Search This Blog

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

After walking into a new period of my life, I jumped on my bike and headed towards Toscanini, for diner with Dorothee and Nannet. Three fire signs together, as Nannet mused: Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. Yes, we like each other. Of course Dorothee arrived late, she doesn't seem able to leave her desk at Residence before nine o'clock. She will have to work even harder the next few months, because she promised she would harass me for copy, every week. And it's hard to disappoint someone like her, as her team at Residence will agree.
Two very important people for me. Met Nannet through Do, who sensed we might hit it off. And we did immediately. Doesn't feel like only two years at all. She's been one of the main factors in my decision to quit PPGH and go for the book. Great communication, so much energy.
So we were the last three seated, at one o'clock. They were one step away from just pushing us out of the door, I felt, so in the end Do took her car and Nannet and me biked towards our homes, laughing all the way. Yes, that was another great night. But am I tired. No inspiration to retell all the jokes. Bye.


Last working day at FHV BBDO (, you can see a lot of my text there, comments are not required). A few last projects to finish, and letting everyone know the interim is going, after half a year. We had great fun and there are deliverables. I am satisfied. Last talk with Willem. Gave him my thoughts on the three 'pressing points' he asked me for. Will not share those details with you.. Had a good discussion. Don't know if he agreed on all three, he's got enough ideas of his own to take the agency a good step further. I can only highlight some points I fear might end up overlooked otherwise.
In the afternoon, the saying goodbyes.. Ordered the best cake in town, at 'de Taart van mijn Tante' (my auntie's cake). Carrot cake and poppyseed cake, among others. VERY GOOD, SIEMON! For a leaving joke I took an old bear from the attic and made him into the FHV BBDO 'aanjaagbeer'. Had great fun recording 'urge-them-on' messages after last night's dinner; every half minute the bear will speak sentences like: 'we don't want more words, we want action' or 'just carry on, I know you can do it..!' And after about fifty, the whole set will repeat itself endlessly. Because we had so many discussions the last few months that need to be translated into action. That's what you get if you only have half a year.. Well, it's my kind of a joke. What did Bette Midler say..? FXXX Them If They Can't Take A Joke? But the feeling is right. The agency has an optimistic vibe around it. And they deserve it, with so many talent running through the building. Feels strange to leave, but had to be honest: it's time to leave for Canada, a year after the decision was made. And so it happens that I started my workless freedom, at 7.30 PM on wednesday february 28.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

festive in Loetje

Diner with Anke, the ex-colleague that closely reads my log, as you can see in the comments on my pages, and Clary and Doortje, also once colleagues at FHV BBDO.

Had great fun, Anke being her inquisitive normal self, Doortje always very modest (but she has started her own company in colour advice: hire her!: (her site will go live soon).

Anke had a small token with her: a small notice book I gave her when she was turning 50. Seems I also gave one when she turned 40.. She wondered about the projection value of those gifts and gave me some quotes about writing. Nietsche never wanted to read a book by an author that really wanted to write a book, only by someone to whom the book just happened (correct, Anke?).

Clary always likes to listen, but as we talked about my book, she warmed up and told us about her Greco period, beginning of the sixties. Very existentialist, very black stockings. Love to hear that kind of stories. Her sister even was interviewed on television and spoke such existentialist lines that Clary still doesn't get them, and, as she laughingly added, probably neither did her sister at the time.

As desert we got creme brulee, of which mine was made festive by 'Loetje aan de Amstel'. See pic. The woman serving us was intrigued by me leaving, we talked some more about it when after diner Clary and Doortje left and Anke and me ordered some whiskey at the bar (we tried for Canadian, but settled for Scottish). Talked about self fullfilling prophecies: Anke doesn't believe much in spiritual advice, saying you just make the advice become reality yourself. I admitting that may be the case, but stressing the outcome: something you wanted..! I remain a practical believer in anything that can help me get further in life.

lunch with Johan Kenkhuis

Lunch with Johan Kenkhuis. He's doing a special sportsproject for Xsaga, the event marketing agency linked to BBDO, residing in the same building. Of course I know him because he was part of the famous Dutch relay team who won an silver Olympic medal in Athens. And sort of a role model for loads of young gays because he came out just before Athens. He ended his swimming career though, feeling there was nothing left for him to conquer in the water. Or, positive: more to gain on land. Interesting guy. Started his own company 'Done & Done' (no link possible as yet). Very laid back at first sight, but something's always brooding behind those eyes. I can just imagine him producing adrenalin for a race. He said he sometimes just couldn't work himself up to it, astonishing everyone by not making the personal finals and then swimming the fourth best ever relay time the next day.

Must say I could relate to that (at my own level, that is). I have always wondered about all the swimmers next to me in the club's lanes, swimming like crazy during practice, totally outclassing me. And then, during a real race, they do not seem to accelerate and I just peak and win. Love that about racing. But sometimes, it just doesn't work and I swim like a 'beached whale' as co-swimmer Yolanda once summarized.

Also talked 'gay politics'. How there is still a need for young gays to have rolemodels like Johan. You can see hetero couples everywhere you look, but if you're seventeen and looking for gay examples, it's hard to see more than the clichees. And there is so much more to see.
More about gay sports heroes:

Monday, February 26, 2007

and Bridget

This log is beginning to sound like a dinner conversation. Can't help it. Bear with me for another week, next Sunday I will finally arrive in Vancouver..
After cleaning out more personal stuff (now my whole animal skin collection has moved into a closet, for instance, and I am still copying CD's to my iPod), brother Rob joined for a cup of tea. Cosy. And after that diner with Bridget and her lover George. Sjors, for friends. Have only met him twice on short visits, so this was a measure if he's good enough for Bridget. Have known her since I was 12. She deserves a good relationship after some bad luck in that department. Sjors passed the test. They are still stroking eachother all the time. Like him. Discussed family relationships and the way Bridget and I have grown from neurotic teenagers in a tight group of friends, analyzing eachother constantly and fiercely (once the group even organized a sensitivity evening, because Tom van Lindert and I were joining a student group and therefore were judged as not giving the group enough attention) into dear friends who don't see eachother nearly enough. And had a great diner at Quinto.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sweet memories

Saturday Marcel and I worked hard on cleaning out more closets. Box after box went into the attic. And after all the work we had Thea and Jose over for diner. I have known Jose since I was thirteen. Sweet memories. We sent eachother free mail. Of course there was no email then, so we just sent Postgiro cheques (free envelopes, no stamps necessary) and wrote our messages on the back side of the cheque. Went on for years, but in the end some overambitious manager from the Postgiro started chalking out our messages with a black marker. At the end of puberty we started with real letters. Most of them I burned when Jose returned them. Teenage drama. And I remember I even knew it then while writing. But I just wanted to be someone with real problems; sounded so romantic. David Bowie, he sounded wounded and therefore creative. Nothing bad ever happened to me, I must say. Sunday child? Perhaps. Have mockingly complained to my parents about it later: "just because you gave me such a solid childhood, I still haven't written a book! All succesful writers have trauma's! I have nothing! It's all your fault." Always blame your parents, they say, for your own failure. Luckily mine have a great sense of humor.
But see what happens. Have found inspiration after all..
Great, cosy evening. And the girls have invited Marcel for diner when I'm gone. They're the best of friends.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Essent group says goodbye

Had four ex-colleagues for diner. The Essent group. We started working together in 2000 and made this Dutch energy company into a brand during the six years we worked for them. The best example of how advertising agencies should work: a tight group of people working on a project for more than a couple of months, listening to each other, really working together. Had great fun during this six years. So many stories on PPGH/JWT, the ups and downs, the shortlived creative director-ship of Jacqueline and Klaas, my clashes with Harry, but mostly, about the joy of working together. Only Miriam and Klaas are still working at what is now called UW/JWT. Luckily they have faith in the new directors. I have my doubts: they replaced one Harry with three new ones... And Daphne agreed: 'you wouldn't like U & W'. Decided I will give UW a chance. Business wise UW/JWT is a good decision. See what happens next.
Daphne herself has decided to move to BvH. In her hometown Rotterdam. She mentioned they are even nicer there than at FHV. Must be hard for Daphne, our straight-as-a-doornail hardcore cynical tough cookie. Will hear her high pitched cynical laughter in my mind. Jacq is entering another adventure after all the hilarious happenings at FCB. She is joining Red Pepper, to erase all the damage the last creative director has done there. Good choice. She can make things work.

Had a delicious diner. Marcel had worked himself into a sweat on pumpkin-coconut soup, caramelized pears with blue cheese and walnuts and lamb rack. Not to mention the coconut-lemon grass icecream. God, to leave and miss out on this kind of heaven.. Wait, is he trying to make me feel sorry for leaving..??

Thursday, February 22, 2007

FHV, bubbles and Vie on Grunberg

Did my last big presentation at FHV today. Was good fun. I always feel a bit weird, because I like the presentation so much myself, it's like reading a fairy-tale to a kid: daddy just goes on and on, while all the kids are fast asleep already. Luckily no one fell asleep this time, and I managed to restrain myself. A record for me, talking through 45 years and 59 sheets in 75 minutes. So much to learn from just keeping up with the spirit of the times. And the fun part is: everybody recognizes his own youth in my presentation, because it deals with every generation starting with teenagers in the sixties, working it's way up to the here and now.
Had a small unexpected speech from Mary, head of strategy at FHV (she's going on holiday tomorrow and we will not see eachother until september) and got a little wanderer's knapsack, attached to a wooden stick the 'company dog' dragged in, filled with licorice. And a Delft Blue coffee jug I will take with me to Vancouver.
After all that I rushed myself to Bubbles and Wines, a great bar downtown Amsterdam. Had drinks with Vie. Met her at the 'GVR Slagzinnencommissie' (catch phrase committee, where we decide whether advertisers can claim a certain slogan). Fell in love with her immediately. So did she with me. She has such a high energy level, I can't help getting more and more excited. I once called her a snob, though, for which I am eternally sorry. She's definitely no snob. But she has that tone sometimes talking about things and people: "we're not lowering ourselves to that level, are we..?" and dismiss things with a flick of the wrist. It's just forward energy. Best way to describe her. Just forward energy, no time or energy to be wasted on stupidity. Talked about my book again, the way I write things: just starting and seeing where the story takes me. And my small insecurities in that: shouldn't I have more structure, really? Again, a dismissive flick of her wrist: 'honey: one advice. Take the last Grunberg with you on the plane. Read it. No structure at all. No story either. Just irritating rubbish. And the critics love that. Read his book on the plane, and you'll know you'll do much better. You won't be able to help it..'

Thank you Vie.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

nice diners, inflated balloons and self knowledge

Yesterday I had the 'thank you' dinner from the VEA with all my Re:set partners. I started this innovation group after leaving the VEA board. Being a board member was an estranging experience for me. Felt I was talking from another universe most of the time, being the only strategist on the board. Found out in the end the other members thought I was from another planet too. They were always discussing items I found irrelevant or not important enough to discuss in detail. And they thought I was not specific enough. Well, the Re:set group was specific enough. Up till now we organized fourteen sessions (in about two and a half years), some big, some smaller, some very practical and some rather spiritual. We have had chakra-therapists, trendspecialists and John de Mol (TV-entrepeneur and owner of the 'Big Brother' concept), to name a few. Of course, Marinus Knoope was my favorite, with his creation circle.
Talked about writing a book. Most thought I needed a plan, a schedule, a story-lead to help me write the book. I said that I work differently: I am not much into scheduling things. I just start and work my way through what happens during writing. Got talking how that reflects your character. That's also why some business directors and VEA board members found me hard to deal with. I always start with the heart of the story and work from there untill I reach feet and hand. They start exactly opposite. So they keep asking for practicalities (the hand and feet) while I get restless: I told you the heart of it, why bother about details..??
Basically this also reflects my relationship with people in power. Do not mind others having power, until they try to limit my independence or freedom. And that's exactly what the old fashioned advertising CEO's want to do: they reign by fear. Always putting others down (it seems it's also what the new directors of JWT in Amsterdam are doing: installing fear to make themselves more powerful). And I cannot help myself: I react. It can be very ineffective, I can tell you, but I have to deflate their balloon. I just have to.. And they know it. They feel it. I don't get scared, I get cynical and sharp. So they just inflate more. And I react more. There we have an interdependent relationship.. Have had almost 8 years of it with HK of PPGH, until I found out why. Then I just laughed, decided he had more problems with me than I with him and let it (and him) rest. Feels better, I can tell you. And left the agency a year later without any remorse.
That's the real freedom! And funny enough: no such inflated ego's at FHV BBDO, where I'm now. Life's good.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

From Blaauw to Peters Pancakes.

Saturday afternoon and evening were in honor of Louis' birthday. That's in november, actually, but since he wanted 'a good cleaning of his attic' as a present, we went over there and cleaned it out. Loads of old rubbish and dust. Lots of stairs. Lots of grumps and laughs when we tried to throw things away behind Louis back, and he found out. But after a few hours work we drove to Ron Blaauw, a 2-star restaurant in Ouderkerk. Had a more than great diner (what can you expect with 2 stars..), be it with some politically incorrect surprises (frogs leg and foie gras). I closed my eyes as a true hypocrite and enjoyed them anyway. Will not eat meat for a week to repent, I promise.. Please forgive me, always Politically Correct-friends! All the tastes (and we got 10) were superb. Very good. My palates were truly saturated when I dived into bed.

And tonight we had diner for Greetje, my fathers girlfriend of more than a year now. She's turning seventy and invited her two daughters with husbands and children and my brothers and me with all partners to Peper's pancakes in Bloemendaal. We have only two children between the four brothers, so we're cheap in that department..
Was fun seeing the daughters again (doesn't happen often). One of them even was in Shanghai a few weeks ago. We talked some and I ate onion soup and a pancake. Totally different style and taste than saturday, but also good. Love pancakes. We gave Greetje a beach bag with blanket and sunscreen and a book on the Algarve, because my dad is taking her there. Yes. My dad. Who. Does. Not. Like. To. Travel. Flying to Algarve. Has been years. But it shows that a new relationship does him good. He drives up to her house in Haarlem every Thursday and returns home on Monday, for his weekly program of bowling and check ups. And because his own house has memories too, of course. You can enjoy the new without forgetting the past; hope they will keep it up for a few years yet!

All weekend my flu symptoms are up and down, but never breaking through my barriers. Keep it that way.

a few pictures of Greetje's 70th birthday

Brother Hans, Tini and their kids Chango and Oshoun, next to them dad.



Friday, February 16, 2007

Oh no not this flu

Everybody around me at FHV is sniffing, coughing and sneezing. And now I think it has reached me too. Feel tired and have a sore throat. Oops, not now, please. Maybe it's the tension.. All those housing agencies you have to kick to make a move for you. And every time the same comments: 'oh, what a special appartment. Very different..' Yes, thank you, but can you find a renter? But after filling in the same form for the third time and sending and mailing it (and reminding them twice they have to put the pictures on their site), then you can sit back and wait. Until now just one lead, a man who came back from Spain, and having rented out his own home, has to rent a place for two months. Will have to check him though, since he did not come via an agency.

Anyway, not going for swim training tonight. Early bed. And hope for the best.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

IKEA under fire in America

Michael van Os has another interesting subject on his advertising blog. IKEA runs commercials in America and one of them features a gay couple with a child. Of course some fobic Americans have immediately taken action and started an email chain to president Dahlvig. Perhaps we should start a similar chain (I copied the message and slightly changed it):

Dear President Dahlvig,
I find your homosexual-themed television commercials a very necessary communication strategy for America.
Your commercial referring to homosexual men and a young child as a "family" is in the best interest of all America.
Please respect the liberal American values by endorsing a truly liberal social agenda on an American viewing audience. Your ad is influencing me and I will now shop at IKEA.

Thank you

ubuntu in action

Interesting link, when discussing the Ubuntu mentality. Hardcore users of protesting a name change to Yahoo.
The link comes from
Mandatory reading stuff for anyone working in strategy departments of advertising agencies.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Another discussion about the Zeitgeist in Holland. The last chapter of my book I will write.
What will be the next stage? I believe in the concept of UBUNTU. Read about it first in The Volkskrant, in an interview with a South African professor. The concept means "I am what I am because you are who you are". Difficult to grasp at first for our individualist culture, but there are signs the meaning begins to take hold here. We cannot endlessly pursue only our own freedom and needs. At some point we have to notice that everything we do connects to what others do. And the other way around. We live in a system, but have been denying it. Now a lot of trends are about people trying to create their own system together, a new one, or change an old one by joining forces and so gain importance. I love the story about the ex-nun who changed the way businesses dealt with sustainability and human resources by taking hold of the voting rights of large shareholders. She is now spokesperson for pension funds amounting to something like 3 billion dollars and just walks in Coca-Cola's offices to demand better treatment of workers with HIV in Africa. Connecting, growing, connecting some more until she can really change things.
Will write more about Ubuntu later. See also It's also a Linux style open source:

Sunday, February 11, 2007

One dead goose

Was a very good night, over at Michiel's. He and Aan (yes, some people go by that name) cooked a Michelinstar-worth(y) meal. Crab and avocado, foie de canard with caramelized onions, pigeon on a bed of lentils and sweet potato and, of course, the goose.. Or two gooses, I should say. 'Die ganse gans mit stuffing und sauerkraut' and sweet potatocream. And for desert homemade chocolate and walnut icecream. Gorgeous. And filling.

Must leave more often. And of course I love being the centre of attention. Got a book about writing a book and we had a few laughs. About my book: 'Tom Kniesmeijer reaches high, but falls flat' or 'Tom Kniesmeijer suffocates in his own arrogant irrelevant pretention' and that sort of reviews we might just read in the newspapers next year. Aren't we Dutch always good in putting ourselves into perspective? Talked politics too. Poor Paul has been PvdA member all his life, but got no support from us. I must say I find it amazing that this party can choose the wrong tone of voice each and every election. So centered around power and who-has-what-position they are they don't know how to communicate with people. Shame.

And talked about a trait I find very irritating in gays. It's not an exclusive gay thing, but they tend to suffer from it more: passive aggression. It's about embracing the victim-role. Always claiming people do not take you seriously, but in the meantime not taking any action to be taken seriously. Wanting things to change, but not changing anything. And then sitting together, complaining and gossiping about the people who HAVE made a decision. Have encountered it a few times at the swimming club. You organize things and they had something else in mind. My standard reaction mostly is 'well, you organize it next time', but they never do. They just complain and whine. Would it be a question of too male to let it go and too female to take the initiative? Or would that be sexist? Will think about it some more.

Anyway, tiring as it may sound: another great evening. Tom's tip: leave and Everybody wants to spend time with you!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

'Die Ganze Gans' or something

The Kniesmeijer brothers do the Jackson brothers!
Was planning to do some work, but it doesn't amount to much as yet. Distracted by so many little jobs around the house. Had to do something about my bathroom floor. Nothing wrong with it, but it doesn't look the part when renting my house: ugly stain and too many uneven bits that look a bit worn. Bought fabric (the same kind being used for towels) and brought it to a sewing store. Next thursday, I will have a yellow rug laying on the floor, to keep renters' feet warm. And keep going through my closets. The pile of clothes I have written off is rising. Three bags from the cellar have gone straight into the Humanitas clothing bin. Wouldn't it be nice to see some lovely kid somewhere in the world wearing my old coat? They should start a website for it. People would collect much more clothing, I figure.

Tonight another farewell party: the swimming club is cooking a whole goose for me (Die Ganze Gans, pardon my German, I never get that right). Sort of a joke we had for years, since a German swimming competition we entered. It was a slogan for a restaurant there. And now, finally, we will eat 'die Ganze Gans'.

Will be fun. Yesterday was my brother's birthday. Went over there for dinner and games. Always good to be there, looking at my niece and nephew. We sang to his new Play Station singing competition, where the system judges every note and you get scores for each sentence you sing. Which, of course, I can never win, with my voice. Even Hans (the birthday brother) did better than me on "I want you back" by the Jackson Five. And he would not let me sing Tainted Love.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Back in Amsterdam

Back in Amsterdam. Busy days again. Selling stuff from the cellar (I sold that cellar to my neighbour) and doing my 'farewell tour'. One would think I was leaving for good.
Drinks with Tirzah Laan from the agency Nieuw ( Small agency, great people. Talked about the business of advertising and creativity. She asked for my plans, but still no idea. Will work that out in Vancouver. My own company is still the best bet.
And talked to Hanny Kusters from Spirare ( Met her through Marinus Knoope, the inventor of the creation spiral. More and more activities are being planned and she wants me to be involved. Would be great. I can sense a lot of innovation potential being born there. And I want to be part of that. Almost a pity that I will be away for 6 months or so: she was talking about a documentary being filmed and I immediately had twenty ideas for the content. But today I also booked my ticket, so that is done: sunday March 4 I am flying to Vancouver. Booked a hotel for three nights, so I can go and look for the appartment where I will really feel at home.
But that is after the big presentation I promised to do at FHV BBDO. Sort of the management summary of my book, in powerpoint. Fun to do but a lot of preparation: finding the images that really fit the generations and the zeitgeist between '63 and '07 take more time than I thought.
And thinking about the three suggestions I will leave Willem van der Schoot, the MD of FHV with. Among other things. But now off to bed, to sleep off the jetlag. Have let Karl Hormann down this evening. He's an ex-client of mine, who I still see. He offered me a ticket to Amy Winehouse ( Nice. Gladly accepted the ticket and the invitation to drinks, after Tirzah (one just moves from cafe to cafe). But now it turns out she only starts at 01.00 hours. UhUh, not me, not tonight. So sorry. Too tired. Cough (hope that man next to me in the plane from Shanghai who had an irritating cough didn't visit a chicken farm). So homebound I was, bedbound I am. Good night.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

browsing through artist heaven in Shanghai

Spend a whole afternoon walking around 50 Moganshan Road. And loved it. If you really want to get that feeling of inspiration, things happening, excitement and change, go there. Everywhere people were busy preparing for or opening new stores, painters had their own studios and nice little caf'ees were selling coffee and art books. It is one of those old industry buildings you find everywhere in big cities. But one would wish that in Amsterdam such an athmosphere of inspiration could exist. We're definitely over the hill as far as new inspiration goes, at this point in time (although two Chinese in a gay bay I briefly visited were thinking of Amsterdam as gay heaven. I did not want to disappoint them, for them it still at least will look the part).
Will explain all this in my book (and see below for the cultural discussion I had at the JWT office).
So many great paintings. Have to remember them by heart though, because the one thing very infuriating was my Canon Ixus. It took pictures well enough, but when downloading them on my computer just now, they were all gone..
I found that much art focusses on the aspects of change within the Shanghai/Chinese culture. I can remember Zhang Jing Li, who painted 'Stone Lion and David', in which he portrayed a whole group of Chinese who literally break through works of Italian art (the David by Michelangelo)
Who's David and who's the lion now?
Equally impressive were paintings by a painter who depicted the desillusions of the new Chinese culture. In big threefolds he first painted a girl in Mao style clothing, obeying, the middle part was an uneasy close up of a woman's face with a bandage over her eyes in monochrome colors, screaming. And the third part was an almost photografic painting of a girl in a 'massage salon', in half light, lonely and waiting. Gave me the shivers, but I can tell you, they were also impressive besides their political statement.
Sortlike statements came back to me everywhere. Ceramic artist Tu Feng had 6 Chinese sitting on a very tired looking dragon, urging it on. In bright yellow.. Or three chinese caracters sitting on eachothers shoulders, one with a strangling cord in his hands. Tu Feng was the name Li Bao'en chose as his artistic pseudonym, which can be translated directly as "Earth and Wind". "Tufeng" as a phrase means "folklore". He makes sculptures out of clay and bakes them into ceramics in his hometown in Shandong Province, transporting them to Shanghai by truck and train.
So the Dutch jury can report that changes bring on insecurity in China and art reflects this. Just as we were discussing at the offices of JWT, during my seminar. Part of the culture is vibrant and exciting, but some have afterthoughts. The best ingredient for great art..
For me, it was one of the best days, browsing through, watching, enjoying, marvelling, whatever you want to call it. And after coffee I even found a book about the Chinese painter that really sparked my interest for the first time: Yue Minjun. His immense paintings of the same Chinese man with the most enormous smile on his face still make me happy looking at them. See pic and..

Saturday, February 3, 2007

bliss for a day

Day of bliss. One day in Shanghai. Me on my own. Heavy breakfast and into a cab, to go treasure hunting: galeries and presents. First stop was Shanghai Art And Design Centre, Taikang Rd. Difficult to find, but after two rounds around the block I found the entrance. At first it looked disappointing (a lot of shops closed, but that's what you get for starting early), shawls and rugs everywhere, but well, I already had two. But after a few corners some great stores showed up. Bought two JIP items, because "the power to dress and say who you are, really are!' attracted me. Just kidding. The slogans were a bit tacky 'say someone or something is JIP, and you mean they're different, go their own way and stand out from the crowd'. But after a quick think about the Chinese culture, I found myself admiring the inventive soul that introduced this steel jewellery to Shanghai. Hope it's not only design gays from Europe that buy them. Then off to the Shanghai Museum Store. Marcel and I often share a private joke of not really visiting a museum but heading straight for the store. I did it again. But the sound of the Shanghai Antique & Curio Store nearby attracted me more, so before deciding to quickly on some nice museum items, I walked there. Good choice. Laughing Chinese al around, and heapes of antique and new items. Bought several small jade pieces. Must come back for this store alone. As I walked out after a few minutes a panting Chinese man came running after me. He kept shouting in Chinese, but of course not making sense to me. For a moment I thought I had taken some state relics, seeing a policeman waving for me. But he just handed me my bottle of applejuice in a plastic bag. Such friendliness..
Well have to leave now, so will tell you about the most happiness-inducing moments of the afternoon later. God, I could live like this, wandering around cities and looking at beautiful things. I once read an article about people who are extremely sensitive. They extremely react to colors and beauty. If that is the case, I am a high sensitive person. I could look at some paintings for a day, so much beauty they radiate. Forgive the sensitive remarks, though. It is partly the jetlag!

Evening with the Hofstees

Yesterday evening Michiel Hofstee picked me up after work and we went for drinks and dinner with his wife, Sandra. She took me to see the city the day before. Great afternoon. The whole works, of course: big car with driver. Very handy in the Shanghai streetwar. Walked through the old town (beautiful), stepped into Yuyuan gardens (very serene, though my book promised me 'hordes of tourists', it actually wasn't). Bought a small present for Marcel before driving to lunch and after that the opposite of old town: the streets where the rich buy their clothes. Think 3 Prada shops in one street, that sort of luxury overdone. If they are rich, they really are rich. But I did not come to wander around Armani stores, so we walked a little until we reached the market. Ah, that's what a Dutch man needs.
Anyway, we were having dinner and discussing the pros and cons of living in Shanghai. Michiel and Sandra were very convincing in their pros, so that's good. Walked over the Bund, took some lovely pics everybody will have in his picture book. And a great dinner in what I believe was called 'The Whampoa Club'. Michiel asked me my thoughts on Shanghai. Difficult to phrase. What comes to mind after one day? The people are different than I thought. I would have thought they would be a little withdrawn still, looking away from you. And serious, even on the verge of negative. Serious they are indeed, but also fun and laughter are all around. The taxi drivers look stern, but after you give them an unknown address (in my case, every time) they start laughing, asking in Chinese and phoning others, asking for directions cackling with laughter. And they can't read maps, I found out. I found a certain lightness in their life, also at the JWT offices. May be only Shanghai of course. After dinner we had drinks in Club M. Chic. Great evening. But after the second drink my mind refused to properly function. Could not play any part in a lively discussion anymore. Michiel and Sandra had to drive home, so we broke up. Thanks to both for a warm welcome.

Friday, February 2, 2007

shanghai days

second day in Shanghai. Yesterday the internet did not work in the hotelroom, so this is the first message, in a hurry, because dinner will be waiting in town. Michiel is picking me up soon. He's an ex-colleague who's now managing director of JWT Shanghai. Good office, very smart people, I discovered today when I was telling them about ways to make better briefings. Don't know why I was there, I must say, they rank no 22 in the international list of best advertising agencies Worldwide. Try finding a Dutch agency in that list.. But they are still a bit shy, those Chinese. I saw their eyes lit up though when I was talking about the Dutch fear of 'the Chinese coming': all those Chinese brands stretching out to Europe..! And they told me they thought too many Western brands are seeing China as 'an opportunity'. So I can tell them: your not an opportunity anymore. You have so many opportunities. Will take a few years though. The sessions were great. Talking about our cultural differences. Placing not only China, but also Korea and Taiwan, for instance, on a scale I will be using for my book too. Fun! Every country was on a different point of consumer outlook and faith, we found out. Interesting.
Shanghai is interesting too, of course, but it seems a bit boring to go and shout with the crowd: happening here! Chances! Inspiring! New! It's all true, of course.
One detail then: the death defying tours and turns you have to make when crossing a street, even with the green light on. Cars don't bother to look for bikes and pedestrians. They have to look out for themselves. What a shock for an Amsterdam Biker, who is used to cars stopping for him. Cars crossing the red light and just taking the corner without getting their foot of the gas, it was news to me.
Jet lag of course. Have seen the whole movie The Queen in portions in bed, last night. First I thought I was lucky because my computer refused to show it after half an hour and just went blank. Ah, I can go to sleep then. But even after a sleeping pill I couldn't manage to sleep for more than two hours. And so I put my computer on and off every half hour, to see the whole movie, in five parts.
Good movie, even when tired.