Friday, April 30, 2021

One Was Not Very Brilliant Perhaps

 Having taken Seven Men from the bookshelves, I noticed in "Hilary Maltby and Stephen Braxton" the paragraph

'Which do you think is REALLY the best--"Ariel" or "A Faun"?' Ladies were always asking one that question. 'Oh, well, you know, the two are so different. It’s really very hard to compare them.' One was always giving that answer. One was not very brilliant perhaps.

By the time I was of age, women knew themselves competent to make their own judgments on literature. Or if not, they asked somebody other than one. Still, I understand the sense of flatness in recalling the things one habitually said decades before.

 The mention of Will Rothenstein in "Enoch Soames" led me to look at the National Gallery of Art website. There he appears as Sir William Rothenstein. None of his works are now on view, and for some--unfortunately including his portraits of Max Beerbohm, Hilaire Belloc, and Walter Pater--there is no image available.  ("On view": the National Gallery of Art will reopen on May 14, and until then nothing at all is on view; but I don't know what better term the website could use.)


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

S Mode

Last week, I picked up a newly purchased laptop, not very powerful, but more than sufficient for the limited purposes I had in mind. The initial setup somehow required that I log in to Microsoft, which was briefly frustrating, since I had forgotten my password and the reset prompts confused me a little. Still, I got it set up, checking off No to about eight categories of data Hewlett Packard and Microsoft thought I might care to send them. Then it was time to download the software I wished to use.

In trying to run the first installer, I learned that I would have to take the computer out of "S Mode". In S Mode, I learned, one can only run programs downloaded from the Microsoft Store. I can see the advantage of this for some users, for whom it probably makes computer use safer. I cannot quite see why one should have to go to the Microsoft Store to turn S Mode off, but I did. A friend in the computer business says that S Mode is for Windows 10 Home Edition, and that he always upgrades clients' machines to Windows 10 Professional first thing.

I was soon back at the Microsoft Store, for one of the first installers I ran was for Python. But when I entered "python" at a command prompt, the browser suddenly opened to the Microsoft Store, offering to download Python 3.7. I had forgotten this behavior from last year, when I first installed Python on a Windows 10 machine; but I quickly remembered it, and last year's brief but intense irritation. I looked up the instructions, and was soon able to run the Python I wanted.

I also removed programs running alphabetically from Amazon and through XBox. This was not necessary to my purposes, but I didn't care to have them taking up space. Taken together with S Mode, they suggested that HP and Microsoft were selling into a market where the user wished to have his hand held and helped to shop. Perhaps some users want that.  

The setup was a little quirky, but not bad compared to what one used to go through. And having worked through the setup, I find that the machine does quite well what I bought it for.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Vartan Gregorian, RIP

 Today's newspapers carry obituaries of Vartan Gregorian, who in the course of a long career was provost of the University of Pennsylvania, president and chief director of the New York Public Library, president of Brown University, and president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Gregorian was born into an Armenian family in the north of Iran. He left Iran at the age of fifteen for an Armenian school in Beirut, then studied at Stanford, where he earned his degrees.

Gregorian is said to have rescued the New York Public Library from bad condition, through skillful direction and energetic fundraising. He would not have been available for the job had he been appointed, as he had reason to think he would, as president of the University of Pennsylvania.

In 2003, he wrote an engaging memoir, The Road to Home: My Life and Times. This is another memoir that I lent out and never got back, so I can't check my memory. But the portion before his arrival at the library was fascinating for its picture of childhood and education in Iran and Lebanon, then the world of the American academy and academic politics. The portion dealing with the library included a lot of important and celebrated names: I suppose that this was only fair, since the owners of those names helped build back the finances of the library.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Dennis Donoghue, RIP

Mostly I remember Dennis Donoghue for his memoir Warrenpoint.  Some years ago, I loaned my copy to a co-worker. She has since retired and left town, and probably took the book with her. I'm not really out of pocket, having bought it from the dollar carts at the Strand. Still, I now and then find myself wishing to re-read or quote Warrenpoint.

 By profession, Donoghue was a teacher and critic. At some point, I had a copy of England, Their England, and I might have had a copy of a book on American literature. But it is Warrenpoint that I remember, and wish I had on my shelves. It gives an interesting picture of his childhood and youth in Northern Ireland, where his father, a Catholic, was a sergeant in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The reflections on reading and learning are what I remember it best for, though.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021


The latest public dump of personal data comes from Facebook. This morning, I saw that someone had put up a site "Have I been Facebooked", and I visited to check my cell phone number. The query gave me my first and last initials, though no hint for gender or date of birth. "Have I been Facebooked" seems to have received a cease-and-desist, but "Have I Been Pwned" (HIBP) has the phone numbers loaded in, including mine. (HIBP is cagey, though, and does not offer initials etc.)

Now, I have not signed into Facebook more than a handful of times, and those involved setting up the account. Many years ago, a young man told us that it was creepy when people our age (parents of teenagers) were on Facebook. By now, I gather it is a boomer colony and the trend-setting young have moved on. Still, I don't want to use it, and never have. I signed up only to test the use of its authorization protocol for some web applications that we had. Once I learned that the web application did not just then support the use of Facebook authentication, I forgot Facebook.

But Facebook didn't forget me. My account was one of 500 million accounts to have data spilled. The good news, I guess, is that the data did not include an email address or password. Still, I wonder whether junk phone calls will start to ask for me by name.

Monday, April 5, 2021

The Concomitants of a Printing-House

 Today I opened The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, by chance to the entry for October 14, 1772, and found

He asked me whether he had mentioned, in any of the papers of the Rambler, the description in Virgil of the entrance into Hell, with an application to the press; 'for,' said he, 'I do not much remember them'. I told him, 'No.' Upon which he repeated it:

Vestibulum ante ipsum, primisque in faucibus orci,
Luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae;
Pallentesque habitant Morbi, tristisque Senectus,
Et Metus, et malesuada Fames, et turpis Egestas,
Terribiles visu formae; Lethumque, Laborque.

'Now,' said he, 'almost all these apply exactly to an authour; all these are the concomitants of a printing-house.' I proposed to him to dictate an essay on it, and offered to write it. He said, he would not do it then, but perhaps would write one at some future period.

A footnote gives Dryden's translation of the verses (Aeneid VI, lines 273-277):

Just in the gate, and in the jaws of hell,
Revengeful cares, and sullen sorrows dwell;
And pale diseases, and repining age;
Want, fear, and famine's unresisted rage;
Here toils and death, and death's half-brother, sleep,
Forms terrible to view, their sentry keep.


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Ten Words

 Some time ago, I discovered ten words that work nicely to make persons hang up when they call to sell me warranties, lower my interest rates, or warn me that my social security number is being used from fraud, etc.: "Is there a number I can call you back at?" Some years ago, I found that "What company do you represent, and in what state is it incorporated?" shortened calls nicely.

 In something like five years of asking for a call-back number, I think that I've hit one naive fellow who actually did give me his employer's number. Unfortunately, I lost it before I could find someone to complain to.