Tuesday, December 06, 2005

In the news...

From ANSA:
ANSA) - Cesena, December 5 - An Ancient Roman brickworks in near perfect condition has been discovered in Emilia Romagna .
The complex, the largest anywhere in the region and one of the biggest in Italy, was unearthed near a canal in the central Italian town of Ronta .
"This is a truly extraordinary find," said a culture ministry spokesman. "It is so well preserved that with minimal restoration it would still work perfectly today." The site is of such importance that the consortium carrying out work on the canal has agreed to deviate its route in order to preserve the remains and allow for further excavations .
Brick was so common in Rome that Suetonius reported Augustus as saying "I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble" .
But underneath Rome's marble surfaces, brick was the chief material used in construction .
Romans distinguished between bricks dried by the sun and air (lateres crudi) and those fired in a kiln (lateres cocti). Whitish or red clay, often mixed was straw, was usually used .
The bricks were kept for two years before being used and were much thinner than ones used today, looking more like modern tiles .
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the art of brick manufacturing was lost in most of Europe, surviving only in Italy itself. Central Europe didn't rediscover the skill until the 18th century and England until the 1100s .

Prison yoga - I only link to this article because of this:
Earlier this year, a prison in Norway suspended its yoga lessons saying that the deep breathing exercises made prisoners more aggressive rather than calmer .
The high-security Ringerike jail near Oslo said prisoners were more irritable and agitated after their classes and subsequently had difficulty in sleeping .

Pope receives Ferrari cheque:
(ANSA) - Vatican City, December 5 - Pope Benedict XVI on Monday received a handsome check from the auction of a Ferrari sports car donated to his predecessor, John Paul II .
The 950,000-euro check was handed over during a private audience with Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, who had led the Ferrari delegation to its January 17 audience with Benedict's predecessor .
After this meeting Ferrari announced it would donate to the pope a special edition if its top line model the 'Enzo', basically a street version of its Formula 1 racecar .
Ferrari explained that the car would be auctioned off to raise money for the victims of the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia last December 26 .
The car was the 400th 'Enzo' Ferrari made and would normally have had a starting list price of 640,000 euros .
Montezemolo also gave Benedict a high-tech Formula 1 steering wheel which had been used and autographed by Ferrari's seven-time world champion driver Michael Schumacher, who like the pope is German .
"It's very complicated to use, Your Holiness," Montezemolo told the pope, to which he replied: "It's very complex guiding the Church, too" .Ferrari later issued a statement to say that the pope was "particularly grateful" for the gift of Schumacher's F2004 steering wheel, which had the inscription: "The steering wheel of a F1 World Champion driver to His Holiness Benedict XVI, who drives the Christian world" .
I note that Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo is one of the 'Ferrari Family'.
The winner of the Turner prize:
A GLASWEGIAN has won the £25,000 Turner Prize, Britain’s most provocative and prestigious art award, for exhibiting a boat shed which he found on the shores of the Rhine in Germany.
Simon Starling, 38, had the required dose of controversy in being picked last night. The jury was won over by his installation, Shedboatshed, at Tate Britain, which he claims to have dismantled, turned into a boat and floated down the river — before resurrecting it into a shed again.
Critics mocked the Turner, saying it should be renamed the B&Q do-it-yourself prize.
The artist has said that his works are “the physical manifestation of my thought process”. Tate curators hailed the shed as “poetic . . . a buttress against the pressures of modernity, mass production and global capitalism”. They added: “For each project, he has learnt particular skills — model-making, boat-building, engineering ... but always stopping short of complete mastery. We can sense, in the visible fissures and joins of his works, the signs of a paradoxical ‘amateur professionalism’.”
In general, I like my art more conventional, and I can't say I'm enthused by the mumbo-jumbo, but I like the idea of taking a boat-shed, making it into a boat, and then rebuilding a shed out of it again. I guess I'm easily amused.
A rather discouraging anti-religious look at Narnia (from the Guardian, of course):
After a long, dark night of the soul and women's weeping, the lion is suddenly alive again. Why? How?, my children used to ask. Well, it is hard to say why. It does not make any more sense in CS Lewis's tale than in the gospels. Ah, Aslan explains, it is the "deep magic", where pure sacrifice alone vanquishes death.
Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to? Poor child Edmund, to blame for everything, must bear the full weight of a guilt only Christians know how to inflict, with a twisted knife to the heart. Every one of those thorns, the nuns used to tell my mother, is hammered into Jesus's holy head every day that you don't eat your greens or say your prayers when you are told. So the resurrected Aslan gives Edmund a long, life-changing talking-to high up on the rocks out of our earshot. When the poor boy comes back down with the sacred lion's breath upon him he is transformed unrecognisably into a Stepford brother, well and truly purged.
Tolkien hated Narnia: the two dons may have shared the same love of unquestioning feudal power, with worlds of obedient plebs and inferior folk eager to bend at the knee to any passing superior white persons - even children; both their fantasy worlds and their Christianity assumes that rigid hierarchy of power - lord of lords, king of kings, prince of peace to be worshipped and adored. But Tolkien disliked Lewis's bully-pulpit.
Over the years, others have had uneasy doubts about the Narnian brand of Christianity. Christ should surely be no lion (let alone with the orotund voice of Liam Neeson). He was the lamb, representing the meek of the earth, weak, poor and refusing to fight. Philip Pullman - he of the marvellously secular trilogy His Dark Materials - has called Narnia "one of the most ugly, poisonous things I have ever read".
Why? Because here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America - that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right. I once heard the famous preacher Norman Vincent Peel in New York expound a sermon that reassured his wealthy congregation that they were made rich by God because they deserved it. The godly will reap earthly reward because God is on the side of the strong. This appears to be CS Lewis's view, too. In the battle at the end of the film, visually a great epic treat, the child crusaders are crowned kings and queens for no particular reason. Intellectually, the poor do not inherit Lewis's earth.

No comments: