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September 30, 2003

Prissy Kinkart

The Bond Girl name generator reveals another truth of my being.

Posted by the Flea at 08:15 AM

Samorost

That last entry raised my blood pressure. Time to relax by preventing my spaceship from crashing into that tree-stump.

Posted by the Flea at 08:09 AM

Unwilling bride

Here is something I want banned.

Romanian Roma princess Ana Maria, 12, cries as she tries to escape her lavish wedding to a 15-year-old Roma boy in Sibiu, 250km northeast of Bucharest, September 27, 2003. The unwilling bride, whose marital age is common among Romania's traditional Roma who are estimated between 500,000 and three million, was convinced to return to the ceremony by her family.

I link to the photo because I think it is important people see what I am talking about otherwise I would have the photo banned along with the ritual. I could do without the Reuters description of a distraught twelve year-old who, in all likelihood, is about to be raped at the behest of her family and tradition as a "Roma princess". Words like "princess" and "traditional" are crude attempts to paper-over a revolting celebration which would have its participants arrested were it taking place in Canada. I can only wonder how this child was "convinced to return" to the ceremony and its aftermath and wonder what sort of human being could stand by with a camera and do nothing to stop it.

Posted by the Flea at 07:59 AM | Comments (1)

Burn the books

Some parents living in the South Texas Independent School District wish to remove Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land from the curriculum.

After failing at the high school level, the parents took their grievances to the superintendent, who backed the committee’s decision. Next, the complaint went to the board of trustees. At its August meeting, the board chose to table the item. It is expected to address it tonight — which, ironically, is right in the middle of Banned Books Week.

“It is not only the right of parents, but their responsibility to be involved in what their kids are reading,” said Beverley Becker, associate director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which sponsors awareness of banned and challenged books. “But there’s a line that they cross when they ask that in addition to their kid, that nobody else have access to that book. When they go that next step that nobody else can have access, that’s when we come to a problem.”

I am, generally speaking, suspicious of attempts to restrict access to literature. It has been years since I read Brave New World but as I remember the most these parents might achieve is prevent their children from being bored to death (cut to the Flea ducking verbal slings and arrows from Flea-readers for that one). I could never make it past chapter one of Stranger in a Strange Land - I have tried several times over the years - and perhaps there is some prurient material which would have maintained my interest in grade 10 if only I had soldiered on through the introduction. I did just finish The Cat Who Walks Through Walls due to the results of a certain test and an unexpurgated version of that includes some sex scenes which I imagine would raise some eye-brows in Ontario schoolboards. It is possible the same is true for Stranger and I would not want to misjudge these concerned parents not having reviewed the material myself. I had not realized, for example, Jane Austen's writing was full of violence... with extreme prejudice!

There is an irony in parental attempts to ban books for their sexual content whose themes concern social control and peculiarities of morality and sex. Ray Bradbury wrote on the irony attempts to ban his book about banning books.

The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian, Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist, Zionist/Seventh-day Adventist, Women's Lib/Republican, Mattachine/FourSquareGospel feel it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse. Every dimwit editor who sees himself as the source of all dreary blanc-mange plain porridge unleavened literature, licks his guillotine and eyes the neck of any author who dares to speak above a whisper or write above a nursery rhyme.

Fire-Captain Beatty, in my novel Fahrenheit 451, described how the books were burned first by the minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph from the book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the library closed forever.

The Flea offers this link to a "banned" My Gaydar ad in belated celebration of Banned Books Week. My favourite part is the jiggling invitation, indifferent refusal and confused shrug of shoulders shared between friends. If only they had read Heinlein they might not share the mistake some women make in missing truths about their bestest male friends.

Posted by the Flea at 07:21 AM | Comments (4)

September 29, 2003

Shaken not stirred

Astute Flea-readers know of the my gentleman adventurer duties by night and blogger duties by later night. The life the Flea is not all Australian popstars in wet T-shirts, however, as there is the constant need to keep up appearances. It is critical to ensure luxury brand choices match up with the debonnaire cocktail party conversation. Bollingers is the obvious champagne choice, for example.

Dr. No: “A medium dry martini, lemon peel, shaken, not stirred.”
Bond: “Vodka?”
Dr. No: “Of course.”

Perhaps someone will be able to tell me if James Bond had a vodka preference. Granted all those Smirnoff product placements in the films, I find it difficult to believe Commander Bond would injest Smirnoff Citrus Twist or any other flavoured vodka. Finlandia seems even less likely. Do the novels offer a clue? Despite the Absolut theme on this week's sidebar the Flea's choice is Stolichnaya. Bolli. Stoli. It even sounds right.

Shake it!

And then... This James Bond resource looks promising though I would still take Bollinger over Taittinger (and not a word about the over-rated Veuve Clicquot).

"When M. poured him three fingers from the frosted carafe Bond took a pinch of black pepper and dropped it on the surface of the vodka. The pepper slowly settled to the bottom of the glass leaving a few grains on the surface which Bond dabbed up with the tip of a finger. Then he tossed the cold liquor well to the back of his throat and put his glass, with the dregs of the pepper at the bottom, back on the table."

Posted by the Flea at 09:32 AM | Comments (2)

Batman: Dead End

Attention Dark Knight fans and Flea-readers everywhere. Run, don't walk (in a finger-clicky way) to IFILM and watch Batman: Dead End. The Ain't it Cool News guys were on to this months ago and were fandom saints for not revealing any spoilers to this short film. Do not... do not... let anyone tell you about it before you get a chance to see it yourself.

Let's make it an open discussion on the film in the comments to this post so hold off on reading comments until you have seen it!

And yes, that is a Superman T-shirt the director is wearing in the interview which follows. There is no accounting for it.

Posted by the Flea at 09:29 AM | Comments (5)

No freedom without sacrifice

The trailer for The Return of the King is supposed to go on-line at the New Line site today. It is not there yet...

And then... This appears to be a 9.0 mb full-screen Quicktime version.

And then... Ok, not full-screen but there it is. Totally freaked out now due to glimpses of Minas Morgul and a certain cave-dwelling critter. Aragorn's St. Crispin's Day speech gives me chills.

I see in your eyes the same fear
that would take the heart of me.
A day may come when the courage of men fails,
when we forsake our friends
and break all bonds of fellowship.
But it is not this day.
This day we fight!

And then... And the answer is...

Posted by the Flea at 09:28 AM | Comments (12)

Shadows Over Baker Street

Sketches of Strain reports on Shadows Over Baker Street, an "uniformly excellent" excellent collection which must enter the Flea archives.

Here's a real treat for fans of Sherlock Holmes, H. P. Lovecraft, and everyone in between: 20 original stories by writers of horror and fantasy. Neil Gaiman is here, along with Barbara Hambly, Richard Lupoff, Brian Stableford, Poppy Z. Brite, and many more. The premise is engaging: What if the world of Holmes, the world's most logical and rational detective, intersected with the world of Lovecraft, where logic and rationality have little meaning?

"What if", indeed. How many times have I asked the same question of my own life of logic and reason intersecting with a world which where these have little meaning? Especially that time I saw a certain purple-tentacled thing in the bathtub... but no, it is too horrible... too eldritch to even speak of this glimpse into nameless worlds of cyclopean horror which shudder just to the other side of what humanity laughingly thinks of as reality.

One of my prized possessions is Scream for Jeeves by D. H. Cannon. It is, as the name suggests, a collection of Lovecraft-themed stories starring Bertie Wooster and a useful guide to good etiquette in dealing with preterite horrors.

And then... The collection is now within my grasp... if only I can work out these diagrams I should soon have a working device and Miss Stone shall be restored to health!

Posted by the Flea at 09:28 AM | Comments (2)

Wet T-shirt Kylie

Someone has mailed seven-hundred letters of an annoying nature to Kylie Minogue. These were post-marked from somewhere in the west of England so potential Flea-reader theories as to my own mental health can be safely ruled out. Well, on this issue at least. I hope they catch the cad and deal with him harshly.

I point to this clip of a wet T-shirt look for Kylie out of journalist interest. It is a bit distressing until it becomes clear what appears to be an ill-conceived prank is part on a photo-shoot. Sensitive readers should avert their eyes.

Posted by the Flea at 09:26 AM

Potato

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Posted by the Flea at 09:24 AM

Ganesh

Appealing elephant-headed god Ganesh is moving with the times but some devotees - outraged over long-distance rates? - are not (via the Cracker Barrel Philosopher).

MALAYSIAN shops selling imported statues of the Hindu god Ganesh talking on a mobile phone have been warned to remove them immediately, reports said Thursday.

"Those selling them will be warned, while those caught a second time will be slapped with a summons," home ministry spokesman Mohamad Shah Ismail was quoted as saying by the Sun.

Posted by the Flea at 09:23 AM

Ancient chemical and biological warfare

A classical folklorist has catalogued a variety of instances of chemical and biological warfare in antiquity including "venomous jellyfish, poison frogs, dung mixed with putrified blood, the toxic insides of insects, sea urchins and stingray spines" (via ***Dave):

Toxic honey, water poisoned with drugs, scorpion bombs, chocking gases, conflagrations and incendiary weapons similar to modern napalm were widely used in historical battles. Among victims and perpetrators of biochemical warfare were prominent figures such as Hannibal, Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great.

Posted by the Flea at 09:22 AM

September 27, 2003

Ginza

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Special thanks to the Flea's Inukshuk Expert for this chic farewell image to Breakfast at the Flea™. They say it is the most important meal of the day. My vote goes to blunch.

Posted by the Flea at 11:13 AM | Comments (2)

Zombie pinups

The Flea's zombie-media coverage continues with this pinup site.

Posted by the Flea at 11:12 AM

Underworld

The Matrix has so much to answer for. Five minutes into Underworld and I wondered if I could sit through yet another rip-off of a film that was Hong Kong pastiche in the first place. I am glad I stayed. Kate Beckinsale in latex: what is not to like?

I expressed skepticism at a White Wolf lawsuit for copyright infringement given this would be yet another rip-off of a game-system that is all genre pastiche in the first place. A specific use of the term "abomination", however, looks to me to be grounds for action.

And then... Samizdata posts on "the perils of seeing everything through your ideology" in relation to a peculiar review of the film.

I am werewolf, hear me roar… No, I am sure I remember that name of that daft Helen Reddy song all wrong, but that does seem to be the message of a review of Underworld in the Sierra Times by the colourfully named RadioFree Rocky D... this movie is just a pinko feminist tract.

To which I say... nonsense.

Posted by the Flea at 10:45 AM | Comments (2)

Barron Canyon

The Campblog writes on Lake Algonquin in riposte to my Lake Iroquois post.

The Flea's post also reminds me of Barron Canyon, a beautiful area of Ontario's Algonquin Park, which I paddled through once in the early '90s. The high walls of the canyon were formed as ancient waters drained from Lake Algonquin into the Champlain Sea.

Mike links to a great map of the Canyon. An adventure in the life of the Flea as a Young Man was a trip into the Algonquin Park starting at Squirrel Rapids at the east end of the Barron Canyon and ending five days and a number of portages, including a 1800m portage, later on the north side of Grand Lake at Achray Station. It is an established route. We took it backwards so as not to get stuck with other travellers the whole trip but in the event did not see anybody until we left Carcajou Bay on the last leg. Nobody, that is, except the racoon who ate most of our food the first night. He stuck around until morning to get a look at our faces as we emerged from the tent. We had all done a lot of camping and knew enough to keep the food away so as to discourage rummaging bears. The rucksack was a good 10m off the ground and we were at a loss to figure out how the racoon got at it. This left us with the food we could catch, a meagre supply of cigarettes and half a packet of lemon crystals to be split three ways on our last night in the Park.

The trip was unbelievable. Carcajou Bay is the site of Tom Thomson's famous The Jack Pine. It turned out every tree in sight shared its majestic wind-swept look. That last night was also the first time I heard wolves howling.

Posted by the Flea at 10:22 AM | Comments (1)

September 26, 2003

Banana Nut Müslix

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This last Breakfast at the Flea™ special was going to be Banana Nut Müslix. All that banana-nut goodness was lost to me when I discovered the milk I bought at the Super Spender last night had gone off. Vexed again! I may have to go out for brunch instead. Just as well. My Grandad had a useful category he called "rabbit food". This referred to green, leafy edibles but I am quite sure it extends to müslix. I believe it also fits the "foreign muck" category which included the entire menu at McDonald's.

Posted by the Flea at 10:14 AM | Comments (6)

Dr. Who

Dr. Who is returning to the BBC. Yay! Not for another two years. Boo!

The show's creators say the series is in the early stages of development and details of who will play the Time Lord will not be available for some time.

Posted by the Flea at 10:08 AM | Comments (5)

Fishy

I do not suggest this Fishy game unless you have time to waste.

And then... I just played the game through to its satisfying conclusion. I am reminded of the Truth Laid Bear blogosphere ecosystem... It takes about 20,000 points worth of fish before you can make your bid to become the InstaFish.

Posted by the Flea at 10:07 AM

Grand narrative

Kids these days grow up watching The Simpsons. The humour works on a number of levels and may be an education in itself for irony, parody and satire as well as slapstick. I often wonder how these people are going to make sense of the world as they get older and every film, tv show and novel is going to have an eerie familiarity as everything will have been seen before in an animated reference from early childhood. The series is a map of the culture we live in which makes up a comprehensive system.

Aristotle. Hegel. The Simpsons.

This might be a troubling development.

Posted by the Flea at 09:54 AM | Comments (5)

Ultimates

One unexpected bonus of this blogging business is having people to talk comics with. I had stopped buying them years ago but thanks to the blogosphere those worlds are mine to have fun in again.

Yesterday I picked up the The Ultimates Vol. 1 which collects the first six issues of what is the best illustrated, best written and most timely comic series I have ever read. The opening of the first issue is stunning:

This effective setting immediately brings the reader in, and gives us a sense of the stakes as well. Rather than simply a costumed menace, Millar has chosen to tell the story of Cap's mission against a Nazi hydrogen bomb, and the more realistic approach really helps the story.

I think "gritty" is the word. The costumes, plots and settings are all as realistic as possible given the superhero contexts of the stories. There are some astonishing one-liners which had me laughing out-loud to the vexation of my fellow commuters. This is a post-September 11 reflection on heroism which is much appreciated in light of what has been going on at DC. I have the first issue of the subsequent series Ultimate Six but not the remainder of the first series... no spoilers please!

Posted by the Flea at 09:43 AM | Comments (2)

Fun with fusion

I am going to assume this is a joke until Steven den Beste tells me otherwise.

The apparatus is nothing less than the sine qua non of modern science: a nuclear fusion reactor, based on the plans of Utah's own Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of television. The reactor sat on a table with an attached vacuum pump wheezing away. A television monitor showed what was inside: a glowing ball of gas surrounded by a metal helix. The ball is, literally, a small sun, where an electric field forces deuteron ions (a form of hydrogen) to gather, bang together and occasionally fuse, spitting out a neutron each time fusion occurs.

"Here I am with this thing here," Wallace mused, looking at his surroundings. "Who'da thought?"

And then... I have cited John Logie Baird as one of the great figures of the 20th century. We may have to arrange an arm-wrestle with Philo Taylor Farnsworth.

Posted by the Flea at 09:29 AM | Comments (3)

Party Hard

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Posted by the Flea at 09:22 AM

Vivacious::Transmission

I am not sure what it says about the robotic form-filling administrative side of my job that means I would answer a Surreal Aptitude Test by reflex and expect it to reveal the truth of my aptitudes. Maybe these Vietnam war propaganda leaflets from 1945 to 1975, historical anarchist documents and British imperialistic anthems can be synthesized into the answers I seek.

Posted by the Flea at 09:20 AM

September 25, 2003

Sesame-seed bagel

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My Thursday teaching schedule means my Breakfast at the Flea™ needs have to be met on the run. The Second Cup coffee franchise on campus has ok sesame bagels which, when double-toasted and topped with herb and garlic cream-cheese, keep the Flea fuelled for teachy goodness. Snackworthy as they are, however, they are not proper bagels. With apologies to the good people of New York and their bagels of renown only Montreal bagels are the real deal. I am enough of a purist to believe my choice of sesame over poppy-seed would damn me to non-hardcore bagel afficianado status even if it weren't for missing Montreal. A poppy-seed stuck between the teeth impairs a lecture as surely as an open fly so I muddle through with the less troubling sesame-seed option. Garlic, cinnamon-raisin and other variations in the theme of bagel are beyond the pale.

And then... It might be time for a local "bagel off"...

Posted by the Flea at 05:03 AM | Comments (4)

Bond girl formula

The Flea is chagrined to have missed a scientific advance reported in February. Brace yourself for Diana Rigg in a bathing suit...

Mathematicians have worked out the scientific formula for the perfect Bond girl.

Science may purport to mitigate the mystery that is the Bond Girl. What technology lacks in romance it makes up for in fun with news of Scots robot soldiers. Bond might find them handy.

ROBOT soldiers manufactured to kill enemy troops have been designed for the Pentagon by a tiny Glasgow computer company which is set to make millions from the deal.

Posted by the Flea at 04:57 AM

Alien vs Predator

The Flea still cannot quite believe they are really going to make an Alien vs Predator movie. Reports of an October filming date and Amalgamated Dynamics contract to build the "creature effects" suggests my wish may yet come true.

AD plans on making the two xenomorphs look fresh and slightly different in the new movie than from their previous appearances. An enhanced motion control system should allow for faster response time, more fluid movement and look more realistic than earlier versions could achieve. That's not to say that the FX team will be using animatronic devices for all the Aliens and Predators we'll see; they'll also use the oldest and best kind of means to make a monster: by putting someone in a foam suit.

Posted by the Flea at 04:45 AM | Comments (3)

Lost Souls sequel

Flea-goddess Poppy Z. Brite has caved in to popular demand and written a sequel to Lost Souls. Scroll down to her September 23 entry for details.

This makes me think if I should stop pestering Tanya Huff for more vampire novels. I am saving number five as I do not expect another any time soon... You might think I would be more grateful after the stunning chapter one Flea cameo in Long Hot Summoning.

Perhaps this test will ease my angst.

ann
You are Ann.


Poppy Z. Brite Quiz - Which Lost Souls Character Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by the Flea at 04:42 AM | Comments (1)

Nearly

The Flea shudders to learn of this latest retreat from, like, you know, teaching students anything. Even mathematical truths are not safe from a system which deems answers to be "creditworthy" or "not creditworthy" instead of correct or incorrect.

Pupils across Lincolnshire may soon be able to sit exams without fear of failing, when new government guidelines come into effect. The guidelines, for marking key national curriculum exams, recommend that the current F grade, for 'fail', should be replaced with an N grade, for 'nearly'.

Posted by the Flea at 04:40 AM | Comments (2)

Steak and veg

A Bradford University study reveals nice fishes were abandoned in favour of steak and veg as soon as humanly possible (via Fred Kiesche). Fish and chips would have to wait until chips became available alongside the conquest of the Incas...

"In Britain it happened very quickly, in a generation or two," team leader Michael Richards told Reuters. "We had expected to find a gradual switchover, but this was a virtual dietary revolution."

Richards' team studied dietary change during the Neolithic period between 5,200 and 4,500 years ago, using carbon isotopes to assess how the rate of change coincided with the emergence of a domesticated lifestyle from one based purely on opportunistic hunting.

Posted by the Flea at 04:35 AM

Axe head

A five thousand year old axe-head has been found near Stonehenge. Land near the historic site is being turned over from ploughed farming to pastureland affording the opportunity for a three week field walk to turn up artifacts. An image of the axe-head which accompanies a 24HourMuseum article suggests a specialist eye helps to distinguish such an artifact from other fieldstones. Even so, it is remarkable how much of interest remains to be discovered so close to such a well-examined context.

"The axe head is a very interesting find," explained Andy Crockett, Wessex Archaeology Project Manager, "because it relates to a period in our past when farmers first started to chop down trees to start growing crops and keeping livestock."

Posted by the Flea at 04:26 AM

September 24, 2003

Maple syrup

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The Flea's sojourn in the north of England meant hanging out with a friend from Alberta, another Canadian in the British university research ghetto, was a welcome chance to relax without having to explain every joke or Beachcombers reference. Reminiscences would often turn to lost Canadian delicacies such as donuts (hard to find in England) or real coffee (forget it). I was struck with a craving for maple syrup along the lines of what we would make every spring at my family's place in the country. My pal did not share my maple syrup yearning. Aside from pancakes or waffles, he did not see the point of the stuff. I was dumbstruck. How could he be Canadian and not like maple syrup?

I'm from Alberta. How many maple trees do you think we have out there?

From that moment on the truth of a symbol's role in establishing the colonialist, hegemonic cultural imperialism of my Ontario home has been clear to me. Better make that a McGriddle for breakfast today.

Posted by the Flea at 07:06 AM | Comments (5)

Dark Dungeons

A tract warns of the perils of Mazes and Mons... ahh... Dungeons and Dragons. The spirit of Satan is at work! Now, pull my finger.

Which spell did you cast, Debbie?

I used the mind bondage spell on my father. He was trying to stop me from playing D&D.

What was the result?

He just bought me $200.00 worth of new D&D figures and manuals. It was great!

And then... ***Dave has a Dark Dungeons news round-up.

Posted by the Flea at 07:03 AM | Comments (5)

Library Hotel

I had no idea the Dewey Decimal System is trademarked though given it is a dynamic, frequently up-dated publication it seems obvious it should be in retrospect. ***Dave writes on a reported lawsuit for trademark infringement against the Library Hotel in New York City. The Library Hotel "concept" page suggests the Flea should stay on the third floor with a suspicion the ethereal redheads are to be found on the eighth.

Most library users know the general structure of Melvil Dewey's decimal classification. First published in 1876, the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) divides knowledge into ten main classes, with further subdivisions. More than 200,000 libraries in 135 countries use the DDC to organize their book collections. Its simple and logical framework is based on the principle of decimal fractions as class marks, which are expandable to make further subdivisions.

The Library Hotel in New York City is the first hotel ever to offer its guest over 6,000 volumes organized throughout the hotel by the DDC. Each of the 10 guestrooms floors honors one of the 10 categories of the DDC and each of the 60 rooms is uniquely adorned with a collection of books and art exploring a distinctive topic within the category or floor it belongs to.

I have no idea what to make of the merits of the lawsuit. And the interior design theme did not make sense to me until I read this review. Truly, the hotel choice of the Flea.

Most hotel rooms in New York City are very small. This hotel's guestrooms are no exception, but instead of using light minimalist furnishings and the birch-veneered cubes and shelving so popular in boutique-hotel-makeovers, the hotelier went in the exact opposite direction. Dark wood - and lots of it - great lighting options, and quality furniture scaled to the room sizes make these spaces both elegant and appealing. (The twelve-foot ceiling height and large framed mirrors help to make the rooms feel more spacious than they are as well.) The individualization comes from the room's Dewey Decimal theme: The artwork and reading selections are chosen according to the topic number.

Posted by the Flea at 06:54 AM

City Games

Thanks to "the internet" details of Kylie Minogue's forthcoming album are now available.

HER record company is probably furious, but details of Kylie Minogue's hotly anticipated album have been leaked on the Internet. One fan site has the full track listing, and the album's title - City Games. According to the Limbo site, there will be 12 tracks on the album, which will be released on either November 17 or 24.

LiMBO claims to feature "all the Kylie you will ever need!" This strikes me to be a noble aim but somewhat improbable given the Flea's exhaustive, and strictly journalistic, Kylie needs. The reported track-list does not include a song called "Flea" so I shall have to console myself with the knowledge a certain Kylie-single-which-shall-not-be-named was number one in UK juke boxes in 2002 and with the anticipation of her 2004 calendar. This revelation, however, is mildly disturbing:

Unfortunately for Kylie she still has a bit more work to do if she wants to be Danilo's top celebrity calendar seller. That position is currently held by none other than Cliff Richard!

Posted by the Flea at 06:51 AM

Roman iron

Well, yes, of course the local weapons industry is a success but aside from the aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, wine, public baths and making it safe to walk the streets at night what have the Romans ever done for Britain?

Archaeologists excavating the site of a huge iron factory on Exmoor believe it might have been used to help produce weapons for the Roman army.

Posted by the Flea at 06:50 AM

Aveline's Hole

The Guardian reports on new reliable dating of an ancient gravesite in what is now Britain along with the earliest known instance of osteoarthritis.

A narrow cave in a gorge in Somerset has been identified as the oldest cemetery in Britain, used by generations of people from one area in the Mendips just after the last ice age, 10,000 years ago.

The dates range from 10,200 to 10,400 years ago. It is a mind-boggling span. About ten percent of the time we have existed as modern humans... My father's people are from Somerset and, given a propensity for staying put, I would not be surprised to discover myself to be a reasonably direct lineal descendent of the people buried there (though we are all, of course, related to one another no matter how distantly). I have not been to Aveline's Hole but enjoy trips into caves so I shall add it to my list of places to visit. I have been to the nearby Wookey Hole carnival-meets-geology experience and Cheddar Gorge is like something out of Tolkien.

Posted by the Flea at 06:48 AM

Hecate

The Quizilla oracle thinks I am Hecate. Worryingly, it also thinks the "Mistress Ruler of all mankind, all-dreadful one, bursting out of the Earth" would be good person to have as friend. It is true I certainly would not want her spreading office gossip about me (via Classical Values).

Hecate
Hecate


?? Which Of The Greek Gods Are You ??
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by the Flea at 06:47 AM

September 23, 2003

Double double

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Today's Breakfast at the Flea™ is coffee double-double. Now, I understand there are certain hard-core coffee drinkers out there who think coffee is, by definition, black. I am not sure I can defend my preference any more than I can defend my whiskey preference for Irish brands over those Islay single malts. One is hard-core and one is not. At least I am not ordering my coffee with "one cream, one milk and one sugar" which a colleague of the Flea does to the confusion of coffee-shop clerks everywhere.

Posted by the Flea at 09:31 AM | Comments (2)

Punisher

Someone tricksy has been taking pictures of the car the Punisher drives in the forthcoming movie.

Posted by the Flea at 09:29 AM

Drowned landscapes

Just north of Flea Towers is a bluff most famous for Casa Loma, an historic home and useful movie backdrop. My favourite part of the bluff, however, is not the line of historic homes running along the top (there is also the Spadina House museum) but the Baldwin Stair which is a useful short-cut from Casa Loma to the Toronto Archives and the Flea's main route for afternoon cycling expeditions. There is a plaque at the base of the Stair which most people pass by...

You are standing at the shore-line of ancient Lake Iroquois.

This is a couple miles inland and a long way uphill from the shore of contemporary Lake Ontario. Lake Iroquois was the result of glacial run-off as the last ice-age ended and before the St. Lawrence seaway became free from the ice. I looked down Spadina Avenue toward the lake and imagined everything I could see underwater while somewhere to the north an ice-cliff a mile high slowly melted. That was the scene about twelve thousand years ago and may be once again if our current inter-glacial period comes to an end (thus the Flea's concerns about global-colding).

Another drowned world is now coming to light:

Herds of reindeer and horses migrated across its plains, huge forests covered much of the countryside and men and women made their homes by rivers and lakes. Then came the deluge, and this ancient Arcadia - which stretched across the North Sea, and covered the Channel - was inundated. All signs of human and animal activity were covered by several hundred feet of water. Only the occasional stone tool, bone harpoon and mammoth tusk, trawled from the sea bed by fishing boats, has provided reminders of this lost world's existence.

But this is not all as another mystery remains much closer to home. It turns out Toronto has been hiding more than its ancient shoreline from me. A glacial river is still flowing beneath my feet.

Posted by the Flea at 09:23 AM | Comments (1)

Standing vigil

This image of the Jefferson Memorial hints at how surreal the effects of the huricane must have been for people in its path. By the time Isabel reached Toronto we had some rain and high winds but it did not feel like much more than a storm on Lake Ontario. One of the peculiar lessons of the recent black-out was the capacity for the slightest details of life to be changed in a moment. I think for me the oddest was the realization pay-phones were not going to fill the gap as cell phones went off-line. Most pay-phones are computerized these days...

Of all the images of the hurricane this one of soldiers guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetary effected me the most. The men on duty were given permission to leave their post in the face of the hurricane. It was not an option.

"They told us that. But that's not what's going to happen," said Sgt. Christopher Holmes, standing vigil on overnight duty. "That's never an option for us. It went in one ear and right out the other."

Posted by the Flea at 09:15 AM

Harder, better, faster, stronger

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Posted by the Flea at 09:09 AM

Cigars for everybody

Yes, cigars, for today the Ghost of a flea is... a blogfather! The Flea rattles its ghostly chains in glee!

This is funny moment for the Flea. There is blogosphere pride and a feeling of participating in this on-line revolution we are making for ourselves. But there is also a personal feeling of humility that anything I have to say would be useful or interesting to the author of Pinwheels and Orange Peels, a Captain in the USAF. Take this, for example:

When I was at field training (basic training for ROTC cadets) every time a military jet flew over my flight the TI would yell "What's that sound?" and we would have to yell back "The sound of freedom!" And we meant it.

Yes.

Yes.

I am brought up short here because of something I want to express. The feeling is so clear to me that it is difficult to find the words which could express it directly enough.

To everyone serving in the armed forces of the United States: you are heroes to me. Nothing I believe, nothing I do or say, nothing I teach, nothing I research or write about, nobody I love, none of the places I have called home, none of my aspirations... none of it... none of it is possible and none of it is safe without the sword and the arm of the most generous, most daring people in history. Thank you. Thank you for defending us all. Thank you for bringing freedom to people who gave birth to the suffering of September 11, 2001. There is nothing I can do to repay you properly. I can only pay you respect and express my gratitude. Thank you all. Thank you, Captain.

To have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. Now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and into the death. So we had won after all ...
- Winston Churchill

Posted by the Flea at 08:55 AM | Comments (1)

September 22, 2003

Freedom toast

Monday.jpg

Breakfast at the Flea Week™ is an excuse to show pictures of Audrey Hepburn. Isn't she luverly? Today's breakfast Flea-favourite is French toast. I only learned recently of the existence of the Monte Christo sandwich which is, I imagine, to French toast as Jennifer Love Hewitt is to Audrey Hepburn. I like the look of it. I want to try it. But I feel guilty even thinking about it.

Posted by the Flea at 09:57 AM | Comments (7)

Life, love and the pursuit of happiness

The Immaterial Girl's website has a scary new-look front-page devoted to promoting The English Roses.

Reading to my kids at night seemed like the ideal time to teach them a thing or two about life, love and the pursuit of happiness. The world's seal of approval could never mean as much to me as my daughter's. If she fidgeted, fell asleep or reached for another book while I read my "works in progress" to her, I knew I was not finished with my work.

And that is why each and every entry at the Flea is play-tested by reading it to my Cthulhu statue, Matrix Sentinel model or Subcomandante Marcos doll (with Ramona). I am fascinated at how the "liberty" in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has been PC airbrushed into "love". Liberty, it seems, is a four-letter word for the smart-set of London café society.

It is in the spirit of life, Flea and the pursuit of happiness that I present Madonna's complete performance at the VMA including the notorious kiss(es). I don't care what they say. I don't care what she says. Madonna still dominates the stage.

You may all mock me now.

And then... That goes double for Stevie Nicks.

Nicks was appalled by Madonna's publicity stunt kiss with Spears at the recent MTV Awards. "I thought it was the most obnoxious moment in television history," she said. "Madonna will be fine. Madonna is Madonna. She does what she wants. She will get over this. But will Britney get over it? I don't know."

And then... Ok, get this. Madonna was not only cross-promoting her new album, children's books and Gap-ad team-up with Missy Elliott by her "controversial" Britney kiss (people tend to ignore the Christina kiss for want of surprise). It turns out she features in a track on Britney Spears' forthcoming album. This is a marketing tour de force.

And then... If the San Fransisco Chronicle thinks The English Roses is "overblown" and "empty" there might be a problem.

Read attentively, it yields an extremely personal, almost confessional glimpse into the author's raw feelings. Unfortunately, those feelings bespeak a persecution complex so narcissistic that she ought rather have paid readers $100 an hour than charged them 50 cents a page.

Posted by the Flea at 09:50 AM | Comments (1)

Grand Moff Tarkin

Flea-readers who still care what George Lucas is going to do plot-wise in Episode III should avert their eyes...

...because this is the young Grand Moff Tarkin.

I'm sure by now you've seen the leaked image of Episode 3's Grand Moff Tarkin. It's at TFN, but probably not for long. I included a comparison shot for you to take a look at. Pretty cool looking indeed.... and a bit creepy.

Posted by the Flea at 09:29 AM

1472

A recent trip to Cleveland by the intrepid author of Mondo Sismondo turned up a bottle of thirty year old bourbon to be shared with a most contented Flea. This was the cleanest, smoothest bourbon I have ever tasted. The flavours had caramelized into a toffee bar with a kick.

A wealthier Flea would love to try a five-hundred and thirty-one year old wine.

With its bright shades of golden-amber and its aromas of vanilla, hazelnut or camphor, the 1472 vintage of white Alsace wine has been ageing for over 500 years now in the cellars of the Strasbourg Hospice in eastern France.

Posted by the Flea at 09:26 AM | Comments (2)

That's no moon!

That's a space sta... no, wait. It is a moon. Man, that is one ugly moon.

Posted by the Flea at 09:16 AM | Comments (2)

Amazon civilization

Conjecture about a large-scale, complex pre-Columbian Amazonian civilization has intrigued me for some time (no, not these Amazons). Now there appears to be proof:

Deep in the Amazon forest of Brazil, archaeologists have found a network of 1,000-year-old towns and villages that refutes two long-held notions: that the pre-Columbian tropical rain forest was a pristine environment that had not been altered by humans, and that the rain forest could not support a complex, sophisticated society.

And then... IPS News has more:

The study, directed by archaeologist Michael Heckenberger, of the University of Florida, debunks the notions that the Amazon was a virgin forest when the Europeans reached the Americas in the 15th century and that barren soils had made massive human settlements impossible.

The Upper Xingú, in Mato Grosso state, was settled by Kuikuro Indians in the 9th and 10th centuries, according to evidence in ceramics, organic materials and other objects that archaeologists have uncovered.

The discoveries indicate the existence of ”large villages, surrounded by ditches and palisades, forming a defensive structures” during the 14th and 15th centuries and the early 16th century, Brazilian ethnologist Carlos Fausto, a member of the research team, told Tierramérica.

Posted by the Flea at 09:10 AM

Naked Arnold

The Flea is troubled to learn about this refusal by gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger to disavow former Austrian president, and Nazi intelligence officer in Germany’s Army Group E, Kurt Waldheim. Also, Arnold naked.

I suppose part of me wants to like Schwarzenegger because I have enjoyed his films so much. There is even the fantasy of a constitutional amendment allowing for a future President Schwarzenegger. But active political support for a man who had been wanted for war crimes is not the same thing as the guilt-by-association smeers levelled at Schwarzenegger about his father. The sensible parts of the blogosphere have covered Cruz Bustamante's connections to MEChA. Rightly so. I do not see how we can give Arnold a pass on his support for Waldheim.

Posted by the Flea at 08:56 AM

September 21, 2003

The Sunday Seven

The Flea was the featured blog for The Sunday Seven at Sketches of Strain this week. Thanks for the kind words David.

And for Flea-readers who may have missed it... listen to this.

Posted by the Flea at 09:21 AM

September 20, 2003

Robin of Sherwood

The Campblog writes about Robin of Sherwood.

robinhood1.jpg

ROS is, in my opinion, some of the best television ever made, and one of my favourite all-time series. And, in answer to the inevitable Michael or Jason question, I like em both.

For Flea-readers who missed Robin of Sherwood, the central role was played by two actors. Michael Praed and Jason Connery (yes, that Connery) under the literary conceit of the "Hooded Man" as an heroic figure whose mantel is assumed by different men at different times. A Best Friend of the Flea has been obsessive about the series for more than ten years and, in an ironic reflection on Mike Campbell's post, has Rocky Horror call-and-response fun watching the show on a scene-by-scene basis. Praed's "acting thighs" get special mention as do the sing-along opportunities of the Clannad soundtrack.

Bah-hoo! Bah-hoo!
Ba-dooby-da!
Bah-da!

Judi Trott's Lady Marion may be the ultimate Flea-pick for my own peculiar obsessions. She would have been an excellent exemplar for Pre-Raphaelite Week at the Flea but somehow slipped my mind. Even so, the Sheriff is my favourite character:

Gisburne: And when will the ceremony take place, my lord?
Sheriff: When I'm drunk enough to go through with it!

Sheriff: It's a wedding Gisburne, not a celebration.

And then... More Robin of Sherwood lore is now available at the Campblog.

And then... This calls for a Robin of Sherwood drinking game.

Some kid yells "Father, father! Soldiers! Soldiers!" take 6 sips.

Posted by the Flea at 09:21 AM | Comments (5)

Matrix Heineken

Matrix martial arts Xiao Xiao stick-figure stylee feature in this Heineken China ad.

Posted by the Flea at 09:18 AM | Comments (1)

Zombie watch

The Flea has been troubled since the American homeland went to Alert Level Zombie (via A Small Victory). Yes, Canada is traditionally at lower risk for zombie-contagion (excepting Canadians on vacation or taking work overseas) but it pays to be prepared. I am relieved to learn the Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency is on the job but am once again dumb-founded by Liberal defence and counter-zombie agency cuts of the '90s which have left Canada dangerously exposed to the walking dead.

Posted by the Flea at 08:50 AM | Comments (1)

80s tarot

I thought my Rockport tax-lawyer shoes signalled the official death of my youth. Now I wonder if the shoes were only a grim harbinger of this '80s tarot. Take the Four of Cups, for example:

THE CARD: Cy Curnin of The Fixx is elegantly self-absorbed, and cannot see the offerings of the Four of Cups.

Using a combination of sleep deprivation and stimulants (ok, grad school) the Flea's memory had blissfully repressed the existence of Cy Curnin, Alison Moyet and Captain Sensible (though Morrissey is an excellent choice for the Hermit). Now I am possessed of an insane lust for a best of The Fixx album.

Perhaps this Playtarot will know what to do. This Playmobil Spook Patrol game is fun too.

Posted by the Flea at 08:35 AM

Wing music

I have worked hard and I hope you have all found I am improving.

The Sister of the Flea forwarded a link to delightful, distressing renditions of hits of today and yesteryear.

Hi, I am Wing! I immigrated to New Zealand with my family about ten years ago from Hong Kong. I have been learning singing in New Zealand and I do performances in Rest Homes and Hospitals and occasionally promotional concerts as I go along.

Posted by the Flea at 08:26 AM | Comments (3)

Charmed

Kylie Minogue has been spotted wearing a charm necklace (Sun editors file the piece after thigh society, large nostril and copycat chic articles):

KYLIE’S cute little necklace is sure to charm you. The Chanel trinket costs almost £2,000 and has been spotted being worn by Jade Jagger and Cat Deeley too.

Chanel's Symboles fine jewellry collection of charms does not have an obvious price listing so let us assume the Sun estimate is about right.

The Charms line whimsically mixes Gabrielle Chanel's favourite symbols in 18 karat white or yellow gold, with or without diamonds: N°5, the C, the clover-pierced heart, the camellia-pierced heart, the door of N°18 place Vendôme, the star, the comet, the stag.

Ok, here is a quiz for Flea-readers everywhere. Why do people wear charm bracelets and such? People carry symbols of all kinds on their person either as a gesture of commitment or a talisman but the meaning of charm bracelets with their particular collections of symbols has eluded me. A Canadian charm collection would almost certainly include a shamrock rather than a camellia-pierced heart so presumably there are ethnic or national traditions in play here.

I like the idea of a charm for N°18 place Vendôme, the address of Chanel between the Ritz and l'hotel d'Evreux.

Posted by the Flea at 07:39 AM

September 19, 2003

Dirty Jack Kidd

That be me pirate name!

And that's it for Talk Like a Pirate Day for the Flea (until next year).

Posted by the Flea at 09:42 PM | Comments (2)

This be too stupid to be true

Avast! What manner of fool would make a musical about that scurvy dog Castro?

Posted by the Flea at 12:04 PM | Comments (1)

G is for Ghost of a Flea

That's good enough for me!

Posted by the Flea at 10:21 AM

Ogni homo me guarda come fosse una testa de cazi

What manner of sausage would ye eat from this plate? Only your finest Donderblitzen!!! Arrr! Arrr!!!

An Oxford museum has paid 240,000 pounds for a Renaissance plate which shows a male head made up entirely of phalluses.

Posted by the Flea at 08:33 AM | Comments (1)

Thar she blows!

Now wait a moment... that's no whale! It be hurricane Isabel! (via ESR)

Posted by the Flea at 08:06 AM

Money

Now is the time at the Flea when we shake a leg.

Posted by the Flea at 07:22 AM

Fish wars

Well run me up with the main-sail and call me a Flea! This battle of the fishes bodes ill for the sea!

Today, on automobiles all over America, the Fish Wars are raging. On a typical day an early morning commute can turn into a near-religious holy war as Jesus Fish cuts off Darwin Fish, Darwin Fish evolves to make the exit ahead of Jesus Fish, Jesus Fish invokes divine intervention to prevent Darwin Fish from finding the last parking spot. It's a never ending battle and Americans are joining the fray and choosing sides at unprecendented rates.

Posted by the Flea at 07:10 AM | Comments (1)

Sumerian Mona Lisa

ladyofwarka.jpg

What's that ye say? They're still raising heck over a little lootin' and tootin'? I can hardly make sense of it! But ye say they've found some beauty of old...

The Lady of Warka, one the two most precious relics looted from the Iraqi National Museum in the chaos that followed the April 9 fall of Baghdad, has been recovered by U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police, the head of Iraq's Antiquities Department said on Thursday.

The 3,200-year-old artifact, which is a representation of female face, was found buried in an orchard on the outskirts of Baghdad after the Antiquities Department was tipped off by people who had reported seeing it there.

Now there's a beauty! But I find myself wondering what kind of a mother would name her daughter after a brew. It's a pirate's life for Warka! Arrr! Arrr!!!

Posted by the Flea at 05:53 AM

Not so vanilla

Vanilla ice cream? Maybe. Maybe not!

Vanilla Coke? I don't like the ken of that!

Vanilla Pepsi? Now I spy your true vanilla taste!

And then... Avast, me hearties! ***Dave claims Vanilla Pepsi sucks worse than a yawl boat's barnacles!

Posted by the Flea at 05:39 AM | Comments (3)

Bombardier EMBRIO

This be no ocean going vessel. The Flea took a look 'skancewise to see the working of it. Arrrrrr!!! This be the new Fleamobile!

Posted by the Flea at 05:37 AM

Talk like ye pirates of old day

Arrrrrrr! It be talk like a pirate day! It come but once a year!

Take this here quiz!

Arrrr! So, thar ye be, sittin' all a-lonesome on the poop deck. Wenches don't notice ye, mates smite ye with thar belayin' pins ... not even a parrot to call ye "Bob." What's a pirate to do? Are ye the talk o' th'dock? Cock o' th'walk? Do the mates want to be like ye and the beauties want to be with ye - or vicey-versey? Well, thar, me Bucko, this simple little quiz will tell ye - and everyone else - just what kind o' Pirate ye be.

Posted by the Flea at 05:35 AM | Comments (3)

September 18, 2003

Quark

The truth of my being is once again exposed by Quizilla. Also, my second favourite DS9 character after Garak.

Quark
Quark -- You are subtle and mysterious and people
know very little about you. You like hanging
out with small groups of friends (usually 3)
who you are very close to. You are usually
friends with other quarks like yourself.


What kind of subatomic particle are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

(via Sasha Castel)

Posted by the Flea at 09:19 AM

Greeks borrowed Egyptian numbers

One of the fun things about my early civilizations course at the University of Toronto is the opportunity to convey just how clever people have been when confronted with a range of engineering, logistics and administrative challenges no matter what their local opportunities. Nineteenth-century "diffusionist" models did not give locals the credit, preferring instead to do as the ancient Greeks did and point to Egypt as the wellspring of all human science and culture. Contemporary equivalents of race-based Victorian scholarship romanticize Egypt as an African civilization aped by primitive Europeans or as beneficiaries of alien assistance who then traipsed everywhere from Easter Island to ancient Mexico putting up stone monuments.

Loony stuff, in other words. But this proposed debt of the Greeks to Egyptian mathematics looks like a reasonable supposition to me.

An analysis by Dr Stephen Chrisomalis of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, showed striking similarities between Greek alphabetic numerals and Egyptian demotic numerals, used in Egypt from the late 8th Century BC until around AD 450.

Posted by the Flea at 08:50 AM

I am the monkey

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Posted by the Flea at 08:43 AM

Escher

Mmm. Nauseating. Super-fun with animated Escher loops (via InContext).

Posted by the Flea at 08:42 AM

Angle-Grinder Man

Another superhero stalks the night (via Samizdata). This one feels like the work of b3ta to me.

Clad in a blue leotard and wielding a saw, a man claiming to be the UK's first wheel clamp vigilante is offering his services to motorists.

Posted by the Flea at 08:41 AM | Comments (2)

September 17, 2003

Pinwheels and Orange Peels

News. Cars. Life. Whatever.

The author, a self-described "lowly Captain" in the USAF, has been "re-blued". The latest news is a report from the IAA-Frankfurt Auto Show. And this just in: I want a Mini Cooper.

Posted by the Flea at 11:37 AM | Comments (7)

Monster School

The Flea rattles its ghostly chains with a sigh of relief at Cookie Monster's safe return from Monster School.

"Mama, where did Cookie Monster go?"

While I searched for a suitable replacement on Ebay, I told her this:

"He went to Monster School and will be home soon."

Yeah, Monster School, that's right, I'd like to see you come up with something better, right there off the top of your head. It had to be plausible, she's too smart and I would have lost all credibility if I had hemmed and hawed...

This answer seemed to satisfy her.

"Okay, Mama."

Posted by the Flea at 11:28 AM | Comments (2)

Appalachian Amazon

A lost Amazon of Appalachia once carried the sand which covered North America in a sea of dunes (no, not this Amazon).

Thick remnants of the 190 million-year-old sand sea are found today in the scenic, buff-colored Navajo Sandstone cliffs of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. By studying durable minerals in the sandstone called zircons, Yale University geologist Jeffrey Rahl and his colleagues have found a chemical signature that reveals their surprisingly distant Appalachian origin.

Posted by the Flea at 08:16 AM

John Keegan

John Hawkins' latest poll asked for favourite editorial columnists. My number one and two choices match the results. My only choice who did not make the list was John Keegan, former Sandhurst military historian and defence editor of the Telegraph. Keegan's The Face of Battle is a classic but Warpaths is my favourite. Years of history in a Canadian high-school utterly failed to convey the scale of conflicts on this continent and until I read Keegan I had never before understood the importance of the riverine system linking Montreal south through Lake Champlain down the Hudson to New York. The book should be mandatory reading in Canadian high-schools. I cannot speak to American high-school history but Warpaths would probably be an asset there too.

War is repugnant to the people of the United States; yet it is war that has made their nation and it is through their power to wage war that they dominate the world. Americans are proficient at war in the same way that they are proficient at work. It is a task, sometimes a duty. Americans have worked at war since the seventeenth century, to protect themselves from the Indians, to win their independence from George III, to make themselves one country, to win the whole of the their continent, to extinguish autocracy and dictatorship in the world outside.

It is not their favoured form of work. Left to themselves, Americans build, cultivate, bridge, dam, canalise, invent, teach, manufacture, think, write, lock themselves in struggle with the eternal challenges that man has chosen to confront, and with an intensity not known elsewhere on the globe. Bidden to make war their work, Americans shoulder the burden with intimidating purpose.

There is, I have said, an American mystery, the nature of which I only begin to perceive. If I were obliged to define it, I would say it is the ethos - masculine, pervasive, unrelenting - of work as an end in itself. War is a form of work, and America makes war, however reluctantly, however unwillingly, in a particularly workmanlike way. I do not love war; but I love America.

Posted by the Flea at 08:10 AM | Comments (2)

Blogged nations

The Flea welcomes visitors from seventy-five countries as of 16 Sep 2003 - 18:29. Greetings to everybody visiting from Guadeloupe, Fiji, Panama, United Arab Emirates, Tuvalu, Columbia, Brunei Darussalam, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovak Republic, Paraguay, Cyprus, Indonesia, Qatar, Luxembourg, Vanuatu, Ireland, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Pakistan, Croatia, Romania, Yugoslavia, South Korea, South Africa, India, Greece, Austria, Switzerland, Lithuania, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Estonia, Hungary, Thailand, Czech Republic, Russian Federation, Portugal, Argentina, Denmark, Poland, Philippines, Iceland, Brazil, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand, Israel, Norway, Mexico, Italy, Hong Kong, Belgium, Singapore, Finland, France, Taiwan, Netherlands, Australia, United Kingdom, Japan, United States and Canada. Truly, Kylie's bottom unites us all.

I would like to make a special welcome to everybody arriving from United States military servers. These consistently rank in the top-ten traffic-wise (including all those high-traffic and hard-to-place .com and .net addresses). That also goes for whoever it is out there still using "old-style arpanet". Skynet is with us.

Funny, I do not track anybody coming in from a United Nations server so far this month...

Posted by the Flea at 07:23 AM | Comments (1)

September 16, 2003

Film festival

The Toronto Film Festival just blew through town reminding me once again of my loathing for the Toronto Film Festival. And to be more specific, Toronto Film Festival goers.

The skies stayed clear, the journalists behaved, and the stars came, were seen, and got the heck out. With 339 films from 55 countries unspooling over 10 days, the 28th Toronto International Film Festival is now a wrap.

This year's festival included 63 world and 104 North American premieres, and showcased an impressive range of serious drama, provocative documentaries and of course, stars, stars, stars.

Of course a yearning for "stars, stars, stars" is lame, lame, lame. I have met people who - I am not making this up - get dressed up and totter off to the Four Seasons hotel bar in the hope of spotting some Hollywood B-list celebrity drowning their sorrows in the stultifying boredom of Toronto's low-budget, tax-subsidized film industry. The industry itself provides an income for more than a few friends of the Flea so I am not complaining too much on that score. It is the idea anyone would want to bother some bedraggled actor and in the process underline, high-light and otherwise show off their complete lack of anything else to do.

Take me, for example. Few compete with the Flea for internet-related time-wasting activity yet I manage to avoid bedazzlement by the ostensibly meaningful lives of celebrities (Kylie and Madonna excepted, of course). The Sister of the Flea and I were leaving a downtown bookstore a couple months ago and walked by a short guy. That was Dustin Hoffman, she remarked. Oh, I replied. We carried on to our coffee-related destination without commenting further. I cannot see how else we were supposed to react. It certainly did not rate a mention at the Flea. I bring it up now only to point to the total banality of the event and in the small hope our non-harassment let him get on with getting his own coffee. The Sister of a Flea has a much more glamorous occupation than I do and is consequently even less prone to star-struck reactions than I am. Basically, if I am going to name drop it will not be because I walked by someone on the street let alone pathetically lined up to see someone supposedly more fabulous than me as they are ushered into an invitation only event.

The Festival brings out the worst of this behaviour in people. Let us imagine for a moment I was desperate to see the latest in the oeuvre of a specific Uzbeki director and my wall-mounted plasma-screen home movie environment was inadequate to the certain something provided by an honest to goodness cinema screening. Maybe, just maybe, I could imagine fighting my way through the ticket-buying process and lines of hangers-on to take advantage of the cinematic resource provided by the event. But this is not the face presented to me by most Festival goers.

Au contraire. For the most part, people are scrambling to get in to first-run Hollywood films which are scheduled for general release anywhere from the next few weeks up to the next couple months as the studios make their own Oscar season scramble. The desperation. The expense. The crapola movies. All of this is presented to me as if it was an accomplishment, an insider lifestyle-thing, instead of lickspittleism, poor judgement and bad taste.

And then... Note to self: posting is snarky before 5 a.m. Consider more sleep.

Posted by the Flea at 04:48 AM | Comments (2)

Imperial purple

A British amateur chemist has worked out how the ancient Romans dyed the togas of emperors this deep colour thanks to a bacterium found in cockles from the supermarket Tesco.

The article includes something close to do-it-at-home instructions if you can get your soon to be purple hands on a supply of the appropriate molluscs.

Posted by the Flea at 04:30 AM

Darth Vader Made Me Cry

So writes Defective Yeti in a disturbing tale of the Lord of the Sith (via Cup of Chicha).

When I was seven years old I received the best Christmas present ever: a copy of The Star Wars Storybook. On the inside front cover my parents had written "To Matthew - Merry Christmas in 1978. From Mother and Daddy with lots of love."

I was fairly certain that this was a gift beyond improvement. But a few months later I saw in the paper that Darth Vader -- the Darth Vader! -- would be coming to a nearby department store. I begged my mom to take me. She agreed, and we visited the mall on a Saturday afternoon so I could get Vader's John Hancock.

I remember seeing a guy in a Vader suit at a department store promotion around the same time. It was in the toy department of Eatons in Toronto or possibly Harrods in London. No way was I going to try for an autograph after the Mickey Mouse incident though. Unlike that pedantic blowhard C3P0, at least he did not try to warn me against the perils of smoking.

More disturbing still, Cup of Chicha links to Johnny Cash singing the theme song to Three's Company. The speakers are unplugged on this machine so I am going to have to wait until I get to my first lecture and inflict it on an unsuspecting class.

Posted by the Flea at 04:22 AM | Comments (1)

Spamelot

Eric Idle is reportedly preparing a Broadway musical adaptation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail slated for 2005.

"I like the title Spamelot a lot," Idle said in a press release, "but I was thinking it might be smart to ask audiences on my upcoming U.S. tour if they liked it as much as I do. After all, they are the ones who will be paying Broadway prices to see the show. So there's a good chance the title may change."

Posted by the Flea at 04:10 AM

Blog images

The Flea has received a report of improperly loading .jpgs from this site. Is anyone else having this problem? Ghost of a flea looks funny on a 15" screen and running Win98 (the Flea is blogging from a remote location this morning) but all the pretty pictures are still here.

Posted by the Flea at 04:05 AM | Comments (3)

September 15, 2003

Gothamville

Some Flea-readers were traumatized apparently by the tmi post of Christian Bale. I shall forego my impish impulse to find something more extreme and report simply that Bale is the new Batman.

"What I see in Christian is the ultimate embodiment of Bruce Wayne," adds BATMAN director Christopher Nolan. "He has exactly the balance of darkness and light that we were looking for.”

Good choice. So much became public with the Bale announcement a few days ago. Now a Batman "insider" reveals details. I will save the plot-related points for the extended part of this entry...

"Think of Nolan's film as 'Gothamville,' the Batman version of SMALLVILLE," writes our Mr. Voorhees. "The entire cast is believed to be made up of young people. Warner Brothers looked across town to Culver City (Sony) and realized they needed to go SPIDER-MAN and cast young."

This time the Bat-baddy is the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired R'as al Ghul!

The majority of David Goyer's script, which no one has seen yet, is believed to take place in London and a desert locale. According to our scooper the film's primary villain is R'as al Ghul, literally the "Demon's Head" in Arabic, an immortal man seeking to save the world by controlling it. If the Joker is the dark opposite of Batman, chaos over order, insanity over reason, R'as al Ghul is the penultimate version of what drove a young Bruce Wayne to become a protector of the innocent. If Batman was born from the deaths of Bruce's parents and his drive to stop needless violence, R'as al Ghul seeks to save the world from destruction, war and obliteration by taking it over.


The villain achieves a kind of immortality by using a device called the Lazarus Pit to rejuvinate his aged body. This way R'as can watch the seeds of his many strategies bear fruit over the coming decades. R'as also admired the Batman and his mission, and in fact sought to make him his heir by marrying his daughter, Talia. He also controls a vast army of killers the world over known as the League of Assassins.

Posted by the Flea at 09:19 AM

Ghosts drink beer

Who knew?

Posted by the Flea at 09:11 AM

Delphic Expanse

I shall do my best to maintain my new release no-spoiler policy in what I have to say about the season premiere of Enterprise. First, thou shall do no spoil! Enterprise executive producer Rick Berman had this to say of last season's finale, "The Expanse":

"I think our final episode of the season is going to be quite startling because we're going to do a cliffhanger that will put a new twist on the series as it enters its third year. I don't really want to get specific about it, but we're not talking about a tiny change. We're talking about a change that is going to, to some degree, alter our mission and, to some degree, change the tone of the series. We're very excited by it. This idea will be introduced partially in the final episode of this season and then more dramatically dealt with in the opener next season."

Ok, this is season three we are starting now? Flea-readers will have noticed I will watch almost anything in the cultural strip-mining process which is my life. Perhaps it is my Welsh heritage. Not only that, I am finally "into" this latest Star Trek effort as the characters take on definition and I have (not quite) got over my disappointment at spending the better of part of the next decade in prequel mode.

It is still a shock to realize just how little has been accomplished in two years. I get the impression Trek producers are getting cold feet vis a vis the ratings and have tweaked the show for greater viewer effect. Hair is more bouffant. Uniforms - particularly T'pol's - are shinier. And the execrable theme-song has been revamped from its elevator-metal original version to a new Love Boat stylee quasi-orchestral rendition.

If only the Trek people were prepared to take some dramatic risks with a new series. Hey, how's this? An alternate-universe type-deal where "aether" is the final frontier...

These are the voyages of Her Majesties Æther Ship Dauntless. Our mission, to explore romantic new worlds, seek out life, and expand civilization, to boldly go where no gentleman has gone before.

That should probably read "Majesty's"...

And then... Last week's Campblog post linked to an official page for the episode.

Let's hope Archer doesn't go wobbly!

Last season's finale featured an atrocity killing millions including a family member of an Enterprise officer. True to the 9/12 storyline, this season's premiere featured a Starfleet special forces outfit. I cannot have been the only viewer asking where they had left their red shirts. The Flea expects a continuation of the 47% fatality rate of the original series.

And then... Cheese- and beefcake quotas are also up in the new season. Flea-readers may take journalistic interest in Trip's therapeutic back-rub for T'pol.

Posted by the Flea at 09:07 AM | Comments (1)

Historic tale construction kit

The Flea had a go creating historic tales. Next step: the Canadian Roses!

Posted by the Flea at 08:55 AM

English Roses

Madonna launched her new children's book venture in the garden of her London home.

But she gave little away of the plot, saying "If you want to know what else happens to Binah (the central character) and the English Roses, you're just going to have to read the book."

The singer, who is 45, has said she conceived "The English Roses" as the first of five children's books inspired by the Kabbalah, the system of Jewish mystical thought which she has been studying for seven years.

Take the name Binah, for example. Reportedly inspired by Madonna's daughter Lourdes, Binah is the third sephira ("lamp") of ten on the Tree of Life which signify collectively, amongst other things, a representation of Creation and a spiritual roadmap from human life to God. Binah is a central feminine principle meaning "understanding".

This strikes me as a good name for a storybook character as opposed to, say, being lumbered with the name Rocco Ritchie on the first day of school (in central London no less). Understanding might also come in handy when explaining your mother's fashion choices. Flea-readers will not be surprised to learn this latest Madonna foray is proving controversial.

“Everyone today is looking for something, everyone is in pursuit of that ‘high’. Some look for it in the mind games of Kabbalah, as others search in the bottom of a bottle or the pin-prick of a syringe.”

Rabbi Schochet, 38, of Mill Hill United Synagogue, North London, adds: “Quite frankly they would get a more meaningful high from drugs than from this celebrity Kabbalah. At least the drugs would be real.

Posted by the Flea at 08:53 AM | Comments (1)

September 13, 2003

Hell's librarian

These quizzes... how do they know the truth of me with such eerie accuracy? (via Social Reject)

Librarian
You are smart and sexy!


Which Ultimate Beautiful Woman are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by the Flea at 06:20 PM | Comments (2)

The Story of Bread

James Lileks offered one of the most cogent discussions of this September 11. I had meant to link to another Lileks piece for some time. His history points out numerous details which have been overlooked by archaeologists interested in the development of early civilization.

Wheat lead to farming, which lead to settlements, which lead to time for cross dressing.

Posted by the Flea at 11:35 AM

Gunpowder

Contemporary science is surprised at the efficacy of medieval gunpowder:

A mixture of charcoal, saltpetre and sulphur - the recipe for gunpowder used by Edward III's gunners as his armies rampaged across France in the 14th century - equalled the explosive force of the 20th century version, Robert Smith of Britain's Royal Armouries told reporters.

"At the moment we are a bit gobsmacked at how good the medieval gunpowder is," he said at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. "It is almost as good as modern gunpowder."

Posted by the Flea at 11:29 AM | Comments (1)

September 12, 2003

Lord Jim

Ok, this is backwards-order post day. I am still thinking about issues raised by Matthew Frost in comments to the Sacrifice post. Joseph Conrad is a favourite of the Flea. His inspiration to ethnographic writing through the work of fellow Polish Anglophile Branislaw Malinowski makes him a tangential father of anthropology. There are plenty of archaeologists who get irate when Indiana Jones is mentioned. I suppose I can see why they would. Indie hardly had the attention span to keep hold of his hat let alone conduct a dig. But those movies were at least half the reason I enrolled in my undergraduate anthropology degree. I wanted to travel and meet peculiar people who would find me just as peculiar. Above all, I wanted adventure.

I still do. A great moment in my life was a job offer for research consulting work with one of the very few manufacturers of nuclear submarines in the world. All I could think was: I get to be Jack Ryan! I got to have that feeling of participating in something important for two years and I would not trade it for anything. My grandfather fought the war on the North Atlantic. He served on HMS Hood before she was lost. It is an impossible heroism for me to imagine. My contribution to the British navy and the safety of the world was inconsequential in comparison. But I got to do something. I kept telling people how I expected any day to be called out to a British SSN where my crucial anthropological skills would help save the day. I got quite a few blank looks from people who not only failed to get the reference but who did understood its emotional, spiritual importance even when I explained it to them. Morons.

One appeal of fiction, particularly heroic fiction, is in imagining ourselves to have a moment where we could somehow express the truth of who we are. Much of the fiction I read and watch in film or on tv is sf and fantasy so that is the home of many of my metaphors for this stuff. Ever since my mother read The Hobbit to me as a little boy I have divided my friends into two groups: the ones I would want with me on a journey through Mirkwood and the ones I would not. It was a good rule of thumb for a six year-old. It remains a good one for me now.

So much of day to day life is full of compromise and frustration. It can be difficult to hold on to the moments of clarity where we know who we are and know what to do. Even so, the small temptations of the world and the Faustian bargains of career advancement can be turned into a source of inspiration. Grasp the nettles of the present. Let them remind me of the greater truth and that boundless love. It was easier when I was younger. Those hormone-driven thought processes produced a world of titanic emotion and fervant sincerity which had not been tempered by practicality or the idea other people might have a worthwhile point of view. But this does not mean every opinion is intellectually, let alone morally, equivalent or that we should be indiscriminate in the company we keep. There is a moment in Frank Herbert's God Emperor of Dune where a resurrected warrior finds his ancient virtues out of place with the degenerate relics of the latter day Fremen. He is repulsed by the world Leto II has created and says that in the days of Leto I the Fremen would only spend time in the presence of people they would care to die with. The reply, "I think you are the only such man I have ever met."

The choice is a fact of life for anyone who was paying attention on the eleventh of September. Every day since then the light has been brighter and the friendships have been clearer. People who are awake know there is a job to be done. A world worth fighting for. The recent blackout was a peculiar blessing for many people. Toronto's "alternative" newspaper mocked the men in suits who took to the streets to direct traffic as attention-seeking would-be heroes. In that moment my contempt for the idiotarians turned into pity. Could it be they are so terrified of their own cowardice they have refused the simple possibility they too could be heroes?

What a cramped, small life it must be. I am not a betting man but if I was I would wager a month's salary many of you reading this will know the exact feeling in what I am about to say. Every time I have boarded an airplane since that day... God help me... I have almost wished there were some hijackers on board so I would have the chance to help take some of those bastards down with me. That would be worth it all. What a day that would be.

Do not ever let them tell you the adventures and the heroic stories are a nonsense or a waste of time. People who fail to be moved by stories of heroism are people who are not paying attention. There is only one starship captain who gives James T. Kirk a run for his money. I think of Captain John J. Sheridan facing down an orbital defense platform threatening the eastern seaboard of North America. He can try to save those countless millions but only by the sacrifice of his ship and crew.

"Ramming speed," he says.

Posted by the Flea at 10:42 AM | Comments (1)

Kairos

This post follows on from the last one... More on Matthew Frost's insightful Lord Jim moment from the same article on Rick Rescorla:

In his last days, Rescorla had been reading up on Zen Buddhism and the Stoics, contemplating the directions his own life had taken him. A few years ago, he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer that had spread into his bones. His doctors had given him six months to live. But the cancer was in remission, and he couldn't help but wonder what it all meant. In a Sept. 5 e-mail to his old friend Bill Shucart -- once a medic in Vietnam, now the head of neurosurgery at a Boston hospital -- he mused about kairos, a Greek word for a cosmically meaningful moment outside of linear time.

"I have accepted the fact that there will never be a kairos moment for me, just an uneventful Miltonian plow-the-fields discipline . . . a few more cups of mocha grande at Starbucks, each one losing a little bit more of its flavor," he wrote.

I think about that man in the tower leading his people to safety and freedom. It is a Christ-like moment. It is difficult to write about any of this.

I am not a warrior. Stoic virtues play a central role in my Christianity, however, so here is a scholar's contribution. An historian points to the use of kairos in the Gospel of John describing it as "lumpy time" in contrast with the cosmic scope of chronos, another Greek word for time used in Paul's letters. A dictionary of rhetoric distinguishes both terms from aeon, a third Greek word for time meaning something like an age, era or epoch. It is tricky stuff because for many people ancient Greek is the language of our founding philosophies and the New Testament and so words which to us sound epic would have been ordinary and unremarkable to an ancient Greek ear.

"Lumpiness" of time is an interesting metaphor suggesting the everyday specificity of a story of the life of Christ in contrast with Paul's "Christology". This use of kairos suggests both the "critical moment" but also the way each act in the life of Christ was immediate and present to the world. He really walked here. He really said these words. This is one reason the Gospels - and not Paul's letters - are at the heart of my reading of scripture. Here we are in the world faced with moral choices every day and in every moment. Grace and salvation do not happen in a special building on Sundays and expressing a moral life is not a matter of commandments proudly carved into a block of stone in a court house. They are lived expressions of compassion and friendliness and duty of care in the most ordinary moments in life.

Just such a kairos was for me the moment I was born again. I expect this is true for many Christians. There were no trumpets and angels descending from the sky. And certainly no television cameras and requests for money. Just a troubled young man in fear for his life and thinking he had screwed up so badly that things were never going to be fixed. A friend was playing the guitar and singing Amazing Grace. It was overwhelming. I stumbled out into the night and drove around on my motorcycle with a disconcerting thought that has not failed to amaze me every day since then. That boundless forgiveness somehow included me.

And then... Venemous Kate writes about staying in the moment:

Note: I did not say "move on." Quite the opposite, in fact. I want us to stay here, in this moment, filled with the rage which makes us recognize so very clearly the irrational foe who seeks our destruction. I want us to somberly reflect on the effects of our blind "tolerance," our misguided sympathies for "root causes" and our decades of ignoring that this very same battle is waged constantly across the globe, this battle between freedom and fanatics, only we no longer have the smug comfort of believing it will never touch us. I want us to contain this knowledge within us every day, and to go on with our lives while holding it close in our hearts.

I do not want a calendar or a clock telling me when to remember and when to tuck my memories away until the next time the day rolls around, year after year, ad infinitum. This horror, this anger, this outrage is part of my life now. It is part of every day, and it will be as long as there is something over which I should be so inflamed.

Posted by the Flea at 10:08 AM

Oh comma pardon me

The comments for the last post are worth a look. Fred Kiesche talks about the internal and external struggle. Matthew Frost has thought provoking remarks about Lord Jim. He also mentions an October 2001 Washington Post article commemorating the life and heroism of Rick Rescorla. Here it is.

The survivors of the 7th Cavalry still tell awestruck stories about Rescorla. Like the time he stumbled into a hooch full of enemy soldiers on a reconnaissance patrol in Bon Song. Oh, pardon me, he said, before firing a few rounds and racing away.

"Oh comma pardon me," repeats Dennis Deal, who followed Rescorla that day in April 1966. "Like he had walked into a ladies' tea party."

Or the time a deranged private pulled a .45-caliber pistol on an officer while Rescorla was nearby, sharpening his bowie knife. "Rick just walked right between them and said: Put. Down. The. Gun," recalls Bill Lund, who served with Rescorla in Vietnam. "And the guy did. Then Rick went back to his knife. He was flat out the bravest man any of us ever knew."

Rescorla's story is moving on so many levels I have trouble knowing where to begin. Who would not want to be like him?

And then... Pictures of a memorial to Rick Rescorla in his birthplace in Hayle, Cornwall can be found here. This BBC article speaks of a campaign for an official honour for Rescorla from the British government though I have yet to find specific information about it. Prince Charles, the Duke of Cornwall is reportedly on side. Cornishman Mike Kent provides links to a website featuring Cornish songs. I think the Oggy Man is particularly beautiful.

Here is a good site where you can listen to it and other songs like "Trelawny", that was played at Rick Rescorla's memorial service in Hayle. Trelawny is the Cornish national anthem, and if you have any Cornish blood at all it will make the hairs on the back of your neck prickle when you listen to it.

"Camborne Hill" is the first song and "Trelawny" is the ninth one down.

Richard C. Rescorla's name is one among too many on this list. His actions meant 2,700 names live on with the people he saved.

Posted by the Flea at 10:05 AM

September 10, 2003

Remember 11

The Flea's patriotic feelings are stirred by singing Land of hope and glory or Jerusalem rather than by a picture of the "Union Jack". I do not think most people who are not Americans, including long-time residents like Christopher Hitchens, understand fully the emotional and symbolic importance of the flag. With that exception, this article shows more clear thinking on what needs to be done (via InstaPundit):

Two beautiful fall seasons ago, this society was living in a fool’s paradise while so far from being “in search of enemies” that its governing establishment barely knew how to tell an enemy from a friend. If there is anything to mark or commemorate, it is the day when that realm of illusion was dispelled — the date that will one day be acknowledged as the one on which our enemies made their most truly “suicidal” mistake.

Posted by the Flea at 01:04 PM | Comments (3)

Media studies

Some folk have a pessimistic attitude regarding the employment prospects of media studies students. Does a thorough grounding in video-game studies prepare young minds for the rigours of the job market? Others are pessimistic at the prospects of communication between professors and students given the out-dated references some of us keep using to make our points. Good thing I am so cute.

And then... If the stress starts to get to me I can always build myself one of these.\

“Since trying Michael Menkin’s Helmet, I have not been bothered by alien mind control. Now my thoughts are my own.I have achieved meaningful work and am contributing to society.My life is better than ever before.Thank you Michael for the work you are doing to save all humanity.”

Posted by the Flea at 10:47 AM

HeroMachine

Soon... soon... this technology will allow me to design the perfect Underoos of a Flea and then at long last I shall claim the night!!!

Posted by the Flea at 10:23 AM

Lucas endorsement

I am going to show this ad to my intro cultural studies students next week. I have at least one exchange student from Japan and I want to call on her expertise vis a vis the translation and to explore this question: if you are going to spend the money to get an endorsement from George Lucas, what is the point of using a voice-over for 90% of the ad?

I am also interested in the "secrecy clause" Hollywood stars reportedly include to keep their Japanese endorsements being advertised in the United States. It is almost as if they were trying to hide something.

Posted by the Flea at 10:17 AM

At home with Hitler

Contemporary moonbat infatuation with a variety of dictatorships find their fashionable counterpart in this surreal, sickening Homes and Gardens of November 1938.

In his hours of ease - the Fuhrer in the garden, with one of his pedigree Alsations beside him.

Posted by the Flea at 09:55 AM

September 09, 2003

Can't. Sleep. Must. Blog.

Ok, so it is one day into my new Monday/Wednesday/Friday week-day publishing schedule and I have blown that off, obviously. Now off to look at Barneys new on-line catalogue.

Pardon us while we talk about all the great stuff that makes us hip, luxurious and special.

Posted by the Flea at 05:53 AM

Four-in-hand

The Flea was drafted to chair a conference session this spring which featured a certain senior scholar in the sociology of religion. Not one to be intimidated by such folk, the Flea was promptly singled out by said senior scholar for special friendly mockery as he kept suggesting I "should get a hundred bucks" from the conference organizers for taking on the job at the last minute. One line of argument he took was that the organizers might not be sufficiently impressed with my appearance to pay up. Is it my tie? No, the tie is fine, he replied. But I don't like the knot.

My trusty Half Windsor had served generations of my ancestors even unto the middle-ages, I claimed. He was not impressed. I was directed to examine the ties of a list of specific American network news-anchors and to consider the Four in Hand as my new knot of choice. It was a revelation. The Flea has been promoting the licentious asymmetry of the Four in Hand to anyone who will listen. It turns out I have a few more knots to learn before I am ready for polite company.

Posted by the Flea at 05:31 AM | Comments (4)

Pre-Columbian mining

A geologist and mineral commodities specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey demonstrates the advantages of bringing specialized technical and scientific skills to bear on archaeological contexts with this Geotimes article. A couple neat photos, too.

Although recent mining activity over the past few years has overprinted evidence of pre-Columbian mining, several features we observed at a small copper mine near Santa Rita B indicate the many-thousand year history of mining in the area. Adits (tunnels) in the mine have undulating walls, originally opened by firesetting — an ancient mining technique in which miners set a fire adjacent to the face and then threw cold water on the hot surface to make the rock shatter and facilitate excavation of the ore with bone or stone tools. Also, the floor of the adit slopes downward approximately 30 degrees, representing a style of excavation, not used today, known as “medio barreto.” The adits are only 3 to 4 meters in length because pre-Columbian miners rarely penetrated beyond the distance where the sun would easily illuminate the adit.

Posted by the Flea at 05:13 AM

Blackbeard

Archaeologists are investigating whether a burned shipwreck off the North Carolina coast is the remains of the last ship captured by the pirate Blackbeard.

The wreck may also be a Confederate lightship. Not that this is obvious from the headline. Perhaps the Associated Press is looking forward to Talk Like a Pirate Day. The Flea is considering strict enforcement of the holiday in all lecture halls.

Posted by the Flea at 05:06 AM

September 08, 2003

1602

Lack of organization meant I have only belatedly picked up Neil Gaiman's Marvel-offering 1602.

1602s.jpg

1602, an eight-issue miniseries debuting August 13, 2003, takes place in Europe at a time of great change. The Catholic Church's Inquisition is pursuing and rounding up "witchbreed", strange individuals with all sorts of unexplained abilities. Many of the witchbreed flee to the relative safety of England, where they are taken under the wing of Carlos Javier, an expatriate Spaniard with extraordinary abilities of his own. An elderly Queen Elizabeth sits on the throne of England - her ministers include Sir Nicholas Fury, her Minister of Intelligence, and Dr. Stephen Strange, her Court Physician and Magician. As issue #1 begins, Fury sends a blind Irish balladeer named Matthew Murdock to Europe to retrieve, from the last of the Templars, a mysterious item that may be either weapon or treasure. Unfortunately, this item has also come to the attention of Count Otto von Doom (also called The Handsome), ruler of Latveria.

Most of the fun is in picking out the Elizabethan versions of Marvel's contemporary heroes. The alternate history conceit is the main reason for most to buy the book but I will not say much more for fear of spoilers. I will read almost anything by Neil Gaiman and feel like a displaced Elizabethan myself so I would have got into the series even if it did not star my favourite comic hero ever.

Rumour has it a Dr. Strange (as opposed to Doctor Strange) movie is in the works. This guy thinks Billy Crudup should be cast in the role due to complementary facial hair. I have not seen any of his films so cannot say beyond agreeing the Strange goatee needs to be reproduced faithfully. Despite his recent remarks I still think Johnny Depp's acting goatee would make the best Stephen Strange. That said, almost anything would be better than the 1978 made-for-tv version.

Posted by the Flea at 12:00 AM | Comments (2)

Stealth Disco

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Dance! Dance!

Posted by the Flea at 12:00 AM

Room 5 feat. Oliver Cheatham

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Ok, this one is a repeat but it is a good one...

Posted by the Flea at 12:00 AM | Comments (1)

Kikkoman

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Posted by the Flea at 12:00 AM

Badgers badgers badgers

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Posted by the Flea at 12:00 AM | Comments (1)

Tripods Dance

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Posted by the Flea at 12:00 AM

Swiff It Good

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Posted by the Flea at 12:00 AM

Ringtone Dance

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Posted by the Flea at 12:00 AM

Part good. Part bad.

Now is the time at the Flea for existential thought.

Posted by the Flea at 12:00 AM

Gone with the Flea

No, this is not a Gone with the Wind tribute week. It is an acknowledgement of this term's teaching schedule. The Flea is back on the road spreading little tid-bits of wisdom on a variety of subjects in four academic units at two of Ontario's fine institutions of higher learning. Today's dance marathon reflects the running around departments I shall be doing on this particular Monday instead of devoting my morning to bloggy goodness. Dance Flea-readers, dance!

Posted by the Flea at 12:00 AM

Early publishing

I am posting these a couple hours early...

Posted by the Flea at 12:00 AM

September 06, 2003

Oh the moonbats of the night...

...what sweet barks they make!

A Small Victory posts on Moonbats: the Gathering. Other commenters do not grok the White Wolf reference. How fitting for Moonbats to appear in these final nights.

And then... On a related note, this arrived in the in-box of a Flea this morning:

Atlanta, GA, 5 September 2003-White Wolf, Inc. and Nancy A. Collins yesterday filed suit in US District court in Atlanta, Georgia against defendants Sony Pictures, Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment, alleging 17 counts of copyright infringement for the film Underworld, set for release on September 19. White Wolf alleges that Underworld characters, theme and setting are based on White Wolf's award winning games Vampire: The Masquerade® and Werewolf: The ApocalypseT, both set in White Wolf's fictional World of Darkness®. Further, Collins alleges that Underworld's script is based on her 1994 story Love of Monsters, published by White Wolf and also set in the World of Darkness.

Gaming Report repeats the story and includes details on Nancy Collins and White Wolf. Underworld looks gorgeous. But it also looks to me to be inspired by the works cited in the lawsuit. I am not sure where inspiration becomes imitation, however, as I think Anne Rice might have an interest in much of White Wolf's vampiric output.

Posted by the Flea at 07:37 PM | Comments (5)

Canadian superheroes

The Flea School for Wayward Expats features a celebrated program in Superhero Studies. A valuable resource in the field is the International Catalogue of Superheroes. Turning to the Canadian section reminded me of childhood Flea-favourite Captain Canuck. I had forgotten how fluid and powerful much of the artwork was for its time. I still think it anticipated much of work which re-invented the genre in the 1990s.

The superhero catalogue also pointed to a significant gap in my education. I had never stopped to wonder what had inspired the name of a famous Canadian animation company. Nelvana was a "beautiful, Inuit crimefighter" who merits a dissertation or two.

TheFlea2.jpg

Yes, that is actually Tarantula... The Flea's true apearance is scheduled for publication in the near future!

Posted by the Flea at 12:20 PM

Flea broadcast schedule

Term starts for me on Monday so I am going to have to re-think the publishing schedule for the Flea. Monday, Wednesday and Friday posting with the usual Saturday supplement is the most likely arrangement. Cosmic justice would set me up with a souped-up laptap and wifi enabled intercity bus but failing that my peripatetic teaching life trumps five day a week morning blogging for the next few months...

Posted by the Flea at 12:09 PM | Comments (2)

September 05, 2003

Space Cadet

More quizzy goodness thanks to Classical Values. I am not sure how peace® loving I am vis a vis the Blog War though. Ghost of a flea was inspired by the Blog Father and it is my honour to serve as part of the Emperor's Department of Foreign Affairs so it is is a win/win//lose/lose situation for the Flea. Canadian fence-sitting strikes again!

Night Sky1
You come from the Night Sky. You're drawn to the
stars and planets, and it's no wonder why, you
came from them.


Where Did Your Soul Originate?
brought to you by Quizilla

Posted by the Flea at 05:56 PM

Weirdly enough

The Flea does not have strong feelings about Britney Spears' music. It is non-interesting to me but also non-irritating. Basically, I am indifferent to her oeuvre. Britney's life and thought, by contrast, have impinged on the Flea's crucial, limited thinking capacity on two occasions this week and have done so once again.

Even the headline is irritating: "Spears Says Mom Approved of Madonna Kiss". How long, I wonder at reading it, is she going to keep up this ludicrous ingenue routine? At twenty-one years of age, Ms. Spears, your decision to kiss or not to kiss is your own. Not your mother's. I always thought the Brooke Shields-stylee virginal branding was as ridiculous as it was disingenuous. If parents were concerned their young girls were taken with a slovenly dressed role-model I fail to see how Britney's purported sexual purity discharged those parents from their obligation to protect their children from pop culture nonsense.

And this, weirdly enough, is just creepy:

"Well, my mom liked it actually. I was really kind of nervous! I was like, `Oh my God, my mom ... she's going to see this!'" Spears told Billy Bush in an interview on "Access Hollywood." Excerpts from Thursday night's show were released in advance.

"But no, she liked it! And my dad, weirdly enough, he thought it was fine, too. I mean, come on ... it's Madonna. If you can kiss any girl in the world, that has to be her."

And then... A tangentially related news item did not fit anywhere else so here it is. I imagine Flea-readers everywhere will rejoice to learn Justin Timberlake is to record a single with...

wait for it...

Duran Duran!

Posted by the Flea at 11:47 AM

Hans Reichel

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Posted by the Flea at 11:33 AM

Found objects

Newark and Millgate Museums collections are being comprehensively catalogued for the first time. New materials are catalogued as they arrive and so present no problem. Some of the Victorian materials are proving mysterious as curators are not always sure just what it is they have got.

Already, staff have discovered a portable knife sharpener, 1940s wallpaper trimmer and a dock weed lifter. But the task for museum staff is made even more difficult because parts of some items have become separated.

Mrs Rodgers said: "We want people to come in and see the objects. If they do recognise something they can put down what it is to help us out.

Posted by the Flea at 11:05 AM

September 04, 2003

ReBatman

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British actors Christian Bale and Hugh Dancy are in the running for the role of Batman in Hollywood's latest movie about the Caped Crusader.

Casting for the fifth Batman film - Batman: the Frightening or the much cooler sounding Batman: Intimidation - is reported to be underway. I have no idea who Hugh Dancy is but he looks a bit whispy-whispy to play the Bat. The last thing we need is another dandy à la Val Kilmer or George Clooney.

Christian Bale would make an astonishing Batman. I have not seen American Psycho as it was based on the Flea's sole book-burning nominee. Bale was wonderfully sinister in Equilibrium, however, so I have no trouble believing he made a convincing psycho and would do so again as the Batman.

Posted by the Flea at 11:23 AM | Comments (7)

The ethics of Buffy

The Campblog points to Virginia Postrel's Buffy insights.

Americans had forgotten bourgeois virtue. Freedom and affluence had made us soft. We were self-indulgent moral nihilists -- materialistic, selfish, and impulsive. We might have been having fun, but we’d created a culture no one would fight for. At least that’s what the wise men said.

On September 11, 2001, they shut up. Ordinary Americans, it turned out, were not only brave but resilient and creative, even lethal, when it mattered. Buffy was right all along.

Quite right. Of course, the West has created some self-indulgent moral nihilists unwilling to fight for their culture. Those "wise men" were saying more about themselves with their gibberish than the popular culture they criticized. Buffy portrayed strong women, magic and sexuality acting in joyful, playful and imaginative ways even and especially when faced with adversity and evil. These are precisely the values the puritans and zealots of many faiths and ideologies would destroy.

"So what do you guys want to do tomorrow?" Buffy asks her best friends as they walk to their final battle, a battle none expects to survive. "I was thinking of shopping, as per usual." Banter ensues about shoe cravings and the right look for a guy with an eye patch.

"Aren’t we going to discuss this?" asks Giles, befuddled and a tad disapproving. "Save the world, and go to the mall?"

Well, yes. That’s the world they’re fighting for.

Posted by the Flea at 10:44 AM | Comments (2)

Ozymandias

This article evokes the cacophony and commotion of contemporary Cairo while explaining the etymology of the name Ozymandias. With apologies to Shelley, the Flea remains impressed with Ramesses' mighty works after all these years.

Ramesses the Great, King of Kings, is traditionally believed to be the Pharaoh of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt. He was one of Egypt’s most active and effective rulers, coming to power at the age of 25 and ruling for 67 years. His patron deity was the sun-god Re. At birth, he was given the name Ramesses (Fashioned by Re), and later, when he became pharaoh, he took other names, called throne names, including Setepenre (Chosen by Re) and Usermaatre (Power and Truth of Re).

The Greeks rendered Usermaatre as “Ozymandias,” which is how Ramesses has long been known in the West. In the first century B.C., the historian Diodorus Siculus visited Ramesses’ mortuary temple at Thebes, the Ramesseum, and recorded a thousand-year-old inscription on the pedestal of one of the site’s colossal statues: “King of Kings am I, Ozymandias. If anyone would know how great I am and where I lie, let him surpass one of my works” (Library of History 1.47). Two thousand years later, these words inspired Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” (1817), in which the poet, like the modern city of Cairo, mocks the pharaoh for his bombast: A traveler in an “antique land” comes across the pedestal of a statue—now “two trunkless legs of stone,” whose “shattered visage” lies half sunk in the sand—bearing the inscription, “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, / Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

Posted by the Flea at 10:16 AM

Statuesque

A rare statuette of Tutankhamun's sister may join the collection of a Manchester area museum:

A local man phoned the museum to say he believed he had a piece of Egyptian sculpture that might interest them. When staff visited his home they were amazed to discover a sculpture of an Egyptian princess thought to be the sister of Tutankhamun. This particular type of sculpture, a statuette dating back to 1,300BC, is so rare that only two similar smaller pieces are known to exist, at the Louvre in Paris and a museum in America.

My commute from Manchester to Lancaster took me through Bolton several times a week. I had no idea Bolton was big enough to have a museum let alone a significant Egyptology collection. The problem with England is that despite years living there and a job which paid me to interview people all over the country I left so many sites unseen. I am adding the Bolton Museum to my list.

Posted by the Flea at 10:09 AM | Comments (2)

By the rivers of Babylon

I hope everyone can spare a thought or a prayer for Marduk.

Posted by the Flea at 09:56 AM

September 03, 2003

Kate vs Kylie

Internet traffic for Kate Moss' pole-dancing routine overtook Kylie Minogue's underwear antics in less than a day. To think the Flea may have contributed to this sad turn of events...

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The Flea's implacable commitment to Kylie-media compels me to point out Nicole Kidman was spotted shopping for Agent Provocateur underwear. Not that Flea-readers would be interested in that sort of thing.

Posted by the Flea at 10:07 AM | Comments (3)

Meet Deepa

My Tabloid Anthropology™ format seems to be working. But there is no way the Flea can compete with my new favourite news source: the Hindustani Times. Take their Babe Watch feature, for example.

Posted by the Flea at 09:34 AM

The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

Aliens? Us? Is this one of your Earth jokes?

The sensuous dance of the aliens almost made the Flea dance. Almost.

Other films I am up for include Underworld and School of Rock.

Posted by the Flea at 09:32 AM

Sleepless summer tour

This Howard Dean flash-ad is cute. I like the deranged flying back and forth combined with Dean's goofy yet appealing smile. That said, he should look into Crest white-strips or maybe that herbal whitening toothpaste if he is going to move beyond his hippie base.

People-powered Howard!

Posted by the Flea at 09:31 AM | Comments (2)

Coke ads strife

Coca Cola and Pepsi blame local franchisees for painting advertisements on rocks along 50 kms of the Manali-Rohtang pass in north India.

Soft drink giants Coca Cola and Pepsi, slammed last week over the painting of their logos on Himalayan rocks, are facing fresh condemnation over efforts to remove the ads. The Indian Express newspaper has shown a picture on its front page of yellow paint covering a Coke advertisement which had been painted on a rock in the Himalayas.

The BBC article focusses on environmental consequences to fragile moss ecosystems on the rocks themselves along with the further damage of paint thinner in removal efforts. I am surprised there is no word on the aesthetic impact of Coke and Pepsi ads in the Himalayas. This cannot be good for tourism.

Posted by the Flea at 09:28 AM | Comments (2)

Blond eskimos

I teach two courses which touch on Viking settlements in Greenland. These thrived for five hundred years through to the end of the medieval warm period in the early 1400s. A recurring question has been the degree of contact and interaction between the Vikings and later exploration by the Thule Inuit. Some archaeologists have suggested the abandonment of Norse communities was due in part to inter-marriage with the Inuit and adoption of their non-sedentary subsistence strategies. Students regularly ask me why the question is not tested simply using DNA analysis. They are about to get an answer:

A centuries-old Arctic mystery may be weeks away from resolution as an Icelandic anthropologist prepares to release his findings on the so-called "Blond Eskimos" of the Canadian North.

"It's an old story," says Gisli Palsson of the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. "We want to try to throw new light on the history of the Inuit." Stories about Inuit with distinct European features - blue eyes, fair hair, beards - living in the central Arctic have their roots in ancient tales of Norse settlements and explorations.

Posted by the Flea at 09:00 AM | Comments (3)

September 02, 2003

Thunder Child

The Flea's childhood nightmares have been revived thanks to Mike Campbell's Tripods post. I had no idea there was a television series.

In the first series, we slowly learn about what's happened to the Earth. It's July 2089 and the Tripods have been in control for about a hundred years. No one knows what they are or where they came from. They control most of the human population by 'capping' them ~ inserting a mind control device under the skin of the scalp which pacifies people and they cause no trouble for the ruling Tripods. Capping can't happen though until the human has matured, so it tends to take place when people turn 16 or so.

It makes my skin crawl to even think about these things. This visceral reaction is connected to another set of alien tripods as featured in the musical version of H.G. Well's War of the Worlds. My Dad is a physicist and it was his teachings and influence which introduced me to the majesty of 2001, the life-long obsession that is Star Wars and the mind-bending horror of Martian war-machines defeating a British fighting ship.

Scattered out along the bay,
and I thought I heard her calling,
As the steamer pulled away,
The invaders must have seen them,
As across the coast they filed,
Standin' firm between them,
There lay Thunder Child!

Thunder Child defeats three Martian war-machines buying precious time for a refugee steamship to make way for France. Even so, I cannot quite get my head around the idea of Thunder Child losing to the Martians. It is a powerful story of the order of the world being turned upside-down and the beginning of an epic struggle to salvage something of civilization and liberty. I was young enough when I heard the record that I was capable of taking the story, and its underlying moral message, seriously. I asked my father if we would be ready for the Martians if they were to invade given the up-to-date weaponry of the 1970s. He assured me we could use atomic weapons to destroy any Martian invasian fleet. I have been solidly pro-nuke since that day. It is also possible I was a little too psychologically prepared for the black-out.

No one would have believed in the last years of the 19th Century that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space.

And then... More alien tripod goodness featured in my ongoing Batman/Superman investigations. ***Dave reviewed some Justice League DVDs awhile back and I finally got to watch the first in the series yesterday.

And then... I have been doing some poking around to find out what class of ship the Martians were taking on. It turns out the Thunder Child was a torpedo ram. HMS Polyphemus was the only torpedo ram to enter service with the British navy making Thunder Child one of Wells' less successful predictions.

Posted by the Flea at 10:16 AM | Comments (5)

Butt Dance

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Posted by the Flea at 10:08 AM

Becoming Human

"Becoming Human" is an on-line interactive documentary addressing human origins and evolution. I have quibbles with this or that model or interpretation used by its authors but it is a good, basic introduction to a range of material and interesting approach to internet pedagogy.

What is it that makes us human? That gives us the ability to reflect on the past and the future?

Posted by the Flea at 09:48 AM

Darien venture

BBC Scotland has a powerful backer in its quest to document Scotland's failed empire in Panama.

SIR Sean Connery will bring to life his film role as the archaeologist father of Indiana Jones when he joins an expedition to Central America later this year. The former James Bond, who played Professor Henry Jones Sr in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, is backing an excavation in Panama on the site of a doomed seventeenth- century attempt to set up a Scots colony. The expedition is heading for the long-lost graveyard site of the famous Darien venture, which ended in the loss of 2000 lives and left Scotland nearly bankrupt.

Posted by the Flea at 09:42 AM | Comments (1)

Borobodur

Time Asia Magazine updates earlier reports on London trader Philip Beale's attempt to recreate an ancient Javanese sailing vessel and its voyages:

"We're following the ancient Cinnamon Route," he says proudly, seated atop a coil of rope in the ship's bow as it skims across the Java Sea. "Indonesian ships sailed it thousands of years ago, bringing the spices of the islands to Africa and returning with iron, luxury goods such as ivory and leopard skins, and slaves. It was the beginning of global commerce."

Posted by the Flea at 09:33 AM

September 01, 2003

Women in spacesuits

Catherina Schell von Bauschlott (Catherine Schell) portrayed ethereal, red-headed alien shape-shifter Maya in tv's Space 1999. How could this native of the planet Psychon fail to impact the psyche of the Flea as a boy?

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The date... September 13th. The year... 1999. The disaster... the moon is blown out of Earth orbit by an extensive explosion emanating from the nuclear waste pits, thus causing it to drift endlessly through the void of space. This is the fundamental premise for Gerry Anderson's crowning achievement, Space: 1999.

Ahh yes, and what a crap premise it was. The crap of genius! Some say Maya was at her best in the "Guardian of Piri" episode. I disagree. Others may demonstrate a greater obsession with Space 1999, or women in spacesuits, but I am still haunted by Maya's distinctive eye-brows after all these years.

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The Flea's greatest crime against memorabilia was a childhood impulse to throw out a broken water-pistol based on the side-arms from Space 1999. Thank heavens I still have my die-cast Eagle transporter and cargo Eagle complete with detachable radioactive waste pods. I still have a couple of the Space 1999 annuals and a model of Moonbase Alpha with miniature Eagles.

A final fashion-tip for sf fans: don't forget your underwear when you take your Space fetish on-line.

Posted by the Flea at 09:31 AM | Comments (6)

Librarians are often sexy

Now is the time at the Flea when we dance.

Posted by the Flea at 09:22 AM | Comments (1)

A Cadet's Adventure

Stop it Worf, you're killing me! No, seriously dude, you keep killing me. Stop it.

You are a new cadet, fresh out of the Academy. The USS-Enterprise 1701-D has offered to give you a chance. Don't mess this one up, or you'll be living in the brig for the rest of your natural born life.

Posted by the Flea at 09:20 AM

Rib reviews

This extensive Meatriarchy meat-related review demonstrates exactly what the internet is for. Except now I am possessed by an insane lust for ribs.

Smokin' Larry's (Flint Michigan) Smokin' Larry's got big time brownie points from me for being the only place to have brisket. If you are a serious Q'er you should be able to do three dishes: Pork Ribs, Pulled Pork and Brisket. I ordered a brisket sandwich to go and the guy fixed me up with a huge pile of brisket, threw in an extra bun and then said "I'll give it you how I like to eat it - Montreal Steak Spice sprinkled on the top, a generous dollop of sauce and pickles on the side". It is sitting in my fridge right now - I hope I can make it through the night without eating it.

Posted by the Flea at 09:15 AM | Comments (1)

All Zahi, all the time

Yes Paul, that tag-line is to commemorate your favourite Egyptologist! This rambling, peculiar article from Egypt Today has something to say about Zahi Hawass, "secretary general" of Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities though it is difficult to say just what it is. Hawass claims an Independent article reporting his argument with British Museum officials was overblown:

Hawass' June request to the British Museum in London for a loan of the Rosetta Stone for a three-month period to mark the 100th anniversary of Cairo's Egyptian Museum also created international headlines. The four-foot-tall slab that opened the door to understanding ancient Egyptian writing is one of the British Museum's most valued pieces. Hawass claims that he had yet to make a formal request for the piece, and in fact only mentioned it casually to the director of the British Museum, Dr. Neil MacGregor, at a recent function in Britain.

But the London press turned positively giddy, blowing the chat between two colleagues out of proportion. "The Independent [one of the United Kingdom's major daily newspapers] went crazy, as if I were saying to the British Museum that they must give the Rosetta Stone back to Egypt," Hawass says.

I have no difficulty imagining the Independent worked itself into a paroxism of anti-anything fervour given nihilistic anti-Western posturing is the Independent's only editorial position. But to imagine Hawass would not do anything to claim the Rosetta Stone for his fiefdom beggars belief.

Posted by the Flea at 09:07 AM | Comments (2)

HMS Sussex

In 1694, an 80-gun British warship called the HMS Sussex set sail for southern France loaded with as much as 3 million pounds sterling and 6 tons of gold. The bounty was intended for the Duke of Savoy, a bribe to keep him allied with England in its war against Louis XIV.

The Duke never did get the money. Severe gales whipped up off the north coast of Africa. The Sussex foundered along with a dozen other ships in the British fleet, taking all its riches (and the lives of 1,200 crew members) to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. Ultimately, the Duke threw his support to Louis XIV, and England's battle with France raged for seven more years before ending in a stalemate.

Lost British gold in Spanish waters remains may now be recoverable with the use of deep-water robots. The salvage operation has raised issues of sovereignty but it is a question of counter-factual history which haunts the Flea:

The plight of the Sussex left behind two huge questions, the first for historians: What if the mission had been successful? It's conceivable that England would have beaten back Louis XIV and annexed parts or all of France. If so, the British government might have been less concerned with a group of 13 rebellious colonies across the Atlantic and allowed them to split off to form a commonwealth - like Canada.

Posted by the Flea at 08:45 AM