Nero's Guests concerns cotton farms.

This is the most impressive documentary about journalism I’ve seen so far

On this blog, I’ve been collecting movies about journalism (part 1, part 2). Those lists consist of powerful and beautiful films, yet none of them show the importance of journalism as the documentary I heard about this week, called Nero’s Guests (2009).

It depicts the quest of Indian journalist Palagummi Sainath, who writes about the staggering amount of suicides amongst cotton farmers. In a country where most media just report on celebrities, he fights for getting poverty on the agenda. Not just by writing, but also by giving speeches.

During the documentary, he gives an impressive speech on inequality and it’s this talk that the film owes its title to.

Please, find an hour to watch this film. Not just for the sake of journalism, but also for the suffering of Indian farmers.

Gurre Lieder opera

This psychedelic thing called the opera

During my studies, one professor always expressed his admiration for the opera. When he did, I always pictured the cliché: a grand lady in a red dress, endlessly singing something in Italian.

I was wrong.

Thanks to the welcoming people at the Dutch National Opera I have now seen three operas in the last couple of years. They where all, well.., pretty psychedelic.

Yesterday, when I visited Gurre Lieder, I saw a giant fish floating over the stage, while a futuristic jester walked around with a giant white balloon, a tormented king lied for dead on the ground and hundreds of soldiers paraded with their dead horses. Meanwhile, this all took place in a decor which reminded me both of an apocalyptic wasteland and of a palace.

I could easily describe the other two operas I’ve seen in the same way (Einstein on the Beach and Faust), but at the same time I realize my focus on the psychedelic is also a beginner’s trait. I hope, after enough training, I will also come to appreciate the music and singing more.


Le Bon Marché Japon. Photo: Flickr / Robyn Lee

How a department store competes with web shops: Le Bon Marché leads the way

Last year, I visited Parisian department store Le Bon Marché twice. The first time, I only admired the roof – designed by Gustave Eiffel – and considered the store as a relic from the past. Once a local gem, now a dull showcase for the advertising of world’s biggest designer labels.

I see it happening in my city too, where department store De Bijenkorf only serves as house for shop-in-shops like Louis Vuitton and Hermes and their Russian and Chinese customers (even the announcements are  in Russian and Chinese).

But last week, my second visit to Le Bon Marché pictured a totally different picture. The shop reserved the most beautiful floor – right under Eiffel’s roof – for an exhibition-like store with a clear theme: Japan. I estimate that around thirty Japanese suppliers had a stand at Le Bon Marché Japon where they could showcase their goods and it was clear that they were neatly selected, only offering quality and original products.

There was also an art installation, honoring the art island Naoshima in a rather dramatic fashion:

Seems like Le Bon Marché figured that to compete with web shops, they have to put up a show.

Judging from the amount of shoppers in the store and the Japon-bags on the streets, this project seems successful. It proves that when vendors offer something else than the usual designer-subjects, customers are willing to visit their department stores again.

Palais de Tokyo interior. Photo by Jean-Daniel Pauget

Visiting the museum at night: an everyday reality at Palais de Tokyo

Palais de Tokyo is an art museum that is open from noon to midnight, so I was able to visit on Saturday evening around 9pm, which I absolutely loved. During the evening, I’m in a better mood to experience the art installations of Palais de Tokyo. During the day, I’m more concerned with the next thing on the schedule, but at night, none of that is bothering me.

The Parisian museum basically is a ruin – especially the basement – and it’s filled with conceptual art – which is not to be understood, but to experienced. Such as Ange Leccia’s impressive loops of the Costa Rican coastline:

After visiting the exhibitions, we had dinner on the courtyard, that is surrounded by pillars and even offers an accidental view on the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. As we saw the crowds gather for club YoYo’s front door, the waiter served us BBQ pork ribs. Outside the terrace, people sat down on the staircases, enjoying picnics and their skateboards.

The Palais de Tokyo really seemed part of daily life for at least hundreds of Parisians, what I absolutely loved and which should serve as a blueprint for other modern art museums.

It would be admirable if more museums opened their doors at night. Art after work!

Yves Klein and Dries van Noten. Photo: Flickr / A Bart

Dries van Noten shows his inspirations to the public in Paris

My girlfriend is in fashion and wanted to see the Dries van Noten exhibition in Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris, so we took the train from Amsterdam to get there, which felt like a very cosmopolitan thing to do.

Belgian fashion designer Van Noten (1958), who still owns 100 percent of his company’s shares, shows his inspirations, grouped in loose themes like ‘Graphic’, ‘Uniforms’ and ‘Foppish’. Per theme, you’ll see a vitrine with Van Notens designs, accompanied by pieces he found in the museum archive and his personal inspirations, like extracts from his favorite movies.

I especially liked the part where Van Noten combined Jean Cocteau’s sword with a portrait of David Bowie and his own impressive men coats.

Photo by Erin Baiano
Photo by Erin Baiano

The whole show felt like an enormous and sophisticated mood board and reminded me of the book by American author Austin Kleon, who encourages artists to share their inspirations publicly: Steal Like an Artist (2012).

(Exhibition runs until November 2nd)


The cool guys become insurance agents

I remember reading an interview with the two creators of Southpark, where they discussed how the losers of their high schools went on and lead great lives, while the cool kids all became insurance agents. I’ve always remembered that line, but by now I’m in doubt whether I’ve actually read it, since I can’t find the article online.

When I watched the Swedish movie The Reunion (2013) yesterday, I thought about this hopeful anecdote again.

In The Reunion, a succesful artists confronts her old bullies at a highschool reunion. When the artists discusses her old class with friends, they tell her she is on top of the food chain now.

To which she replies: ‘I’m not, because in their eyes, I’m still a loser’.

I urge you to go see this uncomfortable and thought-provoking movie.

De Correspondent now publishes books too

Excited to tell you we’ve started publishing books at De Correspondent (more about our platform here). Author Rutger Bregman has written about importance of utopian thinking on our platform and three months ago announced that he wanted to further explore these ideas in a book. We immediately though: why not publishing it ourselves.

Covers of both editions, designed by Momkai.
Covers of both editions, designed by Momkai.

So here goes, De Correspondent is now a publishing house too. These are our 4 foundations for publishing books:

  1. Ebook is 60  percent cheaper than print edition (€18 vs €7);
  2. Ebook isn’t secured with DRM or any of that nonsense: readers are free to lend books to friends and family (with 85 to 95 percent of Dutch ebooks being illegal copies, it’s obvious that DRM doesn’t work);
  3. We’ve raised author’s royalties for print edition with 50 percent;
  4. People can order both editions at our own shop:;

Not fluent in Dutch but eager to read a story by Bregman? Read Why We Should Give Free Money to Everyone.

Visiting the Tate for the first time; my 7 highlights

I have three rules for visiting a city: 1) never take the underground, 2) when you see a queue for a restaurant, join it and 3) visit the museum for modern art. Last week, when I visited London to speak at a journalism conference, I had a hard time abiding the first rule, but the third one didn’t meant any trouble at all, since I visited the Tate Modern for the first time in my life.

To give you a taste of the current displays of its collection, I’ll share the paintings I’ve found most impressing.

(click on the image for more information on the Tate’s website)

A Mi-Voix 1958 by Dorothea Tanning 1910-2012
Dorothea Tanning – A Mi-Voix (1958)
Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams 1
Ibrahim El-Salahi – Reborn Sounds of Childhood Drama I (1961-65)
Variation on the Form of an Anchor 1939 by Tristram Hillier 1905-1983
Tristram Hillier – Variaton on the Form of an Anchor (1939)
The Entire City 1934 by Max Ernst 1891-1976
Max Ernst – The Entire City (1934)
Lee Ufan - From Line (1978)
Lee Ufan – From Line (1978)
Composition No. 15 1925 by Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart 1899-1962
Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart – Composition No. 15 (1925)
Seated Nude 1909-10 by Pablo Picasso 1881-1973
Pablo Picasso – Seated Nude (1909-10)

While exiting through the gift shop, I picked up a copy of Austin Kleons new book ‘Show your Work‘. Expect a review soon.

Vet: Salman Rushdie beveelt m’n fotocollectie aan

Al drie jaar lang verzamel ik foto’s van werkende schrijvers op Dat ging allemaal lekker z’n gangetje. Niets aan de hand. Tot een paar dagen geleden.

Toen tweette Salman Rushdie dat hij zijn foto gevonden had:

Nu denk ik bij elke levende schrijver die ik upload: maar wat zou hij/zij van dit fotootje vinden?

PS. Elke dag zo’n foto ontvangen? Volg de Tumblr of het twitteraccount:


Jennifer Lawrence als weergaloze woedende huisvrouw in American Hustle

Het eerste wat bij de film American Hustle (2013) in beeld wordt gebracht, is de enorme bierbuik van Christian Bale. ‘Ja, hij is voor deze rol enorm aangekomen’, lijkt de regisseur te willen zeggen. Of het is een verwijzing naar het knallende begin van Duke Ellingtons Jeep’s Blues, die op de soundtrack staat:

Maar het is Jennifer Lawrence die pas echt de show steelt in deze zorgvuldig gestileerde seventies-film. Telkens wanneer zij als woedende en sensuele huisvrouw, komt de film pas echt tot leven.

Zien! Al is het alleen al voor haar.