I’m back

By: | Post date: September 12, 2017 | Comments: 7 Comments
Posted in categories: Admin

I’m back.

This is going to all sorts of audiences, so I now need to spell out where I’m back to, and where I’m back from.

I maintained two blogs up until 2011. hellenisteukontos.blogspot.com was a blog about Greek linguistics, and opuculuk.blogspot.com was a blog about everything else. Hellenisteukontos in particular developed quite a following, and was even cited in print a few times.

I resumed writing online in 2015 at Quora (see my profile there), and I continued doing so until it became untenable for me to (see my statement). I dare say I developed a following there too.

One thing I did relearn during my stay on Quora was that I can write both about stuff I do know about, and stuff I actually don’t know about—but with enough insight that I can make a reasoned argument. That’s something I enjoyed doing greatly, and I hope to keep doing it. Just as I hope to keep sharing the expertise I have on things I am an expert in.

When I decamped from Quora, I followed an exodus of users to Medium (see my profile there), and I may have provoked a few others to join me. For all Quora’s grotesqueries (and they are legion), Quora was a more congenial place to me than Medium: compared to my Quora feed (admittedly after two years of curation), Medium was a lot more clickbait, a lot more superficial, and a lot more full of sterile political posturing. I will continue to check in there with the Quora Diaspora, but I won’t be making it my home.

So I’m coming home to the blogs I had left six years ago, but I am relocating them to WordPress instances: http://hellenisteukontos.opoudjis.net and http://opuculuk.opoudjis.net. I encourage you to update any links you have to the prior blogs; I will not be updating them. I have migrated both my blogspot and my relevant Quora content to those two new instances on my website. Quora makes it very difficult to get your content out of its honeytrap, and none of the topics or comments export. I’ve spent a couple of days categorising the Quora posts; you’ll pardon me if I don’t manually retag them as well.

I have also broadened the scope of Hellenisteukontos: moving forward it will cover not the Set Intersection of Greek and Linguistics, but the Set Union. Greek culture, music, literature and history are in scope of it now; so is general linguistics and linguistics of other languages.

I won’t be posting with the same level of frequency I did on Quora, a frequency that was clearly unsustainable. I aim to be doing larger essays, although I did plenty of essay writing on Quora anyway. But I will welcome people suggesting Quora questions for me to answer here. I will not be posting anything to Quora; my friends from Quora are free to do with my content what they will on Quora (so long as they link back here.)

I look forward to reconnecting with old friends and new, and I look forward to thinking out loud and posting what strikes my fancy, in a forum that I find more congenial.

I’m back.

Brag about yourself. What are you really good at doing?

By: | Post date: August 16, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Personal

“Let us now praise famous Nicks.”

I hope I’m good at popularising obscure topics in the set union of Greek and linguistics. It’s what I’m ostensibly supposed to be doing here, instead of complaining about the site’s misdeeds.

When I’m firing on all cylinders, my intellectual labour is quick. Fearsomely quick. I’m quick to pick up knowledge about a new domain, quick to do wide-ranging discovery, quick to synthesise it, and quick to formulate an informed opinion about it. Quick sometimes means Hasty; Quick almost always means Impatient. But if I have missed something in my final product, it certainly won’t be staring you in the face.

What are some sentences that make perfect sense to you but sound like gibberish to most people?

By: | Post date: August 15, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture, Personal

Opening up my Master’s thesis randomly, this para makes all the sense in the world to me, and I’m sure it makes somewhat less sense to most.

Unlike volitionality or temporality, these principles underlying these relations cannot be captured by a referential, truth-conditional semantics. The relationships described by these relations are not real-world relations; they involve the organisation and presentation of text. In Hallidayan terms, they involve not ideational, but textual semantics. For that reason, they can only be expressed in terms of discourse analysis. This makes these relational distinctions decidedly relevant to a rhetorical theory, which purports to analyse discourse structure functionally.

Or maybe some phonetics from a recent-ish paper I coauthored?

The alternative explanation involves the impact of analogical change on verb paradigms in Italiot, but not in Cargese. As seen previously, in Cargese Greek the third person plural of a verb (ekoɣwane ‘they were cutting’ < ekovɣane) is subject to metathesis, but the third person singular, involving a front vowel after , is not (ekovʒe ‘he was cutting’ < ekovɣe). In Italiot, analogical change has taken place, shifting [j] to [ɣ] before front vowels, and thereby regularizing verb paradigms (Rohlfs 1977: 27: troɣise rather than the expected trojise ‘you eat’, modeled on troɣo ‘I eat’). It is likely then that analogical leveling in Italiot led to the replacement of palatalized [vj] with unpalatalized [vɣ] even in palatalizing contexts. Once this occurred, it fed into secondary metathesis to [ɣv] and subsequent shift in the direction of [ɡw]. If this hypothesis is correct, the main locus of analogy would also have been verb endings, given how widespread ɣ-epenthesis was in Italiot verb inflections, and how infrequent it is in stems: thus, xorevɣo, xorevji > xorevɣo, xorevɣi > xoreɡwo, xoreɡwi ‘I dance, he dances’ (Vuni Italiot, Calabria: Karanastasis 1984–92).

The scary thing is, I don’t think these are far off from how I express myself about linguistics on Quora…

Poe once wrote: “Oh! That my young life were a lasting dream! /My spirit not awakening, till the beam/Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.” What do you make of that sentiment, as someone who writes so poignantly of illness?

By: | Post date: August 15, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture

Oh! that my young life were a lasting dream!
My spirit not awakening, till the beam
Of an Eternity should bring the morrow.
Yes! tho’ that long dream were of hopeless sorrow,
’Twere better than the cold reality
Of waking life, to him whose heart must be,
And hath been still, upon the lovely earth,
A chaos of deep passion, from his birth.

I make of it something different than you make of it, Magister. I make of it the bitter refrain of the middle-aged, in song and in lyric: that the vigour and felicity of youth are not cherished when we’re in the midst of them, and are lamented by us when they’re gone. The wish that the grudging disappointments of middle age, and the aches of senectitude, could be effaced; that we could transition directly from youth to the hereafter, without the gift of youth being tarnished within our very frames.

“Hope I die before I get old”—How old’s the guy who sang that now? 72?

And clicking through to the question details that the shmucks here in Quora Product Design still permit us—Dreams: yes. The imagined, the fleed-to, the dreamed, the recollection with rose-coloured glasses, is always better than what we live in cold reality. In fact—and you and I both know this, mi senex—the youth that was once cold reality was no match for the youth of middle-aged dreams. I didn’t enjoy being young. I didn’t get to have much fun, and I thought my long dream was of hopeless sorrow at the time—because I knew no true sorrow. I didn’t enjoy my vigour, because I knew no decrepitude. I didn’t think things lovely, because I knew no ugliness.

We Greeks, we have a saying for that too. Κάθε πέρσι και καλύτερα. Each “last year” is better than the next.

I recognise the sentiment, mi senex. I recognise that sentiment which colours all of what I do. My last year was better than this too, for having had your voice in it.

(And for having had question details.)

And yet, that’s easy. It’s easy to regret what’s gone; it’s hard to rejoice in what follows. It’s easy to regret vigour; it’s hard to rejoice in wisdom. It’s easy to lament in friends gone; it’s hard to rejoice in friends gained.

It’s easy to have missed your voice. It’s hard to know that mine, too, is a voice that will one day be missed.

Zhou Enlai was old too, in 1972. Alice Goodman, on the other hand, was just 29 when she put these words in his mouth. But she knew what words she did put in his mouth:

I am old and I cannot sleep
forever, like the young, nor hope
that death will be a novelty
but endless wakefulness when I
put down my work and go to bed.
How much of what we did was good?
Everything seems to move beyond
our remedy. Come, heal this wound.
At this hour nothing can be done.
Just before dawn the birds begin,
the warblers who prefer the dark,
the cage-birds answering. To work!
Outside this room the chill of grace
lies heavy on the morning grass.

How important are gender presentation and gender pronouns to you as a cis person?

By: | Post date: August 15, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture

I gather the question is about how I receive them rather than how I give them, given that this question is related to How important are gender presentation and different pronouns to you as a transgender person?

I’m a bloke. I don’t want to be told I’m not a bloke, and I’ll be rather surprised if someone thinks I’m not a bloke.

I present as a bloke. I’m quite happy to present as a bloke, and despite the occasional “no, I’m secure in my sexuality” joke, I haven’t particularly delved into gender ambiguity.

I have identities that are more pressing and conscious to me than masculinity; then again, masculinity is the kind of identity that fades into the all-encompassing background readily.

Like Kimberly Alexander’s answer says, cis people don’t particularly reflect on gender the way trans people are forced to. Ditto any privileged identity group: the privilege is in not being Othered.

(That’s why I call you Westerners beef-eaters on Quora all the time.)

Is klezmer music a dying tradition?

By: | Post date: August 14, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Music
Tags:

One of its prominent proponents is on record as saying so:

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/…

Andy Statman, one of the foremost Klezmer musicians in the world, knows that the time of Klezmer has passed.

“Each music has its point,” He explained over the phone while working at a Mandolin camp in California. “[Klezmer] is still alive, but in many ways it doesn’t really represent a living community. While it’s still alive and it’s great music and people enjoy it… It’s not a reflection of the time.”

[…]

About the future of Klezmer, Statman said it wasn’t bittersweet.

“Like bluegrass [music], it’s from a time and place,” he said. “It changed and the music was moving on to become something else. That’s the way it is. Styles come and go. They reflect the lives and the people who are involved in them… Each day is new.”

Klezmer is dead, or alive, in the same way I guess that Rebetiko is dead, or alive. The social circumstances that gave rise to it aren’t there any more. Any performance of it is a revival, a repurposing of the genre to current concerns—all tangled up with anxiety about authenticity, which guarantees that it won’t respond fully to current concerns. At its worse, it’s an artificial museum-like exercise. At its best, it gets the crowds dancing in the aisles one last time.

Rebetiko was revived in the 70s in Greece, because something in it spoke to Greeks, as they were at the threshold of becoming Europeans. Klezmer was revived in the 80s in America, because something in it spoke to Jews, as they were at the threshold of becoming either fully assimilated, or (as was the case with Statman) rediscovering Orthodox Judaism.

Rebetiko and Klezmer had, in fact, already died:

Klezmer is the Eastern European musical tradition passed down from one generation to the next. (“It’s basically Chasidic music,” Statman said.) The exact history of the music was unknown to him, save for the fact that when Statman began playing Klezmer, it had almost been gone.

“A lot of where the music was played didn’t make it out,” he said. “Russia, Galicia, a lot of Chasidim. I think not only the Holocaust but there was more of an interest in preserving Judaism and the community. Music was not such a pressing concern.”

Vamvakaris at least kept playing in the 50s and 60s, but he was no longer the main show.

A revival is never as vibrant as the original; it’s always qualified and unspontaneous. There’s always something artificial about it.

Still. It’s better than utter oblivion. And damn, but there’s some good toe-tapping to be had in that museum…

I have a 10 minute meeting with the Australian Prime Minister. What should I ask him?

By: | Post date: August 14, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Australia

Question details indicate that the original OP is “in my final year of high school in rural Western Australia.”

This humbled me out of the smart-aleck answer I was going to give; Ben Kelley’s answer is excellent for this serious aim.

Without that context?

“Mal. Mal, Mal, Mal. Come on, mate. Just between you and me. What’ll it take for you to form a centrist party with Nick Xenophon? You know you want to.”

… Am I throwing away my chance to get a serious answer to a pressing question? Yes, I am. Mal is not the master of his own party, any more than the Australian PM is the master of his own country. Geopolitics doesn’t work like that any more.

I hate The West Wing. I hate The West Wing for many reasons, most of them involving Josh. I liked Season #5 most, the season everyone else hated, because it was the season that bitch-slapped the cast, and especially Josh. (That’s also why I liked Ryan the intern, the character everyone else hated.)

Remember those IT workers in #519 Talking Points who did a sit-in in Josh’s office, because they’d been shafted out of Bartlett’s election pledge that their jobs in IT were safe? And Josh went pleading to Bartlett to no effect? That’s Bartlett, who embraced Creative destruction—the notion that, in real life, made Trump possible. Josh, campaigning two years later for that pointless cipher Santos, was making the same undertakings on the campaign trail. You weren’t meant to notice that, but I did. God, did I want Josh fricking Lyman eviscerated on the spot.

Anyway, what did Bartlett say when Josh said “we promised these guys jobs?”

There was a man named Canute, one of the great Viking kings of the 11th Century. Wanted his people to be aware of his limitations, so he led them down to the sea and he commanded that the tide roll out. It didn’t. Who gave us the notion that Presidents can move the economy like a play-toy?

The candidates for the presidency did while campaigning, actually. And for economy, read also geopolitics, and climate change, and whatever other great challenges facing humanity that we’re going to flub.

And that’s why I wouldn’t ask a serious question of Turnbull. Or whoever else is residing in The Lodge this month.

And I hope my cynicism doesn’t rub off on OP…

What is the difference between drawing a limit to what can be said, and simply disallowing certain kinds of talk?

By: | Post date: August 13, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture

I’m in more sympathy with Yonatan Gershon’s answer and its free speech absolutism than with Ted Wrigley’s answer which relies on intent. Intent is a very hard thing to diagnose, and I’m not sure I trust a judiciary allied to power to judge it fairly; and of course, any dissidence can be regarded as disruptive and to be quashed.

But I’m going to expand on Jacob Holcomb’s answer, which I think makes a more useful distinction (though I draw the dividing line elsewhere):

We can talk about the effects of depression, but I’d prefer not to delve into discussing suicide.

Ruling a whole topic out of bounds is lunacy, and it’s inviting protest and circumvention. It was lunacy when Melbourne University banned books about jihad from being borrowed, to much media hoopla, just as it is lunacy to ban ownership of Al-Qaeda literature: if you can’t study your enemy, how on earth do you intend to combat them?

If speech is to be policed for noxious intent, as hate speech or advocacy of criminal behaviour, you have to draw a very careful boundary. Unlike Jacob, I don’t think discussing suicide should be banned; as long as there are some proactive disclaimers and steps around mitigating the effects of that discussion. Whenever anyone’s suicide is mentioned in the press here in Australia, the phone number of the suicide hotline is given as a footer or as a fadeout announcement. That, it seems to me, is reasonable. And though I would want a high bar on it, outright advocacy of suicide, or of terrorism, should be curtailed in the mass media. The high bar means that discussion of Islamic grievances, or of the nature of jihadi thought, should not be blocked—although, again, there should be mitigation and disclaimers accompanying the discussion.

I also think banning Mein Kampf is counterproductive, btw, or The Protocols of Zion. And good luck blocking their dissemination through the Internet anyway.

Should I just stop trying to be more likable, and be myself if I have found a way to do it with out hurting or offending others?

By: | Post date: August 13, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Culture

Abigail, I go all Michaelis Maus whenever I see unanimity. I go all the more Michaelis Maus now that Michaelis has been banned.

It’s hard for me to, because the OP (who has since deleted their account) put in the proviso: “without hurting or offending others”.

But pay attention to that: they had to. Being yourself is not a paramount goal. You still have to be part of society. You still have to be not-yourself enough, in order not to make your life a constant battle. You need discretion in life, too, and discretion is about holding back on being yourself.

If you’ve found a way to do that, that’s great: that means you’ve worked out discretion. But it’s not a one-off deal. You need to recalibrate how much of yourself you need to suppress, to be more likeable, in given social circumstances; and those circumstances are going to change, and expand, as you move around. They’ll certainly get more constrained in the workplace, for example. It’s a balancing act, and you’re going to keep balancing. Middle age is about grubby compromises. We do what we can get away with.

No good saying this to OP, they’re not here. Good luck to the rest of you.

Why has there been so much political resistance to legalizing gay marriage in Australia?

By: | Post date: August 11, 2017 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Australia, Culture

Ah, recentism.

As Ben Kelley’s answer reflects, but not enough answers have acknowledged, dragging one’s feet about gay marriage has become a bipartisan thing.

Gay marriage has become a flashpoint for the current culture war in Australia; the ex-PM and leader of the conservative faction of the Liberals, Tony Abbott, announced that if you’re sick of political correctness, you should vote against.

The inaction is partly because culture war issues are much more prominent in Australian politics than it was a decade ago. It’s something that conservative commentators, such as Andrew Bolt and Abbot’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin, use as a cudgel against current PM Malcolm Turnbull, who is known to be personally pro gay marriage. “Aussie families don’t care about gay marriage! They care about their power bills!” (Because, presumably, gay couples aren’t real Aussie families to them.)

But more importantly, it is because both parties have been much more riven by internal conflict and factionalism than they were (as witnessed by the revolving door of PMs in the past several years); and progressives in the parties can’t afford to antagonise the conservatives in the parties. The issue is certainly a proxy war between moderates and conservatives among the Liberals; contrast Abbott’s stance with Christopher Pyne’s leaked gloating that the moderates were on the ascendancy within the party, and marriage equality was a matter of time.

Labor has no right to be smug about this now, because Labor was just as captive to its own conservatives when it had the chance to legalise gay marriage. Because of how Labor works, the most prominent opponent was not a member of parliament: it was union head Joe de Bruyn, whose opposition is founded on Catholicism.

The late Gough Whitlam, sainted progressive PM of Labor, was always ready with a quip. Here’s Joe de Bruyn – Wikipedia on de Bruyn on gay marriage:

The SDA [de Bruyn’s union] is associated with the Labor Right, Labor Unity or Centre-Unity grouping or faction of the trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party. It also has a long-established reputation as a supporter of conservative Catholic parliamentarians. De Bruyn, himself a Catholic, is a leading figure in the right wing faction of the trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party. De Bruyn has come under scrutiny for voicing his socially conservative views while being secretary of a trade union and holding a position on the National Executive of Labor, a centre-left political party. He has repeatedly voiced opposition to abortion, and to legalising same sex marriage.

In response to a 2014 poll with 72 percent support for same-sex marriage, de Bruyn dismissed the figures but refused to poll his members on the issue. He says he “knows they agree with him absolutely. When we talk to our members about out these things they agree with us”.

At a quarterly SDA members meeting in February 2011, de Bruyn moved a resolution against gay marriage, without giving any members a chance to speak or vote on the issue. This led to the first instance of members of the SDA speaking out and challenging de Bruyn on his stance on gay marriage. Speaking at an AWU event in 2003, former Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam quipped that “Joe de Bruyn is a Dutchman who hates dykes.”

Labor is pro gay marriage now. But that’s easier in opposition than government.

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