The town of Beit She’arim, in Galilee, has an important place in Jewish history. Founded during the reign of King Herod in the first century BC, Beit She’arim was a prosperous market town that became the de facto capital of Israel in AD 70, after the destruction of the Second Temple forced the Sanhedrin (the Jewish legislature and supreme council) to evacuate to Beit She’arim. The town was destroyed by fire during a rebellion in AD 352, and although it was resurrected by the Byzantines and later the Arabs, the town never regained its luster. In fact, it was a sleepy Arab village named Sheikh Bureik when it was purchased by the Jewish National Fund in the 1920s.
Beit She’arim was also the site of a large and important cemetery. Historically, the most desirable burial place for Jews was the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. But once Jews were barred from the area in AD 135, Beit She’arim became the main alternate burial place. Jews from as far away as Tyre and Palmyra were buried there, as was Rabbi Judah HaNasi, the second century AD Jewish leader who codified Jewish oral tradition into the Mishnah, which itself became the basis for the Talmud. Needless to say, HaNasi is a really important guy in Jewish history.
Because of all this, archaeologists had studied the area around Beit She’arim as far back as the 1880s. By the 1950s, the area around the cemetery had been excavated so well that it was decided to build a museum on the site. And so, in 1956, a bulldozer was brought in to flatten a small, archaeologically insignificant cave. But shortly after the bulldozer went to work, it hit a gigantic item that it couldn’t move. The item – which was 6½’ x 11′ and 18″ thick – weighed 9 tons and was, strangely enough, perfectly level on top.
With the Olympics bumping NBC’s Chuck, 30 Rock and The Office off the air – and many other networks airing re-runs – it’s kind of slim pickins right now when it comes to TV comedy. But there is one show out there that’s absolutely hilarious, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you need to do so as soon as possible:
Archer is an animated series on FX. It stars H. Jon Benjamin (Coach McGuirk from Home Movies) as Sterling Archer, an attractive and classy James Bond style secret agent who works for ISIS, a private intelligence agency. However, Sterling is also barely competent at times, has severe “mommy issues”, treats his butler like a dog, drinks at the office more than Don Draper, and thinks nothing of charging thousands of needless dollars on his expense account, especially for prostitutes.
He is also insanely jealous of the developing relationship between ex-girlfriend and fellow secret agent Lana (Aisha Tyler from Talk Soup and Friends) and ISIS comptroller Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell of SNL and 30 Rock). Jessica Walter (Lucille Bluth from Arrested Development) plays Malory Archer, Sterling’s mother and CEO of ISIS (which explains how Sterling manages to not get fired no matter what happens). Mother Archer has problems of her own, including an obsession with her dog which leads her to get an erotic portrait of her and the dog which mimics the iconic photograph of a nude John Lennon and Yoko Ono in bed. And speaking of issues, Mallory’s secretary Cheryl (Judy Greer from Miss Guided) has her own issues, mostly about wanting to be strangled to death during sex.
It sounds silly, and it is. But the show packs more hilarious one-liners in 20 minutes than other shows could do in an hour. I can’t help but giggle every time I hear these lines:
“Now let’s go bury this dead hooker”
“Seriously, call Kenny Loggins. Cause you’re in the Danger Zone”
“Oh god, with the curry again. This shirt smells likes Indira Gandhi’s thong”,
“God it’s like my brain’s that tree and you’re those little cookie elves!”
Sterling: “You killed a hooker!”
Cyril: “She was a call girl!”
Sterling: “No Cyril, when they’re dead they’re just hookers!”
Seriously, check it out. This show really brings the funny. It comes on FX at 10pm on Thursdays; your cable company might offer episodes on demand as well.
Well, as you can see, I’m trying out a new theme on the site. I used a tweaked version of the default WordPress theme for ages, and last night I just decided that it looked… old. So this morning I woke up and spent an hour or so looking through themes on the WordPress site.
Although I’m not really excited about the dark blue header, I do really like the rest of the theme, especially the giant font. As I get older, I realize that I don’t like reading long articles in tiny Arial type, so I find this theme much easier on the eyes. And unlike a lot of other WordPress themes, this one more or less worked right out of the box. I did have to tweak a few things, so let me summarize the changes for you now:
– I removed the “Archives” widget from the sidebar. WordPress, by default, puts a monthly summary of your posts in a widget called “Archives”. The thing is, once you’ve had a WP site for a couple of years, the Archive widget becomes extremely long, and there’s no way to compact it (say, by having a collapsible hierarchy for previous years). I’d been using a plug-in called “Collapsible Archives” which was supposed to collapse all previous years’ posts and only display the current month. However, a bug in a new version of the plug-in listed the titles of all posts in the current month, making the list almost as long as it was without the plug-in. So I disabled the plug-in and removed the widget from the sidebar.
I have a giant “virtual stack” of trivia items I’ve been building up over the past few weeks. Here are three of them:
– The Old Man of the Lake is a 30 foot tall tree stump that has been floating in Oregon’s Crater Lake since at least 1896. The stump, which has been bleached white over the years and can support a man’s weight, was first noted in print by geologist Joseph S. Diller, who wrote in 1902 that he’d seen the stump six years earlier. In 1938, a study of the stump was undertaken to see if it moved; the results were pretty spectacular: it does indeed move, and can do so very quickly. Boaters frequently note the position of the stump and relay it to other boaters for safety reasons.
– Every session of the British parliament is opened by the monarch, who travels from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament in a fine carriage. The House of Lords is assembled, and the monarch takes a seat on the throne. The House of Commons in then called to the chamber, and the monarch reads a speech which outlines the policies and goals of the current government. But what you might not know is that after the speech, a piece of legislation called the Outlawries Bill is introduced to the House of Commons. No member of the House orders the bill to be read, nor it is never printed, nor is any action taken on it. First used in 1727, the act of reading the bill is purely symbolic, to show the monarch that her (or his) speech cannot influence the business of the House. In other words, instead of running back to the House and arguing over what the monarch said, this bill reminds her (or him) that the House of Commons is independent.
– Mention the name Dallas Texans and most folks think of the AFL team that started in Dallas but later became the Kansas City Chiefs. Did you know that there was actually an NFL team called the Dallas Texans? And that they only lasted one season? And that they went 1-11?
– DMV employees in New York state are now in deep trouble for selling fake IDs. The gang, which netted over $1 million from the scam, didn’t sell the otherwise legitimate IDs to teenagers wanting to buy beer or get into nightclubs. For $7,000 to $10,000 a pop, the officials were selling them to convicted felons and sex offenders! Read more about it here.
– Internet Explorer 6, long hated due to security holes and the various tricks web developers had to use to get it to work with other browsers – has died. Well, not really. But on March 1, 2010, Google will kill IE6 support on Google Docs and Google sites (other Google sites will discontinue support sometime shortly after that). And YouTube is killing IE 6 support on March 13, 2010. So a company in Denver, Colorado called the Aten Design Group will hold a “funeral” for the browser on March 1 at 7pm. If you’re in or near Denver and wish to attend, read more about it here.
– Researchers at Georgia Gwinnett College have found that looking at pictures of curvy women actually activates the same pleasure centers in the male brain that drugs and alcohol do. In the study, 14 men were shown “before” pictures of the naked asses of seven women. They were then shown “after” pictures of the same asses after they had undergone cosmetic surgery to move fat from their waists to the buttocks. While it might seem like frivolous research, researchers are hopeful that the information sheds light on pornography additions, infidelity, and erectile dysfunctions in the absence of pornography. I’d also like to point out that I’d never heard of “Georgia Gwinnett College” before reading this article. Apparently, after I moved to Charlotte, the Georgia legislature voted to create a new four-year college to replace Gwinnett University Center, a large complex where various universities (including the University [sic] of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia State) offered various classes. Ya learn something new every day!
– Could dolphins hold the cure for diabetes? It seems that everyone’s favorite maritime mammal can turn the disease on and off, depending on how plentiful the food supply is.
– The Daily Mail has artist’s drawings of the new US embassy in London. It seems that the old embassy in Grosvenor Square is too small, too old, and too insecure. And personally, I think the old embassy has all the charm of heartless, 1950s Eastern European designs. The new embassy will be mostly glass and airy, and will be energy neutral, thanks to millions of solar cells placed on the exterior. I also like that the clever landscaping (terraced on one side; a pond on the other) negates the need for ugly security walls. What say you?
Back in the early 90s, there was a long stretch – almost a year and a half – when I didn’t date anyone. Sure, I went on a date here and there, but I just couldn’t find a girl I really liked. I still went to bars and nightclubs with friends, but I was kind of tired of that scene. I wanted something new to do.
One random day, I noticed that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Creative Loafing had lengthy lists of free classical music concerts held throughout the city. There were tons of the things every week, from something like “the choir of St. Luke’s Episcopal sings Bach’s oratorios” to the “Emory University Chamber Orchestra plays Haydn’s quartets”. Having grown up listening to a lot of classical music, I started going to these things almost every Sunday.
At around the same time, the Atlanta Symphony made headlines by hiring a 23 year-old named Christina Smith to be principal flautist. She wasn’t especially pretty, but she was around my age and in a major symphony orchestra, so she had a lot of “nerd appeal” (and if you click the link to see her picture, remember that she was much cuter eighteen years ago). As you might guess, I developed a minor crush on her.
One Sunday I pulled into a church parking lot for a show. I was sitting in my car, finishing a cigarette… when, to my great surprise, a car with Christina Smith inside pulled in to the space next to me! I quickly put out my smoke and followed her inside. And during the walk to the church, I gave up any notion of ever having a relationship with her. Not that I ever expected to have one anyway. I was still in college and living at home. But the brand new Mercedes her older, elegantly-dressed boyfriend drove and the way she snuggled up to him was an unwelcome “she’s out of your league” punch to the gut.
It seems that The Episcopal Church, in a cost-cutting move, has fired the unionized cleaning and maintenance company at the church’s Manhattan headquarters and replaced it with a cheaper, non-union company. This is a big-deal in union-friendly New York, and the move has angered people on both the left and right side of the church.
The left is angry that church leadership would turn its back on the working man, especially after TEC called upon other companies to use unionized labor. In fact, at the most recent General Convention, the House of Bishops took Disney to task for its union-busting policies… and now church leadership is doing the same thing!
For their part, the right is angry that the church would try to save a few thousand dollars at a time when it’s spending millions suing its own parishioners. One traditionalist said last week that “[m]illions are spent on lawyers by 815 while nine cleaners are fired to save a few thousand dollars”.