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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Translation translation translation

Consider the following.
Leader of chorus of old men

Come, Philurgus, man, let's hurry there; let's lay our faggots all about the citadel, and on the blazing pile burn with our hands these vile conspiratresses, one and all — and Lycon's wife first and foremost!

Second semi-Chorus of old men [singing]

Nay, by Demeter, never will I let them laugh at me, whiles I have a breath left in my body. Cleomenes himself, the first who ever seized our citadel, had to quit it to his sore dishonour; spite his Lacedaemonian pride, he had to deliver me up his arms and slink off with a single garment to his back. My word! but he was filthy and ragged! and what an unkempt beard, to be sure! He had not had a bath for six long years!
And now this.
And shall these females hold the sacred spot
That might King Cleomenes could not?

The grand old Spartan king,
He had six hundred men,
He marched them into the Acropolis
And he marched them out again.
And he entered breathing fire,
But when he left the place
He hadn't wash for six whole years
And had hair all over his face.

Point 1: I have no idea which translation is closer to the Greek text, but I suspect it is the first because the second version seems to have made an attempt to include some cultural equivalents. There is a song I know as a camp song which goes, "The Grand Ole Duke of York, he had ten-thousand men, he marched them up the hill and then he marched them down again. And when you're up you're up, and when you're down you're down but when you're only half way up, you're neither up nor down."

Point 2: I like the second translation better--which happily is the version the version I'm reading. I think it contains the same information and I assume it matches the feel of the play.

Point 3: I wish I was aware of these choices before I thought that Aristophanes wrote the phrase "Children are best seen and not heard." I have a suspicion that was another cultural translation rather than literal translation choice.

Friday, January 14, 2011

There ain't no good guys

There is just nobody to love in Aristophanes' play, The Clouds. You have the protagonist, Strepsiades who took on more debt then he could repay, seeks help from Socrates to learn trickery to avoid his debts, and ultimately burns down Socrates' school because although Socrates did teach his son how to use argument to get Strepsiades out of his debts, having a son would could justify anything ends up backfiring on him. You have Socrates who is pictured as an atheist who believes in nonsense, but at the same time is stilled enough in argument to allow "the Wrong" to always prevail over "the Right." Strepsiades' son starts off as a lay about and ends up as a pompous ass who beats his father and justifies it using the techniques his father sent him off to school to learn.

Although there is plenty of what Kevin Smith calls "dick and fart jokes" in this play, it is actually pretty sophisticated in its themes. Is the economic collapse really just an example of us all getting what we deserve? Just because one party is a villian, is his opponent necessarily a hero?

I initially perceived it as anti-intellectual--and it is certainly that--but I think it is also anti-youth, anti-aged, anti-common man. [Note: "common man" is not really common man. It is common fairly affluent man with servants and property etc. I find it interesting how much of literature and scripture is concerned with the behavior of the very wealthy.]

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Aristophanes' The Clouds

I'm reading the Clouds by Aristophanes. A couple of details jump out at me. One, it includes the phrase, "Children are best seen and not heard." I thought my dad and my uncles invented that phrase. Not really, but I am surprised it goes back to 423 B.C. Two, the slur for old people is Methuselah. I am frustrated because as many as three minutes of searching the internet has not revealed anything interesting on whether Aristophanes is borrowing Methuselah from the Hebrew tradition, or whether they are both borrowing from a third source. The name does not appear to means "old one" or anything.

Generally, the play's dramatic anti-intellectual theme is curious. As you may know, in the Apology, Plato blames Aristophanes for starting the rumor that Socrates is an atheist. Socrates in the blames is pompus and worried about foolish things. The middle-class landowner that tries to learn how to argue to get out of debt quickly realizes that he is too old to learn Socrates' complex ways. Although, it seems pretty clear, the landowner is the one the audience is supposed to sympathize with.

I guess our love hate relationship with thinkers goes back a long way.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Thoughts on the Shooter in Tucson

On Sunday, I asked for prayers for the victims of the shooting in Tucson, and also for the nation to take this as an opportunity to behave more civily toward one another. In repeating back the prayer request, my pastor wisely added, "and also prayers for the shooter." How right she was to include him in our prayer. Jesus taught the following.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:27-36. I think it is also worth noting that when Linda similarly offered prayers for the 9-11 terrorist a family decided not to come to Chalice anymore. They were still just checking us out, but that remark was too much for them. I guess it is too much for a lot of people; but, if we want to call ourselves Christian, we don't have much choice but to at least try.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Thoughts on the Tucson Shooting

“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” 1 Corinthians 10:23. Paul is writing about freedom in Christ, but his reasoning applies equally well to our First Amendment freedom of speech. We may never know what role gun metaphors and unchecked vitriol played in the shooting in Tucson last Saturday. Perhaps it inspired a tragically unbalanced young man to direct his violent rage toward a member of Congress. Perhaps it was merely a coincidence that his victim's district had been identified in a campaign ad behind the crosshairs of a gun. Assuming it is the latter, viewing those ads now is still painful. Surely those who created the ads wish they had not. Whether or not vitriolic rhetoric is to blame for the murders, why shouldn't we use this as an "excuse" to exercise our rights, our freedom to speak more constructively and beneficially.