Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine
Barry Strauss | 432 pages | Simon & Schuster | ISBN: 978-1451668834 | $28.00
The story of the Roman Empire is well-known, its major personalities still celebrities even today. But the fame of the Empire and its emperors makes it a challenge to say something new about a subject that has spawned books both thoughtful and sensational for two thousand years. Cornell University professor Barry Strauss’s Ten Caesars, which will be published on March 5, doesn’t quite manage to say anything new about the ten men it profiles, but it does have the virtue of telling a familiar story well.
Abraham “Avi” Loeb is back at it again, continuing down the path to guru status. The Harvard astronomer became famous a few months ago when he published a paper speculating that the Oumuamua interstellar object was an extraterrestrial craft, but since then, he has used the notoriety his declaration engendered to promote a quasi-spiritual philosophy he calls “cosmic humility,” speculating about everything from the godlike nature of ancient astronauts to his self-perception as a hero standing against critical and angry “elites.” Now, in a new Scientific American column, Loeb redoubles his claim to be a lifestyle guru in the style of Jordan Peterson.
University of New Mexico Revises Reason for Studying Olmec Heads on Trip Exploring "African Presence" in Mexico
The University of New Mexico came under fire online from anthropologists, archaeologists, activists, and skeptics after a flyer for an upcoming study abroad trip sponsored by their Chicano Studies department caused outrage by promising to help students learn about the “African presence” in Mexico during Olmec times. The trip, scheduled for May, was intended to explore the African experience in Mexico across time, including in the colonial period and in contemporary Mexico. But it was the decision to follow the Afrocentric claim that Olmec society had an African component that set off alarm bells.
Due to prior commitments this week, some of my blog posts are going to be a bit on the short side. Today I want to discuss a recent presentation discussing the results of interviews with Flat Earth believers at two conferences in 2017 and 2018. Speaking Sunday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting, researchers who spoke with more thirty attendees placed the blame squarely on YouTube for creating a community of Flat Earth believers and providing the means for Flat Earth leaders to propagandize a credulous audience. An article in the Guardian summarized their findings:
Today, I thought I’d review the Science Channel’s Sunday night lineup, even though it turned out to be much less interesting or impressive than the marketing made it seem.
My on-screen guide called Sunday night’s Science Channel special by the title Atlantis: The Dark Secrets, which is a lot more interesting than the show’s actual on-screen title, Finding Atlantis: The New Evidence, a show that bears the hallmarks of being a Euro import with new American-accented narration dubbed over it. I watched the whole damned thing until I found out that it was a “BBC/Discovery Channel/France Televisions/Prosieben co-production,” and despite being listed as “new” in my cable guide, it was actually first broadcasted on the BBC in 2011. I feel like it was on before here in the U.S. before, but a Google search doesn’t turn up any immediate evidence of it. Maybe it aired under another name?
This weekend, I am devoting my time to working on my new book about the myths and legends of the pyramids, so I have only a short topic to discuss with you today. It concerns a “new” hypothesis about the location of Atlantis that was recently described in the Nevada Appeal, a newspaper in Carson City publishing two weekly editions. The Appeal published a column by local historian and amateur archaeologist Dennis Cassinelli, who has written four books on Great Basin history, including Uncovering Archaeology, in which he attacks the “current system” of science and claims to have found evidence for lost civilizations of an Old World flavor in the Great Basin region, along with Mormon-style evidence of Christ’s visitation.
America’s Lost Vikings didn’t make quite the splash that the Travel Channel had hope for. The debut of the series starring two ex-History Channel hosts hunting for evidence of Viking incursions into North America attracted just 457,000 viewers in its plum Sunday 10 PM timeslot, losing more than 150,000 viewers from its lead-in, a years-old rerun of Expedition Unknown. The next day, six-year-old reruns of America Unearthed, newly renewed by Travel for a fourth season, held about steady at 421,000 viewers. On Tuesday, over on Travel’s competition, the History Channel, The Curse of Oak Island drew 3.7 million viewers, while Project Blue Book, recently renewed for a second season, brought in 1.6 million viewers, losing more than half of the Curse audience.
From Russia with Love: How Old Fringe Claims about Bible "Mysteries" Became a Global Media Sensation
Most of you reading this will be aware that there are a number of British tabloids whose online editions produce what might generously be called clickbait about UFOS, ancient astronauts, and historical mysteries. We might less generously call the stories recycled garbage that barely rises above outright plagiarism of old material, which they pass off as new. Sites like The Express, The Mail Online, The Daily Star, and so on generate a lot traffic this way, but produce absolutely terrible journalism. Usually, though, their crappy material rarely makes much impact beyond other bottom-feeding websites, which piggyback on the stories for clicks. Today’s example, however, demonstrates clearly and depressingly how fringe pseudo-history goes through a laundering process as it moves from Russian sources to British clickbait websites to mainstream British papers and eventually American media.
It was exactly as I predicted when I broke the news of the show’s return last week: The 25% spike in the network’s average Monday ratings for the reruns of the show currently airing on Travel are indicative of the expectations for higher ratings for new episodes. The only saving grace is that almost no one watches the Travel Channel, whose viewership rarely surpasses 500,000 viewers. In its H2 run, America Unearthed drew around 1.2 million viewers. If even half show up for a new season, Travel will see a huge ratings spike—by their standards.
Tampa-Area Man Wonders If Roman Coins Found on Beach Prove Pre-Columbian European Presence in Florida
On Sunday, the Science Channel premiered America’s Lost Vikings, a show in the mold of History’s Curse of Oak Island following the misadventures of two former History Channel archaeologists, Blue Nelson and Mike Arbuthnot, as they explore real and imagined Viking exploration in pre-Columbian North America. The first episode was rather dull, with little left for me to say that hasn’t been said by Sara Head of Archaeological Fantasies in her review posted on Adventures in Poor Taste. I strongly recommend that you read the review. But I do want to highlight one of Head’s key points, about the particularly masculine bent of this genre of programming:
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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