So I have to write about a little Dutch holiday that most of my friends here in Australia are oblivious to. Because it is almost time for Sinterklaas! It is one of my favourite things to talk about when my time living in The Netherlands is the topic of conversation. It is just such a surprising holiday. Around mid November I started to see Dutch people wandering the streets with their faces painted black, wearing curly afro wigs, colourful pantaloons and bright red lipstick. Paper and toy replicas of these black-faced characters were appearing in supermarkets and shops too. I was so confused, I had no idea what was going on! Was this some kind of a racist joke? It turns out that Sinterklaas and his following of Zwarte Piets had arrived - the Dutch equivalent of Christmas.
The story goes that Sinterklaas arrives on a steamboat in Amsterdam with his mischievous helpers, who throw pepernoten at the crowds (tiny ball-shaped gingerbread biscuits). This is televised for all of The Netherlands to see and is highly anticipated. Then on December 5th, the children leave a shoe by the fireplace which is filled with sweets, a chocolate letter (the first letter of their name) and a poem making fun of their bad habits or flaws. This is, of course, for the good children. The bad children get thrown in a sack and sent off to Spain. Like Spain is a horrible place - I will be naughty this year if it means I will get sent to Spain!
Sint looks pretty much like Santa Claus, but with a tall pope hat. But the blackface Zwarte Piets, as described earlier, are somewhat more controversial. The Dutch refuse to accept that such a beloved holiday is even a tad racist. Historically Zwarte Pier is a moorish servant of Sinterklaas, although some say he was originally a slave who was so grateful when Sinterklaas freed him that he stayed to help him. However today it is claimed that Zwarte Piet’s face is black with soot from coming down the chimney. In 2006, they attempted to replace the traditional black makeup with a rainbow of other colours - however this idea didn’t take off and was abandoned the following year.
David Sedaris has a comedic routine about the holiday which is worth a watch:
Air New Zealand recently launched their new tourism campaign, aimed specifically at getting Australians to ‘cross the ditch’. The 4 ‘Kiwi Sceptics’ (including ‘The Aussie-Aussie’, ‘The Bali Girl’, ‘The Europhile’ and ‘The Hipster’) are matched up with a local guide and have their prior conceptions turned upside down. With classic Kiwi humour, the Kiwi Sceptics are subtlety mocked in the mockumentary style series as we travel with them on their journey from derision to awe. Initially ‘The Aussie-Aussie’ claims that ‘they don’t even want to live there man’, but by the end says he found himself in a ‘constant state of euphoria’. I was a New Zealand sceptic too once - I thought it was way too similar to Australia to be interesting. But a spontaneous post-exam trip led me over there and I quickly learnt this wasn’t the case. Hopefully this campaign encourages other Australians to make the same discovery I did.
Given that Apple is such a influential, life-pervading brand (often ascribed as a ‘cult’), it is hard to think back to a time when something like the iPod just didn’t exist. The notion of a portable mp3 player in its current form wasn’t even comprehendible. It just fascinated me to watch Steve Jobs introduce the first iPod in 2001, and explain once revolutionary things, that we now take for granted.
The Executive Coloring Book (by Marcie Hans, Dennis Altman & Martin Cohen) makes a mockery of the stereotypical executive’s sense of self-importance and conformity in the form of a children’s colouring book. It’s pretty funny.
Happy moment amongst the suffering of exams…thankyou, Mr Bean.
These ads for The Guardian by Wieden + Kennedy are fantastic. They highlight the core values that found the newspaper’s identity: independence, plurality of views and separation of news and comment.
For me, Karl Lagerfeld is the epitome of cool. He’s iconic. He dares to say the snarkiest, politically-incorrect things which keeps me mercilessly entertained. His philosophies are left of centre, but always interesting to ponder. And I’m also really jealous of his library.
Do you think there’s anyone who really you knows you? Or does nobody know you like you know yourself?
It’s difficult for me to answer. I’ve moulded people’s ideas about me so much that I think it’s almost impossible. I want it to be impossible, even for people I love dearly. I don’t want to be real in other peoples’ lives. I want to be an apparition. I appear, then disappear. I don’t want to have reality in anyone’s life, because I don’t want it in mine. That’s the secret of it all. Don’t start with the cliches about loneliness and all that. For people like me, solitude is a victory. It’s a battle. People who do a job that claims to be creative, like mine, have to be alone to recharge their batteries. You cant live 24 hours a day in the spotlight and remain creative. So many of the things i do, such as reading, can’t be done in the company of others.”
(in Lagerfeld Confidential)
It’s funny to think about how controversial Melbourne’s re-branding was back in 2009. The general consensus was that it was too futuristic and that the Government spent way too much on its development ($240 000). But anything is better than the daggy 80s-esque logo that previously (mis)represented the city. Personally I like the way the 3-dimensional effect of the ‘M’ seems to draw inspiration from Fed Square, which signalled a new era for Melbourne. The multi-faceted edges also symbolises the numerous facets of Melbourne’s cosmopolitan culture, whilst the various blue-green shades give it a jewel-like appearance, as the city is a jewel to those who know its intricacies. Over the years, it has proven itself to be a very flexible design, allowing different Melbourne events and services to consolide their brand identity using variations of the initial design. I’m a fan and 2 years later, I think the rest of the Melbourne population has come round too.
I was reminded of it when I saw that the Old Treasury is holding an exhibition, ‘Missing The Mark’, about the entries which were submitted for a new Melbourne landmark. Of course, we already know that Federation Square was the outcome, but its interesting to see could have been. And sometimes, what was, thankfully, rejected….Melbourne’s Monumental Mammaries anyone?
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Telstra's new advertisement by DDB is nothing new under the sun, but it still makes me so happy! All the eye-catching colourful animation combined with 'that' soundtrack can't possibly have any other effect. Basically the premise is that Telstra is undergoing an internal overhaul and is attempting to shift pre-existing consumer attitudes towards the company (ie. terrible customer service!). Telstra has done well at visually rebranding, whilst maintaining its familiarity…but whether the change is more than superficial remains to be seen.
Telstra CEO David Thodey claims that, “The time is right for a new look and feel for Telstra. We’ve been busy changing behind the scenes to better connect with our customers, and our new brand identity reflects this fresh approach”.