In 600 B.C., construction began on a paved trackway at the Isthmus of Corinth, which became known as the Diolkos. Wheel ruts of the exact gauge of then-modern wagon wheel axles were built in to the road, so that boats and other heavy industry could be carted from Ionian Sea to the Aegean Sea without …
Pace University gave me a weekend in February to make a short film with these six ridiculously talented BFA acting seniors, who are about to graduate and absolutely slay the industry. I abused the privilege as an exorcising of my 2017 political angst. The result is this dark comedy about what millennials are actually like behind closed doors.
Two friends of mine were driving on the Grapevine, which is a braided ribbon of highway climbing over the hills one hour north of Los Angeles. They were high school sweethearts, they had just gotten engaged, and they were in the middle of a knock-down-drag-out fight over something neither of them can now remember. At …
On the morning of October 15, 1908, Italian poet Filippo Tomasso Marinetti was speeding down Via Dormodossola in Milan. Rounding a sharp corner, two cyclists on penny-farthings blocked his way and he had no option but to veer into a ditch. His Runabout flipped twice and he was briefly knocked unconscious. When he awoke and was pulled to safety by the cyclists, he announced to them that having been a step away from death, he now knew we had nothing to fear from speed, that speed was the greatest thing to happen to man, and he resolved right there that his next move would be to launch an artistic movement.
Filippo Tomasso Marinetti was a nutcase.
Attending the wedding of some friends a few years prior, his toast took the form of an epic poem he’d composed for the occasion, entitled The Bleeding Mummy, which recounted, to the stupefied guests, the story of a pharaoh’s daughter waking each night to beg the moon for her dead lover’s body to be restored, so they could get it on in their crypt.
Prior to 46 BC, no one in Rome knew what day it was. The calendar was tightly controlled by the priest class. They based it on cycles of the moon, and some years would have fifteen months, others would have eleven. Sometimes different priests would tell you it was a different day depending on how it might serve them. The first of the month would roll around a little more often for landlord priests, and priests in the senate always seemed to meet their deadlines.
Finally, Julius Caesar had had enough. He named 46 BC Annus Ultimatum Confusiosis, the final year of confusion. He took the calendar away from the corrupted priest class, tasked some astronomers to create a new system, and then placed all the information into the hands of the common man.
Suddenly Joeius Blowius on the Appian Way didn’t need to curry favor with a cleric just to find out what day it was. Meetings could be planned far in advance. Annual events became commonplace.
Caesar took what was seen as a massive risk disseminating power over information to the populace, but the Roman economy exploded in the century that followed. Ice cores in Greenland show that lead production would nearly double by 50 AD. It’s difficult to know if the calendar had anything to do with this burst of industry, but the difference between giving a man a fish and teaching him how to Filofax is quite clear.
The Federal Housing Act of 1949 allowed, finally, for the eradication of tenement slums. Until then, generations of underprivileged Americans would memorize the annual date and time of the sun’s only brief appearance in their cramped, basement homes. Children would stay home from school to see it, and watch as the family pet stretched in the yearly rectangle of brilliance on their broken, chipped floors. Leaky tin roofs, dark passageways and rampant garbage-born illness had melted even the most conservative congressional hearts into legislating a chance for a new post-war life for the poorest Americans.
As these tenements were torn down, the wooden windowsills would often be found with two smooth depressions which had come from generations of women’s elbows leaning out to enjoy the passing street life, exchange gossip across the way, and mete out verbal justice to the children below.
Now, federal money created the opportunity for new forms of urban housing that would bring prosperity to all levels of society.
Enter the Congrès Internationale d’Architecture Moderne.
Leopold and Anna Maria Mozart were determined to have family, with a daughter named Maria and a son named Johann.
It took them seven tries.
Johann Leopold was born in August of 1748 and lived almost six months. Maria Cordula was born the following June but lived less than a week. Maria Nepomucena was born the next May, and lived two-and-a-half months. One year later Maria Anna was born, became known as Nannerl, and emerged from the biological gauntlet of 18th century childhood to live to 78 years old. A son, Johann Karl, and a daughter named Maria Crescentia followed, but neither would live beyond three months. Their seventh child and final child was born on January 27, 1756 and they named him Johann Chrysostomus Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He would live 35 years.
Leopold and Maria determined themselves to push past the world’s most unimaginable pain five times to finish the family they started. The Mozarts were finishers. The Mozarts could close the deal.
Maria was irrepressible and funny. She encouraged little Johann Chrysostomus’s love of scatological humor. So much so that when he composed his 1788 canon Difficile Lectu in F Major, he included the quasi-Latin lyric “lectu mihi mars,” which, when perceived phonetically in German, became “Leck du mich im Arsch,” or lick my ass.