Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"But at least this much has been gained: we’ve rid ourselves of hope and expectation."


So says Cavafy's mycenaean commentator on the events surrounding the end of the Trojan War. Living in constant anticipation of an event has taken a toll on the people, as evidenced by the watchman's monologue at the beginning of Agamemnon. Ten years has passed waiting. The citizens of the stallion land of Argos have spent the decade witness to the adulterous affair between Aegisthus and Clytemnestra. Hell will certainly break loose as soon as Agamemnon returns. But in the eyes of the narrator, expectation is a weight, as freedom from waiting is gain even if it means chaos.

The connection of our age means constant expectation - will she email? will he call? what is the market doing? how many people have viewed my latest blog post? Our age of anxiety leaves us waiting for the next thing. But of course, when and if happiness comes, it often brings less joy than expected.


When the Watchman Saw the Light - Constantine Cavafy

Winter, summer, the watchman sat there looking out
from the palace roof of the sons of Atreus.
Now he has good news to report. He's seen the fire light up
in the distance and he's glad: also, the drudgery is over.
It’s hard to sit there night and day in heat and cold,
on the lookout for a fire to show
on the peak of Arachnaion.
Now the longed-for signal has appeared. When happiness comes,
it brings less joy than one expected.
This much is clearly gained, however: we've rid ourselves
of hope and expectation. Many things will happen
to the house of Atreus. No need to be wise
to guess this now the watchman has seen the light.
So let’s not exaggerate.
The light is good; and those coming are good,
their words and actions also good.
And let’s hope all goes well.
But Argos can do without the sons of Atreus.
Ancient houses are not eternal.
Of course many people will have much to say.
We should listen. But we won’t be deceived
by words such as Indispensable, Unique, and Great.
Someone else indispensable and unique and great
can always be found at a moment’s notice.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Free Translation: Classical Drama

I went to a local book store last week to hear a reading of Anne Carson's new translation of Antigone. Besides prompting the realization that a disproportional percentage of female poets are very thin, the event reinvigorated my dormant plans to do a (very) free translation of classical drama.

In her Antigone, Carson's characters, self aware of their being fictional characters and prescient of future philosophy and literary criticism, mention Hegel, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, and Freud. They also use modern metaphors involving electricity, cars, and American politics. 

So, this brings me to some thoughts - possible plays to mash-up, deform, modernize, and bastardize. My ambition is to research and work on Syrian Women, an adaptation of Trojan Women, a sort of triangulated translation between the Greek of Euripides, the Latin of Seneca, and the nightly newscasts on the continued struggle of the Arab Spring.

Comment with a possibility for another play transformation title/topic/etc/anything. I'll send you a post card.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Today's Reading: Self-help for Fellow Refugees - Li-Young Lee

If your name suggests a country where bells
might have been used for entertainment

or to announce the entrances and exits of the seasons
or the birthdays of gods and demons,

it’s probably best to dress in plain clothes
when you arrive in the United States,
and try not to talk too loud.

If you happen to have watched armed men
beat and drag your father
out the front door of your house
and into the back of an idling truck

before your mother jerked you from the threshold
and buried your face in her skirt folds,
try not to judge your mother too harshly.

Don’t ask her what she thought she was doing
turning a child’s eyes
away from history
and toward that place all human aching starts.

And if you meet someone
in your adopted country,
and think you see in the other’s face
an open sky, some promise of a new beginning,
it probably means you’re standing too far.

**

Or if you think you read in the other, as in a book
whose first and last pages are missing,
the story of your own birthplace,
a country twice erased,
once by fire, once by forgetfulness,
it probably means you’re standing too close.

In any case, try not to let another carry
the burden of your own nostalgia or hope.

And if you’re one of those
whose left side of the face doesn’t match
the right, it might be a clue

looking the other way was a habit
your predecessors found useful for survival.
Don’t lament not being beautiful.

Get used to seeing while not seeing.
Get busy remembering while forgetting.
Dying to live while not wanting to go on.

Very likely, your ancestors decorated
their bells of every shape and size
with elaborate calendars
and diagrams of distant star systems,
but with no maps for scattered descendants.

**

And I bet you can’t say what language
your father spoke when he shouted to your mother
from the back of the truck, “Let the boy see!”

Maybe it wasn’t the language you used at home.
Maybe it was a forbidden language.
Or maybe there was too much screaming
and weeping and the noise of guns in the streets.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is this:
The kingdom of heaven is good.
But heaven on earth is better.

Thinking is good.
But living is better.

Alone in your favorite chair
with a book you enjoy
is fine. But spooning
is even better.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Strange Spam - a Critical Look

I receive a fair amount of mail in my spam folder and normally delete it after checking to make sure nothing important has slipped through. But I kept this for interests sake and share it with you now:


Welcome dear, Peggyzoso

They say good education in University will give you considerable income?

Increased lifetime income is not a fiction - higher qualification always gives considerable income. Specialists with degree will always have higher salary and higher rating in labor market

Ministry of Education made research concerning "Lifetime Earnings Soar with Education" and got interesting results about gained incomes.

It was found out that higher education considerably rises the income of the specialist, and the further developing of educational status rises income several times. Below there are simple examples of income level, the difference is evident
If you still hesitate, may be these number of expected earnings will change your mind

Does new appointment require confirming your qualification? You have a wealth of experience but no diploma? We can solve your problem in 30 days. Your experience will be confirmed by the proper diploma.

We don’t call up you give up your study and get with garbling, our offer will help professionals with a wealth of experience that don’t have much time for attending classes. We will provide the proper diploma in a month but your income will rise and remain all your life. 

Earnestine Harper


A few observations:
  • The title line of the email reads Improve your "Ph.D" resume in less than 40 days. The author makes ample use of unnecessary quotation marks throughout the piece. I like the title in particular as it really is a "Ph.D." one would be buying.
  • The greeting is very strange. I've never heard the name Peggyzoso before. Perhaps consider it for your next son or daughter (I think it works either way).
  • The writer seems unsure of herself, making statements like They say good education in University will give you considerable income followed by a question mark.
  • Give up your study and get with garbling, our offer... has a nice alliterative quality.
  • Ms. Harper brings up a valid point that work experience is undervalued and college degrees overvaluedin the US labor market. Still, I think buying degrees online is not the way.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

In Memoriam

Gertrude Petra Landrum 
(June 10, 2011 - June 10, 2011)

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
  as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death,
  its jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
  the very flame of the Lord.
Many waters cannot quench love,
  neither can floods drown it.
If a man offered for love
  all the wealth of his house,
  he would be utterly despised.
(Song of Solomon 8:6-7)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

In Memoriam

My dear daughter,

I learned this song so I could play it for you after you were born but never had that chance. So here it is for your birthday. I wish so much that you were here. You're forever in my heart and mind. We'll be seeing each other.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Three from the Greek Anthology

5.170
Nothing is sweeter than love, all other blessings
come second to it. I have spat even honey
out of my mouth — I, Nossis,
say this is so. But one whom Kypris
has not loved, will never know
what roses her flowers are.
          -Nossis (trans. Peter Jay)

12.39
The regions of Tyre are noted
  for the delicate beauty of their people.

And do no the bright regions of the sky
  pale when Myiscus steps forth?
          -Meleager (trans. Peter Whigham)

9.489
The grammarian's daughter,
having declined with a man,
gave birth to children — masculine,
feminine, and neuter.
          -Palladas (trans. Peter Jay)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Today's Reading: Ballade - Fran├žois Villon

I know flies in milk
I know the man by his clothes
I know fair weather from foul
I know the apple by the tree
I know the tree when I see the sap
I know when all is one
I know who labors and who loafs
I know everything but myself.

I know the coat by the collar
I know the monk by the cowl
I know the master by the servant
I know the nun by the veil
I know when a hustler rattles on
I know fools raised on whipped cream
I know the wine by the barrel
I know everything but myself.

I know the horse and the mule
I know their loads and their limits
I know Beatrice and Belle
I know the beads that count and add
I know nightmare and sleep
I know the Bohemians' error
I know the power of Rome
I know everything but myself.

Prince I know all things
I know the rosy-cheeked and the pale
I know death who devours all
I know everything but myself.