The Emperor’s Body, Ancient Poop and More Reasons to Buy Shoes

I bought a couple of archaeology magazines about a week ago, and I’m going through them slowly, finding some interesting stuff.

Apparently, the statue of Emperor Hadrian that the British Museum has had since the 1860s is actually pieces of three or more statues plastered together. When the museum’s conservators took the layer of plaster off around Hadrian’s neck, they discovered that the head was too small for the body, the neck didn’t fit together. Also, apparently, the hands are from different statues too. This seems a good way to create the perfect man, I think. Simply plaster the best pieces together. According to the Bristish Museum website, it was the museum staff who put the different pieces together, on assumption that all the pieces were found near each other in Libya.

Also, they were able to prove that humans lived in North America over 12,000 years ago. How? Poop, of course. Archaeologists apparently found the a dried piece of shit from 14,300 years ago in a cave in Oregon. They’re actually able to isolate human DNA from this. As Kristen asked: How did they know it was poop? It looks like a rock to me…

I’ve bought three new pairs of shoes in the last month. I used to hate shoe shopping - apparently now I’m obsessed. But it’s okay, because it’s genetic. Turns out that humans have been wearing shoes for 40,000 years. An anthropologist analyzed the toe bones of a skeleton found in China and found that the shape of the foot indicated that this person wore shoes. Apparently, if you walk bare foot your whole life your middle toes curl under for traction. But not shoe wearers, they put all the pressure on the big toe and the rest of the toe bones are less developed. See, now I can tell myself that if I don’t buy shoes, my middle toes might curl under….

Distance and the space between…

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the plan that Fae and I had to move to London in September. We’ve been talking about it a lot too, about how we’re disappointed it’s not going to work. Ever since she was here last week, I keep thinking how unfair it is to have lived 12 hours away (at the closest) from my best friend for the last 8 or 9 years. It’s hard, because both our lives are going in very different directions, and we both have a lot of dreams for our futures.

Anyway, I love my Faerie and I miss her and I wanted to share with you the post she wrote yesterday, based on a book she’s reading. It describes us pretty well.

Btw, Fae, I’m trying to avoid the letter u because I’m on the laptop downstairs.. I love ewe!

Son of a Witch

Last night I finally finished reading Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire.

I read Wicked a few years ago, and I was a little disappointed with it. I wanted it to be more plot and character based, I guess. So I never read Son of a Witch, thinking I would probably feel the same about it. Then, Maguire’s new book, A Lion Among Men came out and I decided I wanted to read it, so I bought Son of a Witch to read first.

I loved it. A lot more than Wicked. I think that it struck the right balance between being beautifully written and good plot, while Wicked was mostly just really well written, but not necessarily a page turner.

Another big difference for me, I think, was that I sort of love the main character, Liir. He’s so screwed up, it’s so entertaining. And you actually watch him grow up in the shadow of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West and possibly his mother, throughout the book.

I don’t know what I can say about it, I think it will be more effective to put my favourite lines down and let it speak for itself.

“Perhaps he just didn’t have the feeling for faith. It seemed to be a kind of language, one whose gnarled syntax needed to be heard from birth, or it remained forever intelligible.”

“‘Well, Scarecrow, your turn. What’ll you do with your brains?’ ‘I’m thinking about it,’”

“Candle was not simple, not in the least, but her debility had made her a still person. She listened to church bells, when they pealed, trying to translate; she watched the way the paper husks of an onion fell on a table, and examined the rings of dirt that onion mites had life in parrallel rows on the glossy wet inside. Everything said something, and it wasn’t her job to consider the merit or even the meaning of the message: just to witness the fact of that message.”

“A notion of character, not so much discredited as simply forgotten, once held that people only came into themselves partly through their lives. They woke up, were lucky enough to have consciousness, in the act of doing something they already knew how to do: feeing themselves with currants. Walking the dog. Knotting up a broken bootlace. Singing antiphonally in the choir. Suddenly: This is I, I am the girl singing this alto line off-key, I am the boy loping after the dog, and I can see myself doing it as, presumably, the dog cannot see itself.”

“A capacity for interiority in the growing adult is threatened by the temptation to squander that capacity ruthlessly, to revel in hollowness. The syndrome especially plagues anyone who lives behind a mask…. A hundred ways to duck the question: how will I live with myself now that I know what I know?”

“By force of personality, by dint of their vicious beauty and untamed ways, children tromp into the world ready to disfigure it. Children surrender nothing when faced with the world: it is the world that gives up, over and over again. Dying in order to live, that sort of thing.”

“‘I didn’t cause you to live or die,’ she said. ‘Don’t give me credit for skills beyond me. I played music; you remembered. Music will do that. What you remembered - that was within you, and nothing to do with me.’”

“Wisdom is not the understanding of mystery, she said to herself, not for the first time. Wisdom is accepting that mystery is beyond understanding. That’s what makes it mystery.”

“I loved it when I was alive, too. Forget us, forget us all, it makes no difference now, but don’t forget that we loved it when we were live.”

The only qualm I had with Son of a Witch is that the ending didn’t answer all of my questions, but hopefully they’ll be answered in A Lion Among Men.

Io, Saturnalia!

Saturnalia is the Roman midwinter festival, dedicated to the god Saturn, the father of the gods and therefore arguably the most important festival in Rome. It’s celebrated from December 17th to the 23rd and included public rites and ceremony and lots of gambling - but most importantly a reversal of social order. For this week in December slaves and their masters essentially switched places. Plebians could pretend to be patricians, and patricians could slum it as plebians. This was the only week that a slave would be invited to speak their mind (as in Plutarch).

The lewd nature of such a festival led to many attempts to outlaw or shorten it (by the piety-obsessed Augustus and the hypocritical Caligula) to no avail.

This is also often attributed as the reason why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. Previously, the church had marked January 6th as the birth of Jesus. It was changed to December 25th in the fourth century because the pagan converts were already used to celebrating a midwinter festival (in the Empire, mostly Saturnalia but in the outer Provinces like Britain and Gaul the Winter Solstice) around that time. The longest night of the year, December 21st, is customarily celebrated with the use of light and fire. During Saturnalia it was custom to exchange gifts (which were often candles).

So, instead of Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings - why not “Io, Saturnalia”? (Pronounced yo, Sah-tur-na-lia).

Science humour…

Today, I was reading about gay dolphins and gnome poop.

Ah, the world of blogging.