Monday, 31 August 2020

porozumienia sierpniowe

Today celebrates the August Agreement—otherwise known as the Gdaล„sk Social Accords—reached on the last day of August in 1980 between striking dockworkers on the Baltic and the Polish government over untenable demands, poor working conditions and continual shortages of essentials. The labour strikes had the immediate effect of changing the country’s leadership and revealed endemic corruption and mismanagement that had culminated in the dysfunctional economy and legislature and further led to reforms in the market, freedom of expression, civil rights and launched the Solidarity Movement.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

vaderbase

Unsurprisingly, Trump is confirming his intention to withdraw soldiers stationed in Germany over rather baseless accusations that the host nation is either not contributing enough to the NATO common defence fund—or more likely, is not willing to pay protection money (pizzo, Schutzgelderpressung) for the increasingly questionable privilege of quartering troops. The corroborating reporting also reminds that the art of pandering is not the exclusive bailiwick of the United States with Poland’s willingness to take displaced army units and even finance (haracz) the construction of large installation, the namesake of their attested benefactor and defender.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

analytical analyser of harmonics

From Pasa Bon! we are acquainted with the with the 1959 breakthrough computing advancement from engineer and scientist Jacek Karpiล„ski (*1927 – †2010) in collaboration with Janusz Tomaszewski, the transistor-powered AKAT-1.
Constructed to solve differential equations for better modelling of heat dissipation in motors and shock absorption in brakes and building off the success of an earlier prototype used to make more precise weather forecasts, Karpiล„ski gave his latest analogue unit a space-age housing and interface that looks like something out of science-fiction. Later achievements in the industry include standardising coding language and a machine called the Perceptron that could distinguish objects by shape and was one of the pioneering examples of algorithmic learning through supervised learning. Normally the AKAT-1 can be visited at the Muzeum Techniki in Warsaw.

Monday, 13 April 2020

ล›migus-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 Oblรฉvaฤka 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 ล›migus 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.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

on the cult of personality and its consequences

Though leaked contemporaneously by Mossad and intermediaries to the press, Nikita Khrushchev’s so called “secret speech” («ะž ะบัƒะปัŒั‚ะต ะปะธั‡ะฝะพัั‚ะธ ะธ ะตะณะพ ะฟะพัะปะตะดัั‚ะฒะธัั…») that was critical of deifying the past and of Joseph Stalin’s brutal purges in the name of promoting communist ideals delivered on this day in 1956 to a closed session during the twentieth party congress of the Soviet Union, transcripts of the text were not officially released until 1989 under the auspices of Mikhail Gorbachev’s campaign of glasnost.

The denunciation marked a shocking departure from the unified and coherent propaganda of the day and while notably removing the body of Stalin from public view and interring it in the Kremlin necropolis signified an internal shift (pivotal without qualifications—though his reforms and liberalisation had well-defined limits—the speech a catalyst for uprisings in Hungary and Poland, the author also summarily suppressed them), the aftermath of this revelation accrued greater and more immediate external changes with membership dropping precipitously in the Communist Party in the US and UK over Stalin’s violence and the political, ideological schism between the USSR and China, who condemned Khrushchev as a revisionist and self-serving.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

argonaut conference

Following on from the Tehran Conference held in November of 1943 under the above code-name, the leaders of the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union—with the conspicuous absence of French and other Allied Forces, convened near the Black Sea resort of Yalta in a palatial ensemble on the city’s outskirts beginning on this day in 1945 to address the reorganisation and self-determination Europe and Germany post-war. Though the ostensible objectives were to promote peace and reestablish invaded and annexed nations status quo all parties to the talk came with their own agendas and shortly after peace was achieved with liberation from Nazi Germany declared the Cold War erupted.

Churchill wanted to extend Western style democracies through central and eastern Europe. Roosevelt wanted the Soviet Union to join the United Nations and pressed Stalin for his support in fighting Imperial Japan in the Pacific. Stalin, having accomplished and sacrificed the most militarily and had a domineering presence in comparison to the other negotiators, insisted that the Soviet Union retain a sphere of influence in eastern Europe and the Balkans. After some rigorous debate, it was settled that Germany would be split into four occupied zones (with the French concession carved out of the British and American zones, with an exploratory committee examining further dismemberment of Germany into six nations) and undergo war crimes trials and de-militarisation, a reparations council would be established, and Stalin pledged free elections in a restored Poland and allowed American bombers to pre-position in its Far East. Dissatisfied with the outcome of the Crimean and the later Potsdam summit and growing wise to the voting system of the UN and the veto powers that the USSR would have, Churchill commissioned (in secret) the first Cold War contingency plans—Operation Unthinkable—to dislodge Soviet troops in Germany and liberate Poland should Stalin not uphold his end of the bargain, but such actions were deemed too risky from a geopolitical standpoint and were abandoned.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

defender 20

Reminiscent of the massive Exercise Campaign Reforger (Return of Forces to Germany) drills that took place annually from 1969 to 1993 that involved thousands of NATO troops as a demonstration of agility and responsiveness in the event of a conflict with the Warsaw Pact, US and partner military planners are engaged in preparation for the largest deployment in a quarter of a century with next year’s operations.  Some twenty thousand American service members will join seventeen thousand members of the NATO forces (though signals are quite mixed at the moment) to conduct training primarily in Germany and Poland beginning in February 2020, and to strengthen skills in tactical movement and logistics that have otherwise atrophied in the intervening years whereas such rotations were routine and second-nature during the Cold War.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

6x6

back to school: an assortment of usual college campus landmarks not to miss

exosuit: engineering shorts to amplify power for walking and running

meanwhile, back at the agora: an animated short about Hyptia, the last known chief librarian of Alexandria’s repository of human scholarship, murdered by a mob of suspicious Christian monks

architektura sakralna: Poland experienced a post-war church building boom

jordfästning: from the delightfully macabre Art of Darkness, Swedish funeral candies

mecspiquer: reflecting on a quarter of a century since the passage of the legislation to protect the French language  

Thursday, 1 February 2018

bell, book and candle

From Valentine’s Day through mid-May, Washington DC’s Hirshhorn Gallery is reviving the political-charged projection of Polish-Canadian monumental artist Krzystof Wodiczko [UPDATED], first put on display on the museum’s faรงade in October of 1988.
The massive image of a clutched candle and a clutched pistol between a row of microphones was interpreted as a backlash to Regan-era foreign policies and gunboat diplomacy at the waning end of the Cold War—which I don’t think anyone saw on the horizon back then—is being presented as part of a wider exhibit on the 1980s when art became a commodity and the artist an influencer, a pivot that still defines and informs our notions of contemporary art.

Friday, 5 January 2018

kuh und รผberkuh

Not content to limit their party’s ideology regarding eugenics to human beings, Reichsminister Hermann Gรถring (bedauerlicherweise, nรผr auf Deutsch) wanted to create a quarry worthy of the Nazis to hunt.
Inspired by historical accounts of the fearsome but unfortunately extinct aurochs—including encounters by a conquering General Julius Caesar—Gรถring worked with the husbandry experts, the Brothers Heck, who tried, through careful breeding, convinced that no animal’s bloodline truly disappears from the face of the Earth, scoured different types of wild and domesticated cows from all over the globe and selected for traits that they believed would reproduce the monstrous and formidable beast. The offspring of this experiment, the Heck cattle—sort of like The Boys from Brazil—were not the genetic heirs of the giant aurochs hunted to extinction in the seventeenth century but were perhaps close enough. The defeat of Germany prevented the project from coming to fruition but Gรถring planned to allow his รœberkรผhe to roam in a wildlife reserve in an primordial forest in Poland—a Nazi Jurassic Park.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

kennzeichen

Once automobiles in Germany attain a certain age (a calculus of year of manufacture and number of vehicles produced) they are classed as Old Timers (what we’d call classic cars) and have an H added to their vehicle registration plates (see more about German and European license plates and tags here, here and here). Fully-electric vehicles have for the past few years earned an E at the end.
I was very happy to find out that in Poland, antique autos are distinguished with an old-fashioned coach. Vehicles registered to Americans stationed in Germany have undergone several different iterations of markings—going from having them really stand out to blending in.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

parforce

Recently H and I had a chance to visit a pair of monumental hunting lodges whose architecture and ceremonial follies illustrated how the occupation become leisurely pursuit of the powerful of the hunt was a way of reinforcing fealty and was a metric of noble means beginning in the Middle Ages (parforce hunting) and articulated as a social arena for centuries thereafter.
The great wooded area around the village of Wermsdorf was a royal park for many generations and there was an ancient though modest lodge there already—but as existing accommodations were proving inadequate to impress visiting dignitaries, August II. der Starke (called the Strong for his physical strength that could apparently break horseshoes bare-handed and won him prizes in the prince-elector bracket of competitive fox-tossing—literally and as cruel as it sounds) commissioned the construction of the Hubertusburg (announced on the feast day of Saint Hubertus—3 November—who is the patron of hunters and the vision that led to his conversion is popularised in the Jรคgermeister logo) to showcase his family’s power.

The prince-bishops were not only instrumental in choosing the emperor, the leader of reformationist Saxony was also the king of Poland and the grand duke of Lithuania through martial unions that honoured the traditions of those brought into the fold—exemplified in the Catholic court chapel that was rather unique in the region and is the only room to have escaped plunder and destruction.
Lavish, choreographed hunts continued at the Hubertusburg, whose grounds and layout was favourably compared to Versailles—the quarry of choice being deer—up until the outbreak of that first global conflict, the Seven Years’ War, in 1755—whose own chambers saw the peace treaty that brought its end as well as the French-Indian War.
The residential palace never wholly its former glory and was at times used as a sanitarium and prison and even a porcelain factory. Presently, the trappings of the hunt are re-enacted by skilled equestrians and enthusiasts who dress up in period costumes, but mercifully the hounds are put on to the scent of human decoys to pursue through the forest—harming no one in the end.
The other hunting lodge we visited was Schloss Moritzburg, an earlier Baroque example also set in the midst of a favoured game preserve not far from the royal capital of Dresden. Constructed on an artificial island, the quatrefoil design reminds me of the Seehof of Memmelsdorf by Bamberg, it served a similar function with protocol and entertaining dignitaries.
A showroom of course for hunting trophies, the collections quickly expanded to display pieces side by side to compare Japanese and Chinese ceramics with MeiรŸen faience. Later an ensemble of other buildings were added to the parkgrounds, including a Rococo pavilion called the Little Pheasant Castle (Fasanenschlรถsschen) that’s meant to invoke an Oriental style and despite Saxony’s landlocked state, it’s one and only lighthouse—for when the occasional mock naval battles were conducted in the lakes that bordered the gardens.

Friday, 10 October 2014

czy wiesz?

Later this month, a monument (EN/DE) will be dedicated in Poland to the collaborative philosophy behind the online lexicon Wikipedia. The sculpture will be unveiled in Sล‚ubice on a university campus, and was commissioned after a suggestion by one of the professors. It is fitting that the first tribute to the pervasive and unfettered resource be raised up here, as the city borders Germany, just across the Oder River from Frankfurt, and these two populations are among the most avid and active contributors to Wikipedia in Europe.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

tug-o'-war or ambisinistrousness

Spiegel’s international desk has an interesting analysis regarding an unlikely affinity that far-right, pro-nationalist parliamentarians and political parties are finding in Russia’s stance towards its former satellite states.  Though there are East-West tensions similar to the chill of the Cold War, the conservative composition of the European caucuses looking to promote Russian partnership, covering the spectrum of maturity, repute and platforms that are often xenophobic, populist and anti-European Union, could not be of a more different leaning that the leftist politicians that many Western governments feared would side with the East and the communists, harbouring sympathies that threatened to further dismantle social pecking-order, whose preservation is the primary character of the right-wing.
Russia and the Soviet Union, of course, are of very different stripes too.  I suppose too that some of the maverick representatives, hoping to secure more seats in the supranational congress, are finding a role-model to aspire to with the authoritarian style of leadership that’s unwilling to be reigned-in. There is a riposte to this strange alliance, however, that does not exactly emanate from the other side of the aisle—an ambisinistrous individual has nothing to do with a Transdnistrian but is rather someone who is uncoordinated, having “two left hands,” the opposite of being ambidextrous—with some primed to blame a shift in the parliamentary balance on Moscow propaganda and rallying of parties, those weaker and already disenfranchised allies, to undermine cohesion in Europe and subvert the EU’s willingness to cooperate with America and back American policy.  While I cannot foresee some up-and-comer of la droite becoming a grip-knot (or slip-knot) in this battle, it is nonetheless an important corollary to note how much distrust there is about siding with the USA or jeopardizing standing-relationships.  There is no beggaring the enemy of my enemy here and both sides seem to sense that there is something suppressed and duplicitous about one another and even their own posture.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

hegemon

Adolf Hitler might have had the laurels of greatest politician ever, a uniter and not a divider, had he ceased with the notion of collecting willingly German lands—Austria, the Memel, the ElsaรŸ, Danzig and the Sudetenland.

Time magazine, after all, awarded him with the honour of Man of the Year—when that distinction meant more. Although the dread rhetoric of subversion and extermination were already presenting in terrible and prescient forms by the time of the campaign, the calling-in, it bears little difference to the re-balance of powers that America and Russia promulgated in Asia and South America, chasing down their kissing-kin, unrelenting and with dire consequences which are not to be over-looked or regulated to the times. What do you think?  Contemporary times can also be deceptive and the victors become the authoritative historians.  How much chest-pounding is too much?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

limes or probeauffรผhrung, รฉchantillon, prova

Just prior to the plebiscite to keep in place mandatory military conscription in the Alpine nation, Swiss authorities revealed that the army staged some war games, called Operation Duplex-Barbara, whose scenario seems creative if not outlandish but contingencies for such threats probably are not too far-fetched if not outright prudent.

Planners imagined borders breached by hordes of citizens from a bankrupt and fractured France, desperate to retrieve pilfered treasure. The Swiss are not alone in these preparations— in company with America, who has been quietly protecting similar domestic fall-out should there be a economic collapse, and just last year, Switzerland carried out a larger scale, more public and political exercise, called Stabilo Due, to practice girding itself for potential waves of financial refugees should the surrounding monetary union of the euro become untenable. Meanwhile in Poland, former prime minister and architect of the Solidarity Movement, Lech Waล‚ฤ™sa suggests that Germany and Poland should unite, forgetting their pasts and an overture beyond his former calls for an Eastern Europe more oriented towards the West, musing that technological advances have made national less relevant and shuttle people, identities and activities far beyond their home countries.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

secessionist or moderne

Often when walking into to town, I pass by the stately shadows thrown by the Lutherkirche of Wiesbaden, but I had not seen the inside until the other day. Other times that I thought about visiting, there seemed to be a gaggle of people there or choir practice and I didn’t want to disturb.

Last time I walked by, a friendly and informative church lady caught me snooping around and poking my head in. She insisted that I have a proper look around. I was not expecting the gorgeous Jugendstil pastiche of the enormous nave that can accommodate twelve-hundred guests. The church-lady treated me to a tour, and in the sunny afternoon, she showed me different perspectives of structure from the upper balcony, tower and equally art nouveau font and chapel. Construction and design began in 1908 as part of the so-called Wiesbadener Programme, an initiative to build protestant churches in the area—which produced several gems.
I suppose that these were the mega-churches of the day, with nothing derogatory intended, but also provided parishioners with a unique entertainment experience. In addition to the tradition of the Bach choir I overheard practicing, there are two celebrated and dueling organs, one at the front and one at the back, to produce a wall of sound. I’ll have to snoop around the other three architectural ensembles of the programme’s commissions.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

cordon sanitaire or the moon of endor

While Poland was hosting the new German president on his first official state visit, to reaffirm the ties of the two neighbouring countries, Poland was declared, again, the unwilling football of dรฉtente and appeasement. I am sure a great deal of diplomacy is carried out in the footlights, in hushed tones and without attendant-minders, like this Cold War melodrama. Certainly, there is an element of smug fatalism, but it seems as if old rivalries are drawing the same lines in the sand and perhaps the same promises written on water. Starting with the rise of Bolshevik governments out of the chaos of World War I, America sought to staunch the spread of the Communist revolution, but it was not until the victors picked over the wreckage of the World War II, that the US policy of containment became such a formalized game.

Crying foul at the “subversion” of free peoples by Soviet tyranny and without deference to Poland’s history of being swapped, the first bargaining-chip, the country was overlooked again, but despite the clash of the ideologues enveloping it, Poland—like many of the other Eastern Bloc, buffer states—did manage to overcome adversity and neglect to thrive. It is probably not more (but also not less) than an uncomfortable and sad reality to defer change or meaningful negotiations (in as much as such promises are worth) until after a campaign, as was overheard in the candid exchange between the US and Russia regarding Western encroachment into Russia’s domain—casting into question the fumble over the planned deflector shield, to protect Europe from Middle East aggression, to be based in Poland (and in the neighbouring Czech Republic). There is a certain quid pro quo detachment inherent in these dealings, which probably means that tensions and disagreement over Syria and Iran are being broached in the same way, and that’s likely the bigger embarrassment behind shelving the focus on this one slip.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

drove my chevy to the levee

Our condolences and sympathies go out to the people of Poland.  It just takes one's breath away and it is impossible to really grasp the political and cultural magnitude of the loss they have sustained from the weekend.  Historically, Poland seems unduly beaten up as it is what with always being the first country invaded because of its lack of natural borders, stereotypes for the diaspora, and the fact that the regimental entourage were on the way to commemorate the anniversary of the Katyn Forest Massacre of Polish officers and academics by the Soviet Stalinist regime. 
I think that the intelligence agents of the world could benefit from a random conspiracy generator--just to pare down on a lot the immediate nonsense.  Like Buddy Holly's and Bea Arthur's Tsunami Factory, PLC, or Jimmi Hendrix' mail-order avian influenza and magic bullet emporium, or the banking consortium of Ponzi-Prime's collapsable building franchise opportunity.  Arthur Allen. Weather-control.  Celebrity baby photos.  Now is no time to play the pyramid.  I immediately repaired to speculation too--conspiracies are a way of retrieving some meaning from accidents and incomprehensible tragedies.  I thought a long the usual lines of the plot devices for conspiracies: Lech Kaczynski had an identical twin brother; his government had conceded to Bush's missile defense shield being based in Poland; the plan to link Germany to Russia via gas pipelines through Poland; possible relation to the Uni-Bomber; stance against corruption or gay-rights; EU accession; the fact that the entire envoy was loaded on one twenty-year-old Russian Tupolev as the Polish Air Force One and Kaczynski had a reputation of bullying his official pilots into sticking with his itinerary; Vladimir Putin's hasty charge to personally lead the accident investigation.  It is very sad and all too fresh or the leadership's line of succession.  I do not want to slander their memories and accomplishments, nor there to be a pall cast on Poland's continuance and future.