Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, September 08, 2021

The home base for Homer’s “The Odyssey”, the island of Ithaca, was described thusly by Odysseus:

Bright Ithaca is my home: it has a mountain,
Leaf-quivering Neriton, far visible.
Around are many islands, close to each other,
Doulichion and Same and wooded Zacynthos.
Ithaca itself lies low, furthest to sea
Towards dusk; the rest, apart, face dawn and sun.

You’d think that would be a detailed enough description for finding that Greek rock. But not so:

[T]oday’s island of Ithaca is not low-lying, it is mountainous. It is clearly not the furthest out to sea and it does not face towards dusk (i.e. west), nor do the adjacent islands face towards the dawn and sun (i.e. east). The geographical layout is almost opposite to that described by Homer, so how can his description of ancient Ithaca make any sense? And where are Same and the lost island of Doulichion?

Amazingly enough — considering we’re talking about a much-traversed area of the Mediterranean Sea, and not far off the coast of mainland Greece, to boot — this mystery has persisted for centuries, with most scholars concluding that Homer (assuming he even existed) simply got the mapping part all wrong.

But a new theory that emerged five years ago now seems to be pretty close to validated, and provides an intriguing explanation:

According to the Odysseus Unbound project, “The new research shows that [Paliki], this 6 kilometre-long and up to 2 kilometre-wide isthmus contains no solid limestone down to at least 90 metres below today’s surface. The fill is loose material, some of which originated through catastrophic rockfall from the earthquake-prone mountain range to the east.”

The newly released data provide significant support for the theory that the peninsula of Paliki, today connected to the island of Cephalonia by an isthmus, was once separate, low-lying island of Homer’s Ithaca.

And the modern map bears it out: Paliki/Ithaca would have marked the final western frontier for the archaic Hellenic world, with nothing else between it and Italy. The island of Same would be the rest of modern Cephalonia (there’s even a major town called Same on that island today, making that match obvious), while “the lost island of Doulichion” would be modern Ithaca — renamed after refugees from old Ithaca resettled there, following a cataclysmic earthquake in Odysseus’ former domain.

It took a few centuries, but I think they’ve nailed it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/08/2021 11:41:19 PM
Category: History, Science
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Earlier today, I was chatting with my friend Kirby about the recent, and abrupt, shuttering of the Bennigan’s restaurant chain.

He offered up a pithy one-word summation of the episode: “Bennigone’s”.

I was instantly jealous that I hadn’t thought of that obvious headliner pun. I would go back and alter my original post on the subject; but of course, that’s hardly proper blog procedure. So this account will have to suffice (complete with trackback, naturally).

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/08/2021 10:49:13 PM
Category: Business, Food
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The Italian American Museum, in (what’s left of) downtown Manhattan’s Little Italy, is relocating to a historic building that once housed a cornerstone community bank.

The old ethnic quarter needed a cornerstone, because otherwise it was surprisingly disparate:

[Museum board member Maria] Fosco said that at its peak, the neighborhood was a cluster of enclaves within an enclave, with various streets representing various regions of the old country.

“Most people who lived on Mulberry Street were from Naples,” she explained. “Those who lived on Elizabeth Street were from Sicily, those from Mott Street were from Calabria, and anyone north of Broome Street was from Bari.

“So if a boy from Mulberry Street married a girl from Elizabeth Street,” Ms. Fosco said with a grin, “that was considered a mixed marriage.”

Not sure I’ll be able to keep those cluster-locales straight each time I walk down/past those streets, nor that I even need to, nearly a century after those inhabitants moved on. But it’s nice to know.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/08/2021 01:12:30 PM
Category: History, New Yorkin', Society
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Could the impending start of the 2008-09 National Hockey League season have prompted a quirky look into the southern New Jersey kooks who want to believe in the mythic Jersey Devil?

No, of course not. But personally, the fact that the New Jersey Devils are named after the Pine Barrens beastie is the only reason I ever think of the whole story.

Legend has it that the Jersey Devil — with bat-like wings, a forked tail and oversized claws — terrorized Pine Barrens dwellers in the 18th-century after being born the 13th child to poor South Jerseyans and morphing into a dinosaur-like beast.

The team’s mascot is no beast, though. It’s a 7-foot-tall, red, cartoonish figure with horns and a goatee.

The NHL’s Devils acquired their name in a 1982 fan contest after a group of New Jersey investors brought the team east from Colorado.

How long before the legend of the Garden State’s demonic spawn gets subsumed into the more-modern legend of the chupacabra? A better question: Who would win in a fight between the Jersey Devil and the Kid Chupacabra?

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/08/2021 11:57:57 AM
Category: History, Hockey, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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