Wednesday, 29 September 2021

7x7

kádár cube: a practical, mass-produced boxy house (Magyar Építőművészet) from Communist-era Hungary is staging a comeback 

the new english canaan: revisiting the banned publication that mocked American’s puritanical ways—see also  

you’ve got a habit of leaving: the first single from the unreleased David Bowie album, coming in January

merfolk and melusine: tritons and mermaids entertained by enlightened minds 

facebookland: the social media giant ought to be treated like the autocratic rogue state it is—via Waxy 

roll over beethoven: a team of musicologists using artificial intelligence complete the composer’s unfinished tenth symphony—to premier in Bonn next month, via Kottke  

гостиный двор: a rotating arch for a shopping arcade in St. Petersburg—via Pasa Bon!

Friday, 17 September 2021

the persuaders!

Last in the line of a spy, crime adventure syndicate that began in 1960 with Danger Man, The Prisoner, The Avengers and The Saint, the charismatic action-comedy vehicle of Tony Curtis and Roger Moore was first simulcast on ITV and ABC to UK and US audiences on this day in 1971. Though considered a crowning, ambitious and concluding series and played well in foreign franchises, dubbed as Dos Tipos Audaces (Two Bold Characters in South American markets), Minden Lében Két Kanál (Two Spoons in Every Soup in Hungary), Snobbar som Jobbar (Snobs on the Job in Sweden), Amicalement Vôtre in French-speaking areas (Amicably Yours) and Die Zwei in the Deutschsprachräume (one of the best titled cinematic adaptations The Sum of All Fears is plaintively called simply Der Anschlag, The Attack in German) the production of Baron Lew Grade (also behind the series of Supermarionation shows) about two individuals from starkly different backgrounds that have been reluctantly teamed together to solve international cases that the authorities cannot disappointed domestic viewers and was cancelled after one albeit complete season. The opening title sequence (see also) features music by John Berry.

Sunday, 12 September 2021

shower-thoughts or super criticality

Though precedents in chemical chain-reactions that could lead to explosions were well understood and the mechanism of nuclear fission had yet to be fully articulated, scientist Leó Szilárd (previously) first hypothesised the possibility of an atomic chain-reaction whilst waiting on a stop light on Southhampton Row at the crossing of Russell Square in Bloomsbury. This flash of insight on the part of the exiled Hungarian physicist, realising that an atom could be split with the recently discovered neutron, cascading with the release of more neutrons plus massive amounts of energy would be self-perpetuating, self-amplifying, would lead to nuclear applications in warfare and power production.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

non più andrai

Always appreciative of learning that that the villainized and vilified come down to a matter of apocryphal license, we enjoyed disabusing ourselves of this staple fact of pop-culture (see also) in that there’s no substantiating the feud between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri and their vying for the position of court composer. The narrative was first introduced in a two-act opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov with book by Alexander Pushkin in 1897 with the elder dedicated maestro scheming to poison his younger rival, inspiring the 1984 film Amadeus by Miloš Forman.

Saturday, 7 August 2021

bildersturm

Due to the above titled iconoclasm movement that left many Catholic churches bereft of their religious symbols and saintly relics from Protestant furore that sought to destroy what was regarded as idolatrous figures (see previously) during the Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Vatican ordered suitable replacements be found and promptly installed.

Thousands of skeletal remains were exhumed from the catacombs of Rome, lavishly dressed and decorated, like this day’s celebrant, Donatus of Münstereifel, reportedly a second century Roman soldier and martyr. Quickly rising through the ranks after enlisting, Donatus (sharing his feast day with several other liked-named saints) was part of the famed XXII. Legion—known as Fulminatrix, the thundering ones, and was assigned to the personal security detail of Marcus Aurelius (previously). Engaged in the Marcomannic Wars on the Danube march, the legion was outnumbered and nearly defeated until saved by a sudden storm that frightened off the Goths and Samaritans. Although the emperor wanted to credit his magician with summoning the storm, Donatus insisted it was his Christian prayer circle and gave thanks to God. The emperor had them all killed. Said to have been entombed in the Catacombs of Saint Agnes, Donatus’ remains were re-discovered by Pope Innocent X in 1646 and translated to the town on the Rhein near Bonn, acclaimed patron and protector from lightning strikes and invoked for a good grape harvest. Popular throughout the Rhineland as well as Donauland, Donatus also enjoyed a cultus in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Luxembourg, Slovakia and Austria.

Monday, 2 August 2021

the manhattan project

The phenomenon of nuclear fission only just discovered and prompting the United States to eventually establish its own research programme, with the endorsement of Albert Einstein Hungarian physicist Szilárd Leó (*1898 - †1964) dispatched his letter to president Franklin D. Roosevelt on this day in 1939. Immediately comprehending the ramifications for energy production or warfare having conducted experiments with less fissile materials and unable to sustain a chain-reaction, Szilard first in mid-July thought to warn Belgium as their colony in the Congo held the largest known reserves of uranium and was fearful that the Germans could persuade them to part with it handily, not realising what they were trading away and had recruited Einstein to speak on his behalf through consular channels as Einstein was friends with the Belgian royal family. With the closing salutation, “Yours truly,” the letter began: 

In the course of the last four months it has been made probable – through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America – that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future. 

Specifically citing the suspension of the sales of uranium from occupied Czechoslovakia and on-going research in German universities, Szilard further conjectured that while it probably was not feasible to miniaturise the components necessary for a nuclear reaction for portable bombs and mobile warheads, he did believe it likely that the process could be accommodated on board a ship that could attack a city from the harbour. FDR (his reply pictured) was delivered this executive summary plus a longer, more detailed explanation of the science underpinning his forewarning.

Sunday, 1 August 2021

the velocity of money

In the unfolding of the worst case of hyperinflation (previously here, here and here) and devaluation in history, the Hungarian pengő (an onomatopoetic word for the ringing of silver struck, the clinking of coins), itself a replacement currency for the Austro-Hungarian korona, liquidated under the terms of the Peace of Saint-Germain that dissolved the joint bank of the monarchy, battered and bashed by the ensuing Great Depression and a second world war, was pegged to the reintroduced forint (in use prior to the imperial union in 1892 and named for city of Florence) at an exchange rate on this day in 1946 of one Ft for four hundred octillion pengők, shedding twenty-nine zeros and starting over, notes in the millions and billions reused and reissued marked with exponentially higher values.

A last ditch effort to rescue the collapsing economy in January brought in a parallel currency that would hold its value called the adópengő for tax and postal payments—sort of like those forever stamps that aren’t subject to rate hikes or the specie of old pennies with high copper content, starting at parity with what was then in circulation but eight months later each was worth two sextillion. The largest denominated bank note issued was the one hundred quintillion (ten to the twentieth power, one million billion and worth about two US dimes) featuring an anonymous Hungarian woman wearing scarf on her head who back in March appeared one the one hundred million pengő bill.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

w.a.n.d.

Since organisers at the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts put together the first events in 2013, World Art Nouveau Day has grown into an annual, international observance to celebrate the style and influence of the movement and its affiliate, Secessionist periods. The date was chosen to honour the anniversary of the death of two major architects of art nouveau, Antoni Gaudí (*1852 - †1926) and the tragically lesser-known Ödön Lechner (*1845 - †1914), prolific Hungarian artist behind among many other iconic buildings the sponsoring museum compound.

Friday, 26 March 2021

királypuccsnak

Taking advantage of the quiet ahead of Easter with the Diet not in session and the regent installed by the Allies Miklós Horthy settled in for a long weekend at the palace, former king and last Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian emperor Karl I. (IV. Károly) attempted on this day in 1921 to retake the throne, encouraged by royalists and his close entourage.

Travelling from exile in Switzerland on a forged Spanish passport, Charles and his party arrived in the border town of Szombathely undetected. The coup attempt ultimately failed due in large part to Horthy’s insistence that his return was premature and was in danger of being arrested by Allied authorities for breach of terms of the surrender. Charles returned to his Swiss villa with greater constraints placed on his political activity though further restrictions did not stop him and his supporters from staging a further abortive coup a few months later, resulting in Charles’ exile to Madeira.

Monday, 13 April 2020

śmigus-dyngus

The second day of Bright Week—the Octave of Easter, is a public holiday in Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia as an extension of Eastertide and events sometimes traditionally include egg races and other activities to use up, put away the festoonery—a pretty practical idea, which in parts of central Europe, including parts of Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary and Ukraine they had down to a science, once at least though the practise seems to be less and less common.
Called in Polish above and Oblévačka in Czech, “Wet Monday” (or simply Dyngus Day by diaspora) was chance for adolescents to throw water on each other and flirtatiously beat each other with willow branches that made up traditional egg trees and decorative boughs. With suspected roots in pagan fertility ceremonies and the welcoming of spring countered by Christian missionaries trying impose their religion on the natives, linguists conjecture that śmigus refers to baptism—an involuntary or unwanted one at that, going all the way back to the conversion of Mieszko I, the Duke of the Poles in 966 (coincidentally also on this day)—and Dingnis—from the old German for ransom—refers to the tribute that one can pay in leftover eggs to avoid getting doused or whipped.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

8! x 3^7 x (12!/2) x 2^11

On this day in 1980 at the British Toy and Hobby Fair, the mechanical puzzle (see previously) by Hungarian architect and professor Ernő Rubik had its international debut.
Demonstrating a prototype to his students around 1974 and seeing the positive reception, Rubik sought out a manufacturer, originally calling it his Magic Cube (Bűvöskocka), and licensed the design to Ideal Toys—formerly known for their line of dolls that included Betsy Wetsy and Rub-a-Dub Doggie, in 1979for wider distribution under the name Rubik’s Cube. Among his influences, the polymath and educator lists MC Escher for grappling with impossible configurations and contemplating the nature of infinity within the permissible. Discounting the strictures of the mechanics of the cube (only seven of the eight corners can be independently articulated and there are only twelve possible orbits for each square, there are forty three quintillion permutations—that is, if a cube were to represent each possible state a stack of them would tower over two-hundred and sixty light-years high, scraping the sky beyond of our Stellar Neighbourhood.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

lisztomania

The 1975 cult film by Ken Russell, a kiss-and-tell style biopic loosely based on the 1848 book by Marie d’Agoult’s sordid love affair with the composer, was self-styled as out-Tommying Tommy, the soundtrack vehicle released earlier in the same year starring Roger Daltrey as the Pin Ball Wizard, strikes us as something of a cross between Amadeus and Barbarella and was the first movie screened with Dolby Stereo Surround Sound.
Taking its title from the observation of author Heinrich Heine of the overwhelming, swooning adoration that the public had for the virtuoso performances, Lisztomanie, Daltrey portrayed the main character as a charismatic and compelling rock-star and features the music of the prog-rock band Yes (rather than The Who) adapting samples from compositions by Liszt, Mahler and Wagner in the film’s score. Though critical reception was generally not positive and it was not the movie that Russell wanted to make, his druthers being for a picture on the life of George Gershwin starring Al Pacino or at least a project featuring Mick Jagger as the Hungarian composer, the concept is worth entertaining and reflecting on what its legacy might have been. Much more to explore, including several more posters and lobby cards with Dangerous Minds at the link up top.

Monday, 19 August 2019

paneuropäisches picknick

Held on this day in 1989 the peace protest known as the Pan-European Picnic in the border town of Šopron (formerly Ödenburg), Hungary on the Austria border sponsored in part by the former Archduke of both nations is considered by many to be the final death-rattle of Communism, presaging what was to follow in Central Europe, signalling the end of accommodation for protracted situations like Romanian refugee camps in Hungary or the East German encampment at the Prague embassy. Borders were eliminated for a space of three hours during the exchange and many took advantage of this window, with border guards given orders not to interfere. Presently, few signs remain of the walls that separated east from west.

Friday, 21 June 2019

zsebnaptár

Our friendly stationer Present /&/ Correct shares its discovery of a trove of vintage Hungarian pocket calendars, joyfully illustrated. MėH (Miniszterelnöki Hivatal) is the country’s energy authority. Much more to explore at the link above.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

viennese sandbox: the third man

For a long weekend, PfRC took a trip to Vienna (Wien) and we are just full of impressions of the beautiful and storied city to sort out and can’t wait to return again soon. The next few instalments will share just a few episodes of a protracted but very inundating and rewarding visit. On a fine forenoon, we went to the the expansive amusement park, known as the Wurstelprater on the banks of the Danube—the divertissements for the public enjoyment going all the way back to 1766 when Austro-Hungarian Emperor Joseph II declared the former royal hunting grounds now a preserve of family entertainment.

In 1897, to celebrate the diamond jubilee of the ascent of Emperor Franz Joseph I to the throne, the construction of the world’s largest and most venerable Ferris wheel (Riesenrad ) was commissioned, and we took a turn on of the fancy carriages, thankfully sheltered from the gale. The Riesenrad is one the Viennese landmarks featured in the 1949 noir thriller, The Third Man, where a pulp-fiction writer finds himself caught up in international intrigue in an Allied-occupied capital—the city having been split into sectors, like Berlin after World War II, but not partitioned (due to the gentlemen’s agreement that NATO eastern most reach was to be West Germany).
A package ticket afforded us amazing, encompassing views of the Vienna from above—later travelling to the signals tower on one of the silt islands of the picturesque river. The Donauturm had a more commanding vantage but not nearly as fun as being gently rotated, though the high-speed elevator and the enticement of bungee-jumping platform were exciting. In the carnival grounds, we discovered another oddity of sovereignty just in the shadow of the Riesenrad in the form of the spherical Kugelmugel house. This micronation was transported later to its present address on Anti-Fascism Square after authorities refused to allow the architect and founder’s, Edwin Lipburger, design to remain on his own grounds.
Proclaiming independence in 1984, Kugelmugel claims thousands of non-resident citizens and issues its own stamps and passports—these franking privileges having gotten the founder in trouble but now tolerated by the Austrian government, but not going so far as to give them legitimacy. Though behind barbed-wire, I think that this is the first, extant micronation that we’ve had the pleasure to visit, and we have to wonder about its definition.