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Queen Victoria's Public Secret: Chapter 7, Part 4

18.07.14
2 min
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Golden Jubilee:  22 June 1887, at Windsor Castle Part IV

What surface can I gather on from the inside? (This word does this it gathers me from the inside out and presses back it makes me I) make me. MyLife is now the object of philosophy, when once it was I am. Rested on the sofa for some time, and took a cup of tea before leaving Buckingham Palace at half-past five. Bertie and Alex could not leave London on account of looking after the guests. Had an escort and an Indian escort. Had others. Had a life, had me. Enormous and enthusiastic crowds on Constitution Hill and in Hyde Park. Set up expectations so it’s all about you (this too, you bet I think that). We drove right on to the grass in the middle of the park, where 30,000 poor children with their schoolmasters and mistresses were assembled. Tents had been pitched for them to dine in, and all sorts of amusements had been provided for them. Each received an earthenware pot with my portrait on it. My face is liquid and it spreads, they suck it up and spit it out, and this does that (so this again). This comes from here and presses back, a ceramic slip that gathers on the surface from inside, from obverse a bruised sheet. I am blotted from underneath and we seep.

Bam, Bam, Bam

Gabriel Loebell Herberstein about how it felt, that 7:1
12.07.14
2 min
Post

Stickige, dunkle, geschmacklose, pseudo-neureiche Trinker-Bar im geschäftigen Berliner Charlottenburg, Leinwand. Brav und diszipliniert noch im Dunst ihrer Alltagswelt sind sie alle gekommen. Einige Duzend weiße Männer mit gegeelter Kurzhaarigelfrisur setzen sich an ihre Plätze, die sie zuvor etwas nervös telefonisch reservieren haben lassen. Die Tore fallen, Bam, Bam, Bam, Bam, Bam. 5:0. Das erste Tor noch löst ganz leicht die Anspannung. Schnell aber kippt es in eine gruselige Lust an der Demontage und Gnadenlosigkeit, in Schadenfreude, für die sich diese Leute etwas zu schämen scheinen, fassungslos ob der Chance, sich ganz ihrem kriegerischen Übermut hinzugeben zu dürfen. Sie beginnen bedrohlich und überschwänglich zu grölen, sich Kriegs-Siegerrauschhaft zu umarmen. Die Brut wird immer hämischer, schreit in tiefem, hartem Ton “Sieg”. Nasse, gehässige Augen haben sie, Lust an der Chancenlosigkeit und Auflösung des Gegners, ihre Gesichter verzerren und verkrampfen sich im symbolischen Blutrausch wie ein besoffenes Exekutionskommando nach getaner Arbeit. Endlich diese Übersichtlichkeit, verbunden im Sieg! Ich schäme mich hier zu sein, mich mit ihnen über das erste Tor gefreut zu haben, dazuzugehören. Natürlich spielt man weiter, trotz des hohen Vorsprungs an Toren, man bringt es zu Ende, so gut es geht, lässt sich nichts anmerken, so ist das Spielen eben, anstatt der Realität, anstatt des Krieges. Die Tore fielen fast alle innerhalb von 15 Minuten. Ich erinnere mich an die erste Halbzeit gegen Algerien. Erinnerst Du Dich? Der leicht verletzliche, irritierbare Deutsche mit schwachem Selbstwertgefühl der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts rächt sich vielleicht gerade für seine ganz ähnliche, verzweifelte Auflösung und Ohnmacht.

Sarah Diehl
People

For some reason Sarah Diehl frequently ends up in conversations which evoke a combination of discomfort and pleasure, often relief, as a source of a gentle but honest realization.
That’s probably a reason why she ended up researching, filming and lecturing about abortion access since eight years around the world. Based in Berlin she travels through African countries working on her next docfilm portraying women who make safe abortion accessible as a basic right to women’s health, even though it is illegal in their country. She was prone to anarchism anyway, so she started a group who helps Polish women coming to Berlin for accessing safe abortion, for unfortunately it was illegalized over there in the 90s as a sign for new found Catholicism after communism.
Her first novel “Eskimo Limon 9” dealed with an Israeli family moving to a German provincial town. And because she likes to explore how we all feel alienated by life, identity and history (at least we are united in this alienation) her second novel is about the weird parallel-universe of Whitees in sub-saharan Africa, what they still want to imagine as their own private Heart of Darkness.
Her next book to be published this November, “Die Uhr, die nicht ticket”, is non-fiction though, about women, who don’t want to have children and why our society still finds pleasure in cultivating ludicrous stereotypes about them.

Didi and Sarah met in Lagos on her last day there, while she was waiting for her plane.

Jagoda Marinic
People

With Jagoda Marinić you can shout your song into floods of stars … or up to the dirty ceiling of your room … and she’ll make it feel good all the same.
With a slight motion or a single word she lets you sense the thin skin of ideas, ideals or new mornings.
The pitch-black night however is but a hunting lodge to her eyes. She knows about hunting. She knows about getting caught.
She writes novels, Short-Stories, Essays, Non-Fiction-Books.

She is: a beauty, of course.
A rebel, of course.
A scheme in silver.
A blade of meaning.
Tenderness.
A humming sound. A shadow sliding over you.
An inflamed paper boat, send out on the water, for all good wishes.

Pete Wolfendale
People

Pete Wolfendale is an independent scholar based in the north-east of England (though he prefers the term ‘dialectical insurgent’ as it sounds less like ‘unemployed philosopher’). He is at one and the same time a heretical Platonist, an unorthodox Kantian, and a minimalist Hegelian, but he can simply be identified as a rationalist. He is best known for his Deontologistics blog (http://deontologistics.wordpress.com) – distinctive for its extended debates and detailed technical discussions – and the way it has enabled his thought to develop both in public and online.
Wolfendale’s philosophical education took place entirely at the University of Warwick. His PhD thesis offered a re-examination of the Heideggerian Seinsfrage, arguing that Heideggerian scholarship has failed to fully do justice to its philosophical significance, and supplementing the shortcomings in Heidegger’s thought about Being with an alternative formulation of the question. On the way to this new formulation, he introduces the problematic that still orients his thought today: a renewed and unitary understanding of the classical project of metaphysics obtained through an inferentialist analysis of the normative structures of discourse.
Wolfendale’s signal achievement is his strategic mobilization and rational reconstruction of concepts from major figures from the continental tradition (above all, Heidegger, Deleuze and Foucault) which, re-shaped by his nuanced commitment to the Brandomian projects of inferentialist semantics and logical expressivism, are put in the service of an ambitious and revival of rationalism in philosophy and politics, unapologetically proposing contemporary reformulations of classical concepts like Truth, Beauty and Freedom. Wolfendale’s synoptic thought seamlessly extends over the philosophical, political, scientific, and artistic domains, re-injecting a yearning for the construction of large-scale systems in the contemporary philosophical scene, culpable, in his appraisal, of having prematurely abandoned any such systematic ambition in favour of localized, and ineffective, research niches.

Image interpretation: © Y-U-K-I-K-O

Before the Ceremony

03.07.14
2 min
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You leave the table too late, make your excuses and head for the showers below deck, leaving too little time before the ceremony, and realising only as you begin to descend the swinging rope ladder that you’ve no idea where the showers are.

You wind your way through the tightly arranged weight-lifting equipment in the gymnasium below and begin to cross the main arena beyond. Hundreds of people are down here below the glass domed ceiling high above, which is a ruinous tangle of warped steel and dangling shards. Rooms, nooks and doors line the perimeter walls and a warren of corridors, gangways and arcades lie beyond. You cross the space, pass by a crumbling fountain and approach a cranny on the other side, illuminated by blue neon and decked with webbing. You ask a woman with short cropped hair and navy blue clothing the way to the shower stalls, and explain your dilemma at length as she leads you part of the way. But the directions are vague and the terrain unsure. Ash and rubble coat the floor, knee-deep in parts. And you think: below deck, the aircraft carrier has been designed to look like Fallujah.

You stumble upon the showers in the back room of a back room. Arranged as a row of vertical chrome pipes in the center of the space, all the showers run constantly, soaking the stools arranged around them, and the clothes piled high upon them. You undress beneath the pitching water and are at once surrounded by old friends who begin to stain your skin by dowsing you in blue and red powders. It’s tradition, you know, to do this before the ceremony, but you convince them to refrain with a few choice words.

Looking for the Attic in the Cellar – REM 1, Dream IV

Image interpretation: © Y-U-K-I-K-O

A Molotov Cocktail on the House

Jamal Ghosn about Venezuela
27.06.14
4 min
Post

The Maintenance Required light in the car’s dashboard should be universally ignored. Its purpose is to irk you and to plant a seed of doubt in your head. Soon after it lights up you start “hearing noises” and then it’s only a matter of time before a car advertisement finishes the job.

One dashboard indicator that should never be ignored, however, is when that capital E lights up.

I hadn’t driven a car in months. It’s my least favorite mode of transportation and not because of its carbon footprint. I just happen to be a fan of the old-fashioned foot footprint and I try to leave mine along the paths I take. Mud paths do the job, but my eyes light up when I see a Wet Concrete sign. The size 45 shoes with worn out grooves are mine. Sorry. I actually had to look inside my shoe to look up its size. It seems as an enough number to remember, but I never do.

Last week a car was left in my custody. It was a Honda and it had the Maintenance Required light on. Puerto Ordaz in eastern Venezuela is not a walking-friendly city. It’s a planned city that was built 60 years ago to house workers in a mining industry that extracts ridiculous amounts of wealth from the Earth core under Venezuela. As with most modern planned cities, wide avenues and hard to access public spaces are incorporated in the design to compartmentalize working class people.

A few months ago, anti-Chavista protesters would block one of these wide avenues on a nightly basis. The protest movement faded but occasional protests still take place. Burning tires is the obstacle of choice for those attempting to block roads. Tires aren’t highly flammable. They are actually doused in gasoline to get the fire going. But once they do catch fire, tires produce a steady plume of thick black smoke that rise to the sky in what I assume is a message of anger. The laws of gravity dictate that what goes up must come down. At that point anger turns into a higher laundry bill for the residents of the area.

I decided to take advantage of the car I had to get to know the city better.

At some point the dashboard E lit up, so I drove up to a Petróleos de Venezuela pump. My choices were either 95 or 91 octane. Half and half was not option. Do you know the right octane level for your car? I still remember that mine is size 45.

I suspect that the No Cellphone sign at the gas station is as bullshit as the no cellphones on an airplane rule, but I did turn off my engine and I did not light a cigarette while the dude pumped my gas tank full.

The pump is slow so let me tell you more about what’s been happening in Puerto Ordaz. Yesterday, a brand new public transport bus was torched allegedly by anti-government protesters. It was the third such incident since I arrived here last month. A series of youtube clips document one of these arson acts of resistance. “Acts of resistance” have also destroyed a number of traffic lights around town. The surviving traffic lights have a built-in countdown timer. I wish this gas pump had a countdown timer. It does have a Total Cost gauge, but it doesn’t seem to be moving much.

5 Bolivars. That was the total I owed for full tank of gas. One US dollar is 50 Bolivars, so that’s 10 US cents for a full Honda tank of gas.

I’m all for government subsidizing the basic needs of citizens, but this seems a bit extreme. I drove off feeling that I had just robbed the Venezuelan people.

This also means that the opposition’s pyromania is subsidize by the socialist government they are trying to burn down.

Cans and Rockets, Part 4

25.06.14
3 min
Post

In February 2014, Chris Woebken and I found ourselves on the way to M.I.T.’s Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, about an hour’s travel away from the town of Auburn where Robert H. Goddard had launched his first rocket in 1926.

On a whim, we stopped at a Toys-R-Us and bought a couple of Estes scale model rockets and motors with the intention of playfully re-enacting the launch. Upon arriving we found the historic site, now a golf course, completely covered in snow. We barely managed and were struck by how much it visually resembled the Moon.

One month after, we held the inaugural meeting of the Society for Speculative Rocketry – named in honor of the Berlin Society for Spaceflight – at Eyebeam Art & Technology Center in Chelsea, New York City. The aim of this ongoing artistic research project is to explore the practicalities of model rocketry in an artistic context, in part through building on the work of The Extrapolation Factory, a joint project by Chris Woebken and Elliott P. Montgomery, which provides a framework for speculative thinking.

Eyebeam’s main space was transformed into “the basement of a think-tank”, borrowing widely such as the windows of RAND Corporation, with a view on a virtual Santa Monica beach. Large tables were divided into sections such as ‘speculation’, ‘manufacturing’, ‘vehicle assembly’ and ‘vehicle display’.

After spending half of the day being taught how to build a functional model rocket by a volunteer from the Long Island chapter of the NAR, participants were provided with an array of inspirational material – historical photographs, Tsiolkovsky’s drawings, NASA’s visions of space colonies and more.

Those materials served as triggers for a guided speculation process in which the participants would build a symbolic ‘payload’, an object to go into the tip of the model rocket, a scale model, nested within another scale model.

False memories, alternate presents, visions of the future or of the past. In addition to providing on-site 3D printing we also created a ‘Tsiolkovsky Kit’, a collection of items from the previously mentioned sketches, already in the shape of plastic models, thus short-cutting Tsiolkovsky’s visions and their later miniaturization as a scale model.

Day two, March 16 2014, saw a return to Auburn, MA in order to stage a performative re-enactment of Robert H. Goddard’s launch that had happened on the same day, 88 years ago.

One of the final models we launched was carrying a little camera. Although the camera was extremely light, it considerably altered the flight path of the rocket, making it ascend just a couple dozen feet before the motor burned out and the parachute deployed.

Upon viewing the video, a local expert in rocketry remarked that this flight must have almost perfectly traced Goddard’s first flight, producing the equivalent of a visual record for what wasn’t documented in 1926.

The Society for Speculative Rocketry is in a sense magical thinking through scale models. However, it is also an exploration of the dynamic flows between the wildly different ontologies that all happened within a single discipline of science and technology – roughly 150 years after Jules Verne had first published ‘De la Terre à la Lune’, a fiction which both Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and The Berlin Rocket Society cited as key inspiration.

Cans and Rockets, Part 3

20.06.14
5 min
Post

At the dawn of of rocketry, the work of the Berlin Verein für Raumschifffahrt (The Berlin Society for Space Travel) was particularly interesting. By the end of the 1920s, the Society’s launches at the ‘Raketenflugplatz Berlin’ (Spaceport Berlin) had garnered a fair amount of public the interest through newspaper articles and not least the fact that some of the rocket motors were loud enough to be heard from as far away as Potsdamer Platz. The German film industry had also taken note and at the time and director Fritz Lang was working on a big feature film for UfA titled Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon), tangible proof for the great public interest in the subject at the time.

Lang decided to involve the Society to create a realistic depiction of space travel. Hermann Oberth, credited as a scientific consultant, and his colleagues helped design the fictional space ship called ‘Friede’ (Peace), largely based on Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s sketches and to some extent on the Society’s own vehicles which at the time were still at the scale of today’s model rockets. In fact, at one point of the movie’s narrative, a model of the rocket Friede is scrutinized by experts before the actual voyage to the Moon, props of props.

The movie itself is remarkable in how much it anticipated images that were to be realized during the space race which was partly fought with cameras. (In ‘Fashioning Apollo’ Nicholas de Monchaux talks about how the American space program was largely to created for one photo – an American standing on the Moon).

Presumably because of the involvement of Oberth and his colleagues, Fritz Lang’s Frau im Mond pre-visualized with remarkable accuracy not only technological aspects things like rocket assembly facilities and launch pads such as the ones later erected at Cape Canaveral but also humans and liquids floating in weightlessness and even the famous earth-rise picture, taken on December 24, 1968 during Apollo VIII. Astronaut William Anders was so taken by surprise by this celestial photo-opportunity that it is safe to assume that he had not watched Woman in the Moon.

And there were yet more ways that UfA’s film project helped significantly advance early rocketry through a curious kind of fusing of the realities of fiction and engineering. Looking for a spectacle to promote and celebrate the first screening of Woman in the Moon at Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm in October 1929, UfA had intended to launch an actual rocket at the heart of Berlin and paid the Verein a significant amount of reichsmark towards design, construction, testing and launch. It would be been the first time for rocketry to cross the border from a functional model to an actual vehicle – funded by an industry which deals in fantasy.

The launch from Kudamm did not happen (luckily since according to Robert Nebel it might have resulted in a major disaster) and neither did an alternatively scheduled event to accompany the film’s premiere in the United States – the American release had overlapped with the emergence of ‘talkies’ and the interest in films such as Frau im Mond with all their over-acted jealousy and heroism immediately dwindled, turning it into the “last great silent film” – that never quite made it out of Europe. Its impact on space flight, however, was immense. The Society made rapid progress and was already making plans for the first manned vehicles when in 1933 the Nazis made it illegal for civilians to engage in rocketry. Tellingly, they also raided UfA’s production offices, seizing all props from the movie.

Meanwhile in the United States, Robert H. Goddard was launching rockets but nobody knew. Although he had published a range of scientific papers on the subject, his practical efforts at developing liquid-fueled rockets were unknown to Oberth and his Verein für Raumschifffahrt. They felt like true pioneers while in fact Goddard had made a first successful flight as early as 16 March 1926 in Auburn, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, there is only scarce evidence of the event, partially because the operator of the documenting movie camera had fled after apparently having been overcome by “fright” of the explosive device fuming in its metal launching frame. The rocket reportedly flew a short distance and then crashed into Goddard’s Aunt’s icy cabbage field. Years of experiments with ever larger vehicles followed until here as well the government realized the importance of the technology and stepped in.

In Germany, the Nazis had devolved rockets back into formidable and terrifying missiles, in part because of their randomness owed to imprecision and malfunction, especially the V-2. It was created largely under the auspices of Wernher von Braun (second from the right in the photo above) and manufactured by an army of slave workers.

The launch operations at Peenemünde in northern Germany took further cues from Woman in the Moon, such as the countdown, the black-and-white markings of spacecraft, which were still found on ships like the Space Shuttle. Presumably to avoid more fright of camera operators von Braun’s engineers also gave CCTV to the world.

After the war, von Braun was whisked almost immediately to the United States as part of ‘Operation Paperclip’ and the American and German efforts at rocketry thus somewhat converged, leading to both the creation of intercontinental ballistic missiles and the Apollo program. Throughout his whole career at NASA he was mostly depicted with models of the creations of his agency – toys and trophies of an engineer.

In 1946, the first staged version of the V-2 called Bumper became the first human-made object to travel to space above the desert of New Mexico. Not only did this prove Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s rocket equation right, it was also painted in the same black-and-white pattern of the rocket Friede and carried instead of a warhead a film camera, like in a scene of Woman in the Moon.

Berlin oder Juste Milieu

by
Carl Sternheim
20.06.14
80 min
Longread
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Queen Victoria's Public Secret: Chapter 7, Part 4

18.07.14
2 min

Bam, Bam, Bam

Gabriel Loebell Herberstein about how it felt, that 7:1
12.07.14
2 min

Before the Ceremony

03.07.14
2 min

A Molotov Cocktail on the House

Jamal Ghosn about Venezuela
27.06.14
4 min

Cans and Rockets, Part 4

25.06.14
3 min

Cans and Rockets, Part 3

20.06.14
5 min

Berlin oder Juste Milieu

by
Carl Sternheim
20.06.14
80 min