From: Eleanor McHugh on
On 9 Jul 2010, at 16:31, Colin Bartlett wrote:
> On Fri, Jul 9, 2010 at 3:10 PM, Eleanor McHugh <
> eleanor(a)> wrote:
> In "A Mathematician's Apology" G H Hardy says something to the effect that
> one should think more of one's own work than is strictly justified, and then
> says that the really difficult bit is not over-exaggerating the quality of
> one's own work too much.
> Karl Kraus (in english translation): Artists have a right to be modest and a
> duty to be vain.

This is great advice - although I've vanity can be surprisingly hard work unless aided by a copious supply of alcohol and a willing audience ;)

>> But it's also transient - and thankfully so! The raging fire clown inciting
>> the masses to throw rules and convention to the wind in pursuit of beauty
>> soon become the respectable old master, a dead weight preventing the very
>> experimentation he so dearly cherished in his youth. I'm glad that's not the
>> fate _why's suffered.
> Becoming a "respectable old master" and avoiding experimentation isn't
> inevitable - in fact, I can think of quite a few who didn't, for example:
> Erdos, Shakespeare, Vaughan Williams, Faure, Stravinsky, Rachmaninov (I'm
> being intentionally provocative, as he's thought of as being conservative
> musically, but the late Symphonic Dances are Rachmaninov doing something
> new), Verdi, Minna Keal, Feynman, maybe Niels Bohr? (I seem to recall you
> have a physics background, so you're probably better placed than me to
> decide on Bohr: one reason I have a maths degree is that I found physics too
> difficult!)

Oh there are certainly counter-examples. Indeed I was originally going to use Stravinsky as a case of the master being more shocking than the pupils - but anyone who's sat through a "contemporary" performance of The Firebird or The Rites of Spring will know that regardless of the intent those who come after the event have a depressingly flat approach to creativity. A little closer to my regular tastes, I often feel decidedly misanthropic at what parses (sic) for punk or metal these days... it's basically music by numbers lol

Bohr was fairly conservative even in his youth - the Copenhagen interpretation was really a way of not being radical at a time when the new physics was ripping up five centuries of renaissance/enlightenment faith in an absolute and completely knowable reality. Bye bye Newtonian clockwork, hello virtual particles and uncertainty. Gödel was doing much the same in math, it's just incompleteness has never made it into popular consciousness the same way lol

Feynman on the other hand is definitely up there amongst the life-long iconoclausts, or for a bit more controversy (although their views are no more controversial per se than his) Kary Mullis or Rupert Sheldrake. Science and art are not as dissimilar as our culture often likes to pretend.

As an aside, I studied physics because I never got the hang of math. Not that anyone ever believes me :)

>> And in leaving so abruptly he reminded the community of life's deepest and
>> most significant truth: mortality. Nothing can last forever nor should we
>> expect it to.
>> As to Ryan's suggestion, that young man clearly needs a nice cup of tea and
>> a sit-down. It does wonders for balancing the humours - especially when
>> accompanied by a half-dozen Jammie Dodgers[tm]
> I think the Ruby community needs an Aunt Eleanor, and I think you may have
> just volunteered!
> (Schoenberg, on being asked by an Austrian army sergeant if he was *the*
> "notorious Schoenberg": yes, someone had to be, and nobody else
> volunteered.)

The first rule of volunteering... don't!
Although I'm guessing as everyone's Aunty I get control of the biscuit tin? Now that's the kind of responsibility I think I should be trusted with :)


Eleanor McHugh
Games With Brains
raise ArgumentError unless @reality.responds_to? :reason