Archive for the ‘Chat’ Category

Cafe/Coffee Poems

Posted: November 24, 2019 in Chat
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CAFE

The city is bored; he sits by the door
of a main street café, twitching with espresso;
mind glazed by incessant passing,
dulls to dissatisfaction too extended
to sustain its edge. He convolutes the image:
he is a silent tongue in the street’s mouth,
continually attempting to
articulate its existence, and failing.

The café plays a muted loop,
an orchestration of Alanis Morrisette,
an unresolving melody
that is always on the point of developing
but does not. Now he connects:
a violinist with the Halle,  recognises this,
it was his holiday money;
a television commercial paid for school fees.

The year has been good,
but he is worn, fighting to remain
where he has fought to be.

COFFEE

This is part of the magic of the coffee cup:
to pour milk, not even cream, to leave it
concerned with toast, a pastry,
to turn to it and catch the point where

a perfect spiral, perfectly balanced,
holds for a moment, then dissolves again,
breaks down into ellipses, warping
into tangents and parentheses –
white hands framing a troubled face.

Someone who did not quite make it.
I know him well.
I live my life amongst ellipses.

 

WHAT IS HAPPINESS/ Wat Is Geluk?

Because happiness is a memory
it exists because at the same time
the reverse is also true
……………………………………………………………

 ………………… I mean this: happiness
must exist somewhere at some time because
 we remember it and it reminds us. 

Rutger Kopland (Until It Lets Us Go, 1997)

Full text:
https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/what-is-happiness-14/

1

A circling argument, circular reasoning; he is attempting to capture here the processes of actual experience. It is a meld between learnt things ie the particular blends that give the sense of well-being, and the sense of already existing well-being within the person.

And notice that it is one long sentence. Is it a sentence? It’s more properly described as a gestalt, a knot of argument.

Maybe we have a harking back here to something like R D Laing’s collections of problems in his book Knots:

They are playing a game. They are playing at not
playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I
shall break the rules and they will punish me.
I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.

But this seems to be a different order, similar, but different. Unless, the difference is in the ambience that translation gives. James Brockway’s translation of the poem here is more a kind of, what he called, a collaboration: both writer and translator find the most appropriate new terms with which to convey the original poem.

What Kopland is doing here is expressing the thinking processes of emotion. That is, emotion in a broad sense.

2

There have been times in my own life I have forgotten what various things look like. One of them has been happiness. Many of us know this – if you haven’t you most probably will. Wait, especially until some loved one dies.

What was it Brecht said? The Happy man has not heard the bad news yet.
I quoted that to a colleague once and they asked in all seriousness what the bad news was.  What can you say!

To forget happiness. We all assume it is our right as a human being. That we are entitled to it, and to go to extraordinary lengths to gain, retain, or find it.
And yet it can be lost.

That last stanza in particular of the poem makes perfect sense: we have a capacity for it, or have developed one, therefore it is something we must need.
And let’s admit a life without happiness is not much of a life.
But is this just because we feel we are no longer getting our usual quota, whether it is necessary for us or not? Can we live a full life without  it?
To have ring-fenced what is necessary for a life; how narrow is that space? Or how over-large?

And then if we look back to, say, St Augustine, and his Confessions, we come across… someone overfond of describing themselves, of wallowing in their own specialness. But we also come across Chapter Ten.
What is Chapter ten? It is where he contemplates Memory.

Subsection 8 of chapter 10 begins: So I must also go beyond this natural faculty of mine… The next stage is memory, which is like a great field or a spacious palace, a storehouse for countless images of all kinds….

And if that isn’t a description of a memory system, then I don’t know what is! Those of us familiar with Patrick Jane from The Mentalist, will recognise the reference to the ‘memory palace’ in this, that he constantly goes on about.

Memory contains, says Augustine, amongst everything else we know, what we know as happiness. The chapter description reads –  Since all men long for happiness, they must know in some way what it is…

Even the phrasing seems to be echoed in the Kopland poem. Augustine’s reasoning in the chapter, subsection 20, runs:
Am I to seek it in memory, as though I had forgotten it but still remembered that I had forgotten it?

It seems what is being considered in all this is whether happiness is a constant presence in our psyches, or a memory of, say, well-being, that we had once, and constantly refer to when we mean ‘happiness’.

This last bit reminds me of so many things we value, that in actuality were singular and temporary, limited occurances.

We constantly hark back to happier times in our lives, which we then project onto our environment, society, history, culture. These were probably a few days/months/at most a few years when certain pleasure chemicals took precedence in our lives, and we were able to live almost blissfully.

I’ve heard people in the UK recall the 1950’s as ‘good times’, yet when we look at those times they were pitifully bad in most respects.

A general loss of energy and with it the capacity to take on the multiplicity of thought and experience, leaves a simplified, narrowed and shallow picture: a ring-fenced concept .

3

I am interested in moving forward, or, as a ‘forward’ probably doesn’t exist, opening up the present more and more.

Against this is a constant reference to what are thought to be past glories; someone’s glory is someone else’s defeat. But also there is the meld between the victor and the defeated, what is then incorporated of the defeated’s self-sense into the victor’s sense of self.

I still maintain that what Kopland was investigating, especially in his later work, was a Phenomenological stance.
Phenomenology kind of grew out of early European existentialism, the work of Husserl, then Merleu-Ponty et al.

You find with modern Phenomenolgy this constant vacillating between one’s sense of one’s body in the world, that we get from sensory feedback from the world, and a sense of  self’s existence, that is maybe generated from sheer sense of the brain itself functioning.
This can lead to a looped vacillation; but there is this extra ingredient, and that is our being’s sense of… curiosity, for want of a better term. It is this keeps us going on.

One thing that seems to move us on better than most, is a sense of fun, play.

Bring on the fun!

Also see:
https://poezie-log.blogspot.com/2015/12/rutger-kopland-wat-is-geluk-omdat-het.html

Ebook: The Spider and the Spies: The Secret Files of Stasi & Co, by Karen Margolis
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spider-Spies-secret-files-Stasi-ebook/dp/B0758145MD/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1515355645&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Spider+and+the+Spies%3A+The+Secret+Files+of+Stasi+%26+Co%2C+by+Karen+Margolis

Karen Margolis gives here first-hand testimony of her experience of the GDR, and the Stasi State.
Some years ago, after much deliberating, she decided to apply to read her Stasi files. Their filing system was hermetic, to say the least.

It was not an easy decision.

What do you hope to find, and what do you dread?
There are always surprises, unwelcome or not. The husband of a close friend, himself close, had a quiet word: You may well find my name there.
She could not say anything to her friend, his wife.
And so the game of confidences, secrets, continues, just as it did under the system.
The stomach-churning knowledge, that blights relationships, friendships, even marriages.

And what of the ‘outing’ that was endemic for a period? To whose advantage was that? Hardened agents, with years of training and experience in emotional blackmail and manipulation, could still come out of it relatively unstuck. Transferable skills. The old tricks. And they were useful in the new Germany.
Miriam, in Anna Funder’s book, Stasiland,
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stasiland-Stories-Behind-Berlin-Wall/dp/1847083358/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515355920&sr=1-1&keywords=stasiland
found herself working under an ex-Stasi officer on a radio station, using the same tactics to manipulate people, this time the staff, as he had back then.
Also, see: The Disclosures of Respect: The Public Exposure of Stasi Informers after the German Reunification, by Juan Espindola
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.896.3940&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Anna Funder’s book is based on her research for a radio programme. She advertised for interviews. She focussed particularly on the role of the Secret Police, the Stasi.
One of the names that came up, was a Herr Von Schnitzler. He was popularly known as Herr Von Schni, because that is how far the announcer got before being turned off. He ran a regular TV programme, The Black Channel. His programme followed airing of programmes from the West, and he sat there afterwards onscreen and pulled the programme to pieces. Many named him the most hated man on TV. You can imagine his hectoring, bigoted sneer.
How to deal with such a character in an interview. To Anna Funder’s credit she did it, she got in under his radar:
‘There was a serious attempt to build a socialist state, and we should examine why, at the end, that state no longer exists. It’s important.
He replied:
‘I noticed relatively early… that we would not be able to survive economically.’

This is important. She cites figures in the book, on East German production, and particularly on the biggest employers (‘There is no unemployment… you are seeking work’). The retreating Soviets had dismantled and shipped back what plant machinery they could, at the end of the War.
And it turns out the biggest employer in the whole of East Germany was… The Stasi.

I am not talking about the tens of thousands of informers: their remuneration was pitiful, but the managerial ranks: it was based on military lines, so the Colonels and upper and immediately lower ranks.
The biggest employer.
And their GDP?
0.
They ‘produced’, in turn, nothing.

In fact, a good case can be made for them undermining the survival and productivity of the State.
They demoralised, victimised, ruined, lives, destroyed families, lied outright, falsified… murdered. But actually produced nothing. Unless you think an atmosphere of paranoia and continual fear a product.

The people separated the Stasi from the State: they supported the State, and hated the Stasi. They were in reality one.
When the end came it was the Stasi took the brunt, and the State officials in wealthy dachas and country houses were un-reproached. That was, after all, ‘normal.’
Peter Schneider, in The Wall Jumper,
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wall-Jumper-Penguin-Modern-Classics/dp/0141187980/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515355862&sr=1-1&keywords=the+wall+jumper
cites many examples of Easterners supporting the Eastern system, its social security, its low prices.

So when you come to the impact of this on people, it is The Stasi you think of first.
Their presence was everywhere.

Don’t let them through your door! Someone says.
– In the 1970s the response was a grim resentment, an entrenched attitude.
The 1970s were grim everywhere.
– The 1980 generation’s attitude was Ignore them. Have fun. Enjoy.
But if you didn’t let them in, they would summon you. If you didn’t go, they would pick you up at work, school, on the street.

Give them nothing.
They had meticulous details about your personal life, so much so that the notion of a private life would seem a mockery. And they had ways of manipulating you into quiescence, through shaming, robbing you of choice, free will, revealing that what you thought was basic humanity, was a construct, and so, manipulable.

Where did this information about you come from?
Ask yourself: could you bear to know? Would your life be easier, happier, not knowing? To not know is not necessarily to speculate What? and Who? but also perhaps to wonder What if not?
Peter Schneider’s character, Robert, would say that way of thinking was naive, Western. For him the State controlled every time you moved your hand to drink coffee, which coffee you drank, when you drank it, and why.

Where does the truth meet reality?
In testimony, like Karen Margolis gives here.
This is a valuable book. We still need to understand those difficult times.

Reblog: Magic

Posted: October 25, 2019 in Chat
Tags: , ,

With it being Halloweeny time, I thought, Why no reblog that Magic piece again? And so, here it is:

A book I’ve had hanging around for ages: there it was again, so this time I read it:
Ancient Philosophy, Mystery and Magic – Empedocles and the Pythagorean Tradition, by Peter Kingsley.
It was published by Clarendon Press/ Oxford University Press, 1995.

Then there was a free FutureLearn course: Magic in the Middle Ages, run by Barcelona University. Lovely people, by the way.

But, back to that book, first.
Empedocles is the one who coined the four basic elements, building blocks of all things: earth, air, fire and water. Each was also connected with a god/goddess.
The hierarchy was:
Air – Zeus. It was aether intitially, a rarefied form of air.
Earth – Hera
Water – Nestis. She was a localised goddess, native to Sicily.
Fire – Hades.

Empedocles was a native of Sicily. It was to Sicily that Pythagoras came from Samos, Greece. This was all in the 4th centuryBCE.
Sicily, of course, has always been volcanic. Not just the presence of Etna, but Empedocles’ birth town was based on hot springs: the island is full of volcanic-related geography. Then there are the Liparan Islands off the north coast, connecting to Vesuvius.
Is it any wonder the Pythagorians had Fire as the centre of the universe? This was not just ordinary fire but the fire of Tartarus, where the Titans and rebellious gods were confined.
The Underworld, next, ‘as far above Hades as the Earth was above the Underworld’; it was envisioned as a place of rivers of water, and of fire. Nestis was a localised name for Persephone, and she was partnered with Hades, as Hera was with Zeus. We see differences in nature and purpose of each couple in this.
Some initiates took all this later to Egypt. It found a home there, met eastern cults, and became interested in Alchemy (another fire-based ideology).
This was all big-concept stuff – compare it with the Eleusian Mysteries, with closely related Orphism, the mystery cults. They are all surrounded by ritual, initiation, even rebirth scenarios.

The online course was based on documented sources: Papal edicts, religious records, even Inquisition records.
Magic was either earth magic: herbology, charms and amulets, even star reading – and the other: necromancy, prophecy etc. The first were accepted; the latter were considered to be due to demonic agencies.Then they all became classed as the latter kind: who gave you knowledge of these things? Why, demons, of course.
We touched on the Kabbalah: the course leader ruefully commented that this was only intended for those who had studied the Torah and The Old Testament, for at least 40 years. No one went straight into it, that would be seen as utterly stupid, pointless.

So, magic was either big-concept theory with rituals, orgies and bachanalian revels, or it was table-rapping, charms, astrology, and what we now know as spiritualism, automatic writing, dream visions etc.
That was about it.

There are no records outside of the Bible of the dead actually being raised, reinvigorated. Within the book, we have the Witch of Endor who cured Saul/St Paul’s heaven-caused blindness. But there are no extant records anywhere of witches, say, throwing fire balls, of actually being seen riding broomsticks; or of spells compelling living people to do things supernatural. No great wizards with staffs; no actual records of demons raised, djinns released, or even angels on earth.
Simon Magus? You tell me.
The Three Wise Men? Reputation and mystique. Persia was a whole other matter, though.

Curses and charms depend so much on coincidence and interpretation: you need narrow horizons and desperate lives to see the patterns, so to speak.

Everything else had been recorded; you can bet such weirdy stuff would certainly have been recorded too.

*

I have been wondering for some time about, you know, Satan.
Surely he must have begun as a kind of god of the Underworld, like Hades, Pluto.
His penchant for evil. sin, and corruption, are they his because of his role in the cosmos, to rule over all that is antithetical to life?
A fallen angel? You can see the problematical shiftings of old myths in this description: how to accommodate new influences, new characters, from maybe further east, tinges of half-known/remembered Egyptian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Persian cultures.
Evil, sin etc, are so human in nature. It is near impossible to find anything there that goes beyond human capability. Unfortunately.
So, there are no excuses, kids.

*

This bit you didn’t hear from me. OK?
Visions and vision quests.

In each case the person has to put their self in mortal danger.
This is always played down, and tactfully forgotten.
– The quester fasts and purges to the physical limit;
– the hallucinogenic user purposely imbibes toxic material.
– The sun-dancer puts his body through life-threatening torments.

The aim in all cases is to get the body to react to the ultimate threat.
That is not to react consciously, but on a purely physiological level, way below awareness: the body pumps in its danger and panic chemicals, its point-of-death chemicals, that enhance the hallucinations, the visions.
– It has been noted by some clinicians that the brain experiences a burst of activity immediately before death.

The whole vision procedure is a literal life-and-death one.
The result is a glimpse of the death-life relationship, and where, if anywhere, the self fits in.
The problem is, you have to survive, and you have to come back intact (or more or less: even Odin lost an eye!).

Don Not Try This At Home!

Dead Bee

Posted: October 20, 2019 in Chat
Tags: , , ,

Dead bee. Another nail.

What did you do? What
did you do?
Thundered
from the future.

You’ll know –
you are a part of us,
do what we do.

We’d never do that!

Get off your high horse. If not
this, then something else.
Blind spots. Greed and grab.

Speak to us.

What happened here, brother?
– Don’t try to answer, nothing
can heal this.
We have not done what you did
.

It was already part done.

We were stretching a hand up;
no one reached down.
We are all there is, and busy
with short-term, living now,
and not seeing how huge now is,
and how always.
You’d recognise this.

What is a horse?
they said.

30 years!
So much promise and expectation… squandered?

The Collapse – The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall. By Mary Elise Sarotte.
Basic Books, 2014. ISBN 9780465064948

Coll2

I want to recommend a great recent book on the story behind the fall of the Berlin Wall. (This piccie of the cover does not catch the eye and face of a border guard peering through the gap in the Wall at the photographer.)  It’s a history book – but don’t let that put you off.

The author, Mary Elise Sarotte, is Visiting Professor of Government and History at Harvard, and Dean’s Professor of History at University of Southern California.

Another link worth following:http://www.katrin-hattenhauer.de/

1

I’d like you to meet Harald Jager. He was born in 1943, the son of a Border policeman in what was soon to become East Germany. By 1964 he had entered the Border patrol himself.

What is special, in this story, about Harald Jager?

He was the senior Stasi employee on Bornholmer strasse Border Crossing Point, on the night of 9th November 1989. ‘He was essentially a record-keeper, one of the deputies to the senior figure…’ Mary Elise Sarotte writes.

He had begun work at eight that morning for a twenty-four hours’ stint at Bornolmer. He was the senior figure on duty. He was also very worried, to begin with: he had just had a test for possible cancer. He was nervously waiting for the results.

Gunter Schabowski, the Politburo member for the Media, had made a hasty announcement at the end of a tedious TV broadcast that evening. This end announcement was itself a hastily patched-together script; it couldn’t be examined by top Politburo people because they were tied up in internal wrangling. Nor could it be given assent by the Soviets because they were on extended leave celebrating the anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

They all presumed it was bona fide, and gave it the nod.

What was it about, this script? The relentlessly growing pressure inside East Germany had forced the authorities into giving some kind of placatory announcement. But there were those, the hard-liners, favoured the China Approach: the Tiananmen Square resolution to trouble-causers. And there were the ones who called for more diplomatic solutions. The two were destabilising the already atrophied regime from the inside.

This script announced that East Germans would be able to travel outside, legitimately. But it was an emigration only exit. They must apply for permits of course. And here the regime thought they were being crafty: such permits would be difficult.

When would this come into effect?

Right away.

The gabbled announcement on TV – he had not read it through beforehand – seemingly handed to East Germans an exit visa. Not only that but the announcement named West Berlin, a rare occurrence in connection with travel. Especially during this period of great unrest: the Hungarian border-leak had been plugged; the Czech leak was causing great upset and putting even more pressure on the East German regime,

 

Harald Jager was senior man on duty that night. He had twenty-five year’s loyal service behind him.
Then people started turning up at the check point, demanding to be let through. They had heard the broadcast, and very few regime members had bothered to listen. Harald Jager had heard it – he was astounded.

People began to turn up in their hundreds. This was happening at every check point. The numbers grew all night long. They were peaceful, but insistent. Thousands came, and they were growing.
This was on the back of the huge demonstrations in Leipzig and Dresden

In a centralised system like East Germany, all permissions had to come from above. Harald put through about thirty calls to his superiors that night: How do we deal with this?

And they had no idea. They tried all sorts of tactics, but outright denial of exit would most certainly make matters worse, turn a peaceful gathering of people into a potential danger.
All guards had received instructions months before not to fire unless attacked themselves.

One tactic the superiors suggested was take in the ring-leaders, the trouble-makers, as though processing for exit, then let them out – but do not allow them to return. They did this.

The trouble was people saw others getting through.

The regime had misread the people so badly: there were no ring-leaders; trouble-makers were just people who were more insistent, made more noise.

This made the pressure worse.

He rang his superiors again: What do we do? Harald’s superior patched him into a conference call: Don’t speak, just listen.

And what he heard was his superiors, out of touch, out of the loop of what was actually happening on the ground, questioning his abilities, calling him a coward. The connection was cut. Harald was left to himself, fuming, betrayed, abandoned.

We all know what happened, but it is the How that is most important. Read and find out.

Harald Jager in later life, at Bornholmer strasse:coll1

2

This is just one of the fascinating, heartbreaking REAL stories contained in this book.
All are meticulously researched: many, like this one, are pulled together from  interviews cross-checked with Stasi phone transcripts.

What happened to Harald? In unified Germany he had no job. He managed odd work here and there. Then he retired, on a meager pension.

Oh, and his cancer tests proved negative.

Many East German dissidents felt let down by the unification. Some felt that a greater democratisation was already on its way. Think of Gorbachev and his modernisations, his Glasnost etc. But the Czech and East German regimes opposed them. This disunity played its part in the communications failure of 9th November 1989.

Some dissidents hoped for – and I have read this recently as well – that the new Germany would combine the best of both East and West. In the event they felt, rightly, they had been steam-rollered by the Western powers. I had hoped this would happen too: creating a new European model – ah, the old dialectical synthesis idea, how it lingered.

One of the many commendable aspects of this book is how Mary Elise Sarotte has kept Western (USA, Britain, France) politicking out of the story. Hers is a story told by the participants, and they were the people on the ground, the streets.

3

Many talk of ‘tipping points’ in history. This seems a bit of a lazy idea: maybe it is that concepts of such a thing as ‘history’ gives birth to these things. History is the story the historian tells from the information of all sorts, in all forms, its nuances and contexts: history is in reality a scatter of information around several centres within an event time-frame. This posits a psychological angle on the presentation of history as history: the historian’s predilections. It is inevitable. How they get around this, I suspect, is why many seized on Derrida’s ideas so readily: history as the text of texts of texts: objective, measurable to some extent.

An identifiable tipping point is the construct of the historian.

4

Wikipedia gives us the following; let’s use it as a footnote:

His claim to be the first to breach the Wall was questioned in 2009 when Heinz Schäfer, a former colonel in the East German army, claimed that he had opened his crossing at Waltersdorf in the south of the city a few hours earlier, which would explain the supposed presence of East Berliners in the area before Jäger opened his gate.

Later life

Following the fall of the Wall, he was unemployed. In 1997, he was able to save up enough to open a newspaper shop in Berlin with his wife. He has since written a book about his experience called The Man Who Opened the Berlin Wall.

The day after: 10th November, 1989, Bornholmer strasse Crossing Point:

Berlin, Grenzübergang Bornholmer Straße

ADN-ZB-Roeske-10.11.89-Berlin: Rund eine Million DDR-Bürger besuchten am Sonnabend Berlin (West). An den Grenzübergangsstellen, wie hier an der Bornholmer Straße wurde zügig abgefertig. Vom Ministerium des Innern wurden seit dem 9. November weit über 10 Millionen Visa für Privatreisen und über 17 500 Genehmigungen für ständige Ausreise aus der DDR erteilt.

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1989-1118-017 / Roeske, Robert / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5424866

A cub reporter he was cobbling up
in the hot Turkish sun
that dries and chaps noses, lips,
the freckly European skin,
how soldier’s flake out under canvas
sapped by flies, and inaction.
‘At first,’ he wrote, ‘the skirmishing
kept them sweet, but adrenaline’s
as much a drug, a poison, as any
you can buy on the Turkish street.’

‘Now month on month, while the season closes,
shops close, and beaches are deserted,
they’re still here, still camped among
the growing dunes of cans, skirting
the latrine’s no-go areas.
The last flight gone they linger, inert
in airports with low-slung rifles,
assertive in bars, or hammer, drunk,
on closed doors late at night.’

And the horror stories the military
could not hold down: the travel guide
dragged off was more lucky murdered
than others they took.

Now sub-editor, on his desk
a new cub’s update on his winning story:
Contacts inside say the soldiers’ home-pay
is used by top brass to invest outside.
And so when stocks fall
cheques bounce, families… fail.

From his high window, watched
as developers bulldozed
an office block in the next lot.
His favourite Turkish restaurant
cordoned off; he sipped coffee
from a plastic cup; a superstore ciabatta.
The photo of his wife fell flat;
his coffee a telephoto lens
focusing in, focusing out, as a rumble
shook the superstructure.
Some hot-head cowboy contractor
had not secured the foundations
.

 

johan-huizinga

I’d been email-chatting with an historian, one of a new group, with their own angle, agenda, their own name. I signed off saying I was just going to re-read some Huizinga.
And that was it. I did not hear from him again.
I had gone beyond the Pale.

That is the problem with Academies, they become so culty, hemmed-in with codes and etiquettes. I had obviously mentioned an historian who was not ‘in’ with their group.
I was going to re-read him because I found so much of value there. But it wasn’t what they valued.
He did it differently.
Heaven forbid.

Johan Huizinga is mostly known in the English-speaking world for his magisterial The Waning of the Middle Ages – the more correct title, apparently, is The Autumn of the Middle Ages – published in 1924. It is this book made the man’s name. He became a leading Dutch, indeed European, historian.

His dates are 1872 to 1945.
That last date in particular I want you to note: died February, 1945. He had been interned in 1942 after criticism of the invasion forces. Eventually, after much clamour and agitation by the international history community, he was released. He was released in that terrible winter of 1944/5.
It is now estimated that 10,000 Dutch people died that winter, after the Nazi’s cut off food and energy supply lines, in retaliation. As the Allied forces moved through France, the Belgian and Dutch citizens could see liberation so near, so inevitable. They cheered them on. When the advance was stalled in the Ardennes, the Nazi’s took their revenge.

He began his academic career as a student of Indo-Germanic languages; he then studied comparative linguistics. He taught Oriental Studies for many years. It was not until his 30s he turned to medieval studies. Here he excelled.

His book on the later middle ages gives us the clamour and spectacle of the period, the life-lived-in-public aspect.
He also fills in with some of the gaps in current information on, for instance, such figures as Georges Chastellain, and others grouped as the grands rhetoriqueurs:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grands_Retoriqueurs.
This gives us, in turn, the real nature of the much acclaimed period. In this book he sets the increasing brutality and violence of the time against its constructed images of courtois and chivalry.
The book investigates the Burgundian Court in its positioning as potential alternate power-base to the royal court.
Professor Ralph Strom-Olsen of Madrid University, put up a very interesting paper on this: Georges Chastellain and the Language of Burgundian Historiography, that is available on Academia.edu from http://fs.oxfordjournals.org/

He has other books, influential in modern fields. Take Gaming – for this the ‘go to’ book is his Homo Ludens, published 1938.
Homo Ludens puts forward, and illustrates, the theory that our main and enduring activities as civilized people, is a form of play, serious play; that is, play with rules.
He traces word games as the origins of rhetoric, to Cicero’s monumental legal disputes; he sees here also the dress-up aspect in legal and royal court costume.

Playing and Knowing is an intriguing chapter, challenging us to consider acquisition of knowledge, experimentation, indeed logic, as forms of play-activity.
How can we know anything until we put aside certainty, the known, and step out into maybe-land? But this play is deadly serious: riddle-solving, the penalty of death, are part and parcel of the game.

The point is, he stimulates thought, he makes us look at our institutions differently.
The range of this subject can be seen to refer us back to to the subject of Professor Huizinga’s first PhD: The Role of the Jester in Indian Drama.
https://gamingconceptz.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/huizingas-magic-circle.html

You can go to the crazy end and cite the late 1960’s Playpower ideals here. Oz Magazine founder, Richard Neville’s book, Playpower, was the bible for attempts at neutralizing governments and their powers through play, through the skewing of seriousness and power politics, by returning to origins, and seeing what all its accumulated kudos really was.

Another book of his well worth searching out is Men and Ideas, first published in translation in 1959.
This collection of essays is concerned with ‘the task of cultural history.’
The books have dated, that is, their range of subject matter and methods of treatment, have been left behind by modern tastes.
But the general reader will not find a more stimulating essay on Peter Abelard, than this.

His essay on John of Salisbury is also outstanding.
Who was he? He was a 12th Century English cleric, who became apologist for Thomas a Beckett. From modest beginnings he worked his way up, studying under Peter Abelard, was secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Theobald; he even met who was to become known as St Bernard of Clairvaux.
John’s main legacy to us, however, is his Policraticus; the study is a slice of his time.
http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/source/salisbury-poli4.html
Chaucer valued it highly for its political relevance, its clear thinking, its civil conscience.

His essay on Erasmus, which was the heart of the collection… is it the translation? No; I think Johan Huizinga became exasperated with his subject. The reader comes away with the impression he blamed him for wasting his opportunities, for not being as good as he should have been.

I would dearly love to give as much information on his wife, Mary Schorer.

maryshuiz
Her story must be as fascinating, and as eventful.

Their son, Leonard Huizinga, became a prolific and popular Dutch novelist, with his comedic Adriaan and Olivier series.
There is also another son, of whom I can find nothing.

See also:
http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/history/historian/johan_huizinga.html

HER FRIEND SAID

Posted: September 13, 2019 in Chat
Tags: ,

reversing her beloved Beetle to angle it better,
the parking-space side-on, and the pampered Chrysler
there unexpectedly. Inevitably
the exchange of insurance, names and addresses.

To be weighed against a feather, judged, then passed on.

And he was late for the lecture he was giving,
and she for the first paper of her exam.
Aged sixty; sitting her Egyptology: she had applied
for a post in the city museum already. He was lecturing
in Quantum Physics, some current thinking.
They met, parted; lives stalled, and then restarted;
crossed lines diverging into complex futures.
The story starts where it stops, they walk out of shot.

The correct positioning of the hieroglyph
in the cartouche, she would say, is crucial to the meaning.
For him, the pilot wave spreads out, a pulse,
until meeting an obstacle, is then registered as a particle.
These lives that cross, but do not meet.
By mapping out trajectories we think to identify natures;
weigh what we observe; judge; then pass on.
All are part of the same point.

Reblog: Contemporary Stained Glass

Posted: September 1, 2019 in Chat
Tags: , ,

I make no apologies for republishing this blog from last year: it is still a topic that excites.

Contemporary Stained Glass, by Andrew Moor. Published by Mitchell Beazley, 1989.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Contemporary-Stained-Glass-Andrew-Moor/dp/1857324374/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1526148225&sr=1-1&keywords=contemporary+stained+glass

Note the date of publication: 1989. So it is not new; it is probably not ‘contemporary’ any more. And this hits one gripe that I have: there is a present-day-only directive to a lot of attitudes. There probably always has always been – that is, after all, how things get done, by concentrating on the immediate. In culture, though, no – and this book is proof to me: there is work here from the 1950s that is really outstanding.
Note the current price. This is such a shame – the book is a lovely work, and remains so.

Why so old – 1989? A bit of back story.
It was shortly after this date I went through a period of the worst-jobs-I–have-ever-had. One of those was working in a warehouse – but it was a book warehouse, of remaindered and damaged in production books. It was horrible. Being able to bring money in, helped, of course. And then I had access to these books. I got so desperate at times that these books became my lifeline: I accumulated them wildly. This was one.

I got down to properly looking at the book only recently. It took my breath away. The reproductions are outstanding – full colour photographs of not only publically accessible works, but also works from private collections, private houses.

Take Germany.
Straight after the War, there was little perishable art left intact. Stained glass was mostly ecclesiastical, and churches suffered from bombing, and the destruction of war.
The 1950s was a period of reconstruction – speed was of the essence. West Germany needed artists and crafts people. Stained glass took off, it bridged art and crafts. What was possible in the field was unrestricted. The book comments that although German stained glass work was extensive, not all was particularly good.
But the good was stupendous.

Take for instance, the work of Ludwig Schaffrath:

also
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/519884350711103076
His design for the Aachen bank, 1986, for four arched windows is outstanding.

Then go and explore –
Johannes Schreiter:
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nikolagrozdanov/johannes-schreiter/

Jochem Poensgen:
http://www.jochempoensgen.de/category/neue-projekte/

First of all stained glass need not be full-colour. Minimalist design and palates were experimented with, as here: a rectilinear, two-tone work.

The medium is glass.
But glass can be Antique Glass – that is:
Plain
Seedy
Streaky
Reamy (danziger/water glass)
Flashed (simple opaque, opalescent or opal)

It can be machine rolled glass:
Cathedral glass (tinted, and clear)
Clear patterned (ribbed)
American opalescent (Tiffany)
It can be Bevelled, or Cast glass.

Plain glass was created from a relatively new technique. This was the cheapest to make, and is what constitutes large shop and apartment windows.
The book gives examples of each of these.

It then goes on to describe the techniques used in presenting the glass: use of black iron-oxide and borax paint that is fired to produce stains. Or with designs scraped in it.

Etching, capable of great subtlety of effect, is an old technique, but also time consuming.

Flashing is a relatively new technique using high temperatures, but produces a stained effect that is capable of fine tones.

The use of leading developed a form of its own in the works of Johannes Schreiver, above.

From an historical angle, we saw a boom in stained glass use and development in domestic use of glass in Victorian England.
One particular innovator was Frank Lloyd Wright, in America. His use of, again, domestic stained glass was a very promising avenue. It did not turn off to a highway, unfortunately.
PreWar in Europe, the Dutch De Stijl and German Bauhaus groups explored stained glass use.

Not all stained glass need be full colour, as I commented above. One design approach has been the use of black and white (ie plain, clear glass), with touches of colour. We can see an example in the Jochem Poensgen, above. Other approaches to use of the medium involve rectilinear designs, use of pattern, use of ‘float glass.’
Naturally the artists mix their techniques, to great effect. Figurative techniques lead to use of glass as a canvas for paint and stain techniques.

Narcissus Quagliata continues to produce wonderful work. Take, for example, this commissioned work:

COMMISSIONED WORKS

http://www.narcissusquagliata.com/

The motif in the top right panel, was made for him by Venetian glass makers, and proved very intricate, and expensive.

The book gives us glimpses of work produced in America, Canada, UK, New Zealand, for commissions all around the world.

http://www.lindalichtman.net/portfolio.html#slide-1

Image02

 

http://sashazhitneva.com/?page_id=71

 

Stained glass enhances an inner environment. What about the outer prospect?
Anyone viewing a wonderful stained glass window from the outside is usually very disappointed.
Ludwig Schaffrath took this on, and produced work that has both inner and outer effectiveness. Their effects are necessarily altered by the source of light, and by the demands of technique. The outer effect cannot reproduce the inner effect, and so each view point has its own viability.

The development and exploration of the uses of stained glass continues. Glass screens were developed, and backlit panels.
As always, art vies fruitfully with decorative function.

We see above examples of high art, of decoration, of functional, and of exploratory works.