A new movie is coming out by the American director and film producer Spike Lee.    The title CHIRAQ is apt and comes from a terrifying statistic that the murder rate in Chicago has exceeded the number of deaths in Iraq.  In other words a war is being waged in Chicago, and so far the city, state and Federal Government have been powerless to stop it.

Year To Date Shot & Killed: 383 Shot & Wounded: 2191 Total Shot: 2574 Total Homicides: 433.

Lee could have come out with a hard hitting documentary, review the situation, while spotlighting a few cases to expose this national tragedy, but he has reached back into history to use a far more powerful weapon:  satire. 


Satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

015I can understand why satire is feared by kings, governments, and politicians.  Why do you think Saturday Night Live can be a driving force in how we view an issue or a politician?  Satire cuts thought ‘talking points’ and personas displayed by those in power.    Artists and writers have fled for their lives when they used satire to make their point.  It has been used in cartoons, movies, stories and plays.

Mr. Lee has taken the play titled Lysistrata, written by the Greek playwright Aristophanes, to make his point.  What is the basis of the play?  Women deny men sex until they stop killing each other.    It was originally staged in 411 b.c.  It was about the Peloponnesian War which was an all out struggle between the nation states of Athens and Sparta.  The title character Lysistrata comes up with a plan to end the continual grind and destruction of this war.

Mr. Lee is not the first to revision this play, but he is the first to make it glaringly REAL.  We may not be able to sympathize or empathize with a people fighting it out in the hills of Greece thousands of years ago.  Maybe their political objectives are lost to time, and a little too far back in the midst of history for us to care.   However;  set it in the NOW, with characters that seem familiar, it has the potential to be powerful.  I have not seen the film to date.  A link to a trailer is attached to this article.   If you get to see the film, please put your comments on the blog.

What I applaud Mr. Lee about is his use of Lysistrata; to put meat on the bones; to make it sing once more.

I lived near Michigan Avenue in Chicago.  The best trauma center was at Northwestern Medical Center that was just down the street from my apartment building.  Anybody who has visiting the ‘Windy City’ will know the area as Streeterville.  In just the one year that I lived in that area I heard a continuous wailing of sirens as ambulances made their way north from the south side.   I will be first to bow to criticism.  I will be the first to admit that maybe I presumed too much.   I know what directions the ambulances were coming from.  It was always from the south and west side.  The headlines in the newspapers and the lead stories on the 5:00 news were always the same.



And the sirens keep coming.

Cyclops as Art

This is a painting by Joseph Mallord William Turner.  The title is: Ulysses deriding Polyphemus – Homer’s Odyssey.   We have come upon the scene where Odysseus shouts to the blinded Cyclops:  “When Neptune asks who took your sight, tell him Odysseus!”   It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1829.  I saw it for the first time in Washington D.C.  at the National Gallery (on loan?).   Can you see the Cyclops in the midst?  Turner had a fondness for midst and fog.    Yes, I too had to look for the Cyclops.

This concludes the Cyclops Series on Ancient Rome Refocused.  I hope you enjoyed the search for Polyphemus.

I purposely left out my final entry on the rare anomaly called Cyclopia.  It is not a visual that I want to share.  I will tell you that it sometimes happens in animal and human childbirth (death is always the final result).   The link below leads to a very good article on the subject.   One can only think of the implications such an event would have on ancient cultures.



Proxima-900I admit it.  I can’t resist a good science fiction book.  Yes, most of the time I spend reading Roman histories and novels, but my hand just automatically tries a sci fi book once in a while.  I  can’t help myself. 

My system is simple.  I stand in front of the Science Fiction section and reach out blindly taking one off the shelf.  It’s risky for you don’t know what kind of journey you many find yourself taking part in.  Though Proxima is a mind boggling space epic, and written by a man on top of his game (Stephen Baxter) I have some issues with its ending.

How can you resist a story about humans forced on board a colony ship?  In this story no one want to be a colonist.  Well just imagine that you have to survive on a planet that is hostile to the human specie.  The story goes on for years, you grow up wandering for decades, colonists are killing each other, you and your descendants are wearing clothing stuffed with local plant-life just to stay warm.  A porthole in the planet conveniently allows the colonists to ‘step’ back to their own solar system.  How convenient.  I invested a lot of time with his  characters from 2166 to 2217.  That’s a lot of years.  So when the final paragraph (with NO WARNING) ends the novel with an airship with SPQR on the side, and a paragraph of Latin which I have set down the following words to give you the idea:  The protagonist is approached by a Roman soldier that shouts: “…Sum Qunitus Fabius, centurio navis stellae…”  I’m telling you this plot twist came out of nowhere, which makes me think he was looking for a way to end the book.    You know what I would have rather have seen?  A 465 page book on Quintus Fabius, a centurion of Roman Space Navy.    Now that would have been worth the journey.

I feel that I got on the wrong spaceship.

Cyclops in mi·cro·cosm.


A freshwater copepod, a Cyclops in microcosm, also know as the ‘waterflea.’  Like the Cyclops of mythology it has a single eye.   It is the host of guinea-worm disease.  Like the Cyclops of Mythology it has a terrible temper, for those that are infected with the guinea-worm may blister, and have a 60 to 100 centimeter worm crawl from the wound.  President Carter hoped that he would live long enough to see this ‘scourge’ eliminated from the earth.  I find this guy just as creepy as a full sized Cyclops and never want to run into either of them.

Cyclops as technology


Does this need explanation?  An actual undersea going eye…a cyclops developed by OceanGate. 

From their website:

A fully functional prototype with depth capabilities to 500 meters, OceanGate’s Cyclops 1 functions as a test platform for software, technology and equipment to be deployed on the 3,000-meter Cyclops 2 submersible, scheduled for launch in 2016.
Cyclops 1 new features include an enhanced automated control system to monitor life support, power management, navigation and other critical system diagnostics. Using a combination of Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) technology and innovative system architecture designed by the Applied Physics Lab at the University of Washington and OceanGate’s internal engineering group, the automated control system is revolutionizing how manned submersibles operate by reducing time spent on vehicle control and increasing time to achieve mission objectives. This control system also improves mission safety, reducing opportunity for user error.

The Cyclops found its way into the Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor. Is it possible that an Hellenic Tale had a bit of cross cultural pollination? Sailors will be sailors; maybe a story or two found its way across the sea?

“The myth of a blinded monster is not peculiar to the Hellenic fable, but can be traced through most European and Asiatic folk-lore. Compare, for example, “…tall as a large palm-tree with one eye red and fiery as a burning coal in the middle of his forehead,’ in the Third Voyage of Sindbad, Arabian Nights. “
–The Cyclops of Euripides, by John Patterson, B.A. (Harvard)

Note* Sindbad / Sinbad are both proper spellings.

Best Sinbad ever!!! Check out Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Best Sinbad ever!!! Check out Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

arabian cylops

Cyclops as inspiration


O Brother, Where Art Thou is inspired by the Odyssey.  There are some subtle allusions, some blatant ‘steals’ considering the hero is named Ulysses Everett McGill.  John Goodman gives a superior performance as a Cyclops in the movie.  There’s a scene that he munches on a chicken leg that made me think of Polyphemus munching on a sailor’s leg-bone.  If any of you count yourself as a ‘Classics Warrior’ take time to see this movie as three convicts  participate in a journey across the American South in the 1930s.  Big Dan Teague (played by Goodman) is an example of a voracious  one-eyed, violent, force of nature.   This movie had references to Penelope (who doesn’t want him back), sirens (my favorite part), and transformations on an Odyssey across the backroads of rural America.  When Goodman flings a pet frog against a tree I felt actual shock.  I could see the sailors in the Cyclops cave torn apart.  THAP!  The movie is using Book IX for inspiration.  Enjoy.  BEWARE THE CYCLOPS WRATH!

Cyclops as superhero

d67743ba5c940cdb58b5af9361270176Cyclops is a member of the original X-Men Team.  He plays a close second after my first choice of Wolverine.  Ruby crystal in his visor holds back unlimited power – a blast that can fell buildings and melt steel.

Cyclops as pal and sidekick



The famous R2D2 and the newly introduced BB-8 both fit the Cyclops as “pal and sidekick” category.  Somehow I am not creeped out by the two of them having one eye.  Somehow a robot having one eye does not play hard on the senses.


Cyclops as horror reboot










Dr. Cyclops is an odd film using the concept of the cyclops as a horror reboot.   Though the dialogue is not memorable, the special effects were nominated for a Academy Award.    Dr. Cyclops was filmed in 1940 and was released by Paramount Pictures. I can imagine just what the 1940s Saturday Morning ‘popcorn’ crowd thought of this film.  It must have been worthy of a few “Oohs and Ahhs.” The Plot:  A scientist finds a way to shrink people down to a more ‘measureable’ size.   This is the point where I laugh a horrible ‘snidely whiplash’ laugh.  “OOOHHHAAAAAHAHAHA!”  Like Odysseus and his sailors, a group of scientist travel a great distance, overstay their welcome, and then…are trapped. You can play with your dark side as you try to think ‘context’ when watching this picture. The war was still to come. It was produced in 1939 and released in 1940.   The mad scientist (Dr. Thorkel) has an oddly Asian  look about him look about him, but though not played that way, the uniform, the glasses, and bald head makes you wonder if they were working for a stereotype.  I just don’t know.  The mysterious substance that gives Dr. Thorkel his power is a mixture of uranium and radium.  After the war, uranium will be the ‘promethean fire’ stolen from the gods that will be the subject of scores of science fiction and ‘end of the world‘ plot lines. However, if you are looking for a simple classical connection one can see parallels with the Homeric tale.     I like to think that the screenwriter sat in his California bungalow typing out the movie script while remembering a class on the Odyssey he took while in high school.  I believe it to be an original use of this classical tale…at least for the late 30s.