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jameswagner.com

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  • Permalink for 'kale, for better and for worse'

    kale, for better and for worse

    Posted: 18-October-2013, 8:32pm EDT

    kale_Broadway.jpg
    untitled (kale wave) 2013


    I saw this wave of ornamental kale assembled inside the pedestrianized area of Broadway just to the east of the Flatiron Building today, and snapped this picture with my phone camera. The little guys were waiting to be distributed around the neighborhood, where they will be transplanted into large pots or sidewalk cuts, usually at the base of a small tree. One of New York's ways of recognizing the arrival of fall is to replace the flowering plants which had graced the streets during the summer (yeah, things certainly have changed around here since the 70s and early 80s).

    I love kale, and I think I appreciate the ornamental kind almost as well, but I can never quite empty my head of the knowledge that even these plants are actually quite edible. In a pinch they could ward off starvation, but lets hope it won't be a long hard winter.

  • Permalink for 'Leo Borchard, artist and humanist'

    Leo Borchard, artist and humanist

    Posted: 23-August-2013, 4:56pm EDT

    Leo_Borchard.jpeg
    Leo Borchard (b. March 31, 1899, Moscow - d. August 23, 1945, Berlin)


    On this day in 1945 the conductor Leo Borchard was killed by an American sentry in occupied Berlin while the musician was being driven home after conducting a concert of the Berlin Philharmonic. His British driver had misinterpreted the sentry's hand signal to stop.*

    Three months earlier the artist had been appointed to replace the somewhat-compromised, and now-exiled Wilhelm Fürtwangler as musical director of the orchestra. At the time of Borchard's death he had conducted 22 hugely-welcome and greatly-acclaimed concerts, wining the affections of the traumatized population of the shattered city.

    Born in Moscow to an ethnic German family in 1899, Borchard grew up in St. Petersburg, studying there before moving to Berlin, after the Russian Revolution, in 1920. In the German capital he was enjoying an increasingly important conducting career, which included promoting the music of young composers, when he was declared undesirable by the Nazi regime in 1935, for protecting Jewish musicians and for being "politically unreliable".

    He remained in the city, hiding his identity, and gave music lessons in his apartment. He also became a member of the German resistance, and, along with his stunningly-beautiful partner, the author Ruth Andreas-Friedrich, formed the humanitarian resistance group, Onkel Emil ("Onkel Emil" was their warning signal), a secret network which committed sabotage, destroyed Nazi propaganda materials and broadcast their own leaflets - and those of the tragic "White Rose". They expertly created fake medical certificates which would enable the bearer to avoid military service. They rescued war resisters, political enemies of the regime and, above all, Jews, finding hiding places, procuring food, supplying false identity cards, and supporting families which would otherwise be without resources or protection..

    I first heard about Borchard years ago while reading the memoirs of various members of the Widerstand, some of whom referred to him, always with love and admiration - for both the man and his art. At the time I could find very little information about either. Although even now very little has turned up, there are a precious few recordings, and at least one video.

    I've also learned about the two memoirs** written by Andreas-Friedrich, one about her experience during the war, the other about Berlin in the years immediately following. I expect to read them both.


    *
    Borchard wasn't the only victim of American security forces in Europe that year: Anton Webern was killed three weeks later in Mittersill, near Salzburg, on September 15th. The composer had gone there from Vienna to be safe, but that night, just before the military curfew, when he stepped outside his house in order to smoke a cigar, he was shot by an American Army soldier, in circumstances which are not really clear to this day..


    **
    "Berlin Underground, 1938-1945", and "Battleground Berlin: Diaries 1945-1948"


    [image from Discogs]

  • Permalink for 'Rettich Wasser'

    Rettich Wasser

    Posted: 11-August-2013, 2:31pm EDT

    radish_water.jpg
    untitled (radish water) 2013

  • Permalink for ''

    Kapelle der Versöhnung

    Posted: 11-August-2013, 2:44pm EDT

    Kapelle-der-Versoehnung.jpg
    detail of Stampflehmbauweise (rammed-earth process) wall


    Berlin's Kapelle der Versöhnung (chapel of the reconciliation) was built on the exact site of the Versöhnungskirche, which had survived the Anglo-American bombings of Berlin but not the pathology of the GDR. The 1895 church was destroyed in 1985 in order to improve the security of the wall standing adjacent to it. The history is a little complex, making the story of the new chapel, and its construction, even richer than it might be otherwise.

    Today the Kapelle is a part of the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Strasse.

    The image at the top shows pieces of various materials (which here or elsewhere include stone, tile glass) which came from the rubble of the original church.

    This is a view of the entire chapel, the rammed-earth wall can be detected behind the vertical square-section raw wood slats:

    Chapel_of_the_Reconciliation.jpg

  • Permalink for 'Berlin's Tieranatomische Theater, resurrected'

    Berlin's Tieranatomische Theater, resurrected

    Posted: 10-August-2013, 2:21pm EDT

    Tieranatomische_Theater_Hoersaal.jpg
    large detail of the seating in the anatomical theater


    It was an immense privilege to visit the newly-restored 1789/90 Tieranatomische Theater in Berlin's Humboldt University today. The building, designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans, using Palladio's Villa Rotonda as a model, was commissioned by King Frederick William II to serve as a research centre to control and combat animal and equine diseases.

    Barry and I, along with our friend Daniel, were almost alone today while we explored the outer rooms, the staircases, the vault, and especially the remarkable steeply-tiered auditorium where veterinary students learned their profession.

    Horses and other large animals were dissected by their teachers on a large round platform which could neatly be raised above and lowered below the floor in the center by the wooden machinery designed by the architect. The didactic which accompanied a working model in the undercroft explained the rational for the device: The route chosen for introducing and removing the bodies to and from the elegant space was intended to minimize both the smell and the mess.

    As history and architecture buffs, our own experience in the former royal veterinary faculty was less critical to world betterment, but possibly more exhilarating. And incidentally, the museum attendants could not have been more gracious.

    The university will be using the building, restored between 2005 and 2012, for exhibitions and events. The artist Jodie Carey's site-specific piece, "Shroud", was installed in the auditorium in July. I wish we had seen it.


    There are more pictures here.

  • Permalink for 'study in grays and browns'

    study in grays and browns

    Posted: 23-July-2013, 2:58pm EDT

    cutting_board.jpg
    untitled (cutting board) 2013

  • Permalink for ''

    die Renovierung eines alten Gebäudes in Berlin

    Posted: 15-July-2013, 6:26pm EDT

    green_construction_screen.jpg
    untitled (no parking) 2013


    This is an image, taken in the late afternoon, of a large section of the facade of a 19th-century Berlin building on Münzstraße which is being renovated while covered with a green safety net.

  • Permalink for 'rebar pond on Berry St'

    rebar pond on Berry St

    Posted: 17-June-2013, 8:18pm EDT

    rebar_pond_Berry_St.jpg
    untitled (rebar) 2013


    The "pond", of which only a part is shown above, is actually a flooded (and abandoned?) construction site in Williamsburg, at the SE corner of Berry and N 12 St.. A pair of ducks, and some weeds waving in the breeze, supplied the only movement seen that afternoon.

  • Permalink for 'eleventh anniversary of jameswagner.com'

    eleventh anniversary of jameswagner.com

    Posted: 27-April-2013, 8:42pm EDT

    eleven.jpg
    on the fence


    Today is the eleventh anniversary of this blog. During the past year posting has remained a little sluggish, especially when compared to peak times, say, before the modern miracle, and seductive distraction, of Twitter, but I have no intention of letting the site lapse altogether.

    In the meantime, this is a brief description of its history, in the same words I used a year ago:


    The blog began when, finding myself totally frustrated with the idiocy and brutishness of my country's response to the events of September 11 and feeling almost totally isolated in my disgust, I started sending a series of emails to people I knew well, sharing my thoughts and my anger. A few months later I started jameswagner.com, intending it to be a more structured - and more widely broadcast - form for the kinds of unelicited rants with which I had been testing the patience of my friends. It was also intended to include ruminations on subjects in which I thought others might share my interest.

    Almost from the start there were entries on politics, the arts, queerdom, history, New York and the world, and within a year they began to be accompanied by images and photographs. Many of the latter have been my own.


    April 27 also marks the anniversary of the day I met Barry, my perfect partner in everything (and Wunderkind webmaster); it was exactly twenty two-years ago tonight.


    [for an image of number of years this blog has been operating, I chose the last two digits of an address shown on a fence I saw in Midtown today]

  • Permalink for 'war is a force that gives only some gays meaning'

    war is a force that gives only some gays meaning

    Posted: 31-March-2013, 2:48pm EDT

    drag-against-war.jpg


    Over the years I've made my take on the campaign to allow gays in uniform (or on the wedding cake) pretty clear, arguing that a truly progressive Queer rights movement has been highjacked by the most conservative of agendas. When DADT was finally dumped, I had hoped we could all finally stop talking about it and move on to more serious stuff, but the recent online fuss over the prosecution of its poster boy Dan Choi has again brought gay warriors out of the woodwork.

    Yesterday my friend Bill Dobbs sent around an email with some reflections on the historical frenzy over DADT, and its continuing fallout today. Dobbs is always worth listening to, and I have his permission to print his letter in its entirety here:


    When I heard people had chained themselves to the White House fence I figured a powerful protest was afoot. Turns out it was the same-sexer pro-war crowd who wanted to be part of the US military, Lt. Dan Choi et al. For his participation in the protest Choi faced federal charges and opted to go to trial. The link at the end of this post will tell you more about that.

    Choi was just a part of a much larger, successful campaign to overturn Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) which means anti-gay discrimination against those serving in the military is coming to an end. It is also an example of a gay agenda item helping to damage progressive organizing and ideals. The campaign invoked patriotic themes, the "takeaway" from that effort is -- war is no big deal, signing up for the military is now a fine choice for youth, sexual minority and otherwise. Military recruiters and training programs are now back on campuses.

    That the anti-war and gay movements walked arm and arm together for some decades is lost down the rabbit hole of history. The advancement of "equality" in the narrow gay sense means self-identified same-sexers can operate drones, blowing people to smithereens in service of the world's lone superpower.

    The gay agenda and all those sillyass equal signs should NOT be confused with progress. That's a message that straight people in particular need to absorb; those organizing for peace stood mostly mute during the DADT-repeal effort.

    And watch out for the mantra of "diversity" - the Pentagon has long been one of the most diverse workplaces in the country. The US military, of course, is far more than a workplace. There's the slight matter of war but that point got lost in the narrow discussions about DADT.

    -Bill Dobbs


    [the link Dobbs refers to above is Thursday's Washington Post story on Dan Choi's conviction]


    [image from Against Equality ("queer challenges to the politics of inclusion")]

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