The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary


Wednesday’s Child: Motive and Opportunity

One aspect of the present invasion of Ukraine, and of the causes that precipitated it, has gone virtually unremarked. Yet recent revelations consequent to the ongoing mass arrests in the highest echelons of the Russian military – an echo of Stalin’s purge of the Red Army on the eve of World War II – are shedding light on a murky chapter in the annals of this century’s history.


Learn Italian I: Preliminaries

Many modern Italian series for Americans avoid grammar.  While this makes it easy at first, it becomes tedious and time-consuming as one goes on.  Italian, though it has lost most of the declensional forms of nouns, adjectives and pronouns, has retained most of the active verbal system of Latin and added on tense:  The Conditional.  By learning the grammatical terms from the beginning, students will make rapid progress.


The Autodidact: Latin Matters Conclusion

The American republic was founded, for the most part, by men with fine classical training, and anyone who takes the trouble to read the correspondence of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson will see that their conversation is studded with discussions of points of grammar, ancient history, and even the rhythm of ancient poetry.  Jefferson and Adams, although old friends, belonged to rival political parties.  What would our presidents have in common that they could talk about?  Football? Reality shows on television?


Learn Italian

I have been long considering a not too formal Italian class, partly to help people intending to participate in one of our Italian programs.  When I proposed it recently, I received one positive response from the Cornells–at least from Papa Cornell.


Wednesday’s Child: Patria o Muerte

Van Houten, the Dutch chocolatier founded some two hundred years ago, is still in business today selling its brand of cocoa, but few remember the public-relations ploy that made it famous. Mayakovsky, in a poem written in 1914, recalls a man condemned to death by hanging who had been paid by the company to shout “Drink Van Houten’s cocoa!” from the scaffold as the sentence was being carried out.


Florence/Tuscany Update

Bowing to popular demand, the program in October we are planning will be held in Tuscany.  My current thinking is to stay for 3-4 days in Florence and Arezzo, and from those bases we shall visit a few smaller places.  Possible destinations include Chiusi, Montepulciano, and Pistoia.  

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