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Sunday: October 30, 2005

iTunes Serendipity

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:32 PM GMT-0500

These lines just came up in a random selection from the 10,785 cuts on my laptop’s iTunes (44.88 GB, 23 days, 3 hours, 56 minutes, and 39 seconds):

And Scooter’s just a basket-case,
he won’t accept my calls.

However, the wider context shows that the lines have nothing to do with current events:

Molly’s nose is warm and dry,
since she sat and watched you pack.
She figures that you must be lost
and can’t find your way back.
And Scooter’s just a basket case,
he won’t accept my calls.
His squeaky toy lies silent,
he’s lost interest in his balls

The song is “The Dogs They Really Miss You”, by the Austin Lounge Lizards, a tragicomic tune about the effects of divorce.

Saturday: October 29, 2005

Anyone Else Have These Thoughts?

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:37 PM GMT-0500

Every time Instapundit refers to ‘Sissy Willis’, I can’t help thinking “Oliver Willis isn’t exactly the manliest man in the Blogosphere, but calling him a ‘sissy’ seems awfully cruel”. Then, a second or two later, I remember that there’s another Willis with a website whose name is apparently Sissy. Short for Cecilia, I guess.

Tell Me Something I Don’t Already Know

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Tuesday: October 25, 2005

What I’ve Been Reading

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Anthony Grafton’s The Footnote: A Curious History (1997). Here’s my favorite passage so far (62-63):

Around the turn of the century, many American universities began to make themselves over, following what they saw as the German model. Professors, many of whom had enjoyed the adventure of studying in scholarly Göttingen, romantic Heidelberg, or metropolitan Berlin, began to enroll graduate students and offer specialized seminars at home. They carved out new spaces for these advanced courses–often within the impressively crenelated university libraries of the time, in rooms equipped with reference books and primary sources. Students from Berkeley to Baltimore could learn dead languages, master bibliographies, and apply sophisticated research techniques, just as their teachers had. And they could do so without having to live in Germany, drink beer, and translate texts, extemporaneously, into as well as out of Gothic and Anglo-Saxon, as German professors required the members of seminars to do.

Thursday: October 20, 2005

Never Send A Machine To Do A Man’s Job

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:50 PM GMT-0500

Lileks finds some coded Latin, but concludes that it must be gibberish, since the online Latin translator couldn’t handle it. That just shows how stupid machines are. It is not quite classical Latin, but close enough to have a meaning. Lileks’ text is missing the first letter — easy enough when it’s written in Morse code and the letter is an I. It should read:


Classical Latin would spell the second word GYRUM and the last one IGNE, but this is good Mediaeval (aka Vulgar) Latin. It means “At night we go into a gyre [= whirl/circle/ring] and are consumed by fire”. That’s not a very clear or satisfying meaning, but better than average for palindromes. With one more syllable at the beginning, it would be an epic (dactylic hexameter) line: again, that’s probably the best meter we can expect from a palindrome. The version with ECCE (“look!”) inserted after NOCTE fulfills (barely) the minimum requirements for a hexameter, but the meaning is even clunkier.

This site has some interesting, but not entirely accurate, information on the words (click on Palindromes – it’s the first one on the right). I don’t see anything macaronic about the line, and suspect that a moth would be at least as likely as a mayfly to fly in circles and be consumed by fire. I wonder if this gyre has anything to do with the one Yeats asked someone or other to perne in in “Sailing to Byzantium”.

The Deck In The Dock

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:34 PM GMT-0500

Gateway Pundit and others had reports yesterday on the trial of Saddam Hussein and seven of his henchmen for one particularly heinous, though (by his standards) relatively small-scale, murder. I haven’t updated my Ba’ath Poker file in a long time. However, if anyone was wondering how the first set of indicted criminals matches up with the Centcom list of 55 most wanted Iraqis, of whom the Top 52 were on the famous deck of cards, yesterday’s batch of goons included the Ace of Spades (Hussein himself), the Ten of Diamonds (his one-time Vice President), the Five of Clubs (one of his half-brothers), and five smaller fish. No doubt other flunkies will have their day in the dock for other atrocities. When I last updated my file, 41 of the 55 were in custody, and I think one or two others have since been apprehended.

Monday: October 17, 2005

Hmmmm . . . .

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:31 PM GMT-0500

Stuart Buck impugns the looks of the new Catholic cathedral in Los Angeles. It’s certainly ugly, but perhaps it wasn’t built primarily for looks. To put it bluntly, it looks very defensible, with no windows on the first floor and convenient balconies above. Is the church hierarchy worried about possible pogroms in the century or two such a solidly-built building might be expected to stay in use?

Sunday: October 16, 2005


Filed under: — site admin @ 12:36 AM GMT-0500

Anton Efendi of Across the Bay calls his analysis of Juan Cole’s miscellaneous ineptitudes ‘Cole-ology’. An interesting coinage. What would it mean etymologically? Short-o kólon means, as one might guess, “colon, part of the large intestine”, so short-o Colology would presumably be more or less the same thing as proctology. However, the ‘Cole’ in ‘Cole-ology’ should have a long o. According to Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (1996), long-o kolê means (1) “thigh-bone with the flesh on it, ham, esp. of a swine”, and (2) “membrum virile”. Just a coincidence, I’m sure. If you prefer to take ‘Cole-ology’ as a Greco-Roman hybrid, like ‘automobile’ and ‘homosexual’, and make it pentasyllabic, it could be formed from Latin colei (three syllables), which is always plural and means either “testicles” or “scrotum” or (I imagine) a combination of the two three. Again, that must be a coincidence, though an amusing one.


Filed under: — site admin @ 12:05 AM GMT-0500

Buzzmachine mentions “the elusive, hermitic, hermetic Jim Romenesko”. Despite the resemblance, ‘hermit/hermitic’ and ‘hermetic’ are unrelated. The latter comes from Hermes, god of thieves and also of locks and keys: it is a philosophical commonplace that the best doctor would also be the best poisoner, and the best poacher the best gamekeeper. ‘Hermit’ and its derivatives come from the Greek adjective éremos, ‘desolate, lonely, solitary’, or the noun eremía, ‘desert, wilderness’. Milton uses the earlier English form ‘eremite’ on the first page of Paradise Regain’d.

Though the words are etymologically unrelated, they do make a nice pair. I don’t recall ever saying anything nice about Jesse Jackson before, and don’t plan to do so again any time soon, but I still like his similar pun of a few years back, when he started calling reporters alligators “because they make the all(i)gations”. Those words are also unrelated: an ‘alligator’ is a ‘grabber’, and the -LIG- element is the same one found in ‘ligament’, ‘ligature’, ‘(tubal) ligation’, and for that matter ‘religion’.

What has religion to do with alligators and ligatures? The concept of ‘binding’. In classical Latin, religio was not a general term for things to do with the gods — those were res divinae — but something more particular, along the lines of a religious taboo. For instance, it seems to have been forbidden to urinate on the walls of temples, even if they were nondescript back walls facing alleys. To judge from an obscure passage of Persius’ Satires (1.113), the Romans painted snakes on such walls so that even children and illiterates would know that they should go elsewhere. In his Satires (1.130), Juvenal mentions an Egyptian, a ruler of Arabs (arabarches), cuius ad effigiem non tantum meiere fas est, “at whose statue one is allowed not only to piss”. Need I spell out what else one might do there? The commentators note that pissing on an Emperor’s statue was treason.

Saturday: October 15, 2005

This Day In History Hagiography

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:31 PM GMT-0500

Today is not only the 2,074th birthday of Publius Vergilius Maro and the feast of St. Teresa of Ávila, it is also the feast of

Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky (1831-1906), Episcopalian bishop of Shanghai, a dedicated missionary who translated the Bible into several Chinese dialects, which over many years he typed with the one finger that had not been paralysed by a stroke. Some Anglican communities have, unofficially, made him patron of the Internet.

(B. Blackburn and L. Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, 1999, ad diem)

Trollope On Schadenfreude

Filed under: — site admin @ 7:10 PM GMT-0500

Augustus Melmotte, Esq., gives a party for the Emperor of China just as his financial empire is beginning to crumble:

There can be no doubt that the greater part of the people assembled did believe that their host had committed some great fraud which might probably bring him under the arm of the law. When such rumours are spread abroad, they are always believed. There is an excitement and a pleasure in believing them. Reasonable hesitation at such a moment is dull and phlegmatic. If the accused one be near enough to ourselves to make the accusation a matter of personal pain, of course we disbelieve. But, if the distance be beyond this, we are almost ready to think that anything may be true of anybody. In this case nobody really loved Melmotte and everybody did believe. It was so probable that such a man should have done something horrible! It was only hoped that the fraud might be great and horrible enough.

The Way We Live Now (1874-75), chapter 62, “The Party”

Sunday: October 9, 2005

Still On Top

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:17 PM GMT-0500

It’s been over three years since I checked, but I’m still Google’s number one hit for “the stupid questions department”.

Great Minds Think Alike

Filed under: — site admin @ 9:37 PM GMT-0500

Helmuth, Graf von Moltke (the Elder):

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

Seneca (the Younger):

Vetus proverbium est gladiatorem in harena capere consilium; aliquid adversarii vultus, aliquid manus mota, aliquid ipsa inclinatio corporis intuentem monet. Quid fieri soleat, quid oporteat, in universum et mandari potest et scribi; tale consilium non tantum absentibus, etiam posteris datur: illud alterum, quando fieri debeat aut quemadmodum, ex longinquo nemo suadebit, cum rebus ipsis deliberandum est.

There is an old adage about gladiators, — that they plan their fight in the ring; as they intently watch, something in the adversary’s glance, some movement of his hand, even some slight bending of his body, gives a warning. We can formulate general rules and commit them to writing, as to what is usually done, or ought to be done; such advice may be given, not only to our absent friends, but also to succeeding generations. In regard, however, to that second question, — when or how your plan is to be carried out, — no one will advise at long range; we must take counsel in the presence of the actual situation.

Epistulae Morales 22.1-2, tr. Richard C. Gummere, Loeb Classical Library, 1917

Echthrology, For Sure

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:55 PM GMT-0500

In The Corner, Cliff May writes of the need for a neologism to name the academic study of one’s enemies, whether Communists, Fascists, or militant Islamists, “who they are, what they think, what they want, why they hate us and – most importantly – how they can be defeated”. He consulted Victor Davis Hanson, who suggested either ‘polemiologia’ or ‘echthrologia’: “the polemios root is for political/military enemies, the stronger echthros root would be for cultural, tribal, personal enemies”. I don’t know why Hanson didn’t use the Anglicized endings ‘polemiology’ and ‘echthrology’ — we don’t have professors of Astronomia and Zoologia –, but either way I much prefer the E-word, for three reasons:

  1. ‘Polemiology’ (from polemíoi, “enemies”) is confusing, since — at least to those who know their Greek roots — it sounds too much like ‘polemology’ and ‘polemicology’, either of which would mean Military Studies generally (from pólemos, “war”, and polemiká, “the things of war”, respectively). It’s also unclear how ‘polemiology’ (or ‘polemiologia’, for that matter) would be pronounced: ‘POLL-uh-mee-OLL-uh-jee’ is too sing-song,* ‘poh-LEM-ee-OLL-uh-jee’ just generally awkward, and Hanson’s -ia endings don’t help at all.
  2. All three of the conflicts named have been much more than purely military, and a reference to “cultural, tribal, personal enemies” is more or less what we want, though ‘cultural, tribal, ideological’ would be even better.
  3. Most important, ‘echthrology’ has just the right sound to it, an ugly sound for an ugly (though necessary) endeavor, as if one were clearing one’s throat while very sick. Wouldn’t ‘Professor of Echthrology’ look good on a curriculum vitae?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

*This pronunciation does open up possibilities for light verse:

Higgledy piggledy,
favorite Naval A-
cademy class, . . .

I will . . . leave it to others to finish the rhyme. (Hey, I’m still stuck in the same rhythm!)

Happy Birthday, Henricus Sagittarius

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:06 PM GMT-0500

His birthdate is unknown, but Henricus Sagittarius, better known as Heinrich Schütz, was baptized 420 years ago today. In his honor, I just played Die sieben Wörte Jesu Christi am Kreuz (“The Seven Words of Jesus Christ on the Cross”), performed by the Ensemble Clement Janequin and Les Saqueboutiers de Toulouse (Harmonia Mundi 90.1255). I would have played one of the Passions, but those are currently lent out. It may not sound like much of a recommendation, but Schütz’s passions (Matthew, Luke, and John) sound a lot like Bach’s, but without the arias. This makes the crowd choruses (e.g. “Crucify him!”) the only exciting parts, but the recitative is so utterly (can’t think of a better word) . . . appropriate that I don’t miss the arias at all.

I would have liked to have played the Seven Words and the St. Luke Passion in my favorite recording of both, by Gustav Leonhardt, but that still hasn’t come out on CD, and I don’t have a phonograph, plus my records are still in Baltimore. What’s the hold-up, Telefunken Teldec? Did it only sell 17 copies in record form? I suppose one of these days I’ll give up and spend some money having my last few records burned onto CDs with the appropriate software.

Tuesday: October 4, 2005


Filed under: — site admin @ 11:16 PM GMT-0500

In my previous post, I should probably have mentioned that ‘suillivore’ is four syllables, pronounced roughly ‘soo-ILL-i-voar’. If it were three syllables, it would be ‘swillivores’, which would be a good description of pigs, not eaters of pigs.

Monday: October 3, 2005

Suillivores Unite!

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:54 PM GMT-0500

That would be ‘pork-eaters’ in Latinate English, a compound of suilla, ‘pork’ and the usual ‘–vore’ ending from the verb vorare, ‘to devour’. (The word is stronger than ‘eat’, and might be taken to imply a Homeric, i.e. Simpsonian, attitude towards bacon, ham, and pork chops.)

In response to a U.K. movement to forbid even pictures of pigs, real or fictional, in any location where Muslims might inadvertently see them, Relapsed Catholic has started a ‘Free Piglet’ campaign, complete with cute logos such as this one. (Scroll down to the last — topmost — post on October 1st, and then scroll back up, stopping at the pig pictures.)

I don’t know if RC will appreciate my saying so, but her campaign on behalf of suillivores has some resemblance to the campaign for ‘gay-friendly’ schools, businesses, and accommodations. (If GayPatriot joins the Free Piglet campaign, he can offer two abominations for the price of one.) Just as one can be gay-friendly without being gay, it ought to be possible for a devout Muslim, Jew, or vegetarian to be ‘porkeater-friendly’ in a totally nonparticipatory way.

Sunday: October 2, 2005

Seen In The Periodical Room

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:21 PM GMT-0500

In some classical journal — it may have been Mnemosyne — I recently ran across a review of a title guaranteed to confuse just about every non-classicist and some percentage of classicists, too: The Fragments of the Methodists, Volume I. If I’m not mistaken, these are fragmentary medical texts, and the Methodists are rivals of the Dogmatists and the Empiricists.

I just checked, and the only non-fragmentary Methodist is Soranus, a gynaecologist. With a name like that, he should have been a proctologist.

Yes, But . . . .

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:03 PM GMT-0500

Betsy Newmark writes that Chief Justice John Roberts “now has the luxury of having complete job security for the rest of his life”. Not quite: he doesn’t seem likely to do anything justifying impeachment, and we can hope that he will be sensible enough to resign if he can no longer handle the job due to physical or mental frailty, but that still leaves one possibility for involuntary early retirement. At the rate the Democrats are going, I can see them in ten or fifteen years impeaching Roberts or another ‘conservative’ justice with no justification whatsoever except the desire to replace him with someone who will vote as they wish.

Saturday: October 1, 2005

Pedantic Etymology

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:56 PM GMT-0500

Mark in Mexico‘s heart is in the right place, but ‘hemoclism’ is not Greek for ‘blood flood’. The first stem should be ‘hemato-‘ (or ‘haemato-‘), not ‘hemo-‘. The second half is also questionable: a klismós is a ‘couch’, not a ‘flood’, so ‘hematoclism’ is out unless you are trying to say ‘blood couch’. ‘Hematoclysm’ is better, but the Greek word for ‘flood, deluge’ is not the simple noun klúsma but the compound kataklusmós. Klúsma means ‘wash’ (the noun), in various senses: either ‘surf’, or ‘sea beach’, or ‘enema’. ‘Hematocataclysm’ would do. If that is too unwieldy, perhaps a ‘hurricane of blood’ would be better: ‘hematothuella’. There are other words for storm, and that is not the only possible metaphor, so something more compact may be possible. Greek and Latin are not always more succinct than English, though the rhyme in ‘blood flood’ is annoying and ‘blood storm’ sounds like one of the more brutal video games.