Shipping costs, too?

PARIS Sir Elton John has won more than £250,000 in compensation after buying fake statues in an antique shop in Paris, believing that they were the works of an 18th-century Italian artist.
Sir Elton paid $360,000 (£180,000) in cash for four 4ft marble figures of Olympian gods to Jean Renoncourt in 1996. However, six years ago experts discovered that they were imitations. The Paris Court of Appeal also ordered the dealer to pay to ship the fakes back to his shop.



I think that this is the longest in a while that I’ve gone without downloading my audiobook of the month from on the first day permitted – the 21st of each month (for me). It’s a combination of work and shorter dog-walks.
This month – Thomas Perry, Silence. I haven’t liked any of his post-Jane books as much as the Jane Whitefield ones, but he’s still pretty good. The Jane novels also have the hidden benefit of being regional – she’s a Seneca and I live on Seneca Lake, after all.
I haven’t read a novel in a long time when I wasn’t lying in bed. Life is hard.
Last month was my second Simon Winchester self-read books: A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906. He’s a good writer and a good reader – and the two are not common together. I really liked The Professor and the Madman, so I tried the geology book. Turns out that Winchester has a degree in geology!

Those Tudors!

In recognition of the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to the throne Hampton Court Palace is mounting a series of exhibitions. The first one is the Young Henry, including the Katherine of Aragon years. Here’s a story (lots of pics) about the show, which sounds like a triumph of smart production.

It explores the first 20 years of his reign by examining the balance of power between the athletic young Henry, his beloved wife, Katherine of Aragon, and Henry’s righthand man, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.
Three throne-like chairs, each engraved with a chess symbol, represent these three influential players. They appear in each room in different configurations – side by side, back to back, on opposite sides of the room – a simple and effective way of visually demonstrating first Katherine’s fall from Henry’s favour, then Wolsey’s.

There’s a photograph of one of the late stages – two thrones side by side, a third pushed away. Simple and effective? Too symbolic? I’m not sure. I’d really like to see it, though.
It might be worth pointing out that even as a young man Henry was already a fat boy – if “athletic” is a good adjective for him (it turns up in the story) he was a linebacker or one of those rugby positions that rewards bulk. See the first portrait in the above link. In other words, he was no Jonathan Rhys Meyers star of the new Showtime series The Tudors.

Mummy of Pharaoh Hatshepsut Identified?

DNA comparison and a tooth? So you take an unidentified mummy found in 1903 and a tooth from a box found in 1881 inscribed with the name Hatshepsut and find a match. Luckily there’s some confirmatory DNA evidence. I’ll be the Egyptologists will be arguing about this one for some time, whatever Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt, thinks. I do love his title, though.
Here’s the coverage at the National Geographic News, and here is their photo gallery (great gruesome mummy views!). Their photo galleries often come with good explanatory captions, and this is no exception.

Really, I’m a simple man

I mean, it’s not as though I would reject an iPhone and 2 year contract if offered for free, but hey! I get by with my little Nokia and a rock bottom Cingular plan. I mean, I’m no power phone user – I live in Geneva, NY, and am a professor of art history. Untenured, at that.
But these are very amusing on the whole phenomenon . . . the Macalope and Fake Steve on a particularly wacky negative article.
(what, you don’t have Fake Steve bookmarked?)

A little lunchtime blog maintainance

I’ve just added a new flickr badge – it’s way down there in the right column – pulling random pictures from the Gothic Revival flickr group. If you have fun Gothic Revival pictures come join us and contribute!
I meant to do a little more archival research on my own Gothic Revival article today but got diverted – so until tomorrow I’ll stick to thinks in print. I’m rereading something on style in architecture by J. Mordaunt Crook. Isn’t that the greatest name in scholarship? The book is pretty wonderful, too. That helps.

Darfur drags on

I wasn’t very surprised – are you? – to read this headline on Google news: Session on Darfur ends without action plan. But I clicked anyway. Hope springs eternal.

France had said the meeting was aimed at backing a UN-African Union peacemaking effort, offering political support to those trying to bring together splintered rebel groups, and providing funds for a hybrid UN-AU force due to take over from 7,000 beleaguered AU peacekeepers.
Sudan itself was not invited, and the African Union declined to send a delegation.

And then this piece of diplomatic amazingness:

Despite the absence of specific action from the meeting, a UN special envoy, Jan Eliasson, said it had been useful.
“There has been a long period now of sometimes competing initiatives. Now there was general agreement that we should have a convergence of initiatives,” he told reporters.

Archaeolgist Stuff-lust

Fascinating story about an Old Persian cuneiform tablet with a sudden archaeologist GRAB paragraph.

“This shows how important it is to keep the Persepolis Fortification texts together, to keep the Archive intact,” Stein said. “Unexpected discoveries are still being made, and the meaning and reliability of every piece depend on its connections with the whole information system of the entire Fortification Archive.”

Because technologies for sharing images of objects are SO unsatisfactory in the 21st century.
Archaeologists come in several flavors; one of those flavors is The Collector, who truly, truly believes that every single fragment of the past must be preserved intact in HIS (or her) museum. I don’t believe it’s true. Sorry. You could send the clay back to Iran and still move forward. Start by explaining why it’s been in Chicago since 1933 and you’re just getting around to talking about it in public lately . . . ?
Those of us who depend on the publication speed of archaeologists can think of a few answers to that one – none of them pretty.
Check the comment! Very interesting – I’m sorry I didn’t publish it immediately, but it ended up in the junk folder because of the inclusion of multiple urls. Luckily I don’t empty the junk folder without checking! Here’s a bit: Indeed the Oriental Institute had already unilaterally begun the return of the tablets to the Iranian authorities. On the other hand, The University of Chicago does dispute the right of claimants with a judgement against the government of Iran to sieze this kind of material and sell it to satisfy the claim.
I appreciate hearing the defense that the U of C doesn’t want people with claims against the Iranian government seizing and selling the materials – breaking up the collection. That’s reasonable. And if Iran really doesn’t want them back, that’s fine.
However, the paragraph I quoted in my original posting isn’t about the legal situation – a scholar made a claim about the necessity for maintaining the archive intact for study. I understand how important it is to study each piece in the mental context of the complete archive, to know that what you’re reading came from a certain place, but I wonder about the necessary to keep them all in the same room in order to study them.
Why would it be useful to keep it all in one room? Well, it’s possible there are serendipitous discoveries made when scholars glance across the room and see tablets they hadn’t previously thought to connect. I guess I unconsciously envy people who study discrete objects which can be held in one room! My primary interest in buildings means that I’ve always known that I can’t have the things I love. Well, at least since the days of the Rockefellers and the Cloisters it has become less possible to buy buildings, disassemble them, and rebuild them for our convenience. However, that impossibility may have set me free from stuff-lust.

Prayer for the Motu Proprio

via Fr. Zuhlsdorf, a prayer initiative for the Motu Proprio on the older form of the Mass.* Be humble – you may be the ‘hard of heart’ without realizing it.
May the hard of heart yield to the Holy Spirit when hearing of Vicar of Christ’s will.
May the eager rejoice graciously and with true thanksgiving to God.
May the ignorant seek first to learn before making judgments.
May the learned offer comments in charity.
May our priests use considered prudence.
May our bishops be generous and paternal.
VENI, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium, et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.
V. Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur;
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.
DEUS, qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere, et de eius semper consolatione gaudere. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
[or for the hard of heart]
COME, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and kindle in them the fire of Thy love.
V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray:
O GOD, Who taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that, by the gift of the same Spirit, we may be always truly wise, and ever rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
*My own position on the older form of the Mass is kind of “eh.” I heard the first recent Tridentine Mass said by a priest of the archdiocese of Atlanta sometime in the 90s. It was awful – all the worst of the pre-1966 low Mass. Then I was in regular though not perfect attendance at the monthly masses of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and hung around with some of those folks. I left Atlanta about the time they got a canonically erected parish, so I never had to make any decisions – monthly was more than enough for me. I always feel as though I ought to like it more. All in all, I’d probably prefer a Novus Ordo mass said by someone like Fr. Tucker or my friend the chaplain at Vanderbilt University (you can tell it’s his operation by the devotion to the Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, who Fr. Baker has single-handedly promoted in the diocese of Nashville). All in all, I’m fine with a perfectly reverent Mass in any language. I’ve been lucky in our local parish and chaplaincy, especially given the diocese of Rochester. However, I’m praying for a wider application of the older form of the Mass.

What is “Arabic” and how do you go about teaching it?

Mark Liberman at Language Log has a great post with lots of updates about the state of Arabic mastery among State Department personnel in Baghdad and then expanding out to the question of what kind of Arabic to learn and what is Arabic anyway. I apologize that the link seems to take you into the middle of the post – click and scoll up to start reading, because the whol thing is very interesting! Among other things, he links to a fascinating article (link is to a pdf) about the problems of diglossia for Arabs and Arabic literacy; it’s a long paper, and Liberman chooses several anecdotes and excerpts (tempting enough that I read the whole thing – I keep asking people who know Arabic how far apart the dialects really are; the simple answer, “pretty far”).
So why is this of more than casual interest for medievalists? Read Liberman’s next to last paragraph:

This situation makes the task of foreign learners more difficult, since they need to learn to deal appropriately with a very broad range of mixtures of “high” and “low” languages. This is true to some extent in any language, but the range of diglossia in “Arabic” appears to be significantly greater than in most other modern situations. You need to imagine a situation in which “Latin” is used to refer not only to classical and patristic Latin, but also to the spoken versions French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese (with none of them having any standard written form).

I don’t need to imagine a situation like that – I read about it all the time. It’s called “the 8th and 9th centuries in Western Europe.” Roger Wright, a student of early Spanish, pushed a lot of medievalists to start thinking about what Latin was before and after Alcuin and De litteris colendis, the Carolingian edict on how Latin was to be taught and pronounced when read aloud. To simplify, Wright says (and the field has come around a long way to him) that before Alcuin, written Latin was an elaborate spelling convention for proto-Romance. The whole question of when proto-Romance ceased to be one thing and became proto-Spanish, proto-French, proto-Italian and such and the degree to which these things were separable from Late Latin is wildly controversial, but it’s exactly what Liberman is asking us to think about while thinking about diglossia and dialect problems in Arabic.
The situation of Latin/Romance diglossia in the West in the 8th and 9th centuries is important to me because early on in the dissertation my historian advisor asked something along the lines of his famous “but did the hand that guided the plow understand Augustine’s sermon?” Did anyone other than clergymen understand the monumental inscriptions I was looking at? Did I need to posit a tour guide to translate them for lay visitors to buildings? How seriously could we take the idea of programmatic intention if no one could read them? Funny – I blogged about this in late June last year, too.
So, back to Arabic. What do we Americans think we’re doing when we teach Modern Standard Arabic on the college level? After reading the Maamouri piece I’m beginning to wonder if we’re teaching Latin and then sending our students out to deal with a lot of speakers of Spanish, Italian, and French.