From gladiator duels to Caesar’s last words: the myths of ancient Rome →

Fresh Air podcast:

Our guest, historian Mary Beard, can give you the real story of the Spartacus uprising. And in a bit, she’ll share what we think Julius Caesar really said as he was being stabbed by Roman senators. It wasn’t et tu, Brute?

Mary Beard is a professor of classics at Cambridge University who’s spent a career studying Rome and written a dozen books. She also does TV and radio documentaries, writes a well-read blog and has become somewhat famous for taking on Internet trolls. Beard’s latest book covers about a thousand years of Roman history, but it isn’t just kings and emperors. She offers insights into the reasons for Rome’s prosperity and military expansion and provides fresh interpretations of turning points in Roman history.

And she makes ordinary Romans a central part of the story, describing both their impact on important events and their daily lives. Mary Beard’s book “SPQR: A History Of Ancient Rome” is out in paperback next month.

As a small boy, the ferocious mad Emperor Gaius was a pet of the Roman legions, who dressed him up in a child-sized uniform and gave him the nickname “Caligula.” History teachers today translate the name to “Little Boot,” but Beard says it’s more properly translated “Bootykins.” No wonder Caligula was always pissed off.

“SPQR” looks like a good one — I’ve put it high on my Amazon wishlist.

3 things Minnie & I saw walking at the park

A woman carrying a parasol to protect herself from the sun.

Minnie’s reaction: Very excited. She wanted to plaaaaaaaaaay. Which was strange — we’ve seen women at the park many times carrying umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun. Is a parasol that different? Guess so if you’re a dog.

Related: Minnie has different reactions to wheeled human-powered transportation machines: She’s afraid of conventional bicycles, loves skateboards and scooters and wants to plaaaaaaay, and is indifferent to recumbent bikes.

Three Buddhist monks wearing saffron robes, jogging.

That was a first. Lake Murray parkgoers are a very diverse bunch, which is one of the reasons I like it. We see people of all races and ethnic groups. We see Orthodox Jews, Hasids, and Muslims in traditional garb. But we’ve never seen robed Buddhist monks at the park before.

They didn’t seem to be doing too well with the jogging.

Minnie’s reaction: Indifferent.

A woman walking 11 dogs. 

More or less 11. About ten of them were similar size and color, more-or-less golden-retriever-like. The 11th was half that size, with long wiry fur, and trailing far behind them on a long lead.

Minnie’s reaction: Indifferent, thank goodness. If Minnie had gotten excited and the dogs had gotten excited, that would have been some kind of Disney live-action comedy movie starring Dean Jones, with dogs barking excitedly and leashes getting tangled and me ending up in the lake.

When I got home, Julie asked, “Was it Sonya?” “Who?” I said. “You know, the woman who petsits for us when we’re both out of town,” Julie said. “She does dog-walking too.” “I have no idea,” I said.

We’ve been using Sonia Shoemaker and her husband Dennis at Pet Pals for nearly 20 years but Julie is the one who interviewed them and the only time I’ve met either of them was almost that long ago, when we got our dates confused and Sonya came to the house early, while I was in the living room, finishing packing. I admit when I heard the key in the door and realized what was going on I kept quiet just to see what would happen when she opened the door and saw me there. She was gratifyingly startled. (Pet Pals does a great job, by the way. If you’re in San Diego and need a pet sitter, they’re the guys to call.)

Malcolm Gladwell: Change the world with “generous orthodoxy” →

Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast compares and contrast two cases of people looking to make institutional change: The first is a longtime Mennonite minister who performed a marriage for his gay son in defiance of church doctrine. The second is a group of Princeton University students trying to get Woodrow Wilson’s name removed from the school. The Mennonite minister seems noble, the students seem shrill and entitled. The theory of “generous orthodoxy” explains why.

Wikipedia entry for Sunnydale, the fictional location for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”  →

Sunnydale’s size and surroundings are implausible but justified given its origins — to sustain a human population for supernatural evils to prey upon. The town’s founder spared no expense to attract a populace, and Sunnydale thus contains many elements of a large city — which the show’s writers utilized fully for comic effect and narrative convenience. During the first three seasons, Sunnydale is shown to have 38,500 inhabitants,[2] very few high schools,[3] forty-three churches,[4] a small private college,[5] a zoo,[6] a museum,[7] and one modest main street. Even so, it has twelve gothic cemeteries.[8] These cemeteries are so heavily used that services are sometimes held at night.[9] Sunnydale is divided into five neighborhoods. The first is the entertainment district which contains Bronze. The second is the alleys directly behind Bronze which contain the town’s excess supply of pallets and cardboard. The high school makes the third neighborhood. The fourth neighborhood is filled in its entirety by the large graveyard, and lastly the suburban residential sprawl is the final neighborhood. The abundance of very nice homes is made possible by low property values caused by frequent murder.[10]