Some Links.

Good links have been piling up, so here are several:

1) Russian Dinosaur is back, with Nothing but spiders: Bobok in the bathhouse, a rich post about stories set in graveyards, from which I learned about Vladimir Sharov’s father “Aleksandr Sharov, born Asher Israelievich Nurenberg (1909-1984), a bibulous but none the less brilliant writer and journalist”; his novel The Death and Resurrection of A.M. Butov (1984) “is a serious study of the consequences of dying, but not going away. Effectively extinct, but still conscious, Butov revisits his typical Soviet life – and its moral and emotional consequences.”

2) Speaking of Sharov fils, Caryl Emerson has a long and fascinating LARB essay, “Our Own Madness, Our Own Absurd” (Andrei Platonov, Vladimir Sharov, and George Bernard Shaw), that discusses Platonov’s plays and Sharov’s essays about Platonov. The longest section is devoted to Fourteen Little Red Huts (1933), a play about the appalling consequences of collectivization; one of its characters is Johann-Friedrich Bos, “world-renowned scholar, chairman of the League of Nations Commission for the Resolution of the Riddle of the World Economy, one hundred and one years old,” who is in part based on G.B. Shaw, who “had celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday in the Soviet Union in 1931 and had asserted afterward that the world’s only hope lay in the success of Stalin’s Five-Year Plan.” Here’s a passage of linguistic interest:

Shaw-Bos comes on the scene in Moscow already knowing Russian (“Of course I know Russian! What don’t I know? I no longer remember how much I know…”) When he arrives with Futilla [“Futilla” is the translators’ suggestive rendering of the unusual female first name Suenita, which recalls the Biblical phrase “vanity of vanities” (“sueta suet” in Old Church Slavonic and modern Russian)] at the desolate pastoral kolkhoz, he takes up the language of the new society from the inside. The kolkhoz is affectionate and supportive of his seniority. He becomes a mascot. Futilla is grateful and allows herself to be embraced. At her request, Bos learns bookkeeping so he can help with the registration of workdays; in her absence, he even does a stint of managing himself. In his transition to Soviet worker and bureaucrat, he passes through a lyrical phase — lamenting to Futilla that nature is indifferent, that “the wind doesn’t feel boredom, the sea doesn’t call anyone anywhere,” that all these hopes of progress and the harnessing of nature are all fraud, “worldwide, historically organized fraud.” But obliged to deal with written records and file reports, Bos the dreamily disillusioned poet adapts to the language of the present.

By the beginning of Act III, Bos can speak like a native. He is now on a learning curve quite different from his burlesqued predecessor Stervetson in Hurdy-Gurdy. Futilla is away in Astrakhan, fetching the recovered babies. Before her departure, she delegated her power to Bos. His name has been Russified and furnished with a patronymic. He is doing his job, and with the right vocabulary. He asks Ksyusha whether she has overfulfilled her quota, and he accuses the elderly kolkhoz worker Filipp Vershkov of being a class enemy, liar, and saboteur. Both reply to these administrative pronouncements matter-of-factly, without dismay or panic.

3) Two Latin-related links from Michael Gilleland’s Laudator Temporis Acti: Genuine (on the disputed etymology of that word) and The Two Chief Pleasures of My Life, a passage from Tobias Smollett’s The Adventures of Roderick Random, of which this is a taste:

At our entrance, the landlord, who seemed to be a venerable old man, with long grey hair, rose from a table placed by a large fire in a very neat paved kitchen, and, with a cheerful countenance, accosted us in these words: ‘Salvete Pueri—ingredimini.’—I was not a little pleased to hear our host speak Latin, because I was in hope of recommending myself to him by my knowledge in that language; I therefore answered, without hesitation,—Dissolve frigus, ligna super foco—large reponens. I had no sooner pronounced these words, than the old gentleman, running toward me, shook me by the hand, crying, ‘—Fili mi dilectissime! unde venis!—a superis, ni fallor?

4) LH commenter Garrigus Carraig sent me an e-mail saying “I found a story which may interest you. A student defended her dissertation in Quechua, a first at 400+-year-old Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima.” He included links to a Guardian story by Dan Collyns (“Quechua is still spoken by 8 million people across the Andes, but Roxana Quispe Collantes hopes she can give it added value”), a Remezcla story by Yara Simón (“Her work was titled ‘Yawar Para, Kilku Warak’aq, Andrés Alencastre Gutiérrezpa harawin pachapi, Qosqomanta runasimipi harawi t’ikrachisqa, ch’ullanchasqa kayninpi,’ which focuses on transfiguration and uniqueness of Quechua poetry, particularly the works of Andrés Alencastre Gutiérrez”), and a three-hour video, Primera tesis sanmarquina sustentada en quechua (Quispe Collantes starts talking at 27:45; it’s fun to hear the Quechua). Thanks, Garrigus!

5) Anther commenter wrote me to say “Do you know about the British system of hill classification, as used by hill walkers? It gives me a headache. I figured you might like it.” Marilyns, HuMPs, Simms, and TuMPs; Munros, Murdos, Corbetts, and Grahams; Hewitts and Nuttalls; it’s a real trove. Thanks, Yoram!

Comments

  1. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Hill lists are the kind of thing where everyone who thinks that there are far too many lists wants to solve the problem by creating One Really Good List that everyone will use…

  2. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I think my feeling about whether something is a mountain depends not only on its height but also on how steep it is. The hills I can see from my balcony don’t count as mountains according to the classification that you link to, as the highest (Marseilleveyre) just reaches 430 m. However, they are very near and they rise very steeply, so they look like mountains until you see easily visible people walking on them. When we were first here I was reminded of the view of the Andes (clearly mountains by any standards) from my wife’s house in Santiago.

  3. J.W. Brewer says:

    It’s definitely not just the Brits although looking at the U.S. section of this more wide-scope wiki-article makes me think that maybe in a larger country with more mountains (the Adirondacks alone have about 20 peaks higher than Ben Nevis, and they aren’t actually all that high compared to ranges found elsewhere in the country) less time is spent over rival classification approaches to the same limited inventory of topographical features versus figuring out how to combine local or regional lists into regional or national lists that are still of potentially manageable size. There’s some sort of equilibrium going on where a list of 40 things-to-climb will appeal to those of a certain completist sensibility while a list of 400 would be too foreboding, so at some level people are adjusting the qualifying criteria to yield a desired size of output. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mountain_lists

  4. Stu Clayton says:

    Nice use of “foreboding” where trite custom tempts to write “forbidding”. I guess the latter in this context was originally due to a confusion.

  5. J.W. Brewer says:

    Stu’s praise would be funnier if I had tried to type “forbidding” and it got transformed w/o my knowledge into “foreboding” via a damn-you-autocorrect glitch. But I don’t *think* that’s what happened, so I accept the praise with gratitude, esp. given that Stu can on occasion be a tough audience.

  6. January First-of-May says:

    I’m not aware of any systematic Russian hill lists, alas, though I highly suspect that they exist and are just obscure.
    (It doesn’t help that, for Russia as a whole, many of the larger non-Caucasian mountains are relatively far from densely-populated areas, and consequently hard to reach. Any list would probably either uselessly include places that require weeks of trekking just to get to, or will have to be explicitly regionally limited.)

    I admit that there is at least a “highest points of federal subjects” list… which still exists in something like half a dozen variations (mostly because some of the elevations vary across sources, partly also because some subjects have merged since the initial list was started), a lot of the points don’t look much like hills, some are only on the list because they’re slight rises near the region boundary in a mostly sloping area (comparable US example: Mount Sunflower), and at least one is illegal to reach (the Kaliningrad Oblast highpoint, which is just past the international border fence, though still several hundred meters short of the actual border).

  7. Stu Clayton says:

    Better than either word would be “daunting”. “Forbidding” makes sense here only as “daunting”. Did it acquire that sense by confusion with “foreboding” ?

    Actually “foreboding” doesn’t make that much sense here either – a person can be daunted by forebodings, but dauntings and forebodings are different things.

  8. OED: “That forbids, or disinclines to, a nearer approach; repellent, repulsive, uninviting.”

  9. First cite: 1712 E. Budgell Spectator No. 301. ¶2 That awful Cast of the Eye and forbidding Frown.

  10. John Cowan says:

    the kind of thing where everyone who thinks that there are far too many lists

    “There are N different standards for <whatever>! We need to unify them.” Then the new standard is promulgated, and now we have N + 1 different standards. And if you don’t like any of them, wait till next year.

  11. Transcriptions of indigenous languages, for example.

  12. Many thanks for the Sharov-Platonov-Emerson link. I had overlooked Platonov’s plays until I read this piece.

  13. Lars Mathiesen says:

    And sometimes one standard wins out:

    Only two viable chargers now, USB micro-B and C. ASCII or UTF-8. In both cases, it’s clear which is the future.

    All instant messaging platforms are financed by theft of personal information and / or subversive political agendas, so zero would be a good number for those. But since there were some years where “Messenger” was unambiguous for Facebook Messenger, you can argue that a proprietary non-standard won there.

  14. Stu Clayton says:

    No theft is involved. First, there is no obligation to use any instant-messaging platform. If you don’t use them, you don’t part with anything by using them.

    Second, personal information is what you pay for the use of such a platform. This quid pro quo arrangement apparently results from an unwillingness by potential users to pay money. Perhaps they think their personal information isn’t worth a damn, and they would probably be right.

    When you want something for nothing, nothing is what you get.

  15. David Marjanović says:

    apparently results from an unwillingness by potential users to pay money

    The users – of social media in general – are not the customers.

    The users are the product. Their information is sold to advertisers – those are the customers.

    It’s not like there ever was a social medium that tried to finance itself by treating the users as customers. That business model has not even been tried.

  16. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Well, technically it’s true, but the platforms certainly don’t make it easy for the average user to find out to what extent their information is being sold on. I suspect that the implicit contract (“terms and conditions”) would be held unenforcable for lack of transparency under consumer protection laws in many countries, even though the EU’s GPDR already took a big chunk out of the license to invade privacy under pretext of a user agreeing to something only a few lawyers can even understand.

    And it already turned out that Russia is willing to pay good money for information about who they should target covert political ads at. I’m sure that wasn’t spelled out on Facebook’s registration page. (“We reserve the right to sell information about your political views to agents of other countries who may wish to influence your vote”).

  17. Two Latin-related links from Michael Gilleland’s Laudator Temporis Acti

    And here’s another, a delightful quote from Christopher De Hamel’s Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World (New York: Penguin Press, 2017):

    I took the Latin option at school, not because I had any particular aptitude for it (I hadn’t), but because I was generally worse at nearly everything else. It was a local state school for boys, King’s High School, in Dunedin, New Zealand, where, with hindsight, the curriculum was even then very old-fashioned. We struggled through the usual grammar and translation exercises. One day in the sixth form, our Latin teacher — he was called Mr Dunwoodie — imaginatively brought in a portable gramophone from home and a recording of the medieval Carmina Burana set to music by Carl Orff (1895–1982). It was unforgettable. We were all captivated by the haunting music and the sensuous rhythmical Latin lyrics about girls and drinking and the manifest unfairness of fortune. To a classroom of hormone-humming teenage boys, here was Latin which touched the soul as Caesar’s Gallic Wars had never done. We urged Mr Dunwoodie to play it over and over again, assuring him that it was educational. To his credit, he did. We soon knew many of the Latin verses by heart, and some I still do: o! o! o! totus floreo, iam amore virginali, totus ardeo! — ‘Oh! Oh! Oh! I am all in bloom, now I am all burning with first love’, and so on. We were just the right age. This music was to us a seductive evocation of anarchic and amorous medieval students vagabonding their way in verse and song across twelfth-century Europe, with a free-spirited ethos very like that of the mid-1960s. It is quite likely that Latin masters in schools elsewhere in the world sometimes also played the same record to their own classes at that time and our generation all shared familiarity with these songs of lust and rebellion in Latin, which for that purpose was still — just — serving as an international language.

    My wife sang Carmina Burana in high school and still loves it; for me, it’s Catulli Carmina, which I sang in college (“Da mi basia mille…”).

  18. Stu Clayton says:

    It’s not like there ever was a social medium that tried to finance itself by treating the users as customers. That business model has not even been tried.

    WordPress and every other website/blog host demonstrate the opposite.

  19. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Actually I pay LinkedIn to push my CV to recruiters when I need a new job, so to that extent I’m a customer. And LinkedIn looks a lot like a social medium these days, only with fewer pictures of caffe lattes. (Of course the recruiters then pay LinkedIn to be allowed to send me job offers, so I’m a product too. Quid pro quo, as they used to say).

  20. Stu Clayton says:

    Satisfied customers are eproducts of successful companies. Let’s not get all XORious over this.

  21. Stu Clayton says:

    Products, not “eproducts”.

  22. Made perfect sense to me, since we were talking about e-companies.

  23. Stu Clayton says:

    Yes, but I don’t want to acquire a reputation for with-it talk. I didn’t intend the word, so it is amiss in my book.

    I only wish I had written exorious, instead of XORious.

  24. Pet peeve: Classical music announcers (I’m looking at you, Fred Child) who say “CarMEEna Burana.”

  25. January First-of-May says:

    It’s not like there ever was a social medium that tried to finance itself by treating the users as customers. That business model has not even been tried.

    Pretty sure that any freemium-based social media would count; Discord is the first example that came to my mind, but I guess WordPress is another.

    Carmina Burana

    Not familiar with the titular song itself, but Hospita in Gallia, from, IIRC, the same medieval collection, had been (very loosely) translated into Russian as the Student’s Song.

    Во французской стороне,
    На чужой планете,
    Предстоит учиться мне
    В университете…

    (I always thought that the second line had to be an anachronism. Not sure whether it actually is, but I would be surprised if it isn’t.
    Incidentally, here is a much less loose Russian translation of the same song.)

    [EDIT: fixed very unfortunate typo.]

  26. John Cowan says:

    WordPress blog owners (always excepting the relentlessly non-profit ones like this) are running the chicken model (“The chickens think that because they are fed, they must be the customers”) on their users; WordPress is just a subcontractor of the owner and is paid as such.

  27. @Rodger C: I am willing to believe that the pronunciation you cite is wrong, but I don’t think I have never heard it any other way (and I have performed whole twenty-five movement piece).

    And Fred Child gets infinite sufferance from me, in recognition of his work on The Neal Gladstone and Friends Radio Show—by far the funniest program I have ever heard on the air—back in the early 1990s. Sadly, it is not available online; I just have a few episodes recorded for myself. However, I did go to an event featuring Fred Child about ten years ago, and he told me that he had at least made sure that there were redundant digital versions of the show’s master tapes. So, one day I still may get to hear the complete adventures of Nick Drosophila, Private Eye all the way through again—with the little ditties advertising Sam’s Discount Surgeons and everything.

  28. Lars Mathiesen says:

    @Brett, stress in Classical Latin is pretty well described and it’s /’karmina bu’ra:na/ — but personally I don’t know what happened to vowel length and stress in Mediaeval Latin. (The classical stress follows an artificial system derived from vowel length on a Greek model, but probably exceptionless for that very reason). Now if performers have agreed to stress the second syllable in English, that’s their right, pace Rodger C — Danish practice follows the Latin stresswise, but of course we change the R’s and add a stød.

    ADDED: L&S cite an old form casmen for carmen (rhotacism), but I was larned that it’s from canmen to cano by regular sound change which would presumably not go via /s/. Help?

  29. I am willing to believe that the pronunciation you cite is wrong, but I don’t think I have never heard it any other way

    Yeah, I’m afraid it’s so common in English as to deserve the label “standard”; those of us who know Latin (and to whom it is therefore anathema) just have to learn to suck it up.

  30. John Cowan says:

    I’ve posted this before, but: “Carmina, burana, Carmina, burana, Let’s call the whole thing Orff.”

  31. David Marjanović says:

    WordPress and every other website/blog host demonstrate the opposite.

    Well, the readers/commenters don’t pay. Some of the authors pay to keep the ads out.

    I admit I have no idea of Discord, barely know the name.

    The classical stress follows an artificial system derived from vowel length on a Greek model, but probably exceptionless for that very reason

    I’m sure it’s real: stress wasn’t phonemic, so it went on heavy syllables near the end of the word, like in Greek words without phonemic stress (like compounds). All the irregularities of Romance stress follow from this quite effortlessly.

    The shortness and therefore stresslessness of the i in carmina is obvious from the fact that it’s a reduced vowel, as shown by the singular carmen. The resulting first-syllable stress on this word is universal in German.

    Help?

    Might be a hypercorrectivism or a failed attempt at an archaism.

  32. January First-of-May says:

    WordPress blog owners (always excepting the relentlessly non-profit ones like this) are running the chicken model (“The chickens think that because they are fed, they must be the customers”) on their users; WordPress is just a subcontractor of the owner and is paid as such.

    I (and presumably Stu Clayton) was referring to WordPress.com (the host), not WordPress.org (the platform).

    On second thought, perhaps Reddit (with its Reddit Gold, and lately Reddit Silver) is a more famous example of what I’m talking about than Discord.
    But I’m not sure if “treating the users as customers” is really that good of a description of freemium models (which those three effectively are) at all – though they probably still fit that description better than the actually free sites (like Facebook) do.

    …Come to think of it, some places – Writing.com comes to mind – do very much take the freemium aspect too far; and I wouldn’t say that “customers” is a particularly apt term for how those places treat their users. “Cash cows” might be a better one. (Cash chickens?)
    I suspect that a true treating-users-as-customers model would bill everyone, probably proportionally to how much they use the service; a lot of (for example) cloud hosting services do, in fact, practice pretty much this, but offhand I can’t think of any examples that could be meaningfully described as “social media”.

  33. John Cowan says:

    I suspect that a true treating-users-as-customers model would bill everyone, probably proportionally to how much they use the service; a lot of (for example) cloud hosting services do, in fact, practice pretty much this,

    User-as-customer isn’t inconsistent with a free tier: you can try out AWS or Azure or Google Cloud on a reasonable-for-you, trivial-for-them scale without fuss. Currently AWS charges me a whopping $6 per month for All The Backup I Need (the actual backup service provider charges another $4, but I get an early-adopter lifetime discount), and the price keeps dropping even as I keep adding more stuff.

    but offhand I can’t think of any examples that could be meaningfully described as “social media”.

    Well, no. “Post on our site, pay us a little and we won’t sell your data” turns out not to be a compelling business model. For one thing, the incentive for the site to cheat is enormous, and the chance of being caught is small: and if you are caught, you go out of business and create another startup the same day. The other reason was well put by Clay Shirky in 2000:

    Micropayment advocates mistakenly believe that efficient allocation of resources is the purpose of markets. Efficiency is a byproduct of market systems, not their goal. The reasons markets work are not because users have embraced efficiency but because markets are the best place to allow users to maximize their preferences, and very often their preferences are not for conservation of cheap resources.

    The whole article is well worth reading for anyone interested in, mmm, non-traditional economics.

  34. January First-of-May says:

    For one thing, the incentive for the site to cheat is enormous, and the chance of being caught is small

    …and with modern laws in, e.g., the US and Russia, there’s a (possibly larger) chance of being caught for not saving the data, and if they have to save it anyway, there’s pretty much no remaining incentive not to sell it further.

    User-as-customer isn’t inconsistent with a free tier: you can try out AWS or Azure or Google Cloud on a reasonable-for-you, trivial-for-them scale without fuss.

    …I guess it is more convenient to let the users do something for free than to have to bill them fractions of a dollar.

    (Even at the $6 level, the inconvenience of figuring out the payment method probably overshadows the inconvenience of actually paying; at, say, the $0.16 level, the payment would likely cost more to process anyway.)

  35. John Cowan says:

    Absolutely. There are often signs in NYC stores saying “Minimum credit card purchase $10” for that reason; luckily, many stores also have independent (non-bank) ATMs in them or nearby. Of course, such ATMs charge about $3 to withdraw money, so you might as well get $100, the usual upper limit; your bank also charges you another $3. Rent-seeking at its finest and the high cost of poverty. (In 1873, when the building I live in was built in what was and is a poor working-class neighborhood, rents per square foot were higher than on Park Avenue, and ten people per apartment was considered normal.)

  36. John Cowan says:

    [Latin] stress wasn’t phonemic

    It must have been a fixed initial stress in Old Latin, though, giving such moderate reductions as inimicus ‘enemy’ < in-amicus.

    All instant messaging platforms are financed by theft of personal information and / or subversive political agendas, so zero would be a good number for those.

    Not the various IRC networks, which are classic non-profit collectives. Though IRC as a whole has shrunk by two-thirds compared to when it was the only game in town, 375,000 users is still a decent number, though of course no Facebook. In addition, Gitter, MatterMost, and Rocket.chat have all adopted the public-use-free, private-use-pay model of GitHub.

  37. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Pet peeve: Classical music announcers (I’m looking at you, Fred Child) who say “CarMEEna Burana.”

    My recollection (probably distorted by more than 50 years of atrophy) from when I sang in the choir for a performance of Carmina Burana is that I was the only person who stressed Cármina on the first syllable.

    Actually we did it twice. Everybody enjoyed it so much the first time that we did it again the next year. However, you can’t step in the same river twice and it wasn’t the same.

  38. AJP Crown says:

    In 1873, when the building I live in was built in what was and is a poor working-class neighborhood, rents per square foot were higher than on Park Avenue

    Huh. That’s an interesting factoid for all sorts of lines of research, and I’ve never noticed it in any of the texts on NYC housing (this, for example is a good one).

    Surely E. Third (is it?) Street stopped being poor & working class sometime around 1980?

  39. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Well, if you can’t post a picture of your latte, it’s not social media. DCC doesn’t cut it. (I was pretty social on IRC as well, in the day, but it has even less chance than Esperanto of being the winning standard).

  40. John Cowan says:

    To some extent it depends on whether you consider artists middle-class or not. As the NYT said back in 1980, “It is still possible to starve in a SoHo garret — but not cheaply.” But I meant the Lower East Side as a whole, not just East 3rd or my block of it, although it applies to them too. (I can say “East Village” for the northern LES now without wincing, but here I am among friends, and I don’t have to submit to real-estate agent bullying.)

  41. David Marjanović says:

    It must have been a fixed initial stress in Old Latin, though, giving such moderate reductions as inimicus ‘enemy’ < in-amicus.

    Sure, but that’s not phonemic either.

  42. AJP Crown says:

    Loisaida? My wife had a studio for some years at the Henry Street Settlement on Grand Street, where she did a pretty good charcoal portrait that was presented to Aaron Copland and where we heard Dizzy Gillespie play, so although we lived up by Columbia I spent quite a lot of my free time on the LES during the late 70s. It really felt like a mixture of Jewish shops and (mostly) Nuyorican residents back then.

    whether you consider artists middle-class or not
    Yeah. CBGBs or no CBGBs, I take them one at a time. The artists we knew were mostly living on the top floor of that neoclassical bank on the NW corner of Grand & Bowery (they were of course all eventually kicked out).

  43. I wish we could have hung out together in that storied place and time.

  44. AJP Crown says:

    Me too!

  45. John Cowan says:

    Alas, I wasn’t here until late ’79 or early ’80.

  46. And I not until early ’81.

  47. Fire up the Chronotopic Transporter!

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