Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Training

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 8:00 AM

A search for previous mentions of Alexandre Borovik in this journal (see previous entry) yields the following–

In Roger Rosenblatt's academic novel Beet, committee members propose their personal plans for a new, improved curriculum:

“… Once the students really got into playing with toy soldiers, they would understand history with hands-on excitement.”

To demonstrate his idea, he’d brought along a shoe box full of toy doughboys and grenadiers, and was about to reenact the Battle of Verdun on the committee table when Heilbrun stayed his hand. “We get it,” he said.

“That’s quite interesting, Molton,” said Booth [a chemist]. “But is it rigorous enough?”

At the mention of the word, everyone, save Peace, sat up straight.

“Rigor is so important,” said Kettlegorf.

“We must have rigor,” said Booth.

“You may be sure,” said the offended Kramer. “I never would propose anything lacking rigor.”

This passage suggests a search for commentary on rigor at Verdun. Voilà

d) The Great War: a study in systematic rigor

… Because treaties had been signed, national pride staked, hands shaken, and honor pledged, two thousand years of civilization based on energetic, creative sacrifice and belief in every person’s sacred spark dissolved in smoldering ruins.  Europe’s leaders played at the “game” of honor without duly considering whether their ends were honorable.  The old boys incited their children— others’ children, and often their own— to volunteer for the slaughterhouse because “death for the fatherland is sweet and fitting.” 7

     If men will thus fling their own sons into the fiery furnace in an obsession with making the system go, what hope is there that a mere game— a true game, a joyful pastime— will liberate itself from systematic rigor to increase the quality of play or to allow more players on the field?

7 Wilfrid Owen borrowed this line from the Roman elegist Horace to mock bitterly the European Old Guard’s staunch support of the War.  The poem was one of Owen’s last: he was killed one week before the Armistice.

— "A  Synthetic Meditation on Baseball, Racism, Closed Systems, and Spiritual Rigor Mortis," by John R. Harris

The Beet excerpt is from a post of Sunday, May 25, 2008– "Hall of Mirrors."

Related material on death and rigor appears in a 1963 commentary by Thornton Wilder on a novel by James Joyce–

"… Joyce's interest is not primarily in the puns but in the simultaneous multiple-level associations which they permit him to pursue. Finnegans Wake appears to me as an immense poem whose subject is the continuity of what is Living, viewed under the guise of a resurrection myth. This poem is conducted under the utmost formal rigor controlling every word and in a style that enables the author through apparently preposterous incongruities to arrive at an ultimate unification and harmony."

"Build it and they will come." — Field of Dreams

Monday, December 5, 2005

Monday December 5, 2005

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 1:00 PM
Magical Thinking
for Joan Didion
on Her Birthday

The Associated Press on the Kennedy Center honors yesterday:

"Dancer Suzanne Farrell was feted by her former colleague at the New York City Ballet, Jacques d'Amboise. The company, led by George Balanchine, 'was the center of American ballet and she was the diamond in its crown,' d'Amboise said."

Log24 on Balanchine

As Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, paraphrasing Horace, remarks in his Whitsun, 1939, preface to the new edition of the Oxford Book of English Verse, "tamen usque recurret Apollo."

The New York Lottery yesterday:

The mid-day number was 926;
the evening number was 373.

For the significance of 926,
see 9/26 2002 and
Balanchine's Birthday.

For the significance of 373, see

  Art Wars,
May 2, 2003,

 White, Geometric, and Eternal,
Dec. 20, 2003,

 Directions Out,
April 26, 2004,

 Outside the World,
April 26, 2004,

 The Last Minute,
Sept. 15, 2004,


Diamonds Are Forever,
Jan. 25, 2005.

See also the link
at the end of
  yesterday's entry.

For related material that is
more personally linked to
Joan Didion, see
Log24, June 1-16, 2004.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Wednesday March 17, 2004

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 4:31 PM

Readings for
St. Patrick's Day


Finnegans Wake (1939)

Gravity's Rainbow (1978)

Masks of the Illuminati (1981)


"Nature does not know extinction;
all it knows is transformation.
Everything science has taught me,
and continues to teach me,
strengthens my belief in
the continuity of our
spiritual existence
after death."

Wernher von Braun

"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


"For every kind of vampire,
there is a kind of cross.

— Thomas Pynchon,
Gravity's Rainbow

Carpenter's Square:

In Latin, NORMA

Multa renascentur quae iam cecidere, cadentque
quae nunc sunt in honore uocabula, si uolet usus,
quem penes arbitrium est et ius et norma loquendi.

Horace, Ars Poetica

Many terms will be born again
that by now have sunk into oblivion,
and many that are now held in respect
will die out if that is what use should dictate
in whose power is the judgment and the law
and the rule of speech.

All, all must perish — but, surviving last,
The love of Letters half preserves the past;
True — some decay, yet not a few revive,
Though those shall sink, which now
     appear to thrive,
As Custom arbitrates, whose shifting sway
Our life and language must alike obey.

Hints from Horace

"Norma was the latin word for what we now call a carpenter's square. It was used to construct lines which were at right angles to another line, so the created line was said to be 'normal.'  The norma was also used as a standard to compare if objects, like a wall, might be erect (perpendicular to the ground) and so those that met the standard were called 'normal' and this use extended to the 'typical' element of any type of set. Eventually normal came to mean anything that 'met the standard.' "

Pat Ballew on mathematical usage


"317 is a prime,
not because we think so,
or because our minds are shaped
in one way rather than another,
because it is so,
because mathematical reality
is built that way."

— G. H. Hardy,
A Mathematician's Apology

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Saturday November 15, 2003

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

Aes Triplex

The title, from a Robert Louis Stevenson essay, means “triple brass” (or triple bronze):

From the admirable site of J. Nathan Matias:

Aes Triplex means Triple Bronze, from a line in Horace’s Odes that reads ‘Oak and triple bronze encompassed the breast of him who first entrusted his frail craft to the wild sea.’ ”

From Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle:

Juliana said, “Oracle, why did you write The Grasshopper Lies Heavy? What are we supposed to learn?”

“You have a disconcertingly superstitious way of phrasing your question,” Hawthorne said. But he had squatted down to witness the coin throwing. “Go ahead,” he said; he handed her three Chinese brass coins with holes in the center. “I generally use these.”

This passage, included in my earlier entry of Friday, combined with the opening of yet another major motion picture starring Russell Crowe, suggests three readings for that young man, who is perhaps the true successor to Marlon Brando.

Oracle, for Crowe as John Nash (A Beautiful Mind):

Understanding the I Ching

Mutiny, for Crowe as Jack Aubrey (Master and Commander):

Bartleby, the Scrivener

Storm, for Crowe as Maximus (Gladiator):

Pharsalia, Book V:
The Oracle, the Mutiny, the Storm

As background listening, one possibility is Sinatra’s classic “Three Coins”:

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

Personally, though, I prefer, as a tribute to author Joan Didion (who also wrote of coins and the Book of Transformations), the even more classic Sinatra ballad

Angel Eyes.”

 * Horace leads to “Acroceraunian shoals,” which leads to Palaeste, which leads to Pharsalia and to the heart of Rome.  (With a nod to my high school Latin teacher, the late great John Stachowiak.)

Thursday, January 9, 2003

Thursday January 9, 2003

Filed under: General — Tags: , — m759 @ 4:48 PM

Balanchine's Birthday

Today seems an appropriate day to celebrate Apollo and the nine Muses.

From a website on Balanchine's and Stravinsky's ballet, "Apollon Musagete":

In his Poetics of Music (1942) Stravinsky says: "Summing up: What is important for the lucid ordering of the work– for its crystallization– is that all the Dionysian elements which set the imagination of the artist in motion and make the life-sap rise must be properly subjugated before they intoxicate us, and must finally be made to submit to the law: Apollo demands it."  Stravinsky conceived Apollo as a ballet blanc– a "white ballet" with classical choreography and monochromatic attire. Envisioning the work in his mind's eye, he found that "the absence of many-colored hues and of all superfluities produced a wonderful freshness." Upon first hearing Apollo, Diaghilev found it "music somehow not of this world, but from somewhere else above." The ballet closes with an Apotheosis in which Apollo leads the Muses towards Parnassus. Here, the gravely beautiful music with which the work began is truly recapitulated "on high"– ceaselessly recycled, frozen in time.

— Joseph Horowitz



Another website invoking Apollo:

The icon that I use… is the nine-fold square…. The nine-fold square has centre, periphery, axes and diagonals.  But all are present only in their bare essentials.  It is also a sequence of eight triads.  Four pass through the centre and four do not.  This is the garden of Apollo, the field of Reason…. 

In accordance with these remarks, here is the underlying structure for a ballet blanc:

A version of 'grid3x3.gif.'

This structure may seem too simple to support movements of interest, but consider the following (click to enlarge):

As Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, paraphrasing Horace, remarks in his Whitsun, 1939, preface to the new edition of the Oxford Book of English Verse, "tamen usque recurret Apollo."

The alert reader will note that in the above diagrams, only eight of the positions move.

Which muse remains at the center?

Consider the remark of T. S. Eliot, "At the still point, there the dance is," and the fact that on the day Eliot turned 60, Olivia Newton-John was born.  How, indeed, in the words of another "sixty-year-old smiling public man," can we know the dancer from the dance?

Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Wednesday October 9, 2002

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 2:40 AM
To Apollo

On this date in 28 B.C. the Temple of Apollo
was dedicated on the Palatine Hill in Rome.

Horace, Odes, XXXI

Frui paratis et valido mihi,
Latoe, dones et precor integra
Cum mente nec turpem senectam
Degere nec cithara carentem.

O grant me, Phoebus, calm content,
Strength unimpaird, a mind entire,
Old age without dishonour spent,
Nor unbefriended by the lyre!

— The Odes and Carmen Saeculare of Horace,
John Conington, translator.
London, George Bell and Sons, 1882.

Representations of Apollo: 





See also
The Angel in the Stone

"Everything is found 
and lost and buried 
and then found again"

— Tanya Wendling

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