Dr. Weevil: The Weblog Dr. Weevil: The Weblog

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Sunday: November 6, 2005

The Pseudo-NormBlog Profile

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:39 PM GMT-0500

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 spelunkers cavers.)

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.)


Filed under: — site admin @ 1:03 PM GMT-0500

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.

Latest Spamular Idiocies

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:48 PM GMT-0500

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.