I can’t think of a joke name asks: 

What do you think about the death of the queen

Well, it proves that Her Queenship’s original body was not biologically immortal, which actually shoots down several theories I previously considered fairly plausible. Jim the Editor and I are currently working under the assumption that, after a brief and decisive spiritual struggle, she took over the body of the Lesser Liz during their first official meeting as monarch and PM (no British Prime Minister since Thatcher could possibly have had the sheer evil resolve to resist her, but Truss may have been especially vulnerable because of their shared name). Now inhabiting the body and office of the new Prime Minister, and with her loyal son ruling as Charlie 3, she will seek to establish a new Holy British Empire by conquering the EU and Brexiting each of its member states, one by one. The Second Elizabethan Age has ended, but the reign of the dread Eternal Queen is only just beginning!

Other than that, I’m mostly concerned by what this might mean for the great Prophecy of the Queen of Pentacles in my ongoing Kingslocke of Heart Gold. I mean, I just posted the episode where I defeat the Champion this morning and I didn’t have either of the True Queens of Johto in my party; could that have been the final straw? Are these events symbolic of the final death of monarchy itself? What will happen if we don’t fulfil the Prophecy?

Also, does this mean Charlie 3 will be on all the money by the time I get home in December? That’s going to be weird.

Vital Update on the Asparagus Fleet

If you know, you know.

Thanks to an update from a mysterious figure in the shadows, I was prompted to start searching again for the true origins of the Asparagus Fleet myth (or is it a myth? Maybe it’s real! No classicist I’ve told the story to believes it’s real, but we could all be missing the secret wisdom! Who knows!?). And I have an update. I still don’t believe I have pinpointed the genesis of this elite squadron of vegetable-toting Augustan ships and/or chariots, but I have an earlier source for it, which exonerates Pam Brunning of the International Wine and Food Society of the crime of inventing it. That source is an article, now available online but apparently first published in print as early as April 1999 (more than 10 years before Brunning’s magazine article, which was cited by Wikipedia and probably spread from there to the rest of the asparagus fandom), in the Deseret News, a Mormon newspaper based in Salt Lake City. Said article can be found here. The author’s name, unfortunately, is not listed online and I might have to track down a print copy to get that information [EDIT: one week later, the article now does have a byline. I don’t know why it didn’t before, or what has changed since then. The original writer was apparently food editor Jean Williams, who has unfortunately died in the 23 years since the article’s publication, meaning I cannot pursue her for answers.]. The article also doesn’t say where the asparagus fleet came from. Newspaper articles don’t cite their sources, because by convention the article is the source; whatever the journalist writes is assumed to carry the authority of the paper’s reputation and editorial standards. This works (…up to a point) when a journalist is reporting on current events. When they dip their toes into history… not so much.

Let’s look at the text of the relevant section of the article (a feature on asparagus with a couple of asparagus recipes, just like the dozens of more recent articles that have also picked up the myth):

Continue reading “Vital Update on the Asparagus Fleet”

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:”