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    Ambrose Bierce, ‘Fantastic Fables’

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 8th September 2013 (All posts by )

    From the ‘Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce’, Volume 6 some ‘Fantastic Fables’:

    A Hunter who had lassoed a Bear was trying to disengage himself from the rope, but the slip-knot about his wrist would not yield, for the Bear was all the time pulling in the slack with his paws. In the midst of his trouble the Hunter saw a Showman passing by and managed to attract his attention.
    “What will you give me,” he said, “for my Bear?”
    “It will be some five or ten minutes,” said the Showman, “before I shall want a bear, and it looks to me as if prices would fall during that time. I think I’ll wait and watch the market.”
    “The price of this animal,” the Hunter replied, “is down to bed-rock; you can have him for a cent a pound, spot cash, and I’ll throw in the next one that I lasso. But the purchaser must remove the goods from the premises forthwith, to make room for three man-eating tigers, a cat-headed gorilla and an armful of rattlesnakes.”
    But the Showman passed on in maiden meditation, fancy free, and being joined soon afterward by the Bear, who was absently picking his teeth, it was inferred that they were not unacquainted.
    “My boy,” said an aged Father to his fiery and disobedient Son, “a hot temper is the soil of remorse. Promise me that when next you are angry you will count one hundred before you move or speak.”
    No sooner had the Son promised than he received a stinging blow from the paternal walking-stick, and by the time he had counted to seventy-five had the unhappiness to see the old man jump into a waiting cab and whirl away.
    A Moral Principle met a Material Interest on a bridge wide enough for but one.
    “Down, you base thing!” thundered the Moral Principle, “and let me pass over you!”
    The Material Interest merely looked in the other’s eyes without saying anything.
    “Ah,” said the Moral Principle, hesitatingly, “let us draw lots to see which one of us shall retire till the other has crossed.”
    The Material Interest maintained an unbroken silence and an unwavering stare.
    “In order to avoid a conflict,” the Moral Principle resumed, somewhat uneasily, “I shall myself lie down and let you walk over me.”
    Then the Material Interest found his tongue. “I don’t think you are very good walking,” he said. “I am a little particular about what I have underfoot. Suppose you get off into the water.”
    It occurred that way.

    Bierce’s contemporaries weren’t used to this kind of cynicism and sarcasm, so they gave him the moniker ‘The bitter Bierce‘.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, History, Human Behavior, Humor, USA | 2 Comments »

    Max von Oppenheim, German counterpart to Lawrence of Arabia

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 29th August 2013 (All posts by )

    Max von Oppenheim was a German ancient historian, and archaeologist who also worked as a diplomat and spy for the German Empire during the First World War. In those latter two capacities, he basically tried to incite Jihad against the Entente powers. From Wikipedia:

    During World War I, Oppenheim led the Intelligence Bureau for the East and was closely associated with German plans to initiate and support a rebellion in India and in Egypt. In 1915 Henry McMahon reported that Oppenheim had been encouraging the massacre of Armenians in Mosques.[12]
    Oppenheim had been called to the Wilhelmstrasse from his Kurfurstendamm flat on 2 August 1914 and given the rank of Minister of Residence. He began establishing Berlin as a centre for pan-Islamic propaganda publishing anti-Entente texts. On August 18 1914 he wrote to Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg to tell him that Germany must arm the Muslim brotherhoods of Libya, Sudan and Yemen and fund Arab exile pretenders like the deposed Egyptian Khedive, Abbas Hilmi. He believed Germany must incite anti-colonial rebellion in French North Africa and Russian Central Asia and incite Habibullah Khan, the Emir of Afghanistan, to invade British India at the head of an Islamic army.[13] Oppenheim’s Exposé Concerning the Revolutionizing of the Islamic territories of our enemies contained holy war propaganda and ‘sketched out a blueprint for a global jihad engulfing hundreds of millions of people’. Armenians and Maronite Christians were dismissed as Entente sympathizers, quite useless to Germany nicht viel nutzen konnen. [14]

    Because Germany was not an Islamic power the war on the Entente powers needed to be ‘endorsed with the seal of the Sultan-Caliph’ and on 14 November 1914 in a ceremony at Fatih Mosque the first ever global jihad had been inaugurated. The impetus for this move came from the German government, which subsidized distribution of the Ottoman holy war fetvas, and most of the accompanying commentaries from Muslim jurists, and Oppenheim’s jihad bureau played a significant role. By the end of November 1914 the jihad fetvas had been translated into French, Arabic, Persian and Urdu.[15] Thousands of pamphlets emerged under Oppenheim’s direction in Berlin at this period and his Exposé declared that, “the blood of infidels in the Islamic lands may be shed with impunity”, the “killing of the infidels who rule over the Islamic lands” , meaning British, French, Russian, and possibly Dutch and Italian nationals, had become ” a sacred duty”. And Oppenheim’s instructions, distinct from traditional ‘jihad by campaign’ led by the Caliph, urged the use of ‘individual Jihad’, assassinations of Entente officials with ‘cutting, killing instruments’ and ‘Jihad by bands’,- secret formations in Egypt, India and Central Asia.[16]
    “During the First World War, he worked in the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, where he founded the so-called “message Centre for the Middle East”, as well as at the German Embassy in Istanbul. He sought to mobilize the Islamic population of the Middle East against England during the war and can be seen thus almost as a German counterpart to Lawrence of Arabia. The AA pursued a strategy of Islamic revolts in the colonial hinterland of the German enemy. The spiritual father of this double approach, the war first, by troops on the front line and secondly by people’s rebellion “in depth” was by Oppenheim.”[citation needed]
    The German adventurer met with very little success in World War I. To this day, the British see him as a “master spy” because he founded the magazine El Jihad in 1914 in an effort to incite the Arabs to wage a holy war against the British and French occupiers in the Middle East. But his adversary Lawrence of Arabia, whom he knew personally, was far more successful at fomenting revolts.[17]

    Lawrence of Arabia, aka T. E. Lawrence was successful because he didn’t appeal to religious fervor, but rather to the far more basic sentiment of ethnic solidarity against an oppressor of different ethnic origin. In other words, the Arabs cared far more about their struggle against the Turkish Empire than they did about religion, leave alone jihad.

    Posted in Britain, Christianity, Europe, France, Germany, History, International Affairs, Middle East, Military Affairs, Religion, Russia, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Ivan Aivazovsky, naval painter

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 25th August 2013 (All posts by )

    Ivan Aivazovsky (1817 – 1900) was in his time famous around the world, and deservedly so.

    This picture is about the Battle of Navarino in 1827. There are others at the Wikipedia page on Aivazovsky and a lot more at Wikimedia Commons.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Military Affairs, Russia | 6 Comments »

    ‘Tower clocks’, by Seth Thomas Clock Co.

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 18th August 2013 (All posts by )

    This is am image taken from a book on tower clocks, published in 1911. The book itself is from the Building Technology Heritage Library at the Internet Archive.

    The apparatus above, from page 34, powers both the dial and bells of a tower clock. The opening in the floor is for a pendulum of about 175 lbs. I find the image much more striking (pun quite intended) than those of the exterior, dials and all, of tower clocks. Besides the handsome illustrations, the book offers technical details and a description of the operation of tower clocks. There also is a directory of the companies installed tower clocks in 1911, as well as testimonials by satisfied customers.

    If you are interested in historical buildings and / or engineering this book is for you.

    Posted in Architecture, Book Notes, History | 5 Comments »

    Some posts from Tumblr blogs

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 17th August 2013 (All posts by )

    Just some posts I found amusing:

    Busy kitten

    Japanese fantasy movies seem quite weird

    There actually is a preview of ‘Kill Bill’ in ‘Pulp Fiction’

    Some cute bats

    Posted in Diversions, Film, Humor | 5 Comments »

    ‘Unseen World War I photos’

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 9th August 2013 (All posts by )

    I am posting these images with the kind permission from Dean Putney.

    Dean Putney, a software developer at boing boing, is currently busy scanning in and publishing pictures from a family heirloom – a photo album with a huge number of photographs from World War I. They were taken by his great-grandfather Walter Koessler, who served as an officer in the German army during the war. Koessler later emigrated to the United States, where he worked as an art director at movie studios, even though he was trained as an architect.

    The images are posted at his Tumblr blog, Walter Koessler project. A selection also has been posted at boing boing.

    While there are a great many images from WW I, these are quite unique. As he writes at his blog:

    1 Walter was German, and he was an independent photographer. Most surviving photos from the war are from the Allies, and they tend to be propaganda or journalistic. Walter’s photos are very personal.

    Photography was going through big changes at the time, and Walter was a major early adopter. Film cameras were fairly new, and he took his in the trenches and everywhere else. WWI saw the first major use of airplanes in war, and Walter took aerial reconnaissance photos from biplanes and hot air balloons.

    He has a project at Kickstarter to publish the images in high quality form, and most importantly, as a coherent collection.

    If you want to contribute, pledges start at a $1 minimum.

    Posted in Europe, Germany, History, Photos | 9 Comments »

    Happy new Year!

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 1st January 2013 (All posts by )

    Be of good cheer, what can possibly go wrong with a year that has a 13 in it? I mean, the Mayan Apocalypse wasn`t that bad either, now was it? Most likely because there are just trace elements of the Mayans left, but still…

    Posted in Holidays | 2 Comments »

    Player characters and player avatars in roleplaying games

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 12th February 2012 (All posts by )

    Via Rock, Paper, Shotgun I found this on characters of roleplaying games (RPGs): RPG Style: Analyzing the Structure of RPG Protagonists.

    A player character:

    For as much as a role-playing game Human Revolution is, it’s difficult to truly play it as a role-playing game. Every bit of dialogue that grates with my ideal is jarring, and snaps me back out of the magical game-world where player and character are the same. I found myself dreading dialogue options: Would choosing this option make Jensen look like some faceless arm of a crime syndicate instead of a person who merely weighs options to find the most logical one? Should I find a bag of puppies for him to oppress?

    The problem is that Jensen is not me. He can’t be the character I envision in my head, no matter how much I try. He is his own character, an entity wholly separate from me. I am just the invisible hand telling him which baddies to shoot and what to say in conversation.

    as opposed to a player avatar:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Tech | 15 Comments »

    The ‘Building Technology Heritage Library’ at the Internet Archive

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 2nd February 2012 (All posts by )

    The cover of a trade catalog about the practice of graining, which was common in the 19th century.

    To make sure that past designs and practices aren’t forgotten, the people at the Internet Archive have founded a collection called the Building Technology Heritage Library:

    The Building Technology Heritage Library (BTHL) is primarily a collection of American and Canadian, pre-1964 architectural trade catalogs, house plan books and technical building guides. Trade catalogs are an important primary source to document past design and construction practices. These materials can aid in the preservation and conservation of older structures as well as other research goals.

    The BTHL contains materials from various private and institutional collections. These materials are rarely available in most architectural and professional libraries. The first major architectural trade catalog collection is that of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, which encompasses more that 4,000 catalogs from the early 19th century through 1963. In addition to the architectural trade catalogs, the initial contributions include a large number of house plan catalogs, which will be of great interest to owners of older homes. The future growth of the Building Technology Heritage Library will also include contemporary materials on building conservation.

    Posted in Advertising, Architecture, History | 2 Comments »

    The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 26th January 2012 (All posts by )

    This is a delightful little movie by Moonbot Studios.

    From the movie’s description at the Vimeo page:

    Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story. Using a variety of techniques (miniatures, computer animation, 2D animation) award winning author/ illustrator William Joyce and Co-director Brandon Oldenburg present a new narrative experience that harkens back to silent films and M-G-M Technicolor musicals. “Morris Lessmore” is old fashioned and cutting edge at the same time.

    “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” is one of five animated short films that will be considered for outstanding film achievements of 2011 in the 84th Academy Awards ®.

    Film Awards Won by “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
    To date, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” film has drummed up fans all over the world taking home the following awards:
    · Cinequest Film Fest: Best Animated Short
    · Palm Springs International ShortFest: Audience Favorite Award
    · SIGGRAPH: Best in Show

    I still can’t seem to center images or videos in WordPress, at least not easily. When I save a post, WordPress simply removes the ‘center’ tags. With images I can work around the problem by putting the HTML code for a table into the post. Inside the cells of a table, WordPress will leave the ‘center’ tags alone. I don’t want to do this with a video like this, for I’m not sure if I won’t mess up the look of the blog if I make it too wide.

    Posted in Diversions, Video | 3 Comments »

    Dear Year 2012,

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 1st January 2012 (All posts by )

    we wish you a warm welcome! Nevertheless we’ll keep a close eye on you. We hope you won’t mind. Your predecessor had some issues, such as earthquakes, famines, nuclear disasters etc., etc., so we are a bit wary at this point.

    But don’t let that put you off! Just relax, be yourself and things should turn out alright. Or else.

    Kind regards

    Ralf Goergens
    p. p. Everybody else

    Posted in Announcements, Humor | 1 Comment »

    San Francisco 1906, before the earthquake and subsequent fire

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 29th December 2011 (All posts by )

    A trip down Market Street before the fire, on April 15th, 1906:

    This is from the Prelinger Archives, which were acquired by the Library of Congress and also are part of the Internet Archive.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Architecture, History, Video | 15 Comments »

    A great timelapse video

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 28th December 2011 (All posts by )

    Via the planet5D blog:

    “Landscapes: Volume Two” by Dustin Farrell

    Landscapes: Volume Two from Dustin Farrell on Vimeo.

    If you have a fast enough computer, you might want to view it in full screen.

    You can find more timelapse videos by him here.

    Posted in Video | 8 Comments »

    Merry Christmas!

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 24th December 2011 (All posts by )

    I wish my fellow Chicagoboyz (who thankfully haven`t had me hauled in for being AWOL yet, although they have every reason to [I`ll come in from the cold sooner or later, but not just now]) and our readers a Merry Christmas.

    P.S: Don`t let the aniti-capitalist message of Charles Dickens` “A Christmas Carol” get to you.

    P.P.S: I missed Thanksgiving, so consequently also didn`t wish you all a Happy Same. To make up for my oversight, I`ll paraphrase Ludwig Wittgenstein in wishing you all the very essence of turkeyness for the rest of your lifes (if and when you want it, that is – I`ll leave coercion to agents of the state).

    Posted in Holidays | 11 Comments »

    Thought for the day

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 12th November 2011 (All posts by )

    Fatalists become the first fatalities

    Posted in Human Behavior | 3 Comments »

    ‘The French Revolution’ by Thomas Carlyle

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 2nd November 2011 (All posts by )

    In my previous post I had linked to the Internet Archive.

    I recommend one book that you’ll find there, The French Revolution by the historian and satirical writer Thomas Carlyle. Besides the HTML version the IA also offers the book in a number of other formats.

    Carlyle’s prose is very much a matter of taste. If you are interested in the subject matter and enjoy his eccentric and heavily metaphorical style of writing you are in for a real treat.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, France, History | 9 Comments »

    The Internet Archive

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 2nd November 2011 (All posts by )

    I am bit surprised the the Internet Archive isn’t much more well-known.

    From their mission statement:

    The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library. Its purposes include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format. Founded in 1996 and located in San Francisco, the Archive has been receiving data donations from Alexa Internet and others. In late 1999, the organization started to grow to include more well-rounded collections. Now the Internet Archive includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages in our collections, and provides specialized services for adaptive reading and information access for the blind and other persons with disabilities.

    Just follow the links in the quote above and you’ll find an incredible amount of each of the mentioned media.

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Film, Music, Science | 5 Comments »

    Alfons Maria Mucha (aka Alphonse Mucha)

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 28th October 2011 (All posts by )

    The source of this image is the Wikimedia Commons. Muchas works entered the public domain in 2010, for he died in 1939 and the copyright expired seventy years after the death of the creator.

    The image above is from the Czech art noveau painter and decorative artist Alfons Maria Mucha (known in English as Alphonse Mucha). A list of his works can be found here. I especially like his stained glass window for the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 5 Comments »

    Frohes Erntedankfest!

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 25th November 2010 (All posts by )

    Or in your vernacular, ‘Happy Thanksgiving!’ Either way, I am happy to second Helen’s good wishes.

    Posted in Holidays | 8 Comments »

    Happy Independence Day

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 3rd July 2010 (All posts by )

    I second Helen’s good wishes. Have a happy Independence Day.

    Even so, I should mention that I am still a little sore that you had to go and secede from such a nice German fellow as George III., of all people. I hope you won’t mind when I sulk a bit while you celebrate.

    Fortunately, there’s a cure for that. Please excuse me while I withdraw to provide a substantial stimulus to the American bourbon industry in your honor…

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, History, USA | 9 Comments »

    On German-language newspapers in pre-US* America

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 27th October 2008 (All posts by )

    * Or at least before America officially became the United States of America

    David writes here about Sgt. Mom’s intriguing trilogy of books on German settlers in Texas and their influence, cultural and otherwise, on the state of Texas.

    I couldn’t possibly do the subject, much less the lovely and erudite Sgt. Mom, any justice on this short notice. So here are just two somewhat surprising facts about a (kind of) related subject, i.e, the German-language press in America:

    – In 1732, Benjamin Franklin published the Philadelphische Zeitung, the first German-language newspaper in North America. Unfortunately it only lasted for two issues.

    – On July 5 1776, The Pennsylvanischer Staatsbote was the first newspaper to report the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

    PS: Some years ago, Sgt. Mom was kind of enough to mail me the recipe for some delicious caramel. I’ve made it several times since then (maybe a bit more often than my waistline can take, but it sure is worth it :)

    Posted in Germany, History, Media, USA | 3 Comments »

    ‘The customer is not always right’

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 4th September 2008 (All posts by )

    Grannies: Gotta Love ‘Em:

    (A new employee informs me that she spotted a little boy sneaking some candy in his pants. I confront the boy and an older woman about it.)

    Me: “Excuse me, ma’am. Hey, kiddo, what’s in your pocket?”

    Boy: “Nothing!”

    Granny: “Oh, h***, again?! Boy, if you don’t put that d***ed candy back, that lady gonna call the po-po on you! And I ain’t gonna stop her none.”

    (The boy, crying, hands me 2 candy bars and a handful of suckers. I thank the lady, and get back to work. A few minutes later, the boy’s mother comes up to me.)

    Read the rest, it’s worth it :)

    Posted in Customer Service | 3 Comments »

    ‘Post Mortem’

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 30th August 2008 (All posts by )

    There’s at least one blog for everything, and it turns out that the Washinton Post actually has an obituary blog, called ‘Post Mortem‘.

    Some interesting ones:

    Is God Dead?:

    In 1966, Time magazine ran a provocative cover with the bold question, “Is God Dead?” The story led to sharp backlash from social conservatives and sparked a public debate about philosophy and religion. The editor responsible for that story, Otto Fuerbringer, has died at 97, and his obituary is in today’s (Friday’s) Post.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Commiserations, Obits | Comments Off on ‘Post Mortem’

    Post-war East Germany was no safe place for Jews

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 18th August 2008 (All posts by )

    As an exhibition in Berlin earlier this year demonstrated, Jewish Communists returning from exile to the Soviet occupied part of Germany were confronted with prejudice and suspicion and sometimes even had to fear for their lives. The exhibition was located in the rebuilt Neue Synagogue (New Synagogue) and curated by the Centrum Judaicum Foundation, in cooperation with the historian Andreas Weigelt, who is attending to the documentation center for the former concentration camp Lieberose.

    Called “Zwischen Bleiben und Gehen” (“Between Staying and Going”), the exhibition documented the lives of 10 Jewish men and women in the post-war Soviet occupied zone, later East Germany:

    Nelhans’ fate was especially tragic. Having survived the war underground in Berlin, he helped found a Jewish community in East Berlin in late 1945, only to be arrested in 1948 by the NKVD, the Soviet secret service – allegedly for helping Jewish Red Army soldiers escape to Palestine.

    Jailed for 25 years by a military court, he died in a Soviet labor camp in 1950, aged 51. Some 47 years later the Russian military authorities conceded Nelhans had been falsely convicted and ordered his posthumous rehabilitation.

    The East-West propaganda battle began immediately after the war. The Communist Party loudly trumpeted its view that East Germany was innocent of the evil Nazi past.

    Stalinist party purges in Eastern Europe, accompanied by anti-Semitic show trials in Prague and Budapest sparked fear among Jews in East Berlin.

    Jews who were communist party members often found themselves accused of being “Zionist agents” or “Jewish nationalists” at a time when the communist Eastern bloc was supporting Arab states in their conflict with Israel.

    The website of the Centrum Judaicum itself currently has no information on this exhibition, but here is some English language information on two other past exhibitions: Pioneers in Celluloid: Jews in Early Cinema and Relatively Jewish. Albert Einstein – Jew, Zionist, Nonconformist.

    Some more pictures of the Neue Synagoge can be found here.

    Posted in Germany, History, Judaism | 20 Comments »

    Conservative British think tank: Abandon Liverpool

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 14th August 2008 (All posts by )

    This from the Times:

    David Cameron has been embarrassed by his favourite think-tank after it suggested that Liverpool, Sunderland and Bolton should be abandoned because the North would never improve.

    The Tory leader, who begins a two-day tour of the North today, firmly rejected a report by Policy Exchange, which suggested that the Government should help northerners to relocate to Oxford and Cambridge. It suggested that Britain’s two university towns are likely to be able to “form the basis of strong, successful, substantial cities”.

    “No one is suggesting that residents should be forced to move, but we do argue that they should be told the reality of the position: regeneration, in the sense of convergence, will not happen, because it is not possible.”

    and this from the BBC:

    The Policy Exchange report said coastal cities like Sunderland and Liverpool had “lost much of their raison d’etre”.

    It said the largest coastal cities like Liverpool and Hull had built up for reasons that had since disappeared – like ship building.

    Policy Exchange, a registered charity, has been described as Mr Cameron’s favourite think tank. But Mr Cameron, who will be keen to minimise any embarrassment as he tries to gain ground in traditional Labour heartlands, distanced himself from the organisation’s findings on Wednesday, saying the report was “insane”.

    “I think the idea that cities can’t regenerate themselves, they were built for one purpose and can’t do another purpose, is just nonsense.

    He is certainly right about that. If those cities turn out to be unable to reinvent themselves, they are going to wither away in the long run, but chances are that they are going to be able to adapt and prosper. There are a lot of formerly decrepit cities around the world that have done just that. This think tank seems to have lost contact to reality.

    Posted in Civil Society, Politics, Urban Issues | 5 Comments »