Saturday, September 29, 2007

Rice in China, 7700 years ago

History never stays the same.

A couple of years ago, scientists and archaeologists were quite certain that people began cultivating rice in China at a certain date . . . but new discoveries have pushed that date back to 5700 B.C. (7700 years ago).

Turns out the sediments 9 to 12 feet deep, at the mouth of the Yangtze reveal that folks were building dams, burning fields to clear them, and flooding rice paddies. They may have been doing it long before the date mentioned, but by that time, the scientists say, those farmers had driven out other, older, trees and vegetation and were planting rice and cattails.

Cattails? Yuck.

The site is called Kuahuqiao, and the report is in Nature. This picture is of Kuahuqiao in 2001. Here's a transcription of a podcast, and an article in the Los Angeles Times.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sleep-Deprived Congress

Bill Clinton (on the Daily Show) , speaking of the "sheer, physical strain on all these members of Congress.:"

"I think it makes them more edgy, I think it makes them more irritable, I think it makes them more vulnerable to being pulled back and forth by interest groups that want more conflict and less cooperation . . . I do believe sleep deprivation has a lot to do with some of the edginess of Washington today."

This comes during the last minute or so of the 6-minute video. Best reason I've heard for some of the shot-myself-in-the-foot behavior of certain Reps. They melt down, break laws, blow up, or mouth off in career-ending dramas. . . . what other explanation is there?

History Quotes

From Ken Burns, on the Daily Show:
"History is a set of questions we in the present ask of the past."

Some of my other favorite quotes on history:
Stuart Piggott: "Archaeological evidence in itself consists of the accidentally durable "
Gary Nash: "Do not try to skirt the dark, tragic episodes. If you do, you will only produce cynics. "
Arthur Schlesinger: "History is to the nation rather as memory is to the individual."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Other commitments will keep me busy this week (Yay! That means I can buy groceries in November!)

So for anyone who wonders if I have lost interest in blogging--ix-nay, no way. In fact, I am so dedicated to writing that even though Viggo is waging the good fight nightly (au buffo, except for tattos) directly across the street, I have not invested the time or $10.50 to watch. Such dedication borders on obsession. I not only have no life, but even fantasyland is a bit dry.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Profanity censored, but not headless corpses

I may be the only squeamish person in the galaxy, but I find this weird:

Broadcasting & Cable reports that:

[Re: The War ] " PBS is feeding both an edited and unedited version of The War to stations for each of seven two-hour debut broadcasts over seven evenings, which began Sunday night. It feeds only the edited version -- minus four swear words that crop up in episodes two and five -- to stations for weekend "stacking," when some stations will run all four of the first week's episodes back-to-back, which means that they will start airing in the afternoon or even the morning.

"Why? "Because conceivably, a four-year-old could watch it,” PBS spokeswoman Lea Sloan said, "and it would be going right into the teeth of the FCC." "

Umm . . . would a four-year-old not balk at the pictures of beheaded or gutted bodies, especially the ones with flies clustering over them? Would said four-year-old be oblivious to verbal descriptions of torture and mayhem?

The War is an excellent show and I hope it wins a passel o' Emmys. It is also engaging history. But cutting out four swear words and leaving in gore because "conceivably, a four-year-old could watch it" is just plain silly, and indicates that PBS--or, in truth, the FCC, to whom PBS must answer--thinks we have very distorted sensibilities.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Love, War and Sexuality

A new exhibition in Paris--Amours, Guerres, et Sexualite--shows how World Wars I and II affected the sex lives and amours of ordinary soldiers and civilians in Europe.

One review tells of engagement rings made of shrapnel, photographs and diaries, Mata Hari's travel documents, pinups, propaganda, and sex crimes--at turns touching and sentimental, or lewd, crude, and disgusting.

"Love, War and Sexuality" runs through Dec. 31 at Les Invalides in Paris and will not travel elsewhere. Here's the program in French. The website seems to be undergoing some changes and does not have the description up in English yet.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Seriously Skewed Priorities

Americans need to refocus and decide what's important.

There are no politics behind that statement. It's inspired by a new survey of over 1000 Americans in September, done by an advertising agency. The responses indicate that:

  • 28% of us sacrifice time that we would have spent talking or being with freinds and family, to surf the internet

  • One out of five of us--20%--has let the internet cut into our sex life.

Read the article here. Or go have sex. It's up to you.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Robert Ballard Talk

Dr. Robert Ballard gave a talk, showed slides, and signed books in L.A. last night. Fascinating evening if you are at all into underwater archaeology, the Black Sea, shipwrecks, WWII, or the Titanic. If you don't find those things interesting . . . why would you be reading my blog?

Dr. Ballard is the guy who found the Titanic. And the Bismarck. And the remains of PT-109 (JFK's ship). And a whole lotta other shipwrecks, including a Byzantine ship in the Black Sea, which constitutes his latest project.

The Black Sea, lacking oxygen below a certain level, preserves the wood of shipwrecks. Check out this website for more info on the most recent research trip.

Lucky me! Here's himself, signing my book (this explains why Dr. Ballard wears a baseball cap in most pictures.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

First Ever ALotOfGaul Award

How can I not bestow this? It involves both Gaul and gall!

Alexis Debat, a "self-proclaimed expert on terrorism. . . [and] regular contributor to the foreign affairs reviews Politique Internationale and National Interest, . . . a consultant for ABC News and an analyst of the prestigious Nixon Center attending conferences with the cream of the crop of American foreign policy circles. . ." (a media mover and shaker, iow) faked interviews with people like Senator Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton, former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan, NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Microsoft uberlord Bill Gates.

He also pretended he had a PhD that he never earned . . . but that's small potatoes, compared with fabricating comments from world leaders.

Read all about it at! The scam is highly entertaining & a bit humbling. I'm sure a screenplay is in the works. . . . I can see Gaspar Ulliel (right) as Debat. You can't get any more charmant than that.

The Gaul tie-in? He's French, of course, and folks at ABC call him "Pepe le Pew." Additionally, Debat submitted the bogus Obama interview to French Political Review Politique Internationale, who published it. Ma foix. He's also written for Figaro, presented himself as being an officer with France's Defense Ministry . . . .

BTW, the pictur of Debat (above left) is from a Nov. 7, 2005 online transcript of Jim Lehrer's NewsHour on PBS. Lehrer introduces the talking head as:
"Alexis Debat, a contributing editor to the National Interest and a consultant for ABC News. He was a French defense ministry official and social worker before moving to the U.S.."
I want to ghostwrite his bio. But what does he need ghostwriters for?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Archaology News--Guilt-free and Time-Consuming!

The news is often so demoralizing that I enjoy most the keyword feed on my Yahoo home page--and my keyword happens to be "archaeology."

Today, for example, there's the BBC announcement that the 3,500-year-old remains of a child were found "at Pode Hole Quarry, in Thorney, near Peterborough," which is apparently near the edge of the Fens. This makes it Bronze Age, about 1500 B.C. Jewelry and a mat show it to be a formal burial, but beyond that there's not too much to say until a lot of tests are done.

Finding ancient remains--in bogs, salt fields, or ancient graves--must be a fascinating occupation. To paraphrase some bon vivant: I like my men like I like my whiskey: aged and fermented.

Also, there is a detailed obituary about Gene Savoy, the "real Indian Jones" who died last week. Savoy located over 40 stone cities of the Incas, and made discoveries about the Aztecs and transportation.

"Scientists thought the existence of these cities and settlements in the Peruvian rainforest was all a myth until my father found them," his son Sean Savoy said. "His discoveries opened up a whole new area of jungle archaeology that didn't exist before."
He also had some pretty wild religious theories.

It's much more interesting than who won the Emmys (since I rarely watch sitcoms!) and less depressing than the tales of mayhem from Iraq or Darfur.
And safer and guilt-free. After all, archaeological finds involve the long-dead, whether bodies or civilizations. They're gone. They've been gone for centuries. They can't make you wonder if maybe you could've done more.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Unavailable and Proud of It

Do you remember where you were the first time that you realized the person talking into thin air was not crazy or addressing you? Unless you're in middle school, you should.

My first time was in a bathroom stall at a store. I knew there was only one other woman in there, and she was close enough that when she said, "Hello? How you doing?" I thought: Well, this is odd, but there's no call to be rude.

So I said, "Fine, thank you."

And she said, "What? Hold on just a minute, honey, someone is saying something to me. What?"

And suddenly, I was the loony one, talking to a stranger in the bathroom stall.

Now I think nothing of people talking, giggling, and even shouting to themselves. I know that just out of sight is a phone. We all walk around like novice Borgs with our bluetooths embedded, trying to carry on a face-to-face while never really certain that we have even a fourth of the other person's attention.

We are a funny group of clowns.

Thank you, Geoff Fox, for having a picture of a non-model, bluetooth-wearing driver on your blog.

Friday, September 14, 2007

American Native Spirits

Say "America's Native Spirit" to anyone who studied history on the college level, and they will think of Indian religiosity. Clearly, we've been spending too much time in the library.

In this case, the US Senate used the phrase while declaring September to be National Bourbon Heritage Month. (No, it has nothing to do with the French family. Get your mind out of the study carrels. )

According to TheLiquidMuse, The US Senate invested the time from their packed schedule in order to:

"reinforce bourbon as “America’s Native Spirit.” In doing so, it celebrates the family heritage, tradition and deep-rooted legacy that the bourbon industry contributes to the United States."

Clever Senate. . . turning bourbon swilling into a family value. I'll drink to that!

Out of patriotism, I offer these other sites to learn about the history of bourbon:

You can read more about the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in mid-September here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

In Praise of Mosquitoes

Wisdom from the late Anita Roddick, eco-conscious and socially responsible founder of The Body Shop:

If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.

The Infomaniac was good enough to post that, with a small testimonial.

So of course I had to find a picture of a cute mosquito to adorn the post, which was surprisingly easy. Dr. Seuss, thank you. This drawing of Ann the mosquito was part of a service document on malaria done for the troops during WWII.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where Does the Cardinal Live?

According to the Catholic Reporter, the Los Angeles archdiocese sponsored a Religious Education Conference in February 1998. One of the speakers was Bishop Kenneth Untener of Saginaw, MI, who “met with roaring applause . . . when a presenter described Untener’s decision to sell the bishop’s residence and live from parish to parish in his diocese.”

Bishop Untenor had sold the residence in 1980. From then on, he worked from his car and office, staying in parish rectories for weeks or months at a time. He did this for 24 years, the entire time he was Bishop of Saginaw, until he died in 2004.

Here's another story, from the Los Angeles Times.

Three nuns in a small convent in Santa Barbara, owned by the archdiocese of Los Angeles, are being evicted. They are 69, 55, and 49 years old. Their home is being sold to help pay for the $660 million pedophile priest settlement agreed to by the archdiocese of Los Angeles. At least $250 million of that must come from the archdiocese itself; insurance will pick up the rest.

The archdiocese, which five years ago completed the building of a $189.7 million cathedral on a downtown site that cost an additional $10.85 million, is selling off other properties. The 12-story administration building it occupies is for sale, for example. But it is the home of these nuns, who were in no way involved in crimes, lawsuits, or settlement, that has caught the public's attention.

Putting the elements together, I cannot help but wonder where Cardinal Roger Mahoney, who refers to himself as the "Chief Shepherd of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles," lives.

I don't want his home address, of course (I'm sure that secret is as sacred as the confession of a . . . no, never mind.)

But I do wonder if the Cardinal is setting the example for the nuns and others who must give up their homes to pay for the crimes of others. Is he downscaling? Has he considered doing as Bishop Untener did?

Such a gesture might go a long way to restoring credibility and respect to his office.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

As a well fills in darkness from forgotten rains . . .

That's a line from the poem Ever Since by Archibald MacLeish. Or rather, a bit of two lines:

What do you remember thinking back?

What do you think of at dusk in the slack

Evening when the mind refills

With the cool past as a well fills in

Darkness from forgotten rains?

Beautiful images--it goes on for 6 more stanzas.

I don't think writers' minds refill with the cool past in the slack evening.

What refills my well is exposure to beautiful, imaginative sights. I went to an art museum today, heard a bagpipe player last night, and have spent an hour or so each evening enjoying the super-deluxe expanded version of Lord of the Ring, with all its glorious appendices.

My mind is flooding, thank you!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Paris, Je T'aime . . . but I can't commit

Movie critics, beware: I am flexing my opinion.

Paris, Je T'aime is 18 shorts, directed by 18 different people, featuring 18 different casts and writers. Each is set in a different arrondisement of Paris, and the idea (I think) is to celebrate the city.

Some succeed nicely--like the vampire romance on the bank of the Seine, starring Elijah Wood.

Remember the Highlander TV show, when Duncan McLeod (Adrian -sigh- Paul) lived on a barge on the Seine, which just had to be the coolest digs, ever? Believe it or not, this gothic, funny bit with its long stairs and blue-black night conjured up the same wanna-be-there aura.

Mostly though, the movie evoked the overwhelming, alienating isolation of a huge city. Sometimes it was poignant, sometimes funny, sometimes gallicly obscure, but in the end, I did not love Paris as much as my poor romantic self used to. It's a harsh, big world.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My Kingdom for a Time Machine

If I had a time machine, I could go back to the 1920s and make a ton of money investing, then hold onto it by pulling out of the stock market before it crashed in October 1929. Or I could invest in little start-ups like that company Henry Ford ran, or Microsoft, or even Starbucks Coffee.

So I wonder what a future generation would do with us, if they develop a time machine. What opportunities am I missing right now?

Here are some headlines from Mediabistro that make me wonder:

Huh? I have no clue what any of these stories are about. In twenty years, will I be saying "Yeah, I coulda bought inta BlueLithium back before it really took off, . . . 'cept I didn't know BlueLithium from boba back then."

I feel very, very old. Kinda like the Amish guy in the carriage, being passed by all those fancy cars . . . except, without the comfort of moral certitude.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Reclusive Authors

This article in the Los Angeles Times gives an overview of what we know or guess about famous reclusive authors--like Harper Lee, Cormac McCarthy, and Thomas Pynchon.

Why do they avoid the limelight?

"Smug, sensitive, too cool. . . " the paper wonders. ". . . arrogance, sensitivity, or a noble dissent -- a high-minded refusal to engage with America's culture of celebrity, erosion of privacy and self-promotion. . . ."

Book editor Arthur Salm provides wisdom:
"Reclusive writers are living perfectly reasonable lives," he said. "The fact that they're reclusive isn't the phenomenon: The phenomenon is our reaction to the fact that they're living normal lives. "

Sunday, September 02, 2007

With a Name Like Jason Ur . . .

. . . How could he NOT be a noted Archaeologist? Ur? Jason? That's cosmic.

As WhyFiles and other news sites note, Professor Ur of Harvard has published an article in Science titled "Early Urban Development in the Near East."
This pictures shows the suface of Tell Brak in Syria, site of Professor Ur's study, covered with pottery pieces. These pieces help date and locate ancient villages.

Three or four thousand years ago, cities emerged in the Middle East. The logical assumption has always been that a few huts grew into a village, which over the years grew bigger until it could be called a city.

Professor Ur says that in come cases, a set of villages that formed a ring simple filled in the empty spaces between them (again, over many years) and grew inward to form a city.

It's a brilliant and innovative idea, and it must be true because the author has such a cool name.