The Art of Book Design: The Poetical works of John Keats

Today’s book was sent in by one of our readers, Vanessa. The book has a simple cover, but it’s beautiful inside and comes with a touching story that Vanessa is graciously sharing with all of us.

John Keats. The Poetical Works of John Keats. London, Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1917

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History Rhymes – the Betrayal of Kurds

In my country, the Munich Agreement is still perceived as one of the most important lessons of history – the lesson being that western allies are not to be relied upon and that meeting the demands of fascist authoritarians only leads to further demands.

The recent betrayal of Kurds by the USA, via their imbecilic and barely literate president, has many similarities. And many more will follow, including mass graves.

The behavior of Turks, as I observed it on Twitter – before turning away in disgust – is jingoistic and racist, celebrating the violence being perpetrated and cheering the prospect of Kurds being driven into the desert. It drives home another similarity – Turks see Kurds just as Germans saw Slavs prior to WW2 – as lesser, as subhuman, as beings not worthy of consideration. Racism towards Kurds is, at this moment, one of the most prominent and defining features of being a “true Turk”.

Turkish persistent denial of the Armenian genocide is a stain on the country’s reputation and now they are starting another one. And the USA, the self-appointed world policeman, just watches and supplies weapons. Turkey is in NATO after all.

YouTube Video: Original Vs Reproduction – Which is better?

What I find the most interesting about his video is the realization that our modern perceptions of what is and is not beautiful are heavily skewed towards unreasonable and sometimes unachievable perfection. Sometimes perfection that you can only evaluate up so close, that you need a magnifying glass and calipers.

I blame the industrial revolution and mass-produced machined goods.

Behind the Iron Curtain part 32 – Money Lenders

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give a perfect and objective evaluation of anything but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty-eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


Lending money was a very tightly controlled activity behind the Iron Curtain. The regime had a de-facto monopoly on big lending and strictly regulated the activity. It was only possible to get a loan from a bank, and many young people did so when they started a family, just as they do today – to buy or build a house, an apartment, furnishings, etc.

My sister got a loan too when she got married. So did my parents.

I never heard of anybody having trouble with payments. The law regulated what rates can be given, what securities can be required and what payments can be requested, so for people getting into financial trouble this way was not common. Loan sharks existed – on those another time – because organized crime existed. But it was that – a crime. If it was possible for anyone getting into insolvency or personal bankruptcy because they could not keep up with their legal payments, It was rare and I never heard of it.

That has changed rapidly after the Iron Curtain fell. The bad thing about that was that our first finance minister and late president Václav Klaus is Randian libertarian, and he governed the state finances with the assumption that “the invisible hand of the free market” is a panacea for all problems. One of the legacies of that time was the abandonment of many regulatory laws, including those that defined and outlawed loan-sharking. Suddenly it became legal to loan money at thousands of percent interests, with short payments, exorbitant fees, etc. etc. A few thousands worth of debt could, and still can, balloon into thousandfold and suddenly you pay more in monthly fees than the original debt was worth. Speculations with debts became rife and a whole money-sharking industry emerged from the free market quite naturally.

Only it is not a solution, but a cancerous growth. Today roughly 8% of our little country’s population got caught in these financial traps. Some people even very obviously through no fault of their own – they were indebted by their careless or clueless parents or inherited a debt without knowing it.

And thus the free market provided a new class of people – the working poor, the debt-slaves and the homeless. I think this too was one of those few things the regime did actually handle properly, or at least better than the current one which still did not catch up with this entirely unnecessary crisis and still did not put the money lenders on a short leash.

Mni Wiconi- Water is Life: In Memory of Caine

A year ago today our community was devastated by the death of our beloved Caine. The team here at Affinity struggled with how to honor Caine on this day and we finally decided to carry forward her message to love and honor the planet. Caine stood with the tribe at Standing Rock in their struggle against the DAPL and today we’re passing on a few stories about the continuing struggle of Indigenous communities to protect the land and water. We are in no way qualified to speak about Indigenous culture or history, but we do so today with great respect.

First, a few reminders of the meaning of Mni Wiconi – Water is Life.

Mni Wiconi – The Stand at Standing Rock

Mni Wiconi – Water is Life

Hear the message of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Honor tribal sovereignty and the Earth we inhabit by telling President Obama to deny the easement by calling 202-456-1111. We need every person to call Obama this week before Dec. 5th. Please share. For more information visit standwithstandingrock.net#NoDAPL#StandwithStandingRock#standingrock#bankexit

Posted by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Also:

In an article on Indian Country Today, Woonspe—Education Gives Meaning to Mni Wiconi—Water Is Life they tell of the origin story behind the meaning of Mni Wiconi.

An origin story of the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires, which make up the Lakota, Nakoda, and Dakota people, tells us that the blood of First Creation, Inyan, covers Unci Maka, our grandmother earth, and this blood, which is blue is mni, water, and mahpiya, the sky. Mni Wiconi, water is life.

The entire article is worth reading and the above link will take you right there.

♦♦♦

 

Many Standing Rocks: Three Years and Still Fighting, by Tracy L. Barnett – The Esperanza Project)

LaDonna Allard, center, and Cheryl Angel at a march led by the women of Sacred Stone to the backwater bridge one week after a brutal attack there by law enforcement. (Photo from social media) – The Esperanza Project

 

So water is in danger, globally. Right now Indigenous communities are still at risk, and they are standing up, because they have to stand up.  When you finally realize — WATER IS LIFE — you understand why you can’t sit back down.

People keep saying “after” Standing Rock – but I’m still of the same state of mind, I still have the same passion for the water,  it has to be protected. It was when I was at Sicangu Wicoti Iyuksa that I learned about the aquifers that were in danger and when I was at Standing Rock I learned about the rivers that were in danger.

We encourage you to read the article. Cheryl Angel passes on wisdom from a lifetime spent in activism for the planet. Her reflections on the movement at Standing Rock are insightful, as is her take on the ongoing struggle to protect water and land resources.

♦♦♦

Next, we’re providing links to 2 reports on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s website.

SRST – No DAPL Remand Report Final, from February 5, 2019.

This first story is a damning and infuriating report on the deficient Corps of Engineers Analysis of the environmental impacts of the DAPL. The courts finally sided with the Standing Rock Tribe, but then decided that since the pipeline is already built they will let the oil flow.

Impacts of an Oil Spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from February 21, 2018, so that you can see just how much is at stake.
Both stories connect you to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s website and we encourage you to have a look around. The About Us section contains lots of information about the history of the tribe and the reservation, as does the section about environmental issues.
♦♦♦
Next, we’re going to point you toward the Indigenous Environmental Network.
IEN is an alliance of Indigenous peoples whose mission it is to protect the sacredness of Earth Mother from contamination and exploitation by strengthening, maintaining and respecting Indigenous teachings and natural laws. Adopted in 1994 by the IEN National Council, Denver, Colorado
The IEN website has a broad focus and they carry a variety of interesting stories about the ongoing fight to protect the land and water. It isn’t all just talk, though. The IEN runs several important environmental campaigns including the Keep It In The Ground Campaign run by Dallas Goldtooth. Dallas was born into an activist family and stood as a water protector at Standing Rock. He’s an accomplished activist, teacher, writer, poet and comedian who uses story and humor to tackle difficult subjects.
Here he is with his comedy troupe, The 1491’s, at Vasser College in 2018. His message is full of hope.

And finally, we leave you with a clip found on Twitter 2 days ago by rq. It’s a true message of hope from The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the it’s the perfect way to end this post.

 

The Art of Book Design: Are We a Stupid People, by One of Them

Charles Joseph Weld-Blundell. Are We a Stupid People, by One of Them. London; Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., 1908.

A book of commentary about the social and moral conditions in Britain at the turn of the last century.

 

Cover photo via: Nemfrog

The book is available to read at The Internet Archive

YouTube Video: What Can House Elves Teach Us About Slavery? (Harry Potter Theory)

In the past, I have expressed the opinion that just about the only really decent person in the whole Potterverse is Hermione Granger and I stand by that statement. Every single wizard was way too keen on having slaves.

I found this guy’s pronunciation a bit difficult to understand, but I got over it and the video was informative. I did not know that the argument “slaves are happy” was actually really used in the UK by anti-abolitionists since education about the minutiae of slavery is not really part of the curriculum in our schools.

Behind the Iron Curtain part 31 – Freedom of Speech

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give a perfect and objective evaluation of anything but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty-eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


If you have read enough of my writings and comments, you know that I am no free speech absolutists. I do think that there should be legal limits to what, where and how is discussed because unregulated free speech is actually not free at all – it allows toxic ideas to spread at the detriment of sensible ones. The old paradox about tolerating intolerance does definitively apply.

However I do on occasion wonder how much of this attitude is due to my growing up in an environment where freedom of speech was de-facto nonexistent. Oh, people were allowed to say anything they want about whatever they want – as long as it did not contradict the official party opinion on the matter. Criticizing USSR or the Communist Party was not allowed and the punishments for transgressions were not trivial either.

During my life, the regime has mellowed a lot already, so people did not just disappear overnight for saying something wrong, but they still could get into trouble if they said something critical of the regime and it got to the wrong ears. And it could be enough if one of your kids babbled in the school about how one of their relatives was criticizing the communist party.

I have found myself in this situation as a kid. One of my uncles was a fervent follower of the party in the 60s, then he got shortly out into West Germany in the 70s and after seeing the standard of living there in comparison to our “socialist paradise”, he made a U-turn in opinion. The only reasons he and his wife got back were their two sons, who were still small and whom they did not have with them – and whom they might not get back if they emigrated illegally.

Ever since that he did not have a kind word for the Communist Party and he vented often in front of the TV during the evening news. I was present a few times for that and it caused me great discomfort to hear what he said. It was in direct contradiction with the “truth” that was told in school, with the “truth” printed in Pravda, and with the “truth” on TV. He was critical of all those amazing and all-knowing party officials! At the time I had no way of discerning on whose side the actual truth lies, but luckily I did not go to our teacher for answers, but first to my parents. Who have told me that I should try not to think about this and to never tell anyone what my uncle was saying because he could go to jail.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, this was summed up in a saying “One of the most difficult things in parenting was to convince your kids to tell the truth at home, and not to tell it in public”.

Finding the right balance between unregulated speech and an iron grip on what people are allowed to say is not an easy task and I do not have the answer where the exact line lies. I have seen both extremes in action in real life and on the internet and both extremes do not work in the long run. Too much regulation and you end up with an isolated bubble, an echo chamber (and I do not mean state regulation only). But too lax or absent regulations lead to toxic environments overrun with those who shout the loudest and who have no squabbles to spout lies faster than they can be reasonably debunked. So I can only say the balance is worth seeking.

Mystery Fossil Identified

Mystery fossil, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Mystery fossil, root end, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Remember this? When I posted it I thought it might be a dinosaur tooth, but several commentators (Petern, Avalus, kestrel, Jazzlet) suggested it might be coral of some sort. It was Oggie, though, who took the time to look it up and told me it was

 think it is a rugose coral. Middle Ordovician to late Permian. Yet another victim of the PT extinction event – comment section Is this a Dinosaur Tooth?

Well, Oggie was absolutely right. I sent the photos off to The Royal Ontario Museum and they concur. Although they can’t say with certainty without seeing the piece in person, they suggest that it is horn coral, of the order rugosa from the Ordovician period. Mystery solved!

Thanks to everyone for your help and suggestions.

 

Slavic Saturday

Last time when talking about history, I mentioned the overlong prelude to World War 2 as it has played out in Central Europe. Lets now look a bit closer at what has happened afterward. And, again, this is a de-facto merging of Slavic Saturday and Behind the Iron Curtain series.

Today lets look at one of the most prominent Czech artists to date, although outside of the Czech Republic he is probably not that well known – if he is known at all – Vlasta Burian. (You might remember that I have already written about an artist with the same surname, but to my best knowledge that is pure coincidence, they are not closely related.)

Vlasta Burian was one of the most prominent comedians in Czechoslovakia between the wars. Born in a cobbler’s family, he started out in lower-middle class at the time and he indulged in classic sport activities of that class at that time – like tennis and football (soccer). He was a very devout and good athlete, he could be professional – but in his free time, he also did stand-up comedy for the amusement of his friends, to initial dismay of his parents. And this has gradually become his main occupation and through making stand-up comedy routines in pubs he became a professional comedian and actor who starred in movies and who even owned and run his own theater before and during WW2. And he lived in a villa.

But fame is fickle friend. Despite being known patriot for his whole life, he managed to live through most of World War 2 without being overtly persecuted. I say most – Nazis have tried to rope him into making propaganda for them, but after one public routine in radio (which he intentionally botched) he took to feigning illness whenever he was approached by them again. So in 1944 Nazis got finally fed up with him snubbing their attempts to make him their stooge. He was arrested and his theater was closed.

Reasonable expectation after this would be that after the war ended in the spring of 1945, he would be fully vindicated of any wrongdoing. But that was not the case. He has managed to become moderately wealthy, and that was a big no-no after the war when the Communist Party took the reins through a coup. That he has managed it truly through his own works (and was giving to charitable causes throughout) was irrelevant to the new regime. That he was just deftly snubbing Nazis the whole World War 2 was also not enough – he was not resisting enough (in his position, probably anything short of charging at a tank with bare breast and bare hands would be considered “not enough”, after all, Czech pilots who fought against Nazis in RAF were persecuted for fighting against Nazis on the “wrong” front).

So charges were made-up, a kangaroo court was called (multiple courts, actually) and in the end, he barely escaped with his life. All his possessions were confiscated for the good of the people (how convenient) and he was barred from acting – he was only allowed to do menial works. The short imprisonment and subsequent ban from acting and public appearances have seriously undermined his health, both physical and mental.

Like many artists, he suffered from depression. Sports and comedy were probably part of his self-medication. When denied the things he loved, he aged in mere five years noticeably more than he should. When the acting ban was finally lifted after five years, it was too late. He was no longer the springy, energy exuding person he used to be and his acting has suffered. It was still good enough to make a living, but nowhere near as good as it used to be. His health deteriorated quickly and in 1962 he died of pneumonia. His wife followed him in mere nine weeks, grief took her.

His popularity was such that after his death, a movie about him bearing his nickname “Král Komiků” i. e. “The King of the Comedians” was made. And in the following decades his movies were still screened at local cinemas and they are still occasionally aired on Czech TV to this day. Many can also be found on the internet. Unfortunately, unless you understand Czech you won’t be able to enjoy them. Dubbing is out of the question, a lot of Burian’s comedy was in his voice, so you would need really a top-notch dubber. Subtitles would not help too much either, because another significant part was wordplays.

In 1994, five years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, he was posthumously vindicated in court. Historians extensively examined the historical sources and they found a total lack of any evidence of his collaboration with Nazis whatsoever, in any form. Despite this, for Vlasta Burian the long string of injustices and indignities was still not over. In the year 2002 his grave was adorned with his bronze bust, but it was stolen shortly afterward and probably sold as scrap metal.

Today his grave is adorned with a statue of his hands, which were after his face his most prominent feature. May he finally rest in peace.

Free image from Wikimedia Commons

 

YouTube Video: What is white supremacy? – A Response to Steven Crowder

Shaun’s videos are always excellently done, and this one is no exception.

I am a bit torn after seeing this video. I did not know much about Steven Crowder, apart from that he is a climate change denier and a typical American conservative in many other aspects. After this, I am even less interested in him.

However, one young and exceptionally talented knifemaker on YouTube is following Steven Crowder and Ben Shapiro. He is only 19 years old, so there is still a chance that he grows out of that shit because legalities notwithstanding, at that age a person is not yet fully developed and I myself was definitively a twerp at that time. But also that age is definitively high enough to know that racism is a bad thing and the excuse “he’s just a kid” does not hold water anymore.

Two years ago I stopped watching one interesting blacksmithing channel after I learned that the blacksmith is Trump voter. I just could not stand the idea of supporting a person who does something as vile as voting for an open and unapologetic racist and misogynist and wannabe fascist. I am not at that stage with this young knifemaker yet, but…