Copernique Marshall's Essays
No. 051 to 060
(From April 7,2014 to January 1st, 2105)
060 - 2015-01-05 - January the Second
I never paid much attention to New Year's Eve nor January the first, but January the second, for me, has always been and still an important day of the year. It's the day I empty my desk, sort its content, then line up all the documents I have in my filing cabinet and, if I have the time, do the same thing with the bookcase I have in my office. At work. Then I go home and do the same thing there.
Usually takes about seven, eight hours, but what fun it is and how relaxing it feels on the next day when I show up for work. - This year was exceptional because the third of January was a Saturday and so, I took my sweet time and even added my computer to the list of "things to clean up". That took me an extra four hours. At twelve noon, January the third, I was through and sat down for lunch with the kids and a big smile. I felt like I had done two weeks work in a day and a half. - Even reprogrammed my phone while I was at it.
I did say "fun" did I not ? Believe me : if you've never done it, try it next year. Not tomorrow, not next week : next year. The entire thing has to be done on January the second or at the very beginning of a New Year to coincide with the opening of a new agenda. Particularly if you're like me and still use the paper variety. What variety ? The Featherweight variety, pocket size dairies, leather bound, from Smythson of Bond Street, London ; black, with an address section and a pencil down its spine. used to cost 1,5£, now in the 44£ range (talk about inflation ! - By the way, that's Pounds, not Dollars, and add shipping and other costs) but it's the only luxury item I buy... ahum... I've been buying for the past 23 years. Three years ago, they changed its name to "Panama" - God knows why. - Anyway, the last twenty-two are all lined up in the side bookcase I have besides my desk, at home. They're my "Tempus fugit" reminder. Occasionally, I pick one up and opened it at random. Amazing the souvenirs one can find in these agendas. Keep yours !
But the real fun comes two ways : one, by finding all sorts of notes, including paper clips, half-used writing pads and pencils, pens that no longer work, even an old tooth brush ; this time, I found an electric razor which I thought I had lost and a thirty two years old - honestly : 32 years old - computer magazine (1). The second fun comes by knowing that you're all set for the New Year with fresh office supplies and an up-to-date telephone agenda.
The only sad thing about it all is looking at stuff dating back several years ago and reading names of old friends one hasn't heard of in a long time and the occasional deceased contacts.
Anyway, have a Happy New Year.
(1) Interface Age, November 1981 - Apple II : 64K memory, 2 floppy disk reader-writer (100k each), standard monitor (40 characters, 24 lines), NO upper/lower case, optional serial port, optional system clock : 2.500 $ - No kidding :
059 - 2014-12-01 - Oscars, Sound Purists and Other Matters
I think it was Bill Maher, in one of his New Rules (there are hundreds of them on YouTube), who proposed the idea of recalling Oscars, that little statue for which some people have done things you and I don't want to know.
He suggested that, every time the Academy of Motion Pictures and Glitter would hand out a new Oscar, it would, recall one. Like : "This year, the Best Film award goes to so and so but we have decided to recall that given for Kramer versus Kramer because it wasn't that good of a picture. We made a mistake that year."
Imagine handing out a Best Actor award to the forthcoming popular-of-the-month actor but recalling at the same time that given to Ernest Borgnine for his role in Marty or handing a Best Actress award to an unknown actress but recalling one given to Merryl Streep : "Sorry Merryl, but we gave you too many."
I can thing of recalling a whole bunch of Oscars for some bad movies who received eleven Oscars (Titanic, The Lord of the Rings : The Return of the King), nine (The English Patient, The Last Emperor), eight (Gandhi, Amadeus, Cabaret, Slumdog Millionaire)... My personal vote would go to The Ten Commandements, Ben-Hur and Forest Gump but then I would have to stand in line..
No need anyway to make a public announcement : just send a bailiff with a court order.
Come to think of it, this could apply to all showtime awards prizes : the Grammies, the Emmies, The Tonies, the Golden Globe, and so on. - Think of Whoopie Goldberg : one Academy Award, two Emmies, one Grammy, one Tony and a special Emmy for her Comic Relief Benefits. - How's Rita Moreno ? One Academy (Best Supporting role), two Emmies, one Grammy and one Tony. - Wouldn't touch John Gieguld though (one Academy, one Emmy, one Grammy and one Tony). Why ? Because he WAS a good actor. - But Barbra Sterisand (nine Golden Globes, two Academy and two Tonies) ?
Apply this to French Literature and their Goncourt, Femina, Renaudot, Grand Prix des lectrices de Elle and Prix Interallié... (I think they have one for every author who has managed, in his lifetime, to write more than one book.)
Sorry Guy Mazeline (Goncourt 1932), the prize, that year, should have gone to Louis-Ferdinand Céline.
Could start a trend.
I hate it when "sound purists" start talking about Long Playing recordings calling them better than CD's or stating that MP3's don't quite capture the real sound of instruments or human voices. Most of them usually have had their eardums shattered by whatever rock concert they went to, listening to pointless drum players, and have no idea, for example, of phasing and dephasing of loudspeakers. I particularly hate those who have multi-hundred-dollars latest "sound systems". They usually haven't a clue what they're talking about. - Ever noticed that most of them have few recordings whilst record collectors usually posess run-of-the-mill playback apparatus ? - Our disk-jockey, Paul Dubé, doesn't even own a sound system : he listens to his huge collection of music (enough to wall paper several rooms or open up a radio station) through his computer...
My father taught me a lesson one day, a lesson which I will never forget :
T'was a Saturday afternoon and I was at the time listening to some insane rock n' roll music on my portable radio. Came up to me and said : "You like music ? Come with me." He drove all the way to Montréal, parked his car near a huge hotel - not too sure, but I think it was the Ritz -, went in, bought two tickets and lead me to a huge ballroom (well it looked big) where we had third row seats. Then came the musicians.
Funny looking bunch. Very distinguished but wearing plaid shirts and jeans. They explained that their luggage had been mislaid by the airline company that had flew them from Budapest and asked to be forgiven. Everybody laughed, applauded and then they sat down and started playing. Two violins, a larger one (which I later learned that it was a viola) and a cello.
I can't remember what they played ; a Schubert, Beethoven or a Mozart string quartet ? Who cares ? It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. in my life. Somebody should have taken a photo of me then. I was totally unprepared for the sound I heard that day, having, of musical instruments, only heard, until then, the piano we had at home and those of La fanfare secrète de Napierville.
What I don't understand is why some people spend fortunes on sound systems which can only remind them what they may have heard live which, suprisingly, some have never heard.
There is no way, any sound system can reproduce the sound of a full orchestra in one's living room. Neighbors would complain. As to rock bands at home ? Well one could be arested for disturbing the peace.
And I went to the theatre not too long ago. To see a French adaptation of Oscar Wilde's greatest play : "The Importance of Being Earnest". Not too bad but if you must see it, please try it out in English.
Reason for this is spelled out in a litte essay I wrote on the subject which you can find attached. (It's in French.)
In closing, I'd like to say that my "Introduction to Classical Music" is slowly taking shape. You can start reading it (although it's continously being amended) by going to this page (two segments thus far but a third and a fourth should be added shortly.
Have a happy week,
058 - 2014-11-03 - Untitled
This is going to be a short column for the reason mentioned at the end.
But first :
I was watching a movie on my RCA Victor (sic) Pad the other day, Four Assassins, written and directed by Stanley J. Orzel wherein reference was made to the shortest short story ever written (Ernest Hemmingway) : "Baby shoes for sale, never worn". - Sad as can be, naturally. - It was immediately followed by another : "I still make coffee for two.". - Six words each.
Since the original (Hemminmgway's), countless have been written. Here's a few :
- "Wrong number", said a familiar voice.
- "Sorry soldier, shoes sold in pairs"
- "Longed for him. Got him. Sh*t"
- "He is not yours. Do the math"
Cute aren't they ?
As much as I liked Hemmingway's story, I found the Coffee one better.
A new series ?
A student of mine - let's call her Suzanne : Suzanne is a nice, non-age related name and it'll be fine for what I'd like to say ; Suzanne, then suggested, some weeks ago, that I write a series of articles on classical music.
"Sort of an introduction, she added, for people, like me, who don't know what it is or how to listen to it.
I'm aware like everybody that a symphony in C major is not a symphony in B minor or that a sonata is not a nocture but I have no idea why, nor why some symphonies have four movements and others either two, three or five.
Could you explain this in plain English so that people like me can start listening to what seems music made in heaven by angels."
Well, Suzanne, I guess you will be proud of your teacher because I started working on one which will contain lots of examples, sound bits and even whole musical pieces.
The first installement should be available in about a week as you read this (*).
And thanks for suggestion.
In the meantime,
Have a happy day,
(*) See this link.
057 - 2014-10-06 - TV or not TV
(That is the question)
When people ask me how do I find the time to raise a family, teach, write, read, travel and do the rest of the stuff in which I'm involved, I have a stock answer : "I don't watch TV". Nothing to write home about really because there's nothing exceptional in not watching tv ; lotsa people do that, the same who don't generally read newspapers. Simon Popp is one of them and I know of few others in my relatively small circle of friends. What IS exceptional is the number of people who spend hours everyday watching never ending episodes of their favourite TV sitcoms or series.
Take NCIS, for example : it's in its 12th year with an average of 18 to 20 million viewers per episode ! How many episodes ? Two hundred fifty eight, so far, and, like I said, more are being filmed as I'm writing this. Now, how can anybody watch two hundred fifty eight episodes of anything (not counting their countless re-runs in between years of production) without getting bored stiff after a while ? And I'm not counting the spinoffs : NCIS Los Angeles (120 episodes and into its 5th year of production) and the recently added NCIS New Orleans (18 episodes but into its second season only). Add them up. And that's nothing to compare with Law and Order (456 episodes) not counting its variations : Law and Order, Special Victims Unit and, I understand, Law and Order UK.
Want more ?
Daytime soap opera : Guiding Lights, in its 57th year ; As the World Turns, 54 years, Days of our Lives, 48. - In England ? Coronation Street, 53 years... and then, there's the ubiquitous Doctor Who, into its 50th year.
Wanna watch something very strange ? Try Sherlock and Doctor Who :
Which goes to show that I do watch TV once in a while. On my computer. Mainly documentaries (I should write an essay one of these days about which documentaries on YouTube are exceptional) but something, like Sherlock (the one with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman) is worth looking at.
Blues and Apple
I mentioned this in my last column : if you think that Steve Ray Vaughan invented the Blues, I will walk out of the room. The same applies to Steve Jobbs : if you think he revolutionized the [computer] world....
Not that I dislike[d] both of them but let me clear on this point : if you don't know the definition of the word "hoodwink", look it up in a dictionary. Here, I'get you a hint :
"...deceive, trick, dupe, outwit, fool, delude, inveigle, cheat, take in, hoax, mislead, lead on, defraud, double-cross, swindle, gull, scam..."
Had enough ?
I'll say this : if you knew anything about the Blues, you might consider Seve Ray Vaughan as a good interpreter (better, anyway, than B. B. King who is the grand master of "hoodwinking") and if you knew anything about computers and operating systems, you'd stay away from Steve Jobbs and his band of renown.
Just look up on the Internet and find out the market share Steve Ray Vaughan or Steve Jobb's people occupied over the years over, say, Bessie Smith or Microsoft.
Now, I'm not going to say that Bill Gates (or Paul Allen) - of Microsoft - were geniuses and that Microsoft will last forever, way beyond Apple, after all they both fooled IBM, but both, I think, never saw Google nor Android coming ; not even Linux who now is THE operating system of more than 95% (you read correctly : ninety five percent) of the world's fastest computers (it is, by the way, the operating system in our server at the UdeNap).
Say hoorah for Linus Benedict Torvalds who created the FREE Linux kernel.
Just thought, I'd mentioned his name.
But about Apple :
I went to an Apple store, a couple of weks ago, wearing a moustache and my hair all wrapped up in a tight-fitted hat. Didn't want to spread rumours that the Université de Napierville was interested in their products.
Went there to pick up a keyboard for a friend of mine who lives out-of-town and was in a dire straight need of one. A cheap keyboard which, in the PC world, would cost anything between 9,95$ and 15,99$ but, in the Apple world, I did have to dish out 55$. Its shape, size and quality reminded me of the "Chicklets" keyboard IBM tried to market in the late 50's as THE keyboard for their PC Jr. which, of course, failed admirably.
Hey, you can fool some people some of the time but not everybody all the time.
Did I say "Apple Store" ? Seemed to me that I was in a religious temple or a bee-hive where, under the influence of I-don't-know-what-spell, converts or believers were willing to pay twice the price of an Android product to be part of a cult. The Apple mystic, the Apple myth, the Apple we-know-it-all ?
Sounded like Muslims to me. Or the fanatics in the Southern Part of the United States who are convinced that the world was created in seven days, some 4,000 years ago.
What's this with Apple fans anyway ? They've been standing in line for the last five or six years to buy outrageously priced telephones now into its six (or is it eight ?) variation, tablets twice the price of Samsung's, or newflagled gadgets nobody needs ?
No viruses ? Of course not : who would want to rob a bank which has 1000$ in its vaut as opposed to another that contains 100.000$
ITune, free applications ? - Try You tube, Google or even Samnsung's Play Store. How about a USB on those Itablets ?
Like trying to convict a Muslim that their God is the 5001 variation of another thought up by some other prophet 5000 years ago.
Yeah, I know : they're the easiest, most convivial and shaperst looking computer stiff around. That is : if you don't want to spend a couple of hours to LEARN how files can be organized and interfaces be changed (to your liking) instead of spending twice the amount of your hard earned money to buy something 90% of the world seem to cope up with.
Ah ! A word that exists in French but not in English (sic)
I have a friend near Providence, Rhode Island, whose job is to rewrite movie dialogues and for which there is no trade or professional name such as that by which Michel Audiard is known in French : "Un dialoguiste".
Which reminds me of something that really happened a few years ago :
There was this pratically perferct English speaking lawyer who was interviewing, in court, some day, a witness (in French). At one point, he asked the judge for a short break during which he phone his secretary and asked her : "What is 'une brique et un fanal' ?"
The answer (and origin) can be found here :
Have a happy day,
056 - 2014-09-01 - Music, Music, Music
I got involved into an argument, a couple of weeks ago, with Paul (our disk-jockey) who suggested that I should write, along the lines of my essays on books, plays, jazz, classical music, Rock n' Roll, etc. (see Chroniques), one on the Blues.
"After all, he said, everybody likes to listen to Blues once in a while and there's a lot of fans out there who feel that it's the greatest music ever written, closer to what they feel and think and that it's a lot more 'important' in their lives than jobs, careers and even their own life-long companions (the word he mentioned was "wives")..."
"Blues ? I said, are you referring to :
Guitars played off-beat, off-notes, with a lot of riffs, slides and amplifications around which everybody clap their hands raw saying : 'He's the greatest bluesman that ever existed' of a 22 years old kid, most-likely-on-drugs performing live, on stage, 'so close to what real people feel', and all sorts of garbage like that ?
or to :
Classical Blues as played and sung by the likes of Lightnin' Hopkins, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Barbecue Bob, Blind Willie Johnson, and Tommy Johnson, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Sippie Wallace, Leroy Carr, Mississippi John Hurt, Charley Patton, Memphis Minnie, Son House, and Big Joe Williams ?
If you want me to talk about B.B. King, the 'quintessential living legend' (sic) singing 'Nobody Knows the Troubles I've Seen' with a $30,000 Rolex watch on his wrist after having been driven to his gig in a Rolls Royce (on which he regularly insist).
The answer is NO : I will not stoop so low as to mention even the best of today's so-called Blues singers who are, in my opinion, just a shade better than dreadful."
One day, I might be tempted to write about my favorite Blues singer of all times. His name is Lighnin' Hopkins.
In the meantime, I'll be working on something involving Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra.
But, as George mentions in her column, summer is ending and let me enjoy it.
Have a happy day,
055 - 2014-08-04 - Modernity and education
I was skimming through the dollar ($) bin of a new-and-used book store the other day (I always do) and was surprised to find boxed hard cover editions of philosophical essays on Hume, Leconte, Nietsche, Plato, Socrates (and others) which,of course never made it to the best sellers' list but still... Who knows ? They might make it in the 50 cents bin.
It reminded me of an argument which I once had with a bookstore owner who was complaining that "today, as long as you have good advertising, you can sell just about anything". Told him that even if I gave him a one million $ budget, he wouldn't be able to sell a thousand copies of an [obscure] 16th Century philosopher , that books had to have a certain appeal or qualities like : "easy to read", "no blantate controveries" ; that people, after reading it would think themselves intelligent, superior to the masses ; that they would be sure to have good taste (and so on). Which, of course, left out Thomas Carlyle, the writer to whom this edtion of Le Castor™ is dedicated...
On my way back, I thought of a running gag, at this University, about the ancient Roman history teachers who wanted to go on strike or, at the very least, wanted their salary raised because, after the SECOND and THIRD Punic war, they had to add them to their curriculum, having had already enough problems with the FIRST and what had preceded THAT...
It brought to mind what we should be teaching our kids nowadays.
T'was Simon Popp, I believe, that reminded me not too long ago that, fifty years ago, electronic calculators did not exist, nor cell phones, nor photocopiers, nor fax machines nor, obviously, personal computers, tablets and whatever. - "Oh, he said, we had slide rules and logarithm tables, and teletypes."
Yeap, fifty years ago - at least where I was raised - people didn't pay much attention to time zones, 10 digits telephone numbers ; color tv didn't exist nor CNN (well, at least that was a blessing).
Fifty - no : eighty - percent of the people one knew at the time didn't have a car and some of them were thinking of, perhaps, buying a refrigerator.
I'm not that old and you wouldn't believe how many people I have meet in my lifetime who were totally illiterate or never did go beyond half a mile from where they lived...
Which bring me back to what we have to teach to our kids. Particularly what I should teach to my kids...
As you know, I have four lovely children : Albert, born in 1991, Marie, born in 1993, Léon, born in 1994 and Mycroft who will be 12 years old in a couple of months.
I have no problem with Albert who seems to be the spitting image of his grandfather. He is curious about everything, methodological and very intelligent. Marie, well, she's a bit of an outcast amongst her friends being, like her mother - what can I say ? - prudish (?). Leon will probably become a sports professional. As to Mycroft...
Mycroft is a bit of a poet but what can we really predict about our children ? They have minds of their own and you might influence them, make them think differently, but essentially, they have a destiny in front of them and it is theirs.
Don't know how many times I told myself how little did I have a choice on my own. I married a wonderful woman whom I meet by accident. Worked in thousands of jobs before I got where I'm at, right now. Lived thousands of dreams. Thought I was invicible. That I would live to see the collapse of our galaxy.
And there I am. With a 23 years old son, a 21 years old daughter, a 20 years old another son and a child about to hit puberty who's about to turn 12 years.
And a wife who is one year younger than myself and about whom, I think, I would be lost if she disappeared.
What can I teach my and her kids ?
I know :
First thing : curiosity. That will always keep you happy.
Second : good manners. You wouldn't believe how far that will get you in life.
And thirdly : dancing. Why not ?
The rest, they'll learn the way I did. I guess.
Have a happy day,
054 - 2014-07-07 - Paperless
Having read last month's mot de la fin, I couldn't help but say to myself how right Richard Dawkins was in saying :
"I thought that, in my life time, evolution would be an accepted thought around the world as a scientific fact supported by overwhelming evidence but, unfortunately, the whole point about faith is that even massive and constantly accumulating evidence cuts no ice."
On an entirely different matter, I was expecting the same general reaction from a lot of people I know.
It came in a comment that was made to me by one of them : "Mr. Marshall, have you heard the latest news ? Very shortly La Presse will eventually not be available in paper format !"
I won't mention the tone in which it was said, but it sounded like everything was about to hit the fan of civilization as we know it.
Imagine : a major newspaper (one of many) about to turn digital. No more forest to chop down, just electrical signals going along wires, or even without wires, bringing news (and the usual adds) without paper, ink, typographers, presses, delivery trucks, newsstands, etc.
Lost jobs ? Of course not : think about the jobs created by the computer revolution, but that's beside the point : think how many people will be able to read the content of La Presse around the world. No, I'm not thinking about local stray dogs bits or the accident that will eventually happen, local as well, at the corner of Panet and Logan streets in the gay section of Montréal, but about the possible genius-editorialist who might win the next Pulitzer Prize because he or she will, finally, found to be better than his or her counterparts writing for the Washington Post or the London Times who seem to have cornered the market. (I'll admit that the odds are limited... but still.)
But I'll go beyond that :
Think of no more paper. Anywhere. Everything turned into textos, e-mails and - giant leap - no more written words : verbal communications only, novels read - heard - through your iphone or whatever. And even beyond that beyond : photos, documentaries, reports sent or read aloud, on sites, by engineers, architects, insurance adjusters, etc., with figures entered into spreadsheets of which only the pie charts or other diagrams will be visible, all calculations having been done in the background by reliable computers.
Made it to a fast food joint recently ? - Above the counter, more and more photos of the food one can order, with combination menus, numbers and prices. A child, five years old, can now recognize something he has eaten and that he liked or didn't like. - What does he care if it has this or that in it ? (Written in some archaic language whose rules date back to the 16th century.) - That, of course, will never happen to Lobster thermidor aux crevettes accompanied by a Mornay sauce served in a Provençale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle paté, brandy and with a fried egg on top and... spam (Monty Python) or a 2016 Château Lafitte with a slight taste of pierre à fusil... Wanna bet ?
I understand the arguments for books, magazines and newspapers (definitely not man's greatest inventions) : they are tangible objects, with a certain look and smell, easily carried, albeit fragile, dust gathering and easily lost as they have definite sentimental values particularly in doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms (where one can catch up on six, seven months news and articles written in Readers' Digest four years before...). - Yes : sentimental and so eternally bound as were horses to your great, great or great-great grandfathers, at the turn of the last century ; or candles, a few years before : they were perfect for transportation and to light up evenings.
Sentimental ? I often wonder what would have happened if, back then, our predecessors had outvoted cars and light bulbs. We'd be up to our knees in manure in major cities and spend our evenings in the dark because the stuff to manufacture candles couldn't last that long : it is rarer today than ordinary petrol.
You have bats in your belfry, I say to people who believe that printing which has been around - for what... 600 years ? 2,400 years after the first pyramids... - will be available to 24th century astronauts (as in Star Trek) but then how many people know everything about the Jurassic period by having watched the Flintstones ?
Hey : I got symphonies, string quartets, several books and even films in my phone, for God's sake ! And my reader can carry up to 200 books, including several dictionaries !
I know you'd like to have me on toasts for predicting the future as I see it, but on what do you think you're reading me right now ?
Read today's Popp's "Suite" section, please. And think about it for a moment.
;-) <----- See what I mean ?
Age and work
I was asked an odd question the other day. Well, not odd but somehow unusual : "Is your father still working ?" - Of course, he is. - At 80+, he seems to be an unstoppable tireless middle age man.
How does he do it ?
I wouldn't like to compare him to Einstein but they do share an anecdote which dates back, in the case of my father, about ten years ago, and in the case of Einstein, seventy years ago (I think).
Both, as members of universities, had to undergo a yearly physical examination. By then, Einstein and my father were in their seventies and showed signs of fatigue. So, of course, the physician who had examined them suggested that they take a few weeks off. "What do you mean ' a few weeks off ' ?" they asked. - "Take a vacation, said the doctor. Think of what you would like to do, for sheer pleasure, and do it." - Next day, Einstein was back in his laboratory and my father back at his desk.
I'm not that old, but, sometimes, like everybody, I guess, I sense a bit of tiredness overpowering me. Not stress, just a certain lack of strength. Like not being able to complete in a day what used to take me a couple of hours, and before lunch at that. When I go for a walk or for a bicycle ride, gone are the days where I could go up to the Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre and walk back to the apartment we had across the Parc Montsouris (a 20 kilometer walk) ; and I certainly wouldn't attempt, today, "Le tour de l'île" ; even if my life depended on it. Still, I manage to complete my daily, weekly, monthly tasks, but I had to forget some of the stuff I used to do, like spending a couple of hours at the gym every other day. I'm now down to once a week. - In a word, I have learned to pace myself and for that, I had the perfect teacher, my father. Not that he gave me advices, taught me how to this or that, nor explained the rationality behind it all : he simply showed me by doing what he did, and the only thing I had to do was to follow his example.
Ironically, "Old man" Popp (that's what we call him affectionately because he so set, in a way, in his ways) seem to be heading that way. We were talking about it the last time we meet each other (with young Jeff Bollinger). He said he wasn't feeling that old but, since his retirement, he had found out that since he had a lot of times on his hands, he now took four hours to do things that took him one not too long ago and that sitting in a chair doing nothing was getting more and more pleasant.
"Started in my forties, he said. Somehow, I discovered that by NOT DOING certain things which I believed were essential to my wellbeing, I had more time to do stuff that I really liked and it's been a blessing ever since. - You know : not reading newspapers, not watching TV, not going to the theatre, not attending one of those you-can't-miss functions."
The beginning of wisdom ? - Perhaps.
All I know is that running, playing squash, riding for hours on a bike might be good to one's health but, in a way, all these activities, at times, are simply ways to escape reality, our reality which is, it seems, we tend to discover past a certain age, and find that it was not necessarily what we thought it was.
One last thing :
"Stress does not cause fatigue. Fatigue causes stress.
And if you overwork your brain, it will shut down."
Let me know what YOU think.
Do enjoy your days,
053 - 2014-06-02 - Numbers
Do me a favour : close your eyes, pick a number between 1 and 6 and try to imagine 1 to 6 objects, anything : dots, billiard balls, pencils or whatever. Can you see them clearly ? If you saw these objects on a table, could you instantly guess that there are 1 to 6 of them without counting ? Now try it with 7, 8 or 9. - There's a trick to do this : look at them as if they were dots on a dice. With a little practice, you'll be able to know that there are 10, 11 and up to 12 of them without adding a single digit in your head. Beyond that, it becomes very difficult except if you are what is commonly referred to as a "savant", someone with one of the multiple varieties of autism or a genius.
Most of us often circumvent the incapacity of our brains to conceive relatively small, medium and even large numbers by thinking of what they represent in terms of money or the numbers of hours or days : 1,000 Dollars or Euros will buy you this or that, a week is seven days and so on, and so forth. You might, in that respect, remember "Thirty days have September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31,except for February"... But, when you start thinking of thousands of thousands, when do you stop ? Millions, billions and trillions ? Like 17,000,000,000,000 $ or the current US National Debt... and increasing every minute - check it out at http://www.usdebtclock.org/... Even the best mathematicians or astronomers have difficulties of forming a clear image of what they represent. Oh, you can always say that a truck full of sand contains 40 and 50 million grains [of sand] but that doesn't really help ?
I happened to read on galaxies recently and fell on statistics that nearly knocked my socks off.
Do you know that there are between 200 and 400 billion stars in our galaxy ? That's 200 to 400 billion stars like our sun, some bigger, some smaller but still : 200 to 400 billion of them. If there existed only one galaxy, we might consider these figures making some sort of sense, who knows ?
What I know is that we can only see a fraction of the Universe, even with our most powerful telescopes, so we can't really guess how many galaxies and stars are out there.The most current estimates is that there would be 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the visible universe, each of which would have hundreds of billions of stars. A recent German supercomputer simulation put that number even higher: 500 billion... In other words, there could be a galaxy out there for every star in the Milky Way.
100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars ?
(1 followed by 23 zeros)
That's a sextillion (unless I don't know how to count) stars...
Now, if you want to talk about planets, well I'm walking out of here...
I did read recently, in one of Richard Dawkins' books that if you hold a dime at arm's length and pointed in the sky, in any direction, the space it occupies ('til the end of the known universe) would easily contain 100 thousand galaxies which were all created, unless you believe litteraly what's in the Bible, as the result of the Big Bang which occurred (best estimate) 13.7 billion years ago.
(BTW : Edwin Powell Hubble (1889–1953) is not the one that proposed the Big Band theory but Georges Lemaître (1894-1966), a Belgian Roman Catholic priest who was a professor at l'Université de Louvain. - See Foot note.)
Makes us feel small doesn't it ?
Let' try it another way :
If you could build a space ship that could travel at the speed of light, that is : capable of circumventing the earth 7 times in one second, it would take you, not much, about a second to reach the moon, but 8 minutes, still, to reach the sun and about an hour and a half to land on Jupiter but : 4 years and 4 months to reach the nearest star and 42 thousand years to get to the edge of the nearest galaxy. Add another 20 thousand if you want to go to its center. And about 13,3 billions of years to reach the farthest.
Remember Voyager I, the first man-made object sent in 1977 on an interstellar mission ? Well, it just stepped out of the solar system. Took it 37 years to get there. At 57,000 kms per hour (1,6 time around the world, not in a second, but an hour). - It should be about one light year away in about 17,000, maybe 18,000 years.
To put that into perspective, think of driving to the moon in your suburban car. Make sure you have full tanks as it'll take you, non-stop, about five months. Now do the maths for Jupiter, the nearest star and then the nearest galaxy...
And while you're at it, think that it took between ninety eight and two hundred forty thousand years (depending on when you think the more or less modern homo sapiens appeared on this planet) for the Almighty to send his son to remiss our sins.
Foot note :
It is said that when Lemaître published his Bing Bang theory, in Nature (1931), the then pope, Pius XI, proclaimed that it proved the content of the Genesis upon which he would have promptly wrote to his Highness telling that it didn't prove anything... - What : a fallible pope ?
More numbers and other remarks (in reply to a recent message ) :
The message :
"Dear Mr. Marshall,
I know you. You probably have read 4,000 books, in English, French and Latin, and I keep wondering why, in your columns, you insist so much on obscure British writers of the 18th and 19th century. Not that I disagree but wouldn't be more thought-provoking for your readers if you wrote about stuff they might know ?"
P. *** (Châteauguay, Québec)
Dear P. *** (of Châteauguay),
Yes, we know each other. We meet at a conference, last year. Thanks for writing.
Here it goes :
First of all, I haven't read 4,000 books. You know how many books that is ? Two a week, nonstop, for 40 years, taking a break of 2 weeks, per year. Seems like a lot and, come to think of it, I doubt if I will ever read that many books in my lifetime as I keep wondering where I would store them if I ever do. Thirty some odd bookcases. Enough to cover sixteen to seventeen meters of walls. - My father might have reached that number by now because I've seen him read a book a day for long periods when I was a kid, and he's in his eighties but even at that.
So far, I might have reached the 1,000 plateau, perhaps 1,250 to 1,500 if I count stuff I quickly glanced at, skipping entire chapters ; three Simenon on an overnite flight, for example, but I wouldn't count those as "books", let alone three books, more like a medium size easy novel in three parts, read as quickly as possible. I suppose that if one counts those, there might be, out there, some people who will make it to 4,000 and even 5,000. - And by saying 1,000, I'm being very generous as some books I have read twice or even three times (Ruskin comes to mind) and some books took me a whole year to read (Proust). I may have held 4,000 books in my hands but read them ? No way.
English, French and Latin ? Ten, fifteen in Latin, at the most, including stuff I was forced to read in college : "De Bello Gallico" by Julius Caesar and, even more boring : Cicero's harangues. (I did, however enjoy Caius Suetonius Tranquillus and Virgil's Eclogues.) - For the rest, half French, half English. - I suppose I could add a couple of books in Italian and I remember trying to familiarize myself with German, way back then, as I wanted to know if Schubert's lieder had been properly translated, but these were exceptions.
Depends also how many hours you read in a week and how fast you read. Paul [Dubé], who opens his sound system as soon as he gets up in the morning and closes it minutes before going to bed, was telling me recently that, if you listen only to one hour of music per day, for 40 years, it would be the equivalent of 1 year 7 months of 24/24 music. An impressive number but I'm sure he's already got that under his belt. - Apply the same math to books : one hour a day, 60 pages per hour, for 40 years, well you'll get something close to 3,000 books (at, say, 300 pages per book). Another impressive number.
As to my fixedness (fixation, if you prefer) on obscure 18th and 19th century British writers, I must admit that I've insisted a bit too much on them lately but that was out of pure selfishness because I am a devout fan of the way they wrote in those far away years. You know : complete sentences, very little dialogs, proper paragraphs, great vocabulary, down to the stuff they wrote about, like :
I found what looked like a great book two weeks ago : "A Vindication of Natural Society" or "A view of the Miseries and Evils arising to mankind from every Species of Artificial Society" subtitled "A letter to Lord *** by a late Noble writer.". - Price : once shilling and six pence when it was published in 1756.
The late Noble author turned out to be Edmund Burke (1729-1797), an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher, who, after having moved to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party.
The book was in response to a previous series of letters written by Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751), leader of the Tories, and published shortly after his death, on the "Study and Use of History containing arguments for atheistic rationalism."
Atheism in the 18th Century ? Sounded right up my alley but I couldn't go beyond the 7th or 8th page and I'll tell you why :
Long out of print, the only way I could get hold of this essay was through the Internet. I downloaded its epub version, transferred it to my reader only to note that all the s's had been read and copied as f's (they looked like "f"s in the original book), cl's as d's and all sorts of aberrations of the kind. Unreadable. I tried the .txt version : even worst. Went to its .pdf. Same thing. Finally, I got the .jpg version but it was 140 files long and it couldn't be read unless split in two and considerably enlarged. Out it went.
Which brings me back to numbers :
Should I count this book as a 7 or 8th part of a [140 page] book ?
If I did, maybe I should count other books that interested me at first and then I dropped after a few and sometimes more than few pages, i.e. : 8/170, 325/1575, 9/896, etc., and add all the American Scientific and other magazine articles as "parts of books" (*) ... Then you might be right : I could be up there, in the 4,000...
With a big smile, but I have taken note of your comments and I'll refrain, for a while, to mention "Sartor Resartus" by Thomas Carlyle about whom, Herbert Spencer, said, in his unpublished reminiscences, that "Every day he secreted a certain amount of curses and he had to find something or someone on which to dump them." (**)
Have a happy day,
P.-S. : An interesting statistic I learned recently : in 1868, England imported 1,000,000 lbs of ivory mainly for piano keys and billiard balls. At 60 lbs per tusk, it called for the killing of 8,333 elephants. That was the year before celluloid was invented. Unfortunately, it had, until 1875, the unfortunate characteristic of exploding once in a while, which rendered the playing of snooker quite dangerous.
(*) Ex. : James Burke's Circles which were eventually published in book format.
Herbert Spencer's unpublished reminiscences of Thomas Carlyle : "The Perfect Owl of Minerva for Knowledge on a Poet Without Music”.
052 - 2014-05-05 - And why should we know this ?
Chances are that, if you were born in the United Sates of America, you never heard of Anacreon and if you were born in a Christian family and raised as a Christian, you never heard of Apollonius of Tyana.
He was a Greek poet (582-485 B.C.) mainly remembered today for having written drinking songs. Drinking songs ? - Grow up, as a friend of mine would say : not all Greeks were philosophers, architects, mathematicians or sculptors. A whole lot of them were black-smiths, raised horses, owned farms, knew how to cook, mend shoes, belts and wearing apparels, recoated pots and pans and, of course, made wine. It goes without saying that, if they did make wine, they drank the vile stuff, sang, were at times merry and, most likely, at other times, celebrated the beauty of women. Well maybe not all the time but surely between wars.
They weren't alone. Their counterparts in Persia must have done the same thing, just like the Egyptians had done before them. - The Romans that followed also knew how to make wine and so did, I guess, the Goths, the Visigoths, the Huns, the Vikings, the Spaniards and God knows who else, including the Myans and the Aztecs.
Stepping, occasionnaly, in today's waterholes, I can see it's still going on.
Anyway, in the 18th Century, a bunch of Brits decided that that sort of activity ought to be organized and therefore decided to create a let's-call-it "club" to do precisely what the Greeks had done two thousand years before and to make sure that no one forgot it, they named their association "The Anacreon Society" and this is where things get interesting :
Their president, in the mid-1760's, a certain Ralph Tomlinson, wrote, as his contribution to the society, a poem entitled "To Anacreon in Heaven". Not a masterpiece, as you'll see in a moment, but it seemed to have catched on to the extent that another unknown, John Stafford Smith, wrote music to it and the entire thing was published in The London Vocal Magazine in 1778.
The words are, to say the least, entirely forgettable :
To Anacreon in Heav'n, where he sat in full glee,
A few Sons of Harmony sent a petition;
That he their Inspirer and Patron wou'd be;
When this answer arrived from the Jolly Old Grecian;
"Voice, Fiddle, and Flute, No longer be mute,
I'll lend you my name and inspire you to boot,
And besides I'll instruct you like me, to intwine,
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine
You can hear these words and the music, sung a capella, on YouTube, at this address :
You might recognize the tune as...
... having become a popular drinking song on both sides of the Atlantic, a certain Francis Scott Key, an attorney, while detained on a British ship during the night of September 13, 1814, as the British forces bombarded an American fort, wrote other words to it under the tile of "Defence of Fort M'Henry" whose words, you sure have heard before :
Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
The entire thing is know todayas The Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America as per a congressional resolution adopted on March 3, 1931 (46 Stat. 1508, codified at 36 U.S.C. 301), which was signed by no less than President Herbert Hoover.
Raise your glass the next time you hear it.
As to Apollonius of Tyana, brace yourself :
He lived sometimes between 15 and 100 AD and was quite popular during his life time. He must have been as he was not only a teacher of Neopythagorean Philosophy (with a great following) but he performed miracles, including raising the dead, had extra sensory perception (in Ephesus, on September 18, 96 AD, he is said to have announced the death of emperor Domitian, an event that had occurred on the same day, but in Rome) and so on. No changing of water into wine though. A cheap trick, I have heard.
His disciples - and he had many - all agreed that, after his death, he resurected, visited them all and, finally ascended into heaven. - He is also lnown to have appeared in 272 AD to ask emperor Aurelian who had captured Tyana to spare its inhabitants.
Sounds familiar ?
Rumors abound that state he was crucified just like the well known son of a carpenter born in Bethleem and to whom he was a rival.
Problem is there are more proofs of his existence than that of the latter who lived at about the same time and who, with one exception (The Autobiography of Flavius Josephus), is only mentioned in the New Testament. - His name, in fact, is mentioned by numerous biographers and commentators of the period who most scholars believe to have been more trustworthy than the uneducated apostles of Bible fame.
To top it all, while we have no image of his counterpart, except some disputed shroud in Turin, there exists countless medals and talismans which bears his image. - He even has a statue which you'll find the Heraklion Archeological Museum (Crete).
Check it up on the WEB :
Did I mention that Voltaire was a great fan of his ?...
And finally :
Every day, except Fridays, I have lunch at the same restaurant - a "pub" -, at the same seat, the same time and am served by a not-too variable set of waiters and waitresses (they do have the right to days off and that sort of things). I've gone through, of course, its entire menu several times but, as a whole, it has enough variety to keep me out of trouble.
Do I read the newspapers they leave on the counter for their clients ? Of course not : I pull out my KOBO reader and immerse myself in 19th Century English Litterature or whatever I fancy that day.
I am a creature of habit which is probably why I love so much John Le Carré's George Smiley, quoted by Simon Popp a couple of months ago.
Problem is that, behind where I sit, there's a very large TV screen where soccer (football) games are regularly shown along with the assorted cricket or hockey matches. So, when a "biggy" comes up (whatever a "biggy game" is), I'm surrounded by people watching it and looking at me as if I was an extra-terrestial or something that has no contact with reality.
One day, not too long ago - I think it was a match between Manchester-United and Some-Other-City-Red-Bulls - and, to avoid the noise, I put on, like I do frequently, my $400 earphones (a gift from my niece).
I did have to remove them for a second to order my meal and a fan just looked at me as if I was stupid. - I told him, very politely, that I didn't understand why he was looking at me that way and asked him why he was yelling and applauding so much : "The game is being played 7.000 kilometers away, I said. They can't hear you."
That's when I discovered I was an extra-terrestial.
You know what I call these screaming amateurs ?
Barking mad !
There you have it : my geatest insult.
051 - 2014-04-07 - On Landscapes and sceneries
Ever noticed that, whenever one or a couple of your friends give you a rendez-vous in a Scotch Bar, particularly one of the snobbish varieties, you invariably hear on-going arguments between aficionados who state, on the one hand, that the Very Very Old Special Grandfather McPlouck Very Very Dark is good but not as good as the 17 years old God Save the Queen Really Special Highest Label Oldest Stuff of the Very Little Scottish Island in the Middle of the Sea, to which another party will counter-add that nothing can be compared to the 23 years old Her Majesty's Mystery Score when Lit 001 Centenarian, aged in cherry tree barrels blessed by the Bishop of Inverness (*).
(*) As per the scotch brands described in George Perec's "La dictature du Whisky" which can be found at the following address : http://www.fatrazie.com/whisky.htm.
Same thing with "paysages" : everybody to whom you mention your favorite "paysage" will mention ans, of course, a better one ; even worst : they won't even agree with you on what a "paysage" might be. That is, if they are English or American or Autralian. The reason for this is simple :
Just like there is no French word for "commuters", there is no equivalent of the word "paysage" in English.
English speaking people have two words for "paysage" : "landscape" and "scenery", none of which seems to project the general idea expressed by the French word.
As a general rule , "landscape" implies something like man-made or man-designed gardens or parks, that is the rearrangement of natural elements such as the trees, flowers and plants (with alleys, breen houses, etc.) such as The Kew Gardens in London or Le Jardin des Plantes, in Paris, whereas "scenery" seems to stand for, to quote of the dozens of versions of Merriam-Webster : "the natural features of a landscape considered in terms of their appearance, especially when picturesque" which refers back to "landscape" as if nature had to be reorganized and examined a certain way in order to decide if it's worth looking at or not, nothing to do with the "grandeur" associated with or suggested by the word "paysage".
A matter of taste, really, a problem compounded by the fact that everybody - and their dogs - seems to be entitled to his or her opinion or, in many instances, totally distorted oomphs. - May I pause a moment, here, to mention again that certain things in the universe, including sceneries and landscapes, whatever you prefer, are ugly, unpleasant and disgusting to looks at and that has nothing to do with "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". In the landscape category, for example, a dump, is a dump and it is ugly and smelly, just to mention two of its intrinsic "beauty aspects" although, to hide the fact that they are dumps, they're now called "landfills" just like what used to be known as "swamps" are now called "wetlands". So, if your favorite landscapes or sceneries are dumps or swamps, don't mention it. At least not in mixed society.
And then, there's experience. I once knew a girl for whom the breathtaking views of the mighty St-Lawrence river between Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré and Seven-Islands (Sept-Îles), in the Province of Québec - there are five or six of them on a 600 kilometers stretch - were God's greatest gifts to humanity. Guess she had never seen nor heard about the Grand Canyon in Arizona, nor the Victoria Falls in Zambia (Zimbabwe), nor the Lord Howe Island, in New South Wales (Australia), nor the Rainforest sinkhole in the Jaua-Sarisarinama National Park of Venezuela... just to name a few other "God's gifts".
Now, I don't want to be a spoilsport ("un empêcheur de tourner rond" - try to translate that into English !), but I wholeheartedly agree with George Bernard Shaw who said that nature might be grandiose and very beautiful but he had yet to see a single seat in raw nature that could be qualified as comfortable. In other words, nature, as seen from a landscape or scenery point of view might appeal seriously to very serious people, but I am not one of them.
I'm an annoying and impolite intellectual, the type who prefers to read about or watch a documentary on the American Yellow Park than go out of his way to be impressed by it. I'd rather, if I do have to travel, look at the Eiffel Tower or the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge and even the Statue of Liberty than fall on my back checking up on all the beauties of the natural world. Not that I hate nature but I can't read nor work when I'm in it or, if you prefer, out in it. Don't judge me but regardless of how many times, I've tried, I've never been able to feel at ease with the sun over my head and earth beneath my feet, with winds from every direction flipping the pages of my book. There are no chairs in nature, nor tables on which I can put my notebooks, nor, most of the time, decent lighting and, considering how cold or hot it can be at times, I'd rather spend my days in heated or air-conditioned interiors. Quiet deserted public libraries also suit me fine.
I spoke not too long ago about readers, tablets and computers in which you can carry hundreds of books. Sorry but technology hasn't reached, as yet, the comfort (remember the word) that a table and a chair can provide. Not that I don't use readers, tablets and computers ( I own at least seven of them, eight if I count my multi-purpose portable telephone or cell which now looks like a miniature tv set) but I'd rather use them on a flat surface than on my lap, knees or whatever.
But enough of that. I promised to mention at least one "paysage" for this column. Here it is :
The view of Le Champ de Mars, as seen from the Trocadero, in Paris.
So, ok, a lot of it, particularly the Eiffel Tower, rigth smack in its middle, is man-made, but so are la Forêt de Rambouillet, les Jardins de Versailles, Waterloo and the Central Park in New York City (whose architect, by the way, was the one who subsequently designed Le parc du Mont-Royal in Montréal). Now don't tell me that they are not great "paysages"...
Sorry about this photo but I couldn't resist.
(If you ever seen the film that was made that day, you'll see how
frustrated Hitler was not to have something similar in his Third Reich.)
Addendum and corrections :
1 - On November 11, 2013 (see article 047, page 5), I wrote a few notes on Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinand von Humboldt (1767-1835), a Prussian philosopher, government functionary, diplomat, education reformer, translator, and linguist but forgot to mention a good friend of his, Dartolomeo de Sanctis (Dr), who considered himself a true Renaissance man. He involved himself in a wide range of scientific interests (galvanism, electricity, magnetism, heat, light, sound, philosophical laws of harmony) but was, in his opinion, as much a literary man as a scientist. He wrote poetry in Italian, translated Anacreon into Italian (wait 'til I tell you about him !), wrote Latin pieces in the style of Horace and Catullus and even earned a little money writing Latin inscriptions for medals and monuments. But his greatest feat - and I know you've been waiting to hear about this all your life - was carry on a "literary duel" in English on "the impossibility of the tonic accent or emphasis falling on a short syllable".
You can read more about him in the Victoria Research WEB site at the following address :
The quote (in italics above or most of it) is from their Eileen Curran, Emerita Professor of English, Colby College, who is currently writing a series of short biographies on obscure contributors to the 19th-century periodicals. In her introduction, she mentioned that the Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals names "some 12,000 authors" of articles in a mere forty-three monthlies and quarterlies and leaves many more unidentified adding that "while some of the same writers reappear in the thousands of monthlies and quarterlies not indexed in Wellesley and of weeklies and annuals, those journals would provide thousands of additional authors".
So you think there are too many writers today ?
2 - A reader from Dorval City, Québec, wrote us recently to mention that I was a bit harsh in my last column with my remarks on the difficulties in learning both French and English, stating, amongst various arguments, that he, personally had had lots of problems with French irregular verbs. "Total nonsense" he said, stating, as an example, the verb "aller" ("to go") which, he added, was very common but had the most unusual forms such as : "je vais", "tu vas", "il va", but "nous allons", "vous allez", "ils vont"...and why, in the world, did the first French speaking people decided that the future tense of "aller" would be "j'irai", "tu iras" (and so on) ?"
My answer was that you couldn't find a more common verb in English than the verb "to be" and how is it written ? Well, start with "I am", "you are", "he is", going back to "are" for "we", "you" (plural) and "they", and, while you're at it, look into "was", "been" and "were".
Never said that French was easy to learn, but did mention that English was no picnic either.
3 - And finally, something I picked up in William Cobett's "Advice to a Young Men and (Incidentally) to Young Women in the Middle and Higher Ranks of Life" (1824) :
"Besides reading, every man or woman ought to write. The reason for this is very simple :
If you wish to remember a thing well, put it into writing and you will ; even if you burn the paper immediately afterwards for the eye greatly assists the mind.
Memory consists of a concatenation of ideas. Where theses ideas occur, the time, and other circumstances contribute to their recollection and nothing does that more effectually than putting these facts in writing.
A JOURNAL should be kept by every man and woman.
Put down something in it every day in the year, if it be merely a description of the weather.
You will not have done this for one year without finding the benefit of it.
It disdurbs the mind of many things to be recollected; it is amusing and useful, and ought by no means to be neglected.
How often does it happen that we cannot make a statement of facts, sometimes very interesting to ourselves and our friends, for the want of a record of the places where we were, and of things that occurred on such and such a day!
How often does it happen that we get into disagreeable disputes about things that have passed, and about the time and other circumstances attending them!
As a thing of mere curiosity, it is of some value, and may frequently prove of very great utility.
It demands not more than a minute in the twenty-four hours; and that minute is most agreeably and advantageously employed.
It tends greatly to produce regularity in the conducting of affairs: it is a thing demanding a small portion of attention once in every day; I myself have found it to be attended with great and numerous benefits, and I therefore strongly recommend it to the practice of every reader."
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