Give Your Money to The Sportula

Publilius Syrus, 78

“Generosity even devises an excuse for giving”

Benignus etiam causam dandi cogitat.

I am just going to get straight to it. This is a request for money. Not for me. Not for this site. There isn’t going to be a prolonged funding drive and there won’t be any cool canvas tote bags. But this is a plea for money.

I am asking you to support The Sportula. If you don’t know what The Sportula is, you probably have not been active on Classics Twitter for the past year or so, but it is, in my ever so humble opinion, one of the most original, important, and socially minded initiatives to develop in the disciplines of Classical Studies in a generation. It is a collective of graduate students who provide microgrants “ to economically marginalized undergraduates in Classics.” It is original because no one has done it before; it is important because it addresses an overlooked set of needs traditional fellowships and grants can rarely touch; and it is socially minded because it directly addresses issues of equity and inclusion that plague our field.

Big Heart

I don’t want to make this about me (although I will shortly). But Erik and I have never asked for money. We have run this site for the past eight years without support from anyone. We can do this because we are both lucky enough to have full-time, renewable, long-term employment in the fields of classics. If the founders of The Sportula are not inspiration enough for you, but you have ever been amused, educated, enraged, or otherwise distracted from the horrors of life by this website or its twitter feed, please give some money.

If you missed Amy Pistone’s virtual 5K, you can can donate through Go-Fund Me with a single payment; you can become a patron through Patreon and donate a small amount every month; or you can donate through the book auction book on by the phenomenal and dauntless Dr. Liv Yarrow. The twitter feed for our site has alone 23 thousand followers: if every one gave a single dollar a month, we could fund the next generation of Classics alone.

And let me be clear about this. I do not actually know the founders or directors of the Sportula. I have never even exchanged an email with them. But I believe so deeply in what they do and think that it is evidence not merely of great minds but also of great souls that I will gladly make some noise for them.

If we lived in a more perfect world, all students would have the financial means to attend school, buy books, get to class, pay rent. If we lived in a better world, the inability to do any of this would not be tied to historical, structural, and institutional racisms and prejudice. But we do not live in that world. That’s why we need revolutionary vision, a DIY aesthetic, and the courage to ask for help and give it whenever capable. This is why we need The Sportula.

 

Dicta Catonis 15

“Remember to tell the tale of another’s kindness many times
But whatever kind deed you do for others, keep quiet.”

Officium alterius multis narrare memento;
at quaecumque aliis benefeceris ipse, sileto.

 

Ok, here’s a story. As I have talked about before, I didn’t come from much money, but I could cut some corners and bend some rules here and there and I didn’t realize how much of that success depended on my race, gender, and sexual orientation until much later in life. The point is, despite this, funding and living in graduate school was hard. In 2001, I started at NYU on a stipend of 13,000.00 dollars a year with no health insurance. I hustled a bit: I worked in the Dean’s office; I was an editorial assistant for the Classical World; I took every tutoring job I could find; and then I taught every summer course they’d give me.

But even with long days which afforded just barely enough time to finish course work, my financial support was a shell game that required credit cards, student loans, and some willful denial. All this fell apart in my fourth year of graduate school when there was an electrical fire that burned out my apartment. I lost everything. No, I did not have renter’s insurance. No, I did not have savings. I had the clothes on my back, a cat who survived the fire (and needed $900.00 in medical treatment, thank you MBNA America), and an equally broke fiancee in dental school. Oh, and 18 thousand dollars in credit card debt. Those years of cutting corners had caught up.

My department bought me a new computer so I could continue my dissertation the very next day. When the red cross assistance turned out to be $200.00 dollars, some graduate student friends raised over 700 dollars at a party so my roommate and I could buy stuff for a renovated place. That was the community I had and it filled me with joy and well-being.

But I still had to face the fact that I was financially insolvent. My future wife and I were able to take out even more student loans (at 6.9% interest, a damn sight better than the 29% APR my credit card had ballooned to after I failed on my monthly payments). I was lucky enough to get a job in the last good year on the market in 2007—but even then we struggled for a few years (starting salary for a Homerist in 2007, 52K a year). I just paid off my final student loan this year at age 40.

When I think back on this ‘success story’, I don’t see a good plan or smart decisions, I see a series of close misses and dumb luck. We got health insurance as part of a graduate student union deal my second year: this meant I could have shoulder surgery. What if something had happened earlier or the insurance company had denied a pre-existing condition? What if there had been one fewer class for me to teach in the summer? What if I had gotten sick? What if I had been robbed while paying my rent for half a year in cash? (This happened to a classmate. And yes, I paid cash to my shady orthodontist land-lord in exchange for never facing a rent increase.) What if I had been arrested and had to pay legal fees (it was NYC, there were reasons)? What if I had not gotten a job right away or not had a supportive partner to help me bear the burden?

And all of these questions come after the question, what if I had been born looking like someone who isn’t me? As human beings, we have an insistent and necessary capability for denial—I mean, we walk around every day acting like we are not going to die and all. But this also means that we deny the essential precarity that attends each of our lives and take credit for the fact that bad shit does not happen every day. This is not a true view of the world. People slip on sidewalks and get concussions; people get cancer; people get treated like shit by other people; shit happens and too much of it is out of our control.

The Sportula is a force of good in the universe, designed and aimed at exerting just a little bit of corrective control. Microgrants may seem minor, but when you can’t make ends meet and need just a little help, they are the thing. This work is small in the every day, but aggregated over time it is transformative. The Sportula is that group of friends who threw a party for a kid whose apartment burned down. But they do it every day for people they don’t know.

Please, give some money to The Sportula. They make me believe in the basic goodness of humankind.

 

Seneca, De Beneficiis 4

“All generosity hurries—it is characteristic of one who does something willingly to do it quickly. If someone comes to help slowly or drags it out day by day, he does not do it sincerely. And he has thus lost the two most important things: time and a sign of his willing friendship. To be slowly willing is a sign of being unwilling.”

Omnis benignitas properat, et proprium est libenter facientis cito facere; qui tarde et diem de die extrahens profuit, non ex animo fecit. Ita duas res maximas perdidit, et tempus et argumentum amicae voluntatis; tarde velle nolentis est.

Figs in a basket, Fresco (Pompeii)

Bellum Incivile: Manicula’s Associate Procures Pictures of Private Parts

Another text tentatively attributed to Caesar was discovered along with the fragments of the De Silvis and an appendix to De Bello Gallico. This is almost surely from the lost Bellum Incivile.

6.3 Whenever Manicula found himself in the midst of scandal, money was often paid by his associate D. Pecker to buy off accusations. For even prior to his nefarious consulship, Manicula had associated with people of such a kind and conducted his business in such a way that many reports of his offences and delinquency became widespread. For this reason, D. Pecker made many payments to conceal Manicula’s misdeeds. It is said that evidence of them is kept under lock and key.

6.3 Cum contumelia in Maniculam iaceretur, pecunia ne accusaretur saepe a comite D. Vellicatore data est. Nam etiam ante nefarium consulatum cum talibus hominibus vixerat negotiaque ita transegerat Manicula ut multae famae de eius delictis ac peccatis dispergerentur. Qua de causa D. Vellicator multam pecuniam qua scelera eius celarentur pendebat. Quorum testimonia scripta ac alia indicia sub clavi servari dicitur.

6.8 After D. Pecker obtained images of the intimate regions of a wealthy man named J. Bezos, who made his fortune doing business in the cloud, he threatened to publish them in order to silence Bezos who had discovered information unfavorable to Pecker’s company.  It ended up, however, that D. Pecker’s plan seemed more shameful than the images themselves.

6.8 Imagines verendorum locupletis J. Bezi, qui negotiando in caelo maximam pecuniam lucrifecit, adeptus, D. Vellicator minabatur se imagines verandorum volgo elaturum apertissimeque ostenturum ut J. Bezum certiorem de suae societatis probris factum comprimeret. Effecit tamen ut consilium D. Vellicatoris foedius imaginibus ipsis videretur.

slave

 

 

Creative Acts: “The Shifters”, A Free Movie Plot on the Parthenon Marbles

Turns out, someone already thought of this:

 

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Bellum Incivile: Manicula’s Speech to the Nation

Another text tentatively attributed to Caesar was discovered along with the fragments of the De Silvis and an appendix to De Bello Gallico. This is almost surely from the lost Bellum Incivile.

14.3 When Manicula communicated to the people, he usually read from a script because he was so unrefined and boorish in his manner of speaking. He failed to follow the rules of the language on account of his restricted vocabulary and unusual sentence structure to such a degree that his thoughts were often not intelligible and it was not possible to follow him. He would repeat all of the insults he received in all occasions from his enemies with the same exact words and he would brag about himself excessively and express contempt for others with the outcome that he made himself out to be smaller instead of greater.

He proclaimed that he was the only source of knowledge, but no stone was more stupid. Through his false words, he led the citizens to believe that an enemy was invading our territory and openly attacking the whole republic; and that he alone was able to keep the republic safe by building a wall and to liberate it from this scourge. Most people did not believe him, but when they said what they were thinking, the Republicans refused to diminish the power of Manicula, acting as if he were a normal leader.

14.3  Cum Manicula ad cives contionem haberet, scripta verba legere solebat propterea quod in dicendo tam illepidus et infacetus erat. Ob magnam verborum inopiam contextumque sermonis inusitatum dicendi regula ita non custodiebat ut sententiae saepe non intellegeruntur intentionemque prosequi non posset. Omnium temporum iniurias inimicorum eisdem verbis in se iterabat; se supra modum iactabat certerosque dispiciebat ut se minorem quam maiorem faceret.

Se solam scientiae fontem praedicebat, sed vero nullum hoc stolidius erat saxum. Cuius verbis falsis cives ad credendum duxit hostes in fines nostros incursionem facere aperteque rem publicam universam petere; se solum salutem rei publicae muro conficiendo adferre atque rem publicam peste liberare posse. Plerique ei non crediderunt, sed cum quae senserunt dicerunt, Republicani potestatem Maniculae, velut si sanus consul esset, reprimere recusaverunt.

534be-20180225epicurus_nuremberg_chronicle

Top Posts of Another Year

Outside of the top few posts, this was a year of guest posts and essays. Erik and I were always willing and interested to share the blog with other people, but we have never really had the time to go out and seek them. So, when people have reached out to us, we have been happy to have them join us.

  1. Diocletian’s Horse Saves the City!

This post wasn’t even from this year! Somehow, it turned into a hot post on Reddit for a while and burned down the house.

reddit

2. Newly Discovered Text: Caesar on Forestry in Finland

Dani Bostick’s ‘discovery’ of a fragmentary text responding to fires in California and some of our current President’s more insane comments was politely declined by a few other sites. It found a home here and Dani has shared many more new Latin discoveries since.

3. Head and Heart: A Quotation Falsely Attributed to Aristotle

This one eventually inspired a collection of false-Aristotle quotes I eventually just put in one post: Meme Police, A Collection of Things Aristotle Did not Say

4. “This is Not My Beautiful House”: Classics, Class and Identity

This post was a response to some discussion online and Erik’s post (at #9) about Class and Classics. It seems to have hit a nerve and prompted more discussion. We got a great followup from Brandon Conley: “How Was [the Expensive Classics Event]?”

5. Classics and Theory: A Monday Rant

This started out as a twitter rant and turned into an essay. There are still many, many people who have a naive attitude about what theory is and how it shapes writing, teaching, and just being in the world. There is still an alarmingly stubborn faction in Classics who falsely oppose “Philology” to theory, imagining that the former is not a species of the latter. I think forms of this one will keep coming back.

6. The Humanities: Aristotle in the Sheets, But Xenophon on the Streets

There was a NY Times Op-Ed on the Humanities that got me up in arms. I posted some tweets, wrote a thing. Erik is working on a much deeper and prolonged project on the Humanities and Classics among the Founding Fathers. Since the culture wars continue and the humanities are always already embattled, this subject will probably come back too.

7. A List of Women Authors from the Ancient World

This is a list that needs more work. I am still looking for people to help me expand these entries!

8. Famae Volent: a Personal History

The infamous and hated although obsessively checked classics job bulletin board closed down this year. I wrote a wistful and self-indulgent piece about it. Then I wrote a second one. The successor site is not nearly as interesting.

9. Classics [Itself] Is Not Classist

When Grace Bertelli (The Classics Major is Classist) first wrote on this topic, we had some discussions online and Erik wrote this overview of why the content of Classics is not essentially class-oriented. As with all of his essays, it is sharp and filled with turns of phrase I wish I could think of.

10. Terrible, Wonderful Odysseus, His Epithets, and How We Read Him

This is a hodgpodge of stuff about Odysseus which started out as a twitter discussion because people don’t like my occasional translation of polytropos as shifty. (Don’t @ me! Read the post!)

Some things I love outside the top 10

  1. The Story of Dido in the Aeneid Through Buffy GIFS
  2. Classics For the Fascists
  3. How Was the [Expensive] Classics Event: Income Inequality and the Classics
  4. Exploring Gender and Sexuality in Antiquity
  5. Reclaiming the Story: Ovid’s Mythological Hermaphrodite
  6. Post-Classical Intellectualism in the Latin Classroom

 

Thanks to Elton BarkerDani Bostick, Brandon ConleyHilary Ilkay, Cassie Garrison, Christian LehmannBen Stevens, and Zachary Taylor for making the past year memorable and special

Some Things Were Published…: Works from 2018

Pliny the Younger, Letters 1.2

“Clearly, something must be published – ah, it would be best if I could just publish what I have already finished! (You may hear in this the wish of laziness.)

Est enim plane aliquid edendum — atque utinam hoc potissimum quod paratum est! Audis desidiae votum

 

How does one say “self-promotion” in Latin and Greek? When not posting on this blog, I (Joel P. Christensen) do write other things. The last year was a busy one. Here’s a list. If you’re interested and have institutional access to the work, please use it! If you don’t have institutional access and want an off-print, send me an email (joel@brandeis.edu).

A Book:

With Erik Robinson, The Homeric Battle of Frogs and Mice: Introduction, Translation and Commentary  Bloomsbury

BM

 

On-Line, off this blog

with Matthew Sears, “The Overlooked Messages of the Sokal-Squared Hoax.” Inside Higher Ed, Oct. 30, 2018.

with Erik Robinson, “A Regular Roman’s Guide to the Worldcup Semi-Final Match.” Society for Classical Studies, Blog. July 10, 2018.

 

Articles

“Eris and Epos: Composition, Competition and the ‘Domestication’ of Strife.” YAGE  2: 1–39.

Here’s the publisher’s link. Here’s an uncorrected proof.

“The Clinical Odyssey: Odysseus’ Apologoi and Narrative Therapy.” Arethusa 51: 1–31.

From Project Muse. Here’s much inferior version before proofs.

 

Chapters in Things:

“Human Cognition and Narrative Closure: The Odyssey’s Open-End.”  In The Routledge Handbook of Classics and Cognitive Theory, Peter Meineck, ed.  Routledge. est. 2018.

This whole collection looks great (it grew out of a conference at NYU).

Image result for The Routledge Handbook of Classics and Cognitive Theory

“Speech Training and the Mastery of Context: Thoas the Aitolian and the Practice of Múthoi” for Homer in Performance: Rhapsodes, Narrators and Characters, Christos Tsagalis and Jonathan Ready (eds.). University of Texas Press, 2018: 255–277.

Another good collection. And, less pricey than some academic books!

Image result for Homer in Performance: Rhapsodes, Narrators and Characters

“Learned Helplessness, the Structure of the Telemachy and Odysseus’ Return.” in conference proceedings, Psychology and the Classics, Jeroen Lauwers, Jan Opsomer and Hedwig Schwall (eds.): 129–141.

This is a great collection too.

Image result for Psychology and the Classics, Jeroen Lauwers, Jan Opsomer and Hedwig Schwall

 

 

Chalices Against the Holiday Mood

Paradoxographus Palatinus

47 “Some of the Skythians are called man-eaters because they drink from human skulls. They also make hand-towels by working the skin of the heads of their enemies. Then they flay the rest of the body with claws and put them on their horses.”

Σκυθῶν οἱ ἀνδροφάγοι λεγόμενοι ἐκ μὲν κρανίων πίνουσιν ἀνθρωπίνων, τὸ δὲ δέρμα τῆς κεφαλῆς τῶν πο-λεμίων ἐργαζόμενοι ποιοῦσι χειρόμακτρον, τὸ δὲ λοιπὸν σῶμα ἐκδείραντες σὺν τοῖς ὄνυξιν ἐπιβάλλουσιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἵππους.

Image result for human skull cups