Philosophy and Poetry:
The Origin of Change
A note on the figure
from this morning's sermon:
"Two things of opposite natures seem to depend
On one another, as a man depends
On a woman, day on night, the imagined
On the real. This is the origin of change.
Winter and spring, cold copulars, embrace
And forth the particulars of rapture come."
-- Wallace Stevens,
"Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction,"
Canto IV of "It Must Change"
Sunday, March 15, 2009 11:00 AM
Ides of March Sermon:
"On Monday morning, 9 March, after visiting the
Mayor of Rome and the Municipal Council on the Capitoline Hill, the
Holy Father spoke to the Romans who gathered in the square outside the
'... a verse by Ovid, the great Latin poet, springs to mind. In one
of his elegies he encouraged the Romans of his time with these words:
"Perfer et obdura: multo graviora tulisti."
"Hold out and persist:
you have got through
far more difficult situations."
(Tristia, Liber V, Elegia XI, verse 7).'"
Note the color-interchange
symmetry of each symbol
under 180-degree rotation.
The Illuminati Diamond:
Dan Brown's novel Angels & Demons
introduced in the year 2000 the fictional academic discipline of
"symbology" and a fictional Harvard professor of that discipline,
Robert Langdon (named after ambigram*
artist John Langdon).
Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon
A possible source for Brown's term "symbology" is a 1995 web page, "The Rotation of
the Elements," by one "John Opsopaus." (Cf. Art
"The four qualities are the key to understanding the
rotation of the elements and many other applications of the symbology
of the four elements." --John Opsopaus
* "...ambigrams were common in symbology...." --Angels & Demons
Saturday, March 14, 2009 2:02 PM
Annals of Scholarship:
(in Mathematics and Literature)
"... I want to spend these twenty minutes savoring, and working up, the
real complexity of the metaphorical relationship of time and distance--
to defamiliarize it for us. And then I will give a few examples of how
imaginative literature makes use of the inherent strangeness in this
Time ↔ Distance.
And finally I will offer my opinion (which I think must be everyone’s
opinion) about why we derive significant-- but not total-- comfort from
-- Barry Mazur, March 8, 2009, draft (pdf)
of talk for conference on comparative literature*
Another version of
Time ↔ Distance:
-- Steven H. Cullinane,
For some context in
see Time Fold
(Oct. 10, 2003)
(Dec. 22, 2008).
Saturday, March 14, 2009 11:07 AM
Notes on Literature:
for Our Times
"This could be Heaven
or this could be Hell."
-- "Hotel California"
Apparently from the back cover of The Ninth Wave
"Fear + hate = power was Mike Freesmith's formula for success. He
first tested it in high school when he seduced his English teacher and
drove a harmless drunk to suicide. He used it on the woman who
paid his way through college. He used it to put his candidate in
the governor's chair, and to make himself the most ruthless, powerful
kingmaker in American politics."
Don't forget greed. See yesterday's Friday
the 13th entries
Friday, March 13, 2009 11:30 PM
ART WARS continued:
Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard, home of the rat
psychology of Skinner
today offered a lesson in behavioral
From a transcript
of Summers's remarks (for a video, see the previous
"An abundance of greed and an absence of fear on Wall Street led some
to make purchases - not based on the real value of assets, but on the
faith that there would be another who would pay more for those assets.
At the same time, the government turned a blind eye to these practices
and their potential consequences for the economy as a whole. This is
how a bubble is born. And in these moments, greed begets greed. The
Eventually, however, this process stops - and reverses. Prices fall.
People sell. Instead of an expectation of new buyers, there is an
expectation of new sellers. Greed gives way to fear. And this fear
This is the paradox at the heart of the financial crisis. In the
past few years, we've seen too much greed and too little fear; too much
spending and not enough saving; too much borrowing and not enough
worrying. Today, however, our problem is exactly the opposite.
It is this transition from an excess of greed to an
excess of fear that President Roosevelt had in mind when he famously
observed that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. It is this
transition that has happened in the United States today."
an exhibit of empty rooms
that runs through March 23
at the Centre Pompidou
See also "Art
Friday, March 13, 2009 7:20 PM
Annals of Finance:
Friday, March 13, 2009 12:15 PM
on James Purdy's novel Malcolm
"Life, Purdy is telling us, is meaningless. Existence is absurd. It
consists of events and happenings, all unavoidable, all simultaneously
significant and meaningless. They touch you, wound even, ultimately
kill, yet somehow existence appears to obtain in a bubble outside of
the self. As Thomas M. Lorch describes it, 'the novel portays humanity
revolving about an abyss.' What is real is not real, and what is not
real becomes real. Malcolm describes himself as a 'cypher' and, in the
end, his death affects no-one, least of all him.
Yet, through this, Purdy presents us with the final, and greatest,
paradox. In presenting us with nothingness, and in deliberately
describing the action in such bland and emotionless language, Purdy
actually creates a sense of loss: there is nothing to lose, he is
telling us, and yet we feel the loss greatly. What he does is to create
a world of genuine nihilism, where nobody communicates, nobody
connects, so that we can, in negative, imagine what a world in harmony
might be like."
 Thomas M. Lorch, "Purdy's Malcolm
: A Unique Vision of
Radical Emptiness." Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature
Vol. 6, No. 2 (Summer, 1965), p. 212.
See you in the
funny papers, Purdy.
Friday, March 13, 2009 12:00 AM
Friday the 13th, continued:
Midnight in the Garden
From 12:00 AM on last month's
Friday the 13th:
soundtrack CD of
"Midnight in the Garden
of Good and Evil"--
"Accentuate the positive."
-- Clint Eastwood
||My advice for this month is to learn the lesson
from the young and innocent. Embrace optimism and go forward with life,
hoping only for the best.... Accentuate your positives and don’t worry
about your negatives.... Because when you smile, others smile back.
Thursday, March 12, 2009 8:30 PM
from the day that
turned 23, and...
"...A foyer of the spirit in a landscape
Of the mind, in which we sit
And wear humanity's bleak crown;
In which we read the critique of paradise
And say it is the work
Of a comedian, this critique...."
-- "Crude Foyer," by Wallace Stevens
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 7:00 PM
Politics, Religion, Scarlett:
Found (sort of)
The Associated Press, "Today in History" March 11-- On this date...
"In 1959, the Lorraine Hansberry drama 'A Raisin in the Sun' opened at
New York's Ethel Barrymore Theater."
Wednesday, March 11, 2009 9:00 AM
describes one of the empty rooms on exhibit as...
"... Yves Klein’s 'La spécialisation de la sensibilité
à l’état matière première en
sensibilité picturale stabilisée, Le Vide
Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State Into Stabilized
Pictorial Sensibility, the Void')"
This is a mistranslation. See "An Aesthetics of Matter" (pdf
by Kiyohiko Kitamura and Tomoyuki Kitamura, pp. 85-101 in International
Yearbook of Aesthetics, Volume 6, 2002
"The exhibition «La spécialisation de la
sensibilité à l’état
matière-première en sensibilité picturale
», better known as «Le Vide
(The Void) was held at the Gallery Iris Clert in Paris from April 28th
till May 5th, 1955." --p. 94
"... «Sensibility in the state of prime matter»... filled
the emptiness." --p. 95
Kitamura and Kitamura translate matière première
correctly as "prime matter" (the prima
of the scholastic philosophers) rather than "raw
material." (The phrase in French can mean either.)
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 7:11 PM
Poetry and Religion--
"That flower unseen, that gem of purest ray,
Bright thoughts uncut by men:
Strange that you need but speak them, Thomas Gray,
And the mind skips and dives beyond its ken
Finding at once the wild supposed bloom,
Or in the imagined cave
Some pulse of crystal staving off the gloom
As covertly as phosphorus in a grave."
-- From "In
a Churchyard," by Richard Wilbur
"A metaphysical assertion of this kind is the idea of the 'diamond
body,' the indestructible breath-body which develops in the Golden
Flower, or in the square inch space."
Secret of the Golden Flower
, by Richard Wilhelm, Carl Gustav
Jung, and Hua-Yang Liu, second rev. ed., publ. by Routledge, 1999, pp.
For more about these concepts, see the work cited.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 9:26 AM
ART WARS, continued:
"Music, mathematics, and chess are in vital respects dynamic acts of
location. Symbolic counters are arranged in significant rows.
Solutions, be they of a discord, of an algebraic equation, or of a
positional impasse, are achieved by a regrouping, by a sequential
reordering of individual units and unit-clusters (notes, integers,
rooks or pawns). The child-master, like his adult counterpart, is able
to visualize in an instantaneous yet preternaturally confident way how
the thing should look several moves hence. He sees the logical, the
necessary harmonic and melodic argument as it arises out of an initial
key relation or the preliminary fragments of a theme. He knows the
order, the appropriate dimension, of the sum or geometric figure before
he has performed the intervening steps. He announces mate in six
because the victorious end position, the maximally efficient
configuration of his pieces on the board, lies somehow 'out there' in
graphic, inexplicably clear sight of his mind...."
"... in some autistic enchantment, pure as one of Bach's inverted
canons or Euler's formula for polyhedra."
-- George Steiner, "A Death of Kings," in The New Yorker
dated Sept. 7, 1968
"Classrooms are filled with discussions not of the Bible and Jesus but
of 10 'core values'-- perseverance and curiosity, for instance-- that
are woven into the curriculum."
Education, Catholic Values
," by Javier C. Hernandez, The New
, Sunday, March 8, 2009
"... There was a problem laid out on the
board, a six-mover. I couldn't solve it, like a lot of my problems. I
reached down and moved a knight.... I looked down at the
chessboard. The move with the knight was wrong. I put it back where I
had moved it from. Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn't a
game for knights."
-- Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
The Chandler quotation appears in "Language Game
an entry in this journal on April 7, 2008.
Some say the "Language Game" date, April 7, is the true date (fixed,
permanent) of the Crucifixion-- by analogy, Eliot's "still point" and
Jung's "centre." (See yesterday,
Monday, March 9, 2009 5:24 PM
Mathematics and Narrative, continued:
First and Last Things
Next Sunday's New York Times Book Review
arrived in today's
mail. On the inside of the first page is a full-page ad for a course of
24 lectures on DVD's called "Games People Play: Game Theory in Life,
Business, and Beyond." On the inside of the last page is "Our Steiner
Problem-- and Mine," a full-page essay by Lee Siegel on polymath George
Happy birthday to the late Bobby Fischer.
"For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings"
-- Richard II, Act III, Scene ii
Russell Crowe as game theorist
John Nash in "A Beautiful Mind"
Monday, March 9, 2009 12:00 PM
Annals of Psychology:
"Always with a
A Brief Survey
For other interpretations
of the above shape, see
The Illuminati Diamond
More psychological background,
from Jung's Aion
"From the circle and quaternity motif is derived the
symbol of the geometrically formed crystal and the wonder-working
stone. From here analogy formation leads on to the city, castle,
church, house, room, and vessel. Another variant is the wheel. The
former motif emphasizes the ego’s containment in the greater dimension
of the self; the latter emphasizes the rotation which also appears as a
ritual circumambulation. Psychologically, it denotes concentration on
and preoccupation with a centre...." --Jung, Collected Works
Vol. 9, Part II, paragraph 352
As for rotation, see the ambigrams
in Dan Brown's Angels & Demons
(to appear as a film May 15)
and the following figures:
Sunday, March 8, 2009 4:07 PM
Annals of Philosophy:
In memory of
|"For believers the day of death, and even more the day of
martyrdom, is not the end of all; rather, it is the 'transit' towards
immortal life. It is the day of definitive birth, in Latin, dies
"'Wherever you come near
the human race, there's layers
and layers of nonsense,'
says the Stage Manager in
Thornton Wilder's 'Our Town.'"
from Frank Rich
For more layers, see
James A. Michener's
Saturday, March 7, 2009 12:00 PM
ART WARS, continued:
One or Two Ideas
|From James Joyce's A
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:
The dean returned to the hearth and began to stroke his chin.
--When may we expect to have something from you on the esthetic
question? he asked.
--From me! said Stephen in astonishment. I stumble on an idea once a
fortnight if I am lucky.
--These questions are very profound, Mr Dedalus, said the dean. It is
like looking down from the cliffs of Moher into the depths. Many go
down into the depths and never come up. Only the trained diver can go
down into those depths and explore them and come to the surface again.
--If you mean speculation, sir, said Stephen, I also am sure that there
is no such thing as free thinking inasmuch as all thinking must be
bound by its own laws.
--For my purpose I can work on at present by the light of one or two
ideas of Aristotle and Aquinas.
--I see. I quite see your point.
Besides being Mondrian's birthday, today is also the dies natalis
(in the birth-into-heaven sense) of St. Thomas Aquinas
and, for those who believe worthy pre-Christians also enter heaven, possibly
Pope Benedict XVI explained the dies natalis
Dec. 26, 2006
"For believers the day of death, and even more the day of
martyrdom, is not the end of all; rather, it is the 'transit' towards
immortal life. It is the day of definitive birth, in Latin, dies
The Pope's remarks on that date
were in St. Peter's Square.
of Hexagram 20,
Friday, March 6, 2009 7:30 PM
Where Entertainment is God, continued:
The Illuminati Stone
TV listing for this evening --
Family Channel, 7:30 PM:
"Harry Potter and
the Sorcerer's Stone"
In other entertainment news --
Scheduled to open May 15:
did I discover
what the mandala really is:
Eternal Mind's eternal recreation'"
(Faust, Part Two)
|"For just about half a century, E.J. Holmyard's
concisely-titled Alchemy has served as a literate,
well-informed, and charming introduction to the history and literature
of Western alchemy." --Ian
For more about this
"prime matter" (prima
-- and Aristotle's
Generation and Corruption.
Thursday, March 5, 2009 9:20 PM
Annals of Finance:
Here's hoping this
president knows how to read
Thursday, March 5, 2009 7:20 PM
Annals of Storytelling:
Wednesday, March 4, 2009 10:07 PM
Annals of Religion:
As religious fictions go,
"Richardson leaned forward and picked up from the table a very old
bound book and a very fat exercise book. He again settled himself in
his chair, and said, looking firmly at Anthony-- 'This is the De
Angelis of Marcellus Victorinus of Bologna, published in the year
1514 at Paris, and dedicated to Leo X.'
'Is it?' Anthony said uncertainly."
-- Charles Williams, The Place of
the Lion, 1931
For more about the artist,
see an entry at the weblog
"Through the Wardrobe"
Aug. 18, 2008
Wednesday, March 4, 2009 5:24 PM
Annals of Philosophy:
The Straight Story
Stanley Fish in
New York Times
by George Herbert:
"... the final line provides an answer with a compact
swiftness that is literally breathtaking: 'Who straight, "Your suit is
granted," said, and died.' ('Straight' here means 'immediately and
without detour' and describes the movement and pace of the line it
-- Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
"I'm a rolling stone from Texas"
-- Theme song in
Robert Duvall, 2003
Foote was not associated with
"Secondhand Lions" (which I
saw for the first time last night)
worked many times
Wednesday, March 4, 2009 9:00 AM
Time and Chance, continued:
"So fearsome was Dr. Schwartz's early reputation as a
mathematician that when John Forbes Nash Jr., the Nobel Prize winning
mathematician and economist, learned that he was attempting to solve an
extremely challenging mathematical problem.... he became agitated,
apparently fearing Dr. Schwartz might beat him to a solution, said
Sylvia Nasar, author of 'A Beautiful Mind,' a biography of Nash."
York Times obituary
of Jacob T. Schwartz dated Tuesday, March
New York Lottery
March 3, 2009:
"His background in mathematical algorithms led Dr.
Schwartz to develop an early programming language.... The language
would later influence the designer of the Python
, widely used by programmers today." --NY
"Treatment of Autistic Schizophrenic Children with LSD-25 and UML-491
"Autistic schizophrenic children present challenging and baffling
problems in treatment.... Many of the children have been followed
subsequently into later childhood, adolescence, and adulthood....
Meanwhile, a new group of young autistic children are always available
for new treatment endeavors as the new modes become available."*
Dr. Schwartz died on Monday,
birthday of Tom Wolfe --
The Painted Word.
"It’s all there, hiding behind the realistic side." --Andrew Wyeth
Related material: The
previous five entries
* by Lauretta Bender, M.D., Lothar Goldschmidt, M.D., and D.V. Siva
Sankar, Ph.D., in Recent Advances in Biological Psychiatry,
1962, 4, 170-177
Tuesday, March 3, 2009 11:32 AM
"For every kind of vampire,
there is a kind of cross."
-- Thomas Pynchon in
This entry is continued
and from an entry of
February 20 (the date
Hunter Thompson's death)--
Emblematizing the Modern
Note that in applications, the vertical axis of the Cross of
Descartes often symbolizes the timeless (money, temperature, etc.)
while the horizontal axis often symbolizes time.
"Men’s curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint...."
"I played 'Deathmaster' straight....
The best villains are the ones who are
both protagonist and antagonist."
-- The late Robert
late Hunter Thompson
Yesterday afternoon's online
New York Times
Today's online New York Times
Tuesday, March 3, 2009 12:00 AM
Where Entertainment is God:
Monday, March 2, 2009 7:00 PM
Fish Story, continued:
From this journal's Sunday
"Flowers's thoughts stray to Brown,
with affectionate pity, as he
drinks port and eats walnuts
for the first time in
Senior Combination Room."
-- G. H. Hardy recounting the plot
of A Fellow of Trinity
Glossary of Cambridge:
Attached to the High
Table end of the largely unheated medieval college halls, this was
a warm place for Fellows to gather before and after meals. Now known as
the Senior Combination Room to distinguish it from the Junior
"'I resolved to be bold,/And make a suit unto him, to
afford/A new small-rented lease and cancel th'old.'
But first he has to find him.... Either he's just left or he
hasn't been seen, but then, unexpectedly and in the most unlikely
circumstances, he turns up:
'At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth/Of thieves and
murderers: there I him espied.'
Before he or his reader can ask 'what on earth are you doing here?,'
the final line provides an answer with a compact swiftness that is
'Who straight, "Your suit is granted," said,
For Senior Combination Room as
a den of thieves and murderers,
G. H. Hardy died at 70
on December 1, 1947.
That date is now observed as
"Day Without Art."
Click on image
for further details.
Monday, March 2, 2009 11:30 AM
Today in History - March 2
Today is Monday, March 2, the 61st day of 2009. There are 304
days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On March 2, 1939, Roman Catholic Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli was
elected Pope on his 63rd birthday; he took the name Pius XII.
on June 9, 2008
From Gravity's Rainbow
(Penguin Classics, 1995), page 563
"He brings out the mandala he
'What's it mean?'
Slothrop gives him the mandala. He hopes it
will work like the mantra that Enzian told him once, mba-kayere (I am
passed over), mba-kayere... a spell [...]. A mezuzah. Safe passage
through a bad night...."
In lieu of Slothrop's mandala, here is another...
For further details,
click on any of the
three mandalas above.
Sunday, March 1, 2009 11:00 AM
"There is a book... called A Fellow of Trinity
one of series dealing with what is supposed to be Cambridge college
life.... There are two heroes, a primary hero called Flowers
who is almost wholly good, and a secondary hero, a much weaker vessel,
called Brown. Flowers and Brown find many dangers in university life,
but the worst is a gambling saloon in Chesterton run by the Misses
Bellenden, two fascinating but extremely wicked young ladies. Flowers
survives all these troubles, is Second Wrangler and Senior Classic, and
succeeds automatically to a Fellowship (as I suppose he would have done
then). Brown succumbs, ruins his parents, takes to drink, is saved from
delirium tremens during a thunderstorm only by the prayers of the
Junior Dean, has much difficulty in obtaining even an Ordinary Degree,
and ultimately becomes a missionary. The friendship is not shattered by
these unhappy events, and Flowers's thoughts stray to Brown, with
affectionate pity, as he drinks port and eats walnuts for the first
time in Senior Combination Room."
-- G. H. Hardy, A
"The Solomon Key
is the working title of an unreleased
novel in progress by American author Dan
. The Solomon Key
will be the third book involving the character of the Harvard professor
Robert Langdon, of which the first two were Angels & Demons
(2000) and The Da Vinci Code
"One has O+
(6) ≅ S8
, the symmetric group of order
Modular Forms and Finite Symplectic Groups
," by Francesco Dalla
Piazza and Bert van Geemen, May
"The complete projective group of collineations and dualities of the
[projective] 3-space is shown to be of order [in modern notation] 8!
.... To every transformation of the 3-space there corresponds a
transformation of the [projective] 5-space. In the 5-space, there are
determined 8 sets of 7 points each, 'heptads' ...."
-- George M. Conwell, "The 3-space PG(3,
2) and Its Group
," The Annals of Mathematics
Second Series, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Jan., 1910), pp. 60-76
"It must be remarked that these 8 heptads are the key to an elegant
-- Philippe Cara, "RWPRI Geometries for the Alternating Group A8
Geometries: Proceedings of the Fourth Isle of Thorns Conference
(July 16-21, 2000), Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001, ed. Aart
Blokhuis, James W. P. Hirschfeld, Dieter Jungnickel, and Joseph A.
Thas, pp. 61-97