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Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Hunting of the Snark

I’ve always wondered why Lewis Carroll’s wonderful poem, The Hunting of the Snark – an Agony in Eight Fits – has never been redone, rewritten in a modern version, with modern references and people. It seems to lend itself to revision, at least to my eyes. Perhaps it’s because this sort of whimsical, satirical poem . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Hunting of the Snark

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Confused Science

In his book, The World in Six Songs, Daniel Levitin posutlates the ability to make or participate in music may have conferred an evolutionary advantage to early humans. It’s a reasonable hypothesis based on both archeological and anthropological evidence. And some paleontological finds, too. We know from remains of bone flutes and other instruments, that . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Confused Science

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Just Six Songs?

Author, musician and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin says all music can be classified into a mere six types of song. That’s part of the premise in his 2009 book, The World in Six Songs. I recently started reading it and it has opened some interesting areas of thought for me.* A mere six fundamental themes in . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Just Six Songs?

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Tudor politics: Elizabeth’s struggle

David Starkey’s book, Elizabeth: the Struggle for the Throne, is the best book I’ve read on the period of Elizabeth’s life between the death of Henry VIII and her own coronation. It gives a clear, richly detailled picture of the machinations, the politics and the society that she lived in during the 25 years before . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Tudor politics: Elizabeth’s struggle

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Feetish or Fettish?

I was surprised to recently read in David Crystal’s book, The Story of English in 100 Words, that fetish – which I pronounce “feh-tesh” – was once pronounced “feetish.” In fact, in the 1920s, Crystal writes, the BBC had that pronunciation in its guide for radio broadcasters.* It makes sense, of course, when you think . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Feetish or Fettish?

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The ethics of politics via Aristotle

Politics, Aristotle wrote in the Nicomachean Ethics, is the “master science of the good.” The good of which he wrote is the greater good, the “highest good” that benefits the state, not the personal. For even if the good is the same for the individual and the state, the good of the state clearly is . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The ethics of politics via Aristotle

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Marcus Aurelius

I continue to be profoundly moved by the wisdom of the classical authors. It’s often hard to accept that some of them were writing two or more millennia ago: many seem so contemporary they could have been written this century. Of late – within the past year or so – I’ve been reading Lucretius, Aristotle, . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Marcus Aurelius

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: What’s in a missing word?

There’s a line in one of Horace’s epistles that really caught my eye. In Latin it reads: Utque sacerdotis fugitiuus liba recuso, pane egeo iam mellitis potiore placentis Horace: Epistles, Book I, X No, I can’t translate it.* However, I was reading David Ferry’s 2001 translation and he renders it like this: I’m like that . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: What’s in a missing word?

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Lucretius and the Renaissance

It’s fairly clear, even after reading only a few verses, why Lucretius’s didactic poem, On the Nature of Things – De Rerum Natura – made such an impact on thought, philosophy, religion and science in the Renaissance. It must have been like a lighthouse in the dark night; a “Eureka” moment for many of the . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Lucretius and the Renaissance

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Amo, Amas, Amat…. and what?

My well-thumbed copy of Eugene Ehrlich’s book, Amo, Amas, Amat and More, is dated 1985. It’s amusingly subtitled “How to Use Latin to Your Own Advantage and to the Astonishment of Others.” It’s still in print, it seems, or was as recently as 2006. I’ve read my copy on and off for the past 25-plus . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Amo, Amas, Amat…. and what?

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Reading Thucydides at last

Somewhere on one of my bookshelves, is an old Penguin paperback copy of History of The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. It’s a bit worn, pages lightly yellowed, glue a little brittle. It’s been sitting on the shelf, stacked with many other paperbacks, piled two deep, floor to ceiling, for the past two decades and more. . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Reading Thucydides at last

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: For want of a nail…

Bought a book at Loblaws (of all places) this week, one by Harry Turtledove: The Big Switch. It’s one of his many alternative history novels, about what might have happened if things had happened a certain way – a different way from what actually transpired – in the opening years of World War Two. He’s . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: For want of a nail…

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Dictionaries: Concise, Compact, and dacoit

Dacoit: noun; one of a class of criminals in India and Burma who rob and murder in roving gangs. A member of a band of armed robbers in India or Burma. A bandit. Origin: Hindi and Urdu. I love dictionaries. I like opening them up to a random page and just reading, discovering words and . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Dictionaries: Concise, Compact, and dacoit

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Weird World of Plotto

I came across Plotto a few years back – references to it in other works, rather than the actual book. it sounded strange, complex and wildly over-reaching. I couldn’t find one – it was long out of print. It wasn’t until I got my own copy that I realized how really odd, clumsy – and . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Weird World of Plotto

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Doing it by the numbers

The first thing I learned – well, not the first but up there, for sure – is that volume measurements are for amateurs. Being an amateur (and expecting to be there for some time yet), I took it on the chin when asking typical neophyte questions about recipes and ingredients. Might as well have hung . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Doing it by the numbers

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Burning Books, Burning Bibles

Pastor Marc Grizzard, of Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, NC is back in the news this week, but I’m not really sure if it’s because of something he did or something that was dredged up online from a few years back and has just been regurgitated. This week, a story in The Telegraph about . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Burning Books, Burning Bibles

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Circuitous Path from Bulge to Budget

If tinkers may have leave to live, And bear the sow-skin budget, Then my account I well may, give, And in the stocks avouch it. Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale, Act IV, Sc. III, Shakespeare These lines got me thinking about the town’s finances. Sow-skin budget? What does that mean? And how does that relate . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Circuitous Path from Bulge to Budget

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Words, words, words

Writing before the arrival of the internet*, Bob Blackburn commented on the nature of exchange on then-prevalent BBS (Bulletin Board Systems), words that could as easily be written today about the internet: “…the BBS medium reveals not only a widespread inability to use English as a means of communication but also a widespread ignorance of . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Words, words, words

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: We are Stardust… and Viral Genes

In her classic song, Woodstock, Joni Mitchell ended with the chorus: We are stardust Billion-year-old carbon We are golden Caught in the devil’s bargain And we’ve got to get ourselves Back to the garden Which most people assume is merely poetic licence. Well, Joni wasn’t wrong: we – and every living thing on our planet . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: We are Stardust… and Viral Genes

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: 1927: Ads, Layout and Typography

As promised, here are the first 20 scans of the ads from the 1927 North American Almanac I recently mentioned. If there is interest, I’ll do another set later this week. There are probably another 40 or 50 pages of ads in the book. I think these ads give us a wonderful window into the . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: 1927: Ads, Layout and Typography

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Empire of Illusion and the End of Literacy

I don’t know whether to feel vindicated, delighted, frightened or depressed as I read through Chris Hedges’s book, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. Much of what he says reflects many of my own observations and opinions. I started reading this book in part as research for my upcoming . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Empire of Illusion and the End of Literacy

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Three Archy poems by Don Marquis

pete the parrot and shakespeare i got acquainted with a parrot named pete recently who is an interesting bird pete says he used to belong to the fellow that ran the mermaid tavern in london then i said you must have known shakespeare know him said pete poor mutt i knew him well he called . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Three Archy poems by Don Marquis

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Thousand and One Nights

I had no idea it was this sexy. The Thousand Nights and One Nights, aka The Arabian Nights, aka The Thousand and One Nights – it’s really wonderful, steamy stuff. Every tale is a cliffhanger and you keep wanting to read just one more to see how it turns out. Of course, that was the . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Thousand and One Nights

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Hell 2.2

Might be time to recap my reasons for writing this series. New readers could get confused about the content in the Hell posts, of which this is the fourth. They’re all the result of a convergence of several recent themes and activities in my life; a lot of which have to do with recent reading . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Hell 2.2

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Hell 2.0

I left you last time after finishing the letter D, in Miriam Van Scott’s Encyclopedia of Hell. I’m back in book form to take you through a few more entries in her exploration of the afterlife. But first a couple of additions to your reading material. First on the list is Alice Turner’s 275-page The . . . → Read More: Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Hell 2.0