Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Trollope and a good meal

Lately, we have been watching the BBC miniseries, The Barchester Chronicles over dinner. Full of gratitude to our friend John F. for the recommendation, we are enjoying every moment.

Our previous dinner-hour miniseries was Horatio Hornblower - The Complete Adventures every bit as pleasurable in its own very different way.

Here's some information about the Trollope drama. First a review by Bret Fetzer from, then excerpts from a Donald Pleasance fan site:

The first two episodes of this BBC miniseries only hint at the delights to come. A lawsuit aimed at church reform in the town of Barchester forces a decent middle-aged clergyman (the august Donald Pleasence, best known in the U.S. for the Halloween movies) into a moral crisis and a conflict with his son-in-law, a pompous archdeacon (Nigel Hawthorne, The Madness of King George). The gracefully written and acted narrative shows glimpses of dry wit--but in episode 3, the arrival of a new bishop (Clive Swift, Keeping Up Appearances), his imperious wife (Geraldine McEwan, The Magdalene Sisters), and his devious chaplain (Alan Rickman, Truly Madly Deeply, the Harry Potter movies) launches The Barchester Chronicles into a satirical power struggle all the more mesmerizing because of the smallness of the territory. The scheming of the citizens and clergy of this British town is both Byzantine and wonderfully comic as the tempestuous personalities claw and dig at each other.

Rickman, in one of his first film or television roles, turns in a tour de force of oily ambition. McEwan's ferocious machinations are downright terrifying, while the sputtering Hawthorne (The Madness of King George) seems constantly in danger of bursting a vein. At the center of it all is Pleasence. Making goodness compelling has always been difficult, since wickedness is always more dramatic; but Pleasence brings a deep and stirring passion to his role that proves as engaging as all the back-biting that surrounds him. And these are just the more familiar faces; a host of lesser-known actors give equally superb performances. The final episode (of seven) will have you on pins and needles. The Barchester Chronicles, adapted from two novels by Anthony Trollope, is one of those marvels of British television, a skillful production that proves intelligent fare can be hugely entertaining. --Bret Fetzer



1982 Television Comedy/Drama Mini-Series

THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES was aired over seven nights on the program MASTERPIECE THEATRE on PBS in the United States from October 28--December 9, 1984.


DONALD PLEASENCE (Reverend Septimus Harding)
SUSAN HAMPSHIRE (La Signora Madeline Versey Neroni)
ALAN RICKMAN (Reverend Obadiah Slope)
CLIVE SWIFT (Dr. Proudie)
JANET MAW (Eleanor Harding)

Directed by DAVID GILES
Written by ALAN PLATER


  • ERIC ESTRIN (Los Angeles Magazine)




  • Wednesday, March 23, 2005

    An excellent day's bicycling

    Rain today, giving opportunity for a haircut; haircut weeks overdue. The opportunity arrives because I can drive to work and stop off for the cut on the way home. It was in the mid-70's that I first started using Pierre as my barber and have stuck faithfully since. Since he's even older than I am, the time will come when I have to find another. This already happened with my GP, my "primary care physician" at our HMO, who retired a bit more than a year ago; he advised me to choose someone relatively young for my new doc. I'm also growing older alongside my dentist and she is quite likely to retire before I stop needing her services. These transitions may be inevitable, but they are not a pleasure for me.

    Yesterday was another story: frigid inbound ride, but pleasant since it's now light enough for me to ride the middle third of the trip through the park, rather than along its border. My arrival at LC gave me a view that I anticipate the whole year: sun rising majestically before me as I turn onto Independence Ave in front of the building where I work. Independence being exactly East-West in orientation and pointing exactly at the mid-point between the sun's most Northern and most Southern yearly extremes, it's an event like the glorious solstice and equinox lightings at the prehistoric calendrical monuments of Europe.

    The wind finally turned, improving my spirits on yesterday's outbound ride. After weeks of daily headwinds, I was blessed with still air and some gentle southerly breezes. Though I'd told myself to take it easy, I found that I couldn't slow down after catching two traffic lights green that are usually red for me, and, though slowed by winter gear and in indifferent winter physical condition, I also found that I made it home without once having to put my foot down on pavement -- a small moment of triumph, but one worth trying to remember.

    I recently scanned and converted to online form parts of an old cycling manual, called simply CYCLING and published in 1972 by the Italian Central Sports School and the European professional racing commission of the time. Since it's sort of germane to my topic and is right at hand, here's first part of the chapter on bike frames, in the stilted academic prose of corporate authorship with, apparently, literal translation. I quote it for its intrinsic interest, but mostly because yesterday afternoon I experienced a nice sense of harmony with my bicycle.

    Chapter 5 Modalities for constructing a frame to measure

    The mechanical machine (bicycle) and the human machine (athlete) must be as far as possible harmonized, that is to say they should form a single unit in order for the cyclist to obtain maximum performance. Therefore, bearing in mind that the morphology of the athlete varies from one person to another while at the same time generally remaining within given limits, it is indispensable to plan and carry out a bicycle which is perfectly suited to the physique of the athlete.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2005

    An essay

    This is an essay about balance. I use the word essay in Montesquieu's sense: an attempt, a trial; embarking on a small journey without knowing the destination; a trial whose conclusion can't be know at the start.

    It seems more days than not, dressed in my bike clothes, I encounter someone as I'm arriving or departing; someone who makes a friendly inquiry about my commute or simply asks how far I go and whether I ride when it's cold or wet.

    Last week a woman passing me in the hallway simply said, "You must lead a balanced life." I've been thinking about that.

    I thought first of balancing the polar extremes of the mentally- (and sometimes emotionally-) taxing workday and the physically-demanding and sometimes psychically-enlarging commutes.

    The woman is Asian, so I also thought about Confucian and Buddhist concepts of balance and the "middle way," though not very deeply since I didn't see any particular connection, no more than are present in other belief systems.

    Of course, there's the trivial sense in which balance keeps us upright while we walk and while I ride, but that's a ludicrous and belittling train of thought. It's certainly not what she meant and, anyway, the gyroscopic effect of the turning wheels insures that bicycling rarely involves balancing -- only when I'm waiting for a light to change or traffic to move and only then when I try to avoid putting a foot down on the pavement.

    More seriously, I thought about homeostasis, the internal balance that keeps us healthy. It's not something you can will yourself to achieve, but you can lead your life so as to promote the likelihood of that condition, no? It's a good thought. Healthy food, good exercise, seeking occasions for belly laughs, meditation, gentle stretching, maybe (someday) Yoga. Not bad.

    How about aesthetic balance, the proportions of elements within a frame, for example; blocks of light and dark shapes; positioning of horizontal and vertical elements. That stuff? Pleasing thought, but not, for me, easily achieved.

    Statistical concepts of mean and median -- nice metaphorical approaches to the subject maybe, but not very intellectually satisfying for me.

    Balance does pretty well relate to an intellectualism that has caught my imagination: Freud's concept of the antithetical meaning of primal words (well not originally his concept, but publicized by him). As I've said before, he didn't make much of it and the idea that primal words have opposite meanings isn't pursuasive. There isn't any evidence that these words, autoantonyms, are specially primal (aboriginal) and a lot of them don't have truly antithetical meaning. A classic example is the word "leave" which can mean both to depart and to cause to remain behind; or "cleave," meaning both to cut apart and to stick together; or "trim," meaning to cut things off or to add extra bits on. There's a list of these at It's really not so impressive a concept as one might hope. (However, if you read French, this source investigates whether the concept holds in Middle Eqyptian; interesting, he says, because Abel's original concept focused on ancient Egyptian usage -- abstract in English.)

    All the same, this idea of primal autoantonyms has had some traction in my thinking, since it has led me to try to imagine the language used by early man (or woman) in communicating about ranges of qualities like hot and cold. One could imagine that prehistoric men first developed a concept ("hot-cold") and used linguistic modifiers to communicate more hot-coldness or less hot-coldness. My thought is that separate words for the extreme conditions, hot and cold, emerged later. In other words, first, the thought might have been about more of the "hot-cold" quality or less of the "hot-cold" quality, only later actually giving the low-temp range one word (cold) and the high-range another word (hot). If this actually happened, then "hot-cold" would be a primal word having a kind of anthetical meaning. I haven't been able to find a source that discusses this possiblity, though I haven't tried very hard.

    Not really much to do with balance, except that the expression for the concept (hot-cold, near-far, sharp-blunt, whatever) implies a kind of equilibrium - maybe.

    Wikipedia, as so often seems to be the case, has a nice take on the concept. Its discussion of balance leads one to an article on homeostasis. This mentions homeostasis as a factor in aging: "Organismal aging is generally characterized by the declining ability to respond to stress, increasing homeostatic imbalance and increased risk of disease. Because of this, death is the ultimate consequence of aging." And, yes, though I don't actually perceive it, I can well imagine that striving for balance is also striving to stay alive so long as possible. Though of course, being alive is not the true goal here, it's being actively, productively alive; belonging with dignity to the human community of the living.

    In the day-to-day world of eating, sleeping, earning a living and the like, I sometimes think of the balancing involved in deciding whether to buy something. In this context, I attempt a balance between my intellectual belief in "doing without" (as in conserving resources and saving the planet) and my primal acquisitive urge of "doing with" (as in getting things for me and mine). This is too big a topic for a short thought-trial like this. I'll limit myself to a single conflict of motives -- Item: I like the idea of being relatively free of material acquisitiveness; trying not to define my sense of well being in the consumer goods I've surrounded myself with. I don't do very well at this, but better than many. Item: I like the idea of being free of rules that bind me to unvarying behavior. It's easy to call up images of my intensely Calvinist forbears and their stubborn rectitude. Moving on....

    Like Emerson, I wish to balance my sense of individuality with my sense of community. There's even a bicycling connection in that since bike races are won by individuals but ordinarily the individuals who win must work together with their opponents during much of the race.

    Perhaps there are other senses of the word balance that apply to my case. Equilibrium is suggestive. There are mechanical, chemical, economic, and even ethical equilibria. My favorite is the psychological one mentioned in the wikipedia entry on the topic:
    * Equilibrium: Psychologically some balance between desires and satisfaction is important; somewhat paradoxically complete satisfaction may not be ideal, it can be argued that perhaps it is better if things are left to be desired.
    * In various practical matters an equilibrium is useful, e.g.:
    o in a conversation, between talking and listening;
    o in a personal relationship, between giving and taking;
    o between buying and reading books (apart from lent books).

    Pondering equilibrium leads to thoughts of other "equi-" words, particularly equipoise. I'm running low on imagination, and letting this thought stream run on too long, at this point, so I'll just allude to some possible ways that equipoise might apply to the statement "You must lead a balanced life" by giving a couple of quotes: The OED says that a man named Norris wrote, in 1699, of the equipoise displayed by Descartes: "So great lay the foundation of his Philosophy in an equipoise of mind." To balance this, OED quotes Samuel Johnson, writing in the Idler in 1759, told of a man who "lives in a continual equipoise of doubt."

    Having introduced that thought, I'm tempted to end this essay with a labored pun: equipoise suggesting "equine equipage," a horse and cart. This is a Barrie Maguire connection: to the left you see his painting, "The Tackled Pony." Unfotunately, ending thus would demonstrate, wouldn't it, that I don't lead a balanced life but am plagued by a trivial obsession with words? So, to avoid that misleading implication, maybe I'd better seek another way out.

    Instead, here and now, I think I'll bring this to a close with a return to the beginning. As I do this, maybe you'll see the start and finish themselves balancing. It's worth a try.

    So, to wrap up, I announced this as an essay and explained my meaning. Essay has a common root with the word "assay," and also a common meaning as a process of trying, or trial generally, though assay's best-known meaning is the "trial of metals to determine the quantity of metal in an ore or alloy or of the fineness of coin or bullion." The OED has much on this word as noun and verb. Among its quotes is one from Measure for Measure: "Angelo had neuer the purpose to corrupt her; onely he hath made an assay of her vertue." So, since my topic is balance, and this is an essay -- an assay in the sense of OED's quotation from Sterne: "'Tis an assay upon human nature" (1778), I choose to conclude with this picture of an assayer's scale, confirming what this essay as a whole tends to show, that I do have an obsession with words but maybe one that is not entirely trivial.

    Sunday, March 20, 2005

    Four tenors and a pony

    I forget how I first happened to see Barrie Maguire's art. I think someone included this Joyce image on his blog. He, Maguire, does paintings and prints, mostly of Ireland and Irish subjects. There's an introduction to himself and the work at Meet Barrie Maguire

    Maguire says:
    I'm a child of the 50s who went off to Notre Dame to worship Football.  Before I knew it I was married and working as an Art Director at a big Advertising Agency.... In 1998, after a magical first visit to Ireland, I began painting for the first time since college.  Ireland captured me... and I've been painting the Irish people, animals, and green patchwork quilt countryside ever since....I am not the Barry McGuire who sang "Eve of Destruction."  Neither am I the McGwire who hit 70 homeruns, nor the Barry who hit 700.

    He's done series called Ireland & the Irish, Listowel Horse Fair, Burren Sketches, The Irish Quilts, and, not surprisingly, Irish Writers. I particlarly like this photo of Maguire and the subjects of this last, his "four tenors."

    Because I can't resist and because she's about to return to Towson, here, for Julia, a Listowel Pony, by Maguine:

    'false wealth' and where it's leading us (maybe)

    Let me say upfront that what I'm writing about here is a genuine confusion of mine, not a rhetorical pretense. (Not, as you all know, that I ever indulge in the latter.) If anyone can help me understand what this is about, I welcome the instruction.

    If you succeed in parsing this little essay to the end, you'll see that I've found an interesting connection between credit card debt and the defeat of Democratic candidates in the last election. It's about at least one good reason for debtors to vote Republican.

    This doesn't start out to be about politics, however. I just wonder, with the huge federal deficit and plummet of value of the dollar, why hasn't the American economy collapsed? Its continuing strength is a mystification.

    The newspapers say this strength is based not on manufacturing innovations but on the propensity of Americans to continually increase their indebtedness in order to buy consumer goods. Thus my Vanguard weekly email message tells me consumer debt 'skyrocketed' in January: "The Fed reported that $11.5 billion was added to total credit outstanding during the month, the largest increase since October 2004 and nearly twice the amount expected." So, maybe you could say the economy is being driven by the famous U.S. consumerism.

    As we all know, lots of the consumer goods that Americans buy are produced outside the U.S. I recently started receiving press releases from the Bureau of Economic Analysis which tells me that in 2004 gap between imports and exports of consumer goods increased 25% over the previous year.

    When Americans buy more from abroad than they sell, the difference is made up in the transfer of U.S. dollars to foreigners (of course) and this is, I expect, the main reason for the big decline in the value of the dollar relative to the Euro and other currencies.

    Foreign holders of dollars don't just sit on them -- although some Asian central banks do have huge dollar reserves (mostly China and Japan).

    Because of the (mystifying) strength of the U.S. economy, they tend to spend the dollars to buy U.S. assets such as corporate stocks and bonds. Overall, the BEA says, "net financial inflows for foreign direct investment in the United States were $115.5 billion in 2004, up from $39.9 billion in 2003;" that's an astounding increase.

    So, is it reasonable to say that the economy is being sustained by foreign investment? I think it might be so.

    There's an uncomfortable "what if" that's obviously worrying Alan Greenspan these days: What if foreigners start thinking that investments in the U.S. are becoming too risky; what if they begin to think that economic growth based on consumer indebtedness can't last much longer. The federal deficit, the decline in the value of the dollar, and, I imagine, other factors, are likely to drive up interest rates, The passage of the new bankruptcy legislation is likely to increase that upward pressure I would guess. Increased interest rates have to decrease consumer purchases. The house of cards could begin to fall.

    As many have pointed out, since the U.S. is now so heavily dependent on purchase of assets by foreigners, any decline in their expectations regarding the strength of the U.S. economy could, by itself, bring the economy down. What helps sustain us, I think, is the understanding they have that they don't have a whole lot of choice. They are so heavily invested in the U.S. economy that they can't afford to jeopardize it. I think that's what Greenspan (and the whole Bush administration) are counting on: that foreign holders of U.S. assets will cooperate with the U.S. to prevent an economic collapse. We can all hope they will continue to cooperate and that their cooperation will be effective, right?

    Having said all that, here's the connection between credit card debt and the last election. It's a comment on a post that appeared in the Crooked Timber weblog. I reproduce the comment first and then the blog item. Note the idea of 'false wealth' that the author speaks about. It seems to me to be directly related to consumerism and consumer debt.

    See if you can make the same connection I did between foreign investment in the U.S. and American credit card indebtedness: 'false wealth' -> credit card indebtedness -> fragile engine of the world economy -> uncertain foreign confidence in this engine.

    Doesn't this give a clue to the enormous power of ideas -- so much more influential than facts, events, or hard, cold reality? It's the idea of individual 'wealth' -- a false idea -- that seems to drive the U.S. economy. And it's foreigners' (unreliable) willingness to accept this myth that -- to a large extent -- keeps it going.


    It is interesting that the rise in consumer debt isn’t often linked, as it should be, in my opinion, to the stagnation of wages. I really think that the Repubs are eventually cutting their own throats this way — the only way to maintain a system that distributes wealth mainly to the already wealthy while stalling wealth creation - in the form of real wage increases to the producers — is to create a sphere of 'false' wealth. This is the political brilliance of the American credit sector. It is no coincidence that the extension of credit (at higher interest) to the lower and lower middle class has coincided with crushing the higher wage demands of that same class. Without credit cards and the embrace by the market of the two-earner household, the lower and middle class household would never have scraped by in the eighties and nineties. But they did, and they have exploited their sense of (false) wealth to vote for the party that will guarantee them tax cuts — the Repubs. This makes a certain economic sense — in the short term, at least, any money coming in counts. And, of course, living on false wealth is living in the short term permanently.

    The best strategy for the Repubs will be to cast this as a moral question — those nasty households out there ‘stealing’ from nice credit card companies. I see no reason that they won’t be successful at this — the media will go for that story, and will wink at or simply sleep through such real rip offs as the World Comm bankruptcy.

    Posted by roger · March 8, 2005 04:59 PM


    Here's the Crooked Timber post

    March 08, 2005
    The chains of debt
    Posted by John Quiggin

    I’ve been sitting on this great post about reforms to US bankruptcy laws and how they fit into the general pattern of risk being shifted from business to workers and to ordinary people in general. But I waited too long and Paul Krugman’s already written it. So go and read his piece, and then, if you want, you can look at the things I was going to write that Krugman hasn’t said already.

    First, if you’re looking for reading on this general topic, let me recommend "When All Else Fails : Government as the Ultimate Risk Manager," (David A. Moss), which I reviewed here. Moss shows how both bankruptcy and limited liability were (correctly) viewed as significant departures from laissez-faire when they were introduced in the 19th century. Of course, there’s no hint that the sacred status of limited liability is going to be challenged any time soon.

    Second, given the rising trend in bankruptcy, this is going to affect a lot of people, quite possibly most people, at some time. Currently, more people go bankrupt than get divorced every year and, although the number has declined marginally with the economic recovery, the underlying trend is clearly upward. The proposed reforms are unlikely to change this. Although the bill will make bankruptcy a less attractive option for people who are already in difficulty, this demand side effect will be more than offset by the increased willingness of credit card companies and other lenders to lend to people with precarious repayment capacity.

    Finally, while Krugman is probably right in describing the target of the reformers as a system of debt peonage, my long exposure to Dickens (and more recently to Patrick O’Brien) leads me to think that the large and powerful incarceration lobby might get in on the act here - anyone for debtors’ prison?

    The Bagaduce Music Lending Library

    Uncle Ernie is a volunteer helping to organize scores at The Bagaduce Music Lending Library.

    About its volunteers, the library says: "Volunteers are the heart and soul of the Music Library. From its beginnings in 1983, volunteer efforts have been responsible for the bulk of the Library's functioning.... The Library would simply not exist without this wonderful support. Volunteers sort music, erase pencil markings from scores, flag music needing repairs, complete the repairs, enter music titles in our database, plan and assist at events, and assist visitors with research and browsing the stacks."

    Every now and then there's an article about The Maine Music Box project in which the BMLL is a partner.

    The most recent is a feature article in D-Lib Magazine. The Maine Music Box is the magazine's featured collection this month.

    Here, to the left, is an image of the cover of sheet music for the song Flash Light by Edwin Ellis.

    About this piece of music, the article says: "Flash Light by Edwin Ellis, arranged by E.T. Paull, 1909. One of the "mascot" images of the Vocal Popular collection. E.T. Paull was the second most popular composer and arranger of marches at the turn of the century, behind only John P. Sousa. However, his greatest talent was in publishing, and his pieces are still valued for their distinctive, colorful covers. The lithographs were usually (as in this case) done by A. Hoen & Company. Courtesy of Folger Library and the University of Maine."

    Monday, March 07, 2005

    "Ein Stein"

    Great weather for today's funeral; huge turnout with standees at the back of the church; mile-long cortege to the cemetary couldn't be kept together, one segment turning back to the church after getting lost and another showing up after 20 minutes of waiting and lots of cell-phone prompting (we were the last car in the first segment, fortunately for us). At the cemetary broad-winged birds circled in the warm gusts over a nearby stand of wood. I mentioned this to the pastor, calling them hawks; turkey buzzards, he corrected. Yes, I said, but seems more tactful at an interment to call them hawks. He agreed.

    The graphic at left has nothing to with Chapel Hill; it's one of the names the deceased went by. He was "Unc" to neices and nephews, "DD" to his grandchildren, and "Major" to just about everyone else -- except the Army who insisted on his baptismal name, Charles, since, they reasoned, it wouldn't do for a Private to receive mail as "Major." His sister says their mother started calling him Major while still in womb, just as a way to gently refer to the impending birth ("We're waiting for Major" rather than "You're going to have a new brother or sister.") Why Major, she doesn't know.

    The service included singing by two grand daughters and brief reminiscences by one daughter, the decedant's partner in business, and a bunch of guys he worked with. One of the speakers sang an Irish dirge acapella, adapted to honor Major by name. Others told stories illustrating Major's positive outlook, work ethic, and commitment to his metier. Maybe the best involved "the last man on the sales board." This refers to the monthly tally of sales volume giving each salesperson's name in rank order. At one point while he was sales manager early in his business career, Major had to report to the general manager each month. The sales manager asked Major why the same guy ended up on the bottom month after month. Major pointed out that the dealership was one of many thousands in the country and that its rank was at the top of the heap. So, Major said, "you have to realize that our last-man is the best last-man in the country." The story-teller added that the last-man had a hugely successful month within the same year.

    I attended another funeral last week -- one for the wife of a co-worker -- and couldn't help thinking about what it takes to make a funeral service work. Both that one and this were intensely personal. The pastor knew the deceased well and spoke in both cases about the person in detail. In both cases the pastor was MC as well as celebrant of the ritual. In both cases there was no obvious conflict between the two functions. I don't think that's easy, but they both made it look so. You could say, well of couse they do it all the time, but it also seemed to me that they made the event appear fresh and poinant, not canned and formalistic.

    In both cases, I enjoyed the reliance on the tried-and-true, as least so far as music is concerned: Amazing Grace sung in both as well as other simple, heart-felt Protestant stand-bys; for example, "Abide With Me" last week.

    This day's warm gusts reminded me of last week's cold winds out of the northwest and west, doubling the effort that it takes me to pedal home each day. but today, soft harbingers of spring. (I try to avoid exclamation marks so imagine one at the end of that last sentence.) The eastern horizon is bright red these mornings, letting me know how soon I'll be able to take a (preferred) unlit back route to work; and then again reminding me how much I dislike the arrival, soon after, of Daylight Saving Time.

    I'm calling this post "Ein Stein" but it's taking me a while to introduce that subject.

    Here's the start of the introduction:

    I participated in a ceremony of another type last week: secular, work-related; but still with a tried-and-true piece of music -- in this case "Climb Every Mountain" -- sung by a musical staff member as introductory entertainment.

    I attended because four staff members were to receive awards and I wanted to be present to help honor them. Formerly I would introduce each one and give them the praise they were due, but the new format for the ceremony deals with awardees in groups and the director (my boss's boss in this instance) does all the speaking for staff members in each directorate. [Aside: This is better than the old format which took too long and bored many people almost beyond endurance.]

    Well.... As usual, I didn't realize the ceremony was on my schedule until the day it occurred. No problem there, but as it happens my wardrobe for the day was not quite tuned to the event. You see I rotate clothing in a way that makes it unnecessary to bring in fresh shirt and trousers every day. Generally I alternate between a blue shirt with grey trousers and a white shirt with blue trousers. I keep a sport coat that matches both outfits pretty well. I rotate my many ties one after the other. This day, most unusually, my shirt choice was not between white and blue, but between greenish-blue and bluish-green; in addition, my tie of the day was a rich purple with green markings. It's shown on the left. The outfit looked ok, but I wasn't quite as unnoticeable as I like to be at ceremonies like this one.

    Then, I found, none of my four awardees could or wished to be present. And further, I found, I was an award recipient myself. I might have quietly disappeared -- since I find this kind of thing embarassing -- but the woman who runs the show was delighted to see me and voiced her delight in such a way that I couldn't simply go away. So, I stood to be honored; and -- I must say -- didn't mind a bit since I was standing near people I like and respect and there were quite a few of us on our feet at once, myself blessedly just one of the crowd.

    Now -- Ein Stein --

    One more thing making me self-conscious at the ceremony was a bout of flyaway hair. This doesn't happen more than a few times a year, always at about the time I realize that I should have gotten a haircut at least a week before. I thought to myself "just what I need: Einstein hair." And that led me to think about a new weblog that Arts & Letters Daily put me on to.

    You'll see the connection in a minute.

    The blog is called Sight and Sound and it's at

    Its home page currently has the following interesting graphic which gave me my subject line:

    Strangely, the pun doesn't seem to be intentional since the link from the text below the graphic is a straightforward appreciation connected with Germany's Federal Cultural Foundation. Still, the pun is there whether acknowledged or not and, I think, it's appropriate to the sightandsound webpage. Here's why:

    It's an English-language German site with a nice introductory essay on the two languages, English and German. I think Allen will particularly appreciate this so I hope he reads my blog and has gotten this far down this entry. Here are parts of the essay:

    Four Words are Better than Two On the new website By John Lambert

    Some webreaders may inadvertently take the name of our new website for one word. "signandsight" may indeed look like one of those long, difficult to pronounce words so commonly associated with the German language, like "Panzerkampfwagen" for the English "tank", "Lebkuchenherz" for "cookie" or "Dampfbügeleisen" for "iron". But although these readers should be commended for associating our sitename with German, they should know that "signandsight" is English, not even Dinglish ("Dinglish", as it is widely spoken in Berlin and elsewhere, is formed by mixing German words into your English, English words into your German, and der Reste just how es kommt).

    The majority of our webreaders will not take signandsight for one German word, but for two English ones (leaving aside the copula "and"). And yet, a closer look will reveal that while of course there are only two words in English, there are also two in Deutsch.

    ... [lots of text left out] ...

    [T]ake "sign and sight" and pronounce them in Deutsch. By pronouncing the first "s" in "sign" as a long "z", like in "snooze" you get the German word "to be" – "sein". And if you do the same with "sight" but this time give the "s" a hard "ts" as in "tsetse fly", you get the German word "Zeit" – meaning "time". If you string these two words together, you get the title of one of the most famous books of 20th century German philosophy, namely Martin Heidegger's "Sein und Zeit" – "Being and Time". So as you can imagine, we're proud of our webname.

    But I'll be frank. In choosing our name signandsight, we also played with other names like "sink and feel", "in-kraut" and "Herman's accent" and hesitated between three English words for the German "Zeit": "sight", "cite" and "site". Why, you ask, go for such a mediocre pun? Why don't we just say what we mean? My answer is: first, our pun is not mediocre, and second, we do say what we mean. We decide what we want to say, then we make it mean what we want it to mean. If this strikes you as abstruse, give it a try. You may well find you've been doing it all along.

    Queen's guitarist and other confusions

    This is from a news blog in the Guardian. It's followed by bits from wikipedia on the Yardbirds and Eric Clapton.

    Not so wonderful tonight

    Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AFP/Getty

    The Queen meets legendary guitarists Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Brian May (l to r) during a reception at Buckingham Palace

    "Philip and I are interested in music and we've had this terrible press," the Queen recently told Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, the master of the Queen's music. "We are not philistines." She may have regretted her boast when today's Daily Telegraph plopped onto the breakfast table alongside the Tupperware storage jars.

    Yesterday, on the very day she announced a new award for musicians, the Queen invited a gaggle of ageing rockers into her lovely home and made it quite clear she had no idea who they were. The Telegraph kindly put the story on its front page with a big photograph, and it's well worth a read.

    "Have you been playing long?" was her question to Eric Clapton, followed by, "Are you a guitarist too?" to Jimmy Page. Presumably they don't have internet search engines at the palace, which makes you wonder what on earth she said to Bill Gates while she was knighting him today.
    Posted by Sheila Pulham at March 2, 2005 03:14 PM

    See also Clapton's reaction in the Telegraph.

    Some of the comments left on this post are good. Here are a couple of them.


    She was probably asking them how to deal with a tight g-string. How do the Who lyrics go? "Hope I die before I get old...."
    Comments posted by: Montevani at March 2, 2005 08:26 PM

    "One has all of your 78's....."
    Comments posted by: Montevani at March 2, 2005 09:11 PM

    Go, go, go, Little Queenie, go!
    Comments posted by: Supernova at March 3, 2005 01:23 AM

    Well, just LOOK at 'em all! Would YOU have recognized that lot from the Yardbirds, either??!!
    Comments posted by: Lee at March 3, 2005 07:43 PM

    When QEII asked Eric Clapton "Who are you?", he answered: "Ask Pete (Townshend)!"
    Comments posted by: Christian at March 3, 2005 08:12 PM

    Someone told QEII that Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Brian May play the guitar. So, QEII said "Aaaah, yiou all are guitarist, quite well". And then she saw Jimmy Page. QEII asked him: "You, too?". Jimmy answered: "No, I was Led Zeppelin guitarist!"
    Comments posted by: Christian at March 3, 2005 08:16 PM

    I wonder if the name name tags were for her benefit, or theirs?
    Comments posted by: Montevani at March 3, 2005 08:21 PM

    QEII saw Brain May and aked to him: Did you play the guitar, too?". "Yes, I was Queen´s guitarist" answered Brian. "Oh, this is the first time I know that I have a personal guitarist. So, I will go for a dinner in Prague tomorrow. You have to play there at 8 PM".
    Comments posted by: Christian at March 4, 2005 10:05 PM

    From the Wikipedia entry on The Yardbirds
    The Yardbirds were an early British rock band, noted for spawning the careers of several of rock music's most famous guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page.

    THE YARDBIRDS: Keith Relf (vocals); Jim McCarty (drums); Chris Dreja (guitar, bass) and... Anthony "Top" Topham (guitar -- 62-63?); Eric Clapton (guitar 63?-65); Jeff Beck (Guitar 65-68); Jimmy Page (bass, guitar 66-68)

    From the Wikipedia entry on Eric Clapton

    Eric Clapton CBE (born Eric Patrick Clapp on March 30, 1945 in The Green, Ripley, Surrey), is a British guitarist and composer, nicknamed slowhand. He is generally considered the world's premier living guitarist.

    Born as an illegitimate son of the 16 year old Patricia Molly Clapp and Edward Walter Fryer, a 24 year old Canadian soldier stationed in the UK, Clapton's father returned to his wife in Canada before he was born. Eric grew up with his grandparents believing they were his parents, and that his mother was his older sister. Years later his mother married another Canadian soldier, moved to Canada and left Eric with his grandparents. When Eric was 9 years old he found out, and the experience became a defining moment in his life.


    A couple of short items that may tickle your fancy:

    I picked up the reference to this site on Blogdex.

    What's Special About This Number?

    0 is the additive identity.
    1 is the multiplicative identity.
    2 is the only even prime.
    3 is the number of spatial dimensions we live in.
    4 is the smallest number of colors sufficient to color all planar maps.
    5 is the number of Platonic solids.
    6 is the smallest perfect number.
    7 is the smallest number of integer-sided rectangles that tile a rectangle so that no 2 rectangles share a common length.
    8 is the largest cube in the Fibonacci sequence.
    9 is the maximum number of cubes that are needed to sum to any positive integer.
    10 is the base of our number system.
    11 is the largest known multiplicative persistence.
    12 is the smallest abundant number.
    13 is the number of Archimedian solids.
    14 is the smallest number n with the property that there are no numbers relatively prime to n smaller numbers.
    15 is the smallest composite number n with the property that there is only one group of order n.
    16 is the only number of the form xy=yx with x and y different integers.
    17 is the number of wallpaper groups.
    18 is the only number that is twice the sum of its digits.
    19 is the maximum number of 4th powers needed to sum to any number.
    20 is the number of rooted trees with 6 vertices.

    This came to me via email from a co-worker. It's a bit long, but it's good stuff. Reminds me of the old days of the internet, when we only had text-based messages and bulletin boards, no Web. Geeks spent their time sharing stuff like this.

    1. Ratio of an igloo's circumference to its diameter = Eskimo Pi
    2. 2000 pounds of Chinese soup = Won ton
    3. 1 millionth of a mouthwash = 1 microscope
    4. Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement = 1 bananosecond
    5. Weight an evangelist carries with God = 1 billigram
    6. Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile perhour = Knotfurlong
    7. 365.25 days of drinking low calorie beer = 1 Lite year
    8. 16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Serling
    9. Half a large intestine = 1 semicolon
    10. 1,000,000 aches = 1 megahurtz
    11. Basic unit of laryngitis - 1 hoarsepower
    12. Shortest distance between two jokes - a straight line
    13. 453.6 graham crackers = 1 pound cake
    14. 1 million microphones = 1 megaphone
    15. 1 million bicycles = 1 megacycles
    16. 365.25 days = 1 unicycle
    17. 2000 mockingbirds = two kilomockingbirds
    18. 10 cards = 1 decacard
    19. 52 cards = 1 deckacard
    20. 1 kilogram of falling figs = 1 fig Newton
    21. 1000 grams of wet socks = 1 literhose
    22. 1 millionth of a fish = 1 microfiche
    23. 1 trillion pins = 1 terrapin
    24. 10 rations = 1 decaration
    25. 100 rations = 1 C-ration
    26. 2 monograms = 1 diagram
    27. 8 nickels = 2 paradigms
    28. 2.4 statute miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital = 1 I.V. League

    Major King

    I've been working on family history over the weekend. That explains the vacancy here on the blog. I've been thinking about some topics, however.

    Sadly, I'm home today to attend the funeral of an uncle on B's side. He was a man with an ebullient personality, warm ties with his family, and a knack for selling. Here are extracts from the obit in the Washington Post.

    Charles R. 'Major' King Auto Dealer

    Charles R. "Major" King, 68, who with a business partner owned and managed four Ourisman auto dealerships in the Washington area, died March 2 at Anne Arundel Medical Center of complications from a broken hip. He lived in Davidsonville.

    Mr. King was born in Boonesboro, Md., and raised in Baltimore, where after graduating from high school, he sold cars with his father at A.D. Anderson Chevrolet.

    He then spent four years in the Army before returning to A.D. Anderson in the early 1960s. In 1971, he joined Ourisman Chevrolet in Marlow Heights and helped lead the dealership to sell more than 8,000 vehicles annually.

    In 1978, Mr. King partnered with Danny Korengold to buy Ourisman Dodge in Alexandria, followed by Ourisman World of Ford in Alexandria in 1982, Ourisman Fairfax Toyota in 1989 and Ourisman Chantilly Toyota in 2002.