Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A Failing Country

I had to tell my college students, that I thought their country was about to fail. A hard way to start a class. But necessary.

It all began when sixteenth century Puritan preachers falsely alleged that God had saved The New Country for European Christians to possess. That lie led to our smugness. The first thing we did in the sixteenth century was to kill as many Indians as we could, and put many of those left, on reservations, aka known as outdoor prisons.

Then we imported five million black Africans to do the heavy lifting, raising cotton so Old and New Englanders could become rich fast. Soon we begin to brag that we were becoming the world's greatest country.

More recently, we schemed both to jail more poor blacks and Hispanics for longer terms. Why? So we could develop the new business of building more prisons. More quick bucks. But fewer and fewer Americans share in this sudden wealth. The poor have the worst education. So they fall more and more behind a healthy America.

The truly educated are more interested in making more money than in educating the most poorly educated. That's a formula for disaster. And I see no way out. We tried and flopped. The main cause of this failure is our ignoring our greatest Americans--Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts and the Clintons.

The founders of our unions, our educational pioneers, our idealists like Andrew Carnegie. We majored in fun and games. Sad, but true. It's clear now how a great culture could grow and prosper. But Fun and Games is running the show and ruining our ideals. Not so nice to see. Heh, Rome wasn't destroyed in a day. But ours is on its way. Not too late.

But it's hard to imagine such a renewal. I taught American Literature and Media. I loved Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Thrilled at the new TV that featured original plays by Horton Foote and Paddy Chayefsky. But 99 percent of our fellow Americans couldn't care less. They live for the day. The future is too obscure for them.

Heh, Countries come and go throughout the world every decade! It's vaguely described as Fate! It's more intelligently described as the triumph of the Dumb over the Smart. Sorry! We threw the dice and lost!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Hateful Irregularities


A brilliant Swiss professor who lives on the floor below me in Weimar, on the faculty of Bauhaus Uni, when I asked him to comment on an “International New York Times” essay on surprisingly slavish lives in his mainly free home country, he disappointed me with a “sad, but what can you do?” Plenty, I’m thinking.

In Ireland hundreds of out of wedlock babies grow up into slavish jobs. The nuns then give them ill paid jobs and pocket most of the cash that should be used to liberate their “slaves.” Nuns are crooks when they cheat like that. They should be jailed for robbery! Those victims are beginning to have the nuns arrested for “stealing” from their slaves. No two ethics. One for all the battle cry.

More and more very young black Americans are getting jailed earlier and earlier—for longer and longer terms. Capitalists have just learned that proliferating such jails is a great new business for the builders. They are really cheating, no matter what the judges think. No just society can thrive on two conflicting ethical systems. One for all and all for one. Now I have noticed that even the prosperous countries can backslide.

Take Nigeria. When I visited it in the sixties, it was blooming. As an American Lit professor, I basked in the glow of new writers like Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe. I featured them in international conferences like the first African Art exhibition in Dakar, Senegal in 1962. Or the First Literature Conference in Lagos, Nigeria in 1964. Sadly those gifted Nigerians landed in Civil War jails, as they try to make a new country of their district.

These conflicts emerge everywhere. Be prepared, as the Box Scouts reminded us. Eternal vigilance is the price of authority. Now Islamic thus roam Northeastern Nigeria, killing students who have the gall to go to school! Or girls that don’t want to be raped!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Zanine's Odysseys

The Brazilian genius Jose Zanine Caldas had some seventieth birthday in 1989. Ten of his country's leading intellectuals (led by architect Oscar Niemeyer) put together a bilingual (Portuguese and English) festscrift "Zanine: Feeling and Doing" as the catalog for the first exhibition of this self-taught sculptor, furniture maker, architect outside his native country. The stunning assemblage of slabs of wood from his beloved forests, sculpture, and photo tours of his architecture was the rage of Paris during its two-month run at the Musee des arts decoratifs (MAD) on the Rue Rivoli during the Festival of Autumn.

That venue was itself not a little fortuitous. It seems a few years back that M. Michel Guy, director general of the Festival of Autumn, while vacationing in Brazil, was bowled over when he stumbled upon the simple but eloquent buildings of this professor of architecture from the University of Brasilia. (His nom de chisel is just plain Zanine). What most intrigued Guy was the sociological dimension of Zanine's ouevre. For Zanine's response to the housing crisis was to create prototype houses out of refuse and debris which the poor could build by themselves-- using the vernacular traditions of 450 years of Brazilian building in native woods which Zanine
has carefully and systematically rediscovered behind all the feverish activities of contemporary construction in concrete.

"I had the idea," Guy recently wrote me, "that Zanine's work could be transposed to Europe as rural architecture. The use of materials found on the spot gives architecture a certain homogeneity and,what's more, reduces costs. As Zanine has shown, this means that either the inhabitants themselves can build or help build their own houses, or it may result in the construction of localities in direct contact with the environment. It was not just Zanine's work, but also his aesthetic, social and financial concepts which inspired me to invite him to France to contribute to research on rural architecture." (Letter, 2/l6,90).

But Zanine is his own best witness. As he writes in "Sentir e Fazer": "I come from a constructive family which traversed the era when the banks of the Jequitinhonha /in Belmonte, Southern Bahia in the great Northeast quadrant of Brazil/were a 'Far West', with many bandits and no hero, when the cocoa trees were being planted in the forests, as described in Jorge Amado's books. Inasmuch as there were plenty of hands for the job of killing people, my father chose a profession in which there was less rivalry, and became a doctor. At a time and place where there was no dearth of people specializing in the taking of lives, he became known and admired for saving lives and curing an infinity of minor illnesses. I grew up between the river and the sea, lit by the old Belmonte lighthouse, in shady yards under fruit-trees, in the calm, immense Brazil which watched two world wars from a distance. At night, we would hear the news about battles between foreign armies on the "Repoter Esso" program, among Carmen Miranda sambas, Chico Viola's serenades and advertisement for Gumex, Glostora, shirt manufacturers, American automobiles and Pilulas Vitalizantes (blood-colored), a famous national vermicide produced by the Lomba laboratory."

Such was the bucolic paradise which nurtured his idiosyncratic muse. But such peace has given way today in Brazil to a fierce civil war between a few rich and the teeming poor of the favellas. And he has dedicated his great design genius to the amelioration of their plight.

He tells the oft-told tale of a school system hostile to the unusually gifted. "Of course I was soon thrown into school to learn to read and write, a drudgery. Even today I survive without needing mathematics--arithmetic is quite sufficient. "I really began to understand geometry in space with the fruits of the gourd and in the cart-wheel factory. A log of wood was tapered into perfect straight lines and curves, while the iron rim glowed in the forge. It was wonderful to watch it, red-hot, being fixed around the wooden wheel, which blazed, blackened but did not ignite. There was no air to burn between the hot rim and the wood."

Even today Zanine retains this Blakean sense of grateful wonder when contemplating the discrete particulars of "ordinary" life. It is his special genius to flatter by the praise of inventive imitation the unsung quotidian geniuses of everyday life in Brazil. "Ever since I was small," he recalls in the brief memoir that introduces "Feeling and Doing","I have been fascinated by those who did something. The tailor who made clothes, the cook who made the food, the pharmacist who made medicines, the carpenter who made tables and chairs, the foreman who made houses, the shoemaker who made boots, the man who transformed empty tins into lamps, the one who made straw hats and baskets." The key word is "transform", the miracle of vernacular creation, the astonishing skill and fecundity of homo faber. Here was a metier full of promise for Zanine.

"While watching others doing things, and my father curing illnesses, I began to be involved with trees. There were huge forests around Belmonte, enormous trees, always green, which the farmers, in their avidity to plant more Swiss chocolate, hewed and burned. Bulls and cows grazed among the debris of secular forest which the Portuguese encountered when they arrived in Brazil, in l500." Zanine learned his greatest lesson: "that wood has two lives: the first, as trees; the second, as tables and chairs, beds and cupboards, floors and brooms, bowls and ladles, houses and sheds, cribs and coffins." It was in wood's second life--"generated by the human hand and spirit"--that he would find fulfillment. "Wood lives its first life for itself, allowing us to pick its fruit, which the little birds dispute with us and with other animals. Forest consist of rain, rivers, water-falls, and are nourished by themselves and the sun's rays." It is indeed a magical kingdom.

But then the spiritually transcendent second life of wood--Zanine's world. "Wooden objects are created by our imagination and become real shapes; they live with us for generations, transforming themselves, impregnating themselves with life experience, serving as witnesses and maintaining their usefulness. . . For many thousands of years, wood has relived in the form of objects, has disappeared in the fire at man's behest, or rotted in the open air as the gods' behest." Those milennia of craft experiences, world-wide, not just in Brazil, are what Zanine considers his school, his seminar at large.

Zanine is always teaching, himself and others. As he led me around the Paris exhibition, a firm but gentle grasp of the back of my right arm, he "lectured" me about the glories of his chosen material. "The encyclopedia on the table says that the Latin word "materia" is connected to the root of "mater", mother, and means matter, wood, theme, subject. The word wood was documented in the Portuguese language in the year llll. The god of the forest, Oxossi's number is four; he protects hunters and all those who make a living by collecting forest products, such as latex gatherers, the Brazil-nut gatherers, the wood-pickers. The word "madeiro", in the masculine gender, appeared in the llth century."

Such continuities energize Zanine's muse. When he shows me his first furniture--Bauhaus inspired laminated wood and aluminum, he mocks himself by saying,"You see I had to learn to "regress" to wood." The Bauhaus connection is illuminating. The German ideologues strove to cleanse Eurodesign of its historicisms by tutoring student craftsmen on a "clean slate". No tabula rasa appeals to the mature Zanine. He craves the almost infinitely intergrown and laceily connected rain forest. There is the metaphor of life's fecundity that appeals to his imagination.

He is a Druid of the Amazon. "Mankind's first protection," he explains to his class of one,"was the bonfire, pieces of wood glowing in the night to frighten the other stronger and more voracious animals. Mankind's shelters continued to be built with earth and wood. Belmonte's lath and adobe houses, roofed with baked clay tiles made in kilns heated by charcoal. It was precisely by watching it being done that I learned to do it myself. Above all, houses. The city was being built and rebuilt, for many years, without architects, with its straight, tree-shaded roads, on the banks of the Jequitinhonha River, when I was born. The foremen knew their trade. They erected the church, my grandfather's house and my father's house. Dignified, robust, longlasting buildings."

No blather about Bauhaus beginnings from scratch. And Zanine found the same gospel of continuity wherever he went in the world. "And there they were, the doers, the various foremen, building shelters for their antique cultures, when I visited them in Africa." The same in China.

Thus the paradox of Zanine that astonishes, and ultimately humbles, the ultra-sophisticated like Michel Guy--and me. Man cannot live by beton alone. Le Corbusier created a learned cul de sac, a labyrinth from which we are now trying to extricate ourselves. There is an almost evangelical dimension to this conviction that foremen not architects are the transmitters of the tuths we need to shelter ourselves nobly. Nobly. Imagine that. The last shall be first. The lowliest shall lead us. Suffer the little children to come into their inheritance.

Try to imagine what a revelation he was to his "superiors" in Brazil, when "silent on a peak in Darien" so to speak, they first glimpsed this great Atlantic of a genius. Listen to Oscar Niemeyer, the creator of Brasilia. He remembers Zanine as an "old comrade whom I knew in Brasilia somewhere around the 50's, still engaged with plants, decoration and scale models. Zanine was the maquette maker for Brasilia's buildings.

Afterwards, many years later, I visited a house which he had built at Barra da Tijuca. He was no longer the Zanine I had known, but an architect who was discovering the secrets of architecture, capable of creating spaces and contrasts with his craftman's tendency to build wooden houses. I was surprised by his talent, the unconstrained way in which, suddenly, he knew how to make use of a lovely big glass plate in his simple and unpretentious houses. And I was pleased to see how well he chose the old elements--doors, windows, low fences, etc.--which he bought from the city's antique shops in order to lend his work the peculiar character he had in mind. Zanine is a fortunate case of a self-taught man. His school was life itself and architecture, his natural and inevitable path."

Alas, Zanine's odyssey has taken an ominous turn. He exiled himself and his agency D.A.M. (the Center for the Protection of Brazilian Woods) from Brazil, setting up shop in a small village fifty miles outside Paris. Not a single Brazilian newspaper or magazine reviewed his Paris exhibition. He has fought the depredators of wood in his native country so fiercely that they have responded with a total media blackout. He told me he was counting on Europe's becoming young again as his best chance to save his beloved forests. "It takes 300-400 hectares of rain forest to raise one cow three years for hamburger," he tells me on the verge of tears. He has never visited America for which he has a deeply ambivalent feeling--it's the land of the Walt Whitman who inspired him as a young man, but it is also the home of Burger King, whose insatiable maw for raw materials are obliterating his woods.

When our conversation at MAD reached a certain plane, he excused himself and returned with a weird looking piece of wood. He loved it, he said, because mosquitoes breed in the puddles its roots form. "The mosquitoes are my militia, making it harder for the barbarians to destroy my trees. I want you to have it for a souvenir." You should have seen the looks the airline stewardesses gave me as I lugged it from plane to plane.

Like Zanine, it's crazy but beautiful.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Fresh Airs for Television


The luckiest break in my professional career was getting a Carnegie grant at Penn to create the first course on mass culture in an American university (1957). First year design the course. Second, teach it. The third year was a pleasant surprise when the TV Guide publisher Walter Annenberg gave Penn 2 million dollars to found a graduate school of communication. 

“Faute de mieux” I became the gofer to get the school organized. “Gofer”? Go for this. Go for that! A boring job until I persuaded my mentor, Gilbert Seldes to be Dean. I taught media history in the Annenberg School until I was appointed the first director of the East-West Center in Honolulu. Philly was hot Terri Gross had just started one of the greatest series on TV. She knew from thestart how to analyze the gifts of a guest.

One of the most annoying results of my overseas assignments was no access to this series. My German frau finally found an internet medium that brought me back to Terri’s audience. By far the greatest take took place on January 15, 2014 when Lena Dunham was guest. Hear her here

I was unfamiliar with her boffo TV show called “Girls”. She talked with Terri with utmost candor about her sex education limitations.I’m 87 and my own sex education was zero, leading to a divorce twenty years and three kids later. So I’m in no way equal to reporting what took place. It was even too gross for Terri! 

But I urge that this hour long essay be widely promoted in senior high sex and freshman education. With a small brochure to provide deeper understanding. (I spent many Tuesdays in New York flogging BBC films to University TV stations to know how successful this technique of selling can be.) Our pathetic divorce and out of wedlock birth statistics. “Fresh Air” indeed, in a choking atmosphere.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Art Deco

The most amazing thing happened to me yesterday: The largest book I have ever put in my hands appeared at the new book rack at the Anna Amalia Library. It was so heavy I hesitated from lugging it home myself. Hilly refused to be my porter! 

Norbert Wolf's "Art Deco" (Prestel Verlag, Munich, 2013) weighed in at 3 kilos! The satisfying angle on this monstrous book is that my entire life, until I went off to graduate school in Cleveland was ART DECO. Detroit was the home town of Deco. General Motors HQ, the Fisher Building, my High School Edwin Denby, the Big Three auto factories, Chrysler HQ, the Ford HQ in Highland Park, the University of Detroit, and on and on. 

It was a style that rejected the Fancy Dan style of preceding decades. In 1913, Henry Ford invented mass production with the Model T, making autos accessible to almost everyone. Norbert Wolf's "ART DECO" (Prestel Publishing, Munich,2013) shows how this simplified style penetrated all of society. Not just buildings. 

In France it spawned Cubism and Futurism. In Europe in general it became the style of dictators. It made mass media more modern. It  generated the philosophical styles of Cubism and Futurism. Constructivism, Suprematism, and the Bauhaus appeared on the scene. The simplicities of the New Sachlikeit stressed simplicity. 

It affected Painting and Sculpture: Cassandre, DoDo, Tamara de Lempicki, Rudolph Belling and Grenzgänger thrived. It was a struggle between design versus style. Brace yourself for 285 pages of the most brilliantly chosen examples. I'll never tire of Wolf's eye on the significant. The heaviest book I have ever dragged is the loveliest swatch of the delectable. 

You miss this volume of splendid examples at your risk of terminal ignorance of Art Deco. Sure its text is German, but your eyes will never forgive you for passing the chance to be permanently dazzled.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Media Nut


Did I ever tell you how I became a media nut? It started generations ago as I entered graduate school in Cleveland where my uncle the Reverend Aloysius Mark Fitzpatrick was the editor there of “The Catholic Universe Bulletin”, a weekly diocesan paper. I had won an annual essay of the Jesuit University of Detroit (Don’t ask me why the Jebbies named their U’s after cities rather than saints (maybe it was to entice non-Catholics for potential conversion!) “Needed More Red-Blooded American Catholics” to advance racial discrimination. (Commies were the only Americans in the ‘40’s who were square with blacks!) That prize made me want to conquer the media world. Alas, when the doctoral committee at Western Reserve University asked me who I wanted to write my dissertation on, I replied “Marshall McLuhan”! "Who”? They replied in Unison! I silently middle-fingered them and decided to go on the spot to Michigan State, where at least I wouldn’t have to pay out-of-state tuition.

Now State was then what we called a Cow College, a university that only majored in agriculture. But Times were a-changing, mainly because of a brilliant new English Department. I had just gotten married and my first son Michael, 1952, was on the way. So I became the janitor of the East Lansing State Bank, right across the street from the U. Now janitoring was not my ambition, but you hear every bit of gossip as you you push your broom. And I heard that the 10th and 12th grade teacher had just been canned for incompetence. I asked the new English chair if I would jeopardize my graduate status if I got that teaching: “Hell, no!” he replied. The depression was just over and his department had financed their Ph.D.’s with such jobs. So I took it! The best students I ever had—children of uni profs or Lansing execs!

Here’s where the “cow college” returns. MSU was the first U to get a TV channel. And they were eager to find programs. I invented one for my students: “Everyman Is a Critic”!, a Saturday morning TV rant on teenage age leisure. It caught on—so much so that the Ford Foundation gave me a grant to spend a year in New York to goose the T&V Execs into doing more for high school students. I visited “Scholastic Teacher” and ended up as their radio and TV editor—with access into every High School in the USA:I invited myself, and found Dr. Ralph Bunche (the first black to be a rep abroad in our State Department—he had just been on a “Time” cover. The other guy asked “Well how’s it going, Mr. Hazard?” “Lousy” I replied. “I’ve been trying for weeks to get an interview with Sylvester “Pat” Weaver, NBC’s head. He was very committed to raising TV’s IQ, but nobody wanted to palaver with an English teacher from Nowhere. Finally, the other guy said, "I like your enthusiasm, and I’m on the foundation that gave you your grant”. “I’m Roy Larsen, the publisher of “TIME”, how would you like an office in the Time-Life Building. I gulped, and took his card. 

Monday I was given my own office on the 34th floor of the Time-Life Building. I called Weaver first thing. “Busy”. But I left the magical “Time” phone number, Judson 62525. “The Time PA system barked, “Is there a Patrick D. Hazard, from East Lansing High? Call NBC!” NBC was a five-minute walk across Sixth Avenue. “Fifteen Minutes”? Weaver spent four hours connected with every department at his network, introducing me to Ed Stanley, NBC’s public affairs Officer. CBS; ABC; NPR followed. I was a functioning media nut. “Freshman English” is the toughest course to teach after High School boredom. They have their own convention. I spoke. “Don’t Let Liberace steal your students”! I cried.

Three profs from Trenton offered me a job teaching Freshman English at their college. The students were great! All first college families! I finished my dissertation. And at age 30 I got a Carnegie Scholar grant to create the first mass culture course in an American university at Penn. One year to design it. Second to teach it. The third year Walter Annenberg gave Penn 2 million dollars to found a Grad School in Communication. “Faute Mieu” I was the organizer, gently dragging my mentor Gilbert Seldes out of retirement to be Dean. I taught media history, until Harvard’s David Riesman nominated me to be the first director od The East-West Center in Honolulu: Asians to learn American Technology, Americans to learn Asian Culture. Best (and shortest) job I ever had: I had a weekly radio hour called “Pacific Profile”, a Sunday Morning commercial station with my wife called Coffee Break”. 

What I was too innocent to see, the State Department financed this department to keep Commies out of the U. And my number 2, chosen without a word from me, a Seymour Lutsky had been a CIA operative in the 10 years since his Iowa Ph.D., which could “earn” by milking six cows, for four big ones. I quit on the spot. 

We (me, my wife and three children)back to our sweet Louie Kahn house in Greenbelt Knoll, an experiment in racial integration. I became English chairman of what became Arcadia University. Soon I was training into New York every Tuesday to advise them on What BBC programs they should promote for ETV and high schools and universities and wrote a quarterly essay for the BBC on the best American TV the preceding quarter. 

Once a media nut, always a media nut. Here I write this essay at 87,  judging German papers and TV for their value.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Our Forgotten Bauhaus Women

In the ten years I’ve been studying the history of the German Bauhaus, the legendary Weimar arts school that opened in 1919, one overwhelming trend has prevailed. A new generation of female scholars has buried the Bauhaus patriarchy for good and always. It had it coming. Walter Gropius early on announced a ukase that there would be a 30% quota on female applications. (He feared they would overwhelm the student body, their leisure time enrollments at art schools looming large.)

And the women suffered a Beruf Verbot as well— they couldn’t enter the allegedly prime architecture course. They were shunted off into woman-friendly occupations such as weaving! (A supreme paradox here is slowly emerging: As the architectural reputation of the Bauhaus proper sinks inexorably in the West, the international stature of women weavers like Gunta Stölzl and Anni Albers rises dramatically.)

Not that the architectural exclusion mattered in point of fact: Such a highly discussed curriculum didn’t actually exist until Gropius quit in a huff of frustration in 1928 and the Swiss Communist Hannes Meyer took over as director.

Marianne Brandt's low priority
There were other instances of patriarchal distortions. Upon my arrival in Germany in 1999, I asked the Bauhaus Berlin Archive director Dr. Peter Hahn why there had been no exhibition of so creative a Bauhausler as Marianne Brandt  (1893-1983) while minor figures like Herbert Bayer were given full-scale retrospectives. Hahn took me over to a library file cabinet and showed me his collection of Brandt photos. I asked when he had exhibited them. Not yet, but patrons could buy them for several hundred dollars!

Hahn could have told me (if he knew) that Dr. Anne-Katrin Weise had recently written a thesis on Brandt at Humboldt University in 1991 as well as her Habilitation in 1995! And that Weise had been agitating for an exhibition in Brandt’s hometown of Chemnitz (aka Karl-Marx-Stadt during the East German regime) to no avail. Dr. Ingrid Mössinger, the very creative head of that city’s art collection, has such aspirations— so we can be sure such an exhibition will ultimately come to pass, however shamefully delayed, more than 40 years after Brandt’s death.

First the Nazis, then the Communists
Her brilliant career was cut brutally short twice— once by the Nazis and then by the DDR. To the former, Brandt was “decadent.” To the latter, too Formalist! And, admittedly, that city’s excellent Industry Museum has started a biennial design competition in Marianne’s name for artists under 40.

 But it wasn’t until the Swiss Miss, Dr. Anne-Marie Jaeggi, succeeded Dr. Hahn that Brandt got an exhibition— not of her canonical metal works (still in mass production after 50 years by the Italian design factory Alessi), but of those filed photo collages Hahn had shown me as evidence of the archive’s awareness of Brandt’s importance. Jaeggi is one of the most productive of this new cadre of female Bauhaus scholars, with solid books on Gropius’s “hidden” designer, Adolf Meyer, as well as a study of Gropius’s first factory, the Fagus shoelast plant in Alfred am Leine in North Rhine Westphalia.

Women armed with Leicas
But Jaeggi is not alone: Two new Ph.D.s published a catalogue for a Dessau exhibition on neglected Bauhaus women architects. Neglected? They were virtually unknown until retrieved by these woman scholars. The Finnish photography curator at the Folkwang Museum/Essen set an admirable example in 1995 for the Dessau show when she organized an exhibition on German women photographers in the 1920s. She showed how the invention of the Leica 35 mm. camera made the emerging profession of news photographer accessible to women with cash enough for a Leica and heart enough to crash another male precinct. Many had both. (My count was 53 retrieved photographic careers.)

Anja Baumhoff has written the standard book-length study of gender discrimination at the Bauhaus. And most recently, Kathleen James-Chakraborty has put Bauhaus Modernism in perspective with German Architecture for a Mass Audience (Routledge, 2000)—showing how structures like Max Berg’s stunningly Modernist Centennial Hall (1910-13) in Breslau antedate glib Bauhaus claims for architectural innovation. Her fresh perspective perceives such large audience structures as indispensable new media for broadening working class access to political participation. Dr. Chakraborty, just become professor of architectural history at University College, Dublin, has also edited an indispensable volume of essays, Bauhaus Culture: From Weimar to the Cold War (University of Minnesota, 2006). Most of those essayists are female.

But pride of first place must surely be reserved for that ur-feminist, Dr. Marie-Elisabeth Lüders, the belated follower of that tough-minded 12th-Century nun, Hildegard von Bingen. Lüders was the first woman to get a Ph.D. in politics in Berlin (1910). She directed women’s work (and related child care) during World War I, and was elected to the Weimar Parliament, with two Nazi incarcerations for mouthing off (her inspiring autobiography is entitled Never Fear!). After World War II, Lüders helped West Berlin get up and running again politically. And Otto be praised, the speedily diminishing German patriarchate (the days of Kinder, Küche and Kirche are mercifully almost over!) belatedly honored her in 2005 by dedicating the new Bundestag Library on the Spree as the Marie-Elisabeth Lüders House.

A few details Mies neglected
But I am not concerned here with delayed honors, but with prescient architectural criticism. In 1927 Mies van der Rohe made his first effort at achieving international stature by assembling a cadre of 17 European architects for “his” Weissenhof Siedlung. Dr. ”Never Fear!” Lüders had the temerity to immediately criticize Mies’s apartments in the Deutsche Werkbund quarterly, Form (1927), from the point of view of a woman and mother.

Alas, she pointed out, Mies’s design provided no room for removing wet clothes. The external steps between floors had gaps through which tykes could fall perilously. The excessively glassed-in walls created pneumonia-generating floors on which infants crawled at their own risk of sickness. And, cruelest blow of all, when you opened the kitchen door, those same gratuitous winds blew out the flame. Little details. (Less isn’t always more!)

Heh, no mystery here. Mies wasn’t creating a dwelling, whose parameters he had carefully thought through for its future inhabitants. He was creating a work of art! He was after fame, this poor Aachen stone mason’s son, who even bristled at having to take orders from the higher-class Walter Gropius (his supervisor in the Legendary 1910 Berlin office of Peter Behrens, where Corbusier was the other Azubi). This is what I call the Philip Johnson Fallacy: Architecture begins—and ends—with a capital A. When Johnson was belatedly a student of Gropius at Harvard, PJ mocked Pius for his obsession about building working-class housing. A is for Art, the parvenu from Cleveland shrilled throughout his long, long career.

And when Johnson created a Mies simulation as the first modern house in Houston (1950) for the de Menil family, famous for their legendary art collecting, the roof leaked so furiously and long that the de Menil children thought the always-returning roofers were the architects! Johnson made the terminal mistake of insisting that these aesthetes use only Mies furniture in “his” house, deployed the way the master would. The de Menils told him to get lost and allegedly never spoke to him again. I suppose it was unpoetic justice that when Mies got around one night to visiting Johnson’s notorious Glass House in New Canaan, Conn., he said, “It looks like a Hot Dog Stand” at night.

Barcelona in Chicago (not)
 Mies wanted Corbusier to be his Top Attraction at Weissenhof, thereby securing his own international reputation as a great architect. When I visited "The Corbu" in 2002, as part of a 75th anniversary Weissenhof symposium, I couldn't imagine living in such a concrete unjungle. Last year, as it seems to happen to most Modern Icons, it was reduced to an uninhabitable Visitors Center. Ditto Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water" in western Pennsylvania. And, of course, the Farnsworth House in the Chicago suburb of Plano.

Creating it as a weekend escape for his girlfriend, Dr. Farnsworth, Mies made the strategic mistake of replicating the Barcelona Pavilion"” outside Chicago. Too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, not to mention that the marsh engendered mosquitoes the rest of the year. It became too expensive to live in and, their romance over, Farnsworth took Mies to court for the non-habitation's excessive energy costs.

Final audit? It's now a Visitors Center, dedicated to the "genius" who spent a haunted life worrying about his own status and stature. So you might say that those first two female doctors, Lüders and Farnsworth, were early warnings to the Bauhaus Patriarchs that their days were numbered.

This essay is also published by Broad Street Review.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Nightmare of American Dreamers

Weimar, Germany. As a Ph.D in American Civilization, this week has been the saddest in my life! The gross militarization of local police trying to suppress protests against the unconvicted murder of a young black seems to me the lowest we can go as a "civilization". 

I came to Weimar in 1999 when it was that year the Cultural Capital of Europe to write a book on the Bauhaus, that egalitarian vision of German idealists right after their defeat in 1919. That idealism appealed to me as a blue-collar Detroiter who had to work summers in automobile factories for tuition money for the doctorate I needed to become a college professor of American Literature. I was, as a professor of Am Lit, a skeptic about the national fantasy about America as the most civilized culture in the world. Contrarily, I taught my students that the American Dream was a dangerously false myth: the Puritan fantasy that God saved the "New World" for arriviste Europeans.

We had begun by exterminating millions of the indigenous Indians, trapping "the survivors" in cruel reservations. Then we bought five millions of Africans to do the dirty work of raising the cotton to supply New England clothing factories. Their exploitation was even more severe that the Indians' had been. A tragic Civil War had created the most complicated traditions for creating an American at its most idealistic. Racism made the egalitarianism virtually unreadable.

My education at Holy Rosary Academy in Bay City, Michigan (my father had fled to Las Vegas with his secretary forcing my mother to teach in Hamtramck, a Polish suburb of Detroit) was as egalitarian as its German Dominican nuns allowed (Except for their Catholic convictions: I still remember the counsel of Sister Mary Giles--the senior dormitory nun--when I prepared as an eventually emerging English professor nuts about books) to my first visit to the Bay City Library, halfway downtown on Central Avenue, the main drag. "Patrick", Sister Giles advised: "Don't cross the streets: That's where the Lutherans go to Church!" By the way, I still remember Jim Rich, our sports coach, a poorish young man from South Bay City, who insisted on fairness in our chained fence sports football layout where we played all our sports.

I patriotically joined the U.S.Navy at 17, right out of the Jesuit High School, to become an aviation radar technician. That was so intellectually challenging that we entered the Navy as Seamen 1st class. In Boot Camp regular group used to mock us, singing, "Take down  your service flag, Mothers. Your son is a Navy RT. He'll never get hurt by a slide rule or killed by the square root of three. RT,TS, (as in "tough shit")." Indeed, those mere "Able Bodied Seaman" were bugged by their superiors! But it turned out that I met my first Jews who had the IQ required for radar techs. Some of my lifelong friendship started there. By the way, the radar schools were in the South, Gulfport, MISS and Corpus Christ TX where I got my first snootfull of racism.

So when the war was over, I signed on as a high school student at the Jesuit U. of Detroit (I was always amused by the canny Jebbie ploy of never naming their schools after Saints: Detroit, St.Louis, Marquette, for examples. Heh, how many non-Catholics learned the Catholic Faith, willy nilly! Every year the Midwestern Jesuit U's had an essay contest. I won it my senior year with a rant entitled "Needed: More Red-Blooded American Catholics" because in the forties the Commies among the few (Dorothy Day and Marshall McLuhan were Catholic exceptions). My girl and I integrated the Senior Prom double-dating with the U's only black couple,  and where I took flack from my classmates at the collective urinal for Nigger Loving!

At U of D I joined a student club that tried creatively in Northern Detroit to make racial diversity accessible to highschool students.

I began my doctoral studies at Cleveland's Western Reserve. My Uncle Al was the editor of the college Catholic weekly paper there, giving me a crutch on my first college away from home. When I proposed to write my dissertation on Marshall McLuhan, the doctoral committee uniformly spoke, Huh, Who? I moved to Michigan State, a cow college about to become an internationally regarded humanities research university via a brilliant English Department. But their "cowlish" rep won the prize of the first educational TV channel, WKAR-TV.They were hungry for programming so I, now ensconced at E.Lansing High, the best motivated students I ever had anywhere, with parents as either professors or Lansing executives. So they gladly went along with my proposal for a weekly TV romp on teenage leisure patterns, dubbed "Every Man Is a Critic". It was so successful that the Ford Foundation, unrequestedly awarded me a grant in New York to see if we could get the TV brass to sponsor more programs of educational value.

I visited Scholastic Teacher for their views and ended up as radio-TV editor to a magazine in every high school in America! I kept the job for six years until David Riesman recommended me to be the founding director to a State Department's scheme in Honolulu, The East-West Center for American Studies: Asian students learning America Technology, American students absorbing Asian Culture. It was the best job I ever had. I loved Honolulu. I had a weekly TV hour called "Pacific Profile" where I snared folks passing through Honolulu for a palaver. Taking one Communist participant to return to Goa, he astonished me with a story of how Thomas Jefferson, who was always on the lookout for his Virginia farmers almost get executed for stealing a new Italian seed in his hollow cane. I observed how I knew a lot about Jefferson, but somehow missed that anecdote. As he closed the door at the airport, "That's because you're not in the Third World, Dr. Hazard!" Yikes!  Except for one dirty detail. I was informed that my assistant who had been appointed without my approval, one Seymour Lutsky, had been in the CIA for the ten years since getting his Ph.D. from Iowa, which you get for milking as few as ten cows. Was I ever pissed! I quit on the spot and flew back to Philly to my Louie Kahn house in Greenbelt Knoll, Morris Milgrim's experiment in planned integration: 10 white families and 9 black. It was a most congenial home, with the first black Congressman, and a writer like Charles Fuller as daily neighbors.

Luckily I landed on my feet, with an English chairmanship with a tenured professorshop. I helped prexy Edward Gates and dean Margaret Leclair guide a women's college with an increasingly volatile name, Beaver College, to  the both sex Arcadia University. I stayed there till my mother died in 1982. I was pleasantly surprised when my father, who abandoned me when I was three when he sent me $100,000 guilt money and his Bigamate kicked in an additional $80,000. Whoosh. Overnight I became an x-rated Professor with a global agenda. Granted I did professor related sinecures: spending every Tuesday in New York advising Time-Life Films what BBC flicks they should gather for sale to public TV and high schools. Never did $1000 a month enter my bank so sweetly from four days a week "work".

As I was wrapping this up little whine about how the country is losing its ideals, I saw Daniel Baronbeim on the BBC, praising the East-West Divan he had created in Weimar the year I got there. The orchestra has half Israelite and half Palestine.The interviewer was wondering if the current hostilities between the two cultures was changing his mind. His answer was short and sweet: "Despair is never creative".

Friday, 11 April 2014

Ai Wei Wei

I have never had a more intriguing press opening than the one in Berlin yesterday. The dailies were all flashing front page critiques, but no egghead seemed to better comprehend his mysterious charm than the critic of the socialist daily, "Neue Deutschland". He could comprehend the 6,000 wooden stools in the grand ballroom. As the poor Chinese abandon their meagre farms to their hipper city homes, they junk the "hockers". 


And the 150 bicycles hanging from the central court? Heh, they're movin' on up to the city auto. But eighteen rooms of such diverse artistic expressions? It's the arts of a transforming society. Perhaps the largest, and certainly the fastest in human history. 




The front pages were awash in Kanzerlin Angela Merkel welcoming the "ruler" of China and his wife. (No, they avoided the opening day at the Martin Gropius Bau, the grandest art museum in the city, possibly the country.)






My first "personal contact" with our heroic house prisoner opening last fall's "Falling Wall Conference" (an annual conference to assemble humanists and scientists, and politics to speculate on the best ways to make more stupid walls fall, just as the Berlin's wall fell twenty-five years ago this fall! (Rumbles of this next one have already booked me in: Mr. Ai opened the last one via TV from Beijing. I was never so intellectually stimulated as those three days by the Spree! He already has an art professorship awaiting him in Berlin when the Mad Maos let him go.


Thursday, 3 April 2014

Retrieving Bauhaus Idealism

I first set foot on Weimar in 1998, on my way back from reporting on Stockholm, then the Cultural Capital of Europe. Scandinavian egalitarianism strongly appealed to my blue collar Detroit values, and I wasn't disappointed: architect Gunnar Asplund and designer Sigurd Persson exemplified their commitment to create the very best environment for everyman.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Mies van der Rohe's Weissenhof Siedlung,(Stuttgart,1927) moved them to celebrate Modernism at their own Stockholm Fair (1930): the Finnish giant Alvar Aalto declared: "The exhibition speaks out for joyful and spontaneous everyday life." Strangely, a snooty Berlin critic trashed Weimar in Stockholm as a rundown DDR town then scheduled to be the 99 Cultural Capital! I decided to visit Weimar during its glorious year in 1999.

Andreas Schneider, a journalist helping Bernd Kaufmann organize the Weimar event, dropped what he was doing and took me on a daylong tour of the town. (see my blog,www.MyGlobal Eye.blogspot.com. for the details of my fascinating pitstop.) As a homeless kid in Depression Detroit, I had read in graduate school in the first book about modern architecture by Nicholas Pevsner (a Leipzig Jew who fled Hitler) about the Bauhaus. He said Walter Gropius's Bauhaus aimed to fuse art and technology to bring good design to "the working classes." I decided on the spot to return to Weimar to research a book on his ideals in 1999.

Alas, the more I read, the less I believed him. First, he was a lousey architect, complaining bitterly in letters to his mother that he couldn't draw! Why try? I speculate he wanted to emulate his great uncle Martin Gropius, the last important pre-modern architect in Berlin. And he had a private partner to do the heavy lifting. I couldn't believe that the Bauhaus had no course in architecture until 1928--after he fled with Marianne Brandt to Berlin! He made the Swiss Communist architect Hannes Meyer the director! The Dessau city managers who had financed the school's move from right leaning Weimar to at first leftie Dessau. Dessau soon fired Meyer who went with his coterie to Moscow. The city brass closed the school, Mies rented an abandoned telephone factory and banned politics!

My hunch is it was Gropius' flabby character that caused him to flee. For example when his Denkmal for the Kapp Putsch victims was dedicated in the Weimar cemetery, he was afraid to attend the ceremony! His first wife Alma Mahler chided him for his fear that the Weimar legislature would tab him as a Commie.

And he had great ideas (every teacher had to photograph their work), but no followthrough. In the 1950's firemen found those photos in a Bauhaus Uni attic! And when a new editor of the Dessau paper accused him of "double dipping" (director's salary plus advisor's money for designing the Junker suburb, Törten.

And when he asked his star artists to reduce their salaries, they mostly just ignored him! And there's scuttlebutt that Herbert Bayer was moving on his second wife, Ilse, so he scrammed.

Mies had a Denkmal problem too. His first important work (1926), a Berlin cemetery tribute to the founders of the German Communist party, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg! My Chicago mentor, Bertrand Goldberg, who was in Mies' last class 1933, told me in 1985 that Mies went crazy trying to convince the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg that he was no longer a commie! And that he sucked up to Albert Speer until Gropius got his a millionaire's commission in Jackson Hole Wyoming in 1938! Which is to say, he was a Nice Nazi.

You'd never get this picture from German "scholars". They,alas, are hagiographers, faking saints out of sinners! Imagine my consternation when I discovered this phoniness, all topuff up the German spirit after tragedy of Naziism. On the contrary, in my hometown of Detroit, George Booth, publisher of the Detroit News founded Cranbrook and brought Eliel Saarinen from Finland to implement his plans. Not talk, talk, but act,act.

Even more embarrassing was the stories of two penniless German immigrants, Albert Kahn (Detroit) and Timothy Pflueger (San Francisco) neither of whom could afford to finish high school. But what these autodidacts achieved makes the Bauhaus look foolish. And when I arrived in Weimar the Bauhaus promoters had not even heard of these superb creators. (See "Forgotten Bauhaus Women,"www.broadstreetreview.com.)

Another Bauhaus Museum? (the fourth!) It would be easier for the Germans to win World War Two. The only more foolish move was Hellmut Seemann trying to buy two sheets of Schiller for 24,000! We revere the poet for his writing not his penmanship! For 10 cents I could xerox "The Ode To Joy"! I asked Frank Motz was his 2011 budget was: 250,000. I asked Edgar Hartung what his budget was for Mon Ami Kino: 15,000. Which was a lousy investment?

I lent Helmutt Seemann my copy of Louis Kahn's protege Richard Saul Wurman's "Man Made Philadelphia", designed to teach high school students how to be thoughtful clients of architecture. He returned it without comment. Wurman is the idealist who founded TED. That book is also now in the Anna Amalia Library.

I would insist that all the headline grabbing BauHustlers read Cameron Sinclair's "Design Like it Means a Damn", the bible of Architecture for Humanity,Inc., a global group of world architects who give a damn about two billion unhoused humans. It also is in the Anna Amalia. But it's easier to throw money around than to think. That is the tragedy of Weimar's Gropius betrayers.

By the way, Bertrand Goldberg is the best architect to come out of the Bauhaus. He's never had a German exhibition. And at our last meeting in Chicago, he told me proudly that he kept loyal to Gropius's ideals to the end. Unlike Weimar's fast talkers!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

gARTen



An astonishing new kind of Amazon 2 type book just appeared on the New Book Rack of the Anna Amalia Library which I scan every day at 9:00 before I read the International Press. The innovation comes from the hippest perch in Munich, the Galerie Thomas Modern, Türkenstrasse 16, 80333 München, Germany where you can get your copy of the auction guide to 26 outdoor sculpture, hence its punny name,"gARTen". The volume guarantees that you can arrange to view any (or all, to a perceptive museum!) of the masterpieces whenever you desire. You can't ask for more. Rich patrons of the globe: Insist they wait on you.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Excellent TV in America? David Carr

Dear INYT Keeper: I've been reading the daily Times since I was a 17 year old sailor at the Pensacola,FL Naval Air Station in 1946. But the story about America's astonishing TV maturity is the greatest kick yet. I have been in Weimar, Germany since 1999 researching and writing a book on the Bauhaus (I was a bluecollar kid in Depression Detroit and read about Walter Gropius's new kind of art school to bring good design to the workrers ingraduate school. I vowed to check it out some day. That day came in 1999 when Weimar was the Cultural Capital of Europe. I expected the booh to take two years, but guilt-ridden post Nazi's were so threatened by the truth that they invented myths to lessen the pain. I finished the book on my 87th birthday, February 8, 2014! But I come not to berate those rattled Germans but rather to summarize my career as a TV meliorist in America.

It began with my Jesuit training at the University of Detroit as a philosophy major,1949. That year I won the annual Jesuit Mid-western Universities essay contest wioth a rant,"Needed: More "Red-blooded" American Catholics,i.e. like American Commies, the only white group then fighting for Negro liberation. My date and I doubled with the only black UD couple to integrate the Senior Prom at Eastwood Gardens.The UD library had two weeklies I read front page to back, "America" (the Jesuit mag) and "Commonweal"(by "lay" Catholics. There I read every piece that Marshall McLuhan, immigrant Canadian radical Dorothy Day Catholic, wrote. Those essays appeared in 1951 as "The Folklore of Industrial Man." I entered Western Reserve in Cleveland where my favorite uncle, Rev. Aloysius Mark Fitzpatrick was the editor of the weekly diocesan "Catholic Universe Bulletin". I told the dissertation committee that I wanted to write my dissertation on "Marshall". "Who?" they dumbed, in typical ignorant Humanist arrogance. I gave them my middle finger and moved to Michigan State where a unique English chair was turning a Cow College into a great research university.

Married at 23 in 1950 to the best looking blonde (and highest IQ!) in Detroit, we went off to grad school together, she as Elizabethan Renaissance, me as an American Lit media freak. Immediately fertile as American Catholics then were (Michael, now a great photographer,filmmaker and poet, now my conscience in Minneapolis,appeared in 1952.)n I doubled as the E.Lansing State Bank janitor. A janitor hears everything, including the dismissal of a 12th grade teacher for incompetence. I asked that eminent English Chair if it would jeopardize my doctoral status if I taught a few years in the local High School. "Are you kidding? How the hell did most of us get through the Depression?"

I was now also the 10th and 12th grade teacher. Because State had such a populist image, it was the very first U in America to get a TV channel, WKAR-TV! Yum. I devised my first McLoonie medium, a weekly Saturday morning palaver on teenage leisure, dubbed "Everyman Is a Critic". It bloomed, eventually leading to a Ford grant in New York City. My wife Mary and I had already started a monthly department in the NCTE'S "The English Journal" called "The Public Arts." When Scholastic Teacher magazine heard of my grant they made me the radio-TV editor, with weekly access to every high school classroom in America! I quit it sadly in 1961 when an appointment in Honolulu made access to timely info impossible

Early in my 1965 grant, I went uninvited to a educational media conference in the D.C. Hilton. When I opened the Aud door, I saw Dr. Ralph Bunche in deep converse with an unknown. (Bunche had just been a "Time" cover!) I boldly interrupted, " I'm Pat Hazard from E.Lansing High and I'm in New York to improve American TV." A stunned silence ensued, as the two cornered celebs figured out how to dump me quietly. Finally, the unknown inQuired, "well how's it going, Mr. Hazard?" "Lousy!" I replied sadly remember the multiple times the secretary  NBC-TV's innovative president Sylvester "Pat" Weaver had tuned me down for an interview. The unknown identified himself: "I'm Roy Larsen, the publisher of "Time": I'm on the foundation who gave you your grant, and I like your palaver. How would you like an office at "Time" to expedite your mission. Usually silent, I took his card and agreed to meet him Monday at the Time-Life Building". Suddenly I had my own office on the 34th floor, overlooking Sixth Avenue and NBC a five-minute walk away. I generously forgave the cunt hund secretary and called Weaver. She repeated the usual blah about Weaver's busy start of the TV season. I countered with how eager I was to start my grant, and gave her the magical "Time" number Judson 6-2424. Ten minutes later, the P.A. system blared "Is there a Patrick D. Hazard here today? If so, please call NBC!"

Not fifteen minutes but four hours as he called all the NBC brass with a simple message,"HELP PAT HAZARD" The year was full of wonders, such as watching, with son of the founder of Germany's DER SPIEGEL how an issue of LIFE was created. I gave a speech in May to the NCTE Freshman English teachers, "Liberace and the Future of Cultural Criticism". Three professors from Trenton State Teacher's College offered me an assistant professor ship on the spot. It was a great year, with first generation college kids highly motivated. And I finished my dissertation, "John Fiske:The Testing of an American Scholar! I was Ph.Deified in late 1957, after which Penn gave me a two year Carnegie Postdoctoral Grant to create the first McLuhan program in America.  In 1959, Philly billionaire and TV Guide publisher gave Penn two million dollars to form a Graduate School of Communication. Faute de mieux, I was appointed Gofer. (Go for this. Go for that.:) What I first for getting was my first mentor, Gilbert Seldes, to be  Dean. His book, "The Seven Lively Arts" (1924) was the first I'd seen on Pop Cult and it turned me on.  I taught media history at Annenberg until 1961 when Harvard sociologist David Riemand appointed me  the first director of the Institute of American Studies at the East-West Center, University of Hawaii. It was a State Dept. financed program to bring Asians to Honolulu to learn American technology and Americans to learn Asian culture.

It was the best I've had, yet! Mary and I had an AM.radio stint, "Two Cents Worth: A Penny for My Thoughts and a Penny for Yours". I also had a Sunday A.M. commercial TV hour called "Coffee Break". A typical program was my friend the art critic of the San Francisco Chronicle had just written a book on Christian churches in pagan Hawaii. We filmed them and discussed. I also had a weekly FM channel on the WQXR of Honolulu on travelers passing through, e.g., the Communist editor of Goa's capital. As I drove him to the airport he came me an astonishing anecdote on how Thomas Jefferson was almost executed for stealing an Italian seed in his hollowed cane. As a Jefferson specialist, I was stunned to be totally ignorant of this crisis. As he opened the door, he smiled affably and said, "That's because you're not in the Third World, Doctor Hazard."

The saddest side of my year in Honolulu was my learning that my number 2, a man named Seymour Lutzky, had been in the CIA ever since getting his "doctorate" at Iowa, where you could get one such by milking 5 cows. I was outraged at the deceit and immediately flew to Philly, where very soon I was a fuul professor chair of English at what became Arcadia University.

The rest you must read in the still being written An Auto-Biography: The Dumb Irish Luck of a Serendipitous Adventure." Bits and pieces are in this blog.

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Curse of Monolingualism

One of the glories of my octogenarian decade is my seven year old Daniel Patrick Moynihan Hazard's bilingualism. His nightly tutor is my Ossie Frau Hildegarde Haltrich-Hazard (47). (Don't tell me the DDR was all bad (there are seven doctors, three of them women, in my closest relatives, thanks to the Frankische Stiftung in Halle am Salle. And I was always a whiz at language, beginning at ten as a Roman Catholic altar boy who had to memorize the responses at daily Mass, deepened five years later by similar exercises in the church choir.

And at Detroit's minor Sacred Heart Seminary I was the class whiz at Greek. So after two years in the Navy as a radar technician, I entered the Jesuit University of Detroit as a philosophy major. I passed the predoctoral exam in French as a junior and German as a senior in 1949. I was ready for graduate school at Cleveland's Western Reserve University.

I didn't use the German enough so that when I migrated to Weimar to research and write "Bauhaus: Myths and Realities" (finished on my 87th birthday, 2/8/14) accessible free at my blog, my vocabulary had shrunk to a pitiful two words, morgen and gestern, which I invariably messed up backwards. Thus a hunger for news made me visit the Goethe Platz booth laden to buy the New York Times six days a week.

I soon realized I was more interested in the"Verkauferin" than the "Zeitung" so we flew to San Francisco where my best friend from Philly, Jake McGoldrick (professor of English as a Second Language at the Jebbie U of San Francisco and Burgermeister from his Richmond district) wed us on the City Hall steps. Now Hilly was my daily tutor in relearning German. 


I believe monolingualism is one of most serious intellectual weaknesses, since it encourages our utterly false concept of American Exceptionalism, the 17th century Puritan lie that God saved the North American continent for the white European to settle there! I fought this disastrous falsehood by gradually transforming American Literature into International English Lit, first by adding Afro-American poetry and fiction, then Appalachian fiction and drama in the 60', followed by Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and finally as I began to teach summers in Beaver College's London program, the entirely diverse Commonwealth Literature in England, Africa. and Asia.

And relearn German. Which I did by reading "Bild" every day--to the sneers of my colleagues, who falsely consider it intellectual junk. (In human health and nutrition and animal life) it consistently is very superior to even the best dailies like FAZ. Their sex trash is gradually, but unmistakably diminishing in my fifteen year extracurricular tuition. 


My other tool is the biweekly Apotheke "Umschau" which I take freely from the drugstore at the end of Schillerstrasse the first and fifteen of every month: features wisely geared to the seasons. I suddenly realized this at the obits last week of that magazine's originator, one Rolf Becker. See Jürgen Wolfram's essay ,"Für Kunst and Kunde" in "The Southern German News" p.35 on 25 February.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

A Funny Thing Happened on my First Trip to Berlin

It all started in the lunch line of the Metropolitan Museum of Art  in New York. As an ex-Catholic I like to tease priests (really to punish Detroit Sacred Heart Seminary rector Monsignor Henry Donnelly who threw me out of the seminary the very day he found my pal Jim Van Slambrouck and me smoking Chesterfields in the Gothic Tower after midnight. The learned will know that that brand of cigarettes sponsored the great Glenn Miller's Orchestra on the radio for a half hour of the greatest dance music of the 1940's, weekdays. I answered,"We wanna see how Glenn gets such a kick out of his cigs." "You're out of here, Hazard, as of midnight," he gloomed. 

Easter vacation started then. Jim survived to be a priest in Monroe, Michigan, a sloburb of Detroit. So at that day at the Met I told the priest standing ahead of me in lunch line."Give me an easy confession, Father, and I'll buy you lunch." A woman ahead of him snorted as she got the joke. Later we ran into each other, savouring art for dessert. She introduced herself as Mrs. Helen Milner, wife of our commanding general in Berlin, and pleaded for me to visit them the "next time (as in "first time"!") I was in the Big B. Pacifist that I was, I giggled "no thanks" mentally. 

But fate made me run into her there again so the General's chauffeur picked me up at the Tiergarten station. (I quickly opened my locker to gather pieces of simulated luggage--I travel sleek: But the butler knew better as he shuffled me into a bedroom bigger than my own home in Philly! On "Pacelli" Alle. That shy German Pope in the 20's knew how to give his name a Big Boost!

My dinner companion was no less than Cologne's famously politically conservative Archbishop Joachim Meisner. (There couldn't have been a worse visitor match than we two.) He had just returned from Lithuania, where he confirmed so many Vilniusans (not to be mistaken for Villans!) that his thumb was numb. Assessing his previous table chatter, I was of the opinion that he was always dumb in other places. (Try his theological brain, for example.) Anyway the evening ended peacefully, if dully.) 


I read today in the German newspapers that Pope Francis I had just let him resign--at 87! That made him 46 that dull night in 1970. What a pity that dull Kraut Benedict XVI didn't have the balls to quit himself long ago! Alas, Popes are sometimes inscrotable. The more I was reminded of his apolitical strong stances, the more I admired him retroactively. In the same diurnal wave I read that Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelke was vowing that the R.C. Church should no longer control the bedroom.

Too late for me, Card, but better sooner than later! (FAZ 2 March, 2014) p.7) My father was a calvary officer for Black Jack Pershing,and sadly he got gassed in France. His "hospitals" were the whore houses of France. He married my virgin RC mother in 1919 shortly after returning from France. My brother was born 9 months and one day after the wedding in Pinconning, Michian. I arrived seven years later. 


Three years later he fled to Las Vegas with his secretary to become an iconic real estate agent. He left me $159,000 guilt money; his Bigamate tossed in the pot a further $100,000, allowing me to quit teaching in universities when my mother died at 86 in 1987. (Gulp, last Saturday I turned 87! As we "sellabrate" the centennial of the start of the First World War, let us not forget that more than buildings and lives were destroyed: dreams and aspirations too. 

So let's say a prayer for Harry and Ruth, whether together or alone in hell, and smile sweetly back to May Fitzpatrick Hazard from wherever she be in Heaven. I told an old pal last month that if Pope Frank I continues his Holy Roll! I'll be searching for that priest I promised lunch at the Met 44 years ago. Damn, that general confession would earn him a whole restaurant!