Friday, February 28, 2003

Friday February 28, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 6:09 PM

The Fred Rogers Memorial Koan

What song does the blackbird sing in the dead of night?

For the answer, see this touching tribute to Mister Rogers.

See also my Feb. 26, 2003, entry, “Blackbirds, Bye-Bye,” and the Feb. 25, 2003, entries, “For Mark Rothko,” and “Song of Not-Self.”

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Wednesday February 26, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 7:20 PM

Blackbirds, Bye-Bye 

On this date in 1986, Robert Penn Warren was appointed the first Poet Laureate of the United States of America.

Two readings:

See also my five log entries of October 26, 2002, and the preceding day.

Wednesday February 26, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 4:40 AM

He Ain’t Heavy

Songwriter Tom Glazer, 88, died Friday, February 21, 2003.  From his New York Times obituary:

“Tom Glazer occasionally speculated about meeting St. Peter at the Pearly Gates and being asked what he accomplished in music.”


From the official Department of Defense
Korean War Commemoration website:



America the Beautiful

W: Katherine Lee Baker,
M: Samuel A. Ward

The Battle Hymn
of the Republic

W: Julia Ward Howe,
M: Traditional

The Marine’s Hymn

W: Anonymous,
M: Jacques Offenbach

My Country ‘Tis of Thee

W: Samuel Francis Smith
M: Traditional

Old Soldiers Never Die

Tom Glazer

Sound Off

Willie Lee Duckworth

Stars and Stripes Forever

John Philip Sousa

Washington Post March

John Philip Sousa

West Point Suite

Darius Milhand

You’re a Grand Old Flag

George M. Cohan

Also from the New York Times:

“In 1957 he composed songs and background music for ‘A Face in the Crowd,’ a film directed by Elia Kazan.”

His brother, who spelled his name Sidney Glazier, died in December. He produced the 1968 movie version of ‘The Producers.'”

St. Peter: 

Welcome to The Music Staff.

Wednesday February 26, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 AM

The Eight Revisited

“…search for thirty-three and three…”

The Black Queen in The Eight, by Katherine Neville, Ballantine Books, January 1989, page 140 

Samuel Beckett on Dante and Joyce:

“Another point of comparison is the preoccupation with the significance of numbers….  Thus the poem is divided into three Cantiche, each composed of 33 Canti….”

— “Dante… Bruno. Vico.. Joyce,” in James Joyce/Finnegans Wake: A Symposium (1929), New Directions paperback, 1972

Into the Dark Woods:  

“– Nel mezzo del bloody cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai in…”
Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry, 1947, beginning of Chapter VI

Dante Alighieri Academy:

“‘The Divine Comedy’ celebrates Dante’s journey of knowledge to God through life: hell, purgatory and paradise. Dante Alighieri Academy continues Dante’s Christian philosophy of education….”

Chorus of the Damned:

I don’t know where it is we’re goin’
and God knows if I ever will,
but what a way this is to get there.
I got those archetypal, rubber-room,
astral-plane Moebius strip blues.
I got those in-and-out, round-about,
which way’s out Moebius strip blues.

© 1997 by C.K. Latham

Added March 3, 2003, 6:00 AM:

For a less confused song, click this Glasgow site.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Tuesday February 25, 2003

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 10:23 PM

For Mark Rothko

Plagued in life by depression — what Styron, quoting Milton, called "darkness visible" — Rothko took his own life on this date in 1970.  As a sequel to the previous note, "Song of Not-Self," here are the more cheerful thoughts of the song "Time's a Round," the first of Shiva Dancing: The Rothko Chapel Songs, by C. K. Latham.  See also my comment on the previous entry (7:59 PM).

Time’s a round, time’s a round,
A circle, you see, a circle to be.

— C. K. Latham



Tuesday February 25, 2003

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 1:44 AM

Song of Not-Self

A critic on the abstract expressionists:

"…they painted that reality — that song of self — with a passion, bravura, and decisiveness unequaled in modern art."

Painter Mark Rothko:

"I don't express myself in painting. 
 I express my not-self."

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 February 27, 1971, the Rothko Chapel was formally dedicated in Houston, Texas.

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.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Monday February 24, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 5:00 PM

Dustin in Wonderland

A review of last night’s Grammy awards:

“…the overall mood was a bit subdued (was deadpan host Dustin Hoffman reprising his “Rain Man” role?)….”

Actually, no, it was Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs.” But mistaking a mathematician for an autistic person is a natural error.

Your body is a wonderland.”

(See “All About Lilith,” Feb. 21.)

Focus Group

Uncle Sam Wants You!

(See covers of current Time and next Sunday’s NY Times Book Review.)

Monday February 24, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 4:17 AM

Moulins Rouges

Today is the birthday of composer Michel Legrand (“The Windmills of Your Mind”) and of philologist Wilhelm Grimm (Grimms’ Fairy Tales).




See the following past entries:

October 6, 2002: “Twenty-first Century Fox”

November 7, 2002: “Endgame”

November 8, 2002: “Religious Symbolism at Princeton”

January 5, 2003: “Whirligig”

January 5, 2003: “Culinary Theology”

January 6, 2003: “Dead Poet in the City of Angels”

January 31, 2003: “Irish Fourplay”

February 1, 2003; “Time and Eternity”

February 5, 2003: “Release Date”

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Sunday February 23, 2003

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 5:24 PM

Grammy Night

Today's musical birthday: bassist Steven Priest of Sweet. 

Today's back-to-the-future trip:  See the article "Sweet Tunes…." on Chuck Berry at the top of today's New York Times website.

"Her wall is filled with pictures,
She gets 'em one by one."

— "Sweet Little Sixteen," by Chuck Berry
(Chess Records, January 1958)

Click on the above for the context.

"Are you ready, Steve? Aha….

And the girl in the corner is ev'ryone's mourner.
She could kill you with a wink of her eye."

— "Ballroom Blitz," by Sweet

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Saturday February 22, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 3:15 AM

Straw Dogs


See also
Quotations for
Chairman George

Friday, February 21, 2003

Friday February 21, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 7:08 PM

Shabbos Kodesh

Sabbath readings, music, video, etc.:

“Friday night and the lights are low…” — ABBA

Friday February 21, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 AM


All About Lilith

Today’s birthdays:

Sam Peckinpah (Feb. 21, 1925)
The New Yorker Magazine (Feb. 21, 1925)
Alan Rickman, 57
Kelsey Grammer, 48
Mary Chapin Carpenter, 45
Jennifer Love Hewitt, 24
Charlotte Church, 17

This list suggests that in an ideal future life Sam Peckinpah would direct, and The New Yorker review, a prequel to “All About Eve.”

Casting would be as follows:

Mary Chapin Carpenter as Margo Channing
(originally, Bette Davis)
Charlotte Church as Lilith, sister of Eve Harrington
(originally, Anne Baxter)
Jennifer Love Hewitt as Claudia Casswell
(originally, Marilyn Monroe)
Alan Rickman as Bill Sampson
(originally, Gary Merrill)
Kelsey Grammer as Addison DeWitt
(originally, George Sanders).

Since today is also the anniversary, according to Tom’s Book of Days, of Schultes’s identification of teonanacatl in 1939, the following classic painting, “ Caterpillar’s Mushroom,” by Brian Froud, might be adapted for a poster for our heavenly production*, to be titled, in accordance with celestial fairness doctrines,

All About Lilith 

* A footnote in memory of publicist/producer Jack Brodsky (“Romancing the Stone,” etc.), who died on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2003 — See the website Eight is a Gate for the mystical significance of the number “78” in Judaism. The New Yorker and Sam Peckinpah were born 78 years ago today.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Thursday February 20, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 5:37 AM

Winteler’s Tale

According to Dennis Overbye:

Einstein’s parents “sent him off to a prep school [in Aarau, Switzerland, near Zurich] for a year, for a season [1895-1896].

He lived with a family, the Wintelers, a big, boisterous intellectual family, who were always arguing and bird watching and hiking, and seems to have had a wonderful time. And he got involved with one of the Winteler daughters, Marie….  Albert kept talking about her his whole life, about how he would be consumed in flames if he even saw her again.”

In honor of Marie Winteler, and of the following note, which is seventeen years old today, our site music is now “When You Were Sweet Sixteen,” music and lyrics by James Thornton, 1898.

Click on the above for a larger image.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Tuesday February 18, 2003

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

Fat Man and Dancing Girl


Dance of
Shiva and Kali

Paul Newman as
General Groves


Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, portrayed in the film "Fat Man and Little Boy," died on this date in 1967.

He is sometimes called the "father of the A-bomb."  He said that at the time of the first nuclear test he thought of a line from the Sanskrit holy book, the Bhagavad Gita: "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."  The following gives more details.

The Bomb of the Blue God

M. V. Ramana

Center for Energy and Environmental Studies, Princeton University

Published in SAMAR: South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection, Issue 13

Oppenheimer had learned Sanskrit at Berkeley so as to read the Gita in the original; he always kept a worn pink copy on the bookshelf closest to his desk. It is therefore likely that he may have actually thought of the original, Sanskrit, verse rather than the English translation. The closest that fits this meaning is in the 32nd verse from the 11th chapter of the Gita.

 kalosmi lokaksaya krt pravrddho

This literally means: I am kAla, the great destroyer of Worlds. What is intriguing about this verse, then, is the interpretation of kAla by Jungk and others to mean death. While death is technically one of the meanings of kAla, a more common one is time.  Indeed, the translations of the Gita by S. Radhakrishnan, A. C. Bhaktivedanta, Nataraja Guru and Eliot Deutsch say precisely that. One exception to this, however, is the 1929 translation by Arthur Ryder. And, indeed, in a 1933 letter to his brother, Robert Oppenheimer does mention that he has "been reading the Bhagavad Gita with Ryder and two other Sanskritists." The misinterpretation, therefore, may not have been the fault of Oppenheimer or Jungk. Nevertheless, the verse does not have anything to do with an apocalyptic or catastrophic destruction, as most people have interpreted it in connection with nuclear weapons. When kAla is understood as time, the meaning is drastically changed to being a reminder of our mortality and finite lifetimes ­ as also the lifetimes of everything else in this world (including plutonium and uranium, despite their long, long, half-lives!). It then becomes more akin to western notions of the "slow march of time" and thus having little to do with the immense destruction caused by a nuclear explosion. While the very first images that arose in the father of the atomic bomb are a somewhat wrong application of Hindu mythology, his recollection of the Bhagavad Gita may have been quite pertinent. As is well known, the Bhagavad Gita was supposedly intended to persuade Arjuna to participate in the Kurukshetra battle that resulted in the killing of thousands. Thus, Oppenheimer may well have been trying to rationalize his involvement in the development of a terrible weapon.

Source: Google cache of

See also
"KAla" (in the Harvard-Kyoto transliteration scheme) is more familiar to the West in the related form of Kali, a goddess sometimes depicted as a dancing girl; Kali is related to kAla, time, according to one website, as "the force which governs and stops time."  See also the novel The Fermata, by Nicholson Baker.

The fact that Oppenheimer thought of Chapter 11, verse 32, of the Gita may, as a mnemonic device, be associated with the use of the number 1132 in Finnegans Wake.

 See 1132 A. D. & Saint Brighid, and my weblog entries of January 5 (Twelfth Night and the whirligig of time), January 31 (St. Bridget's Eve), and February 1 (St. Bridget's Day), 2003.

Tuesday February 18, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 AM

Midnight Flame

Fever isn’t such a new thing;
Fever started long ago.

Miss Peggy Lee

And most of the show is concealed from view.

— Suzanne Vega, “Fat Man and Dancing Girl,” 99.9° F. album

 See the entries of Jan. 5, 2003 and of Feb. 1, 2003.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Monday February 17, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 3:36 PM

Saint Faggot’s Day

“During the European Inquisitions, faggot referred to the sticks used to set fires for burning heretics, or people who opposed the teachings of the Catholic Church. Heretics were required to gather bundles of sticks (‘faggots’) and carry them to the fire that was being built for them. Heretics who changed their beliefs to avoid being killed were forced to wear a faggot design embroidered on their sleeve, to show everyone that they had opposed the Church.”

— Handout

Cover illustration
by Stephen Savage

N.Y. Times Feb. 2, 2003

‘A Box of Matches’:
A Miniaturist’s
Novel of Details

In Nicholson Baker’s novel,
things not worth noticing
eventually become
all there is to notice.

Head White House speechwriter Michael Gerson:

“In the last two weeks, I’ve been returning to Hopkins.  Even in the ‘world’s wildfire,’ he asserts that ‘this Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,/Is immortal diamond.’ A comfort.”
— Vanity Fair, May 2002, page 162

“At midnight on the Emperor’s pavement flit
Flames that no faggot feeds….”

— William Butler Yeats, “Byzantium”

On this date in 1600, Saint Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for heresy by the Roman Catholic Church.

He was resurrected by Saint Frances Yates, who went to her reward on the feast day of Saint Michael and All Angels, 1981.

Monday February 17, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 4:23 AM

Center of Time

Am I….

your fantasy girl
of puzzling parts?

Machine ballerina?

Suzanne Vega


From the
Saint Matthew Passion
 (1729), by
 Johann Sebastian Bach

“The old man of ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ imagined the city’s power as being able to ‘gather’ him into ‘the artifice of eternity’— presumably into ‘monuments of unageing intellect,’ immortal and changeless structures representative of or embodying all knowledge, linked like a perfect machine at the center of time.”

— Karl Parker, Yeats’ Two Byzantiums 

“I wrote Fermata listening to Suzanne Vega, particularly her album ‘99.9° F.’  It affected my mood in just the right way. I found a kind of maniacal intensity in her music that helped me as I typed. So if Fermata is attacked, maybe I can say i’m not responsible because I was under the spell of Suzanne Vega.”

— Nicholson Baker, interview

For some real monuments of unageing intellect, see “Geometrie” in the weblog of Andrea for February 10, 2003.

Monday February 17, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 2:00 AM

Ideal of Hell:
The Burning of Columbia

On February 17, 1865, United States troops entered Columbia, SC.

“By midnight the whole town (except the outskirts) was wrapped in one huge blaze…. My God! what a scene! …. Such a scene as this with the drunken fiendish soldiers in their dark uniforms, infuriated, cursing, screaming, exulting in their work, came nearer the material ideal of hell than anything I ever expect to see again.”

Diary of Emma LeConte, 17, of Columbia

Happy Presidents’ Day.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Sunday February 16, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 3:17 PM

The Recruit, Part Deux

Walter L. Pforzheimer, one of the founding fathers of the Central Intelligence Agency, and its “institutional memory,” died on Monday, February 10, 2003.

From my notes of February 10, 2003:

“… gather me/ Into the artifice of eternity.”

— W. B. Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium”

This poem has a sequel, titled simply “Byzantium” —

At midnight on the Emperor’s pavement flit
Flames that no faggot feeds….

Dying into a dance,  
An agony of trance,  
An agony of flame….

The Emperor’s Pavement

See also yesterday’s note “The Recruit,”
on the CIA and what Vonnegut called
“A Duty-Dance with Death.”

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Saturday February 15, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 10:48 PM

The Recruit

From an obituary of Walt W. Rostow, advisor to presidents and Vietnam hardliner:

“During World War II, he served in the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor agency to the Central Intelligence Agency.”

Rostow died on Thursday, February 13, 2003, the anniversary of the 1945 firebombing of Dresden.

Like von Neumann, Rostow exemplified the use of intellectuals by the state.  From a memoir by Rostow:

“…in mid-1941…. American military intelligence… was grossly inadequate….

…military leaders… learned that they needed intellectuals….

Thus the link was forged that yielded the CIA, RAND, the AEC, and all the other institutionalized links between intellectual life and national security that persist down to the present.”

— Walt W. Rostow, “Recollections of the Bombing,”
    University of Texas web page

“Look at that caveman go!”

— Remark in my entry of February 13, 2003

“So it goes.”

— Remark of Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse-Five

See also

Tralfamadorian Structure
in Slaughterhouse-Five

which includes the following passage:

“…the nonlinear characterization of Billy Pilgrim emphasizes that he is not simply an established identity who undergoes a series of changes but all the different things he is at different times.”

For a more recent nonlinear characterization, see the poem “Fermata” by Andrew Zawacki in The New Yorker magazine, issue dated Feb. 17 and 24, 2003, pp. 160-161.  Zawacki is thirty years younger than I, but we share the same small home town.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Friday February 14, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:48 PM

Movie Date

For John and Klara von Neumann,
because they gave good parties:

"We gotta hurry or it's gonna be dark
'fore we get home!" 

Home Before Dark

A song by Judy Collins:

I won't be long
Don't worry about me
I'll be home before dark

Plato's Cave Valentine's Day Schedule

at UA Market Fair Movies,
 3521 Route 1
Princeton, NJ 08540 

Before-dark* showtime:

The Pianist, 5:30 PM

After-dark showtime:

The Recruit, 7:15 PM

* "Swiftly flow the years."

"Nothing is as it seems."

Friday February 14, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 4:44 AM

Toy Soldiers

From a website biography of John von Neumann:

It is noteworthy that he was uninhibited by ethical considerations in weaponry. I was surprised, therefore, when he died a Roman Catholic. To be sure, his first wife had been Catholic. I presume that he was a nominal one in those early days of his marriage. In his last illness, he asked for a clergyman, but he surprised them by insisting upon a Roman Catholic priest. A Benedictine was succeeded by a Jesuit for instruction. The attending Air Force chaplain told me that Johnny could quote the Penitential Psalms in Latin. 

— “Von Neumann, Jewish Catholic,” by Raymond J. Seeger, in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 40 (December 1988): 234-236.   

The sixth of the Seven Penitential Psalms is Psalm 129, “De Profundis.”

From the film “The Sixth Sense“:



Only a few people sit and pray in the sea of oak pews. Malcolm scans the majestic room and finds what he’s looking for in the last row of the church. He moves down the center aisle towards the back.

Malcolm finds Cole playing in his pew with a set of green and beige plastic soldiers. Cole makes the soldiers talk to each other.



What was that you were saying before with your soldiers?
Day pro fun.


…De profundis clamo ad te domine.

Malcolm stares surprised.


It’s called Latin. It’s a language.

Malcolm nods at the information.


All your soldiers speak Latin?


No, just one.

Friday February 14, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:25 AM

Matrix Theory

“At the heart of The Matrix, buried under layers of cinema craft, is a meditation on the difference between essence and appearance. It’s a trip into Plato’s cave.”

McKenzie Wark, author of A Hacker Manifesto

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Thursday February 13, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 11:30 PM

From Plato’s Cave
(Von Neumann’s Song, Part III)

In this entry we return to the classic words of the Hollywood Argyles as they sing a paean of praise to St. John von Neumann:

He’s the king of the jungle jive.
Look at that caveman go!

This meditation is prompted by a description of caveman life by the functional analysis working group at the University of Tübingen:

John von

“Soon Freud, soon mourning,
Soon Fried, soon fight.
Nevertheless who know this language?”

(Language courtesy of
Google’s translation software)

Picture of von Neumann courtesy of
Princeton University Library 

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Wednesday February 12, 2003

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 3:00 AM

Diamond Life
(Von Neumann’s Song, Part II)

A reader of yesterday’s entry “St. John von Neumann’s Song” suggested the relevance of little Dougie Hofstadter‘s book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.  While the title of this work does continue the “golden” theme of my last three entries, Dougie is not playing in von Neumann’s league.  The nature of this league is suggested by yesterday’s citation of

Abstract Harmonic Analysis. 

For work that is more in von Neumann’s league than in Hofstadter’s, see the following

harmonic analysis abstract:


Maria Girardi and Lutz Weis

…. The approach used combines methods from Fourier analysis and the geometry of Banach spaces, such as R-boundedness.

A related paper by the same authors:


…smooth operator-valued functions have a R-bounded range, where the degree of smoothness depends on the geometry of the Banach space.

Those who would like to make a connection to music in the charmingly childlike manner of Hofstadter are invited to sing a few choruses of “How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Personally, I prefer the following lyrics:

Diamond life, lover boy;
We move in space with minimum waste and maximum joy.
City lights and business nights
When you require streetcar desire for higher heights.

No place for beginners or sensitive hearts
When sentiment is left to chance.
No place to be ending but somewhere to start.

No need to ask.
He’s a smooth operator….

Words and Music: Sade Adu and Ray St. John

Some may wish to alter the last five syllables of these lyrics in accordance with yesterday’s entry on another St. John.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Tuesday February 11, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 5:10 PM

St. John von Neumann’s Song

The mathematician John von Neumann, a heavy drinker and party animal, advocated a nuclear first strike on Moscow.*  Confined to a wheelchair before his death, he was, some say, the inspiration for Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.  He was a Jew converted to Catholicism.  His saint’s day was February 8.  Here is an excerpt from a book titled Abstract Harmonic Analysis**, just one of the fields illuminated by von Neumann’s brilliance:

“…von Neumann showed that an intrinsic definition can be given for the mean M(f) of an almost periodic function…. Von Neumann proved the existence and properties of M(f) by completely elementary methods….”

Should W. B. Yeats wander into the Catholic Anticommunists’ section of Paradise, he might encounter, as in “Sailing to Byzantium,” an unexpected set of “singing-masters” there: the Platonic archetypes of the Hollywood Argyles.

The Argyles’ attire is in keeping with Yeats’s desire for gold in his “artifice of eternity”… In this case, gold lamé, but hey, it’s Hollywood.  The Argyles’ lyrics will no doubt be somewhat more explicit in heaven.  For instance, in “Alley Oop,” the line

“He’s a mean motor scooter and a bad go-getter”

will in its purer heavenly version be rendered

“He’s a mean M(f)er and…”

in keeping with von Neumann’s artifice of eternity described above.

This theological meditation was suggested by previous entries on Yeats, music and Catholicism (see Feb. 8, von Neumann’s saint’s day) and by the following recent weblog entries of a Harvard senior majoring in mathematics:

“I changed my profile picture to Oedipus last night because I felt cursed by fate….”

“It’s not rational for me to believe that I am cursed, that the gods are set against me.  Because I don’t even believe in any gods!”

The spiritual benefits of a Harvard education are summarized by this student’s new profile picture:

The image “http://log24.com/log/pix03/030211-oedipus.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.


*Source: Von Neumann and the Development of Game Theory

**by Harvard professor Lynn H. Loomis, Van Nostrand, 1953, p. 169.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Monday February 10, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 11:11 PM


Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
— William Butler Yeats


Shari Lewis

One wonders whether Yeats will spend at least some small part of eternity in the pleasant company of Jimmy Durante and Shari Lewis, whom I would want to have among my singing-masters.  One also hopes that tonight they are celebrating Durante’s birthday in that very pleasant part of heaven called Shariland.  Hence tonight’s site music, “The Song That Never Ends.”  This could, of course, easily become more hellish than heavenly if Durante were not himself present to yell, at an appropriate time, “Stop the music!”

Monday February 10, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 2:03 AM

Rainbow’s End

For Ernst Kitzinger, professor of Byzantine art at Harvard, who died at 90 on January 22, 2003. 

In “Sailing to Byzantium,” the poet W. B. Yeats wrote of Ireland,

That is no country for old men….
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Don’t ever tell me the gods have no sense of humor.  After writing the phrase “rainbow’s-end gold” in yesterday’s entry, “Messe,” I came across an obituary of Professor Kitzinger, which naturally prompted me to look for a good web page on “Sailing to Byzantium.”

The poem concludes with images of “gold mosaic,” “Grecian goldsmiths,” “hammered gold,” “gold enamelling,” and “a golden bough.”  I had forgotten that Yeats’s poem begins to sound rather like the curse of King Midas.  And then the touch of divinity: the perfect deflation of Yeatsian and Byzantine pretentiousness, on the following web page:


at “The Lonesome Surf-In Poetry Cafe.”  With lovely faux-gold borders, this page has as background music a gloriously cheesy rendition of “Moon River.”  (Rainbow’s end… Waitin’ ’round the bend….) So much for the Tiffany’s approach to poetry.

I still admire Yeats’ respect
For monuments of intellect
But even though I’m getting old
Can’t share his appetite for gold.

For a rather different “artifice of eternity,”
see my entry of February 1, 2003,

Time and Eternity.

Sunday, February 9, 2003

Sunday February 9, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 7:26 PM



Yesterday's entry, "Requiem for a Queen," suggested a certain resemblance between the Jedburgh death mask of Mary Queen of Scots and the face of actress Vivien Leigh.  The following links are related to this resemblance.

  1. The first great stage success of Miss Leigh was in a play called "The Mask of Virtue," which opened on May 15, 1935.
  2. Leigh was educated for eight years at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton.
  3. A requiem mass for Miss Leigh was held at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Mary's, Cadogan Street, London, on 12th July 1967, at 10 o'clock. On the coffin were her favorite white roses, picked from her garden at Tickerage Mill in Sussex.

Yesterday's site music, "The Water is Wide," was suggested by T. S. Eliot's language in Four Quartets.  Whether Eliot's use of the motto of the Catholic queen Mary Stuart, "In my end is my beginning," was meant as a tribute to that monarch is debatable.  As one web forum entry points out, the motto "Ma fin est ma [sic] commencement" is the title of a rondeau by Guillaume de Machaut written some two centuries earlier, and Eliot may have taken his motto from Machaut rather than Mary.  Some evidence for this is provided by the lyrics for Machaut's rondeau, which include Eliot's phrase "in my beginning is my end" as well as the reversed version.  At any rate, Machaut and Eliot share an interest in four-part compositions — as do I and as did, apparently, the compilers of the Gospels.

A search on the phrase Machaut Eliot "four part"  yields an essay that to me seems like rainbow's-end gold:


by Joseph Dillon Ford

In honor of Ford, Eliot, Machaut, Leigh, and Stuart, today's site music is the "Kyrie" from Machaut's "Messe de Notre Dame."

Saturday, February 8, 2003

Saturday February 8, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 2:00 AM

Requiem for a Queen

On February 8, 1587, Mary Queen of Scots was executed.

Jedburgh Death Mask

“En ma Fin gît mon Commencement…”
“In my End is my Beginning…”

“This is the saying which Mary embroidered on her cloth of estate whilst in prison in England and is the theme running through her life. It symbolises the eternity of life after death….”

The Marie Stuart Society

Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

— T. S. Eliot, conclusion of “East Coker” in Four Quartets

In keeping with Eliot’s words, tonight’s site music is

The Water is Wide.”

Friday, February 7, 2003

Friday February 7, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 5:00 AM

Saint’s Day

Today is the birthday of Thomas More, an alleged Catholic saint, and the date of death of Dale Evans, Protestant saint.

As yesterday’s note implies, we should not look to saints, or indeed to religion generally, for truth.  Those who mistake the stories of the Church or the Bible for truth have done, and continue to do, a great deal of harm in this world.  But those who seek, not truth, but values, in stories may sometimes be among the blessed — as Dale Evans certainly was, and as Thomas More, after centuries of atoning for his sins in Purgatory, may, by this time, be.

Let us pray that young Catholics (like the girl pictured at St. Thomas More Catholic School in Chapel Hill, N. C.) learn the proper uses of stories, as well as of more respectable intellectual disciplines.

Thursday, February 6, 2003

Thursday February 6, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 2:00 AM

Happy Waitangi Day

Today is Waitangi Day in New Zealand; 2:00 AM EST Feb. 6 in the USA is 8:00 PM Feb. 6 in New Zealand.

Today is also the birthday of Gigi Perreau, star of “Journey to the Center of Time,” which at least one reviewer thought was the worst movie ever made.  These properties of Feb. 6 make it a suitable holiday to be observed at the newly opened Cullinane College in New Zealand.

For starters, students can review the five log24.net entries that end with a brief tribute to Gigi on January 22, 2003.  Also a tribute to Gigi, tonight’s site music is “Song of Time,” from “The Legend of Zelda.”

These cultural activities seem appropriate for those who, in the Roman Catholic tradition, prefer stories to truth.

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Wednesday February 5, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 5:25 PM

Release Date

From Dr. Mac’s Cultural Calendar —

  • Novelist William S. Burroughs [of the Burroughs adding machine family], author of Naked Lunch, was born on this day in 1914.
  • The Charlie Chaplin film “Modern Times was released on this day in 1936.
  • The adding machine employing depressible keys was patented on this day in 1850.

“It all adds up.” — Saul Bellow, book title

“I see my light come shining
 From the west unto the east.
 Any day now, any day now,
 I shall be released.”
     — Bob Dylan

“The theme of the film is heavily influenced by its release date….”

— Jonathan L. Bowen, review of “Modern Times”

At left:
Judy Davis in
Naked Lunch


See also my journal entry “Time and Eternity”
of 5:10 AM EST Saturday, February 1, 2003.

5:10 AM Feb. 1

Judy Davis
as Kali, or Time

9:00 AM Feb. 1


From Robert Morris’s page on Hopkins (see note of Sunday, February 2 (Candlemas)):

“Inscape” was Gerard Manley Hopkins’s term for a special connection between the world of natural events and processes and one’s internal landscape–a frame of mind conveyed in his radical and singular poetry….

This is false, but suggestive.

Checked, corrected, and annotated

Wednesday February 5, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 12:00 AM

Feast of Saint Marianne

On this date in 1972, poet and Presbyterian saint Marianne Moore died in New York City.

For why she was a saint, see the excellent article by Samuel Terrien,

 Marianne Moore: Poet of Secular Holiness,”

from Theology Today, Vol. 47, No. 4, January 1991, published by Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, N. J.

Terrien quotes the following Moore poem:


is an enchanted thing….
Like Gieseking playing Scarlatti….


Tonight’s site music, though not played by Gieseking himself, is, in honor of Moore, the following work by Scarlatti from the Classical Music Archives:

Scarlatti’s Sonata in E major, andante comodo  (Longo 23 = Kirkpatrick 380 = Pestelli 483) 

To purchase a recording of Gieseking playing this work,

click here.

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Tuesday February 4, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 1:15 PM

Mark Hopkins Award

From Dr. Mac’s Cultural Calendar:

  • Mark Hopkins, U.S. educator, was born on this day in 1802.  He taught at Williams College….  President Garfield, one of his students, said that all that was needed for a college was Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other.”

I have never encountered a mentor figure capable of holding down his end of a log in the manner of Mark Hopkins.  The closest I have come to such an encounter is with a book, The Practical Cogitator, by Charles P. Curtis and Ferris Greenslet.

This year’s Mark Hopkins award for the closest approach to the log-sitting ideal goes to David Lavery, whose online commonplace book appears in the column at left.  Lavery, too, appreciates the work of Curtis and Greenslet, as his site indicates.

See also a quote from Lavery in today’s New York Times.

Monday, February 3, 2003

Monday February 3, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 1:33 PM

Good News and Bad News

If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

— T. S. Eliot, beginning of
    Four Quartets

Groundhog Day
is over.

Today is
American Pie Day.

And there we were all in one place 
A generation lost in space

American Pie, by Don McLean

“It’s not a space shuttle
launch… it’s sex.”

Addendum of 8:08 PM February 5, 2003:

Appropriate music for this entry,
other than McLean himself,
might be “Orpheus and the Gig from Hell”
on RealAudio at 
The Walker1812 Files

Sunday, February 2, 2003

Sunday February 2, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 7:00 PM

Steering a Space-Plane

Head White House speechwriter Michael Gerson:

“In the last two weeks, I’ve been returning to Hopkins.  Even in the ‘world’s wildfire,’ he asserts that ‘this Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,/Is immortal diamond.’ A comfort.”
— Vanity Fair, May 2002, page 162

Yesterday’s note, “Time and Eternity,” supplies the “immortal diamond” part of this meditation.  For the “matchwood” part, see the cover of The New York Times Book Review of February 2 (Candlemas), 2003:

Cover illustration
by Stephen Savage

N.Y. Times Feb. 2, 2003

‘A Box of Matches’:
A Miniaturist’s
Novel of Details

In Nicholson Baker’s novel,
things not worth noticing
eventually become
all there is to notice.

See also the Times’s excerpt from Baker‘s first chapter,
about “steering a space-plane.”

For the relationship of Hopkins to Eastern religions,
see “Out of Inscape,” by Robert Morris.

Saturday, February 1, 2003

Saturday February 1, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 5:10 AM

Time and Eternity


Kali figure

Shiva figure




Yesterday’s meditation on St. Bridget suggests the above graphic summary of two rather important philosophical concepts. Representing Kali, or Time, is Judy Davis in “The New Age.” Representing Shiva, or Eternity, is sword-saint Michioka Yoshinori-sensei.  The relationship between these two concepts is summarized very neatly by Heinrich Zimmer in his section on the Kalika Purana in The King and the Corpse.

The relationship is also represented graphically by the “whirl” of Time and the “diamond” of Eternity.

On this day in 1944, Mondrian died.  Echoes of the graphic whirl and diamond may be found (as shown above) in his “Red Mill” and “Victory Boogie-Woogie.”

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