Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Not dead yet.

November 14, 2013

My, how long it’s been since I posted here.

While I could utilize any number of excuses to justify not updating this blog, I’ll spare it. I have been surprised that, despite no trending or marketing whatsoever this blog has received a steady stream of traffic.

Watch this space, more content is coming.

R.

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All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945 by Max Hastings (Review)

August 18, 2012

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It is difficult to condense the history of the Second World War into anything, let alone a single text. In a time so very close to our own, the world underwent changes and experienced a conflict that has never been seen, and indeed, will ever be seen again. Every single country felt its effects, some more than others. The Russians, for example, estimate some 27 million civilians and armed forces members perished during its bitter struggle with the iron-spirited Nazis, accounting for nearly half of the estimated losses throughout the entire conflict. By the time the Germans surrendered on May 7th 1945, up to 13 million people; six million of them Jews, had perished either in the gas chambers or died at the hands of the Germans, primarily the SS. Even small nations thousands of miles away who had never heard of obscure Polish towns like Treblinka or Auschwitz, such as New Zealand lost over 11,000 of its population of just 1.6 million. Indeed, the seven long years of war are splattered in blood across the pages of history.

 

It is difficult to comprehensively cover the major events that occurred during the Second World War. historians who would choose to undertake this task, in any medium of media, would face monumental challenges.

 

 Of all the historians who have undertaken this task, Sir Max Hastings delivers an excellent offering to a world with a vast abundance of reading material. The title itself is brilliant. It perfectly describes the turbulent events that effected the vast majority of the world. It gives the reader an overwhelming sense of perspective; to have an unyielding respect to the people who survived it; civilians and soldiers, Allies or Axis. Hastings breaks the book down into a series of 26 chapters, each one representing a major event in the Second World War. Each chapter provides a wealth of information whilst being written in a very addictive way. All Hell Let Loose at times reads like a gripping novel. Indeed, at times the reader may have to be cautious to not forget that this is not a fictional piece of literature. This book would be an excellent way for younger generations to learn the history of the Second World War.

 

The book is very well researched, a bibliography in the back lists close to three-hundred books pertaining to the events of the Second World War, and even then Hastings mentions many other texts and sources were omitted to save space. This book is written with authority; to use perhaps an inappropriate expression, Hastings knows what he’s talking about. By the end of the last chapter (titled Victors and Vanquished) one may feel disappointed that such a vast book, a truly emotional read, has come to an end. The bibliography provides a lot of excellent references which, like this book, are excellent reads.

 

Whilst being British himself, Hastings writes this book from a neutral perspective. Highly decorated war heroes such as Churchill, MacArthur, Montgomery, have their share of embarrassments (and sometimes appalling ones) in this book, whilst lesser-known (and indeed virtually unknown) leaders and officers receive the recognition which is deserved. Highly popular and celebrated events such as the events leading up to the Dunkirk evacuation or even the eventual invasion of Normandy are shown in different lights, free from the bias that one may associate with such a book being written by a British historian.

 

The book includes testimonials and eyewitness statements from an immense amount of people; soldiers of every rank, civilians of all professions and walks of lives. It reinforces the respect for survivors one will feel inside them upon finishing this book. Readers new to the Second World War may even find it overwhelming.

 

In short, All Hell Let Loose is a masterpiece. Hastings truly takes the reader on a very long, arduous journey into one of the largest, darkest events in the history of humanity. The first sentence in the Introduction of All Hell Let Loose perfectly encapsulates what it is, for those it affected and for the reader as well:

 

“This book is about human experience.”

 

I thoroughly recommend this book. As quoted in a review of All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945 in the UK’s Daily Telegraph it is, if asked to describe it one word: Majestic.

 

The Journey

July 26, 2012

The Journey.
By Richard Wise

The road stretches on for miles. Beyond the horizon the sun slowly begins to set, the last warmth of its rays leaving this barren place much colder and greyer as the darkness slowly swept across the wastelands. Then the demons would come out to play.

But I could not stop, for rest nor death.

I’d travelled alone for many years now. The silence of the hills has been my only companion for as long as I can remember. Keeping track of what day or month it was made no sense any more.

Seasons passed, and life would neither stir nor bloom nor here or there. Trees had started to wither away and die. Flowers bloomed under no man’s feet. Most of the animals in this vast kingdom were gone. Nothing could survive in this poisoned plane of existence anymore; in a world which grew darker as it slowly began to die.

I knew not where I was going, for I no longer found myself with a purpose. It didn’t make sense to dream of material things or of a brighter future anymore, for I knew that any miraculous deliverance from God or any other spiritual deity would never happen; for if there were a God, he had clearly and truly abandoned this place.

My heart yearns for warmth, yet every inch of me is now cold and lifeless. My mind yearns for deliverance, yet I still stand upon this desecrated world; forever standing to walk alone in the abyss. I’d never found the use nor time for prayer in my past life, but in this life for each day that the sun sinks below the horizon I pray that it will be the last sunset my weary soul can endure.

Come now, be not afraid.’

My mind had spoken, but who was it that had spoken?

Come now, be not afraid; you were never meant to fear me. I was with you from the very beginning, so why must it be different now, in these days of darkness? Indeed there are many journeys you took in life, but on this last one, only you may go. Be not afraid, for your heart has lit the way. No more will you walk in darkness, for your heart will light the way beneath your feet. Fear me no longer, for I have loved you forever. From this day forth until the world’s end; my heart will not forget you.’

The path was lit. I knew now what was needed of me. I knew now that my long and tiring journey was at last at its end, but at least now my weary soul grieves no more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Eyewitness: Auschwitz

July 26, 2012

Of all the books and material that covers the Holocaust very few are as graphic or as thought provoking as Eyewitness: Auschwitz. Not only has it been a valuable historical account of one of the most gruesome events at any point of humanity, it also serves as a grim, heartbreaking autobiography of an everyday person who found himself in one of the darkest places in the world.

The author of the book, Filip Muller, was a Slovakian Jewish man who was amongst one of the first transports to Auschwitz. He arrived in April 1942 and by chance was assigned to the Sonderkommando, the name given to the work details who worked in the gas chambers and crematoria in the Nazi concentration camps. Like his inception into the Sonderkommando, Muller’s survival until the liberation of Auschwitz in November 1944 was by a combination of chance and desperation.

Of all the prisoners who worked in the Sonderkommando, indeed, of the 1.1 million people believed to have perished in the crematoria of Auschwitz(1), Muller was one of the very few who survived, and the only one to survive long enough to write an account of it. The book describes his recollection of handling the corpses of his countrymen, people he recognized, and then his own family. The hardest part to comprehend in this entire book is that it isn’t a work of fiction, nor is it an exaggerated version of a real-life event; it all actually happened.

The book is written in a first person perspective, which is essential to the book having as much an emotional effect on the reader as possible. It helps the reader visualize the sights and the sounds with greater clarity – It helps the reader get a greater understanding of what actually happened during the Holocaust. The level of depravity and cruelness found within the pages of Eyewitness: Auschwitz compels the reader to constantly question their own morals and understanding of the world.

This book does not portray its author to be a hero; Muller speaks openly of the atrocities he was forced to commit in order to spare his life. Muller’s hopes of survival faded quickly and he often found himself wondering not only if he would survive, but if the horrors around him would ever cease. Muller acknowledges correctly so that, like other Sonderkommando members who wrote what they saw, he felt it prudent to write what became Eyewitness because he felt without his testimony, the world would never have known of the carnage, or at least the extent of it, within Auschwitz. At several points in the book Muller questions how humankind could ever degrade itself so much. He questions how easy it was for impressionable German citizens to become ruthless killers during the services in the war, and how easy it was for a man to be manipulated into doing so without hesitation.

This is, perhaps, the single greatest tragedy that occurs in Eyewitness: Auschwitz, and indeed, it’s possibly the single greatest tragedy to befall mankind during any conflict.

Muller describes the liberation of the camp, the day the U.S Army entered the camp and officially freed the prisoners. He doesn’t describe an overwhelming feeling of wholeness again, or as if his old life is once more. Instead he provides a simple description;

‘…I simply stretched out on a woodland ground and fell fast asleep. I awoke to the monotonous noise of vehicles rumbling past. Walking across to the nearby road I saw a long column of American tanks…As I stared after the convoy of steel giants I realized that the hideous Nazi terror had ended at last.’ (2)

Eyewitness: Auschwitz represents one of the darkest chapters in humanity. The fact that despite the murderous mayhem and all the depravity the author survived to tell the tale is a miracle. From reading this book the reader feels helpless to the plight of millions of people, but empowered to ensure that the horrors Muller experienced will never be horrors that they themselves may live. The world changed after the Second World War, but it was in an obscure region in a previously unnoticed part of Europe during 1942-1945 that the darkest memories were made, and, with help to the testimony of the humble Filip Muller, will hopefully never become reality again.

This review is dedicated to the 1.1 million who perished in Auschwitz, and also to the estimated 55 million people killed in total during the war. We can only pray that when the last person who survived Auschwitz departs this life, the world will not forget that our freedom came at the cost of so very many.

R.Wise.

References;

The first book in this list of references is a book by BBC-endorsed historian Laurence Rees. This is an excellent book which provides a detailed history on the Final Solution as well as a very complete study on the history of Auschwitz. The book is full of eyewitness testimonies from all parties involved; members of the Sonderkommando, survivors of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachau, as well as interviews with a lot of ex Nazi Party or ex-SS members who partook in the killings. Like Eyewitness: Auschwitz, This is a very thought provoking book and is highly recommended for anyone wishing to study Auschwitz or the Final Solution, moreso the former.

 

  1. Auschwitz: The Nazis & the Final Solution, L. Rees, Ebury Publishing 2005
  1. Eyewitness Auschwitz, F. Muller 1979 (Original Publisher unknown) pg 171

All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945, M. Hastings, HarperPress, 2012.

Dachau Liberated : The Official Report by the U.S. Seventh Army (Edited by Michael W. Perry)
Originally published May 1945, republished 2000.

Today.

May 5, 2012

A lot of people died today.
The eagle dropped bombs, and flew away.
The films kept rolling as bodies decayed.
But you won’t see this on Sky News today.

Philosophy of a Knife Review

September 26, 2011

"God Created Heaven. Man Created Hell."

If you’re interested in watching a movie that makes you feel uncomfortable, gives you vivid dreams, and makes you feel sick to the stomach at humanity in general, then this movie is right up your alley.

Released in 2008 by a Russian filmmaker Andrey Iskanov, this half documentary, half movie, focuses on Unit 731, the biological warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army, and all the atrocities committed there.

The film is shot in black and white, with the interviews in colour. At four and a half hours, it’s a long movie. Especially because for three and a half of those hours, you’re subjected to some of the most violent pieces of filmmaking you may ever see. Owing to Unit 731’s clandestine nature there is little historical evidence or archival footage available, so a lot of the experiments were reenacted in painstaking detail.

Like a lot of gore movies (Saw, Hostel, etc.) POAK features a lot of scenes that make you uncomfortable, sickened, scared even. But unlike any other gore movie, what you see in POAK actually happened. No exaggeration. No Hollywood storytelling or magic. The movie receives the black and white colours, the old-school filter effect, and it becomes impossible to discern what’s archive footage and what was made in a studio.

Philosophy of a Knife is known for its exceedingly high levels of gore, if you’ve got a weak stomach this one definitely isn’t  for you. I watched this film for its historical purposes. Unit 731 was just as notorious as the Nazi medical experiments, and all the pain and despair associated with the place goes unacknowledged. To this day, the Japanese Government still deny the operations that occured at Unit 731.

I’ve given you a description and my thoughts, now it’s up to you to fight the curiosity and watch this monstrous film for yourself.

Read more about Unit 731 on Wikipedia.

Read more about Philosophy of a Knife.

Behind Closed Doors

September 23, 2011

I recently found this  Editorial in a folder (aptly named: ‘wefjwefisw’ – organization isn’t my strong point) which was submitted in an English assignment at college. The editorial itself touches on the issue of homeless youth in Tasmania (my home state) and the Government’s attempts (or lack of) to help solve the problem. The Editorial mentions how in 2007 the state Government (lead by Paul Lennon) appropriated vast amounts of money to the AFL in an attempt to secure matches played in the state. In 2011, the Government sponsored another deal with the AFL, operating through TT-Line, a Government owned business.

Given the eerie sense of deja vu, I decided to republish it.

Here it is, original format:

Behind Closed Doors

The truth about the homeless youth in Tasmania.

     The issue of homeless youth in Tasmania is one which, sadly, goes by widely unknown to the public. Despite the best efforts of local St. Vincent de Paul committees such as Louie’s Van and Bethlehem House (programs designed to feed and assist the homeless, the latter providing shelter), streets and parks of Hobart are still called home some 950 youth (Source: Mission Australia), some as young as ten years old, who have been left to fend for themselves. The youngest recorded homeless youth in 2007 was just eight.

This is a poor reflection on the Government’s ability to assist the Tasmanian youth. Where do the tax dollars the Government so willingly collects go? Into the hands of those who need it most? Hardly. In 2007, under the command of ex-Premier Paul Lennon, the Tasmanian Government injected $15,000,000 into the Hawthorn Hawks AFL team over a four year contract, based on the condition that the Hawks would play a minimum of two games in the state, along with adopt a new title: “The Tassie Hawks”.

Where did this funding come from? The pockets of the Tasmanian tax payers. This $15,000,000 could have just as easily provided additional shelter and rehabilitation facilities for homeless youth, reducing the amount of youth living on the streets both short-term and long term.

This isn’t the only example of the State Government’s mishandling of funds. When Rosanne Haggerty visited Tasmania to advise our State Government on how to “halve the number of homeless people sleeping rough”, the tax-payers spent $27,000 – roughly $9,000 a day. This $27,000 was spent on luxury accommodation, high-class meals, and transport for Haggerty, including a scenic helicopter flight across the East Coast. The irony in this scenario is that Haggerty visited Tasmania to help tackle poverty, yet of the $27,000 spent, not a single cent went to feeding or clothing the homeless youths.

If the Government is spending money so impulsively, what are they doing about homeless youth on a local scale? To their credit, The Tasmanian Government has allocated $60,000,000 of the state budget towards tackling homelessness across the 2008-2009 period (Source: 2008/2009 State Budget). On a national scale, the Rudd Government has allocated $2.2 Billion dollars. (Source: 2008 National Budget)

Whilst it’s easy to simply throw money at an issue, how is the money being handled? Of the homeless shelters listed under ShelterTas, all of them are non-Government Organizations, and only four of them are designated towards housing homeless youth.

Sadly, homeless youth is not restricted to Tasmania alone. A journal article, The School Prefect, written by renowned writer and journalist, Chris Masters, told the story of a homeless girl, no older than 16, being forced into prostitution to fund her drug addiction. The despair and suffering which associates with the homeless youth such as the example discussed by Masters is one which still sadly exists today. But why does it exist? Why in Australia, one of the richest countries of the world, is homeless youth such a large issue? Because its people are not being proactive about it!

 Spending huge amounts on shelters and rehabilitation services, whilst helping to solve the problem, is not enough! Raising awareness about the issue of homeless youth is, whilst difficult, the most effective of all. People are more inclined to make a difference when presented with the cold, sometimes harsh facts of reality.

     Unfortunately, the truth about homeless youth in Tasmania is one which is left behind closed-doors, particularly in the media. It is interesting to note that, for the past seven consecutive days (as of September 1st 2008), the local newspaper, The Mercury, has elected to write articles about the goings-on of Tasmanian citizen-turned-Princess Mary Donaldson, as opposed to any form of hinting at how serious the issue of homeless youth in Tasmania is becoming.

The media is a powerful tool in terms of raising awareness regarding any issue or topic of interest. I propose that the Tasmanian media become more proactive in assisting tackling the issue of homeless youth through the use of advertising campaigns, news articles, etc. Surely, if an article regarding Mary Donaldson is pushed aside in favour of publishing a report regarding homeless youth, the public’s awareness to the issue will increase, allowing Tasmanian citizens to become more active in helping to solve the problem. This problem is one which cannot be solved solely by the Government! Based upon the facts presented earlier, it is apparent that the Government is incompetent in handling major issues in our society. It is time we stopped putting the issues of Tasmanian society in the hands of our Government and the establishment!  It is time the people took the matters into their own hands. As citizens, you have the power to donate both money and basic necessities such as food and clothing, and to spread awareness.

     The issue of homeless youth in Tasmania is not one which can be solved overnight, but if the public are made aware of the true facts surrounding it, in combination with the further establishment of more rehabilitation services, there can be a brighter future for the homeless youth living in Tasmania.

Rich.

From Russia with Love..

September 20, 2011

russian junkie.“Heroin is the world’s evil…It is comparable to a chemical weapon, capable of destroying our society quietly without much noise.”

– Former Russian Heroin Addict.

Every year in Russia, sensationalist journalism statistics suggest that anywhere between 30,000-40,000 people die of Heroin-related complications (overdose being the dominating cause), out of an estimated total of 2.15 million Russians living with heroin addiction. In a report published in 2008, the Russian Ministry of Health (MOH) reported that of the population of 143,000,000~ (143 million) around 6,000,000 (6 million), or about 4.5% use drugs on a regular, habitual basis. The Ministry reported that 10,000 deaths could directly be attributed to overdoses, and another 70,000~ deaths are deemed drug-related.

Drug misuse and abuse is etched into the fabric of society of just about any country you choose to visit.  Drug addicts are everywhere. There’s one at your workplace, stuck at the same red light as you, on your street, in your apartment block. Unless we’re directly confronted with graphic before-after images or physical encounters with addicts,  it can be impossible to discern who’s addicted to what in today’s world.

Due to its close proximity with Afghanistan (the world’s largest producer of opiate poppies, used to manufacture heroin), Russian drug users find themselves with an abundance of Afghan-drugs spilling across the border at a bargain price. Usually, it’s not the best idea to tell anybody about an abundance of drugs at bargain prices; especially if its heroin, and especially if the person is a heroin addict.

Unfortunately for Russia, its injecting-drug users are taking full advantage of the situation and are killing themselves faster than ever. Your average hit will cost you anywhere from $10-40 and given Afghan heroin is regarded as the finest in the world for a junkie it’s a win win situation. If you trawl through google images you will be legitimately shocked at how many images you’ll find of truly sickly looking people, including children, injecting away.

But what happens when a heroin addict can’t afford their addiction any longer? Some might stop, go completely cold turkey and salvage whatever it is they have left. But for others, for the very great majority, they turn to the next drug – something harder, easier to obtain, and above all; cheap.

Enter desomorphine, known by it’s Russian street-name “Krokodil”.

Desomorphine was first invented in 1932 in the United States. An opiate based, more potent derivative of morphine, it is estimated that Desomorphine is anywher between 4-10x stronger than morphine. Originally used in medical trials as a non-habit forming alternative to morphine, Desomorphine was phased out in lieu of other drugs due to its short duration.

Desomorphine can be made from a mixture of codeine, iodine, and red phosphorus, three chemicals that are easily available anywhere in the world. Codeine is the active ingredient, and is readily available over the counter in Russia, no prescription necessary (by comparison, in Australia anything containing 15mg of codeine – found in stronger paracetamol tablets – requires a prescription). And the best bit? It’s as cheap as chips, cooking up Krokodil costs as little as $2.50~ in Russia.

The other ingredients are not unlike ingredients you hear of people using to make Ecstacy, Meth, or any of the other lab-based drugs. Petroleum, red phosphorus (the red dust off matches), paint thinners – basically, shit that you don’t inject into your system – these are all ingredients required for the production of Desomorphine.

Desomorphine earnt its street name of Krokodil oweing to the scale-like skin users attain due to mass infection and gangrene as a direct result of injecting the drug.  Due to the high concentration of heavy metals, iodine, and other industrial-grade chemicals required to cook it, and the lack of common sense of your average junkie,  users are literally injecting poison directly into their veins.

Krokodil has earnt the reputation as “the drug that eats its victims” – and for good reason. Krokodil usage causes the skin and flesh to rot away in a shockingly rapid process.  Severe gangrene to the point of amputation is common.

Warning: The images below aren’t appropriate for anybody made uncomfortable by medical images.

Krokodil montage

rotting flesh common in late-stage Krokodil addicts.

The lady in the top two images not only had the bone poking through her arm, but a similar spot on her upper thigh, and one leading right down to her funbox. These images were omitted due to their particularly graphic nature.

Because it has such a fast onset, and because of its cost-effectiveness, Krokodil is extremely addictive. Infection starts from the first hit. Users report that missing a vein results in a virtually instantaneous abscess appears. Krokodil damages the tissue and internal organs so much that the average lifespan of a typical Krokodil user is  less than 12 months.

Krokodil abuse is a vicious cycle. Because Desomorphine only has a relatively short duration compared to morphine (about 2-3 hours when Desomorphine is made Krokodil-style.), and takes time (like everything else) to cook up, Russian addicts find themselves locked into a cycle of waking up, cooking, getting high, repeat until you die.  When you trawl through Google images of Krokodil addicts in the late-stage of addiction, you get a sense as if these people have become zombified. The pale skin, blank expressionless stare, and the rotting flesh associated with late-stage Krokodil addiction hardly does this thought justice.

The question you’re probably shouting by now is Why? Why would people inject this into  their system knowing exactly what the consequences are?

The rehabilitation system in Russia is highly flawed. Methadone treatment, an opiate-based drug used to ween people off heroin, is illegal. The Russian Government does not provide funding to substitution treatment for opiate addicts. Rehabilitation centers are scarce, and the ones that do are structured more like detention centers then rehabilitation centers. Some reports suggest that up to 90% of Russians who enter rehab relapse within a year.

Rehabilitation centers in the US provide a lot of social and spiritual support for those who visit. In Russia, corporal punishment is commonplace. New arrivals are beaten on the first night, and must spend 27 days handcuffed to bunkbeds with only bread and water. Rooms are built to hold 50. This means that for 27 days, fifty heroin addicts are writhing around fighting the insanity associated with heroin withdrawal. Only those with HIV or Hepatitis C are fed proper meals.
HIV/Hepatitis is endemic amongst injecting drug users in Russia, with up to 70% of all HIV infections in 2010 being directly attributed to injecting drugs. The Ministry of Health estimates 300,000 people are living with HIV, whereas the Russian Academy of Medicine estimates as many as 1,000,000 people. Of the 2.15 million estimated heroin addicts, there are only 70 confirmed needle exchange programs, which is certainly not enough. Out of fear of prosecution if they visit a NEP  injecting drug users will simply share or recycle needles, and any infections they have, with other users.

The legal system frowns upon narcotics of all kind, and as a result, rather then laws differing according to quality/quantity, only a single universal law exists for each narcotic. People suspected of drug use, possession, or dealing are usually surveyed. Combining this with the negative social connotations that come with injecting drugs, typical Krokodil addicts will do little to beat their addiction. They literally rot away to nothing, with no support from the Government or society that’s meant to help guide them in the right direction.

So why do people inject Krokodil if they know they will die because of it? Certainly, there is the ever lucrative “ultimate-high” they’re searching for, and the fact that it can be made with little money or knowhow.

But maybe it’s also because that when somebody in Russia becomes addicted to Krokodil, or any injection-based drug, society instantly turns its back on them. With no reliable rehabilitation services available and fear of persecution if their habit is made known, Russian men, women and children will continue to die, with little but their addiction to comfort them.