Impressive bicycle culture is a feature of everyday life in Amsterdam

In August 2018, we were in Amsterdam. What absolutely knocked me out was the bicycle culture in place, in that city.

Absolutely amazing – thoroughly impressive and inspiring.

I would never have imagined that such a system of bicycle transportation could possibly have been set into place – constructed as a social, political, and built-form reality, through the concerted actions of multitudes of residents – anywhere in the world.

A strong, built-form (evident in differential structuring of pathway surfaces and elevations, by way of example) bicycle infrastructure, of a scale and calibre that is most amazing for the first-time visitor to observe, is evident throughout Amsterdam. The integrated, highly effective and beautifully designed traffic systems (featuring consistent pathways for bikes, pedestrians, and cars) are woven into the neural pathways of Amsterdam citizens.

Banksy and the dynamics of visual simplification

As well, I enjoyed a visit to the Moco Museum in Amsterdam where we had a good time getting acquainted with works by Banksy and allied artists. I enjoyed the opportunity to relate Banksy to Mickey Mouse, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein. On further study, after the visit, I learned that it’s an unofficial Banksy exhibit. That fact gave me pause.

In visiting the museum, I could sense the role that curators play in assigning significance to visual phenomena and social narratives. I enjoy the fact the gift shop at the Moco Museum sells great items and generates significant income. Most of all, I thought of how simplicity – that is, messaging that is clear, basic, and suitably cartoonish – is at the heart of Banksy’s work.

At the Moco Museum I bought a book, Banksy Myths & Legends Volume 2 (2015) from www.carpetbombingculture.co.uk

At the museum, I thought of the photographer Thomas Struth who has done a great job in creating a body of work – in turn, featured in art museums – portraying visitors (such as ourselves), with characteristic expressions, outfits, and body language, to museums across Europe.

I also thought of the great work that neoliberalism does in engulfing, appropriating, and absorbing commentary. A good overview (as I see it) of this process is available in a study entitled: The rebel sell: why the culture can’t be jammed (2004).

For a more conventional read on the topic, you can try: Culture jamming: activism and the art of cultural resistance (2017).

French Revolution

The wider topic of enlightenment, egalitarianism, and related topics is highlighted in (in my view) the history of the French Revolution and all that followed, as outlined in a post entitled:

After his defeat in Russia (1812), Napoleon Bonaparte lost for a final time at the Battle of Waterloo (1815)

The still broader topic concerns the power of public relations as addressed in a post entitled:

Public relations in the United States and China

Also of relevance is an old standby (again, as I see it), namely Art and illusion: a study in the psychology of pictorial representation (2000: millennial edition).

In the latter study, Ernst Hans Gombrich (1909-2001) explores a perennial topic of interest, namely how to represent (for example, on a two-dimensional surface) visually ambiguous, three-dimensional visual phenomena.

A good overview of the culture of Mickey Mouse is a Cinema Canada article from my 1970s days as a freelance writer:

Mental imagery, as Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston explain in their 1978 talk in Toronto, played a key role in the portrayal of Walt Disney’s animated characters

The larger picture concerns the role of conceptual metaphor as a key element – as explored in recent years through a wide range of neuroscience-related studies, highlighted by authors including Mark Johnson – in the everyday operations of the embodied mind.

The following post refers to topics outlined in the previous paragraph:

Embodied Mind, Meaning, and Reason (2017) addresses how the body shapes the mind

Tallinn: Estonian Stuttering Association

I am now in Tallinn, meeting with old and new friends from the Estonian Association for People Who Stutter, including Andres Loorand, a member of the board and a TV cameraman, filmmaker. I am also meeting with friends from my previous visits to Estonia, in relation to the Estonian Heritage Society, close to 30 years ago. I am impressed that the Estonian stuttering association has its own offices, in Tallinn.

On Aug. 28, 2018 Andres met us at the ferry terminal, where we arrived from Stockholm. Earlier, we had been in Amsterdam, where I had met members of our family who had arrived in Amsterdam after earlier visits to London and Paris. Andres helped me to find an Apple 60W MagSafe power adapter for my old laptop; I had lost the adapter on the way from Amsterdam. In the evening we met with members of the Estonian stuttering association, who were very helpful in showing us around Old Tallinn. The atmosphere has been in all ways friendly and congenial. We earlier also enjoyed our visit to Old Stockholm.

Update

An Aug. 19, 2019 BBC article is entitled: “What’s it like to live in an over-touristed city? Locals explain how the influx of travellers has affected them, how authorities are responding and how visitors can remain respectful of people who live there year-round.”

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