November 23, 2018

Why the Dutch are observing Black Friday

Filed under: General,Online,Weird by Orangemaster @ 3:19 pm

According to Wikipedia, Black Friday became a thing in the Netherlands about three years ago. Even as a Canadian, it was the first time I’d ever heard of it. In Canada, where Thanksgiving is celebrated in October and for very different reasons that in the United States, we’ve always had Boxing Day (26 December) as our shopping madness day, where shops want to get rid of their stock before the new year. In the Netherlands, 26 December is actually a holiday.

This year the Netherlands has a lot of shops big and small participating in Black Friday, acting like not doing so would be missing out. A lot of people think this ‘commercial appropriation’ is ridiculous, but mark my words, it will continue to grow here and in Europe because it remains a money maker, especially with Cyber Monday a few days later.

One person on Twitter captioned a picture of packages of American cranberries, saying sarcastically “The cranberries are already in the supermarket, so that we can celebrate Thanksgiving tonight and Black Friday tomorrow. But changing anything about Dutch traditions, well no.” The comment alludes to this year’s escalation of the Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) debate, which has turned to hate and violence, two things that do no pair well with gift giving and happy holidays.

And seriously, most Dutch kitchens do not have an oven and if they do, good luck fitting a turkey in there. I’m still bummed I can’t put two trays of 12 muffins in side by side.

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December 3, 2016

Faces of nations, what composite national leaders look like

Filed under: Photography by Branko Collin @ 11:12 pm


Turkish-born, Amsterdam-based art-director Güney Sokayn had this simple but intriguing question – do composite portraits of natians’ leaders say something about those nations?

On his project page he explains:

Consciously or sub-consciously, you rarely think of Germany without picturing Angela Merkel or of Russia without Vladimir Putin. Because whether we like it or not, the political leader of our country represents how the world perceives their nation. But is it a reflection of that nation’s people? […]

This is where the idea for Face of a Nation originates. It is a personal curiosity project that aims to create portraits of different nations based on their leaders from the past 50 years.

To this end, Soykan took photos of presidents and prime ministers, spliced them vertically and put the resulting strips together, forming new, composite portraits. The strips are ordered by the periods these men (and the odd woman) governed. The width of each bar represents the duration of each government.

Although perhaps the most important lesson is how boring leaders look, some trends can be clearly spotted, and I am not just talking about the switch from black-and-white to colour photography. The end of apartheid in South Africa is visible, because all subsequent presidents after De Klerk were black (top illustration, detail). American presidents lead for exactly four or eight years (bottom left). Syria and North Korea are hereditary dictatorships. And if you are the leader of Turkey (bottom right) or Italy, you should probably make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date.

face_of_a_nation-usa-guney_soykan face_of_a_nation-turkey-guney_soykan

Illustrations: Güney Soykan.

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January 7, 2013

Satellite dishes are not always protected speech

Filed under: Architecture by Branko Collin @ 2:07 pm

A homeowners’ association in Rotterdam recently wanted a member to remove a satellite dish from his flat. Dishes are considered an eyesore and they decrease the enjoyment other owners have of their flats.

However, it’s not that simple, Internet lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet writes. Freedom of speech also includes the ability to receive information, which is why judges have been reluctant to outlaw satellite dishes in the past.

The homeowners’ association won its lawsuit last July because the homeowner had other ways to watch his favourite TV channels, such as on the Internet. A fundamental right does not always trump a homeowners’ association’s articles.

Engelfriet omitted to mention that the satellite TV watching flat owner was of Turkish descent. When Dutch people see a street full of satellite dishes, they generally assume that the neighbourhood is popular with immigrants. Homeowners fear that a neighbourhood’s property value will drop if the neighbourhood is perceived to be too ‘black’.

In this case, the plaintiff had also made it clear that it wasn’t he who needed access to the satellite channels, but his wife.

The plaintiff was ordered to pay all his opponent’s legal costs, which the judge determined to be 200 euro.

(Photo by Kai Schreiber, some rights reserved)

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July 8, 2012

Turkish brothers win prestigious herring award

Filed under: Food & Drink by Branko Collin @ 1:47 pm

A herring stand in Leiden.

There are few things more Dutch than herring and xenophobia, which makes today’s catch deliciously ironic. Turkish-run, Leiden-based fishmongers Atlantic won the AD Herring Test 2012.

Brothers Abdullah and Umut Tagi were the only fish sellers to score ten points this year.

AD writes:

The first place in the national herring test is the ultimate revenge for the brothers Tagi: “We were always ‘those Turks’ to the rest of the trade, at least, that is how it felt. We have definitely made a mark now that we have won the most important prize there is. […] We are fighting a battle, and that battle is yet to be won. That will only be the case once every Dutch man and woman can enjoy the real thing, traditionally prepared herring.”

The brothers Tagi have been ‘in fish’ all their lives. Fresh out of Turkey, 10-year-old Abdullah helped clear fish waste at the The Hague market, while his mother—pregnant of Umut—cleaned herring in Scheveningen. Today the brothers run two stores in Leiden and The Hague, and a wholesale business that specializes in hand-cleaned herring.

Meanwhile the folks over at would like to know, how do you feel about raw herring?

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June 27, 2012

Turkish special Zone 5300

Filed under: Comics by Branko Collin @ 7:19 pm

Illustration: MK Perker

The celebration of 400 years of diplomatic relations between Turkey and The Netherlands might tempt a magazine’s editors, looking for fresh angles, to dedicate an issue to the topic… Zone 5300 did, and struck gold.

The thing about European comics is that the genre seems to have just a few torchbearers, Belgium being the Mount Olympus and The Netherlands, France, Spain and maybe Italy the foothills. Discovering that there is another country on the continent with a rich comic traditions (and a narrative of adversity to boot—censorship being a day-to-day reality in Turkey)? This is just the thing I am reading Zone 5300 for, baby!

Illustration: Bahadır Baruter

Issue 98 has comics by MK Perker, Bahadır Baruter, Memo Tembelçizer, Betül Yilmaz (who writes and draws for Bayan Yanı, a magazine filled only by female cartoonists), Kenan Yarar and Ersin Karabalut. The issue also contains a six page history of Turkish comics and an interview with Dutch illustrator Gijs Kast about his drawn portraits of the streets of Istanbul.

I especially liked Ersin Karabulut’s comic Under the Skin about a skin disease that manifests itself as a life form that can speak. It does this by forming letters on the skin of its carrier. Although Karabulut does not shy away entirely from the farcical possibilities his idea offers, the comic really is an exploration of how the carriers respond to their new predicament, specifically how they change under the pressures of their environment… or do they? I really don’t want to give away too much, but this comic alone packs a lot of punch in only six pages. I would not mind reading more from Karabulut to see if he can keep up this level of story telling.

Illustration: Gijs Kast

Illustration: Ersin Karabulut. The disease says: "Why don't you ever make filled eggplant?"

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