Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hitler, the rejected artist

The provenance of these pictures is not very clear and they seem rather unlike Hitler's other art. It would be amusing if they were eventually found to be by a more respected artist and the critics were pissing on them for nothing! Note that the claims about Hitler being infuriated by his rejection from the art school are phrased very tentatively -- for good reason. In "Mein Kampf" Hitler evinces no such anger and in fact emphatically agrees with the Rector that his main talent was in architecture

They represent the hopes of an ambitious young artist. But these sketches failed to impress selectors at a prestigious art college . . . and those dreams were shattered. Who knows just how momentous were the implications of that rejection.

The teenage artist is believed to have been Adolf Hitler. It may be folklore, but it is now said he blamed a Jewish professor at the Vienna Academy of Art for refusing his application to study.

Hitler Hitler

Budding artist Adolf Hitler is believed to have submitted the portfolio to the Vienna Academy of Art - which rejected him twice

The sketches are expected to fetch up to £6,000 when they go on sale next month, a price that has more to do with the notoriety rather than talent of the artist.

Hitler's portfolio is said to show a moderate artistic ability no greater than the average GCSE student. The works consist of nudes, human figures, objects and landscapes. Most are dated 1908, the year 19-year-old Hitler was rejected by the academy for the second time and not even permitted to sit the entrance exam. Others are dated the following year.



Speculation: Hitler is believed to have blamed a Jewish professor for his rejection from the academy. Some believe this sparked his persecution of Jews in later life

Hitler moved to Vienna as a young man in 1905 and lived a bohemian lifestyle, making a little money by selling pictures he copied from postcards. At one point he ended up in a hostel for the homeless and later claimed it was in Vienna where the fires of his anti-Semitism were ignited.


Up for auction: The pictures are expected to sell for up to £6,000 each when they are auctioned in Ludlow, Shropshire next month

Richard Westwood-Brookes, of the auction house in Shropshire which is selling the archive, said the pictures were owned by an artist based in Europe who had had them for many years. 'It is the first time the pictures have come to light and can be seen by the general public,' he said.

It is not, however, the first time that Hitler's early life as a budding artist has been on show. Last year a series of watercolours were sold in Britain. They included what was thought to have been his first selfportrait. Painted in 1910, it showed a solitary figure with dark straight hair sitting on a stone bridge. A cross was painted above the head along with the initials AH.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Another Aga saga

The world's best stove is no longer politically correct

It began when the gas bill landed on the mat. “This is outrageous,” my husband James yelled. “There’s no way we can afford this.” The bill in question covered seven weeks between January and February this year. It came to £682.30.

Given we’d been on holiday for one of those weeks, the figure was shocking. James had no doubt where the blame lay. “It’s your Aga,” he declared. “It’s got to go.”

We’d huddled round it through out the miserable winter, we’d eaten endless warming casseroles slow-cooked in its bottom oven. The prospect of losing our Aga was devastating.

I hadn’t always been an Aga aficionado. I regarded them as status symbols that people pretentiously described as “best friends”. They were the toys of Marie-Antoinettish pseuds who wanted to play at living in a farmhouse in Wales – when actually they were hedge fund managers from Notting Hill. Madonna and Guy Ritchie had one, just as they donned Hunter wellies and Barbours and claimed to love hunting and fishing. (Now I wonder if maybe they divorced after a row over the gas bill.)

Then four years ago we bought a house with an Aga in situ.

I was so scared of the lump of iron that for weeks we lived off microwave meals. Finally I bought an Aga guide book and discovered that Agas were actually far easier to use than conventional cookers. Not only that but everything that came out of it was utterly delectable. The deep, thick walls of the double ovens produced an incredibly unctuous chicken and spinach curry, and a roast lamb so tender the meat fell off the bones.

And so a great and unexpected love affair began. Like any converts, we were evangelical. “It’s marvellous,” we bored our friends. “If you want to roast a chicken, just shove it in the top oven and an hour later it’s done. Its jacket potatoes are so fluffy and the toast is sublime.”

Only one dared to actually voice the truth. “Heavens you’re smug,” she said after I’d launched into a reborn-Nigella eulogy to drop scones made on the hot plate.

Most, however, simply looked sceptical. “But how does it work?” they’d ask. “Surely, it can’t be turned on all the time?”

James and I would eye each other guiltily. “Well, yes. It is. But that’s great! It means you can pull a pizza out of the freezer at 3AM and it’ll be ready in minutes, with such a crispy base ...”

Our friends had spotted the glaring design flaw. When David Cameron excused the Aga in his constituency home by saying he only turned it on when he was there, it made me doubt his fitness to lead the country. Because Agas only work properly if they’re turned on all the time. All day, all night, all year round. When we’re on holiday, or at the height of summer (which fortunately has lasted for just two days in recent years) the Aga continually radiates useless heat. As gas prices soar, we’re literally burning money.

Still, we continued to find get-outs. We work at home and use the Aga on and off all day, so we were using it at full capacity. But more and more, unease tempered my enjoyment of my juicy venison casseroles. Last year environmentalist George Monbiot launched a crusade against middle-class Aga owners. “I’ve lost count of the number of aspirational middle-class greens I know who own one of these monsters and believe that they are somehow compatible – perhaps because they look good in a country kitchen – with a green lifestyle,” he said.

The annual carbon footprint of my two-oven gas Aga is four tons, I discovered, two thirds of what an entire average British home emits in a year, a whole ton more than government targets for individual houses by 2020. In this light, my sneering at my neighbours for driving 4x4s, my rubbishing patio heaters and my obsessive recycling of the insides of loo rolls seemed deeply ironic.

Tessa Glass, a mother of two, who has an Aga in her second home (another eco crime) in Sussex refuses to believe she is an Aga lout, wilfully helping sea levels rise, all so she can scoff perfect Yorkshire puddings.

“But Aga owners are green,” she protests. “They’re the kind of people who love the country and have dogs. Apart from the footballers’ wives, that is.” She’s taken aback when I explain that flying to New York twice a year would cause less devastation to the rain forests. “La la la, not listening,” she cries.

Not listening, indeed. The list of celebrity Aga owners who also profess to be eco warriors makes hilarious reading. Sting and Trudie Styler lecture us about the Amazon but – natch – they own one. Prince Charles is forever warning us of climate Armageddon but his wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, “wouldn’t cook on anything else.”

Colin Firth, whose wife runs a chichi “green” store is another fan. Not so much hypocritical as puzzling is Sharon Stone’s avowal that an Aga is the first thing she would save in a fire, though the lightest model weighs 64 stone [900lb].

I’ve been doing everything I can to offset my Aga’s footprint. I never drive and we have no separate kettle or toaster and no tumble dryer, meaning, as one school-mum friend cheerily pointed out: “whenever I walk past your house I can see your wet knickers on the cooker.”

We’re not the only ones to be having second thoughts. Last week Aga announced annual profits had dropped by 97 per cent, from £14.4 million to £500,000 (although sales levelled out in the second half of the year).

After the gas bill shocker, our Aga is a seriously endangered species – like a Giant Panda. I frantically investigated ways to preserve it. I looked into installing AIMS, Aga’s new “intelligent management” system, which effectively makes the cooker heat up only when you need it. But the price for conversion was around £2000 (now on sale at a still pricey £1200), the price of a decent range cooker.

I remembered the freezing weekend the Aga broke and I had to survive two days with no heat in the kitchen, making coffee in the microwave, before forking out £400 for an emergency call out. Servicing the beast costs around £150 a year.

Despite this, I couldn’t bear to let go. Mary Berry, author of dozens of Aga cook books, sympathises. “I know of so many husbands who say 'Good God, this is costing a lot of money’ but our house would be unhappy without it. It’s at the hub of the home: our children did their homework by it, my husband dries the dogs on it, I’ve just washed a jumper and folded it on one of the lids so it won’t need ironing. I don’t want to have Botox or my varicose veins sorted so why not allow myself this luxury.”

Inspired by Berry, I upped my campaign. There were other reasons for the monster bill: it’s been the coldest winter in 25 years, we live in a big, draughty Victorian house and working from home means the heating is almost always on. Mercifully, a heating engineer confirmed this. He calculated our Aga is costing us around £14 a week and our lack of room thermostats was a bigger culprit. “People spend £50 a month on cable television,” I begged James. “I’ll forsake America’s Next Top Model for life in return for the Aga.”

So our Aga is reprieved. But I fear the stay is temporary. It’s like living with an errant husband, turning a blind eye to his obvious flaws, because I can’t imagine life without him. But at least there’ll still be drop scones for tea.

Source. (NOTE: I reported another Aga saga in January)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dingo may be world's oldest dog breed

THE dingo may be the oldest dog breed in the world, according to a new study. Only the New Guinea singing dog, so named because of its ability to modulate its howling, can match the dingo's longevity, the University of NSW's Dr Alan Wilton suggests.

His work, part of an international study tracing the DNA of modern domestic dogs from their wild wolf ancestry, may now help conserve the purity of the dingo breed.

The findings show it is likely dingoes, brought to Australia from Indonesia about 5000 years ago, developed separately from other canine breeds, mainly because of their physical isolation.

But their relatively recent cross-breeding with modern domesticated dogs is threatening the purity of the breed. "Most modern breeds of dogs originate from Europe over the last 100 years or so," said Dr Wilton, a genetics expert. "But there is another strand of more ancient breeds that we know originated in the Middle East and Asia.

"Dingoes originated in Asia and since they came to Australia they have largely been separated from other breeds. There was generally not the mixing we see with other, more modern dogs."

The dingo was now the dog with the closest genetic resemblance to the wild wolf. Other ancient breeds include the chow-chow, basenji, akita, Chinese shar-pei, Siberian husky and Alaskan malamute.

Dr Wilton speculates all of these also underwent separate domestication processes to most modern "European" breeds.

The study, collated at American universities Cornell and UCLA, is being published in the science journal Nature.

It has always been suspected that the dingo was among the oldest breeds in the world, but this is the first time it has been confirmed through scientific study.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lord Robert Baden-Powell's Scouts offered Hitler Youth friendship

The report below is a good indication of how Nazism became generally respectable after Hitler's success at getting Germany back on its feet in the late '30s -- JR

THE founder of the Boy Scouts founder held friendly talks with senior Nazis about forming closer ties with the Hitler Youth and was even invited to meet Adolf Hitler, newly released security files show.

Lord Baden-Powell, who started the Scouts in 1907, held talks with German ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop and Hitler Youth chief of staff Hartmann Lauterbacher on November 19, 1937.

Lauterbacher, then 28, was in Britain to foster closer relations with the Boy Scout movement and Ribbentrop invited Baden-Powell to tea with the Hitler Youth leader, declassified MI5 Security Service files revealed.

A letter from Lord Baden-Powell to Ribbentrop the day after the meeting showed how he felt about the talks.

"I am grateful for the kind conversation you accorded me which opened my eyes to the feeling of your country towards Britain, which I may say reciprocates exactly the feeling which I have for Germany," Lord Baden-Powell wrote.

"I sincerely hope that we shall be able, in the near future, to give expression to it through the youth on both sides, and I will at once consult my headquarters officers and see what suggestions they can put forward."

In a report on the meeting, Baden-Powell described Ribbentrop as "earnest" and "charming".

He wrote: "I had a long talk with the ambassador, who was very insistent that the true peace between the two nations will depend on the youth being brought up on friendly terms together in forgetfulness of past differences."

"He sees in the Scout movement a very powerful agency for helping to bring this about if we can get into closer touch with the Jugend (Youth) movement in Germany.

"To help this he suggested that if possible we should send one or two men to meet their leaders in Germany and talk matters over and, especially, he would like me to go and see Hitler after I am back from Africa."

He went on: "I told him that I was fully in favour of anything that would bring about a better understanding between our nations, and hoped to have further talks with him when I return from Africa."

There is no evidence that Lord Baden-Powell ever met Hitler.

Once the war had been under way for several years, the security services had no doubt about the nature of the Nazi youth wing.

An October 1944 intelligence assessment warned that the organisation should not be taken lightly and could not be compared to the Scouts.

It said: "It is a compulsory Nazi formation, which has consciously sought to breed hate, treachery and cruelty into the mind and soul of every German child. "It is, in the true sense of the word, 'education for death'."


Monday, March 1, 2010

ABBA helps Jews celebrate ancient festival

David Hilton, in fancy dress according to Purim tradition, reads the Story of Esther scroll in Sydney's Great Synagogue yesterday

IT IS a Jewish festival that dates back about 2500 years and yesterday it was celebrated in Sydney with a little help from Bjorn, Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid.

The city's Jewish community observed Purim, a day marking the story of Queen Esther's rescue of the Jews from genocide in Persia.

Part of the tradition of Purim is attending the annual celebration in dress-up. Sydney's Great Synagogue yesterday became a sea of brightly coloured wigs, masks and a man in jockey silks.

The other Purim tradition is during the reading of the book of Esther - also known as the Megillah - to boo at each mention of royal adviser Haman, who wanted to destroy the Jewish people.

To cap off the celebration, yesterday's traditional reading at the Great Synagogue was followed by a performance of Megillah Mia!, a stage show that takes the Purim story and puts it to the music of ABBA.

Such performances, known as a ''purim spiel'' have been absent from celebrations at the synagogue for a number of years. The synagogue's new board and events committee had decided to reinstate the performances as a way to reconnect with in a social setting, Rabbi Lawrence said.