Print Story I Heart Maccabees
By TheophileEscargot (Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 10:26:45 AM EST) Reading, Listening, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "Cancer Vixen". Listening: "Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age". Web.

Finished autobiographical comic book Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto, about the author's brush with breast cancer. Would have liked to have liked it more, but found it a bit irritating: lots of what is apparently "Sex and the City" style glamour, mountains of Kabbalah and psychobabble ("when you point a finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you") and a cacophony of name-dropping.

Drawing didn't seem particularly original, but there were some nice comic touches, like cancer cells stuck in a traffic jam and so on.

It's definitely aimed at the chick-lit market though, so I'm probably not the best judge. Not really recommended if you don't care about shoes.

Latest TTC course was Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age by Jeremy McInerney. (24 lectures) Very good course, informative and well-presented. Liked it better than his previous course on Periclean Athens, since this one has material that is much less familiar.

This one deals briskly with Alexander in the first couple of lectures, then moves on to the Hellenistic kingdoms that sprung up as his empire collapsed, divided up and fought over by his generals.

One interesting thing is that there was relatively little cross-cultural contact. The colonists and garrisons set themselves up either as separate cities or a Hellenic ruling class, speaking Greek, maintaining Greek culture, and having little to do with the natives beyond taxing them.

For instance, the pastoral poetry of the era, celebrating the songs, poems and loves of Arcadian shepherds, was largely written in the sophisticated urban courts of Alexandria. Not only were they not in the countryside themselves, if you did take a stroll you'd find a load of Egyptian peasants (presumably working shadufs), without a Greek shepherd in sight.

McInerney describes the Hellenistic age as like classical Greece on steroids: bigger statues, bigger ships, bigger kingdoms. Artistically it was more emotional than the austere classical period: sculptures showing anguish or ecstasy rather than calm, poems and novels full of tragic loves rather than the inexorable workings of the fates.

Historically, it's interesting in several ways. Without any particularly great technological or economic changes, over a handful of years the Hellenic world went from a loose network of independent, democratic or oligarchic city-states to an imperial one with great kings dominating large empires. I think the period is a good counter-example to Whiggish ideas like the inevitability of democracy.

There are two lectures on the Maccabean Revolt, where the Jews achieved independence from the Seleucid empire. McInerney disagrees with the conventional account which I was dimly aware of, that the emperor Antiochus tried to forcibly Hellenize the Jews, which they resisted. Instead he casts this as largely a conflict between a self-Hellenized urban Jewish population and a conservative countryside.

The course finishes up with a couple of lectures on the rise of Rome and its gobbling up of the Hellenistic kingdoms. McInerney portrays this as a reaction to events, with Rome drawn in by conflicts amongst its allies, rather than a systematic plan of conquest. Another interesting phenomenon was rulers leaving their kingdoms to Rome in their wills (Pergamum, Cyrenaica and Bithynia), seeing which way the wind was blowing.

Overall, an excellent course: well worth doing if you like audiobooks and ancient history.

Next up: Biological Anthropology: An Evolutionary Perspective by Barbara J. King.

Saw a couple of interesting economics articles, The Myth of Economic Recovery suggests "Poor countries may be poor not because their growth rates during healthy periods are lower, but because they have more and deeper disruptions."

Big governments and globalisation are complementary

... According to a famous paper by Dani Rodrik, this explains why more open economies have bigger governments; far from being substitutes for each other, governments and markets are in fact complementary, with appropriate government programmes being essential in shoring up political support for trade.

Indeed, economic history provides considerable evidence in favour of this view, since it was precisely during the heyday of the first great globalisation, in the decades running up to the First World War, that the foundations of the modern welfare state were laid. Across Europe, socialist parties then supported liberal free trade policies, in return for the introduction of a range of social insurance programmes, such as old age pensions, accident insurance or unemployment insurance. These reforms tended to be most advanced in those countries which were most open to the world economy of the day. Far from globalisation leading to a race to the bottom, this was a period in which free trade and social progress went hand in hand in Europe, and recent historical research suggests that this is precisely why governments were able to maintain a consensus in favour of free trade.

Video. Mildly amusing: the unreleased 1994 pilot of "24"

Harlan Ellison explains the writers' strike.

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I Heart Maccabees | 11 comments (11 topical, 1 hidden)
Biological Anthropology by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #1 Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 11:11:29 AM EST
That sounds like a minefield. I'm tempted to buy it just to get pissed off.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
Bullet point 3 by chuckles (4.00 / 1) #2 Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 11:20:45 AM EST
Did modern Homo sapiens evolve entirely on the African continent, replacing other hominid forms as they fanned out into Asia and Europe? Or did they evolve simultaneously and in the same direction on all three continents?

Are those the only two choices? Perhaps as Homo sapiens fanned out they also interbred with Homo erectus, resulting in fertile hybrids whose descendants are alive today.

"The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin [...] would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities"
[ Parent ]
She seems to know her stuff by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #3 Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 11:28:45 AM EST
There was an interview with her on Salon a while back.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Hopefully by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #5 Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 11:55:19 AM EST
Lots of people confusing their own beliefs with reality in that entire field.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Cancer vixen by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #4 Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 11:46:08 AM EST
Would she have written it if she'd had bowel cancer? Answer's probably no, I assume. I hate the state of things which means that breast cancer, while indeed the commonest cancer amongst women (and not unusual in men), is practically the only one written about. I also hate the fact that I'm unable to quite put my finger on what it is that bothers me about it, and what it is that causes it to be considered so important. Obviously breasts are tremendously important to women's femininity, but there seems to be some kind of implicit victimhood/vulnerability that's being exploited too.

Women bind their identity in their tits. by Horatio Hellpop (2.00 / 0) #8 Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:35:06 PM EST
It's no surprise, really. Ever hear one claim to get a better class of man by having bowel surgery?

"You can't really know something until you ruin it for everyone." -some guy who used to have an account here

[ Parent ]
In my worldview by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #10 Tue Nov 13, 2007 at 12:14:26 AM EST
You only get a worse class of man if you have a boob job.

[ Parent ]
TTC by ad hoc (4.00 / 1) #6 Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:13:55 PM EST
What format of these things do you use? Do you get the downloaded ones or a disc of some kind. Do you get the books?
The three things that make a diamond also make a waffle.
I just download the audio files by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #7 Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:26:14 PM EST
There's no DRM nonsense, you choose either MP3 or MPEG4 at either 32 or 96kbps and they stay available on the site for months.

You also get a .PDF course guide, but I don't usually bother unless I want to refer back to something.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Poll should be multi-select by lm (4.00 / 1) #11 Tue Nov 13, 2007 at 05:13:15 AM EST
For centuries, the events surrounding the Maccabean revolt, like much of Judaic studies, were colored by post-Second Temple Rabbinic Judaism which was the largest and most influential Jewish sect to survive the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. (How history might be different if Julian the Apostate had been able to finish his plan to build a third Jewish temple!) So for years, the accepted interpretation was that the Maccabees were warring against the oppressors.

Most recent analysis, though, has centered on seeing it as civil war between two diametrically opposed coalitions of various Jewish sects. Most of this is a relatively recent rediscovery of the broad spectrum of Jewish thought in antiquity that has been driven by a re-evaluation of history through the open publication in just the few decades of ancient documents discovered over the course of the last century or so.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
I Heart Maccabees | 11 comments (11 topical, 1 hidden)