World War I poets on stage


This theatre video from England is called Pat Barker‘s Regeneration adapted by Nicholas Wright.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Anthem for souls in conflict

Thursday 18th September 2014

Peter Frost recommends Regeneration, a dark vision of the psychological horrors endured by soldiers in WWI

Regeneration, Royal and Derngate Theatre, Northampton

4/5

Novelist Pat Barker won a Booker prize for The Ghost Road, the third book in her Regeneration trilogy set in the first world war.

Now Nicholas Wright has adapted the novels for the stage and the result is thought-provoking and disturbing.

Virtually all the action takes place in the Craiglockhart war hospital in Scotland — a sombre asylum for officers with shell-shock — in 1917.

Soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon (Tim Delap) has been sent there ostensibly because he is insane but in reality the War Office has put him away to discredit his anti-war poems and pronouncements.

Army psychiatrist Doctor William Rivers, beautifully played by Stephen Boxer, has the job of curing the shell-shocked officers, suffering from what is now understood to be post-traumatic stress disorder — or at least getting them fit enough to return to the trenches.

His sessions with Sassoon force him to consider the morality of what he is doing in the name of medicine. Some of the treatments employed are little short of torture.

We witness Sassoon and Wilfred Owen (Garmon Rhys) tussling over one of the latter’s poems — Anthem for Doomed Youth — before both men decide to return to the front.

Sassoon, Rivers and Owen are all drawn from history but the one individual who provides a more realistic view of the madness of war is the fictional character of grammar school boy Billy Prior (Jack Monaghan) from the “lower orders.”

A compelling look at the futility of war, the play is a reminder too that even in the horror of an asylum the officer class still get a round of golf in or take dinner at the Conservative club.

Sassoon, wounded by friendly fire, would live until the 1960s while Owen died exactly one week before the war ended.

His mother received the fateful telegram just as the church bells in her village started ringing out to celebrate victory.

A bitter irony, entirely in keeping with this commendable production.

Runs until September 20, box office: royalandderngate.co.uk, then tours nationwide.

Ancient Egyptian woman with 70 hair extensions discovery


The remains of a 3,300-year-old woman who wore a complex hairstyle with 70 hair extensions was discovered in the ancient city of Armana. Credit: Photo by Jolanda Bos and Lonneke Beukenholdt

From LiveScience:

Ancient Egyptian Woman with 70 Hair Extensions Discovered

By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor

September 17, 2014 08:40am ET

More than 3,300 years ago, in a newly built city in Egypt, a woman with an incredibly elaborate hairstyle of lengthy hair extensions was laid to rest.

She was not mummified, her body simply being wrapped in a mat. When archaeologists uncovered her remains they found she wore “a very complex coiffure with approximately 70 extensions fastened in different layers and heights on the head,” writes Jolanda Bos, an archaeologist working on the Amarna Project, in an article recently published in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology.

Researchers don’t know her name, age or occupation, but she is one of hundreds of people, including many others whose hairstyles are still intact, who were buried in a cemetery near an ancient city now called Amarna. [See Photos of the Egyptian Skeletons and Elaborate Hairstyles]

This city was constructed as a new capital of Egypt by Akhenaten (reign ca. 1353-1335 B.C.), a pharaoh who unleashed a religious revolution that saw the Aten, a deity shaped as a sun disk, assume supremacy in Egyptian religion. Akhenaten ordered that Amarna be constructed in the desert and that images of some of Egypt’s other gods be destroyed. Amarna was abandoned shortly after Akhenaten’s death, and today archaeologists supported by the Amarna Trust are investigating all aspects of the ancient city, including the hairstyles its people wore.

Bos is leading the hairstyle research, and the woman with 70 extensions leaves her puzzled.

“Whether or not the woman had her hair styled like this for her burial only is one of our main research questions,” said Bos in an email to Live Science. “The hair was most likely styled after death, before a person was buried. It is also likely, however, that these hairstyles were used in everyday life as well and that the people in Amarna used hair extensions in their daily life.”

Many of the other skulls Bos analyzed also had hair extensions. One skull had extensions made of gray and dark black hair suggesting multiple people donated their hair to create extensions.

Hairy discoveries

As Bos analyzed a selection of 100 recently excavated skulls (of which 28 still had hair) from the Armana cemetery, she noticed the people who lived in the ancient city had a wide variety of hair types. They range “from very curly black hair, to middle brown straight,” she noted in the journal article, something “that might reflect a degree of ethnic variation.” [Photos: 10 Iconic Hairstyles That Took Root]

Those skulls with brown hair often had rings or coils around their ears, a style that was popular at Amarna, she found. Why people in this city liked it is unknown. “We still have no idea. This is of course one of the answers we are still trying to find from the record,” said Bos in the email.

People in the city also seemed to be fond of braids. “All braids found in the coiffures were simple and of three strands, mostly 1 cm [0.4 inches] wide, with strands of approximately 0.5 cm [0.2 inches] when tightly braided,” Bos writes in the journal article.

People at Amarna also liked to keep their hair short. “Braids were often not more than 20 cm [7.9 inches] long, leaving the hair at shoulder length approximately,” Bos added. “The longest hair that was found consisted of multilayered extensions to a length of approximately 30 cm [11.8 inches].”

Fat was used to help create all the hairstyles Bos found, something that would have helped keep the hair in one piece after death. More research is needed to determine whether the fat was from animals. A textile found on each of the skulls may have been used to cover part of the head.

Hide the gray?

In one case a woman has an orange-red color on her graying hair. It appears that that she dyed her hair, possibly with henna (a flowering plant).

“We are still not completely sure if and what kind of hair coloring was used on this hair, it only seems that way macroscopically,” said Bos in the email. “At present we are analyzing the hairs in order to find out whether or not some kind of coloring was used. On other sites dyed hair was found from ancient Egypt.”

This woman, among other ancient Egyptians, may have dyed her hair “for the same reason as why people dye their hair today, in order not to show the gray color,” Bos said.

King Richard III of England, how he died


This 2013 video from England is called Richard III – The Violent Death of the King in the Car Park.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Richard III died in battle after losing helmet, new research shows

Detailed scans of bones show that he sustained 11 wounds at or near the time of his death, nine of them to the skull

Tuesday 16 September 2014 23.35 BST

Richard III died in the thick of battle after losing his helmet and coming under a hail of blows from vicious medieval weapons, new research has shown. Detailed scans of the king’s bones show that he sustained 11 wounds at or near the time of his death, nine of them to the skull.

The blows to the head were clearly inflicted in battle and suggest that he was not wearing his helmet.

There was another potentially fatal injury to the pelvis that may have been inflicted after death.

Professor Guy Rutty, from the University of Leicester, said: “The most likely injuries to have caused the king’s death are the two to the inferior aspect of the skull – a large sharp force trauma possibly from a sword or staff weapon, such as a halberd or bill, and a penetrating injury from the tip of an edged weapon.

“Richard’s head injuries are consistent with some near-contemporary accounts of the battle, which suggest that Richard abandoned his horse after it became stuck in a mire and was killed while fighting his enemies.”

Richard III, the last English monarch to die fighting, perished at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. It was the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses, the civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York, and paved the way for the Tudor dynasty.

Scientists and historians have been studying the king’s remains since his skeleton was found under a car park in Leicester.

Evidence suggests he was not the hunchbacked, deformed monstrosity depicted by William Shakespeare.

Experts now know he had a bent spine with a “well balanced curve” that could easily have been concealed by clothing and would not have affected his prowess in battle. He probably did not walk with a limp.

The latest research, published in The Lancet medical journal’s online edition, involved whole body CT (computed tomography) X-ray scans and micro-CT imaging.

Marks left on the bones by weapons were also analysed.

The serious injury to the pelvis should have been prevented by Richard’s armour, according to the researchers. They speculate that it might have been inflicted after death, with the armour removed.

Co-author Professor Sarah Hainsworth, also from the University of Leicester, said: “Richard’s injuries represent a sustained attack or an attack by several assailants with weapons from the later medieval period.

“The wounds to the skull suggest that he was not wearing a helmet, and the absence of defensive wounds on his arms and hands indicate that he was otherwise still armoured at the time of his death.”

Commenting on the study, Dr Heather Bonney from the Natural History Museum in London said the research provided a “compelling account” of the way Richard III met his death.

She added: “Wherever his remains are again laid to rest, I am sure that Richard III will continue to divide opinion fiercely for centuries to come.”

See also here.

Geert Wilders wants mandatory blackface at Dutch festival


This video, by the Daily Telegraph in England, recorded in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, says about itself:

17 November 2013

Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Father Christmas and his blacked-up helpers Zwarte Pieten, or Black Peters, arrive in Amsterdam amid protests claiming the tradition is racist.

Sinterklaas is not really ‘the Dutch version of Father Christmas’. The festival is on 6 December (and mainly on 5 December, the evening before 5 December), remembering the Christian Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop in what is today Turkey. Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, was derived from Sinterklaas later in the USA, and connected to Christmas, not 5 or 6 December.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

The PVV

Geert Wilders‘ xenophobic party in the Netherlands

wil propose a bill which will protect Zwarte Piet.

Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) is a blackface character in the Dutch Saint Nicholas festival, supposed to be the servant of the saintly bishop. Zwarte Piet was added to the festival in the nineteenth century, when there still was slavery in the Dutch colonies. He is depicted as a caricature of nineteenth century house slaves, in servant’s uniform, with big red lips and golden earrings, speaking with a supposedly Surinamese accent.

The new law would require municipalities to keep Zwarte Piet black[face] at the festivities. There would also be a ban on modifying Saint Nicholas songs.

About 1960, a child opened a book of “traditional” Saint Nicholas songs.

One song in that book was Sinterklaas, die goede heer (Saint Nicholas, that good gentleman).

One song line in that song went: “Servant Piet, as black as soot, with a chain around his foot …”

The chain was also depicted in the picture on the same page.

“Mummy, why does Piet have a chain around his foot?”

“Because he is a slave, my child!”

UPDATE: Today, in 2014, that song is still on the Internet, including the “chain” line.

If Wilders wants to ban changing songs’ lyrics, then he will have very much work to do. Throughout history, old songs have been adapted with new lyrics. Protestant churches in the Netherlands and elsewhere have changed the lyrrics of their hymns and psalms frequently. Does Wilders want to jail the Protestant dignitaries responsible for that? He can’t jail all of them, as most are already dead. The Belgian national anthem’s lyrics have changed many times.

Let us take the Dutch national anthem, the Wilhelmus. Its original lyrics were in French. It was a satirical song by Roman Catholic Spanish soldiers mocking their Protestant enemies in 1568, as the Dutch revolt against the king of Spain started. If Wilders hates changing lyrics so much, then he may want to change the Wilhelmus back to its original anti-Protestant lyrics again.

This music video is called “O la folle entreprise du Prince de Condé“, song from about 1568. It is the original version of the Dutch national anthem, in French, by Spanish soldiers mocking their Protestant enemies.

Geert Wilders said in the television program Vandaag de Dag by WNL that he “wants to protect our culture.”

Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner poem on stage


This video from Britain says about itself:

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge ~ Full Version

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (originally The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere) is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–98 and published in 1798 in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads.

By Indianna Purcell in England:

Memorable rebranding of Coleridge

Saturday 13th September 2014

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
South Bank Centre, London SE1

5/5

IT WOULD seem that there’s nothing too ambitious for Britain’s darkest warbling cult trio The Tiger Lillies. And thank goodness for that as their latest project — premiered in France over two years ago — is one of their most spellbinding shows in recent times.

Having embarked on projects such as transforming WWI poetry into songs or a macabre classic German children’s book into an even more sinister musical, The Tiger Lillies now take on Samuel Coleridge’s epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Along with Mark Holthusen’s stunning visual effects, they transform it into a unique, haunting and effortlessly graceful stage production.

Coleridge’s eerie crime-and-punishment classic recounts the tale of a mariner who narrates his nightmare sea voyage where, having shot an albatross, he’s forced to wear it round his neck in penance by his fellow sailors, who ultimately all perish.

In bringing that morbid tale to life, lead singer and accordionist extraordinaire Jacques grimaces through his usual glass-breaking vocal range, with many of the 20 seductive songs sounding sombre in comparison to the Lillies’ usual circus-style cabaret tracks.

In contrast with many of their shows where the group perform on a stage with minimal visual effects, relying more on their own startling stage presence, this time they perform behind a screen of animated handmade puppets. It’s a puppet theatre which they memorably transform into a work of nightmarish art.

Poem about World War I, by Attila the Stockbroker


This video is called Attila the Stockbroker – A Centenary War Poem For My Father Bill Baine, 1899 – 1968.

By poet Attila the Stockbroker from Britain:

Cheers for proud Hull, punking about in Brussels and a poem

Saturday 13th September 2014

On the road with Attila the Stockbroker

LAST weekend I was on at the Freedom Festival in Hull, and what a wonderfully organised and vibrant event it was.

Set in the old streets of the historic port area and featuring loads of diverse bands, poets, dancers — you name it — all washed down with a fine selection of local beers and food from all over the world.

Hull is Britain’s City of Culture for 2017 and has had a vibrant scene for years. It also hosts my favourite venue the Adelphi, basically a hollowed-out terraced house next to a bomb site. It’s been presided over for 30 years by the indefatigable and inspirational Paul “Jacko” Jackson and spawned loads of household names in the independent music scene from the Housemartins to Pulp to Death by Milkfloat, to name but a few.

What d’you mean, you haven’t heard of Death by Milkfloat? Legends, comrades, legends.

Best T shirt of that weekend: “Welcome to Hull, European City of Culture 2017. We’re not shit any more.” You never were, Hull, you’re great.

This music video from Belgium is the song Nuit blanche, by the band Contingent.

I’ve just been playing bass in Brussels with Contingent, the punk band I joined there in 1979. They still gig occasionally — and incendiarally — and we’re supporting Sham 69 at a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Magasin 4, the alternative venue set up by our late, great guitarist Eric Lemaitre. Belgian beer awaits in vats – and then I’m off with my wife for a week’s holiday in Marseille.

I wanted to use this poem in my column at the actual anniversary of the start of world War I, but so much was going on gig-wise then that I decided to hold it back for the relatively relaxed few weeks between the end of the festival season and the start of my autumn touring, where it could have pride of place.

It is a true and unusual story — and a poem from the heart.

A Centenary War Poem

For my father, Bill Baine

“What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.”
And so some lines to spike centenary prattle:
These words a sole survivor soldier’s son’s.

My father Bill, born in Victorian England:
The sixth of January, 1899.
His stock, loyal London. Proletarian doff-cap.
Aged seventeen, he went to join the line.

Not in a war to end all wars forever
Just in a ghastly slaughter at the Somme
A pointless feud, a royal family squabble
Fought by their proxy poor with gun and bomb.

My father saved. Pyrexia, unknown origin.
Front line battalion: he lay sick in bed.
His comrades formed their line, then came the whistle
And then the news that every one was dead.

In later life a polished comic poet
No words to us expressed that awful fear
Although we knew such things were not forgotten.
He dreamed Sassoon: he wrote Belloc and Lear.

When I was ten he died, but I remember,
Although just once, he’d hinted at the truth.
He put down Henry King and Jabberwocky
And read me Owen’s “Anthem For Doomed Youth”.

“What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.”
And so some lines to spike Gove’s mindless prattle:

These words a sole survivor soldier’s son’s.