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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rainy Day Thoughts And Questions

1. Les Miserables:

When you take a clay impression off a manhole cover, the lettering is always reversed. It means we are inquiring backwards in time.

                                                         [Hanging ceramic plaque made by Daughter}
What if Jean Valjean wasn't in such good shape?

When he carried poor injured Marius to safety through the sewers of Paris, it advanced the plot of the story and defined Valjean as a hero who could love unselfishly, but what if he was only strong enough to carry Marius halfway through the sewer? It would just clog things up.

2. Vegetarians:

Here is the tripartite motto of France stamped on a coin:  Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

I think  Fraternité  was added after the revolution. It means getting along with each other, which is much easier to do after a revolution than while one is going on.  Liberté, means freedom, and is symbolized by Americans and French people alike as Lady Liberty.
However, in France, Lady Liberty is known as Marianne. They are on a first name basis with Liberty and we are not. There are other differences. Here is an American platinum bullion coin showing Marianne playing pin-the-scale-on-the-eagle:
The observant reader may identify the bird above as an American Bald Eagle. The bird on the French gold piece is, of course, a barnyard rooster. This brings us to the problem of  Egalité , which means "equality" and is practiced by Egalitarians. It is, among meat-eaters, acceptable to eat a rooster.
Vegetarians eat vegetables. I am afraid to imagine what Egalitarians eat but I think it is why the French put a rooster on their coin.

3. Marianne:

The name, Marianne, means "like Marius", beloved. Both names are rooted in "Mars", the god of war. Yet both characterizations are dedicated to peace, justice and the end of confusion about roosters

4. Jean Valjean:

Jean Valjean translates literally as "John, here's John". Why give him the same name twice? We can only guess. But I suspect naming him Jean x2 was instrumental in getting him twice halfway through the sewer.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Great Hiatus

There are few literary enigmas so intriguing as the missing particulars of Conan Doyle's detective between "The Final Problem" and "The Adventure of The Empty House".  Certainly there are clues, like this one:

"I travelled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhassa and spending some days with the head Llama. You may have read of the remarkable explorations of a Norwegian named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you that you were receiving news of your friend." --The Adventure Of The Empty House, pub: 1903; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In the vaults of the bank at Cox and Co., at Charing Cross, there is a travel-worn, battered tin dispatch-box containing all of John H. Watson's case-notes. It periodically leaves the safe and materializes in the the possession of  investigators and writers of pastiches and parodies. It appeared here for a moment this morning and displaced the content of my usual Sunday sermon. In this extracanonical  vignette, I shall address the problem presented by the excerpt above. Why did the author spell "Llama" with two L's?
                         [Sigerson in conferrence with the Head Llama]

Head Llama:  Mr. Sigerson, antar jeg - eller Mr. Holmes.
Sigerson: You presume correctly. But you are not, I take it, the Tibetan Pope.

Llama:  No, his title is spelled with only one L, but we often get our luggage mixed up at airports.

Sigerson: Then please excuse this intrusion. Though, by what mystery it occurred,  I confess myself baffled.

Llama:  Oh, no excuses needed, and no mystery is involved. This meeting is the mischief of our creators.

Sigerson: Beyond the obvious fact that you are a domesticated South American camelid, well-suited to Andean high altitude, therefore comfortable in the Himalayas, I can deduce nothing. How did you become Head Llama in Tibet?

Llama:  Elementary, I am the only llama in Tibet.

Sigerson: But surely you mean creator in singular and not its plural form. 

Llama:  I am here by a caprice of fiction, a simple misspelling on the part of Conan Doyle, who said: "Sometimes a writer must be masterful, and not nervous about details." Conan Doyle is my creator, my sole creator. You, however, were a joint effort.

Sigerson: You cannot mean my chronicler, Doctor Watson. He and I were created by the same author!

Llama:  No, I refer to your physical appearance, and the illustrator for the Strand Magazine, Sidney Paget, who made your face recognizable worldwide. He took advantage of a model that was available at a moment's notice and whose reliability was unimpeachable. Here, permit me to lay the evidence before you. First, consult the hand-mirror you keep in the pocket opposite your magnifying glass.

Sigerson: Yes, there I am.

Llama: Now consider this photograph of Sidney Paget:

                                [Sidney Paget, British illustrator of Victorian era. photo, pub. domain]

Sigerson: Good heavens! I am seldom surprised, even less often astonished, but you have succeeded in inducing both reactions in me. Two creators indeed! 

Llama:  Your investigation is completed then?

Sigerson:  Yes, thank you, there is nothing more to be learned here, and I have a long journey ahead.

Llama:  Go in peace.                                       

Saturday, November 9, 2013

True Meditation #2

The photo here is explained in part by a previous essay, True Meditation . I recommend we click on that before proceeding because I don't know if #2 is going to mesh with it too well. This is because I haven't written #2 yet. As my fellow philosophers and gardeners are fond of saying, lookie!

I had hoped to illustrate this sermon with time-traveling Gypsy wagons and horses instead of bicycles but couldn't seem to draw either today. I like horses very much. One of my favorite movies is "Seabiscuit", which stars Tobey Maguire as a jockey. I don't remember who played Seabiscuit --some excellent character actor-- possibly William Devane, but with the right makeup and vocal inflection he was was very convincing.

So we begin with a graphic depiction that captures only the top half of the word, FRANCE. This means it represents northern France. It shows a lesser known bicycle race to, from, over and around a bright white light that flickers in and out of existence.

There is a black dot in the middle of the light which, if we look very closely, proves not to be a dot at all but a simple algebraic formula:
It says infinity divided by itself equals one. There are accomplished mathematicians who pronounce the equation invalid because infinity is an undefined mathematical value that does not qualify as a rational number. There is a philosophically correct term for proponents of this objection: Crybabies. Although the universe is finite, the emptiness toward which it expands, and does not exist until it gets there, is quite infinite. All possibilities are assembled in it, even mutually exclusive possibilities like my equation and its detractors. That is why we need so much space. Same reason there are more things far away from you than there are right up close. More room out there.

If we grab the universe on the other end, the little end, we observe subatomic building blocks of reality. These are irreducible quanta that become particles or waves depending on what sort of behavior is needed. You get them winking in and out of existence in this continuum as a routine thing. Since, by definition, quanta cannot be further reduced, it follows they are indivisible. They propagate as waves and participate as solids, but how?

Answer must lie with the nature of the universe at large and its mechanical relationship with infinity. That is, infinity functions in constant division of itself, by itself, and all that exists, reality, you, me and some cryptids like the Loch Ness Monster are the quotient --one.

Go in peace.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fabulous Beasts #8: Loch Ness Enigma SOLVED!

I am happy to announce some progress in the case of the Loch Ness Monster. This journal has dealt with many mysteries. We are no strangers to enigma. It is often stubborn and will not permit examination. Like love, it proves too intense for analysis, or like the DMV, resists rational penetration to any useful depth. But there are some few puzzles that respond well to doodling. Over a recent poem posting, I doodled this:

If it was art, and I was an artist, I'd have left it alone --but one cannot look at a beat-up copper kettle without feeling it is somehow out of balance and suggestive of further forms. One dabs at it, fiddles with its gleams and tarnishes. One adds a tail and labels it "figure A", but one is not an artist.

One does not stop there. For good or ill, the inquiry must be pursued at least to "figure B":

And the Loch Ness Monster finds its history and composition isolated, its mystery solved.

Consider, the average number of children per family today is two. One needs a small tea kettle. Fifty years ago, couples had four children and needed something larger. One hundred years ago, families of eight children were not unusual --and one needed to heat bathwater in the kettle too. So we have household offspring backwardly quadrupling in numbers every hundred years, with each generation requiring a larger kettle than the ones that followed it.

The first written mention of the Loch Ness Monster is in The Life Of Saint Columbia, in the year 565. By the aforementioned calculus, 100^8 (100 years to the eighth power) the average family of 1500 years ago included a nearly infinite number of children and needed a kettle somewhat larger than the universe.

Little wonder that some more enlightened backyard mechanics --who often choose to live near ravines, lakes and other discreet geological receptacles-- departed tradition and, as they inherited huge family kettles from their exhausted parents, promptly launched and scuttled them. Sometimes, however, as can be seen in Dr. Kenneth Wilson's 1934 photograph, they resurface.