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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On machines and men,
with classical music's agony aunt, ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

I'm a professional wind player and I'm really worried about my computer. It all started out with a few unplanned transpositions -- the occasional thirteenth chord at times sneaking in -- while I was doing arrangements for my wind quintet on Sibelius, but now it's gotten completely out of hand.

What's happened is that my computer (a Dell) has suddenly gone crazy. It never used to attract anything more than the usual businessman from Zaire who, having heard of my reliability from mutual friends, was writing in hopes that I would be kind enough to look after four hundred blocks of gold bullion for him without security. Now, however, it constantly worries about the size of its hard-drive, downloads every possible upgrade on the sly and is secretly accessing hundreds of sites specialising in orgies of teens with studs in their what's-it doing things to each other with sex toys closely resembling the missing weapons of mass destruction.

Is it a virus? Is it hormonal? Can computers really have mid-life crises? Or is it me having the crisis here?

Please don't fail me! I'm separated from my wife, and I'm afraid my friends will think I've flipped!

Yours etc
Name and address withheld

Dear Whoever you are, out there somewhere,

Many people would say that you're cracking up, but I personally lean towards the theory that your computer's to blame. Mine, for example is oerlllnvmwsysdp (sorry, just breaking into a spot of Welsh there -- it does that to me when it senses an insult coming its way. Start again.)

As I was saying, mine's always doing things like that, as if a small but malevolent intelligence is imprisoned inside. It blithely fires off emails that I later wish to recall, and then, when I desperately need to get a piece in for a deadline etc it sometimes gleefully shams sending it, or even shuts down altogether, rather than oblige. It hides files I have exactly five minutes to print before the on-set of half-term-week-itus and renames others, generally in rural Serbo-Croat, so that 'Novel synopsis' is rendered 'Novopsyn' and 'Unnamed Play 944' becomes instead 'enterstagerightaganglingyouth'. Some files, I happen to know, are actually eaten. I wrote a marvellous kiddie's story some years ago, but, when I wanted to try it out on Rachel (sad, I know, but writers are sad) I discovered that the ghostie had converted it into a megabite snackette and try as I could, I failed to reconstruct it.

Nobody can tell me that these manifestations are coincidences. No, someday, some intrepid scientist will uncover the goblins in the machine, but until then people like you and me will be sneered at as loopy (in your case) or computer illiterate (in mine). At least your manifestations are rather more intriguing than most ...

Weapons of mass destruction, eh? Er ... just what site was that, again, then?

Yours, curiouser and curiouser,

[Note from Keith to Alice: Try here]

Ask Alice

Dear Alice, You may recall my letter to you in the summer regarding my feelings of lust towards the principle cello in my orchestra. Unfortunately your advice, 'get a life you sad git' didn't really help. Last week, and this was the final straw, the cellos were asked to play a section marked pizzicato. I watched in awe as ***** placed the instrument between her thighs, (I'm sorry, I must take a break) and proceeded to lead her section. Can this lady pluck or what!

Then the orchestra broke for refreshments and I rose to make my way out the hall. I was aware that the spectacle of ******* plucking had proved too much. I had to sit down for several minutes for things to settle down by which time all the coffee had gone.

Alice, can't you please offer any advice or better still give me a hand to overcome these uncontrollable urges??

Yours passionately,
A certain completely anonymous trombonist

Dear not-especially-anonymous trombonist,

Fuss, fuss, fuss, is all I ever get!!!!!

Here I put myself out to all the trouble and botheration of

  1. exploring the psychological root of the problem to its foundation
  2. finding the mot juste -- which, in all common justice, one must admit I found
  3. typing out 'Get a life you sad git' and
  4. sending it off to my editors

and this is all the thanks I receive! It 'didn't really help,' you tell me. Why didn't it help???? What more help do you need???????? I mean, what could have been more tactful, sympathetic and generally charming than my deeply considered, elegantly phrased, and neatly constructed response????

I don't know.
Don't know they're born, some people.

Also, I don't think you realise how crippling such horrible criticism is to those of us with music in our souls (meaning string players, singers, oboists etc, not mere brassy boozers like yourself). You have no idea how heart-breaking, simply heart-breaking, it is to slave away for hours attempting to restore the morale of agonised musicians only to be told that 'It didn't help; your best just wasn't good enough.' God knows, one doesn't expect bouquets -- one is content, as it were, for one's artistry to languish unrecognised -- but, at the same time, little tears will trickle onto one's space bar, and sometimes one really wonders whether one continues to have the will to soldier on ...

So get a life you sad git.


Copyright © 31 October 2003 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK



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