Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Emperor Nero...Gets A Facelift?


I just read in the latest National Geographic  that the Emperor Nero, of all people, is getting some rehab done on his public image.  You remember Nero -- the brutal child-king said to have castrated a boy and then married him, the man who murdered his mother and brother, the tone-deaf musician who made his subjects cringe at public performances, the guy who kicked his wife to death when she was pregnant.   

Why is this happening?  Well, someone was digging in Rome and found some remarkable architecture that could only have been commissioned by Nero.  Cleaned up a little, reconstructed some, it begins to look as if he really liked the finer things.  (IT'S NOT HIS ARCHITECT WHO HAD A FINE SENSIBILITY -- IT WAS THE GUY WHO PAID FOR THE CONSTRUCTION.  NERO.)  It was also Nero who invented the concept of the Gymnasium -- and I don't refer to the place where you get humiliated trying to climb ropes or vault over a leather horse!  In ancient Rome this was a combination public bath, snack bar and open-mike poetry reading welcoming anyone who wanted to walk in. (DID THEY WELCOME THE SLAVES, TOO?  PEOPLE KEPT SLAVES IN THOSE DAYS.  COULD WOMEN GO IN AND READ BOOKS WITH THE MEN?)  He was a horrible singer but quite a patron of the arts, with an appreciation of the finer things, who wanted his subjects to join him in enjoying the gifts of Greek culture and universal intellectual stimulation.  Nero, by the way, appears to have invented the whole idea of Greek culture. THERE's a legacy that has followed us to the present day, for about 2,000 years and counting.  Nice work, Nero!

(HEY, YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS?  It means that Nero is responsible, in some measure, for the fact that people today are aware of the existence of Eris, the Greek goddess of Chaos.  So he had a role in the creation of the blog you are reading now.  Thanks, Nero!  I owe you one!)

They said he never started a war as long as he was Emperor.  I can hardly think of an American president who hasn't done THAT.  Even the anti-war ones, Like Barry Obama.  That's something, isn't it?

Someone finally listened to Will Cuppy, too, and they admitted publicly at last that the fiddle hadn't even been invented yet when Nero was alive.  Cuppy says he played the lyre, but National Geographic nominates the kithara, an instrument whose legacy lives on today in its namesake, the guitar:


And after Nero died and all the minions of his detractors got through chipping the noses off his statues...

...and writing mean-spirited novels and screenplays about what a demented creep he was, someone finally came out and admitted that Nero was greatly loved by his subjects, and when he died they pretty much wept and gnashed their teeth in the streets.

They even say in this article that he was nowhere near Rome when it burned down that time, let alone making people listen to him sing when they ought to have been throwing buckets of water on their houses.

What next?  If Emperor Nero turns out to be a complex, sympathetic kind of leader, will they be able to rehabilitate this guy as well?

Yeah, baby!  Gaius Caligula!  Now he REALLY has a reputation to live down -- the equine Consul thing springs to mind immediately -- not to mention that movie directed by Bob Guccione.  Can any rediscovered architecture, no matter how handsome, erase THOSE images from my mind?  

TRY ME.  I'm ready!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scottish Referendum Update

Well, it looks as if the referendum asking Scots how they felt about seceding from Great Britain has been quite narrowly defeated -- 54% to 46%.  This means there are more than a few disappointed Scots out there today. 

It's an interesting trend when you consider the superficially-similar self-rule referendum in the Ukraine, not to mention the very decisive split between the two brand-new African countries of North and South Sudan.  A guy from the Spanish parliament was commenting this morning on the radio about the Scottish vote, saying bitterly that although he speaks Catalan at home, and is allowed to represent Catalan interests at work, he is not even allowed to speak his native dialect at the office.  (He used the phrase "it is forbidden.") 

And recent unification efforts between countries that include groups of like-minded people are sowing more dissension and anger than ever -- can you say ISIS?  Interesting.  But not reassuring at all.

One rather wonders whether this will wake up the Quebecois again -- they have voted on this a couple of times and still chafe under not being seen as properly French but often mistaken for, you know, those vaguely quasi-British Canadian people next door who have Queen Elizabeth on their money.  And what about the many, many native tribes in North, Central and South America, some of which are quite numerous and well-heeled, not to mention seriously fed up?  What about the 90% Black majority in South Africa?  What about the seething, disenfranchised cultures all over Russia and China?  Will the Lapps get fed up and decide they want their own country instead of riding the coattails of Scandinavia?  Will the despised Breton speakers on the coast of France say "enough, already?"  I could go on and on.

I can't help thinking of the anniversary we just passed -- the first shots fired in the Great War, 100 years ago.  You remember what got that started, right?  Nationalists tired of being part of the Balkans fired bullets into the Archduke, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie -- not as good as Emperor Franz Josef, but close enough to get their point across.  Next thing you knew, 11 million soldiers from Europe, India, Asia and the USA were splattered all over the battlefield and a global pandemic was warming up in the bullpen to kill about 100 million innocent bystanders.  Oh, and then there were little side-effects like the Russian Revolution and the Cold War.

Why?  Nationalism started it all. 

I'm only in a position to wait and see, but some days I really wonder where we're going with this.


This delightful read, by a British police inspector who wishes to be anonymous, is THE DISCORDIAN BOOK OF THE MONTH.  It is drawn from the author's experiences at work -- it's not so much about busting crime, which he loves and would not give up for anything.  The book is really about what he has to slog through when he is THROUGH busting crime.  Because of the bureaucratic structure of the policing system in Britain, "Inspector Gadget" can spend minutes handling a crime scene and nicking the lawless perpetrator -- then half a day, or longer, swimming against the tide in a choppy sea of red tape.  Chapter after chapter is devoted to the different ridonkulous forms he needs to fill out, the special procedures he needs to go through in situations someone decided needed a different kind of attention, the extra miles he has to drive and the theoretical reasons for it all, as drawn up by his superiors, many of whom have NEVER been front-line police officers. 
Remember the sage words from the Principia Discordia about the wisdom of sending back a long, carefully-completed form that's come to you in dodecatuplet, stamping it "DENIED: PLEASE RESUBMIT IN UKRAINIAN"?  This is THAT sort of bureaucracy.
I won't make any attempt to summarize the craziness here.  But I will say that this guy must have a love of actual police work more powerful than anything on earth if he is willing to go through 6 hours or more of hairsplitting paperwork and 8 hours looking for a jail cell after a 5-minute bust for drunk & disorderly.  Especially when, as an inspector, he knows that all this wasted effort keeps him from being able to help anyone else out who might need it, and even more so when he is painfully aware that most of the police force that ought to be available to people in need are assigned to desk jobs, auditing whether guys like Gadget are meeting their quotas.
If you think your job is a bureaucratic or procedural nightmare, check this one out.  I read Gadget and went back to my own desk this morning, astonished at how simple it all suddenly looked.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Is There Something In The Water Today?

OK, I was on the road today as usual, and this happened three times in half an hour.  First off, I drove past someone waiting in the left-turn lane, and the driver had the right turn signal on.  Now, how often do you see that mistake? I thought.  Hardly ever!  BUT I WAS SO WRONG.  Right after that, someone changed from the left lane to the right in front of me, with the LEFT-turn signal on, but simultaneously using the correct right-turn hand signal for the move he was making into the right lane.  After that, someone was creeping along the edge of a dirt road at below walking speed, stopping again and again, with the right-turn signal on although they never turned, no matter how long I watched in the rearview.  Don't know what that was about, because the couple in the car were in some sort of heated discussion instead of paying any attention to the road. 

Wait, there was something else, too.    I was in court today and every female attorney who walked by me was wearing these preposterous black velvet shoes with four-to-five-inch heels on them.  Each pair of shoes was totally different, and none of them went with the outfits the women were wearing.  One petite brunette in a snappy business suit was wearing strappy sandals that had to really, really dig into her insteps, aside from being so high that she could barely balance on them. 

Attorney Footwear

Another practical-looking gal in a lumpy tweed suit and uncombed hair chose black-velvet platform pumps with the kind of heels I would only expect to see on a transvestite in Studio 54. 

Attorney Footwear
 A third was in what I could best describe as platform flip-flops -- black velvet combined with black patent leather this time -- and a rather flighty-looking white gossamer pantsuit.  

Attorney Footwear -- for the Prosecution this time, not Defense Counsel 
A fourth was wearing witch shoes with itty-bitty pointed heels and laces that went all the way up to there, and a "love me for my mind" dress of the sort I associate with Kelly Bundy.

Attorney Footwear

Fun day!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

I Really Love The Internet Sometimes...

There's a conversation on this discussion site about how thinking about God shows up on an MRI, okay?  This is one of the responses to the topic:
"You guys nailed it. No magic needed but possibly a positive focal point. "a person" is an ok one I guess. "The placebo effect" may work for some. It may give them something tangle to hold onto. I think aligning Mind, body, and spirit is not an invalid approach to healing."