Lots of interesting stuff in the news today – mostly from the NY Times, as it’s one of the chief news sources I read.
*Anthropologist E.B. Banning argues that Gobekli Tepe, an 11,000-year-old site that has been billed as the world’s first temple, may not have been exclusively or primarily a sacred space, and further, that the dichotomy between sacred spaces and secular (mundane) spaces [I don’t like the word profane], is a rather modern concept.
Actually, we just discussed just yesterday in the course I’m TAing how churches and mosques have always, historically, traditionally, served as more than just religious spaces, but as community centers as well, where a wide variety of activities took place.
*Thanks to the Heritage of Japan blog for sharing links and content from several news articles today discussing the newly opened museum at Tôdai-ji, a temple established in 752 to be the central, chief Buddhist temple for all of Japan.
For those unfamiliar, Tôdai-ji, in the city of Nara, contains the largest bronze Buddha in Japan, and the largest wooden building in the world. This new museum will feature a great many National Treasures and other treasures of Japanese Buddhist art not so easily (if at all) accessible, that is, viewable, by the public previously. I look forward to my next trip to Nara to visit and check it out myself.
*Art Spiegelman has published a book entitled Metamaus, in which he looks back and discusses his groundbreaking graphic novel ‘Maus’. The first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize, ‘Maus’ is a Holocaust story told using animal characters (cats for Nazis, mice for Jews).
I have to admit, I’ve never actually read ‘Maus’. (gasp!) But, despite the glut of indie comics and all sorts of things that are out there these days, I think it really stands as one of the shining examples of what the “visual sequential narrative” format can be. It can be serious. It can be literature. It can be dark, and powerful, and meaningful.
*A discovery has been made in South Africa of 100,000 year old tools used to make ocher pigments for painting. This is by far the oldest evidence we have yet found of human painting, and how it was done. By contrast, while apparently painting workshop finds have been found dating back 60,000 years, some of the most famous examples of cave painting, such as those at Lascaux, go back only 17,000 years.
*Meanwhile, Thailand is suffering from some of the worst flooding in decades, and UNESCO is dispatching a team to assess the damage to World Heritage Sites in Ayutthaya, the early modern capital (1350-1767) of the Thai kingdom.
*And, finally, bad news, ladies. The heartthrob king of girls all across Asia, 31-year-old King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck of Bhutan, is now married. It sounds like it was a beautiful, colorful, and traditional ceremony, with royal astrologers choosing the time for the celebration, gold and red traditional costume, golden Buddhas, and of course the Raven crown.
I’m kind of surprised that royals from other countries, or other celebrities, were not invited or present. But, then, perhaps we shouldn’t be. This is not about the spectacle (well, it is, in that it’s a royal wedding. But it’s domestic spectacle), not about People magazine, or about showing off the good life for/with other royals from around the world.
I won’t pretend to know all that much about Bhutanese politics, or culture, but from what little I know, the king seems quite down-to-earth, accessible and open to speaking with commoners, very much beloved, and, as far as I know, a very capable ruler, in terms of economic and political policy, balancing modernization/Westernization with tradition and protecting Bhutan’s unique cultural identity. Congratulations to him on his marriage (and to his 21-year-old bride, the daughter of an airline pilot, and now newly royalty!), and all the best wishes for the future!