Style and Substance

Style and Substance


A really fun video. It’s neat how the not only the clothes but also the music and dance moves change. (via Lissla Lissar)


2. Classical statues in hipster clothes.

When I saw the title, I rolled my eyes. Ugh. Hipsters. But when I clicked through to look at the photos they were oddly compelling. I think seeing them with the clothes makes it easier to see the faces as faces. You know Greek and Roman statues were originally painted. They were never supposed to be stark white. So there’s some of that effect. Also, seeing them in modern attire makes them more immediate somehow.


3.  Yes, Greek statues were originally painted

Though this comment seems to question how authentic the reconstructions are:

“It’s reasonable to assume that the painting on the figures was at least as sophisticated as the figures themselves. By the time of the Alexander Sarcophagus the subtlety of the sculpture has far outstripped the colors identified and applied by Brinkmann. This does not mean that Brinkmann has left the path of accurate reconstruction; it may mean that his ultimate goal is impossibly distant. The colors he has identified on later pieces are clearly just underpainting for a far more realistic final finish. This was the process used in Renaissance oil paintings of equivalent visual sophistication. The assumption that the painting was as sophisticated as the figures is an extremely conservative one. The artistic and manual skills required for realistic sculpting are far greater than those required for life-like painting of a finished figure. And the painting task was a relaxed one, far more amenable to messing around until the artist got it right. So painting was easier, less risky and, because of weathering, constantly in demand. It is reasonable to conclude that until sculpting reached its zenith, painting of figures was substantially more sophisticated than the figures themselves. With luck, Brinkmann will eventually find a piece with all the layers intact.

The full Smithsonian article.


4. Speaking of the Romans…. Ancient Roman Concrete Is about to Revolutionize Modern Architecture

Over the past decade, researchers from Italy and the U.S. have analyzed 11 harbors in the Mediterranean basin where, in many cases, 2,000-year-old (and sometimes older) headwaters constructed out of Roman concrete stand perfectly intact despite constant pounding by the sea.

The most common blend of modern concrete, known as Portland cement, a formulation in use for nearly 200 years, can’t come close to matching that track record, says Marie Jackson, a research engineer at the University of California at Berkeley who was part of the Roman concrete research team. “The maritime environment, in particular, is not good for Portland concrete. In seawater, it has a service life of less than 50 years. After that, it begins to erode,” Jackson says.

The secret to Roman concrete lies in its unique mineral formulation and production technique. As the researchers explain in a press release outlining their findings, “The Romans made concrete by mixing lime and volcanic rock. For underwater structures, lime and volcanic ash were mixed to form mortar, and this mortar and volcanic tuff were packed into wooden forms. The seawater instantly triggered a hot chemical reaction. The lime was hydrated—incorporating water molecules into its structure—and reacted with the ash to cement the whole mixture together.”

The Portland cement formula crucially lacks the lyme and volcanic ash mixture. As a result, it doesn’t bind quite as well when compared with the Roman concrete, researchers found. It is this inferior binding property that explains why structures made of Portland cement tend to weaken and crack after a few decades of use, Jackson says.



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  • Beautiful reflection. Thank you. I always seem to mentally skip over this phrase in the Creed. Your writing has caused me to reflect on this more deeply, and I am grateful.

  • I know I’m behind. Sorry.

    I keep coming back to this: “More, the Scriptures are the Word of God and God the Word who became Man is not just written about in the Scriptures. He is the Word of the Scriptures.”

    “According to the Scriptures.”

    According to Himself.

    Logically then, Christ was doing what He said He would do. Christ was being true to Himself.

    It also makes me wonder about the Bible. I realize it isn’t the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, but, as He is the Word and the Bible is the Word of God, is some aspect of Christ present in every Bible such that, while not the same as the Eucharist, does make it a living book?

    Or maybe I’ve gone off the deep end. The way the kids have been today, anything is possible.

  • Katherine,

    I don’t think you’ve gone off the deep end at all. I think that’s a great point.

    When my sister was studying theology at UD one of her classes had an opportunity to visit a local synagogue. She said one of the things that fascinated her the most was that there was a lamp in front of the place where they keep the Torah. It was very, very similar to the presence lamp in a Catholic Church and she said she had that same feeling of presence.

    You know I wonder if that is one of the reasons the Church initially presented some resistance to the idea of printed Bibles. Previously to the invention of the printing press all Bibles were hand copied by monks in scriptoria and the act of copying them was an act of prayer. Likewise the Torah is written by hand and writing it is an act of prayer. I think by mass printing copies of the Bible we have in a way lost something of that sense of the book itself as a sacred repository of God’s own Self.

    When studying the Mass, I have been struck by the way the Church emphasizes that Jesus is fed to us in the Mass in two ways. First, as the Word and second as the Eucharistic meal. We are fed at the table of His Word and then at the table of His Body.

  • Your mention of the reverence for the Torah reminds me of the Old Testament. If I recall correctly, God dwelled with Israel in the ark, which held the Ten Commandments, the words of the law. So it seems like the Word and the presence of God in a very real way go all the way back.

    I can understand the hesitancy to printing Bibles similarly to the caution of not receiving communion frequently… it is easy to become careless or thoughtless. Both have given way, but both lead to temptations of manipulative translations and irreverent treatment. I wonder what it might say about children’s bibles though…?

    It would also put special significance on the idea of having a family Bible and keeping the Bible in a respected place in the home. Writing family names in the Bible could easily be seen as a way of entrusting that person to God.

  • I’d say that children’s Bibles aren’t properly Bibles. Usually, they’re actually books of Bible Stories, selections from rather than an attempt to completely cover everything in the full Bible, highly abridged and often with a significant degree of interpretation. And I’ve always tried to make that distinction to Bella and the other kids: Theirs are Bible story picture books that retell the stories in the Bible while when I read from my book I’m reading from the Bible itself. (Not yet getting into the issue of translations, obviously.) Bella is sharp enough to notice some small differences between the two and we’ve talked about why they are there.

    We don’t have a family Bible, though I’ve often thought maybe we should.