Watchmen

Tough times evoke dreams of superheroes, even flawed ones like the characters in the new film “Watchmen.” Is the stock market down? Call for Dr. Wall Street. Is unemployment booming? Jobade to the rescue. Is there an insurgency to counter? Here comes Afghanisuperstan. Who, finally, should brood over the whole scene if not Punditocrat?

Freedom

“Spartacus, a Thracian man, once served as a soldier with the Romans, but as a consequence of being captured and sold, he ended up among the gladiators. He persuaded about seventy of them to fight for freedom and not for show at the games. After they overpowered the guards he ran off with them” (Appian, Civil Wars 1.116.539).

Marzo Pazzarello

“March is a crazy kid,” say the Italians. On a day when snow covers New York City and Washington but nothing worse than a blustery – and dry – wind blows here in the Finger Lakes, I’ll take that proverb. We Upstaters don’t wish bad weather on our neighbors, but we smile at the favors of a topsy-turvy month. After …

Look Up

History is not prayer. To pray is to aim for spiritual elevation while studying the past is more like plodding along. Yet perhaps history prepares the soul, even so, by teaching a simple lesson: we are not the first to pass this way.  Take, for example, the current mood of crisis in much of the world. The economy rumbles; corporations …

Sun-Worship, Spartacus Style

With the season for pilgrimages of a sort upon us – Spring Break road trips for college students, more tony treks for the Palm Beach set – I can’t help but reflect on a detail of Spartacus’s revolt. Most of the rebels were Northerners: Celts, Germans or Thracians (roughly, Bulgarians). The rebellion, however, was almost entirely a southern affair. It …

Slavedog Millionaire

If the movie Slumdog Millionaire wins the Oscar for Best Motion Picture on Sunday, it will owe some of its success to the same appeal as Spartacus’s story. Both tales feature an improbable rise from rags to riches – “rags to rajah,” as the film says, so make it “rags to regnum” for Spartacus. Both expose injustice and bigotry. Both …

A Valentine from Spartacus

Anything can be the stuff of romance when Hollywood gets its hands on it. Take Spartacus’s revolt, the slave uprising that shook Rome. The 1960 film classic Spartacus gave the rebel gladiator (Kirk Douglas) a love interest, Varinia (Jean Simmons), invented in turn by Howard Fast in his 1951 novel of the same name. Aram Khachaturian’s 1952 ballet, Spartacus also …

Spartacus, Entrepreneur

“What would Spartacus do if he were starting a small business today?” My wife, the businesswoman, asked me that at the breakfast table this morning and it got me thinking. In today’s tough times, you have to take your business advice where you can get it, even from the ancient past. Like today’s business leaders, yesteryear’s warriors such as Spartacus …