David K. Farkas
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Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "david_k_farkas" journal:
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Don't Tinker with Shakespeare|
Shakespeare’s plays, with just a few exceptions, are so finely balanced that a director’s clever idea will likely throw the play out of whack. A Vancouver production of As You Like It added a poignant moment when Adam, Orlando’s faithful, aged servant silently expires, just before intermission, from the rigors of their journey through the Forest of Arden. But Orlando’s courtship of Rosalind now feels callous and inappropriate: “What about poor old Adam?!” Adam’s death, in audience time, is just 15 minutes old.
That Lesbian Midsummer’s Night’s Dream had its moments, but the play finally runs off the rails. When Henry VII appears at the end of Richard III, he is the salvation of England and should not be played as a sleazy Southern Baptist preacher.
Sometimes modern touches work out. In a recent Merchant of Venice, Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, shows indecision and trepidation at the prospect of giving up her religion to marry Lorenzo. Shakespeare’s Jessica is only too happy to leave Shylock and Judaism behind, but marital trouble between Jessica and Lorenzo is possible and a fresh insight.
Reputations are made with extreme productions. Kenneth Branagh’s film of Hamlet includes a totally implausible sex scene between Hamlet and the (very virginal) Ophelia. Ophelia, when she later goes insane, appears in a straight jacket. Initially, Branagh wanted Ophelia, a young Kate Winslet, to pee on the floor.
Directors: the plays may be 400 years old, but Shakespeare is by far our greatest author and truly knew what he was doing. Think carefully before you tinker with his plays.
No need for a barber
A sunny Sunday on the back deck, Jean, her clippers buzzing, is giving me a haircut, like she’s done since 1966, when she was my girlfriend. My friend Doug comes around back to return some canoe gear. Doug, it turns out, is another big haircut saver, “My mom cut my hair all the way until I joined the Navy. Then I started cutting my own hair.” “How’ya do that, Doug?” “I just grab a tuft and cut,” and he showed us. His hair looks real good.
Jane S, Stradivarius of haircutting
For family weddings and other really big events Jean sends me to Jane, who own the campus barbershop in the Hub. Jane has cut my hair maybe 10 times in 30 years, but she knows me by name and calls out a hello if walk by her shop. I tried to get University Week to do a feature on Jane, truly a wonderful woman and a master of her art, but they won’t because she’s not a University employee. When some of her regulars have gotten too old to come to campus, she visits them at home to cut their hair. Once, when one of Jane’s cutters had an empty seat, Jane gave her a master class as she did my hair. It was something to listen to. Jane has never met Jean, but she respects her as a talented amateur. Jane, however, is irked by the small flaws she notices. “I’d like you to bring her in, just so I can show her a few refinements.”
The story of the 3-1/2 inch floppy disk: The truth exposed|
My friend Bill Proctor, now turning 80, was a pioneer in the computer industry, especially in regard to floppy disks. He worked on the original 8-inch floppy and the 5-1/4 inch floppy, and he represented Sony at the meeting of the standards committee that chose Sony’s 3-1/2 inch design over two competitors.
IBM’s 4-inch prototype had one drawback: It was a little too big to fit into a shirt pocket. The committee rejected IBM’s contention that this was not a big issue for computer users.
Brown Disk (now defunct) had a 2.9-inch prototype that was attractively inexpensive to manufacture because—in contrast to the IBM and Sony designs—the magnetic oxide medium was not shielded by a sliding metal cover. The Brown Disk representatives argued that users would be careful to keep their fingers off the exposed surface.
As part of their presentation, Brown Disk had a promotional poster of a sexy woman who was holding a Brown Disk prototype floppy disk in a strategic location over each of her bare breasts. (That sort of thing was acceptable back then.) Bill pointed out that one of her fingers was pressing against the magnetic oxide, thus exposing to all the drawback of the Brown Disk design
The evolution of the digital scanner: Looking closely at Lena|
In 1972, when one of the first digital scanners was ready for testing, the group of (male) researchers needed something to put on the glass. Someone grabbed a Playboy magazine, opened it to the centerfold, and they scanned the nude.
Engineers in other labs were also working on scanners, and the technology evolved steadily. This particular photograph, known to everyone as “Lena,” became the world-wide de facto standard, a means of comparing the quality of scanned images: “Jim, how clearly can you see the texture of the nipples?”
In 1997, to help celebrate their 50th anniversary, the Society for Imaging Science and Technology (IS&T) decided to invite their favorite female to the Society’s annual conference. After some effort, they found her. Lena, a Swedish woman in her 50s, was an official in a government ministry. At the podium, she expressed pleasure that she had played a role in the development of modern digital technology.
When the story reached the mass media, Playboy’s legal staff took an interest in the situation. This unauthorized use of the copyrighted image was very likely illegal. But Playboy did something unusual: they put the image in the public domain, and Lena remains the de facto technical standard for various kinds of digital imaging.
Directional microphones in public forums|
Political candidates and partisan commentators routinely ignore the questions of TV interviewers and debate moderators and launch instead into some pre-packaged campaign shtick. They also ignore the specified time limits for answers.
I have a suggestion for curbing this further decline in our public discourse. Decades ago, there was a short-lived TV talk show in which the host pointed a telescope-like directional microphone at audience members who had raised a hand in response to a question. If the person went off topic or refused to bring their remarks to an end, the moderator would silence the individual with a quick flick of the directional microphone. The mouth might keep moving, but nothing more could be heard. Yes, political candidates and big-time pundits would likely resist this format. And, yes, moderators would need to use this power judiciously. But a directional microphone or comparable technology would help give us meaningful discussion in public forums.
Gussy up my ride—but don’t tax me|
“Chrysler and Ford are testing the limits of truck buyers’ appetite for pickups loaded with leather, chrome, and heated seats at price tags that can top $50,000.” (Bloomberg News).
Dealers in Texas are selling more of these gussied up trucks than Chrysler and Ford can produce. Heated steering wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, upholstery with cowboy-boot stitching and snakeskin trim—-the fancier the better.
But what percentage of these fancy folks would willingly accept higher taxes for better schools, research on climate change, helping people in poverty, or for or any other reason?
“Professor Farkas, I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to class on Wednesday. Did I miss anything?”
“I sure hope so.”
My colleague, Ray, did not believe the student who said he’d missed two classes because of the death of his father. So Ray bought a condolence card and mailed it to Mrs. Johnson: “I was deeply moved when your son told me about the passing of Mr. Johnson. I wish to express my condolences.”
In 29 years of teaching at the University of Washington, I’ve rarely not held class. I will leave one open date in my syllabus to attend a conference. I have never cancelled because of illness. One time I had a bad stomach flu, and I surely would have cancelled, but it was a once-a-week evening class that would have been impossible to reschedule. I toughed it out for 4 hours. I could barely make it home.
Good teaching: You never know|
Back in the Depression years, a University of Chicago music professor gave free lessons to a promising young violin student whose family had made the move to the South Side from Mississippi. The kid, Elias McDaniel, didn’t stick with the violin. But he became Bo Diddley.
Little is known about Shakespeare’s childhood in the small town of Stratford-on-Avon. But records show that the headmaster of the Stratford grammar school was getting a lot more than the going rate. I hear the echoes of a long-forgotten argument at a meeting of the town council. “Yes, yes, I know the budget is tight. But I think we should keep this guy.”
Jonah Alexander Barley, born to Eva Farkas and Adam Barley|
May you help make the world a better place and find joy in doing so.
The Nuptials of Ambrosia and Jimmy|
Mid-afternoon on this sunny Saturday, at a pretty spot on the north end of Lake Washington, I was about to set off in my canoe when I met Mr. Michael McAndrews, owner of White Dove Release. He had a wicker hamper full of doves, and he was making preparations for a wedding.
Two hours later as I drew near the shore, I could see that the wedding was about to begin. So as not to be a distraction, a pulled in a bit down-lake from the assembled company and quietly observed the lovely ceremony. At just the right moment, Mr. McAndrews released 16 white doves. The birds put on a nice show, circling us three times before heading south on a 30-mile flight to their home in Des Moines.
Most of Mr. McAndrews’ gigs are local, but he can take a gig in Central Oregon if he wants to. His doves can fly all day—at 50 miles per hour. Eagles will dive for the doves, but the doves are just too fast. Falcons do kill some doves; they ambush the doves as they fly by.
The doves are smart. When they get home they find their nesting boxes by “reading” numbers and letters of the alphabet.
The doves mate for life—how fitting for a wedding. I hope someone told Jimmy and Ambrosia.
Here is a photo of Mr. McAndrews preparing to release his doves at a funeral (Seattle Times, January 27, 2012).
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