Posts Tagged ‘Mark Zuckerberg’

Skip Mandarin. Learn Latin. And have a drink. It’s on me.

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Seneca: One too many?

Old joke in Russia:  “The optimists in Russia study English, pessimists study Chinese, and realists study military equipment.”

But if you want to succeed in life, look no further than Facebook.  According to a recent article in Britain’s The Spectator:

No doubt some people will persist in questioning the usefulness of Latin. For these skeptics I have a two-word answer: Mark Zuckerberg. The 26-year-old founder of Facebook studied Classics at Phillips Exeter Academy and listed Latin as one of the languages he spoke on his Harvard application. So keen is he on the subject, he once quoted lines from the Aeneid during a Facebook product conference and now regards Latin as one of the keys to his success. Just how successful is he? According to Forbes magazine, he’s worth $6.9 billion. If that isn’t a useful skill, I don’t know what is.

The Spectator claims that “there is actually a substantial body of evidence that children who study Latin outperform their peers when it comes to reading, reading comprehension and vocabulary, as well as higher order thinking such as computation, concepts and problem solving.”  But what about Mandarin, you may ask — wouldn’t that boost cognitive skills even more?

All very well if you go to China, but Latin has the advantage of being at the root of a whole host of European languages. “If I’m on an EasyJet flight with a group of European nationals, none of whom speak English, I find we can communicate if we speak to each other in Latin,” says Grace Moody-Stuart, a Classics teacher in West London. “Forget about Esperanto. Latin is the real universal language of Europeans.”

Well, not entirely.  I’m half-Hungarian, a language whose closest forebears (and they’re not very close) are Turkish and Finnish.  It’s on an entirely different language tree — or rather, no tree at all. But that doesn’t entirely get me off the hook:

Unlike other languages, Latin isn’t just about conjugating verbs. It includes a crash course in ancient history and cosmology. “Latin is the maths of the Humanities,” says Llewelyn Morgan, “But Latin also has something that mathematics does not and that is the history and mythology of the ancient world. Latin is maths with goddesses, gladiators and flying horses, or flying children.”

My kid was lucky, I guess:  At a Montessori school, she got French, Italian, Latin, and a smattering of Greek before she entered high school.  She had studied with a popular teacher who had taught at the Boston Latin School.  She went on to a Japanese minor at UC-Santa Cruz.  But the problem in the U.S. is that having a language other than Spanish is little more than a curiosity, like having a sixth finger.  Where do you use it?  Hard for me to believe I used to be able to read La Chanson de Roland in the original…

Over the years I’ve picked up a little Latin of the debauched medieval variety, but not much of the purist’s classical kind.  Most usable quote from Seneca the Elder. I pass it on to you:

“Bibamus, moriendum est.”
(Death’s unavoidable, let’s have a drink.)

Join Oliphant, Garry Trudeau in petition

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Since we wrote about cartoonist Molly Norris being added to an execution hit list a few days ago here, there’s been an article in the Huffington Post here, and an article in the Washington Post here.  (Nothing from the New York Times.)

It’s a spit in the bucket, I know, but Pulitzer Prizewinning cartoonists are circulating a petition protesting politically and religiously based attacks on cartoonists around the world.  Please join Oliphant, Garry Trudeau, and others by signing the petition here.  The petition is sponsored by Cartoonists Rights Network International, a sort of Amnesty International for cartoonists.

The organization last month gave its Annual Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning to Iranian cartoonist Mana Neyestani.  Sandya Eknaligoda also accepted a Special Recognition award for her spirited challenge to the Sri Lankan government to account for her disappeared husband, writer and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda.

Back to Norris.  CNN spoke to FBI Special Agent Marty Prewett:

“Prewitt declined to comment on where Norris is and whether she is receiving protection from law enforcement. Al-Awlaki also threatened eight other cartoonists, journalists and writers from Britain, Sweden and Holland.”

Colleague David Horsey, a Seattle cartoonist, blogs about Norris here.

Mark Zuckerberg

Meanwhile, BBC Urdu reports that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is being investigated by Pakistani authorities under a section of the penal code that makes blasphemy against Muhammad punishable by death:

“According to the paper, Section 295-C of the penal code reads: ‘Use of derogatory remark etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet, whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable for fine.’

Molly Norris

So, peace be unto Muhammad. But not unto Mark Zuckerberg.”

As the daughter and the mother of cartoonist, this cause has a special resonance.  However, one doesn’t seem to be able to address this issue without offering the politically correct proviso, so here goes:  I respect Islam.  But I also respect freedom of speech, and protecting those whose exercise of such freedom has been entirely non-violent. Freedom of speech can only begin when you say something that I find offensive.

Mollie Norris’s website, which disappeared when she did, is reported to be under construction.  We wish her well.