Oct 162015

A few days ago Svetlana Alexievich received the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature. At 1 pm the Committee announced the decision, one hour later I saw the news, five minutes later I had her book “Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster” on my tablet. That’s what I currently read.

I chose that book, because I know a lot obout the catastrophe, because it happened in my early adult life, and because I often think about it. At that time we were told not to eat mushrooms. So much time has passed since, but it is just about the half-life of Cesium-137 or Strontium-90. Half of what rained down on Europe is still here. What do we do now? We eat mushrooms and call ourselves an intelligent species 🙂

How the book is? Well, it’s a collection of short chapters, each one based on one or more interviews with survivors and people who lived there, were evacuated and returned. It is a book that does not try to relate the events, instead it tries to give us a feeling for how it is to have been there, to have lost a beloved partner or a child. There is this certain mix of love and death, that is heart-wrenching. Absolutely recommended.

Jun 142010

As I was not overly productive today, let me bother you with some more images from Saturday’s trip to Linz, and to be precise, more images from Eisenerz.

Now we are where the meat is, or actually where it should be, and that’s already the problem.

All four images were taken at a place in the center called “Bergmannsplatz” (“Miner’s Square”), looking in different directions.

Eisenerz is really a beautiful, picturesque town, no doubt about it, but when you’re there, when you stand in that square, it is completely empty. And it’s not only that we see no people, there are no shops either.

At one corner not shown here, there was a branch office of a big insurance company, closed now. There are some cafés and restaurants, but they are either closed or seem deserted.

That’s what happens when people leave. Seemingly you can’t do much about it. Tourism is probably hampered by the fact that Eisenerz is far off any other attractions. The next city, Leoben, struggles with the decline of the industry in the region as well, and although there is still mining on Erzberg, the processes today need far less workers than they did even only 50 years ago.

People go where the work is, and seemingly Eisenerz failed to attract any new opportunities. It’s a wonder that the town is still beautiful as it is, even though I suppose that much money from the EU has been spent here, ultimately I can’t see how further decline could be held back. And that’s really a shame.

Well, actually that’s not true. I can see what could be done. I think Eisenerz is not only beautiful, it could also be a nice place to live. You only need people there, and that means you need work.

If I were in charge, I would do two things: I would found a technical school for software engineering in this place, and I would make it very attractive for software companies to invest here. How much would it cost? You need first class internet connections, you need to subsidize the school and the workplaces (but that’s something that’s obviously done anyway, only directed at tourism, and that won’t work), and you need a long breath.

In five years we could expect first results, a turning point, and with new people, with new work, the place would become attractive for shops and other infrastructure again. In the end, in ten or twenty years, this town could bustle with life, and it would well deserve it.

The Song of the Day is one more time “Pieces Of A Past Life”, by “The Postmen” from Geneva, Switzerland. Hear them on Jamendo.

Jun 142010

Actually, when I think of it, I have no idea why we got our Dylan tickets for the show in Linz. Linz is about four hours by car from Villach, and yesterday was a hellishly hot day. We could as well have seen today’s show in Ljubljana, Slovenia, only about an hour from here.

Anyway, it was good as expected, he finished with a beautiful – and strange for me – “Forever Young”. Incredible how this man constantly re-invents himself.

We left for Linz early, intending to take the shortest way to Leoben, and then slow roads up to Eisenerz. Eisenerz is a small mining town north of “Erzberg”, a mountain that is so rich of iron ore, that it was viable for surface mining.

The population of Eisenerz peaked out at 12.679 in 1956, and was down to 5.566 in 2007. As a result, you see lots of empty places, houses that speak of former wealth, and although nothing is ruined, although you see restauration efforts here and there, the whole place is hauntingly empty.

This image was taken on the outskirts. I’ll post one more image from the center in the next entry. Somehow black and white with a bit of color toning seemed appropriate to me. The technique is one that I developed last year. Basically I use a strongly blurred layer (radius 50 pixels), add a mask, and then use a big, soft brush to selectively reveal the unblurred image. Finally I set opacity of that blur layer to abount 70%. I like that process, because by painting on the mask, I can very directly set accents and influence how the eye moves. Sometimes I may add a vignette (not here), most of the time I add toning (subtle like here or deft as I used to do last year), and most of the time I add noise.

The Song of the Day, “Pieces Of A Past Life”, is by a band called “The Postmen” from Geneva, Switzerland. Hear them on Jamendo.