Saturday, February 28, 2015

Solar powered devices

Elements of the Dutch landscape - 13

Once we had sundials looking at the sun and showing time. They reminded us of our mortality with their mottoes about the shortness of our time span.
No dial motto has a proper flavour until its years exceed those of the American Republic. It must, at least, be seasoned by a century of winters, have slowly ripened beneath twice ten thousand summer and autumn suns. Its place should be known of the generations of butterflies and birds; the creeping and clinging mosses should be old, constant friends.
Solar powered devices are modern sundials. Looking at the sun, drawing its energy like a flower. There are no motto's now. No reminders of mortality, just reminders of our 24*7 economy. Reminders of our need for electricity everywhere.
They are temporary. They will not last long enough to grow moss or lichen. They will be replaced, updated in our planned obsolescence culture.
It is charms like these which stimulate the motto-hunters to seek for the dial in village churchyards, near yew trees dark with the glooms of four hundred years, and in the lichened courts of ruined halls; in convents and in the green and flowery silences of ancient gardens.
They are not romantic. But they are sympathetic. Machines that work for us, everywhere, all the time. Night has meaning for sundials. It has no meaning for battery powered sunflowers.
What is Time? - A piece of  Eternity cut off at both ends!


Monday, February 23, 2015

Lines of sight - some ephemeral

In January 2014 I noticed that all the buildings along the Sophiakade had been demolished and that I could see the tower of the Hef bridge from a place where I had never seen it before.
I had to research this in more detail. Why could I see it? How exactly could I see it? Through what valley or urban canyon could I see this icon of old Rotterdam? How long was the sightline? (2 km)
I could also see the Willemsbrug through one of the openings. The demolition had revealed sightlines that probably would vanish very quickly. A distance of 1,7 km.
Having been sensitized to sightlines I discovered another one in the same neighborhood. This time a permanent one, following the direction of the Sophiastraat and ending at the Red Apple building at the Scheepmakershaven. A distance of 1,9 km.

A bit of playing with Google maps let me analyze the sightlines. They were shorter than I had expected. In my mind Rotterdam is bigger and the distances are larger.
Hunting for sightlines is interesting and surprising. Is it possible to do this on purpose? Is it possible to plan this in advance? Or do we have to stumble on this by accident? Have it find us, instead of us finding it?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Emil Cioran - it is not there

I remember I was reading Kierkegaard, and there was a gardener ... And one day
he asked me: "Why do you read all the time?"
I said: "Well ... because I like it, because ..."
He replied: "No, it is not there that you will find an answer. No, no, not in
books ..."
And I looked at the gardener and thought: "This guy actually thinks ...
and realizes ..."
He said: "No, no, one shouldn't search in books."


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Operation Barbarossa

Operation Barbarossa is fascinating because of its hopelessness (it was doomed to fail from the beginning) and its spatiality (the enormous distances involved). The invading forces were awed and depressed by the endless flat landscapes around them. They were destroyed by distance.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The lost bookshop

When I passed this bookshop on the Korte Jansstraat 2 in Utrecht I sensed immediately that something was wrong. No sane owner would let his books go damp. Inside I could see the books covers curling in the morning cold. More signals of decay: fallen postcards, toppled books, brown covers, dust everywhere. This was a dead bookshop, a zombie bookshop.
The bookstore has been here at least since 1961. It was first called "Boekhandel Meyer", then " H.W. Meyer jr." and then "Oude Boekhandel". In 2009 the store still could be seen on Google Streetview. And there are pictures on the Internet dating to 2012.
I asked a waiter from the neighboring coffeehouse if the shop was ever open. "No" he said "the owner has died and his daughter has inherited the bookshop. She hasn't done anything with it."
Scientists adventurers / The raging race
The cat with the blue eye / Man and dog
Latin America / Problems / The microscope
Greenery and flowers in The Hague / And her husband
In 2015 it is still there, gathering dust, silence ad emptiness. There is minor movement, change and erosion. Something must be growing there, some textual monstrosity. A gnostic theology built on discarded books from the 70's. Veneration of oil crises, the beginnings of ecologic thinking, combined with the sexual revolution and the breakdown of protestant values. Some hard-smoking "provo" rabbi writes a mystical manuscript with a Bic-ballpoint pen. A strange Golem will be unleashed on the Netherlands. The return of the re-forgotten.

Background information:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Recording the Dutch megaliths

During our holiday in Drenthe I made several recordings at the Dutch megaliths (hunebedden). Rationally I didn't expect anything special. But irrationally I hoped that there would be some sound - anything - that would be strange, mysterious or unexplainable. Secretly I hoped for EVP-like sounds.
Of course the recordings didn't yield anything of that sort. But they recover and reflect the wide and slightly mysterious landscape around Borger better than any picture. We are far way from the city here. Wind, spiritus, ruach is the master here. Not the majestic wind of the seashore, but a knowing, subtle, inland wind.
Birds, cars in background, children's voices, adult voices, wind in trees.
A lively discussion about having baguettes for breakfast in France.
Birds, wind in trees, wind, traffic far away, wood creaking.
Wind in trees, wind, farm machinery drone in background.
Wind in trees, insects, farm machinery in background, road in background.
Some insect sounds simulate female voices singing in the distance.
Wind in trees, insects, cars in distance, creaking wood, blades of grass in the wind.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Night sounds - Berlin Barcelona Ypres

Night sound research
There exists a lot of research on urban sound levels and their health effects. But very little has been published about what sounds can be heard in the city at night. When in a new place I like to record the whole night from my window. Later I analyze the 7 to 9 hours of evening, night and morning sounds.

Berlin night sounds

From the hotel window you can hear: clicks and bumps, bottles, sneezing and coughing, airplane drones, cars, ventilator drones, closing doors and grates, people talking, shouting and singing. The sound volume is low with little variation throughout the night.
I edited the most interesting fragments. Each is 2 minutes in length:

Barcelona night sounds
From the hotel window you can hear: ventilator drones, police sirens, grates opening and closing, dogs barking and howling, cars, wheels on asphalt, music, electronic sounds, machinery, shouting an laughing, seagulls, motorcycles, swallows. Any possible variation in sound level is swamped by the loud ventilator in the hotel couryard.
I edited the most interesting fragments. This sample is 4 minutes in length:

Ypres night sounds
In Ypres the hotel roof ventilator was even more prominent. But still some night sounds slipped through: ventilator drones, clicks, airplanes, crows, jackdaws, pigeons. No variation is visible with this loud background drone.
I edited the most interesting fragments. This sample is 1 minute in length:

Most silent between 2-3 AM 
As is to be expected (from previous recording experiments) maximal urban silence takes place between 2 and 3 AM.

No mysterious or spooky sounds were observed, nor any EVP's (unfortunately). The most mysterious are the bumps and clicks that are probably coming from within the hotel heater or water system.

Outside and Inside Noise Exposure in Urban and Suburban Areas
Mysterious sounds around the world