~ Suburban Joys
A piece in the Telegraph on suburbs ponders Roman Bath:
The revelation that Romans prized the suburbs of Bath would have come as no surprise to Martial, the Roman poet.
As early as the first century AD, he was singing the praises of rus in urbe - the countryside within the city.
And Nero's Golden Palace by the Colosseum was less a palace than a fanciful landscape garden studded with pleasure buildings.
Snobbery about the suburbs is a later British invention, summed up by Virginia Woolf's words in The Hours - "If it is a choice between Richmond and death, I choose death."
She did end up choosing death when she loaded her pockets with stones and strolled into the river Ouse in 1941.
Richmond, meanwhile, has flourished, like suburbs throughout the country, as we have discovered what the Romans knew 2,000 years ago: the delight of living near fleshpots and offices with none of the noise and claustrophobia they bring if you live among them.
If anything, the Roman suburbs were even lovelier than their modern British equivalent. There was no pressure on building space, and so no nimbys - or should that be nimbi, the nominative masculine plural of nimbus?
The mile-long commute from Bath's Roman suburbs is nothing compared with the two-hour commute today on, say, the 6.45 from Eboracum to Londinium.
Best of all, the Roman whipping his horse along the Via Aquae Sulis in the rush hour never had to put up with his fellow commuters braying into their mobiles, "In curru sum" - "I'm on the chariot."
::Sunday, January 02, 2005 11:14:57 AM::
~ Summarizing Alexander
The conclusion to a review in the Scotsman probably sums up all reviews of the Alexander flick in the past, present, and future (including your own):
A massive flop in America, the film is better than you feared but not nearly as good as you might have hoped.
::Sunday, January 02, 2005 11:11:58 AM::
~ Complex Personal Questions
In the Taipei Times (although originally in the New York Times) William Safire ponders the etymology behind some words in the news, inter alia:
Simply put, the president rejects complications and is hooked on complexity. Let's examine the difference between those words. Complicated is a participial adjective rooted in the Latin for "folded together." It has always had a slightly sinister connotation: "There they lie," wrote the philosopher Henry Power in 1664, "all dead, twisted and complicated all together, like a knot of Eels." Three years later, the poet John Milton, in Paradise Lost, wrote of a hellish scene, "Thick swarming now/With complicated monsters."
Over the centuries, the word's meaning was rehabilitated somewhat but still retains a primary sense of "hard to unravel or explain; so intimately intertwined as to be confusing." Often it is used as an excuse for an inability to clearly define: To say, "That's complicated," is to duck a question or to cover up ignorance of detail.
Although complex, rooted in the Latin for "encompass or embrace different elements," is also the opposite of "simple," it does not seem to brush aside the questioner as one too easily confused. Complex means "with interconnected parts; compounded of different elements; an intricate combination of ideas."
In grammar, a complex sentence contains one or more subordinate clauses, like the one beginning "Although," which puts the reader to sleep at the beginning of the paragraph that precedes this one. It is the opposite of the simple declarative sentence, like "Complex is usually a compliment." (In simplicity there is strength; in complexity there are nuances running the risk of voter distrust; in complication there is danger of a need for drastic surgery to disentangle those linguistic eels.)
PRIVATE VS. PERSONAL
The private/personal synonyms have much in common with the complicated/complex pair. In both cases, the pair shares an antonym -- "public" for the former, "simple" for the latter -- and within each pair is a subtle separation by connotation.
Private is from the Latin privatus, "apart from the state," its meaning extended to "belonging to the individual or interest and not owned by any government." As a noun, privacy has a good connotation (keep out of my computer, you prying cookie). As an adjective, however, private is often associated in political discourse with "the truly greedy," as in "private developers." Consequently, liberals deride the idea of setting aside a portion of the payroll tax destined for Social Security as the dreaded privatization, while conservatives like to call that percentage set aside a "personal retirement account."
Personal probably comes from the Etruscan phersu, "mask," from which we get persona, an assumed character or "image." With the rise of interest in the person, individual or self, personal took on an intimate character: We enjoy e-mail's personal correspondence on our personal digital assistants and grunt happily if wearily at the behest of our personal trainers.
In a word, personal is in; impersonal can be an insult, and private -- especially in its verb form as privatize -- has more enemies in the media than friends.
::Sunday, January 02, 2005 11:09:49 AM::
~ AWOTV: On TV Tonight
4.00 p.m. |HISTU| he True Story of Alexander the Great
334 BC--a 20-year-old military commander from Northern Greece set out to conquer the known world. During the next 12 years, King Alexander of Macedon led 40,000 troops more than 20,000 miles, defeated the world's most powerful ruler, King Darius of Persia, and conquered West Asia before dying at age 32. In a 3-hour special, host Peter Woodward explores the true story of Alexander the Great--a tale of conquest, love, hate, revenge, and ultimately tragedy. He visits locations of Alexander's youth, temples dedicated to Greek gods where Alexander sought divine counsel, and actual battlefields, as well as demonstrating his signature battle plans and weaponry. How could one man accomplish so much at such a young age? What led to his demise? These questions drive our analysis of Alexander's complex character, delicately balanced between genius and insanity.
7.00 p.m. |HISTU| The Real Attila the Hun
No ruler in history represents the unbridled rage and brutality of the barbarian as much as Attila the Hun. In the 5th century, Attila swept through Europe, effectively extinguishing the classical Roman Empire. And for a time, he held the destiny of all of Western Europe firmly in his grasp. But in the end, it was Attila who unwittingly secured the future of the civilized world and Christian Europe. After his death, the Hun Empire began to break up, and the marauding Huns "scattered to the winds."
8.00 p.m. |HISTU| The True Story of Hannibal
One of history's greatest military leaders, at age nine Hannibal accompanied his father Hamilcar Barca on the Carthaginian expedition to conquer Spain. Before embarking, the boy vowed eternal hatred for Rome, his people's bitter rival. Twenty years later, in 218 BC, he left New Carthage (now Cartagena, Spain) to wage war on "The Eternal City" with an army of about 40,000, including cavalry and elephants. After crossing the Pyrénées and Rhône River, he traversed the Alps while beset by snowstorms, landslides, and hostile mountain tribes. This 2-hour special brings to life the story of the Carthaginian general who struck fear in all Roman hearts and wreaked havoc with his masterful military tactics, bringing the mighty Roman Republic to the brink of ruin. Archaeologists, historians, and military experts guide us through ancient Carthage and give insight into his military strategy up to defeat at Zama in 203 BC.
::Sunday, January 02, 2005 11:01:45 AM::