Freebie Humour: We Read Licinianus but to Mock
Posted 3 Days Ago
Want a good laugh at the expense of the Romans?
'Sie spinnen, die Roemer...' - Asterix
Try these fragments from Granius Licinianus' otherwise lost history of Rome. Read it aloud to an appreciative friend for maximum enjoyment. You will find gems, such as this:
'And Pompeius, when he was 25 years old and still a Roman knight - something which no-one had previously done - celebrated a triumph as pro-praetor from Africa, on the fourth day before the Ides of March. Some writers say that on this occasion the Roman people were shown elephants in the triumph. But when he came to enter the city, the triumphal arch was too small for the four elephants yoked to his chariot, although they tried it twice.'
Imagine this...and you think 'Gladiator' was an extravagant movie. Let me tell you, Russell Crowe had nothing on those REAL Romans.
Here's the link to the English version for lazy people:
Want to try your hand at deciphering these fragmentary texts from an old palimpsest? Be our guest, you overachiever:
Me, I'll stick to reading the translation aloud to Elektra and commenting, a la 'Mystery Science Theater': 'No wonder Mithridates lost. He was from PONTUS. I wonder how many 'Ponti' jokes they told about him...'
Licinianus seems to think that he's a GOOD historian. Not like that Sallust, who editorialised too much. But you'll still find a story or two in here that has the flavour of ancient Roman urban legend. Fun.
Freebie Reading: Tales from the Beyond (and St Louis)
Posted Last Week
I've been reading a really cool book. It's called 'The Personality of Man', by GNM Tyrrell. It was written in 1945, but this is the 1954 edition:
The book almost defies categorisation. The author is a long-time member in good standing of the Society for Psychical Research, and he's very scientifical about all things weird. And boy, are there weird stories in here. One of the best concerns some French people having dreams about a yellow suit-case (his spelling)...
Even more fun are the theories behind telepathy, precognition, etc. Surprisingly insightful, and very close to describing the possible workings of an Einsteinian universe. You might like this.
At worst, it will while away some downtime. And it's free...
Tyrrell has also introduced us to the oeuvre of the amazing Patience Worth, a disembodied entity who was responsible for the publications of a Mrs Curran from St Louis, Missouri. Mrs Curran, when awake, apparently thought Henry VIII had had HIS head cut off. When in automatic-writing mode, she produced historical novels of great vividness. One of them apparently puts Lew Wallace to shame. It's called 'The Sorry Tale: A Story from the Time of Christ'. I'm a bit put off by the fact that part 1 is entitled 'Panda'. An Arab named Panda is a bit much to wrap one's head around. But hey, brain freeze or no, it looks good:
So, for what it's worth, these are my library recommendations for the week.
Sunday's Elevating Film Tip: High-Brow Opera...Sort of...
Posted 2 Weeks Ago
Have you ever wondered what it would look and sound like if a roomful of Hogarth prints came alive and sang opera?
Do you like your high-brow music richly spiced with drunks, crooks, fences, and ladies of negotiable affection?
Today's freebie comes courtesy of a kind Youtube user, and was inspired by the fact that we heard NPR on the car radio.
No, NPR hasn't got any better, and they weren't playing good music, they never do that. But a quiz show they ran was enlivened by a terrible - and ironically intended - version of 'Mack the Knife'. Which made me yearn to hear...
Why, 'The Beggar's Opera', of course.
I was looking for the original, but ran across this beautiful staging of the Benjamin Britten version instead.
If you don't know 'The Beggar's Opera', you're in for a treat. If you do, Britten's setting is tasty, and the sets are just fabulous. It will make you laugh, too.
Hot Reading Tip for Sci-Fi Fans: Time Travelling Spaniards
Posted 3 Weeks Ago
Here's a freebie sci-fi novel: first published in 1887, 'El anacronopete' is the first novel about machine time travel.
The snag is: you have to read it in Spanish. Which may slow you down a bit.
The novelist, Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau, was a well-traveled writer. He served as a diplomat in China, so setting part of his time-travel novel there wasn't a stretch.
I haven't read it all, but I've taken a gander at the illustrations, which are cool, and read a synopsis. The plot's pretty wild.
First of all, the inventor - a sort of Doc Brown from Zaragoza - is asked to take some elderly French ladies of doubtful profession back in time, so that they rejuvenate. The mayor of Paris wants to reform them. This works, because they don't give them the 'Garcia fluid' that keeps them from aging backwards.
The 'science' involves the idea that air causes time to flow. Think about it - canning preserves food. Keep the air out, and... Okay, but that's not any sillier than Stan Lee.
Anyway, the chrononauts visit Queen Isabella in 1492 (you should listen to that Genovese sailor, lady), and Pompeii in 79, travel to ancient China, and then go back to Noah's Flood. (Stop laughing.) When they hit the Big Bang, things get weird...
You get the idea. Want to take a look? Here's the link:
For translation help, ask Maria.
Sunday's Spooky Screen Tip/Rant: Stalking the Rabid Manuscript
Posted 3 Weeks Ago
Oh, that Nat Geo. Oh, the drama. Oh, the silliness. Oh, the pain of listening to people narrate a story about manuscript palaeography as if they had studied with Steve Irwin.
'Crikey, mate! That's one demonically possessed codex! It's a monster!'
After all, this sort of narration works so WELL for nature documentaries....why not use it to keep the punters awake while you talk about mediaeval manuscripts? Besides, the thing is definitely haunted. Sure.
1. The Codex Gigas - Latin for 'Big Book', duh - has a demon centerfold. It looks like a cartoon to me. I suspect Max Fleischer (creator of 'Betty Boop' ) with a time machine. See if you don't agree:
Doesn't it look like this?
I rest my case.
2. The book was copied in Bohemia. Elektra giggles, 'That's almost as bad as Transylvania.' Yep. The woods are lovely, dark, and deep. And people have too much free time over all that Pilsner beer. So of course, they made up a legend about the monk, the book, and the devil. Spooky stuff, writing, 'Can you write, Sigismund?' 'No, Pavel, but I can make an X, see?' 'Stop that, you're spoiling the bar counter..'
Okay, the Codex Gigas is cool. And buried in all that...what Elektra calls 'hoo-hee-ha-ha'...is about fifteen minutes' worth of perfectly good forensic palaeolgraphy. So enjoy.
I can imagine good old Professor Finch from the University of St Louis chortlin away at it. After all, he kept bragging that, with our cutting-edge microfilm technique, we were going to 'scoop' those old-fashioned palaeographers over at the Vatican. He would have got a kick out of the spooky manuscript angle.
But after listening to them trying to connect Herman the Recluse's oversized scrapbook to all things demonic, all I could say was...