On machines and men,
with classical music's agony aunt, ALICE McVEIGH
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!
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]
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??
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
- exploring the psychological root of the problem to its foundation
- finding the mot juste -- which, in all common justice, one must admit I found
- typing out 'Get a life you sad git' and
- 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