Halloween music video: Black Sabbath, “Black Sabbath”

In late 1960s Birmingham, the heart of England’s Rust Belt, singer John “Ozzy” Osbourne, bassist Terrence “Geezer” Butler, guitarist Toni Iommi, and drummer Bill Ward made up a blues band called Earth. They struggled to make it on the club circuit, and then they discovered that there was already another blues band called Earth.

As they were looking out the window from their rehearsal room at the movie theater across the street, they saw people queue up for a horror movie featuring Boris Karloff, “Black Sabbath”. The full movie can be seen here in 1080p on YouTube.

Then the band had an epiphany. “If people pay money to see scary movies, maybe they’ll pay to hear scary music.” “Geezer” and Toni started bouncing around with the tritone-based theme of “Mars” from Holst’s “The Planets”, and before they knew it, they had put together a song with horror-themed lyrics by Geezer, sung by Ozzy with precisely the right “vibe”. They tried the composition out at their next gig — and when the crowd went mental and made them play it three more times, they knew they’d struck gold. They changed their name to Black Sabbath, and the rest is history.

Here is a live performance from 1970:

And a version from their farewell tour (a half-step down relative to the original)

There is something of an urban legend in music (much enhanced in the retelling by metal musicians trying to capitalize on how “evil” one of their favorite intervals sounds) that the medieval church prohibited the tritone as the “diabolus in musica” (Latin: devil in music). The truth is a bit more complex, as Wikipedia explains (caveat lector, as always with WP):

This interval was frequently avoided in medieval ecclesiastical singing because of its dissonant quality. The first explicit prohibition of it seems to occur with the development of Guido of Arezzo‘s hexachordal system, who suggested that rather than make B♭ a diatonic note, the hexachord be moved and based on C to avoid the F–B tritone altogether.

The name diabolus in musica (Latin for ‘the Devil in music’) has been applied to the interval from at least the early 18th century, or the late Middle Ages,[22] though its use is not restricted to the tritone, being that the original found example of the term “diabolus en musica” is “Mi Contra Fa est diabolus en musica” (Mi against Fa is the devil in music). Andreas Werckmeister cites this term in 1702 as being used by “the old authorities” for both the tritone and for the clash between chromatically related tones such as F♮ and F♯,[23] and five years later likewise calls “diabolus in musica” the opposition of “square” and “round” B (B♮ and B♭, respectively) because these notes represent the juxtaposition of “mi contra fa”.[24]Johann Joseph Fux cites the phrase in his seminal 1725 work Gradus ad Parnassum[…] there are no known citations of this term from the Middle Ages, as is commonly asserted.[26] […]

That original symbolic association with the devil and its avoidance led to Western cultural convention seeing the tritone as suggesting “evil” in music. However, stories that singers were excommunicated or otherwise punished by the Church for invoking this interval are likely fanciful. At any rate, avoidance of the interval for musical reasons has a long history, […] Later, with the rise of the Baroque and Classical music era, composers accepted the tritone, but used it in a specific, controlled way—notably through the principle of the tension-release mechanism of the tonal system.

Adam Neely also weighs in:

“Black Sabbath” of course wasn’t the first widely heard song to feature a riff based on a tritone. (As a passing note, it was already commonly heard in blues music.) Consider the intro of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”:

Happy halloween!

ADDENDUM: Most Americans have no idea that Halloween isn’t a traditional thing in continental Europe or in Israel — or that indeed, especially in the Lutheran parts of Germany, October 31 is a different holiday entirely named Reformation Day (the commemoration of Martin Luther sticking his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg church door on October 31, 1517 — the conventional starting date of the Reformation).

Celtic pagan culture had a holiday named Samhain (freely “summer’s end”), the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. This was one of the great four [trimester] feasts. together with Beltain (approx. May 1, beginning of summer), Lugnasadh (approx. August 1, beginning of harvest), and Imbolg (approx. February 1, a purification festival also seen in Ancient Rome). Celebrations for the eve of Samhain, Oíche Shamhna in Gaelic, were apparently marked by customs not unlike Halloween (contraction of All Hallows’ Eve).

All Hallows Day itself, in the early Middle Ages, had been observed on various dates in various places, until in the 9th Century, Pope Gregory IV set November 1 this day aside for the commemoration of all saints (All Saints’ Day, All Hallows Day,… in Dutch and German, Allerheiligen; French: Toussaint). (November 1 is a public holiday in many European countries to this day.)

After the Great Schism, churches of the Eastern Communion (Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox,…) moved this observance to the first Sunday after Pentecost. November 2, All Souls Day, was meant for commemorating deceased relatives (fulfilling a similar function as the Yizkor service in synagogues): in some countries, notably Belgium, the two holidays kind-of merged into one as November 1 is a public holiday and November 2 a workday.

Sabbath musical delight: J. S. Bach, “Ricercar in 6 voices” from The Musical Offering BWV 1079

It’s a well-known story. J. S. Bach went to visit his son Emanuel (a.k.a., C. P. E. Bach) at Potsdam Palace, where Emanuel was a keyboardist in the service of Frederick II of Prussia. The monarch — an amateur flutist of some skill — was delighted “Old Bach” was visiting, sat him down at a new Silbermann pianoforte — the instrument was just beginning to make inroads into what had been the province of the harpsichord — and asked him if he could improvise a 3-part fugue on an assigned theme.

“Sure,” said Bach, and Frederick II played what has become known as “The Royal Theme”. Bach sat down and improvised, then later wrote his improvisation (or something very much like it) from memory: the “Ricercar in 3 voices” from BWV 1079. Here is a performance by Tatiana Nikolayeva on piano:

The king then asked him to do the same in 6 voices. Now Bach demurred, saying “not every theme lends itself to such full harmony” and instead picked a less challenging theme on which he improvised a fugue.

After, however, Bach wrote an entire suite of works based on the Royal Theme, which has come down to us as “The Musical Offering” BWV 1079. It included a “Ricercar in 6 voices” on the original theme. It is quite a challenge to play well on the keyboard: as with Bach’s contrapuntal works in general, the work will sound okay if you just play the notes right, but if you want to play expressively and with phrasing and articulation, it gets harder and harder the more voices you have. (There’s a reason WTC Book II sticks to 3 or 4 voices: in Book I, there are two 5-voice fugues, in Bb minor and the magnificent one in C# minor.)

I first heard this piece in a chamber orchestra rendition by Pro Arte Munich under Kurt Redel: this type of performance is of course no longer fashionable, as it is not “historically informed” — but I’ve never cared a fig for the latter, as long as the music works. And how does it!

Below is the entire suite in Hermann Scherchen’s orchestration.

Enjoy, have a great weekend, and shabbat shalom

Looking Around, Let’s Go Brandon and Evergrande collapse edition

I’m old enough to remember Johnny Rotten and his Sex Pistols getting a #1 hit with a song hurling abuse at the British royal family:

God save the queen/The fascist regine/Married to a moron/And England’s dreaming…

Today, John Lydon (the next-door neighbor of one of my musical heroes, the late great Keith Emerson) attacks a different type of Establishment by saying “woke” activists are lunatics.

Today’s protest songs take a different form. Raw as the Sex Pistols sound was (though the album was engineered harder than most people realize) there was an actual tune there, a couple of catchy riffs, and even a brief guitar solo. (Not chanting over a looped beat.)

Today, the #1, #2, and #3 spots on the iTunes/Apple Music hit parade are… three different rap versions of “Let’s Go Brandon!” (an obfuscation of “F*** Joe Biden”).

A cursory search of Apple Music revealed there is a veritable cottage industry out there of “Let’s Go Brandon” anti-Biden songs. Of course, if they wanted to be really nasty, they could include some audio of some of the FICUS’s pearls of wisdom, such as

Que? Chto? Wablief? Quoi? Ma? Bitte? Come again?

(2) FecesbookFacebook, Inc. is now rebranding itself as “Meta”, with a lot of blah blah about the “metaverse” it wants to create. Has SuckerdoucheZuckerberg read Neil Stephenson’s dystopian novel “Snow Crash” and mistaken it for a blueprint?

Seriously, Google’s parent corporation also renamed itself Alphabet as it increasingly branched out into businesses not related to internet search. Also similarly, the search engine continues to be named Google, and the world’s most intrusive social network will continue to be called Facebook — it will just be one among many Meta brands.

(3) I have little to add to this (by James Freeman in the WSJ):

[…] “Ms. Lukas seems to be among the increasing number of Americans who treasure living in one of the world’s most inclusive cultures but also realize that when progressive leftists talk about “inclusion” they mean excluding people who disagree with them from public life. “[…]

Just like any country that calls itself a “People’s Democracy” guaranteed is neither, the “Democratic” Party in the US harbors strong authoritarian or even totalitarian tendencies, and so on.

(4) And then there is still the continuing slow-motion implosion of the Chinese real estate bubble. Evergrande was only the harbinger. To me this was a classic case of Stein’s Law, “That which cannot go on forever, won’t” (i.e., unsustainable trends eventually have to end).

In related news, here’s Winston of “Serpentza” (the original Western China-YouTuber) and his buddy highlighting some aspects of China’s energy predicament that aren’t widely known. (Spoiler alert: turtleboys of Xi won’t be happy.)

(5) Bonus item: just as I was about to post, I saw the headline that disgraced former NY governor Andrew “The Ghoul” Cuomo (a.k.a. “granny-killer”) has been charged with a s3x crime.

ADDENDUM: see some Chinese “Tofu dreg construction” with your own eyes

Apple M1 buyer’s guide for the impatient

[Exhausting day, but quickly queueing this up for tomorrow]

One M1 Pro review video after another keeps coming out. I’m selecting just three here:

But now my own $0.02 on the question: which M1 machine you want to buy, based on your use scenario? Let me break this down:

(A) You always work at your desk, want an all-in-one solution, and what you do is general productivity work and/or light to moderate music production and video editing: the iMac M1 will do just fine. Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, I’d get 16GB RAM, since you can never expand RAM, while you can always add an external SSD for storage expansion.

(B) Same use scenario, but you already have monitors, webcam,… you like, and are on a budget. Get the M1 Mac Mini, again spring for 16GB if you can. The machine can drive two 4K monitors no trouble,

(C) You’re a writer or such, and need to be able to write anywhere the mood strikes, and have ridiculously long battery life. Get the 13” M1 MacBook Pro: again, I’d future-proof it with 16GB RAM. It can handle an external 4K display no trouble for when you do want to sit down at a desk.

(C’) What about the M1 MacBook Air? You save a little budget and weight, and still will have more than decent battery autonomy. One of my coworkers uses an M1 Air with a 32” 4K monitor and a mouse as her main workstation. I would have gone for the Pro, part for the extra battery life, part to have a little more thermal headroom if I had to do something very CPU-or GPU-intensive.

(D) You teach or need to given lots of presentations and hate futzing around with dongles. Get the entry-level 14” M1 Pro. The machine has that all-important built-in HDMI port, you get 16GB by default, and even the binned M1 Pro still makes for a very powerful CPU and GPU (including driving a multi monitor setup for when you are at your desk). And that gorgeous mini-LED screen comes in handy too.

(D’) As above, but you also want the absolute maximum battery autonomy, and don’t mind the extra weight. The 16” entry-level is the answer for you. This will have the full, un-binned M1 Pro, as well as a bigger screen.

(E) You’re a power user who does music production, all but the most demanding video editing, scientific data crunching and visualization, … get the full (unbinned) M1 Pro with 32GB of RAM. Storage? Depends. 4K video guzzles storage, and the internal storage is blindingly fast, so get as much as you can afford if you’re either a videographer or you need to access ginormous data bases in simulations over and over. I have 2TB on my 2019 Intel MBP 16” and will likely get 4GB now.

(E’) As above, but you work on the road a lot and can;t rely on having an external monitor, or the mini-LED screen has ruined you for monitors: get the 16” version of the same.

(F) You do ginormous 3D modeling, are a cinematographer who edits feature-length 4K or especially 8K movies, … or any other ultra-demanding workload: get the M1 Max so, in addition to double the GPU cores, you can also have 64GB RAM. Here I would definitely prefer the 16” over the 14” even if I would primarily use external monitors, so I could take advantage of the beefed-up cooling of the 16”.

As for me personally, I’m on the fence between (E) and (E’).

James Polk, a little-known transformative POTUS who over-delivered

I knew James Polk has been the 11th POTUS in the 1840s, but couldn’t have told you anything more about him if you’d held a gun to my head. And, while I’m not as conversant with the fine points of US history as I am with Europe’s, I consider myself reasonably well-read about it. Presidential historians don’t talk about him a whole lot.

This video below shows how unfairly overlooked James Polk was. This onetime Andrew Jackson protégé (tellingly nicknamed “Young Hickory”) may well have been the only US POTUS to not just deliver on all campaign promises, but overdeliver. He promised to bring Texas and the Oregon Territory (today’s Pacific Northwest) into the Union, and did so — but following the Mexican-American War, also added California and the Utah and Nevada Territories. The whole western chunk of the US, in other words, thus creating a country that ran “from sea to shining sea”.

Amazingly, he also stuck to the promise he’d be a “one and done” President, declining to run for re-election. (Chronic ill health may have been a factor: he died of an infection three months after leaving office.)

His legacy among Presidential historians has been overshadowed largely by the way the newly expanded territories reopened the Pandora’s Box of the “Missouri Compromise” again, with the dispute between anti-slavery and pro-“Peculiar Institution” forces culminating in the Civil War.

As a result, a 2021 survey of Presidential historians quoted in the video ranked him 18th, tied with Bill Clinton. That this happened to the man who brought nearly half of today’s US territory into the Union shows that history (or its Maker) has a peculiar sense of humor.

Anyway, watch the video — I learned quite a lot over breakfast.

Sketch my s

Looking around, Biden puppet show edition: when you’ve lost SNL…

(1) The Biden bubatron [=puppet theater] keeps plunging new depths of incompetence and impopularity. The Pravdamedia keep covering for him like the good schandknapen they are, but it’s become so difficult to hide that even Saturday Night Live is poking fun at it.

Of course, the inveterate cynic in me wonders whether this is a “controlled demolition”: that the [anti]Democratic Party has discovered that Biden is damaged goods, and is stage-managing his upcoming retirement “for health reasons” and his replacement by KurvaKamala Harris. “Same puppet theater with a new puppet.”

(2) Water is wet, the sun rises in the East, and Noam Chomsky, whatever his achievements as a linguist, is a political and public policy mental case. Withholding food from the unvaccinated?! AYFKM?!

(3) Closer to home, it seems our Defense Minister (hardly a right-wing nutcase) Benny Gantz declared a number of PFLP-adjacent groups ‘terrorist organizations’ without informing the PM or the FM. Now this has created a diplomatic row that hit them by surprise. Nu b’emet [now, really]. I thought our former IDF Chief of Staff had better judgment than that? Or is it adapting from the battlefield to the civilian arena that is tripping him up?

(4) And will Anthony Faux-Xi eventually have to quit, not over the “gain of function” research about which he may have perjured himself, but over experiments with sand fleas and dogs outsourced to Tunisia?

ADDENDUM: cats and dogs lying together?


Apple M1 Pro and Max: first unboxing of new Macbook Pro 16″, plus some tech observations

Following up on our earlier coverage of the new Macbook Pro

Above is an unboxing video by what looks like somebody Vietnamese . The video compares its size with the predecessor (my main work machine until, believe it or not, a Mac Mini M1 with two 4K monitors took its place).

You can note that the new MBP 16″ is a good deal thicker than the 2019 Intel MBP 16″, though some of that is an optical illusion due to the thicker “feet” that enable more airflow under the machine. The decision to remove all ports other than USB-C from previous incarnations may have been prompted at least in part by a bone(r)-headed obsession with thinness.

The screen is taller than its predecessor’s: the left and right parts of the menu bar flank the dreaded camera “notch” in the new screen.

There’s been a lot of commentary on the web about the greater speed of the new machines. However, raw CPU and GPU speeds don’t tell the whole story. For example, it doesn’t explain why my Intel MBP runs into memory “pressure” regularly even with 32GB and needs to be rebooted every few days, while the Mini has half the memory and hasn’t been rebooted in a month. (I run about two dozen apps on each, including a ton of browser tabs.)

Often overlooked is memory bandwidth. On the Intel machine, you get about 20GB/s , compared to over three times that (68 GB/s) on the M1 Mac mini and (on paper, at least) a whopping ten and twenty times that on the new M1 Pro and M1 Max. So switching back and forth between applications

Now I’ve often marveled at how the fans on my Intel MBP kept spinning like crazy when I dare connect an external monitor: the default is for the NVidia GPU to kick in whenever you connect an external display or whenever an app demands it. Turns out that NVidia GPU uses 15W idle , and of course a lot more when actually doing work. Apple’s exasperation with the thermal dissipation of their suppliers’ products wasn’t limited to Intel, it included NVidia. That gave them double motivation to develop their own SoC (system on a chip) and exploit all the experience developing integrated GPUs that they acquired developing silicon for iPhones and iPads.

Coworkers who got 13″ M1 Macbook Pros and Airs all marvel at battery life unlike anything they’ve ever experienced; one who switched from a 13″ MBP Intel can’t believe he never hears the fans anymore!

Apple’s hypocritical virtue signaling on all sorts of social issues is rightly the target of mockery. (To be fair, Apple is increasingly shifting production away from the CCP dystopia to other countries, but that may be self-interest for supply chain reasons — don’t forget, supply chain management is Tim Cook’s #1 expertise.)

None of this gainsays that the M1 series of SoCs is nothing short of revolutionary in its product space.

UPDATE: full review of the 14″ M1 Pro by Roman Loyola of Macworld.

A couple of hands-on video reviews:

UPDATE2: CNET review

Looking around: implosion and woke Tartuffism edition

There is just too much insanity going on around the world to keep up with, especially with the Clownocratic Residency imploding in front of our eyes.

Biden presidency has lowest Q3 approval rating since WW II. You wouldn’t learn that from the PravdaMedia (can you believe I was blocked from the Jerusalem Post comments section for using that word?)

Reader “Gwendolyn” sent this amazing aerial footage of the chokepoints at the LA and Long Beach ports. No, this isn’t at all a Biden thing, but the Biden misadministration has been completely missing in action, when not actively making things worse. Then

And don’t miss Powerline’s week in pictures, supply chain edition. A taste:

Speaking of thing

Speaking of things imploding: this video by an Indian analyst may be a massive exercise in wishful thinking — I have no idea of her track record — but she claims that communist China is on the verge of a USSR breakup moment thanks to Xi’s disastrous actions.

But then there is woke Tartuffism everywhere. (“Tartuffe”, a.k.a., “The French Puritan”, is a classic of French theater, considered subversive in the 17th century for its theme — the skewering of false piety and sanctimonious hypocrisy. Verily, there is nothing new under the sun.) From the Powerline feed:

I honestly have no idea how that bizarre accident happened — it smells like a setup for a murder mystery in which somebody tampered with the gun to make a homicide look like an accident. [But why would anybody want this poor hapless woman dead?] Turns out, however, people had been walking off the set of the movie owing to long commutes, poor pay and not getting it on time, and dodgy safety on set. [UPDATE: the Daily Telegraph reports that the set armorer was age 24, had never worked on a movie set, and felt queasy about taking on that job. Also, that this wasn’t the first firearms mishap on set. They were too cheap to hire somebody with appropriate experience, I guess ;)]

But wokeness as a smokescreen for worker exploitation? That’s becoming a theme.

Kellogg’s goes woke while workers go broke. (Via Instapundit.)

And Walmart tells overworker, underpaid hourly employees they are guilty of internalized racial superiority.

Finally, intersection of academentia and conspiracy theories so crazy they could come out of Iran: “[Ed Driscoll:] I BLAME THE SPACE LASER: San Francisco State University Prof Says Jewish Pot is Making Black Men Gay.”

Shavua tov/have a good week.

Sabbath musical delight: analysis of “Strawberry Fields” by The Beatles

David Bennett here picks apart his favorite song of all time, “Strawberry Fields Forever”.

Anybody who’s ever tried to play along to this legendary song on the piano will have noticed that you’re either flat when playing in A (with the legendary Mellotron flutes intro in E), or sharp when playing in Bb (intro in F). David Bennett already explained in an earlier video that this happened because the final song was two takes in different keys and tempos spliced together — a fairly sparse, slow band arrangement in A and a faster orchestral version in C, which John Lennon told arranger and producer George Martin to splice together “you’re smart, you’ll figure out how”. Today this would be a piece of cake with ProTools or such; back in the day George Martin’s only option was to manipulate playback speeds of both takes until tempo and pitch met “close enough” somewhere in the middle.

But that isn’t the most interesting aspect of SFF — just one immediately apparent to the amateur musician.

Have a nice weekend and shabbat shalom.

The surname “Polturak”: a linguistic “hoot and a half”

Unlike English, most Germanic languages have a special word for the numeral 3/2, “one and a half”: for example, “anderhalf” in Dutch, “anderthalb” in German, “halvanden” in Danish.

I met somebody the other day whose last name was Polturak: previously I had spotted the last name Polterock in the USA. Mrs. Arbel asked what that last name could mean.

I looked it up in ancestry.com and… it turns out it comes from the Polish and Russian words for “one and a half” (półtora, полтора). Apparently the surname started as a sobriquet for somebody who is very tall and big.

And then my penny dropped. There’s an classic Israeli movie called “Charlie va-chetzi” (Charlie and a half)

Also, the late rav-aluf [=Lt. Gen.] Moshe Levy z”l, 12th Chief of Staff of the IDF, was known to all and sundry by his army nickname “Moshe va-chetzi” (Moses and a half), given to him because of his 6ft 5in [=1.96m] height. And I remember a colleague at [redacted] referring to the phsyicists at their institution as being so full of themselves, “they think they are Eloh-m va-chetzi” (G-d and a half).

Now I’ve heard the character of Sheldon Cooper’s mother in The Big Bang Theory referring to something as “a hoot and a half”, though it’s not a usage I remember encountering.


from bigbangtheory.fandom.com

But likely all of these usages have a Slavic origin. [I dove into DeepL, incidentally the best machine translator ever. Aside from Polish and Russian, Lithuanian and Latvian — which is of course are not Slavic language but have been in close contact with Polish and Russian — have pusantro and pusotra. Interestingly enough, unlike Polish, its fellow West Slavic language Czech has no equivalent. Among the South Slavic languages, Slovenian has “poltretji” as an alternate use, but apparently Serbo-Croatian does not.]

If anybody has other examples or a plausible alternative etymology, please leave a comment 🙂

Chopin competition winners announced

After hours and hours… I’d fallen asleep already, then the audio on my iPad came on. There we go.

The head of the jury announced they had had an unusually difficult choice as the level was so exceptionally high. In the end, they awarded eight prizes (two tied prizes among the six).



  • 1st Prize – Mr Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu, Canada
  • 2nd Prize ex aequo – Mr Alexander Gadjiev, Italy/Slovenia
  • 2nd Prize ex aequo – Mr Kyohei Sorita, Japan
  • 3rd Prize – Mr Martin Garcia Garcia, Spain
  • 4th Prize ex aequo – Ms Aimi Kobayashi, Japan
  • 4th Prize ex aequo – Mr Jakub Kuszlik, Poland
  • 5th Prize – Ms Leonora Armellini, Italy
  • 6th Prize – Mr “J J” Jun Li Bui, Canada


  • The Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas – Mr Jakub Kuszlik, Poland
  • The Warsaw Philharmonic Prize for the best performance of a concerto – Mr Martin Garcia Garcia, Spain
  • The Krystian Zimerman Prize for the best performance of a sonata – Mr Alexander Gadjiev, Italy/Slovenia


A couple of quick notes beforre I go back to bed:

  • The audience really went crazy over Garcia Garcia’s concerto performance, so the special prize was not unexpected.
  • Both Gadjiev and Sorita were favorities in the house this round
  • Armellini said during an interview earlier that outside classical, she liked progressive rock (yes! YES!)
  • During the announcements, Armellini and Gadjiev showed pretty blatant PSAs 🙂 Romance can blossom at competitions…

ADDENDUM after I woke up: remaning finalists, were, of course (alphabetical order)

  • Eva Gevorgyan (Russia/Armenia)
  • Hyuk Lee (South Korea)
  • Kamil Pacholec (Poland)
  • Hao Rao (China)

The Special Prize for the Best Performance of a Sonata was not awarded this year.

A series of “extra-statutory” prizes will also be awarded, albeit (more or less?) automatically:

  • Youngest Finalist (I believe that would be Gevorgyan)
  • Highest-Rated Polish pianist who did not make the final (that would be Szymon Nehring, who I still believe should have been a finalist)
  • Two Special Prizes for the highest-rated Polish pianist (that would be Kuszlik)
  • Hamamatsu City Prize for the winner (Liu) [Hamamatsu, Japan’s “City of Music”, is where Yamaha, Roland, and Kawai all have their headquarters]
  • “The Henryk Rewkiewicz Prize for the highly-rated pianist representing Poland, Belarus, Israel, Lithuania, Ukraine or Russia”, This time around, that would again be Kuszlik, as nobody from Belarus etc. placed higher.


CORRECTION 22 October, from the ceremony:
The youngest finalist is “”J. J.” (Jun Li) Bui, not Gevorgyan

Highest-Rated Polish pianist who did not make the final: went to Piotr Alexewicz. (We both liked his playing a lot, but I still don’t get why Nehring didn’t make the finals.) 

Eva Gevorgyan was given a special prize for the youngest female finalist.




A small victory for common sense at U. of Michigan

While checking Norman Lebrecht’s “Slipped Disc” blog for comments on the Chopin Piano Competition finals (winners are to be announced 90 min. from now), I stumbled upon this item

Apparently, one Bright Sheng, the Leonard Bernstein Distinguished Prrofessor for Composition, had been suspended as an undergraduate instructor for the following heinous, heinous crime!

You see, he had shown a 1965 movie production of Shakespeare’s Othello in class, featuring Sir Laurence Olivier in the title role. Olivier was nothing if not meticulous in adhering to the Bard’s portrayals of his characters, and presented his role as a Moorish general from North Africa in the Venetian army in… blackface.

This caused some students to derp about “being triggered” and “violating safe spaces”, and when Bright Sheng published an apology letter, they demanded his suspension. The spineless (and possibly sympathetic) administration, instead of using the letter in the manner of composer Max Reger[*], rolled over for them (what’s in a name? The dean’s name means ‘vulture’ in Dutch, or ‘liquid manure’.)

The FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) came to the professor’s aid. But surprisingly (or not), a letter in his defense by the “International Youth and Students for Social Equality at the University of Michigan” was posted on the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS). You see, some old-school hard lefties are not much more enamored of “the New Irrationalism” (as I remember them calling the nascent postmodernist movement, back in my student days) of the “Woke Left” than I am, and sometimes this creates unexpected ad hoc alliances. An excerpt from the letter as reproduced on Norman Lebrecht’s blog:

Just hours ago, however, Slipped Disc posted an update, according to which Prof. Sheng has just been informed by U. of Michigan that he has been exonerated and is free to resume teaching.

One small victory for common sense against the Tartuffian neo-Stalinistsneo-Maoists. Allow me to quote from the Grace After Meals (birkat ha-mazon):

Ye-yimtza chen ve-seichel tov be`einei El-him ve-adam.

(And grace and good sense shall be found in the eyes of G-d and humanity.)


[*] The German organist and neo-Baroque composer Max Reger once wrote a letter to a music critic who had panned his latest work: “I am in the smallest room of the house. I have before me your review. Soon it will be behind me.”

COVID19 micro-update, October 19, 2021: Israel exiting delta wave?

[Continuing to be crazy-busy here, and of course lots of non-COVID news — a brief local sitrep follows below]

First the bad news: we crossed the line of 8,000 dead of COVID, not “with” COVID. That’s the equivalent of almost 300,000 on a US-sized population. Yes, it could have been much worse — but that is, of course, cold comfort to those affected.

Now the good news: it increasingly looks like the worst is over. According to the Ministry of Health Dashboard, updated at 17:40, our severe COVID19 cases are now down to just 354, less than half what we had at the peak of the delta wave. When we put the number of daily new severe cases in 3-month perspective, we’re looking at less than a quarter of peak:

Daily deaths are now down to single digits for some days running now. At the peak of this wave, we had around thirty a day; our peak day in the alpha wave, January 24, we had 76 dead.

Severe cases are a lagging indicator, deaths even more so. Moreover, as beds in COVID19 wards increasingly free up, the population gradually becomes dominated by long-term cases. A source: “Nearly all the severe COVID beds at [redacted] are unvaccinated in their 40s and 50s now. Because of their youngish age, they tend to eventually make it, but they stay in the ward for weeks.”

Over the past four weeks, four vaccinated people under the age of 60 succumbed to the virus, and another four who died had been vaccinated more than six months earlier, compared with 46 unvaccinated people who died. 


For new confirmed cases, it is a much starker picture. (The green line is a 7-day moving average.)

Percentage of positive tests:

The reproductive number dropped below 1 a month ago and has been at or below 0.8 since September 15.

Yesterday, we had 1,486 new positive cases. The age distribution below (averaged over the last month) speaks for itself though (left=female, right=male):

Yes, 55.8% of new cases are under age 20. New cases in the most vulnerable (60+) age group are just 4.7% of the total. (Vaccination in that age bracket is close to 90%, with booster shots just short of 80%. In the “general sector”, i.e., neither the “Arab sector” nor the “ultra-Orthodox sector”, the percentages are still higher.)

In our towns and communities “traffic lights” system, only six “red” lights are left, one of them a Beduin tribe, three others Arab or Beduin villages, the final two Jewish settlements in the disputed territories (“West Bank”).

We must not cry victory prematurely. But this is ahead of the most optimistic projections I had seen in an internal report. And remember: we didn’t lock down, and only applied very limited restrictions. The booster shot campaign (our medical system was the first to report the drop in antibodies and to implement a booster campaign) may not have been necessary for everyone, but they definitely made a difference in the most vulnerable age groups.

Hospital staff are breathing a sigh of relief, as they were dreading going into a “double whammy” winter (seasonal respiratory diseases + COVID).

What percentage of the population has “natural immunity”? Unlike most countries, we have always treated recovery from documented COVID infection as equivalent to double vaccination. About 13.7% in the “general sector” are such “machlimim” (recoverees), compared to a whopping 31% of the chareidi/”ultra-Orthodox” sector.

Now could we be needing a fourth shot? We’ve apparently stockpiled them just in case, but there are several 3-shot regimes in local use already:

[Hebrew U. and Hadassah Hospital virologist, Prof. Rivka Abulafia-Lapid] gave the example of the human papillomavirus vaccine, which is given in Israel at birth, at two months and at six months; the hepatitis B vaccine, which is given at birth, one month and six months; and the rotavirus vaccine, which is given at two months, four months and 18 months. In each of these cases the third shot confers long-lasting protection, she said.

[…] “My estimate is that once we have three vaccines, protection will last for a year,” said Abulafia-Lapid, a senior doctor at Hadassah Medical Center and part of the Hebrew University’s faculty. “There should be good memory in the body for around a year that can fight off COVID infection in many cases.”

And, are you listening, Biden puppeteers? We have no vaccination mandate (not even for medical staff). In fact, I am certain we would have had lower vaccination rates with a vaccination rate. Leaving aside that such a mandate is almost certainly unconstitutional, from a pragmatic viewpoint it is classic verschlimmbesseren (priceless German word for “making things worse by ‘improving’ them).

Also, the HMO staff and IDF medics on reserve duty who are doing the jabbing are clearly under strict instructions to screen for possible immune overreactions, and if people get a non-routine reaction to the first shot, the second is not “pushed” on them.

But as Jordan Peterson was saying in one segment of his talk the other day, the response to COVID (once the initial shock and uncertainty wore off ) has taken on aspects of religion for some people, not of pragmatic crisis management. COVID will go away one day, or (most likely) dwindle to one of many seasonal respiratory ailments. Normalizing a Chinese-style approach will cause long-term damage to democracy and the rule of law.

If you’re only going to watch one Jordan Peterson video, this is the one

A wide-ranging one-hour interview with the (UK) Daily Telegraph

When society forgets its moral values nihilism and terror reign. The internationally best-selling author and clinical psychologist Dr Jordan Peterson joins Steven Edginton to discuss the moral crisis facing the West, how people become radicalised and what is filling the void religion once held within society. Watch the full interview above or listen on your podcast app.

Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, daß er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.

Whoever is fighting monsters should beware that they not thus become monsters [themselves]. And when you stare for long into an abyss, the abyss also stares at you.

Friederich Nietzsche, “Beyond Good And Evil” (Jenseits von Guten und Bösen)

Apple M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max: today’s M1 Macbook Pro release

I don’t discuss computer tech a whole lot here, perhaps since it’s so large a part of my day job. I’ve been an Apple user for well over three decades: I can deal with Linux just fine (big part of my day job), but simply am much more productive on a Mac than on a Linux system. As historically, Hebrew [and right-to-left languages generally] were poorly supported if at all under Mac OS, Israel is nearly 100% Windows outside STEM academia and the “creative” professions — this has changed in recent years though, as Unicode has eliminated the issue. (I could work on a Windows machine for about 15 minutes before I get irresistible defenestration urges.)

As I used to travel a lot before lockdown, my main work machine was always a maxed-out desktop replacement laptop that I would use with one or two external monitors at work. I got the present one, a 16″ Macbook Pro with an octacore CPU, shortly before the first lockdown. I loved the machine, but I never ceased to be amazed how it dissipated so much heat — especially with a 4K external display — that the fans were running full speed all the time. And katy bar the door if I dare shut off the air conditioning. (OK, running my office cold helps me stay focused.)

Then I got an early M1 to try out, about a year ago. I was skeptical — what, Apple is now putting souped-up cell phone CPUs in their laptops? — but was blown away once I actually started using it. A machine that has half the memory and cost one-third of my “Yamaha CS-80 beast” laptop can handle the same workload with one hand tied behind its back? And yes, I can still hear the fans if I shut off the A/C (I have very keen hearing), but they are running so slowly that I really have to pay attention.

And yes, I have been getting increasingly annoyed at Apple for combining sanctimonious virtue signaling with kowtowing to the CCP regime (lately, by removing religious scripture apps from the Chinese app store). Unfortunately, all major tech companies Hoover in that regard nowadays. And Mr. Garrisoner, Tim Cook, whatever his supply chain skillset, simply isn’t Steve Jobs where it comes to “the vision thing”.

But this new Apple Silicon is, well, something else — probably the most truly innovative thing Apple has done in many years. Custom-built for them by TSMC in Taiwan (the world’s largest fabber), this system-on-a-chip applies everything they’ve learned building iPhone and iPad CPUs to create an architecture that simply rewrites the rules of the game. Intel, as much as it pains me to say, simply has nothing that comes even close in the same thermal envelope. Coworkers with M1 MBPs tell me they don’t bother bringing their power bricks anymore, as they know their laptops can run all day without running the battery dry.

Intel (and AMD, which itself outsourced production to TSMC years ago) can still give Apple a run for their money in HPC servers — but that wasn’t a market segment Apple was still active in anymore.

So today I tuned in to Apple’s “Unleashed” presentation for the new Macbook Pros. CNET below summarizes it. M1 with four performance and four efficiency cores, eight graphics cores, and up to 16GB integrated memory, is now joined by the new M1 Pro and M1 Max CPUs: both eight performance and two efficiency cores, 16 to 32 graphics cores, and up to 32GB (Pro) or 64GB (Max) integrated memory. Both are now available in new 14″ and 16″ laptops — yes,, if you so desire, you can get the Max in the 14″ form factor or “just” the Pro in the 16″ form factor. The new XDR screen raises the bar too — I’m not sure I need XDR for what I do, and I often work on multiple external displays, but I’m sure video editors will appreciate it.

They also posted an “explainer” of the new architecture, which turns out to be just Johny Sruji’s own presentation at the apple event.

Imagine, if somebody were building a HPC system for simulations (earthquake, weather forecast, CFD aerodynamics, drug discovery,…) and they could get their grubby hands on a few hundred of these and put them in their own customized enclosures (with redundant power supplies etc.)… You could drastically save on cooling bills, space, or both, and still be ahead in performance.

Sadly, that will never happen — although count on AMD and even Intel to come with copycat designs quite soon…

ADDENDUM: in the “come on, Apple” department: you finally upgraded your webcam to 1080p (from, ugh, 720p)?

And good on finally getting religion and returning at least a built-in HDMI and bringing back MagSafe — but (I know the laptop is too thin for a port on the machine itself) why not put an Ethernet port on the power brick the way y’all do it for the new iMac 24? Boo, Apple, boo.

18th Chopin competition: the finalists

The Chopin competition for piano takes places every five years in Warsaw. Such household names in the classical music world as Martha Argerich, Garrick Ohlsson, Maurizio Pollini, and Krystian Zimerman won this competition at a young ageand used it as a jumpoff point for their burgeoning careers.

Last year was supposed to have been the 18th edition, but because of COVID it only took place now. I have been following the proceedings, streaming via YouTube (I habitually listen to music while working). This year was an absolute bumper crop, and I don’t envy the jury having to make picks. (They start off with a preselection of about 160 performers, from which about 80 (this year: 87) are admitted to the first round, winnowed down by half in each of the three following selections until 10-12 finalists remain.)

By the time you arrive at the third round, basically everybody who remains is concert grade. The Piano League has a complete list of all 87 first-round competitors, with YouTube links to all their performances in the first and any further rounds they qualified for. Boldfaced are the twelve finalists.

  1. Leonora Armellini, Italy (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  2. J J Jun Li Bui, Canada (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  3. Alexander Gadjiev, Italy/Slovenia (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  4. Martin Garcia Garcia, Spain (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round |Third Round)
  5. Eva Gevorgyan, Russia/Armenia (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  6. Aimi Kobayashi, Japan (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  7. Jakub Kuszlik, Poland (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  8. Hyuk Lee, South Korea (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  9. Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu, Canada (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round |Third Round)
  10. Kamil Pacholec, Poland (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  11. Hao Rao, China (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)
  12. Kyohei Sorita, Japan (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round)

Mrs. Arbel really, really liked Gadjiev — whom I agree has a certain “extra”. She wasn’t too keen on “piano bench girl” Aimi Kobayashi, who during the 1st round spent several minutes futzing with her piano chair before starting to play. Look, the classical music world has room for eccentrics like the late lamented Glenn Gould — but geniuses like him come around how often? Once in a decade? (Still, conductor Fritz Reiner supposedly once offered to adjust the height of Gould’s piano bench by slicing one-eighth of an inch off Gould’s rear end.) Anyway, her highly idiosyncratic, but clearly well-thought out reading of the complete Preludes kind-of won me over.

Leonora Armellini wowed me the first two rounds, less so the third, but still made it to the finals. Mrs. wasn’t so keen on Garcia, but perhaps because I am not a classical purist, I was warmer to him.

Of our favorites who didn’t make the cut:

Hayato “Cateen” Sumino, Japan (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round) — possibly he was a bridge too far for such a staid contest. He is an engineer and composer, and (gasp!) engages in crossover musical activities. Perhaps he might become another Vikingur Olafsson — who also would be a poor fit for this contest.

Szymon Nehring, Poland (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round) — previously winner of the Arthur Rubinstein competition in our hometown. This was a puzzling decision not just to me, as the angry comments at Norman Lebrecht’s “Slipped Disc” illustrate: on the other hand, there were many excellent “Polish School” pianists among the competitors, and some painful decisions were sure to have been needed.

Young Piotr Alexewicz, Poland (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round) was another “Polish school” pianist I liked who didn’t make it. I really liked his performance of the complete Preludes.

18-year old Avery Gagliano from our old hometown (Dallas) — winner of the US Chopin competition — did not shine in the 3rd round the way she did in the first two.

Nikolay Khozyainov, Russia (Performance Videos: First Round | Second Round | Third Round). Both Mrs. Arbel and I were enamored by this performance: why this didn’t make it to the finals, G-d knows. On 2nd playback, I may have caught a couple of clinkers, but I thought the passion and projection of his playing made up.

It’s not like the contest is free of controversy: in 1980 (?), the eccentric performance of Ivo Pogorelic prompted a fierce debate in the jury, with some threatening to resign if he was allowed to pass to the finals, and Martha Argerich actually resigning under loud protest when he was not allowed. (Full rules are also online at the official contest website: in particular, no juror is allowed to vote on their own students.)

However, this round the contest has committed itself, in the name of transparency, to release all the individual juror marks and comments publicly following the end of the contest.

All in all, there is wonderful musicianship on display here — and all of it can be accessed for free on YouTube from anywhere in the world!

Sabbath musical delight: Chopin, Variations on “Là ci darem la mano”, Op. 2

In keeping with the theme of the 18th Chopin Competition for Piano (all of which is live-streamed on YouTube), I am posting here an early work that is less well-known, but that had none other than Robert Schumann exclaim, “Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!”

The repertoire for the various rounds in the Chopin competition follows a tabular roster: one or more pieces from each column in the table, for a total of about 40 minutes in the second round, one hours in the third round. (Yesterday somebody played the entire set of 24 preludes.) This set of variations on an aria in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” was one of the pieces in the second round.

Below is a video with a scrolling score, first of a solo piano performance, then with orchestral accompaniment.

Enjoy, have a nice weekend, and shabbat shalom

PS: was Chopin a French or a Polish composer? Answer: yes 🙂 It wasn’t just that Chopin was a Polish refugee in France for the second half of his life (1831-1849) and wrote most of his creative output there; his father Nicolas Chopin was a Frenchman from the Vosges region, who worked as a French tutor and later as a French teacher at the Warsaw Lyceum. (In those days, French was considered the language of culture among both the Polish and the Russian elite, and natively French-speaking teachers — or, for that matter, French governesses — were in some demand.)

The scene from a Chopin biopic I saw as a young boy, which has young Chopin being asked to play for Russian guests and answering “I won’t play for the butchers of the Tsar” appears to be a complete invention. In fact, he performed for Tsar Alexander I (who happened to be visiting Warsaw in so-called “Congress Poland”, a Russian puppet state dissolved in 1867 when they annexed Poland outright); the Tsar gave him a diamond ring as a token of appreciation.

What actually happened is that in November 1830[*], the then already famous pianist had set out on an open-ended concert tour. The same month, the November Uprising of the Poles against the Russians broke out. When that was finally crushed and Poland lost whatever autonomy it had left, Chopin decided not to return and instead joined the already sizable Polish diaspora in Paris, a fascinating subject about which I will blog another time.

[*] The year 1830 saw several other revolutions. First, the overthrow of the Restauration Bourbon regime in France and its replacement by the roi bourgeois (“burgher king”) Louis Philippe. Second, with French and English support, the Belgians ousted their Dutch occupiers and established an independent Kingdom of Belgium that exists to this day. Third, the very peaceful, orderly “Ustertag” protests in various Swiss cantons set in motion a process (1830-1848) that transformed the old Swiss Confederation into the Swiss federal state as we know it now.

Looking around: possible coup against Chairman Xi?; How “Let’s Go Brandon” went viral; Vaccine mandate kabuki theater

(1) I don’t know if this is wishful thinking or for real, but this (Indian?) vlogger claims that not only is: (a) Xi Jinping embroiled in a factional struggle with a Shanghai-centered faction who long for a return to the reformism of Jiang Zemin, and away from Xi[nnie the Pooh]’s neo-Maoism; but (b) the struggle has escalated into attempted assassination.

Again, viewer beware, but considering the mounting disasters for the regime both domestic and foreign, I would not be totally surprised if there were something to this. And if he feels desperate enough, he might just try to flee forward into a “short victorious war” for, say, the “unification of China” — hoping that patriotic favor may rally the people behind him…

(2) I was a little puzzled by “Let’s Go, Brandon” stickers and chant, since spectator sports aren’t my thing in general (not just NASCAR). So I may have been the last person to understand it was a bowdlerization of “F*** Joe Biden”. (This is about as opaque as calling someboy a “berk”, short for “Berkeley Hunt”, itself Cockney rhyming slang for “c*nt”. I’d have expected a clearer obfuscation like “Buck Joe Fiden”.) Bill Whittle below highlights the exact incident where this started, with an MSM reporter at a NASCAR race interviewing a driver named Brandon Brown trying to laughably gaslight viewers that clearly audible “F*** Joe Biden” chants were actually “Let’s go, Brandon!”. BIll speaks of “the gaslight exploding”.

(3) And speaking of the total Mierdas Touch of what I call the Biden bubatron [puppet theater], in pretty much everything it touches, Robert Spencer points out that, Biden bubatron posturing aside, no actual vaccine mandate has ever been issued, since the regime is aware that it almost certainly won’t stand up in court. So instead they create the illusion that there is one, to gaslight into compliance with a, pardon the expression, “Schrödinger’s Mandate”.

I’ve made my own position crystal clear, I believe, but let me reiterate: I’m 110% pro-vaccination, but I am against coercion as I believe it will both be counterproductive and wreak long-term damage to the rule of law that will long outlast this pandemic.

Captain Kirk goes boldly where no 90-year old has gone before

Full coverage on space.com Seriously, this is incredibly moving to me.

Below I have embedded a short YouTube excerpt from the full video on space.com: Captain Kirk gets emotional after Blue Origin space flight.

It was only 11 minutes, to the von Kármán line (100 km above sea level) and back, but it will still put William Shatner in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest person ever to fly in space.

Here is a CNet “supercut” video of the whole event:

Instapundit cannot resist quoting a friend contrasting how articulate the 90-year old actor sounds compared to, well, the 78-year old “President John Gill” of the Mierdas Touch.

What happened to Friedrich Paulus after Stalingrad?

While doing a chore that engaged my hands rather than my eyes and ears, I saw a documentary from MDR[*] about the life of Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus post-Stalingrad, and particularly his role in the postwar GDR (or DDR in German).

It’s all in German, and some of the people interviewed speak in a heavy Saxon dialect that I have trouble understanding. So I briefly went down a few rabbit holes.

First of all, there is no “von Paulus”, contrary to how some older English-language sources would have it. Paulus, like his polar opposite Erwin Rommel, was of middle-class origins rather than a Prussian Junker (literally: Squire; idiomatically: scion of a noble family with a military tradition).

Second, unbelievable as this may sound, Paulus had never commanded anything bigger than a battalion in the field prior to the Sixth Army! He had extensive experience (and stellar evaluations) in staff positions, up to and including 1st Quartermaster-General under Franz Halder, but his appointment surprised many for that reason. The outgoing Sixth Army commander, Field Marshal von Reichenau, was wearing a ‘second hat’ as commander of Army Group South, wanted to be relieved of the more junior position, and had recommended his onetime chief of staff for it. In the end, Reichenau got a severe stroke (while running outside in -40 degrees!) and died on the plane that took him to the hospital in Berlin. Field Marshal Fedor von Bock (uncle of anti-Hitler conspiracy kingpin Henning von Tresckow, his First Staff Officer) was switched from Army Group Center to South, and replaced in turn by Field Marshal Günther von Kluge (Tresckow stayed on).

Third, Paulus appears to have had a sense of decency. His predecessor Reichenau had been a fanatical National Socialist[**] who issued the utterly criminal and contemptible Severity Order: Paulus’s first act in office was to countermand these and similar orders.

Fourth, aside from his unwillingness to disobey direct orders from the Führer [y”sh] to hold Stalingrad at all cost, his decision to hold on to the last appears to have been motivated in large part by concern that, without the Sixth Army to tie down huge Soviet forces at Stalingrad, the entire Army Group might collapse, and with that potentially the entire Eastern Front.

His soldiers paid a terrible price for this decision. Of the 110,000 or so who eventually surrendered, only about 5 (five) percent would survive their POW experience. This wasn’t just due to mistreatment by the Red Army, but in large part due to the long siege with woefully inadequate supply from the air having depleted whatever reserves these men had left (and would sorely need to survive what was ahead).

Five, Paulus (and other generals) emphatically were not subject to these privations. You could almost say they got red carpet treatment, paired with trying to recruit them as collaborators. (With some success: One of Paulus’s former subordinates, General Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach set up a “League of German Officers”.) Paulus rebuffed these overtures until after the July 20, 1944 Valkyrie Plot: as per the documentary, he knew many of the participants personally and held them in esteem. German Wikipedia (caveat lector) claims that on October 30, 1944 he even proposed to Stalin [y”sh] that he would raise and command a German volunteer army from among POWs; Stalin never answered, presumably due to the lack of enthusiasm among the POWs.

Six, Paulus agreed to testify at Nuremberg for the prosecution, but the Soviets reneged on their promise of allowing him to meet his wife and surviving son and daughter (the one son had fallen at Anzio). He was kept a prisoner until after Stalin’s death. (His family had been placed in Sippenhaft, “kin imprisonment”, by the Third Reich after Valkyrie: his wife never recovered from her imprisonment, and died in 1949.)

Seven, after Stalin’s death, Paulus was allowed to move to Dresden in the German “Democratic Republic” : he was welcomed by his former staff officer Wilhelm Adam, who had meanwhile become a politician for the NDPD, one of the communist SED’s satellite parties (its “pet German nationalists”, if you like). Paulus was assigned a luxurious villa outside the ravaged city, with a staff of servants (at least some of whom were Stasi spies, assigned to keep tabs on “Terrasse”, the code name the Stasi gave to Paulus). He was allowed to import a West German car (an Opel Kapitän) and to keep a Walther PPK pistol. His official position was as the head of the War History Research Council at the KVP (Kasernierte Volkspolizei, Garrisoned People’s Police, the predecessor of the East German Army).

The goal of the East German regime was to counteract West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s turn toward the US bloc (including thwarting remilitarization to what would become the Bundeswehr), and they appear to have been hoping Paulus would be useful to these aims.

He engaged in political and public activity (including organizing “All-German Officer Meetings” between wartime comrades now living on both sides of the Iron Curtain), and appears to have believed (in what with hindsight seems absurd naiveté for an officer of Paulus’s intelligence) that a reunification of Germany as a neutral state was possible.

After the second meeting, the DDR pulled the plug on the initiative. Paulus himself was forced to withdraw from further public activity by the ALS (a.k.a. “Lou Gehrig Disease”) that eventually would claim his life on February 1, 1957 — ironically, almost exactly on the fourteenth anniversary of the capitulation at Stalingrad.

Who needs Greek tragedies when you have real-life stories like this…

[*] Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, “Central German TV” — historically, former East Germany used to be the middle part of the country, the eastern part being Silesia, Pomerania, and East Prussia.

[**] While senior officers with the nobiliary “von” in their name were, on the whole, more likely to subscribe to old-school military values, and the anti-Hitler conspiracy in the Army was almost a “band of vons”, there were prominent exceptions to the rule.