Thursday, June 03, 2004
CHATTER: Open Source Discussion
Some of the biblioblogs -- most notably Hypotyposeis, Paleojudaica, and NTGateway, as well as one called Akma -- have been engaged in a discussion of Open Source Scholarship and the problems/benefits associated with it. While I have already pointed out at an early point in the discussion some online Classics journals which would, in theory, qualify as 'Open Scholarship', it seems salutary to point out the case of an outstanding Canadian journal which once was 'Open Source', but now is not: the Ancient History Bulletin.
For ages, the Ancient History Bulletin had been producing a print edition and -- with suitable 'lag' -- an online edition. There was (I believe) at least a decade's worth of peer-refereed scholarship online available not just to scholars, but anyone with an internet connection. The site with the articles was mirrored in Germany and archived online at Canada's National Library. Then, back in April 2003, it was taken off the web with no explanation from its editors. There was no explanation put on the Journal's home page in Calgary, and its apparent move to Winnipeg hasn't resulted in any explanation either. Annoyingly, the online version at the National Library also disappeared. What's even more maddening -- nay, infuriating -- was that when your humble rogueclassicist responded to a query on the Classics list recently on this very subject and pointed out that the articles still resided at the Internet Wayback Machine, they were removed from that source as well.
It would be nice if the editors -- former, or present -- of the Ancient History Bulletin could offer an explanation for this stunningly-not-beneficial-for-Classics move. I've tried on several occasions to get an explanation, but none have been forthcoming. But to connect this to the 'Open Source' discussion, the AHB experience currently demonstrates with great clarity one of the dangers which might loom in the minds of someone who might be considering publishing or starting on online/Open Source project. What happens if the website disappears? Imagine the newbie scholar who has embraced the OS concept and contributed to a pile of OS journals, all of which have gone the way of Socrates. Imagine his discomfiture at an interview when he tells a potential employer that he has published extensively, but can't 'prove' it. At least the AHB continues to have a print version (I think ... my enquiries about that (and my subscription) also went unanswered).
And just for cf. purposes ... seek thee out the American Journal of Archaeology. OS seems to be working very well there.
CHATTER: Dueling Reviews
Check out these excerpts from a pair of reviews. The first one comes from "a Jungian Psychotherapist and teacher" and is posted to a blog which is clearly against the current president of the United States:
Homer’s Achilles, the archetypal Greek warrior, contains the shadow elements of the Greek character: the driving greed for empire and power of Agamemnon, and the anger and cruelty of Menelaus, the Spartan king whose people delight in war. Achilles’ wrath over having his slave girl taken away by Agamemnon echoes the wrath of Menelaus over Helen’s ‘abduction’. Yet, if Helen’s betrayal of Menelaus was the will of the gods, (how convenient to have God as an excuse) then any excuse can be used as a just cause for war. In truth, the Trojan War was an economic war, clothed in false glory and self-righteous anger. Homer ends the Iliad with the funerals of both Hector and Patroclus, a Trojan and a Greek He had a message in his storyWar is a no win situation; Everyone suffers.
We are experiencing such a wrath now in American politics over 9/11 and the war in IraqOur nation has chosen wrath instead of reconciliation, economic and military might rather than searching for the truth and choosing the right response. In choosing war, we are hurling many brave men and women and innocent children down into Hades. But then again, we have been doing this since we first colonized America . We have been a warrior nation and an economic empire from the very beginning, as well as a land of religious fanaticism. It’s interesting that Mr. Petersen and Mr. Benioff decided to leave out the gods in the script of Troy . The Bush Administration sees this war on terrorism as a religious ‘crusade’, even though they try to sell us on their lies of bringing democracy to Iraq and the Moslem nations. A good re-telling of the Iliad might have helped us understand how we let George Bush’s wrath, his economic agenda, as well as his belief that he was following the will of God [Zeus], lead us into this devastating war.
We could have had another focus for a national discussion on the topic of war if Mr. Petersen and Hollywood had given us a story worth seeing. Only Hollywood could kill this ancient story. Does Hollywood insist on being irrelevant in this time of national dialogue, or does it promote mediocrity on purpose to keep us from critical thinking on important issues facing our country. Either way, 3 thumbs down for Mr. Petersen’s Troy .
Then, in the same mail run, a review in the National Review concludes:
[...] Except, of course, that it isn't. The gods were central not only to the arc of Homer's glorious enchantment, but to its meaning. To the Greeks fate was capricious, often unfair and frequently unkind. The good could perish miserably, and the bad could prevail. All that man could do was his best. His best hope was to be remembered well. And it is there we find the tragedy of Hector (a good man despite the rather problematic treatment of the dead Patroclus) as he does battle with Achilles, son of the sea nymph Thetis, a battle he could not win (go for the heel!), a battle against a man who was all but invulnerable (go for the heel! Go for the heel!), a man who was being helped by a goddess. And this tragedy is an echo of the tragedy that lies at the heart of the Iliad, the tragedy of the individual helpless before fate. To be sure, that's not dissimilar to the belief of modern, secular man, recognizing, at last, that we are adrift in an indifferent universe, but even that bleak view has its own bleak comforts. Our universe at least isn't out to get us. The Greeks, believing in fickle gods who turned hostile on a whim, could never be so sure.
If Petersen thinks that's "silly" he should consult Christopher Logue, the man he should have asked to be his scriptwriter. Logue, an English poet, has been working on an "account" of the Iliad for the last 40 years, an adaptation, possibly the finest ever written in the English language. And it has plenty of room for the gods:
Patroclus fought like dreaming
His head thrown back, his mouth-wide as a shrieking mask —
Sucked at the air to nourish his infuriated mind
And seemed to draw the Trojans onto him,
To lock them around his waist, red water, washed across his chest,
To lay their tired necks against his sword like birds.
— Is it a god? Divine? Needing no tenderness? —
Yet instantly they touch, he butts them,
Cuts them back:
— Kill them!
My sweet Patroclus,
— Kill them!
As many as you can,
Coming behind you through the dust you felt
— What was it? — felt Creation part, and then
Who had been patient with you
Silly? I don't think so. Stripped of its tragic core, and its magic, its necessary, wonderful magic, this pedestrian, pointless, prosaic Troy never involves, never engages. We never care. Achilles, Paris, Hector, Helen, whatever. So, in what looks a lot like desperation, Petersen has tried to inject some invented contemporary "relevance" into a story that, properly filmed, would already have had it.
"Nothing has changed in 3,000 years. People are still using deceit to engage in wars of vengeance. Just as King Agamemnon waged what was essentially a war of conquest on the ruse of trying to rescue the beautiful Helen from the hands of the Trojans, President George W. Bush concealed his true motives for the invasion of Iraq."
Oh whatever, Wolfgang, whatever.
Interesting ... "relevance", like beauty, is clearly in the eye of the beholder. There's a lesson in there for Classicists (which most have probably already learned).
CHATTER: Classical Museum Opening
IC Coventry has a brief item on the opening of Alcester's new Roman Museum. It begin thusly:
Roman expert Guy de la Bedoyere performed a libation over a Roman altar to mark the dedication of Warwickshire's newest museum.
The pouring of wine, where Guy was flanked by soldiers from the Ermine Street Guard Roman re-enactment troupe, was part of a service in Latin at Alcester's Roman museum.
It showcases some of Warwickshire's ancient history, including a coin hoard and a dinner service.
The Ermine Street Guard is one of the more impressive-looking reenactment troupes. Check out their website for a nice collection of images from various events they've been involved in (and if you're part of a reenactment group, feel free to direct me to your homepage too!).
AUDIO: Father Foster
Again, I haven't had a chance to listen to this week's "Latin Lover" segment from Vatican Radio, so here's the official descriptions from the website:
There's a department in Vatican City State where official documents are translated into Latin and then collected. One of the people who works there is none other than our very own "Latin Lover", whose written Latin is, it seems, more reminiscent of Shakespeare than Hemingway..
Listen here ...
AWOTV: On TV Today
8.00 p.m. |HINT| The Great Empire: Rome: The Republic of Rome
A sweeping chronicle of one of history's most dynamic empires. Part
1 features the city's fabled founding by Romulus and Remus; overthrow
of the Etruscan monarchy; and the republic's formation and ultimate
undoing with the rise of Imperial Rome. Host Joe Mantegna introduces
Rome's great faces--Pompey, Cicero, Caesar, Antony, and Cleopatra.
9.00 p.m. |HINT| The Great Empire: Rome: Age of Emperors
After Caesar's murder, his great-nephew Augustus was victorious in
the civil wars that followed, becoming the first emperor. Host Joe
Mantegna explores this sensational, scandalous age when palace plots,
hostile takeovers, and imperial family intrigues were humdrum.
Features Augustus, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, among others.
10.00 p.m. |HINT| The Great Empire: Rome: Building an Empire
Host Joe Mantegna visits the vast territories conquered by the
imperial army--by the 2nd century AD, the empire spanned three
continents. The over 4,000 Roman cities were cultural melting pots,
where diverse customs and beliefs blended. Features life in Pompeii,
the flamboyant Emperor Hadrian, and religious revolts in Judea.
11.00 p.m. |HINT| The Great Empire: Rome: The Enduring Legacy
The final episode reveals the birth of Christianity and how this
religion that the emperors initially tried to destroy ultimately
passed on the empire's legacy. Highlights include: the crucifixion of
Jesus; religious persecutions; rise of Constantine, the first emperor
to embrace Christianity; and Justinian, Rome's last emperor.
HINT = History International