The ‘Pathétique’ Story

I had a friend once that I was close to, and as a token of friendship shared with her a link to the second movement of Beethoven’s ‘Pathétique’ piano sonata — which is one of the most famous pieces of music in the world, and generally considered one of the most breathtakingly beautiful. Truly a compliment to one’s heart. Because she could speak French, however, she couldn’t get over that it was called the ‘Pathétique’. To her it was as if I were unknowingly accusing her of being pathetic. What I still think about was that it was probably meant more in the spirit of “pathos”. It’s a gentle, romantic masterpiece. Karl Haas used to open his nightly NPR show with it. That’s how I originally knew it — as a fixture on the classical station. (I’ve discovered that part of Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony, also titled ‘Pathétique’, was used as the theme to the late-70s version of “Romeo And Juliet”.)

“Bathing In Velvet”

Pete glanced over at the switchboard, leaned over with one hand — balancing a sandwich in his mouth with the other — and hit the yellow flashing button, calming its insistent peripheral noise. “Do you really think it takes that long to learn the work here?”

Malcolm shrugged. “I picked it up in about a month. It won’t take you long.”

Attending to the next flashing button, and then peering through the thick plastic casing into the darkness inside the tank, Pete could see movement, clearly, but got no sense of what was moving inside. It seemed to be a kind of viscous black fluid. “Tell me now.”

“About what’s in there?” Malcolm grabbed the other half of the sandwich.

“Yeah. I’ve been here a week and a half, and no one will tell me what we’re sitting here looking after.”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, Pete.”

Pete sniffed and took another bite. With his mouth full he said, “I actually would.”

Malcolm pointed toward the glass. “Those are spiders, dude.”

“What the fuck?”

“I know, man. Those are little spiders. I mean it. There are millions of them.”

Pete shook his head in such disgust that it became more of a shudder. “It pays well. But we don’t need ever think about that again.”

“Yeah, Pete. No question. No one ever talks about it.”


Malcolm bit into his half of the sandwich and nodded while chewing. “It’s simple, dude. Just don’t hit the flashing yellow button. That’ll open the tank right on us, buddy. But other than that, there’s never anything to worry about. And besides, we’d get another warning light if that were about to happen.”

The Binary Borgnine Horizon Theory

How do I remember that the HTML named entity for an ellipsis is … and not &ellip;? Because if it were ellip, for ellipsis, I wouldn’t be wondering in the first place about whether or not there’s an “h” in there. (It’s a horizontal ellipsis.) (There’s also a vertical ellipsis numbered entity.) Though the exact definition of the Binary Borgnine Horizon Theory is as hazy as its silly name (which I am at full liberty to come up with) it’s basically that you should look for ways to reduce in two steps — first to a binary, then between the two. That there’s a good number of these easy-level Sudoku puzzles sitting around in life.

Argentina and Venezuela are another example. How do I remember that Venezuela is at the top of South America and Argentina is at the bottom of South America? I happen to have noticed once, in elementary school, that they started with letters at opposite ends of the alphabet. Only I found it a shame that the letters were switched around in order, because I needed to remember it as A to V. Top to bottom — the Western text direction other than left-to-right. Then I realized that, because I happen to know that they’re switched around, it can only be the one way. In other words, because I already knew about that first letter thing, I had a binary. Understanding that there was an extra step involved meant that it couldn’t be the original way. It filled in two more countries in my image of South America, and I could avoid learning by rote.

The Borgnine Horizon, by the way, is the point beyond which all is Ernest Borgnine. There’s no actual idea attached to that.