Friday, November 30, 2007

ONE More Mailer Quote

Just One!

"A writer of the largest dimension can alter the nerve and marrow of a nation."

Wasn't that worth it?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 Protecting the First Amendment

According to an AP story, phone companies and other entities--balked when zealous law enforcement demanded a list of people who'd bought certain books online.

Wow--imagine standing by principles in today's scary world. Even more astounding--this is a business standing up for our rights! We can't even find Congressional representatives willing to do that!

This all came about because federal prosecutors are going after an official who sold used books online--from his official office. He didn't report the profits. Bad, bad man.

The feds figured his book customers would make good witnesses. They wanted Amazon to turn over records of who purchased books from this guy, so they could contact those purchasers. Honest, that's it.

"We didn't care about the content of what anybody read. We just wanted to know what these business transactions were," the prosecutor said.

But Judge Stephen Crocker said "No."

More specifically, he said: "It is an unsettling and un-American scenario to envision federal agents nosing through the reading lists of law-abiding citizens while hunting for evidence against somebody else."

Yay, Judge Crocker! Yay, Amazon!

Could this be a trend? Will we actually start demanding the protections developed under 200 years of Constitutional rule?

Gee. . . what a great country could spring from that!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Follow-up to Satellite Mapping of Egypt

Much more information about Dr. Sarah Parcak and her team at the University of Alabama's Birgmingham campus can be found in a local newspaper here. Apparently Discovery Channel is filming a segment about her work.
"Anytime you see a significant change in elevation, you are going to find an archaeological site,". . . . Soils from ancient settlements are detectable because they have a higher organic content, which tends to retain more water. "Archaeological soils are chemically different than other soils," Parcak said.

Using Satellites to Find Sites in Egypt

This had to happen--I only wonder why it took so long. Seems like satellite technology has been used to find sites in the Americas for a couple of years now.

(Satellites, schmatellites. In the 1920s, airplane pilots pointed out intaglios carved into the California and Arizona deserts. And Roger Agache began using aerial photography to pinpoint the locations and outlines of Roman and pre-Roman Celtic sites in the Picardie region of northern France in the 1970s.)

But to get to the point--Yahoo reports that satellite mapping has identified over 100 new archaeological sites in Egypt. The work was done by ten computers run by researchers in Birmingham. Yahoo puts them in the UK (Birmingham, England) but that may be a mistake. Dr. Sarah Parcak (right) , Egyptologist with the University of Alabama, Birmingham leads the project. The sites include:

". . . a lost temple buried beneath agricultural fields, a major town in the East Nile Delta dating to the time of the pyramids, a large monastery from 400 A.D. in Middle Egypt and a massive, largely buried city beneath a field on the East Delta dating to 600 B.C."

Googling reaveals that that LiveScience reported in June 2007 that the same researchers had rediscovered a forgotten 1600-year-old metropolis 200 miles south of Cairo. This picture , credited to DigitalGlobe, is of the Great Aten temple at Tell al-Amarna. It shows a temple enclosure wall in the north, buried under a modern cemetery.

A University of Toronto site shows and tells about satellite imagery along the Nile Delta and Sinai regions. That project is called SEPE (Survey & Excavation Projects in Egypt.) Most of its info dates from 2004, but it's still interesting.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Norman Mailer Quotes

More words of wisdom from Norman Mailer's The Spooky Art:
  • A man lays his character on the line when he writes a novel. Anything in him which is lazy, or meretricious, or unthought-out, complacent, fearful, overambitious, or terrified by the ultimate logic of his exploration will be revealed in his book. . . . no novelist can escape his or her own character altogether.
  • Where indeed would England be now without Shakespeare? . . . If you ask who has had that kind of influence today in America, I'd say Madonna. . . . So far, she's had more to do with women's liberation than Women's Liberation.
  • The young writer usually starts as a loser and so is obliged to live with the conviction that the world he knows had better be wrong or he or she is wrong. On the answer depends one's evaluation of one's right to survive.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Excavating Rome and the Lupercal

This picture is too beautiful not to pass along.

It comes from a probe sent into a cave on the Palatine Hill in Rome. This dome, decorated with shells and mosaic art, may have been erected over what the Romans considered most sacred: the cave where, their legend said, the twins Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf. IOW, the cave where Rome began.

This picture comes from the BBC website, as did the diagram, which shows how deeply the structure is buried. The accompanying story is here.

An earlier story, with a few other details, is here.

The cave is near the ruins of the palace of Augustus Caesar, the first Emperor of Rome. The palace was built over 2000 years ago; the date of this dome has not been established.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Funny Videos by Striking Writers

These are links to entertaining videos. One of these days I will figure out how to embed videos on this blog--or (in the odd chance that my incompetence is not the culprit) blogger will provide a working methodology. But meanwhile:

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Luckiest Archaeology Student in the World

What's more exciting than finding a Roman-era pot in the back yard of the house you just bought in Yorkshire?

Being an archaeology student and finding a Roman-era pot in the back yard of the house you just bought in Yorkshire.

Seriously. Read about it here.

What if he switches his major to Forensic Science? Will he dig up a dead body?

Better yet--Gender Studies!

The possibilities are endless.

Here's a quote from the article:

Holme-on-Spalding Moor [the location of the student's house] has a history of historic discoveries, including an Iron Age boat excavated on the banks of the River Foulness at nearby Hasholme in the 1980s.

The River Foulness?

Who named that? Gollum?

Investigative Journalism

I just did a piece on ProPublica, the new non-profit investigative journalism organization. It's starting up in January, with Paul Steiner, former editor of the Wall Street Journal at the helm. Read my article and get all the here, on HubPages.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Norman Mailer On Writing

I've had the book for two years but I'm finally reading The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing, Mailer's book on writing. How edifying to learn that bouts of insecurity, financial panic, disillusionment, and disgust are normal . . . if Norman Mailer's experience could be considered normal. At least, they're not abnormal.

Here are Mailer quotes (and I'm only on pg. 57):

  • when a writer can't find the nuance of an experience, he usually loads up with adjectives.

  • Mega-best-seller readers want to be able to read and read and read--they do not want to ponder any truly unexpected revelations.

  • if I wanted my work to travel further than others, the life of my talent depended on fighting a littel more, and looking for help a little less.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Peru, dateline 2000 BC

Here is a lovely picture of a deer hunt (yeah, I don't quite see it either but that's what the archaeologists say), found in Peru. What's significant is that this piece of rather sophistcated art is 4,000 years old.

I love these stories that start out with the idea that this new discovery indicates people were more "advanced" or "complex" than previously thought. Don't we ever get tired of our own pomposity?

Anyway, this 7000-foot square temple complex called Ventarron was discovered near Peru's northern desert coast, 400 miles north of Lima, according to the Yahoo/AP story.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Huffington Haiku

How did we share jokes before email? Anyone?

A friend sent me Haiku's by Ariana Huffington. She was asked by Atlantic Monthly to compose these (Why? she wonders in her blog entry. ." . . sadism, perverse sense of humor, the pleasure of hearing a Greek talking like the blind monk on Kung Fu [?]"

I copy only one here, but it's a gem:

American Idea

A fizzy mix of freedom

Are we the hiccup?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Scab Writers!

It had to happen. ("Helping Hollywood in its time of need") has short promotional videos that are well worth the few seconds of your time. Some suffer from lighting issues, but hey, he's a writer, not an electrician. They're funny, that's the main point, and how many times can we watch reruns and still laugh?

He looks familiar. . . . I think he may be up for adoption if the price is right.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

News Hot, News Business Not

Catchy quotes from Tom Curley, President & CEO of AP, given during a November 1 dinner in New York and published by Editor and Publisher:

"The irony of the disrupted news economy of the 21st century is that the news is hot, but the news business is not ..."

"nothing has been invented to take the place of what reporters and committed news organizations do. Above all, it is about speaking truth to power when power most needs to be told."

"We are approaching an amazing point in the history of media. Quality will rule. With traffic to destination websites flattening and new distribution making all content accessible, we’re entering a new era of brutal competition. The best will stand out because they will be sought out. Newsrooms need to be reorganized around new content needs ..." [This seems unjustifiably rosy to me, but I willingly bow to the superior wisdom of the guy who runs AP]

"The perfect paper or newscast is becoming possible -- at least in the reader’s or viewer’s eyes. What is it you really want to know? We can personalize content now ..."

"Our focus must be on becoming the very best at filling people’s 24-hour news needs"

Sunday, November 04, 2007

. . . the Mother of Invention

According to The Wooden Horse ezine, a new service called Maghound hopes to 'Netflixize' magazine readers. For about $5, you get three mags a month. $8 gets you five, and $10 gets you seven. The service will start in September '08, and is run by Time Consumer Marketing--but will offer Time's competitors too. Subscribers can change their desired magazines as often as they like, online.

You can sign up to be notified of Maghound's launch at their website.

Anything that slows the agonizing death-throes of so many (but not all!) magazines is fine with me. Why don't they just get on with rolling out the collapsible viewscreen that we will all be using in the future--you know, the one that fits in our pocket, to which all of our subscriptions will be broadcast? If we can all have Iphones, and we'd all like to "save a tree," I really wonder why this has not happened yet.

And then, magazines will have healthy readerships once more and they can start paying their freelance writers a decent rate. Would it be loverly?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Another Winner for Gall!

Another winner of A-Lot-of-Gaul Award!

This may become a regular event . . . but not just yet. I'm too lazy to design a statuette. Still, attention must be paid.

Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France (Gaul) has just been voted a salary increase of 140%. He's only been in office six months and the French economy va à l'enfer, so it can't be a merit raise.