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Nederlog

November 13, 2012

About internet, some great music and more updating

Sections
Introduction
    1. The internet
    2. Some great music
    3. More updating

PS. My eye problems

Introduction:

This is about some of the changes the internet brought; about some great music I found, while searching the internet for bits that are related to my own past; and about updating the Nederlog index.

You shouldn't miss
Some great music, especially the first item!


1. The internet

Yesterday I wrote about the fact that I have been trying to find things on the internet that relate to my own memories and to entries in my journals about things I lived through, which I tried to find support for on the internet: What is to be found out, after nearly 30 years, about so-and-so and about such-and-such event?

As I wrote, this does work out for me, at least more than not, which is interesting and nice, and which also shows that the internet really is a new sort of thing in human civilization, that changed rather a lot.

Clearly, this is neither a new nor a deep observation, but it is interesting to see how much it has changed things for me that I have spend most of the time of my life on:
  • I wrote a lot, which I did mostly by typing, from 1967-1987, when it turned out that a wordprocessor - as it was then called, in my case Wordstar - makes it a lot easier to write, in my case, and I suspect in most cases, especially because making corrections became so much easier.
  • I read and studied a lot, and indeed I own thousands of paper books, but especially from 2009 onwards, when I got fast internet, it turns out it is a lot easier to work through texts in electronic form, especially because of the search possibilities this provides.
  • I did rather a lot of mathematics and mathematical logic, mostly on paper, but it turned out this is - for the most part: I still use paper and pencil as well - much easier and can be done much faster in special software, and I think that programming languages are the new mathematical logic (namely because this is executable code).
  • I have a very good visual memory, but it turns out there is in quite a few cases some visual support for my memories on the internet, that when seen evokes more memories than I knew I had.
These are all major changes in the ways I lead my life:

Until my mid-forties, ca. 1995, I was a very scholarly sort of person whose life was mostly centered around my typewriter and my own library of thousands of paper books; but since the late 1980ies the typewriter has become a wordprocessor, and it seems that may be fairly soon replaced by dictation; while it turned out I can read effectively through a lot more of material using things that are on the internet than I could do in the time when I had to rely on what was in my own library, or on what I could borrow and read, eventually, sometimes after weeks or months of waiting, from a library.

Again I am quite aware that I am saying nothing new or original - and indeed my main point is how much this changed: There really are great differences between being a scholarly type in a pre-computer and pre-internet age, and being a scholarly type in the computer and internet age, namely because the latter has far easier access to far more than the former, and also can do a lot more with information than hand it to a secretary for typing, which is what academics tended to do between 1920 and 1980, for most academics couldn't even type on a typewriter.

Anyway... I am belaboring the obvious, but it would be nice if someone could do some sort of empirical study into the extent of the changes the computer and the internet brought, especially for scholars and for people with intellectual talents.

To end this section with a remark about the last point: As it happens, I am a natural born scholarly type with a very high intelligence, but I was born in 1950 in a poor proletarian communist family in Amsterdam.

This meant some discrimination (I was denied access at 12 to the grammar school, in the end because my parents were communists, and my head teacher hated communists, and their children, which denial made an intellectual career rather a lot more difficult than would have been the case if I had been treated fairly, on the basis of my evident intellectual abilities), but it also implied a major setback that I only became aware of after I got to be 17, and started earning my own money, and could buy my own books:

Unlike the children who were born to academic parents, I had no access to great literature or great science until I was 17:

Nobody showed me Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Lucretius, Ockham, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Newton, Hume, Voltaire, Diderot, Dr. Johnson, Hazlitt, Russell, Ramsey or indeed a lot more, simply because everyone I met until 17, and almost everyone I had read till then, had no idea of their existence, or if they had any, they surely never
had seriously read any of these, and could not judge them fairly.

I had to find out about these and others - Lichtenberg, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Chamfort, Rochefoucauld, James, to mention a few others - by myself, mostly by buying them in antiquarian bookshops, when I was aware of their existence and great merit, usually through reading other texts I had found myself, where I should add that I did have the luck to have been born and raised in Amsterdam, where there were plenty of good antiquarian bookshops.

The internet makes a major difference in that respect of personal development: if one is intellectually gifted and if one has access to a computer, one no longer is constrained within the limits of knowledge and civilization of  one's parents, one's schools or the place where one lives, for all the real classics are available on the internet, for free also. (See e.g. the archive.org and the gutenberg project - and no: I regard Google's efforts as efforts to appropriate the classic literature that ought to be free to Google, and I detest the Google imprint on every page of the books they have scanned: it looks like rape to me and I do not believe at all this is in the interest of anyone but the top and shareholders of Google.)

In any case: if I had had the opportunities the internet provides, merely as regards the availability of the great works of literature, science, literature and mathematics, from age 8 or 10 onwards, my life would have been quite different, as I would have had much better materials to develop my talents at a much earlier age.

In fact, I probably could have found most of what took me some 20 years to find, buy and read, within 2 to 5 years at most - and I do not mean reading the lot of it in 2 to 5 years, but I mean knowing about its existence, and having it available for reading. [*]

2. Some great music

Having decided to look for things I remembered or wrote down as striking, as I wrote yesterday, here are three discoveries that resulted from this the last days.

I start with the most amazing and impressive item:
She was an amazing singer, and this is an amazing song, claimed to be "one of the first protest songs" - which I think actually is a misnomer: many songs were protest songs of a kind, such as The Internationale, and some even became national anthems, like the Dutch Wilhelmus and the French Marseillaise - but however you categorize it, this surely is a most impressive song that gets most impressively sung.

In case you wonder: Here are the lyrics, with a link in the title to my source:
Strange Fruit

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter cry
I know the song since the 1960ies, when I first heard it on a record. I did not know there was a live performance and I am glad there is. There also is an interesting brief documentary about it: 'The story behind Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit"' .

Here is another one by Billy Holiday, with some of the great players of jazz:
One reason to show it, for me, is that I like this music, and this is jazz - but in a very much more palatable form than the jazz I was first exposed to in 1965-67, which was mostly freaky sounding music much influenced by hard drugs, that I did not like at all - I mean the music: about its being influenced by hard drugs I then had no idea - which for quite a long time misled me about jazz music.

Finally, an even older song, namely from 1923, unfortunately without video:
This is sung by another black woman with an amazing voice, who also died young.

One reason to list this last song here is that I like it, and that I first heard it in the 1960ies; another reason is that people with ME/CFS should be able to recognize the sentiments: "So it goes..."

The lyrics follow, with a link to the place I found them, but with two corrections by me, and the remark that the lyrics seem to have been Betty Smith's - they surely are not Eric Clapton's or Nina Simone's, to whom I have also seen them attributed:
Nobody knows you when you down and out

Once I lived the life of a millionaire,
spending my money, I didn't care
I carried my friends out for a good time,
buying bootleg liquor, champagne and wine

When I began to fall so low,
I didn't have a friend, and no place to go
So if I ever get my hand on a dollar again,
I'm gonna hold on to it till them eagle's grin

Nobody knows you when you down and out
In my pocket not one penny,
and my friends I haven't any
But if I ever get on my feet again,
then I'll meet my long lost friend
It's mighty strange, without a doubt
Nobody knows you when you down and out
I mean when you down and out

Mmmmm, when you're down and out,
mmmmm, not one penny
And my friends I haven't any,
mmmmm, well I felt so low
Nobody wants me round their door,
mmmmm, without a doubt,
No man can use you when you down and out
I mean when you down and out
3. More updating

As I said yesterday, I still have to finish the updating of Nederlog. I'll do my best, but probably will not be able to finish it today. When I have finished, I will mention it in Nederlog.

---

Maarten Maartensz


P.S. My eye problems

There will be a new PS, probably with another name. In any case, the eye problems are diagnosed
as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, quite possibly as a part of Sjoegren's syndrome, which is a fairly common complication of ME/CFS, but also exists independently from ME/CFS.


[*] And let me make "an elitarian remark", that is directed at the few with good brains: If your IQ is over 130 or 140 - if you really are 1 in a 100 or 1 in a 1000 or better as regards intellectual abilities - and you are interested in exercising your mind, do not get taken in by the judgments of those who surround you, for those who are not as intelligent as you are do not have your interests, and indeed are likely to lack the ability to fairly and properly judge the intellectually best.

To make up your own mind on the great books the least you have to do is to try to read them - and this also may need some preparation, that may need some time to acquire, and that also may require a certain age. Thus, I only started to read the great historians - Herodotus, Thucydides, Machiavelli, Gibbon, Burckhardt - in my thirties, as I lacked the patience and background knowledge to do that properly in my early twenties.


                  PS: Any necessary corrections have to be made later.