Friday, January 20, 2023

The Beardsley Salome Dinnerware Project, Part 2: Production

Part 1 of my report on this project is here

Just as creation of the artwork for my Beardsley dinnerware took longer and was more difficult than I'd anticipated, production of the dishes was also unexpectedly challenging. Without the extraordinary commitment of Enduring Images (the company who made the dishware), I'd still be looking at  mockups on a computer instead of dinnerware on a table.

Let's start with how things end. Here's a photo of one of the dinner plates I had made, along with a smaller plate and a bowl:

Here are the serving dishes:
And here are more of the bowls, because they are the only component of the set that uses color:

The collection is nice, but it's not as nice as I'd hoped. The pieces look pretty good from a distance, but the closer you look, the more you notice things that aren't as they should be. Well, the closer I look, the more things I notice that aren't as they should be. I spent several months staring at zoomed-in copies of Beardsley's drawings and at dinnerware mock-ups using those drawings. I notice some things other people wouldn't.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Having seen how production ended, let's shift to how it began.

In September 2021, shortly after starting the project, Enduring Images (EI) ran tests to ensure that the blanks I'd selected were compatible with their production technology. As a test image, I selected a drawing from Beardsley's work on Le Morte Darthur, because I felt that its areas of solid color as well as its use of fine lines was representative of the images I'd want for my dinnerware. At that time, I had not yet decided to use only artwork from Salome.

When I got a test plate back, I was surprised to find that the edge of the decal could be both seen and felt. It wasn't obvious, but once you'd noticed it, it was hard to ignore. Patrick, my contact in Production at EI, explained that this was a flux shadow. I didn't like it, so Patrick outlined three approaches to eliminating it. I'll refer to these approaches as Techniques A, B, and C, but for those who must open every box to see what's inside, A is on-glazing with a flux topcoat and full-coverage decals, B is on-glazing with a non-flux topcoat, and C is in-glazing.

Each of these approaches has limitations. Technique A works for relatively flat pieces, but it can't be used for bowls. Technique B tends to yield a matte finish, rather than a glossy one. Technique C has a poor track record. Patrick had found that it was rarely successful.

Technique A was a variation on what had been done for the test plate. I was confident it would leave no flux shadow on the relatively flat pieces it was applicable to. I had EI run additional test plates using Techniques B and C. As promised, neither produced a flux shadow. Surprisingly, Technique B produced glossy results. It also yielded a more intense black than Technique C. 

I recommended we use Technique B for the dinnerware. Unlike Technique A, it was applicable to all dish shapes, and it yielded deeper blacks than Technique C. I then threw myself into production of the artwork, a task that ended up stretching over the next eight months. For details, see Part 1 of this report.

Three months later, we ran some samples to test the colors for my bowls. I reminded Patrick of the importance of avoiding a flux shadow. He told me he'd selected Technique C for just that reason. He didn't say why he'd chosen Technique C over Technique B, and I didn't ask.

After five more months (i.e., at the end of July 2022), I submitted final artwork for the full dinnerware set. Patrick started work on a dinner plate as a pre-production test. We expected smooth sailing. The seas were not cooperative. After three failed trials, Patrick, taking into account the tribulations I'd endured with the artwork, began to talk of a Beardsley curse. After several additional failures, he concluded that Technique C was not going to work for the project.

The stumbling block was the large swaths of solid black, especially on the rims. Patrick had been unable to find a way to fire the plates such that these areas emerged a uniform color and texture. The picture below is an example of his results. The black in the middle of the plate is deeper than that on the rim, there is cracking in the color at the rim extents, and striations are present at the rim edge in the upper left.

We retreated to Technique A. It dodged the problems of Technique C, but a new issue became apparent. Some areas that were supposed to be white were coming out grey. In the image below, compare the original artwork (above) with the image on the plate (below). On the plate, there's a grey haze around the peacock and the headdress that is not present in Beardsley's drawing:

Patrick explained that the black areas tend to bleed a little, and there's no practical way to eliminate it.

At this point, I'd been working with EI for more than 13 months, and pre-production testing was in its fifth month. I was having only 41 pieces produced, so the business case for continuing to work with me had long since evaporated. EI as a company and Patrick as a individual had invested far more time and energy in the project than could ever be justified, and they had done it with a cheery attitude and an earnest commitment to the project's success. I would have liked to find a way to eliminate the flux shadows on the bowls that I knew Technique A would leave behind, and I would have liked to play around with techniques to reduce the bleeding giving rise to grey areas, but EI hadn't signed up for what had become a research project. You don't ask people who've already gone above and beyond to go  higher and further. I told Patrick that testing was over and it was time to make the set.

The dishes showed up about two months later. Creating them involved printing, hand-placing, and firing 82 decals, one for the top of each piece and one for the bottom. Most decals were unique. Bottom decals had to be matched with their top-of-the-plate partner and had to be oriented the same way. Opportunities for errors were rife. I was pleased to see that only one decal had been placed incorrectly. 

I noticed some significant loss of detail in fine white lines present in the artwork. Compare the artwork below (left) with its appearance on a plate (right):

I also saw that the black rims were not as uniform in color as on the test plates we'd run. Contrast the mottled appearance of the production plate (left) with the more uniformly black test plate (right):

Patrick explained that in an effort to minimize the bleeding of blacks into adjacent white areas, he'd tinkered a bit with the production process. That had resulted in some loss of fine details as well as a reduction in the density of the blacks.

During the months between initial firing tests in autumn 2021 and pre-production testing at summer's end 2022, Technique B had somehow dropped off the radar. I hadn't forgotten it, however. When Patrick remade the plate with the mis-placed decal, I had him make a second copy of the plate using Technique B. That allowed me to compare the results of Techniques A and B on a piece of my dinnerware.

It was an interesting exercise. The rim color for Technique B (right) was much better than for Technique A (left):

That photo was taken under unusually strong light, and it exaggerates the difference. Even under normal lighting, however, it's clear that Technique A's black is mottled, while Technique B's is nearly uniform.

On the other hand, Technique A (left) retained drawing details better than Technique B (right):

Technique B yields better solid blacks, then, but it leads to a loss of detail beyond that which Technique A already incurs.

That's how the story ends. I finally have a set of dinnerware based on Aubrey Beardsley's drawings, something I'd yearned for since 1989. But it's not the set I'd envisioned. The areas that should be solid black are more dark grey. If you look closely, or if you see them under strong light, you see that the color is somewhat mottled. The images lack details present in Beardsley's drawings, and some areas that should be white have a grey haze to them. The set is still nice. To the casual observer, it's very nice. It's just not as nice as I'd hoped. 

I suspect it would be possible to do better, but getting there--finding the right combination of toner, topcoat, kiln temperature, firing time, and who-knows-what-else--would be time consuming and expensive. It'd be a research project--even more so than this endeavor ultimately became. That's not in the cards.

I'm lucky I got this far. Without Enduring Images' dedication to seeing this project through, I wouldn't have. I remain grateful to them and to Patrick for their exemplary patience, cooperation, and assistance.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Stained Glass Panels, Part 4

This is part 4 of a series about my designs for stained glass window panels.

Part 1: The eclipse panel

Part 2: The book data panel

Part 3: The hummingbird feathers panel

Part 4: The dichro panel (this post)

In parts 1-3 of this series, I described stained glass panels I designed for transom windows above doors. My fourth panel was for a window on a wall above a stairwell. It was nearly five times as big as the transoms: roughly two-and-a-half by five feet.

My goals were clear from the get-go. I wanted a design that looked like a metal screen and that was essentially opaque. The view through the window (which included a chunk of roof) would detract from the panel, so I wanted to hide it. I quickly came up with this:

I experimented with a lot of color options:

I should have saved myself the trouble. Panel makers told me that the inner right angles on the pieces of glass around the squares would be weak and crack or break. They had to go.

I returned to the drawing board and emerged with a number of designs that had no inner right angles:

Panel makers clarified that any concave angle ending in a point (as opposed to ending in a curve) would suffer the same weakness, so designs 6-8 were out. The simple act of rounding the corners of the squares (design 5) would solve the problem, but I didn't like the way it looked. Rotating the squares 45 degrees (design 1) would also solve the problem, but that didn't look like the screen I had in mind. Nor did designs 2-4.

It occurred to me that an alternative to rotating all the squares 45 degrees was to rotate the connecting lines 45 degrees instead. That was equally effective in eliminating the inner right angles, and it yielded this design, which is the one I ended up using.

Meanwhile, I'd decided I wanted to use dichroic ("dichro") glass for the squares. Dichro glass is magical stuff. It changes color depending on the angle from which it's viewed. Its appearance also depends on whether you're seeing transmitted light (e.g., during the day) or reflected light (e.g., from inside lights at night). Dichro elements in the panel would change colors as you walked by or went up and down the stairs, would look different night and day, and would present difference faces inside and outside the house. I couldn't resist.

I ordered some dichro samples, taped them to a window, and took photos of them from different angles to see what they'd do. These photos show five samples from different viewpoints:

I settled on Kokomo's 33G-MA (second from left in the shots above), and mocked up my design using the photos I'd taken. My goal was to approximate the panel's appearance, at least during daytime. Here are the mockups:

The actual panel puts the mockups to shame:

The three pictures on the left were taken during the day. They show the dichro with transmitted light. The rightmost picture was taken at night. It shows reflected light. In the two middle pictures, different squares show different colors. That's probably because the viewing angle varies from the top of the panel to the bottom, but a contributing factor could be variations in the dichroic coating on individual pieces of glass.

Walking down the stairs provides a steady change in viewing angle that brings the panel alive:

I really like this panel. During the day, the hot-magenta dichro squares glow with color from the most common vantage points, and they segue to a nice peach when viewed from wider angles. As you walk by, they put on a chromatic show. 

I'm pleased that I heeded the lesson from panel 3 and made this panel opaque. The dichro squares against the wispy white background pop, just as I'd hoped, and there's no distracting view of sky, clouds, trees, or roof peeking through. 

There's a price for that. The panel blocks most of the light coming through the window, and the stairwell is now dimmer than my wife and I would prefer. I knew that putting a panel in front of the window would darken things a bit, but the effect is more pronounced than I had expected. My experience with the transom window panels led me to believe that putting a panel over a window wouldn't have much of an impact on the light in the room, but in retrospect, that was because each of the transoms was over a door with a much larger window in it. The larger windows provided enough illumination that reducing the light through the transoms didn't matter. In the case of the stairwell, the panel covers the only window. The darkening effect is considerable. 

The takeaway from panel 3 was that what's outside the window should affect the design of the panel. The takeaway from panel 4 is that what's inside the window should affect it, too.


Friday, January 13, 2023

Stained Glass Panels, Part 3

This is part 3 of a series about my designs for stained glass window panels.

Part 1: The eclipse panel

Part 2: The book data panel

Part 3: The hummingbird feathers panel (this post)

Part 4: The dichro panel

I started design work on my third transom window panel even before the second panel had been delivered. My goal was something dog-related. The initial mockup was intended to depict a wagging tail in a triptych-like design:

A friend remarked that it looked like a pineapple. Sigh.

Abandoning the canine connection, I played around with variations on a couple of shapes that came to me unbidden:

The exercise was interesting, and I think designs 1 and 2 show promise, but I didn't like them well enough to pursue. I set them aside and returned to the dog theme. My approach this time was to build on trajectories of bouncing balls. (Dogs like to fetch them.) The mathematics of such trajectories avoided the need for me to do any drawing, though you'll note a terrible depiction of a Chuckit! ball launcher at the left in design 6:

None of these did anything for me.

Casting about for a different course, I considered encoding a dog-related message in a geometric version of Morse code. That led to designs such as this (which I believe depicts "Good Dog", although I don't remember exactly how):

I set the the dog idea aside again and turned my attention to the Rufous hummingbirds that frequent the feeder near the window the panel was destined for. As you can see in this photograph from, the throat feathers on the males are striking:

I mocked up a conceptual design:

I approached some stained glass artists about fleshing out the design and making the panel. I also asked about the possibility of incorporating iridescent and/or dichroic glass, because I thought that would be visually interesting and could help convey the dazzling effect the feathers can produce. I inquired about incorporating prisms into the design, too, because I thought it would be fun to have light spectra scattered on the walls near the panel.

I chose a local artist, Sondra Radcliffe of Ambiente Art Glass, to advance my design from concept to reality. Visiting her workshop was a revelation. I selected the glass for my first two panels from manufacturers' online catalogs, but Ambiente Art Glass uses only hand-blown glass for their panels, and they've spent decades curating a collection of unique glass pieces for their projects. It's beautiful and remarkable stuff--colors of various levels of translucence layered on top of one another to produce 3D effects within a sheet of glass. Even the clear pieces show character, e.g., cracks, bubbles, and slight distortions. The glass in my third panel is in a vastly more sophisticated league than those that came before it.

We ultimately decided against iridescent and dichroic glass, but Sondra incorporated a number of beveled glass jewels. They scatter light when the sun shines through them. She took my idea of a hummingbird throat and reinterpreted it as a wave. This is the panel she created:
A close-up makes it easier to appreciate the glass's complexity, as well as the skill with which Sondra selected, cut, and arranged the pieces:

Alas, the panel isn't as successful as I'd hoped. It's my fault. I made two serious mistakes. First, I failed to consider the view through the window when I used clear glass in the design. I'd imagined the colored glass against a white background (as in my conceptual mockup), but the view through the window is largely of trees. That makes it harder to appreciate the colors in the panel. It looks best after a snowfall:

My second error was failing to realize that the window is too high and the deck ceiling too wide to allow sunlight to directly reach the panel. That means the prismatic effect I'd hoped for from the glass jewels doesn't occur. 

I'm still happy with the panel. It's a big artistic step up from the panels that preceded it, and it has the attractive property that the closer you examine it, the better it looks. The big takeaway, however, was that when designing a panel, you have to take into account where it will be and what will be visible behind it. You can't design a stained glass panel in isolation. I took that lesson to heart in the design of my next panel.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Stained Glass Panels, Part 2

This is part 2 of a series about my designs for stained glass window panels.

Part 1: The eclipse panel

Part 2: The book data panel (this post)

Part 3: The hummingbird feathers panel

Part 4: The dichro panel

Some months after installing my first transom window panel, I started work on the second one. It was for a window near my office, so I decided to use data related to my books as the basis for the design. 

I first thought of simply plotting sales and/or royalties over time, because that would allow me to use Excel to generate a graph, and I could use the graph as my design. I plotted unit sales for 1991-2018 (top), royalties for the same period (middle), and both together (bottom), then slapped them into mockups with a waterglass background. This is what I got:

The colors in the graphs correspond to the colors of my books:

None of these designs excited me, and I was skeptical that it would be practical to build them.

My next idea was to have the width of the panel represent years between 1990 and 2020 and to stack two solid circles for each book on its year of publication. The area of one circle would correspond to the book's lifetime sales, the other to its lifetime royalties. That yielded this:

This did nothing for me. As I wrote to a friend, "It looks like a collection of washers in a 1960s color scheme."

Retaining the idea of the panel representing time horizontally, I added the idea of it representing lifetime sales vertically. That let me plot total sales against year of publication:

Sizing the points to reflect lifetime royalties, getting rid of the grid lines, and throwing in some candidate glass choices gave me this:
I played around with other shapes, too.
I liked circles best. I found the vaguely planetary look pleasing. In addition, Margo Crane, who made my first panel and whom I planned to use for this one, confirmed my suspicion that she lacked the expensive equipment needed to cut the glass for these kinds of "shapes floating in space" designs. 

I added grid lines to make the design buildable, tinkered with some details, and put in the glass choices that Margo and I agreed on. This was my final mockup:

The panel showed up about six weeks later:
That's what it looks like, but it's not the way it usually looks. A transom window is up high (above a door), and this particular window is typically viewed from a hallway, which provides a view from the side. The usual way to see this panel, then, is from below and to the side, like this:

I had taken that into account when developing the design. My decision to use clear waterglass as the background was based on the knowledge that the white structure behind the window when viewed from this angle would provide a blurred white background. That's what I wanted: colored circles against a white background. I think it works well. Unfortunately, I failed to take the view through the window into account when I designed my third panel, and, as you'll see in part 3 of this series, that was a mistake.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Stained Glass Panels, Part 1

This is part 1 of a series about my designs for stained glass window panels.

Part 1: The eclipse panel (this post)

Part 2: The book data panel

Part 3: The hummingbird feathers panel

Part 4: The dichro panel

Near the end of 2017, I decided I wanted to have stained glass panels made for transom windows over doors in our house. By "panel," I mean a stained glass insert to be pushed up against the inside of an existing window. The effect is that of a stained glass window, but the panel isn't exposed to the elements. I looked online for designs I liked, but nothing grabbed me. I tried to find someone to design panels for me, but that didn't pan out. So I decided to take a stab at designing the first panel myself.

This was a laughable decision. It combined artistic design, an area where I have neither talent nor experience, with stained glass, a medium about which I knew nothing. It was nevertheless a way forward, so I set out down that path. I took the total eclipse that had taken place a few months earlier as my design motif. The area of totality had been not far from my home, and the experience of seeing it was still fresh in my mind. 

For a skilled stained glass artist such as Susan Humphrey of Rockcrest Glass Studio, the eclipse led to wonderful works of art such as this:

Solar Eclipse from Rockcrest Glass Studio

I'm no Susan Humphrey. As an example of the artistic league I'm in, here's the "eclipse cake" I prepared for the event. It's not stained glass, but I think the sophistication of the work speaks for itself: 

Among the many artistic skills I lack is the ability to envision something that doesn't exist. I needed a way to mock up stained glass panel designs so that I could look at them. In a move that will not surprise you if you've read about how I designed custom dinnerware, I turned to PowerPoint. Its support for visual design work is limited, but nowhere near as limited as my imagination. 

I initially wanted a lot of light to come through the panel, so I chose phases of the eclipse against a clear waterglass background:

I then mocked up a design that more accurately reflected the eclipse I had seen. That involved adjusting the phases of the eclipse to progress in a more diagonal direction than purely left to right. It also entailed making the sky blue. This was the result:
The blue background seemed kind of flat, so I shot for more visual interest by using a wispy blue-purple background instead:

I learned that the white ring surrounding the black circle in the center of the panel would stymie most makers, because they typically lack the ability to cut a ring of glass. (Cutting circles is easy, but cutting rings is apparently hard.) I revised the design to eliminate the ring. I also went back to the horizontal evolution of eclipse phases, because people found the diagonal placement off-putting. My final design looked like this:

The image looks deceptively like a photograph, but it's nothing more than a few PowerPoint shapes with online images of glass samples as fill patterns. 

Each piece of glass in the design is a wispy mixture of two colors (e.g., blue and purple, yellow and white, etc.), and in the real world, each piece of such glass is unique. A mockup can never do more than approximate what a panel would look like. What it actually looks like is determined by the artist choosing, cutting, and placing the glass pieces and then soldering them together. For this panel, that artist was Margo Crane. Her Etsy shop for stained glass work is here. Here's the panel she delivered:

I'm quite happy with it. It's visible from my bed, so it's one of the first things I see every morning. It's a nice way to start the day.

The design remains childishly simple, but working on this panel taught me a lot about the kinds of glass that are available and about how to use PowerPoint as a mockup tool. It also introduced me to a number of stained glass artists and their studios, both local and remote. It put me in a position to hit the ground running with the design for my next panel.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Anne Frank's Diary: Versions, Translations, and Ownership, Oh My!

This is a follow-up to my previous post about reading Anne Frank's famous diary.

In an entry for October 1942, Anne Frank reports that no one had warned the people in hiding that someone would come to fill the fire extinguishers. In the German translation I read, the beginning of the sentence is worded this way (after translation into English via DeepL Translator):

Because they are so clever downstairs, they didn't warn us...

My German's not bad, but I'm far from fluent, so as I read the diary, I checked my comprehension using the published English translation. There, the sentence fragment reads like this:

The office staff stupidly forgot to warn us...

This bothered me. The sarcasm in the German is missing in the English. That greatly affects the tone of the diary entry. A diary is a very personal thing. I wanted to hear Anne's voice as I read it. Did she express her annoyance using the sarcasm in the German, or did she simply employ the deprecating wording of the English? My money was on sarcasm from a young teen, but I wanted to know for sure. At least one of those translations had to be wrong!

This question sent me down the rabbit hole of diary versions, translation inconsistencies, and ownership rights for Anne Frank's diary. It's an interesting story, if you're into that kind of thing. If you're not, I'll cut to the chase. It looks like neither the German nor the English translations convey the tone present in the Dutch that Anne wrote in.

Update 6 January 2023: As noted below, it's now clear that sarcasm is present in the Dutch, so the German translation is correct in tone, and the English translation is not.

Versions of the Diary

Anne wrote two versions of her diary:

  • Version A is her personal diary. She wrote it only for herself. The diary consisted of multiple notebooks. The one covering December 1942 to December 1943 was not recovered after Anne was arrested, so Version A is now incomplete.
  • Version B is Anne's revision of Version A, including the entries in the Version A notebook that has since been lost. Her aim was to publish Version B as a book after the war.

Her father, Otto, created

  • Version C from Anne's versions. Version C doesn't contain everything in Versions A and B, because Otto withheld some material (typically having to do with sex or Anne's feelings about her mother). He also edited the manuscript for length and, in some cases, tone. Version C was the diary published in 1947 that made Anne Frank famous.

For researchers and others with a serious interest in the versions, The Critical Edition includes complete copies of Versions A, B, and C. (It also contains other writings by Anne Frank as well as the findings of a detailed investigation into the diary that confirmed its authenticity.)

1991 saw publication of the

  • Definitive Edition, a new version based on Versions A and B that includes the material Otto withheld when preparing Version C. It's about 30% longer than Version C. The Definitive Edition is sometimes known as Version D.

In 1998, five new pages from Version B surfaced. They have since been incorporated into the Definitive Edition, resulting in what I refer to below as the Revised Definitive Edition. In 2018, two pages that had been deliberately obscured (presumably by Anne) were visualized. I don't know whether they currently are or in the future will be in the Definitive Edition.

While investigating translation discrepancies such as those discussed below, I tracked down a number of digital copies of the diary. These were generally scans of books. In some cases, publication information was missing, so I had to figure out which diary versions I was looking at. I came up with the following algorithm:

  • If the first diary entry is for 12 June 1942 and the entry for 15 October 1942 mentions refilling fire extinguishers, it's Version A.
  • If the first diary entry is for 20 June 1942, it's Version B.
  • If the first diary entry is for 14 June 1942, it's Version C.
  • If the first diary entry is for 12 June 1942 and the entry for 20 October 1942 mentions refilling fire extinguishers, it's the Definitive Edition.
  • If it's the Definitive Edition per the above and the entry for 8 February 1944 discusses Anne's parents' marriage, it's the Revised Definitive Edition.

Translation Inconsistencies

When looking at excerpts from Anne's diary entries, the academician in me wants to follow Nicholas Whyte's lead of showing both the original Dutch and the English translation. Unlike Whyte, however, I don't know Dutch, so I can't interpret what's in the original. All I can do is translate the Dutch into English (I use DeepL Translator) and look at the result. In the examples that follow, I'm assuming the DeepL-generated English accurately reflects the Dutch original. 

Since I'm showing only English translations for the Dutch, I'm also showing only English translations for the German. I'm using DeepL Translator for those, too.

Each translation from the Dutch shows the diary version I used. For the German and English, I'm always using the Revised Definitive Edition.

 15 October 1942 (Version A), 20 October 20 1942 (All Other Versions)

This is the diary entry I introduced at the beginning of this post. In the Dutch original, does Anne use the sarcasm reflected in the German translation, or does she express her annoyance through the deprecating wording in the English translation?

German: Because they are so clever downstairs, they didn't warn us...

English: The office staff stupidly forgot to warn us...

Dutch (Version A): We had not been warned...

Dutch (Version C): We knew someone was coming to fill the devices, but no one had warned us...

The answer appears to be neither. In the Dutch, Anne simply states a fact: those in hiding had not been warned. She doesn't pass judgement on this lack of warning, so why the German translator (Mirjam Pressler) added sarcasm and the English translator (Susan Massotty) added derision, I don't know. 

I find these translations disturbing. I think it's unreasonable for a translator to make gratuitous changes to the tone expressed by an author they're translating.

Update 31 December 2022: In a comment on this blog post, Unknown posted the Dutch from the Definitive Edition. Submitting that to DeepL yields this:

Dutch (Definitive Edition): Being so savvy downstairs, they didn't warn us....

That's definitely sarcasm, so the German translation retains the tone of the original, while the English translation does not. Presumably the sarcasm is present in Version B (which I don't have), and the definitive Edition decided to go with that instead of with the unsarcastic wording of Version A that appears to have been picked up for Version C.

Update 6 January 2023: I have now acquired The Critical Edition in English, so I have a translation of Version B at my disposal. It confirms my guess above:

English (Version B): Downstairs they are such geniuses...

27 September 1942

This is my favorite line in the book, because it reflects the attitude I'd expect a thirteen-year-old butting heads with her mother to adopt, especially given the "there is no escape" conditions in the secret annex.

German: Today I had another so-called "discussion" with Mother.

English: Mother and I had a so-called “discussion” today...

Dutch (Version A): Today I had a so-called "discussion" with mother...

Dutch (Version C): Had an argument with mother, for the umpteenth time lately...

When I first checked this against the Dutch, I had only Version C, and I was horrified to see that the young-teen snarkiness present in the German and English was missing from what Anne had written! It struck me as unlikely that the German and English translators had independently come up with the idea to quote "discussion" when it wasn't present in the Dutch, so I went searching for a Dutch Version A. There I found the wording I was looking for.

We know that Otto Frank created Version C from Anne's Versions A and B. We also know that Anne wrote Version A for herself, but Version B for eventual publication. In this diary entry, I'm guessing that Anne decided to tone down the attitude for the general public, and her father used the Version B wording in his Version C. 

For the Definitive Edition, it seems that the decision was made to go with the wording of Version A. (I can't confirm this, because I don't have the Definitive Edition in Dutch.) I'm glad. I prefer snarky thirteen-year-old writing-for-herself Anne over fourteen-year-old smoothing-things-over-for-the-public Anne.

15 April 1944

In several places, I noticed that the English translation made some things explicit that were implicit or ambiguous in the German. The following is a good example. I show a translation from Dutch only for Version A, because I can't find this passage in Version C.

German: Kugler is furious. He gets the blame for not having anything changed on the doors, and we do such a stupid thing!

English: Mr. Kugler’s furious. We accuse him of not doing anything to reinforce the doors, and then we do a stupid thing like this!

Dutch (Version A): Kugler is furious; he gets blamed for not having anything changed on the doors, and we pull a stunt like this!

The Dutch uses the passive voice in describing how Kugler gets blamed, and the German follows suit. Who's doing the blaming is unspecified. In the English translation, the passive is eliminated, and it's explicit that the people in hiding (Anne's "we") are the ones assigning blame. 

I was confused when I read this diary entry (in German), because I didn't remember anybody having complained about Kugler and the doors. Consulting the English clarified who'd done the complaining, but a cursory search of earlier diary entries doesn't turn up anything that explicitly supports the English interpretation. In principle, there's no reason why the complaints couldn't have been levied by members of the office staff rather than by those in hiding with Anne.

Given the sentence as a whole, I think the interpretation is probably correct ("We asked Kugler to do something, but then we turned around and did something stupid"), and it's consistent with the tensions that sometimes arose between Kugler (who helped those in hiding) and the people he helped. Nevertheless, the English translator's decision to replace the passive voice in the Dutch with an active voice has the effect of putting words in Anne Frank's mouth.

9 April 1944 (Version A), 11 April 1944 (All Other Versions)

In the following, note how the German mentions a washtub, but no books. The English mentions books, but no washtub. The Dutch Version A mentions both, and the Dutch Version C mentions neither.

German: All four of them ran upstairs, Peter opened the doors and windows of the kitchen and private office, threw the phone on the floor, and finally they all ended up in hiding, along with the wash tub.

English: All four of them raced upstairs. Dussel and Mr. van Daan snatched up Dussel’s books, Peter opened the doors and windows in the kitchen and private office, hurled the phone to the ground, and the four of them finally ended up behind the bookcase.

Dutch (Version A): All four of them ran upstairs, Pf. and v. P. took the books from the former, Peter opened the doors and windows of kitchen and private office, smashed the telephoon on the floor and with the washing up, all four had finally ended up behind the hiding walls.

Dutch (Version C): All four snuck upstairs, Peter quickly opened the doors and windows of kitchen and private office, smashed the phone on the floor and finally all four had ended up behind the hiding wall.

DeepL's translation of the Dutch Version A is somewhat stilted, so here's the result of Google Translate on the same passage:

Dutch (Version A) via Google Translate: All four ran upstairs, Pf. and v. P. took the books from the former, Peter opened the doors and windows of the kitchen and private office, threw the telephone on the floor and ended up with the washtub, all four of them had finally ended up behind the shelter walls.

The diary entry containing this passage is long, describing a tense two-day period where those in hiding fear even more than usual that they are about to be discovered. I think it could serve as the basis for a great stage play, but that's neither here nor there. 

The books mentioned in Version A play no further role in the story told by the diary entry. That's presumably why they don't appear in Version C. 

The situation as regards the washtub is more interesting. Prior to the passage we're looking at, the diary entry tells us that that the washtub is in the office kitchen. Later in the diary entry (i.e., after this passage), we're told the washtub is still there. Based on the DeepL and Google translations from the Dutch, Version A seems to say that that the washtub is taken with the four people as they leave the kitchen and enter the secret annex ("behind shelter walls"). That's a problem. How can the washtub have been removed from the kitchen, yet still be there (as we're later told it is)? Perhaps this apparent contradiction is why Version C got rid of the washtub in this passage.

Since both the German and English translations mention either the books or the washtub, their source must be Version A (presumably via the Definitive Edition, on which they're based). It's possible that the English translator kept the reference to the books, because it's in the original and doesn't cause any problems, but got rid of the reference to the washtub to avoid a later inconsistency. This would be in line with my impression that the English translator isn't averse to veering away from the Dutch in the interest of clarity.

As for the translation into German, all I can do is scratch my head. It eliminates Version A's mention of the unproblematic books, but it retains Version A's confusing mention of the washtub. That's got me stumped.

The Diary's Legal Landscape

When Anne's father, Otto, died in 1980, he left Anne's diary and other writings to the Netherlands. The NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies is currently responsible for them. NIOD has the pages Anne wrote, but it doesn't have the copyright to them. Otto left that to the Anne Frank Fonds, a Swiss foundation he established. It's a curious situation. NIOD has Anne's writings, but not the right to publish them. The Anne Frank Fonds has the right to publish them, but it doesn't have the writings themselves.

It gets curioser. The building where Anne and the others hid is owned and managed as a museum by the Anne Frank House. Thanks to a permanent loan from NIOD, Anne's original diary is displayed there. The Anne Frank House possesses the diary, then, but it owns neither it nor the copyright to what's in it. 

Copyright issues came to a head in 2016, because that was when, in principle, the copyright on Anne's writings should have expired. They sort of did, but only in some places. The situation is so convoluted, I'll just point you to this article, which gives an overview of the convolutions, and this one, which explains how new wrinkles were added to old ones.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Anne Frank's Diary

During a visit to Amsterdam in 2009, I toured the Anne Frank house and bought a copy of the famous diary. I knew Anne and her family were originally from Germany, so I assumed she'd written in German. I bought that version of the book, figuring I'd get the words straight out of her mouth. I later found she'd written in Dutch. Oops.

For 13 years, the book sat on my "to be read" pile. This month, I decided to take the plunge.

It's a wonderful book. Nailing down just what book it is is complicated, because there are multiple versions of the diary. In addition, different translators approach the job in different ways. I'll blog about those things separately. Here I want to focus on the content of the book.

As a preface, I'll note that the proper pronunciation for "Anne" isn't "Ann," but "Anna" (more or less). Watch interviews with people who knew her, e.g., her father and Hanneli Goslar, and you'll see what I mean. Anne Frank wrote one of the most significant books of the twentieth century. It and her fate have made her the face of the holocaust. Her name is easy to say. We should know how to say it.

The title of the English translation is "Diary of a Young Girl," and that does a good job of establishing appropriate expectations. It's not a book about the persecution of the Jews during the Nazi era. It's not a book about the holocaust. It's not a book about WWII. All those things play a role, and Anne writes about each of them. If you're looking for insights into those topics, you'll find them. But the essence of the book is the struggle of a girl in the passage from child to adult under unimaginable conditions.

Anne starts her diary on her thirteenth birthday, and what emerges is a portrait of a child who's exuberant, smart, and curious, but also strong-willed, sarcastic, and not as smart or experienced as she thinks she is. She doesn't get along with her mother. My favorite line from the book, in the entry for September 27, 1942, includes this classic teenager remark:

 Today I had a so-called "discussion" with mother...

I laughed out loud. You can almost see the eye-roll. This was far from the only place that got me laughing. Some of Anne's remarks are very, very funny.

It's good she had a sense of humor, because at the time she wrote that, it was the eighth week of sequestration for her and seven others in a hidden set of rooms in the building housing her father's business. The "secret annex" the eight of them lived in comprised only about 450 square feet. Anne's bedroom was 13 by 6 feet. She shared it with a 53-year-old man (a family friend). The windows were covered (to prevent outsiders from seeing them), so they couldn't see out. Much of the time, their single toilet could not be flushed, lest someone hear the water in the pipes. Sometimes the inhabitants of the annex could (carefully) visit other parts of the building, but the eight of them were stuck together most of the time. The men smoked constantly. If someone got on your nerves, there was no escape. If you had an argument, there was no escape. If you wanted to go somewhere and be alone, there was nowhere to go. Leaving the building was out of the question.

Try coming of age under those conditions. 

It's astonishing, then, that in a diary entry after three and a half additional months in hiding (January 13, 1943), Anne displays such empathy for the Amsterdammers on the outside:

We're quite fortunate. Luckier than millions of people. It's quiet and safe here. ... The children in this neighborhood run around in thin shirts and wooden shoes. They have no coats, no caps, no stockings and no one to help them. Gnawing on a carrot to still their hunger pangs, they walk from their cold houses through cold streets to an even colder classroom. Things have gotten so bad in Holland that hordes of children stop passersby in the streets to beg for a piece of bread.

She's still just 13, though. A few weeks later (March 10, 1943), she writes:

The guns were booming away until dawn. I still haven't gotten over my fear of planes and shooting, and I crawl into Father's bed nearly every night for comfort. I know it sounds childish, but wait till it happens to you!

Things get worse. The allies conduct air raids near Amsterdam. Anti-aircraft guns blaze. Bombs fall. It goes on for months. Anne remains terrified, but her sense of humor endures. June 2, 1944:

I ... have a brand-new prescription for gunfire jitters: When the shooting gets loud, proceed to the nearest wooden staircase. Run up and down a few times, making sure to stumble at least once. What with the scratches and the noise of running and falling, you won't even be able to hear the shooting, much less worry about it. Yours truly has put this magic formula to use, with great success!

Many of Anne's diary entries focus on how nobody really understands her and how she's always being treated unjustly. It's standard teenage angst, which is at once both unsurprising and surprising. She's a young teen, but you might think all the other things she's going through would crowd that out. They don't. 

1944 ushers in lovesick Anne. She sets her sights on literally the only boy in her world. January 6, 1944:

My longing for someone to talk to has become so unbearable that I somehow took it into my head to select Peter for this role.

Peter is more than three years older than Anne, who by that time is 14. Anne's sister, Margot, is about the same age as Peter, but Margot is quiet and reserved. Anne is anything but. Her diary entries from January through March are filled with thoughts and hopes and dreams of Peter, Peter, Peter! It gets to be a bit much. Finally on April 16, 1944, we seem to get what Anne's been waiting for:

Remember yesterday's date, since it was a red-letter day for me. Isn't it an important day for every girl when she gets her first kiss?

Check your modern sensibilities at the door. The kiss in question is on the cheek.  (Well, half on the cheek and half on the ear.) Their lips don't meet for 12 more days, and if anything more serious than that ever takes place, it's not in the diary. 

Anne wins the boy, but her ardor cools. He won't become the confidante she yearns for. July 15, 1944:

We talked about the most private  things, but we haven't yet touched upon the things closest to my heart. ... I never broach the subjects I long to bring out into the open. I forced Peter, more than he realizes, to get close to me, and now he's holding on for dear life. ... I soon realized he could never be a kindred spirit...

It's sad for both of them, but by then, lovesick Anne has given way to introspective Anne. She's wrestling with the tension between her introverted but pure, good, and serious self and the superficial, extroverted, flippant persona she displays to the world. Her final diary entry--August 1, 1944--agonizes over the problem of displacing this persona in favor of her purer, deeper self:

A voice within me is sobbing, "You see, that's what's become of you. You're surrounded by negative opinions, dismayed looks and mocking faces, people who dislike you, and all because you don't listen to the advice of your own better half." Believe me, I'd like to listen, but it doesn't work, because if I'm quiet and serious, everyone thinks I'm putting on a new act... [They] berate me for being in a bad mood, until I just can't keep it up anymore... I ... finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I'd like to be and what I could be...

That's the last paragraph in the book. It's a downbeat ending, but it's an artificial one. Anne didn't decide to stop writing. Instead, three days later, Anne and the others were discovered, arrested, and, eventually, sent to Auschwitz. By the end of the war, only Anne's father was alive.

When the diary ends, Anne is barely 15. She's grappling with weighty, adult issues (inner self vs outer self, identifying who you want to be, figuring out how to be that), but at heart, she still is and wants to be a schoolgirl. In various entries, she writes of her long-term goal to be a successful writer, but when, on June 6, 1944, the allied invasion they've been expecting for at least 16 months finally materializes, the hope she expresses is that of a student: "Maybe...I can even to back to school in September or October."

It's Anne's diary and it's her story, but eight people don't hide themselves for more than two years. Without the genuinely heroic actions of their six "helpers," there would have been no food, no clothing, no soap, no tobacco, no newspapers or magazines, no library books, no mail, no correspondence courses, and no conversations with people in the outside world. As the war drags on and resources become scarcer, the helpers find it increasingly difficult to feed eight mouths that aren't supposed to exist. The black market fills the void, but trafficking there is as illegal as hiding Jews. The diary opened my eyes to the essential and dangerous work performed by Dutch "helpers."

Anne, her family, and her other fellows-in-hiding were deported to Germany on September 3, 1944. Along with 1,011 other Jews, they were on the last train from Westerbork transit camp to Auschwitz. It's natural to wonder what would have happened to Anne and those who hid with her had they not been caught on August 4 or if they hadn't made that last train. My sense is that their prospects would not have improved much. Amsterdam remained under German control for eight more months, and the Nazis engineered a famine over the winter of 1944-45 that led to the death of more than 20,000 Netherlanders.

Anne Frank's life story is tragic and upsetting and centered on death. Her diary is quite different. It's tragic and angsty, but it's also insightful and funny, and all about life. It makes you wish you'd known Anne personally. It makes you feel a bit like you did.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

EV Pricing: Nissan Ariya vs. Nissan Rogue

I've wanted to buy a small electric SUV with AWD since 2019. I was initially put off by the cost, but last year I realized that money was not actually the problem. The problem was that nobody was making an EV with the features I want, at least not for the United States market.

Thirteen months later, nothing has changed. You still can't buy an EV that satisfies my basic criteria: a compact SUV with AWD, an openable moonroof, a 360-degree overhead view, and an EPA-estimated range of at least 235 miles.

Nissan is supposed to start shipping the Ariya in the coming months, and it checks all the boxes. So does its gas-powered sibling, the Nissan Rogue (except for the electric part). Since they're compact SUVs from the same manufacturer, if you equip them similarly, you can ballpark how much it costs to switch from an ICE drivetrain to one based on electrons.

Nissan's Ariya (left) and Rogue (right)

The least expensive Rogue configuration that includes AWD, an openable moonroof, and a 360-degree overhead view is the SL trim. MSRP (with destination) is $36,295. 

The corresponding Ariya is the Evolve+ e-4ORCE. Its MSRP is $55,485. 

That's a difference of $19,190. The Ariya is built in Japan, so the federal EV tax credit doesn't apply, though there may be state and/or local incentives. Based on MSRPs, going from a gas-powered Rogue to a comparable battery-powered Ariya incurs a premium of about 53%. That's more than twice the 25% limit I consider reasonable.

Last year, I noted that Volvo's XC40 Recharge has AWD, an openable moonroof, and a 360-degree overhead view, but its EPA range was only 208 miles. That's since been improved to 223 miles, but it's still short of my 235 mile requirement. The forthcoming Mercedes EQB looks to tell a similar story. It's got AWD, a moonroof, and an overhead view, but estimates of its EPA range generally fail to hit the 235 mile mark.  (The EPA hasn't yet published its official range.) Both the Volvo and the Mercedes have MSRPs that exceed that of the Ariya, so they look to cost more and deliver less, at least in terms of range. 

For the fourth year in a row (since 2019!) I find myself waiting for the automobile industry to produce an electric car with the features I want for a price I'm willing to pay. I've never had much trouble finding a reasonably-priced ICE vehicle with an acceptable feature set, so I don't understand why it's so hard this time around.