Io Saturnalia!

Happy Christmas!

Or, as it should more properly be said, Io Saturnalia!

Because Christmas is a pagan Roman festival in honour of the god Saturn.  The Io is pronounced Yo, making ancient Romans sound somewhat like rappers.  Saturnalia was appropriated by early Christians for the birth of Jesus, because there wasn't the slightest hope of getting people to give up their beloved Saturnalia.

Saturnalia was the Time of Misrule.  All normal order disappeared.  Masters were expected to serve their own slaves.  Saturnalia began on what we'd call 17th December and carried on for a week or more of non-stop partying.  Several Roman emperors tried to limit the time of Saturnalia, but everyone ignored them.

The official last day of Saturnalia was our 23rd December, called Sigillaria, when people gave each other gifts.

Does this sound familiar?  Christmas/Saturnalia is such an ancient festival that no one has the faintest clue when it first began.  When you gather round on Christmas Day with your friends and family and exchange gifts and happiness, you'll be carrying on a human tradition that's been going for thousands of years.

Keep up the good work.

Io Saturnalia!

A dead man really did fall from the sky

"A dead man fell from the sky, landing at my feet with a thump."  That was the first line in my first book: The Pericles Commission.  

When I wrote that line, I was thinking, what's the most ridiculous way to discover a body that anyone could imagine?  What's something that couldn't possibly happen?

Well, now it's happened.  Residents of Mortlake in London on the 8th September at 7.42am were surprised when a dead man fell from the sky, and landed in one of their residential streets with a resounding thump.

It seems the victim was a stowaway on a jet, who like others before him had decided to hide in the landing gear compartment.  Mortlake is under the flightpath for Heathrow airport.  When the landing wheels descended, out he came.  He was probably already dead.  Very few people can survive unprotected at 30,000 feet.

Here's the story from the BBC news.  They still don't know who he was.

When I began this blog I was stuck for a title, so I used A dead man fell from the sky as a placeholder.  I figured I'd change it later to something that looked more official.

But then when the series sold, and I revamped the web site and changed the name to The Athenian Mysteries, the one piece of clear feedback that came winging back to me was that everyone liked the original name!  So A dead man fell from the sky I am, and shall remain.  But this is a very weird example of life imitating art.

Zombie apocalypse begins at the Large Hadron Collider

You might recall when they discovered the Higgs Particle at the Large Hadron Collider, that I wrote about what is a Higgs particle and why does anyone care.

Now a group of PhD students who work there have made a zombie movie shot on site.  The premise goes that radiation from the Higgs experiments has turned a maintenance crew into zombies who now shamble through the maintenance corridors in search of brains, a food source which should, in theory, be quite plentiful at the LHC.

The movie is acted with all the skill that you would expect a bunch of nuclear physicists to bring to the thespian arts.  But they did a pretty good job on the production.

The movie's 75 minutes.  Here's the trailer:

The last words of Nero

"A pity that such an artist should die." 
 -- Nero, crazed Emperor of Rome and well-known muso.  He really knew how to set a gig on fire.
The story that Nero fiddled while Rome burned is probably false, but he really was a wannabee rock star.  There's a story that once, during yet another purge of the Senate, a number of Senators were rounded up in the middle of the night by the praetorian guard.  The fearful Senators were herded to a theatre, where they were made to sit for a long time, expecting that at any moment they would be slaughtered.  Then suddenly Nero appeared on the stage.  He danced around for a while before disappearing off-stage; then the Senators were allowed to go home.

In the annals of career placement, Nero was an epic fail.   He's Roman, but I can't help mentioning him because of his lovely final words, which have a small chance of being accurate.