A not-terribly exciting weekend. Spent most of it not awake or else still trying to throw stuff out (stuff dating back to the college or law school days or as recent as last week’s mail). In the process of changing offices at work, so cleaning out stuff is also happening at work. Came across copies of NY Law Journal that just piles up. There was an ad for this law firm, which had a picture of a cat and a blurb: “When you’re overseeing estate planning and/or nursing home arrangements for clients of advancing age who express concern for the fate of their pet cats, you should know that since 1982, thousands of people have entrusted the welfare of their cats to us.” All I could think was: “That’s a nice looking cat,” and “God, there’s a law firm out there looking out for kitty cats – aww…”
Speaking of cute furry animals, I was watching “Nature” on PBS tonight, and they were broadcasting the episode on pandas. Sooo cute!
I watched the documentary on “1421: The Year China Discovered America?” on PBS this week. It was intriguing to watch a documentary on Zheng He, the eunuch admiral who commanded the Chinese fleet under the Ming dynasty (successful in promoting the empire’s power, until the next Ming emperor demolished it and the jealous courties burned a bunch of records) and to see how the medieval world was more interconnected than we’d think (the fleet was at least on record for having made it as far as India and therefore able to trade with stuff from Europe and made southeast Asia appreciate/respect/fear the power of China). Gavin Menzies, a British retired naval officer, though, researched and stood by his theory that the Chinese found America, to support his answer to the question of who drew the maps that indicated land on the other side of the Atlantic, maps pre-dating the Portuguese whose work influenced Columbus. That part of the documentary veered toward scary – Menzies, among other things, swore by his interpretation of translations of medieval merchants’ writings and DNA research of Native Americans who had Asiatic genetic indicators (i.e., hints that they were descendents of shipwrecked Chinese sailors), and that he is on his way to collecting more “evidence.”
Some Problems, which the documentary was very good about showing: DNA “evidence” hasn’t exactly dated Asiatic genetic indicators to 500 years ago (if anything, they may just date back to when the first Native Americans crossed over to America from the Asia’s Siberian landbridge to Alaska); Menzies is not a scholar of medieval Portugeuse, so he’s relying on translations of written texts – not exactly able to read them first hand himself; and he even misreads the translations; and the archeological evidence isn’t there to verify anything either. Plus, he’s hardly an archeologist or even an expert of American, Chinese, and European histories. The documentarians were good about showing the historical and cultural aspects of the history and possibilities – and did a nice job of showing weaknesses in this one man’s theory.
For me, ultimately, whether or not the Chinese or the Vikings or whatever ancient group (for instance, one theory posits the ancient Welsh) made it to America, the legacy of Columbus remains, in ways that the others have not quite done: he made it possible for the Old World to be entrenched in the New World – for better or for worse – which is why 1492 remains a date to be remembered.
And, in other tv commentary: that Ken Jennings on “Jeopardy” is on summer hiatus; the new season will be in September, and he will be back to continue his winnings run. On Friday, he shattered the one-day winnings record, and he may or may not be bad for ratings (at least he’s getting people to talk about the show “Jeopardy” again).
Have a good week.