To Christiania!

After their long nap, I took both out for a round of recycling cardboard, pumping some tires and buying some coffee beans.

Both of them put on their helmets of their own accord and jumped into the Christiania as soon as we got there. It was clear that they had a destination in mind. They then tried to describe to me which playground they wanted to go to and how to get there lacking most of the vocabulary to do so. Extremely adorable and no doubt in my mind that they’ll be able to describe their wishes here pretty soon as well.

On the way back both kids were singing something in the cargobike while I in the back was trying to vocalize a rendition of Lemon Tree from very distant memory. We should definitely install a sound system in the bike.

XiR – Angela Merkel

Turkish MC XiR has a new trap song out with the noteworthy title Angela Merkel. There is even somebody with a Merkel mask in the video.

The video has a quick and dirty German subtitle bundled with it which you can turn on and read.

In the spirit of international relations, I will translate to English the hook of the song (lyrics on Genius). The rest of the song is either not that interesting or I’m missing out on a lot of inside baseball. Either way, I won’t try it.

Angela Merkel
Schengen yok
Karaköy’e sen gel

Bozulur dengen
Yol aldı yengen
Karaköy’e sen gel
Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel
There is no Schengen
You come down to Karaköy

You’ll lose your senses
Your woman’s gone
You come down to Karaköy
Angela Merkel

I can’t make much more of it other than that the mythologization of Angela Merkel continues. I’m curious what the German foreign office thinks about that.

Sleep by Max Richter

Kevin posted yesterday that he had an extra ticket for Max Richter’s Sleep at Kraftwerk Berlin yesterday. Without a moment’s hesitation I packed my sleeping bag and cycled there with him.

Kraftwerk Mitte is a disused power plant in the middle (Mitte) of the city that is now a club venue and host to a variety of events. The most striking features of it are large open spaces and lots of exposed concrete everywhere.

Max Richter I didn’t know before but I quickly confirmed that I would agree with his music. It had been one of my desires to attend a classical music concert while lying down being able to doze in and out of sleep as your mind and body dictate. Classical concerts tend to be long and uncomfortable affairs.

I hadn’t imagined I would get the chance to do this during an 8 hour overnight concert.

Preparing to spend the night here listening to music by Max Richter

The music is very smooth to listen to and it is a kind of music that Richter is known for (read this interview). I’m listening to From Sleep now as I write this. I listened to the first couple of hours and then fell into a fitful sleep until I woke up again at 07:30 to catch the end.

Sleeping on stretcher beds at a power station 15 minutes cycling away from home with a couple of hundred other people was a strange experience. It was for one one of the lowest key camping trips I have ever undertaken. Though I’m used to the occasional communal sleeping arrangement, those are totally different situations. Berlin’s club spaces facilitate experiences in between the intimate and transgressive but even then this is an odd one out.

I probably also wasn’t the only person in the room who considered it wry that we would pay €48 to sleep in circumstances similar to thousands of others in Germany right now.

I’m still not sure what to make of the event but it is a memorable experience that will stay with me for a while like a dream but more powerful.

Les Contes d’Hoffmann

I went to “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” yesterday in one of Berlin’s three operas thanks to this piece in the Guardian. Yes, I have to rely on a British paper for reliable cultural advice about Berlin.

The Komische Oper is a ten minute bike ride from my house and you can get a discounted ticket with some mild visual obstruction for €18. This makes it a fairly ideal way to spend a Sunday in Berlin which otherwise can be fairly quiet (stores aren’t open, most places close at five or six).

I’m not an expert on opera but I enjoyed the staging and the performances a lot. The Komische Oper’s productions can look a bit kitschy but this was all fairly in line. I can’t share anything from the play thanks to an extremely stringent copyright policy, so below is a recording of one of the major songs by the Met.

After having severed my relation with theater, opera is something that is still fun and interesting to me. What is especially interesting about opera is that despite it fielding some of the biggest budget stage productions we have, it allows a lot of space for weird things. That is not just the case for this opéra fantastique but reading the plot of any opera will leave you amazed at how cheesy it is.

The fact that opera is so open to even the dumbest of stories and at the same times is a spectacular confluence of the multimedia arts would indicate that it has a grand future. Unfortunately the average age of the attendees indicates that that is not the case yet.

Capitalism is magical

A story I meant to write up for a while is my discovery of the German rap formation K.I.Z. (Kapitalismus ist Zauberhaft) and with that German pop culture that is actually worthwhile and fun.

I was cycling through Berlin when at a traffic light a car full of women next to me was bouncing to some heavy beats. The lyric I caught through the open window was “Sie klatschen aneinander bei der Double Penetration”. That of course piqued my interest.

The story does not end well. I overtook them at the next traffic light and I was sure that they would not appreciate my vehicular cycling. Indeed they didn’t and they honked at me when they overtook (a particularly bad habit of Berlin drivers). In the spur of the moment I shouted the F-word back at them and I didn’t expect it but that did shut them up.

After that incident I listened to a bunch of K.I.Z. and found their lyrics to be funny and smart. Their general modus operandi seems to be lots of clowning and ironizing topics by taking them to their utter extremes.

A great example of this is the song “Ich bin Adolf Hitler”. I actually had to look up whether K.I.Z. were nazis or not. Irony in Germany can be difficult to gauge. They also had a song about Jörg Haider called Straight outta Kärnten. I was on holiday in Kärnten this summer blissfully unaware of its dubious reputation.

K.I.Z. is a breath of fresh air in German popular culture. It does not take itself or anything particularly seriously and that is something Germany could use a great deal more of.

Unleash the panther

On Saturday evening I was in the Volksbühne for Stargaze among others to see Cantus Domus perform a set with an odd German band called 1000 Robota. After that there was an intermission and the main performance of the evening by Pantha du Prince and The Bell Laboratory.

Pantha du Prince & The Bell Laboratory

The artistic mandate of the evening bordered a bit on the odd. 1000 Robota is more or less a lunatic act part of the melodramatic German singer-songwriter movement. Pantha du Prince & The Bell Laboratory were forced to interpret Terry Riley’s in C as part of the program. Of course they said it was a great inspiration to them and they did quite a good job of it. After the official part of the program they started making some real music and the entire Volksbühne got to its feet. I asked myself: ‘What the fuck were we doing up until this point?’

I realize that the evening wasn’t supposed to be a club night, but if the unofficial part of the program is so much more vibrant that should be a clear signal.

Downloadverbod op Radio 1

Update: Het staat al online!

Ik werd vanochtend gebeld voor Radio 1 vanwege het nieuws dat Fred Teeven het downloadverbod wil doorzetten. Nu is een paar minuten op de radio natuurlijk te kort om een genuanceerd argument neer te zetten, dus hier een kleine uitbreiding:

Downloaden is nu niet illegaal. Teeven wil downloaders ook niet vervolgen maar het criminaliseren van downloaden is nodig om mensen die bestanden aanbieden (en links naar bestanden verzamelen) beter aan te kunnen pakken dan nu gebeurt.

Dit verbod staat al een hele tijd op de wensenlijst van de auteursrechtenlobby die de deur bij onze bewindvoerders platloopt. Met dit kabinet hebben ze eindelijk beet. Consumenten-organisaties hebben niet alleen geen vergelijkbare vertegenwoordiging, maar ze worden zelfs actief geweerd door het kabinet.

Het is een beetje onzinnig om downloaden te verbieden als er om films te kijken geen goede legale alternatieven zijn (de noodzaak daarvoor stond in een versie van dit voorstel). Dan moeten zelfs mensen die geld wíllen betalen, het wel illegaal halen. Mensen met meer tijd dan geld downloaden, mensen met meer geld dan tijd doen dat liever niet als het makkelijk legaal kan.

Teeven wil een internetfilter instellen om dat soort aanbiedende sites in zijn geheel van het internet te halen. Dit soort filters werken ook niet. Mensen die eromheen willen lukt het toch wel.
Maar nog een stap verder: dit soort filters worden ook gebruikt in China, Iran en andere onderdrukkende regimes (daar is onze regering ook tegen). Maar hier ook zullen zulke filters slecht te controleren zijn en vrijwel zeker voor meer doeleinden worden gebruikt dan waar ze eerst voor waren bedoeld (‘als we ze toch hebben…’).

Maar het belangrijkste punt:

Het copyright-contract is verlopen

Copyright is een monopolie op het uitbaten van auteursrechtelijk materiaal voor de producent. Dit monopolie wordt verstrekt omdat het idee is dat mensen meer werk produceren als ze een vergoeding krijgen.

Dat heeft enige tijd gewerkt (vanaf midden 20e eeuw tot en met de jaren 90) maar het uitgangspunt is nu niet meer geldig.

Vijftien jaar downloaden van muziek heeft laten zien dat de creatie van muziek niet op zijn gat ligt. Er is zelfs meer en betere muziek makkelijker toegankelijk dan ooit tevoren. Voor de consument is dit prima en er zijn ook weinig (nieuwe) muzikanten die klagen over deze gang van zaken. De enigen die klagen zijn oude muzikanten die dachten te kunnen rentenieren en platenmaatschappijen die hun relevantie kwijt zijn.

Er zijn talloze studies die aantonen dat de opgerekte copyright termijn helemaal niet zorgt voor meer nieuw werk. Het internet heeft ook de distributie, creatie, het remixen en de financiering van media en cultuur zodanig veranderd dat de oude modellen niet meer werken. Daarom is de hele premisse van copyright aan herzien toe.

Verder: dieper en juridischer bij 3voor12. Maar een heffing op elke internetverbinding die op troebele wijze herverdeeld wordt onder auteursrechthebbenden is ook bijzonder slecht en marktverpestend. Laten we niet die kant op gaan.

Ook: Hier een sterke reactie op Tweakers wat er allemaal nog meer mis is met dit voorstel.

Urbanode: first steps in environmental control

Urbanode running from an Android Phone from VURB on Vimeo. The movie shows an Android phone controlling the stagelights at the Melkweg using a colour picker on a webpage.

I’m quite proud to have been part of the local systems integration crew of Urbanode with the steps we made on controlling environments using web technology. The movie above shows my laptop connected to a lighting panel in the Melkweg running an OLAD (Open Lighting Architecture) server talking ARTNET/DMX to talk with the panel and the urbsville NodeJS application that exposes the available lights as an interface on a webpage for the Android phone.

So the flow is as follows:

  • Android phone (or other), goes to a webpage on the local network
  • The webpage is served by urbsville using NodeJS which means everything is live and can be kept consistent across clients
  • Any device setting is mirrored using an internal mapping by updating the DMX values of the corresponding device on the ARTNET output
  • OLAD sends its current state to the lighting panel
  • The lighting panel updates (merges) the values into its universe and when they are hooked up the lights change their behaviour —or colour in this case— accordingly.

So starting with colours and intensities of lights, the next step is being able to hookup arbitrary properties of any kind of device and making it all work solidly so application developers, lighting specialists and game designers can get ahold of this technology.

A lot of this is still quite abstract and the technology setup is pretty cutting edge but this is an essential building block for moving forward. Being able to control physical devices using Javascript has already been possible as has service discovery in spaces (tons of demos by Philips, Sun and the likes). Urbanode breaks out of the local application cul-de-sac and exposes everything straight to the web using the web’s most native control language: Javascript. This is a big step in totally commoditizing device control and normalizing and expanding the scale of operation.

This has been blogged about already by the Urbanode team “Prototypes for discoverable services in public space”, “Alpha Release: Urbanode” and picked up by Bruce Sterling on Wired. I would encourage you to go to github and clone the code and tell us what you think.