tag: Dutch

Unboxing a book of Vermeer

Saturday, 25 March, 2017 0 Comments

The trend of making videos of the unpacking of a newly-purchased box containing a desirable gadget has given dictionary makers the word “unboxing.” Example: “Did you see Juan’s unboxing of the new super-thin Asus ZenBook UX305?”

A book can be unboxed, too. Here, Vermeer — The Complete Works by Taschen, the art book publisher based in Cologne, is unboxed by Annie Quigley, owner of Bibliophile.

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) painted during that extraordinary period of exploration, trade and creativity that occurred during the Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century. The modern eye is tempted to compare his works to photographs, but deeper observation reveals far more. His paintings are, in fact, exquisitely designed compositions of light and shadow, colour, contours and shapes.


The Amazon Picking Challenge approaches

Friday, 10 June, 2016 0 Comments

Before we turn our attention to France and Euro 2016, it should be noted that when the quarter-finals kick off on 30 June in Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille and Paris, the Amazon Picking Challenge will be in full swing in Leipzig. This year’s event features two parallel competitions: the Pick Task and the Stow Task. It’s much more difficult than it sounds because although robots are developing a better feel for our world, they’re still terrible at physically handling it. Robots will need to be much more agile if they’re going to play a useful role in everyday life. In last year’s Amazon challenge, the bots had to grab loose objects — a package of cookies, a book, a rubber duck — and put them in a container. The winner took 20 minutes to deal with 10 items. Way to go, bots.

Footnote: If you’re thinking of putting a few quid on Belgium to win Euro 2016, it might do no harm to place a side bet on the neighbours to win this year’s Amazon Picking Challenge. Word is that the equipe from the largest and oldest Dutch public technological university are the real deal. Team Delft for the win.


Dearest creature in creation, English pronunciation

Wednesday, 1 June, 2016 0 Comments

Gerard Nolst Trenité was born in Utrecht in 1870 and died in Haarlem in 1946. A writer, traveller and teacher, he was also, and this is our favourite, “a Dutch observer of English.” Trenité is best known for his poem The Chaos, which exposes the eccentricities of English spelling and pronunciation, and which appeared in his 1929 textbook “Drop Your Foreign Accent: Engelsche Uitspraakoefeningen.”

The Chaos

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870 — 1946)


Curaçao dushi

Saturday, 15 August, 2015 0 Comments

The Dutch Caribbean country of Curaçao is famed for beaches, coral reefs, pastel-coloured colonial architecture and a liqueur flavoured with the dried peel of the laraha fruit (Citrus aurantium currassuviencis), grown on the island. The culture is a mix of Arawak, Dutch, Portuguese, French, Spanish, West Indian and African influences.

The locals speak Papiamentu (Papiamento), a Creole language based on Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish and several African dialects. It’s very much a spoken language, not a written one, hence the spelling variants. Essential phrases: Con ta bay? (“How are you?”), Mi ta bon, mi dushi (“I am well, my love.”) That word, dushi, has lots of meanings, most of which centre on sweet, nice or good. It’s the word Ken Wolff, once of Aruba and now of Amsterdam, picked for the title of this clip.


An afternoon with Borges in Buenos Aires

Wednesday, 30 April, 2014 0 Comments

In 1976, Patrick Richardson was an impoverished, 25-year-old writer, living in a garret in Amsterdam. To escape the oncoming Dutch winter, he set off to Latin America. You won’t believe what happened next. Well, you can, actually, because this is not an Upworthy story. In Buenos Aires, he met his literary hero, Jorge Luis Borges. Snippet:

“Have you read my stories?”

“All of them!”

“I have done my best, although I must apologise for their poor quality.” Borges was renowned for his humility, authentic or otherwise.

“No, really, you’re too modest.”

A playful expression flitted across his countenance. “Perhaps you are familiar with the story of what occurred when Goethe visited a brothel in Hanover?”

“No, but I’d love to hear it.”

The long, convoluted story, which I have forgotten, lasted for five minutes, until he questioned me about my journey in South America and my life in Amsterdam as a writer. At last, after what seemed a lifetime, a man in a stone-coloured suit came down the gangway, mounted the steps on to the stage, and leant over him. “It’s time to go, Señor Borges,” he said in a hushed voice. “You have an appointment at three.”

An afternoon with Jorge Luis Borges is published in today’s Independent.


The Goldfinch

Monday, 14 April, 2014 0 Comments

Alex O’Connell in the Times said it was “a heavyweight masterpiece”, but in the Observer Julie Myerson wrote that she was bored by it, calling it “a Harry Potter tribute novel”. On one hand, Kamila Shamsie in the Guardian called it an “astonishing” achievement, but on the other, the Sunday Times‘ Peter Kemp wrote: “No amount of straining for high-flown uplift can disguise the fact that The Goldfinch is a turkey.”

So is latest Donna Tartt worth reading? Well, those who are lonely, or who are outsiders, or who love the paintings of the Dutch Masters, will find much in the 771 pages to comfort them. But above all, for boys who love their mothers, living or dead, there’s a lot to ponder. Snippet:

“How was it possible to miss someone as much as I missed my mother? I missed her so much I wanted to die: a hard, physical longing, like a craving for air underwater. Lying awake, I tried to recall all my best memories of her — to freeze her in my mind so that I wouldn’t forget here — but instead of birthdays and happy times I kept remembering things like how a few days before she was killed she stopped me halfway out the door to pick a thread off my school jacket. For some reason, it was one of the clearest memories I had of her: her knitted eyebrows, the precise gesture of her reaching out to me, everything. Several times too — drifting uneasily between dreaming and sleep — I sat up suddenly in bed at the sound of her voice speaking clearly in my head, remarks she might conceivably have made at some point but that I didn’t actually remember, things like Throw me an apple, would you? and I wonder if this buttons up the front or the back? and This sofa is in a terrible state of disreputableness.”

The Goldfinch


Carved ducks

Sunday, 25 November, 2012 0 Comments

In Cockney rhyming slang, the expression “to duck and dive” means “to skive”. Example: “Not going into work today, mate. I’m duckin’ and divin’”. Which brings us nicely to Old English, where dūce, meaning “diver”, is a derivative of the verb dūcan, to bend down low as if to get under something, because of the […]

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A close encounter with the anti-Bush kind

Monday, 24 September, 2012

The unbearable smugness of Europe’s petite bourgeoisie enrages the narrator of The Dinner, by the Dutch writer Herman Koch. In this scene, he has been summoned to meet the principal of his son’s school following the submission of an essay by the child that contains views about crime not in keeping with those held so […]

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Shaving puts you behind 1-0

Tuesday, 18 September, 2012

From The Dinner, by the Dutch writer Herman Koch, here is a meditation on the torments of shaving: “I didn’t feel like going to the restaurant. I never do. A fixed appointment for the immediate future is the gates of hell, the actual evening is hell itself. It starts in front of the mirror in […]

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Heading for the border, running for the bank exits

Wednesday, 16 May, 2012

“Greek depositors withdrew €700 million ($898 million) from local banks Monday, the country’s president said, as he warned that the situation facing Greece’s lenders was very difficult.” The Wall Street Journal This is a classic Catch-22 situation as Greek depositors will increasingly want to avoid their valuable euros being turned into worthless drachmas, but a […]

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