Dante’s ‘Inferno’

4 09 2014

After many years of wanting to, I’ve started reading Dante’s ‘Comedia‘.
The first book being Inferno.
Some parts I’ve really enjoyed, others I’ve just waded through.

A few of my favourite parts from it:

  • At one point midway on our path in life,
    I came around and found myself searching
    through a dark wood, the right way blurred and lost
    [canto 1, 1-3]
  • In autumn, leaves are lifted, one by one,
    away until the branch looks down and sees
    its tatters all arrayed upon the ground.
    [canto 3, 112-114]
  • No fresh green leaves but dismal in colour,
    no boughs clean arc-ed but knotty and entwined,
    no apples were there but thorns, poison-pricked.
    [canto 13, 4-7]
  • barked in her lunacy like any cur,
    the pain of it so wretched her mind askew
    [canton 30, 20-21]

All from ‘The Divine Comedy I: Inferno‘ translated by Robin Kirkpatrick.


Labours of love

15 06 2014

I love the idea of a long-worked-for legacy.

A few that I admire are:

  • Celia Rosser‘s ‘The Banksias‘: “... in 1974 she was appointed [Monash] University Botanical Artist to paint every known species of Banksia. At that time there were thought to be 58 species but soon after, Alex George became involved in the project and he brought the number up to 72. Following the national survey for The Banksia Atlas in 1987 the final tally was 76. It took Celia 25 years to illustrate them all.” [source]; for more, see the publishers page on the three volumes.

    click on image for original source

    click on image for original source

  • Owen Gingerich‘s ‘The Book Nobody Read‘: a 35-year project to examine every surviving copy of the first two editions of ‘On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres’ by Nicolaus Copernicus (1543 and 1566); “Gingerich showed that nearly all the leading mathematicians and astronomers of the time owned and read the book; however, his analysis of the marginalia shows that they almost all ignored the cosmology at the beginning of the book and were only interested in Copernicus’ new equant-free models of planetary motion in the later chapters” [source]

    click on image for original source

    click on image for original source

  • Caroline Herschel’s revision of Flamsteed’s star catalogue ‘Catalogue of Stars‘ (1798): ‘contained an index of every observation of every star made by Flamsteed, a list of errata, and a list of more than 560 stars that had not been included‘; Caroline is also most amazingly incredible for her invaluable work supporting her more famous brother William as she ‘also learned to record, reduce, and organise her brother’s astronomical observations. She recognised that this work demanded speed, precision and accuracy‘ [source]

Sigh. What is left to do?

Thoughts on creativity #3

14 04 2012

Well, just one thought this time actually [more in this and this post].

I’m now reading another book by Julia Cameron: ‘Walking in This World‘.

This was in chapter 1 and it resonated with me today:
We have attached so much rigmarole to the notion of being an artist that we fail to ask the simplest and most obvious question: Do I want to make this? If the answer is yes, then begin. Fire the arrow.

I like it.

Colour stripes

7 04 2012

It’s my mum’s birthday soon.

I made her a bookmark, from all my lovely coloured papers.

book mark awesomeness

another shot ... yep, I like it THAT much for two photos

leftover coloured stripes

I like it. I hope she does too.

Thoughts on creativity

5 03 2012

One of the creativity books I often reach for is ‘The Artist’s Way‘ by Julia Cameron.

A few of my favourite quotes from its pages:

  • To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong” Joseph Chilton Pearce
  • Give yourself permission to be a beginner.
  • Stop looking for big blocks of time when you will be free. Find small bits of time instead
  • Since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of time, you are incomparable” Brenda Ueland
  • Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage” Anais Nin

A few of my favourite exercises from its pages (paraphrased):

  • imaginary lives: if you had 5 other lives to live, what would you do in each of them?
    pick one, and do a little something of that life this week
    (eg. if one was an astronomer, you could go to the observatory)
    then try 5 more … repeat at will
  • list 20 things you enjoy doing
    when was the last time you did them? do one this week
    then try more … repeat at will
  • list 10 tiny changes you’d like to make; significant or small
    “I would like to …..” ; pick a small one, or take a step towards a large one
    then try more … repeat at will
  • bake or cook
  • list 10 things to finish this sentence: “If I didn’t have to do it perfectly, I would try…”
    pick one … can you take a step towards it?
    then try more … repeat at will

I do recommend it, especially if you’re a little bit stuck in your practice or if the muse is evading you.

On my bookshelf

28 02 2012

All set to read … not in any particular order though …

my reading stack, 28th February 2012

I wonder what these books say about me?

A book has made me angry

15 01 2012

Being angry isn’t common for me, and being angry enough to write about it is even rarer (though of course the gallery visiting etiquette post was vitally important for humanity).

This time it’s a book. Yes, I know, a BOOK.

I’ve been reading Is That a Fish in Your Ear – Translation and the Meaning of Everything” by David Bellos. It’s about translation, obviously. Initially I was pretty interested in the historic and current needs and challenges, though my interest was starting to wane by about half-way through (I felt the writing style was starting to lose me).

I then read the below paragraph and was so incensed I almost threw the book down in disgust. I’m not violent, but I did gently put the book down and decided not to continue reading. Oooh, I was angry.

In a chapter about the possibilities and problems with ‘automated language translation machines’, the following was written about the period just after WWII (pg 257):
… if language could be treated as a code, then there would be huge development contract available for mathematicians, logicians and engineers working on the new and exciting number-crunching devices that had only just acquired their modern name of computers. But the temptation to see ‘language as code’ comes from much deeper sources than just an intuition that it would create interesting jobs for very smart boys.

THE HELL?!? Boys??

This goes to the very core of what I detest – limiting people and their capacity for anything on the basis of their gender.

And to make it worse, this paragraph came on the same page as a passage of the code-breaking work during World War II, especially Bletchley Park. Err, Mr Author, do you realise that 80% of the individuals involved in code-breaking were women? Women can be very smart too mister.

Regular readers know I’m a mathematician; so yes this is personal! Though it’s important to point out, I’d be angry if I’d read something similar about farmers or nurses and gender-stereotyping of any job or capability or skill … it makes me furious.

I’m truly annoyed, angry and bewildered how the last few words even made it to publication. Why didn’t the editor pick it up? It would be a simple change to ‘very smart people’ … why on earth has it been permitted to be published with such a disgraceful gender bias?

Angry. Angry. Angry.

Update (16th January): a friend has suggested the following:
I think he’s denigrating the practice of attempting something very difficult on the basis that it would be interesting/profitable to make a failed attempt.
Basically, you come across a hugely difficult problem and instead of asking whether it is possible, you just start, like an idiot on the basis that having a go will be interesting.
The phrase “Jobs for the boys” references work-creation on this or other basis. He is saying that the problem is worth solving – not just to get a grant for your mates – but because it is a genuine problem.
His style is confusing though because if he’d said “jobs for the boys” it would have been clearer but instead he inserted “very smart”, which meant that the reference has been lost.
Furthermore, there is a second usage of “jobs for the boys” which refers to employing soldiers when they returned from the war… which will explain the post world war II context

My friend is very smart and reads a lot. And is from Britain, so this phrase is more common in his vernacular.

I’m inclined to see it this way now … while the context of the writing earlier in the chapter hadn’t led me to think this way, it’s a strong possibility.

Update (16th January): I’ve received an email from the author. Shown below in full.

Dear Person

I’m surprised that you think that the word “boys”, in the phrase “jobs for the boys”, refers to disciples, students, hangers-on and suchlike of the male gender exclusively. I suppose it only goes to show what a huge variety of dialects are awkwardly grouped together as “the English language”. But maybe we can do a special edition with the offending phrase adapted, just for you guys down under.

Please do read the rest of the book. There are a few decent jokes still to come

Yours ever

Well, it appears that I’ve been corrected.
And his use of Author and Person has made me smile.