Kyle the Dragon asks:

If you were a dragon, what would you hoard?

To be honest, I’m not really a hoard-y person; maybe it’s because I spent most of the last 7 years living in a foreign country not wanting to collect too much excess stuff I’d eventually have to pack up and ship a long distance, then had to come home at short notice and left behind most of the things I did own.  Maybe books… but books are heavy and take up a lot of space, y’know, and who doesn’t have an e-reader these days, even as a dragon?  Actually, I think dragon-Chris might hoard maps.  Maps of real places and imagined ones; maps that lead to buried treasure; maps of the body, mind and spirit; maps that are scrupulously accurate and maps that are half-dream; maps that help people conceive of the shape of their world and their own place within it.

Gsgdgd asks:

If there were one show you wanted your entire audience to watch, what would it be?

I’m not sure there is one; I don’t watch a lot of TV.  Um, I’m watching Schitt’s Creek right now and enjoying that; a little while ago I watched Bojack Horseman, which I thought was fantastic.  I watched the first season of Bridgerton with my mum; that was fun.  I don’t think any of those amount to “my entire audience should watch this.”  Jim the Editor and my brother both want me to watch One Punch Man, but I have yet to start it.  None of this answers your question.  Um.  I dunno, probably Black Books, honestly.  It’s a British sitcom about a misanthropic Irish drunkard who owns a bookshop in London (3 seasons of 6 20-minute episodes each).  It’s all on Netflix, or here on Youtube if you don’t have Netflix (whoever owns the rights, they don’t seem to care about getting it taken down).  The humour is… very 90s/early 00s British, in a way that has not seemed to resonate with Americans I’ve attempted to share the series with in the past, so I wouldn’t guarantee that everyone will like it, but… y’know, give it a go.

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:”

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)

hugh_donnetono asks:

Where do you see yourself in seven years?

I guess that depends in large part on whether I can evade Doom for that long.  Like, in theory it would be nice to be ruling the world as a deranged sorcerer-king by then, but frankly I’ve offended a lot of deities and unleashed several ancient sealed evils, and that $#!t catches up to you.  Obviously I want to finish my PhD, probably sooner rather than later, but I’m not sure I want an academic career anymore.  It’s unlikely I’d get a university position in New Zealand or Australia within my first few years on the academic job market, and I don’t want to keep working in America any longer than I really have to; it’s also really difficult to return to an academic career after a few years working in another field.  This, of course, assumes there will be an America to go back to so I can finish my degree, so I’m gonna need all my readers there to step up and do everything you can to stop the country collapsing into totalitarianism or civil war.

For goodness’ sake, I wanted to be a novelist.  You don’t really get paid up front for that sort of thing, though, so you sort of need to support yourself with a “real” job, like some sort of peasant.  So it would sort of be nice if I could convince more people to pay me for my writing here… but that’s a long enough shot that saying it’s where I “see myself in seven years” seems grandiose at best.  For now I’ll settle for finding a job, and if the world ends I can always rule its ashes from a throne of jagged glass.