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Friday: April 29, 2005

Hateful and Stupid, Too

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:26 PM GMT-0500

Michelle Malkin quotes some hateful comments from Democratic Underground (no link for them) gloating over Laura Ingraham’s recent breast cancer diagnosis, refusing to join Elizabeth Edwards in praying for her, and in some cases wishing she would die. Some of the troglodytes lurking in the Democratic Underground sound a lot like the narrator of Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, which begins “I am a sick man. . . . I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased.” As I recall, the translation I read in college begins “I am an unpleasant man.”

One of Malkin’s quotations is “I hope she goes into remission and [expletive deleted] chokes to death”. I’m not very clear just who Laura Ingraham is (someone on television?), but I hope she goes into remission, too. Of course, this evil-minded moron is presumably praying for relapse rather than remission, but too stupid to know the difference.

Variations on a Theme

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:14 PM GMT-0500

The first two are well-known, but I’m particularly (perversely?) fond of the third. I ran across it years ago in a four-volume edition of Belloc’s verse, and have been looking for it ever since. The weblogger who calls herself The Rat recently quoted the second poem, which reminded me to look for the third once again. I was delighted to find that it has finally turned up on the web, though I don’t much care for the I Love Poetry site where I found it (too cutesy, even if the snuggly polar bears would make an excellent wedding card for one particular blogger):

I. Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585), from Sonnets pour Hélène:

Quand vous serez bien vieille, au soir, à la chandelle,
Assise aupres du feu, devidant et filant,
Direz, chantant mes vers, en vous esmerveillant:
Ronsard me celebroit du temps que j’estois belle.

Lors, vous n’aurez servante oyant telle nouvelle,
Desja sous le labeur à demy sommeillant,
Qui au bruit de mon nom ne s’aille resveillant,
Benissant vostre nom de louange immortelle.

Je seray sous la terre et fantaume sans os:
Par les ombres myrteux je prendray mon repos:
Vous serez au fouyer une vieille accroupie,

Regrettant mon amour et vostre fier desdain.
Vivez, si m’en croyez, n’attendez à demain:
Cueillez d´s aujourd’huy les roses de la vie.

If you can’t handle 16th-century French, there are English translations here (Humbert Wolfe) and here (Anthony Weir — scroll down past the Albanian stuff).

II. William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), “When you are old”:

When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face among a crowd of stars.

III. Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), “The Fragment”:

Towards the evening of her splendid day
Those who are little children now shall say
(Finding this verse), ‘Who wrote it, Juliet?’
And Juliet answer gently, ‘I forget.’

Thursday: April 28, 2005

Freudian Slip?

Filed under: — site admin @ 5:44 PM GMT-0500

Matthew Yglesias (quoted by Junk Yard Blog), writes (bold emphasis added by me):

I think it’s interesting that social conservative analytic arguments have a very good track record. Racial conservatives argued that abolishing slavery would eventually lead to political equality. Most racial liberal poo-pooed that, but the conservatives were right. And, again, it was said that after political equality, next thing you know some black dude would be marrying your daughter. Poo-poo, again, but again the conservatives were right. You’ve seen much the same thing with sex-and-gender issues. Probably if everyone in the United States circa 1960 had known that taking modest steps in the direction of feminism would, in fact, lead during their lifetimes to the legalization of sodomy, to gay men marrying each other, to a small but growing number of fathers staying home to take care of the kids, to legal abortions, etc., etc., etc. the public woud have overwhelmingly rejected those early steps. But the poo-pooers won the day, the people did not believe, and now majorities support most of those developments, and all signs are that the unpopular cause of gay marriage will grow more popular after some generational turnover.

Not to be too anal (heh!) about this, but the onomatopoeic verb expressing contempt or impatience or belittlement is spelled “pooh-pooh”. “Poo-poo” is what small children call their own less literary productions. Is Yglesias’ subconscious signaling what he really thinks about lying for political advantage? Using (and misusing) the word three times in one paragraph seems excessive, even obsessive. JYB repeats the misspelling, but only once.

By the way, if anyone needs a freelance copy editor, indexer, or proofreader, please e-mail: I am available for large or small jobs.

Friday: April 22, 2005

Naive Question I

Filed under: — site admin @ 3:22 PM GMT-0500

If you’re going to call the new Pope “the Grand Inquisitor” because he once headed the organization long ago known as the Inquisition, shouldn’t you be consistent? Somewhere in Massachusetts (Salem, I guess) there must a judge you can call “Witchburner” because he sits on the same bench long ago occupied by a judge who sentenced witches to be burned at stake. (Probably in other towns, too, though Salem’s witches are the best-known.) And I suppose you could call the current chief judge in Fort Smith, Arkansas “the Hangin’ Judge” as if he were somehow responsible for the deeds of his predecessor, Isaac Parker. But wouldn’t that be an obviously stupid thing to do? Not to mention potentially libelous. (Note to judges in Salem and Fort Smith: I said you could say such a thing, not that I do say it, or ever would.)

Update: (4/27, 1:00 am)

I had a nagging feeling there was something I needed to check before posting: for “Witchburner” read “Witchhanger” (or “Witchstretcher”?), and see the first comment for why.

Thursday: April 21, 2005

A Small Mystery Solved?

Filed under: — site admin @ 1:38 PM GMT-0500

Today’s National Review Online includes an interesting article by John Derbyshire about the great German mathematician Emmy Noether. Derbyshire admits to puzzlement on one point: “Albert Einstein wrote her obituary for the New York Times, though for reasons I don’t know it was printed as a letter to the editor.” Call me cynical, but I’m thinking they might well have been legally obligated to pay him some standard by-the-word rate for a formal obituary, while a letter to the editor would fill space and attract readers at no cost to the Times.

Wednesday: April 20, 2005


Filed under: — site admin @ 7:42 PM GMT-0500

Someone’s been watching too much television. Cut on the Bias refers to “John Cardinal Ratzinger”. Pope Benedict XVI is — or was — Joseph Ratzinger. John Ratzenberger played Cliff Claven on Cheers. I wonder how many others have made the same mistake this week.

How Long Is This Pope Good For?

Filed under: — site admin @ 3:30 PM GMT-0500

Various sites have suggested that a 78-year-old pope is unlikely to be in office for more than 5-6 years, and one hostile comment somewhere gave an “over and under” of 4 years. This U.S. government life tables site (PDF) gives the average remaining life expectancy of a 78-year-old American male as 7.99 years, and the numbers for Germans can’t be much different. Since the data are from 1989-91 and life expectancies have increased in the intervening years, since the Pope has access to the very best medical care, and since this particular pope seems to be in better-than-average physical condition for his age, I would imagine his estimated remaining life-span would be around 10 years, perhaps even 11 or 12. (Even for 78-year-olds, life tables must include a certain percentage of chronic alcoholics, drug addicts, and heavy smokers who haven’t quite succeeded in killing themselves, as well as some already diagnosed with terminal illnesses. These will tend to lower the average.) Of course, nothing is certain, and Benedict XVI could — absit omen! — drop dead next week or still be in office in twenty years. But he is likely to last longer than some of the more pessimistic estimates. (More optimistic, I guess, when they come from Ratzingerphobes.)

Is This Supposed To Be Funny?

Filed under: — site admin @ 2:09 PM GMT-0500

The Classics Today website has useful reviews of classical CDs, but one seems to be entirely fraudulent. I suspect it may soon disappear, so I will reproduce it here — it should be short enough to come under fair use:

The Virtuoso Pianist in 60 Exercises (complete)
Hu F’lhong Dong (piano)
Naxos- 8.414104(CD)
Reference Recording – Reference: Keene (Protone); Mayer (Monarch)

Just when you thought Naxos had left no style or genre of classical piano music unexplored, out comes the first in an ambitious series devoted to “The great Piano Methods, Studies, and Exercises”. What better way to start than with C. L. Hanon’s time-honored five-finger exercises? Hanon is to piano methods as the “Moonlight” Sonata or “Heart and Soul” are to piano literature. Piano students are assigned Hanon from day one, and usually hate it. At first I feared that hearing just one Hanon exercise might trigger a Pavlovian response that causes innocent listeners to slam down the piano lid and refuse to practice ever again. On the other hand, 18-year-old Cambodian pianist Hu F’long Dong’s amazingly even, accent-free, and rock steady finger work should inspire lapsed keyboard practitioners to give the piano another shot. If there’s no particular sense of joy in Dong’s playing, neither is there any drudgery. Constance Keene’s 1959 premiere recording, recently reissued on CD, stresses sheer virtuosity and dynamism, but the dry acoustics of her Manhattan School of Music teaching studio hardly match Naxos’ warm, alluring engineering. And purists still wrinkle their noses at Keene’s concluding each exercise on a prolonged major chord, rather than the single-note unison indicated in the score.

Hanon buffs looking for a more overtly “performance oriented” traversal, as opposed to pedagogical, might try to hunt down a remarkable live recording from the 1999 Mannes College Summer Piano Institute, where Steven Mayer’s whirlwind sprint through the 60 boasts brilliant pedal effects, extreme tempo changes, and thrilling, attention-getting accents. For sonic splendor and “Urtext” accuracy, though, Dong rules alone. With the promise of Idil Biret playing the entire Oscar Berringer Daily Exercises, Konstantin Scherbakov manning Czerny’s complete pedagogical output, and Jeno Jando in Kullak’s The School of Octave Playing Op. 48, Naxos has got the “technique aficionado” market in its proverbial back pocket.

&#151Jed Distler

A Chinese named “Hu Flung Dung” was a character in a very offensive joke I once heard and have since forgotten except for the name. Supposed Cambodian pianist Hu F’long [or F’lhong] Dong seems to be the same person, very lightly disguised. The rest of the names, from the composer Hanon and publisher Naxos through the lists of schools and artists to the reviewer, seem to be real, but who can be sure? I wonder what they think of being included in this little squib. I also wonder whether Naxos has gotten any orders for this disc.

The Two-Year Itch?

Filed under: — site admin @ 1:27 PM GMT-0500

In National Review Online, Michael Ledeen plausibly argues that the regimes of Iran, North Korea, and China are near collapse. I certainly hope he’s right. Along the way, he notes that China has encouraged its citizens to blow off steam rioting against foreign governments “May, 1999, after the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, April, 2001, after the collision with a U.S. reconnaissance plane with a Chinese fighter, and March, 2003, against the liberation of Iraq”, and of course right now, ostensibly against Japanese historical revisionism. The dates are interesting: it almost looks like these riots are scheduled for every other Spring. As I recall, ancient Greek cities had Bacchic revels at similar intervals: every two years the women would run off into the hills and run berserk for a few days performing the secret rites of Dionysus. Is two years as long as an oppressed nation or gender can go without at least temporary release? If the rulers of China make it through the next few months, are they safe until 2007?

Sunday: April 3, 2005

Two Footnotes

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:01 PM GMT-0500

I always have a mild urge to call them ‘feetnotes’ . . . .

Two things that surprised me about Der Rosenkavalier at the Met yesterday:

1. I don’t think I’d ever heard a non-ironic non-metaphorical use of the word ‘lackey’ before, but the Met’s surtitles used the word dozens of times. Perhaps they use an archaic translation? If so, how to explain the first verb in this passage:

“Lerchenau’s men are stoned on brandy. They’re molesting our maids worse than Turks or Croatians. Fetch the lackeys!”

Any translation that uses both ‘stoned’ (except in reference to collective punishment) and ‘lackeys’ is having trouble maintaining a consistent stylistic register.

By the way, I wonder how long before the unapologetic ethnic slurs in some operas cause trouble. As I recall, the other Strauss’s Die Fledermaus mocks gypsies and Hungarians as well as lawyers, stutterers, and a couple of other groups I’ve forgotten. Not Jews, though, unless my memory deceives me, which is a pleasant surprise, now that I think about it — perhaps Johann thought that had been overdone.

2. No one else laughed when the three orphan girls begging for charity from the Marschallin sang

&#147Father fell on the field of honor. Following him is our goal.”

Am I wrong in seeing a mildly obscene pun? Surely a woman in 1911 could only ‘fall’ on the field of ‘honor’ by engaging in premarital sex. I suppose I should check the German text, but I’m guessing that the metaphor of ‘fallen woman’ and the restriction of ‘honor’ in women to chastity transcended linguistic boundaries.

Friday: April 1, 2005

Long Before BlogSpot . . . .

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:20 AM GMT-0500

A book I’m indexing reports that the 19th century mathematician Augustin-Louis Cauchy was so prolific that he sometimes published papers at the rate of two per week. When the editors of his favorite journal imposed a quota, he persuaded a family member to create a new journal containing nothing but his own work. The book does not give the name of the journal, which is annoying but leaves room for plausible conjecture. How about Cauchiana ? Revue de Cauchy ? Études Cauchiennes ? Le contenu, c’est moi ? Moi, moi, moi ? Of course, today he wouldn’t need a family member in publishing, he could just start up Cauchyblog.

Update: (April 5, 9:34 PM)

As my brother the engineer explains in the comments, the first journal, the weekly Comptes rendus of the French Academy of Sciences, did not ban Cauchy, just imposed a four-page limit on articles, when his sometimes ran to hundreds of pages. Another site (I’ve already forgotten which) says that the limit is still in force today. I have been unable to find on the web what his supposed family journal was titled. Perhaps an urban legend? This site reports that Cauchy liked to take credit for the ideas of others, who called him ‘cochon’ (pig). They do not observe that ‘cochon’ is also a pun on Cauchy’s similar-sounding name.