Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Liverpool 2018: A World City (Part 2)

On Friday, 29th March, 1974, in China’s Shaanxi province, 670 miles southwest of Beijing, farmers were digging for water near to the tomb mound of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. An accidental discovery has since captivated the entire world. A magnificent collection of terracotta sculptures was carefully unearthed by Chinese archaeologists. These included military figures, chariots and horses, all carved in intricate detail and well preserved.

The purpose of the ‘Terracotta Warriors’ was to protect the emperor in the afterlife, following his death circa 210 BCE. It is estimated that, in three vast subterranean pits, there were 8,000 soldiers, 130 quadrigas (four-horse chariots) and 150 cavalry horses. It is both unique and easily the largest collection of pottery figurines ever found.

A selection of the 2,200-year-old artefacts was displayed in the UK for the first time, in 2007-8 at the British Museum, London. Hundreds of thousands of people bought tickets for the exhibition. Prior to that, only items of RMS Titanic wreckage and the Treasures of Tutankhamun had generated such intense fascination.

In February this year, the Warriors paid a second visit to Britain, this time to Liverpool, home of Europe’s oldest Chinatown, and whose unsurpassed World Museum (Figure 118.1) happens to be a family favourite. By the time I had bought tickets, only three half-hour viewing sessions, from February to October, remained available.

Figure 118.1: Liverpool’s World Museum has been housed in this imposing neoclassical building since 1851.

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

Last night’s visit was well worth the wait, and I would have happily paid far more for tickets for my younger son and myself. There was a short film show, extolling the cultural and economic prowess of modern China, followed by the exhibition itself. Initially, we perused small artefacts, including crockery, hand weapons, gold buttons, shoe soles made from jade, and even musical instruments (Figure 118.2).

Figure 118.2: Music, played by bells and chimes, was believed to create a conducive atmosphere for communicating with the spirit world.

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

The main attractions, however, were, of course, the warriors (Figure 118.3) and their horses and chariots (Figure 118.4). There were army generals, heavy and light infantrymen, and – my son’s favourites – archers (Figures 118.5 & 118.6). Each remarkable human face was different, but with noticeably mongoloid features. Finally, there were sculptures of sculptors sculpting the sculptures (Figure 118.7).

Figure 118.3: I could not help but think that all the different warriors, with their elaborate robes, armour, ribbons and head-dresses, would make an amazing chess set.

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

Figure 118.4: Cast in bronze and embellished with gold, chariots were believed to have transported the emperor across his newly-unified Empire. When he died, they were buried alongside him, presumably so that he could continue his travels in the afterlife.

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

Figure 118.5: The ‘kneeling archer’ and ‘standing archer’ were particularly impressive. The former wears a long tunic and heavy armour with overlapping plaques. The latter is unarmoured, to allow him greater mobility on the battlefield.

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

Figure 118.6: The kneeling archer turns his head for a photograph!

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

Figure 118.7: Craftsmen construct a terracotta horse. Its legs are solid, but its head and body, needing to be lighter, are hollow. Ventilation holes in its underside prevented the model from cracking during the firing process and were filled with clay plugs afterwards.

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

For the second time this month, Liverpool has hosted rare examples of human art and design. From huge, charming mechanical marionettes striding through the city streets, to one of the world’s greatest ever archaeological discoveries, this great British city has done itself proud.

Post script: On a personal note, my interest in all things Chinese has exploded since my younger daughter began reading Languages, including Mandarin, at university. Her latest project, a short story submitted to this year’s Liverpool Literary Festival, was not only shortlisted by judges Philip Pullman and Frank Cottrell Boyce but won its category (Figure 118.8).

Figure 118.8: Well done, kid xx

Copyright © 2018 Liverpool Literary Festival

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Liverpool 2018: A World City (Part 1)

Royal de Luxe, founded in France in 1979, is the brainchild of Jean-Luc Courcoult, a 63-year-old film director. For the last 25 years, he has entertained young and old, all over the world, with his giant mechanical marionettes. When the company brought its magic to Liverpool in 2014, I was elsewhere and unable to make time for a trip. When a proposed second visit was announced (Figure 117.1), I wrote the date in indelible ink. Nothing would stop me this time.

This morning, my younger son and I arrived at the city’s Pier Head, just in time for the long-anticipated parade to begin. I have never seen Liverpool so packed with people – or, indeed, any other city (apart from London during the VE Day 50th Anniversary Celebrations in 1995, or downtown Kowloon, Hong Kong during rush hour).

Figures 117.2 to 117.7 are a selection of photos and videos taken with my phone.

I shall write Part 2 of Liverpool 2018: A World City after the 22nd of this month.

Figure 117.1: An estimated 1.3 million people will see the Giants on the streets of Liverpool this weekend.

Copyright © 2018 Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership

Figure 117.2: From our first viewpoint, on Strand Street, next to Canning Dock, the Giant looks almost as tall as the Hilton Hotel.

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

Figure 117.3: The Little Boy Giant arrives in Derby Square.

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

Figure 117.4: I cannot imagine anyone not being utterly captivated by the intricate pulley mechanisms which bring the figure to life. Incidentally, the background music is live. My son loved this quirky song, which is called ‘Brazil’, performed by Geoff Muldaur. It is the theme tune for a truly weird film with the same name, written and directed by Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam.

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

Figure 117.5: Heading down James Street to the Pier Head

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

Figures 117.6 & 117.7: My son’s favourite – Xolo the dog

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery

Friday, March 16, 2018

Another False Flag?

In 2003, Prime Minister Tony Blair misled the British people so that he could commit the United Kingdom to an illegal war in Iraq, which cost the lives of 222 Brits and an obscene number of Iraqis (Figure 116.1). It is well documented that Blair’s government leaned on civil servants to produce a dossier stating that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that the UK was potentially under threat. It was a despicable deception, and many believe Blair ought to be investigated for war crimes. As a result, public scepticism about government pronouncements has been ratcheted upward.

Figure 116.1: Mass protest in the UK

Copyright © 2014 Global Research

Something disturbingly similar is happening today. Eight days after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were supposedly found poisoned in a Salisbury park, Prime Minister Theresa May pointed her finger straight at President Vladimir Putin and his Russian government (Figure 116.2). In a single stroke, May claimed that the toxin had been identified as a ‘novichok’, ‘of a type developed by Russia’. Samples from the victims had been analysed at the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, which just happens to be a mere seven miles from Salisbury.

Figure 116.2: Theresa May accuses Russia.

Copyright © 2018 Sky UK

Now, consider the careful wording: ‘of a type developed by Russia’. It does not state explicitly that the toxin was prepared or manufactured in Russia, nor even that it had ever been successfully synthesized at all. Nonetheless, May accused Russia of being responsible for its use and demanded an immediate explanation. Putin refused and was within his rights to do so. May ought to be reminded that innocence is presumed, and that the burden of proof lies entirely with the accuser.

Proof has yet to be established. May has agreed for samples to be given to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a UN agency based in the Netherlands, to whose strict protocols both the UK and Russia have agreed. Until the OPCW’s independent analyses are complete, the facts remain unknown.

‘Novichok’ molecules are quite simple structures (Figure 116.3). As recently as 2016, however, both Porton Down and the OPCW went on record, stating that it was doubtful that ‘novichoks’ had ever been made – by anyone. This is important: if Porton Down has never seen one, let alone one with Russian ‘fingerprints’, how can it be sure that the one it has now was manufactured in Russia? Of course, it cannot, because no comparison is available. Today, a former British Ambassador to (the former Soviet Republic of) Uzbekistan stated, from a Foreign Office source, that scientists at Porton Down have indeed been unable to identify the toxin as being of Russian origin. Further, they resent insidious governmental pressure to make them do so.

Figure 116.3: ‘Novichok’ is Russian for ‘newcomer’.

We seem to have been here before. The UK and the West in general have an overriding, and highly devious, anti-Russian narrative (e.g. Crimea, East Ukraine, Syria etc.). In addition, we must remember that the government has form when it comes to concocting scientific ‘evidence’ to foment conflict with other nations.

A few hours ago, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stated that it was ‘overwhelmingly likely’ that the toxin had been made and administered by Russia. I dare say the word ‘likely’ would be laughably inadequate for a Crown Court judge; yet Johnson expects it to suffice when, without watertight evidence, accusing a sovereign nation of an extremely serious breach of international law.

Until the OPCW’s investigations are complete, wild accusations are plain stupid.

Facts should come first; conclusions second. This affair stinks to high heaven.

Copyright © 2018 Paul Spradbery