There is a movie titled BEING HUMAN that has a segment taking place in ancient Rome. In fact is has many segments, traveling across history: Celt (could be prehistoric…not sure), Roman, Medieval, Renaissanceand modern man. All are equally engaging, all funny in their way, and all terrifying as it plays out the human condition. The film did not get great reviews; however, but if you love stories about Ancient Rome catch the second segment in this film.

BEING HUMAN, John Turturro, Robin Williams, 1994The segment is unforgettable. It is played out from the slave’s perspective. Slaves did not write a lot of histories for public consumption, so the only insight into their lives come from masters like Cato (234-149 B.C.) how to properly feed and raise a slave, playwrites that looked upon them with scorn, fun or ridicule as in the play Pseudolus by Plautus.  If your looking for a modern take on Plautus watch the Broadway musical A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM. We may only know of Tiro (the freedman (ex slave?) of Cicero) only because Cicero wrote of Tiro in his letters. There were thousands, literally hundreds of thousands of slaves over the centuries, and their stories are gone.  Many of these ’eyewitnesses’ were not taught to write, or their stories were not important enough to set down (at least according to the masters).  I am sure there were secretaries and scribes that rose from slavery tried their hand to record something that happened to them only to have it disappear to the ravages of time and the appetite of bugs.  There were exceptions like Terrence, a slave originally from Africa who came to Rome, liberally educated, and wrote six plays.  Through his plays we can peek into the past.

A quote by Terrence somehow seems appropriate for the title of the movie: BEING HUMAN, and our ability to look back at Ancient Rome and…imagine.  “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto“, or “I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.”

The Roman segment in BEING HUMAN can’t be more than (20 minutes) in length, but we see the world from the point of view of Hector. He is the slave to an idiot – and a very poor businessman. He follows him around the city, carries his chair, and helps him with his papers. Hector’s life is tied to his master’s house. He sits on the roof and looks at the stars dreaming of the world. He once had a wife and children, somewhere, out there on the horizon, and longs to return to them. In the meantime (in the spirit of Stephen Stills LOVE THE ONE YOUR WITH) Hector has taken up with a beautiful Nubian slave (he must share her with his master) who understands him, and loves him back. The life of a slave is shit and unfortunately tied closely to the life of your master. One day after a business meeting he finds that out that he and his master must commit suicide. It seems Lucinnius signed some papers. A ship when down and he lost the cargo, to pay back investors he promised to commit suicide. There is some political maneuvering and he implicates his slave Hector in the plot. “I would be honored if you would die with me,” says Lucinnius. The look on Robin William’s face tells all. Restraint mixed with a healthy [I shall use a nastier word now but only in its Latin root] “Fut you” The rest of the story is how he survives, and its told in a very believable way.

Saw William’s CENTENNIAL MAN a few days ago, and shed a few tears.  I am not sure if I was crying from the story line or from the loss of such a great actor.

A bit of music in Greek

I couldn’t resist posting this.  I came across this by accident.

Lantern Night at Bryn Mawr College
Mid-November

Traditions help build a feeling of community at Bryn Mawr, a women’s college near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the induction ceremony of Lantern Night has welcomed freshwomen since the late 1880s. The ceremony takes place in the courtyard of the Cloisters, a quadrangle with a pond at the center. The first-year students process into the courtyard, and the sophomores place candlelit lanterns behind each one. Upperclass women sing a hymn in ancient Greek to the goddess of wisdom, Athena, and freshwomen respond in kind. The ceremony in the Cloisters is followed by a step-sing, in which the students of all classes gather together for fellowship and the singing of lighthearted songs outside of Taylor Hall, on the administration building’s steps.

 

This is the song that is sung while the sophomores are running lanterns to the freshmen during Lantern Night at Bryn Mawr College.

Pallas Athena, goddess of learning and strength,
We come to you to worship you, dread goddess.
Bless us we pray; give us wisdom.
Be with us always, Blessed goddess, hear!
Sanctify our lanterns now, to shine forever clearly,
Lighting the way, making bright the dark.

Greek:

Pallas Athena thea,
Mathe mastos kai stenous
Se par he me is iman
Hie rus sou sai soi deine (x2)

Hie rus sou sai soi deine (x4)
Akoue. Akoue.

Makar i ze ai toumen
He min sophian didou
He min syngignou aei
Makarthe a akoue(x2)

Makarthe a akoue(x4) Akoue. Akoue.

Hie rize nyntous lydnous
Aei phanos phanoien
Lamprynontes ten hodan
Melan phanon poiuntes(x2)

Melan phanon poiuntes(x4)
Akoue. Akoue.

Pompeii sucks

 

 

"Kiss me you hunky gladiator, forget living...where is that horse?"

“Kiss me you hunky gladiator, forget living…where is that horse?”

I finally got to see the movie Pompeii with Kiefer Sutherland.  I don’t recommend the film.  I don’t know what it was…I have been thinking about it the last few days, and there were two things that really irritated me – one, Kiefer Sutherland and two, the general ‘pace’ of the movie.

Everything about Sutherland says 21st century. Sutherland played a Roman senator and his overall character was thoroughly dislikeable. Some may say he did his job, but he played the guy as an effete smug little ass, that would perfectly at home on Wall-street or some corporate office.

Kit Harington was the protagonist named Milo. A gladiator nicknamed: ‘The Celt’ is brought to Pompeii to liven up the games. He is one of these guys that is outnumbered and kills everyone in 10 seconds or less, and walks away not even breaking a sweat. You can almost hear him think: “Is that all you got?” He was pretty good.

Spoiler Alert: Plot of movie in six lines or less.

Gladiator is transferred to Pompeii. Wealthy girl comes home to Pompeii to join her parents. FORSHADOWING – rumble…rumble. Senator from Rome pursues pretty girl. She thinks, “Yech. Can’t stand him. Like Gladiator better.” Gladiatorial game. FORESHADOWING – rumble…rumble. Pompeii blows top, everyone runs. Protagonist and antagonist battle it out while Pompeii is destroyed. Bad guy dies. Gladiator and pretty girl escape, horse too slow for two people, “No, you take the horse,” he says. “No, you take the horse,” she says. They kiss. Ash cloud sweeps over them – EVERYONE DIES.

Things I liked about the movie.

1) Great aerial shots of the city.

2) Cool BROMANCE between Milo (hero gladiator) and Atticus (Played mate. Watch this guy in future films; he has a perfect combination of menace and intelligence. It would be interesting to see him cast as the lead.)

3) MOST BELIEVABLE CHARACTERS THAT DESERVED MORE LINES: Carrie Ann-Moss, the actress from MATRIX, and Jared Harris a great British actor from MADMEN. This movie would have been better if the film centered on them. What is it like to see your world and everything you love destroyed?

4) LOVELY TO LOOK AT: Emily Browning!

Things I hated about the movie.

1) Kiefer Sutherland.

2) The movie never took a breath. ACTION, ACTION, ACTION…Let’s take a breath and let the audience see what it is like to live at that time?

3) Everyone had inexhaustible energy, and no one seemed affected by the ash spewing in the air.

4) Pompeii got blown up, fireballs, projectiles, buildings crumbling – I seem to remember many buildings remained intact.

5) Doesn’t every high born patrician girl jump on horse with a Thracian and run away for 30 minutes so that they can have a ‘joy ride.’ “Oh no, he won’t rape or kill me. He is kind for he killed my horse.” She never really said that but the only interaction the two had was the gladiator killing her horse when it went lame. Hey, isn’t that the path to every girl’s heart?

6) MOST BLATANT THEFT: The writer stole a scene from the movie Gladiator. It’s the scene where a myth is recreated in the arena, and the gladiators play the losing side in a recreated myth. Except, they don’t die! In the movie Gladiator Kenneth Crowe’s brilliant leadership changes the outcome, so our hero and his friend Atticus pull off the same stunt. GIVE ME A BREAK! Can we have some originality? They even stole the line (not exact): “I don’t remember it turning out that way.”

7) A Greek Choir (ten guys in golden masks making announcements like a PA system). Yes, I agree there are some weird things in history, but some things just don’t translate very well.

GREEK CHORUS:

“HAIL, GREAT JUPITER! WE ARE RECREATING A SCENE FROM THE MOVIE GLADIATOR. JANET AND LEE BETCHLER, AND MICHAEL JOHNSON SMOKED TOO MUCH WEED AND STOLE A SCENE FROM GLADIATOR THINKING THE AMERICAN PUBLIC IS TOO STUPID TO NOTICE. WOE ONTO THEM, MAY THEIR BOWELS BE EATEN BY HARPIES!”

Common sense item ignored in movie: (This is where you have to figure humans – no matter what time period they live in – would react the same way). When a volcano blows up, may I make the following suggestion: RUN! No one stays to fight it out with the bad guys. The gods are raining fire and projectiles upon the town, but instead Milo the gladiator searches out Corvus (played by Sutherland) to ‘duke’ it out.

Frightening ironic item from 9/11 (an equally disturbing disaster): I saw a documentary, where a videographer was filming around New York after the first plane hit the building. Some idiot supervisor was telling workers to go back into the building. I have met government workers with this ‘dumb ass’ personality. There is a special place in hell for supervisors that tell you to go back into a building that has a jet burning in it. To my understanding, there were people in Pompeii that had the good sense to note the signs and leave town.

I hope there are always people with good sense to leave even with a lame-ass supervisor telling employees to get back to work.

“Ignore the burning plane; get back to your cubicle.” Or “Ignore the volcano spewing ash; get back to the wine press!”

Here are some suggestions for other Pompeii movies and books:

Movie: The Last days of Pompeii, 1935. (Interesting story line, there’s a kid to tug at your heart strings, Christian storyline near the end.)

Book: The last days of Pompeii by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (Has nothing to do with the movie. Language is slightly antiquated. This could be the time period and the audience intended for the book, but with all the ‘thee-ing’ and ‘thou-ing’ I wondered if he was trying to give the impression of a translated dialogue from Latin itself. Written in 1834 so that explains a lot, but if you have trouble with it try reading Ben Hur. This book was written in 1880 and is an easier read.

Book: Ghosts of Vesuvius by Charles R. Pellegrino. One of the best books on Pompeii and assorted other subjects. Science, history, philosophy, all mixed into a study of disaster. He backs it all up with facts and a side-comparison to the trade towers. This is a must read for the curious. This is one of those books you will be highlighting passages, and circling bits of information.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ghosts-of-vesuvius-charles-r-pellegrino/1110897632?ean=9780060751005

Name that classical connection (9)

UPDATE:  Except for Jesse Walker who gave a strong hint on the answer by pushing us towards a link of a Dr. Who episode no one provided an out and out answer on the classical connection of this new movie.  It is basically  using Theseus and the Minotaur as the basis of this film.  I suspect that the creature inside the maze is more robotic than man/bull, but just the same this movie and the popular book series has gone back to mythology for inspiration.  How did Theseus find his way out of the Labyrinth?  King Minos’ daughter gave him a ball of string.   I am determined to find a good myth for a modern telling.  Anyone have a good suggestion?

—–Original posting…

I have not seen the movie yet, and I think the classical connection is pretty heavy. I know the plot already. Anyone want to fill us in on what the basic plot line is? You know it. I know you do! You don’t need to google it. Just watch the trailer and tell me the classical connection. Even if you are moderately read on classical mythology, the ‘basic’ plot line should be obvious. What myth is this from? Anyone? Anyone?

What would you hear?

doctorwhopompeii_2727005bOh, how I wish I could walk down a street in Ancient Rome.  That my Latin was street worthy, and I could overhear conversations and ask questions of those living their lives.  “Do you know the best place for wine?” I would ask.  “Could you direct me to the nearest philosopher?”  There was a blog called ‘Overheard in New York’ by Michael Malice and S. Morgan Friedman, that documents snippets of conversations by pedestrians in New York City.

What conversations in Rome do you …imagine that you would hear?  Anyone?  Anyone?    I seem to remember one post (hope I got this right)  in the humor blog ‘Overheard in New York’ that seems relevant.

Overheard conversation:

One street tough to another: “What ya readin?”

Answer:  “Plato.”

Make up your own overheard Ancient Roman conversation (2 or three lines) and post here!

 

Doomed to Repeat

doomed to repeat I spent a thoroughly happy morning at Northwestern Hospital waiting for my wife during a medical appointment at a Starbucks on Huron Street downtown Chicago. Of course, I am the ‘Awake’ hot tea, and she is the green tea latte. The Starbucks is in one of the hospital’s waiting room’s at street level, with many tables, great chairs, and customers’ that are mostly doctors, nurses, and people trying to chill out after visiting their ‘loved ones.’ If you’re looking for a place to spread out, this is the place. It is quiet, warm, and has the expanse of a large library without the stacks, and if you go to the second floor and take a short walk to the next building, there is a food court – “get the gyros.”

TO keep me company I had Bill Fawcett’s book DOOMED TO REPEAT. Fawcett has series of books with titles such as HOW TO LOSE THE CIVIL WAR, HOW TO LOSE THE WAR, and HOW TO LOSE A BATTLE.

DOOMED TO REPEAT is compelling in many comparisons he makes with the modern world and the

The opening paragraph starts with a familiar quote:

“Those that cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

He spends most of the book showing how this is true in war, politics and business.

He brings forth a question: If Alexander the Great tried to bring the Afghan tribes under control and his efforts were fruitless, why didn’t the English, Soviets and the American’s learn anything from a repetitive historical cycle of trying to accomplish what Alexander could not? Why do nations continue to think that they can do better? In simpler terms if the English got their asses kicked, if the Soviets got their asses kicked, then for god sakes why did the Americans think they could overcome generations of tribalism?

The book explores each attempt, and goes on to look at the Romans and modern society in regards to employment and taxes.

“Today, American workers are not competing with slaves, but they too see their jobs being offshored…”

There are many ‘warnings’ that creep up in the book that can make you uncomfortable, and wonder are we heading down the same road as Rome in the ‘destruction of the middle class.’

I have long thought the real weakness of American society does not come in from a lack of military or economic prowess, but our inability to see beyond 4 to 8 years in our planning for the future. I do not believe the ‘Chinese’ have this problem, but WE do.

As thought provoking this book was, my wife joins me after her appointment. She is well. That is the best news so far. I hope the future is flexible enough that we can change course. That is the attraction of the future. It’s unpredictability. Things change, sometimes, people change. Sometimes a slight miscalculation, a slight thing in the course of man changes the inevitable. Like a typhoon (‘divine wind’) when a Mongol Navy heads for your shores (check Japanese history). Like the V-12, piston aero engine, of 27-litre (1,650 cu in) capacity. Rolls-Royce designed and built the engine which was initially known as the PV-12: the PV-12 became known as the Merlin and true to its name was placed in the Spitfires that defended England against invasion. Like those ‘darn’ Americans during the Battle of Midway that broke the Japanese code (and managed to keep it secret) to ambush with dive bombers the four Japanese aircraft carriers—Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, all part of the six-carrier force that had attacked Pearl Harbor just six months earlier.

It’s fine to depend on a typhoon, on technology and stealth, but at the moment of reading this book, I want those in the NOW and the FUTURE to lay the foundation of our “pursuit of happiness” for those who come after me.

Footnote * I’m proud to say my brother Jeff was at Glenview Naval Air Station and met Ensign George Gay the lone survivor of a devastator squadron who was shot down by the Japanese. While floating in the sea he witnessed the battle about him and the sinking of the Japanese aircraft carriers. I bring this up for one reason, and one reason only: you may not know it, but history surrounds you.

 

Zenobia-the-musical-2Title – “It’s Good to be Queen.” Rob Cain interviews Lorrisa Julianus and Craig Engel.

Zenobia, is an original musical written by Lorrisa and composed by Angela Salvaggione. It premiered at the Bolingbrook Performing Arts Center, and was directed by Craig.

The subject is the 3rd century queen who defied Rome and tried to carve out an Empire. Want to know more?


MP3 File

Lorrisa Julianus as Queen Zenobia

Lorrisa Julianus as Queen Zenobia

Episode 14, Season 3, of Ancient Rome Refocused will be posted soon.  On EPISODE 14 titled “It’s Good to be Queen,” I interviewed Lorrisa Julianus and Craig Engel.  Lorrisa wrote the book and lyrics and starred in an original musical about the 3rd century Queen Zenobia.  Craig directed this sword

Craig Engel and Lorrisa Julianus

and sandal epic.  He is the co-president &  artistic director of Theatre-on-the-Hill, in Bolingbrook, Illinois.  A veteran, with an extensive military background, a medic with Navy Special Forces for Seal Team 8, he has the perfect combination of skill and spine to convinced the City of Bolingbrook to support the effort, bringing a multitude of activities into concert,  and turning gangly ‘spear-carrying’ 15 year olds into Roman Soldiers you can be proud of.   Lorrissa starred in the production. She appeared on the Bold and the Beautiful, and will soon be seen on Chicago PD.  Not only does she have a ‘Broadway’ class voice but has the physicality to make anyone believe that she could survive a sword fight, which should be no surprise since she is a ‘motion-capture’ actor for the highly successful Mortal Kombat computer gaming series. 

https://www.youtube.com/user/zenobiathemusical

 You got to admire Lorrisa’s passion and tenacity to take this classical story of ‘late-empire’ and adapt it into a musical.   The show has love, passion, sword fights, spirituality, forgiveness, all at a time when the Roman Empire was split into the Gallic and Palmyran Empires.  I couldn’t help to think of the DreamWorks film THE PRINCE OF EGYPT while watching it.  The music was haunting.  

The composer was Angela Salvaggione.  The music is hard to get out of your head, and the music for the duet Who you Are is magical.  I am still humming it to myself.  The music for the production is haunting, and is perfect for this larger than life story.   

  http://angelapiano.com/bio/

What of Palmyra?  It was centered between the Romans and the east.  It grew rich on trade and decided to build for itself an empire. It was a splinter empire that broke away form the Roman Empire in the period that was called the Third Century Crisis.  The Palmyrene Empire survived from 260–273, and acquired Syria, Palaestine, Egypt and large parts of Aisa Minor.

Zenobia-the-musical-2

Lorrisa Julianus and  Angela Salvaggione taking Zenobia on as a musical subject is a bold move.  Western culture is Cleopatra obsessed.  Look how many times Cleopatra is remade over and over for every generation.  The list goes from Theda Bara  (find  a copy of the ‘lost’ silent film and you will make a fortune) through  Elizabeth Taylor to the soon-to-be-released Cleopatra film starring Angelina Jolie.    Zenobia may be new on the American psyche, but not in the Middle East.   A  different version of Zenobia’s story appeared in Dubai last April, with horses, camels and waterfalls appearing ‘live’ on stage.  Julianus and Salvaggione’s version is worth your time for it has the music and Lorrissa’s voice.  This is enough to transport anyone to another place and another time.    You can keep the camel. 

Man is a story-telling  creature.  The musical starts out with a telling by a Sybil, played with angelic qualities by Emily Seymour.  She sets the stage.  Isn’t that how every story should start?  “Once upon a time…” or “Oh Muse…” or “Far away..across the sea…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGBLKM4EaUc

There are too many ancient stories that fail to capture the imagination of the public, because they are JUST NOT TOLD.    Zeniobia is a subject ripe for song, poetry and musicals in Bolingbrook.   

If you are interested in learning more about this eastern queen check out Empress Zenobia, Palmyra’s Rebel Queen, by Pat Southern or  the book A Chronicle of Zenobia, The Rebel Queen by Judith Weingarten.

Here are some links:

http://www.amazon.com/Empress-Zenobia-Palmyras-Rebel-Queen/dp/1847250343

Want to read about the director Craig Engel?

http://www.greenroomonline.org/directors/engel_craig.htm

Want to read another author about Zenobia?  She has a great blog.

http://judithweingarten.blogspot.com/

Want to read about Lorrisa Julianus as artist?

 http://mccartec.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/lorissa-julianus/

Want to know more about Theater on the Hill in Bolingbrook?

 http://www.americantowns.com/il/bolingbrook/organization/theatre_on_the_hill

Want to read about Zenobia the musical?

http://www.buglenewspapers.com/features/article_8849758c-f7d2-11e2-9e1e-0019bb30f31a.html

Want to read more about the Bolingbrook opening?

http://geodepress.com/go-see-zenobia-the-musical-at-bolingbrook-il/

 

What will our remnants tell of us?

Check out the photography of Mike Mission, a Brooklyn-based artist, that photographed these strange objects found in the asphalt of New York.  Imagine a thousand years have passed and we are the ones being uncovered under rock and debris?

What would our story be?

His work is titled Asphalt Archaeology.  http://9bytz.com/objects-in-new-york-asphalt/

Objects In New York Asphalt

 

Made the list

 

bc1Ancient Rome Refocused made Boston College Department of History’s list for Podcast Series for History Lovers (Summer 2013).

1138751333_6160_f_pagecat_gr1s PARTY ON!

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