Category Archives: Society

Het Belletje Des Vaderlands

(No English version)

“De belangrijkste bel van Nederland is de stemmingsbel van de Tweede Kamer. Met deze bel worden de leden van de Tweede Kamer opgeroepen om in plenaire zitting te stemmen …”

Zo meldt Kamerstuk 2017D29437 van 19 oktober 2017. Bij de NOS kunnen we horen hoe parlementariërs zich beklagen over die “schoolbel”. “Bloedirritant,” zegt Pechtold, haast sidderend van verontwaardiging.

Het heeft wel iets aandoenlijks: parlementariërs die als schoolkinderen naar de klas worden geroepen. Nu is het wel een erg lelijke bel, zo’n telefoon- of deurbel met geëlectrificeerde klepel. Ik kan me voorstellen dat je die vervangt door een mooie handgeluide klok. Of, veel beter nog, een door het Kamergebouw verspreid carillon, zodat alle klokken en kamers één muziekinstrument worden.
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Please Hold the Line (and Put Up with That Tune)

music box © Lodewijk MunsCircumstances have forced me to spend a lot of time making phone calls — and a lot of time staying on hold. It has given me a freakish and unsought for expertise in “on hold music”.

Complaints about this particular abuse are all over the internet. So I will swallow my frustration and just make note of a few things that struck me. First: how a very small number of tunes has a disproportionate share in the total repertoire.

One of the most frequent numbers is a famous-notorious piece called Opus Number One. Its synthesizer sound is very “eighties”, and it dates, indeed, from 1989. It is a strongly evocative piece — dingy office carpet, neon light and low suspended ceilings come to my mind.

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De Raad voor Cultuur, of: de Grote Nivellering?

English version

“Raad voor Cultuur: Meer geld naar dance en Nederlandse lied”, kopte de Volkskrant in haar bericht over het deze week verschenen sectoradvies muziek. “[…] de tijd lijkt voorbij dat het subsidiegeld vooral vloeit naar klassieke muziek en opera, moderne muziek en jazz”.

Dat klinkt (voor sommigen) bedreigend, en dat zie je aan de lezersreacties. Vooral die glunderende kop van Marianne Weber doet het bloed koken. Moet daar het geld naartoe?

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The Dutch Culture Council, or: The Great Levelling?

Nederlandse versie

More money for dance music and Dutch schlagers, says the Dutch Council for Culture. This was the headline with which the Volkskrant newspaper reported on the Council’s recent recommendations for government subsidies in the music sector. “[…] the times seem to be past when subsidy money mainly flowed to classical music and opera, modern music and jazz”. Continue reading

Pulp Fiction, Politics, and a Whiff of Rachmaninoff

I should have heard that name long ago. It has frequently come up in headlines about the surge of the political right in the US; occasionally, in the European context.

Donald Trump’s Role Model Is an Ayn Rand Character — Ayn Rand-Acolyte Donald Trump Stacks His Cabinet with Fellow ObjectivistsTrump Administration Embraces Ayn Rand’s Disdain for the MassesTrump’s Favorite IntellectualThe New Age of Ayn Rand: How She Won over Trump and Silicon Valley

Ayn Rand, a Russian-American novelist and philosopher, and a powerful influence, apparently, on neoliberal and libertarian mindsets. Her 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged  has sold nearly 9 million copies, according to the Ayn Rand Institute that takes an aggressive part in its promotion. Pulp fiction with spurious philosophical pretense, according to the vast majority of critics. For a coterie of cultish followers, however, “the greatest novel ever written”. I quote Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: A Philosophical and Literary Companion (2007, p. 5), a publication that deceptively resembles a scholarly volume — until one starts reading.

Atlas Shrugged. I have repaired my ignorance and worked my way, hopping, skipping and jumping, through its 1200 pages.
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The Art of the Branded Self

Häkschle zum 60.: Schnittpunkt III and Gerade IV in the Kunsthaus Brönitz.

Häkschle zum 60.: Schnittpunkt III and Gerade IV in the Kunsthaus Brönitz.

At the advanced age of 60 and with a name designed to be garbled, the painter Roald Häkschle has unexpectedly made it into the major museum circuit. It makes one wonder what makes a painter successful in an age in which the art of painting itself seems to be an anachronism.

The first requisite is, I guess, a simple formula. Better stick to one idea and keep repeating it. A Häkschle is easily recognized by its limited subject matter — blind walls and pavements, minutely rendered repetitive surfaces that never seem to be part of any solid construction. Subdued colours: shades of red, yellow and (occasionally) blue.

And of course we recognize a Häkschle through the omnipresent figure of the painter himself, foreshortened, with heavy legs and a little head, dressed only in a short raincoat, under a 1940s type of hat. Always gazing away from us, showing his gray ponytail (which, I’ve heard it whispered, is false).
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The Bad, the Ugly, and the Shameless

Aesthetics and ethics. If ever there was a time to rethink these concepts and how they relate, it is now. As it was yesterday, and will be tomorrow (if we’re still here).

One thing baffling about Trumpian anti-culture is its utterly shameless inversion of values — of transforming vice (lying, denigrating, boasting, bullying) into a kind of anti-virtue. But even more striking is the way bad morals, bad taste, and shamelessness are perfectly aligned. The bad taste of gold plated office buildings, golf courses and pageants. A caricature of the nouveau-riche, even though the man is old-riche and has had ample opportunity to better his judgement.

In The Netherlands a little row has occurred these days over a news blog called GeenStijl (roughly translatable as Bad Taste). ‘Tendentious, unfounded and needlessly offensive’ by its own definition, it attempts to convert vice into a kind of anti-virtue without altering its substance. Not so much a channel of free, anti-establishment speech, as a depressingly sordid puddle of racist and sexist abuse.
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