7/28/2010

a funny measurement:

Indirect measurements of tricky to deal with things, like citadels by their shadows, is such a beautifull discovery of the ancient greeks that I try an other example of the trick:

The town Bad Salzuflen near Bielefeld (see the entry below) has a strange similarity to one of the worst movies, gruesome sound ever made. "I have looked into the future and it doesn't work" is it's message. (Neither did the film, but this review is good) Let's have a look: Bad Salzuflen lives from huge hospital and wellness business in it and it is in a strange way separated into two parts: The run down town itself with the working people (many poor and imigrants), and the wellness parks and hospitals in the early 1960's style, where wealthy 'eternal' guests spend their time with all sorts of new-age-therapies, dining, etc. A kind of invisible boundary separates both, you never see e.g. children of the working population playing in the nice park just a few meters away and open for everyone.


After an accidential ride to it and puzzled upon my impressions, I remembered this film on a somewhat similar idea - from a review: "Only at the fag end of the 1960s could such a simultaneously ambitious and preposterous movie be made. Boorman's thesis - that the middle class hippies cannot retreat to their own bohemian idyll without descending into in-fighting and impotency - draws both from H.G. Wells' 'Time Machine', and no doubt his own observation of the Sixties communes". The idea of these communities materialized in wellness center concepts for the aging career-68'ers and developed out of 19th century medical centers. Their contemporary cases could easily be mistaken for Th. Mann's 'Magic Mountain' with which Bad Salzuflen had some similarities long ago. But that old version was an economically selfsufficient upper class community separated from the normal society and the main economy, whereas the current ones suck money out of all of society and are the political guiding model (at least in the overaged Germany). The old alienation from modernity by separation is exchanged by a generalized stagnation and economic deterioration. E.g. the amazing resistance against an appropriate schooling of lower classes and imigrant children, as schools are the determinant for social status mobility in Germany. Among the film's nice ideas is one, where Connery is tricked into the library, into reading and thinking:



, finally into infiltrating the 'Vortex' by 'Arthur': "I am Arthur Frayn, and I am Zardoz. I have lived three hundred years, and I long to die, I am a fake god by occupation - and a magician, by inclination. Merlin is *my* hero! I am the puppet master." The idea that 'gated communities' turn sometime into 'hidden communities' as part of a crypto-social structure is interesting (anticipated by Lem, comme d'habitude) and apparently discussed among sociologists: "send the richest people—or, probably more efficiently, the poorest people—out of the country or the state. Inequality would go down and well-being would go up. Alternatively, leave the inequalities as they are, but devise ways to hide them from people—censor the media, say (no more Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous)—so that people do not know their relative positions. That should, according to The Spirit Level, bring down crime, disease, obesity, and so forth". The separation of the social classes and their exploitation in the movie fits nicely to the current reality of Germany.

a case of city amnesia

A shallow recent film on a kind of wishfull city amnesia made my friends wonder, so here some ideas on it's psychological background. The film is a late version of some silly internet joke on Bielefeld, a middle sized town in the german provinces, and expresses it's strange longing for amnesia. Being in itself just a typical german town, because of which some big opinion- and market research companies settled there, with history tracing back to the origins of the german founding myths (more, more) and behaving during the past century not worse than everywhere else in Germany: Here you see the Synagoge burning 1938. The population protested against the crude pogroms because it asked for distributing valuable furniture instead of throwing and smashing it into the streets. Camps for slave labour supplied ca. 100 companies in the city, as usual those times. In the weekends, people enjoyed rides to such a camp and this Stalag nearby, watching the inmates running after potatoes thrown over the fence. Some rural people stayed honest (film). After WW2 Bielefeld recivilized quickly and was even considered for becoming Germany's next capital, by the locals again after the german reunification, still causing a strong animosity against it's more successful competitors. Now it is one of the highest appreciated places for living in Germany, making the mentioned desire for amnesia even more puzzling.

The movie version of this wish for nonexistence actually belongs as latest and most weird phase to the particular german way of history-exorcism in post WW2 german popular culture:
Phase 1 from the 1950's on by the comedian Heinz Erhardt, connecting to and then exorcizing nazi patterns of emotions by a kind of stubborn infantilism and anancastic humor at the edge of Goebbels rhetoric (youtube1, youtube 2).


Phase 2 was the psychological core of german criminal telenovellas from the 1960's on, when the calm and rational detective substitutes the shrieking nazi, here a collection of the key scenes, when murder cases, as slightly alienated uncoverings of dark war secrets, are communicated and calmed down. Actually, media specialists know since long that those crime series were invented by a former nazi who tried to overcome his own past by that. An open media secret in Germany. Such series' international success make one wonder ...

Phase 3 was the famous game show by Hans Rosenthal, a jewish Berliner barely escaping the KZ. The show's title "Dalli-Dalli" was the call of the nazi-wards in Poland when they made the jews run more quickly from the final train stations into the camp. "Dalli-Dalli" spread into the german language and had allways an association as the voice of an evil authority imediately before turning to violence. "Dalli-Dalli" was a kind of final warning. Notice the slightely transformed jewish stars in the background.

All that worked well, so why the need of the shallow phase 4 in that movie now? It is because the previous phases only work *retrospectively*, after the dark past is behind. In Bielefeld's case, this did not happen, the boundary was blurred and the past streched into the present.E.g. after WW2 e.g. Himmler's wife and daughter were given a home in Bielefeld by an influential Ex-Nazi-support group, among the recipients of support was probably Mengele. There is a permanent battle on the name of the city art hall local industrialists sponsored. It's architect, co-founder of the american Nazi-party ("He attended one of Hitler's Nuremberg rallies in 1938, and in 1939 he followed the German army into Poland. "We saw Warsaw burn and Modlin being bombed," he wrote afterward. "It was a stirring spectacle." quotes the W-Post): "I have no excuse (for) such unbelievable stupidity ... " Founded by a local member of the Himmler-fan-club, then named for Kaselowski, a friend of Himmler, with opaque involvement in robbing jewish businesses. (The investigating historian felt the need to secure documents from destruction or manipulation by transfering them into an other country.) Now the art hall got rid of that name, but locals succeeded in naming a nearby street after Kaselowski. When Frank Gehry recently participated in designing a new part of that art hall, he too made startling comments: "Ich werde täglich mit großer Dummheit konfrontiert." Until the german reunification, Bielefeld was the dangerous hotspot of german neofaschism, which then moved into the former GDR. Slave work continued until the mid 1970's, but with children in orphanages instead of POW's and ethnic minorities. After a holocaust-memorial lecture in the local university, citizens of neighbouring towns who still hide goods (books, art, etc.) from jews who exchanged them for money and food during their flight had contacted an aquaintance for how to get finally rid of the remains. Supressed into the subconsciousness, weird feelings in visitors express usually just indirectly, e.g. the puzzled reaction when the city's PR dept. asked a gourmet journalist for a visit: "Was tue ich am Rande des Teutoburger Waldes, werden viele Leser jetzt fragen. Die Antwort ist einfach: Ich suche die Herausforderung ..." But now, Bielefeld seeks for salvation in dementia, for relief by nonexistence.

7/27/2010

a voice from the basement

Two months ago a ride to Berlin turned into an unexpected encounter with language (e.g. by this antique (clay) mailbox found in a musem), intensified by a visit of a very interesting literary translater's workshop. - At this occasion here the link on a new book on the relevance of literary translations. - One of the workshop's themes was how to translate a short novel by Ludwig Hohl, a Petrarca-awarded hermit thinker hidden in a gastly basement room in Geneva. A hermit needs a yoga, a 'deep work' structuring his life, and so Hohl had his one: His 'Notices', a symphony-like structure of notes and quotes he worked on throughout his life. The theme of this symphony was the creative inner process and it's relation with language and literature. The resulting structure of the 'Notices' looks more like medieval memorabilia or renaissance memory theaters than like a normal book, the few modern analoga could be Valery's Cahiers or Lichtenberg's writings. Goethe and his somewhat similar collections of remarks are frequently quoted by Hohl, so is Spinoza's achievement of intellectual autonomy. Like the magnum opus of some renaissance hermetic, Hohl's and the mentioned mental relative's yoga's can't be consumed passively. Reading through this web (a 'structure', not a 'system') involves solving exercises, given by the author (in contrast to Goethe, who makes finding them an exercise too). The creation of 'true reading' as 'active reading' in the accidential visitor is actually the goal towards this music of thoughts works towards. The issue of 'deep reading' had been discussed by Grothendieck at length, here (from ca. p.35) a survey of his thoughts. Y. André gives here a comparative lecture on reading, writing and creativity, here a historian describing his working method and here on libraries as memorabilia.