Sabbatical leave: fighting entropy

Read More Sabbatical leave: fighting entropy

After 8 years service as a creative, next June I will travel with my partner, bicycle and camera for three months. Yes I will!

Fighting entropy
To stand still is going nowhere. Or going backwards, some say. It takes energy to keep going forward. In nature, the second law of thermodynamics, entropy, is to blame for our universe slowly falling apart, unless energy is put in to reverse this process. Think of it like a downhill stream, which will flow to the lowest part. It takes effort to redirect the water.

Humans fight their own daily battle against physical and mental entropy.

While it’s easier to let things go and let things be, it takes energy to remain fit and keep on growing.

I’ve been fighting my own battle against entropy in many ways. With sports, to slow down physical decay. And with human interaction, cultural and news consumption, to sharpen my mind. But on the other hand, I let entropy hold me back.

When loyalty and risk-adversity is turning against you
Deep inside I knew I wasn’t truly doing what was needed to keep growing creatively.

My excuse, a blend of professional loyalty and risk-adversity, explains it took me 8 years to develop the guts to open doors for deep regeneration.

I finally asked my employer Unlimited Communication for a sabbatical leave: to dust of my brain and energize new thinking and creativity. My thirst to fight entropy by all means during a longer period of adventure, confrontation, reflection and inspiration was understood and accepted. That must have taken guts too and I thank my employer for his comprehension!

Project along the road
With a partner devoted to achieve awareness about and impact in the environmental challenges we face, we thought about joining forces to make more people positively wonder about the energy challenges we face. Fossil fuels have helped human beings in amazing ways to fight the natural process of entropy, but it is now clear that their usage have their footprint on our climate. In addition, fossil fuels are becoming scarcer, which equals shifts in power to have’s and have nots.

If humans – and other creatures – want to keep living comfortably on this planet, we need all our creative, physical and mental power to find new and smart ways to fight entropy. What can we learn from people and places across the globe dealing with the energy challenge? You’ll find out more if you’ll follow our journey fighting our own entropy battle!

The project’s mission is to practice creative skills (writing, journalism, photography) while raising curiosity about the strong relationship between the quality of our energy system and our quality of life. We will share our experiences on the Energy Borders project website (under construction) and the energy-consciousness collective website.

We will take the train from Amsterdam to Warsaw -Poland- and will cycle onwards. We will peddle through countries with enormous fossil fuel reserves like Iran, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, cross countries which struggle because of a lack of own energy sources, such as Ukraine, Armenia and Moldavia, visit countries that found a way to harness energy available, but by doing so are unintentionally harming their neighbors, such as Tajikistan, and pass through countries which are using their energy to influence others, such as Russia.

We do not have the guts to risk the threat of terrorism on one of my dream roads, the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan, but will find a great alternative in Tajikistan: the Pamir Highway is said to be stunning. But the best of any journey will be the unexpected surprises the road will bring us.

Portraits on barricades: blending photojournalism with documentary photography

One of the pictures from 'Revolutionaries from Hrushevskoho street' by Katya Rezvaya and Misha Domozhilov

One of the pictures from ‘Revolutionaries from Hrushevskoho street’ by Katya Rezvaya and Misha Domozhilov

Shooting analogue large format images during emotional and sometimes violent street protests is a challenge. Katya Rezvaya and Misha Domozhilov rolled the sleeves and did it. Did it beautifully: ‘Revolutionaries from Hrushevskoho street’.

Couple of weeks ago befriended photographer Katya Rezvaya and her friend Misha Domozhilov have been in Kiev for a collaboration project: portraits on barricades. This duo blend spectacular photojournalism with documentary photography: a historic moment with unique strong photography style.

Katya and Misha set up a portable studio on the barricade on Hrushevskogo street and captured hope and devotion of young and old, giving the revolutionaries a strong face.

Secret Amsterdams Guerilla Theatre

Read More Secret Amsterdams Guerilla Theatre

At a secret location at the NDSM wharf Amsterdam, theatre collective AGT reads pieces of known and unknown plays. Writers, directors, producers and actors come together on ‘guerrilla literary evenings’ to get inspired. ‘Just doing’ and socializing are the main principles.

When I spoke with actress and AGT co creator Mareille Labohm at Blown Away 2012, she told me “Screw the crisis. I just want to play! Even without production and without technology, just play!” Straight from the hart! That must be art!

The NDSM wharf is the perfect backdrop for guerilla theatre activity in the public space. AGT especially welcomes writers, actors, directors and creatives. Upcoming AGT performance is next Monday (13th of January 2014). Check out the Amsterdam Guerilla Theater Facebook page for further info, invitation requests and be part of something unique.


Cruqius barn party: jumping into 2014

Read More Cruqius barn party: jumping into 2014

Dear friends and support, thank you for coming to the Cruqius barn New Year’s Eve Party. Without your input, enthusiasm and friendliness, this evening would not have been so successful.

Two crappy cellphone jump for joy movies, shot at the end of the evening:


Special thanks to Martine, Vera, Jos, Bart, Jan, Robin, Caroline, Kees and Rogier. Without you, the evening and or cleaning up would not have been possible at all.

Instagram is debasing real photography – part 2

Filmmaker Thomas Jullien created a nice short movie by weaving together strangers’ Instagram pictures to form a story. It starts with a bike ride to Paris and zaps you to New York and pretty much everywhere else in between.

In June 2012, on the occasion of an interesting Guardian article, I posted Kate Beavans interesting article ‘Instagram is debasing real photography’. It was about the fact Instagram / Hipstamatic / Snapseed filters are the antithesis of creativity, and make all pictures look the same.

Following movie proves the point. But is at the same time visually very interesting and well edited. Jullien used 852 Instagram pictures from 852 Instagram users for this little short movie. But by seeing all these pictures in a pseudo stop animation, you realize how similar all of our photos end up being with todays over used filter. Nothing is really original. We’re all just frames in someone else’s next movie.



Read the earlier posted article on Instagram by Kate Bevan.

292 documentaries in 12 days

The world’s largest documentary film festival, the International Film Festival Amsterdam, will take place from 20 November to 1 December 2013.

The objective is to promote creative documentaries to a wide audience and organize debates, forums and workshops. Check out their rich programme schedule or festival website.

Opening event: Return to Homs
I had the chance to attend the opening event and view ‘Return to Homs’ by Talal Derki. With strong images and protagonists Basset (national soccer talent and protest singer) and Ossama (media activist), the film gives a face to the terrible Syrian civil war.

What is evident in the film is the absent distance of the film maker to the subject. Director Derki doesn’t have a any bird view on the conflict while honouring the martyrs of Homs.

Their dream, Syria being free from President Bashar al-Assad, is initially addressed by means of peaceful demonstrations. When the Syrian army reacts more and more brutally, and Homs is transformed into a ghost town, the protagonists – once so peaceful – become armed freedom fighters in hell on earth. Derki admires their courage and determination and the film is a homage in words and images. As well as a scream to the world.


Needless to say, it’s terrible there is no outlook for a peaceful solution to the civil war so far. While the rich west is self interested and still focussed on financial growth, millions around the world just dream about freedom and physical health.

Dutch Green Bridges Blog for a sharp mind

If you read Dutch, question yourself and the world around you and want to achieve impact in life, be inspired at Green

Green is Martine Verweij’s blog about her observations and beliefs to build bridges towards a more sustainable world.

Being smart, creative, interested, educated and experienced, Martine writes inspirational columns for a sharp mind. This month for example, read her column about our distorted relation with money: ‘Als geld geen rol speelt…?’.

She will appreciate your feedback to sharpen her mind.

Riding the Himalayan range

Me, my friends and the Royal Enfields are back in one piece. And with a smile. A big one. Two weeks of rolling over tarmac, dirt, gravel, snow and sand while enjoying one of the worlds most beautiful panoramic views, made everlasting memories.

The Himalayan range, as well as the way to it from Manali, is so diverse and beautiful. The colors! The light! Incredible. Riding over a +5000m mountain pass while looking at some bigger white giants in front of you is breathtaking. Although I got used to the numerous stunning views over time travelled, two weeks of rolling did not bore at all.

Kay shot a nice video in Delhi of Indiana Jones style Gert. When Gert asked the driver to ride it’s rickshaw, the driver surprisingly agreed. He took the offer without any hesitation…


Bart shot some Royal Enfield onboard video during the trip.

You can watch more video of the Himalayan range ride on Bart’s Youtube channel.
Itinerary map and picture gallery will follow later.

Be welcome!

It took a while before I finally jumped on the CouchSurfing bandwagon. Initially, I had a strong prejudice about the bulk of the crowd sourced hospitality network members. I was convinced they saw surfing merely as way to save money while travelling, instead of more importantly, a unique opportunity to connect with locals. Finally, I gave it a chance for a year. And now it’s time to migrate to an alternative.

Didn’t I like it? No, I did. I have met interesting people and passionate travellers from all walks of life, age and residence. But during the past year, the nice, personal requests stood increasingly in the shadow of people merely looking for a ‘free hotel room’ in Amsterdam. Very experienced CouchSurfers around me have noticed the same trend. And received more and more impersonal bulk requests by users ignoring the CouchSurfing spirit or worse, not even reading your profile. What’s going on?

CouchSurfing underwent some major changes that apparently have effect on the gigantic (7 million) user base. It has turned into a profit-making business this year. Disrespectful of the ideologies which were at the base of this hospitality network, CouchSurfings primary goal has now become having as many members as possible. It is said the year old FaceBook integration feature largely contributed to the huge growth. It seems like is digging its own grave, because a lot of people have complained about various commercial and policy changes to the service. Being ignored by the new management,  a lot of people have started to find and use democratic alternatives.

Against this background, I decided to migrate slowly to an alternative hospitality network BeWelcome. It is non-profit, open source, and exclusively run by members in a transparent and democratic way. If you agree CouchSurfing lost sight of its initial mission, sign up at Be welcome!


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Blown Away by 250 artists

Saturday November 16th, Blow Away Fest opens three rusty wharf spaces to blow you away with creativity, inspiration and entertaiment. For the second year in a row, the harbour of Rotterdam will be the backdrop of this cultural festival, featuring more than 250 artists.

Join the fest and treat yourself with an inspirational blend of music, art and even food. The official website reads: “This is where analogue meets digital. Where traditional meets new. Where the established measuring the unpolished. This is Blown Away Fest 2013.”

One of the highlights of the festival is the fusion of the full-size Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra with various electronic composers. What are you waiting for?!

For more information or tickets, check out the Blown Away festival website.
Note: for Amsterdam based people, the festival offers a shuttle service to the Rotterdam harbour and back.

(Futura) Bold new cover approach by Mevis and Van Deursen

International oriented Dutch weekly magazine De Groene Amsterdammer recently changed their cover design, with a bold new approach. The bold approach is easy to criticize. But also easy to underpin. With a target group interested in philosophy, politics, literature and liberal arts, the average reader will have the background and mindset to support arguments with opinion. But in my inner circle, the cover was ‘just sloppy’. No arguments.

Most readers and co-workes around me indicated that they find the cover sloppy and unattractive. But the respected design duo Mevis & Van Deursen (original and praised graphic design for Guggenheim Museum, MoMA, Viktor & Rolf and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam) who did the redesign job, did a deliberate job to meet the demand of De Groene Amsterdammer. The magazine wanted to expand the textual and graphic content on the cover, as they write on their website. Currently form and function actually do meet. My designers eye observe:

  • By no longer choosing a topic to bring full page cover, there is space for various graphic and textual content to immediately catch the eye
  • All space is used, practical information like date, price and pay-off almost or do touch the masthead
  • The red Futura Bold Condensed masthead looks so seventies. Although retro is hip, this timeless typeface looks dated in red
  • The masthead is proudly standing centred but left aligned in the middle of the page
  • It’s bravely different than the standard cover design grid and content

But, I hear you think, do I like it? Honestly and insensitive for the the Mevis & Van Deursen brand label, it does not feel right at first sight. They did meet the demands of their client, but in their tradition, I am sure they did not compromise their vision and final result.

Some things get better over time. I am curious how my opinion on this restyle will develop. And I am even more curious how Mevis & Van Deursen pitched their (Futura) bold approach.

Country blues virtuoso North Mississippi Allstars rocks

Were have I been as a self proclaimed music lover? How did I not know North Mississippi Allstars? With their debute album in 2000 and seven studio albums after, I must have been sleeping! Their newest album ‘World Boogie Is Coming’ is quite an onion to peel. What a wonderful mix of guitar riffs, pounding drums, creative instruments and surprising guest artists. Real musicians, no doubt.

As the members of North Mississippi Allstars continue to busy themselves with musical projects, it’s not always easy to see a  concert these days. Not Sunday next week! If you happen to be in The Netherlands, have time and budget, join the predicted smoking live set in Paradiso Amsterdam (20th of October).


Sidewalk Adventures



© June 2012, Marijn Engels