Sunday, January 22, 2017

Dream Log: Huge Campus

I dreamed I was on the campus of a large university; indeed, it may have been somewhat larger than the largest real university campus in the world. I was supposed to meet some friends of mine, but I was lost, and the people I asked for directions weren't very helpful.

At one point I was inside a library. I saw a sign over the doorway to a room which said "THEOLOGY," and I went in, because oftentimes, items shelved under the heading of theology 1) aren't actually theology and 2) are written in Latin. I saw some volumes whose covers looked promisingly old -- but then I remembered that I was already late: my friends and I had agreed to meet for lunch at 1:00 PM, and my Seiko 5 read 1:06.

(This is my Seiko 5. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. Squeeee!)

Reluctantly, I abandoned my search for interesting things written in Latin, noting the location of the library and the room labeled "THEOLOGY" for a possible future search, and continued to look for my friends.

This search for my friends was particularly difficult because I had forgotten where we had agreed to meet.

Most of the people I saw were young adults -- students, most of them, I supposed -- who seemed to be in significantly better physical shape than I. For example, there was a large store, several stories high, which seemed to sell mostly sporting goods, and the staircase which descended from the 2nd floor to the ground floor had hand rails which stopped 8 feet or more above the ground floor, and students (probably students), instead of climbing down the stairs, were standing upright on these handrails and sliding down and jumping 8 feet or more down to the floor and landing without injuring themselves. Sometimes they absorbed the shock of landing by letting their legs bend very deeply; other times they rolled as they landed, like expert parachuters. And I wasn't about to try that.

It's not that I'm in bad shape for my age: I do pushups and crunches and cardio every day. But these young people all seemed somewhat athletic even compared to average young people. It was unusual that they all seemed that way, that I couldn't spot an exception.

I went into another very large store which seemed to sell mostly appliances. These stores weren't across the street from the campus, as I've seen in some college towns: they were in the middle of the campus, they were university operations. People continued to be not much help in finding my friends, not that I gave them much to work with.

Gradually I started to get the impression, from the expressions on their faces, sometimes pleasantly dreamy, sometimes very unpleasantly fanatical, that these fit young people were in some sort of religious order, and that all of the vigorous and sometimes dangerous physical exercise was a part of their religious practice.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Let's Make America Great Again: Let's Impeach This Fool

The effort to impeach President Donald John Trump is already underway, the Washington Post reports:

"At the moment the new commander in chief was sworn in, a campaign to build public support for his impeachment went live at, spearheaded by two liberal advocacy groups aiming to lay the groundwork for his eventual ejection from the White House.

The organizers behind the campaign, Free Speech for People and RootsAction, are hinging their case on Trump’s insistence on maintaining ownership of his luxury hotel and golf course business while in office. Ethics experts have warned that his financial holdings could potentially lead to constitutional violations and undermine public faith in his decision-making."

Inverse lists 4 further grounds for impeachment besides conflict of interest, which they mention as does the Washington post story. In addition, Inverse mentions war crimes, sexual assault, sharing confidential information with unauthorized parties, and pirating music.

It's true that Trump has been President for less than 2 hours, and so he probably hasn't actually committed any war crimes yet. But why wait until he does?

Why wait? We know the Trump administration is going to be a huge disaster. We know that it will only get worse and worse until we stop it -- or until Trump wipes out the human race with nukes. We know he's not fit to handle nukes. We know he's not fit to govern any political entity. We know he's a bad man, a racist, a sexist, a sexual predator, a swindler, a pathological liar.

Why wait? This is much too important to wait.

And -- I know that I keep harping on this, but I think it's important -- know, any time, any time at all, would be a great time to release that "Apprentice" video, the stuff that makes the 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape look mild. Why is it important? Because in order to eject Trump from the Presidency, we're going to need the support of some people who are in denial about who he is and what he is like. The "Access Hollywood" video shook some of these people out of their trance, but them time passed and they forgot about it again. It's one thing for them to hear us liberals talk about how horrible he is, it's another thing for them to see it and hear it for themselves.

And can we get to the bottom of Trump's dealings with Putin, please? That'd be swell.

A legal researcher at the University of Utah's S.J. Quinney College of Law says that current lawsuits against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump are sufficient grounds to impeach him from the presidency if he is elected. That was back in September. The charges this researcher had in mind were fraud and racketeering. The amount of evidence to justify those charges and other criminal charges just keeps growing and growing.

What are we waiting for?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Carolingian Revival Of Classical Latin Literature

I became something resembling in some ways an historian because over and over, I've read books on historical subjects, and I'm full of questions on the historical subject at hand which the book at hand does not address, let alone answer.

A wonderful exception to this rule is Texts and Transmission: A Survey of the Latin Classics, edited by LD Reynolds, which consists of 134 entries by 14 authors including Reynolds, MD Reeve, RJ Tarrant and M Winterbottom, each entry succinctly describing what was known, in the early 1980's when the volume was prepared, about the manuscripts and editions of each of 134 Classical Latin authors and anonymous Classical Latin texts. "Classical" means pre-Christian poems, fiction, history, philosophy, rhetoric and technical and scientific writing. In the case of Latin, Classical means things written for the most part between the 3rd century BC, when the earliest Latin poems, plays and historical writings which have survived were written, and the fifth century AD, when Christians came to dominate not just the governments of Latin-speaking Western Europe, but its literature as well. Reynolds admits that not everyone will agree completely about which authors and texts belong to Classical Latin. However, few if any experts would add or subtract more than a half-dozen authors and texts to or from Reynold's list.

Texts and Transmission is chock-full of things I wanted to know. Particularly wonderful and informative is Reynolds' Introduction to the volume on pages xiii through xliii, an extremely succinct summing up of the entire subject of the transmission of Classical Latin texts. On pages xvii through xxxii, Reynolds writes a much better summary of the Carolingian Renaissance than I ever will.

The Carolingian Renaissance is the renewed study of the Latin Classics done with the support of Charlemagne and his heirs in the 9th and 10th centuries AD. In the midst of Reynolds' description of this renewal, on page xxviii, is a list of 68 Classical authors and anonymous texts, just over half of the total of 134 discussed in the entire book. For each of these 68 authors or texts, there are one or more 9th-century manuscripts known to scholars today.

The Dark Ages is the era from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476 until the rise of Charlemagne, who was crowned Emperor in Rome by the Pope in AD 800. It's called "dark" in part because the written records of that time are quite sparse. This scarcity of written records in turn makes it possible to speculate about just exactly how bad or good things were in the Dark Ages. And hey, what a coincidence: historians who are Christians tended, by and large, to portray the era as having been much more pleasant and productive and learned and so forth, than historians who are not Christians. Almost everyone on all sides is biased.

But if we're only talking about the survival of and interest in classical Latin literature, then there is no doubt that "dark" is a fitting adjective. There are dozens of surviving Classical Latin manuscripts made before the Dark Ages. From the 7th century, the middle of the Dark Ages, there is 1, a manuscript of Lucan. C Hosius, whose edition of the 2nd-century Roman author Aulus Gellius appeared in 1903, described one manuscript of Gellius as "s vii(?)," meaning he was guessing it was from the 7th century. In Texts and Transmission, PK Marshall describes the same manuscript as 4th-century, with no ?.

Of course, the numbers of manuscripts surviving today from a certain century are not the same as the total numbers of manuscripts made in that century. Manuscripts have been thrown away, used to make covers for other books, burned in furnaces for warmth, destroyed in wars. As recently as the Renaissance, writers described many manuscripts which are gone today. In the meantime, the efforts to preserve them have become more energetic. We don't know how many Classical Latin manuscripts were made altogether in the 7th century, or the 9th. But the fact that we can locate exactly 1 from 7th century (or just possibly 2, but probably 1), and manuscripts for 68 different authors and texts from the 9th, is a very strong indication that some things changed in the 9th century, and that a lot of things were rescued in the 9th century which were on the verge of disappearing altogether. It also fits with what contemporaries wrote about Charlemagne and his activities, how he built schools everywhere and whatnot, and also with what we know about powerful Dark Age figures such as Pope Gregory the Great, and their disdain for non-Christian literature.

(Today, we have hundreds of 7th-century Latin manuscripts from the Bible and other Christian texts, and dozens of 7th-century Latin texts having to do with law, medicine, grammar and surveying.)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

There Were Gangs In New York In 1928

I don't know what should surprise me more: Herbert Asbury's assertion in his Introduction to his book The Gangs of New York, first published in 1928, that "there are now no gangs in New York" (Thunder's Mouth Press edition, no date given, but with a copyright 1998 translation of a text by Borges serving as a Foreword, and a blurb on the front cover claiming that Scorsese' 2002 movie is based on Asbury's book, p xiii), or that I can't find anyone who has described this assertion as astonishingly ignorant, asinine and so forth.

Once again, I must do everything myself. Asbury's assertion is astonishingly ignorant. It would be astonishingly ignorant if it had been said by any American in 1928, let alone someone like Asbury who had written an entire book about organized crime in NYC. No gangs in New York in 1928? That's an incredibly asinine thing to say.

No gangs in New York City in 1928? Who, exactly, did Asbury think had furnished the Prohibition liquor he was drunk off his ass on when he wrote that whopper? He concedes (ibid, p xiv) that there are, in 1928, entities known as mobs, but he claims that gangs and mobs are two very different things. I've never heard anyone else claim that gangs and mobs are two different things. Asbury says that gangs had relied on the co-operation of corrupt politicians (p xiv), and seems to imply that political corruption, like gangs, are now, in 1928, a thing of the past.

(I refer the reader to any written account at all of Jimmy Walker, Mayor of New York in 1928. Walker does not appear in the index of The Gangs of New York. But Asbury does mention Tammany Hall -- a sort of huge factory which produced political corruption on an extremely efficient basis in NYC from no later than the 1790's until at least the 1960's, for whom Walker worked -- several times in his account of things which he says disappeared by 1928. It's not clear whether he realizes that Tammany Hall was still in operation in 1928.)

He says (pp xiv-xv) that mobs seldom consist of more than 6 or 8 members, that they are temporarily formed for a series of "robberies or other crimes," that they have no special allegiance to their leaders, and that they don't have rivalries with other gangs or fight with them over turf.

Martin Short, not the guy who's famous for saying hilarious things on purpose, but a British author described on Wikipedia as "best known for his exposés on the Mafia and on Freemasonry," notes that Asbury's assertion that gangs were absent from NYC in 1928, and that mobs were not gangs, is in error, but still says, in his modestly-entitled The Rise of the Mafia: The Definitive Story of Organized Crime, that Asbury is an "excellent [...] popular historian."

It gets sillier: In the New York Times in 1998, a columnist named Joe Sharkey wrote that Asbury was right about the absence of gangs in New York in 1928 -- more precisely, he quotes Asbury to that effect and gives no sign that anyone shouldn't take Asbury's word for everything -- and goes him one better by saying that the Mafia appeared after 1928, and now, in 1998, was completely gone.

Sharkey is just a prominent case, one case of many, of people taking Asbury's word for it. Short is one case of many of people not calling Asbury an idiot for saying there were no gangs in New York in 1928.

Perhaps in 1928 Asbury had spoken with J Edgar Hoover, and Hoover had told him that mobs were not gangs and that gangs no longer existed in New York, and Asbury had taken Hoover's word for it. Hoover said many times over the course of several decades that the Mafia didn't exist, and a lot of people took Hoover's word for a lot of things they shouldn't have.

Perhaps there are reasons why people can take Asbury's word about some things. I don't know.

Friday, January 13, 2017

So, I Finally Googled jessica chastain bryce dallas howard

And I found out I'm not the only one who thinks they look alike.

They're constantly mistaken for each other, it seems.

They're friends and they joke about it all the time.

There have been music videos made on the subject.

It wasn't just me.

Sorry, I don't know which one is which in those pictures.

Wasn't just me.

In fact, I went through the first couple of dozen hits from that Google search, and there wasn't one which was about anything else other than how much they resemble one another.

You're Not Always As Young As You Feel

"Okay, we're getting ready for the 4th quarter of this barn-burner between the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns, and we've had a lot of good guesses to our trivia question: Who is the oldest player in the history of the NBA? but no correct guesses. And I'm really not surprised, because this was a tough one."

"Well, you know, age is just a number anyway."

"No, age is more than just a number."

"You're as young as you feel."

"Again -- untrue. Sometimes some people feel young who are in fact very old. The same way that sometimes some people feel pretty who are not."

"Oh, come on!"

"I'm just being real here."

"Well, if we're being really real here, I've got to call you on that one, because because beauty is irreductably subjective."

"Well played, Sir, you are absolutely correct. But age is irreducably objective."

"I grudgiungly concede the point."

"Anyway, people guessed Robert Parrish, Kevin Willis and Dikembe Mutombo, and those are all very good guesses. Those guys are all in the top 5."

"I guessed Nat Hickey."

"Yes, and so did a few of our callers. Hickey was the head coach of the Providence Steamrollers in 1947-48, in the very early days of the NBA, and he put himself in in 2 games, and he was nearly 46 years old at the time, and, until, let's see, until about 10 years ago he was the oldest player in the history of the league."

"So somebody broke Hickey's record in 2007 --"


"2006. I'm trying to think of guys who'd been in the league for a long time in 2006. You already siad it wasn't Willis or Mutombo."

"This is a tricky one.'





"Grant Hill?"

"No. Okay, I'm going to end your suffering soon. One reason why this is so difficult is because most of the oldest players in the NBA, or the oldest players in most major league sports, have been All-Stars, superstars. This is a solid player, no doubt, or they wouldn't keep hiring him. He's solid, but he hasn't started very many games. As a matter of fact, over the course of his career, he hasn't even appeared in as many regular-season games as he's sat on the bench. Not injured reserve, but active and sitting out the games on the bench."

"You mean?"

"And he's played in this game, tonight."

"You mean Steven Bollinger?"

"That's correct. Steven Bollinger is the all-time oldest player in the history of the NBA."

"I didn't realize he was that old. I mean, yeah, he's got a few grey hairs, he's obviously not a kid -- wait a minute. Wait just a minute. You said Hickey had the record until 10 years ago?"

"I did say that."

"Has Bollinger held the record for 10 years?"

"Yes he has."

"That means he's -- holy shit!"

"Careful, we're on the air!"

"I apologize, ladies and gentlemen. You're trying to tell me that Steven Bollinger, journeyman reserve point guard for the Phoenix Suns, is 56 years old?!"

"Yes. Except, someone who's been in the league as long as he has, I think you refer to him as 'veteran' instead of 'journeyman.'"

"I stand corrected. 56! Wow, no wonder his knees and elbows and wrists are all taped up so often."

"I was talking to him before the game and he said he wished there were some way they could also wrap a hip. Says it might be a trick hip that finally ends his career."

"Did he say that he hurts all over most of the time?"

"As a matter of fact, he did. Not in a whiny way. He wasn't complaining, we were just talking about what it's like to be 56 and trying to keep up with all of these -- kids, from Bollinger's point of view. He actually called me 'Kid,' too. I didn't mind that, because -- well, because he's freakin' old!"

"So, he was drafted -- when, along around the mid-80's? Where did he play in college?"

"He didn't play college basketball, and he wasn't drafted. He declared for the 1979 draft out of high school. 10 rounds came and went and he wasn't drafted, but he managed to get himself a tryout with the LA Lakers, made the practice squad, and by the time the 1979 regular season started, he was on the roster. And he's been either on an NBA roster or an NBA injured reserve, not just every season, but every day of every NBA season since."

"Wait a minute -- he's not the oldest and also the youngest player in NBA history, is he?"

"4th-youngest. And he's also been very outspoken about how he thinks college athletics are a bad deal for athletes. He's called it a brilliant scam to keep from paying professional athletes. And if you look at other countries and how they tend to have a number of different professional leagues for each sport -- very much like how there used to be very many different minor leagues in baseball before college baseball eliminated a lot of them --"

"-- Except that in other countries, instead of minor leagues belonging to a major league franchise, all the teams are independent of one another..."

"-- And teams move up and down from one league to another based on their season records. Exactly."

"Right. So... Steven Bollinger. My goodness. He does not look 56 years old from the neck down. Good for him. 1979 to 2007... So he's in his 38th season in the NBA. I'm guessing his lead in the record category of longest career as a player in the NBA is rather substantial."

"He is nowhere near the lead in most games played, but in number of seasons played, he is 17 years ahead of Robert Parrish and Kevin Garnett."

"17 years and counting."

"Yes. You are correct. You are incorrect when you say that age is just a number and that you're as pretty as you feel, but when you're right, you're right."

Reich Und Beruehmt

(Das DTV-Woerterbuch der deutschen Sprache, Muenchen: 1978, enthaelt einen Fehler: S 642: "Ruhm: durch hervorragende Taten errungenes hohes Ansehen in der Oeffentlichkeit [...]" Hervorragende Taten bedarf das gar nicht. Im Gegenteil, ein ganz ordinaerer Esel, der 'hervorragende Taten' nicht einmal buchstabieren koennte, geschwiege denn verstehen, was eine solche Tat waere, kann so sehr beruehmt sein dass er aus keiner vernuenftigen Ursache zum Praesident der US gewaehlt wird.)

Ich stelle Schrift, und traume davon, so erfolgreich dabei zu sein dass die Buecher stapelhochweise taeglich bei mir erscheinen, Stapel so gross, wie sie bei grossen Zeitungen, und Publisher's Weekly, und ganz hohen Tieren unter den erfolgreichen Schriftstellern erscheinen. Die meisten davon interessieren mich gar nicht, natuerlich, und so sehr oft schleppe ich riesige Menge von Buechern zum Salvation Army-Ramschladen. Die Maenner, die dort Gueter akzeptieren, gewoehnen sich sehr schnell an mich als den Mann, der Riesenmenen von Buechern bringt, und fast so schnell wissen sie auch, dass ich der sehr, sehr beruehmte Steven Bollinger, aka The Wrong Monkey, bin:

"Pass auf, Kerl, wusstest Du denn wirklich nicht? Dies hier ist Steven Bollinger, oder: Der Wrong Monkey, der sehr, sehr beruehmter Steller von Schrift!"

"Warte mal -- ja, ich habe Sie doch vor einigen Tagen auf Stephen Colbert gesehen! Wow, der wohnt wirklich hier in unserer kleinen Stadt? Tut mir leid, mein Herr!"

"Bitte, fuer nichts. und bitte hoere auch auf mit dem 'mein Herr,' bin nicht der Queen von England. Und vor sechs Monaten war ich noch aermer als Euch. Duzen ist von mor aus ganz okay. Nenn mich lieber Steven, oder Monkey, oder sowas. Und auch, sollste wissen -- unsere kleine Stadt ist ein sehr feiner Ort, und viele ganz fabelhaft reiche und beruehmte Leute wohnen hier!"

"In Ordnung, Mr Monkey! Sie -- aetsch. Du hast ganz recht, diese ist eine feine Stadt!"

"Keine Sorge, Steve, ich setzte ihn zurecht!"

"Neu hier, ist er?"

"Ziemlich neu, ja."

"Sorgfaeltig zugehen. Lieber vorsichtig und sanft, denn wer weiss: vielleicht in sechs Monaten wird er noch reicher und beruehmter sein, als ich!"

Kann sein, Mr Monkey. Kann sein. Du hast ganz recht, ich sollte aufpassen und sorgfaeltig sein."

Ich traume auch davon, dass es einen 56-jehriger Mann gibt, der Steven Bollinger heisst und Basketball in der NBA spielt. Dieser Steven Bollinger ist ein anderer Mann, nicht ich, der nur zufaelligerweise 1 Meter 91 hoch steht so wie ich, und graue Haare unter seinen braunen Haaren hat, so wie ich. Aber der ist gar nicht ich. Ich bin erst 55 Jahre alt.