Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Greetings from Istanbul! It's a wonderful, if draining place; very easy to get around, though. But it's a horrible place to try and practice Turkish, as every time you try, you get a sympathetic chuckle followed by pretty fluent English. We're catching our flight to Erzurum today. Aya Sofya and all that sort of thing are wonderful, but we're already glad to be getting off the tourist track, hoping perhaps to interact with some Turks who aren't selling something.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A roundtable discussion of Xenophon's Anabasis. As long as we're shouting, "Thalassa!" (ht)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Can't really blog now: leaving for Istanbul in the morning. Mrs. Peculiar and I are bound ultimately for northeastern Turkey, Erzurum and historic Georgia. One major destination is likely to be Gümüşhane: as Odious will appreciate, this is near where, after a grueling march across Anatolia to the crest of the Black Sea Range, Xenophon's exhausted troops exclaimed, "Thalassa! Thalassa!"

If anyone wondered what (besides sloth) was consuming my blogging output lately, here's your answer: researching Turkey, making the agonizing decision as to just where to go: the place is just crawling with worthy destinations. It's as big as Texas, but oh! so much more fascinating. And I've been studying Turkish,a very laudable tongue, barbaric and yet refined in its intricacy. I really enjoy non-Indo_European languages. The lack of grammatical gender alone makes them greatly superior, and what bliss is Turkish or Finnish regularity, where rules apply consistently enough to be worth remembering.

With any luck, I'll be much more interesting in a couple weeks. Here's a shot from the Selway this summer to tide you over:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A newly-unearthed hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold: discoveries don't get better than this.

Via Cronaca, who has lots of good stuff right now.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Unfortunately, along with all its good effects, the web brings together people who should be isolated, and gives a voice to those who really should remain voiceless."
S.M. Stirling, interviewed by Glenn Reynolds. Looking forward to his forthcoming depiction of contemporary Santa Fe.
The Lovecraft Collection. Scents inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos. Iä! Iä!

My favourite (I leave identification of this scent's name as an exercise for the reader):

A small, furry, sharp-toothed scent that will nuzzle you curiously in the black hours before dawn: dusty white sandalwood and orris root, dry coconut husk, creeping musk, and the residue of ceremonial incense.
Courtesy of Derb, who I hadn't realized was a Lovecraftian.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Music composed by birds. Sort of. I once heard a lecturer* on modern classical music describe an analogous experiment in which a stripper cast her garments onto wires and musicians interpreted the results. I imagine the birds have done better.

*A really oddly stilted fellow, the lecturer: he would cast octogenarian-style aspersions on the "Grateful Stones" then go right on to describe a piano concerto performed with the composer inside the piano, scraping a piece of chalk on anything that would make a noise.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Also an opera.

[Singing to the accompaniment of a harp]

. . . Wild as the white waves
Rushing and roaring, Heaving the wrack
High up the headland; Hoarse as the howling
Winds of the winter, When the lean wolves
Harry the hindmost, Horseman and horse
Toppled and tumbled; So at the town gate,
Stroke upon stroke, Sledging and slaying,
Swashes the sword, Shivers the shield
Of foeman and kinsman: Such was the fight!
But lustless and lank By the bower of the Lady,
Quenchèd forever, Quellèd and cold,
Cynewulf the King!
There... there don't seem to be any recordings of it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Just discovered that when Edna St. V. M. was a young thing in New York, it was fashionable to write poems using her name as the final line, e.g.
Laurel is green for a season and love is sweet for a day
But love grows bitter with treason and Edna St. Vincent Millay.