June 2011 Archives

Kim Brooks' piece at Salon asking "Is it time to kill the liberal arts degree?" contains my Quote of the Day:

There were courses I took in college, courses in Renaissance literature and the anthropology of social progress and international relations of the Middle East and, of course, writing, that will, in all likelihood, never earn me a steady paycheck or a 401K, but which I would not trade for anything; there were lectures on Shakespeare and Twain and Joyce that I still remember, that I've dreamt about and that define my sensibility as a writer and a reader and a human being.

After the debacle with his last campaign slogan, Rick Santorum has switched to a new one in conjunction with his official announcement this morning that he's "in it to win:"


ThinkProgress lists Santorum's 12 most offensive statements, reminding us that his "courage" is largely the craven demonization of gays, feminists, and Muslims.

I'm so impressed.

There's a surfeit of silliness on the Right, attempting to revise history so that former half-term governor Palin's mangling of Paul Revere's ride somehow becomes a little less like word salad. Andrew Sullivan nails it:

One of the most pernicious and dangerous features of Palin is her clinical refusal to understand reality, to accept error, to acknowledge when the facts she has cited are not actually facts, but delusions. And her vanity and pathologies are so deep she will insist that black is white until her minions actually find a source to prove it.

She's dangerous; she's shrewd; she's an exhibitionist. But she is also, we must keep reminding ourselves, a farce. What worries me about this political leader incapable of telling fantasy apart from fact is that, in a long and deep recession, someone who can lie that readily and manipulate religious and cultural resentment as well as she does is a danger. Not just to America, but to the world.

Do you remember the conservative accusation that New York City workers deliberately slowed down blizzard cleanup? An investigation into the allegations "found no evidence of an organized slowdown:"

In fact, the report found, Mr. Halloran had no evidence for his accusation, and his account of conversations with two workers differed sharply from what the workers told investigators.

"In toto," the report said, "Mr. Halloran's information about city employee statements contributed no actual evidence about a possible slowdown."

H/t to Oliver Willis, who summarizes:

It's almost as if conservatives, Republicans, and the conservative media pushed a fraudulent story simply to kick unions in the balls as part of the decades-long attempt to bust unions and screw over working-class people. Wait, that's exactly what happened.


Today is American Hiking Society's National Trails Day:

Through National Trails Day, American Hiking Society introduces people to a wide array of trail activities such as hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding, trail running, and bird watching. Held every first Saturday of June, National Trails Day brings together people who enjoy trails and the outdoors to participate in trail work projects, educational workshops, trail dedication ceremonies and gear demonstrations.


The venerable Loeb Classical Library (website, Wikipedia) is, though perpetually significant, only periodically newsworthy outside an education setting. Christopher Shea praised the series, but http://www.slate.com/id/2147782/ Emily Wilson expresses some doubts about the pedagogical utility:

I still wonder whether we really should be welcoming these splendid new translations with open arms. I, for one, would be extremely wary of recommending a Loeb in an undergraduate class in which the students were expected to read the original Latin or Greek. The temptation to rely too heavily on the translation would be all the greater now that the translations are so much better than they used to be.

Tracy Lee Simmons discusses the Loebs in the pages of the Weekly Standard, observing that "within the English-speaking world, they are deemed an essential accouterment to the life of the mind." A.N. Wilson writes about his experiences wrestling with Latin and Greek, noting that those languages' inscriptions and quotations are "not merely part of our mental furniture [but] also a vital part of our shared intellectual and spiritual inheritance." The publication of the Loeb Classical Library's 500th volume [the series is currently up to 513, with six more due in September], he writes, "is a cause for tremendous celebration:"

It means that all the great works of classical Latin and Greek, and many of the works of Late Antiquity, are now published in a scholarly text with a good translation on the opposite page.

Just as the world has decided it can get along without classical literature, we are in a position to read nearly all of it.

The NYT notes that the new Loeb translation "no longer tiptoes around Plato's writings on homoerotic love or cleans up Aristophanes' bathroom humor:"

For years college professors have shared the earthiness of these writers with their students, or at least challenged them to learn their Latin and Greek and figure it out for themselves. More precise English translations have been around for a while from other publishers, and the less-squeamish French were doing accurate translations as early as the 1920's. But the tidy Loeb volumes were the last bastion of Anglo-American restraint, and their conversion represents how the definition of what is mainstream has changed.

The LCL attracts me greatly, except for two factors: the cost of those little red and green volumes, and the fact that I don't (yet) know either Greek or Latin. These 1912 comments from James Loeb about the Library's purpose and scope are, perhaps, more relevant than ever:

It has always seemed to me a pity that the young people of our generation should grow up with such scant knowledge of Greek and Latin literature, its wealth and variety, its freshness and its imperishable quality. [...]

These books will appeal not only to scholars who care for a uniform series of the best texts, and to college graduates who wish to renew and enlarge their knowledge with the help of text and translation, but also to those who know neither Greek nor Latin, and yet desire to reap the fruits of ancient genius and wisdom. Some readers, too, may be enticed by the text printed opposite the translation to gather an elementary knowledge of Greek and Latin, thus greatly enhancing the interest of their reading...

A return to German, which I studied briefly in high school, would be a quicker route to becoming bilingual (and would increase my appreciation of Bach, Beethoven, Mahler, Schubert, and Wagner), but Latin strikes me as being far more useful in making me a better writer. I might wind up working through Wheelock's Latin on my own, partly due to my natural autodidact tendency and partly to avoid this sort of experience:

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