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Posts Tagged ‘Homer

“I didn’t lie! I just created fiction with my mouth!”*…

 

Anybody who writes, directs, or consumes any form of entertainment owes a debt of gratitude to Homer. Had the ancient poet not written two of the best—and earliest—epic dramas in Western history, the Iliad and the Odyssey, who knows where our culture would be or what works of art we would cherish.

Would Shakespeare have become the genius bard? Would Cervantes, Faulkner, and Joyce have created the diverse masterpieces that they did, all with Homeric ancestry? Would we have cinematic gems like O Brother, Where Art Thou?

It’s impossible to know because our boy Homer (or whoever he was—more on that later) pulled through and set the foundation for modern day drama and tragedy. But what would have happened if he had written the first ever comedy?

That question is a siren song for scholars, though the work of comedy often attributed to the Greek poet was lost millennia ago. But while the text of Margites may have disappeared, we’re not completely in the dark about the form Homer’s comedic style may have taken…

Before The Iliad and The Odyssey, Homer’s very first work—if Homer actually existed—is named Margites, after its main character who was nothing short of a bumbling idiot: “Before The Iliad, Did Homer Write The World’s First Comedy?

* Homer

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As we honor humor, we might recall that it was on this date in 1687, during the Great Turkish War (1683-1699), that Venetian bombardment ignited an Ottoman gunpowder magazine stored in the Parthenon and nearly destroyed the temple to Athena that is the crown jewel of the Acropolis.

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Written by LW

September 26, 2017 at 1:01 am

Being shy about retiring…

click here for access to larger version

As Flowing Data reports,

According to OECD estimates for life expectancy and retirement ages [2009 data in both cases], in countries like Mexico it is common for men to work up to the last year of their lives. On the other hand, women in Austria spend an average of 26 years in retirement.

In the United States the average years in retirement is 10 years for men and 16 years for women (mostly because men typically die earlier)—among the least in the world.

As we find work that we can enjoy, we might recall that it was on this date in 1178 BC that Odysseus returned to Ithaca at the end of his long trip home from the Trojan War.  This was the date of a solar eclipse, which scholars have surmised corresponds to Homer’s description of the day–“the Sun has been obliterated from the sky, and an unlucky darkness invades the world”; the particular circumstances of this eclipse were unique between 1250 and 1115 BC, the 135-year spread around the putative date for the fall of Troy.

Odysseus, of course, did not return to the comforts of retirement.  After offing the suitors who had flocked to his wife, Penelope, Odysseus retook his throne.

Head of Odysseus from a Greek 2nd century BC marble group representing Odysseus blinding Polyphemus, found at the villa of Tiberius at Sperlonga

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Uh-oh…

The shortwave radio station UVB-76 is known to DXers (serious shortwave listeners) as “The Buzzer” because it has been broadcasting a short, monotonous buzz tone (hear it here), repeating at a rate of approximately 25 tones per minute, 24 hours per day, since 1982…  that is, until this past weekend, when it stopped.

Satellite photo of the UVB-76 transmitter near Povarovo, Russia

Many believe that UVB-76 was being used to transmit encoded messages to spies, as is generally assumed for the many numbers stations that populate shortwave frequencies…. though no nation’s government will confirm or deny the existence of the stations or their purpose.  Or the constant transmission of its characteristic sound may have been signaling the availability or readiness of some kind of installation– a kind of “dead man’s switch” of a military or other installation– possibly for the infamous Dead Hand system.

But a more benign explanation is that the constant buzz was a High-Frequency Doppler used for ionosphere research of the sort described in the Russian Journal of Earth Sciences, in which radio waves are reflected from ionosphere inhomogeneities.  (This method involves comparing a continuous radio transmission which is reflected by the ionosphere with a stable basic generator.)  As it happens, the continuously-transmitted carrier frequency currently used for this research is the same as that of the UVB-76 (4.625 MHz).

Rest in peace (and quiet).

TotH to Above Top Secret.

As we keep our ears to the ground, we might note that this date, June 9, was a big one for the fifth and final Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, Nero:  On this date in 53 CE, he married his step-sister, Claudia Octavia.  Then on their anniversary in 62 CE, he had her executed. And on this date in 68 CE,  Nero committed suicide, after quoting Homer’s Iliad. (On hearing the approach of horsemen who’d been dispatched by the Senate, which had declared Nero a public enemy, the deposed Emperor declared “Hark, now strikes on my ear the trampling of swift-footed coursers!”)

Nero

It takes one to know one…

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With the single exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare….
– George Bernard Shaw

Am reading more of Oscar Wilde. What a tiresome, affected sod.
– Noel Coward

A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.
– William Faulkner, on Mark Twain

The gifted can be so…  ungenerous to each other:  from Examiner.com, “The 50 best author vs. author put-downs of all time.”

As we consider that this may in any case be better than log-rolling, we might recall that it was on this date in 1982 that a member of the Hollywood nobility– two-time Oscar-winning actress, model, and anti-war activist Jane Fonda– released her first exercise tape.

Building on the success of her workout book, published the prior year, the tape helped Fonda popularize workouts for women, workouts in groups, workout videos, and indeed aerobics in general (a family of trends on which Richard Simmons, Judi “Jazzercise” Missett and many others have ridden).  Fonda invested the proceeds of what became a fitness empire into the Campaign for Economic Democracy, an advocacy group founded by her then-husband Tom Hayden (of Chicago Eight renown).   Fonda and Hayden divorced in 1989, and Fonda retired from the spotlight (though, of course, she has returned to the movie screen in the last few years).

The tape that started it all

Butchering sacred cows…

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While for the most part, one tends to act on positive recommendations– to see films with good reviews, to catch acts about which one’s friends are enthusiastic– it can be useful to be warned off as well…

“A programmer named Chris” at Cynical-C has stepped up to oblige.  In “You Can’t Please Everyone,” he’s collected one-star reviews of classics, posted on Amazon…

Consider for example, this pithy reaction to Homer’s Odyssey:

This book sucks. I dont care if Homer was blind or not this book is like 900 pages too long. I could tell this story in about 10 pages. Homer taking all long to say stupid stuff. Teens if you are reading this all I have to say is CLIFF NOTES CLIFF NOTES you will pass the test, unless you are in AP classes. The teachers expect kids to read cliff notes trust me my moms a teacher. P.S this book SUCKS.

…Or this reaction to Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in Robert Wise’s film of Rogers’ and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music:

This movie should be called the Sound of Mucus. The only redeeming quality is that the family has to run from nazis.

For more (much more) of this kind of corrective to the conventional wisdom, see here.

As we reconsider the classics, we might feel compelled to “Whistle a Happy Tune” or ask “Shall We Dance?”, because it was on this date in 1949 that Siam changed it’s name to Thailand (five years after Margaret Landon’s novel, Anna and The King of Siam; three years after John Cromwell’s film adaptation of that book, but two years before Rogers’ and Hammerstein’s musical, The King and I)…

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