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03 July 2005

Dresden must be firebombed and its oxygen burned away to stop them from making this

This was how the city of Dresden assisted the German war effort during World War II. In my previous post, I said the bombs which superheated the air and burned away most of the city's oxygen were magnesium. Actually they were phosphorus.

Before the early 1700s, this kind of porcelain art, particularly the magnificent glazes and colors, had been a closely guarded secret of China, which monopolized the trade. Finally artisans in Dresden and nearby Meissen unlocked the secrets, and a great industry whose centerpiece was unique high art was born. Its great families and figures combined not just industrial magic, but exquisite artistic sensibilities.

And of course all reflecting a World Lost Forever, a world of beautiful, graceful, handsome, happy princesses and princes, shepherdesses, gavottes, harmony, fairy tales, innocent and sometimes slightly naughty romance, order, safety, prosperity.

So they lied; no such world ever really existed. But after the high-explosive and machine-gun holocaust and mass slaughter of World War One, even the pretty lying stopped. Art never looked this way again, the world never even pretended it was like this again. The old kings and princess and tsarinas and Hohenzollerns and Habsburgs and Romanovs grabbed their portable jewels and fled into exile or were shot in the back of the head. All waltzing stopped forever, and most smiling stopped for most of the 20th century. (In my beloved Prague, the smiling is just starting to return now, a wonderful moment! The westbound train back from Praha in summer 2003 stopped in Dresden Banhof, and I whispered to my 13-year-old nephew Alexander a little of Dresden's terrible history. But you couldn't see any scars or destruction or traces of misery from the train window.)

More terrible things than mere wars conspire to destroy these magnificent but incredibly fragile works of beauty. Much worse than Allied precision bombers and the very angry Russian army -- generations of little boys and little girls who run and wrestle and throw baseballs while visiting in grandmother's apartment! They must be stopped! Call the International Court of Juvenile Justice in the Hague! Notify Porcelain Rights Watch! Save the Dresden and the Meissen!

This piece of Dresden lace porcelain is from the collection of Penny Gutman Miller of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and before that from her mother's mother, Ella Alpern. It is miracle enough that some European Jews made it to safety just one or two fast steps ahead of the Nazis. But every fugitive grabs often just one treasure of his or her old life -- and the lives of German Jews had been particularly sweet, free, cultured and happy until the 20th Century -- and this and five other of Ella Alpern's Dresden figurines are their own miracle of survival. History's plan for them is that they should have been left behind, confiscated, stolen, smashed, pulverized by bombs and artillery shells. Here they still are.

I focus on the priorities of saving and safeguarding living things, but there is a special place, with fresh lemonade, Mozart coming out of the speakers, and a very comfortable hammock in my heart and in Heaven for those fools who pause for a few seconds in those Flee For Your Lives! moments to rescue objects of rare and great beauty. Vita brevis, and I am sorry to report, Ars is usually brevis, too.

Dresden is getting back on its feet; it was in the former East Germany, and so had the 20th Century Double Whammy, first the psychopathic perversions of the Fascists, followed by the brutal sodomizing without lubrication by the Socialists. If someone WILL BE SO POLITE AS TO LEAVE A COMMENT ABOUT MY FAIRY TALE, I will tell you more about a wonderful city of good times, prosperity, harmony, culture, science, scholarship and beauty, Königsberg, which was not so lucky. When History got really nasty, Königsberg had worse luck than Dresden.

And that's really bad luck. Königsberg is the European Poster City for Bad Luck and Shitty History.


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