Friday, June 27, 2008

Ye Olde Paris

Parts of Paris have been dated back to 4,500 B.C. Specifically, the part near the Gare de Lyon, at Bercy, where remains of hunting and fishing village was found. Now, new dig evidence shows that Stone Agers were at least visitng as far back as 7,600 B.C--10,000 years ago! Read all about it at the UK Independent site. Or if you read French, here is INRAP's site. (this picture is from there)

At the southwestern edge of the city on the banks of the Seine--where millenia of silt has protected the evidence--archaeologists from Imrap have found arrowheads. The site was apparently a spot where mesolithic people sorted out their usable flints from the garbage. Ironically, the area will become a recycling station when the research is done and the archaeological dig is covered up.

This new, older site is about a mile from the Eiffel Tower in the 15th arrondisement.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bill Dwyre in the Times

Some days. the news is so dismal you just have to read the paper backwards. Which led me to Bill Dwyre's Sports Section piece "Whistles aren't the Problem" about a decided lack of credibility in sports officiating.

I like good writing and good ideas. Dwyre points out that disgraced NBA ref Tim Donaghy has indeed "poisoned the pool," but there's a deeper--or at least, an additional--problem. Us and our short attention span.

"We don't seem to be willing to wait for proof of guilt or innocence these days. Our world moves too fast. We hear it, text-message our assumptions and move quickly to the next arena of instant gratification."

Ouch! That's so true. A bit later in the editorial he says:

"We care only that it is neat and clean and fits perfectly into our current video game mind-set. Quick, visual and over.

"The retaining of the "human element" in sports officiating has long ago lost its appeal. The games, especially on the pro level, aren't so much fun anymore as they are life and death."

I include this picture of a Galaxy game not because there were controversial calls in it, but because I took the picture myself so I can include it without getting into trouble.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tracy Chapstick Blog

Bowing to reality this one time, I have sadly removed the Craigslist Curmudgeon from my links.

But wait, there's more! I've added Tracy Chapstick, a very funny picture blog. It's really just a picture and caption, takes only a second to read, and will make you laugh if you've ever had to sit through a meeting.

Or as the author describes it: A daily cartoon by a guy who can't draw.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Writers' Homes in Danger?

When I saw a headline "Writers' historic homes in peril" (in the Los Angeles Times, but it's an AP story), and a first line that begins "Mark Twain", my immediate thought was that Twain's Mississippi River-front home was in danger of flooding! Oh, no, and other writers too!

I don't even know if such a home exists, but floodwaters are not what is endangering the former homes of beloved authors.

Nope. Think mundane.

Think foreclosure.

Edith Wharton's former home in Lenox, Massachusetts, is called The Mount. That's it, just above. To avoid foreclosure, the operators of The Mount, which relies on tourism dollars, must come up with $6 million by Halloween. So says the AP, but The Mount's website states the figure is $3 million. Trick or treat!

People are flooded and crushed and starving all over the world--and on Skid Row--and I'm supposed to write a check to help keep a gigantic revenent of the Gilded Age open for the literary-minded tourist?

As for Twain's former home in Hartford, CT--the story says it "can't even afford to buy energy-saving light bulbs that would slash the electric bill."

Surely they could come up with something a little more . . . heartbreaking? Will anyone get emotional over the lack of energy-saving bulbs? Especially when the Twain House website points out that they receive million-dollar grants for ongoing restoration projects!

I'll keep writing my checks to Food Banks. When the hungry of the world are fed, we can use the left over money to spruce up the mansions.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Curmudgeonly Response

Although I have not had the heart to delete him from my links, it appears the Craigslist Curmudgeon is no more. He has not posted for nearly 3 months.

With amazing synchronicity, however--especially given my post of two days ago, to Harlan Ellison's rant about writers not getting paid or voluntarily working for nothing--I received a form email from a company that had advertised on Craigslist. They called for writers, and I responded. The ad gave the impression they would pay; otherwise, I would not have bothered. Here's what I got back:

Dear Candidate:

Thank you for your response. Here is a link that will give you the job details.

(deleted, since it doesn't)
The above link will give you more information about an unpaid internship. However, we are offering the same job with an hourly pay ranging up to $10.00/hr. . . . (jump through a few more hoops) if you still feel you are qualified and able to do this job, you will receive your first task as an intern delivered to your email.
Although you possess outstanding skill and credentials, we will still require you to go through our internship. It is a free internship, and will provide us with the necessary feedback and will tell both of us, if you have the proper skills to work for us and if it is really something to want to do. . . . We cannot tell you exactly what your rate of pay will be until you complete the first task as an intern. However, I want to let you know that we do give cash gifts to those individuals who exceed our expectations during the internship.

OK, people, can I get a big, loud "What the F@#!" from the congregation?

It's free-lance, not free.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Harlan Ellison Explains It All For You


Here's a link to a YouTube Video, a rant by Harlan Ellison titled "Pay the Writer."
How comforting to know that Ellison, whom I now revere more than ever, has been burned enough to be good and sore over it. There's a thesis statement about 2 minutes into this 3 minute film: "They always want the writer to work for nothing."

Yes, they do.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Guccione Quote

Bob Guccione (former editor and publisher of SPIN, and current publisher of DISCOVER magazine) said,

"We will see media transform and metamorphose hundreds of times in our lifetime and yet never radically change. It is still and always going to be communication of information, some of it valuable, some of it dangerous, most of it meaningless, between people. The media, our vanities aside, is never the message. The message is the message." (Quoted in the Wooden Horse ezine.)

I wish the message were the message. But the flaw with even the best, most responsible media, as many have pointed out, is that they get to choose what messages to deliver.

Do we have the best, most responsible media to begin with? Uh-uh.

So the news we see is what they've decided to deliver.

  • What 10-second clip from a 45-minute speech will be broadcast out of context?

  • What foreign crisis will get 60 seconds of precious air time or column inch, and what other hot spots will be ignored?

  • Who's face will accompany a splashy headline, whether or not they're truly newsworthy?

  • What words sound most intriguing or controversial--again, whether or not they're newsworthy?

In an election year, it's blatant: the media is controlling all that we see and hear about the candidates. It's just the way it is. I don't have a better way, but I wish we would all be aware of how smoothly we're being manipulated.

Friday, June 06, 2008

WW II Veterans Take A Trip

This picture amazes me. This is a Mr. Jost of Montgomery County, Texas. Here's the caption (actually an email from a volunteer named DiAnne Semands):

"My vet Mr. Jost got the only surviving item from his ship: the flag with 48 stars. It was old and tattered, and everyone touched it. His mine-sweeping ship cleared the Japan coast for the great invasion, and then bombs were dropped instead. His ship sank and most men were lost."

Mr. Jost and 98 other WWII Veterans from the county were flown to Washington DC to see the World War II Memorial, over Veterans Day. An organization called Lone Star Honor Flight has dedicated itself to making sure that all WWII Vets get to see the Memorial.

Press coverage of the trip, as well as a slide show with more touching photos by Brad Meyer, is here.

This has nothing to do with archaeology, France, writing, or any of my other topics. I just love this picture.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Stonehenge, Woodhenge, Carhenge

The National Geographic Channel's TV special on Stonehenge and related article in the June 2008 NG Magazine (is that enough links for you?) rekindled my interest in monumental sites.

I actually wrote an article for the Encyclopedia of World Geography on megalyths.

So here is the last word on the subject. Carhenge! It's Real, it's American, and it's Hot!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Freelancing Advice

We never make enough money, do we?
Here's my advice. Make some money each day.
Ideally, that means you submit something for which you'll be paid . Maybe it's a 'how-to' for an internet site, or a magazine filler. In a perfect world, you have contracts for these pieces and you know the company will pay you within a month.
If you don't have an assignment for the day, work hard on getting one. Send queries. Trawl the job sites. Work on your blog or website so that your presentation as a professional is flawless--even if you're still in your pajamas.
But do something, at least five days a week, to get paid. Or start filling out job applications at McDonald's and Subway.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Elaborate Pagan Tomb Under Vatican Opened

It's in every Sunday paper (here's a link to the CBS story). A mausoleum built by a family of slaves for the (presumably) patrician Valeri family during the 2nd century A.D. has been restored and is now open for public viewing -- by appointment.

Apparently there are 22 such tombs, and this is the most elaborate. They were covered up by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century so that a Christian basilica could be built over St. Peter's grave site.

Two really interesting oddities that aren't explained in the AP story: There are some charcoal inscriptions on the walls that were left alone and may point to the actual location of St. Peter's bones. AND the family of slaves were freed and "amassed a vast fortune."

If I weren't so lazy (and if the Stonehenge special weren't starting on NG TV) I'd look for more info. Those points are intriguing!