An Addendum to Lesson #161: In Which I Attend My First Drive-In Movie(s)

A year(ish) ago, I wrote a post about drive-ins and mentioned that I’d never been to one, despite having had plenty of opportunity in my teenaged years (and later, when I lived in a southern state) to do so.

With Cowboys & Aliens opening yesterday, I sent my movie-watching friend an email on Tuesday saying only, “Cowboys, aliens, you, me and beer?” She countered with a suggestion of hitting the local drive-in (in other news, we have a local drive-in) for a triple header involving Captain America and two other movies I didn’t like anywhere near as much.

Drive in? YES!

The friend I went with had also never been to the drive-in, so when we got there and discovered that there were swingsets near the screen, we both geeked out hard on the “IT’S JUST LIKE IN GREASE!” aspect of it. Because for both of us, the drive-in scene in Grease is about the only reference point we have to drive-ins.*

*Don’t judge me!

Lesson #281: The First Shipyard

Autobiographical note: I know more about shipbuilding than seems reasonable for a girl who gets horrible seasickness. I even have a framed photograph of a very well known gantry crane hanging on my wall.* But I really, really like boats/ships and I have no idea why. 

The first known shipyards were built in Lothal, India around 2400 BCE. The port was on the trade route between the Harappan cities in Sindh on the river Sabarmati and the peninsula of Saurashtra (when the Kutch desert was still part of the Arabian Sea). Oceanographers and archaeologists participating in the 1955-61 excavation of Lothal for the Archaelogical Survey of India noted that the Harappans must have had a superlative understanding of the Sabarmati and the tidal patterns of the because the shipyards, tidal docks made to berth and service ships, were built away from the main current in order to avoid the deposition of silt.

There is not a lot of good historical information on this. This article and the Wiki article are almost identical. Wiki does cite an archaeological survey on the excavation of Lothal quite heavily with page numbers and everything, so I’m inclined to believe that the research was done by the archeological/oceanographic team and then was lifted without citation for the former and with citation for the latter. There is also this article, which discusses Lothal briefly (and without citation).

*I’ll leave it to you to figure out which one and why.

Lesson #280: The Man Who Sold the Papacy

Pope Benedict IX was maybe the youngest Pope in history, having taken the position (the first time) in the early 11th century at some point between the ages of 11 and 20.* And that’s all well and good for him, but though interesting, it’s not that surprising; at the time, the papacy was granted more on who you knew and could pay off than it was on being ultra pious. Benedict, it turns out, was the nephew of his two immediate predecessors, Pope John XIX and Pope Benedict VIII and his daddy bought him the office.

What’s awesome about Benedict IX is that he was about the least qualified person to ascend the Papacy, was accused by more than one person of rape, murder and adultery, and more interestingly, he’s the only man ever to have sold the Papacy. There’s also speculation that he was the first gay Pope. (Heresy! I love it!)

Benedict was born in Rome around 1012 and became Pope** in 1032. In 1044, he was forced out by opposition and Sylvester III ascended the Papacy (sort of — politics are messy). When Benedict returned to Rome in April 1045, he resumed control of the position before resigning the office a month later (so he could marry) and selling it to his godfather, who took the title as Gregory VI. Not long afterwards, regretting the decision, he returned to Rome, reclaimed the office — though Gregory VI was still technically Pope — and sort of duked it out with Sylvester, who popped up again to stake his claim to the office. In July of 1046, King Henry III intervened and the Council of Sutri declared in December of the same year that both Benedict and Sylvester were deposed and asked that Gregory tender his resignation. Clement II was then installed as Pope and ruled*** until his death a year later, at which point Benedict, having rejected his deposition, swooped back to Rome, seized the Lateran Palace and continued to hold it until German troops forced him out in July 1048. He was brought up on simony charges, for which he refused to appear, and was excommunicated in 1049. Unsurprisingly, he’s not one of the canonized Popes.

His three recognized terms as Pope are as follows:

Term 1: Election (1032) to Sylvester III (1044)

Term 2: Return to Rome (April 1045) to Sale of Papacy (May 1045)

Term 3: Forcible seizure of Lateran Palace (November 1047) to Expulsion (July 1048)

Best. Papacy. Ever!

More can be read here, here and here.

*Most sources say he was between the ages of 18 and 20 when he first took the position, but some say he was as young as 11.

**The first time. In fact, he was Pope three times, the only person ever to be Pope more than once.

***For some reason I can’t hear the word “rule” anymore without thinking “…over all this land and we will call it…This Land!” “I think we should call it Your Grave.” “Ah! Curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal!”, which is one of the first scenes of the Firefly pilot. And one of the best character introductions ever.

Lesson #279: Theories on the Origins of Indo-European Language

Autobiographical note: One of my favourite XKCD rollover text commentaries (from the comic titled Etymology — regarding science fiction)says, “For some reason my childhood suspension disbelief had no problem with the fact that this ancient universe is full of humans, but was derailed by language. There’s no Asia OR Europe there so where’d they get all the Indo-European roots?” It just made me laugh. 

A good friend of mine has a friend who is a linguist. I tend to see him when our mutual friend has parties or barbeques or whatever and I always really enjoy talking to him. The last time I saw him, we got to talking about language commonalities — he speaks Japanese, Russian and Ukrainian, I speak French and Spanish and have a couple of  Slavic languages at a basic level as well as enough to get by in German, Swedish and Turkish —  and he mentioned that scholars believe that Indo-European has its origins in a temperate region based on the fact that its linguistic descendents have common roots for words like snow and cold, but not for more tropical things like tiger and rice. Fascinating! I was talking with a Turkish friend the other day — and working on not completely butchering his lovely, complicated language* — and the subject of the Indo-European roots came up because we were talking about how the words for tea, coffee and beer in Turkish are similar to (or the same as) other languages I know, but the word for water (su) is not.

There are three major theories in how the Indo-European languages diverged. The first, the Pontic Steppe or Kurgan Hypothesis was the most widely accepted theory in recent history. This theory suggests that the Indo-European language developed in the Black/Caspian Sea regions in what is now southern Russia. Coinciding with the taming of horses, the Kurgan people lived 6ooo years ago and expanded in three separate waves, conquering first the farmers of Europe and then expanding into the Balkans, Anatolia, Central Asia and India. In conquering so much and taking their language with them, the Kurgans managed to eliminate any pre-existing languages, giving rise to the Celtic, Italic, Germanic, Balto-Slavic, Greek and other European families of language over the course of the next few millenia. While this theory is widely embraced by linguists, archaeologists have found no evidence to support any widespread invasion at the time in question. In fact, archaeology suggests that there was a period of unbroken continuity in the Bronze and Copper Eras in Europe.

The Anatolian Hypothesis posits that the Indo-European languages came out of agricultural expansion from Anatolia, and the Hittite language, that began between 8000-9000 years ago. Archaeology and a biological examination of language both support this theory of promulgation. A pair of biologists from New Zealand put the vocabulary of all 87 Indo-European languages into a database and used computer mapping similar to that used in DNA mapping to examine the relationships between cognates. What they discovered is that they progressions of languages and where and when they branch out matches exactly the agricultural expansion from Anatolia — and interestingly, also tends to match the development of languages in Europe and Central Asia laid out in the Kurgan Hypothesis. Linguists, however, reject the Anatolian Hypothesis based on two major faults: first, that if the Indo-European languages were born of the same agricultural expansion, the Indo-Iranians and the Indo-Europeans ought to have similar vocabularies where agriculture is involved, but they do not. Secondly, the Hittite language, the hypothetical source of the Indo-European languages, was likely spoken only by the minority elite and not by the common people.

The final theory, the Paleolithic Continuity Theory, is one that both archaeologists and linguists can agree on and is currently the favoured theory of the dispersion of Indo-European languages. This theory does not require archaeological evidence of conquest or linguistic evidence of common agricultural language, but instead suggests that “Indo-Europeans arrived in Europe tens of thousands of years ago, and that by the end of the Ice Age had already differentiated into local language speakers occupying territories within or close to their now-traditional homelands” and that the glaciers that moved in during the last Ice Age were responsible for the compartmentalization of language. The continuity theory offers that the first settlers of the area brought their language with them and these languages evolved over time. Historically, this makes sense because historically speaking, conquered peoples retain their language and their conquerors learn the language of the conquered people out of necessity. The objections to the Paleolithic Continuity Theory are that genetic continuity (an issue with the two former theories) does not imply linguistic continuity and, more importantly, that the timeline for accepted linguistic change is exceeded.

So yeah…good stuff! I can order myself a beer in 22 different languages** but I don’t know exactly why they differ!

All of this can be read here.

*He says my pronunciation is quite good, so I’m more or less succeeding in this goal.

**This is no exaggeration. I can order beer (and water) in: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Latin (though I will never, ever need to do this), Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak, Polish, German, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Irish, Albanian, Turkish, Hungarian, Hebrew,  Japanese and Indonesian.

Lesson #278: God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise

“God willing and the creek don’t rise” might be my favourite expression of all time though I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard anyone use it in real life. This came up for a reason today.

Because we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like with his job keeping him out of town quite a lot, my best friend tends to call me during the week just to check in.* Tonight, he was telling me about how the way he knew he was really stressed out is that he drove 45 minutes to work this morning with country music on the radio. He *hates* country music. Then, of course, it got into me making fun of him and the fact that his line of demarcation for what is south and what is not is whether or not you can get boiled peanuts.** Then, somehow, we got onto southern-isms even though my experience with living in the south was more like living on another planet and his experience with living in the south was going to visit his parents in Florida on breaks from prep school/college. This led us to “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” Naturally.

There is not a lot of good (read: reliable) information on the expression, but here’s what I could find:

The first known appearance of the expression is attributed to the late 18th/early 19th General Superintendent for Indian Affairs, Benjamin Hawkins in response to a Presidential request to return to Washington during his time in the south. Hawkins capitalized the word Creek leading to speculation that he was referring to the Creek (Muscogee) people, who were native to the area and not a body of water.

The speculation that Hawkins was referring to the people, not the water isn’t actually far-fetched given that a. Hawkins was the principal agent to the Creek tribe, b. the Creek would periodically send raiding parties to trading posts and c. Hawkins was well-educated and wouldn’t likely have made such a grammatical mistake.

You can read more (but not much) here, here and here. None of them are particularly reliable, but it’s the best I could do. Idiomatic expressions aren’t particularly well documented.

*And I can always tell how much he’s had to drink by how soon into the conversation he reminds me he loves me.

**I’ll refrain from repeating his assessment of boiled peanuts. It’s not a glowing review. I don’t like nuts (except pecans and cashews) so I’ve never had them and can, therefore, neither confirm nor refute his statement.

Lesson #277: On Bach and (not) Albinoni

Pandora might be my favourite thing ever to be invented because it allows me to play music with the same eclectic mix as my iPod a. without draining my battery and b. with a bit more variety that allows me to hear things I wouldn’t normally because I don’t own them.

I was listening to Pandora just now and it started playing me the Adagio from Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, which until now I have never heard. Because I have a general aversion to baroque. As a rule, it’s too predictable for me. Baroque pieces all seem to end with the same chord progression and then you’re just kind of left going, “oh, it’s over.” I present Pachelbel’s Canon in D as example. There are certainly exceptions to this rule. Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor* and Chaconne for Violin (the final movement of Partida No. 2 in D Minor)** are both excellent pieces of music. But mostly, it leaves me cold.

Every so often, Pandora gets it right by getting it wrong and this is one of those cases. Imagine my surprise when I heard the Chaconne mixed with what is usually called Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor despite the fact that Albinoni didn’t write it. Oddly enough, it’s a neo-baroque piece that I love. Ignoring the history of the composition of the piece, which though odd and kind of awesome, is not something I don’t already know*** and, more, the amazing story of Vedran Smajlovic and his use of it in Sarajevo during the war, what’s important here is that Bach ripped himself off and then Remo Giazotto, who actually composed the Albinoni’s Adagio, ripped him off. So listening to a lesser known Bach piece is an incredibly odd experience.

This isn’t actually research so much as it is (excuse the pun) playing to the things filed away in my head, but it’s what you get because that’s what interests me today. There’s research coming tomorrow. I’m going to get to the whole Indo-European language thing, I promise!

And yes, it does seem that I like my baroque in minor keys…including the Scarlatti piece in C minor I’m working on on the piano at the moment.

Also, randomly, Pandora has just informed me that Modest Mussorgsky, who composed my very favourite piece of music ever, died as a result of his alcoholism. It doesn’t add, “well, he was Russian and an artist, after all.”****

*Which is a fantastic piece to run to.

**A piece that is at the heart of one of the most interesting (and tragic) articles to come out in recent years on the social value of classical music, a Washington Post article about virtuoso Joshua Bell playing in the DC Metro.

***Though this is apparently not common knowledge because even Lawyer (Former) Housemate was surprised to learn this when I mentioned it to her in passing a few months back.

****Lest you think I’m mocking Mussorgsky, the Russians and/or alcoholism, this was the time of the bohemians. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that any particular artist/musician/writer in Europe at that time died of some form of overindulgence or another.