Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Three vague projects

Contrary to what you might imagine, after glancing through my recent blog posts, I've been totally preoccupied, over the last fortnight or so, by no less than three separate projects that I would designate as deep, where this adjective means that they are puzzling challenges that concern me profoundly.

Feudal land registers

Last Monday evening, I was the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Royans historical association, for a rapid presentation of my research concerning the six cadastral parchments created here in the Royans during the period 1351-1356. I'm still trying to stir up enthusiasm for these precious documents, in the hope that I might be able to obtain finance enabling us to translate and publish them. On Monday afternoon, I printed out the contents (nine A4 sheets) of a single "page" (the correct term is folio) of one of the registers, and glued them roughly onto a cardboard backing, 60 cm wide and 75 cm tall.

This gives you a rough idea of what the parchments look like. The six registers—for the villages of Pont-en-Royans, Choranche, Châtelus, Rencurel, Echevis and St-Laurent-en-Royans—occupy a total of 59 folios of this size. For the moment, the scanned registers are presented in my French-language website [access], which incorporates password protection. Well, I'm starting to wonder whether it might be a good idea to create an English-language version of my website, in the hope of maybe attracting specialists in medieval Latin in places such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, etc. The thing that bothers me concerning these ancient parchments is that their likely contents (I say "likely", because nobody really knows yet exactly what information they contain) are no doubt quite boring, unless you happen to be standing on the actual lands with which they are associated. In other words, if a doctoral scholar were to work on such a register, he or she would normally obtain fulfillment by comparing constantly the text with the actual site. In any case, I'm convinced that it would be extraordinary to be able to read a description of my Gamone property that was penned in the middle of the 14th century.

Collaboration with Pierre Schaeffer

I was contacted recently by a music specialist at ABC radio [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] who would like to interview me on the subject of my collaboration in 1970-1972 with Pierre Schaeffer [1910-1995], inventor of musique concrète (music composed with real-world sounds, including noises).

The problem, in this domain, is that my personal evaluation of the achievements of Schaeffer may not necessarily coincide with those of a musicologist. My experiences at the research service of the ORTF [French Broadcasting System] were a highly significant chapter of my existence in Paris, but it's a subject that I prefer to handle in detail in my autobiographical writing, rather than in an Antipodean radio interview.

Software development

Concerning my intention of developing a Macintosh tool to access the archives of my Antipodes blog, I've truly been running around in circles for the last few weeks, changing constantly from one approach to another. First, I was thinking purely in terms of a Mac application, but I soon realized any such tool must incorporate the blogger's password. So, I would be able to create this tool for the Antipodes blog, and then give copies of the tool to other people. But I would not be able to envisage a tool that would work for other blogs, for which I don't know the passwords. Then I got around to thinking that a better approach would be to build a website, rather than a Mac app, so that any blogger could use it merely by entering his/her own password. More recently still, I've been looking into the idea of using the PHP language to develop a tool that can analyze the so-called Atom feed, which any blogger can download instantly by clicking a button. Today, though, I've got back to my starting point, in considering that a Mac tool is maybe the best approach. The only thing that's certain is the fact that, whichever approach I finally adopt, it's a much more complex affair than what I had initially imagined. We tend to think that a blog is surely just a simple set of text files with an assortment of images and videos. In fact, the structure of a vast system such as Google's Blogger platform is diabolically complicated.

So, that's a summary of questions that have been running through my mind over the last fortnight or so. The common denominator of these three affairs is that each one seems to be complicated, indeed confusing, in its own way.

Maybe I would be better off sitting out in the sun and admiring the clouds, or watching my fig tree grow.

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