Sunday, February 29, 2004


The Academy Awards are on tonight, and I just realized that I've actually seen none of the movies under consideration. I think that's a first. But I guess that's what happens when you go and have yourself a baby - the last movie my wife and I saw in the theater was The Matrix Reloaded back in May of 2003. I can't believe we actually took turns to see that (and then didn't even bother to see the third and final film in the series)! Well, here's to catching a flick or two over the upcoming year...

Speaking of upchucking,

we have a photocopy card vending machine that has had a case of the dry heaves for the better part of the afternoon. Apparently a student attempted to force-feed it one of the newer five-dollar notes - which it doesn't take - resulting in half a ripped bill lodged within the reader slot that the machine has been attempting to dislodge ever since in fits and starts. The worst part of it is that we can't even turn it off or unplug it, so we're stuck listening to it choke for the next three hours. Urgh.

Worst lunch ever:

ramen noodles in a cup and a microwavable "chicken fajita" from the library's vending machines. Since I wanted to hit the stacks to run down a couple of fresh Sophocles citations on my break, I opted for a meal on the quick. Big mistake. The Cup of Soup wasn't so bad - ramen is ramen, after all - but the faux-ita I really could have done without, and required a remedial Hershey Bar with Almonds to take my mind (and stomach) off the fact that I had eaten a meat product of dubious quality out of a infrequently-maintained automat.

I did find what I think may be a previously-discovered reminiscence about Old Sophie, however, in the Harvard Graduates Magazine of December 1901; I'll have to check with the "team" on that come Tuesday! That and I picked up the late Meyer Reinhold's excellent Classica Americana, which again does not deal directly with E. A. but offers up a good selection of secondary literature to pick through for more information. But did locating either of these materials justify consuming a lunch that was 100% upchuck-worthy? Only time will tell!

The joys of delegation.

The research on E. A. Sophocles is moving along nicely, thanks to the team that the assistant director of The Greek Institute assigned to me, with all manners of information about this eccentric Harvard professor literally coming out of the woodwork. It still feels a little strange having people do the legwork for me, though, so it was a happy surprise that I stumbled upon the following book all by myself:

Author : Winterer, Caroline, 1966-
Title : The culture of classicism : ancient Greece and Rome in American intellectual life, 1780-1910 / Caroline Winterer.
Published : Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

This could be an important find. Up until now my team has been unearthing a ton of anecdotes about "Old Sophie", but unfortunately they're more about his odd behaviors and mannerisms than his contribution to the intellectual history of Harvard University and 19th Century America as a whole. While Winterer's book only deals with our man tangentially, her bibliography is worth its weight in gold, and will give us myriad leads to follow in hunting down Sophocles the scholar and Hellenist, rather than Sophocles the quaint Greek from the village (however much fun it is to read about him!).

It's Leap Day,

a.k.a. the Brigadoon of the Gregorian calendar, when the swirling flurries of midwinter part every four years to give us one more day of the second month of the year. This one's a particularly nice one, too, so if you're out there enjoying it take care not to tarry too long, lest you be trapped in cold and dark February until 2008! I think we need more such days in our calendar - a May 32st that appears every seven years, a July 4th that repeats itself until you've had your fill of sun, surf, and hot dogs, and an October 0th in any year that ends with a prime number - just to keep things interesting. The Mesoamericans found a clever way to build such reccurring fun into their timekeeping by interlocking two counts, the 360(+5)-day solar year and the 260-day ritual calendar, so that the same combination of solar day and ritual day only occurs once every fifty-two years. The Precolumbian Mexican calendar also happens to be far more accurate than our own system, and in fact is second only to modern astronomical observation in its precision. Of course the Mesoamericans also practiced large-scale human sacrifice on a regular basis, but we all have our quirks...

Saturday, February 28, 2004

And now

it's time to go home.

A hold shelf mystery:

so I go to retrieve a book from our Hold Shelf for a patron who had recalled it, and when I get back to the front desk she takes a look at the title and says, "That's not it." Sure enough, it's not. While the automatically-generated slip has her contact information and the reference that she was in fact looking for, it had accidentally been paired with the wrong book, which presumably was misfiled under another patron's name. As going back to the Hold Shelf and looking for the book blind is not an option here at Widener, since the "shelf" in question is actually a small set of stacks with hundreds or thousand books on any given day, there was only one chance for finding this patron's book - finding out who the wrong book was being held for and hope that a simple swap accounted for the mistake. So I do that, and lo and behold, I find the book and my patron is elated. Only one small hitch, though. The book it had been mixed up with was not the right book for the other patron, which meant that something potentially far more serious (and far more difficult to fix) had gone wrong: it was possible that a whole crop of holds - who knew how many? - were all off by one. I followed the trail of swapped books with a mixture of fascination and dread, wondering just how compounded the error was. In the end, the damage wasn't all that bad - four books. But in my mind, I could see the entire Hold Shelf unravelling, swapped hold by swapped hold, like one of those gargantuan domino sculptures you used to see all the time, until nothing but the empty stacks themselves remained.

When you said "on time",

did you mean regular time or Greek time? The President of the International Olympic Committee has publicly expressed his concern that Athens will not be ready in time for the upcoming games in August, a very unusual thing for a high-ranking IOC official to say at so late a stage in the preparations. Quite a bit is still unfinished, including the domed roof for the Olympic stadium, which means that the opening ceremonies might have to risk exposure to the elements (good thing it doesn't rain all that much in August in Greece; the last time the games were there, in the Spring of 1896, the weather was blustery and forced the outright cancellation of some events!) and hazard looking a little slapdash to the four billion-plus viewers who will be tuning in to watch worldwide.

But I think the IOC is a little overly worried about this. There's no danger that the Olympics won't happen just because a few venues will have wet paint still drying on the walls or caution tape strung up around construction sites that are still under construction. There may be hassles and headaches, but athletes will gather and compete, and medals will be won, as always. What I find distressing is that in its quest for a "perfect" (a.k.a., corporate-friendly) Olympic host, the IOC seems to favor the efficiency of totalitarian states such as China - who admittedly is ahead of Athens in many respects although preparing for the games of the next Olympiad - over the necessarily messier business of a raucous but functioning democracy. I'm not sure the Ancient Greeks would approve. After all, the site of Olympia didn't even have running water until the 2nd Century A.D.!

Kill Christ: Vol. 1.

I haven't yet seen The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson's blood-splattered interpretation/interpolation of the Gospels, but from the reviews I've read so far I doubt that I ever will. When I had first heard about the film, I must admit that I was very excited - a no-nonsense retelling of the betrayal, trial, and execution of Jesus, with dialogue in the original Aramaic and Latin, no less (why not Greek, though? Considering that Judea and the entire Near East had been thoroughly Hellenized over the three centuries before the Romans came, I would imagine that you'd be much more likely to hear Greek than Latin or even Aramaic on a daily basis, especially in the cities. Of course Mel - a conservative, pre-Vatican 2 Catholic - would want to have the Latin in there, even if it shouldn't be, but as it turns out this is the least of the movie's problems). What I guess I wasn't expecting was what the blogosphere has dubbed the Jesus Chainsaw Massacre, a kind of postmodern Passion play that is viscerally overpowering but virtually devoid of intellectual or spiritual substance, with some gratuitous Jew-baiting thrown in for good measure. "It's like the last ten minutes of Braveheart, only longer. And with Jesus!" Bravo, Mel.

That children are being taken to this movie in order to provide them with some kind of devotional experience - witness the 1400 parochial students from Long Island who lugged wooden crosses through the streets before seeing the film on Ash Wednesday - makes me hopping mad. It's a movie, folks, not a Holy Sacrament. If you want to have a direct experience of the Gospels, why not try reading the freaking Gospels? Don't pretend that a Hollywood blockbuster is an acceptable substitute for the owner's manual of your religion just because it's soaking in buckets of Jesus' (fake) blood and you're too lazy to read. Christianity at its best is literate and scholarly, unafraid to question even its most basic points of dogma in the search for a truth that is lasting and transcendent; at its worst, however, it is an undigested bolus of received superstition, authoritarian fiats, and logical contradictions that brooks no quarter for freethinkers or alternate points of view. The reactionary zeal that fuels The Passion and the conservatives it was made for comes straight from the black heart of that latter camp of Christ's so-called followers, the ones who would turn our nation into a theocratic state in order to save us from our wickedness. They're the ones who've decided to frame the post-9/11 world as a war of "Good" versus "Evil", as if gearing up for a final showdown with Antichrist himself at the Battle of Armageddon.

Maybe they're right - maybe it is time for a showdown. Only I would define "Good" as being freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of choice, freedom of religion, freedom from any form of physical or mental tyranny as embodied by the Taliban-like movements of intolerance that now dominate the discourse of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. "Good" are the mayors of San Francisco and New Palz, New York who have affirmed that civil rights - including the right to celebrate one's love in the public eye - are a more sacred institution than what fear and hate-mongering ideologues imagine marriage to be. "Good" is the struggle against barbarism, whether it appears in the mountainoius badlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan, or the lonely plains of Laramie, Wyoming. "Good" is the idea that justice is not merely the interest of the stronger, as that old Greek Thrasymachus averred, even if in fact it actually is (especially if it is, I say!). This is a "Good" that is worth fighting for. This is the "Good" I always imagined my country to be the embodiment of, until it was hijacked by fear and hatred three years ago. But you can't stay afraid forever, and in the long run love is much stronger a force in this world than hate.

Even Jesus knew that - the real one, not Braveheart.

The mission of Harvard vs. the mission of librarianship.

An interesting quandary: I got a call this morning from a man in New York City, who after years of negotiating for the rights to turn a famous old British movie into a musical theater production finally got the green light from the copyright holder, and was now in the thick of putting his magnum opus together. About nine or ten years ago he had secured a photocopy of the novel on which this movie had been based (via his sister, who I guess had either been a Harvard alum or otherwise had some access to our collection at that time), but when he picked it up again recently he realized that it was missing two pages that were naturally key to the whole story's plot. Seeing that this book was exceedingly rare - in fact, only a dozen copies of it exist here in North America, according to OCLC - he asked me if there was any way someone could fax him the missing pages from our copy in the stacks today.

I started to answer him like a desk worker would - well, you could always submit an Interlibrary Loan request through your public library on Monday and I'm sure they'd be happy to fax you those pages - but to wait for as long as a week or two just to get a hold of something I could pull and copy for him in the next five minutes just seemed absurd to me. Granted, the man didn't have a Harvard affiliation, but according to the rules he would have been able to get at this material eventually (albeit in a roundabout way), so why not help him out now? It's not like we have a line of patrons queueing up out the front door on a Saturday morning anyway. So I went on down to the stacks, fetched the book, copied the pages, and faxed them lickety-split. Now this fellow can get to his life's work - isn't that why we're here?

Considering that I was the supervisor at the time, I guess it really was my call to make, but I can see how other people might not have been so understanding or accomodating. I think my five years in Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery over at Countway - where these sorts of odd requests cropped up much more frequently - makes me naturally inclined to want to help. It's no skin off our back, and good for Harvard's name at the same time. I've also noticed that this is the sort of thing that, had I referred it on to a librarian, would have been resolved by him or her in exactly the same way that I resolved it myself. So why not steal a little glory? Those guys get it all the time!

Friday, February 27, 2004

The smell of Greek books

is often the smell of smoke. Since very little of Greece is committed as of yet to the concept of a smoke-free workplace, most of the publishing houses and booksellers there are still havens for the chain-smoking bibliophile. How do I know this? Let's just say I have a very sensitive nose. I can always tell if our Greek suppliers were puffing away while they packed up our orders because the books are positively smokey when they come out of the box here in the sterile, climate-controlled environment of Widener Library, where it's been over twenty years since smoking has been allowed indoors (still, the thought that it was ever permissable to smoke in a library is mind-boggling - I hear they even used to have ashtrays in the stacks! How the entire collection wasn't lost about twenty times over by now is a genuine head-scratcher). Sometimes you can even hazard a guess at what the publisher/bookseller was smoking at the time. For instance, yesterday the books from one of Athens' most venerable presses all smelled of pipe tobacco, a departure from the customary cigarette odor greeting my nostrils when I open up one of their shipments. The publishers in Cyprus however are in a class by themselves - the books are so smoke-saturated that you swear they packed up a small Cypriot and a carton of cigarettes along with the order! Ah, I'll miss this cataloging job...

Interesting find

at my Cataloging job down in the Modern Greek Division - a British map from 1837 of the Bay of Smyrna that includes the Erythraean Peninsula, the region in which my father-in-law's ancestral village is located (in present-day Turkey, then Greek Ionia). Thus far my wife and I had been stymied in our efforts to pinpoint it exactly, since it's so small it doesn't appear on most maps, but this 19th Century chart has a village with a name that looks as if it might be the "Turkified" version of the Greek name. A lead! At some point we intend to go and visit, so it's exciting to think there might in fact be someplace to visit, even if it's just the remains of a village now.

Back to the grind -

a little worse for the wear, but still standing. Despite the one-two gut punch from some anonymous virus, somehow I managed to get my American Library Association scholarship application out on time and fill out my FAFSA (with the help of my wife, a.k.a. the Goddess of Financial Aid), leaving only my application to Simmons, which itself is almost ready. After all of this furious essay-writing and recommendation-hunting, I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend shift. Here's to hoping...

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Like being beaten with a sack of oranges.

Activity here at The Jersey Exile has ground to a temporary halt on account of a wicked stomach virus, which I hear has been making the rounds. If you haven't gotten it, I hope you don't get it; and if you have, well, you pretty much know how I feel right about now - absolutely rotten. One of my students, who was wrestling with this bug last week, told me that it took her five days to shake it. Two days down, three days to go? Pass me the Immodium-D!

Monday, February 23, 2004

Ahmed Chalabi and the "Noble Lie":

(via the Washington Post)

Meanwhile, the Pentagon's favorite Iraqi exile, Ahmed Chalabi, now on Baghdad's governing council, has laid claim to the Nobel "Heroes in Error" Prize. Chalabi, accused of peddling phony tips about Iraq's weapons, shrugged off charges that he had deliberately misled U.S. intelligence, the London Telegraph reported.

"We are heroes in error," he told the Telegraph in an interview Wednesday in Baghdad.

"As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful. Our objective has been achieved. That tyrant Saddam is gone, and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important."

Or, in other words: Suckers!

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Another pet peeve,

this one not with the patrons but our Circulation System. One of the many statuses that an item can be is called "Waiting In Position", one which causes no shortage of headaches and slightly aggravated people when they find out that what they think it means is not in fact what it actually means. All "Waiting In Position" signifies is that the patron is currently in the queue for an item that is in process or on hold for someone else. What it does not mean is that the item is on our Hold Shelf waiting for that patron, even though that's sure as hell what "Waiting In Position" seems like it should mean if you're the patron and getting that as the status of a book or journal that you had requested. But alas, it is not so: as I explained to a confused grad student today, "You're waiting for it; it's not waiting for you."

Book report (or first chapter of a book report):

Homeric Questions by Gregory Nagy. Lordy lordy lordy, I hope the man lectures better than he writes, because this book hit me like a gallon jug of Nyquil (turns out it's worse than I thought - the book is actually derived from an address he gave to one of the major philological conventions; and yet I hear he's supposed to be a very popular teacher here at Harvard!), and I happen to be one of the subset within a subset who likes to read scholarly about Greek and moreover is terribly interested in Homer and the so-called "Homeric Question" concerning the composition/authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey. So what happened? In a nutshell I think it's because I'm coming at Homer from a completely different angle than he is. Nagy is less interested in Homer qua Homer and more interested in the process from which the epic form arose, thereby marginalizing the individual genuis of "Homer", whoever he actually was historically. Whereas I'm from the Great Man camp. I think not only is it possible that the Greek poetic forms were each the innovation of one particular man or woman - a belief which has fallen out of vogue somewhat these days among classicists - but that the analogy from American music styles practically makes it a certainty. If you read the history of bluegrass, for example, you will find a not the description of an impersonal force giving birth to this style but the inspiration of one person (Bill Monroe, the "Father of Bluegrass"). Follow this thought into the evolution of the form and you will find at every step the innovations that spawn new methods of playing - such as increasing the number of strings on a banjo - are the direct result of individuals, not processes, and moreoever are the very same innovations that lead to the birth of the various Greek poetic forms. These days we in Classics snigger when we read the old histories of Greek Literature that say that a man named Thespis single-handedly invented what we called tragedy (hence the term "Thespian"), but why? I'd like to believe that our civilization might just be the accumulation of the insights of geniuses over time, and not the aggregate of forces that arise from nowhere and yet are somehow responsible for nothing else than all of human achievement to date. Doesn't the rest of intellectual history bear out the former anyway? Where is electricity without Franklin, vaccination without Pasteur, the Model T without Ford? Must these things have been discovered anyway without the individuals who discovered them, or is it possible that without the right person at the right time, the opportunity is lost - perhaps even forever.

I have always intended to make an exhaustive study of the Greek poetry/American folk music parallel, which I find more and more compelling the closer I look at it, but right now my lack of time and expertise in bluegrass is getting in the way. More as I dig into this one!

Me likey:

Well-being : the foundations of hedonic psychology / Daniel Kahneman, Ed Diener, and Norbert Schwarz, editors.
New York : Russell Sage Foundation, c1999.
xii, 593 p. : ill. ; 27 cm.

The most annoying

of all patron behaviors are when they try to help - emphasis on the word try! The one that has become a kind of pet peeve of mine is when someone comes to the desk to check out a book and opens up the book to the end so as to expose the barcode and "Book Due" plate. This is not offensive in and of itself, unless the patron in question has more than one book, and has stacked the opened volumes one on top of the other. While this might seem like a very considerate thing to do for a time-strapped Circulation Desk worker, it's perhaps one of the worst things you can do to the binding of a book, and as much as we'd like to get you out of the library and on your way as quickly as possible, ensuring that the items we add to our collection remain useable for as long as possible must be the paramount concern. One patron takes this "shortcut" a step further and carries her pile of stacked opened books to the exit so that she doesn't have to take the books out of her bags again in order to show the doorman/woman a valid stamped due date. So now not only is she killing the books' spines, but risking a spill where she could damage the whole lot, either from the force of impact with the floor or by landing in dirt, mud, or water (you never know what pools up on the floor of a heavily-trafficked library). It makes me wince every time she comes to the desk, but thus far I haven't seen anyone call her on her behavior - myself included. I fear the backlash of a well-meaning patron being humiliated for his or her good deed, or even worse, the singular wrath of a self-important jackass in a hurry. Talk about being between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea!

Rats -

trying to polish off as much as I can of my American Library Association scholarship application (due March 1st - tick tock), but as the server for the online component of the form appears to be down right now - stupid online applications! - it looks like I'll have to work on my "Statement of Purpose", which needs to be no more than 300 words in length. No more than! 3000 words would be easier, I think. Well, I guess I can just dig up my Simmons essay and start cutting until I hit the magic number...

Back to the Stone Age.

For about half an hour today at the library we were without a functioning catalog, the website for which crashed sometime over the night. In a collection as vast as Widener's (and moreover, all of Harvard's), a trip to the catalog before heading to the stacks is not just a good idea, but absolutely essential. Even a subject that seems terribly small and specialized could have hundreds if not thousands of books under its heading here, so unless you know an individual book's call number the chances of finding it by browsing alone is next to nil.

Needless to say, this wrought total havoc upon our early-bird patrons and their hopes of jumping right into their day's research, who instead milled around the atrium nervously, waiting for the catalog to come back online. Of course they always could have gone up to the third floor, where our original card catalog - yes, the one with real index cards - now resides in semi-retirement. Although that catalog hasn't been updated in over ten years, it's still perfectly useful for anything acquired before the mid-90's, and many scholars here work almost exclusively with older materials anyway. So why not go to the cards? I remember using the card catalog during my very first visit to Widener. HOLLIS, the electronic version of the catalog, was already around and in use, but the librarians at that time were still faithfully maintaining the old-fashioned index as well.

Was it just an affectation on their part, or were the traditionally (though no longer) technophobic librarians actually hedging their bets, just in case the Silicon Revolution didn't pan out after all? Who knows. But eventually the digerati won out, and now we're just plain up a creak when HOLLIS decides to take the morning off. A pity!

Saturday, February 21, 2004


Too much politics today. Well, at least it's helping while away the hours. Here's an interesting news item, via Fark (by way of the Australian Sunday Telegraph): the British Sunday Express is reporting that U.S. Special Forces have Osama bin Laden "surrounded" somewhere in the remote badlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and are just waiting for the order from the President to swoop in and nab him. If true, this could mean a huge boost for the Bush Administration, which this week is registering less than 50% approval ratings in even the friendliest of polls. But supposing that it is true, why leak the story now? Is the Karl Rove spin machine so desperate for a win that it's willing to spring what many assumed would be the Bush Administration's "October Surprise" in mid-February? I know that many people in America (myself included) would consider the capture of OBL to be an absolute good, whenever it happened; but if Bushies jump the gun on this they just might derail their (re)election campaign for good, especially if the "War on Terror" ends in the minds of the American people and the daily suicide bombings and ambushes in Baghdad against our troops don't. It's hard to imagine that the Bush camp doesn't know this. Maybe that's why the order hasn't been given yet!

Starship Troopers and Dubya's "service" -

so I finished Heinlein's enjoyable little bit of pulp-lit fascism the other day, but only this morning did it strike me that aside the questionable assertion that our refusal to spank our children is leading to the downfall of American civilization (no, he really says that - a couple of times, too) notwithstanding, Starship Troopers makes an interesting point about citizenship and military service that is relevant to the recent controversy swirling around George Bush's record of service - or make that a lack of a record - in the National Guard. In Heinlein's futuristic utopia, only veterans of the armed forces have a right to vote, a.k.a. "The Franchise", the logic behind this being that political decisions inevitably boil down to questions of war and peace, and therefore should be made by those who are familiar with both. Now whereas Heinlein is trying to make this a statement about his flower-child hippie contemporaries and what he saw as their fatal obsession with nonviolence, Starship Troopers turns out to be a much better indictment of officers and commanders-in-chief who order soldiers to battle and their nation to war when they themselves have never seen a day of combat. While I don't agree at all that we should only look towards men or women with military service as our potential leaders, there is something to the idea that in a time of war (which everyone says we're in right now), someone who has actually stared Death in the face while serving his country during the Vietnam War might be a better choice for President than a playboy who couldn't even complete a cakewalk term of service at home.

Again, totally not what Heinlein was going for, but that's the fun of literary criticism!

An apologia for Ralph Nader.

Lefty partisans have reacted with predictable scorn, disgust, and rage at this week's almost-announcement by Ralph Nader that he will in fact run for President again (not as the designated candidate for the Green Party but as an Independent). I'm no big fan of Nader's, despite the fact that I'm a registered Green, but any Democrat who honestly thinks that Ralph lost the election for us in 2000 is deluding him or herself, and had better snap out of it for the upcoming campaign season. The Dems lost the White House four years ago for two reasons, and two reasons alone: one, Al Gore's inexplicable decision not to run on his boss' record and his outright refusal to let Clinton campaign for him in several hotly-contested states; and two, the absolute failure of the Democratic Party to stand behind their man when it became clear that the Republicans were attempting nothing less than a coup d'etat down in Florida. That's it, folks - you can blame the Naderites all you want, but had Gore run as the continuation of the Clinton Era and not some half-hearted rejection of it, the Boy Who Would Be President would not be President right now. If the Dems had had the guts to fight the Supreme Court's illegal intervention in the sovereign business of a State, we wouldn't be currently wringing our hands over everything else the Bushies have done in direct contravention of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the rule of international law. Blaming Ralph Nader may feel good, but it accomplishes nothing, and may even hurt the Left if it blinds us to faults that we must address head-on in order to be able to win this upcoming November.

But even if for the sake of argument we assume that Nader did cost the Dems the White House in 2000, didn't he do us a tremendous favor? Now the whole country can see the Far Right for what is actually is - arrogant, imperial, and full of contempt for the average American, who doesn't want to be told what to do in matters that are none of the government's damned business (be it freedom of speech, movement, assembly, or the right to choose one's spouse), who doesn't want his of her children and grandchildren to get stuck with the bill for lunatic budgets that help no one but Halliburton's shareholders, who doesn't want to go die in some damned fool war that was waged on a rallying cry of falsehoods, who doesn't want to live in fear for the rest of our lives. The conservative think tanks are grumbling, NASCAR Nation is grumbling - didn't hear about the thousands upon thousands of race fans that greeted their "beloved" President with the one-finger salute when he dropped in on the Daytona 500 the other weekends? Well, of course you didn't! - and even the military, once an impregnable GOP stronghold that could make "ha-ha" veiled death threats towards our last C-in-C with impunity, is thinking twice about their unequivocal support for an idiot who treats his soldiers no better than Texas death row inmates and dishonors anyone who's ever served in the armed forces with his bullshit excuses about his conduct during the Vietnam War. All of this would never have come out into the harsh light of day, had Ralph not "thrown" the election for us.

Maybe we should thank him for proving the exact opposite of what he has time and time again asserted: that there is no appreciable difference between Red and Blue, Republican and Democrat, Conservative and Liberal. Well, now we know. What we choose to do with this hard-won knowledge is up to us. So thanks, Ralph! We owe you one.

Wake-up call.

It's 9 a.m. - do you know where your library books are?


What a long day. I don't know why I'm still sitting here at my laptop, typing away, when by all accounts I should be asleep in bed. Perhaps it's the fact that this afternoon I handed in my Bryant Fellowship application and as a result am stuck in a curious mixture of being thrilled as all Hell I finally applied for this thing after year after year of saying I would (but never did) and feeling all wound up with anxiety about whether or not I'll get it, now that I've gone and submitted my proposal. But better to have made the attempt, win or lose, than never to have tried at all. Right? Well I find out in two weeks - earlier than I had expected, but still two weeks too long as far as I'm concerned...

Okay. Now it's bed time. More from the Circ Desk tomorrow morning - err, later today!


the post below into my new blog, Full Metal Hoplite, which will be devoted exclusively to the study of Greek. The general idea is not to spare you, the Jersey Exile regular, from excruciatingly long and technical posts about linguistics and philology, but instead to spare the Greek language professional from tirades about politics, pictures of my daughter, and odes in praise of Skee-Ball and pork roll (however glorious it may be). Although I don't necessarily agree with the assertion that a blog must be narrowly focused to be considered "useful", I do see the merit of presenting my more scholarly entires all in one place, even if I do continue to post them here first along as part of the general verbal clutter that is the Jersey Exile.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Speaking of languages:

I read today that a fellow Hellenist with apparently way too much time on his hands has translated Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (a.k.a. Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, the trans-Atlantic name change due to a publishing industry which assumes that the average reader in the U.S. is slightly more cerebral than a sea sponge and might not buy a book with the word "philosopher" in its title, no matter how popular it was in Great Britain) into Ancient Greek. Retired Classic teacher Andrew Wilson was commissioned two years ago by the publishing house Bloomsbury to render the beloved children's bestseller/doorstop into the Greek of circa 400 B.C., and at last he has delivered the goods.

I must say I have mixed feelings about such a feat. I'm lukewarm on the whole Harry Potter phenomenon - I've never read any of J. K. Rowling's books, perhaps out of a combination of jealousy of her success and fear that I'd become as addicted to them as the next person on the subway, but mostly because her whimsical sort of fantasy isn't quite my cup of tea. I was interested however to see that Wilson turned to 19th Century katharevousa Greek as a model for translating words like "computer" and "automobile".

The katharevousa or purifying dialect arose as an attempt to rid contemporary spoken Greek of the myriad loan words that had crept in over the centuries from other languages such as Latin, Turkish, and the Western European tongues, while at the same time seeking to revive the features of classical Attic Greek grammar that the modern demotike was believed to have lapsed from terribly. Technically speaking, however, katharevousa was not Ancient Greek, but an archaizing form of Modern Greek; whereas before that the so-called "Atticists" of Late Antiquity and the Byzantine Empire endeavored to emulate the language of Plato, Isocrates, and Lysias down to the very details.

This made the problem of neologisms very... well... problematic, as the process of coining compound words willy-nilly was not an Attic phenomenon, but a feature of later Ancient Greek (to be fair, Attic Greek does allow for compounds, but they mostly exist in the form of verbs with prepositional prefixes, and even then the rules for forming these compounds were much more rigid than would be the case with later Greek). In lieu of these compounds, Atticists were forced to resort to all manners of circumlocution in order to express concepts or describe items that Greek didn't have the equivalent for circa 400 B.C.

The usual response of a Byzantine author to this challenge was to pick the closest equivalent Attic word that was attested in the surviving literature, a practice which has confused many an amateur medievalist over the years. One example was referring to any of the contemporary races living in the Black Sea region as "Scythians", never mind that there was neither a cultural nor a genetic link between those ancient inhabitants and the latter-day inheritors of their territory; another is an instance where Michael Psellos uses a Classical term for a type of weapon in place of the 11th Century word for wooden axe, leading astray a generation of military historians and historical recreationists alike.

So does this make Wilson's Areios Poter "Ancient Greek", as he claims, or a kind of katharevousa instead? The only way to tell one would be to read the book - a daunting prospect, to say the least. Just to satisfy my curiosity I might want to take a peek at it, but I'd much rather be reading an actual Ancient Greek author than attempting to pick my way through a modern Englishman's attempt at Atticism. But that's just me.

Languages I wish I knew,

in no particular order of importance:


Of course this list could go on until I'd listed all of the known languages in the world, but I thought I'd jot down a wish list of the first baker's dozen. A couple of them are oldies but goodies in my book - for instance, Dutch, a language I've been meaning to learn since I was in high school. Somehow I got it into my head that when I went to college I would be able to learn a new language every year, and for some reason that now eludes me I had chosen Dutch as the first target on my linguistic hit-list. Was it because that my favorite professor at M.I.T. (whom I'd met at a function geared for pre-frosh) was Walter Lewin, a native Dutch speaker? Or was it the fact that I'd been fascinated by the Netherlands when I was there for four to five short days as part of a high musical musical touring group? There was something about all those Dutch informational signs (written in all-lowercase letters) in the Amsterdam airport that made me so curious about a language with so many "oo" and "j" sounds in it, I just had to know more about it.

Well Dutch didn't quite pan out as I'd planned. My first year at M.I.T. was a real humdinger, although I did manage to take a wintercession crash course in Esperanto, none of which I remember. The year after that I actually learned Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec people which is still spoken today as a first language by over a million people in Mexico; and the year after I attempted to learn ancient Greek for the first time at the Harvard Extension School in a course in Homeric Greek, the text for which - Clyde Pharr's Homeric Greek - I now use at The Greek Institute. After that there was a bit of a lull as I enjoyed the carefree life of an acapella rock star and NC-17 skit writer, but then I was right back in the thick of things with the Latin/Greek Institute's Intensive Program in Ancient Greek - my second pass at the language, this time successful. That was 1995.

5 years / 3 languages = a new language every 1.66 years. Okay, not bad.

It's at this point, however, that the master plan takes a serious southward tack. Although I did learn Middle Egyptian and the bare rudiments of Akkadian during my years at B.U., that's about it until I started to try and learn Modern Greek by osmosis starting in 1998 or so (a process which is sadly still ongoing); and then there are no new languages at all after that. Granted, during this last period I have refocused my efforts on Greek, in its Ancient, Medieval, and Modern incarnations, but that's it.

So now it's 14 years / 6 languages = a new language every 2.33 years. Not good. I need to take an intensive summer course or two to get myself back in the game! Until then I'll see what I can do about making time for those "Introduction to Sanskrit" books I have gathering dust on my dining room bookshelf. So far all they've been good for is pressing flowers, and there are precious little of those during a the long New England winter...

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Yankees versus Yankee Thrift.

Sports Illustrated is reporting today that in the wake of "losing" A-Rod to the Bronx Bombers, Red Sox co-owner John Henry is now in favor of a salary cap for Major League Baseball:

Henry, whose team failed to obtain Rodriguez from Texas in December, said in an e-mail response to reporters Wednesday that he is changing his mind on whether the sport needs a salary cap "to deal with a team that has gone so insanely far beyond the resources of all the other teams."

Poor John Henry. Poor Larry Lucchino. Poor Tom Werner. Though none of them are native New Englanders, it didn't take long for them to be infected with that wicked malady known as "Yankee Thrift", the pathological inability of a native of these parts to spend so much as an extra penny unless someone's life is at stake (and even then it's like pulling teeth). Yankee Thrift is what causes otherwise reasonable people to drive sixty miles out of their way to buy cheap gasoline. Yankee Thrift is why Harvard University's endowment is two times larger than that of the next school on the list. Yankee Thrift is why thousands of people living in Massachusetts register their cars in New Hampshire to avoid paying auto insurance. Hell, Yankee Thrift is why New Hampshire - "Life (Tax) Free or Die" - even exists.

And it's Yankee Thrift that's keeping the Red Sox down, my friends. As much as I hate George Steinbrenner, insinuating that he's magically able to spend more money than any other team in the Majors is asinine. These owners are millionaires! All of them. And the Sox are now owned by not just one, not just two, not even just three enormously wealthy individuals, but practically the whole Fortune 500. Yet somehow we can't compete with one well-heeled megalomaniac? Please. If the Lucchino/Werner/Trilateral Commission fails to land a marquee player, it has nothing to do with Steinbrenner being evil and everything to do with them being cheap. The Red Sox were willing to do everything in order to secure the A-Rod deal - including alienate Nomar Garciaparra, a truly honorable ballplayer who did not deserve the shit sandwich served to him over the winter break by the jokers now running the team - except make out the blank check.

But that's where it counts, gentlemen. You have the most expensive tickets in the league, charge strip club prices for your beer, and require a family of four to take out a second mortgage just to keep from starving while in the park - all of which we as Red Sox Nation do without hesitation, mind you, albeit at times with a grumble - but when it comes time for you to dig deep in order to keep us competitive with the Evil Empire you stare at your feet, blame Big Stein or Brian Cashman, and start hollering for salary caps? At least real New Englanders would level with you and tell you straight to your face that they're not spending any more money because they're a bunch of cheap bastards. Yankee Thrift may not be pretty to look at, but there's a kind of honest pride in it, worthy of some admiration, if not wholehearted approval. Whereas watching John Henry and his multimillionaire Baseball Owner Fantasy Camp cry poor is just plain pathetic.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Why I love Bookslut:

"Like many pseudo-literate young people born during the late 20th century, Ulysses currently plays a major support role in the awkward architecture of my to-be-read pile, with a bookmark embedded at page 157. So I can't speak with complete authority on Conn's faithfulness to the original romp around Dublin (although I'm fairly certain there isn't an extended lecture in screenwriting on page 239), but the scent of remake, rather than inspiration, soaks every page."

This kicks the living crap out of the New York Times Review of Books!


this is just wicked cool -

Virgil. : Imtheachta Aeniasa = The Irish Aeneid : being a translation made before A.D. 1400, of the XII books of Vergil's Aeneid into Gaelic / the Irish text, with translation into English, introduction, vocabulary, and notes by George Calder.

I had no idea that the Aeneid had been translated into Gaelic; nor had the person who was checking out the book until she'd stumbled upon it in the stacks. How cool is that? The patron also mentioned that there's a Gaelic retelling of the Garden of Eden story from about the same time in which Eve is portrayed much more sympathetically than in the standard versions of the tale, heroically even. Gotta love those Celts!


Excuse the colorful language, but that's how my brother would describe the cold outside today, and he has two college degrees more than I do (one of them in Linguistics, even). After being teased by a few days of temperatures that were downright Spring-like - silly New Englander, you know all too well that there are only two seasons up in your neck of the woods: Winter, which lasts nine months; and Summer, which lasts the other three if you're lucky! - we're right back into the deep freeze again, where we'll stay for at least until mid-week. Nutsack cold. That's even better than my sister-in-law's "mad brick"!

Go fly a kite.

Or maybe not:

SEVEN people were killed and more than 100 injured in Pakistan during the annual kite flying festival marking the arrival of spring, officials said today.

An 18-month-old girl's throat was cut by a stray kite string while she was travelling with her parents on a motorbike, witnesses said, adding that she died on the spot.

Three people were electrocuted when metal wires they were using to fly or catch stray kites fell on live electric lines, and two people fell from roofs, hospital officials said.

A 12-year-old boy died while trying to catch a stray kite when he was hit by a car on a main road, police said.

More than 100 people had been reported injured since last night in various kite-related accidents, medical workers said. Officials at Lahore's Mayo Hospital said 42 children and 60 adults had been treated for injuries.

"One child was injured by a stray bullet," deputy medical superintendent Dr Saqib Shafi told AFP.

Though firing guns is banned, people celebrate the spring festival by firing into the air, often causing casualties.

Relatives of people killed or injured in kite flying accidents held a demonstration in Lahore last year urging the government to maintain its ban on selling and flying kites.

More than 20 people have been killed in kite flying accidents in Lahore since last year's spring festival.

Casualties and frequent power outages caused by metal wires falling over power lines forced the government to ban the sale of kites and metal wire, but those restrictions were lifted this month to celebrate the festival, officials said.

Argh -

I still can't believe I forgot the ink!


about the neglect today, but I assure you it's for a good cause. I am applying for a Bryant Fellowship here in the Harvard Library system in order to round up some funding to put together a biography of E. A. Sophocles, 19th Century scholar of Greek and my patron saint. Every year Harvard gives out a few thousand dollars in grant money to support library and bibliographic research undertaken independently by its employees, and although year after year I've promised myself I'd apply, it's only this year that I'm finally doing it - part of that New Year's resolution not to sit on my hands where my scholarly projects are concerned, I guess. I've finished with a synposis of my project and an itemized budget (which includes a trip to Sophocles' home village in Thessaly!), so now all I need to do is get my letters of recommendation and I'm ready to go. Wish me luck...

Ich bin ein Retard.

So I've been searching high and low for papyrus here in Harvard Square. Ever since my stint as a scribe this past Monday and Tuesday a certain kind of mania has taken possession me to learn everything I can about the Ancient Greek calligraphy and the art of writing on papyrus, which I guess I found a little more addictive an experience than I had originally imagined. As it turns out, the first place I'd checked - Bob Slate Stationery, right across the street from Widener Library - did in fact have papyrus, although fool that I was I didn't ask anyone when I went poking around during the week so I didn't find out where they keep it stashed. Well this time I asked, and not only did I clean the store out of their stock but I also got some good advice on what kind of dip pens to use in lieu of a stylus (note to anyone shopping for pen and/or paper in the Harvard Square area: go to Bob Slate. Not only do they have just about everything you could possibly imagine, but the staff their is extremely friendly and knowledgeable). Happy as a clam, I waltz out the door with my papyrus and stylus just as the store closes, only to realize that in my haste I had forgotten to purchase ink! How stupid can I be?

Well, at least India ink is fairly easy to track down. Unlike papyrus - unless, of course, you ask.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Book report:

Foundation's Edge by Isaac Asimov, the fourth (and not final) installment of the so-called "Foundation Trilogy". Written in 1982 - about three decades after the publication of Second Foundation, the original end to the trilogy - Foundation's Edge is a cautionary tale about not letting a publisher talk you into writing an unnecessary sequel to an otherwise successful book or series. It starts out well enough, with the events of the previous novel a century in the past and the Galaxy seemingly on the track to peace, love, and happiness thanks to psychohistorian Hari Seldon and his thousand-year Plan to transition the human race from the end of their beloved Galactic Empire to a Second one, avoiding the three hundred millennia of chaos and barbarism that would have ensued without Seldon's help. Things are going well for the Foundation and its ever-expanding sphere of influence - too well, as it turns out, prompting a quest to see if the secretive mentalists of the Second Foundation are still attempting to control history despite their presumed destruction at the end of the last book.

Okay, so far so good. One of the things I found odd about the Seldon Plan is that we only get to see the first few centuries of it in the original trilogy, whereas in Foundation's Edge we begin at the halfway point between the First and Second Empires. Even better. Unfortunately the direction that the novel takes from here ultimately undermines what that has gone before by making everyone in the Galaxy- not only even the puppetmaster psychics of the Second Foundation but the ones pulling their strings as well are under his/her/its control - a puppet of a mysterious force that Asimov gamely refuses to reveal at the end of the book, leaving the door open for an unnecessary sequel to this unnecessary sequel.

The funny thing is that I remember loving this book when I read it as a kid. I also happily devoured the novels that would follow this initial sequel - Foundation and Earth, Prelude to Foundation, and Forward the Foundation. The latter two of these novels are mildly interesting, as they revisit the details of Hari Seldon's life as a psychohistorian, but as the revelations made in Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth tend to minimize the importance of Seldon in the grand scheme of things, they too end up falling flat. What a shame! I think this time around, I will call it quits with Foundation's Edge, which as it turns out is quite aptly named, though not for reasons Asimov would be pleased with: in this book, you can actually pinpoint the very page number where the Good Doctor sails right off the edge of a carefully and lovingly constructed universe and into the abyss of cliched mediocrity.

Well now I'm reading Robert Heinlein's unabashed ode to fascism, Starship Troopers. Somehow when as I was working through the Heinlein hit parade in my youth I missed this one, so I found a nice old dog-eared copy in the Widener stacks. What's surprising is how much I'm enjoying it so far, but I guess even a peacenik like me can appreciate a good cathartic shoot-'em-up every once in a while. More as I get deeper into the book...


It's been an uphill slog on "Confessions", not through a lack of inspiration but due to the scarcity of writing time (albeit for good reasons, such this past week's documentary shoot!), but I continue to plug away when possible. The current chapter finally has a definite form to it, and as I work at it I'm becoming more and more aware of the end of the novel, something that not too long ago I was only dreaming about. I wouldn't dare hazard a guess at the date when I'll be done with the first draft, but for the first time it's definitely a question of when and no longer if.

Meanwhile, the advent of Spring Training is inspiring me to do the final edit of "Bambino" and see if I can't find someone to publish it. What better way to exorcise the ghost of Babe Ruth than a short story about exorcizing the ghost of Babe Ruth?
Fans of Joss Whedon's Angel were saddened to learn yesterday that the WB has indicated that it will not be picking up the show, now in its fifth year, for a sixth season. A spinoff from the cult favorite Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel was the story of a vampire who had been cursed with a soul by Gypsies for his evil deeds, trying to find redemption helping the hopeless on the streets of Los Angeles (where else?). Dark, moody, and broody, the show was never merely a retread of Buffy, but a noirish exploration of good, evil, and everything in between with complicated plot arcs and dialogue you could eat with a fork. No wonder network executives couldn't stand it! This fifth season has been a kind of meta-commentary on Joss' problems finding his place in the world of prime time: having just rid the Earth of an all-powerful demon, Angel and his crew are presented with the Devil's bargain of selling their souls to nameless infernal powers (a.k.a., the "Senior Partners" of Wolfram and Hart, an L.A. law firm that actually is pure evil) for the sake of doing greater good. Or at least that's what they told themselves at the time. The dramatic change in venue was done at the behest of the WB, who made the show's continuation beyond last year's season finale contingent upon making the series more action-oriented and accessible to the non-fanatic viewer, but it probably didn't take the WB too long to figure out that the joke was on them - Joss Whedon may have turned Angel on its head in a superficial sense, but when the smoke cleared and the dust settled the show was more complicated than ever as it tried to wrestle with the question of whether it's possible to be a champion and a sellout at the same time.

Well at least the "Senior Partners" over at the WB gave Joss and Co. enough lead time to make this season's finale an appropriate series finale, which of course begs the ultimate question: will Sarah Michelle Gellar return in the Spring to reprise her role as Buffy? After all, both Angel and Spike - the other vampire with a soul (it's a long story) - were Buffy's beaus at one time or another. And with everything coming to an end, it's only appropriate that one of them should be allowed to ride off into the sunset with the Slayer of Sunnydale, a la Carol Hathaway running off to be with Dr. Ross and his fabulous Pacific Northwest houseboat on E.R. Smart money would be on Angel eventually reuniting with the Buffster, despite the fact that when we last saw her she was declaring her undying love for Spike. After all, Angel is the title character, and he's suffered enough; whereas Spike's adventures as a hero are only just beginning. You can raise a lot more hell when you're single, anyway!

The madness begins -

6 days until Red Sox pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training at City of Palms Park in Florida. Will this be the year that our beloved team will go all the way and "reverse the curse"? One can only hope! Of course it would be nice to find out whether the brain trust on Yawkey Way will be keeping veteran shortstop Nomar Garciaparra around for the upcoming season, after having humiliated him by fishing around for a trade (in a complicated deal that would have landed Alex Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers as his replacement) while he was on his honeymoon with soccer phenom Mia Hamm. Although I have nothing against A-Rod, I was aghast at the new owners' treatment of a player who has given so much not only to the team and the fans but the community as well - it was as if the Lucchino-Henry-Trilateral Commission had taken a page right out of Dan Duquette and John Harrington's playbook for getting rid of star players, such as Mo Vaughn, who locked horns with Upper Management back in 1998 only to find himself playing for the Angels the following season.

I understand that A-Rod has better numbers than Nomar, who hasn't quite hit as well since undergoing wrist surgery a couple of years back, but what the owners and the win-at-all-costs fans have to understand is that sometimes it takes more than just good numbers to build a winning offense. Now this isn't a rah-rah celebration of teamwork, but a simple acknowledgement that despite Garciaparra's "subpar" batting average of .301, the Red Sox managed to send to the plate one of the most dangerous assemblages of hitters in baseball history. Why on Earth would anyone want monkey with the basic ingredients of this potent mix? And yet our owners were so convinced that A-Rod (and only A-Rod) could deliver us from evil that they were willing not only to lose Garciaparra but to trade away Manny Ramirez - a player whose antics I cannot stand, but whose bat is an undeniable force in the Red Sox lineup - as well? How jettisoning two All-Star hitters for only one in return makes any sense at all is a mystery for the ages, but let's not forget that the people calling the shots for Boston are the same Einsteins who fired the last coach (Grady Little) for getting their team further into the 2003 postseason than anyone else in decades.

Still, hope springs eternal, especially in Florida. Maybe I should go buy Andriana a toddler-sized Nomar Garciaparra jersey for good luck!

In other news,

the European Space Agency's Mars Express probe has been sending back some stunning pictures of the Red Planet, but nothing like its images of Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the Solar System (towering more than 10 miles above Martian "sea level", twice the size of Mount Everest):

This is a view from the top of the volcano, its so-called "caldera", which is formed when the hollow magma chamber beneath the mountaintop collapses. The cliffs you are looking at are over a mile high! I can't imagine what it would be like to hike up the slopes of this monster. Sure, you'd need a bottle of oxygen or two and a pressure suit, but I'll bet that fifty years from now climbing Olympus Mons will have replaced going up Everest or skiing in Antarctica (or even golfing on the Moon) as the ultimate in extreme outdoorsmanship. So I'd had better try to stay in shape!

Flowers? Candy? Wedding license?

The mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, has given the ultimate Valentine's Day present to 665 happy gay and lesbian couples thus far by issuing them marriage licenses and allowing them to tie the knot at City Hall yesterday. Not only will there be more weddings today - city officials announced that they would stay open over the Presidents' Day holiday to accomodate the rush not only of San Franciscans but Californians and Americans at-large who are coming to tie the knot this weekend - but a motion by a conservative group to legally halt the marriage marathon was rejected by a judge, although the "family values" crowd will have an opportunity to present their case for gratuitous bigotry when the courts open again on Tuesday.

That anyone would want to spend the rest of his or her life with someone else is a thing that we all should celebrate in a nation where the divorce rate is over fifty percent. Love that is lasting and true is one of those things that doesn't come around all too often, so when it does, who the Hell are we to question the nature or morality of that love, as long as it is between two consenting adults?

So congratulations I say, and Happy Valentine's Day. I hope that the Californians don't make fools out of themselves trying to undo what's already been done, and that here in Massachusetts good sense will continue to prevail and the SJC's ruling will be allowed to stand so that P-Town City Hall will finally be able to start handing out those marriage licenses to couples who have waited far too long for what we heteros unthinkingly enjoy as a basic civil right (some have waited all their lives for this moment). So what if it isn't popular? Mixed-race marriage was considered just as abominable as gay marriage once upon a time, and truth be told there are still a lot of people out there who are uncomfortable with the idea of marrying outside of "your own kind". But the law isn't supposed to be a security blanket designed to keep us at arm's length from a world that fails to conform to our preexisting biases. Mixed-race marriage bans were struck down, state-by-state, regardless of how the majority felt about them, because although in our democracy the majority may rule, the minority nevertheless enjoys certain inalienable rights that cannot be abrogated by a simple show of hands.

This of course is true for love as it is for every other aspect of life. It is perhaps not a coincidence that this weekend we celebrate both love and country on Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day. At this moment we are embroiled in a struggle for America's soul with forces who would throw the past two centuries of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness out the window on account of fear. Fear of terrorism, fear of same-sex marriage, fear of the unknown. We're better than that as a country, though, and I think slowly but inexorably the American people are beginning to realize that living in fear is not really living at all. Only time will tell.

Waking up is hard to do.

This is what I get for taking a Saturday off! It's not that a weekend schedule is undoable per se, but it's a hell of a lot easier if you get yourself into a groove. Right now I'm swigging a large French Roast from Au Bon Pain trying as hard as I can to get myself moving this morning, though I wish I had stopped at Tosci's for my Dancing goats, as dark as it is the ABP coffee is going down like water right about now. Urgh.

Friday, February 13, 2004

If the first

time is tragedy, and the second farce, does that make the third time an absolute joke? Once more Massachusetts lawmakers attempted to mangle our State constitution in order to protect themselves from the "Gay Menace" yesterday during a special Constitutional Convention (to use these words in connection with a movement seeking to deny a group of citizens their fundamental rights and not ensure them just feels wrong); and once more they failed, making it three swings and three misses for those whacky "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" folks who feel so uncomfortable about the issue of gay marriage that they feel the need to rain on everyone's parade.

I think the conservatives have miscalculated horribly on this issue. From the record of the past three votes at the Constitutional Convention, it would appear that the substantial middle ground that the anti-gay marriage wing just assumed would swing their way when push came to shove are showing a remarkable amount of conscience. The GOP thought they were passing a poison pill to the Dems, but I think a lot of Mass lawmakers - especially the younger ones - realize that if there's any poison in this issue, it's going to hit anyone who goes on the record looking like a bigot in a time-release fashion a few years down the road.

For all of their initial bluster, it appears as if the "family values" crowd may have already shot their bolt. They couldn't even muster enough protestors for the full three days this hooplah has been going on for down around the State House (they had a strong showing on Day One, but by Day Three it was almost all pro-gay marriage activists), let alone get a proposed amendment passed. Time is on the side of gay marriage. The more reasonable people think about this issue, the more they eventually come to the conclusion that even if they're uncomfortable with homosexuality, it's none of their damned business. Quite frankly I was surprised at how many of the local morning radio DJ's were ridiculing the anti-gay protestors, rather than the other way around.

Maybe it's the fact that Boston has gotten black eye after black eye for fighting on the wrong side of these issues historically, but something is keeping the yahoos in check out here in New England on this one, and so far I'm proud of the Legislature for keeping the long view in mind here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Well I had

my big Hollywood moment yesterday, after waiting around for 12 hours on Monday - half that time in costume - only to be told they weren't going to make it to my scene! Looks like a decent enough production, as far as documentaries go. The studio, which is out in Canton (High Output Studios), have actually done a little bit of work for practically every movie or documentary that's shot in New England, so that was kind of cool. I got to see a lot of the principal actors, such as Agamemnon, Menelaus, Odysseus, and the other Greeks; Iphigenia and Clytemnestra were there, too. Unfortunately there was no Paris or Helen, as they were slated to come in later on during the week, but I did of course get to hang out with Homer, who was being played by a English professor who is an actual epic poet and a pretty decent ad hoc storyteller as well. The soldiers were all being played by the members of a local kickboxing club, which meant not only did they look the part of a bunch of muscular and crude Greeks on crusade, but they acted it as well. I guess when you put a bunch of guys in skirts with no underwear you're just asking for it! As for my part, I think I did well, although writing on papyrus with a reed stylus and what I think was black tempera paint in a hand that would look good for the camera was definitely a challenge. At first I had set out to write the Greek with a slow and deliberate block script, but I guess it looked a little too "chiselled" for the director, who's all for authenticity as long as it doesn't mess up the shot. So I improvised, finally settling upon a pared-down version of my regular Ancient Greek handwriting, although I shunned word-breaks, punctuation, and mixing capital and lowercase letters, as these were all features that didn't come into existence until the Byzantine period. The director was pleased with what he got, although I know I'm going to be mortified when I see it again! But that's show business, I guess...

Oh, yeah, and Agamemnon had a mullet. It was his own mullet, not the creation of the hair and make-up department, which only makes it worse insofar as they cast this guy as Agamemnon knowing full well that he had a mullet. I wonder what the word for "mullet" was in Homeric Greek?

So the other big thing I did was make a map, an activity which kept my occupied for about three of the twelve hours I was hanging around the set on Monday. Needless to say, I had no idea that I'd be tapped as the resident cartographer until the Art Director came charging into the waiting room for the actors to find me (he actually did this quite a few times during the day, sometimes to consult me on a detail or two for the scenes they were setting up, but most of the time just to shoot to breeze and ask me Classics-related questions) and asked me if I could draw. I said no, not really, at which point he proceeded to give me an extra animal hide they had on the set, a stick of charcoal, and a photocopy of the Eastern Mediterranean and told me to have at it. The funny thing is that despite my protestations to the contrary, I do actually have some artistic talent, at least when it comes to cartography - I think it's a result of all of those years as a Dungeon Master, obsessively drawing map after map of imaginary cities, nations, and continents. What I came up with actually won some compliments not only from the director, but various onlookers as they watched me work as I colored it using some unused face paint and foundation from the make-up artist's kit (it was, after all, a rabbit skin I was painting!).

Anyhow, I'm about to finish up with the map when one of the production assistants comes out and says they need it for the next scene with King Mullet and the Naked Upskirt Posse, so how about I go ahead and put some place names on it in Greek? Okay, I say, not catching myself in time. So I mark up Athena, Sparta, Mycenae, and Troy with their Ancient Greek names and they take it out to the set, only to have it come back with the Art Director (who originally had given the order to put the place names on it), telling me that the director can't use it. Why? Because the Greeks weren't writing yet, not in the Greek alphabet at least! Of course I knew this, but in the confusion of just doing what I was asked I'd let it slip by. If there was going to be any writing on the map whatsoever, it should have been in Linear B, the reference book for which I just happened to have on me, so I went about trying to erase the Greek names and replace them with their equivalents in the more ancient syllabary. Who knows if they actually ended up using the map or not. Maybe I can ask for it as a souvenir when they're all done with the shooting.

So that's my story for now. Since they were running behind overall, the director decided that he'd have to shoot my writing out passages of the Gospels for his Jesus documentary another time, maybe in a week or so- more to report then, I'm sure. I wonder if Jesus will be sporting a mullet, as well...

Sunday, February 08, 2004

One more

for the library post trifecta this evening - it occurs to me that it would confer a distinct advantage to be a left-handed librarian in the Arabic-speaking (or Hebrew-speaking, or any language whose written representation runs right to left and not left to right), as all the stamping you'd do would be on the left end of the book, not the right as it is with English and the languages of the West.

More library stuff,

though probably less fascinating to Googledom at large: I'm putting together my application for library school and thought I might share my Statement of Intent (1406 words). Here it comes - read on at your own peril!

I have worked in academic libraries for all of my adult life, but my love for the institution of the library began many years before. As my town was too small to afford a public library of its own and my elementary school library's collection was woefully narrow in scope, the weekly arrival of the community bookmobile was something akin to a religious experience for me - a kid who grew up in a "one bookshelf" home. I remember the wonder and amazement I felt at being surrounded by books and the joy at being able to borrow whatever I pleased as I browsed through the titles. Although that bookmobile couldn't have had more than a few hundred monographs crammed onto its shelves, at the time it seemed like the sum total of the world's knowledge. I never left without as many books as I could carry!

The idea of repositories of books that are maintained not for profit but for the betterment of humanity is still one that gives me a thrill; the more I’ve realized how rare and beautiful libraries are, the more I've wanted to learn everything there is to know about them, inside and out. My first library job was at the Dewey Library at M.I.T., where I had begun my undergraduate education. Even though I had already considered myself a bibliophile who knew his way around in a library environment, I didn't realized how much I was under-utilizing the library system until I found myself on the other side of the desk. Starting out as the serials shelving supervisor, I came to learn Dewey's periodical collection inside and out. When after that I was promoted to the Circulation Desk, I found out quickly that all manners of questions were fair game for the front line of a library – not just the policies and procedures of circulation but detailed reference queries as well, especially on the evenings and weekends, when I worked. Sometimes I think I learned more in the three years that I worked at Dewey than I had in the three years before as an M.I.T. undergraduate, as I was routinely expected to know how to find and access information that was well beyond my major field of concentration. The rewards were more satisfying as well – not a letter grade or a nod from a professor (if that), but heartfelt thanks from desperate library patrons who would have otherwise gone without the knowledge they were looking for.

After returning to college in order to complete my Bachelor's degree in Ancient Greek and Latin, I ended up working at the Countway Library of Medicine in the office of Interlibrary Loan and Document Delivery, and once more a whole new aspect of library operations opened up to me. This time not only did I have a keener appreciation and better understanding of academic libraries, but I also found a mentor in the form of my supervisor. A recent graduate of Simmons College herself, she saw in me the love of librarianship and not only potential but enthusiasm for library science, and did her best to nurture it. It was at the Countway that I first began to tackle problems of policy and procedure as an employee trusted with the authority to optimize my own day-to-day workflow and to “own” my job in a way that I hadn’t before. This was a monumental change for me – no longer content simply to do what was expected of me, I wanted to know why we did things the way we did in the I.L.L. office and the library as a whole. Feeling like I had a personal interest in the well-being of the Countway, I didn't hesitate to raise my voice and make my opinions known when decisions were made that had an effect on what I thought our library's mission was. Sometimes I found myself in direct conflict with the decisions that were made, but never did I let that deter me from ensuring that my patrons received the best possible service and assistance in obtaining the information they sought.

I left the Countway last summer to take advantage of a rare opportunity - a cataloging job had opened up in the Modern Greek Division at Widener Library, on the Harvard main campus in Cambridge. Unlike the bulk of the Harvard College Library's cataloging work, which is done now in the vast Technical Processing Office, materials in the Greek alphabet were handled by the Modern Greek Librarian and two assistants. This meant that instead of doing one job over and over again in a high-volume setting, I would be doing a little bit of everything in the cataloger's job description - acquisitions, provisional cataloging, serials holdings, and the like. Again another vista opened up. For years I had been learning about the external mechanics of how a library worked; now I was privy to the innermost workings, the basic classification and organization of knowledge and library materials. Everything I’ve learned on this job so far has made me want to learn more, and I am therefore very eager to begin my formal education in the library sciences this upcoming summer. In the meantime I have also begun working at the Widener Circulation Desk on the weekends, a definite change of pace from cataloging (which I continue to do) and a return to the “front line” service orientation that I began with, all those years ago. Once more I am answering reference questions along with checking out materials to patrons, only now my answers are informed by years of experience at all of the diverse positions I have held as a library assistant at both Harvard and M.I.T.

Needless to say, I've come a long way from the bookmobile. Although for a long time I didn't realize what to do with my love for books and my years of experience working in libraries, now for me things are very clear. There is no incompatibility whatsoever between my studies thus far in Greek and Latin and my vocation in librarianship - after all, the first librarians at the Great Library of Alexandria were themselves scholars - but getting to a point where I could see that the two disciplines were meant to be combined took a lot longer than I would have imagined. This is not an accident, however. As scholars we often don't understand the first things about using a library properly; and as librarians, we often forget that our mission is first and foremost an educational one. It's an axiom that one doesn't really understand a subject until he or she attempts to teach it to someone else. The same basic truth can be applied to librarianship. Once you've been on both sides of the desk, you begin to apprehend the big picture; and I feel it's time for me finally not only to apprehend, but to understand it as well.

At Simmons College I will have the opportunity to continue my education in the theory and organization of library materials through the Archives Management program, while furthering my studies in the Ancient World by taking advantage of the dual-degree program in library science and history. My ideal is ultimately to find a job that combines both passions for me, similar to the position I am working in now at the Modern Greek Division, but one which would draw upon my expertise in Latin and Ancient Greek. I am still torn, however, as to whether I would prefer working as a librarian at a large research university or something smaller, such as a private collection or specialized archive. Working in both public services and technical processing right now has given me a glimpse into what it would be like to work primarily with the collection versus working mostly with the library’s patrons, and to be honest I still enjoy both possibilities equally. I am hoping that my time at Simmons College will help me narrow my focus and choose a path, while at the same time preparing me for either eventuality. It is in this regard that I believe that the dual-degree program in library science and history would be a perfect match for me, as it offers a combination of deep knowledge and broad perspective that I feel has characterized my academic and professional lives thus far. I hope that you will agree with my assessment.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Welcome back!

We have an interesting policy here at the Widener Circulation Desk - every patron can renew their books five times online before they have to come back in and have them renewed in person. I always wondered why there should be a limit on remote renewals, missing of course the obvious loophole that a patron could theoretically lose a book and avoid paying for its replacement indefinitely by continuing to extend the item's due date by another loan period. But at least the number of online renewals permitted makes sense: as most patrons get a book for 28 days at a time, allowing five renewals gives someone the item for more or less the entire semester, so long as no one else places a hold or recall on it.

But here's where it gets weird - some of our patrons (faculty and "officers", the somewhat curious term we use for high-level staff, making working at Harvard seem like a landlocked episode of the Master and Commander series) receive semester loans, which means with the five-renewal policy they can spirit a book away to their office or apartment for three years before having to bring it back in! As we are approaching one of the two semester loan due dates - one is Feburary 10th, the other September 10th - more and more people are coming to the desk with shopping bags or even suitcases full of books that left the stacks all the way back in 2001 and only now have hit their renewal limit. Most of them we won't see again until 2007! I wonder if I'll still be here by then...

George W. Bush vs. Aristotle.

From the BBC's coverage of Tim Russert's Sunday morning stroke-job interview with the President on NBC's "Meet the Press":

On his own military service, Mr Bush criticised the senior Democrats who have suggested that he did not show up for duty in the Alabama National Guard in 1972 where he served during the Vietnam era.

"They're just wrong. There may be no evidence, but I did report; otherwise I wouldn't have been honourably discharged," he said.

Ah, the teleological argument, a favorite of the Bible-thumping Creationists and their pseudo-scientific notion of "Intelligent Design" who just so happen to make up I, Dubious' rank and file. The argument proceeds more or less like this:

1. The Universe is very complex;

2. Such complexity must be the work of God, despite the total lack of direct evidence of such a Supreme Being, therefore

3. The Universe is very complex because God designed it.

Dubya's argument is strikingly similar:

1. I was honorably discharged from the National Guard;

2. Such an honorable discharge must be proof that I reported for duty and served as expected, despite the total lack of direct evidence that I did so, therefore

3. I was honorably discharged because I reported for duty and served as expected.

The problem with both arguments is that they're logically unsound. The number two of each is presented as the only possible explanation, when in fact other possibilities do exist. The case for Intelligent Design ignores the possibility that complexity might have arisen through billions of years of accumulated chance (a great example of this is when you take a room with two to the thousandth power people in it to pair up, flip a coin, and call heads or tails; eventually you will end up with one person in the room who has won the coin toss a thousand times in a row, not through any divine agency but through the steady accumulation of statistics), just as Dubya asks us to ignore the possibility that his honorable discharge may have resulted from other causes than that of having served with honor, such as - oh, I don't know - the fact that his father was the ambassador to the United Nations at the time!

What really burns my toast is that when Bill Clinton resorted to such acts of sophistry and spurious logic, it was supposed to speak volumes about his "character". Now that the Bush administration is busy telling us things like "the absence of evidence does not indicate the evidence of absence", and parsing the difference between immiment and gathering threats or the possession of versus the potential for making Weapons of Mass Destruction, and is resorting to bullshiat logical sleight-of-hand to try and explain away our self-proclaimed "War President"'s military service record, what is that supposed to say about their character? Or does the door of outrage not swing both ways for our latter-day moral crusaders?


I managed to start and finish Persepolis yesterday. Anyone who doubts that the graphic novel is a "serious" medium needs to drop everything and find a copy of this book by Marjane Satrapi, which with its stark artwork and its rich and bittersweet narrative manages to draw us into what would seem an otherwise hopelessly complex subject matter, the history of Persia from the days of Cyrus to present-day Iran, with all of its wars, coups, imperialist intrigues, and concomitant tragedy. Of course we would do well to try to understand why the Iranians are the people who they are today, now that the first target on Dubya's "Axis of Evil" has fallen and the neocon hawks are clamoring for an encore (just in time for the 2004 Election, natch) - some sympathy for a nation that has seen more than its share of suffering over the millennia and has along the way picked up a legitimate grievance or two against the meddling West might be in order, before the American war machine commits itself to another crusade of dubious merit.


There's nothing like a day off, especially when that day is a Saturday. My parents were visiting from Jersey this weekend, so instead of trying to work my regular Circ Desk schedule (which I did last time they visited, and ended up only seeing them for about three hours in toto), I actually planned ahead and took my first vacation day here at the weekend job. It was nice to enjoy some extra time with the extended family, and the additional sleep I got sure didn't hurt either!

Aside from the customary carload of clothes and presents for Andriana, my parents also brought up a supply of Taylor Pork Roll, that heavenly ham sausage available only in the Delaware Valley. Think of it as an upscale version of Scrapple - and if you don't know what Scrapple is, it's best not to ask! - with a better taste and less of that "mystery meat" feel to it, and you won't be that far off the mark. Down in Jersey pork roll is a breakfast staple, although it's also delicious when grilled in thick-cut chunks with barbeque sauce for lunch or dinner as well (a meal that is remarkably similar to the fried bologna sandwiches of West Virginia and thereabouts, or so I've been informed).

The above-mentioned link will enable you to sample this quintessentially Jersey food item. It also yielded the lyrics to a song by Ween called "Pork Roll, Egg and Cheese":

When you've had your fun
And your work is done, you must not - succumb
I can feel you breathe
It's like mange weedge inside, please - don't hide

So mom if you please pass me the pork roll egg and cheese
If you please on a kaiser bun
Mom if you please pass me the pork roll egg and cheese
If you please on a kaiser bun

When the guava's drained
Eddie Dingle remains, but we must further ourselves on
So dynamic is life
Staring into the sights not right, but wrong it could give way

When you've had our fun
And your work is done, you must not - succumb
I can feel you breathe
It's like mange weedge inside, please - don't hide

So mom if you please pass me the pork roll egg and cheese
If you please on a kaiser bun
Mom if you please pass me the pork roll egg and cheese
If you please on a kaiser bun

Mom if you please pass the pork roll egg and cheese
If you please on a kaiser bun
On a kaiser bun
Pork roll egg and cheese

I might just have to go out and buy the album ("The Pod"), or at the very least find this song on Itunes!

Friday, February 06, 2004

Sneak preview

of the GOP battle plan for the 2004 Presidential Election Campaign:

"It was an intelligence failure."

(Lather. Rinse. Repeat.)
Not only did I resist the temptation to read on the train, but I got myself up and over the 64k mark on "Confessions" and sketched out an idea for a short story. I'm feeling good about life this evening. We just renewed our lease here in our palatial two bedroom (and one-and-a-half bathroom!) townhouse for another year, so maybe it's the relief of not having to pick up and find a new place to live like we did last March and April. Or perhaps it's the news that I'm going to be gainfully employed until at least the Summer of '05, continuing along with a job that I stumbled upon purely by accident but have grown to treasure. It could also be that my wife will be spending her Thursdays with me and the baby on a permanent basis, giving us an actual "weekend" day as a family and making my Saturday and Sunday shifts a little more palatable. I've picked up a new Ancient Greek student this past week, and he seems like a dedicated soul that will be sticking aroud for the medium-term; meanwhile totally out of the blue I got an email yesterday from one of my former students letting me know that he had a good term at college, thanks to my help in part, and was looking forward to taking more Greek this semester. I'm reading, I'm writing, I'm even cooking when time permits. And Andriana's just about ready to start walking and talking.

I know what the Greek half of my extended family would say about this post: phtoo phtoo! You're not supposed to talk about your good fortune, lest one of the gods overhear you and take it away (or at least that's the Ancient spin; the Modern Greek equivalent of this is that you'll invite the evil eye upon you from a jealous neighbor unless you spit on the ground twice or grab your nuts or whatever works as countermagic in your particular village). But life is enough of a grind, not to revel in the occasional happy respite. So I'm respiting and reveling. Spit on the ground for me, if it makes you feel any better...

The Persian Girl.

I have here in my hands the 2003 English translation of Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, the black-and-white graphic novel that reminisces about the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran from the point of view of a young girl who just so happens to be a descendent of ancient Persian royalty. I've heard fantastic things about this book, and can't wait to dive into it (although I'm going to try and be strong and write on the train ride home)!


I got the part - the Casting office of Providence Pictures called me last night to tell me that they would be delighted to offer me the role of "The Scribe" in not just one but two documentaries that they're currently producing (the aforementioned one about the Trojan War, and this other one apparently about the life and times of Jesus, which means for the one I'll be writing the proem to the Iliad in archaic block letters and in the other in the hand of a Byzantine monk)! They're filming my part(s) on Monday at a studio in Canton, an all-day affair for which my wife has gracious offered to stay home and watch the little one while I live every Classicist's dream of breaking through into the entertainment industry and never having to translate a page of Latin or Greek again! As long as I don't "accidentally" bare my nipple, I should do just fine...

Now this sudden doubling of my acting gig into two separate bit parts has confirmed my suspicions that there might just be a market for my kind of expertise out there. Sure, it's not like I'm getting paid for either role, but I could have easily asked for an hourly rate for the research I did regarding Mycenaean arms and armor - and let's face it, compared to a Ph.D. holder or a celebrated name in the field, any such fee would have been circus peanuts, even to a production company running on a shoestring.

Well, it's a definite - as soon as I am able to rent myself a respectable bit of virtual real estate, I'm hanging out the shingle: Dodona Classical Consulting (est. 2004). If the reference is a tad obscure to you, Dodona was the other major oracle in Greece, aside from Delphi. Situated in a narrow valley just south of the Ioannina on the Greek mainland, the Oracle of Dodona was an ancient oak tree that considered to be sacred to Zeus after a black dove from Egypt landed on its branches. The rustling of the wind through its leaves and other noises emanating from the tree were interpreted by the priestesses of the cult into oracular statements and prophecies, though I also seem to remember something about inscribing a "YES/NO" question on a scrap of metal as well. Dodona may not have had the international cachet of Delphi, but it could boast to being the oldest of the Greek oracles, and it even ended up outlasting its better-known counterpart by a century.

Shucks! Someone's already got Dodona at Fortunately the author appears to be a hoopy frood, so all is forgiven.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Say what?

"Well, first of all, I want to know all the facts. . . . What we don't know yet is what we thought and what the Iraqi Survey Group has found, and we want to look at that."

- Commander Codpiece, in a press conference yesterday

"I could never get the hang of Tuesdays."

A large cup of Dancing Goats in my hand (should have made it two, so I could double-fist the goat-dancing caffeinated goodness), I am presently trying to get myself into a work-related state of mind - and failing, mostly. The above quote is of course from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, when Earthling Arthur Dent has first his house and then his planet destroyed, all on a Tuesday morning. Although Monday tends to draw the wrath of the general public these days, Tuesday is considered a day of ill omen as well, especially by the Greeks, who have regarded the second day of the workweek as bad news ever since losing Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks on a Tuesday way back in 1453. So at least I have company!

The writing sample below is a little bit of creative fluff that I banged out for a fantasy roleplaying game that I narrate online in my abundant free time. For a long time, the game was my only creative outlet, as I wrote with wild abandon for an audience of three to five people; and although I must have tallied up hundreds of pages of original material, all the while it didn't really occur to me that my that energy could conceivably be redirected towards other projects, should I choose to do so. After I started doing just that, I lost interest in telling the story of the game for a while, only to find myself returning to it recently when I noticed that the plot of "Confessions" was taking me headlong into the same region of my make-believe world (albeit about twenty years earlier- the young protagonist of the novel is actually a bit part in the game, all grown-up and back to the old haunts of yesteryear to exorcise a personal demon or two). Now there's a kind of synergy between the two endeavors. Whereas before I feared that writing for the game was hampering my ability to write elsewhere - and perhaps it was true then - now these little "flights of fancy" are inspiring me.

My creativity is no longer a zero-sum game. The more I write, the more I want to write, and I enjoying taking every opportunity I can now to hone my craft. And since what I write for the game would likely otherwise never see the light of day beyond my inner circle of friends and fellow gamers, why not share it here? I think I will cross-post these tidbits more often, if I'm particularly pleased with how they turned out. I do hope you enjoy them!

(In other writing news, I took advantage of a bout of insomnia last night to edit "Keeper" at long last, and "Confessions" is at 63k. Hopefully I'll get a chance to pile on another thousand words or so this evening on the commute back home after I teach my classes - that is, if I don't fall asleep on the train...)

Another thing I've been doing of late that I wasn't really doing before is reading fiction. Again, the feeling that I only had time for one activity - in this case reading or writing - has given way to a manic burst of book-devouring in the cracks of my day while I'm home with my daughter. When she naps, I read. Sometimes I can make my way through a whole book between her midmorning and midafternoon naps! This week I was able to finish The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, which I loved, even though I've read that many critics and Stephen King fans regard it as a throwaway novel. Maybe they're not Red Sox fans? After all, most of those book reviewers do live in New York City. I also voraciously tore through Isaac Asimov's Second Foundation, a cleverly-constructed puzzle of crosses and double-crosses that on this my second time through read more like a mystery novel than sci-fi; and consumed the darkly imaginative and visually stunning second volume of Neil Gaiman's Sandman, which I simply couldn't put down upon starting until I'd read the whole danged thing.

The more I read, the more I want to read; and the more I want to write as well. At this rate, I'm either going to hit escape velocity or burn up in the atmosphere - either way, at least something spectacular is guaranteed!