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26 July 2010

drop 2 A-bombs on cities, you get these movies / "Mushroom Clouds & Mushroom Men -- The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda"

Click on image, flee for your lives!

MUSHROOM CLOUDS AND MUSHROOM MEN -- The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda” by Peter H. Brothers.
For the first time in America, a book has been published on Japan's foremost director of Fantasy Films: MUSHROOM CLOUDS AND MUSHROOM MEN – The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda.
Known primarily for directing such classic Japanese monster movies as Rodan, Mothra, Attack of the Mushroom People and the original Godzilla, Honda has been a much-overlooked figure in mainstream international cinema.
MUSHROOM CLOUDS AND MUSHROOM MEN is the first book to cover in English print Honda’s life as well comprehensively evaluates all 25 of his fantasy films.  It is also gives objective and critical analysis of Honda's filmmaking methods, themes and relationships with actors and technicians.
Making use of extensive interviews from Honda’s colleagues, as well as a wealth of original source material never before gathered into one volume (including unpublished essays), MUSHROOM CLOUDS AND MUSHROOM MEN is an affectionate tribute to arguably the most-prolific and influential director in the history of fantasy films.
MUSHROOM CLOUDS AND MUSHROOM MEN (ISBN No.: 978-1-4490-2771-1) is available online and at at:
Thank you for your kind attention!

25 July 2010

Annals of Musical Beauty (continued): Vivaldi rides the caboose on the Runaway Train ./ surfing from Nieu & Moorea / Kurosawa & Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, Rebecca DeMornay

Click on image. see it in RealD®!
if you got the glasses.

Jörgen, do you live on Niue? How's the weather? Good restaurants? Do you have to wear clothes?
THANKS for identifying the closing music in "Runaway Train"!
"Runaway Train" begs the refined cineaste to scoff and dismiss it -- a stiff penalty for judging a book by its cover.
At the Cannes Film Festival, Akira Kurosawa showed Jon Voight a screenplay for which he'd been unable to secure production financing. The horrified Voight bought it, translated it to an American wilderness setting, and starred in it, with Eric Roberts and Rebecca De Mornay. Voight and Roberts were nominated for Oscars; De Mornay's performance matches theirs, she ain't just along for the ride; and as the villain, John P. Ryan is a standout in the great Hollywood tradition of "The Man You Love to Hate" (the slogan pioneered in the Silent era by the monocled, sneering cad Erich von Stroheim).
More than this I ain't saying. Microwave some popcorn and watch it. It's difficult and unpleasant -- it sure isn't the Feel-Good Hit of the Season -- but there's startling dialogue the equal of Shakespeare [Kurosawa made Shakespeare flicks, a "Lear" and a "Macbeth"], and the thrills and terror (amidst spectacular winter wilderness) never let up. If you thought you'd seen The Kurosawa Collection, but you haven't seen RT, you've missed a masterpiece.

Hut 19, Moorea
(And I SURE HOPE this modest-sized image won't be rejected.)

~ ~ ~

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jörgen Lundmark" <>
To: "Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould." <>
Sent: Sunday, July 25, 2010 8:51 AM
Subject: Re: [f_minor] Requiem expert needed (non-GG related)


This Vivaldi Gloria RV589 movement was used  at the end of "Runaway Train",

Very poignant use of contrasting emotional contents.



I do apologize posting this here...but I'm kind of in a musical search
bind, am hoping some of the esteemed members of F Minor can help me out.

I recently watched BBC documentary "The Planets", and found that one
of the soundtrack from the episode "Destiny" is a requiem.  It sounds
like it could be late Renaissance, but I don't know who is the composer.

Here is the YouTube link:

Please listen from 6:19 to 7:47 and 8:00 to 8:35 for the music in question.

Thanks in advance (and will do my best not to do this on the list again in the near future), DJ Were-Panda

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the Earth
with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you
will always long to return." --Leonardo da Vinci

Panda On A Scooter

23 July 2010

Tierra de los Sueños / TdSPosta / Pesadilla / Beso de Conejo / you can't get there from here / Ramanujan and RamanuJohn / Namagiri / the Halvah Pyramid / Traveling Santa Problem

Click image for larger.

Rare souvenir chromograph postcard from Tierra de los Sueños / TdSPosta.

The interest and flattery about the chain mail perforations and bikinis, the pizza, the Lewis/Uig chess pieces stamps, and Tierra de los Sueños/TdSPosta have cheered me through The Week From Heck, for which the people of Tierra de los Sueños express their sincere thanks.

Nothing was health-threatening, nor flood nor volcano nor fire nor earthquake. We just concluded a Real Long Wild Thrill Ride on the Current North American Economy, resorting at times to Magical Rituals, which seem to have worked. (pvt me about the secret commercial and financial powers of Saint Joseph, but this Saint delivers the goods.)

I foresee that shortly, perhaps within hours, someone will ask me to take the chain mail bikinis off-List, so those who wish to read more about Tierra de los Sueños, its rich history, the difficulties of sending and receiving mail between TdS and our Waking State (which makes TdS stamps rare and pricey, not to mention the rare hand-tinted chromograph Souvenir Postcard, one was successfully received which depicts the statue of the bunny kissing Hidalgo del Saperstein in Plaza Centro, Pesadilla), are invited here, but if nothing's there, or you get

Error 307
Answer Hazy,
Try Again Later

give me a few hours. Things is still Heck On Wheels around here.

~ ~ ~

Elmer Elevator is listening to

"The Duel with the Skeleton"

from a new recording of Bernard Herrmann's score for "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad," John Debney conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Varese Sarabande Film Classics VSD 5961. And you should, too.

* * *

The great postal scholar Merisse Tain first reported the existence of Tierra de los Sueños in an illustrated speech at the World Postal League 1955 convention. She  was able to convert recurring dreams into 3 verified stamps issued by TdSPosta.

Since then, researchers expanding Tain's techniques have received 2 chromograph souvenir postcards, and 20 TdSPosta stamps -- each one of a dream, one of my dreams, one of your dreams, a famous dream, a classic dream, a dream from childhood, or a dream of how things might or could be in the Future.

(As mysteriously as it appeared, "Naked At My High School Prom" has disappeared again; TdSPosta stamps exist clearly in our Waking State briefly and intermittently. Collectors who have paid a lot of money for them are suddenly shit out of luck, usually forever, however hard they try to remember the stamp again.)

A recent TdSPosta stamp of Dreams of the Future is here.

The central barrier to the reliable transmission and reception of TdSPosta materials is the VZ or Zona de Vigilia (Awakening Zone).

It is in the VZ, in the first few moments of awakening, where almost all the details of dreams are lost. Often we sit on the side of the bed knowing a dream was all-involving, compelling, unique, deeply disturbing, or a certain promise that our lives would change fundamentally -- but all else is lost, all else has been yanked back across the VZ to Tierra de los Sueños, and will probably never be dreamt again.

~ ~ ~

Hardy asked Ramanujan how he came upon his astonishing equations in Number Theory, and Ramanujan explained that he dreamed them, the equations were revealed to him in dreams by the Goddess Namagiri, and on awakening he would scribble down as much as he could remember.

Namagiri had appeared to Ramanujan's mother in a dream, and told her to give her son permission to leave India and travel to England, where the world would recognize him as the greatest mathematician of the age. And this happened.

Ramanujan's dreamt equations are even less controversial: Though Ramanujan himself cared nothing for Mathematical Proof, they have all -- or almost all -- been subsequently Proven. (The ones not yet proven still seem to work perfectly.)

This erroneously suggests Ramanujan didn't have to do any hard work; on this side of the VZ he worked ceaselessly and ferociously, his life a white-hot flame that burned out in 1920 at age 33, after one last ocean voyage home to India.

Unexpected treasures from the depths of mathematics continue to leap from modern examination of his tattered notebooks, which can be seen at the Ramanujan Institute for Advanced Study in Mathematics of the University of Madras.

NOTE: Ramanujan is not to be confused with the Occidental Mystic Mathematician RamanuJohn, the only sentient on the Internet to successfully solve the 7-Node Traveling Santa Problem (TSP).

~ ~ ~

In the half-century since Tain's first TdSPosta stamps, a faint but tantalizingly curious picture has slowly emerged about Tierra de los Sueños. (Gringos and Yanquis who have sent and received its mail -- English-speaking Dream Rememberers -- call it Dreamland.)

Its landlocked capital is Pesadilla (Nightmare), its architecture in the grand Spanish colonial style. In the mid-19th century Dutch Engineer-Dreamers (using opium to enhance journeying between the Waking State and TdS, a practice banned in 1914) built the railroad between Pesadilla and the port of Beso de Conejo (Bunnykiss); the steam railroad still runs daily in both directions.

Beso de Conejo -- today TdS' famed beach resort -- was named for the moment the conquistador Hidalgo de Saperstein first set foot on the beach, and as he knelt to claim the land for his sovereign, a bunny ran from the underbrush and kissed him on the nose. A statue depicting this historic event is located in Plaza Centro in Pesadilla.

22 July 2010

"The Phenix City Story" / Providing Entertainment & Relaxation to Our Boys in Uniform Since 1925 / "The Wild Bunch" @ the Phenix City Drive-In with corn dogs / "Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny" / Oh show us the way to the next whiskey bar / Oh don't ask why / For if we don't find the next whiskey bar / I tell you we must die

Click image for larger, friendlier.

Ah, okay, the fundamental description in the movie is / was true.

The Chattaoochie River meanders north to south through the huge Army reservation of Fort Benning, and forms the border thereabouts between Georgia (east) and Alabama. Fort Benning has had a metric shitload of soldiers since forever, and around such huge military populations "Army towns" spring up, which don't just provide necessary commercial services to the soldiers, but typically grow to become parasitic towns, earning wealth from soldiers' weaknesses, transience and regular paychecks, offering prostitution, gambling, and predating and victimizing soldiers however they can.

Columbus is the Army town next to Fort Benning in Georgia, and that sucked pretty bad (a night of its finest dining ended you up at the I-HOP), but since the 1920s, Phenix City, Alabama went straight for the jugular, and became a dangerous place for unwary soldiers to wander around in. When soldiers ran afoul of some Den of Vice in Phenix City, the town cops locked him up and held him for "ransom" until the Army bailed him out with $$$. Between the World Wars Patton commanded and devloped tank warfare at Benning, and one time the shakedown racket pissed him off so bad he rolled into town with tanks, aimed their cannon at the jail, and got his soldiers back (without having to blow up the jail).

At various times in the 1930s - 1950s (when the movie was made) the whole town was declared Off Limits to Army personnel (that didn't deter the soldier Fun Seekers too much), and when I was there -- 1969-70 -- you could go, but our First Sergeant strongly advised against it. I like Fun as well as the next soldier, but I don't like being drugged and mugged and stabbed and shot and ending up in some sleazeball Alabama jail. Columbus had entertainment sufficient for me and my buddies (if one of us could scare up a car).

Around the time the movie chronicles, corruption got so bad in Phenix City (enormous untaxed vice profit was at stake) that the chief of police walked up the courthouse steps and shot the district attorney to death, or so legend goes.

But finally Phenix City started attracting not just state but national attention, magazine articles, etc. (I just saw the flick the other day and remember a screen featuring Phenix City on the cover of Look, with a lurid headline.) A consensus was growing that even in Alabama, the Wild West was supposed to have ended around 1890, but guns and all, it was still a wild place in the grip of a permanent local violent gangster establishment. And most of its victims were US soldiers -- which made it a Pentagon concern as well.

How it cleaned up -- the flick was 1955 and I was a soldier there 15 years later -- I don't exactly know, but it hadn't cleaned up overmuch. It was common knowledge in the barracks not to go there if you absolutely didn't have to. If you just drank in a Phenix City bar at night, you were asking for it.

To be fair to this fine upstanding Christian town and its heritage of providing entertainment and relaxation to lonely soldiers, I can only remember one occasion I had to go there at night -- the Phenix City Drive-In was first-running Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch," and I was determined to see that sucker, and fast. (Within a month, Warner Brothers yanked it back and butchered it brutally; it was only restored to Peckinpah's magnificent original within the last decade.) One barracks buddy had a big old sedan and I promised him and all who piled in a Unique Entertainment Experience, so we went, saw a magnificent movie in pristine condition, ate corn dogs, and suffered no misadventure. We Survived A Night In Phenix City, Alabama. (No easy trick.)

Around 1985 I did a stint in a Boston hospital, and on my ward chatted up a woman and her young daughter with deep Southern accents. She said they lived in Phenix City, Old Veteran Bob explained he knew it well, she blushed rather deeply, but effusively assured me that Phenix City had finally morphed beyond Lawlessness, and was now a safe, fine place to raise a family. Either she was telling the truth, or lying her brains out.

I sure ain't going there again, I don't care what they're showing at the Drive-In.

For further details, catch a performance of Brecht and Weill's "Rise and Fall of the City Mahagonny," about the Alabama town where Everything is for sale, and there's only one crime: Not paying the bill. (It's a capital crime.)

Sound ON
right-click: OPEN IN NEW WINDOW

Teresa Stratas sings "The Alabama Song" from "Mahagonny"

20 July 2010

First Day Issue / Tierra de los Sueños / TdSPosta: Lewis or Uig chess pieces / PizzaQ! / media noche at the Versailles / mark of a devious mind / Staunton v. Fancy-Schmantsy or Artsy-Fartsy designs / Scotland 11, England 67 (score not Final)

Click images for larger.

First Day Issue
Tierra de los Sueños ■ TdSPosta
Lewis or Uig chess pieces

And a PizzaQ ... 2 slices extra mozzarella ...

What are the perforations?

Stamps and this thread inspired by comments by Christopher Lawson and patfromch,

Eleven of these are in the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. Admission to gawk at these astonishing objects is free, but I'll stuff a Scottish Pound (issued by the Bank of Scotland, but usually accepted south of the border) into the donations box.

The other 67 chess pieces are in the British Museum, London. Hovering over them is a huge and vociferous tug-of-war over where they should reside, should they be reunited; and recently a smaller collection with pieces from both sets toured small regional museums in Scotland.

Okay, I bought the resin reproduction, a standard complement chess set.

Real chess players -- good ones, serious ones -- play exclusively with the familiar Staunton design, and most of the time a cheap $5 plastic child's starter set, because in timed games you bang the pieces pretty violently on buttons on the top of the clock to end your move and start the opponent's clock running.

Fancy sets of any design other than Staunton are confusing in serious play -- is Shiva a knight or a bishop, is Ulysses S. Grant the king, is Cal Ripken the rook?

But chess sets have always been a focus of design art, the temptation to design a new and pretty chess set (or just a geeky one, like Napoleon's Grand Armee vs. Wellington's Waterloo coalition, or Red Sox vs. Yankees) is as overwhelming as the temptation to design a new type font. I am one of the idiots who buys pretty (and useless for play) art chess sets, although for play there's a nice wooden Staunton nearby and ready. I got Tenniel's "Looking Glass" set, a really nice machined heavy brass set, and I finally couldn't help myself anymore, I paid the outrageous price they were asking for Yankees vs. Red Sox.

Sherlock Holmes did not respect the game or its players. He concluded that chess is the mark of a devious mind, and those too fond of or skilled at the game were an untrustworthy lot capable of bestial acts.

Somewhere around here I have a book of recorded games by famous people; it includes a game by Karl Marx, and I think a game between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

These chess pieces are, I think, the oldest complete chess set on Planet Earth -- although scholars suggest they may have been a merchant's trove of pieces from five sets. The buzz, from similar pieces found, is that they were carved in Norway. They're dated to the 12th century A.D., people played more or less modern chess with them in the 1100s. (Castling and en passant are fairly recent innovations.)

The Lewis chess pieces were found in an exposed dune on the Bay of Uig in Scotland in 1831. The man who found them exhibited them at home for a while. Locals concluded they were pagan mini-idols, likely infected with ancient pre-Christian Bad Magic. They were then sold to Captain Roderick Ryrie, who recognized them as chess pieces, and a remarkable surprise from the past.

A good game of chess is one of the most intimate and intense experiences two personalities (or one personality and one robot, or two robots) can have. For somewhere under an hour -- occasionally considerably longer -- two strangers alternately reveal and conceal the most profound traits of their personality and character to and from one another. At competitive grandmaster levels, chess burns more calories per hour than most physical athletic activities, a day of it is more exhausting than a triathlon.

Most odd of all, a Spanish-speaker and Russian-speaker can sit down and commence a volcanic, anxiety-ridden, ferociously competitive game, conclude it in a win or a draw or a concession, and neither player needs a single word of the other's language. You can test this odd phenomenon around 1 a.m. in a chess and domino park across from the Versailles restaurant on Calle Ocho in Little Havana, in Miami. (Cubans socialize in those hours, after the oppressive day heat has broken.) 

After the game, eat the lengua asada at the Versailles. Or a media noche. Lots of killer desserts. A favorite beverage is fresh-squeezed sugar cane juice, in a large glass.

16 July 2010

An old ship & an old shoe from 2 centuries ago found in underground mud at site of World Trade Center in New York City

Click image for larger.

Photos: The Associated Press.

The Associated Press (USA newswire)
Friday 16 July 2010

Ship junked 200 years ago
uncovered at WTC site

by Verena Dobnik (AP)

NEW YORK —- The ship was buried as junk two centuries ago — landfill to expand a bustling little island of commerce called Manhattan. When it re-emerged this week, surrounded by skyscrapers, it was an instant treasure that popped up from the mud near ground zero.

A 32-foot piece of the vessel was found in soil 20 feet under street level, amid noisy bulldozers excavating a parking garage for the future World Trade Center. Near the site of so many grim finds — Sept. 11 victims' remains, twisted steel — this discovery was as unexpected as it was thrilling.

Historians say the ship, believed to date to the 1700s, was defunct by the time it was used around 1810 to extend the shores of lower Manhattan.

"A ship is the summit of what you might find under the World Trade Center — it's exciting!" said Molly McDonald, an archaeologist who first spotted two pieces of hewn, curved timber — part of the frame of the ship — peeking out of the muddy soil at dawn on Tuesday.

By Thursday, she and three colleagues had dug up the hull from the pit where a section of the new trade center is being built.

A steep, hanging ladder trembled with each step down into chaotic mounds of dirt, dwarfed all around by Manhattan skyscrapers rising into the July sun. People sank in the mud as they walked and grasped pieces of the historic wood for support — touching the centuries-old ship that may once have sailed the Caribbean, according to marine historian Norman Brower, who examined it Thursday.

"It smells like low tide, this muck," said McDonald as she stood on the weathered planks, sniffing the dank odor that hovered over them in the hot summer morning.

The ship harbors many mysteries still to be solved: "Where was it built? How was it used? Why was it sunk?"

McDonald and archaeologist A. Michael Pappalardo made the discovery on Tuesday at about 6:15 a.m., just as they started their shift observing construction in the pit at the southern edge of ground zero. The two work for AKRF, a New York environmental consulting firm hired to document artifacts discovered at the trade center site.

"We noticed two curved timbers that a backhoe had dislocated," McDonald said. Joined by two more archaeologists, they started digging with shovels, "and we quickly found the rib of a vessel and continued to clear it away and expose the hull over the last two days."

Brower, the historian, works in Mystic, Conn. -— renowned for its historic vessels. He told the archaeologists that it was an oceangoing vessel that might have sailed the Caribbean, as evidenced by 18th-century marine organisms that had bored tiny tunnels in the timber.

The vessel's age will be estimated after the two pieces that first popped up are tested in a laboratory through dendrochronology — the science of using tree rings to determine dates and chronological order. Also unknown is what kind of wood was used to build the ship.

A 100-pound iron anchor was found a few yards from the hull, possibly from the old vessel.

There were also traces of human life nearby =— "pieces of shoes all over," said McDonald, who had no idea how they got there.

The ship likely got there because of the effort to extend lower Manhattan into the Hudson River in the 1700s and 1800s using landfill. Cribbing usually consisted of logs joined together — much like a log cabin — but a derelict ship was occasionally used.

The ship discovered Tuesday was weighted down and sunk to the bottom of the river, as support for new city piers in a part of Manhattan tied to global commerce and trade.

A similar find emerged a walk away in 1982, when archaeologists found an 18th-century cargo ship on Water Street.

The remains of the latest discovery will be removed in the coming days, but the timber is so delicate it's unclear how much of it will remain intact. The surrounding water acted as a preservant for the wood for centuries, McDonald said, but the remains began to deteriorate immediately upon contact with oxygen.

"We're mostly clearing it by hand because it's kind of fragile," McDonald said, meaning shovels are used. Construction equipment could come in handy later in the process.

On Thursday, archaeologists were quickly sketching, measuring and photographing the ship remnants to help them analyze the find later; the two pieces of timber that signaled the discovery were taken away immediately. It was not clear from the 32-foot piece how long the whole ship might have been.

Another fascinating detail might emerge as work progresses: coins traditionally placed under a vessel's keel block as a symbol of good fortune and safe travels.

But the team is already feeling pretty lucky. "I kept thinking of how closely it came to being destroyed," Pappalardo said.

Somehow, the workers operating the bulldozers missed the bulk of the ship, catching only the two timbers as they excavated ramps that will connect to an underground parking garage at the rebuilt trade center.

Within the fenced-off, 16-acre site in downtown Manhattan, steel for a planned 1,776-foot skyscraper has risen 24 stories. The memorial to victims of the Septenmber 11 attacks, a multibillion-dollar transit hub and a second office tower are under construction. More office towers and a performing arts center are also part of the original plan.

- 30 -

15 July 2010

Annals of Musical Beauty (continued): Facebook Karaoke Miranda stinks up our "Tempest" / Brandauer's "Mephisto" / (in Hollywood he tortures Girl Scouts)

Click image, maybe larger.

[I couldn't find Kent's Prospero.]

Grrrr .... I didn't want to mention this, but she also put a Bad Smell on my favorite Shakespeare play. Me and the Missus woke at dawn and drove hours thru a blizzard to catch the train to NYC to see Frank Langella as Prospero znd the remarkable B.D. Wong -- he created the role of the beautiful Chinese actress who seduced the French diplomat (true story I think) in the play "M. Butterfly" -- as Ariel. That dude was flying all over Calypso Island, and he didn't use any wires. What a great show! "The Tempest" was his first role after his smash success in "M. Butterfly."

And Langella was magnificent, he truly cast a magic spell on the theater. The buzz is that this was Shakespeare's last play, and Prospero's farewell speech was Shakespeare's farewell (like GG's '81 Goldbergs) to the theater.


Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

We've talked about "Mephisto," but you've seen it? The sequence in which the young Schauspieler is appointed director of the prestigious theater by his Nazi friends, and for his first big project does an Aryan interpretation of "Hamlet" is a combo of Laff Riot and Mega-Creepy. I got to scare up more Brandauer euro-flicks. Over here, he always plays Der Villain. (But we pay him very well to torture the Girl Scout!)

Forgive me if I am slow and unresponsive this week. My Big Computer had a meltdown and is in the fixit shop, so I am limping along on the SONY laptop. I ask all atheists to pray for my PC's quick recovery.



13 July 2010

Annals of Musical Beauty: big nasty dustup on f_minor about new f_minor Facebook page / Beating Altekakers in the Alley with aluminum baseball bat / Facebook Kills / So does Old Age, Wunderkind Sweetie

Click image.

wie gehts alligra salut ciao

also danke for Cheering Me Up on a day when a Gloom Cloud (see Joe Btfsplk above) hovers over me and i have the sensation of being pecked to death by ducks.

We spoke about Ducksaga some time ago ... did i tell you a Dansk lady on irc told me they all live in Anderby ... Goosetown ... Oyeville?

I could be anywhere in Scandinavia or Iceland and see a sign

ANDERBY --> 3km

and not get the joke.

(I wonder what the goofball put 3km down the dirt & gravel road.)

Nothing is Bad or Unhealthy. In fact this recent Duck Pecking mit Gloom was kick-started by a much bigger Very Good Thing.

They say that the most beautiful experience you can have with the lower mammals is sex with a porcupine.

But achieving the Magnificent, World-Shattering Climax ... on the Road to Bliss is some Very Tricky Foreplay.

Miranda really pissed me off. I don't care if she wears Facebook panties and Facebook bra. In the middle of her Off-Topic Drama Queen Performance, she went Off-Off-Topic to kick us Altekakers.

(a fave word of my father the Yiddishspracher -- is Altekaker the same or close to something auf deutsches?)

We Altekakers are sick, wheezy, exhausted, we have paid gazillions in taxes, we Served Honorably in the Army to defend Western Europe from Communism like Elvis during War under Universal Military Conscription ... 

And though very few adolescents know this -- it always comes as a surprise when I tell them -- their very existence on Earth, and in the 7-11 parking lot at 2:30 am smoking a phatty and drinking peppermint schnapps, is because two or more Altekakers got jiggy about 14 or 15 years earlier.

My guess is Miraaaanda is one of those Wunderkind Conservatory keyboardists, magnificent finger and footsie technique, but as she awaits her breasts and pubic hair, she also awaits a Soul, the little part of the Brain that understands the Beauty beyond the accurate glissando.

Jesus she pissed me off. After a hard day wrestling Chopin at the Conservatory, does she beat a Senior Citizen in an alley with an aluminum baseball bat just to vent her frustration about being clueless about what Mr. Chopin is trying to sing to her unborn heart?

She probably has a mother or a father or both. For convenience, she could start kicking them in their dentures around the house, she probably still lives there.

But the Best Secret I have to whisper into one of Miranda's tin ears is:

She will get to AARP_Land just as surely and just as fast as I got to AARP_Land.

... if she is not first killed in a horrible automobile accident caused by her Texting her 8,651 Friends that she is wearing her new Gucci shoes. If she Twits, what's that, i think max 144 ASCII characters. Maybe she squeezes off 87 before she sideswipes the school bus.

Anyway, a toast, Skol! to Miraaaaaanda's Growing Inexorably, Unstoppably, Irreversibly Older! A toast to her de-perkying! Viva her sagging! Go Cellulite! (It began irreversibly accumulating in her thighs and tuchas around age 19.) Vive la perte de sa forme! (<-- Robot job)

A toast to the day she tells her 19,688 closest friends on Facebook that she had her first Facelift!

When she finally arrives in Senior World, may the Adolescents in her Nachbarschaft kick her in the dentures for amusement.

Where are my Droogs when I need them?

* * *

A duck just called me on the cellphone, said he was standing outside the house, now I gtg to let him peck me.

1 Hour Later:

He was a Very Nice, Very Pleasant, Very Helpful Duck! (Not Gladstone Gander.)

Watch for New Post, I have Feelings about Glenn's Goldbergs. For people with Souls only.

----- Original Message -----
From: Robert Merkin
To: Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould.
Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 3:55 AM
Subject: Re: [f_minor] "facebook"

People try to put us d-down
Talkin' 'bout my generation
Just because we get around
Talkin' 'bout my generation
Things they do look awful c-c-cold
Talkin' 'bout my generation
I hope I die before I get old
Talkin' 'bout my generation
-- Pete Townshend (born 1945)

Oboy, this is more fun than Hummists vs. Anti-Hummists.
I'd hoped to keep this just my shameful secret, but yeah, I'm an AARP member. My wife makes me ask for the motel discounts.

Miranda, your vigorous bigotry against the superannuated is charming, a breath of youthful fresh air. I hope you cling to it well into your sixties and seventies.

Is a reluctance to join social networking sites the new test for being a Luddite?
My brief daliance with Facebook got me a lovely post from one of my 2,690 friends, Brandi, an Internet sex worker. That's when I pulled the plug.
Rather than bash Facebook, I'd prefer to talk about the sense of comfort I've enjoyed on f_minor V.1 . Safety and privacy issues never once crossed my mind.
But this is the first I've heard that f_minor is also a Facebook page.

That is So Wicked Awesome.

But I think I'll pass, and stick with V.1 . I can handle a little rejection now and then, if that's the price I have to pay for the f_minor community I've grown used to.

Geezer Bob

* * *

Rockin' Chair
Hoagy Carmichael (1929)

Old rockin' chair's got me
my cane by my side
fetch me that gin, son
'fore I tan your hide

can't get from this cabin,
I ain't goin' nowhere
just settin' here grabbin'
at the flies round this rockin' chair

My dear old Aunt Harriet
up in Heaven she be
send me sweet chariot
for the end of the trouble I see

Old rockin' chair gets it
Judgment Day is here
I'm just chained to my rockin' chair

* * *

The Guardian (UK)
Monday 8 March 2010

Facebook murderer who posed
as teenager to lure victim
jailed for life

Peter Chapman, who lured 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall with a fake internet profile, had history of sex offences

by Helen Carter

A serial sex offender was today sentenced to life in prison after he admitted kidnapping, raping and murdering a teenager whom he ensnared using a fake profile on Facebook.

Peter Chapman was told he must serve at least 35 years in prison by judge Peter Fox today, following the killing of Ashleigh Hall, who was 17.
The judge said he was "a very great danger to young women, and for what it is worth, I cannot foresee your release".
Sentencing him at Teesside crown court, the judge said Chapman had been the architect of "an evil scheme, very carefully brought, and with considerable detail, to trap your victim".

The killer had claimed to be a handsome teenager and used the profile to lure the teenager into meeting him after he befriended her through Facebook.

In reality, he was an emaciated, 33-year-old convicted double rapist, who was almost toothless and living in his car.

Graham Reeds QC, for the prosecution, told the court Chapman had claimed to be called DJ Pete or Pete Cartwright.

"The photograph is not of him. It is of a barechested and good-looking boy, who is apparently in his late teens."

Chapman was, in fact, "a somewhat plainer-looking man who could pass for being rather older than his 33 years. When she met him on 25 October last year, he kidnapped, raped and murdered her."
The prosecutor described how the teenager suffered from low-esteem.

The night before Ashleigh's body was found, she had told her mother she was going to stay with a friend.

In order to entice her into his car, Chapman sent her a text message saying the boy's father would pick her up. He texted her to say: "My Dad's on his way, babe."

She replied: "He's here, babe." Once in the car, he attacked her.
Ashleigh's body was found dumped in a farmer's field near Sedgefield, County Durham, in October. Her arms were bound and tape was put over her face, suffocating her to death.
Chapman was arrested by chance in a separate police inquiry after a nationwide alert went out to trace his car after he had failed to comply with the requirements of his sex offenders' registration. During initial interviews he told police they could "crush his car". He later lost his nerve and confessed to murder.
Seen on CCTV at Middlesbrough police station, he tells a custody officer: "I killed someone last night. I need to tell somebody from CID where the body is. It hasn't been reported yet."
Detective Inspector Mick Callan, head of Durham police's major crime team, said: "The truth is he is a predatory sex offender who, through the tentacles of the internet, could reach out to the young and the vulnerable.
"He knows full well that using his real name and picture would not grab the attention of any young woman for a moment. But by using the picture of a good-looking young man as a cover he has woven a web of attraction and deceit that has sadly had a murderous ending."

Chapman, who was brought up by his grandparents in Stockton-on-Tees, has a history of sexual offending. He was the subject of several sexual assault investigations, beginning when he was 15. Four years later, in 1996, he received a seven-year prison sentence for raping two prostitutes at knifepoint during separate incidents and was released in 2001.
The following year Cheshire police questioned him over the rape and kidnap of a prostitute in Ellesmere Port. The case was discontinued.
Speaking outside court Andrea Hall, Ashleigh's mother, said the authorities should have done more to monitor Chapman's whereabouts after his release from prison. "They are the sort of people who should be tagged and they should be kept an eye on all the time. They shouldn't be allowed out into society anyway."
Mrs Hall, 39, also said it was wrong that Chapman, as a registered sex offender, was able to post online as a teenage boy.
"He took somebody else's photo and put it on the internet and has been posing behind this photo. It is awful to think that there's actually a boy out there and he is using his photo to prey on young girls."
Mrs Hall, who has three other daughters, said she was powerless to stop Ashleigh going out on the night she met Chapman. "What could I have done?" she asked. "She was 17. You don't stop your kids from going out."
She recalled the horror of hearing a police officer answer her daughter's phone, having attempted to contact her mobile on 30 occasions. She said: "I could understand it if Ashleigh had died because of illness but to actually have someone take someone's life is just unbearable."

- 30 -
----- Original Message -----
From: Miranda C*********
Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 1:04 AM
Subject: Re: [f_minor] "facebook"

Ms. J*****, how old are you?  Your opinion of Facebook reminds me of numerous AARP members who over the years have vocalized their disdain for whatever new form of technology has flooded market.  I happen to like Facebook.  It's a technological trend that I am embracing and using to my advantage.  I'm just curious if you thought everyone would agree with you because this forum is supposed to be a group of serious intellectuals who look down upon childish trends, or if you were looking to pick a fight with an ignorant Rock 'n Roll Gould fan such as myself?  Oh well, never mind, after all this is a Glenn Gould forum, not a technology forum, and as we all know, GG had absolutely no interest in stupid technological trends...

Miranda C*********

P.S. If you are so paranoid about privacy don't put anything on the internet you don't want anyone to know about. 
If you are worried about being part of the 'mass hypnosis' delete all your internet accounts and donate your computer and cell phone to charity.

From: maryellenj
Date: Tue, 13 Jul 2010 01:53:12 +0200
Subject: [f_minor] "facebook"

Dear Dominico Scarlatti; absolutely nothing personal intended. Don't get your knickers in such a twist over my honest comments. I have yet to see anyone willing to confront a firing squad in defence of 'Facebook' and I hope I never will ...

Mary J*****
----- Original Message -----
From: Peter C. van W***
To: Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould.
Sent: Monday, July 12, 2010 8:11 PM
Subject: Re: [f_minor] "facebook"

you two please take this very interesting discussion and media analysis of facebook off list, please?

On 2010-07-12, at 8:08 PM, wrote:

nor I, however I thought you were directing your email to me as I did not see anyone else's email address & wondered what  prompted this.


In a message dated 7/12/2010 4:53:48 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, maryellenj writes:

Dear Dominico Scarlatti; absolutely nothing personal intended. Don't get your knickers in such a twist over my honest comments. I have yet to see anyone willing to confront a firing squad in defence of 'Facebook' and I hope I never will ...

Mary J*****

12 July 2010

another margin scrawl ./ young Evariste has some sort of thing going with a woman named Motel / Je n'ai pas le temps / Ne pleure pas, Alfred!

 Click image for larger.

M**** liked my Kepler stamps, here's V.6 [see earlier post], I think I'll swear an oath to stop futzing with it now, but the cones needed an old-fashioned razor blade to cut the section curves.
There's one other Fairy Tale about marginalia, and everybody loves this one because it's worse than tragic -- it's tragic and sordid and icky and squalid and tawdry.
The ancient Greeks tattooed about a dozen Thingies (a technical term) on all subsequent mathematics. A few of them were sorta useless and not much more valuable than being annoying, a few of them were Wrong Guesses, but most of them were amazingly profound insights into the heart of math, and they've remained deeply ingrained in the way everybody does and thinks about math ever since. On Planet Earth since about 500 BC (Pythagoras), math has dressed, smelled, tasted and spoken Greek.
The Gods gave Athenians three problems:
1. On the Acropolis, the statue of Athena stood on a pedestal which was a cube. The Gods commanded the Athenians to replace it with a bigger pedestal -- a cube with twice the volume of the original.
2. Given a square with side length s and Area = s² , construct a circle with the same Area.

3. Given any arbitrary angle, divide it into three equal angles.

Oh, and you have to do all this using only these tools:

* unmarked straightedge (ruler, but blank)
* compass or dividers (like nautical chart dividers)

The three problems remained unsolved, no one made any progress toward solving them, all the world's math geniuses were clueless, until one night in Paris in 1832.

Descartes showed that the straightedge and divider thing -- the essence of Greek geometry -- has specific meaning and definition in algebra. So a modern restatement of the 3 problems would say

using only whole numbers,
and the arithmetic operations
+ - x / and [square root]

From the start, Evariste Galois' math teachers saw he had enormous talent, but he was a wild teenage screwball with toxic interpersonal skills. His talent should have rocketed him to the top of France's math establishment, but his personality kept him hopelesly stuck at the bottom. 

His other problem was that when he did try to publish his discoveries, they were so original and unprecedented, nobody understood them.  

This was the Golden Age of French mathematics, and the establishment was determined Galois would play no part in it.

To add to the lad's woes, he had a flawless instinct for political activities and loud treasonous speeches that was always getting him into trouble -- sometimes a little time in the Bastille, other times the death sentence. And he had a Very Messy Romantic Life.

He had some sort of relationship with a woman named Motel, and some other guy, or several other guys, also had some sort of relationship with Mlle. Motel. One of them said something so uncomplimentary about Mlle. Motel that Galois -- an aristocrat long since disowned by his dad -- challenged the guy to a pistol duel. They chose a place and a time a few days away.

Like most math nerds, Galois had no skills in pistol duelling, so he guessed a long, relaxing math career was not in his future.
But he'd already solved the 3 Ancient Greek Puzzles. And he knew it, and he knew how important and groundbreaking his solution was. 
He just hadn't taken a leisurely month to write it all down in clear, publishable form, after which the world would immediately honor him as the most brilliant mathematician of the age.

In fact he had only one night, the night before the early-morning duel, to put his ideas down on paper. And these are very long, complicated, and entirely new ideas.

What a very messy, barely legible paper it is.

And all around the margins, time after time, is the horrible scrawl:

Je n'ai pas le temps
Early in the morning of May 30, 1832, he was shot in the abdomen and died the following day at ten in the Cochin hospital (probably of peritonitis) after refusing the offices of a priest. He was 20 years old. His last words to his brother Alfred were:
Ne pleure pas, Alfred! J'ai besoin de tout mon courage pour mourir à vingt ans! (Don't cry, Alfred! I need all my courage to die at twenty.)
Today his last scrawl is universally called Galois Theory, sometimes also Abstract Algebra.

Oh, what was his solution to the 3 ancient problems? He proved that they can't be solved, there is no solution, it can't be done.

09 July 2010

the music on Glenn Gould's tombstone in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto / ars longa, vita brevis

 Click images for larger, a bit clearer.

Before reading ...

sound ON
right-click OPEN IN NEW WINDOW

This is the guy, right?

Musical quotation from Goldberg Variations (Aria) by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). Made using Sibelius 4 by Jashiin. The music quoted is in the public domain, and the image is hereby released into the public domain by Jashiin (version 2, errors in bars 5-6 fixed).

Thanks very much, Elaine. I do drivebys and train-throughs of Toronto, and Toronto always pleases me and invites me back, but I haven't yet visited the gravesite.

Perhaps f_minor might declare a date of significance, see who shows up to do him honor and bring him flowers, and then scare up a nice restaurant. Or the diner that made him comfortable and happy.
This thread has been "wondrous strange." In just twenty-eight years, these measures so clearly and lovingly engraved into stone -- our benchmark for our best efforts at capturing permanence and forever -- have faded so much that we wondered, briefly, what the tune might have been. 

The notes have been eroded by something far more permanent: rain, snow, wind, time itself.
Glenn Gould will have to seek his permanence not through stone carvers' hands, but through our good fortune that he played while recording technology blossomed (with his skilled help) into full maturity. He matured recording not just to hint at or capture distant echoes of beautiful music, but to send the beautiful music, affordably, around the world, even into outer space, someday, with just a little luck, to thrill music lovers on other planets.

Somebody pick a date, I'll meet you all there.
Massachusetts USA


stop in at the information  building at the cemetery.    they'll tell you it's  located in the ashes scattering area. and will probably give you a map.  but,  please, use a taxi . ( even in the cemetery ! ) - the distances in there ,    in 90 degree heat  , are terrible. 


From: "Houpt, Fred"
To: Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould.
Sent: Thu, July 8, 2010 3:36:31 PM
Subject: Re: [f_minor] (no subject)

thanks Katherine....I will try to visit him before the year is out.   I just have to stop forgetting.

Fred Houpt

From: [] On Behalf Of
Sent: Thursday, July 08, 2010 3:24 PM
Subject: Re: [f_minor] (no subject)

Hello F_Minors
According to the biographies, GG's attorney,S. Posen, designed the gravestone.

Katherine (also sweltering in Chicago)

PS: enter the Mount Pleasant cemetery on Bayview Street (where you can park) and stay on course a little to the right, section 38, No. 1050

gives some pictures of the grave site as well.


In a message dated 7/8/2010 11:01:04 A.M. Central Daylight Time, writes:

I have checked and in fact it is true that the musical notes on his stone are the first 3 bars of the Goldberg.  What threw me off is that there don't appear to be any ornamentations in the music, so it confused me.  GG and Goldberg are wedded forever in stone.  Nice effect.

Fred Houpt

From: [] On Behalf Of Elaine Parks
Sent: Thursday, July 08, 2010 12:17 AM
Subject: [f_minor] (no subject)

Hi GG fans,

 Here's a recent photo from Mt. Pleasant cemetery.



G'day f_minor

I find today's conversation quite touching. If I should ever visit Canada (definetly one day) I still don't know if I should visit his grave, but if I do, I'll bring along a bottle of Poland water and pay hommage.

You know, the Internet is a very loony place. There are actually several websites out there that are dedicated to grave locations and tombstones of famous people/ celebrities, whether one finds that funny or just morbid (or both), is up to you. In any case, here is the entry on GG from

How come there aren't any flowers ????



From: Houpt, Fred
Sent: Thursday, July 08, 2010 9:36 PM
To: Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould.
Subject: Re: [f_minor] (no subject)

thanks Katherine....I will try to visit him before the year is out.   I just have to stop forgetting.

Fred Houpt


From: [] On Behalf Of
Sent: Thursday, July 08, 2010 3:24 PM
Subject: Re: [f_minor] (no subject)

Hello F_Minors
According to the biographies, GG's attorney,S. Posen, designed the gravestone.

Katherine (also sweltering in Chicago)

PS: enter the Mount Pleasant cemetery on Bayview Street (where you can park) and stay on course a little to the right, section 38, No. 1050

gives some pictures of the grave site as well.


In a message dated 7/8/2010 11:01:04 A.M. Central Daylight Time, writes:

I have checked and in fact it is true that the musical notes on his stone are the first 3 bars of the Goldberg.  What threw me off is that there don't appear to be any ornamentations in the music, so it confused me.  GG and Goldberg are wedded forever in stone.  Nice effect.

Fred Houpt

Hi all,

I'm quoting this from Mr. Kevin Bazzana's Wondrous Strange:
"--bearing only his name and dates and the first three bars of the Goldberg Variations (the carver left off the ornaments)"

I love this book: wonderfully written.



From: Anne French
Date: Thursday, July 08, 2010 9:20 AM
To: Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould.
Subject: Re: [f_minor] (no subject)

I cut and pasted this text from

"On Gould's gravestone (a small plaque actually), there is appropriately etched the first bars of Bach's Goldberg Variations. It was his signature piece, the recording which made him famous in 1955."

I have also read in different books/articles that the first few bars of the Goldberg are etched on his grave marker. So, I think we can safely say that ?that is indeed the case. I lived in Buffalo my entire life, a mere 90 miles from Toronto, and never went to see GG's grave. Now I have moved to California... I'll probably fly 3,000 miles to see it someday!



On Thu, Jul 8, 2010 at 8:10 AM, Houpt, Fred wrote:

The first two bars appear so, but the third bar gives me trouble



From: [] On Behalf Of Anne French
Sent: Thursday, July 08, 2010 11:06 AM
To: Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould.
Subject: Re: [f_minor] (no subject)

It is the first four (I think) measures of the Goldberg Variations aria. I need a closer shot to see the number of measures, but for sure that is the music.



On Thu, Jul 8, 2010 at 7:56 AM, Houpt, Fred wrote:

Anyone recognize the music written on GG's tomb stone? I come up with a blank....maybe some of his own?


Fred Houpt

07 July 2010

Postalo Vleeptron / Commemorative: Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion / be a sentient! learn these laws now! / sister driveby / send all smart kids to St. John's College, Annapolis Maryland USA

Sure, click on image.

Commemorative Sheet
Postalo Vleeptron &



Kepler's Laws 

of Planetary Motion
Epicycle / Conic Sections

Quiz Tomorrow, worth 40 percent of semester grade.

If you've memorized and understand the Laws, the Quiz will be a walk in the park, you can leave early and have Latte with Brainy Marissa.

If you don't know the Laws, expect 50 minutes of torment, guilt, shame, squirming, frustration, self-anger, agonizing doubt, worry, followed by a D or an F. You'll need all 50 minutes to pull a D.

Every sentient on Vleeptron knows these Laws inside and out.
Instead of Spelling Bees, Vleeptron has Kepler's Laws Bees. Last year, the Planet-Wide Bee was held in the Ramada Ciudad Vleeptron, sponsored by VAMRI and Agence-Vleeptron Presse. Wz9+z0, a home-schooler, won. She knew what an epicycle was.

Do you?

Do you know the Conic Sections? I'm sorry I'm such an incompetent draftsman or I would have sliced the ice-cream cones with the razor blade to make a parabola and a hyperbola. I'm sure it's a snap with CAM-CAD, which can bite me. I'll keep working on it in MS_Paint.

Okay, I got all the Conic Sections now, including the parabola and hyperbola.

The background blue is a Custom Color, selected for how pretty I thought it was. Usually I'm content with MS_Paint's garish, lurid, blunt, short Crayola pallet. But this is Important, it needs a Custom Color.

My sister did a driveby for the 4th of July, and she and her husband very kindly assembled my Christmas Celestron Refractor Telescope.

Now I can see my beautiful Night Skies, and forest creatures cavorting, gamboling and predating (but all upside-down, such is the Way of the Refractor).

She told me about some work she did with NASA's Project Kepler.

When it was all over, and she'd learned 1000 Amazing Cutting-Edge Muy Starwarz Science Space Things, she still had no idea who Kepler was.

So I told her who Kepler was, in e-mails she read as she flew home to the Eastern Shore of Maryland USA. With pictures.

(Some filched, the rest me own invention.)

* * *

Not far from you is St. John's College, the Antidote to your woes. Every other college/university has a Math and Physics Department which crams math and physics into your head -- but none of the history that led up to K's revolutionary discovery -- and in the History department, there's almost never any History of Science, it's all Mary Queen of Scots and the Constitutional Convention.

St. John's is all "Great Books" seminars, but no segregation of subjects -- you get the math, the science, the history in the same room from the same teacher -- or, rather, you get it directly from Galileo's Dialogue of the Two World Systems and from Newton's Principia.

The history is super-ancient, and begins with

The Night Sky Puzzle

To the unaided (pre-telescopic) eye, the night sky (and it used to be spectacularly clearer) features the Moon, the "Fixed Stars," and then 5 star-like "planets" -- Greek for Wanderers.

The fixed stars are locked in a never-changing pattern. The pattern rotates around the North Star every night, but the Bear is always the exact same Bear, the Dragon is always the Dragon, etc. They may stand on their heads or lie on their sides in different seasons, but their stars always keep their fixed patterns.

But the Planets wander all over the place from night to night and season to season in crazy ways. Mars is particularly nutty -- for months it goes in one direction, and then suddenly it stops and goes backwards for a month or two -- retrograde motion.

The Babylonians and ancient Egyptians made amazing discoveries in astronomy. (The Babylonians could predict solar and lunar eclipses -- a nifty trick modern astronomers couldn't duplicate for 37 centuries.)

The Greeks -- sailors, travellers, shameless shoplifters and plagiarists -- were the first to try to find deeper, more profound answers to The Puzzle of the Planets, a scientific explanation of their screwy sky wanderings.

Celestial navigation was a huge motivator for the Greek merchant sailors. (Can you use a sextant?) A better bag of tricks about the night skies made the difference between commercial success and ruin, between life and death. So both kinds of Greeks -- head-in-the-clouds scientific dreamers, and practical, hard-headed merchants -- evolved better and better guesses about The Puzzle.

One barrier were some arbitrary philosophical, mystical and religious beliefs about Nature, due to Pythagoras and his disciple Plato.

The worst hurdle was the belief that God, being Perfect, would move every object through space along "perfect" mathematical paths, and the circle was deemed the perfect mathematical object for planet paths.

But when the Greeks observed the Planets and crunched the numbers, it was obvious the planets did not move in circle orbits.

Finally, the ancient world's most mature system, Ptolemy's Almagest (Arabic for "the best," circa 100 AD), was a scheme in which the planets moved in small circles whose centers moved around bigger circles. Adding enough of these epicycles could crudely explain the planets' odd motions. The Almagest epicycle scheme was the best explanation for 1500 years.

Tycho Brahe suspected the big problem was the lousy, unreliable, imprecise Ptolemy-era observations of the planets' motions.

He built an observatory on a Baltic island -- Uraniborg -- and because telescopes hadn't been invented, observed the planets through very long sighting tubes which revolved (azimuth) and aimed high or low (elevation). He made nightly observations for about 30 years, toward the end with young Kepler as his assistant.

Kepler inherited the observations, easily 10 times more precise, thorough and reliable than Ptolemy's. Kepler first talked Prince Rudolph into bankrolling the publication of the Rudolphine Tables.

Then he set about trying to pry the solution to The Puzzle out of them.

This is a huge numerical database -- date and time of observation, elevation, azimuth -- and would require a crushing volume of arithmetic, all done by hand.

But Burghi (a Swiss clockmaker) and Napier (an Edinburgh nobleman and mega-eccentric) had just discovered the computational shortcut of logarithms, and the first practical log tables began circulating in Europe. Logs cut Kepler's computational effort by a third, and made the analysis possible.

Today we'd call his problem "curve fitting" -- finding (from hundreds of candidates) a geometrical curve, like a circle, or straight line, or spiral, which fit Tycho's data.

The ancient Greeks had studied a set of curves called the Conic Sections -- the 2D plane curves you get when you slice up-and-down ice-cream cones with a razor blade. They found them mathematically interesting, but because they lacked Platonic Perfection, dismissed them as candidates for heavenly orbits; God would never use such curves.

Kepler -- who hovered between the Middle Ages and the modern scientic age -- returned to the Conic Sections, and realized that the ellipse perfectly fit Tycho's observations.

(He first studied the ellipse because all beer barrels were ellipses -- so a toppled barrel wouldn't roll down the street.)

From that Eureka moment he soon found Law 2: Equal Times anywhere in a planet's orbit sweep out Equal Areas.

This implies that planets move fastest near the Sun, slowest when they're far from the Sun. Obviously one hard part of The Puzzle was that planets change speed at different points in their orbit. Law 2 now described and predicted precisely how and where the speed changed.

Law 3 took Kepler another 10 years to discover. It's true, but certainly not obvious or common-sensical. I can't imagine how he stumbled on the relationship between

* the square of a planet's Orbital Period

Earth: (365.25 days)^2 = 133407.5625


* the cube of half the longer axis of a planet's ellipse

Earth: (149,597,890 km)^3 = 3.34793027158529 x 10^24

but for every massive object that orbits the Sun, the ratio of these quantities is a constant, the same for every planet (and every comet).

This is what Nature looks like at its deepest core -- pure mathematics. (Richard Feynman said: We have no clue why Nature is entirely mathematical, but we should be grateful that it is.)

Newton proved Kepler's Laws in the Principia (1687). (He'd proved them decades earler, but was a secretive, paranoid guy who dreaded controversy and being misunderstood and criticized by idiots.)

All of this -- Brahe, Kepler (both astrologers), Burghi and Napier (Edinburgh feared him as a dangerous wizard), Newton (a student of astrology, but dropped it to become an obsessive alchemist), Liebniz (co-discoverer of the calculus) -- were the revolutions that ended the Middle Ages and gave birth to modern Science.

I'd throw in Copernicus too, but many ancient Greek astronomers believed in the Sun-center Solar System (rather than the Judaeo-Christian-friendly Earth-center scheme).

Galileo died the year Newton was born. The telescope you very kindly assembled for me, the refractor, is the telescope Galileo improved after reading a letter about the anonymous Dutch invention.

But his had no Warning Tag about looking at the Sun; he made the first observations of sun spots, and eventually went blind.

Newton was annoyed by the color blur [chromatic aberration] at the fringe of the refractor view, and knew nothing could fix it. So he invented the reflector, whose parabaloid mirror reflects starlight to one point, the eyepiece, and doesn't blur the colors. You can see the model of the reflector young Newton presented to the Royal Society; I think they made him a member that evening.