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#37 The times they are a-changin’
At our wedding, we had Italian ice cream from Amsterdam’s famed Monte Pelmo. Beforehand, we had to select two flavors for the event, a choice we debated for hours. It raised the question, what two flavors of ice cream can satisfy everyone? Our best bet was chocolate and strawberry, a major concession from me, a pistachio person. Fortunately, on the grand day, Monte Pelmo brought countless flavors, and we could mix and match as we wanted. Everybody happy.
It was an election week in the Netherlands. We could choose from up to 37 parties to guide our country from Covid-recovery to climate-response. That is a generous selection to choose from. Seventeen made the cut and obtained at least one of the 150 seats of parliament. That’s one party for every sustainable development goal.
The Dutch democratic system is sometimes heralded as an example for the world. Small, special interest parties often succeed in putting (some) minority perspectives on the agenda. For instance, the animal rights party (6 seats and my vote) has over the years been able to press for improvements in biodiversity and animal welfare, employing their own Carthago delenda est for industrial animal farming.
And if you don’t like animals, you could choose for pensioners (1 seat), farmers (1 seat), Europe (3 seats), radical equality (1 seat), or a wide range of far right conspiracy theorists (11 seats). Monte Pelmo would have been jealous.
The beauty of a multi-party system is that the amount of theorizing about the outcome increases exponentially. Why were the traditional left-wing parties pulverized? (26 seats) How could so many outspoken racists be elected? (too many seats) Etc. Etc. Therefore, I was happy with Politico’s summary, “Don’t dream too wildly down there in Rome and other places — the next government in The Hague will still be a Dutch one.”
Last week’s 99pi episode The Megaplex! is a must-listen if you ever wondered why so many great movies were made in the 90s and so many shit movies come to the cinema right now. Spoiler alert: It has very little to do with cultural shifts in people and a whole lot with market mechanics.
“Jack Foley was a distributor at Columbia and he says the Megaplex was a Trojan horse for slipping strange, subversive movies into unsuspecting suburbs across America. If the latest teen movie was sold out, kids might end up seeing something like Being John Malkovich. And Being John Malkovich was not an outlier. The year it was released— 1999 —was a year that many people believe was one of the best movie years ever. Not only did all these great movies get made, but they were able to find an audience in Megaplexes across the country.”
1999 is a year in which I strongly felt I lost touch with popular culture, mostly because I couldn’t keep up with all the movies. Fight Club, The Matrix, Office Space, Three Kings, Election, The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project, Notting Hill, Being John Malkovich, Eyes Wide Shut, Boys Don’t Cry, The Virgin Suicides, American Movie, American Pie, and the list (in the podcast) goes on. I didn’t watch some of these movies until late in the naughts when I could get them as a torrent.
Currently, we’re going through another visual storytelling transformation, thanks to the combination of Covid and on-demand streaming. “Direct to video” used to be a derogatory term. Now it’s the only way to get a movie to an audience if you don’t want to be James Bond. I wonder what this means for the kind of stories that will end up on the big screen when all this is over. Also, I wonder if these movies will be interpreted as a cultural change in decades to come.
Early on Friday, I received a range of excited texts from the good people at FloatScans. For two years, they’ve been scanning artworks and museum objects at exceptional quality. They used one of their models to create two series of five NFT-based digital twins of a 17th-century Delftware tulip vase. They’re still a steal, so this may be your chance to own an artwork written about in The Art Newspaper. It may be the cultural bitcoin, and in a few years, you wished you had bought it at the start (unless you care about energy conservation).
Thanks to everyone who signed up for the paid version of this newsletter last week. Enough people did to probably be able to support an art project with a modest donation well before summer. If you want to chip in, feel free to sign up as well. Or feel free to stay on the free version. I will not make any difference between different types of subscribers. You’re all amazing, and I thank you for reading, commenting, and forwarding my words.
A few quick things before I sign off for today and think about next week’s newsletter will be the next part of the book.
One, coming Tuesday, we’ll launch the outcomes of the survey we did late last year. We’ve turned this into an exciting tool that I will definitely write about. For now, feel free to join us at 4 pm CET on 23 March on YouTube.
Two, with J, I kicked off #TheGreatRijksBakeOff today with a delicious apple pie. I love this trend of home-cooking world-class food with top ingredients. I hope this will stay around after C. Another cultural shift people will find hard to pinpoint in a few decades.
Three, today, I turned 39. Of all the cultural changes, this is the most minute yet most impactful on my day-to-day. It’s my second Corona birthday, and I like it better than last. Much better, I should say. My wife and sons had gotten me the best presents ever; we had that delicious Rijks pie and a bottle of sparkling Spanish wine before pizza. I don’t even feel old.
Thanks again, see you next week with a book-update! Until then, stay safe,