March 29, 2005

Quasi, Melkweg, Amsterdam, 28 Mar 2005

Show two, after seeing Quasi at the Nighttown in Rotterdam on Saturday. I didn't enjoy it quite as much this time, but I'm not sure how much that might have to do with seeing them already two days before. I'm not used to stalking after bands. But also in Amsterdam they didn't play as many songs and less people seemed to be into them.

Before I say more, the setlist:

Our Happiness is Guaranteed
New song with chorus going "Merry Christmas, Happy New Year"
Piece of Love (new)
New song with a line "Not going down without a fight" and mentioning "dollar sign"
Mama Tried
Sword of God, which lead into...
...Apparent Who cover: See Me, Feel Me
I Never Want to See You Again
Good Times
New song, loud, messy, mentioned "chimpanzees"
So I'm not down with what most of the new songs might be called, and I didn't know it was a Who song they played; I got that info from a post on the Quasi 2x2 site. The set felt shorter to me than it did in Rotterdam. First of all, the medley of three songs on guitar was cut short after the Who cover when Sam broke a string. He went over to Janet at the drums and they stopped, then she must not have understood why because he held out the broken string with a look on his face of "Uh, can't really play anymore with this..." So that sucked because it meant no "Sea Shanty". Then I swear there was one more new song in Rotterdam, one I really liked that had some cool thumpy little drum break that I'm pretty damn sure didn't get played in Amsterdam. Otherwise the setlists were fairly identical. My only doubt is that I'm not sure whether "Never Want to See You Again" was played in Rotterdam, and I'm pretty sure that in Rotterdam they played "Under a Cloud" but I start to doubt myself as more time from the show passes.

In the Melkweg we again stood right at the front, this time more near Janet, which made for some good views of Sam, but a crappy view of Janet because too much drum and cymbal was in the way. Oh well, they were so much closer to us this time, which was cool. O preferred the Amsterdam show, but I don't agree. I think Sam was disappointed that he broke a string and he just seemed frustrated with things at times. I dunno, that was my impression. On a more positive note, I never thought that much before of the song "Good Times", but I fucking loved it live. They both were just belting out the first singing part, and then I really like the melody of the second part.

By the way, in case of any confusion, The Thermals were actually the main band both nights, and Quasi were the opener. I hadn't mentioned anything about them though because I don't know their stuff as well, and they can be a bit same-y after awhile, which I felt on Saturday and got restless. Last night I enjoyed them more, though we did leave during the encore. Plus it was just fun to watch a band from the very front, I almost never have done that. They were two very different crowds though. In Rotterdam, to quote O: "What's with all the 15 year olds?" Yeah, it felt like we were ancient in that crowd, but at least the youngsters were energetic, and were moshing a lot during The Thermals. In Amsterdam, I then worried about getting mooshed where we were standing when The Thermals came out. In the end, I didn't need to worry, as no moshing took place. People weren't even crowded that close behind us. A much more toned-down crowd. Though I saw at least two you'd-never-expect-it 40/50-somethings totally rocking out to the band. Weird and cool.

I miss both bands though, getting to enjoy the music, see Quasi and get lost in Portland thoughts and reminiscences. I think the shows, more than the long weekend, made it hard to come back to work this morning, thinking of watching Sam and Janet just a few feet away from me only a few hours before and having my ears still ringing. I'm happy to have photos though, O got some great shots which he is putting up tonight.


Saying I'm a redhead may be going a bit far, but still, it makes me happy to see some red glowing back at me in the bathroom mirror:

I look slightly psychotic here, which is unintentional. It's a cliche take-a-photo-of-myself-in-the-bathroom-mirror shot, so I was probably thinking more about aiming the camera at the right angle. Anyway, I guess my hair isn't so red; only one person at work mentioned it. Still, I'm glad the colour managed to show up in any way at all.

March 27, 2005

Doing something constructive

My dad always used to tell my brother and I to go do something constructive with our time on the weekends instead of sit and watch TV or whatever all day. He'd be happy with me today then, I think, since I was pretty damn productive. Ok, he might not consider some of the things I chose to do to be "constructive" but they were things I wanted to do, so it's good enough for me.

First, I baked some muffins, since I recently finally bought a muffin pan. They were banana chocolate, and pretty damn good, if a bit small. O liked 'em, even though before I made them he claimed to not like any muffins that weren't chocolate. I guess by at least adding chocolate bits, I'm preparing him one day for blueberry muffins, or something similarly non-chocolate containing. I have some photos to post related to the muffin-making experience, but they will be posted at a later time.

I also dyed my hair red. I thought it'd be a futile exercise because previous attempts resulted in nothing more than a faint hint of colour if you looked at my hair at the right angle in very bright sunlight, but it actually fucking worked for once. Maybe it was cuz I was using Manic Panic before, maybe my hair just didn't take it in. Anyway, my hair isn't red, per se, which would be kinda freaky, it just has a red glow to it, which is what I wanted/expected anyway. I hope to also post a related photo at some point.

And then something I didn't really do, but which is done nonetheless, O upgraded my computer with the parts from his old computer, so it's faster and all that. I still haven't been on it though (on O's computer now), so I have to go in and put all my settings back to the way I want them, which is such a pain. Next computer step is to get a desk of my own (O and I currently share the same desk, which is uncomfortable), and then maybe sometime soon get a flat-screen monitor. Perhaps. Apparently they're not so expensive anymore.

And woo, that leaves me with all of tomorrow and most of my plans already finished. Go me.

Quasi, Nighttown, Rotterdam, 26 Mar 2005

At least I got a chocolate rabbit
Biggest one I ever had
You never know til you've bitten off their head
That they're hollow and the chocolate's bad

-- Quasi, "Chocolate Rabbit"
Ah, lovely Easter-related sentiments from Quasi. I am partly quoting them because the above is fitting for Easter, and partly because today represents a break between my two nights of seeing Quasi live, finally, after too many years.

So last night, first show up, was seeing them in Nighttown in Rotterdam, which I'd never seen a band in. Steven kindly arranged guest list spots and prize tickets so that the 4 of us (including his girlfriend) all got in for free. O and I stood right at the front, in front of Sam, which was perfect for O to take photos (which I'll link to when the time is right). The stage there was so damn high though, about up to my chin. Anyway, Sam and Janet soon came out and promptly launched into a mess of drum and keyboard noise, Sam occasionally playing his keyboard with his knee. The noise soon morphed into the unmistakable introduction to "Our Happiness is Guaranteed". Fuck yeah, it be Quasi in all their greatness.

I unfortunately forgot to take my notepad with me in order to write down the setlist. But they played for about 45 minutes, and played quite a few new songs that I'm sure will show up on their new album that is meant to be out this fall. One was called Piece/Peace? of Love. Another featured the line "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year." Quite a few of them rocked, and I couldn't keep my eyes off of Janet's drumming. She's the best. As for old songs, besides the aforementioned "Happiness is Guaranteed", they played "Sword of God", "Mama Tried", "Good Times" and "Sea Shanty". That last one was part of an awesome three-song medley (one new song bookended by two old songs, I just don't remember what it was they started with) that Sam played on guitar.

Watching them was totally fantastic, as short as it seemed to be. They really put their all into playing, as if they have no other choice. Janet drums so hard she needed a fan to the side of her drumkit to cool her off. Sam of course throws himself into his keyboard and sings so loud his veins pop out and his voice cracks. He goes a bit insane at times, like when he was shaking a tambourine at the beginning of "Good Times" and he was not only banging the tambourine on his hands and the case of the keyboard, but also often on his head. And it did it unflinchingly, like a footballer heading the ball. Because you just do.

Monday, Melkweg, show two. I will take my notepad this time. O will again have his camera (I think). I can't wait.

March 25, 2005

At it morning, noon and night

We don't hear much from our next-door neighbours, the ones who we share our living room and bedroom walls with. No talking, no laughing, no loud music or TV... I think it partly has to do with the better quality of the walls in these houses. In the first house I lived in in Amsterdam, the walls, and especially the ceiling/floor, were much thinner; we could hear nearly everything from our upstairs neighbour. But here it's pretty quiet (except for the high-pitch voiced woman and her yapper dog that we hear below us). Actually I should amend my statement about the next-door neighbours to say that we don't hear much everyday noise from them. They seem to be on an endless DIY bender that has been carrying on since we moved in in October. Usually on the weekends, there is various drilling noise and hammering and whatnot. I was home sick from work one day though and was rudely woken up by some horrifically loud jackhammery racket coming from right on the other side of the bedroom wall. I don't know what on earth they've been doing all this time, but I swear their walls must be like swiss cheese by now. Or they have drilling skills that match O's and mine.

Besides all the construction noise, one day we suddenly started to hear them having sex loudly on the other side of the wall. At 8:30 am on a Sunday. And again at 10:30. I don't know why we didn't hear anything for the first couple of months we lived here; maybe they weren't actually around due to whatever they're doing to their house. In any case, O and I found ourselves unhappily awake and staring at the ceiling while getting to know our neighbours way too intimately. We don't even know what they look like. It started a new trend though of being woken up by them, since they seem to appreciate odd hours to make love. We've been woken up quite often early on a Sunday morning. I once had just fallen asleep on a weeknight and then they started up at around 12:30. But then this week: a quarter to 2 on a Monday morning. Gah. And O kept snoozing through the whole thing. They at least seem to have fixed their squeaky bed, which in the beginning was just comic in how cliche the sound was. The whole thing is still pretty cliche since all we usually hear is the girl making "ohohoh" sounds, which I find a bit odd. There's no other talking, no other words, no outbursts. Which I suppose I should be very thankful for. I just find it kind of weird. I've only heard the guy twice, at a much lower volume than the girl, though I'm not sure how to interpret that. I suppose it's all part of living in this too-cramped country, and I just thank God that I didn't hear anything similar from the old bag of a lady (she looked like that over-tanned woman in Something About Mary) with the 30-something boyfriend that we lived next to in the last house.

March 22, 2005

Who knew

Oh Dog has two recent posts about his trip to Vancouver BC and Seattle. His conclusion on Vancouver is "Worst City Ever". I am shocked and amazed. I've never heard anything about Vancouver except that it's brilliant and multicultural and beautiful. I admit that the photos don't look all that beautiful (what's up with all of the identical high-rises?) How disappointing. And to think I wanted to move there, thinking it'd be like a European Portland. The idea got ditched anyway when I found out that Canadians don't get any more vacation time than Americans do.

Last weekend on Yorin Travel they went to Vancouver Island. Maybe that's where Oh Dog should have gone. It looked gorgeous, and they saw bears and salmon and whales, and it was all very Canadian, with mountains and glaciers and water planes. I'd like to visit there.

March 18, 2005

The state of things

- What do I decide to realize at 4 am when my mind has woken up after my mid-night trip to the toilet? That the co-worker who I can't stand isn't back from his long vacation to Australia in one week, but in two weeks. Woo! Two more weeks of joy!

- These upcoming two weeks are also two weeks of joy because of the long Good Friday/Easter Monday weekend, making each week only 4 days.

- The long holiday weekend is extra happy because I will be seeing The Thermals with Quasi (!!!), not once, but twice, which will just rock. I have been dying for these shows to finally come around, and we're almost there. I've not seen The Thermals live yet, but apparently the lead singer, Hutch Harris (leaning forward here), looks eerily similar to O (from what I've seen in photos the resemblance is there, though Hutch Harris' nose is less pointy).

- I can't concentrate on work, instead I want to buy furniture! I've been looking at the Ikea website too much. I also want to paint things. We have plans to paint the couch (it's made of wood) and the coffee table. I have plans to paint the living room walls, but I'm not sure how O feels about that, or what colour to paint them. I wanna buy paint!

- It's a quiet Friday afternoon, without my yapping middle-aged officemate around, and I forgot to bring CDs with me. Goddamnit.

- O has a new gadget, a little portable hard drive-like thing (I don't even know what to call it), that has a colour screen and you can store photos, videos, and MP3s on it. He'll probably mostly use it to store photos on when we go on holiday. You can plug your camera's memory card directly into it and dump the files onto the drive and into folders via a Windows-like interface. It's a sleek little silver thing, and it holds 20 GB. Bloody hell. I'm still amazed at how fast so much memory has been squished into such small things.

- I'm pissed that the Sleater-Kinney website is having a shirt sale, but they don't have the shirt I want in my size (the pirate ship one done by Sam Coomes). In the meantime, some Threadless shirts may be purchased tonight.

- Is it time to go home yet?

March 12, 2005

Portland, here I come!

Oh, and Chicago too. O and I bought the plane tickets for our trip to the US this summer. We are going for a couple of weeks at the end of June/beginning of July. We're going to Chicago first for about 5 days. Neither of us have been there, but we hear it's a great city. Plus I know a few people here who have lived in Chicago, so I'm sure I can get some good tips from them on what to see and do.

Then we go to Portland for about 9 days, including for the 4th of July. On O's first trip to Portland (and the US), he actually arrived on the 4th of July, and rather late too, just before the fireworks would have started. But he was too overwhelmed and jet-lagged to notice much about it. I do remember though some bottle rockets going up near I-205 as we drove from the airport to my parents' house.

O keeps teasing me about having to go back to Portland again, he's been so many times, moanmoan, but there is soooo much I want to do there when we go back. I feel like 9 days won't be enough. I want to eat at tons of diners and restaurants, and see parts of the city I haven't seen in so long or have never gotten around to seeing at all (like Mt Tabor). By the time we're there in July, it'll be over 2 years since we last visited Portland, and during the last visit a lot of our time was spent showing O's mom and brother around. So I miss a lot. I already have a list a mile long of things to do, places to go, food to eat, things to buy and stuff of mine to bring back. Poor O. Maybe if we move elsewhere someday, he'll understand what it's like when you're somewhere that doesn't have oliebollen at New Year's and you can't just bike everywhere and how you can miss that stuff like crazy. Though I have developed in him unnatural cravings for Taco Bell. Hey, if there's one thing to miss about the US...

On a sort of related note, yesterday I came across the blog of a Dutch guy who is dreaming of the day when he and his girlfriend can move to the US. Dude... What the hell? I do not understand these Dutch people (and I know there is quite a few of them out there) who have a warped idea of the US as a perfect country where they can follow the American Dream. Do they not read the news? Have they not heard about all the Americans wanting to move to Canada? Do they not see what it would be like to really live there? In this blog, the guy talks about how the Netherlands is going downhill, things are changing for the worse, there was a poll of Dutch people asking their level of optimism for Dutch society and it rated only 38 out of 100, blahblahblah... So, obviously, the US must be where it's at. Gah. I had to respond to the guy, so I left the following comment on his site:

But why go to the US of all places?!? I'm American, and I am so thankful I don't have to live there, esp in the current political climate. I'm not happy with the NL either, but the US is a definite step down. Are you prepared to have no job security? To have only a couple of weeks holiday (and be so much further away from any other countries to visit)? To deal with things being so censored to PROTECT THE CHILDREN, but still allowing tons of violence to be shown? To have such strong homophobic measures in the govt? To have to drive a car (unless you are lucky enough to live somewhere where you can bike to work, but it may be very dangerous)? I know the NL aren't the answer, but you're European, you can go anywhere within Europe, and you'd rather go to the US? I don't get it...
Not that anything could change his mind, but I thought I'd point out some of the reasons I wouldn't want to go back. Maybe he just has different priorities than I do (and considering he admires the amount of religion in America, I think that might be the case).

March 9, 2005

Whiny students

I saw on the news a few days ago the story of some University of Amsterdam students protesting by holing up in a university building until they were kicked out by the police. I didn't catch though what they were protesting about until yesterday. The students were protesting a proposal by the Education Secretary to increase school fees if a student takes longer than 5 1/2 years to finish their study. This is a big problem here, and especially at the UvA, that people just drag their studies on for years, for one reason or another. O's brother was guilty of this, at least in part because it wasn't really costing him anything (the govt paid some living costs, and his mom was putting up money as well), no one was pushing for him to be done with school already, and it's easier to sit on your ass being a student than to go out and get a job and such. He only finally left school after his mom said she was pulling the plug on his finances. He had been in school for about 5 years and still never got his propedeuse, the mark that you've finished with your first year of study.

I found out about the reason of the protest in Het Parool, which interviewed 5 UvA students to ask their opinion on this proposal. Out of the 5, only 2 agreed that you should start paying more if you take so long to do your study. The others went on about having a job and wanting to study abroad and this and that, so how can you expect them to be done in 5 1/2 years?! As one of the students who agreed with the idea said, in his first year he'd spend 10 hours a week on school, and spend the rest of the time watching television and generally sitting around on his arse. Perhaps the school is to blame as well, since it seems some studies are designed to be slow-going, or are so disorganized that they end up that way. Also, it just seems to be the norm here, since one of the disagreers to the proposal said she planned to do her study in 8 years, just like her father. There's (unfortunately) one parent who won't be saying "What the fuck are you still doing in school anyway?!?"

So, a lot of students are happily still going strong in their mid-20s, no one's pushing them to get out faster, so why not make them pay more if they take so damn long? And the amount they want students to pay for being in school so long? 4500 euros a year. Boo-fucking-hoo. I think that might have maybe covered most of my room and board at college. Ok, I went to an expensive school, but still, I think most students in the US would love to have a tuition that low. Yeah, US schools are too expensive and they should make education more affordable, but I think 4500 eur is reasonable to pay _before_ you're there 5 1/2 years. Like one of these students interviewed said, in America it's really expensive, so you value being there more and don't waste your time (generally speaking, heh). Anyway, so some students avoided more studying to occupy a building and get beat around a bit by some cops. They say they occupied this particular building because some student protest had gone on in the same building in 1969 (I don't know what against). How retro. Now get the fuck back to class and quit your whinging.


Old news for any Northwesterns/Americans reading, but for the Europeans: Mt St Helens had a small eruption yesterday. It was still pretty impressive, and was very visible from Portland. It planned itself well, in the early evening, so that all the photos taken had lovely setting-sun light.