28 December 2005

Pithiest historical judgment by a European

In 1898 a journalist asked German chancellor Otto von Bismarck to identify the defining event of his times. His reply:

"North America speaks English."

Edward Gibbon quote of the day:

Edward Gibbon is my favorite historian, even higher on my list than Arnold Toynbee. His Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was first published in 1776. Or at least the first volume of it was. It's some millions of words long. My version of it, complete with original spelling, is three volumes, each volume being some 1000 + pages. It weighs more than any book I know of except the new complete Calvin and Hobbes collection. If you have not already dipped into this vast stream of Enlightenment erudition, do yourself a favor and do so as soon as possible. You may not get the answer to the question of what caused the Roman Empire to decline and fall, but you will get a brilliant, charming, and sophisticated tour of all the written sources on the subject by a man who could read Greek and Latin as easily as English. And it is delivered in some of the best English prose ever put to paper. It is also enlivened by a great ironic wit. Little by little I intend to inflict this blog with some of his funnier quotes. Just keep in mind that like Gibbon I am an historian of the late Roman Empire, and what passes for humor among us may seem a little odd to normal people.

In Chapter XXXVII, note 57, Gibbon remarks:
"I have somewhere heard or read the frank confession of a Benedictine abbot: 'My vow of poverty has given me an hundred thousand crowns a year; my vow of obedience has raised me to the rank of a sovereign prince.' -- I forget the consequences of his vow of chastity."

At another point, in writing about St Jerom (as he spells it) Gibbon says:

"The stories of Paul, Hilarion and Malchus, by the same author, [Jerom] are
admirably told; and the only defect of these pleasing compositions is the want
of truth and common sense."

It's Late

It's after midnight, which means I have officially joined the pajama and keyboard crowd. Except that I don't have any pajamas. But it has been so long since I last blogged that I thought I should say something here. I am spending Christmas holiday in a large port city in the south. It is not my favorite place, but a number of my favorite people live here. If I started off on my opinions about this city it would lead to a rant, and that wouldn't be fair. Instead I will start posting some historical quotes and what not. For the last few weeks I have been so busy with grading, moving, travelling and shopping that all I could do was think on the brilliant posts I would put on my blog as soon as I had time. Now I have time, but seem to have forgotten all the brilliant posts. Instead I will post a few of my favorite quotes from history. Because of the way blogs are arranged, you will probably read them before you read this, my most self-indulgent and pointless blog to date (hey - the competition was rough!).

17 December 2005

A Professional Opinion

A number of weeks ago Tom Delay was quoted as saying: "We are witnessing the crininalization of Conservative politics."

Well, you can't claim the man doesn't know what he is talking about.


Actually this may be a real fact, instead of a factoid, i.e. something that looks like a fact and sounds like a fact but isn't a real fact.

Anyway: one quarter of all books bought in America are bought during the Christmas holidays. And one half of all books bought are never read.

This no doubt explains a lot about what ends up on the best seller lists.

01 December 2005


Here is a fascinating fact about the language of Iran, which more correctly is known as Farsi (f's and p's being interchangable in most languages):

with 100,000 active blogs by Iranians, "Persian ties with French as the second most common blog language after English."

Apparently they are all saying some version of the same thing: "Get me out of here!"

I've always said us Indo-Europeans ought to stick together.