Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Göttingen

There's a lovely piece on the BBC called Goettingen: A Song that Made History. If I were French or German, I probably would have heard this song before but, as things are, it was new to me.

The singer and songwriter was known as "Barbara." Her real identity was Monique Serf, a French Jew uprooted and homeless through the war, hiding from both the Germans and their French collaborators. Any bitterness or hatred that she felt would be only natural.

However, she travelled to Göttingen in Germany, and fell in love with it. She started a love song to that city, which she finished back in Paris. It became a hit in both France and Germany. The article I linked to argues that it helped to heal the hatred many French still felt for Germany. Streets were named after her. Barbara appeared on a stamp. Heads of State praised her and her song.

Here are the lyrics (my quick translation following each verse).

Bien sur, ce n'est pas la Seine,
Ce n'est pas le bois de Vincennes,
Mais c'est bien joli tout de meme,
A Gottingen, a Gottingen.

For certain, it is not the Seine,
It's not the Forest of Vincennes,
But it's lovely all the same
In Gottingen, in Gottingen.

Pas de quais et pas de rengaines
Qui se lamentent et qui se trainent,
Mais l'amour y fleurit quand meme,
A Gottingen, a Gottingen.

No quays, and no familiar songs
That lament and linger on
But all the same, love grows strong
In Gottingen, in Gottingen.

Ils savent mieux que nous, je pense,
L'histoire de nos rois de France,
Herman, Peter, Helga et Hans,
A Gottingen.

They know more than we, je pense,
The story of our kings of France,
Herman, Peter, Helga, Hans,
In Gottingen.

Et que personne ne s'offense,
Mais les contes de notre enfance,
"Il etait une fois" commence
A Gottingen.

And none should take the least offence
That the tales told our innocence
With "Once upon a time" commence
In Gottingen.

Bien sur nous, nous avons la Seine
Et puis notre bois de Vincennes,
Mais Dieu que les roses sont belles
A Gottingen, a Gottingen.

True, at our feet we have the Seine
And then the Forest of Vincennes
But, God!, the lovely roses in
Gottingen, in Gottingen.

Nous, nous avons nos matins blemes
Et l'ame grise de Verlaine,
Eux c'est la melancolie meme,
A Gottingen, a Gottingen.

We, we have mornings without aim
And the grey soul of Verlaine
But their sorrows are the same
In Gottingen, in Gottingen.

Quand ils ne savent rien nous dire,
Ils restent la a nous sourire
Mais nous les comprenons quand meme,
Les enfants blonds de Gottingen.

When they have no words to say
They stay to send a smile our way--
we know its meaning anyway,
The blonde children of Gottingen.

Et tant pis pour ceux qui s'etonnent
Et que les autres me pardonnent,
Mais les enfants ce sont les memes,
A Paris ou a Gottingen.

Tough luck for people who would blame
Or offer pardon for my shame
But the children are the same
In Paris or in Gottingen.

O faites que jamais ne revienne
Le temps du sang et de la haine
Car il y a des gens que j'aime,
A Gottingen, a Gottingen.

Make it so they won't return,
The times when blood and hatred burn
For those to whom my heart has turned,
The ones I love in Gottingen.

Et lorsque sonnerait l'alarme,
S'il fallait reprendre les armes,
Mon coeur verserait une larme
Pour Gottingen, pour Gottingen.

And if there should ring alarms,
If we must, again, take up arms,
My heart would cry for the harm
To Gottingen, to Gottingen.

Here is Barbara singing the song in French.



Here she is, singing it in German.


In his second Inaugural Address, after President Obama acknowledged those who fight necessary wars, he said, "But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well." In some measure, that is what Barbara tried to do with this song: A few years after the end of World War II, she tried to turn sworn enemies into friends. And Obama was right: In our generation, with a new set of enemies, we have inherited her cause.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Do we really want (others) to be redeemed?

There's a story in the news about a California teacher who has been working in that profession for a few years. It has come out that, back in 2005 and 2006, she made a few porn movies in order to keep her family fed. Then she became a teacher. Presumably, she put her past behind her.

Actually, she's not allowed to put it behind her. Her past was discovered. She was fired. The grounds on which she was fired is that she "lied" about her past. This is a crock. If she had told the truth, would she have been hired at all? Exactly. She omitted giving a full and explicit account of her past so that she could leave it. She took a swing at redemption, which is now being denied her.

Think, what work can she get now? She's a qualified teacher, certified by the State, who will be denied employment in her trade anywhere in the States. What can she do to survive? I suspect the intention, if there is an intention, is to drive her away, out of mind, and without prospects of "decent" employment. Back to porn, to prostitution, to drug dealing...it doesn't matter to the "decent" people who publicized her past.

If redemption means anything, it means that people can change. And that means that people must be allowed to change. Jesus knew it (John 8:1-11), but many Christians do not.

I will not link to any stories about the poor woman. That decision, unfortunately, has no power to give her privacy.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Future Royal Navy

Back in the 1960's, the Royal Navy still had dreams of being what it once was, a mighty force capable of keeping order East of Suez or, as I like to phrase it, East of Aden. They promoted the building of two modern 55,000-ton aircraft carriers. These were never built because "East of Suez" was no longer a priority to the government. The Royal Navy, instead, specialized for hunting Soviet submarines in the GIUK Gap, the ocean between Greenland and Iceland, and between Iceland and the UK. (Am I the only one who always thinks of this as the Ginnunga Gap?)

It did get aircraft carriers, eventually, but these were tiny, 20,000-tonne carriers that were not even called "carriers" when they were proposed but "through-deck cruisers." Two of these three ships--the Invincible and Ark Royal--have been paid off and are gone. The third carrier, the Illustrious, is reduced to carrying only helicopters as the Harrier jets it was designed for are gone. In fact, the mighty Soviet fleet it was designed to counter is gone.

The RN is reinventing itself as an Expeditionary Navy. That is, it is intended to carry itself to some far-off place, probably as a self-sufficient component in an allied fleet, but by itself if necessary, and attack from the sea. It may have to expel an invader, as it did in the Falklands or Kuwait, launch a land assault from the sea, as it did in Iraq, or control the air space over a troubled country, as the RAF did in Libya. To do all this, it would once again have to operate East of Aden.

While it lays plans for its reinvention, the RN is contracting in size. The last four Type 22 frigates were withdrawn without replacement in 2011. The last of the Hawker Harrier fighters were axed in 2010. HMS Illustrious will retire in 2014, without immediate replacement. HMS Ocean, the other helicopter carrier, will be withdrawn in 2018. The number of new Type 45 anti-aircraft destroyers (Daring Class) that will be built was reduced from twelve to six in 2008. The recent history of the RN shows a steady decline in the number of hulls, shown in this graph from 2011 from a site called Save the Royal Navy.


Arguably, the fleet is contracting now to save money to build new ships. The question, then, is what will the fleet look like in, say, 2020, when the new building is done?

The biggest change will be that aircraft carriers are back on the menu. Instead of the 20,000-tonne former carrier and a 21,000-tonne helicopter carrier it has now, the RN will have two proper, functioning 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers, the Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales. If they were afloat now, only the new Chinese carrier Liaoning would match them in size and only the American carriers, 100,000-tonne behemoths, would exceed them. However, they are not afloat today: the Queen Elizabeth will not be ready until 2016 and the Prince of Wales, 2018.

This rendering, from the Grand Logistics blog, shows the unique "two island" design of the British carriers. The forward island is the ship's bridge. The aft one is the control tower for the planes.



The British aircraft carriers will differ in function, as well as size, from the American ones. They are intended for expeditions to a trouble spot, rather than a permanent patrol of the world's oceans. As a result, they will use cheaper diesel-electric propulsion rather than nuclear power. They will carry a mixture of aircraft, both fighters and helicopters, suited for the expeditionary task, rather than the permanent air wing of seventy to ninety fighter planes permanently assigned to each American carrier. (For perspective, each of the American carriers operates more fighters than the entire RCAF). At most, each of the British ships can operate thirty-six fighters--giving them about half of the punch of an American carrier.

In fact, the flexibility in function of the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers puts them closer in concept to an American amphibious assault ship, like the U.S.S. America, than to an American carrier. They would operate the same fighters as the America: the short-take-off and vertical-landing version of the F35 fighter (the F35-B). Like the America, they could find themselves supporting amphibious attacks with transport helicopters and helicopter gunships. Like the America, they may even end up carrying some marines for the attack. The British ships, though, are quite a bit larger than the America Class, which weighs in at 45,700 tonnes. They are, therefore, able to take on a larger number of roles.

An aircraft carrier going off alone is too vulnerable to contemplate. It is always escorted by a "Carrier Strike Group." In the U.S. Navy, this typically has
an aircraft carrier, at least one cruiser, a destroyer squadron of at least two destroyers and/or frigates, and a carrier air wing.... A carrier strike group also, on occasion, includes submarines, attached logistics ships and a supply ship.
Its British equivalent may be a carrier, a couple of Type 45 destroyers for air defence, a couple of Type 23 or Type 26 frigates for submarine defence, and perhaps an Astute class submarine or two. Replenishment at sea would be from one of the four Tide class replenishment oilers. These large vessels (37,000 tons) should be available from 2016.

The amphibious abilities of the Royal Navy must depend on three Bay class landing ship docks (which were accepted into service in 2006 and 2007, so are still fairly new vessels). Each displaces over 16,000 tonnes. These can carry up to 700 soldiers and landing craft as well as land vehicles or supplies. In addition, the Albion and her sister Bulwark, 18,500 tonnes each, are "Landing Platform Docks." The Albion is currently held in "extended readiness" to save some money. The two will switch roles in 2016, the Albion coming into service as the Bulwark goes into storage. Finally, there are six 23,000-tonne Point Class roll-on/roll-off cargo ships that transport military cargoes and vehicles when required but are chartered as merchantmen the rest of the time.

The Royal Navy's renewal follows the strategy of fewer but larger and more capable ships in almost every category. Two new 65,000-tonne carriers will take the place of the three 20,000-tonne carriers of the Invincible class; six 8,000-tonne Type 45 destroyers will replace the sixteen 3,600-tonne Type 42's that were built; the three 16,000-tonne Bay class landing ships have replaced the five 3,300-tonne ships of the Round Table class. Only the hunter-killer submarines were replaced one-for-one, though the Astute class submarines, at 7,000 tonnes each, are much larger than the 4,400 and 4,800 tonne boats they replace. Finally, the four Vanguard class ballistic missile submarines that constitute Britain's nuclear deterrent will be replaced by either four or three new boats. The number will be determined in 2016.

This strategy makes sense to some extent. A larger ship can be a more powerful one in the short term. In the long term, it can be more easily upgraded. However, a larger, more expensive ship is too expensive to be risked close to a hostile coast, is a wasteful expense for anti-piracy and coast guard work, and is likely to have no replacement in the wings if it is damaged or lost. Numbers of smaller ships need to supplement these big ones. That is why the decision to create a new class of ships for mine sweeping, hydrography and patrol is an important one. A line in the Wikipedia article on "The Future of the Royal Navy" states,
It was speculated in December 2010 (post SDSR) that 'Current plans seem to point to a single class of vessel about 100m in length and between 2,000 and 2,500 tonnes displacement. These will deliver on the MCM, survey and patrol requirements using a range of off board systems like USV’s, UAV’s and UUV’s.'
If these ships are inexpensive in fact as well as in intention, then they may be purchased in relatively large numbers. The Chief of Defence Staff reiterated the plan for a number of smaller ships in this talk.

Still, a few important decisions, besides the number of smaller ships, must be taken before 2020. First, my uninformed guess is that the Illustrious (currently due to operate until 2014) will be somehow kept going for another two years so her crew can be transferred to the Queen Elizabeth. When the Prince of Wales comes into service, the crew might move to that ship while the QE is placed into "extended readiness" (long-term storage). Having them alternate in periods of active service and extended readiness would extend the ships' already-long service lives (from fifty years to a century!) but makes it unlikely that we would see both ships being used at the same time. The extra crew to run both might not be available at short notice.

Alternatively, the Prince of Wales might get the crew of the HMS Ocean in 2020, when the Ocean retires. In that case, the Prince of Wales will probably be used as a helicopter carrier, like the Ocean, rather than an aircraft carrier. It is not an ideal vessel for the Ocean's speciality of supporting amphibious attacks: too big, too expensive, and with no dock for landing craft, so that the lifting capacity of a Chinook helicopter would be the limit on what it could get onto a beach. The Albion and Bulwark would have to pitch in to get the really heavy equipment to shore.

Ideally, a new ship would be built as a direct replacement for HMS Ocean. If that happened, the fleet will be able to keep one strike carrier and one amphibious warfare carrier (LPH, LHA or LHD) at sea at all times while the third ship, whichever that happens to be, undergoes maintenance. Whether to build the third ship is a decision for later.

Finally, there is the RFA Argus, a 100-bed floating hospital. She entered service in 1988 and was refurbished in 2007, so may last a little longer than our 2020 vision can forsee. At some point, her replacement must be planned for.

A strong Royal Navy is an important part of Britain's identity, more so than its army and air force. Although it is at a historic low point in the number of ships and capabilities, there is a determination to rebuild it. However, some decisions have been deferred that must be grappled with before 2020.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Rap as an Art Form

The most skillful, moving rap I've heard is by Eminem: "Lose Yourself." I cannot claim to have heard a wide range of the songs in that style. It is no more a product of my generation than Bing Crosby or Louis Armstrong. Nonetheless, I can appreciate the artistry of Bing, Louis, or Eminem on those occasions that I do hear their work. And I'm hardly alone in liking "Lose Yourself." It received five Grammy nominations and an Academy Award.

Interestingly, my favourite living poet, Seamus Heaney--73 years old, white, Irish, and a Nobel Prize winner so another unlikely fan (statistically speaking)-- also thinks that Eminem is an artist to respect.

Rap as we know it may have begun with gangsters, just as Blues came from the Southern Black underclass, jazz began in brothels and rock and roll was thought of as a sign of moral collapse. But music styles, in general, seem to bubble up from the bottom of society. The same with dance: the samba from workers in Rio, the tango from the outskirts of Buenos Aires, the flamenco, in part, from Gypsies. Those who study and teach about cultural expressions are not, on the whole, those who make them.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Poetry on TV and in Movies

This is a companion to my posting on music on TV and in movies. That subject naturally led to the thought of what tv shows or movies featured poems. Sometimes the best words in the best order to create the strongest effect have already been written, and are in a poem. Since TV and film writers are in love with words (or they would not be writers), they may take the opportunity to feature poems they love. I have noticed this a number of times over the years, and remember some of them fondly. For no particular reason, I will put them in chronological order.

What I won't include (with one exception) are films that have just one line of a poem, even if this happens often. (For example, Christopher Plummer's character in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, General Chang, loves to quote Shakespeare. Nor will I include ones that are prefaced with a few lines from a poem (such as O Brother, Where art Thou? which starts with the Odyssey), nor films that have a line from a poem as their titles (such as No Country for Old Men or I've Heard the Mermaids Singing or, for that matter, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).

I was of two minds about citing The Longest Day, although it quotes part of Paul Verlain's "Chanson d'automne" as a signal that D-Day is coming:

Les sanglots longs         The long sobs
Des violons
Of the violins
De l’automne
Of Autumn
Blessent mon cœur
Wound my heart
D’une langueur
With a monotonous
Monotone.
Languor.

The poetic lines are simply a code here, not a dramatic reading, so they do not exactly fit with my subject.

So let us begin with The Waltons, a popular series featuring a large rural family during the Depression. In one episode in the second season (1973), "The Air Mail Man," the mother is depressed on her birthday, wondering who she is outside of her roles as wife and mother. Life seems too ordinary. Her eldest son, John-Boy, recites a poem to her as a birthday gift. It is "The Windhover" by Gerard Manley Hopkins. She says that she does not understand all of it, but that it is beautiful, "like music." John-Boy tells her that it means that the most ordinary of things can be the most beautiful. I've placed a clip of this scene here. (If the playback is jerky, right-click the link and save the file to your hard drive and play it from there).

The 1986 film, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is about an effort to save humpback whales, and thus humanity, from extinction. (This makes more sense in the context of the movie). The awesome sight of the whales inspires Captain Kirk to recite a line by D.H. Lawrence. The woman's response--"Whales Weep Not!"--is not the next line of the poem, but the title.

video

Beauty and the Beast (1987-90), if I remember correctly, often featured Shakespeare's sonnets, such as this one.

In 1990, the film Awakenings featured "The Panther," a poem by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. The panther of the poem is physically trapped in a cage so his spirit, too, is trapped and dying. A similarity is suggested between the panther and a catatonic patient who is one of the movie's main characters.



You can compare that translation of "The Panther" to mine.

Nineteen ninety-four brought the romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral. As the title implies, the film is four-fifths comedy and one fifth tragedy. As part of his eulogy for Gareth, a much loved and larger than life gay man, his partner recites W.H. Auden's poem "Funeral Blues." The actor who recites it, John Hannah, is brilliant and moving in this recital.


I was never much of a watcher of Babylon 5, a popular space opera that ran for five seasons starting in 1994. The series' producer, J. Michael Straczynski, also wrote the bulk of the episodes. He is, I am sure, a fan of Tennyson's poem "Ulysses," because it features in two episodes. Here is one, from the fifth season episode "The Long Night."

video

The title of the 2009 film "Invictus" refers to a poem by William Ernest Henley. The poem expresses one of the movie's main themes. Its recitation is also the only point in the movie when Morgan Freeman does not try to reproduce Nelson Mandela's accent.

video

By the way, Poets.org has a longer list up of movies featuring poems here and here. Many of them are films I have not seen, or in which I do not remember the poems. (Bladerunner? Really?) I will end, however, with a movie about poetry, The Dead Poets' Society. Appropriately, it uses a poem to explain why we read and write poetry.

"The Villanelle is the Most Restrictive of Sandwich Forms"

The villanelle is, in fact, one of the most restrictive forms of poem. The most famous example in English is Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night," which is on the subject of imminent death, specifically that of the poet's father.

On the other hand, this villanelle made me laugh loudly.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Baha'is in Egypt Cannot Go to School

The Koran speaks of "people of the book," meaning "whoever believes in Allah and the Final Day and does good." Specifically, these include Jews, Sabians, and Christians. In Western terms, the people of the book are followers of Islam or the Abrahamic religions that predate it. Traditionally, Moslems treated people of the book with respect and their religions with tolerance.

At various times and in various places, the people of the book have included followers of non-Abrahamic religions. In Iran, only, Zoroastrians also count as people of the book because of their belief in a Creator, and Satan, and a Day of Judgement. Muslim scholars in India sometimes allowed that Hindus were people of the book, as they saw worship of a single God behind the masks of the many gods.

One religion that has never enjoyed the same respect or legal status in Moslem countries is the Baha'i Faith.

This is ironic because the Baha'i beliefs are closer to Islamic ones, in many ways, than either Jewish or Christian ones are. Like Moslems, Baha'is revere the Prophet Moses, the Prophet Jesus, and the Prophet Mohammed. Like the Moslems, they believe the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Koran are holy writ.

Where is the problem, then? First, their religion originated after Islam, in the nineteenth century, so they do not count as a people of the book--but as heretics and apostates who, on that count, should be killed. Second, Baha'is do not regard Mohammed as the final prophet. After him, they say, came the prophet Bahá'u'lláh ("Glory of Allah"), who lived from 1817 to 1892 and founded the Baha'i faith. Worse still, they do not believe that even Bahá'u'lláh is the final prophet: Revelation, they tell us, is an ongoing process. This is an abomination to Moslem beliefs, just as it is to Christian.

I have known a few Baha'is and respected them. They do not proselytize, but may explain their beliefs if asked. In general, they do not meet in public places, but in small groups in people's homes. They promote peaceful relations in the family and the community as part of an effort to promote peace in the world. For example, if a Baha'i wishes to marry but the families do not approve, then the marriage will not take place; the expectation is that the families, who love their children, and want them to be happy, will eventually abandon their opposition. In other words, if Romeo and Juliet were Baha'i, there would have been no tragedy to write about.

The position of Baha'is in Moslem countries is an ongoing disgrace. In Iran, the constitution was written specifically to exclude their faith from legal protection. Their community is targetted, their property is seized or destroyed, they are arbitrarily arrested and detained and, in many cases, they are executed. In Egypt, Bahai'ism has been outlawed since 1960. A bureaucratic loophole in the 1990s meant that Baha'is could not obtain the government identity card they needed to obtain government services, obtain birth certificates, or even vote. (The card had to display the person's religion, but the only religions that could be listed were Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. A compromise was reached in 2009 that lets Baha'is replace the religion's name with a dash).

However, much of the Arab world has experienced a democratizing movement called the Arab Spring. Its effect in each country varies with the demographics and circumstances of the country, but one would expect that the religious freedom of Baha'is would be increased along with the the recognition of other rights and freedoms. Sadly, not necessarily.

The Egyptian Minister of Education recently explained that Baha'is could not attend public schools. His reasoning was this:
“The Constitution only recognizes the three Abrahamic religions,” Ibrahim Ghoneim told Akbar Al-Youm newspaper Saturday. “And as religion is a subject taught in schools, they do not meet the requirements for enrollment.”
Shame on Egypt if this decision stands. The Baha'i Faith is no transitory phase to be ignored until it has passed. Instead it is, by one measure, one of the top three fastest-growing religions in the world:

The five fastest growing religions in terms of relative growth compared to existing size of religion:
1. Zoroastrianism 2.65%
2. Bahá'í 2.28%
3. Islam 2.13%
4. Mandeans 2.12%
5. Sikhism 1.87%

I note, with amazement and respect, that two of the top three religions in that table began in Iran, and the third is Iran's official religion. That country, like Egypt, should treat its children better.


Sunday, 6 January 2013

In Which I Recommend The Crud Factory E-books

A font that I recommended in my previous post, Goudy Bookletter 1911, was created by Barry Schwartz. You can find it and others of his fonts on his website, ironically named "The Crud Factory." Its proud motto: "Free Rubbish for Free Minds."

The site has three attractions: some life-affirming photographs on the main page, a page of typefaces to download, and a page of e-books in PDF format. As you'd expect from a type designer, these are beautifully laid out, and worth looking at, though they are, admittedly, an idiosyncratic selection.
John Milton, Paradise Lost
Louis Ginzberg, The Creation of the World
Louis Ginzberg, Adam and Eve
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese
Wallace Stevens, Sunday Morning
Alfred Korzybski, Fate and Freedom
L. Zamenhof, Anekdotoj el la Fundamenta Krestomatio
Daniel Defoe, Robinsono Kruso, translated into Esperanto by A. Krafft

Computer Backups, Essential Free Fonts

Over the Christmas holidays, my computer (well our computer) crashed hard. It wouldn't boot. I put in a different hard drive, found a DVD I'd burned with a copy of Ubuntu Linux (since I don't do Windows), and installed it.

Fortunately or not, I've been burned by computers before and have lost files as a consequence. This time, I had some lines of defence against the dreaded data loss.
  1. an external drive, plugged into a USB port, with copies of my documents, my music collection, and my pictures.
  2. an internet drive called "Ubuntu One" that was set to automatically update itself with the latest changes to all my most active folders. (This means that I didn't lose the latest edits to the books I am writing). There are other services I could have used, since just about everyone is offering free online storage these days (Google, Box, Apple, Microsoft), but there was no downside to using the Ubuntu offering.
  3. a gmail account with the last four years of my e-mail on it. I like to have a local backup, so I downloaded all of those emails into Thunderbird, a free e-mail program from the nice people who bring you Firefox.
Still, something had to get lost. I discovered that I did not have my very oldest folders of e-mail backed up, the ones from before gmail existed. The contents of my fonts folder, holding the fonts that I had collected over the years, were also not backed up, as they should have been. Those fonts, though, can be located and reinstalled quite quickly, since I know them by name.

The first step was to see which fonts could be reinstalled through a trip to the Ubuntu Software Centre, an "App Store" such as the Mac and Windows now boast, but older than either. The advantage of installing them this way is that any updates to the font will be installed automatically, like updates to any program. In this way I installed Gentium, Linux Libertine, Biolinum, and the Ancient Scripts fonts. If this method is not available, though, you can download them from their various homes on the web.
  1. The Gentium font is intended to offer all the letters and accents necessary to write any Western language. It has an attractive, chiselled look, similar to Bitstream Charter. It has spun off several variations, including Gentium Basic, Gentium Book Basic, and Gentium Italic. You can download all of the Gentium fonts from their corporate sponsor, SIL. I used this font for the body text in my poetry textbook.
  2. Linux Libertine and its sans-serif companion Biolinum are lovely fonts that come in a good selection of variants: Small Caps, Italics, Keyboard, etc. There is even an illuminated capitals version under development. The project's home page is LinuxLibertine.org and the fonts themselves can be downloaded from Sourceforge.
  3. The Ancient Scripts fonts by George Douros include Egyptian hieroglyphs, Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform, and so on. These may seem arcane but, even if you never type with them, they are essential for reading historical names on Wikipedia. With these fonts, ancient words display properly; without them, there is only a series of question marks.
The other required fonts are not available through the Ubuntu Software Centre.
  1. The League of Movable Type offers Goudy Bookletter 1911. It is based on the Kennerly Oldstyle typeface, created by Frederic Goudy. Its curved lines give it a lot of character. So, although it does not come with bold or italic variants, I am using it for the body text of my translation of Beowulf.
  2. A collection of good quality free fonts can be downloaded at one swoop from SoftMaker.
  3. The Fell Fonts are recreations of 17th century fonts created for John Fell of the Oxford University Press. They are wonderfully suited for titles and handbills and other display purposes. I used one of them on the title page of my poetry book.
  4. Cardo is a version of Bembo designed for "the needs of classicists, Biblical scholars, medievalists, and linguists. Since it may be used to prepare materials for publication, it also contains features that are required for high-quality typography, such as ligatures, text figures (also known as old style numerals), true small capitals and a variety of punctuation and space characters." The one limitation on its use is that the creator would like you to e-mail him if you use it for a project.
Some of these fonts can be used on the web through the Google Web Fonts service, specifically Gentium Basic and Gentium Book Basic, Goudy Bookletter 1911, and Cardo.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Another Military Purchase Scandal--This Time a Wet One?

Now that the F35 fighters that the RCAF was supposed to get are likely to become a more appropriate and cheaper type of plane, one might imagine that the Canadian government is holding its breath, ready to release a big sigh of relief. It may want to hold onto that breath quite a while longer, if this report is correct. It's on a blog called the Sixth Estate and has the title, "True Cost of Harper Government’s Warship Construction Plan: $35 Billion, or $103 Billion?" You can follow the story as it develops on the 3Ds Blog here.

The Royal Navy, like the RCN, is building new ships and discussing its future needs. Its strategy has been to let the number of ships plummet so that the ships themselves can be first-class, high-tech and, inevitably, quite expensive. This is perhaps not the best procurement strategy when one of the main activities of your fleet is to chase pirate skiffs off the Somali coast, and another is to simply show the flag as a reassurance or a warning. A discussion of this, among other things, was recently given by the Chief of Defence Staff, and he comes down on the side of building some smaller ships. To pay for them and, particularly, to man them, either more money has to be found or some larger purchase has to get axed. Two designs that have been put forward for these hypothetical small ships (whether they end up being called Second Class Frigates, Corvettes, or even Sloops) are the Black Swan and the Venator.

I have some notes on the future structure of the RN that I will put up in a later post.

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Update, January 5, 2013: Well, that didn't take long. The headline on the CBC is "Navy supply ships set to become political lightning rod." The story is that government influence has removed most of the desired capabilities from the ship design (sealift, hospital, command and control) leaving only the ability to reprovision other ships at sea. Unsurprisingly, a cancellation and restart of the project has also driven up costs.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Discomfort at "Zero Dark Thirty"

I haven't watched the film Zero Dark Thirty. I don't know that I will. But I note that, already, there is controversy. John McCain, who had himself been tortured while a prisoner of war, objects that the film is inaccurate, because it shows torture as having helped to locate bin Laden. A Senate Committee, on the other hand, is being formed to investigate claims that secret CIA information had been given to the film-makers. Presumably, they are upset that the film is too accurate.

Whatever its level of accuracy, and whether or not it shows torture as being effective, is beside the point. George Bush and his government denied strenuously that the United States used torture at all. The euphemism used was "enhanced interrogation techniques." I welcome the fact that Senators and Congressmen and film reviewers and the general public will see exactly what was done in the name of the American people, and the term they will use to discuss it will be "torture." The term "enhanced interrogation technique" cannot survive.

T.S. Eliot asked the question that will then plague the American people: "After such knowledge, what forgiveness?"