Powered by WordPress
Wednesday: November 23, 2005
Colby Cosh, who apparently forgot to provide an anchor, links to a Reuters story about Australian campaign to find a new name for kangaroo meat. Apparently they think it’s the name that deters people from eating the stuff. Time for a brainstorm?
Hmmm . . . . Australia was founded by or for British criminals. Given the proverbial thievishness of the Welsh (“Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief”) and the name of New South Wales, many of them were presumably Welsh. Kangaroos are herbivorous creatures known for their jumping. They’re also overabundant in Australia, which suggests that they spend way a fair amount of their time reproducing. I’ve got it! How about “Welsh rabbit”? Too bad that name’s already taken. Back to the drawing board . . . . Oz Rabbit? Pouch Rabbit? Ozzy Bunny? Big Bunny? Superbunny? (According to the Wall Street Journal, a restaurant in Shanghai that specializes in rat dishes calls itself “Super Deer”.) Something along those lines might do. Then again, perhaps they should just appeal to the macho element of the population and imply that only real men eat kangaroo.
By the way, the contest is apparently only open to chefs and restaurant employees, and closes on November 31st, which looks like a fancy way of saying never. If any such person wants to use any of these names, he is welcome to do so, as long as I get 10% of the prize.
Tuesday: November 22, 2005
Laurence Simon mocks the idea that Pajamas Media ever so much as considered the name “Jellyfish Media”. He and his first commenter suggest a dozen more suitable animals: jackals, hyenas, coyotes, seagulls, vultures, remora, rats, raccoons, dung beetles, lions, catfish, and gophers.
I’m way ahead of Simon on the remora: three and a half years ago I compared bloggers to fleas, ticks, gadflies, remoras, and those little birds that step into a crocodile’s mouth to pick his teeth for him. Too bad I lost the comments when I changed to WordPress: some of them were amusing. It’s interesting that the remora is the only one Simon leaves in the singular: I suspect he couldn’t decide whether the plural should be English ‘remoras’ or Latin ‘remorae’ (either is correct) or something else entirely.
Monday: November 21, 2005
No debemos utilizar como documento histórico las obras maestras, sino las mediocres.
Lo que diferencia a las épocas es su manera de fracasar.
For historical evidence, we should not use the masterpieces but the mediocre works.
What distinguishes epochs is their style of failure.
(Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, 1.372)
Sunday: November 20, 2005
I’ve never thought of Virginia Postrel as a food-blogger, but this post from October 10th changed my life. In it, she quotes reader John Lanius as recommending the new vacuum-packed guacamole imported from Mexico, responsible (he says) for a recent huge increase in consumption of avocados and avocado accessories by Americans in general and his family in particular. He’s right: AvoClassic pre-made guacamole is reasonably-priced ($4 for two separately-wrapped half-pound servings, which is about what the chips to go with them cost) and tastes as good as the general run of restaurant guacamoles. Once I knew it existed, I had no trouble finding it near the must-be-refrigerated salad dressings in the produce section of my local Harris Teeter. I had resigned myself to a low-guac diet years ago, since I’m too lazy to make the stuff often, restaurants that sell high-quality guac tend to be either too expensive or too far away or both, and the previously-frozen guacamole that used to be (perhaps still is) sold in grocery stores is so loathsome that I threw away all but the first bite of the only package I ever tried.
Spam comments on my two sites are up from 100-200 per week to over 100 just since I deleted a bunch this morning. Have the spammers stopped to think about the side-effects of their Stakhanovite productivity? No doubt they don’t mind being loathed and despised as long as they’re making money, but how much longer can they make money? If someone had asked me just two or three years ago whether I might want to play Texas Hold’em, the answer would have been yes, as long as the stakes were small and the other players congenial and not too competent. Now the very words “Texas Hold’em” make me want to either vomit, or punch someone, or perhaps punch someone and then vomit on him, as long as he’s a spammer. These urges are relatively mild so far, but they get stronger every day. Is that really the effect the gaming sites are aiming at? Obviously not, so let me rephrase: is that a side-effect that gaming sites can survive in the long run? Making “Texas Hold’em” as unattractive a phrase as “IRS audit” or “prostate exam” or “jury duty” or “root canal” or “restraining order” can’t be good for their long-term profitability.
I need to come up with a nice Graecolatinate term for ‘spamophobia’. Unfortunately, Woodhouse’s English-Greek Dictionary has no entry for the noun ‘hash’, which I suppose is the closest ancient equivalent to Spam™.
While looking for information on Quiz Bowl tournaments for my students, I ran across a site reporting results of one such contest. One pairing was listed as “[name omitted] Christian Academy vs. Freedom”, which seemed a little rude. Surely it wouldn’t have been too much trouble to make that “Freedom HS”?
Sólo debemos leer para descubrir lo que debemos releer eternamente.
We ought to read only to discover what we ought to reread forever.
(Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, 1.214)
Lector auténtico es el que lee por placer los libros que los demás sólo estudian.
The true reader is the one who reads for pleasure the books that the rest only study.
Tuesday: November 15, 2005
Hoy para ser puritano basta tener gusto.
To be a puritan today, it is enough to have taste.
(Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un Texto Implícito, 1.379)
Thursday: November 10, 2005
I would like to thank my colleagues in the Department of X at the University of Y for helping me complete this book. But they didn’t, so I can’t.
Please note: when I call these “words I’d like to see”, I don’t mean to imply that they haven’t been written already by some disgruntled academic somewhere, just that I haven’t seen them.
Tuesday: November 8, 2005
Laudator Temporis Acti joins Rogue Classicism in wondering “whether there is any truth to the claim that the ancient Romans treated brain disorders or headaches with electric eels”. LTA also asks whether the electric ray or electric catfish (pictured below) might be more likely, since electric eels are found only in the Western Hemisphere, while RC is very doubtful that any ancient source can be found.
In fact, there is one. In his Compositiones (“Prescriptions”), the ancient Roman doctor Scribonius Largus describes the use of the torpedo to treat headaches:
Capitis dolorem quamvis veterem et intolerabilem protinus tollit et in perpetuum remediat torpedo nigra viva inposita eo loco, qui in dolore est, donec desinat dolor et obstupescat ea pars. Quod cum primum senserit, removeatur remedium, ne sensus auferatur eius partis. Plures autem parandae sunt eius generis torpedines, quia nonnumquam vix ad duas tresve respondet curatio, id est torpor, quod signum est remediationis.
A rough translation:
To immediately remove and permanently cure a headache, however long-lasting and intolerable, a live black torpedo is put on the place which is in pain, until the pain ceases and the part grows numb. When it first has felt it [= numbness?], the cure should be removed, so that that part’s feeling may not be destroyed. Several torpedos of this kind should be prepared, since sometimes the treatment, i.e. the numbness which is the sign of healing, hardly responds to two or three.
The text is quoted from G. Helmreich’s 1887 Teubner edition of Scribonius, via David Camden’s Forum Romanum / Corpus Scriptorum Latinorum site. This is chapter 11. Chapter 162, also mentioned in the OLD s.v. torpedo, is not on-line, though indexed. A headache that can be localized to one particular part of the head must be a migraine. Then again, I wonder if severe depression would count as a dolor of the head.
Whether Scribonius’ torpedo is an electric ray or an electric catfish is unclear. Of the latter, D’Arcy Thompson writes (Glossary of Greek Fishes, Oxford, 1947, 172):
The medical value of its shock is recognized by native tribes in Africa, and was known to the Arabian physicians in early times. As the marine Torpedo [= electric ray] would be awkward to manage and difficult to keep alive, one may imagine that Pliny was referring, in part at least, to the Egyptian fish.
So far as I can see, Thompson does not refer to Scribonius, and does not quote any passage of Pliny clearly referring to shock treatments with live fish, though he does allege that the liver was an antaphrodisiac, among other improbabilities. Perhaps something went wrong with his notes, and he meant to write “Scribonius” for “Pliny” in the passage quoted.
The catfish picture is borrowed from the Forth Worth Zoo site, copied here to avoid bandwidth theft and link rot. The very human fat pink lips are a disturbingly creepy touch, worthy of a horror movie. To add to the horror, Thompson reports that they grow up to three feet long.
What TUMS spells when read backwards. It gave me a very small and very short-lived shock when I first saw it out of the corner of my eye.
Monday: November 7, 2005
As promised in the preceding post, here is a very literal prose translation of my favorite poem, Propertius 2.29 (Latin text here and — with vocabulary and translation notes — here). I don’t know how much will come through in translation:
Very late at night, my light, while I was wandering drunk, and no band  of slaves was leading me, I don’t know how many boys , a tiny crowd, crossed my path (fear forbade me to number them); some of whom seemed to be holding torchlets, some arrows, and part even seemed to be readying chains for me.
But  they were naked. One more impudent [or ‘lewder’] than the rest said: “Arrest this man: you already know him well.  This was he, this one the angry woman instructed us to deal with.” He spoke, and already the knot was on my neck.
Next another bids them push me into their midst, and another, “Let him go in the middle,  who does not think us gods! This one is waiting for undeserving you to all hours [of the night]: but you, fool, are seeking I don’t know what doors. When that one has loosened the nocturnal bonds of her Sidonian nightcap and stirred her heavy eyes, odors will waft upon you not from the Arabs’ herb, but those which Love himself has made with his own hands.
Spare him now, brothers, now he pledges true love; and look, now we have reached the house to which we were ordered to come.” And when my clothes had been thrown back on, they said: “Go now and learn to stay home nights!”
It was dawn, and I decided to visit, if she was resting alone, but Cynthia was alone in her bed. I was stunned: that one had never seemed more beautiful to me, not even when she was in her purple tunic and was on her way to tell her dreams to chaste Vesta, so that they would not harm either herself or me in any way. Thus she seemed to me, released by recent sleep. Oh how strong is the power of beauty in itself!
“What?” she said, “you are an early morning girlfriend inspector . Do you think I am like your habits?  I am not so easy: one man known to me will be enough, either you or if someone [else] can be truer. No marks can be seen pressed into the bed, nor any indication that two have lain rolling to and fro. Look how no breath  rises up from my whole body, familiar when adultery has been committed.” She has spoken, and driving away my kisses with opposed right hand, leaps forth, resting her foot on a loose slipper.
Thus am I mocked as the guardian of so chaste a love: since then I have had no happy night.
A few necessary notes:
- manus is a pun, since it means both “hand” and “band, squad”.
- The boys are at the same time fugitivarii (fugitive slave-catchers), cupids, and pueri minuti (impudent children kept for the amusement of adults, like pets).
- sed, “but”, because nudity is appropriate only to cupids.
- Fugitivarii were often hired among acquaintances of the runaway. Since Propertius was a love-poet, the boys also know him well in their role as cupids.
- intereat is another pun, since it means both “let him go in the middle” and “let him die”.
- A speculator is actually a “scout”, a military reconnaissance-man, but I couldn’t use that word, since it makes the narrator sound like a Boy Scout.
- The “you” implied by “your habits” is plural, so she must mean “the habits of you men”.
- Though vague, this seems to refer to an odor, not heavy breathing.
Sunday: November 6, 2005
Norm Geras of NormBlog has done a series of ‘Normblog Profiles’ of other bloggers. Since I like the questions and am feeling
intro retrospective, I thought I’d give my own answers here.
‘Dr. Weevil’ is the pseudonym of a classicist who teaches Greek and Latin at a small private high school in Raleigh, North Carolina. The only reason for the pseudonym is to keep his students from easily finding this site through Google, since he occasionally posts on subjects that they or their parents would find inappropriate.
Why do you blog? > Why not? I can do this as well as most people, and better than most journalists. I’m a teacher, and love to explain things. I have some specialized knowledge (mostly Latin) that may provide a different perspective.
What has been your best blogging experience? > The whole ball of wax, really. Intelligent conversations in comment sections (not just my own) are good. Being attacked with inane arguments by evil-minded morons can also be fun in a twisted way. Seeing just now that the vile Warbloggerwatch site, with thirteen names on the masthead, hasn’t had a post in over 9 months, or a post by anyone except Philip Shropshire in over 15 months, or a non-spam comment in 2-3 months, warms my cold cold heart. If you know the site, you’ll know why. No, I will not link to it.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Not getting any comments or links at all from the most important posts. I still think this one is both true and important, and could even be turned into a book by someone more knowledgeable than I, though a book would probably inspire death threats.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > See this post.
What are your favourite blogs? > The ones on my blogroll, of course. Is this some kind of trick question? Particular favorites vary from month to month, as my mood changes and the various blogs shift in interests and productivity.
What are you reading at the moment? > Sophocles and Vergil. I’m working through all of Antigone and the AP selections from the Aeneid slowly with my Greek IV and Latin IV classes, while reading the other six plays and the rest of Vergil’s works quickly on the side. (Mostly rereading, since I’ve read all of Vergil before and all of Sophocles except Oedipus at Colonus and half of Electra.) One of my students keeps asking which is better, Sophocles or Vergil, and I can’t make up my mind: they’re both as good as literature gets. With a light course load and matching salary, I’m also finding time to read modern works, classical and otherwise. I recently finished Trollope’s Dr. Wortle’s School, Chekhov’s novella The Story of an Unknown Man (a.k.a. Anonymous Story), and Anthony Grafton’s The Footnote: A Curious History, and am half-way through Lionel Casson’s Libraries in the Ancient World.
What is the best novel you’ve ever read? > That depends on what you mean by “best”. Those I never tire of rereading are mostly lighter works: Lucky Jim, Robert Graves’ Antigua, Penny, Puce, Randall Jarrell’s Pictures from an Institution, David Lodge’s The British Museum is Falling Down, and Nabokov’s Pnin. I haven’t read most of the big names more than once, if that: of those I’ve read recently enough to have an opinion, I suppose the best are Persuasion, Washington Square, and The Bostonians. Edith Wharton’s The Reef also made a strong impression, and I love some of her short stories: I need to find the time to read her better-known novels.
What is your favourite poem? > Propertius 2.29. The text is on my other site here and (with vocabulary and translation notes) here, and I will post my very literal translation of it here shortly.
What is your favourite movie? > At the moment, Brazil. Again, I haven’t seen many of the ‘classics’ recently or frequently enough to have an opinion. Since I bought a DVD player a few years ago, I’m gradually catching up on what I’ve missed over the years. The 1930s-style Richard III, with Ian McKellen, was great, but it’s only been 6 hours since I saw it, so my opinion is not quite settled.
What is your favourite song? > Just one? How can anyone possibly have just one? Here are a dozen or so particular favorites from my iTunes 5-star list. I could easily quadruple the number:
Buzz Busby, “This World’s No Place To Live In, But It’s Home”,
Hazel Dickens, “Tomorrow’s Already Lost”,
Holly Dunn, “There’s No Heart So Strong It Will Not Break”,
Confederate Railroad, “Bill’s Laundromat, Bar, and Grill”,
The Flying Burrito Brothers, “Wild Horses”,
Ginny Hawker, “Long Black Limousine”,
George Jones and Keith Richards, “Say It’s Not You”,
Loretta Lynn, “Fool #1”,
Del McCoury, “Cold Cheater’s Heart”,
Edith Piaf, “C’Etait Une Histoire d’Amour”,
Big Joe Turner, “The Things I Used To Do”,
Hank Williams, “Lost Highway”,
Dwight Yoakam, “I’d Avoid Me Too”, and (in some moods)
Kinky Friedman, “Asshole from El Paso”.
Who is your favourite composer? > For orchestral works, probably Haydn. For songs, definitely Schubert. For piano, at the moment Alkan. But mostly I have favorite pieces, not composers.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Besides Wahabism and Salafism? I don’t know that it qualifies as a philosophical thesis any more than they do, but there’s a virulent combination of Nihilism, Cynicism, moral Relativism, and maybe some other ingredients that is probably more dangerous than anything Islamic fanatics can devise. As may be obvious by now, I’m no philosopher, but whatever the Hell you call what’s going on in most university humanities departments these days is certainly worth fighting.
Who are your political heroes? > I suppose it’s a generational thing, but Reagan, Thatcher, and John Paul II are hard to beat. Then again, I’ve never been one to pin all my hopes on a particular man or party: I’m more of a ‘lesser of two (or more) evils’ voter.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Only one? I don’t suppose hanging politicians X, Y, and Z or banning them from politics for life counts as a “policy change”. Though the executive and judicial branches have serious problems, the preening pomposity, porculent generosity with other people’s money, and utter oafishness of most members of both houses of Congress worries me. Gerrymandering is part of the problem in the House, and I support Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Proposition 77 and similar plans in other states. (I blogged about the general topic here.) But contramandered district boundaries can’t do anything for the Senate. One thing that might help in both houses: Ban all staff members from the Capitol building and from any room in which hearings are held. That would force Senators and Congressmen to vote and do their televised hearings all by themselves, like grownups. We would soon find out which ones can think for themselves, or think at all, and perhaps that would help get more thinkers into Congress and fewer stuffed shirts. (Making them carry their own overcoats and briefcases might also help unstuff them.) Then again, many of them are already openly reading talking points they haven’t even bothered to preview, so perhaps that wouldn’t help.
What would you do with the UN? > Move the headquarters to Somalia or Sudan or Surinam, and either turn the old building into condos or knock it down. The latter might cost more, but a controlled implosion on live television would be a thrilling sight. Just to be clear, I would want to make sure they’re all out of the building first, though some of them should be stopped at the airport on the way to Somalia or wherever and taken to jail instead.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > In the long run, ignorance. It’s scary how little students are learning in most schools and universities in the U.S., and not only in the U.S., so far as I can tell.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > As always, but even more than usual, that depends on us. It could go either way, and seems likely to tip one way or the other in the next generation.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > I suppose it depends on what you mean by “radically different” and how rigidly held the opinions were. I wouldn’t rule it out, but it seems unlikely.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > A strong preference for healthy disillusionment over dangerous daydreams.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > In myself, Sloth. In others, I’ll go with A. E. Housman (quoted from memory): “the worst crime is to profess an art of which one is not a master”. While not the worst of crimes, pretentious incompetence is certainly an annoying fault.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > To save a life, or when the lie is trivial in itself and will save hurt feelings (“Why yes, grandma, that is the most beautiful hat I’ve ever seen”). The latter is mostly theoretical, since I’ve never been good at small-talk, dishonest or otherwise, and all my grandparents are dead.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Watching or talking about any sport whatsoever played by people I don’t personally know. (I do like to cheer on my own school’s teams, particularly since it’s a small school and I know them all well.) Also, playing any sport whatsoever except croquet. Amusement parks do not amuse me, and I don’t like the beach, or boats, either.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you’d do differently? > A lot of things: I can think of
three four jobs I would have been better off not taking, one school I should not have enrolled in, and two former friends and several colleagues and acquaintances I would have been better off never having met. Positive things are much harder to define: should I have married X? Who knows how that would have worked out?
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > A mid-sized city in the Piedmont with a major university library nearby works for me, but that’s where I am now. I’d also like to be able to go to the opera in New York and other cities on weekends or even weekdays, which is not easy to reconcile with Piedmont living. I suppose a private plane would bridge the gap, or separate homes in Manhattan and the mountains, but either would require me to win the lottery first.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Call me a nerd, but my favorite so far was when I gave a lecture (on Tacitus) at the University of Durham. Walking around a beautiful town I’d never visited, meeting scholars whose works I already knew, speaking and answering questions on a subject we were all interested in, having drinks and dinner afterwards with them and their students: that’s my (possibly pathetic) idea of a good time. The train rides to and from Durham were pleasant, too. I’ve done the same at other universities, but Durham has the edge for scenery and architecture.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Read, watch live opera or DVDs (mostly operas and B&W movies), listen to music (classical, traditional country, bluegrass, some jazz and blues), eat, drink, and (did you have to ask?) blog. No, I’m not confined to a wheelchair: why do you ask?
What is your most treasured possession? > My books, my CDs, my DVDs, and my websites, if I can be said to ‘possess’ the latter. My car (a battered ’95 Tercel) isn’t even in the top ten.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to learn living languages well, or even adequately. I would also like to play a musical instrument, perhaps the pedal steel guitar, but am far too old to start now.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Not much different from what I’m doing now, except that the pay and fringe benefits and job security would be much better and the students a bit older: Professor of Classics.
Who are your sporting heroes? > As already noted, I don’t give a damn about any sport with heroes whatsoever. When I was hired by the University of Alabama, my younger brother said “Wow! You can see the Crimson Tide play in Bryant-Denny Stadium!” and I said “the Crimson what in Bryant-Denny who?”. In my seven years as an adjunct instructor in Tuscaloosa, I never set foot in the stadium. (When she heard the news, my sister said “Wow! There are a lot of great caves in Alabama!”, but I’m equally uninterested in caving. By the way, do not call it ‘spelunking’ unless you want to incur the contempt of all
Which English Premiership football team do you support? > See previous answer. I’m not even sure whether “English Premiership” refers to what I would call soccer, or rugby, or some other sport, though I’m pretty sure it’s not the kind of football played by the Crimson Tide in Bryant-Whatsisname Stadium.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > Financial security would be nice. (For anyone who would like to help me achieve it, there’s a PayPal button in the left margin.) Writing all the books and papers I have outlined on paper or in my mind would also be good. A house where I could settle down permanently to write them would help. Perhaps the most realistic: I have a list of books I need to get hold of to write some of them.
What animal would you most like to be? > I don’t think I’d enjoy the animal life, but I suppose I would be a wombat if forced to choose. Preferably a literate wombat with a warm snug cave well-stocked with food and drink and a library much like the one I have now, but larger. (I’m guessing that the U.N.C. Chapel Hill library doesn’t admit wombats, so I would have to have my own books.) Then again, if metempsychosis is a reality, I suppose I won’t have a choice and will be reborn as a slug or a sloth. (If I ever write my memoirs, one possible title is Beastly, All Too Beastly: Memoirs of a Five-Toed Sloth. But I’m too lazy to write them.)
I posted my first blog-post four years ago today, on Dick Cheney’s pheasant-hunting. There were only three posts in the first three months, but they are all still available in the archives. Why not start at the beginning and read them all? I should mention that comments are closed on the Movable Type archives, and I lost most of the older comments in the transition to WordPress.
I will have a long autobiographical post up later tonight, a sort of ‘AbNormblog’ profile, since I stole the questions from Norm Geras’ series of blog interviews. At least I’m not stealing the answers from any of his interviewees. And they’re excellent questions.
More in a few hours.
In the last few days, half of my comment spam has looked like this (actual examples, with links removed):
In your free time, check out the pages on 1543
You may find it interesting to check out the sites on 1113
Take your time to check out the pages in the field of 1449
You can also take a look at the pages dedicated to 1174
Most likely this is just a screw-up, and someone hit ‘send’ on billions of spam messages before using some sort of ‘merge’ function to replace the number codes with the verbal descriptions of whatever stock tips, drugs, games, or perversions they are selling. Since I don’t even like reading the names of the kinkier products, that’s actually a plus.
The other possibility is that I’m behind the curve and everyone else knows what these numbers stand for, perhaps pages in Krafft-Ebbing or paragraphs in The Psychiatrist‘s Golden Book of Perversions. Are other readers saying “Oh, yeah! I’d like to try some 1543” or “Sorry, 1113’s a bit too kinky for my tastes” or “1449? if I only had the proper equipment”?
As always, the ones that really irritate me start “In your free time”. If I weren’t deleting their stinking spam every morning, maybe I’d have some.
Saturday: November 5, 2005
On Halloween, Terry Teachout quoted an apophthegm of John Cage:
It is better to make a piece of music than to perform one, better to perform one than to listen to one, better to listen to one than to misuse it as a means of distraction, entertainment, or acquisition of ‘culture.’
This sentence would be much better — or at least truer — with mutatis mutandis inserted somewhere in it. I think it is better to listen to a piece of music by Bach or Mozart, or even Crusell or Arriaga (just to name two of my favorite smaller fish in the ocean of music), than to perform one by Cage, and much better to listen to almost any other composer’s work than to make a piece of music like the ones Cage made.
Ann Althouse titles a post “Blogger’s back”. She means that the software package known as Blogger has returned from temporary oblivion, but I thought at first that she was describing a medical condition: something that might incline someone to see a chiropractor after too many hours hunched over a keyboard. All three parts of the sentence are ambiguous: “Blogger” may be a copyrighted proper noun or a common agent noun, “‘s” may be an elided verb or the sign of a possessive noun, and “back” may be either an adverb or an anatomical noun. All in all, a very compact illustration of why computers will never be able to translate English reliably. My favorite sentences of this type are the newspaper headlines “Police help dog bite victim” and “British left waffles on Falkland Islands”. In the latter, the first three words may be either adjective-subject-verb or subject-verb-object.
Tuesday: November 1, 2005
From Chapter I of Anthony Trollope’s Dr. Wortle’s School, I learn that British schools provided their pupils (aged 11-17) with beer every day, and with wine and even champagne when they were ill. In Chapter III, a boy who falls in the river is given sherry negus, a mixture of sherry and hot water with sugar, lemon juice, and nutmeg. Mmmmm. The definition is from the annotator of the Penguin edition. (I almost wrote “translation” for edition, which shows how little English literature I read. Or perhaps having notes in the back makes it look like one.) Not a bad novel, though I would have liked to read more about what went on in the classroom. The one bit that is given (Chapter VIII) is interesting:
‘Clifford, junior,’ he said, ‘I shall never make you understand what Cæsar says here or elsewhere if you do not give your entire mind to Cæsar.’
‘I do give my entire mind to Cæsar,’ said Clifford, junior.
‘Very well; now go on and try again. But remember that Caesar wants all your mind.’
I find the ae ligatures (æ) in ‘Cæsar’ mildly annoying: though unobjectionable in ‘hæmatology’ and ‘ætiology’, they seem out of place in a proper name.