Wednesday, June 02, 2004
you know ... sometimes I think Radio is *daring* me to go to Wordpress ... if it's not losing posts, it's refusing to post them ... I've never thought of using the word "incompetent" in regards to a piece of software, but lately that seems to be the best way to describe it.
CHATTER: Troy Review
Victor Davis Hanson's blog appears to have undergone a facelift of sorts and I note the existence of 'guest columnists' now (were they always there?). In any event, there is a review of the movie "Troy" by Classicist Honorah Howell Chapman (California State - Fresno) which has a nice pair of central paragraphs:
Here's the kicker: there are no gods portrayed, except as statues. It's the new postmodern Homer, without the “inconvenience” of gods. They blew it out of fear of producing another “Clash of the Titans.” Even if you show just one goddess, and choose Thetis, which makes sense, you should show her as gorgeously immortal (i.e. eternally 30) as she grieves over her own predicament and her son’s impending doom. At least they let her deliver the news of his choice of fates; had that been missing, the whole thing would have been a disaster. Furthermore, delaying the plague upon the Greeks until after the death of Hector and in no relation to the sacrilege committed by Agamemnon against Apollo robs the audience of seeing how frightening the power of Apollo really can be and why Achilles is so damn angry at the “king of kings,” as they call him in the movie (has Agamemnon conquered Persia earlier?).
The New York Times movie reviewer A. O. Scott is wrong on a key point: yes, wars are political events (in terms of their organization and use), but Homer’s main message is that the costs are very personal and always tragic: Hector must die, and so must Achilles eventually, and despite all their glory, there are still the wives, parents, and children who must endure this worst blow a family can suffer. The funeral of Hector in Iliad 24 was not the equivalent of an Olympic torch-lighting ceremony, as depicted in the film; it was both political and familial. The fact that the women in the movie (Briseis replacing Hecuba as part of the troika) do not speak their moving eulogies over the dead body of Hector drains most of the Homeric humanity out of the scene. And by virtually removing the squabbling gods, the scriptwriter David Benioff lost Homer’s key point of contrast: how noble humans can be, both in war and peace, because their choices do have tragic consequences, unlike those of the immortals, who rarely seem to pay any price at all. [the whole thing]
CHATTER: More Latin Memories
This (online) Cambridge Latin course is getting a pile of coverage in the U.K., and sparking reporters and reportrices to recall their own Latin training ... here's one from the Guardian:
The new way of teaching and learning Latin that the Department for Education and Skills is hoping will appeal to 11- to 14-year-olds, involves technology and DVDs which will support a good old-fashioned book: The Cambridge Latin Course. There will be a storytelling approach, with plots that are more contemporary than the tales of war and beasts with seven heads that we had to endure. There's interaction and 360-degree virtual tours of Roman houses. So far, 25 schools have tried it and everybody loves it. Demand for Latin is at a canter; this new course has doubled the uptake of Latin in some of the schools that have tried it (although that may still only be in single figures). If it works out, Latin could soon be on every school curriculum.
It's wonderful that pupils are warming to Latin, but it is a tough choice of subject, which is entirely as it should be. It doesn't understand the 21st century, where everything has to be reduced to the lowest common denominator and be made easy-peasy, and I love it for this. It's uncompromising and fierce. You can singalong to Rosa Rosa Rosam and make it sound jolly, but getting your head round the ablative absolute does hurt, no matter how much fun you try to make it.
I was just out of school when the "If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen" ad-line was launched. It jarred. Instead of the past subjunctive mood of the verb "to be", ie: were, it used the imperfect: was. This misuse of the poor subjunctive has become so common as to be almost acceptable; I weep every time. So hurrah for Latin, at last, perhaps, we can all learn to speak English again. [the whole thing]
NUNTII: That Private Museum in Spain
I can't remember if I mentioned this at rogueclassicism specifically before (it was in Explorator), but a couple of months ago, Spanish police raided a house to recover a pile of what were alleged to be stolen antiquities. The news coverage at the time suggested the collection was like a private museum. Seems they were rather close to the truth -- an excerpt from the New York Times:
As it happens, he is more interested in the sherry produced by the winery, which he inherited from his uncle 25 years ago. In the early 1980's, however, he also inherited part of his present collection of artifacts from his father-in-law, who in turn had been given many pieces by his own father. Having placed these works on display, Mr. Sánchez recalled, he received hundreds more objects from an English friend and collector, David Knight, who died in the mid-1990's.
"I have never bought or sold anything," he noted.
Most pieces, it seems, were originally found by farmers and peasants working land that since 1,000 B.C. has been occupied or crossed by every imaginable culture, from Phoenecians, Greeks, Iberians and the people of Tartessus to Romans, Celts and Muslim invaders from north Africa. Many homes in the region have archaeological pieces. "Wherever you scratch the ground here, you find something," said Antonio de la Riva, a prominent Córdoba lawyer.
Organized chronologically, Mr. Sánchez's museum reflects this diversity, with glass cabinets and display windows packed with stone figures and pots, fossils, arrow heads, Bronze Age weapons, ceramics, textiles, axes and the like. Most have labels identifying their provenance. Also on display is a Roman sarcophagus with a skeleton, a ring around its neck suggesting a slave.
Above the wine cellars, a separate hall crowded with tables and desks is used for lectures on both wine and archaeology. This room is also lined with glass cabinets packed with wine-related objects and books, including Roman and Greek coins with engravings of grapes. Presiding over the hall inside a now-sealed glass case is the museum's prize object: a bearded head of Bacchus from the second century B.C. thought to come from Greece or further east, donated by Mr. Knight.
Two years ago Mr. Sánchez decided to seek a legal status for his museum. The first step, he was told, was to prepare a catalog of the works. He therefore hired Alberto López, an archaeologist from the University of Córdoba, to do the job. "He had done 98 percent of the work," Mr. Sánchez said. "But now the guard has taken all his papers."
Mr. Sánchez also applied for a $120,000 grant from a European Union-backed regional fund with the idea of improving the museum. Even as the Civil Guard was raiding the museum, the regional fund was advancing on paperwork related to his case. And this process is continuing, with approval of the grant expected soon.
What happens next is unclear. Cultural officials in both Madrid and Córdoba insist they played no role in mobilizing the Civil Guard to raid the museum. A spokesman for the guard in Córdoba said its special unit spent "four to five months" studying the case before acting. "Maybe the pieces weren't hidden," he said. "But they were held illegally."
Mr. Sánchez's lawyer, Manuel Cobos Muñoz, said he believed the authorities were now thoroughly red-faced about the episode. "I think the prosecutor will study the evidence and drop the case," he said. "Then we'll negotiate keeping the objects in Aguilar and having the museum recognized. It's just a mistake by the Civil Guard. It's nothing political. It would be more interesting if it were." [more]
CHATTER: Some Everyday Latin?
Amongst the coverage relating to Latin at I.C. Wales (see below) is a handy list of some everyday phrases (which I have seen elsewhere in the online collections of useful Latin). Ecce:
Di! Ecce hora! Uxor mea me necabit!
Oh God, look at the time! My wife will kill me!
Lex clavatoris designati rescindenda est.
The designated hitter rule has got to go.
Sona si latine loqueris.
Honk if you speak Latin.
Re vera, cara mea, mea nil refert.
Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.
Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis exponebantur ad necem.
In the good old days, children like you were left to perish on windswept crags.
Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Romani quidem artem amatoriam invenerunt.
You know, the Romans invented the art of love.
Sic hoc adfixum in obice legere potes, et liberaliter educatus et nimis propinquus ades.
If you can read this bumper sticker, you are very well educated and much too close.
Frequentasne hunc locum?
Do you come here often?
Turbane magna vehiculorum obriam erat tibi venienti huc?
Run into much traffic on the way over?
Do they know what a 'designated hitter' is in Wales?
NUNTII: More on Cambridge Latin
Here's a bit more on the (online) Cambridge Latin course being introduced in the U.K. (we first mentioned this yesterday):
A WELSH Latin lover is leading the charge to bring the ancient language of the Romans back to state schools.
With the decline of Latin learning mirroring the fall of the Roman empire 1,500 years ago, the challenge has begun to revitalise the language in the eyes of schoolchildren.
The answer lies in a electronic teaching aid which could solve the problem of teachers not being trained in the language - enabling students to learn exclusively on their computers.
Will Griffiths, director of Cambridge School Classics Project, hopes their e-learning resource will be embraced by schools across Wales, and the rest of the UK.
He said, "We want to make Latin available to everybody and I could not think of a better way of doing this.
"I would dearly love to bring Latin back to Abergavenny, where I grew up and also across Wales."
With a grant from the Department for Education and Skills, the learning resource hopes to bring together history, the language and also the grammar of Latin to schools.
He said, "This software is designed to be used not only by Latin specialists but also by teachers who don't have Latin.
"Every secondary school in the country can have access to the programme and it is going to change the way Latin is delivered in this country."
Mr Griffiths, who was taught Latin at Monmouth School, believes the language is an important part of every child's education and provides vital skills in allowing you to understand the basis for other languages, as well as the history and background of our civilisations.
While the new teaching package, which will feature a Roman soap opera-style drama, might be fun, it will not reduce the difficulty of the language.
However, there is nothing wrong with giving the children something challenging, says Peter Jones, a spokesman for the Co-ordinating Committee for Classics.
He said, "It is not an easy language, but so what. Lots of things aren't easy but it does offer tremendous rewards.
"There is nothing elitist about Latin. Only people can make something elitist - a language cannot be." [more from IC Wales]
CHATTER: On Learning Latin
An IC Wales reportrix reminisces about learning Latin (in the U.K.):
GETTING to do Latin at secondary school was quite exciting as far as I was concerned - and yes, I did have a group of friends at the time.
Firstly our 12-year-old appetites had been whetted by a weekly dose of Classics, bloodthirsty gods and wars started over who was the prettiest in all the land.
Really, Latin and Greek was just like a grown-up version of everyday school life, so what wasn't there to like?
Then there was the fact that you had to wait a year until you could be taught Latin. That alone in the grand scheme of being a 12-year-old did make you feel grown up.
And our teacher, Mr Kyle, was a volatile, rambunctious character who could break into a violent rage at anytime during the lesson. Teachers flipping their lids is always entertaining to school kids.
By the end of your first year at school you've already decided if you like making buns in home economics, hate maths and don't like your geography teacher.
School becomes routine. But then another language comes into play. It's difficult, challenging and - best of all - dead.
There is little chance that you are going to be forced into a situation with a Roman exchange student called Quintus - who's a slave working in a spa - and discuss his favourite pets or food in that awkward, staccato, self-conscious way us humans have when learning a language.
No, learning Latin you get to have your head buried in a book and play detective with every sentence that comes your way. [more]
AWOTV: On TV Today
5.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Ancient Warriors: The Spartans
9.00 p.m.|HINT|Lost Civilizations: Greece: A Moment of Excellence
Journey back to Athens, where the world's first democracy took seed,
as Pericles ushered in a Golden Age of unparalleled learning in
philosophy, architecture, science, art, and drama, when small city-
states in Greece rose from obscurity to ignite one of the most
spectacular explosions of cultural achievement in Western
Civilization's history. Learn why, the modern world still clings to
the ideals of Ancient Greece for intellectual and aesthetic
inspiration. Sam Waterston narrates.