Sunday, November 29, 2009

William Shakespeare's plays were written by Earl of Oxford, claims German scholar

A German academic claims to have uncovered the most conclusive evidence to date that the works of William Shakespeare were in fact written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

Kurt Kreiler’s 595-page book, The Man Who Invented Shakespeare, has been published in Germany to some critical acclaim and an English translation is planned for next year.

Over 22 chapters, Mr Kreiler, an established Shakespeare scholar, builds a mountain of circumstantial evidence in support of the idea that the world has been honouring the wrong man for centuries.

He claims de Vere's known works and letters show a strong Shakespearean style and also points to the earl's nickname at court, 'Spear-shaker'.

Mr Kreiler says the earl graduated from Cambridge aged just 14; mastered law and Italian; and would have had a wide-ranging knowledge of the upper classes – in contrast to the lowly-born William Shakespeare. All this, he concludes, means de Vere was well placed to write works such as The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar.

Mr Kreiler also believes Hamlet was almost an autobiographical play about the Earl’s life. De Vere’s father-in-law, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, is said to be have been parodied as the character Polonius.

“It is interesting to note that his nickname at court was Spear-shaker, due to his ability both at tournaments and because his coat of arms featured a lion brandishing spear,” he said.

“Edward De Vere also lived in the same area as Shakespeare and scrutiny of specific stanzas of poetry he wrote show their style was not copied anywhere else at the time, except in what we call Shakespearean poems.”

Walter Klier, another German Shakespeare scholar, suggested the new book should be taken seriously.

“An enormous amount of research has been invested in this fluent, well-written biography, offering a cornucopia of new facts and new insights,” he said.

However he added: “The debate will still go on forever about whether or not Shakespeare really was Shakespeare.”

Critics of the theory argue that de Vere’s death in 1604 means he cannot possibly have been the real Shakespeare as he would not have been aware of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and the wreck of the Sea Venture in Bermuda in 1609, which are thought to be alluded to in Macbeth and The Tempest respectively.

Contemporaries such as playwright Ben Jonson also pay tribute to Shakespeare’s abilities as a writer.

And many consider de Vere’s known works to be markedly inferior to Shakespeare’s and question why the earl would have been happy to put his name to those, but not material of better quality.


The mayonnaise caper

The elderly German who opened the door of the "Hansel and Gretel" house in picturesque Heidelberg looked innocuous.

"A really tall guy with an abnormally sized head," recalls Australian documentary filmmaker Philippe Mora. "And a St Bernard dog, complete with that little rum barrel round its neck."

Yet this innocent-looking man was a Nazi war criminal - Adolf Hitler's architect and armaments minister Albert Speer, sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment at the Nuremberg war trials.

"I was taken aback when he opened the door himself," the acclaimed French-born Melbourne director and painter explains on the phone from his home in Los Angeles.

"He said, 'I understand you are Australian.' Then he launched into a speech about how the British had betrayed the Aussies in the war.

"The next thing he asked was, 'Are you Jewish?' When I said yes he let me in. Coming from Australia I had no fear. But things were put into perspective later when I phoned Melbourne to tell my dad [Georges Mora, born Gunter Morawski in Leipzig in 1913] I had just had lunch with Albert Speer.

"He said, 'Did you kill him?' He was only half joking."

Mora's 1973 documentary Swastika - featuring home-movie footage of Hitler's private life - has just been shown in Berlin for the first time since it was banned in Germany 36 years ago.

Because of the publicity, Mora learnt new information about his father's battle against the Nazis - first as a Jewish student in Berlin during the infamous "burning of the books" bonfire in 1933, then as a refugee smuggler with the French Resistance alongside his good friend Marcel Marceau, the internationally famous mime artist.

Mora, 60, praised the bravery of his father and Marceau. "Marceau told me this story about my dad being called Mr Mayonnaise in the French Resistance."

His father, who had escaped from Germany after the book-burning, noticed German soldiers would never search sandwiches containing mayonnaise in case drips stained their uniforms.

So the Resistance wrapped the identity papers of Jewish children being smuggled over borders in greaseproof paper, smeared them with mayonnaise and inserted them into sandwiches.

"Marceau started miming to keep children quiet as they were escaping. It had nothing to do with show business. He was miming for his life."

Mora said Speer had taken him to "the fanciest restaurant in Heidelberg". "All the waiters had duelling scars. [Note: Duelling and duelling scars have long been something of a student tradition in Germany and Austria. The custom long predates the Nazis -- JR] It was like something out of a Mel Brooks movie. I'd say, 'I'll have the schnitzel, please,' and they would click their heels.

"I asked him what he would do if Hitler walked into the room now. He said, 'I think I'd have to do what he asked. His personal power on me was so great.' It's amazing he said that in 1973."


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Benito Mussolini regarded Adolf Hitler as a 'sentimentalist'

Benito Mussolini regarded Adolf Hitler as a teary-eyed "sentimentalist" but was jealous of the Nazi dictator's power and fame, diaries written by the Italian leader's mistress reveal

Claretta Petacci's journals, which will be published this week, describe a meeting he had with the German leader in 1938 after British prime minister Neville Chamberlain agreed to Germany's annexation of the Sudetenland. "The Fuhrer was very kind. At heart, Hitler is an old sentimentalist. When he saw me he had tears in his eyes," Mussolini told his lover.

The diaries also show Mussolini was irritated by being regarded as a junior partner to Hitler, maintaining that his fascism and anti-Semitism dated back to the 1920s, before Hitler rose to prominence. "I've been racist since 1921," he proudly told his mistress on a boating trip on August 4, 1938, two years before Italy declared war on Britain. "I don't know how they can think that I'm imitating Hitler, he wasn't even born then (in a political sense)."

In another diary entry, Mussolini rails against Italians in Italy's African colonies having relationships with locals. "Every time I get a report from Africa, it makes me upset. Just today, another five arrested for living with blacks. Ah! These dirty Italians, they are destroying in less than seven years an empire. They have no consciousness of race."

The book, Secret Mussolini, contains extracts from Petacci's diaries written between 1932 and 1938. They say Mussolini was madly in love with Miss Petacci, once telling her he mentally undressed her at the theatre and that he had a "mad desire" for her.

She was just 20 when she met the fascist dictator, who was married with children and 29 years her senior.

In April 1945, with total defeat looming, the couple tried to escape to Switzerland but were caught by Italian partisans, executed and strung up from a petrol station near Milan.

The diaries make it plain that he was infatuated with her. "Do you know, my darling, that last night at the theatre I undressed you at least three times?" she recalls him telling her in January 1938.

"I was crazy with desire for you. Your small body, your flesh for which I'm crazy, tomorrow will be mine."


Friday, November 13, 2009

Japanese subs found off Hawaii could have changed World War II

The two Japanese submarines – which were commandeered and scuttled by the US after World War II – were much larger, faster, and stealthier than US subs of the day. One included a float-plane that could attack New York.

Marine researchers have found a pair of Imperial Japanese Navy submarines on the sea floor off Hawaii's Oahu Island – vessels so advanced for their day they would provide plenty of fodder for a fresh novel by Tom Clancy.

Known by their vessel numbers, the I-14 was a 375-foot submarine aircraft carrier – its crew capable of assembling and launching two float-plane bombers in roughly 20 minutes. The other craft, the I-201, was an attack submarine, twice as fast as any in the US fleet and faster than subs in any other Navy during World War II.

"This is one of the most significant marine-heritage findings in recent years," according to Hans Van Tilburg, a marine archaeologist who is the maritime-heritage coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Sanctuaries in the Pacific. The find was announced Thursday.

"These submarines are 60-year-old time capsules offering first-hand insight into a military technology that was far ahead of its time," he says. The subs were so advanced, Mr. Van Tilburg continues, that had they appeared earlier in the war and in larger numbers, "the submarines had the potential to turn the tide of war."

Among the approaches Japanese designers used: a rubbery coating on the outside of the hull and conning tower to absorb radar and reduce the likelihood that sonar aboard US destroyers or subs would pick up sounds from inside the Japanese vessels.

The aircraft-bearing subs were designed to bring the war to the US mainland and strategic choke points such as the Panama Canal by hiding offshore and releasing the single-engine bombers on what would be one-way missions. The tactic Japanese war planners envisioned provided a chilling foretaste of tactics the US and Russian navies would use with their ballistic-missile submarines during and after the cold war.

Indeed, the I-14's larger sibling, the I-400 class subs, could be considered the forerunners of today's ballistic-missile "boomers."

At 400 feet long, the I-400 subs were designed to travel 37,500 miles without refueling – enough range to cruise around the world 1-1/2 times between fill-ups and have enough fuel left for their three aircraft. Intended targets for the subs' bombers included Washington and New York. None of these long-range missions were carried out.

The expedition was conducted using manned submersibles operated by the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, a cooperative venture between NOAA and the University of Hawaii. Partial funding for the effort came from the National Geographic Society's cable TV arm, the National Geographic Channel.

Today's announcement comes four and a half years after the same submersible team spotted the remains of one of the largest subs, the I-401 off the Hawaiian Islands.

The I-401, along with the I-14 and I-201, were captured at war's end and sailed to Hawaii, where US naval intelligence officers could plumb the ships' secrets. They are three of five advanced Japanese subs the US sailed to Pearl Harbor after the war. All were scuttled to avoid having to share the information with the Pacific war's late-comer and co-claimant to such prizes, the former Soviet Union.

For a US submarine officer of the day, the largest of these Japanese vessels were little short of awe inspiring.

"The giant submarine's proliferation of compartments was hard to get used to," wrote the late Thomas Paine, who at the time was a lieutenant in the US submarine service and was an officer on the I-400's prize crew as it sailed from occupied Japan to Pearl Harbor.

Along the way, the crew tweaked the galley to fit American taste buds and added other amenities.

Thus, Mr. Paine writes, his tale "may be historically significant when future underwater archaeologists diving on the I-400 in deep water off Hawaii wonder why her scuttlebutts [water fountains] were equipped with General Electric refrigerated fountains."

"Why did her galley feature gourmet cooking equipment (including an ice cream machine)?" he writes. "Why deluxe porcelain plumbing fixtures in the heads? Why crude military electronics topside, while bunks below were wired for music from a deluxe jukebox with flashing colored lights? You have the explanation."

Indeed, within the next week, the submersible team that discovered the I-401, I-14, and I-201 will be taking their craft for test dives ahead of a new undersea research season. The team plans to use those dives to look for the I-400, as well as the I-201's sister ship, the I-203.


BBC splurges the funds compulsorily extracted from the average Briton

After a long resistance, the BBC publishes top execs' pay and expenses -- and they are huge. 37 BBC staff earn more than the Prime Minister

DETAILS of the salaries and expenses of more than 100 of the British Broadcasting Corporation's top executives have been published online. The revelations, which the BBC has called a "step change in openness", follow a scandal earlier this year over parliamentary expenses. It fuelled pressure for disclosure of financial details of publicly-funded bodies.

According to the pay details of 107 BBC "decision-makers'', published online on Thursday, BBC director general Mark Thompson receives a salary of £664,000 and a total annual pay package of £834,000 ($US1.38 million, $A1.48 million).

The BBC, which is often attacked by rival British commercial media, published the salaries of its 50 best-paid managers in June, and said its executives claimed over £350,000 in expenses between 2004-2009.

But the newly-released figures give details of nearly 3,000 separate expense claims, which were immediately trawled over by British media for questionable details.

Jay Hunt, controller of the main BBC1 television channel who is £272,800 pounds per year, claimed nearly £30 for a bottle of spirits and almost £90 for flowers.
Despite his large salary, Thompson himself claimed 70p for parking on seven separate occasions, alongside claims for everything from business class air tickets, flowers, hotel refreshments and restaurant bills.

BBC creative director Alan Yentob claimed £3,211.70 for a return flight to New York in June, and incurred £674.19 in taxi fares in April alone, the figures showed.

Radio 1 controller Andy Parfitt, who is paid a total of £218,800 claimed nearly 550 pounds for equipment for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief, an annual charity event.

But there did not appear to be anything approaching the eye-popping revelations from the parliamentary expenses scandal before the summer, such as duck houses, moat cleaning and extensive second home expenses.

The BBC said it was simply being transparent. "Today's quarterly disclosure is a significant move for the BBC in our continued commitment to achieving ever greater openness and transparency to the public who pay for the BBC,'' said BBC chief operating officer Caroline Thomson.

She said the publication "is a direct response to the public, who have indicated that they would like more information about how the BBC is run in a way which marks a step change in openness, simplicity and accountability''. "We are meeting the spirit as well as the letter of the law.''

The BBC has also been rocked by a series of other scandals in recent years, including rigged competitions, a misrepresented row involving Queen Elizabeth II and, more seriously, with the government over the 2003 Iraq war.

SOURCE. See also here

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Secret Worcestershire Sauce recipe found

Historians believe they have found the original recipe for Lea and Perrins' Worcestershire sauce, which could be 150 years old. The original recipe was a closely guarded secret, but a former accountant at the company claimed that he found the notes dating from the mid 1800s in a skip by the firm's site.

Brian Keogh, who died in 2006, said that he discovered the original recipe in two leather-bound folios written in sepia ink. The recipe was written in two different styles of handwriting, which analysts believe was due to the fact that no one knew the entire recipe. His daughter Bonnie Clifford is now working with the museum to test the papers.

The classic condiment is thought to contain ingredients including cloves, vinegar, pickles and tamoraide.

Worcester City Museums collections officer David Nash said: "There has always been a lot of secrecy surrounding the recipes and pride that it is made locally.

"Not even the staff knew the whole recipe, only parts of it, which would account for the different handwriting, and some of the ingredients were written in code.

"Even with all the ingredients there is no guarantee you would be able to make the sauce as what makes it distinctive is the way it is made, which is still a secret."

"It would be significant to the people of Worcester and maybe even attract national interest if they are proved to be genuine."

SOURCE (Sauce?)