This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,661) on Friday, December 6, 2019.
The week after Thanksgiving is a time filled with shopping both in stores and online. Many retail establishments depend on this time to make up for loses incurred by staying open during the rest of the year. In addition, there are many good reasons to buy merchandise at Christmas, particularly when it involves children.
Still, gift-giving can get out of hand, as we all know. That’s why, in our household, we are trying at every appropriate opportunity to give to charities and causes in the name of those to whom we might otherwise give a gift. We are also requesting those who might give us something (there aren’t that many) do the same. This is not an original idea, but we are giving more thought to it this year than ever before. I would be happy to hear from you about any novel gift-giving ideas that you have.
Meanwhile, have a great weekend and shop carefully.
Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,659 subscribers and had a 26.8 percent open rate; 4 people unsubscribed.
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Personality and intellect have vaulted Mary Beard to near cult status
When Mary Beard first went on television in Great Britain after her book on Pompeii was published, she did not look like a woman you might see narrating a documentary.
She was more than 50 years old, the wrinkles in her face were not camouflaged by makeup, and her prominent front teeth were not straight. Her long, grayish hair was commanded by whatever breeze is blowing by. Indeed, she was mocked by the late television critic A.A. Gill, who in the Sunday Times said she should be kept away from the television cameras altogether.
Beard had a word or two for Gill. “There have always been men like Gill who are frightened of smart women who speak their minds”, she wrote in the Daily Mail. “The point is not what I look like, but what I do.”
If Gill thought he was speaking for the television-viewing public, he could not have been more wrong. In the last decade, Mary Beard has become one of the most beloved and one of the most watched personalities on television. Her status, according to The Guardian, is nearing that of a “cult.”
Beard is a celebrity, a national treasure, and easily the world’s most famous classicist. Her latest book, Women and Power, about the long history of the silencing of female voices, was a Christmas bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic. In the eight years since her debut TV documentary, Pompeii, she has conquered the small screen. She is one of a trio of presenters who will, in March, front Civilisations – a new, big-budget version of Kenneth Clark’s 1969 series Civilisation, the most revered cultural TVseries in the BBC’s history. Source: The cult of Mary Beard | News | The Guardian
What makes Beard so engaging is her personality, her enthusiasm for the Romans, and, above all, her knowledge. She followed up her series on Pompeii: Life and Death in a Roman Town (2010) with series titled Meet the Romans with Mary Beard (2012) and Caligula with Mary Beard (2013). All of the episodes of these series are available on YouTube.
Beard is a professor of classics at Cambridge University and the author of a number of books about the ancient Romans. A couple of the most recent ones are SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (2015) and Women & Power: A Manifesto (2017). She is also one of Britain’s great public intellectuals, commenting on all sorts of issues on Twitter and in her Times Literary Supplement blog, A Don’s Life.
Every Latin word ever, defined (almost): Thesaurus Linguae Latinae
The Thesaurus linguae Latinae began in 1894 as a joint effort to compile a definitive dictionary of Latin words. It covers every Latin text from the earliest times to 600 AD, and it seeks to record not just general meanings but nuances and uses of even the most basic Latin words, such as “et.”
The project, centered in Munich, Germany, has survived two world wars and numerous political upheavals and continues merrily on today. The folks working on the project are up to the letter R. They hope to be finished in another 30 years or so, but many say that’s optimistic.
The project’s website is here: Project: Thesaurus linguae Latinae
See also this article in the New York Times: Source: Latin Dictionary’s Journey: A to Zythum in 125 Years (and Counting) – The New York Times
There is a descriptive brochure that can be downloaded from JPROF.com: TLL_Flyer-2012_englisch
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
An important story the journalists held up
Several years ago, the Washington Post posted an interesting op-ed article by Michael Berlin, and it’s worth repeating.
Berlin was a professor emeritus at Boston University and former United Nation correspondent for the New York Post and Washington Post, and the article is about a story that he and several others had that was important and of universal interest.
But neither he nor his journalistic colleagues reported the story until government officials gave them the go-ahead.
The story occurred at the beginning of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979. Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took everyone there hostage. The incident escalated to international importance and eventually helped topple the presidency of Jimmy Carter.
During those first days of the crisis, however, Berlin and other reporters (Berlin says there were “hundreds” of reporters in on this) realized that not everyone who had been assigned to the embassy was there when the students took over the place.
But six American officials happened to be outside the compound, elsewhere in the Iranian capital, at the time of the takeover. The militants never realized that some Americans were missing; they were being sheltered by Canadian diplomats in Tehran, who were risking their own safety to protect them.
When Berlin confirmed the story through a number of sources, he was called by a high-ranking American official at the UN and asked to hold the story. He checked with his editors who wanted some assurance that they would be notified quickly when the story could be released. He received those assurances, and he and his news organization sat on the story — as did many others.
Late in January 1980, the embassy officials were smuggled out of Iran, and the Canadian ambassador to Iran was hailed in this country as a national hero. Berlin and others wrote about the incident, but no one could claim the scoop.
Do I regret not getting my scoop on the hostage story? Not a bit. Over the years, I’ve run into dozens of reporters who had a piece of the story before it broke, including those who covered the State Department for The Washington Post, and they all felt the same way.
The Canada-hostage story proves that reporters and news organizations can be trusted, en masse, to make the right call on security information they uncover. And neither Iranian officials nor Iranian news media got wind of it.
Berlin oversells his piece at the beginning implying that anyone who broke the story could have become internationally famous and could have “made” a reputation and career by doing so. That is doubtful. More likely, that person would have been seen as treacherous.
But Berlin deals with a more important point at the end of his piece.
Do I think that a thousand reporters could be trusted today to make the same call that we did in 1979? I wonder. Even back then, there was the fear that some rogue reporter would ignore the pleas and go with the story. In today’s journalism world, I fear that some blogger or counterculture ideologue using journalism as a political tool rather than as a mechanism for dispensing straight information, would make the wrong call. I hope I’m wrong about that.
I hope so, too.
The Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year from 2019 is “climate emergency.”
Climate emergency is defined as ‘a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.’
This year, heightened public awareness of climate science and the myriad implications for communities around the world has generated enormous discussion of what the UN Secretary-General has called ‘the defining issue of our time’.
But it is not just this upsurge in conversation that has caught our attention. Our research reveals a demonstrable escalation in the language people are using to articulate information and ideas concerning the climate. This is most clearly encapsulated by the rise of climate emergency in 2019. Source: Word of the Year 2019 | Oxford Dictionaries
The dictionary authorities considered a number of other climate-related terms such as “climate action” and “climate crisis” and settled on this one. The terms and their reasoning can be found at the link above.
The words of the year for 2018 and 2017 were “toxic” and “youthquake,” respectively. This year’s selection, for reasons I can’t quite articulate, seems much more palatable.
Children’s book author and former mayor indicted on fraud charges
At first glance, it’s hard to imagine getting into legal hot water for writing and publishing a children’s book promoting healthy habits for children.
But that’s what happened to Catherine Pugh, who resigned as mayor of Baltimore in May.
Pugh had written a series of Healthy Holly books and had sold them to the Baltimore public school system.
Most of the “Healthy Holly” books, promoting healthy eating and exercise habits, were never distributed to children as had been promised, the authorities said. Instead, thousands of copies were found in a Baltimore City Public School System warehouse; others were stored in Ms. Pugh’s offices and in one of her houses.
Federal prosecutors said the children’s book series was at the heart of an elaborate scheme orchestrated by Ms. Pugh to defraud health care companies, Baltimore’s school system and taxpayers by failing to deliver copies of the books that had been paid for.Source: Catherine Pugh, Former Baltimore Mayor, Indicted on Fraud Charges Over Book Scandal – The New York Times
This is a story that just leaves me shaking my head.
Finally . . .
Best quote of the week:
If I can do no more, let my name stand among those who are willing to bear ridicule and reproach for the truth’s sake, and so earn some right to rejoice when the victory is won. Louisa May Alcott, writer and reformist (1832-1888)
Helping those in need
Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: A look back at the year of book production and the decade of true-crime books, and the deaths of famous females: newsletter, Nov. 29, 2019
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