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August Recess.

Hello all. No, GitM’s not dead. As per several Augusts past, I’ve spent the past few weeks on August recess, confining my thoughts on the various nightmares unfolding in Ferguson, Gaza, Iraq, etc. to 140 characters on Twitter and Facebook.

In the meantime, my girlfriend Amy and I have been getting in lots of travel this month — first a long weekend in New Orleans where, among other things, I for the first time took in the French quarter, Frenchman St., and the future final resting place of thespian and scholar Nicolas Cage.

A fortnight later, we were off to Iberia for a stretch, with four and a half days in Barcelona and Lisbon each (with a brief, three-hour layover tour through Brussels — alas, we didn’t have time to visit my old stomping grounds of Waterloo.)

August is probably not the best time to visit Barcelona — it was as crowded as Times Square at times, on much narrower streets. Still, it’s an amazing World City, and Gaudi’s unfinished Sagrada Familia is like nothing you’ll see anywhere else in this system. Very highly recommended (although, again, perhaps not in August.)

By comparison, Lisbon and its dozens of ancient churches was more of a sleepy European capital. But it too had its charms, not the least Sintra and its ninth century Moorish castle, only an hour or so away by train.

In any event, if you want to peruse some photos from the trip (and aren’t already a Facebook friend), I’ve put three dozen or so up in the long-neglected Flickr feed. Suffice to say, a grand time was had!

Where It Began, I Can’t Begin to Knowin’.

“‘This is the oldest fortified settlement in the present United States,’ said historian and Florida State University alumnus Fletcher Crowe. ‘This fort is older than St. Augustine, considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in America. It’s older than the Lost Colony of Virginia by 21 years; older than the 1607 fort of Jamestown by 45 years; and predates the landing of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts in 1620 by 56 years.'”

Two Florida professors announce they have found the site of Fort Caroline, a French outpost ravaged by the Spanish in 1565, near Darien, Georgia — not near Jacksonville where it was thought to be. ‘The frustrating and often acrimonious quest to find the fort has become a sort of American quest for the Holy Grail by archaeologists, historians and other scholars,’ he noted. ‘The inability to find the fort has made some wonder if it ever existed.'”

But other researchers are saying hold up. “‘It’s not conceivable that the soldiers could have made it to the Altamaha River from St. Augustine in two days…If they are correct, then the Spanish would have moved the St. Augustine settlement 70 miles south, to its present location. There is simply no evidence for this,’ said Meide. ‘This new theory doesn’t stand up to the archaeological and historical information that has been amassed by scholars over the past fifty years.'”

Thus far, archaeologists have yet to scope the newly proposed site. So, with all due respect to fellow historians, I’d probably wait to see what they find first.

Atlantis Rising?

“‘This is the power of tsunamis,’ head researcher Richard Freund told Reuters. ‘It is just so hard to understand that it can wipe out 60 miles inland, and that’s pretty much what we’re talking about.‘”

As a modern-day tsunami wreaks catastrophe in Japan, researchers think they may have found the original Atlantis in the mud flats of Spain. “To solve the age-old mystery, the team used a satellite photo of a suspected submerged city to find the site just north of Cadiz, Spain…The team of archeologists and geologists in 2009 and 2010 used a combination of deep-ground radar, digital mapping, and underwater technology to survey the site.

El Siglo de Oro.

Congrats to Spain on winning the World Cup 1-0 yesterday (and to Pulpo Paul for going eight-for-eight this Cup, the most impressive run by a psychic cephalopod since the twelfth chapter of Watchmen.) I was rooting for the Netherlands going in to yesterday’s game, but after a chippy game from the Dutch, Spain probably deserved it. On to 2014!

The Great Flood…and a blow to the Annalistes.

“In a period ranging from a few months to two years, the scientists say that 90% of the water was transferred into the basin. ‘This extremely abrupt flood may have involved peak rates of sea level rise in the Mediterranean of more than 10m per day,’ he and his colleagues wrote in the Nature paper.” A new study suggests that, over five million years ago and with an event called the Zanclean flood, the Mediterranean Sea may have been re-formed in as little as two years. “The team estimates the peak flow to have been around 1000 times higher than the present Amazon river at its highest rate.

Coincidentally, two years is about as long as it takes to read Ferdinand Braudel’s seminal two-part history of the Mediterranean. Cut to the chase, man!

“A Miracle on Grass.”

“The stunning 2-0 victory by the United States over Spain — the best team in the world — is probably the greatest victory by the men’s national soccer team. And when you think of it, the victory Wednesday is probably the second-biggest upset by an American team, behind only the 1980 Miracle on Ice by the hockey team over the Soviet Union in the Olympics.” The NYT’s George Vecsey sings the praises of the surprising 2-0 US win over #1-ranked Spain yesterday in the Confederations Cup.

I happened to catch the entire game and, while Spain looked like the dominant team for most of the match (particularly the top of the second half, when they unleashed a barrage of quality shots on goal), USA definitely capitalized on their limited offensive opportunities — I thought goal No. 2, above, was particularly pretty.

Down and Out in Catalonia.

“I have the most evil memories of Spain, but I have very few bad memories of Spaniards. I only twice remember even being seriously angry with a Spaniard, and on each occasion, when I look back, I believe I was in the wrong myself. They have, there is no doubt, a generosity, a species of nobility, that do not really belong to the twentieth century. It is this that makes one hope that in Spain even Fascism may take a comparatively loose and bearable form. Few Spaniards possess the damnable efficiency and consistency that a modern totalitarian state needs.”

Apparently, Chariots of Fire director Hugh Hudson is now set to make a film version of Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell’s autobiographical account of the Spanish Civil War. “The film will highlight the relationship between Orwell and Georges Kopp, the charismatic commander of the brigade. Colin Firth and Kevin Spacey are attached to star as Orwell and Kopp.” Hmm. That relationship isn’t what I remember taking away from the (excellent) book, and that casting actually sounds pretty terrible to me. (For Orwell, I’d go with someone like Paddy Considine. For Kopp, I’d go with someone who isn’t Kevin Spacey.) But let’s see how it goes.

The Dream Redeemed.

“‘We played with great character in one of the great games in international basketball history, I think,’ U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said.” Congrats to the US men’s Olympic basketball team, who returned to golden form this morning by closing out Spain 118-107. (Now, Coach D’Antoni, get thee to the Knickerbockers. We have work to do!)

Rebecca Scarlett Barcelona.

No longer fighting over Christian Bale, Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson get caught up in complications with Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz in the trailer for Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, also starring Patricia Clarkson. The word from Cannes was that Allen may be back in form after the insubstantial Scoop and the atrocious Cassandra’s Dream, so here’s hoping for the best.

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