Sunday, September 24, 2017

Urban mushroom diary - summer 2017

About this series:

On the 17th of July (2017) a huge group of mushrooms sprang up under the poplars, in the same place where I found the Leccinum duriusculum. These ones looked inedible at first sight, tough, leathery and without an attractive smell.
But they looked very mysterious after the rain, when their caps collected little pools of water.
 This mushroom has beautiful gills with cream colored spores. Most likely it's the Lactarius controversus. Wikipedia says:
This mushroom is considered inedible in western Europe due to its very acrid taste, but is eaten, and even commercially collected, in south-eastern European countries such as Serbia and Turkey.
I could try to taste a little piece next time. It's puzzling that I could see no milk sap when I scratched the mushroom. So maybe not a Lactarius (= milk mushroom)?
 Then, on 20th of July (2017) I went for a walk in the city park to look for mushrooms.
This very common mushroom is surprisingly difficult to determine. I still hesitate between Ganoderma Applanatum or Phellinus Igniarius or Fomes Fomentarius. The first one seems most likely.

The frustrating difficulty to determine a mushroom species is not limited to amateurs like me. It is shared by professionals. This is frustration on a more competent, professional level. It is the difficulty to determine Russula species:
... you'd better be able to navigate fine distinctions between "mild," "slightly acrid," "moderately acrid," "very acrid," and so on, since these distinctions may define your species. 
... dark grayish red to grayish reddish brown centrally and strong to moderate reddish brown marginally, or strong yellow to light yellow overall, or moderate orange yellow to strong yellowish brown ...  
... spines can be shaped however they want to be shaped and usually measure about 1 µ long, though they are occasionally twice that size; the connecting lines between the spines are usually present and scattered, but may be rare or, on the other hand extreme, frequent.
I never thought I would see these in the wild. Xylaria Longipes, it's not dead man's fingers but it is a close relative. It looks very uncanny, a truly alien lifeform.
It is a strangely non-decomposable mushroom, because now, in late autumn the club-shapes are still there. Other mushrooms are gone in a week.
Something microscopic on an old tree trunk. These were gone in a few days. Could be something like Mycena. I should have looked at night because some species are luminescent.
Probably a slime mold. Impossible to determine without a microscope. It could be Enteridium lycoperdon, but it does not fit the picture very well.
This looks very much like Marasmius oreades, but the spores should be white, not dark. But I can find no alternative. Psathyrella candolleana looks too regular.
The impossibility of naming a specific mushroom has a nice irony. It's a fact that this specific mushroom must have some specific name. A rigid designator. Why then, is it so difficult to find that name?
A rigid designator designates the same object in all possible worlds in which that object exists and never designates anything else.
... a term is said to be a rigid designator when it designates (picks out, denotes, refers to) the same thing in all possible worlds in which that thing exists and does not designate anything else in those possible worlds in which that thing does not exist.
This should be some Agaricus but I can not find it. It does not look like Agaricus bitorquis, though that would fit the urban location and the summer season. It looks more like Agaricus sylvaticus, but those seem to grow in pine forests.
Finally some Marasmius. No idea which one. Mysterious and evasive creatures, those mushrooms.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The mysterious fragments

Elements of the Dutch landscape - nr.15
Particles of deep topography - nr.27

Sometimes, when walking through the Dutch landscape I'm reminded of the book The origins of the kabbalah by Gershom Scholem. This book describes the Bahir, a foundational cabalistic text.
That the text before us is in fact fragmentary ... is beyond doubt. We are dealing with a collection or a redactional adaptation of fragments. Sometimes the text even breaks off in the middle of one sentence and continues with the middle of another, which can hardly be explained otherwise than by the loss of a page in the oldest manuscript ... Other lacunae are clearly recognizable ... the answer to a question is missing ... important enumerations are not brought to a conclusion.
The landscape often behaves like this. It presents us with fragments without context, little mysteries that cannot be resolved because their field of sense is gone. (See also here.)

Near Hardinxveld

It feels as if the landscape is making suggestions and posing puzzles. It feels as it it's trying to teach us a lesson about impermanence and vanitas. It confronts us with a mystery, but the message is jumbled and fragmentary.
The Book Bahir, whose few pages seem to contain so much that is pertinent to the mystery of the origin of the Kabbalah, has the form of a midrash, namely, a collection of sayings or very brief homiletical expositions of biblical verses. These are not set forth according to any particular organizational principle. Thus the book is devoid of a literary structure. Furthermore, as we shall see, it is only with the greatest reservations that one can speak of a uniform development of thought in the various paragraphs of the text. Everything seems to have been jumbled together haphazardly.
Near Hazerswoude
Note: is seems like this would be easy to find, but as yet I've not been able to determine what kind of monument this is.
It could be a fragment of a castle wall or a dovecote.

And horror writers are also interested in fragments and ruins.
The Man Who Collected Machen and Other Weird Tales (Mark Samuels)
Those ruined and decayed remains of buildings that have been abandoned due to their commercial worthlessness have more mystery about them than any number of new glass and steel developments. They are testaments to the truth that the city ... is an organic entity with an occult life and history of its own ... there are still ghosts in those shells, and ... as long as memory lingers and imagination is not stamped out ... the ghosts will live on.

Behind Hitland - Nieuwerkerk

Near Hekendorp
And, just like the book Bahir, these fragments have something sacred about them. We should chertish those places and point others towards them. Make them into places of pilgrimage.
Noctuary (Thomas Ligotti)
There are holy places in this world, and I have been to some of them. Places where the presence of something sacred can be felt like an invisible meteorology. Always these places are quiet, and often they are in ruins. The ones that are not already at some stage of dilapidation nonetheless display the signs and symptoms, the promise of coming decay.

Near Rhoon
We feel a sense of divinity in ruined places, abandoned places — shattered temples on mountaintops, crumbling catacombs, islands where a stone idol stands almost faceless. We never have such feelings in our cities or even in natural settings where the flora and fauna are overly evident. This is why so much is atoned for in wintertime, when a numinous death descends on those chosen lands of our globe. Indeed, winter is not so much the holiest time as it is the holiest place, the visible locus of the divine.
Near Oostvoorne

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The delights of Kleve

We often go to Kleve because it's the closest German town and it has beautiful woods and hills. But one of the main attractions is the Hintzen bookstore, based in Kleve since 1925. What makes it even better is the Derks bakery on the opposite side of the street.
You can go straight from the one to the other. And in case of need there is even a bank nearby.
It has almost become a ritual. First we go shopping for books and then we browse them with coffee and cakes. From the last few years: Heidegger Sein und Zeit (second hand), Heidegger biography and the Joseph Beuys biography together with cheese-cake, cherry-crumble and prune-tart.
And among the many interesting books we bought there, is this gem of modern German psychogeography: Die Suche nach der Mitte von Berlin and review. The author connects Dutch and Prussian history and Joseph Beus while searching for the center of Berlin. Many strange buildings and weird tales are found by the wayside. Highly recommended!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Rotterdam places of pilgrimage - 7

Previous parts of this series are here:  part 0, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.
The map belonging to this series is here.

Recently I found the Rotterdam Visitor: Summer & Fall 2017 Free City Guide That advertises itself as All you need to know about our city. It is a solid brochure that combines information and commerce without being irritating. In the middle of the brochure is a map with Rotterdam highlights.
The highlights are as follows and I totally agree with them. If you're a tourist visiting Rotterdam these are the places you will be most interested in. I think you could manage these sights in two to three days:
  •  Highlights: Market Hall - Lawrence Church - Cube Houses - Euromast - Central Station -  Erasmus Bridge - SS Rotterdam - Spido - Harbour
  • Nature in the city: The Park - Kralingse forest - Vroesenpark
  • Museums: Boijmans van Beuningen - Museum Rotterdam - Maritiem Museum - Wereldmuseum - Kunsthal
  • Meet the street: Schouwburgplein - Karel Doormanstraat - Hofbogen - Zwaanshals & Zaagmolenkade - Pannekoekstraat & Botersloot - Hoogstraat & Binnenrotte - Binnenweg - Witte de Withstraat - Oude Haven - Historisch Delfshaven - Wilhelminapier & Kop van Zuid - Deliplein
  • Shopping: De Koopgoot - De Bijenkorf - Van Oldenbarneveltstraat - Lijnbaan
  • Rotterdam tourist information: Central Station - Coolsingel
I know all of these places except the SS Rotterdam. I never understood the attraction of that almost failed project. When you mark these areas on the map you get the picture above. I'm pleased to see that many of my places of pilgrimage fall outside the marked area. But many still fall within the marked area! I will have to work harder.
The brochure also contains one of the shortest summaries of the history of Rotterdam:
Rotterdam - Was founded in 1270 - Became an official city in 1340 - Owes its name to the river Rotte - Has over 600.000 inhabitants - Has the largest port in Europe - Was bombed on May 14 1940 - Second largest city of the Netherlands 
History of Rotterdam - The history of Rotterdam goes back about nine centuries. In the 12th century a seawall was built to protect the country from the North Sea, which had free movement in the mouth of the river Maas. This dike - the Schielands High Sea Wall - ran from the Westzeedijk to the Schiedamsedijk via the Hoogstraat to the Oostzeedijk and the Groenedijk. Mid 13th century a dam was placed in the Rotta where the Hoogstraat and the river cross. Around this dam a settlement of fishermen emerges. Soon trade flourishes and the first ports come into existence, such as the Oude Haven and the Haringvliet. In 1340 Rotterdam is granted the status of 'city'. Canals are dug and in 1360 a city wall is being built. The Port city of Rotterdam is born! 
16th century - Rotterdam rebels against the Spanish occupiers. The city is expanding with new ports and defence mechanisms. Rotterdam is growing as a port and commercial city. 
17th century - Trade flourishes under the influence of the East Indian Company (1602) and West Indian Company (1621) and the Merchant Adventures (1935). The growing city with its tolerant governance attracts scientists and philosophers from all over Europe. The printing & publishing industry flourishes. 
18th century - Stagnation. The country is overshadowed by England and later France. 
19th century - Under influence of the industrialization trade with Britain and America grows and the exploration of Africa increases. The city is growing. Businessman and politician Lodewijk Pincoffs and city architect G. de Jongh play an important role in developing the city. 
20th century - WW I brings stagnation and economic crisis. WW II brings a.o. the bombing. After 1950, the city ascends. Reconstruction sets in, the port expands and the industry grows. 
21st century - The city is blooming! The New York Times proclaims Rotterdam no. 10 of Places to Go!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Urban mushroom diary - summer 2017 - 3

About this series:

It is thrilling to make mushroom spore prints because you never know how they will turn out. The age and freshness of the fungus, the thickness of the layer, the temperature, moisture and airflow inside the house all make a difference. From nowhere a multitude of shapes, details and colours appears.
Long "exposure" times will produce ghostly shapes of dark suns, black holes and silent explosions. The spores themselves are microscopic and invisible. Just a thin layer of very fine dust.
Short "exposure" times will produce botanical details. Many sources say that making spore prints is a reliable method to determine mushrooms, but that's not true. It just adds one more data-point: the colour of the spores. The shape of the gills and their attachment to the stem can be determined without making a print.
I have not made prints of mushrooms with pores yet. They are rarer than gilled mushrooms and I hesitate to collect them. I found the white on white spore print the most fascinating, it makes a vague and clear spectre at the same time. But the deep browns and blacks are fascinating too, with their velvety darkness.
I was surprised to discover that spore prints can be used to distribute and sell hallucinogenic mushrooms. Similar techniques were used by the artist Klaus Weber to grow mushrooms that can penetrate asphalt.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Urban mushroom diary - summer 2017 - 2

About this series:

In Münster I saw these multi-part ceramics by Ursula Commandeur. They combine the fungal feeling with the "horns of the underground" feeling. They're absorbing, listening and whispering.
In Kassel I saw several books by Agnes Denes. This is the work Investgation of World Rulers  - Napoleon overlooking Elba and Still Life #1. I'm aware that these are not mushroom related, but the similarity in shapes is striking.
In the Kassel natural history museum I saw a few dioramas with local wildlife including a few mushrooms. I wish they had such clear labels in the wild. That would be easy! (Leccinum scabrum, Macrolepiota Procera, Boletus Badius).
 Finally I saw the following mushrooms in Rotterdam. This is the reliable Leccinum Duriusculum that grows in the same place, under the poplar trees, every year. This year, after first drought and then rain they look healthy and gorgeous. They're edible but they grow in between dog excrement. So I will not try them.
This beautiful mushroom grows in a new spot under linden trees. I suspect it's some bolete. But there's only one in this spot so I don't want to take it.
During a walk in the woods near Woensdrecht we saw beautiful Boletus (I suspect Edulis) that smelled very good. We also saw many Amanitas (I suspect Pantherina, because of their pale colour. But that's totally not realiable.) Both grew by the side of the road.
It's difficult to photograph mushrooms with my mobile phone. The colours are all wrong, because it's dark near the ground. And finally some organism that might be a slime mold or a primitive mushroom.