Monday: April 29, 2013
Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Constantine Cavafy, and the 80th anniversary of the death of . . . Constantine Cavafy. I can think of many better ways to celebrate one’s 70th birthday than dying on it, but it does make for a nice symmetry.
So where’s the party? I have not seen the doubly significant date mentioned on any of the many websites that I read, some of which are devoted to literature or culture in general. Even www.cavafy.com, “the official website of the Cavafy archive”, and The Cavafy Museum in Alexandria website have nothing posted for the day.
Wednesday: March 6, 2013
As a Latinist inordinately fond of puns, I’m hoping whoever is elected will take the name Sixtus. Since the last Sixtus was Sixtus V, he would be Sixtus VI.
Thursday: February 28, 2013
In the last two years, Patrick Earl of the American Shakespeare Center’s touring troupe has played Giovanni in John Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore and Ferdinand in John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi. Each one is the brother of the title character, each is entirely too fond of his sister - Giovanni to the point of getting her pregnant - and each one (spoiler alert) ends up killing his sister, directly or indirectly. To avoid typecasting, perhaps next year Earl should expand his range a bit, and play the title role in Oedipus Rex.
Wednesday: August 1, 2012
Today is the 150th birthday of M. R. (Montague Rhodes) James. If you haven’t already done so, go to this University of Adelaide website and read at least one of his ghost stories.
Friday: June 29, 2012
I haven’t posted much in the last few months because I’ve been working on three web-based projects, each one larger than the one before. All three are classics-related, and use PHP and MySQL. Though the basic kernels of the ideas for two of them go back thirty years, I finally got around to doing serious work on them last summer, and that has cut into my blogging time.
The first of the three, though still only partially done, is now ready for the public:
1. Numeri Innumeri, the ancient numbers website, now uploaded here (note the V in the domain name). There are many features still to add, but it already has calculators to translate Roman numbers to Arabic, Arabic to Roman, and Arabic to the Greek alphabetic system, as well as a quiz module where you can test your knowledge of Roman numerals by translating them into Arabic numbers while the clock ticks. In the calculators and the quiz module, Roman numbers go as high as 399,999,999 and 11/12ths, and Greek numbers as high as 999,999.
I’ll be announcing the second project in the next few days, but the third will take a few more weeks to be presentable, even in partial form.
Comments and questions will be gratefully received, either by e-mail or as comments on this post.
Monday: June 18, 2012
I’d been thinking of tackling some long novel I’d never read over the summer break, and having trouble deciding which of the many such books to begin with, when I noticed that today is Ivan Goncharov’s 200th birthday. That settled it. Here are some of the bits that caught my eye in the first three chapters of Oblomov (Everyman edition, translated by Natalie Duddington):
1. I had thought that this famous passage was the opening of the novel, but it actually comes on the second page (4):
“Lying down was not for Ilya Ilyitch either a necessity as it is for a sick or a sleepy man, or an occasional need as it is for a person who is tired, or a pleasure as it is for a sluggard:it was his normal state. When he was at home - and he was almost always at home - he was lying down, and invariably in the same room, the one in which we have found him and which served him as bedroom, study, and reception-room.”
3. Just a little further on, after mentioning the dirty plate left (as always) from last night’s dinner (5):
“If it had not been for this plate and for a freshly smoked pipe by the bed, and for the owner himself lying in it, one might have thought that the room was uninhabited - everything was so dusty and faded and devoid of all traces of human presence. It is true that there were two or three open books and a newspaper on the chiffoniers, an inkstand and pens on the bureau; but the open pages had turned yellow and were covered with dust - evidently they had been left so for weeks; the newspaper dated from last year, and if one dipped a pen into the inkstand a startled fly might perhaps come buzzing out of it.”
3. Nice work if you can get it - Oblomov’s friend Volkov (28):
“I have a post that doesn’t oblige me to go the office, thank goodness; I only go twice a week to see the general and have dinner with him.”
There is much more on the banal horrors of bureaucracy - too much to quote here. I’m surprised that LanguageHat, with his love for Russian literature, has not mentioned the anniversary.
Monday: May 28, 2012
. . . since I misread Tim Blair’s post about a Prince concert in Sydney as saying that it took place at “Allophones Arena”. I suppose Allphones is an Australian telephone company. (Don’t tell me. If I cared I could find out easily enough. In less time than it took to write this parenthesis, actually.)
Sunday: December 11, 2011
Last Sunday, I inadvertently washed a SanDisc Cruzer USB drive with a load of laundry and plenty of soap. To my great surprise, it still worked after I found it rattling around in the bottom of the washing machine. I of course immediately copied everything on it to my PC, thinking that it would surely be susceptible to long-term damage, since the insides are not hermetically sealed and therefore (I thought) would be prone to rust or mildew when wet. However, it still works almost a week later. One more thing to like about modern technology: it’s a lot less fragile than a floppy disc.
Sunday: November 13, 2011
Do what the grad students in Shakespeare Studies at Mary Baldwin did in the performance I saw tonight (directed by Zach Brown):
1. Leave out Fortinbras entirely.
2. Have Horatio ignore Hamlet’s plea at the end of the play, drink the poison, and die. His last words were, of course, “The rest is silence”.
The result: I believe Osric is the only member of the upper classes left alive to inherit the throne. The accession of King Osric I would be a truly tragic outcome.
If any of my readers are in the Shenandoah Valley, there is a second performance tomorrow night at 7:30. The theater’s website is here.
Saturday: November 5, 2011
In a post at The Volokh Conspiracy, Stewart Baker includes a picture of the statue that stands outside the Federal Trade Commission (he credits JoeInSouthernCA):
When I worked in D.C. 20+ years ago, I often walked past the statue. My friends and I liked to think of it as the allegorical depiction of Bureaucracy restraining Trade.
Dicaearchus, that great and prolific Peripatetic, wrote a work called On the Extinction of Human Life. Having assembled the other causes - floods, epidemics, ravages of nature, sudden invasions by hordes of wild beasts, the onset of which he demonstrates has caused the exstirpation of certain races - he then shows how many more men by contrast have been wiped out by attacks made by other men in wars or civil commotions, than by all other disasters.
(Cicero, De Officiis 2.16, tr. P. G. Walsh, Oxford, 2000)
Est Dicaearchi liber de interitu hominum, Peripatetici magni et copiosi, qui collectis ceteris causis eluvionis, pestilentiae, vastitatis, beluarum etiam repentinae multitudinis, quarum impetu docet quaedam hominum genera esse consumpta, deinde comparat, quanto plures deleti sint homines hominum impetu, id est bellis aut seditionibus, quam omni reliqua calamitate.
Thursday: September 29, 2011
Volume II of The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, edited by Fredson Bowers (Cambridge, 1955), contains these five titles:
- The Honest Whore, Parts I and II
- The Magnificent Entertainment
- Westward Ho
- Northward Ho
- The Whore of Babylon
Four out of five is not bad, though it would be better if the second title were omitted.
Saturday: September 24, 2011
The following eight foodstuffs represent eight different plays presented at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia in the last three years. Can you identify them all? These are not verbal jokes, and the quantities (such as the three apples in #4) are not significant. (The eyes in 4 are also not significant: it was the only picture I could find.) Answers may be posted in the comments or mailed to me.
To cut down on the possibilities slightly, the plays put on at the Blackfriars in the last three years are:
Shakespeare: As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, 1-2 Henry IV, Henry V, 1-3 Henry VI, King Lear, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, The Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, Titus Andronicus, Twelfth Night, The Winter’s Tale; Marlowe: Dr. Faustus and Tamburlaine (Part I); Chapman: The Blind Beggar of Alexandria; Jonson: The Alchemist; Middleton: The Revengers’ Tragedy, The Changeling, A Trick to Catch the Old One; Massinger: The Roman Actor; Ford: ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore; Wilde: The Importance of Being Ernest; Stoppard: Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
There were one or two more, but they are not correct answers for this quiz.
All images are from the web, except #7, which was part of my lunch today.
Tuesday: June 14, 2011
Two more author anniversaries today, and again authors best known for their short stories. It is the 75th anniversary of the death of G. K. Chesterton, and the 25th anniversary of the death of Jorge Luis Borges. Here’s a bit from Chesterton’s ‘lost’ Father Brown story (collected here), “Father Brown and the Donnington Affair” (1914):
“Human troubles are mostly of two kinds. There is an accidental kind, that you can’t see because they are so close you fall over as you do over a hassock. And there is the other kind of evil, the real kind. And that a man will go to seek however far off it is - down, down, into the lost abyss.”
Sunday: June 12, 2011
Today is the 75th anniversary of the death of M. R. James, author of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904) and three other collections. There is a very readable webtext here. Here is a classical bit from “Count Magnus”:
“Like many solitary men, I have a habit of talking to myself aloud; and, unlike some of the Greek and Latin particles, I do not expect an answer.”
The subject’s habit of talking to himself aloud turns out to be very bad for his health.
Saturday: May 21, 2011
My local movie theater has been serving delicious hors d’oeuvres (from this restaurant) at their showings of the Metropolitan Opera HD simulcasts. What should they have served for Richard Strauss’ last opera on April 23rd? Carpaccio, of course.
Sunday: May 1, 2011
The professor is nothing if not a maker of card-indexes; he must classify or be damned.
(H. L. Mencken, Prejudices: First Series , XVII. “George Jean Nathan”)
Wednesday: March 23, 2011
Call me a pedant, but I thought the most interesting thing about Terry Teachout’s Youtubed clip from a BBC film of The Cherry Orchard is that it seems to be subtitled in Catalan.
Thursday: February 3, 2011
I wish I’d had my camera with me a week or two ago. A local grocery store had this special offer:
BUY 1, GET 2
Monday: January 31, 2011
This was left as a comment - unapproved, of course. I have also redirected the link:
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I suppose the only one more pathetic than this spammer would be a blogger who fell for the plea and approved the comment out of pity.
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