New Year, New Challenge

When I sat down at my desk this evening here in Franconia, I swear I heard a kind of “blobbing” sound, maybe it’s the chair’s way to express its happiness to be used again.
First things first : Happy Birthday , best greetings and wishes to Savannah, that L.A. Lady !
And of course – Happy New Year to all of You, venerated readers !
Now that the future has already started, let’s learn something new, the first & only Public Service Announcement on this blog – may it be helpful all year ’round ! And beyond ! To The STARS !



Beer, Virus, Glasses

I am in a chatty mood today. I bought some beer from foreign places. Some weeks ago a friend invited me to dinner, and we went to a place that offers Chinese food. I never have been to China, or Asia in general, so I have no idea whether the food offered here in Europe as “Chinese”, “Asian”, Thai” etc. is really something people in those countries or regions actually do eat. What is sold here may well be adapted to a common “European” taste. On their menue I found Korean beer, and ordered a bottle. The stuff was actually manufactured in Germany, a normal, nondescript “Pils”, drinkable, not bad, just a beer.
But today I bought beer from China – it seems that the big steamers now do arrive in Europe again : Brewed & bottled in Qingdao (Ger., Eng.) in a brewery established in 1903, when the city was a German colony. It contained only a very small amount of rice (3 %). I wonder if in other former German colonies also breweries can be found. It was a very pale, and “light” brew, nicely drinkable, less than 5 % alcohol. Just serve well cooled.
Out of pure curiosity I also bought a Belgian brew, something I usually avoid at all costs, simply because these people throw anything into their beer that can not run away : Rice, sugar, colour, more yeast, even chocolate. In my experience Belgian beer is synonym with headaches of the very bad sort. They produce these concoctions of course with a little more uumph than usual. So the “exceptionally rich and complex flavour palette” comes with more than 10 % alcohol. It is called “Gulden Draak” (Eng.) and comes in very small bottles. Two are enough, seriously.

In circa two weeks the new school year will start, it seems that for me nothing changes – same route, same children. We will have to start twenty minutes earlier than last year, so it nearly equals what we had before the pandemic. The virus’ “numbers” are all going upwards around here, it will be interesting to see if, and when yes, what, will be changed. Presumably nothing.
I have not read about the last “findings” of the virus’ origins, and frankly, I am inclined to doubt anything in this respect that comes from a stately source, be it USAmerican, or Chinese, or else.
I can not forget this article on Reuters from last year, nevertheless I do not know what to make out of it. I vaguely remember that the French also reported a virus related death from late 2019. Whatever it means, I hope someone will piece it together one day.
All I am interested in is that no one of the people I love gets infected, and that I meself do not infect nobody. If that means, I am the odd one with the mask, so be it. Surely I will not use something that is made for de-worming cattle as a medication.

I spent too much time on news sites these days, of course I could not escape the last effort of Mr West, who seemingly found something he calls “Jesus”. What I heard on youtube, and other occasions, was bombastically boring ; someone should tell him that the only person, who gets away with supersized glasses on this planet, is Ms Apfel, happy hundredth by the way.
Enough of this. Sorry for having bored you for another five minutes or so. Let’s finish with The Pylon of the Month, August 2021, here.

Suicide & Binnenexotik

The fat moon stares at me. He looks a bit like Charlie Brown. Soon he will follow his course to the right and vanish behind the house. I am sure to see moon shadows later in the evening.
In the following meandering babble I will mention some obscure, macabre, and disgusting things, so if this evokes the danger of triggering something un-wanted in you, dear reader, just skip now. Thank you.


I read an interesting book about suicide by M. Georges MINOIS : Geschichte des Sebstmords, Düsseldorf Zürich 1996 (first : Histoire du suicide, Paris 1995), and as it is with books, one always finds strange things that need further investigation. In the end it may be curiosity alone that makes us devote ourselves to what is called history. I am not free from this sin.
But what is history else but lived human life ? Homo sapiens sapiens is us, and those who served in the Roman legiones, or lived in the Keltic cities called oppida, the Ancient Greek and their strange invaders (once called “Seevölker”) are not different from the inhabitants of Classic Rome, Renaissance Rome, modern Rome or any other specimen of mankind on this planet.
But we may look at other cultural environments and find them strange – I think the most common descriptor was or is “exotic”. In fact, we are the exotic too. Not only for a visitor from another continent, but for ourselves, when we are confronted with the practices & ideas of those we call forefathers. The fabric, the weave of values, and hence the way we act, in accord with the resulting set of norms, or in dis-accord with, changes.
History is about change (what a banal truism), and if it teaches something, it may teach respect. I am generally sceptical about this idea of “learning from history”, simply because in my understanding a group – call it population or nation – or a set of groups we call society, does not learn. Individuals learn. They may make a difference at times. But it is undeniable that societies change, and have different attitudes to certain things, for example suicide, different from how they judged the same thing one or two generations ago. I still call all this Geistesgeschichte, outing meself as boneheaded conservative unmoved from more or less new changes in the science’ attitude. In fact I am a Volkskundler by trade, so by other people’s definition undeniably, a rotten reactionary.
But I digress. I think it is called “going down the rabbit hole”, years ago an old lady who lived near the Great Lakes introduced me to this formulation.
The discussion about suicide in the end boils down to two positions. Those who definitely refuse the praxis, those who allow it either generally or under circumstances. The arguments & used examples basically stay the same over centuries, the value judgements change. And MINOIS describes this European discussion from the middle ages to the end of the 19th century.
It has a juridical dimension of course. If killing oneself is a crime against the Christian order or the order of the Christian state, the authority must act : A crime needs to be prosecuted, fiat iustitia. This explains why suicidal corpses were punished. Usually by dragging the cadaver face-down through the streets to the gallows where they would be hanged by their feet and left to rot. If they were not thrown on the Schindanger, they were buried at night, preferably (face down ?) with a nice solid stake through the thorax.
This was practice through Early Modern times in Europe.
It is of note that, of course, there were a lot of exceptions. This would not happen to a gentleman of the Last Guinea Club (don’t know if this works for you, try this), or a French notable, but likely to the corpse of a peasant, the plebs. On judicial order.
Maybe a shortage of judges explains what MINOIS mentions on page 410 of his book :
“In the Bretagne alone one counts more lawsuits against corpses than in those regions Albert BAYET investigated : Twenty versus eighteen, the half of them ended with the corpse’s execution. At the start of the Revolution a salted corpse was found in Quimper waiting for its execution for five or six years, in Saint-Malo around twenty“.
(Minois cites CORRE & Aubry : Documents de criminologie retrospective (Bretagne, XVII-XVIII siecle), Paris 1895, p. 378. He mentions A. BAYET : Le suicide et la morale, Paris 1922.)
I know that the Middle Ages and the Baroque were not too delicate in handling dead bodies. Always remember that (the later Saint) Thomas Aquinas was cooked to remove his (fat) flesh from the bones that were kept as venerable relics. One could say they whirlpooled him. A not uncommon practice, especially in the hot South. I think some noblemen who died on the crusades were kept in honey while transported back home for the funeral. But to keep more than twenty brined corpses in storage just for further mutilation seems to be a bit macabre. I wonder how this happened practically ? Did they have a special shed at the hotel de ville, preferably in the basement ? What sad bastid held the maintenance job ? Someone had to refill the salt.
Unsurprisingly MINOIS mentions DEFOEs Journal of the Plague Years (1665), because in times of widespread death Hamlet’s question can come unpleasantly close. This interesting book that one could call the first modern novel, inspired a great, moving, animated short film titled The Periwig Maker (Ger., Eng., viewpure).
And so the circle of this ramble is closed – a little red haired girl features prominently in this picture, unnamed and venerated from afar by the wig maker, just like Charlie Brown will do a little later. It seems to be the little redhead’s fate through centuries to show just up, and then go away, silent and anonymously.

3 Luisen, 1 Apollonia

The wind still attacks this house fiercely. The doors to my living room and my bathroom rattle, and it is remarkably cold outside. A sharp set back from the nice days we enjoyed, the yellow press calls it “Schwedenschelle” (Swedish slap ?) – who invents these silly names, think “Russenpeitsche” (Russian whip) ? Will the next Eastern cold front be called “Finnenfaust”, Finnish fist ?
When it is too unfriendly outside, and besides permission to go out is restricted anyway, we at least can read about interesting places & persons.
You may remember the portrait of marchesa Luisa CASATI (Ger., Eng.) (1881-1957) I mentioned some posts ago. I am glad to have found this illustrated article about her life on Rocaille, a place worth to be explored, I think. Author and editor is the art historian signora Annalisa P. CIGNITTI.
CASATI was the subject of an exhibition in Venice (article with pictures), and donna CIGNITTI also wrote about the Villa San Michele on Capri where la marchesa lived 1919/1920. There she left an inscription on the wall : “Oser. Vouloir. Savoir. Se-taire”.
“Wagen, wollen, wissen. Schweigen.”
Interestingly this motto can also be found on the wall of Madame Louise EBELs blue room (article) in Paris. Madame EBEL, also an art historian, wrote a book about these scandalous 19th century women Geneviève LANTELME (Eng., Fr.), Henriette MAILLAT, Berthe de COURRIÈRE (Eng., Fr.), la baronne DESLANDES (Eng., Fr.), Mina (= Wilhelmina Apollonia) SCHRADER, and Gisèle d’ESTOC (about).
I have to confess that all but one of these names were unknown to me. And ironically the only one who rung a little bell in the back of my hazy mazy head, SCHRADER, belongs to the person in this list I could find the least about. There is a picture of her in the collection of anarchists’ portraits by Alphonse BERTILLON (collection; about, scroll down).
According to this demoiselle SCHRADER de NYZOT (NYSOLD ? NYSOLI ?) (born 22nd of October 1874) was arrested in Paris when 19 years old, and photographed. I vaguely remember, but have no clue why, that she belongs to the sphere of RODIN – ? Around 1900 she seemingly plans to publish two books, one about La Recherche de Dieu, the other about Les Sources de l’Èlectricité. Maybe, in the end, GOd is electric ?
Sadly I can not fully use The Dictionary of Artists’ Models, edited by Jill Berk JIMINEZ (Chicago London 2001) online from home. And the library is closed, of course, indefinitely.
Meanwhile it’s dark.
The wind is still there, howling. Trusty.
Schwedenschelle. Russenpeitsche.