Tuesday, August 28, 2007
One of them is when the philosopher/mathematician Thales was visiting Egypt. Thales was a renowned mathematician. He was asked by clueless priests how they could determine the height of their Great Pyramids.
Thales said this could be done by "measuring the shadow of the Pyramid at an hour when a man's shadow was equal to his height" (p. 47, Mathematics in Ancient Greece, by Tobias Dantzig).
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Yesterday there was a major news article (it was actually the lead article in my local paper) about how almost half of America doesn't read books. And how those that do read garbage like romance novels. I decided to make a list of the books I've read in the last two months to counter this since I am bucking the trend, and making reading into not so much of a virtue, but rather as" the last unpunished vice" to quote Valery Larbaud.
Barbarian in the Garden, by Zbigniew Herbert (Herbert gets out of E. Europe and glorifies W. Europe in 1962).
The Relevance of Beauty, by Hans-Georg Gadamer (Gadamer believes that literature is a kind of festival).
In Praise of Athletic Beauty, by Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht (Gumbrecht believes that athletics is as beautiful and as interesting as literature and philosophy -- which he teaches at Stanford).
Medea & The Bacchae, by Euripides. (I've read these before, but I was teaching them, and had to sharpen up.)
Oedipus R. & Antigone, by Sophocles (ditto).
The Libation Bearers, by Aeschylus (ditto).
Odyssey, by Homer (ditto).
Euclid's Window, by Leonard Mlodinow (Mlodinow believes that Euclid's five theses provide a window through which even Einstein was inspired to look. Book has great anecdotes about Aristotle, and Gauss, and Descartes. Opens with the anecdote that Aristotle stood on a beach and watched a ship sail out of the harbor. He noticed that the hull disappeared first, and then the sails. From this, he inferred that the earth was round. Euclid's geometry took place on a flat plane. What happens when we realize that space is curved, and we have to bring many dimensions into geometry? This is what later geometricians worked on.)
Mathematics in Ancient Greece, by Tobias Dantzig (in progress).
From Zero to Infinity: What Makes Numbers Interesting, by Constance Reid (in progress).
Presidential Temperament, by David Keirsey (Keirsey believes that there are four basic temperaments -- Guardians, Players, Thinkers, and Idealists. Of these, my favorite presidents are the thinkers -- Jefferson, Madison, Grant, Hoover, Lincoln. My least favorite are the Guardians. Keirsey believes that no Idealist (he gives for examples Gandhi and Eleanor Roosevelt) have ever been president. Keep trying Democrats! But even Eleanor Roosevelt hated communists for their regimentation. It's as if they take care of the first rung of Maslow's hierarchy of needs in exchange for the sacrifice of all the others, the communists!)
But Is It Art, by Cynthia Freeland (Freeland believes that the art of today is largely about that very question).
Trout Mask Replica, by Kevin Courrier (Courrier provides the background to Captain Beefheart's bizarre album, which has now sold 80,000 copies. The band that the Captain put together was secluded and not allowed to go out while they made the album over several months. There was no money to pay them, so they got a half-cup of beans each per diem while they practiced. The guitarist recounts stealing a piece of bread from the kitchen. The band at one point tried to sneak out and vanish, but the Captain caught them and pleaded with them to remain, and they did, making one of the strangest rock albums of all time, and one that continues to fascinate me. In fact, it's the only rock music that I've found interesting.)
At any rate, those are some of the books I've read in the last two months. I've read at least a dozen others, but I'm too lazy to list them. I have a book I want to read about Sebastien Stoskopff, a Lutheran painter who lived in Paris in the 1640s. (Image above: Still Life with a Nautilus, by Sebastien Stoskopff, ca. 1630).
Monday, August 20, 2007
Next was spending time with friends, and then time with a significant other.
Sexual activity however was a negative indicator at least for the 13-17 year old group. The slightly older group from 18-24 found sex made them temporarily high, but not happy.
Religion is very important to at least 50% of the respondents.
The article also said that white people are happier than non-white but didn't say why.
Higher educated parents are a stronger indicator of happiness than money.
Greatest hero of children is parents, with mom coming out ahead "by a nose."
This article cheered me up somewhat about America. I have sometimes felt that it is a nutty and unsalvagable country because so many seem to want the cheap highs indicated in On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. Rootlessness, cheap relationships with no lasting merit, endless travel, and Bohemian comraderie among the marginally employed half-educated losers who went from coast to coast seeking something they couldn't name on motorcycles and other vehicles on Skid Roads and from prostitutes.
Should they have stayed home gotten married and pushed the kid around the block on a tricycle?
Friday, August 17, 2007
I did go several times to Ocean City, NJ.
I did swim about 12 times.
I did ride my bicycle, and go for walks almost every day.
But somehow spring leapfrogged summer into fall.
Did others experience summer?
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I called Triple A from the Information Booth, and they sent a tow truck in an hour, who towed the car to the Scranton Firestone in the Viewmont Mall at the price of 52 dollars.
My brother and sister-in-law drove an hour north to rescue us and we spent the next two days carless anticipating a thousand dollar bill.
On Monday they said the car was fixed. I drove north with my mother and father anticipating a thousand dollars or more in bills. The bill was $21.
I couldn't believe it. I looked at the bill and looked at the man behind the car quietly wondering if he knew that he had made a mistake and then looked again at the bill.
For some reason the fuel line beneath the car was severed.
"Must a hit something," the man behind the counter said. "Ok, bro," the man said. "You lucked out, eh?"
I made a mental note to go to large chain repairshops AND PARTICULARLY TO FIRESTONE from then on.
Also, in the car, my dad and mom said I should take my retirement funds out of the slowest and safest stocks and put it into the wildest and craziest stocks. They said with 3% growth rate I'd barely stay even with inflation. My dad's stocks sometimes go up 200% or more in a year.
He said that even if they sometimes take a nose dive, the safe route is for losers and suckers. My mom, who herself has taken the safe route, agreed.
So now I have to transfer my stocks into the wild man division apparently.
At any rate, if a car was going to break down, this was as good as it gets: break down into a safety area where the kids can play in the grass for an hour while snacking on Doritos. Then, when the repair bill comes, it's only $21.
And when you drive up to get the car, you get financial advice from a couple of pros.
So the idea is to get maximum safety for your car from major bills. I was told by many that the big companies like Firestone can't afford to deviate from moral standards by deliberately driving up bills. And that the stocks that are the most volatile on the other hand are the best because they multiple your bills.
It was a lot to take in. Personal economics is something I'd rather largely leave to others. But this too is part of life, and Lutheran surrealism will have to develop a theory, as we will ultimately develop a theory in every avenue of life.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Basically, the answer is that I was a leftist until it became obligatory in graduate school.
At that point, I began to turn toward the right. I'm still turning.
If you turn right long enough you come back to the left, or what's left of the left after everybody left since it became obligatory.
Left, left, left right left.
All that marching drove me nuts.
I wanted to march to a different drummer.
So I invented Lutheran surrealism so as to have a moniker so bizarre that even I couldn't figure out what it means so I can pretty much do whatever the heck I want under its banner.
What does it stand for: everything that I was denied in graduate school, beginning with TOTAL freedom of inquiry.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Tomorrow we are going to visit them in Ocean City. They are staying right next to the beach.
Earlier in the summer we went to Ocean City and I found a starfish in a wading pool. The starfish has no head or tail, but has only a disc in the center of its body which in a sense constitutes its soul.
Single-prop planes pull banners advertising cellphones and such as they crawl past the millions of bathers on the beaches of Ocean City.
The baby Sofia is able to push a beach ball back. Julian runs from the waves. Tristan dares the waves. Lola makes friends with other girls and builds sand castles on the beach.
I always want to sit Jake Powell down and interview him about his life, but the guy is always unimaginably busy. I'm planning to ask him some questions tomorrow about his interest in poetry. But I bet I never get the chance.
Jake has four kids and we have four kids. My sense of things is that tomorrow will be a day of play at Ocean City, and that no serious conversations will be had.
What is there to say, anyway?
Everything serious takes many generations to build, and all we can do is try to lay our stone on the wall that prevents the barbarian left from wrecking America so that our children will have the chances that we have had.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
We got to the immediate neighborhood and then I took a wrong turn. I never use maps or directions but operate by the feel of a turn. I almost invariably get something wrong. But I like the experience of being wrong. To err is to wonder. It brings me into contact with some otherness that I enjoy. We went into a middle-class neighborhood of smaller houses with very nice lawns and I saw a man walking with his son and asked for directions to Gladwyne. He spoke for a while and all I registered was "Route 23," which is all I needed.
I turned around and stuck the nose of the van onto a thoroughfare that I thought was a sleepy suburban road. From out of a tree to my left came a car at 70 mph! I didn't have time to pull the car back, and just thought, this is death. But the man slowed down, and then swerved around me into the other lane which was unoccupied.
I've been driving for 35 years and have never had an accident. However, this one this evening would have been fatal had it not been for the excellent driving of that man in a gray van. Whoever you are -- thank you for being on your toes! Had he not been, I would certainly be in the morgue right now instead of typing this. I can picture the impact of the collision. The blue van would have taken the hit with pieces of plastic and metal flying. But I don't want to imagine any of this any longer, or imagine the kids getting killed and lying with sheets over their faces.
I do want to remember to drive more carefully. When you come out of a county with endless rural uninhabited stretches and are suddenly in a city with several millions, the pace and the suddenness perk up. I have to remember to perk up, too!
Thursday, August 02, 2007
limited and unlimited
odd and even
one and plurality
right and left
male and female
rest and movement
straight and curved
light and darkness
good and bad
square and oblong
Can we add some more? Wet and dry, thick and thin, pointillistic versus continuous, ugly and beautiful, paranoid and melanoid, quick and slow, loud and quiet. Why did they stop at the few in number above?
Today, of course, what everybody wants to do is break down opposites and show how they are really the same thing. Good and evil is just a question of perspective. Men and women are not in fact different, and if they are, they should be surgically altered. Right and left are just a question of stance. Light is darkness, especially if you're blind, etc.