Tag Archives: Russia

The World in the First Half of the 20th Century


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Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj
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In the first half of the 20th century, four flagrant men with their competing egos drove almost the entire human race to the brink of extinction with their charismatic personalities and grandiose visions.

The four, deemed notorious, are:

Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin

Benito Mussolini

Benito Mussolini

Adolf Hitler

 Adolf Hitler

Hideki Tojo

Hideki Tojo

  • Joseph Stalin – General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, from April 3, 1922, to October 16, 1952.
  • Benito Mussolini, leader of the National Fascist Party, ruling the country as Prime Minister from 1922 until his ousting in 1943.
  • Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945.
  • Hideki Tojo, who was a general of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA), and the 40th Prime Minister of Japan from October 17, 1941, to July 22, 1944.

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The Communists of Russia

 

Communist symbol

The Russian Revolution of 1905 is considered the major factor that led to the February Revolutions of 1917. This series of revolutions, collectively known as the Russian Revolution, led to the creation of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (SFSR) after demolishing the Tsarist autocracy.

The first Russian revolution in February 1917 (March in the Gregorian calendar since the old Julian calendar was in use in Russia at that time) focused around Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg). The February Revolution took place in the context of heavy military setbacks during the First World War (1914–18), which left much of the Russian army in a state of mutiny. The army leadership felt they did not have the means to suppress the revolution and Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia, abdicated. During the chaos, members of the Imperial Parliament or Duma assumed control of the country, forming the Russian Provisional Government. The Soviets (workers’ councils), which were led by more radical socialist factions, initially permitted the Provisional Government to rule but insisted on a prerogative to influence the government and control various militias.

During the second Russian revolution in October (November in the Gregorian calendar) 1917, the Provisional Government in Petrograd was overthrown by the Bolshevik (communist) party, led by the revolutionary, politician and political theorist Vladimir Lenin, and the workers’ Soviets. The Bolsheviks appointed themselves as leaders of various government ministries and seized control of the countryside.

Joseph Stalin was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who took part in the Russian Revolution of 1917. He was named the general secretary of the party’s Central Committee in 1922. Following the 1924 death of Vladimir Lenin, he managed to consolidate power while eliminating any opposition. By the late 1920s, he was the undisputed leader of the Soviet Union.

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The Fascists of Italy

 

Fascism was a unique radical force that emerged in Italy in 1919. It had no clear predecessor, but developed out of World War I. Fascism in Italy was the offshoot of two other movements: nationalism and syndicalism.

Angered by Italy’s treatment after World War I, the nationalists, combined the idea of a class struggle with that of national struggle; and the syndicalists postulated that economic life in Italy should be governed by groups representing the workers in various industries and crafts. Italy was a proletarian nation, they said, and to win a greater share of the world’s wealth, all of Italy’s classes must unite.

Benito Mussolini, Mussolini was a syndicalist who turned nationalist during World War I.

Originally Mussolini was a revolutionary Socialist, and editor of “Avanti” (Forward) the socialist newspaper. He was later expelled from the Socialist Party. Mussolini rose to power in the wake of World War I, as a leading proponent of Fascism. At the start of World War I, like all socialists, he condemned the war as workers were forced to fight other workers while the factory bosses got richer at their expense. He forged the paramilitary Fascist movement in 1919 and became prime minister in 1922.

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The Nazis of Germany

 

Nazi symbol

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In 1914, Adolf Hitler joined the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment. He fought on the Western Front and was awarded the Iron Cross for his bravery in battle. In 1918, he was temporarily blinded by a gas attack and was invalided out of the war.

After the war, in 1919, Hitler joined the German Worker’s Party led by Anton Drexler and was in charge of the political ideas and propaganda of the party. In 1920, the party announced its 25-point programme and was renamed the National Socialist German Worker’s Party – NAZIs.

In 1921, Hitler became the leader of the party and soon began attracting attention, with his powerful speeches. Hitler stirred up Nationalist passion, giving the people the fodder to blame for Germany’s problems. Hitler’s opponents tried to disrupt the meetings so for protection Hitler set up the SA – Stormtroopers. Though the actual membership of the NAZI party remained quite low in this period, Hitler, through his meetings and speeches gained a very high profile.

By 1932, the Nazi party was the largest party in the Reichstag but did not have a majority. On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. A month later, on February 27, 1933, the Reichstag building was burned down. The Communists were blamed for the fire and the Communist party was banned in Germany, giving the Nazis a clear majority in the government.

On August 2, 1934, Paul von Hindenburg, the second president of Germany from 1925 to 1934, died. Hitler then combined the position of Chancellor and president and made himself Fuhrer of Germany and began building his Third Reich. Ignoring the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, he began building up the army and stockpiling weapons. The Nuremberg Laws passed in 1935 defined Hitler’s ideal pure Aryan German citizen and barred Jews from holding any form of Public office.

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Statism in Shōwa Japan

 

Japanese symbol

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Statism in Shōwa Japan also referred to as Shōwa nationalism or Japanese fascism, was a union of Japanese right-wing political ideologies, developed over a period of time from the Meiji Restoration. It was a mixture of ideas such as Japanese nationalism and militarism and “state capitalism” that was proposed by a number of contemporary political philosophers and thinkers in Japan. This statist movement dominated Japanese politics during the first part of the Shōwa period, during the reign of Hirohito.

Hideki Tōjō (December 30, 1884 – December 23, 1948) was a general of the Imperial Japanese Army and the 40th Prime Minister of Japan during most of World War II. Politically, Tōjō was a fascist, nationalist, and militarist. He had a sharp, legalistic mind capable of making quick decisions, and was nicknamed “Razor”.

Even before he became the Prime Minister of Japan, Hideki Tōjō had planned the attack on Pearl Harbor. When he assumed office on October 17, 1941, he put his plan into effect and attacked Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941, and thereby initiated the war between Japan and the United States.

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The Insidious Blue Whale Challenge (Game)


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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The insidious online Blue Whale Challenge (Game) has changed the mindset of vulnerable teenagers and young adults in their formative years who aspire to be part of something bigger than what they could achieve. This fatal game with its origin in Russia exploits this weakness.

The Blue Whale Game began in Russia in 2013 with “F57”, one of the names of the so-called “death group” of the VKontakte, the largest European online social media and social networking site that offers services in several languages, and is very popular especially among those who speak Russian.

The game is also known by other names such as “Blue Whale Suicide,” “F57“, “A Silent House,” “A Sea Of Whales,” and “Wake Me Up At 4:20 am” and allegedly caused its first suicide on Christmas Day 2015 when 12-year-old Angelina Davydova, fell to her death from the 14th floor of a block in central Russia. She was a member of the user group called ‘Wake Me Up at 4.20 am‘ which had more than a quarter of a million subscribers before it was blocked.

In 2016, Blue Whale game came into broader use among Russian teenagers after a journalist brought attention to it through an article that linked many unrelated suicide victims to the Blue Whale game, creating a wave of moral panic in Russia.

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The Devil: Philipp Budeikin aka Philipp Lis (Fox)

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Philipp Budeikin aka Philipp Lis (Fox), an innocent looking 21-year-old young Russian Psychology student who was expelled from his university claimed that he invented this Internet suicide game in 2013 in which the player is given certain tasks to complete during a period of 50 days. Since then he polished his tactics of recruiting. Now, the final task leads the player to commit suicide.

Philipp and his aides at first attracted as many children as possible into the VK (social media) groups by using mega-scary videos. Then they chose those who would be the most affected by psychological manipulation. They knew that out of 20,000 people, their audience would be only 20 people or 0.1%.

The administrators of the death group referred to the children they pushed to commit suicide as ‘biological waste‘.

In July 2017, Philipp Budeikin was arrested and he pleaded guilty to “inciting at least 16 teenage girls to commit suicide”. This led to the Russian suicide prevention legislation and also rekindled worldwide concern over the Blue Whale suicide phenomenon.

After getting arrested the 21-year-old did not exhibit a single sign of remorse on his face. After confessing to the crimes in a statement to the police he said that he thinks his young female victims were ‘happy to die‘ and that he was ‘cleansing the society‘ by pushing to suicide those he considered as ‘biological waste‘.

While being held at Kresty jail in St Petersburg the inventor of this suicide-inducing ‘game’, received dozens of love letters from teenage girls.

He is not thought to be the only organiser and according to BBC understands more people are being looked for in connection with these so-called “death groups”.

On February 21, 2017, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a United States government-funded broadcasting organization that provides news, information, and analysis to countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, reported that people are finding curators by using the Russian-language hashtags of “blue whale,” “sea of whales,” “I’m in the game,” “Wake me at 4:20 am,” “F58,” along with many others and that there were 4,000 searches for the hashtags on January 20, 2017, alone.

The often seen flying whale is said to be a chosen symbol due to whales committing suicide by jumping out of the water and beaching themselves on land. It is said that the whales are going to freedom.

An RFE/RL correspondent after creating a fake profile for a 15-year-old girl on the popular Russian social media site VKontakte spoke to a so-called curator of the Blue Whale game.

RFE/RL correspondent: “I want to play the game.

Curator: “Are you sure? There is no way back.”

RFE/RL correspondent: “Yes. What does that mean — no way back?

Curator: “You can’t leave the game once you begin.

RFE/RL correspondent: “I’m ready.

Then the curator explained the rules.

You carry out each task diligently, and no one must know about it. When you finish a task, you send me a photo. And at the end of the game, you die. Are you ready?

RFE/RL correspondent: “And if I want to get out?

Curator: “I have all your information. They will come after you.”

Over the course of a week, RFE/RL claimed they managed to speak to over a dozen people who claimed to be either players or curators.

Here is the list of 50 challenges of the Blue Whale Game that force players to commit suicide.

1. Carve with a razor “F57” or “F58” on your hand, send a photo to the curator.

Note: An RFE/RL correspondent responded by sending a photoshopped picture to prove the completion of the task, and the communication with the curator ended.

2. Wake up at 4:20 a.m. and watch psychedelic and scary videos that curator sends you.

3. Cut your arm with a razor along your veins, but not too deep, only 3 cuts, send a photo to the curator.

Note: Click on the link below to see a video about the task#3. The video contains graphic and disturbing scenes that may not be acceptable for all audiences. In this video, as strange music plays in the background an arm that appears with a presumably self-induced deep cut across the wrist. The hand moves forcing blood to leak from the wound.

http://thedailyhaze.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/f58.mp4?_=2

4. Draw a whale on a piece of paper, send a photo to the curator.

5. If you are ready to become a whale, carve YES on your leg. If not, cut yourself many times (punish yourself).

6. A task with a cipher.

7. Carve F40 on your hand, send a photo to the curator.

8. Type #i_am_whale in your VKontakte (a Russian social network) status.

9. You have to overcome your fear.

10. Wake up at 4 a.m. and go to a roof (the higher the better)

11. Carve a whale on your hand with a razor, send a photo to the curator.

12. Watch psychedelic and horror videos all day.

13. Listen to music that curator sends you.

14. Cut your lip.

15. Poke your hand with a needle many times.

16. Do something painful to yourself, make yourself sick.

17. Go to the highest roof you can find, stand on the edge for some time.

18. Go to a bridge, stand on the edge.

19. Climb up a crane or at least try to do it.

20. The curator checks if you are trustworthy.

21. Have a talk with a whale (with another blue game player) in Skype.

22. Go to a roof and sit on the edge with your legs dangling.

23. Another task with a cipher.

24. Secret task.

25. Have a meeting with a whale.

26. The curator tells you the date of your death and you have to accept it.

27. Wake up at 4:20 a.m. and visit any railroad near you.

28. Don’t talk to anyone all day.

29. Make a vow that you are a whale

From 30th to 49th day wake up at 4:20 a.m., watch horror videos, listen to music that the curator sends you, make 1 cut on your body, talk to a whale.

50. Kill yourself by jump off a high building, or by hanging from a noose, or go under a train or swallowing negative side tablets. Take your whale.

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Are Planetary Explorations Necessary?


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Myself  .

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Planetary explorations

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I don’t understand why nations spend so much on space explorations. Why don’t they explore our own planet, their own country, their own cities, their own slums, their own poor and the destitute.

Why don’t the so-called great minds like Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and their ilk tell the rulers of our nations on the futility of spending their wealth on space explorations? What can we gain from a dead planet like Mars or from a satellite like our moon?

Why don’t the nations spend all those billions to eradicate poverty and upgrade the living conditions of their fellow countrymen?

Shouldn’t charity begin at home and not on other planets!

 

 

To Bathe, or Not to Bathe: Part 6 – Did the Kings and Queens of the Renaissance Period Bathe?


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Myself  .By T.V. Antony Raj

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Information and opinions about the attitudes toward  bathing in the 16th century are quite mixed among historians. The general consensus seems to be that bathing was quite popular as a social ritual. In fact, the Catholic Church allowed bathing, but warned against excessive indulgence in the habit.

In the first volume of his “Geschichte des deutschen Volkes seit dem Ausgang des Mittelalters” (“History of the German people since the end of the Middle Ages“) the 19th century German Catholic priest and historian Johannes Janssen wrote details on the popular use of baths in Germany during the Middle Ages. According to him, German men bathed several times each day. Some German spent the whole day in or about their favorite springs. The mid 16th-century German merchant Lucas Rem wrote in his diary that in 1511, he bathed 127 times from May 20th to June 9th.

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth, c.1575-1578. Painting attributed to Nicholas Hilliard. Anglesey Abbey.
Queen Elizabeth, c.1575-1578. Painting attributed to Nicholas Hilliard. Anglesey Abbey.

Queen Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland from November 17, 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, the childless Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.

Queen Elizabeth I boasted that she bathed once a month, “whether I need it or not”?

James I, her successor, seems to have washed only his fingers.

King Louis XIV of France

King Louis XIV of France by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701).
King Louis XIV of France by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701).

King Louis XIV (September 5, 1638 – September 1, 1715) of France known as Louis the Great (Louis le Grand) or the Sun King (le Roi-Soleil), was a monarch of the House of Bourbon. He became King of France and Navarre at the age of four in 1643 after the death of his father, Louis XIII. His reign spanning 72 years and 110 days is the longest of any monarch of a major country in European history.

The palace of Versailles (French: Château de Versailles) was once the most lavish largest home in the world. It was the home of the French royal family along with hundreds of their courtiers and servants. It was created by Louis XIV (1638 – 1715) of France. The court of Versailles was the center of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris. For more than 30 years, the King’s obsession was to enlarge and enhance his residence. Now, three million people visit it every year, hoping to get a glimpse of the royal lifestyle of the 17th century.

Today, when looking at the gleaming golden palace, it is difficult to believe that life at Versailles in the 17th century was quite dirty. There were no bathrooms as we would know them. “Then how did…?”

Well, there were decorative commodes for the royalty and the courtiers in each room. The commoners simply relieved themselves in the hallways or stairwells. The royal dogs were not house-trained and the servants never bothered to remove the dog poo lying on the floors. The chimneys did not exhaust well and everything inside the palace was covered with soot.

I want to share the following excerpt from the interesting article titled “A History of Humanity’s Disgusting Hygiene” by Helen from Fife, Scotland writing under the pseudonym Seeker7.

‘Garde Loo’ and Other Toilet Habits

The romantic scene of a towering castle surrounded by the pristine sparkling waters of a moat is not strictly true. Especially when we talk about toilets from hundreds of years ago.

In Tudor houses they were called ‘privies’. Many were basically a bowl with a slab of wood and a hole carved in the top. This would be set into a recess or cupboard-like area called a garderobe.

The castles were not much better. The slab of wood often just covered a hole in the floor that took waste products straight into the moat – now you know why there are no picturesque paintings of some cute rustic fishing in a castle moat.

Peasants did not have the luxury of any form of toilet no matter how crude. They were forced to relieve themselves where they could and then bury any waste matter. Washing your hands after doing your business was not practiced by anyone.

Of course, rich or poor, neither had toilet paper. Poor people would use leaves or moss to wipe their bottoms. If you had a bit more money then you would use lambs wool.

However, if you were the King, then you employed someone to wipe your bottom for you. The position of royal bum wiper was officially called ‘The Groom of the Stool’ the more formal title would be read as ‘Groom of the King’s Close Stool to King (name )’. As disgusting as this job may seem to be, it was a much sought after position. Noblemen would fight hard and dirty – excuse the pun – to get their sons employed in this role, as it often resulted in, eventually, advancing to powerful roles such as Private Secretary to the King. The reason for the promotion was that the groom, who knew the King’s most intimate secrets, often became his most trusted advisor and friend.

A medieval toilet or garderobe (Source: "A History of Humanity's Disgusting Hygiene").
A medieval toilet or garderobe (Source: “A History of Humanity’s Disgusting Hygiene“).

Garderobe shafts for getting rid of waste products (Source: "A History of Humanity's Disgusting Hygiene")
Garderobe shafts for getting rid of waste products (Source: “A History of Humanity’s Disgusting Hygiene“)

A royal toilet - still on view at Hampton Court, London. (Source: "A History of Humanity's Disgusting Hygiene")
A royal toilet – still on view at Hampton Court, London. (Source: “A History of Humanity’s Disgusting Hygiene“)

 Old Edinburgh

If you ever find yourself transported back in time to old Edinburgh be prepared for the shout of ‘garde loo ‘. If you were not quick enough – or if you were disliked – you could find yourself being showered with the contents of chamber pots hurled from the tenement windows. Chamber pots were of course used to collect urine overnight.

The term ‘garde loo ‘ comes from the French garde L’eau which means ‘watch out for the water’. This is where the nickname – ‘loo’ – for the toilet may have come from. The resulting stench of chamber pot contents was ironically known as ‘the flowers of Edinburgh’ .

So what happened to all this waste littering the streets? There was, in theory, supposed to be some form of street cleaning, but this was seldom carried out effectively. The streets all year round were covered in faeces – human and animal – urine, rotting food, corpses of animals and so on. It wasn’t until the end of the 18th century that an effective street cleaning regime came into force.

Old Edinburgh's narrow streets showing the tenement buildings from which chamber pots were emptied out of the windows. (Source: "A History of Humanity's Disgusting Hygiene")
Old Edinburgh’s narrow streets showing the tenement buildings from which chamber pots were emptied out of the windows. (Source: “A History of Humanity’s Disgusting Hygiene“)
During the reign of Louis XIV people seldom bathed. They believed that a grimy layer of dirt would keep one healthy. The commoners fancied strong body odour, which they adduced gave them potent sexuality. They made up their own proverb:

The more the ram stinks, the more the ewe loves him.

To combat the smells, the royalty and the courtiers changed their linen wear often, but they still stank. So, they doused themselves with heady perfumes, oils, and scented powders to mask not only their own body odour, but also to avoid inhaling the stench emanating from other persons.

Opinions differ about the bathing habits of King Louis XIV.

It is often said that the physicians of King Louis XIV advised him to bathe as infrequently as possible to maintain good health and he had only three baths in his entire life.

A few primary sources say that King Louis XIV bathed only twice in his life, when his doctors prescribed a bath. Louis they say was usually powdered from head to toe with perfumed powder several times a day since he found the act of bathing disturbing.  But the King’s reluctance to bathe did not mean that he was covered in dirt.

As there was no running water inside the buildings servants brought hot water in pails or jugs for the King to bathe or wash.

According to one source Louis XIV had several bathrooms in his suite at Versailles, one of which contained two bathtubs. One tub contained all sorts of ingredients from bran to milk. A special valet called a “baigneur” applied soap brought from Marseilles, well-known for their abrasiveness, on the body of the king. So the second tub for rinsing and was necessary.

The King suffered from gangrene but refused an amputation. One day, one of his toes was found in his sock.

A Russian ambassador to the court of King Louis XIV of France said: “His Majesty [Louis XIV] stunk like a wild animal.”

The French historian Mathieu da Vinha explains in his book, “Le Versailles de Louis XIV,” that Louis XIV had sumptuous bathrooms built at Versailles, but not to clean the body. Valets rather rubbed his hands and face with alcohol, and he took therapeutic baths only irregularly.

“Louis’s washing consisted of rubbing his face with cotton soaked in diluted, scented alcohol and dipping his fingertips in a bowl – washing in water was considered dangerous to one’s health.”

Some have contradicted the above and have said that in reality Louis XIV was an incredibly clean King and bathed regularly in a large Turkish bath in his palace. He disinfected his skin with spirits or alcohol because perfumes  gave him headaches. He changed his clothing, especially his underwear, three times a day and was so clean that he was almost fussy about it.

After 72 years on the throne, Louis died of gangrene at Versailles on September 1, 1715, four days before his 77th birthday.

Peter the Great

Peter the Great by Paul Delaroche.
Peter the Great by Paul Delaroche.

Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich (June 9, 1672 – February 8, 1725) was the Tsar of Russia from May 7, 1682 until his death on February 8, 1725. He gave himself the title “Peter the Great” though he was officially known as Peter I.

Peter the Great, was a widely traveled, educated, and cultured person in his own way.

Some writers say that, however educated Peter was he never understood nor followed a proper practice of hygiene. He did not find it wrong or embarrassing with urinating on the shiny palace walls.

According to these writers, Peter was not a regular bather. He washed himself on occasions using the natural mineral spring bath.

To end this series of “To Bathe, or Not to Bathe” articles, I list below “Ten Weird Facts About Grooming In The Past” which I came across in Seeker7’s article “A History of Humanity’s Disgusting Hygiene.

Ten Weird Facts About Grooming In The Past

  1. Eyebrows that did not look fashionable were often masked by tiny pieces of skin from a mouse.
  2. Ceruse was the foundation make-up of choice for both men and women, that gave the famous smooth, pale look. However, it contained lead that seeped into the body through the skin leading to poisoning. This make-up also tended to crack and had a strong odour.
  3. Although the men wore linen drawers, the women wore no knickers at all.
  4. The reason why so many marriages took place in June was that most people had their yearly bath in May so they were still fairly clean when June arrived. However, as a precaution brides carried bouquets of flowers to cover up any odious smells. June weddings and carrying bouquets are still traditional today but most wedding parties smell a lot nicer.
  5. When people took their bath it was the man of the house who had the privilege of the tub filled with clean water. The sons of the house were allowed next, then the wife, the rest of the females and the babies were last.
  6. Houses in the past did not have the protective roofing we have today. It was not unusual for bugs, pests and droppings to fall onto your clean bedding from the roof. So four poles and a canopy was invented to keep the bed clean and this is where the origin of the canopied and four poster beds come from.
  7. A 17th century publication by Peter Levens gives clear instructions to men on how to cure baldness and thinning hair by making the following mixture – a strong alkaline solution containing potassium salts and chicken droppings to be placed on the area to be treated. In addition if men wanted to remove unwanted hair from any area of the body they should make a paste that contains – eggs, strong vinegar and cat dung. Once beaten into a paste, this should be placed on the areas where the hair is to be removed. Why they didn’t just shave is not documented.
  8. When Mary Queen of Scots returned to her native Scotland from France she was astounded and not a little put out that the men continued to wear their hats while sitting down to eat at her banquets. It was then pointed out to the young Queen that this was not a sign of disrespect to her but necessity. The men kept their hats on in order to prevent not only their long hair from touching the food but head lice from falling into their plates.
  9. In the 16th century some members of the church condemned using forks to eat as against the will of god. One put out minister remarked: “God would not have given us fingers if He had wanted us to use forks.”
  10. The use of condoms goes back many thousands of years. They went out of favour after the decline of the Roman Empire but re-emerged in the form of linen condoms in the 16th century – perhaps due to the fear of the disease syphilis. The church condemned condoms as a way for the devil to encourage elicit sex. One incensed churchman raged that “the use of these foul things allows people to play filthy persons greater than ever.”

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← Previous: Part 5 – Did the Kings and Queens of the Early Renaissance Period Bathe? 

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Would You like to Live in a Topsy-turvy House?


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25)

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The upside down house in the village of Szymbark , Poland
The upside down house in the village of Szymbark , Poland

Would you like to live in a topsy-turvy house like the above one? This house can be found in the tiny village of Szymbark in the municipality of Stężyca, in northern Poland. It is a center for winter sports.

As on December 31, 2011, the village of Szymbark had a total of 627 residents, with 544 people living in the main part of the village. The above upside-down house was built in 2007 by Daniel Czapiewski, a Polish businessman, builder and philanthropist.

Normally, it takes hardly three weeks for Czapiewski’s company to build a house. However, this extra-ordinary creative project took 114 days because of its structural design; moreover, the workers were a bit confused by the topsy-turvy architecture.

In 2010, in a poll conducted by “Official Baltic,” voted the Kashubian entrepreneur as  “The Man of the Year 2010” for his ingenuity of design that has become a tourist attraction in Szymbark.

In the first place, what prompted Daniel Czapiewski to design the house to stand upside down? Well, the eccentric person that he is, Daniel Czapiewski opines that it represents his view on the current state of the world – the time of uncertainty after the end of the communist era in Poland.

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By the way, this house in the village of Szymbark, Poland is not the first upside down house to be built. Wonderworks Upside Down Building in Florida opened in 1998. There are also upside down houses in Austria, Germany, Russia, Spain, Turkey, South Korea, a café in Japan and so on.

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This is not a house, it is a statue in Vancouver, Canada (Image credits - papalars)
This is not a church, it is a sculpture in Canada (Image credits: papalars)

The above image is a unique statue and not a church. American sculptor Dennis Oppenheim designed this imposing 22 x 18 x 9 feet sculpture composed of galvanized structural steel, anodized perforated aluminum, transparent red Venetian glass, and concrete foundations, as an upside down church, with its steeple buried in the ground.

The piece, initially called “Church,” was proposed to the Public Art Fund in the city of New York to be built on Church Street. It was commissioned by the President’s Panel on Art. However, the president of Stanford University turned down the sculpture since he considered it as “not appropriate” for the campus. The director thought it was too provocative and might infuriate the Church and the religious folks in that area. To evade this situation Dennis Oppenheim then changed the title to “Device to Root out Evil”.

Though the “Device to Root Out Evil” was too hot for New York City, too hot for Stanford University, it finally found a public home in Vancouver. It was first installed in a public park in Vancouver, Canada. As expected, people again considered it too hot for Vancouver as well. The public had a mixed reaction towards the work and the Vancouver public parks committee voted to remove the sculpture. The Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Canada seized the opportunity to display the sculpture. After removing it from Vancouver, the museum placed it in Ramsay, Calgary’s most creative neighbourhood where it is now being celebrated.

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Feodor Vassilyev: The Russian Who Sired 87 Children in 35 Births


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By T.V. Antony Raj

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On July 26, 2012, I posted an article titled “News: A woman gave birth to 11 baby boys in Surat, India.” Yesterday, Gurdip Singh Suri, a reader, commented:

“IT is nothing as per news over internet file Mr Vassilyev and his first wife, holds the record for most children a couple has parented. She gave birth to a total of 69 children. She gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, 7 sets of triplets and 4 sets of quadruplets between 1725 and 1765, in a total of 27 births. 67 of the 69 children born are said to have survived infancy.” (sic)

In an article titled “Feodor Vassilyev and Wikipedia’s Gender Imbalances” posted on November 13, 2011, in zerogeography.net, Mark Graham says:

Two papers in particular demonstrated the gender imbalances not only exist, but also significantly influence the types of information that exist in Wikipedia (the papers were titled ‘An Exploration of Wikipedia’s Gender Imbalance’ and ‘Gender Differences in Wikipedia Editing’.

Perhaps the most interesting discussion of these imbalances came during a talk by Jen Lowe when she brought up the Wikipedia article on Feodor Vassilyev.

Feodor is apparently notable enough for a Wikipedia article because his wife sets the record for the most children birthed by a single woman. Just to reiterate, it is Mr. Vassilyev and not Mrs. Vassilyev who is deemed notable enough to have a Wikipedia article here!

This prompted me to learn more about this uncanny phenomenon.

The first published account about Feodor Vassilyev and his children appeared in the September 1783 issue of the Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, Volume 53, Part 2, p.753, published in London that features a letter written by a person who has signed his name as X.Y.

Here is a facsimile of that letter:

69 children - 1

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69 children - 3

The writer concludes:

“The above relation, however astonishing, may be depended upon, as it came directly from an English merchant in St Petersburg to his relatives in England, who added that the peasant was to be introduced to the Empress. A few such subjects would remove the great deficit of population in her extensive dominions.”

In 1989, in Quadruples and Higher Multiple Births, on pages 96-97 under the heading “Feodor Vassilyev: a case of remarkable fecundity” Marie M. Clay wrote:

Feodor Vassilyev - A case of remarkable fecundity - 1

Feodor Vassilyev - A case of remarkable fecundity - 2

Marie Clay notes: “Sadly, this evasion of proper investigation seems, in retrospect, to have dealt a terminal blow to our chances of ever establishing the true detail of this extraordinary case”.

In Saint Petersburg Panorama, Bashutski, 1834, the author notes that:

In the day of 27 February 1782, the list from Nikolskiy monastery came to Moscow containing the information that a peasant of the Shuya district, Feodor Vassilyev, married twice, had 87 children. His first wife in 27 confinements gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. His second wife in eight confinements gave birth to six pairs of twins and two sets of triplets. F. Vassilyev was 75 at that time with 82 of his children alive.”

Many have raised doubts about the truth of these claims. In 1933, Julia Bell, M.A., M.R.C.P., published an article titled “PLURAL BIRTHS WITH A NEW PEDIGREE” in Biometrika, states that a 1790 book Statistische Schilderung von Rutsland written by B. F. J. Hermann provided the claims about the children of Feodor Vassilyev, but “with a caution”. Bell also states that in 1878, The Lancet reported this case in an article about the study of twins. This article states that the French Academy of Sciences attempted to verify the claims about Vassilyev’s children and contacted M. Khanikoff of the Imperial Academy of St Petersburg for advice as to the means they should pursue. Khanikoff told that all investigation were superfluous, and the members of the family still lived in Moscow and that they had been the object of favours from the Government.

However, here is the story.

Feodor Vassilyev a peasant from Shuya, Russia was born around 1707 and died in 1782. Between 1725 and 1765, his first wife Valentina gave birth to a total of 69 children: 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets in a total of 27 births. Out of the 69 children born, 67 survived infancy.

His second wife gave birth to six pairs of twins and two sets of triplets totalling 18 children in eight births.

So, Feodor Vassilyev sired 87 children in 35 births.
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News: Russian Meteorite Shards Command ‘Stratospheric’ Prices


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Feb. 18, 2013: In this frame grab taken from AP video, a researcher touches a piece of a meteorite in a laboratory in Yekaterinburg. Researchers from the Urals Federal University, based in Yekaterinburg, have determined that the small stone-like pieces found near Lake Cherbarkul in the Chelyabinsk region are pieces of the meteorite that exploded over the region Feb. 15. A total of 53 pieces have been brought for analysis to the university in Yekaterinburg.(Source: AP Photo/ The Urals Federal University Press Service, Alexander Khlopotov)
February 18, 2013: Researchers from the Ural Federal University, based in Ekaterinburg, have determined that the small stone-like pieces found near Lake Cherbarkul in the Chelyabinsk region are pieces of the meteorite that exploded over the region on February 15. The university received a total of 53 pieces for analysis. (Source: AP Photo/ The Urals Federal University Press Service, Alexander Khlopotov)

The meteorite that streaked at a hypersonic speed of at least 33,000 mph across the morning sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia on Friday, February 15 at 3:20:26 UTC exploded and disintegrated about 18-32 miles above the ground. According to media reports, the shock wave from the explosion estimated as equal to 30 Hiroshima atomic bombs of August 1945, blew out the windows of 900 schools and hospitals, damaged around 100,000 homes, and injured nearly 1,200 people, It induced an undeniable trauma in many residing in and around Chelyabinsk. Fellow blogger, science fiction and fantasy author Bill Housley aptly wrote that it was similar “To Be Shot at and Missed.

Asteroid expert Don Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office said the object that streaked across the sky over this Russian industrial city was most likely a bolide – an exploding fireball.

The sonic blast shattered windows in and around Chelyabinsk. Scattered amid the broken glass are bits of space rock that sparked on a “meteorite rush.”

Amateur enthusiasts in Russia and scientists alike are scrambling to find bits of the meteorite worth more than their weight in gold. Dmitry Kachkalin, a member of the Russian Society of Amateur Meteorite Lovers said that enthusiasts will pay dearly for them. “The price is hard to say yet … The fewer meteorites recovered, the higher their price,” Kachkalin told Reuters. He estimates that chunks could be worth up to $2,200 per gram — more than 40 times the current cost of gold, the news agency said.

Within hours after the explosion, many residents of Chelyabinsk and its neighborhood  had listed shards of the meteorite on classified ads sites.

International Business Times reported that a person named Andrew advertised 18 pieces of the meteor for 500 rubles (about $16.61) each on avito.ru, – the largest Russian-language free classifieds site. “There are 18 pieces of size as a wristwatch,” Andrew wrote on the site. “You can choose as souvenirs or for stories. BOOK ME IN ADVANCE, to snap up FAST!”

Another Russian felt his rocks were more worthy, asking 300,000 rubles (roughly $10,000) for a piece of the rock. “A piece of the meteor for sale, it’s new,” Sergey wrote, with a photo of himself holding a piece of stone.

Russia’s Lake Chebarkul meteorite crater
The crater created by the meteorite in Russia’s Lake Chebarkul.

On Monday, scientists from Ural Federal University (UrFU) in Ekaterinburg found shards of the meteorite which fell on 15 February near lake Chebarkul near Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers east of Moscow. The expedition team released a photo showing 53 tiny fragments of the meteor each about 0.2-inch-long.

Dr. Alexey Ischenko from UrFU Meteorite Expedition studying a piece of celestial body
Dr. Alexey Ischenko from UrFU Meteorite Expedition studying a piece of the celestial body
Shards of 'Meteorite Chebarkul'
Shards of ‘Meteorite Chebarkul’

According to Viktor Grokhovsky, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences‘ Committee on meteorites and the leader of the expedition, told the Interfax news service that the meteorite belonged to the class of regular chondrites. “These stone fragments contain about 10% iron. The meteor is likely to be called ‘Meteorite Chebarkul’,” the scientist said.

He then added: “We have found tiny pieces, about 50-53 in all, and each measure in millimeters. That was all we could find in the snow around the crater. The fragments we found are traces of the outer layer of the meteorite – there is a melted crust and so forth – which mean that the basic mass lies there, in the lake.”

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News: Fireballs in the skies above Cuba and California


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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On February 15th at 3:20:26 UTC, a meteorite entered the atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia. Cuban state TV reported that a giant meteorite had streaked across the central city of Rodas, near Cienfuegos, Cuba earlier on Tuesday.

Meteor in Cuba, seen from Rhodes, Cienfuegos. Photo - Sihuetas de Cuba
Meteor in Cuba, seen from Rhodes, Cienfuegos. (Photo: Siluetas de Cuba)

Last Friday, the website CubaSi featured unidentified residents of Rodas claiming the explosion as impressive. A resident said he saw “a light in the heavens and then a big ball of fire, bigger than the sun.” Another resident described how her home was “shaken” by the explosion.

San Francisco meteor
San Francisco meteor

Numerous unconfirmed reports of a bright streak of light over the San Francisco Bay area on Friday night have surfaced.

Scientists at the Chabot Space and Science Center, in Oakland, said the Center received a few calls describing what appeared like a fireball flying west, but they were not able to clarify what the object was. According to Gerald McKeegan, an astronomer, the Centre’s telescopes did not pick up the object.

The following video clip, purportedly tracking an object shooting through the sky over San Francisco Bay Area, has appeared on YouTube.

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The Meteorite Explosion that Shook Chelyabinsk, Russia on February 15, 2013


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Russian Meteor
A meteor seen flying over Russia on Feb. 15 at 3:20: 26 UTC impacted Chelyabinsk.

A meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia, at 7:20:26 PM PST, or 10:20:26 PM EST on February 14 (3:20:26 UTC on February 15).

At a news conference on Friday, NASA scientists said the object was a “tiny asteroid”. The trajectory of this meteor differed appreciably from the trajectory of the asteroid 2012 DA14, which hours later made its flyby of Earth, making both objects completely unrelated.

The Russian Emergency Ministry described it as a shower of meteorite debris. However, some unconfirmed reports suggested that Russian air defenses shot down a meteorite. NASA asteroid expert Don Yeomans, head of the agency’s Near-Earth Object Program Office, said that the object which exploded was most likely an exploding fireball known as a bolide.

According to the preliminary information that appeared in the media unidentified flying objects exploded over several cities in Russia, and the object at Chelyabinsk measured 49 feet (15 meters) across, weighing 7,000 tons and released 30 kilotons of energy when it exploded, and the blast waves blew out window glass of buildings in Chelyabinsk, sending dozens to hospitals, disrupted mobile services, and reportedly injured more than 1,000 people. Many dashboard videos appeared online, showing huge fireballs flying over buildings and exploding with a strong blast. Some walls of the Chelyabinsk Zinc Factory that produced 160,000 metric tons of refined zinc and alloys last year collapsed with extensive damage to the plant.

Now NASA says information provided by a worldwide network of sensors has allowed scientists to revise their estimates for the size of the object before entering Earth’s atmosphere to 55 feet (17 meters), weighing about 10,000 tons. Bill Cooke, head of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama said the energy released during the explosion amounted to 500 kilotons equal to that of an exploding modern nuclear bomb.

Fresh data collected from five more infrasound stations located around the world helped to generate these new estimates. The first infra-sound recording of the event took place in Alaska – over 6,500 kilometers away from Chelyabinsk. Calculations performed by Peter Brown at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, using infrasound data show the time taken by the object from entering the atmosphere to its disintegration in the air took 32.5 seconds.

Paul Chodas of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California said, “We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average ”

The present Russia meteor is the largest reported since 1908, when a meteor hit Tunguska, Siberia.

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Doomsday hysteria grips Russia


Survival kits and trips to hell, doomsday hysteria grips Russia …

Source:  RT – 01 December, 2012

RIA Novosti / Sergey Yolkin

RIA Novosti / Sergey Yolkin

Doomsday hysteria has gripped Russia and some of its neighbors. Travel agencies are selling tours to either heaven or hell and people are stocking up on food and fuel. Officials are publicly denying the apocalypse, hoping to calm the hype.

Those awaiting Doomsday have three weeks to finish their preparations before the date of the much publicized apocalypse allegedly predicted by Mayan calendar, that is going to happen on December 21, 2012.

Thousands of people across Russia keep stocking up their back rooms and balconies with food, fuel and other supplies they might need when disaster strikes. Some are even moving outside of cities because of the widely spread rumors that cities would be impossible to survive in after an apocalypse on Earth.

According to one of the most popular scenarios, on December 21 the sun is going to line up with the center of our Milky Way galaxy which will cause an entire blackout on Earth and a wave of different natural disasters.

Doomsday merchandize offered in Russia and Ukraine include survival kits. In the Siberian city of Tomsk such itemsfor “meeting the end of the world” include ID cards, notepads, canned fish, a bottle of vodka, rope, a piece of soap, among other items. The packages are said to be popular among customers, more than 1,000 kits have been already sold, the company says.

Ukrainian entrepreneurs also offer a version of a doomsday kit. Just like Tomsk package, the Ukrainian one also includes alcohol: champagne for ladies and vodka for gentlemen. The rest of the kit consist of jack-knife, two-minute noodles, shampoo, soap, rope, matches and condoms.

Marina Mendelson wedding agency sells Last Day sets in Tomsk. (RIA Novosti / Yakov Andreev)
Marina Mendelson wedding agency sells Last Day sets in Tomsk. (RIA Novosti / Yakov Andreev)

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Not all doom and gloom

An apocalypse kit is not the only way for the entrepreneurial minded to cash in on the end of the world hype.

One Ukrainian enterprise is selling tours to heaven and hell for December 21 promising full return of money in case of “not getting to heaven or hell.” A trip to heaven would cost about $15, while trip to the underworld is more expensive at around $18. The agency explains difference in price by saying that Hell should be more fun.

While Ukrainian trips are even said by the firm behind to be just for fun, some individuals in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod offered far more expensive doomsday fair – one being a salvation trip in an arc. An internet ad offered seats in the arc for just 80,000-150,000 rubles, which is approximately $2,600-5,000.

Bars and nightclubs are getting ready for apocalypse day in their own way announcing theme parties and inventing special cocktails like “Total Recall” – an extremely alcoholic drink that makes you “recall your entire life.”

But doomsday hysteria isn’t isolated to just the former soviet Republic. In France authorities had to ban access to a mountain that doomsday theorists believe will be the only safe spot during the apocalypse on December 21.

At the birthplace of Mayan calendar, Mexico and Guatemala agencies offer tours “The end of the world with Maya” and “The world of Maya 2012.”

Pictures advertizing tickets to heaven sold for $15. Images taken from pokupon.uaPictures advertizing tickets to heaven sold for $15. Images taken from pokupon.ua

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Russian officials cancel apocalypse

Meanwhile, in Russia rapidly growing doomsday hype has sparked a negative reaction from authorities.

Russia`s Emergency Ministry is not expecting any global cataclysms in the near future, the head of EMERCOM Vladimir Puchkov said on Friday, adding that those worried are free to call the Ministry hotline to talk about their concerns.

Another senior official took a more emotional stance about doomsday speculations. Russia`s Chief Medical Officer of Health Gennady Onishenko lashed out at those publicizing the apocalypse warning that they would end up in court.

“This directly influences people`s health. When they depress you and say that in less than one month everything is going to end, there are many people, who believe this,” he said.

Russian State Duma deputies wrote an open letter urging media to stop speculating about the doomsday. The deputy head of the Duma committee on Science and Technology publicly promised that no apocalypse is happening on December 21.

“In our committee there are academics and scientists, and with all responsibility we state that there will be no doomsday. Who made that up and circulates this around?” he asked.

Mayan legacy

The speculations about December 21, 2012, doomsday are prompted by the Mayan calendar ending on this very day.

The Mayan civilization reached its height from 300 AD to 900 AD was based in modern day Mexico and Central America. Mayans were good astronomers and created very precise calendars.

Their Long Count calendar begins in 3,114 BC, measuring time in 394-year periods known as Baktuns. The thirteenth Baktun ends around Dec 21, 2012, which first produced rumors about the end of the world.

Despite numerous scientists and Mayan descendants denying the connection between the end of the calendar and the end of the world the rumors quickly got out of control causing public hysteria.

It is not known why this particular end of the world theory became so popular. Over two dozen doomsday predictions have failed to materialize since the beginning of the 20th century.

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