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Re: La Cucaracha (was Re: Quine on perfectives)
And almost has the story right. A brief chronology.
1979 I started inactive interest in Loglan. I contributed to the GMR morphology
change then in progress because as the only San Diego Loglanist, I was a
convenioent wall to bounce ideas off. I tended to renew interest in the
language about once a year for just a week or two.
1982-4 A big political dispute started which I at the time was almost
unaware of, being that JCB had moved to Florida, and I was moving to DC, and
I was inactive at the time. Some echos of a big fight made it into
the TLI membership publication LogNet, through the good offices of its editor.
But no one not actively involved had any idea what the issues were.
Finally in 1984, JCB set up some straw man ultimata to regain control
over the organization. Nora Tansky, now my wife, cast a tie-breaking vote
to give JCB control over the Board, and a membership vote that JCB but in terms
of a "I win or I leave" choice went equally in his favor - no one could
conceive of the alternative. Unfortunately everyone else who was doing
anything then left.
With such a vacuum, JCB called for a new tier of Loglanists to get involved,
and I was one, volunteering to use my new computer to edit the punch-card
data formatted old dictionary files into a new dictionary. A couple other
people had similar major jobs, not much support or communciations with
anyone else, and no real experience in the language to back our level of
responsibiity. By the end of 1985 I had accomplished very little, but had
taken advantage of a visit from one of the other volunteers to DC (for non
Loglan reasons) to establish ties, and found that having such ties improved
both my morale and productivity. I started making some progress.
JCB got sick, and was in hospital for several weeks. I went to visit him in Fl
florida in May 86, and in a long weekend, we made some major strides in
getting some things done, and several aspects of the project going again.
He gave me names of DC area Loglanists to contact and set up a study group/
team of dictionary helpers. Someone else volunteered to restart Lognet which
had not been published for a year.
JCB was working on a summary of the language known as Notebook 3 which he
gave me to review.
In June 86 he went to Europe to buy a boat and sail it back to the US.
He returned in September.
During those 3 months I dug phone numbers of other Loglanists out of old
publications and started contacting them, tyring to get some aids to learning
the language, and keep the momentum our meeting had started going. One was the
new Lognet editor, who suggested that I instead edit Lognet since I was the one
with the ideas, and JCB had forgotten to send him an address list to mail
out an issue when he put it together anyway. I said no - wasn't what I had
But I did have a number for the previous Lognet editor, and he sent me his list
of people to receive Lognet, which apparently was actually a TLI master
list of addresses, though at that time 18 months out of date. I also contacted
Nora at that time, because she had developed what is now LogFlash, a program
to teach the vocabulary.
Things started to unravel. The 'editor' of Lognet said that he wasn;t going
to put out an issue, citing lack of input from anyone but me, and this
whole mixup of addresses.
Meanwhile Nora and I started getting together - she helped teach me Loglan, and
I worked with her to bring her program up to date and make it user friendly.
I got the idea to set up user SIGs in each locality, like the one I was
trying to set up in DC.
Finally in JUly 86, I put out a DC SIG newsletter "me la uashintyn loglytuan"
Washington Loglan-User. I sent copies to the DC people and about 30 others
who I had identoified as being key people in the previous 5 years to try
to get them to set up SIGs in their areas on my model. At Labor Day, I put out
a second issue, because I had arranged what became the first DC LogFest, and
wanted people to come and see what was going on. This was held the week
after Labor Day, and among other things, we did a group revirew of the Notebook
I have to say at this point that the political issues of 1982-4 were not in
mind at all - I still didn;t even know about them, and that people had dropped
out because of them. The general problem seemed rather to be a lack of current
materials on the language which seemed to be cont9inually changing underfoot
for those who tried to learn it.
Then JCB got back and the proverbial shit hit the fan. I sent him 200-odd
pages of neat work that I had gotten people to do or done myself, including
the LogFlash update, the review of the Notebook Draft, the address list, which
I had determined several address corrections due to postal mail bounces, and
the gismu list, which Nora and I had anayzed in detail, finding some
inconsistencies among three versions of the lsit that JCB said were all current
same, and finding serious semantic priblems in a few of them (sound familiar -
we are still doing this).
All JCB was interested in was in the fact that the dictionary work he had
'assined' me wasn;t done. He was offended that I had shown the draft Notebook
anyone without his permission, much less sent back more pages of comments
than he had generated in text (it was pretty bad). My publishing anewsletter
had been 'fomenting a revolt' because what I ghad written was not unoformly
flattering of the situation in TLI ain the previous couple of years, and he
accused me of conspiring with various 'enemies' such as Jim Carter that were
trying to destroy the project. Finally he said that we shouyld send him
LogFlash and he would evaluate whether to add it to theTLI offerings and
pay us a royalty. Nora and I had already decided to sitrubute it via
Shareware, and told him this, and he said that we could not do so because the
Loglan wordlists were thr property of TLI, but that if we signed a statement
acknowledging this and agrereing to pay a royalty to TLI for every copy sold,
including any copies for non Loglan use of the program, he would 'consider it'.
Thence started an argument over whether the words and the language were
copyright, whether JCB could claim any rights at all over the software we
had devloped based on his assertion that it 'derived from our Loglan work
and was therfore by rights TLI's, etc. he negotiated separately with Nora
and I over several months, with each of us independently saying no.
Meanwhile, I had a business trip to St Louis in Oct 86, and finally met pc.
It wa sthen that I finally learned about all the political garbage and hence
why JCB was acting so ridiculously paranoid towards me. pc gave me a bunch
of material, inclduing some files of political memos to read so I could
understand what was going on. This further enraged JCB when he found out -
I was building a 'blackmail file' on him, he accused.
In Mar 87 I started a Loglan class in DC. I ordered copies of the Loglan
dictionary from JCB for each of the people in the class. JCB refused to
fill my order until I started cooperating. Meanwhile he 'fired' me from my
volunteer position as 'dictionary "formatter" (he had retarcted the 'editor'
title earlier), and ordered me to return all Institute materials that I had,
and all products of my work so someone else could take over. I told him I
would give him what I could, but not destroy my copies as he ordered, and
I couldn;t spend a long time digging out everything I had in any case, so
I'd give him the highlights. I then put my own copyright notice on everthing
>I< had done to imporve the files on my own, to make sure that he couldn't
use my work without settling the issues between us.
When the class heard that JCB wouldn;t let us have dictioaries, one of them
suggested that we just go ahead and make new words up to replace the old ones
would not be copyrighted. This was in April, and started the seeds of Lojban.
I proposed to Nora that month, and she moved to DC in May. One weekend in May
4 people in DC got together and set up some phonological and morphologhical
ground rules for such a remaking of the prim list, ad things were underway.
Meanwhile the 3rd issue of my SIG newsletter was sent out, this time to
a larger audience (about 80). I had written it in April, before we had decided
to remake the words, then published it in June with a statement of intent
to remake the words.
At the end of July 87, we had some 200 words remade, and held another LogFest.
Among the agenda items was what to do with "Loglan-88", our effort to make
a copyright free version of the language. The basic idea of course was to
use this as a lever to get JCB to give up his ridiculous copyright claims that
could only stifle the community and the language. 18 people attended, including
Robert McIvor as JCB's representative. A secret ballot was held to keep
pressure of McIvor and others who felt loyal to JCB, and the vote was near
unananimous to continue developing the word list, set some conditions for
giving up the effort, and adopting the name "Lojban- A Realization of Loglan"
("Lojban" for short).
There still was no split - the language was still Loglan with jsut the words
changed. But JCB then publish Notebook 3 under a tarde secret agreement and
said that no one could release the grammar to us. (Meanwhile Jeff Prothero
had done just so with an earlier version of the grammar that he had turned into
a Loglan Parser called "Public Domain Loglan Parser" or PLoP.) JCB had a
lawyer threaten Jeff with a lawsuit for copyright violation. Jeff countered
with some questions, never answered, which included that the grammar was
developed initially by Jeff in the early 80s using University of Washington
compuetr time and materials on the assumption that it wass not a commercial
product, etc. etc.
To make a long story short, we started to redevelop a grammar from scratch,
using our by then thorough knoeldge of the language, while finsihing the gismu
making, which we did accomplish by our end of year deadline. We then
announced 'Loglan-88' in 1 january at the Evecon science fiction convention
here in DC, as 'Lojban - a Reaklization of Loglan'. We got 50 odd people
to express interest and were already 10 times the size of the rump of TLI,
which had dropped below 30 people, most of whom were also supporting our
effort as well either publicly or privately. I figured that JCB would return
from afall and winter of sailing across the Atlantic to a movement that he
would have to acknowledge as valid and succesful, and deal with. I put
out the 4th issue of my newsletter, the first actually called Ju'i Lobypli
which was #4, in February 1988 telling about what we had done, how we hoped
that this would force JCB to negotiate, and that it was his problem if he
would not do so.
A month later I gor a registered letter saying that I was in violation of
TLI's trademark on Loglan, and stating a whole bunch of ridiculous conditions
to be met if I wanted to avoid being sued. I contacted a trademark lawyer,
got Jeff Prothero to combine with me since his threat from JCB had not been
resolved either, and this is when the trademark battle started. It is
at this point that we started trying to fill out the shell of the language
that we had started (a bunch of grammar rules and a list of words ain't
a language). Unfortunately, not much progress was made, since legal battles
and large amounts of fees sapped my initiative and time. Luckily?! Nora and
I had married and I had support when I was laid off in May 88, and went to
work full time towin the trademark case, or better - to get JCB to give it
up, since we knew we had a zillion holes in his trademark based on those
documents I had gotten from pc a year earlier and some others Nora had in
JL5 came out a couple of months later, and was the first to acknowledge that
apparently the project had been split, and promising to make the public
domain language worthy of the name Loglan that we claimed for it by emulating
all that was useful in JCB's design, and fixing only whayt was compellingly
'broken' or what we had to change to avoid legal threats (not much, since
he had few new threats he could make).
I hope that we have succeeded. We still don;t have books, though I've
promised them for ages, but we do have the best defined conlang in history,
a total volume of paper on the language that exceeds all but a couple of
other conlangs, and about 1000 people listed as interested supporters, even
though we haven't done any advertising since 1988, when I started missing
deadlines (that initial deadline to remake the words by the end of '87 was
the only deadline we ever DID make).
We won the legal battle, and can and do use Loglan throughout our products
so that we can scontinue to reach the audience that got interested back
when JCB ran the project, and wrote the SciAm article and Heinlein wrote
about Loglan in his fiction. Our language definitions are mostly baselined,
thereby filling my promise to those early supporters that were giving up
on Loglan because it kept shifting like sand beneath them. TLI still
exists, sepnds a lot of money on advertising, has even published a new edition
of JCB's Loglan 1, but hasn't gained mcuh real support, partly because the
few people who know uch about the langauge can't talk about it to others
without getting permission, andin any case, JCB doesn't give out more than
a few addresses and requires all other correspondence to go through him and
TLI (the exitence of the net has given a little 'out' on this since there
are a few TLI supporters who have found each other on the net.
But from what I understand, Loglanist List averages 1 message a month while
you guys have been flooding my mailbox daily .o'acaise'inai
Oh well - this has proven to be a lot more than a brief chrono. Hope those who
know the story will forgive me - it seems I have to write this about once
a year, maybe as penance for my naivite in beleiving that JCB was rational,
would negotiate, and wanted his language to succeed. For Loglan is succeeding,
as Lojban, and the international activity we are now seeing on Lojban List
dealing with the trickiest innards of the language should make us all proud,
not just me.
Just for the record:
Ken Shan - China (Asia)
And, Veijo, Colin Fine (Europe)
many (North America)
xorxes (South America)
Chris Handley (now New Zealand, but from South Africa for the bulk of his
I just reminded Nick yesterday. One of my first efforts after I started
getting active was to update Chuck Barton's Loglan Primer. In it he made a
claim that has inspired me since that day. In Loglan (now Lojban) we are
succedding in inventing a new language as a large effort in teamwork,
possibly the most successful committee effort since the King James Bible.