Small Is Beautiful

A week ago I bought a Canon Powershot A590IS which was only 99 Euros at that large online bookshop that is called after a large river in Brazil. A friend had recommended it to me and after he showed me some of the macro shots he had done with it, I couldn’t resist.

My fascination with the complexity of small things probably started when my parents gave me a kid’s microscope when I was very young. I realized that there were other worlds to be found, and the fractals that I spent years with in the nineties taught me that complexity is independent of size.

Here are some shots from the garden. I took them without any additional gear or special lenses but with the highest possible resolution. Most of these images are details from larger photos.

That last one was a casual shot of a glass of sparkling water which stood on a brown table with some other things on it. Here’s a detail of the tiny bubbles each of which reflects the world and each other. If some magical hi-tech trick would make these images infinitely sharp we could continue zooming and you could see me sitting on a chair, and my eyes through which I saw the bubbles, and the reflections of the scenery in my eyes.

1959 Pneumonia Trout

I want to have a normal cold as other people do. But my respiratory system seems to be my weak spot (everyone is said to have some weak spot or other, healthwise) so the last colds that I caught always ended up in extended periods of coughing, sweating, having to take antibiotics.

Sitting in my doctor’s waiting room, I read the Richard Brautigan book I grabbed from my bookshelves this morning: an old copy of Trout Fishing in America. I don’t know why I took this book but I didn’t want to carry the large and heavy Vernon Vinge I’m currently reading, so I needed something else and Richard Brautigan suddenly seemed like what I wanted.

I hadn’t read Brautigan for quite a while and found that I still like it although it is so sixties. Which isn’t such a bad thing. He was a tragic figure in the end but he has a very lovely sense of dry humour and a way to write that is so typically Brautigan.

I wish I could write blog entries that are like the short chapters of a Brautigan novel but without having to kill myself at the end like he did.

I finished about 2/3rds of Trout Fishing in America before my doc came to listen to my cough. He thinks pneumonia. Oh well. So it’s antibiotics, again, and an xray of my lungs next week. Actually I don’t feel bad except for the cough but I trust his expertise.

Some of the chapters in Brautigan’s book are about his childhood and youth I think, and he mentions 1959 here and there. Wow, 50 years ago. I was already alive but only five years old. Hard to believe that I was already around that long ago. Some memories from that time must be buried deep in some inaccessible parts of my brain.

In 1957, my American GI uncle took some film footage of places in Germany, and of my parents and me. When I visited him in Michigan in 1979, he gave the footage to me and I eventually had it converted to AVI. A minute of his German autobahn footage ended up on Youtube – I made a tiny Kraftwerk inspired soundtrack.

My uncle loved me dearly, and I liked him a lot – he is probably responsible for my deep seated fascination with America. There is something about America that seems deeply significant to me but I don’t really know what it is. It must have been laid down when I was very young. Every time I make it there I feel strange but somehow at home.

The way I write short sentences and paragraphs is Brautigan inspired. I notice that now.

Does anyone read Brautigan nowadays? I discovered him during the seventies when I was studying English literature and came upon the Beat generation and their poetry. Gary Snyder as one of my lifetime heroes, but many Beat inspired poets as well. Brautigan is one of a kind. I collected all of his novels and I like to read them once in a while. What is it that I like about them? I couldn’t say. If I had stayed a literature person, maybe working on some university, I’d have to be able to express that but I left that behind in another life.

Trout Fishing in America: Catching trout to eat them is about the remotest thing I can imagine. Maybe I’d have to learn it in some post-apocalyptic world where there’s no other food. Until then, they are my brothers and sisters, and they look at me, they trust me. I haven’t eaten any animals for 35 years, and that feels so good, I’m so happy that I don’t have to.

Thomas Smiatek

Finally, there was Thomas. He had been my colleague in a computer job in the early nineties, for 2 or 3 years, and I continued to meet him now and then but I hadn’t seen him for some years now. A very likeable guy who loved life. Yesterday I went behind his coffin, in a large crowd of friends. His old mother collapsed in tears. His younger brother had already died in the early nineties, and now she had lost her other son. Thomas had been 49 and he simply didn’t wake up one day.

When I look outside my window, there is a large host of blue cornflowers and pink columbines. The bees are hard at work. There are birdcalls from the trees opposite the small street. The dark clouds will bring rain this afternoon. It is quiet. Everything is simply here. I’m so happy.

Blue Volume

The birds outside my window on Monday morning, 5:30 am.

„Er ist’s“ by Eduard Mörike is the German romantic spring poem – every German knows it.

Frühling lässt sein blaues Band
Wieder flattern durch die Lüfte;
Süße, wohlbekannte Düfte
Streifen ahnungsvoll das Land.
Veilchen träumen schon,
Wollen balde kommen.
— Horch, von fern ein leiser Harfenton!
Frühling, ja du bist’s!
Dich hab‘ ich vernommen!

Here’s a modern automatic Babelfish translation:

1. German>English

Spring lets blue volume be again to flutter by air Sweet, well-known smells Strip notionful the country Violets dream already, Wools balde come Horch, from a distance a quiet harp clay/tone! Spring, you bist‘ s! You I heard!

2. German>English>German>English

Spring leaves blue volume, on the airway, which is sweet, to that far away admitted notionful smell strip already to flutter again its countries violet dream, wools, which come balde Horch, from a distance a calm harp loam/clay/tone! Spring, it bist‘ s! It, which I heard!

3. German>English>German>English>German>English

Spring leaves which is sweet, far certified notionful smell strips, over again from a distance to already flutter its countries violet dream, wools, which come balde Horch, to blue volume, on the airline, a calm harp loam/loam/clay/tone! Spring, it bist‘ s! It, which I heard!

Babelfish has a number of semantic problems. „Band“ means „ribbon“, not „volume“ in this context. „Wools“ is Babelfish’s sad attempt to translate the perfectly usual „wollen“ which means „want“. „Balde“ means „soon“ and „Horch“ is a somewhat oldfashioned way to say „listen“.

Here’s a manual translation by Bertram Kottmann that is a bit more poetic.

(Incidentally, the guitarist on this photo is called Robert. I wonder why?)

My office this morning. Usually I sit behind these windows, trying to earn some money. Can you imagine that it is difficult to sit inside and work while all the action is outside and the flowers wait to be photographed?