If you visit the amazing Palace of Versailles, (click here for a few photos) which the French king Louis XIV had built as his royal residence, you will find his preferred symbol everywhere, including the door knobs. In this bust of Louis it is displayed on his chest piece: it is the Greek god Apollo, with the rays of the sun radiating all around him. This is how Louis saw himself and he came to be known by history as “the Sun King.”

For a while, the European world revolved around Louis. People craved his attention, sought his favor, dressed like him and other monarchs of Europe even tried to model their palaces after his.

He was central to the working of French government and is supposed to have uttered one of the most famous lines any king has said: “I am the state.” For a while he was the most powerful man in the western world.

Who do you think is the most powerful person in our world? What makes him/her powerful. Louis was wealthy beyond imagination and was an adored role model. What kind of people do we have as our role models in the US and Europe? Finally, would you like to be adored by millions?

Picture Source: http://artnewsportal.blogspot.com/2009/10/louis-xiv-exhibition-at-chateau-de.html



Posted: February 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

In the summer of 1969, humans walked on the moon for the first time. Neil Armstrong, commander of the lunar lander named Eagle and of the mission known as Apollo 11, backed out of the door, stepped carefully down a short ladder mounted on one of the spindly legs, and made a short jump to the powdery lunar surface. His first words, broadcast live from the moon, are now famous: “That’s one small step for a man and a giant leap for Mankind.”

In what ways was it a “giant leap?” Why do you think it might have required a special kind of courage for Armstrong to step out of the lunar lander?

Columbus lead a small flotilla of three ships west to find a new route to the Indies. Do you think Columbus’ voyage was any more dangerous than the explorers on Apollo 11? If you could go back in time and be a passenger on either voyage, which would you choose?

Flower Power 2-3-11

Posted: February 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

Generally people with guns have more power than a person with flowers. But this iconic photo from a student protest against the US involvement in the Vietnam War suggests that flowers won the “battle” on the day the photo was taken. Compare this photo with this famous photo (nicknamed “Tank Man”) from the student protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, in 1989 and answer these questions:

What circumstances need to exist for an individual to have more power than someone with guns and tanks?

Everyone watching the Tank Man expected that he would be run over given that tanks had run over students protestors in the day before this photo was taken. Why do you supposed they stopped?

(Watch video of the Tank Man <a href="1989 Tiananmen Square Protests“>by clicking here.

A New Perspective

Posted: January 21, 2011 in Art, Religion, Renaissance

The name of this painting is The Lamentation Over the Dead Christ and it was painted by the Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna. This is a powerful portrayal of Christ made even more powerful by the point of view and the visual effect being used, which is called “foreshortening.”

What are the first things you see when you look at this painting? The people visible in the upper left add an important element to this picture. What do you think their presence adds? Finally, how does this version of the dead Christ differ from Michelangelo’s in the Pieta? (Click here to compare.)


Posted: January 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

If you were looking to buy a new house and the realtor told you that the only toilet for the house was an outhouse in the back yard, there’s a good chance you would pass the house up. After all, you have come to expect “modern” conveniences like flush toilets.

And yet nearly half of the 7 billion inhabitants on earth don’t have access to running water and flush toilets. Does this mean that they aren’t “modern.”

Besides flush toilets, what two characteristics do you think 21st century people and societies must have in order to be considered modern? Why?

Photo Source: Zapata (

The Tucson Shootings

Posted: January 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

In the wake of the violence in Tucson, Arizona, this past weekend, what are your thoughts?

Picture Source: The New York Times John Moore/Getty Images