biweekly links 2-7-2018

A Mexican dog in an early modern menagerie: I knew the Xoloitzcuintli (say that ten times real fast) were ancient but didn’t stop to think about when they found their way to the Old World. Despite this painting’s fuzzy provenance I find it entirely plausible that it’s a painting of one belonging to Rudolf II – he collected everything else, why not hairless dogs? Unfortunate factoid: more than a few sightings of the cryptozoological chupacabra are likely pitiably mangy xoloitzcuintli.

Mexican hairless dog looking straight at the camera. Has a sharp white and tan strip of fur down the center of its head
Not a chupacabra, but certainly badass with its little doggie mohawk. Courtesy Tumblr.

AI May Have Finally Decoded The Bizarre, Mysterious ‘Voynich Manuscript’: color me intrigued, though I’d be surprised if this was the first time someone threw modern tech at the problem (anyone, anyone, Bueller?). To my untutored mind it’s impressive that the AI’s algorithm gets known languages right 97% of the time until I remember that these are already known. The folks at CipherMysteries aren’t impressed and explain why in exhaustive detail far above my pay grade. Check out their latest Voynich round-up post if you want to go even further into the weeds.

Grieve The Capital: Derek Jarman’s Jubilee Turns 40: how sad is it that I’ve only ever seen fragments of this movie? Given that it has so many things I like (punk, Adam Ant, time travel, John Dee) and I find myself with free time perhaps the 40th anniversary is as good a reason as any to track down a copy.

Pop culture roundup

Whenever I tell people I’m writing about John Dee and Edward Kelley, they tend to say:


I’m surprised how often I hear this – they’re “B-list” historical figures but I’m not the first to fictionalize them. A friend suggested I whip ’round the Web to see if they ever showed up in the more accessible worlds of tv/movies/video games and I found a few examples:

Dee may be the inspiration behind white-bearded wizards Gandalf and Dumbledore but seems to be more of a niche/”alternative” character on his own. Director Derek Jarman and author Alan Moore were/are fans; it cracks me up that Richard O’Brien played Dee in Jarman’s punk film “Jubilee”.

Richard O'Brien as John Dee in Derek Jarman's "Jubilee"
Yes, that’s “Rocky Horror”‘s Riff Raff, courtesy

Edward Kelley was harder to find; he’s better known in the Czech Republic than in the English-speaking world due to his gold transmuting feats (“feats?”) in Prague. Still, he turned up in the (now defunct) Facebook game Assassin’s Creed: Project Legacy. The designers clearly did their homework: they included Kelley’s stepdaughter Elizabeth Jane Weston and together with Dee they do alchemy and look at mysterious books.

Man shows little girl a handful of magic red dust
Edward Kelley showing Elizabeth Jane Weston the magic red dust. Image found at

And of course, “Supernatural” introduced the Enochian angel language to a wide tv audience.

T-shirt design found at HideYourArms.Com

I found other brief references: Dee in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age“; an Edward Kelley costume for rent (but only in the Czech Republic). There’s more at their respective Wikipedia pages, but most of the references are literary.

Feel free to include other examples in the comments!