You are currently browsing the daily archive for May 17, 2011.

(In keeping with the SPQR theme that seems to be pervading some of my posts today.)

By the way, this scene illustrates beautifully the comic maxim that there is nothing funnier than watching other people trying not to laugh.

This is the sort of story that awakes the inner geek romantic in ol’ Robbo: Genetic testing of villagers in a remote part of China has shown that nearly two thirds of their DNA is of Caucasian origin, lending support to the theory that they may be descended from a ‘lost legion’ of Roman soldiers.

Tests found that the DNA of some villagers in Liqian, on the fringes of the Gobi Desert in north-western China, was 56 per cent Caucasian in origin.

Many of the villagers have blue or green eyes, long noses and even fair hair, prompting speculation that they have European blood.

A local man, Cai Junnian, is nicknamed by his friends and relatives Cai Luoma, or Cai the Roman, and is one of many villagers convinced that he is descended from the lost legion.

Archeologists plan to conduct digs in the region, along the ancient Silk Route, to search for remains of forts or other structures built by the fabled army.

“We hope to prove the legend by digging and discovering more evidence of China’s early contacts with the Roman Empire,” Yuan Honggeng, the head of a newly-established Italian Studies Centre at Lanzhou University in Gansu province, told the China Daily newspaper.

How cool is that?

I’ve heard before stories about fugitives from Crassus’ spectacular loss to the Parthians in 53 B.C. wandering about in the East.  There’s no good reason why they couldn’t have escaped, hired out as mercenaries and eventually wound up in China.

Of course, it might all be hooey, too, but it’s nonetheless a fascinating possibility to contemplate.

French Socialists getting their knickers in knots over the “egalitarian” perp-walk treatment of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn by the cops in Noo Yawk.

That’s only for the little people, right Jacques?

I meant to mention that last week I ran off the made-for-teevee mini-series Masada.  And I must say that for an early 80’s production, it was really pretty good.

Granted, as I watched the thing, the inner geek in me kept up a steady chatter about historickal quibbles, most notably the softballed presentation of the Zealots as a cross between Robin Hood and his Merry Men and Spartacus’ slave army.   The Jewish Revolt was a good deal more complicated than the movie made it seem, and the lot that wound up defending Masada didn’t get there by being noble and generous.  I understand that this is Hollywood, and also that Masada is a source of Israeli pride, but “bloody-minded” is a not unfair way of describing them.

Nonetheless, I was mostly successful in telling my I.G. to get stuffed and instead concentrating on watching Peter O’Toole do his thing.  Fellah pretty much stole the show, as should be no surprise to anybody.

All in all, I don’t think I’m ready to dash out and buy a copy of the film, but it is certainly Netflix-worthy.

The film, by the bye, is based on a book called The Antagonists by Ernest K. Gann, which I am now interested in reading.

A man who shot a swan thinking it was goose is believed to be the first person in England prosecuted for using lead shot illegally on wildfowl.

Electrician Simon Quince, 36, from Harthills, Barnsley, was fined £445 for shooting the swan and £100 for using the wrong shot.

He appeared at Harrogate Magistrates’ Court and admitted killing the swan near Knaresborough last December.

An investigation found he had been using the shotgun cartridges illegally.

North Yorkshire Police and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds found Quince had been using gun cartridges that contained lead shot.

Quince was on a shoot on a freezing cold, but clear day last winter.

He noticed four birds flying over and thinking they were geese, he opened fire.

One of the birds came crashing down badly injured and Quince realised he had shot a swan, which is protected by law.

The bird was later put down by a local vet.

Wildlife Officer for North Yorkshire Police Pc Gareth Jones said: “The onus is on the person to identify their quarry. There is a significant difference between a goose and a swan. If he wasn’t sure, he shouldn’t have taken the shot.”

It has been against the law to use lead shot on wildfowl shoots in England since 1999.

Lead is banned because it can easily find its way into the food chain of foraging birds on wetlands and is poisonous.

Back in the day, I used to go duck hunting with the Old Gentleman in the marshes of the Texas coast.  Because of my awfy eyesight, I always had a terrible time identifying the breed on which I was drawing a bead.  (Fortunately, the O.G. had eagle-like eyes and vast experience, and was able to advise on the suitability of the shot.)  But jesum crow – as blind as I was, even I could have told the difference between goose and swan if it was close enough to bring down, or had the sense to hold my fire if I wasn’t sure.  This guy obviously just let fly.  An expensive mistake, indeed.

Here’s the thing about this article, though:  The fellah wings the swan and then just leaves it until a vet puts it down later?  Would not the more humane thing have been to finish it off, rather than letting it suffer?

Today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1682, of the Dread Pirate Roberts, aka Black Bart.

N’yar, me hearty!

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