Sunday, February 26, 2017

Milton Rakove on politics - 6

I'm reading this wonderful book from 1975: Don't make no waves ... don't back no losers by Milton Rakove. The book is a great mirror for our times. It does not give answers but it puts things in perspective. I like its musings on political philosophy and "Realpolitik". Something resonates with our times. See the quotes below. The earlier parts of this series are 1:Voters, 2:Power, 3:Immigration4:Religion and 5:Segregation.
The Role of the Irish
There is an old cliché about the city of Chicago that the Jews own it, the Irish run it, and the blacks live in it. The cliché is only about half true. The Jews do not own Chicago. White Anglo-Saxon Protestant businessmen, who live in suburban communities like Lake Forest and Kenilworth, control the economic life of the city. And the blacks still number less than half the population of the city. But the Irish do run the city. ...

The first two major ethnic groups who came into the city from Europe were the Irish and the Germans. While the Germans were an important segment of the city's body politic, the Irish had several advantages which they parlayed into a dominant political role:
    • They spoke and understood English.
    • They were familiar with the English local political and governmental institutions on which the American system was based.
    • They were neutral outsiders in the traditional ethnic antipathies and hostilities which the Central and East European ethnic groups brought to America from their homelands.
A Lithuanian won't vote for a Pole, and a Pole won't vote for a Lithuanian," according to a Chicago politician. A German won't vote for either of them - but all three will vote for a 'Turkey,' an Irishman."

And, finally, the Irish became the saloonkeepers in cities like Chicago, and the Irish-owned and -run saloons became the centers of social and political activity not only for the Irish but also for the Polish, Lithuanian, Bohemian, and Italian immigrants who poured into the city after the Irish and Germans. For where would an ethnic laborer go for recreation at night after his twelve-hour stint in the steel mills or the stockyards but to the local saloon?
The Irish political style
... the social characteristics that most deeply affect the Irish political style are, "A deep and abiding interest in people as distinct individuals; a political morality with distinctive attitudes toward both political means and ends; a near clannish definition of and concern about political loyalty (especially vis-a-vis other Irish politicians); and a predominate interest in political power."
Irish politicians, says Levine,
    • remain "of the people";
    • are interested in power at least as much as in money;
    • decry ostentatious living or overly stylish clothes, maintaining "an inconspicuous residence, social style, style of dress, and a common manner of speech";
    • abjure gossip-column publicity;
    • "studiously avoid pretension, verboseness, and phraseology not characteristic of the common man";
    • are impatient with idealistic social reformers;
    • "view government as a source of power to be used for individual, rather than social, ends";
    • are "charitably disposed toward most of the moral and situational shortcomings of others" except for "apostates, heretics, and marital infidelity";
    • believe that "justice must be tempered with a good deal of mercy, or charity for fallible man";
    • " are tolerant of corruption, providing it doesn't get out of hand ("Making a buck is okay, but don't rob the poorhouse");
    • "place great emphasis on loyalty to the ethnic group, the party, and to each other ... in highly personal terms ... as related to people more than to something else ... in individualistic and pragmatic terms";
    • are fascinated "with the intricacies and subtleties of power struggle
An Irish politician, when asked if it was characteristic of Protestant Republicans to be charitable in politics, replies, "Oh, hell no! They want to take the guy out and slaughter him in the streets. The Irish want to give the guy a break every now and then ... Every guy is entitled to a fall, every dog to a bite."

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Urban mushroom diary - autumn 2016

Each autumn I look forward to the appearance of the mushrooms. They don't appear in nature exclusively, they also appear in culture. Suddenly you see them in shops, in restaurants and in the media. It's interesting to see how fungi take over the world - for one season.

I'll start with the mushroom pictures that I saw in the free Metro magazine and I'll finish with an XKCD comic. The free Metro pictures have passed an impressive array of selection filters: you notice mushroom - you photograph it - you mail it to Metro - editors select and publish the picture. So it's a small, but representative cultural sample.
A little pearl - Natasja Bergen - Metro - 7 september 2016 - Amanita muscaria
What can we conclude from this small sample:
  • this year we had a very long (cultural) mushroom season: september - december
  • big, conspicuous, beautiful and culturally relevant mushrooms get noticed and photographed
  • people like mushrooms and associate them with other symbols of autumn (thank you captain obvious!)
  • it is (almost) impossible to determine mushrooms from photographs
Then I saw these glass mushrooms in a fashion shop in Thun, Switzerland - 14 September 2016
As usual in "cultural" (not "cultured") mushrooms, these are: Amanita muscaria
I'm totally not ready for autumn - Pascal Doeleman - Metro - 19 September 2016
This could be: Leccinum aurantiacum, probably not Boletus erythropus
The mushrooms are coming again - Ingrid Altena - Metro  - 26 September 2016
Possibly: Lepiota procera probably not Agaricus sylvaticus
Then I saw these autumn symbols in a household shop in Rotterdam - 1 October 2016
Amanita muscaria again, combined with autumn leaves, pine cones, gnomes, pumpkins and several small forest animals.
Autumn in our garden - Geny B-v.T - Metro  - 28 October 2016
Possibly: Lepiota procera
Close up of a mushroom - Hetty van Veen - Metro  - 20 November 2016
Impossible to determine ...
Then I saw these mushroom-lamps in a household shop in Rotterdam - 20 November 2016
Again: Amanita muscaria and some phantasy mushrooms (or pine trees?)
The beauty of nature in autumn - Joy de Bruin - Metro  - 30 November 2016
Wooden mushrooms as a Christmas decoration - 10 December 2016
Most likely: Boletus and Coprinus :-)
A mushroom placemat in the pancake house in the woods - 26 December 2016
Mold shapes made from a woolen carpet - 31 December 2016
Lizan Freijsen - The living surface - in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

And from Google Trends it's obvious that interest in mushrooms is a seasonal phenomenon.
The peak seems to lie in September and October.
This is the search frequency for (in Dutch): mushroom, fly agaric and boletus edulis.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Milton Rakove on politics - 5

I'm reading this wonderful book from 1975: Don't make no waves ... don't back no losers by Milton Rakove. The book is a great mirror for our times. It does not give answers but it puts things in perspective. I like its musings on political philosophy and "Realpolitik". Something resonates with our times. See the quotes below. The earlier parts of this series are 1:Voters, 2:Power, 3:Immigration and 4:Religion.
Milton Rakove (right) interviewing Vito Marzullo (left)
Racial tensions and segregation
In the early 1970's race had replaced nationality as the major cultural and political factor in the life of the city, and the ethnic neighborhoods are changing into racial areas of blacks, browns, and whites. 
The Irish succeeded, at least to date, in pacifying the poor blacks in the city with welfare and jobs, in buying off the most politically able among the blacks with public office and patronage, and in fending off the militant civil rights activists by adding enough police and political power to the other techniques to keep a modicum of order, if not peace, in the black ghettos. 
They pacified the predominantly Catholic, strongly conservative, white ethnics by refusing to use governmental and political power to push integration in the city, especially in the area of housing. Public housing units, in particular, are highly segregated and were always placed in black neighborhoods.
As long as the policy worked, the white ethnics were willing to tolerate, if not support, massive welfare programs which help to keep the black community quiescent, if not happy, although the blacks are becoming increasingly restive and militant over their role in the life of the city.
Discrimination and fear of assimilation
In 1963, when a black family moved into Bridgeport, they found their furniture and belongings piled up on the sidewalk by their newly found unfriendly neighbors. They left and have not come back. 
In 1965 black comedian Dick Gregory led a group of black picketers past Daley's house for several nights, nearly precipitating a race riot. They, too, left, and have not come back. 
But the specter of penetration and inundation by the surrounding black community still hangs over beleaguered and encircled Bridgeport, as well as over the nearby communities of New City and McKinley Park.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Art around the Cascadeplein in Groningen

Henk Visch - [untitled] -  22 bronze human figures - 1997 - Cascadeplein Groningen
I was totally and pleasantly surprised by these ominous figures by Henk Visch. One doesn't expect to meet supernatural horror when visiting the provincial archive. Watching, waiting, reminiscent of the Easter Island statues. At home I googled and found that it was the work of my favorite sculptor. We need more art like this!

Per Kirkeby  - [untitled] - brick sculpture - 1990 - Emmasingel, KPN-office
From the street I saw the little building and immediately thought: "This could be Per Kirkeby". After my meeting I searched for an entrance and my feeling was confirmed. A nice coincidence that after posting a piece on the overpaintings of Per Kirkeby I met one of his sculptures in real life.
From a Groningen website:
After a period of secrecy a brick sculpture by the Danish artist Per Kirkeby was unveiled at the headquarters of PTT Netherlands, next to the train station.

The sculpture consists of a double row of square brick pillars of more than 4 meters high. These are connected by brick arches at the top. In the wall surfaces are arches made of bricks, forming a passageway. The space above the arch is open. The space between the two walls gives the building a sheltered atmosphere, although wind and rain are not shut out.
It would be even better if the sculptures of Henk Visch had been placed inside the arches of the Per Kirkeby sculpture. And maybe I liked the artworks so much because I hadn't expected to find them. So maybe I shouldn't be telling you about them ...


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Milton Rakove on politics - 4

I'm reading this wonderful book from 1975: Don't make no waves ... don't back no losers by Milton Rakove. The book does not give answers about our current situation, but it puts some things in perspective. I like its musings on political philosophy. Something resonates with our times. See the quotes below. The earlier parts of this series are here-1here-2 and here-3.

In the largest Roman Catholic archdiocese in North America, containing approximately 1,750,000 of the faithful, no decision can be made without due consideration for the. feelings and aspirations of the majority Catholic population of the city. It is with good reason that the state of Illinois annually awarded license plate number one, not to the governor, but to the Roman Catholic cardinal of Chicago. The influence of the hierarchy and the many parishioners of the Church of Rome is always present in decision making in the politics, law, educational policy, and cultural life of the city.

If, as Christ told his people, his Father's house has many rooms, so does his Roman Catholic church in Chicago have many factions. Some of the most liberal, as well as some of the most conservative, proposals and pressures in the life of Chicago have emanated from the many-splendored, broad-based, variegated Roman Catholic clergy and laity of the city.

In contrast to the dominant Catholic religious community, the Protestant and Jewish communities, with the exception of powerful business leaders, are weak. They are not ignored, they are consulted, but their influence is nowhere near so great as that of the Roman Catholic community. Since most of the Protestants in the city are now the blacks, they can be dealt with on the basis of race rather than religion.

And since most of the Jews have fled the city for the suburbs, except for those residing in a few fringe areas, they can be easily ignored, although recognized and tolerated in decision making in the city.

Religion and politics
Daley's political morality epitomizes the Irish Catholic sense of morality ... He is "charitably disposed toward most of the moral and situational shortcomings of others except for apostates, heretics, and marital infidelity." He believes that "justice must be tempered with a good deal of mercy, or charity for fallible man." He recognizes that, inevitably, a certain degree of corruption exists in politics, as it does in all areas of human endeavor. But it should be kept within reasonable bounds.

While Daley may be a puritan in his social behavior, there is little sympathy for or understanding of the Protestant religious mentality which attempts to apply absolute moral standards to political behavior.

Daley's political morality is, rather, rooted in the Irish Catholic attitude toward politics which reflects the Gelasian doctrine of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's.
In other words, while man, the fallen creation, is commanded to be moral by his religious precepts, being sinful, he cannot follow his religious precepts in his daily life. In dealing with other men in a political milieu, it is necessary to follow the precepts of Caesar rather than God.

It is not that God has no place at all in politics but that God's primary concerns are with the soul and salvation rather than with the mundane, everyday dealings of human beings with each other. Daley would agree with the German nineteenth-century theologian who wrote, "We do not consult Jesus when we are concerned with things which belong to the domain of the construction of the state and -political economy."

This is not to say that men should not try to be as moral as they can in politics and follow God's law as much as they can, but that they often cannot because they are sinful creatures in an imperfect world. The purpose of politics, then, is to try to make men behave as morally as possible but also to recognize that they probably will not and cannot.

"Look at our Lord's Disciples," Daley said, in answer to a charge that there had been corruption in city government, during his campaign for his fourth mayoral term in 1967. "One denied Him, one doubted Him, one betrayed Him. If our Lord couldn't have perfection, how are you going to have it in city government?"

Monday, January 9, 2017

Per Kirkeby - Overpaintings

Last weekend I fond a wonderful old book in the Rotterdam library: Per Kirkeby: Übermalungen, 1964-1984. The book contains deliberate overpaintings (Overmalinger, Übermalungen) of second-hand kitsch paintings. The interventions reveal or enhance the landscapes that hide under the surface.
There is almost no information on the internet so I decided to post a few scans on my weblog. I'm also surprised how much these overpainting resemble the work of Neo Rauch.
... I just stand there and see. See with my X-ray eyes that -reality- is pervaded by strange lines, that there is a structure which lies hidden beneath the real motif in a frightful way.
Die blaue Stunde, 1975
... I understand my paintings as the summation of structures. A sedimentation of very thin layers. Only in extreme despair does a thick layer emerge. In principle an endless sedimentation. But it is conspicuous that the underlying structure always shines through, even when a new layer has a completely different motif and a totally different color.
Ohne titel, 1976
By the synchronous I mean all those pictures where all the layers aim at the same picture, where the underpainting and following layers - glazed or not - fall on top of each other. The unsynchronous are the ones where each new layer is a new picture.
Byzantinische spiegelung nach der Heimkehr / Landschaft, 1977
It is wrong and unscientific, to remodel the real thing. It is the only reality there is, those overgrown heaps mid between nature and art, belonging half to one and half to the other world, in transit between states.
Ohne titel, 1977
... I myself never found the pictures I overpainted. This would have been impossible: in such a case the searching would have been the effort. I have also never overpainted a picture I considered »valuable« in an acutal artistic sense. Almost always only those pictures on the brink of the garbage pail.
Tiefe, 1979
I also always saw it in such a way that, in continuing to paint, I was searching for the real essence of the picture I was overworking. It is indeed as if I were painting one of my »own« pictures. My »argument« was that there was no difference here and that I wasn't making fun of the kitsch. In this respect a lot of history, Pop Art, Jorn's intimate banalities of the forties, Dada, etc. could be brought in here.
Ohne Titel, 1979
It deals with the relationship between what I call: motif, form, structure. The motif is the beginning, the provocation and the possibility of correction. The motif is the memory. Without memory one cannot paint a picture, I believe. One begins with it, without a motif not even blotches get on the canvas in the beginning.
Ohne Titel, 1982
Ohne Titel, Zustand II, 1984

Per Kirkeby : Übermalungen, 1964-1984 - Author: Per Kirkeby; Luise Horn; Christine Tacke - Hypo Kulturstiftung, Spendhaus Reutlingen, Paperback, Publisher: München : Der Kunstraum, 1984.
Per Kirkeby - OVERPAINTINGS - Luise Horn - In transit between states

See also - with much better colours:

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Milton Rakove on politics - 3

Recently I found this wonderful book from 1975: Don't make no waves ... don't back no losers by Milton Rakove. It was mentioned in another wonderful book from 2012: The Wrong Answer Faster: The Inside Story of Making the Machine that Trades Trillions by Michael Goodkin.
The author, professor and politician Milton Rakove.
His pragmatic sense of humour is also evident in his book.

The book does not give answers about our current situation, but it puts some things in perspective. I like its musings on political philosophy. Something resonates with our times. See the quotes below. The earlier parts of this series are here-1 and here-2.

Chicago diversity on a McDonalds mural - photo by Daniel X. O'Neil.

Early immigration and minor divisions
By 1920, Chicago had more Poles than any city in Poland except Warsaw, more Bohemians than any city in Czechoslovakia except Prague, and more Lithuanians than any city in Lithuania except Vilna.

New immigrants almost always moved into old neighborhoods, usually close to the terminus of whatever form of transportation they used to get to the city, the bus or train station. Since those terminal points were usually located in or near the central core of the city, those were the areas in which the new immigrants settled.

The reasons for the tendency of new immigrants to settle near the terminals were quite simple. A new immigrant arriving in a strange environment was not likely to take a taxi or even public transportation with which he was unfamiliar into the distant reaches of the city. His natural inclination was to take his suitcase (if he had one) or his bag or box of belongings, walk around the corner from the terminal, and find a room. His next step was to find a job, preferably as close as possible to where he lived.

Once firmly rooted economically, he sent for his family (if he had one) and looked for a larger flat, possibly two or three rooms. Then the brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents began to arrive. They almost automatically went to the area where the enterprising pioneer immigrants were living and moved in with the relatives until they could afford a room or a couple of rooms of their own. Within a short period of time, shops stocking native foods appeared, restaurants serving native delicacies opened, taverns or wine houses dispensing native alcoholic spirits blossomed, recreational facilities endemic to the native culture were built, and churches or temples serving the religious needs of the local population were established. Thus, island oases of native culture were created in the heart of the city.

The process repeated itself with each ethnic group moving into the city. Chicago became a city of ethnic neighborhoods with almost fixed boundary lines dividing the various nationality groups.

Later immigration and more significant divisions
The more than 1,000,000 blacks from the South who have emigrated to Chicago, and approximately 350,000-500,000 Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, are the last of the great wave of immigrants, and are following the traditional patterns of movement which characterize the behavior of immigrant groups moving into a new environment. Like the ethnic immigrants before them, southern blacks and Spanish-speaking Latins moving into Chicago settled in the old neighborhoods. As is traditional in such situations, the ethnic old settlers in these communities began to flee from the new immigrants.

The influx of 1,000,000 blacks and 350,000 Latins into the city has fragmented the population even more deeply than the ethnic divisions. The division between ethnic whites, and the Latins and blacks has added another dimension to the ethnically separated city.

In one sense, it has unified the ethnic whites on a single issue-blocking the movement of the blacks and Latins into white neighborhoods. But, at another level, the rapid growth of the black and Latin populations and the steady spread of the black and Latin ghettos have opened a wide chasm within the city's body politic between the black and Latin, and the white populations of the city.

Sources: Don_t_Make_No_Waves_Don_t_Back_No_Losers