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Monday, December 31, 2012

The Sexist 50s

de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception

With messages that would make a chauvinist proud, a collection of advertisements from the 1950s feature women excitedly conducting domesticated tasks and lovingly caring for their husbands.
The dated marketing material show outrageous scenes of chauvinism with husbands scolding wives for not keeping up with domestic duties, as is the Chase & Sanborn coffee ad when a man appears to spank his wife for not purchasing the best quality grounds available. Other ads for household appliances target wives to assist them in doing work in the home and kitchen and a promise to her husband that the gifts of  household goods will fulfill every woman's wish. Others show the emotionally fragile and vulnerable young wives in need of the strong and solid comfort of their husbands. In detailed copy to publicize a Lysol feminine hygiene product there is shocking marital advice to guide women.The collection of sexist advertisements was compiled on the Business Pundit website.
Role playing
Role playing: In this ad for Chase & Sandborn coffee, a man pretends to spank a woman who dared prepare coffee that's not fresh

Doormat: In this ad for Dacron Leggs, the polyester wool pant brand, a man stands on an animal print rug and rests his foot on a woman's head, superimposed on the rug
Needy: In this ad for Schlitz beer, this husband takes a gentler approach and comforts his young wife, who has a breakdown after burning his dinner

Roles: In marketing the Kenwood food processor, the company announces the woman's role is in the kitchen and the neatly groomed woman lovingly obliges her husband

help but feel it?s all an act. Surely she?d prefer some jewelry
Domestic: Hoover markets their vacuum cleaner as a woman's delight and Dormeyer appliances are also seen as the ideal Christmas gift for a wife

Unapologetic chauvinism: In a blatant stroke of the male ego, Drummond clothing manufacture portrays male superiority and even says women are only useful indoors

A woman's work
A woman's work: This medicine promises to get the woman back in working order around the house
Marriage counselor
Marriage counselor: In this ad for a Lysol feminine hygiene product, the company offers marital advice and encourages the woman to keep in mind how her emotions and decisions impact her husband

The Rich Monocle

de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception

Joseph Chamberlain, monocled. Image: Villafanuk

Imagine a super rich person. Someone like Sheldon Adelson or Warren Buffet or Mr. Monopoly. Is he wearing a monocle? Monocles have been the eyewear of cartoon's rich people for a long time but how did the monocle become synonymous with the rich?

History of the one-eyed spectacle:
Though the exact origins of the monocle are unclear, fashion historian Richard Corson sets their general appearance at the turn of the 19th century in Great Britain, with quick adoption and further development in Germany. According to a 1950 article from Optical Journal, from the beginning the single lens carried with it “an air of conscious elegance,” making it ripe for ridicule: “[O]ne had the feeling the wearer was being a trifle foolish, an attitude which resulted to some extent from the fact that monocles frequently did not fit and kept dropping out of place.”
And it is precisely that impracticality that made the monocle a status symbol. The only kind of monocle that didn’t require serious eye strain, was one custom fitted to the person’s face—a process that was quite costly. And, as with many things associated with the super rich, the monocle soon became a symbol of oppression and insane wealth.
The association of monocles with the stereotype rich, especially the rich and pretentious, began as early as Charles Dickens’ skewering of young Mr. Barnacle’s intractable eyepiece in Little Dorrit, serialized between 1855 and 1857. In America, the image was largely popularized by E.A. Sothern’s portrayal of the silly English nobleman Lord Dundreary in Our American Cousin, first performed in 1858.
You can still buy monocles, even from hip stores like Warby Parker. In fact, the Huffington Post had a discussion on whether hipsters should be wearing monocles or not:
But should hipsters start wearing monocles? This has been a hot-topic of debate with scientists at UC Berkeley. A monocle has everything a hipster craves. It complements a twirly mustache. Perfect! Using facial muscles to hold a monocle in place causes one to sneer. Excellent! A monocle creates the impression that the person knows everything there is to know. Fantastic! Wearing a monocle is extremely ironic and makes you look like Rich Uncle Pennybags. Amazing! A surprised expression will cause a monocle to drop for emphasis. Fabulous!
Rachel Maddow tried one on and summed up the experience saying “Ow, do people really wear these?”

But it wasn’t their stereotypical rich-guy air that made monocles fall out of favor. Most say their fall from grace was due to their popularity with German military officials—a group most people wanted to distance themselves from after World War II. Maddow has an alternate take, one that looks at the modern Billionaire for Bush or Billionaires for Wealth Care movements:
Around the same time that monocles were trending with rich British and French people, there was another fashion trend taking hold, Dandyism. A dandy would dress elegantly, sometimes exaggeratedly so, imitating aristocracy despite middle class standing. In terms of sheer costuming, it makes me think of Japanese Harajuku style, but I reckon it’d be more accurate to think of them as hipsters who dress fancy instead of like slobs starving artists. So not only is there a history of rich people wearing monocles, but there’s a history of dressing up like rich people with monocles as an element of the costume.
My proposal is this: Even though it’s true that rich capitalists once wore top hats and monocles, when we wear those things to portray rich capitalists, what we’re really doing is drawing upon a tradition that featured those characteristics as part of a flamboyant caricature that serve as a placeholder in the popular imagination. In support I’ll offer The New Yorker’s Eustice Tilley and early 20th century fictional character Psmith, both based on actual rich people but both drawing on dandy fashion, including the monocle.
So today, when people wear monocles they are not doing it because they are rich but as a prod at the rich—either in ironic hipster fashion or as a part of political commentary

Friday, December 28, 2012


de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception

“Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years” closes Monday! This exhibition juxtaposes prime examples of Warhol's paintings, sculpture, and films with those by other artists who in key ways reinterpret, respond, or react to his groundbreaking work.

Idea of Christmas ~ from a magic mushroom?

de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception

Have you ever wondered why on Christmas we cut down/carry evergreen trees inside our houses, decorate them with fancy ornaments, and place presents underneath them?

“So, why do people bring Pine trees into their houses at the Winter Solstice, placing brightly colored (Red and White) packages under their boughs, as gifts to show their love for each other and as representations of the love of God and the gift of his Sons life? It is because, underneath the Pine bough is the exact location where one would find this ‘Most Sacred’ Substance, the Amanita muscaria, in the wild.”
–James Arthur, Mushrooms and Mankind

The Amanita muscaria is the red and white magic mushroom that grows almost exclusively beneath Pine trees. Their main psychoactive ingredient is ‘muscimol,’ as well as trace amounts of DMT, an entheogen naturally produced in the brain’s pineal gland. The pinecone-shaped pine-al gland is an organ that produces the same DMT found in this pine tree fungus, and much more.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos“DMT exists in all of our bodies and occurs throughout the plant and animal kingdoms. It is a part of the normal makeup of humans and other mammals; marine animals; grasses and peas; toads and frogs; mushrooms and molds; and barks, flowers, and roots … DMT is . . . in this flower here, in that tree over there, and in yonder animal. [It] is, most simply, almost everywhere you choose to look.” Indeed, it is getting to the point where one should report where DMT is not found, rather than where it is.”
-Dr. Rick Strassman, DMT – The Spirit Molecule

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos“The Pine tree is one of the well-known central relics of Christmas. Under this tree is where those who are deemed good find their reward in the form of a present. A big red and white rounded mushroom grows under the very tree we are to look under on Christmas morning to find our gift.”
–James Arthur, “Mushrooms and Mankind”

Green, red, and white as Christmas colors comes from the evergreen tree and the red and white mushrooms underneath. The word Christmas originally comes from the Egyptian KRST (oiled/anointed one) and Mes, the sacred cakes annually made/ingested by the Egyptians. This Eucharist was originally made from Amanita muscaria or was the mushroom itself. The tradition existed all over the ancient world, but most of the iconography / symbology recognized today comes from pre-Christian Northern Europe.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
“The very name, ‘Christmas’ is a holiday name composed of the words, ‘Christ’ (meaning ‘one who is anointed with the Magical Substance’) and ‘Mass’ (a special religious service/ceremony of the sacramental ingestion of the Eucharist, the ‘Body of Christ’). In the Catholic tradition, this substance (Body/Soma) has been replaced by the doctrine of ‘Trans-substantiation’, whereby in a magical ceremony the Priests claim the ability to transform a ‘cracker/round-wafer’ into the literal ‘Body of Christ’; ie, a substitute or placebo.”
-James Arthur, “Mushrooms and Mankind”

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos“Although most people see Christmas as a Christian holiday, most of the symbols and icons we associate with Christmas celebrations are actually derived from the shamanistic traditions of the tribal peoples of pre-Christian Northern Europe. The sacred mushroom of these people was the red and white amanita muscaria mushroom … These peoples lived in dwellings made of birch and reindeer hide, called ‘yurts.’ Somewhat similar to a teepee, the yurt’s central smoke hole is often also used as an entrance. After gathering the mushrooms from under the sacred trees where they appeared, the shamans would fill their sacks and return home. Climbing down the chimney-entrances, they would share out the mushroom’s gifts with those within … Santa also dresses like a mushroom gatherer. When it was time to go out and harvest the magical mushrooms, the ancient shamans would dress much like Santa, wearing red and white fur-trimmed coats and long black boots.”
-Dana Larsen, “The Psychedelic Secrets of Santa Claus” Cannabis Culture, Marijuana Magazine, Dec 18th, 2003

Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosTo this day Siberian shamans dress in ceremonial red and white fur-trimmed jackets to gather the magic mushrooms. First they pick and place the mushrooms to partially dry on nearby pine boughs which prepares them for ingestion and makes the load lighter. This is why we decorate our Christmas trees with ornaments and bulbs, because the gatherers would always adorn trees with drying mushrooms. Next the shaman collects his red and white presents in a sack and proceeds to travel from house to house delivering them. During Siberian winters, the snow piles up past the doors of their yurts (huts), so the red and white clad shaman must climb down the smoke-hole (chimney) to deliver the presents in his sack. Finally the appreciative villagers string the mushrooms up or put them in stockings hung affront the fire to dry. When they awake in the morning, their presents from under the pine tree are all dried and ready to eat.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos“The amanita mushroom needs to be dried before being consumed; the drying process reduces the mushroom’s toxicity while increasing its potency. The shaman would guide the group in stringing the mushrooms and hanging them around the hearth-fire to dry. This tradition is echoed in the modern stringing of popcorn and other items.”
-Dana Larsen, “The Psychedelic Secrets of Santa Claus” Cannabis Culture, Marijuana Magazine, Dec 18th, 2003

“The ancient shamanic use of Amanita muscaria in Siberia is well documented. Despite governmental oppression against its use, there are still many who refuse to accept the authorized state religion, and continue the shamanic traditions in secret. Just as the Siberian shaman (commonly dressing in red and white) would enter through the opening in the roof of a home where a ritual was to be done, Santa Claus also arrives on the roof and enters through the chimney. Just as the shamans would gather the mushrooms in bags which they would bring with them when performing a ceremony, Santa Claus also (on the Holy Day) brings presents in a bag.”
-James Arthur, “Mushrooms and Mankind”

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Siberian reindeer also enjoy eating amanita mushrooms and thus are often used as a lure by the deer-herding natives. Since one of the hallucinatory experiences often felt on psychedelic mushrooms is that of flying, Santa’s flying reindeer most likely derive from this.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos“Reindeer were the sacred animals of these semi-nomadic people, as the reindeer provided food, shelter, clothing and other necessities. Reindeer are also fond of eating the amanita mushrooms; they will seek them out, and then prance about while under their influence … The effects of the amanita mushroom usually include sensations of size distortion and flying. The feeling of flying could account for the legends of flying reindeer, and legends of shamanic journeys included stories of winged reindeer, transporting their riders up to the highest branches of the World Tree.”
-Dana Larsen, “The Psychedelic Secrets of Santa Claus” Cannabis Culture, Marijuana Magazine, Dec 18th, 2003

The flying reindeer, sleigh, and the entire Santa Claus mythology originates from Siberia where Saint Nicholas, the patron Saint of children, is a supplanter to the indigenous Shamans.

“Saint Nicholas, known as the ‘Patron Saint of Children,’ is the most revered saint in Russia, second only to the apostles. He is the Russian Orthodox Church’s supplanter to the native people’s highly respected local Shaman. A Shaman is a holy man that is well acquainted with a form of spirituality that incorporates plant entheogens which facilitate the NDE (Near Death Experience), or ‘out of body’ experience. Saint Nicholas may not have been a shaman, yet the symbolism on, and coloring of his robes could lend to speculation.”
–James Arthur, “Mushrooms and Mankind”

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
“One of the side effects of eating amanita mushrooms is that the skin and facial features take on a flushed, ruddy glow. This is why Santa is always shown with glowing red cheeks and nose. Even Santa’s jolly ‘Ho, ho, ho!’ is the euphoric laugh of one who has indulged in the magic fungus.”
-Dana Larsen, “The Psychedelic Secrets of Santa Claus” Cannabis Culture, Marijuana Magazine, Dec 18th, 2003

Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosCould this by why Rudolph’s nose is red?

“Santa’s famous magical journey, where his sleigh takes him around the whole planet in a single night, is developed from the ‘heavenly chariot’ used by the gods from whom Santa and other shamanic figures are descended. The chariot of Odin, Thor and even the Egyptian god Osiris is now known as the Big Dipper, which circles around the North Star in a 24-hour period. In different versions of the ancient story, the chariot was pulled by reindeer or horses. As the animals grow exhausted, their mingled spit and blood falls to the ground, forming the amanita mushrooms.”
-Dana Larsen, “The Psychedelic Secrets of Santa Claus” Cannabis Culture, Marijuana Magazine, Dec 18th, 2003

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos“It is fairly common knowledge that the Weihnachtsmann (St. Nick) was an amalgamation of older Germanic/Norse gods such as Thor, Donner, Odin and Wotan. What’s missing here is just as Santa flies through the skies in his sleigh, Odin (as well as the rest) rode through the sky in his chariot, which is depicted in the stars by ‘The Big Dipper’. The Big Dipper is the chariot of Odin & Wotan, Thor, King Arthur, and even Osiris (of Egypt). The chariot that circles the North Star in a 24 hour period is thus also known as the sleigh of Santa Claus because it circles his mythological home, the North Pole. It is no surprise that Nordic/Germanic gods have connection to mushrooms in their mythology. As Thor throws his mushroom-shaped hammer to the ground, mighty thunders and lightning cracks cause the real mushroom(s) to appear. As the horses pulling Odin through the sky in his chariot become over-exerted, their blood-mingled spit falls to the ground and causes the Amanita mushrooms to grow at those exact points.”
–James Arthur, “Mushrooms and Mankind”

Probably the first Santa was Osiris in ancient Egypt who rode his flying chariot to/from the North Pole, was born on December 25th, and celebrated by putting presents underneath an evergreen tree.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
“Not only did Osiris ride the sky in a chariot, but after his death Isis found that an evergreen (Cedar) had grown overnight from a dead stump to full-sized; which was understood as a sign of Osiris’ rebirth and immortality. Interestingly, the traditional birth of Osiris is the 25th of December. The 25th of December was also celebrated annually by putting presents around the Cedar tree. This tradition is at least five thousand years old. The birth of Horus to the goddess-virgin-mother, Isis, is perhaps the eldest representation of the goddess/son mythology, yet it is impossible to know this or the real age of the Astro-theological-Virgo-giving-birth-to-the-child/god/star mythology for sure. However it is the oldest source I have found.”
–James Arthur, “Mushrooms and Mankind”

Photobucket Pictures, Images and PhotosSanta, an anagram for Satan, dresses in red, keeps lists of naughty/nice children, and seems to steal Christmas from Jesus. But if understood in its original mushroom context, Santa’s not a conniving, omniscient, list-keeper. He’s an Entheogen – a plant or substance which is said to “generate the God within.” The word Entheogen breaks down, En for inside, Theo for God, and Gen for generate – generate the God inside. If you have ever taken an Entheogen (i.e. Psilocybin, DMT, Peyote, Ayahuasca), then you are already aware of the spiritual or even religious experiences associated with them. As anyone who has tried them knows, and most anyone who hasn’t fiercely denies, these Entheogens put us directly in contact with that spark of the divine within ourselves. They allow access to higher consciousness and open our third-eyes; The outer material world dissolves and the “five” senses return to a state of one sense, one consciousness.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos“First hand understanding is through the ingestion of the holy substances, of which there has been so much written, that this brief expose’ merely scratches the surface of. It is this direct communal contact which is truly the means whereby a human being can experience his true spiritual nature. One must take very seriously his /her own spirituality, for this is that which we truly are. As I stated in the opening sentence, ‘This experience is of extremely great value’. So much so, that I feel it necessary to the evolutionary process of each and every individual, and inevitably to all of mankind.”
-James Arthur, “Mushrooms and Mankind”

If you have mischief, wickedness, or secrecy in you, then entheogens will take you down into the depths of your own hell. But if you have kindness, love, and truth within you, entheogens will raise you up into the heights of that heaven. When people of a poor disposition or in a negative mood eat magic mushrooms they usually have a “bad trip” and experience frightening or depressing hallucinations. When people of a good disposition or in a positive mood eat mushrooms they usually have a great trip and experience hours of uncontrollable laughter and a loving, close feeling with everyone around. Just like at Christmas Santa keeps lists of children who are naughty and nice, at Easter only good kids get to eat the colored eggs. This is likely because good kids on mushrooms are hilarious and lots of fun, whereas naughty kids on mushrooms guarantee a bad trip for everyone, so they get coal at Christmas and no eggs at Easter.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos“Santa Claus is an all-knowing icon that reads the hearts and intentions of everyone on the planet. Each child is told the story of the round-man (who wears red and white) and his associates; reindeer, little people and Mrs. Claus. They are also told the story of a miraculous worldwide flight in a sleigh which results in presents being delivered under a tree. Yet when a child reaches the age of reasoning he is informed that this story is all a fabrication. This revelation is devastating upon the psyche of a young mind. It is also at this time that the child is often comforted and pacified from the shock by very strong reinforcement that the religious systems which the parents or guardians profess are indeed factual. And an attempt is made to incorporate the respective religious traditions into the holiday as the REAL meaning for the celebration.”
–James Arthur, “Mushrooms and Mankind”

Santa Claus and the Easter Bunnyhave both been uprooted from their original positions. They began as mythological mushroom heroes understood in a spiritual context by both children and adults. Now their literal meaning has been suppressed, and a fake image has been corporatized by Coke, Cadbury and others. The effect this has had is to turn mythological heroes into fantasies and lies. It was not meant for children to discover as they are coming of age that parents, family, and friends have lied to them about Santa and the Easter Bunny. It was meant for them to discover deeper meanings behind the mythologies such as the ancient Astrotheological understanding of the heavens, the knowledge of the zodiacal precession, and seasonal cycles like solstices and equinoxes. The whole complexity of the modern Christmas mythos is an unexplainable mess without the magic mushroom, the story is completely unintelligible.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos“Some psychologists have discussed the ‘cognitive dissonance’ which occurs when children are encouraged to believe in the literal existence of Santa Claus, only to have their parents’ lie revealed when they are older. By so deceiving our children we rob them of a richer heritage … Many people in the modern world have rejected Christmas as being too commercial, claiming that this ritual of giving is actually a celebration of materialism and greed. Yet the true spirit of this winter festival lies not in the exchange of plastic toys, but in celebrating a gift from the earth: the fruiting top of a magical mushroom, and the revelatory experiences it can provide. Instead of perpetuating outdated and confusing holiday myths, it might be more fulfilling to return to the original source of these seasonal celebrations. How about getting back to basics and enjoying some magical mushrooms with your loved ones this solstice? What better gift can a family share than a little piece of love and enlightenment?”

-Dana Larsen, “The Psychedelic Secrets of Santa Claus” Cannabis Culture, Marijuana Magazine, Dec 18th, 2003

The Jewish people's ultimate treasure hunt

de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception

In his search for the ancestry of the Jewish people, researcher Eran Elhaik says he has discovered that Jews originated in the Khazar empire, not the kingdom of Judah
Khazars - AP
An excavation of an 11th-12th century house in Itil, a Silk Road city that served as the Khazar capital, about 1280 km south of Moscow, July 30, 2005.Photo by AP
The quest for the Jewish gene
The quest for the Jewish gene


"Just imagine a group of blind people who encounter an elephant for the first time in their lives. They place their hands on it and touch it in order to understand what kind of animal it is. But each of them feels a different part of the elephant's body so that, in the end, each of them gains a different impression as to what sort of animal it is." Using this ancient Indian parable, geneticist Dr. Eran Elhaik tries to illustrate one of the most controversial issues in the study of history: the origin of the Jewish people.
"For years, scholars have suggested various explanations as to where the Jews come from," says Israeli-born Elhaik, and lists the different theories proposed over the past century to solve the puzzle. However, each explanation has provided only a partial clue and, to make matters worse, all the explanations contradict one another.
"My study is the first to propose a comprehensive theory that explains all the seemingly contradictory findings," asserts the young scholar in a telephone conversation from his home in Maryland. The 32-year-old Elhaik conducted his research at the School of Public Health of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Earlier this month, he published his findings in an article, "The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry: Contrasting the Rhineland and the Khazarian Hypotheses," in the journal Genome Biology and Evolution, published by Oxford University Press. One of the scholars who reviewed the article before its publication described it as more profound than all the previous studies on the ancestry of the Jewish people.
In our telephone interview, Elhaik, who does not hide his light under a bushel, describes his study as a "breakthrough" and says he has provided the scholarly foundations for an ancient and controversial theory claiming that European or Ashkenazi Jews are descendants of the Khazars. The Khazar Empire consisted of various peoples (Iranians, Turks, Slavs, Caucasians and others ), and ruled over a vast territory stretching from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea during the medieval period. According to this theory, the Khazars converted to Judaism in the eighth century and their descendants are the "European" or Ashkenazi Jews who live today in Israel and the Diaspora.
The commonly accepted narrative considers the Jews to be descended from residents of the Kingdom of Judah who were exiled and returned to their native land - the modern-day State of Israel - only after thousands of years of exile. In contrast, this new study supports the theory that the Jews are descended from different peoples who lived in various regions in the Mediterranean Sea Basin, and who converted to Judaism in different eras. According to that theory, the story of the exile from Judah, the exilic life led by Jews in the countries of the Diaspora and their continual longing for their native homeland can be considered a myth.
"My research refutes 40 years of genetic studies, all of which have assumed that the Jews constitute a group that is genetically isolated from other nations," notes Elhaik. His study is based on comprehensive genetic data published in other studies. In the absence of such data on the Khazars themselves, Elhaik - following a procedure commonly used by researchers in his field - relied on figures relating to populations that are genetically similar to the Khazars, such as Georgians, Armenians and Caucasians. Elhaik says "they have all emerged from the same genetic 'soup.'"
After conducting numerous analyses utilizing various techniques, some of which have never been employed before, the researcher discovered what he describes as the Khazar component of European Jewry. According to his findings, the dominant element in the genetic makeup of European Jews is Khazar. Among Central European and East European Jews, this component is the most dominant in their genome, accounting for 38 and 30 percent, respectively.
What other components constitute the genome of European Jews?
Elhaik: "[They are] primarily of Western European origin, which is rooted in the Roman Empire, and Middle Eastern origin, whose source is probably Mesopotamia, although it is possible that part of that component can be attributed to Israeli Jews."
The latter datum is of considerable importance because it "reconnects" European Jews to Israel. However, that connection amounts to only a small part of the makeup of the genome, and that figure is not statistically significant enough to establish that the origin of the Jews is the Kingdom of Judah.
According to Elhaik's study, there is a genetic continuum linking the Jews of Iran, the Caucasus, Azerbaijan and Georgia with the European Jews. In other words, it is possible that these groups share common ancestors - namely, the Khazars.
The geneticist goes on to explain that, among the various groups of European and non-European Jews, there are no blood or family connections: "The various groups of Jews in the world today do not share a common genetic origin. We are talking here about groups that are very heterogeneous and which are connected solely by religion."
The bottom line, he claims, is that the "genome of European Jews is a mosaic of ancient peoples and its origin is largely Khazar."
Other studies
Similar research conducted by other scholars, some of whom are celebrated professors in Israel and other countries, presents very different results. Last summer, for example, Oxford University Press published "Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People," which attempted to sum up the various studies that have related to this subject over the past two decades. The author, the Yeshiva University professor Dr. Harry Ostrer, who teaches in the departments of pathology, genetics and pediatrics in the university's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, argues that all Jews have a common genetic origin and similar genetic characteristics. According to Ostrer, this common origin is not Khazar but rather Middle Eastern. Thus, in line with his theory, the Jews are descendants of residents of that region who resided there thousands of years ago, were exiled and recently returned to their native land - that is, modern-day Israel.
Unlike Elhaik, Ostrer found no significant evidence attesting to any connection between the Jews and the Khazar kingdom. Moreover, from the genetic standpoint, the Jews, he argues, are closer to the Palestinians, Bedouin and Druze than to the Khazars. His findings lend a solid basis to the argument that the Jews originated in the Middle East.
Elhaik, who disputes Ostrer's study, claims that previous research on the subject "has no empirical basis, sometimes even contradicts itself and offers conclusions that are simply not convincing."
"It is my impression," he adds, "that their results were written before they began the research. First they shot their arrow - and then they painted the bull's-eye around it."
Unlike other researchers, Elhaik does not believe in the existence of a uniquely Jewish gene: "Each human being is a genetic amalgam. No population group has ever lived in total seclusion from other groups." He also refutes the claim that the genome of many Jews contains a Middle Eastern component, proving that the Jews originated in that region: "The majority of Jews do not have the Middle Eastern genetic component in the quantity we would expect to find if they were descendants of the Jews of antiquity.
"Ironically," observes Elhaik, "some of the Khazars were of Iranian origin. I think it is safe to assume that the Iranians have made a not-inconsiderable contribution to the Jewish mosaic."
Haaretz has in recent weeks turned to a number of scholars from Israel and abroad, including historians and geneticists, and asked them what they thought of the new article. The historians refused to respond, arguing that they had no expertise in the field of genetics. For their part, the geneticists were unwilling to cooperate for other reasons. While some of them simply ignored the request from Haaretz, others claimed they were unfamiliar with the specific discipline of population research or too pressed for time to respond.
The only scholar who agreed to give his opinion (and did so with great enthusiasm ) was Tel Aviv University professor of history Shlomo Sand, author of the best-seller, "The Invention of the Jewish People," published in Hebrew in 2008 by Resling Press (an English translation by Yael Lotan was published by Verso in 2009 ). On the bookshelves in his small office at TAU are translations of his book, now available in 22 languages.
Sand has some tough words of criticism for geneticists looking for Jewish genes: "For an ignoramus like me, genetics had always appeared to be crowned with a halo - as a precise science that deals with quantitative findings and whose conclusions are irrefutable." When he began reading articles on the subject of the Jews' origin, he found he had been mistaken: "I discovered geneticists - Jewish geneticists - whose knowledge of history ended at what was necessary for their high-school matriculation exams. Which is how I would describe my knowledge of biology. In high school they had learned that there is one Jewish nation, and, on the basis of this historical narrative, they reconstruct their scholarly findings."
"Their search for the origin of a common gene in order to characterize a people or a nation is very dangerous," says Sand. With several reservations, he cites the example of the Germans, "who also searched for a common component of blood ties." The historical irony, he emphasizes, is expressed in the fact that "whereas, in the past, anyone who defined the Jews as a race was vilified as an anti-Semite, today anyone who is unprepared to define them as a race is labeled an anti-Semite.
"I used to think," Sand adds, "that only in such disciplines as history and literature can facts be given various interpretations, but I then discovered that the same thing is done in genetics. It is very easy to showcase certain findings while marginalizing others and to present your study as scholarly research. In general, specialization in genetics can create an incredibly high level of ignorance in history."

Researchers Unlock Formula Written By Brilliant Indian Mathematician On His Death Bed

de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception

Srinivasa Ramanujan
Srinivasa Ramanujan ...
While on his death bed, the brilliant Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan cryptically wrote down functions he said came to him in dreams, with a hunch about how they behaved. Now 100 years later, researchers say they've proved he was right.

"We've solved the problems from his last mysterious letters. For people who work in this area of math, the problem has been open for 90 years," Emory University mathematician Ken Ono said.
Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematician born in a rural village in South India, spent so much time thinking about math that he flunked out of college in India twice, Ono said.
But he sent mathematicians letters describing his work, and one of the most preeminent ones, English mathematician G. H. Hardy, recognized the Indian boy's genius and invited him to Cambridge University in England to study. While there, Ramanujan published more than 30 papers and was inducted into the Royal Society. [Creative Genius: The World's Greatest Minds]
"For a brief window of time, five years, he lit the world of math on fire," Ono told LiveScience.
But the cold weather eventually weakened Ramanujan's health, and when he was dying, he went home to India.
Theat Function
Wikimedia Commons
A visualization of a theta function.
It was on his deathbed in 1920 that he described mysterious functions that mimicked theta functions, or modular forms, in a letter to Hardy. Like trigonometric functions such as sine and cosine, theta functions have a repeating pattern, but the pattern is much more complex and subtle than a simple sine curve. Theta functions are also "super-symmetric," meaning that if a specific type of mathematical function called a Moebius transformation is applied to the functions, they turn into themselves. Because they are so symmetric these theta functions are useful in many types of mathematics and physics, including string theory.s

Ramanujan believed that 17 new functions he discovered were "mock modular forms" that looked like theta functions when written out as an infinte sum (their coefficients get large in the same way), but weren't super-symmetric. Ramanujan, a devout Hindu, thought these patterns were revealed to him by the goddess Namagiri.
Ramanujan died before he could prove his hunch. But more than 90 years later, Ono and his team proved that these functions indeed mimicked modular forms, but don't share their defining characteristics, such as super-symmetry.
The expansion of mock modular forms helps physicists compute the entropy, or level of disorder, of black holes.
In developing mock modular forms, Ramanujan was decades ahead of his time, Ono said; mathematicians only figured out which branch of math these equations belonged to in 2002.
"Ramanujan's legacy, it turns out, is much more important than anything anyone would have guessed when Ramanujan died," Ono said.
The findings were presented last month at the Ramanujan 125 conference at the University of Florida, ahead of the 125th anniversary of the mathematician's birth on Dec. 22

Thursday, December 27, 2012

James Dean Dies in Car Accident

de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception

The mangled remains of the car that James Dean died in.
The mangled remains of 'Little Bastard,' James Dean's Porsche Spyder sports car in which he died during a high-speed car crash, being towed by a tow truck, California. (1955)
(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

On September 30, 1955, actor James Dean was driving his new Porsche 550 Spyder to an auto rally in Salinas, California when he was involved in a head-on collision with a 1950 Ford Tutor. James Dean, only 24 years old, died in the crash. Although already famous for his role in East of Eden, his death and the release of Rebel Without a Cause caused James Dean to soar to cult status. James Dean, forever frozen as the talented, misunderstood, rebellious youth, remains the symbol of teenage angst.

Who Was James Dean?

James Dean had appeared in a number of television shows before getting his "big break" in 1954 when he was chosen to play Cal Trask, the leading male role in the film East of Eden (1955). (This was the only one of Dean's films that was released before his death.)
Quickly following East of Eden, James Dean was signed to play Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), the film for which Dean is best remembered. Immediately following the filming for Rebel Without a Cause, Dean played the lead role in Giant (1956). (Both of these films were released after Dean's death.)

James Dean Raced Cars

As Dean's movie career began to "take off," James Dean also started to race cars. In March 1955, Dean raced in the Palm Springs Road Races and in May of that year he raced in the Minter Field Bakersfield race and the Santa Barbara Road Races.
James Dean liked to speed. In September 1955, Dean replaced his white Porsche 356 Super Speedster with a new, silver Porsche 550 Spyder. Dean had the car specialized by having the number "130" painted on both the front and back. Also painted on the back of the car was "Little Bastard," Dean's nickname given to him by Bill Hickman (Dean's dialogue coach for Giant).

The Accident

On September 30, 1955, James Dean was driving his new Porsche 550 Spyder to an auto rally in Salinas, California when the fatal accident occurred. Originally planning to tow the Porsche to the rally, Dean changed his mind at the last minute and decided to drive the Porsche instead. While Dean and Rolf Wuetherich (Dean's mechanic) rode in the Porsche, Dean had photographer Sanford Roth and friend Bill Hickman follow him in his Ford station wagon, which had a trailer for the Spyder attached.
En route to Salinas, Dean was pulled over by police officers near Bakersfield for speeding around 3:30 p.m. After being stopped, Dean and Wuetherich continued on their way. Two hours later, around 5:30 p.m., they were driving westbound on Highway 466 (now called State Route 46), when a 1950 Ford Tutor pulled out in front of them. Twenty-three-year-old Donald Turnupseed, who was driving the Ford Tutor, has been traveling east on Highway 466 and was attempting to make a left turn onto Highway 41. Unfortunately, Turnupseed had already started to make his turn before he saw the roaring Porsche traveling quickly toward him. Without time to turn, the two cars smashed nearly head-on.The injuries among the three involved in the crash varied greatly. Turnupseed, the driver of the Ford, only received minor injuries from the accident. Rolf Wuetherich, the passenger in the Porsche, was lucky to be thrown from the Porsche and thus suffered serious head injuries and a broken leg, but survived the crash. James Dean, however, was killed in the accident. Dean was only 24-years-old when he died in the car accident.

Posthumous Academy Awards

In 1956, James Dean was nominated for Best Leading Actor for his role in East of Eden, which made Dean the first person in history to receive an Academy Award nomination posthumously. In 1957, Dean was again nominated for Best Leading Actor, this time for his role in Giant. Dean remains the only person to receive two Academy Award nominations posthumously.

What Happened to Dean's Smashed Car?

Many Dean fans wonder what happened to the smashed Porsche. After the accident, the crumpled car was toured around the United States as part of a driver safety presentation. However, en route between two stops, the car disappeared. In 2005, Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois offered $1 million to anyone who currently had the car. So far, the car has not resurfaced.

The Great Depression

de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception

The famous picture of the mother of seven children during the Great Depression.
Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. (Circa February 1936)
(Photo courtesy the National Archives and Records Administration.)

Historical Importance of the Great Depression: The Great Depression, an immense tragedy that placed millions of Americans out of work, was the beginning of government involvement in the economy and in society as a whole.
Dates: 1929 -- early 1940s Overview of the Great Depression:
The Stock Market CrashAfter nearly a decade of optimism and prosperity, the United States was thrown into despair on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the day the stock market crashed and the official beginning of the Great Depression. As stock prices plummeted with no hope of recovery, panic struck. Masses and masses of people tried to sell their stock, but no one was buying. The stock market, which had appeared to be the surest way to become rich, quickly became the path to bankruptcy.
And yet, the Stock Market Crash was just the beginning. Since many banks had also invested large portions of their clients' savings in the stock market, these banks were forced to close when the stock market crashed. Seeing a few banks close caused another panic across the country. Afraid they would lose their own savings, people rushed to banks that were still open to withdraw their money. This massive withdrawal of cash caused additional banks to close. Since there was no way for a bank's clients to recover any of their savings once the bank had closed, those who didn't reach the bank in time also became bankrupt.
Businesses and industry were also affected. Having lost much of their own capital in either the Stock Market Crash or the bank closures, many businesses started cutting back their workers' hours or wages. In turn, consumers began to curb their spending, refraining from purchasing such things as luxury goods. This lack of consumer spending caused additional businesses to cut back wages or, more drastically, to lay off some of their workers. Some businesses couldn't stay open even with these cuts and soon closed their doors, leaving all their workers unemployed. The Dust Bowl
In previous depressions, farmers were usually safe from the severe effects of a depression because they could at least feed themselves. Unfortunately, during the Great Depression, the Great Plains were hit hard with both a drought and horrendous dust storms.  Years and years of overgrazing combined with the effects of a drought caused the grass to disappear. With just topsoil exposed, high winds picked up the loose dirt and whirled it for miles. The dust storms destroyed everything in their paths, leaving farmers without their crops.
Small farmers were hit especially hard. Even before the dust storms hit, the invention of the tractor drastically cut the need for manpower on farms. These small farmers were usually already in debt, borrowing money for seed and paying it back when their crops came in. When the dust storms damaged the crops, not only could the small farmer not feed himself and his family, he could not pay back his debt. Banks would then foreclose on the small farms and the farmer's family would be both homeless and unemployed.
Riding the RailsDuring the Great Depression, millions of people were out of work across the United States. Unable to find another job locally, many unemployed people hit the road, traveling from place to place, hoping to find some work. A few of these people had cars, but most hitchhiked or "rode the rails." A large portion of the people who rode the rails were teenagers, but there were also older men, women, and entire families who traveled in this manner. They would board freight trains and crisscross the country, hoping to find a job in one of the towns along the way.
When there was a job opening, there were often literally a thousand people applying for the same job. Those who weren't lucky enough to get the job would perhaps stay in a shantytown (known as "Hoovervilles") outside of town. Housing in the shantytown was built out of any material that could be found freely, like driftwood, cardboard, or even newspapers.
The farmers who had lost their homes and land usually headed west to California, where they heard rumors of agricultural jobs. Unfortunately, although there was some seasonal work, the conditions for these families were transient and hostile. Since many of these farmers came from Oklahoma and Arkansas, they were called the derogatory names of "Okies" and "Arkies." (The stories of these migrants to California were immortalized in the fictional book, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.)
Roosevelt and the New DealThe U.S. economy broke down and entered the Great Depression during the presidency of Herbert Hoover. Although President Hoover repeatedly spoke of optimism, the people blamed him for the Great Depression. Just as the shantytowns were named Hoovervilles after him, newspapers became known as "Hoover blankets," pockets of pants turned inside out (to show they were empty) were called "Hoover flags," and broken-down cars pulled by horses were known as "Hoover wagons." During the 1932 presidential election, Hoover did not stand a chance at reelection and Franklin D. Roosevelt won in a landslide. People of the United States had high hopes that President Roosevelt would be able to solve all their woes. As soon as Roosevelt took office, he closed all the banks and only let them reopen once they were stabilized. Next, Roosevelt began to establish programs that became known as the New Deal. These New Deal programs were most commonly known by their initials, which reminded some people of alphabet soup. Some of these programs were aimed at helping farmers, like the AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Administration). While other programs, such as the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and the WPA (Works Progress Administration), attempted to help curb unemployment by hiring people for various projects.  The End of the Great DepressionTo many at the time, President Roosevelt was a hero. They believed that he cared deeply for the common man and that he was doing his best to end the Great Depression. Looking back, however, it is uncertain as to how much Roosevelt's New Deal programs helped to end the Great Depression. By all accounts, the New Deal programs eased the hardships of the Great Depression; however, the U.S. economy was still extremely bad by the end of the 1930s. The major turn-around for the U.S. economy occurred after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the entrance of the United States into World War II. Once the U.S. was involved in the war, both people and industry became essential to the war effort. Weapons, artillery, ships, and airplanes were needed quickly. Men were trained to become soldiers and the women were kept on the homefront to keep the factories going. Food needed to be grown for both the homefront and to send overseas.It was ultimately the entrance of the U.S. into World War II that ended the Great Depression in the United States.

Great Depression Picture: A Christmas Dinner

de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception

icture of a family eating Christmas dinner near Smithland, Iowa during the Great Depression.

(Picture from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.)
Farm Security Administration: Christmas dinner in the home of Earl Pauley near Smithland, Iowa. (Circa 1935)

Christmas Truce at the World War I Front

de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception

British and German soldiers meeting in No Man's Land during the Christmas Truce of 1914.
British and German soldiers meeting in No Man's Land during the Christmas Truce of 1914.
Picture courtesy the National Army Museum.

Though World War I had been raging for only four months, it was already proving to be one of the bloodiest wars in history. Soldiers on both sides were trapped in trenches, exposed to the cold and wet winter weather, covered in mud, and extremely careful of sniper shots. Machines guns had proven their worth in war, bringing new meaning to the word "slaughter." In a place where bloodshed was nearly commonplace and mud and the enemy were fought with equal vigor, something surprising occurred on the front for Christmas in 1914. The men who lay shivering in the trenches embraced the Christmas spirit. In one of the truest acts of goodwill toward men, soldiers from both sides in the southern portion of the Ypres Salient set aside their weapons and hatred, if only temporarily, and met in No Man's Land.

Digging In

After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, the world was plunged into war. Germany, realizing they were likely to face a two-front war, attempted to defeat the western foes before the Russians were able to mobilize their forces in the East (estimated to take six weeks), using the Schlieffen Plan. Though the Germans had made a strong offensive into France, French, Belgian, and British forces were able to halt them. However, since they were not able to push the Germans out of France, there was a stalemate and both sides dug into the earth creating a large network of trenches.Once the trenches were built, winter rains tried to obliterate them. The rains not only flooded the dug-outs, they turned the trenches into mud holes - a terrible enemy in and of itself.
It had been pouring, and mud lay deep in the trenches; they were caked from head to foot, and I have never seen anything like their rifles! Not one would work, and they were just lying about the trenches getting stiff and cold. One fellow had got both feet jammed in the clay, and when told to get up by an officer, had to get on all fours; he then got his hands stuck in too, and was caught like a fly on a flypaper; all he could do was look round and say to his pals, 'For Gawd's sake, shoot me!' I laughed till I cried. But they will shake down, directly they learn that the harder one works in the trenches, the drier and more comfortable one can keep both them and oneself.
The trenches of both sides were only a few hundred feet apart, buffered by a relatively flat area known as "No Man's Land." The stalemate had halted all but a scattered number of small attacks; thus, soldiers on each side spent a large amount of time dealing with the mud, keeping their heads down in order to avoid sniper fire, and watching carefully for any surprise enemy raids on their trench.


Restless in their trenches, covered in mud, and eating the same rations every day, some soldiers began to wonder about the un-seen enemy, men declared monsters by propagandists.
We hated their guts when they killed any of our friends; then we really did dislike them intensely. But otherwise we joked about them and I think they joked about us. And we thought, well, poor so-and-sos, they're in the same kind of muck as we are.2
The uncomfortableness of living in trenches coupled with the closeness of the enemy who lived in similar conditions contributed to a growing "live and let live" policy. Andrew Todd, a telegraphist of the Royal Engineers, wrote of an example in a letter:
Perhaps it will surprise you to learn that the soldiers in both lines of trenches have become very 'pally' with each other. The trenches are only 60 yards apart at one place, and every morning about breakfast time one of the soldiers sticks a board in the air. As soon as this board goes up all firing ceases, and men from either side draw their water and rations. All through the breakfast hour, and so long as this board is up, silence reigns supreme, but whenever the board comes down the first unlucky devil who shows even so much as a hand gets a bullet through it.
Sometimes the two enemies would yell at each other. Some of the German soldiers had worked in Britain before the war and asked about a store or area in England that an English soldier also knew well. Sometimes they would shout rude remarks to each other as a way of entertainment. Singing was also a common way of communication.
During the winter it was not unusual for little groups of men to gather in the front trench, and there hold impromptu concerts, singing patriotic and sentimental songs. The Germans did much the same, and on calm evenings the songs from one line floated to the trenches on the other side, and were there received with applause and sometimes calls for an encore.
After hearing of such fraternization, General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, commander of the British II Corps, ordered:
The Corps Commander, therefore, directs Divisional Commanders to impress on all subordinate commanders the absolute necessity of encouraging the offensive spirit of the troops, while on the defensive, by every means in their power.Friendly intercourse with the enemy, unofficial armistices (e.g. 'we won't fire if you don't' etc.) and the exchange of tobacco and other comforts, however tempting and occasionally amusing they may be, are absolutely prohibited.
On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. Though Germany readily agreed, the other powers refused.
Even without a cessation of war for Christmas, family and friends of the soldiers wanted to make their loved ones' Christmas special. They sent packages filled with letters, warm clothing, food, cigarettes, and medications. Yet what especially made Christmas at the front seem like Christmas were the troves of small Christmas trees. On Christmas Eve, many German soldiers put up Christmas trees, decorated with candles, on the parapets of their trenches. Hundreds of Christmas trees lighted the German trenches and although British soldiers could see the lights, it took them a few minutes to figure out what they were from. Could this be a trick? British soldiers were ordered not to fire but to watch them closely. Instead of trickery, the British soldiers heard many of the Germans celebrating.
Time and again during the course of that day, the Eve of Christmas, there were wafted towards us from the trenches opposite the sounds of singing and merry-making, and occasionally the guttural tones of a German were to be heard shouting out lustily, 'A happy Christmas to you Englishmen!' Only too glad to show that the sentiments were reciprocated, back would go the response from a thick-set Clydesider, 'Same to you, Fritz, but dinna o'er eat yourself wi' they sausages!'
In other areas, the two sides exchanged Christmas carols.
They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate in some way, so we sang 'The first Noël', and when we finished that they all began clapping; and then they struck up another favourite of theirs, 'O Tannenbaum'. And so it went on. First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up 'O Come All Ye Faithful' the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words 'Adeste Fidéles'. And I thought, well, this was really a most extraordinary thing - two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.
The Christmas Truce This fraternization on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas was in no way officially sanctified nor organized. Yet, in numerous separate instances down the front line, German soldiers began yelling over to their enemy, "Tommy, you come over and see us!"8 Still cautious, the British soldiers would rally back, "No, you come here!"In some parts of the line, representatives of each side would meet in the middle, in No Man's Land.
We shook hands, wished each other a Merry Xmas, and were soon conversing as if we had known each other for years. We were in front of their wire entanglements and surrounded by Germans - Fritz and I in the centre talking, and Fritz occasionally translating to his friends what I was saying. We stood inside the circle like streetcorner orators.Soon most of our company ('A' Company), hearing that I and some others had gone out, followed us . . . What a sight - little groups of Germans and British extending almost the length of our front! Out of the darkness we could hear laughter and see lighted matches, a German lighting a Scotchman's cigarette and vice versa, exchanging cigarettes and souvenirs. Where they couldn't talk the language they were making themselves understood by signs, and everyone seemed to be getting on nicely. Here we were laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill!
Some of those who went out to meet the enemy in the middle of No Man's Land on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day negotiated a truce: we won't fire if you won't fire. Some ended the truce at midnight on Christmas night, some extended it until New Year's Day.  One reason Christmas truces were negotiated was in order to bury the dead, many of whom had been there for several months. Along with the revelry that celebrated Christmas was the sad and somber job of burying their fallen comrades. On Christmas day, British and German soldiers appeared on No Man's Land and sorted through the bodies. In just a few rare instances, joint services were held for both the British and German dead. Yet many soldiers enjoyed meeting the un-seen enemy and were surprised to discover that they were more alike than he had thought. They talked, shared pictures, exchanged items such as buttons for food stuffs. An extreme example of the fraternization was a soccer game played in the middle of No Man's Land between the Bedfordshire Regiment and the Germans. A member of the Bedfordshire Regiment produced a ball and the large group of soldiers played until the ball was deflated when it hit a barbed wire entanglement. This strange and unofficial truce lasted for several days, much to the dismay of the commanding officers. This amazing showing of Christmas cheer was never again repeated and as World War I progressed, the story of Christmas 1914 at the front became something of a legend.

Brown, Malcolm and Shirley Seaton. Christmas Truce. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1984.Terraine, John. "Christmas 1914, and After." History Today December 1979: 781-789.Winter, D. "Time off From Conflict: Christmas 1914." The Royal United Service Institution Journal December 1970: 42-43.Winter, Jay and Blaine Baggett. The Great War: And the Shaping of the 20th Century. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The blitz 72 years on: Carnage at the Café de Paris

de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception

There was, surprisingly, plenty of glitz in the Blitz. With enemy planes overhead night after night, the old biblical injunction to 'eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die' was never more appropriate.
So while much of the population took shelter, a large number of mainly young people – social and sexual restraints on them lifted by the emergency of war – were determined to party. And if food was rationed and the beer watered down, then at least they could dance. At night, thousands packed into local Locarnos and Palais to forget their worries in furious jitterbugging or romantic, waist-hugging waltzing.
Snake-Hips Johnson
Band leader Ken 'Snakehips' Johnson's head was blown from his shoulders during a bomb inside the Café de Paris on 8 March, 1941

The West End, some recall, was never so full of live music.
From streets darkened by the strictly imposed black-out, fun-seekers could escape into a brightly lit world of crooners, cocktails and big bands.
And the place the smart crowds were drawn to was Soho's sumptuous, subterranean Café de Paris.
A must-visit nightspot for high society before the war, when the likes of the Mountbattens, the Aga Khan and Cole Porter were seated at its best tables, its doors stayed open despite the outbreak of hostilities.

Its clientele was not quite as select – uniforms were a great social leveller – but this was still where debs and celebs chose to go for a good night out.
Here, according to one habitué, 'the men all seemed extraordinarily handsome and the young women so very beautiful'.
Its enterprising manager promoted it as 'the safest and gayest restaurant in town, 20ft below ground'. It was a boast that went tragically awry on the night of 8 March, 1941.
That night, the area between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square was being strafed with bombs.
But inside the Café de Paris, West Indian-born band leader Ken Johnson – known as 'Snakehips' because of his silky dancing style – revved up his swing band into the opening bars of the Andrews Sisters' hit, Oh, Johnny, Oh, Johnny, Oh!.
Cafe de Paris
Nightlife at the famous Cafe de Paris in London before the bombing

The floor was heaving with couples. Suddenly, there was an immense blue flash. Two bombs had hit the building, hurtled down a ventilation shaft from the roof and exploded right in front of the band.
Snakehips' head was blown from his shoulders. Dancers' legs were sheered off. The blast, magnified in the confined space, burst the lungs of diners as they sat at their tables and killed them instantly.
At least 34 staff, guests and band members died that night.
A rescue worker who arrived in the devastated nightclub tripped over a girl's head on the floor, looked up and saw her torso still sitting in a chair. The dead and dying were heaped everywhere.
Champagne was cracked open to clean wounds. One wounded survivor recalled seeing 'this lovely young girl wearing what had been a white satin dress.

She was sobbing her heart out. On a stretcher was her young man in uniform and I could hear the drip, drip of blood from his head.'
'A rescue worker who arrived in the devastated nightclub tripped over a girl's head on the floor, looked up and saw her torso still sitting in a chair'

There were some narrow escapes too. The high-kicking cabaret dancers, a troupe of ten gorgeous girls, were due on stage when the bomb struck, but were saved because they were waiting in the wings and therefore protected from the devastation.
The worst of human nature was in evidence that night too – amid the rubble and the chaos, unscrupulous looters were seen cutting off the fingers of the dead to steal their rings.
Even among the death and destruction, one man retained his sense of humour – as he was carried out on a stretcher, he got a cheer from the watching crowd when he called out, 'At least I didn't have to pay for dinner.'

Determined not to be beaten, many bloodied survivors from the Café de Paris staggered off to other swish restaurants and clubs to complete their interrupted evening. As ever, the band played on.
Cafe de Paris i
The aftermath which killed at least 34 staff, guests and band members. Buckingham Palace was hit on the same night

That nightwhen the Café de Paris was hit, so too was another even more famous landmark of London society – Buckingham Palace. And not for the first time.
From the very start of the Blitz back in September 1940, the London home of George VI and the Queen Consort was in the firing line.
The first strike was from a delayed-action bomb, which went off the day after it dropped, blowing out windows in the building – including an office where, not long before, the King had been at his desk working – damaging the indoor swimming pool and causing a number of ceilings to collapse.
A week later, the royal couple's life was in jeopardy again. As they stood in a room damaged by the earlier raid, collecting 'a few odds and ends', as the Queen Consort explained in a recently released private letter to her mother-in-law, a German bomber dropped down from the sky and came in low along the Mall.
'We heard the unmistakeable whirr-whirr of a plane,' she wrote, 'then the noise of an aircraft diving at great speed and the scream of a bomb.'
She remembered that they only had time for a nervous glance at each other before 'the scream hurtled past us and exploded with a tremendous crash in the quadrangle'.
'The Queen was not as brave as she pretended to be. In a letter to a favourite niece, she owned up to being frightened of the bombs
There was another explosion as a second bomb crashed into the chapel in the south wing and flattened it. The Queen Consort's knees 'trembled for a minute or two'. It was an incredibly close call.
Their deaths at that juncture in the war would have been a huge, and possibly decisive blow to the nation's morale.
As it was, the very fact that the Germans had so nearly wiped out the King and his consort was considered so sensitive that the information was concealed from the public until after the war.
But this brush with mortal danger was what prompted the Queen Consort to make her famous assertion that she could 'now look the East End in the eye'.

Whenever she put on her finery and toured London's bombed-out terraces to bring some cheer to those suffering most from the Blitz, she could say with justification that she knew what they were going through. More to the point, they knew that she knew.

Admittedly, the Queen was not as brave as she pretended to be. In a letter to a favourite niece, she owned up to being frightened of the bombs. 'I turn bright red and my heart hammers. In fact, I'm a beastly coward. But I do believe that a lot of people are, so I don't mind!'
Then she signed off with a cheery goodbye that summed up the spirit of the times: 'Tinketytonk, old fruit, and down with the Nazis!'

A warning from the age of excess: How the Twenties binge led to the Great Depression

de bene esse: literally, of well-being, morally acceptable but subject to future validation or exception

Noel Coward sang: 'Cocktails and laughter - but what comes after?' in his 1925 revue On With The Dance. The feverish hedonism of the Jazz Age, which ran through the Twenties, was a reaction to the horrors of the previous decade, when World War I and the flu epidemic killed more than 20 million people in Europe alone.
For ten years the moneyed classes in Britain and America partied without heed for the reckoning. It was an era of excess, when money seemed limitless and they believed the boom would never end. It was also the decade that led up to the devastating economic collapse of the Thirties.
And the similarities to the giddy years of the past decade - with their cocaine-fuelled parties, mega-rich businessmen and devil-may- care approach to spending - could hardly have been more relevant when the world stood on the brink of another financial catastrophe.

Of course, it all began in America, but the British soon joined in as jazz music arrived, with the all-white Original Dixieland Jazz Band playing at the newly-opened Hammersmith Palais de Danse. Admission cost a shilling (5p).
Frivolity: A typical Twenties party, as depicted in the 1929 film Gold Diggers Of Broadway
Frivolity: A typical Twenties party, as depicted in the 1929 film Gold Diggers Of Broadway

While the young quickly became familiar with names such as King Oliver and Louis Armstrong, one clergyman spoke for many when he declared that: 'The morals of a pigsty would be respectable in comparison.'
Jazz was undisciplined and sexually suggestive - something the older generation were going to have to get used to as the decade wore on.  It wasn't only the jazz. 'It is rotten! It stinks. Phew, open the windows!' was another clergyman's reaction to the Charleston when it came in - a dance which more than any other is associated with the Twenties.
It was considered vulgar until Edward, the Prince of Wales, danced it (and very skilfully, too).
Londoners queued up to take lessons from his instructor, who demonstrated the steps on the roof of a taxi driving through the West End.
Other dances, such as The Black Bottom, a rather clumsy, foot-stamping effort, did not last the pace, any more than did the jogtrot or the shimmy. The Tango, though, was here to stay, greatly assisted by the Western world's heart-throb of the time, silent movie-star Rudolph Valentino.
Everybody danced - in newly built dance halls, in church halls, drill halls, even scout huts. Like the cinema, dancing was classless and a good way to meet people. A drunken minister even slid under a table mid-speech

At the top of the range, tea dances took place at The Savoy (five shillings) or the Piccadilly Hotel. Cheaper, at two shillings, were the Astoria Dance Hall and the Regent Palace, which were said to be pick-up places.
From these you went down a few steps, into one of London's 11,000 nightclubs, many of which the puritanical Home Secretary of the day did his best to close.
It was a short walk from the Embassy Club in Bond Street, patronised by the Prince of Wales and his bisexual brother, to the Grafton Galleries, which boasted a negro band and required guests to wear gloves while dancing.
The queen of London nightlife was Kate Meyrick, proprietor of the famous 43 Club. She was regularly raided by the police, but made enough money to send her two sons to Harrow.
In 1924 she was sentenced to six months imprisonment for breaching the licensing laws, winning indignant sympathy from her clients, who included the king of Romania, the crown prince of Sweden, and the actress Tallulah Bankhead.
Three years later, undaunted, she opened the grandest of her clubs, the Silver Slipper in Regent Street, where the walls were painted with Italian scenes and the dancefloor was made from glass. All three of her daughters married into the peerage.
However determined the police were to crack down on out-of-hours drinking, young men who worked all day and wanted the company of women at night were determined to get round the law. This they did through private bottle parties, organised by a 'host' on private premises.
The host would be paid for his trouble at the rate of 25 shillings for a bottle of whisky, up to 55 shillings for a bottle of very average champagne, and five shillings for an egg and two rashers of bacon.
In the early days of bottle parties, the host was expected to provide a good dancefloor, impeccable waiters and luxurious surroundings.
The venues rarely opened before midnight and closed at six or seven in the morning when the last inebriated guests were helped into taxis. As time passed, these bottle-party events grew tattier and the entertainment raunchier, with semi-nude cabarets.
The Stock Exchange was flooded with unproven firms

According to the poet Robert Graves, who wrote an influential book about the interwar years, the clientele was largely made up of Soho vice kings, pools promoters, bookmakers and manufacturers from the provinces - in the phrase of Stanley Baldwin (Prime Minister three times in the Twenties and Thirties): 'Hard-faced men who looked as if they had done very well out of the war.'
Prostitutes also found their way to the bottle-parties. There was a growing number of these, professional and amateur, partly as a result of safer birth control. This, after all, was the era of the modern girl, who during the war had done 'a man's job' and earned her own money.
The expressions 'sugar daddy' and 'gold digger' were very much in vogue as a polite way of describing what was going on. In London, so they said, one girl in ten carried a contraceptive in her vanity case.
The newspapers brought sex into their pages when they could. But since it was accepted that it did not pay to run pornography in a family newspaper, the dailies referred to it obliquely by launching attacks on salacious books and plays.
The Bright Young Things, a phrase redolent of the Twenties and the early novels of Evelyn Waugh, made just as good copy.
Traders yell instructions following the Wall Street Crash in 1929
Traders yell instructions following the Wall Street Crash in 1989

Led by Lady Loelia Ponsonby and various Guinnesses, the Bright Young Things organised, 'stunt' parties, in Waugh's words, 'masked parties, Greek parties, almost naked parties' and even a baby party, with cocktails served in nursery mugs. They and their friends played jazz and drank gallons of White Lady, (recipe: a quarter lemon juice, a quarter Cointreau and half dry gin - shake well and strain into a cocktail glass).
Drunkenness was not just the preserve of the working classes, although they were the target of temperance reformers. The politician Lord Birkenhead lost his seat in Cabinet because of his constant drunkenness, once sliding under the table at which he had been delivering his address.
Nobody agitated against tobacco or cocaine. Men and women smoked like chimneys and were encouraged in the habit by film stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Mae West. Roughly onethird of Hollywood stars in the Twenties were shown smoking on film, but hardly any of the villains.
Snuff, now regarded as harmful, was very popular. Opium was administered in liquid form to keep babies quiet. Cocaine, usually in tonic wine, was regularly taken as a pick-me-up.
When Tallulah Bankhead was asked if cocaine was habit-forming, she replied: 'Of course not! I ought to know, I've been using it for years.'
The fashions of the Twenties were like nothing seen before or since. The well-heeled woman wore a cloche hat, from around 1925, which required her hair to be cut short, first into a bob and then into a shingle. It was curled with heated tongs, although the rich could afford one of the 'Marcel' permanent waves, done at Harrods for the huge cost of five guineas (£220 today).
Towards the end of the decade, fashionable women wore an Eton crop - so short that when they donned trousers it was hard to tell the men from the girls, especially when they wore jumpers.
Smart men could be seen in a canary-yellow hunting waistcoat, green velveteen trousers and suede shoes - although only the tips of his shoes would be visible, so wide were the trousers. For much of the decade, when they were not wearing trousers, well-dressed women wore short, tubular dresses with very low waists.
The shortness, eventually up to the kneecaps, was an expression of their new-found freedom, though it caused embarrassment to some, like Lady Londonderry, who had a tattoo of a snake wriggling up her leg from her ankle.
Most middle-class women filled their days with bridge, tennis, dancing and motoring off to lunch with friends. They sat in Parliament, following the example of Nancy Astor, and drove racing cars and swam the Channel. At the end of the decade, Amy Johnson made her solo flight to Australia.
It was an age in which enough people had enough money so that no expense need be spared.
The burgeoning car industry made a lot of Austin Sevens, but it also made some of the most beautiful cars of all time, with names like Bugatti and Hispano-Suiza.
They took people to the cinema and to the seaside, where the beautiful people discarded their skin-tight corsets, if they were wearing one, and acquired a tan.
Lady Plunket kept her suntan all winter and was rumoured to paint her skin with diluted iodine.
The Bright Young Things worshipped the sun. From the Riviera they moved on to the Lido in Venice, taking along the usual black musicians to play for them.
Cabaret star Leslie Hutchinson and his band played aboard a floating nightclub organised by composer Cole Porter and moored on Venice's Grand Canal. Streamlining was the buzzword: not just cars but planes, airships, irons, floor-polishers and prams. In the U.S., automobiles emancipated an entire population. In motoring, as in flying, huge prizes were awarded for the fastest, the longest or the highest - whatever it might be.
When it came to sheer luxury, the great airships competed with the ocean liners, until 1937 when the fiery end of the Hindenburg would spell their doom.
Meanwhile, the great liners sailed on: vessels such as the Aquitania, which boasted a Palladian lounge and Egyptian swimming pool, not to mention the walnut furniture decorated with petit-pointe tapestry.
For the first time, the middle classes could also afford sea travel.
Once the tycoons reached America, they travelled by train in private sleeping compartments, known as 'drawing rooms', which had everything they might require, including their own attendants.
If the Bright Young Things spared no expense, the same sort of luxury and extravagance was evident on this side of the Atlantic, where their opposite numbers bobbed their hair, rouged their cheeks and painted their fingernails, and tended their investments.
The aristocracy, for all their display, were not the only engine of great wealth in Britain. In fact, since World War I, they has lost a lot of land and political power, as could be seen along London's Park Lane, where the great houses of the aristocracy were pulled down and vast hotels on the American model erected. Many peers - those who owned property, such as the Dukes of Westminster and Norfolk - remained inordinately wealthy. Others went into commerce and made new fortunes. Others again married into fabulously rich U.S. families such as the Vanderbilts.
Other men came to the fore who could match the fortunes of the aristocracy: newspaper magnates, beer barons, mining magnates and other plutocrats. In the mid-Twenties, there were reckoned to be more than 300 millionaires in Britain, at a time when a thousandth of that would have lasted a labourer a lifetime.
Two-thirds of the national wealth belonged to 2.5 per cent of gainfully employed adults.
There was a strange indifference in the air. In 1928, the Stock Exchange had a tremendous boom in new issues for companies which often had no profit record or trading experience.
They expected to make fortunes overnight on unlimited markets for gramophone records, or artificial silk, or gadgets to stop bed mattresses sagging.
London's immense prosperity, as the decade drew to a close, was shown in the fact that fashionable restaurants could afford to spend £12,000 a year on dance bands.
In the capital, people moved in droves to live near one of the new Tube stations as the Underground system expanded, and huge property rises followed. Land which three or four years earlier had been sold at £380 an acre was now going at £1,500 an acre.
'Stake your claim at Edgware!' screamed the posters.
Noel Coward had a new play out called Bitter Sweet, an operetta, and R.C. Sherriff opened a poignant new World War I drama, with a more timely title, Journey's End.
In the music halls and the nightclubs they were singing the credo of the decade:

'Not much money, oh but honey Ain't we got fun?

There's nothing surer, The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.'

And then came the Wall Street Crash.