Agfa, Saab and Honda

Saab 17
Entering service with the Flygvapen in 1941, the Saab-17 was notable for the robust construction that has since been a feature of the company's designs, and the type remained in service until 1948. After World War II 47 were delivered to the Ethiopian air force. Presumably the Ethopians did not require the snow skis.
Ever wonder how the names Agfa or Saab or Honda were derived? Here are the answers, and a few more:

Why did they call it Adobe? Isn’t that a kind of mud brick? The computer graphics company was named after the river Adobe Creek, which flowed behind the house of the founders John Warnock and Chuck Geschke.

1935 FiatNow for the cars:

Fiat: an abbreviation of Fabbrica Ivalley Automobili Torino (Italian: Italian Auto Factory Turin). Photo, right: a 1935 Fiat built for racing.

SEAT: Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo (Spanish for “Spanish passenger car society”)

Alfa: Anomina Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (Italian: Lombardy Automobile Factory)

AUDI: To my surprise, not an abbreviation or an acronym: its precursor was named Auto Union, an amalgamation of several previously disparate German automobile manufacturers including DAF and others. I had guessed that AUDI meant something like (my German is clumsy) Autowerke Union Deutsche Industrien. No. The manufacturer August Horch left his original company “Horch” after five years, but wanted to go on making motor cars. He chose the new name “Audi” after the Latin translation of his name (Horch: imperative singular for “hearing”, as in “Now hear this!”).

BMW: Bayrische Motoren werke

Adler motorbike
Honda: means “eagle”, after the name of the founder Soichiro Honda. “Adler” (typewriters) also means eagle, but in German. Adler successfully produced cars and motor-bikes, but after World War II the Adler company made a decision not to resume automobile construction. Motorcycle production resumed in 1949 and continued for 8 years leading to the production of the MB 250S. Increasingly, Adler focused on the manufacture of office equipment. The company associated with Triumph to form Triumph-Adler, and was taken over by Grundig in 1957, later by Olivetti.

Quaintly, a Korean motor cycle c. 2010, broadly imitative of the Harley-Davidson marque, is the the Hyosung Aquila GV650. “Aquila” is Italian for “eagle”. The double-headed eagle is a common symbol in heraldry and vexillology, most commonly associated with the Holy Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, Imperial Russia, and Austria from 1934 to 1938. Here’s my poem (a reverse haibun, as it happens) «Adler, Honda & Co» from the late 1980s:

It’s tête-à-tête time
for the fledgelings, long dormant
under winter’s mantle, now
cultivating their wits and basking
in a shabby performer’s lack
of polish (likewise these politicos;
no hindrance to the leader).
Past tense, please – loose chat sprouted
to the blare of the gangster’s dander,
as these gifted breathers chuckled.
Are you part of the senior set? Ah,
their drudge domain pitches and topples;
‘I struggle and win,’ grins the burnt-out
coma case – but he’s nodding again,
scoring zero. Blacklist index, old soldiers
dozing, thievery – looming astride
the memory barrier, high-strung
like a second-rank officer, in
a narration that wanders among truck routes
the scholar rehearsed his tactics.

Adler typewriter

Hmmm, tails, looks like this batch of stuff – illuminate my lawmaker buddy, pronto, lamps on in the blues domain – greed network foray event, watch that uniform travesty – no brass, no clout, but it makes an amiable evening seem like Brazen Soldier Green Asylum neophyte reef old pal – smoky torch glow lights up the sunken ramp that slopes down through the water wavering in the shadows to the steel vault door fathoms deep – baleful archive strong­box mono­graph stamped with the double eagle

Saab: 1937 as Svenska Aeroplan Aktie Bolaget (Swedish Airplane Company Limited). Sadly, Saab is now no more. For the sale of their airplanes to the Ethopians, see the photo at the top of this post.

Agfa: comes from “Aktien Gesellschaft für Anilinfabrikation “. The development and manufacture of aniline dyes, derived from coal tar, quickly became a billion dollar business, and is one of the great success stories of nineteenth-century science.

BASF: in former times, Badische Anilin and Soda Fabrik (aniline dyes again, with soda added: soda is used for glass processing). Soda and aniline dyes were the first products of BASF.

Esso: after the initials S.O. (Standard Oil of New Jersey). Today the company is known as ExxonMobil.

KLM: from Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (Netherlands for “royal aviation society”)

QANTAS: Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Services. But you knew that, didn’t you?

Thanks to:

Adieu, Paris Village Voice

In 1993 I did quite a lot of travelling. From my diary:

I read some of my poems on Thursday evening at 7 pm, 11 February 1993 at the tiny Village Voice bookshop on the Left Bank, a few yards from the Boulevard Saint-Germain. It’s widely known as the best English-language literary bookshop in Paris if not in Europe, and its regular readings are popular.

Madame Odile Hellier, the owner, was extremely hospitable, and had sensibly arranged to obtain numerous copies of several of my books of poetry as well as the «Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry». As Barry Humphries might have said, they made a lovely show in the window, and quite a number sold after the reading. The Australia-France Foundation at the Australian Embassy was extremely helpful here, organising to fly the copies at short notice from Australia through the generosity of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Australian novelist Frank Moorhouse travelled hundreds of miles from his mountain fastness in Besançon to be at the reading, and gave a warm and witty introduction. It centered around a hitherto unnoticed split in Australian literature; between those writers raised on the North Coast of New South Wales, and those (such as Frank and myself) raised on the South Coast. This fresh look at a previously buried phenomenon — inherent cardinal antipathy — provided food for thought (and no doubt for a dozen theses.)

The mainly young audience enjoyed the evening, and my hand was tired from autographing copies of my work before it was over. Dinner later at Aux Charpientiers was a memorable event.

Alas, the bookshop will close its doors forever on 31 July 2012.

(This note from Charles Trueheart, The American Library in Paris blog):
In a letter to friends and patrons, founder and owner Odile Hellier cites the reasons – reasons which will surprise no one who follows trends in publishing and bookselling. On-line book retailers such as Amazon and the growing popularity of e-readers, among other market forces, are threatening independent bookstores all over the world.

What is more, when Village Voice opened its doors in 1982, the St. Germain quartier was funkier. Once known as the “triangle d’or de l’edition” and a cultural crossroads in Paris, Hellier laments, “the neighborhood has been overrun by fashionable boutiques and bars and lost its attractiveness to book browsers and buyers.”

The Village Voice is familiar to expatriates and visitors alike for its unique offerings of books tucked by the thousands into the tiny space’s nooks and crannies, and for the good judgment and personal attention of its booksellers. What is more, for three decades Odile Hellier’s bookshop has been a coveted rendezvous with readers for an incredibly distinguished roster of American and other English-speaking literary figures.

[…] Odile and her colleagues Michael, Vincent and Marc will be saying farewell at the Village Voice on the evening of Saturday 16 June, and everyone is invited to the wake: 6, rue Princesse, 75006 – Paris; Tel. 01 46 33 36 47;

Et tu, Quadrant?

Burglar I have a review of «The Quadrant Book of Poetry 2000-2010, Edited by Les Murray» forthcoming in the pages of «The Australian». After I had written and sent in the review, a contributor to the anthology wrote to me with an opinion: “I’m reluctant to bite the hand that feeds me but I think it’s general knowledge that the poets in it were not asked for permission to reprint; nor were they paid a permission fee.” «Quadrant» magazine’s website says that “By submitting a work to «Quadrant» you licence us to publish it in «Quadrant» Magazine and «Quadrant Online».” There is no mention of the purchase of anthology rights.

The misappropriation of real property (the theft of televisions, cameras, laptops) is regarded seriously by police and magistrates; apparently the misappropriation of intellectual property is a different matter.

Comments, anyone?

Meanjin: should writers be paid for their work?

Meanjin cover

Stop Press: I am glad to say that on Friday 1 June 2012 Sally Heath rang me to tell me that «Meanjin» magazine in Melbourne had reconsidered their earlier decision not to pay contributors to its forthcoming 400-page anthology, and will now offer all contributors a small fee: the sum of $50 for each author. It’s not a lot, but it signifies a respect for authors’ rights. I have agreed to let my little poem appear there.

Now for «Quadrant»…

I’m a little concerned about the way «Meanjin» magazine in Melbourne, Australia, is going about publishing a 400-page anthology of the best submissions to the journal since it was founded in December 1940, in Brisbane, by Clem Christesen. The current editor, journalist Sally Heath, says:

In November 2012 MUP will publish a «Meanjin» anthology of poetry, essays, fiction, memoir and interviews from the journal’s extensive archives. It is an endeavor supported by Melbourne University via a Cultural Community Grant. We aim to produce a collection that is of interest to general readers as well as tertiary creative writing and communication students. We hope it will give a snapshot of excellent writing in Australia since the 1940s. We also believe it will contribute to the current debate about placing contemporary Australian literature in context. We hope we can add increased awareness of individual contributors and «Meanjin» to this discussion.

Unfortunately, they don’t intend to pay any of the contributors, and that’s what worries me. They pay for the paper and the binding and the printer and the warehousing, they pay the editor’s salary, they pay the rent. I wonder why they cannot pay the people who make the whole thing possible, the contributors.

Let’s look at the proposed anthology: presumably it will cost around $30 per copy, and let’s assume they sell two thousand overall: if we assume royalties at ten per cent of recommended retail price, that’s a minimum of six thousand dollars in royalties that the contributors will not be receiving.

The magazine enjoys a special Cultural Community Grant (for this anthology), financial support from Melbourne University Publishing who took over the magazine in 2003, sponsorship from the Literature Board of the Australia Council, from Arts Victoria, from the University of Melbourne, from Palgrave Macmillan (which belongs to the huge German publishing company Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck), the State Government of Victoria, the City of Melbourne, and grants from the Copyright Agency Limited.

And they can’t afford to pay the contributors.

At least they are asking permission to sell on the contributors’ work, which is more than they did when they flogged off every contribution to the magazine since 1940 to Informit, who are still profiting from that misappropriation of intellectual property.

They want one tiny little poem from me, for nothing. What do you think I should do?

Please see the Stop Press item at the head of this post.

Melbourne! Cut it out!

Napoleon in Melbourne

Sydney, a semi-tropical city, and Melbourne, closer to Antarctica, are Australia’s two largest cities. Sydney was founded by British Marines as a dumping ground for convicts in the late 1700s. Most people admit that Sydney’s history is riddled with bribery, crime and corruption. Melbourne was founded much later by free settlers, and has a reputation for sobriety and social responsibity. Except for the occasional bout of bribery, crime and corruption.

But, damn it, Sydney is older, larger, and more beautiful, which makes people from Melbourne grit their teeth. Or so we imagine, in Sydney.

“Napoleon conquers Melbourne (again) — the untold story of Bonaparte’s Victorian reign”, screams the headline, splashed all over the front of the Entertainment section of The Melbourne Age. An article by Raymond Gill, dated May 11, 2012, follows:

“From a map marked “Terre Napoleon” claiming Victoria as French territory to a country residence outside Paris that was a show-place for Australian exotica, Napoleon Bonaparte was a great admirer and preserver of our heritage.”

Apparently a collection of indigenous Australian and local flora and fauna by French explorers “is winging its way to Melbourne to tell an untold story of the emperor’s fascination with the new world Down Under.”

The excited reader can be forgiven for imagining Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, absorbed in planning a lightning military campaign to invade Australia and claim Melbourne as his own city.

There’s only one problem with this bizarre theory: Napoleon died in 1821. Melbourne didn’t exist then: it was founded fourteen years later by settlers from Launceston in Van Diemen’s Land.

I recall reading an article a year or so ago (in the same paper?) that likened Berlin to Melbourne: they both have trams, and a zoo, and lots of culture and history. More or less the same, really, except that Melbourne is so much livelier. So say the people from Melbourne.

Armour Fitting in Ancient Greece

Trouble with the new flat-pack armour

  • Armourer

    Image courtesy of Tom Clark: though he’s not to blame for the blunt wit.

  • Uncle Wystan

    Auden cover image

    Available on my Main Site, my 1995 review of Auden, by Richard Davenport-Hines.

    … Worse, perhaps, to an Australian reviewer spoiled by a society in which hot showers are plentiful, he seems to have been staggeringly dirty in his habits. He summarised his appearance, rather charitably, as “untidy and grubby”. A franker appraisal came from Stravinsky, who called him “the dirtiest man I had ever liked.” His clothes were often stained and frayed, and Paul Bowles described him not long after his move to New York in 1939 as “pretty eccentric … does strange things like picking his nose and eating what he finds … however he’s very bright and fun to talk to.” In old age he talked rather too brightly about farts, and about the fun of peeing in the bath. Perhaps he was trying to live out an aphorism articulated when he was twenty, and perhaps borrowed from Oscar Wilde: “Real artists are not nice people; all their best feelings go into their work, and life has the residue.”…

    More here:

    Auckland: Short Takes on Long Poems

    Here are three pages from my Tapa Notebook, which I filled in as an aide memoire for my time in Auckland in late March 2012, at a symposium sponsored by the University of Auckland. The notebook has been sent to the University Library for safekeeping. Tapa? “Tapa” is a cloth made from the bark of the Paper Mulberry tree, a decorated and valuable cloth common in Oceania. A panel of Tapa cloth decorates the front cover of these notebooks. See all 110 pages here: my Tapa Notebook.

    John Tranter's Tapa Notebook page 53

    John Tranter's Tapa Notebook page 85

    John Tranter's Tapa Notebook page 99

    Lorikeet and Rose

    Rainbow Lorikeet

    On my morning walk around the Balmain waterfront park in Sydney today, a parrot, and on the way home, in a suburban garden, a flower: the bird, a The Rainbow Lorikeet, (Trichoglossus haematodus) is a species of Australasian parrot found in Australia, eastern Indonesia (Maluku and Western New Guinea), Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. In Australia, it is common along the eastern seaboard, from Queensland to South Australia and northwest Tasmania. Its habitat is rainforest, coastal bush and woodland areas. (Wikipedia).

    The rose is a rose is a rose.


    Phew! Back at Last!

    Boy, what a series of misadventures… wandering in the wilderness of the Internet, the nether abysses of Cyberspace… I won’t go changing Internet Service Providers again so blithely. So, after several weeks Lost in Space, I’m back.

    The good news is that I had a great time in Auckland at the end of March 2012, attending the Auckland University symposium titled “Short Takes on Long Poems”, including helping to write the longest poem in the world in the sand at Oneroa Bay:

    Horse and poem

    I have a five-part writeup on it here, with lots of photos and with a detailed addendum from Rachel Blau DuPlessis from Temple U in Philadelphia:

    So call by, take a look, then call back here and leave some comments.

    It’s good to be back!