Thursday, July 30, 2015

Classics are Fun

A reblog from astinomi's tumblog:

andquitefrankly asked: 13. TRIVIA. GIVE ME ALL THE TRIVIA. please. :)

Ooh! Let’s see, here are some of my favourite bits of classical trivia (I know no other trivia). I should warn you that my idea of amusing trivia is quite… esoteric :’) (A couple of these are a little gruesome)
  • Ancient Greek had a pitch accent (i.e. the pitch of the syllable went up or down depending on the accent). This mattered, because once during a performance of a tragedy, an actor got the pitch accent wrong and said ‘weasel’ instead of ‘calm sea’ and we are still laughing about it 2000 years later.
  • Once during a battle between Argos and Sparta, the Argive generals told their troops to do whatever the Spartan herald shouted. The Spartan generals figured this out and ordered their troops to attack when the herald shouted ‘have breakfast’
  • The tyrant Polycrates of Samos was so lucky in everything that he did that his friend Amasis, king of Egypt, advised him to get rid of the thing he valued the most. This was a golden and emerald ring (?????). Polycrates threw it into the sea. Soon afterwards, it turned up in the belly of a fish that a fisherman had caught and presented to Polycrates. Amasis said, ‘That’s it, you’re too lucky, I’m cutting off our friendship before the gods screw you over.’
  • The tyrant Peisistratos of Athens married an aristocratic girl in order to form an alliance with her family, but he thought the family was cursed, so he would only have sex with her ‘not in the customary way’ and I still do not know what this means because my Greek history tutor was the most awkward person ever and would not tell me
  • An Ancient Greek word for ‘extravagant dandy’ was ‘someone who is obsessed with fish’
  • The Greeks described the sea as ‘wine-dark’
  • Socrates didn’t wash 
  • Hippocleides doesn’t care
  • The great Greek general Pericles was mocked because he allegedly allowed his mistress to boss him around in bed
  • It is 100% true that Plato published a serious piece of work criticising Aeschylus for making Achilles top and Patroclus bottom
  • This is the what the Greeks came up with to explain intersex people: Hermaphroditus, son of Hermes & Aphrodite, was born a boy but attracted the attentions of a rather obsessive girl who tried to force herself on him. Fortunately for her, they were in a magic spring and she prayed to be joined to him always, so they were joined together in one body that was part male and part female
  • In Cyprus, the goddess Aphrodite was represented with both male and female sex organs
  • Alexander the Great used to get foreign kings to line up their favourite prostitutes and then he would make a big show of walking along the line and acting disinterested
  • Allegedly, Alexander met the cynic philosopher Diogenes and asked if there was anything he could do for him. Diogenes said, ‘Get out of my sunlight.’ Alexander said, ‘If I were not Alexander, I would wish to be Diogenes,’ and Diogenes replied, ‘If I were not Diogenes, I would also wish to be Diogenes.’
  • The Roman playwright Terence, considered by later writers to be the best example of ‘pure literary Latin’, might have been an African immigrant and is widely thought to have been a slave
  • Julius Caesar annoyed the populace of Rome because he used to answer his mail during the races
  • Cicero was told to change his name because it meant ‘chickpea’ and he responded that he would make it the most glorious name in Rome
  • It is 99.9% likely that it is actually the case that Cicero was not let in on the assassination of Caesar because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut
  • Caesar once said, ‘I know I am the most hated man in Rome, because Cicero hates me, and God knows Cicero is easy to please’
  • Cicero and his brother Quintus seemingly spent an alarming amount of time chasing Cicero’s secretary around, asking for kisses
  • The poet Vergil (Vergilius), for sadly modern-esque reasons, was nicknamed ‘Parthenias’ (which renders itself quite nicely as something like ‘Virginia’)
  • Augustus nagged all his poet friends to write an epic about him, and when Vergil said he would do it, Propertius published a poem saying ‘THANK THE GODS: someone else is doing it - and it’s pretty good btw you should read it when it comes out’
  • The poet Ovid was exiled for a ‘poem and a mistake’ and we STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS
  • The emperor Augustus was teetotal and lame in one leg
  • As part of his propaganda against Augustus, Mark Antony claimed that Augustus singed off his leg hair
  • Augustus responded that Mark Antony was a drunken hooligan. Antony wrote a pamphlet defending himself, entitled ‘On the subject of my drunkenness’. To me this is one of the greatest losses of antiquity
  • The emperor Tiberius was obsessed with pears and cucumbers
  • The emperor Claudius allegedly ordered for his third wife to be executed, then got so drunk that he had to ask why she was not at dinner
  • Claudius had a son who died when he threw a pear core in the air, tried to catch it in his mouth and choked
  • Augustus complained that Tiberius used words in their strict etymological sense (or used literal equivalents of phrases that were used in a non-etymological sense), and the emperor Hadrian, when reading about this, commented, ‘It sounds like Augustus was not very well educated if he chose his words according to their usage and not their etymology.’
  • The emperor Galba is the only Roman male who is explicitly said to have had a sexual preference for adult males (i.e. of his own age) and not boys
  • Hadrian and his wife went travelling with Hadrian’s lover Antinous and an aristocratic woman named Julia Balbilla. At a tourist site in Egypt, Julia Balbilla carved a poem in the style of Sappho on a famous statue. One of my history professors said that this suggests Hadrian’s wife was a lesbian and they covered for each other
  • The historian Tacitus was a keen hunter. His friend Pliny went hunting one day and sent him a letter, ‘You won’t believe it, Tacitus, I went hunting, and I enjoyed it! I took all my books and I sat in the shade by the nets and it was so peaceful, I got so much done. You should try it!’

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Links for Later 7-28-15

  1. Sergei Pugachev, Putin's former banker, is in exile in Nice.
  2. The Happy Birthday song may have been public domain all this time, dates to 1922.
  3. Amazing photos of the Milky Way over Yellowstone.
  4. Donald Trump's rape problem & lawyer problem.
  5. Italy's brain drain.
  6. Interview with psychedelic researcher James Fadiman on muses, daimons and other non-corporeal entities in mystical experience.

The Greek Job

The Greek finance ministry had a Grexit plan after all, involving hacking their own servers and setting up a system of tax reserve accounts. Perhaps understandably, this has the Greek opposition parties upset; on the other hand, they were also upset that no Grexit planning had taken place.

Transcript of the OMFIF call where this emerged. Audio. Varoufakis comments.

Bonus: Ian Parker did a Yanis Varoufakis profile in The New Yorker:

The government had made contingency plans for a temporary alternative currency, in the form of electronic I.O.U.s. On June 30th, Greece missed a payment to the I.M.F., joining three other countries in arrears: Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Three days later, Klaus Regling, the head of the European Stability Mechanism, which was managing the debt that Greece owed to the countries of the E.U., e-mailed Varoufakis to remind him that, because of the missed I.M.F. payment, the European Financial Stability Facility had the option of asking for immediate repayment of E.U. funds. “I personally owe €142.6 billion,” Varoufakis said. “It’s my name on the contract.” He recalled that his response, delivered with war-weary humor, and some contempt, was a two-word quotation of the King of Sparta: “Molon labe,” or “Come and get it.” On the night of July 3rd, Varoufakis was mobbed as he passed through a crowd of tens of thousands of Greeks, to a final rally for the “no” cause. Walking behind him, I saw a man in his seventies kiss Varoufakis’s shoulder.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Michel Thomas On Resisting The Lure Of Surrender

Michel Thomas, the language teacher, was in his teens when he escaped the Nazis and joined first the French Resistance and then the US Army. In this interview with the BBC, he describes seeing people being loaded onto cattle cars to be taken away to concentration camps. He also describes that he felt at one point when he had been sentenced to death, as if Nature had reached out to embrace him and calm him in preparation for death, and that only by resisting that welcoming embrace was he able to survive.

Previously: Michel Thomas, The Language Master, a documentary about Thomas's teaching methods.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Hello, Pluto

NASA's New Horizons mission passed within a few thousand miles of Pluto this morning.

Family portrait
(via @missambear)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Greek Eurogroup Meeting Link Roundup

  1. Yanis Varoufakis gives his first interview since resigning as Finance Minister. “You’re right in what you’re saying, but we’re going to crunch you anyway.”
  2. Greece and Germany have a long history together.
  3. IMF sez, if only someone were willing to buy the Greek banks for billions of euros from the Greek government, no more loans would have been necessary.
  4. "An Indecent Proposal From Greece"-John Cassady
  5. "Killing The European Project" and "Disaster In Europe"-Paul Krugman
  6. Larry Trainor: "Alexis Tsipras pledged to end austerity. And now he is asked to sign up for more. "

Friday, July 03, 2015

Links for Later 7-3-15

  1. The new tech entrepreneurs and culture of Iran. I am not sure who is more representative of Iran, them or the hardliners, than I am sure who is more representative of America, us or our hardliners.
  2. "Everything is Yours, Everything is Not Yours."
  3. How the Greek bailout deal fell apart, or, Finance ministers acting like children. Also, EU politicians campaigning in Greece.
  4. How productivity affects demand for manufacturing labor.
  5. Faberge fractals by Tom Beddard
  6. This bodes ill for the quality of Matt Damon's next movie.
  7. Fazal Sheikh's Erasure. Photographs.