April 2004

2004 04 30
Delong and Pipes on the Russian Revolution


Posted by in: History

Brad DeLong is annoyed with Richard Pipes:
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Howls of outrage (3)

2004 04 30
Recommended Reading


Ginmar is either a soldier based in Iraq or a damn fine liar. Either way, she writes beautifully. This post is no exception.


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2004 04 30
If you’re a Yank . . .


Posted by in: Political issues, Sudan

. . . here’s something you can do about Sudan:
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2004 04 29
Fafgenius


Posted by in: Political issues

If you don’t read Fafblog – if you don’t read it religiously, obsessively, compulsively – then there is something very wrong with you.

They finally updated today, after making me wait what seemed like an eternity between posts. Read as the Medium Lobster explains the genius behind the Bush team’s attack on Kerry for the medal/ribbons incident, Giblets expounds on Iraq’s sovereignty, and Fafnir relates a Colin-Powell inspired trip to the Pottery Barn with Giblets.

Genius.


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2004 04 29
Kataperdomai


“Kataperdomai” is one of my favourite words from Classical Greek, a language I’ve been more or less incompetently picking up for the last decade as part of my study of Greek philosophy. The standard Classical Greek dictionary, the great Liddell-Scott-Jones (that Liddell being the real-life father of Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame), gives the meaning “break wind at,” but they were obviously working in the era before Monty Python. Coming after the efforts of the British comedy troop, the contemporary rendering is practically inevitable: “I fart in your general direction.”

“Kataperdomai” remains one of my favourite words from Classical Greek in spite of its starring role in a Very Painful Memory of mine. And although painful memories are sometimes best left repressed, what is a blog if it is not a chair one can pull up to history’s greatest experiment in group therapy? Here, then, is my painful memory.

Several years ago, I was hanging out for a few minutes with some fellow graduate students in one of the offices our department sets aside for teaching assistants. These were the days before I responded to an exciting email offer to enlarge my manhood, so I had little to brag about at the time. Naturally I fell back on my ability to hurl abuse at someone in Classical Greek. Really, this ability comes down to my being able to shout “kataperdomai,” but we brag about what we can, no?

I was asked to demonstrate. I was happy to oblige. I whirled about and pointed my finger at the empty doorway of the office for emphasis and bellowed “Kataperdomai!”

At that precise moment – at that very second – the only other person in my department guaranteed to understand what I was saying, my supervisor, as it happens, walked by. My relationship with him was a bit frayed at the time, at least as far as I was concerned, since I owed him quite a lot of work. Even in the best of circumstances one look at him was usually enough to drive home for me how painfully behind I had fallen. Like so many other graduate students before me, the dominant mood of my graduate career has always been aggravated shame mingled with a fervent desire for redemption. Anyhow, I had been assiduously cultivating the (mostly correct) impression with my supervisor that I was working practically without interruption from the moment I got up to the moment I went to sleep.

Needless to say, ambushing the poor man with classical obscenities did nothing to improve my standing with him. True, my assault was a learned one, but a learned assault is still an assault. I watched in horror, as if in a B-film which plays out the drama of a scene through the clumsy use of slow-motion, as his face ran the gamut of emotions from surprise to recognition to anger. And then in a flash he was gone, the final expression on his face burned into my memory.

We never spoke about it.


Howls of outrage (5)

2004 04 29
The Sorrow and the Pity


Posted by in: Documentaries, History

In the last week, I finally got around to watching The Sorrow and the Pity, the great documentary about the occupation of France during WWII. It really was an extraordinary documentary, and one that I thought lived up to the very high praise it has accumulated over the years. For more, read Josh Marshall on the subject.

(And for anyone I promised to see it with: don’t worry – I want to see it again.)


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2004 04 29
Eat your heart out, Marcel


Posted by in: Metablog, Odds and ends

When I left blogger after a year and a month of blogging, I exported the entire blog into a single file, which I then never got around to importing into this blog. Today, on a lark, I cut and pasted the file into a text document and did a word count. The results: 668 pages and 240,667 words.

Now, much of a blog is taken up with quotations, some of them long. So I would imagine that I only wrote about a half of that (or perhaps even less). Even so, this little stat is a sobering one considering that my dissertation remains unfinished.

I’m gearing up now to really get the sucker finished, but I still want to have it both ways. I expect over the next few months to trim my blogging a bit, but if I don’t have a place to blab my fat face off about subjects I only half understand at the best of times my soul will surely shrivel up and die. And how can one write a dissertation with a shriveled soul? (Or perhaps I’m mistaken. It might even turn out to be a something like a prerequisite – but that’s just a bitter grad student in me talkin’.) Anyhow, that’s the plan: just a bit less bloggin’, and a whole lot more dissertatin’. And I may even, from time to time, blog the dissertation. (I have learned from the comments section that not everyone is a fan of Aristotle. Perhaps a little evangelizing about Aristotle would be in order too.)


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2004 04 29
Patriot Act Suppresses News of Challenge to Patriot Act


That’s the title of a piece in the Washingon Post today. When I saw the link to it at The Agonist, I thought it was probably just a piece in the Onion.

But it’s not.


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2004 04 29
Sex and Lettuce


I have two modest items to report in what may well end up being a running series here at explananda on the mysterious connection between sex and lettuce.

The first is from p. 185 of the April 19th & 26th New Yorker. The article is on joke collections, ancient and modern. Discussing one of the former kind, the author writes:

A couple of jokes about lettuce, for example, might have struck a Roman audience as hilarious, given their belief that lettuce leaves, variously, promoted or impeded sexual function.

Intriguing.

Second, there is the old Egyptian myth:

After Osiris’ eventual death, while Horus was growing up and planning his own revenge, Set and Horus engaged in a homosexual relationship. In one part of the myth, Set proclaimed to Horus, “How lovely your backside is.” Informing his mother Isis about his uncle’s ardour, Horus is told to catch Set’s semen rather than becoming impregnated by the murderer of his father. Set, in doing so, was planning on humiliating Horus by showing the gods that Horus would be filled with someone else’s semen.

Horus and Isis’s next plan was to ‘impregnate’ Set with Horus’ semen. His mother spreads powerful unguents on Horus’ penis, after which he ejaculated into a jar, and they spread it on some lettuce, a favourite aphrodisiac to the ancient Egyptians. Set then ate the semen-covered lettuce, and so Horus (rather than Set with his first ‘attack’) bacame sexually dominant over his uncle. Set then asked the gods to bring the semen forth from the ‘impregnated’ one, to humiliate Osiris’ son. The semen comes out of Set himself, and he becomes the laughing stock of the gods!

Oh, that old trick!


A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2004 04 29
Noooooooooooo


Great. The news from Canada:

Martin will sign U.S. missile-warning program

Washington � The Martin government has agreed to sign on to an aerospace early-warning system for North America, smoothing the path for almost certain participation in the U.S. missile defence shield � but the Liberals had hoped to keep it under wraps until after a federal election expected in June.

Sources said yesterday that the Bush administration has been pressing Ottawa for a decision on the warning technology, a crucial stage in Washington’s timetable for beginning deployment of missile defence systems in California and Alaska this fall.

The Martin government’s willingness to take this interim step was made clear to Washington in the past two weeks, sources say. It comes on the eve of tomorrow’s White House meeting between Prime Minister Paul Martin and President George W. Bush, where missile defence is not on the official agenda.

It approaches criminal negligence to be pushing missile defence – which doesn’t work, and diverts precious resources from initiatives that do work – at a time like this.


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2004 04 29
Ah, to be young and depressed


Posted by in: Odds and ends

For those of you who want to truly share your feelings with the rest of the interweb, I offer Internet-Diary.com.


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2004 04 28
Meta-blogging


Posted by in: Blogs and blogging

[If you don't know what I'm talking about, neverminditisntimportantanyway.]

Steve Laniel nails what’s wrong with George Packer’s piece on blogs, thereby saving me the trouble of writing my own rebuttal.


Howls of outrage (2)

2004 04 28
Geffen on Kadafi


Posted by in: Political issues

Daniel Geffen tells us what he thinks of Kadafi:

I, for one, am an admirer of Kadafi’s prose style, as exemplified in his magnum opus, the Green Book, which features free-form metaphysical and political theorizing written in an undergraduate-with-a-minimum-word-count-to-hit style, and includes passages such as:
The national factor, the social bond, works automatically to impel a nation towards survival, in the same way that the gravity of an object works to keep it as one mass surrounding its centre. The dissolution and dispersion of atoms in an atomic bomb are the result of the explosion of the nucleus, which is the focus of gravitation for the particles around it. When the factor of unity in those component systems is destroyed and gravity is lost, every atom is separately dispersed. This is the nature of matter. It is an established natural law. To disregard it or to go against it is damaging to life.

So take a page from Kadafi’s book: don’t disregard gravity.

Mr. Geffin has no doubt marked enough papers to know the undergraduate style when he sees it. As a survivor of countless undergraduate papers I can say: I’ve seen better than this and I’ve seen worse.


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2004 04 28
Iran on the ropes


Kevin Drum finds more evidence that the war on Iraq has strengthened the U.S.’s hand in dealing with rogue-regimes like Iran.

Seriously though, some of the hawks used to remind me of little kids pushing around toy-soldiers on their bedroom floors. I now see that that was terribly unfair of me. A kid pushing around toy-soldiers on his floor would surely have noticed that tying down a huge number of troops in Iraq would limit his ability to threaten Iran.

My original view insulted the intelligence of military-geek-kids the world over, and for that I apologize.


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2004 04 28
Colin Powell and Al-Jazeera


Via Abu Aardvark, I see that the U.S. is pressuring Qatar to clamp down on Al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera is based in Qatar and regularly enrages governments throughout the region. The U.S. has recently accused the station of varying degrees of complicity in the violence in Iraq. Here is the charming Mr. Powell, promoting democracy in that inimitable Bush administration style:

“The friendship between our two nations is such that we can also talk about difficult issues that intrude in that relationship, such as the issue of the coverage of al-Jazeera,” Powell told reporters after a meeting with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister Shaykh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabir al-Thani. “And we had candid discussions about that.”

Powell said the two sides were having “very intense discussions” on the issue, adding: “those discussions will continue over the next couple of days.”

I’m jealous of the Qataris. I would love to have an intense discussion with Mr. Powell, myself.

No word yet on whether Qatar is pressuring the U.S. to clamp down on Fox News.

You know, unless this is some really clever reverse-psychology kung-fu to bolster independent reporting in the Middle East, I’m going to have to agree with the Aardvark about the wisdom of the move.


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