Fanax: the Mycenaean term for "king"; pronounced "wanax". The funny initial letter, "F", is called digamma and shows up in Archaic Greek epigraphy (papyrus and tablet writings). The sound, if not the letter form, and its linguistic equivalent initially show up in the heiroglyphic writings (Linear B) of Bronze Age Greece both at Pylos, in the far west of Greece (Peloponnese), and at Knossos in north central Crete, the funny "F". Specifically, digamma shows up in the Greek of Homer's Iliad with the word "F"anax, but there it's a "rough breathing" in the form "(h)anax", where the term is linked to an important individual at Pylos. In Classical and Hellenistic Greek, the F continues in this aspirant, or "h" sound, form at the beginning of many Greek words.

Entries for month: May 2009

musicians in the family

May 19, 2009 ·

So, my grandfather, Charles Fisher, known to us as 'Gus', was a music professor at Northwestern, where he taught the young lady who was a piano student at the school and a voice student of his and became his wife and my grandmother Shirley, known to us as 'Gert'. Granpa Fisher was a choral director much of his life, retiring as conductor of the Boise Master Chorale.  My son, Ian, age 8, was recently recommended to the Cincinnait Boychoir by his music teacher.  Auditions were last night, May 18, and Ian was accepted into the Training Choir.  Rehearsals / training will start next fall.  As he trains up and develops, the next tier is the Resident Choir, which is a transition to the Tour Choir, which tours the world giving performances:  Honolulu, Carnegie Hall, Austria, German, the Czech Republic, Arizona, Canada, and on and on, as well as numerous TV appearances.

In celebration of this grand honor and just simply in celebration of Ian's high love of music, I want to share some other Fisher music.  Not only do my mother's sisters have phenomenal voices, including an aunt who majored in Voice and still sings professionally (love you, Laurie ;-), but my Granma Fisher took voice from my Granpa Fisher (yes, since I was a young lad I always spelled those honorifics without the "d").  At Gus's funeral a few years ago, he scripted the entire ceremony, including a set of pre-recorded music.  The fourth track on that CD was a set of recordings from his doctoral dissertation defense, which my grandmother had never even heard.  Here, for your listening pleasure, is my grandfather, Charles Fisher, singing Air from Comus (G F Handel) and The Divine Image (John Donne), as he performed them in 1953.

I played this track for Ian last night when he and Sue got back from the auditions:  Air from Comus / The Divine Image


Share and Enjoy,

miss you, Granpa!


Tags: family

Centralized Utopia

May 11, 2009 ·

As students of language will know (well, at least students of Ancient Greek will know), the word utopia is the English derivation of the Greek outopia, which represents the abstract conceptualization of ou topos, literally translated as No Place or No Where.

Just a note of interest when processing the following quote from Pajamas Media this morning (second page):

"But utopia is never reached. The more social objectives the government sets, the more taxes it collects, the more money it spends, and the more laws it passes, the worse the situation becomes. The failure of central authorities to deliver on their noble goals is the ground truth of not only conservatism and libertarianism, but any reputable school of economics, American and world history, political philosophy, or constitutional law."

Tags: politics

another reason I love the WSJ

May 09, 2009 ·

Besides the fact that they're the only source of factual information out there when it comes to the business stories that actually shape our economy, where else can you get a full write up of absinthe? with reviews of 5 brands, by a guy who doesn't even like it .. ?!

"Of all the liqueurs absinthe is the most pernicious," Edward Spencer declared in the 1899 cocktail guide The Flowing Bowl. He wrote, "The evil effects of drinking it are apparent: utter derangement of the digestive system, weakened frame, limp muscles, pappy brain, jumpy heart, horrible dreams and hallucinations, with paralysis or idiocy to bring down the curtain."
-- "Sampling Absinthe's Dubious Charms",, May 9-10, 2009

Gorgeous.  Why does no one write like that anymore?

And now, of course, I feel the need to try some of this stuff, but which? Take a shot at the Mata Hari that Mr Felten liked, knowing that he doesn't like the anise overtone? or go with the Lucid that supposedly mirrors more closely the 'true' old absinthe?  Decisions, decisions ...

Tags: politics

the Value of Regulation

May 06, 2009 ·

Ran across this article this morning (it's a 2-pager, so click through when you're done with the first page).  I completely agree with the point the author is making, but as I thought through some of his cultural examples, I was challenged to think about what freedom meant in those cases.  The line that got me thinking was this one:

"Consider cultures in freer times: the types of discourse and inquiry in Ancient Greece; the advances in the arts during the Renaissance; the level of debate during the nation’s founding; and the outpouring of innovation and wealth following the Industrial Revolution."

So, of course, it was the opening example of Ancient Greece that first got my attention.  Assuming that his reference is to Classical Athens, we can look back and see a political system that was founded on the free vote, the first representative democracy.  In many ways, in fact, this first democracy was much more egalitarian than ours, in that the term limits were absolute:  no one person could hold any political position more than once in a lifetime.  There was still a political class, those that would try to bounce from position to position, but for the most part, citizens had to step up and serve their city-state.  The fact is, however, that only land-holding citizen males were able to vote, so comparisons of relative freedom are not what we in the US would consider free.

Both in Classical Athens and in the Renaissance, artists pretty much to a man were kept by wealthy patrons, or in rare cases commissioned by the state.  So, they were free, but is that climate really what we would consider "freer times"?  Those men were free to think and plan and create, but that still had to be fit in between requests for specific works to be delivered to the patron, often for political gain ("my monument is bigger than your painting ... nyah, nyah, nyah").

Looking at the "level of debate during the nation's founding" is an even more problematic view:  every one of those men involved in founding this country was a vassal to King George at the time they were planning and writing and fighting for their freedom, at least until the Revolutionary War was ended.

Now, I'm not disagreeing with Mr Ghate here, but I find it rather interesting that the limitations of personal patronage and the burdens of monarchy still allowed for the creative force behind such great advances in human thought.  From a libretarian perspective, I almost think that true freedom, for instance of the pioneers heading West or the Vikings in the 10th century, has a tendency to breed a whole different type of human achievement, namely raw exploration and innovation and perseverence.  As much as I hate to admit it, I'm not sure that human history shows us examples of true freedom resulting in the greatest of game-changing socio-cultural shifts in thought.

On the other hand, perhaps that is the example that proves the point:  because a 10th century Viking or an 18th century Voyager was truly free of both government oversight and personal patronage (at least in his day-to-day operations), he didn't have to challenge and break down walls of political crap that may have been in his way.  Food for thought ...

Tags: politics

Powered by Mango Blog Questions? Comments? Wanna say 'hi'? Write to us! top