World Press Photo


A toddler's head poking from rubble. A swordfish's dive. Iran. Chemically-altered oranges. Obama. A man being stoned to death.

From April 23 till June 20th, these images and more are at World Press Photo 2010 in Amsterdam. This is how the pros do it. Aside from giving many of us amateurs a real sense of photographic inferiority, the tour provides an amazing look at what is going on in all corners of the world.

Here in the 020, the added backdrop of the Oude Kerk (Old Church) in the city center made for a memorable day. It's certainly not for the faint-hearted, and much of what you see will likely stay with you for a long time.

The good news is that the tour goes all year, all around the world, from Split to Santiago and San Fran to Japan. The complete schedule can be seen here. If it shows up in your city, I would highly recommend seeing the exhibition.

Below are images from the visit, including some photos of the photos. I left out a number of the harshest images, thinking that people should go see them voluntarily if they so choose.

We Don't Need Another Giro


The air smells of a curious mixture of lycra, pasta, and performance-enhancing drugs. That can only mean one thing: The Giro d'Italia is in town, cycling through Amsterdam for the weekend before heading off to Utrecht and then eventually to the motherland.

From what I can tell, this poor man's Tour de France is a big deal to many European sports fans as city officials in Amsterdam estimated up to 500,000 visitors came for the weekend to watch a few hundred international riders compete for the maglia rosa, the pink jersey. And it did knock soccer, the only other televised sport here, off the headlines for a few days. But its appeal escapes me.

It was admittedly mildly impressive to watch these juiced-up cycle jockeys whiz through the streets at up to 50km/h, with zero room for error between harrowing turns and rabid fans.

Amsterdam May 8, 2010

But it all seemed way too much like a video game - with bikes that are so technologically enhanced that they hardly resemble bikes, helmets inspired by the movie Alien, a team car that trails each rider with instructions and encouragement (and presumably syringes), and calves and thighs so technologically enhanced that they hardly resemble calves and thighs.

Hopefully World Cup fever next month will make up for it all, as I privately lament the absence of the NHL and NBA playoffs in the meantime.

Till then, er, yay cycling robots!

Bevrijdingsdag 2


A really profound day.

May 5th in Holland. Every year, dozens of cities throughout the country honour the freedom that became official on May 5, 1945 as Allied forces liberated the country.

In particular, Canadian soldiers played the primary role in the months and days leading up to the liberation (although Britain, the US, and a number of other countries' soldiers also sacrificed immensely). Also honoured on this day are veterans and peacekeepers from all wars since WWI - some are seen below.

It's just unreal how the Dutch pass this gratitude on to the next generations - kids are taught early on in school just what happened, and to this day Dutch families tend to the gravesites of soldiers who died here. I doubt there are any countries that do a better job of expressing gratitude and educating their kids about what happened in those dark years.

I saw it firsthand in the town of Wageningen, about an hour's drive from Amsterdam, where a parade lasting over two hours took place and where the Hotel de Wereld sits. It was here that the terms of surrender were negotiated and signed on May 6th 1945 between the Germans and Canadian General Charles Foulkes.

General Foulkes and the official surrender, May 6 1945

My parents were aged 11 and 8 at the time that the war ended. They had endured the bombardment of Rotterdam and a life under years of war that I couldn't imagine. They still don't talk about it much, but I often remember this very fact when I feel like complaining about something. I have heard some of what they had to endure, from my grandfather being taken away for 3 years to eating tulip bulbs, and it's an instant reality check.

So this day felt intensely personal - aside from the dual connection to the Netherlands and Canada, I have often asked myself the uncomfortable question: Who knows, with a bomb placed elsewhere or with a later liberation date, what might have happened to my own parents and ultimately to my own existence? Dude.

To see these 80- and 90-year-olds still marching and hearing the roar of the the crowd as they passed by, I felt fiercely patriotic about the Canadian involvement and deeply humbled, almost embarrassed at the same time. After all, I had nothing to do with the heroism of those years and I feel a lot like an undeserving beneficiary of the goodwill that the Dutch still show towards Canadians today.

Back in Canada and the Allied countries, we rarely get to feel just the immense impact that the soldiers actions had on an entire country. Hopefully this post and these pictures illustrate some small part of it.

(For another review of this special day, please click here)