David Bruce: Create, Then Take a Break — Death, Education

Death

• Pianist Franz Reizenstein once performed Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with an orchestra conducted by Josef Krips. Unfortunately, Mr. Reizenstein made a number of mistakes, both during rehearsal and during the concert. After the concert, he asked Mr. Krips, “Well, what do you think of me now, Josef?” Mr. Krips replied, “The trouble is this, my friend. There are always witnesses to a musical murder.”

• When Serge Diaghilev died, Anton Dolin saw his photograph in a newspaper and without reading the article, knew immediately what it meant. He went to Lydia Lopokova and George Balanchine crying, “Serge Pavlovich est mort.” However, they were at least able to take comfort because Mr. Diaghilev had died in Venice, where he had always hoped he would die.

Education

• When Alicia Markova, whose name at birth was Alicia Marks, was a young ballet student, she saw the great Russian dancer Anna Pavlova, and afterwards wanted to meet her. Her father went backstage, met Ms. Pavlova’s husband, and explained that his daughter wanted to meet Ms. Pavlova. Monsieur Dandré, Ms. Pavlova’s husband, asked who his daughter was. Not wishing to lie, but also not wishing to admit that his daughter was only eight years old, Mr. Marks replied, “She is a young dancer who has already attracted the attention of the critics.” (Mr. Marks’ statement was true, as little Alicia had danced a little on the stage and had been briefly mentioned in a press notice.) Hearing that the critics had noticed Mr. Marks’ young daughter, M. Dandré set up an appointment for her to meet the great Pavlova the following day. This is Anna Pavlova’s advice to eight-year-old dance student Alicia Markova: “You must realize that your life will be all work, lots and lots of hard work, and unless you are prepared to face that and give up your pleasures in order to be a dancer, it is better that you decide now to do something else. You must not be misled when you go to the theater and see a ballerina cheered as she takes her call with her arms full of roses. That is just a fleeting moment of compensation in a life that is nothing but continuous work until the day you retire.”

• Some student hacks (pranks) at MIT involve the classroom. On 25 October 1985, students arrived for a physics lecture. On their way into the classroom, they picked up what they thought were class handouts, but one of the handouts was hacked. It was an assignment sheet, and the assignment was to create a paper airplane. Following the instructions on the hacked assignment sheet, the students made paper airplanes and at exactly 11:15 a.m. launched hundreds of airplanes at the professor. Here are some other notable hacks: 1) In 1949, students who were taking a class early Saturday morning showed up wearing pajamas and robes. 2) In 1978, a student who was going to take a final exam spread a tablecloth over his desk and then placed on it a corkscrew, three bottles of wine, some cheese and bread, and his regulation No. 2 pencils. 3) In 1982, students reversed every desk in a lecture room so that instead of facing the front of the room (and the chalkboard), they faced the back of the room. This hack took much work because every desk was bolted to the floor.

• Tyler Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University. Alex Tabarrok remembers, “Tyler once walked into class the day of the final exam and he said, ‘Here is the exam. Write your own questions. Write your own answers. Harder questions and better answers get more points.’ Then he walked out.” In a 13 August 2012 comment on this blog entry, Ragbatz wrote, “In the 1960’s a Harvard chemistry professor posed a question on a chemistry final examination along these lines: ‘10% Extra Credit. Write a question to be used as an extra credit question on a final examination in chemistry. The ideal extra credit question should be worth about 10% of the grade on the examination as a whole, and test facility with the material covered during the course.’ My friend Tom Hervey received full credit with the following answer: ‘10% Extra Credit. Write a question to be used as an extra credit question on a final examination in chemistry. The ideal extra credit question should be worth about 10% of the grade on the examination as a whole, and test facility with the material covered during the course.’”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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