France 24 [Article from 2011]: Govt targets Marseille’s AK47-wielding gangsters.
I was wondering how easy it was to obtain AK-47s in France. Very easy, apparently.
Then there’s America.
Slate: AP “Piss Christ” - Image apparently self-censored after Charlie Hebdo-related complaints.
I have a terrible feeling, between The Interview, Charlie Hebdo and this, that a new wave of ‘shock and offense’ is going to hit the art world.
Widening out a bit: I was discussing the other day, “Is nothing sacred?” As Plato argues, are some acts impious because the Gods say they are, or are Gods saying those acts are impious because they are so by their very nature? Religious texts are pretty quiet on necrophilia, for instance. Plato’s argument may be missing the forest for a couple of trees. There seem to be taboos that religions have missed completely. Makes one wonder what ‘sacreds’ they’ve also missed. The smell of rain in the desert, after a long dry spell, comes to mind.
The Economist: Blasphemy - Dangerous words.
“The belief that casual, satirical or profane mention of the divine is a grievous sin belongs to prehistory. It has roots in all three Abrahamic religions. But to live in 2015 requires bringing ancient beliefs into consonance with modern values.”
Archaeology News Network: Weighing up the evidence for the ‘Historical Jesus’.
CNet: Ancient Indian aircraft on agenda of major science conference.
“The presenters of the session are apparently serious in their belief that ancient Indian planes were not only able to travel across the solar system, but also “could move left, right, as well as backwards, unlike modern planes which only fly forward” ...” Buy stock in foil (for hats).
ArtDaily: Disgruntled Italian entrepreneur Marcello Di Finizio climbs St Peter’s Basilica - again.
Roads & Kingdoms: The Holy Bones of Pittsburgh.
“The more popular relics include: 22 splinters of the True Cross; threads from the Virgin Mary’s veil; a cloak of St. Joseph; and bone fragments of all 12 apostles; the entire skeleton of St. Demetrius; the skulls of several older and newer (and thus lesser known) saints; and a molar once belonging to St. Anthony, the very tooth missing from his skull in Padua.” Of course, there are enough ‘true Cross’ splinters around the world to construct a small Sequoiadendron giganteum tree.
ArtDaily: Calligraphers cry foul as Vatican shuts down scrollmakers amid reports of fakes.
“Instead of being made by hand, the parchments will be computer prints produced by the Vatican’s Office of Papal Charities ...” Oh, bad form. Especially now that letterpress is having a nice renaissance. Pope’s on the wrong side of this issue.
Art Daily: Hebrew U. archaeologists find 20-meter-high corridor at Herodium National Park.
Better and more photos, please.
Later: Two impressive interior photos here.
ScienceMag: Wealth may have driven the rise of today’s religions.
“Once people’s worldly needs were met, religion could afford to shift its focus away from material rewards in the present and toward spiritual rewards in the afterlife. Perhaps once enough people in a given society had made the psychological shift to long-term planning, moralizing religions arose to reflect those new values.”
Archaeology News Network: Danish Bronze Age glass beads traced to Egypt.
“The analyses revealed that the glass originate from the same glass workshops in Egypt that supplied the glass that the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun took with him to his grave in 1323 BC.” Atenism? Proselytized internationally? Lordy, what a find. This should shake western religion to the core.
CJR: The Texas school board isn’t as powerful as you think.
“‘They [dm! note: speaking about journalists] — how should I say this — they don’t look at the story real closely.’ If they did, they would see that Texas schools do not have to use the textbooks that the board approves. In 2011, a new state law made it possible for school districts to use textbooks that are not on the board-approved list. Many (though not most) districts are already reveling in their newfound flexibility.” I suspected, given the rise of e-texts and other modernizing/computerizing influences, that Texas was ripe for disruption.
Extra good point about certain political groups fanning the flames to increase donations.
ArtDaily: Hagia Sophia - object of admiration and contention.
“... under the rule of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), co-founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan which came to power in 2002, there have been noises about reconverting the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.” Ask Constantine first.
OpenCulture: The Wisdom of Alan Watts in Four Thought-Provoking Animations.
Fun, but he conflates Zen and Taoism, as many in the West do. The story of the farmer is straight from Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi). Better to get it from the original, from one of my favorite books. [Caveat: Published by the Princeton University Press, when my best friend was an editor there.]
BBC: Pilgrims flock to Goa to see Saint Francis Xavier remains.
Archaeology News Network: Ancient Coptic ‘Handbook of Spells’ deciphered.
“This codex, with its mix of Sethian and Orthodox Christian invocations, may in fact be a transitional document, written before all Sethian invocations were purged from magical texts, the researchers said.” Cool. So much was destroyed by Christian zealots of later periods, chipping and burning ‘heresies’.
Stanford.EDU: Stanford archaeologist reveals health care in the ancient world.
“At Deir el-Medina, we see two health care networks happening. [snip] There’s a professional, state-subsidized network so the state can get what it wants – a nice tomb for the king. Parallel to this, there’s a private network of families and friends. And this network has pressure to take care of its members, for fear of public shaming, such as being divorced for neglect or even disinherited.”
the interpreter: ISIS beheadings are a grotesque media strategy
“None of these actions are designed to dissuade Western military intervention in Iraq or Syria, or even to goad the West into becoming decisively committed on the ground, because ISIS understands this is unlikely to occur. Rather, it has a much more short-term aim: to get ISIS’s military and political setbacks out of the media cycle and replace them with bloody imagery that demonstrates ISIS is still a force.” It is very unsettling to see social media and personal branding strategies used for these purposes.
WaPo: German town plays prank on neo-Nazis.
This was a brilliant solution. Like a moral Möbius strip; the more you walk, the less you actually accomplish.
Science of Us: Do Harsh Environments Lead to Angry Gods?
“Religions with ‘moralizing high gods’ — that is, powerful supernatural beings that oversee human events and take an active interest in how humans are behaving — are more likely to be found in cultures residing in ecologically harsh areas.”
WaPo: The book that claims Jesus had a wife and kids — and the embattled author behind it.
Colossal: The Ingenuity and Beauty of Creative Parchment Repair in Medieval Books.
Intricate. Never imagined crocheting holes.
NotchesBlog: Death by Celibacy - Sex, Semen and Male Health in the Middle Ages.
“Ecclesiastical ideals were directly at odds with medical realities, and priests had to decide whether to prioritise their physical or spiritual health.” Sounds very familiar. We be medieval, even yet.
Vice: The Town Making the Horrifying Discovery That It’s Built Out of Jewish Tombstones.
“Fifteen hundred headstones have been found in Brest over the past six years, with the rate of discovery escalating since work on the supermarket began.” Remnants of Nazi and Russian attention in WWII.
ArtDaily: The Vatican’s Sistine Chapel dazzles thanks to a revolutionary new lighting system.
“The LEDs have a colour spectrum specifically designed with the pigmentation of the frescos in mind to ensure the light faithfully reflects the original colours, as the artists intended.” Someone will probably want to throw a stone at me, but I miss the patina. Easier to take in as a whole, before. Now, I’d have to spend a half hour or more looking at each individual tableau.