Penelope and Odysseus in Hebrew
Maya Bejerano--an Israeli poet--has a new anthology out, which includes her poem 'Penelope and Odysseus':
"I didn't have money or a job. Basically I had nothing and I'd also been dumped. I said to myself: One day, I'll show you how far I'll go, and then I wrote the poem 'Penelope and Odysseus' (which appears in 'Frequencies'). The theme of the poem is that Odysseus' journey is contingent on the anchor he has at home, and Penelope is the anchor. My boyfriend didn't return to Israel and we never saw each other again. That evening of our breakup, everyone could see that I'd been dumped and since I have a masochistic tendency to drink the cup of bitterness, I drew strength from this poison..."
Music: A Warning
Fred Hutchison presents his views of the history and importance of music ("the music of the spheres"--hence, music's resonance with the universe and its Creator) over at www.renewamerica.us. He begins with the Muses, Pythagoras, the Sirens, Cicero, etc., and takes it down to the 20th century. Here are a couple of excerpts:
The Muses and Graces, who are also goddesses, unite in dance under the direction of Apollo, the god of music and harmony. The seeker climbed Mount Helicon from the miasma of the dark valley towards the light where the Muses were dancing. He ascended from confusion in the valley and drew towards the light and clarity of divine "One." As the climber reached great heights he could see breathtaking vistas and hear the choral music of the Muses. Enchanted by the divine music, he joined the dance. The poet or the musician who has danced with the Muses descends the mountain inspired by the laws of beauty, harmony and grace. He sang enchanted songs to the barbarians in the dark miasma in the valley and directed them towards the light so that they could become civilized men.
Plato believed that harmony and rhythm seep into the human soul, attach themselves to the inward being and impart grace. He thought that music has a decisive effect on the character of the citizenry. Since music is the enchantment of goddesses, a subversive music can come from a sorcery based in ignorance. Plato did not believe in evil, only ignorance. Therefore, the evil sorcery of the occult played no part in his theory of music, but he had a concept of bad music based upon ignorance and confusion ... Plato might have had something more to say about the corrosive effects of corrupt music if he could have observed the depraved party of sex, drugs and rock and roll at Woodstock. But the hippies would not have listened to him because western man no longer believed in the music of the spheres or that intrinsic values can be found in music. Along with this change was the loss of belief in a correspondence between reason and objective reality.
A memorial article on Hunter S. Thompson brings out a Classical connection (?!):
And he will be [remembered] for "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas," which is an Americanized version of the "Odyssey," except Odysseus is whacked out of his mind, Helen is replaced by a broken-down old waitress at a backwater joint that sells 29-cent tacos and the swine run the joint.
[Oops--the ever-vigilant RogueClassicist already picked this up...Note to self and anyone listening: Always check RogueClassicism first!]
Homer on Guns, Booze
Perhaps when considering whether guns and booze ought to mix, our lawmakers should reread Homer.
The man of many wiles, Odysseus, locks up the armor because, "Wine incites. If brawls break out when you are drunk, you might draw blood - and thus drag feasts and courting rites into the dust. For iron of itself can tempt a man."
Even Bronze Age humans knew to beware of Greeks, or anyone else, bearing arms and alcohol.
Israelis and Palestinians on a Tragic Stage
Louis Rene Beres writes a column (WorldNetDaily) [ah, on further investigation, it's a retread of the author's 1995 essay with very similar title--"Oslo" rather than "disengagement" in the title] in which he interweaves his opinions on the current situation of Israelis and Palestinians with references to Greek tragedies, Aristotle, Thucydides, Homer...and specifically compares Israel and/or Ariel Sharon to Orestes. Here's a snippet--the second quoted paragraph I can make no sense of...any thoughts?
"High Tragedy," as it has evolved from fifth-century Athens, is always unequivocal on one crucial point: The victim is one whom "the gods kill for their sport, as wanton boys do flies." This wantonness, this capriciousness, is what makes tragedy unendurable to human reason and sensibility. But now, with "disengagement" and the accompanying release of almost 1,000 murderous Arab terrorists, Israel's tragic fate will be largely self-inflicted.
In authentic tragedy, there can be no deus ex machina. In tragedy, the human spirit remains noble in the face of largely inescapable death. If there is anything remotely tragic in Israel's Oslo-roadmap-"disengagement"-afflicted condition, it lies only in the original Greek meaning of the term – "goat song" – from the dithyrambs sung by goatskin-clad worshippers of Dionysus. In every other sense, Israel now exhibits behavior that desecrates its sacred Jewish heritage and its equally sacred Jewish obligations.
Meanwhile, a book review by Re'uven Pedatzur (Ha'aretz) also compares Sharon to a tragic hero:
Like the hero of a Greek tragedy, Sharon has been forced to undergo "a painful dialectic process" and to confront the outcome of his own actions. There is a price to pay for building settlements and being an occupier. The prime minister is reaping today what he has sowed for the last four decades.
Oh sure...I'll take links wherever I can get them (?!). Oh no--what if the post pointing this silly link out is also linked from the Latin Jocks page? Right...
The Next Survivor?
Survivor: Roman Empire...(screenshot of someone's desktop).
Moons - Trojan and Otherwise
Newly discovered moons of Saturn have been named classically (BBC; PhysOrg) [unlike some others recently found--Ymir et al.--as you can see from this factsheet]: Methone, Pallene, and Polydeuces. The first two are interesting, since they were taken from Greek place names--although maybe someone who has followed such nomenclature more closely knows better...The newly named Polydeuces is (as you might expect) one of a pair: it's a so-called "Trojan moon," which means it orbits in tandem with another body...That body, however, is Dione (not the companion you might have been expecting). The term "Trojan moon" appears to be an extension of "Trojan asteroid," which indicates a class of asteroids occupying specific points in relation to the Sun and Jupiter: in theory, those at one "Lagrangian node" are given names of Greeks associated with the Trojan war [the first-discovered of which is "Achilles"], those at another names of Trojans--but the complications continue:
Following Wolf's lead these asteroids were given names associated with the Iliad—in fact, those in the L4 point are named after Greek heroes of the Iliad (the "Greek node" or "Achilles group"), and those at the L5 point are named after the heroes of Troy (the "Trojan node"). Confusingly, the latter group are sometimes called Patroclean asteroids after the most prominent of those, even though Patroclus (the hero) was on the Greek side. However, 617 Patroclus (the asteroid) was the first discovered asteroid at the L5 point, and was named before the Greece/Troy rule was devised. The Greek node also has one "misplaced" asteroid; 624 Hektor.Got that?
As the Iliad deals with the events of the Trojan War, the asteroids came to be collectively known as Trojan asteroids. Over time, this term has come to be more generally applied to any planetoidal body at the triangular Lagrangian point of any two bodies—besides Jupiter's Trojans, Mars and Neptune have one Trojan each, plus there are Trojan moons around Saturn (Telesto–Tethys–Calypso and Dione–Helene). Strictly speaking, the term Trojan applies only to those in the L4 and L5 points of the Sun-Jupiter system.
De Mediis (Rebus)
The RogueClassicist had a post on the phrase in medias res yesterday, and suggested off-the-cuff that "In Media Res" would be a good name for a blog. I, of course, misread, didn't get the joke, etc., and went off to find a blog with the name "In Medias Res"; so now, suitably chastened, I have gone off a second time, and found the blog "In Media Res" (with the intentional play on "media").
It galls me, however, that the phrase in media res gets about 1/4 of the number of Google hits received by the correct in medias res (26,000:105,000)--I don't think all those thousands are making the same wordplay...And unfortunately, one of those 26,000 hits is a blog entry for a French enterprise devoted to bringing the world Greek and Latin quotations one day at a time...There was further discussion of the phrase in a long-ish comment thread for a post on useful Latin expressions at the Mormon blog Times & Seasons (hence quite a few comments on why Latin is relevant for Mormonism), which thread also yielded the final fruit of my "research"--a naughty little limerick quoted by a commenter:
The "True" Location of Troy
So, I've been seeing this book, Trojan Odyssey by Clive Cussler, on display at bookstores recently; a few weeks ago I checked it out of the public library and um...ended up reading a little of it...and mostly skimming through to find out about the shocking new location proposed for Troy...Well, well, well: England. Mycenae was in France. Ithaca was at Cadiz. Odysseus' adventures: in the Atlantic and Caribbean...Cussler depends on the recent Where Troy Once Stood, by Iman Wilkens--and also on the more ancient Theophile Cailleux ...
More outlandish theories are welcome in comments...and is there a website anywhere devoted to, er, shall we say, non-mainstream identifications of the site of Troy?
[CLARIFICATION: The theories don't have to be "more outlandish"--just outlandish, and more of them is what I'm after...]
[UPDATE 2/24/05: N. S. Gill at About.com points to an essay by Tom Slattery, hosted by About.com, speculating about the possible relation between smallpox, Troy, and the Exodus story...Not a different Troy location, but interesting in this context.]
Oedipus and Dr. Dre
At GorillaMask.net: "The Greatest Essay Ever Written"--a/k/a "Planes, Trains, and Plantains: The Story of Oedipus." It's a pseudo-paper, with pseudo-instructor's-comments, and (it boggles the mind) has a pseudo-grade of D-. A typical excerpt:
Dr. Dre got most of his inspiration from the Greek story of Oedipus. Soon Oedipus's smarts saved the town of Thebes, and he was made king. Infact the only reason Dr. Dre produced, "The Chronic" because the Bible tells you to smoke lots of pot, and Oedipus used to blaze with the makers of Aqua Fresh toothpaste.
Not for the faint of heart. [Thanks (I think) to Cemetery Gates.]
But What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Recently the RogueClassicist pointed out an article in the Scotsman on the just-begun BBC series What the Ancients Did for Us (hosted by Adam Hart-Davis). Note also the BBC's page on the program, including articles, galleries, games, and so on...
An English version of Iakovos Kambanellis' Letter to Orestes--the play consists of a one-woman monologue by Clytemnestra (played by Carleigh Welsh)--is having its New York premiere (at the Marquee on Bowery) in a few days, as announced here and here.
Clytemnestra reads, writes and revises her letter in real time as she hopes to reach her estranged son Orestes as well as her alienated daughter Electra and change the course of their tragic destiny. The letter illuminates and expands upon scenes both accounted for by the canon of Greek mythology as well as an alternate history, replete with more scenes and insights as envisioned by the playwright. Through her voice, Kambanellis richly expands upon the doomed and normally despised Queen’s character, exploring her predicament and developing her perspective - one which has renewed relevance at present. While the story is Clytemnestra’s, it also belongs to every mother who loses her children to war.
At a Seattle art gallery, showing through the end of the month: Michael Spafford's "Iliad Series" of woodblock prints--and some oil paintings and drawings. Here's a description of one:
...Zeus brooding over a black, blank world. Zeus is an engaged god, awash in desire. The world is blank to him because there are no battles in it. His eyes are dark holes cast downward into a larger dark. Halfway through the past century, when religion appeared to be fading from human affairs and even theologians debated the prospect of God's death, Wallace Stevens, in "Sunday Morning," mocked the idea of needing gods in the first place: "Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth./ No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave/ Large mannered-motions to his mythy mind."
[Spafford] drew Zeus in profile, whispering the battle dream in Agamemnon's ear. Zeus' lacy beard turns up again as smoke from a funeral pyre. In the final frame, the god again broods in heaven, looking down on the dead, their bent knees raised toward the downward vertical projection of his face.
Between the first and last frames are ritualized yet raw forms of combat, reduced to a streamlined, formal essence, each its own kind of common tragedy. Sword, tongue and phallus serve terrible ends. Black cuts into white space and shadow imposes itself on light. The forms are silhouettes, a strategy Spafford employed decades before Kara Walker. His are nearly all anonymous, swimming in a tide larger than themselves, trapped in their assigned parts.
Spafford does not illustrate the text. He replaces it with a pictographic code that is both prehistoric and completely new.
And if you don't happen to be in Seattle this month, see these pictures on the gallery's website.
At the Bristol Old Vic theater, opening Friday: a new adaptation of the Odyssey for the stage, starring Robert Bowman. What sort of adaptation is this, you ask?
Directed by one of the Old Vic's artistic directors, David Farr, the play is given a very modern treatment with the plight of Odysseus given a relevance that should be fully appreciated by today's audiences.
"In this production Odysseus is found on the beach by interrogation officers patrolling for asylum seekers," reveals Bowman. "They assume he's a shipwrecked asylum seeker and incarcerate him.
"It's while he's imprisoned that his tale unfolds and it becomes clear that the soldier's position is at odds with the other prisoners. They're seeking asylum but all Odysseus wants is to go home to his wife."
After Bristol, the show will move to Liverpool, then Leeds...
[UPDATE (3/3/05): Here's a review from the Telegraph (excerpt after the fold)]