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Archive for the ‘Antiquities’

Noah, Gilgamesh, and getting hammered

April 11, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, Books, Current Events, Movies 5 Comments →

707px-Nuremberg_chronicles_f_11r_1
The building of the ark, from the Nuremberg Chronicles

We’ve already seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier thrice, and we wouldn’t mind seeing it again but one must try to get a life. So we thought of watching Darren Aronofsky’s epic Noah, only to find that it’s not showing yet, nor is it on the roster of coming attractions. Hmmm. This wouldn’t have something to do with the protests about the movie version differing from the biblical version, would it? (According to InterAksyon, the delay in the screening is due to a dispute over distribution, not religion.)

Apparently American viewers have complained about Noah’s drunkenness—an episode we remember having read about, most recently in the David Rosenberg translation of the Book of J. From the King James Bible, Genesis 9:

20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

Which was harsh, considering Noah was the one who got so hammered, he passed out naked. (In his defence, he was about 600 years old at the time, reason enough to be cranky.) You think Ham wanted to see what he saw?

Here’s one of the likely sources of the story of The Great Flood, Tablet XI of the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh.

gilgamesh
Read the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Every movie we see #22: 300 Rise of An Empire is 102 minutes of slow-motion blood spatter

March 07, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, History, Movies No Comments →

When last we saw Leonidas and his brave Spartans at Thermopylae, they looked like this. (Is that Michael Fassbender on Leonidas’s right?)

300-ROAE-7

Two hundred ninety-nine lay dead, one returned to Sparta to report their mission accomplished (It was a suicide mission, Spartans wanted a glorious death). We rejoin them shortly after the events at the Hot Gates, with Leonidas’s Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey, who specializes in warrior queens) leading the Spartans into battle against the Persians. She tells us why Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) has it in for the Greeks: apparently the Athenian leader Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) personally killed Xerxes’s father, King Darius. Xerxes used to be human so we get to see Rodrigo looking like himself at first—but then Darius’s naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green) fans his hatred of the Greeks. She kills everyone who might talk sense into Xerxes, and then makes him undergo a ritual that turns him into this.

300-rise-of-an-empire

Aaaaaaaaaaaa his eyebrows are trying to kill us! Help, he’s going to audition for the Village People in 480 BC!

Then the Persians attack the Greek city-states with a huuuge fleet. Themistocles tries to mount a proper defence, but Athens has just invented democracy and everyone gets an opinion, so he and his men are on their own. Themistocles is played by Sullivan Stapleton, who is not a bad actor but lacks the heroic heft for this stuff—he makes Gerald Butler look like Daniel Day-Lewis.

His small fleet has to battle the huuuge navy led by Artemisia, who divides her time between slaughtering men and changing her goth-metal costumes. Why isn’t Eva Green in more movies? Here she plays a ferocious warrior who wields two swords at the same time, and she doesn’t even need them because she can castrate men with a look.

300: BATTLE OF ARTEMESIUM

The movie is Rated R-16 because every ten seconds someone gets hacked with a sword, then his blood spurts in slow motion for another ten seconds. The screenplay for this movie must be three pages long, most of it Lena Headey’s voice-over. 102 minutes of men disemboweling, beheading and vivisecting each other, and you know what was cut from this R-16 version? A sex scene. Because Eva Green’s breasts are more dangerous than men impaling each other with swords. Just say no to heterosex.

300: Rise of An Empire must be an advertisement for the color red. After three minutes of carnage we had the overwhelming urge to eat the bagnet dinuguan at Wooden Spoon (We went afterwards and they were full, as usual). Speaking of food, if you go to Hossein’s Persian Kebab, don’t even mention 300 or its sequel to Mr. Hossein because he gets furious. However, if you are doing a history report on the Achaemenid Empire and the Greek Alliance, better talk to Mr. Hossein because if you get your information from 300: Rise of An Empire, you will flunk the class and deserve it.

Watch: If you want to see rippling musculature. And live actors made to look like visual effects.

Reading year 2014: A History of the World in 100 Objects is a crash course in civilization

March 06, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, Art, Books, History No Comments →

AHOW

If you’re into history, archaeology, and art, this book is an absolute delight. If you know nothing about the history of the human race, this book will save you from ignorance.

British Museum director Neil MacGregor has chosen 100 artifacts from different periods in history to create revealing snapshots of how people lived in those times.

standard of ur
The Standard of Ur, a wooden box inlaid with mosaic, dates back to 2600 BC. Archaeologists thought it was a standard, a sign carried into battle on top of a pole. They still don’t know exactly what it’s for, but most likely it’s a box to keep precious objects in. The mosaic carved in shell, red stone and lapis could be the first comic strip, portraying life in the ancient city of Ur in Sumer in Mesopotamia. You see the king ruling his subjects, and leading them in wartime. Note the chariots: as early as 2600 BC, artists had figured out how to render movement graphically.

holy thorn reliquary
This reliquary made in Paris in 1350 or so is made of solid gold and encrusted with sapphires, crystals, rubies and pearls. Look closely: there are angels blowing their trumpets and people rising from their coffins and raising their hands. It’s a scene from the Last Judgement. The reliquary contains a single thorn purportedly from the Crown of Thorns that was placed on Jesus’s head. In the Medieval Ages there was a booming trade in holy relics: saints’ fingers, skulls, bits of bone.

throne of weapons
From Mozambique in 2001: A throne built from decommissioned weapons from various wars, monument to all who suffered in the civil war in Mozambique. (Is it possible that they got the inspiration from the Iron Throne in George R.R. Martin’s epic?)

A History of the World in 100 Objects is available at National Bookstores, Php1195.

Listen to the AHOW podcast.

The Philippines: Archipelago of Exchange exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly, Paris

April 22, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, Places 2 Comments →

Loosely translated: This exhibit on the Philippines ranges from the Cordillera in the North and travels to the South to Mindanao and shows considerable archaeological treasures from very ancient times.

One part of the exhibit focuses on the Land—the highlanders who sculpted ancient carvings way before European contact. The other part focuses on the Sea—the people of Mindanao who were organized in sultanates, engaged in great commerce and produced works of art oriented to the sea.

This is an exhibit that is very poetic and elegant, and allows us to discover an entirely unknown world.

Thanks to Jomari for the translation.

This is the first major exhibition in France in the last twenty years devoted to the Philippines.

Visit the museum website.

Turkey Travel Diary, Day 7: To another planet, by land

March 11, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, Cats, Places, Travel Diary: Turkey, Traveling 7 Comments →

1. breakfast
The daily breakfast of yogurt with honey and black coffee, plus cereal. Of course the buffet at the Ozkaymak Hotel in Konya offered other choices, but this is the only food I can ingest so early in the morning. Aaaaaa morning sunlight. Never had so much vitamin D, and I live in the tropics.

2. mevlana
First stop: the Mevlana Museum, shrine to the 13th century Persian poet and mystic Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi, known throughout the world as Rumi. (In his lifetime part of Turkey was under the Seljuk Sultanate.) Rumi advocated absolute tolerance and positive reasoning, qualities we tend not to associate with religion today.

3. dervishes
No photography is allowed inside the main building, but the outer rooms display artifacts from the daily lives of Sufi mystics, including the Whirling Dervishes.

Rumi said: “Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.”

4. caravanserai
Outside Konya is the Sultanhani Caravanserai. A caravanserai is an inn for traveling groups and their horses, camels, donkeys, (caged) lions, livestock and assorted baggage. Note the very high clearance—if you’re traveling with elephants, as merchants did on the Silk Road, they’re welcome, too.

5. caravanserai 2

Thanks to Turkey’s immense highways and our excellent driver Sabatin, we got to Cappadocia (Kapadokya) ahead of schedule. Kapadokya was the capital of the Hittites. There’s Old School; they’re Old Testament. Genesis.

6. kapadokya

It was as if I had arrived on Arrakis without the services of a Navigator. Dune without the sand. Or the sandworms, although some of the weird rock formations rearing up from the ground could be Shai-Hulud. (The emperor of the Ottomans was called the Padishah Sultan.)

The entrance to the underground city of Kaymakli was lined with shops guarded by my usual welcoming committee.

7. kaymakli
The Turkish take care of their cats and dogs. According to Fulya, strays are rounded up and spayed/neutered. As the facilities cannot accommodate all the animals, they are released and given food and shelter by the local residents.
8. kaymakli 2
Clearly an arrangement that works for the cats and dogs.

Kaymakli the underground city is a network of tunnels, and as you go below temperatures can be subzero. I’d borrowed a friend’s The North Face goose down jacket, which is the greatest winter gear known to me. People climb Mt Everest in these things, they weigh next to nothing and can be compressed into 8 x 5 packs you can throw in your luggage.

9. tunnels
The tunnels are narrow, and often you have to walk in a crouch. It’s like doing squats, except that you could slip and pitch headlong into the next “room”. After 10 minutes of walking on your haunches you work up a sweat. Conclusion: the residents of Kaymakli had quads of steel. Which was useful, as many of them were early Christians on the run from persecution.

10. tunnels
The living spaces gouged out of the soft volcanic rock are arranged around ventilation shafts so people could live comfortably while avoiding detection. To close the entrances they rolled giant millstones across the openings. No one could get in; the only way to dislodge the residents was to flood the tunnels, which would take too much water.

11. gyges
Just before dark we checked into our final hotel in Turkey, the 5-star Dinler Park in Urgup. This cat thought he owned the joint.

Turkey Travel Diary, Day 6: On the road to Konya

March 09, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, Cats, Places, Travel Diary: Turkey, Traveling 8 Comments →

1. breakfast6
I really am not a morning person. Breakfast at the Colossae five-star hotel and thermal spa in Pamukkale. Lots of European and Asian tour groups. At mealtimes the huge dining room is a reenactment of the Tower of Babel. Which is not here but in Iraq.

1. jacuzzi
My room has a jacuzzi. The water just sits there, though; it’s more like a small swimming pool.

2. Hierapolis
First stop, the necropolis of Hierapolis, a big Phrygian city in Greco-Roman times. Sarcophagi in assorted shapes, some as big as houses. (Yes, we have bigger (much newer) mausoleums back home, fully-furnished with functioning kitchens.)

3. Hierapolis2

travertines
Then we stopped at the travertines of Pamukkale. That’s not snow on the mountains—the rocks turned white from the mineral deposits of the hot springs.

4. travertines
You can walk barefoot in the hot spring water. I was too lazy to take off boots, socks, leggings, get my feet wet, then put my footwear back on.

5. yogurt with poppies
During a stop in Afyon I had a coffee and the local specialty: yogurt with honey and opium poppies. “Afyon” means opium, which is their primary crop. Opium is grown under government supervision in Turkey, for medicinal purposes.

The yogurt with honey and opium poppies is delicious. I don’t think I got high, but I can’t tell the difference between my “normal” state and intoxication.

7. cats
This family of cats lives outside the restaurant where we stopped for lunch. The cats I’ve seen in Turkey are very friendly, or maybe I just reek of cat.

6. road
This was the view from my seat for most of the day. We’re driving to Konya, capital of the Seljuk empire. Why is it more exhausting to sit in a bus for an hour than to walk for the same period? I’m almost halfway through the Moby Dick podcasts but I keep drifting into unconsciousness.

This is the “filler” part of the trip; things pick up once we get to Cappadocia. On the other hand I’ve communed with the highways of Asia Minor. This song kept playing in my head.

By the time we got to Konya it was nearly closing time at the Museum of Mevlana (more familiar to us as Rumi) so we put off the visit to the next morning.