Thor into the Dark World

By now the Marvel formula is clear--- a little smash and dash, a little romance, a little pathos, a little humor (actually this one has got more than a little), a cameo appearance of Stan Lee himself (this time as an inmate in Bedlam, the insane asylum in London), and of course a trailer after the first credits giving a preview of the next installment of the now burgeoning Marvel film series.Of course there is something different about the Thor stories from other Marvel tales in that … [Read more...]

‘Mud’….and Mark Twain

Remember Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer? Two river rats that have adventures along the muddy Mississippi. Well 'Mud' is in various ways a story much like some of Twain's tales, focusing on two young boys, in this case Ellis and Neckbone of Dewitt Arkansas. They run into a man called Mud (brilliantly played by Matthew McConaughhey) hiding out on an island in the river, running from the Law. Seems he killed a man who was abusing his girlfriend. But, even though that girlfriend (Juniper, … [Read more...]

The Vatican Visit- Part Two

Once you are in the Vatican, you have to go to see St. Peter's, one of the largest churches in the world. We may talk about mega-churches, but we have no idea. This is the mother church for four billion Catholics. Yes, I said billion. No Protestant denomination or even Orthodox one is even close in size. Yuliya and I were given permission to have 30 minutes in St. Peter's by ourselves. The picture above is of course of Peter, who has a shiny left foot, from so many pilgrims rubbing it for … [Read more...]

Bella Italia Part Four (More from Orvieto)

The views from the city on the hill (which cannot be hid) are pretty spectacular. For instance, consider these shots....There is a pretty good archaeological museum with some Roman remains such as....And also....But old fashion domestic life, like hanging out the wash is in evidence everywhere...And you can always find another vine covered ristorante for dinner....Or another child who is far from bored staring at the boar outside the butcher's shop... … [Read more...]

Bella Italia Part Three (the inside of Orvieto Cathedral)

Once you get inside the zebra cathedral, things change in some ways. First of all there is still the zebra look with the marble and the basalt alternating in the walls and columns.But you also have beautiful stained glass windows, frescoes, and alcoves.By far the most impressive part of the interior is the chapel of the apocalypse and its amazing frescoes, which in fact inspired Michaelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.. Here is some of the Wiki explanation....Fra … [Read more...]

Bella Italia– Part Two (The Trip to Orvieto)

On any showing, Orvieto cathedral is one of the most interesting, and unique cathedrals in all the world. In 1290, Pope Nicholas IV laid the cornerstone for the building of this cathedral, originally designed to be a Romanesque basilica, using white marble and black basalt (hence the zebra look on the sides and back of the cathedral), as was so often the case, the cathedral was developed and added to over many centuries. Its front face and interior took on more of a Italian ornate Gothic style. … [Read more...]

Bella Italia– Part One (The Trip to Orvieto)

Perhaps my very favorite medieval town in a walled city on top of a small mountain is Orvieto in Umbria. It's only about an hour and a bit from Rome on the train, and well worth the trip. It has, among other things, a spectacular cathedral, equally spectacular food and beverages (including the famous Orvieto Classico wine) and lots of great shops. No wonder my alma mater UNC- Chapel Hill has a study house there. And you are about to see why I love this town. To get to it, you ride a train to … [Read more...]

The Vatican Visit– Part One

It was a beautiful Saturday morning (Oct. 26th). The sky was a brilliant Carolina blue, it was in the 60sF with a light breeze, and everything was clear and clean and sharply in focus. You had to work at it to take a bad picture on this morning. Yuliya, our Russian daughter, and I had taken a taxi to the Vatican to arrive in time for: 1) the reception; 2) the final two papers at the conference on the Historical Jesus; 3) the lunch with the Pope; 4) the audience with Pope Francis in Salle … [Read more...]

Roma Aeterna— Part One

What was the Rome of Paul's day like. My trip last week to Rome, Pompey, Herculaneum and other spots just confirmed to me once again that the Romans were the technological genius's of their age. Just an hour or two of studying the gigantic aqueducts which brought water into the city will leave you in awe of Roman engineering. Above you see a wonderful recreating of the city as it was in the late first century, with over a million people living on top of one another. It was the largest city in … [Read more...]