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OpenLearn Live: 24th November 2016

Updated Thursday, 24th November 2016

A trio of Autumn legends. Then more learning & research across the day.

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OpenLearn Live shakes the tree of online learning and research, and harvests the best fruit. It's a metaphor. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday, we caught up with Philip Hammond, heard about coders being honoured, and made a rainbow connection

On this day last year, we spent some time on the Copper Coast, looked forward to the 2015 Autumn Statement, and experienced Shock And Awe

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

Toulouse-Lautrec's birthday

More from OpenLearn on Visual Art

Business turns to bed

Where has the business of mail-order mattresses come from? And how are so many companies apparently making cash from the idea? The New Statesman's Scott Limbrick has been losing sleep over the question:

Constantin Eis, co-founder and global managing director at Casper, points to technology as a “huge driver of the boom”, and similarly believes consumer preferences have changed.

In particular, he sees the experience of purchasing a mattress in store as “shockingly out-of-date” and not a useful way to choose the best product. For Eve CEO, Jas Bagniewski, this process is “archaic”. He also sees the price differential as key, with traditional mark-ups creating an opening for online competition. All three companies offer a trial period as an alternative to testing products in a store.

Read the full article at New Statesman: Nap Store: Where did all these new mattress start-ups come from?

How do you sustain a start-up?

Rugby special

Today would have been the 210th birthday of William Webb Ellis, the boy who is credited with having "invented" rugby. Here's a quick dip into rugby-related matters from OpenLearn:

Autumn statements: Three autumn legends

This week, we're starting up each morning with a look at autumn. Yesterday, we got to grips with what the Autumn Statement is all about - only for Philip Hammond to kill the thing. 

A brown bear in Finland during Autumn Creative commons image Icon Jarkko Järvinen under Creative Commons BY-NC 4.0 license


Today, we're going to look at three autumnal myths, starting with a Mesquakie belief. This version of the tale was recorded by William Jones, who was himself half-Mesquakie (or Fox, as they were also known). Jones was an anthropologist - his work eventually cost him his life as in 1909, he got involved in a row with some Ilongot people in the Philipines while working in the field with them:

It is said that once on a time long ago in the winter, at the beginning of the season of snow after the first fall of snow, three men went on a hunt for game early on a morning. Upon a hillside into a place where the bush was thick a bear they trailed. One of the men went in following the trail of the bear. And then he started it up running. "Towards the place whence comes the cold is he speeding away!" he said to his companions. 

He that headed off on the side which lay towards the source of the cold, "In the direction of the place of the noonday sky is he running!" he said. 

Back and forth amongst themselves they kept the bear fleeing. They say that after a while he that was coming up behind chanced to look down at the ground. Behold, green was the surface of the earth lying face up! Now of a truth up into the sky were they conveyed by the bear! When round about the bush they were chasing it then truly was the time that up into the sky they went. And then he that came up behind cried out to him that was next ahead: "O River-that-joins-Another, let us go back! We are being carried up into the sky!" Thus said he to River-that-joins-Another. But by him was he not heeded. 

Now River-that-joins-Another was he who ran in between the two, and a little puppy Hold-Tight he had for a pet. 

In the autumn they overtook the bear, then they slew it. After they had slain it, then boughs of the oak they cut, likewise boughs of the sumac, then laying the bear on top of the leaves they flayed and cut up the bear; after they had flayed and cut it up, then they began slinging and scattering the meat in every direction. Towards the place of the coming of the morning they flung the head; in the winter-time when the morning is about to appear some stars usually rise; it is said that they came from the head of the bear. And also his backbone, towards the place of the morning they flung it too. They too are commonly seen in the winter-time; they are stars that lie huddled close together; it is said that they came from the backbone. 

And they say that these four stars in the lead were the bear, and the three stars at the rear were they who were chasing after the bear. In between two of them is a tiny little star, it hangs near by another; they say that it was the puppy, the pet Hold-Tight of River-that-joins-Another. 

Every autumn the oaks and sumacs redden in the leaf because it is then that the hunters lay the bear on top of the leaves and flay and cut it up; then red with blood become the leaves. Such is the reason why every autumn red become the leaves of the oaks and sumacs. 

That is the end of the story.


To China, now, where the consumption of Moon Cakes is a ritual observed during mid-Autumn. The Mooncake Festival has its roots in actual historical events.

In 1368, people had grown tired of the Yuan Dynasty. Originally founded by Genghis Khan, by the mid 14th Century the rulers had become isolated from the people, and were losing support on a number of fronts. Natural and financial disasters compounded the threats to the Yuan powerbase, and a number of attempts at rebellion had only been defeated by might.

Zhu Yuanzhang realised that the only way to overthrow the Yuan leadership would be for all the discontented to work together.

But how to co-ordinate such an uprising, when spies were everywhere and messages easy to intercept?

The solution - you'll have guessed - was the mooncake. The strategist Liu Bowen cooked up a plan, and a batch of cakes were distributed, with a piece of paper inside:

Uprise on the night of August 15th

The cakes did their work, and the Yuan were overthrown. Yuanzhang, installed as the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, rewarded his new subjects with moon cakes at the next festival - the one marking mid-Autumn. Mooncakes have been the focus of the festival ever since.


Closer to home, we end with the Celtic Festival of Samhain. This happens on October 31st, the last day of the Celtic year; a day when the boundary between the worlds of the living and dead dissolve, and chaos is unleashed.

To celebrate Samhain the Druids built huge sacred bonfires. People brought harvest food and sacrificed animals to share a communal dinner in celebration of the festival.

During the celebration the Celts wore costumes - usually animal heads and skins. They would also try and tell each other's fortunes.

After the festival they re-lit the fires in their homes from the sacred bonfire to help protect them, as well as keep them warm during the winter months.

Samhain lives on, both in the belief system of modern-day Pagans, and also as the origin of Halloween.

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