Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I'm Not Going To Complain About Not Having Won A 2015 MacArthur

That would be neither dignified nor constructive. It's true that as I write this, the tagline of my blog reads, "I didn't win a 2015 MacArthur grant." But that should be construed in no way as a complaint. It's a simple statement of fact, and no more than that. I didn't win one -- that's the truth, no more and no less.

Of course, if OTHER people want to complain -- if they want to tell the MacArthur Foundation that I'm a tremendous genius and that they blew it again this year, and that aiding me would only be to aid mankind and other friendly animals and to make the universe better and more beautiful -- if others want to complain, then, naturally, there's nothing I can do about that.

Nothing at all.

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Office of Grants Management
140 S. Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60603-5285

Phone (312) 726-8000

Fax (312) 920-6258

TDD (312) 920-6285

General inquiries


Teubner, Foremost Among Classical Publishers

Before 1851 many publishers had already produced volumes of the Greek and Latin classics, but Teubner, in Leipzig, was the first to dedicate a series entirely to them. The series, called the Bibliotheca Teubneriana or the Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana, started in 1851 and it's still going. People call the series Teubner, although the publisher Teubner is not confined to this series of Classical texts. In fact, the publisher Teubner no longer publishes the Classical series Teubner: in 1999 Teubner sold the Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana to the publisher KG Saur, and in 2006 the publisher De Gruyter acquired Saur. But through all that, and also through a period between the end of WWII and German re-unification when some of the volumes of the Bibliotheca Teubneriana continued to be published in Leipzig while others were published in Stuttgart, the series has remained very much a unified, consistent and continuous thing.

From within a very few years after its beginning until today, the Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana has offfered a greater range of Classical titles than any other publisher. It's probably also maintained the highest reputation for Classical scholarship and quality among publishers. It's true that in the cases of many individual titles, the Osford Classical Texts will offer was is considered by most to be the standard text. And within the past few decades, Loeb and Bude have begun to compete for that prestige, and in some cases one of them have offered the preferred text. Still, I think, Teubner must be considered the pre-eminent publisher in their field.

A few decades after the Bibliotheca Teubneriana started publishing in 1851, someone had the idea of giving the covers of all of the volumes the Greek texts one color, and the Latin texts another. In Teubner's case, from the late 19th century until today, it's been orange for Greek and blue for Latin.

This idea has caught on with other publishers, so that now we have Loeb volumes with green covers for Greek and red covers for Latin, and orange for Latin and green for Greek for the Medieval texts in Brepols' series Corpus Christianorum.

The Oxford Classical Texts started in the 1890's and the oldest volumes in that series, both Greek and Latin, have orange covers which make them look very much like Teubner's Greek titles.

Today, the Oxford Classical Texts, also known as the OCT, all have black covers, but the Greek titles have blue dust jackets and the Latin titles have green ones.

My main concern about Teubner is the same as with publishers of Classics in general: the volumes get thinner while the prices go up. Well, and also, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, along with getting thinner the Teubner volumes keep getting taller and wider, and therefore more and more impossible to fit into any pocket. That too is inconvenient.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

1841. And Latin. And The Khyber Pass.

By 1841 railroads were not yet anywhere near the Khyber Pass. The first railroad in India opened in 1853. I can find no information about commercially viable rail lines operating anywhere in Afghanistan earlier than the 20th century. The Khyber Pass railway was opened in 1925.

The Khyber Pass has been one of the world's most important routes for business and military exploits since before Alexander the Great.

In 1841 as in 1925, the Khyber Pass, which today connects Afghanistan and Pakistan, was on the border between the area under British rule and Afghanistan. The British East India Company ruled in 1841, the British monarchy in 1925.

I have not been able to find any evidence that the East India Company ever supported Classical scholarship to a great degree in the area under its control. I assume that in 1841 the young Queen Victoria knew some Latin. Latin seems to have thrived longer and stronger among European royalty and high aristocracy than in many other places, and mid-19th-century Oxford and Cambridge are reputed to have been great centers of Classical scholarship, the scene of a Renaissance of Latin and Greek.

And they were not the only such centers. In 1841 the Bibliotheca Scriptorium Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana was still 8 years away: it began in 1849 in Leipzig. The Oxford Classical Texts series, obviously created in respectful imitation of the Teubner series, didn't begin until 1896. Teubner and OCT are huge figures in Classical publishing, but we must remember that they didn't suddenly appear from out of nowhere.

What I'm saying is that in 1841, many books were published in Latin, by a great variety of publishers in Europe and the United States, including many newly-written texts as well as texts written in antiquity and the Middle Ages and Renaissance.


About an hour ago, within the space of 2 minutes my blog got more pageviews than it usually gets in a week. Since then the traffic has been normal again. Wherever those pageviews came from, the source seems to have masked itself from Blogger's stats-gathering page. Any theories about what happened?


PS: I also found out within the past hour that I didn't get a 2015 MacArthur grant. A total coincidence in timing? What would Nostradamus say?

Stupidity Is The Same Wherever You Go

It's so ironic: nationalists always talk about what is supposedly so unique about their own nation, but whatever really is unique about it is generally hated by the nationalists, while what the nationalists like, along with the nationalists themselves -- and what the nationalists like is usually just themselves and nothing and no-one else -- is exactly the same in every nation. So much so that in order for me to give perfectly clear and recognizable examples, there will be no need whatsoever for me to name any nations.

For example: the nationalist's nation has been caught doing something bad in another part of the world. The nationalist says:

-- that the bad behavior which was discovered and exposed to the world was not actually so bad;

-- that the local journalists reporting on it are rubbing their hands with glee as they grotesquely exaggerate the affair, because they want nothing so much as to see their own nation destroyed;

-- that if people from the foreign nation the nationalist hates the most (if all of the other nations in the world aren't tied for that privilege) had done something comparable in the nationalist's nation, no-one would've complained (but the nationalist IS complaining, and it hasn't even happened);

-- that people from other nations actually have been doing the same, and much worse;

and yada yada yada and so forth and so on.

You know the drill. you know it well, no matter what part of the world you live in. Because these idiots are everywhere.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sculpture of Oscar Wilde and Eduard Wilde

This is a sculpture of Oscar Wilde, left, and Eduard Wilde, right, in the Estonian city Tartu.

The figures are slightly larger than life-size. Eduard Wilde was born a few years later than Oscar Wilde. Both traveled extensively. It's not known if they ever met, but it's conceivable. Eduard Wilde was a pioneer of critical realism in Estonian literature and a vocal critic of oppression of the Estonians by Tsarist Russia and of German land-barons in Estonia. When the Estonian Republic was founded in 1919 Wilde served for several years as the Estonian ambassador to Germany.

There is a copy of this sculpture in Galway, Ireland.

1841. And Latin. And Trains.

In 1841 Søren Kierkegaard had to write to the King of Denmark for permission to present his dissertation, for a Master of Arts in Theology from the department of Philosophy at the University of Copenhagen, in Danish instead of Latin. I don't know how many dissertations presented there were written in Latin at the time, as opposed to Danish: whether they were almost all in Latin, and a request such as Kierkegaard's was unusual, or whether almost all were written in the vernacular, and the request was little more than a formality and a remnant of earlier times (the university was founded in 1479).

I would guess: neither. I would guess that a fair number of dissertations were written in each language at that time. In any case, Kierkegaard publicly (and successfully) defended the dissertation in Latin disputation on the 29th of September, 1841. Although the main text of the dissertation, Om Begrebet Ironi: Med Stadigt Hensyn Til Socrates, is in Danish, it begins with 12 theses written in Latin. And it contains many citations in Greek, Latin and German.

10 days before Kierkegaard publicly defended his dissertation, on the 19th of September, 1841, the world's first international railway line opened, between Strasbourg and Basel. Today most passenger trains take about 3 1/2 hours to get from Strasbourg to Basel. In 1841, presumably, it took a bit longer.

The first Danish railway would not open until 1844 if you consider Holstein to have been part of Denmark at the time, or 1847 if you do not. The Prussians considered Holstein to be part of Prussia, and after the Second Schleswig War in 1864, Denmark stopped contesting the matter.

In 1841 William Henry Harrison was inaugurated President of the United States on the 4th of March, and died of pneumonia on the 4th of April. Popular legend has it that Harrison contracted his fatal case on pneumonia while delivering an extraordinarily long Inaugural address on the 4th of March; actually, he did not fall ill until the 26th of March.

I do not know what state railroads were in in the USA in 1841. I cannot find any information of great events in the American railroad industry in that year. The first commercial American railroad opened in 1830, and between the 1830's and the 1860's American railways boomed, and replaced canals as the major method of transport. Plans for a great nationwide network of canals were abandoned.

I cannot tell what state the Latin language was in in the US in 1841, but I see signs to suspect that it was worse off there than in Europe. The Classics in America have had the bad luck that some very influential men have been anti-intellectual, and that some influential American intellectuals have been pretty stupid concerning the Classics they had been taught. As an example of the former, I have already in this blog pilloried Tom Paine: Part 1 Part 2

As an example of the latter, Benjamin H Latrobe, who was able to pass for a leading American intellectual at the time, writing in 1798 about the American curriculum, suggested that

"Terence, Phedrus, Ovid and other poets, from whom no one ever learned a single useful fact, should be should be rejected"

in favor of

"Justin's epitome of the history of Trogus Pompeius, as being an easy and entertaining writer,"

and also Nepos. After that shocking display, I think we can chalk up the fact that Latrobe also recommends some good writers, including Caesar, Livy, Tacitus, Horace and Vergil, to sheer dumb luck. Which Greek author does Latrobe praise above all others? Xenophon. What Greek work does he call the the worst of them all for schoolchildren, against which they must be protected at all costs? The Iliad.

And Paine and Latrobe, who may well have journeyed to America because they had to, because they were laughed out of the entire country of England for saying and writing such things, were and are counted among the best minds of the American Revolution and the early American republic.

That is how much of a chance Classical education had in the US.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

SKANDAL! Konstantin Neven DuMont Stellt Seine Spiegel-Abonnement Ein!

Das erklaert er feierlich bei Facebook. Und zwar wegen dieses Spiegeltitelbildes:

?? Spiegeltitelbilder sind mE oefter als nicht saubloed, aufreisserisch, sehr sehr haesslich und/oder sonstwie grausig, ich wuesste nicht was an diesem annaehernd durchschnittlich schlecht waere. Von den Titeln abgesehen scheint mir Spiegel-Lektuere seit ungefaehr Anno-Internet ploetzlich gar nicht mehr so wichtig. Aber jedem geht's wie's ihm geht.

Wie dem auch sein mag: ich lerne tuechtig zu bei Facebook. Von den Kommentaren zu DuMonts Nicht-mehr-Spiegel-abonnieren-werden-Erklaerung:

"Wem nutzt das Volkswagen-Bashing? 'Mr. Dax': VW-Skandal ist überzogen" [Ich erspare Euch den Link. -- TWM]

"Der Spiegel triumphiert. Bitte wissen, dass hier der Suizid eines Volkes, nicht eines Autos, illustriert wird."

"Ich bin mal gespannt ob noch andere Autohersteller auffliegen werden die eben genau diesen Abgastest auch gefälscht haben. Bis jetzt verhält sich die VW Konkurenz merkwürdig still. Nirgendwo sonst werden soviele Dieselmotoren produziert wie in Europa und da soll nur VW beim Abgastest gemogelt haben? Vom Spiegel erwarte ich eigentlich das mal das ganze unter die Luoe genommen wird. Warum macht VW sowas überhaupt. Audi ist vor 20 Jahren in den USA mal ganz schwer auf die Nase gefallen mit dem Audi 100 der angeblich eine fehlerhafte Automatik hatte."

"Und die USA reiben sich mal wieder de Hände über die dummen deutschen. Nicht weil sie beschissen haben sondern weil die Medien ihre eigene Wirtschaft noch herunter ziehen."

"Es geht zu, wie bei der Mafia: VW ist nur das Exempel, andere "Angebote" auf keinen Fall abzulehnen. Wetten, dass..?"

"Am Ende wird rauskommen, dass ALLE Autohersteller Messdaten manipulieren. Der Toyota, den ich zuletzt gefahren habe, hat deutlich mehr verbraucht, als es den Herstellerangaben entsprach - und das lag nicht an meinem Fahrstil."

"Es ist schon scheineheilig und perfide, wie der Spiegel hier auf Deutschlands größten Autobauer eindrischt und ganz außer Acht lässt, dass dies auch eine Art kalter US-amerikanischer Wirtschaftskrieg ist. Die gleiche EPA hat dem brandgefährlische Klimaanlagenkältemittel R1234yf der US-Chemiegiganten Honeywell und Dupont einen Persilschein ausgestellt. Im Fall VW geht es um Abgase – im Fall des Kältemittels geht es bei einem Fahrzeugbrand um Leben und Tod. Denn dann entströmt pure Flusssäure."

"das ist wirklich wirschaftskrieg - umgekehrt würde da keine klage durchgehen wenn GM in deutschland manipuliert hätte"

"Man könnte meinen, die deutsche Presse und alle weiteren Treiber hierzulande unterstehen den amerikanischen Interessen: die Wahrheit kommt sowieso erst Jahre später heraus"

Gut zu wissen! Die... Amis manipulieren die deutsche Industrie. Die... Amis sind an allem Schuld. Alle Autohersteller in aller Welt machen sowas oder vermuetlich gewoehnlicherweise noch viel schlimmer, und nur die Deutschen werden dafuer bestraft. Der Spiegel, das muss jedem jetzt glasklar sein, der sich nicht blind stellt (oder mitmacht), ist Werkzeug der... Amis. Die... Amis reiben sich die Haende als sie Deutschland zugrunde richten.

Aber warum nur wuerden die... Amis... auf Deutschland boese sein?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Last Temptation Of The Mythicist

Or at least the latest temptation for this mythicist, to stop being a mythicist and say, "Okay, there was an historical Jesus, they're just debating his background and characteristics and what he actually did or didn't say and do."

"They" in this case would be a lot of academics, almost every single one of whom expresses no doubt about Jesus' existence. R Joseph Hoffmann, author of this fine blog as well as several fine books, has not yet, to my knowledge, become a strict historicist and said that it is certain that Jesus existed, but he expresses much less doubt about it than he did decades ago. And he's unusual among academics in expressing any doubt at all. Price expresses doubt, but unfortunately Price is a dingbat who seems a century or so behind current research. And Carrier, yeah, well, applying Bayes' Theorem to Jesus' existence is ridiculous, period. Besides these two, the academics make their cases on the basis of primary texts. They're familiar with the relevant manuscripts. They keep up with the relevant journals. Of course they do: their papers fill the relevant journals.

"They" include Barbara and Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M Martini and Bruce Metzger, the editors of a critical edition of the Greek New Testament, known as the Nestle-Aland (Eberhard Nestle published the 1st edition of this version of the New Testament in 1898; they're up to the 28th revised version now.) for which they examined thousands of Greek and Latin manuscripts, plus some Greek and Latin (printed) editions, plus Syriac and Coptic editions to a great degree, and Armenian, Georgian, Gothic, Ethiopic and Old Church Slavonic editions to a lesser degree, and if you're new to this sort of thing, all that fine print at the bottom of every page of the Greek text gives the sources for every word of the text, as well as the major variations -- the most significant differences in some manuscripts and editions from what is in their text. Those abbreviations are the ones they give in the introduction to the most important of those manuscripts and to all of those editions. Usually, in an edition of an ancient text, there's plenty of room at the front of the book to list all of the sources from which the edition was made. Since there are so many sources in this case, only a couple of hundred of the most important of the manuscripts are listed in the introduction. There's a complete list at the back of the book, which mentions where each manuscript was used. There's also a list of the minor variations between editions at the back. Two lists, actually: one list of minor variations in manuscripts and one of minor variations in editions.

Iss a Ding.

You got all that? No? Well, what I'm saying is that critical editions like this are the shiznit: if you're serious about knowing what the experts currently know about what is in the New Testament and how it got there, you learn Greek and you get the latest Nestle-Aland, and in those latest scholarly journals you will find things like praise or criticism of the Nestle-Aland, plus research which will influence things like future editions of the Greek New Testament and the Vulgate and the Hebrew Old Testament and the Septuagint and the Georgian and Armenian translations of the Bible, and so on and on and on and on. If you want to keep up with the big kids in this field your Greek and Hebrew better be very, very good, and you should be good in Latin and Syriac, too, and it certainly wouldn't hurt to be very good at Coptic, and to be at least -- at least -- a little bit familiar with Ethiopic and Georgian and Gothic and Old Church Slavonic, and...

Not to mention those modern journals, which contain papers in English and German and French and Italian and Spanish and other modern languages.

These are the leading the historicists. The leading mythicists, on the other hand, base their work on...


...well, usually on somewhat less than that.

And that's why I'm sometimes tempted to say, "Okay, I'm convinced that Jesus existed."

Except that the experts haven't convinced me that they're really allowed the question into their minds. That's just one except, but it's a huge one. As huge as except's get.

Wrong Monkey Broken Record Time: The experts need to investigate whether or not Jesus existed.

The experts who are fluent in 4 or more of those ancient languages, and somewhat familiar with between 4 and WOW more. Plus a bunch of modern languages. Who are all keeping up with and criticizing each other's work. I'm not an expert. But I'm close enough to expertise to tell who the experts are. It's those genius hardworking dedicated polyglots who unfortunately keep telling the rest of us to move along, nothing to see here. Who aren't doing one entirely crucial part of their jobs.

Old Smelly Geezers Hooking Up With Sweet Young Things In Hollywood Movies

I'm hardly the first to complain that Hollywood has depicted a lot of nauseating relationships between old men and young women. Perhaps the most notorious such depiction involves Gary Cooper (b 1901) and Audrey Hepburn (b 1929) in Love in the Afternoon, released in 1957. I'm surprised that Cooper was only 28 years older than Hepburn. In the movie, he doesn't merely look old enough to be her father, he looks old enough to be her grandfather. Cooper was in his mid-50's when Love in the Afternoon was shot, but he could easily pass for a man in his 60's, and while Hepburn was in her mid-20's, her character in the film doesn't really look, or behave, as if she is full-grown.

A more recent example is Draft Day (2014), with Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner. With a Costner looking old and a Garner looking young. I channel-surfed by this one a few times, and gathered during my brief stops that Costner was an NFL team owner whom everybody thinks is going to get completely creamed and outplayed in the upcoming draft by the mean old other NFL team owners. Frank Langella, for example, doesn't actually have fangs in this movie, but brimstone does seem to be smoking whenever he makes his ominous appearances onscreen, grinning sadistically at the thought of how he and the owner team owners are going to rip decent old-fashioned American Kevin Costner (think 1950's James Stewart) to shreds in the draft. Maybe it's not actually brimstone smoke, but things like steam from the vents on NYC streets, and ominous lighting and so forth. And I haven't watched this entire movie, and the parts I did watch I didn't watch carefully. So maybe Langella's character actually does have fangs, and a long red tail and cloven hooves.

Anyway -- as I channel-surfed, I could stand up to about 30 seconds at a time of this Ivan Reitman masterpiece, and I gathered that Garner plays a young woman who works in decent, all-American Costner's office, and who seems to have a personal relationship with Costner apart from work. I thought, maybe she's his daughter, working at Dad's place. But no -- ewwww, ewwww, she's the female romantic lead!

I haven't been able to stand a second of it since I figured out that much.

I was surprised to find out that Gary Cooper was only 28 years older than Audrey Hepburn, and I was very surprised to learn that Costner is only 17 years older than Garner (born in 1955 and 1972, respectively). In Draft Day, Costner, lean and worn, more than a bit thin-limbed and stooped and leathery, looks much more than 17 years older than Garner. His character looks old enough to be her character's father if he wasn't particularly young to have had a kid at that time.

I'm really surprised that Jennifer Garner is 43 years old. I was thinking 34 or 35, I was thinking that she had been 20 or 21 when "Alias" started airing. I was also under the impression that she had done every single one of her stunts herself, at least until she got pregnant in the final season, but apparently I was misinformed about that as well. This is truly crushing for me. I thought every second of all of that ass-kicking sexiness in "Alias" was Jennifer. Sweet, sweet 20-to-25-year-old Jennifer.


And this brings us to The Intern, a film starring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro which was released yesterday, which I haven't seen, a summary of whose plot I have yet to find. All I've seen are some trailers. And sometimes it's a mistake to judge what a film is about by the trailers. Sometimes the trailers are extremely misleading. But the trailers for The Intern give the strong impression that the character played by Hathaway (born in 1982 and could pass for younger) is almost uncontrollably horny for the character played by De Niro (born in 1943 and looks it). It's no stretch at all to say that De Niro's character looks like Hathaway's character's grandfather.

But I haven't seen the movie. Is this one going to go into the Ewwww! Hall of Fame alongside Love in the Afternoon and Draft Day (and let's not forget the notorious Entrapment, starring that adorable couple Sean Connery and Catharine Zeta-Jones, 39 years apart in age, where Zeta-jones' behavior onscreen and off made her name into a punchline)?

I've heard Hollywood women, actresses and writers and directors and producers, complain about the typical movie romantic pairs of men with much younger women much more often than Hollywood men. The Intern was written and directed by Nancy Meyers, the producers were Meyers and Suzanne Farwell. Is this going to be one of the rare Hollywood movies that mocks such couples? I haven't seen any of Meyer's movies, I think she may already have gotten started mocking older men with young women in Something's Gotta Give. Maybe in The Intern De Niro's character is as good a guy as Hathaway is constantly saying in the trailers, and he tells Hathaway's character that her crush on him is kinda messed up, and that she ought to snap out of it because so-und-so, some younger character in the film, played by, oh who knows, Orlando Bloom or Chris Pratt or some other actor who is actually less than 40 years old, is obviously a great guy who loves her and, like her, still has all of his teeth.

But that's pure speculation on my part. If Something's Gotta Give and/or some other films of Meyers' actually have subverted Hollywood's sweet-young-things-love-smelly-arthritic-old-geezers paradigm (let's not forget De Niro and Carla Gugino in Righteous Kill from 2008. Or De Niro and Amy Brenneman in Heat in 1995 -- eh, maybe that one wasn't so much of a stretch. And in Righteous Kill some of the onscreen characters did say that De Niro's relationship with Gugino was odd because of their ages, instead of acting as if it was all perfectly normal and waiting for the director to yell "Cut!" before they could rush away, looking for a quiet place to vomit), maybe Hollywood only allowed her to make that/those movie/s if she vowed to really go all the way in supporting the stereotype in a future production, so that in The Intern, Hathaway and De Niro are gonna....


Friday, September 25, 2015

Schopenhauer On Latin

"Der Mensch, welcher kein Latein versteht, gleicht Einem, der sich in einer schönen Gegend bei nebligem Wetter befindet; sein Horizont ist äußerst beschränkt; nur das Nächste sieht er deutlich, wenige Schritte darüber hinaus verliert es sich ins Unbestimmte. Der Horizont des Lateiners hingegen geht sehr weit, durch die neueren Jahrhunderte, das Mittelalter, das Alterthum. -- Griechisch, oder gar noch Sanskrit, erweitern freilich den Horizont noch um ein Beträchtliches. — Wer kein Latein versteht, gehört zum Volke, auch wenn er ein großer Virtuose auf der Elektrisiermaschine wäre und das Radikal der Flussspatsäure im Tiegel hätte."

("A person who doesn't understand any Latin resembles someone who finds himself in a beautiful landscape in foggy weather: his horizon is extremely limited. He sees only the closet things clearly; a few steps away everything dissolves into uncertainty. The horizon of the Latinist, on the other hand, is very broad, going through recent centuries, the Middle Ages and antiquity. -- Greek, or even Sanskrit, widens the horizon much more still. -- One who understands no Latin belongs to the masses, even if he's a great virtuoso in electronics and knows the composition of the radical of fluoridic acid.")

-- Arthur Schopenhauer, Paralipomena, ch 25: "Über Sprache und Worte." ("Concerning Languages and Words.")

There are many quotations from other authors in Schopenhauer's works, above all quotations in Greek and Latin. Schopenhauer follows Greek quotations with translations -- into Latin. He doesn't bother to translate those passages originally written in Latin, he assumes his readers can read Latin. Actually, he doesn't translate some of the shorter Greek citations either, if they're only a few words long. The 1986 Suhrkamp edition of Schopenhauer's works makes no such assumptions: all non-German quotations are followed by German translations. In this edition, a passage from Plato in the original Greek is followed by Schopenhauer's translation into Latin (or not, if it's just a word or two) and then by Suhrkamp's translation into German.

Who's doing better by his readers -- Schopenhauer, or Suhrkamp's editor, Wolfgang Frhr von Löhneysen?

Dream Log: Getting High With Mel Brooks

A personal note before I begin: it's been decades since I smoked pot. (And I've never met Mel Brooks.) (And I have no idea whether Mel Brooks has ever smoked pot.) (And movie stars again.) I think pot should be legalized, not just decriminalized and not just legalized for medical use, but completely legalized. Not because I think that pot is so great, but because I think that putting someone in prison for using drugs is much worse than drug use. I know, allegedly these days from the perspective of law enforcement it's less about the user than about the big dealers. Allegedly. We're all supposed to be very, very afraid of the Mexican cartels. But that just makes drug prohibition even more of a crock. If governments actually wanted to hurt big drug dealers, the worst thing they could do to them is make drug use legal. That would take all of the money out of it. It costs about as much to grow a pound of pot as it costs to grow a pound of tomatoes. The rest of the money in the weed business makes dealers and crooked cops rich, and buys a lot of guns for both sides and gets a lot of people killed.

And everybody knows all of this. Legalize it.

Alright. And now with the actual dream log:

I dreamed that I was being held prisoner with several other people in an old, small, 2-story 1-family house by gangsters from eastern Europe. We were being forced to work for them, operating a furnace which was melting down gold and casting it into large ingots. The ingots must have weighed 50 or 75 lbs or so each. They were far from uniform in size or shape. They all came from the same mold, but the mold wasn't filled to the same point every time.

We decided that we had to break out of there -- so we did. The escaping was such a short and simple process that it seemed to be over all at once. We took the gangsters' revolvers, called the cops and the journalists and left the house.

A lone police cruiser pulled up to the house as we ex-prisoners were leaving. I said to the others that I was suspicious of these two cops: they might be working for the gangsters, and intending to immediately enslave us again. I called out to them that we had called the cops and the news and told them everything. Upon hearing this, they did exactly what I would've expected cops who were working for the gangsters to do in that situation: they didn't rush to our aid, they didn't rush to apprehend the gangsters in the house. They just sat there, listening to the sirens of other police cars getting closer.

But it seemed that the sirens weren't coming fast enough, so we had to run for it. We hid out in an abandoned building next to a truck stop. The 18-wheelers on the highway went by with that low-pitched zing that big trucks make at high speed. We had the gangsters' revolvers in case we had to defend ourselves, but fortunately it didn't come to that, and we were freed.

I didn't see what happened to the gangsters or to the cops who were working for them. The next thing I knew, we 4 or 5 former captives, plus some people we knew, were in the living room of a house that some people would call cozy and lived-in and other people would call a dump, splitting up a big bag of very powerful pot, a couple of pounds of it, and rolling up some joints to celebrate our freedom. Mel Brooks dropped by, among other well-wishers, and he and I shared a big doobie and talked about show-business stereotypes of Eastern European gangsters: a character in an action-adventure TV show or movie just mentions "----- gangsters" or "the ----- mafia," fill in the blank with an Eastern-European adjective: "Russian" or "Ukrainian" or "Armenian" or "Albanian" -- and everybody's blood is supposed to go cold, as if these are super-gangsters, new and terrifying genetically-modified gangsters which make mere Italian or Irish gangsters from traditional fictional crime stories seem like a Swedish massage. Mel pointed out that in a way, this was insulting both to Eastern Europeans, and also to Italians and Irish, as if they were wimps. I told Mel I couldn't agree more.

The weed was very powerful. I was hazy on where we had gotten the weed, whether we had taken it from the genetically-modified Eastern European super-gangsters, or if we had obtained it in some other way. Very soon I had gotten about as high as I was going to get, and from there on I just got more fucked-up, which made me sad.

Which, in real life, is one of the reason I haven't smoked weed in decades, and why I don't drink a lot any more either.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Chess Log: Sometimes Success Is As Easy As Remembering 1 Simple Thing

In this case: reminding myself to go fast, fast, fast in 5-0 blitz games. Things to remember don't get much simpler than that. Just a little over 24 hours ago I posted my last Chess Log post, and at the time, as I remarked,

"I haven't been playing very well at all lately."

I'd lost over 100 rating points in just a day or 2. Then I remarked that I'd been losing lots of games on time while having the better position. So I just told myself: "Go fast, fast, fast," and for the past 24 hours, for the most part, I haven't forgotten to do so, and I've gone 12-8 against highly-rated opposition and gained 70 points.

Oh, actually, I've reminded myself to do 2 very simple things, actually: go fast, and not assume that I've won until I actually have. The two things often go together: I gain an early advantage and get smug, assuming the game is already won, and before I know it, a tough opponent has been playing so much faster than me that I've got 10 seconds or so left against mt opponents 1 1/2 minutes... and I lose on time. Because I got smug and assumed I'd won before I actually had.

PS, 2:33 PM: And sure enough, as soon as I posted about how great I am at chess, I started another losing streak. Overconfidence messes you up in chess, every time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chess Log: Countering A Bishop Sacrifice

5-0 blitz, I played Black.

1. d4 d5 2. ♗f4 e6 3. ♘f3 ♗d6 4. ♘e5 ♘d7 5. e3 ♘gf6 6. h3 O-O 7. ♗e2 h6 8. O-O ♘h7 9. ♗xh6 gxh6 10. ♘g4 ♘df6 11. ♘xh6 ♔h8 12. ♗h5 ♔g7 13. ♘g4 ♘xg4 14. ♕xg4 ♕g5 15. ♕f3 ♘f6 16. ♗g4 ♘xg4 17. hxg4 c6 18. ♘d2 e5 19. e4 ♕xg4 20. ♕c3 exd4 21. ♕xd4 ♔g8 22. f3 ♕g7 23. ♕e3 ♗c7 24. exd5 ♗b6 25. ♖ae1 ♗xe3 26. ♖xe3 cxd5 27. f4 f5 28. ♖ff3 ♕d4 29. ♔h1 ♕xd2 30. ♖g3 ♔f7 31. ♖e5 ♕xf4 32. ♖ee3 ♖h8 33. ♔g1 ♕d4 34. ♔f1 ♗d7 35. ♖d3 ♗b5 0-1 {White resigns}

I haven't been playing very well at all lately, but this time I managed to counter an attack which doesn't seem to have been very well thought out. If there's a chess term for when Black castles King-side and White takes out the Pawns protecting the King with a Bishop sacrifice capturing the h6 Pawn, I should learn that term, because when I play Black I'm attacked that way a lot. I don't really know what I'm doing wrong that makes me susceptible to that attack; on the other hand, it has happened to me often enough that it's no longer a traumatic surprise when it happens, and I've gotten pretty good at counter-attacking it. I have a feeling that Black didn't see my 12th move coming. My 14th move may have come as a surprise as well. I think it's safe to say that my 24th move was a surprise.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Jews And Jesus And Mythicists

"Jews in general do not believe that Jesus actually existed!"

Bullshit! One example of the many, many, many bits of bullshit produced by New Atheists and mythicists (people who doubt whether Jesus ever existed).

I myself am a mythicist: I'm not sure whether or not Jesus existed. I don't think there's anything wrong with investigating whether or not Jesus existed. Furthermore, I think that mainstream academic Biblical scholars are much too closed-minded to the possibility that Jesus never existed. But most of the most-prominent mythicists today are going about their historical investigations in a hopelessly inept way.

And the one follows from the other: when the pros, in this case the mainstream academics, refuse to investigate a very interesting question and declare that the case is closed when it's not, that leaves the amateurs, and that leads to predictably amateurish results.

And in this case it reinforces the theory that New Atheists and mythicists are predominantly ex-fundamentalist Christians, and hicks: if they'd ever MET any Jews and/or read some books written by Jews, both of which urbane and cultured Goyim are wont to do from time to time, the subject of Jewish attitudes toward Jesus would have naturally come up at some time or another.

I think it's easy to see where these doofuses could have made this mistake: it's not clear whether or not Hebrew writings from the early centuries mention Jesus. Jesus (Joshua) is a very common name, it's not crystal-clear whether or not one of the mentions of a Jesus/Joshua in these ancient Hebrew texts refers to the same person the Christians have in mind. Now add a huge confirmation bias on the part of the mythicists, and you're ready to make the premature leap from their being no mention of Jesus in those writings, to Jews believing that he never existed. Especially if you also completely ignore things like the Papal bull of 1554 which ordered all references to Jesus to be removed from the Talmud and other Jewish historical texts.

Another possibility is the huge premature leap from over-eager mythicists hearing that Jews reject the claim that Jesus was the Messiah, to hearing what they want to hear, in this case: that Jews reject Jesus' historicty altogether.

I'm sure that there are some Jews who don't believe Jesus existed. I wonder how many of them first got that notion from the same mythicists who are now triumphantly exhibiting them as alleged proof that Jews in general don't believe Jesus existed.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Dream Log: Still More Movie Stars

What is it lately with my subconscious and movie stars? In the first of 2 dreams last night, I found myself facing a large roomful of women seated in rows of chairs. The gathering felt like it had something to do with show business, although it was not being televised, so everyone was wearing normal clothes instead of haute couture. Still, even though I had wound up at the front of the room by mistake, it seemed that people were looking at me expectantly. So I improvised what I hoped were some witty remarks. To my relief, my little improvised routine seemed to go over well. I was very tired when I finished, and I saw an empty chair at one end of the front row, and, hoping that it was not being saved for someone, I hurried over to it and sat down with a groan.

I wasn't injured. I was groaning merely because I am 54 years old. However, the sound was apparently alarming to some people, who assumed I might be injured. A very tall and athletic-looking woman -- she looked like a professional basketball player -- hurried over and began to vigourously massage me and to call out instructions to others. I felt that the concern and the massage were unnecessary, but it was very pleasant, and so, feeling a little guilty about allowing others to assume that I was unwell, I didn't say anything and just let it happen. Heeding the tall woman's orders, some people had carried a table over to where I was and put a blanket on it. I was laid face-up on the blanket, where the tall woman massaged my neck and shoulders, while two other women massaged my arms and torso and two others massaged my legs. It all felt very, very good.

My improvised remarks in front of the group had gone over so well that -- combined, perhaps, with misplaced sympathy over an injury I had not sustained? -- NBC offered me the leading role in a sitcom, along with positions as a writer and producer. The show was put in the Thursday 8PM slot.

Not long after this I was in a large house with several gay men who were mutual friends of Kristen Bell's and mine. Kristen and I had not met before this. Some of the men and I were in the top floor of the house, while just above us, audible but unseen for the moment, were another one of the men, and Kristen. Kristen had injured her tailbone and was crying out in pain. Then she heard that I was here, and she looked down through that square hole in the top-floor ceiling and attic-floor which is the usual way you get from a top floor to an attic, and gave me a big smile and said hello. I said I was sorry about her tailbone and asked if there was anything I could do. "Anything. Anything at all," I said repeatedly. She was being very friendly, and I had decided to be very friendly back, and "go for it," as the kids say these days.

Fortunately, Kristen's injury seemed not be severe, and fairly soon it appeared that she was no longer in pain. But, in playful response to my inquiries about what I could do for her, she came down to the top floor where I was, and picked up a magazine with two drawings on the cover. On the left was a black-on-white drawing of a cat. This was the logo of my sitcom. On the right was a drawing of a cat with vivid orange-and-black fur, and Gloria Steinem's face. This drawing indicated a half-hour special about Gloria Steinem which was going to air on NBC at 8:30 on an upcoming Thursday, immediately after my show. Clearly not actually expecting that I could do anything about it, Kirsten asked me if there was any way that the 2 shows could be flipped. They were only giving Steinem a half-hour, and at 8:30 the special devoted to her might get less viewers than if it were to air at 8PM.

"Going for it," I immediately took out my phone, called the highest-ranked person I knew at NBC and asked her if the shows could be flipped. As I expected, my big-shot network contact was not optimistic about this. Nevertheless, I persisted for a while before hanging up.

Then Kristen and I had lots and lots of sex. I'll spare you the filthy details. That was the end of the 1st dream.

In the second dream there was a lot of hugging and some kissing, but no sex, and everyone stayed fully-dressed the whole time. In fact, we wore sweaters or light jackets the whole time, because it was rather chilly. The hugging and kissing didn't feel intensely sexual, but it was much more emotionally intense for me than all of the sex in the first dream.

It started out in a place with a white floor and white walls and white plastic seats fastened to the floor, like an airport terminal or a laundromat. I was sitting on a white bench with a woman and we were hugging. But after a while I left this woman and started hugging another one. I didn't recognize this 2nd woman. In the dream it didn't seem as if I had ever seen her before. But after I woke up I realized that she looked exactly like Chloë Grace Moretz. Chloë Grace Moretz is just barely 18 years old. 1/3 my age. Yeah. In the first dream, Kirsten Bell had been Kirsten Bell the movie star. In this 2nd dream, this young women who looked like Chloë Grace Moretz did not appear to be rich or famous or an actress.

She had a lot of friends, though, and in between hugging sessions with me she talked to a lot of different people. I don't know whether or not in real life these days there's some way that a person can color their hair in just a moment without a lot of mess or dangerous chemicals. In this dream there was, and -- I'll just call her Chloë for the sake of convenience, although I don't remember what her name was in the dream -- Chloë took a moment now and then to change the color of her hair.

After spending some time in the white-plastic environment, we moved to a huge party or gathering of some sort, crowded with people and with some animals too, including some very large bears and a full-grown male lion. Chloë spent a lot of time hugging and petting these large beasts. After she was done with the lion I petted its mane for just a moment. But I didn't feel good about the lion and bears being there. I was afraid that someone might get injured or killed at any moment. (Perhaps these animals symbolized a subconscious anxiety that Chloë's father might be much younger and in much better shape than I, and might suddenly appear and kill me? -- Well, okay, it's not so much a fear of being physically overpowered. I'm old but I'm spry. I think it's more guilt than fear, because it seems to me that the father of an 18-year-old woman might be very justifiably annoyed and suspicious if he found some 54-year-old man hugging his daughter a lot. Even a spry 54-year-old.)

I very quickly developed very strong feelings for Chloë. Standing a little ways away with some of her very many friends, she apparently read something in my expression, and asked me what was wrong. I told her that I liked her a lot, but that I wasn't completely sure about her feelings toward me, and I didn't want to take up a lot of her time, if she preferred to spend it socializing with others. She hurried over to me and hugged me and held me very tight and said, "Take up a lot of my time."

And then I woke up.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bollinger's Addendum To Bollinger's Axiom:

People will often judge unintelligent assertions uncritically if their source is someone regarded as intelligent.

In other words:

What was so bad is not that Kipling said that East and West would never meet, but that so many people took this ridiculous assertion so seriously because it was written by Kipling, and Kipling had a Nobel Prize.

What was so bad was not Pauling's advocacy of megadoses of vitamins, but that so many people took this ridiculous advice so seriously, because Pauling had 2 Nobel Prizes.

What is so bad is not Hawking's ridiculous fear of artificial intelligence, but that so many people assume that there's nothing ridiculous about it, because, Hey -- it's Hawking.

People, even very bright people, make mistakes fairly often. It's referred to as being human. I'm not so much concerned about the mistakes listed above committed by Kipling, Pauling and Hawking. I'd put those under the "everybody's human" category.

What bothers me here is the widespread uncritical acceptance of bad ideas expressed by intellectual authorities.

Nietzsche was bright enough to see that it's wrong to accept what anyone says uncritically. And unlike many other intellectuals -- his one-time friend Richard Wagner comes immediately to mind -- Nietzsche was not so vain that he wanted uncritical disciples; in fact, he explicitly said that he wanted none such. See, for example, the motto to the 2nd edition of the Froehlichen Wissenschaft.

Stephen Hawking Thinks The Robots Are Going To Kill Us All

And that is certainly alarming. But what exactly should we be alarmed about: artificial intelligence, or Hawking's state of mind?

I've already written about how Hawking has illustrated Bollinger's Axiom on another topic: a few years ago he declared that philosophy was dead. Now he's illustrating it again with his Terminator-Matrix-type fantasies.

Let's look at some other cases. Remember Linus Pauling? He's one of only 4 people ever two have won 2 Nobel Prizes, and the only 1 of those 4 who didn't share either prize with anyone else. He was, like Hawking, undeniably extraordinarily brilliant, and yet, his greatest effect in the short term, still in effect now 21 years after his death, may well be due to some nonsense which he energetically plugged: he urged people with no serious health problems to take massive amounts of vitamins. In real life, using real science, doing so, as Sheldon explained to Penny on "The big Bang Theory," only produces "very expensive urine." Pauling, with no scientific justification and no corroboration from any serious physicians or biologists, said that taking dozens or hundreds of times the recommended daily dosage of Vitamin C prevented colds, and that massive doses of C and other vitamins also had other health benefits such as the prevention of cancer.

Rudyard Kipling was sort of smart in some ways, I suppose -- they gave him a Nobel -- but he insisted that

"East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,"

while the meeting was well underway all around him.

Hawking, Pauling, Kipling -- 4 Nobel Prizes between them, many good ideas, some bad ones.

Hey, all of their surnames end with -ing. Maybe we just need to be wary of eccentric statements made by Nobel laureates whose last names end in -ing.

Eh? Huh? See what I did there? I'm very bright, and I just suggested a perfectly cuckoo idea. Of course I don't think that surnames ending in -ing are any cause for alarm, I only pretended to think so in order to illustrate what it would be like if I were to commit a blunder which illustrated Bollinger's Axiom.

And I'm sure I do make such blunders fairly frequently without realizing it, what with my being human and all, not to mention being autistic and dealing with a 99% neurologically-typical general population. Hopefully my particularly bad ideas aren't very influential right now, because I'm a nobody, and people will tend to judge my ideas more or less objectively, appreciating the good ones and rejecting the ridiculous ones. But if I win a Nobel or two, if Hawking, Pauling and Kipling are any indication, people might suddenly lose all of their critical faculties when it comes to my every utterance, despite my own warnings not to do so with me or anyone else, and simply assume that everything I say is pure gold. That would be a disaster in my case, it's a disaster in Hawking's case, it's always a disaster when critical judgment is suspended in response to any authority or for any other reason.

Anyway, all I came here to say is: fears of AI are ridiculous, even if Hawking suffers from them. AI doesn't even exist yet -- computers trouncing humans at chess isn't AI, it's just a combination of math and electronics. Cute little gadgets that vacuum the floor and self-driving cars don't qualify either -- and there's no rational reason to believe that, if and when AI ever is created, it'll go all Terminator-Matrix on us. One thing which IS dangerous is neo-Luddite mentality, and it's extremely ironic that this mentality is currently being fed by someone who is able to communicate with us and go about his daily life thanks to some pretty sophisticated technology.

Sir Stephen, some of the people who are heeding your call to be afraid, to be very afraid of the robots are themselves very intelligent, again illustrating Bollinger's Axiom. Some of the simpler folks heeding your call to panic think YOU're a robot.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

My Perceptions Of The Catalan Language

I believe that the first time I thought about Catalan to any significant degree was when I read Barcelona by Robert Hughes.

But when exactly did I read it? It was first published in 1992, the year of the Barcelona Summer Olympics. In 1994-95 I worked in the NYC 5th Avenue B Dalton bookstore, and I remember seeing copies of it and looking at it as I look at a book I have not yet read and may want to read at some time. Which would mean that I read it some time after -- July? -- 1995? I don't remember exactly when I stopped working at the bookstore. And as I pointed out in this blog post, I have learned that I can't trust my own memory when it comes to the chronological order of events in my life.

So anyway, in Hughes' book I read about how Franco tried to wipe out the Catalan language, and to deny that it really was a language of its own and not merely a dialect of Spanish, as had many other earlier rulers of Castile, of the majority of Spain:

"As a result, you could walk down the Ramblas in 1966 hearing Catalan spoken on every side and see newspapers, magazines and books in all languages -- Spanish, German, English, French, Dutch, Swedish -- except one: Catalan." (p 9)

The Ramblas is a busy street in central Barcelona:

I got a copy of Barcelona at a thrift store or a discount table in front of a used-bookstore, or a discount or free table at a library. I don't know exactly where I bought it, but I know I wouldn't have paid full price for a book by Hughes.

I still have that copy. I also have a copy, also surely obtained either at a thrift shop or discount or free table, of Volume VIII, Numbers 1-2 (1994) of Catalan Review. It contains pieces in Catalan and English. Catalan Review is still published today. Here is its main website. My copy from 1994 contains papers in Catalan about computer databases about Catalan literature, Catalonian culture and history and literature; The pieces in English include photocopies of an official and originally confidential report about Catalonia, written in 1951 by an employee of the American Consulate in Barcelona, entitled "Salient Problems of Catalan Economy." It does cover economics, but also much more, including a brief but comprehensive history of Catalonia going back to the 6th century BC. And stating with no ifs when or buts that Catalan is not a dialect of Spanish, as the Franco regime insisted, but an independent language in its own right, "as distinct from Spanish as is Portugese or Franch."

I think that I got this copy of Catalan Review because I was impressed by Hughes' insistence, in his book Barcelona, of the separate and independent quality of the Catalan language and culture.

However, there has also been the little detail of my not entirely trusting Hughes. No doubt, he was an above-average writer -- how far above average, was always and continues to be the question. He seemed to be the sort of writer who cashed in -- the fact that Barcelona was published just a few months before the Olympic Games opened in Barcelona is just one of very many examples. Now, there's nothing at all wrong with great writers being widely read. On the contrary, it's great and it should happen more often. (It should happen to me.) Was Hughes great, is the question. I don't really completely trust that smooth son-of-a-bitch.

No offense meant to Catalonians. It's not their fault that I don't wholeheartedly like Hughes. And for all I know, everything he wrote about Catalan and Catalonia is accurate.

News of Catalan seems to reach the US mainstream relatively rarely. I heard about it in 2012 when, to my surprise, Pedro Almodóvar, Mario Vargas Llosa and hundreds of other intellectuals signed a manifesto against Catalonian separatism. Barcelona and Catalonia appear over and over in US TV shows about travel and food, and I can't recall any mention of any tension between the region and the Spain as a whole in any of them. I don't get the impression that Andrew Zimmer and Anthony Bourdain could string together a complete sentence in Catalan between the two of them. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe they're both fluent in Catalan, but watching their shows, I haven't gotten the impression that they know that more than one language is spoken in Spain, or that if they know, they particularly care.

Amazon lists Robert Hughes' Barcelona in a "Spanish Edition" :

Lord knows, Amazon very often doesn't know which language the books they sell are in. But I think this listing is a Spanish translation, a Castilian one, not Catalan, which is a little ironic.

Inside the front cover of my copy of Catalan Review from 1994, in what looks like a note by a used-bookstore employee, there stands written: "Largely in Spanish."

Friday, September 18, 2015

"When Did Christians Turn Judgmental?" Are You Kidding Me?

I don't know who exactly is responsible for this dopey meme: 2 rainbow-colored hands are held together to make a heart shape, and the caption reads:


But to answer the question: it started pretty early. It was already underway when Paul wrote his earliest New Testament texts, around AD 50. It's hard to know exactly when it began. To say that the earliest history of Christianity is hazy is a huge understatement. I haven't stopped investigating it, and I'm still not at sure about details such as whether or not Jesus actually existed, or whether Paul or someone else invented him.

*Sigh*. Yes, there are also non-judgmental Christians. Maybe there have been non-judgmental Christians for as long as there have been Christians. Maybe Jesus really existed and maybe Matthew 7:1 is an accurate quote from him. ("Judge not, that ye be not judged.") But there were also the other kind all along, starting very early.

Are some people somewhere on Earth actually so sheltered that they don't know about judgmental Christians? Maybe in the middle of China somewhere, out in the boonies. Maybe. But there seem to be people with selective perception everywhere you turn. Especially when it comes to religion. People who do mean things, or nice things, or what have you, are not the REAL Christians, or Muslims, or what have you, depending upon what variation of the No True Scotsman fallacy you are committing and which religion you are boosting or attacking.

Maybe the old advise never to discuss sex, politics or religion in public wasn't meant so much to protect sensitive people from being offended, but to protect intelligent people from being disgusted.

Taking Other People's Word About Some Linguistic Aspects Of The Middle Ages

As Confucius said, "The more I learn about people, the more I like dogs." People are very often unreliable in the things that they say. It's well known that the more expert a person is in a given area, the more likely he or she is to become infuriated by news coverage or depictions in movies of that particular topic, because the newspeople or moviemakers are getting it all wrong.

The more I learn about history, the more I learn that people tend to talk non-stop mess about it. Very often in this blog I've railed against people *coughcough Paulkovich coughcough* who present themselves as experts on a given subject, and in the process betray an almost complete unfamiliarity with that topic.

If you believe, as I do, that the study of history is important, this is discouraging. If you study history to a certain degree, you will find that the people blithely chattering nonsense about it very often include those academics who are supposed to be the experts about history.

Academic historians tend to be much, much more accurate than some others *coughcough Vridar, Carrier coughcough* who present themselves as experts. But they still leave a lot to be desired.

Take for example some widespread notions, widely spread not by New Atheist bloggers but by history professors, about the Middle Ages: we have been told, for example, that between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Renaissance, when many people suddenly started to insist that good Latin meant imitating Cicero's prose, the quality of Latin declined to a miserable state, and that the knowledge of Greek practically disappeared from Western Europe, and that the West became re-acquainted with writers such as Plato and Aristotle when texts which had been translated from Greek to Arabic were in turn translated from Arabic into Latin.

It's easy enough to clear up that last one: BUZZERSOUND, untrue. It's true that a lot of Greek medical knowledge made its way to Western Europe by going from Greek to Arabic to Latin. But there were not a lot of Latin manuscripts of Plato or Aristotle which translated from Arabic translations. I doubt if as much as one entire volume went this double-translation route.

As far as Medieval Latin being miserable in quality: yeah, a lot of it was. I for one am certain that a lot of ancient Latin was also miserable in quality, and that the very bad ancient stuff has for the most part disappeared. For the *coughcough Nepos coughcough* most part. Along with the badly-written Medieval Latin which has been preserved, however, a lot of very well-written Medieval Latin has also survived. For example, the works of Boethius, Isidore, Bede, Alcuin, Einhard, John Scotus, Anastasius, Notker, Orderic, Abelard, William of Tyre, Matthew Paris, Roger Bacon, William of Occam, to name just a few of the brightest highlights, and so many other very good writers that it really makes you wonder just exactly how so very many people who were paid decent salaries to spend their entire careers looking into such things could manage to fit their heads so far up their own asses. Makes you wonder how many of the people who are supposed to be our authorities for Medieval history and culture can actually read Latin. If you're wondering whether reading proficiency in Latin is important in order to be in a position to tell other people what was what in the Middle Ages: stop wondering. It should be the first priority. And if some tenured full professors of Medieval Studies disagree, well then some of those professors are full of shit.

It seems that over the course of the past century, this notion about Medieval Latin having been uniformly very poor in quality has been corrected to a great degree. Whether this is because over the past century a great many professors of Medieval Studies have read great Medieval Latin literature, or because they've just happened to take the word of authorities who are more accurate on this point, I don't know. I certainly hope it's the former.

All of the Medieval Latin writers listed above had at least some interest in ancient Latin literature. And it's difficult to have any interest in ancient Latin literature without becoming quite curious about Greek culture and the Greek language. Indeed, quite a few of the ancient Latin authors quote so much Greek in their works that it's very difficult to understand them without some mastery of Greek.

When it comes to how widespread knowledge of Greek remained in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, I have to take other people's word for it, because my Greek isn't good enough for me to look at the relevant primary sources for myself and see what was up. And the authorities don't all seem to be in complete agreement. And when they are in agreement, their statements are so often so close to word-for-word identical that I have to wonder whether they're all taking the word of one person.

If great hordes of Medieval scholars were completely fluent in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, we wouldn't have these kinds of problems. (I imagine that a great many, these days, are in fact fluent in Latin. But I don't know. I'd bet on it but I don't know.)

I suppose it might reasonably be countered that very few people give a rat's ass about such things. I believe that the study of history is very important, but I realize that not everyone does. It would be even more reasonable to opine that I sound rather odd for a 54-year-old man who didn't begin to study Latin intensively until his 40's, and who knows very little Greek. Yes, given my biography and skills, It might very well be said that I am being quite unreasonable, angrily denouncing people for leaving undone things which I myself have left undone.

Anywho: there's seems to be little if any disagreement with the assertion that Boethius (c. 480 – 525) was highly fluent in Greek. It seems that the opinion that Isidore (c. 560–636) was a master of Greek is much less widely-held than it used to be. (Because more people with great expertise in Greek have looked into the matter lately, or because people are now taking a different authority's word for it? Probably the former. I hope it's the former.)

Bede's level of competence in Greek seems to be somewhat controversial. John Scotus (815-877) and Anastasius (810-878) seem to be acknowledged, at least by some, to have been the greatest Western scholars of Greek of their time, but the level of their skills in the language seems to be under dispute. And it seems -- that is to say: I am taking other people's word for it when I say -- that a great spread of Greek scholarship in the West began, not with the Renaissance in the 15th century, but long before that, with the spread of universities beginning in the 11th century.

And to make all of this just that much more wonderful: measurement of linguistic skill remains, of course, irreducibly subjective. And prejudice, along with evidence, may influence the judgements of even the most authoritative authority, in this as in all human things. For example, a Christian apologist may want to portray the early Middle Ages in a very positive light, and as a part of this he or she may want to portray Isidore as being more learned, or the instruction in the earliest Medieval universities as being more advanced, than the evidence shows; or, an atheist historian may wish to portray the entire Middle Ages as a Christian disaster, and may also highly prize ancient Greek culture, and may therefore want to portray Medieval familiarity with Greek as being more tenuous than the evidence shows. Subjectivity is everywhere in human discourse, distorting away. Everywhere. In this blog too. I try to overcome it, but I hardly believe that I succeed entirely.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Stephen Berard And Capti

I finished a recent post on this blog thusly:

I also have not yet been able to find any mention of any novels published in Latin between Iter Subterraneum in 1741 and Stephen Berard's Capti, published in 2011. All I know yet about Capti is that about a half-dozen people quoted on the book's Amazon page are extremely well-pleased by it.

I now know a little more: I know that Berard is a professor who has taught German and Spanish as well as Latin, and who may be a bit of a polyglot. I know that Berard is in favor of teaching spontaneous Latin composition and speech -- the active language activities -- in addition to reading and writing, the passive skills which along with translation -- semi-active? -- make up the substance of many courses in the Classics. I know that he, and a few other instructors, hope that Latin will spread as a living, spoken, spontaneously written language, and that teaching the active skills will aid in this spread (I don't see how it could possibly be anything but a big help).

I now know that Capti, Fabula Menippeo-Hoffmanniana Americana, is a little more or a little less than 580 pages long, depending on whether or not you count the dedication, preface, table of contents, acknowledgements, ad lectorem and mottos from ETA Hoffmann and Heraclitus, and that it is the first of series of 7 Latin novels which Berard has planned.

So like -- wow.

I haven't yet found any reactions to Berard's work from anyone I know. And I've only just started to read Capti. So I don't really know yet what to make of Berard as an author. But I have to admire his ambition, and I fervently hope that his work is not just immensely ambitious, but also brilliant. Brilliant or not, I hope it inspires a flood of new Latin literature and marks the start of a new Renaissance, but this time without all the imitation of Cicero.

It is published by AuthorHouse, which, as you might guess from the name, is a vanity publisher. That is, Berard is paying for the publication, rather than being paid royalties by a publisher. It'd be great if Capti, or any other original fiction in Latin, had been published by some big publishing firm like Knopf or Random House -- but original Latin material doesn't seem to be a high priority with the big boys in the publishing biz right now. Although they do seem to love translations into Latin of things like Le petit prince and the Harry Potter monstrosities. I'm not surprised that Berard published it himself. I don't take that as any reflection on the quality of the novel.

PS, 16. September 2015: I like this: 2 poems by Derek Sheffield, and a translation of the 2nd one into Spanish by Stephen Berard.

To My Own Great Surprise, I Have A Copy Of Machiavelli's Principe

Inside the front cover is stamped: "WITHDRAWN" from Anchorage Municipal Libraries." This means that I've had it since at least as long ago as 2008, and that I either got it for free from a table near the entrance of the main branch of the Anchorage Public Library, or paid 25 cents or less for it after snagging it from a table near the checkout counter at the main library of the University of Alaska at Anchorage.

I gotta get organized here. I was sure I didn't have a copy.

Okay, it's also stamped "FREE," and it has a public-university stamp on it, using the Dewey Decimal system. The University library used the Library of Congress system as of 2008. Besides Il Principe, my copy also contains 3 Scritti politici: "Ritratto di cose di Francia," "Ritratto delle cose della Magna" and "La vita di Castruccio Castracani." Presentazione die Luigi Fiorentino, published by Mursia di Milano, "Copyright 1969-1988." So there!

Sales rank 266.126 at AmazonDotItaly. It's got a different cover now.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Neo-Latin Novels

Utopia by Thomas More, published in 1516, is far and away the most famous novel ever written in Latin. So why is it so rarely referred to as a novel? Yeah, I don't know either.

As far as I can tell, the next 4 most-famous Neo-Latin novels, in chronological order, are John Hall's Mundus alter et idem, published sometime before 1610; John Barclay's Argenis, 1621; Gian Vittorio Rossi's Eudemia, 1645; and Ludvig Holberg's Iter Subterraneum, 1741. (Petronius' Satyricon, published in the 1st century AD, is probably more famous than these 4, and the 2nd most famous Latin novel of any era after Utopia, if for no other reason than that Fellini made a movie based on it.)

For some reason, all 5 of these novels, from Utopia in 1516 to Iter Subterraneum in 1741, are about journeys to exotic, faraway places, and are all satires of the authors' own times and places. Perhaps all 5 were written in Latin and not in vernaculars because their authors feared they would stir up too much controversy if they were too widely-known. There's little doubt that this was true in the case of Holberg, who published almost all of his works in Danish. Iter Subterraneum is sometimes referred to as the earliest science fiction novel. The striking resemblance between it and Jules Verne's Voyage to the Center of the Earth, published 123 years later, has often been remarked upon; whether or not Verne read Holberg's novel, I have not yet been able to determine.

Argenis and Iter Subterraneum seem to be the 2 most well-liked of these 5 by readers of Neo-Latin novels.

I also have not yet been able to find any mention of any novels published in Latin between Iter Subterraneum in 1741 and Stephen Berard's Capti, published in 2011. All I know yet about Capti is that about a half-dozen people quoted on the book's Amazon page are extremely well-pleased by it.