The biblical statement ‘all flesh is grass’ (Isaiah 40:6) and (I Peter 1:24) is almost literally true. Grass is the staple diet of nearly all human beings. Wheat, rice, barley, millet and corn are all grasses, and cattle, sheep and goats (our main sources of meat) survive entirely on grass.
Landslides carrying millions of tons of rubble can reach speeds of 100 mph, but leave the grass on the hill beneath them completely untouched. This is because air, trapped and compressed, acts as a cushion allowing the moving debris to travel a few inches above the ground.
An agelast is someone who never laughs. The word derives from Crassus Agelastus (the grandfather of the legendarily rich Crassus) who was said to have laughed only once in his life – on seeing an ass eating thistles.
From 1931 to 1941, all graduating candidates of the Japanese Naval Academy were asked the question ‘How would you carry out a surprise attack on Pearl Harbour?’
The career of Federico Garcia Lorca, the greatest Spanish writer of the 20th century, lasted just 19 years. He was killed during mass executions in Andalusia in the Spanish Civil War and is buried in an unmarked grave.
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‘The incongruity theory was described rather badly by Immanuel Kant in 1790 when he said that laughter ‘is an affectation arising from the sudden transformation of strained expectation into nothing’. His grouchy compatriot Schopenhauer later elaborated on this, defining humour as ‘the incongruity between a concept and the real object to which it was to relate’. And what hilarious gag did Arthur Schopenhauer put forward to support his theory? ‘… for example, the amusing look of the angle formed by the meeting of the tangent and the curve of the circle’. Yes, Frankfurt positively rocked with laughter in the 1840s – the golden age of German comedy.
“Sincerity is everything. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
- George Burns
The set-up of a joke creates a scenario with an assumed conclusion; the punchline provides quite a different conclusion, which subverts your previously held assumptions about the joke scenario. [...] For example:
How do you make a dog drink?
Put him in a blender.
[...] It’s not just the words that make the joke work. The best jokes use language with skill and economy to conjure up mental pictures which are hilarious by virtue of their incongruity, shock value, or just sheer silliness. Here’s a lovely one:
Two monkeys are having a bath. One of them turns to the other and says, ‘Oo oo ah ah!’ The other replies, ‘Well, put the cold tap on, then.’
It’s clear that even the shortest one-liner can be prodded and poked and analysed until an inch of its life [...].’
- Carr J., Greeves L. 2006. The Naked Jape – Uncovering The Hidden World Of Jokes London, Great Britain: Penguin Books (2007) p. 92-93
The United States and the Netherlands share a regional social-religious phenomenon called the Bible Belt, also known in the Netherlands as the Bijbelgordel. In both countries the Bible Belt is a strip of land which is inhabited chiefly by a concentration of segregated conservative Protestants.
The Netherlands, best known abroad for its liberal policies on sex, drugs and homosexuality, is also home to a Protestant Bible Belt. It is a world away from big cities like Amsterdam or Rotterdam, where society is a lot more free and diverse.
Just 90 minutes’ drive from Amsterdam and its temptations is a village so devout that swearing is banned, women refuse to wear trousers and the bank machine does not dispense cash on a Sunday.
The Bijbelgordel stretches from Zeeland, through the West-Betuwe and Veluwe, to the northern parts of the province Overijssel. According to official figures 41 percent of Dutch have no religion, 30 percent are Catholic, 12 percent Protestant, 6 percent Reformed Protestant and 6 percent are Muslim. Currently, the traditional Dutch churches have around 250,000 members.
The Protestant faith in the Netherlands is fragmented. Besides the traditional Protestant church, there is also a more fundamentalist Reformed Protestant Church, formed in the 19th century.
When Flanders and North Brabant were reconquered by the Spanish army during the Eighty Years’ War, their Protestant inhabitants were required to either convert to Catholicism or leave. Many emigrated north of the border, particularly during the Twelve Years’ Truce of 1609 – 1621. Many of them later became staunch supporters of the pietist movement known as the nadere reformatie (further reformation).
In Bijbelgordel communities, a strong religious tone in public life is accompanied by conservative outlook and an emphasis on traditional values: a preference for large families (protected sex is frowned upon); children attend special religious schools; parents are suspicious towards state-run vaccination programmes; women are not allowed to ‘rule’ in a professional capacity and are not expected to work when they start a family.
The Bijbelgordel differs from Dutch society in many aspects, amongst them a regular Sunday church attendance – often twice on a Sunday. The region also bears a strong contrast to the traditionally Catholic provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg in the south and northern parts of the Netherlands where Sunday church attendance averages between a mere 2% to 3% of the population. Overall, the Netherlands become increasingly secular with every passing year.
In the Bible Belt however, conservatism slows this trend. The doctrine of the faith plays a central role in the life of the more fundamentalist communities. Consequently, they typically oppose the liberal ways of Dutch life – perpetuating their segregated outlook on life. Nevertheless, secularisation is causing the Bible Belt to slowly shrink and become clustered into ever smaller societies.
The ghost of Archbishop Laud, beheaded in 1645, is said to haunt the library of St. John’s College, Oxford where apparently it plays football with its own head.
Golf balls were originally made of wood. Later, they were made from boiled feathers stuffed into stitched leather known as featheries. The modern (and cheaper) golf ball filled with gutta-percha was not developed till 1848.
A swarm of gnats is called a ghost.
The oldest golf club in the world is St Andrews, founded in 1552.
The word lemur means ghost. It was coined by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707-78) from the Latin, Lemures: the shades of the departed.
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Forget the Swinging Sixties, 18th-century society was awash with sex.
In the early 1730s, an assortment of British nobles and scholars formed a group called the Society Of Dilettanti. Not being content with collecting simpler bits of marble on their travels in Italy, society members instead gathered up ancient sculptures of nude women. They enjoyed nude models posing for them at their dinners, and many a learned discussion of Greek sculpture would be rounded off with an orgy.
In general, women were not expected to be the merely passive objects of men’s lust in those days. Dozens of 18th-century books on sex discussed whether or not women were randier than men, and nymphomania was regarded as an actual medical or psychological condition. Sexual promiscuity, far from being a rarity practised by a few lewd men in brothels, was the rampant norm. In short, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this extraordinary period of licentiousness was, in fact, the first sexual revolution in history.
It was only when the Enlightenment came at the end of the 17th century, and men and women first began to conceive of human beings as private individuals, with the liberty to think and worship as they chose, that attitudes began to change.
Sex was soon deemed a private matter, and morality could no longer simply be imposed by the Church. By 1750, most forms of consensual extra-marital sex, with the exception of homosexuality, had been legalised. And the extent of sexual licence in 18th-century London was something which makes your hair stand on end, even when read about more than 250 years later. The notion had grown up that women, far from being wanton and unable to control their desires, had lower sex drives than men; and that innocent women were ‘ruined’ or ravaged by men.
From this it followed that there should be two types of women, necessary to keep society together. Prostitutes were finding houses of employment all over London.
By comparison, the prevalence of London brothels makes even the stews of present-day Shanghai seem tame. In the Covent Garden taverns, you were offered a menu and instead of fish and chips or scampi in the basket, as it might be in a modern London tavern, it was a long list of names and addresses, with explicit descriptions of what the young women had to offer. Pornographic prints, depicting explicit sexual acts, were popular and easily obtainable. The more money you had, the more licentious you could afford to be.
The sixties of the 19th century were not ‘a first’ in many respects. The Victorian era that followed the Georgian era degraded promiscuous behaviour and deemed any extra-marital affair as immoral – it created relationship norms which were not to be broken collectively for 150 years.
In its 1000 year historic past, the castle has witnessed a diverse range of use: from a medieval hunting lodge to a World War II POW camp, and a psychiatric hospital.
Colditz is mentioned for the first time in a historical document dating from 1046 when Emperor Heinrich III gave his wife the fort together with property and land which had previously belonged to Marquis Eckehard II.
A bakers apprentice caused a fire destroying the castle and most parts of the town in 1504. The castle was reconstructed two years later.In 1697, during the heyday of the Baroque period, when August the Strong became King of Poland; he and his family increasingly neglected the castle and the town.
Colditz Castle was used by the Elector for the last time in 1753. From this period onwards the castle fell into a state of disrepair. In 1787, the remaining furniture and paintings were sold at a public auction.
In 1800, Colditz Castle was turned into a poorhouse for the area around Leipzig, three years later it became a workhouse.
One of the first psychiatric asylums in Germany was established at the castle in 1829. Ludwig Schumann, a son of the composer Robert Schumann, and Ernst Georg August Baumgarten (who is considered to be the true inventor of the airship) were admitted soon after. The hospital was eventually closed in 1924.
During the years of the rise of the Nazi party, 1933-1934, the Castle was used as a “protective custody“ camp to imprison approximately 600 opponents of the National Socialist Movement.
Between 1939-1945 Colditz Castle became a prisoner of war camp for Allied officers from Great Britain and the Commonwealth, France, Belgium, Holland and Poland. The official name of the camp was “OFLAG IV C” and it was claimed that the castle is escape-proof. However, some prisoners succeeded in making their escape in over 30 occasions despite the rocky crags on which the castle stands, the barbed-wire fences, the numerous guards and the searchlights.
The prisoners were generally treated according to the terms of the Geneva Convention. Every nation had its own escaping officer. However, POW life was not too bad at Colditz. When not busy planning their next escape attempts, the prisoners largely spent their days engaged in sports, playing music, reading, rehearsing and performing in plays and learning foreign languages. The castle and the local town were liberated by American forces on 16th April 1945.
Between 1946-1996 Colditz became part of the eastern region of Germany known as the German Democratic Republic under the Socialist rule until 1989. In the meantime, the castle was reverted back to a hospital.
After 1996, the castle was no longer used as a hospital or nursing home – an association was founded to establish Colditz Castle as a cultural centre. Nowadays it is used as a museum and hotel.
The first record of golf in England is more than a hundred years older than its appearance in Scotland.
From 1871 to 1981, the title of the executioner of France was Monsieur de Paris, “Mister from Paris.” He was the only man certified to carry out executions in France, and was required to live in Paris.
Approximately 20 million golf balls are lost in water hazards on British golf courses every year.
The Tunisian born Hamida Djandoubi was the last person to be guillotined in France on the 10th of September 1977. Making him the last person to be executed by the modern Republic of France. The official execution method in the modern Republic of France had always been the guillotine.
King James II of Scotland (1430-60) made golf illegal on pain of death.
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Autumn Song or Chanson d’automne is a famous poem by Paul Verlaine; one of the best known in the French language. It was published in Verlaine’s first collection, Poèmes saturniens, published in 1866.
Les sanglots longs
Blessent mon cœur
It translates as: “The long sobs / Of the violins / Of Autumn / Wound my heart / With a monotonous / Languor.”
The poem earned its place in history during World War II. In preparation for Operation Overlord, the British had signalled to the French Resistance that the opening lines of Chanson d’Automne were to indicate the start of D-Day operations. The first three lines of the poem, “Les sanglots longs / des violons / de l’automne”, meant that Operation Overlord was to start within two weeks.
These lines were broadcast on 1 June 1944.
The next set of lines, “Blessent mon coeur / d’une langueur / monotone”, meant that the main operation would start within 48 hours and that the French resistance should begin sabotage operations especially on the French railroad system.
These lines were broadcast on 5 June at 23:15 – the rest is history.