The last of the January jokes is now up, and I suppose I will go ahead and start a February PDF file tomorrow night. I won’t have time to test HTML Greek display before the weekend.
Tuesday: January 31, 2006
Sunday: January 29, 2006
While you wait for the jokes to appear, please visit my Books for Sale page. I have added 57 titles, in more than a dozen different categories, just in the last 48 hours. New listings are marked in red so repeat visitors can spot them easily. Prices range from 50 cents to $1,200, and even the latter is a bargain, since the title in question (Works of Francis Bacon in 14 volumes) sells for $2,150 new.
I’m putting the finishing touches on the six jokes necessary to bring Ioci Antiqui up to date. They should be up in an hour or so. I’m still mulling over how and when to make the transition to posting jokes as ordinary blogposts. That mostly depends on how easy it will be to display accented Greek correctly on all of your monitors without asking any of you (or me, for that matter) to spend any money or do anything at all complicated. Further experiments are likely. I’m also thinking of adding MP3 recordings of at least some of the Greek and Latin originals, though I can’t promise much in the way of quality, either vocal or technological. More in a little while.
Update: (11:45 pm)
The jokes are now up. Feel free to comment on them here.
Tuesday: January 24, 2006
Spam comments on my two weblogs combined have increased from 400 per day only a month ago to over 800 now. I’ve been told that Spam Karma will solve the problem, and it certainly looks like just what I need, but there are serious obstacles to installing it:
- Spam Karma requires WordPress 1.5 and recommends 2.0, while I’m still on 1.2, though I installed it only a year ago.
- The WordPress site tells me that the upgrade from 1.2 to 2.0 cannot be done as a single step, but requires a complex upgrade (4+ pages of instructions) from 1.2 to 1.5 and a second upgrade from 1.5 to 2.0.
- In over an hour of searching, I was unable to find the 1.5 software download anywhere on the WordPress site: when I go to the 1.5 page, the only download link takes me to the 2.0 file, which the upgrade instructions show quite clearly will not work.
I think the word for my situation is ‘Kafkaesque’.
If you’re wondering about the title of this post, I inadvertently deleted the last four comments made on this site while bogged down slaughtering huge batches of spam comments this morning. Please don’t take it personally if you wrote one of them, and feel free to recreate it. I’ll try to be more careful in the future. Now I think I’ll go to bed without posting a joke: I’ll post two tomorrow night to catch up again.
Sunday: January 22, 2006
spoke wrote posted too soon. The Ioci Antiqui page is again behind, though by only one day, since I have deleted the epigram of Martial that I’d already used for November 23rd. I’ll try to catch up tomorrow.
As promised, January’s Ioci Antiqui are now caught up through tomorrow (Monday), with five new jokes for the 19th through the 23rd, of which one or two are actually funny — opinions may differ as to which one or two. I hope to shift the jokes to HTML blogposts soon, most likely February 1st. That will allow comments on each individual joke.
For the last month or more, whenever I check my weblog statistics to see what countries my readers represent, I have gotten a list much like today’s: in order from 1 to 25, USA, unknown, EU, Iceland, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Hungary, Belgium, Spain, Slovakia, Switzerland, China, Japan, France, Austria, Brazil, Greece, Russia, Ireland, Iran, and Singapore.
In general, the list is unsurprising: these are all countries with a large number (though not necessarily a large percentage) of English-fluent computer-owners. Culture may have something to do with it, too: it’s not surprising that Italy and Greece place relatively high in visits to a Classics site. France is a bit lower than I would have expected, Hungary and Slovakia quite a bit higher, but the huge anomaly is in fourth place. In fact, if we omit ‘unknown’ and generic ‘EU’, Iceland is the second country on the list after the US. What’s that all about? Are there that many classicists in Iceland, or just a few obsessives (or even one?) checking in every half-hour to see what’s new? I’m not unhappy, or unwelcoming, just puzzled.
Time for some feedback. Does the following text come out with long marks on some of the vowels, or garbage in place of the vowels, or what? Please reply in the comments, and include which operating system and browser you are using to view this page. I’d also like to know of any anomalies. For example, on my screen the long mark on a small I is higher than the others. Is that universal?
Āmissum nōn flet cum sōla est Gellia patrem,
sī quis adest, iussae prōsiliunt lacrimae.
nōn lūget quisquis laudārī, Gellia, quaerit;
ille dolet vērē quī sine teste dolet.
The pseudonymous ‘Michael Blowhard’ of 2Blowhards was recommending Maupassant the week before last. Inspired by his enthusiasm, I checked out a collection of short stories, one of which turned out to be very pertinent to (of all things) Latin teaching methods. Here is the relevant passage of “This Business of Latin”, as translated by David Coward in the Oxford World’s Classics volume Guy de Maupassant: Mademoiselle Fifi and Other Stories:
For ten years, Robineau’s Academy had obtained much better examination-results than the town’s grammar school and all the secondary schools in the area, and its continuing success was generally attributed to one lowly assistant master, Monsieur Piquedent, or rather Old Piquedent.
[I pass over the cruel description of Piquedent and his career.]
One day he got the idea of making all the pupils in his class give their answers entirely in Latin. He persisted with this notion until they could keep up a conversation with him as easily as they could in their own tongue.
He listened to them as the conductor of an orchestra listens to musicians rehearsing, and he was forever banging his desk with his ruler, saying:
‘Lefrère, Lefrère, you are perpetrating a howler! Can’t you remember the rule . . . ?’
‘Plantel, that turn of phrase is irretrievably French, not Latin. You must get the feel of the language. Pay attention, listen to me . . .’
At the end of one school year, pupils of Robineau’s Academy walked off with all the prizes for prose composition, unseen translation and Latin diction.
The following session, the headmaster, a small man as sly as the grinning, grotesque monkey he so closely resembled, inserted the following into the prospectus and advertising-matter and also had it painted over the door of the Academy:
Specialization in Latin Studies.
Five First Prizes Awarded in all Five Classes in the Academy.
Two Distinctions in Public Examinations open to all
Grammar and Secondary Schools in France.
For ten years, Robineau’s Academy continued to carry all before it.
Thanks to the pseudonymous ‘J. Cassian’ of February 30th (scroll down to the 19th), I find that the story is on-line in French and (rather clunky) English at this impressively full Maupassant site. Go to the alphabetic list of titles and scroll down to Q: the French title is “La Question du Latin”. Here’s the relevant portion of the French text, for those too lazy to follow the link:
Depuis dix ans, l’institution Robineau battait, à tous les concours, le lycée impérial de la ville et tous les collèges des sous-préfectures, et ses succès constants étaient dus, disait-on, à un pion, un simple pion, M. Piquedent, ou plutôt le père Piquedent.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Un jour, l’idée lui vint de forcer tous les élèves de son étude à ne lui répondre qu’en latin ; et il persista dans cette résolution, jusqu’au moment où ils furent capables de soutenir avec lui une conversation entière comme ils l’eussent fait dans leur langue maternelle.
Il les écoutait ainsi qu’un chef d’orchestre écoute répéter ses musiciens, et à tout moment frappant son pupitre de sa règle :
“Monsieur Lefrère, monsieur Lefrère, vous faites un solécisme! Vous ne vous rappelez donc pas la règle ? . . .”
“Monsieur Plantel, votre tournure de phrase est toute française et nullement latine. Il faut comprendre le génie d’une langue. Tenez, écoutez-moi . . .”
Or il arriva que les élèves de l’institution Robineau emportèrent, en fin d’année, tous les prix de thème, version et discours latins.
L’an suivant, le patron, un petit homme rusé comme un singe dont il avait d’ailleurs le physique grimaçant et grotesque, fit imprimer sur ses programmes, sur ses réclames et peindre sur la porte de son institution :
“Spécialités d’études latines. — Cinq premiers prix remportés dans les cinq classes du lycée.
“Deux prix d’honneur au Concours général avec tous les lycées et collèges de France.”
Pendant dix ans l’institution Robineau triompha de la même façon.
A few random comments:
- The French word translated “assistant master” is ‘pion’, which also means ‘pawn’ in chess. Whether it is related to English (or rather Spanish) ‘peon’ I do not know.
- ‘Piquedent’ must mean ‘Toothpick’ or ‘Picktooth’, so the students of course call him ‘Piquenez’. Do I have to translate that?
- Piquedent’s teaching career comes to a sudden and rather surprising end, but whether it is a bad end or not is difficult to judge. The simian headmaster no doubt thought so.
- The headmaster arranges special lessons for the narrator, charging him five francs an hour, of which Piquedent receives only two.
- Most important, I want to know whether the teacher’s method was something Maupassant invented, or found in real life.
I have added quite a few books to my Books for Sale pages, mostly Classical, Mediaeval, and Renaissance, but with a few in other categories. Featured authors: Alan of Lille (3 titles), Poliziano, Clausewitz, Diogenes of Oenoanda, Montesquieu (2 each), and Walter of Chatillon. Some are rarities, and priced as such. Please buy them so I can buy the latest commentaries on Horace and Vergil.
Sorry about the missed days: I’ve been under the weather and bogged down in end-of-semester grading. I will post five more ancient jokes by midnight tonight to make up the deficit. These will be in the usual PDF file. At some point, I will also post one or two of the Greek jokes as HTML here to see if I can solve the problem of displaying the Greek with all the accents.
Tuesday: January 17, 2006
Philárguros diathékas gráphwn heautòn kleronómon étaxen.
A greedy man writing his will made himself his own heir.
This is Philogelos 104. Not very funny? It’s actually better than average for the collection. Underlined e and o represent eta and omega respectively: this allows inelegant but unambiguous transliteration. It will have to do until I can figure out how to display accented Greek text.
I hadn’t planned to start posting these as ordinary posts, but Filezilla is refusing to upload my PDF file. Is 118k too big? I’ll try again in the morning — or perhaps the afternoon, since it’s the first day of the second semester. In the mean time, I will shortly post today’s joke in HTML so you can judge whether it is better or worse than PDF. (I think Filezilla fried my January PDF file while trying to overwrite it, but November and December are still there for comparison.)
Monday: January 16, 2006
1 A terrible thing, worthy of more than just a letter, has been suffered at the hands of his slaves by Larcius Macedo, a man of praetorian rank, a haughty and savage master who remembered too little — or rather too well — that his own father had been a slave. 2 He was bathing in his villa at Formiae. Suddenly his slaves surround him. One attacks his throat, another strikes his face, another his chest and belly, and even (disgusting to say) batters his private parts; and when they thought he was dead, they threw him down on the heated stone pavement to test whether he was alive. Either because he was unconscious, or because he was pretending to be unconscious, he lay outstretched and motionless and convinced them that he was entirely dead. 3Only then is he carried out, as if he had been overcome by the heat. His more faithful slaves take him up, and his concubines come running with howling and shouts. Roused by their cries and revived by the coolness of the place he shows by opening his eyes and moving his body (as it was now safe) that he is still alive. 4 The slaves scatter; most of them have been captured, the rest are being sought. He himself, kept alive with difficulty for a few days, passed away, not without the consolation of vengeance, avenged while he was alive as those who have been murdered are avenged. 5 You see how many dangers, how many outrages, how many insults we are exposed to; nor is it possible for anyone to be safe just because he is lenient and kind; for it is not by rational calculation that masters are murdered, but by viciousness.
6 But enough about that. What else is new? Nothing, otherwise I would append it, for the page is not yet full, and the holiday allows further composition. I will add something that just occurred to me about the same Macedo. Once, as he was bathing in the public baths at Rome, a remarkable and (as the outcome showed) ominous thing occurred. 7A Roman knight, lightly touched by a slave of his so that he would step aside, turned around and struck with the palm of his hand not the slave by whom he had been touched, but Macedo himself, so hard that he almost fell down. 8 Thus by a kind of gradation the baths were for him a place first of dishonor, afterwards of death. Goodbye.
(from The Younger Pliny, Letters, 3.14. Latin text here.)
Coming up shortly, an English translation of the Younger Pliny on the murder of Larcius Macedo (Epistle 3.14). This is a private letter, but no doubt polished up, since Pliny published it himself in his own lifetime. I have tried to translate it fairly closely. For instance, like other Latin authors, Pliny makes much use of the historical present for vividness, and I have translated these as presents whenever possible.
Questions, comments, and objections will be most welcome. These may be on the substance of the letter or the obscurities and infelicities in my translation.
I hope to post a similar text once a week, starting with more letters of Pliny. These will be posted on Sunday afternoons whenever possible, though this one is obviously rather late. I will also be posting these readings on my non-classical site for non-specialists, since I am curious to see how the comments from the two different sets of readers will differ.
If anyone out there has the CD of the Studio der Frühen Musik’s Carmina Burana, Vol. 2 (Teldec 8.44012), and could burn me a copy, please e-mail. This is a reconstruction of the Mediaeval music, conducted by Thomas Binkley, not the Carl Orff modernization, and the last two cuts, Tempus est iocundum and Ne gruonet aver diu heide, are particular favorites. I still have the records, but no record player, and a malicious student stole the CD (but not the cover or booklet) at my previous teaching job. Since it seems to be out of print and entirely unavailable new or used, it seems to me that burning a copy would be only technically illegal and morally unexceptionable. I’ve already paid for the damned thing once and would gladly do so again if there were copies for sale anywhere.
From my referral logs I find that a university professor in the Midwest has assigned my Juvenal e-texts as the primary text in 4th-year Latin class. I’m flattered. The only other required text is Peter Green’s Penguin translation. Only 14 hits so far, so it must be a rather small class, but that’s not unexpected when undergraduates are reading so difficult an author as Juvenal.
Now that I have my laptop back and have found a temporary and partial fix for my spam-comment problem (more on that soon), it’s time to start posting more regularly. But first I have a question for my readers. I’m wondering whether I should make my ‘Ancient Jokes of the Day’ (Ioci Antiqui) ordinary blog-posts instead of (or as well as) adding them to the monthly PDF files. There are various pros and cons to consider:
- Pro: Most readers find HTML a lot more pleasant to read than PDF. Category archives make it easy for (un)interested readers to read the jokes and skip the rest of the site. I could even have separate categories for Greek and Latin jokes, so readers could read either or both.
- Con: Individual jokes could not be printed out so easily for classroom use. Perhaps I should continue to collect them in PDF files even if the HTML version is primary.
- Pro: Comments could be posted on each joke.
- Con: Greek could be transliterated, but making it appear as accented text is not so easy. Does anyone know a relatively foolproof method of doing this? It would have to work on various hardware using various browsers and with various fonts installed. I find it frustrating that Greek does not appear the same on the same site using different machines or the same machine viewing different sites.
No doubt there are other pros and cons to consider. As always, advice is welcome and may be placed in the comments or delivered by e-mail.
Sunday: January 1, 2006
It’s not quite midnight as I write, but I have uploaded the Joke of the Day for January 2nd. Just click on Ioci Antiqui in the left margin, and then click on ‘January’ for the PDF file. At the moment, the January file contains one five-year-old joke for the 1st, and one new one (a good one) for the 2nd. Though tomorrow’s is from the Philogelos, I will be posting far more Latin than Greek jokes until I get my laptop back from HP, since my old computer has gotten quirky and is forcing me to add every single accent and breathing as a ‘special character’.