Sunday, 31 May 2009

Post#123 A Polished Joke - a Riposte to Lenin in Zurich (Communist Era Humour)

Nice one, Stasi!! Here's a favourite of mine from the borscht old days (or barszcz in this case):

A political organiser in a Polish factory in the 1970's is despairing over the indifference of his comrades to the great matters of state. One day he rails at them, demanding that they demonstrate their ideological preparedness by giving brief biographies of the senior party members. He asks them to speak about various ministers of State, all of whom his comrades apparently have never heard of. When they purport to know nothing of the career of the head of government he bursts out in exasperation: "You numbskulls!! If you spent less time boozing at home and more time improving your minds at political meetings you'd know who the most important people in our country are and why they're important!"

The ensuing, sullen silence is broken by a worker calling out, "If you're so well-informed, tell us about Krzysztof Novak." The organiser is bewildered. He's never heard of any bigwig with that name. He then suspects that he's being mocked; that this is an imaginary person. "There is no significant person of that name!", he retorts.

"Here is his significance", the worker says; "If you spent more time at home and less time at political would know that Novak is the guy who is screwing your wife!"

Post#122 Lamia, Bankers and Hell

I saw Drag me to Hell recently, directed by Sam Rami, the guiding hand behind the Spider Man movies and, still earlier, The Evil Dead. I loved this movie but then I love the whole horror movie genre. I also love discovering something new. Rami’s movie introduced me to the Lamia, who appears as a devil-like demon in the movie. I looked into this, discovering that the Lamia has deep mythological roots…and that she is female, one with a tragic history, a plaything of the selfish passions of the gods.

In Classical mythology Lamia was a Queen of Libya. Beloved by Zeus, she incurred the wrath of Hera, who, in an act of revenge, killed her children. Either cursed by the jealous goddess, or consumed by grief, Lamia turned a monster. Taking on the partial shape of a serpent, she began to devour other people’s children in furious envy.

In Greek folklore Lamia has the same basic form-and purpose- as the witch Baba Yaga in that of Russia, a monster who combines a taste for human flesh with the gift of prophecy; a monster who serves as a warning. Philostratus, in The Life of Apollonius, says that she took on the shape of a beautiful woman at will to entice young men prior to devouring them. Something of the tragedy of Lamia was later captured in a romantic form by John Keats, who describes her thus;

She was a gordian shape of dazzling hue,
Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue;
Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard,
Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson barr'd;
And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed,
Dissolv'd, or brighter shone, or interwreathed
Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries-
So rainbow-sided, touch'd with miseries,
She seem'd, at once, some penanced lady elf,
Some demon's mistress, or the demon's self.
Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire
Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadne's tiar:
Her head was serpent, but ah, bitter-sweet!
She had a woman's mouth with all its pearls complete:
And for her eyes: what could such eyes do there
But weep, and weep, that they were born so fair?

As far as the movie is concerned I thought that Christine’s fate was rather hard. If anyone deserved to be dragged to hell it was the board of directors of the bank she worked for, not a lowly employee. The old gypsy’s curse was misdirected; we can all understand that much!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Post#121 Lenin in Zurich

Do you really want me to tell a joke, Retarius? My sense of humour is slightly on the rarefied side! Anyway, just for you.

The setting is the old Soviet Union in the days of Brezhnev. Pravda announces the unveiling of a newly commissioned painting, entitled Lenin in Zurich. The day arrives. All of the most important people are there, the members of the Presidium and the Supreme Soviet; Brezhnev himself is in attendance. The artist and the director of the Academy are on the podium, with the painting between them, covered by a small curtain. The Director rises, welcomes the guests, and announces. “Comrades, I’m delighted to unveil this tribute to the great Lenin.” The curtain is drawn aside. There is an audible gasp from the crowd, followed by a stunned silence. The Director looks at the painting, which shows Trotsky in bed with Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife. He turns to the artist and whispers, “Where the hell is Lenin?” “Oh”, the artist replies, “Lenin’s in Zurich.”

Quickly changing the subject, I noted your lamentation over getting people to read blogs. Does it matter? There are thousands upon thousands of these things. I write for myself; I write for the love of writing; if someone else takes pleasure in what I write, even if it’s only one person, then that is a welcome bonus. True, I have drawn other people’s attention to Ana the Imp, friends and people I know from other networks. I know they have come and taken some benefit, which is pleasing enough in itself. I also know that a piece I wrote last month on Paul Ogarzow, The Forgotten Serial Killer, has been flagged up by a web page in New Zealand as one of only two online articles in the English language on this man, and the better of the two! Can I ask for any greater accolade? :-))

Friday, 1 May 2009

Post#120 Pirates of Amnesia (Tactics for defeating the Somali Pirates)

I'm been watching in bewilderment as the saga of piracy along the East African coast has progressed through weeks to months in length. The thing that I can't figure is why the word "convoy" has never entered the discourse. The convoy system that worked so well against submarine attacks could easily be applied to thwarting the Somali pirates.

An international force could be stationed at sea in several rendezvous points where vessels intending to use African-coast shipping lanes could find escorts. With GPS technology this should be a very easy procedure. It's strange how the experts on warfare forget the lessons of the past. In the first world war the generals forgot everything that had ever been learned in the thousands of years of refinement of the art of siege warfare and had to relearn it the hard way. The skills of the armourer were lost too; troops being sent into battle with only fabric uniforms for protection, many without even the most basic helmets. Thus the lessons of two World wars in the field of naval defence seem also to have been lost.

A combined force of surface and submarine vessels could probably break the economic back of the piracy industry off the East African coast within six months. Now how do I persuade Hillary Clinton to read this?