Saturday 29 November 2014

Men of Yore: John Blashford-Snell

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

John Blashford-Snell

First Steps
Born in 1936, John was educated at Victoria College, Jersey and subsequently entered The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He served for 37 years in the Army and saw active services in many areas. His family roots lie in Jersey where his grandfather was a sea captain. His father was an Army Chaplain and his mother is well remembered for her care of animals as well as the people of their parishes. JBS grew up amongst a menagerie of wounded and orphaned wildlife which generated his own interest in conservation. He married Judith in 1960, they have two married daughters and live in Dorset.
Youth and Exploration
In 1969, following the success of the Blue Nile Expedition, JBS and his colleagues formed the Scientific Exploration Society, their aim being "to foster and encourage scientific exploration worldwide". The SES became the parent body for many worldwide ventures with the support and involvement of HRH The Prince of Wales.
Inspired by the spirit of Sir Frances Drake's voyage 400 years ago, JBS poured his energy into raising funds and selecting a team to run Operation Drake. From 1978 to 1980 projects were organised for 400 young people from 27 nations working with scientists and servicemen in 16 counties. Operations were run from the Eye of the Wind, a 150-ton British brigantine which circumnavigated the world providing a floating base and laboratory for their scientific work.

As a result of the success of this venture, The Fairbridge Drake Society (now part of the Princes Trust) was formed to help disadvantaged young people and subsequently, at the request of the Government and many organisations, a much larger global youth programme was organised. In 1984 JBS launched Operation Raleigh and by 1992 over 10,000 young men and women from 50 nations had taken part in challenges and worthwhile global expeditions, returning home as true young pioneers intent on putting something back into their own communities.

In the interim, in the wake of the urban riots in 1981, JBS set up a special army unit in the Scottish Highlands named The Fort George Volunteers, designed to give the young a greater sense of purpose and responsibility. In the space of a year several thousand youngsters, many from Britain's inner cities, were put through a series of tough, exciting exercises. Places for these and his other ventures were extremely competitive and the method used to assess the potential and calibre of young people became a blueprint for many other youth-orientated organisations.

In 1993 he became Chairman of a £2.5 million appeal to establish a unique centre to provide vocational training and guidance for the young of Merseyside. It is now open and proving to be a great success. Later he helped to set up the Liverpool Construction Crafts Guild to promote the training of skilled craftsmen in Liverpool. 

Adult Exploration Opportunities
In 1991 JBS retired from the Army and as Director General of Operation Raleigh. Following requests to use his wealth of experience to provide similar opportunities for mature people, he organises and leads many science and community aid based ventures, taking people of all ages to remote areas of the world. 

The Present
He assists less privileged youngsters and is concerned with the development of opportunities for youth. He is also a Patron of the Moorlands Community Development in Brixton and assists the Calvert Exmoor Trust in its work with physically handicapped young people. From 2004 to 2009 JBS directed the Trinity Sailing Foundation appeal that raised funds to give disadvantaged youngsters short sea training courses. He continues as Vice-President.
He has founded Operation New World, a programme providing field experience for environmental students and is President of the Scientific Exploration Society, which now approves expeditions worldwide. Since 1998 he has led the major Kota Mama expeditions, involving the navigation of South American rivers with traditional reed boats, seeking archaeological sites and providing support for the people, fauna and flora of remote regions. JBS also helped to set up Just a Drop, the World Travel Market's charity that provides funding for water projects in the developing world and he is now its President. He is also a fervent supporter of British Army charities and a Vice President of the St George's Day Club.

His interest in unsolved mysteries and wildlife has led him to be elected Life President of the Centre for Fortean Zoology and succeeds the late Dr Bernard Heuvelmans. He has a special affection for voles and is President of the Vole Club.

In recent years JBS has been concentrating on exploration in little known areas of South America and in 2009 he led another meteorite quest in Bolivian Amazonas.

JBS is an international ambassador for the famous Zenith watch company of Geneva who supplied watches for the epic Darien Gap Expedition in 1972. JBS is a brand ambassador for Zenith watches and a limited edition of 500, named "Zenith, El Primero Blashford", has been produced as a tribute to him.


Another example of a former soldier who had, or rather has, a compassionate attitude towards animals.  Which demonstrates to us that the stereotype of the hard-drinking, action-loving, soldier is an inaccurate one.

P.S. Again thanks to an anonymous commentor for suggesting Mr Blashford-Snell.


Friday 21 November 2014

Men of Yore: Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard

Major Hesketh Vernon Prichard, later Hesketh-Prichard, DSO, MC, FRGS, FZS (17 November 1876 – 14 June 1922) was an explorer, adventurer, big-game hunter and marksman who made a significant contribution to sniping practice within the British Army during the First World War. Concerned not only with improving the quality of marksmanship, the measures he introduced to counter the threat of German snipers were credited by a contemporary with saving the lives of over 3,500 Allied soldiers.

During his lifetime, he also explored territory never seen before by white man, played cricket at first-class level, including on overseas tours, wrote short stories and novels (one of which was turned into a Douglas Fairbanks film) and was a successful newspaper correspondent and travel writer. His many activities brought him into the highest social and professional circles. Like other turn of the century hunters such as Teddy Roosevelt, he was an active campaigner for animal welfare and succeeded in seeing legal measures introduced for their protection.

Early Life
Hesketh-Prichard was born an only child on 17 November 1876 in Jhansi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India.[1] His father Hesketh Brodrick Prichard, an officer in the King's Own Scottish Borderers, died from typhoid six weeks before he was born,[2] leading him to be raised alone by his mother Kate O'Brien Ryall Prichard.[1] She herself had come from a military family, her father being Major-General Browne William Ryall.[3]

Hesketh-Prichard and his mother returned to Great Britain soon after, and lived for a while at her parents' house, before moving to St Helier on Jersey for several years. His nickname was "Hex", which he would bear throughout his life. They returned to the mainland that the boy might be educated at a prep school in Rugby.[4] In 1887 he won a scholarship to Fettes College, Edinburgh; his entrance paper was an essay on "Summer Sports".[2] He excelled at sports there, particularly cricket, at which the school magazine described him as "the best bowler we have had for a long time".[5] He was invited to play for Scotland against South Africa, but declined as he would have been unable to play against Fette's rival Loretto School.[5] After school, he studied law privately in Horsham, West Sussex. He passed the preliminary exam, though he would never practice as a solicitor.[2]

In 1899 Pearson chose Hesketh-Prichard to explore and report on the relatively unknown republic of Haiti, wanting something dramatic with which to launch his forthcoming Daily Express. His mother accompanied him as far as Jamaica; in later years she would often travel with him to remote destinations in a time when it was uncommon for a woman of her age to do so. Hesketh-Prichard travelled extensively into the uncharted interior of Haiti, narrowly avoiding death on one occasion when someone tried to poison him.[1] No white man was believed to have crossed the island since 1803, and his trip provided the first written description of some of the secret practices of "vaudoux" (voodoo).[8] He later wrote a vivid account of his travels in the popular book Where Black Rules White: A Journey Across and About Hayti.[9]
Pearson welcomed his reports, and on his return immediately commissioned him to travel to Patagonia to investigate dramatic rumours of a hairy beast roaming the land. The animal was conjectured by Natural History Museum director Ray Lankester to be a living example of the long-extinct giant ground sloth.[9] Hesketh-Prichard's talent for descriptive narration enthralled the readers of the Daily Express. He explored the area surrounding Lake Argentino, finding one of its feeder lakes, naming it Lake Pearson after his patron, and their connecting river Caterina after his mother.[10] Lake Pearson was subsequently renamed Lake Anita, but the Río Caterina, known for its salmon, retains the name Hesketh-Prichard gave it.[11] The surrounding area is now part of Los Glaciares National Park.

Although he found no traces of the creature after a year overseas and 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of travel, he did provide compelling descriptions of unknown areas of the country, its fauna and inhabitants.[9] He acquired the pelt of an unknown subspecies of puma, naming it Felis concolor pearsoni. (The puma is now considered to be a variety of the southern South American cougar Puma concolor concolor.) The grass species Poa prichardii was named after Hesketh-Prichard after he brought back a specimen.[12] He compiled the story of his travels in the well-received Through the Heart of Patagonia.[9]

Hesketh-Prichard first visited Atlantic Canada in August 1903, travelling up the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland, and donating the heads of stags he had shot to the Newfoundland Exhibition then in London. He returned in October 1904, this time with his mother, and the cricketer Teddy Wynyard.[14]

His most ambitious trip to the region was however in July 1910, when he undertook to explore the interior of Labrador, saying "it seemed to us a pity that such a terra incognita should continue to exist under the British flag".[15] This same territory had claimed the life of writer Leonidas Hubbard a few years earlier. He described his journey up the Fraser River to access Indian House Lake on George River in the popular Through Trackless Labrador in 1911.[15]

His reputation was such that former president Theodore Roosevelt, a fellow writer, explorer and hunter, wrote to him, commending him on his latest book, which he described as the best that season, and asking to meet him.[16]

He wrote his first story "Tammer's Duel" in the summer of 1896, which his mother helped him refine, and was sold soon after to Pall Mall Magazine for a guinea.[6] That year he abandoned a career in law and spent the summer travelling around southern Europe and North Africa. He spent the sea-time on the trip writing or planning plots.[6] When back in London, he and his mother wrote together under the pseudonyms "H. Heron" and "E. Heron", and saw publication in several journals, including Cornhill Magazine.[7] Hesketh-Prichard's circle of literary friends widened and he became acquainted with the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle and J. M. Barrie. In 1897 Barrie introduced him to the press baron Cyril Arthur Pearson, who suggested he write a series of ghost stories for his monthly Pearson's Magazine.[7] Hesketh-Prichard and his mother created a series of stories around the character "Flaxman Low"', the first psychic detective of fiction, though they were disconcerted to find the tales promoted by Pearson as "real".[7] The collected work was published as The Experiences of Flaxman Low in 1899.

In 1897, he and his mother worked on the plot of A Modern Mercenary, the stories of Captain Rallywood, a dashing diplomat in Germany.[2] It was published by Smith and Elder the following year. He travelled to South America in February 1898, seeing the construction work for the Panama Canal,[7] but returned after developing malaria while in the Caribbean.

In 1904, the mother-and-son writing team produced The Chronicles of Don Q., a collection of short stories featuring the fictional rogue Don Quebranta Huesos, a Spanish Robin Hood-like figure who was fierce to the evil rich but kind-hearted to the virtuous poor. [..]

In 1913, writing on his own, Hesketh-Prichard created the crime-fighting figure "November Joe", a hunter and backwoodsman from the Canadian wilderness.[20] It was broadcast as a radio play by the BBC on 23 September 1970.[21]

Despite his reputation as a hunter, he campaigned to end the clubbing of Grey Seals around the coast. Aided by his friend Charles Lyell MP, he was successful in seeing the Grey Seals (Protection) Act passed unopposed in 1914,[22] Britain's first legal protection for non-game mammals.[23] His article "Slaughtered for Fashion" in the March 1914 Pearson's Magazine argued to protect birds from slaughter for their plumage for millinery.[24]

Hesketh-Prichard was a talented cricketer,[25][26] and played for a number of teams, including Hampshire, London County, and Marylebone Cricket Club.[27]
A tall man, he was able to use his height and reach to his advantage when bowling. In a first-class career that lasted from 1900 to 1913, he took 339 wickets for a total of 7,586 runs.[27][30] A career best was 8/32 for Hampshire against Derbyshire in July 1905.[31]

Military Service
At the outbreak of the First World War, Hesketh-Prichard tried for a commission in the Black Watch and Guards, but both turned him down because of his age, then 37.[32] He was eventually successful obtaining a post as Assistant Press Officer at the War Office, and first sent to the front lines in France in February 1915 as an "eyewitness officer" in charge of war correspondents.[32] By this time, open warfare on the front had ceased, and had stagnated into the trench warfare that characterised much of the conflict. He witnessed there the victims of gas attack.[32]
Hesketh-Prichard was shocked to learn of the high attrition rate due to well-trained German snipers. It was common for British regiments to lose five men a day to snipers;[33] he learned that one battalion lost eighteen in a single day.[34] The German snipers could not be located, leaving them free to continue shooting from their place of concealment. He was also dismayed by the poor quality of marksmanship amongst the British troops.

He set about improving the quality of marksmanship, calibrating and correcting the few telescopic sights that the army already possessed.[25] He borrowed more sights and hunting rifles from friends and famous hunters back home, and funded the acquisition of others from his own pocket, or donations he solicited. To investigate the quality of German armour plate, he retrieved a sample from a German trench. He discovered that their armour could only be penetrated by a heavy cartridge such as Jeffery 333, while British plate could be easily defeated by a much smaller gun such as a Mauser.[35]

Trench Warfare Innovations
He recognised German skill in constructing trench parapets: by making use of an irregular top and face to the parapet, and constructing it from material of varying composition, the presence of a sniper or an observer poking his head up became much less conspicuous. In contrast, British trench practice had been to give a military-straight neat edge to the parapet top, making any movement or protrusion immediately obvious.[36]

An observer was vulnerable to an enemy sniper firing a bullet through his loophole, but Hesketh-Prichard devised a metal-armoured double loophole that would protect him. The front loophole was fixed, but the rear was housed in a metal shutter sliding in grooves. Only when the two loopholes were lined up—a one-to-twenty chance—could an enemy shoot between them.[37]
Another innovation was the use of a dummy head to find the location of an enemy sniper.[38] The tempting target of a realistic papier-mâché head was raised above the parapet on a stick running in a groove on a fixed board. To increase the realism, a lit cigarette could be inserted into the dummy's mouth and be smoked by a soldier via a rubber tube.[38] If the head was shot, it was dropped rapidly, simulating a casualty. The sniper's bullet would have made a hole in the front and back of the dummy's head. The head was then raised in the groove again, but lower than before by the vertical distance between the glasses of a trench periscope. If the lower glass of a periscope was placed before the front bullet hole, its upper glass would be at exactly the same height as the bullet had been. By looking through the rear hole in the head, through the front hole and up through the periscope, the soldier would be looking exactly along the line the bullet had taken, and so would be looking directly at the sniper, revealing his position.[38]

Training Snipers
Hesketh-Prichard was eventually successful in gaining official support for his campaign, and in August 1915 was given permission to proceed with formalised sniper training.[39] By November of that year, his reputation was such that he was in high demand from many units. In December he was ordered on General Allenby's request to the Third Army School of Instruction and was made a general staff officer with the rank of captain.[40] He was Mentioned in Despatches on 1 January 1916.[41]

In August 1916, he founded the First Army School of Sniping in the village of Linghem, Pas-de-Calais.[42] Starting with a first class of only six, in time he was able to lecture to large numbers of soldiers from different Allied nations, proudly proclaiming in a letter that his school was turning out snipers at three times the rate of any such other school in the world.[42] In October of that year he was awarded the Military Cross, the citation of which read: "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has instructed snipers in the trenches on many occasions, and in most dangerous Circumstances, with great skill and determination. He has, directly and indirectly, inflicted enormous casualties on the enemy."[43] His friend George Gray, himself a champion shooter, told him that he had reduced sniping casualties from five a week per battalion to forty-four in three months in sixty battalions; by his reckoning, this meant that Hesketh-Prichard had saved over 3,500 lives.[33] He was promoted to major in November 1916.[44] By this time in the war, his contributions to sniping had been such that the former German superiority in the practice had now been reversed.[25]

Later War Years
Hesketh-Prichard was taken ill with an undetermined infection in late 1917 and was granted leave. His health remained poor for the rest of his life, and he spent much of it convalescing.
He continued to write and hunt when his health permitted him. In 1920, he wrote his account of his war time activities in the critically acclaimed Sniping in France (full-text available on Wikisource and as a PDF document), which is still referenced by modern authors on the subject.[47][48][49] The following year he wrote Sport in Wildest Britain, in which he shared his experiences of bird shooting, particularly in the Outer Hebrides.[17]

Family life
In 1908, he married Lady Elizabeth Grimston, the daughter of James Grimston, 3rd Earl of Verulam, whom he'd met through friends.[2] They had three children[..]  His younger son Alfgar Hesketh-Prichard was later recruited to the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War, where he became the first head of its Czech Section, training agents to conduct the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.[50][..]

Later years
In July 1919 Hesketh-Prichard was elected Chairman of the Society of Authors, of which he had been a member for many years.[53] Poor health forced him to resign in the following January.[54]
Hesketh-Prichard died from sepsis on 14 June 1922, at the ancestral home of his wife at Gorhambury, Hertfordshire, England.[..]
His biography was written two years after his death by his friend Eric Parker, who encapsulated his many accomplishments within its title: Hesketh Prichard D.S.O., M.C.: Explorer, Naturalist, Cricketer, Author, Soldier.


It's always surprising to find the types of men that are animal welfare advocates and conservationists, because they are far from the stereotypical left-wing, sandal-wearing, metrosexual modern person that society would have you believe.  Hesketh Hesketh-Pritchard was a military man and an animal welfare advocate.  Theodore Rooselevelt (a military man), John Soloman Rarey (a horse trainer), Rudolf Steiner (a philosopher/theosophist with a practical side), Arthur Schopenhauer (a philosopher), and Grey Owl (an Eccentric Englishman) were other such men who showed compassion towards animals which demonstrates to us that animal compassion (and empathy in general) come from all walks of life and comes from all types of men.

The compassionate element of his character may also have been the driving force behind his various army inventions which helped to stop his own men from being killed or wounded.  If he had been more cold-hearted then he may have been more likely to blame the soldiers rather than the tactics and tools they were using, rather than trying to improve their situation.  And it was down to his own personal ingenuity, drive and compassion that those new inventions came to the fore, not the top-down method preferred by organisation-type people.

The more that you find out about men or yore and about how the world works and is made then you find that the monolithic organisations and institutions that walk the globe are less important than you would have them believe.  Organisations are merely the outworking of men's collective efforts and works.  This is in direct contra-distinction to how the organisations portray themselves: as structures that you join.  As soon as communities cease being communities of men working for a collective purpose and become organisations (things that men join and work for, or exploit, for their own gain disregarding others), then the whole thing takes a massive nose-dive as men start seeing men as something other than men - as more like workers, jobs, numbers, heartless, compassionateless entities that are moved around like piles of data disks.

Compassion for others is one characteristic that truly distinguishes men.

P.S. Thanks to an anyonymous commentor for suggesting Hesketh-Prichard as a Men of Yore entry.


Friday 14 November 2014

Men of Yore: Leo Gradwell

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Lieutenant Leo Gradwell

Leo Gradwell DSC was born in Chester; a British barrister, a magistrate and a Second World War Royal Navy volunteer, who in July 1942 against orders, led his own RN-adapted Trawler HMS Ayrshire and three merchant ships from the disaster of Convoy PQ 17 into Arkhangelsk, Soviet Union.[1]

Early life
Born Leo Joseph Anthony Gradwell in Chester UK, Gradwell was educated at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire and then read classics at Balliol College, Oxford.[1] By the time he graduated, he spoke six languages, and joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman, serving in the First World War.[1]

At the cessation of hostilities, Gradwell was discharged from the Navy and started a pupillage in Liverpool and was called to the bar in 1925. He entered chambers in Liverpool, then practised as an advocate on the Northern Circuit.[1] During his spare time, he enjoyed sailing in the Irish Sea[2] and gained a coastal navigation certificate.

Second World War
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Gradwell was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a Lieutenant.[2] He was given command of the anti submarine warfare adapted 575 long tons (584 t) Middlesbrough-built trawler MS Ayrshire, renamed HMS Ayrshire (FY 225),[3] with a crew of volunteer fishermen.

Attached as part of the defensive net around Convoy PQ17, on receiving the third order to scatter on 4 July 1942, Gradwell concluded that as he was heading north to the arctic ice shelf, he might as well take some merchant ships with him. Leading his convoy of Ayrshire plus three merchant vessels – the Panamanian-registered Troubador, the Ironclad, and the American-registered Silver Sword[4] – he proceeded north using only a sextant and "The Times World Geographic Pocket Book", as his vessel lacked charts for this part of the Atlantic. On reaching the Arctic ice pack, the convoy found itself stuck fast, so the ships stopped engines and banked their fires.[4] Gradwell arranged a defence, formulated around the fact that the Troubador was carrying a cargo of bunkering coal and drums of white paint: the crews painted all the vessels white; covered decks with white linen; and arranged the Sherman tanks on the merchant vessels decks into a defensive ring, with loaded main guns.[5]

After a period of waiting, and having evaded the reconnoitring Luftwaffe aircraft, finding themselves unstuck they proceeded to the Matochkin Strait in Novaya Zemlya.[2] They were found there by a flotilla of corvettes,[2] who escorted the four-ship convoy plus two other merchant vessels to the Russian port of Archangel, arriving on 25 July.[1][2] Appointed Distinguished Service Cross on 15 September 1942, he later went on to command the ASW adapted whaler HMS Thirlmere (FY 206).[6]

London magistrate
After the end of hostilities, Gradwell returned to his career in court. He was made a stipendiary magistrate on the London circuit at Marlborough Street Magistrates' Court in 1951, where he shared an office in a tempestuous relationship with Edward Robey, the son of comedian George Robey.[7] A few months later he contracted polio, and after successful treatment overcame his disabilities to return to his magistrates position.[1] Dealing mainly with licensing cases,[8] during his career Gradwell processed the case of Stephen Ward during the Profumo affair,[1] committing Ward for trial at the Old Bailey in July 1963.[9]

After the British publishing rights to Hubert Selby, Jr.'s novel Last Exit to Brooklyn' were acquired by Marion Boyars and John Calder in January 1966, Gradwell was the judge for the private prosecution brought by Sir Cyril Black, the then Conservative Member of Parliament for Wimbledon. The public prosecutor brought an action under Section 3 of the Obscene Publications Act, which Gradwell agreed with and ordered that all copies of the book within the Magistrate's Court be seized.[10] Expert witnesses spoke, "unprecedentedly,"[11] for the prosecution, including the publishers Sir Basil Blackwell and Robert Maxwell.[11][12] The order was overturned by a successful appeal issued by the lawyer and writer John Mortimer resulted in a judgment by Mr Justice Lane, which reversed the ruling in 1968.


Leo Gradwell provides us with an example of how a man can act during a time of crisis: by thinking clearly, using the resources available to him, and respecting others.  He and his ship were abandoned by his superiors while he was travelling in a hostile environment (both in terms of weather and enemies).  Despite this he did not follow the example of his superior officers and abandon his own men to the enemy, rather he made the best of a bad situation and used whatever resources and knowledge he had to hand in order to safeguard their safety (including a sextant and newspaper guide for navigation, Sherman tanks for defence).  This shows some personal qualities that we could all do with if we find ourselves in the mire: level headedness, ingenuity, and respect for others.
That mire may be one that our former self dumped us into (such as falling into debt to fund a hedonistic lifestyle), or it may be one that other people have dumped us into (such as Gradwell’s case), whoever is responsible for the predicament there is usually a chance of change for the better.  We always have the opportunity to make the best of a bad situation so long as we keep our head, and make use of the people and resources around us.


Wednesday 12 November 2014

Alternative Lyrics to Well Known Songs 32 - Pirozhki's

(Pirozhki's is based on the 1970's song 'Confusion' by E.L.O.)

A light-hearted 'Alternative Lyrics' post this week about a well known pastry: Pirozhkis.  Pirozhkis in Russia are similar to Cornish Pasties in England, or Empanadas in Mexico, or Briks in Algeria, or Samosas in Iran, or Gyōza in Japan, in that they are a made of a layer of pastry/dough (of varying thickness) wrapped around a handful of foodstuffs (be it meat, fish, vegetables, or fruit), which is then cooked.  They are a simple invention that were created independently in different cultures that did not have much contact with one another.

The fact that almost identical inventions can take place in cultures that don't have any contact with one another shows us that different cultures, ergo different men, can invent/create identical things (like pasties) by themselves without any influence from other people.  This is important to consider when dealing with grand theories of 'cultural evolution of humanity' which espouse a belief that a single source is solely responsible for growth of all human civilization.  If we know that invention can occur via many sources simultaneously then it means that no one single source can claim to be the sole source of the idea; Which is especially important when dealing with new spriritual/philosophical ideas.

A person or culture that claims that it is the sole source of a metaphysical idea (like monotheism does i.e. Judaism, Christianity, & Islam) is being dis-honest.  It is trying to make a monopoly, a stranglehold, over that particular metaphysical idea so that no other people can have access to it or lay claim to it.  Just look how the monotheisms call themselves 'the one true faith' despite the fact that they: a) are in constant competition against one another for the right to hold the monopoly, b) actually stole the ideas that make up their belief system from other cultures (e.g. the Noah's Flood is a rip-off of the Epic of Gilgamesh).  Imagine if a corporation (like, say, Pfizer) tried to form a monopoly over a scientific truth that was fundamental to human life (like the cure for cancer) stole the discovery from another corporation and then decided to hold on to the intellectual property rights for the next 10,000 years, wouldn't most right-minded people consider that to be immoral?  It's the same with metaphysical/spiritual truths as it is with physical truths: any culture and any man can have access to them, and if they are discovered then no one has a right to monopolise them..

Be wary of people who claim that they are 'the sole possessor of truth' (whether that truth is physical or metaphysical).  The reality is that no one man or culture has a right to make a claim over inventions or ideas (be inventions like pasties or ideas like re-incarnation) and monopolize them.  Monopolies are immoral.  It's why we admire the Greek God Prometheus and often champion 'the Promethean Spirit' (i.e.stealing/liberating knowledge held by tyrants and sharing it to all) because he stopped the Olympian Gods from monopolising the ability to make fire.  All humans have the free access to their own creative juices with which they can invent new things and ideas, such as pasties.  It's a notion worth considering when we are finding out truths for ourselves (in the Androsphere, more often than not it's truths about the sexes) - that other cultures, other men, can also find them individual as well, sometimes simultaneously.

Anyhow, that's it for the pastry-oriented philosophy, we'll move on to the song, which alas doesn't have any philosophical undertones, just a few hints: to get out there and travel, plan for the journey (i.e. think ahead), and finally to show a little kindness to fellow travelers.

Play the song in the music video above and sing along with the alternative lyrics given below.

# Pirozhkis #
Everywhere the sun is shining.
So bright I'll go a-biking.
But first I'll buy
food-from Gre-e-e-egs.

Pirozhkis, you delicious small snack.
Pirozhkis, are all I need in my backpack.
I've got a hole that just needs to be filled. {Needs to be filled.}
But it's not big enough to need a whole meal. {A whole meal}

Afternoon I'm out there bikin'.
and suddenly my tum starts rumblin'.
And I rummage around in
my backpa-a-ack.

Pirozhkis, I don't know which I should eat.
Pirozhkis, the one filled with fish or with meat.
I've got a hole that just needs to be filled. {Needs to be filled.}
But it's not big enough to need a whole meal. {A whole meal}

Here comes a fellow biker.
Who stops right beside ya.
He feels the pang
of hunger-er-er-er.

Pirozhkis, are what you offer to him.
Pirozhkis, he is oh so grateful for them.
He's got a hole that just needs to be filled. {Needs to be filled}.
But it's not big enough to need a whole meal. {A whole meal.}

[End of lyrics.]

Saturday 8 November 2014

Men of Yore: Max Himmelheber

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity.

Max Himmelheber (source)

Max Himmelheber (Born April 24, 1904 in Karlsruhe-Baiersbronn, Died December 17, 2000) was a German inventor and entrepreneur.

Himmelheber studied electrical engineering. He graduated as Diplom-Ingenieur.

Himmelheber invented the particle board in 1932 and received over 70 patents for related products. Before the invention of chipboard only about 40 percent of the felled wood mass were used.  Himmelheber was the parental carpentry on this issue and since then worked on a way to make usable also the wood chips.  He founded a company to manufacture Particleboard in Baiersbronn, Germany, and then went on to establish more factories all over the world. In total Himmelheber established about 80 companies.

During the World War Two he was employed as a fighter pilot in the Luftwaffe.  While on a mission flying over England he was shot down and taken prisoner. In 1943 he was returned to Germany as a result of a prisoner exchange.

After the war In 1971 Max Himmelheber founded and co-editor Crossroads Journal (A Quarterly Journal for Sceptical Thought) along with Ernst Junger.
Himmelheber also tried to contribute to improvements in freight transport on rail.

He engaged also in the Federation of German Scouts and became "Federal Commissioner for Guide Education".

The Max-Himmelheber Street in Baiersbronn is named after him.
(Apologies for the somewhat clumsy translation.  I couldn't find a decent biography available in English and so had to modify the wikipedia one somewhat.)
Having the ability to convert what is perceived as a waste product into a useful product is a good ability to have.  It means that your mind is above the level of fixed forms and looks down on them rather than idolizing or being dominated by them.  Different people percieve fixed forms in different ways, but they are all basically the same thing i.e. something that is fixed and un-changing.  Below are some different disciplines that people perceieve fixed-forms in:
Objects (for psychologists)
Gods (for theologians)
Angels (for monotheists)
platonic-ideals (for Platonists)
The important thing is that Max Himmelheber's outlook was not dominted by any pre-conconcieved ideas or fixed-forms (or whatever phrase you feel comfortable with), he saw the world as he wanted to see it, and then shaped it accordingly.  If his mindset was dominated by fixed-forms then he would have simply continued seeing woodchips as 'waste product' rather than seeing it how he wanted to see it (as material that could be glued together to make chipboard).