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A man went into Victoria’s Secret to get his girlfriend a bra. He was completely flummoxed by the endless choices everywhere he looked. The saleswoman pulled him aside and, with sympathy, explained that there were really only four kinds of bras, all of them religious. This completely confused him, so she explained:
“There’s the Catholic bra, which holds up the masses.
There’s the Salvation Army bra that lifts the fallen.
There’s the Presbyterian bra that keeps them upright.
And there’s the Baptist bra, that makes mountains out of molehills.”
“Well,” he said, “Sometimes she wears a bra and sometimes she doesn’t, and I can’t always tell by looking.”
“Maybe you want the Agnostic bra: Is there a bra or isn’t there? You just can’t know.”
“Hmmmm... You know, she’s a Quaker...”
“So she needs a Quaker bra,” said the saleswoman, showing a bra that was virtually invisible. “Quakers hold them in the Light.”
University of Chicago’s Miguel Civil, top expert on ancient Sumerian, dead at 92
University of Chicago professor Miguel Civil was a leading expert on the ancient Sumerian language.
By Maureen O'Donnell
Miguel Civil was a linguistic time traveler. The University of Chicago professor was considered the world’s leading expert on Sumerian, an ancient language of Mesopotamia.
“Nobody has understood Sumerian as well as Miguel Civil since the beginning of the second millennium B.C.,” according to Chris Woods, director of the university’s Oriental Institute, who said Mr. Civil was “the greatest living Sumerologist.”
Mr. Civil died Jan. 13 at the University of Chicago Hospitals, according to the school, which said he was 92 and had a pulmonary infection.
Colleagues said his command of the intricacies of Sumerian culture revolutionized translation of the language, which was inscribed on clay tablets with a reed stylus and which flourished in Sumer — what’s now southern Iraq — from about 3,200 B.C. to 1,800 B.C.
In addition to the first known written language, the Sumerians might also have invented the wheel. And some of the world’s first cities rose in Sumer.
The Sumerians were “great, great bureaucrats,” Woods said, producing hundreds of thousands of tablets with cuneiform — wedge-shaped characters — with which they recorded everything from business deals to the movement of animals and grain.
Mr. Civil could decode their reports on the region’s irrigation methods, agriculture and medical practices. He also understood their colloquialisms, jokes, riddles and proverbs.
His translation on lackadaisical laborers appeared in the University of Pennsylvania Penn Museum’s Expedition magazine: “At harvest time, your work does not match your appetite! You disappear from work, and they find you gossiping in the market place.”
“He just had an intuition, a type of genius that allowed him to make connections,” Woods said. “He was a pioneer in using modern linguistics to understand the language, to decipher it.”
The translation fermented into the recreation of a 3,800-year-old recipe for Sumerian beer, according to a 1991 publication of the Oriental Institute in which Civil wrote his work had “attracted the attention of Fritz Maytag, the president of the Anchor Brewing Company of San Francisco,” makers of Anchor Steam.
Maytag traveled to Chicago to interview Mr. Civil. The brewmaster said that when he questioned the professor about whether there was a dictionary to consult about Sumerian, “He looked up at me, and he said, ‘I am the dictionary.’ ”
Mr. Civil, Maytag and Solomon Katz, a University of Pennsylvania bioanthropologist, ended up working together to create Ninkasi Beer, which was served at a meeting of micro-brewers. “I called it the beer that won’t die,” Maytag said.
Though the beer didn’t keep well, “Everybody connected with the modern reconstruction of the process seems to have enjoyed the experience,” Mr. Civil wrote, including the taste, which they likened to hard cider.
“It is difficult to think of any other scholar, in this or any other field, whose range and depth can be compared to Civil’s, from his first publication [in 1960] on Sumerian medical prescriptions to his many contributions on matters as diverse as grammar, literature, agriculture, economic developments, royal inscriptions,” according to the preface of a book that other scholars dedicated to him on his 90th birthday, The First Ninety Years: a Sumerian Celebration in Honor of Miguel Civil. A “prodigious photographic memory. . . enabled him to join fragments of broken tablets, which were often housed at museums in different countries.”
“There is hardly an aspect of the Mesopotamian textual record that Miguel Civil has not immeasurably advanced our understanding of,” wrote Paul Delnoro, a contributor to the book who is an associate professor of Assyriology at Johns Hopkins University.
Today I am grateful for
- My family.
- Our cats, with extra thanks to Desti for letting me type with her on my lap.
- Fifteen years of Opportunity, and a lot of good memorials.
- Warmer weather and mostly-clear roads.
- Finding something that looks very much like a profitable writing gig.
"I like treating these characters as the stars of their own vignettes. I see the book as these little glimpses into all of their lives, their personal stories, and the complication of their lives is what seems to keep them apart or drive them apart most of the time." -- Gerard Way
( Scans under the cut... )
As a heads up Dark Horse via Comixology is having both a sale for 'Umbrella Academy' as well as a standard 50% off sale for Valentines' Day. The latter works on the former so if you check out the sale here and use the DH50 code before tomorrow you will be able to get most of the series for 75% off.