Listology!

The Good Stuff – A Classically Educated List

Recycling Bins

Looking back over the past few months, it’s clear that Classically Educated has, perhaps, been slightly less than complimentary regarding the general state of modern affairs. While we still feel that humanity in general is moving in the wrong direction, away from individuality and more towards a groupthink distopia where ensuring that assorted rage-spewing morons and other sub-optimal intelligences feel like worthwhile members of society despite all evidence to the contrary is paramount, we also want to take the time to recognize that not everything is wrong in the world.

So, as a public service, we offer a list of things that are good about the world.

1) Left and right, except in the US, are no longer separated by religious differences. Many atheists now believe in a free-market economy as opposed to being Marxists – which makes sense since the kind of personality that will question the teachings of religion would probably also question a system that has failed every time it’s been tried. Likewise, many deeply religious people are now adopting socialist views. This is especially evident in Latin America, where sectors of the Catholic church have actually sided with the populists in the region (although this isn’t by any means pervasive).

We believe this is actually a good development, because, as definition of left and right get more flexible, people can pick and choose what they believe in all aspects of life instead of being forced to side with a view they disagree with just because that is the group they mostly belong to. Perhaps the US will catch up soon – we’ll believe it when we see an atheist Republican candidate, though.

mars_crosshairs-717225

2) Humanity is taking serious aim at Mars (the link is just one recent example of the many Mars missions in planning stages). We’ve spoken before about just how critical it is for mankind to regain its focus on expansion and exploration, and regain its thrust.

For decades, misguided hand-wringers have been saying that the resources used to explore space would be better invested on Earth. They were wrong – humanity’s history has shown that humans need to explore, to expand and to grow… or that they will wither and decay (see Empire, Roman). Fortunately both private companies and major governments have seen the light, with innumerable Mars missions in the works.

3) Most airplanes that take off neither crash nor disappear mysteriously. That’s not necessarily good for anyone in Bermuda making a living off of credulous kooks, but it’s good for the rest of us.

The Bermuda Triangle

4) People are taking global warming seriously. Now, as a rule, Classically Educated tends to think that the world is not going to hell in a handbasket. We look around to see a world with growing peace and prosperity (a well-researched corroboration can be bought here). Basically, if you were born today, you have less chances of dying violently or of any disease than you did at any previous time in human history. We believe that everything will be fine in the future.

However, we also understand scientific data, and we don’t see any reason for intelligent people to deny the clear evidence of climate change. For this reason, even if governments are trying to avoid the economic consequences of truly going green, many private citizens and especially major cities are taking the baton and running with it. Oslo actually has to import trash to run some of their power plants, which is extreme, but a sign of the times. Even less enlightened cities have begun to implement recycling initiatives.

5) There are elections in Venezuela this year. Who knows… maybe they can finally throw off the yoke of populism. If they do, South America will finally have thrown off all dictatorial governments, another continent to be 100% democratic.

6) Printed books seem to be making a comeback.

Now this one is a bit weird. We generally embrace technology as a great thing, and love how it changes lives and society for the better. But in this case, it seems that both studies and consumer preference are telling publishers that people a) connect better emotionally with paper books than ebooks and b) learn more from paper textbooks than ebooks. I’ll add my own two cents and say that I prefer to read books with photos rather than see them on a screen, especially large-format books – but that is just an opinion without studies behind it.

So the fact that print book sales have been better than precious years during the second half of 2014 is a great sign – plus, books are utterly beautiful.

7) It has been said by futurologists that the first human to live for a thousand years has already been born. I certainly hope so, but even if it’s not quite true, medical advances over the past few years have meant that it’s increasingly difficult to die of anything but cancer. Yes, it still happens, but less and less. And gene therapy should make it even better.

8) Despite access to nearly unlimited amounts of data online, on their phones, most people are still dumb as sand, which makes life so much more entertaining for the rest of us.

9) The year 1984 wasn’t remotely like the novel.

Anyway, this is an incomplete list, and we’d love to see your additions to this list below. We’ve missed or omitted many – but all optimism is welcome, and discussion is positively encouraged.

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Classically Educated: Greatest Hits Volume I

Classical Columns

One of the nice things about being able to see the numbers on a blog as eclectic as this one is that you never really know what is going to resonate with readers.  Sometimes, a post goes up which looks like it will immediately become popular… and it disappears without a trace.  Others look less likely to attract a wide audience, and they work well.  And then there are the ones that don’t attract much immediate readership but keep getting visited, time and time again by people in the most unlikely locations.

When the blog started, most of our traffic came from direct referrals and our Fan Page, but more and more, we’re seeing most of the traffic arriving from search engines and simply people who stumbled on us, read the manifesto, liked what they saw, and pop back occasionally.

Guest posts are always popular… but then, so are posts by the CE team, so no clue there!

So, without further ado, we are proud to present the most popular posts from our first half-year of life:

10: (Tie) Aerobics for my Brain and What the Reading of Blake’s Poetry Awoke in Me.  These two epitomize what Classically Educated stands for.  The first is about the mental gymnastics of traveling to a new place… while the second delves into literature, and the sensations it inspires.

9: On words, as they relate to worldview.  A bit of a rant, a bit of philosophy, and a post which asks questions about differing types of human nature.  Of course, the answers probably lie within us!

8: Tango: The Forgotten Argentine Passion. The first in a series of Tango articles that made the list, and which gives one view of how the dance is seen in more modern days.

politically-correct-hypocrisy

7: PC Runs Amok in Science Fiction Community.  Yes, we know that, depending on your worldview, political correctness is either running amok everywhere, or there isn’t really enough of it to protect the disenfranchised.  But even the most die-hard believer will have a giggle at the silliness that is PC insanity in the tiny Science Fiction Community. It is much harder to take earnest, holier-than-thou, PC preaching seriously when the person doing it writes about goblins…

6: A New Model For the Publishing Business?  More literature in CE…  A lot of the posts on this list have to do with the letters, despite this kind of post not being all that frequent.  Probably says something about our readers!

5: A Trip To New York on Hydrogen Wings.  It Was Just One of Those Things.  Admit it.  Everyone is fascinated by airships and especially the transatlantic Zeppelins of the thirties.  OK, don’t admit it, but this guest post is eternally popular, which is proof enough for us!

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4: Tango For Export.  The second half of the Tango series deals with the dance outside the borders of Argentina, and gives a good overview of what to expect if you ever come into contact with it.  The fact that it remains popular will likely mean many new dances in the short term!

3: Bad Management Fads – A Classically Educated List.  Well, Scott Adams sells a ton of Dilbert material, so it’s not really surprising that this one makes the list.  The corporate world has done a LOT of stupid in its history, and that is reflected here.  Plus, people love lists.

2: 10 Reasons why it Sucks to Be Single, Female and Smart.  This masterpiece of reality and rueful laughter hits the nail on the head better than anything that Bridget Jones may have said or done. Guest poster Scarlett just knows her stuff. Plus, people love lists, as we have mentioned.  They also seem to love romance columns.

Drumroll!

Driving home after the party

1: Party Like it’s 1925.  We like to think that this one is on top because it epitomizes everything good about Classically Educated’s readership: they are smart, well-educated, interested in history, and have a bit of a dark and twisted sense of humor.  Also, they are irreverent, and likely to march to their own drummers.  Plus, of course, people love lists.

 

Looking over the list now, it’s clear that the initial objectives – eclecticism, interesting articles, and use of the Harvard comma – have been achieved.  But, as always, opinions to the contrary are welcome!

Tough Love: A World Cup Primer for Americans

Brazuka

Here at Classically Educated, we’ve been kind of following the World Cup.  Being based all over the world, it’s a bit hard to ignore the world’s largest, most important sporting event.  The main problem we have, of course, is that the largest single block of readers we have is from he US, where, to put it extremely diplomatically, most people are extremely uninformed about the World Cup (despite having hosted one as recently as 1994).

I think most of the blame for this goes to American Media, whose 24 hour news cycle means that they have to have stories and story lines even when there is little to write about – and makes it look like the World Cup is about thirty-two equally important teams, like a preseason NFL analysis.  That is probably the most insane way of covering the World Cup that we’ve ever seen, but there you have it.

As a public service, here are some things that Americans should probably keep in mind about the World Cup:

1.  It is the world’s most important sporting event – the 2010 final was watched by 700 million viewers, and 2014 should have significantly more coverage.  The Olympics, of course, are second.  The Super Bowl is around a fifth of that audience, and is less important viewer-wise than the Cricket World finals (an event which I will admit having missed every time).  Other American sporting events don’t make the top five, and it’s nice to see the Monaco Grand Prix up there above the World Series and the NBA finals – here at CE, we approve of anything that has to do with Monaco.

Jurgen Klinsmann

2.  Jürgen Klinsmann is correct: the US is not there to win the Cup.  There’s been a big flap in the American media about Klinsmann having said that the US has no chance of winning.  Some people speculated that the comment was a motivational tool.  Others say that he was completely wrong to say something like that, and that it’s unacceptable that he did so.  Both camps are composed of clueless idiots.

What really rankles about the US media’s treatment of this isn’t that they seem to think that they know better than a man who has been there and done it as a player and a coach, and who knows the state of world soccer (football?) better than almost everyone else on the planet, a man who has true credentials to be the coach of any team on the planet, not just the junior-varsity US squad (that thing in his hand in the photo, BTW, is the most important sports trophy on the planet, the World Cup).  It doesn’t even bug us that the media is ignoring the fact that US players know they have the same chance of winning the Cup as the Jamaican Boblsed team did of winning the Olympic gold in 1988.  We are talking major miracle here (more parting the Red Sea than walking on water-level, if you would like it in religious terms).

What really irritates is that the media is ignoring what every real soccer fan knows as an absolute truth: there are maybe five or six teams with an actual shot at winning.  The US is not one of them – and even with a huge influx of Mexicans and other Latin Americans over the past few years, the US is not all that close to being one of them (Mexico is another team that is not one of them).  Any knowledgeable (or even casual fan) would say that the list is entirely composed of the past World Champions (and no, you can’t count Uruguay out just yet) (I, personally, would count England out -Ed.), plus Holland.  Period.  Saying anything else shows a level of cluelessness that should lead to the revocation of press passes.

3.  The World Cup is in no way comparable to the Women’s World Cup.  If you get your news exclusively through US media, it would seem that both events are equally important.  Sportscenter gives the same coverage to both, websites allot the same number of words.  This is completely inexplicable to anyone familiar with the actual importance of the two events.  We do not mean any disrespect to the great female athletes who compete for their country, but (using an American Sports anthology so our US readers will understand) this is like comparing the World Series to a random Saturday T-ball game for first graders.

4.  It’s not so much that the Women’s World Cup is minor (it is, but that’s not the point) but that US coverage of both events make it difficult to understand just how mind-bogglingly huge the real World Cup is (note that it’s not necessary to say which sport we’re talking about – the words “World Cup” suffice).

Let us illustrate – and this is not an exaggeration, as anyone who has lived through it can attest.

Let us imagine six o’clock on a Monday in Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires, or Rome.  This is rush hour in those places.  The streets are clogged with millions of cars and buses.  Sao Paulo’s Metro area is composed of 23 million people.  They are all on the street at 6 PM on a random Monday.

Except…  This Monday the Brazilian (or the Italian or Argentine) national team is playing a World Cup game.  So the city looks like downtown Pripyat.  It’s a post apocalyptic ghost town with empty streets occupied only by pieces of paper blown by the wind.  A visitor from another planet would wonder what horrible tragedy had wiped out what was clearly a thriving, active population just hours before without destroying the infrastructure.  They’d probably think neutron bombs.

Deserted World Cup Streets

That is until the local team inevitably scores a goal (teams in these countries always do).  Then, there’s a roar like a hundred express trains of people shouting the word “Gol”!  Men, women, children, all screaming, celebrating with a sound like thunder – if thunder had the execrable tinge of vuvuzelas.  It is pandemonium for thirty seconds – and then the ghost town is back.  You can cross some of the world’s busiest avenues with no risk of getting hit by a car.

London, Amsterdam, Montevideo, Madrid, Berlin, Mexico City, Bogotá – even Paris to a lesser extent – are paralyzed for these games.  So are all the other cities in those countries.  Companies stop work and the employees gather in meeting rooms to watch the game.  There is nothing else going on.  The odds of getting a pizza delivered are just about zero.

So, I hope this has cleared up some of the confusion around the world cup, and I hope those US-based journalists now have an inkling of just how babe-in-the-woods their text looks to anyone with a clue.  Perhaps they are actually knowledgeable and are dumbing it down / playing a part for their audiences.  If so, our advice is to stop it.  You’re not doing anyone any favors.

 

That is all.  Americans should now have a clearer idea of what’s what.  Let the hate mail roll in – that’s what comments sections are for!

 

And if you already hate us, what better place to leave insults than on our Facebook Page?  If you click like, you’ll even get updates, so you can never fail to tell us that we are idiots!

 

 

About Humor

Humor

We’ve convinced Baron H, our only undead blogger (we actually believe he’s unique anywhere on the internet…), to allow us to use this piece for Classically Educated.  Needless to say, we enjoyed this one almost as much as we liked the one on party eras (BTW, we’re cooking up a second party era post – the Baron has been telling us stories of ancient times again)!  His topic today is humor… but we won’t go with the obvious “gallows humor” theme, of course.  We’re much too mature for that.

 

Greetings,

Every time I talk about humor, I’m asked whether an ancient vampire really ought to be broaching the subject. After all, there are few things less funny than a monster who eats people unapologetically.

This is simply untrue. Being alive (or undead if you prefer) for so long means that the centuries can seriously drag if you don’tmanage to find something to laugh about. In addition to this, vampires tend to be brilliant (evil, of course, but brilliant), and a lack of humor has always been the hallmark of the weak-minded and insecure. One might almost say that it is an exclusively human trait.

There are some groups – particularly militant groups in extremist causes (or, even worse, causes that are “just”) – who seem to be unable to spot the fact that they have, through the spewing of rhetoric, become caricatues of themselves. We all know who they are in today’s world, and I’m not going to turn this into a fight about specific issues, but I was extremely well-placed to watch them in earlier ages.

So, without further ado, I give you the five people (or groups) with the least sense of humor in recent history:

Temperance Movement Carrie_Nation

5) The Temperance Movement in the United States. I was already ensconced within my Park-view apartment in the years before Prohibition was enacted, so I was able to observe first hand the behavior of the members of the Temperance Movement. There is a strong temptation to say that this movement was made up of dry, dusty old bats, but – being a vampire – I have too much respect for bats.

Let’s just say that these are the old maids and parish preachers who created the template for activism in the US, and are probably responsible for keeping alive the tradition that people can only be completely right or completely wrong, and those in the wrong are to be vilified.

Despite being completely ridiculous (a free country under Islamic prohibition of alcohol?), they were completely unable to see the humor in their actions. They were clearly people who needed a drink.

Catherine_II_on_horse

4) Catherine the Great. Most of my time in Russia was spent in the years just before and during her rule. Russia is something of a humorless place at the best of times, but things got a bit extreme when Catherine was on the throne.

The main issue is that the one thing we all wanted to do is to publish an anthology of jokes about the fact that she’d deposed her own husband to gain the throne. Some of the jokes were classics, all of them were off-color, many were about the horse, and poor Peter III did not come out of them looking good (of course, he’d been killed in the deposing, but that just made it better). If Catherine had had any sense at all, she could have secured her legacy by allowing these volumes to be printed.

Or perhaps, if Peter was really that bad in bed, she should have agreed to marriage counseling.

Mussolini's pants

3) Benito Mussolini. After the passing of the eighteenth amendment, I moved back to Europe, just in time to watch the ascension of fascism across the continent. While that kind of thing was natural enough among the orderly Germanic tribes, or plodding agrarian Spaniards, it simply did not work for Italians.

Italians, you see, are not fascists. They are not communists. They really don’t care about politics one way or the other. They care about wine and seafood and sun and love.

So picture poor Mussolini. Here he was with a shiny new dictatorship, trying to convince people to wear khaki shorts and march in lockstep, and here was everyone else, worrying about cars and olive oil. Not a situation designed to make him feel secure on his throne, and one that completely robbed him of any sense of humor. I don’t think he wanted to get involved in the war, but was unable to stand it when the Germans laughed at him because he didn’t have a Poland to play with.

It’s always possible, however, that he was just tired of people making fun of his pants.

Stalin's Mustache

2) Joseph Stalin. Same war, opposite band, and yet another Russian who had a complete inability to laugh at himself. Find an old photo of the man and look at that mustache.

Did you laugh? Of course you did. So did I. It’s impossible not to laugh at that mustache.

He sent me to Siberia for it. In winter. There were three entire Gulags filled only with men and women who’d been unable to control their mirth at the lip foliage.

Which brings us, finally, to…

The Spanish Inquisition

1) Torquemada.

This one is personal.

Torquemada is my big disappointment of the list. He had so much potential, so much to live for. Some of his methods were new to the world, of a cruelty I had never seen in all my centuries. He was my one true friend among the people on this list, and one of the few mortals I (or any vampire) could truly learn from and admire.

But just when I thought he was a force to be reckoned with, he showed an apalling lack of a sense of humor. It so happened that, after a long night of gambling for alcoholic forfeits with his undertorturers, a sinister group of hooded men who would have been excellent poker players (the hoods made it impossible to read their tells), we decided to set fire to Torquemada’s carriage, drive it around the complex and then sink it in the moat.

Oooh, boy.

Anyone with an ounce of humor would, eventually have realized that it was hilarious, wouldn’t he?

Oh, well. As far as I know, I’m still considered a fugitive from the inquisition. The humor of it is that, in this case, everything they’re accusing me of – and much more – is completely true.

So, I’ll see you soon,

H

Bad Management Fads – A Classically Educated List

down-trend

Our guest blogger today, part of the Classically Educated core team, has decided to remain anonymous, since they suspect their boss reads this blog. But anonymous or not, we think you’ll enjoy it!

dilbert-boss

For those who’ve never been corporate zombies, it might come as a bit of a surprise that not everyone in management fits the stereotypes.  Not every manager is a serious-minded analytical guru, not all are whiz-kids, there are nearly no crooks and Dilbert’s boss, though iconic, doesn’t really represent a significant cross-section.  As a blog that self-describes as “eclectic”, we couldn’t let the opportunity of having a look at this, especially as many of us still spend a significant portion of our waking lives at work.

Most managers are just regular people who do regular things.  They have the same feelings that you or I do, have the same questions (What is the meaning of life? Will I ever be successful? What should I have for lunch?) and, like us, they are dissatisfied with the standard answer, 42.  They get home and watch something mind-numbing on TV, and the last time most of them read anything that might be considered classic literature is either in college or in high school, depending on what they minored in.

They are, essentially, Jane and Joe Shmoe with a bit more money and a BMW, with the big difference that they are under pressure to do better than their competition, a company that is staffed by people with exactly the same qualifications and exactly the same IQ.  That other company will be trying to do exactly the same things in mostly the same ways.  This means that most managers are desperate to fins something to set them apart – but they, like you or I, secretly believe  they aren’t up to the task, and also know that they stopped maturing at some point near their fifteenth birthday, just like everyone else.

Many people attain a sense of security by being part of a group, and managers are no different, which means that, like 1980’s hairdos, which seemed like a safe choice at the time but have since forced you to pretend that “I didn’t take any pictures during that whole decade”, management fads that everyone is doing are adopted by everyone else, in a sort of self-creational cycle that the best business writers are at a loss to explain (conspiracy theories are welcome in the comments).

There are many articles that talk about bad management fads, and this is another one, but we are funnier, snarkier, and have a fad in the #1 spot that we haven’t seen elsewhere!

So, without further ado, I give you the five dumbest management fads that the crew at Classically Educated have observed firsthand:

leadership_lemmings1

#5.  Consensus Management. This is one that sounds great on paper, especially to millennials who have decided to democratize everything, from music to internet content (said the blogger).  They feel entitled to be a part of every decision and that we should all get along, yay!

Verdict: Consensus is a bunch of people who think “A” getting together in a ten-hour meeting to compromise on “B”.

Quality Control... Fail

#4.  Use of Quality and Production Tools in Commercial Areas. Raise your hand if your company has forced you to qualify as a green or black belt, or applied Kanbans to your processes, or used some other production-sector quality tool to make your working life more organized.  Hmm, thought so.  Now raise your hand if you work in marketing, sales, Human Resources or any other area of the company in which the capacity to think on your feet and deal with situations that never arose before and will likely never arise again are more important than trying to bash a bunch of round pegs into square holes.  Sad, isn’t it?

Verdict:  Who the hell promoted all those engineers and accountants into top management positions, anyway?

moth.flame

#3.  Shiny! This is perhaps the fad that most clearly shows the connection between management and normal human feelings such as insecurity, especially in the internet age.  Here’s the deal: a very high-level manager reads an article that states that social interactive image and sound conflugialization is beginning to take off, and that there are already thousands of happy users sharing their conflugialistic infotermics, and that it’s the greatest thing since Facebook Ads.  Then they read the fateful sentence: “XXXXX (being a company in their industry) has already signed on as a beta test partner”.  The manager immediately assigns a slightly lower-level person (say an EVP) to the task of implementing the thing, and gravity ruins the lives of a bunch of middle managers for months.  The justification: “We can’t fall behind XXXXX.”

Verdict:  Did anyone bother to ask what the ROI on your Facebook Ads is?

 

#2. Cross-Functional Teams.  Cross-functional teams are another one of those that sound good on paper: let’s have all the stake-holding departments involved in the productive process, that way ensuring that nothing gets overlooked.  We’ll save a ton of time in not having mistakes.  The problem?  Mistakes happen anyway, and you basically have people from sales sitting in on long arguments between the guy from the factory and the guy from finance regarding how to shave a cent off procurement costs by importing gear oil from Myanmar instead of Paraguay.

Verdict:  The ancients once said something about “too many cooks”, and it still holds true.  Some of those ancients would have been excellent CEOs, but they’d if they’d been willing to bathe more often.

Random Dude wearing a Power Tie

#1.  Power Ties.  This one is embarrassing to even write about.  I can’t imagine how it must have felt to be subjected to it – fortunately, it died off about a year before I entered the workforce, but my coworkers were so scarred by it that it dominated lunchtime for ages.  Essentially, Power Ties were red ties, which, some behavioral psychologist had decided projected power, which gave you a psychological advantage over the people you were meeting with.  Many organizations mandated them for meetings with clients, and especially with C-Level managers visiting from headquarters.

Verdict:  He’s a millionaire C-level manager in a huge corporation.  He’s reached his position by backstabbing thick-hided insensibility.  He’s fought in four wars, and has the skulls of the enemy soldiers (and one insubordinate corporal) that he killed mounted in his trophy room.  He specifically requested that you serve him grilled interns for lunch.  But show him a red tie and he’ll cower, blubbering, into the nearest corner.  Let me know how that works out.

 

Anyway, feel free to add any you might like – that’s what the comments are for, after all!

 

If you enjoyed this, you can always like our FB page for updates as they come online!

Party Like it’s 1925

1920s  House Party

Here at Classically Educated, we think that everyone takes themselves much too seriously.  Hell, we’ll probably be accused of taking ourselves too seriously.  In fact, the very name “Classically Educated” reeks of pretentious big-headedness.  So we are officially declaring this week the “Week of Not Taking Ourselves or the Week of Easter Seriously”, also known by its simple acronym, WONT OOT WOES.  Our article on Thursday will probably poke some sort of  fun at something around Easter, but we had no article for today.

So, in the time-honored tradition of blogs everywhere, we asked a vampire to send us an article about how to party to run on Easter week.  I imagine all the other blogs are doing the same thing.  Well, at least those that recognize the universal truth that vampires haven’t been overdone.  Anyway, H’s post is below.  You may have read it before, but we don’t care.

Greetings,

As someone who’s seen it all over the past few thousand years, the most surprising thing isn’t that I’ve seen everything once, but how often I seem to see the same thing, over and over again.  History, in my opinion, doesn’t move in great cycles, it repeats itself once every generation as new teenagers ask the same questions.

I am always amused by how every generation believes, firmly, that it invented the out-of-control, call-the-cops and get-excommunicated-immediately party.  Ninety percent of people between the ages of thirteen and twenty-five would probably tell you that their parents were the sort of people whose idea of a good time was dinner, a movie and home by ten.  Teens today would be hard-pressed to picture younger versions of their folks in a typical 1980′s cocaine blowout.  They’d probably have an even harder time with the image of their grandparents at Woodstock.

The reason each generation believes that theirs are the best parties, is because they are clueless (and mortal, which means that most of them can’t even begin to imagine what real parties are like!).  They feel that, having finally gotten beyond the bounds of childhood, they are doing things never before permitted to anyone else.

Hah.

Over the past few millenia, I’ve observed several truly golden eras of debauchery, and I feel that a list of the great eras of the party is justified.  Of course, I will limit myself to those parties at which an undead person would 1) not be ashamed to be seen at and 2) not cause a panic.  I’m certain there have been some enjoyable orgies among illiterate goatherders in unregarded rural villages in the Appenines, but we need not concern ourselves with them for the nonce.

I present, in order, the great party epochs you shouldn’t have missed if you were alive, or undead, at the time:

Hanging Gardens Engraving

5) Babylon under the rule of Ishtar.  The energy of budding civilization – there were no rules for anything back then – great-looking city walls and the best setting for a garden party ever made the nightlife noteworthy.  The fact that the largest prostitution ring was run by the official religion (giving you an idea of what ‘morals’ meant back then) made it legendary.

Pericles and Architect

4) Pericle’s Greece.  Have you seen the movie Caligula?  Yes?  Good.  Well, remember that they were Romans, and the Romans learned everything they knew from the Classical Greeks.  They stole their gods, their alphabet, and their ethics from the declining Hellenes, but something was lost in the transition.  The Greeks remain the true masters of the decadent orgy.

Check out Dude with Head

3) The court of Louis XVI.  Talk about throwing everything at a party.  These people had the entire wealth of a nation to spend on their blowouts – and they did.  Each noble saw it as his duty to bankrupt his duchy to purchase wine when his turn to host the proceedings rolled around, and the dress code was strict: brand new clothes produced to that week’s fashion would get you in – anything else would get you sent around back to the servant’s quarters, although this banishment would likely only last until the inebriated nobles – male, female, undecided, undead, whatever – came around looking for something to add variety to the revelry.  It was a time of parties well worth losing one’s head over.

Victorians!

2)  Victorian England.  Let’s just say that neither Charlotte Bronte nor Jane Austen got invited to the good parties.  The late 19th century was a riot behind closed doors, and the upper classes went further and farther than anyone had dared before or since.  If I weren’t sworn to secrecy, you’d be shocked at the truth behind Jack the Ripper.  The only thing keeping this epoch from taking the top spot was their insistence on using opium-based drugs.  Not much of a party when one is too relaxed to stay upright.

Driving home after the party

1) The roaring twenties.  American Robber Baronesses meet the landed European gentry – and seduce it.  Women’s liberation finally brought what had been happening forever out into the open.  We were introduced to the vamp, the femme fatale and the powerful female figure, much to the distress of the middle class, who have always been the only ones to believe in morality in the first place (which is unsurprising, since it has always been a tool to control them).   Hard drugs and slinky dresses, impeccably dressed men and fast cars all performing to the beat of the foxtrot at eleven, and the tango at three – a prelude to other things.  If you moved in the right circles, prohibition was a joke – something that happened to strict churchgoers.  Black Tuesday robbed future generaions of the pinnacle of party – perhaps it’s just as well, because there was no way that generation would have survived much longer if they’d gone on like that.

Best of all, these epochs were undead-friendly, provided that particular undead didn’t smell and had gone to the right school.  Imagine popping into even the best party today, and asking if the house had an excess stable boy whose blood you might suck – your host would grow pale and mutter some lame excuse.  And you call that a party.

The bar has been set.  I expect all of you to strive to clear it from now on.

H

Meshing with the 1001 Movies List

List!

Lists are popular.  People like them.

Blogs (including this one) are full of lists.  Top ten this, ten best that, ten worst hat experiences*, etc.  So are websites, sports shows, books and Cosmopolitan.  In fact, though there’s no list included in this particular post, it is closely related to one, which is also a book.

Those who’ve followed me over from my venerable Livejournal know that I’ve been watching the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die in chronological order.  This is driven more by curiosity regarding something I didn’t know all that much about (cinema history) than true obsession regarding the field (which is, in my experience, how polymaths do things).  I don’t watch one a day, or one a week, or anything like that, but, on occasion, I watch one, and have made a decent dent in the list.

I used to blog about it on the LJ, but the theme fits Classically Educated much better than what is, in essence, a writer’s blog.  So, as from today, I’m moving them here.

Classically Educated joins the party at my current progress level, which means that classics such as Metropolis, Gone with the Wind or Birth of a Nation (possibly the most shocking -actually laughably shocking, as I laughed in disbelief almost all the way through the second half-movie to modern sensibilities that I’ve seen so far, but also a landmark in film technology and one that brought the medium new maturity) have already been discussed.  Anyone who’d like to have a look can go here.

Today’s movie is not the ideal starter, but that’s never stopped us before, so here goes!

Meshes Key

Meshes of the Afternoon is an experimental film from 1943, and a surreal one, to boot, so it’s really only lovable for people who either fancy themselves connoisseurs of the avant-garde or serious students of film history.  It’s a very short piece, focusing on a dream sequence with certain events repeated to reinforce their significance.  A woman walks into a house, sits on a chair, falls asleep, and then reviews the scene various times, with alterations and a sinister figure.  Then, the dream and reality kind of merge, leaving one to wonder what is real and what isn’t.

To the educated layman’s eye, the film is not particularly successful as entertainment, but it does manage to convey the “dream on film” effect it was aiming for and, as such, is worth investing 14 minutes on, if only just to have an opinion on it if it ever comes up.

But I would warn you to avoid going overboard if you find yourself discussing this one with either a film historian or a psychologist.  Non-specialists will have a hard time keeping up with specialists on any film that Maya Deren created, and this one, despite seeming superficially accessible, is no exception.

maya deren

Of course, one can always take the engineer’s approach to impenetrable artsiness and say that it’s just useless navel-gazing, but that would come under the heading of tweaking obsessive people, and we’d agreed that wasn’t a great idea.

*Which immediately begets the question “Is there such a thing as a good hat experience?”  Feel free to discuss in comments!

The World’s Most Awesome Schools

It happens more often than one would think.  In the course of one’s globetrotting life, the question – when arriving in a strange country – eventually stops being “where do they make good caipiroskas?” and becomes “where can we send the children to school?”

If you are moving to the US, the question often revolves around moving to a neighborhood which has a good school system assigned to it.  Very often, that means a high-income area with some kind of top-ten public school which is hugely amazing on the academic side, and has none of the social issues that you might encounter if you happen to get an inner-city district assigned to you.

To many, that is the elegant solution: classless (as in class-blind, not lacking in class) and free.  But to really be considered awesome, I think we have to eliminate public schools from consideration.  They lack a certain style and a lot of panache.

So, apart from being a private school, what does make a school awesome?

I have a little bucket list that I use:

1.  No matter where it is located, English must be the official language or at the very least equally important to the local tongue.  English is the world’s lingua franca, and if you’re lacking here, all your graduates are really good for is the French Foreign Legion (*waves at the angry Frenchmen in back*).

2. It needs to have academic standards that are higher than the schools around them.  One way to measure this is to see which international exams are on offer.  Cambridge and Oxford in the name of the examinations are usually a good sign… lesser institutions get you left off the list.

3. It needs to mix modern progressive teaching methods with quirky traditions brought in by the founder.  This is harder than it sounds, but some places manage it really well.

4. People need to look at you funny if you send your kids there.  They need to say stuff like: “Why would you spend so much money on that?  The Generic School for Boys is nearly as good, and costsa third of what you’re paying”, or “Oh, I could never send little Timmy to a school like that one, he’s a special snowflake, and that school is too structured and traditional for him!”  If you’re getting both, then you’re doing something right!

5. It needs to be co-ed.  Single sex schools are cannot, by definition, be awesome.  Just ask any of the students.  Trust me, I waffled on this one as arguably the world’s most awesome school, Eton College, is boys only.  If this list had been compiled in 1914, and not 2014, it would have headed the list.  I almost removed this criteria just because of Eton… but I didn’t, and we need to live with the consequences.

6. Needs to have an international student body.  Well, just because cosmopolitan and awesome are synonymous on this blog.

7. Arts and extra-curricular activities are an important complement to the academic side.  And by extra-curricular, I am not necessarily linking it to #5…

8. There needs to be a sense of belonging – if there is no sense that people who went to other schools are somehow suspect, no need to apply here.

So how does one go about identifying the very best of the very best?  Easy: research, scientific method, school chauvinism, preconceptions, opinion and if all else fails, a coin to break any ties.

Without further ado, the world’s five most awesome schools:

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#5 Zurich International School.  This one loses a few positions by not being British in inspiration (it’s a former American International School), but regains them by virtue of being in Switzerland, having its kindergarden on the shores of the Zürichsee and being the Zurich repository for expat kids.  It also teaches German– but only as a second language.  Also contributing here are the fact that you’re never more than half an hour from a decent ski slope (nor more than a couple of hours from really world-class hills).  Now, if anyone suspects a bit of a chauvinism factor at work here, because, just maybe, I might have received part of my primary school education here, I will leave that question open.

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#4.  Harare International School.  We mentioned panache, right?  Well, a second cousin, twice removed of panache is suicidal insanity, which is my definition of putting a prestigious school in the country that Cracked.com ranked #2 in the list of the worst places to be (we had a hard time finding a school that met the checklist in North Korea, so we settled for Zimbabwe).  But you might end up here someday, so if it falls to you, you need to know that this institution has been an International Baccalaureate partner since 2004, and has a beautiful theater in a beautiful setting.  So, setting + bravery + perseverance means awesome.

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#3 St. Andrews School Bahamas.  It has Sir Richard Brandsen on the website and it’s in the Bahamas.  I really shouldn’t need to go any further, but I will, just to rub it in: remember when you played hooky and smoked behind the gym?  Well, odds are that hookies from this school are smoking on the beach which is a comfortable walking distance from the campus – of course, I would never speculate on what, exactly they are smoking.  Whatever it is, it has to be awesome.

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#2 Tanglin Trust School. Location, Location, Location.  When you combine the fact that Singapore has one of the world’s highest standards of living with the further fact that Buzzfeed tells us that it contains the some of the world’s happiest children, you are probably already well placed by being here.  When you combine that with a British curriculum, lengthy waiting lists and a bias towards British and Commonwealth students on the waiting lists, you almost don’t even need to take into account that it was closed during WWII because of Japanese occupation and British internment in camps. The fact that this school is still with us after that?  Awesome.

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#1 Eton College.  What the hell, Eton is Eton, so screw the rules.  This is the one that established the template for awesomeness the world over, and has been referenced in literature and in culture since its founding in 1440.  It would have gotten onto the list just on the merit of being founded as “The King’s College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor” by an actual king, but mainly appears here because it’s been teaching the western world how a gentleman should behave since then.

Yes, I’m missing some of the world’s more expensive boarding schools, (especially, this one – holy crap, that campus!) and I’m also missing my own alma mater (which was awesome by the checklist standards, but is based in a city a bit too boring to count), but that’s what comments are for, especially the ones that call me out for outdated elitist attitudes!  Stand up for your school, and convince me, and maybe we’ll feature it in a future article.

We might not, of course.  We’re easily distracted here…