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Past Dense: Nothing was delivered

by Robb Hibbard Modified: April 18, 2013 at 1:35 pm •  Published: March 20, 2013
A scrip for Oxycontin? No. Just text from one of the tablets. Roman cursive wasn't known for its legibility.
A scrip for Oxycontin? No. Just text from one of the tablets. Roman cursive wasn't known for its legibility.

Romani ite domum

Some forty years ago this month, the first of the Vindolanda tablets was discovered in northern England by Robin Birley. Vindolanda was a Roman fort built near Hadrian’s Wall. Hadrian’s Wall was a wall built to keep Picts, et al., from entering Roman territory and taking all the low-wage jobs. The Vindolanda tablets, which were initially thought by excavators to be garbage, contain some of the earliest examples of writing done by Roman women; actually, their scribes likely scrawled a majority of the Latin cursive extant on the tablets. Education wasn’t believed to be of value to women by the Roman patriarchy, some members of which have apparently lived thousands of years and currently occupy certain seats in the U.S. Congress. The tablets provide an insight into quotidian life on the Roman frontier. Overall, it seems a pretty depressing life to have endured – being stuck in a backwater whose inhabitants – many of them, anyway – actually respected the inherently corrupt authority you represented as a tool of Roman power.

I’ve often had the urge to visit the site, which is located in a part of the U.K. where, to put it in simple terms, “they talk like this.” The spoken word of English: It’s a wonderful, exciting language that we in the United States of America have barely begun to ruin.

One of the more notable Vindolanda tablets is a birthday party invitation from Claudia Severa to her friend, Sulpicia Lepidina. It must have been some party; perhaps it rivaled even this one in terms of fun and memories made.

Calgacus, who was named onomatopoeically after the noise his dad made while harvesting phlegm.
Calgacus, who was named onomatopoeically after the noise his dad made while harvesting phlegm.

They made a desert and called it peace, Tacitus quotes Calgacus as having said of the Romans, which could well be why he was never invited to any Roman birthday parties.

Subject to hardening

The Peep is 60 years old this year. Coincidentally, that's exactly how long it takes the human digestive system to fully process the ornithological, umm, treat.
The Peep is 60 years old this year. Coincidentally, that's exactly how long it takes the human digestive system to fully process the ornithological, umm, treat.

There’s really not much more that can be said about Peeps than is detailed here. When consumed immoderately, they may clog your innards to the extent that your bowels become a metaphor for certain theocratic constituencies in the current body politic. Apparently, the only means a Peep won’t serve as includes ordnance, an instrument of augury, or as the author of an extremely boring online column. Peeps are known for hardening over time. Had Soyuz I, which rocketed into space 46 years ago next month, been constructed entirely of Peeps, perhaps Vladimir Komarov would be alive today (warning: some images contain graphic content). Too bad he was on a deadline set by certain folks in the USSR who had little interest in whether or not the craft in which he was to travel would survive the journey.

Vladimir Komarov

Monochrome comfort

If you did indeed view the YouTube clip linked in the previous item, I’m sure you’re happy some the images were rendered in black and white, rather than color. A fundamental human decency sometimes requires the lack of certain illustrative qualities, and sometimes the imagination is further fueled by lack than by load. There are still many media consumers who feel this way, apparently. More than 13,000 homes in the U.K. still view TV broadcasts in black and white. Whether this is due to gravitas or economic parsimony or fey hipsterism isn’t known to me. I owned a functioning black-and-white TV set -– 12-inch screen, made by TG&Y — until a few years ago, when the conversion to digital rendered it little more than a nicotine-stained cube capable only of producing noise like applause from an invisible audience.

A much paler version of the item described above.
A much paler version of the item described above.

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by Robb Hibbard
Senior Online Editor
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