Tag: personal

Another Boring Book List

It is been a bit since the last book list, it appeared here in early March I think.
These posts are tagged with “books”, perhaps I should categorise them under “Books”. Now follow in no particular order, just as they come from the heap, books I read since March.

OPPERMANN, Hans : Julius Caesar in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten. Reinbek 1968 (rowohlts monographien, ed. by Kurt KUSENBERG, 135)
I have to admit that this is the first time I read a coherent biography of Julius. The depiction of Julius’ life is broad, not limited on one or two aspects, The author likes his subject, but does not idolize his hero. All the more I was astounded when I learned from the biographical wikipedia article about OPPERMANN (here) that he was a fervent national socialist who worked on a ns-conform classic philology while he was professor at the university of Freiburg until 1944. After the war he was not allowed back in the (west-)German university, but still good enough for teaching at Hamburgian Gymnasien. Given the common tendency in German academia after 1945 to forget & forgive, where after a few years the same old blockheads showed up, and saw to continuity, who were already shouting ex cathedra before 1939, I think it is remarkable to see that this man was shunt off into school teaching – he really was not acceptable any more. Nevertheless, old nazi or not, this biography of Julius is informative, well written, and well readable even after nearly fifty years.

BONER, Georg : Laupersdorf. Unsere Heimat im Wandel der Zeit.
Erster Teil 1968 : Von der Frühzeit bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters
Zweiter Teil 1973 : Vom frühen 16. bis zum ausgehenden 18. Jahrhundert
Dritter Teil [1986] : Von der Revolution von 1798 bis an die Schwelle des 20. Jahrhunderts
A work of love. Laupersdorf (Ger., Eng.) is a small village in Kanton Solothurn. It is mostly Roman-Catholic, belongs to the diocese of Solothurn. The author (1908-1991) (Ger. only) was a Swiss historian and archivist, a prolific writer, long-time collaborator of the Aargauer Staatsarchiv. The community expressed its wish to have a history of the village, and they turned to the man who was best suited to write it. So this “simple” “Dorfgeschichte”, village history, is written lege artis – and well readable too. If you are interested in small Swiss villages …

FABRICIUS, Klaus ; SAUNDERS, Red (editors) : 24 Hours in the Life of Los Angeles. First print, New York June 1984
Another village, another approach : Not the history, but the Now – and this as full as possible. So they sent out a lot of photographers into the “Olympic City ’84”, and out came a portrait of this strange place, fascinating after 33 years.
I could not find more about Mr FABRICIUS, perhaps he is behind this photo blog.

SCHMIDT-Eppendorf, Peter : Sylt. Memoiren einer Insel. Dokumente, Chroniken, Berichte aus 1001 Jahren. Husum 1977
Now I know anything about Keytum, Morsum, Arxum, Westerlant & Rantum what is there to know. Monsignore (Ger., Eng.) SCHMIDT-Eppendorf seems to be a colourful character. Interesting book about a landscape that is totally alien to me : Imagine sand dunes wandering over villages !

HERBERSTEIN, Sigmund v. : Das alte Rußland. Übertragen von Wolfram von den STEINEN. Mit einem Nachwort von Walter LEITSCH. 2. Auflage, Zürich 1985
I wrote about this book and its author already here.

WUNDERLICH, Dieter : Sprachen der Welt. Warum sie so verschieden sind und sich doch alle gleichen. Darmstadt 2015
I doubt that I understood it. WUNDERLICH gives an introduction into the world of “language”, the system to classify & organise this wonderful cosmos, answers a lot of questions around “language”. But finally I have no clue why they are so different. This is surely not the fault of the author Dieter WUNDERLICH (Ger.), who thankfully writes clearly and describes complicated issues in a way that even I can get my buckethead around it.

GÜNTHER, Sonja : Design der Macht. Möbel für Repräsentanten des “Dritten Reiches”. Mit einem Vorwort von Wolfgang Fritz HAUG. Stuttgart 1992
GÜNTHER describes how the “Vereinigte Werkstätten” (Ger.) became the main production place for ameublement the heads of the Third Reich finally had in their representative rooms. Interesting pictures, so you know what not to put into your salon.

PRIESNER, Claus : Chemie. Eine illustrierte Geschichte. Darmstadt 2015
Finally a history of this terrible subject “chemistry” I have a chance to understand. With a lot of colourful pictures too. PRIESNER (Ger.) is a noted historian of science, together with Karin FIGALLA he edited a lexicon of alchemy. Even something so dreadful as “chemistry” can have an interesting history !


Sunday Music, Monday Edition


Actually I am in the scream phase, not like saying something just a bit louder than usual, but scream bloody murder. Next will be the fist on keyboard phase. I envy Alice (Eng.), Dilbert’s coworker, for her “fist of death”, I think she can put this one through a flat screen. Not that my poor, dusty screen would be to blame. Nor the computer, the web, or even me. I just do not want to talk about it. But after the revolution, the rupture or what the hell may put an end to this idiotic age we have to live through, all structural engineers (“Statiker”) and medical specialists (“Fachärzte”) will be shot. All. And I mean it. I have a list !
So, there, some music. Something strange by Bruno NICOLAI (Eng., Ger.), very aptly named Realtà, realness, Wirklichkeit.
I hope you enjoy the music and don’t have to listen to “specialists” – AAARRRGGG



Just Jabbering

In some hours Vladimir KLITSCHKO will fight against Antony JOSHUA – one of the very few occasions I regret that I have no tv set to watch an event live. I always was interested in boxing. And can well remember when the brothers KLITSCHKO appeared on the scene. Some commenters were quick to dismiss them as “one punch wonders”, as “generic” boxers, soulless automatons etc. Now Vladimir  (Ger., Eng.) is 41, came a very long road, and after his loss of all titles against the Rummelboxer FURY he faces a critical comeback. The old man has to show that it is still in him, or give up and accept that it is over. I saw a picture of KLITSCHKO, a still taken from an interview, and if it is in any way “true”, poor JOSHUA will get the beating of his life.
A Rummelboxer btw is one of these traveling men, a kind of mercenary of boxing, who goes everywhere if the cash is right. And besides these men, there were boxing spectacles on the Jahrmarkt, the annual fair, also called a “Rummel”, a chaotic heap or pile, a tumult. Here traveling boxing companies presented their shows, and of course sooner or later one poor sod from the audience was ready to join in – he usually had no chance.
Boxing is about muscles, yes, but maybe 80% is about technique. I used to watch heavy weight fights, saw Mr TYSON come out of the corner and deliver an earth shattering bonk to his poor opponent, saw Mr FOREMAN deliver some of his very unspectacular but nevertheless devastating blows that sent men to the ground in agony, saw idiots like SANDERS, and FURY, but never saw another boxer as perfect as Vladimir KLITSCHKO.
Later I discovered the light weight classes, in which it is not about the deadly punch, the “one shot only”-thing, but where it is about speed, eye, movement – it is a dance. A sometimes bloody, always exhausting, always payneful, dance.
And sometimes I like to watch this.
The greatest dancer of all, of course, was ALI. I was removed to a sobbing heap of tears when he finally lighted the Olympian flame in Atlanta in 1996.
BTW, I just read that the house of Rosa PARKS, some older readers may remember the name, is translocated (Ger., Eng.) from Detroit to Berlin ; it is now Wriezenerstraße 19 in Wedding.
Is “history” all about forgetting ? Is “history” all about remembering ?
We see history at work, as a tool, all over Europe. It is even jeopardising the whole idea of “Europe”, replacing this idea with national narratives that draw their justifications from a certain idea of history, an interpretation & explanation that re-writes “history” in a new-national sense, while heavily using age-old stereotypes of everything alien – be it “the Jew”, “the Mohammedan” / “Islam” in general, or “the negro”. On the European periphery being gay is a crime again, and hundreds of gay men are tortured and killed in areas of the former Soviet Union, maybe in Turkey too.
We see the rise of – what ? The pendulum swings back, as it always does, and all of a sudden things like democracy, personal freedom, identity, ach name it ! – the whole grambumble – it all becomes unsafe shattered wonky – the ground we / I stood on feels wobbling.
Enlightenment is a process, yes, every generation has to do it again – I have the feeling we somehow missed the last time ? I look at videos showing young men who volunteered to fight somewhere in the Near East – and I ask myself how goddamn brain dead one can be ? And these dumb dorks were born and raised in Europe, not in the Palestinian slums.
What went wrong ?
“Europe”, this voluntary union of independent states, was a reaction to the brutal history of the most violent 20th century. After all, two worldwars started here, and maybe Germany played a little role in this. This “Europe” is based on values, shared and common, dating back to the French Revolution, later casted in the mold of these “human rights” a lot of potentates like to spit on nowadays, not only “somewhere in the East”, but in places like Poland, Hungary – and possibly France when LE PEN takes over. Oh, and like-mindedness, loyalty and sympathy played a role. Based on a shared history – again this cursed word – a history that shows us all the opposite of these values happening.
And what do I see ?
Idiots who happily abnegate all this. Who negate the “worth” of history, and write their own versions. Who instrumentalise all & everything for their own – and only for their own ! – purposes, who set “nation” as something that is superior to the individual. This rings a bell, it’s the old “Du bist nichts, dein Volk ist Alles !” I see politicians who happily lie, who happily construct “historical” rationales & motivations for their own short-sighted ideas. I see men – and sadly women too – who happily embrace the old paternalistic religious bullshit, all this patriarchal nonsense we thought to have overcome – I see idiots happily choosing unfreedom and bondage, I see praktizierte Dummheit. Self-chosen.
This is all just jabbering, incoherent, of course, of course.
Why not some music at the end ? TRB’S Power in the Darkness would be too pathetic even for me right now … let Jimi take over, no reason to get excited … 



Two Men

The Professor is lucky. Despite his old age (he is over ninety now) he is still in full command of his body and his brains. He is the doyen in my discipline, and of course may smile when some over-enthusiastic scribbler describes him as the one “who single-handedly renovated” our field, because he was not alone – and I think he’s the first to acknowledge this. But without his institute things would have taken a different course.
When he took over the chair of a small institute in a sleepish Suebian provincial town 57 (!) years ago, das Fach was marginalised, not least because of its unfortunate history in those twelve years. When the professor was given the emeritus status some thirty years later the limited “German” horizon was opened towards an European perspective, and the 19th century “Volkskunde” was replaced with “Ethnology”, a different set of methods and approaches – without a doubt results of a process started by his institute in the late sixties.
He saw colleagues come and go, friends and adversaries. And of course it was time to step aside for the next generation, but that would not mean to fall silent, curl up, and die. A university owns this & that, he was given a working place in a dependance of his former institute, a nicely situated house in an up-market neighbourhood with gardens and narrow alley ways. There stands the desk he visits daily, the house (originally a residence house) holds some collections, a library, you get the idea.

The Ghost was nicknamed by neighbours, they called him the Schlossgespenst, the ghost of the castle, seemingly because he spoke to nobody and silently swished by on his bicycle. The Ghost was in his late sixties, and had studied a lot, among other subjects philosophy and history. As it seems, he never graduated.
Academia is not only filled with happy stories and success, there are always people who, well … are not so lucky. Some simply can not stop being a student, some can not get their stuff together and write a Magisterarbeit or a thesis, some struggle with mental problems, some simply meet an ill fate.
Whatever it was with the Ghost, he simply never left the university. He worked in different institutes as “Hilfskraft” over the years, but a “student temp” in his forties or fifties or sixties – alma mater can have a wide heart for their stumbling sons.
He occupied some rooms on the second floor of that old house more than ten years ago. I think he worked for this institute for very small money, and lived from benefits, Sozialhilfe. As I already said, mother Alma may have a big heart, but …
They offered him another flat, several times. They  threatened with eviction. Finally it was the job of a bailiff (“Gerichtsvollzieher”) and a man from the Ordnungsamt, the municipal authority responsible for public order, to get him out and clear the rooms.
The Ghost waited for them on the balcony. He took out a gun and shot at them, thankfully hurting no one, but a bullet went through one man’s sleeve. While the two men on the ground covered behind a car they noticed that the Ghost’s flat was burning. He had set fire to the appartement he should leave. They watched as he tried to go back into the rooms, but he finally decided to escape via the balcony. He slipped, and fell six meters to the ground, finally to death.
And while an emergency doctor tried to save his life, the fire brigade tried to reach the house, situated on a hill with nice gardens and narrow alley ways. When they finally arrived the fire was happily munching through the old wood beams, all that nice paper – in the end the building was totally gutted with only the outside walls remaining, declared unsafe by technicians and forbidden to enter.

All this happened last week. As I read the Professor was still travelling, on a voyage in Africa, unaware of what happened, they could not reach him.