Search This Blog

Monday, 29 February 2016

Mackerel

Mackerel have vertical stripes on their sides which may help them stay in formation when they are schooling.

Mackerel are prolific broadcast spawners and must breed near the surface of the water due to the eggs of the females floating. Individual females lay between 300,000 and 1,500,000 eggs.

Mackerel are the fastest swimming fish in UK waters; They can  around fifty metres in ten seconds.

In 2009, Julian Pryke, a fishmonger from Greenwich, South London, successfully cut and gutted 362 mackerel in just one hour, a record he achieved while sitting in a bath.


The flesh of mackerel spoils easily, especially in the tropics, and can cause food poisoning. So, it should be eaten on the day of capture, unless pickled in salt, or refrigerated.

Machine gun

The first guns that had the ability to fire multiple shots from a single barrel without a full manual reload were revolvers made in Europe in the late 1500s.

On May 15, 1718, an English lawyer, James Puckle, patented the first machine gun. The "Puckle Gun" could be adjusted to fire round bullets at Christians and square bullets at Turks. A keen fisherman, Puckle intended to use it at sea.

Flier for James Puckle's 1718 patent revolving firearm, shows various cylinders for use with round and square bullets.

The first rapid-fire machine gun was patented by Richard Jordan Gatting of Indianapolis in 1862.

If General Custer had placed more confidence in the Gattling machine guns he possessed instead of deliberately leaving them behind at HQ, Custer's last stand might been Custer's successful stand.

Hiram Maxim (February 5, 1840 – November 24, 1916), the London-based American who invented the world's first portable fully automatic machine gun in 1884, was supposedly inspired by an American friend, who said the route to riches was to "invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each other's throats with greater facility".

Maxim machine gun, with thanks to the Georgian National Museum for allowing photography. By Jonathan Cardy - 

Sadly it worked: Maxim's brutally efficient guns were adopted by several armies and its successors inflicted horrific casualties in the First World War. They worked so well - firing up to 600 rounds a minute - that some believed the weapon would end war altogether.

A prolific inventor, Maxim was also responsible for creating the world’s first automatic sprinkler to douse fires and the common mousetrap.

The world's first sub-machine gun was the MP18.1, invented by Theodor Bergmann. It was introduced into service in 1918 by the German Army during World War I




When she was a young woman, sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer once lived in Israel. There, she was a trained sniper. She was so adept at handling a Sten gun — a British submachine gun — that she could quickly assemble one while blindfolded.

A fully automatic Thompson submachine gun can fire up to 900 rounds per minute.

Source The Independent 

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Niccolò Machiavelli

EARLY LIFE 

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was born in Florence, Italy on May 3, 1469. Niccolò was the third child and first son of Bernardo di Niccolò Machiavelli, a lawyer of some repute and his wife, Bartolomea di Stefano Nelli. Both parents were members of the old Florentine nobility.

Machiavelli was taught grammar, rhetoric, and Latin.

CAREER 

The Medici's expulsion from Florence in 1494 saw Machiavelli's first entrance into public life. He was appointed clerk in the second chancery of the commune, a medieval writing office whose duties consisted chiefly of carrying out the policy decisions of others, writing diplomatic letters, reading and writing reports, and taking notes.

Early in 1498 Machiavelli was prompted to the rank of second chancellor and secretary to Florentine head of state Piero Soderini. This post he retained until the year 1512.

In the first decade of the sixteenth century, Machiavelli carried out twenty three diplomatic missions to foreign states. These included trips to France and the Vatican.

Machiavelli appears to have been only moderately prosperous in his several embassies and political employments. He was misled by Catherina Sforza, ignored by King Louis XII, overawed by Cesare Borgia; several of his embassies were quite barren of results.


Between 1503 and 1506 Machiavelli was responsible for the Florentine militia. He distrusted mercenaries and instead, inspired by ancient Roman history, staffed his army with citizens.  His attempts to fortify Florence failed, and the soldiery that he raised astonished everybody by their cowardice.

It was not all failure. Under Machivalli's command, the Florentine citizen-soldiers did succeed in defeating and retaking Pisa in 1509.

In August 1512, the Medici, backed by Pope Julius II used Spanish troops to defeat the Florentines at Prato. Machiavelli was dismissed from his role as chancellor and on November 7, 1512  he was arrested, imprisoned, and subjected to the rack as a suspected schemer against the Medici family. Machiavelli was only released upon Giovanni de' Medici's election to the papacy in March 1513 as Pope Leo X.

When Machiavelli left his dungeon he retired to a farm near San Casciano, 9 miles (15 km) from Florence. Unable to secure an appointment from the Medici, he turned to writing.

WORKS 

In 1513, Machiavelli wrote Il Principe (The Prince). a handbook for rulers written whilst struggling to make ends meet after getting sacked by the Medici. It was based on his observations of Cesare Borgia.

Machiavelli suggested in The Prince universal compulsory military service- a novel concept at the time.

Cover page of 1550 edition of Machiavelli's Il Principe and La Vita di Castruccio Castracani da Lucca

The Prince languished unpublished until five years after his death, although Machiavelli privately circulated the book among friends.

The word "Machiavellin" has come to mean "unscrupulous" when applied to politics  The Prince's counsel to rulers and leaders to lie and cheat when such methods would secure the common good have been influential on many modern tyrannical leaders. Hitler kept a copy of The Prince by his bedside, while Mussolini wrote a forward to an edition of the book.

Machiavelli never actually said, "The ends justify the means." What he said was, "One must consider the final result," which just isn't as catchy.

Machiavelli's 1520 military science tome The Art of War laid the foundations of modern military tactics. It was the only theoretical work to be printed in his lifetime.

BELIEFS 

Although a Catholic, with his writings Machiavelli abandoned the Christian view of history as guided by God, He viewed events in purely human terms.

Statue at the Uffizi

Machiavelli regarded the state as the supreme end and The Prince was based on the premise that all means to preserve it was justified, morality having nothing to do with the matter.

Machiavelli argued that by the bad example,of  the papacy, Italy had lost its devotion and religion, He claimed that "the nearer one got to Rome, the more corruption one found." Not surprisingly he was condemned by the Pope.

MARRIAGE 

Machiavelli was of middle height, black-haired, with rather a small head, very bright eyes and slightly aquiline nose.


In 1502 Machiavelli married Marietta Corsini, who bore him four sons and two daughters. His grandson, Giovanni Ricci, is credited with saving many of Machiavelli's letters and writings.

In spite of his own infidelities, Machiavelli and Marietts lived on good terms, and she survived him twenty-six years.

Machiavelli stated that the preferred standard for women should be long, blonde, flowing hair as by this time that color was thought to be angelic.

DEATH 

In the spring of 1527 Machiavelli was sent by Francesco Guicciardini, the pope's commissary of war in Lombardy.to Civita Vecchia. However, soon after his return to Florence he fell ill. He took medicine which disagreed with him; and on June 21, 1527 Machiavelli died, at 58, after receiving his last rites.

Machiavelli was buried at the Church of Santa Croce in Florence. An epitaph honoring him is inscribed on his monument. The Latin legend reads: TANTO NOMINI NULLUM PAR ELOGIUM ("So great a name (has) no adequate praise" or "No eulogy (would be) a match for such a great name").

Machiavelli's cenotaph in the Santa Croce Church in Florence. By Gryffindor - Wikipedia Commons

Sources Nndb.com, Notablebiographies.com

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Macedonia

HISTORY

Prior to the fourth century BC, Macedonia was a small kingdom in northern Greece, outside the area dominated by the great city-states of Athens, Sparta and Thebes.

The reign of Philip II (359–336 BC) saw the rise of Macedonia, when the kingdom rose to control the entire Greek world. With the innovative Macedonian army, Philip defeated Athens and Thebes in the decisive Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC and subdued them, while keeping Sparta in check.

Macedonia 336 BC Marsyas (French original); Kordas (Spanish translation) derivative work: MinisterForBadTimes Wikipedia Commons

In 356 BC Philip II's horse won an event at the Olympics. He had a special silver coin minted to commemorate this feat.

Phillip's son Alexander the Great conquered the remainder of the region, and incorporated it in his empire, reaching as far north as Scupi.

The Macedonians developed the catapult as a siege engine for the armies of Philip II and Alexander the Great.

The Romans established the Province of Macedonia in 146 BC, after the Roman general Quintus Caecilius Metellus defeated Andriscus of Macedon, the last self-styled King of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia.

All of the central Balkans including Macedona were conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century and remained under its domination for five centuries.

After the Second World War, it became a state called Socialist Republic of Macedonia in the southern part of Yugoslavia. When that country broke up in 1991, Macedonia became independent.

Macedonia officially celebrates September 8, 1991 as Independence Day with regard to the referendum endorsing independence from Yugoslavia.


FUN FACTS

Macedonia is a mountainous country with sixteen mountains higher than 2000 meters above sea level.

There are more than 50 large lakes and 1,100 large sources of water in total.

Macedonia was ranked as the fourth "best reformatory state" out of 178 countries by the World Bank in 2009.

Macedonia is famous for its rich Šopska salad *see below), an appetizer and side dish which accompanies almost every meal,


Eastern Orthodoxy is the majority faith of the Republic of Macedonia making up 64.7% of the population, the vast majority of which belong to the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

The majority of the population speak Macedonian, which is closely related to and mutually intelligible with Standard Bulgarian. Albanian is also spoken by the Albanian minority (15%) living in the country.

Macbeth

THE KING

Shakespeare's famous character Macbeth was based on a real Scottish king in the 11th century named Mac Bethad mac Findlaích.

The name "Macbeth" (or Mac Bethad) means 'son of life' in Gaelic.

Macbeth succeeded his first cousin King Duncan I after killing him on the battlefield near Elgin on August 14, 1040. He went on to reign for 17 years.

Chroniclers of the time described Macbeth as a "liberal king" with "fair, yellow hair and tall" and having a "ruddy countenance". He was nicknamed Rí Deircc, "the Red King.”

Imagined 19th century portrait of Macbeth

Macbeth’s reign was a time of relative peace and he encouraged the spread of Christianity. In fact Scotland was so peaceful under his rule that Macbeth made a pilgrimage to Rome in 1050 where he is said to have given money to the poor “as if it were seed”.

Lady Macbeth’s first name was Gruoch. Unlike Shakespeare’s portrayal, Macbeth was no villain and Lady Macbeth was not scheming.

King Macbeth was killed at the Battle of Lumphanan by the forces of King Duncan I's son, the future Malcolm III, on August 15, 1057.

THE PLAY

Shakespeare's Macbeth is the most produced play ever written, with a performance staged every four hours somewhere in the world. It is believed to have been written between 1599 and 1606.


King James I of England was notorious for his fascination for witches. The three 'weird sisters' in Macbeth were in part Shakespeare's attempt to please the monarch.

King James I liked the play as it forecast that Banquivo would be the first of many Kings in his line and James counted Banquo as an ancestor.

The first page of Macbeth, printed in the Second Folio of 1632. By William Shakespeare,  Folger Library Digital Image Collection Wikipedis Commons

Macbeth is referred to as the "Scottish play" by those in the acting profession as to mention it by name traditionally brings misfortune upon any production of it.

The origins of the superstition against saying "Macbeth" in a theatre are unclear. One idea is that Shakespeare took some lines for his three witches from a real coven who cursed the play.

The role of Macbeth is 719 lines long, which is only half the length of Hamlet.

Macbeth was banned in several Eastern European countries during the 1940s and 50s as it ended in rejoicing at the killing of tyrants.

The phrase "to steal another's thunder" meaning "to get in first and do whatever the other wanted to make a big impression with" is said to derive from an incident involving the playwright and critic John Dennis (d1734). He had invented a device for making the sound of thunder in plays and had used it in one of his own at London's Drury Lane Theatre in 1700. After a run of just two weeks, the play was replaced by a staging of Macbeth. Dennis saw the production and wrote a furious review: "See what rascals they are. They will not run my play and yet they steal my thunder."

Ellen Kean and Charles Kean as the Macbeths, in historically accurate costumes

The earliest film version of Macbeth was a 1908 silent movie in black and white which was censored by the police for its violence when shown in Chicago.

Orson Welles’ 1948 film of Macbeth used sets and scenery left over from Western movies.

Sources Daily Express, Red Herrings and White Elephants: The Origins Of The Phrases We Use Every Day by Albert Jack, Hesperiastar.com

Macaroon

Cormery Abbey was founded by Ithier of St. Martin, abbot of Basilica of St. Martin in Tours in 791. Macaroon cakes were made there in medieval times the shape of monk's navels.

When Catherine de' Medici married the future Henry II of France in 1533, she brought with her a group of Florentine cooks from her native Italy. With their help, she introduced many new Italian dishes never seen before in France such as almond macaroons.

The French called the almond variety, macaron. The term appeared in print in 1552 in the Quart livre by François Rabelais.


The Carmelites started manufacturing macaroons in the sixteenth century as a result of the reforming Carmelite nun Saint Teresa of Ávila's principle that "almonds are good for girls who do not eat meat."

Coconut macaroon is the best known variety in America. The coconut acts as a natural preservative that keeps the cake fresh for longer.

Macaroni

The earliest known recipe for macaroni and cheese dates back to the 14th century. A cheese and pasta casserole known as makerouns was recorded in the famous medieval English cookbook, the Forme of Cury. It was made with fresh, hand-cut pasta which was sandwiched between a mixture of melted butter and cheese.



Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing macaroni to the United States. It seems that he fell in love with a certain dish he sampled in Naples, while serving as the U.S. Ambassador to France. In fact, he promptly ordered crates of "macaroni," along with a pasta-making machine, sent back to the States.

The song "Yankee Doodle" was invented by the British to insult American colonists. The section where Doodle puts a feather in his cap and calls it macaroni is a slap at the ragged bands of American troops.

After the initial failure of his opera William Tell the Italian composer Gioachino Rossini gave up writing opera and decided to concentrate on cooking. He produced some inventive recipes and devised a way of stuffing macaroni with foie gras by means of a silver syringe.

In gratitude for his role in Italian Unification, Garibaldi was given a year's supply of macaroni from the king.


Macaroni and cheese is today a popular dish in English-speaking countries, often made with elbow macaroni.

The Canadians consume more macaroni and cheese than any other nation on the globe.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

Friday, 26 February 2016

M&M's

On a trip to Spain during the Civil War in the 1930s, Forrest Mars Sr.  son of the founder of the Mars Company Frank C. Mars, encountered soldiers who were eating pellets of chocolate that were encased in a hard sugary coating to prevent them from melting. Inspired by this idea, Mr. Mars went back to his kitchen and came up with the recipe for M&M's.


Mars received a patent for his own manufacturing process on March 3, 1941. They were first sold to the public packaged in cardboard tubes. In 1948, the packaging was changed to the brown plastic pouch we know today.

M&M's chocolate stands for the initials for its inventors Mars and Bruce Murrie, son of Hershey Chocolate's president William F. R. Murrie, who had a 20 percent share in the product.

Peanut M&M's were introduced in 1954. Its creator was allergic to peanuts.

By Source, Fair use, Wikipedia Commons

To burn off one plain M&M candy, you need to walk the full length of a football field.

Americans consume over 100 million M&M's every day.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce 

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Lyre

The lyre is one of the earliest stringed instruments. The most ancient lyres known are from the Sumerian civilization. These instruments are considered large, standing approximately three and a half feet (one meter) tall. Their strings ran from a sound box over a bridge to a yoke, where they were tuned. Sound was produced by plucking the strings with the fingers. Over time the lyre became smaller and more portable.

The lyres of Ur, excavated in ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), date to 2500 BC.

The earlist picture of a lyre with seven strings appears in the famous sarcophagus of Hagia Triada (a Minoan settlement in Crete). The sarcophagus was used during the Mycenaean occupation of Crete (1400BC)

The Hagia Triada Mycenaean sarcophagus, 14th century BC, depicting the earliest lyre with seven strings, held by a man with long robe, third from the left. By J. Ollé - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia Commons

The lyre of classical antiquity was ordinarily played by being strummed with a plectrum (pick), like a guitar or a zither, rather than being plucked with the fingers as with a harp.

Homer was a Greek blind minstrel who chanted the Iliad and the Odyssey to the music of the lyre.

The ancient Greeks knew two different types of lyre--the lyra and the cithara The lyra had a sound box of tortoiseshell, which was covered with a soundboard of wood. It was associated with amateurs and with drinking songs and love songs.

The cithara was a similar instrument with more strings. The cithara had a hollow sound box made of wood, to which were attached pieces of such other materials as metal or horn to increase the instrument's volume. The cithara was an instrument for professional musicians, and competitions for masters who accompanied their own songs in performance were a prominent feature of Greek life.

Music featured as an essential organizing factor in his Pythagoran society. The disciples used the lyre to cure illness of the soul or body.

During mealtimes ancient Greeks reclined on couches while eating with poetry, lyre playing and dancing in the background.


The Emperor Nero inserted a special event for himself at the Olympics - lyre playing, which he conveniently won.

In late classical times (around 400AD) the lyra fell out of use, and the cithara evolved into various new types of instruments, of which the most recognizable resembles the lute of the Renaissance.

Lyres appearing to have emerged independently of Greco-Roman prototypes were used by the Teutonic, Gallic, Scandinavian, and Celtic peoples over a thousand years ago.



Shakespeare wrote of the lyre, which is made from sheep's guts "Is it not strange that sheep's guts should hale souls out of mens bodies."

The remains of a 2300-year-old lyre was discovered on the Isle of Skye, Scotland in 2010 making it Europe’s oldest surviving stringed musical instrument.

source Comptons Encyclopedia

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Luxembourg

HISTORY

The recorded history of Luxembourg begins with the acquisition of Lucilinburhuc (Luxembourg Castle) situated on the Bock rock by Siegfried, Count of Ardennes, in 963 through an exchange act with St. Maximin's Abbey, Trier. Around this fort, a town gradually developed, which became the centre of a state of great strategic value.

In 1437, the House of Luxembourg suffered a succession crisis, precipitated by the lack of a male heir to assume the throne. This led to Elisabeth of Görlitz, the Duchess regnant of Luxemburg
selling the country to Philip the Good of Burgundy.

After the defeat of Napoleon, The Congress of Vienna formed Luxembourg as a Grand Duchy within the German Confederation in personal union with the Netherlands. This arrangement was revised by the 1839 First Treaty of London, from which date Luxembourg's full independence is reckoned.



Luxembourg has won two medals at the Summer Olympics and two at the Winter Olympics. Their only gold medal was for the 1,500 metres at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, won by Josy Barthel, who later became a government minister.

Luxembourg's gold medal at the 1952 Olympics was so unexpected that the organizers had neglected to give the band a score for their national anthem. The musicians "hurriedly improvised a tune which bore little resemblance to the Luxembourg anthem".

FUN FACTS

As a representative democracy with a constitutional monarch, the country is headed by a grand duke, Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and is the world's only Grand Duchy.

The only country with a higher Gross Domestic Product per capita than Luxembourg is Qatar.

Luxembourg covers an area of 998 square miles, (2,586 sq km) about the same size as the state of Rhode Island or the English county of Northamptonshire.

Luxembourg flag

Luxembourg had a population of 524,853 in October 2012, ranking it the eighth least-populous country in Europe.

Luxembourg has three official languages: French, German and Luxemburgish (or Luxembourgeois). Around 346,000 people around the world speak Luxembourgish.

In Luxembourg you must be trilingual (French, German, Luxembourgish) to graduate secondary school.

Luxembourg’s national dish is bouneschlupp, a mixture of green bean soup with potatoes, bacon and onions.

According to Guinness World Records, the restaurant Chiggeri in Luxembourg has the world’s biggest wine list.

Nearly 40 per cent of the population of Luxembourg are immigrants; 15 per cent of them are of Portuguese origin.

Source Daily Express

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Lutheranism

Lutheranism has its roots in the work of Martin Luther, who sought to reform the Western Church to what he considered a more biblical foundation.

The name Lutheran originated as a derogatory term used against Luther by German Scholastic theologian Dr. Johann Maier von Eck during the Leipzig Debate in July 1519.

Martin Luther always disliked the term Lutheran, preferring the term Evangelical, which was derived from euangelion, a Greek word meaning "good news", i.e. "Gospel."

Martin Luther

The Second Diet of Speyer in 1529 prohibited future reformation and enforced The Edict of Worms. The word Protestant is derived from the Latin protestatio meaning declaration which refers to the letter of protestation by Lutheran princes against the decision of the Diet of Speyer. At first, this term Protestant was used politically for the states that resisted the Edict of Worms. Over time, however, this term came to be used for the religious movements that opposed the Roman Catholic tradition in the 16th century.

Lutheranism spread through all of Scandinavia during the 16th century, as the monarch of Denmark–Norway (also ruling Iceland and the Faroe Islands) and the monarch of Sweden (also ruling Finland) adopted Lutheranism. Through Baltic-German and Swedish rule, Lutheranism also spread into the Baltic countries of Estonia and Latvia.

Three English and Irish Lutheran servants to the Spanish in Mexico City became the first men to be killed for their faith in America in 1574. They ran into trouble with the Inquisition, which had been set up in Mexico three years previously. People from all over the country attended the public announcement of their sentences and the burning at the stake of the three Lutherans was an elaborate public spectacle on February 28, 1574.


In 1666 Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705) took up a post as a Lutheran Clergyman at a parish in Frankfurt. Four years later, influenced by the works of English Puritan writers such as Richard Baxter he began holding home Bible studies for prayer, Bible reading, and the sharing of Christian experience. Out of this came the German Pietist movement, which emphasized pious living and new birth in Christ and revitalized the German Lutheran church. In the eighteenth century Pietism greatly impacted Spener's godson, Nikolaus Count Von Zinzendorf and the Moravians.

On November 24, 1703, Andrew Rudman and two other Swedish church leaders ordained Justus Falckner in a Philadelphia church. He was the first Lutheran pastor ordained in the region that became the United States.


The first Lutheran missionaries arrived at Tranquebar in South India in 1706.

Johann Sebastian Bach was a devout member of the Lutheran Church and his sympathies lay in particular with the Pietist movement. He believed he could best serve his church and the people around him through his music.

The first Lutheran church body in North America, the Pennsylvania Ministerium, was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 26, 1748. The group was known as the "Ministerium of North America" until 1792, when mindful of other Lutheran church bodies being founded in North America, the group renamed itself "The Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States".

An 1803 hymnal, published by the Pennsylvania Ministerium

Hebron Church was founded by German settlers in 1786, making it the first organized Lutheran church west of the Shenandoah Valley.

The first commercial advent calendars were printed in Germany in 1851. Originally used just by German Lutherans they are now ubiquitous among adherents of many Christian denominations.

In 1939 German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer made the dramatic decision to return from America to Nazi Germany to be with his people in the tragic times that he saw ahead. He was opposed to the "German Christian Movement" which advocated the removal of all Jewish elements from the Christian faith and he challenged Christians to reject a complacent, immature and compliant faith. Instead Bonhoeffer believed that the Christian walk requires a costly involvement in the modern secular society. On April 9, 1945, two years after being arrested for involvement in the political resistance against Hitler, the Nazis hanged him.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran pastor and theologian. By Bundesarchiv, Wikipedia Commons

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America came into existence on January 1, 1988, creating the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States.

Today, Lutheranism is one of the largest denominations of Protestantism. With approximately 80 million adherents, it constitutes the third most common Protestant denomination after historically Pentecostal denominations and Anglicanism.


Martin Luther

EARLY LIFE

Martin Luther was born to Hans Luder and his wife Margarethe (née Lindemann) on  November 10, 1483. He entered this world at the back of a stall at Eisleben market. in Eisleben, Saxony, then part of the Holy Roman Empire.

He was baptized as a Catholic the next morning on the feast day of St. Martin of Tours after whom he was named.

Martin's family moved to Mansfeld in 1484, where his father was a leaseholder of copper mines and smelters and served as one of four citizen representatives on the local council

His parents were deeply religious in a superstitious way; for instance they believed in fairies.

As a child, young Martin liked the country life.

As he grew older, Martin Luther found it difficult to pray "Our Father" as the words reminded him of his own coarse dad.


EDUCATION 

Having risen from the peasantry, Martin's father was determined to see his son ascend to civil service and bring further honor to the family. To that end, Hans sent young Martin to schools in Mansfeld, Magdeburg and Eisenach, where he excelled in Latin.

As a young student Luther sang in the streets of Eisenach to pay for his school fees.

At the age of seventeen in 1501 Luther entered the University of Erfurt. According to his father's wishes, Martin enrolled in the law school of that university.

Luther was very intelligent especially in writing and speaking and his talents won the admiration of the whole of Erfut University.

Much of Luther's training at Erfurt centered around the academic traditions of textual analysis, the formation of theses and conclusions and proofs. The stress at Erfut was on faith and scripture.

Luther was a brilliant student and received a Bachelor's degree in 1502 and a Master's degree three years later.

LUTHER BEFORE THE REFORMATION 

In 1505, Martin Luther was a 22-year-old ill-mannered and vulgar German law student growing up in a culture where people habitually attend mass. For some time, Luther had been troubled by a deep consciousness of sin. One hot July day, returning from his parents' house during a thunderstorm, he was nearly struck by lightening and a frightened Luther cried "help me St Anne and I will become a monk." To the surprise of his friends he joined the Augustian Hermits.

In 1507 Luther was sent by his order to the University of Wittenburg to teach moral theology and the Bible.

On October 21, 1512, Luther was received into the senate of the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg, having been called to the position of Doctor in Bible. He spent the rest of his career in this position at the University of Wittenberg.

Once he had become an Augustian monk, Martin Luther started attempting to achieve salvation through prayers, fasting and penance. From 1510 to 1520, Luther lectured on the Psalms and the books of Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians. As he studied these portions of the Bible, he came to view the use of terms such as penance and righteousness by the Catholic Church in new ways.

Luther as an Augustinian friar

THE REFORMATION 

The papacy was earning a good income by the indulgences system that allowed Christians to purchase remission from penance in purgatory. Luther's career as a reformer was initiated by a visit to Rome in 1510-11 where the sale of indulgences and the luxury and corruption of the Papal court angered him.

Luther first attained nationwide recognition in 1517 for his denunciation of the Dominion Monk Tetzel, who was one of those sent out by the Pope to sell indulgences as a means of raising funds for the rebuilding of St Peters at Rome. The relics at Wittenburg Cathedral were reckoned to earn a remission for pilgrims of 1,902,202 years.

Appalled at the indulgences system, Martin Luther nailed up on the church door at Wittenburg on October 31, 1517, his Ninety-five Theses, (the standard way of raising issues for debate), arguing that a Christian has had a full pardon from God and no need of indulgences. The Reformation had begun.

1517 Nuremberg printing of the Ninety-five Theses as a placard

Luther was attempting to free the masses from rigid forms and from priests standing between men and the Bible stressing the preaching of the word, the communion and congregational singing. Especially inspired by the letters of Paul he declared that the Bible should be available for all and that faith is a gift from God, not an intellectual effort.

By 1520 Martin Luther had amassed many followers including a number of German knights. However, he was horrified that they are being called Lutherans after him.

Having denied the infallibility of the pope, rejecting the Papal claim to be the sole authority of scriptures, and the infallibility of the general council, Luther was sent a papal bull Exsurge Domine (Latin for "Arise O Lord") on June 15, 1520 threatening his excommunication.

Luther publicly burned the bull on December 10, 1520 outside Wittenberg's Elster Gate and was consequently excommunicated. "I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope," he said.

Title page of first printed edition of Exsurge Domine.

In 1521, Luther was summoned by the powerful Charles V, of Spain to the Imperial Diet of Worms, due to his alleged heresies. Luther refused to go into hiding despite his friends' caution.

Luther's trial over his teachings begins on April 17, 1521 during the assembly of the Diet of Worms. When asked to recant the next day, Luther declared to the Diet leaders, "I am bound by the scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything." Still refusing to recant he proclaimed "Hier Stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders", ("Here I stand I can do no other. God help me, amen.") Luther was officially outlawed but escaped with his life.

Luther before the Diet of Worms by Anton von Werner (1843–1915)

After being outlawed Martin Luther found refuge at Wartburg Castle under the protection of Frederick of Saxony. He was disguised while staying there as a minor nobleman, Junker George.

During his year spent under the protection of Frederick, Luther improved his knowledge of Greek and Hebrew.

At Wartburg Castle, Luther worked tirelessly on translating the New Testament into German, in defiance of the Diet of Worms, so that the Bible might be read by all.  It was published in 1522.

Luther and his collaborators completed the translation of the Old Testament in 1534, when the whole Bible was published. Luther's German Bible had a profound effect on the development of the German language and contributed largely to restructuring German literature.

The Wartburg room where Luther translated the New Testament into German. An original first edition is kept in the case on the desk

More than 90 volumes of Luther's  works were published. (He wrote a treatise or tract every two weeks)

Luther's guiding principle for his writing and speeches were "Look at the way the man in the street speaks."

Inspired by Luther's and other reformer's teachings, German peasants staged an uprising in 1525 to demand basic rights. As a result many thousands were killed as the worried German princes crushed the uprising. Luther lashed out at them in a paper, Against the Murdering and Thieving Hordes of Peasants.

Some German Knights offered to arrange a military group to help Luther in his fight against the Church but the great reformer declined. However he did advocate violent means to diminish the power of the Anabaptist movement.

King Charles V of Spain referred to Luther as "This devil in the habit of a monk." In Luther's time, the Spaniard was the most powerful monarch on the globe and was successfully stamping out the new Reformation movement. However the Ottoman Empire, led by Suleiman the Magnificent were sweeping through Eastern Europe, and by 1529 had reached Vienna. Charles had to swallow his pride and make peace with his Protestant subjects, so they could be united against the common enemy. Thus divine providence bought good out of evil.

BELIEFS 

After a long spiritual crisis where he'd become obsessed by his own unworthiness, Luther had come to understand the true nature of God. He kicked out all theology based on tradition and started emphasizing personal experience and the Bible. The turning point was his discovery in 1519 in the writings of St Paul that God spares the sinner and that we are justified not by faith not works. He called surrendering to Christ, "A joyful exchange".

It is likely that Luther's transformation of thinking came as the culmination of a long, painstaking attempt to understand Paul's saying that the righteousness of God was revealed in the gospel (Romans 1:17). His studies of Augustine's teachings that man is saved by Jesus' blood and not by his good works confirmed this.


Luther said virtually nothing about evangelism and the great commission. He understood it as relating to the apostolic era only. He felt God would somehow do it on his own.

Like most men of his age, Luther was very chauvinist. He did not admire intelligence in females and recommended "Women should remain at home, sit still, keep house and bear and bring up children." He did however allow women to participate in congregational singing - a revolutionary step in the 16th century.

Luther was bitterly hostile to the groups of independent and Baptist Christians that were beginning to emerge.

He was Anti-Semitic, which was not unusual in Luther's day. When the Jews triggered his wrath by failing to convert em masse after his Church reforms, Luther published a tract that recommended they be deported to Palestine, or at the very least, their synagogues be burned and their books confiscated.

A Nationalist, Luther wrote a tract entitled The Nobility of the German Nation.

MARRIAGE 

During religious disturbances, Luther was instrumental in the escape of a dozen nuns, who had been hiding in remote villages after becoming convinced of the truth of Lutheran theology. Making it his business to find them husbands in their new homes, Luther discovered two years later that one of them, Katharina Von Bara, was still unattached, so on June 13, 1525 he married her himself.

Katharina von Bora had ran away from the Cistercian Convent of Nimptschen in 1523 along with ten of her sisters after adopting Lutheran doctrines. After two years as a guest in the home of German artist Lucas Cranach and his family, who made various attempts to marry her off, she finally gave word that she would only marry either Luther's friend Amsdorf or Luther himself.

A Catholic pamphleteer addressed Kath as a "poor fallen woman" who had "gone to Wittenburg like a chorus girl" and by her example "reduced many godly young women in the cloisters to a pitiable state of body and mind."

After his marriage in 1525 Luther took the Augustian monastery in Wittenburg as married quarters. The Luthers lived in the "Black Cloister;" formerly Martin Luther's home as a monk. It was given to them by Elector Frederick the Wise, and its 40 rooms were nearly always full.

While Luther traveled, preached, and wrote, Katharina  (with the help of an aunt, children, and servants) sowed and reaped the garden, planted an orchard, brewed beer, milked and slaughtered cattle, made butter and cheese, and bought a nearby brook and fished from it.

Katharina as epicted by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526

They lived together happily for the rest of Luther's life, Luther enjoyed being bossed around by Katharina.

Luther said: "Before I married, my bed was not made for a whole year and became foul with sweat. There is a lot to get used to in marriage. One wakes up in the morning and finds a pair of pigtails on the pillow, which weren't there before."

Luther's marriage to Katharina emphasized his rejection of monasticism and celibacy for the clergy. It kick started the tradition of clerical marriage within several Christian traditions. The reformer said he could find no trace in the Gospels of the vows of chastity taken by monks and nuns.

Luther and Katharina had five children (three sons, two daughters) and adopted four other orphaned nephews and nieces.

His 13-year-old daughter Magdalena died in Wittenberg in her father's arms after a prolonged illness. Luther bewailed the tragedy of a parent outliving a child.

Katharina remained in Wittenberg after Luther's death until 1552, when an outbreak of the Black Plague and a harvest failure forced her to leave the city. She fled to Torgau where her cart was involved in a bad accident near the city gates, seriously injuring her. Katharina died in Torgau about three months later on December 20, 1552 at the age of fifty-three and was buried at Torgau's Saint Mary's Church, far from her husband's grave in Wittenberg.


FOOD AND DRINK 

Luther killed his own pigs to make sausages.

Luther was known to fast for four days in succession from both food and drink. At other times he relied for several days in a row on a small allowance of bread and herring.

Katharina Von Bara brewed their own beer. Indeed Luther claimed Katharina brewed the best beer in town.

PERSONAL LIFE

Luther had a loud laugh and coarse humor. Prone to flatulence, he once said "If I break wind in Wittenburg, they smell it in Rome."

Luther's works contain a number of statements that modern readers would consider rather crude.. At least one such statement would not be heard from most modern pastors: He regularly told the Devil to kiss his arse.

Legend has it that Martin Luther was the first person to put candles on a Christmas tree. The founder of the Protestant church was walking home one snowy Christmas Eve in a jolly mood, singing and talking about the incarnation. He looked up and was deeply moved by the beauty of the glittering stars overhead. Wishing to describe this inspiring spectacle to his wife and children Luther dug up a small fir tree and put it in the nursery. He then lit up its branches just as the starlit trees outside had appeared to him that cold, winter night.

Luther recommended playing skittles after church, giving each skittle the name of a sin. During the religious reformer’s time the number of skittles was not yet generally fixed but differed from city to city. Some used as many as 16 pins, others as few as three. Luther began to investigate possibilities of improving the game searching for the ideal number of pins. This eventually he found to be nine.

MUSIC 

Martin Luther wrote hymns and a Mass and introduced public worship with liturgy in German rather than Latin into the reformation church service.

Luther sung tenor and played the lute and recorder.

Amongt the texts and melodies Luther wrote for chorales was "A Mighty Fortress", a paraphrase of Psalm 46, which he penned at a difficult and discouraging time in 1524. One day Luther recalled some words from the psalm "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Inspired he wrote the great chorale which was translated into many languages.

An early printing of Luther's hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott). CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikipedia Commons

Josquin (c1440-1521), a Flemish composer of Catholic Latin music, was Luther's favorite composer. He called Josquin, "master of the notes, which must do as he wishes. Other composers must do as his notes wish."

Luther once wrote: "Neither should we ordain young men as preachers unless they have been well exercised in music too."

Luther wrote in In Praise of Music: "Music is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us: it is divine, and therefore Satan is its enemy. For with its aid many dire temptations are overcome, the devil does not stay where music is."

Luther made singing a central part of Protestant worship. In his German Mass of 1526, he dispensed with the choir and assigned all singing to the congregation. He would often call congregational rehearsals during the week so the people could learn new hymns.

Luther was also revolutionary in allowing women to participate in congregational singing.

HEALTH 

Luther had trouble with chronic constipation, catarrh, kidney stones, gout, insomnia and dizziness. His chronic constipation was particularly troublesome and he spent much of his time in contemplation on the lavatory. Indeed Luther said himself that he made his reformatory discovery "in cloaca", which is Latin for "in the sewer".

Luther suffered from fits of depression. One day his wife came to him wearing a black veil and a black gown, saying "I am mourning the death of God for by the way you are behaving God must surely be dead".

LAST YEARS AND DEATH 

Martin Luther died on February 18, 1546 in his small hometown of Eisleben, where he was born. After many years of unceasing work his body had given up, his insistence on going on a journey to mediate in a quarrel between the Counts of Mansfield in the winter being the final nail in the coffin. There had been a cold snap and on the way home he caught a chill, soon became seriously ill and a few days later died.

Portrait of Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1546.

In his last years Luther was an irritable, testy, at times positively coarse old man. Bitterly hostile to the groups of independent and Baptist Christians that had emerged and anti-Semitic, tragically his last sermon, a week before his death, was on why Germany should expel all it's Jews. Despite his faults, like Jacob, Moses and Samson, others with obvious shortcomings, Luther had been chosen by God, picked out and anointed for a purpose.

LEGACY 

Lutheranism, the denomination arising from Luther's teaching, is today the largest worldwide Protestant body, with approx. 80 million people in it's fold.

In communist East Germany Luther was regarded as a revolutionary socialist hero after originally being condemned.

Sources Food For Thought by Ed Pearce, Christianity.com

Monday, 22 February 2016

Lute

The lute is a pear-shaped stringed instrument of ancient Arabian origin. It is descended from the Persian and Arabian Oud, The instrument was brought to Spain by the Moors and spread widely throughout Europe during the time of the Crusades. By the 14th century a standardized instrument had emerged.

The earliest substantial repertory of independent idiomatic instrumental music was for the lute, starting just before 1500.


Originally it had four strings that were played with a plectrum like its Oriental original. About the mid-15th century, paired strings were introduced, providing increased resonance.

During the latter half of the 15th century, the technique was established of striking the strings with the fingers instead of with the plectrum. By the end of the century the lute had acquired additional strings - as many as seven courses were not uncommon.

During the Renaissance, bigger lutes were designed.  One new kind of lute made in this period was the theorbo. Another kind was the archlute.

The lute was the premier solo instrument of the sixteenth century, but continued to accompany singers as well.The lute song was developed by the lute composers of Spain, England, and France, who customarily sang their songs to their own lute accompaniment.

Nicholas Lanier, 1613

The first book of lute songs ever printed was by a Spanish composer, Don Luis Milán in 1536,

Until the latter part of the 17th century, lute strings were made of gut, though reference to silk strings can be found. Thereafter the use of covered wire strings became prevalent.

Over the course of the Baroque era the lute was increasingly relegated to the continuo accompaniment, and was eventually superseded in that role by keyboard instruments.

The lute almost fell out of use after 1800, but enjoyed a revival with the awakening of interest in historical music around 1900 and throughout the century.

Sources Europress Encyclopedia, Comptons Encyclopedia

Lung

The first operation to remove a lung was performed at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis on April 5, 1933. Chief of surgery Evarts A. Graham, MD, performed the procedure on James Lee Gilmore, MD, a 49-year-old obstetrician from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The operation was successful and after Dr. James Gilmore was released from Barnes Hospital, he and Dr. Evarts Graham became friends, frequently corresponding and occasionally visiting each other.

A person's right lung takes in more air than the left one does.

The left lung is smaller than the right to make room for the heart.


Human lungs are 100 times easier to blow up than a standard toy balloon,

Your lungs have taste buds that can detect bitterness.

Your lungs can hold up to five minutes worth of oxygen.

The lungs are the only organs that can float on water.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Luggage

People used to travel with big, heavy bags that had no wheels or collapsible handles. They had to "lug" these bags around from place to place, hence the word 'luggage.'

Peter Carl Faberge ( 1846- 1920), the artist-jeweller and goldsmith to the Russian Imperial Court, best known for his ‘Faberge Eggs’ had a reputation for never travelling with luggage. Instead, he bought what he needed when he got to his destination.

The first lightweight luggage designed for air travel was conceived by aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart.

Humans put a man on the Moon before they put wheels on luggage.


The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that airlines mishandled 3.39 out of every 1,000 bags in 2011

Lost luggage eventually ends up in Scottsboro, Alabama, at the Unclaimed Baggage Center, where they're sold to the public at bargain-basement prices.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

LSD

LSD  is the shorter name for a drug called Lysergic acid diethylamide, which causes people who take it to witness illusions. It is often referred to by the slang name acid.

Lysergic acid diethylamide was first made by Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist, on November 16, 1938 from ergotamine, a chemical from the fungus, ergot.

Hofmann discovered LSD's psychedelic properties by chance on April 16, 1943 when he accidentally consumed it during medicinal research. He intentionally took the drug three days later and notoriously experienced its disorientating effect when riding his bicycle through the streets of Basel. April 19th  is now known as "Bicycle Day," after the first intentional acid trip.

Albert Hofmann, at the 50th Anniversary of LSD Conference. By Philip H. Bailey (E-mail) - Wikipedia Commons

During the Cold War, the American military and the CIA experimented with LSD (sometimes on uninformed subjects) to see whether it would be an aid in interrogation. It wasn't.


LSD became the favored psychedelic drug among the young in the 1960s, prompted by Harvard psychology professor, Timothy Leary, whose slogan about LSD: "Turn on, tune in, drop out" was adopted by the hippie movement. A number of famous rock bands, including The Beatles became known for their use of LSD, and a new genre, "acid rock," was born from the fad.

Some casual users began to experience side effects, such as "flashbacks" and psychotic symptoms and signs of depression and instability were seen. Due to the spread of LSD, the United States government banned the drug in 1967. Other countries soon followed.

he CIA created a project called “Project MK-ULTRA” in which they experimented with LSD to wipe the memories of retiring CIA agents.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

The Louvre

The Louvre emerged as a medieval fortress built by Philip II of France in the 14th century located on the Right Bank of the Seine in Paris.

Between 1360 and 1380, Charles V converted the Louvre Castle into a palace, known as the "joli Louvre" ("pretty Louvre").

In 1546, Francis I razed the structure in favor of a larger royal residence in French Renaissance style.

When Queen Catherine de Medici lived in the Louvre, certain rooms were said to be constructed with a network of listening tunnels, so that anything spoken in one room could be heard in another. That way the paranoid queen could scupper any plots against her.


During his reign (1589–1610), Henry IV created a link between the Palais des Tuileries and the Louvre. The link was completed via the Grande Galerie by architects Jacques II Androuet du Cerceau and Louis Métezeau. More than a quarter of a mile long and one hundred feet wide, this huge addition was built along the bank. of the Seine; at the time of its completion it was the longest building of its kind in the world.

Ballet is an invention of artists associated with the French court of Louis XIV. In 1661 a group of dancing masters asked the king to establish an authorized academy, and he responded by giving them a room in the Louvre for their use.

In 1682 Louis XIV abandoned the Louvre, and moved his court to Versailles to establish his independence from the Paris nobility.

The Louvre was converted into an Art Museum during the French Revolution with an exhibition of 537 paintings. It opened for the first time on August 10, 1793. Most of its exhibits at the time consisted of treasures confiscated from the royal family or the Church.

The Cour Carrée of the "Old Louvre" looking west. By King of Hearts - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia Commons

When Leonardo da Vinci's  painting, Mona Lisa, was stolen from the Louvre in 1911, people flocked to look at the blank space where it had hung. Two years later, it was discovered that former Louvre handyman Vincenzo Peruggia had stolen the artwork by hiding in a closet and walking out with it hidden under his coat after the museum had closed.


On average, visitors at the Louvre spend about 15 seconds viewing the Mona Lisa.

The Louvre has become the globe's most-visited museum, with 35,000 works of art dating from Antiquity to the early modern period. As well as the Mona Lisa, the museum's permanent collection includes masterpieces by European masters such as Rembrandt, Giambattista Pittoni, Caravaggio, Rubens, Titian and Eugène Delacroix.