This blog covers everything except sports and gardening, unless we find a really good link about using dead professional bowlers for mulch. The author is a StarTribune columnist, has been passing off fiction and hyperbole as insight since 1997, has run his own website since the Jurassic era of AOL, and was online when today’s college sophomores were a year away from being born. So get off his lawn.
STATE FAIR! You’d be surprised how few historical Fair photos we have in the archives. The papers didn’t lavish great attention on the Fair - a few shots if there was some novel attraction, schedules, maybe a story if something caught on fire. But the newspapers took pictures of their own attractions, if they had something they wanted the public to know about. I have a few. I trot ‘em out every year. No reason this year should be different.
Mr. Answer Man. He walked around with a sign on his head. People asked him questions. Now we have a large structure at the base of the Grandstand ramp, where questions can be posed and disposed by our army of experts. The days of a lone lanky guy in a pith helmet walking around with an expectant look are over. I think he should be incorporated into a Fair app, though. He’d be perfect, sitting in the corner with a word balloon containing one of those “Did you know?” tips.
HISTORY Pliny is tweeting the eruption of Vesuvius this weekend. It didn’t end well.
That’s Pliny the Elder, of course. He wasn’t in Pompeii when the volcano went off, but observed it from a distance. Got the brave idea to go see what was happening close-up. His relative Pliny the Younger survived to tell the tale of what happened to Pompeii, and got an eruption feature named after him: the Plinian Eruption.
When I was in Pompeii last year I saw smoke coming out of the mountain, and thought: well, it probably does that all the time. But one of these days it’ll blow again, and tourists will think oh you have to be kidding me. What are the odds of this? Seriously? But it will blow. The last time Vesuvius went off was 1944. Big slate-clearing explosions usually happen every 2000 years. Today seems safe; that box on the right is the latest seismograph from the observatory that monitors the volcano. Looking good. So far.
As for Pompeii today, 2010 MSNBC.com noted in 2010:
Two more walls have given way inside Pompeii's 2,000-year-old archaeological site, Italian officials said Wednesday — the second collapse at the popular tourist attraction in as many days.
Officials sought to play down the latest collapses, saying they only concerned the upper parts of two walls that had no artistic value. But the repeated damage at one of the world's most important archaeological sites is proving an embarrassment for Italy, and giving credence to accusations that the entire ancient city is in a state of decay.
Well, yes. Outside the ruins there’s a lousy tourist-trap market; it all feels rather junky, and when added to the oddly irrelevant tour of a cameo factory our junket-operator somehow insisted was an absolutely crucial part of the experience, you suspect that the exchange of money behind the scenes is more important than giving the world the finest Pompeii Experience.
The story of Pompeii really needs a good movie adaptation; it’s the ultimate disaster movie. A movie based on Robert Harris’ crackerjack novel was supposed to be shot in 2007, but an actor’s strike shut it down. Orlando Bloom and Scarlett Johansson were set to play Jack and Rose. Oh, they had other names, but you know what I mean. If you’re wondering how you could do a movie about anyone who experienced the catastrophe and survived, read the book. It's not just ingenious, it's completely plausible
By the way, there’s some dispute over the actual day of the eruption. Wikipedia - yes, I know, but c’mon, it’s gotten so much better over the years - notes:
The eruption was documented by contemporary historians and is generally accepted as having started on 24 August 79, relying on one version of the text of Pliny's letter. However the archeological excavations of Pompeii suggest that the city was buried about three months later. This is supported by another version of the letter which gives the date of the eruption as November 23.
People buried in the ash appear to be wearing warmer clothing than the light summer clothes that would be expected in August. The fresh fruit and vegetables in the shops are typical of October, and conversely the summer fruit that would have been typical of August was already being sold in dried, or conserved form. Wine fermenting jars had been sealed over, and this would have happened around the end of October. Coins found in the purse of a woman buried in the ash include one which features a fifteenth imperatorial acclamation among the emperor's titles. This cannot have been minted before the second week of September. So far there is no definitive theory as to why there should be such an apparent discrepancy.
Maybe the fact that Pliny the Younger wrote his account a quarter-century after the events had something to do with it. It’s not like he took a screenshot of his stylus pad at the time to make sure he got all the details just right. Or perhaps it was a time-traveller who figured that such details wouldn’t be noticed, and besides, he would meet up with the group and leave before the rock started to rain down. Lost track of time in a bar somewhere. Dang. Well, they’ll look for me. They can’t leave without me. There’s always one of those on a tour.
I’m still wondering why they just left Pompeii undug. The amount of money down there much have been astronomical. Did the Emperor send a team, and they looked at the vast plain of cooling stone and lava, and just thought “oh, forget that,” and gave up?
D’OH, A BEER Duff beer for me, Duff beer for you / I’ll make some Duff, then you will sue. The way they got around the intellectual property rights was rather clever, but using the Groening font is just asking for it. You can’t claim ignorance of the Simpsons origins when you use that font.
NOW GO WATCH my first Fair video of the year - it concerns the ride that stranded 24 people high up in the sky. Have a great weekend!