Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Chestertonian footnote

[an addendum to this essay:
http://worldofdrjustice.blogspot.com/2016/03/a-locked-room-mystery-inside-out.html ]


This (let us call it) sub-subgenre of the whodunit, in which it is the (amateur) detective who is “locked in”, and -- denied sight -- must judge by muffled sounds, is brought to the pitch of perfection, and indeed to spiritual depth, in G.K. Chesterton’s short story, “The Queer Feet” (1910; collected in The Innocence of Father Brown).  Here Father Brown is temporarily sequestered in a closed chamber off a back passageway;  and from this vantage, deduces all, both factual and spiritual, based simply upon the footfalls of an unnatural gait.  Indeed, the story is a kind of rhythmic pendant to the visual-geometrical masterpiece, "The Wrong Shape".

Etymology of the Day: goujat


It turns out there is a curious reflex of goy in the French lexicon: goujat.

1. (vieux) valet d’armée
2. (vieux ou régional)  apprenti maçon
3. (vieux) rustre …
[mot languedocien, de l’ancien provençal gojat “gars”, hébreu goya “servante chrétienne”]
-- Dictionnaire de la langue française (Bordas)

 For much more about the background of such  servantes chrétiennes, try this essay:

http://worldofdrjustice.blogspot.com/2013/08/phrase-for-sabbath-shabbos-goy-updated.html

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Independence

The Fourth of July celebration -- in origin quite earnest, and a time for historico-political speechmaking and some semi-military display -- has gradually softened and loosened, like an old sweater, into a fairly agenda-free holiday for kids:  Family, fireworks, fun, and french fries -- the four Fs of sweet July.  Well I recall, how we as kids  lined up along Ridgewood Avenue, excitedly half-comprehendingly, to watch the parade flow by.

As you grow older, some of it does get old.  Brief bursts of bright blotches against the night sky  no longer move me -- not, at any rate, so much as the least glimpse of God’s own handiwork, like the more permanent pattern-and-colorburst on the leaves of a coleus, or a lady cardinal in the bush.

But in another way, the meaning of this day grows ever deeper, even sombre.  For the success and permanency of the American Revolution was by no means a foregone conclusion -- we were truly in uncharted territory back then.   The more you learn about history, and the more history itself keeps happening, you are forced to conclude:  Most revolutions  go awry.

To begin with our own.   Contrary to the impression we got in school (back in the fifties, when we all sat dutifully at our desks), at the time of the Declaration of Independence, a bare one third of the American population was in favor of rebelling against Britain; a third against; a third undecided.   The perfect setting for an immediate post-revolution civil war.  Yet it did not happen (the Civil War a century later fell along quite different lines).  The only threat came again externally, in 1812 (“the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air”), when the wrath of the British Empire was again turned against us, and the nation’s capital was set in flames.   The pinwheels and cherry bombs of latter days  commemorate an actual peril.

Nor were the political logistics of the Revolution so simple as that of one entity rebelling against one other:  at the time, we were not yet quite even America, let alone the UnitedStates;  but an assemblage of upwards of a dozen colonies, founded at different times by various creeds and ethnicities (Catholics in Rhode Island, Puritans in Massachusetts, Quakers and various German sects in Pennsylvania, and so forth) many of which had been at odds with one another back in the mother country, which is why some of them came here in the first place.  Yet they fought side by side;  and when victory was won, did not then fall to quarreling over the spoils, nor into strife as to which should be cock of the walk;  but together founded  a unified nation.
By contrast, India was one country at time of independence from Britain -- yet immediately fractured, savagely, along sectional lines.  What had been contemned as the British “yoke”  turns out to have been a garde-fou (et les fous se sont emparés de l’asile).

Remarkably as well, we managed, over the years and (by now) centuries, to maintain (most of us) extremely cordial, even intimate relations with the Mother Country -- an unusual trans-hemispheric affinity, unmatched by the relations of the Latin American countries to Spain and Portugal (let alone Haiti or Algeria to France).

Consider next the French revolution -- “next”, because in fact it was subsequent to our own, having broken out in 1789;  though the way Europeans run on about it, you’d think it was the first revolution in the history of the world.  Anyhow, it remains a proud occasion;  the French version of Independence Day is Bastille Day, celebrated on July 14, with great fanfare.  (For our friendly nod to our old ally, click here:  Merci la France.)

Yet their revolution was -- franchise oblige -- a gorawful bloody cock-up.  Not content with overturning centuries of monarchy, the revolutionaries proceeded to la Terreur, and to a sort of overreaching ideological Gleichschaltung that foreshadowed the Bolshevik excess, and of successive waves of revolutionaries being eaten by their chilren, in a way that prefigured the Stalin-era trials. And to crown it all, it didn’t even stick:  within a couple of decades, the kings were back.
France did not ultimately found a Republic that stuck, after the imperial and revived-monarchical interludes, until 1871, with the Third Republic (which segued into the Fourth and Fifth, not without strife, but without a relapse into pre-Republican polity).   Nor did this event stem in any direct way from the events of 1789.  As William Shirer tells it, in The Collapse of the Third Republic (1969, chapter “A Freakish Birth): 

It came into being by a fluke.  The National Assembly, elected in 1871 … had not wanted a Republic.  Nearly two thirds of its members were Monarchists.  But they could not agree on a king …

So the lawmakers … sort of backed into the harness of a republic … by a majority of one vote … 353 to 352 -- though there would have been a tie  had one deputy, who was against it, not been late in arriving for the balloting.  Even then it was not clear to many members that they were actually choosing a republic.  The day before, they had rejected it, or thought they had.
By contrast, the Constitution that came out of our revolutionary days  has lasted and guided us down to the present, with comparatively modest and incremental additions.

~

Since the end of the Second World War, world history has been spotted by rebellions and revolts, mostly anti-colonial, in quest of independence.   And for the most part, the results have not been pretty.
MyanmarZimbabwe.   Algeria. Somalia.  Cambodia.  South AfricaCongo.  The fragment that is Pakistan, and the mini-fragment of Bangladesh.  And now most recently, South Sudan and Azawad.  Names like tombstones along the  the corpse-strewn path of History’s forced-march.
And thus the American declaration of independence, which shone at the time, shines yet more brightly now, against the contrasting dark.  It is as though the metal of which men then were made, deemed sturdy bronze at the time, were revealed, in the fullness of time, with the reckonings in and the dust dispersed, to have been, in actual and astonishing fact, of purest gold.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Sierra Nevada monostich



The shadows of the valley  grew
deeper  and   deeper

till all was dark…


-- Washington Irving, “The Legend of the Moor’s Legacy”

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Dedekind on ontology

[A footnote to this essay.]


Footnote re the irrationals:

Dedekind sttressed the distinction of category  between cut and number  in 1888; against the view of his friend Heinrich Weber  that “the irrational number is nothing other than the cut itself”, he explained that “as I prefer it, to creat something New distinct from the cut, to which the cut corresponds.  We have the right to grant ourselves such power of creation”,  and cuts corresponding to both rational and irrational numbers were examples.
-- Grattan-Guinness, The Search for Mathematical Roots 1870 - 1940 (2000), p. 87

A seemingly slight, even pedantic distinction;  but like many another such, it might have its point.   Cf. my astonished delight in junior high-school, upon meeting the distinction between  x (the thing itself) and ‘x’ (the name of x) -- already adequately foreshadowed in Alice in Wonderland, but encountered now in a new context.  Likewise the difference between  x and {x} (the singleton-set of x).

In the case of an algebraic number like √2, a simple number staring you in the face out of a hypotenuse  versus the infinite train of rational pilgrims (never quite arriving at their destination) of a Dedekind cut,  one is reminded of the variety of definitions of something so familiar as a tangent:  the slope of a curve (at a point); the closest linear approximation to the curve (at that point); versus the distressing definition in Loomis & Sternberg as an infinite equivalence-class of curves (through that point).

More from the Mindscape

A footnote to this essay:



Dedekind … allowed his philosophy of mind  much reign, with a ‘proof’ that “there are infinite systems”;  for he gave  as evidence “the totality S of all things, which may be objects of my thought”, since  as well as any of its elements s,  it contained also “the thought s’ that can be the object of my thought …This ‘proof’ did not gain a good reception.”
-- Grattan-Guinness, The Search for Mathematical Roots 1870 - 1940 (2000), p. 105

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Summer Solstice


The sun at apogee, an empire all of light.
The sweet corn basks and ripens in its rays.
All memory of winter  has melted from our minds.

Yet even now the worm lies in the bud, one day to blast it.
The long limbs of daylight   that had stretched and stretched
now imperceptibly  begin to shrink:
even as the cosmos  attains its outmost limit,
and sighs back  to collapse.

Alas, the Elves of Ice  lurk still in northern forests,
plotting their return.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Beasts: a post-Benthamite assessment (Take Two)


The Beasts:  a post-Benthamite  assessment (Take Two  Three)

[The Sage of Houndsditch, updated]

The question about animals is not, “Can they reason?”,
but  “Can they handle algebraic geometry  Hodge theory  motivic cohomology?”

[Note:  We have further updated this post, in an attempt to outpace the rise in cleverness  among the squirrels, which has been growing at an alarming pace.]

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ex-Word of the Day: Toplinear


In her diligent book of epistemology, Evidence and Inquiry (1993), Susan Haack steers her bark between the twin cliffs of Foundationalism and Coherentism, before christening her own proposed juste milieu with the,  alas, ungainly name of :

Foundherentism

There was something comical about the coinage which I could not quite put my finger on.

Then this morning, happening to dip into one of Serge Lang’s textbooks on Differential Geometry, discussing topological vector spaces[**], I re-encountered his own stillborn coinage:

“… a Toplinear isomorphism, referring to the topology  and the linearity”

It is gauche in much the same way.

Neither term has much caught on, outside the readership-circle of its coiner.


[**  A TVS is a uniform structure on a linear space.]

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Contra Constructivism



“Only an atheist
 need fear infinity.”




Note:   In this place,
an unafraid theologian presents an Orthodox account of the doctrine of absolution and the remission of sins,  conscientiously noting  along the way  a possible mathematical objection to the Church’s handling of infinity in this connection, which he is not personally qualified to resolve.

Fortunately, I was able to reply in complete reassurance on this point:  the Church doctrine is fully consonant with set-theory in its post-Cantorian understanding.


For more:

Friday, June 15, 2018

A Dactylic Pentamer ad Differential Forms



Thése are the thíngs which occúr under íntegral sígns.”
-- Bárret O’Néill, Elementary Differential Geometry

[Note:  The author’s name is prosodically a choriamb.]

[Note:  In an alternative terminology, a quantity at home beneath the integral sign  is called a density.]

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Apophthegms of Physics



Hertz: “Maxwell’s theory is Maxwell’s system of equations.”
By itself, this is a witty, eminently quotable, and meaningless comment.
-- Abraham Pais, Subtle is the Lord (1982), p. 119

~

There may be such a thing as habitual luck.  It is like hidden parameters in physics.
-- Stanislaw Ulam, Adventures of a Mathematician (1976), p. 119

Or as Yogi Berra once put it:  That is too much of a coincidence to be coincidental.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Riddle of the Sphinx (mis à jour)


Contemporary Sphinx:  What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and six legs at evening?

Modern Oedipus:  A person:   a crawling baby;  an adult with grown-up gait; and an oldster with a walker (which itself is a quadruped, like a rug-rat).

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Stately Monostich


Prince Albert,

consort

of the Queen


[Prosodic note:
  Step  from line to line  using the gait traditional at royal ceremonies:
  Right foot forward; bring left foot up next to the right foot and no further.
  Repeat.

  That will automatically assure a measured reading of this noble line.
  It should take about a minutge.]

Monday, May 28, 2018

Aufgehoben


My good friend and former workmate Dr Keith A. Massey, though happily still alive and well, is in some sense no longer quite with us, or not in the same way:  you might say that he has been (rather literally) “spirited away”.
For -- Laus Deo -- he has just been ordained a priest, in the Orthodox Church.  And as such, he now enjoys a new name:

~  Father Andrew ~

Properly understood,  such a step up  does not abolish the former self, which rather is preserved (though in no easily stateable sense) within a higher and more general complexus:  as we say in the trade, such a one has been sublated (or, as Hegel has it, aufgehoben).

~

There are many partial analogues to such an assumption-cum-subsumption, falling under the general rubric (in analytic philosophy) of Continuity of Identity.  Thus, to take a biodevelopmental example:  By moment-wise imperceptible  though ultimately (indeed, repeatedly) qualitative stages, the initial conceptus becomes successively an embryo, a fetus, a neonate or nurseling, an alalic but multimodally aware infant (etymological notelet:  a-lalia = in-fancy), a voluable toddler, a child, a teen, a Young Adult (a tweenie stage  for which Dr Massey has extensively catered, both pedagogically and novelistically), an undergraduate, a grown-up (that is, an active agent in societal self-regeneration), and ultimately, if matters so shake out (allow me a smile here) a Ph.D.   All these stages, most of us have traversed, disparate in appearance  yet inwardly united and aligned by an indwelling thread of ontological continuity.  The whole traversal is not less dramatic (though less sudden) than the development of caterpillar into butterfly.

Another example:  the Transubstantiation of the Elements.

Another (taken on faith, not seen)  the continuing presence of some version or analogue of our sublunary self, in nuce, in the soul post-mortem:  ultimately to be clad in the Resurrected Body.   What all that might be, we cannot imagine, any more than the dim embryo foresees the adventures ahead of it.


A practical, so to speak sociolinguistic perplexity, is how his old friends  who have not followed him on that path, are now to address him  I tried out “Father Andrew” subvocally, but that somehow does not work.  I soon realized why:  I would need myself to be converted, and welcomed into his congregation, thus meetly and meaningfully to address him.   So I shall continue to call him “Keith”.  But best blessings to those of his fortunate flock, who, as naturally as sipping water from a spring, may call him:  Father Andrew.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Frontiers of Pachydermy



Quantum theory takes this subjectivity  to a strange extreme:
 There is no elephant,
 only blind men.
-- George Johnson, Fire in the Mind (1995), p. 140


For more about our bulky friends the elephants, click here!

       Here come the Elephants




~

That epigram, pried from its context,  has a pleasingly Minimalist ring, rather like “Garfield minus Garfield”, though in our case  what is missing  is any elephant.


As for the sense in context:  The elephant represents a sought-for deterministic objective value for some quantized parameter (such as position, velocity, polarization).  The blind-men are the scientiss or their measuring-instruments.  To their dismay, they discover that no such value exists:  the elephant is absent.


~

String theory, too, has (as in the parable of the blind-men) suffered from an overplus of versions, none canonical.  But now:

For the five string theories,
M-theory serves as  the unifying pachyderm.



The Beasts: a post-Benthamite assessment


[The Sage of Houndsditch, updated]

The question about animals is not, “Can they reason?”,
but  Can they handle noncommutative geometry?”

Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Hilbertian take on the riddle of Agency



“Who put the bomp in the bomp ba-bomp ba-bomp?
Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?”

Wir müssen wissen!  Wir werden wissen!!

[Brouwer dagegen:   Immo  ignorabimus.]


The Bright Side of the Trump Administration



“Ein Festspiel für die Götter”



(Extracts from the ringside comments of the gods:  )

Then Ares, ‘neath his brow of wrath,
strikes in:  “Such heap of savory meat
as on the field of fight  shall fall
shall glut my hunger  utterly.”

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Wit’s Soul: Brevity



Die Kürze des Witzes wäre also  wie die des Traumes,  eine notwendige Begleiterscheinung  der  in beiden vorkommenden  Verdichtungen.
-- Dr. S. Freud, Der Witz und seine Beziehung zm Unbewussten (1905 ff)


Friday, May 4, 2018

A Puzzler


As you ponder your personal relation to Appearance and Reality,
ask yourself  this simple yet probing question:


Am I in a German  book ??”




Cf. an online comment by a reader, during the 2015 Merkelmanic Flüchtlingsfiasko:

Ich have das Gefühl  im falschen Film zu sein

.
 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

w-w-w-w-W-AK-ing

(Saturday morning,  late-lying abed,
 head full of cobwebs…)


Logy  like a   pot of  honey
slowly  seek  release

from        layer upon   layer
of  dream-drenched   sleep …

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Women & Wisps



who, when
she danced,

left a stab of perfume    in the air,

like a white azalea

-- Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca  (1938)

~

the smoke of her cigarette   whirling back over her shoulder
like a sweet-smelling  scarf    in the wind

-- William Lindsay Gresham, Nightmare Alley (1946)


~

Mary Ann Weaver  on Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi:

She was an icon -- beautiful, imperial, aloof -- passing, almost dreamlike, through the dust and exhaust fumes.
-- Pakistan (2002), p. 172



Sunday, April 22, 2018

Daffy Dactyls


Headline in today’s  New York Times:

Incursions by Turkey
put Greece on Alert

(Chant to the beat of  “To market to market / to buy a fat pig”.)




Politico-prosodical footnote:
While world history is being made on the fly,
POTUS is venting  unedited -- and without scansion.
At the least, he should be required to phrase everything
in dactylic measures.
That would also  give time  for reflection.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The World’s Scarcest Resource


What -- oil?  water?  tungsten maybe?
No -- linguists!  Satisfactory intepreters and translators.

We earlier outlined Germany’s shortage of adequate translators, in a CT context:


There, the unmet need was for Arabic.  And now, in the more general context of the massive influx of immigrants to Germany, today’s Die Zeit documents how, since 2017, over two thousand interpreters had to be let go -- in large part, owing to inadequate command of German:



So:  Should you ever have the good fortune to run into a practicing, credentialed philologian -- Be nice to them!  Do them little kindnesses -- Bring them coffee!  And managers -- Double their salary.  A really good linguist is hard to find.


For further True Life Adventures of these rare beings,  try this:




Saturday, March 31, 2018

Faith and Ceremony


G. K. Chesterton, originally Protestant, then a convert to Catholicism, defends his church against Iconoclasts;  his remarks do equally well in defense of Eastern Orthodoxy.

Though of course these shows and pageants  meant immeasurably much to me, and profoundly affected my emotions,  yet I do not base my belief on such emotions, still less on such pageants or shows.   I was myself received into the Catholic Church  in a small tin shed, painted brick-red, which stood among the sculleries and outhouses of a Railway Hotel.
-- G.K. Chesterton, The Resurrection of Rome (1930)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Eschatological Monostich



The soul   does not die by sin,  but by impenitence.

-- G.K. Chesterton, The Resurrection of Rome (1930)





Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Journée mondiale de la procrastination


Bienvenus sur notre site, pour célébrer  la Journée mondiale de la procrastination !

http://www.leparisien.fr/societe/journee-mondiale-de-la-procrastination-le-smartphone-ennemi-n-1-des-taches-menageres-24-03-2018-7626975.php

Actually it was yesterday -- no wait, several days ago, by now.  We’d meant to post something, but didn’t get around to it until now.

Tableau neige et lumière



… lifted into a clearer  and a colder air …
a phase where light has transcended colour,
as in the hueless dawn of creation 
when the first light     was as strange
as the first snow …

-- G.K. Chesterton, The Resurrection of Rome (1930)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Feasts of Spring


We had breakfast guests this morning on the deck;
some with feathers, some with fur.
Sunflower seeds bright black  atop the snow.


[For a similar vision  from around this time two years ago, try this.]

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Substitutionary atonement


It is a repeated motif of the thriller-series “24”, that Jack Bauer offers himself up as a sacrifice -- in Season Six, for one specific hostage.   We marveled at that them here:


Against the background of all the other whiz-bang implausibilities of that show, this one was not the most far-fetched, but it still seemed a stretch.

And yet now we have a real-life authentic hero of law enforcement, who did exactly that during yesterday's terror attack in France, and died for his pains:

Arnaud Beltrame



https://www.valeursactuelles.com/societe/arnaud-beltrame-les-francais-ont-recu-un-modele-94219

The  Christian doctrine with which such acts are blessed, is called “Substitutionary atonement”.  


Jack Bauer received no thanks for his gambit; les gendarmes de France are likewise best appreciated by the bobos-gauchos  when letting themselves be stoned or shot at, rather than firing back.   A few of them have been getting somewhat annoyed:



Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Butch monostich


    … le sévèr-e Char-lus    tout de noir  habillé …

[ -- Proust, La Prisonnière (1919), p. 212]

Code Red !



            Code -- Red!
            Rest in bed.
            Time to soothe
            your sleepy head.




{ for more about the lovely snow,
   gently press …    here …. }

{ for further glimpses into the wonderful world of Office Life,
    zestily press ...  here ... )

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Journée internationale de la francophonie


In celebration, we link to our roster of over a hundred essays relating to French language and literature:

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Devonshire mini-hemi-monostich




… the thin   Devonian   rain 


[--Edmund Gosse, Father and Son (1907)]

Friday, March 16, 2018

A Lost Lament of Sir Walter Ralegh


Re banished Ralegh’s  unpublished plaint to Elizabeth, known as “Cynthia”:

There are many fine passages,  none finer than the line

     Of all which passed,  the sorrow only stays

-- Ward & Waller, eds. The Cambridge History of English Literature, vol. IV: North to Drayton (1909), p. 54

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Scenes from Office Life


Today -- March 14 -- our office celebrated International Pi Day(***), by bringing in a whole bunch of pies.  (March 14 --  3   1   4 -- get it?   Not funny, just fun.)  Apple, cherry, banana cream, pecan -- you name it.   And amazingly, for every single one of those pies, the ratio of its circumference to its diameter was -- you’ll never guess -- more or less 3.14 !!   Thus proving the theorem.

(***)   Actually Interplanetary Pi Day, since the value of that transcendental constant  is invariant throughout the universe.

[For further glimpses of our office life, click here.

For more mathy funnies,  here.]

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

More on “the Eternal Feminine”


(1)
Das Unbeschreibliche
hier ist getan.
Das Ewig-Weibliche
zieht uns hinan.
[-- Goethe, Faust]

A late-Elizabethan version:

Nó wórds fór it --
Yet ‘tis done.
A woman’s Forever
beckons us on.

[ -- Anon.  The “B” manuscript substitutes “Whatever” for “Forever”:
scholars are divided upon which is the valid reading.]



(2)

To the psychologist, the emotional differences etween the sexes  appear small in a laboratory,  but enormous during a quarrel with his wife.
-- Theodor Reik, Of Love and Lust (1949/1957), p.412