Tag Archives: history

dead or alive

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They saw him struggling and being done. He seemed to stop breathing with no vital signs of being “alive and kicking” any longer. They saw it all, they thought him dead up there on the scaffold, suspended for 50 good minutes on a sturdy rope tied around his neck on one cold November afternoon of 1740. Then this presumably dead man came to life as soon as a penal surgeon put a surgical knife on the body laid on a slab for anatomical dissection. This really happened, and so it did. Hence the phrase, “Dead or Alive.” The subject of this incredible case was 16-year old William Duell, condemned for the rape and murder of a servant girl.

This incredible cheating of death spawned doubts on the effective way of enforcing deference value of the penal law, religious musing on a possibility of divine intervention, and dilemmas of what should be done with this resurrected convict. It was concluded that Duell was to be transported for life to North America discreetly lest his survival should stir up any public imbroglio that would result in a call for abolishment of execution by hanging deemed to be ineffectual and thus inoperative in enforcing authority of the capital code in society. Accordingly, there are no known records of Duell’s transportation to North America and his after-life therein. What a chance of life he was given despite his cardinal sin!

Then how did it all happen? It was due to a miracle of our human body that will make the reader’s head swivel in wonderment: the fact that the execution was carried out in cold winter increased Duell’s chance of survival because the brain must have triggered the body’s survival mechanisms when in traumatic comatose. That is, the body in its own biological defense against such trauma lets the brain reduce the temperature and keeps the heart and lungs alive by maintaining optimum oxygen levels to prevent major brain damage in a trauma, such as Duell’s being hanged in the winter cold.

It’s a cracking case of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,”which is worth the knowing if the reader is keen on uncanny things. But then nothing is more wondrous than our own human form. To the agnostic skeptics, it’s science of the body that works a divine feat of miracle in the sense that it can fight back threats from the outside and even death, such as being manifested in Duell’s incredible dead-alive illustration. On the other hand, as not all hanged men did return to life, it would be supercilious to conclude that only science rules in this strangely curious case, for there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our modern rational mode of reasoning.

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‘The Wehrmacht: Last Witnesses’, by Bob Carruthers – review

The Wehrmacht: Last WitnessesThe Wehrmacht: Last Witnesses by Bob Carruthers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The pomp and pageantry of polished military parade was a handsome sight to behold: the glory of valor, the canopy of military prowess marching in illustrious formation to Beethoven’s mettlesome “Yorckscher March” all seemed ebulliently auspicious for the Fuhrer, for the Fatherland, and for the People of Germania. And then was heard no more. Woe betided the soldiers lured by such sensual grandeur of militarism meticulously embroidered on piquant propaganda into the March of Carnage at the expense of their youthful dreams and hopes shattered by shells and shrapnel of weapons of killing. Or those whose existential dilemma left them but a choice of going to war found themselves hostages to Goddess Fortuna.

The detritus of destroyed arms, scorched earth, and blood-stained uniforms might have been washed up by the tides of time, but the memories, willed or unwilled, still remain in the minds of the former Wehrmacht (German military forces of the Third Reich) veterans and tell the stories of their firsthand experiences of war in their own words like tesserae religiously put together in a mosaic of humanity. It’s all here in this book, bereft of acerbic decry of the “Nazi” soldiers, packed full of imperturbable accounts of the fading warriors.

In the historical tradition of Thucydides, whose credo was to examine the validity of any popular beliefs for historical objectivity based on factual information, this book follows the ancient credo of providing factual reports of the reality of war in the context of the soldiers’ individual experiences of life and death based on unambiguous, substantive eye-witness account. The reader will get to see the phantasmagorical display of images of war as filmed by each of the veterans presented in a way that it creates a feeling of watching a neorealist film of straightforward nature made by a hand-held camcorder. In all considerations, this book is worth the reading to appreciate the tribulations and personal experiences of the soldiers of the much despised and feared military forces during World War II because after all, they were also humans who fought for their own lives against the showers of shells and shrapnel. To conclude, no other poet than W.H. Auden could have chimed the bells of emotions and feelings of the soldiers this resonantly in his poem Spain:

To-day the deliberate increase in the chances of death, the conscious acceptance of guilt in the necessary murder; to-day the expending of powers on the flat ephemeral pamphlet and the boring meeting.

To-day the makeshift consolations: the shared cigarette, the cards in the candlelit barn, and the scraping concert, the masculine jokes; to-day the Fumbled and unsatisfactory embrace before hurting.

The stars are dead. The animals will not look. We are left alone with our day, and the time is short, and history to the defeated may say Alas but cannot help or pardon.

 

‘Legally Haunted Houses’ by Dylan Clearfield – review

Legally Haunted HousesLegally Haunted Houses by Dylan Clearfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For a person like me who likes to read genuine supernatural stories free from dramatic accounts of witnesses, psychic, paranormal investigators, and/or parapsychologists, this is a perfect read consisting of historical cases in France, England, Canada, and the States that were rendered haunted by the court of law.

For example, the case of Stambovsky v. Ackley in the appellate division of New York Supreme Court has become a bedrock case law of caveat emptor, which is literally translated as “Let the buyer beware,” meaning that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made. The appellate court ruled that since the buyer should not/could be able to ascertain a condition in which haunting occurred upon reasonable investigation in due diligence on the buyer’s part, the plaintiff Stambovsky was awarded the rescission of the contract of sale of the house.

All of the stories contained in this collection of the cases are recorded in historical as well as legal documents, which weigh heavily against sensational TV programs and hyped-up accounts of psychics and the like in its genuineness. And it’s a light read readers can finish at one setting. Mind you, truth can be scarier than fiction.

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BBC History Magazine – review

https___www.discountmags.com_shopimages_products_normal_extra_i_8533-bbc-history-cover-2019-january-1-issueThis magazine deserves of its honors in History and Literature: the prime qualities of the articles it features on every monthly issue result from its writers who appear to master the Art of Practical English (along with the writers of The Spectator) that should exemplify all others, especially here in the States, where big words and intricate sentence structures are modus operandi of fine writing. In addition to the beauty of writing, the magazine deals with many an interesting historical fact that strikes the chords of the present era, making us realize that as long as the human race exists, human nature remains unchanged. To top it all off, this magazine is a lovely read easily and perfectly downloaded on a Kindle Fire in its entirety and keeps you amusing company on the train and at a coffee shop.

 

P.S. Happy Friday proffered me a delicious respite at the office today. Then came one of those inconsequential e-mails sent by Amazon asking its Prime members about a review of goods or a book one had ordered. As a way of improving Craft of Writing and compensating for recent lack of writing activities under the pretext of my learning a new trade and exerting my herculean power on  a long commute to and from home, I deemed it productive to write this bullet review of this great magazine that has become a darling of my regular routine reads. How much I wish I could write like the writers of this intelligently entertaining magazine! Hence, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s axiom always resonates within me: “Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and Grow…”

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Birth of Underworld Train on 01/10/1863

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1863: A contemporary lithograph of a steam locomotive on the Metropolitan line near Paddington Station, courtesy of the Telegraph

As a commuter taking trains – that is, both overground and underground – to work, I deem it appropriate to pay a historical tribute to the opening of the world’s first subterranean railway in London, England on January 10th, 1863. The London Underground is the genesis of all the world’s trains running under the surface of earth, such as the New York City Subway, the Los Angeles Metro Rail, Paris Metro, the Tokyo Subway, et al, and for its perpetual legacies as one of the greatest inventions in human history that reconstructed social substratum as well as cultural setting, the commencement of the Underground 156 years ago from today deserves of its deferential recognition and universal commemoration. Thus is my reason I write this post as a personal token of my appreciation for the use of the Metro on a daily basis.

When the idea of operating underground railways was proposed, the public and the critics alike decried it, demanded it should be offloaded, for they all shuddered at the thought of going under the surface of earth, which Dante indicated in Inferno as where Hell existed, or a pit fit for the condemned prisoners only. Those who had their disbelief on such daring idea of tunneling underground simply dismissed it as stark nonsense or one big hokum. Some even feared about a remote prospect of the tunnels collapsing due to the weight of the houses. And to some, it’s an express ride to Inferno, because the very thought of traveling underground by train seemed so preposterous, so blasphemous, so revolting that round trips should be used as a severe form of punishment for convicted criminals. Besides, like their modern counterparts grumbling about cacophonous environment of construction nearby, the entire procedural only instigated noisome puncturing of the equilibrium of locals.

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Commuters waving their hats in the air during a trial journey on the London Metropolitan Underground railway, courtesy of BBC.com

However, to the consternation of all those critics and public, the result of the Underground, the subterranean train of Hades,  came to fruition of its revolutionary speedy efficiency and cultural experience that was truly one-of-kind. In fact, it proved a triumph of determination and Victorian engineering feat, creating a dazzling combination of Arts and Science in terms of its technical prowess and the novelty of uniqueness in all things creative and venturesome. In fact, on January 10th, 1863, 38,000 people rode between Farringdon and Paddington stations. There were 3 compartment lit by gas, and each of the compartments was designed with care for passengers because efficiency and beauty could accompany one another, never rival.

When I will be on the Metro tomorrow morning, I will think of those Victorian London passengers on the Underground and will likely to thank Directors and Engineers of the London Metropolitan Railway Company for opening a new era of public transport that has upended our patterns of life and shapes of our perspectives on our everyday life.