Saturday, September 8, 2007

Diana of Ephesus

Yes, I was one of those who cried - sobbed - as I watched on television from my bed at 3 in the morning the long funeral procession, memorial service for Princess Diana and then the removal of her coffin from London. About 5 a.m., my telephone rang - it was my girlfriend Barb, sobbing too. We comforted each other as best we could over the telephone for more than an hour, and then said goodbye, to continue our observation of televised grief. It didn't occur to me to do a post about the anniversary of Princess Diana's death (on August 31) until I came across this article tonight. I found it particularly poignant. Diana of Ephesus A Spiritual Journey (1) BY MIKE AWOYINFA [ ] Saturday, September 8, 2007 She was the goddess of the media age, a goddess of the modern world. A goddess of beauty. A goddess of love forsaken. A goddess whose image captivated the world, giving birth to the word paparazzi—the name for the press photographers who hunted her until they finally killed her in the name of love. A strange love. A cruel love that defies any rational explanation. How can it be that the thing you love is the thing you kill? Ten years after we killed her, she is still as fresh as ever in our minds. Popular as no queen ever has even in her grave. Revered as no saint ever has in recent and past memories. Ten years after, and the tears are still falling. Everybody remembers when Diana died. Everybody cried. Diana is still hot news. Diana’s story is still being pursued in the world after. Everybody has a personal Diana story. I am one of those lucky few who met Diana. As a journalist on the Harry Brittain Commonwealth Fellowship programme, entering Britain for the first time in 1985, I met Diana face to face and shook her hand one evening when the ten Commonwealth journalists were being introduced to her. As at that time she hadn’t lost her love. Her Prince was still by her side. The Prince who famously said “whatever love means” when asked whether he was truly in love with Diana. On that historic night at a dinner in London, I wanted to be photographed shaking Diana, but that kind of photography would not be allowed. The security agents around her politely told us that photographing her in that setting was forbidden. That is how I lost the once-in-lifetime opportunity of being photographed with this goddess of our time. But enshrined in my mind, my heart and my soul is the spiritual photograph of me shaking Diana. No one can take that away from me. No virus can wipe that away from the hard disk of my soul. Many days and weeks after shaking Diana’s hand, I refused to wash my hands. I wanted my people back home in Nigeria to shake the hand that shook the great Diana’s hand. If it had been in this era of GSM camera phones, there is no way anybody would have stopped me from capturing Diana on my handset. I would have done it secretly. I would even have commissioned somebody to secretly video me with my phone. The handset has revolutionized journalism today, such that everybody with a camera phone is a paparazzo—an aggressive photojournalist armed to shoot and kill Diana. On this strange and serene Turkish morning, I was a journalist armed with a notebook and a real camera, combing ancient cemeteries in search of another Diana. A Diana that was once worshipped. A Diana for whom a temple was built and people flocked in from all of Asia to worship her. Her temple was in the ancient city of Ephesus. Hence the name Diana of Ephesus. Or Diana of the Ephesians. Diana’s temple was listed among the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. I was in Ephesus searching for the temple of Diana. In Greek mythology Diana was called Artemies. She was the twin sister of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus and Leto. According to legend, she helped her mother to deliver her twin sister underwater, hence she became the goddess of fertility. Barren woman came into her temple in search of the fruit of the womb. She was depicted as the goddess of the hunt, armed with a bow and arrows. Like Diana of Wales, she was hunted down and killed by a new religion. The religion of Christianity spearheaded by Apostle Paul. Tongue of angels In the Acts of the Apostles, (Acts 19:28), the story of Diana is told, about how Ephesian silversmiths led by a man called Demetrius used to make huge profit from selling souvenirs of Diana to worshippers and pilgrims who kept them as talisman. Then came Paul, the “Jew of Tarsus”. Paul, the “chief of all sinners” who transformed from Saul to Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul, the persecutor of Christians who became a soldier of Christ. Paul who wrote that beautiful love poem in Ephesus which reads: “Though I speak with the tongues of angels, and have not love, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” Paul’s new religion instantly killed off the business of Diana-mania which was a major industry in Ephesus. And such was the anger and jealousy of the smiths that they organized Area Boys and went on rampage. There was a big riot and a great confusion in the city of Ephesus because they had been thrown out of business by the new faith which preached that “the gods made with hands are not gods.” In their fits of jealousy and selfish anger, the rioters shouted with one voice the now, famous phrase: “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” Eventually, the rioters were appeased. We are told in Acts 19:35 that “when the town clerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?” Due process From this episode, we can learn that even in the Bible, there is the respect for due process, rule of law and the supremacy of the court. And this is based on what the town clerk said while addressing the rioting hooligans. He said: “If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there proconsuls; let them bring charges against one another. But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. For we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, there being no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” On this spiritual journey to Ephesus, we visited the site of the Diana temple which is now in ruins. Diana is dead and in ruins, but Diana-mania continues from one generation to another. Like the Ephesians silversmiths, the world is still shouting and wailing: “Great is Diana.” They are wailing for the Diana of Wales who dropped from heaven and extinguished like a candle in the wind in a Paris car crash ten years ago. (The story of my journey to Ephesus continues next week)

Goddess Fair Celebrates Female Spirit

Other than the hint that this is in Berkshire County, I'm not sure where in the USA this event is taking place, but it sure sounds like fun - and for a good cause, too. May the hand of the Goddess be upon you: By Tammy Daniels - September 07, 2007 NORTH ADAMS - Area residents can get in touch with their feminine side Sunday for a can of coffee - or a pillow or laundry supplies. The donations will admit them to the third annual Goddess Fair from noon to 4 at Western Gateway Heritage State Park, a benefit for the Louison House that's also a celebration of the female spirit. Men are welcome, too. Glass bead and jewelry maker Isabella Raven held the first fair at her Florida Mountain home in 2005, basing it on herbal fairs she'd attended over the years. It was so popular she moved it to Heritage Park last year. This year, some 20 vendors or more are expected to set up booths, along with musicians, dancers and other exhibitions. The big difference this year, said Raven on Friday, is the number of volunteers who've offered to help run the four-hour festival. "I can't believe the community support I've received this year," she said. "I've received a donation from Big Y and the Williamstown [Milne] library donated signs that we've repainted for the fair ... they're recycled signs." Lickety Split will be the natural food vendor. A raffle and bake sale will also benefit Louison House. Special Forces, a local video volunteer group, will film the fair for Northern Berkshire Community Television. Entertainment will include the African stylings of the Marafanyi Percussion ensemble, three women from Topia who will be playing unusual instruments, including the sitar and didgeridoo, a martial arts exhibition by Berkshire Tae Kwon Do, dancers from Karen's School of Dance, the belly-dancing Goddess Dancers and the "Wee Goddess in Training Parade." "I'm expecting a really good turnout," said Raven. The bulk of the booths and demonstrations will be located at the north end of the park, near the stage. Sign-ups for the parade start at noon sharp; it will kick off as soon as there are enough little goddesses (and gods). Burger King donated paper crowns, which have been painted and decorated, and "wands" and other parade favors have been created by volunteers. Residents from Louison House, the local homeless shelter, helped to paint the posters; other volunteers, including students from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, have come forward to lift some of the burden from Raven, who's organized the last two fairs mostly on her own. "I actually have volunteers this year, so it's running a lot smoother," she said. "We really appreciate people taking the time to make this happen," said Michael Boland, executive director of Louison House. "The idea is that this is an opportunity to make people aware of homelessness and to bring to light that there is a solution. That the shelter is responsive and proactive." Support for the fest has come from beyond the Berkshire range. Raven mentioned the fair on an online glass-blowing forum. It was seen by a woman in Illinois, who called Raven to say she was sending two handmade glass goddess statues for the raffle. "She just did this out of the goodness of her heart," said Raven. "Another woman from Lake Pleasant makes soap and she made a whole package for the raffle table. I'm just blown away from the support I'm getting." Donation suggestions for the shelter include spices, coffee, tea, creamer, new bed pillows, towels of all types, pots and pans, cleaning supplies, toiletries for adults and children, laundry baskets and laundry supplies, hair supplies/accessories, bus passes, store gift cards in small denominations, toilet paper, trash bags, feminine products, baby products and storage containers. "I think that [list] is key. I think people have good intentions [when they drop items off] but this meets specific needs," said Boland. The donations will help in the operation of the shelter as well as in aiding people to move into their own homes. Donations for the bake sale will also be accepted. "The program is jam packed with entertainment," said Raven. "I hope everybody comes down and has a good time." In case of rain, the fair will be held Sunday, Sept. 16.

Awwwwww - Mommy Dog Nurses Baby Squirrels

Okay, darlings, one last squirrel story for the night and then I'm outta here!

Chihuahua Adopts 4 Motherless Squirrels
Tails Give Away That These Aren't Puppies
POSTED: 9:45 pm EDT September 6, 2007

LAKE CITY, Fla. -- At first glance, the scene appears normal: a Chihuahua mother appearing to cuddle with her pups as they nurse.

A closer look at the days-old babies reveals they are no canines, but four tiny squirrels.

A Columbia County family said its dog's maternal instinct kicked in when 10-year-old Mimi laid her eyes on the baby squirrels.

Mimi took the motherless squirrels in as if they were her own, making for one mix-and-match family.

Their eyes are still closed, but their tails are a dead giveaway that Mimi's babies are baby squirrels -- three females and one male.

Derek Varnes said he found the squirrels last week. He works for a tree cutting company and found their nest on a downed limb.

"I didn't know what to think. They looked like rats at first," Varnes said. "I wasn't going to leave them. They say after they're out of the nest or the tree, the momma won't mess with them anymore. I wasn't going to let them die."
He gave the squirrels to his fiancee's mother, Jeanette Young.

"My 10-year-old Chihuahua would come and watch me and start whining and carrying on," Young said. "I thought she was going to eat them. She said when she eventually put the squirrels down, Mimi started licking them to clean them and then began nursing them.

Young said although Mimi's last litter was born four years ago, the dog is still able to make enough milk to keep the baby squirrels full. Mimi doesn't venture far from her new little ones.

"She don't like for me to touch them either," Young said.

She credited maternal instinct for Mimi's behavior and said the dog is a better mom this time around than with her own puppies four years ago.

"She seems much calmer; she seems like it was just meant for her to have them and take care of them," Young said.

She said a veterinarian told her as long Mimi is able to feed the squirrels, the babies would continue to grow and be healthy.

Copyright 2007 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Squirrels Get High - and Survive

Squirrels and toxic mushrooms By Ned Rozell September 06, 2007 Fairbanks reader Darleen Masiak recently saw a red squirrel carrying an Amanita mushroom across her deck, presumably to stash it in its midden for the winter. She wanted to know how such a small mammal could survive after eating a mushroom that is toxic in large doses. Fungus expert Gary Laursen of the University of Alaska Fairbanks confirmed that forest squirrels, both red and flying, cache Amanita mushrooms as well as other 'psychoactive' mushrooms that affect the central nervous system. He has dug into squirrel middens in the boreal forest and has found many samples of the mushrooms. He said a biologist recently contacted him and told he'd seen grouse digging up and eating mushrooms that would be toxic in large doses to humans. "Many animals are known to go after the psychoactive mushrooms," Laursen said. Brian Barnes, a physiologist and the director of the Institute of Arctic Biology, said a squirrel's liver might be able to detoxify the active agents in the mushrooms, but he knows of no evidence for this. Barnes studies arctic ground squirrels on Alaska's North Slope. He thinks young male ground squirrels might be eating lots of fungi, including potent ones, as they stir in their dens from hibernation. The squirrels often emerge from hibernation fatter than when they went in. "I wonder if, while in their cold and completely dark hibernaculum, arctic ground squirrels are eating psychoactive mushrooms and whether they respond by experiencing hallucinations, feelings of well being, and laughing fits, as do humans (or so I'm told)," Barnes wrote in an email.

Mummy of Inca Maiden Wows Crowds

Friday, September 7, 2007

A mummy of an Inca girl, described as "perfect" by the archaeologists who found her in 1999, has gone on display for the first time in Argentina.

Hundreds of people crowded into a museum in the north-western city of Salta to see "la Doncella", the Maiden.

The remains of the girl, who was 15 when she died, were found in an icy pit on top of a volcano in the Andes, along with a younger boy and girl.

Researchers believe they were sacrificed by the Incas 500 years ago.

The three were discovered at a height of 6,700m (22,000ft) on Mount Llullaillaco, a volcano in north-west Argentina on the border with Chile.
At the time, the archaeologist leading the team, Dr Johan Reinhard, said they appeared "the best preserved of any mummy I've seen".

It is believed the Children of Llullaillaco, as they have come to be known, were sacrificed during a ceremony thanking the Inca gods for the annual corn harvest.

'Great mistake'
The mummy of la Doncella is on display in a chamber that is filled with cold air that recreates the sub-freezing conditions in which she was found.
Visitors told Argentine media they were impressed at the mummy's state of conservation.

"I'm amazed," one woman said. "You just expect her at any moment to get up and start talking."

But the exhibition has angered several indigenous groups who campaigned to stop the mummy from going on display.

Miguel Suarez from the Calchaquies valley tribes in and around Salta told the Associated Press news agency that the exhibit was "a great mistake", adding that he hoped visitors would show respect for the dead.

The Inca empire once stretched across much of western South America, including present-day Peru and Bolivia, and down to central Chile and parts of Argentina.

It collapsed in 1532 with the Spanish conquest.
Why are some people objecting to the showing of this mummy? Does it really have anything to do with respect for the dead? If that was the case, wouldn't we have picketers protesting the numerous ancient Egyptian mummies shown - literally bare bones - in museums throughout the world - including in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo??? Perhaps it has more to do with the fact that we are uncomfortable staring death in the face when it's presented to us in the form of a well-preserved corpse of a 15 year old girl rather than the mummies one generally thinks of - brown, skeletal-looking remains with moldy bandages, sometimes with hanks of hair still attached to the skull. Why is it we can look at the mummy of the Great Pharaoh Rameses without a qualm, oohing and aahing about it's great antiquity, but we can't look at a 15 year old sacrificed to a rain god on a South American mountain 500 years ago? I don't get it. Is there no less desecration to Pharaoh?

An Emperor's Devotion to His Grandmother

Royal grandmother's tomb unearthed Sep 7, 2007, 12:00 GMT Chinese archaeologists have concluded a large unearthed tomb belonged to the grandmother of the country's first emperor. Zhang Tian'en, an expert with the Shaanxi Provincial Archaeology Institute, claims the tomb in the Shaanxi Province was probably built on Emperor Qinshihuang's orders. He said: "We are hoping that the excavation of his grandmother's tomb will help unravel the mystery about the first emperor's mausoleum, which still cannot be excavated. It will also contribute to research into Qin Dynasty burial culture." Qinshihuang united seven warring states and founded the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC. Zhang Tian'en said Qinshihuang's grandmother lived until the emperor was 20, and died in the seventh year of his reign. The tomb, which took over a year of excavation to uncover, is the second largest ancient Chinese tomb unearthed after King Jinggong's - who was head of the State of Quin, which ruled for more than 120 years before the Qin Dynasty. The emperor's grandmother's tomb is 550 meters long and 310 meters wide, covering an area of 17.3 hectares. Archaeologists unearthed two carriages designed to be driven by six horses, which could only be used by the Qin Dynasty's kings and queens. Experts also found the seals of court officials responsible for running errands on behalf of queens, queen mothers and princes. The emperor's mausoleum - a huge underground palace inside the monarch's burial place - is currently being left untouched for fear that it could not be properly preserved should it be excavated. It is thought to be considerably bigger than any yet uncovered. (C) BANG Media International

The Eight – The Attorney’s Tale, as told by Robespierre

(Page 387) "But you don’t know that the Montglane Service lies at the very center of the storm that’s sweeping away the monarchy throughout Europe – that will cast off the yoke of oppression forever." He reached to the sideboard and poured himself a glass of port, then continued: "Perhaps if I tell you how I came to the Game, you’ll understand. For there is a game going on, my dear David – a dangerous and deadly game that destroys the very power of kings. The Montglane Service must be united under the control of those – like us – who’ll use this powerful tool in support of those innocent virtues espoused by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For it was Rousseau himself who chose me for the Game." "Rousseau!" David whispered in awe. "He sought the Montglane Service?" "Philidor knew him, and so did I," said Robespierre, extracting a piece of letter paper from his pocketbook and looking about for something to write with. David, fumbling through the litter on the sideboard, handed him a drawing crayon, and Robespierre continued as he began to draw a diagram. "I met him fifteen years ago, when I was a young lawyer attending the States General in Paris. I learned that the revered philosopher Rousseau had fallen gravely ill just outside Paris. Hastily arranging an interview, I journeyed on horseback to visit the man who, in his sixty-six years, had produced a legacy that would soon alter the future of the world. What he told me that day certainly altered my future – perhaps yours will be changed as well." … (Page 388) … "I’ve been expecting you," he [Rousseau] said quietly in greeting. "They tell me, Monsieur Robespierre, that you’re a man who embraces those natural virtues I myself extol. At the threshold of death, it’s comforting to know one’s beliefs are shared by at least one fellow human being!" … "Voltaire died last week," he began. "Our two lives were yoked together like those horses Plato spoke of – one pulling toward the earth, the other up into the heavens. Voltaire pulled for Reason, while I’ve championed Nature. Between us, our philosophies will serve to rip asunder the chariot of Church and State." (Page 389) "I thought you disliked the man," I said, confused. "I hated him and I loved him. I regret never having met him. One thing is certain – I’ll not long outlive him. The tragedy is, Voltaire had the key to a mystery I’ve spent my life trying to unravel. Due to his pigheaded adherence to the Rational, he never knew the value of what he’d discovered. Now it’s too late. He’s dead. And with him died the secret of the Montglane Service." I felt the excitement growing in me as he spoke. The chess service of Charlemagne! Every French schoolboy knew the story – but was it possible it was more than a legend? I held my breath, praying he’d go one. Rousseau had taken a seat on a fallen log and was rummaging through his satchel of yellow Moroccan leather. To my surprise, he extracted a delicate cloth of needlepoint and hand-picked lace and began working over it with a tiny silver needle as he spoke. "When I was young," he began, "I supported myself in Paris by selling my lace and crewelwork, since no one was interested in the operas I wrote. Though I’d hoped to be a great composer, I spent each evening playing chess with Denis Diderot and Andre Philidor, who, like myself, could see the bottom of their pocketbooks. In the nick of time Diderot found me a paying position as secretary to the Comte de Montaigu, French ambassador to Venice. It was the spring of 1743 – I shall never forget. For in Venice that year I was to witness something I can still see as vividly as if it were yesterday. A secret at the very core of the Montglane Service." … "You say you witnessed something?" I pressed. "Something to do with the chess service of Charlemagne?" The old philosopher slowly shook himself back to reality. "Yes… Venice was even then a very old city, filled with mystery," he reminisced dreamily. "Though completely surrounded by water and filled with glittering light, there was something dark and sinister about the place. I could feel this darkness pervading everything, as I wandered through the winding labyrinth of streets, passed over ancient stone bridges, moved in gliding gondolas through the secret canals where only the sound of lapping water broke the silence of my meditation… ." (Page 390) …[Robespierre explains how he meets Casanova in deleted section] "He [Casanova] was interested especially in [the occult] and questioned me closely about the Societies of Freemasons so popular in Paris just then. Though I knew but little of such things, he offered to improve my education the next morning – Easter Sunday. "We met as arranged at dawn, where a large throng had already gathered outside the Porta della Carta – that door separating the famous Cathedral San Marco from the adjoining Ducal Palace. The crowd, sheared of their colorful costumes of the prior week’s carnevale, were all dressed in black – awaiting with hushed voice the beginning of some event.

The Eight – The Attorney’s Tale, as told by Robespierre

(Page 391) " ‘We’re about to witness the oldest ritual in Venice,’ Casanova told me. ‘Each Easter at sunrise, the Doge of Venice leads a procession across the Piazzetta and back into St. Mark’s. It’s called "the Long March" - a ceremony as ancient as Venice herself.’ " ‘But surely Venice is older than Easter – older than Christianity,’ " I pointed out as we stood amid the expectant crowd, all huddled behind velvet ropes. " ‘I never said it was a Christian ritual,’ said Casanova with a mysterious smile. ‘Venice was founded by the Phoenicians – whence we derive our name. Phoenicia was a civilization built upon islands. They worshiped the moon goddess – Car. As the moon controls the tides, so the Phoenicians ruled the seas, from which spring the greatest mystery of all – life.’ "A Phoenician ritual. This lit some dim memory in my mind. But just then the crowd around us fell hushed. A horn ensemble appeared on the palace steps and riffled through a fanfare. The Doge of Venice, crowned with jewels and hung with purple satins, emerged from the Porta della Carta surrounded by musicians with lutes, flutes, and lyres playing music that seemed divinely inspired. They were followed by emissaries of the Holy See in stiff white chausubles, their bejeweled miters picked with threads of gold. "Casanova nudged me to observe the ritual closely, as the participants descended to the Piazzetta, pausing in the Place of Justice – a wall decorated with biblical scenes of judgment, where they’d string up heretics during the Inquisition. Here were the monolithic Pillars of Acre, brought back during the Crusades from the shores of ancient Phoenicia. Did it mean something that the Doge and his companions paused to meditate at this precise spot? "At last they moved on to the strains of the heavenly music. The cordons restraining the crowd were lowered so we could follow the procession. As Casanova and I linked arms to move with the crowd, I began to feel the faint glimmer of something -–I cannot explain it. A feeling that I was witnessing something as old as time itself. Something dark and mysterious, rich in history and symbolism. Something dangerous. "As the procession twisted its serpentine course across the Piazzetta and back through the Colonnade, I felt as if we were moving deeper and deeper into the bowels of a dark labyrinth from which there was no escape. I was perfectly safe, outside in daylight, surrounded by hundreds of people – yet I was afraid. It was some time before it dawned on me that it was the music – the movement – the ceremony itself that frightened me. Each time we paused in the Doge’s wake – at an artifact or piece of sculpture – I felt the pounding in my veins grow louder. It was like a message trying to tap itself through to my mind in a secret code, but one I could not understand. Casanova was watching me closely. The Doge had paused again. " ‘This is the statue of Mercury – messenger of the gods,’ " said Casanova as we came up to the dancing bronze figure. ‘In Egypt, they called him Thoth – the Judge. In Greece they called him Hermes – Guide of Souls – for he conducted souls to Hell and sometimes tricked the very gods by stealing them back again. Prince of Tricksters, Joker, Jester – the Fool of the tarot deck – he was the god of theft and cunning. Hermes invented the seven-stringed lyre – the octave scale – whose music made the gods weep for joy.’ "I looked at the statue for quite some time before moving on. Here was the quick one, who could free people from the kingdom of the dead. With his winged sandals and bright caduceus – that staff of twined serpents forming the figure eight – he presided over the land of dreams, worlds of magic, the realms of luck and chance and games of every sort. Was it coincidence that his statue faced this staid procession with its wicked, grinning smile? Or was it, somewhere in the dark mists of time, his ritual? "The Doge and company made many stops in this transcendental tour – sixteen in all. As we moved, the pattern began to unfold for me. It was not until the tenth stop – the Castello Wall – that I started to put it all together. "The wall was twelve feet thick, covered in multicolored stones. The inscriptions, the oldest in Venetic, was translated for me by Casanova: If a man could say and do what he thinks, He’d see how he might be transformed. "And there at the center of the wall was embedded a simple white stone, which the Doge and his entourage were regarding as if it contained some miracle. Suddenly I felt a cold chill run through me. It was as if a veil were being torn from my eyes so I could see the many parts as one. This was no mere ritual – but a process unfolding before us, each pause in the procession symbolizing a step in the path of transformation from one state to another. It was like a formula, but a formula for what? And then I knew."

The Eight – The Attorney’s Tale, as told by Robespierre

(Page 393) (The scan is from a paperback edition of The Eight)
Now Rousseau paused in his discourse and pulled a drawing, frayed with wear, from his yellow leather satchel. Unfolding it carefully, he handed it to me.

"This is the record I made of the Long March, showing the path of sixteen stops, the number of pieces of black or white on a chessboard. You’ll note the course itself describes a figure eight – like the twined serpents on Hermes’ staff – like the Eightfold Path the Buddha prescribed to reach Nirvana – like the eight tiers of the Tower of Babel one climbed to reach the gods. Like the formula they say was brought by the eight Moors to Charlemagne hidden within the Montglane Service. …"

"A formula?" I said in astonishment.

"Of infinite power," replied Rousseau, "whose meaning may be forgotten, but whose magnetism is so strong we act it our without understanding what it means – as did Casanova and I that day thirty-five years ago in Venice."

"It seems quite beautiful and mysterious, this ritual," I agreed. "But why do you associate it with the Montglane Service – a treasure which, after all, everyone believes to be no more than a legend?"

"Don’t you see?" said Rousseau in irritation. "These Italian and Greek isles all took their traditions, their labyrinthine, stone-worshipping cults from the same source – the source from which they sprang."

"You mean Phoenicia," I said.

"I mean the Dark Isle," he said mysteriously, "the isle the Arabs first named Al-Djezair. The isle between two rivers, rivers that twist together like Hermes’ staff to form a figure eight – rivers that watered the cradle of mankind. The Tigris and Euphrates …"

(Page 394)
"You mean this ritual – this formula came from Mesopotamia?" I cried.

"I’ve spent a lifetime trying to get my hands on it!" said Rousseau, rising from his seat and grasping my arm. "I sent Casanova, then Boswell, finally Diderot, to try to get the secret. Now I send you. I choose you to track down the secret of this formula, for I’ve spent thirty-five years trying to understand the meaning behind the meaning. It is nearly too late…"

"But monsieur!" I said on confusion. "Even if you discovered so powerful a formula, what would you do with it? You, who’ve written of the simple virtues of country life – the innocent and natural equality of all men. What use would such a tool be to you?"

"I am the enemy of kings!" cried Rousseau in despair. "The formula contained in the Montglane Service will bring about the end of kings – all kings – for all time! Ah, if only I might live long enough to have to have it within my grasp."

I had many questions to ask Rousseau, but already he was pale with fatigue, his brow beaded with sweat. He was putting away his lacework as if the interview were at an end. He gave me one final look as if slipping away into a dimension where I could no longer follow.

"Once there was a great king," he said softly. "The most powerful king in the world. They said he’d never die, that he was immortal. They called him al-Iksandr, the two-horned god, and pictured him on gold coins wearing the spiral ram’s horn of divinity at his brow. History remembers him as Alexander the Great, conqueror of the world. He died at the age of thirty-three at Babylon in Mesopotamia – seeking the formula. So would they all die, if only the secret were ours… ."

"I place myself at your command," I said, helping him to the footbridge as he leaned heavily upon my shoulder. "Between us, we’ll locate the Montglane Service if it still exists, and learn the formula’s meaning."

(Page 395)
"It’s too late for me," said Rousseau shaking his head sadly. "I entrust you with this chart, which I believe is the only clue we have. Legend has it that the service is buried in Charlemagne’s palace at Aix-la-Chapelle – or at the Abbey of Montglane. It is your mission to find it."

This is the end of The Attorney’s Tale of Robespierre.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Friday Night Miscellany

Unbelievably, the weekend is here - I love working only 4 days a week! All too soon, though, it will be over, and I'll be back at the desk and the daily grind. How long until retirement??? The weather promises to break tonight. It's been hot and humid, tropical, yucky. The mosquitoes are as big as B-52's and bent on suicide missions - they bite me despite buckets of insect repellent - Deep Woods Off does not work! The wind showed up today - and even through 20 mph this morning on the way to the bus stop at 7:30 a.m. one of the little buggers managed to land on my arm and tried for blood. No go, little bugger, SWAT! Tonight it's supposed to drop down to 54 degrees F - I'll believe it when I feel it - and then, and only then, will turn off the central air. I got the new issue of Chess Life in the mail yesterday. I haven't opened it yet. The cover is Bobby Fischer. Yesterday's news. Is this what the editorial committee at USCF has been reduced to? With so many up and coming players and events worldwide to write about and give us some analysis of interesting games, they write about Fischer. Boorrriiinnnggg! Some good news - Hou Yifan has been playing on the Chinese "team" that beat the Russians and is whipping the English and she hasn't been relegated to playing only women. So far at the Liverpool Chess International 2007 (Match Tournament), she as drawn with GM David Howell, lost to GM Gawain Jones, defeated GM Nicholas Pert, and drew with GM Nigel Short, with 2 rounds to go. I saw this report earlier today: Zeynab Mammadyarova boycotted Baku chess tournament [ 07 Sep 2007 17:40 ] " I refused to attend the second internationals women tournament in Baku", Azerbaijan national chess team member Zeynab Mammadyarova told APA-Sport. She did not attend the women's tournament because of her sister Turkan Mammadyarova. "I did not know that my name was among the tournament participants. Ilaha Kadimova and Nargiz Umudova were among the participants. I protested against Nargiz as my sister Turkan is stronger than Nargiz in rating and has more experience. But the organizers did not accept my protests and I decided not to attend. Strong chess players should be invited to the tournament in Baku. This is the reason for low results of Azerbaijani representatives". /APA-Sport/ That's it - I'm pooped and calling it a night!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Jews Persecuting Jews Over Religious Beliefs

How ironic. Messianic Jews Under Fire in Israel By Chris Mitchell CBN News - Jerusalem Bureau September 6, 2007 - ARAD, Israel - The state of Israel promises religious freedom to all faiths. However, in some Israeli towns, Jews who believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah face persecution. One of those places is in a town called Arad. Arad sits in the middle of the Negev Desert, about a two hour drive south of Jerusalem. For most of the nearly 25,000 residents, it's a quiet setting. But for others, it's been the scene of noisy protests and almost daily harassment. An ultra-orthodox sect called the Gur harasses many of the Messianic Jews in the town. "We meet at a congregation building," Yakim Figueros, a messianic pastor in Arad, said. "There's a narrow way to go in, I mean the gate. So they have two of their people standing on either side and reading curses against everyone that walks in: 'May his children be orphans. May their wives be widows' and so on. You know it's not nice for the simple people to come in and go through this." The center of town is another place of harassment, where many retired Jewish immigrants gather. Most of the men here are retired senior citizens from the former Soviet Union. Some are holocaust survivors. They come here to play their favorite game at this chess club called The King's Men. Eddie and Laura Beckford established the chess club as a way to serve these men. "We have books and Bibles in all the languages," Eddie said. "We always keep a stock of Russian Bibles - Old Testament, New Testament. They have a hunger for knowledge, reading and stuff because I guess books…were abandoned behind the Iron Curtain." Laura added, "And we try to meet their physical needs too. Like there's one man here who needs a hearing aid, so we're working on that. We're trying to get the funds for a hearing aid or other physical things, whatever is needed." They provide a place to play chess and dominoes which are games these men love. The club set up chess tournaments and also supply used clothing for Bedouins and anyone in the community. But the chess club has been vandalized and firebombed. Many suspect it is the work of the ultra-orthodox sect. Many of the Messianic Jews have also had their names and faces placed on flyers distributed throughout Arad. Rebecca Fry is one of those on the flyers. Ironically, she grew up in an ultra-orthodox Gur home. Now she believes in Jesus. "I know exactly where they're coming from because when I was a child, I was taught the same thing about the Christians," she said. "'The Christians are crazy people, bad people who kidnap children and baptize them and take them to monasteries or convents and lock them up there.' So I know exactly where they're coming from. They actually teach you that all the time when you're growing up - to hate Christians." Arad's mayor hopes these two groups will find a way to live together. "I try to make both communities try to figure out how to work together, because this is how I believe. I came to the desert for peace not for fight. My feeling is at the end of the day, they will find ways to live. In the meantime, the situation is not so good," he said. In the meantime, the Messianic Jews of Arad are relying on and asking for prayer. "It helped me to pray for them," Laura said. "I feel sorry for them so it helps me to know where to pray for them and where they're coming from. But it's hard when you're standing there in front of someone who's yelling and cursing and shouting. It's hard to see any perspective. But in retrospect, it helps when you pray for them." "So pray for a revival, pray for His kingdom, for His Name to be glorified here in Arad and not for the persecution to stop," she said. "And pray for people to have the courage and strength to stand firmly in the faith." *Originally aired on July 19, 2007

The Book of Enoch and the "Roots" of Divination

The Book of Enoch is one of the "apocryphal" books - those that were left out of the official biblical canon by the Roman Catholic Church. It was one of the "books" re-discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Biblical Archaeology Review (online) has been running a special feature on the Dead Sea Scrolls in honor of their 60th anniversary of "seeing the light of day." Here's a brief look at The Book of Enoch from BAR:

The Book of Enoch (1 Enoch) is a collection of texts composed between about 350 B.C.E. and the turn of the era. It is the earliest extant example of an apocalyptic blend of Israelite prophetic and wisdom theologies best known from the Book of Daniel, and it witnesses the variety within Israelite religion in the Greco-Roman period.

Two myths shape the Book of Enoch. The first, related to Genesis 6:1–4,* ascribes the origins of evil to the rebellion of certain angels who mated with women and begat a race of giants that devastated the earth and whose demonic spirits continue to produce sin and misery. According to the second myth, Enoch (as said in Genesis 5:21–24) was taken to heaven, where he learned the secrets of the universe and of the coming judgment.

The Enochic texts claim to be Enoch’s revelations transmitted through his son, Methuselah. The various parts of 1 Enoch were composed in Aramaic and translated into Greek, and from Greek into ancient Ethiopic, in which version alone the entire collection has survived.

Qumran Cave 4 yielded fragments of 11 Aramaic manuscripts of parts of 1 Enoch that cover perhaps one fifth of the Ethiopic text, as well as nine ­Aramaic manuscripts of "the Book of the Giants," a text not included in 1 Enoch.1 The 1 Enoch manuscripts attest both to how closely the Ethiopic text corresponds to its Aramaic prototypes in some places and to where it differs in others. The Giants fragments indicate that the Enochic tradition was richer than 1 Enoch suggests. Missing at Qumran are fragments of the Book of Parables (1 Enoch 37–71), a Jewish text that provides a context for New Testament "Son of Man" christology. The absence of the Book of Parables from Qumran probably indicates that this expression of Enochic theology developed in circles different from those directly ancestral to the group that collected the texts at Qumran. The other Enochic writings were authoritative at Qumran, however, and were popular among early Christian writers as well. The Enochic texts remain a canonical part of the Bible of the Ethiopian Church.
—George W.E. Nickelsburg, The University of Iowa

* This refers to the episode in Genesis when "the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them," thus creating a race of giants called the Nephilim.

1 For the Qumran fragments, see any comprehensive translation of the scrolls. For the whole of 1 Enoch, see George W.E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam, 1 Enoch: A New Translation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004). For a commentary, see George W.E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1: A Commentary on the Book of Enoch, Chapters 1–35, 81–108 (Hermeneia: Minneapolis, 2001).

You can find the Book of Enoch online here.

There are lots of folks out there who claim that The Book of Enoch proves the existence of aliens and all kinds of other stuff, and that's the real reason it was left out of the Bible (you know, that conspiracy stuff again, sigh). Well, I don't believe in aliens and I don't believe that Enoch was taken up to Heaven without first having died - and I don't believe that the angels came down from Heaven and had children with the daughters of men, either, making a race of giants. Mankind didn't need any help to turn into a bunch of a-holes on their own! We did it ourselves, without any help from aliens/angels.

I do believe that The Book of Enoch is endlessly interesting as an historical document. I'm not going to pretend I've read the entire thing, darlings :) But I did find a few comments in the earliest chapters that caught my interest:

Ch. 7, Verse 10:
Then they took wives, each choosing for himself; whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited; teaching them sorcery, incantations, and the dividing of roots and trees.

Ch. 8, Verse 3:
Amazarak taught all the sorcerers, and dividers of roots.

My interest was in the comments about "dividing of roots and trees" and "dividers of roots." What on earth did that mean?

I first considered and then rejected that it had something to do with some sort of farming or agricultural practices, because the practice was mentioned in conjunction with "sorcery," "sorcerers" and "incantations." I thought it might have something to do with divination. I'm interested in ancient divinatory practices because there is research that suggests such practices were often closely-linked to the development of ancient board games and other gambling-type games (such as knuckle-bones and dice). Despite the biblical injunctions against the use of divination and fortune-telling that is a recurrent theme in the history of the ancient Israelites, there were accounts of approved usage of "lots" and in some ancient civilizations lots were made of wood - hence a linkage to "trees" or perhaps "tree roots."

Not much to go on. And, as usual, my research took me all over the place, and I learned some interesting things about subjects not at all related to what I wanted to find out! Not that I did thorough or even logically coherent research - I spent a few hours online only (but may revisit this subject privately at a later time). Do you want to know all the contortions I went through and false trails I followed to track down the little bit of information that led me to believe my initial suspicisions were correct? Nah - I won't bore you with that - this is a blog post, not a scholarly article!!!

I did learn that ancient Taoists practiced "root divination" using the roots of bamboo, and that although its first usage is not recorded, the practice is considered very ancient. Here is a brief description of the practice:

First, pray in front of the god and tell him your problem and ask for his guidance, then cast the two pieces of bamboo root on the ground and make a judgment according to whether the pieces land on the obverse or reverse side. There are three possibilities: two obverse, two reverse, and one obverse and one reverse. Two obverse sides are called positive bamboo roots: this result implies neither good nor bad luck. Two reverse sides are called negative bamboo roots, and are a sign of ill luck. The third possibility is called holy bamboo roots or successive bamboo roots, and indicates good luck, meaning that the god has accepted your request.

The practice may be linked to the "Heavenly Empress" and Guanyin - references to Chinese goddesses.

The practice has continued right into modern times. The photo at the beginning of this article is of "divination blocks" carved from bamboo root from a private collection.

Brief research into the online version of Strong's Hebrew Dictionary yielded some interesting results:

a primitive root; properly, to distribute, i.e. determine by lot or magical scroll; by implication, to divine:--divine(-r, -ation), prudent, soothsayer, use (divination).
from 'qacam' (7080); a lot: also divination (including its fee), oracle:--(reward of) divination, divine sentence, witchcraft.
a primitive root; to lop off:--cut off
See also:
a primitive root; to pluck, i.e. destroy:--cut down, fill with wrinkles.
a primitive root; to wither:--hew down, wither.
a primitive root; to grasp with the hand:--take an handful.

The ancient Hebrew roots (pun!) obviously suggested the cutting down of trees and making blocks to use for divination, or the cutting up of tree roots to use for the same practice.

General information on Daoist bamboo root divination:

Strong's Hebrew Dictionary (online):

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Blast from the Past - Judit and the Alien!

From the partially-restored archives of the one, the only (thank goodness), the original and now defunct The International Chessoid, here's an "interview" (ahem) between Ace Girl Reporter Alpheta Patton and GM Judit Polgar.

February, 2000 Edition

YES! Believing is seeing – here’s the definitive proof. Our lovely Grand Master from Hungary, Judit Polgar, is in thrall to - an alien invader!

And not just ANY alien, but the one, the only, the original G’kar from the planet Narn!

Oh the horror, the horror!

After receiving a tip from Deep Goat, a very highly placed source within THE CHESS WORLD who, unfortunately, tends to hang his queen, this reporter, together with her faithful photographer and sidekick, Donus Felinucus, went undercover in January to the 10th City of Pamplona Invitational, where GM Judit Polgar was playing. This reporter, whose international reputation preceded me, was able to secure an exclusive interview with Polgar at the conclusion of the tournament.

Alpheta: Judit, you’ve recently been seen in the company of a, er, rather peculiar looking fellow.

Polgar: Oh, you mean Cary Grant!

Alpheta: Er, Cary Grant?

Polgar: Oh yes! And I’m so excited. We’re to be married! I’ve always loved him - those roles he played in "The African Queen", "The Maltese Falcon" and of course, "Casablanca", my personal favorite, with all those wonderful scenes of Cary over the chessboard sparring with the evil midget Peter Lorre.

Alpheta: Er...

Polgar: I’m not getting any younger you know, Alph. I’m going to be 24 in July! Both of my sisters are already married! I don’t want to be an old maid!

Alpheta: Er...

Polgar: A woman has to do the best for herself that she can, Alph. Hook up with a nice rich sugar daddy, that’s the ticket. I wouldn’t want to end up an old maid like you! Oh, no offense, Alph! I LOVE how you play chess.

Alpheta: Er...Just a blinking minute! How come you played like a patzer during this tournament, heh? Ha!

Polgar: Patzer, schmatzer. I’m in love! Who cares about chess? You need to get yourself a man, Alph.

Alpheta: [Comment deleted].

So there you have it! Nothing less than an evil inter-stellar plot to highjack the eggs of our lovely Hungarian GM and breed a miniature G’kar who will run for President of the United States in due course and introduce A NEW WORLD ORDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Could this be - oh no, oh the horror, the horror, THE ONE, THE ONLY, THE ORIGINAL ANTICHESS???)

Remember where you read it FIRST!!!!!!!!!!! THE INTERNATIONAL CHESSOID!!!!!!!!!!!!

Alpheta Patton, Old Maid and Proud of It, signing off...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Priestesses of Mary

While doing some research on the serpent-worshippping Ophites, I came across a reference to the Kollyridians - and found out some fascinating information about the now obscure sect.

The name Kollyridians (also Collyridians) comes from Greek collyris, a little cake. Leontius of Byzance had a different name for them. He called them "Philomarianites", meaning Mary-lovers (PG 87, 1364). (Image: Mary in the Notre Dame du Cap, Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec, Canada. Crowned in 1904 at the orders of Pope Pius X, it is the only statue of Mary to be crowned in all of Canada. The title of Queen of Heaven can also be found in scripture, but not in reference to Mary).

From Epiphanius we learn the group was composed mainly of women and led by women priestesses. The sect may have originated in Thrace, and had extended to Upper Scythia (roughly to the west and north of the Black Sea) and into Arabia by the fourth century, but it could have roots in Syria (Astarte) or Asia Minor (Ceres).

The sect was perhaps inspired by the Gospel events, combined with an Elias-type legend of Mary's purity and "non-death." Epiphanius states that the "priestesses of Mary" worshipped her as a goddess in her own right, the Queen of Heaven, with rituals far older than Christianity, and "adorn a chair or square throne, spread a cloth over it, and at a certain solemn time, place bread on it and offer it in the name of Mary." The worshippers also partook of the sacred cakes (sounds rather like "Holy Communion" where believing Christians partake of the "bread" of "Christ's body").

Recalling the Jews condemned by the Prophet Jeremiah who made similar offerings to the "Queen of Heaven" (Astarte/Ashtoreth/Asherah/Ceres), Epiphanius warned against the worship of the Virgin. This is the seventy-ninth heresy in a long list, challenged by Epiphanius, a religion harking back to the ancient pagan worship of the Goddess, under her new manifestation: "Mary."

According to Jonathan Kirsch: "[In] the Book of Jeremiah, a community of Jews in Egypt worshipped a goddess that he calls the 'Queen of Heaven,' a deity that scholars identify with Anath or Astarte, both of them goddesses in the pantheon of the ancient Near East. Like other goddess worshippers, the Jewish women in the Egyptian diaspora light altar fires to the Queen of Heaven, bake and eat 'crescent-cakes marked with her image' (Jer. 44.19) (NEB), pour out libations as drink offerings to the goddess, and burn incense or perhaps even sacrificial animals in her honor. They are joined in these rituals by their menfolk--'And is it we that offer to the Queen of Heaven without our husbands?' they taunt the old prophet (Jer. 44:19)--but it is clearly the women who serve as priestesses. And when Jeremiah calls on them to return to orthodoxy at the risk of their lives--'High and low alike will die by sword or by famine,' he quotes God as saying, 'and will be an object of execration and horror, of ridicule and reproach' (Jer. 44:12) (NEB)--they boldly and flatly refuse."

Geoffrey Ashe puts forward in his book The Virgin the opinion that the Collyridians represented a parallel Marian religion to Christianity, founded by first-generation followers of the Virgin Mary, whose doctrines were later subsumed by the Church at the Council of Ephesus in 432.

Like other "heretical" sects, the Kollyridians were stamped out - or, as Ashe argues, subsumed into the Roman Catholic Church as it adopted into its tenets many of the pagan beliefs about the "Mother of God" and the "Queen of Heaven," and pragmatic pagans were baptized and became nominal "Christians."

Today, of course, it is quite acceptable for Roman Catholics, approximately 1 billion strong, to worship their Mother of God, even if they no longer offer her sacred bread from the seat of a "chair or throne."

Information on the Kollyridians compiled from the following sources: Patrick Madrid, October, 1994 issue of "This Rock"

A dictionary of Christian biography and literature to the end of the sixth century a.d., Henry Wace, Collyridians,

The Woman Who Laughed at God: The Untold History of The Jewish People, by Johnathan Kirsch,

Monday, September 3, 2007

700 Historic and Prehistoric Sites Identified in Sistan Plain

News from CAIS. I've subscribed to this service for the past couple of years. It's become apparent over that time that the Iranian Plateau is a hot spot for ancient civilization. It's really a shame more isn't being done to uncover this heritage. It belongs to us all - we all spring from the same source, after all. The Chief pointed to ancient Persia as being the possible home of the origins of proto-chess; that is one of the reasons I chose to learn more about Persia/Iran. H.J.R. Murray got it wrong, baby! 02 September 2007 LONDON, (CAIS) -- In pursuing their researching activities in Sistan plain, archaeology team of Sistan va Baluchestan University has succeeded to identify more than 700 historic and prehistoric sites in this part of Sistan va Baluchestan province. Since the excavations in Sistan plain have not been wrapped up yet, Rasoul Mousavi Haji, one of the heads of the archaeology team in Sistan plain gives the possibility for identifying some more historic sites in the area. “Although discovery of a large number of prehistoric sites shed light into the importance of this area during very ancient times, we have also succeeded in identifying a number of historical sites dating back to the post Achaemenid period (330-248) and Parthian dynasty (248 BCE-224 CE) for the first time in this area. A number of historical sites belonging to 12-15 centuries CE have been also identified in the region, which were never seen before,” said Mousavi to Persian service of CHN. The archaeology team has also succeeded in identifying of historical sites dating back to Achaemenid (550-330 BCE) and Sasanian (224-651 CE) dynastic eras in the region. Regarding of tracing civilization, cultural, and artistic evidence in the region, Mousavi Haji explained: “Identifying of historic evidence which is as old as the Burnt City are among the most prominent achievements during these archaeological activities in Sistan plain. These areas enjoyed industrial centres and we have also discovered a large number of decorative semi-precious gems such as lapis and opal.” These new discoveries bring into light that the industry of using ornamental gems was not limited to the Burnt City (Shahr-e Sukhteh) and the satellite hills of this prehistoric city also enjoyed similar industrial activity. Mousavi Haji further explained about discovery of a unique piece of earthenware with the design of a human being in one of prehistoric sites contemporary with the Burnt City which was never seen before in Burnt City and its satellite sites. According to Mousavi, the recent researches show that the number of prehistoric and historic sites in Sistan plain must have surpassed to what was previously assumed and each 6 kilometers of Sistan plain must have contained one historic site. This is while prior to this it was supposed that each 10 kilometres must have hidden a historic site. Archaeological excavations have been started by a team of archaeologist in 22 areas of Sistan plain which have been divided into two phases. According to Mehrafarin, one of the other heads of the team, discovery of more than 700 historic and prehistoric sites was the result of archaeological efforts during the first phase of activities. All achieved information in this researching project is due to be gathered and categorized in the archaeological Atlas of Sistan va Baluchestan province.

Backstory About "Zugzwang", A Serial Novel

As his serialised thriller Zugzwang, exclusively written for The Observer, is published as a book, novelist and screenwriter Ronan Bennett reveals the fear and exhilaration of writing to a weekly deadline. This is a fascinating look at the process of how a novel came to be - first in serial form - now in book form - by author Ronan Bennett. Sunday September 2, 2007 The Observer The idea for a novel never comes in one fell swoop, at least not to me. Usually, it's a case of something I read, or see, or something somebody tells me, and my filing it away in a mental 'things of interest that might lead somewhere' folder. It might remain there undisturbed, for months, even years, and then something else I stumble on seems to add enough to make me think I may have the beginnings of a novel. With Zugzwang, the earliest thing I filed away was the story of Akiba Rubinstein. Before the First World War, Rubinstein was one of the strongest chess players in the world. Born into an impoverished family in a remote settlement in Poland, which was then occupied by Russia, he was raised by his pious Jewish grandparents and spoke only Hebrew and Yiddish until around the age of 20. Rubinstein was pathologically shy, believing his mere presence to be unbearable to others. A contemporary observed how, immediately after making his move, Rubinstein would leave the chess table and hide, in order not to burden his opponent with his odious presence. This poignant scene stayed in my memory more than 25 years after I first read it. But though I had filed him away, Rubinstein had gathered a lot of mental dust. It was only when rereading an old biography of Lenin, by David Shub, that I started to think again about him. Shub's book describes the strange career of a protege of Lenin's, Roman Malinowski. With Lenin in exile, Malinowski became the party's leader inside Russia, and in St Petersburg headed the Social Democrat delegation in the Duma. What Lenin didn't know was that Malinowski was a spy for the tsarist secret police, the Okhrana. He unmasked himself in the late spring of 1914 before fleeing to France. That's interesting, I thought: Rubinstein was also in St Petersburg in the spring of 1914, playing in the strongest chess tournament the world had seen. In those days, chess players were as celebrated as modern footballers, and that tournament was like the World Cup coming to town. Tsar Nicholas contributed 1,000 roubles to the prize fund. This was fertile territory, surely. There was the glamour and tension of the tournament, the pathos of the mentally flawed chess genius, the betrayal of Malinowski and the approach of war. There were revolutionaries and spies and the drama of St Petersburg itself, monumental and shabby, graceful and malign. There had to be a novel here. Rest of the story...

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Play Chess Like Michelangelo Painted

I love this man's endless passion for chess. Chess tournament on today With Errol Tiwari Sunday, September 2nd 2007 If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well. - Martin Luther King Jnr This is what chess players strive to do every time they face their opponents over the chess board. They strive to play as Michelangelo painted. They strive to become grandmasters. They strive to find the unflawed sequences. They strive to play the perfect moves. This is why the promotion of chess in our beloved country must never stop. The game builds character. It is anchored to a platform of social development. And it is there over the chess board that people meet, and minds compete. Chess has not as yet entered into the national consciousness. We are in the pioneering stages of the game's development, but I sincerely believe - and I am fiercely patriotic about this - that chess will become a national pastime in Guyana, and as popular a sport as cricket. Albert Einstein described an idea well when he said: "A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on." I am inspired, therefore, that the idea will prevail and the movement for chess promotion will get stronger, more popular and gain momentum. There is no turning back. Chess is a fair game. It has equality. I have eight pawns and eight pieces, and you have eight pawns and eight pieces. We share the battlefield of 64 squares. Nothing is hidden. Nothing is left to chance. We both have the same opportunities for winning. Already in Guyana, talent is beginning to emerge. Twenty-year-old Ronuel Greenidge from Lodge is dangerous on the chess board. He is cool and deadly. So is Learie Webster from West Demerara. The two will clash today in a chess tournament at the Carifesta Sports Complex, and in the words of Loris Nathoo, the game represents "a classic confrontation of two local minds." Greenidge trains daily on the computer. In a complicated position on the chess board , if you ask the computer to find the best possible continuations and it gives three moves, Greenidge is going to find and play one of those moves analysing on his own. He is going to be very hard to beat. Webster, as opposed to Greenidge, is more a self-made player. He relies on his intuition and can see the hidden aspects of a position. His strength lies in the combinations that he plays. He shakes them out of his shirt sleeves. He explodes a quiet position with a sacrificial combination that has everyone running to his chess board and his opponent confused with uncertainty. In addition to Greenidge, he plays me as well in the tournament today. The Greenidge-Nathoo encounter also promises a lot of violence on the board. Nathoo is just as careful a player as Greenidge. This is his strength. He pounces on the mistakes of his opponents and almost always creates a passed pawn to carry to the Queening square in the endgame. In the Intermediate Section, Sheriffa Ali is off with flying colours. She is the only female participant in this category and scored three wins from three games last Sunday. She plays quickly and confidently. She finds some of the best continuations very quickly and is extremely sharp in the middlegame. I tell her to develop her pieces quickly and not to embark on adventurous excursions with her Queen. I tell her to wait and combinations would flow naturally. The tournament begins at 9 am and four games will be played.

Indians Sweep Zonal Contest

B Shrikant, Hindustan Times Mumbai, September 03, 2007 First Published: 00:54 IST(3/9/2007) Last Updated: 00:56 IST(3/9/2007) Ganguly, Harika qualify for chess World Cup Four-time Indian national champion Surya Sekhar Ganguly and women's defending champion D. Harika won the Asian Zone 3.2 chess championship at Dhaka and earned the right to play in the World Cup to be held in Russia in November this year. Ganguly and Harika won the titles in contrasting styles. Ganguly had to go through a rapid play-off against compatriot G.N. Gopal, winning 2-0 on Saturday, while Harika defeated Swati Ghate of Pune in the 10th round to win by a one-point margin, according to information received here. India swept all the medals in the zonal championship. Gopal, who joined Ganguly at the top with nine points after the 11th round, bagged the second spot. G. Rohit of Andhra Pradesh finished third with eight points, while GM J. Deepan Chakkaravarthy took the fourth place with seven. Gopal, however, had more to cheer as he completed his final GM norm. With 2,480 points, the 17-year-old Gopal from Aluva in Kerala now needs to cross the mark of 2500 to become India's next Grandmaster. Having done well in the last few months, Gopal is expected to achieve the required rating when the ranking list is released in October. In the women's section, Swati Ghate was placed second while National champion Tania Sachdev took the third place with 5.5 points out of a possible 10. Ganguly and Harika thus qualified for the World Cup to be held at Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia from November 23 to December 16. The winner will meet Vladimir Topalov in the World Championship cycle in 2008. GM Ziaur Rahman of Bangladesh has been given a direct seeding to the World Cup by the FIDE President as his nominee.

Elliott Avedon Museum of Games

At the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada), this online resource is one of our favorite places to visit. New content is added from time to time to keep things fresh and interesting, and as a researcher into ancient board games it is a priceless resource available to us free of charge and with a few mouse-clicks! (Game board discovered at Knossos Palace, circa 1500 BCE).

Established in 1971, the Museum is a public institution dedicated to research and the collection, preservation, and exhibition of games and game-related objects. The Museum Website was first begun in 1993 and continues to evolve. Photographs, other graphics, and pages with new information are periodically added to this site, offering a "virtual visit" to the Museum. The Website includes over 700 pages. Each Webpage is part of a "virtual" Museum exhibit. The Museum collection is extensive and the University offers Web viewers access to as much of its collection as resources will permit. As new "Virtual Exhibits" are added, indices are updated.

The Virtual Exhibits item takes you to a clickable list of collection objects, such as Boxed Games, Playing Cards, Electronic Games, etc. organized as Museum Exhibits. An "exhibit" will have one or more Webpages concerning the games in that particular exhibit. Nevertheless, a viewer can go directly to a Webpage about a specific game of interest by using the Google Tool Bar at the top of each page, inputting the name of the game, and clicking the "search" button.

About Games includes pages dealing with ethnography, origins, and diffusion of games in general. The Archives item contains scanned documents of published papers by game ethnologists and historians. FAQ answers general questions which previous viewers have frequently asked. Web Links is a clickable list for other sites with information about games.

The Museum item includes a number of pages about the "physical" Museum rather than the "virtual" one on the Web. These items include pages about the collection which is cared for by Museum personnel, and about the On-Campus Gallery in which the collection is exhibited. The Museum's resources for researches who come on campus to conduct research on games is explained in this section. Information is provided about where the Museum is housed on the University campus along with the available parking and public transportation facilities.

Unusual Game Piece Discovered in Roman Era Grave

From the Northhampton Chronicle & Echo: Archaeological dig finds Roman coins and games Published Date: 08 August 2007 Location: Northampton By Nicola Shaw Archaeologists began work excavating the site at Bury Mount in Towcester on July 17 and an initial metal scan of one part of the area has already uncovered a number of Roman pieces, including an unusual carved disc believed to have been used in a board game similar to draughts. Jim Brown, project officer for Northamptonshire Archaeology, said: "We haven't even started excavating the front section yet but we have carried out a metal scan and retrieved a number of Roman artefacts including some lead cloth seals, a fourth century Roman coin and a small gaming piece." The gaming piece is like a draught piece, and it is quite unusual, whereas you can expect to find musket balls all over the place. "We are going to get an expert to examine it and give us an idea of what period it is from." During a previous dig in October 2006, archaeologists found that there was more to the Mount than they had previously thought when they located a ditch, thought to be a moat, around the castle motte. The second phase of the dig is to find out more about how the area was used, before work to regenerate the site begins.Mr Brown said: "Ideally, we would really like to find remnants of any structure that was on top of the motte, get a good secure date on the ditch and work out what was going on in the civil war, but it is still early days."
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