Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Carolyn Porco meets Marcus Aurelius

Two weeks, there was a piece in the NYTimes about Carolyn Porco and her remarkable contributions in imaging the outer planets of our solar system. A protege of Carl Sagan, she is credited as being the model for the character Dr. Ellie Arroway in the book/movie "Contact". Definitely an interesting read.

But today there was an interesting letter called "Eyeing the Cosmos"in the NYTimes, inspired by the article:

...In pondering the possibility of life elsewhere in the cosmos, Dr. Porco echoes yet another august figure in her ancestral patrimony, Marcus Aurelius: “The entire Earth is but a point, and the place of our own habitation but a minute corner of it...

If you have not read Marcus Aurelius, I highly recommend the recent translation by Gregory Hays, "Meditations: Marcus Aurelius" This book belongs on the self of every well-read Pagan/Wiccan/Atheist.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Saxon Hoard Found

Amateur with Metal Detector Strikes Ancient English Treasure

A dedicated hobbyist, who was often made fun of for his passion, makes major archeological find:

LONDON — For the jobless man living on welfare who made the find in an English farmer’s field two months ago, it was the stuff of dreams: a hoard of early Anglo-Saxon treasure , probably dating from the seventh century and including more than 1,500 pieces of intricately worked gold and silver whose craftsmanship and historical significance left archaeologists awestruck.

Terry Herbert, the 55 year old discoverer of the find, sometimes offered up an intention when he started one of his explorations with a metal detector:

...He said that on the day of his discovery he reworked a mantra that he regularly used for good luck. “I have this phrase that I say sometimes — ‘Spirits of yesterday, take me where the coins appear’ — but on that day I changed ‘coins’ to ‘gold.’ I don’t know why I said it that day, but I think somebody was listening.”

This is a significant find:

...experts described it as one of the most important in British archaeological history. They said it surpassed the greatest previous discovery of its kind, a royal burial chamber unearthed in 1939 at Sutton Hoo, in Suffolk. That find shaped scholars’ understanding of the warring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of 1,300 years ago that ended up as the unified kingdom of England...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Clash of the Gods

Has anyone been watching "Clash of the Gods" on the History Channel? The show has been rather good. So far, episodes have covered Zeus, Hercules, Hades (the place and the God) and The Medusa. Most recently, 'Part I' of Odysseus aired. You can view some of the past episodes on the History channel website, above.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Darwin and the Pythoness

No U.S. distributor for Charles Darwin movie because of fear of fundamentalists

Many of you will remember the Xtian angst that ensued when the Monty Python movie "The Life of Brian" was released in the USA. At that time, I was friendly with a married couple who ran the a 'mom & pop' size theater in my college town. They were fans of Python, and dearly wanted to show the film. But they had received a very pointed threat against them on their answering machine, if they decided to show the film. They agonized whether they should show the film. In this case, this threat of terrorism had the desired effect. One of the owners told me that although someone defacing one of their movie screens would be covered by insurance, the loss of revenue would ruin them. (This was before studio owned megaplexes dominated the market). They decided not to show the film.

Well, it looks like the factually challenged have won the day again. The 'good' news is that theater owners will not have to sweat the decision to show the film or not, as the film now has about zero chance of finding a distributor in the US. From Crooks&Liars:

...Good God, what is this country coming to?

It seems the film Creation, a major-production biopic about Charles Darwin starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly, won't be seen in the United States because no distributor with the guts to stand up to the religious right in this country can be found...

The producer said:

"...The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it's because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they've seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up.