Photoshop LAB Color

By Dan Margulis

Larry Marso wrote to the KImageShop mailing list in January 2006 about this book (two chapters are freely available). It deals with the LAB colorspace and the ways LAB makes it easy to completely mess up, I mean, fix, your photographs. Larry wrote us because just then we had added a 16 bit/channel LAB color colorspace to Krita, more because we needed it as an intermediary than because we knew what people would actually do with it.

Now, about a year later, I decided it was time to get the whole text and see whether Krita can Do This, too, already. I haven’t started with  that yet, for two reasons: first, I was in hospital, second: the demo files that come with the book are not in nice application-independent TIFF (or OpenRaster…), but in PSD, PSD > version 6, to be exact. I have to hope that Cyrille Berger hurries up with his libpsd (which he’s developing together with the Scribus people).

Until that’s done, I’ll just have to content myself with reading the book. There’s no doubt that there is a lot of interesting and good information in it. I really want to give Margulis’ recipes a try with Krita, and improve Krita where necessary. But at the same time — oh my gosh! Margulis is a crashing bore. He’s self-important, self-congratulatory, wordy — in short, nearly unreadable. Still, I’ll probably wrestle my way through most of it.

The Septuaginta, Scribes and Scholars

I am reading AnIntroduction to the Old Testament in Greek. Additional Notes by Henry Swete. The Grand Rapids seminary (mildly famous in the Netherlands because they revere our Kuyper, while we have almost forgotten about Abraham de Geweldige) have scanned the 1914 edition of this massive book, tagged it using something called “theological xml markup” and prepared a public domain pdf. With all the Greek, Hebrew and everything intact. It’s really a great read, and I wish I had a similar book about the Hebrew old testament and another one on the New Testament, with a final volume on the apocrypha.

Because what reading a book like Swete’s teaches you (and I guess it’s horribly out-of-date, but the findings in this book still haven’t filtered down into the common conciousness) is that life is complicated and that you cannot simply assert that some bible text is the undisputed text unless you delve really deeply into the gentle art of textual criticism. The same holds for the classical texts. Already Varro spent considerable time correcting manuscripts of Plautus, trying to find out which ones where authentically Plautus, and which versions where the ones most like what Plautus had written himself.

So, my nicely bound copy of Rahlf’s edition of the Vatican Codex (B) of the Septuaginta inspires more confidence in the correctness of the text than is really warranted when confronted with so old a set of texts.

The texts of the books of the Bible got mangled at an early date. In fact, for quite a few books the Greek translation prepared in Alexandria is earlier than the surviving Hebrew texts. That is to say: the Greek text is translated from a Hebrew text that is earlier than the oldest Hebrew text we know. Sometimes only the Greek text survives, even. And sometimes the results are mixed. The Greek text will have bits of text that are older, together with later interpolations. The order of the text can be mixed up pretty badly — and then the Hebrew
text will be just as messed up, but in a different way. So the masoretic Hebrew text from the second century (although the earliest monuments are later than that) is not the definitive text. On the other hand, Swete calls the translators of the Psalms “obviously incompetent” and the translator of Job “more familiar with Greek pagan literature than Hebrew poetry”.

And nowadays we’re pretty much agreed on which books belong to the Bible; and the general feeling is that the repressive church management high-handedly has prevented such endearing works as the Gospel according to Thomas from surviving. Swete’s book does a good job of dispelling that notion. In the fast and furious intellectual debate of the first few centuries of the Christian era theologians hotly disputed the right of some books to belong to the canon. The discussion was mainly about the newest candidates, for books that ended up in the old-testament (mostly under apocrypha — these bishops were scholars, not fools)
were being written up to the 50 BC, and often immediately translated into Greek for the benefit of Epyption Jews.

One thing leads to another, and given Swete’s discussion of the conception of the canon and the establishment of translations like the Old Latin and Jerome’s Vulgate (mostly Septuaginta, but with hints and emendations from the Hebrew current in his time, but still pre-masoretic),
together with the obvious historical continuity from Alexandria (where the first translations where made) even to the 17th century secondary sources Swete urges us to consult when in doubt about some finer points, to Swete himself, I was getting interest in textual criticism, so I took down Scribes and Scholars by Reynolds and Wilson from the shelf. Nothing like having your computer broken for regaining an interest in old passions (funny: I had never realized passion come from Greek “παθη”, which I encountered today when reading the day’s Gospel (mark 9, 10-15), and which should be written with an accent and a iota, but I don’t know how to do that with the Greek keyboard map.).

Scribes and Scholars is a very good book and I should replace my second edition with the third edition, and at a couple of points made me pause to ponder deeply.

The first was about accretions and restoring to purity. Both tendencies are very human and seen everywhere. The whole goal of textual criticism is to restore a text to purity through the accretion of scholarship. (Literally: this book as a nice illustration of a text of Homerus almost covered by scholia.)
Schmemann, one of the greatest Orthodox theologians, has written an entire book about the history of accretions to the Orthodox liturgy: Introduction to Liturgical Theology. (I have somewhere the draft of an essay on why his approach is not quite scholarly enough because he uses the apparatus of historical linguistics in the wrong context, namely he’s try to explain a synchronously working system through diachrony, and because a blanket denunciation of accretions equals the assertion that the Holy Spirit is no longer active in the church.) The Protestant churches came from a quest for restoration to the purity of the Apostolic church, and since then returns to apostolic norms have succeeded each other quickly.

Accretion and a return to purity happens in software, too — where it is mostly generational. I mean, a language gets bloated, like Java or Python, and then a new, small language is created. Which will get bloated with everything imaginable. Applications grow until they include the kitchensync, and then Kate replaces Emacs. (Note I’m carefully not saying anything about Gnome and KDE, although I thought the LWN discussion rather fun).

There is something natural and inevitable in this dance. In general, nothing gets ever thrown away, but there are points in time where a reduction of accretions happens all by itself. For instance, at a certain point in time schoolboys in Constantinople were a bit overloaded, couldn’t be bothered to read everything by the Attic dramatists, and their kind teachers reduced their load to three plays by each tragedian and Aristophanes. Result: the rest of these plays would have been lost if Italian visitors hadn’t abducted the few remaining manuscripts of the rest of those plays.

Which, of course, immediately reminds me of the very reduced curriculum my own kids get taught. But if I start writing on that topic, I’ll degenerate into mere ranting. And this entry is too long as it is. But then, Swete’s book is 912 pages.

Een kleine geschiedenis van wijn

By Rod Phillips

A cheapo find in the local bookshop, Praamstra, at only 6,50 euros for a hard-back. Most books about wine are quite pretentious (like the old Het Boek van den Wijn) and seldom deal exhaustively with history. This book is true to its title: a short history of wine.

As such, it’s quite a success. Possibly the English has lost something in translation as the prose is not uniformly rivetting, but it is serviceable enough even in pedestrian Dutch. The author know what he’s writing about: a professor in the history of alcohol in Canada.

Anyway, despite (or perhaps because of) it being a bit dry for its subject, it made me long for a glassful of the best, the reddest wine I could get when I was reading it. A good glass of something Italian, that’s the ticket…

Oosterse christenen binnen de wereld van de islam

Herman Teule en Anton Wessels (editors)

This book is 438-page collection of small papers about the history of Christian churches in countries controlled by Islam, and about the present-day situation. Seeing that my Patriarch resides in Constantinople, Istanbul for those buying a plane ticket, and that he still isn’t allowed to re-open his theological university on Halki Island, this topic is pretty interesting to me.

And the book did not disappoint. Most papers are clear and concise, and, as far as I can check, pretty accurate and well-researched. There are three parts: history, description of churches and recent development, giving a relatively complete introduction to the field. There are also a number of black-and-white reproduction of photographs and icons.

Given the incredible complexity of the situation caused by hundreds of years of oppression, internecine strife, Papal encroachment, crusades and what-not, a book like this can only be the beginning of further study; fortunately there’s a good bibliography, too, and a decent index.

De Bloei van het Oosters Christendom

Olivier Clement

The Orthodox Theologisch Vormingscentrum de Heilige Johannes de Theoloog has already translated many courses and books originally published by l’Institut de Théologie Orthodoxe Saint-Serge. However, being chronically
understaffed and overworked, the translations are given to the students as soon as the actual translation has finished. There’s no time for proofing, and no time for an accurate colofon either. So I don’t know to which of Olivier Clements numerous works the book I just finished belongs — the English translation of the Dutch translation or interpretation of the French title is, more or less, “The Heyday of Oriental Christianity”, and it’s Church history, not a contemporary sermon. Not that oriental Christianity isn’t flourishing, because it is, at least in the occidental Netherlands, where we’re looking for a bigger church building again, because we simply don’t fit in the building we own now.

Anyway, apart from the forgiveable typoes and the rather flowery style — Olivier Clement is a French intellectual from the twentieth century — this book is the goods. It is a thorough investigation of the history of theological thought in the Orthodox Church, in particular as influenced by the Western Church during the century preceding and following the Great Schism.

Clement must be a gifted writer, and the translator has done his or her level best, because even in the hasty translation into Dutch, Clement manages to make the particular issues surrounding the filioque and other thorny theological issues quite clear, often in a single paragraph or even in a well-put sentence.

It’s refreshing enough to get something to read that shows the Orthodox  vision of the Great Schism, but it is admirable that the author doesn’t get bogged down in a defensive (or offensive) position, but manages to show where both sides were right, and where they were wrong in an objective way, while at the same time not falling into the trap of considering everything through the distortion of a contemporary set of values, nor through an anemic impartiality where no longer any moral decision is possible.

It’s a pity that the Dutch translation is apparently incomplete — the footnotes are indicated as missing, but I also fear that there are rather more than the 100 pages we were given… Next time I’m in Brussels I should ask for the French title, so I can acquire it.

Inheemse Erfenis, Continuïteit en Discontinuïteit in de Geschiedenis

By Ineke Strouken en Olivier Rieter

Irina brought this book from the library; it’s a publication by the Nederlands Centrum voor Volkscultuur, the Dutch Centre for Folk Culture. The various papers in the book investigate the difference between popular perception of traditions and the real history of traditions.

This fits in nicely, of course, with The Invention of Tradition. Topics ranging from law scholars trying to rediscover (and accidentally inventing) Germanic law because it’s more ancient and better suited to the Dutch national character, to a thorough dissection of the modern myth that Christian holidays, places of worship and customs must necessarily be derived from Germanic pagan dittos are discussed in a dry, scholarly manner. These people cannot write like a Hobsbawm…

But still, did you know that there were actually no Germanic pagan temples anywhere? That probably only one holy oak was felled by Willibrord, in what’s Germany today and that it was dedicated to a Roman god, not to a German deity? That traditions about “fever trees” (bind a piece of clothing to a certain tree and the fever will be gone) are really recent, in many cases dating back to the twentieth century, and that some traditions about the apostle of the Low Countries were consciously invented by a priest in Het Gooi near the end of the nineteenth century?

I didn’t: I knew that the Batavs invading the Low Countries by drifting down the Rhine on logs was a myth, and suspected some other things. But the stuff you get fed in primary schools, in popular literature, in comics, will mean that the great majority of people will have a worldview fixed in their minds that was originally invented by C19 nationalists (in some case proto-nazis) and still think they are modern, enlightened people who know better than their forebears. I hope there will be a time when scholarship will take less than a century to trickle down to the popular consciousness, but I’m not optimistic.

(And yes, everything you read in your newspaper in the running up to Christmas about Germanic origins for Christmas is wrong. There is no evidence, not even circumstantial, no indication, no hint even that there was a Germanic “light festival” in actual sources. There are no indications of a pagan spring festival, either in any primary sources. And there are no discernable pagan customs left even in popular devotional practice.)

The Orthodox Churches and the West

Volume 13 of Studies in Church History
edited by Derek Baker

Being temporarily outwitted by some hairy coding problems in Krita, I’m trying to clear some square metres of floor space by doing Fading Memory entries on books I’ve read in December, when I didn’t have time to write anything. And Fading Memories was, after all intended to be a faithful log of my reading so I wouldn’t forget what I had already read before. So, without further ado, a few notes on this curious book I borrowed from the Church library. (Which I’m librarian of for the Western section, with Julia doing the Cyrillic section. Not that I cannot read the Cyrillic script, if there’s one thing that has always come easily to me it’s been learning scripts, but my Russian has really detoriated since 1992, when I spent a year learning the language well enough to read a grammar of Tangut published in Leningrad.)

Anyway, this book, published by Blackwell in Oxford in 1976, is typical of its kind: a regular series where scholars in a particular discipline can publish their papers, somewhat thematically ordered, but not too much, most of them read at one particular conference. The kind of book someone who hasn’t published in it buys if one paper turns out to be really interesting, against all expectation, or which you have a subscription to if it’s your field.

However, it turned out to contain a nice paper by Bishop Kallistos on the secret conversion to Orthodoxy by an English peer in the first half of the nineteenth century and a really amusing account of corruption in the Greek church under the Turks — a bishop was said to eat lakes of yoghurt for breakfast and mounds of filleted sardines for lunch. Poor man… The article by Nicolas Zernov on the Russian diaspora in the west and its effects on the Christian West is probably why my unknown predecessor in the library has bought the volume; it’s interesting, but a little too self-congratulatory for my tastes. And so the collection winds to its somewhat weary end: twenty papers from the late seventies, I should not expect all of them to be interesting in 2004.

The Invention of Tradition

Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger

I have been taught that Columbus discovered that the earth was round and not flat; and that he has been put to torture by the inquisition. That was not true; it was a nineteenth century invention. Apart from authors with a clearly allegorical intention, such as Lactantius, no educated person in Europe ever gave a hint of thinking that the earth was flat.

I have been taught that the Roman Catholic Church burned millions of witches during the Middle Ages. That was not true: it is a nineteenth century invention. There have been witch trials, but they belong historically to the Reformation, which is post-medieval, and they mostly occurred where the Roman Catholic Church had lost its influence. And they did not happen on the scale I was taught they happened.

I have also been taught that Christmas has been sneakily put coincidental with the Germanic Yuletide festival, and Easter with the Germanic Eostra festival, to put down the Germanic folk traditions. This is in itself ridiculous: to a Church that flourishes in a Greek
east no Germanic custom could have been of the slightest importance. This, too, is a nineteenth century invention. (While it is of course quite clear that the early Christians saw nothing wrong with celebrating the birth of the Sun of Justice as the troparion has it on the same day most people around them were celebrating something similarly themed.)

The monumental Wartburg which so splendidly medievally towers over Eisenach is for the greater part a nineteenth century fake. Not so much a restoring as a rebuilding to the taste of the times. The splendidly decorated rooms are very beautiful, and also very much nationalistic German nineteenth century fakes.

Scottish kilts, Scottish chieftains and Scottish clans are not a nineteenth century invention — they are a late eighteenth century invention. I never knew that until I bought the book I’m reading right now, The Invention of Tradition. This book puts the invention of kilts, of the Scottish and Welsh national cultures, the British Royal rituals on the dissecting table, and ends with a more wide-ranging review of invented traditions in Western Europe in the nineteenth century.

The tone of the book is condescending at its most polite, and easily descends into sneering. And of course, the nineteenth century is responsible for a host of abject beliefs, traditions and false facts that are still taken for a fact by almost everyone who hasn’t got specialist knowledge. The falsifications have become part of our popular culture, are promulgated at primary schools and in comics. No doubt this was intended, in at least some cases, and maliciously intended. Still, I cannot but think that the myth of the kilts is mostly harmless fun and does not call for such vehemence as Hugh Trevor-Roper expends on it.

After reading this book I’m left with the uncomfortable feeling that everything that I have not deeply studied may be a fraud. I know that no Batav barbarians came down the Rhine on logs to colonize the Netherlands. I also know that the beginning misconception that the middle east has always been Muslim and that St. Nicholas of Myra has celebrated the Sugar Festival in Turkey will in all probability take firm hold in the next twenty years. There appears to be some evidence to support the thesis that factory workers in the earliest stages of industrialization lived longer and were healthier than their village brethren which is the other way around from what I used to think; now I’m not sure about either position.

So, what else do I know for true that is false?

Een in de was, een in de kast, een aan de bast

By Corrie de Groot

A little book, illustrated with fine, well-executed pencil drawings on that perennial subject — women’s undies.

  • Author: Corrie de Groot
  • Title: Een in de was, een in de kast, een aan de bast
  • Pages: 128
  • Published: 2002
  • Publisher: i<”>Profiel Uitgeverij

The author explains she started collecting old underwear when she discovered some old women’s shirts (dating from 1885) in a old chest of drawers she’d bought at an antique fair. Her interest was piqued, her collection ballooned until it didn’t fit in a single room — and the next step was obvious, she wrote a booklet about it.

The chief characterstic of this book is that it is charming; it is neither structured, nor thorough, nor scholarly. Using her collection as a guide, and interviews with old ladies who still remember wearing open drawers when young, she meanders through topics like underwear, bloomers, menstruation, childbirth and the right moment and location to relieve oneself after a long church service.

She stands right between the generations she descibes. The oldest things she discusses were worn by ladies old enough to be her grandmother, and likewise she discusses the things her granddaughters wear.

The whole light, little thing is leavened with nice sketches and apposite illustrations, and the discussion receives its focus from being concentrated on Groningen — although occasional forays into the rest of the Netherlands are not shunned.

Oh, and the title means ‘one in the wash, one in the wardrobe, one on the body’.

De weg der historie

By J. Dek

After reading 1633 I suddenly realized that I, in fact, knew hardly a thing about Dutch history. It isn’t taught in schools any more, because history now has to be a fun thing children can relate to, about common people and their life. Nothing wrong with that; but the events that have created the nation I have to live in have some importance too. So, what does someone who needs a quick primer in his national history do?

He ambles over the to the shelves, grabs an old schoolbook, one that dates from 1951, starts reading and hopes that it delivers the goods. Because lists of battles and kings was exactly what I needed — and this book did deliver.

And you know what’s funny? The exercises given at the end of each chapter are to the point and lead to some degree of insight in the course of history. Another interesting thing is to see what’s changed in the perception of the past. For instance, already in 1951, the history books were quite honest about the black pages in Dutch colonial history, it seems. But the second world war was still very close, and there is none of the revisionism that fills the newspaper columns today. And the last paragraph is positively frightening:

In bange spanning wacht de wereld af, of er een derde wereldoorlog zal uitbreken.

All in all, a better book, with more information and better illustrations than the far more expensive, four-colour illustrated, side-barred monstrosity that was my lot. And I strongly suspect that this book was for primary school pupils…