Wednesday 20 May 2015

Read a tribute to Patrick D. Hazard written by one of the blogger’s editors, Dan Rottenberg.

Rest in peace and poetry, Patrick.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

The Mies Mess

As we speak, a stupendous error in German culture is being revealed. The British architect David Chipperfield is simultaneously displaying his own work as he deglassifies the windows of the Neue Nationalie Gallerie in Berlin. Hazard’s first commandment of museum design: Thou shall not ever again encase an art museum in glass. 

If you try, you’re turning those art works over to the Sun, not the art visitor. Mies van der Rohe may have sensed that. But he was a prisoner of Cuba's new dictator, Fidel Castro.

The original glassy design was devised to promote Cuban rum. But Fidel decreed that his citizens already drank too much so the glassy display structure would never be built in his Cuba! Mies got the rights to the design, and his own contradictory structure got off to a wheezy start. 

It’s a fluke that I know this. Two Cuban art historians were snooping secretly to see how the old rum bum was humming. They identified themselves to me as art historians, as that type usually do on the roll.

Mies, alas, is the most overrated architect in Germany, perhaps in the whole world. It all began because he was the blue collar son of a stone mason in Aachen. His excess use of glass was his grim search for innovation that would raise his self esteem. It didn’t.

My first taste of his work was the Weissenfels project—many famous European architects gathered to show the world Mies was no loser. (I’d never take Corbusier’s mangled concrete jungle there free!) 

And the leading American architectural critic (Peter Blake—actually a pseudonym for a Jew who fled Germany) argued in his obit of Philip C. Johnson that he corrupted America’s commercial architecture in the twentieth century—with Mies’s collaboration. They were what the greatest factory architect of all time, Albert Kahn, called the "glass house" Boys!

Kahn was an inspired autodidact. One of the six Jewish kids of a rabbi from Mainz, he couldn’t even afford high school. He drew so well, the leading Detroit architectural firm hired him, and at 21 sent him to Europe to get the big picture. Ford’s River Rouge was in his future. 

During the Depression, Moscow hired him to build tank factories. We used to joke on the Ford assembly line, where I worked summers for doctoral tuition money, that Kahn won World War II by himself. Moscow was slow to pay. So he returned to Detroit.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Coping with Copenhagen

My favorite museum in the world is Louisiana, an hour by train North of Copenhagen in a village, Humlebaek, facing the Ore Sound which separates Denmark from Sweden. This year is special because an unorthodox businessman named Knud W. Jensen founded it fifty years ago in 1958. Its strange name derives from the odd coincidence that he married seriatim three women named LOUISE. He also believed museums felt too much like Churches: he wanted a place where whole families could relax as they responded to art, small “a”.

Cultural leaders at that time considered such opinions vulgar, to be overlooked whenever possible! But he was prescient and his view now prevails, even in the most rarified cases, with their intimate cafes and mini-shopping malls. Its rural ambience—with lazy, hazy hills wandering down to the Sound—is ideal for family group picnicking, or couples courting. A rambling sculpture “garden” encourages unplanned pauses for contemplating. Highlight of all is the Alexander Calder Sculpture Garden between the outdoor restaurant and the sea. Four great black steel Baubles, three Mobiles and one Stabile.

To honor this anniversary, the museum picked up on a marvelous innovation in museology—the Basel Switzerland Art Center which dreams up fresh exhibition ideas and packages them for an international itinerary. The Current Theme is the art museum as the archetype building of the 21st century. You know, the Bilbao Effect. Book Starchitect Frank Gehry to fling around computer generated Titanium strips and before you can say Pritzker fifty times backwards your dingey town is full of rich, gullible tourists who are too dumb to see they’re being scammed.

The Bilbao Guggenheim is a lousy place to display art, unless, say, you're Gehry’s Steel Brooder, Mark de Suvero who needs a place to park his Monoliths until they’re carted off to the metal recycling junkyard. Gehry never considers his clients' needs so eager is he to concoct (with emphasis on “con”) a walk through sculpture honoring His Godlike Creativity!

Mind you there are many architects who think first of their clients’ needs before their own Ego’s: Renzo Piano, for example, whose new Musee des Arts Contemporains in Lyons gave me recently great pleasure in a Keith Haring retrospective, Bilbao’s tend to encourage bad habits like the Jeff Koons’ Flower Puppy. Yuck. The excellent catalog is mainly written by architects ruminating on their problems aloud. Don’t miss Lousiana’s idiosyncratic pairings like this spring’s Cezanne and Modigliani. And their standing collection where will encounter many Danes you had no idea were so Great.

My next favorite place in the Copenhagen area is the Danish Design Center where in this show they were deploying the infinite possibilities of diverse woods making anything from furniture to kid’s games. Aalto showed us how humane a material wood is, in a century of Modernism gone gewgaw over the techno brutishness of steel, glass, and, ugh, concrete. It’s a great place to have lunch where Danish table design adds to the pleasures of Slow Food.

The place is lousy with great museums. My problem is always which three or four I have to miss this time, which was a day after landing from Iceland, where the guy in charge of keeping lines manageable told me when I asked for a locker if I were flying back to Germany after my week in Iceland. My answer was YES so he checked me in at 0900, viz. immediately!

I have a suggestion for hotels: there’s a new chain with the attention getting name of ZZZZZLEEP! One subway stop from the airport on the line that also goes to the main train station. Book rooms.

Friday 26 December 2014

The Wonders of Libraries

I’ve been a card carrying library user since 1935 when the Bay City, MI Public Library gave a proud 8 year old his first free entrée. And seventy-five years later, I daily begin my “working day” at 9:00 a.m. sharp at one of Europe’s greatest libraries, named for the Countess Anna Amalia who was Goethe’s patron. The International Herald Tribune (crucial, now that its owner NYTimes limits me to 10 articles a month! I read more than that every day) and the Manchester Guardian are my first must reads.

What time is left before lunch is invested weekly in TLS and NYRB. And for Euro 1.5 they will order for me almost any serious book in the collections of German universities. Like the one I’m reviewing. All through an internet site for the Universal German Library Exchange. Heaven can wait, with such service.

One such book now at my desk is Robert Darnton’s “Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris” (Belknap/Harvard,2010). Darnton is currently my intellectual MVP. He has parlayed a Princeton professorship in French intellectual history to Harvard’s head librarian who is now leading the world’s library digitization. With time out to write an absolutely enchanting story (a rich 224 pages) on how restless French citizens in 1748-9 prepared their country for the French Revolution.

It seems that the outsider French were miffed at Louis XV not only for his sleazy encounters with “Madame” Pompadour, and his spinelessness to deny support for the Stuart Pretender, Prince Edouard, not to forget his new “Vingtieme” law which made his subjects retroactively pay for the War of the Austrian Succession’s alleged victory.

The key to their diverse protests was to politicize the Parisian pop song traditions. Darnton recalls the radio ditties of the 1940’s imprinted in his childish brain:

Pepsi-Cola hits the spot.
Twelve full ounces, that’s a lot.

Which reminds him of his first experience of irreligion in his youth:
Christianity hits the spot.
Twelve apostles, that’s a lot.
Holy Ghost and a Virgin, too.
Christianity’s the thing for you.

That’s basically what the king’s secret enemies were doing to try to bring him down. Mocking him, using street singers well known music to simply publicize their satirical lyrics. Amazingly most of the “perpetrators” were college students, priests, and disenchanted upperclass dissidents.

How do the police figure? The lyrics were secret. So they set themselves the task of finding and punishing those leeric writers. Fourteen of them ended up in the Bastille. In the course of their incarceration the cops left copious records of how these critics worked which Darnton has used to understand their pioneering what would in less than half a century lead to their Revolution. And they didn’t pull their punches:

That a bastard strumpet
Should get ahead in court,
That in love or in wine,
Louis should seek easy glory.
Ah! There he is! ah! Here he is,
He who doesn’t have a care. (p.100.)

“Madame” P was just a working girl named “Poisson” until Louis entitled her. That leads to endless fishy puns. Her husband is cuckolded:

By the king’s order I am a cuckold.
Can one resist one’s master?
Perhaps some lord may laugh at it
And will be cuckcolded by the first passer-by. (p. 109.)

They could be mean:

Louis the ill-loved
Have your Jubilee
Leave your whore
And give us bread. (p.114.)

She was a lousy operatic singer. So they mocked her mediocrity.

Darnton describes the popular culture of Parisian streets and how the critics used the hip hop equivalent of the eighteenth century was employed to chide “their betters”.

Monday 24 November 2014

Catching Up with Walt Whitman

It all began when I was driving a group of Beaver College (Glenside, PA., suburb of Philadelphia) students back from a night on the town (Cape May, New Jersey on the Atlantic Ocean) to celebrate Alice Mazurie turning 21. As we approached the Walt Whitman Bridge (which connects Camden, New Jersey, 60,000, with Philadelphia, 2,000,000), Alice asked, "Doctor Hazard, have you ever visited Walt Whitman's grave?" 

Shamefully, I had to admit I hadn't! Ever. And as an articulate fan of WW. So I swerved off the access road to the WW bridge--and suddenly we were aghast at the sight of a mausoleum falling apart! The 1891 concrete was crumbling. Shame on all of us alleged fans of WW! Now by what we AM Lit folks call "a remarkable providence", the National Council of Teachers of English was holding its annual convention in Philly over Thanksgiving. So I phoned the brass in Illinois and ask if I could collect money for repair by circulating at the convention with shoulder boards exclaiming (front) "SAVE WALT'S VAULT" and (rear) "A BUCK FOR THE BARD'S BONES".

The stuffy brass replied: "You may collect money if you reject that shameful rhetoric!" When I find a phrase that pleases me, I'm very reluctant to abandon it. So I didn't. Still I managed to wring $838  from the tight-fisted English teachers. We started repairing it immediately. But a more important result was a Whitman revival. 

We started the tradition of a cemetery fest on his birthday-May 31- with local poets reading their "newies" and seniors like me repeating the Golden Oldies. The opening fest was a gangbuster. For an entire hour, National Public Radio broadcast to the entire USA over its daily feature "All Things Considered" our shenanigans. WW worship was no longer an empty promise! Every year now it's an expected ritual. We've repossessed our hero.

Germany does quite well in some ways, I've noted, with its writers. But I despise Goethe (though I love "Faust I and II, and mock the country not to have balls enough to stage Faust III. (I had ro sneak around just to find it when I arrived in Germany. And there's something pathetic about a man who was a virgin until he was 38, and fucked a beautiful woman for eight years before marrying her! (The French soldiers stormed G's door, whereupon he pissed his pants and turned over the door to his unmarried "wife". She told them to get the fuck out of theatre--which they promptly did!° Goethe married the next day! (As an 87-year-old observer, I find it pathetic that the Big G was chasing a teenager abroad at 83!) "Different Chokes for Different Blokes;" which was never a black American aphorism.

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.