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Oscar Moment: Mel Gibson to Speak in Tongues

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Ever idiosyncratic, Mel Gibson will appear briefly in tonight’s Oscar ceremonies speaking a language not typically heard in such settings: ancient Maya.

Gibson, 50, is currently filming Apocalypto — an adventure epic set in ancient Mayan Mexico — on the edge of southern Mexico’s rainforests in the state of Veracruz. All the dialogue in the film is spoken in Maya. “I wanted to shake up the stale action-adventure genre,” Gibson told Time magazine. “So I think we almost had to come up with something utterly different like this.”

The film, which Gibson co-wrote with first-time screenwriter Farhad Safinia, is hthe first he has directed since the wildly successful and controversial The Passion of the Christ (which was performed in Latin and Aramaic), and is, according to Time, an “allegory about the collapse of civilizations, with warnings about environmental abuse and political fear-mongering.”

The Maya have been rocking the new of late. Just last month NASA scientists announced they are using space- and aircraft-based “remote-sensing” technology to uncover Maya ruins not recognized in over 1,000 years using the chemical signature of the civilization’s building materials.

(False-color image taken by the commercial Earth-observation satellite IKONOS shows a Guatemalan “bajo,” or a broad, lowland area that is often partially submerged during the rainy season. The yellowish areas, which denote discolorations of the dense forest canopy, also pinpoint ancient Maya building sites – NASA)

“From the air, everything but the tops of very few surviving pyramids are hidden by the tree canopy,” said NASA archaeologist Tom Sever, a pioneer in the use of aerospace remote-sensing for archaeology. “On the ground, the 60- to 100-foot trees and dense undergrowth can obscure objects as close as 10 feet away. Explorers can stumble right through an ancient city that once housed thousands and never even realize it.”

Sever’s team discovered a correlation between the color and reflectivity of the vegetation seen in the images and the location of known archaeological sites. In 2004 they hiked deep into the jungle to locations guided by the satellite images, and uncovered a series of Maya settlements exactly where the technology had predicted they would be found. Images have now helped the team survey an uncharted region around San Bartolo, Guatemala.

What caused the “signature” discoloration? The Maya built their cities and towns with excavated limestone and lime plasters, and as their structures crumbled the lack of moisture and nutritional elements inside the ruins suppressed some plant species, and discolored or completely killed off others as disintegrating plaster changed the chemical content of the soil around each structure.

“Over the centuries, the changes became dramatic,” said team member William Saturno, an archaeologist at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. “This pattern of small details, impossible to see from the forest floor or low-altitude planes, turned out to be a virtual roadmap to ancient Maya sites when seen from space.”

For some context, I spoke with Peter Dunham, an archaeologist at Cleveland State University specializing in the Maya, about the ancient civilization.

Eric Olsen – What interests you about the Maya?

Peter Dunham – I think we identify with them. They had all the complex features that we do: a remarkable system of mathematics, they invented their own writing system. Remember, we didn’t – we borrowed ours. They had absolutely fantastic astronomical knowledge, terribly accomplished architects. They were very, very talented artists and sculptors.

They managed to build this remarkable civilization in the middle of a tropical rain forest: precisely the environment that most successfully resists our inroads today. There are huge areas of Belize that I work in that are full of ancient ruins and not one modern human being because we haven’t really figured out how to sustain our civilization in that environment, but they did.

EO – Since 1992, Dr. Dunham has led an archaeological project in Belize, on the Yucatan Peninsula just below Mexico. What’s it like working there?

PD – Basically, what you have there are canyons in the jungle. You also have sheer towers of stone, so the environment is really a glorious one. It’s also for those very reasons, however, a very challenging one. It’s very hot, very humid. When you get into these canyons there’s no breeze whatsoever, and you have to carry a pack full of your gear, and it gives you a real sense of the terrain. Along one of the rivers, this one river in particular is one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever seen anywhere: the water is sort of like liquid turquoise.

EO – The Mayas thrived in the rain forest of Central America, but after peaking between 600 and 800 AD, their civilization declined alarmingly. What happened?

PD – Many of us labor under the misassumption that the Maya disappeared – they didn’t. There are still several million Maya people today who take exception to the idea that they disappeared, but they certainly underwent a significant transformation in the century between 800 and 900-or-so AD. And, I think one of the things that draws many of us to the Maya is just that: because if we identify with them as being like ourselves and they experienced this dramatic and traumatic decline, then doesn’t that mean that we too ourselves could face something like that? And the answer to that question is “yes.” The rules of civilization are the same no matter where or when you play the game.

EO – Through the work of archaeologists, including Peter Dunham, we have learned that a multitude of factors piled up on the Maya until their civilization could bear the weight no more, including environmental degradation caused by overfarming and overpopulation, climate change, drought, malnutrition and disease, and the inability of the political, social, and belief systems to deal with these problems.

PD – We have the good fortune that we actually recognize these issues and we have sciences devoted to trying to address them. This happened so quickly to the Maya that I’m not quite sure they recognized what the problems were, let alone figure out how to resolve them.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.apocalyptowatch.com Apocalypto Watch

    We’ve been covering the production of Apocalypto for several months now

  • Scott Butki

    well it ended up being – in my opinion – no bigi deal, lastening just seconds.

  • Eric Olsen

    so quick I missed it!

    Interesting stuff A-watch

  • Scott Butki

    It came in the beginning as they searched for hosts for the show.

  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Scott – I missed the first 5-10 minutes

  • -E

    Yeah he said not me, then the Mayans behind him said not us. Then they were chased off screen by an animal.

  • Eric Olsen

    scintillating! Mayans are hot now

  • http://www.djradiohead.com DJRadiohead

    Only John Travolta’s comeback was longer in the making.

  • Eric Olsen

    although he will tell that that he, like the Maya, never really went away

  • http://Streetnews.com Singer Youman Wilder takes Aim at Blacks in Opt-Ed on Police

    Singer Youman Wilder takes Aim at Blacks in Opt-Ed on Police shooting
    in New York City.

    Written by Youman Wilder: For EJazzNews.com

    WE ARE ALWAYS QUICK TO JUMP TO MARCH WHEN A BLACK KID IS FALSELY KILLED, WHICH IN THIS CASE CLEARLY AND TRAGICALLY DID HAPPEN. WE AS A BLACK RACE HAVE SET UP AN ATMOSPHERE WHERE POLICE OFFICERS WHETHER BLACK, WHITE, LATINO OR ASIAN HAS COME SEE ALL OF US AS A CRIMINAL.

    BUT WE DON’T PROTEST THE DRUG DEALER WHO INVADES OUR BLACK COMMUNITIES. WE DON’T MARCH WHEN WE SEE KIDS ON THE DAM TRAINS CALLING EACH OTHER NIGGERS FOR ALL THE WHITE WORLD TO SEE. OR THE LATINOS WHO WILL CALL YOU A NIGGER AS IF HE IS DOWN WITH YOUR STRUGGLE, WHICH IN MOST LIKELIHOOD HE IS NOT. HE SHOULD BE CHECKED AS WELL.

    IN MOST ASPECT’S THE LATIN FROM DOMINICAN REPUBLICAN OR PUERTO RICAN OR THE CUBA HATES TO BE CONNECTED WITH HIS OR HER AFRICAN HERITAGE.
    THE LATIN WILL BOW DOWN TO THE EUROPEAN POPE, KISS HIS RING AND WILL
    CALL YOU A NIGGER AS IF HE IS PAYING YOU A COMPLEMENT HOW CRAZY IS THAT?

    IF YOU ARE NOT DOWN WITH MY STRUGGLE YOU ARE JUST AS DANGEROUS AS
    THE POWERS THAT BE. WE DON’T MARCH WHEN OMAR IS GUNNED DOWN OVER HIS JACKET OR HIS SNEAKERS BY OTHER BLACK MEN WHO LIVE IN HIS SAME COMMUNITY. BUT WE WILL MARCH WHEN THAT WHITE MAN KILLS US. WE ARE OUTRAGED WHEN THAT MAN DOES WHAT HE HAS DONE TO US IN THIS COUNTRY FOR 400 YEARS.

    WE ARE OUTRAGED WHEN FORMER SEINFELD CAST MEMBER MICHAEL RICHARD’S SCREAMS OUT “HIS A NIGGER” “HIS A NIGGER” BUT WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE OVER THE RAPPER, OR THE BLACK DJ ON HOT 97 WHO USES THE WORD ON A DAILY BASIS. LET’S JUST SAY THIS WE AS A BLACK PEOPLE HELPED KILL THAT YOUNG BLACK MAN IN QUEENS.

    YES WE AS A BLACK PEOPLE HELPED KILL HIM? WHY? BECAUSE WE HAVE MADE THE BLACK COMMUNITY A HOOD, A GHETTO, AND WE RAVEL IN THE DARKNESS THAT IS THE GHETTO? WE HAVE LET MILLIONAIRE RAPPERS GLORIFY THE DRUGS AND THE VIOLENCE THAT IS HAPPENING IN THE HARLEM’S AND SOUTH CENTRAL LOS ANGELES, AND EAST ST. LOUIS’S, AND SOUTHSIDE CHICAGO’S AND CAMDEN NEW JERSEY’S. WHILE THEY LIVE IN GATED COMMUNITIES IN THE SUBURBS WE HAVE SAT SILENT AS OUR KIDS HAVE BECOME COMMON THUGS,PIMPS,HOODS AND CRIMINALS AND WE DON’T CHALLENGE THAT LIMITED VIEW OF THE BLACK
    DIASPORA.

    WE ARE THE BLAME FOR THAT BROTHER BEING KILLED BECAUSE WE HAVE SET UP
    AN ATMOSPHERE THAT IS ONE OF NOTHINGNESS. AND WHEN YOU TREAT YOUR LEGACY,HERITAGE AS NOTHINGNESS THAT’S WHAT OTHERS WILL TREAT YOU LIKE. NOTHING!

    WE ARE THE BLAME BECAUSE WE HAVE SHOWN NO RESPECT FOR OUR PEOPLE AND
    OUR HISTORY AND THE FUTURE OF THESE CHILDREN WHO ARE BOMBARDED WITH
    NEGATIVE IMAGES ON THE RADIO, TELEVISION AND PRINT MEDIA. WHEN WE GET ON THE TRAIN’S AND BUSES OF AMERICA, AND CALL OURSELVES NIGGERS IN FRONT OF THE SAME PEOPLE WHO HAVE PUT US IN POSITIONS OF CONTINUED SELF HATRED THEN THAT’S OUR FAULT.

    I AM A FIRM BELIEVER THAT THERE ARE NO VICTIMS IN LIFE. JUST VOLUNTEERS, AND WE AS A BLACK PEOPLE HAVE CONTINUED TO VOLUNTEER
    FOR THE TOTAL COMPLACENCE AND CONTINUED DESTRUCTION OF THE BLACK RACE
    IN THESE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

    WHEN YOU LET THE RECAPTURED HOUSE NEGRO BECOME THE FACE OF YOUR
    STRUGGLE.AKA THE RAPPER WHO HAS BECOME THE 21ST CENTURY MINSTREL
    SHOW ALL OVER AGAIN. WHEN YOU ALLOW YOUR PREACHER TO HAVE A $60,000 CAR BUT KIDS IN YOUR CONGREGATION CANT AFFORD COLLEGE AND THE CHURCH HAS NO FUND FOR THAT CHILD TO CONTINUE HIS OR HER EDUCATION. WHEN YOU ALLOW FILTH AND DECADENCE TO FLOW IN YOUR COMMUNITY THEN ITS YOUR FAULT.

    WHEN YOU ALLOW ARABS AND WHITES AND ASIANS TO COME INTO YOUR COMMUNITY AND THEY NEVER HIRE THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE, THAT IS YOUR FAULT. CAN YOU OPEN UP A SOUL FOOD RESTAURANT IN CHINA TOWN OR LITTLE ITALY AND THOSE PEOPLE SUPPORT YOUR BUSINESS? THAT ARAB BUSINESS HAS BEEN IN YOUR COMMUNITY 10 YEARS AND NEVER A BLACK OR LATINO FACE HAS EVER BEEN HIRED.

    DO YOU EVER NOTICE WHY THERE ARE NO CIGARETTE ADS IN THE WEALTHY SECTION OF YOUR CITY, BUT THEY ARE ALL LINED UP IN YOUR COMMUNITY. NOW WHY IS THAT? BECAUSE YOU ACCEPT IT AND TOLERATE IT. WHEN YOU ALLOW THE MEDIA TO ONLY SHOWCASE YOU AS A BUFFOON ITS OUR FAULT.

    WHY ARE BLACK PEOPLE ALWAYS DANCING ON A DAM TV COMMERCIAL? WE SELL EX-LAX OR TAMPAX AND THE BROTHER OR SISTER IS DANCING LIKE THAT’S ALL WE CAN DO TO SELL A PRODUCT. WHEN ALL YOU HAVE BECOME IS AN EASY VICTIM.

    EASY FOR PEOPLE TO DISMISS YOU AS A NOTHING EASY FOR PEOPLE TO RAPE YOU FINICALLY EASY TO MAKE YOU HATE YOUR SELF.(BET) HAS SHOWN BLACK AMERICA AND ALL OF AMERICA HOW TO BE AN ILL INFORMED FOOL. NO BLACK NEWS, THE FIRING OF TAVIS SMILEY WHO IS ONLY ONE OF THE MOST BRILLIANT YOUNG JOURNALIST IN ALL OF AMERICA. AND THEY REPLACE HIM WITH X-RATED VIDEOS AFTER 11PM INSTEAD OF NEWS SO NEXT TIME YOU SEE THAT YOUNG BROTHER OR SISTER ACTING UP STEP TO THEM WITH SOME SENSE OF RESPECT AND FIRM YET GENTLE TONE AND SAY YOUNG MAN THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. WHEN YOU SEE A YOUNG SISTER WITH HER ASS OUT. SISTER’S GO TO THAT SISTER AND SAY SISTER YOU CAN DO BETTER.

    SEE WE CAN SAVE US, ITS NOT GOING TO BE THE RAPPER OR THE SINGER
    OR THE ATHLETE. MOST RAPPERS ARE EX CONVICTS AND EX DRUG DEALERS. HOW CAN YOU ASK THE RAPIST TO NOW BE RESPECTFUL. HE WILL ALWAYS BE
    WHAT HE IS MOST SINGERS HAVE VERY LITTLE SOCIAL CONCISENESS AND ARE CHASING BEING A POP STAR THAN BEING A CONSCIOUS FOR THEY’RE BLACK
    COMMUNITIES MOST THE BLACK ATHLETE STANDS FOR VERY LITTLE. ONE IS BECAUSE HIS WHITE AGENT, WHITE WIFE WONT ALLOW HIM TO HAVE A
    CONNECTION TO HIS COMMUNITY. COULD YOU IMAGINE TIKI BARBER OR TIGER
    WOODS EVER SUPPORTING A BLACK CAUSE. DOUBTFUL?

    SEE ITS BETTER TO LOSE 50,000 YOUNG BLACK KIDS WHO OVER THE LAST 15 YEARS KILLED EACH OTHER OVER YOUR SNEAKERS MR.JORDAN. AND YET YOU STILL HAVE NO OPINION ON YOUR PEOPLES STRUGGLES? WHAT AN EMPTY SUIT YOU ARE AND HAVE BEEN MR.JORDAN. YOU HAVE NEVER STOOD UP FOR YOUR PEOPLE. ALL THAT POWER MR JORDAN AND YOU DID NOTHING WITH IT. WHAT DAM GOOD HAVE YOU BEEN? MR JORDAN HAS BEEN GOOD FOR MR. JORDAN.THE HELL WITH HIS PEOPLE. MUHAMMAD ALI AND JIM BROWN OR MAGIC JOHNSON YOU ARE NOT.

    YEA WE SET THAT YOUNG BROTHER UP TO DIE ON THE STREETS OF JAMAICA QUEENS. AND IF WE AS A BLACK PEOPLE DON’T CHANGE US, SADLY THERE WILL BE MORE. WE START THIS BY PROTESTING SCHOOLS THAT DON’T WORK. WE START MAKING OUR BLACK MEN SEE THEMSELVES AS BLACK MEN AND NOT HOODS, THUGS OR NIGGAS. WE START BY TEACHING HIM HOW TO BE A MAN. WE TAKE EDUCATION SERIOUSLY

    WE TAKE PRIDE IN WHERE WE LIVE. WE TAKE PRIDE IN HOW WE TALK AND RELATE TO EACH OTHER. NOW IF YOU WANNA MARCH, LETS MARCH UP TO WHERE WE KNOW THE DRUG DEALERS ARE AND BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF THEM. IF YOU WANNA MARCH LETS MARCH AND TELL SCHOOLS HOW THEY TEACH OUR KIDS WILL NO LONGER BE ACCEPTABLE.

    AND WE NEED TO MARCH NOT FOR POLICE TO TREAT US WITH COMMON HUMAN DIGNITY THAT SHOULD BE A GIVEN BUT DEMAND EQUAL TREATMENT UNDER THE LAW.

    BUT SEE FIRST I NEED TO TREAT ME AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOOK LIKE ME WITH
    THAT SAME HUMAN DIGNITY. WE CANT ASK FOR OTHERS TO RESPECT US WHEN WE SHOW NO RESPECT TO OURSELVES OR OUR OWN COMMUNITIES. IF YOU WANT TO SEE BACKWARDS BLACK PEOPLE TURN ON A RAP VIDEO AND GET ON THE TRAIN AT 3PM. WHEN YOUR CHILD IS GETTING OUT OF SCHOOL.

    THE WORLD IS LOOKING AT YOU BLACK AMERICA. AND ALL THEY ARE SEEING IS HOOD,PIMPS AND THUGS AND NIGGAS HOW’S THAT WORKING OUT FOR US?

    Youman Wilder is a singer and songwriter based in New York. Wilder has toured over 30 countries with his band Weird Stories and has been arrested over 10x for protesting the Darfur genocide. This is strictly his own opinion on This New York City Tragedy.

  • http://www.AllboutJazz.Com Amy Goldstein

    Jazz Vocalist Youman Wilder Is Asked to Leave Cuba.. By Any Goldstein

    AllboutJazz.Com

    Singer Youman Wilder who was in Cuba to perform at the Cuban Jazz Festival was asked to leave the country after performing the African American Civil Rights song “We Shall Over Come”

    Wilder whom performed the night before had drawn fire from the Cuban Communist government, by singing Marvin Gayes classic “God Is Love” and “Mercy,Mercy Me” the previous evening, and was asked to only do songs from the song-list the Cuban Government had authorized.

    Wilder and his band Weird Stories decided to finish out the set with the original funk song “Freedom Is at Your Door”

    Wilder who was asked to give a song list to the Government did, but did not at all stick to the song list presented to the Cuban Government early that day. The singer finished the show and 10 hours later was back in Montreal.