If anyone is wondering, I'm celebrating the New Year by finishing off the Drambuie I got for Christmas, and commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Hank Williams by listening to "The Complete Hank Williams". I just started the eighth CD (of ten), and haven't had enough yet. Now playing: "There'll be no teardrops tonight". (I listened to all the demos and radio shows first, and am actually on the second of four discs of published music.)
I'm also working on a retrospective 'Where to from here?' post mulling over what (if anything) I've accomplished with this blog and considering how I might reshape it for the new year. The post should be ready around midnight or so, appropriately enough. It may sound horribly self-indulgent, but at least I'm giving you fair warning.
One Hand Clapping (12/28, 9:17 PM if the link doesn't work) quotes David Warren quoting Orwell (how's that for blogcest?):
I am reminded of George Orwell's old truism, that there is nothing you can say so demented, that you will not get a choir of intellectuals singing along.
The truism goes back far beyond Orwell. Here is Cicero's version (De Divinatione 2.58.119):
Sed nescio quo modo nihil tam absurde dici potest quod non dicatur ab aliquo philosophorum.
"But somehow there is nothing that can be said so absurdly that it would not be said by some philosopher."
Around the same time, Varro said much the same in verse (Menippea Fr. 122 Buecheler = 155 Cèbe):
postremo nemo aegrotus quicquam somniat
tam infandum, quod non aliquis dicat philosophus.
"When all is said and done, no sick man dreams anything so unspeakable that some philosopher would not say it."
Not that most modern intellectuals have much resemblance to ancient philosophers, of course. Then again, there's no contradiction: the intellectuals only sing along with the absurdities: it takes a philosopher to invent them.
I don't recall who it was, but some blogger has expressed surprise that a contestant in the Amish Tech Support Dead Pool chose Cedric the Entertainer. Surely that is because of the large number of obese comics who have died young from drug overdoses (John Belushi and some other SNL guy whose name I've forgotten) or heart trouble (John Candy). Remember: younger people count for more.
It occurs to me that an all-comic list would do better than most. Most of these are either overweight, or old, or show signs of self-loathing. (I left out Chris Rock, who doesn't.) I list them in alphabetical order by last name (or first, if I don't know the last):
Some of these may involve a bit of wishful thinking on my part.
There's still a little over two hours to the contest deadline, so anyone who wants can submit this list, as long as I get 20% of the proceeds. I've already submitted my own list.
If you leave Manhattan by the George Washington Bridge and head for the New Jersey Turnpike, you soon pass a sign with this message:
Grammatically, this could easily be taken as an implied condition, like this common slogan:
Use a Gun
Go to Jail.
I wonder how many drivers have misread the highway sign and decided not to slow down for fear of a traffic ticket.
No Watermelons Allowed mentions (and mocks) the claim that Renaldus Columbus discovered the clitoris in 1559. (The post was dated 12/29 at 10:10 AM if the link doesn't work.) Rediscovered, maybe, but the Greeks had a name for it: kleitorís. The noun is only attested in one ancient lexicographical author, but four authors mention a verb kleitoriázein or kleitorízein, "to touch the clitoris", so the Greeks had not only noticed the organ, they had a pretty good idea what it's good for. The Latin equivalent, landica, is also very rare, though it is found in a couple of obscene graffiti, in the Priapea (a set of obscene poems dedicated to the phallic god Priapus), and, wrapped up in a pun, in one of Cicero's letters. Various metaphors are also found, e.g. barbatus nasus, "bearded nose".
Cicero's letter (Ad Familiares 9.22) is quite amusing, though untranslatable. In it, Cicero jokingly proves that nothing is obscene, since neither the words used to refer to things nor the things themselves are necessarily obscene. It can't be the things, because writers can mention any subject, no matter how foul, as long as they don't use foul words: one example he could have used is Sophocles' Oedipus. And it can't be the words, either, because the very same sounds can be used as long as they refer to innocent things. His examples include pedo (rhymes with "Playdough"), which is half of the perfectly innocent verb intercapedo ("I interrupt") -- not to mention the name of a distinguished Roman family --, but also means "I fart (audibly)", and illam dicam, which sounds exactly like [il] landicam, the object form of "clitoris", but is a perfectly innocent phrase meaning "I will say that".
One more thing: modern doctors borrowed the ancient Greek name, so they must not have been claiming to have discovered the organ.
John Cole of Balloon Juice (23:34 yesterday if the link doesn't work) writes of a weekend television schedule that featured "a number of important NFL and College Bowl games to watch". For a moment there, I thought: "Great! A quiz show without Jeopardy's stupid answer-with-a-question rule or Ben Stein's dirty pun category titles! But didn't it go off the air years ago?" Continued reading showed that Cole meant "college bowl games" not "College Bowl games". Damn him for getting my hopes up.
Punning Postscript: If the University of Houston had a competitive Mathematics team -- and perhaps they do -- they could call them the Houston Eulers.
Silflay Hraka quotes an amusingly tasteless song about clone sex by Isaac Asimov. The only 45 I've ever owned is "What do clones do on Mother's Day?" by Willie Clyde with the Cheap Suit Serenaders. I bought it for $1.00 at a yard sale in Berkeley twenty-something years ago. The answer to the title question: they stay home and mend their jeans/genes.
I felt a little left out of all the mourning for Joe Strummer of The Clash, since I'd never heard of him and even his band was no more than a name to me. It's only now with the obituaries that I know they did punk, not disco or heavy metal. Thanks to Orrin Judd, I also find that I did have some small acquaintance with Strummer's work: O.J. calls "Train in Vain" "the archetypal rock single", and I've actually heard that one, on Dwight Yoakam's album "Under the Covers" (1997), though the authors' names meant nothing to me until now. In fact, it's my second-favorite cut on that album. The favorite also offered a surprise: it's a duet with Sheryl Crowe of "Baby, Don't Go". Until I heard it, I hadn't realized that Sonny Bono had ever written a song worth hearing. How the Hell did that happen?
Speaking of Dwight Yoakam, I only just noticed that quite a few Southern names are not English or Scottish but German, though disguised by phonetic spellings. The various permutations of Yoakam surely go back to the German surname Jochum, while Patsy Cline must have come from a long line of Kleins, and Stine (the surname of a former student in Alabama) must originally have been Stein. Are there other examples? And why was the spelling changed? Was there a generation or two of illiteracy along the way, or did an Americanized spelling just look better?
One more thing: My only acquaintance with punk is through the Ramones' first album, which came out when I was in graduate school and working in a record store on the side. The manager had dropped out of school at 13 and worked full-time (and then some) in record stores for 13 years since then. He claimed to have heard every rock album that had come out in that time, along with most of the soul, some of the jazz, folk, and blues, and even a little bit of the classical. (No country: this was on the South Side of Chicago, near the University of Chicago.) One day he came in with a stack of promos, gathered us all around, and said: "See dis album? Dis is de worst album ever made. Here, let me play it for you." It was The Ramones' first album, and I bought a copy right on the spot. But I could never take it at all seriously: "I'm a storm trooper in a stupor"? "Beat on the brat, beat on the brat, beat on the brat with a baseball bat"?
This topic is almost two weeks old, and I can't find the crucial reference, but I think I still have something worth saying:
On December 16th, 'Jane Galt' had an interesting post on Asymmetrical Information about "a study arguing that the murder rate has fallen because of better access to medical care. It's one of those unobvious intuitions that make you smack yourself in the head and go 'Duh!'".
Some years back (maybe 5 or 10), the Washington Post had an article comparing murder rates in Washington and Baltimore. I have not been able to find it or a reference to it on the web, but it was an eye-opener. The most striking thing about the article was a graph comparing homicide rates in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. It looked rather like this:
Over something like 30 years, homicide rates in both cities followed an upward path with a slight but steady acceleration, with one huge exception: along the way, the homicide rate for Baltimore once dropped in half from one year to the next (it may have been 1977). As I recall the story, that was the year the city installed a comprehensive system of on-call helicopters, designated trauma centers staffed with specialists, clearly-defined triage procedures, and up-to-date computerized communications. When the article was written, Washington had still not done so. (In fact, Washington's ambulance service is notoriously incompetent, and there has been at least one case where a heart-attack victim had to help the ambulance driver find the hospital.) The result was that when the story was written Washington residents were roughly twice as likely to be murdered as Baltimoreans, not because the city had twice as many murderous thugs, or because its thugs were twice as brutal or twice as competent, but because people who were shot or stabbed or beaten in Washington were far more likely to die of their wounds than people who were (relatively) fortunate enough to be shot or stabbed or beaten in Baltimore.
In other words, it's not just the increase in the competence of emergency-room doctors and the overall quality of their equipment: that process must always be fairly gradual. It's the ability to get victims of attempted homicide to the Emergency Room quickly, to keep them alive on the way, and to have the doctors, nurses, and equipment ready to deal with them as soon as they arrive. That takes a well-organized system.
The intersection of criminology and medicine is not my primary field of interest, but the article would be well worth tracking down if it is yours. Too bad I have no idea who wrote it, or in what year.
Ideofact is "deeply disturbed that there's a whole school of crackpots out there that, lo these many years," he has "been blissfully unaware of", followers of a German scholar who claims (to quote Travelling Shoes) "that the years 614 to 911 AD simply did not exist; that the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, together with Pope Sylvester II and Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII, added nearly 300 years to the calendar, primarily for occult reasons" -- not to mention inventing Charlemagne.
Here are four favorite examples from the field of Classics:
Dean Esmay of Dean's World writes:
I propose the following all be considered "Crimes Against America" and subject those heinous enough to commit them to immediate loss of citizenship and expulsion from U.S. territory:
- Asking for any Ray Charles song to be turned down. Ever.
- Not being able to name at least one John Wayne movie you've seen and liked.
- Being found in possession of a degree in French Literature.
- Not buying Girl Scout Cookies when your office mates ask you to.
- Proof that you never cried for even a second during Saving Private Ryan.
- Making any statement implying anything bad about Jimmy Stewart.
It almost sounds like Dean has been listening to "She Never Cried", by Confederate Railroad. Here are the lyrics, transcribed from their first album, also called Confederate Railroad (1992) -- they don't seem to be available anywhere on the web:
She never cried when Old Yeller died,
She wasn't washed in the Blood of the Lamb,
She never stood up for the Star Spangled Banner,
And she wasn't a John Wayne fan.
Her baby blue eyes hid the warning signs:
That woman was bad to the bone.
She never cried when Old Yeller died,
So do you think Iíll cry when she's gone?
So desperate I answered an ad in the personals,
Hopin' to find me a date.
A good-lookin' non-smokin' full-figured Leo
Was lookin' to find her a mate.
We hit it off, we got it on,
My love was growin' so strong,
Then I started seein' a side of that woman
I should have seen all along.
(Repeat first two stanzas)
I can't believe I just didn't see,
The writing there on the wall.
Listenin' to those Barry Manilow records
Was just one of her character flaws.
Sometimes she was rude, and naturally crude,
But this good ol' boy let it pass.
But when she cussed in front of my mama,
I told her she could kiss my . . . .
(Repeat first two stanzas)
She never cried when Ol' Yeller died,
And I ain't gonna cry when sheís gone.
I can also unreservedly recommend the group's later song "Bill's (Honky-Tonk Pickin', Line-Dance Kickin', Razorback Stickin', Barbecue Chicken) Laundromat, Bar and Grill", where the house band is described like this: "The lead guitar was like a chainsaw, the fiddle like a power drill." If you're wondering, Bill's is on Highway 49 in Arkansas.
Though I'd driven by at least a hundred times, I'd never noticed an interesting geographic fact until Christmas Eve. On the northwest side of the Baltimore beltway, there are adjacent exits for Liberty Road (exit 18) and Security Boulevard (exit 17). Appropriately enough, Liberty Road is relatively narrow, but will take you most of the way to downtown Baltimore or (in the other direction) all the way to tiny Libertytown, a good 25 miles away, while Security Boulevard is very wide but less than two miles long and leads only to a huge mall and an even huger (is that a word?) Social Security Administration office complex. (Actually, it's been years since I've driven on either, so I hope Baltimoreans will correct any errors.)
Sasha Castel tried to comment on my post of two weeks ago entitled More on Opera and the Constitution, but Movable Type seems to think she's been banned from my site. Since she was unable to get through and the point is important, I'll quote her e-mail here. The question was why so many of the singers and extras in the Met's production of Aïda were wearing blackface or at least beige makeup, though the racial difference between Egyptians and Ethiopians is hardly crucial to the plot. Here is what she wrote:
Actually the Ethiopians are the only ones in blackface. The Egyptians are "Tawny" or tan . . . I know this having been to the supernumerary dressing rooms when body makeup was being applied (and quite a lot of it too).
And your instinct is correct, there is no explicit discussion of racial friction in the libretto of Aida. But it's something the directors do as a sort of visual shorthand, so the audience knows who's who. Interestingly, while most of the black chorus members play the Ethiopian prisoners in the third act, some don't, and can be spotted in light makeup among the Egyptians. Conversely, there are some white and Asian folk among the Ethiopians.
All I can say is that the color scheme didn't look very consistent to me, though I was pretty far from the stage. Among the principals, the Egyptian men all seemed to be darker than the Egyptian women, and the king of Ethiopia seemed no darker than any of the Egyptians. I found it easier to tell who was who by their costumes and dancing: triumphant captors and dejected captives are easy enough to distinguish.
It still seems odd to me, especially compared to the usual practice with other operas, where the singers who portray the six young friends and lovers in La Bohème, to take one obvious example, will often be of five or six different nationalities and two or three different races, as if they lived in Los Angeles in the 21st century rather than Paris in the 19th. Such 'non-traditional' casting doesn't seem to confuse contemporary audiences, and I don't see why it wouldn't work in Aïda as well. (Otello, as I said before, is quite different, since race is fundamental to the plot.)
Brian Micklethwait of Brian's Education Blog quotes an old saw:
Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.
(I've inserted a couple of commas that are grammatically dubious but rhetorically helpful.)
I've always liked the rarer extended or interpolated variants:
1. For high school:
Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. And those who can't teach, coach.
2. For college and graduate school:
Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. And those who can't teach, teach people to teach.
Although I'm a teacher, none of these actually apply to me. It's not like there's anything I could do with Latin other than teach it.
Apologies for the lack of posts. Christmas was rather grim, since one of my relatives was (and is) in the hospital for major surgery. I don't really want to write about it, and will be keeping my mind off worrying about it by blogging up a storm on other topics. Expect lots more posts later today.
James Capozzola of The Rittenhouse Review explains his blogrolling policy:
Normally I will spend a few weeks looking at a blog on a prospective basis in order to avoid certain missteps I have made in the past, namely, linking to bloggers of dubious personal integrity and questionable mental stability.
Two things puzzle me about this statement:
Poor 'Hesiod Theogeny' is trying to take up the slack in the Blogosphere by increasing his own production. This looks like a mistake.
If anything, his prose style has deteriorated from its already low level: just in one entry today (the one in which he promises non-stop blogging, 10:22:49 AM), he puts an extra apostrophe in "lot's of", leaves one out of "New Years morning", says he's going to "loaf off" (apparently confusing just plain "loaf" with "slack off" or "goof off"), and refers to someone who writes plays as a "playwrite": that may sound logical, but the word is 'playwright'.
His logic is even worse than his rhetoric. Today (10:43:01 AM) he wrote:
North Korea continues to make the Bush administration's obession with Iraq look not only shortsigthed, but utterly looney!
'Hesiod' just can't understand why Bush is going after Iraq if North Korea is the one that already has nuclear weapons. In other words, he can't understand the concept of prevention. Others have already explained this, but for the benefit of 'Hesiod' and his comment-puppies, I'll explain it again in very simple words. Once a rogue state has nuclear weapons, it's too late. There is very little we can do to stop Kim Jong Il from doing whatever he wants now, because he has a nuclear deterrent. If he's insane enough -- and he may well be --, he can start a war that will kill millions, not just the tens or hundreds of thousands he could have killed before he finished building his first bomb. All we can do is cross our fingers, pray, hope that he's more rational than he appears, and wish that a certain incompetent president had prevented him from building his bombs in the first place. (Actually, an SDI system would help quite a bit, but we'd still rather not have to worry about the problem at all.) We are going to invade Iraq mostly because one nuclear-armed psychotic dictator in the world is already one too many. If we allow Saddam Hussein to build a bomb, we will have two such tyrants. (A coup against Musharraf could easily make it three.) In that case, it would not only be Seoul and Tokyo but Tel Aviv and Kuwait City that would run a fair chance of being turned into radioactive craters in the next decade or two.
By the way, if anyone argues that Hussein is not psychotic and can be deterred, I'm still waiting for an answer to a question I have asked more than once: What about the next generation? Saddam is getting old, and Uday and Qusay are not (to put it mildly) the most stable heirs in the world.
I've already submitted my list, but television has given me an idea for another. I just watched a rerun of The Simpsons tenth 'Treehouse of Horror' Halloween special, in which Homer's Y2K incompetence causes the destruction of the world (summary here). In the end, Lisa and Marge leave for Mars on a spaceship full of the world's best and brightest, destined to start a new society, while Homer and Bart end up on a different spaceship, also full of celebrities, but headed for the Sun.
Anyway, it occurred to me that the people on the second ship would make an excellent alternative list for the Amish Tech Support Dead Pool. Here they are, in order of appearance:
There are ten people on the Simpsons list, while the Amish limit is nine, but it seems fair to allow one more in this case, since most are relatively young and healthy, though several are fat, Perot is old, and Love has (to put it politely) lifestyle issues. Even if it cannot count as an official entry, I'll be keeping track.
In his latest Bleat, James Lileks writes about a 'Cebu':
Anyone who has a kid who watches Veggie Tales might recognize the word; itís from "The Song of the Cebu," a lethally catchy ditty about a boy in a canoe with three cows, or water buffalos, which the narrators calls Cebus. I have no idea if this is a word in any language, but when you listen to the song six times a day like I do, the word gets fused to the definition in the song. Gnat, too: show her a picture of a water buffalo, and she says Sayboo!
This cebu must be the creature more commonly called a zebu. Here is what Hilaire Belloc has to say about the beast, in the last poem of A Moral Alphabet:
for this Zébu, who (like all Zebús)*
Is held divine by scrupulous Hindoos.
Idolatry, as you are aware,
Is highly reprehensible. But there,
We needn't bother -- when we get to Z
Our interest in the Alphabet is dead.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
*Von Kettner writes it "Zébu"; Wurst "Zebu":
I split the difference and use the two.
I suspect nine out of ten readers had to read the last two lines of the Moral twice to get them to rhyme. The picture accompanying the poem seems to depict a hump-backed Brahma bull rather than a water buffalo.
My favorite poem in A Moral Alphabet is this one:
stands for Pig, as I remarked before,
A second cousin to the Huge Wild Boar.
But Pigs are civilised, while Huge Wild Boars
Live savagely, at random, out of doors,
And, in their coarse contempt for dainty foods,
Subsist on Truffles, which they find in woods.
Not so the cultivated Pig, who feels
The need of several courses at his meals,
But wrongly thinks it does not matter whether
He takes them one by one or all together.
Hence, Pigs devour, from lack of self-respect,
What Epicures would certainly reject.
Learn from the Pig to take whatever Fate
Or Elder Persons heap upon your plate.
I've quoted from an omnibus volume which includes Belloc's Cautionary Verses, The Bad Child's Book of Beasts, A Moral Alphabet, and more. The Cautionary Verses are the first two of seven volumes collected in one: they include "Jim, Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion", "Rebecca, Who slammed Doors for Fun and Perished Miserably", and "Maria, Who made Faces and a Deplorable Marriage". The whole collection is highly recommended, not least for the pictures that accompany the verses. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available in the U.S.
Note: I have emended the last (non-Moral) word of "P" to 'reject'. My copy reads 'eject', which seems unlikely: true Epicures rarely indulge in projectile vomiting if they can help it.
Discussing the Australian Gutnick case, InstaPundit argues (against Norah Vincent) that
The more likely result of widespread transnational regulation of the Internet will be to limit the blogosphere to people who are judgment proof, or successfully anonymous, neither of which is likely to cut down on the number of bogus accusations.
Another possible effect would be to slow the general movement away from Blogspot, since renting one's own domain name generally means losing one's anonymity. It's not a coincidence that some of the most obnoxious and foul-mouthed bloggers have stuck with Blogspot. It preserves their anonymity, even if it leaves them vulnerable to disappearing archives and other problems.
Colby Cosh has had a few entries lately about groups with a wide assortment of unusual first names (blacks and Mormons) or a severe shortage of different names (Nova Scotians). For the latter phenomenon, he could also have mentioned the most bizarre news story of 1998, about a pair of Amish cocaine dealers named Abner Stoltzfus and Abner K. Stoltzfus (no relation).
Warning: Some may find the following post offensive. They are invited to stop reading at this point.
At The Sound and Fury, 'Combustible Boy' brings exciting news from the world of public health:
A FORTY-FOOT-LONG crawl-thru large intestine will be touring the country next year to help promote awareness of colorectal cancer.
The National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month 2003 site provides pictures, and mentions a 'front door' and a 'back door'. What I want to know is which is which. Is the 'front door' the pyloric or the anal sphincter? Are visitors allowed to enter either end? That seems unlikely, since it's only 4' high: serious blockages would be likely. Are they supposed to enter at the 'bottom' end, like a proctologist's finger? If so, should they put on raincoats first to simulate the rubber glove? Or is the front door at the 'top' or stomach end? In that case they would exit via the rectum, like common turds. Either implied route would be disgusting: perhaps the NCCAM organizers haven't given sufficient thought to the metaphors implied by their project.
My questions are no more tasteless than the exhibit itself, which is not just a colon but a diseased colon (the site includes pictures of cancer and Crohn's Disease). Which reminds me: I once thought of buying a personal enemy a book I found advertised in a remainder catalogue: The Color Atlas of Modern Proctology (only $4.95 in hard cover). I decided against, not because it seemed too cruel -- he deserved far worse -- but because I wasn't sure the book would be sufficiently offensive, and didn't want to open it up before wrapping it to judge the precise level of offensiveness for myself.
We now return to our normal (relatively) tasteful programming. Is it obvious that I've had a bad day at work?
Note: My title refers only secondarily to Bill Quick, and not at all to Jason Soon.
VodkaPundit quotes the Independent as saying that the conquest of Iraq could take as little as a week. There are a number of reasons why quick may be more important than soon in timing an invasion of Iraq:
I'm as impatient as Bill Quick and many others, but strongly suspect that it is not sloth or indecision that has kept the invasion from beginning yet.
1. My post on Guns And Opera three weeks ago half-facetiously suggested an anti-gun-control message in Fidelio, where the political prisoner Florestan is about to be knifed to death by the evil governor Pizarro when his wife (Leonore, disguised as the boy Fidelio) pulls a gun and saves him. My post attracted an intemperate and semiliterate comment from someone too cowardly to provide a genuine e-mail address or a name more distinctive than 'Mike':
Your first supposition was the correct one, opera has nothing to do with the second amendment that American fascist now interpret to give them the right to carry guns and shoot anything that moves.
Since so many Europeans agree with 'Mike', and so many directors and producers of operas like to come up bizarre new stagings, perhaps some European opera company can redo Fidelio with a new and happier ending, in which Leonore throws away her evil gun, allows her husband to die a martyr to strict gun control, and is then conveniently available to marry the jailer's daughter Marzelline, who is already in love with 'Fidelio' in Act I. If tastefully handled, a new recognition scene at the end could do great things for the fight for Lesbian and transvestite equality. It might be hard to do all this without rewriting most of the words and some of the music, but surely it would be worth the effort to bring this sadly outdated opera into the 21st century.
2. I do wonder about the freeing of all the prisoners at the end. Florestan is hidden away in a particularly deep dungeon. Is this because he is the most influential of a bunch of political prisoners? Or are the rest common criminals? If the latter, the 'happy' ending is more than a little suspect: just what this town needs is to have all the murderers, rapists, muggers, and burglars back on the street. Was Beethoven a Dukakis-style liberal before his time? Or did I miss something in the libretto that explains this?
3. Judging from Fidelio and Aida, which I saw a few days later, the Met scenery people are particularly good at dungeons.
4. As for Aida: what's with the blackface, or at least beigeface? Several of the male characters wore light-brown makeup to portray Egyptians or in one case the king of Ethiopia. (Aida herself is an Ethiopian princess, but the woman who sang the part that night was black to start with.) I understand that this is necessary when a white man is playing Shakespeare's Othello in the theater or Verdi's Otello in the opera house. Racial difference is fundamental to the plot of Ot(h)ello, and it would be awfully confusing if the jealous Moor were a blue-eyed blond, particularly if the other characters were not all white -- likely enough in today's cosmopolitan operatic world. At the same time, it would be unfair, perhaps even prosecutable, to tell blond and pink-cheeked singers that they cannot sing Otello if they are vocally qualified to do so.
I can certainly see giving all the blonds dark wigs in Aida so they can play Egyptians and Ethiopians without confusing the audience. In fact, the extras who played the Ethiopian prisoners in the production I saw were mostly black, and it looked like all the others were wearing dark curly wigs. (The men were bare-chested, too, and the Met seems to have a no-tattoo rule for extras.) Fair enough, but why was it necessary to make the Chinese singer who sang the role of king of Ethiopia wear dark makeup? I haven't examined the libretto closely, but it didn't look like the racial difference between Egyptians and Ethiopians is crucial to the plot. The national difference is crucial, of course -- Egypt is at war with Ethiopia -- but race is another story.
Finally, I wonder if white fraternities caught in blackface scandals could use operatic precedent as a legal excuse.
How do you tell for sure that a skunk is dead? Not by the smell, obviously: it stinks just as much when it's still alive.
It has been nearly twelve days now since any of the fourteen editors listed on the masthead has posted anything at all on WarbloggerWatch, three full weeks since anyone except Grady Olivier has done so, and three days since anyone has even commented on any of the posts still visible on the front page.
The second-to-last comment on the front page was from Steven Chapman, six days ago, who wrote: "So many contributors, so little updating. You make Brendan O'Neill look productive." All I can add is a hearty Nelson Mundt "Hah Hah!". WarbloggerWatch was always motivated more by envy and spite than by genuine concern over what 'warbloggers' might be up to. It will only be missed by those with a twisted sense of humor, people who would go to an insane asylum to laugh at the inmates if that were still socially acceptable.
Why do I mention this? Perhaps I am one of those depraved people, hoping to goad WarbloggerWatch into supplying further posts for my cruel delectation. Just kidding: I won't miss them at all.
Various webloggers have reported that Michael Bellesisles has had his Bancroft Prize revoked. What I want to know is whether he's going to have to repay the $4,000 that comes with the prize. I certainly hope so.
Instapundit notes the upcoming 50th anniversary of the death of Hank Williams, which he places "in or near Knoxville". Actually, as the very long story to which he links shows, the evidence is ambiguous, and it is not known whether he died in Tennessee, Virginia, or West Virginia, and whether in the last few hours of 1952 or the first few of 1953. The doctor who declared him dead in Oak Hill, West Virginia, said that he might have been dead as long as six hours, and that was at 7:00 AM. The Hank Williams stamp that came out around ten years ago gave him the benefit of the doubt and listed 1953 as his date of death. (For whatever reason, I have found that putting Hank Williams stamps on job applications for tenure-track Latin professor positions doesn't seem to help, even when my return address was in Tuscaloosa.)
He was last seen definitely alive in Knoxville on New Year's Eve, but the place, date, and even year of his death are irretrievable. As a big fan, I can see why the InstaPundit would want to claim him for his own fair city. Then again, some of the suppliers of the various substances that contributed to his death were in Knoxville, too. The PossumBlogger will be sorry to hear that the chauffeur who was too oblivious to notice that his passenger had died was an Auburn man, in fact a freshman.
Kingsley Amis once wrote that Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913?) would probably be the last major literary figure with a question-mark on his date of death. If we extend the category to include musicians, Hank Williams should get one, too, though for entirely different reasons.
No Watermelons Allowed lists some songs most of us would prefer not to have been reminded of. Bobby Goldsboro scores twice, with "Watching Scotty Grow" and "Honey". As far as I'm concerned, the only reason any of these songs have for existing is to provide opportunities for parody.
For those who have managed to forget "Honey", the lyrics are at this Japanese site (about half way down). What the Austin Lounge Lizards did with the song -- "Shorty's Gal" / "Honey" -- can be found here: the lyrics, I mean, you should buy the album to actually hear it. The album, Lizard Vision (1991), is live, so you can relish the audience's delight as they recognize the chorus. It's not the Lizards' best album: that would be The Highway Cafe of the Damned (1987). But Lizard Vision does include at least one other classic, "Jesus Loves Me (But He Can't Stand You)".
Between them, the fourteen contributors listed on the masthead of WarbloggerWatch have posted no entries in over a week, no entries worth reading in months, and they don't seem to have even attracted a comment in the last 24 hours. Time to pull the plug, guys.
One more thing before I go to bed:
InstaPundit quotes a news report about a North Korean ship caught smuggling Scud missiles to Yemen. What I thought was most interesting was that it was a Spanish frigate that made the catch. I thought the War on Terror (or whatever you want to call it) was supposed to be a unilateral American effort, or an Anglospheric conspiracy of Americans, British, and Australians, or a joint operation of the Anglosphere and their evil Israeli puppetmasters, with maybe a few unimportant hangers-on like Turkey, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Eritrea, and others too numerous to list. Of course, some of us remember that allied losses in Afghanistan, besides roughly forty Americans and quite a few Afghans, included four Canadians, three Danes, two Germans, and an Australian. It would be good if the American press gave our allies more and better, well, press. And I'm very glad to hear that Spain is helping out, which I had not known. As military powers go, Spain may not be quite in a class with France or Germany, but it's not exactly Luxembourg, either. The Japanese are said to be sending a ship to the Indian Ocean. I wonder who else has contributed ships, planes, and men. And I wonder when the press will figure out that the War on Terror is far more than unilateral, or bilateral, or even trilateral, even if it does not meet their silly 'omnilateral' standard.
I've had a sore throat since Sunday, but this cannot pass without notice:
A couple of bloggers on my blogroll -- unfortunately, I forgot to note their names -- have mentioned a Saskatchewan farmer who predicts the weather using pig spleens. The Classics mailing list was onto this years ago.
Every classicist knows that a pig spleen is the wrong organ: what you need is a sheep liver. That's what the ancient Etruscans used for their hepatoscopy or haruspicy or (one of my favorite words) extispicy (don't try to say that with a lisp).
There is even a surviving model, the so-called Bronze Liver of Piacenza (see below), which turned up in a farmer's field in Italy in the late 19th century. I'm told that it took quite some time before anyone figured out what it was supposed to be. It was apparently used by some ancient professor of extispicy. This site has pictures and diagrams. Doctors and biology teachers today save money with plastic models, and reserve the genuine cadavers for advanced students. I like to think that the owner of the bronze liver, which must have been expensive to make, reserved real sheep for his final exam, and perhaps kept the lamb chops as part of his fee. If the idea of a Ph.D. (or ancient equivalent) in Extispicy seems ridiculous, it's surely no more so than Mrs. Gorbachev's Ph.D. in Marxist-Leninist Philosophy.
The language of the liver is Etruscan, not Latin, so don't ask me to read it: it's not even Indo-European. I don't know whether the site's reconstruction has any value at all, though it does seem likely that the outer edge was intended to match up with the zodiac, so that the liver is a microcosm of the heavens, with disturbances in the order of the universe reflected in the liver of the individual sheep. I assume the teardrop-shaped lump is the gall bladder.
Today is not only the 61st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor but the 2,044th anniversary of the murder of Cicero. Here is Livy's obituary, as quoted by the Elder Seneca:
Marcus Cicero had taken his departure from the city shortly before the arrival of the triumvirs; he was convinced of what was actually the case, that he could no more be saved from the clutches of [Mark] Antony than Cassius and Brutus could be from those of [Octavius] Caesar. First he fled to his Tusculan estate, thence he set out by cross-country routes for his place at Formiae, for he planned to take ship at Caieta. From that port he put out to sea several times, but sometimes contrary winds drove him back, and again he was unable to bear the tossing of the ship, as erratic waves heaved it. Finally a weariness both of flight and of life came upon him; he went back to his upper country house, which is a little more than a mile from the sea, and said, "Let me die in the fatherland I have so often saved". It is definitely known that his slaves were ready to fight bravely and loyally, but he bade them set down the litter and endure without rebellion what a hostile fortune forced upon them. As he thrust his head out of the litter and held his neck steady, he was decapitated. Nor was this enough for the brutish cruelty of the soldiers. They also cut off his hands, reproaching them for having written something against Antony. Thus the head was brought back to Antony and by his order placed between the two hands on the Rostra. There Cicero in his consulship, and again often as ex-consul, and again that very year in opposing Antony, had been heard with admiration for his eloquence such as had never been accorded to another human voice. People could hardly raise their eyes for their tears, in order to look at his butchered parts.
He lived sixty-three years, so that if he had suffered no violence, his death would not have seemed to be even untimely. His nature was fortunate both in its achievements and in its rewards for achievement; he enjoyed a long-continued good fortune and a prolonged state of prosperity, yet was from time to time smitten with severe blows, his exile, the downfall of the party he represented, the death of his daughter, and his own sad and bitter end. None of his adversities did he bear in a manner worthy of a gentleman except his death; and this, if one weighs the matter accurately, might seem the less undeserved, because he suffered from a victorious personal enemy nothing crueler than he would himself have done, had he attained to the same success. However, if one balances his faults against his virtues, he was a man of greatness, energy, and distinction -- a man, the complete exposition of whose merits would demand a Cicero as eulogist.
This is from Book CXX of Livy's history of Rome from the earliest beginnings up to his own times. Except for Books I-X and XXI-XLV, only fragments of the 142 books survive. This one was quoted by the Elder Seneca, rhetorician and uncle of the better-known Younger Seneca, philosopher and tragic poet. It is from his Suasoriae, VI.17. The translation is from the last volume (XIV) of the Loeb facing text edition of Livy, and is by Alfred C. Schlesinger, with a few slight changes for clarity.
Cicero was murdered on December 7th, 43 B.C., but it's still only been 2,044 years, not 2,045, because there was no year 0.
Here's a little something for Sgt. Stryker, a story I'd forgotten from my college days when I spent my summers and holidays moving furniture in Norfolk, Virginia. (My mother reminded me of it at Thanksgiving.)
One customer was the snobby wife of a lieutenant or lieutenant commander. When she realized that all her movers were college boys and navy brats, she asked one of us "Whatís your fatherís rating?", expecting him to say "E-6" or "E-7" or something like that. (Those are enlisted ratings, that is, ranks.) She was not pleased when the first one she asked answered "O-7" (or it may even have been "O-8").
Note for non-military-types: His father was an admiral, in fact executive officer of one of the bases in Norfolk.
on social and cultural issues -- abortion and religion come to mind -- journalism was not particularly hospitable to conservative voices. But on economic issues -- especially free trade and balanced budgets -- the press tilted toward the center or even toward moderate conservatism.
There is some truth to this, though "not particularly hospitable" is a euphemism for "reflexively hostile". But the most interesting thing about Dionne's dichotomy is that social and cultural issues are much more matters of opinion, while economic issues are more matters of fact. Economics is not exactly a science, but it is clear by now to anyone who has been paying attention that the only economics that work are the moderately or strongly conservative (or libertarian) kind. Socialism and communism are pseudo-economics. (Or would that be pseudo-economicses? Just kidding.)
The result is that journalists and others who go left on social and cultural issues and mildly right on economics are generally going as left as they can go without going stupid. That hardly refutes the idea that left-wing bias in journalism is pervasive.
If the TV show I was watching just now hadn't had a local news 'teaser' ad, I wouldn't even know that a train just derailed about 200 yards from where I sit. It blocked one of the two ways of getting out of my apartment complex, and is right in the back yard of some of the other residents.
It's cold out and past my bedtime, but maybe I should put on a coat or two and go watch the cranes put the cars back on the tracks. Local news reports that there was a derailment and ensuing fire just a year ago only half a mile in the other direction. Fortunately, the rail line is a spur that leads only to a power plant, so the only chemical substance likely to be leaked and scattered around the neighborhood is coal.
CPO Sparkey at Sgt. Stryker links to an amusing story from the Dallas News about a thief who stole some unattended bags from a pickup truck, not knowing that they contained only "pet waste". The comments report that it was a hoax, but it reminded me of a newspaper story (perhaps equally false) that I read something like 15 years ago.
A man broke into a slaughterhouse after midnight, parked by the loading dock, and filled up the trunk of his car with several hundred pounds of very fresh meat. He either didn't bother to check the labels on the boxes, or was afraid to use any lights to do so. I like to think it was the former, and that he was thinking "filet mignon? T-bone? spareribs? porterhouse? whatever, it'll be a wonderful surprise -- how could fresh beef not be valuable?". When the police arrived, he found that all of the boxes were packed with fresh-cut cattle rectums, on their way to a pet-food factory: not worth eating, and not worth selling on the black market, since the total value was negligible and customers would have been few. I guess the silver lining was that the value was too low to make the theft a felony.
Sorry about the lack of posts. It's the end of the second grading period, so I have huge stacks of tests, quizzes, and essays to grade and average and add comments to by Monday. I've also been pondering whether I need to change the focus of this weblog, or rather give it some kind of focus. In the long run, that may mean fewer, and less frequent, but longer and more elaborate posts. To get ready for that, I've deleted the clickable calendar in the right-hand column, which tended to push me to try to post something every day whether I had anything to say or not. In the short run, as I avoid grading for a few more hours, I will have a few posts on various subjects up later tonight. After that, not much is likely until Monday afternoon, unless something important happens in the world. (Not all that unlikely this weekend, of course.)
I've also inadvertently deleted all 1,397 e-mail messages in my inbox, so if you're waiting for a reply, like (e.g.) someone from First Things whose name I've forgotten who wrote a few weeks ago, please try again.
Amish Tech Support mentions Gaza University's "Department of Advanced Anti-Semitic Studies" -- perhaps not quite so fictional as it ought to be. Someone once told me that the University of Pennsylvania was reshaping its language departments a few years back and briefly considered putting Hebrew in with Russian, Polish, and German. It wouldn't be easy to come up with a brief and accurate description for such a disparate collection of languages, and someone facetiously suggested that it could be called the Department of Semitic and Anti-Semitic Languages.
I won't link to him, but Jesse of Pandagon.net (you know where to find him) makes an unusually silly argument against sodomy laws (today, 5:26 PM):
The canon of sexual conduct laws generally stipulate[s] that sexual contact must be between consenting adults. That's it. You want to have sex with 10 people a night, as long as it's consensual, that's fine. You want to have sex with your significant other's sibling? That's fine. I find both of these things morally abhorrent, but that doesn't mean you don't have the right to do them - the Constitution has no provision in which you cannot be a jerk.
The second sentence ("That's it") is simply false. In every state, the consenting adults must be human. (Otherwise, would a dog have to be 16 or 18 in dog years, or human years?) In every state but Nevada, you cannot pay your partner or partners for sex, or take money from them. And in every state, sexual partners cannot be brother and sister, or father and daughter, or a whole list of other forbidden relationships. I believe there are still some states in which adultery is illegal, and some in which oral and anal sex are forbidden even for married heterosexuals in the privacy of their own home, though these laws are seldom enforced. Have I forgotten anything? The idea that homosexual acts are the only ones forbidden to consenting adults is utterly false.
Some of these exceptions are important. I can't prove that incest or bestiality is wrong, but I don't think laws against them are based solely on ignorance, bigotry, and tradition. Those who wish to abolish sodomy laws need to find ways to distinguish which traditional restrictions should be kept and which abandoned, and a simple preference for homosexuality and fornication over incest and bestiality isn't going to suffice. I'm sure much better arguments against sodomy laws can be devised, but it will probably take someone other than Jesse to come up with them.
Max Sawicky seems to think so. While abusing Steven Den Beste for alleged racism, he writes (11/27/02, 10:30 AM):
I would be amazed if SDB dealt with Arabs or Muslims on a personal basis at all differently than with, say, persons of Dutch extraction. For all I know, he'd take Salome's great great grand-daughter home to Mom. But this passage shows that, like a lot of other people, he can't shake his Islamic bug.
Salome was King Herod's niece and step-daughter, and lived in the first century. I won't object to Sawicky saying "great great grand-daughter" without repeating "great" sixty or eighty more times: that would have been tedious. But what about the clear implication that Salome was a Muslim? Though I haven't checked the sources, I imagine she was very likely Jewish. She could conceivably have been some variety of pagan, but she was certainly not Muslim, since the religion would not be invented for several centuries. Was Sawicky talking about some other Salome? Then he should have said so, since the one depicted in Oscar Wilde's play, Aubrey Beardsley's illustrations, and Richard Strauss' opera is by far the most famous holder of the name. Just more sloppiness with the facts in Sawickyland?
It wouldn't be the first. Sawicky still insists (11/11/02, 3:46 PM) that Ollie North is "favorite of a disputed number of warbloggers". The number is only in dispute because he continues to pretend that it is not zero, though he has been able to come up with no evidence at all to support his case, as shown in detail here and summarized here. (The whole thing started with this challenge.)
MINNESOTA HATE CRIME UPDATE: The friendly posters at Twin Cities IndyMedia think that defacing a Norm Coleman billboard with swastikas and SS symbols is just peachy. Republicanism, we're told, is "one-hundred times more dangerous than mere Nazism."
They also appear to be near-illiterates, but that's not really a surprise either.
There seems to be some deep mystic connection between stupidity and Nazism, whether practiced or falsely imputed to others. I still recall the graphic message I saw spray-painted on the wall of a San Francisco branch library many years ago. I don't have a photograph, but it looked very much like this:
The stupid vandal couldn't even get the number of bends right.
Around the same time (1979-81) I noticed that someone was spray-painting "Deport the Shaw" on a lot of sidewalks around town. I suppose the bad spelling may have meant that the vandals were non-native speakers -- perhaps even Iranian refugees -- but I always wondered whether they were just stupid.