In just a few more days it will be 2016, and the slow news zone of the holidays will be over. I sure hope the new year will be an improvement over 2015. At least I’m hoping to see woman President of the U.S. by next year’s end.
I’m going to avoid politics today. I’m just not in the mood for stories about Donald Trump attacking Hillary and anyone else who dares to say something truthful about him and his campaign.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by the story of Pompeii and how the city was frozen in time by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The ancient city is in the news now, because Italy has restored six houses and opened them to public view. CNN:
Newly restored ruins in the ancient city of Pompeii, with intricate mosaic tiles, bathhouses and even graffiti were officially unveiled to the public on Thursday after a lengthy restoration process.
The project, including six restored homes, is the result of a 2012 partnership between the EU’s European Commission and Italian authorities.
The partnership spent 150 million Euros for 12 projects geared towards consolidating “high risk” structures, building a drainage system, and restoring artifacts at the UNESCO World Heritage site situated near Naples, Italy.
Pompeii is one of most famous historical sites in the world. In 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius buried the town and its unsuspecting inhabitants in hot rock, volcanic ash and noxious gas. Those who did not escape, suffocated or burned. Some were covered in several feet of ash and preserved and fossilized in the process. The resulting archeological record is remarkable. Its furnished rooms, paintings and even plaster casts of deceased inhabitants offer a detailed picture of life during the Early Roman Empire.
The Italian government has been accused of neglecting the historic site, but now it is apparently committed to maintaining and improving it.
The Villa dei Misteri (Villa of Mysteries), an estate on the outskirts of Pompeii’s city centre that features some of the best-preserved frescoes of the site, is now open to the public after one of many restoration projects ordered by the EU….
Pompeii, a busy commercial city overlooking the Mediterranean, was destroyed in A.D. 79 by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius that killed thousands of people and buried the city in 20 feet of volcanic ash.
But the ash also helped preserve Pompeii’s treasures, providing precious information about life in the ancient world.
The first excavations began in the 18th century, but even today only two-thirds of the site’s 60 hectares (150 acres) have been uncovered.
In recent years, Pompeii has been bedeviled by neglect and mismanagement characteristic of Italy’s underdeveloped south, as well as brushes with the corruption that has infected some other important public works in Italy, including its Expo 2015 World’s Fair in Milan and the Moses water barrier project in Venice.
The ash also preserved the shapes of the bodies of many people who perished in the disaster.
Through plaster casts experts have managed to show the devastating scene of a ‘scared boy on his mother’s lap’.
It is thought the child, who was around four, had run to his mother as Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered the Roman town in ash in 79 AD. Read about the making of the plaster casts at the link.
You can see many more stunning photos from Pompeii at the links I’ve provided and at this Pinterest page.
NPR recently covered the story of another important restoration project, that of Ernest Hemingway’s home in Cuba.
It’s been a year since the U.S. and Cuba began normalizing relations. Tourism, business and cultural exchanges are booming. And there is another curious benefactor of those warmer ties — Ernest Hemingway, or at least, his legacy. The writer lived just outside of Havana for 20 years, and that house, called the Finca Vigia, has long been a national museum.
But years of hot, humid Caribbean weather has taken a toll on the author’s thousands of papers and books. A Boston-based foundation is helping restore those weathered treasures, and who better to lead that effort than the original dean of home repairs: Bob Vila, of public television’s This Old House. He tells NPR’s Carrie Kahn that he has a personal connection to Cuba. “I’m American-born Cuban,” he says. “My Havana-born parents emigrated during the latter part of World War II, and I was born in Miami, raised there and partially in Havana up until the revolution in 1959.”
Read more about the project and listen to the story at the link above.
Did you hear about the siting of a giant squid in Japan on December 24? From CNN:
It isn’t every day that a mystery from the deep swims into plain sight. But on Christmas Eve, spectators on a pier in Toyama Bay in central Japan were treated to a rare sighting of a giant squid.
The creature swam under fishing boats and close to the surface of Toyama Bay, better known for its firefly squid, and reportedly hung around the bay for several hours before it was ushered back to open water.
It was captured on video by a submersible camera, and even joined by a diver, Akinobu Kimura, owner of Diving Shop Kaiyu, who swam in close proximity to the red-and-white real-life sea monster.
“My curiosity was way bigger than fear, so I jumped into the water and go close to it,” he told CNN.
“This squid was not damaged and looked lively, spurting ink and trying to entangle his tentacles around me. I guided the squid toward to the ocean, several hundred meters from the area it was found in, and it disappeared into the deep sea.” Here’s a screen shot from video footage (CBS News).
I was browsing through some end-of-the-year articles on books, and I came across this interesting article at the BBC. The article is based on a new book by Dominic Sandbrook:
Taking Tolkien seriously is inevitably complicated by the fact that he has long been associated in the public mind with a sweaty, furtive gang of misfits and weirdoes – by which I mean those critics who for more than half a century have been sneering at his books and their readers. Self-consciously highbrow types often have surprisingly intolerant views about what other people ought to be writing, and when the first volume of The Lord of the Rings was published in the summer of 1954, a few weeks before Lord of the Flies, many were appalled by its nostalgic medievalism.
A prime example was the American modernist Edmund Wilson, who in a hilariously wrong-headed review for The Nation dismissed Tolkien’s book as “juvenile trash”, marked by – of all things! – an “impotence of imagination”. In the New Statesman, meanwhile, Maurice Richardson, himself a writer of surreal fantasy stories, conceded that The Lord of the Rings might appeal to “very leisured boys”, but claimed that it made him want to march through the streets carrying the sign: “Adults of all ages! Unite against the infantilist invasion.”
Even decades later, long after Tolkien’s book had become an international cultural phenomenon, the academic medievalist Peter Godman was still assuring readers of the London Review of Books that it was merely an “entertaining diversion for pre-teenage children”. Michael Moorcock, likening it to the works of A A Milne, dismissed The Lord of the Rings as “a pernicious confirmation of the values of a morally bankrupt middle class“, while Philip Pullman, always keen to sneer at those authors from whom he had borrowed so liberally, called it “trivial“, and “not worth arguing with”. Yet none of this, of course, has ever made the slightest dent in Tolkien’s popularity.
Read the rest at the link.
Finally, here’s an interesting piece on a popular book of the moment and how it got confused with another book of the same title.
The Girl on the Train is a psychological thriller, set in contemporary London, with a female protagonist and a female author — Paula Hawkins. It was published this year, and received wide acclaim.
Girl on a Train is a psychological thriller, set in contemporary London, with a female protagonist and a female author — Alison Waines. It was published in 2013, and received almost no attention….
“An incredible number of people were buying the wrong book,” reporter David Benoit tells NPR’s Linda Wertheimer.
Benoit revealed the case of mistaken identity in the Wall Street Journal — after he experienced it first-hand….
Now Waine’s book is selling well.
“Writing had always been a hobby for her,” Benoit says, but this year she says she sold over 30,000 copies of her book.
And she’s excited to see what happens when her next book comes out….
“Many readers who admit they bought the wrong book liked it anyway,” Benoit wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
“One woman I talked to actually liked Miss Waines’ book better than Miss Hawkins’ book,” Benoit tells Wertheimer.
She made her book club, which had planned on reading the best-seller, pick up Girl on a Train instead.
I might just check that one out.
What stories are you following today? Please share in the comment thread and have a great day.