Friday, February 28, 2014

Classical (Greek and Latin) Influence in Modern Art and Architecture

Hello! On this blog, I'll speak about different examples of modern art and architecture where we can find vestiges of classical Roman and Greek pieces of art. I hope you enjoy them!

The Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago, Illinois

This is the most important library of Chicago's Public Library Program. You can easily see the Greek and roman influence on the architecture of this library. It's easy to understand, because libraries are made for cult and wise people, and the Greeks and Romans are considered to be some of the wisest cultures. The most obvious vocabulary of the building is the Pediment. As you can see in the images above, the pediment (triangular shape of the ceiling) is a modern version of the one in the Parthenon: same shape, but different material. This architectural element, the pediment, is found in classical Greek temples, renaissance and neoclasical architecture, but it was originally developed by ancient Greek civilizaation. The triangular part within  of the pediment, called tympanum,was generally  decorated with reflief sculptures,

"El H. Congreso de la Unión del Estado de Sinaloa," Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico

"El H. Congreso de la Unión del Estado de Sinaloa" is where the legislative power of this federal entity is centered. This is found in my hometown, Culiacan. It's where all the congressmen gather to see what's best for the necessities of the city and the federal entity.  As you can see, the vocabulary imitated from the Classical Roman architecture is the use of columns in the structure of the building. The place you can see in the picture above is Magna de Leptis' ruins in Libya, an important roman city in Cartage. It was constructed during the reign of augustus and Tiberius, and has many of the architectural elements of the roman architecture. We usually see these kind of imitated vocabulary in government buildings, because most of the principles of Democracy come from Ancient Greek and Rome.

"El Angel de la Independencia," México D.F., Mexico

"El Angel de la Independencia" or Independence's Angel, is a monument built in Mexico City to commemorate Mexico's independence. It consists of a 36 mts. column with a 6.7 mts bronze statue of Nike, the Greek Goddes of Victory, also called the " el Angel", located on the top of the column. The Angel has a laurel crown in her right hand, representing victory.And, in her left hand, she holds a broken chain, symbolizing freedom.   The similarity with the column of Trajan is important and visible to naked eye. Trajan's Column also represents victory, and has a human figure on top to represent it and commemorate it.

Percy Jackson and The Olympians Books and Movie

You just have to read the name to know what these books are about. "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" is a book series written by Rick Riordan which talks about what would happen if the Greek Gods were real and they followed the 'most important civilization' which is, according to him, Western (American) civilization. The whole book is about Greek Mythologie, and in it, they mention a lot of different places and buildings that have Greek influence. These  pieces of literature show us how much the Greeks have influenced our lives nowadays. The same author, Rick Riordan, also wrote another series titled "Heroes of Olympus", which not only includes Greek culture, but also Roman culture.

Oakland Stadium, Oakland, California, United States

Oakland Raiders' Home Stadium is definitely based on the Roman Coliseum. As you can see, the similitudes between these two buildings are tremendous. Still, it's not the only stadium inspired on the Roman Coliseum: almost all stadiums copy the architecture, so that more and more people are able to apreciated the show. Back then, the Coliseum was used for watching the Gladiators fight and die, but now the stadiums are used for playing sports or having concerts. You may think it's a big difference, but when you think about it, you discover it's all for entertainment, but the only difference is how people got entertained back then and how they are entertained nowadays.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Trojan Women - Opinion

Hello! I just watched some scenes of The Trojan Women, a tragedy by the Greek playwright Euripides. I'm putting the first part of the three part video and the links to the other parts. I hope you enjoy it!

Now, THIS is a great dialogue. Some would say that the story isn't good enough, that there are much better plays than Euripides's. At first, I was a little disappointed that there wasn't any action. My head had begun to hurt from all the Trojan women's cries, but when the talking began, I was surprised. While the first part of the video is just women fighting, crying, and pleading for water, wanting Helen of Troy to be killed, the dialogue between Helen, the King Menelaus, and Hecuba is amazing.

Since the beginning of the film, we can see the manipulative arts that Helen possesses, being able to get a soldier to give her water while he hadn't given any to the Trojan Women. She is also able to manipulate the women, insulting them by taking a bath fully naked while they didn't even get water for drinking. This insult got the desired effect, because the women went crazy and Menelaus's soldiers had to hurry up and get her out of her confinement, because she would be killed if they didn't. When Menelaus arrives, at first he didn't want to let Helen speak, but Hecuba insisted on it. Then, epicness began.

Helen knew that Menelaus would kill her if she didn't convince him to do otherwise, so she appeals to the best way of convincing a man to do something: seducing. And I don't mean the sexual desire type of seduction, it was more like "Oh! I'm such a beautiful, cute girl that was completely blinded by a goddess, and I need your protection, why do you try to kill this poor little pretty girl instead?" type of seduction. She was appealing to the man's feelings to be able to get what she wanted. I had thought that this kind of behavior was only common nowadays, but it seems women have been tricking men since Ancient Greece's times. Many girls nowadays say things like "I'm not pretty" so men tell them, "Oh, don't say that, you're the most beautiful woman I've ever met." And they know they actually are pretty, but they want to trick men into saying it by martyring themselves. This is similar to the effect that Helen is looking for when she says "If only I weren't so beautiful." She is reminding Menelaus of her beauty, she knows that what she did is TOTALLY wrong and will get her killed, but she's trying to give Menelaus the urge to comfort her, protect her, save her. In the same instant Menelaus left the scene, the poor, suffering, unprotected girl was gone and Helen was again strong and proud, completely despising the Trojan Women.

Menelaus was not a strong man. He knew that he should have her killed then and there, but he couldn't get himself to do it. He was weak, and he was a coward. He fell under the spell of Helen, and told Hecuba that he would take her back to Sparta, where her death awarded. Then, he ordered to kill Hecuba's grandchild, the only left heir to the legacy of Troy's throne. Of course, Menelaus was afraid that the kid would grow up and try to get revenge, so he killed him and ran away from Troy.

The video ends here, but in the stories, it wasn't death what awaited Helen when she arrived back to Sparta, but a throne. She lived some time with Menelaus, ruling beside him. Then, different stories differ on the ending. Some say Helen died and was taken to Olympus, others say Menelaus died before she did... Either way, this is a great example of how women have been able to manipulate men through time to get what they want.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Poetic Meter - I Get Weak - Belinda Carlisle

Welcome back! Today, I'm trying to use poetic meter to analyze a song by Belinda Carlisle titled I get weak. At first, I thought it would be easy to analyze, but it definitely isn't. I'll give it my best try, but I can't assure you it's rightly done.

ˇ  ˉ  ˇ  ˉ
When I'm with you

ˇ  ˉ  ˇ  ˉ
I shake inside

ˇ ˉ  ˇ  ˉ ˇ  ˉ
My heart's all tangled up

ˇ  ˉ   ˇ ˉ  ˇ  ˇ ˉ
My tongue is tied it's crazy

 ˇ  ˉ   ˇ  ˉ    ˇ  ˉ   ˇ  ˉ
Can't walk, can't talk, can't eat, can't sleep

ˇ ˉ  ˇ ˉ   ˇ ˉ  ˇ ˉ   ˇ  ˇ ˉ
Oh, I'm in love, oh I'm in deep 'cuz baby

That's the first two paragraphs from the song, before the chorus. It's kind of mixed, not a single type of metric feet. The first line is a dimeter with two trochaic feet, one after the other. The pattern is repeated on the second line. Then, it changes to a trimeter, with three trochaic feet. The next line is also a trimeter which begins with two trochaic feet, but then changes to an antibacchic foot. The next paragraph is even harder to get, since she sings it very softly, but I think the first line is formed by a tetrameter of trochaic feet. The next line, it's a pentameter with the first 4 feet just as the one above (trochaic feet), but then an anapestic foot is added to complete the line, probably as a transition to the next part of the song. Now, let's analyze the chorus.

ˉ ˉ  ˉ    ˇ ˇ ˇ   ˇ ˉ
I get weak when I look at you

ˉ    ˇ  ˇ  ˇ  
Weak when we touch

ˇ  ˉ   ˇ   ˇ  ˉ ˇ ˇ  ˇ  ˉ 
I can't speak when I look in your eyes

This part was even harder than the first one, but I think I got it. The first line is a trimeter with a molossian foot followed by a tribrachic foot, while the last foot of the line is trochaic. The second line is kind of weird, because it begins with an stressed syllable which is kind of a continuation of the last syllable of the other line. Both "you" and "weak" are stressed and pronounced together. After the stressed syllable, there's a tribrachic foot, and the line is over. The last line is a trimeter. The first two feet are Amphibrachic, while the last one is Anapestic.

I repeat, don't trust me too much on this! It is the first time I try to use the poetic meter, and I'm not really sure it's completely right. Still, I hope you like it!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mummies and the Wonders of Ancient Egypt - King Tut

Hi, again! This time I'm writing a summary about a 1996 documentary titled Mummies and the Wonders of Egypt. I hope you enjoy it!

We have all heard about the Ancient Egyptians. I don't know a person who doesn't know about their great pyramids, sphinxes and hieroglyphic writing. It's every archaeologist's dream to make a new and important finding of an Egyptian King's tomb or palace. One of the archaeologists who was able to do this was Howard Carter. He wasn't a highly studied man, but he is surely one of the greatest archaeologists of all times. Why? Because he was hungry for success and he loved what he did. Lord Carnarvon was the one to finance Carter's projects, who wanted to investigate in the Valley of the Death, which is found near the modern city of Luxor. Carter found different clues speaking about a certain King Tut, who wasn't known by that time. Still, after more than five years searching for the tomb, Carter still wasn't able to find it. Lord Carnarvon wanted to retire from the site, but Carter made an offer he couldn't turn down: Carter himself would finance the next expedition, and everything found would be Lord Carnarvon's. He obviously accepted, and Carter went back to work.

Luckily  for him, it worked. Howard Carter was finally able to make an amazing discovery: King Tut's Tomb. When he first saw that all the seals where intact, he was very excited, because that meant that no robber had entered the tomb before to steal all of its contents, which had happened to most of the tombs discovered. When he entered, and his eyes adjusted to the light of the candle he had brought in, he was able to see gold and treasures, gold and treasures everywhere. He was also surprised by the layout of the tomb, which was really different to other tombs he had seen in shape and size. This meant that his death had been premature and they hadn't had enough time to prepare the tomb. Another clue that his death was premature was that the gloves they found next to him were too small for a grown man. King Tut was a boy king. But if he was a boy, why did he have so much treasures in his tomb? Because he had restored the cult to the other gods after Akenathon's disaster (he wanted to worship just one god). This made the boy king really important.

Then, it was announced that the boy king's body was still inside the tomb. Until that moment, all the objects inside weren't much more than priceless art. There were some gifts and some items that King Tut would need to have in the afterlife for his personal use. But then, the Egyptian government decide to begin to argue about their rights to King Tut's tomb and all the items in it. Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon  began to have different discussions on how to manage the situation, until one day, Carter kicked Lord Carnarvon from his house and told him to never come back. Lord Carnarvon went to live to an island and was bitten on the face by a mosquito. When he shaved, he cut the place where he was bitten and it got infected. He was pronounced  dead a few days later. Many people all over the world attributed his death to a curse that protected King Tut's tomb, but this theory wasn't based on anything at all. A few days after, Carter was able to find the King's coffin, standing majestically in the middle of a newly discovered tomb. The body was inside, and the coffin's lid in the original place.

Still. there was something wrong with the lid. It was partly broken, and it seemed as if it was the replacement of the original lid. It seemed as if King Tut's tomb had been built in a hurry, and the lid had fallen and broken, but they didn't even have time to repair it. When they opened the sarcophagus, they found a perfectly made mummy: King Tut. With him were other mummies, but the most important finding was King Tut's mask. Then, another problem arose: The oils with which the coffin had been sealed didn't let Carter open the mummy to see King Tut's body. Therefore, he had to cut the body into pieces before finally cutting it open, for being able to determine King Tut's age and relationship with other known pharaohs. Also, the oils didn't let him remove the mask, so he had to do it with sharp knives, heavily damaging the face of the King, but at last, it was done. It was the most important archaeological discovery in Egypt, until soon after another finding was made nearby. It was KV5, the tomb of Ramses II and his offspring, which was gigantic. Still, it had already been partially looted.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Greek Mythology Brief Summary

It is said by lots of people that Greek Mythology is the best of Mythologies. Some people even say that other Mythologies, such as Roman Mythology, aren't much more  than cheap copies of the Greek one. On this occasion, I'll try to write a brief summary about  Greek Mythology. Hope you enjoy it!

According to the Greeks, it all began when Uranus and Gaea, Sky and Earth, mated, and Gaea gave birth to the 12 Titans.. They where Hyperion, Iapetus, Coeus, Crius, Mnemosyne, Oceanus, Phoebe, Thethys, Theia, Themis, Cronus and Rhea. Once, Cronus' desire of power made him take a scythe and destroy his own father, Uranus, taking over the universe. Uranus' pieces where thrown all over the world, and Gaea was put to sleep. Cronus became the new ruler, taking Rhea as his wife. Then, other important Titans, such as Prometheus and Atlas, were born. Cronus and Rhea had 5 children (Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Hera, and Demeter) and Cronus ate them all, afraid to be overthrown like he had his father. But Rhea hid their 6th son, Zeus, in the mountains, and gave a Stone to Cronus for him to eat. Zeus grew up and he gave venom to his father in his food, so he vomited Zeus' siblings. Together, and with Prometheus help, they fought and defeated the Titans, throwing them into Tartarus as a punishment. They divided the World, Zeus got the skies and became the King of the Gods, Hades got the Underworld, and Poseidon got the seas. Hera became Zeus wife and Queen, Hestia, the goddess of Home, and Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. A new age began.

Some say it was Zeus, some say it was Prometheus, but man was created similar to the gods. Zeus didn't want to let men prosper, afraid he'd also be overthrown. Still, Prometheus gave men Fire, and with it, the ability to prosper. As a punishment for disobeying him, Zeus decided to tie him to a rock, and every day an eagle came and ate his liver. Since Prometheus was a Titan, his liver grew back again to be devoured the next day.

From this point on, Greek mythology is an interesting novel about how the gods messed with men and the other way around. Most of Greek Mythology's problems were generated by the fact that Zeus couldn't keep it in his pants! He went from here to there having sex with women, animals and goddesses. This never generated something good. Whether it was Hera's wrath trying to destroy Zeus' offspring's life, or the Demigod's (son of a god and a mortal) desire to prove his worth, men suffered a lot from Zeus miss behaviors. Examples of Demigod Myths are the ones about Heracles and Perseus (Zeus and a mortal's sons). Also, some problems were generated by mortals who offended the gods. As an example, we have Medusa. She was a BEAUTIFUL woman who dared to say she was even prettier than Aphrodite, goddess of beauty, and as a punishment she became a gorgon, which is a snakelike monster. Also, some say the whole Trojan War was generated from the Judgement of Paris, when a man had to decide which was the best goddess (Athenea, Aphrodite and Hera).

I know this is just a brief insight to the world of Greek Mythology, but I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! There is much more to it than what I wrote here, and if you liked it, I recommend you to investigate more into the great Greek Mythology. As for myself, I can never have enough of Greek Culture. I am completely amazed by the progress they made in science, by their extraordinary architecture, literature and other arts. Greeks, Romans and Egyptians never fail to amaze me each time I read or see something about them. How was it possible for them to build things or decipher codes of the Universe that still trouble us with modern technologies? I find it so hard to believe... It's truly amazing that there are still remains of these great civilizations, so we can know how they felt, how they thought, how they looked like back then.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Divine Justice

Hello, guys! This is a short story I wrote, trying to imitate ancient Egyptian literature. I hope you enjoy it!!!

The guards came rushing in and took the poor old man by his arms. They dragged him to the punishment stone and put his left hand on it. The man trashed and fought, but age had diminished his strength and the guards had no trouble maintaining him in position. The old man cried and pleaded for mercy, but everybody knew he wouldn’t receive any mercy from the vizier. The vizier was a totally just person that always followed the honorable path of the Law. Some people in the Realm even compared him to Anubis, weighing people’s souls and crimes against their virtues. This time wasn’t an exception: the old man had stolen from the King, and the law punished that conduct with cutting off his left hand. The old man raised his pale blue eyes towards the vizier, crying silently. His strength had run out and he wasn’t screaming anymore. He pledged for mercy with his eyes, but found any in the vizier’s gaze. The vizier gave the order and the khopesh fell on the old man’s wrist. Blood spilled and the man screamed again in agony. The crowd let out a gasp as the hand fell to the ground and the old man fell to his knees, grasping his wrist in pain. The guards took him by the arms again and threw him away, and the show was over...

Khopesh sword

“Justice has been imparted,” announced the vizier. “There will only be one more judgment today, since we are all so tired. Young man over there, you shall come here and tell me what you want from the King’s Justice!”

The young man on whom  the vizier’s gaze was on,walked forward with a selfconfidence strange in those who went looking for the King’s Justice.

“Oh, Great Vizier! I am here seeking for justice, and my case can only be revised by the Great King himself,” said the young man in a strong voice, again full of confidence.

The vizier seemed annoyed. “It is myself who represents the King’s Justice in this place; I assure you that whatever case this is I’ll give you Justice, and if it is important enough, the King shall know.”

The young man remained stubborn. “I repeat, my lord, my case can only be revised by the King Himself. His Majesty is the one to whom my words will be headed.”

“Young man, what makes you so important that you must speak to His Majesty in person? Speak now or be gone, for I am King’s Justice and the King shouldn’t be bothered for nonsense,” asked the vizier, now clearly annoyed.

The young man began again. “I assure you I speak no nonsense, my lord. I have been to faraway lands, with people from other cultures which may be almost as mighty as our Land is; my whole family is dead, my mother and sister were murdered, and my father was killed while trying to protect them. I am the only one who remains from my family’s legacy, the only one who knows the truth about their deaths. They were killed by desert people’s hands, but a greater mind thought of their deaths. I must tell all of this and more to the Pharaoh himself, so justice can be imparted.”

The look on the vizier changed from annoyed to surprised, and conceded the young man entrance to the King’s Palace. He told the Great Pharaoh the situation and was dismissed.

Ra's Chariot

“You say it’s justice what brings you here, but you have never said your name.
 Introduce yourself, young man, and then speak what you must,” ordered the Pharaoh.

“My name is Sehemet, but my name is not what matters, it’s my story what does,” the young man began. “I was born in a loving family, the last of an ancient dynasty. I grew up by the Nile, learning to read and write, to love and fight, to pray and listen to the gods’ guidance. When I reached my 16th year of life, and I was about to get married, unwelcome guests arrived from the desert, I was away preparing everything for the ceremony. These desert people murdered my mother and sister, killed my father in battle, and kidnapped my wife before running away. When I got to the site where all of this happened, I cried, I raged, and I swore to get revenge from these people. I walked for a year in the desert, until I found them. I was taken prisoner and lived in a cage for another year. It was until then that I realized the truth. All my life, I had been trained to be a Pharaoh, to bring back my dynasty to power, to eternal life. And you knew that. It wasn’t the people of the desert who had killed my father. I still wasn’t sure of this, but after 2 years of confinement, they freed me. I spent another year with them, learning their ways, and every day, when Ra brought the morning sun in his chariot, I became more and more confident about my suspicions. The next three years I spent traveling over the world, searching for knowledge, searching for guidance. I went to great cities, I met great people, and I learnt the ways that will never be seen in Egypt. When I felt ready, I went back to the place near the Nile where my whole family had been murdered. My dad’s khopesh and dagger were still lying on the ground. I remembered what I had sworn to myself, what I had sworn to the gods: to get revenge from those who had killed my family. And here I am. I don’t care about power, and I don’t care about becoming a pharaoh. I just care about justice, and not Pharaoh’s Justice, but Divine Justice.”

The king remained silent, without moving. The look on his face was of pure fear.

“May the gods be just with you in the afterlife, Great Pharaoh.” Sehemet took his father’s dagger and stabbed the king three times in the chest, one for every person he had lost because of his command. Then, he took out his father’s khopesh and took the pharaoh’s head off, this time for the life the King had stolen from him.