Thursday, June 19, 2014

Kaori at 81


3 raised to the 4th power = 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 = 81
Tribonacci Numbers: 0, 0, 1, 1, 2, 4, 7, 13, 24, 44, 81, 149, 274. . .
Perfect Totient Number, Open Meandric Number, 9th in Mian-Chowla Sequence
nth centered octagonal number = 4n(n-1) + 1 
1, 9, 25, 49, 81, 121, 169. . .    

1 + 8 = 9
1 + 8 + 16 = 25  
1 + 8 + 16 + 24 = 49
1 + 8 + 16 + 24 + 32 = 81

nth heptagonal number = n(5n-3)/2 
1, 7, 18, 34, 55, 81, 112, 148, 189. . .    
  1 + ( 7 -  1) = 7
  7 + (14 - 3) = 18
18 + (21 - 5) = 34
34 + (28 - 7) = 55
55 + (35 - 9) = 81

Oliver Saks, Monserrat Caballé, Krzysztof Penderecki, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Roman Polanski, Gene Wilder, Michael Caine, Yoko Ono, Chita Rivera, Joan Collins, Quincy Jones, Cecily Tyson, Jean-Paul Belmondo, David McCullough, Carol Burnett, et al

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Another pet peeve of mine at the grocery store, aside from the small-eggs-sold-as medium-or-large, is vine-ripened-tomatoes, as tomatoes-on-the-vine are sometimes labeled, which I learned are tomatoes allowed to ripen on the vine in shipment rather than off the vine which are also allowed to ripen in shipment, that is to say, there is no substantial difference in texture or taste.  Check out this wonderful full account:  <>.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Men, Women, and Androgyny

A belligerent behavior is considered manly; being conciliatory is believed to be feminine.  Man is strong, woman is weak, so we are told; man is direct, woman is devious, we are also told.  When women, in competition with men in their effort to achieve any position dominated by men, they are encouraged to be more assertive to succeed; but when they assert and show courage they are criticized as being aggressive, domineering, or worse.  Strong women are seen as harpies or termagants; conciliatory men are regarded weak and cowardly and called wimps.   But if women are encouraged to be more assertive, men might be taught, too, to be more yielding.  “Why can’t a woman be more like a man,” sings Dr. Higgins in My Fair Lady.  Well, well, “why can’t a man be more like a woman,” I say.  After all, gender is a continuum rather than categories, even if sex, biologically defined, may be more distinctly male or female.  There are manly men and effeminate men, and some women are mannish while others are more distinctly feminine.  In the middle of the scale we find androgyny.  The general populace, attuned to the dichotomy of sex,  perceives it as disquieting, weird, or even alarming; to the majority it is unnatural.  But to the contrary, it is natural if we accept gender as a continuum; it is the neutral gray in the spectrum between black and white.  Grays, however, encompasses a vast range from the darkest to the lightest; so, we can also say and must recognize that gender is a range of androgyny.  Men and women are all to some extent androgynous, some more masculine and others more feminine, some more conspicuously and others less. 

Religious wars

So many wars have been and continue to be fought in the name of religion that it is tempting to think that religion is not merely the opium of the people but even more destructively the staple of the world’s violent conflicts. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fibbing World

In Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy, The Cripple of Inishmaan, every one fibs, all nine colorful characters — tall tales, flat lies, deceptions, and evasions.  On the surface of it, they are despicable characters, openly cruel to one another.  But if we empathize with them, they are at the same time endearing.  I find them so.

Everyone in the play knows what anyone says is far from truth but not so far as to be without a grain of truth, and a lie is worth paying attention to if it is well told, that is, so long it is a good story.  The play takes place in a small isolated village on one of the Aran Islands, where stories culled from gossip, hearsay, and eavesdropping are not only eagerly sought but also necessary because they are virtually the sole form of infotainment to relieve the boredom of the uneventful community. With their fibbing they entertain one another. 

So, the character Johnnypateenmike peddles gossips as news from door to door and can make his living garnering provisions in exchange. The real big notice is the arrival of Hollywood’s Robert Flaherty at Inishmore to film the documentary, Man of Aran; though this is a historical fact, it is only a rumor to the villagers.  The crippled orphan Billy is himself the subject of gossip through the village; the circumstance of his parents’ death is whispered around in several versions but never fully known. Everyone knows Kate and Eileen who brought him up are not really Billy’s aunts except the boy himself.  Hoping to be cast in Flaherty’s movie, Billy flashes a falsified letter from his doctor to dupe Babby Bobby, a boatman, to sail him to Inishmore and purportedly went to America with the film crew, but no one is sure if he truly did because on his mysterious return he reads the letter he says he wrote in California but never mailed it.  The insults that Helen showers on Billy dissimulates her attraction to him; Bartley, her brother, makes his love of sweets into a mantra.  Mammy, Johnnypateen’s mother, lies to her doctor, who in turn never told Billy the truth about his incipient consumption.  Flaherty’s , nominally a documentary, reconstructed with actors the life of fishermen from an earlier era who chase sharks.

Some see this play as McDonagh’s lesser effort, parodying J. M. Synge and Sean O’Casey, a brutal satire on the Irish village life peopled with cheap stereotypes. On one level, we can see it as a less than sympathetic portrayal in miniature of the whole Irish society, isolated and closed, and of the culture that thrives on stories excitingly told no matter what they are.  The whole play is, indeed, a tall tale, and McDonagh shows himself a masterful storyteller.  
But I find the play thoroughly exhilarating still on another level.  McDonagh’s world with its vivid characters and their high-falutin but penetratingly truthful dialogues also encapsulates our larger society dominated by the web of linguistic manipulations. 

Our whole media industry, infiltrating our everyday life, is no less a news monger than Johnnypateen, reaping profits from selling half truths.  Some of us are gullible enough to swallow even commercial slogans whole; but even the more discerning viewers of television among us also rely on them as reports of sufficiently credible accuracy, aware or unaware of the political or commercial manipulation in their making.  

To think of it, our daily life is full of fibbing in the form of platitude, evasion, and subterfuge, or else of embellishment and hyperbole.  To a casual acquaintance, we say “Fine,” when asked “How are you?” regardless of our real condition.  We get evasive when we are asked a question we don’t really want to answer. When we badmouth a colleague behind her/his back, we overstate the case, as we do when scolding a child.  Back from a vacation, we highlight the trip’s highlights for dramatic effect.  Retelling whatever excited us, we resort to hyperbole; whenever we talk about our triumphs and tribulations in our past life, we are likely to amplify.  Even without making an effort to slant the truth, what we say, whatever it is that we say, comes out short of truth by virtue of editing, elision, or exclusion. 

In the law court, after swearing to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the witness, failing to remember certain details, states only a partial truth.  In scientific reports, striving to be as objective and accurate as we can, we still allow not only deductions but also assumptions and speculations.  The result may be mostly or generally true and still be subjected to criticism as was Al Gore on global warming in the 2006 film, An Inconvenient Truth.  Any documentary film, even in the neorealist vein, by its selectivity, is to some degree fictional.  We all know that a painted portrait, however realistic, by and large flatters; photography, seemingly documentary, also lies. 

A historic event, when recorded in writing, is a narrative and, inevitably, it abstracts and therefore distorts, and confuses fact and fiction; so, any account of our experience is partially fictional, with exaggerations aplenty, to earn admiration or sympathy as the case may be  Political speeches are basically demagoguery, made up of slogans and other rhetorical turns for persuasion. Metaphor as a figure of speech is itself a kind of inexactitude, and so is poetry.  

Language, like photography, pretending to replicate reality, never really does.  When it is spoken, physical expressions accompanies it, facial, gestural, or emotional; written language is more abstract and so, even when it describes emotional tenor, lacks visible actions and can more often misleads; we know this from e-mail letters which get misunderstood in the emotion that remain invisible.  Language can never replace the raw experience as we have through the senses, especially of vision and hearing.  It is noteworthy that among the higher arts, dance and music in their more pure form are non-verbal, which are also largely pre-linguistic, create the real experience more or less unadultelated. 

Language distinguished humans from other creatures, and yet, ironically, it created the web of fibs and misinformations that dominate our linguistic life. But, too, we learned, and learned well, to navigate and negotiate through it, ingeniously isolating truth from untruth and half truth.  Moreover, we thrive on fictions in higher arts as in everyday life when we read books, fiction and non-fiction, attend the theater and cinema, and enjoy poetry.  Language, failing to replicate reality, enriches our life with its capacity to lie, to tell stories, and in its highest form, to achieve poetry.  This is the game Billy the Cripple and his villagers also play; and that impressed me so.

If all the world’s a stage, theater sums up the fibbing world.