Friday, May 29, 2009

Thoughts of Vacation

Greece is a nice place to unwind for a few weeks if you are not Turkish and you get the chance. Unless they are on strike, protesting, or attempting to rob you, or selling something (which can be like robbing you in Greece), the people are fairly easy going.

Around Athens, the ancient city area of the Plaka is the best. Walking down a dark street (vicambulating nocturnally), you can turn a corner, then suddenly before you is a 2500 year old ruin or monument all lit up like an archaeological Christmas tree complete with sculptural bling. Several bars on rooftops and around the squares have good wine and entertainment, but look out for the wine with the pine tar flavor called Retsina (it's ok to me but lots of people I've discussed with don't like it).

A good day trip out of Athens is the legendary (but still real) ancient Delphi. As in the 'Oracle of Delphi' where rulers throughout history like Kim Jong Il went to listen to a druggy priestess mumble incoherently and real world solutions were applied to the serious issues of the day.I'm fairly sure it is similar in functionality to the Oracle of Bacon at Virginia.

Away from the mainland, the islands are great, particularly Thira (also called Santorini). It seems to be impossible to take a bad picture here, particularly at sunset. I tried... I even used one of those disposable ones and scratched the lens up a bit just to see if a few shots would turn out poorly but no luck. You have all the nightlife of downtown, the unique beauty of the caldera cliffs, and museums and wonderful archaeological sites. Speaking of archaeological sites, I saw this in Minoan Akrotiri. WTF is this? Is it a 4000 year old potty-training device???

Even with all the great aspects, driving was an issue on Santorini. First of all, the road I traveled was directly on the top of the remaining volcano cone sectionwith a 350 meter drop on either side of the road with no trees available to help 'pinball' you down the cliff. Then there were the sudden hair pin turns for some real white knuckle action (and not the good kind, is there a good kind?). On top of all that, the signage everywhere is strange because of the Cyrillic-style characters. So as you might be wondering to yourself 'should I turn left or right' as the truck behind you is bearing down, you also have to read a sign, figure out what the damned words sound like, and then convert them to English all the while not looking over either cliff edge to the right or left.If it was dark when this was happening, I'm sure I'd still be falling.

Monday, May 25, 2009

In Memoriam

Memorial Day found me today at a baseball game in Texas, complete with the national anthem, swearing in of new military members, beer, nine innings of baseball of course, and annoying mascots.

Something I had never really considered until today was that the teams probably don't dryclean the mascot uniforms very often. When the noisome thing passed by, the odor was somewhere between a fetid old box of moldy rags and the body smell of whatever poor soul had to dance around in the heat with that thick polyester-acrylic death suit on. Of course, there were little kids sitting in a section directly behind our group that were repeatedly hailing down this ragged behemoth during the game. It was all very distracting while trying to focus on the actual game (and smelly), but cute I guess.

I tried to draw a parallel to the closest things similar to all this in antiquity. One can almost imagine colosseum gladitorial teams having a horseheaded mascot like the one from today running up and down the stands, knocking over people's beers so they have to buy new ones. Maybe it was all fine, because everything probably smelled bad back then. But really, what is a colorful polyester horse going to add to a gripping life or death combat among circus animals and fire?

Are you going to cheer just a little bit louder? Honest?

Perhaps the ancients' version of North American car racing (NASCAR), the chariot races of the Circus Maximus, had their own goofy mascots. It would be fun to think that the chariots might be covered with advertising like the racecars of today. Pit crews frantically changing the metal bands around spiked wheels, women with excessively low tube tops with short blue denim cutoffs wandering around.

The game actually ended up being not all that interesting. Even without life or death gladatorial struggles on the baseball diamond today, it was good to be out on a nice day doing what they say is America's pastime. But next time, I think I'll roll like the emperor and get everyone to pitch in for a suite.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Terrific Tableware to Ta Ta To Tut Today

The upcoming June auction at Christie's in New York has a great tater salad bowl I must have. Good idea? It would probably take a while to carve this myself, assuming I could locate the original quarry. And since the day job has been busy lately, it's probably the right thing to do.

Although I love it, I need a holiday away from this place because I'm tired of real work which doesn't leave enough time for creativity. I might sign up for one of those archaeology dig-cations...

In other news, the King Tut exhibit is finally shutting down here in Dallas. The after-dark donor event tomfoolery with the priceless artifacts will be sorely missed. For the record, I was not one of those crazy type party goers that climbed into the sarcophagus to take a body shot.
It was kind of weird they left the door of the exhibit open without much visible security when they were unpacking. Maybe they were just hoping to make a claim on their museum owner's insurance? *whistling inconspicuously as I leave the museum*

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ancient Navigation (Navigazione Antica)

So I saw the new Star Trek film with some friends yesterday and it was better than expected. I was not a big fan of all the various television and movie versions, but this one was fairly fast paced and didn't involve long scenes with uncomfortable singing of 'Row Row Your Boat'.

All those stars and such (the stars in the scientific sense, not the sexy green alien chick) had me thinking about ancient navigation techniques and how it was even close to possible for people several thousand years ago to have the slimmest chance of getting back to the port they started from and not being devoured by the sea monsters that I have no doubt lived back in the olden days. In retrospect, I suppose I shouldn't have been talking about all that during the actual movie.

Since the double AA battery had not been invented yet, the use of their Garmin GPS devices was completely out of the question. Maps were all sketchy, and even the lowly but useful sextant had not been invented yet.

However, evidence shows that the ancients had a 'half-sextant' to determine latitude (North-South location) based on the height of North Star off the horizon. Longitude (East-West for fellow Texans that might not be familiar) was more difficult to determine because they had to burn candles or use hour glasses to take into account the time because the earth was spinning back then. Examples of these angled inclination measuring devices have been found in Egypt, and surprisingly, the same angle and design has been scribbled on cave walls in South America. Could there have been Egyptians at some point in South America? No, the pyramids in South America are completely different than the Egyptian ones. Or, maybe the peoples of ancient South America just happened to have had the same good idea?

A word of warning for everyone though... Some research shows the axis tilt of the earth varies between 22 and 24.5 degrees in a cycle of 41,000 years. So if you happen to be using an ancient incline measuring navigational instrument because the backup batteries in your GPS are out, please be careful, because it will probably get you lost a little.

Egiziani antica dispositivi utilizzati per trovare la latitudine... Forse sono stati anche in Sud America??????

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Poisonous Paints of Antiquity

How many poisonous paints do you count in this ancient fresco?

I count at least three, white lead, orpiment / realgar for the yellows, and cinnabar (the ultra-bright Pompeiian red). I'm happy to say that I've recently obtained all of these grey market, semi-illicit and authentic ingredients for the next fresco project from a great US vendor. Maybe modern colors are technically better, but if you are going to recreate something,why do it half-way?

I was thinking of doing this very image, except maybe including a small 'Where's Waldo' (small to make it challenging for the viewer, with poisonous cinnabar and white lead stripes on his shirt of course).

The cinnabar (mercuric sulfide) is a wonderful warm shade of red, although I'm not sure if it is prepared exactly as research indicates the ancients did. The Chinese also used cinnabar back in the day, but it was usually on that red furniture and boxes. They loved themselves some red boxes.

White lead powder is fairly nasty stuff even though it looks authentic on fresco because the powders are ground down with the water before applying, which gives rise to lead dust inhalation.

And, we all know what happened to cousin Vinnie Van Gogh who used to lick the tips of his brushes containing lead paint to point them. By the way, here is an evening photo I took in Arles of the outside of the real Cafe de Nuit. It had nothing to do with coffee or squirrels, so I was mildly disappointed. But, I tried to get the same vantage point and lighting conditions of one of his paintings.

Realgar/Orpiment is basically arsenic (rat poison), but in pure crystaline form. It creates themost wonderful deep orange and yellow warm hues. I also received some actual crystals of this from a Chinese supplier, so I can't wait to grind them down and see what kind of colorific magic will happen.

There are other poisonous and difficult to find paints of course, but these are my favorite old style ones. Which is your favorite?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Awards and Story Time

Thousands of years ago, the victorious were rewarded with pottery vessels in Apulia (Southern Italy) and Greece. Maybe they still are? It was kind of the forerunner of the modern trophy, except not made out of cheap gold colored plastic with the little parts that always seem to break off, and the obligatory sliver of a marble base. At the left is a much better red figure ancient krater than I have, since it is in the Louvre, quite a bit larger, impeccable provenance, and was not purchased from a modern day artisan.

And as long as we are on the subject of awards, I think it's time to present an award to an outstanding blogger Mo 'Mad Dog' Stoneskin, who never seems to be at a loss to tell a great story. With help from Mark Twain, you are hereby awarded the 'Finer stories than a Ritz Carlton' award. Hopefully you'll keep up the great work, even though it makes the morning drive to work a bit more dangerous.

And as a (poor) tribute to your anecdotal abilities, I'll try to recount an odd and uncomfortable story of Tintamarre Island.

Some friends and I were waiting for a day trip catamaran excursion on the beach in Grand Case, St. Martin aboard the distinguished and regally named 'Scooby Doo'. The crew proudly mentioned that luminaries such as Mariah Carrey had spent quite a bit of time hiring that very boat, which I didn't think was interesting but one of the girls we were with did.

The boat was a wonderful Fontaine Pajot Taiti class sail catamaran with a great crew from France. At one point, they even let me take the helm for about 20 min between Anguilla and Grand Case (because they do that all day and it can be a little bit boring) Neither hull left the water I'm proud to say.

Anyway, around noon, we motored over to a small island just East of St. Martin called Tintamarre. The crew dropped anchor, expertly getting within a few feet of the beautiful pristine sandy beach. The large front gangway went down, and everyone received snorkeling gear. So for a while it was the typical 'living in a beautiful sunny aquarium' tourist experience complete with a ray and the usual neon colored fish. We were all finished early with the snorkeling, returned the gear and went down the beach to see what the island was like.

Some guy was trying to sell all of us a story about how locals went to a mud pit we found on the island for some kind of therapy. It seemed like b.s. to me (the story, not the mud).

Then after a bit more exploration, it was time to head back up the beach to the boat. Out of the corner of my left eye, I noticed several (maybe 4 or 5) rigid bottom inflatable boats each with about ten people in them motoring up. Walked a little further... Then one of the girls screeched 'Oh my God, he's not wearing a bathing suit!' At which point, we were all stunned and unable to continue forward where the miniature Naked Normandy invasion was taking place before us. Some people tan, some too white... Naked women running up with beach umbrellas and the guys hauling up ice chests, and nooo... a volleyball net. What the hell?

And, it was all taking place between where all of us were standing and the boat. 40 naked people running around...

The island was pretty small, but hiking to the right through the underbrush didn't seem like a good idea. Swimming to the left would take a while, and what if the naked people swam out?

So, when faced with a situation like this, you want to not look. Really, you try really really hard not to, but it is a complete train wreck and just so odd and unexpected. And there were just enough normal looking people to keep it from being completely gross.

Eventually after the shock started wearing off, our group formed a pact with quick glances to gather up the courage to get through the throng. We kept the heads down pretty much and did the muttery 'hi, nice day' kind of thing until around them. 'No obese lady, please don't bend over to pick that up that beer can from the ice chest, ohhhhhnnnnooooooo.'

Closer to the boat I noticed there was an older Spanish couple and even though the man wasn't looking in that direction (I assume for the pretense of his wife's benefit), he had his video recorder going and aimed towards all the nekkid people. Tsk tsk...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

2,000 Year Old Women in Bikinis

The Romans apparently had the concept of the women's bikini down well before modern civilzation did, as this ancient mosaic from Piazza Armerina (Sicily) illustrates. Notice the pretty carnellian type stones used for the fabric of the bathing suits?

I think it is safe to draw from this that beach babes circa the first century were into miniature dumbell weightlifting and green sand volleyball. They also used olive oil for suntan lotion, and scraped off the excess with a curved stick *chuckle*.

And, just like in modern times, the professional full-time volleyball Roman woman seems to be a little less endowed up top... That's ok, it's been that way for thousands of years. I'll bet in Olympic volleyball, the Roman women's team would have kicked Greece's butt.

Finally, in keeping with the spirit of 'beachy', I promised Mo and Kate (the jelly biter) a listen to my horrible unpolished and overly repetitive reggae song I played years ago that I was listening to (among other old pieces of crap) when doing the meme. No lyrics recorded, but they are written... So here is 'Revolution', and as always you asked so don't f'ng laugh. BTW, the boring picture is a beach I was at last time chartering.

PS - I'm still trying to get the vid clips of our Raiders of The Lost Ark movie from one of my old highschool friends to whom I'll refer to mysteriously as 'Sean the director'.He better not have lost those!!!

PPS - check out the blogger Anna Russell's latest video clip. They all are the cutest family I've ever seen!


I Romani avevano il concetto di bikini donna giù ben prima di moderna civilzation, apparentemente, come questo mosaico antico da Piazza Armerina (Sicilia)!!!
Penso che sia sicuro per attingere da questa che ragazza bella di spiaggia circa il primo secolo erano in miniatura dumbell pesi e verde sabbia pallavolo. :)

Hanno utilizzato anche l'olio d'oliva per il 'creme abbronzanti', e raschiati via l'eccesso con un bastone curvo, lol.

La musica è il mio tipo di reggae, perché gli amici mi vogliono a postare. Purtroppo, è completa immondizia... Ciao!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

More Questiony Things

Again, off the normal format because of Lopez and Prunella...

Here is a questiony thing from Prunella's site, and since she is way cool, I reckon I'll complete it according to instructions:

1. What are your current obsessions?
Art of all kinds, investing, pretty women of course

2. Which items from your wardrobe do you wear most often?
My day job is in finance, so usually slacks, shirt, professional-like you know...

3. What's for dinner?
I love to grill (since I used to work for the Chilis parent company and spent time among the directors and culinary type folks), also I go out a lot.

4. Last creative thing you bought?
Art supply stuff - paints for fresco, and a book.

5. What are you listening to?
Right now? Some old cheesy reggae guitar and synthesizer song I recorded 10 years ago, lol.

6. If you were a god/goddess who would you be?
Poseidon/Neptune, I love the ocean and sailing, and strangely enough... horses (never understood why horses were associated with the god of the ocean, WTH?)

7. Favorite holiday spots?
Thera (Santorini) Greece at my favorite hotel on the Caldera
or Anywhere in Italy, but especially Venezia or Roma
Colorado in ski season

8. Reading right now?
Kings, Queens, Bones, and Bastards (English history)

9. Four words to describe yourself.
Creative, tenacious, scientific, artistic

10. Guilty pleasure?
Puns, definitely. *sorry*

11. Who or what makes or made you laugh until you’re weak?
I like silly humor, so comedians like Dmitri Martin, Sarah Silverman, Zack Galifianakis, and Jack Handey are tops in my book.

12. Who or what makes you so angry you could scream?
Hypocrites, or those that aren't nice to people that can't help themselves.

13. Planning to travel to next?
Thinking of trying to get my mom to go with to Northern Italy this September since dad hasn't been around for her since December. She doesn't want to go snowboarding though.

14.Best thing you ate or drank lately?
Pecan bar from Corner Bakery

15.When did you last get tipsy?
Definitely this past weekend, on wine, ugh.

16. Favorite ever film?
Raiders of the Lost Ark. When I was a 13, with a group of my friends, we made a lower budget version of this one actually. *Way lower budget* but still funny and surprisingly good now.

17. Care to share some wisdom?
It's an old notion, but be true to yourself always, and everything else usually falls into place.
And, don't hit when the dealer is showing a six.

18. If you could change one thing in your life what would it be?
I want to live in a place with more history than Texas, like Italy for example.

19. What are your blog turn-ons and turn-offs?
I like blogs/bloggers that share something of their humanity, creativity, or humor.

Sure, everyone has an occasional weak post, but I don't like blogs that don't invite comment participation or draw the readers in.

20. Favorite website?

21. What is your least favorite alcoholic beverage?
Zima, definitely. And I've tried almost all of them.

...And here we have a questiony thing graciously bestowed from Zepo Lopez (and grand-bestowed from Girl Interrupted). (see how I hid this embarassing one way down here?)

*Queen of All Things Awe-summm!*

It is supposed to be a quesionnaire for a girl, so don't go getting any strange ideas about me now.

Seven things that I think make me Awesummm:

Awesome 1) I always try to see things from another person's point of view, unless they are trying to kill me, at which point, all bets are off.

Awesome 2) I know lots of things, but I can always learn something from anyone. What do you know?

Awesome 3) I have a sense of humor, because without that, what's the point?

Awesome 4) I can lift 3 sets of twelve x 160 lbs (70kg) on the curl bench. So I can easily carry around heavy $hit, just like the Queen of England I hear. I'll bet she has a good uppercut too.

Awesome 5) I try to make at least one positive difference for someone every day.

Awesome 6) You all probably already know about my art and music stuff, what are you still doing reading this post? Go there...

Awesome 7) I'm available for parties (will not impersonate the Queen though).
*some fun included.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Some Serious Coin (Denarii Serio)

The stock market has been up lately so I've been thinking about coins. And not the inflation-hedgy gold ones that the bunker-dwelling Branch Davidian types around here have been hoarding lately. No, I'm talking about coins from antiquity, the kind that they don't make anymore.

Or do they? On this link about halfway down, see if you can spot the two real ones (hint, they are die struck so there are barely perceptible flow marks, and they have a few other tells).

Old coins like this found at archaelogical sites help identify the timeline of the site being excavated. Many the museums don't want them so they end up in private collections, sometimes even through EBay I'm extremely happy to say. *Doing the little antiquity collector's secret jig*

With some of these provencial coins, the inscriptions are a great source of information on provinces with a lesser known history and their praetors (leaders, typically retired military).
The coin pictured above was a tribute to soldiers that conquered Egypt and then settled around Nimes, France.
Before striking my own coins, I think I have need of a homemade foundry to mix up the copper, antimony, and tin in the correct proportions for the blanks. Here's a guy that made a foundry using a coffee can and a few other household items. Use caution if doing this inside, outside, or at all.

Italia: Monete antiche sono interessanti... se non posso comprarli, cercherò di renderli!!!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Music Post Addendum

Remember, you people asked for this, so don't you effing laugh!!! Not too much anyway...

Bastards, you are laughing now aren't you???


Amici osato me a sonare il solo 'Pulp Fiction', non ridere !!!!

(Se devi fare una cosa, falla tutta!!! ahahaha).

e gratze, Anna (il brillante), è eccitante che il mio premio da italia.

Away From the Normal Format

I have never done one of these questiony things, but it seemed like fun. So sorry to those that come here for hard-hitting coverage of art, classical antiquity, and poorly spoken Italian...

What is your current obsession?
Recreating ancient style art in stone, and to a lesser degree, manufacturing Vegas style composite poker chips.

What is your weirdest obsession?
Girl Interrupted

What are you wearing today?
Gym clothes, need shower.

What's for dinner today?
Not planning that far ahead today. Maybe an extra hot arrabiata at the local Italian place.

Why is today special?
I get to work on mosaic art.

What would you like to learn to do?
I'd like to become better at robotics and thermoset resin engineering.

What languages can you speak?
English, Spanish, Italian to some degree (but they usually think I'm retarded if they don't have patience).

What are you listening to right now?
Blue October, Foiled Again album

What is your favourite weather?
I like cold and clear/crisp best I think, but unfortunately we only get five or six days a year like that in Texas.

What is your most challenging goal right now?
Helping my brother Marc get an oil exploration deal off the ground. Granddad and dad were in the business west of Ft. Worth for 50 years, so we want to carry on the tradition. Also, help my sister keep away from bad elements and on the right track.

What do you think about the person who tagged you?
No tags, I did this willingly for voyeur satiation purposes.

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished, anywhere in the world, where would you like it be?
I've got two out of three, but I want a simple place in Venice I think with fewer complications in life.

What would you like to have in your hands right now?
Oh, it's already there. lol just kidding.

What would you like to get rid of?
Some of my art works that turned out poorly. I swear, you should see the one that has a piece of rope tied in a bowline knot on it... It's a prime candidate for the Museum of Bad Art (see link below if you haven't). Come to think of it, here it is at the bottom of the post for your general amusement. Notice the faux antiquated leather scroll on which there are absolutely cheesy olde calligraphy (I didn't even keep the lines of text straight... FAIL) lol.

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
I would be having a coffee at cafe Florian and people watching while I chase away the rest of my hangover.

Which language do you want to learn?
Italian gooder... :)

What do you look for in a friend?
Honesty, humor, and intelligence; or at least most of those.

Who do you want to meet in person?
A premium select circle of bloggers of course, yes and especially YOU...

What's your favourite type of music?
Hard to narrow it down, never country western music though. It must have melody and vocal harmonies are a big plus.

What's the favourite piece of clothing in your own closet?
My shirt from that has a monkey face and a funny translation from Mandarin on it.

What is your dream job?
I have a good job, but I'd like to get into river diving archaeology in Europe, or preservation / curating of antiquities, particularly mosaics.

Any favourite models?
Carla Bruni probably, I'll have to challenge Sarkozy to a duel I think.

If you had £100 now, what would you spend it on?
I do, and probably towards a gift for a friend who needs it.

Favourite designer?
Just bought some expensive effing shoes, John Varvatos.

Fashion pet peeve?
Girls that don't show enough leg. LOL, just kidding, wait maybe not.

Do you admire anyone's style?
Yes, some of the museum donor members are very cool (e.g. Kate Perot, Capera Ryan, Jill Moser, etc. all wonderful people that help the community)

Describe your personal style:
In what? Nice guy, loves art and history, somewhat musically inclined, business and technology background, lived in Texas all my life but never talked like George Bush, I don't know...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Arles Mosaic Lust and Music Update

The ancient mosaics in the Arles antiquity museum are extensive and exquisite. Also, when I was there I had the pleasure of meeting the superintendant in charge of the maintenance. Here is a picture of her in action, I could just watch her work for hours.
Anyway, she had the little foam pads for everything including the little vacuum cleaner to remove drilled out replaced grout. About halfway through, she turned and dropped a hammer on the priceless mosaic surface from the little bin of tools!!! Definitely an embarassing moment for her, I'm sure. She tried to play it off cool, but I could tell. :)

Update: I recorded my version of the Pulp Fiction trumpet solo since people were asking (I flubbed at least a note or two). I must convert the ginormous .mov file to something compatible to other software so that might take a while.