Adventure Tales: Or Why I Like Haggard, Talbot Mundy, and Burroughs

A re-run in honor of the release of Pouchling and Hopling

Short version: because they have fun, or at least you get the sense that they were having fun when they wrote their stories. Tarzan, Athelstane King, Alan Quartermain, none of them spent long hours pondering the meaning of existence and the shallowness of bourgeois society. Nope, they explored, fought, played the Great Game by Asia’s own rules and won, dared to pursue the beautiful woman and won her hand and her respect, stood up for their honor and kept their word. And the books are a romp that leave you feeling better and dreaming of your own adventure when you finish. Continue reading

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Meaning Shifts: Awful and Awesome

English is not quite as variable as Humpty Dumpty, who averred that words meant what he said they meant, no more and no less, but it does shift, reverse, and back-track when it comes to meanings.

I tend to get irritated when a perfectly useful term or phrase becomes taboo, or a euphemism that is just common enough that I can no longer utilize its services in my writing. DadRed steams when terms are watered down to the point of losing their meaning and power. I learned this when a not-too-bad 1980s youth choir anthem became a praise chorus. The core meaning of the music was lost, leaving a very different sense behind. Continue reading

September 11th

I’ve posted here before about my experiences on September 11th, 2001. And some of what I did later, my little part in the fight against Al Quaeda’s internet presence and that of some of their successors.

None of my students were alive then. What is clear auditory and visual memory for me – the radio reports, the tails of the diverted planes looming over the little terminal at the airport where I was working at the time – is history for them. In a few more years, if I’m still teaching, the Thirty Year Rule* will turn September Eleventh into history and I’ll have to teach it. Continue reading

Not Nice, But Good

Cedar Sanderson’s post at Mad Genius Club about the Holocaust museum and fiction, and Lawdog’s eloquent commentary on the life and demise of Robert Mugabe, kicked me into wondering about those people who are not nice, are not saints, but who do the right thing in hard situations, sometimes for reasons that make would-be hagiographers flinch.

This summer, I visited the Schindler factory in Krakow. Oskar Schindler was no saint. He wasn’t Dietrich Bonhoffer by a long shot. He protected Jews possibly in part because he was ticked off about trying to meet his quotas when his skilled labor kept being hauled away to the camps. But he ended up saving 1100 people, and is listed as being among the Righteous Among the Nations for what he did. But I got the impression from the book, the movie, and the museum, that he’s not the kind of person Sunday School teachers would hold up as a moral role model. Continue reading

Yes, And? So what? Who didn’t?

Welcome, Instapundit readers and other visitors! Thank you for dropping by.

So, this year marks 400 years since enslaved Africans were brought to eastern North America. That the Spanish and Prortugese had already been bringing African slaves over, and that almost every other people on the American continents practiced slavery, and that the rest of the planet practiced slavery, doesn’t seem to matter. That slavery is still practiced today, in part because some religious texts positively command it, doesn’t matter to those who are concerned with chattel slavery of Africans as practiced in the British colonies.

Yes, slavery has been around as long as humans have been around in sufficient numbers to get into disputes. And it continues, either openly as slavery, or as debt-peonage, or concubinage, or debt-slavery, or “life servants,” or “gift servants.” Only Europeans tried to end the practice, because they believed that all men were created equal, and that enslaving people was no longer a right and moral practice. But that doesn’t count, or so the New York Times and other sources suggest. Continue reading

Classical Knowledge?

So, my mind was wandering the other day, or more accurately, fleeing the truly obnoxious and depressing “morning show” blaring in the waiting area of the eye doctor’s office, and I started thinking about a book that I didn’t buy. I was in line at a very, very unusual bookstore, and they had a shelf of Loeb Classics editions, all ten percent off. One of them was Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy. This was a book I’d been wanting for a while, mostly because of the connection between it and King Alfred of Wessex, Alfred the Great. However, even at ten percent off it was a little spendy, so I didn’t get it.

Those thoughts led me to recall a story in Roy Bedichek’s Adventures of a Texas Naturalist where he was at a cocktail party and referred to “Thalassa, thalassa!” one associate caught the reference instantly, but a young woman did not. She had never heard of the Anabasis, could not discuss Xenophon’s prose style, was not familiar with the Greek classics in translation or in Greek. Bedichek wondered what had become of the schools. This was in the 1950s.

So, I started going through my mental list. Which of the Classical classics have I read, either in the original or in translation? Continue reading

Who Are You?

One of the historical themes of the Early Modern Era in Central and Eastern Europe is definition of identity. Who comprises the Polish nation? Who is a Magyar/Hungarian? What does it mean to be a Bohemian? Since only the people who had political status counted as members of the nation, only the nobility bothered with the idea until 1792 and the rise of Romantic nationalism. Until then, us and them were the more important distinctions.

To Slavs, “we” were the people who spoke intelligible languages. “They” did not speak, and to this day the word used to mean a German once meant someone who could not speak—just like the ancient Greeks and “barbarians.” Over time, especially once the Ottomans and Tatar Hordes became major threats, “we” also included Russian Orthodox Christians (Russia) and Roman Catholics (Poles). Germans had Catholicism, a tradition of having been mentioned in Roman writings, and not being Franks or Slavs or Vikings.  For the bulk of the population before 1792, that was pretty much what mattered. Continue reading