#AtoZChallenge2015: Weimar

The town nests in the rolling hills of Thuringia, surrounded by woods and battlefields from the Napoleonic wars: Weimar is above all a city of german culture, the rest place of Goethe and Schiller. For us, it is a charming stop on the long road to the capital, a place to remember Werther, the Bauhaus, and the death of the first German democracy…

DSC_0564“Weimar is situated within the valley of Ilm river, a tributary of Saale river on the southern border of the Thuringian Basin, a fertile agricultural area between the Harz mountains 70 km (43 mi) in the north and the Thuringian Forest 50 km (31 mi) in the southwest. The municipal terrain is hilly; the height of the city centre in Ilm valley is approximately 200 m of elevation. To the north, the terrain rises to Ettersberg, the city’s 482 m high backyard mountain. The range of hills in the south of Weimar rises up to 370 m and is part of the Ilm Saale Plate Muschelkalk formation. The eastern, central and western parts of the municipal territory are in agricultural use, whereas the Ettersberg and some southern areas are wooded…

After the Treaty of Leipzig (1485) Weimar became part of the electorate of the Ernestine branch of Wettins with Wittenberg as capital. The Protestant Reformation was introduced in Weimar in 1525; Martin Luther stayed several times in the city. As the Ernestines lost the Schmalkaldic War in 1547, their capital Wittenberg went also to the Albertines, so that they needed a new residence. As the ruler returned from captivity, Weimar became his residence in 1552 and remained as such until the end of the monarchy in 1918. The first Ernestine territorial partition in 1572 was followed by various ones, nevertheless Weimar stayed the capital of different Saxe-Weimar states. The court and its staff brought some wealth to the city, so that it saw a first construction boom in the 16th century. The 17th century brought decline to Weimar, because of changing trade conditions (as in nearby Erfurt). Besides, the territorial partitions led to the loss of political importance of the dukes of Saxe-Weimar and their finances shrunk. The city’s polity weakened more and more and lost its privileges, leading to the absolutist reign of the dukes in the early 18th century. On the other hand, this time brought another construction boom to Weimar, and the city got its present appearance, marked by various ducal representation buildings. The city walls were demolished in 1757 and during the following decades, Weimar expanded in all directions. The biggest building constructed in this period was the Schloss as the residence of the dukes (north and east wing: 1789–1803, west wing 1832–1835, south wing: 1913–1914). Between 1708 and 1717 Johann Sebastian Bach worked as the court’s organist in Weimar…

The period from the start of the regencies of Anna Amalia (1758–1775) and her son Carl August (1775–1828) through to Goethe’s death in 1832 is denoted as the “golden” or the “classical” age because of the high level of cultural activity in Weimar. The city became an important cultural centre of Europe, having been home to such luminaries as GoetheSchillerHerderWieland and Bertuch; and in music the piano virtuoso Hummel. It has been a site of pilgrimage for the German intelligentsia since Goethe first moved to Weimar in 1775. Goethe was also active in civic duties while living there. He served as Privy Councilor to the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach for an extended period. The tombs of Goethe and Schiller, as well as their archives, may be found in the city. Goethe’s Elective Affinities (1809) is set around the city of Weimar. In comparison to many major German states, the dukes’ policy was liberal and tolerant in this period. The liberal Saxe-Weimar constitution was brought into effect in 1816…

The time after Goethe’s death is denoted as the “silver” age because Weimar remained an influential cultural centre. The first emphasis was fostering music. In 1842, Franz Liszt moved to Weimar as court conductor. He organized the premiere of Richard Wagner‘s Lohengrin (1850) in the city. The Weimar School of Music was founded in 1872 as Germany’s first orchestra school. Richard Strauss worked in Weimar between 1889 and 1894 as second conductor in the acclaimed Staatskapelle Weimar (the court orchestra founded in 1491). Several of his encores for works such as Hansel and GretelDon Juan and Macbeth were performed by the Staatskapelle Weimar. In 1897, Friedrich Nietzsche moved to Weimar and died here in 1900.

In 1860 the Weimar Saxon-Grand Ducal Art School, the precursor of today’s Bauhaus University, was founded. This was the beginning of academic arts education in Weimar. The institution created its own painting style, the “Weimar School” of painting with representatives such as Max Liebermann and Arnold Böcklin. The Kunstgewerbeschule Weimar was found by Henry van de Veldewith the support of Grand Duke William Ernest in 1902 and represents the other root of the Bauhaus, known as “Das Neue Weimar” (“The New Weimar”) around Harry Graf Kessler. It was a foundation against Prussia‘s restrictive arts policy favouring Historicisminstead of international Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau.

Already in the 19th century, the curation of Weimar and its heritage started. Many archives, societies and museums were found to present and conserve the cultural sights and goods. In 1846, Weimar was connected by the Thuringian Railway. In the following decades, the city saw a construction and population boom (like most late-19th-century cities in Germany). Nevertheless, Weimar did not become industrialised, and remained a city of clerks, artists and rentiers. During the German Revolution of 1918–19 the last reigning grand duke of Saxe-Weimar-EisenachWilliam Ernest, had to abdicate and went in exile to Heinrichau in Silesia…”

About the Weimar Republic… We remember the hopes, the murdered revolution, the legacy…

About the Bauhaus

Image: the Goethe and Schiller monument in front of the Nationaltheater in Weimar (© Honoré Dupuis 2013)

#AtoZChallenge2015: #Valley

Alpine valleys, their flowing streams, the Spring meadows and the sight of high peaks are an endless source of inspiration. Back in October 2012, two months after a wonderful summer visit to the South Tyrol I posted this sad and yet hopeful little story:


” The declining sunlight casts long shadows on the meadows, trees and rocks magically elongated over the sensual curves of the valley.

The little cross is hidden from view, not far from our path, but few walkers know it is there.

It’s almost our secret, a tiny haven nestled at the foot of the magic mountain, a special place: we belong there.

We can hear the small stream, running through the pine trees, as you turn your beloved face towards me, the green eyes I worship, deep into my lost soul, as images of our fall flash through my mind, and yours.

There, high above the valley, is the vertical cliff where you last kissed me, before our death: we haunt this place, and only the spirits will ever know.”

#AtoZChallenge: Utopia

Idealistic dream, vain hopes of justice and perfection, for others perhaps more dystopia? History and fiction are full of tentative or real utopia, for mankind never gives up…

“The term utopia was coined in Greek by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia, describing a fictional island society in the Atlantic Ocean.

The word comes from the Greekοὐ (“not”) and τόπος (“place”) and means “no-place“, and strictly describes any non-existent society ‘described in considerable detail’. However, in standard usage, the word’s meaning has narrowed and now usually describes a non-existent society that is intended to be viewed as considerably better than contemporary society.[1] Eutopia, derived from the Greek εὖ (“good” or “well”) and τόπος (“place”), means “good place”, and is strictly speaking the correct term to describe a positive utopia. In Englisheutopia and utopia are homophonous, which may have given rise to the change in meaning…

Chronologically, the first recorded utopian proposal is Plato‘s Republic.[3] Part conversation, part fictional depiction, and part policy proposal, it proposes a categorization of citizens into a rigid class structure of “golden,” “silver,” “bronze” and “iron” socioeconomic classes. The golden citizens are trained in a rigorous 50-year-long educational program to be benign oligarchs, the “philosopher-kings.” Plato had stressed this many times in both quotes by him and in his published works, such as The Republic. The wisdom of these rulers will supposedly eliminate poverty and deprivation through fairly distributed resources, though the details on how to do this are unclear. The educational program for the rulers is the central notion of the proposal. It has few laws, no lawyers and rarely sends its citizens to war, but hires mercenaries from among its war-prone neighbors (these mercenaries were deliberately sent into dangerous situations in the hope that the more warlike populations of all surrounding countries will be weeded out, leaving peaceful peoples).

During the 16th century, Thomas More’s book Utopia proposed an ideal society of the same name. Some readers, including utopian socialists, have chosen to accept this imaginary society as the realistic blueprint for a working nation, while others have postulated that More intended nothing of the sort. Some maintain the position that More’s Utopia functions only on the level of a satire, a work intended to reveal more about the England of his time than about an idealistic society. This interpretation is bolstered by the title of the book and nation, and its apparent confusion between the Greek for “no place” and “good place”: “utopia” is a compound of the syllable ou-, meaning “no”, and topos, meaning place. But the homophonic prefix eu-, meaning “good,” also resonates in the word, with the implication that the perfectly “good place” is really “no place.” (…)

A global utopia of world peace is often seen as one of the possible end results of world history. Within the localized political structures or spheres it presents, “polyculturalism” is the model-based adaptation of possible interactions with different cultures and identities in accordance with the principles of participatory society.[6]

The Soviet writer Ivan Efremov produced, during the “Thaw” period, the science-fiction utopia Andromeda (1957) in which a united humanity communicates with a galaxy-wide Great Circle and develops its technology and culture within a social framework characterized by vigorous competition between alternative philosophies.

The English political philosopher James Harrington, author of the utopian work The Commonwealth of Oceana, inspired English country party republicanism and was influential in the design of three American colonies. His theories ultimately contributed to the idealistic principles of the American Founders. The colonies of Carolina (founded in 1670), Pennsylvania (founded in 1681), and Georgia (founded in 1733) were the only three English colonies in America that were planned as utopian societies with an integrated physical, economic, and social design. At the heart of the plan for Georgia was a concept of “agrarian equality” in which land was allocated equally and additional land acquisition through purchase or inheritance was prohibited; the plan was an early step toward the yeoman republic later envisioned by Thomas Jefferson.[7][8][9]

The communes of the 1960s in the United States were often an attempt to greatly improve the way humans live together in communities. The back to the land movements and hippies inspired many to try to live in peace and harmony on farms, remote areas, and to set up new types of governance.

Intentional communities were organized and built all over the world with the hope of making a more perfect way of living together. However, many of these new small communities failed, but some are growing like the Twelve Tribes Communities that started in the United States and have grown to many tribes around the world.”

(From Wikipedia article)

Image: “Hieronymus Bosch – The Garden of Earthly Delights – The Earthly Paradise (Garden of Eden)” by Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) – →This file has been extracted from another file: Jheronimus Bosch 023.jpg.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_-_The_Earthly_Paradise_(Garden_of_Eden).jpg

#AtoZChallenge2015: the T34 tank #9May #WWII

Today I wish to celebrate a hero. Soon Europe will remember May 1945, and victory over the Axis powers. This franco-german jewish household will remember the millions of soviet soldiers who died in the war, and all the others, from the US, Britain, Canada, Australia… India, Africa, Viet-Nam and many places who were called upon to fight the hydra. We will also remember the resistance, first in Germany – the Sachsenhausen concentration camp (KZ) was opened in 1934 to destroy the opposition, trade-unionists, communists, socialists, christians, and ultimately the German Jews, before many others – and then across Europe, with a special mention of Greece and Yugoslavia…

However this hero is a machine, the soviet designed and built T34 tank, that together with infantry fronted all the battles, from Stalingrad to Berlin:

Monument to Soviet Tank Crew Warriors in Sevastopol (T-34)“The T-34 was essential in resisting the German summer offensive in 1942, and executing the double encirclement manoeuver that cut off the German Sixth Army at the Battle of Stalingrad in December 1942. The Sixth Army was surrounded, and eventually surrendered in February 1943, a campaign widely regarded as the turning point of the war on the Eastern Front.

In 1943, the Soviets formed Polish and Czech armies-in-exile, and these started to receive the T-34 Model 1943 with a hexagonal turret. Like the Soviet forces themselves, the Polish and Czech tank crews were sent into action quickly with little training, and suffered high casualties.

In July 1943, the Germans launched Operation Citadel, in the region around Kursk, their last major offensive on the Eastern Front in World War II. It was the debut of the German Panther tank, although the numbers employed at Kursk were small and the brunt of the burden carried by the Panzer IIIStuG III, and Panzer IV. The campaign featured the largest tank battles in history. The high-water mark of the battle was the massive armour engagement at Prokhorovka, which began on 12 July, though the vast majority of armour losses on both sides were caused by artillery and mines, rather than tanks.[85] Over 6,000 fully tracked armoured vehicles, 4,000 combat aircraft, and 2 million men are believed to have participated in these battles…

The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank which had a profound and lasting effect on the field of tank design. Although its armour and armament were surpassed later in the war, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient, and influential tank design of World War II.[3] At its introduction, the T-34 possessed an unprecedented combination of firepower, mobility, protection, and ruggedness. Its 76.2 mm (3 in) high-velocity tank gun provided a substantial increase in firepower over any of the T-34’s contemporaries;[4] its heavy sloped armour was difficult to penetrate by most contemporary anti-tank weapons. First encountered in 1941, German tank general von Kleist called it “the finest tank in the world”[5] and Heinz Guderian confirmed the T-34’s “vast superiority” over German armour[6] and found it “very worrying.” [7]

The T-34 was the mainstay of Soviet armoured forces throughout World War II. The design and construction of the tank were continuously refined during the war to enhance effectiveness and decrease costs, allowing steadily greater numbers of T-34s to be fielded despite heavy losses. It was the most-produced tank of the war, and the second most-produced tank of all time after its successor, the T-54/55 series.[8] By the end of the war in 1945, the T-34 had replaced many light and heavy tanks in Red Army service. It accounted for the majority of Soviet tank production, and following the war it was widely exported. Its evolutionary development led directly to the T-54/55 series of tanks, built until 1981 and still operational as of 2015 and which itself led to the T-62T-72, and T-90 tanks which, along with several Chinese tanksbased on the T-55, form the backbone of many armies even today. In 1996, T-34 variants were still in service in at least 27 countries…

In 1937, the Red Army had assigned engineer Mikhail Koshkin to lead a new team to design a replacement for the BT tanks at the Kharkiv Komintern Locomotive Plant (KhPZ). The prototype tank, designated A-20, was specified with 20 mm (0.8 in) of armour, a 45 mm (1.77 in) gun, and the new Model V-2-34 engine, using less-flammable diesel fuel in a V12configuration designed by Konstantin Chelpan. It also had an 8×6-wheel convertible drive similar to the BT tank’s 8×2, which allowed it to run on wheels without caterpillar tracks.[10] This feature had greatly saved on maintenance and repair of the unreliable tank tracks of the early 1930s, and allowed tanks to exceed 85 kilometres per hour (53 mph) on roads, but gave no advantage in combat and its complexity made it difficult to maintain. By 1937-38, track design had improved and the designers considered it a waste of space, weight, and maintenance resources, despite the road speed advantage.[11] The A-20 also incorporated previous research (BT-IS and BT-SW-2 projects) into sloped armour: its all-round sloped armour plates were more likely to deflect rounds than perpendicular armour.[12]

During the Battle of Lake Khasan in July 1938 and the Battles of Khalkhin Gol in 1939, an undeclared border war with Japan on the frontier with occupied Manchuria, the Soviets deployed numerous tanks against the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). Although the IJA Type 95 Ha-Go light tanks had diesel engines,[13] the Red Army’s T-26 and BT tanks used petrol engines which, while common in tank designs of the time, often burst into flames when hit by IJA tank-killer teams[14] using Molotov cocktails. Poor quality welds in the Soviet armour plates left small gaps between them, and flaming petrol from the Molotov cocktails easily seeped into the fighting and engine compartment; portions of the armour plating that had been assembled with rivets also proved to be vulnerable.[15] The Soviet tanks were also easily destroyed by the Japanese Type 95 tank’s 37 mm gunfire, despite the low velocity of that gun,[16] or “at any other slightest provocation.”[17] The use of riveted armour led to a problem called “spalling“, whereby the impact of enemy shells, even if they failed to disable the tank or kill the crew on their own, would cause the rivets to break off and become projectiles inside the tank…

Valuable lessons from Lake Khasan and Khalkhin Gol regarding armour protection, mobility, quality welding, and main guns were incorporated into the new T-34 tank, which represented a substantial improvement over the BT and T-26 tanks in all four areas.[20] Koshkin’s team completed two prototype T-34s in January 1940. In April and May, they underwent a grueling 2,000-kilometre (1,200 mi) drive from Kharkiv to Moscow for a demonstration for the Kremlin leaders, to the Mannerheim Line in Finland, and back to Kharkiv via Minsk and Kiev.[19] Some drivetrain shortcomings were identified and corrected…

Over two years, the unit production cost of the T-34 was reduced from 269,500 rubles in 1941, to 193,000, and then to 135,000.[33]Production time was cut in half by the end of 1942, even though most experienced factory workers had been sent to the battlefield and were replaced by a mixed workforce that included 50% women, 15% boys, and 15% invalids and old men. Originally “beautifully crafted machines with excellent exterior finish comparable or superior to those in Western Europe or America”, later T-34s were much more roughly finished; this did not compromise mechanical reliability, however.[29]

In 1943, T-34 production had reached an average of 1,300 per month; this was the equivalent of three full-strength Panzer divisions.[35] By the end of 1945, over 57,300 T-34s had been built: 34,780 T-34 tanks in multiple variants with 76.2 mm guns in 1940–44, and another 22,609 of the revised T-34-85 model in 1944–45.[36] The single largest producer was Factory N.183 (UTZ), building 28,952 T-34s and T-34-85s from 1941 to 1945. The second-largest was Krasnoye Sormovo Factory N.112 in Gorky, with 12,604 in the same period.[37]

At the start of the war, T-34s were about four percent of the Soviet tank arsenal, but by the end it made up at least 55% of tank production (based on figures from;[38] Zheltov 2001 lists even larger numbers).

Following the end of the war, a further 2,701 T-34s were built prior to the end of Soviet production. Under license, production was restarted in Poland (1951–55) and Czechoslovakia (1951–58), where 1,380 and 3,185 T-34-85s were made, respectively, by 1956.[39] Altogether, as many as 84,070 T-34s are thought to have been built, plus 13,170 self-propelled guns built on T-34 chassis.[40] It was the most-produced tank of the Second World War, and the second most-produced tank of all time, after its successor, the T-54/55 series…

The T-34 was one of the best protected tanks in the world in 1941. Good armour thickness was enhanced by the sloped armour shape, which provided protection in excess of what armour thickness alone would indicate. Some tanks also had appliqué armour of varying thickness welded on to the hull and turret. Tanks thus modified were called s ekranami (Russianс экранами, “with screens”).[25]

The USSR donated two combat-used Model 1941 T-34s to the United States for testing purposes in late 1942. The examinations, performed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, revealed problems with overall armour build quality, especially of plate joins and welds, as well as the use of soft steel combined with shallow surface tempering. Leak issues were noted as well: “In a heavy rain lots of water flows through chinks/cracks, which leads to the disabling of the electrical equipment and even the ammunition”.[43] Earlier models of the T-34, until the Model 1942, had cast turrets whose armour was softer than that of the other parts of the tank, and offered poor resistance even to 37 mm anti-aircraft shells.

Despite these deficiencies, the T-34’s armour proved problematic for the Germans in the initial stages of the war on the Eastern Front. In one wartime account, a single T-34 came under heavy fire upon encountering one of the most common German anti-tank guns at that stage of the war: “Remarkably enough, one determined 37 mm gun crew reported firing 23 times against a single T-34 tank, only managing to jam the tank’s turret ring.”[44] Similarly, a German report of May 1942 noted the ineffectiveness of their 50 mm gun as well, noting that “Combating the T-34 with the 5 cm KwK tank gun is possible only at short ranges from the flank or rear, where it is important to achieve a hit as perpendicular to the surface as possible.”[26] However, a Military Commissariat Report of the 10th Tank Division, dated 2 August 1941 reported that the frontal armour could be effectively defeated within 300-400 m by the 37 mm Pak 36’s armour-piercing shot.[45][46] According to an examination of damaged T-34 tanks in several repair workshops in August to September 1942, collected by the People’s Commissariat for Tank Industry in January 1943, 54.3% of all T-34 losses were caused by the German long-barreled 50 mm KwK 39 gun.”(from Wikipedia’s article)

The T34 has its own museum here!

Image: “Monument to Soviet Tank Crew Warriors in Sevastopol” by Cmapm – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monument_to_Soviet_Tank_Crew_Warriors_in_Sevastopol.jpg#/media/File:Monument_to_Soviet_Tank_Crew_Warriors_in_Sevastopol.jpg

#AtoZChallenge: Simoom #Earthday

The Simoom is a strong desert wind, and in some traditions it is portent of evil…

Le Simoon by Eugène FromentinSimoom (Arabicسموم‎ samūm; from the root سم s-m-m, “to poison”) is a strong, dry, dust-laden local wind that blows in the SaharaIsraelJordanSyria, and the deserts of Arabian Peninsula. Alternative spellings include samielsameyelsamoonsamunsimoun, and simoon. Its temperature may exceed 54°C (129°F) and the humidity may fall below 10%. Simoom winds has an alternative types occurring in the region of Central Asia – known as “Garmsil” (гармсель).

The storm moves in cyclone (circular) form, carrying clouds of dust and sand, and produces on humans and animals a suffocating effect. The name means “poison wind” and is given because the sudden onset of simoom may also cause heat stroke. This is attributed to the fact that the hot wind brings more heat to the body than can be disposed of by the evaporation of perspiration.

A 19th-century account of simoom in Egypt goes:

Egypt is also subject, particularly during the spring and summer, to the hot wind called the “samoom,” which is still more oppressive than the khamasin winds, but of much shorter duration, seldom lasting longer than a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes. It generally proceeds from the south-east or south-south-east, and carries with it clouds of dust and sand.

In North America:

“The only ever recorded simoom wind in North America occurred on June 17, 1859 in Goleta, California and Santa Barbara, California. In the morning the temperature hovered around the normal 24°C(75°F) to 27°C(80°F), but around 1pm strong super hot winds filled with dust began to blow from the direction of the Santa Ynez Mountains to the north. By 2pm the temperature reached 56°C(133°F). This temperature was recorded by an official US coastal survey vessel that was operating in the waters just offshore, in the Santa Barbara Channel. At 5pm the temperature had reduced to 50°C(122°F) and by 7pm the temperature was back to a normal 25°C(77°F). The US government report stated “Calves, rabbits and cattle died on their feet. Fruit fell from trees to the ground scorched on the windward side; all vegetable gardens were ruined. A fisherman in a rowboat made it to the Goleta Sandspit with his face and arms blistered as if he had been exposed to a blast furnace.”

From literature:

Edgar Allan Poe’s short story MS. Found in a Bottle (1833) features a storm off the coast of Java, wherein “every appearance warranted me [the protagonist-narrator] in apprehending a Simoom.”

In the political essay “Chartism,” Thomas Carlyle argues that even the poorest of men who have resigned themselves to misery and toil cannot resign themselves to injustice because they retain an innate sense that a higher (divine) justice must govern the world: “Force itself, the hopelessness of resistance, has doubtless a composing effect against inanimate Simooms, and much other infliction of the like sort, we have found it suffice to produce complete composure. Yet one would say a permanent Injustice even from an Infinite Power would prove unendurable by men.”

In Walden (1854), by Henry David Thoreau, there is a reference to simoom; he uses it to describe his urge to escape something most unwanted. “There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted. It is human, it is divine, carrion. If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life, as from that dry and parching wind of the African deserts called the simoom, which fills the mouth and nose and ears and eyes with dust till you are suffocated, for fear that I should get some of his good done to me—some of its virus mingled with my blood. No—in this case I would rather suffer evil the natural way.”

In his 1854 novel Hard Times, Charles Dickens describes the oppressive midsummer heat of the sooty, smoky factories of Coketown, “The atmosphere of those Fairy palaces was like the breath of the simoom; and their inhabitants, wasting with heat, toiled languidly in the desert” (book 2, chapter 1).

In Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula (1897), Lucy, describing the appearance of Dracula in her room, writes in her journal entry on September 17 that “a whole myriad of little specks seemed to come blowing in through the broken window, and wheeling and circling round like the pillar of dust that travellers describe when there is a simoom in the desert.”

In James Joyce‘s novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1914), there is a reference to “Stephen’s heart had withered up like a flower of the desert that feels the simoom coming from afar.”

In Sinclair Lewis’ novel Main Street (1920), there is a reference to “Aunt Bessie’s simoom of questioning.”

A simoon strikes during chapter 2 of the film serial Tarzan the Tiger (1929).

In Making A President (1932), H. L. Mencken refers to “a veritable simoon of hiccups.”

In Patrick O’Brian‘s novel Post Captain (1972), Diana Villiers’ mentally troubled cousin, Edward Lowndes, upon learning that Doctor Maturin is a naval surgeon, remarks “Very good – you are upon the sea but not in it: you are not an advocate for cold baths. The sea, the sea! Where should we be without it? Frizzled to a mere toast, sir; parched, desiccated by the simoom, the dread simoom.”

There is a song “Simoom” by The Creatures, who are Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie of the former band Siouxsie and the Banshees. The song was on the album Boomerang(1989, Geffen Records). Another song titled “Simoon” features on the Yellow Magic Orchestra‘s epoymously titled album that was released in 1978.

In keeping with its tradition of naming its aircraft engines after winds, the Wright Aeronautical R-1200 of 1925 was called the Simoon.

In the film The English Patient (1996) there is a scene in which Count László Almásy regales Katharine Clifton with histories of named winds, one of them being the “Simoon.” Alluding to the records of Herodotus, Almásy tells Katharine that there was once a certain Arabic people who deemed the “Simoon” so evil that they marched out to meet it ranked as an army, “their swords raised.”

From the article in Wikipedia

Image: Le simoom by Eugène Fromentin at http://www.museumsyndicate.com/item.php?item=27924

#AtoZChallenge2015: retribution

Feuds and retributionThere is a medieval ring to this word: retribution: it evokes dark feuds in the Italy of the late Middle Age, just before the Renaissance woke up to the rediscovery of antiquity. We may think of those great families bent on revenge for some sinister hidden murder, and ponder on the condottieri (another interesting word) leading band of assassins for the cause of their lord…

Retribution may refer to:


Latin, from retribuere (assign again).


  • IPA(key)/ˌɹɛtrɪˈbjuʃɒn/


retribution (plural retributions)

  1. Punishment inflicted in the spirit of moral outrage or personal vengeance





  • 1999Barbara HanawaltMedieval crime and social control, p.73:
    1. Revenge is for an injury; retribution is for a wrong.
    2. Retribution sets an internal limit to the amount of the punishment according to the seriousness of the wrong; revenge need not.
    3. Revenge is personal; the agent of retribution need have no special or personal tie to the victim of the wrong for which he exacts retribution.
    4. Revenge involves a particular emotional tone, pleasure in the suffering of another, while retribution need involve no emotional tone.

Image: Blues vs. Greens (Byzantine Empire) at http://www.swide.com/art-culture/history/romeo-and-juliet-montagues-v-capulets-and-other-famous-gang-rivalries/2013/04/30

#FiveSentenceFiction: Changes

Poppy seedsThere was silence, a vast landscape of grey stones, and a black sky: this forgotten corner of the universe would never attract attention.

Yet, hidden, there was moisture, perhaps a forgotten discarded frozen relic of a passing meteorite.

Then there was the star, a young star, still full to burst of hydrogen: a promising start…

Inside the rock, where the small bubble of ice kept hiding, there were other, not quite inert things, the bits that could lead to changes:

With some luck, a little transformation would follow, and life would rise, after eons of time.