I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO MAD ABOUT A VEGETABLE IN MY ENTIRE LIFE

okay

so

last night, I was listening to the latest episode of I Chews You, the podcast about cooking and eating Pokémon (…just go with it), as I do of a Wednesday evening.

One of the hosts, Ian, made reference to Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, saying that he was very fond of asparagus. Augustus, it is said, used to tell people when he wanted something done fast that it should be “quicker than cooking asparagus,” and was so enamoured with the vegetable that he commissioned an entire fleet of ships to seek out the best sources of asparagus in the world for supplying the city of Rome. My eyebrows, dear reader, assumed a posture of heightened readiness.

I will stress, before going on, that I intend here to cast no shade on Ian, who is lovely and has even helped me with research on a previous occasion. If you google “asparagus fleet” there are so many websites that mention it – dozens, certainly; it even made it onto the official QI Twitter account – that if that’s all you’re going on, it looks pretty legit. Unfortunately for me, it’s not all I’m going on, thanks to my secret double life as a PhD student in classical studies.

Continue reading “I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO MAD ABOUT A VEGETABLE IN MY ENTIRE LIFE”

final fantasy friday, or whatever

look, I didn’t come up with the name; it’s Jim’s channel, he gets to decide what things are called

but yeah, we’re streaming Final Fantasy X, 9 am tomorrow NZ time/8 pm tonight UK time/when the fµ¢£ ever US time, sort your own time zones out, people

Come for the level grinding and creepy blue-haired villain, stay for me rambling unscripted about the Crown Tundra and Jim talking about the energy ethics conference he’s been helping to run all week

The Dance of Dragons asks:

If you had a dragon, what would you name him/her?

I had a fairly long discussion about this with Jim the Editor and didn’t really come to a satisfying conclusion; I think I’m possibly going about the question the wrong way.  See… when I take it upon myself to imagine a dragon, I sort of… picture something that would come with a name?  Like, a dragon to my mind is an intelligent creature that might not necessarily want me to name it, or might expect a name from its own language.  Y’know, you can’t name a dragon the way you’d name a pet dog or whatever because it’s going to understand the name and has to like it, but it’s also weird to just give a dragon a normal human name like “Kyle” – which is a name I genuinely like and could imagine giving to a kid, but is undeniably a weird name for a dragon.

Can you do that?  Can you name a dragon “Kyle”?  Kyle the dragon?

I mean, I’m committed now; I guess if I ever get a dragon, then this is what’s happening and we all just have to live with that.

Charred Black Potato Ash asks:

How did they build the Pantheon?

I have to assume that this question is less about Roman architectural techniques and materials generally and more about the thing that’s super distinctive about the Pantheon, so that’s what I’m gonna talk about.

The Pantheon is a big Roman temple in the heart of the city of Rome.  The name Pantheon (or Pantheum) is not on the building itself anywhere, but it’s mentioned in ancient Latin texts.  It’s Greek for “[Temple to] All the Gods” and seems to have been a nickname given to the building because it housed cult statues of multiple patron deities of the imperial family, including Mars and Venus.  The Pantheon is also known today (and for the last several hundred years) as the Church of Santa Maria della Rotonda, and that name is a big clue to the thing that’s impressive about it: the rotunda.  From the front the Pantheon looks like a fairly standard Roman temple with a triangular pediment and colonnaded porch, but from the side, you see that it isn’t rectangular like a normal temple; it has a humongous round butt sticking out the back, and once you go inside, it turns out to have a massive domed ceiling that you can’t easily see from the front.  We used to think that the Pantheon was originally built as a fairly ordinary rectangular temple in the reign of Augustus, the first emperor (r. 31 BC – AD 14), by his right hand man Marcus Agrippa (whose name is on the dedicatory inscription), and was subsequently rebuilt as its gloriously unique self by Hadrian (r. AD 117-138) after being destroyed in a fire; this is what I was taught when I was in high school, back in the 1840s.  New research says that, in fact, the Pantheon we have today was probably built during the reign of Hadrian’s predecessor Trajan (r. AD 98-117), and Agrippa’s original Pantheon probably also had a dome.

So… whence the dome?

Continue reading “Charred Black Potato Ash asks:”

Pokémon Trainers of Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Part 5: Ashen Wolves)

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4)

oh, right, I was doing this whole thing

uh

Well, there’s only four characters left, so here they are: the Ashen Wolves. They’re the “secret fourth house” that live in the basement and never talk to anyone. There’s apparently an entire hidden town called “Abyss” hidden underneath the school/monastery/fortress where you and all the other characters live, filled with outlaws, refugees, dispossessed nobles and assorted other fugitives who collectively decided that the best place to hide from the law was literally in the Pope’s basement. These four kooky kids can join you no matter which of the other “houses” you’re aligned with, as long as you’ve bought the “Cindered Shadows” DLC and completed an extra chapter of the story focused on them. And here they are:

Yuri Leclerc

  • Commoner adopted by a minor noble family, grew up to become some kind of mob boss
    • Basically runs Abyss in the absence of any more reasonable authority figure
  • Could probably arrange for you to be murdered in your sleep
    • Has definitely thought about it
  • Is too gay to put up with your bull$#!t
  • Kind to children; will shank you if you find out about it
  • Difficult to be friends with, but extremely worth it
  • He is perfect and I love him

Favoured types: Flying, Dark, Normal
Yuri’s mob nickname is “the savage mockingbird,” and if you teach him magic (which you probably will, since his “default” class is a hybrid caster) he mainly learns wind spells.  He was born a commoner and is still devoted to helping ordinary people, hence Normal, but regularly does so through… less than ethical means, hence Dark.

Disfavoured types: Fairy, Ground, Bug
Yuri’s biggest mob rival is a gang that identifies its members with scorpion tattoos.  He’s not good with Fairy-types since he’s so cynical, and doesn’t like the bulky, solid nature of Ground-types.

Partner: Honchkrow
Honchkrow is a bird who is a mob boss, which is basically Yuri’s entire aesthetic; they’re made for each other.

Other Pokémon: Toucannon, Dodrio, Crobat, Raticate (Alolan), Liepard

Yuri likes Flying Pokémon with great speed, manoeuvrability and physical power.  Raticate is another mobster Pokémon to help him run his gang, and Liepard is just very good at shanking people.

Continue reading “Pokémon Trainers of Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Part 5: Ashen Wolves)”

Do you like Greece? Do you like old things?

If you’re reading this here, chances are you mostly know me for writing about Pokémon, but you might also be aware that I’m a classicist – someone who studies the history, culture and languages of ancient Greece and Rome. And you’ve probably guessed by now that I like writing.

so, uh… I have a book? That you can buy, like, on paper and everything.

The backstory to this is, in 2017-2018 I spent a year in Greece studying archaeology at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and we visited some archaeological sites. And I foolishly decided to write a short poem about each one – something to preserve the facets of the experience that photography alone falls short of capturing. And it turns out there are a significant number of archaeological sites in Greece (who knew, right?), so in the end I wrote about 300 of them – about places, and history, and memory, and conflict, and travel, and friends, and discovery, and wonder, and all kinds of other amazing things I learned.

So if YOU like Greece, or old things, or travel, and if YOU are trapped in a bubble because the world is ending and miss being able to go to amazing far-off places, this might be the book for you! Come to Greece with me, and let me show you something new.

It’s called “Travellers in an Antique Land,” and you can buy it print-to-order from blurb.com at https://www.blurb.com/b/10267553-travellers-in-an-antique-land, or as an e-book for Kindle Fire or any Apple device at https://www.blurb.com/b?ebook=735884.

(Also if you’re one of the, like, 6 people who watches me and Jim the Editor streaming on his YouTube channel on Fridays/Saturdays, yes, this is the thing he’s been nagging me to tell everyone about for weeks)