In the stones of the street

Appearing without comment or context in my Facebook feed on 1/19, this image from Tim Evanson:

(#1) My first thought was: a lizard creature evolving from the bricks; or a bird taking off from the bricks — a playful public artwork — but then the crosspiece looked rigid and inorganic, not like legs or wings

So I queried Tim about  the image; his response assumed that I knew who Jan Palach was — a peculiarity that turns out to be significant in a parallel tale of the dysfunctions of Facebook.

— TE > AZ: A memorial, consisting of a bronze cross embedded in undulating brick (mimicking the warping that occurs during fire) was placed at the spot in Wenceslas Square in Prague where Jan Palach died.

By the Czech artist Barbora Veselá, and architects Čestmír Houska and Jiří Veselý. It was installed on Jan. 16, 2000.

— AZ > TE: Thank you. That’s a very moving story, which should come along with the image. As it stands, with no context, the image could well be of a lizard creature evolving from the bricks. Or a bird taking off from the bricks. Or no doubt other things.

To which TE responded with the equivalent of: Hunh? That’s the story I posted. And reproduced this posting of his from earlier that day:

January 19, 1969 — 21-year-old student Jan Palach burns himself to death in front of the National Museum in Wenceslas Square in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in protest against the 1968 invasion and continuing occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact.

The self-immolation of Polish accountant Ryszard Siwiec a year earlier was successfully suppressed by the Polish government. Palach’s sacrifice was much more public, and could not be explained away.

Palach was interred in Olšany Cemetery, but his grave became a national shrine. The Czechoslovak secret police (StB) exhumed his remains in the dead of night on October 25, 1973, cremated his body, and turned the ashes over to Palach’s mother. She was forced to stay silent about her son’s cremation for a year, and could not bury him in the local cemetery until 1974.

On the 20th anniversary of Palach’s death, protests in memory of Palach grew so swiftly that the police were forced to use water cannons to break up the mobs. These “Palach Week” protests are now considered one of the catalyst demonstrations which preceded the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia 10 months later.

The Velvet Revolution of November-December 1989 led to the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia. The urn containing Palach’s remains was returned to the original grave in Olšany Cemetery on October 25, 1990.

A memorial, consisting of a bronze cross embedded in undulating brick (mimicking the warping that occurs during fire) was placed at the spot in Wenceslas Square where Palach died.

The thing is, I’d never seen this posting before.

Ok, Jan Palach and Wenceslas Square, that’s the story on Track 1, and I’ll get back to it. Meanwhile, on Track 2, there’s:

The tale of a Facebook dysfunction, the weirdness of the last four days (earlier days had exhibited different, much more dramatic, dysfunctions), at least on my FB feed (I know that different things happen to different people): on opening up FB, I’d get a small number of new postings, then nothing but old, already-read, postings, going back many days, unchanged from their earlier appearances.

It soon came to me that I must be failing to get some number of postings, if so few new ones appeared in my feed. Then came some confirmation from the tale of TE’s Jan Palach posting.

Now an especially nasty twist: as I was gearing up to complain on FB about this dysfunction, FB sent me a notification that I had violated their community standards and was banned from posting, commenting, etc. for six hours. I have no idea what this is about, and know from previous experience that there’s no way to find out. As far as I can tell, I must have offended with one of five comments this morning:

— on Vadim Temkin’s Year of the Rabbit posting (the most likely problem: Vadim’s posting showed a shirtless hunk astride a huge rabbit; my comment, “Ride the wild rabbit!”)

— on Susan Fischer’s  reposting of the wonderful 1977 Swine Lake video

— about a Bizarro cartoon on Frankenstein and wheel alignment

— about a Joe Salmons posting on Garfield Minus Garfield

— on Robin Queen’s adventures with ChatGPT

In any case, this posting will soon appear on my blog, and after waiting some hours, I’ll put a link to it on Facebook, and then we’ll see what happens.

About Wenceslas Square. From Facebook:

(#2) The square in 2022

Wenceslas Square … is one of the main city squares and the centre of the business and cultural communities in the New Town of Prague, Czech Republic. Many historical events occurred there, and it is a traditional setting for demonstrations, celebrations, and other public gatherings. It is also the place with the busiest pedestrian traffic in the whole country. The square is named after Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia.

… Less a square than a boulevard, Wenceslas Square has the shape of a very long (750 m, total area 45,000 m2) rectangle, in a northwest–southeast direction. The street slopes upward to the southeast side. At that end, the street is dominated by the grand neoclassical Czech National Museum. The northwest end runs up against the border between the New Town and the Old Town.


One Response to “In the stones of the street”

  1. Vadim Temkin Says:

    1. The FB. My post you commented on didn’t cause me any reprimand from Zuckerberg, so I doubt your innocent comment could bring his ire. Though the AI is unpredictable.
    2, Jan Palach. My great friend personally knew young mathematician Ilya Rips, who attempted self-immolation in Freedom Square of Riga on 13 April 1969 with a banner which stated in Russian: “I protest against the occupation of Czechoslovakia.” KGB put out the fire, arrested Ilya, and locked him with the often-used political diagnosis “sluggish schizophrenia” in the psychiatric ward. He managed later to emigrate to Israel, where he is now a professor of mathematics in Hebrew University.

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