Thursday, May 31, 2007


Came across a blog which appeared at first glance to include the line 'In the morning my father had his usual breakfast of warm cats.'

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Romantic pianists revisited

David writes

I did like reading that account on your blog - of course, for me Herrmann's score for Vertigo is unforgettable, because it is my favourite film AND the music is very blatantly written in homage to Tristan.  But I liked even more your friend's description of Louis Lortie and his various conversations about pianists.  It illustrates what I think I've said to you before, about how a person who is a trained performer experiences music in a way that people like me simply cannot (I think I discussed this when I went to a piano concert with Sally and Jeremy).  And I really must try to hear some Ades - I somehow keep missing concerts where he is on the programme, but I've heard so many wonderful things about him.  I had no idea he was Jewish.

Meanwhile I had written to Hassan

It would be splendid if you reached the stage where you felt you could put yourself forward for a masterclass.

This is the stuff dreams are made of. In truth, I only started playing when I got here, and according to your link on expert performance, I have 6 years left to go... Although, there was this very cool moment last summer that warms me up. I left my shades in a performance room earlier and came back to get it, but decided to start mucking around on the piano instead of leaving. A chap walks in and strolls around the room. I finish as far as I could get on Liszt's Un Sospiro, and ask if there's a class happening. He says, no, no, keep playing, so I play a la maniere de Borodine. He correctly identifies the piece as Ravel, but forgets which one. He tells me he composed something based off of the end of Ondine, and plays a bit of it for me, and that's when I learn he's a visiting professor assisting with a course for the summer. We talk about Ravel, and I mention that he's my second favorite composer (at the time), and who's my first, Rachmaninoff, and I launch into his (very overplayed) C# minor prelude. I go frenetic with the descending thirds at the end and give those fff chords at the bottom my entire body weight.

Well, when done he praises my playing. Dangerous words, they could give me fatal hubris, but the gist is he hasn't heard playing with that much emotion in many years, and that it's all gone nowadays. We talk a bit about how much I agree with him, and then he asks if I'd be interested in working with him, playing his compositions and whatnot. I say I would love to, and he takes my e-mail and phone number down.

This is one that I have kept in touch with, and I send him the odd e-mail
from time to time and I get alphabet soup messages back. I looked him up,
and he does happen to know some French chap called Boulez fairly well, in fact, he wrote a book about discussions they had on music.


Well, what can I say? I think of a colleague of Boulez's wandering into a practice room on the West Coast and being thrilled by a young pianist who explains that his favourite composer is Rachmaninov. How is it not possible to love this?

(OK, maybe the discussions were along the lines of : Look, Pierre, why can't you just write like Rachmaninov? )

moments before the midnight to dawn

Many bad developments. E-mails the only good thing. Here's one from IG, who always makes me laugh.

May 25 2007

On the way back from an interview with Australian Associated Press a junkie in navy shirt and army grey, white and black camouflage pants got on at Strathfield station then in a laconic nasal drawl started telling the whole train carriage 'never buy New Balance shoes'.
As the only one who paid attention to his podiatric outburst I stoically suggested his crisp white pair were still too new for such assertions and to give his New Balance some time before such harsh brand judgements. But he disagreed and said: 'Nah, I had a fucking pair of Asics before and they were fucking much better.'
We began chatting across the carriage and he told me the NSW Department of Community Services had recently taken away his three young girls cause his girlfriend had mental problems and he had been in jail for six months after being caught carrying a screw driver police believed he intended to use for breaking in to cars.
‘I’m not into break and enter or thieving from cars,’ he said.
I asked if he had 'previous' criminal convictions and he said only for alcohol related stuff when he was young and I told him I noticed the 'O U T L A W' poorly tattooed into his form arm in faded ink dots. It was also here where I noticed bruises and scabs around veins in the inside of his elbow.
'Yeah, fucking drunk mate, fucking drink.’
'Life's demon,' I said.
'I can lose my place so fucking easily. Things just seem to get fucking worse for me.'
I asked if he had dependencies and he knew what I meant and said: ‘Yeah but it’s under control, what’s harder is leaving my girlfriend. I moved from the country, up near the Queensland border, came to Sydney five years ago because of her and it’s been trouble ever since. Fucking relationships.’
He said his dependencies were more so for the women in his life and how he couldn't walk away from his girlfriend and how it was a rocky road and his Dad never told him he could do anything and family weren’t interested when his kids were in trouble and how he wanted to work but was unemployed and even when he asked some late night road workers how to get a job controlling traffic the foreman told him to piss off cause he was a ‘little guy that couldn’t do much work’. He would love to get a job but never found what it was he wanted to do.
'What you do?' he asked.
'I am a journalist' I said in a charcoal suit and thin black white dotted tie.
'You need a degree for that?'
'You didn't use to, was like a trade in the old days, all in with the printers in the same building, apprentices started when they were 15, maybe begin as copy boy then become a cadet then one day a journalist, but these days yeap, you need a degree. Sometimes two.'
He continued to chat ambivalently as the rest of the carriage recoiled in fear that they may be addressed and suddenly an old man reading in the corner, who I spied had cyrillic text down his book's spine began blurting out something aloud in Russian.
'What mate?' the junkie asked earnestly.
The confused man, shook his head and apologised and said ‘nothing, no no’ and it took an uncomfortable moment for us three to regain the composure of before reforming from this slippage that rocked with the carriages jolting along the rail track rattle.
Bemused by this irruption, in Russian I asked if the man was Russian and he greedily said ‘Da’ and I told him I could speak a little Russian and my father was Russian born in China... This older man put down his book in an animated scree of excitement and ruffled through his bag. I noticed it was Redfern station and my Junkie friend got off and said 'see you later', I told him 'good luck' and he disappeared onto the platform.
This was actually my stop to get back to Newtown but I decided to stay one more with my new Russian friend going to the next stop: Central station.
There was something about this Slavic train encounter because earlier in the morning when buying newspapers to read and study for my job interview I noticed the man behind me was buying a Russian newspaper and it reminded me of where I want to be one day and what I want to be doing regardless of how tragic a task it was to have these impulses- difficult too for this glacier would come after traversing first two books I'd embarked on and the other Your Name Here book project with DeWitt that the had re-emerged as a possibility with a recent telephone conversation from NY from a literary agent who used a lot of sea storm metaphors regarding what needed to be done.
The train headed towards Central and the older man invited me over to sit next to him and his woolly beard. On the seat his travel luggage case that had seen a lot of travel but not necessarily through airports separated us but seemed full of sorts of papers and surprises. He ruffled through it for a pen and we did chat away in bad patois English Russian and from the tiny vocabulary I had had of Russian words, a month learning in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan, every word I once knew seemed replaced with German and this pidgin ridiculous speak warmed my knew friend who admitted his English was a good as my Russian.
He introduced himself and gave me his thin card that displayed: Valentin Shkolny
Professional photographer and Artist.

I pulled out from my pocket the recent find of Yevgenny Yevtushenko's epic Soviet poem 'Bratsk Station' , Perhaps this bok was part of my recent Russian arousals and he smiled with one eye shut the other peering at the cover and said: 'Bratsk Station. Horosho, horosho, good good.'
I told him I was a journalist and opened up my portfolio case and showed him my name and some stories I'd done and he told me he was a Ukrainan Moscovite who moved to Australia ten years ago. He was a photographer and artist and has work in the Australian National Gallery and had taken portraits of first man in space, Uri Gagarin, at home. As well he said books of photos on Sydney.
We got off at Central and he is excitedly speaking in Russian way too fast and I feel a cruel dupe for I only know a little Russian but he invited me to his home and studio.
'Interesno?' he asked on the platform
'ochen intersno,' I said eagerly.
'Neit, ya, rabotiu gazetta,'
'I telephone' I said making a 'telephone shape' with my hand while showing him my mobile phone.
'Ok,' he smiled again.
I told him in Russian I worked at the Gazetta this weekend but would call him and would love to visit his studio and we would help each other with language.
I was excited and felt the interviews all went well, both for the job and with these strangers, so I decided to treat myself to sushi at an empty sushi train restaurant in Newtown.
When I got home I rang the Managing Editor at the Daily Telegraph, were I work on the weekends , thinking the AAP interview would give me leverage for a proper job but he told me despite being a top consideration for a recent job at his paper (as a gossip columnist) and doing extremely well and impressing everyone with a good reputation, if I was offered the AAP job I should take it, there was nothing for me at the Telegraph, oh and the AAP editor had rung for a chat and he had told him good things, so good luck.
I hung up and I thought of moving to Siberia.

But it will be reported

Johanna has come to my rescue with T-Com. She went to a T-Punkt and asked about my phone. I have not, it seems, cancelled my account in a moment of unjustified faith in my ability to deal with German bureaucracy. They did something or other about the reported Störung on the 18th; now they are on strike. They MAY do something next week, but they are not making any promises.


Friday, May 25, 2007

The Last of the Romantic Pianists - Another Chance Encounter

Hassan has sent this account, which I love, of a chance encounter which led to his meeting Louis Lortie:

So it's really not all that much... In April I attended a recital by Louis Lortie, who was playing a programme of Liszt, Chopin and Thomas Adès at the Dinkelspiel Recital hall on campus. The first piece he played was Liszt's transcription to the overture to Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser. I hadn't heard it at the time, but he played it like a god, and I enjoyed it very much. He had this uncanny ability to make the attack and decay of adjacent notes melt away leaving a fluid singing line floating above the other notes. I don't think I exaggerate when I say I'd never heard that effect before. Anyway, he finished, got up to enthusiastic applause, bowed and went away. I had managed to get a seat up in front, but it was way off to the side. So it really wasn't much of a view from there, one could only see his back, elbows and maybe a bit of finger if you're lucky. Someone from my aisle probably thought the same thing and left to take a seat up front in the center. Lortie came back onstage and played Adès' Traced Overhead. Love that piece; it kind of sounds like air bubbles leaving sinking debris from a shipwreck. More applause and he goes offstage. He comes on again. Before it's too late, I also switch seats and end up sitting beside the man who did so before me. Lortie waits for me and then plays Adès' Darknesse Visible and Lizst's Vallee d'Obermann. He's done, lights come on, and now it's time for intermission.

"What did you think?" I ask the man. "Oh marvelous playing. No one has that kind of sound anymore. It's a lost art". I disagree, saying I find his kind of luminous tone similar to Grigory Sokolov's. Sokolov? he asks. Yeah, and we talk about Sokolov for a bit. He seems to know his stuff, so I ask if he plays piano. He tells me that he used to be professional pianist, played concerts, did the touring thing, but now he's retired and only plays at private recitals. We leave the concert hall, still chatting. I run into a friend and he says he'll be outside and we can talk more if I like. I join him outside the lobby after a bit, where he's lighting up a cigarette.

"Oh you smoke?" He nods, exhales. Offers me a cigarette. "These are some of the best cigarettes in the world." Tells me he got them from Belgium. He give me a light. No joke, they were really good. So good I could make this a story about how a random encounter can lead you to your best cigarette ever, not about how you meet people that offer you shortcuts to Louis Lortie masterclasses in Europe, but I should remain focused. We chat for a bit, and I learn that he's the director of the La Jolla piano institute. Strongly believes that good tone is the key to proper piano technique, I differ that dynamic control is, but he insists. We go on to talk about the golden age of piano, Chopin's style of teaching tone production, and how it's dying out. One of his teachers descended from the line of Chopin piano students. I mention that Alkan took over Chopin's students after Chopin died, and this is new to him. I tell him about my plans (dreams really) of applying to Juilliard's master's program in piano sometime after I graduate. Tells me he has two sons doing so already, but adds, "If you really want proper technique, you should attend one of Louis' classes. He's got the real thing. He teaches masterclasses, and he does one once a year in Italy. You should contact Louis' manager, [the name of Lortie's manager, I forget] and attend one of these masterclasses." Wow.

We keep going until the intermission bell is rung, where we then enter the hall and take our seats again. Lortie comes on and plays Chopin's Nocturne No. 17 and his Sonata No. 3 with no break in between. Tumultous applause when he's done. He comes back on, and plays a Chopin étude for an encore, I don't know what number. My friend asks me if I'd like to meet Lortie backstage, and of course I say yes. Following his assertive lead backstage, we get rebuffed by security. My friend insists that Lortie's expecting him, security insists that he can't go any further, and defiant, he returns with me to the hall. He's telling me that the secret to good tone is light touch when finally Lortie appears in casual wear. He apologizes for keeping us waiting, and tells us that he accidentally locked himself in his dresser. In bad French my friend speaks complementary of me ("Il est très interessé!"), and they talk a little bit about Adès' Jewish origins that he apparently Adès' rarely admits to. Lortie has to go, so does my friend. I scrawl his contact info on my programme (now lost!) and leave.

Voila! And there we have it.

ps: Oh, feel free to edit any of this however you like...

pps - an apology:

I fear I might have exaggerated a little. Is my friend technically one of the last few Romantic pianists? I guess it depends on how you define the term. It usually refers to the early 20th century pianists particularly the famous ones, and Horowitz was viewed as the last of that generation, so technically, there are probably no more now. People claim Kissin's one, but other than his repertoire choice, I think it's a misnomer. That free-flowing, interpretive style in exchange for an odd flub or two manner of playing has been out for a while, note-perfect performances with minimalistic box-step rubato (if any at all) is in. But I guess, either way my friend was roughly between 60 or 70, and he had a very old-fashioned set of pianistic priorities. So a qualified yes for either way of looking at it probably sums up to an overall yes. But you decide...

[WOW. I wouldn't have thought of Kissin in those terms, no. I heard him once in Berlin. If there was anyone in the audience who hadn't noticed that the piano is a percussive instrument, the penny must have dropped two minutes into the programme.]


If you're wondering how it all ended up, I still haven't gotten in touch with my friend, even though a bit of internet sleuthing should clinch me his contact info. At some point I will, but I don't think I'm ready for a Louis Lortie masterclass yet though it'd still be nice to follow up on our conversation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Salt & Vinegar Crisps at Yorckschloßchen

The phone line is still down. I may have inadvertently terminated my account with Deutsche Telekom.
Went to Yorckschloßchen, the jazz café on the corner, which has free W-LAN.
A man comes over and starts asking me about my Mac. His German is excellent but it sounds to me as though it has the accent of an English speaker. I ask if he speaks English; he says he is American.
He is asking about the new dual-core processor on Macs; he says he used to have a Mac but we live in a Windows world, but he has heard that on the new Macs you could run Windows programs and there is nothing like a Mac. I say mine can’t do that. I says I used a Mac because it was good for multilingual word processing.
He says his name is Alexander Frey (pronounced Fry); that he is a conductor. He has lived in Berlin for 16 years. He used to live in LA. He said of all the major cities in the world this was the one he would choose to live in. If he couldn’t live in Berlin he would pick Vienna -- it’s smaller, but the music is incredible.
He says: If you go to the cemetery in Vienna you see these graves in a row. Side by side. Beethoven. Brahms. Schubert.
I try to take this in. I am thinking of what Beethoven did when he had command of a body. I’m thinking of what Brahms did when he had command of a body. I’m thinking of what Schubert did when he had command of a body. Now there are 3 skeletons in boxes. Frey names some more names. He says: And there is one composer who is not buried in that row, he insisted on having a grave in a separate place, and instead of a grand moss-covered mausoleum he has (but now I forgot how this grave was described, I think it was) a single cube with a line going through it -- that is Arnold Schoenberg. Schoenberg spent the end of his live in LA, but he chose to be buried in Vienna.
I find this terribly moving. My contribution to the conversation at this point (and for most of what follows) is WOW. (WOW was also my response to the graves of Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert.)
Frey says Schoenberg changed his mind about tonality. He goes on to talk about pupils of Schoenberg who wrote film scores. He says he is about to go to Mexico City to conduct Verklärte Nacht, and in the programme he is also including Bernard Hermann’s score for Vertigo and Waxman’s score for Jekyll and Hyde. WOW. I remember nothing about the soundtrack for Vertigo but Frey starts singing examples, WOW.
He starts telling stories about Korngold, a composer of extraordinary precocity. Korngold was brought to Hollywood by Max Reinhardt. When he had finished the work Reinhardt had asked him to do Warner Brothers asked him to stay on as head of music, but he said No, he couldn’t do that, he had too many projects he had to see through in Europe, he had to get back. Jack Warner kept asking him to stay and he kept saying No. He booked a ticket on a ship back to Europe and Warner secretly booked a ticket on the same ship; as the ship crossed the Atlantic Warner kept begging him to change his mind and Korngold kept saying No. Then news came to the ship by radio that the Germans had entered Austria. Korngold and Warner, both Jews, were sitting in a room together when the news was announced. Korngold looked at Warner and said: I’ll sign.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

No blog complete without somebody's pet

IG is about to take his turn in talks about talks. Expresses concern over the declining cuteness of Knut. Meanwhile sends pictures.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Continent Cut Off

Phone line dead. Deutsche Telekom is on strike. Wir sind für Sie da.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

G and G


we don’t like to be contaminated by art that’s what we always say so that’s why we always, we don’t go to shows any more we don’t go to museums any more we don’t talk to artists any more we just are completely naked in front of the world


the history of Western art has been written by the male chequebook


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Rashomon & Robocop

St John the Baptist is the patron saint of blogs. He wandered up and down the land preaching and baptising and saying that one would come later who was greater than he. Often portrayed with a finger pointing offstage. The one who came later also preached and pointed offstage. Link link link. Blog envy has been with us for millennia.

I was thinking of a new scheme to get information about editors when I was distracted. I'd filled the electric kettle and found myself filing it in the fridge. (But I was thinking of a plan To dye one's whiskers green And always use so large a fan That they could not be seen...) I returned to the scheme and found myself checking out TAR ART RAT, who had a link to the blog of a friend who has gone to Ladakh to install solar panels, and the friend had a post about renting a pirate DVD of Robocop and watching it on his laptop

For those who have not seen Robocop, I would merely like to comment that it is far deeper than surface interpretations allow. The director utilizes faux propganda in a way that comments on the totalitarian nature of the medium, while simultaneously using it as a narrative tool to establish a dystopian future hell paved with good intentions. Plus, it has cool stop motion robot animation! Unfortunately, and much to our extreme annoyance, some malfunction of the pirating process omitted random frames from the video while leaving the audio intact

You can go directly to the post here or follow the ethertrail via TAR ART RAT here or stick around for the scheme, which is living proof that I have a mind of my own, albeit one that appears to be operating within a severed head. Somebody somewhere did the dance of the seven veils. Hint from Heloise: Putting the kettle in the fridge is not the fast track to iced coffee. Martha Stewart: It's a bad thing.

Time to start a new post.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Manon at Staatsoper -- Free if you like open-air opera on a giant screen

The newsletter of Staatsoper Unter den Linden has just arrived. The May 19 performance of Massenet's Manon (now sold out) will be projected live onto a giant screen at Bebelplatz in an open-air extravaganza. Festival starts at 6pm, opera at 7, Saturday, May 19, admission free.

A photo gallery of Vincent Patterson's production, which premiered April 29, can be seen here.

If you'd like to be on the mailing list for the newsletter, click here.
Liebe Besucherinnen und Besucher,
der 19. Mai - und damit das Opern-Highlight dieser Saison - rückt immer näher: die ausverkaufte Vorstellung von Jules Massenets MANON, die am 29. April in der Inszenierung von Vincent Paterson ihre Premiere hatte, wird live auf den Bebelplatz übertragen. Daniel Barenboim dirigiert die Staatskapelle Berlin. Hier erfahren Sie den genauen Ablauf dieses großen Opernfestes.

staatsoper für alle
Unter der Schirmherrschaft von Klaus Wowereit, Regierender Bürgermeister
von Berlin
VIDEO mit Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón, Alfredo Daza u. a.
Freuen Sie sich auf Anna Netrebko und Rolando Villazón am 19. Mai auf dem Bebelplatz! Das Traumpaar der Oper ist unter der musikalischen Leitung von Daniel Barenboim in Jules Massenets Oper manon zu erleben.

Die Staatsoper Unter den Linden und die BMW Niederlassung Berlin laden Sie ein, das besondere Openair-Ereignis bei einer Live-Übertragung auf 70 qm Großbildleinwand zu feiern. Es erwartet Sie ein Opernfest für alle Sinne mit Überraschungen, Gastronomie und der Anwesenheit aller Stars. Alfred Biolek wird Sie ab 18:50 Uhr in die Handlung der Oper einweihen und Sie durch das Programm führen.

Eine große Tombola mit außergewöhnlichen Preisen wird für Spannung sorgen und einem guten Zweck dienen: Gewinnen Sie Wochenenden im Luxus, Oper mit VIP-Shuttle, eine Komparsenrolle und vieles mehr - und unterstützen Sie dabei die Sanierung der Staatsoper Unter den Linden! Glücksfee für Sie sind die Künstler des Abends persönlich, die nach der Aufführung auf den Bebelplatz kommen und die Preise verlosen werden.
Samstag, 19. Mai auf dem Bebelplatz, Beginn des Festes 18:00 Uhr, Beginn der Live-Übertragung 19:00 Uhr, Eintritt frei

Art / Show Me the Money

Getzels and Csikszentmihaly (1976) found that most artists were drawn to painting because it allowed social isolation. However, aspiring painters have to promote social relations with art critics, art dealers and buyers to gain notoriety, increase the demand for their art and generate sufficient sales for full-time artistic activity. Failure to do so forced many of the best artists to take another job unrelated to painting.
From "The Role of Deliberate Practice" in The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (link to PDF file at Freakonomics review). The reference is to The creative vision: a longitudinal study of problem finding in art, by J.W. Getzels and M. Csikszentmihaly (must find this book).

Fix your mom's computer for Mother's Day

This Sunday is Mother's Day. Why not fix your mom's computer?

Fog Creek is offering a Mother's Day special on Copilot, a free one-day pass on Sunday, 13 May enabling you to take over your mother's computer from a remote site and bring the machine up to a Martha Stewart standard of computer housekeeping. More about the deal here.

If you'd like to take over someone else's computer Fog Creek will probably not be taking DNA samples ("No questions asked," is the key phrase), so you do not need to send Joel a heartrending account of your days in the orphanage ("I never knew my mother, Joel. Never knew my father. I'm alone in the world.") -- you can bring joy to someone else whose computer is infested with adware, spyware and who knows what other vermin. A similar offer will be available on Father's Day (17 June); again, DNA samples are unlikely to be required, so you will not need to explain that Scott is more than just a typesetter, he's the only family you have, or that your real father never loved you, your doctoral supervisor was the first person to take an interest in what you were like as a human being --

If your mother's computer has been driving her (or you) crazy, this is a good chance to fix it. If she likes it just the way it is, but you want to have fun with Copilot on somebody else's pc, well, how often has your mother said: I just want you to be happy? If playing with Copilot will make you happy, isn't that the best present you can give her? (If I were Ilya's mother, having extremely fabulous Mr Ilya fix somebody else's computer with the extremely fabulous Copilot would be the best present he could give me short of a world cruise on the QEII.)

Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Gilbert & George

Back in the echo chamber. TAR ART RAT found a BBC download of a new work by Gilbert and George, available for 2 days only here.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Joel Spolsky & T S Eliot

Came across an interview of Joel Spolsky on Scoble about a month after the event. Spolsky runs Fog Creek Software, which produces Fogbugz, a program for debugging software, and Copilot, a program that allows you to give tech support by taking over someone's computer and working on it from a remote location.

Copilot works even if both parties are behind firewalls, and it allows for Mac-Windows remote assistance as well as Mac-Mac and Windows-Windows. This means, I think, that it could save publishers from problems like this:

Mr. Eliot's Sunday Morning Service, 2nd stanza, first from Bartleby's with some Greek in the Greek alphabet--

In the beginning was the Word. 5
Superfetation of τὸ ἒν,
And at the mensual turn of time
Produced enervate Origen.

then with the Greek transliterated, from Representative Poetry Online, a poetry site run by the University of Toronto--

5 In the beginning was the Word.
6 Superfetation of to en,
7 And at the mensual turn of time
8 Produced enervate Origen.

The Toronto site adds the helpful comment: Eliot's Greek letters are transliterated and italicized in this edition. The Greek words mean: "the One."

We-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-l-l-l-l-l. Up to a point.

The sound that in English is normally represented by h does not have a letter in ancient Greek. It's written as a fiddly little inward-curving hook above the vowel. Any word that begins with an aspirated vowel (a rough breathing) will have this fiddly hook above the letter. Sadly for the modern typesetter, any word that begins with an unaspirated vowel also has a fiddly little hook -- a fiddly little hook facing the other way.

So if we were writing English words in the Greek alphabet, they'd look like this:

You'll notice just how big the Greek has to be for the direction of the hook to be clear. (Note also that the breathing goes over the second vowel of a two-vowel syllable.) And a syllable may also bear an accent:

The feminine singular of 'one' is μία, and the neuter singular is either

before another word, or

at the end of a sense unit, usually indicated by a punctuation mark.

Long story short, the Greek for 'the One' is either τὸ ἕν or τὸ ἓν, which should be transliterated as, yes, you guessed it, to hen. If the comma at the end of the line is correct, both the accent and the breathing are wrong. And, to get back to extremely fabulous Mr Spolsky, if the typesetter had had a Hellenist with Copilot at the other end of the line, the word could have been printed right for the princely sum of $4.95, and we would not have had misinformation disseminated to millions of Internet users, to the effect that 'to en' is Greek for 'the One'.

It would be silly for a production manager to trawl the pool of typesetters for one who happened to know Greek because a text happened to include a couple of words in Greek. It would not be silly to lay out $4.95 to get someone competent in the language to input the couple of words. The alternative is for the hapless typesetter to have a bash and then fax the page through to the author for proofreading. The fiddly bits that are hardest to get right are precisely the bits that will be illegible in a fax. Copilot, thou shouldst have been living at that hour.

Information on Copilot is available at

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Silence of Lovecraft

As to letters, my case is peculiar. I write such things exactly as easily and as rapidly as I would utter the same topics in conversation; indeed, epistolary expression is with me largely replacing conversation, as my condition of nervous prostration becomes more and more acute. I cannot bear to talk much now, and am becoming as silent as the Spectator himself! My loquacity extends itself on paper.

H.P. Lovecraft to Rheinhart Kleiner, 23 December 1917

Philosophers and Psychologists

I was once a Junior Lecturer in Classics at St Hilda's College, Oxford. One day the philosophy tutor, Kathy Wilkes, came back to lunch after a meeting at which philosophers and psychologists had tried to do business. Wilkes, maddened, explained the difference between a philosopher and a psychologist.

A philosopher, she said, will say: 'X is COMPLETELY WRONG! I disagree UTTERLY! ABSOLUTELY! CATEGORICALLY! X has failed to grasp the FUNDAMENTAL point at issue, which is . . . ' and will then proceed to restate the original position with some minor adjustment.

A psychologist, on the other hand, speaks as follows. 'I couldn't agree with X more. I think X has captured what all of us are thinking, X has made a vital contribution to the discussion, I really have nothing to add, I'd just like to enhance what X has said . . . ' and proceeds to set out a position diametrically opposite to that of X.

Wilkes died in 2003. (An obituary can be seen here.) I was thinking of her today when I contemplated the 22 posts in the Drafts Folder of this blog. The 25th is the third anniversary of my last suicide attempt; I've been trying to work out how to tackle the subject of suicide, which I wanted to have a blog of its own, Tender Only to One. I ran a search on Google for 'suicide' and the first 100 hits were sites that seemed to be run by persons of a psychologistical disposition.

Prolonged psychologist-exposure drives philosophers insane. The advice available online does not tell philosophers how to survive all the psychologists who agree with them on every particular. It does not point the philosopher in the direction of professions that are relatively psychologist-free. It encourages psychologists in their worst habits.

So there probably is a need for a blog for suicidal philosophers. It's important to know you're not alone. Among the throngs of people who are in perfect agreement with you and merely want to enhance what you say, there are hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions who think you are WRONG, you've COMPLETELY missed the POINT, who disagree with you UTTERLY, ABSOLUTELY, CATEGORICALLY.