plep Archive

25th February
Sirius at Cambridge, by Olaf Stapledon.

Yasunoke Fukukita: Tea Cult of Japan, 1937.

Okakura Kakuzo: The Book of Tea, 1906.
'Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage. In China, in the eighth century, it entered the realm of poetry as one of the polite amusements. The fifteenth century saw Japan ennoble it into a religion of aestheticism--Teaism. Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life. '

The Pantheon in Rome, from the viewpoint of a civil engineer with an interest in concrete.
'This famous building stands in the business district of Rome--much as it was built some 18 centuries ago. Amazingly, it has withstood the ravages of both the elements and war permitting a firsthand view of a unique product constructed by Roman hands. Now, it is exposed to acid rain and fumes from passing automobiles and overshadowed by buildings of inferior taste; but, with trust in the future, the Pantheon will survive. '
'Unrecognized, the design of this ancient concrete building reveals unparalleled features not encountered in modern design standards. Recent studies reveal several major cracks in the dome, but it still functions unimpaired. This condition will surely excite the curiosity of our structural engineers. The building was built entirely without steel reinforcing rods to resist tensile cracking, so necessary in concrete members, and for this concrete dome with a long span to last centuries is incredible. Today, no engineer would dare build this structure without steel rods! Modern codes of engineering practice would not permit such mischief. No investor with knowledge of concrete design would provide the funding ... '
Roman Concrete. Many more articles.

The Life and Resurrection of Alexandre Dumas.

National Cryptologic Museum, courtesy of everyone's friend, the NSA.
'The National Cryptologic Museum opened to the public in December 1993. Since then it has been host to numerous government and private tour groups and interested individuals. The Museum offers a unique look at those who have labored tirelessly in the various cryptologic fields to provide a critical service to the nation. '
Exhibits. Fascinating stuff, ranging from the Black Chamber and the Windtalkers to the Rum War and the American Civil War.

Tangier. 'Tales of pirates, diplomacy and espionage frame America's liaison with the exotic city.'

Black Wolf: Ernest Thompson Seton. 'From the 1890s to his death in 1946, Ernest Thompson Seton wrote some 60 books and nearly 400 magazine articles and short stories. His book Wild Animals I Have Known has never gone out of print since it was first published in 1898. His dramatic wilderness stories brought him kudos from such notable contemporaries as Andrew Carnegie, Rudyard Kipling, Theodore Roosevelt, Leo Tolstoy and Mark Twain ... '

Ernest Thompson Seton Institute. 'The Ernest Thompson Seton Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of E.T. Seton - artist, naturalist, story teller, author, philosopher and leader par excellence.'

Scouting History and Traditions.

African American Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907.
'The Daniel A. P. Murray Pamphlet Collection presents a panoramic and eclectic review of African-American history and culture, spanning almost one hundred years from the early nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries, with the bulk of the material published between 1875 and 1900. Among the authors represented are Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Benjamin W. Arnett, Alexander Crummel, and Emanuel Love. '

Mahamangala Sutta. In Pali and English.

The Buddha Foretells the Gradual Decline of Religion.

Before Electricity, There was Storytelling.

Journal of the Black Sea Odyssey. A diary kept by an archaeologist, to accompany an expedition.

The Refined Art of Picturing Natural History. Article about scientific illustration.

Value of Little Customs by Ernest Thompson Seton.

On Patriotism by Ernest Thompson Seton.
'The word patriotism stands in history for the noblest type of fortitude and self-sacrifice, and yet that same word can be used as a cloak for almost any crime,--has been the excuse for more crimes in history, perhaps, than any other known motive power, except religion. Without attempting to dissect what has always proven the most intricate complication of impulses, I shall relate four incidents which shed light or contain guidance for those who are in need of such ... '

Martin Johnson Heade: An American Original.

Martin Johnson Heade at the Hunter Museum of American Art.
'Martin Johnson Heade, one of the great landscape painters of 19th century America. In his many paintings of hummingbirds placed against a South American landscape, the artist creates small gem-like paintings of his exotic subject matter ... '

Civil Rights Code of the USA.


24th February
The History of Tea and teapots.

The History of Coffee.

Banned Books Online. 'Welcome to this special exhibit of books that have been the objects of censorship or censorship attempts. The books featured here, ranging from Ulysses to Little Red Riding Hood, have been selected from the indexes of The Online Books Page ... '
Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure.
Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. Banned in Boston when it was first published.
Lysistrata and the Canterbury Tales. Banned for decades from the US mail.
Civil Disobedience, by Thoreau.
Schenk v. US. WW1 anti-draft pamphlet.
Family Limitation. Describing and advocating contraception.
Black Beauty. Banned in apartheid South Africa.
The Falun Dafa Books. Banned in China.
The Bible and the Quran. Banned in the USSR.
The Catholic Church's Index of Prohibited Books.
Censorship in Burma and Saudi Arabia.

The Velveteen Rabbit, or How Toys Became Real, by Margery Williams. Illustrated.
Via A Celebration of Women Writers.

The Breakfast of the Birds and Other Stories, by Emily Solis-Cohen.

An Island Story, a History of England for Boys and Girls, by H.E. Marshall, pub. 1920.
Chapter 1: The Stories of Albion and Brutus. 'Once upon a time there was a giant called Neptune. When he was quite a tiny boy, Neptune loved the sea. All day long he played in it, swimming, diving, and laughing gleefully as the waves dashed over him. '
'As he grew older he came to know and love the sea so well that the sea and the waves loved him too, and acknowledged him to be their king. At last people said he was not only king of the waves, but god of the sea. '
'Neptune had a very beautiful wife who was called Amphitrite. He had also many sons. As each son became old enough to reign, Neptune made him king over an island. '
'Neptune's fourth son was called Albion. When it came to his turn to receive a kingdom, a great council was called to decide upon an island for him ... '
Chapter 114: The Hope of the Future. The League of Nations.

Do You Remember, When? 'What was it like to live as a young Jew in Berlin during the Nazi deportations? This exhibitions details the life of Manfred Lewin, a young Jew who was active in one of Berlin's Zionist youth groups until his deportation to and murder in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Manfred recorded these turbulent times in a small, hand-made book that he gave to his Jewish friend and gay companion, Gad Beck. Mr. Beck, a Holocaust survivor who again life in Berlin, donated the booklet to the Museum in December 1999. The exhibitions centers around the 17-page artifact, which illustrates the daily life of the two friends, their youth group, and the culture in which they lived.'

Life Reborn: Jewish Displaced Persons 1945-1951.

Maasai Language Project.
' ... The family picture to the right is emblematic of many changes currently taking place in Maasai culture. Traditional Maasai life is impacted by major cities like Nairobi, which are located in what was traditional Maasai grazing land, and by tourists, western education, commerce, modern entertainment, national land policies, etc. Cultural cohesiveness is also affected by geographical distribution of people who speak the Maa language. As seen on the map below, the Maa language is spoken in at least two dis-continuous areas of Kenya and Tanzania and the traditional grazing lands of the Maasai are intersected by the international Kenya-Tanzania border. '
'Altogether, the traditional Maasai lifestyle is under pressure to change rapidly. As socio-cultural changes occur, the language is also facing the probability of considerable change. To help document the language and Maasai culture (both traditional and modern), we are working on cross-dialect lexicographic (dictionary) and text data bases of the Maa (Maasai) language. The lexicography data base currently includes over 3,000 entries. Funding permitting, we plan to include a minimum of three dialects and about 5,000 entries ... '

Jade Phoenix Ornament, Liao dynasty.
'In Western legend, the phoenix, or Red Bird, rises from the ashes of its own funeral pyre to live again. In China, the bird has connotations of immortal worlds and paradise. The phoenix is often associated with the dragon. The dragon came to symbolize the emperor, and the phoenix represented the empress ... '

Jade Cicada, Han dynasty.
'The cicada often appeared on birthday gifts in China, representing wishes for the recipient's longevity. In death, the cicada may have stood for resurrection. Jade has always been highly valued in China, in this life and for use in the afterlife. It was thought to have special powers, possibly protective ones. The Chinese believed that, after death, it preserved the corpse. Cicadas made of jade were placed on the corpse's tongue before burial. Sometimes glass was used as a less expensive substitute ... '

Glazed Pottery Pond with Figures, Eastern Han dynasty. A model for the afterlife.

Sipapu - The Anasazi Emergence into the Cyber World. Architecture and prehistory of the ancient Pueblo culture.

Gallery of Anasazi Objects.

A Brief History of Typewriters.

Mare Orientale on Earth's Moon. Images.

Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects.
' The Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects was performed at the University of Colorado between 1966 and 1968, with physics Professor Edward U. Condon as its scientific director. It is frequently referred to as the "Condon Report" or the "Colorado Project Report". To this day, the work carried out under Dr. Condon's direction represents the largest single scientific project ever undertaken in relation to the UFO problem. In the opinion of a sizeable majority of mainstream scientists, its principal conclusion has stood the test of time ... '

Walter Potter. Taxidermy, c. 1870s. Squirrels' Game of Cards; The Kitten's Croquet Party; Squirrels Take Tea; Bunny School.

The Hockerton Housing Project. A sustainable community in the UK.

Social History of Children's Literature. Superb.
Via Boynton.

Mathematicians march for peace gallery.

Kylie Minogue photographers' gallery.
Via Cheesedip.

Titian gallery. (Guardian) 'This spring, the National Gallery hosts the UK's first grand-scale exhibition of Titian's work. Highlights from the show, that brings together some of the best-known masterpieces from all stages of the artist's career, are below. '

Lost Labour. Images of vanished American workers 1900-1980.

Pinocchia. Where women and broomladies have a lot in common. (May not be work-suitable). Thanks, Laura.

Over 200 pictures from 133 protests.
Via Jenweb.

MeFi political compass, and in graph format.
The Political Compass. Try it for yourself.

23rd February
The Maasai. 'The information and perspectives you'll find on this web site are, unlike most web sites on the Maasai, presented by a Maasai person rather than outsiders. Since most people in Maasailand do not have access to the internet, I transmit my people's voices to a virtual community. '
Becoming a junior elder.
Maasai art.
Ceremonies & rituals.

Jade Mountain. A mountain paradise carved in miniature, Qing dynasty.

Jade Pendant in the Shape of a Dragon, Qing Dynasty.

Jade Plaques, Ming dynasty.

Anasazi Heritage Centre, Colorado, 'is a museum of the Ancestral Puebloan (or Anasazi) culture and other Native cultures in the Four Corners region. It is also the starting point for visits to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.'
Artefact gallery.
Who were the Anasazi? 'Anasazi is a Navajo word meaning "the ancient ones" or "the ancient enemies." Modern Pueblo people object to that name in reference to their ancestors. Their own languages do not share a common name for them, so the term "Ancestral Puebloans" is currently used when speaking English.'

Hovenweep National Monument, 'five prehistoric, Puebloan-era villages spread over a twenty-mile expanse of mesa tops and canyons along the Utah-Colorado border ... '

Diggers and Dreamers. The guide to communal living in Britain.

Brithdir Mawr 'is a farm of 165 acres in Pembrokeshire,West Wales, UK, that houses an intentional community of 20 people working towards sustainability, simplicity and spirit, and wishing to share their aim with others. (Brithdir Mawr means, in Welsh, Great Speckled Land.) The adults work for the community for an average of three days per week and pursue private interests or livelihoods the rest of the time. We take care of the land, recycle and conserve resources, garden and farm organically and are off the grid for electricity and water ... '

That Roundhouse. An Iron Age-style roundhouse in Wales.

No Shadows Fall: The Story of Spielplatz. 'This amazing autobiography charts the life of Iseult Richardson, who was raised inside Britain's first naturist community. She speaks lovingly of her parents and explains why in 1929 they gave up a secure and comfortable life in London in order to live in a tent in rural Hertfordshire ... '

The Monkey Sanctuary, Cornwall.
Woolly monkeys.

Hollesley Bay Colony. 'Hollesley Bay Colony is situated on the east coast of England, near Woodbridge in Suffolk.'
'Between the years 1759 and 1803, the Barthorp family aquired various parcels of land in the Wilford Hundred area, of which Hollesley was a part. Originally the Hollesley Bay holdings formed part of the Red House Estate farmed by the Barthorp family, until in 1869 the land was enfranchised in the name John Barthorp. The Barthorps becameowners and exhibitors of Suffolk Horses ... '

Lindsey Rural Players at The Broadbent Theatre, Wickenby. 'Lindsey Rural Players originated with the Holton Players, a group founded during the World War II years at Holton-cum-Beckering by a small community of conscientious objectors. They met in the evenings for music, singing and play reading; everyone was welcomed, whether they were from Holton or not - especially the local children ... '

Holocaust Personal Histories.
'And it was by the greatest miracle that I survived.'
'We were finally in the cattle train.'
'So he hid us for several days there, brought us a little food.'
'And we were travelling criss-cross Poland looking for surviving Jews.'
'They couldn't drink anything, so we had to feed them with medicine droppers.'

Holocaust Era in Croatia: Jasenovac 1941-1945. 'After Germany and its Axis allies invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941, the Nazis permitted the fascist and terrorist Ustasa organization to found the Independent State of Croatia. The Ustasa regime established numerous concentration camps in Croatia between 1941 and 1945. The largest was the Jasenovac complex. This Web site chronicles crimes committed during the Holocaust in Croatia and highlights artifacts from the Jasenovac Memorial Area Collection.'

Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.
Politicising the Virgin Mary. 'We live in days of all too obvious tension and occasional outright slaughter between specific Christian nations and certain Muslim ones. With this in mind, we can point to an instructive example of how a similar conflict that has occurred on a somewhat smaller geographical scale can be used to demonstrate that paranormal beliefs sometimes arise from a symbolic conflict between differing religious and ethnic groups. We can further demonstrate how such paranormal beliefs frequently both derive from and add to tensions associated with outright warfare and attempts at ethnic cleansings. To substantiate these claims I examine the case of the widely claimed apparitional appearances of the Virgin Mary in the former Yugoslavia ... '

The Skeptics Society.

James Randi Educational Foundation. 'An educational resource on the paranormal, pseudoscientific and the supernatural.'

Dachshung Early Comics - An Online Anthology.

Michael of posted some scanned images of the stamps of Donald Evans. Evans was an American artist, living in the Netherlands, who constructed his own imaginary world and created stamps for the wonderful countries in it. Which seems a good opportunity to link to Elmer Elevator's fascinating page on the postage stamps of Donald Evans. (Scroll down a little).

Michael also posts links to some of his favourite blogs. There are some really good sites here, most of which we'd not seen before. We're very gratified to make this list.

Chicago Tunnel Company Railroad History. 'This website tells the story about a 60-mile, two-foot gauge electric railroad that operated 149 locomotives and over 3000 freight cars in small tunnels forty feet below the streets of downtown Chicago. '
Via Brian Kane Online.

Magazine Covers and Cover Lines: An Illustrated History.
Via Quiddity.

Typewriter Man by Ian Frazier. 'The need for a new letter on an old manual machine leads the author to the shop of Martin Tytell, now in his seventh decade as repairman, historian, and high priest of typewriters.'
' ... We sidled through right angles into a dark and cramped part of the shop where we had to proceed by flashlight. "In these cabinets reposes the largest collection of foreign type in the world -- a hundred and forty-five languages, over two million separate pieces of type," he said, sweeping the beam over banks of minutely labeled metal drawers. Sixty years of converting typewriters to different alphabets has amassed this inventory; Mr. Tytell can list man's written languages better perhaps than any nontenured person in the world. "Over there are some languages of India -- Hindi, Sindhi, Marathi, Punjabi, and Sanskrit -- and next to that is Coptic, a church language of the Middle East; it's a beautiful-looking thing. Then there's Hausa, a language nobody here has ever heard of, spoken by twenty million people in northern Nigeria. Over there's Korean, and the Siamese I took off those Remingtons during the war, which I've relabeled Thai, and Aramaic script, and Hebrew, and Yiddish ..." He pointed out with the flashlight drawers of Malay and Armenian and Amharic, and boxes of special symbols for pharmacists and mathematicians. One drawer seemed to be mostly umlauts. He opened it and took out a small orange cardboard box and shone the light on the dozens of mint-bright rectangles of steel inside, each with its two tiny raised dots. "Nobody else in the world would even bother with this stuff," he said ... '
Via Languagehat.

Killing Goliath.

Campaign for toilet provision in the workplace in the UK.

21st February
Under the Skin: The Stolen Generation.

A Stolen Generation Cries Out, 1997.
'Haunting voices of elderly Aborigines tell of babies being snatched from their mother's breast by police on horseback in Australia's outback. '
'Black and white film shows rows of Aboriginal children with empty faces, dressed in striped uniforms reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps, and others bent over sweeping the dirt with their bare hands ... '
' ... Tens of thousands of Aboriginal children were forcibly taken from their parents under a government policy of assimilation from the 1880s to the 1960s. Those children are called the "Stolen Generation" or "People of the Bleaching." ... '

Mesa Verde National Park. 'Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 to preserve the archeological sites which "Pre-Columbian Indians" built on the mesa tops and in the alcoves of a score of rugged canyons ... '
'Mesa Verde, Spanish for "green table", rises high above the surrounding country. For about 1,300 years, agrarian Indians occupied the mesa and surrounding regions. From the hundreds of dwellings that remain, archeologists have compiled one of the most significant chapters in the story of prehistoric America. If you are able to leave your modern self behind and think only in the past, you may be able to understand and enjoy a fascinating story of life in earlier times ... '

Tangka of the Arhat Kanakavatsa, Tibet, 14th century. 'An Indian saint protects Buddhism in Tibet.'

Ivory Figure of a Rakan, Japan, 19th century. A Buddhist 'saint'.

Taking a Lute to Visit a Friend, a Ming dynasty hanging scroll.

A History of the Croydon Brotherhood Church.
'I like Croydon, but it seems not many people do, its looked upon as the Des Moines of England, it is supposed to be very boring, and even to me it was not very radical.
'So imagine discovering, that at the end of your garden, back in the 1890's, there was an "Anarchist Church" that believed and practiced the following:
'In only eating food that was co-operatively grown and ran its own shop and horse drawn distribution network,
'They were vegetarians,
'Ran a hostel for the homeless in your local pub,
'Operated a cooperative tailors and Dressmaking,
'Also a cooperative laundry, in a poor part of the town.
'Believed in Free union without marriage,
'Some wore "rational Dress" and others went on to become pioneer nudists ... '
(More links in the left-hand column).

Nature, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1849.
More Emerson texts via Emerson Central.
'In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.' - Emerson.

Looking Backward: From 2000 to 1887, by Edward Bellamy. Writing in 1887, Edward Bellamy described an American utopia in the year 2000.
From the preface :- 'Living as we do in the closing year of the twentieth century, enjoying the blessings of a social order at once so simple and logical that it seems but the triumph of common sense, it is no doubt difficult for those whose studies have not been largely historical to realize that the present organization of society is, in its completeness, less than a century old. No historical fact is, however, better established than that till nearly the end of the nineteenth century it was the general belief that the ancient industrial system, with all its shocking social consequences, was destined to last, with possibly a little patching, to the end of time. How strange and wellnigh incredible does it seem that so prodigious a moral and material transformation as has taken place since then could have been accomplished in so brief an interval! ... '
Edward Bellamy: A Nineteenth Century Visionary.

The Ralahine Commune. 'The Ralahine Commune was a co-operative society founded in 1831 on the estate of John Vandeleur at Ralahine, Co. Clare. In an attempt to keep his tenants away from secret societies like the "Ribbonmen", he brought a socialist called Thomas Craig from England to advise him on the establishment of the commune, which came into existence on the 7th of November 1831... '

The Coming of Christianity to Clare.

The Spanish Armada 'and the fate of some of its ships off the west Clare coast.'

Music of the Holocaust.
'Music was heard in many ghettos, concentration camps, and partisan outposts of Nazi-controlled Europe. While popular songs dating from before the war remained attractive as escapist fare, the ghetto, camp, and partisan settings also gave rise to a repertoire of new works. These included topical songs inspired by the latest gossip and news, and songs of personal expression that often concerned the loss of family and home.'
'Classical music-instrumental works, art songs, opera-was also produced and performed during this period, notably by prisoners at the Theresienstadt (Terezin) ghetto and transit camp in Czechoslovakia, as well as in several other ghettos and camps ... '

The Art and Politics of Arthur Szyk.
'Artist Arthur Szyk (1894-1951) earned an international reputation during his lifetime for his richly detailed illustrations and illuminations of Jewish themes. Szyk was a skillful caricaturist and a passionate crusader for political causes. From his early childhood in the Polish city of Lodz until his death in New Canaan, Connecticut, he drew inspiration from the history of his people. Szyk found strength in biblical stories of Jewish bravery and martyrdom, and in more modern examples of courage.'
'During World War II, Szyk (pronounced "Shick") devoted his energies to defeating Nazi Germany and its allies and calling the world's attention to the mass murder of Europe's Jews. His incisive wartime cartoons and caricatures filled the pages of American newspapers and magazines, earning him a reputation as a "one-man army" in the Allied cause. His moving portrayals of Jewish suffering and heroism bespoke a political activism that demanded "action - not pity." ... '

Epilepsy Museum.

Liftoff to Space Exploration. (NASA)

Tomás Garrigue Masaryk. 'Perhaps no other figure in Czechoslovak history is as recognizable as Tomás Masaryk. Born on 7 March 1850, Masaryk obtained a doctorate of philosophy and married Charlotte Garrigue, an American music student, in 1878. A professor at the Czech University of Prague, Masaryk was a social and political critic. From 1891 to 1893 he was a member of the Young Czech Party and from 1900 to 1914 the leader of the Realist (Progressive) Party and deputy to the Austrian Reichsrat from 1 907-1914. During his political career in the Habsburg Monarchy, Masaryk worked hard for universal suffrage and the federalization of the empire. During World War I Masaryk worked abroad to secure Czech and Slovak independence, gaining Entente and American recognition for the Czechoslovak National Council. In 1918 Czechoslovakia gained its independence and Masaryk was elected the first president of the new state. He resigned in 1935 and died on 14 September 1937 ... '

Ritual of Tea and Chat, by Pamela Zeplin. 'Beyond its efficacy in digesting tough meat and three veg, the Oz tea ritual has also functioned as a social lubricant, notably in the realm of women, who are well aware that anything can be achieved over a cup of tea. But it wasn´t always so convivial. In days gone by, formal afternoon teas occupied a site of domestic tyranny, sternly legislating class and status, intimidating small children, shaming inferior housekeeping and exposing inadequate 'tea things´. To reach our family´s best china in the top kitchen cupboard, we had to stand on a chair, causing temporary panic if our posh relatives turned up unexpectedly to scoff Mum´s renowned biscuits ... '
Thanks, Sarah.

Dollars, Euros and Oil. 'It will not come as news to anyone that the US dominates the world economically and militarily. But the exact mechanisms by which American hegemony has been established and maintained are perhaps less well understood than they might be. One tool used to great effect has been the dollar, but its efficacy has recently been under threat since Europe introduced the euro. '
'The dollar is the de facto world reserve currency: the US currency accounts for approximately two thirds of all official exchange reserves. More than four-fifths of all foreign exchange transactions and half of all world exports are denominated in dollars. In addition, all IMF loans are denominated in dollars. '
'But the more dollars there are circulating outside the US, or invested by foreign owners in American assets, the more the rest of the world has had to provide the US with goods and services in exchange for these dollars. The dollars cost the US next to nothing to produce, so the fact that the world uses the currency in this way means that the US is importing vast quantities of goods and services virtually for free ... '
Thanks, Peter.