Monday, May 03, 2004
THIS DAY IN ANCIENT HISTORY
ante diem vi nonas maias
- ludi Florae (possible day 7) -- a festival originally ordered in response to an interpretation of the Sybilline books in 238 B.C., it fell into desuetude only to be revived in 173 B.C.; it was a general festival of drinking and other merriment in honour of Flora, who presided over (of course) flowers and their blossoms
- c. 62 A.D. -- martyrdom of James the Lesser in Jerusalem
- c. 80 A.D. -- martyrdom of Philip the Apostle in Heirapolis, Phrygia
- 115 or 116 A.D. -- martyrdom of Pope Alexander I in Rome
- c. 286 -- martyrdom of Maura at Thebias
CHATTER: Close, But No Cigar
A review in Le Provocateur of the next novel by the author of the DaVinci Code has this little thing that was picked up in my scan this a.m.:
The novel's antagonist asks that same question. He has a favorite saying: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodies" (for the non-Classics majors: "Who will guard the guards?").
Of course, the Classics majors will cringe seeing the future verb form custodies in place of the noun custodes, but the actual translation of this one is semi-ironic in the world of digital security: Who will guard those whom you are guarding? Hackers come from somewhere ...
CHATTER: Narcissus and Echo
The Sun-Herald has a feature called Tell Me a Story and the story this week is that of Narcissus and Echo:
Long ago a beautiful boy was born to a nymph known as Liriope. At his birth, an oracle announced his fate. "He will live for a long time, forever perhaps," the oracle told Liriope, "but only if he never, ever sees his reflection."
At first, Liriope worried about her child, whom she named Narcissus, but as time passed, and as she watched him grow, she forgot the oracle's words. He was so handsome, so strong and sweet. Lush golden curls grew upon his head, and his face was like that of a god, more beautiful even than those of the wood nymphs, with blue eyes like his mother's and a smile as bright as the sun.
Narcissus loved to romp through the woods, wander through fields of flowers, climb trees and hills. But he loved his solitude, and would not join in others' games. Something in Narcissus' heart was indifferent to his playmates. Some said he was cold-hearted and conceited.
In the forest near Narcissus' home there also lived an outcast. Echo, a nymph, once upon a time was a handmaiden to the goddess Juno. But Echo was a chatterbox and teller of tales, and many of her stories were lies about the other nymphs and the gods and goddesses.
Juno had discovered Echo's slander. "Go live in the wild woods, Echo," Juno demanded. "Take your poisonous tongue away, and as your punishment, from this day forward you will have no voice. The only words you ever will utter are words others have spoken first."
Heartbroken, Echo wandered through the woods, her only pleasure the games she played with those who crossed her path. Carefully listening to their words, she whispered their words back to them, but whenever the speaker turned to see who spoke, she quickly hid.
One day as he was wandering in the woods, Narcissus walked past Echo, who had heard his footsteps and was hiding behind a tree. When Echo saw him, her heart nearly stopped. She had never seen anyone as beautiful as he, and at once she was overcome with love for Narcissus.
Echo crept from behind her hiding place and tiptoed after him, wishing with all her heart that she could speak. Oh how she longed to say, "I love you," but when she opened her mouth, the words would not come. Tears came to her eyes for the first time in a long time as she followed him. Suddenly, close on his heels, a twig beneath her feet snapped, and Echo quickly hid.
Narcissus turned. "Is someone here?" [more]
CHATTER: Troy Review
While I don't intend on putting up every review of the Troy flick that I come across, it does seem worthwhile to post the first ... honour of place goes to the Mirror:
Along with the one-to-one battle between Pitt and Bana, there are a series of widescreen clashes before the famous wooden horse is wheeled out to smuggle the Greeks into Troy, from where they duly sack and burn.
But be warned, as I gathered from my sneak preview, the fight scenes during the two-and-a-half hour epic are realistic, making some recent so-called gore-fests look somewhat restrained.
The action certainly adds to the film's epic feel and is an indication of where the bulk of the money went (apart from the stars' fees, of course).
Featuring the biggest set in modern film history, one insider estimated production costs at £420,000 a day.
The six-month schedule in London's Shepperton Studios, Malta and Mexico, involved thousands of extras, hundreds of horses and a 700-strong crew.
One particular scene involved 500 extras - and some amazing computer jiggery-pokery.
Pitt's battle role alone required 30 stuntmen working for three months.
But realism came at a price - and not just a financial one.
Almost every cast member involved in the fight scenes ended upneeding medical treatment. Tragically George Camilleri, a a former Mr Malta, broke his leg while filming an action scene and later died after suffering complications.
Ironically, even Pitt suffered an injury... to his Achilles tendon.
So how does he fare as an action hero?
Well, he gave up smoking and trained for months to get into shape for those rather fetching leather skirts and nude sex scenes.
Yet while he displays a fine technique for loving with Aussie actress Rose Byrne in his tent, unfortunately he falls short in the acting department.
The film had been talked of as the breakthrough that would lead to Oscar recognition for Pitt.
On the set, he told colleagues that "all the parts I ever did were preparation for this role".
Part-Beckham, part-Brando, he certainly looks like a brooding action hero. But I don't think that his flat delivery of the uninspired dialogue will win him many awards this year.
And while those hours in the gym obviously paid off, it is harder to detect evidence of the six months Pitt supposedly spent researching the role, delving into every aspect of his character's psyche for "motivation". Instead, audiences who loved the battle scenes in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy will revel in the visual magic and special effects that director Petersen and his team conjure up to depict the savage collision between two armies fighting with spears, swords and bows and arrows.
"Homer's Illiad, on which we loosely based the film, is one of the great stories of all time," says Petersen. "And I thought it was just a wonderful opportunity for us."
It is also, as in the best Hollywood traditions, a very different story to the classic tale.
None of the cast had read The Illiad so they wouldn't have known that in the original there is no mention of a female love interest for Achilles.
Instead, the story focuses on his relationship with his major-domo Patroclus.
But the film-makers quickly decided that ancient Greek homosexuality is not the stuff of modern-day blockbusters... Which may explain why we first encounter the almost invincible Achilles in his tent, reluctantly abandoning the two naked women with whom he is romping to take his small group of elite warriors to join the Greek army.
Pitt then spends much of the early part of the film brooding on the sidelines as the armies battle it out and it is only when his cousin is killed that rage overcomes him and he unleashes himself on the Trojans.
"I have a feeling that Pitt was born to play this part," says Petersen.
BUT although Pitt, who earned a reported £15million, is the star, younger heart-throb Bloom will appeal to teen film-goers.
He passes muster as the smouldering Paris, though while you can easily imagine his character stealing the beautiful Helen, it is more difficult to believe baby-faced Bloom as a Trojan warrior waging serious battle.
Still, his status in the Hollywood A-lister league is surely confirmed with this latest role.
Aussie actor Bana is a credible Hector and newcomer Kruger shines as Helen, whose faced launched a thousand ships.
Petersen wisely crammed his supporting cast with fine actors, including Sean Bean, Brian Cox and a magnificently dignified Peter O'Toole. Julie Christie also makes a two-minute appearance, as Achilles' mother, Thetis.
And this is partly why Petersen reckons the film is "bigger than Gladiator". [more]
CHATTER: Troy Hype
This week's issue of Time magazine has a major feature on the Troy flick coming out next week. Here are some excerpts
There's a movie in there, but it's buried beneath 24 books of dactylic hexameter and some unfathomably dull speechifying by the gods. David Benioff, the novelist cum screenwriter who sold Warner Bros. on the idea for $150,000, decided early on that the god stuff had to go. "I had this terror of some actor in a toga hurling CGI [computer-generated imagery] thunderbolts from the top of Mount Olympus," Benioff says, in reference to the 1981 Laurence Olivier — as — Zeus camp classic, Clash of the Titans. After dropping the deities and adding the Trojan horse from The Aeneid, Benioff focused his taut 140page script on Hector and the now mortal Achilles. "They're the two great heroes on opposite sides, but it's not a good guy — bad guy story. It's humans vs. humans, and that's what makes it great tragedy."
With Troy's pretty people in place, the first hint of the trials to come arrived when production designer Nigel Phelps, who had been researching the architecture of ancient Troy at the British Museum, informed Petersen that the city was kind of a dump. "Going through all these sketches, there was a moment of realization," says Phelps. "Troy just didn't have the size or the spectacle the movie demanded. There was a wall and a gate, but most of the buildings were maybe 10-ft. high and made of mud." To make Troy look like a city worth defending, Phelps had to scramble to put together "an architectural vocabulary from a bunch of ancient cultures that was, you know, made up."
Petersen naturally puts it in his own unique way. "I have many favorite scenes in the movie," he says. "One, of course, is the scene with Priam and Achilles. In the whole huge movie, it's the smallest scene. Just two guys talking to each other. I also love when Achilles lands on the beach at Troy and calls to all the soldiers, 'Go get your immortality!' You get this sense that this is maybe a dark, kind of crazy guy, right? But he has enormous dreams."
Translation: if you're going to the movie to see a faithful reproduction of the Iliad, you'll be disappointed. But if you want to see the story of the Trojan War, it looks like it could be fun.
NUNTII: Roman Bridge to be Excavated
The Hexham Courant reports on plans to excavate a Roman bridge in Corbridge:
A BURIED Roman bridge in Corbridge – thought to have been a spectacular representation of the power of the Empire – will be rescued in a major archeological dig.
It is hoped the remains of the largest stone bridge in Roman Britain will uncover vital clues to the movement of the Romans in Corbridge, and reveal more about the origination of the village itself.
The excavation, to the west of the present village bridge towards Corstopitum Roman site, will begin this summer, thanks to a £303,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and will include a massive public effort to record the findings and have them displayed.
The work, commissioned and supported by English Heritage, will be carried out by experts from Tyne and Wear museums’ archaeological field team.
Site director Margaret Snape, who lives in Hexham, said the dig could uncover some potentially fantastic masonry, and will benefit Tynedale as a whole.
The bridge, believed to have once been an elaborate build complete with statues and monumental arches, was threatened with destruction by river erosion at Corbridge, which is in the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Zone.
The remains, believed to date back to the second century, are currently submerged in water or buried in the river bank but previous excavation shows they are in a remarkable state of preservation.
The bridge carried the main Roman road from London to Scotland – the Roman equivalent of the modern day ‘Great North Road’.
As well as its functional use, the bridge was built to proclaim the power of the Roman Empire, particularly the Imperial House, and its importance was reflected in its scale and decoration.
Experts hope to find out what happened after the bridge collapsed. They believe the settlement, now known as Corbridge, moved down river to a place where it could be forded. [more]
CHATTER: Microsoft Project
Interesting little tidbit from the Inquirer:
SOFTWARE GIANT Microsoft has released details of its content protection technology aimed at creating piracy-proof digital content for mobile devices and home networks.
It was expected a year ago under the codename of the two faced Roman Roman god Janus. Theoretically it would let subscription music services such as Napster and RealNetworks' Rhapsody move content to portable MP3 players without being nicked.
And of course, Bill Gates will ceremoniously close the gates to the Temple of Janus when the Windows World is free of security holes ...
AWOTV: On TV Today
6.00 p.m. |HINT| Hidden Cities of the Etruscans
A look at the fascinating people who ruled Italy centuries before
the Romans. Explores the contradictions in the character of the
Etruscans, who embraced both art and slavery, technology and
6.30 p.m. |DCIVC| Living Stones: Heliopolis-Baalbek