25 April 2008

The Legendary Origins and Character of the Huns - Jordanes

"We learn from old traditions that their origin was as follows: Filimer, king of the Goths... found among his people certain witches, whom he called in his native tongue Haliurunnae. Suspecting these women, he expelled them from the midst of his race and compelled them to wander in solitary exile afar from his army."
The best English definition of "haliurunnae" is along the lines of "crazy bitches", "ugly bitches", or "really, really disliked bitches".
"There the unclean spirits, who beheld them as they wandered through the wilderness, bestowed their embraces upon them and begat the savage race, which dwelt at first in the swamps, a stunted, foul and puny tribe..."
I might go protest the ignored problem of acquaintance-embrace bestowal with the Women's Center next week.
"For by the terror of their features they inspired great fear in those whom perhaps they did not really surpass in war."
The John Brown theory of battle.
"They made their foes flee in horror because their swarthy aspect was fearful, and they had, if I may call it so, a sort of shapeless lump, not a head, with pin-holes rather than eyes."
Visual aid.
"...they cut the cheeks of the male [infants] with a sword, so that before they receive the nourishment of milk they must learn to endure wounds. Hence they grow old beardless and their young men are without comeliness, because a face furrowed by the sword spoils by its scars the natural beauty of a beard."
Because the problem with slicing open the faces of babies is that it renders them unable to grow facial hair. This is the kind of historian I want to be when I grow up.

21 April 2008

Unit 13, Live from Moscow

More tales of woe from my Russian textbook:

"Сержант Петров всю жизнь мечтал стать поэтом, но он стал милиционером."
Sergeant Petrov has dreamed his whole life of becoming a poet, but he became a policeman. From an exercise where we have to practice expressing regret and sympathy: Мне жалко Сержанта Петрова - I feel sorry for Sergeant Petrov.
"It's a shame that Dennis's girlfriend is coming to Moscow."
From a translation exercise.
"It's a shame that Misha became a businessman. He was a good veterinarian."
From the same translation exercise. Insight into Russian priorities... and possible issues with the Russian economy.
"У Володиных нет времени погулять с Брауном."
The Volodins don't have time to walk Brown [their dog]. Team animal neglect, go!
"Он очень любит себя."
He is very fond of himself.

17 April 2008

Summer Reading List

The semester draws ever nearer to its end, and I look more and more fondly towards the summer, when I'll have time (y'know, not counting my forty-hour-workweek) when I'll be able to do some serious reading. Here's what I have so far- let me know if you have any suggestions.

Anton Chekhov Short Stories

Boris Chicherin Liberty, Equality, & The Market

Mikhail Bakunin The Basic Bakunin: Writings 1869-1871

Vissarion Belinsky Selected Philosophical Works

Aleksandr Blok Selected Poems

Mikhail Bulgakov The Master and the Margarita

Ivan Bunin The Dark Avenue

Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Brothers Karamazov*
Crime and Punishment
Notes from Underground

Orlando Figes Natasha's Dance

Nikolai Gogol
The Overcoat
Dead Souls

Maxim Gorky Children of the Sun

Thomas Hardy Jude the Obscure*

Alexander Herzen My Past and Thoughts

Aleksey Khomyakov Whatever I can find!

Ivan Kireevsky Whatever I can find!

Osip Mandelstam The Noise of Time: Selected Prose

Vladimir Mayakovsky The Bedbug and Selected Poetry

Vladimir Nabokov Lolita

Boris Pasternak Dr. Zhivago

Richard Pipes
Russian Conservatism and Its Critics
Karamzin's Memoir on Ancient and Modern Russia: A Translation and Analysis

Andrey Platonov The Foundation Pit

Aleksandr Radishchev Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow

Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin
The History of a Town
The Golovylov Family

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Leo Tolstoy War and Peace

*works I plan to reread

14 April 2008

Reluctant Acceptance by Julian of Title of Augustus - Ammianus Marcellinus

"To confer further honor on [the soldiers] at their departure on so long a journey [Julian] invited their leading men to dinner... After this liberal entertainment two sad thoughts oppressed them as they went away; through the unkindness of fortune they were losing not only their native land but a beneficent ruler. With these sorrowful feelings they returned to their quarters."
Summary: These soldiers left their homes to fight for Julian on the express condition that they never have to go beyond the Alps. Emperor Constantius, however, doesn't give a shit, and orders them to be sent there anyway. Julian throws them a going away party to soften the blow.
"But at nightfall they broke out into open revolt; they gave way to the feelings roused in each of them to a different degree by this unexpected event, took up arms, and rushed to the palace with a tremendous uproar."
Oh snap. This must be where they kill Julian.
"They surrounded it so that no one could escape, and saluted Julian as Augustus with terrifying shouts, urgently demanding that he come out to them."
Yeah, kill that oppressive bastard!... Or, uh, hail him as Augustus and make him Emperor. Always a good option.
"Julian, however, resisted one and all firmly and resolutely. At one moment he showed displeasure, at the next he stretched out his arms in passionate entreaty, begging them not to spoil so many happy victories by behaving dishonourably or to let rashness and bad judgment give rise to civil war."
You're Caesar of Rome, a giant angry riot of soldiers storms your palace in the middle of the night, and you talk to them like a kindergarten teacher begging toddlers to stop throwing the graham crackers. You're a better man than I, dear Julian.
"In spite of this appeal the shouting continued on all sides, and finding it impossible to resist the uniform pressure of this loud uproar, with which some abuse was mingled, the Caesar was obliged to give way. He was placed on an infantry shield, raised aloft, and proclaimed Augustus without a dissentient voice."
Just so we're clear- Julian is now the highest ranking man in the entirety of the Roman Empire... and got there because he was completely at the mercy of an impassioned mob. Leadership as slavery indeed.
"Then he was told to produce a diadem, and when he said that he had never had one they asked for a necklace or a head ornament of his wife's. When he protested that to wear a female trinket would be an inauspicious beginning, they searched about for a horse-trapping to crown him with..."
"This too he rejected as unbecoming, and finally a man called Maurus... took off his standard-bearer's collar and boldly placed it on Julian's head. Julian, finding that there was no way out and perceiving that continued resistance would place him in instant danger, promised each man five gold pieces and a pound of silver."
Oh, come on, Julian, seriously? What happened to Romans being manly?

But wait, the soap opera continues:
"Terrified by the change which had occurred he withdrew into seclusion, where he remained until one of the decurions of the palace, an important official, hastened to the camp of the Petulantes and Celts shouting at the top of his voice that a shameful crime had been committed and that the man whom they had proclaimed Augustus on the previous day had been secretly put to death."
It's like an episode of I Love Lucy!
"At this news the troops... rushed in the disorderly way which is natural in emergency to occupy the palace...When they were asked what had led to this sudden foolish commotion there was a long silence... they would not disperse till they had been admitted to his council chamber and had seen him in all the splendour of his imperial robes."
Splendour. Right.

A Return

Sorry for the hiatus- more regular posting will resume shortly. In the meantime, here's some stuff that's been floating around in my brain:

“When enough people share a delusion, it loses its status as a psychosis and gets a religious tax exemption instead.” - Ronald de Sousa, Why Think? Evolution and the Rational Mind

I have always said that the reason why philosophers are so disliked on university campuses is that we are brighter than anyone else and have trouble concealing the fact." - Michael Ruse, Literary Review of Canada

"As a phenomenon, I am in his debt because it turns out that - like Shakespeare and Coca-Cola - he is a brand, with brand values we respond to." - Gyles Brandreth on Oscar Wilde in the Times Online

"Pop sociologists would have us believe that the distinction between spirituality and religion arose in American culture about the same time as the musical Hair. Actually, the concept of spirituality (individualistic, mystical, pluralist) as distinct from religion (institutional, creedal, orthodox) originated in the 1830s with the flowering of Emerson's distinctive variety of Romanticism." - Michael Robertson in The Chronicle Review

"Er aber ging hin in die Wüste eine Tagereise und kam hinein und setzte sich unter einen Wacholder und bat, daß seine Seele stürbe, und sprach: Es ist genug, so nimm nun, HERR, meine Seele; ich bin nicht besser denn meine Väter." - 1 Kings 19:4