What’s in a Place-name?

Metonomasia is an obscure term– it’s not even found in the OED!– but it’s a real thing, the alteration of a place-name. Very often this takes place for political reasons: think of the change of St. Petersburg to Leningrad and then back again, or the Belgian Congo to Democratic Republic of Congo to Zaire. Even old New York was once New Amsterdam.  Next summer, I’m hoping to see Brian Friel’s powerful play Translations, which will be playing in London–set in the 19th century Ireland, it deals with the mapping of the countryside by the Royal Engineers and their anglicizing of Gaelic place-names.

The idea of metonomasia was on my mind this week because of politics. Yet again, another idea of President Trump’s rears its bone-headed head, revealed recently about a meeting with Senators from Alaska in March 2017 (as CNN reports):

The meeting came as Trump and the senators discussed several Obama administration moves limiting development in Alaska.
But Trump had one final issue on his mind. “He looked at me and said, ‘I heard that the big mountain in Alaska also had — also its name was changed by executive action. Do you want us to reverse that?'” Sullivan said.
Lisa — Sen. Murkowski — and I jumped over the desk,” Sullivan said. “We said no, no!”
Trump, perplexed that the two Republicans wanted to keep an Obama-era decision, asked why.
“The Alaska Native people named that mountain over 10,000 years ago,” Sullivan said. “Denali, that was the name.”

A good history of the name issue is found on the National Park Service site. When the name was changed in 2015, the New York Times reported Senator Murkowski as saying,

“For generations, Alaskans have known this majestic mountain as ‘the great one,’” she said in the video, appearing in front of the snow-topped mountain, its peak reaching above the clouds. “I’d like to thank the president for working with us to achieve this significant change to show honor, respect and gratitude to the Athabascan people of Alaska.”

“Honor, respect, and gratitude” for native peoples, however, is not much on the agenda these days in Washington. At one point in Translations, one of the officers in charge of the Ordnance is troubled by his role in the re-designating the original toponyms. “It’s an eviction of sorts,” he says, and he’s right. There’s a displacement at work in renaming such places, a way of denuding the landscape of a powerless people and even the words they used to describe it.

I’m hoping to come back to this subject sometime soon–to think about the way that political names dot the landscape around me. The Times reported a few summers ago about the “thousands of miles” named for Confederate generals. On the Sewanee campus, Armfield Bluff is named for a slave-trader (as I’ve discussed before), and someday soon it will be changed, I am certain. To what, I can’t say–it’s not certain what the bluff might have been called by the native peoples of the area–though Bluff of Shame comes to mind, as a way to remember more correctly what once was thought honorable locally.

Such heavy thoughts. Perhaps some metonomasia of a lighter sort:

Posted in Drama, England, Ireland, Language & Etymology, Military, Sewanee, Slavery, The South, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

“Certain You Approve”

“Certain you approve.” For some reason, this line has been stuck in my head for a week or two now. It’s the sort of thing my wife and I regularly say to each other, a snippet from a song or poem that we’ve picked up and polished off to as a kind of shorthand for larger, unspoken matters. The sort of thing, as I say, but it is not in fact a phrase she and I have used with each other. This morning, it was bugging me the way earworms will–where the hell is this from, and why is it in my head?–so I Googled it to realize the line comes from the first stanza of Larkin’s “Poetry of Departures“:

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
As epitaph:
He chucked up everything
And just cleared off,
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying,
Elemental move.

The rest of the poem is pure Larkin, a paean to respectable middle-class virtues and why the hell not? But that’s not the part that sticks with me, not that I especially disagree with him about the sentiment.

What I like about the simple line “certain you approve” is that implication you sometimes get from somebody with whom you’re speaking that disagreeing with an idea they’ve just expressed is impossible. At that moment, you realize you’ve been maneuvred into silently concurring with a position you may not like in fact. If it’s a serious matter–a racist remark, or the like–you have to speak up, of course. But littler things, less weighty but perhaps just as important, that you don’t want to rock the boat about? These you let go, even if you’re not sure you want to.

“Certain you approve” sticks in my head, I guess, because it seems to convey perfectly the smug cluelessness that reduces a dialogue into a monologue.

Posted in Family, Poetry, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where’s Waldo? A Response to Jerri Allyn

This is a talk I gave  a long time ago (September 17, 2003, to be precise) as part of a panel following a talk at Sewanee by the artist, Jerri Allyn. At the time, people thought it was a negative response, but I really hadn’t meant it that way (well, some of it’s negative, but I try to point out what there’s to be negative about). Later on, by the way, Ms. Allyn did end up sending me a Name That Dame placemat! Fourteen years later, she is still a vibrant part of the art scene in LA and elsewhere, and every bit as political as she was in the past.

As Ms. Allyn told us yesterday, she grew up in the culture of the Quaker protest movements, so that the political for her has always been at its heart performative.  That poltical protest, in addition to being a matter of principle, can also be an occasion for awkwardness, is something she also reminded us of, in the story of seeing a boy she “liked” and whom she might have hoped “liked her back,” who asked her, What are you doing?  Why are you in that line?

It is, of course, a question that’s always been put to political protesters:  What are you doing and why?  When Thoreau was jailed for his acts of civil disobedience in protest against the Mexican War, his friend Emerson asked him that very question.  “Henry, what are you doing in there?”  His response was, “My dear Waldo, what are you doing out there?”  The simple act of politcal protest then invites the response, Why are you not protesting?  Perhaps the artist who forces that question on us does us a real service.  Why, if we write or paint or take photographs, if we dance or sing– why, if we do anything creative–is our activity not employed in a political way, in the service of policies we think ought to exist, against obvious injustices which need to be denounced?

I suppose one answer to that might be, Well, just how effective can art be in the service of politics?  Well, political propaganda depends upon the work of artists–think of the recently departed Leni Riefenstahl– and I’m reminded that Vaclav Havel once vowed never to write any poetry that could be chanted in the streets.  But what of the politics of protest in our democratic system?  I mean, do a bunch of leaves on a sheet really do anything to get bills passed or judicial appointments blocked or campaigns planned?  You know, personally, I heard nothing in Ms. Allyn’s talk to suggest that we should be making art instead of voting.  To make art or respond to it doesn’t excuse us from our civic duty.  Art like Ms. Allyn’s, rather, asks us to bring something else to the performance of our civic duty– I use the word “performance” advisedly– something more than what we might get from simply scanning the headlines or listening to Letterman.

Let’s take, for instance, the installation of “Civil Defense/A Grave Mistake,” which took as its point of departure one of Ronald Reagan’s sillier remarks in connection with the use of nuclear weapons. The project makes the point that shovels are used for digging holes, and that holes are for hiding in, holes are for being buried in, holes are trenches which are reminders of older, pointless wars, holes are metaphors for digging into an inflexible position, holes are things we cannot get out of.  So the “mistake” becomes a “grave,” and such a “defense” is utterly indefensible.  Now I won’t pretend to understand the entirety of the symbolism of that installation– why should the nuns be wearing different colors? why are they nuns, anyway?– and I won’t pretend to enjoy the tone of the work, which strikes me as supercilious, unsophisticated, arch and obvious. But one could do worse than be arch or obvious; one could ignore the issue, and instead stick his head in a hole.  Of course, when it comes to nuclear war and its absurdities, perhaps there isn’t room for the nice and the friendly, perhaps arch and obvious is the appropriate response.

The point of such installations is not necessarily to be liked, though some of it is very likeable:  Some of the segments on the Waitresses video, for instance, have all the energy of the early Saturday Night Live skits, which are still such a large part of our cultural vernacular.  To watch the latest incarnations of Saturday Night Live now, with all its slick production values and all its deeply unfunny jokes, is to realize how much we’ve lost.  The humor on that show used to make us look at society from an oddball angle, and that’s in short supply nowadays, I think.  In a similar vein, some of Allyn’s work is very likeable, and I myself am wondering if I can get a copy of a “Name That Dame” placemat.  I’d like that a lot.

But to return to where I began, with politics and performance, with the principled and the awkward, with a teenage girl explaining herself to a boy that she liked, what more is there really to say than  “War is bad”?  Yes it is, and though it could be put in a more nuanced way, still sometimes we seem to forget that simple facts sometimes are simple facts.  We forget that waitressing is often a crappy job, that oppression isn’t a thing only of the past,  that injustice exists.  In the end, such art jumps up and down in front of us, obnoxiously attired, like a fool in motley in the court of the customer-king, not seeking, much as it might want to, that we “like it back” but instead by its mere presence demanding, Haven’t you noticed that war is bad?  My dear Waldo, what are you doing out there?

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Remembering My Late Great Friend and Mentor, Bob Kupka

This is a piece my brother Jamie wrote about Bob Kupka, a former teacher of his at West Roxbury High who became a great friend. Bob passed away in January 2016, and his obituary is below. Jamie sent me this essay he’d written last week, and I decided to retype it and put it up here. 

Before I start this essay, I do want to say a few things about Bob Kupka. Bob was a caring man with a big heart who had an interest in the kids as a teacher. He was loved by the students, his colleagues, his friends, people he knew from sporting events, parents. And what can I say? Just a lovable guy.

And I want to start this essay on what good friends he and I were. When I first met Bob, I did not know how to take him. He would kid with me when I would be in front of the potato chip selling table talking to my friend Scott Brothers. I couldn’t take kidding at the time but he liked me and I didn’t know it. He called me Mac. That would stick with me for as long as we were friends. Then the next year he called me Jimmy Mac. That stayed with me too, which everybody called me, students and teachers.

When the next school year came, he and I became real good friends in lots of ways. We cared about each other and he and I took a liking in a lot of ways. And to top it off, we shared an interested in the old rock n roll that took our friendship off in a big way.

And I also saw what a decent guy he really was. Not only that, I helped him out with the hockey team. I helped him with the potato chip sales which he also was in charge of. And I can remember when I was home sick, he called my house to see if I could go to the hockey game. My mother answered the phone and told him I was sick. And my mother thought he was very kind. And that same year of school, he gave me a Celtics calendar.

And when the next school year came where I was a senior, he did something very nice. I had very bad marks which I was down about. And he called my house from Billerica where was was living at the time and talked to my mother about it, and me as well, and another teacher called too. And it got straightened out.

That same year I was going to be the only manager of the hockey team. To tell you the truth, I never showed up for any of the hockey game but at the sports banquet, he gave me a nice hockey sweater, which was a very kind thing he did. And to tell you more about our friendship that year, he gave me a picture of Elvis Presley which I really liked. We would lend each other oldies cassette tapes. And to top it off, I was kind of screwing up by cutting one of my classes. He brought me up to my teacher and said I’ll be back from now on and I did go back to not cutting my class.

But another thing to top off our friendship even more, I wasn’t going to get a diploma. I was going to get something called a certificate of attendance and he was very much involved with me coming back another school year to get my diploma with the principal and some other teachers. Then I came back and got my diploma. And also that year I did start to go to hockey games and the first game I went to he said to the person at the ticket desk, Let him in, he’s the manager.

That year, I graduated and after that we remained friends. And also as I can remember, that year and the year before, liking the old rock n roll as he and I both did. We had fun times asking each other about trivia questions about the oldies. And it was funny one time when we’re doing it, the school police officer said, Do you guys play this all the time? And my last year of high school, I can also recall the first day Bob came to me and asked if I saw Year of the Dragon, a Mickey Rourke movie. We were also Mickey Rourke fans. It was good being with him my last year.

And another thing I remember was the first time I met Joan, who was Bob’s girlfriend who would become his second wife, and not only that, my friend as well as Bob, and how meeting her occurred. I was over the house where Bob was living along with his buddy, Billy Mahoney. And another former student of his was there named Sam. We were having an oldies contest, Sam and I. Bob was keeping score. Then Joan came over. Bob introduced her to me and she was very impressed how I knew the oldies. And not only that she told me she knew all about me. Bob told her everything about me. I do have to say it was a fun night. I had a really good time meeting Sam and Joan. Then Joan drove me home. Sam came for the ride.

And even after graduation, I also remember I would go over to the house to visit Bob for the next year. Many times, Joan would be over seeing him too and it was all some great visits. And not only that, Bob and Joan were glad I got out of bagging groceries and got a job with the Boston Police Department as a custodian.

Then shortly after after that happened, Bob moved out of Billy’s house and got his own condo in West Roxbury, which I was very happy about because I lived there too.  And let me tell you how great it was going over his condo living near by my house and him being my friend in ways. I would go over there and we would have some great talks on the oldies and not jus that, other things too. I would make him and Joan cassette tapes from my stereo. I would bring my VHS’s on the oldies. Bob and I would watch it on his VCR.

And also in the summer time, Bob, Joan, and myself would go out to the pool at his condo complex and swim. We had some real great times together, and also some of my other teachers would come over his house and we had some great talks as well. And some of Joan’s friends would come over and I would have more great talks with them also. And I’ll never forget meeting Bob’s parents, nice older people, and Bob really wanted me to meet them, and I really appreciated that. It meant a lot to me.

And at Christmas time, we would always exchange presents. And I remember one Christmas time, he and Joan were hosting a party. I was invited and I met some nice people. And another thing about our friendship, we could kid around with each other. That shows really good friendship.

And Bob also had his good ways about caring about me. I remember when I was involved with the wrong girl and going to move in an apartment with her, he called me over to his house and advised me not to do it. And in other ways too. I was in the hospital there times he came to visit me. And when my mother dies he came to the wake. And also when my grandmother died, he also came to her wake. And he also many times would advise me to try to find friends my own age because I was always hanging around older people. But he always said he and I would always be friends and looking back, I think he had a point there.

And also he told me to get my teeth fixed, because at the time my two front teeth were chipped and that made me look bad. Like a lot of people told me to do, and eventually I did it. And in a lot of way he cared about me.

Then as time went on, I would see Bob and Joan every once in a while. Then I would see them more and more occasionally, mostly around Christmas tim. Then Bob and Joan got married and eventually retired from their jobs. And sadly, Joan got sick with MS. And I remember I called them a lot to see how Joan was, which they appreciated and to show their appreciation, they called me up to say thank you which I thought was awfully nice. Me and Bob had a great talk after the thank you. Then not long after that they sold their condo and moved to New Hampshire. Even after they moved, I stayed in touch with them and what can I say? We remained friends.

Then, as I remember, my father died in the hospital and I called Bob and told him, but he could not make it to the wake because he had to take care of Joan, but he called his colleagues also and his friends and had them come to the wake, which was another nice thing that he did for me. I was very touched by that. And the year after my dad passed away, I got my own condo and Bob and I would send Christmas cards to each other every year. And not only that, I called Bob every chance I could. Then sadly, a year or two later, Joan passed away. Then I did something nice. I sent Bob a mass card remembering Joan. He very much appreciated that.

And around the time Joan was sick and before she died, Bob developed some health issues of his own. One of them was cancer. But Bob was no coward. He told me not to feel sorry for himself, that he was gonna beat it. He went through some chemotherapy for it. Plenty of times. And he had a lot of people who were concerned about him, his family and friends and me. I called every chance I could to see how he was. And guess what? He beat it. And time went on and he was doing well. And I called him every week. And about three of four years later, he developed cancer again but he still took it like a man, which I have to give him credit for.

And as I recall, the last Christmas card he sent me on it said, Thank you for the prayers. Then a month later, sadly, we lost Bob. And I and a lot of other people, especially his family, were devastated by it. I took it kind of hard but I can remember about Bob Kupka. He was a great guy, a fantastic teacher, a man who thought of other people . Someone I knew well and loved. Someone I shared an interest with. Just a totally good person, who is truly missed by a lot of people and will always be remembered.

My dear friend, Bob Kupka.

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Obituary for Robert J. Kupka

Hampton, NH – Robert J. Kupka, 70, of Hampton, died peacefully Thursday, January 21, 2016 at Exeter Hospital.

He was born October 24, 1945 in Springfield, MA the son of the late Joseph and Gertrude (Murphy) Kupka.

Raised in Springfield, he graduated in 1963 from Springfield Cathedral High School, where he excelled on the school hockey team and was inducted into the Springfield Cathedral Hall of Fame. Following graduation he went on to play hockey at Boston College and graduated with the Class of 1967. 

Mr. Kupka was a teacher at West Roxbury High School for 30 years, retiring in 2002. During this time he was the school hockey coach and soccer coach as well as a well-respected and well-known referee for NCAA Division I Hockey, 

Robert enjoyed reading, walking and spending time at Hampton Beach, where he could always be seen sitting at his favorite bench. His greatest joy was spending time with family, especially his grandchildren.

He shared 10 years of marriage with his late wife Joan B. (Allman) Kupka who predeceased him in 2010.



Posted in Boston, Cemeteries & Funerals, Education, Family, Music, Sports & Games, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

RIP, Barry Dennen

IMG_3675One morning, back in the summer of 2015, I made up my mind to go ahead with writing a book about Pontius Pilate in film. How much fun would that be, I thought? So many fine performances … but, of all of them, the one I liked best was Barry Dennen from Jesus Christ Superstar. In the early 70s, I had fairly worn out the old Decca album, the one with the brown cover, from playing it so often. I knew every single word of JCS and while Yvonne Elliman had the best voice and Herod’s Song was the funniest, my favorite parts were all Pilate’s. The edgy nervousness in Barry Dennen’s voice just seemed to capture so much about my life, a tween living in the Watergate era. And what is truth? … Are mine the same as yours?

So, yeah, why not a book on Pilate? I thought. And then it occurred to me, I should try to interview Barry Dennen. Hey, now there’s an idea. 

Yeah, another voice in my head said. How are you going to manage that? You’re a classicist in rural Tennessee, pretty far from the glitz of Hollywood. Lotsa luck with that, pal.

But I turned it over in my head, and spent the rest of the afternoon giving it a shot. Googled agents, casting companies, shot off e-mails. All of it kind of pathetic. Dear Mr. Dennen, You don’t know me but … 

Toward the end of the day, it occurred to me that, well, maybe he was on Facebook. And damned if he wasn’t. It was one of those celebrity pages, the kind you can’t post to, but I thought, maybe I’ll send a private message. Couldn’t hurt. So I cut and pasted in one of the pathetic e-mails I’d written earlier, looked at the clock, gathered my things and hopped on my bike home.

My wife and I were having dinner with the boys when the phone rang. She answered it. “Uh huh. Yes, he’s here. Let me get him.” She handed me the phone.

“Is this Christopher McDonough?”


“This is Barry Dennen. My assistant sent me your message. Is this a good time to talk?”

JESUS CHRIST, I thought. SUPERSTAR. I yammered something, but mostly I was hyperventilating.

“It’s OK. I know how it is,” he said. “Take a breath. Tell me a little about your project, and maybe we can find a better time for a longer chat.” And so we talked, and then set up a time for a longer chat. Barry was in his 70s, but he still kept up an active schedule as a voice actor. Scheduling a time was a bit tricky, but eventually, he and managed to connect. I really don’t understand how Skype works, but after hitting a few keystrokes, after a while, up popped Barry’s face onto the laptop screen, the very screen I’m looking at now as I type up these words.

We talked for over an hour, with me furiously scribbling notes the whole time. Much of those remarks will make it into the book. Among other things, he told me about touring with Superstar in Italy a couple of years ago. “We did the show in the amphitheatre in Verona, an incredible place,” he said. “Afterwards this young man approached me, tenatively. And he took my hand and said, ‘This play means everything to me.’ And he paused, and then said, ‘You are my myth.’ Can you imagine that? Being somebody’s myth? I nearly lost it. No, I’m sure I lost it.”

The next summer, I travelled to Los Angeles to continue working on the Pilate book, for which I now had a contract with Edinburgh University Press. There was a lot of archival work to do, at UCLA, the Margaret Herrick Library (the Academy’s library!), and elsewhere. One evening, I went to visit Barry at his home in Hollywood. After finding a parking place on his steep street, I climbed the stairs to his place. On the door was funny little sign with his name on it, and a cartoon eye. I rang the door, and out he came and took my hand in his– his hands, the hands that try to wash off the blood of Christ in a glass bowl so memorably toward the end of the film of Superstar.

We talked about the movie and the filming in Israel. “So hot there, you can’t understand why everyone there isn’t crazy. There was a guy who would come by the set in the afternoon selling cold melons, and we would all be waiting to pounce on him just to get one.” He told me about his life with Barbara Streisand, and about his record collection. “Oh yes, some great old French records, classic stuff from the 40s. I played them for Barbara over and over, and that’s where she really learned her singing style from.” At one point, we talked about his own singing and he told me how he convinced Andrew Lloyd Weber to write “Pilate’s Dream” for him. And then he sang a line of it for me. I dreamt I met a Galilaean, a most amazing man. My hair still stands on end a little remembering him singing this, and at what he said afterward too. “Imagine if you met someone in a dream,” he explained. “And then you met them in real life? What would that be like? That’s how I played Pilate.”

We met again a few days later at Solar de Cahuenga for breakfast to carry on our conversation. I picked him up in my car, and he came out wearing a black T-shirt with an image of his youthful self as Pilate. “I figured you might want to take a picture,” he told me, “and you’ll probably want Pilate in it.” We enjoyed our breakfast, and among various anecdotes, he told me about being on the wintry set in Croatia of Fiddler on the Roof and the endless board games they’d play to pass the time at night. One evening, he told me, the director Norman Jewison said, “You know that record of yours about Jesus is shooting up the charts in London. I’m thinking it might make a good movie.” And so Barry trudged out in the snow to the closest village to find a working phone–this was long before e-mail or cellphones–and called Andrew to tell him about it.

Sometimes I have wondered to myself what it must be like to have somebody track you down to talk to you about something you did forty years ago. Truthfully, wouldn’t that have to be kind of irritating? Pilate’s song ends powerfully, And then I heard them mentioning my name, and leaving me the blame. If it were me, that is a burden I’d be only too happy to get out from under. But I got the distinct feeling from Barry that he understood the significance that being a generation’s Pontius Pilate conveyed, the weighty symbolic value the role carried for millions of people. He understood, in other words, what it meant to be somebody else’s myth.

Despite that, though, there was a thorough-going humbleness in his manner, and an ungrudging generosity that seemed to come from his heart. When I was sitting in his living room, Barry showed me a book he was reading about lying. “Liars fascinate me,” he said. “Why do they do it? To hurt people?” But then again, as he pondered it, telling the truth can be hurtful too. “And that’s very wrong, because the truth should never be used for unkindness.” What is truth, you may ask. I can’t answer that, but as Barry takes leave of us, it seems to me there’s just a little less kindness in the world, and a little less truth.

Posted in Bible, Cemeteries & Funerals, Drama, Family, Music, Pontius Pilate, Rome, Saints, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Ubi, Ubi Tu, Scooby Doo?

Okay, so evidently I have time enough on my hands not just to watch but to take notes on an episode from What’s New, Scooby-Doo? called “Pompeii and Circumstance,” which aired in February 2003. Suffer along with me, won’t you?


The opening shot shows tourists in front of the famous Octopus and Lobster mosaic from the House of the Faun. This particular mosaic is not still in situ, but has been removed to the Naples Museum, nor was it on the wall but on the floor. Perhaps we should see this inversion as an early indication of the upside-down nature of the events about the transpire? And the struggle of the sea-creatures foreshadows the battle of wills to unfold between the gang and the forces of evil corruption?

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It’s notable how often the culprits in Scooby Doo episodes are connected with real estate development, though the trope hardly originated with Saturday morning cartoon shows. There’s Alec Baldwin’s Blake in Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), for instance, Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor in Superman (1978) and of course, Lionel Barrymore’s Mister Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life (1946). No doubt you can think of about a million more examples, and there’s an even an article on the topic entitled “The Real Estate Developer as Villain: Notes on a Stigmatized Profession.” All of this makes so much sense in the Age of Trump, by the way. Scooby, why didn’t we listen to you?

The bad guy, Udo, is voiced, by the way, by Mark Hamill, no less! He is actually one of the great cartoon villain voice actors.



Ovid’s Daphne famously took to flight when pursued by Apollo and eventually turned into a tree. Scooby’s Daphne was far more passive, or at least she was in the 1960s cartoons. By the time of the 2002 live-action version of Scooby Doo, though, the character of Daphne had been rethought. As played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, she was a martial arts expert who at one point says, “I am so over this damsel in distress nonsense.” In Pompeii and Circumstance, Daphne is likewise more liberated. When Freddy stays behind to fend off the Gladiator, the others as instructed take cover. Daphne, however, finds a big golf cart and bears down on the ghoul with all the fury of Tullia trying to run over poor old King Servius. When they later realize that they’ll need faster vehicles if they want to catch the gladiator, they rent a Maserati. Alas, Freddy can’t drive a stick, so ends up Daphne driving, wearing a headscarf with sunglasses while she does it and looking very Dolce Vita.

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In the end, the culprits are caught. “And I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling bambinos,” intones Udo as he’s led away by the authorities. Yes, and don’t forget the dog. Or, as it is written in Pompeii, Cave canem.


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Introduction to the revised edition of “Latin and Greek As Used at Sewanee”

From a Sewanee Features piece last year, some of you will know that I am planning on publishing (at some point in the near but as yet undetermined future) a revised edition of the little pamphlet, Latin and Greek as Used at Sewanee by Forrest Dillon from 1972. When I reached out to him, Forrest was good enough to write the following preface for the new edition–it’s too good to keep to myself until the book is done, so here it is. –CMcD

It was a pleasant surprise last year when I received an email from Classical Languages Professor Chris McDonough, letting me know that he and some of his students were about to prepare a revised edition of “Latin and Greek As Used at Sewanee”.

Professor McDonough referred me to his Sewanee Features article, “Veni, Vidi, Scripsi”, in which he explains the impetus for the project, and summarizes some examples of Latin and Greek texts that can be found around the campus. He asked me to write an introduction to the new edition, and suggested I include some of the background story of the original pamphlet.

Going back 46 years into my memory bank would be challenging! But I was intrigued that there seems to be an interest in the Sewanee community for a recondite subject, and the more I communicated with Chris, the more interested I became.

“Latin and Greek As Used at Sewanee” was originally a term paper for Professor Bayly Turlington’s “Latin 412 – Linguistics” class, and was finished on April 29, 1970.

I found this paper in my files, entitled “Some Latin at Sewanee”. It is hand-written in black ink, and includes Dr. Turlington’s comments in red ink. I’ve sent it to Chris McDonough for the archives.

(I should mention here that Bayly Turlington (Dr. T, to me and my classmates), his wife Anne, son Fielding, and daughter Bowman became a kind of second family to me in my four years on the Mountain. I was from New Jersey, and usually couldn’t travel home for vacations; I often enjoyed kind hospitality at the Turlingtons’. I maintained contact with Bayly and his family for several years after graduating, until his untimely death in 1977. It was quite poignant for me to see, in Chris’ Sewanee Features article, the photo of Bayly’s memorial plaque in All Saints Chapel, with a very appropriate Greek inscription.)

Dr. T had suggested, shortly before I graduated in June of 1970, that I expand the term paper into a pamphlet for publication by Sewanee, and that I include whatever Greek writing I could find on campus. The result was eventually produced by the Office of Information Services in 1972.

I’m not sure when, in the period between graduation in 1970 and publication in 1972, I converted the term paper into the pamphlet.

In those years the war in Viet Nam was winding down, but our military was still heavily involved. My draft number was 11, and I had no chance of deferment; so in August of 1970 I reported for duty at the Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI, and spent the next two years on two different destroyers, the second of which spent time in the Tonkin Gulf, on the gun line. (My first ship, the USS Barry, is now a museum in Washington DC. I was an Intelligence Officer, and the Navy in its infinite wisdom put me, a Latin major, whose only bad grade at Sewanee was in Physics 103, in charge of all the electronics on the ship.)

I must have worked on the paper in the summer of 1970 and somehow in off-hours in the Navy. I do remember going over proofs which reached me in the South China Sea, and being aware of the contrast between the subject…ancient texts in leafy, tranquil Sewanee….and my immediate surroundings.

In any case, somehow before graduating I must have collected whatever Greek inscriptions I could find. The order of items in the paper was re-arranged, and some of the more abstruse grammatical notes were cut. On the “Acknowledgments” page in the pamphlet are listed the many people who helped, and no doubt Dr. T. was an essential editor.

I’ve learned from Chris the very good news that the classics department at Sewanee is thriving. It’s also gratifying that my little pamphlet will be updated, including the additions since 1970 of Latin and Greek items, and most importantly the correction of a serious lacuna: the Sewanee diploma! Herewith my apologies, long overdue, for this lack.

Many thanks and best wishes to Professor Chris McDonough and his students for undertaking this project. 

Forrest Dillon
September 2016
Brunswick, Maine

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