Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Commodus: one fucked up dude.

More fascinating facts:

The lead-drinking thing, and possibly inbreeding, might be why Commodus
looks like that. I figure, the man was the fucking emperor. If a commissioned sculpture of "He Who Spared None" looked like that, can you imagine how he really must have looked? He ordered someone to be thrown in the furnace when his bath was too cold.

At the age of twelve.

(This is the same Commodus of Gladiator movie fame, by the way.)

Apparently his relatives were also dumbasses:

The task of slaying him was assigned to Claudius Pompeianus, a kinsman. But he, as soon as he had an opportunity to fulfil his mission, strode up to Commodus with a drawn sword, and, bursting out with these words, "This dagger the senate sends thee," betrayed the plot like a fool, and failed to accomplish the design, in which many others along with himself were implicated.


Okay, the picture in this post is the best I could find. Boy ain't right. And he looks like that in EVERY statue, adult as well. Bovine, half-asleep, dull, eyes not quite pointing the same direction. Oh Commodus. :D Even your Hercules costume and marble-chiseled abs couldn't hide it. He was succeeded as emperor by a slave. Of course, said slave was also a prefect of the city. Slavery was a bit different then.

MAN I need to study Latin again. Because I am absolutely positive that the original Latin of the text I linked is even more bluntly depraved than the 1920s translation makes out. For instance, the Latin word "subactor," which apparently means the uh, "catcher," was translated as "his partner in depravity." (And I think the word "procurer" is a euphemism for "pimp" or something. Apparently Commodus acted like a pimp's servant. Which is presumably not nearly as respectable as a pimp. This makes us wonder: what did an ancient Roman pimp wear?)

And in truth, on the occasion when he laid before the senate his proposal to call Rome Commodiana, not only did the senate gleefully pass this resolution, but also took the name 'Commodian' to itself, at the same time giving Commodus the name Hercules, and calling him a god.


Certain men who were lame in their feet and others who could not walk, he dressed up as giants, encasing their legs from the knee down in wrappings and bandages to make them look like serpents.


In his humorous moments, too, he was destructive. For example, he put a starling on the head of one man who, as he noticed, had a few white hairs, resembling worms, among the black, and caused his head to fester through the continual pecking of the bird's beak — the bird, of course, imagining that it was pursuing worms.

(Was there a cage over his head or something? Why would it stay there? I don't think starlings are that dumb.)

Oh my god, read it. It just keeps topping itself and getting more and more ridiculous:

He displayed two misshapen hunchbacks on a silver platter after smearing them with mustard, and then straightway advanced and enriched them.


So in conclusion, Commodus was one fucked up dude. And "He displayed two misshapen hunchbacks on a silver platter after smearing them with mustard" is a strong contender for "incredible phrase of the month," because really, it can't get much more incredible, and the month is almost over.


Today's fascinating fact:

Vanilla comes from orchids (more specifically their fruit pods). It's native to Mexico, but is now cultivated elsewhere; Madagascar apparently grows a lot. When New Coke was introduced, the economy of Madagascar collapsed, because Coke is the biggest user of vanillin, and they had switched to an artificial one for New Coke.

According to some cookbook I make cakes from, real vanilla extract and the fake phenol-derived stuff are totally indistinguishable to humans. I'm not sure if they're actually chemically different or what. But we're talking the taste experts whose actual job it is to taste things, and identify like fourteen distinct ingredients in the most quotidian mouthful, and eat off gold spoons because regular ones affect the taste for some reason and I guess gold spoons don't.

What other metals would affect the taste of foods, and would this have a positive or negative effect? What about platinum? Electrum? Copper? (Okay, I think copper would oxidize or something, it does that easily, doesn't it? Actually, how the hell do iron and copper pans not just like, turn to rust/whatever the copper equivalent of rust is called? Is it because they're "seasoned," i.e. covered with oils or something to prevent direct metal-to-air contact? The more I find out, the more I wonder! These things are inexhaustible, I think.

Oh, and apparently in ancient Rome people were lead-poisoned in a number of ways. Through the pipes that conducted water, through their drinking vessels, through face-powder that was basically powdered lead, and, most amazingly, through actually sprinkling it into their wine on purpose because they liked the taste.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I wrote like eleven pages of the course description + notes on stuff I want to cover for the course I'm teaching. I'm getting really psyched about it.

It turns out that Jim Heynen lives in the Pacific Northwest! Maybe I should look him up this summer. According to his website, he's stopped teaching now and is writing full time, which he prefers. I think I must have been introduced to him by my babysitter, Hope, when I was no older than eleven or so. I loved the stories, and it made a big impression on me. It's funny, I think a lot of stuff Hope introduced me to has. Interesting how things you encounter early make a lasting impression on you.

I remember writing a Jim Heynen-inspired story in sixth grade or so, titled "Who [did something]," because some of his titles were like that (e.g. "Who Made Such Good Pies). The teacher "corrected" my title.

Well, look at me now, I'm a poet, I can mangle language however I want. ;) Plus, he did it first, and he's a Respected Author and whatnot.

I think I may just update this blog regularly, but with random trivia. My new favorite activity might be wikipedia-surfing. I am so excited about the things I learn. I wish other people were even half as excited!