Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Tuesday December 31, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 3:17 PM

To Sir Anthony Hopkins
on His Birthday

From “The Wardrobe Wars,” by Paul Willis:

“I was back at Wheaton for a conference just a couple of years ago. During a period of announcements, a curator from the Wade Collection invited the conference participants to visit the collection and see the many books and papers that had belonged to Lewis and his associates. At the end of her announcement, she told us, ‘We also have the wardrobe that served as the original for the one in the Narnia Chronicles.’

There it was, that definite article again. In a remarkable display of maturity I put up my hand and said, ‘Excuse me, but the wardrobe is at Westmont College in Santa Barbara.’

The woman gave me a long, hard look of the ‘we are not amused’ variety. That was all. I wasn’t able to find her after the session was over to clear things up.

Not that we could have, really. Of course, if pressed, I suspect we would both admit the wardrobe we are really concerned with exists only within the covers of a book, and that not even this wardrobe is so important as the story of which it is a part, and that the story is not so important as the sense of infinite longing that it stirs within our souls, and that this longing is not so important as the One—more real than Aslan himself—to whom it directs us. But that would be asking too much of either the curator or myself. To worship at our respective wardrobes, whether they be in Jerusalem or Samaria, is indeed to live in the shadowlands. And that is where we like it.

Lewis himself would doubtless say that the physical wardrobes in our possession are but copies of a faint copy. He might even claim, to our horror, that no single wardrobe inspired the one found in his book. Then he might add under his breath, like the professor in The Last Battle who has passed on to the next life, ‘It’s all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!'”

Tuesday December 31, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 2:14 AM

To Aster, from Plato

Asteras eisathreis, Aster emos.
Eithe genoimen ouranos,
‘os pollois ommasin eis se blepo.

You gaze at stars, my Star.
Would that I were born the starry sky,
that I with many eyes might gaze at you.

— Plato

(Sometimes translated as “To Stella.” Hence the current site music, “Stella by Starlight.” See last midnight’s entry, “Three in One.”)

Monday, December 30, 2002

Monday December 30, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 11:59 PM

Three in One

This evening’s earlier entry, “Homer,” is meant in part as a tribute to three goddess-figures from the world of film.  But there is one actress who combines the intelligence of Judy Davis with the glamour of Nicole Kidman and the goodness of Kate Winslet– Perhaps the only actress who could have made me cry Stella! as if I were Brando…. Piper Laurie.

From the Robert A. Heinlein novel

Glory Road

    “I have many names. What would you  like to call me?”

    “Is one of them ‘Helen’?”

    She smiled like sunshine and I learned that she had dimples. She looked sixteen and in her first party dress. “You are very gracious. No, she’s not even a relative. That was many, many years ago.” Her face turned thoughtful. “Would you like to call me ‘Ettarre’?”

    “Is that one of your names?”

    “It is much like one of them, allowing for different spelling and accent. Or it could be ‘Esther’ just as closely. Or ‘Aster.’ Or even  ‘Estrellita.’ “

    ” ‘Aster,’ ” I repeated. “Star. Lucky Star!”

    “I hope that I will be your lucky star,” she said earnestly. “As you will. But what shall I call you?”

    I thought about it….

   The name I had picked up in the hospital ward would do. I shrugged. “Oh, Scar is a good enough name.”

    ” ‘Oscar,’ ” she repeated, broadening the “O” into “Aw,”and stressing both syllables. “A noble name. A hero’s name.  Oscar.” She caressed it with her voice.

    “No, no! Not ‘Oscar’– ‘Scar.’ ‘Scarface.’  For this.”

    “Oscar is your name,” she said firmly. “Oscar and Aster.  Scar and Star.”

The Hustler

Monday December 30, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 8:30 PM


“No matter how it’s done, you won’t like it.”
— Robert Redford to Robert M. Pirsig in Lila

The evening before Harriet injures Roy,
she asks him, in a restaurant car,
whether he has read Homer.”
Oxford website on the film of The Natural

“Brush Up Your Shakespeare”
— Cole Porter lyric for a show that opened
on December 30, 1948

Judy Davis as Harriet Bird


Thine eyes I love…
Shakespeare, Sonnet 132

“Roy’s Guenevere-like lover is named Memo Paris,
presumably the face that launched a thousand strikes.”
Oxford website on the film of The Natural 

Nicole Kidman
as Memo Paris

“Iris is someone to watch over Roy.”
Oxford website on the film of The Natural 

Kate Winslet as young Iris Murdoch

From the second-draft screenplay
for The Sting,
with Robert Redford as Hooker:

(shuffling a little)
I, ah…thought you might wanna come out for a while.  Maybe have a drink or somethin’.

You move right along, don’t ya.

(with more innocence than confidence)
I don’t mean nothin’ by it.  I just don’t know many regular girls, that’s all.

And you expect me to come over, just like that.

If I expected somethin’, I wouldn’t be still standin’ out here in the hall.

Loretta looks at him carefully.  She knows it’s not a line.

(with less resistance now)
I don’t even know you.

You know me.  I’m just like you…
It’s two in the morning and I don’t know nobody.

The two just stand there in silence a second.  There’s nothing more to say.  She stands back and lets him in.

Iris Murdoch on Plato’s Form of the Good,
by Joseph Malikail:

For Murdoch as for Plato, the Good belongs to Plato’s Realm of Being not the Realm of Becoming…. However, Murdoch does not read Plato as declaring his faith in a divine being when he says that the Good is

the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and the lord of light in the visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which [one who] would act rationally either in public or private life must have his eyes fixed (Republic…).

Though she acknowledges the influence of Simone Weil in her reading of Plato, her understanding of Plato on Good and God is not Weil’s (1952, ch.7)*. For Murdoch,

Plato never identified his Form of the Good with God (the use of theos in the Republic… is a façon de parler), and this separation is for him an essential one. Religion is above the level of the ‘gods.’ There are no gods and no God either. Neo-Platonic thinkers made the identification (of God with good) possible; and the Judaeo-Christian tradition has made it easy and natural for us to gather together the aesthetic and consoling impression of Good as a person (1992, 38)**.

As she understands Plato:

The Form of the Good as creative power is not a Book of Genesis creator ex nihilo … Plato does not set up the Form of the Good as God, this would be absolutely un-Platonic, nor does he anywhere give the sign of missing or needing a real God to assist his explanations. On the contrary, Good is above the level of the gods or God (ibid., 475)**.

Mary Warnock, her friend and fellow-philosopher, sums up Murdoch’s metaphysical view of the Vision of the Good:

She [Murdoch] holds that goodness has a real though abstract existence in the world. The actual existence of goodness is, in her view, the way it is now possible to understand the idea of God.

Or as Murdoch herself puts it, ‘Good represents the reality of which God is the dream.’ (1992, 496)**”

*Weil, Simone. 1952. Intimations of Christianity Among The Ancient Greeks. Ark Paperbacks, 1987/1952.

**Murdoch, Iris. 1992. Metaphysics As A Guide To Morals. London: Chatto and Windus. 

From the conclusion of Lila,
by Robert M. Pirsig:

“Good is a noun. That was it. That was what Phaedrus had been looking for. That was the homer over the fence that ended the ballgame.”

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Saturday December 28, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 11:59 PM

Solace from Hell’s Kitchen

State of Grace

The Sting

This midnight’s site music is “Solace: A Mexican Serenade,” part of which was used in the film “The Sting.” George Roy Hill, the film’s director, died Friday, Dec. 27. He turned 81 on Friday, Dec. 20. See my note of that date,

Last-Minute Shopping.”

Saturday December 28, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 AM

On This Date


In 1937, composer
Maurice Ravel died.

Our site music for today
is Ravel’s classic, “

For “Bolero” purposes, some may prefer Kylie Minogue’s rendition of “Locomotion.”

Zen meditation: “Kylie Eleison!”

(For evidence that this is a valid Japanese religious exclamation, click here.)

Friday, December 27, 2002

Friday December 27, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 7:15 PM

Another Opening of Another Show

“To die will be an awfully big adventure.”
— Peter Pan

in “An Awfully
Big Adventure”

On this date in 1904, “Peter Pan” opened to great applause at the Duke of York’s theatre in London. A cinematic sequel, “An Awfully Big Adventure,” is illustrated at left and below.  I have always felt this film’s soundtrack should include the classic Mac Davis song “Girl, you’re a hot-blooded woman-child….”

Friday December 27, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 3:43 PM

Least Popular Christmas Present


From the University of Chicago Press, Religion and Postmodernism Series:

The Gift of Death,
by Jacques Derrida

Russell Berrie, toy maker, dies on Christmas Day. (AP photo)

See also my note “Last-Minute Shopping
of December 20, 2002, and my note
An Anti-Christmas Present” of June 25, 2002.

On the bright side: Berrie joins comedians
W. C. Fields and Charlie Chaplin,
who also died on Christmas Day. 
“Dying is easy; comedy is hard.”
— Unknown source.
See my note on Santa’s last words.

Friday December 27, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 AM

Saint Hoagy’s Day

Today is the feast day of St. Hoagy Carmichael, who was born on the feast day of Cecelia, patron saint of music. This midnight’s site music is “Stardust,” by Carmichael (lyrics by Mitchell Parish). See also “Dead Poets Society” — my entry of Friday, December 13, on the Carmichael song “Skylark” — and the entry “Rhyme Scheme” of later that same day.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Thursday December 26, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 AM

Holly for Miss Quinn

Tonight’s site music is for Stephen Dedalus and Miss Quinn, courtesy of Eithne Ní Bhraonáin.

Miss Quinn



Sunday, December 22, 2002

Sunday December 22, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 11:59 PM

State of Morelos

“Heaven is a state, a sort of metaphysical state.”

— John O’Hara, Hope of Heaven, 1938

In memory of soldier-priest José Morelos, producer Darryl Zanuck (“Viva Zapata!”), and actress Helene Stanley (“Holiday in Mexico” and action model for “Cinderella“), each of whom died on a December 22, tonight’s midnight midi is “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”

See also

Heaven, Hell, and Hollywood and

Sunday December 22, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 5:00 PM

    Hexagram 22:   Grace



 Line 4:

As if

A white horse comes as if on wings.

See also Plato, Pegasus, and the Evening Star.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Saturday December 21, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 11:59 PM

For the Green Lady
from the City of Angels

“The oral history of Los Angeles
is written in piano bars.” 
— Joan Didion in Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Tonight’s midnight music in the garden of good and evil is a shamelessly romantic classic from a site titled simply Piano Bar.

De Rêve En Rêverie
(Lyrics by Eddy Marnay)

Tu es le pianiste
Et moi je suis ton encore.
Un feu de joie pour deux
Tombe sur nous d’un ciel amoureux.
Toi, toi qui m’as tout appris
Moi, dans l’ombre de ta vie
Je vis,
Je vis de rêve
En rêverie. 

 Washington Square Press paperback, 1981, page 222 

Saturday December 21, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 7:00 PM

To Ophelia
at the Winter Solstice


“There is one story and one story only
That will prove worth your telling…

… is it of the Virgin’s silver beauty,
All fish below the thighs?
She in her left hand bears a leafy quince;
When, with her right hand she crooks a finger, smiling,
How many the King hold back?
Royally then he barters life for love.

Or of the undying snake from chaos hatched,
Whose coils contain the ocean,
Into whose chops with naked sword he springs,
Then in black water, tangled by the reeds,
Battles three days and nights,
To be spewed up beside her scalloped shore?”

— Robert Graves, “To Juan at the Winter Solstice”


The Virgin’s Beauty 

 On the Beach

A Maiden’s Prayer

Answered Prayer


Act III Scene ii:

Hamlet   Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
Ophelia  No, my lord.
Hamlet   I mean, my head upon your lap?
Ophelia  Ay, my lord.
Hamlet   Do you think I meant country matters?
Ophelia  I think nothing, my lord.
Hamlet   That’s a fair thought to lie between maid’s legs.
Ophelia   What is, my lord?
Hamlet    Nothing.
Ophelia   You are merry, my lord.  
Hamlet    Who, I?
Ophelia   Ay, my lord.


“Do you know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember nothing?” 
— T. S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”

“At the still point, there the dance is.” 
— T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

“I know what ‘nothing’ means….”
— Maria Wyeth in Play It As It Lays

“How do you solve a problem like Maria?”
— Oscar Hammerstein II

“…problems can be solved by manipulating just two symbols, 1 and 0….” 
— George Johnson, obituary of Claude Shannon

“The female and the male continue this charming dance, populating the world with all living beings.” 
— Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess,
    Penguin Arkana paperback, 1999, Chapter 17,

“According to Showalter’s essay*, ‘In Elizabethan slang, ‘nothing’ was a term for the female genitalia . . . what lies between maids’ legs, for, in the male visual system of representation and desire…. Ophelia’s story becomes the Story of O — the zero, the empty circle or mystery of feminine difference, the cipher of female sexuality to be deciphered by feminist interpretation.’ (222)* Ophelia is a highly sexual being…”

— Leigh DiAngelo,
   Ophelia as a Sexual Being

S. H. Cullinane: “No shit, Sherlock.”

*Showalter, Elaine. “Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism.” Hamlet. Ed. Susanne L. Wofford. Boston: Bedford Books of St.Martin’s Press, 1994. 220-238.


Is that nothing between your legs
or are you just happy to see me?

See also The Ya-Ya Monologues.

Saturday December 21, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 AM

Nightmare Alley

Tonight’s site music in the garden of good and evil is “Hooray for Hollywood,” with lyrics by Johnny Mercer:

Hooray for Hollywood.
You may be homely in your neighborhood,
But if you think you can be an actor,
see Mr. Factor,
he’d make a monkey look good.
Within a half an hour,
you look like Tyrone Power!
Hooray for Hollywood!


From Pif magazine:

Nightmare Alley (1947)
Directed by Edmund Goulding
Reviewed by Nick Burton

“Edmund Goulding’s film of William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel Nightmare Alley may just be the great forgotten American film; it is certainly the darkest film that came from the Hollywood studio system in the ’40s….

A never better Tyrone Power stars as Stan Carlisle, a small-time carny shill….  Stan shills for mind reader Zeena…. The… pretty ‘electric girl’…   tells Stan that Zeena… had a ‘code’ for the mind-reading act… Stan… decides to seduce… Zeena in hopes of luring the code from her.”

The rest of this review is well worth reading, though less relevant to my present theme — that of my 

Sermon for St. Patrick’s Day,

which points out that the article on “nothing” is on page 265 of The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. (This is also the theme of yesterday’s journal entry “Last-Minute Shopping.”) Here is another work that prominently features “nothing” on page 265… As it happens, this is a web page describing a mind-reading act, titled simply

Page 265

“Imagine this: A spectator is invited to take a readable and 100% examinable, 400 page, 160,000 word novel, open it to any page and think of any word on that page. Without touching the book or approaching the spectator, you reveal the word in the simplest, most startlingly direct manner ever! It truly must be seen to be believed.

The ultimate any-word-on-any-page method that makes all other book tests obsolete….

All pages are different.

Nothing is written down.

There are no stooges of any kind. Everything may be examined….

 ‘Throw away your Key. This is direct mindreading at its best.'”

From Finnegans Wake, page 265:

“…the winnerful wonnerful wanders off, with hedges of ivy and

and bower of mistletoe….”


Mercer’s lyrics are from the 1937 film Hollywood Hotel.”  For a somewhat more in-depth look at Hollywood, hotels of this period, and mind-reading, see

Shining Forth.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Friday December 20, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 6:06 PM

Last-Minute Shopping

In celebration of today’s nationwide opening of Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” —

© Orion Pictures

Ed Harris in
State of Grace

  Xmas Special

See also my Sermon for St. Patrick’s Day

This contains the following metaphysical observation from Mark Helprin’s novel Winter’s Tale:

“Nothing is random.”

For those who, like the protagonist of Joan Didion’s

Play It As It Lays,

feel that they “know what nothing means,” I recommend the following readings:

From Peter Goldman’s essay

Christian Mystery and Responsibility:
Gnosticism in Derrida’s The Gift of Death

“Derrida’s description of Christian mystery implies this hidden demonic and violent dimension:

The gift made to me by God as he holds me in his gaze and in his hand while remaining inaccessible to me, the terribly dissymmetrical gift of the mysterium tremendum only allows me to respond and only rouses me to the responsibility it gives me by making a gift of death, giving the secret of death, a new experience of death. (33)”

The above-mentioned sermon is a meditation on randomness and page numbers, focusing on page 265 in particular.

On page 265 of Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce,  we find the following remark:

“Googlaa pluplu.” 

Following Joyce’s instructions, and entering “pluplu” in the Google search engine, we find the following:

“Datura is a delusional drug rather than a hallucinatory one. You don’t see patterns, trails, or any cool visual effects; you just actually believe in things that aren’t there….  I remember holding a glass for a while–but when I raised it to my mouth to take a drink, my fingers closed around nothingness because there was no glass there….

Using datura is the closest I’ve ever come to death…. Of all the drugs I’ve taken, this is the one that I’d be too scared to ever take again.”

PluPlu, August 4, 2000

For those who don’t need AA, perhaps the offer of Ed Harris in the classic study of gangs of New York, “State of Grace,” is an offer of somewhat safer holiday cheer that should not be refused.

Friday December 20, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 AM

Irish Lament

In keeping with Irish themes in the Mark Helprin novel Winter’s Tale (see yesterday’s entry with that title) and in the new Martin Scorsese film “Gangs of New York,” as well as in observance of Maud Gonne’s birthday today, our site music returns to the theme of October 17, “Lament for Kilcash.” 

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Thursday December 19, 2002

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 5:30 PM

Winter’s Tale

The title is that of a novel by Mark Helprin.

On this date in 1903, the Williamsburg Bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan was opened to traffic.

From the opening of Helprin’s 1983 novel:

“The horse…. trotted alone over the carriage road of the Williamsburg Bridge, before the light, while the toll keeper was sleeping by his stove and many stars were still blazing above the city.”

A memorable

Seven is
Eight is
  a gate. 

A 1985 illustration

See also Plato, Pegasus, and the Evening Star.

“The Forms are abstract but real.”

Rebecca Goldstein on Plato

Thursday December 19, 2002

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 4:07 AM


Bach at Heaven’s Gate

From a weblog entry of Friday, December 13, 2002:

Divine Comedy

Joan Didion and her husband
John Gregory Dunne
(author of
The Studio and Monster
wrote the screenplays for
the 1976 version of “A Star is Born”
and the similarly plotted 1996 film
Up Close and Personal.”

If the incomparable Max Bialystock 
were to remake the latter, he might retitle it
Distant and Impersonal.”
A Google search on this phrase suggests
a plot outline for Mel Brooks & Co.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Producer Sidney Glazier dies
Dec. 18, 2002

Academy Award-winning producer
Sidney Glazier died early Saturday morning
[Dec. 14, 2002] of natural causes
at his home in Bennington, Vt. He was 86.
Glazier… is best known for producing
the 1968 film “The Producers.”
That film, which has since become a
Tony Award-winning Broadway play,
also marked comedian Mel Brooks’
directing debut.

In addition to “The Producers,”
Glazier produced…
the 1973 television drama “Catholics.”
[Based on a novel by Brian Moore]

His nephew is “Scrooged” screenwriter
Mitch Glazer.

(Josh Spector)

Recommended reading —


Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of
“Heaven’s Gate,”
the Film that Sank United Artists,

Second Edition,
by Steven Bach

From Newmarket Press:

Steven Bach was the senior vice-president and head of worldwide production for United Artists at the time of the filming of Heaven’s Gate…. Apart from the director and the producer, Bach was the only person to witness the evolution of Heaven’s Gate from beginning to end.”

See also my journal entry
“Back to Bach”
of 1:44 a.m. EST
Saturday, December 14, 2002.

Thursday December 19, 2002

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 12:00 AM

Plain Hunt Maximus

This midnight’s site music is in honor of Sinatra’s first recording session for Reprise on December 19, 1960 (which included “Ring-a-Ding-Ding”).

See also The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy Sayers, and this applet for devising your own peal of changes.

Those who prefer Disney may go to this web page and click on the title “The Bells of Notre Dame” for a different midi.  For Mary Gaitskill‘s more mature approach to Victor Hugo’s classic, click here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Wednesday December 18, 2002

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 1:23 AM

Birthdate of Paul Klee

To accompany today's site music, "Nica's Dream" —
Klee's "Notte egiziana":

Wednesday December 18, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 AM

For the Dark Lady

On this midnight in the garden of good and evil, our new site music is “Nica’s Dream.”

From a website on composer Horace Silver:

“Horace Silver apparently composed Nica’s Dream (1956) for Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter-Rothschild, an English aristocrat and a very dear friend of his. She was known to the New York press as the Jazz Baroness and to the black musicians for whom she was something of a patron, simply as Nica. Her apartment in the fashionable Hotel Stanhope on Fifth Avenue became a ‘hospitality suite for some of the greatest jazz players of the day, whom she treated generously.’ (Jack Chambers, Milestones: The Music and Times of Miles Davis, University of Toronto Press, 1985, 1:248)

This music is not unrelated to the work of Thomas Pynchon.  From an essay by Charles Hollander:  

“There are some notable parallels between Nica and the woman Stencil knows as V., who started her career with ‘…a young crude Mata Hari act.’ (V.; 386)….  Not that V. is Nica in any roman a clef sense: she is not. But the resonances are powerful at the level of the subtext. Nica is a Rothschild whose life reflects the issues Pynchon wants us to attend in V.: disinheritance, old dynasty vs. new dynasty, secret agents and couriers, plots and counter-plots, ‘The Big One, the century’s master cabal,’ and ‘the ultimate Plot Which Has No Name’ (V.; 226)….” 

See also my journal entry for the December 16-17 midnight, “Just Seventeen.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Tuesday December 17, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 1:06 AM

Not Amusing Anymore

I need a photo-opportunity
I want a shot at redemption
Don’t want to end up a cartoon
In a cartoon graveyard
— Paul Simon

From The New York Times, Dec. 16, 2002

(See yesterday’s notes) —

John Patrick Naughton
for The New York Times

Rebecca Goldstein
remembers discovering Plato
at the age of 12 or 13
in Will Durant’s
‘Story of Philosophy’
and feeling
‘that I was out beyond myself,
had almost lost all touch with
who I even was, and it was . . .

Tuesday December 17, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 AM


Just Seventeen


Today's site music*
is in honor of
a memorable date.

Northern Songs.
Quiet may be restored by using
the midi control box at the top right
of this page.  Please let me know
if your browser is not showing
this control box.



From a June/July 1997
Hadassah Magazine article:

"Plato is obviously Jewish."

— Rebecca Goldstein

Readings on the Dark Lady  

From a July 27, 1997
New York Times article
by Holland Cotter:

"The single most important and sustained model for Khmer culture was India, from which Cambodia inherited two religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, and an immensely sophisticated art. This influence announces itself early in this exhibition in a spectacular seventh-century figure of the Hindu goddess Durga, whose hip-slung pose and voluptuous torso, as plush and taut as ripe fruit, combine the naturalism and idealism of the very finest Indian work."

From The Dancing Wu Li Masters,
by Gary Zukav, Harvard '64:

"The Wu Li Masters know that physicists are doing more than 'discovering the endless diversity of nature.' They are dancing with Kali [or Durga], the Divine Mother of Hindu mythology."

"Eastern religions have nothing to say about physics, but they have a great deal to say about human experience. In Hindu mythology, Kali, the Divine Mother, is the symbol for the infinite diversity of experience. Kali represents the entire physical plane. She is the drama, tragedy, humor, and sorrow of life. She is the brother, father, sister, mother, lover, and friend. She is the fiend, monster, beast, and brute. She is the sun and the ocean. She is the grass and the dew. She is our sense of accomplishment and our sense of doing worthwhile. Our thrill of discovery is a pendant on her bracelet. Our gratification is a spot of color on her cheek. Our sense of importance is the bell on her toe.

This full and seductive, terrible and wonderful earth mother always has something to offer. Hindus know the impossibility of seducing her or conquering her and the futility of loving her or hating her; so they do the only thing that they can do. They simply honor her."

How could I dance with another….?

— John Lennon and Paul McCartney, 1962-1963  

Monday, December 16, 2002

Monday December 16, 2002

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 10:00 PM

Rebecca Goldstein
at Heaven’s Gate

This entry is in gratitude for Rebecca Goldstein’s
excellent essay
in The New York Times of December 16, 2002.

She talks about the perennial conflict between two theories of truth that Richard Trudeau called the “story theory” and the “diamond theory.” My entry of December 13, 2002, “Rhyme Scheme,” links the word “real” to an article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that contains the following:

“According to a platonist about arithmetic, the truth of the sentence ‘7 is prime’ entails the existence of an abstract object, the number 7. This object is abstract because it has no spatial or temporal location, and is causally inert. A platonic realist about arithmetic will say that the number 7 exists and instantiates the property of being prime independently of anyone’s beliefs, linguistic practices, conceptual schemes, and so on. A certain kind of nominalist rejects the existence claim which the platonic realist makes: there are no abstract objects, so sentences such as ‘7 is prime’ are false…”

This discussion of “sevenness,” along with the discussion of “eightness” in my December 14, 2002, note on Bach, suggest that I supply a transcription of a note in my paper journal from 2001 that deals with these matters.

From a paper journal note of October 5, 2001:

The 2001 Silver Cup Award
for Realism in Mathematics
goes to…
Glynis Johns, star of
The Sword and the Rose,
Shake Hands with the Devil, and
No Highway in the Sky.

Glynis Johns is 78 today.

“Seven is heaven,
Eight is a gate.”
— from
Dealing with Memory Changes
as You Grow Older
by Kathleen Gose and Gloria Levi

“There is no highway in the sky.”
— Quotation attributed to Albert Einstein.
Gotthard Günther’s website
“Achilles and the Tortoise, Part 2”.)

“Don’t give up until you
Drink from the silver cup
And ride that highway in the sky.”
America, 1974

See also page 78 of
Realism in Mathematics
(on Gödel’s Platonism)
by Penelope Maddy,
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1990
(reprinted, 2000).

Added 12/17/02: See also
the portrait of Rebecca Goldstein in
Hadassah Magazine
Number 10
(June/July 1997).

For more on the Jewish propensity to
assign mystical significance to numbers, see
Rabbi Zwerin’s Kol Nidre Sermon.

For the significance of “seven” in Judaism, see
Zayin: The Woman of Valor.
For the significance of “eight” in Judaism, see
Chet: The Life Dynamic.

For the cabalistic significance of
“Seven is heaven, Eight is a gate,”
note that Zayin, Seven, signifies
“seven chambers of Paradise”
and that Chet, Eight, signifies
the “gateway to infinity.”

For the significance of the date 12.17, see
Tet: The Concealed Good.

Monday December 16, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 2:22 AM

Beethoven’s Birthday

“Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet in A Minor, Opus 132, is one of the transcendent masterworks of the Western classical tradition. It is built around its luminous third movement, titled ‘Holy song of thanksgiving by one recovering from an illness.’

In this third movement, the aging Beethoven speaks, clearly and distinctly, in a voice seemingly meant both for all the world and for each individual who listens to it. The music, written in the ancient Lydian mode, is slow and grave and somehow both a struggle and a celebration at the same time.

This is music written by a supreme master at the height of his art, saying that through all illness, tribulation and sorrow there is a strength, there is a light, there is a hope.”

—  Andrew Lindemann Malone

“Eliot’s final poetic achievement—and, for many, his greatest—is the set of four poems published together in 1943 as Four Quartets…. Structurally—though the analogy is a loose one—Eliot modeled the Quartets on the late string quartets of Beethoven, especially… the A Minor Quartet; as early as 1931 he had written the poet Stephen Spender, ‘I have the A Minor Quartet on the gramophone, and I find it quite inexhaustible to study. There is a sort of heavenly or at least more than human gaiety about some of his later things which one imagines might come to oneself as the fruit of reconciliation and relief after immense suffering; I should like to get something of that into verse before I die.'”

— Anonymous author at a
Longman Publishers website

“Each of the late quartets has a unique structure, and the structure of the Quartet in A Minor is one of the most striking of all. Its five movements form an arch. At the center is a stunning slow movement that lasts nearly half the length of the entire quartet…

The third movement (Molto adagio) has a remarkable heading: in the score Beethoven titles it ‘Hymn of Thanksgiving to the Godhead from an Invalid,’ a clear reflection of the illness he had just come through. This is a variation movement, and Beethoven lays out the slow opening section, full of heartfelt music. But suddenly the music switches to D major and leaps ahead brightly; Beethoven marks this section ‘Feeling New Strength.’ These two sections alternate through this movement (the form is A-B-A-B-A), and the opening section is so varied on each reappearance that it seems to take on an entirely different character each time: each section is distinct, and each is moving in its own way (Beethoven marks the third ‘With the greatest feeling’). This movement has seemed to many listeners the greatest music Beethoven ever wrote. and perhaps the problem of all who try to write about this music is precisely that it cannot be described in words and should be experienced simply as music.”

—  Eric Bromberger,
Borromeo Quartet program notes 

In accordance with these passages, here is a web page with excellent transcriptions for piano by Steven Edwards of Beethoven’s late quartets:

The 16 String Quartets.

Our site music for today, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Opus 132, Movement 3 (1825), is taken from this web page.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Saturday December 14, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 1:44 AM

Back to Bach

Our site music now moves from the romantic longing of “Skylark” to a classical theme: what might be called “the spirit of eight,” by Bach:

Canon 14

Fourteen Canons on the First Eight Notes
of the Goldberg Ground – BWV 1087

For more details, click here.

For a different set of variations on the theme
of “eightness,” see my note

Generating the Octad Generator.

For more details, click here.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Friday December 13, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 5:24 PM

Shall we read? — The sequel

Two stories related to my recent entries on the death of Stan Rice (Sequel, 12/11/02) and the career of Jodie Foster (Rhyme Scheme, 12/13/02)  —

From BBC News World Edition,
Thursday, 12 December, 2002, 15:34 GMT

Entertainment Section

  • Poet Stan Rice dies

    Stan Rice, the poet, painter and husband of author Anne Rice, has died of brain cancer at the age of 60….

    He met his wife, the author of the Vampire Chronicles, when the pair studied journalism together.

  • Abba hit tops dance music poll

    Dancing Queen by Abba has been voted the top dancefloor tune of all time, according to viewers of cable music channel VH1.

That’s Entertainment!

See also my entry of December 5, 2002,
Key (for Joan Didion’s birthday):

I faced myself that day
with the nonplused apprehension
of someone who has come across a vampire
and has no crucifix in hand.

— Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect,”
in Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Divine Comedy

Didion and her husand John Gregory Dunne
(author of The Studio and Monster
wrote the screenplays for
the 1976 version of “A Star is Born”
and the similarly plotted 1996 film
Up Close and Personal.”

If the incomparable Max Bialystock 
were to remake the latter, he might retitle it
Distant and Impersonal.”
A Google search on this phrase suggests
a plot outline for Mel Brooks & Co. 

Friday December 13, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 2:27 PM

Rhyme Scheme

"The introduction of Charge-Coupled Devices (CCDs)
has dramatically changed the methods
astronomers use to view objects."
— Santa Barbara Instrument Group, Inc.

"They should have sent a poet." 
— Jodie Foster in the film version
of Carl Sagan's Contact

star cluster

M16 Nebulous Star Cluster.
300 second Model ST-7
CCD image
taken through a
7", f/7 Astrophysics refractor
utilizing the self-guiding mode.

"Say 'Abba,'
Jesus told
his followers. 
'Our Father.'"



— Rhyme

On the question of what reality is:
"Under what circumstances do we think things are
real? ….

This question speaks to a small, manageable problem
having to do with the camera and not
what it is the camera takes pictures of."

Erving Goffman,    
Frame Analysis, An Essay on
the Organization of Experience
Harper & Row, 1974, p. 2

Friday December 13, 2002

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 12:00 AM

Dead Poets Society

Man’s spirit will be flesh-bound, when found at best,
But úncúmberèd: meadow-dówn is nót distréssed
For a ráinbow fóoting it nor hé for his bónes rísen.

—  The Caged Skylark,

Gerard Manley Hopkins,
Society of Jesus

In accordance with this sentiment,
this midnight in the garden of good and evil
is the occasion for a change of site music
to “Skylark,” by Hoagy Carmichael
(lyrics by Johnny Mercer).

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Thursday December 12, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 2:14 PM

Play It

From a Kol Nidre sermon:

“…in every generation 36 righteous
greet the Shechinah,
   the Divine Presence…” 

A scene at the Sands in Las Vegas,
from Play It As It Lays,
by Joan Didion:

“What do you think,”
Maria could hear
one of the men saying….

“Thirty-six,” the girl said. 
“But a good thirty-six.”

For the rest of the time
Maria was in Las Vegas
she wore dark glasses.
She did not decide to
stay in Vegas: she only
failed to leave.

Today’s site music, in honor of
Sinatra’s birthday, is “Angel Eyes.”

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Wednesday December 11, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:08 PM


Stan Rice,
Poet and Painter,
Is Dead at 60…

New York Times  
Wed Dec 11
06:27:00 EST 2002

“This world is not conclusion;
A sequel stands beyond….”

Emily Dickinson (See yesterday’s notes.)

And the hair of my flesh stood up (Job 4:15).
The emotional quality of the moment is
The religious experience of the atheist.
This is Day Three.
Ezra Pound makes me sit
Under the gold painted equestrian statue
At Central Park South and 5th.

— Stan Rice, “Doing Being” (See yesterday’s notes.)

Stan Rice died on Monday.
Today is Wednesday. 
This is Day Three

15  Then a spirit passed before my face;

the hair of my flesh stood up:
16  it stood still,

but I could not discern the form thereof:
an image was before mine eyes,
there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying,
17  Shall mortal man be more just than God?

Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?

Wednesday December 11, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 AM

Culture Clash at Midnight
in the Garden of Good and Evil

From the Catholic Church:
John V. Apczynski
Dept. of Theology
St. Bonaventure U. 

From Paris, Texas:
Sam Shepard, playwright,
actor, and author of
Great Dream of Heaven.

In a future life, if not in this one, Dante might assign these two theologians to Purgatory, where they could teach one another.  Both might benefit if Shepard took Apczynski’s course “The Intellectual Journey” and if Apczynski read Shepard’s new book of short stories, Great Dream of Heaven

Background music might consist of Sinatra singing “Three Coins in the Fountain” (for Shepard — See my journal notes of December 10, 2002) alternating with the Dixie Chicks singing “Cowboy, Take Me Away” (for Apczynski, who is perhaps unfamiliar with life on the range).  Today’s site music is this fervent prayer by the Dixie Chicks to a cowboy-theologian like Shepard.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Tuesday December 10, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 9:00 PM

Point of No Return

From Dr. Mac’s Cultural Calendar for December 10:

  • On this day in 1864, General William T. Sherman’s Union army reached Savannah and the 12-day siege began.  Sherman was able to present the city to President Lincoln as a “Christmas present.”

An album recorded in September 1961:

Songs in the above list:

September Song * When the World was Young
I’ll Be Seeing You * I’ll See You Again
Memories of You * There Will Never Be Another You
Somewhere Along the Way * A Million Dreams Ago
It’s a Blue World * I’ll Remember April
These Foolish Things

Not in the list, but in the album:

As Time Goes By

The Savannah Connection:

Augustus Saint-Gaudens
William Tecumseh Sherman,
1892-1903 (installed 1903)
Central Park, New York City


The Necessary Angel,

by Wallace Stevens
(New York: Knopf, 1951)
 (New York: Vintage Books, 1966):

“The theory of poetry, that is to say, the total of the theories of poetry, often seems to become in time a mystical theology or, more simply, a mystique. The reason for this must by now be clear. The reason is the same reason why the pictures in a museum of modern art often seem to become in time a mystical aesthetic, a prodigious search of appearance, as if to find a way of saying and of establishing that all things, whether below or above appearance, are one and that it is only through reality, in which they are reflected or, it may be, joined together, that we can reach them. Under such stress, reality changes from substance to subtlety….”

Part of a journal entry for
October 25, 2002:


See… Bonaventure’s
Itinerarium Mentis in Deum

a graves list for Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah,
final resting place for Johnny Mercer and plot key
to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Point of No Return was Sinatra’s
last album for Capitol.

Note the strategic placement
of the Capitol Records logo
on the album cover.

Tuesday December 10, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 2:00 PM

Great Dream of Heaven

The title is that of Sam Shepard’s new book of short stories.  It is relevant to several of my recent journal entries.

This author’s own title also seems relevant.  Here is an excerpt from a web page on The Church of the Good Shepherd:

“This is the oldest church in Beverly Hills, and over the years, this small house of worship has been the local parish church for most of the Catholic movie stars who live in Beverly Hills…. It has seen numerous celebrity weddings and funerals. Although the church’s interior is modest (it seats just 600), and its decor surprisingly simple, the Church of the Good Shepherd has been featured in several Hollywood films: most notably, it was the location for the funeral scene in the 1954 version of ‘A Star is Born.'”

Today’s Birthday: Emily Dickinson

Complete Poems, 1924 

Part Four: Time and Eternity


This world is not conclusion;
A sequel stands beyond….


Born Yesterday: Kirk Douglas 

From Douglas’s Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning (Simon & Schuster, 1997) —

“Selling artwork, devoting time to charitable causes, writing novels, are all worthwhile means of occupying your time when good scripts aren’t coming your way.  But then, in the spring of 1993, one did.

It was called Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, a story of a growing friendship betwen two old men dealing with the twilight of their lives…. It was brilliant….

I called my agent… “So make the deal.”

A long pause.  “But the director wants to meet you.” ….

…. My agent called the next day. “She really likes you, Kirk… but… ah,” he started to stutter.


“She wants Richard Harris.”

In the film of
Wrestling Ernest Hemingway 
as finally made,
Richard Harris dies on
Hemingway’s birthday.

Dead on October 25, 2002,
Picasso’s Birthday:

Actor Richard Harris  

A journal entry of October 25, 2002:

Wrestling Pablo Picasso

Aster on a
Greek Vase

Picasso by Karsh

Wrestling Ernest

The old men know when an old man dies.
— Ogden Nash

A description of the title story
in Sam Shepard’s Great Dream of Heaven:

“Two old men who share a house are as close as a married couple until a competition to wake up first in the morning and a mutual fascination with a Denny’s waitress drive them apart.”

Tuesday December 10, 2002

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 1:06 AM

Three Coins in the Fountain



Sol Invictus

The reverse of three bronze coins
minted during Constantine’s early years

"Constantine like many of his predecessors had worshipped the Greek and Roman gods, particularly Apollo, Mars and Victory. This fact is evident in the portrayal of these gods on the earliest of Constantine’s coins. Yet surprisingly, even after his dream experience, and subsequent victory over Maxentius, it is recorded that he continued to worship these gods. Although the images of Apollo, Mars and Victory quickly disappeared from his coinage, later coins minted under Constantine shows that he likely continued to worship the sol invicta [sic] or ‘Unconquered Sun’ for 10 years or more after his dream experience. Yet, over a period of years, the experience of the sign, and the victory at the Milvian bridge, eventually led Constantine to favour and later to convert to the Christian faith."

— Ross Nightingale, "The 'Sign' that Changed the Course of History," in Ancient Coin Forum

"Three coins in the fountain,
Each one seeking happiness.
Thrown by three hopeful lovers,
Which one will the fountain bless?

Three hearts in the fountain,
Each heart longing for its home.
There they lie in the fountain
Somewhere in the heart of Rome."

Sinatra's version of the 1954 song
(Lyrics by Sammy Cahn,
 music by Jule Styne)

Which one will the fountain bless?

In order to answer this theological conundrum, we need to know more about the unfamiliar god Sol Invictus.

A quick web search reveals that some fanatical Protestants believe that the Roman deities Sol Invictus and Mithra were virtually the same.  Of course, it is unwise to take the paranoid ravings of Protestants too seriously, but in this case they may be on to something.

The Catholic Church itself seems to identify Sol Invictus with Mithra:

"Sunday was kept holy in honour of Mithra…. The 25 December was observed as his birthday, the natalis invicti, the rebirth of the winter-sun, unconquered by the rigours of the season. A Mithraic community was not merely a religious congregation…"

The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition.

Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

It would seem, therefore, that as December 25 approaches we are preparing to celebrate the festival of Sol Invictus. This perhaps answers the theological riddle posed by Sammy Cahn.

From "Things Change," starring Don Ameche:
"A big man knows the value of a small coin."

Today's site music celebrates
Cahn, Styne, Sinatra, and the spirit of the 1950's.
Many thanks to
Loyd's Piano Music Page
for this excellent rendition of a Styne classic

Monday, December 9, 2002

Monday December 9, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 2:27 PM


A Metaphysical State

Diane Keaton

Frank Sinatra

“Heaven is a state, a sort of metaphysical state.”

 — John O’Hara, Hope of Heaven, 1938

“I’ve always been enthralled by the notion that Time is an illusion, a trick our minds play in an attempt to keep things separate, without any reality of its own. My experience suggests that this is literally true, but not the kind of truth that can be acted upon….

I’m always sad and always happy. As someone says in Diane Keaton’s film ‘Heaven,’ ‘It’s kind of a lost cause, but it’s a great experience.'”

 — Charles Small, Harvard ’64 25th Anniv. Report, 1989

“As a child she would wait out her naptime like a prison sentence.  She would lie in bed and stare at the wallpaper pattern and wonder what would happen if there were no heaven.  She thought the universe would probably go on and on, spilling all over everything.  Heaven was kind of a hat on the universe, a lid that kept everything underneath it where it belonged.”

 — Carrie Fisher, Postcards from the Edge, 1987

Today’s site music illustrates 
the above philosophical remarks.

Sunday, December 8, 2002

Sunday December 8, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:48 PM

From a Spanish-English dictionary:

lucero m. morning or evening star:
any bright star….
2. hole in a window panel for the
admission of light….
Sal a tu ventana,
que mi canto es para ti….
Lucero, lucero, lucero, lucero

— “Ya la ronda llega aquí

Cross Window Ex Cathedra
See In Mexico City, a Quiet Revelation,
in the New York Times of December 5.
The photo, from a different website, is
   of a room by the architect Luis Barragán.

From the Nobel Prize lecture of Octavio Paz on December 8, 1990 — twelve years ago today:

“Like every child I built emotional bridges in the imagination to link me to the world and to other people. I lived in a town on the outskirts of Mexico City, in an old dilapidated house that had a jungle-like garden and a great room full of books. First games and first lessons. The garden soon became the centre of my world; the library, an enchanted cave. I used to read and play with my cousins and schoolmates. There was a fig tree, temple of vegetation, four pine trees, three ash trees, a nightshade, a pomegranate tree, wild grass and prickly plants that produced purple grazes. Adobe walls. Time was elastic; space was a spinning wheel. All time, past or future, real or imaginary, was pure presence. Space transformed itself ceaselessly. The beyond was here, all was here: a valley, a mountain, a distant country, the neighbours’ patio. Books with pictures, especially history books, eagerly leafed through, supplied images of deserts and jungles, palaces and hovels, warriors and princesses, beggars and kings. We were shipwrecked with Sindbad and with Robinson, we fought with d’Artagnan, we took Valencia with the Cid. How I would have liked to stay forever on the Isle of Calypso! In summer the green branches of the fig tree would sway like the sails of a caravel or a pirate ship. High up on the mast, swept by the wind, I could make out islands and continents, lands that vanished as soon as they became tangible. The world was limitless yet it was always within reach; time was a pliable substance that weaved an unbroken present.”

Today’s site music is courtesy of the Sinatra MIDI Files

Saturday, December 7, 2002

Saturday December 7, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 11:59 PM

This space reserved for a glass slipper.

Saturday December 7, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 9:30 PM


Shall we read?

From Contact, by Carl Sagan:

  “You mean you could decode a picture hiding in pi
and it would be a mess of Hebrew letters?”
  “Sure.  Big black letters, carved in stone.”
  He looked at her quizzically.
  “Forgive me, Eleanor, but don’t you think
you’re being a mite too… indirect? 
You don’t belong to a silent order of Buddhist nuns. 
Why don’t you just tell your

From The Nation – Thailand
Sat Dec 7 19:36:00 EST 2002:

New Jataka books
blend ethics and art

Published on Dec 8, 2002

“The Ten Jataka, or 10 incarnations of the Lord Buddha before his enlightenment, are among the most fascinating religious stories….

His Majesty the King wrote a marvellous book on the second incarnation of the Lord Buddha…. It has become a classic, with the underlying aim of encouraging Thais to pursue the virtue of perseverance.

For her master’s degree at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Arts, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn wrote a dissertation related to the Ten Jataka of the Buddha. Now with the 4th Cycle Birthday of Princess Sirindhorn approaching on April 2, 2003, a group of artists, led by prominent painter Theeraphan Lorpaiboon, has produced a 10-volume set, the “Ten Jataka of Virtues”, as a gift to the Princess.

Once launched on December 25, the “Ten Jataka of Virtues” will rival any masterpiece produced in book form….”

“How much story do you want?” 
— George Balanchine

Saturday December 7, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 4:01 PM

Satori at Pearl Harbor

The following old weblog entry seems
relevant both to the Zen concept of satori,
or “awakening,” and to Pearl Harbor Day.

Saturday, October 5, 2002… 11:30 PM

The Message from Vega

“Mercilessly tasteful”
 — Andrew Mueller,
review of Suzanne Vega’s
Songs in Red and Gray

The appropriate response to Vega’s Buddhism today seems to be the following classic by James Taylor:

“Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus?
You’ve got to help me make a stand…”

This is today’s new site background music.

For more log entries relevant to today, see 

Satori at Pearl Harbor.

Friday, December 6, 2002

Friday December 6, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 1:06 PM

Great Simplicity

Frank Tall







is the day that Daisetsu Suzuki attained satori,
according to the Zen Calendar.  “Daisetsu” is
said to mean “Great Simplicity.”

For those who prefer Harry Potter and
Diagon Alley, here is another calendar:

To Have and Have Not

Those who prefer traditional Western religions may like a site on the Trinity that contains this:

“Zen metaphysics is perhaps most succinctly set forth in the words ‘not-two.”  But even when he uses this expression, Suzuki is quick to assert that it implies no monism.  Not-two, it is claimed, is not the same as one.*  But when Suzuki discusses the relationship of Zen with Western mysticism, it is more difficult to escape the obvious monistic implications of his thinking.  Consider the following:

We are possessed of the habit of looking at Reality by dividing it into two… It is all due to the human habit of splitting one solid Reality into two, and the result is that my ‘have’ is no ‘have’ and my ‘have not’ is no ‘have not.’  While we are actually passing, we insist that the gap is impassable.**”

*See: Daisetz T. Suzuki, ‘Basic Thoughts Underlying  Eastern Ethical and Social Practice’ in Philosophy and Culture  East and West: East-West Philosophy in Practical Perspective, ed. Charles A. Moore (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1968), p. 429

** Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki, Mysticism Christian and Buddhist (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1957, Unwin paperback, 1979), p. 57.

Personally, I am reminded by Suzuki’s satori on this date that today is the eve of the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  I am also reminded by the rather intolerant tract on the Trinity quoted above that the first atomic bomb was exploded in the New Mexico desert at a test site named Trinity.  Of course, sometimes intolerance is justified.

Concluding unscientific postscript:

On the same day in 1896 that D. T. Suzuki attained satori,
lyricist Ira Gershwin was born.

Dies irae, dies illa.

Friday December 6, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:25 AM

St. Nicholas versus Mt. Doom

Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas, who is thought to have died on December 6.

For some meditations on time, click here

For a perhaps more pleasant meditation — on eternity — listen to this site’s background music, which has been changed in honor of the birth, on December 6, 1896, of lyricist Ira Gershwin.

Thursday, December 5, 2002

Thursday December 5, 2002

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 3:00 PM

For Otto Preminger’s birthday:


Today’s symbol-mongering (see my Sept. 7, 2002, note The Boys from Uruguay) involves two illustrations from the website of the Deutsche Schule Montevideo, in Uruguay.  The first, a follow-up to Wallace Stevens’s remarks on poetry and painting in my note “Sacerdotal Jargon” of earlier today, is a poem, “Lichtung,” by Ernst Jandl, with an illustration by Lucia Spangenberg.


manche meinen
lechts und rinks
kann man nicht
werch ein illtum!

by Ernst Jandl

Lucia Spangenberg, 2002.

The second, from the same school, illustrates the meaning of “Lichtung” explained in my note The Shining of May 29:  

“We acknowledge a theorem’s beauty when we see how the theorem ‘fits’ in its place, how it sheds light around itself, like a Lichtung, a clearing in the woods.”
— Gian-Carlo Rota, page 132 of Indiscrete Thoughts, Birkhauser Boston, 1997

From the Deutsche Schule Montevideo mathematics page, an illustration of the Pythagorean theorem:

Braucht´s noch Text?

Thursday December 5, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 PM


Today is Joan Didion’s birthday.  It is also the date that the first Phi Beta Kappa chapter was formed, at the College of William and Mary.

A reading for today, from a web page called Respect:

“In her book Slouching Toward Bethlehem Didion writes about being a student in college. She says she expected to be voted into Phi Beta Kappa but discovered she didn’t have the grades for it. She says: ‘I had somehow thought myself [as being] exempt from the cause-effect relationships which hampered others.’ But, Didion continues:

Although even the humorless nineteen-year-old that I was must have recognized that the situation lacked tragic stature, the day that I did not make Phi Beta Kappa nonetheless marked the end of something, and innocence may well be the word for it. I lost the conviction that lights would always turn green for me, the pleasant certainty that those rather passive virtues which had won me approval as a child automatically guaranteed me not only Phi Beta Kappa keys but happiness, honor, and the love of a good man. I lost a certain touching faith in the totem power of good manners, clean hair, and proven competence on the Stanford-Binet scale. To such doubtful amulets had my self-respect been pinned, and I faced myself that day with the nonplused apprehension of someone who has come across a vampire and has no crucifix in hand.

What Joan Didion discovered in the wake of this incident was that self-respect, although it was of importance, had to come from something inside her, rather than from the approval of others. She says she learned that self-respect has to do with ‘a separate peace, a private reconciliation,’ and at the heart of it is a willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life, whatever its rewards or lack of them. Didion says:

… people with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes. They know the price of things…. People with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues.

— Comments by David Sammons

For more of Didion’s essay, click here.

Thursday December 5, 2002

Sacerdotal Jargon

From the website

Abstracts and Preprints in Clifford Algebra [1996, Oct 8]:

Paper:  clf-alg/good9601
From:  David M. Goodmanson
Address:  2725 68th Avenue S.E., Mercer Island, Washington 98040

Title:  A graphical representation of the Dirac Algebra

Abstract:  The elements of the Dirac algebra are represented by sixteen 4×4 gamma matrices, each pair of which either commute or anticommute. This paper demonstrates a correspondence between the gamma matrices and the complete graph on six points, a correspondence that provides a visual picture of the structure of the Dirac algebra.  The graph shows all commutation and anticommutation relations, and can be used to illustrate the structure of subalgebras and equivalence classes and the effect of similarity transformations….

Published:  Am. J. Phys. 64, 870-880 (1996)

The following is a picture of K6, the complete graph on six points.  It may be used to illustrate various concepts in finite geometry as well as the properties of Dirac matrices described above.

The complete graph on a six-set

"The Relations between Poetry and Painting,"
by Wallace Stevens:

"The theory of poetry, that is to say, the total of the theories of poetry, often seems to become in time a mystical theology or, more simply, a mystique. The reason for this must by now be clear. The reason is the same reason why the pictures in a museum of modern art often seem to become in time a mystical aesthetic, a prodigious search of appearance, as if to find a way of saying and of establishing that all things, whether below or above appearance, are one and that it is only through reality, in which they are reflected or, it may be, joined together, that we can reach them. Under such stress, reality changes from substance to subtlety, a subtlety in which it was natural for Cézanne to say: 'I see planes bestriding each other and sometimes straight lines seem to me to fall' or 'Planes in color. . . . The colored area where shimmer the souls of the planes, in the blaze of the kindled prism, the meeting of planes in the sunlight.' The conversion of our Lumpenwelt went far beyond this. It was from the point of view of another subtlety that Klee could write: 'But he is one chosen that today comes near to the secret places where original law fosters all evolution. And what artist would not establish himself there where the organic center of all movement in time and space—which he calls the mind or heart of creation— determines every function.' Conceding that this sounds a bit like sacerdotal jargon, that is not too much to allow to those that have helped to create a new reality, a modern reality, since what has been created is nothing less."

Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Wednesday December 4, 2002

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 11:22 PM

Symmetry and a Trinity

From a web page titled Spectra:

"What we learn from our whole discussion and what has indeed become a guiding principle in modern mathematics is this lesson:

Whenever you have to do with a structure-endowed entity  S try to determine its group of automorphisms, the group of those element-wise transformations which leave all structural relations undisturbed. You can expect to gain a deep insight into the constitution of S in this way. After that you may start to investigate symmetric configurations of elements, i.e., configurations which are invariant under a certain subgroup of the group of all automorphisms . . ."

— Hermann Weyl in Symmetry, Princeton University Press, 1952, page 144



"… any color at all can be made from three different colors, in our case, red, green, and blue lights. By suitably mixing the three together we can make anything at all, as we demonstrated . . .

Further, these laws are very interesting mathematically. For those who are interested in the mathematics of the thing, it turns out as follows. Suppose that we take our three colors, which were red, green, and blue, but label them A, B, and C, and call them our primary colors. Then any color could be made by certain amounts of these three: say an amount a of color A, an amount b of color B, and an amount c of color C makes X:

X = aA + bB + cC.

Now suppose another color Y is made from the same three colors:

Y = a'A + b'B + c'C.

Then it turns out that the mixture of the two lights (it is one of the consequences of the laws that we have already mentioned) is obtained by taking the sum of the components of X and Y:

Z = X + Y = (a + a')A + (b + b')B + (c + c')C.

It is just like the mathematics of the addition of vectors, where (a, b, c ) are the components of one vector, and (a', b', c' ) are those of another vector, and the new light Z is then the "sum" of the vectors. This subject has always appealed to physicists and mathematicians."

— According to the author of the Spectra site, this is Richard Feynman in Elementary Particles and the Laws of Physics, The 1986 Dirac Memorial Lectures, by Feynman and Steven Weinberg, Cambridge University Press, 1989.

These two concepts — symmetry as invariance under a group of transformations, and complicated things as linear combinations (the technical name for Feynman's sums) of simpler things — underlie much of modern mathematics, both pure and applied.      

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Tuesday December 3, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 9:25 PM

From the Erlangen Program
to Category Theory

See the following, apparently all by Jean-Pierre Marquis, Département de Philosophie, Université de Montréal:

See also the following by Marquis:

Tuesday December 3, 2002

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 1:45 PM

Symmetry, Invariance, and Objectivity

The book Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World, by Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick, was reviewed in the New York Review of Books issue dated June 27, 2002.

On page 76 of this book, published by Harvard University Press in 2001, Nozick writes:

"An objective fact is invariant under various transformations. It is this invariance that constitutes something as an objective truth…."

Compare this with Hermann Weyl's definition in his classic Symmetry (Princeton University Press, 1952, page 132):

"Objectivity means invariance with respect to the group of automorphisms."

It has finally been pointed out in the Review, by a professor at Göttingen, that Nozick's book should have included Weyl's definition.

I pointed this out on June 10, 2002.

For a survey of material on this topic, see this Google search on "nozick invariances weyl" (without the quotes).

Nozick's omitting Weyl's definition amounts to blatant plagiarism of an idea.

Of course, including Weyl's definition would have required Nozick to discuss seriously the concept of groups of automorphisms. Such a discussion would not have been compatible with the current level of philosophical discussion at Harvard, which apparently seldom rises above the level of cocktail-party chatter.

A similarly low level of discourse is found in the essay "Geometrical Creatures," by Jim Holt, also in the issue of the New York Review of Books dated December 19, 2002. Holt at least writes well, and includes (if only in parentheses) a remark that is highly relevant to the Nozick-vs.-Weyl discussion of invariance elsewhere in the Review:

"All the geometries ever imagined turn out to be variations on a single theme: how certain properties of a space remain unchanged when its points get rearranged."  (p. 69)

This is perhaps suitable for intelligent but ignorant adolescents; even they, however, should be given some historical background. Holt is talking here about the Erlangen program of Felix Christian Klein, and should say so. For a more sophisticated and nuanced discussion, see this web page on Klein's Erlangen Program, apparently by Jean-Pierre Marquis, Département de Philosophie, Université de Montréal. For more by Marquis, see my later entry for today, "From the Erlangen Program to Category Theory."

Monday, December 2, 2002

Monday December 2, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 10:00 PM

Art isn't Easy

In honor of Georges Seurat, whose birthday is today, this site's music is now "Putting It Together," by Stephen Sondheim.

For a relevant quote by Sondheim and some related material, see

Sunday, December 1, 2002

Sunday December 1, 2002

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:25 PM

Milestones in Catholic History

From Dr. Mac’s Cultural Calendar:

  • On this day in 1929, Bingo was invented
      by Edwin S. Lowe.

The wording of this masterpiece of ecclesiastical history, apparently written by a Protestant (though not very Protestant), leaves something to be desired. See Bingo History for more details.

Shamrock Bingo Angel

“It never hurts to have an Irish angel on your team! This adorable red-headed fabric cherub, complete with sparkling golden wings and a shamrock necklace, just may be someone’s lucky charm.”

For a Jewish approach to this milestone of theology, see my note commemorating the death, on Christmas Day, 2000, of one of the twentieth century’s great Scrooge figures, Willard van Orman Quine:

On Linguistic Creation.

As that note observes, we may imagine Quine to have escaped the torments of Hell.  For some further adventures, see my note Quine in Purgatory

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