7 Quick Takes (12/28/12)

— 1 —

Tristyn Bloom of First Things was desperately asking people on twitter and facebook if they’d seen a funny sketch about music theory that was in French.  I confess, I didn’t understand her urgency until she finally turned it up and I got to see it:

— 2 —

No big review of Les Mis forthcoming, btw.  I really enjoyed it, and my complaints are pretty much those of all the reviewers (the cinematography is a bit distracting and Javert isn’t tough enough).  However, you will get one last piece of Javertblogging today (parts one and two here), and by now it should be no surprise to anyone that I claimed his part in our “One Day More” flashmob.

Fun fact: not knowing much about Christianity as a child, I thought Valjean sang “This never-ending road to Calgary” instead of Calvary.  I assumed he planned to evade pursuit by fleeing to Canada.

In lieu of a Les Mis review, let me sub in The Onion‘s take on another possible lengthy-tome-turned-film:

Film Adaptation Of ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ Ends Where Most People Stop Reading Book

According to director D.J. Caruso, great care was taken to painstakingly recreate the experience of slowly inching one’s way through the dense work of literature. Starring Viggo Mortensen as both Alyosha and Aleksey, depending on the scene, and Laura Linney as someone’s mother or aunt, the film opens with a three-minute-long summary taken directly from the novel’s back cover.

— 3 —

Look, I’m splitting this off into it’s own take, so no one gets confused and thinks this is satire.  William Shatner played Alyosha in a film version of The Brothers Karamazov.  I know I’ve linked it before, but it grows no less perplexing.


But this I have not linked before: Bill Nye doing a one man imitating Shatner show:


— 4 —

I’m delighted by Anthony Esolen’s new grammar series at First Things.  It’s like The Way Things Work for grammar nerds!  Check out this post on deponent verbs.

Consider these sentences:

I hurt the quarterback.
I was hurt by her remark.
I hurt.

Notice the differences between the three? In the first, the true active voice, the subject is the agent of the verb. In the second, the true passive, the subject suffers the action of the verb. But in the third—what? The subject is the agent, because he’s actively experiencing something named by the verb; but he suffers the verb. “I’m hurting” does not mean “I am walking around the neighborhood punching people,” but “I am feeling hurt; something is hurting me.”

— 5 —

And, for more language nerdery, MentalFloss has a list of 12 letters that didn’t make the English alphabet.  I found out where the “Ye” in “Ye Olde Whatnot” comes from, but I think my favorite was the ampersand (&).

Today we just use it for stylistic purposes (and when we’ve run out of space in a text message or tweet), but the ampersand has had a long and storied history in English, and was actually frequently included as a 27th letter of the alphabet as recently as the 19th century.

In fact, it’s because of its placement in the alphabet that it gets its name. Originally, the character was simply called “and” or sometimes “et” (from the Latin word for and, which the ampersand is usually stylistically meant to resemble). However, when teaching children the alphabet, the & was often placed at the end, after Z, and recited as “and per se and,” meaning “and in and of itself” or “and standing on its own.”

So you’d have “w, x, y, z, and, per se, and.” Over time, the last bit morphed into “ampersand,” and it stuck even after we quit teaching it as part of the alphabet.

— 6 —

AV Club has a predictably funny and interesting interview with Mel Brooks up.  One of my favorite revelations:

MB: I knew there was going to be laughing. The first time I used [the white handkerchiefs] was during The Twelve Chairs. There was too much laughter; I couldn’t shoot. So I went out and bought 100 white handkerchiefs and said, “Stick this in your mouth.” And then, with Young Frankenstein, I bought 200—it was a bigger crew, a lot of people. I said, “If you’re not in the scene, take this handkerchief, and when you feel you’re going to laugh, shove this in your mouth.” And every once in a while, I’d be shooting a scene and I would turn, and I could see a sea of white handkerchiefs. So I said, “Okay, this is going to be funny. This is good.”

— 7 —

No need to stop singing Christmas carols just yet!  Not only does the Christmas season last until Epiphany for Catholics, but, if you’re reading this true life mad science post from io9, you may find yourself humming “He sees you when you’re sleeping” again.

In order not to introduce artifacts into the conversations, the investigators took special precautions to keep the subjects ignorant of the fact that their remarks were being recorded. To this end they concealed themselves under beds in students’ rooms where tea parties were being held, eavesdropped in dormitory smoking-rooms and dormitory wash-rooms, and listened to telephone conversations.



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  • deiseach

    Good lord. I saw that film version of The Brothers Karamazov years and years ago. Never mind William Shatner, Yul Brynner was also one of the brothers! Captain Kirk and the King of Siam in the same film – though Brynner at least was Russian, so there was that much accuracy in the casting 🙂

  • Film Adaptation Of ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ Ends Where Most People Stop Reading Book

    It was speculated on Twitter that if schoolchildren find themselves studying The Hobbit in their English classes they’ll save time by reading the book.

  • Yvain

    I had the same experience with Calgary.

    • I live in Calgary. We do get tourists here every thinking they are going to the site of the crucifixion. I am surprised you folks would have heard of us. US education in geography must have improved since I went to school in there back in the 80’s.

      • jenesaispas

        Wow, it pays to research before booking.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Speaking of movie reviews. The two Boston newspaper movie reviewers panned Les Miserables, but waxed enthusiastic about Director Tarantino’s latest blood and violence movie epic. One even virtually had a bout of ecstasy over Tarantino’s use of blood and violence to entertain.
    And this less than a week and a half after the Newtown Massacre. It is not guns (inanimate objects) that are our culture’s only problem. It is also–maybe even more so– the eager wallowing in bloodshed as entertainment in video games and movies (many produced by interlocking media conglomerates) and then given the Rah, Rah, Rah treatment by valueless reviewers (frequently also on the payroll of media conglomerates.)
    No wonder the media does everything possible to make people think the NRA is the only problem. “Over there! Over there! Look over there!” lest someone might like to start a crusade against media blood lust and not just crusade against the NRA.

  • Re 4: Huh, my Latin book lied to me. It claimed there is no analogue to deponent verbs in English!

    Re 5: I heard that recently, actually. I was reading the Handbook of Ornament by Franz Meyer and noticed that the scans always rendered &c. instead of etc. as many of us are used to. I pointed it out to a friend, thinking it was a quirk of the German-to-English translation or something and he explained that & replaced et (hence it’s use in “et cetera”). Made me feel stupid given I’m the one learning Latin while he’s learning silly old French.

  • jenesaispas

    1: Excellent, I didn’t know ‘juste’ could be translated as correct/perfect.
    5: I believe it was dictionary.com who had a good article on the ampersand. I think someone might have said that it was a myth that ‘and per se and’ was stuck on the end of the alphabet.