Bullfinches in human history

This video from the USA says about itself:

Bullfinch The Master Mimic – Did You Know Birding?

27 May 2018

Captive male bullfinches were once a sought-after pet not just because of their beauty but also their incredible ability to whistle folk tunes perfectly.


Google wants film censorship to whitewash medieval Frankish monarchy

This video says about itself:

REDBAD Official Trailer (2018) Jonathan Banks Adventure Movie HD

During the year 754 A.D. the monk Bonifatius was killed in a Dutch town called Dokkum [in today’s Friesland province], according to history this was done by barbaric warriors. But was he indeed murdered in cold blood, or is that just the Christian take on the story?

Release Date: 2018
Genre: Adventure
Director: Roel Reiné
Writer: Alex van Galen
Stars: Jonathan Banks, Søren Malling, Renée Soutendijk

The film is about 8th century conflicts between the (polytheist) Frisian kingdom and the (Christian) kingdom of the Franks. The Frankish rulers used Christianity as a tool in their attempts to violently subject Frisians and other tribes.

The Frisian King Redbad is the hero of the film. According to tradition, Redbad was nearly baptised, but refused when he was told that he would not be able to find any of his ancestors in Heaven after his death, since he preferred spending eternity in Hell with his pagan ancestors than in Heaven with his enemies, especially the Franks. Reminiscent of a native Cuban in the 16th century. Captured by the Spanish invaders for opposing them, and about to be burnt alive at the stake. A priest asks the Indian to convert to Christianity; so, that after his horrible death he may go to heaven. “Do the Spanish soldiers go to heaven?” the Indian asks. “Yes, being Christians”. “Then, I do not want to go to heaven”.

As the trailer video says, now the film Redbad will soon be in the cinemas.

Unexpectedly, there was an attempt by Google corporation (its AdWords branch) to censor that trailer and that film. It is not that unexpected that Google corporation which censors critical sites, will do censorship: eg, their YouTube affiliate has censored German anti-nazis. The unexpected thing is that they now do not censor to save the ‘honour’ of United States President Trump, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, President Macron of France, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch or some other twenty-first century powerful person. The censorship attempt is to save the ‘honour’ of kingdom of the Franks autocrats who died 1300 years ago.

Google says they objected to the supposedly ‘offensive’ depiction in the trailer and the film of a Frisian princess being tortured by the Frankish rulers to force her to convert to Christianity. The censorship is in the name of defending Christianity. I doubt very much whether all twenty-first century Christians agree with early medieval Frankish autocrats abusing religion as a tool in their wars and oppression of Frisians and others.

Questions in the European parliament on this: here.

The producer of the film, Klaas de Jong, says about this (translated):

I really fell off my seat: it is bizarre that US Americans now want to determine what should be offensive to Dutch people.

Google corporation reminds me of the military dictatorship in Thailand. Which persecutes people for supposedly insulting a king. Not even the present king of Thailand (or the royal dog), but a king who died four centuries ago.

British journalist Dorothy Hartley

This video from Britain says about itself:

BBC Four documentary on Dorothy Hartley at Ermysted’s Grammar School – 2012

Food in England: The Lost World of Dorothy Hartley. Lucy Worsley journeys across England and Wales in search of Dorothy Hartley, the writer of what is now considered to be a masterpiece of food writing, Food in England.

First broadcast: 6 November 2012 Dorothy was the daughter of Ermysted’s headmaster, Edward Hartley and was born at the school in Skipton. Historian Lucy Worsley came to EGS in 2012 to film with former Head of History Doug Grant as well as some of the current boys.

The copyright in this recording is held by the BBC; this short extract from the programme is shared here for historical/educational purposes. All rights reserved.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

My fond memories of Dorothy Hartley

PETER FROST on one of his journalistic heroes, a woman who inspired his own Ramblings

Dorothy Rosaman Hartley wrote some of the best books on traditional English food, country crafts, rural traditions and much else beside. As well as books, many of which became definitive masterpieces, she also wrote a weekly column for the Daily Sketch between 1933 and 1936.

The Sketch may have been a low Tory paper but Hartley’s columns could be relied on to speak with the voice of the working women and men who were deeply engaged in the day to day feeding, farming and the many crafts of the countryside.

Now there is a chance to read many of her original Sketch columns in a book.

Hartley was born on October 4 1893 at the grammar school, Skipton, Yorkshire, where her father the Reverend Edward Tomson Hartley was owner and headmaster.

His wife, Amy Lucy Eddy, came from Froncysylltau, near Llangollen in north Wales, where her well-to-do family owned quarries. Amy it seems actually did most of the running of the school as well as teaching and catering.

Dorothy went to a convent school in Skipton until 1904, when her father retired through failing sight and became a country rector at Rempstone on the Nottinghamshire Leicestershire borders.

She then went to Loughborough High School and afterwards to Nottingham Art School until her education was interrupted by the first world war.

Like thousands of other women she went to working in the munitions factories.

When peace came she entered the Regent Street Polytechnic in London where she was a prize pupil, then taught at Nottingham Art School between 1920-22 and then in London.

It was at this time she took up writing and published a number of works on medieval life.

She wrote and illustrated her six-volume Life and Work of the Peoples of England and the Old Book, a medieval compilation.

Medieval Costume and Life not only recreated the clothes of peasants depicted in old manuscripts, but used photographs of herself wearing the garments.

In 1931 Hartley set off to travel by car across Africa — from Cairo to the Congo — and the photographs which she took on her journey were exhibited in London.

Between 1932 and 1936 Hartley toured the British Isles by bicycle and car, with pen, pencil and camera, writing weekly articles for the Daily Sketch on country people and their trades.

The articles covered such diverse subjects as horse-ploughing, crab fishing, thatching, bread making, and clog making. Many of the columns referred back to the 16th-century agricultural writer and poet Thomas Tusser with whom she would develop a lifetime fascination.

Till the end of her life if interrupted by an unwanted phone call she would answer “Go away, I’m in the 14th century.”

Medieval culture always held a particular fascination for her and she toured Ireland in the footsteps of the 12th-century prelate Gerald of Wales. This led to her 1938 book An Irish Holiday.

In 1933 Hartley made her home in a cottage at Froncysylltau and this remained her base for the rest of her life. Despite the long residence in Wales — and apart from one book on her Irish trip — she dealt almost exclusively with life in England.

During the second world war she wrote for publications of the United Nations and began work on her best book Food in England.

First published in 1954 it has has never been out of print. The detail of text and her charming illustrations made it accessible to a wide public.

In the post-war years she also taught at University College and Goldsmiths’ College in London, performed on television with Philip Harben and advised on the BBC Archers programmes.

Hartley died at Fron House, Froncysylltau in 1985. I still have most of her books on my shelf and refer to them more often than any other author. She never married but does occasionally mention the love of her life, a man she met in Africa.

In 2011 BBC4 broadcast a wonderful documentary presented by Lucy Worsley which is now easily available on Youtube. Now many of her original Daily Sketch articles have been collected and published recently in a book, Lost World, (Prospect Books). They are still worth reading.

How volcanism converted Iceland to Christianity

This 2017 video is about Ófærufoss waterfall in Iceland. It says abput itself:

Located near Eldgjá in central Iceland. Until the early 1990s a natural bridge spanned the falls, but it collapsed from natural causes. Pronunciation “oe-fai-ru-foss”.

a href=”https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180319090740.htm”>From the University of Cambridge in England:

Volcanic eruption influenced Iceland’s conversion to Christianity

March 19, 2018

Memories of the largest lava flood in the history of Iceland, recorded in an apocalyptic medieval poem, were used to drive the island’s conversion to Christianity, new research suggests.

A team of scientists and medieval historians, led by the University of Cambridge, has used information contained within ice cores and tree rings to accurately date a massive volcanic eruption, which took place soon after the island was first settled.

Having dated the eruption, the researchers found that Iceland’s most celebrated medieval poem, which describes the end of the pagan gods and the coming of a new, singular god, describes the eruption and uses memories of it to stimulate the Christianisation of Iceland. The results are reported in the journal Climatic Change.

The eruption of the Eldgjá in the tenth century is known as a lava flood: a rare type of prolonged volcanic eruption in which huge flows of lava engulf the landscape, accompanied by a haze of sulphurous gases. Iceland specialises in this type of eruption — the last example occurred in 2015, and it affected air quality 1400 kilometres away in Ireland.

The Eldgjá lava flood affected southern Iceland within a century of the island’s settlement by Vikings and Celts around 874, but until now the date of the eruption has been uncertain, hindering investigation of its likely impacts. It was a colossal event with around 20 cubic kilometres of lava erupted — enough to cover all of England up to the ankles.

The Cambridge-led team pinpointed the date of the eruption using ice core records from Greenland that preserve the volcanic fallout from Eldgjá. Using the clues contained within the ice cores, the researchers found that the eruption began around the spring of 939 and continued at least through the autumn of 940.

“This places the eruption squarely within the experience of the first two or three generations of Iceland’s settlers”, said first author Dr Clive Oppenheimer of Cambridge’s Department of Geography. “Some of the first wave of migrants to Iceland, brought over as children, may well have witnessed the eruption.”

Once they had a date for the Eldgjá eruption, the team then investigated its consequences. First, a haze of sulphurous dust spread across Europe, recorded as sightings of an exceptionally blood-red and weakened sun in Irish, German and Italian chronicles from the same period.

Then the climate cooled as the dust layer reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the surface, which is evident from tree rings from across the Northern Hemisphere. The evidence contained in the tree rings suggests the eruption triggered one of the coolest summers of the last 1500 years. “In 940, summer cooling was most pronounced in Central Europe, Scandinavia, the Canadian Rockies, Alaska and Central Asia, with summer average temperatures 2°C lower”, said co-author Professor Markus Stoffel from the University of Geneva’s Department of Earth Sciences.

The team then looked at medieval chronicles to see how the cooling climate impacted society. “It was a massive eruption, but we were still amazed just how abundant the historical evidence is for the eruption’s consequences”, said co-author Dr Tim Newfield, from Georgetown University’s Departments of History and Biology. “Human suffering in the wake of Eldgjá was widespread. From northern Europe to northern China, people experienced long, hard winters and severe spring-summer drought. Locust infestations and livestock mortalities occurred. Famine did not set in everywhere, but in the early 940s we read of starvation and vast mortality in parts of Germany, Iraq and China.”

“The effects of the Eldgjá eruption must have been devastating for the young colony on Iceland — very likely, land was abandoned and famine severe”, said co-author Professor Andy Orchard from the University of Oxford’s Faculty of English. “However, there are no surviving texts from Iceland itself during this time that provide us with direct accounts of the eruption.”

But Iceland’s most celebrated medieval poem, Voluspá (‘The prophecy of the seeress’) does appear to give an impression of what the eruption was like. The poem, which can be dated as far back as 961, foretells the end of Iceland’s pagan gods and the coming of a new, singular god: in other words, the conversion of Iceland to Christianity, which was formalised around the turn of the eleventh century.

Part of the poem describes a terrible eruption with fiery explosions lighting up the sky, and the Sun obscured by thick clouds of ash and steam:

“The sun starts to turn black, land sinks into sea; the bright stars scatter from the sky. Steam spurts up with what nourishes life, flame flies high against heaven itself.”

The poem also depicts cold summers that would be expected after a massive eruption, and the researchers link these descriptions to the spectacle and impacts of the Eldgjá eruption, the largest in Iceland since its settlement.

The poem’s apocalyptic imagery marks the fiery end to the world of the old gods. The researchers suggest that these lines in the poem may have been intended to rekindle harrowing memories of the eruption to stimulate the massive religious and cultural shift taking place in Iceland in the last decades of the tenth century.

“With a firm date for the eruption, many entries in medieval chronicles snap into place as likely consequences — sightings in Europe of an extraordinary atmospheric haze; severe winters; and cold summers, poor harvests; and food shortages”, said Oppenheimer. “But most striking is the almost eyewitness style in which the eruption is depicted in Voluspá. The poem’s interpretation as a prophecy of the end of the pagan gods and their replacement by the one, singular god, suggests that memories of this terrible volcanic eruption were purposefully provoked to stimulate the Christianisation of Iceland.”

17th century painting, battle re-enacted in the Netherlands

This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

3 March 2018

2018 Hendrick Avercamp – Live Painting @ Slag Om Groll

Live event filmed by Paul van Druten

with Canon Legria Mini X Pocket Camcorder

This video is about people in 17th century clothing skating in Groenlo town in Gelderland province.

In this way, they commemorated both 17th century Dutch painter Hendrick Avercamp, and the 1627 battle of Groenlo.

17th century skating, painting by Hendrick Avercamp

The 17th century was a ‘little Ice Age‘ for the Netherlands, with many icy winters and many people skating. Hendrick Avercamp was one of many painters depicting that then.

In that, Rembrandt was not a typical Dutch painter.

Though Rembrandt was born close to the Rhine river, where, as we know from other painters, in many winters, usually more severe in the seventeenth century than now, many citizens of Leiden came for skating, he seems to not have liked winter and skating.

As of all his paintings, only one is a winter scene.

This re-enactment was also about the 1627 battle of Groenlo. When the army of the Dutch republic drove the Spanish army from the town. That battle is reenacted year after year; but now for the first time on ice.

Anti-fascism, 1923 Clara Zetkin till today

Clara Zetkin (left) with Rosa Luxemburg in 1910

By Michal Boncza in Britain, Monday, February 12, 2018:

Timely history lesson in Zetkin’s warning on 1920s fascist threat

Fighting Fascism: How to Struggle and How to Win

by Clara Zetkin

(Haymarket Books, £10.99)

THIS republication of Clara Zetkin’s seminal 1923 report and resolution to the Communist International on the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany and the pressing need to fight it couldn’t be more timely.

The political foresight, clarity and discipline of Zetkin’s Marxist analysis strips fascism of its pretences and exposes the manipulative deceptions and political dishonesty at its core. Yet a consequence of the failure at that time to decisively act on Zetkin’s findings led 16 years later to the slaughter of millions during WWII.

Presciently, Zetkin identifies fascism as “an asylum for all the politically homeless, the socially uprooted, the destitute and disillusioned” and, crucially, sees it as an international phenomenon requiring a corresponding resistance if it is to be defeated.

“We must make efforts to address the social layers [groups] that are now lapsing into fascism and either incorporate them in our struggle or at least neutralise them in the struggle”, Zetkin urges — an all too pertinent appeal today given the rise of fascism in the EU, particularly on its periphery in Ukraine and Hungary, and in the US.

Zetkin was 66 at the time of writing Fighting Fascism. A communist deputy in the German parliament, she was a seasoned and fearless political campaigner. In August 1932, she used her opening address as chairwoman of the parliament to deliver an impassioned call for workers to unite in the struggle against fascism.

Six months later, the nazis she warned against burned the parliament down and banned the German Communist Party.

Her unheeded warning was given historic poignancy in 1946 in a “mea culpa” speech by erstwhile nazi supporter pastor Martin Niemoller: “First they came for the communists, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

Like Zetkin’s book, a warning from history if ever there was one.

Fascism is a strategy adopted by the ruling class to manage the capitalist state at a time when its continued rule is threatened by the organised working class and its allies, says the MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY.