Monthly Archives: October, 2006


I had no idea that Robert Fagles was still alive, let alone that he was working on The Aeneid. Must admit that I prefer the Lattimore translation of The Iliad – I have to get hold of his Odyssey, and I must write about my re-visiting of Troy sometime soon too. Anyway, with a new – and apparently fantastic – translation, maybe it’s time I revisited Aeneid… I didn’t like it at uni, thinking it far inferior to Homer, but maybe it was a bad translation. Plus I was influenced of course by all those contemptuous ideas that he was simply Augustus’ lapdog (the ideas aren’t contemptuous, they express contempt…).

Marie Antoinette

This article on Marie Antoinette is fascinating. I know only so much as I learnt in Year 12 history a decade ago (eek!) about Marie, and that certainly didn’t include much about her using fashion as a deliberate strategy in positioning herself in the royal court. I am rather tempted to find the book mentioned, and I’m not sure whether I will bother to see Coppola’s movie or not….

Women in Origin Myths

This was a lecture given by Patrick Geary, from UCal, on Feb 7th. My notes, my misinterpretations….

*Random notes:
– Matthew and Luke genealogies don’t agree?
– Davidic lineage? [Not really sure what this was referring to, obviously something biblical..]
– Matilda of Tuscany [hmmm… some sort of mythology around her I guess…]

*Interest in memory currently:
– end of the Cold War: how to remember, especially in Warsaw Pact areas
– death of WWII survivors – Holocaust survivors and perpetrators, soldiers. Who has the right to tell about the past?
— This is really about the present and the future (what was – what is, and what should be [sounds like a Led Zeppelin song…]).

*Around the fifth century BC, and following, interest in genealogies increased – but generations of men. So where were the women?

– the first man involved no woman; sprung form the earth.
– first woman ismade, not generated
Problem: to be a citizen, have to have father and mother as citizens….

*Herodotus’ story of the Scyths
– mother is semi-divine, or semi-monster…
— Byzantium liked Herodotus, and used this story.
— Amazons –> Scythians –> Goths

*Sarah and Hagar: Hebrews and Arabs

*More important to look at audience than possible matriarchal origins (at least in some cases). [I’ve always thought matriarchal ideas were feminists grasping at straws, which I thought was sad both because they thought they had to and because I thought that it was unlikely that society has ever been much different in its shape over the last several thousand years].

*Medieval historians/genealogist (most of whom were clerical, so had no children, but put themselves in the family begun by a virgin mother…):
– women are in the mythic pre-history of people/nations; their disappearance is necessary for the beginning of ‘real’ history (only men)
– not incorporated satisfactorily into lineages
– writers are aware/ambivalent of current women leaders
– fail to reconcile rension between the ideal and actuality.

*Why didn’t the men just write the problematic women out? There must have been something in the tradition….

More ARIAs

Youth Group: up there with Augie March with Radiohead as whiney little boys (although not so little, since Youth Group has been around for 9 years…).

I quite like “Flaunt it,” by TV Rock, so I’m glad they just won their second ARIA. Particularly as they beat out three Idol dudes. Mahaha.

Axle Whitehead on the ARIAs… such a long way from college.

Human Nature wins Highest Selling Album with Motown… leads to two things: 1. Can’t stand Human Nature, but they do this sound quite good, although definitely white (and the pink shirts are just bad); 2. Mothers’ Day. That’s why they won this section. OOH – one of them just said he was gay! Basically. How fabulous that this is now accepted on Channel Ten.

Can’t wait for Silverchair… can’t believe they weren’t one of the highlights of the advertising campaign… maybe they were and I missed it.

Fulbright Lecture

These are the notes I took at a Fulbright lecture a while ago now (last year sometime); it was part of a symposium of peace and human rights education, althought I only got to this lecture. As always – my notes, quite possibly my misunderstandings….

*Dr Diana Shelton (?sp) (American)
The world since Sept 11…
– Terrorism seen as act of war, not (as it actually is) a crime. Parallels with Pearl Harbour in WWII.
– People held, not given rights of POW or civilians, but as unprivileged combatants: on June 16, someone could be held in perpetuity without trial [I think I missed something here, like which year and country this was referring to… oops. Doesn’t really make much sense without that].
– USA PATRIOT Act (which I still cannot believe is an acronym; I thought only bad editors did that…) had no community consultation, was done in a panic after Sept 11, enhances executive branch powers, including protesting against the government, potentially [this being banned, I think, was the idea]; also surveillance rights, eg no search warrant needed.
–most sections have sunset clause – 31 Dec 2005 – but trying to get this extended.
–changes attitudes towards non-nationals in, and coming in.
– Other executive orders carried out… people being held for long periods with no bond… justice is being made a travesty of! Also issue about interrogation – when does it become torture?
– Losing liberty just to get a little secutiry is a bad deal.

*Prof George Williams (Australian)
– The gulf between actual knowledge of a threat v community fear of one [that’s all I wrote; I think the idea was that this is something that needs to be seriously considered. After al, lots of people think that crime is increasing when actualy it’s not, etc. The media has a lot to answer for).
– Aust laws did not get passed very quickly , and were frequently subject to parliamentary review and criticism, meaning that the laws that did, eventually, pass are better than they would have been without that.
— Still grave issues, however (you can be jailed for 5 years for reporting publicly that you were held by ASIO, or saying you were mistreated by them – as can any journalist saying this about you).
However, human rights doesn’t seem to have a place in dialogues about these issues…
— He is a strong advocate of a Bill of Rights for Australia.

Me: I can’t believe that Australia doesn’t have a Bill of Rights. That’s just a bit embarrassing… I guess the founders assumed we would be under Magna Carta or something. Stoopid. I really enjoyed this lecture. The American and the Australian were nicely complementary of one another. It frankly scared me, too, to hear about the changes to laws that both countries have made. I think it’s just dreadful that liberties are restricted to try and curb terrorism and other threats to our lifestyle. Surely that means that the people who apparently don’t like deomcracy and Western ways of living are winning?


Until just now, when the Veronicas (urgh; and my GOODness they look trampy) beat out Rogue Traders and Josh Pyke for Best Pop Release, I had picked all the winners… ok so that’s only three, but still. Wolfmother for Best Breakthrough Album or whatever (aroooo!), Hilltop Hoods for Best Urban, and Youth Group for Best Breakthrough Single (much as I really find that song whingy and annoying).

This might turn into something of a running commentary… I am mostly watching this for Wolfmother, Bernarld Fanning and the Hoods, but Eskimo Joe were ok first up too. And – embarrassing as it is to admit – Rogue Traders too….

Later edit: weren’t the Rogue Traders meant to perform? I didn’t see them….

Some of the cleverer graffiti I’ve seen in a while

Come fly with me

My friend AB gave me a gloriously politically incorrect kite for my birthday – it has an Indian chief on it. But, to help redeem it, it has the longest tail I’ve ever seen on a kite.

We decided to take it for a spin last weekend, so we kidnapped some friends’ sons and took them to a park.

It was a fun day. I haven’t flown a kite in ages!


Lashed out last night – bought U2 by U2, and Thud! by Pratchett, since it is at last in paperback. Am reading it at the moment instead of Catch 22, which I am meant to be (re-)reading for a kid at school.

I am particularly, and peculiarly, taken with one of the poems at the start of Thud!. I know it’s there for context etc etc… anyway, I’m not going to justify it, I’ll just copy it out:

Him who mountain crush him no
Him who sun him stop no
Him who hammer him break him no
Him who fire him fear him no
Him who raise him head above him heart
Him diamond

I just like it.

The Invention of Money by the Greeks

Richard Seaford spoke at uni earlier this year – I’ve just re-discovered my notes, so I thought I would write them up, for my own memory and public delectation. He wrote a book called Money and the Greek Mind, and this lecture was called “The Invention of Money by the Greeks.” Of course, this is what I wrote as I listened – I may have misunderstood… my thoughts are in square brackets.

**In the sixth century BC came the invention of what makes society today what it is [Western, anyway; and these are just his ideas]: democracy, drama, philosophy, scientific medicine, money, and history writing.

**Money and its Invention
– money is different and separate from wealth
– started in Ionia, Thrace, Cyprus and the Greek colonies.
– coinage: revolutionary and convenient – could be used in everyday life, which led eventually to a thoroughly monetised society.
– Egypt and Mesopotamia did not have money; they used metals as a commodity, which Seaford claims is not the same as using money.
– it’s hard to give a definition for money, because it is both a ‘thing’ and a relationship, particularly a power relationship, especially over someone’s labour [Marxism…].
–So how do you decide what is acting as money?!
—Money functions: it must be a means of payment, and a means of exchange, and and a measure of value, and a means of storing value. If something does all four functions, it’s money.

Money=sophistication? For a culture, that is. [Really not convinced by this idea… I think it’s a very modern, Western, and fairly arrogant assumption….]

**Philosophy: the view that the universe is an intelligible system, subject to uniformity and impersonal forces.
* Seaford claims that sixth C BC Greece is the first time anywhere this view was held.
* He also says that the world is/was divided into those who think the world is personal vs those who see it as impersonal.
– Philosophy started in Miletos,
– Why?? Some say it is because of a political development – indeed, the polis, not subject to an autocrat, where citizens rule themselves. So there is no monarchy to be imprinted onto the cosmos. But, the polis was in existence before these guys, and there is nothing that special about Miletos. So it doesn’t really fit, although it is appealling. So why Miletos? Was the first to be thoroughly ‘monetised’, and one of the greatest economic powers of the time – trading, etc.

Short Interlude…
The supposed way money was invented: The King of Lydia at Sardis get lots of electrum from a river, and pays mercenaries with it, and stamps it all to make the pieces worth the same amount.

And Lydia is very close to Greek cities like Miletos….

Interesting point: in Homer, in animal sacrifices, everyone gets the same amount of meat – on a spit of the same size. The obol, the smallest coin, is a similar word to that for the name of th spit! One theory runs that the spits got traded [but I ask, why??], and then replaced by coins [eventually…somehow…].

…so Back to the Story…

**So the link between money and philosophy is?
– The philosophers all thought that the world was composed of one substance, in different forms (although of course they all thought that it was a different substance from what the last guy said).
– Without a monarch, money is the most powerful thing in society. It is exchangeable for anything, and anything is exchangeable for it… much like the one universal substance of the philosophers. [He did go into the various philosophers and what they thought that substance was, but I was tired by that stage and couldn’t keep up, so I’m not really doing him justice.] Additionally, of course, it is impersonal – another attribute of the philosophical view of the world [according to Seaford].
– Money is also abstract: it has two different values – the substance and the form. The abstract value is of more importance. So the most real and most important power in society is abstract… which influences the way the thinkers of the time view the world.

**Final thought: Parmenides dealt with the rift between the abstract and the sensual; he says that the sensual is an illusion, and that only the abstract actually exists. Like money.
*Parmenides influences Plato.

***My final thoughts: I most definitely don’t know enough about the development of money, nor of the various philosophers he mentioned, to decide based on this lecture whether I believe it or not. He was certainly a very entertaining and persuasive speaker, and during the lecture I was more than willing to be convinced. One of my favourite things about these sorts of lectures is playing Spot the Lecturer/Tutor (there’s the magnficent Chris Mackie, there the brilliant Ron Ridley, supervisor extraordinaire, the moderately boring Roger Scott, etc). In front of me this time was Elizabeth Pemberton (for whom I can’t find a link, as she has left my Melbourne Uni), who shook her head a fair bit and was obviously not convinced by a number of things he said. This served as quite a nice counterbalance to my possible gullibility!