Thursday, July 29, 2004

Convention Notes

I want to mention a few ways that the Democratic convention impressed me.
  • Barack Obama had the best speech, hands down. "We worship a mighty G-d in the blue states ... ." He blew Clinton away, and Edwards was no competition.

  • John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Clinton, was unfairly ignored. He gave a substantial and thoughtful speech about military policy under Democratic administrations through a pleasant Polish accent. Unfortunately, his speech was shown by no one except C-SPAN.
  • Wes Clark showed that he could move a crowd--one in which many were determined to sit on their hands--with his inspirational speech. How could they put Lieberman on after Wes? I also noted that Kerry took two bits from Clark's schtick: this flag belongs to no party and in order to have family values, you must value families.
  • Off hand, 8 pm on Thursday could have been called the Mischling hour.
  • MSNBC had the best commentary and showed more of the speeches. C-SPAN was, nonetheless, essential viewing.
  • I saw a lot of Joe Trippi on MSNBC: I think people give him too much credit for Dean's successes. The jokes about wanting to know the identity of "Deep Throat" from Bernstein was funny.
  • Technically, Kucinich had the second most delegates--a result that does not reflect the reality of the primary campaign.
  • Finally, bloggers did little to enhance the coverage of the convention. The only big news that came out was that Atrios is a real person. Bloggers who stayed at home had stories and commentaries that were just as good as those who took the trip to Boston.

Strange Emancipation

[Side note: This is my 100th post here.]

Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace has an article about the experiences of women in Alsace during World War II and the annexation of the departments to Germany.

The Reich compelled many Alsatian men to serve in the Wehrmacht, often threatening their families. Compelling Alsatian men to service created holes in the labor force of the departments. 10,000 workers were withdrawn from industries that built arms that contributed to supplying the German war effort.

The Gaulieter (I think his name was Wagner--the article does not give his name) decreed that women between 16 and 45 were obliged to work. The decrees were reinforced with measures to shut down numerous small enterprises (shops and such) that tended to employ women in order to make their employees available. Consequently, the Alsatian workforce increased by 10,000 people from its previous levels.

As the war continued, the Gauleiter increased demands on women workers. The number of hours that they were required to work changed from 50 hours to 56 hours, then again to 72 hours, per week. However, the continual expansion of the work week did little to increase productivity. Instead, it resulted in absenteeism (at a rate of 8% in some factories).

The article argues that these unfortunate women were somewhat like Rosie the riveter: they took jobs in fields that were dominated by men. The fact that they were compelled to work, as well as to do so for NS Germany, makes this "liberation" very problematic. The opportunity to be in essential industries also gave women the ability to resist in important arenas, something that is reflected in the rate of absenteeism.

Discrimination against Children with AIDS

Human Rights Watch has a sad report about how children with AIDS are treated in India. In essence, these children are being segregated and ignored:
... many doctors refuse to treat or even touch HIV-positive children. Some schools expel or segregate children because they or their parents are HIV-positive. Many orphanages and other residential institutions reject HIV-positive children or deny that they house them. Children from families affected by AIDS may be denied an education, pushed onto the street, forced into the worst forms of child labor, or otherwise exploited, all of which puts them at greater risk of contracting HIV.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

It happened again!

Another Jewish cemetery has been profaned in Alsace, this time in Saverne (north of Strasbourg).
About thirty graves in the Jewish cemetery of Saverne (Bas-Rhin) were discovered sullied on Wednesday morning, principally with swastikas, adding to the long list of profanations in Alsace in the last months. Swastikas, Celtic crosses, Stars of David and a "666" were painted with red and blue paint ...

I am starting to wonder whether or not these act are systematic and organized.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Alsace and the Rhenish Theater

I found an interesting article about cartography of Alsace, written by Franz Grenacher in the 1960s. It focuses especially on the early modern period (16th and 18th centuries), an era in which maps were strongly tied to defense and warfare: knowing the terrain was a tremendous advantage for any army.

Mapping of Alsace was linked to struggle over the region, and not just Alsace. At least four entities –France, Holy Roman Empire, Baden and Swabia–surveyed the river and the mountain range in preparation for warfare. Furthermore, the maps were part of larger warfare along the Rhine River. Almost every surveying effort from 1650 on moved on from Alsace to map areas farther north, including the Lower Palatinate (what is now the state of Rhineland-Palatinate). These surveys, as mapping techniques became more sophisticated, recorded the topography of the river, not stopping at the borders between countries.

One interesting effort to survey Alsace came from Henri Sengre during the late seventeenth century. French knowledge of the new territories was slim. Other countries had better maps of Alsace than France. Indeed, the monarchy was threatened by Flemish and Dutch cartographers (who used maps effectively in many parts of the world to defend legal claims to territories.) Unable to produce a comprehensive survey quickly, the government went to the people for information:
Colbert and Le Tellier ... exhorted the authorities to seek out qualified local people and enlist their help. These local talents were asked to collect all available geographical information and to compile small maps ... according to simple geometric rules; they were also asked to prepare memoirs ...; to give itineraries marking the distances between various points.
All the information was sent back to Paris and compiled in order to produce general, but inaccurate, maps. It was unlikely that this was turned into some cartographic festival of patriotism. Nonetheless, France was desperate.

Sengre’s project was interesting because he abandoned much of the knowledge that had already been produced. Instead of bringing surveyors with him, he hired only local people: German speakers who were aware of the terrain and the history. But Sengre’s activities did not end in Alsace. He was asked to survey more of the Rhine in order to understand the entirety of the “Upper Rhenish Theater”. Sengre produced maps of areas as far north as Bonn.

Sengre’s maps served as a basis for more important works in the eighteenth century, when the Rhine was meant to be the frontier of France. His maps influenced other states as well. Habsburgs mapmakers, after obtaining copies of Sengre’s maps, attempted to understand the “Rhenish Theater” beyond Alsace itself. Warfare over one part of the river would only be approached with reference to the whole.

Bavarian Dialect--
Survival in East German Towns

I have so many things to write about that my plate is full. I can only briefly deal with these two stories from Germany.
  • Here is an amusing article about pronunciation/dialect in Bavaria.
    Bavarians simply don't like to say "ü," a sound that can be approximated by saying a German "i" (as in fit, hit) with a pouted mouth, Erl wrote. "At most, a Bavarian puckers his mouth to drink or to canoodle, but never to pronounce an 'ü,'" according to Erl, who added that Bavarians preferred to say "i" instead.

    The "i" vs. "ü" debate has provoked a flood of reader letters to Bavarian newspapers, with some people pointing out that Bavarians most certainly know how to say their umlaut. Hans Triebel, who heads a club devoted to the promotion of Bavarian dialects, agreed that his countrymen have the ability to say an "ü." "Kinna deama scho, grod meng deama ned," he told dpa newsagency in his best Bavarian, which can be translated as: "We can do it, but we just don't want to."

    But the dialect lover also pointed out that the pure Bavarian makes do without the "ü." After all, Munich, which is München in conventional German, is called Minga among the natives.

  • The NY Times has an article on a town in (former) east Germany and its attempt to survive.
    Old maps of East Germany bear the names of hundreds of villages that were bulldozed during Communist times to make way for strip mines. Heuersdorf, however, was one of the first to be marked for destruction after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the German government sold state-owned mines to American investors with a promise that they could expand the digging ...

    To entice people into selling their houses, the company is offering them a bonus of more than $90,000 beyond the market price. Since 1995, about half the town's population has moved, leaving rows of empty houses, their windows hung with lace curtains to keep away vandals ...

    Everywhere, there are symbols of defiance. Near the upside-down flag stands a David and Goliath sculpture in stone and tin of two mismatched warriors facing off. A street sign declares, "We're staying here," while a billboard laments, "700 years of history would go up in smoke." ...

    Among the town's proudest historical artifacts is the Emmaus Church, built in 1297 and the first fortified church in Saxony. The company has offered to move the church, steeple and all, but Mr. Günther, pointing to the crumbling stonework, says it would never survive.

RER Attack, continued

Denieres Nouvelles d'Alsace is reporting that Marie Leblanc (the French woman who made a false claim about being attacked on the Paris RER) has been sentences to four months in prison with psychiatric hospitalization to follow.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Coffee Klatsch in the Tower of Babel

The European Union speaks in many languages, something which is good and bad. On the one hand, it means that Euro-politicians can find it difficult to communicate with each other and are weighed down by paperwork. On the other hand, regional and minority languages get needed support to survive.

The official languages are English and French as well as the language of the country that holds the presidency. Schroeder has pushed for parity for German--a request that is not unreasonable, but he has pissed off many people along the way (especially the Finns). French and English are working languages because it is assumed that every leader will know either one or the other.

The representatives also have the right to translations of speeches and reports. Spanning twenty official languages, the EU is often awash in translation. The paperwork can be excessive. The demands on producing translation means that memos and other minor documents are left in one language only, either French or English. As definitions of terms and usage can also be contentious, politicians often resort to creating new terms rather than be burdened by older ones and the differences of meaning between languages. Moreover, politicians can be inordinately and overtly cautious when they speak to one another. Consequently, political debate is limited because no one wants to offend in a moment of misunderstanding.

The "Tower of Babel" is best illustrated with an anecdote from Marc Abélès (see my previous post of his research on the EU), an anthropologist who studies the EU:
One day, when a Greek [Member of the European Parliament] was talking, the interpreter in charge of the translation suddenly declared that the speaker was making a good joke that was impossible to translate, and he called for the courtesy of the other MEPs. The whole assembly laughed at this remark, while the Hellenic MEP was delighted to be so well understood.

Humor is not often understood immediately, and speakers are often surprised by the delayed reaction: they have already moved on to more serious, perhaps more grim, subjects, and the chamber suddenly explodes in laughter.

Outside of the direct machinations of EU, language policies can have positive effects. The EU has set up various programs with the intention of preserving minority cultures from being extinguished by national cultures. Preservation extends to regional languages, most of which receive little support from their respective nations. They can appeal to EU policies in order to gain support for regional languages, or they can go directly to EU organizations. Within France, the more important examples are Brezhoneg (a Celtic language spoken in Brittany) and Corsican. (One of the few regional languages to have official recognition is German as the written form of the Alsatian dialect. Bilingual education in Alsace has existed since the 1950s). Germany has fewer problems with regional languages because so many public and private institutions at the local level teach and preserve these dialects, but non-Germanic languages (like Sorbian, spoken in Lower Saxony) have more difficulties gaining support. The main institution for linguistic preservation is Eurolang (dedicated to "lesser known languages").

One process is now feeding into the other. The Irish and Spanish governments have pushed for official recognition of regional languages like Gaelic and Galician (respectively), languages which are spoken by more people than some of the other national languages. Eastern European nations are looking to linguistic diversity as a measure to put the cultural policies of the Soviet era in the past.

Like in many things with the EU, the mess at the center offers opportunities and flexibility for peoples at the other end.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Tyranny and the Plague

A few weeks ago BRDGT noted that an epidemic of plague could be emerging in Turkmenistan and that health officials were poorly prepared to recognize it and treat it. Lack of controls has wrought fears that the plague will be transported to neighboring Central Asian states.

However, it appears the spread of the plague is not simply a matter of a post-Soviet system breaking down. As ISN reports, the government in deliberately preventing information about the epidemic from coming to light: ANYONE CAN BE ARRESTED FOR REPORTING THE PRESENCE OF THE PLAGUE.
Ashgabat clinic worker Jeren, who would not give her full name, told IWPR, “Our head doctor called a meeting recently and ordered us to go from house to house, warning citizens that if any one of us said that there was plague in the city, they would be arrested and charged with revealing state secrets. As absurd as this sounds, we were forced to sign statements to this effect.”

The driving force behind this stupidity is nationalism and arrogance:
In spite of this, some Turkmen doctors claim that they have been ordered to "hush up" the potential problem, in keeping with President Saparmurat Niazov's belief that this is the "Golden Age of the People" in which nothing can possibly go wrong. One medic, who would not give his name, said: “The plague is here, but we have been forbidden to talk about it," adding with heavy irony, "But don’t you know it simply isn't possible that there could be an outbreak of disease in Turkmenistan? Everything here is fine!”

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Louisiana Purchase

I am reading a book on American history.

[Side note:]Don't worry. Your computer has not been compromised by malware. Don't check your firewall or start downloading the latest virus protection (although it would not be a bad idea). I read a book on American history every once in a while. However, this one really fits into my interests in regionalism.

A Wilderness so Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America by Jon Kukla deals with the diplomacy and relations between the US states leading up to the purchase. I picked it up after a conversation with Johno peeked my curiosity about the importance of the Mississippi River as a frontier. I have also been intrigued by the mass of literature produced in celebration of the bicentential of the purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition (something which I might read as well).

Kukla's thesis is that western expansion was more dependent on the opening of the Mississippi River than on the acquisition of new land--without access to the river, it was not clear that the states would remain bound together--but that the river issue was bound up in internal and external affairs. New Englanders, believing that the early republic was unnaturally large, thought up separationist schemes: the creation of a northern confederation either within or without the original confederation. Western settlers, who needed access to the sea for commerce, demanded that the republic claim the river: their belligerence pushed them toward separatism as well.

Kukla spends a great deal of time on Spanish possession of the Louisiana territory. Not wanting to develop Louisiana, the Spanish Bourbons saw the river as a barrier to American threats on their mining interests in Mexico. They insisted that Americans must not navigate the river. Spanish diplomats played into the separatism of Massachusetts congressmen.

Kukla's book uses lots of documents, which he quotes extensively. One of my favorite passages is a letter from James Monroe wherein Monroe fumes about how the manipulations of the New Englanders will break of the confederation.
The object in the occlusion of the Mississippi on the part of [Nathaniel Gorham, Rufus King, and Theodore Sedgwick] ... is to break up ... the settlements on the western waters, prevent any in future, and thereby keep the States southw[ar]d as they now are-- or ... make it the interest of the [western] people to separate from the confederacy, so as ... to throw the weight of population eastward and keep it there, to appreciate the vacant lands of New York and Massachusetts. In short it is a system of policy which has for its object the keeping the weight of gov[ernment]t and population in this quarter.

This book will be very useful when comparing the separatists of the German Rhineland of the 1920s to other separatist movements. Some of the same schemes were thought up, like the republic within confederation.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Hitler Watch
Security Fence
Israel vs. France

  • Call us Nazis! That was what Hitler did!: The History News Network will maintian a list of the Hitler references in political discourse.

  • The Walls between nations: Rua da Jadiara, inspired by the controversy over Israel's security fence along the West Bank, had a series dedicated to the use of security walls and fences in the contemporary world: Beirara de segurana. If you don't read Portuguese, you need to look at the Google translation.

  • Leave for Israel? That's what the antisemites want:

    I have yet to make heads or tails of the Antisemitism in France. The attack never happened, yet the focus in not on the treatment of North Africans, but French Jews. Perhaps it did not help that Sharon called on all the French Jews to immigrant. On the other hand, North Africans have used the situation to spout out all sorts of antisemitic rhetoric.

Symphonie pastoral

This weekend we watched Symphonie pastoral, a film based on a book by André Gide. I highly recommend this film, which is different in style and atmosphere to the French films of its time. (Here are some criticisms of Gide's story.)

Taking place in the Swiss Alps, it tells the story of a pastor who raises and educated a blind orphan. He becomes obsessed with her--somewhat openly--but rather than objecting, his family believes that the pastor's devotion is only pity. The girl's blindness makes her unlovable. In his lessons, the pastor cultivates similar feelings within the girl, encouraging her dependence and admiration of him. The blind girl is also attracted to the pastor's son, who spends months away from home in order to avoid falling in love with her. When her blindness is cured, she embraces the man she believes to be the pastor, only to discover it is really the son, whom she sees more preferable. Her idealization of her love doesn't match reality, and she kills herself. (In the book, the tragedy is heightened by putting the son in preparation for the priesthood, against the beliefs of his father. In the movie he is more attainable, being engaged but not married.)

The film is not typically French. It is still years away from the style of the French New Wave (and its obsessive attention to sexuality). But it is different from the French films of its time. It has an atmosphere more akin to the films of Carl Dreyer (like Passion of Joan of Arc and Day of Wrath), but this might be because of the religious themes. It also resembles German-inspired French films like Le jour se leve. My wife also see touches of English films, and I would agree.

Pierre Blanchar is plays the creepy-but-restrained pastor excellently: Christopher Walken would blush. As he teaches the blind girl, he poses with her in front of a mirror, seeing how they would look together (ew). His performance is certainly worth the cost of admission. The film was actually made in the Alps in beautiful wooden houses--how pretty. The interiors give a radiant glow. Finally, there is a beautiful scene in which the son plays the church organ when he first sees how the blind girl has grown up.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Williamstown and Lenox

The last two weeks we have had to cancel plans to visit Kingston, New York because of bad weather and poor sleep. Instead, we went to Williamstown and Lenox, MA. I don't feel like giving extensive comments because they are places we have visisted before. Besides, I have some contempt for the ignorantly arrogant patrons of Lenox. This is a view of Williamstown.

We looked at art at the Clark Institute in Williamstown. They have a good collection of impressionism. They also had a special exhibit dedicated to a collector of romanticism, with some excellent paintings by Delacroix (you know, the Sakai of French painting). Afterwards, we walked on the beautiful grounds that overlooked Williamstown.

Trees that are dead and that have been split by lightning always make good subjects.

In Lenox, we visited Ventfort, an estate that once belonged to the Morgan family. It is being presented as the "Museum of the Guilded Age". In reality, it is a work in project: the house still requires extensive restoration, and the tour revealed only a few good rooms. The exterior is beautiful--done wonderfully in Dutch baroque style--beautiful gables that made me wish I were in Europe.

We also went to Frelinghuysen-Morris House and Studio, the home of two patrons of modern artists who were also lesser-known artists themselves. I wish I had taken some more pictures of the house itself--an excellent example of Bauhaus sensibilities. The house had some wonderful art by the like of Legèr, Miro, Arp, and Paul Klee (collectively, our favorite artist). This is a mural painted by the husband, based on native life (he painted this several times, each time the painting became more abstract).Posted by Hello

We also walked around the Frelinghuysen grounds, which were beautiful in their own right. Posted by Hello

The New Inca Empire

Indianist movements in the Andes have attacked government officials and protested international companies–and have even used lynching– with the dream of recreating the Inca Empire. The Aymara movement wants to bring together natives in order to recreate (what they see) as an idyllic Andean system and culture that existed before the conquest. The movement (different groups against different states) see themselves as separatists: leaving behind the hybrid European governments behind and creating their own. However, they are in many ways nationalists, seeking a revolution against the state, separatism being only a strategy as part of their larger goal of nation-building.

The Aymara is an Indianist movement that advocates the revival of the Inca Empire. Obviously, the pre-conquest empire is a driving myth to inspire unity among indigenous populations throughout the Andes. However, the Inca Empire informs the Aymara program in a number of areas, according to Juliana Stroebele-Gregor (Free University of Berlin):
  • First, the movement wants to reconstruct the Andean system–the empire beyond Bolivia.

  • Second, to use Andean traditions to reform the state and create a new political culture. Most importantly, they look to older concepts of communal rights and ownership (ayllu).

  • Finally, they want to create a multicultural state.

Aymara emerged in Bolivia from the disappointment of the Katarista, a peasant movement that was motivated by Marxist ideology. The Katarista attempted to appeal to the peasants, most of whom were Indians, on the basis of ethnicity, but the movement never developed an identity capable of motivating people who did not see themselves belonging to a single ethnic group. Weakened by the 1980s, the movement fragmented.

The Aymara took Indian identity as a means to polarize the ethnic groups against the forces that represent assimilation. Latin American states promote hybrid identies (campesino or ladino) as a means of integrating and assimilating Indians into the broader society. To the Aymara, the government still looks very “European” or “white.” The name itself is taken from the people who continued to speak the indigenous language after the conquest.

Within Bolivia itself, the political interests of Aymara aim less at separation than extreme autonomy, if not outright takeover of the state:
The organizations demand ... territorial ownership rights for ethnic groups, the promotion of independant development projects, autonomy, within the nation-state, cultural self-determination, and a new legal order recognizing traditional Indian legal forms and norms.

The movement gained notoriety for its “anti-globalization stance”, opposing the exporting of gas resources in Bolivia, and the violent suppression that followed. In other countries, there has been confrontation between Indians and agents of the state, the latter being driven out of remote areas of the Andes and existing autonomously and autochthonously. On the broader scale, they have taken over local political and administrative posts as a means of creating a political base, according to Felipe Quispe:
What we've been doing is taking out the government representatives, the police, the transit force, the judges, the subprefects, even the mayors ... Like a drop of grease that expands, if this movement keeps growing, we will reach all of Bolivia.

Lynching is a more nefarious manifestation of resistance. Two mayors, one Peruvian, the other Bolivian, were summarily hung because of corruption this year. Indianist supporters claim that lynching is a native form of justice, and should be accepted. The governments of both countries have been apologetic, claiming that the incidents are not typical. In truth, both governments cannot guarantee security and safety of officials.

Not all Indians are interested in separatism and building of an Indian nation. Many people within Bolivia could be considered Aymara, but there are groups of lowland peasants who are not included and who do not share the political ambitions of the Aymara. They prefer decentralization and the introduction of Indian law as means of increasing democracy. They are not interested in creating a greater Indian state.

Similarly, Indianist groups in Peru do not necessarily identify with the Inca Empire. According to Frank Salomon (see his website on Andean provincial culture in Peru at University of Wisconson), the important historical era for self-definition is not the pre-conquest, but the colonial period in which indigenous peoples struggle against traditions as well as colonialism, creating a new culture:
[C]olonialism was the time when the pre-Hispanic way of life was left behind and the culture recognized as “ours”–the culture of village self-management-emerged.
Villages that force the agents of the state to leave may belong to this latter group as well.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Syphilis Journal

I bought a copy of Alphonse Daudet's In the Land of Pain, a journal about his experiences of the last phases of syphilis. Daudet was a celebrity writer of mid and late nineteenth century France. He has the disease since he was 17. Daudet describes his encounters with the famous physicians of the day: Charcot describes the disease in neurological terms. He treats Daudet with the Seyre suspension: hanging the individual by the jaw for the purpose of straightening the spine.
I am suspended in the air for four minutes, the last two solely by my jaw. Pain in the teeth. Then, as they let me down and unharness me, a terrible pain in my back and the nape of my neck, as if all the marrow was melting: it forces me to crouch down on all fours and then very slowly stand up again while--as it seems to me--the stretched marrow find its rightful place again.

He talks about he panoply of drugs that he must take. Bromide. Acetanlide turns the lips blue. And morphine. Always morphine. Daudet injects himself constantly.
Each injection stops the pain for three or four hours. Then comes "the wasps", the stinging and stabbing here, there and everywhere--followed by the Pain, that cruel guest.

The pain itself is at the center. It is his constant companion, the reason for his suffering, the cause of his deteriorating reason. Daudet writes about the pain in a very direct manner, eliminating ornate language, until only the image of the pain is left behind. The prose are oddly contemporary for a writer of this era.
My poor carcass is hollowed out, voided by anaemia. Pain echoes through it as a voice echoes in a house without furniture or curtains. There are day, long days, when the only part of me that's alive is my pain.

Daudet is preoccupied with the pain in his bones and joints. He describes his rib cage as an ill-fitting armored breastplate. He is preoccupied with his legs and feet. Although the pain is excruciating, he finds relief by walking and increasing stimuli. But sometimes produces more pain, as here when he is being dried at the public baths:
A bizarre new pain when they're rubbing my legs dry. It's in the tendons of the neck: on the right-hand side when they're rubbing my left leg ... Nerve-racking torture, enough to make you scream.

The book is not long--it can be read in a few hours. Thankfully, editor and translator Julian Barnes (and good author in his own right) adds lots of notes to give more depth to the journal (these notes compete for space with the journal). Many of these are from the memoirs of the famous publisher Goncourt, who recorded many of the specifics about how syphilis affected Daudet's work. Other notes talk about the therapies of the day. Posted by Hello

Thursday, July 15, 2004

She knows she's sexy!

I will be out most of the day, so there will be little time for blogging. Need something to read? You can check out this article on highway building and state-building in MongoliaPosted by Hello

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Patting myself on the back

I guess I beat the American media to the story about the false claim of an antisemitic attack on the Paris regional train. I beat CNN by four hours. Nevertheless, antisemitism in France is important. Robert Wilde at European History Blog has this article bookmarked about problems of race in France and how Chirac is tackling them. I guess Chirac is leaning heavily on Mr Borloo (about whom I write here) to solve France's problems.

In other news, check out Mozilla's Foxfire browser. I have had a lot of fun so far with it.

Bad Excuses for Misogyny

The New York Times has an article about how the Spanish government is dealing with the recent increasing in violence against women, especially wives, this year. The article deserves to be read on its own. However, I would point out the excuses that some people are making:
Some conservative newspaper commentators have argued that men are also victims, since they sometimes kill themselves after they murder their women.

Spain's Conference of Catholic Bishops, meanwhile, issued a manifesto on sexual morality in February that blames the sexual revolution for the abuse of women. "The sexual revolution has separated sex from marriage, and procreation from love," it said. Its "bitter fruits" are "domestic violence, sexual abuse, and homeless children."

Battle Hymn for the Army of the Rhine

In April 1792 the French Revolution declared war on the two powerful German monarchies, Habsburgs and the Hohenzollerns. The news of the declaration took several days to reach the eastern frontier of France, but it caused worry. People in Alsace and Lorraine were always affected by fighting, if not implicated in it directly. The towns and cities could be besieged by the Austrians and Prussians. Indeed, in August 1792 the city of Verdun would be taken over, an event preserved in Goethe's memoire Campaign in France and which motivated the extreme defense of that area in the First World War.

Frédéric de Dietrich, the mayor of Strasbourg, was concerned as well. In a conversation with Joseph Rouget de Lisle (a captain and engineer in the French army), de Dietrich expressed his desire motivate soldiers and the citizens to defend the city and the country. De Deitrich implored the captain to write a song to rouse the people.

Pils painting of Rouget de Lisle singing the future national anthem at the home of De Dietrich Posted by Hello

Rouget de Lisle's family was only recently tied to the French East. His noble parents had moved from southwestern France to Franche-Comte because they were Protestants. Rouget de Lisle was born in the Jura, the low areas of the French Alps. When he was posted to Strasbourg as part of the company "Enfants de la patrie"in 1790, Rouget de Lisle inserted himself in the musical life of the city. A meager musician, he composed words to simple and popular melodies.

Rouget de Lisle composed a song for the Army of the Rhine in a single night. His melody was somewhat well known: a dance tune that was easily adaptable and had already survived several lyrics by anonymous composers. He started with a call to his company: "Allons, Enfants de la patrie." And he drew the words from posters that were recently called the people to arms ("Aux armes, citoyens!"). The rest he filled with words about defending the country against tyranny, promising that liberty would be won by defeating enemies, both internal and external.

Rouget de Lisle debuted the song the next evening in the mayors home. Not a great musician, the mayor's wife filled out the harmony as she accompanied him at the keyboard. It was a hit. The song spread quickly through the contentious atmosphere of Strasbourg: the melody was familiar, and the words were easy to learn as well as inspirational. In a short time the song, the Chants de guerre pour l'Armee du Rhin, began traveling along the eastern frontier, becoming a symbol for the defense of France. But Parisians noted it with little enthusiasm when a company from Huningue (southern Alsace) introduced it.

However, the Parisians took note when a group of federalists from Marseilles sang the Chants de guerre as they marched toward Paris. And it was with that city that Parisians identified the song--La Marseillaise.

Perhaps it would be silly to complain about the title of the French national anthem--it would belong to the nation, not to Strasbourg and Alsace. Rouget de Lisle was not Alsatian by origin, although he showed the same sensibilities as an easterner.

The identification of the song with Marseilles rather than Strasbourg does say something about the perceptions that Frenchmen had of Alsatians. Because of differences language and customs, Alsatians were considered suspect. If all Frenchmen should speak French, then Alsace was in revolt.

These attitudes betrayed the patriotism of Alsatians, who were fierce defenders of the French Revolution and, especially, the Napoleonic Empire. They celebrated the nation built on rights that was born of the Revolution that would allow for cultural differences. Because they would not integrate, they were seen as turning their backs on France. The public memorial to General Jean-Basptiste Kleber was obstructed by successive French governments. Even their role in creating a national symbol has been denied to them in the popular consciousness. La Marseillaise was not composed in some non-place. It was the product of real circumstances; its popularity is due to the fears of people who could hear the drums of war. France would have problems acknowledging regional contributions to national culture--La Marseillaise is but one example.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Medieval Living and Style

The Washington Post has an article ("Medieval towns pray for a renaissance" (what a horrible title)) about the preservation efforts of rural and mountain towns in Italy. These towns, so far out of the way due to distance and geography, are having a hard time keeping their populations as people find more profitable places to work and live.
Marginal farmland, distance from cities, lack of jobs and the difficulties of maintaining cramped antique housing have driven off tens of thousands of inhabitants over the past century. The remaining population is mainly old and retired.

These remote towns have been emptied out and turned into ghost towns. People must travel in order to get some essential services.

Side note:(An old professor of mine, Roland Sarti, grew up in a similar town in the Apennines. He wrote a book about such town, Long Live the Strong. The towns never reached large populations, no more than 2,000, because they were nestled in among the mountains. However, they could be quite urban as everything needed to be at hand. The book is a good read.)

In an effort to attract permanent residents, towns such as Santo Stefano (the town highlighted in the article) are offering incentives to people to move from the city and establish themselves in these remote places. Some of these are obviously financial:
Last spring, a civic organization representing hamlets across Italy proposed a law that would offer tax incentives to people who move to endangered villages and that would provide financing for local governments to restore decaying buildings, streets and waterworks.

The cultural incentives are much more interesting: the allure of medieval living. The remote towns were never part of the post World War II prosperity that transformed Italy. They were never built up with modern architecture as many cities were, as Santo Stefano's mayor attests. Consequently, they offer a more genuine look at Italy:
This village missed the Italian building boom of the last many years ... That's a blessing. People who visit here will experience the true Italian landscape.

Santo Stefano has taken their efforts further, trying to recreate the atmosphere of the medieval community. They have been trying to hire people to come to serve as local artisans and craftsmen, recreating the perception of local autonomy and interdependence that once made communities so strong.
Town officials are scouring central Italy for people like her who practice rustic tasks: baking, carpentry, wool spinning and dying, and the cultivation of lentils, once a mainstay of Santo Stefano. They want to persuade them to return for good.

Life and Death on the Paris RER

The story about the Parisian woman who was accosted on the Paris regional train has caused quite a stir in both America and France. Her story appears to lack merit.

According to her testimony (and that of her traveling companion), she was accosted on the train by six men who appeared to be of North African origins. Rifling through he purse, they found an old address that said she had lived in the 16e arrondisement, which the men regarded as a Jewish neighborhood. They tore her clothes and drew a swastika on her belly and cut her hair with a knife.

But the police have found many reasons to doubt her report. No ticket agent has come forward to say that he or she helped the woman, as she claimed. The cameras do not show such a group of men entering the train. The call that she made to a friend to come pick her up was made at an earlier station than the one where the alleged attack took place. Finally, one witness claims that when the woman entered the train at the Louvres stop, her clothes were already torn.

Moreover, the woman appears inclined toward fabrication. She has made five reports since 1999 claiming she was attacked. None of them held water. Even worse, her own mother admits that her daughter is prone to tell stories. Ouch!

As I have written in other forums, the story of an antisemitic attack in France should call for both concern but also perspective. Antisemitism is on the rise in France. Every few months another Jewish cemetery in Alsace in desecrated. Recently, a Muslim cemetery was vandalized south of Strasbourg. The French, like many Americans, abhor hate crimes laws: they do not believe that the identity (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) of victims is an issue, and that all crimes are motivated by hate. Even if this attack were true, it was of limited scope. The violence did not rise to the level of the attacks on Matthew Sheppard or James Byrd. And in its origins, it would have been motivated by misogyny.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Boombox Parade

My wife and I spent Independence Day in Willimantic, CT to see the local "Boombox Parade". My wife is from the area, and I lived there briefly. The Boombox Parade is quirky local event that skirts the boundaries of good taste.

The Boombox Parade has its origins in parody. In 1986, the city of Willimantic did not have the money to put a marching band into its Independence Day Parade. Formerly the thread-making capital of the United States, Willimantic is a city that has had hard times for decades. A local woman, Kathy Clark, got the idea of having spectators bring their boomboxes, all tuned to the same radio station, playing patriotic music at full blast while a random assortment of people and groups march down the street. Her recent death was a focus for this year's event.

The parade is notorious for its irreverence and its controversy. Anyone who wants to can march (or drive) in the parade with anything that they want. The first year I saw the parade a local businessman wanted to display a statue of Lenin that came with a purchase of scrap metal. He wanted the statue to be a focus of mockery, but some local groups felt that it was still inappropriate for the parade, and he did not enter the statue. Last year a pro-marijuana group wanted to have a prominent display, causing another flurry of protests (don't know how that one turned out).

This year's parade may have had no controversy from the outside, but it was rife with oddities and biting satire. Several men dressed as cereal boxes. A few others drove their lawn mowers. One group put together a float of macabre horrors, including a bizarre scarecrow that on first sight looked like a lynched man. Many men chose the parade as an opportunity to show off their classic cars. Two men portrayed former Connecticut governor Rowland, who recently quit as charges of corruption swirled around his head; one of them dragged a pail behind him to represent the governor's ill-gotten hot tub. There were other political commentaries, but the right did not produce any of them. Local politicians from the two parties marched in the parade as well. Various community organizations and businesses also took the opportunity to promote themselves.

The best were those things dealing with the "Battle of the Frogs", an usual event from local ecological history. At the height of the battles with the French and the Indians, local residents shivered in terror one night as they heard thousands of screams echoing off the hills. When day broke, they found that thousands of frogs had died in agony as they searched for water as the ponds were drying up. According to local legend, the frogs fought each other. Frogs were everywhere in the parade, but two men took to reenacted the battle as a boxing match.  Posted by Hello

A new song in my mouth

Nyala’s Journal, a column in the New York Times, has an article about the role of female troubadours in the genocide taking place in Darfur.

The women singers, called hakamah, improvise their words and melodies as they sing, giving inspiration and solace to their audiences. The songs deal with various life events as well as war and bravery. But several hakamah have come to realize that their songs have given courage and zeal to the Arab militiamen who are driving the violence in Darfur.
Until recently, Fatima Mohamed Sanusi was one of those who used her melodious voice to stir up ferocity in the Arab militiamen. She is a hakamah, a traditional Sudanese singer, and war songs are just a small part of a repertory that includes songs of love, mourning and celebration. [S]he has sung of bravery and strength. She has sung of the need to stick up for the tribe. She has sung of the courageousness of past generations.

Her songs, and those of other hakamah, have had their intended effect ... After so much bloodshed, Ms. Sanusi and some of the other hakamah in Darfur say they [wish] they could take back their songs.

What is interesting in this story is that the women, realizing the power that they have to inspire action and comment on events, have decided to use their songs to criticize the actions of the Arab militiamen:
"My authority in the tribe is indirect," said Ms. Sanusi ... "I sit in the tribe and watch the people. If someone does something wrong, I say a poem about it. I change his attitude. If someone is not generous, if he keeps all his money to himself, I'll say something. If someone is not brave in war, I'll say something about him."

Sunday, July 11, 2004

We must fill this dumb continent

Tomorrow is the century of the birth of Pablo Neruda, perhaps the greatest poet of the mid-twentieth century, and certainly the greatest poet of the twentieth century to write in Spanish. Like many other writers from Latin America, his literary work combined with politics. He served his native Chile as a consul to various European countries, and also served as a Chilean senator until he was forced into exile because of his republicanism. The Spanish Civil war was for him, as for others, a watershed. However, Neruda never lost sensuality or corporality of his images, never hardened his poetry in the face of his political resolve.

Neruda was also an American poet--or rather a poet of the Americas. Neruda, in his diplomatic career, spent many years in Spain. He became aware of how empty the Americas were in a literary sense. Not a land empty of people, but silent without their words and heritage.

His collection Canto general tried to fill the poetic vacuum without displacing the people who came before. He ponders the silent ruins of Machu Picchu, the forgotten legacy of a great empire, and stares down upon the civilizations that have established themselves on the continents. Like many poets from the United States, his Americas have an intimate relationship with the ocean: the power of the ocean, his connection with the entire planet with the ocean. Later, Neruda reflected:
[W]e writers within the tremendously far-flung American region ... listen unceasingly to the call to fill this mighty void with beings of flesh and blood. We are conscious of our duty as fulfillers - at the same time we are faced with the unavoidable task of critical communication within a world which is empty and is not less full of injustices, punishments and sufferings because it is empty - and we feel also the responsibility for reawakening the old dreams which sleep in statues of stone in the ruined ancient monuments, in the wide-stretching silence in planetary plains, in dense primeval forests, in rivers which roar like thunder. We must fill with words the most distant places in a dumb continent and we are intoxicated by this task of making fables and giving names. This is perhaps what is decisive in my own humble case, and if so my exaggerations or my abundance or my rhetoric would not be anything other than the simplest of events within the daily work of an American.

In his lecture for the Nobel Prize Neruda desribed the journey that he took into exile. He described a trip over the Andes to find the place where Argentina began, where his country Chile ended. It reflected on the remoteness of life in South America and the remoteness of the border, the alienness of boundaries in an empty land, and the universality of human emotion:
[J]ust before we reached the frontier which was to divide me from my native land for many years, we came at night to the last pass between the mountains. Suddenly we saw the glow of a fire as a sure sign of a human presence, and when we came nearer we found some half-ruined buildings, poor hovels which seemed to have been abandoned. We went into one of them and saw the glow of fire from tree trunks burning in the middle of the floor, carcasses of huge trees, which burnt there day and night and from which came smoke that made its way up through the cracks in the roof and rose up like a deep-blue veil in the midst of the darkness. ...

Near the fire lay a number of men grouped like sacks. In the silence we could distinguish the notes of a guitar and words in a song which was born of the embers and the darkness, and which carried with it the first human voice we had encountered during our journey. It was a song of love and distance, a cry of love and longing for the distant spring, from the towns we were coming away from, for life in its limitless extent. These men did not know who we were, they knew nothing about our flight, they had never heard either my name or my poetry; or perhaps they did, perhaps they knew us? What actually happened was that at this fire we sang and we ate, and then in the darkness we went into some primitive rooms. Through them flowed a warm stream, volcanic water in which we bathed, warmth which welled out from the mountain chain and received us in its bosom.

[Personal note:] When I met woman who would become my wife, I knew little of the Spanish writers that intrugued her. I was still quite limited in imagination in my interest in German and Scandinavian writers. Neruda was the first Spanish-language poet that she introduced to me. Thank you, bunny.

Neruda site at University of Chile
Washington Post memorial
NY Times memorial

Saturday, July 10, 2004

New additions

I have taken some time to add a few more links to the blogroll. There are a few whereto I want to draw special attention.
  • Tim Lindgren, a graduate student at Boston College, is networking numerous blogs having to do with the broad category of place. His site, called The Where Project, is an extension of his own studies of blogs as places of technology. He allows and invites visitors to register and participate in his site.

    One nascent effort that Tim points out is Thingster, an effort to use blogging to create a body of knowlesge based on place (I'll let Tim explain).

  • The blog Rua de Judario has lots of in depth information about Portuguese and Jewish history, dealing especially with Conversos. Unfortunately, the blog is written in Portuguese, and reading it through the translation program can frustrate an otherwise rewarding entry.

  • I have to give big thanks to Geitner Simmons of Regions of Mind for giving me a glowing review. Welcome to all who visit.

  • I also must give tremendous thanks to Johno for dropping me a nice e-mail after reading my prospectus. Writing a dissertation is lonely business: I am gratified that someone took the time to learn about my research and to respond kindly to it.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Lazy Blogging

I keep forgetting to give a report on Willimantic's Boombox Parade, the most bizarre and irreverent Independence Day parade in the country. Hopefully this picture will wet the appetite. I also have some stuff planned for the century of Pablo Neruda, the Alsatian origins of "La Marseilles" (which is to say, it was not written in Marseilles), and a post on how the genocide in Rwanda turned into a regional war.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Delayed, Rain

We went to one of the days of the Vintage Baseball tournament in Hartford. I won't give a long report. However, the heavy rains put a big damper on the games and dispersed the crowd.

Zzzzz ....

I don't like to talk about campaign politics here, but I must express my displeasure with Kerry's choice of Edwards for a running mate. With all respect to Edwards' abilities, this pick is about style over substance, and it sends the message that Kerry will not challenge Republicans on foreign and defense policy as vigorously as he promised.

First, Kerry should have stayed clear of the other primary candidates. Associating with them doesn't give enough distance between the national campaign and that fratricidal infighting that occurred earlier this year. Kerry should have made a clean break from the past. The national campaign should look fresh; they should not look like a high school reunion.

Second, and most importantly, Kerry should have picked someone with a foreign policy vision. Edwards doesn't have one. Unless Kerry comes up with a comprehensive plan to fight al-Quaeda, the ticket won't have a vision. Immediately Edwards' six years on the intelligence committee was spun as experience. Just enough experience. JUST ENOUGH. This already sounds like a meek surrender in the elections most compelling issue. Rather than we have a better vision, we get we have some experience.

Since the moment is over, I won't talk about the governor whom I preferred (or why I was not supporting Wes as VP). I think that Kerry could have carried the party's domestic agenda on his own. I can say from first-hand experience that Kerry's relationships with firefighters and policemen is impressive--he gets them motivated for his cause. His running mate should have talked to issues that Cheney has been most involved: war (or energy). He or she needs to be able to debate foreign relations and security in specifics. Edwards had nothing to say about FP when I saw him speak in Keene; he avoided the subject like the plague. Perhaps Kerry will give Edwards a tutor.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Crisis of Urban Housing in France

According to reports by the French government, there is a deficit of 400,000 to 600,000 dwellings in French cities. For various reasons, the number of apartments (which in France would mean that it is for rent or purchase) that are available has diminished, and the cost of housing has skyrocketed. Consequently, people with moderate incomes and those who are younger must find accommodations outside of the cities, in the suburbs (banlieu) or even in rural areas. As a result, “hundreds of thousands of households are at pains to find a roof over their heads,” and the city-country divide is being undermined.

The reasons for the housing deficit are complex. First, about which I have already written, the French mayors can determine land use. They tend to prefer construction of commercial buildings rather than housing because the former brings in taxes rather than demands services. The cost of land for residences has increased, driving up the cost of construction. Some cities are tearing down apartment blocs that are considered eyesores, but the pace of demolition is much faster than construction.

Second, there has been an acceleration in the purchase of apartments that is out of step with the economic conditions in France. For the first four years of the period in question, France experienced some robust growth that fueled home purchases. In the last two, the economy has not performed as well, but housing purchases have become more numerous. One reason has to do with couples who are nearing retirement. Fearing they will be shut out of the cities, older couples have been buying up property. Since the start of 2004, the velocity of purchases has accelerated.

Third, social programs for housing are being depleted by the rise in costs. Rather than using the money to build new apartments, the French housing authority (HLM) wastes its budget supplementing the incomes of workers, who spend 40% of their income on rent.

Over the last several years, the cost of housing in French cities has risen at an alarming rate. In 2003, the cost of purchasing an apartment increased by 14.2%, a house 10.6%. Over six years the costs of both increased by more than fifty percent. More workers must find affordable housing outside of the city, even in villages that cannot stand the pressure of non-integrated population growth.

The problem can be more acute in certain areas of France. Paris is obviously a popular place to live and work, and costs are always high. But border areas of France are also experiencing booms in population from foreigners. Germans from Baden-Wurtemberg settle in Alsatian cities and commute across the river. The same thing is happening in the Alpine regions: Swiss citizens choose to live in the small cities and towns of Savoy but continue to work in Lausanne. The costs of homes in Savoy have increased faster than those in Paris.

In these border cases, the Germans and Swiss take advantage of housing prices that are much lower in France than they are in their native countries. In Savoy, the Swiss citizens come across the border with salaries that are much higher than what Frenchmen earn in the region. They also take advantage of the strength of the Swiss Franc vis-a-vis the Euro. New construction around the Alps is limited due to geological limitations and environmental law. Even without limitations, the small cities and towns of Savoy don’t have sufficient resources (spatial and financial) to construct new housing. The increase in housing costs have priced out average Frenchmen, leaving the Swiss as the only people who can afford to buy homes.

The government is attempting to deal with the problem by putting more financing into construction of “social accommodations” (called the Plan Borloo). They hope to build 120,000 apartments each year over five years, and to provide money to create emergency housing for the short-term. What is not yet clear is how the Plan Borloo will play in the cities: mayors have resisted building housing by their own efforts, why would they allow the central government to take over this area?

Porous Borders

Jeremy Black says that European states attempted to consolidate their sovereignty behind well-defined borders between themselves and other states (kicking out foreign princes who might have a claim on some piece of territory). Unfortunately, creating these well-defined borders meant that they gave up on expanding within Europe (imperialism was therefore projected outside of Europe, especially into Africa).

Territorial integration was an obsession for France. Lacking representative institutions like Britain, the borders of the territory–represented by the mystical hexagonne (seeing as France looks vaguely like an irregular hexagon)–took on greater importance. During the reign of Louis XIV the hexagon had one “open side” in the East: he hoped to expand his rule all the way to the Rhine River. To this end, French rule in Alsace was left vague (defined as a territory of the king rather than part of the country), and policies that were implemented in the interior were not on the other side of the Vosges Mountains in Alsace. As Louis XIV instructed, “Don’t meddle in the affairs of Alsace!”

However, the dream of expanding at the expense of the German principalities and archbishoprics of the Holy Roman Empire faded, and French monarchs were faced with the dilemma of incorporating “l’Est” (Alsace as well as Franche-Comte and Lorraine) into France and making the border with Germany permanent.

The border was always more porous than French governments would want. Alsace was always open to the movement of people, goods and ideas along the Rhine (and sometimes across it). By the eighteenth century, the French cities on the Rhine were already tied into overland trade between Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. Strasbourg profited from the commerce between United Provinces, Switzerland and Italy. Colmar was a center for the movement of Alsatian wines into Europe.

The Strasbourgeoisie relished their role in the geography of philosophy: they promoted “a city of ideas in France” that was open to philosophical thought produced in “the north”. The university brought in Germans from throughout the empire to study at the university. They were men who wanted to experience French ideas and language in a forgiving environment. I have already written somewhat about the circle of German writers who formed around Goethe and Lenz, founding the Sturm und Drang. The circulation of people continued as long as Alsace was part of France: Joseph Ludwig Colmar became the Bishop of Speyer and became an important figure in the restoration of Catholicism in Germany. Ketzinger, the future mayor of Strasbourg and prefect of Bas-Rhin, was a refugee in Koblenz and, ironically, played both sides of the Revolution as he worked for both Napoleon and Metternich.

During the Revolution, geography magnified these characteristics of Alsace but also placed it in a precarious position. Strasbourg was the entry point for Revolutionary ideas into the German world. Strasbourg had early connections to the Jacobin Republic of Mainz, the two being “sister cities in revolution”. Several German refugees used Strasbourg as a place from which to print pamphlets for distribution in their home towns. But Alsace was also under constant threat of war. Strasbourg was used as a staging ground for French forces to attack into the Rhine. The eastern frontier was threatened continuously with invasion from Austria and Prussia from the north.

After the defeat of Napoleon’s empire, France grappled more directly with the ambiguous borders of Alsace. The Bourbon and Orleans monarchies attempted to cleave Alsace to France economically by cutting off its ties with Germany. At various times, the movement of goods between Alsace and Germany was restricted and prohibited. Embargoes were deleterious for the Alsatian economy, which depended on commerce. In particular, Alsatians relied on food stuffs produced across the river in Swabia for both nourishment and to supply various industries in luxury foods. The results were riots and the profiting of smuggling.

French officials had difficulties preventing the entry of revolutionaries and their ideas into Alsace. The departments were inundated by rumors–nouvelles absured–that came from foreign newspapers that came from Germany and Switzerland. False information was spread about the return of Napoleon or such-and-such plan to annex Alsace. The prefects failed to prevent the entry of German papers or to introduce news from the interior.

German political refugees poured in. Refugees used Strasbourg, as before, as a staging ground for further agitation. One of them, Joseph Goerres, alarmed the French because of his writings (perhaps because of a pamphlet wherein he dreamed of a united Rhenish Republic that would include Alsace). Mayor Ketzinger had to vouch for him. Other Germans found there way to Strasbourg in the 1920s, in particular Friedrich List (nationalist economist) and Charles Follen (who would have a career in American politics)([On edit]: Follen became an educator in Massachusetts, setting up a German-style Gymmasium in Northampton).

Alsatians played this game as well, exporting revolution to German states. Several newspapers printed news for German readers that would be censored by German papers . University students were arrested for seditious activities in German cities. French officials tried to stop the revolutionary activities of Alsatians in Germany, but to know avail.

At least one official tried to put these activities in context. The prefect of the police recognized that politics in Strasbourg and other cities was directly affected by things that happened in Germany, but they were manifested differently because the political contexts of the two countries were different:
The movement in Germany toward representative ideas is related to the political discussion in Strasbourg, with the essential difference that, in this city, one wants only to preserve constitutional government, whereas in Germany one clamors to establish it.

Alsace could not help but be affected by the political events in Germany, and it had a stake in their outcome. But there were few official who recognized that Alsace was in two worlds–one on the periphery of France, the other German–and even fewer who tried to affect policy to account for this reality. The vision of territorial integrity of France would not allow for such porous borders.

French policies over the border affected the worldview of Alsatians. Unwilling to be Frenchmen on the frontier, they cultivated a sense of being at the center of Europe, a conceit that held some truth. Alsatians started to see themselves as the bridge between Western Civilization and the rest of Europe. Alsatians would not be the only ones who would develop this attitude: the bourgeoisie of other Rhenish cities would do the same. But they had similar experiences of living profitably from the border but being handicapped politically by the policies of their faraway capitals.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Can't see it through the buildings

The Cologne Dom (cathedral) is in danger of losing its place in UNESCO because of construction on the other side of the river. The proposed construction (described as Hochhaeuser) would disturb the classic silhouette of the cathedral against the skyline of Cologne. At its meeting in China, UNESCO put the Dom on its red list of endangered buildings, meaning that it could drop the Dom from the organization as a world heritage site.

As I have mentioned in other posts, the Dom was greatly appreciated for its place within the overall landscape of the city and the surrounding area--even before it was completed, it was reputed for the way of broke the horizon over the Rhine River. Most travelers of the nineteenth century would reach the city by the evening, seeing the huge structure against the early evening sky. Hugo mentions the silhouette frequently. Even more importantly, it was used in many German images (photographs and paintings) in order to inject a shot of spirituality and history to contemporary subjects. If the development goes forward, perhaps it should lose its place in UNESCO. Imagine if the Lincoln Memorial were surrounded by high-rise apartments.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Mice that roared

Deutsche Welle has a look at some of the micro-states in Europe and other odd-ball territories , most of which are not part of the EU. Here are some of the more interesting ones:
  • Andorra, the little ski paradise in the Pyrenees, was ruled by the President of France and a Spanish bishop until the seventies. After a parliament established, the two "co-princes" continued to serve as heads of state.

  • Gibraltar remains a British possession, despite an agreement between Britain and Spain, because the majority of the residents did not want joint rule.

  • Kalingrad is a small Russian enclave on the Baltic that is threatened with being swallowed up be neighboring Poland and Lithuanian. The economic and diplomatic costs of keeping it connected to Russia are high.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Mad Ludwig

Ludwig II, the king of Bavaria, (German website by the Bavarian state) was just one in a line of crazy Wittelsbach monarchs who went off on strange tangents, leaving the kingdom to be run by surrogates. Whereas his father was forced to abdicate because of his affair with American-born actress Lola Montez, "mad Ludwig" built extravagant castles and palaces. The most elaborate was the mountain-top castle Neuschwanstein.

A German professor, examining records of Ludwig, has diagnosed him with "compulsive castle-building syndrome".
[Ludwig] squandered a royal fortune due to a particular form of megalomania, according to Professor Heinz Häfner, founder of the Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim, a compulsion to build castle after castle after castle. He came to this conclusion upon studying the secret archives of Prince Franz of Bavaria, a descendant of King Ludwig ... The king would get a craving to build, turn all restless and excited, and could only be calmed by drawing up plans and visiting the construction site. After a period of satisfaction, the cycle would start all over again.

Random Notes July 2

  • Before you all go off on your camp-outs, cook-outs, and other soirees: Happy Independence Day

  • Brdgt (the angry/crafty girl) notes research into the possible presence of humans in the Americas 20,000 years ago. As she explains in her comments, this research is controversial because:
    [the] existence of pre-Clovis cultures would mean that the first people came to the Americas not by the Bering Land Bridge, but some other way (boats for example - explaining how they could go all the way down the coast to Chile.)

  • Geitner Simmons highlights a book about the reputation that Kansas received in the 1920s for its involvement in moral reform at the national level:
    The 18th Amendment -- the prohibition amendment -- was dubbed the "Kansas Idea" by some wags[.]

  • Language Hat notes that the century old Jewish Encyclopedia has become public domain and is online--perhaps an interesting research tool for Judaism and Zionism.

  • Somewhere along the line I lost a link to an article in the LA Times from the last month about the difficulties that the Lubavitcher Hasidim are having getting over the death of Schneerson--there are people who still think that he is Moshiach, despite being dead.