2012年1月26日 星期四

Beethoven's Symphony No 9 in D-minor

EyeDoc's note: This is a supplement to Tsunami hit northeast Japan, originally posted here.

It is a well-known story: When his 9th (the Choral) Symphony premiered on May 7, 1824, in the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna, the audience went wild. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) by then, however, was totally deaf. Contralto soloist, Karoline Unger, had to help turn him around to face the cheering crowd. There were 5 ovations all together, the ultimate respect for a common man (the police stopped further ovations in deference to the royalties who customarily were accorded three). It must have been quite a moving sight.

Beethoven indeed had put all his heart and soul into this symphony. In fact, despite the common belief that the vocal part of the 4th movement, Ode to Joy, was a poem borrowed from Frederich Schiller (1759-1805), Beethoven himself actually wrote portions of it. For example, at the very beginning of the vocal part, i.e., the baritone solo starting on bar 216:
O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen,
und freudenvollere.
Freude! Freude!
This symphony is of course remembered forever for its 4th movement. However, IMHO, the 3rd movement beginning with Adagio molto e cantabile is positively celestial that deserves even more attention.

Something about Beethoven's eyes? Ah, yes, we are just coming around to that.

The etiology of Beethoven's deafness has never been clear. Several possibilities have been put forth including otosclerosis, syphilis, noise trauma, Paget’s disease, sarcoidosis, and otitis media. None of them was conclusive, however.

It is known that Beethoven suffered from digestive diseases plus rheumatism, various skin abscesses and recurrent infections, ophthalmia, jaundice, and anemia. Ophthalmia? An old term for inflammation of the membranes/coats of the eye, i.e., iritis/uveitis. This, plus Beethoven's own admission of "constant belly aches, diarrhea and bloody stools" suggests that he might have a bad case of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease - both of which are associated episodically with deafness.

So the best guess is then: Beethoven's deafness was an immunopathic manifestation of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). And iritis/uveitis no doubt flared up from time to time. Unfortunately, after the autopsy, the coroner's report concentrated on the liver and the abdominal fluid, with nothing on the intestines. So we'll never know for sure.

There is a lesson here, though: Patients with IBD need to have their eyes (especially the retina) and ears (at least the hearing) examined regularly - particularly for musicians and composers.

The entire symphony is here:

2012年1月23日 星期一


恭喜發財, 紅包拿來

[A day of children raking in red-envelop money]

[And the New England Patriots won! Next stop: Super Bowl]

2012年1月22日 星期日

Tamsui Peace Park (TPP) - update 2

[Praying Hands at TPP - for details of the inscription, see below]

[Contributed by Mr Sam Wu - click to enlarge]

2012年1月17日 星期二

Ft San Domingo - Part 3

This is an early letter from the British Far Eastern Department, dated Jan 18, 1980, detailing the history and the possible transaction for Ft San Domingo and the Consulate building.

Intriguingly, the lost documents, possibly records of the Foreigners' Cemetery in Tamsui, seem to have been found - despite the earlier denial, the AIT in fact had them all along. And it was up to the Political Officer in Hongkong to decide whether they were to be shipped to HK or destroyed. This letter, dated May 25, 1983, marks the end of the Ft San Domingo paper trail. Let's hope the PO in HK had the presence of mind and saved a bit of the history for all to see.

Prophetically, both Ft San Domingo and the Consulate building are now a tourist's attraction.

2012年1月13日 星期五

Ft San Domingo - Part 2

[Above: the British Consulate building in Tamsui/Danshui]

The handover of Ft San Domingo and the British Consulate building to Taiwan authorities occurred on June 30, 1980. In this letter sent to its Hongkong office [cc'd to PSA - Property Services Agency] on Nov 10, 1980, the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) was concerned about a few loose ends: (1) one set of keys still in the possession of the AIT (AIT had acted as the agent for British affairs since 1972); (2) the compensation for the remaining consulate staff, i.e., two watchmen and one caretaker; and most importantly, (3) the whereabouts of records of the Foreigners' Cemetery in Tamsui as well as some old Victorian files. The AIT, however, indicated that they had only kept admin records relative to the staff payment.

For those of us who have been looking for Lt Fontaine's head, these records would have provided crucial information. This paper trail appears to have run cold at this point; although a 1983 correspondence seems to suggest otherwise [to be posted in Part 3].

To enlarge the above: (1) in Firefox, click the images to open another window, right click to open menu and select "View image", click on image again to magnify; alternatively, click outside the left/right margin of the images and click again to enlarge; (2) in Chrome, same as in FF except when right click to open menu, select "Open image in new tab", then click to enlarge; and (3) IE? You'll need to download the images and view them with a graphics program, e.g., Windows Picture and Fax Viewer.

2012年1月10日 星期二

Ft San Domingo - Part 1

Knowledgeable tourists visiting Danshui (now reverted to its historical name "Tamsui") often come to the old 紅毛城 to marvel at the actual presence of the Brits in the relatively recent past. The Fort flew the Union Jack from 1867 onward until 1980 when the lease was terminated - eight years after the UK withdrew its consulate from Taiwan.

The handover of the British Consulate building and the adjacent Ft San Domingo to the Rep of China, however, was not without (bureaucratic) dramas. Here is a correspondence from the UK Far Eastern Department on the subject of Tamsui Consulate, dated April 1 and received on May 15, 1980, apparently by its officers in Hongkong, in which the lingering issue of disposing of the property was discussed:

To enlarge the above documents: (1) in Firefox, click the images to open another window, right click to open menu and select "View image", click on image again to magnify; (2) in Chrome, same as in FF except when right click to open menu, select "Open image in new tab", then click to enlarge; and (3) IE? You are on your own.

2012年1月1日 星期日

Happy New Year

Fresh from Taipei, celebrating the first day of 2012
[contributed by Mr Sam Wu].