Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Windbag senior calling, and what Googlitta understands

If a woman from Inhuman Resources records a message for me, Googlitta transcribes it 100% spot on. But if it my beloved calls, or Stanford-trained literata reads a sonnet, or my most articulate Columbia professor calls, what Googlitta transcribes is a 100% riot. Here are three consecutive calls:
hello hello you are receiving this message i can tell there's a lot of blood in my ear from your phone so i don't know what it was okay anyway so few days back you more calls anyways he's in town everyone starting to change you supposedly machine's not keelin chinese food say one see this movie with me please call betty mccollough i was talking to somebody else in the room so i didn't quite catch it alright i know that the restaurant hello kitty street facility but i don't know her name because it in my could you tell me the date so we agreed to meet but i don't know what we're supposed to meet at like a copay every night so i'm trying to find you tomorrow and i can i guess persian cat doesn't exist anymore at least her number is answering machine or some such so i'm calling to ask you if you have any information on how i could reach you 2 more can you give me his phone number which turns out to be a cell number is you but it doesn't sound like the correct number could you send text to let number but it's not doing any good so you a little advice or even listen to solve this problem and i would be grateful for it and i send you my humble apologies for this foolishness but i don't know what else to do thank you for your ever use your help bye bye
Play message
  and the 2nd attempt:
pembroke there's some guy talking on my computer and i think he's pretending to be you but i couldn't tell what language it was it something about a persian cat i don't know what the hell it was so good morrow my road to confirm our appointment which i don't think it's too late but i miss printed and i said 48th street and he's confirm 48th street where is the other days and 58 so i still have it i don't know if since i don't know how to get to it i think if you're available i know something about 3 up over this chinese restaurant is i would be very grateful if you would call and tell me I'm sitting by the cellphone that you chose and hope for the best but this is crazy read well allen wolf another problem but i won't go into that now so please tell me what the hell is going on bye bye
Play message
 and the 3rd attempt:
but i have not reached period she told her which color heard was her computer and i'm by the computer my computer there was a voicemail of a voice i don't recognize it all it'll i think it was claiming to be you what's going on in the world and asked to enter mark well he hasn't improved there it is bye bye
Play message
Who needs poetry when we have Deep Data.

I, of the Atlanta Command Center, found the address of the Manhattan restaurant, and directed the Windbag Senior to it. He writes:
I finally reached I., but before I got your timely message. We agreed to meet on the corner of 48th St. and 5th Ave.

But you know how it is with mice and men.  Wu Liang Ye  is closed for renovation.  After some phone calls, I. led the troops to Shun Lee, formerly on 24th St. It's not the place for staying slim.  Even I. admitted to being a bit overweight.

May Aeolus smile on your ventures.  ----  Sine labore nihil

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Academics Say

another problem we face: I just cannot do twitter, the idea of a constant stream of tweets is too scary. But this is hilarious, so here is a link (for myself), so I can find it again:

The Pedants' Revolt

Deep down, academics want the same thing as everyone else: acceptance, with minor revisions.

Why doubt yourself, when anonymous reviewers will do it for free.

In the end, we are all two drinks away from being interdisciplinary.

Warning: conference deadlines are closer than they appear.

"Having trouble addressing the final point from this proofreader."

A doctoral student and their advisor walk into a bar. The advisor orders a rough draft and they sit in awkward silence for eight months.

To err is human. To err repeatedly is research.

Kaj mogu, purger sam

Fjesbuk je velika crna rupa, pa cu ovdje ovo sačuvati:

Kaj mogu, purger sam, Gollmayer mi kmetiška rodbina gre pač za nemške priseljence, ki so pa bili vsaj že v 1. pol. 18. stol. udomačeni v radovljiškem okraju. Zato i kazem: ajnprenica, buhtla, perec, knedla, auspuh, blic, cimer, beštek, farba, feder, flaša, fleka, fušariti, gemišt, gojzerica, hauba, haustor, karfiol, kek, kifla, kinderbet, koštati, kremšnita, klofati, krigla, krumpir, lojtre, kremšnita, kupleraj, majstor, oberliht, plac, paradajz, pegl, rolete, remen, rostfraj, ruksak, sekirati se, šajba, šalter, šank, šarafnciger, šeflja, šihta, šlag, šlank, šlamperaj, šminka, šnicla, špotati, špek, špahtla, špica, špreha, štand, šteker, štikla, štrudla, švercer, tri frtlja sedam, vešmašina, na vuri, zacopati se, zrihtati se, žemlja.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Poincaré's work habits

[...] his way of working further dismantles the idea that Poincaré pursued a path of pure intuition. He worked regularly from 10 till 12 in the morning and from 5 till 7 in the late afternoon. He found that working longer seldom achieved anything, but that it was not always possible to switch off, which was why he never worked in the evenings. He took a complete rest when on holiday.

Henri Poincaré
A Scientific Biography


from Flannery O'Connor's diaries

She said she treated everybody alike whether it were a person with money or a black nigger. She told me all about the low life in Wilkinson County. I seldom know in any given circumstances whether the Lord is giving me a reward or a punishment. She didn't know she was funny and it was agony to laugh and I reckon she increased my pain about 100% .

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Banned books

Isn't it great? Almost any book we think of as a great book had been banned by someone, sometime.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

How important is this news item to me?

What the "news" chose to obsess about is both unhealthy for you, and largely waste of your time. When you buy cigarettes, you are warned about lung cancer, and when you buy a cereal, the seller is obliged by law to inform you about its caloric and (non)nutritional content. So I would like every news item,  before you suffering any further Trumpazing of your gentle neuronal cells, to have a little number in the lower right corner:

the SBL (Struck By Lightning) number:
in 2013 twenty three people were killed by lighting in US, out of 316.5 million. So your likelihood of being killed by lightning is 7.2/10^6 %, or
                               SBL = 0.0000072 percent per year

What does this number mean? Here are some of your primordial fears:

= If you are a parent, about 100 children are abducted by strangers every year, so likelihood of that happening to you is 4 SBL.
= The likelihood that a child is killed by mother’s male partner is 1.5 SBL
= The likelihood that a child is killed by mother is 20 SBL
= The likelihood that a child under 12 commits suicide this year is 120 SBL
= The likelihood that your child is a Harvard undergraduate this year is 460 SBL
= The likelihood of an American citizen being killed by ISIL is 0.3 SBL.
= The likelihood of a US resident being killed by furniture is 1 SBL.
= The likelihood of a US resident being killed by a mass shooter is 1 to 10 SBL.
= The likelihood of a white male being killed by a stranger black male is 25 SBL.
= The likelihood of a being killed while bicycling is 30 SBL.

So, what are the numbers worth paying attention to?

= the likelihood of a being killed while driving is 1,400 SBL. = the likelihood that you will die from a hospital infection is 3,250 SBL
= the likelihood of an American age 20 to 25 firearm suicide is 4,000 SBL
= the likelihood of an American dying age 20 to 25 is 60,000 SBL
= the likelihood that your identity is stolen is 96,000 SBL
= the likelihood that your child's soc security number is stolen is 140,000 SBL
= the likelihood that you are dead is 115,000 SBL
= the likelihood that you are lesbian, gay, or bisexual is 350,00 SBL
= the likelihood of an American citizen being religious is 10,500,000 SBL

Basically, you are most likely to be victimized by your bank, and have 50% chance that the stranger you are talking to believes in Rapture. Terrorism and people of other hues are the least of your worries. Hundred thousand times less likely.

Economist has some numbers here.

So, what are your most pressing risks? You (and your children!) have almost 10% chance of identity theft, thanks to big corporations and government who mishandle your "private" data - this podcast is 50min, but well worth listening to:
Diane Rehm show.org How-to-protect-yourself-from-identity-theft
If you want to be entertained by identity theft, check out mother-daughter duo Alina and Inna Simone - it's a riot:
RadioLab.org Darkode
[I'm notoriously bad with numbers, so grateful for any corrections :)]

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Phoenix - E's essay

Phoenix is about surviving the war and worse, and, we are not quite in Kafka, about finding a way out of the mess and damage, indeed, finding out who you are, now, under radically changed circumstances. The "identity" of the three main characters in Phoenix remains open, due to what has happened. They are actually in search of who they are and can be. The issue of "identity" and its uncertainty is established with the first scene, when an American soldier, the reigning power, is checking the passengers, including Nellie, badly wounded and with a bandaged head. He doesn't trust the wrapping, he wants to see beyond the bandage, wants to see the face, and then, after the initial forceful bluster and command of the situation, is promptly forced to mumble a brief word of apology, and so the Leitmotiv of the movie is introduced. How can, how does one respond to the evidence of what has happened? The soldier can afford to limit his response; he is so to speak an innocent observer. How much more difficult must it be for an accomplice to look the truth in the face, let alone find any kind of response, ever inadequate?

There is no doubt that the film does not flesh out a lot of things, e.g. the pressure to divorce a Jewish spouse, or the mass migration, the millions, literally, of displaced persons fleeing the East at the end of the war, of which this Nellie lookalike might be one. In addition the film presents the story in an opaque way which requires filling in all kinds of motivation, e.g. in the case of Lene's seemingly sudden suicide (which actually is prepared by her expressing her bottomless disgust at Nellie and by her literally final proclamation: da mach ich nicht mit--I am not going to be part of it, namely of any kind of accommodation--but what is left then?). The film also requires a certain willing suspension of disbelief--at the latest since Oedipus slept with his mother without knowing it we might as well assume the unlikely, otherwise we have problems, not only with Michelangelo's painting of God's finger. Film may be a medium eminently suited for a realistic depiction of the world, and it may be fooling us into thinking that it on occasion succeeds, but it is not any more bound to notions of verisimilitude than any other art.

Johnny's denial of the obvious is implausible but I take it as an indication of the depth, the strength of his feeling guilty. He cannot, again the topic, face the truth. It is safer, for his own psychological survival, to assume that his wife perished than to acknowledge that she returned from the dead, from hell where he had helped send her. His relationship to the lookalike Nellie is based on the conviction, firmly held against all evidence (the hand-writing!) that this cannot be Nellie. He begins his new life by trying to destroy his file (from which Lene learns that he divorced Nellie, presumably under pressure and in accordance with Nurnberg Laws) and now wants to be Johann, thinking he can bury the culpable Johnny. It is another fine touch that Johann is the busboy in the new order, employed to clean up.

Lene doesn't understand Nellie, Nellie doesn't understand Johnny, and Johnny refuses to understand what is in front of him--and we, in the end, sit almost if not quite as speechless as Nellie's audience: how does one acknowledge, how does one talk about the unspeakable? Lene wants a complete break with the past and falters at the enormity of the task, of finding a way out (she is deeply helpless, if that is even the right word, given the difference from other forms of helplessness, e.g. that of Nellie's seemingly comfortable in-laws at the end who, just as Johnny, cannot find any words); Johnny wants to pretend that what happened doesn't matter "going forward" with a new identity; he is, for good reasons, more comfortable in attempting, for authenticity's sake, to erase a number that he assumes is not there than to face the number that confirms what would condemn him. And Nellie also wants the impossible, her old face back, wants to be recognized as the woman she no longer is--the number is there, and if it were erased there would be a scar. (Ruth Kluger, a colleague, has an essay trying to explain why, after decades, she decided to have the number erased.)

And then one can of course argue that the film is all too obvious, from Nellie's bandaged head to her learning to walk and talk and even sing, finding her voice (there is a youtube clip of that immensely moving, spell-binding effort), and that specifically the film's ending is actually a cop-out: instead of walking into the sunset Nellie surfaces into the bright light which, metaphor to the end, dissolves her.

Ida, a film from Poland, goes in a different direction. Ida's understanding of who she is, is quite settled and only intermittently, not fundamentally, challenged, let alone denied and destroyed. Ida learns a fact about herself that is at odds with her life--and decides to stick with her life: identity is not in the blood but in our upbringing--and what others make of one which is why Lene rejects Nellie's claim of not being Jewish. More briefly: for Ida return is an option; not so for the persons in Phoenix.

"Barbara" and "Ida" are next, and "Two Lives" is yet another exploration of identity, with Norway, luminous and rainy, and the grey GDR as locales ...

All the best und nichts fuer ungut--may the day stay reasonably sunny.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Dusko - a film can alter how you see something that lies well outside movies

And here is where I come to my last conversation with "Phoenix," because sometimes, a film can alter how you see something that lies well outside movies. As soon as I got home from seeing the film, I opened my copy of Salka Viertel's memoir, "The Kindness of Strangers." She grew up in a well-to-do and cultivated Jewish family in Sambor, Galicia, which is now part of Ukraine, moved to California with her family in 1928, wrote screenplays (including "Queen Christina" and "Deep Valley") and turned her home into a magnet for people fleeing Hitler's Europe.
When I read the book, I couldn't understand Viertel's decision at the end of this passage, and I am not sure I do now. But in my mind, the trajectory of Petzold's heroine is now caught up with the following story, permanently.
Viertel's brother Siegmund, known as Dusko to the family, didn't make it out of Sambor in time. By 1946 Viertel was convinced that Dusko hadn't survived; she got one unconfirmed report that her brother had jumped off a train to the camps and been killed by the SS. Frantic to keep any details of Dusko's fate from their elderly mother, who had managed to reach the U.S. in 1941 and was living in her daughter's home in Los Angeles, Salka made a point of intercepting the mail every day.
One morning, Viertel opened a letter from a woman named Viktoria, an orphaned Galician who had been raised alongside Salka and Dusko in Sambor, as part of the family. Viktoria wrote, "In 1943 [Dusko] came to my house begging me to hide him, but as we are living in a rented place I could not do it, and since the last German Aktion I have not heard from him again." Aktion, Viertel knew, was the word used to mean rounding up Jews.
Viktoria closed the letter by saying she now had four children, and asking, "would Salka, who has always been like a sister to me, send us a food parcel?"
Viertel started to reply.
I wrote her that she had forfeited the right to appeal to my sisterly feelings. She had cruelly denied shelter to a hunted Jew, whose father and mother had given her love and devoted care since she was born, and she had allied herself with monsters and torturers. My tears stained the paper and I had to stop. Could I reproach this cowardly woman for not risking her life? Hadn't others, more powerful than she, stood by indifferently when these unspeakable horrors took place? She was only one among millions ….
I tore up the letter, mailed a CARE package to Sambor, and never told Mama what happened.