Sunday, 17 July 2011

'Here we'll stay wonderfully': d'Annunzio and Fiume

The Treaty of Versailles was drafted to decide the fate of the defeated nations and contested territories left in the wake of the end of the First World War.
From its first publication it was contentious with even representatives from the victorious powers concerned over how effective it would be in settling the affairs that had caused the war.
Field Marshal Archibald Wavell, who had commanded the British forces in the Middle East during the First World War said:

"After the 'war to end all wars' they seem determined to create a peace that will end all peace..."

One of the most controversial results of the Treaty was the fate of Fiume, a seaport on the Adriatic coast, which was due to be awarded to Yugoslavia as a part of the post-war negotiations.
This caused a great deal of resentment among many Italians.
Fiume was seen as largely Venetian in terms of culture and history and boasted an Italian population that made up 88% of its entire citizenry.
Various Nationalist voices, such as Marinetti and Mussolini, spoke out against this decision but one vowed to act.
Gabriele d'Annunzio promised to take Fiume for Italy.
A poet, politician and adventurer, d'Annunzio had long been a controversial and well-known figure in Italy.
52 years old when the War started d'Annunzio insisted upon enlisting and became renowned for his daredevil antics and fearless actions.
He became such a thorn in the side of the Austrian army that a bounty was placed on his head. He responded by entering the harbour of Bakar in a motorboat and leaving behind rubber capsules containing mocking lyrical messages in indelible ink.
d'Annuzio later explained away this escapade as an attempt to raise Italian spirits.
He also undertook the famous 'Flight Over Vienna' where he lead 9 planes on a 700 mile round trip to drop propaganda leaflets of his own creation onto the Austrian capital.
It was during this flight that he adopted the war cry of 'Eja! Eja! Eja! Alala!' which was said to be the cry that Achilles used to spur on his horses.
This cry was also heard often on d'Annuzio's march on Fiume.
Starting out on September 12th 1919 with a band of 287 veterans and the slogan 'Fiume or Death!', by the time he arrived at Fiume it was at the head of an army 1,000 strong.
Determined to avoid unnecessary conflict d'Annunzio demanded to see General Pittaluga, the Commander of the Italian forces in Fiume, and explained his intention to claim the city for Italy and refuse to surrender it to Yugoslavia.
The Commander explained that he had direct orders to fire upon d'Annunzio's army if they attempted to enter the city to which d'Annunzio responded by pointing at his chest, covered with medals he had won during his service in the War, and declared:

"Fire first on this!"

General Pittaluga's eyes filled with tears and he replied:

"Great poet! I do not wish to be the cause of spilling Italian blood. I am honoured to meet you for the first time. May your dream be fulfilled!".

The two men embraced and entered Fiume together.
d'Annuzio immediately sent word to Rome to inform the Prime Minister of his success and his desire to offer the city of Fiume back to Italy.
However there was one, small problem with d'Annunzio's offer.
Italy didn't want Fiume.
They had negotiated other gains from the Versailles Treaty and happily relinquished all claims to the city. All that d'Annuzio's actions could do was jeopardise Italy's other holdings.
The Prime Minister refused to accept d'Annunzio's offer and declared the warrior poet 'a fool'.
Furious, d'Annuzio refused now to surrender Fiume to Yugoslavia OR Italy.
Christening the city the 'Italian Regency of Camaro' he began to develop the idea of forming his own autonomous state where he would lead as 'il Duce'.
He drafted a Constitution that declared that music was the central principle of the State and attempted to form a 'League of Oppressed Nations' as a counterpoint to the newly-formed League of Nations.
The parliament, or Council of the Best, was encouraged to avoid needless chatter, with sessions held with 'notably concise brevity'.
Italy responded to this by blockading the city and attempting to starve out the insurgents but for 15 months d'Annunzio managed to maintain his grip on power.
He formed a force called the 'Uscochi', named after a band of local pirates that had traditionally preyed on Venetian and Ottoman vessels coming into Fiume.
d'Annunzio's Uscochi captured ships and stole coal, arms, meat, coffee, ammunition and even army horses in daring raids all over Italy.
With these successes Fiume began to appear a viable outpost for some of Europe's outsider elements.
Artists, bohemians, adventurers, anarchists, fugitives and occultists began to show up at Fiume in droves every day.
Every day began with d'Annunzio reading manifestos or poetry from his balcony and would end with a concert and firework display.
Eventually the Italian government lost patience and tightened the blockade.
d'Annuzio responded the only way he knew how.
On November the 12th 1920 he declared war on Italy.
The Italian army mobilised and began operations on the 24th of December 1920.
d'Annunzio called it 'The Christmas of Blood' as 20,000 Italian troops began to move against his own 2,000 over the next five days.
Eventually an Italian warship began to bombard the city and d'Annuzio surrendered.
He said:

'I cannot impose on this heroic city its ruin and certain destruction.'

He was allowed to retire to his home on Lake Garda and later proved to be a huge influence on Benito Mussolini who adopted d'Annunzio's title of 'il Duce', his use of the Roman salute and his habit of speaking to his public from a balcony.
He didn't bother with the fireworks. Although they were to come...

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Fundamental Fysiks Group

Founded by Ernest Orlando Lawrence in 1931, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory came to prominence due to its involvement in the Manhattan Project, the quest for the United States to develop nuclear weaponry during the Second World War.
Originally Lawrence saw the Lab as a home for his Cyclotron, a Nobel Prize winning particle accelerator, and a base for physics research but the success of the Manhattan Project, and the key role of the Berkeley Lab in that success, saw Lawrence attempt to continue weapons research and maintain his links with the military-industrial complex after the war.
However, the newly-formed Atomic Energy Commission decided that the purpose of the Berkeley Lab would be mostly confined to non-classified research with specialised military research removed to a new facility in Los Alamos.
The Berkeley Lab remained an important centre for physics research.
11 researchers associated with the Lab have received Nobel Prizes and many significant inventions and discoveries have emerged from Berkeley.
One particularly interesting period began with the founding of the 'Fundamental Physics Group' by Elizabeth Rauscher in the 1970's.
Alongside other researchers such as Jack Sarfatti, Henry Stapp, Fred Alan Wolf, Nick Herbert,and John Clauser, the group were inspired by the developments in quantum mechanics at the start of the Twentieth Century.
Classical physics had been based around the mechanistic ideas of Newton that were largely based around the idea of solid, physical materials making up the world and measurable forces acting upon them.
Gravity, friction, acceleration and inertia all went to explain how physical objects moved and were acted upon.
Newtonian physics proposed a very tidy explanation of the composition and actions of the physical world, a world that could be measured and predicted through observation and calculation.
The development of Quantum Mechanics at the start of the Twentieth Century shook the certainty of Newtonian physics to its core.
Scientists such as Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck, Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger made observations that called into question the very foundations of classical physics.
Rather than being solid, certain objects it appeared that particles were indeterminate and would even behave differently depending on whether they are being observed or not.
Light, traditionally seen as having a wave form, was discovered to fluctuate between a wave and particle form.
One of the key pieces of research was developed by John Bell in 1964 where he proposed that particles were not held in a fixed spot, but rather existed in several places simultaneously and would only stay in one place when observed. Rather than being separate objects he theorised that particles were 'entangled' and operating in constant relation to one another.
Rauscher's group at Berkeley began to investigate this theorem and began to attract interest from various groups with their own agenda in developing these ideas.
One of the implications for Quantum theory was the idea that it could explain paraphysical and parapsychological phenomena.
Organisations researching into psychic ability poured money into the Berkeley Lab to allow the Fundamental Physics Group to see if abilities such as ESP and telekinesis could become scientifically explicable.
In 1974 Jack Sarfatti of the Group began examining the claims of Uri Geller and conducted a series of experiments to see if the developing ideas on the nature of physical reality could explain Geller's claims to be able to manipulate the form of physical objects.
Initially Sarfatti released a statement to the press that he believed Geller had psycho-energetic abilities but later retracted the statement and declared that Geller's abilities could be reproduced by most capable conjurers.
Nick Herbert, another member of the Group also began research with the Xerox Corporation into a device called the 'Metaphase Typewriter'.
Based on quantum mechanics it was a machine that it was hoped would be able to communicate with disembodied spirits.
Herbert attempted to contact Harry Houdini on what would have been his 100th birthday but was unsuccessful and stopped work on the project soon after.
The C.I.A. also helped to fund the work of the Group, with a particular emphasis on the feasibility of Remote Viewing.
At the height of the Cold War it appeared that psychic ability could be a major element in the Arm Race and the possibility of agents that could project their minds to 'see' anywhere in the world from the security of a military facility intrigued the military.
Eventually many within the Group began to call themselves the 'Fundamental Fysiks Group' as they felt that what they were researching was so far away from conventional physics that it was misleading to use the word itself.
However, while undertaking these, often bizarre, contracts the Group also did a remarkable amount of work on more orthodox scientific research.
Members of the group were among the most successful researchers into Bell's theorem and quantum entanglement and every demonstration that quantum entanglement was compatible with Einstein's Theory of Relativity was either undertaken by a member of the Group or based on the research of the Group.
The Fundamental Physics Group of the Berkeley Lab never managed to weaponise or develop scientific proofs of paranormal ability.
Instead they took the money from government agencies, private organisations and corporations and developed ideas on quantum mechanics that were incredibly significant.
And that's just got to be more important than inventing a telephone for ghosts...

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Francois Sudre: Father of Solresol

The search for a universal language began in earnest in the 18th Century.
With Latin in decline and the rise of truly global empires it became the goal of many linguists to develop a new language that could be embraced by every nation in the world, allowing for communication and cooperation on an unprecedented scale.
Initially many looked for an 'Adamic' or 'Edenic' language based on the idea that humanity had shared a universal language until the attempt to build the Tower of Babel and that it would be possible to rediscover the innate language shared by the first people who lived in the Garden of Eden.
Children were raised in silence in the hope that they would begin to speak with a language that emerged from within rather than being taught a language they were immersed in from birth. These experiments, unsurprisingly, failed.
Others worked on the idea of a 'Universal Language', creating a single linguistic system that could be embraced by people of any nation.
The most famous of these is Esperanto but others such as Ido, Interlingua and Volapuk (created by Johann Schleyer after God appeared to him in a dream and commanded him to create a universal language) also attempted to bridge the linguistic divide between nations.
For Francois Sudre all of these languages were found wanting.
They were either too similar to existing languages to be accepted without resentment or too limited in their ability to truly communicate for him to acknowledge that they were truly universal.
He had determined what was truly a universal language and was used globally in a constant enough fashion to become a new language that everyone could embrace.
By 1827 Sudre had developed a language based around the patterns of music.
He had created Solresol.
Solresol has seven syllables based on the Western musical scale: do re mi fa so la si.
Words are constructed from these sounds which are grouped together according to common use and related words share initial syllables; for example, 'doremi' means 'day', 'dorefa' is 'week', 'doreso' 'month', and 'doredo' the concept of 'time' itself.
Opposites are indicated simply by reversing a word, so 'fala' is 'good', and 'lafa' is 'bad'.
Sudre felt that a language based on a system with no ties to a particular nation or political system would be easier for all nations to accept without having to concern themselves over cultural differences or dominance.
There was also no need to concern yourself with issues of pronunciation.
His other sticking point with other created languages stemmed from the fact that he saw them as fatally limited in how they would communicate. Linguists would develop speech and script and believed that to be sufficient.
Sudre disagreed. He assigned the musical notes he used as the base of his language with corresponding colours, symbols and hand gestures.
Solresol could be communicated through speech, script, music and colour.
This meant it was more useful to the deaf and blind than other constructed languages which Sudre felt would give it an edge in being accepted as a truly international language.
Initially all seemed positive. Sudre won prizes for Solresol at exhibitions in Paris and London and the French army showed a great deal of interest in a language that could be carried across the battlefield simply with different coloured flags.
Sudre himself died in 1862 but in 1866 his book on the subject 'Langue Musicale Universelle' was published to some acclaim.
The author Victor Hugo was an advocate but Sudre's dream would be dealt a fatal blow by the French Government in 1880 when they banned the teaching of sign language of any kind to deaf and mute children.
They believed that the teaching of sign language was a barrier to teaching these children to learn to talk and, incredibly, the ban remained in place until 1991.
For Sudre it was too late. With its application for the linguistically disenfranchised removed Solresol fell behind Esperanto as the universal language of choice.
The emergence of the internet has seen a small revival in the use of Solresol but a simple Google search will reveal any article written on Sudre's creation is, like the one that you are reading now, in English...