In honor of Halloween, I present the text of a misogynistic 1643 pamphlet about the murder of a witch in Newbury, England. This particular case involves a group of men freaking out that a woman was surfing (!) and killing her for it. The original spelling and punctuation is given here, as reprinted in Walter Money's First and Second Battles of Newbury etc., second ed. (1884).
I had planned to write something long today, but yesterday I had quite a surprise when I proudly informed my publisher that I had completed the rough draft of Legends of the Pyramids a month early and they replied that they expected me to have all of the artwork for the book (the book I was not supposed to have finished writing until December) submitted to them this Friday, along with the captions and the page numbers (again, for the book I was not supposed to have yet finished) on which they should appear. So, today I am illustrating an entire book in 48 hours and scrambling to meet an arbitrary deadline for a book I apparently was supposed to have written backward to match the pictures, since I can see no other way to start with the pictures and end with a manuscript.
This has been a strange autumn for unusual claims about the past. Typically, by this time of year, there are a stack of new books primed for the holiday gift market and a wave of new fall cable shows are jockeying for what’s left of November sweeps. This year, though, it’s been unusually quiet. Inner Traditions, one of the largest purveyors of pseudohistory books, hasn’t made any ancient history titles available for review. The only books they’ve given me access to are New Age crap like The Wonder of Unicorns and Awakening the Ancient Power of Snake (yes, singular). All of the energy (so to speak) in cable TV has shifted from aliens and Atlantis toward ghosts and demons. Even the usually reliable To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, which will be releasing a new book soon, is taking a step back from its ufology. On Twitter this weekend Tom DeLonge walked back the company’s UFO investigation yet another step toward the conventional:
When I first got Netflix, the service’s algorithms had me pegged as a fan of horror, science fiction, and other genre staples, and its recommendations were targeted accordingly. Then one day the magic computer systems that measure our every action calculated that I was gay, and so overnight Netflix started recommending all manner of programming about drag queens and some Golden Girls-adjacent category they called “strong female friendships”—subjects of no interest to me. Stubbornly, Netflix refused to let the stereotype go despite my manifest uninterest, even sprinkling in shows about decorating and fashion. What, really, do they program their algorithms to believe? After a couple of weeks of this, the computers tried a new tack and suddenly all of the thumbnails for shows featured shirtless young men smiling and flexing, even when the content had nothing to do with the imagery. Eventually, Netflix’s algorithms calmed down and settled back into highlighting genre fare, but it was instructive to see the way the service’s marketing changes according to how they stereotype their users.
My apologies for a lack of a post today. I had to take advantage of a break in the week of rain we have had here to do yard work, and the raking and pruning ended up taking a lot more time than I anticipated. On the other hand, I did receive an email from the publicist working with Tom DeLonge to promote the next book in the Sekret Machines: God, Man, and War series. The book is due out soon, and To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science offered me a free copy. I found that amusing, but apparently the book is on its way to me as we speak. I am sure there is a lesson in there somewhere about publicity, but I will say this: This makes TTSA a few ticks brighter than the History Channel. Speaking of them: There is no new episode of Ancient Aliens this week, so I have today off!
A new book by Stanford historian Walter Scheidel claims that the fall of the Roman Empire was ultimately a good thing because, basically, it created capitalism a thousand years later. In Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity, Scheidel argues that Western civilization only emerged because of the absence of an imperial authority. Empires, he says, stifle innovation and prevent economic development. In an interview with Phys.org, Scheidel explained his reasoning:
Does it seem like Ancient Aliens is getting less attention than it used to? Sure, it has fan conventions and a core of online superfans, but I’ve noticed that its social media presence seems to be declining and there are many fewer articles about the show in the newspapers and magazines than there were last year. Even my reviews of the show have seen far fewer hits from Google searches than they used to, indicating that fewer people are searching for information about the show. It seems that the ratings for new episodes of the show a bearing out my intuition that the show seems to be burning out its audience, at least for now. The latest episode of the show, airing last Friday, hit a near record low for the series, just 739,000 viewers, ranking 55th for an original cable telecast that day. Last year, the show averaged more than 1.2 million viewers and ranked in the top five cable telecasts for Fridays.
Now that I have finished indexing and proofreading The Mound Builder Myth, which is due to be available for purchase sometime in the second or third week of February, there is just one more thing for me to finish for now, the last five pages of my book on legends of the pyramids. I have finished all twelve chapters and only have the conclusion to turn out. Then… Well, then I’m free until the copyediting, proofreading, and indexing hit for that one. If there is anything I have learned from the process, it is this: I am never again working on two books at the same time. This past nine months or so have been almost impossibly overstuffed trying to cram the needs of two books into days already filled with everything else I have to do. I can handle one at a time, but two at one is too much.
Because Ancient Aliens is on later today, I am only going to make a brief post this morning. I wanted to say something about the attack on Donald Trump’s statement at his news conference this week with the president of Italy. In introducing the Italian president, Trump said that “the United States and Italy are bound together by a shared cultural and political heritage dating back dating back thousands of years to ancient Rome.” Liberal pundits attacked Trump’s statements—which were prepared remarks, not extemporaneous—because they believed Trump had claimed that the United States, founded in 1776, had had a relationship with Italy, founding in 1861, since the founding of Rome. Trump does enough bad stuff that we don’t need to make up things he didn’t say. Italy and the United States do indeed both draw on the Classical heritage of Rome, as every schoolchild was taught down to modern times. The U.S. government draws on Roman models, and Italy’s connection to Rome should be obvious. Trump was referring to the Roman influence on Western civilization, not a fictitious U.S.-Roman alliance. It’s fairly obvious. That he then went on to praise Columbus Day and reject efforts to rename it Indigenous People’s Day is another issue. That seems entirely in keeping with his frequent and unthinking repetition of whatever angry thing he heard on cable TV.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.