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Friday, 25 October 2013

News Blasts From The Year Of Our Redemption 1753

I am introducing a new occasional feature on the blog – ‘News Blasts From The Past’ … this will be scans of the news, illustrations and articles from the Periodicals/Magazines and Newspapers of the past two hundred years or so.

Now before copyright legal weasels start rubbing their hands in anticipation of emptying the 'PC Towers widows and orphans Christmas fund', I should point out that I have a small collection of genuine antique newspapers from when I was interested in collecting “Ephemera”, or the objects of everyday life in bygone eras. I stopped collecting this stuff (or rubbish as my then girlfriend would insist on describing it), when it became obvious that an unfocused collection of 'ephemera' (from ration cards, to police whistles, and of course Newspapers), was the surest path to becoming a ‘hoarder’ (always an easy line to cross in even the best of ‘collectors’).

But while the other items largely disappeared over the years in house moves etc - some with much regret when I realised their loss – I always retained the old newspapers. I guess I thought it was a kind of ‘sacred trust’ through the ages. They had survived the centuries, and I wasn’t going to be the one who dropped that baton. However I am at the point where I have to start considering passing on that baton to another (via eBay), to someone else who might look after them for a few decades more, but before they go, I decided to scan a few of the articles and headlines into my PC and republish them for the ages, partly as insurance against their eventual destruction, and partly as nice post subjects (I was going to say ‘easy’ posts, but in fact the scanning, cleaning them as they are quite dirty from handling over the centuries, and recombining the split scan parts for the very large images, is time consuming – so not ‘easy’ posts).

The first of these posts is from a publication entitled as a 'Vox Stellarum' or 'a Loyal ALMANACK' of 1753, by Francis Moore physician – which the more observant amongst you will know later became the well known  'Old Moores Almanac', and is still on sale today.

A Loyal Almanac

So amongst the 'predictions' of the future, and of course the predictions of tides, sun rises, moon phases and seasonal events, that were of great use to a society still based on the land and farming, there were also historical tables and discussion pieces for the farmers and landed gentry who it was aimed at::   

Lists of the Monarchs and a paean of praise for Britannia

But the big piece was a religious tract about the Revelation to come .... in particular the importance of the number '1260' in the events that will mark the end of times ....

The Revelations of St John and the Number of 1260

More of these reports from the NoPC vaults will follow over the next few months .... assuming that its not in the cycle of 1260 that seems to indicate that the end cometh.

Addendum:

As promised, I have revisited and scanned the additional two pages from the 'Almanack'

Astrology and Remarkable Events 1665
 Here are the other two pages of interest ........

Remarkable Events 1665

Made In Britain

There are times when what we produce in our society is just excruciatingly embarrassing .... as anyone who has been abroad, and seen British teens despoiling the seaside resorts of European countries with their drunken behaviour can testify.

However the 'Chav Culture' that has been breeding for the last 50 years on the council estates of the UK, may have reached a new low, when returning from a 'holiday' in Malta (it makes you cringe what he and his fat girlfriend may have got up to on the trip), a 52-year-old man - got drunk on the plane, and started abusing fellow travellers - tried to start a fight, and needed the Captain to warn him before he 'calmed down'.

Made In Britain - A Working Class Hero

However not content with this ruination of everyone's flight, this fat, bald headed, pot bellied, charmer, decided to restart his antics when the plane started to disembark, and started removing his clothes on the runway, before his female companion slapped him across the face. Undaunted, this working class hero stumbled around the airport tarmac in only a pair of black underpants, before he took these off, and urinated against a wall.

He then dressed, and casually entered Manchester Airport, where the police (eventually, if he had been a terrorist he would have had a field day), challenged him, then 'Dry Tasered' (aka "Drive Stun") him, where the Taser is held against the target, but without firing the projectiles, the jolt is intended to cause pain, without fully incapacitating the target, and then arrested him on 'suspicion of being drunk and disorderly in a public place'..... only suspicion of being drunk, or disorderly .... what do they need, a written confession?

And what was the penalty for this little bit of holiday 'fun'? He was issued with a 'Fixed Penalty Notice'. ..... which is a small fine. I'll bet his neighbours were pleased to see him back ...... and they wonder why so many are fleeing this demi-paradise.

UK's 14 Year Old Sex Offender

This is the face of what was thought to be one of the youngest 'Sex Beasts' in the UK. It was issued by the Manchester Police force who were appealing for anyone who recognised the e-fit of the boy, who they thought was aged about 12 to contact them. Yes aged just 12! As usual they made little or no effort to enhance the picture and so not really maximising the chances of catching the suspect ..... so I have shown below how they could be issued.

And as the descriptions in the news story seemed to not entirely match the photo issued -

  • "Described as a young boy, aged about 12, who wore green jeans and glasses".
  • "Approached by two young boys and sexually assaulted by one of them. He was described as being of Asian heritage, aged 12 to 13, of slim build and wearing baggy trousers and carrying a rucksack".

- I produced some alternative versions - if nothing else but to illustrate, how I would issue these identity pictures (a subject I have addressed occasionally before). I also find the description 'Asian heritage' another piece of PC driven multicultural nonsense - they don't even say the colour - for fear of 'offending' the race nutters out there. Its like when the BBC say "police are looking for a 6ft man of stocky build", and then fail to mention if he's White, or Black or Asian ..... apparently because its considered racist in some quarters to actually describe a criminal in a way which might get them caught.


UK's 14 Year Old Sex Offender?

He was obviously considered a very serious threat to women because the attacks were on busy streets, and in the daylight (normally his apparent age would stop any public mention - so don't expect pictures after he's caught) .... he was getting more brazen, and would probably have committed a rape if not caught, and as he seems to have recruited 'a little friend' in his venture - probably to bolster his courage, and partially share the responsibility, it was imperative he was caught..

Needless to say it was reported that he was rounded up on Monday, and it turned out that he was actually 14 .... not quite as shocking as 12, but still very bad. An 18-year-old man was also bailed in connection with the assaults .... as usual, the teenager cannot be named for legal reasons, so these pictures may be the closest anyone gets to seeing this little 'beast'.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

'Stolen by gypsies' ... A European classic charge against the Roma and a staple of dark fairy tales seems to have suddenly gained legs. A blonde girl child known as 'Maria' has been 'rescued' by Greek police, and DNA evidence has led to them charging her Roma 'parents' with kidnap. This story revives memories of all those European fairy tales, about children stolen by gypsy folk, and now all of a sudden these tales, long dismissed as myth, seem suddenly to have a basis in truth, as indeed most fairy tales have.

Maria - Stolen By Gypsies

But of course, just when this story looked to be about to allow the tabloids months of fun examining every Roma family for 'stolen children', the story took a new and probably fatal (from a tabloid news point of view) turn, when it was declared that DNA tests had confirmed that a Bulgarian 'Roma' couple, were her biological parents .... and that all those blonde children being taken from their 'parents' in other Roma encampments, including in Eire, were all 'Roma' as well .... if not all with their biological parents. Now watch this story 'die' real fast .... Maria who? by the end of next week.

Of course this is all muddied in the UK by the 'Maddy McCann' case, because a British paedophile on his deathbed, apparently told his family that 'Maddy' had been "stolen to order" by a gypsy gang, apparently for begging purposes. But the fact that the story's happening at all, is to suddenly see that gypsies were, and are, still so disliked across all of central Europe. But with thousands of Roma pouring in to Greece every summer - 'traffic light' children run by Roma begging masters, are a common sight - there is not likely to be an end of this hatred any time soon.

What a strange world we are in where a scourge of child theft, trafficking, begging gangs, and slavery is seemingly occurring again in Europe, and that up until now an official 'blind eye' has been turned, and how strange that despite the gypsy gangs from Bulgaria etc pouring into London on organised theft and begging trips, often with children imported for the purpose, we still can't deport them en-mass, or stop their entry into the UK.

So how do you solve a problem like Maria? ....... Why you ignore it if she's a 'Roma'.

Friday, 18 October 2013

'Big Tex' Is Back

Regular readers of the blog will know that last year, the original 'Big Tex' was burnt to the ground in a tragic accident at the Texas State Fair ground, and that although the owners pledged to replace the giant mannequin
who had overlooked the state fairgrounds for decades, many of us feared that little bit of pure Americana had gone for ever.

Big Tex Is Back

Well I am happy to be able to report that his replacement is up and standing ... a tribute if nothing else, to Texican 'Sure Can Do' .... and I for one am happy. We are far to quick to abandon little bits of our culture and joint history, especially at a time when so much of our heritage is attacked by those who should know better.

New Big Tex

Old Big Tex

So here's to 'Big Tex' ......


... Icon of another more confident America .....

Time For A Change

Do you sometimes wish you were born in a different time, or if not born back then, could travel back and live for a period in a better, older, time? Maybe when the world was still full of barbarian splendour?

Oh I am not daft; I know that there was vast poverty, illiteracy, violence and terrible diseases back in the past. A simple cut or bite from an insect could be fatal, and even Alexander the Great died of blood poisoning (after stabbing himself in an non fatal attempt to kill himself with the spear he had used to kill ‘Cleitus the Black’ – what a name - and which carried germs from which he died about 10 days later).

No I mean that, assuming that you could be well off (rich), healthy, safe from the general political machinations of others, and immune from the general illnesses of the time (including all the plagues) etc etc, would there be a ‘golden time’ you would like to have lived in?

Perhaps it was ‘Elizabethan England’ – described as a golden age, even at the time, despite the religious persecution and plots. Or mayhap, the height of the 'Roman Empire' ... maybe under the stable and ‘good’ emperors between 98 AD (Start of Trajan’s Reign) and 180 AD (Death of Marcus Aurelius).

Or, perhaps the first days of the US Republic after the rebellion would suit you? When a man could be ‘free’ and ‘the West’ stretched on forever to a distant Pacific. To me, the post 1940 period in the USA always looked like a golden era up until the end of the 1960’s – Rock’n’Roll, Chevies, Blue Jeans and money for most.

But the possibilities are endless, and obviously the choice is very much depend upon your cultural background and preferences. For a White European it could be almost any time in the last 3,500 years, from the Greeks & Romans, through all the ages such as the Napoleonic Empire to the second age of Colonial Empires in the late 19th century, whereas for a non-European, it may be a different choice.

Delhi Durbar - Raj Zenith 1911

For Muslims, Arab or otherwise, the time would always be post 570 AD – they can’t go to a time before their prophet – a restriction for sure, but still offering plenty of scope in the time of the Caliphates, or the Ottomans, and even the Mogul Empire in northern India.

For Hindus, there was the time pre the Muslim invasions, when vast Hindu Kingdoms and Empires rose. Maybe the Vedic period of semi legend, or the Gupta Empire … Similarly, Buddhists had large Empires in Cambodia, Tibet and other South East Asian areas … similarly; South Americans have various Empires to look to such as the Mayans, Incas, or Aztecs etc             

Obviously for the Chinese, there are various times from the last two thousand years or so, and both the Tang and Han dynasties are described as ‘golden ages’ …. but it depends on your point of view (some would suggest that for the Chinese peasants, now is the ‘golden age’).

For those of Sub Saharan African descent it’s a little more problematic in picking a ‘golden age’, especially as much of black African history was not recorded – but even so there were those empires and kingdoms that we know about (and many of those were Muslim) in Benin, Ghana and modern Nigeria), and even the Great Zimbabwe or Zulu Kingdoms.

However, if your cultural choices are not great, there are always some ‘Golden Ages’ available to all. The Roman period seems not to have too many race and religious hang ups until the Christians arrived on the scene …. maybe that’s a bit simplistic, but this is just a pen portrait of the era’s.

Here’s one you may never had heard of - Croatia in the 15th century – the free city of Dubrovnik seems to have been a rather equitable place, compared to many in the area or time …. Nice climate, reasonably advanced and tolerant for the time …. Cosmopolitan population.

Of course for sheer splendour, Constantinople under the late Roman and main Byzantine emperors must have been helluva place – although very fraught with political factions and violence. It also went way overboard on the combination of religion and state combined in the form of the emperor (a model that the Russian Tsars followed, and with much the same results), which led to factions and instability when they needed to be fighting the Turks – but still, for a thousand years the biggest city in the world and always one multicolour ride.

Talking of faded opulence, being a bright young thing in the ‘Roaring Twenties’, might be your cup of tea, although this period seems tinged with the rise of the dictators across Europe, and economic crash that burnt so many of the stars of that decade – the Weimar Republic in Germany was maybe its apotheosis (You know 'Sally Bowles' in the film ‘Cabaret’ …).

Or maybe a time of scientific discovery and an age of reason would be what you wanted …the 18th century in Europe meant the casting off of the shackles of superstition, with the general movement known as the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ ….

The list of choices is endless, each with its good points, and also with some downsides, but nevertheless with a ‘glitter’ that our small-minded and PC driven age seems to me to lack. There is no correct answer, no right or wrong choice, it’s purely a piece to make you think.

My choice?

Well probably a visit and stay in Constantinople under the Emperor Justinian I, or that little free state and Republic in Dubrovnic … I don’t think I would have wanted to live my whole life in either, but once there, who knows.  If I had to live my whole life in the era, the later Victorian / Edwardian ‘British Raj’ must have been a good time to be wealthy and healthy (if you were British).

Cash Is King

There used to be a saying “Cash Is King” in economics and that seems to still be a byword with tourists from some cultures …. And while I might agree that the idea of ‘paying by cash’ (i.e. saving up and buying with no debt) is a better idea than bashing the credit cards, sometimes it can backfire as two gentlemen from China discovered.

They raised suspicions when they kept settling their hotel and bar bills in Paris with one-Euro coins …. The hotel owner, fearing that he was being given counterfeits, called the police who came to the hotel.
In the tourists rooms they found a further 3,700 one-Euro coins ….. and detained the two Chinese men.

However all was not as it seemed. Further enquiries verified the two men’s story, which was that they bought the Euros from a scrap metal dealer. It seems that thousands of European cars are shipped to China for scrap every year – these are searched before being scrapped, and of all the valuables found (which includes phones and MP3’s etc), by far the most common valuables left inside are one-Euro coins.

Cash Is King In Some Cultures

These are collected up and sold by the metal dealers to people wanting to come to Europe. The men were let free, but apparently advised to change the Euros into notes.

There’s probably a moral in this tale, but I don’t know what it is ….  But I will note that its only 50 yrs at most since cash was still king for most of Western Europe as well.

Where The One Eyed Man Is King

Gotta love this latest lunacy from the land of backwardness.

First we had the Islamic cleric who said only one eyed veils would stop men from raping women, then the Australian Islamic cleric who described women who do not wear the veil are like 'uncovered meat’... who attract sexual predators,  and now we have the Islamic cleric, Sheikh Saleh al-Lohaidan, who states that women who drive risk damaging their ovaries and producing children with clinical problems ….

"If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards. That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees."

If They Are Covered Up, How Do Clerics Know Its A Woman Driving?

Really, these cretins are the leaders of the Sunni Muslim world. They often promote this nonsense around the world (often in place of real food aid, when disasters strike in places like Pakistan), and they expect the rest of us to take them seriously. I do have one obvious question, if they are covered up, to 'de-sex them' how do clerics know its a woman driving? .... it could be a man who likes to cross dress.

Ah well, that aside these are the beliefs of madmen ….. and the self proposed lords and masters in the next 'Caliphate', when it finally encompasses the non Muslim world. So all I can say is  'God', or should I say 'Allah', help us all, if that ever comes about, because we will see little mercy from these nutters.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Winter's Boney Grip

This week Winter arrived …. well proper Autumn at least. I can tell you the time, it was 16:37 pm on Wednesday, and as I walked down the street, in the mild air temperatures that we have gotten used to over the last few months, there was this sudden cold gust in my face.

I looked up from the reverie that usually accompanies my walks, and sure enough, scudding across the evening skies, driven by the zephyr that had broken my trance like thoughts, were dark clouds from the North East. They obviously bode nothing good, and sure enough there was no pity sitting in those dark clouds. 

Winter Can Strike Suddenly In Britain

Since that night, the temperatures have been markedly lower, and the central heating, long dormant, has kicked into life, even though the thermostat is set at a miserly 14c.

What makes it all the worse, is the knowledge that the clocks are about to be moved back an hour, thus adding darkness to my evening trips (the mornings are already dark when I get up), as in a hang over from pre-war Britain (and I mean 1916 WWI Britain), the farce of keeping farmers in Aberdeen from working in the dark (News flash, they have electricity in Scotland nowadays), is played out at the expense of the rest of us.

The British Standard Time experiment, in the late 1960’s conclusively proved that GMT+1 through out the year, saved more lives than the current arrangements (even after adjustments for the effects of drink driving legislation), but our unrepresentative's in Parliament still voted by 366 to 81 votes to cancel the successful experiment.

The latest attempts in 2012 to reintroduce double summer time, was filibustered out of Parliament by opponents – led by a Scottish Nationalist Angus MacNeil, MP for the Western Isles … talk about the tail wagging the dog. There are 27,684 people up there, and they can stop the 65 million of us benefiting from the change that double summer time would bring us (bring on Scottish independence is what I say) … thus dooming us to another  decade or so (on top of the 40+ years already endured) of depression in the Winter months. . 

So for me, as I contemplate the dark, wet, cold, months ahead, this has been a gloomy week ending.

Echoes Of The Past

Recently, on my way home, I heard a sound that sent the hairs on the back of my neck standing. Like something out of the dawn of history, and maybe not heard in Manchester since Caractacus fought the Romans .... Well alright, slight exaggeration, since the last time a German team came for a football match.

It was the massed ranks of the Bayern Munich football fans marching through the city centre, and chanting a battle cry!

Bayern Fans Chants Like A Primeval Echo

I say battle cry because it was unified singing, and without a doubt was a song of conquest or victory.

A loud repetition, of the same anthem .... it echoed off the walls of the high buildings and could be heard on and off throughout the city, long before they hove into my view. It reminded me of the Zulu chants in the movie of the same name, when they could only be heard through gaps in the hills. Or in this case, the gaps in the cities urban canyon walls .... Until suddenly they emerged in their thousands.

Maybe, the General Varus and Roman soldiers in the Teutoberg forest, would have heard the same sounds as they fought a final last stand, in any event it was something else.

Sadly I didn't record it on audio or video, or I would have posted my version of it, but I hope I have given you a pen portrait of a small, but dramatic moment .... and someone has at least posted a version of the chanting from their march on YouTube, so although not as I heard it, its something of the effect.



Oh yes, in case your wondering, it was a prophetic chant, as their team won 1 - 4 against Manchester City

The Lefts Greatest Trick?

The recent row with Ed Milliband, and the UK daily newspaper 'The Daily Mail' raised one interesting point for me (well apart from the fact that Socialists are a very thin skinned crowd, but happy to dish it out), which is that extremists on the Far Left are invariably described as 'Marxist Intellectuals' or 'Marxist Theorists' and hold good jobs at universities. If they don't hold a publicly funded job, then they merely become 'Marxist Activists' .... there's a class system even amongst the lefties.

This, regardless of the fact that Marxism has failed everywhere it was applied, and has caused more misery to mankind than any creed, except the recent bout of 'Islamic' revivalism. It's certainly responsible for the violent deaths of more of mankind than any creed - 10 million in Eastern Europe, including the USSR (conservatively) and another 40 - 100 million or so, in China and southern Asia ... which far exceeds even religions (although by the time its finishes, the religion of peace may have caught up).

Yet somehow its still OK to follow and propagate the idea that Marxism works in Universities and publications, without public comment or condemnation, despite all the evidence that in practise, its a despicable ideology, the practise of which has wrought nothing but great pain and misery around the world.

Simone de Beauvoir - Jean-Paul Sartre - Ernesto Che Guevara. Cuba 1960 - All Marxist 'Theorists'.

Strangely, if you are Right Wing, the further to the right you are, the more you are wrong headed and can be attacked, vilified and mocked. You most certainly are not described as a 'Capitalist Intellectual' or a 'theorist' .... Even in the US Republican party,  right wing politicians are described as loony, and yet capitalism is the dominant socio economic system on the planet, even in China.

Maybe that was the Lefts greatest trick, to persuade us all that despite its practical outcomes being horrific everywhere, the basic idea is sound. Utter bollocks from start to finish of course, and only achieved by using pseudo scientific language (much like sociologists), but it means Left Wing extremists have the fig leaf of academic respectability to hide their nonsense behind.

Of course, there have always been more nutters on the left .... it attracts them, and if you don't believe me look at the number of Far Left political parties there are in the UK alone (compared to right leaning parties). That's probably why they are never described as 'Marxist Morons' in the press - strangely if they are not theorists or intellectuals, and are just street activists, they can be classed as the 'Lunatic Left'

Seven Stans - Cockpit Of Terrorism

And now the world prepares to go to hell in a set of basket cases ...... as the largely failed US led NATO mission leaves Afghanistan at the end of the year, the Jihadist forces are already setting up bases inside Afghanistan in order to attack one or all of the seven 'stans'. Afghanistan, Krgyzstan, Kazakhstan,Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. Most of them are weak, economically poor, and already embroiled at a high level in the corruption brought about by the drug monies flowing out of Afghanistan.

There is no avoiding the fact that the US never really understood the region, and far from leaving it a better place, has by its mighty presence, largely destabilised the whole socio economic arena of the region to such an extent, that its likely that as well as Afghanistan; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan will also become destabilised over the next few years, with at least two of these becoming Jihadist / Taliban strongholds.

The Seven 'Stans' The New Cockpit Of Terrorism?

The most vulnerable countries are Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which share over 1,200 miles (1,900km) of borders with northern Afghanistan .... with Tajikistan in particular already propped up by 6,000 Russian troops. In the Badakhshan province on Afghanistan's north-west border, up to 500 Taliban militants have already ousted the Afghan forces from several districts in the province, and are now trying to take control of Iskashim, a key district and town, that also lies along the Afghan border. It is only separated from Tajikistan by the narrow Panj river which freezes over in winter, making forays into Tajikistan much easier.

So far from eradicating the problems of a terrorist state in Afghanistan, the West has merely spread the troubles over a wider area, and like the cork on a Djinn bottle, it can no longer be put back after being pulled. The fact that the 'stans' cannot agree on a common plan to protect their region after 2014 just makes the likelihood of a failure by one or more of them all the more likely ... a domino effect if you will, only this time its not the Communists, but an infinitely more frightening enemy.

Friday, 4 October 2013

American Cougar Strikes

Following on from my ‘Man Kills Bear with bare hands’ story  ….. one which I may add was scoffed at in some quarters, here’s a tale of a man killing a wild cougar with a spear in North America.

Apparently his common law partner was doing a spot of gardening in her cabin garden on a remote island off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and had bent down, exposing her back, which of course is a classic come on for a big cat attack and it turned out that there was a cougar on the edge of her property. I once went into an enclosure with some Cheetahs cubs which had been hand reared, and was told that although friendly – they were both purring - and would never hurt me, ‘more likely lick you too death’, I must never bring my head lower than theirs, or turn my back or they would pounce, as this was a trigger mechanism which they couldn’t stop.

Big Cat Warnings Aren't For Nothing

It attacked, probably after her back was turned and she brought her head down, thus making her ‘prey’ … she struggled and screamed, and her male partner came rushing out armed with a ‘native spear’ which had presumably been on the cabin wall. He drove the cougar off and later a cougar that had died from stab wounds was found in the bushes approximately 65 feet from the scene of the attack.

Cougars Are Big Cats

The woman is in a serious but stable condition, and oddly locals are saying that this may be the first recorded instance of a cougar being driven off or killed by a man with a spear (I assume this excludes all the native Americans who may have done so, but not had TV crews to report on the event.) … although in popular parlance these days the term ‘cougars’ is applied to man hungry females who are past the first bloom of youth, and many of them will also have been attacked with pointy things over the years ….. LOL    

Yarnbombing And Other Pastimes

I have been looking increasingly at the bizarre side of life recently, probably because the normal world is so depressingly violent, petty and lacking in any sort of vision. I mean really, if the best we can get is David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ (which won’t last a minute after his premiership ends), or President Obama’s wordy flights of rhetoric (on everything from race, genocide and gun control), but which often, doesn’t amount to a hill of beans (he too will be soon forgotten – apart from as a footnote in history as the first black US President), then we live in a shabby age.

So if we want some excitement, or just some plain old weirdness, we have to look outside of the public arena, and to the private one … the things people do when they think no one is looking, or that they consider normal at some level.  So how about these strange past times ....

Yarnbombing (aka guerrilla knitting): the practice of knitting clothing for otherwise unclothed statues, then secretly clothing said statues with the clothing.  Strange results ensue, but apart from the cost of council workers removing it, no harm is done. Particularly popular in the US, but not seen in the UK much (Traffic Bollards for hats seems to be our limits).  

Yarnbombing - Can Have Funny Results

But if you think really big, then there's almost no limits e.g. The 'Mengshan Buddha' on Meng Mountain near Taiyuan has been clothed in gold, he's 216ft high (66m) and was feeling the effects of being 1,500 yrs old, so the local villagers decided to 'Yarnbomb' him,

'Mengshan Buddha' Meng Mountain near Taiyuan
 
Competitive Dog Grooming: making up strange design,s and then cutting them into a dog’s coat – sort of 'pimping your bitch' so to speak. Again more US than us, but no doubt a fringe ‘Crofts’ event very soon.

‘EI’ or Extreme Ironing: as if ironing isn’t bad enough, even with the TV or radio on, some idiots like to perform ironing of clothing in different, usually extreme, situations like while rock climbing, surfing, or on a kayak. There’s even a World Championship team event …first held in Germany (See the film documentary  “Extreme Ironing: Pressing for Victory” … you can tell it’s a British film!!

Toy Voyaging: first made popular with British Garden Gnomes – disappearing and then apparently sending postcards or photo’s of themselves in foreign climes, until eventually just reappearing in their original gardens (sometimes with a tan). It's now expanded to a website where different toys makes trips – with or without their owners. See ToyVoyages.com

Postcrossing: getting real (not electronic) postcards from around the world. Apparently performed by almost 375,000 members from 213 countries, you simply sign up at the website, to get an address and Postcard ID. You then mail a postcard to the address and wait for someone to mail one to you. Once you receive a postcard, you register its Postcard ID to receive another address and another postcard – Hmm, I seem to recall that the old ‘threatening’ chain mail letters with curses and money requests did much the same thing, and with the slight off chance some idiot would send you money!

News raiding (or Photo Bombing): usually at outside newscasts: the king of this is Paul Yarrow, from the UK.  It’s solely for the unemployed, or retired, and usually a resident of the capital, as no one else has both the time and will get the number of opportunities to compete.     

Cos-play or Role-play: This is not historical re-enactors, but actually a sub genre more often seen at Sci-Fi conventions where you dress as the favourite character or characters from a TV or film – in this particular version you try to get a number of people to play different characters (can’t have too many Hans Solo’s), and then go out and about in a town (or more usually to a film or comic book convention).

World Pooh Sticks: not exactly a hobby but an event nonetheless. I shouldn’t have to explain to any English speaker about this game, but such is the degradation of the language and the culture that I will. Its derived from the Winnie the Pooh stories by AA Milne. Its simplicity itself, one simply requires a small bridge over a river and a stick of a length about a foot or so.  You just drop the stick into the river where the water goes under the bridge, and then race across to watch it emerge from under the bridge. In the competitive version there are two of more pooh sticks of different coloured sticks dropped and the winner is the one whose stick emerges on the other side first.
 
Pea Shooting: which even has its own World Pea Shooting Championships in Witcham, Cambridgeshire UK. This was a still a game we played when I was a boy, but seems to have died out amongst the UK’s boys these days.  The world championships annual competition brings contestants from as far as New Zealand and the USA , come to try their hand at shooting a pea 12 feet, through a 12-inch tube, towards a 12-inch target. ‘Whacko’, as I might have said as a young boy.

Conkers: again a sport that was both seasonal and very competitive in every school when I was a lad … I had a 32’er – not quite a record champ but much feared by my opponents. Again, it seems to have stopped (curse computer games and non stop quality TV ... as Homer might say). There is still a World Conker Championships, in Ashton, Peterborough, Northamptonshire – its more adults than anything else, but is a global competition and charity event, by Ashton Conker Club, and has been held annually since 1965. Competitors play on eight white podiums on the village green and go through various rounds until the winner is led to the 'conker throne' and crowned with conkers.

Finally there is the vocation known as Beard & Moustache growing – this is actually a competitive sport, where very ornate facial hair is grown for months or years or decades and then entered into local and international competition (actually I don’t know that for sure, but there is a world championship, that I am sure off. 

If you want examples of the strange interests of the past, then we need look no further than the tyrants of yesteryear.

Apparently, Adolf Hitler loved dogs and Disney cartoons – he was particularly smitten with ‘Snow White’, which given his views on the Aryan race is perhaps no surprise. Also given ‘Uncle Walts’ alleged views on the Jews, it may have not been a one way affair.

Saddam Hussein wrote romantic fiction (or claimed to have) … his epic was "Zabibah and the King." … a romantic allegory in which he wrote  "Rape is the most serious of crimes, whether it is a man raping a woman or invading armies raping the homeland or the usurpation of rights." …. neatly ignoring the fact that he and his boys were serial rapists, and that he later invaded both Iran and Kuwait.

Attila the Hun, for whom rape was not a morality issue, apparently wanted immortality via the oral epic poems of his peoples … this was a problem as they had no written script, but enough of his exploits survived that he appears in Swedish and German epics that were written down long after his death, and which were possibly influenced by the poems written about him in his lifetime. These sagas and epics eventually fed through into high German art when Attila featured as 'King Etzel of the Huns' who proposes to 'Kriemhild', in the epic high middle ages poem ‘The Nibelungenlied’ which includes oral traditions and reports based on historic events and individuals of the 5th and 6th centuries. 

And Napoleon Bonaparte had a hobby (and a similar mission to Attila – they both wanted to conquer Europe, and both wanted immortality) - he requested (or was that demanded), that all of France's greatest artists paint his portrait for posterity …. One can’t take chances on this kinda thing you know.

I guess, I'm just celebrating how diverse human interests are in societies not tied to the dead hand of the extremist cultures .... no other point for the post really.

Keeping A Cultural Identity

I have been watching "The Story Of The Jews" by the historian Simon Schama, and its been very interesting. Of course the story has one underlying narrative thread, one of the continual persecution of the Jews through out the ages, from the Babylonian sacking of Jerusalem in 586 BC, and then repeatedly thereafter.

This persecution has gone on in some form or other over the last 2,500 years right up to the current date ..... (and according to some Labour party activists, continuing in the UK this week). So much so, that if the 10% of the population of the Roman Empire in 70 AD (When the Romans sacked Jerusalem after an uprising), who were thought be Jewish, had just bred at the normal rate through the intervening two millennia, then if nothing unusual had intervened, the statisticians have suggested that there would be 200 million Jews in the world today, instead of the something like the mere 13 million there are today. That's something for the Arabs of today to think about ..... they would be unbeatable in the Middle East with those numbers, and would probably be the second or third most powerful Nation on Earth.

However this idea begs the simple question, "What is it about the Jews that has made them subject to attack by some many different cultures?"

And its that question which the TV series failed to address head on. Was it envy, fear, greed, or a combination of local factors that made each persecution unique, but that put with the others, became a tragic history?

I suspect that the reason for this omission on the show was that some of the answers would make uncomfortable reading for the more ardent of the Zionists, and perhaps Mr Schama as well. As well the more traditional answers to do with greedy Christian rulers in the West of Europe and and the need for 'scapegoats' for the injustices to all the peasants in the East of Europe. Of course, this question isn't new, and indeed even Karl Marx addressed it in some sense .... The Jewish Question for example, but personally, I suspect that the answers deal with the very nature of 'Jewishness' itself:

On The Jewish Question - Karl Marx


Religion:

The Jewish religion has traditionally said that its the only religion of 'Gods chosen people', but then added that the only way anyone can become Jewish (and therefore 'chosen'), is to be born a Jew via a Jewish mother (not on the paternal side). Now this latter point may well have developed, partly as a social coping mechanism to the raping of Jewish women by the soldiers of various armies crossing the near east in ancient times, and which then made all children born of Jewish women 'Jewish' themselves, with no questions asked.  However, it has the effect of saying that there is but one chosen race, but you can't be a member. This attitude, which has kept their cultural identity alive through the ages, must also have raised the hackles of all the races around the region, and the greater empires, who ran that area throughout the ages.

Attitudes:

Jewish uprisings against the latest empire of the region, from the Babylon exile onwards, have always been totally unrealistic, and have always led to massive repression - in fact invariably led to the exact opposite of the rebellions aims. For example the revolt against the Romans that ended in 70 AD, led directly to another major banishment from the Jewish Kingdom - which although later repealed, effectively took thousands of years to undo (and at what cost).

The Jewish revolt against Byzantine Emperor Heraclius in the period 602–628, while supporting the Persian Empire, so weakened the two Empires, that the Muslim Arabs were able to capture Jerusalem in 638 AD (which they would probably never had managed in 600 AD, and which they held pretty much from then on until the Ottomans), and then actually conquer the ancient Persian Empire (the invasion starting 631 AD - ending 651 AD .... Muslim Iran is now Israel's greatest enemy and threat).... it also forced the Byzantine Emperor to authorise the forced baptism and or massacre of the East Roman Empire's Jews as traitors.   

So to some extent that Jewish people (or rather their leaders), have brought disasters on their heads by making them the architects of some of their own misfortunes. Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying that the pogroms and the holocaust are the fault of Jews, they are not. But what I am saying is that, by two of the traits of 'Jewishness' that have helped keep them as a people over the years:
  1. Their exclusivity in religion, and 
  2. Their constant battling (and usually losing) against far superior forces.

They have, in their efforts to survive as a people and culture, unwittingly helped forge the events that have led to many of their troubles ......

Let Them Eat Cakes

As has been mentioned before, the control of the national wealth in the hands of the Royal Families in the Oil rich Arab countries, has increasingly led to abuses. One example is the purchasing and financing of football teams around the world, using what should be 'public money'. For example; Manchester City (Manchester City’s owner Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is part of the Abu Dhabi United Group that purchased the club. He is also deputy Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates and has a wealth of $31 billion), Malaga (Sheikh Al Thani), Paris St Germain (Qatar Investment Authority - no football club makes an investment profit!),  Spanish La Liga side Getafe (is owned by Dubai’s Royal Emirates Group), Nottingham Forest (Kuwait’s Al-Hasawi family)  even Sheffield United (Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (50%).... ALL paid for by the local royals, using national oil money, which rightfully (in a democratic system) should be state funds.

Another example of this royal abuse is that there are now at least 15,000 members of the Royal House of Saud (mostly on an allowance from the King), but all on the public purse, but with the majority of the power and wealth possessed by an elite group of about 2,000.

The 'Al Saud' family consider the Kingdom in its physical entirety as a part of the 'family wealth' i.e. that it, and all its inhabitants are a 'family asset' ... this view is shared by the other ruling families of the region (in much the same way as Louis the XIV in France, and Charles I in England believed in the 'divine rights of Kings'). So that its estimated that as much as 40% of the Kingdom's annual budget was blown by members of the family during the reign of the late King Fahd.

Conservative estimates of the net Saudi royal worth is at well over $1.4 trillion, and they continue to practise the co-mingling of personal and state funds (derived from taking lucrative government positions, huge land allocations, preferences for award of major contracts to themselves, cash handouts and astronomical monthly allowances, and even direct allotments of crude oil to sell in the open market, all billed to the national exchequer), and this this wealth redistribution to themselves has allowed many senior princes and princesses to accumulate largely unauditable wealth, and in their turn, pay out, in cash or kind to garner influences ... noblesse oblige!

Of course the flip side of this coin is that in return for being able to plunder the state treasuries, these leaders provide everything for their citizens .... this kind of worked in the 1960's and 1970's, when the ransacking still left ample funds to bribe the local populations with zero taxes, well paid state jobs, and cradle to grave welfare system (for citizens, not guest workers).

But the population boom that a lot of wealthy bored men with multiple wives created (the Saudi population went from around seven million in the 1970's, to almost 30 million in 2012, and the other states in that region saw similar rises), has exceeded the capacity of these states to both provide all the comforts that the common man expected, and still allow the reckless spending of the royals on themselves to continue in the same manner.

Complaints about the behaviour of the Princes and Princesses is growing, and social media campaigns under the banner of hashtags such #our_salary_does_not_meet_our_needs have demanded that more money be given to Saudi citizens via higher wages / subsidies .... indeed so popular was this campaign that 17 million tweets carrying the hashtag were posted in the campaign's first two weeks in July, which led to it becoming the 16th most popular hashtag in any language.

Another social media campaign saw a picture circulated on Twitter, which underlined the point about Saudi money being misspent on foreigners. It showed a Saudi couple with a baby living in squalor in a caravan, with the caption: "Saudi Arabia gives Egypt $5 billion. Don't they deserve it more?" The rage is fuelled by foreign news reports that an unnamed Saudi prince, had donated $500,000 to a US charity, simply in return for 15 minutes with the American actress Kristen Stewart.

All of this is compounded by a lack of affordable housing for the burgeoning young population, which not only hinders job growth, but many see as breaking of the 'contract' that allows the royals to treat all state assets as their own. One Twitter user asked: "What National Day (23rd September), when my nation is drowning in debt, all the princes are in Switzerland and we're paying bills? It's the fault of those who allow them to play with our money and our petrol."

The Royals are not responding well, but are responding typically, one Government official said these campaigns were "a front for sedition" while another suggested that with 'health insurance for all and the proper allocation of housing allowances', "all calls for increases in salaries would dissolve into a vast sea of satisfaction and contentment".

The lessons of history are very rarely learnt by rulers, and even less so by the absolute monarchies of the Arab world - despite the turmoil on their borders as regimes collapse (and which ironically, the Saudi royals are funding e.g. the Jihadists in Syria), they stubbornly cling to the idea that 'the kingdom is living in peace and stability amid the struggles that some countries are facing'. A quick look at the history of Bourbon France, or Tsarist Russia should be setting alarm bells ringing.

Saudis Singing While Arab World Burns

Royalist France for example aided the successful US rebellion against the British, completed by 1783, thus opening up the age of 'Republican' politics, which resulted in the deposing of the royal house of France in a bloody revolution in 1787. Famously, the French Royals also believed that all their subjects accepted that they were in a 'kingdom living in peace and stability amid the struggles that some countries are facing', usually troubles instigated by the French themselves ... and when asked what could be done for those without bread, one royal famously said 'Let them eat cakes'.

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A middle aged orange male ... So 'un' PC it's not true....