Oh My G.O.T.T.

I didn’t feel the need to read this. Just knowing it’s there is enough.

Coming Out as a Gay Orthodox Talmud Teacher

It would have been even better if it had been in The Guardian, but this is an imperfect world.

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Cats’ Ice

Cats are of divers colours, but for the most part griseld, like to congealed ise, which cometh from the condition of her meat: her head is like unto the head of a Lion, except in her sharp ears: her flesh is soft and smooth: her eyes glister above measure, especially when a man cometh to see them on the suddain, and in the night they can hardly be endured, for their flaming aspect. Wherefore Democritus describing the Persian Smaragde saith that it is not transparent, but filleth the eye with pleasant brightness, such as is in the eyes of Panthers and Cats, for they cast forth beams in the shadow and darkness, but in sunshine they have no such clearness, and thereof Alexander Aphrodise giveth this reason, both for the sight of Cats and Bats, that they have by nature a most sharpe spirit of seeing. — Edward Topsell, Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes (1658).

O l’Omertà o la Morte

• φασὶ γοῦν Ἵππαρχον τὸν Πυθαγόρειον, αἰτίαν ἔχοντα γράψασθαι τὰ τοῦ Πυθαγόρου σαφῶς, ἐξελαθῆναι τῆς διατριβῆς καὶ στήλην ἐπ’ αὐτῷ γενέσθαι οἷα νεκρῷ. — Κλήμης ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς, Στρώματα.

• They say, then, that Hipparchus the Pythagorean, being guilty of writing the tenets of Pythagoras in plain language, was expelled from the school, and a pillar raised for him as if he had been dead. — Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, 2.5.9.57.3-4

Der Sechsimus in der Musik

• Als Heifetz das Werk dann durchspielt, scheitert er mehrmals an einer extrem schwierigen Passage. Der unfehlbare Heifetz soll zu Schönberg sagen: Dafür müsste ich mir sechs Finger wachsen lassen. Schönberg erwidert angeblich: Na ich kann warten.

• When Heifetz then played through the work, he made several mistakes in a very difficult passage. The impeccable Heifetz said to Schoenberg: “I’d need to grow six fingers for that!” Schoenberg allegedly replied: “Well, I can wait!”

Methylomania

अभि द्यां महिना भुवमभीमां पृथिवीं महीम् ।
कुवित्सोमस्यापामिति ॥८॥
हन्ताहं पृथिवीमिमां नि दधानीह वेह वा ।
कुवित्सोमस्यापामिति ॥९॥ — ऋग्वेदः सूक्तं १०.११९

“In my vastness, I surpassed the sky and this vast earth. Have I not drunk Soma? / Yes! I will place the earth here, or perhaps there. Have I not drunk Soma?” — Ṛg Veda, Mandala 10, Hymn 119, lines 8-9, translated by Wendy Doniger


Note: The title of this incendiary intervention is a portmanteau of “methylated” and “megalomania”. “Methylated” comes from the ancient Greek μέθυ, meaning “wine” and related to μέθυστος “drunk, intoxicated” (OED).

Russell in Your Head-Roe

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry. What is best in mathematics deserves not merely to be learnt as a task, but to be assimilated as a part of daily thought, and brought again and again before the mind with ever-renewed encouragement. Real life is, to most men, a long second-best, a perpetual compromise between the ideal and the possible; but the world of pure reason knows no compromise, no practical limitations, no barrier to the creative activity embodying in splendid edifices the passionate aspiration after the perfect from which all great work springs. Remote from human passions, remote even from the pitiful facts of nature, the generations have gradually created an ordered cosmos, where pure thought can dwell as in its natural home, and where one, at least, of our nobler impulses can escape from the dreary exile of the actual world. — Bertrand Russell, “The Study Of Mathematics” (1902)


The title of this incendiary intervention is of course a paronomasia on these lines from Led Zeppelin’s magisterial “Stairway to Heaven”:

“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now:
It’s just a spring-clean for the May Queen…”

And “head-roe” is a kenning for “brain”.

Tott ist Rot

• Lautlos und fein rann der rostrot gefärbte Sand durch die gläserne Enge, und da er in der oberen Höhlung zur Neige ging, hatte sich dort ein kleiner, reißender Strudel gebildet. — Thomas Mann, Der Tod in Venedig (1912)

• Silently, subtly, the rust-red sand trickled through the narrow glass aperture, dwindling away out of the upper vessel, in which a little whirling vortex had formed. — “Death in Venice” (translated by David Luke)