Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Tag: ancient rome

Requirements For A Movie Set In Rome

  • Food is eaten by suspending it above one’s face, and lowering it sensually into one’s mouth.
  • Togas worn despite social status, time of day, or whether it’s really sweaty or not.
  • One big outdoor scene; everything else takes place indoors.
  • Boots from the Second Century BC, swords from 150 AD, playing cards from wait there were no fucking playing cards for around 1700 years.
  • Slavery, but not the depressing, racist kind.
  • Characters named:
    • Gaius.
    • Drusilla.
    • Gracchus. (Rich character only.)
    • Chicken Piccata. (Delicious character only.)
  • All men, despite the year, are clean-shaven and have George Clooney’s haircut from the first couple seasons of ER.
  • Rich characters speak like Benedict Cumberbatch; poor ones, like a curry takeaway with an ASBO.
  • Braziers fucking everywhere, man.
  • Julius Caesar known as “The Conqueror of Gaul,” and not “The Guy Who Genocided Well Over A Million Proto-Frenchmen.”
  • If you ask for Choccy Milk, no one will have any fucking idea what you’re talking about.

Thoughts On Rome (The HBO Show)

  • Titties and ding-dongs, Enthusiasts.
  • Nothin’ but titties and ding-dings.
  • And the Battle of Actium.
  • Titties, ding-dongs, and the Battle of Actium: what more could you ask in a teevee program?
  • Rome ran on HBO from 2005-07 and then they cancelled it because it cost a trillion fucking dollars a show.
  • But, oddly, still manages to look cheap as shit in places.
  • When the characters are inside: perfect.
  • Everything’s dirty and half-lit and there’s graffiti all over and the beds looks uncomfortable.
  • Outside?
  • Lotta real tight shots of people arguing in front of columns.
  • Forget about the battle sequences.
  • There’s one.
  • But mostly, there’s scenes where Caesar or Mark Antony walk back into their tent and say, “What a great victory!”
  • Or some guys on horseback on top of a hill pretending to oversee the fight.
  • Whatever: all that action crap is for the movies; this is television and what works on television is talking.
  • So much talking.
  • Literally all Cicero does is jabber away at motherfuckers.
  • Until he gets his hands cut off and nailed to the Senate door.
  • The New York Times says that the U.S. Senate is in the worst shape it’s even been in, but I don’t see any hands nailed to the door.
  • Point: modernity.
  • And, because it’s Ancient Rome, everyone does their talking in British accents.
  • (There are three reasons for this: 1. the difference between the rich characters’ posh speech and the poor ones’ Scottish or Geordie or whatnot provides a quick shorthand to status; 2. At this point, it would just be weird for Ancient Romans not to have British accents; and 3. It’s not like you could do the job sounding like an American: “Hey, Mark Antony! How ya doin’? Hot as balls out here, huh?” It doesn’t work.)
  • Okay, you got Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo.
  • They’re soldiers fighting with Caesar in Gaul and they’re also basically Forrest Gump: present for every important event during the series.
  • Cleopatra smuggles herself back into her palace in a rug?
  • Pullo is carrying the rug.
  • Caesar goes to work on March 15th?
  • Vorenus is his bodyguard.
  • You’ll never guess who taught young Augustus Octavian to sword fight.
  • Unless you guess “Pullo.”
  •  So: as the historically-minded among you will have realized, the show is set from 50-30 BC.
  • (The Ancient Romans did not think they were living in 50-30 BC. Romans didn’t really number their years, instead referring to them by the names of the Consuls who were in charge. Do not forget this: the Romans were fucking oddballs. We think they’re like us because all our fancy buildings look like their fancy buildings, but they’re such strange humans.)
  • That’s when Rome went from being a Republic, ruled by a Senate and Consuls, to an Empire ruled by an Emperor.
  • The First and Second Triumvirates; Et tu, Brutus; Mark Antony going native; all that shit.
  • This is one of Rome‘s greatest problems: you know what’s gonna happen.
  • And if you don’t, well, that’s on you.
  • I’m not saying you should be able to name all four emperors from 69 AD, commonly referred to as the Year of Four Emperors.
  • Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian.
  • You looked that up.
  • I did, but I knew offhand that “the Year of Four Emperors” was a thing.”
  • I’ll give it to you.
  • Thank you.
  • What I’m saying is this: you should know this story already.
  • This leads to the occasional shout to the teevee: “JUST STAB THE BALD BASTARD ALREADY!”
  • Although Rome‘s Caesar is not bald, or even balding.
  • Nor is he skinny or hawk-nosed.
  • Those are the only three physical characteristics of Caesar we know for certain; every contemporaneous writer mentions them, and his soldiers used to sing a song with the line “Hide your wives, for we bring with us the bald-headed adulterer.”
  • Instead, he’s played by this guy:
  • Ciarán Hinds.
  • I’ll give you a shiny quarter if you pronounce that right the first time.
  • The guy on the right is Lucius Vorenus.
  • He gets made a Senator, and don’t ask how.
  • Through intrigue, I would suppose.
  • Holy shit, did these people intrigue!
  • Nothing but whispering and secret alliances and overheard conversations and “Ha-ha, but there’s something YOU don’t know, Pompey Magnus.”
  • Pompey Magnus is Latin for “The biggest Pompey there is; go search the world, and you’ll not find a larger Pompey.”
  • Astoundingly concise language, Latin.
  • Even if you don’t care for the dramatics, or the titties and ding-dongs, Rome is worth the viewing just for the production design.
  • The tunics are weakly-dyed, and you can see the ragged seams and uneven stitching.
  • Even the little stuff, like the fact that everyone’s haircut is janky (excepting the rich ladies, who would have owned hairdressing slaves).
  • Anyway, Caesar (whose name isn’t Caesar, it’s Gaius of the Julii) comes back to Rome from Gaul, but he brings his army with him.
  • Which you’re totally not supposed to do.
  • The Senate is super-pissed.
  • They’re all, “WTF, Caesar?”
  • And Caesar’s like, “Oh, those legions lol?”
  • He declares himself a god.
  • As one does.
  • So Brutus says to Cassius, “Yo. We gotta murder this bitch.”
  • And Cassius says to Brutus, “Dante isn’t gonna like that.”
  • I’m recounting the conversation from memory, so the quotes may not be exact.
  • Again we return to our primary obstacle towards enjoyment with Rome: this material has been covered, and by better writers.
  • The creative team punted on the funeral scene.
  • Straight-up surrendered.
  • There’s a scene where Mark Antony manipulates Brutus into having a public ceremony for Caesar.
  • CUT TO: Mark Antony and Brutus walking back into the room from the previous scene.
  • “Whew,” Mark Antony says. “That did not go well for you.”
  • I can almost respect that: a narrative choice made out of fear of comparison.
  • And then Octavian is 20 years old.
  • Rome does that soap opera thing where the children age rapidly, but the grown-ups don’t age at all.
  • TotD Breaks Down The Titties:
  • All the titties.
  • You get to see the titties of every single actress on the program.
  • If they’re a woman with dialogue, they’re getting them titties out.
  • TotD Breaks Down The Ding-Dongs
  • Just Brutus and Mark Antony, plus a slave with an enormous ding-dong.
  • Warning: foreskins.
  • The second season is a complete mess: HBO cancelled the show halfway through production, so the producers jammed what would have been season three and four in there.
  • You got Mark Antony fucking off to Egypt, plus Octavian’s rise in Rome, plus Caesar’s niece and Brutus’ mother catfighting, plus Vorenus and Pullo become gangsters, plus Herod the Great shows up.
  • Basically, it’s Antony and Cleoptra mixed up with the Gospel of Matthew, the Aeneid, the Sopranos, and the scene from Dynasty where Joan Collins and the blonde lady fought in the swimming pool.
  • It’s a lot of material to cover in twelve episodes.
  • And perhaps the producers bit off a bit more dormouse than they could chew.
  • (The Romans ate mice. They would roast them and dip them in honey. The Romans also ate weasels and swans and just about anything that walked, swam, or fucked.)
  • And that is Rome‘s fatal flaw: you just can’t taste the dormice.
  • Is that how you’re ending this?
  • I’m sleepy.
  • I hope you have nightmares.

A Short, Incomplete, And In Places Wrong History Of Beards

Beards might be the only thing not invented in China. Asians and Indigenous Americans don’t grow them, but Europeans and Africans do. (Always good to start off with a vast and unsupported generalization about race, is what my Writing teacher once told me.) They are worn or not worn by the males of the species–except in old-timey carnivals, in which beards were worn by one lady–and are as governable by fashion’s breeze as women’s haircut or shoes. Beards have been political symbols, statements of purpose, or cultivated to hide weak chins.

The story began like this:



“Yeah, Og?”

“I gotta get this fucking thing offa me. It’s like nine pounds of ratty tangles and berry skins.”

“What thing?”

“This! The thing I’m itching.”

“That’s your face, Thog.”

“No, it’s not. It’s growing out of my face.”

“Your nose is growing out of your face. Is your nose not part of your face?”

“Not an apt comparison.”

“Apt as fuck.”

“It’s not part of my face, Og. It’s on my face. It occupies a separate category.”

“All is one. That which comes from, is.”


“What did I tell you about inventing religion?”

“You hit too hard!”

“What did I tell you?”

“Sorry, sorry.”

“Ah, I’m sorry, Oggie buddy. I’m crazed lately with this thing that isn’t my face that’s on my face. We should really come up with–”


“–a word for this new concept. Beard? Yes. Fine, and let’s just move forward. If a beard isn’t a face, then it can be removed.”

“Faces can be removed. Remember what the sabertoothed owl did to Bur?”

“I need you to pay attention, Oggie.”

“You want to get rid of your beard. Have you tried hitting it with a club?”



“As you’d expect.”

“Did you take a shit by the magic tree?”

“Dude. Am I a child?”

“Just asking!”

“First thing I did.”

“Okay, just checking.”

“I go every morning. Sometimes in the afternoon if we find those red berries that have the gods in them.”

“The ones that make the goats all jumpy?”


“Love those suckers. They make me poop, too.”

“So, yeah, I’ve taken numerous shits of varying consistencies by the magic tree, yet my troubles remain”

“Thog, what we need is to attack the problem at the root.”

“Dude, you just invented puns.”

“Awesome! Let’s keep the streak rolling. We know hitting the beard and making doody doesn’t work. Oh, I got it. You know how your wife’s hair can just yank right out of her skull when you’re dragging her back to your cave?’

“We don’t actually do that.”


“Are you suggesting I violently tear the beard from my face like a man possessed by a demon?”

“Not violently. Calmly.”

“Not a great suggestion. I’m thinking I cut the hair off.”

“All of it? Right down to the bone?”

“Skin, Oggie. To the skin. Like a boy.”

“I still don’t understand why you want to do this.”

“I told you: it’s itchy and it stinks. And plus…you know.”




“It’s just that, you know…every guy in the village has one.”

“You’re just terrible.”

“Hey, man, I’m an individual.”


“What I need is a material that will take an edge, yet retain its strength. Does anything like that exist?”


“Can we make some this afternoon?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Fuck. Ah, well. Hand me that vaguely-sharpish rock.”

“I’ll go take a shit by the magic tree for you.”

“You’re my guy, Oggie.”

And so on.

The Vikings had scary blond beards; the Celts and Scots had scary red beards; pirates had scary black beards, although only of them got famous for it. The Greeks didn’t shave, but the Macedonian kid who conquered them all did, and so the Greeks started to shave their beards. Romans, too. The plebs went to the barber, and the patricians had their slave do it. The razors were made from iron and called novacila, and there is a reason razors are no longer made from iron. Neither shaving cream nor gel had been invented yet, and so I think all those Roman movies are lying to us: all those toga-wearing gloryhounds would have had some chewed-up faces. Caesar used to get his beard plucked hair-by-hair with a pair of tweezers, so I’m assuming he walked around looking like a balding tomato.

But they could not wear beards, you see. The Germanic horde grew beards, and so did the rest of the pants-wearing savages outside the Empire; Romans were clean-shaven, no matter how much of a pain in the ass it was.

When the Roman Empire collapsed, everyone was like “Yay, we can grow beards,” but then the Roman Empire was all “Haha! Fooled you! We didn’t go anywhere, just turned into the Catholic Church,” and everyone went “You got us! Totally got us, Roman Empire Good trick,” and then there were no more beards for a while.

Several presidents have sported facial hair, but only five had a full beard–Garfield, Grant, Harrison, Hayes, and Lincoln–plus “full beard” is pushing it: none of them were even within sight of Full Muppet status. Nixon could have had a thick, Phil-in-the-Grateful-Dead-Movie-type beard within twelve hours of shaving, but for some reason chose not to.

Now fashionable and omnipresent, the beard was considered a sign of sloth or lunacy throughout most of recent American cultural life. Bearded men were generally considered to be inappropriate masturbators. Now, every asshole’s got a beard.

Yours will come in one day, slugger.




Ancient Rome Without Research

  • The Ides happened every month, because the Romans did months weird: instead of numbering the days like rational people, they put a bunch of markers in the month and then calculated around them.
  • The first was called Kalends and then there was Nones and also Ides and I have spelled all of those wrong: anyway, the kalends was the first, so instead of the 3rd, you’d say it was “three days past Kalends” but you’d say it in Latin.
  • The 14th is the day before Ides.
  • It seems needlessly complicated, plus there were all sorts of unlucky days and auspicious days and market days: if you asked a guy in a toga what the date was, you might be there a while.
  • All Romans did not wear togas, and they never conquered India.
  • No one did yoga in a toga.
  • I am ahead of myself.
  • When Ancient Rome was founded, it was just called Rome.
  • Sticking to the sacred oath of Without Research, I am guessing, but Rome marked its birth at the year BC 752 or 753.
  • A suspiciously specific date, is the point I’m getting at.
  • The rest of the story can be believed: twin brothers Romulus and Remus–suckled at the teat of a she-wolf–established a town, called it Rome, and then Romulus immediately murdered Remus.
  • Which sounds like a mash-up of a couple other origin stories, because it is.
  • The Romans just took shit.
  • This will be a theme.
  • In the version of history that doesn’t contain magic, Rome is geographically perfect: defensible due to its seven hills, at the junction of whatever passed for several important roads, and at a strategic point along the Tiber river.
  • Stuff also grew well there, so people had lived there probably since Europe was settled.
  • Over the years, Rome grew more powerful and dominated first the Italian peninsula and later almost all the white people and renamed itself the Roman Empire, and then there were two of those (which really means there aren’t any: Empires are like quarterbacks), and then there was no “Rome” but Rome was still in charge of a lot of people and still is.
  • And that’s the history of Rome.
  • Nothing like us.
  • For example, no one is named Gracchus anymore.
  • Very much like us.
  • For example, they believed that they would rule the world forever, too.
  • Conquered.
  • Lot of conquering.
  • Romans were excellent at conquering, except in Scotland but that’s to be expected, really.
  • Trying to conquer the Scots is like fighting a puma: even if you win, you’re going to die doing it.
  • Carthaginians got the shit conquered out of them.
  • Literally the only knowledge I have of Carthage is that it pissed off Rome.
  • It may or may not be Libya now, which is testament to how hard it got conquered: when you’re still a mess two millennia later, you got conquered.
  • As with all history, there are two histories: the wars the rich folks paid for and all their fancy important bullshit, and how your average Livius or Livia spent their lives.
  • And of course the occasional slave uprising, but only one with an iconic ending and blatantly homoerotic subtext, so let’s not worry about the slaves.
  • What are you, an SJW?
  • Romans loved them some slaving, and while their version of bondage was inarguably better than the American style, they would still send rough men to snatch human beings from their homes, and then sell those human beings to one another, to be used as labor or sex or entertainment.
  • Some might argue that this was the culture, the custom: how can a man see without the lens of his time?
  • Any Roman you might ask would see no evil in slavery.
  • I mean: don’t ask a slave, though.
  • Slave’ll say they don’t like it much, but you know how slaves lie.
  • So, yeah: rapacious warmongers funded by slave labor, but their buildings were so pretty.
  • (The buildings were built by slaves.)
  • (Of course, so were certain other White Houses I could mention.)
  • With morality set aside and man’s dickishness to man covered, it should be said that the a Roman Legionnaire might have been one of the toughest sumbitches that ever lived.
  • Army Rangers and Navy Seals are hard men trained in the art of high-stakes problem-solving, but they fly to their base.
  • A Legionnaire would walk to his base, and then build it.
  • Then go kill motherfuckers.
  • It was real Iron Man football back then.
  • Plus there was no medicine.
  • Focusing back on the city, Romans had a standard of public sanitation and personal hygiene unrivaled in the Western world until today’s Purell-coated, latex-covered world.
  • Romans did one thing very well, and that was engineering: a Roman knew how to get the clean water in, and the dirty water out.
  • That said, Rome was unimaginably filthy.
  • Sure, it was better than Paris or London were up until recently, but still: feculent.
  • But, TotD: what about the public baths?
  • Ah: the public baths.
  • The public.
  • Baths.
  • That existed before the invention of bleach, or the knowledge of germs that would make the non-invention of bleach a problem?
  • No one can estimate the amount slap-and-tickle going on in these water-logged fuck parks, plus there was nude calisthenics going on all over the place
  • Stop it with the baths.
  • Ah, but TotD: there were even public bathrooms, so nobody pooped in the street.
  • It is true that “anything other than pooping in the streets” is better than pooping in the streets, yes, but toilet paper hadn’t been invented yet, so people wiped their asses with a communal sponge.
  • No matter how interesting the past may seem, do not go there because it is terrible.
  • Togas were worn more rarely than cartoons and statues led us to believe: they were only for rich people or fancy events and were a pain-in-the-ass; it’s just big semi-circular tablecloth a guy (slave) had to help you put it on and was kept in place with your elbow.
  • That’s why they did that pose: it was the only thing keeping them from being naked at the symposium.
  • Most days called for a tunic; women wore tunics, too, but they were long and therefore are called dresses.
  • Rome rose early, and business might start at dawn; this is because nighttime in Ancient Rome was a horror.
  • Cramped streets.
  • Lightbulb was 2,000 years away, as was even the most rudimentary flashlight app.
  • Cops had also not been invented.
  • All you had was the social contract, and at night the contract becomes more of an oral agreement.
  • Roman Emperors included: Julius Caesar (OG); his son (not really) Augustus; Germanicus, Tiberius, Claudius (these were the first Emperors with British accents); Hadrian, Trajan (boyfriends); Caligula, Nero, Commodus (villains); Marcus Auerelius (Richard Harris) Jusitinean, Diocletian (plague, broke up the band); Theodosius (adopted Christianity and that’s all she wrote).
  • Roman Emperors did not include: Waximillion, Flatus II, Blogrodil the Worm of God, Vicodinius, Oprah.
  • Things Ancient Rome did right:
  • Math. (They stole it from the Greeks, but they were good at it.)
  • Roads.
  • Phalanxes.
  • Strappy sandals.
  • Repelled all four Godzilla attacks so thoroughly that they don’t even appear in historical records.
  • Plus, the Romans were way ahead of Twitter on the inclusivity front, in a religious sense.
  • When they conquered you, you could keep worshipping your gods: hell, if the Romans liked your gods, they would steal them and rename them and worship them right along with you.
  • Unless you started hollering about how there was only one god, and that He was God, and Roman gods are puny gods and false idols and causing a racket.
  • Looking at you, Jews.
  • I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that I’m Jewish.
  • That fact notwithstanding, when a large man with a sword asks me what gods I believe in, I say “What gods do you believe in? Because I believe in those.”
  • And then you go off and do whatever the fuck you want.
  • Because otherwise you would be peronally involved with one of the things the Romans did wrong:
  • They crucified so many people that it might best be understood as a societally-possessed fetish.
  • Romans were cruel bastards, and vain: they would have been excellent at social media.
  • Jesus was the most famous crucifixee.
  • But, you know: he had to die.
  • Jesus’s crucifixion was like Canada beating us in hockey: it’s sad, but it’s the way the world is supposed to work out.
  • Christ was not alone on Cavalry Hill, though: the Biblical canon was them recorded merely as two thieves, but somewhere in the Apocrypha, we learn their names were Barabas and Dismas.
  • They died for their own sins.
  • Crucified for stealing?
  • C’mon, Rome: chop a guy’s head off. 
  • After the Roman Empire fell, the Catholic Church took its place smoothly, like Indy exchanging the sandbag for the idol.
  • Nothing changes, everything lasts.
  • The city of Rome remains, but it’s barely in charge of itself at this point.
  • Everything changes, nothing lasts.