After 10 straight hours of pagination, last minute re-writes and recording 28 poems on an iPhone memo app, I was desperate for a break. My mind was a hollow echo of the sound of my own voice, droning on and on and on. In one case I got Amy, the publisher to read for me, to hear what THE DARK CLOUD would sound like with a feminine voice reading it. The instinct was correct,a feminine voice does counterpoint the content. Where can I get a woman in New York? Where can I get a woman to willfully read my poem aloud in a recording studio owned by Saul Ruben whilst surrounded by world class jazz musicians improvising around the words? Where in NYC can I get a woman to do all that for no or very little money?
Maybe Times Square or a commuter train.
I need to keep my ears peeled for the right voice.
But this was Orange County where automobiles have displaced homo sapiens as the dominent species.
And nobody walks, ever, period. Unless it’s on the beach or a nature trail.
So I asked Amy, the publisher, *my* publisher, if we could take a break and head to the beach for a beer or two and an investigation into Laguna Beach society.
“I’m sorry, honey (my publisher calls me *honey*!), but I’ve got at least another 4 hours to do here. Tell you what, how about if I drop you off in Laguna Beach on your own and you can call me when you want to be picked up”.
Igor Goldkind, Laguna Beach, on his own, with his reputation?
Was this woman completely insane? Did she not know my reputation for wreaking havoc everywhere I go? Had she not heard about the smoking moral crater I had left where Oxford had been? This woman wanted to release me into the virgin wilderness of OC wine bars and over tanned vapidity without as much as a chaperone. She was completely mad; no wonder she was publishing me.
But my quest for diversion from the sound of my own voice and release from the too perfectly affluent surroundings I had found myself in (pool, jacuzzi and gym included; and this wasn’t even a hotel!), got the better of me and I said a quick prayer for the fine citizens of Laguna Beach who were about to encounter their collective moral damnation . . . . .
(TO BE CONTINUED. Stay tuned to read about Igor’s encounter with the Orange Women; his attempt to spontaneously organize a bus boys union while sipping a vodka martini; his reading of poetry to a homeless writer named Mike; and his making young Chicana girls laugh by pretending to be a prat (or at least I was trying to pretend!) We won’t mention the Taco Bell incident; best to let sleeping dogs snore.
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SAN DIEGO BAY
San Diego Bay, San Diego Bay is a bathtub
With tiny toy boats cast afloat above shimmering metal water
Some toys are air craft carriers
Some toys are tiny tugs
Some are grey, leaden battle ships
With weapons of uniquely personal destruction on board.
San Diego, San Diego Bay
You are my bath tub.
You are my yard, my home, my world now.
From here on out and beyond my recollection.
San Diego, this Bay is a cold Bay.
Although we all so easily bathe in it.
This Bay is as cold as draining human blood.
Which is after all, what keeps these boats afloat.
San Diego Bay, San Diego Bay
Your leaden toy war ships
Caste a bleak grey cloud
On my sunlit-blue sky return.
San Diego Bay, San Diego Bay, you rounded sheet
Of crinkled aluminium foil
At 6 am in the morning looking out
Looking in, at the sheet of this world.
I bathe in now.
San Diego Bay, San Diego Bay
You’re my dirty bath tub water now.
I believe this to be a first:
The Oxford-based, award winning sculptor Martin Smith came to one of my readings and wept at the hearing of my euology to my father Dr. Victor Goldkind, THE LINE YOU WALKED. I had never seen my words have an affect on a man like that before and I was curious to know who Martin was.
It was over several pints of ale at The Bear pub in the gothic quarter of Oxford (where bears had indeed once been baited where we drank), that Martin and I became fast friends; comparing our weaknesses for falling too readily in love with beautiful women and our perchants for Dionysian distraction when not working. It was towards the end of the evening that Martin suggested he might try a a physical interpretation of the poem that had moved him. My own primoridal link to sculpture through my mother and her brother, made the idea inevitable.
THE LINE YOU WALKED
And here is the end result.
Words that occupy Space.
THE LINE YOU WALKED
I am my father.
I am my father’s son.
I am my father’s father
I am my daughter’s son.
I am the line that walks these dots
Connecting one Pole to another
One foot follows the other
From Lodz to Ellis Island to Brooklyn to Washington to Marseille,
To the frozen thunder of L’Ardennes,
Munchen, Salzbourg, Yale,
San Pedro, Cham Kom, Chichin Itza
Lansing, San Diego, Berkeley,
Paris, Heidelberg, London
One arrow pointing down to this hallowed ground
We stand on.
These dots, stones, these beats, these memories We tread upon:
What you could not take with you,
You have left behind
For us. For me. For her.
THE LINE YOU WALKED
In the meaning you finally found
Behind eyes glued shut
Behind my daughter’s eyes glued open
In wonderment, in curiosity
In the mind’s intrepid search for the reason in it all.
Stepping forwards, stumbling backwards.
Looking up, looking down, looking sideways at the world.
Looking over your shoulder with a joke, with a laugh and a dimpled grin. Man makes plans while God laughs.
Student, soldier, teacher, brother, husband, father,
Grander father still.
Between these dots
We can see the being of who we were,
Who we become and who we are:
One in the same.
I am my father.
I am my father’s son.
I am my father’s father
I am my daughter’s son.
THE LINE YOU WALKED
Your work, my father, is not yet done.
For my father, Dr. Victor Herchiel Goldkind 1924-2011
“Some observations about last night [after observing by SKYPE, Igor Goldkind’s inital interview regarding his attack by PC sTidman and Galworthy]:
I don’t think the Oxford police can be trusted. I do not know who this guy is or why he has so much influence. Hopefully you know the answer to that question . If you don’t you will have to ask around and safe quarters. one thing is clear is many people are afraid of this man. You need to find out why. I think you should go to what ever Jewish group or other group can help you. You do not want to face all these people alone. It’s nice you have so many Facebook followers but I don’t see how they can help you.
I would seriously consider filing a report with Scotland Yard and really leaning on them to do something about this situation. Let them know everyone in Oxford seems to be afraid of this man including the police. it was strange that the Oxford police officer questioned whether you had identified the right person almost immediately. I assume there had been some telephone contact between you and the Oxford police before the visit. I would guess that you had told them how you identified this man, so that was a very strange way to begin the interview. The delay in speaking with you also was strange. and it delayed the investigation which is poor investigative
Procedure. They don’t seem very serious about bringing someone to justice if it is this particular person. The other thing I am trace about is the British definition of a hate crime. Our words enough or does the law require some act in conjunction with the hateful words? If some action is required in addition to the words you could be wasting a lot of time. that is I hope so –I hope no action will be forthcoming from this person or his cohorts. Just in case he has something terrible planned however you may want to come up with some contingency plan to make yourself scarce. I am worried about you — be safe
I have worked as a public defender in state and federal courts. I [also worked] as a civil rights lawyer for a private firm in Oakland and also as a government compliance lawyer, ensuring my public sector clients obeyed the law.”
Suzanne de Kozan, retired California Civil Rights Attorney
From another FACEBOOK thread where I continue to be derided by the English for my complaints against their society:
Nicolas Papaconstantinou and Sarah Gillespie: thank you for your comments and for your critical engagement with the issues that I have raised. I assure you that my intention is not to target individuals (except for David Kirke, who will shortly be arrested for his verbal assault and inctiement to race crime by the Thamses Valley police), but to raise the bigger issue of English identity and the values and traits that are indentified by the ‘English’ with that identity. In virtually shamless mimicry of Gilad Atzmon and his dissection of ‘Jewish’ identity, I have turned his same lens on a self-indentifying, rich, powerful and militarily aggressive ‘English’ government and its supporters and apologists for instituting not only their abuse on other nationalities but on themselves. As my father once told me, the category of people that the German fascists abused and oppressed and murdered more than any other, more than Jews, trade unionists, homosexuals, communists, slavs, gypsies, the disabled or the mentally impaired was the German people themselves.
No, the English are not comparable to the Nazis, in spite of the well documented support members of the Royal Family and the English artistocracy gave the Nazis; the English people fought the Nazis and defeated them and liberated the ‘Jewish’ people from the camps. My argument is (if I may so arrogantly suggest), more subtle than that.
I am talking about common cause. We are all subject to the same oppression by the powers-that-be on us both socially and psychologically, in the insipid use of nationalism and national identity to undermine our confidence in our own truth and alienate each of us from each other.
Sarah, you know that I have an English daughter who is proud of her English heritage as well as proud of her father who challanges the misapporpriation by cynical means, the identity of that heritage. In tackling the evidence of racism that has been dumped (like a dog that has lost its own bowel control), on my doorstep, not once but on 4 occasions in the past 8 weeks in Oxford,
I am attempting to get the ‘English’ people to firstly, recognize that their internal mapping of identity no longer fits the demographic territory, the reality of their nation. So it was with the most recent Presidential election loss by the American GOP. They lost power because they no longer could see the reality of their own nation. The importance and rise to power of the Latino communities and most of all, the continuing and increasing power of American women, across partisan lines, to control their own political environments, their own bodies and assume the reigns of their own destiny. THAT is what I would like the so-called ‘English’ people to do and as was reinforced at my debate with my friend and role model Gilad Atzmon last night, the ‘English’ appear to be more willing to expend energy on denouncing and ataacking a pushy, American Jew-boy like me than examine their own failings as a nationality and cultural identity.
Nicolas, do you really think that I’m some jingoistic foreigner who is going to return to my own country and bask in the injustice, murderous hypocricy and much, much worse (than the English) social injustice in America?!?
You really don’t know who you’re dealing with or chastising here.
I left my country more than half my lifetime ago, precisely because I could no longer bear residing in a country swinging to the far right under Ronald Regan, the second worst President my country has ever elected. I left my native land to live in the then socialist country of France and prospered there as a journalist and for awhile as a film actor. When employment as a foreigner proved problematic, I askewed returning to my by then, extremely right wing, neoliberal homeland to pursue my career as a journalist and writer in your country of Britain. In the 28 odd years I have resided in the UK as a permanent resident and guest of her majesty the Queen, I have worked successfully for 10 English companies, risen in professional status and even invented the publishing genre (Graphic Novels), while I was working here, that continues to put money in the pockets of hard working British citizens.
I have started 3 companies, 2 of them sucessful, and have in my time employed and FAIRLY paid nearly 60 developers, artists, writers, programmers, designers and administrators. In all this time I have never once taken one penny from the public support I have been entitled to and refused, due to my nationality and status as a foreigner; in spite of my legal entitlement to do so the short periods I have been unemployed. Most significantly during the 3 years (2007-10) of disability I endured as a direct result of a near fatal car accident perpetrated by the gross neligence of one of your countrymen, who suffered no penalty for his crime; in spite of refusing a breathalizer test at the scene of his crime, (he is still driving around the roads of your fair land to this day, without inhibition or prohibition).
In my 28 odd years living in England, I have been assaulted, twice physically for the perception of my ethnicity, I have been barred from 4 establishments for expressing my political views, non violently nor aggressively, and I have been virtually ‘railroaded’ out of a Middle England, Cotswold village for being ‘the only Jew in the Village’ and for not conforming to this outdated concoction and instrument of social oppression I refer to as English Propriety or the politesse of the ‘great and the good’.
I believe that the above constitutes all the authority I need to freely comment on my observations and experiences in your country. I am sorry that my observations and relating of fact offends you; but why pray tell, are you more offended by my reporting of the facts, than the facts themselves?
Why aren’t you channeling your energies into improving your own country, upon correcting the flaws, the injustices that you see every day around you. Why are you so bloody complacent, my ‘English’ friends?
I just lost a friend of many years, a friend I had worked with, drank with, ate with and whom I admired dearly for his talent, his fortitude and his focus. A friend whom I had met when he was just embarking on his career and was gently hustling himself through the corridors of the marketplace, politely and humbly showing his ware and meekly accepting meagre earnings for great work.
I lost my friend because of my politics.
My friend was an artist, trying to work in comics.
He was a unique talent; who when he first started, could barely draw figurative forms.
It didn’t matter.
His vision and his execution were so unique, so crucially significant that he was admired by many even before he became a fixture on the professional landscape.
I will not name him here nor indicate his indentity because as of yesterday, we are no longer friends and can never be again. Ever.
And this hurts me so greviously, I cannot even weep for the loss.
My friend was and is a great talent and he changed the topgraphy of his marketplace not just once but each and every time he tried something new. He has had many imitators, many of whom remain my friends. He spawned imitators and admirers alike wherever and whenver he hooked his hat: be it as an artist, an illustrator, designer, animator, film maker, writer, aesthete, intellectual, gourmet or just plainly charming, nice man.
But he is no longer my friend.
He did not understand, he did not comprehend, he did not feel for why I have taken my stand against English bigotry, predjudice and racism; in the actions I have taken and that I continue to take described elsewhere.
Instead he chastened and condemned me for what he did not understand.
In the end, he was my friend for 30 years and HE DID NOT KNOW ME AT ALL.
I am aggrieved but I am accepting and I will move on.
I do not need such friends.
It was only the third time, the third disappointment I had endured from my friend in 30 years. He had come through for me on numerous occasions with his generosity and his giving of self, lending his reputation to my risky endeavors and he owes me nothing, nothing but the self-reflection he so blankly lacks.
But he has let me down for the last time, in word and in deed.
My friend as good a man as he is, could not keep his word.
And words are ALL that I have.
He is not a narcissist, (nor no more an egotist than am I); he is an Artist and… but … if not for his talent, not for his achievement,
the word ‘narcissist’ would aptly describe him.
Yeah, I know. I’m digging this grave and I will jump in after him when I’m done.
I invite anyone reading this, anyone at all to connect me with me, reach out to me; my heart and my mind are open and giving.
If you do not understand what I am doing, if you have questions, if you need to understand why; it’s easy:
Just. Ask. Me.
I am human, I make mistakes (many, many, many mistakes) and the confessional style of my Facebook pages are intentional; I mean, that I don’t alter the trail of my mistakes, I just correct them and then account for my corrections. This is life, this is human; and so I am.
Making mistakes and correcting them is what we do, it is our duty as human beings.
To not forgive a mistake, to not understand human nature to have no empathy for the travails of others whose motives or experience you may not at first comprehend is well, to be less than human
If you prick me, I *will* bleed.
DON’T JUDGE ME. JUST ASK ME.
I will take the time to tell you, to make you understand how my actions are not mine, they are not self-righteous rantings of a self obsessed fool (although easily and understandidly mistaken for such).
They are what I HAVE TO DO.
And if you do not understand, I will explain it to you.
Not here, but in private: ASK ME ANYTHING; ASK ME ANYTHING AT ALL
However, as with my friend, if you take personal offence at my condemnation of some of your national traits, of some of the sheen to your surface; if you are so jingoistic and loyal to your class, that you would rather offend me, injure me, and denounce my entreaties, then please, please un-friend me now. Really.
I DON”T NEED YOU AT ALL.
Please, either ask me why, what and wherefore or please, please bugger off.
I don’t need any more loss than I have already endured.
I don’t need to justify what I MUST DO, to you or to anyone.
If you to ask me I will tell you, But do not judge what you do not understand. Do not condemn me, do not accuse me of having a ‘melt down’, of being unhinged, of being ‘obsessed with racism’ of being ‘nuts Unfriend, me by all means, but do not condemn what you do not, cannot understand.
THOSE WHO CONDEMN ME HAVE MORE TO FEAR THAN HE WHOM THEY HAVE CONDEMNED~ Giordano Bruno (Google him, for chrissakes)
I will explain myself to you or anyone who will listen until the cows come home; that is my calling, my job as a writer. I will explain myself until you understand who I am actually doing this for:
PRIVATE VICTOR GOLDKIND (deceased), IVAN MOSCOWICH (survivor of Auschwizch, Belsen AND Dachau), PHILLIPE PETROV, EMMA GOLDKIND (perished in Auschwizch), PATRICIA GOLDKIND (Belsen), DAVID GOLDKIND (Belsen), UNKNOWN EX-SS OFFICER (Whom I met in a beer garden in Heidelberg waiting for my father and drank with. He would not stay to meet my father because he told me that it wasn’t right.) And for all the German people who were the most afflicted, the most injured by their own complacency, their refusal to look in the mirror and see that their own sense of social propriety had undone their morality.
THE PEOPLE OF PALESTINE, THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE THEY CALL ISRAEL, THE AMERICANS WHO HAVE FORGOTTEN THEIR OWN GENOCIDE (that paled the Nazis in scale and cruelty), THE BRITISH PEOPLE WHO HAVE FORGOTTEN WHO DREW DREW THE MAPS OF THE ARAB WORLD,
THE PRISONERS OF BOTH CONSCIENCE AND PROPERTY. THOSE IMPRISONED BY THEIR OWN AFFLUENCE AND CONSTANT ANXIETY OF IT’S LOSS (You cannot lose what was never rightly yours.)
YES, J’ACCUSE. J’ACCUSE MY ENGLISH FRIENDS AS MUCH AS MY AMERICAN ONES.
IF YOU ARE NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION, IF YOU WILL NOT FACE HOW YOU ARE COMPLICT IN THE WORLD THAT YOU SEE BEFORE YOU,
THEN YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.
Ultimately and finally.
I will briefly mourn the passing of my 30 year friendship, but like the long cold walk of 1944, sometimes you lose comrades who trip and fall over their own pretensions. If you stop to help them, you get shot, if you trip and fall, you get shot, if you extend your hand to help, you get shot. This is the real world. And in the real world people die and people lose friends.
The following is a direct transcript of the observations of retired American Civil Rights Attorney, Suzanne DE Kozan.
Apart from being my high school sweet heart and the first woman outside of my family I have ever loved and will always love, Suzanne was, (before she retired due to illness), one of the most respected and effective civil rights attorneys operating in California. She, like all of my close friends and family are, a dedicated advocate of human and civil rights. Suzanne has fought and won many battles against both public and private concerns who have stood in the way of, or attempted to hamper the rights of individuals to live a safe and unperturbed existence within the legal protection of those rights.
I was so proud that, when I informed her of the attack on me last Sunday by the racist David Kirke, Suzanne was at first horrified and then concerned about my emotional well being in reaction to this assault; but also insisted that she be witness and an expert observer to the conductt of the police in purusuing my complaint. I therefore, set up a SKYPE call with the permission of the Thames Valley officers charged during the 2 1/2 hour interview. I asserted on FB that I would no longer address the issue of David Kirke, partly in response to the overwhelming criticims I received rom my English friends in pursuing both the prosecution and the account of it.
I have been openly described by my friends as ‘unhinged’, ‘obsessed’ and in one case ‘nuts’ to continue raising awareness about my attack. As well as my drawing larger connections and implications that Kirke’s behaviour and its tolerance is a reflection of a much wider social malaise, a polite acceptance amongst English middle class society of the reality of racism against not just Jews, but Muslims, Sikhs, and west Indians in Oxfordshire And I am sticking to my word in not going on about the details of my case against the founder and President of the Dangerous Sports Gentleman’s Club because I have made mistakes: It was a mistake for me to add to David Kirke’s wikipedia entry without taking further advice and I have since apoligised to the editorial group at Wikipedia and my friend Jamie Lawson, who was understanding enough to overlook my unfair initial accusations of his criticisms of my actions as tatamount to complicity. And I am likewise grateful to those other ‘friends’ for pointing “out the chocolate on my face”.
Although initally robust in my response to the incident, I have since had a very emotive reaction to the attack and am tempering my response accordingly.
I am not English.
My emotions are often very close to the surface of who I am. I am trying to work as an artist and I cannot afford the social inhibition that is particular characteristic of the Engish temperament (amongst certain classes), as it would interfere in my ability to work effectively. The case of David Kirke is still closed for me on FB.
But I will be keeping my FB friends informed by my chronicling of the Thames Valley Police’s response to the incident, the reaction of local businesses and the local people of Oxford to what one reporter described to me off the record, as part of and sympotamtic of ‘the rising tide of race motivate violent attacks in and around the city of Oxford.’ To be clear: I was not the victim of a violent racist attack, merely a verbal one. I have a skewed the support and participation of the local Jewish community who have offered their support because this is not a Jewish matter.
This is an English one.
This is an issue of how the English respond to the “foreigners” in their midst following English legal and public procedures in responding to racially motivated attacks on ‘us’.
Here is the direct, unedited transcript of retired civil rights attorney Suzanne deKozan’s observaton of my 2 1/2 police interview regarding my complaint: “Some observations about last night: I don’t think the Oxford police can be trusted. I do not know who this guy is or why he has so much influence. Hopefully you know the answer to that question . If you don’t you will have to ask around and safe quarters.
One thing is clear is many people are afraid of this man.”
“You need to find out why. “
“I think you should go to what ever Jewish group or other group can help you. You do not want to face all these people alone. It’s nice you have so many Facebook followers but I don’t see how they can help you. I would seriously consider filing a report with Scotland Yard and really leaning on them to do something about this situation.
Let them know how everyone in Oxford seems to be afraid of this man, including the police.
It was strange that the Oxford police officer questioned whether you had identified the right person almost immediately. I assume there had been some telephone contact between you and the Oxford police before the visit. I would guess that you had told them how you identified this man, so that was a very strange way to begin the interview. The delay in speaking with you also was strange. and it delayed the investigation which is poor investigative”.
“Procedure: They don’t seem very serious about bringing someone to justice if it is this particular person. The other thing I am trace about is the British definition of a hate crime. Our words enough or does the law require some act in conjunction with the hateful words? If some action is required in addition to the words you could be wasting a lot of time. that is I hope so –I hope no action will be forthcoming from this person or his cohorts. Just in case he has something terrible planned however you may want to come up with some contingency plan to make yourself scarce. I am worried about you — be safe.I worked as a public defender in state and federal courts”.
I worked as a civil rights lawyer for a private firm in Oakland and also as a government compliance lawyer. (ensuring my public sector clients obeyed the law),” Love, Suzanne
My Credentials for “Bullying”, “Persecuting”, “Mutilating” and “Obsessing” over the racist David Kirke; or so say my critics. As my Sikh friend and young teacher Prabjot Singh would say “Dont’ blame them, they are only children who need to be guided”.
Master of Puzzles
By Igor Goldkind
Ivan Moscovich has created more brain-teasers than most people have solved crosswords. Igor Goldkind set out to piece together his fascinating and harrowing life.
Ivan Moscovich has his life’s work wrapped up in a bundle of about 10,000 pages of A4 paper. On those pages there are some 5,000 separate puzzles, puzzles that range from the hang-on-let’s-look-OK-I-see to beyond the fiendish. Some are variations on themes, some utter one-offs. Some are to be made on paper or card, some are designs for tricky little – or big – devices. Moscovich calls them the S.A.M. archive – science, art and mathematics. The puzzles use the techniques of bafflement to teach, and they use beauty to bemuse.
Moscovich has been making puzzles since the 1960s. Now, at the age of 70, he’s looking to transform that life’s work into new formats. He and his colleagues have started up a new company to take the ideas on those 10,000 pages and put them to work in the digital arena. Moscovich is sure that there is room for them. Having looked with interest at hits like Seventh Guest, which friends told him were bringing new life to the world of puzzles, he was profoundly unimpressed. The puzzles were hard, sure (if you weren’t Moscovich, that is), but they were variations on a small number of underlying tricks, and they didn’t add up to more than just a set of puzzles. Moscovich thought that he – or people mining his archives in digital form – could do better.
“In digital media you can build overlapping linear trees, using the media to interrelate the concepts for the user. It’s important with any problem to see – at the same time – the different paths that can take you to a solution. Certainly this is the best way to explain scientific and mathematical concepts.” The collection of puzzles becomes a sort of puzzle itself: a maze, something to find one’s way through, something more than the sum of its parts.
Ivan is looking forward to trying to put all this into practice – not least because he enjoys the attitude of the people he’ll be working with. The way that games designers and programmers think fits into his world perfectly. He loves to be with people who are bored when they’re not trying something new, even impossible, when they’re not seeking a new solution. And he can make sense of himself by being part of a group; in fact, it has saved his life before now.
Ivan likes people who try to make sense of the pieces. That, in part, is how he got into puzzles – his delight in their ability to teach eager minds. As well as making puzzles for books and toys, he has used them as serious teaching tools for engineers – and pioneered the art of transforming the counterintuitive insights of puzzling into science museums with interactive displays. Putting together the pieces of an idea is much more important than putting together the pieces of a puzzle. The wonder is that by getting someone to do the latter, you can let them do the former.
A life in fragments
Moscovich’s own life is a bewildering array of puzzle fragments. Having met him on a CD-ROM project and learned some of his history, I started to wonder how to reassemble the fragments – and what they could be made into. One of the answers is a charming, brilliant septuagenarian. Another is 10,000 pages of A4. And a third might be a technological passage through the 20th century, from the industrialisation of death to the pursuit of pleasure. A journey that charts the territory of the 20th century’s technological revolutions and its human upheavals, from the Balkans to California, from museums to the Israeli defence industry, from the ruins of Austro-Hungary to the digital age, from railways to death camps.
Moscovich’s parents were Hungarian, but he was born in Novi Sad, a small Serbian town. He still retains a central European accent that, to my ears (and probably to yours) sounds like the definitive voice of modern science and mathematics. “My father was a Hungarian who escaped from Hungary into Yugoslavia after the First World War. He was a painter by profession, but in order to make a living at that time he opened a photographic studio which became very successful. He named his studio Photo Ivan, after me.”
His description of an everyday childhood in Novi Sad paints a familiar portrait of a middle-class craftsman’s family, complete with Yiddish grandmother and old-world family meals – and none of the hothouse intellectual atmosphere that produced Leo Szilard, John von Neumann, Kurt Gödel and other thinkers who left Budapest to dominate 19th-century thought. There was little to suggest Ivan’s strengths in science or mathematics – except, perhaps, a boyish infatuation with model aeroplane kits. He had, however, inherited from his father an inclination for drawing, and his father’s habit of tinkering with various gadgets – including an early air brush – to enhance his pictures was a constant delight to Ivan.
But when he reached technical high school, Ivan fell under the influence of a mathematics teacher given to explaining the precepts of science by means of science fiction. Ivan’s teacher opened up the world of mathematics by making problem solving fun. Ivan was entranced by the maths – and, later, showed that he had learned the method, too: rigorous scientific thinking through the lens of art and storytelling.
By then, though, the Hungarian fascists had invaded. They met with little resistance. And, soon afterwards, they took Ivan’s father from him. “Before they took him, he asked a Hungarian officer if he could say goodbye to my mother and in their final embrace he slipped this ring onto her finger.” Ivan holds up his hand and shows me an ornate gold band studded with eight small diamonds. It is the only surviving memento of Ivan’s youth; everything else was lost in the Holocaust. Ivan’s father joined 6,000 Jews and 4,000 Serbs executed en masse and thrown beneath the ice of the frozen Danube. All in one day.
Ivan continued his studies until the end of 1943, when the Hungarians “got cold feet” and the Germans invaded. “We really didn’t have any knowledge of what was happening in Poland in the ghettos or with the Nazis. We all hated the Hungarian fascists, but I still knew and liked Germans and, you know, communications were very different then; telephones didn’t work internationally. We were really disconnected from the rest of the world.”
When a Hungarian Jew escaped from Auschwitz and fled to Budapest to warn the Jewish community of the death camps, few believed him. So Ivan Moscovich was deported to Auschwitz at the age of 17.
“It meant stepping out of one world into another one. I was sent with my grandfather, my grandmother and my mother. When we arrived, my grandparents were immediately taken to the crematoria. My mother stayed in Auschwitz the whole time. After three or four weeks I was taken out of Auschwitz into one of the surrounding work camps. Young people were sent to work. I worked at laying rail lines.” The Nazi system was to provide rations for six months survival, after which the workers were supposed to starve to death in order to make room for new inmates. The meticulousness by which the operation was organised was not lost on Ivan. Nor would the memory escape him when two years later he found himself again working on train rails.
By that time he and, miraculously, his mother were back in Novi Sad. An acquaintance in the Ministry of Transport offered him a research position in the effort to repair Yugoslavia’s war-torn railway system. The post involved testing an enormous German machine that used high electrical wattage to weld rail lines together, a then untested invention. Mounted on a train carriage, Ivan travelled with the machine throughout Yugoslavia, in charge of the welding team. The machine was so successful that Ivan soon found himself elevated to a lofty position within Tito’s Ministry of Transport, accountable only to the deputy minister himself.
“There I was, a simple technician, at the age of 20, and I had all this power and no boss, really. People thought I was a top-shot communist because everybody had to do exactly what I wanted. The project became more and more successful, our production was way up and I was given orders to enlist more and more technicians for my team. One day I was called in by the deputy minister and was told that in order to create a 24-hour work shift, I was to take on 50 German prisoners of war.”
So, two years after surviving the German work camps, he was given control over a work team comprising high ranking German officers and regular soldiers, some Wehrmacht, some SS. He could have done anything he wanted. He could have shot them all and easily justified his actions to the authorities. He could have tortured them to death with gruelling work. He could have snapped his fingers and made them all disappear. But Ivan Moscovich had responsibilities, a quota to fill and a marvellous welding contraption to keep running.
“I had ten kilometres of rails to get out that week and it was a real dilemma whether to screw the Germans or to try to get the best output from them. I decided to increase their rations to get more work out of them, and sure enough they were grateful and worked even harder, which increased the output. I was very, very tough with them and I think they were scared of me. But I never revealed to them that I was a camp survivor. They worked for six months and then Tito released the prisoners.”
As it happens, Moscovich only worked on the German railways for six months. “I was lucky for the first six months. It was very important for survival in the camps to be with your people, your clan of friends and family; it made life easier. You couldn’t get ill, because that meant execution, but curiously, if you could show a work-related injury, a visible wound, you could be seen by the SS and granted a day or two of hospital. One day I announced myself with a bad wound. While everyone else went on work detail I was left in the enormous courtyard with a broom to clean up, completely by myself. Suddenly the gate opened and a commandant’s car stormed into the courtyard and headed straight for me. The German officer jumped down from his car, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, threw me onto the platform of the vehicle and drove off. I was kidnapped.” Later Ivan learned that there had been an escape from a neighbouring camp and the camp commandant had stolen Ivan to make up his tally of inmates. The mathematics of death had to add up.
“Up to this point all of my feelings had been one single feeling: an enormous outrage. Rage that somebody, anybody, another power, could take me away from my decisions, my everyday life, and put me in an environment where whatever happened was not under my control. I was young and maybe too strong an individualist, but it was rage that kept me alive.” In the new camp this life-sustaining anger was broken, until he discovered a distant Hungarian cousin running the camp’s kitchens and being the “godfather” of the camp. Then he found some school friends of his father’s. For several weeks Ivan rebuilt his spirits and his body. Then the Russians pushed back the German line, and the SS made their lethal preparations for evacuating Auschwitz. The problem to solve was – how to survive.
The Museum Man
In 1952 Ivan found a new clan – and became a leader. He set out for Israel to join his now remarried mother. On the boat to Haifa, Ivan was approached by Israeli officials interested in his skills and qualifications. The new state was hungry for skilled technicians. By the time Ivan reached Haifa he already had a position in the Ministry of Defence waiting for him. “In my group there were mainly these Yugoslav and Hungarian technicians without any training in science and mathematics. The language problem was enormous, and here was this group of technicians involved in scientific research without any basis in the field. I don’t know how it happened, but I was selected as someone who could teach the other members of the group some basic science. My boss wanted me to instruct them outside of a formal classroom using demonstrations, models and visual means. That was really the start that put me in the direction of puzzle making.”
Ivan found himself playing around with visualisations and experiments. He worked hard to come up with ways in which complex ideas could be explained visually, not so much to convey a deep academic knowledge of science and mathematics but to engender an intuitive grasp of the subjects and, most important of all, to instill the knack of problem solving needed to tackle more important scientific and technological puzzles.
By the end of the 1950s, Moscovich was creating puzzles almost all the time, and practice had revealed a rare gift for making puzzles that could be revisited, puzzles that retained a depth, an impact, even after they had been solved. “I tried to design models that were compact and effective, and in which the experiments could be repeated a number of times. This required completely original design conceptualisations. My boss, Ernst David Bergman, was the leading scientist in Israel at the time, and founder of the Weizmann Institute. He loved my work, and it was he who had the idea that some of those objects I had designed could be exhibited. That was the basis of the founding of a science museum.”
In 1959 Tel Aviv established its Museum of Science and Technology, the first of its kind in Israel. Ivan worked non-stop for two-and- a-half years converting five disused British barracks into a museum, begging and borrowing every available resource. The museum finally opened in 1964 with Ivan as its curator and director. It was the first science museum to emphasise hands-on, interactive exhibitions, and it quickly attracted international attention. His position as curator became a springboard from which to explore and express his interest in art, science and mathematics, and to do it all with the benefit of a growing international reputation.
In 1965 Frank Oppenheimer, brother of the more famous Robert, having heard of Ivan’s fantastic museum to science, visited Tel Aviv with Admiral Lewis Strauss, chairman of the US Atomic Energy Commission. The two became fast friends, sharing a childlike fascination for technology and science as well as knowledge of the darker side of machines and technology. This was four years before the opening of the Exploratorium in San Francisco, for which Oppenheimer imported many of Ivan’s installations. Some remain on exhibit to this day.
The puzzle of death
In 1944, while Oppenheimer was working with his brother on the problems of designing the first atomic bombs, Moscovich was on the death march to Bergen-Belsen. Here, too, the problem was how to survive. “Everybody said those who stayed, declaring themselves ill, would be shot. As it happens, they were liberated by the Russians two weeks later. And we walked barefoot and nearly naked through the worst winter of the century, westward to Bergen-Belsen.”
At Bergen-Belsen, the last stop for the Final Solution, Ivan gave up all hope. He had been assigned to a work detail in the then still beautiful city of Hildesheim, near Hanover. “Near where I worked was a statue of the mathematician Leibniz with beautiful writing on it. And it was so strange that after so long in hell, I am seeing that statue. I felt I was being visited by a ghost, an image of the real world I had left behind. It was then, only then, that I remembered my previous life, my teachers, my studies of mathematics and all that. Up till then my memories had been blocked out. It’s impossible to imagine that every minute, every second of life in the camps, you were only thinking of survival; there was no room for any other thinking. But here was this beautiful statue of Leibniz that reminded me of the real world.”
After two weeks working in Leibniz’s shadow, “I heard this strange noise … mmmmmmmmmmmm … that filled the air, and we suddenly realised that the sky was filled with planes. The next second everything was on fire. It was the Allied carpet bombing of Hildesheim. I saw German soldiers burning, running, and everything became chaos. I ran. After a while I stopped and looked back at the city, which was one big torch. I found myself alone in a giant field, a free man. But a free man in pyjamas, a free man with nowhere to go. I weighed 45 kilos.” Ivan turned around and started walking back to the depot. With his camp clothes, his inverted mohawk, there was nowhere to run. A German woman ran out of her house and thrust a chicken leg into his hand; she never said a word.
Recaptured, he was beaten and sent back to the camp. The dead lay in their thousands. “One barracks the Germans were using to fill with dead bodies, hundreds of dead bodies. After work one evening, I decided that instead of going back to our sleeping area that I would crawl to the top of this mountain of bodies and find myself a horizontal place. There was a slot at the top where I could see what was happening outside. I slept there for five, six days; I don’t have any notion about how much time passed. It was bliss to sleep; quiet and beautiful. It was no problem sleeping on a bed of a hundred dead bodies. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have lasted.
“One day I awoke from my sleep to complete silence. I looked through the slot to see the camp was completely deserted. Suddenly through the main entrance, which I had in my view, drove a single jeep with four English officers that stopped in the middle of the square. I rolled down the hill of bodies like a log and then I felt like I was running but I must have been moving very, very slowly. I was, I think, one of the very first to reach the jeep, and you know those guys were looking at us like they were seeing aliens for the very first time. Like first contact.” He collapsed into the arms of an English officer.
Moscovich was deathly ill. By the time that English officer caught up with him again, in a local hospital, he looked unlikely to survive. So the officer found a German doctor and frog-marched him to Ivan’s bedside. The Englishman pointed his revolver at the terrified doctor’s head and said, “If this patient dies here, you die here.”
Ivan Moscovich did not die – nor, at that point, did the German doctor. Ivan was transferred to a Red Cross hospital in a small town in Sweden – a town so boring, he now swears, that the local newspaper actually ran daily updates on Ivan’s weight gain for lack of more interesting scoops. Ivan describes his slow recovery as matter-of-factly as everything else.
“At a certain moment you know, the organism decided, ‘OK, we’re going to stay in this world.’ “
In the mid-1960s, as his fame grew in Israel and beyond, another new world opened for Ivan Moscovich. “I was working on a puzzle at my desk one day when one of the ushers came in and said a couple of tourists wanted to see me. I was busy and didn’t have the time. The usher came back and said they only want five minutes of your time and they wouldn’t give up. So I agreed to see them, Mr and Mrs Eliot Handler. I wasn’t very enthusiastic but we talked and then Mrs Handler said ‘I would like our chaps in California to see your puzzles; are you ready to come over to California?’ I didn’t take them very seriously. Two weeks later I received a call from a travel agent who had a ticket waiting for me to go to California to visit Mattel.”
Eliot and Ruth Handler founded and owned Mattel Toys. Its twelve-storey building in Hawthorne was the centre of America’s toy industry. Sales of their Barbie dolls were colossal, but the Handlers were keen to expand the Mattel range beyond just dolls. When Ivan came out to visit them they immediately offered him a three-year open contract to create games and puzzles for US$25,000 (£16,000) a year. His “Brain Drain” puzzle game promptly sold a million copies worldwide. This success was repeated with a series of puzzles including “Play It Again Fun”, “Visual Brainstorms”, “The Brain Power Decathlon” and “The Hinge”. Soon toy and games manufacturers from Japan to Europe were clamouring for more and more puzzles from the master. Ivan Moscovich’s gift had found the most widespread of all its expressions.
Fitting together the pieces
Somehow, all these pieces add together to produce a remarkably creative man, and one with a unique vantage point. Ivan has seen countries destroyed, reconstructed and created afresh. He has faced the most utterly depersonalising totalitarianism ever attempted, and rejoiced in the individual quirkiness of children’s imaginations. At an age where most seek nothing new at all, he is embracing the digital world with the enthusiasm of a seven-year-old offered a Game Boy. How does he see the end of the century?
“At present we are in a greater need for a fresh creative spirit than in any other period of human history. Less and less experience is being gained directly through activities. Sensations tend to reach us increasingly only after passing through layers of media filters. Children manipulate electronic gadgets and play with computers, which is all very well, but ultimately lacks perspicuity and full sensual enrichment. I hope to create open-ended concepts that trigger chain reactions. Ideally, the player plays my game, solves the problems and is motivated to invent his or her own variations of rules, ultimately creating his or her own games, puzzles and aesthetic structures.”
He has an avowed predilection for the physical. You can see it in his hands as he solves his puzzles. But Ivan sees unique possibilities in the digital world, possibilities that flow from the nature of his puzzles. “I’ve already published several books of my puzzles, but in a book you are restricted to the lin- ear progression of page after page, without much freedom. To interrelate the conceptual links between problems and solutions you need to be able to cross reference non-linearly, which is what a CD-ROM does.” After all, this is the point of his S.A.M. archive – that it combines science, art and mathematics as different paths to the same goal. The trajectories can be changed forever; the solutions will still provide the improvements of the self that Moscovich cares about.
“You know, humanity has been defined in various ways. For instance, as Homo habilis, skilful man; as Homo sapiens, wise man. I prefer Homo ludens, playful man, as the best definition of modern 20th-century human beings.” It was a hopeful definition that Johan Huizinga came up with in the late ’30s, at the time that young Ivan was learning science through science fiction – but the hope was serious and fearful. Huizinga was quite aware that playfulness had its dangerous side, and that the coming war would be a great, dark game; it was peace, he always said, that was the serious business.
These days, Ivan Moscovich is at peace. He lives a quiet life with his wife Anitta in west London. Within him, though, you can sense the machines within machines working, a vast inner factory of the abstract. It is hard to imagine him without them – even in the worst places the century’s history has to offer. I asked him whether his puzzling mind had helped him in Auschwitz, in Belsen; whether he had made his retreat into a private world of abstraction and pure thought.
“No. You know, it’s very difficult to explain, to understand. All of your time, all of your energy, all of your thinking is just focused on one thing: surviving.”
He did. And from the simple fact of survival he has pulled together the fragments of his life into a living inspiration for the rest of us – a puzzle worth thinking about.
Igor Goldkind writes science fiction, comics and essays, and lectures on technology and culture.
[I look in the mirror most every morning Gilad, and I wash my face when it is dirty. (sometimes I even shave ;~) Jamie, I am indeed surprised by your response to my actions in defence of my attack by David Kirke and your indirect complicity in his acts of racist assault. I am surprised because you are an intelligent individual who knows his history including the role “good Germans” played in facilitating the fascist rise to power in Europe in the 1920 and 30’s, by looking away from the blatant racism of the movement at the time and by succumbing to a sense of social propriety rather than moral duty. I am not a good German, I am a good American.]
As promised, I am not going to continue participating in this discussion on Facebook, as I believe the very nature of this channel makes honest moral and political debate near impossible. I am pursuing my moral and legal remedies in the real world, (as is my right), the one that connects people to their actions and the consequences of their actions, not merely their opinions and ease of ‘comment’ , ‘likes’ and other such trivialities. This is the real world, Jamie, the one we both live in. I am also somewhat hurt by your dissent and rather fastidious quoting of Wikipedia’s code of contributory conduct which I still disagree with; however the fact that you would place higher value on such a code over the actions and racist utterances of David Kirke in a public place, a verbal assault that caused not just me extreme emotional upset but of the witness Simon Fineman, an actual observant Jew (unbeknownst to the Devil), who had a genuine physical reaction to his assault that required medical attention. As well as the young shop attendant who was too paralysed by shock to eject the Devil and was subsequently reprimanded by the proprietor for not ejecting David Kirke immediately and calling the police himself; which is precisely what she would have done she has informed me first hand, if she had been witness to the events I have prevously described and been described to her.
Again, the problem with Facebook is that it give disproportionate weight to mere opinion over the weight of facts and first hand experience. None of you, none of those who have so flippantly chastised me or attempted to correct my actions and words, have EVER experienced anything close to what I did from the Devil’s own mouth, last Sunday. How dare you tell me what to do! You of all people, Jamie, who once stood shoulder to shoulder with me in the 6th grade when we were bullied by American neanderthals for having the gall to read books and do well in school. You, of all people should be standing side by side with me in standing up to this bully.
Shame on you!
Likewise, your opinions suffer from a poverty of information. I am not going to go over this anymore and this will be my final statement on Facebook on the matter, apart from an observing statement from an American civil rights lawyer who served as witness to my police interview via SKYPE and a link to the article appearing on the front page of the Oxford Mail this weekend regarding the incident (I guess I will have to shave for the photograph, after all ;~)
The facts in answer to your chiding are as follows:
I informed the police at the onset of my interview that if in fact, David Kirke is found to be cognitively impaired or suffering from dementia that I will immediately cease all legal and public action against him if, and only if, a member of his family or his attorney assures myself and the police that he receives the proper care and medical attention his condition warrants and that there is an injuction placed on the man to prevent him from spreading his bile any further in public.
If, and only if, he is found to be corpus mentis then I am insisting on a personal apology, delivered in person from David Kirke for his words and his verbal assault. I am also going to insist that he resign from any position he may still hold in the organisation Dangerous Sports Club and any other sporting or social organization that he may be part of in Oxford or anywhere else, so that he exercises no further unsavoury influence on young people or athletes pertaining to his racist views.
Likewise, I am going to ask his family or attorney that David be mandated to attend counseling on race sensitivity so that a trained professional may steer David through his darkness, through his race hatred into a more enlightened perspective on why his actions were both morally and legally reprehensible. No, he doesn’t have to stop criticising Israel; I do it all the time; but he must learn to discern the difference between a political argument and a racist one. This is something I believe many Britiish critics of Israel and other foreign nations policies, especially those pertaining to the Muslim world, would benefit from. The British today appear to share a voluntary, mass amnesia when it comes to the history and consequences of their own colonial past and the demarkation of the Arab world imposed by their governments; which is in fact, the cause of most, if not all of the problems we face today in the Middel East.
Shame on them!
Furthermore, (but not as a requirement for me to desist from criminal prosecution), I will invite Mr. Kriek to make a charitable donation to the Chabbat Society of Oxford whom I know first hand, to be both critical and self examining in their study of Jewish matters as well Israeli politics. They are a Jewish organization who in the best Talmic tradition critically question and self examine the premises of Juddahism, its racial identity and the politics of the Jewish state of Israel. If there is to be peace in the Middle East and freedom in Palestine, it will be through reason and through the establishment of one man (woman), one vote; the same solution applied to end the crime of apartheid in South Africa.
Ok, that’s it folks, that is my final word on the subject. You are free to contact me directly and or discreetly if you have any further questions, accusations, critiques or pressumption to assert. But as far as I am concerned this matter is closed to FB. See you in the funny papers.
— feeling accomplished.
The Tweed Devil Continues to Spread His Vile Bile
Today I had to re-edit the Wikipedia entry for David Kirke once again after my addition to, not detraction from his existing entry describing his sports accomplishments was once again removed by hands unseen. I hearby challagne the supporter of David Kirke to engage with me directly in reference to the incident I was both witness to and the object of when David Kirke uttered his racist verbal assault on my person. You may contact me directly on email@example.com to arrange a meeting on neutral ground (the pub or cafe or your choosing) in order to permit me to listen to your reasons for defending David Kirke and his utterances. I am willing to listen to his and your side of the story with an opne mind and if in fact there has been a misunderstanding, if I have indeed misunderstood the nature of his attack, then I will gladly retract my statements on his Wikipedia entry voluntarily and withdraw my complaint to Thames Valley police. I am an open, nonviolent rational individual and if I have been mistaken in my conclusions, I am open to reason and persuasion. Likewise, if one of David’s family members would like to reach out to me by email and explain that David’s actions were a result of some form of cognitive impairment, I will withdraw immediately from this foray providing that responsible individuals are taking care that such an incident never happen again. If he is capable and merely a man of ignorance then I will accpet a personal apology from him in person, not by letter as the Thames Valley police have proferred as a compromise. This matter was deeply personal to me, in memory of my father’s personal sacrefice in fighting the anti-semitic officers of the Nazi German army during the second world war as well as his continuing sacrefice at great personal risk to combat the racism of America in denying African Americans the right to sit at all whie lunch counters and ride anywhere on a bus. If there are those who question my “obsession with racism” it is because they do not know me very well; I am an American patriot who beleives in fighting for justice, just as my father did. As he said to me when I was a young man, “Don’t be fooled into thinking that when we beat the Nazis, that they all just went away; on the contrary, they just changed theri uniforms” In this instance, they exchanged their black leather boots for Oxford tweed.
Poem I read at the Albion Beatnik on April 3rd, 2014
The Racist, Anti-Semite David Kirke:
David Kirke is also highly outspoken about Israel and the Jewish people, in particular. He heard at a small grocer near Summertown in Oxford, openly proclaiming how “Jews are responsible for all the troubles in the world.” Proclaiming that “Jews are innately aggressive and like to argue; ‘it’s in their blood'”. several witnesses in the grocer at 2 North Parade who were customers waiting to be served during his outburst, including the assistant proprietor himself. Customers stood in shocked silence as David Kirke continued to denounce Israel and particularly Jews for having transformed “Palestine into a concentration camp”.
“Not all Jews support Israel”, proffered one Jewish American customer. “Oh, an American Jew! You’re all rich, you Americans, why don’t you buy the whole cheese”. David ranted indicating the organic cheese wheel the customer has having cut to size by the assitant proprietor. Kirke continued, “Tell you what, I’ll buy you the whole cheese and then take half of it just like you Jews stole have of Palestine!” The other customers began to exit the grocer. David Kirke had the audacity to leave his business card with the proprietor proclaming that “I’m treated like a King in Oxford; I work with Nasa scientists and ministers; I’m famous, you know.”
It was clear from his beaviour that David Kirke is not only a proud racist and anti-semite but he appeared to be unable to function in public his former reputation as a bungee jumper and dangerous sports fanatic. The only dangerous sport that David Kirke seems to be practicing now is the threat he poses to civil British society and the public good with his eccentric and offensive behaviour.
David Kirke is also a highly outspoken commentator against Israel and the Jewish people, in particular. He has been witnessed at a small grocer in Oxford, openly proclaiming how “Jews are responsbile for all the troubles in the world.” He has expressed his hatred for the Jewish people by proclaiming that loudly asserted his hatred of Jewish people in the grocer at 2 North Parade who were customers waiting to be served during his outburstf. Kirke is not only a proud racist and anti-semite but he appeared to be unable to function in public and seems to have reached a state of dementia or mental illness that has compromised hisacheivements as a bungee jumper and dangerous sports fanatic.