Sunday, August 18, 2019

Are the New York Times spreading a conspiracy theory?

The New York Times claim that Russian reporters working in Sweden have paid local youth in immigrant areas to attack the police, burn cars, etc. Then they report about "problems in Sweden". Alt-news site Nyheter Idag (also attacked by NYT) has sensationally gotten an interview with Thomas Mattsson, former editor in chief of Expressen (a major newspaper). Mattsson suspects that NYT may be spreading an urban legend. 

Both Expressen and Aftonbladet (another major newspaper) have been accused of exactly the same thing - paying local youth to start riots for publicity reasons. Now, the Swedish reporters who pay local hooligans have morphed into Russian ones! However, Mattsson also says that NYT are "in general" a very good source, etc, presumably to cover all his bases...

Unfortunately, the article is only available in Swedish.

Criticism of the New York Times

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Rudy on the Epstein case

Everyone is literally laughing at the claim that Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide. I was going to link to some of those clips, but they have become so many that it feels pointless! Besides, you probably seen them already. Here´s a four day old clip featuring Rudy Giuliani questioning the semi-official version. And oh, isn´t it funny that the same news media which claims that everyone from Trump to obscure alt-right Twitter accounts are part of a Russian conspiracy, so vehemently denies conspiracy in *this* case? It´s almost as if some kind of conspiracy is being hatched here... 

The Donald´s dangerous idea

Donald Trump wants to buy Greenland. Or so fake news media tells us. 

Well, why not? Sheriff, er, president Truman tried the same thing, in 1917 the Danes *did* sell the Virgin Islands to the US, and in 18-hundred-something the Russians (!) sold Alaska.

Besides, this shows that Il Donaldo *does* believe in climate change, after all. Maybe he has secretly been listening to Greta and the Grimaldis lately?

The only possible reason why Amerika would want Greenland is all the coal, oil and gold which simply *must* be down there, once the ice starts melting...

Let´s just hope Orange Man also has an evacuation plan ready for New York City, DC and virtually the entire East Coast once that ice starts melting and sea levels will rise! 

A cup of mead

”Sveriges kyrkohistoria” is a multi-volume work in Swedish. The topic dealt with is Swedish Church history, but “normal” history interferes essentially all the time. This volume is subtitled “Reformationstid”. It deals with the most interesting period in Swedish Church history, the 16th century, when the Church of Sweden was transformed from a Roman Catholic Church province to an independent confessional Lutheran Church.

The Protestant Reformation in our northern lands wasn´t a straightforward affair and took about 80 years to complete! One reason is that the Reformation took place simultaneously with the transition from a relatively decentralized medieval polity to a strongly centralized monarchy with absolutist tendencies. Add to this the ambition of the Swedish ruling class to turn the small country into a European great power. This meant heavier tax burdens and a military draft for the peasants. The Church of Sweden supported the centralizing tendencies of the monarchy, which in turn used Lutheranism as a political tool. The peasants often identified the Reformation with the state, and hence wanted to remain Catholic (or at least keep all the old traditions associated with medieval Catholicism intact). The first Lutheran king of Sweden, Gustav Vasa, systematically confiscated Church property, including valuables made of gold, silver or expensive textiles. These had often been paid for by the tithes of the local peasantry, which therefore saw the confiscations as an attack against the common people. The largest peasant uprising against Gustav Vasa, the so-called Dackefejden led by Nils Dacke from Småland, had strong Catholic overtones and was even promised military aid by Catholic princes in Germany (in the end, none materialized). On the other hand, Catholicism also had a certain degree of support among the high nobility. This became especially obvious during the reign of Sigismund, who as simultaneous king of Poland actually was a Catholic. The book says that it probably wasn´t until around 1600 that the Swedish peasants had become used to the new Lutheran order (and I suspect “superstitious” medieval traditions survived even then).

The example of Sigismund also shows another factor complicating the course of the Reformation: Swedish foreign policy. Both Gustav Vasa and his successors had to navigate an increasingly perilous international situation in which religious affiliation was one – but only one – factor deciding who was allied to whom. Vasa was mostly cautious and pragmatic in his dealings with foreign powers, and often impeded Lutheran Church reforms in Sweden if he felt that a too militant posture would threaten whatever diplomatic maneuvers he was involved with at the time. It´s interesting to note that one of Vasa´s perennial enemies, Danish king (later ex-king) Christian II, switched religious affiliation several times. Two Catholic powers, Poland and the state of the Teutonic Knights, were “natural” allies of Sweden (both were anti-Russian), while at least one Lutheran power, Denmark, was a natural enemy. I get the impression that Gustav Vasa supported the Reformation mostly because it gave him an opportunity to expand royal power and strengthen the state. Economic issues also played a role, since king Gustav believed that the Catholic prohibition to work on Sundays and various holy days inhibited the productivity of the peasantry (and, I suppose, everyone else). His sons Erik XIV, Johan III and Karl IX, by contrast, seem to have been more genuinely interested in theological issues. Erik XIV and Karl IX were often accused of Calvinistic tendencies by the orthodox Lutheran clergy, while Johan III veered towards Catholicism. All insisted that the king should have the last say in Church matters, both in terms of creedal statements and clerical appointments.

Some situations described in the book are absurd, as when Erik XIV, his advisors and the bishops discussed an acute crisis during the “Seven Year War” against Denmark: the Danish blockade had made wine scarce, a problem since the Church of Sweden celebrated the Eucharist with wine given to the laymen and insisted that all masses must be Eucharistic. The lack of wine gave the Philippists (moderate Lutherans) and Calvinists a welcome opportunity to argue their view of Holy Communion, according to which the wine might just as well be replaced by water, mead or cherry juice. (Celebrating communion with mead does have a certain intrinsic appeal.) The orthodox Lutherans refused, and argued that wine simply must be used cuz Bible, period. Erik XIV veered towards the Philippists and Calvinists, but in the end a compromise solution was reached: it was allowed to mix water with wine, as long as it still tasted like wine! King Erik subsequently managed to procure a large quantity of real wine from Germany, thereby mooting the whole issue…at least for the time being.

For making my head spin, I give “Sveriges Kyrkohistoria. Band 3: Reformationstid” five stars out of five!

Here be Bigfeet

[Originally posted Nov 24, 2018. Reposted here due to technical problems with the YouTube clip at the old location.] 

I just found this interesting YouTube clip, featuring Mattsquatch (real name unknown) lecturing about various types of Bigfoot-like creatures seen across the United States. 

Mattsquatch has tried to bring some sense and order into this bewildering topic, and draws the conclusion that there are at least 10 different types of Bigfeet out there. The “classical” type is known from the US states on the West Coast. This is the type seen in the Patterson-Gimlin film, and could be likened to a gorilla (or even to a huge upright-walking bear). In the South, a more aggressive and chimpanzee-like type is more common. The Florida Skunk Ape resembles an orangutan. Yet another form is the “human giant” or “relict hominid”, similar to the gorilla-like type from the West Coast but with a more human face. 

Finally, there are a number of more unusual creatures, including the Grass Man (which looks like a normal human in feral condition and only exists in Ohio), the Mountain Giant (with Alaska as a hotspot), the Devil Monkey and the extremely rare Little People. Mattsquatch also mentions a number of virtual monsters, who are said to attack and eat people. 

In the last part of his lecture, he talks about the Dogman, which is not a Bigfoot sensu stricto, but rather resembles an East European werewolf. He claims that these creatures, known as “Lobos” (Spanish for wolves), are often seen by US border patrols and Mexican migrants! 

Some of Matt´s private speculations are truly “out there” (ahem, the Nephilim? Aliens? Reptoids?), but I found the more ethnographic part of his lecture intriguing. Why would people in one part of the States be seeing a rough replica of the gorilla, while those in another part see a rough replica of the chimp or orang? If these observations go back to pre-colonial times, TV documentaries or sensational tabloid articles about African or Asian great apes can´t explain the similarities… 

All observations of hairy hominids are usually lumped together under the “Bigfoot” designation (“Finding Bigfoot” even considers the Jersey Devil or the Beast of Bray Road to be sasquatches), but just like with UFOs, we could really be dealing with many different types of creatures or phenomena.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A new mission for Greta?

When Greta Thunberg is done crossing the Atlantic on a small sail boat in the middle of hurricane season, I think she should go to Canada and try to catch one of these... 


People believe the strangest things...

Yes, some people believe even in this...

Planet of the Apes the road movie

Most people have seen the classic science fiction flick “Planet of the Apes” from 1968, featuring Charlton Heston. The entire franchise includes additional films, but also two TV series (one of them animated). This is the second episode of the “Planet of the Apes” series from 1974. The series was apparently cancelled after just 14 episodes due to low ratings – the irony!

Unfortunately, only the second episode (“The Gladiators”) is ripped on YouTube, and I haven´t seen the others. The series seems to be made in the typical “road movie” style, with the main characters crisscrossing America, experiencing various disconnected situations, and being constantly chased (but never quite apprehended) by the bad guys. 

The plot is set about 30 years after the events in the first film, when another group of astronauts cross the time barrier and find themselves on a future Earth ruled by smart apes, with humans in subordinate roles. (In the second film, Charlton Heston destroys Earth by a nuclear explosion, but I doubt anyone cares about this continuity error.) 

As usual, the chimpanzees are clever scientists and philosophers, while the gorillas are soldiers and generals. No orangs are featured in “The Gladiators”. A difference with the 1968 film is that the humans can speak and live in villages rather than in the wilderness. The villages are controlled by chimp prefects and gorilla guards, while the humans are relatively primitive farmers. No high technology seems to exist. One of the chimpanzees is baffled by a human-made golf club found during excavations!

The two surviving astronauts are aided by a renegade chimp scientist, and experience various adventures in a village somewhere in California, where the prefect organizes annual gladiator games to keep the humans happy. When one of the astronauts is forced to fight in the games but (surprise) refuses to kill his beaten opponent, pandemonium breaks loose! 

The message of the episode is strongly pacifist, and although the criticism is directed at “war” in general and implicitly at nuclear war, I´m sure the viewers had a very concrete war in mind at the time of airing. Yes, the Vietnam War obviously, and it´s interesting to note that the son of the main gladiator is a pacifist and by implication therefore a draft dodger…

Not the most interesting production around, but if you like 1970´s TV series, this might be worth a sneak peak or two.

PS. On YouTube, “The Gladiators” have been divided into two clips. You can easily find the second one if you start watching the first. 

Time of the chimps

Some interesting information on the Japanese version of "Planet of the Apes". Originally a TV series, called "Saru no Gundan", it was cut down and remade into a single (and very confusing) American film titled "Time of the Apes", apparently considered a vintage turkey. The year was 1987.

In the TV series, the apes have a high technological civilization (including robots), but since the production is Japanese, ape ninjas (!) have been included as a plot element. Interestingly, the chimpanzees are (correctly) depicted as more aggressive than the gorillas, while the roles were reversed in the American version. The chimps even stage a bloody military coup!

Not sure where to actually procure this hilarious piece of Nipponiana, but the clip is alright as a preview...