Posts Tagged ‘Germany’
Who dreams of files? Well, I do, to be honest. And I imagine Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Franz Kafka, and Le Corbusier did, too. It’s not only the files and cabinets themselves that enchant, but their epistemological and political promise; just think of what you can do with all that data! The dream has survived as a collective aspiration for well over a century — since we had standardized cards and papers to file, and cabinets to put them in — and is now expressed in fetishized data visualization and fantasies about “smart cities” and “urban science.” Record-keeping and filing were central to the World of Tomorrow and its urban imaginary, too…
[TotH to Rebecca Onion]
* Edward Tufte
As we dream of spires, we might spare a thought for Andreas Felix von Oefele; he died on this date in 1780. A historian and author (most notably of the 10 volume work Lebensgeschichten der gelehrtesten Männer Bayerns, “Life stories of the most learned men of Bavaria”), von Oefele was the first “Electoral Councillor, Bibliothecarius and Antiquarius”– the first head of the Bavarian Court and State Library and Secret Archives.
In the wake of World War I, with metals scarce, Germans faced a shortage of pocket change. So cities, corporations, and sometimes individuals printed and used Serienschein (series notes), a form of Notgeld (emergency money). Circulating from 1917 to 1923, in the run up to the great inflation that presaged the rise of National Socialism, the Serienschein were denominated in small amounts– one Pfennig up to one or two Marks– unlike the Notgeld issued during the great inflation, which were issued in giant denominations, up to $100 million Marks…
And even then, required wheelbarrows for transactions…
But the Serienschein were unlike the huge inflation bills in another way, too: while the Weimar bills were as uniformly drab as the circumstances that spawned them, Serienschein— sourced from many different places, as they were– were hugely various and often strikingly designed…
These fascinating notes began to give way to their drab– but astronomically denominated– successors in 1922, when the European victors in WWI, led by England, demanded their reparations payments in full (and in gold). Reeling still from their loss, and unable to rev their economy sufficiently quickly to cover the vig, the Germans were effectively bankrupted… and reduced to printing money. Printing it as fast as they could. The social toll was huge, and had a profound political effect, paving the way for the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.
One notes that once again a group of European countries, this time ironically led by Germany, is looking to a beleaguered neighbor, this time Greece, for repayment at a time when the Greeks do not have the capacity to earn their way to solvency. (One notes, too, that Spain, Portugal, Italy, and others are trailing perilously closely behind Greece…). So as one watches right-wing nationalist movements gather strength in these debtor nations, one can only hope that the folks with hands on the tillers in Germany (and at the EMU) recall George Santayana’s admonition (in The Life of Reason): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
See more examples of Serienschein here.
*Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
As we think again about stuffing our mattresses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1929 that panicked sellers traded nearly 16 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange (four times the normal volume at the time), and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 12%. Remembered as “Black Tuesday,” this was the conclusive event in the Crash of 1929, and is often cited as the start of the Great Depression.
From Jim Fallows’ always-illuminating Atlantic blog, “Many Mental Patients Simply Walk Out“:
I mentioned yesterday that I was “sure” it was an “accident” that the NYT juxtaposed two stories on its home page about artificial-heart devices. The first story said that former VP Cheney had gotten one; the second, that too many people were getting them.
Reader Mike Diehl says that I was correct to put the air quotes (OK, electronic quotes) where I did. He writes:
>>Had I seen that, I would not have had a doubt the pairing was intentional. I still have a copy of the New York Times from August 8, 1974 — one day before Richard Nixon resigned the presidency. On the front page at the bottom is a photo of Nixon, walking from the Executive Office Building to the White House, juxtaposed with an article headlined, “Many Mental Patients Simply Walk Out.”
Searching for this page, which I am delighted to have found and am attaching here, I note that quite a number of articles on mental health facilities were published in the paper that summer, several making the front page. Two front-page pieces I found are adjacent to articles on Nixon, but none so juicy as the one I cite above. However, on July 31, a front-page piece by Lawrence van Gelder headlined “Mental Patient Held As Church Arsonist” is sandwiched between two articles on Watergate, one headlined “President Surrenders 11 Tapes to Sirica,” the other a reproduction of the text of Impeachment Article III. Coincidence? I think not.
As a graphic designer, I’m aware the opportunities to make such a wry statement with mere page layout are rare, but the New York Times is no stranger to the practice.<<
On a vaguely-related (and marginally-suitable-for-work) front, readers might enjoy “15 Funniest Accidentally Naughty Headlines,” e.g…
As we ponder the future of journalism, we might recall that it was on this date in 1997 that the Italian government issued the 1,000 Lire coin, the reverse side of which features a European map on which Germany (which reunited in 1990) is shown as still divided into East and West. The coins were discontinued the following year.
Radioactive rabbit trapped near Richland
A radioactive rabbit caught at Hanford [see here] just north of Richland had Washington State Department of Health workers looking for contaminated droppings Thursday…
[Hanford was] used during the Cold War for testing highly radioactive materials, particularly fuel elements and cladding that were irradiated at Hanford reactors as part of plutonium production for the nation’s nuclear weapons program…
Liquid waste with radioactive salts was discharged into the ground near central Hanford during the Cold War. Rabbits and other animals were attracted to the salts and spread radioactive droppings across as much as 13.7 square miles of sage-covered land before the waste sites were sealed to keep out animals in 1969. Federal economic stimulus money has been used to survey for the radioactive hot spots that remain four decades later.
In a more recent case, so many radioactive wasp nests were found spread across six acres by H Reactor in northern Hanford that up to a foot of soil was dug up to remove the nests. The nests were built by mud dauber wasps in 2003. Water was sprayed to control dust during demolition of a basin attached to the reactor, and the mud created was collected by the wasps to build nests under straw that had been spread nearby to protect newly planted sagebrush seedlings.
There have been a couple of cases in the past two decades of contaminated animals in areas where they potentially could come in contact with the public. In 1996, a contaminated mouse apparently crawled into a box of food collected by an employee food drive in central Hanford. It was trapped and tested in an abandoned Hanford building previously used by the Tri-Cities Food Bank.
Two years later, gnats and flies were suspected of eating a sugary coating used to fix some radioactive contamination. They then spread the contamination to waste left by workers in offices, such as banana peels and apple cores. That required 35 tons of trash that could contain the office waste to be dug up from the Richland landfill and returned to Hanford.
As we contemplate the prospect of Easter egg hunts after dark, we might recall that it was on this date in 1989 that a failing east German regime opened the Berlin Wall, allowing free East-West passage. A few weeks earlier Hungarian officials had opened the border between Hungary and Austria, effectively rendering the Berlin Wall redundant, as East German citizens could then circumvent it by going through Hungary into Austria, and thence into West Germany. Virtually immediately, Germans on both sides began to demolish the Wall.
Germans climbing the Wall at the Brandenburg Gate in celebration of its demise (source)
The Taiwanese Parliament, upholding the tradition that won it the igNobel Peace Prize in 1995, when their citation read:
The Taiwan National Parliament, for demonstrating that politicians gain more by punching, kicking and gouging each other than by waging war against other nations.
As we prepare for the weigh-ins before the November elections, we might recall that it was on this date in in 1938 that Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, French Premier Edouard Daladier, and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact– and sealed the fate of Czechoslovakia, virtually handing it over to Germany. Back in Britain, Chamberlain declared that the meeting had achieved “peace in our time.”
Rather, by formally ceding the Sudentenland, the Pact granted Hitler and the Nazi war machine 66 percent of Czechoslovakia’s coal, 70 percent of its iron and steel, and 70 percent of its electrical power, and thus, in short order, control of all of Czechoslovakia– which, by the time Poland was invaded, a year later, had disappeared as an independent nation.
Chamberlain, who had thought Hitler’s territorial demands were “not unreasonable,” and Hitler, a “gentleman,” was ruined as a political leader. He was hounded from office, to be replaced by Winston Churchill who later observed, relevantly to both subjects of this missive:
Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
– speech in the House of Commons (November 11, 1947)
From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
– George Orwell, 1984
China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO), an arm of the Central Propaganda Department, operates an “Internet Affairs Bureau” to oversee all web sites that publish news, both the official sites of news organizations and independents.
This Internet Affairs Bureau sends very specific instructions to all large news web sites, often multiple times per day. Sometimes these instructions ban contents outright, but often they instruct web sites to highlight or suppress certain type of opinions or information– in a very detailed manner. Consider these directives (issued March 23, 2010; translated by the China Digital Times):
(The link to “China’s princelings” goes here.)
But technology marches on… these government directives are meant to be confidential. But while they are not showing up on web sites per se in China, some of their recipients– the web editors at whom they are aimed– are using Twitter, Sinaweibo (Sina’s popular micro-blogging service), and other social media to slip them into cyberspace. To wit, the CDT coverage.
It should come as no surprise then that the SCIO is expanding: an “Internet Affairs Bureau 2” is being established to control social media and other Web 2.0 services driven by user-generated content. (More background on Chinese “management of web content” here.)
As we remark that a vigorous independent media is the infrastructure of democracy, and that it is an issue of some valence not just in China, but essentially everywhere in the world,* we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that a German referendum ratified Deutschland’s armed occupation of the Rhineland earlier that month, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler acted when he did for a variety of reasons, main among them that France, the most directly-affected/threatened other nation, was in internal political and financial disarray, and that Germany was in the midst of an economic crisis of its own, from which the Fuhrer needed a foreign policy distraction… the Chancellor’s timing was good: France’s response was limited to a strongly-worded condemnation, and 99% of the votes cast in the German referendum (44.5 million votes out of 45.5 million registered voters), were in support.