Monday, April 7, 2003, 1:17 PM
An Offer He Couldn't Refuse
Today's birthday: Francis Ford Coppola is 64.
"Then came From Here to Eternity. Sinatra lobbied hard for the role, practically getting on his knees to secure the role of the street smart punk G.I. Maggio. He sensed this was a role that could revive his career, and his instincts were right. There are lots of stories about how Columbia Studio head Harry Cohn was convinced to give the role to Sinatra, the most famous of which is expanded upon in the horse's head sequence in The Godfather. Maybe no one will know the truth about that. The one truth we do know is that the feisty New Jersey actor won the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his work in From Here to Eternity. It was no looking back from then on."
From a note on geometry of April 28, 1985:
Saturday, April 5, 2003, 9:49 AM
From Maureen Dowd's New York Times column of June 9, 2002:
"The shape of the government is not as important as the policy of the government. If he makes the policy aggressive and pre-emptive, the president can conduct the war on terror from the National Gallery of Art."
Meanwhile, at the Washington Post, another example of great determination and strength of character:
Donald Coxeter Dies: Leader in Geometry
By Martin Weil
"Donald Coxeter, 96, a mathematician who was one of the 20th century's foremost specialists in geometry and a man of great determination and strength of character as well, died March 31 at his home in Toronto."
From another Coxeter obituary:
For a differing account of how geometry is related to code-breaking, see the "Singer 7-cycle" link in yesterday's entry, "The Eight," of 3:33 PM. This leads to a site titled
"Now I have precisely the right instrument, at precisely the right moment of history, in exactly the right place."
Added Sunday, April 6, 2003, 3:17 PM:
The New York Times Magazine of
The military nature of our Art Wars theme appears in the Times's choice of words for its cover headline: "The Greatest Generation." (This headline appears in the paper, but not the Internet, version.)
Compare this with a mathematician's aesthetics:
It seems clear from these two quotations that the real conceptual art is mathematics and that Kimmelman is peddling the emperor's new clothes.
Friday, April 4, 2003, 3:33 PM
Today, the fourth day of the fourth month, plays an important part in Katherine Neville's The Eight. Let us honor this work, perhaps the greatest bad novel of the twentieth century, by reflecting on some properties of the number eight. Consider eight rectangular cells arranged in an array of four rows and two columns. Let us label these cells with coordinates, then apply a permutation.
The resulting set of arrows that indicate the movement of cells in a permutation (known as a Singer 7-cycle) outlines rather neatly, in view of the chess theme of The Eight, a knight. This makes as much sense as anything in Neville's fiction, and has the merit of being based on fact. It also, albeit rather crudely, illustrates the "Mathematics and Art" theme of this year's Mathematics Awareness Month. (See the 4:36 PM entry.)
The visual appearance of the "knight" permutation is less important than the fact that it leads to a construction (due to R. T. Curtis) of the Mathieu group M24 (via the Curtis Miracle Octad Generator), which in turn leads logically to the Monster group and to related "moonshine" investigations in the theory of modular functions. See also "Pieces of Eight," by Robert L. Griess.
Monday, March 10, 2003, 5:45 AM
Art at the Vanishing Point
Two readings from The New York Times Book Review of Sunday,essay on Dante by Judith Shulevitz on page 31 recalls his "point at which all times are present." (See my March 7 entry.) On page 12 there is a review of a novel about the alleged "high culture" of the New York art world. The novel is centered on Leo Hertzberg, a fictional Columbia University art historian. From Janet Burroway's review of What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt:
"...the 'zeros' who inhabit the book... dramatize its speculations about the self.... the spectator who is 'the true vanishing point, the pinprick in the canvas.'''
Here is a canvas by Richard McGuire for April Fools' Day 1995, illustrating such a spectator.
For more on the "vanishing point," or "point at infinity," see
Connoisseurs of ArtSpeak may appreciate Burroway's summary of Hustvedt's prose: "...her real canvas is philosophical, and here she explores the nature of identity in a structure of crystalline complexity."
For another "structure of crystalline
For a more honest account of the
Friday, March 7, 2003, 4:00 AM
Lovely, Dark and Deep
"....mirando il punto
— Dante, Paradiso, XVII, 17-18
6:23 PM Friday, March 7:
From Measure Theory, by Paul R. Halmos, Van Nostrand, 1950:
"The symbol is used throughout the entire book in place of such phrases as 'Q.E.D.' or 'This completes the proof of the theorem' to signal the end of a proof."
Thursday, March 6, 2003, 2:35 AM
Geometry for Jews
Today is Michelangelo's birthday.
Those who prefer the Sistine Chapel to the Rothko Chapel may invite their Jewish friends to answer the following essay question:
Discuss the geometry underlying the above picture. How is this geometry related to the work of Jewish artist Sol LeWitt? How is it related to the work of Aryan artist Ernst Witt? How is it related to the Griess "Monster" sporadic simple group whose elements number
808 017 424 794 512 875 886 459 904 961 710 757 005 754 368 000 000 000?
Tuesday, February 25, 2003, 1:44 AM
Song of Not-Self
A critic on the abstract expressionists:
Painter Mark Rothko:
On this day in 1957, Buddy Holly and his group recorded the hit version of "That'll Be the Day."
On this day in 1970, painter Mark Rothko committed suicide in his New York City studio.
On May 26, 1971, Don McLean recorded "American Pie."
Rothko was apparently an alcoholic; whether he spent his last day enacting McLean's lyrics I do not know.
Rothko is said to have written that
"The progression of a painter's work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity: toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer. As examples of such obstacles, I give (among others) memory, history or geometry, which are swamps of generalization from which one might pull out parodies of ideas (which are ghosts) but never an idea in itself. To achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood."
-- Mark Rothko, The Tiger's Eye, 1, no. 9 (October 1949), p. 114
Whether Holly's concept "the day that I die" is a mere parody of an idea or "an idea in itself," the reader may judge. The reader may also judge the wisdom of building a chapel to illustrate the clarity of thought processes such as Rothko's in 1949. I personally feel that someone who can call geometry a "swamp" may not be the best guide to religious meditation.
For another view, see this essay by Erik Anderson Reece.
Update of June 1, 2003 --
Update of June 4, 2003 --
Update of July 13, 2003 --
Update of August 16, 2003 --
Update of August 17, 2003 --
Update of October 3, 2003 --
Update of October 24, 2003 --
Update of February 8, 2004 --
Update of February 17, 2004 --
Update of Ash Wednesday, February 25, 2004 --
Update of Saturday, February 28, 2004 --
Update of March 5, 2004 --
Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner,
For an application to the way
Update of April 2, 2004 --
The themes of these reviews -- a minimalist dividing line, and polar opposites -- are combined in my March 15 page,
Update of April 6, 2004 --
Update of April 7, 2004 (First anniversary of Art
Update of May 27, 2005--
Update of June 19, 2005--
"No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv'd only to discover sights of woe"
-- John Milton, Paradise Lost,
Book I, lines 63-64
A famed vulgarizer, Martin Gardner,
summarizes the art of Ad Reinhardt
(Adolph Dietrich Friedrich Reinhardt,
Dec. 24, 1913 - Aug. 30, 1967):
"Ed Rinehart [sic] made a fortune painting canvases that were just one solid color. He had his black period in which the canvas was totally black. And then he had a blue period in which he was painting the canvas blue. He was exhibited in top shows in New York, and his pictures wound up in museums. I did a column in Scientific American on minimal art, and I reproduced one of Ed Rinehart's black paintings. Of course, it was just a solid square of pure black. The publisher insisted on getting permission from the gallery to reproduce it."
Nov. 9-12, 2004:
In memory of
St. William Golding
(Sept. 19, 1911 - June 19, 1993)
Update of June 20, 2005--
"I studied with Reinhardt and I found
that a fantastic course. I think he was really very stimulating....
“The Road to Simplicity Followed by Merton’s Friends: Ad Reinhardt and Robert Lax” in The Merton Annual 13 (2000) 245-256, by Paul J. Spaeth, library director at St. Bonaventure University
"Make Mass beautiful silence like big black picture speaking requiem. Tears in the shadows of hermit hatch requiems blue black tone. Sorrows for Ad in the oblation quiet peace request rest. Tomorrow is solemns in the hermit hatch for old lutheran reinhardt commie paintblack… Tomorrow is the eternal solemns and the barefoots and the ashes and the masses, oldstyle liturgy masses without the colonels… Just old black quiet requiems in hermit hatch with decent sorrows good by college chum."