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Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Chasing Cars

Remarkably, the results of a search for “ancient history” on the jobs.ac.uk website currently include an advert for a Demi Chef de Parti. I cannot help but interpret this as a personal Sign. Back when I had finished my final undergraduate exams, and for various reasons was pretty sure that I’d messed things up to a degree that would preclude any hope of funding for a PhD, I had to think seriously about what I should do instead, and came to the conclusion that I would really like to be some sort of chef. Of course, I had no relevant qualifications or experience, so it was fortunate that the PhD funding did turn up after all, but it’s a salutary reminder of how rarely in my life I have had any sort of career plan. (more…)

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Very many years ago, when I was writing up my PhD, I was hired by an eminent ancient historian to do some preparatory work for the publication of a volume of their selected articles, including making recommendations on which of their numerous important contributions should be included. The utterly rubbish nature of my performance in this task can be deduced from the fact that said volume didn’t appear until years later, thanks to someone else’s work, with no trace at all of my efforts, and generally I try not to think about it too much because of the embarrassment. But reflecting on the experience does raise some interesting questions today. (more…)

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Hunger Games

So, it appears that the app for the AIA/SCS annual meeting – the terrifyingly enormous gathering of US classicists, ancient historians and archaeologists – has a facility for rating papers from 1* to 5*. In a sensible world, I could sum this up in three words, and leave it at that: Meow Meow Beanz. (more…)

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Leadership for Dummies

Suddenly the idea that political power should be allocated on the basis of legitimate descent from generations of ruthless thugs, or even on the whim of a strange woman in a lake handing out swords, doesn’t seem so bad, because apparently the alternative – the unanswerable reason why Labour politicians are unfit for government – is the ability to recite a large chunk of material in a foreign language, learnt by heart back at school.

Not just any material, of course. (more…)

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Blogs of the Year 2019

Several times this year I’ve found myself musing about the future of blogs, partly because of the apparently inexorable decline of the viewing stats for this one, which raises questions about if/when I’ll hit a tipping point as the cost in time, money, anxiety and the fact I should probably be writing other, more academically worthy stuff outweighs the pleasure I get from writing this stuff. I’m not sure if it’s reassuring or not that this seems to be a wider issue. Certainly, in compiling this annual list of the things I’ve most enjoyed or appreciated reading this year, it gets harder to decide whether some things are ‘proper’ blog posts or rather conventional articles that just happen to be online, let alone to decide I should operate a stricter policy on what I include here, beyond ‘I liked this!’. (more…)

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There’s a persistent belief that simply describing contemporary political figures in classical terms automatically furthers understanding; Trump is depicted as a Roman emperor, Johnson as Pericles, Cleon or Alcibades, as if this offers us vital clues to their personality or to the situation we’re in. I’m not referring to the passing comments or allusions – the endless evocation of Caligula supposedly making his horse a senator, whenever one or other of these modern autocrats makes an especially egregious appointment, for example – but to the longer-form discussions, the essays and op ed pieces, where the classical frame is clearly intended to illuminate (or at the least to indicate the illumination of the author; the audience may simply be expected to nod admiringly at their erudition). (more…)

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This Is What We Do

Even before Friday morning, I was feeling despondent; partly premonitions of doom (local political doom, apocalyptical climate and environmental doom), partly the after-effects of a heavy teaching load this term and of a year in which I seem to have been ill and/or insomniac quite a lot of the time, hence massively behind with research and writing commitments. And now? We’re definitely leaving the EU, and still at risk of a disastrous version of that departure; the culture war will continue and probably accelerate, with Johnson’s ‘bring the country back together’ a form of ‘you lost, time to get with the programme’ coercion rather than a genuine concern about engaging with other views; nothing will be done about climate change, or poverty. (more…)

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