Saturday, February 26, 2005

Bowdler in Paris; tsk, tsk, tsk

This is for Nick, since he's taking a course in Shakespeare this spring. The Sunday Times has a review of a new book on the French reaction to Shakespeare's plays, over the centuries. Apprently, he greatly offended delicate sensibilities. For example, the reviewer says of Voltaire that "he went to his grave believing Shakespeare had offered 'a few pearls in an enormous dungheap'." Here is the Pricenoia link for the book. Here's a citation and some extracts:

The Sunday Times - Books
February 20, 2005
Literature: Shakespeare Goes to Paris by John Pemble REVIEWED BY SEBASTIAN FAULKS
SHAKESPEARE GOES TO PARIS: How the Bard Conquered France
by John Pemble
Hambledon and London £19.99 pp240


The French classical theatre ... [was] well adapted, in Racine’s hands, to the expression of noble sentiments, but prone to tinkly repetition and inhospitable to rough passion.

Then came this Englishman — a Caliban from the island of fog and bad food, whose pious and practical people enjoyed violent entertainments and bouts of introspection punctuated by sea voyages to plunder other countries.... Voltaire, who did so much to bring England to the French, is the key figure in this story, and he went to his grave believing Shakespeare had offered “a few pearls in an enormous dungheap”. He hated the pantomime that accompanied performance, the blank verse with emotion surging through the enjambement, the common characters, and the language where metaphor and association seem to breed without control. ...

Shakespeare was dragooned into the classical alexandrine... As late as 1904, when King Lear was staged for the first time in Paris, Kent’s lines at the height of the storm, “The tyranny of the open night’s too rough / For nature to endure” became “Il n’est pas possible de rester plus longtemps dehors.” ...

The French language was admirably suited to philosophy and logic, but not really to poetry, as Shakespeare was starting to demonstrate. His English verse, by contrast, had not only reached the rabble; it had helped define their sense of nationality. He had invented Englishness. Such an idea was incomprehensible in France, where a writer was not an “inventor”, but the sum or epitome of what had gone before....

Successive 19th-century translators not only gentrified the diction, they rewrote the plots. The ghost of Hamlet’s father returned in the final scene and told him to survive; Malcolm took republican vows; Romeo and Juliet lived happily ever after.
Here'a a pointer to Thomas Bowdler and his Family Shakespeare, if you're interested.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Well, why not the OED?

This is another followup to my post on the word well. As you'd expect, the OED, Christopher Ricks' favorite reference work, has much to say about the word well. Here are just few interesting examples:

Used to denote a state of good fortune, welfare, or happiness:
1310 in Wright Lyric P. xviii. 59
Suete Jhesu, wel may him be, That the may in blisse se!
1400 Destr. Troy 477 Well were that woman might weld hym for euer.
1489 CAXTON Sonnes of Aymon xxiv. 528
Now wold I be well in my ship in the myddes of the see, for if I abyde him, he shall make an ende of me.

Used to denote a person in favour, in good standing or estimation, on good terms, with (another person).
c1450 Godstow Reg. 26
She was fayre and comly, and well was with the kyng almyhty.

On terms of intimate friendship or familiarity with (a woman).
1784 R. BAGE Barham Downs I. 91
You must know Sir, I have the honour to be well with Mrs. Gadbury, Lady Conollan's woman.

Pleased or satisfied with (oneself). Also well to do.
1865 'ANNIE THOMAS' On Guard I. iv. 61
His horses..rattled over the a rate he would not have driven them had he been well with himself just then.

In a state of prosperity or affluence; more explicitly well in goods or cash, well in the world.
1606 DEKKER Sev. Sinnes v. (Arb.) 36
Richmens sonnes that were left well, and had more money giuen by will, then they had wit how to bestow it.

Well and warm: in comfortable and affluent circumstances.
571 CAMPION Hist. Irel. II. ix. (1633) 114
But you are well and warme and so hold you.

Favourably circumstanced; having things as one wishes them to be.
1440 Partonope 5281
When wymmen be well they can not cese.
1598 SHAKES. Merry W. I. i. 278
An. Wil't please your worship to come in, Sir? Sl. No, I thank you forsooth, hartely; I am very well.

Well in Shakespeare

This is another takeoff from the posting below on the word well in David Crystals The Stories of English.

The Shakespeare section of the rhymezone site lets you find instances of well (and any other word) in his works. Here are a couple of interesting findings, in addition to the examples that David Crystal gives and to the one from Hamlet I quoted in the post on well in the blues.

The Tempest
SEBASTIAN: Thou dost snore distinctly;
There's meaning in thy snores.

ANTONIO: I am more serious than my custom: you
Must be so too, if heed me; which to do
Trebles thee o'er.

SEBASTIAN: Well, I am standing water.

ANTONIO: I'll teach you how to flow.

SEBASTIAN: Do so: to ebb
Hereditary sloth instructs me.

If you but knew how you the purpose cherish
Whiles thus you mock it! how, in stripping it,
You more invest it! Ebbing men, indeed,
Most often do so near the bottom run
By their own fear or sloth.

Troilus & Cressida
CRESSIDA: There is among the Greeks Achilles, a better man than Troilus.

PANDARUS: Achilles! a drayman, a porter, a very camel.

CRESSIDA: Well, well.

PANDARUS: 'Well, well!' why, have you any discretion? have
you any eyes? Do you know what a man is? Is not
birth, beauty, good shape, discourse, manhood,
learning, gentleness, virtue, youth, liberality,
and such like, the spice and salt that season a man?

CRESSIDA: Ay, a minced man: and then to be baked with no date
in the pie, for then the man's date's out.

Just "Well, Well, Well"

Here's some more about the word well. My main posting on this topic is the extract from the book by David Crystal below. Thinking about Crystal's discussion of well in Middle- and Early Modern English, I wondered how Christopher Ricks would treat the topic and that led me to think about one of Ricks' passions, the lyrics of Bob Dylan. Hardly surprising that Dylan has used well extensively. It's an attrative word for song writers: lots of grammatic uses, amenable to interesting ambiguities of meaning, and, probably most important it's a sound that works well in song as well as poetry.

I limited myself to occurances of the phrase "well, well, well" because that's something you can search without getting overwhelmed by results and because it's just an interesting phrase.

Here's one part of Dylan's song, Well, Well, Well. Dylan just uses the watery noun form and obviously appreciates the rhyming potential:
Bob Dylan/Danny O'Keefe - Well, Well, Well
Dig your hole in the ground
All the way down to hell
'Til there ain't no more water
In the well, well, well
When you're down on your knees
With nothin' left to sell
Try diggin' a little deeper
In the well, well, well


That phrase, "well, well, well" shows up in the blues quite frequently, mostly used to impart or reinforce emotions and sometimes, as below, calling to mind associations, as, this case, the idea of well-being (associated with the prase "die easy") that comes with the peace of death. Dylan did a cover of a song by Blind Willie Johnson that uses the word over and over.

Bob Dylan - In My Time Of Dyin'
Well, in my time of dyin' don't want nobody to mourn.
All I want for you to do is take my body home.
Well, well, well,
so I can die easy.
Well, well, well.
Well, well, well,
so I can die easy.
Jesus gonna make up,
Jesus gonna make up,
Jesus gonna make up my dying bed.


Here's a treatment by Muddy Waters, who could use the well sound better than just about anyone. I can't explain the associated meanings of the word in this usage; there's more than just pure sound, but what I can't say.

Muddy Waters - Mannish Boy
I'm a full grown man
I'm a natural born lovers man
I'm a rollin' stone
I'm a man-child
I'm a hoochie coochie man
well, well, well, well
hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry
Don't hurt me, don't hurt me child
don't hurt me, don't hurt, don't hurt me child
well, well, well, well



Guns N' Roses seems to like the rhyming potential:
Guns N' Roses - My Michelle
Well, well, well you just can't tell
Well, well, well my Michelle


John Lennon seems to me like Hamlet in his usage:

John Lennon - Well, Well, Well
I took my loved one to a big field
So we could watch the english sky
Were both feeling guilty
And neither one of us knew just why
Well Well Well Oh Well

OPHELIA: Good my lord,
How does your honour for this many a day?

HAMLET: I humbly thank you; well, well, well.

OPHELIA: My lord, I have remembrances of yours,
That I have longed long to re-deliver;
I pray you, now receive them.

HAMLET: No, not I;
I never gave you aught.

Well; well, well; well, well, well

I'm still reading The Stories of English. It's a big book and it tends just a tad to the academically dusty and dry. Its small flights are very welcome. Below I've reproduced one of these; a riff on the word well. It's a short "interlude" in the narrative, one of many interspersed in the text. I can imagine what Christopher Ricks would do with this material (only just barely imagine, but that's the joy of Ricks after all).

Here's the Pricenoia listing for Stories. You'll find the AllConsuming listing for it in the Books I'm Reading section to the right.

I scanned and OCR'ed the text to get the following copy. It is certain to have errors, for which I apologize. In putting it here, I'm stretching the fair use provision in Copyright. I hope you'll agree that this copy shows off the book well the way sample chapters do on sites like Amazon. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

It's long, and I'm afraid I can't resist adding to it from other sources. But I'll do that in a separate post (well, as it turned out, separate posts).

Extract from The Stories of English by David Crystal:
Interlude 8

Well well

Well, this interlude presents another feature of conversational style.

We would not expect to see such an opening in a formal written text. Well is out of place. When the word is used in this way, it does not express such meanings as the adjectival 'healthy' or 'satisfied', the adverbial 'successfully' or 'properly' or the nominal 'spring of water'. It is one of a group of words that has a range of subtle factions marking the way a discourse is structured or the relationship between the participants in a dialogue. And they are characteristic of the more informal kind of conversational English.

Well can mark a change of topic or action (well what book did you read, then?) or introduce a piece of reported speech (he said well not everybody thinks like that). It can mitigate the force of a confrontation: well I don't think so is more pacifying and less abrupt than the bare I don't think so. It can express rapport: Well how are you! And it can be used to emphasize uncertainty (well I'm not sure about that), express an attitude (well!), or just fill a silence (well . . . ). In all cases we are dealing with one of the most distinctive and frequent features of colloquial style.

The first examples of this range of use are in Middle English, and provide an important indication of the way styles were evolving during that period. Well was often used in Old English in its adjectival, adverbial, and nominal meanings, but not in a clear discourse-marking way. The nearest we get to this function is the way wella or wel la was used as an attention-getting device before important statements, equivalent perhaps to 'Listen!', and sometimes translated as 'Alas!'. Old English made more use of Hwæt!, used at the beginning of a discourse as a call to the listener to focus attention on a familiar point or story which is to follow. Its most famous literary manifestation was as the opening word of the Beowulf saga. Its closest modern conversational equivalent would be you know? or do you know?

Neither wel la nor hwæt survived in Middle English. But Chaucer, with his sharp ear, shows that wel was already established in a discourse function introducing a piece of direct speech. The Manciple has been a little reluctant to tell his story, having stepped in to replace the drunken and incapable Cook, and his opening remark shows the softening force of the word (Prologue, The Manciple's Tale, II. 25, 104):
'Wel,' quod the Maunciple, 'if it may doon ese
To thee, sire Cook, and to no wight displese . . .'
In other words: if people don't mind my stepping in. . . The Host is delighted:
Telle on thy tale, Manciple, I thee preye.
And off the Manciple goes with the new topic:
'Wel, sire,' quod he, 'now herkneth what I seye.
Wel (also in now wel) is used ten times by Chaucer's characters in its discourse function, always preceding a quod- quod she, quod oure hoost, quod Pandare. It is also used in prose. At about the same time as Chaucer was writing, we find it in Thomas Usk's The Testament of Love (1384-5, Book II, Chapter 7, l.7). This particular instance is striking, as it contrasts with well in a different sense:
'Wel,' quod I, 'this inpossession [imposition] I wol [will] wel understande.'
A century later we see well preceding the verb said in The Morte Darthur. In Book I, Chapter I, for example, we find two well-users interacting:
Then for pure anger and for great love of fair Igraine the king Uther fell sick. So came to the king Uther Sir Ulfius, a noble knight, and asked the king why he was sick. I shall tell thee, said the king, I am sick for anger and for love of fair Igraine, that I may not be whole. Well, my lord, said Sir Ulfius, I shall seek Merlin, and he shall do you remedy, that your heart shall be pleased. So Ulfius departed, and by adventure he met Merlin in a beggar's array, and there Merlin asked Ulfius whom be sought. And he said he had little ado to tell him. Well, said Merlin, I know whom thou seekest, for thou seekest Merlin; therefore seek no farther, for I am he; and if King Uther will well reward me, and be sworn unto me to fulfil my desire, that shall be his honour and profit more than mine; for I shall cause him to have all his desire. All this will I undertake, said Ulfius, that there shall be nothing reasonable but thou shalt have thy desire. Well, said Merlin, he shall have his intent and desire. And therefore, said Merlin, ride on your way, for I will not be long behind.
Merlin is evidently being very accommodating.

But for the full range of discourse uses of well, we have to wait for Early Modern English. We find rapport uses, for example, in the second act of Nicholas Udall's Ralph Roister Doister (1566):
TALKAPACE Well, Truepenny, never but flinging! [rushing around]
ALYFACE And frisking!
TRUEPENNY Well, Tibet and Annot, still swinging and whisking! [dashing about]
TALKAPACE But ye roil abroad. [gad about]
And earlier in the play we find Talkapace softening a caution with an early use of well inside a sentence:
If ye do so again, well, I would advise you say.
It is Shakespeare who illustrates virtually every well usage in his plays, and puts them into the mouths of characters from all social ranks. The only usage which is missing is the one introducing direct speech - unsurprisingly, as these are plays not narratives - but even this function is touched upon when the rebel Holland reflects (Henry VI Part 2, IV.ii.7, with First Folio punctuation):
Well, I say, it was never merry world in England, since Gentlemen came up.
Apart from this, we have well expressing group rapport, as when Horatio invites Barnardo to tell his story (Hamlet, I.i.33):
Well, sit we down . . .
There is well expressing change of event, as when Hamlet gives the players leave to go (III.ii.55):
Well, go make you ready.
We see well offering the chance of a new topic when Hamlet, after an aside to Horatio, turns to Osrick once again (V.ii.I34):
Well, sir?
The word seems to be just filling the silence in Hotspur's account of his boredom in listening to Glendower ranting on (Henry IV Part I, III.i.152)
I cried 'Hum', and 'Well, go to!'
And it becomes a substitute for articulate speech in All's Well That Ends Well when Parolles, returning from a battle, expostulates (II.v.87):
Lose our drum? Well.
Shakespeare actually gives us a discoursal gloss when he has Hamlet warn his fellows (I.v.I75) that he does not want the game given away when he puts 'an antic disposition on'
by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As 'Well, well, we know' . . .
And in this dialogue (Henry IV Part I, I.ii.45) well marks someone wanting to reduce the force of a confrontation. Falstaff has addressed Prince Hal in typical blustering style, but when he receives an equally forceful response, he yields:
FALSTAFF What a plague have I to do with a buff jerkin?
PRINCE HAL Why, what a pox have I to do with my Hostess of the tavern?
FALSTAFF Well, thou hast called her to a reckoning many a time and oft.
This is a scene full of linguistic fencing: as many as seven of the sixty exchanges begin with a discourse well. And one of them shows an expansion of the usage:
PRINCE HAL Well then, once in my days I'll be a madcap.
Well then is one of several ways of adding emphasis. Well now is another, used by the countess in All's Well That Ends Well (I.iii.94). It is an interesting usage, as they are the very opening words of a private conversation with her steward, an invitation to speak intimately:
COUNTESS Well, now.
STEWARD I know, madam, you love your gentlewoman entirely.
Doubling the well is another way of adding emotion to an interaction. Somerset's tension is apparent when he asks the others which rose they will choose, white or red, to show which side they are on (Henry VI Part I, II.iv.55)
Well, well, come on; who else?
In Coriolanus (II.i.26) the tribunes Brutus and Sicinius are so irritated by Menenius' long-windedness that they break out into a joint exclamatory prompt:
Well, well sir, well.
And in Macbeth (V.i.51) the Doctor uses a triple well, at a loss to know how to react on hearing the profound sigh from the sleepwalking Lady Macbeth:
GENTLEWOMAN I would not have such a heart in my bosom, for the dignity of the whole body.
DOCTOR Well, well, well.
GENTLEWOMAN Pray God it be, sir.
What is interesting about the Gentlewoman's response, of course, is her taking the Doctor's words literally. This must be the first recorded instance in written English of someone failing to understand a discourse function of well.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A brief note about physical pain

Cycling news: I did some hill climbing Sunday and, since I hadn't been doing much climbing lately, suffered from stiff muscles this week. No big problem there, except the weather turned both cold and windy, with big gusts out of the Northwest -- the direction I ride to get home. The homebound route is more up than down and headwinds make it feel like mountain climbing. In the circumstances, my muscular aches and pains took on a new dimension as they say. So Wednesday, suffering the while, I happened to notice that it took me 48 minutes to make the trip, a good thirteen minutes and something like 40% more time than my quickest time. The wind continued today leading me to think of the sufferings of cycling's greatest racers. The image shows Laurent Fignon, the last Frenchman to win the Tour de France. It was taken in 1983 on one of the high climbs of the tour, as you can see. The month is July, of course, not February, but, in my wintry misery, I still can empathize with his agony. I have other reasons to identify with Fignon: He was one of the few professionals to wear clear-lens glasses (as I do); his mates called him "The Professor" because he had been to university and was known to read the occasional book, not just comics; and he had an appealing eccentricity for a professional athlete (he hated the intrusiveness of the press). Why do I ride when conditions cause me to suffer? Well, I don't usually know whether I'm to suffer or not on any day. When I expect to suffer, at least some of the time I don't get what I expect: setting off I can feel like a wet dishrag and, as I get into stride, find that the ride turns out to be a glorious one. Also, when things get bad, I console myself with what my favoite Fluppy Dog (Stanley I think it was) used to say: "Adventure, Jamie, Adventure!" Then, there's the reason I put in another post (months ago): I don't mind thinking of myself as one of the "hard men" of the sport, even if there's precious little truth in the conceit.

A bishop in the arms of a king

I've been reading David Crystal's book The Stories of English (see my reading list in the panel at right). Though I once tried to work my way through Chaucer in all it's original glory, I've generally been content to read modern versions of the very oldest English literature and have rarely had the patience to decode more than little bits Old and Middle English. Still, the history of the language is interesting and Crystal does it full justice. In a section I just finished reading he uses the Peterborough Chronicle to tell the story of the transition from Old to Middle and one of the passages he chooses is striking. Here's the translation into Modern English (on an odd web site called "The Pebrite of Miercinga Ríce"this site):
A.D. 1123. In this year was the King Henry, at Christmastide at Dunstable, and there came to him the ambassadors of the Earl of Anjou. And thence he went to Woodstock; and his bishops and his whole court with him. Then did it betide on a Wednesday, which was on the fourth day before the ides of January, that the king rode in his deer-fold; the Bishop Roger of Salisbury on one side of him, and the Bishop Robert Bloet of Lincoln on the other side of him. And they rode there talking together. Then sank down the Bishop of Lincoln, and said to the king, "Lord king, I die." And the king alighted down from his horse, and lifted him betwixt his arms, and let men bear him home to his inn. There he was soon dead;
The image is of King Henry I

A Northern Lapwing

The local press is happily reporting intense interest in a rare bird sighting. Apprarently before now the northern lapwing has never been seen in Maryland. Here's what they say on the web site of WJZ Eyewitness News:
There have been 22 documented sightings of the northern lapwing in the United States, but none in Maryland until Saturday afternoon, when Lynn Nelson of Frederick spotted it on Jeff and Denise Bryant's horse-breeding farm about 75 miles northwest of Baltimore. "When we drove up to the bird, we thought it was a killdeer," Nelson's husband, Skip, told The Frederick News-Post. He said they posted their discovery on the Internet, prompting a flurry of e-mails and the hasty arrivals of excited birders. The Maryland Ornithological Society has posted some of their photographs on its World Wide Web site,"
The image comes from the Wikipedia entry for the bird.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Ask a Nineteenth-Century Whaling Expert

I've been meaning to point you to a funny spoof that appeared on Crooked Timber recently. It's appropriate for April First, but most welcome now.

Ask a Nineteenth-Century Whaling Expert by Ted Barlow

Here's the post itself; click the link above to read the many funny comments it attracted:
Since Crooked Timber’s first publication in 1953, “Ask a Nineteenth-Century Whaling Expert” has consistently been one of its most popular features. We are pleased to bring you the novelist Kenneth Gardner, author of Rich Man’s Coffin.

I’m baffled at the economics of nineteenth-century whaling. In Moby-Dick, Herman Melville says that a whaling expedition would be a success if a crew of 40 men captured the oil from 40 whales in 48 months. Each whale produced about 40-50 barrels of oil. Presumably this oil had to be cover the approximate costs of four years’ labor, plus the costs of operating the ship, plus a sizeable profit for the investors in these risky ventures.

How could whale-oil have been so valuable? I understand that it was scarce, that illumination is highly desirable, and apparently it smelled nice. But there were substitutes, weren’t there?

Ted B., Houston, TX

Kenneth Gardner writes:

At that time you had the same resistance to technology transition as we have in boom markets today which may not be as efficient as their more technologically savvy counterparts, but are still ‘cheaper’ in the eyes of their producers in terms of the amount of time and energy required to make the transition. Best example of course, is the abundance of crude oil and our resistance to move to alternative and more efficient natural sources. The same was true in the 19th century whaling industry.

Ironically, my example of crude oil also answers your question about the possibility of alternatives to whale oil in the 19th century. Yes, crude had been discovered. Did efficient or effective means of drilling and refining exist then? Hell no. Was there much pressure on society to develop this technology in the face of abundant whale oil? No again.

Also, you underestimate the value and amount of whale oil being harvested by overlooking a commonly overlooked fact about old whaling: The whole whale value. They sold the bones to dress makers, and ambergris, the basis of 19th century perfume, was worth more at that time per ounce than gold is today, relatively. One Sperm Whale could yield an 800 pound lump of ambergris, a glandular secretion. Most importantly, whale oil was almost in a pure form with the only refining being the boiling down and straining of the fat. There was a lot of money made on those 4-year voyages!

Lastly, the whaling that Melville wrote about in Moby-Dick was ‘open-ocean’ whaling which was tedious and dangerous, with Sperm Whale numbers dwindling by the mid-1800s. But bear in mind, that archaic yet lucrative practice was tied into the colonization of the world and the development of other lucrative trades like sneaking up on millions of easy harbor seals on foreign, exotic shores and bringing home coat furs that were worth their weight in gold. Moreover, whalers were discovering ‘shore-whaling,’ where they would go and find the calving shores of the whales and lay claim to an entire coastline and set up towns and just start reaping in the biggest female Black Whales, which were twice as big and yielded twice as much profit as the nearly extinct Sperm Whales. It was easy pickings, and that industry started roaring just as the kind of whaling the Melville did was dying. So don’t wonder if those investors were getting their monies worth by sending out a bunch of hacks to sail the world for a few years and bring back what they could. They were bringing back tremendous wealth.

[Ted Barlow writes}: In case my framing was too cute, Kenneth Gardner is a real guy, who has written a real historical novel called Rich Man’s Coffin about an escaped slave who joins a whaling expedition. He was kind enough to write this response for me.

Posted on January 31, 2005 03:47 PM UTC


Famed for its baroque architechure and cultural riches, Dresden, before World War II, was one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Chris Bertram on Crooked Timber notes that today is the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden. Actually it's the anniversary of the day the attacks began; they continued over three days until more than 90% of the city center had been destroyed and an unknown numbers of residents had been killed (estimates range from 25,000 to 60,000). This I didn't know as a child.

Back then, I knew Dresden as the name of a china clock and candleabra that sat on the glassfronted rosewood cabinet in our dining room. The set looked a little like the ones in the following photos.
I'm pretty sure the set came down to us from the estate of Louis Windmuller (about whom I've written separately). It has been a long time since I thought about this 19th-c. version of a rococo flight of fancy. I expect I've always been embarassed at it's unembarassed extravagance and, if asked, probably would have said it suffered fatally from a total absence of artistic good taste. If you're interested, there's a good description of Dresden porcelain here.

As an adult my knowledge of Dresden has remained second-hand and, until fairly recently, I can only think of two sources for what little I knew: Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five and Nicholas Freeling's Dresden Green. I suppose everyone knows the Vonnegut. The Freeling is well worth a read, though it's not one of his fine Van der Valk or Castang mysteries.

My more recent indirect contact was via Victor Klemperer's Diaries. Here is the Amazon page for the second volume, the volume that contains his description of the firebombing, and here is the LC catalog record.

Klemperer's diaries have had a greater influence on me than most other books I've read, not just recently but for a long time. His story is an amazing one and his telling is superb. Better you read them yourselves than I elaborate further. For me, the reading experience is like reading Primo Levi -- something to do with facing up to the worst; what can we mean by the word "evil" if not embodied in the experiences Klemperer and Levi and the experiences of the millions of slaughtered and the others who saw and survived?

The English-language site of Der Spiegel currently has two articles about Klemperer. The first, VICTOR KLEMPERER'S DRESDEN DIARIES, quotes from Klemperer's account of the firestorm. Der Spiegel says, "Victor Klemperer, a Christian of Jewish descent, wrote what many feel is the best account of what day-to-day life was like for Jews in Third Reich Germany. In all liklihood, the bombing of Dresden saved him from being sent to the Auschwitz gas chambers. Here is his diary entry describing his survival of the Dresden firestorm."

The other, VICTOR KLEMPERER, "I am German, the Others Are Un-German" is about Klemperer and the diaries: "The Nazis made Victor Klemperer's life a living hell. Baptized Christian but of Jewish descent, Hitler's henchmen labeled him "un-German." In a bizarre twist of fate, Klemperer could essentially thank a catastrophe -- the bombing of Dresden sixty years ago -- for saving him from the terror of the Nazi regime."

There's a nice short site about Klemperer and the diaries here (my source for the photo). The H-Net review is here.

A Valentine for Saturn

This photo shows Saturn's moon Mimas in orbit over the planet's northern hemisphere. It's in the news because of Saturn's enexpected blue color. There's a brief explantion below.

Tomorrow is St. Valentine's Day, set aside to celebrate romantic love. Saturn (understandably) does not much figure in love poetry, but at least one source brings the festival of Saturn and the festival of St. Valentine relatively close in time (this year anyway): According to Wikipedia, the Roman festival of Saturn was precedessor to carnival (MardiGras).

Now that we have reached Winter's mid-point and can't but look forward to Spring, here is a poem of love that reveals Saturn gamboling in April:
From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dress'd in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the Lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermillion in the Rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
...Yet seem'd it Winter still, and, you away,
...As with your shadow I with these did play.

Sonnet 98, "From You I Have Been Absent," by William Shakespeare
Here a description of the photo in
Blue and Moon: Mimas Revisited

Saturn's moon Mimas drifts along in its orbit against the azure backdrop of the planet's northern latitudes in this true color view. The long, dark lines on the atmosphere are shadows cast by the planet’s rings.

Saturn’s northern hemisphere is presently relatively cloud-free and rays of sunlight take a long path through the atmosphere. This results in sunlight being scattered at shorter (bluer) wavelengths, thus giving the northernmost latitudes their bluish appearance at visible wavelengths.

At bottom, craters on icy Mimas (398 kilometers, 247 miles across) give the moon a dimpled appearance. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

And here is an enlargement of Mimas: gives information about the Mimas's most distinctive feature: "The crater [named Herschel] is 130 kilometers (80 miles) wide, one-third the diameter of Mimas. Herschel is 10 kilometers (6 miles) deep, with a central mountain almost as high as Mount Everest on Earth." The overall appearance of Mimas, it's impressive crater, and, possibly, its mythological association, lead people to call it the "Death Star" of Star Wars fame.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Budget, four years out

I've been trying to get out of the habit of passing along links ("hey, look at this!") on the theory that people come to a blog to hear something from the person writing it, not just observe another instance of a web sighting. We can all peruse the same sources if we wish and it's presumtuous to believe that something's interesting to you just because it's interesing to me. Still, having said all that, I am passing along a reference to a report on the long-term impact of the Bush budget. As this account, from Sabrina on BeSpacific, says, this isn't (yet) public information.
Previously Unreleased Gov Docs on Budget Reveal Cuts
Unpublished Administration Budget Documents Show Domestic Cuts Would Significantly Reduce Funding For Most Public Services: "The budget the Administration has released shows cuts in discretionary programs only for 2006. This analysis uses back-up materials OMB has provided Congress to show the size of the discretionary program cuts by program area over the next five years; the cuts triple by the fifth year."
PDF of full report
View Related Reports on Federal Tax Policies
The chart below comes from the first of the links in Sabrina's post.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Nick's Challenge

Nick writes:

Life through Lou By GobberGo: "Answer the questions with titles of songs by one artist or group. Post this in your own journal."

Here are his topics and my responses, using titles of songs by Pete Townshend (that's a picture of him above).

1. Hello, have you ever met me?: Ask Yourself
2. Are you male or female: Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
3. Describe yourself: Exquisitely Bored*
4. Your best piece of advice: Time Is Passing
5. Describe your last relationship: Secondhand Love
6. Describe your last crush: Rough Mix
7. Say something to someone you have a crush on: You're So Clever**
8. Say something to an ex: So Sad About Us***
9. Say something to someone who hurt you severely: Won't Get Fooled Again***
10. How do you feel right now: Crashing by Design

English Boy
I Am an Animal

Time Is Passing
My Baby Gives It Away

I Won't Run Any More

I Eat Heavy Metal
I Am Secure
Hiding Out

Monday, February 07, 2005

Ruth Warrick

The mother of my high-shool friend Jon McNamara died recently. Because she was a famous actress, all the papers noticed. I remember her as striking - really quite beautiful - in makeup and very strange without it; otherwise she seemed to me a mom like other moms. This photo shows her in 1970, a half a decade after I last saw her. I recall that she drove a car having a device that automatically dimmed the high beams wen cars approached. Quite cool. They lived in a big frame house near the train station and belonged to a golf club that you could walk to if you wished (though we didn't much that I can recall). In the basement of their house there were big cartons of products given her by sponsors of the soap opera in which she starred. Later on Jon changed his name to take his birth father's. His sister Karen played bassoon well and, strange to remember, was a Baptist.

The obit in Paybill was pretty good.

Ruth Warrick of "All My Children" Is Dead at 88
By Kenneth Jones
18 Jan 2005

Ruth Warrick, one of the grand ladies of TV soap operas whose career included her movie debut with "Citizen Kane" as well as a flirtation with Broadway and work in stock, died Jan. 15.

Ms. Warrick, known to fans of ABC's "All My Children" as Phoebe Tyler Wallingford, died in her Manhattan home of complications from pneumonia, her manager told The New York Times. She was 88.

In the classic 1941 film, "Citizen Kane," she played Charles Foster Kane's wife, Emily, niece to the president. She made only three appearances on Broadway, in Miss Lonelyhearts (1957), the musical Take Me Along (replacing Eileen Herlie) and in the 1974 revival of Irene.

The native of St. Joseph, MO, was no stranger to the stage, however, having studied acting with Antoinette Perry and Brock Pemberton, and played in many stock productions — as early as 1933 at the University of Kansas. In 1960 she was Anna in The King and I at the Music Fair in Toronto. Her work in film, radio and theatre was eclipsed by her work on "All My Children." As rich and grand Phoebe, she appeared on the program since 1970.

Ms. Warrick was married five times. Survivors include three children, Karen Langenwalter, Jon Rolf and Robert McNamara; a grandson; and six great-grandchildren
This photo shows here in 1999.

The Washington Post added:

Ms. Warrick's casting in coldly intelligent roles belied a blunt, sometimes bawdy sense of humor. During one "All My Children" rehearsal, she approached a bored cameraman and flashed open her cape to reveal that she was topless. Later, to protest the network's poor air-conditioning system, she conducted rehearsal in a housecoat unzipped to her belly button. She said she liked slipping into the ocean at public beaches in a long top and panties.

Ms. Warrick could be outlandish, outdoing all the pretensions at a diamond-studded Broadway opening by wearing a flamboyant crown. She also was a sincere Democratic political activist engaged in voter registration drives. Moreover, she taught acting to poor black and Hispanic students in New York and helped start a job-training program in the Watts section of Los Angeles after riots there in the 1960s.

Living well

Haven't meant to take a week off & don't know how it was that I did. Maybe it's that...

We've been living well.

Couple of weeks ago we hosted movie night - a gathering like a book group to see a DVD movie. B. did a full Indian meal out of her Christmas cookery book (gift of sister Sue). Great food, lots of conversation, & good cinema too.

This past Saturday we went to a Mardi-Gras party ("Samdi"-Gras as I thought). Hors d'oeuvres first at John's and then dinner dance at St. Anthony's in Brookland. The band was just right - five old guys doing big-band standards (swing, two-step, waltz, and even tango); nice big dance floor, lots of room. Our table -- four married couples and a matched pair of singles -- danced the whole four hours of it and closed the place down. B. wore a tiara!

Sunday we attended a recital - cello & piano - at a church in Northwest DC where we often hear good music. B. knows the muic director well and the performers are generally top quality.

Not to long ago I chafed at the cold weather and then snow & ice, but have sprung out onto the roadway as the temperature rose these past days. My winter legs were surprisingly in form over the weekend; riding faster than I thought I would & not much off my warm-weather personal-best rates of speed. And this afternoon riding home encumbered by a pack full of layers needed for the ride in I managed a rare feat that can only be done at my quickest pace (and a certain amount of luck to boot): a passage of two dozen successive traffic lights without having to stop.

This reminds me of some bike encounters of recent months. I unusually wheel through neighborhoods without anyone's notice or maybe some kidding around from high school kids after release. So it's memorable when people offer encouraging commentary. One guy I particularly appreciated was hanging out at a bus stop deep in the Shaw neighborhood on my inbound ride; he called out "Way to go Superman!" In my own neighborhood, a teenage girl called to congratulate me for wearing a helmet. Drivers usually do no better than tolerate me, but one recent afternoon a guy in an oncoming car flashed his lights and gave me thumbs-up. Finally, off bike, but in bike clothes, a woman who works in the Law Library (whom I don't know) told me my bike commuting made me a legend in LC. It does help.