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Posts Tagged ‘Odyssey

“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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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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