Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Joseph Stalin: The Early Years

On  the 3rd of April 90 years ago Joseph Stalin cemented his place in history by becoming the supreme leader of the Soviet Union, But do you really know who he was? Where he came from? Well today we will be taking a look at his life right up to the time he become a dictator in all but name.

Joseph Stalin was born in 18th December 1878 although there are many dates thrown about because he changed the date to avoid conscription. He was born in the small town of Gori in Georgia to an abusive alcoholic father and highly protective mother, His father beat him constantly which led to Stalin despising his father. The town of Gori was a lawless place and had a very strong gang culture which Joseph was very much apart of he was forever in trouble for fighting and stealing. At the age of 7 he contracted smallpox and his face was highly scarred. Later on in life he had all his portraits and photos retouched so he didn't look so god damn ugly, the joys of having absolute power I guess.

His mother was deeply religious and in 1888 managed to get him into theological school (that's church school for all you cretins!) Unfortunately his dad was adamant that he was going to have a trade. So when he found out the sh*t hit the fan, and in a drunken rage Stalin's father beat up the priest and vandalised the local pub. As was protocol of the times he was told never to return to the town, he ventured off to Tbilsi in search of work. At the age of 12 Stalin was hit by a horse drawn carriage and had to go to Tbilsi Hospital to recover. Whilst there his father kidnapped him and forced him to work in the cobbler trade, don't ask me what the hell a cobbler is because I don't know!! Luckily his mother and the local priests rallied together and got him back into church school where he graduated first in his class. To which his dad cut off all financial support and left his family to fend for themselves.

At the age of 16 he enrolled in  a super church school in Tbilsi. There he and other students started reading forbidden Marxist literature and even started to write poetry! In 1898 he joined the first Bolshevik parties. Just before his Final exams the seminary decided to raise the school fees ridiculously high, the Stalin's were unable to pay so he was expelled and never finished his exams. Shortly after leaving school he found the writings of one Vladimir Lenin and decided to become a revolutionary.

He then took a part time job in an observatory but spent most of his time in revolutionary activities, He soon drew the attention of the Russian secret police and managed to avoid capture on several occasions but it meant he had to leave the normal life behind and go underground, during this time he wrote articles for radical newspapers. In 1902 Stalin was involved in an arson attack and sentenced to 3 years exile in Siberia (also known as the sweaty asshole of the world!) . In  1903 he officially joined the Bolsheviks and in 1905 started to go across Georgia spreading discontent.

In 1906 Stalin met Lenin in Finland for the first time and although impressed by him was not afraid to stand against him on issues dear to his heart. He went back to Georgia and raised money for the Bolsheviks by extortion and bank robberies. He then met Leon Trotsky for the first time his rival as Lenin's successor he hated him instantly calling him pretty but useless. In 1907  Stalin pulled off a massive heist that brought alot of money to the cause but killed 40 people in the process, this act caused him problems for years to come. In 1910 he was finally arrested by the secret police and exiled for 5 years.

In 1912 he moved to St Petersburg but was caught again by the secret police and he was exiled to Siberia again, but he escaped just over a month later. He spent the next 5 years being upto no good, then caught  and exiled and repeat! In 1917 Lenin finally started the revolution and took power of Russia. During this time Stalin ordered the burning of towns just show his power, a clue to the future he had ahead of him. In 1922 Lenin suffered a stroke and was forced into semi-retirement, Stalin visited him often and acted as an intermediary to the outside world. Lenin criticised Stalin's brutality  ruthlessness and ambition and tried to have him removed from his high position, unfortunately for Lenin Stalin blocked this at every turn, he forged with alliances with other strong members of the communist party all to make his position against Trotsky stronger.

I will leave it there for now as this is a bit of an information overload! The next part of the Stalin series will be from 1922 to the end of world war 2. Cheers for now.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dracula: The man behind the myth...

Count Dracula, probably the most famous villain of all horror. He has been portrayed in all aspects of the media books, films, even breakfast cereals! We all know who he is. But do you know where he came from? How it all started?

Count Dracula was first depicted in 1897 in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. The story tells of how Dracula attempted to relocate from Transylvania to Britain, and the resulting battle between him and a group of people led by Van Helsing. This wasn't the first showing of the vampire, as there have been many stories and myths about bloodsuckers going through the ages. But Stoker really did start the vampiric phenomenon we see today. Although the book was praised by critics it wasn't an immediate bestseller. Victorian readers appreciated the story but it did not become significant until the art of film making boosted its reputation.

Now we all know (don't we?) that Count Dracula is a completely fictional character but it has been widely believed that he is largely based on Vlad III Dracula better known as Vlad the Impaler.
Vlad was a Transylvanian born Prince of Wallachia. He got the nickname "Impaler" due to the fact that he would torture and kill anyone he considered useless to him, His favourite method would be to impale them on a sharp pole and then leave them to die. It is rumoured that over 40,000 people suffered that fate by his order.  It was also said that Vlad drank the blood of his victims. But there is no evidence of this and it was probably started being spread after the Dracula connection became popular.

The word 'dracula' means "Son of Dracul" (dragon) is actually derived from a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dracul (dragon) that swore to defend Christendom and the Holy Roman Empire form the Ottoman Turks. The father of Vlad the Impaler, Vlad II was inducted into the order in 1431 because of the victories he had claimed against the Turks. From then on he wore the badges of the order and when he became ruler of Wallachia he even had the dragon symbol stamped on his coins. Bram Stoker was known to have had limited knowledge on Romanian history but it is unknown as to how much fact he inserted into the fiction.

Dracula has since become one of the all time most popular characters in history. It has spawned many films such as Dracula, Dracula and would you believe Dracula. There have been a total of 217 films made with Dracula playing a major part, that's second only to Sherlock Holmes (223 films).  The first film was made in 1922 it was called "Nosferatu" they avoided copyright issues by changing the names of all the books characters, as they could not get permission from Stoker's widow. 

Count Dracula is one of the few villains everyone loves. His character has spawned a wave of fascination throughout the world. Vampires would be nothing without him.  From him spawned Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Legacy of Kain series, Blade, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and even the sparkly losers from Twilight. Without him none of these hugely popular shows and games would ever of began. You know who to thank for their popularity and it sure as hell isn't Robert Pattinson.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Is this the end? No probably not...

Hi everyone,  not really much of a blog this week but I have been really busy doing things in the real world! This is pretty much an announcement more than anything. So here goes.

When I began this I called it Musings of an Idiot because A) I am an idiot and B) I intended to muse about my thoughts and feelings. As time went on I realised I really don't care about things that much, I also did not want this to be a thing where I moan about stuff. We hear moaning all the time!

So I started writing about what was happening in the week i.e Valentines Day, Pancake Day etc etc. I really enjoyed finding out the little facts and stories I didn't know. This is it, the announcement....

From next week I am changing the name of the blog to something more suitable (suggestions would be appreciated as I haven't got a f**king clue what it is yet!). The blog is going to be about interesting things that I come across, it could be anything a person in history, a city or the Mayans end of the world theory! As normal I will put a little dash of me into the mix and hopefully out will pop something you can enjoy. Maybe even say to yourself  "huh I never knew that".

I am even offering it out to you so we can all be part of this together. If there is a certain person, topic, festival, or even chocolate bar you want to know about, send me a message either through my facebook or my e-mail which is lei080387@hotmail.co.uk If I can I will research it and do a little write up you can all enjoy.

Whe I started this I never expected it to become as popular as it has so I will also take this time to thank you all for reading my stuff. I hope you will carry on and enjoy the show, because god damn it, Thats what its all about! I look forward to hearing your suggestions.

Cheers Leigh

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Thirteen: Unlucky For Some..

So today is Friday the 13th which is a really unlu... Oh wait hang on, its Tuesday the 13th not so unlucky then! But there is a fascination with the number 13, lucky for some but unlucky to others. Who decided it was unlucky? Whats the history behind it? Well I am gonna tell you!

Many people believe that the origins of the unluckiness (if that is even a word!) of 13 comes from the Bible, Yes you got it! That little book crops up everywhere we go. There were 13 people at the last supper, Jesus and his 12 apostles. Even now in many countries its considered unlucky to have 13 people at a table. 13 is also the amount of witches you need to make a coven, and it is also the age you are ready to start using witchcraft. I myself am a level 45 warlock/ninja, if you believe that then you will believe anything!

Its thought that a year with 13 full moons will cause many problems, Apparently it was also massive nightmare for the monks who organised the calendars. But in a normal 100 years there are 37 years with 13 full moons I can't see it being that much of a big deal. The Mayan Calendar ends at the 13th Baktun, which many people/morons believe will be the Apocalypse! For Jewish people the number 13 is considered lucky, to which it is argued the unlucky number 13 stems from anti-semitism. On a traditional hangman's noose there are 13 turns, anything less is not strong enough to snap a neck. There is even a medical name for the fear of the number 13 Triskaidekaphobia!

13 has also been tagged with Friday, but why? Again its the bibles fault! Jesus was killed on a Friday, Noah's great floods started on a Friday, even Adam and Eve were tempted to eat the forbidden fruits on a Friday! Many countries have Fridays as there execution day. Friday in general is considered unlucky in many nations and faiths. So I guess two really unlucky things put together makes the mother of all unluckiness (still not sure if that's a real word or not!)! 

Also on Friday the 13th of October 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar. He had built up massive debts to them during the crusades. But at the time the crusades were losing popularity so he used this to his advantage. He had them arrested and tortued until they admitted heresy. He then used this to disband the order, thus freeing himself of his debts. The crafty bastard....

There are many more minor reasons why 13 is unlucky but many cultures consider 13 to be lucky. I guess its just one of those things! Seems to me like its been unlucky for most of our history so I suppose it will carry on being unlucky. Just remember its just a number and a day, the more you think bad stuff is going to happen the more it will. Thinks good thoughts and good things will happen, its the best way to be!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

St Piran: Cornwall's Symbol

St Piran: The patron saint of Cornwall. Everyone knows his name, but do you actually know who he was, or what he did? Well if you don't by the end of this blog you will!

The Legend
So this is how the story goes. St Piran was born in Ireland sometime in the 6th century A.D . He became a christian Abbott and decided to preach the good Lord's name to the world, Hallelujah! Unfortunately for St Piran the heathen Irish weren't too keen on the idea of God and his troublemaker son Jesus. So instead of converting, they thought it would be a better idea to tie poor old Piran up, attach him to a mill-stone and throw him into the ocean. Problem solved, except when he was thrown into the stormy ocean, the sea grew calm, the rains stopped and the giant stone floated. A miracle if I had ever seen one! So as the heathens stood in disbelief, Piran sailed off into the sunset (I imagine he was also waving the middle finger, but that probably didn't happen).

He finally came ashore on a sandy beach in Perranzabuloe, where he set up a church, and helped spread Christendom to the Cornish, who I might add were much more welcoming than the Irish!
The Cornish had also been known as skilled miners and had supplied the Romans with tin for centuries, but due to the fall of Rome the skill of tin smelting had become lost. Luckily Piran rediscovered this method, by smelting the tin out of his black hearthstone, which must of been a tin-bearing ore. The rumour is that as the molten tin came across the hearthstone it formed a white cross. White molten tin cross on a black hearthstone background? That's a great idea for a flag, and that is exactly what the Cornish flag symbolises.

After many years St Piran died and his remains were buried at his abbey in Perranzabuloe. Centuries later his remains were exhumed and redistributed to different churches across the country. Exeter Cathedral got an arm, Perranzabuloe got his head so on and so forth. Churches in Perranarworthal and Perranuthnoe were dedicated to him. And holy wells in Perranwell and Probus are named after him. There also towns in Brittany named after him and even a mountain in Canada! Thats the story or is it?

The Probable Truth
This can be quite confusing so keep up!
The Irish Saint Ciarán of Saighir, who founded the monastery at Seir-Kieran (Saighir) in County Offaly, is widely believed to also be St Piran, this is due to the fact that in the Celtic language The 
P-Celtic Brythonic (Cornish, Welsh, and Breton) 'P' can easily be transformed into the
Q-Celtic Goidelic (Gaelic, Manx, and Scottish) 'C'. I am not gonna pretend I really know what that means but if you do your research it keeps coming up! It is also believed Ciarán had travelled to Britain to spread christianity. The feast day of Saint Ciarán is also March 5. In the 14th Century the life of St Piran was written at Exeter Cathedral, where rumour has it the records were modified to distance Piran from Ciarán. Who knew the Catholic church could be so devious?

Well there you have it in a nutshell, but as I have been researching this, whether or not he was Piran or Ciarán. I thought to myself does it really matter? He certainly didn't float here on a rock! But he is a symbol for Cornish pride, and as a nation (we ARE a nation, whether England likes it or not!) you need symbols, a rallying point to share your heritage. March 5th is a day to venerate him and show the rest of the world that we are proud to be Cornish.  KERNOW BYS VYKEN!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Leap Year: What they didn't tell you!

So February 29th is upon us, but why the hell do we add 24 hours to our year? And why only every 4 years? Well this week we are going to unravel the wonder that is the leap year....

How It All Began
Right this is gonna take some real explaining so bear with me.
We all know that the Roman Empire were the worlds first superpower, and pretty much ruled the known world. (This is a basic backstory!) The original Roman Calendar had ten months, Starting from March to December. This is why September is no longer the 7th month, same goes for October and December and their respective numbers. Then  Numa the second King of Rome added two months to the calender: Ianuarius (January) and Februarius (February). All went swimmingly for the next 600 years, and as the Kingdom of Rome became The Roman Republic, the seasons started to shift out of sync.

The Egyptians now part of the Roman Republic figured out that The Roman calendar wasn't lined up correctly with the solar calendar (365.242199 days), So the leader at the time, Julius Caesar added an extra ten days to the year and added the leap day to come at the end of February every 4 years. The pompous git also changed the month of Quintilis to Julius (July) in his honour. For an added bonus his son Augustus also changed the month Sextilis to...... come on I am sure you can work it out! The clue is in his name! Caesar's reforms actually weren't far off the solar calendar and for the next 1500 years all was good, well apart from the fall of the empire an the world being plunged into the dark ages, but I digress....

In the year 1582 Pope Gregory XIII tweaked the Julian Calendar to the current Gregorian calendar we use today.  The leap day is still at the end of February almost very 4 years. Except the rule is a leap year can only happen on a year that is divisible by 4, but can never happen on a year divisible by 100 unless it can also be divided by 400, not too confusing then! A good example is that 1900 wasn't a leap year but 2000 was. So there you have it a brief and basic history of our calendar, and the leap day!

Interesting Leap Year Facts
  • The Gregorian calendar isn't perfect, it will go out of sync with the Solar Calendar by 1 day every 3236 years!
  • The Chinese calendar doesn't have a leap day, it has a leap month!
  • Sweden (and Finland) had a "double" leap year in 1712, because two days were added to February. That year there was a date February 30, 1712. This was done because the leap year in 1700 was dropped, and Sweden's calendar was not synchronised with any other calendar. By adding an extra day in 1712, they were back on the Gregorian calendar.
  • Your chances of being born on a leap day are approximately 1 in 1500. There are about 4 million people in the world who were born on Leap Day.
  • If you were born on a leap day, you will celebrate your birthday on either the 28th of February or the 1st of March.
  • As the story goes, the tradition of women romantically pursuing men in leap years began in 5th century Ireland, when St Bridget complained to St Patrick about the fairer sex having to wait for men to propose. Patrick finally relented and set February 29th aside  allowing women the right to ask for a man's hand in marriage.

Everything you never needed or wanted to know about leap years summed up in a lovely little blog. Hope you enjoyed it, even if it meant you had to learn something!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Lent: Why not give that up?

So yesterday was the 3rd best day of the year (Behind christmas day and my birthday!) the wonderful festival of cake from a pan, or to normal people Pancake day. I ate loads! Here is a list of the toppings I used: Clotted Cream,  Maple Syrup, The squirty lemon stuff, Chocolate Syrup, oh and sugar. Really its Shrove Tuesday and until now I didn't really know what it means or why the hell we eat pancakes on it either. So let us dive in to the history of the mystery of Lent..

Well until today I assumed everyone knew what lent was. Until I asked an employee at work what he was giving up for lent, to which he replied "No I didn't lend you anything". What a tit. I then asked weren't you baptized? he stated (and I sh*t you not)  "No I was christened" The tit grows larger...
Anyway, Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. Typically if you are serious in your faith (which just to be clear I am not) You will fast during this period, whereas most people nowadays give up chocolate for a week, then say well I done a week and then stuff themselves! The story goes that Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert and withstood temptation from the devil, Lent is basically emulating it. Also sundays don't count in Lent so this period is actually longer than forty days.

Shrove Tuesday
Its the day before Lent. Last chance to do all the naughty stuff you can't do for the next forty days except Sundays. There is actually a good reason why its pancakes we eat on shrove tuesday. As I said the most die hard christians fast during Lent. In the olden days your main staple would of been sugar, fat, flour and eggs, Holy crap! Thats the ingredients for pancakes! Get the picture you ate pancakes to use everything up before you started fasting. Kinda makes sense when you think about it.

Ash Wednesday
Thats it if you didn't enjoy all the good stuff yesterday, TOUGH! It's too late because now its fasting street for the next forty days (apart from sundays!) The reason its named so is because this is the day you go to church to repent, and we all know how christians love to repent! While you're in the church repenting like you have never repented before, You will have the symbol of the cross drawn on your head with what? Thats right you guessed it, ashes. To those who said crayon shame on you!  The ash cross is to symbolize mourning and why not, more repentence. It is predominantly done from the ash of palms burnt and blessed from the previous years Palm Sunday. The wearer must not wash off the cross but rather leave it till it wears off naturally. This is of course optional in the modern day society.

So there you have it, pretty much the long and short of it dumbed down to these three paragraphs. Whether you are religious or not, its good to have these traditions where we can try and change something in our lives we are not happy with. So whether you are fasting or only giving up chocolate, stick at it. After all its only forty days bar sundays....