January Pieces Of My Mind #2

Wawel Castle in Kraków, view across the outer bailey towards the main gate of the inner.
  • Polish level-up: I made żurek soup using home-made sour dough, no prefab.
  • Movie: Don’t Look Up (2021). Funny, touching and science-literate parable about how we’re dealing with the climate crisis. Grade: great!
  • A typo just introduced a previously unknown historical nobleman into the lecture presentation I’m prepping: Earl Modern.
  • Tim Chalamet’s character in Don’t Look Up has the Misfits skull on the back of his jacket. That band’s released only two albums this millennium. He plays a punk antiquarian.
  • Duchowny means “spiritual, priest”. He wants to believe.
  • The voiced retroflex fricative is common in French: Je m’appelle Jean. Polish spells it either RZ or Ż: no problem. But then there are a few words, like the verb drżeć, to tremble… where you have kurwa RŻ.
  • Poetic Polish expression: cisza jak makiem zasiał, “silent like sown poppy seeds”.
  • Yay! Read my first book in Polish! (Relying heavily on Google Translate.) It’s about a zombie girl who lives in a haunted house and wishes she could play with the living kids from the nearby town. Until Hallowe’en comes around and she realises that she can…
  • Stanisław Lem’s pet name was Staszek.
  • The expression “fuckin’ A” is just a careless pronunciation of Fotheringhay.
  • My collection of city street maps, 30 years in the making, has ceased to grow because of my smartphone with GPS.
  • I wonder how many times each semester German students of Ancient Greek erotic poetry make the obvious pun on Archilochus and Arschloch.
  • Walter De la Mare’s 1923 story “Out of the Deep” deals with the fever hallucinations of a young man dying alone of untreated tuberculosis in a richly furnished London townhouse.
  • The price of electricity more than doubled this January over last year’s January. But our house is heated by an air-to-air heat pump. So instead of the equivalent of two good restaurant meals, we’re paying a bit more than four good restaurant meals for electricity this month. I am smug.
  • Historical fantasy is the foundational genre of Western literature.
  • Our daughter passed her driving test! ❤
  • Had some lovely pierogi at this Caucasian place across from an Orthodox church. Chinese dumpling connoisseurs such as my wife might not be entirely on board with them though. There was chopped dill in the dough and they were served with dill mayo…

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

11 thoughts on “January Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. Brian Cox (the quite tall particle physicist, not the much shorter actor) said the science behind Don’t Look Up is spot on. Tangentially, he appeared on an episode of Would I Lie to You. His team captain Lee Mack asked: “Should I call you Professor or Doctor?” and Cox replied “Whatever you like.” So he called him Brian, of course.

    That was in 2010 – that paticular episode made me laugh until my guts ached, not because Brian Cox is funny, he isn’t – he’s modest, friendly, likeable, but not funny. It was because of a (then) young Scottish comedian named Kevin Bridges describing how he and his mate had gone on a holiday to Bulgaria and had rented a horse to ride on (they thought), only to discover when they tried to return the horse that they had actually bought the horse, and that the guy who had sold it to them had disappeared. It sounded like an outrageous and hilarious lie, but it turned out to be a true story.

    “The price of electricity…” – I don’t understand. The price has doubled year on year, but you are paying a bit more than double, and you are pleased. I don’t get it. What am I missing?

    HK is fairing better – the cost of our electricity has gone up 7% year on year.

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  2. My guess is that he is happy that, while paying twice as much, it is twice as much as a relatively low cost, compared to people who heat homes with electric radiators (not uncommon in Sweden, where historically electricity has been cheap). (It is usually better to heat directly with gas, coal, or oil, if that is what makes your electricity, but historically Sweden has had much nuclear and hydroelectric power.)

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  3. We’re big heat pump fans. They’re cheaper to run than most other kinds of heating, and, as a bonus, you can pump the heat in or out as you wish.

    Tuberculosis used to be incurable and a lot more common than it is now. (One theory is that it was spread by horses used for transportation.) It inspired a lot of great art. Robert Louis Stevenson, for example, moved out west in hope of a cure. He wasn’t cured, but his move did inspire his writing. Edvard Munch lost his sister to TB and painted The Sick Child in response. Since TB was episodic until it rather quickly killed one, it was a good for dramatic effect in stories. Since the only treatment was rest and a change of scenery, a TB diagnosis was a good way to start a novel. I’ll recommend Dormandy’s The White Death for a good history of the disease.

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    1. ‘Some critics have observed that the older woman is more distressed than the child; in the words of critic Patricia Donahue, “It is almost as though the child, knowing that nothing more can be done, is comforting a person who has reached the end of her endurance.” ‘ That is eminently credible.

      Many people have commented on how brave children suffering from terminal illness are, including in cases where they have clearly known they were not going to make it, and often after prolonged suffering. Sophie was 15 when she died, so it’s a bit debatable whether she would have been considered a child in that period, but in any case she was very young, and it is obvious from the series of paintings and etchings that Munch produced over a time span of 40 years (although the dating of some of the later works has been disputed by some art historians) that she was very sickly and possibly stunted due to prolonged sickness, maybe to the extent that she was a case of delayed puberty. Sickness can do that to kids. (People in developed countries who are alarmed at girls going through puberty at younger ages than in the past don’t realise that it is likely to be because girls are now healthier and more vaccinated than at any time in the historic past, so puberty has not been delayed by childhood illness.) (You can think of evolutionary explanations for why childhood illness should delay puberty. Well, I can, anyway.)

      When Anne Brontë had late stage TB at age 29, she travelled to Scarborough accompanied by her older sister Charlotte in the hope that the sea air might alleviate her illness. On the way, Anne berated a man for beating a donkey. She died the day after they arrived in Scarborough. As Charlotte sat weeping by her bedside, Anne’s last words were: “Courage, Charlotte, courage.” By then she was evidently more concerned with comforting her distressed sister than with her own imminent demise, which she must have been aware of. At that point it is certain that she would have been in a lot of pain and would have had great difficulty breathing. TB was never an easy way to die.

      TB is still around, and antibiotic-resistant TB is a major medical concern, at least in Asia. People seeking to become Australian citizens or residence have to provide medical evidence that they are not suffering from TB (Asian people, anyway – I don’t know about others).

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  4. The British archaeologists at the Portable Antiquities Scheme seem to call the period after the Reformation and the Columbian Exchange “Post-Medieval.” Do you have any idea why some archaeologists say that and others say “Early Modern” like the historians?

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