14 February 2016

you win some and you lose some-

And Mr. Fuzzy is not winsome.

Although the doctoral dissertation was accepted in 2008, from time to time, Mr. Fuzzy still works on revising it for publication - and still suffers dissertation PTSD. At least once a week, a dream laden with abounding anxiety about completing the dissertation revisits the unconscious mind. The most common variant is discovering during defending the dissertation, some major source of information was overlooked.

During the "research years," occasionally oblique references to a possibly important source were uncovered but the actual book, pamphlet or journal article could never be located. Sometimes this could be attributed erroneous citations, typos, or, to put it in a nicer light, 'willful imagination.' One title surfaced several times in rather off-hand mentions (nothing as firm as a foot note) but since WorldCat showed no copies in United States libraries and The British Library catalogue failed to list it either, the best evidence pointed to 'mythological.'

Whilst perusing a photo-forum a few weeks ago, lo and behold, a German member claimed to be quoting from it. A near panic attack followed in nano seconds. WorldCat and British Library were double checked but even a decade later, neither showed a copy had appeared.

Q: If the end-all and be-alls of the research world failed to show it, oh, what to do?
A: consult a money making mega book vendor such as AbeBooks or Alibris.

Voilà, there is was - and could be purchased and delivered to the United States for under 20 Euros from a Berlin book store. The 'purchase now' button was immediately activated. It arrived two days ago in fine condition. The first glance was promising; published by the same printer as the most important single work ever written on soft focus lenses, Heinrich Kühn's Technik der Lichtbildnerei, written three decades earlier. Oh no, if it was promising, did that mean the dissertation was somehow lacking or worse, in error? Ackkkkkkk.

After a thorough examination, the good news is that Praxis der Weichzeichnung was essentially a 113 page puff piece for its author, Michael Neumuller, who was promoting his own photography as well as advocating a single brand soft focus lens, the Rodenstock company's Imagon (a skeptical mind might even wonder if Rodenstock underwrote the publication). It has no direct quotations, no footnotes, no bibliography, no images by anyone else, no signs of rigor. Worse, Neumuller plagiarizes Kuhn at length without any form of attribution. Perhaps he thought that anyone who read Kuhn's book of 1921 was not going to read his 1955 tome? A fair assumption with millions of Germans & Austrians of the 1920s now dead and the libraries in ashes...

With the mind at ease, a fine night's rest ensued.

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