Monday, February 19, 2018

Achilles Killed Hector

By Fred Owens

Achilles killed Hector. It finally happened. It was foretold, but when it actually happened it was awful. This is in Book 22 of the Iliad...... I never read the whole poem before.... When we studied Classical Greek in high school, we read the Odyssey..... But the Iliad is the greater and more powerful work....It is awesome, I can only read one or two pages at a time in English.... I have a Greek version of the poem, the Loeb Classic edition, and I can pick out a few words here and there in the original is a great treasure to know this language, as Horace wrote exegi monumentum aere perennius ... that was Latin, but you get the idea. It means "I will build a monument more lasting than bronze." .... These poems have lasted for thousands of years ...
The Iliad is a terribly violent book, a tale of constant battle, sword thrusts and bloody corpses. It is most thoroughly patriarchal. There are few female characters and they tend to be fought over.
Unless you count the goddesses. They are hell to pay and mount one scheme after another. Hera is the wife and sister of Zeus. She favors the Greeks. Aphrodite and Artemis favor the Trojans. Athena whispers into Achilles' ear and stirs his emotions. The godesses move mountains and change the course of rivers on the battle field.  They strike fear and they inspire courage. This was all before Marvel Comics, but you get the idea.

The Iliad was written three thousand years ago. Thus the patriarchy was born in a noble tragedy. Born in tragedy and ending in farce. Farce, thy name is Trump. He is the last patriarch. Will Trump's Tweets last for the ages, or will they melt in the sun like the morning dew?
A Broken Promise in Florida after the Shooting
The only people we cannot possibly blame are the high school students themselves. We have broken our promise. If we cannot guarantee their safety, then they are not bound to follow our instructions.... By what authority do you compel a student to  attend class and study if you cannot promise safety? .... They will go on strike. The public schools will descend into chaos and conflict. Conservatives will love this because they consider the public schools to be cesspools of corruption and depravity. Go on strike, Trump will say, and let's shut them all down.
Lacking guidance and moral authority, teenagers will form marauding gangs. Conservatives will retreat to armed compounds. Trump will revel in the  fearful destruction. Trump, the last patriarch, will demand loyalty and promise safety. Trust me, he will say, and millions will do just that, all heavily armed.
I might be taking this Greek epic to heart and coloring my words in a nightmare vision. I hear the wailing of the #MeToo Chorus. Fate! It has been foretold! There is no mercy! Epic Glory descends to Fake News!
My rant ends here. Let's lighten up.
I Don't Understand Gefilte Fish

I will keep this short, but it seems relevant to our earlier discussion of kvetching.

I ate gefilte fish, but only once. I didn't get the point. I was doing some garden work for Moshe Waldoks in Brookline, which is part of Boston. How I got to Boston and how I got to know famed Jewish humorist Moshe Waldoks -- that is a long story. He wrote the Big Book of Jewish Humor.
When I knew him, in 1992, he was a large boisterous man with a booming voice and a big smile. Always energetic. He lived in a big white house in Brookline, a leafy Boston suburb. I came one day to trim his shrubbery. This was not a happy job because Moshe, a man of wild ambitions and rambunctious enthusiasm, had no interest in his yard.
Even today I can picture his back yard -- scrawny trees and overgrown shrubs.

But he invited me in for lunch, to his warm, friendly kitchen. He was spoon feeding his young son lumps of gefilte fish out of a glass jar, and cooing like a love bird, such lovely food.
He offered me some. I tasted it. That's the wrong word. Gefilte fish has no taste. What is the point? The point is I never saw Moshe Waldoks again, but I remember that lunch time moment. Forget the gefilte fish, I said to myself, but remember his smile.

Harvey Blume, the Lion of East Cambridge, heard of my gefilte fish problem. He told me you need to eat it with strong horseradish and matzos. I will try that some day.
Greek tragedy is leavened by Jewish humor. Fate  is strong.  What can you do? You can laugh, because the laugh is on you.
Surgery. My thyroid surgery went well. The hospital staff was incredibly kind and competent. I got home the same day and by the next day I was free of pain. Then I took it easy for a few days and now I am back gardening and writing this newsletter. Thanks to the many readers who sent me expressions of sympathy.
Drought in Santa Barbara. It is too dry. The only decent rain we have gotten all winter was the deluge that caused the Montecito Mudslide and that terrible loss of life. Every day we look up at warm, sunny skies -- which are so pleasant for us human beings, but too hard on trees and shrubbery. We pray every day, can we please have some rain, and please not too much at one time.
The Grandchild in Seattle. Laurie and I will fly to Seattle in April to visit our grandchild Finn. He will be eight months old. He is already achieving monumental feats of cuteness which we view via FaceTime. It will be so much nicer to hold him and make faces at him. Lara and Eva are doing a great job raising this young boy. Not much of a baby anymore, ready to crawl, and grow teeth and say Ma.
Toronto. Laurie and I will fly to Toronto in early June for the 50th Reunion of the class of 1968 at St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto. I will indulge my sense of nostalgia and tell you tales of old college days when we were young. It was a gift to go to college in Canada during the Sixties. There was no war in Vietnam, no draft, and no riots. Canadians were concerned about the madness in the States and only wished to be helpful, but there was no way there going to send more than a few soldiers over to Southeast Asia.  In this more tranquil college atmosphere I was able to study and have fun too. It should be illegal how much fun I had back then, but I did study as well, read hundreds of books and got good grades. Well, that was a long time ago.
A New Laptop. If the Seattle trip goes well and the Toronto trip goes well, if I have any money left, I will buy a new laptop. Hopefully. Some basic new model at Best Buy or perhaps an almost new reconditioned Apple.

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thanks a lot,

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

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