Dutch Public Broadcasting Goes Fake News

Geert Wilders, leader of the PVV —the far right Dutch Freedom Party— had his campaign start today for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Spijkenisse, one of his traditional strongholds.

The eight o’clock news of the NOS (the Netherlands’ state broadcaster) opened with this and their reporter Michiel Breedveld on the scene in the video below said it had attracted ‘an unbelievable crowd of people’.

Other reporters who were on the scene today (1, 2) said the number of people Wilders had attracted was somewhere between 80 to 200 and that the ratio of supporters and press was about 1:1.

Salima Bouchtaoui: ‘Spijkenisse this Saturday morning. Lots of press. And lots of police. Few people.’

Haro Kraak: ‘There were at most 150 supporters of the PVV, probably fewer. And at least as much press, probably more.’

There seems to have been so much press that this was what it looked like most of the time.

This incident is oddly reminiscent of Trump’s inauguration where the actual number of people present was much lower than was claimed by the administration.

But the crucial difference is that Trump was the liar. Wilders could spread the lie that his campaign start ‘had the most people ever’ but why should he if the state broadcaster does it for him?

Update: Dutch newspaper the Volkskrant (a newspaper I’ve given some grief before) calls the NOS’s coverage bad and harmful.

Update: De NOS have posted a rectification on their single page hard to link they use for this.

It’s not the opening of the evening news, but it will have to do. Notably they say they have used ‘wrong words’ to describe the event and they still put the number of supporters at several hundred.

Books and movies of 2016

Like every year the books I read and the movies I watched. Recommended ones are in bold.

Books

The book situation was shameful but instead of reading a lot of books, I wrote “Designing Conversational Interfaces”, so I’ll call that even.

  • “PACE: A Small Business Owner’s Guide to Complete Cash Flow Clarity” Jesse Mecham
  • “Agile Game Development with Scrum” by Keith Clinton
  • “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • “The $1 Prototype: A Modern Approach to Mobile UX Design and Rapid Innovation” by Greg Nudelman
  • “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” by Joan Didion
  • “The iPhone App Design Manual: Create Perfect Designs for Effortless Coding and App Store Success”
  • “Mobile Web Designer’s Idea Book: The Ultimate Guide to Trends, Themes and Styles in Mobile Web Design”
  • “Factotum” by Charles Bukowski
  • “Mobile Design Pattern Gallery: UI Patterns for Smartphone Apps”
  • “Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • “Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd” by Frans Osinga
  • “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love” by Cal Newport
  • “Green Mars” by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • “The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics” by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Movies

This went a lot better with 72 if you count the individual installments of the Decalogue.

  • Inside Out
  • Princes Mononoke
  • Kingsman
  • Dekalog IV
  • District 9
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • Edge of Tomorrow
  • Persona
  • Her
  • Dekalog V
  • Into the Wild
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • Code Inconnu
  • The Hateful Eight in 70mm Roadshow at Zoo Palast
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Relatos Salvajes
  • Dekalog VI
  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  • Sicario
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion
  • Knock Knock
  • Dogville
  • Tropa de Elite
  • Prelude to Axanar
  • Fast & Furious 6
  • Addicted to Sheep
  • Paths of Glory
  • Spirited Away
  • Decalogue VII
  • Fast Five
  • The Martian
  • Django Unchained
  • Annie Hall
  • Dekalog VIII
  • Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
  • The Assassin
  • Amy
  • Toy Story 3
  • Whiplash
  • Dekalog IX
  • Lammbock
  • A Scanner Darkly
  • Pusher
  • Like Father Like Son
  • Ex Machina
  • The Revenant
  • Burn After Reading
  • Dekalog X
  • Pusher II
  • RoboCop by José Padilha
  • Johnny Mnemonic
  • Der siebente Kontinent
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Spectre
  • Easy Rider
  • Dredd
  • Show Me A Hero
  • Pusher III
  • Wild Strawberries
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Wall Street
  • Jodorowsky’s Dune
  • The Wind Rises
  • Aeon Flux
  • Copie Conforme
  • Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky
  • The Neon Demon
  • The Wailing
  • İklimler
  • World War Z
  • Thor
  • The Physician

Welt am Draht

I strolled through the massive exhibition ‘Welt am Draht’ at Leipziger Strasse this weekend. This is a selection of video art from the massive Julia Stoschek Collection exhibited in the former Czech Cultural center.

Like everybody says the quality of video art in general is extremely inconsistent. That is true in this exhibit as well. There are a bunch of works where it is not at all obvious why somebody finished it, somebody approved it and somebody paid money for it.

The works that were most interesting in this exhibition consistently were not the video ones but those created with a game engine. That may be my own novelty bias at work, but a fully digital workflow like that allows: 1. more and faster iteration 2. fully dynamic products, the combination of which leads to totally new kinds of things that can be produced.

Some examples:

I forget what this was, but despite the concept being more or less ridiculous it has a compelling internal consistency.

RMB City by Cao Fei is a rich and spectacular playground of randomness.

I can’t really argue with any of Ed Atkins’s work which stands out for the pure skill of the renderings combined with spoken word that is not trite (so rare).

Ian Cheng’s Emissary Forks at Perfection is an ongoing collage of elements in a dynamic simulation that looks like an edgy version of the large scale installations Theo Watson makes.

The year in culture

I have a personal log of culture consumed going back to 2003. This year was a particular low on many counts. I have been busy and I don’t ascribe the same value to consuming culture pure for the goal of consuming it anymore. Been there, done that.

I’ve read eleven books (see my Goodreads) which is more than I had expected but nothing compared compared to the bookwormy prowess of people like Hans or Kars.

  • The Peripheral by William Gibson
  • Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design by Ernest Adams & Joris Dormans
  • Play Matters by Miguel Sicart
  • Surface Detail by Ian M. Banks
  • The Hydrogen Sonata by Ian M. Banks
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates
  • Der Tod des Iwan Iljitsch by Leo Tolstoy
  • Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Certain to Win by Chet Richards
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Bold is recommended. It looks like this year I especially enjoyed non-fiction maybe because my fiction was limited to fairly mediocre genre stuff. I’m resolving that reading should not be painful (Russians were a good attempt, but too boring) and that it should also not be trivial (so no more genre fiction crap for me).

In movies I fared slightly better but did not manage to hit the one movie per week baseline with a meagre 23 of which only two in the cinema. I’m playing catchup now over the christmas break with eleven these views happening in December.

All are in my Letterboxed diary but since sites disappear I’m archiving them here as well. I am immensely pleased with almost all of the movies I have seen except for the two marked as shit.

  • Caché
  • The Imitation Game
  • Oldboy
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • The Raid 2: Berandal
  • Sonnenallee
  • Citizenfour
  • Before Midnight
  • Straigth outta Compton
  • Grizzly Man
  • The Fantastic Four 💩
  • Frances Ha
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Gravity
  • Pacific Rim
  • Elysium
  • Frozen
  • The Princess Bride
  • Slow West
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron 💩
  • Snowpiercer
  • Inherent Vice
  • Dekalog, trzy

I managed to avoid going to theater plays and went to one opera “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” in the Komische Oper which was delightful.

I guess I can in part explain this shift by my consumption of games. Even without owning a console there is more than enough stuff to play. Here are nineteen games I played for the first time in 2015. Some of them were played only once and some of them were played for dozens of hours.

  • Borderlands 2
  • Nuclear Throne
  • Panamax
  • The Westport Independent
  • King of New York
  • Bang!
  • Cobra Club
  • Fallout Shelter
  • Her Story
  • A Dark Room
  • Sage Solitaire
  • Let’s make Chaofan
  • Panoramical
  • Mouse Guard: Swords & Strongholds
  • Downwell
  • Fightin Words
  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive
  • Galaxy Trucker
  • Sunless Sea
  • Codenames

Deutschland ’83

I was tremendously hyped for Deutschland ’83 after hearing about it and watching the first episode. Now that it is finally airing in Germany it turns out that it is not doing that well. Viewership started out low and has been declining over the first four episodes.

IMG_0181

People are attributing this to the fact that the average RTL viewer is stupid and only used to watch plain episodic series. That may well be true, but the decline of the series’s ratings closely mirror the decline of my appetite for the show itself. By episode four Deutschland ’83 is a slog and the only thing that got me to the finish line was an empty Sunday and stamina.

The plot devolves and loses whatever internal logic and coherence it had. The characters which are enigmatic to begin with become increasingly hard to empathize with and start doing random things. Worst of all, Deutschland ’83 tries to put a neutral spin on one of the most polarized conflicts of the last century which of course fails.

The one message that does come through is that everybody on the East side was evil and psychopathic and that the people on the West side were basically decent chaps. This is a laughable depiction of the world as it was back then (or as parts of the world still are). The violence and surveillance enacted by the Soviet bloc is hardly different from the stuff the Americans did and still do around the world. The only reason we get to ridicule the East Germans in the series is because they lost.

Mann/Frau

The idea that German television is necessarily terrible has to be reconsidered. I’ve recently started watching Deutschland ’83 which is amazing (more on that later) and yesterday I finished season two of the web series Mann/Frau by BR PULS.

Mann/Frau is a mirror format byte-sized episodic where each installment details the interactions of a man and a woman their relations and lives. It treats most of the themes occupying people around my age living in Berlin but manages to do so drawing more from slapstick than from cliché.

The series is helped enormously by the fact that each episode concludes somewhere under five minutes. Brevity unfortunately is a rare commodity in Germany. The benefits of it here are that it forces them to get to the point quickly, cut rapidly and finish. Episodes of this length also greatly facilitate binge watching. I had never considered you could make a traditional format series with episodes this short, but it works fine.

Halfway through I did develop an intense distaste for the man (Mirko Lang) and the man episodes. This isn’t just because the man character is a huge doofus, but also because it turns out that the man and woman episodes are written and directed by a brother and sister respectively. The woman episodes are more punchy, contain less whining and more action.

In this interview with the brother and sister directors the problem becomes painfully obvious. During the entire interview the brother does most of the talking but doesn’t say anything of substance.

I will keep watching when the next season comes out but I might just fast forward through most of the man’s episodes.

These series may have a catalytic effect on the German television landscape. By their very existence they educate the tastes of an audience that might not have known or expected something like this to be possible. And actually creating something good in turn makes it so that other tv makers can’t hide behind the excuse that the whole landscape is mediocre. Who knows what more may be possible.

Straight outta Compton 

LwoaE

I would have preferred Straight Outta Compton to be a documentary cut together from real footage and narrated by the guys themselves. There is a lot of that available which you can see bits of during the credits of this movie. The biopic is well done but the dramatization does not add much and in many parts the movie devolves into melodrama.

What is amazing is how music executives are universally portrayed as the terrible human beings which they are. This is a recurring theme up until the late movie slithering appearance of Jimmy Iovine. If you read up on the stuff that went down with Ruthless you could even argue that the movie downplays it.

The record executives bring the money which in the movie is portrayed as breaking the relationships that make the music. The main characters regularly bail out of collaborations to start from zero because their contracts won’t let them retain ownership of their work. Thinking about that and the outrageous claims still made by record companies made me look into the argument for copyright. It turns out that there’s only a fairly flimsy justification for a system that controls our lives.

I would like to see 12 O’Clock Boys now. Fuck the police.

Nakagin Capsule Tower

Yesterday I saw the documentary on the Nakagin Capsule Tower by Rima Yamazaki as part of the DOKU.ARTS festival here in Berlin. I wasn’t aware of this landmark during my last visit to Tokyo though I must have passed close by while cycling through the city. I’ll make a point to see it when next I visit if it still stands because that is exactly the topic of the documentary.

The tower is a prime example of Metabolist architecture by Kisho Kurokawa. Metabolism is a hard to define but influential strand of architecture that is described in the documentary as an architecture without timelag. It turns out that the tower by now, though charming with its tiny rooms, is outdated and unmaintainable. Most of the owners want to tear it down and have something new built there that makes more economic sense. Among architects and historians there are voices for preserving it as a monument to an important movement in Japanese architecture and other who think it could indeed be torn down.

Lindenstraße

The main reason why I wanted to see this movie is because next week I’m moving into a building in Berlin designed by a metabolist architect Arata Isozaki. He appears in the movie as a member of the metabolist movement and as an proponent of conservation. I found his reasoning to be somewhat incoherent and overly sentimental. I’m not sure what that means for the building I will be living in but we’ll see. I’ve only been there once, but I absolutely love the building pictured above. Time will tell whether that is justified.

Another architect Toyo Ito who expressed a disillusionment with metabolism was in favor of tearing it down. His reasoning is that buildings just like people are finite and that if they have fulfilled their purpose they should be allowed to disappear to be replaced by something new. This is a way of thinking about architecture that is mostly alien if you live in Europe but that I find to be extremely refreshing. I think our local hangups on history and current efforts to construct buildings in a historicized fashion are morbid but this is the way we do things in Europe.

All along during the documentary I had to think about some William Gibson I read about Tokyo but which I cannot find right now. So instead I’ll post this from My Own Private Tokyo that I came across.

The Japanese, you see, have been repeatedly drop-kicked, ever further down the timeline, by serial national traumata of quite unthinkable weirdness, by 150 years of deep, almost constant, change. The 20th century, for Japan, was like a ride on a rocket sled, with successive bundles of fuel igniting spontaneously, one after another.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

anatoliablu00002

I rewatched Once Upon a Time in Anatolia last week with my parents and it was even better than the first time. I usually think that movies shouldn’t be longer than two hours but here even a second viewing did not bore.

What I learned is that it at one point the convoy moves out of the Kırıkkale area into the administrative part of Turkey that we are from (map).

The idle chit-chat of the people in the cars is still funny but now it was easier to keep track of the interleaving stories. Pared down they rend flesh. Arap’s story about why you need a gun or the piecewise telling of a woman’s suicide are incredible. The point where Clark Gable swallows his words being one extreme example.

My memory had exaggerated the appearance of the angel halfway through the movie. It is still a key moment but not as magically-realistic as I had remembered.

The movie as a whole is about the utter insignificance of human action on all levels. Or as the poet said: ‘years again will pass and I will leave no trace // darkness and cold will encompass my weary soul’.

I am immensely looking forward to seeing his next movie Kış Uykusu which is playing in cinemas right now. And I am still eagerly awaiting Nuri Bilge Ceylan to make a movie adaptation of one of Pamuk’s big books (The Black Book or Snow).

Give Da Vinci’s Demons a shot

I’m really into the series Da Vinci’s Demons right now (thanks to Kevin Slavin) which is a light hearted affair for the off season when there’s no Game of Thrones, True Detective or Sherlock.

The trailer for the first season is kinda messed up, try the one for season two otherwise.

I had been clamoring for Game of Thrones inspired historical fiction for a while now. There are lots of dark nooks of history which with a decent treatment could excite large audiences. So many topics to choose from but how about an epic series on Khublai Khan or about Charlemagne?

With Da Vinci’s Demons this is becoming reality at least for Leonardo da Vinci’s life in Florence. This Italian city and the papal intrigue of its time proves to be a great backdrop for an occult story set around this artist/engineer/inventor. The drawn overlays are a bit reminiscent of Sherlock and the premise of Da Vinci creating outrageous contraptions in no time at all is a lot like MacGyver. Its anachronistic depiction and juiciness are like Game of Thrones though people in da Vinci’s world seem even more cruel. In its depiction of a young incarnation of a well-known figure it even reminds me of Young Indiana Jones. Maybe there’s even a bit of Dan Brown in there but I wouldn’t know because I don’t touch that crap.

As a series it may be too trivial to function as a social status signifier, but even its pulpiness has found its bearings after the first couple of episodes. The initially more evil characters are rounding out nicely with depth and conflicting interests of their own.

I was happily surprised to see that it has been renewed. After eight episodes in the first season there are at least two more seasons awaiting. Just by watching it I want to read more about Leonardo Da Vinci’s life and go to Florence. History education has never been as fun and if this isn’t the education, it’s a great gateway drug.

(All art from the show’s brilliant accompanying tumblr.)