Miskatonic University Press

Moonrise and moonset


For my own convenience I note the Wikipedia entry on moonrise and moonset, which describes something I had seen but had not observed (as Holmes remarked to Watson in “A Scandal in Bohemia”): the full moon always rises at sunset. The opposite is also true: the new moon (though you can’t see it) rises at dawn. And midway, the first quarter moon rises at midday and the last quarter moon rises in the middle of the night.

The Moon rises earlier each day, but it’s not regular: it can vary from half an hour to over an hour earlier (some of this depends on how close you are to the equator). This Astronomy magazine answer explains why.

Rise/Set Times with Moon Phases (YouTube) wonderfully explains moonrise and moonset and the phases of the Moon.

Dr. JoÙson


Earlier this week I updated Fictional Footnotes and Indexes and fixed all the broken links, including to the archives of the wonderful journal The Indexer, which has a rolling paywall but decades of past issues are openly available. I saw some pieces by Paula Clarke Bain and remembered I wanted a copy of Index, A History of the: A Bookish Adventure from Medieval Manuscripts to the Digital Age by Dennis Duncan, for which she did the index.

I emailed Book City about getting it—it’s just out in paperback—and they had a copy and put it on hold. Then a staffer followed up to say the book had been recalled because the print was faint. It looked fine to her, and to me when I saw it, so I bought it. When I got home I saw the real problem:

Photo of part of a page, showing the misprints
Photo of part of a page, showing the misprints

All through the book, “hn” has been replaced with “Ù” (a capital U with a grave accent, Unicode U+00D9). The pages about Samuel Johnson are the worst:

By affixing illustrative quotations to his definitions, JoÙson turned the dictionary into the par excellence resource for the index-scholar—the “apotheosis of index-learning,” as Robin Valenza has put it. Nice to know, then, that JoÙson was not above a little index-hunting himself.

Aside from John and Johnson, the “hn” pair doesn’t appear at lot elsewhere, but whenever “tecÙology” is mentioned things go weird.

I can’t imagine how this mistake was introduced. You have to go to a fair bit of work to replace every “hn” with “Ù” in an manuscript written in English. It’s incredible it made it through all the publishing process and was printed and distributed.

But there’s more. Bain said in Index, A History of the: Conference Adventures of Author and Indexer (The Indexer 40, no. 3):

I was told that the US edition text was “exactly the same” as the UK version, and so there was no need for an updated index. Sadly, this was not entirely the case, as the list of figures was moved from the prelims in the UK book to the back of the US book, so bumping on the page numbers of the computer and human indexes. Normally this would not matter, as an index would not refer to itself. However, mine did refer both to itself and to the computer index, and so now those page numbers were wrong in the US edition, a fact which only came to light after publication. At the time of writing, this is getting fixed for future editions, but it was a very annoying and embarrassing situation with how exposed I am in this index.

That error is fixed in this paperback edition—except in one case I saw. One of the index entries under “Bain, Paula Clarke” is “non-robotic, superior index 309–40.” Her index runs from pages 313 to 343! I think they fixed the index by subtracting 4 from all the page numbers, to accommodate the movement of the list of figures from the front to the back, but the index is after that list, so its self-reflexive page references should have stayed the same.

I won’t be taking this back to get the replacement printing. This is a keeper. Bain and Duncan must be very dismayed with W.W. Norton, but those mistakes don’t distract from quality of the work, which seems delightful and informative. I look forward to reading it.

Going Zero

literature privacy reviews

A blurb about Going Zero, a new thriller by Anthony McCarten, caught my eye: a librarian is competing to stay hidden for thirty days from a massive surveillance system run by a huge Facebook-like company that wants an enormous contract with US security agencies and has set up a contest to show how good the system is.

It starts off well but turns into a pretty standard high-tech cyberthriller, and I’m afraid I don’t recommend it.

It was not copy edited well. For example: “Three minutes later, the night-vision images start to come in from a pursuit helicopter crossing Lake Michigan from Buffalo.” That should be Lake Ontario. Later, in a meeting, someone says something memorable, and a page or two later the line is quoted but misattributed.

The Zuckerberg-like head of the Facebook-like company reads like Roddie Ho from Mick Herron’s Slough House series, but without the irony or humour.

What especially caught my eye are lines like this:

Although never a hacker per se, he knows about digital back doors, about security patches, about anonymity and self-destruct safeguards, about how to turn lines of code such as exploit/admin/smb/ into a crucial key to unlock a trove, a library, a universe.

exploit/admin/smb is not a line of code, though it could be a file path to an executable. I think this is a mangled reference to Metasploit.

But then, while typing scp-r /path/to/local/data/—the actual command to steal/move data—a new thought strikes.

scp -r /path/to/local/data server:/remote/path/ would work as an example of how to use scp to recursively copy files from this machine to a remote one, with placeholder file paths. But you need a space before the -r switch and a location to copy the files to.

That file copy exfiltrates exabytes of data in under an hour. One exabyte is 1,000 petabytes, one petabyte is 1,000 terabytes, and one terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes. Let’s say 2 EB are copied in one hour. That is a lot of data … at about 550 TB per second. That’s just not possible. (The Internet Archive’s collection is about 100 PB, so that’s like copying the entire Internet Archive in two seconds.) Plus, this guy is copying from Utah to Manila.

Later, someone else “[wipes] the hard drives of all the megadata until, in under ten minutes” they are wiped. Maybe rm could delete exabytes of files in ten minutes, but that’s not good enough. Using shred to securely wipe (by overwriting each byte on the disk multiple times) would take days.

There isn’t a single mention of either Signal or Tor. The closest is this:

On the edge of town, where there’s still a decent signal, she fires up the phone. Two bars. Anonymizes the browser, then enters [a URL] into the bar.

“Anonymizes the browser”?

It may seem petty to cavil about technical points like this, but those “commands” should have been caught in copy editing. If you’re going to put them in, they should be right. Or use the trick Cory Doctorow learned about guns and say something about how the computer or disk or system had been “modified” to wave it all away.

Beyond all that, and worse, the denouement doesn’t ring true.

Listening to Art volume 12 complete


Today I published volume 12 number 12 of Listening to Art: Marcel Duchamp, Fountain. Volume twelve ends with three works by Duchamp, the greatest artist of the twentieth century.

Screen capture of Listening to Art volume 12 number 12
Screen capture of Listening to Art volume 12 number 12

Publication of Listening to Art will now go on hiatus for one year, perhaps more. I’ve published one hundred and forty-four issues over six years, two every month. I have some related projects I plan to work on—and some new ones—and will report on those when they’re done.

The first four volumes of Listening to Art are collected in print.


Copies of both volumes are available at a special price: $20 Canadian for Canadians, $20 US for Americans, and €20 for people anywhere else in the world. Send the money to me (wtd@pobox.com) through PayPal or by an email transfer, and include your full mailing address.

My thanks to everyone who’s listened, whoever, wherever and whenever you are.

Unforgotten Wikipedia

tv wikipedia

Season five of the great ITV series Unforgotten aired in March and April. In one episode a detective does some research on someone involved in the case, which turns out be to looking him up on Wikipedia. (Fair enough—that’s basic OSINT.)

The camera scrolls down a printout of the page. Here’s the top:

Top of a fake Wikipedia page
Top of a fake Wikipedia page

And some more:

More of the fake Wikipedia page
More of the fake Wikipedia page

Here’s a detail of the infobox on the right-hand side:

Infobox detail
Infobox detail

That’s a gaffed version of the officeholder infobox. Look at how it’s used in the entry for George Osborne, for example.

Detail of a real infobox
Detail of a real infobox

For each office held, the infobox should list the prime minister at the time, who held the office before, and who held it after. In the Unforgotten version it says “Various roles in government in office” and the prime minister, but then the predecessor and successor prime ministers. The dates for John Major’s tenure are correct, but the starting date for Thatcher is odd, and at the top the 1997–2016 stuff makes no sense.

It was more than good enough for a quick skim on the show, and the prop maker did a fine job. Wikipedia editors love to look at this kind of thing more closely, of course.

This screenshot of a digital forensics tool doesn’t pass muster, however.

White text on a blue screen
White text on a blue screen

That’s supposed to show what’s on a computer seized as evidence by the police. This is some of what it says:

cout << "++++++++++++++++" << endl; and input.
cout << "[red text]:"<< endl;0100101,101010;
cout << "++++++++++++++++" << endl;

for (int i = 0; i < n; i++) {
    cout << A[i] << endl;

mergesort(A, 0, n);
cout << "++++++++++++++++" << endl;
cout << "Sorted array:" << endl;
cout << "++++++++++++++++" << endl;

That’s bogus C++. If I had to make a computer screen for that situation, I’d use a disk analyzer like WinDirStat and just run it on the computer in use.

Unforgotten is an excellent series. Highly recommended. Don’t let my pedantic complaint about three seconds of a computer display put you off.

Lee Mack on WILTY

quotes tv

A nice example of Lee Mack’s quick wit on a recent special episode of Would I Lie to You? where Steve Pemberton is claiming he was once pulled over by the German police for driving a van with two coffins in the back, and David Mitchell is querying him:

David Mitchell: You speak German?

Steve Pemberton: Ja.

Mitchell: How many of you were in the van?

Pemberton: Three.

Lee Mack: You should have said Nein.

John Steinbeck's advice to Fred Allen

radio quotes

This is the foreword to Much Ado About Me (1956) by Fred Allen.

Some years ago John Steinbeck offered to help me with a book. I didn’t know how to write a book. John listed some rudimentary suggestions for the beginner. I pass them on to you. John wrote:

Don’t start by trying to make the book chronological. Just take a period. Then try to remember it so clearly that you can see things: what colors and how warm or cold and how you got there. Then try to remember people. And then just tell what happened. It is important to tell what people looked like, how they walked, what they wore, what they ate. Put it all in. Don’t try to organize it. And put in all the details you can remember. You will find that in a very short time things will begin coming back to you, you thought you had forgotten. Do it for very short periods at first but kind of think of it when you aren’t doing it. Don’t think back over what you have done. Don’t think of literary form. Let it get out as it wants to. Over tell it in the matter of detail—cutting comes later. The form will develop in the telling. Don’t make the telling follow a form.

Fortified with John Steinbeck’s advice I am starting my autobiography.

The book was published slightly incomplete: Allen dropped dead on 57th Street in New York when out for a walk one night, with the last bit of the manuscript still to be written.

Voice of Fire

art listening.to.art

This was on the front page of the Toronto Star on Thursday 08 March 1990 (price: 35¢). “$1.8 million painting has artists seeing red” (nice hed by the copy editor) is representative of the coverage of the purchase of Barnett Newman’s masterpiece Voice of Fire by the National Gallery of Canada.

Part of the front page, with black and white photo of the painting
Part of the front page, with black and white photo of the painting

The photo illustrating the story is a few inches high and in black and white.

The National Gallery of Canada has spent nearly two-thirds of its $3 million annual acquisitions budget on a canvas by an American painter, and some Canadian artists don’t like that they see.

The work, Voice Of Fire, was painted by Barnett Newman, a major figure in 20th-century art. It cost $1.8 million.

“We think the national gallery’s priorities are pretty backward,” said Greg Graham, a director of a national artists’ lobby group called Canadian Artists Representation/Front des artistes canadien (CARFAC).

“It bothers us that such a big chunk of the budget is going to purchase a work by an American artist,” Graham said in an interview from Ottawa.

Voice Of Fire, which measures 5.4 metres by 2.4 metres (18 feet by 8 feet), consists of a deep red stripe against a blue background.

“We’re part of an international world,” said Shirley Thomson, director of the national gallery. “Nobody has demanded that we take away our Rembrandts… This painting has a place in Canada.”

Shirley Thomson was right. The painting is an absolute masterpiece.

Voice of Fire is revisited in Listening to Art 12.09.

Boléro copyright bollocks

copyright music quotes

From a letter to the editor by Graham Chainey in the 3 March 2023 issue of the Times Literary Supplement:

When Maurice Ravel began to compose his “Boléro” in 1928, he certainly did not intend to make his brother’s wife’s masseuse’s husband’s second wife’s daughter a multimillionaire. But that is what has happened, and Ravel’s copyrights in the US are secure until 2032.

The section of the Wikipedia article on Boléro regarding it being in the public domain needs good reliable and accurate citations added. It’s confusing. If I improve it, I’ll use what’s below.

I looked around, and there’s this from “History has skated over Ravel’s partner, say heirs,” an article in the Times (21 November 2018):

Until 2016, when it fell out of copyright, it generated tens of millions of euros in royalties for a small group of distant heirs of the childless French composer. Now they are taking legal action to reclaim its copyright for another 20 years, arguing that Ravel did not write it alone.

In most countries copyright lasts for 70 years after a creator’s death, although in France it is often nearer 80. Ravel died in 1937, with his heirs having collected up to €100 million before the work fell into the public domain. They have only the most tenuous relationship to Ravel, right, instead inheriting the fortune through ties to a masseuse who married Ravel’s brother, Edouard, sole inheritor of the composer’s estate.

Evelyne Pen de Castel, a Swiss theatre director who is the daughter of the second husband of the masseuse, is believed to be the main heir. She is also one of the driving forces behind the lawsuit against the Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers (Sacem), which determines copyright issues in France.

That makes the heir Ravel’s brother’s masseuse wife’s second husband’s daughter. Hmm.

This is from Paradise Papers: La saga des droits du Boléro de Ravel by Radio France:

Au décès de Maurice Ravel en 1937, le compositeur n’ayant pas de descendant, c’est son frère Edouard qui hérite de ses droits. Blessé dans un accident de la route, ce dernier aura recours à une gouvernante dont il va s’éprendre au point d’en faire son héritière. Une fois celle-ci décédée, son ex-mari avec lequel elle s’est remise en ménage, Alexandre Taverne, hérite à son tour des droits, avant de les transmettre à Georgette qu’il a épousée en seconde noces. Celle-ci a une fille d’un premier mariage : Evelyne Pen de Castel. C’est donc elle aujourd’hui l’ultime dépositaire de ces droits.

DuckDuckGo translates that to:

When Maurice Ravel died in 1937, the composer had no descendants, so his brother Edouard inherited his rights. Injured in a road accident, the latter will use a governess whom he will fall in love with to the point of making her his heir. Once she died, her ex-husband with whom she had restarted, Alexandre Taverne, in turn inherited the rights, before passing them on to Georgette, whom he had married for the second time. She had a daughter from a first marriage: Evelyne Pen de Castel. It is therefore today the ultimate depositary of these rights.

That makes the heir Ravel’s brother’s lover’s (?) ex-husband’s (second) wife’s daughter. Hmm.

Looking up the Alexandre Taverne name, I found “$4-Million Ravel Estate Passes to Nonrelative” in the New York Times (1 March 1968):

A Court of Appeal has ruled that royalties on the music of Maurice Ravel must be paid to a former barber who was no relative and apparently never met the composer. Barring a final appeal, the barber, Alexandre Taverne of Hendaye, will collect $4-million.

When Ravel died in 1937, his rights and his estate passed to his brother Edouard. The brother died in 1960, after naming Mrs. Taverne, who had been his governess-masseuse, as his heir….

Mrs. Taverne died during the five years of litigation and her estate—and the Ravels’—went to her husband.

“Governess-masseuse”?! Surely this job escaped from a French farce.

But the story continues in Poor Ravel by Jon Henley in the Guardian (25 April 2001)—and it’s worth noting the NYT story specifically says a court ruled the masseuse was not a nurse:

Unmarried and childless, the composer left everything to his brother Edouard…. All seemed in good hands until the day in 1954 when Edouard and his wife were involved in a horrendous car accident. In need of constant help, the couple engaged Jeanne Taverne, a 48-year-old nurse, and her husband Alexandre, a former miner and barber, who acted as their chauffeur. When Edouard’s wife died two years later, the Tavernes moved in, never to leave….

Jeanne Taverne became his sole inheritor….

So it was that, in 1970, when the last appeal judge ruled in Alexandre Taverne’s favour, Jeanne having died six years earlier, the former miner picked up £3.6m….

Taverne, who had since remarried, got his hands on all the Ravel contracts …

Then, in 1972, in a move that has never been fully explained, Alexandre and Georgette Taverne assigned a portion of their composer’s and publisher’s rights …

Georgette’s daughter told Le Point magazine last year …

So that makes (adding Ravel’s brother’s wife into the list for effect, since we can assume the masseuse worked on both of the injured couple) the heir Ravel’s brother’s wife’s masseuse’s husband’s second wife’s daughter. That’s where we began. Good!

But wait … what was that about the Paradise Papers? The daughter, Evelyne Pen de Castel and her husband, Michel Sogny, set up a company in Malta to manage musical rights, and some of its papers came out in that big leak.

Ravel composed “Boléro” in 1928 and he died in 1937. It’s now 2023. The work is still in copyright in the United States. Eighty-six years after Ravel’s death, his brother’s wife’s masseuse’s husband’s second wife’s daughter—and, I suspect, his brother’s wife’s masseuse’s husband’s second wife’s daughter’s husband—are so rich from their inherited copyright ownership that they set up offshore companies to manage their wealth.

And that was Graham Chainey’s point: copyright lasts ridiculously long, doesn’t benefit the creators, and can ultimately end up decades later feeding money to intellectual property corporations or people with no connection to the creators.

Sadly, late last year here in Canada, the government added twenty years and extended copyright to last for life plus seventy because of CUSMA:

Except as otherwise expressly provided by this Act, the term for which copyright subsists is the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and a period of 70 years following the end of that calendar year.

Chips Channon on shelving

libraries quotes

The 15 February 1936 entry from The Diaries: 1918–38 of Henry “Chips” Channon, edited by Simon Heffer. Honor is his wife, born Lady Honor Guinness; they have just moved into a new home at 5 Belgrave Square in London.

This morning Honor and I began to place our books on their proper shelves. All day we worked feverishly, and at 2.30 a.m. we had not yet finished. It is a colossal undertaking; but once a lifetime ought to be sufficient. It evoked sad memories, forgotten books, long-neglected treasures and friends who had given me them. Nevertheless a thrilling day, and exercise moving the shelves.

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