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Archive for November, 2008

The ancient Greeks lived and warred and died so they could know things for us.

Before the war, there was Aristophanes. After the war, there is Sophocles. On March 3, 2003, activists Kathryn Blume and Sharon Bower organized 1,029 simultaneous performances and dramatic readings of Lysistrata – coordinating over 225,000 people in all 50 states and 59 foreign countries – as a protest against the Iraq War, a grand fugue of Aristophanes’ bawdy comedy known as The Lysistrata Project.

Now, the BBC and NPR report on a new directive, the brainchild of director and translator Brian Doerries: The Philoctetes Project, to raise awareness and support for returning soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which has performed Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes for the Warrior Resilience Conference. The project features “John Adams” star Paul Giamatti as Odysseus.

“It’s an amazing thing that the military is so interested in these [plays],” says Giamatti, who points out that from one perspective, both Philoctetes and Ajax can seem anti-military. The title characters, he explains, essentially rail at their superior officers: “‘How could you have done this to me? I gave you my loyalty and strength and you turned me into a monster.'”

The NPR article is a great primer to this most impressive project.

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Agrigento today.

Agrigento today.

We’re disappointed and discouraged to learn, from The Independent today, that the Italian government has approved plans to build a gigantic liquid gas storage site less than a mile away from the famed World Heritage Site of Agrigento, the storied Valley of the Temples in Sicily.

Greek colonists from Gela colonized this part of Sicily in the 6th century B.C. and adorned it with seven monumental Doric temples. They are the best-preserved examples of ancient Greek architecture outside Greece. The spacious site is one of our favorite places to visit, and you can see why in the photo above.

How can this happen, you ask? Aren’t those UNESCO World Heritage Site designations supposed to protect, well, the world’s heritage from the depredations of the modern era? We suppose the lesson here is: don’t ever underestimate governments’ desires and bureaucratic malfeasance. The Italian government is merely ignoring the existence of the Heritage Site – because there are no people living there.

…a ruling signed into law on 28 September by the Environment Minister, Stefania Prestigiacomo, backed by the Culture Minister, Sandro Bondi, stated that the planned €500m plant “does not infringe on the special protected zone at a community level, inasmuch as the closest affected district is between 13 and 20km (8-12mi) from the area of the planned development.”

Thus, the Environmental Impact Assessment is clean: notwithstanding the fact that Agrigento’s entire economy is structured around tourist revenue from The Valley of the Temples. The present-day communities might be 8-12mi from the proposed gas plant, but its two holding tanks (each over 1,200,000 square feet and 154 feet high, plus a 130-foot-high flame tower), are located less than a mile from the archaeological site. There seems to be little doubt this plant would seriously damage the aesthetic appeal of a sacred site more than 2,500 years old.

According to The Independent article, the Mafia is especially powerful in the region, perhaps involved in the many illegal building developments that have crept ever closer to Agrigento, and it may well be greasing the wheels of the Italian government in this case. Luckily, the threat is so egregious that UNESCO and the European Union environment minister are actively investigating. Now the Mayor of Agrigento, Franco Zambuto, and the president of the park’s ruling body, Rosalia Camerata Scovazzo, have agreed to challenge the project “in every court in the land.”

They better. We are particularly alarmed by this situation. If you share our concern, please email EU Environment Minister Stavros Dimas: stavros.dimas@ec.europa.eu with your thoughts and your support.

The future view of Agrigento?

The future view of Agrigento?

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This is a disclaimer. Just so you know what is, and what isn’t our responsibility. It is NOT OUR FAULT if you immediately book our sensational trip to Antarctica after clicking here. If you click here and you are not, nor have ever been, interested in cruising to Antarctica – yet are suddenly seized by an ineluctable desire to jump on board the Corinthian II and head to Antarctica – you have only yourself to blame.

Because if you clicked on any of the “here”‘s up there, or if you click down here, you’ll be redirected to THE MOST AMAZING PHOTOGRAPHS OF ANTARCTICA I’VE EVER SEEN. We can’t show them here, because they’re not ours, but I guarantee if you click here your heart will pound and your breath will stop and you will suddenly understand there’s no more beautiful place on Earth.

Oh yes. For your convenience, you can book that trip to Antarctica here.

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Now, as you survey the ruins of ancient Rome on our voyage from Rome to Athens, GoogleEarth has added the ultimate of historical modelings – an entire virtual representation of ancient Rome circa 320 A.D. More than 6,700 buildings are represented on this 3-D survey, through which you can zoom and pivot and fly through the Forum, the Colosseum, and other iconic sites. The effort also involved the contribution of Past Perfect Productions, which creates virtual reproductions of cultural heritage sites around the world.

If you’ve ever dreamed of being a time traveler, I highly recommend reading the BBC article, downloading Google Earth, and booking a cabin on one of our historically-oriented Mediterranean cruises.

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And just when you thought there was nothing new under the sand. Archaeologists have sprung a 4,300-year-old Pyramid from the Egyptian desert: a 16-foot-tall tomb for Queen Sesheshet, the mother of King Teti who was the founder of the 6th Dynasty of Egypt’s Old Kingdom. It’s in Saqqara, the vast necropolis of ancient Memphis.

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