Monday, August 31, 2009

The New Mythology

Most people probably feel that mythology is s dead art. Perhaps others see fantasy and science fiction as modern forms of myth. However, there is a form of mythology that is ubiquitous to our everyday life: advertising.

In Greek, the word myth simply means “story.” Advertising is without a doubt a form of telling a story. More importantly, advertising shares a very interesting characteristic with traditional myths; each has both an obvious and an implied message. It is the implied message that carries advertising into the realm of mythology.

Imagine a cleaning product commercial. It is irrelevant what product is being sold or what format the commercial is in. Two messages are being proposed.

The first is obviously that the product being sold will benefit the consumer. The strengths of the product are lauded, often an example is given. Perhaps imaginary characters appear and metaphorically demonstrate the cleaning action of the product. This is the myth of the commercial.

However, there are deeper messages imbedded within all commercials. It is not sinister; if anything, it has been the driving force behind the development of our culture. Let’s imagine a commercial for a bathroom cleaner. The cartoon scrub brushes scour the tub clean, then a toilet, until the porcelain sparkles in an unnatural chromium-esque finish. What is the mythological message of this commercial? Cleaning your bathroom is a good thing. Who can argue with that?

The only problem is that mythology is what we make of it. Mythology is a form of artificial existence, one in which we envision ourselves even as we suffer the consequences of our ignorance in reality.

The mythology presented by a company like McDonald’s is not a beneficial one, for example. It is dishonest. Happy, slim children are seen having fun eating with a happy, slim clown. If McDonald’s served healthy food and had clowns at their restaurants, no one could fault them. However, this simply isn’t the case. It would also be fine if they showed fat kids stuffing their face between playing with a lead-painted toy while their parents wait for them to finish so they can get something edible at a real place.

I once heard someone mention when they cleaned a tub for the first time as a child, they were upset that there were no little cartoon creatures in the can of Scrubbing Bubbles. This is an innocent and cute example, but it illustrates the main problem with the mythology of advertising: children often take it too literally. Sadly, so do many aduls.

Advertising is also one of the few things all people who watch TV have in common. There are hundreds of channels and thousands of TV shows, but one thing we’ve all seen is that annoying Vince guy selling ShamWow. What’s more, advertisements are repeated. This characteristic ensures that many commercials are burned into our memories.

Advertising is one of the few things left that unites so many people in such a powerful way. It’s the only source of a worldview that most Americans share in common. And what a fucked up view it is. Kind of explains why so many think we need to turn to private industry for everything. So easily trained...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Top Ten: Songs About Drugs

Music about drugs is not hard to come by. I came up with quite a few songs, so if something didn’t make the list it’s because either a) it was not a song really ABOUT drugs, or b) it’s rap, which I did not include on the list. I do occasionally listen to the genre, and half of them seem to be about drugs, but I did not want a rap-heavy top ten list because, frankly, I don’t like rap that much.

10. The Ramones – I Want To Be Sedated
9. Weezer – Hash Pipe
8. Butthole Surfers – The Lord Is a Monkey
7. K’s Choice – Not an Addict
6. The Velvet Underground – Waiting For The Man
5. Buckcherry – Lit Up
4. Tom Petty – Girl on LSD
3. Placebo – Pure Morning
2. Brewer and Shipley – One Toke Over the Line
1. Eric Clapton - Cocaine

Rather than attempt the opposite list, “Top Ten: Songs Denouncing Drugs,” I’ll just put the #1 (and only) song for that list here: Three Dog Night – Mama Told Me Not To Come

Friday, August 28, 2009

King of Pop Pot

Add another celebrity to the list of marijuana users after police found a bag of weed in Michael Jackson's home.

In honor of this, I'll be doing a top ten drug-related songs list later tonight.

Note #1: It was legal drugs given to him by a doctor that killed him.

Note #2: He smoked pot and hasn't done shit since the 90's. Coincidence?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Environmentalism and Survival

Have you ever despised a band or style of music because you hate the people you know you listen to it? I have; I still to this day won’t sit through Dave Matthews or Phish. And yet, there’s nothing wrong with their music. It is not even that dissimilar to some music I enjoy.

I hate trees. I hate poems about trees or how beautiful people think they are. I hate the smell of them. I hate the runny nose they give me. I hate their stupid green leaves that turn rusty poop colored before littering themselves all over the street, where they sit until my city spends millions of dollars ($2 million in my particular city) to clean them up. Fuck trees. Sometimes I just sit around snapping pencils in half and throwing them away to spite the wood.

Believe me when I say I understand how annoying environmentalism is. However, it has nothing to do with loving nature. Hell, I hate nature. I find nature to be a cruel test of survival, an unpredictable bastard that is out to get us. Nature is about as lovable as Charles Manson.

Everything that is alive today is an experiment in survival. Eventually, most will go the way of the dodo, literally. However, I would strongly suggest we do a better job of genetically cataloging creatures which we may lose.

Many of the drugs we have were derived from or developed through research of plants and animals. The fact is, living things are just bags of chemicals. If one living thing has developed a chemical which benefits it, there’s nothing stopping us using it in our bag.

Sure, there’s compatibility problems, but remember that the anti-bacterial properties of mold are harnessed for antibiotics. If we’re compatible with mold technology, it’s not surprising to know most drugs we take everyday are found naturally in plants and animals.

No angel is crying when a species dies. However, we are losing millions of years of natural biochemical research. And don’t try to convince yourself that the death of a species means it has nothing to offer us; animals developed defenses against nature (our common enemy), not us.

But suppose you hate medicine, why should you care about such a liberal bullshit idea like the environment? Well, for one thing the environment isn’t some place we never go; it’s right outside your window. We’re not pumping our waste into condors and pandas; we’re dumping it in our oceans, or in pits which we cover, then build schools, hospitals, and parks over.

Why is it acceptable to poison us? Why is there so much methylmercury in all our fish? I might posit that Republicans want us to get mercury poisoning; the resulting madness would swell their Conservative ranks. However, in all seriousness, it comes down to cost. It’s just not cost-effective for companies to safely dispose of their waste.

The worst part of it is, the environmental banner has been hijacked by Global Warming and the Democratic Party. Yes, the climate is changing. Yes, we’re probably affecting it somehow. But the problem is, that’s nature; nature is always changing.

I’m sure we would be better off if we could just snap our fingers and magically have enough solar panels, wind turbines, and self-righteousness collectors to power the world. However, even then the climate would still alter over time – though more slowly, it would still be inevitable. Global Warming is an issue for science to solve in the context of “How will humanity survive its inevitable effects?”

Unless we come up with a way to reverse it (and I would caution that messing with something so big is very dangerous in and of itself), Global Warming is not something worth discussing in environmentalism. It paints a picture that is too illogically emotional: a dire, end of the world scenario where we simultaneously heat up like a green house and freeze over. Sounds like religion.

What’s really going to happen is the same thing that has always happened: there will be change, and those who adapt will carry on. How we will adapt after our finite resources are used up? Will we find enough alternative energy to maintain our current lifestyle? If we don’t develop them, probably not – unless you believe they’ll just fall from the sky.

Environmentalism should not be about Mother Earth, helpless animals, or politics. It is a matter of survival, and animals will do extreme things to survive. Will our ancestors mine our trash for the valuable resources we waste today? Are we condemning our children to lives as trash diggers?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Top Ten: Anti-Religious Songs

Some of these are a stretch, but they're better than the ones that didn't make the list. Usually I can come up with 20 choices which I can whittle down to ten good ones, but I struggled to come up with 14. I guess I don’t have a very irreligious mp3 collection (which currently stands at about 20,000).

In actual fact, I think there just aren’t many songs which criticize religion. I’m sure there’s some others I didn’t cover, but either I don’t have that song, forgot it, or it sucks (usually all three).

10. Franz Ferdinand – Evil and a Heathen
9. Tori Amos – God
8. Marilyn Manson – Fight Song
7. Nirvana – Ain’t It a Shame
6. Alanis Morisette – Forgiven
5. The Dandy Warhols – I Am a Scientist
4. A Perfect Circle – Judith
3. Nine Inch Nails – Heresy
2. John Lennon – Imagine
1. Stevie Wonder – Superstition

Ending a Cycle

The Greeks have a myth which says the Sky, Ouranos, would descend upon the Earth, Gaia (his own mother), to rape her. He despised the children bore through these sessions, so he stuck them in the Deep Place, Tartarus, which caused Gaia great pain. She fashioned a sickle which she offered to her children to use as a weapon against their father. The youngest among them, Kronos, took it and castrated his father.

Kronos didn’t let everyone out, though. He kept some of his brothers and sisters deep within Tartarus, for he found them to be monstrous. Gaia was upset that he was turning out to be no different than his father. She cursed him with the promise that his own son would overthrow him as he had his father before.

When Kronos’ wife had children, he did not put them in Tartarus; he consumed them. He devoured five of his children before the sixth was saved by his wife, Rhea. She wrapped a rock in blankets and gave this decoy to Kronos to eat when he came looking for the child. This youngest child she named Zeus, and he was cared for and fed by a goat named Amalthea.

This myth is a metaphorical story of the power struggle and psychology of humanity: the young hero must overcome a tyrant, only to grow into the role of the oppressor and give birth to the adversary who will one day defeat him. Beyond the individual implications, it can also be extrapolated on a cultural level, whereby one culture grows and becomes dominant, only to spawn a subculture which will one day overtake it.

I feel this is the great problem facing us today. We live in a post-Freudian world where the Oedipus Complex is common knowledge. The story of Oedipus has the king send his newborn son to a field to die. What if the Oedipus Complex is unjust to Oedipus? It was, after all, his father who struck first.

However, what of the Kronos Complex? I find the Greek creation myth to be far more to the point: it is not about sleeping with your mother or wanting to kill your father. Rather, it is about a father’s sins, the need for his son to right his wrongs, and the subsequent repetition of error which dooms the liberator to a fate of oppressor. To show the power of this myth, I find visuals are very important:

These are “Saturn [Romanized Kronos] Devouring His Son,” the first by Peter Paul Rubens (1636) and the second by Fransisco de Goya (~1820).

I find these to be powerful images, and ones which clearly illustrate the pragmatic, almost mechanical cruelty in the Rubens, and a crazed paranoia in the Goya. These two aspects of the paternal oppressor are both very relevant in the human experience.

Another aspect of the myth is the exile of the Gigantes (Giants), Hecatonchires (100-handed ones), and all the Cyclopes. Zeus freed them all after his overthrow of Kronos, and even though the Gigantes joined with the Titans to attack him later, Zeus was able to repel the onslaught with the help of the monsters rejected by his foes. Zeus attains superiority by having the bigger tent.

I find this myth to be far more interesting and beneficial than a story which seeks to ingrain within us the idea that we want what we shouldn’t have, and that knowledge is evil.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Top Ten: Songs Containing Religion

I decided an interesting, short series of posts I could intersperse into my blog would be top ten lists. For my first list, and in the spirit of my last post, I will be listing the top ten songs I like that have religious content in them.

10. Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah
9. The Eels – Novocaine for the Soul
7. Bush – Everything Zen
6. Franz Ferdinand – The Fallen
5. Eric Clapton – Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
4. Cat Power – Schizophrenia
3. Norman Greenbaum – Spirit in the Sky
2. Nirvana – They Hung Him On A Cross
1. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

And No Religion Too

It always struck me as odd that a nation like America would so fully embrace an artist like John Lennon. I can attribute it to America’s inability to change; once it fell in love with the adorable mop-top, they stuck with him even after he wrote a song like “Imagine.” I suppose America also suffers from a terminal case of cognitive dissonance.

“Imagine” is a piano ballad to communism. I’m not sure most people who sing along to it on the radio realize what it’s about, despite its clear and overt lyrics. Certainly any capitalist is welcome to enjoy the song, just as I enjoy plenty of songs which discuss religious topics despite being an atheist.

I spend a great deal of my time contemplating the ramifications of many of the conditions discussed in the song (not because John Lennon wrote about them, merely because they are quintessential Socialist/Communist ideas). The one I wish to discuss more fully was the topic of a poll I held some time ago.

I asked on my blog, “Would the world be better off without religion?” Obviously the results are quite skewed given the sampling method, but I had anticipated, if not hoped, for such an outcome.

Eight out of 17 people (47%) said the world would be better off without religion. Personally, I cannot remember if I answered “no better or worse” or “I’m not sure,” but it was one of the two.

From a practical standpoint, how would religion disappear? I wouldn’t have any problems with its absence if it spontaneously lost support and died out, but I find this scenario fanciful and purely hypothetical. Instead, I find it more likely that if religion were to “disappear,” it would be at the hands of iconoclasts.

Iconoclasm is a word of Greek origin which means “image destruction.” It is an act primarily committed for religious or political reasons (often both).

Iconoclasm is a form of censorship. I consider it to be a crime against humanity. It is an attempt to destroy the representations of an idea in the hope that people will no longer be reminded of it, therefore ending its influence.

Christians performed the most thorough and successful iconoclasm during the Christianization of Europe. From smashing marbles to melting down engraved metal, from burning sacred texts to killing the scribes who wrote them, Christians even built their churches on top of pagan temples in order to obscure them. While Christians have toned it down in the last couple centuries, their Muslim brothers in monotheism have taken up the mantle.

Communism, as practiced in Russia, China, Cambodia, Cuba, and several other places, is a religion. We should never forgive this, for they have forever sullied an ideology that I feel has the potential to end so much suffering. They acted in the same ignorant fashion as the monotheists, ensuring their failure, by destroying what had been built before them rather than using it more efficiently.

Religion is not merely a collection of lies foisted upon people to control them; that’s only its most significant role when active. For an understanding of the role religion can play in a largely atheist culture, one needs merely to look at ancient Greek and Roman mythology.

Here is a religion which has no political power in the modern world, and yet we do not forget it. Why? Why do we remember Zeus/Jupiter, Hera/Juno, Ares/Mars, Aphrodite/Venus, Hermes/Mercury, Athena/Minerva? What role do these agricultural gods of fertility have in the modern computer age? Do we remember them because we believe in them, or fear them, or feel we need them?

In a word: variety. Anything that eliminates diversity is a bad thing. Any biologist will tell you that genetic diversity is the primary factor for determining the success rate of a species; an animal with no genetic diversity is susceptible to several problems from disease to climate change.

I would posit that human culture follows the same laws of biology, as culture is a biological system (though a secondary, complex, and artificial one). The more richly diverse a culture, the more robust it is. I feel this is why America has been so successful at innovation; we are an amalgamation of several cultures and backgrounds.

One can see this acted out in history. Christian Europe was largely a static culture which achieved nothing for over a thousand years; the Christian faith became a monolithic influence which actively destroyed the very memory of the old ways. Things in Europe did not improve until this ignorant culture came in contact with the early Muslims, who had adopted Classical Greek and Roman philosophical studies—because Islam used to be the more moderate of the two.

Upon re-exposure to the ideas of Aristotle, Pythagoras, and many others, Europe experienced a Renaissance of development. Their subsequent conquering of the Americas was, I believe, a direct result of the American insulation—the Incans had no other civilizations to exchange ideas with, and as a result had not even perfected the wheel for transportation.

I see most advancement in humanity to be a random and never-ending series of isolated development and violent exposure. The problem therefore becomes finding a way to alter this violently competitive scheme to one of peaceful cooperation. However, how can one unite without homogenizing? By tolerating, even fostering, diversity.

Monotheist scholars of science abound; every major scientist in the Western world was religious, from Newton to Darwin to Einstein. Would a conquering atheist culture disregard their ideas as god-loving nonsense, in the way Christians demonized the knowledge of the polytheistic heathens?

It is the risk of this stubborn ignorance that has left me feeling that the world is better off without anyone trying to destroy religion. It is not religion which is harmful, but the influence religion has upon those who do not choose to follow it which causes all the problems.

Just as an anarchist blindly opposes all government or a communist extols the private enterprise as pure evil, the atheist who actively believes the world would be better off without religion is merely allowing the negative effects of a thing’s misuse convince him or herself that the world would be better off without that thing at all.

As with most things, religion can have redeeming value and be responsibly practiced. More importantly, it would be intellectually dishonest and irresponsible to attempt to wipe the world clean of religion, for we know not what invaluable assets would be swept away in the process.

It is true that the dominant monotheistic religions of today did not extend the courtesy of tolerance to their neighbors, and it is also true that one of them, Christianity, claims to treat people they way they wish to be treated. However, I believe we atheists must hold ourselves to a higher moral standard than to adopt the barbaric destructiveness of the lesser among us, even if the religious seem to implicitly be begging for destruction. We must resist all urges to hang them on a cross, because this is what they want and what gives them strength through pity.

Even if tomorrow the entire world spontaneously woke up and did not believe in the gods, I would hope that not a single brick would be moved from any church, cathedral, mosque, temple, stupa, or shrine. Instead, I would hope these buildings would become living museums, and I might even go so far as to say they would make marvelous school houses, lecture halls, forums for debate, and soup kitchens. I would hope the preachers, priests, rabbis, imams, and monks would still be interested in a life of service, this time to humanity first, not a religious philosophy or divinity.

I am no one. What I say is little more than whispering into a canyon and straining to hear the echoes. But if one thing I say resonates, I hope it is this fact: nothing good can come from the destruction of religion or its symbols. One cannot allow the evil aspects of religion to infect us and pollute the values of knowledge and freedom. While religion has proven it will violently oppose those who share many of the ideas I hold dear, it would be futile to use their methods to defeat them. In doing so, one would become no better than religion.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Recap of Sicily

This stop on our trip was the most disappointing, which I blame almost solely on how short the ship was in port. The tour we were on was very rushed and spent way too much time at a jewelry shop which literally locked us inside for a good hour (although they did feed us).

Before I get into the tour, I want to point out I am 25% Sicilian, which is also the least mixed quarter of my family (one of my grandfathers was 100% Sicilian). However, even the Sicilians themselves can hardly be thought of as homogenous. Because of its strategic position and fertile land, Sicily has been invaded several times.

From early Iberian immigrants to Phoenician farmers and scribes, from Greek settlements to Roman domination, from Moorish conquerors to Viking raiders, Sicily is both a hotbed of historical activity and a bastion of cultural diversity.

It was the home of the famous Syracusian scientist and inventor, Archimedes. The most legendary story of Archimedes involves his discovery of the hydrostatic properties of water, used for measuring volume through displacement.

Archimedes had been tasked by his king with determining whether a crown made for him contained all the gold the smith had been provided, or whether the smith had kept some and used another material. In order to do this, one weighs the object and compares this to its volume in order to calculate its density.

All objects of the same material have the same density (e.g. all iron is 7.8 g/mL, all gold is 19.3g/mL). The problem is, it is impossible at this time in history to find the volume of a metal without melting the object into a perfect geometrical shape for which we know the formula for volume (e.g. length x width x height for a box).

So, Archimedes is tasked with calculating the volume of the crown without damaging it. After many failures, he is climbing into a bath to relax after a hard day of thinking. As he enters, he notices the water level rise. He immediately jumps out of the bath and runs naked through the streets to the palace screaming, “Eureka!” (“I have found it!”)

Anyway, I was excited to see Sicily and was disappointed at how short our stay was and how little we saw. We took a tour bus from the port of Messina to Mount Aetna (or Etna). The city has some very unique architecture:

Below, one can see some of the Vandal influence still present over a millennia after their invasion:

Here are some pictures of our approach to Mount Aetna:

Notice in the second the prickly-pear cactus, imported from America and grown locally there, further evidence of their cosmopolitan tradition.

At our first stop, we saw a church and a little town at the foot of the mountain. It was not like the other tourist destinations we had visited; my wife never even found a shot glass to buy. I did get some pictures of the town:

Here’s a local gelateria (purveyor of gelato, a really thick, creamy, expensive ice cream):

And a condom vending machine:

We stopped further up the mountain to see a lava flow from one of the more recent eruptions:

We were then ushered to a jewelry shop, fed some appetizers, and hard-pitched some over-priced trinkets.

Back on the ship, I got this picture from our balcony as we left port:

There’s so much to see in Sicily, and yet we were scheduled to leave port at 1pm (and were even delayed by late arriving tours). This did not enable most tours, including our own, to fully appreciate the island. I’m not sure if it would have been better to dock in another port, or simply to stay longer.

I already complained about the trip back to the US being such a hassle, so I’ll just say I love the in-flight entertainment consoles on transatlantic flights. I got to play a trivia game with other passengers, and eat it passenger in seat 33F, I kicked your ass!

So that’s it for my honeymoon recaps. Finally… I’m going to do a reflective post months from now after going through everything I wrote and brought home (which includes quite a few pamphlets, print-outs, ticket stubs, notes, etc.). It will be a sort of “best of what I forgot to mention” post. I’ll probably also include some of the photos I liked but couldn’t sensibly incorporate into my already titanic posts.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Recap of Athens

Athens, Greece was the place I most wanted to visit on the cruise, and it’s in a toss-up with Pompeii when it comes to which I enjoyed most on the trip.

First off, what set of pictures from Athens, Greece would be complete without a picture of a Greek sex shop (the Greeks invented sex, right?):

Our first stop was the Acropolis. Acropolis means “high city.” No, this is not where Socrates and his students went to get high. It has the same suffix as “acrobat.” Most Greek cities had one, but the one in Athens is the most famous, and is sometimes simply called “The Acropolis,” even though there are quite a few others around the Mediterranean.

The acropolis of a city would be built on an easily defensible hill, around which the city proper would build up. Populated by temples of the most influential religious cults in that particular area, they were often the site of the city-state’s treasury. The Parthenon served this function in ancient Athens.

The trek up to the Acropolis was not as arduous as I was led to believe. Instead, what struck me was how crowded it was. The incline was nothing when taken at such a slow pace, as hundreds of people bottlenecked at the narrow entrance and exit.

Upon entering, the first thing I noticed was the back of the Parthenon. You can see the crowd in this picture:

I next noticed the Erechtheum, with the Caryatid statues supporting the roof of the porch on the north side:

There were originally six, but for a while there were only five because some British jackass named Lord Elgin took one of them to Scotland to decorate one of his mansions. He even had the balls to try to take another, but when the attempt failed, he had the statue sawed apart for transport, then just abandoned it in pieces.

The five original statues still in Greece are currently in the Acropolis Museum for restoration; the Caryatids in my picture are replicas put in place for structural and tourist purposes.

In fact, Elgin took many marble sculptures from the Acropolis, damaging them and the structures they were attached to in the process. At the time, Greece was under Ottoman control, and Elgin had their “permission” (though this has been disputed). I wonder if they would have permitted him to loot Turkish sites…

The statues he stole eventually ended up in the British Museum in London, which refuses to part with them (despite the pleas of the Greek government to return them). Perhaps someday Chinese troops will demolish Westminster and carry off Big Ben to be re-erected in Beijing. What is it Christians are always saying? “Treat other as you would like to be treated.”

That’s enough complaining about colonialism… for now. Here are some pictures of the front entrance to the Parthenon:

One sad (but necessary) thing about our visit was seeing all the scaffolding and cranes. The second picture below is the temple of Athena Nike, which was completely dismantled before being reconstructed:

The buildings at the Acropolis have certainly seen better days, but hopefully the work being done to restore them will ensure that even my distant descendants will one day be able to visit and gaze upon the same buildings I saw.

The other great thing about the Acropolis is the amazing panoramic views of downtown Athens, because the Acropolis literally rises up right in the middle of the city:

Before making our way down, I got some photos of John Bolton:

We then made our way by bus to the National Archaeological Museum:

Here, we saw a lot of gold stuff:

In the top-middle of the first picture is the “golden mask of Agamemnon.” Unlike most inaccurately attributed artifacts, this piece is actually too old to be the mask of the mythological king.

The gold held up really well over time, much better than any of the other metals (bronze and iron, mostly). However, gold is very soft, and one can see on many of the thin gold pieces that some of the details are worn away through handling. If you want something that will last forever, you really have to go with stone:

The above is a chronological progression through the history of Greek sculpture, from early emulation of the Egyptian style, to their profound, natural realism which came to be known as Classical.

Of course, I make a comment about metal being inferior, and the best, most complete example that has endured (though it had to be put back together after being found in pieces) is a bronze statue recovered from the ocean floor:

The eyes would have originally with inlaid with bone or ivory, and his lips and nipples were likely copper. In his right hand would have been a trident, if this is a sculpture of Poseidon, or a lightning bolt, if it is Zeus.

Scholars initially thought it may have been a random athlete throwing a javelin, but the figure depicted is much too old to be a classical Greek athlete. Most believe it is Zeus, because a trident would likely obscure the face of the god, and many depictions of Zeus in a similar pose have been found on things from coins to pottery.

Behind this, one can see the Minotaur:

We went through the museum and saw plenty of other stuff, including some harpies:

Another famous piece in the museum is the Antikythera Ephebe:

Also recovered from a shipwreck in pieces and put back together, it is a remarkably realistic depiction of an unidentified youth. It’s so real, I almost yelled at him to put some damn pants on.

This statue of a stoic philosopher (unnamed; don't ask me how they think they know it's a stoic) was also found in the same shipwreck in Antikythera, remarkably with eyes intact:

Perhaps my biggest regret was not realizing that I was in the same building as another artifact found in this shipwreck, which has become known as the Antikythera mechanism. It is a technological marvel whose significance was not understood until decades after its 1901 discovery. The device is thought to have been built in the second half of the 2nd century BCE, and has been linked to designs and models made by Archimedes.

It is the first evidence of a working calculator, and has been called the first computer (but I think that is pushing it). It is a small, handheld device with over 30 intricately constructed and assembled gears which accurately performs astronomical calculations when dials are turned to indicate the current day. Technology of this complexity does not reappear until over a thousand years later (common trend… add it to the great things that didn’t survive Christianization).

It’s hard to believe this was the only one of its kind when it was made. However, it’s not surprising that no others survived. After all, if it took someone years to make it, they may only make a few dozen in their lifetime, of which very few will likely survive into the modern era. What surprises me is that the technology for this kind of device disappeared for some reason.

So that’s about it for Athens. We went to eat lunch and talked with an Australian couple about politics for some time. They seemed relieved by the notion that young people like us will be taking over in the US soon, but I had to inform them we’re really an ignored minority. Besides, there’s still plenty of time for young ideologues to fail at the hands of stubborn ignorance just enough to make cynics of us all.

While I was stopped from taking pictures of cigarette warnings in Turkey, I noticed similar warnings on cigarettes in Greece, so I stealthily took out my camera and captured a shot:

“Smoking Kills,” “Smoking Can Kill,” “Smoking Causes Fatal Lung Cancer,” “Smokers Die Younger.”

Yeah, we get it. People still want to smoke, get over it! I’m not surprised that even when taxed over 100%, people would rather buy a product that makes them feel happier than to simply be healthier. It’s a cool and a fun thing for people to do on breaks besides stuff their faces with processed chemicals from the vending machine.

I don’t smoke cigarettes, and I’m asthmatic, but I really cannot stand all the whining about smoking.

“But I’m allergic to cigarette smoke.”

Really? I didn’t realize they had started medically diagnosing “being a bitch” as a condition. No one is allergic to cigarette smoke the way people are allergic to peanuts or shell fish. In fact, it’s not even as bad as lactose intolerance. People are “allergic” to smoke the way all human beings are: it’s not great for your health, we get it! You know what else isn’t good for you? Stressing out about what other people do with their lives.

“But second hand smoke kills.”

Well hurry up and die already. Besides, if everyone who smokes cigarettes is doomed, leave them the fuck alone. Have some fucking respect for the dying!

Do these folks give fat people dirty looks while they’re eating? Probably not, because most of the people who complain about this shit are fat. Maybe they should take up smoking, I heard it makes you thinner. Anyone else notice a sharp increase in obesity right when Americans started getting all uppity about smoking?

Again, I don’t smoke cigarettes because I personally don’t like them, but I’m what is called a “political smoker,” which means I don’t let the fact that I am a non-smoker jade me to the abuses suffered by smokers at the hands of intrusive assholes.

I especially cannot believe they banned smoking in bars. I never thought of bars as places of health. “Uh, excuse me, I’m trying to get drunk so I can drive home with some chick I just met so I can have unprotected sex with her and then not call her ever again, and someone’s blowing smoke near me!” Yeah, we have to save these poor victims from the evils of smoking…

Rather than ban people from smoking in bars, why don’t we allow fighting? Maybe then these jerkoffs who can’t get over the fact that they’re inhaling fumes almost half as dangerous as those spewing from every car being driven on the road will get what’s coming to them.

It’s also slowly progressing towards downright intolerance. First they partitioned smokers off in little rooms. Then they had to smoke outside. Then, because the steps of every building became the most convenient place to smoke, and non-smokers had to walk through it and see how fucking uncool they were by comparison, they are starting to make smokers walk X number of yards away from the entrance.

Why not just take the next step and make them wear tobacco leaf insignias on their clothing so we can all identify them and spit on them as they pass. We need to end smoking segregation before they’re all rounded up in Socialized Medicine Concentration Camps, where they’ll be executed for the increased aggregate cost to public health care they impose.

See, liberals can have crazy ideas about Nazis and the US government.

I know what some of you are thinking, “Liberals would do that.” Not really; American liberals are wasteful spenders who don’t care about going over budget. It would be Conservatives who want to cut costs, and would do so by getting rid of the most expensive people (probably by pulling the plug on grandma… the one thing they pretend to fear so badly right now). So liberals will lay the tracks, but Republicans will run the train off the rails. Mark my words…

Odd tangent there. For my next and final recap: Sicily.
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