Wednesday, September 4, 2019

GO BAG YOUR HEAD!


After much thought, I have tentatively concluded that a society that thinks it necessary to print on plastic bags warnings against sticking your own or your children’s heads in them is a society so far gone down the path of infantilism and idiocy that it should probably stick its own collective head in a plastic bag and put an end to itself.

Similarly, monitions that things cooked in ovens are hot, that bread contains wheat, or, on a bag of peanuts, that “this product is packaged on shared equipment with peanuts…”, suggest that government agencies are staffed by persons who believe the populace to be imbeciles and that, since the public puts up with these 'warnings', the agencies may be right.

Bah, humbug! 

Friday, July 5, 2019

A NEW EDITION


I have issued a new edition of Storm Approaching, the first book in the MERCENARIES series. The main change is simply an increase in the font size, since some readers have suggested the 10-point type was a bit small. The book now has 353 pages instead of 260 but the word count is almost the same. However, I made small changes throughout, and one chapter (16, “Eloquence”) was extensively revised. Storm Approaching is available both in print as an an e-book.
 
 

 

Monday, December 31, 2018

A Good Read To Lean Upon


The dawn of a New Year--may it be a happy one for you!--is a good time to remind visitors that the main purpose of this blog is to advertise my literary efforts. I have self-published six books. Chief among them are the four volumes of the MERCENARIES series:

 I:  Storm Approaching

II: Gold and Glory

III: Resolution

IV: The Free Lands

The first three are a connected series; the fourth is a stand-alone, but should be read only after reading the first three.

How to sum them up? This blog contains excerpts and other information, but here is a poem about Volume One:

No magic swords or mighty rings,
No orphans who are really kings,
No elves or dwarfs or prophecies;
No ghouls or vampires, if you please.
A mercenary regiment,
Its men (and women), where it’s sent;
Its training, tactics, work, and play;
A growing threat (still far away);
That’s Storm Approaching. KIndly look
At this self-published, worthwhile book.

 There are also:

And Gladly Teach, a satirical novel about a fictional boarding school, and

Hodgepodge, a collection of humorous essays on many topics.

Why not try one (or two)? They’re really pretty good. J

Friday, December 21, 2018

There Is Nothing New Under The Sun


Reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, I found this about the Emperor Julian (361-363 AD): “... he could employ his hand to write, his ear to listen, and his voice to dictate; and pursue three separate trains of ideas without hesitation and without error.”  Who says that multitasking is something that came in with computers?? The Romans gave us that, too! :-)


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Prescience?


The other day I used my credit card and the clerk presented me with a receipt on a tablet device. When I asked what to sign it with--expecting a stylus--I was told to use my finger. (I did; this is not productive of calligraphy or even legibility). Afterwards I reflected on one of the many famous lines from Fitzgerald’s rendition of Omar Khayyam: “The moving finger writes, and, having writ, moves on…”. About 150 years after he wrote it, this has now become literally true. Did the 19th-Century poet envision the touchpad?
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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all! And remember, as you plan your reading for 2019, that my six books--details of which are available here--would provide you with many hours of delight. :-)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Amo, Amas, Amat?


When I was a lad, the Jesuits in charge of my high school education thought it good that I take four years of Latin. So I took four years of Latin. I cannot say that I enjoyed it, nor that I was a great Latin scholar. (I scored 100 on my very first Latin test; I recall that because it never happened again on any subsequent Latin test.) But since I ended up becoming a writer, and a historian with a strong interest in Ancient History—although that is not my main field; I am not a Classical scholar—I am grateful to the Society of Jesus for giving me a good foundation in Latin. Some knowledge of Latin is indeed, as the reverend fathers told me, a very good thing for those who write, and love, English.

 In recent years, as a teacher, I had contact with the Latin teachers at my school. I sometimes examined the books they used, and my! was I struck with the differences between these new texts and what I and my schoolmates were subjected to.

 Today, Latin, when it is offered at all, is almost always an elective, so it is thought necessary to try to make the subject interesting. We now have texts and course materials designed to entice the nascent Latinist with stories about Marcus (and, of course, Marcia—one could not these days leave out the ladies) going to school, walking in the garden, playing games, interacting with other young Romans, and generally behaving like human beings. Classes play games using Latin and have Latin names for students (as is normally done in other foreign-language courses). In short, there is an attempt to make the Romans appear to be rather like us.

 It was otherwise in a Jesuit high school in the 1960s. The first year was grammar, the second was Caesar, the third was Cicero, the fourth Virgil. (If there were others, I have forgotten them.) Marching through Gaul with Caesar’s legions got pretty tedious after a while, even for someone —e.g. me—interested in military history.

 The English-to-Latin translations we were made to do were a mixture of Roman military history and Catholic theology. We translated sentences like “The centurion is leading the cohort into the forest,” “The soldiers are fighting the Gauls,” “Mary, our mother, loves us, “Caesar is sending the grain supply to the besieged city,” “We pray for the salvation of souls.”

 I remember that several pages of one text were devoted to a playlet in which a military tribune is interrogating a captive Gaul. When the Gaul is reluctant to spill the beans, he is tortured. That is how we learned the Latin exclamation “Eheu!”, which means “Alas!” or “Woe!”—the poor Gaul screams “eheu” as he is being tortured. When the agonized Gaul finally tells the Romans what they want to know, he is released--but unfortunately he mutters words to the effect that the Gauls will yet prevail. The Romans hear him, and the tribune orders “Statim ad mortem!” (Kill him immediately)—which is immediately done. (I am not making this up; obviously the little drama made an impression, as I recall it over half a century later.)

 Many of our vocabulary words are probably not included in modern introductory Latin, such as occidere (to kill), supplicium (capital punishment), tormentum (torture), gladius (sword), scutum (shield), and especially frumentarium (grain supply). How many times did we read of the frumentarium being brought to the troops, being transported through the forest, being intercepted by the Gauls!

 The poor Gauls paid a heavy price in my high school Latin. Translate: The Romans are killing the Gauls. The Gauls are being killed by the Romans. The Gauls have been killed by the Romans. The Gauls shall have been killed by the Romans. Will the Romans kill the Gauls? I think we killed more Gauls than did Caesar (although that would be difficult, as he slaughtered many tens of thousands).

 I imagine that the reaction to this essay, at least among those not versed in history, will be that modern Latin instruction, with Marcus and Marcia cavorting on dad’s latifundium, is far superior to that which was forced on those of my generation. But… but… well… Roman history is something I taught, and have studied, for many years. And, you know, I have to say that what I was given in high school was a more accurate rendition of the Romans than any prettified contemporary stuff.  The Romans did not build an empire by being nice, and their customs were not ours. Maybe the new Latin programs should feature Marcus killing some hostages or Marcia being told at age thirteen that she is going to marry a man in his thirties.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Can You Do The Math?


Everyone needs a few good items of clothing, so, although the bulk of my haberdashery comes from Walmart, I occasionally purchase more respectable habiliments from Charles Tyrwhitt, a fine English supplier with offices in the U.S. Consequently I am on their e-mail list and periodically receive advertisements.

Last week their ad announced “three shirts for $99.95”. (These are very good shirts, so this would be a bargain if I needed shirts.) And the advertisement also displayed, below the price, a large circular insertion that said, “That’s only $33.32 per shirt”. Yes, it really said that.

My mind yet boggles. It would surely be reasonable for Charles Tyrwhitt to posit that their clients have at least completed grade school. Nonetheless, the company feels it advisable to tell prospective customers that ninety-nine divided by three is thirty-three.

We hear about the ‘dumbing-down’ of life. How bad is it? Have we reached the point where companies selling fairly high-end products think we are all idiots? Could they not assume that even mathematically-untalented people--such as me--can handle elementary arithmetic?

O tempora! O mores! (What times! What customs!) as Cicero said (although he was referring to the conspiracy of Catiline rather than advertisements for togas). Indeed, one could continue quoting from the First Catilinian: Quo usque tandem abutere patientia nostra? (How long will you continue to abuse our patience?). Companies will perhaps sell more products if they do not insult the intelligence of their patrons.