This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
{ Click on the image to expand the photo }

The Snowman

09 December 2016

Fresh snowfall
is a timeless universal wonder.
Its sculptural and architectural qualities
surely stimulated prehistoric man
to roll balls of soft snow
into a giant pile.
Inspiring a kind of test statue
for the ancient megaliths
that celebrated the dark winter solstice.
 This monstrous snowman
probably lasted until the spring thaw.

Such a fierce man of snow
required a fanfare from the band.

It's the New Year!

Prosit Neujahr!

The artist's intention may have been jolly,
but this formidable snowman
seems chilling to me,
and not in a cold way.
His icy grin conveys foreboding,
dread, even menace.

And why the man in the lower corner
is cavorting with a sheep
must remain a mystery.

This postcard was sent from
Wien, Austria on 31 XII 1915.
It was the second winter of the Great War.
The writer, Theresia Bo┼żek, addressed it
to Wohlgeb. Frau Mize Zpiser(?)
of Bielitz, Schlesien,
a town which was then in Austria
but is now known as Bielsko, Poland.
The honorific stands for Wohlgeboren - Well born.
Which I believe is a mark of minor royalty or upper class.

The stamp on the postcard is of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830-1916). The postmark date shows 31 XII 1(5) with another penciled date of 2/I.1916.  The old Kaiser would not see another new year as he died on November 21, 1916 at the age of 86. Throughout his long reign, Franz Joseph remained a mostly aloof but benevolent figure to the people of his vast empire. Nonetheless his decision to seek retribution from Serbia for the assassination of his nephew Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the spark that started the Great War of 1914-18. 

Physically he was hardly a menacing figure. But when his visage was chiseled into white marble, his bald pate, big ears, and bristly muttonchops do make him resemble a snowman. A snowman with medals instead of lumps of coal.

Bust of Kaiser Franz Joseph I.
2 December 1848 – 21 November 1916
Source: Wikimedia

For something more cheerful, watch this exceptional restored silent film which is accompanied by spirited march music. It begins with Kaiser Franz Joseph walking down a street with an entourage of men, all dressed in wonderful uniforms. Note the variety of hat feathers and plumes. In the middle is a charming group of schoolgirls doing a kind of precision march/dance, and I think they are also singing. Then the Kaiser reviews some cadets and rides in a carriage. There is a brass band at about 3:00. I believe the film was taken in 1910, a few years before the war, on the occasion former President Theodore Roosevelt's tour of Europe. However, the president is not in the film.

It looks better when expanded to full screen.

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This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where Snowwomen always get equal time.


Deb Gould said...

PERFECT illustration for your blog, Mike -- just PERFECT!

PattyF said...

What a fascinating postcard! I find it rather unsettling, actually, given the time period. Really interesting how you drew the parallel between the snowman and the Emperor.

Last year, our local historical society hosted a speaker, the art curator for the US Army Heritage and Education Center museum, who talked about the power of wartime artwork and the propaganda message inherent in it. I can't help but look at your contribution in that vein.

Thanks for sharing this!

Barbara Rogers said...

As I watched the video, I couldn't help but wonder at the lives of all those children, many of whom would grow up to fight in WW I. At least the girls were just dancing and curtseying...and the boys didn't even have to hold a salute. A bit more civilized looking than the Natzi youth a few decades later.

La Nightingail said...

Whoa! That's SOME snowman! Great postcard. I'm just a little disappointed though. I thought maybe at some point in your life you had made a snowman holding some kind of instrument and had a picture of it to share. But I guess not? Whatever, the giant snowman with the instrumentalists beneath was a neat find.

ScotSue said...

I agree with you - that snowman is chilling in every respect. I have enjoyed many holidays in Austria and am interested in the country's history and culture, and found the film fascinating.

Jo Featherston said...

That sure is a massive and menacing snowman, even without any sinister implied undercurrents! Great postcard to match the prompt.

Tattered and Lost said...

YES! A very menacing snowman! They are about to be slushed.

And I don't know why, but when I was watching the beginning of the film the Wizard of Oz came to mind and I could hear them singing "We represent the lollipop guild, the lollipop guild." I'm sure it's just a quirk in my brain drive.

Little Nell said...

I have to agree, that is not a friendly snowman! I thought it was a dog in the corner; I assumed the man had stepped backwards and tripped over him. I liked the comparison with the marble bust of the emperor too.


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