Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 315

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Saturday August 25, 2017 (diary) Copied from Modigliani

A week or so ago an episode some 50+ years ago, suddenly came back into my mind.
It was around 1964, my wife Antien and I had recently married and Antien's best lady friend Karien had married too, a young artist painter, Vincent Hamel, living in Amsterdam.

We got together a few times and once or twice went up to Vincent's studio, which was in the middle of the Amsterdam red light district ("de walletjes").
A narrow front door, flanked on either side by prostitutes sitting behind their windows, and bathed in soft lighting, cast inviting looks at prospective clients passing by.
Once through the door we immediately climbed a flight of stairs to Vincent's studio on the upper floor of the building.

In the summer of 1965 we were preparing to move to Australia and got rid of all the things we did not wish to take with us.
One of these items was a small fridge, which Vincent and Karien were interested in to take from us. So one day they came to our house with a folder containing some of Vincent's abstract gouaches and after some viewing Antien and I selected one of them in exchange for the small fridge.
Vincent's gouache 1965 At the end of that year we migrated to Australia, but in 1970 were fortunate enough to return to Holland for a holiday. We also met up with Vincent again.

Excitedly he told me
"Michael, I have moved into a totally new direction with my art. Come to my studio so that I can show it to you."

So I went to see him again in Amsterdam and together we climbed the stairs to his studio.   When I went in I was immediately confronted by a most unusual painting.

A large square canvas of about 2 metres wide and 2 metres high stood in front of me. It was evenly painted mat grey, perhaps slightly darker than cement or besser bricks.
The only other feature was a straight vertical black line, about 10 cm wide, running right from the top all the way down to the bottom of the canvas, a little to the left from its center.

I really did not know what to say. I was familiar with the work of Piet Mondriaan which I liked very much, but cut down to this simple level I believed was a bridge too far.
"You have no idea how difficult this was to paint" explained Vincent. "What colour grey to pick took me quite a while. And then that black line, where to place it, and how wide should it be ? But I am very happy with this, I got it just the way I wanted it !"
Sculpture by Piet Slegers, Kröller Möller Museum, The Netherlands
I returned back to my parents' home (where we were staying) and told Antien : "I am not sure and worried about Vincent's new direction. Who is ever going to buy these kind of paintings ?"
But of course, I proved to be wrong. A few years ago I Googled Vincent online. His simplistic paintings now hang in top galleries in New York, and he receives a lot more for them than the price of a small 2nd hand fridge.

Mondriaan painting, Stedelijk Museum, The Hague Looking back at it now, my great error was not to place the painting in its proper context. In the cluttered studio, with other paintings and things all around it I could not perceive its power.

But imagined in a large room with white washed walls it would be a very powerful, dominant feature. It would determine what furniture would be appropriate and how much.

Coming home, tired and perhaps frustrated from a long day at work in the office, and entering such room, you would immediately feel the serene quiet, harmony and balance, even without looking at the painting itself.

True art will always have a special extra quality which enables it to stand the test of time.
But I never had this expressed so simply, yet so brilliantly, as in a Foreword to one of Ernest Hemingway's novels, written by his regular Publisher. True art, he explained, has an outside as well as an inside.
The outside is what one immediately perceives via the eye and/or ear, while the inside is the underlying feeling, mood, reflection, contemplation, thought process it provokes.

Some artists have it as their (conscious or subconscious) mission to minimize the outside of their work in such a way that it maximizes the inside. Erik Satie Once you understand this several artists from different artistic fields immediately come to mind.

Such as :
Mondriaan, Hamel, Modigliani in painting,
Miles Davis, John Lewis (Modern Jazz Quartet) in Jazz,
Erik Satie in Classical music,
Piet Slegers in sculpture,
Ernest Hemingway in literature.
And so on.

There is a strong correlation (or should I say "echo") with science here. perfect intervals
A scientist, when searching to solve a problem, will know that finding its simplest solution ("outside") is most likely to be the truth (its "inside").
Albert Einstein's E = mc2 is perhaps the most famous example of this.

But go way back 2,500 years, to Pythagoras who discovered the simple mathematical relationship that exists between the octave (c), the perfect 5th (G) and the perfect 4th (F) to a fundament note (C).
It is the basic formulae ("outside") that ensured the beauty and truth ("inside") of Western music right up to today.

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Friday, September 8, 2017 (diary)
Carracalla Spas in Baden Baden

"Journeys are the midwives of thought" according to Alain de Botton. He certainly hits the nail on the head there and I fully agree.
After some 30 hours in planes, trains, busses and waiting in between I have arrived in Baden Baden one of the most stylish towns in Germany. After depositing my case at the Hotel am Markt I immediately am off to the Caracalla spas. Wonderful.   But my head is bursting with new thoughts and ideas. Where shall I start ?
Sitting 40,000 feet, 12 Km above the earth, in a Premium Economy seat of a Singapore Airlines' 380-800, flying smoother than the smoothest train or car ride one can possibly imagine, I sense I am on an important journey in my life.
My journeys have never been travels to see (I am not a tourist) but always travels to be. To place myself in a new environment in order to bring out a new aspect of the potential me.

But as I feel very strongly right now, this is a special journey, a much larger version of my normal ones.
A journey where I am getting away from one thing at one end, while hoping to find something new and inspirational at the other end.
In 1965 my wife Antien, 2-year old daughter Babette and I left ("got away from") Europe in order to find something new and inspirational in Australia. On all accounts this was a fantastic and inspirational move, from which we all have benefited over time.
How paradoxical then is it that I now, 52 years later, travel in the exact opposite direction in search of the same !

Especially during the past half dozen years I have been ever strongly affected by the reverse side of the coin of the Australian identity : a wonderful easy going attitude at one side (I still enjoy), but with a good measure of indifference and ignorance at the other.
This negative aspect is displayed on a daily basis by the country's politicians, the public debate on TV, radio and in most news papers. It now has such a strong negative influence on my daily thoughts that I just must get away from it.
Will Europe be any better, I don't know, but the signs arriving here are already positive. I find it in the short talks I have with complete strangers, in the fashionable clothes some of the ladies wear, even in the delicious dressing on my first salad I eat. And Baden Baden, (where I stay a few days for their spas) just breathes culture.
At first glance the politics too here in Europe appear to be more meaningful. Where Brexit is a major and very emotional issue in the UK, for the Europeans this is just a side show. Their priority is focused on the future for their European union. Sounds good to me : so we will see.

A great article on Brexit in the International New York Times today concludes with this statement :
"Before Brexit the UK was united and Europe divided. Now, after the Brexit vote the situation has reversed : Europe has become united, while the UK is very divided."

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Saturday, September 9, 2017 (diary)
My parents, March 1962

In June 1981, one month after his 72nd birthday, my father suddenly died of a stroke.
My mother phoned me (I then lived in Adelaide) in the middle of the night and together with my brother Claus, was on a plane on my way back that same day.

After arriving it soon became apparent that it would be me who had to run the family business. Our business was run from our parental home Martinshof.

The reception room which lead to the main office had a parquet floor. The first day I walked through it and opened the door to the main office I was greeted by a number of white faced employees looking at me with horror. The steps they just had heard were exactly the same as my father's and they all expected a ghost would open the door.
My father with grandson Jeroen, 1970 Although my main personality characteristic, an introvert nature, is derived from my mother, there is one other feature, I now realize, I have in common with my father : the need and ability to communicate with other individuals on a one to one "humane" level. These can be casual encounters, often with total strangers.
My father was an absolute master at it, which helped him enormously in all his business encounters. It also made him a true legend amongst the jewellery world, especially in the Netherlands.

I know I do exactly the same and its frequency is increasing here, as I take every opportunity to blow the cobwebs out off my German language skills.
It is important not to intrude, just like you should not stand too close, breaching a person's private space.
But provided this is avoided, it can be a special "cameo moment" in the day. A small creative encounter (usually of no consequence at all), but which both may remember with fondness afterwards.

Michael, December 1965 For example, yesterday.
I am drinking a beer, sitting, like many others, outside in front of one of the bistros. Unlike everyone else all day I am wearing a pair of shorts.
I suddenly notice about 20 yards away, a man also wearing shorts, having a drink with his wife (I assume) outside the bistro on the opposite side of the street.
I have a very creative mind (great when solving problems, but also fun in social situations like this) and immediately a curious thought comes into my mind.
I smile. Shall I tell him about it ?
On the spur of the moment I finish my beer, get up and walk up to him. I start in German but realize he is a foreigner, so switch over in English : "Sir, please allow me to intrude."     "Do you know the difference between a pessimist and an optimist ?" I ask him.     He smiles but remains silent, waiting for my answer. "A pair of shorts," I continue "especially this time of the year !"
The man smiles with pleasure. Like me, he too knows he has been standing out from the crowd all day. We talk briefly. They are from Canada. "I recognize you from this morning at breakfast." he says "We are sharing the same hotel." So he gave me a surprise too. We shake hands and I walk away.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017 (diary)
Steingrubenhof, Sankt Peter

I had an uneventfull journey to Freiburg, although I was really struggling with my heavy black suitace. I am used to traveling light.
My sister Wivica picked me up from the Freiburg Railway station and we drove to Sankt Peter where I settled in nicely at the "Panoramablick" appartment of the Steingrubenhof. I usually stay at the Feldbergblick (timber cladded building : upper floor on the photo with open door to the balcony). But as that is already occupied I am on the ground floor appartment, which is a little bigger.

Both physically and emotionlly I am in no man's land, halfway between the country I left (Australia) and the country of my new destination (Spain). But by no means an unpleasant no man's land. I generally get on well with the Germans (after all my mother was German) and I feel very much at home with them.
Upon my arrival at the Steingrubenhof I had a pleasant chat with its owner Frau Lydia. They used to have cows, but her husband Georg sold them all and is now a free man to do other things, like singing in a local choir which he much enjoys.
Milk farming in this steep hilly region is not easy. The farmers here generally find it difficult to compete with their collegues in the flat lands of Northern Germany. So many of them have holiday accomodation available or permanent renters like my sister.

There are quite a few nice restaurants in the Sankt Pater Village and tonight I take my sister to the Bürgerstüble, where an old acquiantance of mine (Marcus) also works. I very much look forward to it.

Wifi is a bit iffy here, but I will try to upload this online now. If you read this I obviouly succeeded.

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Monday, September 11, 2017 (diary)


September is the season for the pfifferlingen as they are called in Germany. As children we used to collect them in the wild growing in the forest we lived in. Cantarellen we call them in Dutch.
In my opinion they are the most delicious mushrooms (toadstools ?) to eat. They have a special peppery taste, nothing compares with it.
The Germans are right to celebrate them in their dishes during this month and most restaurants do have them on the menu.

BUT !!
So far I have only seen them on restaurant menus as additions to a dish :
pfifferlingen in soup
in an omelet
with this kind of meat
with that kind of noodles
and so on . . . .
There is a clear lack of understanding here. Pfifferlingen have a unique taste of their own, so you should eat them by themselves, not polluted by other food stuff.
Simply fried with butter and some seasoning and bingo !, you have a unique dish.

My mother would always cook them like that. As a teenager even I myself have prepared them like this.
Here, in Sankt Peter, Christa Blattmann, former chef and owner of the Waldcafe, prepared them like this also. Unfortunately she has left the restaurant, and Sankt Peter is the poorer for it.

The scientist's search for truth (I mentioned before) comes to mind here, as it applies to cooking too. The simplest dishes are always the best, because the produce's true taste and flavour are not compromised.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017 (diary)
THe good stuff

Prices in Germany have been stable from 2008 to 2014, but the last 3 years they have increased by 20% or more I noticed.
Having said that, food, drinks and clothes are still cheaper than in Australia. Food products generally two thirds or half Australian prices and alcohol only one third or even a quarter of what is paid in Australia. And the variety of choice in the supermarkets is absolutely wonderful.
I used to brush my teeth with Parodontax, the top quality toothpaste which contains sodium bicarbonate. But these past few years it has disappeared from Australian supermarket shelves and chemists. Here it is available everywhere.
Shaving sticks too have disappeared and one is forced to used these silly foams and creams. In Germany they are readily available. Yesterday I even picked up a shaving soap bowl produced by Wilkinson. (You may laugh about it, but it made my day ! And the shave I had this morning was just bliss.)

Angela Merkel Last night I watched wahlarena (election arena) on the TV. The studio was a circular floor surrounded by stepwise rising seats for the audience all around.
Angela Merkel was standing in the middle answering questions thrown at her from all around. It was a most impressive performance by her. Merkel simultaneously portrayed thorough knowledge, understanding of the people, compassion and honesty.

While across the Channel the British parliament spent all night agonizing over Brexit, here in wahlarena the word was not mentioned even once. They just don't give a damn.
Most questions concerned local living conditions and regulations. One was about the refugee crisis upon which Merkel gave an interesting answer.
Germany, Merkel said, had benefited enormously from economic globalisation. Therefore their country had also to accept responsibility to help look after those who were in dire living conditions at present. But she also added that from now on they should focus on help within the crisis countries themselves.

When one compares the present shambles of politics in both the UK and Australia with the steady as she goes leadership in Germany, it shows just how important the presence of a long serving strong leader is.
Germans have always supported their strong leaders. This was an absolute catastrophe with Hitler, but of enormous benefit under the likes of Adenauer, who fabulously rebuilt Germany immediately after WW2, and now Angela Merkel, who is the key figure to guide not only Germany but also Europe as a whole to a stable and prosperous future.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017 (diary)
Ristorante Bertolds Brunnen

Regina, the owner and manager of Cafe Martin took above photo for me way back in 2010. It shows part of the St.Peter village square, with on the right Ristorante Bertolds Brunnen where my sister and I had dinner last night. As usual I had the escargots as entree (still only €6 compared to €12.50 in Baden Baden), followed by a descent size pizza and two "firtel" (quarter litres) of chianti. I always love coming here.

Ristorante Bertolds Brunnen Today it is overcast with dark clouds and no doubt some rain coming. So I won't go on a walk today, but stay mostly inside. I love sitting in the warm and cosy kitchen here (Panoramablick at the Steingrubenhof) writing on my laptop.

I continuously receive unexpected contacts from around the world, asking questions or making comments on a variety of subjects connected with my web site.
The past week for example included a Dutch museum contacting me for more information on the goldsmith Archibald Dumbar, a member of our former creative Martinshof team. They are holding an exhibition of his work.

I also had an email conversation with a lady who lived in Yonki (PNG Highlands) in the 1960s during the initial investigations of the Ramu 1 Hydro-electric Scheme. Some 10 years later we lived and worked there during its construction.

And nearest to home : last Sunday, sitting with an English couple on a joint dinner table in the Bürgerstüble, the lady asked me "Are you the man from Jazclass ?" She and her husband walked some of the Black Forest walking trails I have documented in my Blog.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017 (diary)

The Glotter creek
Inside reality : the Glotter near Glottertal, Black Forest

This is a photo (taken some years ago) of the fast flowing Glotter, descending from Sankt Peter down through the Glottertal and eventually flowing into the Rhine. It is on the lovely (8km long) walking trail from Sankt Peter to the village of Glottertal. I walked this trail on several occasions and even my daughter Babette explored it once some years ago.
This evening Wivica will take me to dinner at a new restaurant in Glottertal I have not been before. I am much looking forward to that.
It is still overcast, cold and wet here in the Black Forest. So plenty of time to think and write on my Blog.

Inside & Outside → Extrovert & Introvert → 2 Realities we should live in
I very much like Hemingway's concept of outside versus inside, as one can apply it to many things. However both these terms are relative. One has to define one, in order to understand the nature of the other.

Let me here apply it to the two extreme personality types (defined by the Myers Briggs Personality Index) : extroverts and introverts.
One can describe these two personality extremes in very similar ways, for :
extroverts live very much outside themselves and need to be inside the human society for their existence,
introverts, on the other hand, live very much inside themselves and generally prefer to remain outside the human society.
Most people are a combination of the two. Some lean more towards the introvert side, others are more extrovert by nature.

If one defines human society, or more broadly speaking the human species as the inside, what would be the outside ?  
As a strong introvert, as well as a trained geologist, I consider myself within the time span of the solar system and universe. I feel very much on the outside of humanity, instead I feel I live in the universe.

Extroverts, I imagine, tend to place themselves generally more within the time frame of the human species existence on earth, which is only a blink of an eye with respect to the age of our solar system and the universe.
Time diagram of the Universe

So there clearly are two realities we live in :
the reality within the time frame of the human existence on earth, the inside reality, and
the reality within the time frame of the universe, the outside reality

As human beings we should aim to nurture our awareness of both these realities.
Introverts (even when they don't yet realize it) tend to live in the outside reality. They should therefore make efforts to take part in and contribute to the inside reality.
Extroverts mainly live in the inside reality. They should aim to break out off this limited time frame and create awareness of the outside reality.

Europe, with its multitude of strong, well defined cultures and its geologically young landscapes, is a continent where clearly the inside reality prevails. (For many this appears to be hard to break out off.)

Australia, with its still young and little defined culture, but its geological ancient inland landscape, is a unique continent to appreciate the outside reality.

My introvert view of the world
Most people travel to see things like the Colosseum, the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef, or any cute erosional land feature, or attractive mountain scene. But in terms of geological time these features are inside realities, here today, gone tomorrow !
Although I do appreciate the effort and thought gone into many man made structures, my visual interest reaches well beyond that.
This is where Australia is unique. Their ancient flat inland eroded landscapes are the oldest dry surfaces in the world. Driving through these is (for me and many others) a spiritual experience beyond words.

Ancient dry land surface in Central Queensland, Australia
Outside reality in central Queensland, but nowhere near as colourful and old as in WA.

I have traveled through and observed a great variety of landscapes, but the only one that ever brought tears to my eyes was in Western Australia.
Traveling one morning by car about 100km north of Kalgoorlie (in Western Australia), I went off the road, got out off my car and climbed a small hill.

In front of me stretched an endless multi-coloured plain of deep red soil speckled with bright white quarz blows and large blotches of sparkling white salt lakes surrounded by borders of bushes in a variety of greens.
Elsewhere shallow outcrops of light green volcanic rock alongside strings of dark purple ironstoneband formations. Everything lit up by the bright blue sky above.

It was the closest I ever looked at eternity on earth.
When I picked up a rock lying in front of my feet, I knew I touched something no-one else had ever touched before and which had been in existence for 3.6 billion years !

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