Do the Dead Know What Time it is?

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The Ghost in the Machine ?

I always used to find the idea of re-incarnation attractive.   We slip away into the unknown but are relatively quickly re-housed in a new born.  Without our memories of course.  Although there are supposed to be methods of accessing those memories; regressive hypnosis for example.

After dallying with this notion; comforting as it is – I realised there is a big problem with it.  There will come a time, if we haven’t already passed it, when there will be more people alive than have died.  I don’t have the figures.  I can prove nothing.  But it seems to me that if babies are born and there’s no “dearly departed spirit” to inhabit their body, what then?  What would animate and motivate these spiritually devoid people?  (I am sure I have met a few in the kitchen at parties).   Perhaps they would turn out to be zombies, and we all know from the movies what trouble that leads to.

It won’t be long now, another 50 years or so, when there will be more web sites, Facebook Profiles, blogs and Instagram pages of dead people rather than the digital presence of living, breathing, posting beings.

A few days ago, I received a nudge from Facebook to wish a friend a happy birthday.  Problem was, this friend had passed away 2 years ago.   I visited his FB page and looked back at his postings, mostly funny and sometimes pithy.  I scrolled through his page from the opening cat picture all the way down to the moment when he entered his last post.  That final post will continue receding into the past as long as FB keeps their servers powered up.

I wished him a happy birthday anyway.

It will happen to us all.  Last week it was my birthday and I received about forty nice messages on Facebook.  It was very touching, but I knew these good people had responded to a nudge from the App.     We all do it.

The Pharos are well remembered for building the Pyramids; but in all likely hood they never lifted a finger having it done by a slave workforce.  Whereas we know volumes about the Pharos and their dynasty, we know virtually nothing of the common man’s story.

Now we have a new lease of remembrance, thanks to the internet, we  have a digital afterlife.  We can leave our history scattered on the shore line.

Our on-line pages house the everyday, minutiae and detritus of our lives and that of our friends.  Historians will no longer need to sit in silent libraries decoding the hints and fragments of past lives.  There will be an ocean of information about our lives scattered across the internet; who we are friends with, our politics, our poetry and where we work, who we work with (who they work with and are friends with) and their cat videos.

Internet companies are now starting to address this.  Some have considered monetising it by offering their services for us to have memorial pages – a perpetual obituary.  There are not so many takers yet; as we don’t like to think about our mortality.

Yet slowly, we are facing up to this phenomenon; in modern Last wills & Testaments digital executors are being appointed to administer our internet presence left behind.  Facebook are also in process of formalising this and allowing relatives of the deceased towalk-through-graveyard request a page to be either deleted or memorialised; where people can continue to visit and leave memories and comments about the person no longer with us.  A kind of digital condolence book.  Undoubtedly accompanied by tasteful graphics.

This may bring comfort to so many people, being able to leave some digital flowers as one might light a candle in church for a departed loved one.

Eventually, those digital visits will stop. The relatives and friends will themselves be absorbed into the digital Hall of Fame. The only visitors will be the Historians mapping out the social landscape of this generation or that.  There may also be curious who have meandered from one profile link to the next.  They may pass by, pausing a moment to read some comments here, look at a few pictures there.  Curious about these unknown people’s lives.

Like a dog walker in an afternoon graveyard, squinting at the fading inscriptions.

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Wolfie Cohen – Death of the Deli

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Wolfie’s Deli at 21st St & Collins – Barry Lewis

As I see it, there are two kinds of people in this world; People who love delis, and people you shouldn’t associate with.”   – Damon Runyon

You cannot talk about Miami Beach without mentioning, perhaps the most famous Miami Jew to have settled on the beaches; Wolfie Cohen.  He breezed in from Illinois in ‘47 and set about opening his first Deli; Wolfie Cohen’s , a one storey corner restaurant on 21st & Collins with a menu no Jew or Gentile could argue with for a thousand miles around.

On the opening day, Wolfie gave away the food for free, thousands of pastrami and

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Counter waitress at the Miami Beach Rascal House.  “You gotta’ understand “, Wolfie Cohen would tell her, “this station is your place of work, it’s your place of business” – Barry Lewis

corned beef sandwiches were woofed up till it was gone.  Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd; and Woolfie’s name took off.

Over the years Wolfies appeared across Miami and Miami Beach.  Most of them closed in the early 80’s,  but the one he opened further up the highway in North Miami Beach “Wolfie Cohen’s Racsal House” – survived.  This was an all together bigger, brasher venture catering to largest Jewish community outside of New York City.  Parking for 250 cars, seating for 420 people and the queue would stretch half way round the outside of the building.  Nobody minded, the food and atmosphere were worth the wait.   Some said that Wolfies was “built with a queue”

Slide into one of the red leather booths or red-topped chrome counter stools and you would be met with a bowl of sweet bread rolls and jars of pickle which you were free to eat whilst perusing a menu that offered every imaginable Jewish delicacy; comparable to anything New York had to offer.   They didn’t make sandwiches, they would serve you a pound of corned beef or chicken and accidently slap some bread around it.  The Turkey legs came with a pile of Mash that was a mile high.  Breads and cheesecakes were made

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Wolfie’s Rascal House on North Miami Beach

fresh daily in the back of the Deli as fast as they were being eaten out front, 24 hours a day.

 

Frank Sinatra and his buddies used to dine there after performing down in Miami Beach, as did Jackie Gleeson, Cassius Clay – the stars mingling with the locals and the tourists, attracted by one of the best roadside marquees in America. Standing 45 feet high and visible from 8 blocks away, The Rascal House motive had become a classic with a changing weekly slogan like “If you can’t find your mama, she’s in our kitchen doing the cooking”  and testifying to the informality of Wolfie’s; “The only thing that needs to come dressed is our chickens!”

After fifty five years the original 21st Street Wolfie’s finally closed its doors.  The shock of 9/11 reduced the flood of tourists to a trickle, and there just wasn’t enough from the

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Ruth Reuben is having breakfast in Wolfie’s on South Beach sitting in “Celebrity Corner” beneath a picture of Judy Garland that has hung there for over 20 years.  “If you’re going to take my picture, let me get my hat right.  No – No, I want to keep it on.  If a job’s worth doing, then let’s do it”  –  Barry Lewis

local, shrinking elderly clientele to keep the 24 hour operation going.  The new, young visitors to the beach didn’t appreciate the six egg omelettes filled with a half pound of cheese; slaw and pickles.  They couldn’t get out of bed in time for the early bird breakfast special, a dollar 99, with streaky bacon, eggs over-easy, potatoes, sour cream, bread rolls and endless coffee.  The early bird special dinner was the saviour of so many old,  living or just surviving on a dwindling budget.

The last stragglers of an era were dying off.  The Spencer Tracey, Jackie Gleeson, Judy Garland and Katherine Hepburn photos from the “Celebrity Corner” were auctioned off to regulars and the menus appeared on eBay.  So – without much fanfare the restaurant was gone.

Whereas the first Deli on South Beach was very much a local place, The Rascal House up in North Miami Beach was a national, almost international in its accumulated fame.  In the new century it was still going strong but ailing somewhat.  Wolfie had long since died.  The current owners had grown tired and sold out to new-comers to South Beach who had opened a very successful local Gourmet food shop, and a deli restaurant called Jerry’s.

At first, not much changed, but then people started to complain; the standards were slipping, the portions getting smaller and the bills larger.  It emerged that these new-comers from California – where old age had been outlawed – had plans for the Rascal House that didn’t involve preserving the restaurant and it’s half a century of history, but instead, closing it, opening another Gourmet Food store and building a money comb of apartments.

In 2005 Hurricane Wilma swept through damaging the restaurant and tearing down the road-side marquee.  It was replaced by a cowardly six foot slab of nothing very much, which failed to preserve this loved example of a bygone era of American highway culture.

 

There were protests and nostalgic press articles; promises from the new owners that the spirit of Wolfie’s would remain, but eventually the wrecker’s ball swept that all away.    They are not bad people who did this.  Certainly history is not safe in their hands, but as Runyon said, it’s probably best not to associate with them.

ooo OOO ooo

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Portraits are from the newly published photobook by the Hoxton Minipress, London.

Main picture by Barry Lewis.  Click Here to see more of the book.

 

Posted in Carl Fischer, Carl fisher, Dixie Highway, History, Hoxton Minipress, Miami Beach, Miami South Beach, rascal house, Uncategorized, wolfie cohen, Wolfie's | Leave a comment

Wandering is a part of the American Spirit

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Caroline Papas – Barry Lewis

As you go about your day on Miami South Beach, you could be forgiven for thinking that everyone comes to Miami, but nobody is actually from Miami.

Of course, that is how the City and the Beaches began.  South Florida, a little over a century ago, was a crocodile and snake infested mangrove swamp.  There were a few intrepid pioneers who began clearing the ground to grow coconuts and oranges, with mixed success,  but the process was accelerated when the railway arrived.

The land down the East coast of Florida was being opened up by Henry Flagler, the “Father of Miami” Flagler was an industrialist, who together with J D Rockefeller, began Standard Oil one of the biggest companies in the world at the time.  He was also a Railway Magnate and he was driving his East Coast Railway south from the Florida panhandle.  The line ended at Palm Beach, just short of the mangrove swamps; where Flagler built the largest Hotel in thefirst train world, 540 luxury rooms and 6 stories high. Palm Beach Resort was born and soon expanded into a town and then a city.

Then Henry Flagler was tempted by Julia Tuttle, another pioneering developer, to bring his tracks down to the fledgling Miami in exchange for free land.   Workers who were willing to work on the building of Miami and the Beaches were offered free rail travel and housing.  Soon resort hotels and family homes were spreading across the defeated swamp land.  Flagler just kept getting richer. He was generous with his wealth and he paid for schools and churches to be built.

His railway was soon followed by Carl Fischer, who having made a fortune in automobile headlamps and batteries, attracted Government backing to build the first

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South Dixie Highway before it had eight Lanes.

trans-continental brick Highway; US1.  He built the South Dixie Highway from Georgia down the coast to Miami.   Today US 1 runs from the Canadian border down the 2,489 miles to Key West, Fla.

With an unlimited oil supply and Henry Ford beginning to mass produce the automobile, dirt roads were inhibiting America’s journey into the 20th century.

Although the movies were not invented in America, the Road Movie was.  From the early pilgrims to the present today; from the wagon trains to the interstate Highways people have always drifted across the continent in search of a new life; chasing a dream or escaping a nightmare – in search of an opportunity.    Wandering is a part of the American spirit.

One of the multitudes of visitors that drifted down to Miami on Carl Fisher’s South Dixie Highway was Caroline Papas.  She is just in from Louisiana on the Greyhound.    At the age of 51, Caroline has decided to stop a while on South Beach.

I’ve been living in many places

Somewhere along the way she had stopped long enough to start a family.

I had a husband once, from Puerto Rico, but he’s gone now.  He gave me eight kids!

So why was she not with them?

I don’t know where they all are now.  Two of them, a boy and a girl, are with me here someplace – I can’t do anything with them”

 Caroline glances up and down the street as if they could be in earshot and confides, “They are working the beach. I tell them it’s dangerous.  They could get diseases – but they don’t listen to me

Remembering the camera, she does a slow whirl on the spot – arms outstretched and enquires in a southern drawl, “How do I look?    Do you think I could be a model?  People say I should”.

Why not?

It’s always worth asking, always worth a shot – you just never know in this land of opportunity.

ooo OOO ooo

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Portraits are from the newly published photobook by the Hoxton Minipress, London.

Main picture by Barry Lewis.  Click Here to see more of the book.

Posted in Barry Lewis photography, Carl Fischer, Carl fisher, Dixie Highway, Henry Flagler, History, Hoxton Minipress, Julia Tuttle, Miami Beach, Miami South Beach, Palm Beach, railways, snowbirds, transport, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

End of the voyage

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Marvin Joseph – 1991

Standing at South Point Park, the southernmost point of Miami South Beach, at the mouth of the Miami River, Polish Jewish immigrate Marvin Joseph is taking his daily walk.  He was one of the lucky ones who escaped Europe for the Americas in 1936.  “I come down here to be peaceful.  I like to watch the Cruise ships as they leave Miami.  The size of them, you wouldn’t believe

The Miami area is home to the largest population of Jewish escapee’s from or survivors of the Holocaust outside of New York, thought to be around 30,000 people.  Many arrived in the state when rooming-houses still displayed signs in the window “No Dogs and No Jews”.  One pre-war vacation Hotel boasted “Sea views without Jews

Marvin is a retired Garment worker from the Bronx in New York; where he spent all his working life. “So many of my community in Poland perished in the camps”.  Despite putting an ocean between himself and the European nightmare; one reminder followed him to his retirement spot here in Miami.

The German sailing team had done so badly in the 1936 Olympics, Hitler ordered some new sailing vessels to be built in 1939.  The flagship of this small flotilla was a sailing

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The Ostwind

skiff called the “Ostwind” and Hitler took a shine to the boat and made it his own.  He had little time to sail in her; but there are pictures of him and Eva Braun on board.  Ever since it was known as “Hitler’s Yacht”.

In 1945 it was requisitioned by the US Navy and brought over the Atlantic.  It was eventually sold to a private boat dealer and over the 20 years the “Ostwind” changed hands several times, usually bringing financial misfortune to the owners.  For several years it languished in a boat yard in Jacksonville, Fla, where it deteriorated.  A US Nazi group wanted to buy and restore the boat as an homage to Hitler.  To prevent this, the boatyard owner gave it to a Miami Jewish group who had other plans for it.

On the 6th June 1989 the Ostwind was towed 3 miles off the coast of Miami Beach and beneath an aircraft hauling a banner “NEVER AGAIN” the “Ostwind” was sunk.

The scuppering marked the 50th anniversary of the disgraceful incident  known as the “Voyage of the Damned.” In 1939, over 900 Jewish refugees set sail aboard the liner St. Louis sailing from Germany to Cuba, only to find that Cuban officials would not admit them.  As the St. Louis then passed off Miami Beach, its passengers pleaded to be allowedst louise admission to the United States. The Government refused, and the ship had to return to Europe, where more than half its passengers eventually fell victim to the Holocaust.

On a nearby vessel Miami Jews clapped and cried as  they watched the Ostwind slip beneath the surface.’  ‘Please don’t call this revenge,” said Rabbi Barry Konovitch of Miami Beach. ”We prefer to dwell on the positive. The boat will form a reef, a home to marine life”.  He told the NY Times ”I think for some this symbolizes the ultimate destruction of the Third Reich. We’re here still floating on top; now the other is sunk to the bottom.”

As the mighty cruise ships slip out of the Miami River to the Caribbean Marvin Joseph watches; alone with his memories of the evil that brought him to South Point.

ooo OOO ooo

 

From the newly published book “Miami Beach 1988 -1995 by Hoxton Minipress.

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More details HERE

Posted in History, Miami Beach, Minai South Beach, ostwind, snowbirds, St Louise, Uncategorized, Voyage of the damned | 1 Comment

Miami Beach: where neon goes to die

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It’s full up, no rooms. Nothing” the old Jewish woman sitting out on the porch said as I pushed at the stiff front door of the decaying Art deco hotel on Ocean Drive.  Stepping out of the Sun’s glaring heat into the air-conditioned artic air –  I could see the high white walls of the dirty marble lobby and a bare deserted reception desk; devoid of the usual hotel paraphernalia.  No computer, no leaflets or maps, indeed no receptionist.  Just a rotary phone with a padlock on the dial.

A sign on the wall warned “No Loitering”

I stepped back out into the searing afternoon heat.  The woman looked up said “No Vacancies, probably won’t be till one of us passes on”.  She sat easily in her plastic chair, shaded by the canopy of the Art Deco awning; a delicate faded cotton dress rested lightly on her fragile skin.

If you want a room, you’ll have to go down a-ways to where they are fixing up all the old places for the new folks coming in

I had just met Lilian, my first Snowbird.

It is 1988 and I was lucky enough to be on Miami South Beach with photographer Barry Lewis at exactly the moment when the next page in the resorts’ unlikely history was being turned.

Lilian was one of the thousands of Jewish retirees – or “Snowbirds” – from NYC, Chicago & Philadelphia who had cashed in their chips and moved South to the cheap run-down beach hotels and rooming houses, looking for better health from the constant Miami sunshine.     After a prolonged drug fuelled violent crime wave, and restrictions on property development the Beach had lost its lustre and was shunned and so accommodation was easily affordable.

Sitting out on the hotel porches, quietly enjoying the ocean view, swapping memories queuing for the “Early Bird Special” at the local Jewish Diner these Snowbirds were eeking out their dwindling funds and diminishing years in what has been called “God’s waiting room

Then in what seemed just a heartbeat, the curious mix of Retirees, Latinos, Blacks andMB-1-Opening-2 misfits who managed to co-exist on this narrow strip of land – which only three generations before was crocodile infested Mangrove swamps – had simply vanished.  Many Snowbirds died, others were pushed out by landlords and developers, who were waking up and smelling the coffee; and the aroma was good and was going to make them a lot of money.

Working with London photographer Barry Lewis we tried to document this moment; all in black & White as a counter point to the Art Déco pastels and the Neon nights.  In the 1970s, comedian Lenny Bruce said that Miami Beach was where neon goes to die.

This has resulted in a book of photographs shot durring those days when we walked all the streets of Miami Beach; meeting crazy and extraordinary and quite ordinary people, over 20 years ago.   It has been published by the very fabulous husband and wife owned Hoxton Mini Press in London, who have been releasing affordable photo art books for a few years; with dedication to the image and great affection to the subjects of the pictures.

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Click here to see more of the book & Hoxton Mini Press

Posted in History, Miami Beach, Minai South Beach, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

All Ignorance

The Chinese invented Gun Power, printing, the umbrella, the wheel barrow and fireworks; the precursor to the rocket.  They did all this in the 2nd Century BC.   It took millennia for all this to manifest itself as Space Travel.

In the first three days of this year both the Chinese and the USA simultaneously achieved amazing feats in space exploration.  China landed a rover on the far side of the Moon – never before visited.   Apart from conducting scientific experiments China will probably want to examine what resources may be found and exploited on the Moon.   If man is to employ the material fruits that space objects may offer to aid our journey into space, the Moon, our nearest neighbour, is where we should start looking.

Who would think that one of the most abundant substances on Earth – Sand – is running

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Chang-4 rolls onto the moon’s surface from its lander.

low? Not just any old sand but the kind needed to feed the insatiable appetite for concrete, glass and electronics grade silica.   In the last decade China mixed more concrete (and sand) than the United States did in the whole of the twentieth century.

The news of China’s Lunar Probe became somewhat eclipsed by a most remarkable simultaneous achievement by NASA.   The “New Horizon” probe, the fastest travelling object ever sent into space, at the time it was launched in 1966 towards Pluto has just performed a stunning encore.  The original mission was to examine this remote outer planet of the solar system after flying past Jupiter and then onto the Keiper belt (a ring of dust and rocks left over from the formation of the Solar System) .

For most of its journey, “Horizon’s” electronics were in “hibernation” – but on nearing Jupiter, it was woken up and a wealth of Jovian data was sent back as the probe flew past.  Employing Jupiter’s’ gravity “Horizon” propelled itself onto Pluto, its final target.  The electronics then went back to sleep.

As the slumbering probe was speeding through the void, scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope – that incredible sharp eye on the Universe – discovered a remote object orbiting out past Pluto which they named Ultima Thule – meaning “the furthest point along a journey

This newly discovered space object is little more than 22 miles across, about four thousand times smaller and ten thousand times dimmer than Pluto and is located over a billion miles from Cape Canaveral.  Yet NASA re-engineered the next phase of Horizon’s mission of exploring the Kuiper Belt and set a new course to take a close look at this new member of the solar family.

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Ultima Thule

The total running power of the “Horizon” probe is about 180 watts, or 3 domestic lightbulbs.  The transmitters that beam data back to Earth are 15watts each, about the same power as your mobile phone.   NASA woke up the electronics and flew that machine past the rock at 32,000 mph; cameras and sensors whirring; garnering as much data as possible.

Signals from “Horizon” began streaming in; after a few hours the computers assembled the faint signals into the first image of Ultima Thule – which looked like a deteriorating lonely snowman way out in the darkness.

What is so interesting about this object?

Thule” is probably an original rock from the gaseous material that coalesced into planets at the birth of the Solar system.  It lost out on the cosmic musical chairs and has been orbiting the Sun at this mind-boggling distance ever since, unblemished by the Solar winds and planetary forces, still in its virgin state since before the Earth was born.  This cosmic snowman could hold valuable secrets about how the planets were formed.

Recently, a Japanese orbital Moon probe using radar has found tunnel-like caves running for many miles across the lunar surface, in which future maned bases could be established; sheltered from the 3000-degree centigrade contrast between a Lunar day and night, a stable environment could be established greatly aiding a colony on the Moon.   The Chinese probe could be the first step to Man setting up a base on the Moon with obvious long-term exploitative & scientific potential.

The “New Horizon” mission scanning the remote and lonely “Ultima Thule” is just pure science; a quest for knowledge; and who knows where that might lead?  In 1891 when the electron was discovered it had no foreseeable practical applications, yet today we live in a world completely dominated by electronics.

When in the late 60’s we would bop to the beach with our portable transistor radios playing the sounds, we just took it for granted.  These little devices usually had “6 Transistors” emblazoned on the front.  A great boast at the time; six little electronic 6 transistorsswitches made of tiny slivers of germanium crystal and silica – not much bigger than a match head, replaced up to a kilogram of glass valves and copper coils in older radios.   Today, in our 15-watt mobile phones there are over a billion of these transistors.

Despite all the technological trappings of our modern age; our prolonged life expectancy, our reaching out into the depths of space in search of new horizons  there are people on Earth who will sit up all night at a billion transistor computer and flood the internet with their view that most of the knowledge we take for granted is wrong.  That there are huge conspiracies designed to keep us subjugated in a world orchestrated by the Rothchild family (or the Jews in plain language).  The moon landings were a hoax, so too 911, the Holocaust and of course – Global Warming.  We are being poisoned by those white chemtrails from airliners and fluoride in the water supply.  They have cured Cancer, but big pharma is supressing the knowledge inorder to sell us more medicines.  The Hallmark of their 21st century is “the video they don’t want you to see

Once again science and knowledge are, just like with Galileo, under threat.

The Millennium Bug was a great example.  When computer experts suggested there could be a problem at midnight of the millennium they were ridiculed, usually by people who had no computer training at all.  But they knew better.  It’s all a hoax! was the cry.

Back in the day, when some talented geeks got together and designed the first personal computers, they made a simple mistake. To save on disk space they denoted the year in the clock with 2 digits instead of 4.  All computer activities are governed by an onboard clock which all must agree to synchronise their workings.    So, forty odd years later when 1999 came around the clocks in the machines would eventually flip over from 99 to 00 possibly crashing the system.  No one really knew.

bugA huge amount of money and man hours were invested in fixing the problem – which they did.   But there are many who remain unconvinced.  “see!…I told you…nothing happened. It was hoax!”  This example is now used to stifle any warnings of dangers ahead.

In Italy, land of Galileo Galilei, Michael Angelo and Leonardo Da Vinci there is a populist right-wing government who have declared that Italian children no longer need to be vaccinated against those age-old childhood diseases that have been almost eradicated in modern times.  These vaccines are fake and offer no protection – is the narrative.  Cases of measles in Italy have grown dramatically across the country, rising in 2 years from 850 cases a year to over 5000; with some children dying.  Whooping cough and Polio may not be far behind.

Despite the author of the MMR vaccine scare being completely ostracised by the scientific and medical community people are still repeating the myth that it causes Autism in our children.  Consequently, Measles and Rubella are on the rise again.

An end of year opinion poll in the US has suggested that 40 per cent of Americans are convinced that the world is going to end in their lifetime.  These same people – who are largely President Trump’s core base – see global warming as a left-wing hoax.  This notion is energised by less scrupulous business interests whose activities are under threat.   Besides, what profit is there in protecting the environment because the Rapture is coming, and God will cleanse and destroy the planet.  In so doing he will lift these keyboard evangelists up into paradise whilst the rest of us writhe in molten Silica as we sink into hell.

Ah! but that’s America for you” might be the reaction, but the anti-science & anti-knowledge brigade are afoot in the land once again. A British government minister – Michael Gove – declared during the Brexit campaign that “we have no need of experts, they are usually wrong”    Despite economists, industrialists, NGAs and business leaders warning the country about the folly of the Brexit Dream, Leave Europe campaigners branded all informed criticism as “Project Fear” shutting down any meaningful debate on the matter.  Fake News.

Originating in America and now spreading across the Western world, Darwin’s theories of evolution are being shunned in favour of Intelligent Design based on a notion the world is only 4000 years old; placing the dinosaurs on the earth just as the Chinese were developing their early writing on pieces of bone.  In the UK now there those who are PenceCreationismdemanding that Intelligent Design be taught as part of the science curriculum along side Darwin’s theories.  Abstinence should replace sex education leaving the young open to crippling STIs.   The pseudo-science battle of Eugenics has long since been won – it ended with the Nazis.

In almost one lifetime we have travelled from the Wright Brothers to Standing on the moon.  We have split the Atom and spliced the gene. We have eradicated fatal diseases giving mankind a longer lease of life.  But for some, living on their 4000-year-old flat earth, this is all deniable.

As New Horizon was nearing its final destination a billion miles from home, a 27-year-old American Christian Missionary John Allen Chau died under a hail of poison arrows that rained down on him as he waded ashore on the island of North Sentinel in the Anderman atoll 700 miles from the Indian coast.

This rather unfriendly welcome volley was unleashed by one of the only tribes left on Earth still living a hunter gatherer existence, devoid of contact with the rest of us.  Other tribes living on neighbouring Islands were all but wiped out by contact with our civilisations.  They had no defence against our simple ailments which we have long since conquered.

There may only be 100 or more Sentinels living on that North Island; and so, India and the UN declared it illegal (and immoral) to go near these people.  Mr Chau knew this, becausesentinel island he went to great lengths to circumvent the rules; hiring local fishermen to drop him on the shore.  He paid with his life

The isolated Sentinels; a living, breathing, loving, hunting and fighting example of the origins of humans, link our lives to the dawn of our species much like Ultima Thule reaches back across the millennia to the birth of our solar system.

Evangelist, John Allen Chau wanted to bring these people the word of God – even if it killed them. I’m pretty sure that having lived their present existence since long before the Chinese invented fireworks, they will have heard it by now.

oooOOOooo

ignorance

Posted in #China space programme, #FBPE, #inteligent design, #john allen chau, #MMR, #New Horizon, #north sentinel, #pluto, #STOPBREXIT, conspiracy, illuminate, Space Travel, techology, ultima thule, Uncategorized, War & Peace | Leave a comment

“Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”

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On November 11th I was travelling on the Great Western Railway to London.

Everywhere on Plymouth station there were notices advising that it being “Armistice Day”, there will be a national 2-minute silence to be observed for the fallen in past Wars.  Later, on the train, the guard announces there will be a 2 minute silence at 11.  It was 3 minutes to, and everyone went silent. Then phones began sounding, unanswered throughout the carriage.

Mine also. It didn’t matter.

I expect that had mobile phones been around 100 years ago there would have been so many  phones across Europe that would have gone unanswered.

The 2 minutes silence is a remembrance of that moment at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th Month when the Allies and Germany signed an armistice and the first world war came to an end.

Every November, on the nearest Sunday to the 11th (when the 2-minute silence is always observed) “Remembrance Day” ceremonial services are held at War Memorials across the country.   Wreaths are laid, prayers said and a Lone bugler plays the last post, war memorial (1)preceded by the war poem with these words: ”They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, They fell with their faces to the foe. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them”

WW1 was the first “civilian” war, in that it was not just fought by the standing army.  In 1916, the country was running out of soldiers and so “conscription” was established forcing all males between 18 and 40 to present themselves for the war Effort.  There were exemptions, members of the clergy, those with disabilities and widowers with children.   Males within those ages, thought not to be making the ultimate sacrifice for King and Country, were given white feathers – a symbol of cowardice – by women.

The movement was to shame men into enlisting, it was even supported by suffragettecoward-letter-boningtons_550 Emeline Pankhurst, but it soon got out of hand.  Some soldiers returning from the front would divest themselves of their uniform because they were rotten with lice.   One soldier on leave remarked to the woman who handed him a white feather that he would take it back to the boys in the trenches of Passchendaele.

When driving around this land, stop off in any village or town, and you’ll find a war memorial.  These started appearing after the First Great War as a reaction to the government’s failure to repatriate the dead.  With the total of British deaths; around 744,000, it was an impossible task.

Through public subscription and charitable fund raising these small or larger War memorials sprung up in every hamlet, and if funds allowed, the names and ranks of all the local dead were inscribed.  Without graves, they became the place where people could come together and grieve.    At the same this was happening, there was a growing movement in support of a national War memorial.   A kind of national headstone.   Edwin Lutyens, the last architect of Empire designed the Cenotaph (Empty grave), that sits in the middle of Whitehall in London.   On Rememberance Day the head of state, the government, chiefs of all the armed services and ex-service people and their families gather there and lay tributes to the dead of war, all wars.

The symbol that binds all this terrible history together is the Red Poppy.  It is so because when the warm Spring Sun bathed the churned-up mud of Northern France and Belgium the first thing to grow from the rude earth was the Red Poppy.

So, every November people buy red paper poppies and wear them in their lapels.

The proceeds go to the British Legion Charity to provide welfare for ex-servicemen and women.  They are woven into wreathes, they are on flags and some people have them tattooed on themselves.  They attach them to little wooden crosses to be laid at the base of the War memorials

In 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of the slaughterous First World War, over 880,000 red sculptured ceramic poppies were placed at the historical Tower of London, weeping towerfrom a window down into the moat of the castle.  The installation was called “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”   a quote from a poem found on the body of an unknown British soldier.

In recent years it has become compulsory for anyone in public life to be seen the wearing the flower; no one ever appears on British television in November without one.   Unfortunately, those who through design or carelessness, do not adorn the Red Poppy are frowned upon.   lamp posts

But in all the years of travel on this railway I have never seen such poppycock as I had on this day.

For the first time ever, in towns and cities across the country, plastic poppies the size of landmines were strapped to every lamppost.   Where did that come from?

Funny how things go. We liberate Europe. We join Europe.   Now we leave Europe.   We do so after the longest period of peace on this continent for over 400 years.

Our politicians are already branding some European leaders as the enemy.  Polish people, who’s grandparents fought valiantly along side this country and what it stood for, are now seen as invaders.

Nationalism is afoot in the land.  There are those who have bestowed upon the poppy the burden of displaying our patriotism. We don’t need libraries or new school books but we do need a poppy on every lamppost and by this time next year no doubt, on every person as well.

If you squint with one eye and if you tilt your head thus and look at these poppies on the lampposts, they almost look like white feathers.

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The Future without a License.

It has been a long journey from the Stone Age till now;  through the  Iron age to Bronze and Steel and Steam and Electricity and we have most certainly arrived at the Information Age.

It’s who we are now.  It’s what we do.  Everywhere people carry their news, information and musical entertainment in pocket devices through which we also make telephone calls.  Electronics has made Gods of us all!   We are nowhere in time and everywhere in space.  One can be talking with someone and their phone will ring (static or mobile) and suddenly physical presence is demoted in favour a of spiritual presence.  We accept it without complaint.   It’s how things are now.

Before these devices that can carry a thousand music albums in a match box, and which we now  take completely for granted, we had tape recorders.  Anyone remember those?

The first recorder was a wire recorder, which first saw the light of day in 1898.  A reel of steel wire was run past an electro-magnetic head and the variances in the magnetised wire could be re-run past the same head to retrieve the information (sounds) stored on a reel of what looked like fishing wire. Telegraphone_wire_recorder_1922 After 40 years the wire recorder was replaced by the far more efficient Tape recorder.  These machines enabled the music industry to flourish and revolutionised broadcasting.    Like all these inventions, they found their way into the domestic market.  But they were cumbersome and large and didn’t really revolutionise people’s lives.   Then in the `1960s, with the recent birth of the transistor  – small and portability was what the population wanted.  Transistor radios were everywhere.  From the bathroom to the beach, people took their music stations with them.  Tape recorders soon followed.

The idea was to bring the big reels of recording tape into a small plastic box.   For about 5 years there was a kind of “Tape War”   After many designs it came down to the 8 track indextape1cartridge verses the Compact Cassette or Cassette Tape.  There were some other designs but they did not progress beyond proto-types.    Various large corporations wanted to get a standard box tape agreed on,  so that manufacture of the tape recorders/ players could begin, whilst at the same time wanting to be the company that gets to license their generic design, 8 track or Compact Cassette.  The original designer of the Compact Cassette was Dutch Company Phillips.  One day they made an astonishing decision – they gave to the world freedom to use their design, without paying any fees or royalties.  Suddenly, the log-jam cleared and within what seemed months; cassette

beach

When the transistor was sexy.

recorders were everywhere.   For the first time people could make their own record compilations, and take it with them.

Then Sony introduced the “Walkman” and the rest is History.

The same thing happened with the video recorder.  People wanted to record TV.  They wanted to film their own lives and watch it all again later.  Another system war was raging, with it all coming down to a choice between Betamax and the slightly inferior VHS.    It wasn’t until JVC (Japanese Victor Company) gave free license to manufacturers that VHS became, overnight, the established system of domestic video recording.

Had both Philips and JVC doggedly clung to their ownership of a technological advance, then who knows where we’d be now.

In 1991 another technological advance happened that has transformed how information is accessed.

Twenty-five years ago today, Tim Berners-Lee posted the first web page on line.  Rudimentary and uninteresting, insignificant to the untrained eye, this web page has changed human history.

 

tim

Tim Berners-Lee before he knew he needed Google.Maps.

An early version of the internet was already established.  I remember sitting at a computer terminal and dialing up and connecting to a University in the USA and was able to access some of their research documents.   I can’t remember why I did this, but I do recall it being a slow painful experience.  I would get lost in all the lists of directories and sub directories, looking for a document I wanted.

Tim Berners-Lee devised a software architecture that took all these directories and internet addresses and absorbed them into what became known as a Web Page.  The web page did all that work for you and presented the destinations on the internet in a completely transparent and standard way.  Every document had an electronic address.   It involved a very sophisticated protocol called “Hypertext” which I can’t possibly go into at this time of night.  Enough to say, it was very clever and in techincal terms put the horse and the cart together.

Tim Berners-Lee was working at CERN at the time as he was struggling to establish a usable front end environment  to interrogate the growing number of documents available on line.    He was allowed to develop his project by CERN bosses when others he had approached were not interested.      (Always remember Decca Records turned down the Beatles)

CERN (Centre Européan de Recherche Nucléaire) the Swiss-based European research organization, which today is home to the Large Hadron Collider, recognized the potential

www

The first Web Page – realy boring but held the key to the future.

 

of Berners-Lee’s ideas and released the entire package free to anyone who wanted to develop it further.  The CERN organization was a not for profit body charged with the task of promoting scientific research and development.  Had he worked for IBM or British Aerospace, his ideas would have been proprietorial and therefore the property of his employer and subject to potential monetisation.

But Tim Berners-Lee worked for CERN and without charge to the users –  for ever, the World Wide Web was born.

Thank you Tim.  Thank you CERN.

 

 

 

 

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A Black life that Mattered

ali

I don’t care for boxing, never have.  But like most of the world, I do have a high regard for probably the greatest fighter of them all, the late Mohammad Ali.  He won 52 of 64 fights in his career.  He won The World Heavy Weight Champion title 3 times.  He once said of boxing that it was a sport where “a lot of White men watching two black men beat each other up”

Many mourn him today as great fighter, but most will do so because of his stand on Human Rights and Racial Equality.  When he won his first Championship title in 1964 racial segregation in the south was still at full tilt.  He could walk the world’s stage but not into a bar in the south.

Outside the ring his greatest fight was his refusal to be drafted into the US army that wanted to send him to Vietnam to fight what he called a “white man’s War”

He answered his call-up and attended the induction Centre, and when his name was arrestcalled he stood still and refused to step up to the table.   He was warned that he would be arrested if he continued to stand there.  His name was called again, he stood stock still.  Ali didn’t run to Canada, he just stood his ground. He was warned that he was committing a felony.  For a third time they called him to the table and he didn’t move.

He was arrested, charged and convicted.   He was sentenced to the maximum penalty of five years in jail and $10,000.00 fine.  He was stripped of his world champion title and banned for 3 years by the American Boxing board from fighting.

Muhammad-Ali-Newspaper

 

Ali appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court and won, unanimously, and was released from prison.

This what he had to say about that decision that set the tone for the rest of his life’s work.

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?

No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.

But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…

If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.”

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The Best Oscar Picture ever Taken

Social media, the press and the whole damn internet is awash with pictures on the subject of the Oscars.  They are mostly, always the same picture, only reinhabited by different players from last year, and the years before that.  There are the official ones: Recipients holding the Oscar statues like golf trophies, then there are the candid chating amongst themselves images that are like shooting fish in a barrel type photography.  Point a camera at a Hollywood party, you can’t miss.  But  every now and then there is a considered, imaginative, intimate portrait of an Oscar Winner.  There are not many taken like this in the few days of the Oscars,  probably it’s a matter of access.  Security is so tight that almost no one can speak to anyone without a special pass.

When I think about the Oscars, my mind oftens turns to a picture taken in 1971 of Faye Dunaway taking breakfast at the Bevelly Hills Hotel in the early the morning after she received the Oscar for her role in Network.  Her co-star Peter Finch was awarded a pothumous Oscar for the same film.

London Photographer Terry O’niell asked Faye if he could do her picture; he wanted to capture that one moment, never to come again, when someone has suddenly been elevated to the heights of her proffession.    He shot many frames, but he couldn’t quite find it through the lens, but then he suddenly  got it.   That look of exhausted happiness, the smell of the early dawn, the dizzy head, oh – what a night it must have been!   This is something so personal that we rarely get to see.

faye

About five years after this picture was taken O’Niell and Dunnaway married, but it only lasted three years and with one child, they divorced.  In recent interview with the Guardian Terry said this about the picture.  “She isn’t sure quite who she is any more. I waited for her to look away from the camera, and I got the shot. I look at this picture often, and I’m still so proud of it. It’s still the best Oscar picture ever taken. And modern photographers should take that as a challenge.”

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