12.29.2006

Driving across America

More cool video from the internets....

Get off your ass and go sign it....

Apparently there is a petition at WEFT to rename part of Market Street in Chef Ra's honor.

You know what to do.

WEFT studios are in downtown Champaign. That would down the street from Mike and Molly's, around the corner from the Esquire, and one block over from Kopi for the address challenged....

12.26.2006

12.25.2006

The newest Internet skirmish



O'Reilly responds:

A christmas present from my mom....

Apocalypt-ow: An Archaeologist's Take on on Mel's New Film

I love messageboards. Particularly political messageboards. One of the things I love about them is that fact that you can interact with people with all kinds of professions from all over the country and sometimes the world.

A poster on one political messageboard I frequent, Distressed American, is a Maya archaeologist and has written a "review" of Mel Gibson's newest film, Apocalypto. It has been posted on two messageboards and I'm reprinting it here in it's entirety.
Apocalypt-ow
My take on Mel Gibson’s latest offense

By Distressed American - www.seedsofdoubt.com

As many of you already know, I am a Maya archaeologist by training and profession. As such, I wanted to see Apocalypto so I would be in a position to debunk the false impressions that it is giving to future students. While this movie is a fiction and therefore not restricted to such quaint notions as “historical accuracy”, I fear that the vast majority of American’s are so ignorant of Maya history that they will have little else to base their opinions on. In my own little way, I hope that this review does something to dispel the extremely inaccurate image of the Maya that Mel is perpetuating.

The core message of the film is an attempted justification of the Spanish conquest of the area and the untold death that that resulted from it. Given Mel’s extreme right wing views and known racism, I am not surprised that that is the best he could do with the subject. Disappointed but, far from surprised.

I have read several reviews from other archaeologists. None of them were even remotely positive. However, there are some aspects of the film that the reviews I have read are lacking. That is not surprising as no reviewer could possibly catalog the full list of issues that this movie brings up. I will emphasize those elements I have seen lacking in other write-ups.

Before getting into the details, I will try to sum up my major objection. The most glaring problem with the movie is its blender smoothie approach it applies to the Maya. Prior to the actual arrival of the Spaniards (some 600 years after they show up in this movie), the ancient Maya saw some 2,000 years of cultural development. The political and religious organization changed greatly over time. They occupied a wide variety of environments and showed great diversity in their architecture and other material culture. Watching Mel’s treatment of the subject, you’d never know.

In essence, cultural elements were selected (presumably for visual appeal) almost at random and intermixed without regard to time period, architectural style, region, etc. If the Maya had anything to do with it, it was thrown in and mixed into a grey slurry of “Mayaness” that is this film. Much as if someone was making a movie about the United States and felt that it was appropriate to pull any visual element out of our history going all of the way back to the settlement at Jamestown and intermix them all based on the whims of the director. Conestoga wagons side by side with the space shuttle for example. All of the above driven by firemen because their clothes look cool.

The story is set at the end of the Classic Period “Maya collapse”, which dated roughly 900 to 950 AD. Yet there is no attempt made to draw specifically from that time period. Many of the elements used from bows and arrows to the Gods that they worship are found hundreds of years outside of their temporal context. Much of the movie features developments that did not arrive in the area for hundreds of years after this movie is set.

One of the most annoying aspects of the tale is Mel’s glaring failure to understand even the most basic elements of Maya religion. For example, the climactic scene in the movie features a ritual in which captives are dragged up the main temple in the city and sacrificed. The problems with this scene are so numerous as to be laughable. For starters, the temple pyramid appears to be based on temples at the Guatemalan site of Tikal. That is as close to accurate as they get in the entire movie. Tikal does fit the time period and theoretical location. However, that small bit of accuracy was almost certainly an accident as evidenced by the rest of the scene. The temples that they are using as models for the pyramid are heavily modified in a manner that belies the ignorance of the filmmaker (it is worth noting that I am not referring to pyramid featured on the posters and ads as oddly that temple which is based on a much later structure from the far northern site of Chichen Itza does not even appear in the film). The original temples theirs were based upon were funerary monuments to specific Maya kings and queens. They were adorned with large images of the rulers in question. Instead they remodeled the pyramid’s superstructure and added stone mosaic facades from the architecture dating to much later and far from the area. The facades that they added feature large masks of the Maya rain god Chac, presumably making it a temple to that deity. Apparently the high priest did not get the memo as the sacrifices he performs are made in the name of the Kukulk’an, who did not even really arrive in the area for several hundred years after the film is set.

Of course that is just where the problems with the ritual begin. The ritual that they perform bears far more similarity to rituals performed by the Aztecs. The main feature is the extraction of hearts to sate the blood thirst of the sun god whom they wildly misidentify as Kukulk’an (despite the fact that the Maya are not known for heart extraction). In reality this god has no connection to the sun and was in fact a creator god that was opposed to human sacrifice. So you are left with an Aztec sacrificial ritual to a sun god that takes place on a temple apparently dedicated to the rain god.

Similar misuse of supernaturals is seen throughout the movie. In one scene the warriors kill a jaguar that is attacking on of their party. They immediately begin offering prayers to the god Ek Chuah apologizing for killing “his” jaguar. What Mel appears not to understand is that Ek Chuah was the patron god of merchants and traveling traders. He has no connection to jaguars just as Kukulk’an has no connection to the sun. What becomes abundantly clear is that the filmmaker simply made up ridiculous rituals based on his total ignorance of the Maya and plugged in Maya god names at random if they liked the sound of the name. A parallel situation would be a movie showing ancient Romans praying to the god of war to ask for more children. A simple look at the gods in the Maya pantheon and their roles in the mythology would have made this clear. Either Mel did not read up in the slightest or he simply decided to reject everything that is currently known about Maya ritual.

There are impressive factual details about the Maya that could have been thrown in here. For example, they were among the most accomplished ancient astronomers in the world. Their sacred books contain many long tables listing when various celestial events will take place. Their tables of predicted eclipses remain accurate today and far into our own future. Despite this impressive fact, Mel chose to include a solar eclipse at the height of the ritual described above. Rather than being a predicted event, the eclipse is met with awe and wonderment as if it would have been a big surprise.

Was Mel borrowing from “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”? Maybe so. However, more likely he’s just plain ignorant of the facts.

The costuming was just as atrocious. While some elements of Classic period Maya dress were represented, they were so badly intermixed with fictional elements that in the end they were no more accurate that white actors in black face and afro wigs dancing around as African natives in movies from early in the last century. In my opinion, the clothing, the hair and the jewelry as depicted are just as ignorant and just as racist. The casting of non-Maya actors for almost every role has been commented on by many. Apparently in Mel’s mind, one native American looks just like any other. To my eye the cast bore little resemblance to modern Mayans and even less resemblance to their ancient ancestors who practiced a number of rather extreme body modification techniques such as cranial deformation. Of course, maybe skin color is all that Mel was interested in. Natives are natives. Right?

Finally, the physical setting of the movie made little sense at all. Throughout the movie they show beautiful vistas of densely forested mountains. The presumed setting and the architecture used for the tale would place it in the distinctly flat Maya lowlands. There are mountains in the south of the Maya area and I thought that the setting may reflect that environment. However that notion is totally blown by the arrival of the Spaniards on the coast at the end of the film. First, the Spanish arrival in the area took place well north of the possible settings for the film in an area totally devoid of mountains. Second, the Pacific coast is the only location where you would find mountains and the sea in relatively close proximity. However, this location would be hundreds of miles away from the Caribbean coast where the Spaniards actually landed. Maybe they arrived on the Pacific coast some six centuries early?

Sadly, the film did employ a well respected Maya archaeologist as a consultant. I had hoped that he would have a lot of say on the final look and tone of the film. Either his advice was sorely lacking or he was totally ignored. It’s hard to pin point which is the case here. However, I can say that I would not want to be the guy whose name is associated with this ahistorical monstrosity.

All in all, it is a thoroughly ham-fisted mishmash of Maya cultural elements that lacks even the most basic grasp of the established historical narrative. The depiction of the culture makes a mockery of just about everything that we know about the Maya. The religion is so badly misrepresented that it is difficult to find even small elements that make sense. Worst of all, the early arrival of the Spaniards effectively chopped 600 years of Maya history off entirely. I guess in his rush to blame the Maya for the European conquest, he could not actually wait that long.

12.24.2006

Coinkydink?

Is is coincidence that *just* as my sister and I were having a heated "discussion" on whether or not I would attend mass today the movie Dogma came on Comedy Central?

NORAD is tracking Santa

Be sure to check out Santa's progress has he travels around the world delivering goodies to all the boys and girls.

12.23.2006

Hope he's got a carbon monoxide detector....

J. W. Pirtle, former city council member and "landlord," after being convicted of a misdemeanor for his negligence regarding a rental property he was overseeing, will get 6-months home incarceration.

So...you kill someone because you are too lazy or too greedy to keep up your properties and you get to stay home for six months.

Disgusting....

Local restaurant tidbits

Ned Kelly's is closing December 31st. They blame steak prices. I blame prices in general. If I can go to the Texas Roadhouse and get the same thing they have at Ned Kelly's for half the price, you *know* where I'm going to eat.

I see a Boston's Gourmet Pizza is going up near the Meijer on North Prospect. Never had Boston's before so I don't know what the pizza is like, but it's also supposed to be a sports bar so I'll bet a lot of husbands will be hanging out there having a beer while their spouses shop on North Prospect.

And, while it's not local, here's a video from YouTube regarding another Christmas tradition.

AfricaCam

Here's a link to a webcam on a savannah in Africa. Of course, you'll have to check in during the daytime in Africa, but even at night you can hear stuff out and about.

Cool links to check out over the holidays

Since it's the holidays, I thought I'd post a few of my favorite links for you all to discover and enjoy.

First is Lifehacker. It has *lots* of content---and good content at that. Check it out. I guarantee you'll find something you can use. I found out how to use a freeware program called Audacity to edit your own music files to make ringtones for your phone. Now that I have time off for the holidays, I think I might try my hand at creating some custom ringtones for my friends. That could be *fun* and *way* cheaper than paying to download them.

Second is Before & After magazine. I have some old copies of this magazine that I've saved for several years. It has awesome graphic design tips and I just recently discovered that you can download lots of the tips from their website. Some of the articles are for subscribers only. Print subscriptions are $42/year but online subscriptions are only $24/year. They really break down the how-to steps well so that even relative newbies to Photoshop or Illustrator could try these out. And many of the tips are free so you don't have to subscribe.

Third is Bloglines. If you aren't using Bloglines to read your blogs, you're missing out. Basically, you create an account on Bloglines and then when you find blogs you like, you can add their RSS feed to your Bloglines page. Then, instead of visiting each blog to check for new posts, you can simply check Bloglines. It also helps if you are traveling or using multiple computers. With Bloglines, all your favorite blogs are already bookmarked in one location no matter what computer you are using. When you subscribe, sometimes websites will have multiple feeds available for subscribing. Pick the one that either has the most subscribers or the one updated most recently. The only trouble you *might* have is if a particular blog's RSS feed isn't working properly.

Fourth and finally is MyHeritage. I don't know a lot about the website, but a friend sent me a link to it because you can upload pictures of yourself and they have face recognition software that will analyze your face and show you what celebrities you look like. You are supposed to find the one celebrity that pops up repeatedly with all your photos, but I never had a repeat. I used the photo below (gimme a break---I had been hiking and it was windy) along with a few others and got Winona Ryder, Alyssa Milano, Gina Lollobrigida, Liv Tyler, Mira Sorvino, Michelle Yeoh, Aya Matsuura, Jessica Biel, and Rebecca Gayheart. Honestly, I don't think I look like any of them, but it was interesting to try nonetheless. You need to use a photo that is a large, front-facing straight close-up of your face. If you use a photo where you face is tilted, you'll only get results with tilted faces.















If you have any really cool links you'd like to share, let me know. I'd love to check them out.

12.15.2006

Right-wing news alert: Soy makes you gay!

So say Jim Rutz.
Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality.
Brought to you by the guy who once compared buying shoes to the holocaust.

'Nuf said.

Methinks perhaps someone is trying to rationalize...something....

12.11.2006

Please

For the love of cheese, just *tell* me there's gonna be a Trader Joe's in it....

Beware of shrinkage

If you are 5'1" and 85 pounds, you have a BMI of 16.1%---you are underweight.

If you drive down a freeway the wrong way and *pass* the breathalyzer at the jail---you are probably gonna have to go to rehab for whatever you *are* on. That or jail....

If both of these things apply, you are Nicole Richie.

She was 90 lbs back in 2003 when she got popped for heroin possession---and an inch taller.

Crack may be whack, but apparently heroin shrinks ya....

12.10.2006

Today is one of those days....

Former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, is dead at 91.

He helped overthrow the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende. Thousands were disappeared, tortured, or killed. The truth commission found him responsible for disappearing or killing 3,197 people.

All attempts to bring him to some sort of justice or accountability were thwarted by the "Hyman Roth" defense strategy. Everytime he came close in some court process, he became gravely ill.

Some days, I really hope there is a special hell for some people.

12.09.2006

Cuz it made me laugh....



Favorite comment for this video on YouTube?
dumbbuff (3 weeks ago)
thanks for pointing out that jersey is more interesting than illinois

I love my hairdresser

Stopped by a gas station to pick up some smokes.

Lady behind the counter says "Can I have your birthdate?"

I say "(Month) (Day), 1972."

She says "*Really?*"

I'm sick and feel like crap in general, but I floated all the way home....

12.05.2006

Fun moments at Brookens

The online N-G has the full story of the county board chairman selection last night. They took 5 votes before Wysocki supporters changed their votes. But not without a parting shot from Wysocki:
Wysocki then told Democrats she would be willing to release her supporters, but not for Fabri.
Can you feel the love?

12.04.2006

Hey You Guys!!!!!

There was a cool show on WILL tonight about The Electric Company. I remember it as one of my favorite shows when I was little, but I couldn't remember a thing about the show---until I watched the Electric Company's Greatest Hits & Bits. It will rerun on WILL-TV (ch. 13 in C-U) this Sunday afternoon at 4pm.

I think it's a pledge drive kinda of thing, but it was awesome. I didn't remember that Morgan Freeman was on it. Or Bill Cosby. Picture pages, sure, but not Electric Company.

I highly recommend it if only to see the clips of the show from the 70s. It was like opening a creaky door in the attic of my mind.

You can do your own YouTube search cuz there's *tons* of Electric Company clips on there, but here a little taste. I'm *sure* you'll remember this one....

Bolton resigns



And let me say, *fabulous* choice for a diplomat.

Heckuva choice....

12.03.2006

Cameron McGill @ Cowboy Monkey Dec. 8

Cameron is back in town this Friday night. Both his and the Wandering Sons' website list the show time as 9pm, but Cowboy Monkey's website says 10pm. I'd say get there early.

Cameron has a new song up on his MySpace page that I've heard him play at the last two shows I saw: Lose Americans. It's exactly what I like about his music/lyrics/style. It seems like he usually does a more electric show at the Monkey and acoustic shows (which I love) at the Iron Post, but we'll have to see what he does this time.

Last time I saw Cameron play, my friend dragged some poor guy from The Quartet Offensive over to take a picture of me, Cameron, and Matt Hopper (who opened for him that night).

Matt Hopper, gamera, and Cameron McGill















I also got a picture of me and Paul from the Iron Post (who I used to work for) that night, but this one is way better....

12.02.2006

This could get interesting....

One of my favorite blogs, feministing, has discovered John Bambenek.

Both feministing and narciblog parse out his latest post "You are more than your vagina."

Thanks for the tip, John....