January 14, 2017

In praise of the. . . . .wine cooler?

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 5:01 pm

Desert Fox

Yes, you read that correctly: I have praised the wine cooler. Otherwise known as a spritzer, that classic bottled beverage from the 1980s and the bane of wine connoisseurs everywhere.

There is a reason for this, apart from my being a child young adult of the ’80s and drinking. . . .well, not terribly many of these things. Of course, the ladies I was often after would drink them, so I at least had some skin in the game, so to speak. No, I like the idea for historic purposes, namely because it represents Civilization itself.

You read that correctly.

I speak, obviously, of the ancient Greek habit of mixing their wine with water. The Greeks figured anyone who drank their wine straight was an uncouth barbarian, and that it would likely drive the imbiber insane, perhaps even unto death. Why? I’ve seen a number of explanations. One is that their wine, produced to travel, was much stronger and more concentrated and intense than what we think of as wine, and therefore it needed to be diluted in order to be able to drink it without gagging. Imagine it being more like wine syrup than our normal sort of wine.

It also added another layer of complexity to the entire ritual surrounding entertaining. One often had what amounted to a wine steward or a wine master (magister bibendi) in charge of the mixing, who would no doubt have his (probably) own preferences as to what constituted the optimum ratio of water to wine and who would oversee the entire process.

The other postulate is that wine was generally drunk over long periods, what we call session drinking, often beginning before a meal and lasting through it and afterwards. Thus, the mixing diluted the wine sufficiently to avoid being plastered the whole time. Maintaining a certain decorum while drinking allowed the cultivated Greek to discuss art, politics, and poetry for several hours while still enjoying a satisfying buzz. This contrasted with the barbarians who would drink to simply get smashed.

There’s also something of a public health idea as well, such that one is not really diluting wine with water, but vice versa: bacteria-laden water could be made potable by adding in some alcoholic wine and thus allowing one to drink enough to satisfy one’s thirst in relative safety while also getting a nice health buzz. I’m not sure this one flies since I don’t think the amount of alcohol present (unless it was, in fact, much stronger than typical modern wines) was enough to really sterilize the typical water that was available.

As for the origins of the modern wine cooler or spritzer, well, try here. I make no claim to accuracy by providing that link, btw. But in reality, the concept goes at least as far as the Greeks and perhaps even earlier. Still, even growing up I learned the basics through the Catholic Mass wherein the celebrant mixes a bit of water with the sacramental wine. The theological justification for this, apparently, was that water represented humanity and wine the Divine, thus inextricably intermingling the two, as in Jesus, and our own sharing in that.

From what I’ve seen on the Interwebs, the modern wine cooler was killed off by a tax on wine that made it too expensive to go diluting it, when one could make similar malt-based concoctions much more cheaply. Again, I merely link; it may have simply run its course.

I do have a soft spot for the old Bartles and Jaymes commercials. That to me is the quintessential Wine Cooler of the ’80s. I haven’t seen it in years, although I just did a quick search on their web site and found that it’s available in my (Seattle) area. I doubt I’ll go buy any. I’d much rather mix my own up, which I admit I don’t do very often — or haven’t, at any rate — although at the moment I have mixed a 50-50 blend of a nice riesling and some Diet Sprite (because I had the latter on hand), which is rather greater than the generally maximum of 2:1 water:wine ratio favored by the ancients.

So go ahead. Buy a cheap jug of wine, some soda water (or Sprite!), recline on your favorite couch with some friends and discuss eastern art and dramas (intellectual llamas optional), and enjoy four millennia of history in your glass.

And, um, try not to play Madonna on the stereo.

January 11, 2017

Movie Review Review

Filed under: Indiana Jones, Pop culture — acagle @ 11:22 am

Sort of. Well, not really. I’ve been meaning to link to this for a while.
Dead Poets Society Is a Terrible Defense of the Humanities

I’ve never hated a film quite the way I hate Dead Poets Society. I expect that them’s fighting words, at least in some quarters; at least I hope they are. Because I’m trying to pick a fight here.

I was in the last year of my English literature PhD program in the summer of 1989, when Dead Poets Society was released. My younger brother Scott, who really didn’t have the money to spare, slipped my wife Robyn and me a ten-dollar bill (these were simpler times) and told us he’d watch our kids so we could go out to see it. No one in my family quite understood what I wanted to do for a living or, having finished my bachelor’s degree, why I’d spend seven more years in school to do it; but having seen Dead Poets Society, Scott believed he finally had an idea of what I wanted to do with my life, and more importantly, why.

FWIW: I love the first half of the movie. The scenery is beautifully shot, what Keating (Williams) says about poetry appeals to me (more on that later), and it may have influenced my reading of poetry. Confession: I read a LOT of old poetry. Have since about 1986. More on that later, too. The second half of the movie is (IMO) just run of the mill Bad Old Conservative Authorities vs. Good Young Rebellious Feelzies. Meh. Whatever. Rinse, lather, repeat, ad nauseum.

Anyway, I can’t really argue with much of what the author of the piece says. Yes, some of the interpretations of some of the poems Keating/Williams provides are misleading and/or wrong. Yes, if you want to get an *in-depth* understanding of poetry — the author was getting his graduate degree in English at the time of the movie — you don’t do it the way it’s presented in the film.

That all said. . .whatever. It’s a movie. It’s not supposed to represent Reality any more than Indiana Jones represents archaeology in real life. Lots of archaeologist like to dump on Indy — “No *real* archaeologist would EVER behave like that!” — but they’re not movies about archaeology; they’re movies about Indiana Jones. It’s for entertainment.

Given the context and the audience it was intended for, I think DPS is a nice diorama, if you will, of what poetry can be and do for the masses. I took literature in college. We analyzed poetry. We analyzed old prose works. We diagrammed poems. And I basically hated it. Yeah, it was nice to know (sort of) but it totally drained all the life out of it.

It was only after I’d graduated (and kept my textbook for some reason) that I started reading that stuff again for pure recreation. This was before DPS came out, btw. I found I loved old literature. I think I’ve read The Scarlet Letter six times already Just reading the words was an end in and of itself. Example:

“Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.”
(Ulysses, Tennyson)

I don’t give a crap what meter it’s in. Once you wade through the unfamiliar language structure — through much reading of it — it’s beautiful and inspirational. It speaks to me across the decades.

Enjoy watching Indiana Jones. Enjoy watching DPS. If the latter can get some people to just read poetry slowly and carefully just to get some enjoyment out of it, I think it’s done it’s job.

January 10, 2017

Waste not, not want?

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:46 pm

15th-century disposable cups found in Martin Luther’s Wittenberg

Single-use cups aren’t a modern invention. Archaeologists have discovered the shards of thousands of porcelain cups in eastern Germany that were thrown away by wealthy revelers over 500 years ago.

It was by wealthy people, apparently, who can generally afford to be wasteful.

See also (if the link works): The Concept of Waste in an Evolutionary Archaeology (PDF)

January 9, 2017

Go now, good price

Filed under: Egypt — acagle @ 3:19 pm


Probably a good time to go there, lots of hotel rooms and everything should be cheap.

Literary Archaeology

Filed under: Pop culture — acagle @ 3:16 pm

Agatha Christie helped in uncovering Iraq’s ancient Nimrud

There’s a little video at the link which doesn’t seem too informative.

I thought it was common knowledge that she worked in Mesopotamia (at least tangentially) but perhaps not. I’ve never actually read either one of the archaeologically-inclined books, though I suppose I should. I did some minor consulting on this book for which the author gave me a nice little credit but that is about the extent of my literary consultantship.

So far. . . . .

January 5, 2017

Blogging update

Filed under: Blogging update — acagle @ 11:33 am

Hey guys. Apologies for not having posted anything in a while. The last few months have been exceedingly difficult for a number of reasons (nothing really health-related though, *knock wood*), some in my control (sorta), others completely out of it. In the last year or so I’ve had three of my mother’s generation of family die and then a beloved neighbor just last month.

I’ve done some over at the Facebook page if you’ve followed it there. Things may (*knock wood*) finally be settling down some so hopefully I’ll get back to it soon.

Again, apologies.

November 17, 2016

Excellent preservation

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 7:47 pm

Great Ryburgh dig finds 81 ‘rare’ Anglo-Saxon coffins

Some decent photos, too.

Numismatists Unite!

Filed under: Antiquities Market — acagle @ 7:44 pm

That’s one of my favorite words.

Guidelines for documenting ancient coins proposed

The United Kingdom has the Treasure Act and the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Collectors and coin dealers in the United States are seeking common ground for collectible coins with the U.S. government and archaeologists through several organizations including the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild.

Similar problems with how to deal with the ownership of antiquities and coins defined as being ancient are being experienced in Germany and elsewhere within the European Union as well. Guidelines hoped to be adopted universally regarding how to handle reasonably freshly discovered ancient coins are presented in an article by Shanna Schmidt appearing in the Oct. 13 issue of the online publication CoinsWeekly.com.

Schmidt brings out some good points. She asks, “Why would it make sense to implement an ethical guideline?” then answers her own question, “It makes sense because collecting will not go away and to suggest otherwise is absurd.”

November 7, 2016

The dickens you say!

Filed under: Biblical archaeology — acagle @ 7:41 pm

How Archaeology Became an Israeli-Palestinian Battleground

(like what isn’t?)

Ancient artifacts have been used not only to underscore Israel’s right to exist but, in some cases, to assert its right to exercise sovereignty in areas of the West Bank, such as Hebron and Shiloh. “The whole use of archaeology as a legitimizer of the state has become a hallmark of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu” and some of his ministers, said Tel Aviv University archaeologist Raphael Greenberg. “Archaeology has become part of the conflict.”

In archaeology, Prof. Greenberg said, eureka finds are rare. It is a science built on accumulated data. Touting each new find as proof of an unequivocal historical truth “is like making a public-relations point.”

Not a bad article.

Sorry about the long layoff

Filed under: Blogging update — acagle @ 7:40 pm

Was in Wisconsin looking after the ArchaeoMom and the homestead which tends to be a rather draining (physically and emotionally) exercise.

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