By Fred Mawer
Awash with culture: The famed canal of Prinsengracht
It's low season in Amsterdam right now, and that means affordable flights and good deals in hotels. And even though it can still be a bit damp and chilly, the city's cafes offer the perfect refuge. Here's the Crafty Traveller's guide to the best-value hotels, and tips on how to save time and money getting around and sightseeing.
There's also a selection of great places to eat and drink - where you may well be the only tourist ...
Where to stayRates given here are the cheapest available in March for a double room, including the five per cent city tax. Use the hotels' websites to find the best deals.
Indulgent: Banks Mansion (00 31 20 420 0055, www.banksmansion.nl). An impressive amount of extras are included in the standard rates of this smart conversion of an early 20th Century bank, on one of the city's grandest canals. As well as breakfast, the rate includes unlimited access to the mini-bar and drinks decanters in your room, daytime and evening snacks and drinks at any time from the bar in the lobby. From £166.
Mid-range: Estherea (00 31 20 624 5146, www.estherea.nl). A classic, canal-side hotel, run by the same family since the Forties, it has characterful bedrooms and plush, relaxing lounges. Rooms from as little as £92 on Sundays and £101 on weekdays. The excellent breakfast costs £14 per person extra.
Budget: Hotel V Frederiksplein (00 31 20 662 3233, www.hotelv.nl). Trendy but friendly hotel just off the Canal Ring. The funky open-plan lounge/ breakfast/ bar area (note the cowhide walls) used to be a stationery shop, while the compact bedrooms look slick. Skip the cheapest as they're in the basement and rather dark; others cost from £83, including breakfast.
Masters up close: A visitor inspects a self-portrait of Van Gogh
Sight-seeingBest queue-avoiding tactic: Buy tickets in advance for the most popular museums. Even in the winter months, there can be hour-long waits to enter the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House. But if you buy tickets on the museums' websites (www.vangoghmuseum.nl, www.rijksmuseum.nl, www.annefrank.org), you get to go straight in. With the Anne Frank House, you have to specify the date and time you're going to visit, but with the others you don't. With all three museums, you need to be able to print off your 'e-ticket'. Note that better hotels will help you sort out advance tickets.
Best for evening art: The Van Gogh Museum. It stays open until 10pm on Fridays, and on these evenings there's always some additional entertainment in the main hall such as live music or a video installation, and the atmosphere is like being at a private viewing.
Best exhibition: The Hermitage Amsterdam. From March 6, this major new space for showcasing treasures from St Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum is displaying a world-class collection of early modern art.
Best (and most improbably located) free attraction: The Rijksmuseum's mini-exhibitions - in a specially constructed, raised pod at Schiphol airport. The paintings currently on show are Golden Age renditions of Italian landscapes. It's open daily, 7am-8pm.
Memorial: Statue of Anne Frank stands in the city
Where to eatBest lunch: De Bakkerswinkel (www.debakkerswinkel.nl), at Warmoesstraat 69. This long, thin bakery-cum-cafe is a breath of health on a rather seedy street just off the red-light district, serving fantastic quiches and fruit shakes.
Best tea: De Taart van m'n Tante (www.detaart.com), at Ferdinand Bolstraat 10. 'The Cake of my Aunt' tearoom is kitsch in the extreme and great fun, with overblown cake displays everywhere, plus mismatched furniture and crockery.
Best affordable dinner: Cafe Loetje (www.cafeloetje.nl), at Johannes Vermeerstraat 52. Under ten minutes' walk from Museumplein but devoid of tourists, this pubby restaurant is invariably packed, due to its fantastic, thick steaks, which cost £19 with chips and a salad. No reservations are taken, so if you don't want a wait, get there early.
NightlifeAmstersdam has all sorts of different places to drink, including brown cafes (something like a very traditional English pub), grand cafes (big, often dramatically designed spaces, with a laid-back atmosphere) and trendy bars.
Best brown cafe: 't Smalle, at Egelantiersgracht 12 in the Jordaan - snug, with a gleaming, low-slung bar, candles on tables and, in the warmer months, a dreamy canal-side terrace.
Best grand cafe: 1e Klas, hidden away on Platform 2B of Centraal Station (no ticket required to reach it). Lavishly decorated with linen-fold panelling and painted ceilings, the cafe was once the station's first-class waiting rooms.
Most unusual bar: MiNiBAR at Prinsengracht 478. You get a key to your own minibar, help yourself to what you want, and mix your own drinks.
Best place for discounted tickets: The Last Minute Ticket Shop on the Leidseplein which, from noon to 7.30pm daily, sells day-of-performance tickets at half price. Performances appropriate for non-Dutch speakers are marked LNP - language no problem.
Best avoidedThe red-light district at night time. If you're curious, go earlier in the day when the atmosphere is less intimidating. I also wouldn't bother with the much-vaunted but soulless flea market on Waterlooplein. The Saturday farmers' market on the Noordermarkt is much more friendly and scenic, and great for picking up Dutch cheeses. And Winkel, the cafe on the corner of the Noordermarkt, serves the best apple pie in town.
Travel factsEasyJet (www.easyjet.com) has the widest choice of low-cost flights to Amsterdam, from eight UK airports. The Amsterdam Tourist Board's website, www.iamsterdam.com, is excellent. For yet more information and advice on Amsterdam, visit www.simonseeks.com.
Archive for 2/1/10 - 3/1/10
By Fred Mawer
By Martin Delgado
Tsunami strikes: Large waves pound concrete breakwaters at a port in Ichinomiya city, Chiba province
Tsunami waves of up to 5 ft hit far-flung Pacific regions from the Russian far east and Japan to New Zealand's remote Chatham Islands today after a massive earthquake struck Chile, killing more than 300 people.
Hundreds of thousands of residents in Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines and Russia's Kamchatka were told to evacuate after Saturday's Chile quake, one of the world's most powerful in a century, but there were no immediate reports of damage.
In Japan, a 5ft tsunami hit the fishing port of Otsuchi on the north Pacific coast, Kyodo news agency said.
More than 150,000 households in Japanese coastal areas were urged to evacuate due to tsunami warnings after a powerful 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck the coast of Chile
Tsunami alert: Streets flooded with seawater in Kesennuma, northern Japan
Smaller waves hit a swathe of the country from the small island of Minamitori 1,200 miles south of Tokyo to Hokkaido island in the north, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
Japanese officials have ordered or advised some 540,000 households along the country's Pacific coast to evacuate and said later waves could be much bigger.
'The full-fledged tsunami waves are starting to arrive,' University of Tokyo professor Yoshinobu Tsuji told NHK public TV.
'This is not the last one,' he said.
It was Japan's first major tsunami warning in 17 years and only the fourth since 1952, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
'Carelessness could be the biggest enemy. In the past, even if the waves were not so big, there has been great damage with 2-metre high tsunami,' Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told reporters.
Train services were halted in many areas along the Pacific coast and some highways were closed.
This combo photo shows the different levels of water covering a harbour wharf in the Japanese town of Minami-sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture
Smoke from a burning building fills the sky in the outskirts of Santiago after a huge 8.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Chile
Motorists pass under a footbridge that has collapsed over the Panamerican Highway after a major earthquake in Curico
Police work during the rescue operations at a damaged building in Concepcion
Police cars and fire trucks patrolled coastal roads and fishing boats, seeking to avoid any tsunami, headed out to sea under gray skies, with snow flurries in some areas.
The area that could be hit hardest, where around 140 people died in a previous tsunami 50 years ago, has many small harbours that could concentrate the force of a tsunami.
'The waves could climb up the land, so for real safety you should evacuate to a place several times higher than the predicted height of the waves,' JMA official Yasuo Sekita told a news conference.
The agency said the first wave might not be the biggest and that the warning could remain in effect for a long time.
TV footage showed elderly women with cloth-wrapped bundles on their backs gathering at evacuation centres as cars pulled up and other women unloaded shopping bags filled with belongings.
The tsunami warning covered the eastern seaboard of Japan, although for Tokyo Bay and many other areas the warnings were for waves of only around one metre (3 ft).
The area is no stranger to tsunamis.
A huge magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck Chile early on Saturday, knocking down homes and hospitals
Seawater makes its way towards the city center at a port in Kesennuma, northern Japan
In 1896, a magnitude 8.5 earthquake and tsunami left more than 22,000 dead in northeastern Japan. Another of magnitude 8.1 hit the same region in 1933, killing 3,064.
In May 1960, a tsunami struck the coasts of Hokkaido and other northern Pacific coastal areas after an earthquake in Chile, killing around 140 people.
Since then, many harbours have had sea gates installed to try to protect from tsunami and storms.
'Coastal barriers have been built since the 1960 tsunami so we can't simply compare the situation with that time but it is still crucial that people evacuate,' said Masaaki Kubo of the Kamaishi Eastern Fishery Union in Iwate, in northern Honshu.
The first waves to hit New Zealand were reported at the remote Chatham Islands, around 800 kilometres (500 miles) east of New Zealand, with surges of up to 1.5 metres measured, the Civil Defence Ministry said.
How the tsunami swept across the Pacific Ocean
A policeman looks at cars washed up by a wave generated by an earthquake in Talcahuano Port
Fishing boats washed up by a wave generated by an earthquake are seen in Talcahuano Port, a city just outside Concepcion
A resident on one of the smaller islands in the group, Pitt, said the surges were continuing and getting bigger.
'The bay empties right out. It takes about a minute and a half and then it surges back in, in about the same amount of time,' Bernadette Malinson told Radio New Zealand. 'The surges have been getting bigger -- at least 2 metres at present.'
Authorities in Russia's far eastern Kamchatka region lifted a tsunami alert after a series of small waves appeared to cause no damage, a spokeswoman for the Emergencies Ministry said.
A tsunami hit beaches in eastern Australian but there were not initial reports of damage.
Australia issued a tsunami alert for most of its east coast and eastern parts of the island state of Tasmania, but authorities said there were no concerns about major innundation.
Hawaii dodged serious damage on Saturday when a tsunami merely lapped ashore, although residents were warned to stay away from coastal areas because the ocean could remain unsettled for several more hours.
Analysis: Dangers of Ring of FireBy Erin Kelly Beutel
Geology Professor, Charleston College
In its magnitude, yesterday’s earthquake was massive, one of the largest since the 9.1 quake that caused the tsunami in Sumatra in 2004. It was classified as ‘great’, with the potential to cause ‘tremendous damage’ by the U.S. Geological Survey and triggered tsunami warnings as far away as Hawaii.
But it was not a significant surprise to scientists because Chile is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a 24,800-mile stretch of nearly continuous oceanic trenches and volcanoes where, historically, about 80 per cent of the world’s largest earthquakes have occurred.
In 1960 Chile was hit by a 9.9-magnitude quake, the biggest since records have been kept. It killed 1,655 people and created a destructive tsunami which battered Easter Island and travelled to Japan and Hawaii, where there were hundreds of other casualties.
Tsunami alert: This image obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a model of the forecast of the tsunami triggered by the earthquake in Chile
The epicentre of the latest earthquake was in a seismic gap 75 miles off the coast where two plates of the Earth’s crust – the South American and Nazca plates – press against each other under the ocean in the ‘subduction zone’.
The Nazca plate has been moving east at three inches per year and sliding under the South American plate. In places the two plates adhered to each other and stress gradually built up until one area where they were stuck cracked, which is what triggered the latest earthquake.
The quake that devastated Port-au-Prince was caused by a different type of plate boundary. Haiti sits on a fault line between two huge tectonic plates, like Chile, but instead of diving under each other, the great slabs of crust slide past one another. Strain built up along faults at the plate boundaries until its release in the earthquake.
There is a saying: ‘Earthquakes don’t kill people. Buildings collapse because of earthquakes and that kills people.’ That was the case in Haiti. That quake measured seven and there were huge casualties because most of their buildings were not designed to withstand shock.
Residents sleep in the streets for fear of aftershocks following a major earthquake in Santiago
Jake Fender and Jason Heun sit atop their van on Round Top Drive on February 27, 2010 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Residents stocked up on food and emergency supplies in preparation for a potentially damaging tsunami
Any large earthquake also generates aftershocks and that is one concern in Chile – but the greater concern is that it occurred under the ocean and caused a tsunami travelling away from the epicentre which could reach as many as 53 countries that border on the Pacific.
Tsunami waves in the deep ocean travel at about the same speed as a jet and experts estimated this one was travelling at hundreds of miles per hour.
Scientists believe it is total coincidence that there have been several major earthquakes in the past few weeks. But there is a debate about whether an earthquake on the kind of scale we have seen in Chile may eventually – way down the years – influence other fault lines and perhaps trigger an earthquake somewhat earlier than would have been expected or cause an active volcano to go dormant or a dormant volcano to start up.
What we know is that large earthquakes send out waves not detectable by people but picked up thousands of miles away on seismometers. If there is any link between one earthquake and another, it is likely to be very minor. But the lesson is that people in earthquake zones always need to be educated and prepared.
Survivor: A fossil has been found that indicates polar bears evolved from brown bears during an ice age
A fossil find suggests that polar bears may only have come into existence during an ice age 150,000 years ago as part of the brown bears' battle for survival against climate change.
Scientists discovered the jawbone of an animal that died up to 130,000 years ago at Poolepynten on the Arctic island of Svalbard. It is oldest polar bear fossil ever found and has given an intriguing insight into the origins of the planet's largest predator.
Professors Olafur Ingolfsson, of the University of Iceland, and Oystein Wiig, of the University of Oslo, who made the discovery believe it reveals polar bears may have survived at least one long period of global warming.
The research paper, as reported in The Sunday Times newspaper, concluded: 'The Poolepynten subfossil mandible, which we argue is from a fully grown male, is probably the oldest polar bear find discovered so far. Its true age is interpreted to be 110,000-130,000 years old.'
Academics have long been divided over the evolution of the the great animal, with some believing they first appeared 50,000 years ago, and others suggesting it was closer to one million years ago.
Anatomical and DNA evidence from the fossil suggests polar bears might have emerged when the brown bear was being forced to adapt to cold and ice an ice age in the northern hemisphere that lasted from 190,000 to 130,000 years ago.
Furthermore, in a paper published by a research group connected to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. said: 'Brown bears found on the Alaskan islands of Admiralty, Baranof and Chichagof may be descendants of ancient ursids [bears] that diverged from other lineages of brown bears and subsequently founded the polar bear lineage
Evolution: Brown bears that became trapped on islands during an ice age some 150,000 years ago were forced to adapt
It means polar bears have already survived a global warming that affected the northern hemisphere from 130,000 to 115,000 years ago, when the Greenland ice sheet and the Arctic ice cap were smaller than now.
But Professor Chris Stringer, of the Natural History Museum in London, said: 'Living through a warm period back then does not mean polar bears are resilient to climate change now.'
Romps: Former glamour model Maddy Ford has told of her passionate three-month fling with Peter Andre
A blonde model has revealed how she ended Peter Andre's vow of celbacy after his divorce from Katie Price.
30-year-old Maddy Ford has told how the singer, who turned 37 yesterday, wooed her just eight days after his divorce before embarking on a three-month fling with her.
The former glamour model, who now works as a stylist, told The News Of The World about their passionate romps which took place at his Brighton home - and even in a shower during a video shoot.
She said the two met at a party when his friend champion windsurfer Nick Baker and wife Michelle Clack - a former model and friend of Maddy - invited him to a birthday party for one of their children on October 31 last year.
Speaking to the newspaper last night Andre confessed: 'Yes it's true. I was intimate with Maddy on a handful of occasions.
'We both went into it with our eyes open, and let's just say I certainly know how to pick 'em!'
Maddy told the newspaper: 'Michelle told me Peter was looking for someone who was 'the complete opposite" of his ex-wife Katie - and yet he seemed more than interested in me with my fake boobs and false eyelashes!
'He had already seen my picture on Facebook, thought I was 'gorgeous' and wanted to meet me. I thought he would be a useful work contact.'
But it seemed Peter had other ideas when he spotted Maddy at the party in The Harbour Club in Shoreham, Sussex.
'I was quickly introduced to him,' she said. 'But about an hour later I was at the bar when I sensed someone behind me.
'It was Peter. He whispered into my neck, 'I think you are gorgeous'. It was a clumsy chat-up line but it still sent shudders down my spine. He pulled me over to talk to him in a quiet corner.
'He quizzed me about my love life, my current status and previous partners. It felt like an interview.
Glamour: Maddy Ford, second from left, who now works as a stylist, is pictured in 2004 during her modelling days with, left to right, Gemma Jones Jakki Degg and Kayleigh Pearson
'Then he left with his children Junior and Princess. Michelle called me later to say Peter definitely wanted to see me again.'
Just a week later they arranged to have dinner at Nick and Michelle's home in Littlehampton, Sussex.
Maddy revealed: 'I thought Peter was gorgeous and he clearly thought the same about me. We shared our first kiss in the hallway when Pete had to go at midnight and we swapped numbers. Then we started exchanging sexy texts and pictures. There was no holding back.'
Following the dinner date they met again at Nick and Michelle's and had sex for the first time, staying over in the couple's spare bedroom.
Maddy told The News Of The World: 'I felt really nervous about sleeping with him because Katie Price comes across as such a sexual person. I thought she was probably an animal in bed.
'But Pete told me, "It's all an act. She's not like that at all". He told me I had the best body he had ever seen and that my breasts and bum were perfect. He made me feel good.
'Pete blew me away in bed. Every second I was with him, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
'His body was incredible and he was so affectionate. I know Jordan once claimed his manhood was the size of an acorn but that is categorically not true. Peter was perfect in every way.
'But he always liked to be the submissive one. I always wanted him to take charge but he preferred it when I did. He liked me to be rough with him.'
Divorce: Peter Andre made a vow to stay celibate following his split from ex-wife Katie Price - but he wooed Maddy Ford just eight days after their divorce
And the model says she soon felt as though the relationship may get serious, as they spent more time together - even exchanging expensive gifts at Christmas.
'It wasn't all about sex,' she insisted.'Sometimes, Pete would bring Junior and Princess over to Nick and Michelle's for Sunday lunch, and those were fun times too.
Or we'd all go out for a meal with the kids.'
She says Andre, whose ex-wife Katie Price is now married to cagefighter Alex Reid, invited her to go to Cyprus with him in April.
'But then, there were other times when he would sway the other way and tell me he didn't think he was really ready for another relationship. Still he was always ready to have sex with me when it suited him.'
And Peter couldn't always keep his hands off Maddy when they were working together.
On Janary 27, the pair found themselves working together again on a Kia car promotion for a glossy magazine.
Maddy explained to the newspaper: 'The shoot was at a TV studios in Chalk Farm, London. I was dressed in a cropped Alexander McQueen top that showed my midriff and a cropped leather jacket.
'When Pete arrived, he couldn't take his eyes off me and told me, "You look the sexiest I have ever seen you look". He kept looking at me, biting his lip and grabbing my bottom. It was unusual for him because we never normally publicly showed that we were gagging for each other.
'Then all of a sudden he announced that he was going to have a shower.
New man: Peter former wife Katie Price has since married cagefighter Alex Reid - the two are said to be planning to have a child together
'There was a shower room a few corridors down surrounded by offices full of people and editing suites.
'He'd only been gone a few minutes when his brother Mike handed me a towel and told me to take it to Peter. I knocked on the door and as the door opened, Pete pulled me inside. He was totally naked and dripping wet.
'I was trying to act professional. I had never s*****d someone on the job before.
'But we ended up having sexy, steamy passionate sex right there, up against the wall, in the shower room. It was all over very quickly.'
And sadly for Maddy, so was the whole relationship as Peter worried they were getting too serious.
Maddy says: 'I did try to stop myself falling so hard for him. I knew I was on a massive rollercoaster ride but I just didn't want to get off. I wondered if I was being foolish falling in love with him. But who wouldn't have fallen in love with him?"
When The News Of The World got in touch with Peter he told them: 'I always said that I would only talk about a new relationship if it was a serious one and as far as I'm concerned this was not serious.
'I have tried in my heart to do everything in the right way. I waited until I was divorced before I considered moving on. I have never been intimate with anyone in front of my children, apart from their mother to this day.
'I remained faithful to my ex-wife throughout our marriage until I was divorced. As far as I am concerned I am a single guy without a girlfriend.'
By Elizabeth Sanderson
Slim: Kate shows off her new figure
When Kate Garraway lost 2st in just four months she proudly put it down to cooking healthy dishes and following a strict exercise regime.
But she forgot to mention that her dramatic weight loss was actually achieved without having to prepare the meals herself.
Instead she received free hampers of specially prepared low-calorie ready-made meals.
The 42-year-old GMTV presenter decided to lose weight after giving birth to her second child last October.
Last week she told New! magazine how she employed the services of a personal trainer, cut out chocolate and biscuits and followed a low-carb eating plan.
According to the seven-day menu planner in the article, dinner could be chilli con carne or chicken breast stuffed with spinach and feta cheese.
In the article she was asked: ‘Was it a struggle to start cooking healthy meals for yourself?’ She replied: ‘Not really, because I got really into blending.’
But rather than cooking the meals from scratch herself, the TV star has had a free hamper of pre-prepared lunches and dinners delivered twice a week to her North London home for the past four months.
The first hamper delivery was on October 23 and she has since received another 32 at a cost of £48 each – which would have cost her a total of £1,584 if she had had to pay.
Miss Garraway is a columnist for the magazine, which devised the plan for her. The article suggested hers was a diet ‘which can work wonders for you too’.
But few women could afford the home delivery service providing the precisely balanced meals Miss Garraway enjoyed.
She described a typical day’s menu, saying: ‘It could be anything from vegetable curry with brown rice to chilli made using turkey mince which is low-fat and high in protein.’
But she forgot to add that all she had to do, after a hard day’s work, was take the cellophane off the forementioned meals and pop them in the microwave.
The presenter is married to the former Labour spin doctor, Derek Draper, and has two children, Darcey, three-and-a-half, and William, six months.
Bodychef, the company which provided the free hampers, had hoped that it would result in some publicity.
Last night Jayne Ritchie, who set up the business eight years ago, said: ‘I was shocked to open the magazine and see my seven-day menu but not see any reference to me at all. I was disappointed because I felt I’d made a real effort to help her. With Bodychef, all the portions are carefully controlled and everything is freshly cooked. It just makes it so much easier.
Ready meals: Jayne Ritchie thought the diet article on Kate would have acknowledged her firm
‘I’ve never met Kate Garraway but I always thought she was a real person and I liked her as a presenter. Now I have to say I’m not overly impressed.’
TV news presenters are not allowed to endorse products and in an email to Ms Ritchie on February 15, Miss Garraway wrote: ‘Thanks for all the food hampers, they are brilliant.
‘Even though I love the regime I do feel bad you are continuing to send me them, especially as gov [government] rules for news presenters means I can’t publically say I am using them, as that would be classed as an endorsement. Would it be best if we made this hamper my last?’
By then Miss Garraway was already 2st lighter.
Last night she was rehearsing for BBC1’s Let’s Dance for Sport Relief and was unavailable for comment.
However, a friend said: ‘She was lucky to have some food delivered to her but she didn’t mention it because she knew she couldn’t.’
Yet there would have been no harm in pointing out that she used a home delivery service, especially as it appears to have been a key part of her regime.
And the presenter has previously mentioned other products. In a feature on her wardrobe earlier this month she name-checked the designers Dolce & Gabbana, Christian Louboutin and Ted Baker.
A spokesperson for the magazine last night insisted that Bodychef knew they would not be mentioned in the article.
But Ms Ritchie said: ‘She can’t endorse products. I understand that. I didn’t expect to end up on the GMTV sofa or for her to become the face of Bodychef or anything.
‘But I had thought there would be some mention, if not for the company, then me by name. She mentioned her personal trainer in the article. Kate knows what she’s been doing to get the body she wanted.’
Provocative: Bands like Girls Aloud play on their raunchy image on stage and in videos
The woman is naked - or looks like she is. Only a flesh-coloured leotard covers her body. Her long blonde hair tumbles down her back. She's in a cage, sliding her fingers provocatively in and out of her mouth.
A scene from a cliched pornographic film? Sadly not. The woman in question is Shakira, a pop superstar and the fourth richest singer in the world.
The images can be seen in the video for her single, She Wolf, which will be watched obsessively, again and again, by thousands of young men and women, many of whom will form the opinion that writhing in a cage is precisely the way 'sexy' women should behave.
Meanwhile, in the video for her single, Rude Boy, Rihanna, an American pop star most famous for having been beaten up by her boyfriend, is dressed in leather bondage gear. She writhes on the floor. She sits astride a zebra.
Even the wholesome-in-real-life, meek and mild Leona Lewis is transformed in her music videos into passive victim, usually portrayed sliding around on the floor (can the male directors of these short films really not come up with anything else?).
Common themes? Girls in cages (in a mainstream Girls Aloud video, Lindsay Lohan is trapped in a bird cage). Girls dressed as animals. Girls caressing themselves. Girls lying prone, and who look as though they have been or are about to be raped.
Women filmed in dark, wet alleyways, inevitably dressed as prostitutes (the hugely famous female artists who have been portrayed in this scenario are far too numerous to mention).
I have just spent 24 hours watching MTV's various, numerous channels. My eyes hurt. My brain has lapsed into a confused coma. I felt nauseated one moment, bored out of my skull the next.
Yesterday, psychologist Linda Papadopoulos delivered a 100-page report to the Home Office into violence against women, and called for sexual or provocative pop videos to be banned before the watershed of 9pm.
'Children and young people today are not only exposed to increasing amounts of hypersexualised images,' she wrote in the report. 'They are also sold the idea that they have to look "sexy" and "hot".'
This report follows on the heels of recent promises by both Labour and Conservative MPs to do more to combat the early sexualisation of young girls: the sale of padded bras for children, sparkly pink T-shirts daubed with the slogan 'When I grow up I want to be a WAG', and the like.
Suitable role models? A scantily clad Shakira, left, and Beyonce on stage
On Woman's Hour a week ago, David Cameron spoke about how he wanted to stop his very young daughter listening to Lily Allen's music because of the provocative lyrics, but that he had failed miserably.
This is because parents are powerless to police all these images and their dangerous messages. MTV - which pumps this stuff out all day long - and You Tube are just too powerful.
As well as a moratorium on sexually explicit videos on television, stricter measures need to be introduced as to what can be viewed by children on the internet, because the safeguards are laughable.
Pop stars themselves are never going to change, fearing they will seem out-of-touch, past it, or simply tame in a cultural climate which has seen soft porn merging with mainstream music videos.
When I have challenged female pop stars about why they allow themselves to be portrayed in this way, particularly when they know how young their fans are, they always spout the same nonsense.
When I asked Shakira, the Latin American superstar, how she can square being sexy, wearing skimpy clothes, with her charitable work championing children in the developing world, she replied indignantly: 'Of course I can square it! I think my image is one of being powerful, in control.'
Why, then, appear as a tawdry pinup on the cover of FHM magazine?
Sex sells: Even wholesome-in-real-life Leona Lewis is sexualised and painted as a passive victim in her videos
'I am totally pro-women,' she said. 'I know it's critical to invest in girls' education.'
A non-sequitur if I ever I heard one. When I told Kimberley Walsh that I've always felt the scantily dressed, over-made-up uniform of her group, Girls Aloud, makes young women appear weak and relentlessly girly, she shook her head, a mass of Forties- style curls, liberally enhanced with the requisite extensions.
'We dress up in videos because we're in a band, and it's part of the performance to be glamorous,' she responded. 'But just because we look the way we do doesn't make us weak.
'I know young girls copy us, but that doesn't mean we don't think that having a personality isn't more important than being beautiful. I never look like this when I'm at home.'
Is that true, I wonder. Can young girls tell the difference between dressing up for a video, a performance, and real life?
Can young boys, particularly, differentiate between girls in a group and those who live in their street, or will they grow up with a warped view of how women should look and behave?
Spend a Friday night watching women parade in town centres the length and breadth of Britain and you will be able to see for yourself that they take the drag queen make-up and hooker uniform they see on screen literally.
Explicit: MTV banned Madonna's Justify My Love video in 1990 - but aren't so strict today
I recently talked to a group of teenage girls at a school in Hackney. They were all dressed as though they were extras in one of these music videos: exposed thighs (despite the snow!), hooped earrings and false eyelashes.
Which female role models do they most look up to? 'Beyonce!' they chorused.
One 17-year-old said: 'We want her clothes and her lifestyle.' (Note, not one young woman said: 'But we realise how hard we would have to work to get that.')
Some people may argue that I'm being prudish; that music videos have always been controversial, packed with sex and violence. Isn't the point of pop music to enrage parents?
MTV, which showed its first video in August 1981, was criticised from the start for its fast-moving images, and for limiting the attention span of its viewers.
When Duran Duran's video for Girls On Film aired, depicting naked women wrestling in oil, parents bombarded the station with complaints.
In the U.S., the National Coalition On TV Violence condemned MTV as early as 1985, while the loudest critics were cable TV mogul Ted Turner and Al Gore's wife, Tipper, who took exception at the sexual content of many hip-hop videos.
MTV actually took some of this criticism on board, cutting back on the more violent heavy metal videos, and even banning Madonna's Justify My Love video in 1990 for its explicit, sadomasochistic content.
But the channel's acknowledgment that it needs to exercise restraint seems to have been forgotten.
These days, Madonna's early videos seem positively quaint. Even the Spice Girls were preferable to what we have on offer today: at least they sang about power.
They might have dressed skimpily, but there was an innocence, a freshness to their look. They put each other before boys.
A study of the MTV network's content by the Parents' Television Council in America found 1,548 sexual scenes containing 3,056 depictions of sex or nudity in just 71 hours; that is a sexual scene every 6.6 minutes.
Even the female artists who started their careers espousing the virtues of being independent, of not relying on a man to pay the bills (two of Beyonce's early songs were called Independent Woman and Bills), have become more and more sexual.
On these music channels, as well as the music videos featuring women who are never old, never not liberally oiled, never not near naked, never not writhing at the feet of some dreadful man, there are liberal dollops of 'documentaries' and game shows.
Repetitive: In between the videos on MTV, shows like The Hills portray girls as image-obsessed
Would you like some examples of what is actually being broadcast, at all times of day and night, on the most recognised network among young adults aged 12 to 34, a network that is watched by 73 per cent of all boys and 78 per cent of girls, and which is pumped into more than 10million homes in the UK and Ireland?
There is a reality TV programme featuring a 'bisexual hottie' and her quest for a partner.
The young women taking part in this programme are all hysterical, tanned, fake-breasted imbeciles with names like Brittany. The young men have bandanas and six packs, and nurse pent-up balls of aggression they occasionally unleash by headbutting each other.
Another show, which is preceded by the words 'Warning: Stupid show ahead', features a fat teenager who proceeds to harass members of the public.
There is hip-hop's answer to Whose Line Is It Anyway?, in which a half-naked girl is leered at by sportswear-clad men who have nothing witty whatsoever to say to her. It is merely lewd.
Another show, The Hills, is about high-maintenance, whining girls who all aspire to work on Teen Vogue if only they could lift their heads out of a puddle of drool.
In between all this rubbish is the occasional music video for songs - and I use that word loosely - with lyrics including 'How u like it, daddy, the way she do it from the back?' and another song about the joys of 'wearing my Rolex'.
As one despairing father wrote in a blog, having just watched, with his teenage children, a 'human sundae eating competition', where a girl eats cream off a dude's chest: 'It's the content, the imagery, I can't stand.
'Sex as combat, the crotch as fetish. The stupid, blatant monotonous sexism. The tight shots of body parts. I don't see much difference between MTV and pornography.'
While there are a few female artists who have not accepted that debasing themselves in this way is inevitable, there really is a dearth of female singers who have intelligent lyrics, and who manage to keep their clothes on.
Where are the Carole Kings, the Tracy Chapmans, even the Bjorks of today?
While there is a wave of new young singers who have come to the fore on the back of High School Musical and Glee, these seem to appeal only to the very young: all the teenagers I've spoken to dismiss these stars as hopelessly square, the Osmonds of our time.
While I agree that we do need tighter controls on what is shown on both TV and the internet, particularly given the fact that so many very young children have both TV sets and laptops in their bedrooms, absolutely nothing will change until a new wave of singers emerge who are intelligent, who write their own songs and control their own careers and, most importantly, manage to keep their clothes on.
What I saw on MTV, and have glanced at several times on the internet, was an entire sub-culture of mainstream music videos in which sex is the only currency: in which girls wear bikinis, and boys take their pick.
It's depressing. It's demeaning. And it's corrupting a generation who simply don't have the moral guidance that would lead them to turn it off.
Devilish lady: Lady GaGa showed off her unusual horned headgear as she arrives at the Mandarin Oriental in London on Thursday night
After an exhausting week at work, most people prefer to slip into clothes that are a little more comfortable.
But then Lady Gaga has never been one to follow convention.
The American pop star arrived for dinner on a night off from her tour wearing an even more outlandish outfit than her usual stage attire.
Unfortunately, her devilish, horned headpiece had the effect of making her look as though she was wearing antlers.
But fashion experts suggested it was a tribute to late designer Alexander McQueen.
One of his last collections was called Horn of Plenty.
Models walked the catwalk with their hair sculpted into horns as they showed off the creations last year, in a show dedicated to McQueen's mother Joyce. She died days before he took his own life earlier this month.
Work clothes: Lady GaGa leaving her London hotel yesterday as she heads off to the O2 Arena
Handle with care: An assistant carries GaGa's horns to the car
Gaga, 23, was said to be devastated by his death and dedicated her performance at the Brit Awards to him last week.
She was unable to attend his funeral in London on Thursday, however, because she was performing in Liverpool the night before.
Her look certainly divides opinion.
This week she picked up gongs for both best-dressed and worst-dressed at the Shockwaves NME Awards, run by the rock magazine.
GaGa's £1million nine-date UK tour kicked off in Manchester last week and has been wowing the critics with her show-stopping extravaganza.
As expected, the New Yorker has worn a series of dramatic outfits and performed on stage with a burning grand piano, an armoured Rolls Royce and a 40-foot animatronic sea monster.
Guzzling champagne, swigging beer and puffing cigars... how the Canadian women's ice hockey team celebrated winning gold
Bubbly: Canada's Haley Irwin, left, and Tessa Bonhomme, right, celebrate after Canada beat USA 2-0 to win the women's gold medal ice hockey
The IOC has launched an investigation into the Canadian women ice hockey players after they celebrated their gold medal by guzzling beer, swigging from bottles of champagne and puffing on cigars in front of thousands of fans this morning.
Players came back onto the ice more than half an hour after the 2-0 victory over the United States.
Still in their uniforms and with gold medals draped around their necks, they posed for pictures as they boozed openly even though some are not legal drinking age.
Smokin': Meghan Agosta and Gillian Apps puff away on cigars after Canada beat USA in the final
One player, Rebecca Johnston, even tried to drive the ice-resurfacing machine.
Gilbert Felli, the IOC's executive director of the Olympic Games, said he was unaware of the incidents until informed by a reporter.
'If that's the case, that is not good,' Felli said.
'It is not what we want to see. I don't think it's a good promotion of sport values. If they celebrate in the changing room, that's one thing, but not in public. We will investigate what happened.'
Felli said the IOC would talk to the international ice hockey federation and the Canadian Olympic Committee to get more information.
'We will first find the facts and then act accordingly,' he said.
Haley Irwin and Meghan Agosta of Canada kneel on the ice and celebrate winning the gold medal with bubbly and beer
On ice: The IOC has launched an investigation into the Canadian's exuberant celebrations
Meghan Agosta and Marie-Philip Poulin posed wearing goofy grins. Haley Irwin poured champagne into the mouth of Tessa Bonhomme, gold medals swinging from both their necks.
Poulin, who scored both goals in the victory, doesn't turn 19 until next month, when she'll be of legal drinking age in British Columbia.
The drinking age in Alberta, where the Canadian team trains, is 18. Photos show Poulin on the ice, with a beer in her hand.
'We understand that they were asked to go back on to the playing field after the stadium had emptied to take a photo,' IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.
'We understand that some people may have felt that their behaviour was over-exuberant.'
Steve Keough, a spokesman for the Canadian Olympic Committee, said the COC had not provided the alcohol nor initiated the party.
Haley Irwin of Canada celebrates winning the gold medal with a bottle of bubbly during the ice hockey women's gold medal game between Canada and USA
Dejected but dignified: Caitlin Cahow and Monique Lamoureux of the United States look on after receiving their silver medals
'In terms of the actual celebration, it's not exactly something uncommon in Canada,' he said, referring to raucous locker-room celebrations that are a tradition in some professional team sports.
'If these athletes were of legal age, then it's not something that's against the law,' he said.
'We can understand there's a lot of sensitivity around celebrations.
'We condone celebrations. We don't condone actions of irresponsibility,' he said.
'I think Canadians understand it's quite an emotional moment for our team. It was not our intention to go against any IOC protocols.'
Other celebrations at these Olympics have raised eyebrows.
After Jon Montgomery won a gold medal for Canada in skeleton, he walked through the streets of Whistler guzzling from a pitcher of beer that he gripped with two hands.
American Scotty Lago, who won a bronze in halfpipe, voluntarily left the games after a photo surfaced of a woman kneeling below his waist to kiss the medal.
Canada's Rebecca Johnston rides on an ice surfacing machine as teammates celebrate their gold medal victory against the U.S.
The gold winning Canadian team enjoy a bottle of Champagne following the medal's ceremony