His memories in a trunk

Reflections on literature, language(s), and music

From two baseball games this week: On pitching, innings, and game-length

A few nights ago (July 21, 2015) I watched the match-up between the Mariners and Tigers. This game, only nine innings, nevertheless lasted the excessive duration of three hours and fifty-five minutes! Part of the reason for this was the high number of pitching changes on both sides. Altogether, thirteen pitchers played a role in the game. A couple of days after the Mariners-Tigers game, I was privileged to view the Dodgers-Mets game, in which the amazing Clayton Kershaw stayed for all nine innings and the Mets’ starter, Colon, went eight. That game lasted two hours and twenty-seven minutes.

Another nine-inning relatively recent game clocking in at almost four hours, again three hours and fifty-five minutes, with a high pitcher count, is that between the Yankees and Orioles on Sept 12, 2004. Together they brought up 15 pitchers. (Here‘s a short post with some data on 11+ pitchers used in a game, all of them recent games, i.e. not early than the 1990s. [Some of these were extra-inning games.])

While we’re thinking about innings pitched and complete games, here’s a reminder of Sandy Koufax’ 1966 season. He pitched 25 nine-inning sets. From May 10 to June 10, he pitched eight consecutive complete games; the next game he pitched eight innings, three more games of nine, then eight, then nine, then seven, then nine. On July 27 he pitched eleven against the Phillies, whose Jim Bunning did the same. Another feat of pitching in the first half of the 60s can’t go unmentioned here: the 16-inning contest between the Milwaukee Braves and San Francisco Giants on July 2, 1963 at Candlestick Park, in which Warren Spahn and Juan Marichal both stayed on the mound for the duration, which came to four hours and ten minutes. The Braves got eight hits, the Giants nine, but no run came in until the Giants’ in the sixteenth inning to win the game. Who was responsible for it? Willie Mays, with a home run.

1955 Topps card

1962 Topps card

Cy Young, who played for 22 seasons, is far ahead of anyone else in the list of complete games for pitchers with 749, and he is also at the top for innings pitched at 7356. (Pud Galvin, 15 seasons, takes second place in both lists). Not the former, but the top of the latter list does have modern players: Phil Niekro, Nolan Ryan, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton, Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton.

/Portrait of Jennie/ and Euripides, fr. 833

I recently saw for the first time Portrait of Jennie (1948), directed by William Dieterle and produced by David O. Selznick. In the main rôles are Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones, with an essential supporting performance by Ethel Barrymore. I don’t know if I’ll write about it further, but I’m still thinking over the film, which I found both haunting and comforting. (Has anyone compared it with Vertigo, I wonder?) I’m already looking forward to watching it again. (See The Nitrate Diva here for some reflections on the film that will make you want to watch it, too.)

The film opens with a kind of spoken philosophical proem, and includes onscreen quotations by Euripides and Keats, the latter the well-known “Beauty is truth, truth beauty…” The former quotation is far less known. On the screen, only the author is named, no source, but a little searching reveals that it is a fragmentarily surviving set of lines from the playwright’s Phrixus. (On Phrixus, whose actions will be necessary for the later Golden Fleece tale, in Greek mythology, see here.) These lines — now known as Euripides, fr. 833 — survive thanks to their having been quoted by the great topical anthologist Stobaeus (5th cent. CE), whom we have to thank also for many other lines that would otherwise be lost.

So here is the fragment in Greek from Stobaeus, Anth. 4.52b.38, and my own translation.

Εὐριπίδου Φρίξῳ (fr. 833)

Τίς δ’ οἶδεν εἰ ζῆν τοῦθ’ ὃ κέκληται θανεῖν,
τὸ ζῆν δὲ θνῄσκειν ἐστί; πλὴν ὅμως βροτῶν
νοσοῦσιν οἱ βλέποντες, οἱ δ’ ὀλωλότες
οὐδὲν νοσοῦσιν, οὐδὲ κέκτηνται κακά.

My translation:

Who knows if life is that called death,
If living is dying? But in any case, mortals
That live suffer, while those who’ve died
Neither suffer nor own any ills.

There are no real difficulties in the text, but for budding Greek readers, here are a couple of notes:

  • βλέπω here, to live (ellip. for βλέπω φάος to see light)
  • ὀλωλότες perf ptcp mpl ὄλλυμι : ὄλωλα to have perished, to be dead, ruined

There are similar ideas about death in Epicurus‘ famous Letter to Menoeceus. Note these lines (Greek from D.A. Russell, An Anthology of Greek Prose, pp. 142-144; Eng. tr. is my own):

Συνέθιζε δὲ ἐν τῷ νομίζειν μηδὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς εἶναι τὸν θάνατον· ἐπεὶ πᾶν ἀγαθὸν καὶ κακὸν ἐν αἰσθήσει, στέρησις δέ ἐστιν αἰσθήσεως ὁ θανατός. ὅθεν γνῶσις ὀρθὴ τοῦ μηθὲν εἶναι πρὸς ἡμᾶς τὸν θάνατον ἀπολαυστὸν ποιεῖ τὸ τῆς ζωῆς θνητόν, οὐκ ἄπειρον προστιθεῖσα χρόνον ἀλλὰ τὸν τῆς ἀθανασίας ἀφελομένη πόθον. οὐθεν γάρ ἐστιν ἐν τῷ ζῆν δεινὸν τῷ κατειληφότι γνησίως τὸ μηδὲν ὑπάρχειν ἐν τῷ μὴ ζῆν δεινόν. ὥστε μάταιος ὁ λέγων δεδιέναι τὸν θάνατον οὐχ ὅτι λυπήσει παρών, ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι λυπεῖ μέλλων· ὃ γὰρ παρὸν οὐκ ἐνοχλεῖ, προσδοκώμενον κενῶς λυπεῖ, τὸ φρικωδέστατον οὖν τῶν κακῶν ὁ θάνατος οὐθὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς, ἐπειδήπερ ὅταν μὲν ἡμεῖς ὦμεν, ὁ θάνατος οὐ πάρεστιν, ὅταν δὲ ὁ θάνατος παρῇ, τὀθ᾽ ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἐσμέν. οὔτε οὖν πρὸς τοὺς ζῶντάς ἐστιν οὔτε πρὸς τοὺς τετελευτηκότας, ἐπειδήπερ περὶ οὓς μὲν οὐκ ἔστιν, οἳ δ᾽ οὐκέτι εἰσίν.

Learn to think of death as nothing for us, since everything good or bad is so in perception, and death is the privation of perception. From this a proper thinking about death as nothing for us makes life’s liability to death enjoyable, not because it has added limitless time to life, but because it has taken away the longing for deathlessness, for there is nothing frightful in living for one who has really grasped the fact that there is nothing frightful in not living. So it is pointless to tell people to fear death, not because it will cause distress when it comes, but because it causes distress when it is yet to come, for anything that is not bothersome when it is present, causes distress for no reason when it is only expected. The most terrible of evils, then, death, is nothing for us, since, when we are, death is not present, and when death is present, then we are not. It has nothing to do, then, with the living, nor with those who have died, since for the former it does not exist, and the latter themselves no longer exist.

This is all well and good, but there is nothing here about the pain for the living caused by the absence of the dead.

To return to the film, I’ll close with this clip from near its beginning, at the end of which is Jennie’s song:

Where I come from, nobody knows
And where I am going, everything goes
The wind blows,
The sea flows
Nobody knows
And where I am going, nobody knows

From Voltaire’s Remarques sur l’histoire de Charles XII

Yesterday I stumbled upon an interesting pericope in Voltaire’s Remarques sur l’histoire de Charles XII. It concerns an assassination that almost happened, but was averted when the would-be victim, the Polish Count Poniatowski, having learned of his impending murder by men pretending to be drunks, contrived a welcome for his assassins that turned them from their plan. (Before the events of the text given here, he also armed himself with two “pistolets de poche”, in case, perhaps, his hospitable treatment failed to confound his assassins!) Below is the text from the edition, Œuvres complètes de Voltaire, Paris, 1826, p. 511, available here.

voltair_hist_charles_xii_p511Here’s the French text re-typed:

Précisément vers le midi, selon qu’il avait été averti, il vit venir les prétendus ivrognes droit à sa tente. Dès qu’ils furent entrés, il les reçut poliment. Appelant ensuite ses domestiques, avec une alégresse contrefaite, pour leur ordonner d’apporter du café, du tabac, des confitures, etc., il pria instamment des Turcs de s’asseoir, et les força obligeamment de prendre du café, de fumer du tabac, etc. Ceux-ci, étonnés sans doute d’une telle réception chez un homme qu’il allaient assassiner, ne firent que se regarder les uns les autres, sans proférer une seule parole. Tout d’un coup, le premier d’entre eux, celui apparemment qui devait commencer l’exécution se leva brusquement, et dit aux autres: Heydy gidelem, ce qui veut dire: Allons-noun-en. En sortant il se tourna vers le comte Poniatowski, et lui dit: Ne kiafir sen, ce qui signifie: Tu es un païen extraordinaire.

And here’s my English translation:

Just near midday, as he had been informed, he saw the supposed drunks coming straight toward his tent. As soon as they had entered, he received them politely. Then calling his servants, with a counterfeit enthusiasm, to have them bring coffee, tobacco, jams, etc., he instantly asked the Turks to take a seat and forced them obligingly to have some coffee, to smoke some tobacco, etc. Those men, certainly amazed at such a reception by a man they had come to assassinate, did nothing but look at each other, without offering a single word. All of a sudden, the first among them, who was to have begun the execution, got up quickly and said to the others, Heydy gidelem, which means, “Let’s go.” Going out, he turned toward Count Poniatowski and said to him, Ne kiafir sen, which means, “You are an extraordinary pagan!”

My attention was drawn to the story both for the events themselves and for its charm, including the hospitable proffering of coffee and tobacco, but also for its accurate representation of the Turkish phrases recorded. The first phrase (“Come on, let’s go!”) would be هايدى گدءلم (haydi gidelim) in Ottoman orthography, and the second (“What an infidel you are!”) نه كافر سن (ne kâfir sen). (The form gidelim is 1pl. optative of گتمك gitmek to go.)

When knowing Greek literature saves you

Bust of Euripides. Source.

Bust of Euripides. Source.

I recently read Plutarch’s Life of Nicias, Athenian general during the Peloponnesian War, and at the end of it come a few fascinating lines that show how knowing Greek literature, and knowing it by heart, may turn out to be a savior, so long as you happen to be at the mercy of others who also value it! A win for the humanities!

Here is the passage (29.2-3), my translation adapted from Bernadotte Perrin’s (LCL, Plutarch, Lives, 3, pp. 308-309), with the Greek below.

2 … Some [captives] were also saved for the sake of Euripides. For the Sicilians, it seems, more than any other Hellenes outside the home land, craved his poetry [mousa]: learning by heart the little samples and morsels that visitors brought them from time to time, they would happily share them with one another. 3 In the present case, at any rate, they say that many [Athenians] who reached home in safety kindly greeted Euripides and told him, some that they had been set free from slavery for thoroughly teaching what they remembered of his works, and some that when they were roaming about after the final battle they would get food and drink for singing some of his songs [melos]. It is not surprise, then, that they say [the Sicilians], when the Caunians’ ship was pursued by pirates and about to put in at the harbor [of Syracuse], at first did not allow them and kept them out, but when they asked if they knew any songs [asma] of Euripides, and [the Caunians] declared that they did, they allowed them entry and brought the ship in.

2 … ἔνιοι δὲ καὶ δι᾽ Εὐριπίδην ἐσώθησαν. μάλιστα γάρ, ὡς ἔοικε, τῶν ἐκτὸς Ἑλλήνων ἐπόθησαν αὐτοῦ τὴν μοῦσαν οἱ περὶ Σικελίαν: καὶ μικρὰ τῶν ἀφικνουμένων ἑκάστοτε δείγματα καὶ γεύματα κομιζόντων ἐκμανθάνοντες ἀγαπητῶς μετεδίδοσαν ἀλλήλοις. 3 τότε γοῦν φασι τῶν σωθέντων οἴκαδε συχνοὺς ἀσπάσασθαι τὸν Εὐριπίδην φιλοφρόνως, καὶ διηγεῖσθαι τοὺς μέν, ὅτι δουλεύοντες ἀφείθησαν ἐκδιδάξαντες ὅσα τῶν ἐκείνου ποιημάτων ἐμέμνηντο, τοὺς δ᾽, ὅτι πλανώμενοι μετὰ τὴν μάχην τροφῆς καὶ ὕδατος μετέλαβον τῶν μελῶν ᾁσαντες. οὐ δεῖ δὴ θαυμάζειν ὅτι τοὺς Καυνίους φασὶ πλοίου προσφερομένου τοῖς λιμέσιν ὑπὸ λῃστρίδων διωκομένου μὴ δέχεσθαι τὸ πρῶτον, ἀλλ᾽ ἀπείργειν, εἶτα μέντοι διαπυνθανομένους εἰ γινώσκουσιν ᾁσματα τῶν Εὐριπίδου, φησάντων ἐκείνων, οὕτω παρεῖναι καὶ καταγαγεῖν τὸ πλοῖον.

An epistolary request for reading suggestions

I’ve been reading through parts of the correspondence of Fronto (c. 100-170), and among his letters are some to Emperor-Philosopher Marcus Aurelius (or, Richard Harris for those whose concerns with Roman history do not reach far beyond Gladiator), and in one such letter,[1] he requests of his teacher:

Mitte mihi aliquid quod tibi disertissimum videatur, quod legam, vel tuum aut Catonis aut Ciceronis aut Sallustii aut Gracchi aut poetae alicuius, χρῄζω γὰρ ἀναπαύλης, et maxime hoc genus, quae me lectio extollat et diffundat ἐκ τῶν καταλειφυιῶν φροντίδων; etiam si qua Lucretii aut Ennii excerpta habes εὐφωνότατα, ἁδρά et sicubi ἤθους ἐμφάσεις.

An English rendering:

Send me something to read that seems most eloquent to you, either something of yours, Cato’s, Cicero’s, Sallust’s, Gracchus’, or some poet’s, for I need a break, and especially that kind the reading of which gives me a lift and cheers me up from confining cares. Also, if you have some bits from Lucretius or Ennius that sound the best, are extraordinary, and anywhere show their character, send those.

Fronto’s letters are littered with Greek phrases, as we see even in this short excerpt, and in the English translation, I’ve put the Greek phrases in bold.

[1] Epistulae, IV.1 (ed. M. van den Hout, Teubner, 1988, 105). Find more of Fronto’s letters here:

  • Latin text here
  • another text (Lat. and Fr.) here
  • LCL edition, with an older text and an Eng. tr. here from archive.org

Instead of watching moving pictures…

Whether as a resolution for the new year (as here) or simply because, regardless of the date, you want to make of your soul something more than a continual receptacle for the light and sound a television or computer screen emits, here, in a random order, are twenty-five things to do instead of watching TV. This a list I’ve made for myself, but maybe it’ll be fruitfully suggestive to others, too. If so, feel free to say so in the comments, or add your own suggestions!

  1. Look thoughtfully at some art
  2. Call your mother
  3. Listen to music
  4. Read to anyone who’ll listen
  5. Play the guitar, banjo, trumpet, violin, etc.
  6. Recite and memorize poetry
  7. Write letters to friends new and old or to family
  8. Sing
  9. Study a new language
  10. Read a graphic novel
  11. Write a story
  12. On purpose and right now, savor the presence, feel, and taste of one you love
  13. Read Proust
  14. Build something
  15. Sleep
  16. Study the history of your birthplace
  17. Fix a meal for someone who needs it
  18. Get off your ass and move (walk, run, swim, yoga, kettlebells, pull-ups, etc.)
  19. Draw or paint
  20. Clean your house
  21. Talk to someone (in person, video chat, phone)
  22. Do something with your children
  23. Read a biography
  24. Take a bath or shower
  25. Meditate (however broadly understood)
From my backyard, late summer.

From my backyard, late summer.

Running vocabulary to First Reader in Russian, 1-5

Ann Rolbin’s First Reader in Russian is a good, brief initiation to some simple Russian sentences. It is more modest in content than the typical reader or chrestomathy of the nineteenth century, but it may make for a good enough praelectio to those kinds of books. It contains a glossary at the end, but it is not comprehensive, and there is no apparent rationale for the words that have been omitted from it. I decided to make a running vocabulary list for the book by each lesson, with the words that are in the book’s glossary at the end as well as the omitted words, but I have included neither prepositions, which may be found, among other places, here and here, nor pronouns, available at the previous link. The words are given as-is in the text, not in their lexical form, and once given, words are not repeated. Here are the first five lessons:


  • семья family
  • город city
  • столица capital
  • улице street
  • живёт lives (v.)
  • большом large
  • доме house
  • квартира apartment
  • пятом fifth
  • этаже floor, story
  • хорошая good, nice
  • гостиная living room
  • родителей parents
  • зобут they call (i.e. so-and-so is named, with the named person[s] as object)
  • детей children
  • собаку dog


  • утром in the morning
  • восемь eight
  • часов clock
  • утра morning
  • идёт goes
  • станции метро metro station
  • руке hand
  • портфель briefcase
  • бумаги paper
  • документы documents
  • завтрак breakfast
  • хлеб bread
  • сыр cheese
  • колбаса sausage
  • пятнадцать fifteen
  • девятого ninth
  • работу work (n.)
  • работает works (v.)
  • почте post office
  • сумка bag
  • половине half
  • школу school
  • книги books
  • тетради notebooks
  • остаётся stays, remains
  • сидит sits
  • смотрит looks
  • дверь door
  • скучно boring


  • друг friend
  • покупают they buy
  • гастрономе grocery store
  • молоко milk
  • потом then
  • лет years
  • сегодня today
  • холодно cold
  • снег snow (идёт снег it’s snowing)
  • выходит goes out
  • кресле armchair
  • мальчики boys
  • приносят they bring
  • пирог pie
  • спасибо thank you
  • говорит says
  • молодцы fellows, young men


  • среда Wednesday
  • три three
  • дия day
  • играют they play
  • дворе yard
  • настольный теннис table-tennis
  • довольно rather, quite, pretty
  • плохо bad
  • но but
  • старается tries
  • прибегает runs to
  • хватает grabs
  • шарик ball
  • убегает escapes
  • кричит screams
  • всё everything, all
  • игра game
  • закончена is finished
  • нельзя cannot


  • кафе café
  • сливочное butter
  • мороженое ice cream
  • стакан glass
  • минеральной воды mineral water
  • пожалуйста please
  • официант waiter
  • бутылку bottle
  • белого white
  • вина wine
  • шоколадное chocolate
  • две two
  • чашки cups
  • чёрного black
  • кофе coffee
  • чай tea
  • я заказал I ordered

Gruß vom Krampus!

Over at Weird Tales there’s an amazing collection of old Krampus-cards, along with some lore and history of St. Nicholas’ lesser-known other. As it happens, I have my own Krampus photo to share, thanks to last evening’s potation, Krampus from Southern Tier Brewing in New York:

IMG_1435 IMG_1436

You can read more about the beer here.

Italian with the poets II

Here’s an easy passage from Petrarch, 232, lines 12-14. Before these lines, Petrarch has given exemplars of damage and destruction wrought in individuals too heedless in their anger: Alexander, Tydeus, Sulla, Valentinianus, and Ajax.

Ira è breve furore; et chi nol frena,

è furor lungo che ‘l suo possessore

spesso a vergogna et talor mena a morte.


  • ira anger
  • furor(e) madness
  • nol = non la [ira]
  • frenare to restrain
  • spesso often
  • vergogna shame
  • talor(a) sometimes
  • menare to lead
  • morte death

Aranea aestiva

From late summer till now our front porch has been the residence of a golden silk orb-weaver, a large and beautiful spider (genus Nephila) that spins strong strands in great webs. Her web has had four settings, it being accidentally damaged twice, and she having moved it of her own accord another time. She is around 9cm at the longest, but with her legs not fully extended. There was a diminutive male around briefly, but he has long since disappeared. The pictures speak for themselves, but more is here, and for some related folklore, be sure to note the Jorōgumo (aka “whore spider”)!


Taken soon after she arrived. Comparatively smaller than in the later photos.


Preparing to dine on a bumblebee. From time to time you could hear crunching as she worked on the insect’s body.

IMG_5962 IMG_5965 IMG_5966 IMG_5990

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