Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Vanished Republics

May 11, 2008


Leaders of the MRNC

Originally uploaded by Thomas Roche

From Wikipedia:

“The Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus (MRNC; also known as the Mountain Republic or the Republic of the Mountaineers) (1917–1920) was a shortlived state situated in the Northern Caucasus. It included most of the territory of the former Terek Oblast and Dagestan Oblast of the Russian Empire, which now form the republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia-Alania, Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan and part of Stavropol Krai of the Russian Federation.”

Read more.

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Tina Sinatra: Scorsese to Direct Bio on Her Dad

May 11, 2008
The Winnipeg Sun is reporting that Martin Scorsese will be directing a biographical picture about Frank Sinatra. According to Frank’s youngest daughter, Tina Sinatra, “That means dismissing scurrilous rumours that Sinatra was a stooge for the Mafia.”

“Sinatra admitted it is premature to officially announce Scorsese for the biopic. Initially, she referred to the director as ‘the most prominent Italian-American filmmaker’ working today in Hollywood.

“When Sun Media guessed Francis Ford Coppola, she said: ‘We adore him but he didn’t step up to it.’

“When Scorsese’s name followed, Sinatra offered this: ‘I can’t tell you yet but you’re warmer.’

“Laughing, Sinatra later confirmed it was Scorsese. ‘You’ll be reading about it very soon … oh, go ahead and print it, I don’t care!'”

Link.

Image: Frank Sinatra in 1960, from Wikipedia.

Two Freaky News Items

April 10, 2008

Nazi-era singer returns to stage
A 104-year-old Dutch cabaret singer who once performed in Nazi Germany has given a concert in the Netherlands for the first time in four decades.
There were protests and tight security around the theatre in Amersfoort where Johannes Heesters appeared.

Although Heesters insists he never espoused Nazi politics, he performed for Adolf Hitler and visited the Dachau concentration camp.

Correspondents say many Dutch people have never forgiven him.

Much, much scarier:

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Kosovo MPs proclaim independence
Albanian and American flags have been on prominent displayKosovo’s parliament has unanimously endorsed a declaration of independence from Serbia, in an historic session.

The declaration, read by Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, said Kosovo would be a democratic country that respected the rights of all ethnic communities.

But Serbia’s PM denounced the US for helping create a “false state” and protesters in Belgrade later pelted the US embassy with stones.

The US and a number of EU countries are expected to recognise Kosovo on Monday.

Before that, the UN Security Council is expected to convene on Sunday evening in an emergency meeting demanded by Serbia’s ally, Russia.

Know how Russia has been threatening to target Ukraine with nukes if it joins NATO? Remember the reports of Russian FSB connection to the poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko? Remember Alexander Litvinenko, whom the Russians didn’t poison — nah, they would just never ever do that?

Know that war between Russia and NATO that’s been brewing? You know that imminent global thermonuclear apocalypse?

Oh, sorry, that was just a nightmare I fell asleep while reading European history. Thanks, Balkans.

Shanghai Museum of Ancient Chinese Sex Culture

January 11, 2008

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Travelers spending time in China soon realize there’s a secret China kept hidden from foreign eyes. Chinese friends become silent when a certain topic is mentioned, or dismiss it with a few words. One part of Chinese culture seldom discussed, even closely veiled is its sexual customs.

Every year thousands of curious foreign visitors travel to the canal city of Tongli, one of Shanghai’s satellite cities, to visit a museum that is completely unexpected in China; The Museum Of Ancient Chinese Sex Culture. Awed tourists wander about amidst a staggering 3,700 exhibits that are as much about cultural and sociological aspects of China’s history as the erotic habits of its people. To house this huge array of artifacts the museum takes up the entire floor of a city office building.

With the Victorian grandma attitude of the Communist Chinese Government, this museum is frowned upon by officials because of what it may represent to the visitor to Shanghai. The government still retains the death penalty for pornography. Nevertheless, the museum survived relocation from downtown Shanghai, and refusal of city officials to allow the curator of the museum, Liu Dalin, to use the word “sex” in his signs outside the museum. In fact, the museum’s popularity may be the reason for its survival.

The museum got my interest by receiving honorable mentions in Lonely Planet and Frommer’s Guidebooks for showing a unique side of China that gets no publicity. I decided to visit it and see what all the fuss was about and was not disappointed. The taxi driver drops me off outside the museum, smiling and giggling, as he points to the entrance. He seems most amused at a westerner visiting this place. “What I am getting myself into?” I think.

Read more at Eros Zine.

German Politician Withdraws Charges Against Wikipedia

December 9, 2007

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According to an article on Reuters and elsewhere, a left-wing German politician filed charges with the Berlin Police against Wikipedia yesterday for promoting the use of Nazi symbols, then withdrew the charges today.

The deputy leader of the Left (Die Linke) party, Katina Schubert, objected to the use of Nazi symbols in a Wikipedia article on the Hitler Youth movement. Nazi symbols, most famously the swastika, are banned in Germany.

Read my commentary at Techyum.

Image: Neo-Nazi protesters in Munich, August 2006. The sign reads: “The 8th of May: Defeated and occupied, we do not celebrate.” The 8th of May is V-E Day — the day the Allies declared victory over Germany in 1945. Via Wikipedia Deutschland. 

Wendy Slick (Interview)

September 18, 2007

San Francisco Bay Area filmmakers Wendy Slick and Emiko Omori have taken on the battle for women’s orgasm and placed it in a fascinating and bizarre historical context. Passion and Power: The Technology of Orgasm is a powerful new documentary about female pleasure, feminism, and vibrators. Taking as its starting point Rachel Mainz’s book The Technology of Orgasm: Hysteria, the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction, Passion and Power covers the development of the vibrator in the 1800s as a physican’s tool to “treat” women suffering from any number of maladies from arthritis to nervous tension to depression and malaise. Turns out it worked pretty well.

The film briefly takes on the stag film era, when vibrators started showing up as sex toys — leading physicians to discontinue the clinical application of female orgasm as part of medical practice. But as amazing as the historical background is, it’s that much moreso when placed in the context of the case of Joanne Webb, a Texas woman who was arrested for possessing vibrators with intent to distribute. A schoolteacher, in her off hours Webb gave “passion parties,” sort of like a Tupperware party but a lot more fun, to other women who wanted to learn about and purchase sex toys.

Webb’s case became a cause celebre for sexual liberation activists across the nation; unfortunately, it’s also an ominous and in some ways bizarre warning that women’s orgasm is still the possession of the state. Since charges against Webb were dropped, no precedent was established, so the Texas law remains on the books.
Through interviews with Dr. Mainz, Betty Dodson, Eve’s Garden founder Dell Williams, performance artist Reno, Joanne Webb, and others, Passion and Power takes on the Texas case and the broader history of vibrators with equal gusto, forming a funny, scary, and inspiring portrait of the battle for women’s orgasm. The film has its West Coast premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival on October 6, and also plays October 13.

We caught up with filmmaker Wendy Slick for a chat about the film and the politics surrounding it.

Read more at Eros Zine.

Sexual Intelligence (Column)

September 18, 2007

We have a new column at Eros Zine, Sexual Intelligence by acclaimed writer and therapist Dr. Marty Klein, therapist and acclaimed author of America’s War on Sex. These items come from his blog at sexualintelligence.wordpress.com. Welcome to Dr. Klein!

Memo to Southwest Airlines: Women’s Bodies are OK

If you fly, of course you hate to fly. As if air travel isn’t repulsive enough these days, Southwest Airlines has found a new way to make passengers angry.

Southwest tried to boot a shapely 23-year-old college student off a flight recently because one person complained about the way she was dressed. A customer “service” (there’s an oxymoron) supervisor named Keith told San Diego passenger Kyla Ebbert that her miniskirt, high-heel sandals, and sweater-over-tank top (over a bra) was “inappropriate” for a family airline.

Read more at Eros Zine.

Having Sex With Men Does NOT Make Larry Craig Gay

Larry Craig says he’s not gay. I believe him. A lot of men who have sex with men aren’t gay.

Life was simple before 1948: someone was either 100% heterosexual or they were queer (note to young people: that’s what gays were called in the old days). But then biologist Alfred Kinsey studied Americans’ sexuality in detail, and as he discovered, people are not so easily divided into sheeps and goats.

Read more at Eros Zine.

When Language is More Important Than War

Sixteen million Americans fought in WWII. A half-million of them died in it. That’s equal to the entire population of Washington, DC. Or of Wyoming.

Very few of those 16,000,000 are still alive, and a dwindling number of Americans actually knows one of them. To create and preserve a record of what actually happened, Ken Burns has made a 14-hour documentary for PBS. It has exactly four instances of words you might hear — or say — if someone were trying to kill you.

Read more at Eros Zine.

Sexuality: Missing in Action at the Iowa Caucuses

Everyone who wants to be president of the most powerful nation on Earth has to go to Iowa. Candidates go to local diners, nursing homes, and high school gyms for weeks, telling hundreds of people every day why they deserve a seat on Air Force One.

Iowa. In a few months, a half-dozen candidates from each major party will fold their tent because they didn’t get enough votes in Iowa.

If New York or California had this much power, people would complain bitterly. Like Putney Swope, Iowa is no one’s first choice for anything, and so it gets to decide who runs for president. Tradition. Iowa.

Read more at Eros Zine.

Pirate News: Cheng I Sao

September 9, 2007

chengisaoCNN has an article about Chinese pirate Cheng I Sao, a former prostitute who controled a pirate empire of more than 1,500 ships and 80,000 sailors in the South China Sea. She came into the role in 1801 when her husband, Cheng, married her. In 1807, when Cheng passed away, Cheng I Sao (which means “wife of Cheng”) made Chang Pao, Cheng’s second in command, the battle commander, focusing on business, strategy, and controlling the pirate horde with a complex and brutal series of laws. (A lot of beheadings were involved). Interestingly, Cheng I Sao introduced a series of laws about female captives — ugly ones were send back to shore, while attractive ones got auctioned off to the crew.

After numerous attempts by Portugese and British bounty hunters and the Chinese navy to bring Cheng I Sao down, the Chinese offered her universal pirate amnesty in return for putting down her cutlass. She took it, retired with her new husband Chang Pao (doh!), opened a casino, and lived for another 34 years.

Image from Wikipedia.

Panorama of Edo (later Tokyo)

September 9, 2007

Sometimes I see certain features on Wikipedia and I realize just how sure I am of the educational power of the internet, like this magnificent panorama of Edo (later Tokyo) from 1868 in the closing days of the Tokugawa shogunate:

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A c. 1866 panorama of Edo consisting of five albumen silver prints joined together. Edo is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868. Pictured here are daimyo houses used by feudal lords for the purposes of sankin kōtai. Following the end of the shogunate, they were razed so that government, commercial and industrial buildings could be built in their place.

Pirate News: Cheng I Sao

August 28, 2007

chengisaoCNN has an article about Chinese pirate Cheng I Sao, a former prostitute who controled a pirate empire of more than 1,500 ships and 80,000 sailors in the South China Sea. She came into the role in 1801 when her husband, Cheng, married her. In 1807, when Cheng passed away, Cheng I Sao (which means “wife of Cheng”) made Chang Pao, Cheng’s second in command, the battle commander, focusing on business, strategy, and controlling the pirate horde with a complex and brutal series of laws. (A lot of beheadings were involved). Interestingly, Cheng I Sao introduced a series of laws about female captives — ugly ones were send back to shore, while attractive ones got auctioned off to the crew.

After numerous attempts by Portugese and British bounty hunters and the Chinese navy to bring Cheng I Sao down, the Chinese offered her universal pirate amnesty in return for putting down her cutlass. She took it, retired with her new husband Chang Pao (doh!), opened a casino, and lived for another 34 years.

Image from Wikipedia.