Saturday, March 3, 2018

Urban moons - 2

This is also: Particles of deep topography nr. 32.

I am fascinated by the moon observed from city streets. This is an imperfect observation. There is light pollution and rooftops get in the way. Streetlights and billboards mingle with the sky objects. But I like this imperfection. I'm happy with the reflections of sunlight from office windows and with multiple moons as seen through glass. Almost as strange as lost Carcosa.
The conjunction of a streetlamp, the moon and Jupiter.
Rotterdam evening on 19 December 2013, 21:28.
Along the shore the cloud waves break, The twin suns sink behind the lake, The shadows lengthen In Carcosa. 
Strange is the night where black stars rise, And strange moons circle through the skies, But stranger still is Lost Carcosa. 
Songs that the Hyades shall sing, Where flap the tatters of the King, Must die unheard in Dim Carcosa. 
Song of my soul, my voice is dead, Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed, Shall dry and die in Lost Carcosa.
The Song of Lost Carcosa
Often the moon can be seen in conjunction with other bodies, most often Venus and Jupiter. Saturn is also prominent but Mars is often too dim to be visible. Often you can see the path of the ecliptic through the sky. Multiple heavenly bodies are beautiful even if they're artificial and imaginary. Like the poem by Cees Buddingh.
Moon, Venus and Jupiter in morning sky of Rotterdam.
9 December 2015, 7:30 - Mars is also there, but invisible in the photograph
The lamp above my table
mirrors itself twice
in the panes of my bay window.
Like motionless, cream-coloured celestial bodies
they hang above my Banka Street
invisible to those who walk beneath them.
Visible / invisible - by Cees Buddingh, a Dutch poet from Dordrecht  
My moon fascination may have started early. I remember walking with my father through the city streets of Prague, the full moon high above the houses. Even though I was close to a trusted figure, the whole scene filled me with fear and awe. I still have it sometimes, but (alas) not as intensely anymore. The sensation is comparable to looking at a De Chirico painting.
A ring around the moon in the center of Rotterdam.
Moon above a frozen Rotterdam park lake.
31 October 19:00 - 1 January 2009, 17:40
Above them, the moon is round and bright; but its brightness is of a dull sort, like the flat whiteness that appears in the spaces of complex designs embellishing the page of a book. 
They are staring into the blackness where the other one has disappeared. Around them, crisscrossing shafts of tall grasses; above them, the moon is round and bright.
Noctuary (Thomas Ligotti)
While studying in Delft I spent the evening with a friend and we had a philosophical discussion about consciousness and perception. It was night and it was dark outside. At one point he said:
Now if you looked out of this window and saw a huge luminous face in front of it - you wouldn't know what to make of it - because it's outside of your normal experience.
I was scared and fascinated by this image and I drove home extra quickly on my bicycle. The full moon didn't help to calm me. And even now I get slight shivers when I think about it - especially when I have to cross unknown dark hallways at night.
The moon above trees on the outskirts of the city.
Rotterdam evening on 16 September 2009, 19:46.
... the thinnest blade of moon which seemed to belong to this town as it belonged to no other place on earth ... 
... I could see the moon shining between the close rooftops, and I thought that it subtly shifted phases before my eyes, bloating a bit into fullness. The doctor caught me staring. 
"It's not going haywire up there, if that's what is bothering you."  
"But it seemed to be changing." 
Grimscribe (Thomas Ligotti)
Accepted theory is that the moon was created in a collision between the proto-earth and another planetoid. The molten material formed the earth-moon system. The light (molten) material escaped to form the moon, the heavy elements settled to form the earth.
The conjunction of a streetlamp, the moon and Jupiter.
Rotterdam evening on 9 September 2009, 21:03.
The wind picked up and a torn kite struggled to free itself from the clutches of an elm across the street. Above the trees the October sky remained lucid, as if a glossy veneer had been applied across the night. The moon brightened to a teary gleam, while voices below waned.
Noctuary (Thomas Ligotti)
alexandra lethbridge

About this series - Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.
Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity, 4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness, 15:Suggestive vagueness, 16: Ominous places and books, 17: Military technology, 18: Ominous telephones, 19: Observation, 20: History distortion, 21: Spy stories, 22: Dead places, 23: Mannequins, 24: Secret walks, 25: Stories, 26: Other dimensional portraits, 27: Mysterious fragments, 28a: Dino Buzzati, 28b: Mushrooms, 29, 30, 31, 32: Carcosa moons.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Guidebook from 1979

I'm making space for new books and I have to discard some of my old books. But I want to share their beauty and weirdness with you. For 4 euro I bought this guidebook from 1979. There was this one page that absolutely blew me away:
The type, the spacing and the modernism ... everything was perfect. This was the most beautiful page from the book. Another page was similarly beautiful, including the contrast between nature and cityscape:
And then there was this introductory text. I have removed the specifics of the place, because this is the archetypical psychogeographic text. It might fit any place. It could be Damascus, Sarajevo, Berlin, Rotterdam, Dresden or Nanjing. It sounds like a chapter from Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities:
Of the many towns and cities that lie scattered across the vast expanse of the _____ there are some that, like a mirror, have reflected the fate of the country and the whole nation and have revealed the character of the _____ people. Among them the heroic city of _____ is something of a legend. From all over the world people come to _____ to see the city, for which one of the greatest battles of the _____ war was fought, the battle of _____. Here, on the banks of the _____ began the death-throes of _____.
But victory was bought at a high price: thousands of young lives destroyed, thousands of hopes shattered, thousands of books unread and unwritten, thousands of tasks undone. Instead of a town stood mile after mile of charred ruins, a grotesque tableau of gutted windows, burned out squares and blackened facades, a desert of rubble and bombed-out buildings.

More than thirty years have gone by. _____ is now a beautiful new town. Wide tree lined boulevards cross its spacious squares; tall poplars and fragrant limes stir in the breeze; the sun flashes from the windows of the modern houses, shimmers in the puddles left by the heavy rain and catches the port-holes of passing ships.
We invite you to this city, full of sun and light, this new town on the _____. _____, like any other _____ town, is a hive of noise and activity, from the laughter of children at school to the rumble of machinery on the building sites. Its eyes are firmly fixed on the future, but its memory remains in the past, memory of those heroic sacrifices that were made in the name of the present.

As anyone who has ever been to _____ will tell you, there is no aspect of the daily life of that city which does not reflect the great tribute which the citizens of today owe to the defenders of yesterday. Our guide, then, will take you into two worlds - the world of the present and the world of the past, for the past determines the present as the present determines the future.

Now ... would you have guessed?

Volgograd, A short Guide, N.T. Morozova, N.D. Monakhova, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1979, Translated from the Russian by Barry Costello

More unique books: allotment garden, non-existentmemory giftenigmatic 2dream syntaxtopographic poetrygeologyparallel encyclopediaanti fasciststonespoliticsgilbert and george, burroughsdark cityderridaUFOwavesoccultmoonorbsTrumpPer Kirkebymachine generatedZineCamp2015geographerChina Mievilleagoraphobiahidden messagesevil guidebooksenigmatic booksguilty placesRuthenbeckDonDeLilloZineCamp2015, ZineCamp2014ZineCamp2014detection manualannotationsProustdictionaryKubin.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Last snow of the year

The date of my latest picture of snow in a specific year:

2009 - Jan 09
2010 - Feb 14
2011 - Jan 10
2012 - Feb 12
2013 - Feb 24
2014 - None
2015 - Jan 22
2016 - Jan 17
2017 - Jan 23
2018 - March 1 <<< I had to update this twice. At the last possible moment we got some snow on 28 February and 1 March!

I tried to make a complete nature calendar in one go, but that is too much work. I'll have to do it in small steps.
This is how far I came before I gave up:

2009 2010 2011

Crocus - - -
Hazelnut - Feb 23 Feb 06
Snowdrop - - Feb 06
Butterbur - Mar 28 Mar 19
Coltsfoot - Mar 28 Mar 19
Catkins - Mar 28 Mar 04
Hyacinth Mar 31 Apr 10 Mar 20
Dandelion Mar 31 Apr 10 Apr 16
Celandine - - Mar 19
Fruit tree Mar 31 Apr 24 Apr 04
Magnolia - - Apr 04
Tulip - - Apr 02
Speedwell - Apr 10 -
Cats-foot - Apr 10 -
Forsythia - Mar 22 Mar 19
Cuckoo-flower - Apr 10 -
Rapeseed - Apr 10 -
Cow-parsley - Apr 27 Apr 25
Dead-nettle - - Apr 25
Yellow-archangel - - Apr 25
Elm-seed Apr 28 - Apr 26

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Trump poetry

Last Friday evening  I was browsing in the Donner bookshop when I was surprised by The beautiful poetry of Donald Trump by Robert Sears. I doubted whether I should buy the booklet. It looked like a novelty item and surely ... this couldn't be any good in a poetic sense?
There were only three booklets available and one was immediately bought by another grazing customer. And the salesman at the checkout register said cunningly: "We only have a few ones, and most likely there won't be a reprint."
So I bought the book for 13 euros for my collection of weird books. I paid too much, but I'm glad to support the bookstore.
The reviews for this book are all over the place. On Amazon it gets one star to five stars. From people who hate the (non-) poetry to people who like the idea. On Goodreads it gets much more positive reviews. See for yourself:
 In my opinion it is quite good found poetry or conceptual poetry. The poems themselves are interesting. They paint a satiric but probably accurate picture of Donald Trump. And their effect is enhanced by the meticulous footnotes on the opposite page.
I'm glad I bought the booklet. It's more than just a gag gift.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Particles of deep topography - 26

Portraits from other dimensions

Text: Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality (Edward Frenkel)
Text: My Work Is Not Yet Done (Thomas Ligotti)
Text: Teatro Grottesco (Thomas Ligotti)
Pictures: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Media museum Hilversum, Berlin, Zeeuws Museum Middelburg, 2012

It is impossible to see other dimensions (is it?). But it is possible to think, model and (maybe) sketch other dimensions. Many artist tried. And the results could be powerful and eerie. Especially when applied to portraits of people from these other dimensions. During walks we could keep this in mind: are there membranes to penetrate, portals to enter?
Duchamp was fascinated with the idea of the fourth dimension as well as non-Euclidean geometry. Reading E.P. Jouffret’s book Elementary Treatise on Four-Dimensional Geometry and Introduction to the Geometry of N Dimensions, which in particular presented the groundbreaking ideas of Poincaré, Duchamp left the following note: The shadow cast by a 4-dimensional figure on our space is a 3-dimensional shadow ...  
(See the Sierpinsky cube in the picture above and the 3-D skeleton in the picture  below.)
... by analogy with the method by which architects depict a plan of each story of a house, a 4-dimensional figure can be represented (in each one of its stories) by three-dimensional sections. These different stories will be bound to one another by the 4th dimension. Duchamp found something deliciously subversive about the new geometries with their challenge to so many long-standing ‘truths.’
("Stories" is used in the architectural sense in this quote, but imagine that "stories" in the narratological sense could be connected in higher dimesions, isn't that a cool speculation?)
At the beginning of the twentieth century, artists got interested in this idea and used it as a way to include the fourth dimension into their paintings, to render them dynamic. A milestone in this direction was Marcel Duchamp’s 1912 painting Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2. It is interesting to note that Einstein’s relativity theory, which demonstrated that space and time cannot be separated from each other, appeared around the same time.
Can we enter these dimensions and bring back artefacts? Artworks from these realms should be  weird and unsettling. They're also impossible to describe:
In the reception area where I waited to be called for my interview there hung a portrait of U G Blaine. It was a flattering-enough likeness of a middle-aged man in a business suit, but the effect of contemplating this portrait was such that I wanted to turn away and purge it from my mind before I started thinking thoughts that I did not want in my head.

It appeared to be a sculpture of some kind. However, I found it initially impossible to give this object any generic designation, either artistic or non-artistic. It might have been anything. The surface of the piece was uniformly of a shining darkness, having a glossy sheen beneath which was spread a swirling murk of shades that almost seemed to be in motion, an effect which seemed quite credibly the result of some swaying of the lightbulb dangling above.

About this series - Over the years I've collected many place descriptions. It's a waste to keep them on my harddisk. So I'll publish them from time to time. I will add some pictures when suitable.
Enhanced and amplified topographies can be found in a broad range of literature. The best ones link to metaphysics or mysticism and (pre-) load the landscape with unexpected layers, sheets, slabs and strata of meaning. We can appropriate all this work to enrich our everyday surroundings.
Previous posts are 1:The paranoid method, 2:Rooftops and sacrifices, 3:Oil and electricity, 4:Sewing machines, 5:Rooftops and apparitions, 6:Woods, 7:Mushrooms, 8:Formlessness (2d), 9:Formlessness (3d), 10:Autumn, 11:Monsters and mad scientists, 12:Empty spaces, 13:Stars and planets, 14:Addiction against emptiness, 15:Suggestive vagueness, 16: Ominous places and books, 17: Military technology, 18: Ominous telephones, 19: Observation, 20: History distortion, 21: Spy stories, 22: Dead places, 23: Mannequins, 24: Secret walks, 25: Stories, 26: Other dimensional portraits,  27: Mysterious fragments, 28a: Dino Buzzati, 28b: Mushrooms.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Urban mushroom diary - 15 - autumn 2017

Urban mushroom diary - 15 - Rotterdam, autumn 2017
I'm always looking for city mushrooms in nature and culture.
Interesting to see how fungi invade our world.

I've chosen a terrible obsession. Or maybe this wretched obsession has chosen me. The amount of urban mushrooms this autumn was unimaginable. It takes a lot of drudgery to find the names of fungi and often they're impossible to name. It stresses me out and makes me depressed at the same time. Still I can't leave it alone ... So I'll start with the easy ones and postpone the difficult ones for the next chapter.

30 September - Geastrum fimbriatum. I have speculated before that I only see the "weeds" of the fungal kingdom. And even though this mushroom is spectacular, it is quite common. I was happy to find it again in the same area as last year. Along an asphalt bicycle path trough the city park. Pushing the balloon softly releases a puff of brown spores. The fruit bodies have no distinctive taste or odor. says Wikipedia. I was not tempted to try it.
24 September - Agaricus augustus. This should be a good and edible mushroom. There was a whole group of them beside the footpath in the city park. I was skeptical at first because of the strange chemical smell, the book says: reminiscent of bitter almonds. But that only confirms the determination. I tried to make a spore print but the mushroom itself decayed and stained the paper. The deep saturation of the spore colors is always admirable, the microscopic spores penetrate the smallest crevices of the paper and create a full matte hue.
28 september - Coprinus disseminatus. English Wikipedia says edible. German Wikipedia says inedible (but not poisonous). These were found in the parking lot of a hotel, next to a train station. I have seen them before, growing between the tiles of a footpath. They appear in huge crowds and are beautifully patterned.
28 September - Coprinus atramentarius. Beside the footpath in a city park. This is the same genus as the tiny mushroom above. It seems you can make an almost indelible ink by letting the mushroom decay on a plate and then add clove oil and gum Arabic. The spores penetrate the paper so deeply that the writing is almost impossible to erase. It is poisonous when consumed with alcohol.
26 September - Lycoperdon utriforme. Found in the grassy median strip between two busy urban roads. It is called mosaic puffball because of the beautiful pattern of its skin: geometric white flowers made of tiny spikes, like a natural fractal. It is edible when young. (I should try to taste the mushrooms, but until now I was hesitant, and have only smelled them.)
28 September - Scleroderma citrinum. Found in the same hotel parking lot near the train station. The most common species of puffball. It is poisonous but Czech Wikipedia says: even though it is poisonous one or two slices can be used to add a strong mushroom aroma to meals, the slices should be removed before eating. There exists a rare parasitic bolete that grows on these puffballs: Pseudoboletus parasiticus.

Urban mushroom diary:
1:Start of the obsession, books, lawns, 2:Dreams, lawns, books and newspapers, 3:Gouda shop windows, 4:Rotterdam lawn, 5:Hoek van Holland wood, 6:Autumn newspapers, 7:Switzerland to Rotterdam, 8: Warffemius mushroom paintings, 9: Münster, documenta14 and Rotterdam, 10: Spore prints, 11: Dead man's fingers, 12: The lower Rhine, 13: Oostvoorne, 14: Rotterdam, 15: Rotterdam, the easy species.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

From a strange planet - 12

Road webcam fascination - The silent pictures of Scandinavian traffic-webcams have a strange fascination for me. My previous outpourings of webcam obsession are here: part_1, part_2, part_3, part_4, part_5, part_6, part_7, part_8, part_9, part_10 and part_11. I've used video, fiction, literary criticism, art, topography and surveillance technologies to think through this window on far-away places.
This is also: Particles of deep topography nr.28. 

While looking at the Norwegian webcams I cannot escape the accusation that I'm wasting my time. I'm just looking at a virtual reality - through the black rectangle of a webcam. I'm not participating. I'm waiting for something - something I cannot specify. Am I looking at beauty and mystery - I still think so - or am I looking at an extremely stupid landscape?

This is the atmosphere in The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati. Here a promising young officer spends his life waiting for an enemy attack that never comes. In the meantime he can only watch the empty desert from the ramparts and dream of heroic deeds. And even that view - through the black rectangle of the window - is highly regimented.

And beyond it, on the other side, what was there? What world opened up beyond that inhospitable building, beyond the ramparts, casemates and magazines which shut off the view? What did the northern kingdom look like, the stony desert no one had ever crossed?

It was at this point, as he turned his head a little to the left, that Drogo's glance fell on the window opening on to the inner courtyard. He could see the northern wall, yellowish like the others and sunbeaten like them, with here and there the black rectangle of a window.

There was a clock as well, pointing to two o'clock, and on the topmost terrace a sentry walking to and fro with his rifle at the slope. But over the ramparts, far, far away, in the glare of noon, there rose a rocky crest. Only its extreme tip could be seen and in itself it was nothing out of the ordinary. Yet for Giovanni Drogo that fragment of rock represented the first visible lure of the northern territory, the legendary kingdom whose existence hung heavily over the Fort. "What was the rest like?" he wondered. From it there came a drowsy light shining through slow-moving smoky wisps of mist.

But Drago was scarcely listening to Matti's explanations, for his attention was strangely attracted by the picture framed in the window with that tiny piece of crag showing above the wall. A vague feeling to which he did not have the key was gradually penetrating into his inmost being - a stupid and absurd feeling, a baseless fancy.

But first of all he asked: "Sir," his voice was apparently calm, "may I take a quick look to the north and see what there is beyond that wall?"
"Beyond the wall? I didn't know you were interested in views," -answered the major.
"Just a glance, sir, merely out of curiosity. I've heard there is a desert and I've never seen one."
"It isn't worth it. A monotonous landscape-no beauty in it. Take my advice-don't think about it."
"I won't insist, sir," said Drago. "I did not think there was anything against it."

Major Matti put the tips of his plump fingers together almost as if in prayer. "You have asked me.'' he said, "the one thing I can't grant you. Only personnel on duty may go on to the ramparts or into the guard rooms; you need to know the password."
"But not even as a special exception-not even for an officer?"
"Not even for an officer. Oh, I know-for you people from the city all these petty rules seem ridiculous. Besides down there the password is no great secret. But here it is different."
"Excuse me, if I keep on about it."
"Do please, do."

"I wanted to say-isn't there even a loophole, a window from which one can look?"
"Only one. Only one in the colonel's office. Unfortunately no one thought of a belvedere for the inquisitive. But it isn't worth it, I repeat, a landscape with nothing to recommend it. You will have plenty of that view if you decide to stay."
"Thank you, sir, will that be all?" And coming to attention, he saluted.
Matti made a friendly gesture with his hand. "Goodbye. Forget about it-a worthless landscape, I assure you, an extremely stupid landscape."