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Saturday, May 21, 2005 
12:35 PM

History As She Is Writ

“Finally, there is the matter of players
changing history as she is writ.”

— “Historical Fantasy Campaigns
for Role Playing Simulations,”
published in Phantasmagoria,
Murdoch Alternative Reality
Society Annual, 2004, pp. 32-38

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Franken is best known as the author of
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005 
11:07 PM

“Beauty is the proper conformity
of the parts to one another
and to the whole.”

(“… die Sch

Hooray Hooray the First of May


Sunday, May 2, 2004  11:00 PM

The Script

Hollywood Writers, Producers
 Fail to Reach Agreement

Some scripts just write themselves.

Falluja Plan in Doubt
as U.S. Deals With
Furor Over Abuse

The Siege, 1998

Our Man in Baghdad
by Jon Lee Anderson
The New Yorker
issue of 2004-05-03,
posted 2004-04-26:

“My host was a Shiite cleric, Ayad Jamaluddin…. He lives on the river, in an imposing house supplied by the Coalition Provisional Authority, to which he has close ties….

Ayad Jamaluddin dismissed the idea of the Iraqis policing themselves any time in the near future. He believed that Iraq needed shock treatment, and that it would be best administered by the Americans.

The New Yorker,
online images

‘Iraqis are sick, you know, and what they need is a psychiatrist,’ he said. ‘For thirty-five years, Saddam Hussein didn’t allow Iraqis to think. The Iraqi people are missing something: they are missing a soul. They need a dictator—that is their problem. The Shia want their dictator; the Sunnis want theirs. Unfortunately for us, the Iraqi people’s only model of a leader is Saddam Hussein.’

I remarked that his hopes for a sweeping transformation of a national psyche had few historical precedents, at least under modern American stewardship. The postwar transformations of Germany and Japan were possible only because there was a wholesale capitulation by the regimes in both countries after devastating military assaults. In Japan’s case, this had come about after the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and after Emperor Hirohito’s radio broadcast offering Japan’s unconditional surrender, and the admission that he was not a divine being. Jamaluddin smiled: ‘Then maybe what we need is another Hiroshima for Iraq. Maybe Fallujah will be our Hiroshima. Inshallah.’ ”

Just lovely.” 




See, too, The New Yorker‘s press release for

 May 1, 2004 — Law Day

on the legal career of presidential candidate John Kerry:

“Kerry says his background as a prosecutor made criminal-defense work unappealing. ‘I took a court appointment once in a criminal case,’ Kerry says, ‘and I realized I just didn’t want the guy out on the street. I knew he was guilty. It takes a certain kind of makeup as a lawyer to dedicate yourself to having someone like that out on the street. I know our system says someone has to represent everyone, but I just couldn’t do it. I went to the court and asked them to take me off the case.’ “

Recall the conclusion of Devil’s Advocate:

“Vanity is definitely my favorite sin.”

Saturday, May 1, 2004  7:00 PM

Fallen from Heaven

On today’s stories:

Recall, gentle readers, the reference to Lucifer in last midnight’s story, “The Devil and Wallace Stevens,” and the reference in yesterday’s story, “Notes,” to the film “2010” (1984).  Here is a quote from a review of the story behind that film:

“If the coming of Lucifer in this story doesn’t set your pulse racing and your mind whirring, then I don’t know what will.”

For some of us — students of Stephen King and Malcolm Lowry — the coming of Lucifer is not such a surprising event.  See

Shining Forth.

Saturday, May 1, 2004  7:30 AM

Readings for Law Day

Making Stories: Law, Literature, Life

Storytelling: Passport to the 21st Century;

plus 1001 Arabian Stories!

    (Google News, ca. 7 AM EDT, May Day 2004)

Saturday, May 1, 2004  12:00 AM

Law Day

See The Devil and Wallace Stevens.

In Defense of Martha Stewart


 Thursday, March 11, 2004  3:19 PM

Men of Respect



“I caught Alan Dershowitz defending Martha Stewart on ABC TV this morning. Most Americans who pay any attention at all to the news of her trial think she is being charged with insider trading. She is not. She is accused of asserting her innocence to federal prosecutors who accused her of insider trading. She is on trial for allegedly lying about her innocence.

Think about that. The Constitution supposedly gives us the presumption of innocence. A federal bureaucrat shows up and says, in effect, ‘We haven’t defined insider trading yet, Mrs. Stewart, but we think you’re guilty of it and should go to prison for it.’ Martha says ‘I’m innocent’ and for that she’s prosecuted.

Dershowitz was right on the money when he announced on ABC, ‘This is like the Soviet Union!’ “

Thomas DiLorenzo, February 4, 2004

DiLorenzo is a professor of economics
at Loyola College in Maryland.

Dershowitz is a professor of law
at Harvard.

In Memory of Amy Spindler


 Saturday, February 28, 2004  7:00 PM

Inner Truth
and Outer Style

Inner Truth:

Inner Truth

Outer Style:

Joan Didion

“Everything I learned,
I learned at Vogue.”

Joan Didion, Nov. 2001 interview
with Amy Spindler.

Spindler died on Friday, Feb. 27, 2004.

For related material, see
Truth and Style: ART WARS at Harvard.

Inner Truth


Friday, December 5, 2003  1:06 PM

Number 61    Inner Truth

For Joan Didion on her birthday

From “On Keeping a Notebook” (1966)
in Slouching Towards Bethlehem:

How it felt to me: that is getting closer to the truth about a notebook. I sometimes delude myself about why I keep a notebook, imagine that some thrifty virtue derives from preserving everything observed.  See enough and write it down, I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder, some day when I am only going through the motions of doing what I am supposed to do, which is write- on that bankrupt morning I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be, a forgotten account with accumulated interest, paid passage back to the world out there: dialogue overheard in hotels and elevators and at the hatcheck counter in Pavillon (one middle-aged man shows his hat check to another and says, “That’s my old football number”)….

I imagine, in other words, that the notebook is about other people. But of course it is not. I have no real business with what one stranger said to another at the hat-check counter in Pavillon; in fact I suspect that the line “That’s my old football number” touched not my own imagination at all, but merely some memory of something once read, probably “The Eighty-Yard Run.”

From a 1994 interview with Tommy Lee Jones by Bryant Gumbel:

Gumbel: While majoring in English, Jones was also an offensive guard on the Harvard football team. Number 61 in your program, his last game, against Yale, proved to be one of the most famous games every played. Harvard scored 16 points in the last 42 seconds to gain a 29-all tie. (Photo of Jones in football uniform, footage of 1968 football game.)

Mr. J: It couldn’t have been a more spectacular way to leave the game that had been so important to me all my life. The grass had never looked that green, nor the sky that blue.

Gumbel: That lucky game was for Jones a precursor of good fortune to come. It seems Harvard

Chessboard of Time


 Wednesday, November 12, 2003  9:58 AM

The Silver Table

“And suddenly all was changed.  I saw a great assembly of gigantic forms all motionless, all in deepest silence, standing forever about a little silver table and looking upon it.  And on the table there were little figures like chessmen who went to and fro doing this and that.  And I knew that each chessman was the idolum or puppet representative of some one of the great presences that stood by.  And the acts and motions of each chessman were a moving portrait, a mimicry or pantomine, which delineated the inmost nature of his giant master.  And these chessmen are men and women as they appear to themselves and to one another in this world.  And the silver table is Time.  And those who stand and watch are the immortal souls of those same men and women.  Then vertigo and terror seized me and, clutching at my Teacher, I said, ‘Is that the truth?….’ “

— C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, final chapter

Follow-up to the previous four entries:

St. Art Carney, whom we may imagine to be a passenger on the heavenly bus in The Great Divorce, died on Sunday, Nov. 9, 2003.

The entry for that date (Weyl’s birthday) asks for the order of the automorphism group of a 4×4 array.  For a generalization to an 8×8 array — i.e., a chessboard — see

Geometry of the I Ching.

Audrey Meadows, said to have been the youngest daughter of her family, was born in Wuchang, China. 

Tui: The Youngest Daughter

“Tui means to ‘give joy.’  Tui leads the common folk and with joy they forget their toil and even their fear of death. She is sometimes also called a sorceress because of her association with the gathering yin energy of approaching winter.  She is a symbol of the West and autumn, the place and time of death.”

Paraphrase of Book III, Commentaries of Wilhelm/Baynes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003  7:25 PM

Divine Comedy

Michael Joseph Gross:

“The Great Divorce is C.S. Lewis’s Divine Comedy: the narrator bears strong resemblance to Lewis (by way of Dante); his Virgil is the fantasy writer George MacDonald; and upon boarding a bus in a nondescript neighborhood, the narrator is taken to Heaven….”

On Time


 Tuesday, November 11, 2003  11:11 AM


“Why do we remember the past
but not the future?”

— Stephen Hawking,
A Brief History of Time,
Ch. 9, “The Arrow of Time”

For another look at
the arrow of time, see

Time Fold.

Imaginary Time: The Concept

The flow of imaginary time is at right angles to that of ordinary time.“Imaginary time is a relatively simple concept that is rather difficult to visualize or conceptualize. In essence, it is another direction of time moving at right angles to ordinary time. In the image at right, the light gray lines represent ordinary time flowing from left to right – past to future. The dark gray lines depict imaginary time, moving at right angles to ordinary time.”

Is Time Quantized?



We don’t really know.

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that time is in fact quantized and two-dimensional.  Then the following picture,

from Time Fold, of “four quartets” time, of use in the study of poetry and myth, might, in fact, be of use also in theoretical physics.

In this event, last Sunday’s entry, on the symmetry group of a generic 4×4 array, might also have some physical significance.

At any rate, the Hawking quotation above suggests the following remarks from T. S. Eliot’s own brief history of time, Four Quartets:

“It seems, as one becomes older,
That the past has another pattern,
    and ceases to be a mere sequence….

I sometimes wonder if that is
    what Krishna meant—
Among other things—or one way
    of putting the same thing:
That the future is a faded song,
    a Royal Rose or a lavender spray
Of wistful regret for those who are
    not yet here to regret,
Pressed between yellow leaves
    of a book that has never been opened.
And the way up is the way down,
    the way forward is the way back.”

Related reading:

The Wisdom of Old Age and

Poetry, Language, Thought.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003  11:00 AM


Sunday, November 9, 2003  5:00 PM

For Hermann Weyl’s Birthday:

A Structure-Endowed Entity

“A guiding principle in modern mathematics is this lesson: Whenever you have to do with a structure-endowed entity S, try to determine its group of automorphisms, the group of those element-wise transformations which leave all structural relations undisturbed. You can expect to gain a deep insight into the constitution of S in this way.”

— Hermann Weyl in Symmetry

Exercise:  Apply Weyl’s lesson to the following “structure-endowed entity.”

4x4 array of dots

What is the order of the resulting group of automorphisms? (The answer will, of course, depend on which aspects of the array’s structure you choose to examine. It could be in the hundreds, or in the hundreds of thousands.)

Friday, November 7, 2003  7:00 PM

A Beautiful Fantasy:

The Secret life of
 John Nash

“Dr. Blind (pronounced ‘Blend’) was about ninety years old and had taught, for the past fifty years, a course called ‘Invariant Subspaces’ which was noted for its monotony and virtually absolute unintelligibility, as well as for the fact that the final exam, as long as anyone could remember, had consisted of the same single yes-or-no question. The question was three pages long but the answer was always ‘Yes’. That was all you needed to pass Invariant Subspaces.”

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt


“…I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.


Ulysses, by James Joyce

For the Dead


Thursday, October 23, 2003  3:00 AM

For the Dead of
St. Ursula’s Day

In the spirit of Southie…



To admirers of
Elliott Smith
from admirers of
Louise Day Hicks,
a link:

“To admirers, Mrs. Hicks
spoke the truth
to liberal power
in simple declarative sentences.”

Mark Feeney, Boston Globe

“The time had come for him
to set out on his journey westward.
Yes, the newspapers were right:
snow was general all over Ireland.”

James Joyce, “The Dead”

Saint Ursula’s Day


Tuesday, October 21, 2003  2:07 AM

Saint Ursula’s Day

“What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?”

— Saying attributed to 
Saint Ursula K. Le Guin
   (10/21/1929 – )

Little Foxes


 Saturday, October 11, 2003  1:00 AM

For Patricia Collinge

of Collinge-Pickman Casting, Boston, whose credits include casting for the film A Civil Action.

“Take us the foxes, the little foxes…”

KHYI just played Tish Hinojosa’s “Something in the Rain.”  Here, Ms. Collinge, is a rather strange website related to the themes of A Civil Action and to Hinojosa’s song:

Something in the Rain