Most recent update:3/1/2004; 6:11:08 AM

 Tuesday, February 17, 2004

REVIEW: A Puppet Odyssey

This brief item from the Village Voice (which has an interesting photo as well) caught my eye:

Theodora Skipitares makes beautiful puppets, and she's recruited an excellent team to create video images and a soundscape in support of her staging of Homer's epic. Playing with shadow puppetry, Bunraku, and masked mime, she tries to place her abridged Odyssey in the context of the Iraq war, although Iraq is only hinted at in a video with a character speaking in Bushisms and by a tangential scene about the Walter Reed Army Hospital.

In spite of—or perhaps because of—Homer's example, Skipitares hasn't figured out how to present her narrative. Penelope, played by Meredith Wright, introduces the story "as told by me, his wife," and indeed she provides closure at the end of the show. But nothing in between reflects her perspective. Skipitares's allusions to contemporary issues, hard to miss in the first two scenes, disappear once Odysseus begins his story. Homer's hero says he only wants to entertain, but Skipitares provides little in the way of excitement or humor. (The spare text is about as funny as, well, The Odyssey.) While the show's eclecticism succeeds when mixing puppet styles, Wright's broad delivery, reminiscent of Broadway musical actors brimming with smarmy self-satisfaction, seems out of place. Skipitares's journey has potential, but, like Odysseus, she seems to have lost her way.

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CHATTER: Olympian Women

IOC President Jacques Rogge makes historical (hysterical?) allusions while trumpeting the ever-equalizing male:female athlete ratio at the Olympics:

"The Greeks were particularly misogynist. They banned women from even watching the Olympics. Every woman caught in the stadiums was immediately beheaded," he said.

Presumably because of the total nudity of the competitors, he added.

Okay ... let's keep score ... one festival every four years was forbidden to women and so the Greeks are "particularly misogynist". But every year at Athens (and elsewhere, presumably), men were banned from the Thesmophoria ... does that make the Greeks "particularly misanthropist"? Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques ....

8:26:45 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: Cleopatra's Palace

Check out this bombshell mentioned in passing in the Sydney Morning Herald's travel section:

If Cleopatra was alive today we'd be calling her a piece of work. She married her younger brother so she could seize power from his regents then used her charm to con Julius Caesar into crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Alexandria to quell the resulting uprising.

She then seduced Caesar and bore his son around the time her brother drowned in the Nile River while fleeing her forces. When Caesar was assassinated in Rome she cosied up to Mark Anthony to keep her hold on power and bore him twins.

After Anthony's suicide following his defeat by Octavian, she realised the game was up and took her own life in 30BC, aged 39.

Alexandria today is every bit as seductive as its most famous resident. Sitting on the North African coast where the Sahara Desert meets the Mediterranean Sea, it is Egypt's most beautiful city with its clean streets, bazaars, trams and 26 kilometres of beaches.

And Cleopatra is back in the news since her ancient palace built over an area of about one square kilometre was discovered in 1997 in the murky depths of Alexandria Harbour.

It is said to have been underwater for 1500 years, but the Egyptians want to raise it and reassemble it on high ground.

The project is estimated at a prohibitive $US4 billion ($5.2 billion) but don't put it beyond the Egyptians: they've done it before, albeit on a smaller scale, with the temples of Abu Simbel and Philac, cutting them into thousands of numbered pieces to be reassembled on higher ground.

All I can say is ... wow.

8:18:41 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Classicists

Some Classicists have all the fun:

Conran, a classicist and one of the week's biggest draws, dressed his models in knee-high boots, chalk leather breeches, black leather gloves and wool jackets for his collection.

Chocolate, plum and purple -- hailed as one of the "it" colours at New York Fashion Week -- added dashes of contrast to his trademark black and white.

"It's equestrian, girls and horses, you know the thing," Conran told Reuters. "It's riding britches and boots for the English heroine. I'm using chiffon, leather, suede and cashmere." [source]

Oh ... never mind, he said, Emily Litella-like ...

8:15:12 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: Catapults Redux

A while back we mentioned that piece about ancient catapults that was getting a lot of airplay ... now Newsday has another piece on the same thing, but it's rather more readable and so, worth mentioning. Here's the incipit:

In the ancient world, policy-driven research often took the form of a catapulted rock crashing against a fortress wall - and often meant the difference between success and failure in times of war.

In a new essay published in the journal Science, British science historian Serafina Cuomo argues that ancient catapults and their creators wielded a unique power and prestige in a society ambivalent about the decline of such honorable pursuits as hand-to-hand combat.

"Catapults marked, not the end of valor," she writes, "but the beginning of a quest for more powerful and accurate ways of hurling projectiles against enemies and their cities - from oversized arrows to Patriot missiles."

Much like the heavy stones ancient catapults heaved at enemy fortresses, their engineers were elevated to new heights, despite their lack of status in the eyes of outsiders. Relied upon and rewarded by their political patrons, these engineers used increasingly sophisticated theory to refine their weapons, and their practice ushered in a wholesale modernization of offensive and defensive warfare strategies, according to Cuomo. The mathematical and engineering know-how needed for effective catapult design suggests that scientific theory and practice were not nearly as far apart in antiquity as has been widely assumed, she contends. [more]

5:56:16 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


ante diem xiii kalendas martias

  • Parentalia (Day 5) -- the period for appeasing the dead continued
  • Quirinalia -- festival honouring the namesake of the Quirinal hill,
    the Sabine divinity Quirinus, who was later identified with Romulus.
    Little else is known about the festival.
  • 304 A.D. -- martyrdom of Donatus and 80+ others near Venice

5:39:14 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: Finds in Bulgaria

A brief item from Novitne:

Bulgarian archeologists will start some researches into the history of the Roman treasure of a total of 800 golden Republican-period coins dated from the period of II-I century B.C. as well as some Roman denars dated from the I century B.C.

Some experts say that this will prove to be one of the greatest finds in the northern region of Vidin. The treasure was found during excavations in the Lozyata region near the Pokraina village.

The northern Bulgarian region of Vidin has a rich ancient history as several ancient finds have already been excavated there. Different ancient ceramic works that are still to be studied and a cooper age village disclosed near the Antimovo village are among the numerous finds in the region.

Last December Vidin's authorities announced that another two major ancient sites would be registered. The two sites are situated in the Grinduri and Albastrino countryside, near the Pokraina village.

5:19:17 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: M-m-m-my Medusa (think of My Sharona)

A review of Jane Billinghurst's Temptress: From The Original Bad Girls To Women On Top in the Toronto Star has this:

As Billinghurst demonstrates, though, there are precious few powerhouses capable of ignoring the charms of the temptress. Greek mythology only names two: Odysseus and Perseus rely on their ingenuity to negate the power of the Sirens and Medusa.

Medusa as "temptress"? I guess she did have that irresistable-urge-to-look-at-a-car-accident quality  ...


5:15:58 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Yale Mosaic

A while back in Explorator we mentioned that Yale had acquired five fragments of a mosaic at one of those auctions we had been showing items therefrom. The Yale Daily News has an article on the importance of the mosaic (along with a real cruddy photo), and also has an interesting comment:

"The mosaic offers an unusual insight into the culture of the Greek-speaking Roman world," Kondoleon said. "It's very unusual to get something of this stature of this size. Since it was removed in the 1920s, it's legal, it's not going to be contested and it's good to have it. It's good for Yale and good for teaching."

If we can convince assorted organizations to stress that ownership of antiquities is a teaching issue, not an 'art' issue, perhaps we might make some progress on making antiquities more accessible to scholars ...

5:08:56 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Carnival

With Lent coming up I'm somewhat surprised that this is the first time I've ever seen a connection between Carnival and the ancient world. According to GreeceNow:

Traced back to Classical Antiquity and the festivities to honour revelling wine-god, Dionysus , Apokria (which in Greek means “away from meat”) has traditionally been viewed as a chance to break loose from the social confines.

The article has all sorts of modern activities which might have ancient precedent but no specific connections are mentioned ... one to look into.

5:02:05 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Today

3.00 p.m. |HINT| Caligula: Reign of Madness
Caligula ruled the Roman Empire fewer than four years, and was only
28 when assassinated by officers of his guard in 41 AD. His reign was
a legendary frenzy of lunacy, murder, and lust. Between executions,
he staged spectacular orgies, made love to his sister, and declared
himself a living god. Join us for a look at this devoted son,
murderer, pervert, and loving father whose anguished life was far
more bizarre than the myth that surrounds him.

4.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Byzantium: Building the Dream

11.00 p.m. |HINT| Atlantis: The Lost Civilization
Probing documentary asks the question: Did Atlantis really exist,
and if so, where? And, what kind of people were the Alantians that
they could develop such a technologically advanced civilization which
is yet to be surpassed?

HINT = History International

DCIVC = Discovery Civilization

4:31:07 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

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