Bookwormin’ It.

Walked through Old College today and showed up at the Doctoral student’s orientation, just for shits and giggles. I know I’m still working on the Master’s, but it doesn’t look so hard from this end. The entire educational focus at this Uni is about comfort and credibility. The professors are there to help you do well so you, in turn, reflect well on the university when you submit your papers. Common enough. But there’s a relaxed and jovial quality about the administration here that Berkeley certainly lacked, as well as any other US university I’ve ever had experience with. The focus of UK education is not to tell you what’s right and wrong from a rigidly pedantic perspective, but rather how to think clearly and independently, while still cultivating strong bonds between instructor and student, and absolutely engendering a strong sense of departmental community. I meet my eminent supervisor tomorrow morning, Dr. Alexander Murdoch, Senior Lecturer in Scottish History. Rumor has it that he was actually born in the US. Been nothing but friendly and accommodating thusfar. We’ll see if he’s still so sweet after a year with me…

I stopped into a wonderful little antiquarian bookstore on the way home and after choosing some really great (and inexpensive) Jacobite publications I actually didn’t have in my collection, I got embroiled in an intense conversation with the proprietor and a customer on the regional differences between Picts and Scots and how the remnants of the ancient cultures affect their lineage.


The proprietor was from the East–the Pictish region of Scotland–and didn’t consider herself Celtic. The customer, clearly a talker and a bit pushy with his ideas, was from Glasgow and sold on the idea that the Picts were absolutely a Celtic race, including her, despite her protestations. She was trying to explain the differences in the remnant cultures of today; the disparate natures of eastern and western Scots (and she smiled at me as he was going on and interrupting as if to punctuate the point!). I just kind of gravitated into the conversation out of undeniable interest and told them my thoughts on it, which they were quite receptive to. Now, I am quite out of my period, but I remember the profs at Cal were sold on the fact that we can only truly define a culture by the language they speak. That is, because the Picts are not known to have spoken a Celtic language, they cannot truly be considered a Celtic race. Because they were absorbed by other tribes, including the Scots, very little is known about them, and not even the scholars are truly positive, although conjecture abounds. In any event, she agreed and he did not. But the ruling didn’t matter; it was the fact that I was in an old bookstore in ancient Edinburgh, debating the nature of Celtic civilization with a couple of nationals.

*geeky snort*

I love this place.

And now: The highlight of the walk home.

Grassmarket View
Edinburgh Castle as seen from the Grassmarket.

The crazy thing about this picture is that I have a lithograph from the 18th-century in a book at home that matches this view EXACTLY. Almost nothing has changed in about three-hundred years. As soon as I get it scanned, I’ll post a comparison. Promise. You have to see it.

And this is where the Doctoral orientation was, in the footsteps of Stevenson, Darwin, and Hume.

Old College
The University of Edinburgh Old College, inside the courtyard.

More as it comes!

8 Responses to “Bookwormin’ It.”

  1. lolliejean Says:
    September 30th, 2003 at 2:37 pm

    I love that second picture. Now -that's- what a University is supposed to look like. I'm going to have to visit someday. I'm a Scot on my mom's side and I'm told there are relatives over there somewhere.

  2. pisica Says:
    October 1st, 2003 at 2:17 am

    Sadly, much of the campus proper is ugly square gray buildings from the 1960s. The picture shows the Old College, where most people never go except for orientations or social receptions.

  3. vegasjohnny Says:
    September 30th, 2003 at 8:37 pm

    How much could a stone-age tribe (with only oral traditions) impact the culture of Scottland today? There is an awful lot of water (not to mention invasion, religion, and technology) under that bridge by now.
    In my admitedly disorganized and under-informed head I am thinking of a contrast between the Picts and the Welsh, who still have their own language.

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 1st, 2003 at 1:33 am

    Since when do the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD constitute the Stone Age?
    Man, that's like saying the Romans had no modern impact on Italians.
    And there *was* more than oral traditions, we just can't figure it the hell out.
    🙂

  5. vegasjohnny Says:
    October 2nd, 2003 at 7:53 am

    That's the problem with my grasp of history before the 20th century: I can never put events in exactly the right order. Nothing major, not like Napoleon fought off the Romans from a village where the druid made magic strength potion or anything, but I thought the Picts had been absorbed much earlier.
    Probably comes from reading all those Conan stories…

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 2nd, 2003 at 8:01 am

    Yup.
    After all, we're certain that Conan was a Pict, yes?
    🙂

  7. vegasjohnny Says:
    September 30th, 2003 at 8:41 pm

    Also:
    mmmmmmmm…antiquarian bookstore….
    Plus:
    I can't recall the last time I heard or read the word "pedantic". I have to give my brain more things to do.

  8. angledge Says:
    October 1st, 2003 at 3:31 pm

    I love the same feeling of antiquity that permeates this entire city. Perhaps only geologists would appreciate this, but today I found a plaque commerating the location of the former residence of James Hutton (1726-1797), the founder of modern geology. There was a large engraved stone marking the former site of his residence, where he wrote his groundbreaking book, "Theory of the Earth". The plaque was engraved with the following quotation from Hutton: "We find no vestige of a beginning — no prospect of an end." Hutton helped geology to free science from the fetters of Bible-based psuedoscience, right on a spot behind the Centre for Sports and Exercise. It blows my mind.

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