Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The delights of Kleve

We often go to Kleve because it's the closest German town and it has beautiful woods and hills. But one of the main attractions is the Hintzen bookstore, based in Kleve since 1925. What makes it even better is the Derks bakery on the opposite side of the street.
You can go straight from the one to the other. And in case of need there is even a bank nearby.
It has almost become a ritual. First we go shopping for books and then we browse them with coffee and cakes. From the last few years: Heidegger Sein und Zeit (second hand), Heidegger biography and the Joseph Beuys biography together with cheese-cake, cherry-crumble and prune-tart.
And among the many interesting books we bought there, is this gem of modern German psychogeography: Die Suche nach der Mitte von Berlin and review. The author connects Dutch and Prussian history and Joseph Beus while searching for the center of Berlin. Many strange buildings and weird tales are found by the wayside. Highly recommended!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Rotterdam places of pilgrimage - 7

Previous parts of this series are here:  part 0, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.
The map belonging to this series is here.

Recently I found the Rotterdam Visitor: Summer & Fall 2017 Free City Guide That advertises itself as All you need to know about our city. It is a solid brochure that combines information and commerce without being irritating. In the middle of the brochure is a map with Rotterdam highlights.
The highlights are as follows and I totally agree with them. If you're a tourist visiting Rotterdam these are the places you will be most interested in. I think you could manage these sights in two to three days:
  •  Highlights: Market Hall - Lawrence Church - Cube Houses - Euromast - Central Station -  Erasmus Bridge - SS Rotterdam - Spido - Harbour
  • Nature in the city: The Park - Kralingse forest - Vroesenpark
  • Museums: Boijmans van Beuningen - Museum Rotterdam - Maritiem Museum - Wereldmuseum - Kunsthal
  • Meet the street: Schouwburgplein - Karel Doormanstraat - Hofbogen - Zwaanshals & Zaagmolenkade - Pannekoekstraat & Botersloot - Hoogstraat & Binnenrotte - Binnenweg - Witte de Withstraat - Oude Haven - Historisch Delfshaven - Wilhelminapier & Kop van Zuid - Deliplein
  • Shopping: De Koopgoot - De Bijenkorf - Van Oldenbarneveltstraat - Lijnbaan
  • Rotterdam tourist information: Central Station - Coolsingel
I know all of these places except the SS Rotterdam. I never understood the attraction of that almost failed project. When you mark these areas on the map you get the picture above. I'm pleased to see that many of my places of pilgrimage fall outside the marked area. But many still fall within the marked area! I will have to work harder.
The brochure also contains one of the shortest summaries of the history of Rotterdam:
Rotterdam - Was founded in 1270 - Became an official city in 1340 - Owes its name to the river Rotte - Has over 600.000 inhabitants - Has the largest port in Europe - Was bombed on May 14 1940 - Second largest city of the Netherlands 
History of Rotterdam - The history of Rotterdam goes back about nine centuries. In the 12th century a seawall was built to protect the country from the North Sea, which had free movement in the mouth of the river Maas. This dike - the Schielands High Sea Wall - ran from the Westzeedijk to the Schiedamsedijk via the Hoogstraat to the Oostzeedijk and the Groenedijk. Mid 13th century a dam was placed in the Rotta where the Hoogstraat and the river cross. Around this dam a settlement of fishermen emerges. Soon trade flourishes and the first ports come into existence, such as the Oude Haven and the Haringvliet. In 1340 Rotterdam is granted the status of 'city'. Canals are dug and in 1360 a city wall is being built. The Port city of Rotterdam is born! 
16th century - Rotterdam rebels against the Spanish occupiers. The city is expanding with new ports and defence mechanisms. Rotterdam is growing as a port and commercial city. 
17th century - Trade flourishes under the influence of the East Indian Company (1602) and West Indian Company (1621) and the Merchant Adventures (1935). The growing city with its tolerant governance attracts scientists and philosophers from all over Europe. The printing & publishing industry flourishes. 
18th century - Stagnation. The country is overshadowed by England and later France. 
19th century - Under influence of the industrialization trade with Britain and America grows and the exploration of Africa increases. The city is growing. Businessman and politician Lodewijk Pincoffs and city architect G. de Jongh play an important role in developing the city. 
20th century - WW I brings stagnation and economic crisis. WW II brings a.o. the bombing. After 1950, the city ascends. Reconstruction sets in, the port expands and the industry grows. 
21st century - The city is blooming! The New York Times proclaims Rotterdam no. 10 of Places to Go!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Urban mushroom diary - summer 2017 - 3

About this series:

It is thrilling to make mushroom spore prints because you never know how they will turn out. The age and freshness of the fungus, the thickness of the layer, the temperature, moisture and airflow inside the house all make a difference. From nowhere a multitude of shapes, details and colours appears.
 
Long "exposure" times will produce ghostly shapes of dark suns, black holes and silent explosions. The spores themselves are microscopic and invisible. Just a thin layer of very fine dust.
Short "exposure" times will produce botanical details. Many sources say that making spore prints is a reliable method to determine mushrooms, but that's not true. It just adds one more data-point: the colour of the spores. The shape of the gills and their attachment to the stem can be determined without making a print.
 
I have not made prints of mushrooms with pores yet. They are rarer than gilled mushrooms and I hesitate to collect them. I found the white on white spore print the most fascinating, it makes a vague and clear spectre at the same time. But the deep browns and blacks are fascinating too, with their velvety darkness.
I was surprised to discover that spore prints can be used to distribute and sell hallucinogenic mushrooms. Similar techniques were used by the artist Klaus Weber to grow mushrooms that can penetrate asphalt.
  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Urban mushroom diary - summer 2017 - 2

About this series:

In Münster I saw these multi-part ceramics by Ursula Commandeur. They combine the fungal feeling with the "horns of the underground" feeling. They're absorbing, listening and whispering.
In Kassel I saw several books by Agnes Denes. This is the work Investgation of World Rulers  - Napoleon overlooking Elba and Still Life #1. I'm aware that these are not mushroom related, but the similarity in shapes is striking.
In the Kassel natural history museum I saw a few dioramas with local wildlife including a few mushrooms. I wish they had such clear labels in the wild. That would be easy! (Leccinum scabrum, Macrolepiota Procera, Boletus Badius).
 Finally I saw the following mushrooms in Rotterdam. This is the reliable Leccinum Duriusculum that grows in the same place, under the poplar trees, every year. This year, after first drought and then rain they look healthy and gorgeous. They're edible but they grow in between dog excrement. So I will not try them.
This beautiful mushroom grows in a new spot under linden trees. I suspect it's some bolete. But there's only one in this spot so I don't want to take it.
During a walk in the woods near Woensdrecht we saw beautiful Boletus (I suspect Edulis) that smelled very good. We also saw many Amanitas (I suspect Pantherina, because of their pale colour. But that's totally not realiable.) Both grew by the side of the road.
It's difficult to photograph mushrooms with my mobile phone. The colours are all wrong, because it's dark near the ground. And finally some organism that might be a slime mold or a primitive mushroom.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 23

Mannequins

Text: The White Hands and Other Weird Tales (Mark Samuels)
Text: Matthew 16, 24-26
Text: My Work Is Not Yet Done (Thomas Ligotti)
Illustrations: Empty storefronts in Rotterdam, 2016

Sometimes we go through life automatically. We're no better than the mannequins that we see in shop windows. Pretending to be alive, but never succeeding:
As I drew closer to the mannequin I noticed that the background hiss had acquired a new element. There were definite words amongst the static, though broken and garbled, like speech distorted by poor radio reception. I could not make out the words, but the voice seemed to speak as if in pain: almost as if it were incoherent with that pain.

It's about priorities, opportunity costs and discernment. Not easy at all:
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Finally, looking back from the deathbed of your entire life in the working world, you would be left exclaiming, ‘What was that all about!’ (In this sense the world of the company mirrored the world itself, which sometimes managed to stage a rousing first act, and perhaps even provide a few engaging scenes of a second before devolving into a playwright’s nightmare, wherein the actors either butchered their lines or entirely forgot them, scenery collapsed, props misfired, and most of the audience left the theater during intermission.)
It's about disrupting the robotic voices coming from inside the puppet:
‘You’re making too much of this,’ said one of those secondary selves that are implanted inside every one of us and that come to attention on these occasions, spitting forth idiotic clichés like a mad schoolmaster from a worn-out textbook of conventional wisdom.

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.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 22

Dead places

Text: Teatro Grottesco (Thomas Ligotti)
Text: The White Hands and Other Weird Tales (Mark Samuels)
Text: The Concrete Grove (The Concrete Grove Trilogy) (Gary McMahon)

Illustrations: Photographs from the Dordrecht art museum (Hans Broek, Colorado Blvd, 2004)

Dead places, ghost towns and derelict places are like the biblical desert. Places to retreat to and confront God, confront yourself. In cheap movies the hero's family dies at the beginning and then he's free to go on his quest. Going to dead places is a better way to shake off your chains:
It specifically announces that this is to be an excursion, and I quote, to a “dead town, a finished town, a failed town, a false and unreal setting that is the product of unsuccessful organisms and therefore a town that is exemplary of that extreme state of failure that may so distress human organic systems, particularly the gastrointestinal system, to the point of weakening its delusional and totally fabricated defenses – e. g. the mind, the self – and thus precipitating a crisis of nightmare realization involving . . . ,” and I think we’re all familiar with the shadow-and-darkness talk which follows.
Confronting your own dead organisms can lead to catharsis and regeneration:
The point is, Grossvogel promises nothing in this brochure except an environment redolent of failure, a sort of hothouse for failed organisms.
Dead places can lead you to new life:
This tower was vacant: a void. ... So completely abandoned, it seemed to me a consummation of a terrible beauty. For what was it now but a vacuum, an oasis of nothing, where all else around it was but the maddening whirl of asinine human activity? I viewed it as a vertical desert, closed off from the outside, a region without the distractions of the commonplace.
But dead places can also lead you to ruin and tragedy. It's not easy to see the difference:
These openings bled darkness; they provided small, square glimpses of something black, unhealthy and rotten. If she allowed herself, Hailey could imagine things moving in there. Strange things. Dark things. Things that lived in such forgotten places.

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.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Urban mushroom diary - summer 2017

I'm always on the lookout for mushrooms in the city. They don't just appear in nature, they also appear in culture. You see them in shops, restaurants, galleries and in the media. It's interesting to see how fungi take over the world.

This time I found a wonderful mushrooms series in the art gallery of the NH-hotel in The Hague. They're from the workshop of Warffemius. At around 3000 euro they're way above my means but they're totally worth the money.


It's obvious that the artist has done his research. He notices the spectacular fruiting bodies, but also knows about yeasts, mycelia and spores. He knows about the humus layer and about the symbiosis between trees and fungi. He has created a playful but complete encyclopedia. And a little magic world.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Particles of deep topography - 21

Spy stories

Text: Family of Spies: Inside the John Walker Spy Ring (Pete Earley)
Illustrations: Photographs from a walk around Waddinxveen

We think we know the landscape. But we don't have skin in the game. Soldiers and spies know the landscape better, since their lives depend on it. Details that escape us, get meaning in the field of tradecraft. One chalk line on a lamppost signals a secret meeting. We topographers, we would never notice that chalk line:
John and the KGB used a series of signals to contact each other when he did have a delivery. John would fly to Washington, rent a car, and drive to Sixteenth Street, a major north-south route in the northwest section of the city. He was supposed to use a piece of chalk to mark a signal at a prearranged spot along the busy street. The signal was changed after every drop, but it always was a single letter or number, such as A, F, 6, or 7, and John always drew it on Sixteenth Street near the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on a Thursday. At various times during his spying career, John drew his signal on the wall of a corner appliance store, a bridge abutment, a stone retaining wall, and on the side of an apartment complex. The Soviet embassy also is on Sixteenth Street and John assumed that an employee drove to work each Thursday along the route and watched for his mark.
When your freedom depends on it you will become a deep topographer. You will search for remote places and get to know them well:
The locations that the KGB chose for exchanges were always remote areas and John, fearful of getting lost at night, had made it a practice to arrive several hours before the scheduled time to familiarize himself with the region. He drove quickly along the blacktop roads, picking out key sights – a small bridge, an elementary school, a grocery store – that would help him keep his bearings later that night.
We should not only visit places, we should leave our own traces there. Enhance the mystery! Drop strange books under bridges, glue strange CD's behind traffic signs, leave mysterious sigils on the roadside. Make traces that only a deep topographer would recognize:
John had begun his portion of yesterday’s dead drop – just as the KGB instructions required – by turning onto a narrow road that meandered through a sparsely populated area. He altered his speed to check for tails, just as he had done earlier during his drive from Norfolk. The Russians had placed an empty 7-Up can upright on the right edge of the road at a predetermined spot, an unobtrusive signal to John that his KGB contact was in the area and ready to make the exchange. The next move was up to him. Five miles later, he stopped to put a 7-Up can upright beside the road to signal that he was ready. He then continued on to the drop point, where he left his bundle of classified documents near a utility pole and a tree with a “No Hunting” sign nailed on it.
Make your landscape more interesting. Leave gifts for other urban explorers:
John had prepared 129 stolen naval secrets for the KGB. The eight-by-ten-inch copies of classified documents were wrapped in a white plastic trash bag to protect them from rain. Even the Soviets couldn’t control the weather. He had hidden the bundle in the bottom of a brown paper grocery bag filled with an empty Diet Coke bottle, a used container of rubbing alcohol, an old box of Q-Tips, and a soap wrapper. At the same time that John was dropping off this package, the KGB was supposed to be dropping off a package of cash for him at a spot a few miles away. The Russians would also wrap john’s bills in plastic and hide them in a grocery bag filled with trash.

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.