Wednesday, 18 May 2022

nationalversammlung

The session opening on this day in 1848 in the Frankfurt am Main Pauluskirche as a result of the March Revolutions precipitated by the upheavals for Prussia and the German Empire caused by the Napoleonic Wars and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the Frankfurter Parliament marked the first freely elected assembly for all of Germany and ran until the end of the month. During heated and lengthy debates and negotiations, the body produced a constitution (Verfassung des Deutschen Reiches) which established a united empire adhering to the principles of parliamentary, representative democracy, a constitutional monarchy headed by a hereditary emperor—Kaiser. Whilst the Prussian king initially rejected the title that the assembly wanted to bestow on him on the grounds it would abrogate the rights of princes who led constituent states, the contentious gathering nonetheless provided model legislation for the Weimar Republic and the Grundgesetz (Basic Law) first adopted by West Germany and then the reunified republic. Much more information at the links above.

Monday, 16 May 2022

ac/dc

Three years to the date after Nikola Tesla delivered a famous lecture to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers outlining the efficient production of electricity from a centralized location and transmitting the power generated over long-distances using alternating current, the International Electrotechnical Exhibition opened at Frankfurt’s Westbahnhof and demonstrated the first such inductive feat, the power generated from a hydroelectric source some one hundred and seventy five kilometres south from a waterfall at Lauffen am Neckar. The Post Office helped erect the transmission lines, a considerable amount of copper wire—the three phase arrangement (3φ) that is used for most modern grids to this day trebling or rather thirding voltage across three wires each with the current offset by one hundred twenty degrees—that retained about three-quarters of the output over the distance, the experiment proving that generation in situ, with direct current, was not ideal in most domestic and industrial applications, confirmed and adopted by the United States and favouring rival George Westinghouse (Tesla’s employer) over Thomas Edison in the War of the Currents at the Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Friday, 13 May 2022

unvollständigkeitssatz

Futility Closet relates an anecdote from the live of mathematician Kurt Gödel in residence at Princeton University Institute for Advanced Studies and his friendship with fellow resident scholars physicists Albert Einstein (previously) John von Neumann and economist Oskar Morgenstern, whom felt obliged to make sure their younger charge’s tendency for over-thinking remained an asset and not his undoing and monitored Gödel’s preparation for the US citizenship exam in 1947, Einstein himself naturalised seven years earlier. The prodigal and influential logistician widely settled the impossibility of formulating a self-consistent and complete set of rules governing all of mathematics at the tender age of twenty-five, Gödel assayed the project of his examination with signature tenacity and revealed to his wardens that in his research, he had uncovered a fatal-flaw in the American constitution that could led to dictatorship, the corruption and consequence of totalitarian democracy. Einstein and company implored him not to share this discovery and the test was actually a much simpler affair, though basic civics and recent history might have suggested otherwise. The proctor for the citizenship test inquired of Gödel his state of origin and its form of government—to which Gödel replied Austria and a republic, but owed that “the constitution was such that it soon become a dictatorship.” Despite the examiner’s insistence that the same could not happen in the USA and Gödel’s refutation with the offer of proof, the panel stuck to the business at hand and conducted the test. No mention was made in their collective memoirs what that finding might have been and we suppose won’t know it until it’s happened.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

eine stadt sucht einen mörder

Debuting on this day in the UFA Palast am Zoo in Berlin in 1931, the film M by Fritz Lang (previously here and here) and co-written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou was the director’s first sound motion picture and includes innovations like tracking shots and a leitmotif in the form of eerie whistling of Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King—” done by Lang as Peter Lorre could not carry a tune. The plot, criticised initially for being too long at one-hundred fourteen minutes, is the prototypically noir police procedural and “courtroom” drama (apprehended and tried by his peers) about the capture and trial of a serial killer of children and is counted among the greatest cinematic works of all time. Lang himself considered it to be his magnum opus with pointed social commentary for his adopted homeland of Germany, which he reviled for allowing Nazism to take root. Auf die Kinder muss man besser aufpassen… Sie alle!

Sunday, 8 May 2022

himmelsscheibe




Coming home from Saxony we took a detour and finally got the chance to check out the Arche Nebra—a museum and planetarium near the archeological site where the prehistoric skydisc was discovered. The actual artefact is usually kept in Halle and was presently on loan to the British museum as part of an ancient astronomy exhibit that couples it with the megalithic timepieces like Stonehenge and the nearby counterpart, the Goseck circle, a solar observatory from neolithic times—but there were plenty of detailed replicas on hand to study and gain an appreciation in situ of this rather overwhelming tool. From the perspective of the promontory where it was discovered (Fundort), the golden bands ringing the edge form an arc precisely corresponding with the Sun’s pendular journey between the peak of the Brocken and the peak of the Kyffhäuser in the Harz rising and setting at the spring and autumn equinoxes and indicating by the appearance of the New Moon and its proximity to the Pleiades (see above) when to plant and whether the year will be a common year or will need an intercalary month inserted to keep the stars aligned with the cycle of the seasons, this earliest known representation of the Cosmos features no gods or heroes, only the calendar of the night sky. In the area, we also stopped at the village of Zingst on the Unstrut river to inspect this manor house by the road that looked like it had seen time conscripted as a factory with the addition of an industrial smoke-stack and the vista of the largest medieval castle complex—similar in scale and composition to the Wartburg—in middle Germany, Burg Querfurt, something to see another day.

Sunday, 1 May 2022

7x7

chairportrait: thirty iconic designer styles of seating depicted minimally by Federico Babina  

der pate technos: a celebration of the career and legacy of Klaus Schulze (RIP)  

recursive: vending machine gachapon—see previously  

the wretched, bloody and usurping boar: architecture and monumental authoritarianism in places like the Battersea Power Station—via Things Magazine with more on the property 

reverspective: the illusory paintings of Patrick Hughes   

eye-chart: JWST is now fully-focussed and calibrated and primed for new discoveries (previously)  

lookbook: a collection of sculptural furnishings that match their residence

Thursday, 21 April 2022

red baron or what do you want on your tombstone?

Vaunted as the ace-of-aces of the Great War, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen was shot down and killed on this day in 1918 after scoring his seventy-ninth and eightieth air combat victories the day prior. Previously we had poked about Wiesbaden’s Südfriedhof in search of the Red Baron’s resting place and thought it appropriate to visit today. Already elevated to legendary stature in life and subject to hero-worship that Richthofen was wont to indulge as well as respected by his enemies, the circumstances surrounding his death are a matter of controversy and speculation, coming to the aid of his cousin, another member of the elite Flying Circus (see above), Lieutenant Wolfram von Richthofen, who was taking enemy fire. The source of the fatal bullet is uncertain with several vectors entertained. As was
customary, the commanding officer of the Royal Airforce combatant squandron accorded the Baron a military funeral with full-honours, near the spot where the fighter pilot fell in Bertangles in the Somme—and had a more active than usual career in death, disinterred and reburied in the German Military Cemetery at Fricourt in Picardie, brought to Berlin by his brother Lothar (a site that was later relegated to a no man’s land on the boundary of the Soviet zone of occupation and often pelted with stray bullets in attempts to stop people from fleeing for the West—his brother’s gravesite in their hometown of Świdnica too was levelled once Silesia was restored to Poland after World War II) and finally in 1975 transferred to the family plot in Wiesbaden.

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

be the first to like this post

Some anonymous though obviously astute researcher left this decal on a lamp post a few weeks back coinciding with the return of testing stations which were prematurely removed in hopes that the unavailability of free screenings would encourage individuals to get their booster shots only to quickly learn and recover that one does not winnow down the arsenal in one’s quiver when facing a global pandemic. Medical authorities confer and confirm vaccination status with a QR-Code and a national app, though this has expanded, splintered into a suite of application and new codes to scan unique for every affiliate station. Feeling a bit under the weather with the arrival of Spring and the too-quick change in temperature, I wanted to be responsible and rule out a case of COVID and so availed myself of said near-by mobile PCR centre. I was relieved to learn that the results were negative and was given a mask (oh no) for my troubles, noticing the label on the packaging later on…

Thursday, 7 April 2022

putinversteher

In circulation since the 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea (even nominated as Unwort of the year then but losing out to the below)  and now rising again to common-parlance and international recognition, the German term for a sympathiser or apologist of the president of the Russian Federation with the noun that generally means “understander” joins a cadre of words that have entered English in recent years (see previously), drawing sometimes apt but imperfect parallels to the US invasions of Iraq, Grenada, or Vietnam—careful not to condone or endorse violence but at the same time invoking deflection and whataboutism (a tu quoque fallacy). The article from Deutsche Welle goes on to report that the use of the letter ‘Z’ to signal support of the Russian aggression has been outlawed in this country, the letter with no unambiguous interpretation and a Cyrillic corresponding letter which seems strange considering the country’s nationalism. Theories on the distinguishing markers on otherwise identical tactical vehicles range from запад (Romanised as zapad—or a war against the West), за победу (for victory) or grimly and commiserate with the atrocities seen зачистка, an unofficial military term for a cleansing operation, room-to-room searches

Saturday, 2 April 2022

frieden / мир

H had discovered MEUTE, the techno marching band ensemble, a couple of years ago through their rooftop sessions in Hamburg and were very pleased to be reminded of this absolutely mind-blowing percussive and brass orchestra in their latest performance for peace in Ukraine in an abandoned power-plant (Kraftwerk) in their home town, courtesy of friend of the blog Nag on the Lake. Click through for more information on their recordings and a list of charitable organisations.

Sunday, 27 March 2022

rolling stock

Retelling the story of the “Little Engine that Could” with love-interest and with due inspirational credit given to Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, the Andrew Lloyd Weber and Richard Stilgoe musical spectacle with all principals and dancers portraying locomotives on roller skates had its debut on the West End in the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Following a year-long run on Broadway, the show came to the industrial city of Bochum in 1988, and hosted in a custom-built theatre (designed like a skating rink) has become the most attended musical in Germany, still running and seen by over seventeen million. Much more, including the original cast recording of the musical numbers and various performance highlights at the link above.

Sunday, 20 March 2022

ēostreteric

Though possible an invention of the Venerable Bede as the name of the goddess does not appear in the historical record prior to its citation in his eighth century work on The Reckoning of Time describing the indigenous months of the English peoples (De mensibus Anglorum) with Ēosturmōnaþ, whose deity was the namesake of Easter and many related words, since having been overtaken as Paschal Month, Eastertide celebrating the sacrifice of Jesus with the trappings of far more ancient customs. The Neopagan Wheel of the Year celebrates the equinox (by etymological reconstruction, the goddess of the sunrise) as the Feast of Ostarâ, another Germanic—and by migration and raids, Anglo-Saxon—form of her name.

Saturday, 19 March 2022

6x6

letters of marque and reprisal: US congress—which has displayed some rare moments of unity lately with abolishing Day Light Saving time and agreeing on a budget—looks also poised to commission piracy and the seizure of oligarchs’ assets  

unit patches: an assortment of mission badges from the US Space Force—see also here and here  

redacted: Sunshine Week and the least forthcoming US government agencies  

ambassador, the thane of cawdor / dialect so def, it’ll rip up the floor: notes on rap and language  

album amicorum: revisiting the seventh century friend book, das Große Stammbuch, of diplomat and influencer Philipp Hainhofer  

uncle vanya’s: after mass exodus of Western companies, Russia seems poised to appropriate and nationalise franchises

Monday, 14 March 2022

prvá slovenská republika

Under considerable pressure from Nazi Germany, the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia declared independence and became a client state of the Third Reich on this day in 1939. The next day Germany invaded and occupied Bohemia and Moravia, establishing a protectorate administered from Prague castle, having annexed the bordering Sudetenland in September 1938 following the Munich Agreement. Slovak troops were conscripted into fighting resistance forces in Poland and against Russia, and liberated (having attempted their own revolt and uprising in August 1944) by the advancing Red Army in 1945, the territory was reincorporated into Czechoslovakia. Again securing independence on New Year’s Day 1993 in what’s called the amicable Velvet Divorce, the Republic of Slovakia does not consider itself the successor state to the war time puppet regime but rather the Czechoslovakian government-in-exile of Edvard BeneÅ¡. History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

der höllensturz

Whilst on display at the Alte Pinothek in Munich, the artwork The Fall of Damned by Peter Paul Rubens commissioned by the Duke of Pfalz-Neuberg in 1620 (for whom the great Flemish artist had already created the Greater and Lesser Last Judgment) features a jumble of rather Rubenesque figures being hurled to Hell by the Archangel Michael, the painting vandalised on this day in 1959 by a philosophy professor called Walter Menzl, who doused the canvas with wood polish stripping agent. Fortunately the painting could be saved and restored and the defacer turned himself in to the authorities, offering that he had intended to target rather The Four Apostles (that artist’s last major work) of Albrecht Dürer for the herostratic fame but decided against it for the religious implications.

Saturday, 19 February 2022

7x7

a fistful of manicules: Shady Characters explores several font specimens of the typographers’ mark—see previously  

la conquête du pain: an anarcho-communist bakery going strong in Montreuil  

peeping tom: Facebook’s demise following that of mySpace  

storyliving: Disneyland pre-retirement communities—via Web Curios 

erste jahrzehnten: German Design Awards marks its first decade with a special exhibit  

sold for sol 1800: it appears that Melania Trump purchased her own NTF—via New Shelton wet/dry 

i shot the serif: foundry Neubau Berlin pays homage to Mid-Century international fonts

Saturday, 12 February 2022

der totentanz

Premiering on this day in 1912 at the newly constructed “Glashaus” studio in the Neubabelsberg district of Potsdamm—what would become the production company—the silent picture in three acts, The Dance of Death, directed by Danish filmmaker Urban Gad with camera work by Guido Seeber, only is known to exist in fragments. The movie relates the tragedy of Bella Burk (Asta Nielsen) whose engineering husband (Oskar Fuchs) is badly injured during a factory mishap and is no longer able to support the family. Bella finds employment as in a vaudeville act as a singer and dancer, scandalising audiences and critics with her exotic belly dance which would have otherwise proved merely scintillating if it wasn’t ultimately a fatal mental breaking point for the new object of her affection and infidelity, the troupe’s composer, Czerneck, portrayed by Fritz Weidemann.

bib

Founded on this day in 1973 under the executive agencies of the West German Federal Ministry of the Interior (with this boss door which we can all appreciate) in Wiesbaden, the Institute for Population Research (Bundesinstitut für Bevölkerrungsforschung) was originally charged with investigating perceived declining fertility rates in the country but has since taken on more enlightened and enlightening studies, working closely with Destatis (see previously here and here), in demographics including longevity, migration and economic mobility.

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

da da da ich lieb dich nicht du liebst mich nicht aha aha aha

Released as a single on this day in 1982 from the band’s eponymous debut studio album, Trio’s hit song (I Don’t Love You—You Don’t Love Me) was a worldwide sensation, topping the charts in over thirty countries. With repetitive lyrics by Stephan Remmler and set to minimalist music by Gert Krawinkel, it is categorised as a product of the Neue Deutsche Well—New Wave—though the group would rather it be classified, despite the subject, as Neue Deutche Fröhlichkeit—that is cheerfulness.

Sunday, 6 February 2022

9x9

platinum geezer: our London correspondent reflects on the Queen’s jubilee by the numbers  

snow-drifting: artist Alexander Deineka’s celebration of winter sports in the USSR  

nunsexmonkrock: Nina Hagen’s (previously) legendary masterpiece extolled as it deserves  

definitely did not used to be a pizza hut: an investigation into the camouflage (see previously) of franchise blight—via the morning news  

biblioclasm: more books, press outlets, educators under fire as potentially subversive, challenging  

king of the mountain: fours goats play on a sheet metal shelter  

celebrity-ntf complex: the race is on to find the remaining marks and rubes before the bottom falls out

cockney cats: vintage feline photos collected by Spitalfields Life  

hrm: Pietro Annigoni’s 1969 portrait of the Queen