Coded Bias

90 min.

Wat zegt het over mij dat ik al veel wist van wat in deze documentaire wordt besproken? Misschien lees ik te veel. Of genoeg, en de rest van de samenleving te weinig.

Want algoritmes beïnvloeden niet alleen wat wij wel doen en kopen, maar ook wat wij goedkeuren en afkeuren. Wat als de norm wordt beschouwd, en die norm wordt vastgelegd door (oude) witte mannen. Daardoor hebben zwarte vrouwen witte maskers nodig om gezichtsherkenning te gebruiken: waarom zou je als witte man de gezichtsherkenning aan zwarte gezichten laten wennen, tenslotte?

Naast die ongelijkheid laat de documentaire ook zien wat er nog meer mis is met het verafgoden van het technische. Mooi vond ik hoe ze zeiden hoe algoritmes in het verleden wortelen. Zij leren tenslotte van data, maar die data is seksistisch, racistisch en meer. We moeten dus nog véél meer kijken naar wat we de ritmes voeren.

Zei zij, op het internet.

De meest besproken man van Nederland

De meest besproken man van Nederland zit om 05.00 uur rechtop in zijn bed.

De meest besproken man van Nederland, Jeroen Pen, Uitgeverij Pluim 2021

Had een vrouw dit ook gepubliceerd gekregen, vraag ik mij af een paar uur na het uitlezen ervan.

Weinig verder aan te merken op deze ‘we doen alsof het een roman is’-roman, maar een man zonder journalistieke opleiding krijgt kansen die de vrouwelijke journalistieke student nooit zal ervaren omdat ze al na x aantal minuten uit gebrek aan betalend werk maar de communicatie in gaat. Ja, ik spreek uit ervaring en ben nog steeds bitter. Enfin.

Jeroen Pen schrijft over freelance/flexibele schil/vaste-contractenterreur in de mediamwereld. Over de dinosauriërs die wel de komeet aan zien komen, maar niet weten hoe er mee om te gaan. Allemaal – als mededertiger – veels te herkenbaar. Bek houden over de staat van de werkomgeving en doorbuffelen – dat ook.

Zo is dit een zeer milleniaanse klacht over media, de vorige generatie, de economie en hoe er tegen werk aan gekeken wordt. Vlot geschreven en zonder enige verdieping of oplossingen dus een lekkere aderlating.

Aan te merken? Het ouderwetse, seksistische gedrag van de vaste-contracters had vast wel alleen benoemd kunnen worden om Otto’s innerlijke feminist/one of the boys-strijd te tonen, in plaats van in detail te benaderen. Maar hier spreekt dan ook een sneeuwvlokje.

Crip Camp

100 min.

First documentary of the month. An uncomfortable one because really; did anything change in how society handles disabled people in the past fifty years?

Crip Camp is about Camp Jened, but so much more. About the American government lacking in viewing disableds as citizens instead of their disability. They fight (for) laws, but first and foremost for the right of a multi-dimensional life.

The documentary is completely American focused, connecting to civil rights, racism and sexism. That also makes it easy to pretend it’s a local thing, but of course we know better.

That leaves Crip Camp as a reminder of how much change still has to happen to give disabled citizens the room in society they deserve.

De vrolijke verrader

George Blake had zich al veertig minuten in een doorgang net binnen de muren van de Londense gevangenis verscholen.

De vrolijke verrader, Simon Kuper, Nieuw Amsterdam 2021

Echt geen idee wat vrolijk is aan dit verhaal of al het verraad eigenlijk, maar dat kan ik ook gewoon gemist hebben.

Simon Kuper levert namelijk een grote berg informatie over spion George Blake die een dubbelagent (Engeland/Sovjet) was tijdens de Koude Oorlog. Het boek gaat niet alleen over Blake maar over misschien wel de beste tijd in de wereld van spionage. Als een complete leek het boek in was best een uitdaging; gelukkig waren er ook hoofdstukken die zo uit een John le Carré-boek kwamen en wat tempo en spanning toevoegden.

Tegelijkertijd blijft het bizar dat dit ten eerste non-fictie is en ten tweede nog niet eens zo lang geleden allemaal gebeurd is. Ook blijft Blake een apart figuur dat het hele verhaal allemaal net iets vreemder en daardoor aantrekkelijker maakt.

Maar wanneer hij nu vrolijk was door zijn verraad? Misschien allitereerde het te lekker om te negeren.

Fighting With My Family

108 min.

Can you call a story clichéd if it’s based on a true story? Because Fighting With My Family goes through several well-used tropes (unlikely hero, successful comeback after a lowest moment), but uh – guess it all really happened, so do you judge a story on it?

The family mentioned is a boxing family from Greenwich. All four are in the ring (the fifth is in jail), but the children aim for the gold: becoming a part of WWE. The family expects the son to get it (at least), but it’s the daughter. This causes a rift.

One that will be mended through True Familial Love, after some solo hardships and end with a successful comeback. It’s marketed as a comedy, but I’d say “slice of life”/”coming of age” with both siblings learning what they want and can expect from life. With some laughs, that’s true.

High on the Hog

Dan-Tokpa Market, Catanou, Benin, West-Africa – I visited my first African market with my mother three decades ago.

High on the Hog, Jessica B. Harris, Bloomsbury 2011

It hardly can be any clearer how much this author loves her people, their culture and their history. This isn’t just a book about food or (for) black people: it’s the history of eating and about every continent is involved in some way.

This combination of travel, research and family stories taught me several new things about black history, without ever feeling preachy or as an information-dump. I’ve also learned of many things I want to eat.

High on the Hog travels from slavery to American contemporary day, and sometimes that’s a lot to take in. But Harris’ way of light, loved writing makes it feel like you’re listening in om someone’s stories while they’re preparing you a scrumptious meal. As I said – I really just want to try so many things.

Minding the Gap + Betty

Minding the Gap is a 93 minute documentary

Betty is a two season TV-show, 12 episodes of 30 minutes

And both of them involve skating, why I combined the two. Minding the Gap is a sober documentary about life in a small town with an even smaller amount of possibilities to get out of the rut your ancestors created for you. The documentary maker returns after a time and goes looking for all his (skater) friends. Not all of them got out – mentally and physically.

This might all sound terribly depressing and it’s definitely not a fun, cool watch, but director Bing Liu manages to make you feel for these strangers like it’s your own set of friends.

Betty keeps things (most of the time) a lot more lighthearted. It’s based in reality with the skateboarders having been plucked from the street and allowed input to stories (according to the credits), but HBO puts a very cool, glamorous, quick-living sheen over it. It’s a group of diverse female teens in New York that skate. There are a few (teen-related) problems, but mostly it’s just cruising: little goes permanently wrong.

That also turns it into brightly coloured wallpaper pretty quickly. Or maybe I’m just too old and not cool enough.

Either way, I still want to get a skateboard and try my hardest to master it now.

Stuntwomen: the untold Hollywood Story

85 min.

Kinda started this out of boredom, decided to stick with it because it told me a lot about Hollywood (history) I didn’t know yet. And showed a lot of cool stunts (which are usually also very dangerous, shouldn’t be reenacted and there should probably be a conversation about how it’s time to CGI stunts before anything else).

It’s the untold story, but at the same time and all too familiar one: women aren’t as appreciated in their job as men (in the same function).
Starting out, it was more women than men doing stunts. Then it turned out that money was to be made, and men came in in droves. Women have to be a carbon copy of the actress they replace: men are done after putting on a wig. Men are hired for every job (background victims, for example) with little experience, women didn’t because they “didn’t fit the bill completely” or “I don’t like to see women shot” – director’s quote.

Yet they – as in any other job – persevere(d). Sometimes by doing the too dangerous job (an interviewed stuntwoman broke her back twice), but they have so much passion for what they do that it’s hard to stay away.

Inspirational and motivational – both about standing your ground in the work place and I really want to pick up all kinds of martial arts, boxing and trampoline jumping right now.

The Salt Path

There’s a sound to breaking waves when they’re close, a sound like nothing else.

The Salt Path, Raynor Winn, Penguin Random House 2019

Is this man really, really really called Moth? I mean, there’s a lot to this story about an older couple going hiking after bankruptcy and illness hit them, but why won’t anyone tell me if it’s a nick name? No-one acknowledges it as being random or quirky, the reader just has to endure a grown man, not a particularly weird grown man, being called Moth all the time!

Okay, it’s out of my system.

The Salt Path must have been welcomed by the UK Tourism Board (I’m sure such a thing exists). Even though Winn writes about plenty of hardship (in detail), I still want to do the hiking path they did, and visit plenty of the villages they did. With a bit more comfort though, that’s true.

Because, as mentioned before, for Raynor and Moth it’s a move out of desperation, not a holiday. They lose their home and work, Moth loses his health and the hike is not so much as a conscious decision as it is running away.

So, besides those descriptions of the country and the path, are there also plenty of musings on work, the future, health and family. Winn shares what life has thrown at them (a lot!), and sometimes her musings get a bit too navel-gazing, but the circumstances… you’d probably cut her some slack.

All that turns this book into some kind of saga, the Odyssey but very, very British. Maybe that’s how we should just view the decision to call a man Moth as well.

Girl Waits With Gun

Our troubles began in the summer of 1914, the year I turned thirty-five.

Girl Waits With Gun, Amy Stewart, Scribe 2015

I judged this book by its cover, by its title and by its summary. Which meant that I went yes/yes/no on it, because I don’t care about the western genre nor showcases about how great and cool American history is. Yes, I’m fun at parties.

This novel was fun. Not in the haha-hilarious way, but entertaining. It’s based on true events (per the acknowledgments, I never heard of it), but provides a universal female experience even if it wouldn’t be: the male that can’t handle a woman not “falling in line” to his actions and demands. With this happening early into the twentieth century, everyone ignoring the women is even worse.

The Kopp women get into an accident with a dodgy factory-owner, try to get what they deserve and therefore get.. threats, violence and a lot of authority figures just shaking their heads.

None of the Kopp women are written very appealingly; I just rooted for them because the other person was so much worse. Besides that it’s an interesting look at New York City and “the back-lands” in that era.