Tag: curiosity


Some moons ago Melanie gave a quick outline of an idea for a text, persons shapeshifting into cats would feature – if I knew something ?
Well, not much. There is of course the motif of a person, usually a woman, who turns into a cat, saied cat gets hurt while roaming around, and in the next morning the person is found with a matching wound, be it a broken leg, a hurt back or where ever the cat was hit. This dates back to Gervasius Tilberiensis (Ger., Eng.), late 12th century that is. A motif found around witches, sorceresses, maleficae. This would be a Werkatze (Ger., Eng.) – “wer” in this connection is not “wer = who”, but an older word meaning “man”.
I looked into my usual sources, but the Deutsche Wörterbuch  (DWB) (Ger., Eng., link) does not know the lemma “Werkatze”, under “Katze”, turning into a cat is mentioned, but not specially treated.
The Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens (HdA) (Ger. only) mentions the shapeshifting  cat / human (Band 4, Spalte 1117 f., unter “Katze, 9”) and refers to “Hexe [witch] 3, 1871 f.”, where additional examples are listed. The HdA is outdated and only as reference for source materials usable. The actual lexicon is the Enzyklopädie des Märchens (EM) (Ger., Eng., help for using it online, but its German only anyway), in volume 7, 1099-1109, the cat is treated, but the article brings no new material.
Then I remembered a little book by Sergius GOLOWIN, Das Geheimnis der Tiermenschen. Von Vampiren, Nixen, Werwölfen und ähnlichen Geschöpfen (The Secret of “animal-men” [?]. About Vampires, Mermaids, Werewolves and Similar Creatures), Basel 1993. GOLOWIN (Ger., Eng.) (1930-2006) was a kind of leading figure of the counterculture in Switzerland since the sixties. A librarian by trade he discovered the (magic) literature of the Early Modern Period for himself (in the 1950s when absolutely no one, with the possible exception of Arno SCHMIDT, was interested in this old Plunder, rubbish, clobber), put this together with stories and fairy tales he was told by his Ukrainian grandmother, and developed a keen interest in magic, drugs, and whatnot. Very interesting person – and he wrote a book about cats : Göttin Katze – Das magische Tier an unserer Seite (Goddess Cat, the Magic Animal at Our Side), 1989. As it seems there is no English translation, perhaps an Italian one (Gatto, amico, mago, 2005). But I am sorry, I have not read the book.
In the end I think all necessary can be found in the already mentioned articles about the Werkatze.

Safety First

Pointless, boring story ahead.

The first man came in the late morning and marked the positions. The second one carried a box with devices and a laptop. He sat on the floor and busily scanned codes in, marked the devices, sorted them and left, remarking that they’d be “scharf” now, loaded. The third hauled a large power drill and fixed the devices, all three in less than seven minutes. He left with a grin and gave me a xerocopied instructional paper.
You may already guessed it, venerated reader, I am talking about smoke detectors that were installed in my rooms. All for safety.
What I do not understand is that these things must be so terribly ugly.


They successfully searched for the ugliest smoke detector available in Europe.
They successfully searched for the ugliest smoke detector available in Europe.


They look like anti-personal-mines.
I chatted with my neighbour who is living in a pretty large appartement. They had six of these things bolted to the ceiling. Also another neighbour some floors up found six of these design disasters decorating her flat. So I wondered when in a friend’s flat of the same design only five abominations were installed. I met laptop man in the lift when he carried a new box of devices and said something along the line that they surely fitted some hundreds in this large appartement house. He was a little upset and complained that he had been told to bring more than 300 of the things, but he only had 200 mounted, at the utmost. If it would have been better organised they’d be at home already.

Yesterday I walked past the janitor’s office, found the door open and him sitting at his desk. I looked, he waved me in, kicked a chair in front of the desk and asked “What’s up ?”
I expressed my astonishment about the not mounted safety device and the lack of coordination. He rolled his eyes and explained that laptop man & friends were clearly instructed to nail a smoke detector at the ceiling of every room that is possibly a sleeping room, and in the exits or hallways (“Fluchtwege”). Of course not in bathrooms and kitchens, obviously. Laptop man decided to install the things only in rooms that right now are used as sleeping rooms. The large room in my friend’s flat is actually used as a bureau – no bed, no smoke detector.
And while they were at it, they ignored the basement level completely (six appartements) and were busily searching for the “Dachgeschoss”, the attic, that is miraculously not built.
There will be another date to fix the mess. It is not clear whether laptop man & friends will do this.
While I sat there I asked him what would happen if I heard such an alarm ? “I mean : Thursday morning, 09:30, I’m back from my morning drive, ready to sleep an hour. All my neighbours are at work or at the university, usually I am alone on the floor. I hear an alarm two doors down. I knock at the door, no reaction. My janitor is not reachable, he has to take care for other objects too, some miles away. Even if you’d be here, you are not allowed to open the door.” “That would be burglary”, he chipped in.
“I call the firefighters. They go in, false alert. Do I pay the operation ?” “Nice question”, he said, “especially because it was not asked before.” “So what does my landlord say ?”
He thought for a minute and told me that if he would ask this in the centre office they’d kick him and tell him to mind his own business. Very nice shop morale.
As he knows his company, they would pass the question to the firefighters.
He pulled out a file card and called the village firefighters, 70something.
No one reachable, even after several tries.
He called the village administration and asked for the number of the force – 70something. And, after complaining that it is useless, he got the number of a portable.
Which is not working. We tried two times : Number not taken, not connected to a customer.
“Better not burn here” he said. “Commander’s out for lunch”, I agreed.
So he called the emergency number.
“Yes, relax, no alarm” – and he told his story and asked the question. Their answer was clear : They are the professional force. If someone calls them they need to know where the emergency is, then they alarm the local force. The local force deals with it and decides whether they need professional help. The cost is not their business, that is between the local force and the local administration. For this village, they call 70something.
“Thank you.”
Two middle-aged blokes with too much time to spare and a telephone.
All in the name of safety, of course.


Long and boring bla ahead, sorry. If you like, skip the artsy fartsy stuff & go to the music at the end of this post. It is not that much uplifting.

The ever venerable Dianhmow posted about a kind of contest here, gently providing a link to the winners here. Here is the link to a pdf showing all entries / finalists of the “2016 LIBRIS AWARDS”.
Dinahmow had photographed one of the entries – please see it at the bottom of her blog post. It is described as “Winner of the Regional Artists’ Award. May-Britt Mosshammer. “Tapping the Knowledge.” Books, bronze, paper”. I steal the pic and put it next – wait a minute …


Mosshammers Tap


… here we are. “Tapping the Knowledge”.
And there it drips. Or flows. Or whatever.

For me – do I have to declare that here on my blog I talk about meself only (btw I know that it’s the wrong form, I stole it from Søren Knudsen) – books are tools. Books are a lot of things to a lot of people, even for those who do not read. They are means of escape, they are respected as holy, persecuted as and understood as dangers to faith, virginity, public order … a text, written or printed, distributed in a bound form, hence transportable and most of all reproducable can be seen as dangerous, as revelation, as simple means for “fun” and “recreation”, as transport for knowledge (what ever this may be) … it is a book.
I grew up with books, and some dogs, but at some point the dogs had to go and the books stayed. Reading was in the household of my parents a normal activity, regardless whether it was the newspaper, a more or less funny novel for distraction or a historical text, regardless of the latter’s quality. My parents were not historians. Education, what translates in visiting a “good” school, was seen as the means to better the situation in general, and reading was apart of it, of the job. My education was very good, I went to a traditional humanistic German Gymnasium, and of course we were reading, well, books. History was (my) the main topic (I was fortunately in one of the early years that could pick out their individual topics – if I had to do the last examination (Abitur) in something like chemistry I would have ruined all of my grades, so it was Latin and history and I survived) and our teacher (all of them, but especially the last) was very good. In fact when I went to university and attended the first obligatory “Einführungsseminar”  / introductionary seminar I thought I was in 12th grade again.
Reading books was always essential. Using a real library at a university, where you could have texts at your hand within some hours, where you could see images with a short delay – and this was all before the digitalisation and the web – was a great experience that in this form will never come back. Best was – in the eighties – that you could even have originals sent from Munich or the HAB (a place I still today, despite my anger over the scientific business & all, would crawl on my legs & arms to to have a job in the depot) within days : You actually had’em in your hands !
And of course the magazines. They held a lot of printed stuff you never knew existed until you found it in a catalogue, or somewhere cited. All this was done by grey sheets of terrible printed paper that you filled out, either by hand or with a type writer – and all this became better and better with the digitalisation : Nowadays you can read stuff at a workstation within the campus that was unreachable twenty years ago. (There is a large danger to it too, but I am not willing to talk about this now.)

The book as it is, is first of all a tool for me. Then it is also an object – I do not want to say of desire. There are no books I really wanted to possess simply because they are books. But there are objects that come in the form of a book that I very much like – because of the paper, the binding, the typography. A car can bring you from place A to place B. It can be a Dacia 1.5 Diesel, it can be a … Dodge Charger SRT – no I do not want to digress on cars, the Dodge has to be enough. Paper alone is such a large and rich field – in the region is a papermill, and the man (whom I know of course) makes some very fine examples of paper for different uses ; printing – oh my ! – ; binding – there is so much nonsense that can be done in this respect – and who ever invented the glue-thing shall rot in hell eternally ! And I will not start about typography – I keep venerating some housegods like TSCHICHOLD, and that is enough.
A friend is an acknowledged artist, one of her techniques is printing, I stand in awe about the possibilities – and I dare to say sometimes that I do not like the outcome. But this is a very rare thing to occur, and I basically know what to do different. (And we once were invited to take part in one of her œvres, so I reclaim something of a “Vorschuss” !)
My taste is conservative regarding typography – I f.e. always try to use something that is Garamond-related as font – I know that one of my most favourite readers (‘a friend’) does not like this type of font family, but I am sorry, can’t without.

Much bla about nothing so far. Terrible introspection into an empty stomach, perhaps filled with hot air only. Ein Windbeutel.
So what about this object up there ?

Frankly, I … do not like it.
And, as already said in a comment on Dinahmow’s blog, I am not really sure about the “why”.
What do you have on tap – is a question one expects in a tavern. I have a problem with “knowledge” in general, as differenced from information. There are texts in the form of a book, like “Der Schattenfotograf” by Wolfdietrich Schnurre that in my humble opinion keeps a lot of insight and meaning – but that can not be “tapped”. There is a lot of knowledge, imho wisdom even, in this text (and this man), but there is nothing to be tapped – for all and everyone. There is nothing that runs out when you turn the spigot. There is no spigot. Even to the Bible or the Koran no spigot is attached.
Books create books, it can be a bit of an inbred, especially in historical matters. What runs out of the spigot depends always and only on the one who turns it.
Perhaps my idea of “art” is terribly outdated – I do not know. All I know is that Art is what one sees as Art. This thing above in my eyes is a joke, it is in my humble opinion a first involvement with the idea of the book and its history, given my education and more or less “intellectual” background”. This is a thing that is okay in the first-year-seminar. It is a joke, a light shot from the hip, more or less funny, but I would not give it an award. Yes, of course, it is just me, and my “idea” of what a book is and can be.
It is half-done. Put something under the spigot, like a bucket and fill it with something you like : A mirror (ach ja, die Selbsterkenntnis, good old self-awareness), a piece of crap if you like, overflowing shredded paper, or a flower – I am not the artist, and of course it is absolutely arrogant from me to judge this thing, but I am allowed and free to say what it causes in me. The initial anger is gone, but I do not take this thing serious, and I would not have given it an award.

Vanitas vanitatum – here’s the soundtrack :





Some years before his death GOLDBACH had his testament written. He appointed as his principal heir the librarian Gottfried BOCK. This, and the fact that BOCK was a regular visitor at his house had some eyebrows raised, simply because of the large social distance between the humble “consiliarius et bibliothecae praefectus” BOCK and Geheimrat GOLDBACH. Some years earlier he had made dispositions for his burial – he had planned a very modest and sober ceremony without the usual pomp funèbre. When he finally died on 20th of November (or 1st of December, depends on what calendar is used) his last will was presented to the czarina (the great Catherina, Ger., Eng.) – she wrote her “placet” on it with her own hand only two days later. Finally he was buried with all the usual effort and extravagance owed to his status, his position at the court. All his papers – diaries, notes, letters – were sealed by the ministry of foreign affairs and carefully archived.
GOLDBACH was a very discreet man, we know not much about his personal life. In his diaries he carefully noted whom he met where and when (with the notable exception of Gottfried, who is not mentioned), but he rarely ever gives the topic of the conversation – he is often described as a very charming conversational partner, he is clearly a man of the spoken word. But he also uses the medium of the time extensively, letters.
Christian GOLDBACH (Ger., Eng.) is born in Königsberg on the 18th of March 1690. We know that he has one brother, Heinrich, with whom he studies in Leipzig in 1711. In this year he meets Christian WOLFF & G.W. LEIBNIZ – and what is more important, he keeps the contact with these scholars for the next years to come. And not only with these two – in fact GOLDBACH establishes a network of communication all over Europe that mirrors his wide range of interests from modern natural sciences to philology, from architecture via music to mathematics. He takes care to come into contact with the leading men of the day. From spring 1712 until December 1714 GOLDBACH is traveling Europe, crisscrossing the European Gelehrtenrepublik. Seemingly by the way he defends a dissertation at the university of Groningen (August 1712) and gets a licentia docendi juris ; when he gets back to Berlin in winter 1714 he becomes a Prussian Hofrat, before he retreats to Königsberg.
Some years later he comes back to Berlin (August 1718) and then travels to the North (Stockholm, Kopenhagen) before he is in Vienna – all in all he is on the road until April 1724, for more than five years. The suspicion is allowed that he somehow is involved in Prussian foreign politics, now not scholars are his main conversational partners, but diplomats. He stays not for long in Berlin 1724/25 – there is a new project on the horizon, the foundation of a Russian academy of sciences in St. Petersburg (Ger., Eng.). He arrives in St.Petersburg in August 1725 & starts his work as secretary of this institution in September. As I understand he will not leave Russia any more. Two years later, 1727, he becomes the head teacher of the heir to the throne Petr Alekseevic (Ger., Eng.), who sadly dies only fourteen years of age in January 1730. GOLDBACH holds different ranks in the court hierarchy, and in 1744 becomes officially a member of the council for foreign affairs. He dies 1764 in St.Petersburg.
Through the last 22 years of his life, which he spent in the service of the council of foreign affairs, he traveled between Moskau and St.Petersburg, but he clearly favoured the latter city. GOLDBACH was responsible for the cipher-service, and he was successful. In June 1744 the Russians deciphered a letter of the French envoy that contained some not very nice remarks about the czarina – that is Elisabeth (Ger., Eng.). In this year GOLDBACH received as a special gift not only one, but two golden tobacco “tins”, next year the personal nobility, and in 1746 the czarina gave him a manor – he never visited it, the rent brought him 1400 Rubel a year, as he wrote in a letter to EULER. His regular annual income was 1500 roubles.
He tries to keep out of the intrigues at court as good as he can, always keeps contact with the academy he helped to found, and stays discreet. His successful work in the cipher departement is continued by his successor Franz ÆPINUS (Ger., Eng.) (1724-1802), who in some respects repeats GOLDBACHs journey through life : He is also a member of the academy, he teaches the heir to the throne, and he stays unmarried.

I used for this scribble the following book :
Juskevic, Adolf P. ; Kopelevic, Judith Kh. : Christian Goldbach. 1690-1764. Aus dem Russischen übersetzt von Annerose und Walter Purkert, Basel Boston Berlin 1994 (Vita mathematica 8). First Moskva 1983. Strangely enough this title is not mentioned among the literature in the German wikipedia-article.