Amoeblog

Happy Discovery Day -- Real Geographic Discoveries of the Modern Age

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 13, 2014 04:42pm | Post a Comment

I will not make the argument that Columbus's arrival in the New World was insignificant merely because he was an absolutely awful person or because he didn't actually discover anything (which he himself maintained, claiming until his death that he'd merely found a different route to Asia). But think about this before you dismiss -- before Columbus, avocado, bell peppers, blueberries, cashews, cassava root, chili peppers, chocolate, cocaine, gourds, maize, peanuts, pecans pineapples, pumpkins, squash, tobacco, tomatoes, and vanilla were all unknown in the Old World and alcohol, apples, bananas, barley, cheese, coffee, mango, onions, rice, tea, and turnips, and wheat were unknown in the Americas. Imagine an existence without any of those and you can hopefully begin to get a taste of the importance of the Columbian Exchange. Imagine Italian cuisine without tomato sauce or gnocchi and you can't help but wonder if this is why Columbus is so dear to many Italians. Imagine, on the other hand, genocide, slavery, and old world diseases and you'll understand why he's even more hated by many others. 





 
We all know now that Columbus wasn't the first European to visit the Americas either -- but neither was Leif Erikson. Europeans had been living in the North American territory of Greenland since sometime between 876 and 932 CE when Gunnbjorn Ulfsson was blown off course and sited the world's largest island. Around 978, Snæbjorn Galti was the probably first European to set food on Greenland but we rightly don't make a big deal out of that since there were already Inuits living there and before them, an earlier people who'd arrived and abandoned the country -- and that cultural exchange was by most measures, less impactful on the planet.


The Divine Comedy - "A Seafood Song"

Greenland, of course, is just as much a part of North America as are the Bahamas (where Columbus landed) as are the US and Canada -- or Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Clipperton Island, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Navassa Island, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saba, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and United States Virgin Islands, for that matter.



Crime & the City Solution - "The Bride Ship"
 

The fact is that people have been exploring for roughly 1.8 million since Homo erectus first caught that ramblin' fever years ago and identifying the first European to do something is a silly pursuit. Exploration and adventuring, on the other hand, is vital and something done by all good people (and plenty of bad). Most of the inhabitable world was discovered in antiquity but in the post-Classical age, new lands were still being discovered by humans around the planet -- especially Arab, Austronesian, and European seafarers. In the 15th Century, the more isolated islands of the Atlantic were still being added to maps with some regularity and discovery of islands in the Arctic and Southern Oceans continued into the 20th Century. Here then is a look at some of the real discoveries of the modern age -- previously uninhabited lands just waiting for humans to despoil them.





*****

MADEIRA

Madeira (image source: World for Travel)


Madeira was first claimed by Portuguese sailors in the service of Infante D. Henrique in 1419, who were driven by storm to an island harbor which they called Porto Santo. Settlement of the island began in 1420 and by 1433 it was known as Ilha da Madeira.



THE AZORES

Azorean chamaritta 

The Azores were known of in the 14th Century but humans didn't begin to colonize them until 1433. Before arriving, sheep were deposited to establish a food source for the colonists, who included Sephardic Jews, Moorish prisoners and African slaves, as well as Flemish, French, and Spanish colonists. Nowadays there are about a quarter of a million residents of the country.



CAPE VERDE

Morna performed in the documentary Dix petits grains de terre

The volcanic islands of the Cape Verde archipelago were discovered by Italian and Portuguese navigators around 1456. The first settlement, founded in 1462, was the first European settlement in the tropics. Located off the coast of West Africa, Cape Verde's economy was predictably built on the back of the slave trade but the African population was joined by Jewish refugees from the Inquisition, as well as Dutch, French, British, Arabs, Chinese, Indians, Indonesians, and other settlers.

Happy birthday, Edvard Munch

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 12, 2012 05:43pm | Post a Comment
Today is the 149th birthday of Norwegian painter and printmaker, Edvard Munch


Munch was born 12 December in the village of Ådalsbruk in Løten, in 1863. His father was a doctor named Christian Munch and his mother was Laura Catherine Bjølstad. He was often ill as a child and reportedly drew to occupy his considerable time spent in bed.


In 1881, Munch enrolled at Den kongelige tegneskole. Along with fellow students, he had his first public exhibition in 1883. Some of his early work was in the Naturalism and Impressionism traditions. After falling in with nihilist/philosopher/writer/anarchist Hans Jæger, and his circle, Kristianiabohêmen, Munch began attempting to paint from his soul.



Munch's first "soul painting," Det Syke Barn (The Sick Child) depicted his sister Johanne Sophie on her deathbed -- she died from TB when just fifteen.

   
(l-r) Munch's original Munch's last ...and parodies


Munch's piece(s) titled Der Schrei der Natur (usually known as The Scream in English) is his most recognized work and has been referenced, parodied and copied countless times. The first version, done with pastels, was completed in 1893. He created three more versions, one more pastel and two paintings. 


Munch passed away on 23 January, 1944 at the age of eighty years. He is quoted as having said, "Fra min råtnende kropp skal blomster vokse, og jeg er i dem, og dét er evighet" which Google translates as "From my rotting body flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity."






In college I had the opportunity to see Peter Watkins's 210 minute long biographical film, Evard Munch. In addition to my date and I, there was only one other film attendee in the audience. I was utterly enthralled but by the time the film ended, my girlfriend had fallen asleep and the other film-goer had long since taken off. If you'd like to purchase a copy, it is available on DVD


*****

(In which we consider some swinging, singing sisters.)

Posted by Job O Brother, May 16, 2011 01:26pm | Post a Comment

 
WAR!
The Boswell Sisters vs. The Andrews Sisters


Last blog, we took a long, almost invasive and menacing look at one of my favorite harmonizing groups, The Ravens. This time, let’s meditate on two groups and the epic chaos that emerged from their earth-shattering battle for supremacy. Yes, we’re going to focus on the blood-thirsty Boswell Sisters and those daughters of doomsday, The Andrews Sisters. (This blog is not for the squeamish and will include death, destruction, and delightfully catchy melodies.)

Many people are already familiar with The Andrews Sisters, and because you, dear reader, are a person, I am including you in this assessment. What these same many people often don’t realize is that The Andrews Sisters actually based their act on another trio of singing siblings, The Boswell Sisters.

The Boswell Sisters were born in the first decade of the twentieth century and, in a show of musical savvy, they chose to be raised in New Orleans, the American music Mecca. By their teens, Martha, Connee, and Helvetia (they were given individual names to make communication in the house more efficient) began singing in movie theatres and on local radio shows, cultivating small celebrity and earning free popcorn.

By the early 1930’s their desire for greater success, along with Helvetia’s having developed a corn allergy, led them to move to New York City. They recorded some records and integrated themselves in the thriving jazz scene. Middle-child Connee proved herself to be a deft and original arranger of music and, against the common practice of the day, was allowed greater freedom to change the standards she and her sisters sang. This earned her respect among her musical peers, even though some choices Connee made were less popular than others. (For example, their 1931 recording of I Thank You, Mr. Moon, in which Connee changed the key of the melody and re-wrote the words as I Will Slit Your Shaking Throat and Drink Your Hot Gushing Blood, Mr. Moon - it was subsequently changed back to the original lyrics.)

Continue reading...

Shoundtrack of Shame

Posted by Job O Brother, January 25, 2008 07:19pm | Post a Comment
As promised, here's the next installment in my new series: songs I absolutely love that I am ashamed of absolutely loving.


Norway's most popular export since... urr... eh....

Many of you are familiar with a-Ha's hit, "Take On Me". In fact - I'm going to say it - ALL of you are familiar with a-Ha's hit, "Take On Me". The video for the song is well-loved, and considered a rare gem in a genre that is all too often unremarkable (that is, music videos). But there's a sister video to it, and it features a song so over-wrought with romanticism that even Sandra Bullock would think twice before being associated with it. Even so, as predisposed as I am to disliking romance in my art, I - for whatever reason - swoon like a third grade girl whenever I hear a-Ha's lesser hit, "The Sun Always Shines On TV".

Below, you'll find the video. It strikes me as odd that the object of the singer's affection is a middled-aged woman in a bathrobe (...or is that just 80's "fashion"?). When watching, please take note of the "Channel 3" logo and tell me - is that not something you've seen scrawled on a men's room wall?

Anyway, I can poke fun all I want. I still love this silly thing. Feel free to beat me up after gym class...