Ex Libris Ant Man
People must think I’ve stopped blogging again.
I am still buried in my dad’s business affairs. It’s as if I’m treating a sick calf that keeps vomiting up garbage it ate before I showed up. A lot of things got screwed up over the last year and a half. I am untying the Gordian Knot with tweezers, one strand at a time.
Prioritizing is not easy. I set time aside for this or that, and then I get sandbagged by something equally urgent. The people I deal with must think I’m just lying on the couch, eating fun size Snickers bars all day. Good guess. No, I’m chiseling away at the job. It may look different to the people I deal with. Each one of them only sees his little corner of the maelstrom.
I have a few major tasks to finish this month. Once that’s done, my life will probably seem as featureless as limbo.
I haven’t looked at C programming in several days. By the time I get done fooling with Quickbooks, creditors, flaky contractors, and ordinary bills, all I want to do is space out and watch Misfit Garage.
I’m keeping up with The Aeneid, sort of. I let it go for a couple of days. The paperback I ordered arrived. It’s really something. It’s supposed to be a long book, but the version I got is about 3/8″ thick. I opened it up, hoping I had made an impossible error in judging the poem’s length. No, sorry. It turned out I bought the microprint version. You have to read it with a proton microscope.
The print is slightly bigger than phone book print, and there are no gaps to speak of. I’m not sure why anyone buys this version. I tried to read it for a while, and then I gave up and went back to my phone.
It’s boring. It’s so incredibly boring. I don’t care if saying that proves I’m a clod. It’s terrible.
Aeneas is in Sicily. He sailed there from Carthage, where ***SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER*** he jilted Queen Dido, who proceeded to kill herself (because anorexia and self-cutting hadn’t been invented). In Sicily, he ran into other Trojans, and he decided to hang out a while. As usual, the top priority for these Hellenists was naked sports.
I don’t actually know that they were naked, but I’m willing to assume it out of laziness.
Aeneas had a bunch of ships full of really tired people who want to found a nation and relax, so of course, he decided to hold games.
It’s the usual stuff. Tedious narrations of unentertaining events in which the self-pitying, diaper-worthy losers cry like fat girls who didn’t make the cheerleading squad. Really off-putting.
Here is my position on men crying: if you cry because your mom got run over, fine. If you cry tears of joy because your son was just born, great. If you cry because you lost a stupid foot race, you are a pansy, and someone should slap you.
Once again, I find myself filled with contempt for the values of the Greeks (yes, they were Trojans, but same culture). The shallowness is profound (I love a good oxymoron). All they care about is winning and being admired. It’s like reading about a bunch of neurotic, narcissistic, superficial Olympic athletes. This is what hanging out with Lance Armstrong must be like.
I have no respect for people like that. Zero. I have no desire to be around them. Egotistical people ruin the world. They are idiots.
Virgil is very long-winded. I keep wondering…is this because ancient people had no entertainment and long attention spans, or is it just that he was a bad writer with no understanding of pace?
I lean toward the latter explanation. You’re not allowed to criticize the classics, but I do anyway, so I will say it: Virgil needs an editor. Bad.
I don’t really need to know everything that happened in the boat race between Mnestheus and Sergestus. Wrap it up. Keep it punchy. Five hundred or a thousand words will do it to death. You don’t need five thousand.
To prove my point, let me remind you that Shakespeare lived before TV, and he wasn’t a bore. Lots of respected pre-technological writers weren’t bores. Virgil is a bore. He is an epic bore, in more ways than one.
Today I saw an interesting article on the web. Some guy thinks he has found the 40 smartest people who ever lived. I checked the list out. I saw something astounding. The guy whose IQ may have been 400? No. The guy who could recite The Aeneid WORD FOR WORD.
What on earth was wrong with him? How could he stand it? How could he bear reading this miserable work over and over until it was committed to memory? What possible reason could he have for wasting that much time? Who sat beside him for four days holding the text as he recited, checking his accuracy?
Here’s a secret: it’s a lie. No one can memorize 400 pages without a mistake, and no one would sit still to check his memory. I can’t prove any of this, but then there are a lot of crazy stories I can’t disprove.
People tend to lie about geniuses and people they simply want to pretend are geniuses. John Kennedy told a reporter to say he read 2,000 words per minute, and now we accept it as gospel. There are some crazy-smart people out there, but no one memorized The Aeneid. I won’t believe it without proof.
Some of the genius stories are credible. If a kid goes to a reputable university and gets a doctorate at 13, I believe it’s legitimate. Things like that have happened. I think. It’s not all that shocking. People tend to underestimate the capabilities of smart kids, so they don’t teach them as much as they could. It happened to me. A super-brilliant kid (or even a kid who is merely really smart) with attentive parents should have no problem graduating from college before puberty. But I do not buy the memorization story.
Maybe I’m wrong; maybe it’s easier in Latin. Maybe it rhymes. But what a thing to do to yourself. What use is it? It’s not like your friends are going to beg you to come over and recite a boring poem for 19 hours. No one will pay you for it. “Come over and remind me how bored I was in college.” No.
It’s kind of a bummer, reading about all these smart people. It’s obvious that many of them had parents who made a responsible effort to cultivate them. No kid walks into a university admissions office alone at the age of 9. I love my parents and all that, but they did a very bad job. I can’t memorize The Aeneid, and I don’t think I was ever in any danger of revolutionizing physics, but I had a certain amount of potential, and my parents let about 90% of it go down the toilet. On the up side, I saw every episode of Star Trek at least five times, I didn’t have to play organized football, and I got to eat a lot of ice cream.
Here’s something else that’s interesting: a lot of the smart people in the article didn’t achieve much. Some did great things. Others hid away from society. One works at Home Depot.
The guy Will Hunting was based on took a civil service exam and got a low grade. Seems like no one is safe from underachievement. I don’t know how you get a low grade on that type of exam. I assume he forgot to breathe. Maybe they put the thermometer in the wrong end.
I can relate to these people, from my own relatively amoeba-like level. I may well be the least ambitious person on earth who is not in a coma. Ambitious people give me the willies. I wouldn’t want to be in a room with Reince Priebus or Hillary Clinton for more than a few seconds.
Leonardo da Vinci was known for underachieving, if you can believe it. He had a reputation for starting things he didn’t finish. I suppose the ideas were more interesting than the implementation. You have an exciting idea, you do enough work to prove it’s good, you say, “Yeah, I can do that,” and then you wander off and play Grand Theft Auto…feeling successful.
Leonardo did not understand Latin. He was spared the Virgil experience. Lucky guy.
I guess it’s time to call more flakes and do more bookkeeping. I hope to be done with Virgil soon. When things settle down, I may just climb into the refrigerator and stay there until September.
Here’s horrible news. Amazon’s listings for The Aeneid are screwed up. They claimed they were selling me a translation by Allen Mandelbaum, but they actually sold me one by a guy named Mackail. So now I’m 39% of the way through the book…with a translation I wouldn’t wish on Hitler.
Arrggh. It’s hard out here for a classics scholar.