Changes in progress
...sorry; I'm just eliminating some of the feeds on the right ... the page is taking too long to load; I'd appreciate hearing from some readers on whether the load time of the page is now intolerable (especially from those of you on dialup).
Saturday, August 21, 2004 9:21:26 AM
~ Tony Perrottet on NPR
NPR's Motley Fool Radio Show had a nice (audio) interview with Tony Perrotet (The Naked Olympics) t'other day ... the focus of the interview is the 'money side' of the ancient Olympics. Good stuff.
Saturday, August 21, 2004 9:02:40 AM
~ Politics and the Ancient Olympics
The Independent is a johnny-come-lately with its Ancient Olympics piece, but this one has an interesting point in its concluding paragraphs:
Saturday, August 21, 2004 8:58:02 AM
Perhaps the plainest parallel between ancient and modern worlds lies in the kudos entire nations derive from sporting conquest. In 415BC, the war between Athens and Sparta seemed to be going the way of the Spartans. But a charioteer called Alcibiades, the Enzo Ferrari of his day, immodestly reckoned that Athenian spirits were raised by his team's achievements. "There was a time when the Greeks imagined that our city had been ruined by the war," he said, "but they came to consider it even greater than it really is, because of the splendid show I made as its representative at the Olympic Games, when I entered seven chariots for the chariot race (more than any private individual has entered before) and took the first, second and fourth places... it is customary for such things to bring honour, and... an impression of power."
In the same way, the former USSR, East Germany and China all used the Olympics as a show of muscle. Moreover, one of the least savoury aspects of these Olympics is the way Americans keep popping up ostensibly to cheer the little successes of the Iraqi squad, when what they are really doing is cheering themselves. How daft it is to suggest that politics should be kept out of the Olympics. It's a 2,780-year tradition. [the whole thing]
~ Why Vin Diesel's Hannibal Must Be Made
One of the Guardian's film folks has an interesting reason for wanting Vin Diesel's Hannibal flick to come out ... here's a bit from the middle:
Saturday, August 21, 2004 8:51:59 AM
Alas, on many other occasions, my hopes, once raised to the heavens, were brutally smashed. As a connoisseur of sublimely bad movies, I was devastated when the rumours that Kevin Costner would play Michael Collins proved false: seemingly, both the Irish Republican Army and the Ulster militia agreed to suspend hostilities and join forces to assassinate any director blasphemous enough to cast the passive Costner as the legendarily heartless terrorist. I was similarly heartbroken when the report that Melanie Griffith would don a burka and mount a camel in The Sheltering Sky proved to be unfounded. What a Tuareg tootsie she would have made!
Thus, when I read that Vin Diesel might play Hannibal, but that nothing definite had been set, I sensed a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Ballyhooed as the next Sean Connery just a year earlier, Diesel, the worst actor in living memory, had seen his career stall. XXX, the film that was supposed to vault him into the stratosphere, had failed to take the world by storm. His next film, A Man Apart, was a bomb. What concerned me now was the possibility that if Diesel's latest film, The Chronicles Of Riddick, tanked, the plans for Hannibal, Gen-X Destroyer might go on the back burner. Or perhaps The Rock, the thinking man's knucklehead, would get the part instead. Or perhaps Hollywood might play it safe with Anthony Hopkins or Denzel Washington, thereby raising the cruel possibility that the film might not be anywhere near as horrible as I hoped it would be.
As someone who lives, breathes and eats bad movies (who else do you know that owns both Shallow Hal and Battlefield Earth?), I do not like to be trifled with. When I read that a truly bad motion picture is in the works, I am kinder to my wife, more generous to my children, more absolving toward enemies, less callous toward beggars. But, in the back of my mind, I always dread that my hopes will end up in the dumpster. I do not want to be told that Ben Affleck and Drew Barrymore will play Anthony and Cleopatra and then find out that it was all a publicist's little joke. I do not want to be told that The Hulk II or The Return Of Gigli have already been slated for production, only to discover that these rumours are lies. What I want, what I expect, from the motion picture industry, is to be informed long in advance that Madonna is filming a remake of Swept Away, and then actually get to see the motion picture in all its plangent crumminess. Admittedly, I have very low expectations. But I expect them to be met.
This is why the news about Hannibal The Bouncer is so very important to me. I want Vin Diesel to make that movie. I need Vin Diesel to make that movie. I am not getting any younger and am increasingly worried that I will not live long enough to see an actor as bad as Vin Diesel again. Nor am I being greedy here. I am not demanding that Hollywood cast Sylvester Stallone as Hannibal's father Hamiclar, or that it hand the role of Hannibal's brother, Hasdrubal, to Patrick Swayze. I know it is too much to hope that Demi Moore will be cast as a sultry Vestal Virgin or Sharon Stone as Salambo, Vixen of Nubia. I have reasonable expectations, plausible hopes, manageable dreams. And if it will help move the project along, I am willing to see all of Vin Diesel's upcoming movies several times, and even buy the director's cut of Knockaround Guys and Boiler Room if it will increase the chances that he lands the role of the vaunted African warrior.
Why am I so fixated on Hannibal, Dude of the Desert? Because Diesel owes it to himself to make this movie. John Wayne once played Genghis Khan. Hilarious. Mickey Rourke once played St Francis of Assisi. Insane. But Vin Diesel could outdo them all. I think he has the chops, the strut, and the attitude to make a film a million times worse than either of those majestic stinkbombs, to be remembered as long as old men gather around campfires and sing sad songs about the deaths of careers. So please, Mr Diesel, please Hollywood bigwigs, please dear God, please sign the relevant papers and get Boyz In The Sahara into production. Please don't hold it against him that The Chronicles Of Riddick is a dud. [the whole thing]
~ More Press for Stephen Miller
Nice to see that Stephen Miller's work is getting a pile of media attention, this time from ABC (which also has video at the site):
Saturday, August 21, 2004 8:47:08 AM
For 32 years, Berkeley archaeologist Stephen Miller has spent his summers in the old village of Nemea, digging into the games of ancient Greece, where all the city-states would stop their wars long enough for their athletes to compete.
"If we were going to have our modern Olympics be as good as possible," said Miller, "shouldn't we see how the ancients ran their games?" Miller's University of California team is funded entirely by private donations. They are rebuilding the Temple of Zeus, where the athletes made their offerings to the gods.
"Every two years, at the time of the Nemean games, tens of thousands of people would come here, and gather, and have their athletic and religious festival," Miller said. "That, of course, is sort of the predecessor to our United Nations and particularly to our modern Olympics."
Miller's team has unearthed the stadium, complete with 2,300-year-old starting blocks.
"The toes curl over [the block], and the front is beveled so they don't fall over," he said.
He also discovered the remains of a bath house and a hotel.
"There's always the excitement," said Miller. "You never know what's going to come out of the ground next. You know that you're the first human being in 2,000 years to touch an object that was made by man in your own past. That's a great thrill."
One of Miller's most fascinating discoveries is the tunnel where competitors awaited their turn. Its walls are covered with graffiti left by the ancient athletes.
"The impulse to deface public property with your name, that impulse toward immortality is something that is a human trait - it doesn't belong to any particular country or time and there it is," he said. "It makes the tunnel come to life."
In one spot, an athlete named Arkotikos inscribed his name. Farther down, a different hand left a comment.
"'Arkotikos is cute.' Someone is standing here looking back at Arkotikos scratching his own name in the wall, going 'Ooh la la! Wow! Is he ever cute!,' and writing down Arkotikos Karlos," Miller said. [more]
~ Imperator: a Multi-Player RPG
This one looks potentially interesting (it's still in development; due out next year):
Saturday, August 21, 2004 8:43:32 AM
Imperator is an Alternate Earth game, one set in a future world where Ancient Rome never fell. Small changes at crucial moments in Roman history create an entirely new timeline for Earth, leading to a star-spanning Roman Respublica and thousands of years of interstellar Pax Romana. The Republic is home to many planets, each containing wildly different flora, fauna, creatures, culture, and climate. As the game begins, new threats to the Republic have sprung up internally and from beyond its borders, making the galaxy more dangerous and the Republic itself less stable - an exhilarating setting for an online gamer. Over the last few decades, many themes of classical Roman history have found their way into modern science fiction and fantasy. In Imperator the architecture, beauty, nobility, and even the savagery of Rome are the heart of the game. [more]
~ Committee for the Hellenic Religion ... Back in the News
There's an AP wire report bouncing around this weekend on the Committee for the Hellenic Religion of the Dodecatheon (which we've mentioned before at rc) ... here's the incipit of the version from the San Francisco Chronicle:
Saturday, August 21, 2004 8:35:23 AM
When the gods of antiquity were upset, they churned up a tempest or dispatched a few choice lightning bolts. The people who still follow them get a lawyer and grumble -- at least during the Olympics.
"Let's just say we're not taking part in the all the hype," said Panaghiotis Marinis, who leads a group seeking official recognition for rites and gatherings based on spiritual connections to ancient Greece. "It's not our style."
This should be a glorious time for the few thousand members of the Committee for the Hellenic Religion of the Dodecatheon -- meaning the 12 main gods of Mount Olympus. The Olympics were a central festival of worship and Hellenic culture across the ancient, Mediterranean world. And now the games are back where they started nearly 2,800 years ago.
But many of those who keep the old customs alive are sitting this one out.
"It's a parody," Marinis complained.
The corporate sponsorship alone is enough to make them wince. But what's really soured them to the Olympic homecoming are the two big-footed 2004 mascots: Athena and Phevos.
They can cope with the smiling figures, inspired by a 7th century B.C. terra cotta doll. It's the names they hate. Athena was the goddess of wisdom and protector of Athens. Phevos is another name used for Apollo, the god of light and music.
"It's insulting," said Apostolos Amyras, publisher of the monthly Hellenic Religion magazine, which promotes the mysticism of antiquity. "They took the names of two of our gods and they demeaned them."
Two years ago, the mascots were taken to court. A lawsuit filed by Marinis and supporters -- calling themselves the Greek Society of the Friends of the Ancients -- sought a ban on the figures and $3.6 million in damages. No date has been set for a hearing.
"It would be like presenting Jesus Christ not with seriousness ... but with a suit and tie," the lawsuit said.
Actually, the games do more than most school books to showcase the traditions of ancient Greece. Every two years, the flame is lit in front of the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia by actresses dressed as pagan priestesses. The ceremony includes a prayer by the high priestess: "Apollo, god of the sun and the idea of light, send your rays and light the sacred torch."
On Wednesday, the shot put was held in the stadium at Ancient Olympia. Before the entry of the first Olympians in more than 1,600 years, an announcer asked for a moment of silence to soak in the "mystical power" of the wooded valley.
"Sure, they call attention to the ancient links to the games," Marinis said. "The problem is we get none of that respect."
Don't think togas and burnt offerings. The followers of the ancients try to combine an environmental ethos with the ideas of ancient Greek philosophers. [the whole thing]
~ Quote of the Day
From the Daily Press:
Just don't go calling Krispy Kreme "devil's food," though the lure of its warm, just-out-of-the oven sugary glaze is the Helen of Troy of carbohydrates.
... which might actually be true. A few years back when KK opened its first store in Canada (in Mississauga), myriad folks would commute from miles around to try the Tim Horton rival out (and often line up for hours!). And, of course, anyone who has tried Tim Horton's latest 'toffee' donut can't help but be reminded of KK ... [but if I may be allowed to free associate a bit, it's worth noting that there is a place called Krispy Kreme outside of Lunenberg, Nova Scotia which manufactures sauerkraut].
Saturday, August 21, 2004 8:20:56 AM
~ Goldhill and the Elgin/Parthenon Marbles
A review in the Age of Simon Goldhill's Love, Sex, and Tragedy: How the Ancient World Shapes Our Lives summarizes an interesting argument (bordering on tautology), inter alia:
Saturday, August 21, 2004 8:06:42 AM
Perhaps slightly abashed by his own (entirely justified) boldness, Goldhill occasionally muzzles his own point. For example, he quotes with approval a tag from Cicero: "If you do not know where you come from, you will always be a child." Superficially, Goldhill seems to be suggesting that we need to be up on Greek history or know the names of the Roman emperors to know "where we come from". A closer reading of the whole book indicates that his position is not at all like this.
The problem lies in the word "know". What Goldhill seems to be saying is that you can't really know where you have come from. To know where you come from is to know that you don't know - to know that your national stories are myths and prejudices and jumbled layers of associations. It's the people who think they know "where they come from" who are too sure and too simple minded in their conviction and who are dangerous.
We have to read the Cicero quote in conjunction with Socrates: "The wise man knows that he doesn't know." Goldhill flags this, but it took me two readings to get it. This is such a good point and so profoundly relevant that it is a slight pity that Goldhill did not make even more of it. But my sympathy is certainly with a writer who may have worried that pressing the point would gain him more enemies than friends.
He touches upon the tragic paradox of the Elgin marbles. Their best meaning (now) lies in that they are objects belonging to a non-national, non-racial civilisation grounded in the free play of intelligence and a love of beauty. But disputes about where they should be located tend to focus on tribal loyalties that long to turn them back into totemic objects of a national cult.
There may be sophisticated reasons why it would be nice to have the marbles back in Athens, but such an event would be the occasion for a riot of unthinking national pride for the Greeks and a vicarious triumph for nationalist sentimentalists everywhere - totally counter to what is actually valuable in the works. [the whole thing]
~ AWOTV: On TV Today
3.00 p.m. |DTC| Mystery of the Minoans
The latest computer modeling techniques combine with fossil records to reveal the fate of the 17th century Minoan civilization of Crete. Tidal waves and torrents of burning ash from a massive volcano may have altered the course of Western history.
4.00 p.m. |DTC| The Grasp of Empire
Rome's legacy of trade, roads and architectural and psychological infrastructure relied on a fragile alliance of slaves, peasants and the provincial. The glory years of the Roman conquest led to the longest period of peace the world has ever known.
5.00 p.m. |DTC| The Cult of the Apis Bull
This true story of sacred twins is told in a letter they wrote to the pharaoh over 2,000 years ago. The tragic tale of greed and betrayal unfolds in the underworld of the great temple city of Saqqara in the last decades of the Egyptian empire.
6.00 p.m. |DTC| The Emperor of the Steppes
In a huge undertaking, researchers and archaeologists working in Upper Mongolia unearthed the sepulcher of the Emperor of the Steppes. This expedition may reveal insight into Mongolian history dating back to the second century BC.
DTC = Discovery Times Channel
Saturday, August 21, 2004 7:11:19 AM