HG Wells, Attenborough, Martians and Tasmanian genocide


BRITISH MADE GENOCIDE: The last four Tasmanian Aborigines of solely Aboriginal descent c1860s. Truganini, the last to survive, is seated at far right

This photo shows the last four Tasmanian Aborigines of solely Aboriginal descent c1860s. Truganini, the last to survive, is seated at far right.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Friday, December 6, 2019

Alien invasions and meetings with Stalin

The BBC TV adaptation of HG Wells’s War of the Worlds has finished. PETER FROST reminds us what a great socialist the author was

LAST SUNDAY saw the screening of the third and final episode of the BBC’s magnificent, if controversial, adaptation of HG Wells’s War of the Worlds.

Wells’s classic tale of Martians invading Earth has long been a favourite of mine. It is a beautifully ironic analogy of British imperialism’s invasions of foreign lands. Gun in one hand, a bible in the other the British invaded so many places in order to colour the globe pink.

Soldiers and missionaries carried a whole arsenal of fatal secret weapons. Viruses and bacteria of diseases like influenza and even the common cold. These were endemic back home but unknown and deadly among folk who had never built up immunities to them.

By coincidence before I watched the first episode of War of the Worlds I watched David Attenborough’s Seven Worlds, One Planet documentary on the animals of Australia.

Attenborough focussed on two Tasmanian species. The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is a carnivorous marsupial. Once widespread, today it is fighting hard in just a few Tasmanian locations to avoid total extinction.

He also showed amazing black and white footage of the very last Tasmanian tiger, or Tasmanian wolf. The Thylacine, (Thylacinus cynocephalus), was a marsupial wolf and the largest carnivorous marsupial of recent times. That film showed the very last survivor in a private Hobart zoo before the species became totally extinct in 1936.

The documentary however didn’t mention another Tasmanian species that was wiped out by the arrival of the white man. They were the indigenous people of the island — the Tasmanians — a population of Aboriginal people known as the Palawa.

It was the tragic fate of the Palawa that inspired HG Wells to write War of the Worlds. Wells told his brother Frank about the catastrophic effect of the British invasion on indigenous Tasmanians. What would happen, he wondered, if Martians did to Britain what the British had done to the Tasmanians?

So what of the BBC adaptation? I’ll leave most of that to TV reviewers more erudite than me. One widespread complaint was that the BBC adapters had added — horror of horrors — a woman hero.

The series opened with a hero, a journalist called George having left his wife, his cousin, to live with a woman called Amy in a small cottage called Lyndon near Woking, Surrey. Not one fact of the above can be found anywhere in the original book.

However H George Wells, a journalist, did marry his cousin and left her to live with a woman called Amy in a cottage called Lynton in Woking, Surrey.

It was at Lynton that Wells wrote the book and set the start of the Martian invasion in the countryside around the cottage.

What I want to do here is to remind readers what an incredible man HG Wells was. He always described himself as a committed socialist and wrote a wide variety of political writings — pamphlets, political books, newspaper and magazine articles — as well as novels and stories.

He was never afraid to use his novels and stories to advance his political opinions. Wells saw that socialism would abolish class barriers and foster equality of opportunity. Other writers such as Virginia Woolf berated him for using the novel as a vehicle for delivering his political ideas.

His novels took up diverse individual political issues. For instance The Island of Dr Moreau (1896) examined the fierce debates over vivisection. Ann Veronica (1909) deals with the struggle of the suffragettes for the vote for women.

In his Experiment in Autobiography (1934), he explained his political thinking was motivated by an awareness of the “incompatibility of the great world order foreshadowed by scientific and industrial progress with the existing political and social structures.”

For him the question was: how could politics and society catch up with the advances of science and technology? How could social and political institutions become more scientific, more efficient, more ordered?

As early as 1905 he described his ideal socialist society in his book A Modern Utopia. In it he paints a picture of a highly regulated world state where all property is state-owned, and where sexes are equal.

The Fabian Society were keen to have Wells on board. Despite some earlier differences with George Bernard Shaw and Beatrice and Sidney Webb he accepted an invitation to join the Fabians in 1903.

It would not be a happy time for the Fabians. They quickly realised that Wells could be a loose cannon. Openly criticising the Fabians from the beginning, in 1906 he shocked them with a paper called, unambiguously, The Faults of the Fabian.

In the paper Wells called the Fabian Society a talking shop for middle-class socialists, which lacked the appetite for real change. He argued Fabians should aim for mass membership and more radical reforms.

Wells’s love life and his reputed advocacy of free love didn’t go down well either. When In 1908 he advocated a wage for all mothers and the Fabians refused to adopt this as a policy, he left.

What Wells wanted was a single, socialist world state, a great world order, and it was no doubt to study this kind of development that he visited and championed the young Soviet Union repeatedly.

Wells visited Russia in 1914, 1920 and 1934. During his second visit his old friend and fellow writer Maxim Gorky arranged for him to meet and talk with Vladimir Lenin.

In July 1934, on his third visit to what had become the Soviet Union, he interviewed Joseph Stalin for the New Statesman. The interview lasted three hours.

He told Stalin how he had seen “the happy faces of healthy people” in contrast with his previous visit to Moscow in 1920 but he also raised some serious criticisms. Stalin, we are told, enjoyed the conversation.

During the second world war, Wells drafted a Universal Rights of Man that was published in the Times. This document and the advocacy he did around it led to the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

Wells was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times but never won.

He suffered for much of his life from diabetes and in 1934 co-founded the charity The Diabetic Association known today as Diabetes UK.

Winston Churchill was an avid reader of his books, and after they first met in 1902 they kept in touch until Wells died in 1946. Prime minister Churchill famously described the rise of Nazi Germany as “the gathering storm”. He actually took the phrase from War of the Worlds.

War of the Worlds has never been out of print since its original publication in 1897. Films, radio dramas, comic-books, video games, and many television series have been based on it.

The most famous, or infamous, adaptation is the 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Welles. Presented as a live, realistic set of news bulletins interrupting normal programming, supposedly terrified listeners had heart attacks and even committed suicide, though recent scholarship has suggested this is an urban myth.

Perhaps the greatest and most surprising tribute to the author and the book is that of Robert Goddard, the father of American rocketry. Goddard says his interest in rockets and space travel was first inspired by reading War of the Worlds aged sixteen.

Goddard would invent both liquid fuelled and multi-stage rockets that put men on the Moon and sent robotic probes to Mars — HG Wells would have wanted no finer tribute.

New novel about fascist dictator Mussolini


This video shows Italian fascist dictator Mussolini, speaking in German in the Berlin Olympic stadium, at the invitation of his ally Adolf Hitler.

Translated from Belgian weekly Humo, 2 December 2019:

Benito Mussolini, godfather of modern populists:

Sigh … When will journalists stop abusing the word ‘populist’ for neo-fascists?

“Adolf Hitler adored him”

“M.” is a three-part novel about the life and works of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. The first part, about how fascism came into existence exactly one hundred years ago and took barely five years to gain power, has just been released in Dutch. The 850 pages read like a machine gun and are just as burningly topical as an asylum seekers’ center that is on fire. “We have to compare right-wing populism today with fascism, because there are important similarities“, says author Antonio Scurati (50). Fortunately, there are also differences.

Antonio Scurati’s book is called “M. – The son of the century“. He has won the Premio Strega, Italy’s most prestigious literature prize, and more than one hundred thousand copies have since been sold. That’s a lot, because Italians prefer to watch “Gomorra” or “Il commissario Montalbano” than to read the books on which those TV series are based. The translation rights of “M.” have already been sold to forty countries. According to the author, there is only one possible explanation for this: “Because Mussolini is the archetype, the original with which almost every right-wing populist leader today can be compared.”

United States Americans will also be able to get to know his epic version of Il Duce. Scurati, besides being a writer also a professor at the IULM University in Milan, laughs sourly: “My book will only appear after the 2020 presidential election, because publisher HarperCollins wants to prevent parallels from being drawn between Mussolini and Trump during the election campaign.”

Translated from Dutch weekly De Groene:

And, really happened: on May 4, [Italian far-right politician] Salvini stood on the balcony of the town of Forlì, constructed by Mussolini, to face a small crowd in the pouring rain. In Piazza Saffi, a paragon of fascist architecture, where four resistance fighters, including a girl [Iris Versari], were hung on August 18, 1944 to show the crowd what happened to resistance fighters. Salvini looked out at the memorial plaque.

Salvini under fire for address from notorious balcony used by Mussolini to watch executions: here.

Donald Trump-Trudeau quarrel, parody song


This 4 December 2019 music video from Britain is a parody of the Beatles song Hey Jude.

It is about the quarrel of United States President Donald Trump with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the NATO summit in London.

The video says about itself:

The Tweetles – Hey Trude

Donald Trump’s Beatles tribute band has a musical message for Justin Trudeau.

LYRICS:

Hey Trude, don’t make it SAD!
Took a summit and made it bitter
Remember I don’t know the Duke of York
And your locker room talk
Has got me triggered

Hey Trude, don’t be two-faced
One looks so great, the other one I hate
Which one has been talking behind my back?
Must be the black
I bet it’s Kenyan

So let me out, I’m going home
Hey Trude, you blow
Keep your dirty hands off my Ivanka
And stay away from Melanie
Hey Trude, don’t be

Wa-wa-wa-wanker!
Wa-wa-wanker!

Hey Trude, don’t make me SAD!
Took a summit and made it bitter
Remember I don’t know the Duke of York
And your locker room talk
Has made me triggered
Triggered, triggered, triggered…
WAAAAHHHH!

TRUMP ONCE CALLED PRINCE ANDREW ‘A LOT OF FUN’ President Donald Trump can’t keep his story straight regarding his relationship with Prince Andrew. On Tuesday, he claimed that he didn’t know the disgraced royal. But People dug up a 2000 interview with Trump in which he’d said of the prince: “He’s not pretentious. He’s a lot of fun to be with.” [HuffPost]

Trump denounces Macron’s criticisms of NATO at London summit: here.

WORLD leaders gathered in Watford today as the Nato imperialist war machine attempted to paper over the cracks with growing rifts between the supposed allies. Much attention has focused on a perceived spat between French President Emmanuel Macron and his authoritarian Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Both are accused of war crimes — Mr Erdogan for his jihadist-backed ethnic cleansing campaign against Kurds in northern Syria and Mr Macron for the sale of arms used to deadly effect in Yemen: here.

Animals perform opera classical music, video


This 11 October 2019 music video says about itself:

Opera performed by animals | Maestro – CG short film by Illogic collective

Deep into a forest, a gathering of wild animals starts a nocturnal opera, conducted by a squirrel.

Music: “Squilla Il Bronzo Del Dio – Guerra, guerra” [from the opera Norma]
Composed by Vincenzo Bellini
Performed by The Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera, Dame Joan Sutherland, Samuel Ramey
Conducted by Richard Bonynge
Additional Voices: Marie-Ève Racine, Marc Antoine D’Aragon

British actress Maxine Peake on voting Labour


This July 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

Maxine Peake on Dinnerladies, Mike Leigh and More! | On Acting

The BAFTA-nominated actress talks about her prolific career across film and television, her craft, and Victoria Wood’s advice.

By Maxine Peake in Britain:

Election 2019

Why I’m Voting Labour: Maxine Peake, actor and writer

The arts are at the centre of a civilised society and Jeremy Corbyn knows this more than any other party leader

“IN ANY civilised community the arts and associated amenities, serious or comic, light or demanding, must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be regarded as remote from everyday life.”

When Arts Minister Jenny Lee made this pledge in 1960, who knew that in 2019 this strategy would still be as important as it was at its initiation and, more shockingly, that it is still being fought for.

On reading Labour’s charter for the arts, I have to confess I shed a tear to see in black and white a future for the arts that I have longed dreamed of writ large.

The arts are at the centre of a civilised society and Jeremy Corbyn knows this more than any other party leader, he knows that creativity and expression are basic human needs. The human race is a race of story-tellers and performers. Since our arrival on the planet we have used song, dance and art as a way to communicate and express ourselves. It is essential not only as entertainment but also for our survival.

Art as an outlet is linked intrinsically to our health and wellbeing and the main problem we face today is inclusion. It’s common knowledge that many arts venues can have hefty ticket prices and lowering these prices is a start.

But the real issue we have to tackle is getting young people engaged in the first place, not perpetuating the idea that the arts are only for a privileged few. If we start at junior-school age encouraging youngsters to participate in an art form — Labour’s promise that every child will have the opportunity to play an instrument at school is one way to start to break down these barriers — outreach work is essential.

Arts and creativity need to become the norm within the more disadvantaged areas of society. We cannot go round enforcing this, it has to come from the people and what many of our towns are missing is encouragement and empowerment.

The Towns of Culture is a fantastic way of raising people’s confidence and giving them the facilities and finance to show off their creative prowess. The Cities of Culture have been huge successes, giving the arts and culture in cities like Hull the chance to flourish and show the nation what they are made of. This investment has a continuing legacy, with benefits for all.

Funding the Arts Council properly is another huge step. It does extraordinary work but more money is needed if it is to change more lives and support grassroots organisations that can capture talent and interest in the young and old and nurture it.

Labour promises an arts charter for all that will ensure nobody is overlooked or ignored, whatever their background. No talent will be missed and no-one will be excluded from the mental health benefits that the arts bring.

If we let the Tories — who think of the arts as a luxury and not a necessity — win, the effects on the arts, and us all, will be devastating.

Ancient African ostrich eggshell beads, new research


This April 2018 video says about itself:

Oldest Known Jewellery Ever Discovered

1. The Neanderthal Jewelry from Croatia

2. Nassarius Snail Beads

3. Ostrich Shell Beads of Kenya

4. Denisovan Stone Bracelet

5. The Gold Riches of Varna

6. Glasswork of Egypt

7. Mesopotamian jewelry

From the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany:

Ostrich eggshell beads reveal 10,000 years of cultural interaction across Africa

November 27, 2019

Summary: Researchers present an expanded analysis of African ostrich eggshell beads, testing the hypothesis that larger beads signal the arrival of herders. The data reveals a more nuanced interpretation that provides greater insight into the history of economic change and cultural contact.

Ostrich eggshell beads are some of the oldest ornaments made by humankind, and they can be found dating back at least 50,000 years in Africa. Previous research in southern Africa has shown that the beads increase in size about 2,000 years ago, when herding populations first enter the region. In the current study, researchers Jennifer Miller and Elizabeth Sawchuk investigate this idea using increased data and evaluate the hypothesis in a new region where it has never before been tested.

Review of old ideas, analysis of old collections

To conduct their study, the researchers recorded the diameters of 1,200 ostrich eggshell beads unearthed from 30 sites in Africa dating to the last 10,000 years. Many of these bead measurements were taken from decades-old unstudied collections, and so are being reported here for the first time. This new data increases the published bead diameter measurements from less than 100 to over 1,000, and reveals new trends that oppose longstanding beliefs.

The ostrich eggshell beads reflect different responses to the introduction of herding between eastern and southern Africa. In southern Africa, new bead styles appear alongside signs of herding, but do not replace the existing forager bead traditions. On the other hand, beads from the eastern Africa sites showed no change in style with the introduction of herding. Although eastern African bead sizes are consistently larger than those from southern Africa, the larger southern African herder beads fall within the eastern African forager size range, hinting at contact between these regions as herding spread. “These beads are symbols that were made by hunter-gatherers from both regions for more than 40,000 years,” says lead author Jennifer Miller, “so changes — or lack thereof — in these symbols tells us how these communities responded to cultural contact and economic change.”

Ostrich eggshell beads tell the story of ancient interaction

The story told by ostrich eggshell beads is more nuanced than previously believed. Contact with outside groups of herders likely introduced new bead styles along with domesticated animals, but the archaeological record suggests the incoming influence did not overwhelm existing local traditions. The existing customs were not replaced with new ones; rather they continued and incorporated some of the new elements.

In eastern Africa, studied here for the first time, there was no apparent change in bead style with the arrival of herding groups from the north. This may be because local foragers adopted herding while retaining their bead-making traditions, because migrant herders possessed similar traditions prior to contact, and/or because incoming herders adopted local styles. “In the modern world, migration, cultural contact, and economic change often create tension,” says Sawchuk, “ancient peoples experienced these situations too, and the patterns in cultural objects like ostrich eggshell beads give us a chance to study how they navigated these experiences.”

The researchers hope that this work inspires a renewed interest into ostrich eggshell beads, and recommend that future studies present individual bead diameters rather than a single average of many. Future research should also investigate questions related to manufacture, chemical identification, and the effects of taphonomic processes and wear on bead diameter. “This study shows that examining old collections can generate important findings without new excavation,” says Miller, “and we hope that future studies will take advantage of the wealth of artifacts that have been excavated but not yet studied.”