The Nintendo Effect

As tough as it is to come to terms with knowing that the only way you can put to words the effect advertising and brands have on a person’s life is to be under their effect, I will dare say that I’m not the only person who feels this way and this year’s E3 is proof. People take sides in the so-called console war, but let’s get down to brass tacks here… it’s a war that will never end because it seems, consoles have forged gamers. People who play X-Box and Play Station have an affinity to games considered less “childish” as the market defines it and more for grown ups.

We’ve narrowed it down a bit, that leaves us with the Microsoft and Sony exclusive titles, which are more or less multi-port, except of course for the timeless classics: Sony has its Crash, Nintendo has its Mario (or Zelda) and Microsoft has Minecraft (I couldn’t honestly think of any other… Maybe one from RARE?), but it’s pretty much those two having their isolated battle while Mario and company have parties and play tennis in the background.

Generation after generation these heroes and villains have reinvented themselves and updated but still stayed true to what made them loved, or at least their plot line. Needless to say fans of Nintendo are fewer, but it’s a more hard-core relationship that goes deeper than other consoles and few brands manage to keep an omni-device presence.

Zelda fans will always be Zelda fans and thus they will get a Toon Link amiibo or the Triforce 3DS case, the game travels from the screen and becomes a part of the gamer/fan’s life, taking full advantage of this is something that Nintendo does very well and let’s remember that it began as a trading card company… You don’t see baseball cards anymore but you do see Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer amiibo cards.

Need I say more? Yes. It may have come to be noticed that I’m currently based in Amsterdam, where there is a store called Pop Cult. Alright not one store, there are at least three in the city centre and some in other Dutch cities. The shelves are stocked with Mario, Link, Princess Peach, Zelda, Toad, Luigi and some other franchises from other consoles but not nearly as much.

The trend here is that Nintendo has figured out the formula to comfortably have a console that doesn’t deliver 1080 HD image quality and frames that look as good as if you were in a cinema, but the experience that you get out of it will make you want to come back for more, the game catalog may be repetitive to say the least but the franchises always deliver and they don’t just stay on the screen, they come in the form of figures, cards, apps, merchandising and a handheld console (which Play Station doesn’t make anymore and Microsoft didn’t try… yet) it seems that Mario’s reach is further and broader than its rival’s.

Acknowledging that everyone has a different taste of ice cream or preference for a phone, the console you play with or the games company you have an affinity for is a determining part of modern culture, Nintendo has managed to make gaming mainstream, cross generation, out of the living room and I think my 3DS won’t stop being part of my essentials any time soon.

 

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A shit guide through Amsterdam

Drop what you’re doing and take a moment to read some information that might change your life, or at the very least make you seem like the most cultivated person on the dinner table. Amsterdam, also known as the second most important city of the Netherlands (not Holland as it is commonly known) Is a very tricky topic to discuss.
First of all there is the tiny fact that cannabis use is legal, that right there is the main tipping point that leads people to believe that the city is one big coffeeshop/ bar/brothel that has no rules, no boundaries and no limits, but to be honest its quite different.

You might end up looking like a typical tourist (no offence to tourists but we’re talking about the obnoxious ones that wave their selfie sticks around like they’re in a sword fight and forget that dustbins have the same function everywhere… they have western chain fast food as meals and make sure to stock up on cheap beer, cigarettes and bad cultural backgrounds) if you don’t take these peculiar details into consideration.

After putting the selfie stick down, you may have noticed that there are indeed quite a few coffeeshops around, not as many red windows and adult clubs as well as peepshows like before but on the contrary, it is rich with culture, fun activities and the chance to explore a city that started out as a tiny village in the north sea that has now become a cosmopolitan hub for world travel and a very popular site for visitors of all kinds, even those that come for a weekend to get pissed in honour of their best mate’s (or their) impending marriage.

As opposed to latin or romantic people from the mediterranean, the people from the north (not a GoT reference) lack the spark and warmth that make these places popular destinations due to the element of service or experience, so all the things you’re used to being handed in a silver platter by the locals will not be present here. Small things like directions or basic help for transit will be empiric, you’ll have to get lost on the wrong direction of a tram or cussed out by an angry mob of cyclists because on invading their path believing its part of the sidewalk or people here are as lax as other places, but alas you will soon find yourself wrong.

If you’re familiar with clockwork, then you will know that every piece moves precisely along its path without interruption or fail in the cycle, so is Dutch society. Punctuality, straight-forwardness and a bizarre sense of equality are a few of the qualities you will find while dealing with social situations here. No mistake there will also be the typical warmth out of politeness or tips, people don’t waste words or time so it may come off as cold.

Okay, after all the social background, let’s get to the point that brought you here, the coffee shops. You may have noticed that in past paragraphs I have written it in one word, but I guess that is because it’s not a shop that sells coffee, it’s name is coffeeshop and it sells cannabis and some derivates. In some places you might even find seeds and in others there will be a dull-lighted ambiance full of smoke, coughs and people breaking the creepy silence with occasional banter.

Of course you will need to identify yourself as over 18 since Dutch rules are very strict so carrying your passport around will be a safe bet. For those under-age, tough shit. Once the tedious process of identification is done, you’re welcome to an all too over-rated countertop with a lovely menu of strands, indicating whether it is an indica or sativa, its strength, effects and of course price. I don’t want to burst your bubble but if you’re travelling on a budget and want to have a go, its not a good idea. Weed will set you back anywhere between 9 and 12.50 € per gram depending on the strain or quality, so a properly lined coin purse will help a lot when trying the Amsterdam experience.

Continuing the long line of let-downs and reality checks, it’s almost necessary to point out that yes, the more expensive, the better. You are highly likely to be hustled in the more touristic areas and regardless of the fact that the convenience may sound appealing, buying pre rolled joints is a no-no. First of all, most of these joints are laced with tobacco, which makes them as “cheap” as you may consider. The ones that aren’t cost almost double and as much as they may tell you otherwise, they’re made with the lowest class weed available. The only positive experience I had was with Coffeeshop Johnny, they were still expensive, but dank enough to make for a lovely energetic high after a few puffs.

If you don’t know how to roll, ask for help, trust me. Other than that, the only other advice I can give is this, if there is sunshine, make the most of it, go to the parks, walk, explore and get lost in this quaint and misunderstood city, count canals and explore alleyways but above all, ponte verga en las calles. (Act alive on the streets, be careful and pay attention.)

Fear and Loathing in Nairobi

What makes a party great? Is it the location? the ambiance? the music? In my opinion its a great mix of all the above. But a party needs a gimmick. Whether it is “sunglasses at night” or “earthdance“, unless it has a great hook, even if you have all the above you won’t get the main thing people are looking for, a crowd.

When the organisers of Nairobi’s own Project X party, they envisioned a night where everyone could have fun in their own particular way, be it getting drunk, high or chatting up a girl with the illusion of perhaps bedding her in the local known custom of “chips funga“. But somewhere along the line, it got a bit out of hand and even included the Kenya Film Classification Board, with crazy speculations about international porn rings invading the city for that night in order to get some footage of the “pornographic” kind.

In this hurricane brought out by the media, which began when parents decided that this was a party they didn’t want their kids going to, yet don’t care about the mishaps going about every single weekend, yet let one party openly discuss what it is that goes on the streets of the city in the sun such as the Electric Avenue or even in town and its a problem of national proportions.

Just in case you had not realised by now, let me be the one to burst your bubble, you have been played. You and the media and the parents and the film classification board have done exactly what the organisers wanted. It is a topic and it is the biggest scandal yet, without even having happened. The country has fallen prey to the best joke yet and the only outcome is looking like a fool.

I have seen and heard a few comments about this event, and a person even goes as far as to say that its and aspect of western culture that isn’t welcome in Kenya, but they forget about the food chains and tv shows, music and film that brainwashes wananchi into having westernised and open views about traditionally taboo aspects like sexuality and youth empowerment. Its funny to see all these “moral” organisations scurry like ants under a magnifying glass on a hot day due to the nature of said event.

March 8th is known as International Women’s Day in some circles and it has the purpose of creating awareness that a woman is the sole owner of her will, body, mind and sexuality, yet everyone is rushing to limit a safe and healthy expression of all the above. As it is common knowledge, pornography and explicit sexual material is “illegal” in Kenya, so one would think that strip clubs and brothels are inexistent in this haven of morality, but one would be mistaken. In the CBD only there are strip clubs and brothels that can compare to those in the red light district of Amsterdam, but are discreet to the inner circles that visit them.

The officers of the law are in cahoots with night walkers in a way that could very well be considered pimpin’ but then again the police aren’t doing anything but promising enforcement to the concerned parents. But let’s take a moment and reflect shall we, in a society that satanises and frowns upon healthy sexual relations within consenting adults in a manner they deem fit and pleasing to both, regardless of the fact they be married or not is really as bad as having sexual deviants raping children because they are an easy enough target since approaching someone of the same age is deemed “wrong”, is it worth having so many divorces and failed marriages that end up in cheating and miserable lives that are inherited to those unlucky enough to be born into a family where the dad has three other women and the mum is busy forgetting her sorrows with a shamba boy?

Think about what sort of a society you’re creating under the false flag of morality, because the funny part of all of this is that you have become prone to be manipulated by everything you see and hear, yet when faced upon the truth, a blind eye is turned and nothing ends up happening.

I have lost family and friends to the night and parties, but it isn’t the sex and it isn’t the decadence that draws people away into danger, its being pressured and forced to comply with unnatural rules and taboos that get too much. When you’re living in the moonlight, you become a reflection of your daytime frustrations and limitations. Some indulge and others discover. Some are even unfortunate enough to realise that the morals imposed on to them are just illusions, monsters wearing masks to hide their true nature from the rest, just remember that you recognise your own flaws in others.

To the kids that organised the Project X party, goodspeed. You single-handedly out did every advertising agency in Kenya and you should be proud the whole country is talking about you.

Lamu in 50mm

Lamu in 50mm

The island of Lamu is part of the ‘Swahili Coast’ that spans from Mogadishu down to Tanzania. Including Kenya’s coast. Historically (and geographically) speaking, Matendoni was the first settlement of the island and the first port used for trade with the Arabs before colonization. A boat trip away is Lamu city and New Lamu. The city was built in ancient times and consists of a series of narrow streets that resemble a labyrinth, but at the same time shield from the sun. Donkeys and waste are a constant obstacle while trying to navigate across town. Right in the center there is a fort built in the time when the Arab and Portuguese were fighting over possession of the rich coast. The Swahili people that inhabit this area are devout Muslims and the close link between Islam and the development of the Swahili is both cultural and religious, notable by its influence in the architecture and dress code of the coast.

It won’t be a rare sight to find women clad in buibuis or a full body black veil that sometimes has a mask that covers the face.

At the end of town there is a large generator that runs 24/7, thus making that part of the island constantly noisy. There are high tension power lines that run to a new Port that is in construction but who knows when the gas guzzler will finally be silent.

The 50mm part of it is done with ‘Natalie’ my Nikon D7100. The best part of this lens is that it’s a fixed zoom but focus is the craziest thing ever. Depth and textures are just some of the awesome optical effects this lens can have, perhaps the most ideal thing to capture Lamu’s vibe and feel.

Lamu in 50mm

Lamu in 50mm Lamu in 50mm

Lamu in 50mm

You can find the rest of the collection here.

 

Reaching new peaks

You may have been wondering where I have disappeared off to (Its highly likely you weren’t but i’ll tell you anyway), as rare as it may seem there still are a frew places in the world that don’t have access to the microwave many people depend on for life, work and leisure we have come to know as wireless fidelity. Such a case is my grandparent’s house in a zone on the outskirts of Nairobi (in Kenya children) known as Thindigua.

This doesn’t mean that civilisation hasn’t reached this area, it does have a functioning strip-mall and plenty of access to services but these once lush coffee growing lands are yet to receive this modern day commodity. While other parts of the city are now fed by fiber-optic cables and have a decent (when it feels like) bandwidth, my dear Thindigua is still disconnected from the world wide web as far as domestic services go, mobile is all good but my smartphone hasn’t been assigned the task of being a social hub, thus allowing me to sleep easy without being interrupted by the sound of notifications.

Jumping to the topic described by the title (yes, I’m aware I began rambling, but there is a purpose) I climbed my first mountain ever! And it was awesome!

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Peak

The third highest peak of the second highest mountain in Africa! These were words I didn’t quite see myself saying in one sentence but the whole experience was amazing, especially since that was where I was on New Years, far from the party and the sprawl, up in the tranquility of the mountain like Pocahontas once described in a musical number she gave in her feature Disney film. Yes, it is true.

“For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind”

Besides the usual getting in touch with nature, I also took the chance to brush up on my bird photography.

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Bird candid

And some elemental studies of water

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Study on water

and ice

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Study on ice

Anyway, now that I’m back on the grid I can see the influence of nature in my mindset. If you have the opportunity to take such a trip, by all means. Don’t be appalled by nature, everything in life isn’t about 5-star hotels and room service.

Think about it.

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Hyrax says hello

Máximo Bistrot with a Baker and a Doctor.

We visited another Mexico City gourmet hotspot and this time it was Máximo Bistrot, located on Tonalá 133 in the Roma neighbourhood. Naturally, we called a couple of weeks in advance to get a reservation so we could have a proper Christmas Dinner at a very nice place.
The Baker recommended the place out of experience and the fact the menu changes daily also helps to make this a unique dining experience.
The menu for the 18th of December had so many choices we didn’t know where to start but the head chef Eduardo helped us by picking our meals and telling us more about them, he described his cooking style as a mix between French(style) and Mexican(ingredients) cuisine. I must say it was a very nice experience getting the chef to pick his favourite dishes off the menu for us to have while at the same time telling us more about the ingredients and where they come from.
This is basically how it went:
As an entree we had french bean and cauliflower salad in roasted shallot vinaigrette which was very fresh and after he brought asparagus in hollandaise with a warm egg covered in grated parmesan cheese. I am not a fan of the components of the latter dish but all the flavours combined on the asparagus made it amazing.
We then had a tuna sashimi with serrano chilli, ginger and an avocado emulsion. The tuna and chilli worked perfectly for me but I don’t eat avocado so I let the Baker and Doctor experience it, they were both stunned at the flavour.
After, the chef brought us ravioli stuffed with onion, thyme and mushroom cream. They were in a mushroom sauce and had fried onions sprinkled on them to give them a contrasting texture between the softness of the pasta and the crunchy sweetness of the onions, it was delightful!
As mains we had mussels in a broth made with lemon butter and shallots, it was amazing in every possible way since the mussels were warm, tender and packed with flavour from the broth which in its own right was delicious. After the we had wagyu beef ribs braised in red wine with two different styles of potato, mashed and boiled, which went perfectly with the meat, tender and tasty which was cooked to perfection.
knifs

Intuitive knives make for a better dining experience.

Dessert was split in two parts, one was red berry sherbet that was served with strawberry, blackberry and a bit of jelly.
The second part was french toast, it was served with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream and vanilla whipped cream. Part of the success of this dish was the fact that the Doctor made the best “That’s what she said” joke ever (I thought it was going to be hard).
Overall the experience at Máximo was awesome, we got VIP service thanks to the fact the Baker delivers to this restaurant and the Doctor was very happy to have such a nice meal, although as a determining point he DID eat like as if he was in a hurry to perform a surgery so dinner went on quite quickly. For drinks I decided to have home made pear cider, it was very crisp and the flavour was lovely although the price tag was a bit too steep for a glass I’m still at controversy whether it was worth it… Alright, it was. But not enough for two glasses, after we had sparkling water from the north of Mexico, the Huasteca region of Nuevo León called Agua de Piedra.

Agua de Piedra, which has the interesting fact of being bottled in transition bottles which help reduce contamination and give every bottle a distinct colouring although the flavour is unaltered.

I recommend this place very much if you’re in Mexico City looking to enjoy local flavours with a twist, the food is cooked to perfection and unlike the ambiance at my previous review (which you can find here) Maximo has a very casual and laid back vibe, the waiters are efficient and courteous. As a bonus to those nicotine-maniacs, they also have some outdoor sitting to puff away in peace.
Going back to where I pointed out the menu changes daily, beside the fact the chef introduced his creations to us prior from eating, he also gave me an autographed version of the day’s menu. 😀 (Emoji says more than a thousand words)
Thank you Chef!

Thank you Chef!

Perhaps it would have been more appealing if there were bright pictures of my meals, but sorry I don’t believe in foodporn.

Licorería Limantour #47 with a Baker

Licorería Limantour is a bar in Mexico City that was voted amongst the 50 nicest places in the world to drink (47) and they held an event to commemorate it.
First problem of the night is that I don’t drink, the second problem was finding who to go with. The event was due to begin at 20:00 but I sorted out my second problem 15 minutes prior, so its natural to say I arrived late.
In case you have never visited Mexico City, this bar is in the posh-jewish neighbourhood called Polanco.
Once we arrived (2 hours late approx.) we were received by a bouncer asking if we were on the waiting list, I swiftly mentioned I had a press invite but sadly my fixer was nowhere to be seen… I asked the hostess if she was there but no luck, and interestingly enough she didn’t seem to know who I was talking about, I wrote her a message, but no luck and blue checks…

The best way to prove their point was with 47 gold vinyl stars on the wall.

We decided the only way to  write a good story about a place to drink is actually trying a cocktail. The baker chose to drink a “La Morena”, which has Hennessy VS cognac, hibiscus and cardamom syrup, green lemon juice, basil and guava foam. This set me back about $9.88 dollars ($135.00 MXN) but the baker said it was lovely.
We sat by a column since the few (remember, exclusivity) seats available were taken by people who all seemed to know each other, and of course there was a European who was smashed but if you don’t have such scenes at your joint, then you’re not really selling drinks.
About 15 minutes later, the army of waiters waltzed around with canapé trays. The selection for the event were Patata Brava (spicy potato) served on a small spoon which I didn’t even touch and a Prosciutto Montadito (Spanish variety of finger food) but sadly, the puff pastry it was mounted on overpowered the delicate focaccia flavour, it was greasy and the baker had the misfortune of getting one that was burnt on the bottom.
Prosciutto Montadito- Burnt

Prosciutto Montadito- Burnt

Food aside, the venue is quite nice, it has two big doors that slide open so when you’re actually sipping you get a healthy air current, which is lovely since usually drinking holes get too stuffy to actually have fun. Since its by Mexican law that smoking is forbidden inside all buildings, this being the posh place it is, they have another area with 3 or 4 tables outside the main building, protected from the elements but smoker friendly.

To be honest, I found the vibe too pretentious and it was difficult for me to relax, although this is THE place to go if you want to impress the fuck out of a girl or a potencial client, although pricey, paying $3.66 for sparkling water isn’t my cup of tea at all.
We stayed about an hour and a half or so and then left. Something I will point out though, the Hostess is a trained professional, courteous and servicial. Regardless of my slip with the media coverage, she welcomed us to have a drink and chill, then procured our comfort and gave us access to the bar, which is also mostly why the place is so famous, bartenders make good drinks in a spectacular way (yes, its one of those places) ALTHOUGH the music was crap. Sorry. I guess in retrospect this would be one of the reasons why I decided to leave before midnight in the most Cinderella of fashions.
Congratulations Licorería Limantour, its awesome that the 47th best place to have a drink is here, but if this means the crowd is the crème of the crop then I guess I’m not missing out on anything.
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On our way out we came across Valet guys jump-starting a scooter using a car battery, upon further questioning regarding their activities, it became clear to us that excessive interaction with the patrons of the zone left them behaving as arrogantly and rudely as they do.