Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

As you may have guessed from the Thucydides a little ways down, I'm revisiting my greek history. I had attempted to read some moderns in the hopes of learning a bit about the archeological side of things, but I quickly grew disgusted with the common attitude of disdain it seemed they hold for the ancients. Particularly in their dismissal of the virtue of physical courage, they strike me as--well, let another tell it:
Jurgen went with distaste among the broad-browed and great-limbed monarchs of Pseudopolis, for they reminded him of things that he had long ago put aside, and they made him feel unpleasantly ignoble and insignificant. That was his real reason for avoiding the city.

Now he passed between unlighted and silent palaces, walking in deserted streets where the moon made ominous shadows. Here was the house of Ajax Telamon who reigned in sea-girt Salamis, here that of god-like Philoctetes: much-counselling Odysseus dwelt just across the way, and the corner residence was fair-haired Agamemnon's: in the moonlight Jurgen easily made out these names engraved upon the bronze shield that hung beside each doorway. To every side of him slept the heroes of old song while Jurgen skulked under their windows.

He remembered how incuriously--not even scornfully--these people had overlooked him on that disastrous afternoon when he had ventured into Pseudopolis by daylight. And a spiteful little gust of rage possessed him, and Jurgen shook his fist at the big silent palaces.

"Yah!" he snarled: for he did not know at all what it was that he desired to say to those great stupid heroes who did not care what he said, but he knew that he hated them. Then Jurgen became aware of himself growling there like a kicked cur who is afraid to bite, and he began to laugh at this Jurgen.

"Your pardon, gentlemen of Greece," says he, with a wide ceremonious bow, "and I think the information I wished to convey was that I am a monstrous clever fellow."
Indeed you are, gentlemen historians, but, as Jurgen himself discovers, cleverness is not everything.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I was sitting at the breakfast table, contemplating the terrible absence of Tussie-Mussies in my life, when I realized that the reason no one sends them anymore is that the language of flowers is as obsolete as Volap√ľk. We no longer need to express romantic love with a bouquet; that is why Facebook was invented. But, contrarian that I am, I felt uneasy relegating such a charming technology to the compost bin of history. What is needed, I thought, is an updated floriography, in which more modern sentiments might be conveyed. For example:

old: hopeless love
new: I am sorry about your 401(k)

old: haughtiness or respect
new: let us eliminate trans-fats from our diet

Red Roses
old: true love
new: later I should like to remove your taffeta

And so forth.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Men now coolly ventured on what they had formerly done in a corner, and not just as they pleased, seeing the rapid transitions produced by persons in prosperity suddenly dying and those who before had nothing succeeding to their property. So they resolved to spend quickly and enjoy themselves, regarding their lives and riches as alike things of a day. Perseverance in what men called honour was popular with none, it was so uncertain whether they would be spared to attain the object; but it was settled that present enjoyment, and all that contributed to it, was both honourable and useful. Fear of gods or law of man there was none to restrain them. As for the first, they judged it to be just the same whether they worshipped them or not, as they saw all alike perishing; and for the last, no one expected to live to be brought to trial for his offences, but each felt that a far severer sentence had been already passed upon them all and hung ever over their heads, and before this fell it was only reasonable to enjoy life a little.
--Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
For our Johnny readership (and anyone else with good taste in music), Eilen Jewell has just released a new CD. Buy it! And buy her others while you're at it.

My previous eulogy of Eilen Jewell is here. And here's some new material:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Has the mystery of the disappearance of Everett Ruess been solved? National Geographic Adventure has a teaser.

Hat tip to the very worthwhile Guy Tal Photography.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Very well, here: Euclid 1.47, the musical version, in Swedish.

Mrs. P comments, "Oh, so that's how you seduce an old, Swedish mathemetician." Yup. Myself, I'd give substantial quantities of alcohol for a witty, singable translation.

Courtesy of John Derbyshire.

Also, in the spirit of the season: Pascha explained. Apologies in advance; blame this guy.

Apologies for the month of silence. But you haven't missed much, readers. A promising storm system in early March took me on a photo expedition to the great Socorro/Catron County outback of western New Mexico. Here's dawn from Hell's Mesa, some 20 miles north of Magdalena:

It's a bit of a New Mexico cliche, but who can pass up the VLA in good light?

The photo is quite dated now, but again, who can pass up tazi puppies?

Our big excitement was when Mr. and Mrs. Odious returned to New Mexico for the first time in several years. An excellent time was had by all, and Odious was given an airing in a landscape as little like western Oregon as possible:

We also had a very good visit to Dallas, of all places, for Mrs. P's sister's wedding. Bonuses included a very good time staying with Proclus (who really ought to blog a little now that he has some spare time) and his delightful new dog, an afghan/poodle cross, a mix we feel certainly qualifies as a lurcher; much good food; camels and bluebonnets on the drive; and a visit to the excellent if overpriced King Tut exhibition.

With any luck at all, we'll become interesting again soon.