Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Reproducing the Centre Pompidou

One proposal for the Centre Pompidou-Metz

In an effort to decentralize French culture, the Centre Pompidou (you know, that building in Paris that looks like the plumbing is on the outside) will build a satellite center in Metz. The Centre Pompidou hopes that the satellite will promote modern art and architecture outside of Paris. However, the hope is that Centre Pompidou-Metz will do more than replicate the cultural interests and achievements of Paris. The satellite is designed to pick up influences from neighboring states in the east--Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg--and to serve as a European center rather than another French institution. Furthermore, the satellite should attract French artists and designers to northern European ideas. The competition for the design for the center has just opened in Metz, and the opening of the satellite is anticipated for 2007.

Rape as genocide

The violence in Dafur is taking on more ominous tones. The Washington Post has a disturbing report ("We want to make a light baby") about how soldiers in Sudan are using rape as a tool to Arabize the country. The Arab soldiers are raping African woman (who are themselves Muslim) for the purpose of eliminating the African presense in Sudan through forced reproduction. According to one woman,
They grabbed my donkey and my straw and said, 'Black girl, you are too dark. You are like a dog. We want to make a light baby[.]' They said, 'You get out of this area and leave the child when it's made.'

Another woman was told:
The government gave me permission to rape you. This is not your land anymore, abid [derogatory], go.

And, finally, this young woman:
They left me without my clothing by the dry riverbed. I had to walk back naked. They said, 'You slave. This is not your area. I will make an Arab baby who can have this land.' I am hurting now so much, because no one will marry me if they find out.

Rape has been a feature of guerilla combat in Africa for almost a decade: it has been used a means of bringing in new soldiers, and encouraging child soldiers as well as a means to terrorize and humiliate families and villages. But observers insist that the goals of racial hygiene are probably real. Women are selected by the soldiers in advance (one victim claiming that she was selected as if she were to be married). According to two international aid workers:
It's systematic[.] Everyone knows how the father carries the lineage in the culture. They want more Arab babies to take the land. The scary thing is that I don't think we realize the extent of how widespread this is yet.

These rapes are built on tribal tensions and orchestrated to create a dynamic where the African tribal groups are destroyed. It's hard to believe that they tell them they want to make Arab babies, but it's true. It's systematic, and these cases are what made me believe that it is part of ethnic cleansing and that they are doing it in a massive way.

Near every monument you see the Golden Arches

Punic colony Tipasa in Algeria (UNESCO)

UNESCO, the international fund that looks after important patrimony, is being depleted. The fund was intended to support the efforts of nations to preserve their heritage. However, more nations (especially in the Third World) approach UNESCO as the sole source of funding for preservation of heritage. This has been especially true when emergencies endanger patrimony. More and more sites have been added to UNESCO's list that have no government support.

UNESCO's budget is only $2 million per year, far less than what is necessary to be the sole overseers of monuments and buildings. Need has pushed the organization into uneasy partnerships with private sources. However, the number of willing donors are few, and the money that is available for outright generosity is limited.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

All roads lead to Flint

My wife and I saw Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. We both liked it. However, I did not think it was as good as Bowling for Columbine. His earlier film was driven more by footage that Moore produced himself, especially his interviews. Most of Fahrenheit is driven by news footage, giving it the feel of a clips-show from a sit-com. This is especially true of the first third of the movie, when Moore is exploring the connections between the Bush family, the Saudi royal family, and oil. The segments of the film concerning the war in Iraq offer fresh clips that have not really been shown–many gruesome and shocking–allowing for more freshness.

Moore’s arguments are also more powerful when he mines the territory of Columbine. I feel that the material that would connect the war to oil was weak. The movie was strongest when it talked about the “culture of fear”, showing how our perception of our vulnerabilities drove us to war. The information that Moore provides is nothing new, but placing it in this context puts all that information into a story that gives at least one explanation of how we got where we are when other stories have proven lacking.

But Moore most effective device is when he goes home to Flint, Michigan, that depressed auto-manufacturing city. Returning to this city that has little hope puts Moore back into his working class roots. It puts him in contact with people he cares about, showing how various events affect people in “Hometown, America”. I think that it is interesting the Moore is not attacked by conservatives for being out of touch with “regular Americans.” I think it has a lot to do with his desire to reflect issues back onto Flint and its people.

Monday, June 28, 2004

New Paltz

Reconstructed Church

Friday the wife and I drove down to New Paltz, New York. New Paltz is a tiny town (less than 10,000) on the left bank of the Hudson River. It is on the Wallkill (people kept calling it the Wallkill River, but that would be either redundant or contradictory because “-kill” means ravine.) It is under the Catskill mountains, surrounded by small vineyards. Our primary reason for going–other than to get away for the day–was to see Old Huguenot Street: the original houses of the community of Huguenots that settled there in the seventeenth century. (There was no sun that day, so the pictures suck).

The (French) Huguenots who settled in the area took the long route to the Hudson. They were expelled from France, settled in Mannheim, the capital of the Palatinate (hence the name “Paltz”), moved across to Kingston, New York, then bought land from local Indians who were otherwise being pushed out by the British and Dutch. They existed as a Reform community among the Dutch, using French in daily life, Dutch for commerce, and English for government. About 1800 they abandoned their practical trilingualism and integrated into English-speaking society and entered into the mainstream of Reform Christianity (after a brief schism).

Stone house

The houses were in various states: all were in good condition, but some were modernized with the times. We took a tour to visit four houses and the rebuilt church. The first was the original house built by the community. The house was built in a typically Dutch style–with stone. The one room was a moderately sized space with a large jambless fireplace. The one room was originally a staging area that sheltered the men as they prepared other dwellings for the community. The tour guide (who was very knowledgeable and went into great depth about the construction history of each house) explained how improvements were made to the house over the time with new heating technologies. Eventually, the house was expanded upon to included rooms specifically for cooking and sleeping, as well as a basement that housed the slaves/servants. The house was decorated with typical objects of everyday life that the Huguenots would have purchased from the Dutch.

The second house was built later, but showed more influence from English style–it included a hallway.

Next we looked at the church. It was a recreation of the church that originally stood there. The square church consisted of beautiful wood (some of it which was part of the original construction).

The third house was more of a federal style–it looked as if someone added two columns to the front of a typically Dutch house . The rooms were more differentiated in use, they were larger (more wasting of space). In many ways this house–built in the early nineteenth century–had not changed from the original houses other than showing more affluence and a modicum of outside influences.

Hybrid house

The last house was much more of a hybrid. The Queen Anne style was a reaction to the Victorian. It used one of the original stone houses as a foundation, so that it was a stone house one the bottom, a wood house on top. Inside, the architect attempted to preserve elements of the original house, incorporating them into the house and adding elements that referenced colonial architecture. However, the house was really a mix of styles, even including elements of Victorian decoration that they wanted to criticize (especially with the ornate wall papers).

The tour took longer than anticipated: it should have lasted only one and a half hours, but extended to more than two. We drove from Old Huguenot Street to one of the vineyards on the Shawagunk Wine Trail, Adair, just to taste some of the local product. Their wines were descent, but where the shined were in their blackberry products, especially the cremant than they make. The drive out to the vineyard revealed a vine-covered landscape.

Finally, we went into New Paltz itself. For a small town, New Paltz has a very busy and commercial downtown. Everything is located around a narrow, winding street. The shops and crammed in together, giving the impression of a much busier town. It reminded me of small European towns that had built themselves into narrow geographic features–the buildings are very vertical. Unfortunately, the state highway also ran through the middle of town: there was a constant line of cars sitting in traffic, adding noise to an otherwise peaceful area. The culinary offerings were diverse–it was surprising how many different restaurants there were. There were nice culinary shops and restaurants as well. How does a small town sustain such a commercial area?

The only real disappointment was the small outdoor mall–a group of stained wood buildings that were attractive, but the shops themselves were taken over by uninspired crafts and new age offerings.

Women's Golf Hooligans

Can a tiny town of 13,000 residents host an event that will draw in more than 100,000 in less than one week?

South Hadley is hardly the town to hold an event of the magnitude of the US Women’s Golf Open. There are a few restaurants, one coffee shop, a bookstore, a theater, and not much more. I do not know much about the golf course (The Orchards), but it never looked attractive from the road–others in the area seem more impressive. All that we have is Mount Holyoke College: a beautiful, but small, women’s college with great ivy-covered buildings and an attractive (but not extensive) library. There are no real accommodations, unless people plan to stay more than ten miles away and drive in. Already there is insufficient parking: there are lots set up at the edges of town wherefrom people can take a shuttle to the golf course. There are new signs everywhere that are as confusing to the residents as the visitors.

This is going to be some week, and I will likely have more to say about this.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

A Fistful of Yuan

The New York Times has an slide show with audio on efforts of the Chinese government to develop and stabilize its far western province, Xinjiang (called China's Wild West (not a stable URL)).

From Maps of China

Xinjiang (officially the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) was an area that was physically and politically remote to Beijing, despite being part of China. A harsh mountain and desert environment, Xinjiang felt the influence of neighboring nations more than it did of Beijing. In particular, the native Muslims were most affected by policies from the Soviet Union. The dissolution of the Soviet Union loosened the province's ties to Moscow. The retreat of Soviet influence has meant that Xinjiang has become more of an untamed environment than ever before: a badlands that is gaining a reputation as the "Chinese Wild West."

Beijing wants to bring the province closer to the central government, to end what it perceives as a power vacuum that has formed with the demise of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, it wants to use the province as an outlet for migration from overpopulated cities in the east. Beijing has introduced massive development in infrastructure and economic opportunities (especially with the province's neighbors) in an effort to attain both goals. The goals that they have set out (according to China's own proposals) are ambitious:
We should combine market forces with improved macroeconomic management, and combine nation-wide support for Western Region Development with the spirit of self-reliance among the people in the Western Region.

Great efforts should be made in the next five to ten years to achieve breakthroughs in infrastructure development and ecological improvement in the Western Region and create a good start for Western Region Development. By the middle of the 21st century, the Western Region will be transformed into a prosperous and advanced new West, where life is stable, ethnic groups are united, and the natural landscape is beautiful.

They intend to follow a complex strategy of investment at all levels to achieve these goals: increasing funding for local governments, development of non-state and self-employed economic actors, introduce preferential tax policies, etc. With respect to China's overall policy toward its western provinces, Beijing would seem to be aware of the problems that ethnic minorities face:
More assistance should be delivered to poverty-stricken areas and areas inhabited by ethnic minorities in the Western Region, and the campaign named "Develop the frontier and help frontiersmen prosper" should be continued.

However, migration and investment can potential destabilize the province as well. Xinjiang's Muslims, Uyghurs who are ethnically related to Turkic groups in Central Asia, have shown their own aspirations of nationhood after the creation of Central Asian republics in the 1990s (the so-called "Stans"). The influx of ethnic Hans from the east could upset their dominance of the province, and lead to stronger separatism among the Uyghurs.

Furthermore, the influx of people could increase desertification. Xinjiang has some of the world's largest deserts, and they influence the entirety of the Chinese climate. Recent efforts at tree planting have not slowed the progress of the desert.

Economic investment is part of the effort to stabilize the province, but it also contributes to the freewheeling atmosphere.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Undoing Der Brand

In Dresden, the exterior of the Frauenkirche was completed when a new cupola with cross was erected, replacing the distinctive Strahlenkreuz (Radiant Cross) that stood above the baroque church.

The church was destroyed by British aerial bombing in World War II.
[The Frauenkirche] miraculously survived two days and nights of the bombing, before succumbing to the 1,000 degree Celsius heat generated by some 650,000 incendiary bombs that were dropped on the city.

These types of attacks have become especially poignant in German memorials. Germans became interested in the suffering caused by the bombings after the publication of Der Brand, a book that explored the legality of the bombing of German cities. The book allowed Germans to feel that they were victims (as well as perpetrators) of the horrors of war.

British groups have donated heavily to the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche as an act of reconciliation. The cross was paid for by a British charity, Dresden Trust. Furthermore, the cross was made by a British carpenter whose father flew in the first bombing raid over the city in 1945. According to the trust's chairman:
We need to make a gesture back, to express our sorrow about the deaths and destruction and our determination to build things with our German friends for the future.

To the minister-president of Saxony, the raising of the cupola was an opportunity for healing:
Not only is a wound in this city closed today. A wound in Europe is closed as well.


Portrait of the artist as a mapmaker

Renzo Dubbini (Geography of the Gaze) argues that landscape painting evolved over the early modern era in the same manner as cartography. The goal of the painter was to give an accurate picture of what was present, not to idealize. Landscapes were populated with objects (natural, man-made, fauna, flora, etc.) that visitor would actually see. The goal was accuracy and information about the place being represented. In essence, landscape paintings were maps and could be used to orient oneself within that place.

"Sailors' Battle by Raguenet--depicts the
dwellings on Paris bridges.

To that end, painters made detailed studies of the places that they painted, employing the techniques of scientific observation. They made numerous pencil sketches. They took into account changing atmospheric conditions. They took pains to represent things as they were, rather than ought to be.

Luckily for me, Dubbini has a lot to say about how cities and rivers are represented together–how the presence of a massive geological feature influenced urban reform and beautification. Perhaps the most interesting example that Dubbini cites in the book concerns the demolition of dwellings on the bridges of Paris in order to create a healthier environment around the Seine (see picture above). [On edit] These paintings could be used to determine how the city could become more beautiful, becoming a tool of urban planning.

The rediscovery of ancient patrimony was especially important for landscape painters: buildings and statues that had been neglected over time. The image that most people had of these places were idealized portraits that were handed down for generations. Europeans seldom knew what these places looked like, or how they had degraded over time.

The landscape painters tried to show the conditions that were present at these ancient sites. They showed how buildings were collapsing. They also tried to give more of a sense of the places wherein these buildings and statues were located: they painted the lives of the local people, the geology, etc. These landscape paintings allowed Europeans to rediscover their past and assess it more accurately.

The most interesting section of the book deals with Prosper Mérimée, who traveled around France documenting Roman architecture. He was particular concerned with how the presence of Roman statues and buildings influenced later construction. He seemed to suggest that cities naturally tried to continue along the same lines:
For Mérimée, ancient architecture launched a process of constant and lasting imitation that proved to have an enormous influence on buildings constructed in later ages: ‘A city that had conserved great Roman monuments always sought to reproduce them’; they provided almost inevitable ‘natural models’ [for subsequent building]. Elements borrowed from ancient architecture could be found in the most famous medieval monuments ...

But regional factors could influence the success of imitation:
The nature of the materials used had produced marked differences in buildings in various provinces. In some regions, where “limestone, which is easily cut, could be used for construction, sculpture made rapid progress.” In other regions, the use of granite for construction held back the development of sculpture ...

Mérimée seems to have been a well traveled man, a his writings on architecture are extensive. If you can navigate through the French in this website dedicated to him, I would recommend that you look at it. It is especially rich with observations about conditions in Paris in the early nineteenth century.

Out with the modern, in with the ...

The city of Paris demolished 4,000 apartments in the banlieu (suburbs). The two apartment blocks that were imploded were eyesores and failures: the products of urban policies that shifted residents away from the city center and placed them in unstable environments (not unlike the "projects"): they are crowded, offer no social or cultural life, and are susceptible to crime.

The problem: the city wants to destroy 40,000 this year, but it can't match construction to demolition. Last year, 30,000 apartments were destroyed, but only 13,800 were built.
The city wants to accelerate the process, but cannot effectively increase the rate of new construction to match the displacements caused by the demolitions.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Neo-traditionalist spaceflight

Congratulations to SpaceShipOneand Burt Rutan on their successful sub-orbital flight. But I give special congratulations to Michael Melvill, the pilot of the flight who has put humanity back into spaceflight.

The history of aviation will not remember the flight for its challenge to federal bureaucracy and its promotion of private enterprise. Instead, it will be seen as a return to the early days of aeronautics in which designers and pilots tried to reach space in planes rather than on the top of missiles. The flight of the SpaceShipOne harks back to the days of the X-series aircraft that broke records for speed and altitude: dangerous and bold experiments in aeronautics that left many test pilots dead (Chuck Yeager excepted). The X-15 was a craft that should have led man to space:
In the early years of our nation's space program, which has been based to a large extent on the unmanned-missile technology that had been developed over the five years prior to Project Mercury, the X-15 has kept in proper perspective the role of the pilot in future manned space programs. It has pointed the way to simplified operational concepts that should provide a high degree of redundancy and increased chance of success in these future missions.

But the shift from aeronautical to ballistic space flight left the pilots out of the equation. Human control was considered unreliable, and automation preferred. The Space Shuttle orbiter returned some of the glamour of aviation as it glided back to earth, but even it could land without the human hand. I hope that we will see a new era for the pilot as astronaut.

Fragmenting Montreal

As the Olympic flame headed toward the Montreal, the city has voted to fall apart. More precisely, 15 of 28 boroughs decided to "demerge" from the Montreal megacity, while five new cities decided to join.

Under the old "one island" policy, the town and cities along with Montreal made up an urban agglomeration--the Montreal Urban Community. The communities were autonomous, but pooled functions and oversight for their mutual benefit. In 2002 the provincial government of Quebec, led by the Partie Quebecois, undertook municipal reforms: administration would be simplified by folding communities into centralized "megacities". The communities lost their autonomy and were incorporated into a larger Montreal (map).

The Liberal government that came into power in Quebec promised to revisit the "megacity" question. They gave the former communities the opportunity to demerge. Over the weekend, many of the communities that were forcibly incorporated into Montreal decided to leave the megacity. These communities--formerly suburbs with their own traditions and suspicions of the big city--were driven away by perceptions of higher taxes and diminished services.

The communities that will demerge may lose more than they realize. Voters seem to have been lured into voting for demerging with the promise that things would return to their previous state. However, there is no option to remake the old Montreal Urban Community. There will be no framework for cooperation between the communities. Furthermore, the "suburbs" held the majority of seats on the executive council of the megacity--they have lost decisive influence over the direction of Montreal. In many ways, the demerged communities are on their own more than ever before.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Rockwell and DuBois

Saturday my wife and I drove out to the Berkshires. We wanted to see Santarella, a house built by and for sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson in the 1920s. Supposedly, the house was made into a museum: we tried to visit once before, but it was closed for the season. This time, it appeared to be closed forever: no one was there, signs up suggested that it was for sale, and the rooms appeared to be empty from the outside. I took what pictures that I could. The home has an organic form, apparently built around existing rocks jutting out from the earth, with a curved roof.

We were stuck trying to find something else to do. We drove into the center of Stockbridge to look around at the (unmanned) tourism booth. The day was already late, and many things were either too far away or were about to close. We decided to see the Norman Rockwell Museum. Neither of us were necessarily fans of Rockwell’s work, but we thought it might be interesting.

The museum revealed qualities of Rockwell’s works of which we were unaware. Usually portrayed as an illustrator of tradition and sentiment, Normal Rockwell had a certain social conscience that is not celebrated. Among his later works were painting concerning the activities of the Peace Corps abroad–paintings that he made based on his visits to African and South American countries when he was in his late seventies. The painting “Christmas in Bethlehem” shows a group of pilgrims filing into a church as they are watched over by two IDF soldiers, a Muslim, and a Jew. There was an exhibit dealing with one of his children’s books, and one dealing with his illustrations of life in Stockbridge. The centerpiece of the museum are the sketches, photographs, and models used for his painting “Murder in Mississippi” (based on the same incident as the film “Mississippi Burning”).

The grounds of the museum also contained Rockwell’s studio, which is modest and not exceptional, and a sculpture garden with a few interesting works.

It was after 5 pm by the time we left the museum. On a whim, we decided to visit Great Barrington (which we had never seen). It took longer than it ought too–we took a circuitous route to the town. The downtown area is swank and elegant, with expensive restaurants and galleries. On the exterior it had the charm of a town that time forgot: many of the signs and storefronts looked like they ought to have in the early 1960s and all in good condition.

The most interesting thing in Great Barrington was a mural of WEB DuBois that was painted on a wall in a parking lot/square. It dealt with events of his life evocatively. DuBois was born in Great Barrington. The mural is very effective with its use of black paint on the white surface, but my favorite section shows DuBois orating, his hands extended outwardly (and painted red). Unfortunately we did not get to see the DuBois Homesite.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

A Nation without a Roof over its Head

I have been kicking this article around for days, trying not to be snarky. It deals with building construction in the Jenin camp in Palestine.

According to the article, the Red Crescent and the British Department of Development were building apartments for Palestinian refugees in the camp--apartments of exceptional quality. However, the British builder who were hired have been threatened with violence by the refugees: they were scared off after their offices were shot at.

There are two possible reasons given for the reaction of the Palestinians. The perceived underlying cause is conflict over the specifics of the construction itself. There are allegations that some families would expand their living space at the expense of others, that some would be forced to move and others not. These tensions are typical of construction, although they only seldom become violent.

The other possible cause, given by the Palestinians themselves, is that they fear that the construction would undermined various claims that they hold to the land:
many of the camp's 14,000 inhabitants were also suspicious that the reconstruction work and attempts to move them to less crowded areas would undermine their status as refugees and weaken the camp's ability to defend itself against any future IDF raids.

I can see the logic of their argument. Settlement has been used in the past to undermine other claims that ethnic groups have to land. And the conditions in which Palestinians live elicits sympathy and aid from all over the world.

However, (don't be snarky, don't be snarky) the construction work is the result of the sympathy and aid that they seek. Furthermore, it would be more difficult for the refugees to be moved if they were well settled in the area (and justify their dislocation). It is the opportunity for Palestinians to build their nation beyond ethnicity, to create its infrastructure, to create communities.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Goodbye, Tokay!

[This post was first made early this morning, but Blogger made it disappear.]

The name of most versatile and unique grape will disappear. In two and a half years the appellation "Tokay Pinto Gris" will disappear, and the unique Alsatian wine will disappear into the crowd of similarly name Pinot Gris.

According to an agreement between the European Economic Community and Hungary, that name belongs to the Hungarian region Tokaj, which also is a wine growing region. Alsatian viticulture tried to keep the name by appealing to an old legend that the grapes were brought back from Hungary in the sixteenth century by a soldier who fought against the Turks. However, tests showed that the Alsatian grapes were actually related to Pinot Gris grapes from Burgundy.

The winemakers can continue to use the name "Tokay Pinot Gris" only until the end of 2006.

[Added:] This is the best wine. There will be no discussion. None!.

The Company Town

[For some reason, Blogger lost this post and the next last night. I have tried to reconstitute them. Note that this one was intended to come before the last.]

I finally started to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale. After five pages I knew this would be the best book I will read all year. The details are rich, the prose are easy, the observations are acute.

The first chapter deals with a trip with his mother to return to his home town, where they will both sell the house in which they grew up. It is in a banana growing region along the Caribbean coast of Columbia. As he return, Marquez finds these town set up by companies near the plantations (and near the frontiers) remarkably similar and uninspiring:
All those towns always appeared identical to me. When Papalelo would take me to Don Antonio Daconte's brand new Olympia Cinema, I noticed that the railroad depots in the cowboy movies looked like our station. Later, when I began to read Faulkner, the small towns in his novels looked like ours too. And it was not surprising, for they had been built upon the same messianic inspiration ... and in the same provisional style of a temporary camp. I remembered them all, with the church on the square and little fairy tale houses painted in primary colors. I remembered the gangs of black laborers singing in the twilight, the shanties on the estates where field hands sat to rest and watch freight trains go by, the ditches where the morning found the cutters whose heads had been hacked off in drunken Saturday-night brawls. I remembered the private cities of the gringos ..., on the other side of the railroad tracks, surrounded, like enormous electrified chicken yards, by metal fences that on cool summer dawns were black with charred swallows. I remembered the slow blue lawns with peacocks and quail, the residences with red roofs and wire grating on the windows and little round tables with folding chairs for eating on the terraces among the palm trees and dusty rosebushes ... Even in my childhood it was not easy to distinguish some towns from others.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

General Slocum

This week was the centenial of the disaster of the General Slocum:
On June 15, 1904, the congregation of St. Marks Evangelical Lutheran Church on East Sixth Street [in New York's Little Germany] rented the steamboat The General Slocum for a picnic excursion to Long Island. [A] fire broke out in the hold as the Slocum steamed up the East River. The Captain steered the burning boat to the rocky shore of North Brother Island across from East 148th Street in the Bronx, but already the blazing decks had collapsed on hundreds of screaming passengers. On that beautiful sunny morning, scores of families lost mothers and children.

Some of the rescuers were staff and patients at an isolated sanitarium. This website contains has information and details the state of research on the disaster.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Imperfection as Great as G-d (Heine's Germany part II)

The completion of the Cologne Dom was pregnant with meaning in the early nineteenth century. For romantics and nationalists the completion reflected national unity; for Berlin it offered a means of bridging the religious and political differences between themselves and Catholic Rhinelanders. The Dom was not unusual for not having been finished: many medieval architects planned massive structures that could not be achieved because of the lengthy process of construction (centuries) and because of interruptions due to political events and fiscal shortcomings. Notre Dame of Paris did not gain its spire until the mid-nineteenth century, and addition made by Voillet-le-duc (why he put it in the middle bewilders me–it should be at the front so that the building looks less box-like, rather than in the middle like a spear in a whale).

The Dom drew little attention until the late eighteenth century. It was an incomplete structure at the edge of the city, and there were any number of churches crowding the inner city. It was not a cathedral in practice: the archbishop had been kicked out of the city centuries before in a dispute over freedom of the citizens. The resuscitation of the Dom as great architecture paralleled the reinterpretation of Gothic style and the rise of romanticism and nationalism. The French occupation in the 1790s and 1800s brought the condition of the Dom to the minds of Cologners: the French army used the Dom as a stable (perhaps the best use it had in centuries). The French had treated other German patrimony with similar nonchalance, something which disturbed Germans. But it took broader imagination to make the Dom a national symbol. It became a
centerpiece for remembering the German past, as Goethe noted:
It is not difficult to cite reasons why these buildings stood there for centuries as relics from the past, without making a particular impression on the public at large. But how powerful was the impact in recent times ... Here [all] found satisfaction in evoking the feeling of being back in the time of their ancestors.

The first modern intellectual to take note of the Dom was Georg Forster in 1790. He was enraptured by the Dom: he felt "the shudders of the sublime". Forster refused to dismiss the cathedral because it was unfinished. Incompleteness was both a danger and a quality of Gothic architecture:
This [gothic architecture] appears as if to have come from another world, in order to give testimony to the creative strengths of man, who follows a single thoughts to the extreme and who knows to follow eccentric paths to reach the sublime.
The incompleteness was a result of men reaching beyond their abilities to imagine and comprehend, to represent what they could not experience. The building was a mystical act, one that could not drive toward harmony and stability, but that strove to represent spirituality of both G-d and man. From Forster's perspective, the Dom was a beautiful accident, one that could not
be avoided.

Goethe, who helped to inspire reverence for Gothic architecture with his writings on the Strasbourg Münster, first became aware of the Dom second hand. He made the acquaintance of the Boisserée brothers, who were reconstituting plans for the construction of the Cathedral in their studies. When he finally visited the Dom, Goethe could not help but feel that it was a structure that was unique from all other medieval buildings:
I must admit that seeing the exterior of the Cologne Cathedral aroused a certain apprehension in me which I could not explain. A significant ruin has a venerable quality, and we sense and actually see in it the conflict between a noble work of man, and time that with silent force spares nothing. Here, on the other hand, we are confronted with an edifice which is unfinished and prodigious, and precisely its incompleteness reminds us of man's insufficiency when he attempts the colossal.

Like Forster, Goethe was effusive in describing his awe over the cathedral. He recognized the danger of what the original builders intended, both beautiful and disastrous. But twenty-three years had passed since Forster had view the cathedral. People were already imagining how they could continue with the construction. Even though "what was missing still seemed so colossal that it was impossible to soar mentally to such heights," Goethe recognized that the work of completion was under way. The completed cathedral would not provoke debate over the building that might have been, or appreciation for the dream that fell short, or even the mystical reflections on what was achieved. There would be a cathedral that could be seen en toto.

James Fenimore Cooper barely dealt with the Dom. To him it was another European cathedral to be envied and admired, but also another disappointment in a filthy city. He only comments that the cathedral is a work in progress.

Victor Hugo was critical of the Dom. He visited it several times during his lifetime. His first sight of it came in the early evening before the sunlight faded (it appears that most people saw the Dom first in this light. It is probably because they arrived in Cologne in the late afternoon, especially if they came from Aachen.) He first experiences the cathedral as an immense silhouette that dwarfed everything that surrounded it. Hugo was impressed by the immensity of the structure, but found the condition of the cathedral tragic rather than inspirational. A crane stood above the towers as if something were going to happen, as if
this incomplete Iliad still hopes to find its Homer.

However, there are other reasons why he does not see this as an incomplete building, but a dream that can never be reached:
Nothing looks more like a ruin like a skeleton.

It is not just that the Dom is unfinished, but time has taken its toll on the existing structure: Hugo notes the plants that have penetrated the stone, breaking it up in the process.

The next day, Hugo's impression of the Dom diminished. If new building was being performed on the outside, the original work on the inside was in a terrible state. The interior was being neglected and endangered, and the original vision of the Dom could not be achieved if the completion of the exterior ruined the interior. Ironically, he found the crypt of the original architect in disrepair:
The man of bronze who is lying beneath the tombstone, who is named Konrad von Hochstetten, and who conceived the construction of this cathedral, could not today remove the spiders that have become attached to the floor ...

Furthermore, the space of the cathedral has been taken by some many different uses that it is hard to image it as a place for worship: monks and canons compete with the noise of carpenters and masons. The cathedral as spiritual space was disturbed and broken. Finally, Hugo notices that the beautiful contours of the structure were ruined as they are being repaired:
The silhouette is always beautiful, but it presents a profile of some coldness. Perhaps this reflects the determination with which the current architect patches up and chew away at the venerable apse. One should not remake too much of this old church. In these operations, which diminish the lines in wanting to fix them, the mysterious rippling of the contours vanishes.

For Hugo, the work of completing the Dom destroys its beauty and sublimeness. Completion is a futile task, one bound to destroy what should be appreciated. Hugo would want the cathedral to remain in its current state:
At this moment, as it is, I would prefer the skeletal tower over the perfect apse.

Visits in later years did not inspire Hugo to look upon reconstruction positively. Every new viewing produced the same impression: what beauty it possessed was being depleted.

Heinrich Heine brought the greatest symbolism to the Dom. It is the centerpiece of German history–its accomplishment and its fragmentation. As an exile in Paris, Heine actively raised funds among Frenchmen and German emigres in support of the cathedral society. In his poetry, the Dom was the symbol of Germany, the centerpiece for nationalist struggle:
It should have the spirit of the Bastille.

But the symbolic power of the Dom does not rest solely in its ability to unite Germans. It also represents their historic division that were borne of the Protestant Reformation. The reason why Germany was not complete, the reason why the Dom was not completed, was because Germans became confessionally split. The incompleteness of the Dom reflected the incompleteness of Germany.
Then Luther came
and spoke his great "Halt"
and since then the construction of
the Dom was suspended

But if he supported completion in his work, in his poetry he doubts whether the
Cathedral should be finished:
It will never be complete–and that is good
Even in incompleteness
it is made a monument to German strength
and the Protestant mission

Heine's bitterness reflected new rapprochement between the Catholic Church and Prussia: the Church decided to become a partner with the conservative Berlin. In this context, the completion of the Dom would not necessarily bring Germany together. It would be the achievement of the Catholic Church betraying itself to the Protestant powers responsible for the continuing division of Germany. The only way for the Dom truly to be finished is for it to become a useful building, one that brings Germans together.

Contemplating the completion of the Dom was fraught with problems. Many who admired it could not appreciate it without thinking about the building that could have been. On the other hand, they could not think about completing the Dom without thinking about how difficult it would be to complete. The incompleteness became a quality of the Dom: a charm that added to the awesomeness of the existing structure. It added to the majesty as it inspired the imagination. Ironically, the modern age would be able to create buildings that would tower over cathedrals like the Dom, but it would be an age that would seldom choose so unless it fulfilled economic or political goals.

Internecine Violence in Kashmiri Movement

Violence between ethnic and religious groups has become notorious in India, especially in Kashmir, a province that is under dispute between India and Pakistan and those who would choose a third path. Since the two nations have begun negotiating, violence has increased. Some fo the dimensions are obvious: Indians visiting Kashmir have been killed in grenade attacks. In other instances, attacks reflect a political divide between those Kashmiri who would choose one nation and those who would choose the other.

But the violence has expanded along new dimensions as anti-New Dehli groups are attacking one another. Some separatists have seen the negotiations between India and Pakistan as the opportunity to advocate for their own national interests. But other separatists see participation in negotiations as a betrayal of Kashmiri ambitions. Muslims who attempt to deal with the national government or with Hindu leaders have been attacked by their own. Such was the case when the cousin of Sunni cleric and leader Umar Farooq was shot when he was at prayers:
the killing appears to have been a message to the young Mr. Farooq, who this year transgressed - at least in hard-liners' eyes - by going to New Delhi to open a dialogue with India.

Farooq, who supports separation of Kashmir, insists that the Kashmiri participate in negotiations that take place between Pakistan and India so that their interests become known.
Mr. Farooq said that ... Kashmiris could not afford to be spectators. "You don't get what you deserve," he said. "You get what you negotiate." He argues that the time of militancy is over.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Chinese Theater at de Gaulle Terminal

Cities often approach the Olympic Games as an opportunity to undertake major urban reforms: to justify great expense for projects that are both vanity and necessity. (Growing up in LA, I was glad that the city chose to use existing structures rather than build new ones.)

Beijing is following the path of almost all Olympic cities. Celebrity architects from outside China have been hired to create new buildings for major Chinese institutions and to create sports facilities:
Two Swiss architects ... won the competition for Beijing's main Olympic stadium ... [A] British architect ... is renovating Beijing's airport, using a dragon motif ...

Dutch architects[] designed an enormous new headquarters for China's dominant state broadcaster ... They proposed building two 55-story Z-shaped towers angled toward each other, with the top horizontals linked in a gravity-defying tango. [They described their] vision [as] "a hyperbuilding of unimaginable scale and complexity" ...

Trying to rework the image of China in preparation for the world stage, the government left Chinese designers out in the cold. None were hired for prestigious projects. Furthermore, the government left open the parameters of the designs so that Beijing
ha[s] become [an] experimental site[] for novelty for novelty's sake by some foreign masters.

Indignant that the government ignored Chines talent, critics of the reforms have found a symbol for criticism: the new National Theater was designed and is being built by Paul Andreu, the architect who designed the terminal in Charles de Gaulle airport that collapsed several weeks ago.

Andreu's design for the theater, another dome, is drawing criticism for safety and aesthetics. Some critics complain that the bulbous structure violates feng shui; others say that it looks like dried dung when covered by desert sand; still more complain that the large structure is not supported in the middle. Other problems about:
The central dome needs to be illuminated and air-conditioned even if only the smallest of its performance centers is in use. They say the underwater entrance poses an unacceptable safety risk in the event of fire, earthquake or terrorist attack
To add insult to injury, French authorities are investigating Andreu for bribing Chinese officials in order to get his designs accepted.

Regardless of Andreu's wrecklessness and criminality, Beijing is turning itself into a copy cat of all Olympic cities--employing bold architectual expermination in place of advancing its own cultural traditions.

Big Plans and Big Palms

While I am working on a post for tomorrow on the incompleteness of the Cologne cathedral, I want to mention two books that have come into my possession over the last several days.

The first is a book that H-Net has asked me to review, Der planvolle Staat by Daniel Schloegl. It deals with cartography and spatial planning in Bavaria in the late eighteenth century. It reflect on the importance of cartography for the modernization of the state.

The other is Making Paradise by Kenneth Silver. I bought this book with credit that I had from selling other books (you know--consolidation). It deals with the French Riviera, and how it became the stretch of Mediterranean coast that was most assisted with luxury and leisure. The author credits artists in particular for creating this image. One poignant observation:
There is nothing quite so depressing as a resort past its prime.

Monday, June 14, 2004

The Road to Strasbourg

Europeans continued a proud tradition in this weekend’s elections to the European Parliament in Strasbourg: using the elections to reward or punish the party in power. European elections are seldom about the development of the EU; they reflect national politics instead. In most core states, Euroskeptics and parties dedicated to sovereignty are on the political fringes. The European politics of the major parties don’t tend to differ but in degrees. In France, “sovereigntists” lost ground even though Chirac’s Christain Democrats (UMP) lost to the socialists. The SPD in Germany took a stunning defeat, but that did not stop the Greens from making tremendous gains (reaching 12%), suggesting that there is a migration away from the SPD, not a realignment. The SPD defeat reflects disenchantment with the need for social reforms as well as the ineffectiveness of the limited reforms that have taken place (one analysis suggests that the SPD lost workers under 30 years). Belgians split regionally, with the socialists taking the Walloon vote, a coalition of the right taking the Flemish vote; the fear is that the two regions are becoming identified too closely with specific political alignments. The only places where Euroskeptics made substantial gains were in newly incorporated nations in the East. On as positive note, Joerg Haider lost out as the representative of the Euroskeptics from Austria.

Regional results mirrored national trends. In the super-region Est (consisting of Alsace, Burgundy, France-Comte and Lorraine), the socialist list beat the conservative/Christian democratic 29% to 17%. Conversely, CDU won in Rheinland-Pfalz and Nordrhein-Westfalen.

[Update:] More than Euroskepticism, populism gained as a result of the elections. Smaller parties capitalized on anti-Brussels (not anti-EU) sentiments to make significant gains.

[Update:] The prevailing trend in the elections is a shift to the center-right in individual countries, one which favors the European People's Party, a coalition of Christian Democractic parties that wants to infuse more Christian ethics into EU affairs and that is strongly in favor of subsidiarity (read: they are not "pro-sovereignty".) Here are some of the positions of the EPPE:
  • Support development of market economy, but emphasize the social aspects of economic advancement as well as the individual.

  • Democracy and protection of ethnic minorities above nationalism.

  • Federal and decentralized rather than centralized development of the EU.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

In Search of a Pastime

Friday’s trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame left be disappointed in the state of baseball. I found the remedy in attending two baseball games: Hartford Senators vs. Providence Grays, and Elizabeth Resolutes vs. Melrose Pondfielders. All the teams played vintage baseball.

Foul ball that came at my head

The games were held in Northampton at Look Park (part of the city’s celebration of its three hundred-fiftieth anniversary. The teams play with different sets of rules and equipment from the last third of the nineteenth century. While these overtly differ from the modern game, how they affect the play of the game is what makes it all interesting: who would care if a bunch of guys dressed up in old uniforms to play the game? If you want to get a deeper comparison between the rules and practices of nineteenth century baseball, you can look at the website of the Vintage Base Ball Association.

Of course, the players dressed the parts: old uniforms with soft hats that more resembled a French railroad conductor than a baseball cap; white or simply colored uniforms with the name in clear letters or, in the case of the Resolutes, an “E” in gothic type; high cuffs on the pants and colored high socks.

Mandatory underhanded pitching

Three of the four teams played without gloves; the other, Hartford, played with gloves that offered little protection–they simply covered the fingers and the palm of the hand and had nominal padding. Materially, this had the greatest impact on play. Fly balls were difficult to catch, and the goal of infielding was to stop the ball and pick it up as much as trying to catch it. Hard hit balls were approached with hesitation and were often dropped. At least one advantage that fielders had is that they played in high grass (they would not play on one of the established baseball diamonds in the park because they were not in use during the era). Hard hit balls slowed quickly once they hit the ground. Between slow balls and bobbles, the infielders had to have some range and, most importantly, throw hard. There were lots of great throws from third base, some of which sailed right by the first baseman and into the crowd. Hartford had an advantage in its game because it used gloves: they were able to handle fly balls better. (The owner of the Hartford Senators also manufactures equipment: Vintage Base Ball Factory.)

The bats were more stick like. The likely result was that balls were hit with less power. Considering the number of hits there were, few were extended to extra bases. Gappers did not get far past in the infield, and doubles resulted from the positioning of the outfields rather than the power of the hit. I should say that there was one home run, hit really well, in the Elisabeth-Melrose game, and one Hartford player broke his bat on the perpendicular to the axis.

One interesting rule that was not used (although it could have been) was one bounce: an out could be called if the ball were caught on a bounce (including third strikes). This might have made playing gloveless more tolerable, but I saw few opportunities for this–the grass slowed down the ball too much in situations in which waiting for a bounce might have been useful. How did players back in the day deal with the pain: apparently by having addictions to morphine.

RBI Single

Because of these peculiarities, the first baseman was a strong infielder rather than a strong batter. The Gray’s first baseman had an excellent throw from his knees to second base, barely missing throwing out a runner.

The rules had their affect on play as well. Most strikingly, runners were required to tag up on ground balls if the batter did not reach first base safely. It was not obvious that runners could advance on ground balls, and often had to turn around to tag up.

While the area in which batted balls were “fair” remained the same, the area of being in play was different. The field of play was as large as space itself–throws and passed balls that went into the crowd had to be retrieved. Considering people were sitting very close the diamond, a bad throw that sailed at the audience could also be followed by a charging catcher. I was sitting to the right and slightly behind home plate; at one point I dodged left to avoid a passed ball, but as I came up I had to dodge right to avoid the catcher who was jumping over me. They even had to retrieve the balls from fans who caught them–fan interference did not stop play. Foul balls were pursued with equal gusto–they were considered dead balls, but the teams were not allowed to replaced them in the course of play, nor could they allow the pace of the game to slow down.

In the game played by 1871 rules, the pitcher could not throw the ball in any way other than underhand. This rule produced controversy among many people in the crowd: weren’t they really playing softball? Certainly the pitching more resembled fast pitch softball, but what the teams played was baseball as it evolved. Side-arm would not be allowed until 1876, and overhand until the 1880s. In this way, it was easier for the catchers to play without protection. They also stood further back from the plate, acting more like a fielder, standing up so that they were always ready to run after a ball. (The 1886 players used chest protection and to gloves).

Rounding third

In both games, the batters could choose their strike zone: a high zone from the belt to shoulders, or a low zone from knees to belt. In the early game the first pitch was counted as neither a ball nor a strike, although the batter could choose to swing at it. Foul balls were not strikes, but they could be caught for outs.

The teams themselves preferred to play with different sets of rules, meaning that the rules were under constant negotiation and revision. Rules changed from year to year. Even if a rule came into play, not all games were governed by that rule. There were professional games in 1871 that were played with the one-bounce rule even as the professionals tried to eliminate it. Before the game the managers-players met with the umps to discuss rules. During the game the players on the bench called out to fielders and runners to remind them how to make plays. The most contested moment came in the early game when a tag at home forced the ball out of the catchers hand. It was ruled that it was only sufficient that the catcher had possession of the ball and that losing control of the ball because of the collision was not sufficient to make the runner safe. The runner was out.

Style was important. The umps dressed in business suits and top hats. They stood to the side of the batter rather than behind, smoking cigars as they called the play. They made no motions, only observed what happened. Some batters imitated old stances, others played with more modern influence. The 1871 game was very exciting–running and fielding were so much more important, there was more to see after the ball was hit. There was more stealing, some of it very obvious. The pitching was also faster–the pitcher did not wait for the hitter to be ready, and usually threw the next pitch as soon as possible. There were lots of “huzzahs” for great plays.

All of the players were very nice. They were aware that onlookers could be confused by what they were seeing. The players and the umps answered questions at almost any time, even between half innings. The games generated lots of interest as people talked about how the game unfolded–it turned into more than just curiosity over antiquity. Since much of the crowd was just people who came to the park for the day, the games generated tremendous excitement.

July 2-4 the Vintage Base Ball Association is holding a tournament with a dozen or more teams in Hartford. I will probably attend to see some more of the teams.

Siam I am

Far Outliers (an excellent blog on Asian affairs and culture) has a number of interesting posts concerning how nations in East Asia got there names (called Changing Names). These posts are wonderful because they deal with different issues about how these countries were perceived as a whole and came into being. Some of these involve how outsiders perceived the ethnic makeup or political power in the area. Others deal with geopolitical concepts between western powers. Still others reflect attempts to create representative nations out of what were hegemonic dynasties.

Indonesia emerged piecemeal from a number of different geographic concepts:
The term "Indonesia" was first used in 1850 by the British anthropologist J. R. Logan to designate islands called the "Indian Archipelago" by other Western writers. For Logan, "Indonesia" did not designate a political unit but a cultural zone that included the Philippines. The forebears of today's Indonesians had no term for the region or concept of a single political unit linking communities across seas.
The concept of Indonesia replaced India as a result of two processes: the growth of Dutch power in the area (what they called the Indies) and indigenous contesting of Dutch authority.

The notion of Cambodia has complex origins. “Kampuchea” refers to the mythical origins of the people in the northern regions, appropriated by the French as Cambodge and rendered into English as Cambodia. Khmer had multiple meanings, both ethnic and regional, but also tied to Cambodian nationalism and independence:
In 1970, following a coup against Norodom Sihanouk, the country named itself the Khmer Republic ... The word "Khmer" refers to the major ethnic group in Cambodia, comprising perhaps 90 percent of the population, and also to the language spoken throughout the country. The etymology of the word is obscure, but it has been in use to describe the inhabitants of the region for over a thousand years. In general the terms "Khmer" and "Cambodian" are interchangeable ...

Vietnam had its origins in the late nineteenth century as the name preferred by the ruling dynasty of the area, although the Chinese tinkered with it:
In the early 1800s the new Nguyen dynasty tried to secure [Chinese] recognition of a new name for the country: "Nam Viet." But to the rulers of China the term ... conjured up memories of an ancient state [in southern China] of that name ... Chinese rulers feared that their acceptance of the term "Nam Viet" might signal approval of resurrected Vietnamese claims to south China. They therefore reversed the components of the proposed new name to detoxify it politically, ... .

Malaysia is a reference to a dominant ethnic group, something which has become more problematic as the nation has become ethnically diverse (especially due to immigration):
The name "Malaysia" is derived from the term "Malay," long applied by locals and foreigners to the Malay Peninsula in recognition of the predominance there of Malay-speaking peoples (whose geographic extent, however, also includes much of Sumatra and other islands of the archipelago) ... [Because of] the large immigrant influx [there has been an effort] to distinguish between Malaysians who are of Malay or other local descent and those who are not (no matter whether locally descended or long resident): bumiputera ("son[s] of the soil"), which confers constitutionally derived advantages of various sorts.

The name Philippines is of Spanish origins, and refers to the territory regardless of its ethnic composition:
The Philippines was named by Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century for the prince who would become King Philip II of Spain ... The Spanish called most of the indigenous inhabitants indios (Indians) using the term "Filipino" only as an adjective or to describe Caucasians born in the archipelago. These were white-skinned, not brown: creoles, of European ancestry but born in the empire rather than on the Iberian Peninsula. Since the late nineteenth century the term "Filipino" has been transformed to describe any person born in the archipelago who chose to owe allegiance to the Philippines, while the term indio is generally considered derogatory ...

Siam referred to the ruling region, changing to Thialand in an effort to make the state look more representative of all its regional groups:
The polity now known as Thailand was generally referred to as "Siam" for many centuries. Nationalists renamed it in 1939 in an attempt to be more inclusive of people, particularly in the north, northeast, and south, who had never considered themselves "Siamese" (i.e., indigenous subjects of the state ... ) but might be persuaded to think of themselves as "Thai." After World War II "Siam" briefly was restored as the country's name in 1946, but little more than a year later "Thailand" became permanent.

Finally, various encounters with the European institutions brought about and confirmed the name Laos:
The word "Laos" was first used by European missionaries and cartographers in the seventeenth century to pluralize the word "Lao," the name of the country's predominant ethnolinguistic group ... The French used the term "Laos" as the name for their protectorate in the colonial period. After independence in 1954, the country became known as the Kingdom of Laos. In 1975, when the communists came to power and the monarchy was abolished, it was renamed the Lao People's Democratic Republic.

Saturday, June 12, 2004


We drove out to Cooperstown, New York yesterday. It was a beautiful drive. Cooperstown is situated on longitudinal Lake Otsega: narrow and long, one can easily see the tree-covered hills on the other side. Route 80 along the western coast has lots of small cottages overlooking the lake, covered by the shade of the trees and the surrounding hills.

First we visited the Farmers’ Museum, a working farm representing methods of the early and mid-nineteenth century. It was very cute. They had several heirloom species: cattle, sheep, goats, ducks, and chickens. A few of the buildings were working exhibits: people performing daily tasks in the manner of the era. We were disappointed that so many of the staff were between tasks–we did not get to see much getting done. The most interesting buildings were the church (transplanted from a community south of Cooperstown, originally built in Gothic style but reformed to neo-classical) and the Seneca house (transplanted form the west). We also spoke to one man who gave us advice on growing broom corn (which we have in our garden) and on making brooms (he said that it is very difficult to get good broom in our climate).

Next we went to the Fenimore Art Museum, the home of the Coopers. It consisted of several interesting exhibits. The lower level had an extensive collection of Native American artwork, perhaps reason enough to see the museum. Many of the pieces were from northern tribes: they were made more from wood and biological sources rather than from mineral. There were masks and chests carved from wood, carved bones and tusks, textiles, jewelry made from shells ... . My favorite pieces were small masks from wood and feather from Alaska. A smaller collection dealt with representations of the American Flag in Native American art. The lower level also had pictures of trains by Winston Link. Many of these were pictures of ordinary life with trains passing through–poetic. The middle level had a small room about the Coopers themselves and a collection of folk art representing moments in American history. The top level was changing exhibits; only the life masks of Bowere were open for viewing. Not my thing. If you go, take a good look at Lafayette’s hair.

From there were drove south to the Ommegang Brewery. The Brewery was opened in 1997 in order to make beer in the Belgian style. There was a nice little tour and a tasting of the offerings of the Brewery. All of their brews are, like Belgian beers, heavier than American offerings in alcohol and taste. The wheat beer and the abbey ale are nice, the latter being rich. We bought several local products that were made from the beer and some glasses. We bought only a bottle of the white/wheat beer because we can get all their offerings near us.

How can I express my disappointment in the Baseball Hall of Fame? It was Comic Book Guy when it should have been Ken Burns; it was This Week in Baseball when it should have been Bull Durham. The building itself is nice brick with the entrance set on the street. Inside the actual walls of the building were not visible. Instead, all the exhibits were placed into moveable, temporary walls. All the surfaces were painted black, creating an atmosphere of sorrow and doom. The exhibits themselves were not well organized. The second level was a vaguely chronological representation of feats and important teams. A few gloves, a few balls and bats, clippings and other memorabilia were presented in random fashion. There was a small display for “Women in Baseball” with a few uniforms and programs. The third level consisted of awards and championship series. Toward the back of the first level there was the hall in which the plaques of the hall-of-famers themeselves (where’s Joe?). In additions behind that there were displays for sports reporting and baseball in films. The best exhibit concerned the Negro Leagues and their history.

There was little difference between the Baseball Hall of Fame and the cheesy stores that sell memorabilia around it. What I think it ought to have had were more displays that concerned with changes in the style of play, about baseball culture, etc. There was nothing on pre-1903 baseball, save the players who were inducted thereinto. Not one picture of kids playing in sandlots or the streets of crowded NY burroughs. Perhaps the things the Hall of Fame ought not need to do the work of making baseball meaningful to the people who visit, but what else will? The focus should be taken off hagiography of professional baseball and put onto the culture that supports it. Furthermore, the floors should be open an airy. We should see more of the building, and the walls should not close in on us like a rat maze.

We did not stay long in Cooperstown after seeing the Hall of Fame. We were not enticed by the shops or by the restaurants. We sat in one park to stare out at the lake, and we walked around town. The houses in Cooperstown are very cute. But we wanted to get home, so we left by 7.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Random Notes June 11

The wife and I are going to Cooperstown, to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Should I go with my record--weak hitting second baseman with range, speed, and a wicked arm who reached the middling ranks of college intermural softball--or should I pay the admission?

  • Adieu, Ray Charles. See the eulogy by Johno (Lester Bangs reincarnate).

  • I keep forgetting to post about these stories from the Tavis Smiley Show, The Legacy of Blackface, on African-Americans' interest in minstrel performers.

  • Ups and downs of being Jewish: on the one hand, Orthodox Jews in New York City are freeking out about microscopic bugs in the tap water. On the other, there is this humorous commentary on how Jews can use Sabbath to silence Jew haters and critiques (some drinking, then some more drinking, some eating, then some drinking ...)

  • Here is an interesting article on the SCOTUS record on federalism: it is actually rather middle of the road. (Thanks, Geitner Simmons

  • [Update:] I might be preparing to eat my words. The Cologne police are looking for "a thirty year old man, wearing a black baseball cap and presumably having blond hair". He is the owner of the bike that contained the explosives in Wednesday's attack in Muehlhein.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Star Bunny

I took Ollie to Tufts on Tuesday for her last radiation treatment. It was no fun ride. We were stuck in traffic for three hours due to a fatal accident on the Massachusetts Turnpike. By the time we arrived, Ollie looked nervous and anxious--I rushed her into the hospital.

It looks like Ollie's treatment is really experimental. I met a woman who said that she brought her rabbit in for radiation because the vets were getting such encouraging results with Ollie. Who knows--perhaps Ollie will appear in a sexy photo in some veterinary journal.

Terrorism hits the Rhine?

The German news service Deutsche Welle is reporting that there was a small bomb blast in Mühlheim, a neighborhood of Cologne on the right side of the river. The blast wounded seventeen people. The ministry of the interior for North Rhine-Westphalia is not yet willing to call this terrorism.
The background is totally open, we can't rule anything out,
we can't rule out a terrorist background at the moment.

This bombing is going to bite the state government. It is still reeling from the disappearance of Metin Kaplan, the Caliph of Cologne, which I discussed weeks ago. Even if the blast is not directly connected to Kaplin's supporters, it will cast more light on security in the state and in Germany.


Other possible explanations that have surfaced. A spokesman for the interior ministry has also suggested that
it could be a conflict between rival Turks.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

A Tale of Two Frances

This being the last hurrah for the generation that fought and suffered from World War Two, everyday for the next year will be an opportunity to cry, remember and celebrate the events of sixty years ago.

Thursday will be the sixtieth anniversary of one of the most notorious massacres of the war. Surprised by the D-Day invasion, German troops were sent into Vichy France (the technically autonomous France in the south) in order to shore up security. Near Bordeaux, a unit of the Waffen SS massacred almost the entire population of the small town of Oradour-sur-Glane. The men were separated out and shot. The women and children were shut up in the church, asphyxiated, shot, and burned. 642 people died.

As shocking as the event was, it was discovered after the war that fourteen of the German soldiers were Alsatians: malgré-nous, people who were considered German citizens (Reichsdeutsch). Because the National Socialists considered Alsatians to be Aryan and ethnically German, they were obligated to serve the state as other Germans. Furthermore, the Nazis were anxious to show the participation of Alsatians in the Reich. Many Alsatian men were forced to serve in the military–often members of their families were held hostage or were harmed in order to compel them to fight. Most malgré-nous fought on the Eastern Front in the Waffen SS (the military division of the SS, often given the most arduous missions). The Russians were aware of the presence of the malgré-nous, and they would call out to them in French, encouraging them to surrender or switch sides.

A court in Bordeaux tried the Alsatian soldiers, along with seven Germans, in 1953 and condemned them. But the sentence caused outrage in Alsace. People felt that the rest of France did not understand the unique suffering that they experienced during the war. Not just occupied, the Nazis put tremendous pressure on the Alsatians to integrate and Germanize. The malgré-nous were only one aspect of forced assimilation and punitive deprivation that Alsatians experienced and other Frenchmen did not. The malgré-nous were pardoned. The people in Oradour-sur-Glane and the region of Limousin were incensed. They felt that the government sacrificed justice in order to preserve national unity with a traitorous people. The betrayal that they felt was deeper because no one attempted to prosecute the leaders who organized the massacre, only those who committed it:
If they had condemned the organizers before trying the executors, the clemency granted to the latter might have been easier to accept.

Politicians who refused to recognize the crimes were placed on a plaque–a symbol of shame–in the remnants of the burned out village (now organized under Centre de la Mémoire).

Dialogue between the two is still difficult. The Limousin demand recognition of the massacre, and they are unwilling to recognize the precarious situation in which Alsatians found themselves. In the 1980s, one of the malgré-nous sued for a military pension (something which he would be entitled to despite fighting for Germany), but was lambasted by a storm of public opinion.

Like Gerhard Schroeder at Normandy this week, current Alsatian politicians are attending memorials of Oradour-sur-Glane. Alsatians have generally stayed away from memorials. The current mayor of Oradour-sur-Glane, Raymond Frugier, has attempted to create dialogue between Limousin and Alsace. He has met with Alsatian politicians for six years. For this memorial, Frugier invited four Alsatian politicians to attend. He wants reconciliation–to create a collective memory of these events–but he insists that certain facts are accepted:
Everyone must accept that people on both sides endured terrible suffering ... There are [those in Limousin] who refuse to recognize forced incorporation. [In Alsace] there are those who tend to lessen the responsibility of the SS in order to minimize the involvement of the malgré-nous.

They are trying to balance the right tone, giving the atrocity its due while reminding France of the sufferings of Alsatians. France is still struggling with a simple view of people’s roles during the war: collaboration or resistance. In this light, the malgré-nous are on the wrong side of history:
Many Frenchmen still believe that those who were incorporated into the Wehrmacht by force had been volunteers. (Philippe Richert, French senator and president of the general council of Bas-Rhin)

Finding the balance is not simple–it is difficult to excuse the participation of the malgré-nous despite their unique status:
The Alsatians were on both sides of this terrible war. (Fabienne Keller, mayor of Strasbourg)

The politicians have responded to the challenge by pointing out that Oradour-sur-Glane concerns two different war crimes:
I understand that Oradour[-sur-Glane] was and absolute crime. But forced incorporation existed and was a violation of the rights of the population that is recognized by war tribunals. These are two wrongdoings of Nazism ... Alsace has also been a symbol for the wrongdoings to totalitarianism. (Adrien Zeller, president of the regional council of Alsace)

Monday, June 07, 2004

Heine's River, Prussia's Border (Heine's Germany part I)

I had thought that I would use my reading of Heine's Germany. A Winter's Tale. to talk about difference between native and travel views of the Rhine. The material is much richer than I expected, and I plan to devote several posts to Heine.

Heine returned home to Germany in 1843 after years of exile in France. His path took him eastward, through Aachen to Cologne, down the river to Munster and Westphalia until he reached the city in which he was raised–Hamburg. Before he reaches Aachen, Heine experiences the presence of Prussia at the border in the guise of the Zollverein. It is here that he experiences (what he would consider to be) and unnatural border.

Historically, the Zollverein was a customs union that allowed for tariffs to be regularized between German states. Free movement of goods was possible between these different states. German nationalist (and many subsequent historians) described the founding of the Zollverein as a definitive step in the creation of a unified Germany. This attribution is exaggerated: the customs union was a diplomatic arrangement, and any state could put pressure on the system to renegotiate its terms or even leave the union. There was also discussion about expanding the Zollverein to non-German nations like Belgium and Netherlands (David Hansemann being one of the leading proponents of expansion into northwestern Europe). Furthermore, it affected the lives of only a small number of Germans, only the elite merchants.

Heine experiences the Zollverein as more than a customs union. On the one hand, it is the arbiter of what will be allowed into Germany and, by extension, what is German. On the other hand, it enforced Prussian power in the West. When he comes to the border, Heine is approached by Zollverein officials, whom he identifies as Prussians (preußischen Douanièrs). The search through his belongings for contraband–lace, jewelry, books. Heine remains smug as the customs officials disturb the clothing in his suitcases–they will not find “the twittering birdnest of confiscated books” that he keeps in his head.

More than an arrangement to smooth over differences between tariffs, the Zollverein was defining borders. It denied the influence of foreign ideas by preventing them from entering German states. Enforced by Prussian officials, the Zollverein created a territory based on the threat of force by the state. It is within the territory that Germans should find themselves and coalesce into one people. According to a nationalist with whom Heine travels:
It gives outer unity to us
The so-called material;
We get spiritual unity through censors,
The real ideal.

It gives us inner unity,
The unity of thought and mediation;
A united Germany is what we need,
United on the outside and the inside.

What Heine experiences and hears is out of harmony with his ideas of what Germany is and how it should come together. The ideas that the Prussians wanted to keep out were of bourgeois revolution: civil upheaval that would displace the landed aristocracy–the group that Prussia defended–and replace them with the people–the group that Heine championed. Heine does not want a hegemonic state to create Germany. It should form organically as an expression of popular sovereignty. He opposes the concept of Germany as a territory that can be drawn and delimited:
The land belongs to the French and the Russian
The sea belongs to Britain
But we possess in the imaginary realm (Luftreich) of dreams
Undisputed power

Here we practice our hegemony
Here we are undivided
The other nations have developed themselves
On the flat earth.

But Heine had trouble with borders in general. He recognized the existence of different nations, but the differences between them were undefined and unenforced. In his preface to the French version of Germany, a Winter’s Tale, Heine addresses his French readers by defending his Rhine as a German land, one that was his by right of birth, not one that could be made French (as some wanted to do in the 1840s). But he had to temper his nationalism with assurances that his desire for a German Rhine did not extend to designs on Alsace and Lorraine (something that German nationalists wanted). In his opinion, the Alsatians and Lorrains were French because they were attached to the rights that they won during the French Revolution. But as soon as Germany achieved its own revolution the differences between France and Germany would be eliminated, and Alsace and Lorraine could be “annexed”:
The Lorrains and the Alsatians will reunite with Germany when we finish that which France began (the great work of the Revolution: universal Democracy!)

Heine allowed for the Alsatians and Lorrains to remain part of France so long as the political rights were superior in France. As soon as those political differences were effaced–when all men enjoyed freedom–the cultural nation could find expression.

Why not marry your rapist?

This Washington Post story from Ethiopia is tragic as well as heroic: a young girl and her peasant family pursue the men who raped her, circumventing rural customs that would keep them silent. Twice, Woineshet escape from the same men who kidnapped and raped her.
She was abducted one night in March 2001 by four men who hacked down the front door of her home in the village of Abadjema with a machete. Police and witnesses said she was forced into a nearby shack by the men's leader and raped for two days. She was 13 years old.

The second abduction/attack lasted fifteen days. Her father, wanting his daughter to enjoy the same independence as women in the cities, engaged women's rights organizations and convinced the police and others in the village to push for a prosecution.
The case opens a window on a struggle in Africa between deeply held rural and tribal traditions and a quest to establish internationally recognized legal standards in societies that have long been without them.

Despite gaining a ten year conviction, a local judge released her attacker after one month because, in the judge's opinion, the accusation of rape was a cover for a dispute between families over marriage:
I don't think she was abducted or raped ... The health report did not specify that she was a fresh virgin. No one wants to rape anyone who is not a virgin. Maybe they were just in love. This case has no evidence.

This family is only out for revenge ... Maybe they don't want her to marry him. So they accuse him of rape.

Look, a marriage contract had been signed, and I think we should find it. If she wanted to marry him, then if there was a rape that makes it legally okay.

Some of our new laws and ideas on these matters do not fit with the culture anymore.

To Woineshet, the judge said:
He wants to marry you. Why are you refusing? ... After 13 years, after 15 years, the lady she can be happy. She can be okay.

Up North

DW Griffith’s Way Down East used to unsettle me. It is a beautiful film–Richard Bartholmess running across the breaking winter ice to save Lilian Gish is breathtaking. The title never made sense to me–going down or going east, neither word accurately describing moving into this frigid climate. When I first saw the film I was still living in LA–the concept of Maine being “way down east” made little sense in my Pacific worldview.

Atlantic Coast as seen by Joannes Jansson

What did not occur to me is that people interpret geography through their level of geographic experiences. Students of Roman history are always confused when they are told that the province of Lower Rhine was north of Upper Rhine. When one thinks about it, the level of the Rhine is obviously higher in the south where it is nearer to its source, lower in the north where it is nearer to the ocean. Going down the Rhine means a northward journey, going up a southward journey.

The confusion between north and south, up and down has some roots. One German scholar of English, Franz Stanzel, was disturbed by American travelers who would go up the Rhine from Switzerland to Cologne–a downhill journey from the Alps to the Lower Rhine Plain. When he informed the Americans of their error, they quickly and easily switched usage. The question that he pondered is whether the relationships between north/south and up/down was a reflection of what they expected geographically. The Mississippi flows north to south, and it is obviously what it means to go down the Mississippi. Looking at a map, it is easy to extrapolate those directions onto any north-south river.

The relationship between up and down is not simply a matter of how the rivers flow–large American rivers generally flow south, although the St. Lawrence goes north as well as east. It is also a matter of elevation. Most American mountain ranges run north south, meaning that east and west could equally (perhaps even more accurately) describe up and down. The political division between north and south is problematic–more of America is west of the South than north. Oddly, the interior conceptualization of the “South-west” as “El Norte” persists–perhaps as a means of designating a peripheral badlands.

But the notion of north and up transcend the American experience, nor was it always present. The traditional Chinese view was one dominated by its relationship with the sea–up and south were synonymous. Even the traditional view of Europe was southward–toward the Mediterranean, where all the valuable commerce flowed. Perhaps even more than looking south, the ancient Mediterranean civilization looked east and west, seeing the sea as a long road. The perspective of Europeans changed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as Atlantic trade became more important and London and Amsterdam were the “centers of the world” (most important points in the early modern urban network). As it became more important to move goods to Atlantic ports, ‘north’ became more prominent in the European mentality. Other north-south divisions reinforced this thinking: Latin versus Germanic, Catholic versus Protestant, commercial versus agricultural. Even subaltern sets itself off against north.

The north-south perspective in which north dominated probably originated with Gerhard Mercator himself, the Flemish geographer whose projection method allowed for models of the world that were more whole and more useful. By making the meridians parallel to one another, navigation was made simpler. But doing so exaggerated the area of lands that were more distant from the equator, and more of that land was present in the more northern latitudes. It appeared that Europe was physically larger than in reality in global representations. But Mercator also placed Iberia and Europe in the center, reflecting the growing power of Portugal and Spain. Considering the Mercator projection helped navigation, maps of the world could have been centered more on the oceans rather than on land. The tradition of seeing north as dominant was carried on as other northern powers fought for and achieved empire.

Still today maps pay greater attention to the lilliputian European states and the empty American spaces rather than to countries like China, India and Indonesia which are both populous and vast. Arno Peters, the maker of the anatomically-correct (yes, I know what it really means) projection, says that the north-up perspective is not being preserved merely for reasons of empire:
[M]ore recent global maps which abandoned important qualities of Mercator's map, thus mitigating distortion of area. [T]hese maps that have contributed to a survival of our Europe-dominated view of the world were not untenable because of a failure of exactitude; rather, they lacked just one quality: equal representation of space.
Mercator's map is superior to more recent maps not only because of its vertical representation of the North-South direction (fidelity of axis) and its! realistic representation of climatic position (fidelity of position). It is superior also for esthetic reasons: because of its proportions that approach the dimensions of the Golden Section, and because of its beautiful and dear cartographic representation.

The defining of the North also occurred between European powers fighting over empire. Peter Stuyvesant turned to cartography as a means of defending the claims of the United Provinces in the New World against the English. The best maps of the seventeenth century were produced in Netherlands, and the maps that they made of the Northeast were still in use in the eighteenth century. Stuyvesant used the maps to place the Dutch imprint on as much of the New World as possible. The Dutch cartographers placed their colonies in New Netherland at the center of the New World, putting the more prosperous English colonies “in the south.” The maps were powerful tools of diplomacy, but the Dutch were edged out by the strength of the English presence. However, the English were at pains to ignore Dutch cartography–they erased the Dutch names, but had to rely on the maps themselves in order to produce their own.