Monday, 30 June 2008

Duke of Wellington - The Early Years

The Iron Duke, old nosey, or as the spanish named him "The Eagle". One of the undeniable greatest generals of all time and not a terrible Prime Minister, Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley.

The Duke was born in Ireland. To one of the english aristocratic families who owned all the land over there back then, there is a famous quote he supposedly used when questioned on "being irish" which went;

If a gentleman happens to be born in a stable, it does not follow that he should be called a horse.

Actually the earliest source of that quote is attributed to someone else speaking about him, so if it took place at all he was probably quoting someone else. Its still a pretty awesome quote though and I had to work it in somewhere. Horse. Heh.

Anyway, Nosey was an average student and a middle son and not supposed to have any great destiny. His mother referred to him as listless and a worry, but when he attended the French Royal Academy his academic skills finally come to the front. And he picked up horse riding and French, something that would come to be of use later when he spent his time riding around killing the French.

6 foot 20,
weighed a fucking ton

- Totally a real poem about the Duke

He signed up to the army, as Ensign, the lowest commissioned rank for a gentlemen and was bumped up to Lieutenant by the end of the year. He was stationed in his native Ireland, mostly training, attending balls and giving advice and so forth. Nothing terribly exciting.

He did fall in love with Kitty Pakenham, eventually decided to make the appropriate approach to engagement. Which meant attaining the families permission, because back then in the good old days women were pretty much commodities. Her brother denied his request, thinking he had little prospects.

In a fit of rage he burnt all his violins. No really, he burnt all his violins. He was an aspiring musician apparently, so that wasnt as random and emo as it seemed, and decided to dedicate his life to military glory. I like to picture him, sitting by his bonfire of classical musical instruments, glass of wine in his hand, cold daggers in his heart and steely look in his eyes... damning the world. If they ever make a modern biopic of Nosey that scene better be in there.

He bought his way up the ranks a bit, which was how it was done back then. If you wanted to see action you paid for it most of the time. He got his first call to action, Flanders, an unsuccessful campaign to invade France. Thats right, sometimes they dont just surrender and get started buffing your shoes ten minutes in.

It wasnt exactly steeped in glory, he got a bit ill and didnt distinguish himself greatly, though he rose in the ranks a little to command a brigade. He learnt a few valuable lessons, the importance of maintaining a steady rate of fire and holding the line, how naval support can change a battle and so on. It was the start of his own personal style and what ended up making him a great general, his keen understanding of defensive lines. That and realising the men are "the very scum of the earth" and keeping them flogged and hung to keep them in line. Old school militarism, try that these days and they would be on the phone to the union in a shot.

"At least I learned what not to do, and that is always a valuable lesson."
- On the Netherlands campaign

He was given a chance to go into politics more seriously, which he turned down to set sail to Calcutta. It was in India he started to show his promise better, he worked carefully on logistic preparation for his battles. Showed a keen understanding of terrain, an idea a lot of officers of the time didnt fully grasp/use and his most important feature, he understood the importance of discipline in the troops.

He went on to Seringapatam, other parts of Asia, generally killing and conquering his way as he went. In a dignified English sort of way, obviously. As governor of Seringapatam he was forced to hunt down and kill a mercenary king called Dhundia, but like a gentlemen, made provisions for his orphaned children.

Oh yes, he will kill you, but your kids will learn to read and eat well. That is how he rolls.

Anyway, he went on to be a major commander in the Maratha war. Basically being instrumental in bringing the country to its knees, but taking his heaviest losses to date... over 1,500 in one battle. While the battle was a victory, this had a profound effect on the man.

"I should not like to see again such loss as I sustained on the 23rd September, even if attended by such gain"
- On the Battle of Assaye

Wellesley went back to England. A general, fairly rich and made a knight of Bath. His violin burning emo days behind him, the Pakenhams were soon on the... messenger or whatever they used before phones... pointing out if he still wanted to marry Kitty, that would be fine now. Probably dusting his jacket when he came round and constantly offering to get him stuff, man was going places. And he did, marry her that is as well as go places.

After some minor military expeditions and further forays into politics, the Peninsular war came. The French revolution had come under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the greatest military leaders of all time despite being short, and dude had plans.

I know, its hard to believe France was actually the bad asses of the world once. But really, it happened.

And only one man stood in Boney's way.

Well, actually quite a few people stood in his way, you know, but it would be Wellington who was key to defeating France and Napoleon, garnering Spanish and Portuguese support and dragging his "Scum of the Earth" English soldiers to victory.

And obviously, it would be around this time he commissioned one of the more forgotten heros of the Napoleonics. The working class hero who took nothing from no one and pulled himself up for the ranks. Richard Sharpe.


Friday, 27 June 2008

Heart of Oak

More on our "obscure old fashioned songs I like" section, Heart of Oak. Its an 18th century "marching to battle" sort of song, which is still sung today apparently. But only in the navy, presumably, since singing hearty war shanties tends to give away your position to islamic extremists.

It was originally an opera, apparently, so a lot of words had to be filled in by soldiers themselves to get this version. Apparently I have completely misjudged soldiers as none of the verses feature "raping hot chicks in places you just conquered" or "this one time i totally shot this dude and it was awesome" and are quite in keeping with the general theme.

Come cheer up, my lads! 'tis to glory we steer,

To add something more to this wonderful year;

To honour we call you, not press you like slaves,

For who are so free as the sons of the waves?


Heart of oak are our ships, heart of oak are our men;

We always are ready, steady, boys, steady!

We'll fight and we'll conquer again and again.

We ne'er see our foes but we wish them to stay,

They never see us but they wish us away;

If they run, why we follow, and run them ashore,

For if they won't fight us, we cannot do more.


They swear they'll invade us, these terrible foes,

They frighten our women, our children, and beaus;

But should their flat bottoms in darkness get o'er,

Still Britons they'll find to receive them on shore.


We'll still make them fear, and we'll still make them flee,

And drub 'em on shore, as we've drubb'd 'em at sea;

Then cheer up, my lads! with one heart let us sing:

Our soldiers, our sailors, our statesmen and Queen.


Think about it man, who is as free as the sons of the waves? No one, my friend, no one.

Apparently Canada has its own version, adopted from the British. I dont know how that works exactly, since I am pretty sure they are not sons of the waves at all. Maybe they substitute "snow" or "mooses" or something.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Benito Mussolini - The Early Years

Benito Mussolini. An often forgotten man, despite inventing the whole 20th century dictatorship fad and rocking Italy with his insane, often made up, crazy nationalist policies. Sadly, he will always be remembered as the "Pinky" to Hitler's "Brain".

Mussolini was a modest working class lad, with an activist father (who was also a blacksmith, the manliest profession) and a catholic mother. He was sent to a Catholic school run by monks, where he acted out a lot... his trangressions included throwing rocks at people leaving the church after mass, stabbing a fellow student and throwing an inkpot at a teacher. As well as the usual fighting and rough housing, basically he would fit into the modern British school system perfectly.

FUN FASCISM FACT - Mussolini's economic policy was "corporatism" his "third way". A bold new idea where the corporations, workers and government sit around a table and settle everything. Interesting, mostly in the sense that it was madness, it was never really used properly. Businesses with any sway did what they wanted, the rest did what the Fascists wanted. But people couldnt complain, because they got to go to the meetings.

He did change schools to a non-catholic one and did better, qualifying as a school master. I think that just means a teacher, only you get to cane people and pretend you are a Dr Who villain.

FUN FASCISM FACT - One of Mussolini's ten principals of Fascism included "Mussolini is always right", Italians didnt feel the need to hide behind complex party rhetoric like the Germans, just do what I say bitch.

He went to Switzerland for a while, was a general vagrant for a while (you notice evil dictators are always vagrants for a while first, possible solution to future holocausts... kill all vagrants) and eventually get deported back to Italy and forced into military service.

He followed his fathers footsteps into political extremism and even wrote a novel. Unlike Hitler's crazy ranting about boxing and living space, this isnt well read, mostly because it was totally dull. Just politics and general musing about Italy, like a real book on politics, only worse. He was the editor of a socialist newspaper (like an Italian socialist worker or the Guardian) so was being a general lefty. Which was the thing back then. Communism actually seemed a valid move back then, not just something students in berets like to moan on about despite being rich little middle class brats. And seriously, berets? Grow up, Chris from my college politics class.

Fun Fascism Fact - Mussolini was the only person to sucessfully crush the Mafia in Sicily or at least mildly disrupt it. Admittedly, his method was essentially arrest everyone who was male and able to walk on the Island.

Then WW1 came. Mussolini was called up, had an unblemished but not terribly exciting tour. He was possibly kept from advancing much due to his pinko leanings. He was sick a bunch and eventually caught 40 shards from a mortar bomb. Which sounds pretty terrible, but back in WW1 all the other guys in the hospital would have been "in the hospital, for 40 shards? I got shot by an entire German batallion and you dont hear me complaining and lying around" because, well, it was pretty horrible.

When he came back from the war, he had an exciting new concept. Socialism had failed, he thought, what we need is a new philisophy. One that shows the strength of socialism and its direct rule, but with a new approach to economics and property.

He came up with something he called Fascismo.

FUN FASCISM FACT - One of the minor parties wrapped up into the Fascists wake was the futurists. Dont remember them? They were the guys who wanted to build aluminium trains and ban pasta. Not every revolutionary party is a winner.

It was the polar opposite to socialism in many ways, it was formed from war vets and the idea of nationalism. It appealed to the establishment, it wasnt a "subersive pinko" party planning the downfall of the state and secret communist take over from Russia, it was all about Italy. They said so, a lot.

But it still held socialist economic ideas, minimum wage, supporting the unions. And more crazy socialist ideas, like votes for women.

FUN FASCISM FACT - Mussolini really did leave the light on in his office to give the impression he was "at work all night" for the good of Italy. Im not sure who this reflects the most poorly on, him or the people of Italy.

They made constant references to Rome and former Italian glory. It was a party of revolution to the working classes and tradition to the bourgeois, at a rought time it promised people a new economic model (it wasnt clear WHAT that was exactly, but they had a lot of promises.) They sold people on the idea of fascism, that it was bold, new... exciting.

Mussolini established his "blackshirt" army, war vets and eager youths, who went out on to the streets and had them "breaking up" and generally breaking communists, anarchists and the like. They were providing law and order, some thought, and popularity of the party grew. Hitler would garner his early support in the exact same way, the rough hand keeping the cities safe.

In 1921 the party had grew to the extent in could establish itself as a "National Fascist Party" in Rome and Mussolini himself was elected to the chamber of deputies.

FUN FASCISM FACT - Under Fascism Italy won 2 world cups and had a heavyweight boxing world champion... back when the title meant something. Im not saying Fascism gives you sporting success, but come on, I know who I am voting for next election if we dont at least make it to a semi final next run out.

Several failed attempts to form government, from the various coalitions of left wing parties and right wing parties, happened. Eventually the Church's unofficial party decided to step down entirely. This left a big gap in the right wing side, the government was essentially going to be left wing... the King stepped in and decided to offer power to the fascists. Better the slightly weird right wingers than those damn dirty socialists.

Good call, guys.

Fascism was afoot!

FINAL FUN FASCISM FACT - You could make a reasonable argument that by abandoning their part in the political process, the Catholic Church led directly to the rise of Fascism, and therefore Hitler's similar acheivement. So really, when you get down to it, the holocaust. Its best not to argue this in Church though, because everyone is all "quiten down, we are trying to listen to the sermon" and you get thrown out before the free wine.

Papal Arms

The official arms of Pope Benedict XVI. I was just surfing random coats of arms, as you do, I just liked this one. Every Pope gets a coat of arms and gets to pick his own. Its one of the perks, along with free hats and 5 free murders.

The scallop shell represents a story about Saint Augustine that goes;

A boy was using a shell to pour seawater into a little hole. When Augustine asked him what he was doing, he replied, "I am emptying the sea into this hole." Thus did Augustine understand that man would never penetrate to the depths of the mystery of God.

Im not sure I would get that from that reply, i'd probably just think "stupid kid" but I am not Saint Augustine. The shell also means Baptism and Pilgrim as well, apparently. I am not totally down on my Catholic image recognition, but I now know its shell = pilgrim, cross = jesus dying and monkey slipping on a banana = hilarity.

The black dude is a "moor's head" a symbol of where he is from. Nobody knows why its a symbol of Freising in Germany, it just is. Random black guys just sum that town up, apparently. That is how they roll, in a Moorish fashion.

The bear sadly does not represent a time he once totally killed a bear using just his hat... but an equally cool story;

A legend states that while traveling to Rome, Saint Corbinian's pack horse was killed by a bear. He commanded the bear to carry the load. Once he arrived, he released it from his service, and it returned to Bavaria. The implication is that "Christianity tamed and domesticated the ferocity of paganism and thus laid the foundations for a great civilization in the Duchy of Bavaria." At the same time, Corbinian's bear, as God's beast of burden, symbolizes the weight of office that Benedict now carries.

I like the superpower of commandeering random bears into your service. I bet the dude was knee deep in bear butlers and bear waiters. And you havent really lived till you've made a bear cook you dinner.

I assume the whole colour scheme represents a general lack of style and taste typical to Germans.

This is my coat of arms review in full.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Agincourt Addendum

15th century carol about the battle. Back when folk music was cool and not just for beardos and middle aged virgins.

Deo gratias Anglia redde pro victoria!

Owre Kynge went forth to Normandy
With grace and myght of chyvalry
Ther God for hym wrought mervelusly;
Wherefore Englonde may call and cry

Deo gratias:
Deo gratias Anglia redde pro victoria.

He sette sege, forsothe to say,
To Harflu towne with ryal aray;
That toune he wan and made afray
That Fraunce shal rewe tyl domesday.


Then went hym forth, owre king comely,
In Agincourt feld he faught manly;
Throw grace of God most marvelsuly,
He had both feld and victory.


Ther lordys, erles and barone
Were slayne and taken and that full soon,
Ans summe were broght into Lundone
With joye and blisse and gret renone.


Almighty God he keep owre kynge,
His peple, and alle his well-wyllynge,
And give them grace wythoute endyng;
Then may we call and savely syng:

Final Chorus

Im pretty sure you sing it to the tune of "Mighty Mouse".

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Most tragically Inept Wars (Battle Edition)

Agincourt. Probably the most famous battle in English history, not because of its significance (which it was) or its political/historical ramifications (lots of those, actually) but because we killed a lot of the French and lost very few of our own troops. Its what a military historian would refer to as a "right proper roasting of the frenchies" then he'd laugh and spill his pipe.

This was technically part of the Hundred Years war, which was less a war and more England and France fighting each other over bits of France for a very long time before the English went home and France declared victory. France often declares victory when people stop invading them, that is probably the origin of the French word victory and our usage of it for actually winning battles is inaccurate.

Henry V was in charge of the English at the time, literally in charge and present at the battle, this was back when being King meant being around at the battles and giving rousing speeches to your men. Admittedly, giving rousing speeches to the nobles you have appointed to be in charge of your men, but that marching up and down the lines and shouting freedom stuff from Braveheart wouldnt actually work in real battles because thousands of people cant hear all that, especially when you are riding up and down the lines, even if you are at the front you are only catching parts of the speech. You will know Henry V, he is the second most famous Henry despite having the best Shakespeare plan.

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Some French noble was in charge of the French since Charles VI of france was a bit poorly at the time. He was Charles d'Albret. I dont know anything about him apart from him he had trouble reigning in the nobles he was supposed to be commanding and blamed them for his loss. So I will make him up a backstory, he was an avid stamp collector and ... lets say he had a girlfriend, called Jean. They got married in a stamp themed wedding, she dressed as the penny black. I will edit wikipedia to make that true later.

Now, Henry was invading France for various reasons. Mostly he wanted bits of France, that he considered his, this was a good enough reason to invade places back then. The French werent having this, because they used to actually put up a bit of a fight when they were invaded back then. And they were doing quite well. Henry was trying to get back to (English) Calais and the French were about to do them in.

Essentially the English had been marching 3 weeks, were battle weary on top of that, the weather was piss poor and they were generally not happy. They got caught out by a larger French force designed to finish them off. There was a little negotiation and the French initially refused to fight, basically hoping to make their massive force even bigger with expected reinforcements so as to make it more of a whitewash. Henry, being no fool, pushed the issue and knew his best chance was to fight his way through to Calais and hope for the best. But he still had to fight defensively, his force being largely bowmen, so he took a calculated risk and moved his defensive line forward to push the French into attacking.

The English were pretty sure they were done for. Accounts we have consist of lots of talk of people talking about imminent death and trying to cleanse their souls for the judgement day they were about to face. According to French accounts, Henry gave a speech to his nobles reassuring them they would be most likely captured not killed by the French (since the ransoming of nobles was a common practice back then and a way to fund further battles) but reminded the common soldiers no one would be capturing them so to be sure to fight for their lives.

So it started. The battleground was a narrow strip of land between two woods (that of Agincourt and Tramecourt.) There is a whole field of history dedicated to working out how battles are fought, its very complex and involved gauging common battle strategies, logical strategies and then assimilating them with all accounts of a battle to garner how it was most likely waged. Basically, guessing and stuff.

But we can imagine, having 900 or so soldiers and 5,000 bowmen, Henry set up some sort of defensive line of soldiers and held his bowmen behind/around them. And would lay his forces from one side of the field to the other, so he couldnt be flanked. And helpfully forcing an attacking force into narrowing his force to actually strike at you.

France had knights, cavalry, general soldiers and crossbow men. How big their force was isnt entirely clearly, conventional wisdom is around 36,000. But there is some lack of clarity on who went home when and how many reinforcements they actually received. But few (sane) historians put them at anything less than 3 times the size of the English force, most at 6 times the size.

France's best hope for quick decisive victory was an early Cavalry charge, breaking the line and then easy to kill the bowmen, who wouldnt be much of a match for mounted men. They didnt do this. By the time they had got a charge going, the bowmen were all in place and let rip. The horses not being armoured on the body didnt take kindly to arrows being shoved in them, lots of them just fled, ripping open the French lines and trampling people to death on their way to safety. Even horses dont like the French.

The French soldiers started to move in. The problem with being heavily armoured soldiers is you are wearing really heavy armour. You slog your way down the battlefield, you are getting pelted with arrows and when you reach the enemy line you are knee deep in mud, so closely packed in due to your bigger numbers you have difficulty actually weilding your weapons... and the bowmen, who dont wear armour and have handy weapons like hatchets, can generally cut you up before you can raise a sword.

Pretty much everything went wrong for the French. Knights drown in their armour due to the rain, there are even reports of guys being struck by lightning. If true, it would be pretty awesome to think even God was on Englands side in this one.

"One of the best anecdotes of the battle involves Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, Henry V's youngest brother. According to the story, Henry, upon hearing that his brother had been wounded in the abdomen, took his household guard and cut a path through the French, standing over his brother and beating back waves of soldiers until Humphrey could be dragged to safety."

The only successful French manoeuver in the whole battle was the attack of the baggage train. Unprotected, they managed to slaughter the paige boys defending the kings personal possessions. Thats right, the only saving grace for the French was they killed a bunch of kids to steal the Kings underwear and engraved pipe. Taking a thousand strong force to do it. Score, guys, score.

The French really went wrong in a few ways. They had no unified command, the nobles each controlling their divisions individually and so without thought to an organised strategy. Reports suggest they ignored the bowmen to attack English nobles, thinking of ransom money and not the practicalities of winning a battle. And obviously, by being French.

The battle took most of the day, the French left the field in disgrace. The next day the casualties were counted up. Any surviving French on the field were killed (considered a merciful thing to do back then.)

The most common estimate puts the English losses at 450. At least 112 died in the battle, so that doesnt seem that inaccurate. Its nearly impossible to guess the French losses at anything but "thousands". Thousands, people, thousands. This is one of the biggest white washes in military history.

Lesson learnt from this battle? If you outnumber the English 6-1 and with heavier, better equipped forces... you better just surrender now, because that is nowhere near enough.

After this Henry V went on to be recognised as the regent of France and given a princess to marry to make it solid. Those were the days, my friend, you take a few thousand people on holiday, kill enough guys and people give you their country and a princess.

Henry V, bad ass, star and princess collector.

FUN HISTORICAL FACT - This is the battle cited by many as showing the superiority of the Long Bow. Odd, since the long bow is totally useless against armoured forces. The main advantage of the archers was their ability to join the melee so quickly and take advantage of the conditions and slow moving armoured forces.

FUN HISTORICAL FACT - Henry V was a total bad ass.

FUN HISTORICAL FACT - If it wasnt a freshly ploughed field and raining quite heavily, it would have went entirely the other way and quite quickly since the French could have used their armoured and mounted forces much easier. Further proof, God favours the English.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Vidkun Quisling

More about everyones favourite traitor Vidkun Quisling. I mean. sure, Americans all vote for Benedict Arnold in the polls but does anyone say "what an arnold?"... no my friend, they do not. And thats because he is no Quisling. And you can all say "Judas betrayed Jesus, he is totally a more awesome traitor" but Judas recanted my friends, do you want the number one traitor to be a guy who doesnt even have the reliability to keep up his treachery to the bitter end? That is a quitter, not a traitor.

Vidkun is Norweigan, which you will all know already because he has a funny name. All Norweigans have funny names. He was born of some upper crust Norweigan family, the Quisling name was like Windsor or Kennedy or some famous family from where you are from. They were posh basically, they were probably related to people who famously died in wars or invented books or stuff. I dont really know, whatever Norweigans invented. His father was a pastor, so thats a good start and his mother was an academically respected genealogist. Im not entirely sure what that is, but she probably bred super monsters of some kind.

He was a soldier and went on to work in Russia during the hard years of early communism, helping with Fridtjof Nansen and his efforts. Nansen is the guy who invented the Nansen passport, which was pretty important for letting refugees get through borders and stop being forced to march out of countries until they died. So a pretty good guy.

Quisling then went into politics and his heights in that field went up to serving as defence minister for the centre party. Its not really called that, its called something Norweigan but I cant remember everything, it was something norweigan and I dont have any books at work with me. It was basically a none ideological party that favoured decentralisation, which was ironic given Quislings future views.

In 1933 Hitler had seized power and Fascist Italy had been running along smoothly (or so they presented themselves to the world) since '26. Quisling found the tenous ideology of fascism, especially as expanded upon by Hitler in his book and party broadcasts.

Weirdly, this wasnt that odd at the time. Fascism was feared and a cause for concern to many and the more savvy saw imminent danger, but there was also a school of thought that perhaps it was a politically viable move forward. This was an europe that was just coming out of the idea of absolute Monarchy, it wasnt a massive leap for some.

Anyway, he decided, why not me? Im like Hitler, only not rocking the charlie chan look or having written a popular book or having any of his acheivements or force of personality, I will start my own party on his principals and people will elect me outright Fuhrer. Even if Hitler never managed that and had to circumvent his way in through parliament and then archchancellor'ness.

So he did! He started his own fascist party in may of 33, the Nasjonal Samling (National Unity) one of main tenets of which was his own appointment as Forer (thats Norweigan for leader/fuhrer, but with a funny line through the O, but I dont know how to write those so you will have to imagine that bit) along the lines of the fuhrer prinzip... which was Hitlers tenous explanation for his system of government, a sort of supposed military structure to civilian posts.

It wasnt a big success. In the later 33 election the "vote me to rule you with an iron fist, I AM AWESOME" party got 2%. Mostly farmers (a parallel to Hitler who was big with farmers, damn you evil farmers, why are you so evil?)and some support from the Church, the former due to Quisling having some links with farming communities due to previous political work with them.

Deciding that only having a few months to prepare for that election, it was time to build on that success and really throw pro-nazi and anti-semitism stuff into his party message, really give the people what they want.

Weirdly, people didnt want to hate jews or to side with a scary foreign power with a scary new government. Election results were worse this time. People lost interest and the party went on, but it became about 2 thousand hardcore members. Pretty much the guys really into hating jews and hanging pictures of Hitler on their wall.

Quisling didnt let this hold him back. As the war started, he visited Hitler and assured him repeatedly he could set up a pro fascism government and side with Germany in the war. Hitler wasnt even keen on the idea, possibly seeing that Quisling was about as dynamic and likely to succeed in his goals as a Sloth.

But Hitler's war plans did come to include Norway, with his usual shaky pretexts he invaded in April 9th 1940. Quisling seeing this as his chance had made arrangements (the extent of which arent clear, but apparently Hitler was willing to allow him to form government and have the pretense of power under fascist ideas.) The key being the capturing of King Haakon the Awesome so he could pass power to this new government and maintain a sense of stability to avoid outright rebellion and a messy time consuming war for the Germans.

Quisling though, in a brilliant move, couldnt keep his excitement down and broadcast to the nation that he was now forming a new government, under his control. He announced he was the new prime minister and ordered a stop to all resistance. One slight flaw in all that, he was not the new prime minister yet.

When Haakon skipped the country and refused to empower him, as did the government empowered before he left, this totally undermined any chance he had of that happening and made him a bit of a joke since he could now not become prime minister legitmately. The Germans sighed at him a lot and gave him dirty, superior looks. Saying "Its always the Norweigan that messes up our plans" in German when he is in the room.

Reluctantly and pissed at him, the Germans did eventually place him into power in 1942, though under the German commissioner in charge of Norway and without the neccesary endorsement from the King. To reinforce this total botch up and Quislings part in it... and just to piss him off I think... Terboven (the reichskommisar) placed him as head of Norweigan government with the imaginary title "Minister President" rather than PM. February 1st 1942.

His party had assumed most important government positions not being run directly by the Nazis. All other parties were banned.

He failed to get any serious or respected government figure to take part in the new government under his Unity party. Which was now somewhat ironically named.

He helped establish and encouraged recruitment calls for a Norweigan SS unit. He loved the idea of nordic racial supremacy, you'd think his mother could have probably explained the flaws in those ideas but go figure. He was full of zeal, happily signing the execution of resistance members.

He was generally a total dick. He assisted and helped lay the logistic infrastructure for the deporting of Norweigan jews. Which was the big one that came up in trials later.

He even tried to be more insane and evil than was actually wanted. When stringent German regulations were sent down he would come up with more stringent ones on his own. Reasoning that they should be working harder for the new masters, he volunteered Norway for everything going. He tried to submit a plan that Norweigan citizens be used as cannon fodder and literal shields for tanks and machinery, something totally unworkable and dismissed by german forces, but still amazing someone could acheive.

In actuality, beyond wacky ideas, Quisling wasnt even a good puppet leader. In his early political days he realised he didnt have much character or force of personality and had started representing his views in writing more than anything. Since he wasnt in a position to make doctrine anymore, this was a bit of a pointless skill. And he had counted on an acceptance from the Germans that never came, they were angry at his early blunders and always kept him at arms length. His dreams of ruling came only in name. You could feel sorry for him, but you know, crazy fascist jerk.

Of course, the war didnt quite go so well for the master race. After Britain won the war, with some other guys or something, the tide turned in Norway. Despite being the most occupied German war territory the forces didnt put up much resistance and Quisling was arrested. Tried for treason and executed.

The Norweigan government had no death penalty statute, however one of their first acts when regaining legitmate power after the war was introduce it in preparation for the coming war trials. They put aside years of right to life beliefs because hey, some people just deserve to be shot.

And Vidkun Quisling was definitely one of them.

FUN QUISLING FACT - The use of Quisling as a phrase for traitor came about right as he came to power, coined by the times addressing an article "To Quislings everywhere" and getting a massive positive response to the phrasing. It is used in many european languages as well as English.

FUN QUISLING FACT - He called his house "Gimle" a reference to the place where the survivors of Ragnarok were to live. The sort of douche'y reference the nazis who were into pseudo scandivanian mythology would love. It is now renamed Villa Grande, because seriously, fuck that guy.

FUN QUISLING FACT - One of the anti quisling/nazi resistance movements used to wear a paper clip on their lapels to recognise each other, which is believed to be a Norweigan invention, as a mark of a true believer. That's unbelievably lame and those guys still totally kicked Quisling's ass.

FUN QUISLING FACT - Quisling believed in his own philisophy, he coined Universalism a mixture of various beliefs of christianity and his own views. Why do the crazy ones always want to start religions?

FUN QUISLING FACT - He was given a CBE by the British government for his early good works. After the nazi evil leader stuff it was quickly revoked. Where did it all go wrong Quisling?

Oh right, the nazi thing.

FUN FARMER FACT - All farmers are evil.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Christmas Tree

Did you know Norway gives a Xmas tree to Britain, every year since 1947. It stands by Nelson's column in Trafalgar square.

This isnt like the Hong Kong thing, a hold over from when we killed them for not taking our drugs, its a symbol of gratitude. For fighting the war that ultimately led to their liberation from the nazis, for allowing King Haakon (their monarch) to remain in Britain in exile until his triumphant return after the war.

King Haakon is a man who isnt as well known as he should be, not just due to his awesome name. It could clearly be the name of some sort of renegade jedi smuggler in Star Wars and you wouldnt think twice about it.

And he was the bad ass renegade jedi smuggler of his time. Well, the upper class well bred monarch kind of jedi smuggler. When the Germans invaded Norway, the Norweigans didnt lie down and take it, oh no, that isnt how Norway rolls. They fought off the initial Naval assault as long as they could, even bagging an enemy ship in the process. Giving time to rush away the Royal Family, The Cabinet and the bulk of Parliament out of the about to be occupied Oslo.

Now these guys were the ruling powers of Norway. On the run from a massive German invasion force. What did they do? They stopped a little outside the city to form an official meeting THE SAME DAY. Someone pointed out the Germans were pretty close, maybe leave the official government procedure for a few hours. This was generally accepted and thats just what they did. At Elverum, happy the Germans werent about the kill them all for ten minutes or so, they formed an orderly meeting.

They formed an orderly meeting. While fleeing a hostile invasion force targetting them personally! They decided to temporarily allow cabinet the full power of government to make decisions, since all of Parliament wasnt there and it might slow things down a bit to put decisions to Parlimentary debate, this was decided to be the best course. They were laying out a procedures of power policy as the third reich was hunting them down.

Now the Germans had a fairly simple Modus Operandi when it came to invading countries with an established workable set up. Establish a military presence, put down military resistance, meet with the Monarch or ruling government organisation (Norway was a monarchy so power to appoint government ultimately lied with the king if power lied with the government) and pretty much explain to him once he is in a room with a lot of scary chaps that he is going to appoint some Nazi sympathiser to rule over them, to give the Nazis a vague sense of legitimacy in their rule by having locals in charge. Just the crazy, evil locals.

So they set up the meeting with Haakon. "Yo, listen up Haak, you know whats doing down, bro. We are here, we are going to mess you guys up unless you completely surrender your freedom and give up your dignity by appointing some douche (in this case Quisling, a total douche that actually tried to set up a nazi fan boy party and was ignored by Hitler for being a dork, seriously) and you best recognise, dawg". Thats how I imagined the Nazis spoke, anyway, only in German obviously.

Haakon went to his government with this "proposal" of being told what to do by Quisling the dork but really the Nazis, so they could make their call. Did he quietly accept defeat? Make the best of a bad situation? No, he told them "Fuck Germany". Actually he said...

"For my part I cannot accept the German demands. It would conflict with all that I have considered to be my duty as King of Norway since I came to this country nearly thirty-five years ago"

.. but he is a king and thats as close as they get to telling someone to fuck off.

Touched by his majesty's balls' of steel, the government decided, why not? They phoned the Germans and actually refused their request. They phoned an invading army, that was about to crush them and was essentially giving them an illusion of a choice, where to stick it.

Trying to avoid capture so his title would not be misused Haakon headed off north. Eventually being picked up by the British, who gave him safe passage to Britain.

This pissed the Germans off further of course, they started demanding the government make the dude abdicate so they could get someone who WOULD do what he was told and break the spirit of the loyalists. The government, still jonesing off his complete bad ass attitude and jedi like spirit, just refused. They were getting good at it now. I like to imagine they were also laughing at the nazis and throwing paper airplanes around during the meetings at this point as a really uptight German guy kept demanding respect.

Eventually the German, showing why they were the bad guys in this war, threatened to intern the majority of the population of the country if they didnt demand his abdication. The government reluctantly accepted this one, because hey, you can push the Germans so far but they are crazy. So they sent him a letter, asking for his resignation.

He sent a reply, polite and pithy, pointing out that this was clearly a letter sent under duress so "no" he wouldnt. Just that, a polite no.

Of course the Nazis (Josef Terboven was the guy in charge at this point and was becoming a little stressed) had to declare the King had lost his right to rule, dissolved the democractic powers and lost any vague claim to legitimacy he had. The Norweigans continued to resist where they could, they wore badges to mark and honour their lost but not beaten king... and his spirit of rebellion.... They certainly had some of the most dedicated and well planned resistance movements. Basically, they figure if their king wasnt going to let the Germans get what they want, why the hell should they?

When Britain (and a couple of other countries I think?) defeated Germany ending the war, there was still a large number of German troops in Norway. It was a tense moment, would they fight their way out, try to establish a mini state, or just ransack the place? Of course not, they had put up with Norway dogging their every move for years, they didnt want to fight those crazy bastards again. It did take a few months to intern them, switch from the now illegal civilian nazi placed government and back into Norway as it was. The King finally came home 7th June 1945 to get started on that.

So they give us a xmas tree for looking after their king and helping liberate them from the Germans (note to other countries, we have a lot of space, if you also wanted to send us trees.)

But who gives them a tree, for being awesome?

Fun Fact I didnt fit in the post - Quisling constantly tried to volunteer Norweigan citizens as cannon fodder to save German troops from early volleys in combat. An idea so impractical and so insane the Germans constantly turned him down. Something too insane and evil for NAZIS. He was trying to LITERALLY sell his own people for brownie points.

Why Quisling now means "traitor" and not as would be more appropriate "complete asshat" is a hotly discussed eytmological topic.

Mussolini and Hitler: The tempestous love affair

Mussolini and Hitler are one of the great pairings on history. Ironically, given how it ended out, Mussolini was one of Hitler's heroes at first. He cited the man as an inspiration in his rise to power, especially his early attempts at coups which he mentioned as his attempts to emulate Mussolini's march on Rome. Basically he was in love with the guy and probably wrote "Hitler 4 Benito IDST" on his books.

He did actually sound pretty cool;

"All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state"

"Let us have a dagger between our teeth, a bomb in our hands, and... infinite scorn in our hearts”

“The truth is that men are tired of liberty.”

Mussolini was actually pretty cool. He was that kid at school who made insane stuff up, you know "my dad is the pope, i can jump over my house, I am going to space for the summer" but he was generally believed while that kid in school would get beaten up. He claimed to be a great scholar when he wasnt, to have these great sporting acheivements that didnt exist and even to play instruments he couldnt.

Mussolini had heard Hitler was his fanboy and at a time when he was courting Britain and France as allies (who were paying him homage in the hope to keep him in line) he still was keen to make connections with Germany, who were a fellow dictatorship he felt he could control and play junior partner in his future international demands to the more sane international community.

In 1934 they first met. It was not the whirlwind romance Hitler imagined or the BDSM coupling with Benito in charge Il Duce wanted. It was infact pretty weird. Mussolini's much famed arrogance and utter stupidity came to the forefront, when he insisted he could speak German when he clearly could not... he muddled along in broken German that no one could entirely follow and rejected the notion of him needing a translator in advance.

Hitler apparently kept quoting "Mein Kampf", thats right... he is one of those people that quotes themselves like its profound, you thought the holocaust was the worst thing about him but you were wrong. Mussolini, with his trademark intelligence and insight completely dismissed Hitler as a "silly little monkey" in private after the meeting. Though obviously not that privately, because I know he did it and other people probably did too.

Hitler was the most annoyed though. He was livid after the meeting, why? Did Mussolini attempt to control him? Dismiss his foreign policy plans?

No, it was because Mussolini came in military uniform. Hitler had followed the traditional english dress code for state meetings and worn a business suit, Mussolini had without consulting him came in his (totally unearned) military get up. Hitler ranted afterwards about how humilated he was, looking like Mussolini's accountant. Thats right, Hitler fell out with a fellow world leader and potential ally over the fact their outfits clashed and Benny trumped his get up.

Hitler was actually quite concerned with outfits and clothing. When he created a new position or job in Germany he would spend as much time designing the new uniform as he would defining the role apparently, which you could argue is part of his genius, understanding style is more important than substance in public perception and putting it to his advantage. But I would argue its pretty gay for a grown man to be sketching out summer wear for his new gauleiters.

Mussolini's weird attempts at double dealing carried onward. He tried to maintain a friendship with the increasingly in conflict Germany and Britain/France with limited success. The latter because he kept making deals and treaties, giving speeches to people about how Mussolini was a great diplomat, then totally ignoring them. But to be fair, he was a bit dim, he could have just forgotten them.

But the relationship with Germany was equally strained at times, he even approached the Pope at one point to excommunicate Hitler. Hitler was of catholic descent but not a practicing one obviously, God has a not wiping out Jews commandment I think, even if they did kill Jesus. Which would have undermined his power a little and be a bit of an international black mark. But Muss was largely ignored by the Pope it seems. He probably changed his mind ten minutes later anyway, Mussolini's entire approach to power plays was along the lines of an ADD guy playing chess.

If you ever want to understand the mindset of Mussolini, a great thing to read outside of biographies and quotes (and I know this is a gay thing to know) is the chapter on him in Captain Corelli's Mandolin. I havent read the actual book, but a very cool lecturer I had in college gave us all copies of this and its very good. The writer beautifully captures what Mussolini was like, the incredible self belief, slight crassness and energy of the man. He was like a 5 year old who talks about how awesome he is all the time.

Anyway, as time went on Hitler became the senior member of the pairing and as Mussolini's international diplomatic blunders mounted and he became isolated from potential sane European allies, he was left with little choice but to follow Hitler into closer diplomatic links and eventually a military alliance as Hitler was quickly taking over countries near his border it was that or fight him alone at some point. His home policies were also not bearing much fruit, as his corporate state ideas didnt really pan out on account of even him not being clear what that means or how it would work. He needed a bit of prestige and thought he could get it by being part of a successful war.

He did manage to put off actually entering the war until France was about to fall, thinking that the war would have weeks left to go. Oh yes, he saw the way the wind was blowing. He also thought Italy was going to be the dominant power of the 20th century. And after he joined in he had no choice but to stick with Adolph right to the very, hung from a tree, end.

An important lesson for us all, if you are a barmy dictator capable of mild evil, dont fall in with the much more evil dictator as he will get you into trouble. Even I knew this as a child, I was always skipping school but I never fell in with the kid who kept trying to burn the science lab. I ended up going to University, that kid ended up going to prison for stealing cars and then setting them on fire and dancing round them.

Or maybe the lesson is if you are going to get in a world war prepare some sort of military machine, or you will retreat all the way across Europe when the Germans arent there to help you, end up losing most of your country and be a puppet leader of a small chunk of Italy before getting caught and lynched trying to run and hide in Switzerland.

Or maybe, most of all, dont clash outfits with Hitler. He will start a world war and drag your ass in just to get revenge. Guy takes his look seriously.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Most tragically Inept Wars

Italian Invasion of Abyssinia

You remember Mussolini. He wasnt just a poor man's Hitler, actually he was the inspiration for Hitler's initial putsches (German for getting drunk, shooting in the air then deciding you should totally go take over the government) and Adolph's foundations of his dictatorship. Before they fell out, largely over a dress code during their first meeting. No, really.

Mussolini got into power on a lot of big promises. Politicians of course still do that these days, they promise chicken in pots, to more successfully manage the welfare state and they will definitely, definitely not be caught out sleeping with a male prostitute dressed as Princess Leia. And when the inevitable "Star Wars orgy" photos reach the papers you feel a little dissapointed. But when you are attempting to establish an unchallenged dictatorship... you need the people on your side, you need to at least appear to be fulfilling your campaign promises.

He had promised to make Italy a world power. To make good on the potential all Italians knew existed (it didnt exist) for them to become a striding international powerhouse along the lines of Britain or France (yes, people once wanted to be more like France.)

Mussolini, not one of historys great thinkers, decided the key to being a big power was to own bits of Africa. Italy already owned bits of Africa, but if he was to use the army to own a bit MORE of Africa, he would be a hero and Italy would be a world power. A flawless theory. He actually promised Italy "a place in the sun". Yes, they were comparing a colony of human beings in Africa to a holiday house, it was truly a different time.

There was infact only one invade'able bit of Africa that didnt already belong to someone in Europe, Abyssinia. Now, you might think, why (given that it is surrounded by colonies of other countries) it was still a free and self-governed nation. The answer you would get is because "there is nothing valuable about Abyssinia, idiot". No gold, no oil, no diamonds and definitely no diamonds covered in gold that fell off the trees made of oil. Its just a bit of land. Not even that good for farming or plentiful land.

Mussolini addressed that notion, brought to him by his advisors with his trademark "fuck it, lets do it anyway". Only presumably in Italian. "Fucka ita, letsa doa ita anywaya".

Now Italy wasnt the nation Mussolini was attempting to get the world to recognise it as, it was not a major military power. But it had a contemporarily modern air force, bit of a navy and a reasonably well trained army with fancy 30s guns and so forth. They brought hundreds of tanks and planes. They had thousands of machine guns. The kind we laugh at now but were pretty bad ass at the time.

Abyssinia was largely armed with SPEARS AND BOWS and what rifles they had were old ones that couldnt be relied on to work or hit anyone. They didnt have aircrafts (actually, they had 3 biplanes, which is hilarious), tanks or machine guns. They didnt have many rifles built in the century they were fighting in. This should have been a walk over. Astronauts over cavemen if the astronauts had weapons. Abyssinias only chance SHOULD have been international intervention, which didnt come.

It wasnt quite like that.

Italy attacked Oct 3rd 1935. The war officially ended early 1937. You could be generous and go with the Italian account which declared the country essentially pacified at the end of 1936. Thats still more than a year. The most conservative estimate for the wars length before it started was around 6 weeks.

The Italians initially sent Blackshirts into the front. Blackshirts, in case you dont know are fascist party member "soldiers". As in people with no military experience, training or discipline but think the word soldier sounds cool. But pretty handy at punching other political party members in the face. This was a disaster. Oddly enough, Blackshirts... despite wearing a snazzy coloured shirt couldnt fight for shit. (What was with evil political parties and colour coded thugs? History has NO ANSWERS.) They even gave some of them flamethrowers, which wasnt wise. I am no soldier, but i'm pretty sure you dont give the hobbyist guy in a war a weapon that spews out fire.

Italians sent a ridiculously large force to make the war quick. Not realising its not enough to just have lots of soldiers, you need the resources and positioning to make use of larger numbers. Tactics, you know. Their much larger force was regularly humiliated by small, abyssinian units who knew the land and how to fight. Fighting with spears. Spears, people. Italian forces actually lost battles to people weilding sticks.

The massive Italian advantage in weapons, technology and fairly equally sized forces (that last bit sounds fair, but most African conquests were done with much smaller forces than you are facing, making use of superior tech and tactics...)

They had to employ mustard gas and the bombing of villages. Rely entirely on air support and came pretty close to looking like they were going to have to give up once or twice. The use of mustard gas was totally illegal under the Hague convention. This is the war equivalent of you fighting a seven year old over a bunch of dirt he owns and having to shoot him in the face to win. 300-500 tons of mustard gas was used, to pacify the people with sticks.

Italy did win, eventually. Taking at least 11 months longer than they should. The people of Italy did actually celebrate and it was a success in that sense. But they were largely misinformed to the strength of the country they were fighting, to the fact mustard gas was used and other atrocities took place and its value. It was pushed as a colony for Italian immigration but was never a success. It was a massive net loss in resources. It did show that the international community was not willing to go to war or even risk it for the sake of other countries. Something a different dictator in Europe would rely upon later.

But really, Italy had shown the world they had no grasp of tactics, would struggle to contend with a nation that owned three planes and had the sort of reasoned military mind of that spanish bee guy in the simpsons. I think Churchill made a speech to parliament with that exact comparison.

The irony of the whole conflict, beyond "haha losing battles to people with sticks" was sort of lost at the time due to the atrocities the Italians committed, not just the illegal tactics, but the mass murder of civilians and mutilation of the corpses of fallen enemy. But most of all Absyinnia was a member of the UN (or league of nations, as it was then) along with Italy. They called for help, condemnation of Italy and at least sanctions to be placed against them. No one helped them, sanctions were eventually placed during the war but ignoring the stuff like Oil which actually would have meant something.

Shortly before the country fell to Italy, Haile Selassie gave an actually quite beautiful speech to the assembled members, the crux of which was

""It is us today. It will be you tomorrow""

This was 3 years before the second world war came.

So, what a moron he was, that definitely wasnt us tomorrow. That was us like 3 years later, MORON.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Future of Lost

Like everyone else who watches Lost, I like to postulate on the various endings the show might have to explain the countless mysteries they have going. When I am not writing my fanfiction about Sawyer and Freckles getting married, or Jack growing his "beard of despair" back and using it to fight crime.

Heres a few of my theories mixed in with collected theories I have heard from friends or around the internet of how the final scene will pan out...

1 - Locke and Jack stand around a sinking island, "whats happening?" says Jack, stroking his magnificent beard. "Havent you worked it out?" Locke replies "The Island is going home... to the stars" it turns out the island isnt SINKING but actually GOING INTO SPACE because it is a SPACESHIP. "What now?" Says Jack, looking magnificent wearing his beard. "Now we go with it" Locke replies "we are going HOME".

They were both aliens all along.

They all laugh.


2 - "So the island was alive... it gained sentience and tried to interact with us... through Jacob, who is the islands SOUL?" said Jack. "Yes" said Locke.

"It is also an Alien".

They all laugh.


3 - "So" says Jack in a bearded manner "it was all aliens?"

"It sure was" says Sawyer, "and me and freckles are getting married"

"I see, can I be the best man?" says Jack.

"you ALREADY ARE" says Sawyer. They all laugh.

Jack looks into the camera, like the thought of a world with crime in it is one he cant stand.


4 - "So the four toed statue was built by aliens?" said Sayid.

"It sure was" said Locke. "Aliens who made the island magical, or so it would seem, to us mortals"

"Ah" said Sayid. "By Allahs beard, that explains everything"

They all laugh.


5 "So we died in the crash" said Jin.

"Surely that makes sense, this isnt really an island at all... its purgatory, the others were merely a higher force... guiding the saved onwards, but we comprehended them incorrectly as we werent yet ready to embrace the truth of our surroundings, we created the monsters and the mystery of the island... as a way to hide us from the truth. When people in our group died, they really were moving on, on to heaven. That explains everything, even the return home and how it felt 'wrong' to us, it was a creation our souls knew to be wrong now... we could never return, to a world that is gone. We didnt need to wait to be rescued. We had to rescue ourselves."

"Exactly, Jin" said the mysterious stranger stepping out of the shadows.

"Are you.... ?" she stammers.

"Yes, i am Lord Fanto, the alien who runs purgatory"

They all laugh.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Poetry Analysis

From studying at university, doing a degree in literature and history, I learnt many valuable things. Mostly, that if you cant find a taxi home at 4am, just sleep off your drunkeness in the campus library... its in the middle of town and the security is lax after midnight.

But the other valuable thing was to appreciate poetry. I feel a lot more people would love poetry if they took the time to appreciate it. It takes a little work sometimes, to peel back the layers and see the inner message laid out through the structure and form... but it is worth it.

To start you off, heres my analysis of Wordsworth's "The Daffodils" or "Wandered lonely as a cloud"...


Wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

Basically what he is saying here is that he was walking about, by himself. The cloud comparison is a little weak, because you tend to see clouds in large groups, often merging with each other... which if compared to real humans, suggests they are pretty much floating around having sex, right? Plus clouds dont get lonely, they are a bunch of vapour and stuff.

When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

He saw some daffodils. He very specifically states where they are, presumably in case you want to fact check his poem and check they are really there. Fluttering and dancing may be poetic license and not neccesarily open to fact checking.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:

Again, this is a poetry thing. Logically we all know there isnt going to be as many daffodils as would be needed to "stretch in a never-ending line" as that would be infinite daffodils, an amount unlikely to exist.

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

He says 10,000 at a glance... but really, he couldnt have counted, especially not in a timeframe as brief as a glance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay...

A poet being gay certainly sums this poem up.

...In such a jocund company:

Obviously he means gay in the sense of happiness, apparently daffodils dancing around makes him happy and suggests that no other poet could fail to be happy in similar circumstances. Knowing a few poets, I am inclined to agree, rather ordinary stuff like that does seem to enthrall them.

I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

He is still yammering on about how awesome these daffodils are.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;

When he is chilling at home, which before tv or the internet was invented just meant sitting on your couch basically, he would be thinking...

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

... about those daffodils and be happy. Basically, he is way into daffodils. And that makes him happy. The first time he saw them, he was just mildly impressed, but now he thinks back on it he is super impressed. Enough that he felt the need to share it with us all, in verse form. Though, he seems to strong imply this a one time thing, the dance of the daffodils that did it for him. Presumably, living in the country, he has seen daffodils before and they probably did nothing for him. But this one time, they blew about, he now reflects back on the moment with uncontained joy. Which is, lets face it, weird.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

A Hole In The World

Modernism brought society many things, positive and negative. The advent of technologies role in society led to a change in mindset, traditional faith in nature and religous ineffability was almost replaced by a firm belief in the future. A future when each problem would be solved in turn by a technological advance, by science. If the solution of travelling long distances was brought to an end by the plane, before that the solution of rampant disease brought to an end by the discovery of antiseptics and antibiotics... and so on. Perhaps technology was the missing part of our lives, the solution to all our problems.

As time went on, the religious and environmental began to turn back into a central role in common belief, the cultural milieu. Is not the path of technology explained by the advance of god, is it not man vs nature but rather man using nature that led to the advances we treasured so. The environment itself has become a pseudo religious movement in modern times and the idea of returning to some idealised version of the equilibrium with nature a seriously discussed idea.

Ultimately, this dispute came down to one issue, the forward thinking modernist and post modernists disagree upon time and time again. The one question that sums up the change from the modernist age and the oncoming age of political/moral regression...

Could astronauts defeat cavemen in a fight?

Obviously we need a context for the battle. For the sake of ease, we will say the astronauts have crash landed in the past. As the planet of the apes movies have led me to believe they often do. The numbers must be equal. And no, the astronauts do not have weapons. Marx of course contended that this wasnt fair, as the Cavemen have fire, but most modern scholars would agree fire as a weapon is hardly comparable to modern firearms. Except obviously in that they both have the word "fire" in them. And what would Marx know? Fag.

It was Darwin that first really drew the valid questions in the argument "what era of cavemen are we discussing here, to suggest the cro-magnon is akin to the paleolithic is absurd... its little different from confusing an astronaut with a conquistador." Not Charles Darwin, you understand, he didnt know what astronauts were. He died in 1882. I refer to Bernard Darwin, his grandson and noted golf writer.
Let me break the basics of the argument down.

Now obviously the astronaut has the power of science. He would probably whip up a series of deadly traps and a makeshift weapon from a power cell, some shuttle wall lining and the little device they use to keep there toothbrushes attached to the wall. He could have remembered the time of a solar eclipse, use this knowledge to trick the cavemen into believing he was a mighty sorceror and scare them away. He could probably do some complex math and have a working catapult put together in minutes, throwing those weird bulky space helmets like comets of death at there primitive ancestors.

On the other hand, a caveman is probably used to just bashing peoples skull in. Thats what they did. They hunted big ass things, they bashed its skulls in. They would go to other tribles, kill all the men (through hardy skull bashing) and steal the women. While the astronauts are discussing the most efficient way to set up a tesla coil defence citing famous strategies in chess and trying to remember the eclipse records for thousands of years ago, the cavemen are already rushing at them with there favourite skull bashing club "old one strike".

There is always the lesser tread argument of the ramifications of time travel. Say Max Burton (that is my astronauts name in this scenario, you may want to come up with your own) kills one of the attacking cavemen... but that caveman turns out to be his own great great great grandfather... does Max cease to exist, never having attended Yale or married his college sweetheart Deidre? Or does the attack itself fail to happen, because it cant, the universal timeline righting itself? Or is there just a big blue explosion and shit blows up, like when anything goes wrong with time in the movies? How can we know?

Like many questions, can astronauts beat cavemen in a fight doesnt really have an answer. Its about the nature of man, of modernisation. Its about the fight, not the victor. In a way, we are the astronauts, but we must ALSO be the cavemen, know when to fight... and when to get along.

Except obviously, cavemen would totally win. They kill wooly mammoths, its obvious.