International Women’s Day: Hypatia

I first came across Hypatia in the 2009 film Agora.

Agora-Poster

Based in Roman-ruled Egypt, the film centers around the raging disputes between the main religions of the day –  Judaism and Christianity, and ends with the death of Hypatia, a Greek philosopher. Essentially, it is suggesting that ancient religions allowed no place for philosophy or science and in fact divide us as people, though this concept may have been made stronger for the sake of the film plot.

Hypatia sprang to my mind as someone to write about, because for a start, women were not really regarded as equals in Ancient Greece or Rome. Hypatia lived in the later stages of the ancient world, around 350-370 AD. But as an aristocrat of her day, money allowed her to thrive in a man’s world.

She was a mathematician (the first known woman mathematician) and philosopher, and as the head of the Platonist school at Alexandria, she taught many male students on these subjects – based on law rather than nature – making her a woman apart from her time. One scene in the film that has stuck in my mind (probably out of shock value), that apparently did happen in real life, is when one of her suitors makes a pass at her (suggested as Orestes in the film though this is not historically true), and she gives him her menstruation rags, saying there is nothing attractive about carnal knowledge. As to the rest of the film, it’s probably fair to say that history has been somewhat distorted.

Essentially, her eventual death resulted from rising tensions between the Christians and Jews. Or rather, the situation was used to get rid of her. Orestes was the governor of Alexandria at this time, and Cyril was the Bishop of Alexandria, and both became more furious with each other’s actions. Although Hypatia was widely held highly and with virtue by most men, it was because Orestes came to her for council that Cyril cited her – an untrustworthy pagan- as the reason for his and Orestes’ inability to get along, which amounted to the wider conflicts between Christians and Jews in the city. Really, he was jealous of her – jealous that people came to her for her wisdom, and that a woman could hold such a power as wisdom.

One report by Socrates Scholasticus states that after Cyril spread these rumours, she was kidnapped by a mob of Christians, stripped naked in a church, and attacked with roof tiles, before her body was torn limb from limb. Another report says that her body was dragged naked through the city. Along with many others, she was made a scapegoat for the conflicts, and it was because she was such a strong female figure, that she was seen as much of a threat as the other men.

International Women’s Day: Melanie Klein

I asked my sister which women or female figures have influenced her in life. She said it’s difficult – most of the people who influenced her through her teenage years, and even now, have been men. But there were a few exceptions – Alanis Morissette, Anne Frank, Judy Blume, Joni Mitchell and Melanie Klein.

Who the frack is Melanie Klein?

melanie klein

Most people have heard of Sigmund Freud, many have heard of Carl Jung, and some will now perhaps recognise Sabina Spielrein as an early, yet somewhat overlooked, psychoanalytic theorist as a result of the film A Dangerous Method. Much of Spielrein’s theories had been forgotten or hidden until the 1970s – even now she is more famous for her possible affair with Carl Jung, not her work which was on a par with her male contemporaries.

In fact it was some of Spielrein’s work, primarily on child development, that influenced Klein when she witnessed a talk given by Spielrein at the Psychoanalytic Congress in 1920.

melanie klein and granddaughter

Melanie Klein (30 March 1882 – 22 September 1960) was a post-Freudian psychoanalyst. She was born in Vienna to Jewish parents, and became influenced by psychoanalytic therapy during the First World War in Budapest. After receiving little support in Berlin for her work in the field, she was invited by British neurologist and psychoanalyst Ernest Jones to work in Britain in 1926. She was a strong follower of Freud, who with Ernest Jones’ help, also moved to Britain in 1938 with his family to escape Nazi persecution.

Klein was the first person to apply psychoanalytic therapy to children, using Freud’s theories on the stages of childhood development, as a basis for her own – such as the object relations theory. She is probably best known for her therapeutic technique of play therapy. But this is where the British Psychoanalytic field divided, as although Klein believed that children could be psychoanalysed, Anna Freud – Sigmund Freud’s daughter – thought the opposite.

She stood out in society. Though she was a woman who was divorced with children, and worked in a field of men, she had an immense impact on psychology and psychotherapy – with play therapy still widely applied today.

My 2012 in Pictures

My 2012 in pictures:

Early months…

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Churchill-Bedroom Map-Room-phone

100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic – and my greatest blog post of the year:

titanic wreck

Trolleybus Anniversary

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Ferris Wheel

View over Business Park from Ferris Wheel

Queen’s Jubilee – my father lighting the beacon at Whitstable

Queen's Jubilee

My first oyster at the Whitstable Oyster Festival

first oyster

Whitstable Harbour Oyster Festival

blessing

The Olympics 2012

Olympic Flame Relay

Brad wiggo

Summer days

Camden Market

SW4

 Holiday in Portugal

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Larry Graham in concert

Larry Graham

Felix Baumgartner’s Stratos Jump – I was obsessed with this event – read here

standing

Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night

Talk with Olympic and Paralympic athletes at work

Olympic and Paralympic Talk

The Thomas Hardy tree

Thomas Hardy Tree

Secret Cinema – The Shawshank Redemption

Secret Cinema November

Christmas 2012

Christmas Tree

A death in the family

Papa passport 3

Christmas party at the Tower of London

Tower of London Christmas Party

Christmas Day on the beach

Christmas Day on Beach

“And Odysseus Devised a Horse…to Ruin the Trojans’ Online Game of Angry Birds”

Apologies for the lack of posts lately. I’ve had a lot of viruses on my computer as of late ( for your information, never install the free software Converter Lite – it is malware). Most of us know what viruses are in terms of animal diseases. When I think of a virus I remember drawing strange diagrams at school. Lock and key diagrams, right? Maybe I’m getting it all confused with other molecules and diagrams. Anyway, I had to reinstall my computer because of this virus. Shame we can’t reinstall ourselves when we get ill.

A computer virus is “a software program capable of reproducing itself and usually capable of causing great harm to files or other programs”.

The oldest computer viruses weren’t considered viruses at the time, and were simply known as self-replicating computer programs. The Creeper virus, written by Bob Thomas, is the oldest known purpose-built virus which, during the early 1970s, sprouted through the ARPANET (an early version of the internet – the world’s first operational packet-switching network) on the TENEX operating system.

Honestly, I completely understand the technical stuff I just wrote, and this diagram, but I just can’t be bothered to explain it to you technophobes, so I won’t. But I really do understand it.

The Creeper was self-replicating, like a virus you and I can catch, and it caused the following message to appear:

I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!

The Reaper program was designed to get rid of the Creeper.

After that, other viruses came along, such as the Elk Cloner in 1981 which was written by Rich Skrenta, and was the first virus to appear “in the wild” or outside of the lab it was created in. It attached itself to the Apple DOS 3.3 operating system (yes, that’s an Apple virus not Microsoft, believe it or not).


And of course, most of us have experienced the Trojan horse programs, so-called because they sneak into your computer like the soldiers of Ancient Greece who infiltrated the enchanted walls of Troy by hiding inside a large, wooden horse that was wheeled inside the city, and who went on to win the Trojan war (you can read about it in Virgil’s Aeneid or Homer’s Odyssey. Translate them yourself from Ancient Greek or Latin, if you like. Or you could just watch the film Troy). Trojan horses don’t duplicate themselves like a virus does, but it is designed to steal secret information from computer users. As people shared more software during the 80s, so too did the Trojans and viruses spread – like blood seeping from the wound of a Trojan soldier as he exhales his final breath, the stars in the night sky shining in his darkening eyes (that simile was for you, Homer).

And a worm? A worm doesn’t need human interaction for it to spread, and a single user’s computer is capable of sending out a multitude of worms to many people in one go. The first known worm came about in 1988, when Robert Morris’s worm took down 10% of computers connected to the internet of that time.

I remember one of the first times I used the internet, or the World Wide Web more correctly. It was during a Geography or Science lesson at school around 1998/1999, and although we had a few computer rooms at school, there was only one tiny room with about ten computers that were linked to the internet. I think you had to pay to use the internet access outside of lessons. I distinctly remember being on a website in this lesson I was in, and thinking: what is this? I read the text on the web page, and then when I realised I could click on it and highlight it, I thought I could perhaps edit it too, and tried to type over it. Didn’t work. I didn’t really understand what the point was – I had the Hutchinson Multimedia CD-ROM to do my school work back then.

I can remember how it looked – when internet pages were simple framesets with large clumps of text in an array of font colours (black, red or blue) and tiny images. I think of it now whenever I click onto a webpage these days that has some faulty coding language and so doesn’t load properly. It looked a bit like this:

I’ve noticed that for some reason, bed and breakfast owners still use websites that look like this.

Without launching into a full-scale history of the internet and the World Wide Web, my brief post on computer flu history ends here.

History Summer Summer Summer Time

These are sunny days, and whether you are lucky enough to be spending them somewhere fitting, like by the sea in Whitstable, or camping in a field in Cheddar – wherever you are, I thought I’d give you some interesting historical facts to do with the summer. Just to bring the chilled out feel down a notch. Nah, only joking – I’ll try to keep things light.

1. The bikini was released in May 1946 by Louis Réard. Shockwaves rippled through many nations at this two piece bathing suit. The two-piece had already been around for a while, and was labelled “the world’s smallest bathing suit”. The thing that made the bikini different was that it revealed much more of the torso, including the belly button and so was less repsectable than its predecessor. It therefore became known as “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit”. In fact the only woman who would model it was the lady below, Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer.

 

The bikini was named after Bikini Atoll, an island in the Pacific Ocean that is part of the Marshall Islands. This was a picturesque island – until 1946. This was the year when America decided to detonate an atom bomb there, and on its fellow islands in a series of tests named Operation Crossroads. They moved all the indigenous islanders to another local island and tested a bomb on their homeland of Bikini Atoll. When they moved everyone back, people began to get ill, so the island was deemed uninhabitable. The bomb test occurred on July 1st, 1946. The bikini garment was unveiled four days later.

So, not too mood dampening so far (just ignore the bit about islanders getting ill and their homeland being written off). It may or may not surprise you to know that Operation Crossroads is not the only nuclear testing America has done. Nor is it the only country to have done it. Watch this video, if you have the stomach for it:

2. BOY: I didn’t ask for any sauce.

ICE CREAM VENDOR: I didn’t put any on it.

Lines from my all-time favourite comedy The League of Gentlemen (the scene is where an ice cream vendor has a nosebleed over a boy’s ice cream).

I typed in “the best ice cream in the world” into Google, and it gave me the above picture. It also gave me a couple of other pictures, but I don’t think I should post them on here. People with children, you may have to up your internet censorship for your children, by including “ice cream”. Seriously.

So, who invented ice cream? Wihout even researching, I thought the Romans. Must be. Or the Greeks, then the Romans copied them and made ice cream a big hit. One source suggests that ice cream has been around since the 4th century BC, indeed with the Roman Emperor Nero ordering ice from the mountains and then topping it with fruit. So when did the “cream” bit get involved? 600 years later, King Tang of Shang in China is known to have mixed ice and milk together in various ways. Obviously these are noted examples, because it was the leaders that ate these ice related foods, but it may have been more common than that in those archaic days.

Since then, ice cream has been developed in terms of its ingredients and flavours all over the world, with the Americanised “ice cream” (previously “iced cream”) becoming the most prominent in the Western world. I’ve had ice cream in various places around the world: on Lido, the beach-goers island by Venice, there is an ice-cream vendor (or properly termed gelato – it’s made differently) on every corner. With all different flavours. I managed to get one down my throat whilst trying not to pass out from the heat (Mid-August is NOT a good idea for holidaying in Venice if you are allergic to the heat like me. My half Mauritian blood doesn’t help. As I tell people, I am half Mauritian, but I am also half white Londoner); in Berlin, they make flowers out of ice cream:

and in Barcelona, they expect a tip.

3. Pimm’s

Pimm’s has become synonymous with the British summer. This was a gin-based drink mixed with herbs and quinine in its earliest form, and is now a brandy based drink (the difference being that gin is either distilled from juniper berries, or distilled alcohol grain mixed with flavourings and herbs, and brandy is distilled from wine.) This early form of Pimm’s was made by James Pimm as an aid to digestion. Alcohol, along with other drugs, were often used for medicinal purposes up until the first part of the twentieth century. Nurses would often administer brandy to patients in hospitals in the old days. James Pimm was from Newnham in Kent (go Kent!), the son of a farmer, and he moved to London where he became a shellfish monger and the owner of an oyster bar, which led to a chain called Oyster House.

Today, we associate Pimm’s No. 1 with the sunny weather, and the company obviously markets this product towards barbecues and beach parties. There is also a Winter Pimm’s Cup that is drunk hot with apple juice, and indeed, there have been various “cups” developed over time, some of which have been phased out due to low demand (see above image). Interesting how the company directly generates its revenue through marketing its products to fit a particular season.

4. Finally, I cannot write about the summer without commenting on Whitstable, the once scruffy seaside town where I was born and bred. I was literally born there in my parents’ house; you don’t get much more shellback than that.

Whitstable is a very old fishing town. Not as much fishing as there used to be, nor as many boats in the harbour. It’s famous for oysters, though the Whitstable Oyster Festival always occurs in July, which is strange as the oysters aren’t in season that time of year (only in the months with the letter “r” in the name), so instead they bring over a load of Irish oysters. Still, the festival is great. If you like nothing more than salty shellfish, singing bearded men, blacked up morris dancers and big smelly St Bernard’s dogs then Whitstable Oyster Festival is the place. Whitstable is known to have had the first passenger train line, and the first train bridge though other places have claimed this. The line was called the Canterbury and Whistable Railway, but often nicknamed the Crab and Winkle Line. Today, the Crab and Winkle line is a footpath/cyclepath that follows much of the original route between Canterbury and Whitstable.

People say the best thing about Whitstable is the sunset on the beach in the summer. Some also say the sunrise, though I’ve never actually seen the sunrise on the beach – just in the street after very late nights.

And here is the Old Neptune – an old pub on the beach that was a filming location for the film Venus featuring Peter O’Toole. Neptune, a Roman god, was known as Poseidon to the Ancient Greeks, and was the god of the sea. He was father to Polyphemus, the cyclops that Odysseus and his men, held hostage by the one-eyed giant, famously blinded with a giant stake.

And there I finish – with a photo of a sunny evening night. No doubt the sun would have just dipped beneath the horizon in sunny, old Whitstable as I post this. If you’re there, enjoy it for me.