Are you a superhero fan at all? Comics, movies, TV series, cartoons, games, anything?
Not particularly. I’ve watched a fair bit of Arrow and The Flash, and some movies here and there (I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy, which… I don’t know, is that still a “superhero” movie because it’s Marvel, or is it sci-fi? What are the boundaries there?) but I don’t go out of my way to engage with superhero stuff, and I wouldn’t have called myself a fan of the genre broadly.
Why are you a misanthrope?
I’m sorry, is there something else you can be? Like, were there other options or something?
What would you study if not Classics/archaeology?
Well, when I was a kid I wanted to be a palaeontologist. I sort of wrote that off as unrealistic when I was in high school, but actually, now that I’m a real archaeologist and dig stuff up and do proper scholarly research, honestly I do think I probably could have pulled it off if I’d kept going with biology and geology. Evolutionary history is a fascinating rabbit hole. I’m not sure I’d have the patience for taxonomic debates, though. I mean, people can literally spend years arguing about whether a single jawbone represents a new species or not.
Do you have a huge school debt?
Not really. In New Zealand we have something we like to call a functioning educational system, so my undergrad degree was maybe 1/5 the cost of an equivalent US qualification, and I have a full scholarship in my US PhD program.
Are you a feminist?
Well, I don’t generally call myself one, because I don’t really know anything about the history of feminist thought and don’t have any active role in any gender equality organisations. I feel like saying “I’m a feminist” would be taking credit for something that I don’t have much to do with. But, I mean, if you’re just asking whether I think gender equality is a good thing… well, yeah.
Best song in music history?
Fair warning: I am basically indifferent to most music and a terrible person to ask this question
So it probably depends on what your criteria are for “best” and also what your definition of “song” is. Like, if one of the components of bestness is “standing the test of time,” as it were, then we should probably just eliminate everything from the last hundred-odd years right out of the gate, and the Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid were all written originally to be performed with musical accompaniment, even though that’s not how they’re usually experienced today, so they’re probably in the running. Beethoven’s Ode to Joy presumably has to be up there somewhere, and so does Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. According to Rolling Stone magazine, it’s Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone, which strikes me as having a slight hint of favouritism about it. Heck, by some measures the Lord’s Prayer is probably in the running; it has great spiritual meaning to an awful lot of people, and can be set to music.
On the other hand, like, it’s obviously this.
What languages can you speak/sign?
I basically just know tiny bits of a bunch of different languages, but not quite enough of any of them to actually be useful – French, Italian, German, modern Greek, Maori… and I can read and write Latin and ancient Greek pretty well. As a classics grad student, you’re basically expected to be able to read anything that’s put in front of you, whether or not you’ve studied the language before (you tend to get told things like “this book is in Dutch, but it’s really useful, so good luck”), so you get pretty good at just muddling through with a dictionary and general knowledge of how translation works without ever reaching actual fluency in any one language.
If you’re a Classical archeologist, how come you’re so knowledgable about evolutionary biology? And is Jim as smart as you are? Curious because I admire your wide-ranging intellect!
Flattery will get you everywhere, anonymous grey sphere.
So, for my undergrad I did what in New Zealand we call a conjoint degree. You have a higher course load, and it takes four years (instead of three, which is the standard for a bachelor’s degree in New Zealand), but you come out of it with two degrees. As a result, although I’m an archaeologist, I actually also hold a BSc in chemistry, which is fundamental to a lot of my work, because I’m interested in analytical techniques for investigating the chemical composition of artefacts and archaeological materials (for my PhD, I want to conduct analyses of that kind on samples of Roman window glass). I also have a better-than-layman’s knowledge of biology and statistics, but they’re definitely not specialist subjects of mine.
Jim the Editor is about half as clever as he thinks he is, but that’s still enough to make him as smart as me. 😉 He probably has broader knowledge of a lot of subjects where I tend to dive down obscure rabbit holes… which helps in keeping me honest.
ARE YOU DEAD?
I recently chose to spend some time dead, for tax reasons
Accordingly, I booked a few weeks at a luxury resort in the inner ring of the seventh circle of hell, concealed my treasures within a hermetic vault beneath the Southern Alps, and arranged my own murder at the hands of an international cabal of mystic assassins
My remaining agents on the mortal plane have now established a psychic link to allow me to answer reader questions, as well as orchestrate terrible vengeance against all those who have abandoned my service or otherwise wronged me during my absence, in preparation for my inevitable resurrection
The ritual will commence shortly; please do not be alarmed if you are struck by falling frogs while outside, and if you have pets, try to keep a qualified translator of Old Babylonian on hand to record any instructions they may give you