plep Archive

24th December
Merry Christmas to all readers.

Europe's year of revolutions, 1989. By and large, a good year.

Forgiveness at Christmas.

Why I find it hard to forgive Moi by Katama Mkangi. President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya will step down in January, after 24 years in power, following free elections to be held on 27th December.
'Before he even sought forgiveness from those he has hurt and injured during his long reign, I had already forgiven President Moi. I saw no reason to harbour a personal grudge against him for detaining me once. '
'I didn't do it because I love him, but because I love myself. Not forgiving him would have been like swallowing poison and then expecting him to die of it. That would have been stupid of me, wouldn't it? '

Conditions on which I can forgive Moi, by Philip Ochieng.
'If I plead with you to forgive me, I am admitting, at least tacitly, that I have wronged you. Yet admission alone is not enough. I need also to undertake not to repeat the wrong.'
'From a politician, however, you trust even the most solemn undertaking only at your own peril. For mendacity is his vocation. He lies without the slightest shame. How, then, does he get away with it? Why is he so successful in peddling prevarications? For the simple reason that his client - the voter - is the most pathetic of all dupes.'

Human Rights Watch: Kenya.

'For the widow of Steve Biko, father of the Black Consciousness Movement, murdered in detention in 1977, only the trial an punishment of the guitly will begin to heal South Africa's wounds.'
'Twenty years after the start of Argentina's 'dirty war', the fate of its 30,000 'disappeared' is still a live issue. The victims want the truth followed by justice; the guilty walk free, basking in a government amnesty.'
Truth commissions and war tribunals 1971-1996.

Other Christmas stuff (and loosely related miscellany).

Our Star. A poem for the season.

Build a Tony Blair for Christmas. (Flash) Very funny.

Where's Santa?

Personalised stamps from the Royal Mail.

World domination.

23rd December
The Funerary Feast of King Midas. 'Fifty years ago, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (UPM) began excavations at the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordion in central Turkey. Within six years, the expedition had made one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. In the largest burial mound at the site, they located what has since been identified as the tomb of Gordion's most famous son, King Midas ... '
'Breaching the timber wall, the excavators were met with an amazing sight - at their feet was a body, laid out in state on a thick pile of dyed textiles inside a unique log coffin. An examination of the bones determined that the body was that of a male, aged 60-65. Taking other facts into consideration - the dating of the tomb (ca. 700 BC), its rich contents, a palace complex of the same period at the site, and Assyrian records describing an upstart ruler named Mita who controlled the people of Mushki (known as Phrygia by the Greeks) in eastern Anatolia - scholars are generally agreed that this is indeed the tomb of King Midas ... '
Feast recipes.

The Shape of Life. 'A revolutionary eight-part television series that reveals the dramatic rise of the animal kingdom through the breakthroughs of scientific discovery.' (PBS) Fascinating (many images).

Chumash Indian Life. 'The Chumash Indian homeland lies along the coast of California, between Malibu and Paso Robles, as well as on the Northern Channel Islands. Before the Mission Period, the Chumash lived in 150 independent villages with a total population of about 18,000 people. In different parts of the region, people spoke different but related languages ... '
'Today, there are still many people who can trace their ancestry back to these historic Chumash communities. Now you can learn more about how the Chumash people once lived, what customs they practiced, how they made money and what kinds of food they ate ... '

Bulguksa Temple, Kyongju, Korea.
' Kim Taesong was born with a large head and flat forehead. As a child, he was given the name Taesong, meaning "big wall," in reference to these physical features. He lived in poverty with his widowed mother, working the fields of a wealthy man of his village. Eventually, through hard work, was able to build a small hut and acquire a little bit of land. One day, a monk named Chomgae, wanting to hold a large religious gathering at nearby Hungnyunsa, came to the village looking for alms ... '
Sokkuram (stone cave hermitage).

The Great Applique Tangka of Drepung Monastery. 'The unfurling of the great Shakyamuni tangka, which takes place every summer at Drepung Monastery, started at the time of the 7th Dalai Lama as a spectacle for lay people and for the monastic community. This tradition is one that continues today and remains a highly anticipated annual event for the Tibetan and Chinese population of Lhasa and surrounding areas.'

Origins of Tibetan Art. 'Tibetan Art can only be understood in the context of its sacred Buddhist origins. The ancient King Srong Tsen Gampo unified the then non-Buddhist country we now know as Tibet in the 7th century. Establishing one of the largest empires in the history of mankind, his domain stretched from Afghanistan to Xian, the capital of China. King Song demanded wives from the courts of his closest neighbors, the Buddhist kingdoms of China and Nepal.'
'It is the works of art that these two princesses brought with them to Tibet that form the sacred seeds of the origins of Tibetan art. The Chinese princess Wen Ju brought a pair of ancient life-size sandalwood statues of the Shakyamuni Buddha said to have been made as portraits during the lifetime of Shakyamuni Buddha ... '

A Walk through Time in Georgia. 'Fernbank's signature exhibition, A Walk Through Time in Georgia, tells the two-fold story of Georgia's natural history and the development of our planet. Seventeen galleries combine with theaters and dioramas to explain this complex and fascinating story ... '
More exhibitions from the Fernbank Museum of Natural History.

I Dig Sheffield.
'Welcome to 'I Dig Sheffield', an online guide to the archaeology around Sheffield and the Peak District.'
'Explore Sheffield City Museum's collection, find out about archaeological sites and keep up to date with the latest archaeological news ... '

The Castles of Wales.

City of York Walls Tour. 'A walk around York's city walls will take you through 1900 years of history. '
'First built in Roman times, they have been added to and rebuilt over time - so that different parts date from different centuries. '
'As such, they tell the important and fascinating history of York. And as King George VI once said, "The history of York is the history of England." '

Marks & Spencer Deposit Monitoring Project. 'An archaeological specification for the Marks and Spencer site was drawn up in June 1994 for the site of a proposed extension to the Marks and Spencers store in Parliament Street, York, which in November 1994 revealed an interesting situation. Under the concrete shop floor (laid probably around 1960 when the present M&S shop was built) there was a 200mm void. Beneath the void was an earlier poor quality concrete floor. Damp, organic, archaeological deposits of late medieval date lay directly underneath this second concrete floor. It was clear that the upper, most recent concrete floor had originally been laid directly on top of the lower concrete floor ... '
Via Archaeology in York.

Trombonist (Study for "Circus Side Show"), by Seurat. 'The immobile, self-contained figures paradoxically suggest silence rather than gay circus music, while the emphatic placement of every element in the composition gives a strange weight and timelessness to a fleeting moment of entertainment. '

A Vineyard Along the Way to the Cave of Polyphemus.

LegWay. Like Segway, but with Lego bricks. 'This LEGO robot was built to stand on two wheels and balance, follow a black line, and/or spin in place.'

The Tombstone Epitaph. An online 'newspaper' from Tombstone, AZ, produced by the University of Arizona's Department of Journalism. '116 years in the town too tough to die.'

Dust to Dust. The ghost town of Helvetia, Arizona.
'Bullet wounds scar the single adobe wall. The rest of the building--perhaps once a saloon, perhaps a Chinese laundry--is gone, returning to the ground it rose from a century ago. '
'A light wind rolls over this bluff and the mesquite and palo verde trees move lazily. Aside from a lizard running for cover into a cactus thicket, nothing makes a sound out here in the desert 30 miles southeast of Tucson. '
'But 100 years ago, this place was a bustling boom town mining tons of copper out of the nearby Santa Rita Mountains. They called it Helvetia ... '

Chloride, Arizona, 'an 1860's silver mining camp of some repute, and present day home to about 260 residents.'

Devizes Castle, Wiltshire.

The Domesday Book. Just a couple of extracts.

Snowflake Photography. Via wood s lot.

The homelessness charity Crisis is looking for a few volunteers for work over the Christmas period. This seems to be a good thing to do for people who are free over the holiday period.
Current vacancies.
Westminster Volunteer Bureau.
Brighton & Hove Volunteer Bureau is also looking for volunteers on Christmas Day.

StreetFriends. 'It started at Crisis Open Christmas 2001. Some clients expressed an interest in contacting people they had lost touch with. We tried a few ways of searching for people but nothing was that successful. We thought that if we could design something like Friends Reunited for the homeless community it would be easier than hunting the regular search sites. So, in partnership with Crisis this site was created, have a look round ... '

A Wolf Who Sends Flowers: This is your life...

The Sky at Night. Iconic astronomy BBC TV programme. Pretty good website, too - take a virtual tour of the solar system here.

Congratulations to Gael for making this list of top pop culture personalities.

Modigliani Virtual Museum.
Painting of the month.
Via Jilly's links.

On the decline of letter-writing. Via the Apothecary's Drawer.

Coudal Partners' Christmas rock and roll quiz.

Some choice Trent Lott quotes, excerpted from 'My First Presidentiary' (by Coudal Partners' Kevin Guilfoile and John Warner).

As usual, the Christmas edition of the Economist is full of interesting articles.

Life in plastic. 'Of all the forces against which resistance is futile, Barbie ranks right up near the top. Any poor innocent who assumed that this piece of anatomically challenged plastic, devised in 1959, had been left on the toy shelf beside other relics of the era is evidently not the parent of a pre-school girl. Cult-like, Barbie draws her flock with a heady mix of marketing, magic and the colour pink ... '

The history of the tango.

British irony. 'Is the British penchant for irony a cause or cure of national decline?'

Human extinction. 'The human species might yet fulfill its evolutionary potential, if it would only go away.'

Ask Dr Tatiana. Animal kingdom sex war agony aunt column.

Lost horizons. Kalmykia, Russia's Buddhist republic.

Reporting on a thousand years. 'Ten centuries have transformed mankind's wealth, numbers, work, lifestyles, rights, literacy, communications and understanding of the world. A special issue on what has mattered most during the millennium, edited by Stephen Hugh-Jones.' (The Economist, 23rd Dec. 1999).

'Why are the heirs of Ronald Reagan doing so much better than Margaret Thatcher's?' 'By any measure, however, the conservatism of Lady Thatcher and Mr Reagan has survived better in America than in Britain. That has something to do with personalities and chance. But it also reflects underlying moods-and by many measures (see table), America is simply more right-wing than Britain.'

Nomadism in Mongolia.

'Sleep "knits up the ravelled sleeve of care". But are we getting enough? And can we do without it?'

Pilotless planes.

'Recreating old drinks provides an enjoyable form of time-travelling.'

The cult of the gym. (No cultists here, sunshine).

' One of Daniel arap Moi's monuments to himself is a big concrete fist, clutching a chieftain's club. A couple of years ago, three fingers fell off, presenting a single presidential digit to passers-by. It seemed apt: Mr Moi's 24 years in charge of Kenya have been marked by crumbling infrastructure and sporadic violence ... '

The Economist's obituary of Rene Thom, inventor of catastrophe theory, who died in November.
More weekly obituaries.

The mother of all package tours. 'It all began with a phone call to a man called Geoff Hahn, who runs a firm called Hinterland Travel. "I am the only person now running tours of Iraq," he explained. "The Iraqi government allows me to bring people in because I've been visiting the country since the 60s. They know I love the people there, you see. Of course, I can't guarantee it'll be 100% safe ..." '

' Most gay men either confront homophobic neo-Nazis and Islamists, or avoid them. But not Johann Hari - he seduced them instead ... '

Two Muslim blogs :- Unmedia and Shi'a Pundit.
' The majority of Muslims ARE "moderate". This is a simple fact. The "core" of Islam is quite sound and healthy - but existing as it does in Asia and the Middle East, and documented in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Gujarati, mostly existing offline, and being of absolutely zero entertainment or shock value to the American media, the assertion that the core is rotten is intellectually dishonest.' (Shi'a Pundit)
' But should Muslims go around parroting the phrase "Religion of Peace" ? No. It's a useless and meaningless excercise. If you believe in the Qur'an, live by its teachings, and leave the opinion making to the opinion makers. ' (Shi'a Pundit)

New Geekgirl ecards. Good stuff.

22nd December
US wrecks cheap drugs deal.
'Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, last night blocked a global deal to provide cheap drugs to poor countries, following intense lobbying of the White House by America's pharmaceutical giants. '
'Faced with furious opposition from all the other 140 members of the World Trade Organisation, the US refused to relax global patent laws which keep the price of drugs beyond reach of most developing countries. '
'Talks at the WTO's Geneva headquarters collapsed last night after the White House ruled out a deal which would have permitted a full range of life-saving drugs to be imported into Africa, Asia and Latin America at cut-price costs. '
Via Cheesedip.

21st December
The Origins and Ancient History of Wine. 'Fermented beverages have been preferred over water throughout the ages: they are safer, provide psychotropic effects, and are more nutritious. Some have even said alcohol was the primary agent for the development of Western civilization, since more healthy individuals (even if inebriated much of the time) lived longer and had greater reproductive success. When humans became "civilized," fermented beverages were right at the top of the list for other reasons as well: conspicuous display (the earliest Neolithic wine, which might be dubbed "Chateau Hajji Firuz," was like showing off a bottle of Pétrus today); a social lubricant (early cities were even more congested than those of today); economy (the grapevine and wine tend to take over cultures, whether Greece, Italy, Spain, or California); trade and cross-cultural interactions (special wine-drinking ceremonies and drinking vessels set the stage for the broader exchange of ideas and technologies between cultures); and religion (wine is right at the center of Christianity and Judaism; Islam also had its "Bacchic" poets like Omar Khayyam) ... '

Codes and Ciphers in the Second World War. 'Between 1939 and 1945, the most advanced and creative forms of mathematical and technological knowledge were combined to master German communications.'
'British cryptanalysts, Alan Turing at the forefront, changed the course of the Second World War and created the foundation for the modern computer. '
'In 1991 the Bletchley Park, the wartime home of Allied code breaking, was saved from destruction by Tony Sale and some colleagues. They transformed it into a museum devoted to the recognition and reconstruction of this crucial aspect of world history, which had remained completely secret until the early 1970s ... '
How Enigma worked.

Computer History Museum.
Timeline of computer history, from 1945 to 1990.
A history of the Internet 1962-1992. 'This Internet Timeline begins in 1962, before the word 'Internet' is invented. The world's 10,000 computers are primitive, although they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. They have only a few thousand words of magnetic core memory, and programming them is far from easy ... '
Internet history and microprocessor timeline.

Visions and Values. 'Welcome to Visions & Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America. We invite you on a virtual tour of our permanent collections exhibition where we trace the dynamic, four thousand year old history of Jews from ancient Israel through distant lands to contemporary America ... In this tour of our collection, you will travel through the many lands where Jews have lived and carried on a rich tradition. As you move your cursor over the colorful tapestry to your left, you will discover the roots of this age-old heritage. See how the photographs, works of art, and individual experiences and accomplishments, like your own stories, relay the history of this vibrant culture.'

True Wedding Stories. 'Welcome to the Skirball's special web feature, accompanying our new exhibition Romance & Ritual: Celebrating the Jewish Wedding now through January 6. '
'You may not know that there are surprisingly few requirements for a Jewish wedding. The major elements are a ketubbah, a wine cup, a ring, and a huppah. Other traditions and rituals are the rich embellishments added over time, from many corners of the earth ... '
'In planning for our exhibition, we discovered that the Skirball staff, volunteers, and docents were brimming with their own stories of Romance & Ritual. Here we invite you on a more personal tour. '

Korean Buddhism. Great site, most extensive. Individual pages for many temples.
Background. 'While you are in Korea, you will find that wherever you go there are Buddhist temples. They are dotted all over the cities, near the towns and villages and every mountain seems to have its share. Temples are living history and art. Today, temples are the places that Buddhists go to practice their religion, as well as home to the ordained members. One of the most important recognitions of the richness of the Korean culture is inclusion on UNESCO's prestigious World Heritage List ... '
A typical Korean Buddhist temple.
Temple life.
' Chogyesa Temple is the only major temple within the old city walls of Seoul. Built in 1910, the temple became the main temple of Korean Buddhism's Chogye Order in 1936. '

Lost and Stolen Images: Nepal. 'The visual resources found in this site have been organized according to subject matter. The accompanying data reflects the research and scholarly efforts of Lain S. Bangdel. The actual or approximate (when not recorded) height of the images is given in inches. The dates indicating when the images were stolen, removed, or damaged are based upon information provided by local residents and police records. Except as noted, all of the images were photographed by Lain S. Bangdel.'

George Hoshida: A Japanese American's Journey. 'The December 7, 1941 attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i by the nation of Japan plunged the United States into World War II and irrevocably changed the course of American history. But for thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry living in the Hawaiian Islands and the mainland, the war highlighted the great divide between their American ideals and their unfair treatment based solely on race ... '
'After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, martial law was declared in Hawai'i and Japanese American community leaders were singled out as "suspicious." Although the Japanese Americans in Hawai'i had posed no prior threat, community leaders were thought to be potentially harmful to United States security despite that fact that no evidence existed to link Japanese Americans in Hawai'i with the acts of Japan, except by virtue of ancestry. By December 9, over 120 community leaders were taken from their homes and incarcerated in Hawai'i¹. George Hoshida was one such person ... '

Finding Family Stories Gallery.

Cato Manor Development Project. 'The Cato Manor project has achieved world-wide acclaim from development specialists as a model for integrated development.'
'It is the largest inner-city urban development project in post-apartheid South Africa.'
'Much of it's success is attributed to a higher level of grassroots community involvement. The project consists of the construction of low-cost housing, schools, libraries, community halls, roads, clinics, In addition, the CMDA (Cato Manor Development Association) focuses on the stimulation of economic development and community empowerment through interventions such as training schemes and small, micro and medium enterprise development. '
'Cato Manor is situated within the boundaries of the Durban Metropolitan area, and is home to about 93000 people with a future population estimated to be 170 000. It was an area that suffered greatly under the Apartheid government's policy of forced removal of squatters. The development incorporates the need to redress these injustices and promote black empowerment ... '
History of Cato Manor. From 1845 to the present day; a fascinating story of many different communities.
Aerial views of Cato Manor today.

La Cité de Dieu (The City of God). 'Saint Augustine's fifth-century Latin treatise De Civitate Dei (The City of God) was translated into French in 1375 to satisfy the courtly taste for ancient history during the reign of Charles V. Romantically embellishing the saint's theological arguments, the translation, known as La Cité de Dieu, was spiced with commentaries in courtly dialect and illustrated for its noble French audience ... '

Illuminated Biblical Text. 'This elaborately decorated quotation from Psalm 34, which begins, "I will bless the Lord at all times," was created by the Reverend Georg Geistweit, a traveling minister of the German Reformed Church in rural Pennsylvania, who served various frontier congregations in the Upper Susquehanna Valley between about 1794 and 1804 ... '

Seated Nude and Standing Nude, Picasso, 1907.

Bunker Hunting. Abandoned bunkers in the UK.

Bath Stone: A History of Quarrying. 'The City of Bath is famous world wide for its Roman remains and Georgian architecture. Most of the buildings of Bath all have one thing in common, they are all built of Bath Stone. This stone has been used world wide, but the story of the quarrymen that toiled for long, dark, arduous hours underground has seldom been told. Only a handful of short -run books have been written about what was one of this areas largest industries, and most of these are now unavailable. It is my aim to provide people with a concise history of this industry that has now been in operation for 2000 years.'
'I first went underground thirty years ago, with my friends, and was amazed at the size of the workings, and with further exploration we found more and more of these disused quarries. After becoming interested in photography, I began to record the workings and learn more about the history of the quarries ... '

Haig Colliery Mining Museum, Whitehaven, Cumbria, UK. 'Coal mining in Whitehaven dates back to the thirteenth century when the monks from St Bees Abbey supervised the opening of coal mines at Arrowthwaite. This long history ended abruptly in March 1986 when Haig Pit, Cumbria's last deep coal mine, finally closed ... '

Clearwell Caves - Ancient Iron Mines. 'The Royal Forest of Dean's Iron Mining Museum'

Scotland's Secret Bunker.

Hack Green. A Cold War bunker.
' Welcome to one of the nations most secret defence sites. Hack Green has played a central role in the defence of Britain for almost sixty years. As you approach Hack Green over the picturesque farmland and rolling Cheshire countryside, it's hard to imagine a more peaceful location, but it was not always like this! ... '
The musical.

Ghosts & Haunts in Missouri.

Mexican Fine Arts Centre. They are holding a Frida Kahlo/ Diego Rivera exhibition in Chicago. Thanks, Skimble!