The Jaded Jedi

Journal and General Musings

The year of words: Day 295

24/10/2021

Today’s ‘forgotten’ offering came as a surprise to me – that is the fact that its use has dropped significantly over recent years. It’s quite often heard here at the Acreage.

A new word that may bring a smile (wry or otherwise) as the fear of being without a mobile phone gets a name. I must be the very opposite of a nomophobe. To me, it sounds like a great bonus to be offline for a period of time.

The year of words: Day 294

23/10/2021

Today brings the best of times and the worst of times (in my humble opinion) with today’s additions to the year of words.

A beautiful and less frequently used ‘forgotten’ word which is perhaps one of the earliest examples of a portmanteau construct. Today’s modern offering is one that is likely to bring me out in a rash just reading it. Your mileage may of course vary.

The year of words: Day 293

22/10/2021

Today’s words both sound as though they’re modern in origin, but both are deceptive.

The forgotten word or sense brings us fantoosh from that reliable source of beautifully evocative words, Scottish dialect. This dates back at least as far as the early eighteenth century and possible much earlier. Now considered archaic outside of Highland Scotland and even there I’d suspect you’d struggle to hear it often.

The new word is something of a quirk. That’s because it’s a new word to Collins and Websters to whom it appears to be new.

However, the same word has been in the Oxford English Dictionary since its first publication. The strange thing is the OED has moved it to its extended and full versions as they consider this Tudor English word to have become archaic. This is at the same time Collins and Websters are considering as a candidate ‘new’ word – strange times indeed.

Two to enjoy.

The Year of words: Day 292

21/10/2021

A logophile (lover of words) challenged by a friend to introduce an old word we should use more or a new word that may have passed us by every day for a year. That was the challenge that brings you here and saw me leave Facebook.

Whether that departure is permanent or not I don’t know. I don’t have other social media accounts having binned Twitter some months before. The current thinking is that Marx may well have been correct about religion being the opiate of the masses when he wrote it (1843). However, today it’s far more likely to be that thief of time Social Media that provides the bread and circuses of the early 21st century.

I may blog about the ‘withdrawal’ from Facebook as it does have some similarities to managing an addiction, but that’s a decision for another day. In the interim, an old sense (the original sense) for a very familiar word as our forgotten offering. The first entry in the new words to originate from the dialects of the West Indies.

Day 290 of the year of words

20/10/2021

Welcome dear reader. I use the word advisedly and with little expectation that more than the occasional stray will come across the remainder of this series.

However, take pity on an refugee from Social media who is finding its absence has shot me back to the mid eighties (the best of times) when it didn’t exist and people spoke to other people and did stuff – things in the real world. I may never return to the tappety-click of Facebook, I certainly will not be darkening the doorstep of Twitter.

So two words – one ancient and one modern to help you on your way on this 19th day of October.

A very strange place to start

18/10/2021

It may appear an odd place to start or post something that is clearly part of a series, but there is some method in my undoubted madness.

I was challenged the end of 2020 to recommend a couple of words a day that people may have forgotten because they have fallen out of use or missed due to their recent addition to the dictionaries.

I managed this via Facebook for 288 days before the constant sniping, bitching, moaning and general Twitterness that has spread from that platform overwhelmed me.

I suspended my account and sought sanctuary here where a few people may see it and like the linguistics. If nobody does, well I’m no worse off but have completed a challenge I had to the point of losing faith in humanity, rather enjoyed.

It’s possible I may reset Facebook and rejoin the madness but at the moment I’m feeling distinctly out of place there – well there among most other places you’d care to mention. However, the challenge continues and here are today’s two words,

Day 289 of the year of words

Day 400 in the Corona House: Will the real Easter bunny please stand up.

04/04/2021

Is the Easter bunny really a man? And Green?

I hope you’ll excuse the self-indulgence, but the passing of day 400 is the Corona House is one that I felt needed to be marked.

Many of you will remember that Vaughan and I were in self-imposed quarantine for some time before the national lockdown started in March 2020. As a result, apart from two drive by fruitings (delivering cake to friends), a journey to be vaccinated and to the dentist and three socially distanced visits to the shop, we’ve spent coming up to 14 months in the Corona house.

A brief reflection on some of what that’s taught me. It would certainly include the lesson that I don’t intend going back to the 5 days of office based work any time soon. I’ve also found a love of the garden, baking, rediscovered a wish to improve my piano playing and fallen in love with a bike that’s seen me riding 30 or 40 miles at a time and enjoying that time.

What it’s also given me is a refreshed perspective into what’s important and what is just bread and circuses. A number of things I’d stopped doing have shown the value they were providing to me and equally a number of things in which I had become ensnared were shown to be mere trifles of no real value.

I’ve regrettably found that I no longer recognise much of the society we’re building. We’ve gone beyond the search for a more just and inclusive society (which is nearly universally acknowledged as a good thing) to a bitter, hate filled, virtue signalling display of competing victimhood. A world where we seem to be fighting fire with fire, defeating racism by being racist, securing liberty by banning that we fear, making school children stand in assembly and apologise for being born male or protecting free speech by banning contrary voices.

It seems at present, we are so wrapped up with our own indignation and hatred of those who hold a different view or gender or race or politics that we can no longer see the wood for the trees. None of this is helped by an insatiable appetite for salacious gossip dressed up as news all bolstered and developed by social media platforms that are the modern day equivalent of the knitting undertaken under the shadow of the guillotine.

Shakespeare could have been summing up Twitter

One example of the latter would be Twitter. I held an active account for a few years, but the last year has shown it to be pretty toxic and at least for me of no value.

I have retained Facebook until such times as I can find an alternative means of keeping in contact with people half way around the world, along with friends and family.

However, I’ve cut out most of the remaining sites that usually come with a lot of heat but very little light or have such limited and limiting purposes as to be the true modern thieves of time. As to Twitter, I think Shakespeare summed it up perfectly nearly half a millennium before it was created.

Of course, you must make an allowance for this being part of the Covid blues and avoid shutting yourself away from the rest of the world. We all need social interaction and contact. However, at the moment, I’m growing comfortable with the idea of fewer social media contacts and saving some of the catch up for when I next see the person concerned. It’s almost like being in the eighties but without the good music.

So what, I hear you shout has any of that got to do with the Easter Bunny? Well everything and nothing is the honest answer. Except a little time of quiet reflection (some might call it a retreat) allows you to consider some bigger questions a flippant offshoot of one let me to ask where in the name of all things sensible does the Easter bunny fit in the picture.

This week and specifically Good Friday is a difficult one. The first week of April is when my mother died (6th April 2012) which also happened to be Good Friday that year. So this week is the double whammy reminder, if any were needed, both on Good Friday and on 6th April. For that reason I try to normalise this week as much as I can.

A 16th century view of God in heaven.

Here’s the God bit.

I chose to blog rather than post on Facebook partly due to the long form and partly because I didn’t wish to offend those of my friends on Facebook that hold deep and often profound religious beliefs.

The remainder of this post is not intended to be anti-religious, anti-Christian or any of it’s denominations. It’s simply a means of encouraging people to think more broadly about their faith and to make the same allowance you would seek for yourself to those who hold a different or less conventional belief in something bigger than ourselves.

That may be challenging for some. If it is, I’ll write something fluffy tomorrow. If you’re open for some (hopefully interesting) observations on belief and how to grow it then read on with my reassurance that I don’t wish to demean anyone’s personal beliefs.

This week is a hugely important and symbolic time for many Christians, followers of the Sumerian Goddess, any remaining followers of Mithras or the Cybele cult along with a moderate number of pagans.

However, it isn’t for everyone and this year the certainty of social media and the rise of general ignorance has seen me grow tired of being criticised for eating a lamb rather than a fish on Good Friday or failing to recognise the sacrifice that has been made for me by Jesus.

At the same time, people with equal certainty and undoubted intellect support the idea that Easter is a wasted effort as they have total confidence that there is no God.

Perhaps the best example is the late Steven Hawkins who points out that the Universe didn’t need God to create it.

As a thought experiment, let’s for a moment imagine an all powerful being existing outside our universe as we perceive it. He/she out of curiosity or love or boredom creates our Universe. Neither followers on Earth nor the scientists could explain the spontaneous creation, nor could they prove the existence of such a being but both of them could be correct. God didn’t need to create the Universe, but it doesn’t mean he/she didn’t.

It seems to me both the religious follower and the atheist have two things in common. The first is a belief in something greater than them. Ironically, the second thing they both have is their certainty – also known as faith. In the situation of our thought experiment, that’s all they could have and arguably all they need. However here’s where it starts to get interesting and where (in due course), we find the Easter bunny.

The Ancestry of Abraham

What appears to be common to all people is a need to answer where did we come from and why are we here.

Perhaps out of a need to seek those answers we have worshipped a creator. We use Greek mythology, Norse Mythology and similar phrases to identify those belief systems with multiple deities usually with particular responsibilities (eg Mars the God of War, Dianne the Goddess of Love or Isis the Egyptian Goddess representing the power of Love over death) – sounding familiar? This is also a system of belief followed by native American, indigenous Australian and many followers of Wicken beliefs where natural forces or phenomena are given either spirit, god or characters associated with those forces.

Then, through fashion, evolution, revelation or understanding the world moved to monotheism (the belief in one God).
Jews know this one God as Yahweh or Yehovah, the self-Existent or Eternal. Jehovah, the Lord.

Muslims know this God as Allah. They say there is “No god, but God.” In the Semitic tongues, both Jews and Muslims use virtually the same word for God -only one mark distinguishes them. Christians know the Sacred One first in Matthew 1:23 as Emanuel, “God with Us.”

This single God has many similarities which is not unexpected given they all stem from a common figure Abraham. The Christian view of Abrahams ancestry is shown above.

A simplified religious divergence of the Abrahamic religions.

For those who aren’t fully up to speed with the family tree of Abrahamic religions, one simplified view is shown here.

Abraham’s relationship with his wife Sarah led to the birth of a child Isaac and through that route we have Judaism which in turn diverged with the emergence of Christianity around two thousand years ago.

Abraham also had a relationship with a slave girl and that led to the birth of a son Ishmael. Following exile, this branch leads to the formation of Islam and from there the further split between its Sunni and Shiite forms.

You will note that all three religions have one thing in common. At no point does any fluffy tailed wabbit make an appearance.

It’s worth considering the context in which all three of these new religions (for they were once new) developed. They were emerging into a world already replete with creation, rebirth and resurrection events. An example in point.

Who am I? I was thought to be born at the eastern most edge of the Mediterranean with my birth marked by a celestial event a pure star made of the light of the creator. I had no earthly mother being born of a virgin and my teachings centre around the power of love and the strong bonds that exist in that love between all peoples.

Sumerian Goddess Ishtar

Easy one to start? Of course, it’s the Sumerian Goddess Inanna worshipped in Babylon and later Assyria under the name Ishtar (sounds remarkably like Easter don’t you think?). Her symbols were the lion and the eight pointed star similar to the five pointed star familiar in Judaism today.

It should sound familiar, it’s thought to be a possible derivation of the word Easter. The celebrations for Inanna/Ishtar took place in the late spring in order to encourage her bounty for the coming summer.

It might not be surprising if emerging new religions borrowed a bit from the creation stories that had predated them – just to gain a little traction. I comment on the marketing only and not on the content.

Best out of three? Who am I ? I was born of a virgin, died and was reborn. My followers would meet annually in the spring on Vatican Hill in Rome to celebrate my rebirth. This celebration began as a day of blood on Black Friday, rising to a crescendo after three days, in rejoicing over my resurrection.

OK that’s a bit trickier – but I am referring to Attis, the lover of Cybele the religious cult figurehead adopted by the Roman Empire during its second war against Carthage (218-210BC). In Rome Cybele was known as Magna Mater (The Great Mother). In Greece she was merged with the lesser Greek Goddess Ghia as the mother protector perhaps in an attempt to align with the pagan beliefs of a great mother spirit prevalent at the times.

Another of those interesting marketing and assimilation techniques crops up here too. Cybele had two symbols, the first a cornucopia of bees and milk (from which milk and honey flow) and the lion.

You’ll notice the lion progressed from Ishtar to Cybele and also appears in the Bible (Revelations 5:5) with Christ represented as the Lion of Judah.

There’s nothing new with borrowing a successful symbol and it needn’t reflect on the other content or message, but it’s interesting to see how themes progress from the Pagan to mainstream belief.

The timing of Easter should also give a clue, it’s timed to hit most of the pre-existing spring festivities. Easter, rather than being a fixed date is the first Sunday following the full Moon that occurs on or just after the spring equinox, how pagan is that?

In The Pagan Roots of Easter, author Heather McDougall says “All the fun things about Easter are pagan. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit and her male counterpart whose symbol was the hare. Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. Hot cross buns are very ancient too. In the Old Testament we see the Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it. The early church clergy also tried to put a stop to sacred cakes being baked at Easter. In the end, in the face of defiant cake-baking pagan women, they gave up and blessed the cake instead.”

The examples above have also pointed the way towards the origin of our fluffy friend, the Easter bunny. (Finally I hear you cry).

If you look up the pesky wabbit, most sources will try to point you to the Lutherans as the source of the Easter bunny. It’s true that the Lutheran’s did have something called a behaviour bunny who made appearances each Easter. It performed the equivalent of Santa Claus at Christmas. The behaviour bunny would essentially decide who had been naughty or nice since Advent and who would get their Easter cake.

An Easter Hare?

However, look at the early Easter bunnies and you’ll find them looking surprisingly suspect in the leg and ear departments. Many of them appear to be hares rather than rabbits.

That has led to the current belief that the origin of the Easter bunny lies with the Celtic and pre-Celtic Jack of the Green.

Jack of the Green is a figure from Pagan belief with the ability to take the form of a hare or a stag and is a symbol of spring fertility, rebirth and regeneration.

He is the male side or essence of the Great Goddess and is also known as The Green Man (the initial picture in this post). A strange looking Easter bunny don’t you think?

Day 357 in the Corona House: Land down under

19/02/2021

Day 357 shielding

After a sizeable break between the last posting and this post, welcome to day 357 of shielding/self isolation.in our Covid house.

When we returned from Milan and started day one of what was then a 14 day isolation, we had no idea it would stretch to last to what is now approaching a year. During the intervening three hundred and fifty six days, we have left the house once in early September when social distancing allowed the celebration of my birthday. We also visited a shop in Stow one Sunday in August to buy a kitchen table and stopped for a socially distanced pub lunch at The Air Balloon on the way back. In total on those visits, we interacted with a total of six to eight people and then only from a significant distance for a brief period consistent with the social distancing regulations at the time. Those aside, we have been at home and not ventured out or met with anyone else for the last 357 days.

Thankfully, there has been plenty to get on with that has been made possible by internet connectivity and a bit of imagination. Family history projects have been revitalised, a virtual film club and preparation for the return of a dinner club. A catch up of reading or listening (audio books) and plenty more beside means I’m now wondering how I managed to fit in all the other things I did and a full time job.

Like many others, part of that activity has involved the use of social media and platforms such as Facebook though I’m increasingly of the view that although there is an undoubted positive in being contactable and in touch with family, there are also some pretty significant downsides.

No news is bad news

The eagle eyed among you will have noticed that the number shown above is part of an Australian (Victoria) number plate and it’s in Australia that Facebook has chosen to launch its opening skermish in what I suspect will be a lengthy war for the platform’s survival, at least in its current form.

To understand the reasons for both sides going all handbags at dawn here is a shorthand summary of the two positions

Australia:: Intending to create a law under which any platform using Australian news sources in their posts by linking to their articles would be required to pay the source of the news for its use. Some of the Australian press (mostly but not exclusively the Murdoch press) has seen a dramatic reduction in advertising revenues heading to social media platforms that are hosting or ‘publishing’ their material and gaining advertising revenue from so doing.

Facebook: State to work in this manner fundamentally misunderstands the relationship with and nature of the internet. FB finds itself holding material it didn’t create or post but is now expected to pay because one or more of its members makes a post containing Australian news content? Facebook holds that the internet is by its nature free pointing out that any links in its posts take viewers back to the originating organisation who are entirely free to fleece you on their sites in the same way they do. (or words to that effect).

Now, I have to say so far on those summaries, I’m rather more with Facebook than with the print media. The current trend to vacuous, confrontational, simplistic, short, not-too wordy and sustainable media stories doesn’t lend itself to print media, quality journalism or the studied nuanced view. We have been on a race to the bottom for some time with broadsheet newpapers disappearing, local news virtually dead, reduced spend on reporting and increasing poor reporting standards. When was the last time you saw someone under 35 with a paper let alone a broadsheet? If you can’t retweet it, go viral with it or start a barny with it then it’s no use in today’s media world.
Against that backdrop the law in Australia appears to be an attempt to stop or reverse that decline Kanute-like with similar chances of success.

Facebook in tantrum meltdown

That said, Facebook have taken what seems to me to have been a relatively strong case and are currently undertaking the social media equivalent of a toddler screaming while kicking and punching the supermarket floor.
The reaction Facebook took to this threat of regulation was to prevent anyone in Australia seeing any news material emanating from Australia on Facebook.
However, what their knee-jerk reaction of taking their toys away and not playing any more did was much wider in its impact.

The blanket ban was insufficiently thought through or targetted. As well as ABC and Channel 9 news outlets, it also stopped all emergency messaging from being posted or read. So in the height of the fire season in Australia bush fire warnings were blocked. Similarly, in the midst of a global pandemic, covid updates disappeared and updates could not be made to related timelines.

The flyng doctor service lost some of its update channels and many third sector organisations that use Facebook as a means of communication found their updates were blocked and their media updates were switched off/

In fairness, Facebook has since recognised the error (in the same way a toddler may realise it’s gone too far when the television smashes on the lounge floor) and is restoring these examples of collateral damage in a war between a government and a large corporation.

In the long run, I think Facebook has put itself firmly in the cross-hairs of many governments, including potentially the US government. It the actions Facebook took had been undertaken by China or North Korea people would be referring to acts of state terrorism or warlike acts. Many observers (this one included) wonder how long a government will tolerate a corporate body with more power than most first world countries in terms of data held, personal information,.comms, reach and ability to disrupt governmental responses. I doubt it will be long before we see moves to break up Facebook and Google. In the medium term it may well be Facebook that gets unfriended.

Music that seems appropriate for this post. Men at work – Down Under

Day 266 in the Corona House: Would the real Darth Vader please stand up

30/11/2020

A short but heartfelt posting on day 266 and memories of someone I was lucky enough to meet (once) at drama school who died earlier today.

It was only when I looked back on his career and read the glowing tributes, (not Hollywood lovie glowing but genuinely sincere obituaries and commentary) that I realised David (Dave) Prowse had every right to be bitter over his career. However, in line with the touching words uttered by the likes of Mark Hamyll and Star Wars technical crew he chose not to be and in doing so won the heart of his fan. I hope he may also spur a few thoughts about how under-rated he has been in his portrayal of perhaps the quintessential cinema villain.

I must admit when I was sitting in a voice class taken by my tutor Anya Pronk, I wasn’t expecting to be visited in class by the six foot seven Green Cross Code man. He had taught those of us of a certain age to cross the road in the 1970’s. However, that’s what happened as in bowled one Mr Prowse casually dressed smiling warmly and acknowledged those in the room with ‘Afernoon’

Being a West Country boy myself, and with family roots in Somerset I recognised his burr as Bristolian and southern Bristol at that, not full Totterdown but certainly Bedminster. A man of his stature certainly dominated the room but when he spoke, he immediately seemed somehow less imposing. That turned out to be the story of his acting career and the reason he was attending – to encourage us to listen to our voice coaches lest we should suffer his experience.

Dave Prowse was a UK Champion weightlifter and had been the green cross code man since the mid seventies. Indeed a few years after when he was cast as Darth Vader in a little known film in production, the UK Government thought it might be so bad for his image he was nearly sacked from his road safety persona.

He maintained, at least in the version recounted to our class that he had no idea George Lucas would re-dub his role, though I must admit that may reflect some naivety on his part as a light tenor Vader really wasn’t threatening despite his imposing stature. Indeed, I understand members of the technical crew and later the wider crew referred to him as Darth Farmer because of his local yocal accent. It is hard to imagine George Lucas not having formed the intention to over-dub his evil dark Lord pretty early. Perhaps his true Bristolian shines through on the original version in the line
“If this is a diplomatic mission, where is the ambassador?” Just the slightest suggestions of it turning into ambassadol brought a smile to my face when I first heard it on an outtakes clip and every time I mentally replay it since.

Dave Prowse as the Green Cross Code man in 1976 – interestingly also with an over-dubbed voice

There was also the earlier instances of two adverts both of which predate Star Wars that were also over-dubbed to give more authority and gravitas to the champion of the Highway Code. I don’t seek to defend him not being told (if that was the case) that his voice wouldn’t make the final cut, but somehow I doubt it could have been quite the surprise it was described to us as being.

The face behind the Vader mask

Of course, dubbing a voice over another felt inappropriate for a role isn’t new. Perhaps most famously to the character of Lena Lamont in Singing in the Rain and the main premise of the plot of that film. Similarly, the singing voices of both Audrey Hepburn and Jeremy Brett were over-dubbed as neither of them were quite the song-birds the part called for.

However, I can’t help but feel sorry for Dave Prowse who was overlooked not once, but twice. It strikes me as a missed opportunity and expression of thanks to have passed him over for the great reveal of Vader in Return of the Jedi. It seems he was felt inappropriate as the voice of Vader and also as his face two films later.

Yet despite that, when you look at the film and feel the imposing nature of the Sith Lord or watch his ‘stillness; or reaction to other actors, it is clear he was a competent actor who commanded the attention of the camera as a physical force on the screen. So though the voice and face belonged to others, the presence, the physical acting skills and the timing were all very much Dave Prowse who must surely have triggered the imagination of countless thousands of children since the film was made. He was certainly a strong part of my childhood and early teenage memories and a reminder of quite how much we judge people by the trivial without ever seeing or knowing the person beneath the various masks we all wear at one time or another.

The third of the Green Cross Code adverts, this time with the actors own voice.

For those of you who want to hear the real voice of Darth Vader and the real voice of Dave Prowse, the third Green Cross Code road safety advert in 1976 (apparently during the filming of Star Wars) you’ll hear his Bristolian twang as it really was.

Thank you Dave Prowse for some amazing memories and childhood imaginings. May the force be with you – always.

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