31 December 2006

Who Were the Cycladic?

When I was in my younger and more impressionable years, I was thumbing through a book that might have been an encyclopedia. I stopped at a photograph not unlike the one accompanying this entry.

It took my breath away -- and was the beginning of my lifelong interest in ancient Greeks and Modern Art.

What is really bizarre about the whole thing is that no one knows who made these great works of art (the people are called Cycladic, after the islands called the Cyclades), the art was made thousands of years before the Modern Art movement appeared, and to this day still nearly nothing is known about the pieces themselves: were they funerary offerings, statues of gods, or children's toys?

Whatever they are, and whomever made them, they remain some of the most important creations by humans in the history of humanity.

An article about the discovery of more pieces is

More about the art and culture can be found
here and here.

28 December 2006

Nothing's Impossible Now


Tom Cruise's minions have finally stopped interfering with the release on DVD of the only "Mission: Impossible" that really matters. Yes, I refer to the original
television series that ran from 1966 to 1973.

Of course, it is only the first three seasons that matter. Once Barbara Bain and Martin Landau left the show (or were fired, you decide) "M:I" never recaptured the cachet that had made it great. It limped on for several more years, with only a few episodes rising to the previous standard (mostly those with guest star Lee Meriwether).

My super wonderful, sweet (and obviously highly intelligent) in-laws (so to speak) got me the wonderful first season DVD for xmas and life could not be better. Each night, Matt and I are watching an episode (in order) and enjoying virtually every minute.

There are teething pains in this first season: the light banter really does not work, and was quickly eliminated; Bain is given little to do but strut her stuff (the producers quickly saw that this was wasting an impressive talent and started giving her much more meat to work with -- little surprise, then, that Bain won an Emmy for each of her three seasons on the show); the scripts are a little wordier than they would become.

Luckily, these issues were addressed quickly turning the show into what many still consider one of the best series ever on television.

26 December 2006

More History Gone With the Wind

Another example of a surperb archive of history being sold to the highest bidder -- in this case, piece by piece (the worst possible way).

As a journalist -- and what I like to call "contemporary historian" -- I am saddened that so much historically valuable original source material will be scattered to the four winds.

While I understand the sale is for a good cause, there are just too many questions left unanswered:

Will these items be copied before they are sold? Will there be an index created? Will any of this material be donated to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Library? While I do not know the answers, I fear they will be "no."

More on the auction will be found here.

25 December 2006

Candy Greatness

Why is it that candy from the past always seems to have the very best wrapper designs -- especially when compared to the garbage that passes for design today?

Also, can anyone tell me anything about the Pierce Arrow candy -- other than the pretty obvious fact that it was named for the popular car line of the time? Did any of you ever eat one? Was it like a Butterfinger?

Thanks to Matt for finding this link. :-)

23 December 2006

Rudolph, Esq

I'll be the first to admit I have long been a sucker for a certain reindeer whose many good qualities include a bright red nose that helped saved xmas one year. Yes, I am talking about the inimitable Rudolph.

Rudolph has been around for quite some time, being created for the Montgomery Ward chain of department stores in 1939 by Robert May. While Rudolph's fame was secured by the 1949 recording made by Gene Autry, Rudolph became immortal thanks to television and the 1964 holiday special produced by the venerable Rankin/Bass.

Rudolph's popularity has never dwindled. In fact, it is still growing thanks to a museum exhibition in Atlanta featuring the actual puppets used in the 1964 television program. While they are merely bits of wood and felt, these puppets represent a special something to children around the world.

Hats off to you, Rudolph, for being different -- and proud of it!

More about the museum exhibition will be found

21 December 2006

Holiday Bits of Tid

I certainly wish I could make up something this wacky: a komodo dragon (pictured), who has lived her entire life in captivity without any male komodos, has produced a clutch of fertile eggs. No, really. You can read more about it here. Just like "Jurassic Park," no?

Also, Happy Winter Solstice! Or, to our friends south of the equator, Happy Summer Solstice. Ain't nature fun? More about the solstice is

Lastly, we are still in the midst of Hanukkah. Monday night, we made potato latkes with applesauce. They did not come out great, but were still yummy!

What's next? Oh, yeh, xmas and Kwanza! Yippee!

17 December 2006

Come for the Naked Guys, Stay for the Story

Although I am mostly a fan of early 20th century history, I have always loved a certain small slice of ancient history -- the period about 2000 years ago when Greece and Rome were at their respective zeniths. Here was a time of big thinking (slavery is wrong), new entertainments (the creation of theater), great leaders (Alexander), and momentous world-changing events.

I have also long been a fan of naked guys. So, when I heard of the new HBO series "Rome" I thought it was a great mix of two things I really love. More's the pity that we don't get any of the pay television channels. Sigh!

Fast forward to yesterday, when ever-faithful Netflix whisks to my door the first DVD for the first season of "Rome." I figured I would fast forward to the naked guys and then send it back. Imagine my surprise when I was instantly captivated by the production design (the animated title sequence), the story (blood, devastation, death, war and horror), and the acting (take your pick). Before I knew it the first episode was over without a naked guy in sight. (Well, one a long way away.)

So, I guess now Matt and I are going to be on a "Rome" kick -- if the stories stay compelling. I most appreciate watching the episodes on DVD with the little "learn more" feature turned on. These are little boxes of information that pop up about a certain issue in the story (spear design, the explanation of slave collars). Totally the kind of stuff that I love.

I also greatly admire the adherence to period detail. I know enough about ancient Rome to know some things, and the little pop-up bits of information supply more. With the exception that no Romans spoke English (probably) and none had such good teeth (certainly), it seems I am really watching a bunch of Romans do their thing.

(One technical criticism of the show is that no men would have been circumcised at that time in history -- which, apparently, some actors are. However, I will await judgement on that until I see it for myself.)

P.S. The "Rome"
website is totally fascinating, filled with even more information about the show and the time period. HBO really invested a lot in these "behind the scenes" elements which I really appreciate.

13 December 2006

And Then, There Were None

One of the most painful entries I have had to make on my blog in the nearly one year that it has been around.

According to this article in the New York Times, the baiji dolphin (pictured) is now extinct.

It has been said a civilization is judged by how it takes care of those least able to care for themselves. I think a civilization should also be judged by how well it takes care of its environment.

Either way, we are a very sorry civilization, indeed.

07 December 2006

Water, Water, Everywhere

Two news stories tell the wonderful tales of water being returned to where it had once run freely:

Here the Los Angeles Times tells about water being returned to the once-lush Owens Valley (pictured) after nearly a century of being diverted to quench the thirst of a growing Los Angeles.

Here is the BBC news recounting of the progress made in returning water to the cradle of civilization: the Iraq marshes, which were nearly allowed to dry up after Saddam Hussein blocked the water to retaliate against the inhabitants.

It is always so nice to be able to write about good things being done for the environment. We only have one planet -- for now.

Lastly, here is news about new evidence pointing to the existence of water on the planet Mars right now -- not ancient water, but water that is possibly just under the surface, flowing, as you read this. The implications of this are hard to exaggerate.

03 December 2006

Dewey, We Hardly Knew Ye

I had never heard of Dewey Readmore Books, the official library cat at Spencer Public Library in Spencer, Iowa -- and now he's dead.

Dewey's official web page is here.

The Associated Press article -- and Dewey's life story -- will be found here.

02 December 2006


This is totally weird. Shortly after I wrote about sexism at the toy show (please see my blog of 27 November), comes this astonishing article. I had no idea this trend was afoot -- but all I can say is I support it totally and completely.

I Don't

I am gay. I have been in a very stable, loving relationship with the same man for just over 12 years. And guess what? I don't support "marriage" for gays and lesbians.

Why? Well, as I always say, straight people have been getting married for several thousand years and they still cannot get it right -- why should we buy into that? Do I agree with equal legal rights for gay and lesbian couples? Absolutely. But I want it to be called something else.

The whole concept of marriage is abysmal to me. Marriage started, after all, as a transfer of property (the woman) from father to husband. To this day I do not understand women buying into this -- and don't get me started on the waste of money on weddings! Criticize Hallmark for creating holidays to sell cards; but the wedding industry is way worse for encouraging the lavish waste of (probably) billions of dollars.

Okay, all that said, I want to direct you to this article.

While I do not support the idea of "marriage" I am deeply and sincerely touched by those heterosexual couples who are showing solidarity to gays and lesbians. And this is not a new trend. I actually know people who have said the same thing to me.

Me, personally, I do not support discrimination of any kind -- even if I do not agree with the thing being discriminated against.

Cashing In and Checking Out

I am the first to admit to being a little weird. I am very anal about many things (no jokes please) including accuracy.

One of the most annoying things in the world is the problem with accuracy at the check out in grocers and retailers.

When we go to the grocers, we take a list -- as many people do. Onto that list we write the posted price of every single thing we want to purchase -- which, apparently, no one else in the world does but me.

Why? In large part because of newspaper articles like this.

Although the mistakes we catch are very few, and generally far between, we have at times been overcharged up to $10 in combined errors -- in one shopping excursion! With our average weekly grocery bill around $100, that's an error of 10%. Luckily, I compare the receipt to my list before we leave, and make sure to have all errors corrected.

When we go to other retailers, I double check the receipt before we leave. Usually, there are no problems; but I will keep checking, and newspaper articles like that are why.