Author: R Crow

I'm a skydiver, scuba diver, and sports fan. My experiences give me an interesting outlook on issues that I enjoy sharing.

Amsterdam Re-Examined

Amsterdam was a great surprise to me. I had always thought of Venice as the city of canals; it had never entered my mind that I should find similar conditions in a Dutch town—James Weldon Johnson

Amsterdam is primarily known for legalized drugs and a lively red light district. It’s cannabis cafes and legal prostitution are front and center in the world’s conscientiousness. Much to its detriment, Amsterdam’s willingness to cater to vices obscures many wonderful aspects of this great city.

Earlier this year, my wife and I spent several days in Amsterdam. I was originally reluctant to visit this city. My impression was that Amsterdam would be crime riddled and dilapidated. I was wrong. Our visit shattered my preconceived notions and deeply impressed me. We both found Amsterdam to be a vibrant city steeped in culture, historical significance and natural beauty.

Amsterdam’s Dutch influence is engrained in its DNA. You can easily see it in the city’s skyline, which beautifully blends modern and vintage architectural designs. Its unique neighborhoods and districts form a picturesque European cityscape that leaves no doubt of its heritage.

Amsterdam’s historical significance is well represented by the high concentration of museums, memorials and monuments throughout the city—including the must see Anne Frank House. A Crow’s View highly recommends visiting this site. Anne’s story is extremely powerful and relevant today. Reservations are required.

There is no shortage of activity in Amsterdam—day or night. Cars, busses and trains constantly run throughout the city, while pedestrians pepper the sidewalks walking up and down the streets. Bicyclers crisscross busy intersections and weave in and out through the crowds as they quickly peddle off to parts unknown.

Bicycling is a popular mode of travel in Amsterdam. There are so many bikes on its streets that they nearly equal the number of pedestrians. In fact, commuting with a bicycle is so fashionable that even celebrities enjoy riding. Famed musician Ezra Koenig once quipped, “I always have fun bike riding in Amsterdam.”

It’s also common—if not iconic—to see bicycles parked along Amsterdam’s streets and bridges.

Photo by Polly Crow

Of all the things we discovered while in Amsterdam, what surprised us the most was its beautiful canals and waterways. People think of Venice, Italy as the “City of Canals.” That may be true, but Amsterdam can share that title too.

Amsterdam’s canals carve through the city in a Byzantine pattern connecting to neighborhoods and districts alike. Beautiful stone bridges are conspicuously placed throughout the intricate maze of channels spanning the water to conjoin two sides. Here the canals are as important to travel and commerce as roads are anywhere else.

A canal tour is highly advised. There are various types of tours offered. Some guided tours focus on historical sites, while others will explore places of recreational and romantic importance. Each tour will take you through scenic districts and rustic sites along the way to various points of interest. Be prepared and have your camera charged and ready to go.

A morning or midday canal tour is suggested over one at sunset or evening. Although night tours are nice, you will only see the city’s lights and skyline reflecting off the water. It does make for some fabulous photographic opportunities; however, you will miss some iconic sites around Amsterdam and lose some valuable insight into navigating the city due to the darkness.

A Crow’s View recommends buying the I amsterdam City Card. It is fairly expensive, but it will pay for itself over time. The card covers admission to many area museums (except the Anne Frank House), offers merchant discounts, and pays for local bus and tram fares. The City Card is also accepted at one or two companies that provide canal tours.

Amsterdam is a must see destination. There is an energy that pulses through the city that makes it an exhilarating place to visit. Whether you go to Amsterdam for the active night life, or to explore its culture and rich history, be prepared to be surprised by its often overlooked beauty.


Rock’s Biggest Introductions

“…when you do it correctly, a good introduction and a good outro makes the song feel like it’s coming out of something and then evolving into something”~ Bruce Springsteen

A song with a great introduction can leave a lasting impression. A great intro—using the music industry’s vernacular—will set the tone for a song and forever sear it in the listener’s mind.

Intros setup musical pieces across the spectrum; however, Rock and Roll has perfected it better than any other genre. In fact, it’s easy to say that Rock and Roll has taken introductions to another level.

Most songs start with a nice riff or a vocal interlude, but every now and then, a song will come along that is truly special. It separates itself from others by having a truly remarkable introduction that is so powerful it instantly connects with listeners.

What is a staple of a great intro? When the first few cords of the song are played, and a listener will immediately know the artist, the album, and the song instantly.

Below is A Crow’s View’s list of the five most recognizable intros. They’ve been compiled with two simple rules: no vocals of any kind, no lifted soundtracks.

5) A World of Fantasy by Triumph

This is a bit of an obscure song by a Canadian trio known as Triumph. The band had several hits in the 80s, but never really achieved super stardom. A World of Fantasy is a power ballad with an intro that is beautifully done. This masterpiece seamlessly drifts into vocals that launches into the song. Although it isn’t the band’s biggest hit, its intro is amazing and still gets played on radio stations around the country. Once you hear this song, you will always remember it.

4) Cat Scratch Fever by Ted Nugent

The Motor City Madman’s signature hit is unmistakable. Cat Scratch Fever starts strong and relentlessly pounds the listener with ear busting riffs and vocals delivered only the way Uncle Ted can. When this song comes over the airwaves, you can’t help but to get feverish and shake, rattle and roll to its beat.

3) Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones

This unmistakable intro by the “greatest rock-n-roll band of all time” is ubiquitous at sport arenas and stadiums throughout the United States, if not the world. Once the first few chords of this song penetrates people’s ears, an immediate adrenaline ensues. Crowds can’t help but to get pumped up and cheer their team to victory.

2) No One Like You by The Scorpions

Germany’s legendary rockers may have bigger hit songs, but none have the gravitas of this 1980s smash hit from the album Blackout. It’s blistering licks and rapid deceleration to its vocals pulls off this song’s charm. It’s a ballad that rocks you like no other.

1) Sweet Child o Mine by Guns & Roses

Guns & Roses tore up the world of Rock when they exploded on the scene. Their album “Appetite for Destruction,” is one of the best albums ever produced. It’s fitting that its mega hit single, Sweet Child o Mine, easily took the top spot on this list’s best and most recognizable intros. When this song starts, from the very first cord, there isn’t any question what band, album and song is playing.

Sweet Child o Mine stands tall among other great songs as the best intro in Rock!

Red Baron’s Legacy At 100

“The ordinary air fighter is an extraordinary man and the extraordinary air fighter stands as one in a million among his fellows.”— Theodore Roosevelt 

April 21, 2018 marked the 100 anniversary of Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen’s death. If you do not recognize the name, don’t feel bad because he was better known to the world as the Red Baron. Richthofen was World War I’s top Ace Pilot. He had 80 confirmed victories during The Great War, which far exceeded any pilot of that era, but his skills as an Ace Pilot are not what made him a legend. 

Many biographers and historians credit his willingness to leave battles he couldn’t win, having a strategic mind and excellent marksmanship—not piloting skills—for his success. With that said, there isn’t another fighter pilot throughout history who has become as well known or caught the public’s imagination as much as the Red Baron has. 

What most likely added to Richthofen’s mystic was the aristocratic manner in which he fought. He was known for refusing to fire on aviators who were on the ground or already beaten. He’d often land next to enemy pilots he shot down, share a cigarette, engage in conversation, and when behind his own lines, he’d escort them to local forces for processing. His narcissistic tendencies and flair for showmanship undoubtedly played a role in developing his persona; and when he decided to paint his Albatros D.III airplane—and later the Fokker Dr.I triplane he’d forever be linked with—red, it further helped to separate him from other pilots and would forever cement his legacy. 

The respect Richthofen had for his adversaries was legendary.  A trait that would be returned before the war’s end. In a letter to his mother—written shortly after being decorated with the Iron Cross, Richthofen wrote, “If I should come out of this war alive, I will have more luck than brains.” 

On April 21, 1918 his luck ran out. The Red Baron was shot down while flying a mission over Morlancourt Ridge, near the Somme River, in Northern France. Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen died shortly after making an emergency landing. It was initially believed that the Baron was shot down by an enemy aircraft, but forensic and ballistic evidence eventually proved that a ground-based machine gun round mortally wounded him. 

After his body was recovered, British and Australian soldiers did something quite unique during WWI. They gave Richthofen a full military funeral with all the honors—including a gun salute. They laid a wreath on his grave with the inscription, “To Our Gallant and Worthy Foe.” 

Despite his extremely short life, the mystic surrounding the Red Baron has grown during the past 100 years. The Red Baron, and by extension Richthofen, lives on in pop culture. His life has spawned numerous biographical books, novels and feature films. He is even on a frozen pizza that bares his nickname and likeness on its packaging.

The comic strip Peanuts and its TV specials introduced generations of kids to the legend of the Red Baron. Snoopy’s epic battles against his arch enemy from atop his doghouse even prompted a song titled “Snoopy vs The Red Baron,” by the Royale Guardsmen. The song was so popular that it was turned into a Christmas carol simply titled “Snoopy’s Christmas.”

There is no sign that the Red Baron’s popularity will wane anytime soon. One thing is certain. History hasn’t soiled his reputation or achievements. 

In life he earned the respect of his countrymen and adversaries alike, and in death he is remembered—not for the side he fought on—but for his gallantry. Although Richthofen was killed 11 days before his 26 birthday, his impact has been immense. The Red Baron is remembered long after many of his contemporaries have slipped into obscurity. He truly has gained a level of immortality.

Rest in peace Baron,

May 2, 1892 — April 21, 1918

Art Bell: 1945-2018

Death is no more than passing from one room into another— Helen Keller

img_7696Famed radio personality Art Bell passed away April 13, 2018 at the age of 72.  He was best known as a pioneering voice for all things paranormal. He hosted a nightly syndicated radio talk show program aptly named Coast To Coast AM. The program aired on more than 500 stations throughout the United States reaching millions of people; it was also simultaneously broadcasted over the Internet to millions of more listeners worldwide.

I have been a fan of Art Bell for years. Each night I looked forward to hearing his voice and listening to his guests. His radio shows entertained and educated me since I discovered his program in 1995. Art Bell may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. Art will always live on in re-runs and on a plethora of websites.

Bell’s success was a phenomenon of its own. Instead of embracing the norms of the day, Bell bucked the trend of political talk in the 1990s for a topic that he would make his own: paranormal. In the early years of his Coast To Coast AM program Bell was often asked by callers what inspired him to do a nightly program dedicated to conspiracy theories and paranormal activities. He often mentioned during his broadcasts that he “was crushingly bored talking about politics for 30 hours a week” and that is what prompted him to do something different.

ArtBellThe fledgling format launched Bell’s career into the stratosphere, no pun intended. It earned him massive ratings for an overnight radio program and gave him an endearing audience; more importantly to Bell, his show connected with people in ways contemporary radio programs of the time couldn’t do. It also gave a voice and outlet to millions of overlooked people.

Art Bell did cast a wide shadow across radio, if not the entire entertainment industry. His influence prompted hundreds of paranormal shows on both radio and television. He was even mentioned in National Treasure a major feature film starring Nickolas Cage, when a character named Riley Poole, portrayed by Justin Bartha, exclaimed during a conversation, “get Art Bell on the phone now!”

Bell had several “retirements” from Coast to Coast AM between 2000 and 2007.  He eventually turned over the reins of his juggernaut program to George Noory in 2003, although he did continue to work as a weekend host and do special programs on Halloween and New Year’s Eve. When personal tragedies and setbacks hit, Bell had a noticeable absence from the airwaves; however, these vicissitudes didn’t keep him down for long. Bell created and developed several projects including a short lived program for SiriusXM called Dark Matter and an internet radio show titled Midnight In The Desert in 2015. Bell officially retired Dec. 11, 2015 to spend more time with his family.


Bell spent his life exploring unearthly and bizarre events that defy explanation. Paranormal enthusiasts will certainly be talking about his passing on Friday the 13 for years to come. After all Friday the 13 is the most stigmatized day on the calendar, and its association with bad luck and the paranormal is undeniable. Although there is never a good time for a man like Art Bell to pass away, that freakish coincidence is somewhat comforting. It’s like he is giving fodder to the industry he helped build into a mainstream franchise.

It goes without saying that Art Bell will be missed by legions of fans, friends and colleagues, but his beloved family will be devastated forever. I wish to extend my condolences and deepest sympathies to his wife and children.

Thank you for sharing him with us over the years.

Art Bell Profile Coast to Coast

Art Bell Wikipedia

Bentleyville Lights Up The Holidays

I love Christmas, not just because of the presents but because of all the decorations and lights and the warmth of the season—Ashley Tisdale

Every Christmas there are tons of holiday themed events from light festivals to Christmas Tree lightings. But if you are looking for something that’s a cut above, then look no further than Bentleyville.

img_7216Bentleyville isn’t a place, but an event. It started as a home owner’s annual Christmas decoration display that grew into a phenomenon that is now known as “Bentleyville ‘Tour of Lights’.”

What makes Bentleyville different? For starters, it is strictly native to Minnesota; it is massive; it’s extremely family friendly—even more so than other seasonal Holiday events, and it is completely free.

There is a parking fee of five dollars per car load, or a person can take a train to the event for a slightly higher cost, but the entrance and snacks once inside Bentleyville are 100% free.

The annual festival that has came to be known as Bentleyville has grown exponentially over the years. It’s so large that it is now held in Duluth’s 10-acre Bayfront Festival Park during the frigid months of November and December.

As the sun goes down and a chill starts to move across the icy shores of Lake Superior, Bentleyville comes to life. It runs nightly from Thanksgiving to December 26, with the gates opening at 5 pm.

Visitors to Bentleyville are treated to a spectacular array of brightly lit Yuletide displays, which cover the entire park. Fabulously designed illuminated walk-through canopies crisscross through the park and connect to other sections.

There are several big attractions for kids. Santa Claus is there every night till Christmas Eve. Rudolph is available for pictures, and Mrs. Clause is on hand to tell stories and hand out candy canes.

The free snack stations also draw crowds. The Cookie House with its cookies, coffee andimg_7334 hot coco is a must stop. The Marshmallow Hut and fire pits for roasting marshmallows attracts a lot of people, so does the popular Popcorn Shack. Again…all of these are no charge.

In the center of Bentleyville stands a remarkable animated Christmas Tree. It is a 128′ high manufactured marvel that towers above the festival. The tree has more than 150 thousand LED lights. Its frame is made from 17 tons of iron and 24 yards of concrete. The star that crowns the tree is actually an eight foot ball of steel with 28, three foot long, spikes pointing out of it.

When fully lit the Bentleyville Tree has a cutting presence. It pierces the darkness and welcomes visitors from miles away. It is easily seen from the interstate going into Duluth.

The “Tour of Lights” is a perfect harbinger for the Holiday season. The cold weather enhances the experience and the light displays warm the spirit. Christmas will seem more magical and exciting for adults and children alike after a night in Bentleyville.


Belphegor’s Prime: A Perfect Number For Halloween

Who would have imagined that something as straightforward as the natural numbers (1, 2, 3, 4,…) could give birth to anything so baffling as the prime numbers (2, 3 ,5, 7, 11, …)?~Ian Stewart

Halloween is just days away. And as people search for ways to celebrate the holiday, A Crow’s View has a unique way to decorate your home, office or personal space. Try incorporating Belphegor’s Prime into your holiday decor.

Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 12.59.20 PMIn demonology Belphegor is one of seven prices of Hell. He is the chief demon of slothfulness, one of Christianity’s seven deadly sins. His primary purpose is to seduce people into laziness by means of achieving great wealth through innovative inventions. In modern society Belphegor is sometimes referred to as the devil of financial bubbles.

Belphegor’s Prime is an enigmatic palindromic prime. It’s an extremely long and complex number comprised of 31 digits, which makes it a nonillion. Millions, billions and trillions pale in comparison to Belphegor’s Prime. And because it is a palindrome, it’s the same number whether read left to right or right to left.

Several aspects to Belphegor’s Prime gives it a mystical quality. Its association with theScreen Shot 2017-10-26 at 1.19.54 PM netherworldly demon, being a palindrome, and having its own symbol––which is similar to pi––adds to its inscrutable charm; however, the actual number itself is the most fascinating aspect of the Prime.

The number that makes up Belphegor’s Prime starts with a one (1) flanked by 13 zeros, followed by three sixes, with another set of 13 zeros; then finishes with a one (1) at the end.f10001

A further breakdown of Belphegor’s Prime is even more interesting than its underworld connection or its prime and palindromic properties. The number is actually a string of unlucky chattel. The 31 digits that comprise Belphegor’s Prime are an inverted 13, and both sets of zeros on each side of the sixes run 13 digits long, which makes up an obvious taboo. The three sixes (666) at the heart of the Prime is commonly known as the Number of the Beast; a number widely considered satanic. Then there are the ones (1) that bookend the Prime. Together they make up eleven or “snake eyes,” if not separated by the zeros and sixes, are also considered ominous.

The nefarious nature of Belphegor’s Prime makes it a great fit for Halloween, and its perception as an evil or cursed number will enhance your holiday decorations.

A Crow’s View suggests posting Belphegor’s Prime on a mailbox, over the front door, or––for a talented individual––carve it into a Jack-0-Lantern. Using Belphegor’s Prime will make an interesting topic for discussion, while blending mathematics with an ancient superstition to celebrate Halloween.

That alone makes it uniquely perfect!



(Rock) Bands That Define A Decade

Music is… A higher revelation than all Wisdom and Philosophy —Ludwig von Beethoven

A question I’ve often pondered is whether a single rock band could define a decade or era they came from. It’s no question that music is powerful. Lyrics from a song or a few cords being played on an instrument can invoke a broad range of emotions or trigger fond memories.

Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 6.31.03 PMThe modern era of Rock Music began in the 1950s. Many of the artists of that era came up through gospel choirs to gain fame in an evolving music industry. Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis are perfect examples of this. They both signed with Sun Records and went on future to stardom.

In the 1960s, however, the cultural phenomenon known as the “British Invasion” ushered in a new breed of bands, such as the Beatles, Kinks and the Animals. Their brand of music sparked the rise of the counter culture movement and forever changed the trajectory of rock and roll.

The ensuing decades 70s, 80s, and 90s would bring major changes to pop music too. The 70s brought folk singers like Patti Smith and Bob Dylan into the public consciousness, while the 80s catapulted  “glam rockers” or “hair bands” like Poison and Mötley Crüe to the top of the charts. Then the 90s changed it all when the limelight gave way to alternative rock groups like Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

But how can a single band or artist be chosen as one that defined a decade?

That’s a question I’ve often asked friends, coworkers and classmates. I typically phrased it by asking, “which rock bands best define a decade they’re from?”

I’ve always posed the question with few simple rules:

  • Modern rock music is defined as being from 1950s to the end of the 90s
  • Bands from the early 2000s are exempt from the discussion, too new to determine
  • Artist(s) must still be alive, except for the 1950s.
  • A 20 year separation from a group’s or individual’s breakout album or hit
  • Artist(s) must be able to sellout stadiums (no Vegas or fair circuit performers)
  • Reunion tours don’t count

With those five basic rules, I went about trying to answer my own question; knowing full well that certain groups and individuals would unfairly be left out.

After much thought and consideration, I’ve reached a conclusion on which artists best define the decade they’re from:

  1. Johnny Cash
  2. Rolling Stones
  3. Bruce Springsteen
  4. Bon Jovi
  5. Red Hot Chili Peppers

Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 9.30.42 PMI chose Johnny Cash for the 1950s because of his crossover appeal with fans of folk, rock and country music. Cash stayed relevant long after many of his contemporaries’ died or their star power began to fade. His success outlasted all of his Sun Records alumni, including Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. 

Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 9.33.01 PMThe 1960s pick was an extremely easy choice. Although the Beatles may have kicked off the “British Invasion,” they eventually disbanded and moved on to other projects. However the Rolling Stones took up the mantle, they have never officially broke up and they have never looked back. The Rolling Stones are referred to as “the greatest rock and roll band of all time.” It’s a well deserved moniker for the septuagenarian rockers that burst onto the scene more than 50 years ago.  

Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 9.36.21 PMMy pick for the 1970s was a little tougher to make. It came down to Aerosmith and my eventual pick. Springsteen won out because he aligned more closely with the hit folk singers/songwriters of the 70s; where Aerosmith had success, then broke up, and eventually regrouped to achieve even greater success in the 80s and 90s.

Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 9.38.45 PMPicking Jon Bon Jovi was a no-brainer. Anyone listing to Bon Jovi in the 80s couldn’t have imagined that of all the “hair bands” of the time; he’d be the one still rockin’ strong in the late 2000s. His continued success is the biggest surprise of the “glam bands.”


Finally, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, even though they’ve formed long before the Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 9.41.01 PM1990s, they achieved megastar status during the rise of the grunge craze. Unlike Nirvana and other 90s bands that popularized alternative music, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ appeal hasn’t diminish. Suicides, overdoses or creative differences have not derailed the band’s success or stopped them from playing their fiery brand of alternative rock well into the 21 century.

Of course there is room for disagreement. My picks are simply a suggestion. If you have a list of your own, please comment. I look forward to hearing people’s opinion.