If you would only love me…

The other day the wonderful Louise Hope post-processed a book I had uploaded to the Distributed Proofreaders to be proofread, and did so at a speed us mortals can only dream of. The book is an Arthur Pinero play, The “Mind the Paint” Girl, which had some success on Broadway and in the form of two Hollywood spin-offs.

Part of the play were four lines of a song, to be sung by all the actors on the stage. On my request Louise converted these lines to Lilypond, so that anyone can now reproduce it faithfully to any format they like. So here’s my rendition: sung, in Ogg Vorbis format.

The following is a short biography I wrote about Pinero for the proofreaders:

Biography and About this play

Arthur Wing Pinero (1855 – 1934) was a British playwright, son of Portuguese immigrants. His works have been in the public domain in Life+70 countries since 2005. Project Gutenberg already has a couple of them, and besides The “Mind the paint” girl I have two more (“The Big Drum” and “The Cabinet Minister”); so if you liked this one, tell me, and I will give them scanning priority.

Pinero wrote mostly comedies, of which this is one. When he initially tried to write a tragedy, the public rejected it, and he had to rewrite the play (“The Profligate”). With the popularisation of tragedy through the likes of Ibsen, he tried his hand at this type of play again, and this time with more success. George Bernard Shaw called Pinero “a humble and somewhat belated follower of the novelists of the middle of the nineteenth century”.

The “The ‘Mind the Paint’ Girl” seems to have been successful; it was performed in London, New York (Broadway) and Mainz in the year of its publication. It was filmed twice (in 1916 and 1919), and in his novel The Beautiful and Damned (1922), F. Scott Fitzgerald writes: “His bathroom, in contrast to the rather portentous character of his bedroom, was gay, bright, extremely habitable and even faintly facetious. Framed around the walls were photographs of four celebrated thespian beauties of the day: Julia Sanderson as ‘The Sunshine Girl,’ Ina Claire as ‘The Quaker Girl,’ Billie Burke as ‘The Mind-the-Paint Girl,’ and Hazel Dawn as ‘The Pink Lady.'”

O hammers, head

Richard Carrier writes about the books recovered from the lava-covered town of Herculanaeum, and this sentence that he came across in one of them:

For example, consider the man in Alexandria who was a foot tall, with a colossal head that could be beaten with a hammer, who used to be exhibited by the embalmers.

(Via Brian Flemming.)

Got books


Today’s harvest: 5 kg of books (5 copies for PG, to the left, and 15 for myself). I spent about 4 or 5 euros. Weight: 5 kg. About five were free.

Later some friends came by and we went out dumpster diving. I think I got 5 or 6 more books, although I am afraid to touch them for now.

See here for last year.

Word list editors strike a blow for tolerance

The editors of the 1865 word list of the Dutch language strike a blow for linguistic tolerance. (The rest in Dutch.) De redactie van het “Groene Boekje” uit 1865, de “Woordenlijst voor de spelling der Nederlandsche Taal” van De Vries en Te Winkel, konden het niet nalaten om bij de bespreking van leenwoorden even uit te halen naar sommige al te intolerante landgenoten:

Ook in het opnemen der meest gebruikelijke bastaardwoorden moesten wij met eenige ruimte te werk gaan, om de toepassing der beginselen, die wij in dit deel der spelling hebben aangenomen, in de bijzonderheden te doen kennen. Men zal daaruit bespeuren, dat wij de rechten der gastvrijheid milder en onbekrompener opvatten dan sommige sprekers op het Rotterdamsche Congres hebben gedaan; dat wij de vreemdelingen, die geen misbruik maken van ons vertrouwen, volgaarne in ons midden toelaten; hen geheel als burgers erkennen, zoodra zij getoond hebben dit te begeeren; maar hen ook, in het tegenovergestelde geval, vrijlaten zich te vertoonen in hunne nationale kleederdracht, die hun zoo goed staat, in plaats van hun, ongastvrij en onwellevend, een Nederlandsch gewaad op te dringen, dat niet voor hunne leden geschapen is.

(Deze woordenlijst kan over enige tijd op Project Gutenberg verwacht worden. Mogelijk heeft de DBNL er al eentje.)

The future of religion

(The following was translated from German to Dutch by someone else, and from Dutch to English by me. It may have lost something in the translation. There’s also a horrible mixed metaphore in there that I somehow totally failed to manage to steer around.)

[…] Which of these is the most perfect, the best, the highest, truest, purest, the absolute religion? And should we hope that this one will conquer and usurp all other religions in the end to become the true world religion, so that there will be one shepherd, and one flock? We already know, every higher religion claims to be the only true one, and also believes — if any thought is given to it at all — in its own immortality and conquest, and in its calling to become the world religion. Only the tragedy of the Germanic-Scandivian mythology mentioned the “twilight of the gods,” and only in sensing its impending doom at the hand of Christ’s cross.

What is true of these thoughts and expectations? I am not a prophet. But I think that when we have to understand “l’Irréligion de l’Avenir” to mean that mankind, or at least the developed part of it, will no longer have religion, then I cannot share that belief. The longing for the eternal with all the idealistic feelings it produces will always exist, because it belongs to man’s psychological inventory, and a progressing culture cannot change that. […] For a time it looked like religion could only be something for the uncivilized, good enough for the common people, whereas we the civilized would wean ourselves entirely from it. It seems however that in our time the opposite is taking place, and that — parodoxically as it may sound — religion runs the danger of being repressed by the masses, and having to find refuge among those who know that religion as an expression of higher ideals is something deeper and more delicate than being a true believer and being a fulfiller of church duties. […] Religion is endangered! they yell, while in reality it is merely this or that sect or formula that is being attacked or that turns out to be out of date. […] It cannot be assumed that one of the currently existing religions will eat all the others and remain as the one true world religion.

(Theobald Ziegler, 1918)

New wave of e-book readers

It would appear that a second wave of e-book readers is coming. The first wave languished, probably because of a lack of books to read on the LCD based devices, but we’re a couple of years further down the road, and the market might be bigger now.

The new devices are:

  • e-paper based
  • expensive
  • slow
  • high-resolution

More news at the usual suspects:

(I am not linking to particular stories, because there’s too much going on right now. This might be a good start though.)

You’ll want to feel big

The Toziers are prepping have posted a book, Gerald Stanley Lee’s The Voice of the Machines, for via the Distributed Proofreaders, the letter percolator of Project Gutenberg. Soon you will be able to read it, but for now Bill posts a fragment:

Some people are very fond of looking up at the sky, taking it for a regular exercise, and thinking how small they are. It relieves them. I do not wish to deny that there is a certain luxury in it. But I must say that for all practical purposes of a mind—of having a mind—I would be willing to throw over whole hours and days of feeling very small, any time, for a single minute of feeling big. The details are more interesting. Feeling small, at best, is a kind of glittering generality.

In Dutch:

Sommigen kijken graag omhoog naar de hemel, regelmatig zelfs, en realiseren zich dan hoe nietig ze zijn. Dat ontspant ze. Ik ontken niet dat daar een zeker genot aan te ontlenen valt. Maar ik moet zeggen dat ik voor het verstand, voor het hebben van verstand, ik graag hele uren en dagen van me klein te voelen zou willen ruilen, wanneer dan ook, tegen enkele minuten dat ik me groot voel. De details zijn interessanter. Je klein voelen is op zijn best een soort glinsterende algemeenheid.

You cannot read the thing you wrote

Robert Louis Stevenson complains that he cannot read Treasure Island; a pity, he feels, because from what he is told, it would be just the sort of book he’d like:

I want to hear swords clash. I want a book to begin in a good way; a book, I guess, like Treasure Island, alas! which I have never read, and cannot though I live to ninety. I would God that some one else had written it! By all that I can learn, it is the very book for my complaint. I like the way I hear it opens; and they tell me John Silver is good fun. And to me it is, and must ever be, a dream unrealised, a book unwritten.

From The letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. (By way of the Distributed Proofreaders’ forums.)

Damn monkeys!

From an unnamed book currently doing the rounds at Distributed Proofreaders, as quoted by one of the volunteers:

And here let us remark, that this German prince, in order to read that work, was obliged to have the German translated into French by his friend Suhm, the Saxon minister at Petersburg.

Chasot, who had no very definite duties to perform at Rheinsberg, was commissioned to copy Suhm’s manuscript,–nay, he was nearly driven to despair when he had to copy it a second time, because Frederic’s monkey, Mimi, had set fire to the first copy.

Library of Forbidden Books

Photo: Het Parool, 2005.

A while ago the Parool newspaper published a series of books that used to be censored at some point in time. Their list (Dutch): Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses”, “Les liaisons dangereuses”, Brecht’s “Dreigroschenroman”, Alberto Moravia’s “Gli Indifferenti”, Marquis de Sade’s “Les Cent-Vingt journées de Sodome”, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five”, Anaïs Nin’s “Henry and June”, Edith Templeton’s “Gordon”, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”, and Pauline Réage’s “L’histoire d’O”.

I was going to blog about this earlier, but wanted to find some info about newspapers publishing books, which has become quite fashionable recently. Unfortunately, my Google skills wax and wane with the moon, and I couldn’t find anything. From what I remember, the trend of newspapers publishing books started in Italy (?) and became a quite profitable side-line (?) for newspapers who were otherwise experiencing declining sales (?) in an era in which shopping for printed news has become so much easier (?). If you know more, please help me out here.

The pause gave me some time to think. The ultimate act of censorship, as you know, is called copyright. Copyright allows its owners, typically publishers, but sometimes authors (and in the case of Mein Kampf: governments) to stop distribution of a book. Is that bad for the book? In some cases it is. But more explicit censorship, as in the case of the ten books listed before, also makes publication an attractive proposal; who wouldn’t want to own forbidden fruit?

Where copyright may succeed in burying unpopular ideas is with ideas that would have been unpopular anyway; boring ideas, for example. But I don’t think anyone would want to ban boring ideas, because they tend to ban themselves.

Still, now and again explicit censorship escapes the radar even in somewhat interesting cases. For Project Gutenberg I helped salvage an early edition of “De Zoon van Dik Trom” (Dick Drum’s Son), which was censored by the Nazis during their occupation of the Netherlands, and which according to a website called Verboden Boeken (forbidden books) has not been restored since. I’ll have to check and see one of these days if that is still true.

Dik Trom is (the hero of) a series of children’s books that has remained popular for well over a century. The stories are about the adventures of a village boy with a stubborn slant. Slightly picaresque, but not as much as Tom Sawyer or Pippi LÃ¥ngstrump, it is nowadays considered harmless fun. The second book of the series was censored by the Nazis because Dik’s son Jan and his friends had a snowball fight in which they divided up into two camps: the “Dutch” and the “Germans”. The reasons for that choice were simple: the Germans were considered an acceptable alternative (remember: this was before the two Great Wars in which the Dutch perception of their friendly neighbours changed considerably), and because a German black-white-red flag could easily be mimicked by the turning the Dutch red-white-blue upside down.

And of course, in the heat of the battle kids yell things like: “Away with the Germans! Long live the queen!

A more infamous example of a censored work that is no longer being reprinted is of course Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which is actively being censored in Europe using copyright law. Apparently our glorious leaders believe that undesirable ideas easily infect the mind of a simple minded person. I guess it takes one to know one.