Tuesday, June 28, 2016

First Written Account of a UFO Sighting- Ancient Egypt

Statue of Thutmose III
            The following excerpt was written more than 3,400 years ago. It was composed in hieroglyphics on a papyrus scroll and was part of the annals of Pharaoh Thutmose the 3rd, who reigned roughly from around 1504-1450 BCE. It seems to describe what modern believers would call a UFO encounter.
            “In the year 22, of the 3rd month of winter, sixth hour of the day… the scribes of the House of Life found it was a circle of fire that was coming in the sky…It had no head, the breath of its mouth had a foul odor. Its body one rod long and one rod wide. It had no voice. Their hearts became confused through it; then they laid themselves on their bellies…They went to the Pharaoh to report it. His Majesty ordered... [an examination of] all which is written on papyrus rolls of the House of Life.
Original papyrus scroll this excerpt was written on
            "His Majesty was meditating upon what happened. Now after some days had passed, these things became more numerous in the skies than ever. They shone more in the sun, and extended to the limits of the four supports of the heavens…Powerful was the position of the fire circles. The army of the Pharaoh looked on with him in the midst. It was after supper. Thereupon, these fire circles ascended higher in the sky towards the south…The Pharaoh caused incense to be brought to make peace on the hearth… And what happened was ordered by the Pharaoh to be written in the annals of the House of Life… so that it be remembered forever.”
            Make of that what you will. Caveat Emptor.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Parable of the Weeping Bitch

            This is an old story which comes from the 10th century quill of Petrus Alfonsi. Born a Sephardic Jew named Moses, he was educated in both Hebrew and Arabic and may have been a physician attached to one of the Islamic courts in al-Andalus (modern Spain). After migrating to England, Petrus made a strong impact on the history of science as well as literary history
            He wrote two major works: the Disciplina Clericalis and the Dialogi contra Iudaeos (Dialogues against the Jews). This is a story from the first one.

                            The Parable of the Weeping Bitch
            It is related that a nobleman had a very chaste and beautiful wife. He wanted to go to Rome to pray in the holy places, and he did not want to leave any other guardian for his wife but herself, trusting in her chaste habits and the honor of her uprightness. When the retinue was ready, he departed and the wife remained, living chastely and acting prudently in all things.
            It happened that she needed something, and she left her own house and went to a neighboring house. As she came home after transacting her business, a young man saw her and fell madly in love with her. He, desiring to be loved by her for whom he burned so ardently, sent many messages to her. But she refused his messages and rejected him completely.
            The young man seeing himself utterly scorned, grief-stricken, fell gravely ill; but nevertheless he would often go where he had seen his lady leave, hoping to meet her; but he was not able to effect it at all. Weeping for sorrow, he met an old woman wearing the habit of a nun, and she asked the cause of his unhappiness; but the young man was not very anxious to reveal what was going on in his mind.
            The old woman said to him, “The longer a sick man delays in revealing his illness to the doctor, the more he will suffer from the illness.”
            Hearing this, he told her what had happened to him and his secret.
            The old lady said to him, “With God’s help I’ll find a remedy for what you have told me.”
            And she left him and returned to her own house. She forced a little dog which she had at home to go without food for two days. On the third day she gave the hungry dog bread made with mustard, and as the dog ate the bread, its eyes began to water with the sharpness of the mustard. The old woman brought the little dog to the house of the chaste woman whom the young man loved, and the woman received her respectfully because of her very religious appearance. The little bitch was following the old woman. When the woman saw it weeping, she asked what was wrong with it and why it was crying.
            The old woman said to her, “Dear friend, do not ask what is wrong, because the sorrow is so great that I can hardly talk about it.”
            And the woman begged her even more earnestly to tell her.
            The old woman: “This little dog which you see was my daughter, who was very chaste and modest and was loved by a young man; but she was so chaste that she spurned him and rejected his love. The young man, pining away, became very ill. For her sin, my wretched daughter was turned into a little bitch.” And so saying, the old lady burst into tears.
            The decent woman said at this, “O dear lady, what shall I do? I am guilty of a similar crime; for a young man loves me, but because of my love of chastity I have disdained him, and he has also fallen ill.”
            “Dear friend, I advise you to have pity on him as quickly as possible and do what he asks, so that you may not be turned into a dog just as my daughter was. If I had known of the love between my daughter and the young man, my daughter would never have been transformed.”
            The chaste woman said to her, “I beg you to give me good advice, so that I may not be turned into a little bitch, deprived of my own form.”
            “Willingly,” said the old woman, “for the love of God and the health of my soul and because I feel sorry for you, I will seek the young man, and if he can be found, I will bring him back to you.”
            The woman thanked her, and the wily old woman kept her word and brought back the young man, as she had promised and thus brought them together.
            The pupil said to the teacher, “I have never heard anything so astounding, and I think it was done with black magic.”
            The teacher: “Have no doubt!”
            The pupil: “I think that if any man is wise enough always to fear being deceived by women’s tricks, perhaps he will be able to guard himself against them.”
            The teacher: “I know of a certain man who took great precautions to guard his wife; but he did not gain anything by it.”
            The pupil: “Tell me what he did, teacher, so I will be better able to guard my wife, if I ever marry.”

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Fire & Ice: A Ralph Bakshi Masterpiece

          Fire and Ice, while on the surface your standard fare of good versus evil fantasy, but in terms of style and presentation it surpasses most of them by quite a bit. This was due to a lot to the partnership between Ralph Bakshi and Frank Frazetta, which culminated in a visually striking film.
By 1982, fantasy films had proven to be considerably successful at the box office, including The Beastmaster (to be a later blog) and Conan the Barbarian. Bakshi received $1.2 million to finance Fire and Ice from some of the same investors as American Pop, and 20th Century Fox agreed to distribute the film based upon the financial longevity of Wizards
Subhumans in Fire and Ice
          Bakshi hot off The Lord of the Rings (to a great disappointment to many the sequel was never completed) used many of the visual techniques and acting styles as he had done previously, especially with the race of Sub-Humans who work for the evil wizard. These are obviously orc equivalents, and they move and sound in a similar manner.  
          And since it would be a heavily action orientated film he decided to use rotoscoping again, as he had with Lord of the Rings, American Pop, and Wizards. Rotoscoping, for those who aren’t quite sure is an animation technique where animators trace over live footage, frame by frame. Originally, recorded live-action movie images were projected onto a frosted glass panel and re-drawn by an animator. This projection equipment is referred to as a rotoscope. Although this device was eventually replaced by computers, the process is still referred to as rotoscoping. The technique is almost as old as cinema, invented in 1917 by Max Fleischer for a Koko the Clown cartoon. And while Bakshi didn’t invent it, he certainly popularized it, perhaps utilizing it more than anyone since Fleischer had.
          Over a thousand background paintings were done for the film, several by Franzetta himself. Two other notable artists on it were Thomas Kinkade (known as the "Painter of Light") and James Gurney, creator and painter of the popular "Dinotopia" series of illustrated novels. It was written by two veteran Conan comics writers, Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway.  
Some critics claim that the plot was paper thin and added very little to the genre. And while I agree there isn’t much plot, I think time has proven that this film has had an impact- just not a world shattering one. People remember this film after they see it, even twenty years later bits and pieces of it stick out. Frazetta and Bakshi knew that the fantasy film genre depended more on visuals and atmosphere. And that is what they gave us in spades.
The plot from what there is: From their stronghold in Icepeak, the evil Queen Juliana and her son, Nekron send forth a wave of glaciers, forcing humanity to retreat south towards the equator. Nekron sends a delegation to King Jarol in Firekeep to request his surrender, but this is a ruse orchestrated by Queen Juliana for Nekron’s sub-humans to kidnap Jarol’s voluptuous and always near naked daughter, Princess Teegra. Queen Juliana feels that Nekron should take a bride to produce an heir.
But Teegra makes an escape and comes upon Larn, a young warrior and the only survivor of a village razed by glaciers, who offers to escort her back to Firekeep. As Teegra is recaptured, Larn teams with the mysterious Darkwolf to save Teegra and then travel to Icepeak to stop Juliana. Darkwolf faces Nekron and kills him as Icepeak succumbs to lava released by King Jarol and is destroyed.
            The film finishes with Larn about to kill a beaten sub-human until Teegra stops him saying that "it's over" and embraces him. Darkwolf is seen atop a cliff; he watches the pair, smiles and then disappears. Teegra and Larn kiss as the credits roll.
          Again not the most original or ground breaking story, but the actions scenes are incredible. You will not forget them.
          The full film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!