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Music History #12: "Vagabond Ways"

“Vagabond Ways”
Written by Marianne Faithfull and David Courts (1999)
Performed by Marianne Faithfull

The Music


Wikimedia Commons

Marianne Faithfull has had many lives—60s-era folk singer, Swinging London swinger, girlfriend of Mick Jagger, and sadly, in the 1970s, drug addict and street person. But in the 80s, she made a comeback, reinventing herself as a jazzy cabaret singer. On the title track of her 1999 album Vagabond Ways, Faithfull was inspired by a news article about the enforced sterilization of undesirables in Sweden. The song was never a chart hit, but it remains a powerful part of Faithfull’s live set.

The History

Between 1935 and 1975, over 60,000 people living in Sweden were sterilized against their will. That may come as a shock, especially since Sweden has long been known as a bastion of liberal idealism and sexual freedom.

But in the early part of the 20th century, Sweden fell under the spell of “eugenics,” a scientific idea concerned with improving human population by controlled breeding. Or to give it a more chilling phrase: racial hygiene.

The word eugenics was coined by English anthropologist Francis Galton. A cousin of Charles Darwin, Galton had taken a cue from a chapter on variation in breeding in Darwin’s Origin of Species. He then devoted his professional life to studying genetics and their effect on behavior and abilities. He believed that breeding within one race between healthy individuals created stronger, more eminent offspring.

In Sweden, two laws were signed regarding eugenics. The first, in 1934, allowed sterilization of the mentally ill and mentally retarded without any legal procedure. In 1941, a second law was enacted, setting forth grounds for sterilization for eugenic, social, or medical reasons. While in theory these laws were meant to prevent the transmission of mental illness, they soon became perverted into a different idea—to prevent the propagation of racially mixed people.

By the early 1940s, that meant that gypsies, vagabonds, deviants and anyone who didn’t fit into the Swedish mainstream. Even single mothers were soon obligated to sacrifice their reproductive freedom if they wanted to remain in Sweden. The pressure was severe. It was a case of “Sign this or you’ll get no social benefits, no vacation, no apartment. Sign this or we’ll take your kids away.” Basically, legalized blackmail.

Sweden was not alone in this. Norway, Denmark, and even the United States had their own sterilization programs. And of course, in the twisted hands of Germany’s Nazi Party, the eugenics idea was carried to massively tragic ends.

The issue resurfaced in the news in early 2012, when Sweden was criticized for refusing to update a 1972 law that requires all “transgender people to become sterilized before their gender reassignment will be formally recognized by the state.” Activist groups are currently fighting to have it overturned.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
3500-Year-Old Mummy Discovered in Forgotten Egyptian Tomb

As the site of the ancient city of Thebes, the modern-day Egyptian city of Luxor is filled with archaeological treasures. But until recently, two forgotten tombs—both located in the necropolis of Dra' Abu el-Naga, an important non-royal cemetery—hadn’t been fully explored. Now, National Geographic reports that experts have finally excavated these burial sites and discovered a 3500-year-old mummy, along with ornate funerary goods and colorful murals.

While excavating one of the two tombs, known as Kampp 150, experts found linen-wrapped remains that Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities believes belong to either "a person named Djehuty Mes, whose name was engraved on one of the walls ... [or] the scribe Maati, as his name and the name of his wife Mehi were inscribed on 50 funerary cones found in the tomb's rectangular chamber."

In addition to the mummy, archaeologists discovered wooden statues, masks, earthen pots, a cache of some 450 statuettes, and around 100 funerary cones—conical mud objects, which were often positioned outside a tomb's center, and could have served as identifying markers or as offerings—inside Kampp 150.

The Associated Press reported that the second tomb, known as Kampp 161, is thought to be approximately 3400 years old—about 100 years newer than its neighboring chamber—as its design is characteristic of other such structures dating back to the reigns of Amenhotep II and Thutmose IV.

Inside Kampp 161, archaeologists discovered wooden funerary masks, a decorated coffin, furniture shards, and the mural of a festival or party depicting the tomb's unknown resident and his wife receiving ceremonial offerings.

German scholar Friederike Kampp-Seyfried surveyed and numbered both tombs in the 1990s, which is how they got their names, but she did not fully excavate nor enter either one.

Officials celebrated the rediscovery of the tombs on Saturday, December 9, when they publicly announced the archaeological finds. They hope that discoveries like these will entice foreign travelers to visit Egypt, as political unrest has harmed the country's tourism industry in recent years.

“It’s truly an exceptional day,” Khaled al-Anani, Egypt's antiquities minister, said in a statement. “The 18th dynasty private tombs were already known. But it’s the first time" anyone's ever entered them.

Check out some pictures of the newly revealed relics below.

Mustafa al-Waziri, director general of Luxor's Antiquities, points at an ancient Egyptian mural found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis.
Mustafa al-Waziri, director general of Luxor's Antiquities, points at an ancient Egyptian mural found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis on the west Nile bank of the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, about 400 miles south of the capital Cairo, on December 9, 2017.
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

An Egyptian archaeological technician restores artifacts found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis in Luxor, Egypt.
An Egyptian archaeological technician restores artifacts found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis on the west Nile bank of the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, about 400 miles south of the capital Cairo, on December 9, 2017.
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

An Egyptian laborer stands next to an ancient Egyptian mural found at the newly discovered 'Kampp 161' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis in Luxor, Egypt.
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

Ancient Egyptian wooden funerary masks and small statuettes found in and retrieved from the newly discovered 'Kampp 150' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis in Luxor, Egypt.
A picture taken on December 9, 2017 shows ancient Egyptian wooden funerary masks and small statuettes found in and retrieved from the newly discovered 'Kampp 150' tomb at Draa Abul Naga necropolis on the west Nile bank of the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, about 400 miles south of the capital Cairo.
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t National Geographic]

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Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)
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fun
Can You Figure Out This Newly Discovered Optical Illusion?
Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)
Kohske Takahashi, i-Perception (2017)

Ready to have your mind boggled? Take a look at the image above. What shape are the lines? Do they look like curves, or zigzags?

The image, spotted by Digg, is a new type of optical illusion published in the aptly named journal i-Perception. Discovered by Japanese psychologist Kohske Takahashi, it’s called the “curvature blindness illusion,” because—spoiler—the contrast of the lines against the gray background makes our eye see some of the lines as zigzags when, in fact, they’re all smooth curves.

The illusion relies on a few different factors, according to the three experiments Takahashi conducted. For it to work, the lines have to change contrast just at or after the peak of the curve, reversing the contrast against the background. You’ll notice that the zigzags only appear against the gray section of the background, and even against that gray background, not every line looks angled. The lines that look curvy change contrast midway between the peaks and the valleys of the line, whereas the lines that look like they contain sharp angles change contrast right at the peak and valley. The curve has to be relatively gentle, too.

Go ahead, stare at it for a while.

[h/t Digg]

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