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  • Clearing Minefields with Human Beings November 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Clearing Minefields with Human Beings

    So a hundred infantry have to get across a field to their objective and safety, only they know that the field has been planted with mines. How do you clear the field? The simplest (and most horrible) thing to do would be to send your troops forward down a plotted route with gaps of ten […]

    Review: The Truth about Donald McCormick? November 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: The Truth about Donald McCormick?

    Hayek: A Collaborative Biography: Part III Fraud, Fascism, and Free Market Religion (ed) Robert Leeson What in God’s name…!?! This is a website which prides itself on investigating the seedy and bizarre in history. So why bother with reviewing volume three in a series of six on Friedrich von Hayek, an Austrian economist who died […]

    The Longest Modern War: The Greco-Albanian War 1940-1987 November 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Longest Modern War: The Greco-Albanian War 1940-1987

    The longest war between states in modern history? Well, Wikipedia has a page and there are several freelance attempts to elevate this or that conflict to the most protracted, but what about the Greek-Albanian war of 1940-1987? Albania, in 1940, was an Italian satrapy and in October of that year when the Italians decided to […]

    Murder, McCormick, Murray and the Witches October 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Murder, McCormick, Murray and the Witches

    In 1968 Donald McCormick published  Murder by Witchcraft (Arrow Books), it was one of about forty books that he wrote (under his own name or that of ‘Richard Deacon’) and it was, like many, perhaps all of the others, shot through with falsehoods and lies. Beach has examined Donald’s porkies on Jack the Ripper and on Madoc […]

    Historians Predict the Past: An Academic Urban Legend? October 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Historians Predict the Past: An Academic Urban Legend?

    Here is a nice passage from Tony Judt’s Postwar (2005), a wonderful book if you’ve not yet had a chance. Unlike memory, which confirms and reinforces itself, history contributes to the disenchantment of the world. Most of what it has to offer is discomforting, even disruptive – which is why it is not always politically […]

    Mussolini and Cole Porter October 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Mussolini and Cole Porter

    Bit of possible cobblers for the end of the month. In 1934 Cole Porter wrote the musical Anything Goes, the most famous song of which is surely ‘You’re the Top’. In that song the following lyrics are alleged to appear. You’re the top! You’re a Coolidge dollar. You’re the nimble tread Of the feet of […]

    In Search of Chinese Tooth Worms October 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    In Search of Chinese Tooth Worms

    Last month Beach took some time to look up, while recovering from toothache agony, traditional tooth cures. He was particularly impressed by the widespread belief in tooth worms, the little parasites which apparently cause toothaches. These non-existent parasites were believed in throughout Euro-Asia-Africa and can be traced back to Babylonian times: it is always a […]

    Counter Factual: Pre-War Politicians and Television October 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Counter Factual: Pre-War Politicians and Television

    A modern politician needs to be convincing on television. That these qualities matter was famously demonstrated in the first debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960, where radio listeners believed that Nixon had won the contest, but television watchers, shocked by Nixon’s five o’clock shadow, claimed that Kennedy had beaten his Republican […]

    Real Tree Trunk Deaths October 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Real Tree Trunk Deaths

    There are several nineteenth century legends about bodies trapped in the hollow of trees. These seem to be, for the most part, urban legends. But there are some unquestionably factual accounts. It must be quite difficult to die within a tree, but clearly some people managed it. Beach concentrated on Britain. Are there other factual […]

    Execution by Swimming Pool: A Saudi Legend? October 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Execution by Swimming Pool: A Saudi Legend?

    While looking into the case of the execution of princess Misha’al in Saudi Arabia in 1977 Beach ran across this passage. Eight months after the airing of Death of a Princess [April 1980], another prince approached King Khalid asking approval to have his adulterous daughter executed [so early 1981?]. The King, fearing a repeat publicity […]

    Stolen Horses and the Cunning Man October 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Stolen Horses and the Cunning Man

    Cunning men were the healers and magicians of the English countryside from the middle ages up until the reign of George V. They had various jobs: including making love potions, casting birth charts, healing animals and individuals, and undoing witchcraft. However, the activity that got them most in the newspaper was their talent for finding […]

    Why Do We Forget Soviet Murder? October 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Why Do We Forget Soviet Murder?

    Between 1917 when Lenin declared the revolution to 1956 and the invasion of Hungary Soviet massacres of innocents or opponents were frequent, massive and only seriously contested in the West by the small national Communist parties. Yet one of the extraordinary things about these bloody outbursts is that they have been forgotten by all but […]

    Mythologised Suicides? Levi and Turing October 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Mythologised Suicides? Levi and Turing

    Suicides are not always easy to determine. Did the man who drove his car into a bridge support do so as a deliberate act because he had just learnt of his bankruptcy or did he do so because he had not slept for 24 hours and was exhausted and prone to error? Did the woman […]

    Crazy Couplings: Koestler and de Beauvoir October 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Crazy Couplings: Koestler and de Beauvoir

    Here is part of an occasional series on crazy couplings: sexual encounters between individuals who, by rights, should never have had anything to do with each other, let alone undress in one another’s presence. To kick start the series two rather unpleasant people whose intimacy is thankfully beyond this blogger’s imagining: Simone de Beauvoir and […]

    Review: The New Civilisation? October 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: The New Civilisation?

    Paul Flewers, The New Civilisation? Understanding Stalin’s Soviet Union, 1929-1941 (2008) There is a strip in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (1930), where the intrepid boy reporter spies out some British leftists who are visiting ‘the new civilization’: the Soviet Union about five years after Stalin had ascended the blood steps to the iron throne. […]

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