Sunday, November 14, 2010

From the Septuagint to Judy Collins

One thing I like very much about my community intermediate Latin class is that it is so intergenerational. Of the four students in the group, one is a sophomore in high school, another one his dad; I think it would be fair to describe the remaining two as seniors. It's a very nice group, and they're making excellent progress in their Latin studies. (With one 90-minute class meeting a week and very little homework, they move at about the speed of a good high school class.)

It is very important to me that all the students in the class are comfortable at the level we're working at, but it's perhaps understandable that, in some ways, the class focuses around the teenage boy. He seems remarkably dedicated to his Latin studies, obviously doing all the work in his spare time. His parents clearly support his studies a great deal, and it's quite beautiful to see the kid and his dad interact in class. The boy is often the first to volunteer reading in class, in fact, he'd happily read on for pages if only we'd let him... There is, however, absolutely nothing nerdy about him.

Anyway, the other day we were reading the chapter in our textbook about numeri difficiles—difficult numbers. When we got to the word septuaginta, "seventy," I couldn't resist saying a few words about the septuagint: the Ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew bible, allegedly crafted by 70 scholars. We talked a bit about what might be the importance of the septuagint for us and I pointed out that, in some cases, the text may reflect versions of the Hebrew bible that we no longer have in the original. Having the translation is obviously not as good as having the original, bet still better than nothing, I suppose.

"Imagine," I said, "that we didn't have Shakespeare's Midsummernight's Dream in English—that it was somehow lost early on—but that we did have a German translation from, say, the 1650s. That would obviously not be nearly as good as Shakespeare's original, but it would be a lot better than not having the play at all. In fact, you could probably reconstruct Shakespeare's original to quite an extent from such an early translation."

"Or," I went on, "imagine we didn't have the Beatles' own recording of 'Yesterday,' but only Judy Collins covering it on an early 1970s LP. That might not be quite as good as the Beatles' own version, but it would be a LOT better than nothing. In fact, come to think about it, it might almost be better than the Beatles' own recording."

To my delight, both my young student and his father protested. Surely, I was pushing things just a little too far. Judy Collins covering a Beatles song, OK, good enough—but better than the Beatles?! You gotta be kidding. "Look," I said, "if we finish this lectio in time, I'll play you a recording of Judy Collins covering a Beatles song that's actually better than the Beatles' own recording."

We finished the reading quickly and even managed to squeeze in an extra exercitium, so while the class was packing up, I quickly found the record and put it on the turntable. My student, his dad, and I listened to Judy Collins's superb version of "In My Life." "Can you hear the double bass?" I asked my student. "Very subtle," he agreed. More superlatives about Collins's recording ensued.

"You see," I said to my student, "I shouldn't be saying this, but to me, this is far, far more important than learning Latin."

My student agreed, thank goodness. I think I saw his dad smiling.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Learn Ancient Greek

I am about to start up my Greek classes again, and this is something I've been very proud of: I have been teaching Ancient Greek in two variants since last September, one class focusing on Book One of Homer's Iliad, another reading bits and pieces from the Greek Bible. Greek, of course, is not so terribly easy, but way back in high school, after three years of Latin and two of Greek, I decided that Greek was the cooler language of the two: that it was basically much friendlier, much nicer than Latin. I still think so, even though today my Latin is much better than my Greek. That, of course, is why I teach Greek: no better way to learn than by teaching it!

Anyway, the other day I found this lovely little Greek textbook on a friend's bookshelf. I wish I had known it earlier, as I might have used it for my classes last year. In fact, if I would start a new beginners' class now, I might use it, as it is a very nice introduction and written with a lot of humor. The book is Learn Ancient Greek by Peter Jones, a professor at the University of Newcastle on Tyne.

There's a number of things I love about the book. One thing is that Jones doesn't even bother printing the accents. I think this is such a good idea, as learning the accents from the beginning makes the work unreasonably difficult, and really, there's not much reason for a beginner (or for anybody learning Greek for fun, for that matter) to bother with them.

Equally unorthodox is how Jones doesn't much bother to distinguish between Attic (Sophocles), New Testament Greek, and the Homeric dialect. Rather than emphasizing the differences from the outset, you might as well start with the—let's face it, many—things the dialects have in common.

But the best part of the book is that it's so funny, and in a very pleasant way. Here is some pretty witty wisdom right from the Introduction:

Talk about learning ancient Greek and someone is bound to ask 'Ancient Greek? What use is that?' The answer, I suppose, depends on whether you think pleasure is useful. Being a joie de vivre man myself, I can think of few things more useful than pleasure, but I do not want to stop anyone being as miserable as sin if they so choose.

I mean, all these crazy discussions about why high school students have to learn Latin—their SATs, learning other Romance languages later, the Beauty of Vergil—one gets really tired of it. Greek is even harder to tackle—except if you think Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Herodotus are simply vastly important to one's understanding of society, and that reading these authors in translation, like it or not, is watering them down big time.

But really, such discussions are useless in the end. Either people understand you and you don't need to tell them, or they don't understand you and, in all likelihood, never will. That's why I love the way Jones deals with the problem. Why Greek? Hey, it's so much fun! And of course, it is!

Here's another great little paragraph, dealing with this silly idea of "dead" languages:

As for ancient Geek being 'dead', that is the sort of claim made only by those ignorant of the language. I waste no more space on them.

Yeah Professor Jones! That'll teach 'm. Of course! How can anybody who has read aloud two lines from the Iliad or, for my part, a paragraph from the Gospel of Mark in the orginal language maintain that this language is dead? Hey: you just read it, with feeling I hope, and through your voice, Homer (or Mr. Mark) spoke. Dead? Alive? It all depends on you reading it—or not, of course.

To be fair, I don't think the book will suffice if you really want to learn Greek: it's meant as an introduction, and that's what it is. An enthusiastic group of language lovers with the help of a teacher I'm sure can work through it in a semester, very comfortably in two. High school teachers will probably look down on the book, but actually, I think it would be a great basis for an after-school program (or even an official one-year course) in Greek.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Einstein, Truth, and Beauty

I have recently committed myself to a rather voluminous project of study; in fact, this could easily keep me busy for a few lifetimes. My hope, though, is to make it a finite endeavor to begin with—hopefully completed within a year or so—and after that to expand on it throughout my life. I know that sounds kinda ambitious—but anyway, there I am.

The topic of this project are some 120 great humanitarians. I cannot possibly hope to study their lives and work in detail, but my plan is to at least get an idea of who these people were, of their thoughts and their contributions to mankind. What exactly I'll do to study these people will depend on the nature of each individual humanitarian. The order in which I'll study them is my very own, determined for me—I hope—through spiritual guidance. (You can also call it fate if you like, but I like the other term better.) I intend to write at least a few paragraphs about every humanitarian I'll be studying, I imagine in relation to my own life and work to the extent possible.

The first person on my list is Albert Einstein. Now I am a musician and I like languages and I especially like teaching both music and languages; I know next to nothing about physics and as so many people, I was traumatized by a mathematics teacher in high school. So you might think it's a bit weird for me to start off this project with Einstein.

My first thought was that Einstein played the violin—as a hobby, of course. In fact there's a famous anecdote I heard years ago (and I haven't checked it yet, but even if it isn't true, it's still a good story). Einstein apparently played string quartet with some really famous professional musicians. One day, as they're winding their way through Haydn or Mozart or Beethoven, Einstein messes up—he comes in to early or too late, or he plays too fast or too slow, I don't know. His fellow musicians—the pros—are kind of annoyed by this amateurish business, and one of them has the chutzpah to quip at Einstein: "Hey—can't you count?" Einstein, drily: "Of course not!"

Unfortunately, I have every bit of understanding for the pro—look: I am a professional musician, alright? But how can anybody not totally love Einstein's reply? In fact, this remark alone makes Einstein a great humanitarian to me!

So anyway: I got a copy of The Einstein Reader from my wonderful local independent bookstore and started right away. I'm not even on page 10 and already, there is something so strong, so beautiful, so true that I wanted to write about it immediately. As you read this first quote, bear in mind that I recently retired from a 35 years as professional church musician and that I have been teaching in universities for some ten years.

"Both churches and universities—insofar as they live up to their true function—serve the ennoblement of the individual."

That to me is the best definition of what churches and universities should be about, and I think that's why I wanted to make music in churches—and, I suppose, why I want to teach in university. But of course, the catch is the clause in the middle of Einstein's sentence... As for churches—I've worked in at least a dozen of them for a shorter or longer period, so perhaps my opinion is worth something: I honestly don't think any of those places lived up to its "true function" as defined by Einstein. That sounds a bit disappointing, and believe me, it is! But let me put it this way: I'll keep looking and if I find one, I'll let you know, OK? (I'll hold off on my opinion about universities until I've taught at twelve of them or for 35 years, whichever comes first.)

Even though, Einstein goes on to say, "the essential unity of ecclesiastical and secular cultural institutions was lost during the 19th century, ... no one would have been taken seriously who failed to acknowledge the quest for objective truth and knowledge as man's highest and eternal aim."

Wow! Objective truth and knowledge! I'm not sure how politically correct these values are in today's society, but I suppose I'm old-fashioned enough to subscribe to this. You may think that objective truth is a rather absurd ideal for a musician. Does not every pianist play Beethoven his or her way? In fact, is that not exactly what makes it interesting?

Perhaps. But in my own little way, as a musician and music teacher, I think I am aiming for some kind of objective truth. That is why knowledge of music history and music theory are so important to me as a performer and teacher. But look at it in a slightly different way: Is true Beauty not the highest form of objective truth anyway? Is not the gift of a great humanitarian artist to reveal, through the Beauty of his art, some glimpse of eternal and utterly objective truth?

I would certainly like to think so.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Email from a Student

I have written at least once before about a Very Good Student, and my faithful readers will perhaps remember to imagine the tongue in my cheek when I talk about "good" students (they're all "good," of course, and I like working a lot with all of them!). On the other hand, sometimes students do something that's so nice it's worth blogging (and, I suppose, bragging) about. Here's another of those Great Students I feel really honored to work with.

This young man studies harpsichord with me. Now, from the first moment I heard (and saw) him play the harpsichord, I knew he had a very special gift for the instrument and its repertoire. That is quite remarkable, because from his background, you would not at all expect a special interest in Baroque music (he loves Bach!) and even less a special "feel" for the specific way the harpsichord works. When you see this man play the harpsichord, you realize it's actually a very subtile and sensitive instrument—which of course it is, but only if you're willing to think that way!

So I've been working with this student for a little over a year, and on the whole, he's been great to work with. That's not to say there are no problems, but he's taken on a lot of what I've told him. What's perhaps even more important, he's matured a lot as a music student, taking his work so much more seriously now—which I think is really fantastic.

A while ago, my student was working on a very tricky variation from Bach's "Goldberg" Variations. We disagreed about the interpretation of some of the ornaments, and I suggested he'd look at the facsimile of the first edition. Lo and behold, the next time I saw him he said he'd actually looked for the facsimile in the library, but they didn't have a copy of it. Well, I said, you should have emailed me last night and I would have brought my copy in for you today. Ah, he said, you're right, that would have been good. Even better, we both agreed that, of course, it was his responsibility to ask me.

So the other day, he emails me out of the blue. He's now working on a different Bach piece. He has this great way of emailing me: "Professor?" —as if he's calling me in the corridor in school. Then, in just a few words, he tells me he has trouble with one particular measure in the piece. Can I help him out by suggesting a fingering for this tricky passage?

I so loved getting this question from him that I put off making my fruit salad (we had a birthday in the family) and looked up the piece in question. Within a few minutes, I wrote him back with a fingering for those two measures (you always want to look at a particular measure in its context), but the question inspired me so much that I spent an hour or two looking at that passage in more detail, trying to understand why I actually used that particular fingering by looking a little bit "under the surface" of the notes.

OK, so keyboard fingerings are a huge area of interest to me—as a player, and even more as a teacher, and I'll write a lot more about it some day. But the great thing is that this student asked me for help. So simple, so clear, so straightforward. Wonderful. I love it.

Counting Syllables

When I teach Latin or Greek, I get my students to read aloud whatever we're reading in those languages. Depending on the situation, we may then translate the text into English, but reading the original text aloud is, to me, a very central and incredibly important part of the work.

A while ago, I was reading Latin proverbs with a bunch of fifth-graders. Many of them had difficulty reading longer words. One such word was sollicitudinis. For some reason, after some trial and error, I got the idea of asking the student to count the syllables: sol-li-ci-tu-di-nis. Five. No six! Yep, that's right: six syllables. Sol-li-ci-tu-di-nis. Now say the whole word again. Sollicitudinis. Fine. No problem. Problem gone.

I have since done this with language students at all levels and I find it works incredibly well. Ex-o-mo-lo-gou-me-noi (7). In-dis-so-lu-bi-lem (6). Plus, it's so much fun to ask in class: So how many syllables does that word have? I'm not sure what exactly makes this work. I think in essence it makes readers look a little bit more carefully, read bit-by-bit, step-for-step—rather than trying to spit the whole word out at once and realizing it's simply too much to grasp when you're halfway.

OK, so if you teach a language, I suppose you can try this for yourself. But here's what I really like about this syllable counting business. I also teach music, including in graduate school. And here I was this morning working with an exceptionally fine graduate student on a Beethoven piano sonata (in C major, op. 2 no. 3). The beginning of the first movement has these parallel thirds that are not so easy to play at the tempo this piece is usually played at. (I actually think there's something wrong with the tempo assumption here, but that doesn't matter for now.)

So my student plays these parallel thirds in measure one. They're kinda OK, but a little garbled, a bit unclear. They were actually much better the second time around (in m. 3), but I decided to bring the issue up nonetheless. I told my student about my experience counting syllables with language students. I'm not sure how to do this in music, I said, but let's see: how many notes are you actually playing there? Four, he said. Really? I asked. Well, five, he said, counting the eighth note following the four sixteenths.

OK, four or five, I said. But is that really true? Ah, he said, no, because they're thirds. So it's really four or five times two. Right, I said. Now why don't you play it again.

So much better that time! And actually, not even that much slower. Somehow, he was now playing those tricky thirds one at the time. Still very quickly, of course. But one at the time, not all at once.

I think one thing the language students and the music student (I haven't tried this with other music students yet) have in common is that they're all in a hurry all the time. The music student thinks he has to play the Beethoven movement really fast, or people will say he can't really play the piano. The kids in fifth grade have been pushed to read faster and faster in school—not to read more carefully. And my adult language students think they sound silly when they read a bit slower. (I do think they believe me if I tell them the opposite is true—they're really good and very nice students; but it's so hard to really, really believe it and even harder to put it into practice!)

The whole thing (the Beethoven experience in particular) reminds me of these modern actors who think they sound really clever if they can race through Shakespeare (G&S, or Pinter, I suppose; you can also hear this a lot in the recitatives in Mozart opera). Never mind nobody understands them when they speak so quickly—they sound clever anyway.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Missing Stanza

I have been interested in the poet A. E. Housman for a while. My interest came from music: many of Housman's poems were set to music, most famously by Vaughan Williams. I then learned that, for a day job, Housman was a professor of classics—mostly Latin—at Cambridge. I was told that one of his professional interests was in editing classical texts, and that he is known for the relative liberty with which he made emendations in his editions. He wouldn't publish nonsense just because he found it in an Old Manuscript, so to speak.

In any event, I thought it was nice that Housman did Latin for a living and poetry for life; I was only a little bit sad to find out that, allegedly, he didn't like music. I keep hoping that it was all a misunderstanding. That maybe he said it in a bad moment, or perhaps because he was still annoyed with Vaughan Williams editing his poetry a little bit too freely...

Just the other day, a friend gave me a copy of Housman's The Name and Nature of Poetry, actually the text of a lecture given at Cambridge in May 1933. Almost at the end of the little book, Housman tells about his own "creative process"—the way one specific poem of his came into being:

Two of the stanzas, I do not say which,
came into my head, just as they are printed,
while I was crossing the corner of Hampstead Heath
between the Spaniard's Inn and the footpath to Temple Fortune.

A third stanza came with a little coaxing after tea.
One more was needed, but it did not come:
I had to turn to and compose it myself,
and that was laborious business.

I wrote it thirteen times, and it was
more than a twelvemonth before I got it right.

I hope Housman will forgive me for editing him so freely... Not that I changed a word; but as I was typing the text I thought it might be a nice idea to lay it out as if it were poetry. That's naughty, of course—it really is. But I hope that it also reveals a bit of the beauty of these lines.

Am I imagining this, or is the fragment getting more and more poetic? "One more was needed, but it did not come": the rhythm feels so nice and easy, so perfectly natural! "And that was laborious business." Even better—plus the for a's in a row at the beginning of the line and the softly bumping b's in "laBorious Business." Lovely, isn't it!

Then the final "couplet": the nice contrast between the "thirteen times" and the "twelve months." I like the emphatic "more" at the beginning of the last "line"; and again, the alliterative "More" and "twelveMonth."

And finally, those final words, the "getting it right." It sound so mundane in a way—almost like, getting the translation of a Latin text "right" in class... How can he talk about his art, his high poetic art that way? And yet, of course, for an artist, there's only one way in which the painting looks just right. Or the composition sounds just the way it's supposed to be.

Still, I can't help wondering: is Housman being just a little bit tongue-in-cheek here? At the very end of his lecture—which is, in essence, an essay in literary criticism—he says:

I shall go back with relief and thankfulness
to my proper job.

His proper job—yeah, really. Like what? Teaching classics? Editing? Writing poetry?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Good Student

Although in a way most of my training in music has been towards performance, I increasingly see myself as a teacher more than anything—of music, but recently also of languages, especially Latin. As a teacher (I teach both one-on-one and in small groups) one has all kinds of students. But I'd say that pretty much all of them, though quite different, are a lot of fun to work with. Still, some students are inevitably easier to work with, some are more ready to take on what I have to tell them, some perhaps trust me more than others. I suppose other teachers have the same experience (but I may be wrong).

Just now, I got an email from, OK, a really Good Student. I know as you're reading this, you can't see the tongue in my cheek and the smile on my face. All students are "good" students, as far as I'm concerned, but today, I feel particularly proud of this one, so I wanted to write about what happened.

This student is in my Biblical Greek class. We met last night, and had lots of fun, partly because we tried to speak quite a bit in the language. Then, for some reason, in the course of the class, she mentioned that she had been a language major in college. German. She was going to be a German teacher, but for some reason, that didn't work so well for her. (She thinks she is not a good teacher, though I'm quite sure the opposite is the case.) I asked her if she reads any German at all these days, just for pleasure. Nope, she hasn't done anything with the language for 45 years. (She must have graduated from college at 7 or 8, I suppose.)

I asked her what she had read in German back then. Goethe. Thomas Mann. Any Hesse, I asked. No. Oh my goodness, I say. You have to read Siddhartha, I'll lend you my copy. She protests that, really, her German is very rusty, and that she can't find her dictionary, and, and, and. But I give her the book and tell her to read the first chapter for homework. Of course, I'm kidding. But, I suppose, I'm also not. And, as much as she protested, she took the book home.

That was last night. Today, at lunchtime, I got this email from her. "Sorry J-P, but I read the first chapter—and you're not going to get the book back till I've finished it." She loved it so much, she wrote, that she had to read part of it aloud. My co-workers, she wrote smilingly, must think I'm crazy.

Of course, now I want to have the book back right away, because this makes me want to read it again myself!

But isn't that fantastic? I so often make these suggestions to students. Why don't you try this piece. Take a look at this or that composer. Have you read this or that book. It's not that these students are lazy, nasty, or even naughty. But so often, it just doesn't happen. (No time, of course, is the standard excuse—usually followed by a few "really's.")

But this time it did happen. I just know that she's going to finish Siddhartha next week or so, and with a bit of luck, I'll get her to read Narziss und Goldmund after that... It's so obvious to me that she loves German and German literature. She just needed this tiny little push. A Pushlein, as we say in German...

I'm so proud of her. What a Good Student!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reading Caesar

I've been reading chunks from Caesar's Commentarii de bello Gallico, Caesar's autobiographical report about his, let's call it adventures, in what's now France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, and Britain. For centuries, Caesar's writings were a standard part of the Latin curriculum in schools: the limited vocabulary and fairly straightforward nature of his style made him typically the first author one would read in the original Latin. (I'm reading Caesar because I'm teaching more and more Latin, and my most advanced class is approaching a level at which they could read this stuff.)

I have to say that, while I don't hate Caesar's language, I'm not particularly impressed by its elegance either. But the way Jules messes around in northwestern Europe is frightening. On almost every page there's something that's so upsetting that I have to stop reading to tell my wife about how the Great Roman is massacring one tribe or another.

Here is the worst line I've found so far. It's at the end of Chapter 11 in Book Two. Caesar has just cleverly defeated a massive army of Belgians, who have decided to quit and return home to take care of Other Business. But for Caesar, that's not enough: he sends his complete cavalry and three legions of infantry out to attack the fleeing Belgians. The attack is "successful", of course, and then it comes:

sine ullo periculo
tantam eorum multitudinem nostri interfecerunt
quantum fuit diei spatium.

And so,
without any risk,
our men killed as great a number of them
as the length of the day allowed.

Killing as many as the length of the day allowed... Does that remind you of any twentieth-century ruler? Frankly, I can think of only one.

The scary part is, I think, that at some level, when reading this, we all think: Wow--That Caesar! A bit naughty, perhaps, to kill all those nice Belgians, but nonetheless: What A Great Guy! I think that's somehow in Caesar's writing. Willy-nilly you find yourself taking his side against those Barbarian Tribes.

It does make me wonder about reading Caesar in school (this last year, he selected to be the single one prose author on the new AP Latin exams here in the US). If we have to, well, I guess, so be it. But it seems to me that teachers would have to be very, very careful putting whatever Caesar is saying in as fair a light as possible. If there's something to be learned in Latin class beyond grammar and syntax, than the lesson from Caesar is certainly how not to behave in international politics.

And that's putting it mildly.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In Love with Sanskrit

A while ago, a very good and long-time friend told me that she had realized how important Sanskrit was for her, and how she was thinking of going back to learning it. She quickly got me all excited: I offered to learn it together with her and immediately asked advise about textbooks--and indeed about the viability of the whole undertaking--from two experts. Unfortunately, and I feel terribly sorry about this, I seemed to have overwhelmed my friend a bit, as we haven't spoken about Sanskrit since, although we see each other all the time.

But the idea is still on my mind, and as I'm reading this wonderful new book Latin Alive (by Joseph Solodow, just out from Cambridge University Press), I hit upon these utterly beautiful lines about Sanskrit. I've sent them to my friend, but I thought I'd post them here for everybody else to read. It's actually prose, but of such a poetic nature that I couldn't resist starting a new line with every new part of a sentence. That way, with lines of almost identical length, the fragment almost looks like two stanzas of a sonnet:
The Sanskrit language,
whatever be its antiquity,
is of a wonderful structure;

more perfect than the Greek,
more copious than the Latin,
and more exquisitely refined than either.

These words were first said by Sir William Jones, addressing the Asiatic Society of Bengal at Calcutta in 1786. In that very lecture, Jones became the first scholar ever to suggest a common ancestry for Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit. In other words, he started the study of what is now called Indo-European, the pre-historic language we only know by ever-more precise reconstruction.

That's all very exciting stuff. But isn't it beautiful how, in a few simple lines, Jones tells you about what--I suppose-- must have been the love of his life: Sanskrit.

Starting This Blog

I've wanted to start a blog for a while. At the moment, as I happen to have a bit of time on my hands, I do quite a bit of reading (and movie watching, but that's a different story). Twice in the last few days I took the time to type out a paragraph of a book I was reading and to email it to a friend whom I though would be interested in that particular paragraph. It occurred to me that I might as well post the information as a blog so that I don't have to keep telling all my other friends about the same interesting thing (although hopefully I still can if I want to).

Before I came to America (more than ten years ago), I used to write regularly for a very nice local newspaper in my home country, The Netherlands. Though the subject of my writing was usually totally unambiguous--almost always something to do with music--I had quite a bit of freedom in what I wrote and how I wrote it. I really liked that I could, as it were, chat about something that interested me with a whole lot of readers at once. I'm curious to see if this blog can give me a similar kind of springboard idea: to simply talk about things I've hit on and that I'd like to tell others about.

I am a musician by training, have performed internationally, and taught music at the college and university level for almost ten years. In recent years--thanks to fate, my wife, and others--I have gotten into teaching languages (so far Latin, Ancient Greek, and Italian) in addition to music. Since the language teaching is becoming a bigger and more important part of my life, but since I could never not be a musician, I called this blog what I called it. My intention is to write about whatever I want to write about--but most likely it will fall in one of those two categories.