Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Back To School

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!
This week, I will run a quick update on our goings-on; there is a little bit of knitting, but no pics just yet; and rather more about the death throes of the Roman Republic in the 1st century BCE.

For some, at least, this week has seen a return to the everyday routine of getting up early and packing oneself off to work or school. Mostly, the schools start next week – tomorrow, that is – and that is it for the summer holidays. The weather is following suit, being cooler, windy, and alternately rainy and sunny. Typical Danish summer weather, in other words.
And so begins another academic year; and it is time for an update. Some of you know me & my boys already, others do not.

Andreas, my eldest, is 19 now and this week embarking on his third and final year of AspIT, an IT education for young people with Asperger’s. During this year, he will be doing quite a bit of work training to help him decide which area he wants to work in – for him, it will be either Visualisation: building websites, or Technical hardware something-or-other: building and repairing computers and servers and whatnot.

Thomas is 17, going on 18 and thus starting lessons for his driver’s licence. And, on the side, starting next week, his third and final year of the gymnasium (upper secondary / high school); he is taking the arts & language line, with English and Spanish as his main languages, and German and Latin, too.

Victor just turned 15; he is, also next week, heading into his final year of school, 9th grade, and along with that, the Talent Programme for guitar. This week, actually, Thursday to Sunday, he has done the summer course for youngsters at the Music Academy in Aarhus.

And me? I’m preparing to go back to teaching, this time at the University in Aarhus. Two classes in Latin for beginners ... that should be interesting.
Last time I taught Latin, it was to hordes of 16-year-olds who mostly didn’t have a clue why they were there, except that their schedule told them to go to that room at that time, or why they needed Latin, or why indeed they should care about anything I said, when the grades they got for the brief course did not count.
Not that I am bitter about the school reform or the way it murdered treated Latin. Not a bit.
So, having students who are at least three years older and presumably have some idea why they have chosen to study Latin at university can only be an improvement. Oh, and two classes are fewer than eight.

I still have a few weeks to go, as the semester doesn’t start until September, but there is a bunch of practical stuff that needs sorting out. I went in on Thursday after dropping Victor off at the Music Academy, for a meeting with my friend George who was my classmate back in 1991, when we, young and innocent, entered into the world of academia, and is now more or less my supervisor. Not in the sense that he can tell me what to do, but in the sense that I can ask him about stuff and he helps me out. For one thing, I will have a part-time slave instructor, so I wanted to find out to what use such a one can be put.

As you will have noticed, if you’ve been here before: I have tidied the Basket a bit. I wanted a cleaner overall look, and on the right you can now find links to the stories I put up now and again. It is still under construction, and I want to make a page with links to patterns, and probably sort the story page a bit more.

The Knitting
I have finished knitting the much-mentioned lace shawl: now, it is soaking before being blocked, and then I will take pretty pictures, go through the pattern one more time, and release the Kraken. Or something.

The birthday knit for Laura is coming along very nicely. As yet, there is no reason to panic that it might not be finished in time; the time being next Sunday, her birthday.

See, not a lot of knitting talk this time, even though I have been knitting. I promise, next time there will be more. And pictures.

The Books
So, this week I finished two audio books: Dickens – A Life by Claire Tomalin, and The Mouse in the Mountain by Norbert Davis.
The latter can be found on the Forgotten Classics podcast, hosted by the mellow-voiced Julie who reads various books that are old enough to be in the public domain, and not very well known (hence the title of the show, I guess).
Interspersed between book episodes are shorter episodes, Lagniappes (and I learned a new word: lagniappe comes via American French from American Spanish la ñapa and ultimately from Quechua yapa meaning a something extra you get with a purchase – what they nowadays call a ‘free gift’, but this word is so much better!) containing, say, a short story, or an excerpt from something interesting. I have been catching up on Lagniappes, listening to, among other things, two Jeeves & Wooster stories; which was fun, as Victor has been watching the Fry & Laurie series recently (he got them for his birthday), and the reader sometimes sounds almost like Hugh Laurie when doing Wooster. I say almost, for he (the reader) is obviously American and does not sound quite English, though he does a good job.

The Dickens biography I have gone over at length; I won’t tire you with more of that.

My next audio book is a Danish one: Kvindernes Krig / The Women’s War, written by a female language & communications officer, Anne-Cathrine Riebnitzsky, about her work in the Helmand province in Afghanistan.
This is a true story about dust and soldiers and IEDs and women struggling for their rights and their lives against the religiously motivated oppression of the Taliban, as well as the everyday culturally based oppression of poverty, domestic violence, illiteracy, and general ignorance about themselves and the world. Don’t get me wrong, I am not implying that Afghan women – or men – are stupid or backward, only that their country has been wrecked by war for so long that skills and knowledge have been forgotten; and the Taliban will do their damndest to keep it that way.
The women whom ‘AC’ worked with in 2007-8 wanted independence, to be able to earn their own money, to be pretty, to read, to learn English. They wished for police and judges who were not corrupt; for girls to not be married off at 12 or 10 or 8; for their children to go to school.

Such a report from a woman who has actually been there, talked with the women, worked to help them with various projects, is hugely interesting and useful, not least to us Danish civilians. The debate in this country about our military presence in other places tends to focus on the perceived unreasonableness of Danish soldiers being maimed and killed, and of even having a military presence anywhere. A lot of people who should know better need a reminder that there is actually very valuable work being done by Danish military forces, in conjunction with not least the British, and that the soldiers going out there know the score. They, and their families, deserve the admiration and respect of the rest of us, no less than the admiration and respect they are given by the people they work to help.

My ongoing Latin reading project has me still reading Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series, and still, even, the first book, The First Man in Rome. This will last me a while.

After reading Caesar and the biography (mentioned last week), I decided it would be fitting to read Cicero’s so-called Philippic Speeches, held in the period between the murder of Caesar – that happened on the Ides of March, 15th March 44 BCE – and the murder of Cicero himself in December 43 BCE.
Just a reminder: Marcus Tullius Cicero was born in 106 BCE in Arpinum outside of Rome and was, like Gaius Marius, a homo novus, one of the very few to come from outside the old families and attain consular status. So, he was a statesman, a politician; he was a brilliant speaker, which was part of the reason for his success in politics, and led a number of people to request his help in various court cases. Professional lawyers were not invented, so proceedings before the magistrates or courts were regarded as services to friends, favours that could later be called in.
Cicero was a philosopher, too, and performed a huge task for the Latin language and Roman philosophy by translating the works of Greek philosophers, thereby developing new words and turns of phrase and rendering schools of thought accessible to a new group of people.

44 BCE – and several years to come – was a time of chaos, when everybody was scrabbling to fill the void left by Caesar and discovered that the Republic did not automatically restore itself once the tyrant was gone.
The ‘liberators’ had failed to make plans beyond the stabbing itself, which left room for Marcus Antonius (Marc Antony) to reach in and grab for the reins. He quickly secured Caesar’s papers (and his secretary) and proceeded to have the Senate recognise not only Caesar’s proper acta, his laws & decisions, but also half-thought-out notes and even Marcus Antonius’ own plans, claimed to be Caesar’s.
This was done after the Senate had found itself compromising over the legitimacy of the murder: if Caesar had been a tyrant, then the slaying was just and legal and even necessary – but in that case, all of his acta were to be deemed illegitimate, and a lot of the senators held their positions and their restored fortunes thanks to Caesar. So nobody really wanted that.
On the other hand, they did not want to condemn the 60 senators who had participated in the plot to kill Caesar, as that would mean civil war, and they had just had one of those, between Caesar and Pompey / the Pompeians in 49 – 46 BCE.
So, in the end, the ‘republicans’, the killers of Caesar, received an amnesty, and the acta of Caesar were allowed to stand.

Cicero had tried for years to play the role of the wise philosopher guiding the men in power, first attempting – without any success – to reconcile Caesar and Pompey, who both wanted his advice and support. Now, he at first rejoiced in the removal of the threat to his beloved Republic, believing, it seems, that it would right itself. Nobody was, apparently, able to comprehend that the Republic was already dead, and that now, it was a matter of which one ruler Rome was to have. He eagerly advocated that Marcus Antonius be removed, as well, recognising the threat that he, too, posed to the resurrection of the proper order.

That did not happen, though, and Marcus Antonius proceeded to embezzle the funds that Caesar had set aside for his planned campaign against the Parthians.

After leaving Rome in early April to travel to Greece, Cicero returned when rumours reached him of Marcus Antonius being approachable, and between September 44 and April 43 BCE, he worked against this would-be heir to Caesar’s power in 14 speeches to the Senate and people of Rome.
In April 43 BCE, even Cicero had to realise that words were not enough, that civil war was coming.
The two designated consuls were both killed in battle against Marcus Antonius during this month;
Octavian (the grand-nephew whom Caesar had adopted in his will and made his heir) demanded to be elected consul in July, but only succeeded in August, when he led his army towards Rome;
the amnesty for the killers of Caesar was revoked;
in November, a triumvirate was formed by Marcus Antonius, Octavian and Lepidus (who was only there to make up the number), and they immediately proceeded to proscriptions;
in December, Cicero was killed while wavering over whether to flee or not.

This was not the end of the troubles: the leaders of the conspiracy to kill Caesar, Cassius and (Marcus) Brutus, were defeated in October 42 BCE.
Then, Marcus Antonius and Octavian went on to fight each other, until Octavian won in 31 BCE, and Marcus Antonius committed suicide together with Cleopatra of Egypt.

So, 13 years of war followed the murder of Caesar, and in the end, Rome had the Emperor Augustus (Octavian’s new name). So much for saving the Republic.

And on this happy note, I will leave you for now. I will be back next week, and until then: have a great week: keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!

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