Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Pink card

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Pink card

Extermination through labour

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Prisoners were forced to carry granite blocks some weighing up to 110 lb. up 186 steps, repeatedly throughout the day, if they fell from exhaustion they were often killed.

Gordon Foster

Monday, January 30th, 2012

1921 - 2010

Pioneering figure in the worlds of informatics and computing
- The Irish Times
Saturday, February 26, 2011
(mirrored here)

Gordon Foster moved through the 20th century like a lost character from Cryptonomicon.

He worked as a code-breaker in Bletchley Park, met Alan Turing, studied cybernetics, helped develop operations research, invented ISBN, became a professor in Statistics at TCD, connected remote areas to the internet and communicated with doctors attending the Ebola epidemic in Zaire.

RIP.

The world’s most dangerous water-park!

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Action Park logo

Since it's easier to start again with a trifle than a weighty tome... My friend Dave found the Wikipedia article of the week:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_Park

It is written in the slightly tongue-in-cheek style of a Wiki article that hasn't been found by the deletionist hordes yet, interspersing slight anecdotes with factual information. Knowledge doesn't have to be boring.

This New Jersey water park, a more extreme version of Ireland's Clara Lara, opened in the late 70s and closed in the late 90s. But it lives on, on the internet, where the history of each incredibly dangerous ride becomes more and more vivid.

Cannonball Loop

Kids who grew up in New Jersey still talk about Action Park today, and reminisce about the thrill of danger, especially of the almost legendary looping waterslide.

Some choice quotes from the Wikipedia article:

For the remainder of the park's existence, it remained visible near the entrance of Waterworld, tempting visitors with the possibility of the thrilling ride it might have offered yet tempering it with the high potential for injury that was just as obvious from looking at it.

A rider also reportedly got stuck at the top of the loop due to insufficient water pressure, and a hatch had to be built at the bottom of the slope to allow for future extractions

As with the Super Speedboats mentioned below, the bumper boats pond was infested with snakes, and the boats themselves were notoriously difficult to maneuver, so much so that the employees who worked there in 1990 were reduced to shouting "Skee-Da-Va", "Squeeze The Wheeze", and other nonsense.

The director of the emergency room at a nearby hospital said they treated from five to ten victims of park accidents on some of the busiest days, and the park eventually bought the township of Vernon extra ambulances to keep up with the volume.

Read it all, and enjoy the strange sensation that you are watching a 1980s Australian comedy.

Further reading:

Somehow, my Wikipedia treasure-trails always lead to…

Monday, June 13th, 2011

On a lovely trip to Nice yesterday, I saw a monument to a mayor of the city from 1928 - 1943 and 1947 - 1965,

Jean Medécin,

who had a son who was also mayor for a long time,

Jacques Medécin

who, unlike his father, was fond of

Gaullism,

the French political ideology which espouses national independence, including the

Force de frappe,

the tactical and strategic framework for

France's weapons of mass destruction,

which were mostly tested in her colonies and had some costly accidents including the

Beryl incident,

when some soldiers and officials were exposed to radiation, including another Gaullist,

Gaston Paleweski,

long-time lover of English novelist Nancy Mitford, one of the

Mitford sisters,

another of whom married

Oswald Mosley

a notable British proponent of

fascism.

Marlay Grange, grounds and house

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Marlay Grange was built by renowned Dublin architect John McCurdy in the 1850s or 1860s, possibly 1866. John McCurdy also designed the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin's city centre. It lies on the Grange Road, in a woodland setting, sitting on 5.06 hectares, or 12.5 acres.

The grounds include specimen trees, two ornamental pounds and a trellis-covered sunken pathway which encloses a semi-circular formal garden. A long tree-lined avenue leads up to a gravelled forecourt in front of the house.

The house and estate were sold by then-owners the McGrane family in the year 2000 to the British Embassy in Dublin for stg£6.4 million. It was intended to replace the British Ambassador's residence at Glencairn House.

Tree-lined extent of the grounds of Marlay Grange, on the Grange Road

Planning permission was received from South Dublin County Council for a lot of work to renovate the property and to add a number of outbuildings and chalets on the estate to accommodate embassy staff, but the plan was eventually dropped due to security concerns. This led to the British Government re-purchasing Glencairn House and putting Marlay Grange back on the market, losing significant money in the process.

The property was bought in 2007/8 by Niall Mellon, property developer and philanthropist, who tried to build houses on the grounds. The council turned down his application for planning permission and the house went back on the market. Enquiries with the estate agent at the time suggested that the asking price was in the region of €12 million, even though the property crash was already in progress.

Last satellite image of Marlay Grange house and formal garden

The building is a cut-stone two storey high-roofed Victorian house built in the Gothic style. The imposing structure contains gables, dormer gables, and a tower with a truncated pyramidal roof.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage described the house as "a fine and comparatively rare example of a Victorian Gothic country house in the Ruskinian style".

Marlay Grange, Gate Lodge

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Approaching from the road, you pass through tall metal gates, with signs saying "Marlay Grange" on both sides. The driveway turns immediately to the left. Following the driveway, you proceed along a tree-lined avenue, now overgrown. It leads past some sheds on your left and on up to the house.

The gatehouse is to your right as you enter the grounds, a two-story building of approximately 102 sq.m. (1,100 sq.ft). According to the 1911 census, the house has "2 rooms and 2 windows to the front."

The front door is sealed with a metal panel and the windows are blocked up. There is a curious feature at the rear of the house, a platform jutting out from a window with a pole above it.

According to the property brief, the gatehouse is in need of extensive renovation and modernisation. They weren't kidding. The electrics would have to be completely redone, as well as the plumbing most likely. The decoration seems not to have changed since the early part of the century.

There are very few items left in the house, although all of the mounted furniture (such as cupboards) is still in place. The upstairs area is inaccessible, the stairway is blocked.

The gate lodge had at least one famous resident, at the time of the 1911 census, who we will see in a later post.

The spy in the bathtub, part one

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

The cliché holds that I should begin my article with "It was like the plot to a spy thriller", so I won't.
This is the longest article I have written so far, but I hope you will persevere.

Police line outside 36 Alderney Street, after the discovery

Police broke down the door of Gareth Williams' flat at 36 Alderney Street after he had not been seen for "at least 10 days". Work colleagues had become concerned. At first the story was not heavily-reported, but it soon became clear what "work" this was.

Gareth Williams worked for GCHQ, effectively the UK equivalent of the United States NSA. GCHQ is responsible for SIGINT (signals intelligence) for the British state, i.e. communications interception and the decryption of data collected. The agency has several listening stations, in Britain and abroad in places like Cyprus, and monitors various communications systems.
(more...)

Burning books requires much time and commitment

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

In the last few days, we've seen Obama trying to reason with Pastor Terry Jones, an obscure preacher from Gainesville, Florida, over the television and protest rallies sweeping across Afghanistan. Why? Because Jones announced that he was going to burn some copies of the Qu'ran to coincide with the anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

Pastor Terry Jones in Motion

Jones strikes an unusual figure, with his handle-bar moustache suit and 70s-coloured tie. He seems like a figure from a National Lampoon film, but right now he is being taken very seriously. He's called off his protest because the voices in his head told him to.

Back in July, Jones's colleague Sapp posted a YouTube video about their plans, and there was some brief interest, a few news articles. The story has steadily grown, as affiliate television stations have passed on the scandal. The BBC covers its growth in this article.

Burning books has always attracted controversy throughout history, symbolising a destruction of a civilisation and abandonment of intellectual society. It is taboo.

Non-Aryan literature burnt in Berlin's Opernplatz in May, 1933

The burning of books by the Nazis in the 1930s is probably the most familiar example, gleeful SA men piling academic papers and Jewish books onto the funeral pyres of civil society. Heine's quote "Those who begin by burning books will end by burning people" is on the lips of every secondary school History student. See the transcription of Goebbels' speech and the description of the scene.

The burning of the remaining books at the dwindling Library of Alexandria by the Saracens contributed to centuries of disdain in the West for ostensibly uncivilised and anti-intellectual Muslims.

ROSER 2, Nazi_Student_SA_Book_Burning_May_1933-01EXLG.jpg

SA Nazis and students burning books in May 1933

Since the act is taboo, most people have never tried burning books. Perhaps they imagine happy flames devouring the words and knowledge. See how happy everyone is above, glad to be rid of complicated ideas. Even the students themselves are joining in.

The reality is less exciting. Allow me to present a personal anecdote about burning books... (more...)

Secret Soviet maps of Ireland

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Russian mapping of the town of Carlow

From the same institution which brought us the sublime book by Daniele Ganser, Secret Warfare : Operation Gladio and NATO's Stay-Behind Armies, a fascinating article by retired Irish Army colonel, Desmond Travers:

Soviet Military Mapping of Ireland during the Cold War

It was an open secret among analysts during the Cold War that the two major powers used satellite and high altitude surveys to assess each others aims, intentions and resources. Indeed it was US satellite surveillance which first noted the disparities between the USSR's claimed crop yields and the reality, as Khrushchev once bitterly observed to his US adversary!

Colonel Travers carefully compares the Soviet maps with those of the Ordnance Survey, noting how the Soviets included some objects that the OS did not, but neglected others. They seem to have been oddly attracted to water-mills! More chillingly, it looks like they may have been categorising Irish roads based on how militarily viable they were, for logistical support.

I encourage you to read this article, and gain another viewpoint on our rolling terrain. Imagine plotting tank-routes and support artillery...

A collection of snapshots

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Liam sent me this link earlier this evening.

My Father's Kodachrome and B&W Contributions

This Wikipedia user has scanned and uploaded some of his father's old photographs, from America and Europe, seemingly from the 1960s. What strikes me is the difference that still existed between places, a far cry from the homogenous urban and suburban landscapes of today.

What attracted me most was the comparison I could draw between London and Chicago at the time.

800px-Marina_City_,_Chicago_,_Kodachrome_by_Chalmers_Butterfield 800px-London_,_Kodachrome_by_Chalmers_Butterfield

Stalin vs Hitler – comic relettered

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

The following has been re-posted from the old johnl.org:

This is a comic shown to me by friend Meron. It was originally in Russian by Alexey Lipatov, but an anonymous individual translated it the dialogue into English. It was re-formatted by Thomas Silbey. I went one step further and re-lettered the comic in English, in 2005.

I re-lettered all the dialogue and narrations. I re-lettered most of the special effects, necessitating some re-drawing of the backgrounds. Some special effects I left because they made sense as they were or because they would have been hard to replicate. I took some slight liberties with the text. I know Stalin sounds a bit like Seán Connery, and I like it! Imagine the Scot playing Stalin in the biopic...

If any of the aforementioned people object to this re-lettered comic, please contact me.

You'll have to click Read More to see the comic!


(more...)

CIA extraordinary rendition plane crashes in Mexico, filled with cocaine

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

A very strange story from The Daily Kos blog... There's more info in their story:
CIA Torture Jet wrecks with 4 Tons of COCAINE

This Florida based Gulfstream II jet aircraft # N987SA crash landed on September 24, 2007 after it ran out of fuel over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula it had a cargo of several tons of Cocaine on board now documents have turned up on both sides of the Atlantic that link this Cocaine Smuggling Gulfstream II jet aircraft # N987SA that crashed in Mexico to the CIA who used it on at least 3 rendition flights from Europe and the USA to Guantanamo's infamous torture chambers between 2003 to 2005.

The whole thing smacks of the Contra affair of the 1980s. I guess as a sort of "black" airplane, this plane would have been as useful to the drug dealers as to the CIA, slipping under the radar, as it were, of security forces. Or perhaps there's more to it than that...

Wreckage from one-time CIA rendition plane

Wreckage from one-time CIA rendition plane

Flying over Russia during WWII

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

EnglishRussia is an amazing source of bizarre and entrancing images, videos and stories from Russia. Their slogan is "Because something cool happens daily on 1/6 of the Earth's surface", and I really have to agree. They regularly dig up archive photos from Russia during Soviet times, during WWII, and even before Soviet times.

Luftwaffe funeral?

Luftwaffe funeral?

In this post, there are a mixture of photos taken from the air and on the ground by Nazi German pilots in the Luftwaffe during WWII, flying over cities in Russia. There are some miscellaneous other photos mixed in too.

Here's the link: http://englishrussia.com/?p=2952

With the gunner at the turret

With the gunner at the turret

Abandoned places

Thursday, June 18th, 2009
Empty beach - Varosha, Cyprus

Empty beach - Varosha, Cyprus

About a fortnight ago, Aengus made a rather good post about abandoned places.

Today I came across another page with photos of abandoned places, probably the largest one I've seen so far. All the usual ones are there, Pripyat, San Zhi and Centralia, but also a few I hadn't seen before. If you are new to this addiction, this will whet your appetite. This one has three pages full of photos, and while it's just a compilation, it's not to be missed!

http://www.dirjournal.com/info/abandoned-places-in-the-world/


Abandoned building - Varosha, Cyprus

Abandoned building - Varosha, Cyprus