hereticalphysicist
Saturday, April 30, 2005
  Mighty Testikles

I was recently at Columbia and had a chance once again to rest my eyes on a pair of proud testicles that I had become very familiar with in spring of 2004. During that semester, Columbia erected a statue of a lion outside of the gym and near the physics building. For a week or so just the pedestal stood there, and I wondered if it was a tomb of a noted Columbia personality. Perhaps it contains the body of Jimmy Hoffa. According to Columbia lore, he was supposed to have been killed in the basement of Earl Hall, where you can see a red stain on the floor of an abanadoned shaft. It may be a tomb, but Columbia covered up well by raising the lion statue. The lion looks rather gaunt and savage, as if to say that the Columbia Lions will ravage all of your lion cubs and mates if they can't beat you in a fair fight. The most prominent feature of the lion is its testicles, which emerge jauntily from underneath its upraised tail. The nuts haven't gone unnoticed by the rest of the Columbia community. By the end of the year, one had been painted blue and the other white. Does Columbia have blue balls? Take a look for yourself. The administration also believes in stressing the prominence of our balls, as Dean Quigley made an acute observation of "the importance of the visual images that we place before us."

Apparently the name of the statue is Scholars' Lion. I bet a whole committee spent a week debating where that apostrophe should go. I feel a name that would better reflect both the Columbia tradition and the lion's largest assets is Testikles. Pronounce as Hercules. For years I had wanted to tell a first year that you could find a soldier by the name of Testikles in the Illiad, but those luscious barely legals always manged to elude my grasp. Perhaps because I'm a year removed from Columbia I don't have any influence on Columbia traditions anymore. However, I believe that my "eye" stickers can still be seen in some of the tunnels, and last I heard, the "Hobbit" room was now known as the "eye" room. Also, perhaps some people who read this are still at Columbia and can spread the word, if they have not already come up with a better name. Perhaps eventually we'll even have a college song for Old Testikles. "Mighty, noble Testikles! To thee we pledge our loyalty!"

Recent Media
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Media. (The movie.) I give this my full support. First I have to say that I'm not a big Douglas Adams dork. Yes, I am definitely a dork (though hopefully on the cooler side of things), but because of this I have often been thrown into the company of other, much worse dorks, who constantly quote and refer to Hitchiker's Guide and Monty Python. This has turned me against the whole institution. I read the book, and I liked it, but I'm sure I didn't give it as much esteem as I should have because of my bias. Having been removed, for the most part, from the world of dorks (except for Mike), I have been given new perspective. Now the movie. Hey, look at all those people in it! Is that, oh yes, it's that guy from The Office! And Mos Def isn't half bad! Look, there's the Harry Potter cast (and, apparently, the casts of Love Actually and Shaun of the Dead)! Isn't Zooey Deschanel so cute? My, is that David Letterman? No, just John Malkovich! Sam Rockwell played Zaphod Bebblebrox. Until this point I had thought that Sam Rockwell was a filler, a forgettable actor called in to play faceless parts. But as Zaphod, he was excellent. That character was everything it should have been. Also, the beginning theme song is delightfully campy. I was laughing hysterically, but I don't think other people were laughing as hard. I was embarrassing Mike. I do that at movies: laught hysterically at unlikely parts for five minutes straight, uncontrollably. I can't believe he still takes me out in public. Anyway, there were a few nitpicks about the movie--but they're just that, nitpicks. Besides the limited directing at times, the movie stayed loyal to the spirit of the book. Also the puppets were from the Jim Henson workshop.
Mike. I asked him today if he had self respect. He tilted his head, thought a minute, and replied, "A little bit."
LA Times. According to this article, all but one of the sex offenders arrested by the Toronto police Sex Crimes Unit in the past four year has been a Trekkie. I'll allow you to draw your own conclusions.
City of God, St. Augustine. St. Augustine says that while proper due should be given to dead bodies, Christians should not put too much in store by proper funeral rites. Because God is present in everything and because of the miraculousness of the resurrection, even if our bodies have been consumed by birds and beasts, God will be able to reconstruct every particle of our bodies. Which sucks for the birds. "I knew I shouldn't have eaten that third Gaul."
Portrait of a Lady, Henry James. It was great. What more do you want from me?
Ocean's 12. On an airplane. I fell asleep.
Beyond the Sea. Again, the return flight. We'd been flying all day, so I decided to watch and put aside the book even though I hadn't been too excited about the movie. Basically Kevin Spacy wanted to make out with Kate Boswell. Who doens't?
50 First Dates. This actually exceeded my expectations, which weren't really that high. Believe it or not, Rob Schneider's presence actually helped this movie.
Training Day. Denzel Washington did a really good job of acting like a black man.
The Skull of Truth, Bruce Coville. Wooo-OOOO-oooo.
His Girl Friday, 1940. Geez, these people talk fast.
Pot O' Gold, 1941. With Jimmy Stewart. All your favorite minority stereotypes. Tap-dancing black janitors. Chinese laundrymen. Scrappy Irish.
Nemesis, Agatha Christie. Mike and I once pondered whether you could kill a person by beating them with a book containing five Agatha Christie novels. No conclusion yet. Wait till the will's made out.
Metropolis, 2001. Oh man, this movie was so freaking beautiful. It was kind of a cross between the old Metropolis and Final Fantasy VII. 

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005
  Doctor Mike's Miracle Hysteria Treatment

I have recently finished reading G.F. Stout's Groundwork of Psychology, which was published in 1903. According to a stamp in the back of the book, it was still on the Columbia bookshelves as late as April 22, 1950. To be honest, the only reason I read it was to get a kick out of any references to female hysteria and/or the ether. I was disappointed in the first--the book didn't touch sexuality, apparently not a part of human psychology in 1903, in any way, only stating that love belonged to the class of emotions known as "Tender Emotions." It did, however, refer to "vibrations of the ether" as one of the causes of visual stimulation. Of course, since this preceeded Freud, the words "stimulus" and "response" weren't used in any technical sense, although Stout used words that obviously meant the same thing. It was interesting to see the struggles of psychologists limited by their technology. Very little mention was made of actual mechanisms of the brain, and most of the book was concerned with how people form associations, how children develop, how we sense and feel things. Modern psychology textbooks seem to concentrate on the physical, with an eye to clinical therapy. I often wondered how Stout used his own conclusions to treat patients. "This looks like a job for the vibrator..."

The book was published by Hinds & Noble, located at 31-33-15 West 15th Street in New York City. (Perhaps this Noble is of Barnes and Noble fame?) I didn't start this post to discuss the differences between Victorian psychology and modern psychology, however. At the end of the book are about fifteen pages devoted to plugging other texts published by Hinds and Noble ("cloth unless otherwise indicated"), and perhaps you will be amused, as I was, by the descriptions of some of them.

The Scholar's A B C of Electricity. Can you explain the
simple phenomena of electricity? Do you hate to ap-
pear ignorant of the very simplest facts regard-
ing the telephone, the telegraph, the electric light, the
dynamo, the trolley? This book states the facts in
clear words devoid of technicalities, and in entertain-
ing style. No need to study or commit to memory;
just to read it is to understand. 50 cents.

Commencement Parts. "Efforts" for all occasions.
Orations, addresses, valedictories, salutatories, class
poems, class mottoes, after-dinner
speeches, flag days, national holidays,
class-day exercizes. Models for every
possible occasion in high-school and
college career, every one of the "ef-
forts" being what some fellow has
stood on his feet and actually delivered
on a similar occasion--not what the
compiler would say if he should
happen to be called on for an ivy
song or a response to a toast, or what
not; but what the fellow himself, when his turn
came, did say! Invaluable, indispensable to those
preparing any kind of "effort." Unique. $1.50.

Songs of All the Colleges. New ed. contains the Boola!
A welcome gift in any home!
Everyone likes a college
song, and this book is an ideal gift to place on the
piano for one's friends to enjoy, even though one
sings not himself. Words and music throughout. $1.50.
New edition with 104 songs added for 67 colleges. Over
seventy college presidents have purchased this volume to have at
their homes, for the students on social occasions. Fourteen edi-
tions
have gone into many thousands of homes. If you have a
piano but do not play, the PIANOLA and other "piano-players"
will play many of these songs for you and your friends to sing.
Compiled by college men, endorsed by college
presidents, 'rah-'rah'd by college students, brothered
by college alumni, sistered by college alumnae, adopted
and programmed by college glee clubs everywhere;
by local clubs, choral societies, and singing classes.
Contains all the dear old familiar songs, as well as
the popular new songs of alma mater in
colleges east, west, south, north. Many
old favorite tunes with new catchy, up-
to-date words--serious, sentimental,
humorous; also the 'rah, 'rah kind.
Yale men know, and the New Haven Union says:
"The question of what in the world to give a
friend is solved by the publication of SONGS OF
ALL THE COLLEGES, which is suitable alike for
the collegian of the past, for the student of the
present, and for the boy (or girl) with hopes,
also for the music-loving sister and a fellow's best
girl." Another college paper: "They ring
true!
" Says the Principal of a famous private
school: "It incites to college." Durable cloth.

New Songs for College Glee Clubs. Paper. 50 cents.
Twenty humorous hits, besides others, sentimental and
serious. Not a selection but has been sung by some glee
club locally to the delight of an "encoring audience."
Glee Club leaders will appreciate a collection every piece in
which, by the severe test of both rehearsal and concert, is right
--the musical notation, the harmony of the voice parts, the
syllabification, the rhythm, the instrumentation, and
last, but not least with audiences, the catchonativeness.

Pros and Cons. Complete debates of the affirmative
and negative of the stirring questions of
the day. A decided hit. This is another
book invaluable not only to high-school
and college students, but also to every
other person who aspires to converse
engagingly on the topics of the day. Our
foreign policy, the currency, the tariff,
immigration, high license, woman suffrage,
penny postage, transportation, trusts,
department stores, municipal ownership of
franchises, government control of telegraph.
Both sides of these and many other questions com-
pletely debated. Directions for organising and
conducting debating society, with by-laws and parlia-
mentary rules.
No other book like it. Enlarged ed. $1.50.

The Foundations of Education
BY LEVI SEELEY, PH.D.
Author of "History of Education"
Professor of Pedagogy in the New Jersey State Normal School
CLOTH--Price $1.00 Postpaid--TWELVEMO.
Of Two Hundred Books On Pedagogy
There is none we would sooner put
into the hands of a young teacher

To many teachers, "pedagogy" was and is a
term to conjure by; its acquisition represents hours of
hard, dry reading and study; life's pleasures say "don't,"
duty says "do"; and between the conflict of desires, the
course is frequently decided by the first book which is
attempted. It must be confessed that much that is found
under pedagogy were better never read by the young
teacher, but SEELEY'S FOUNDATIONS OF EDUCATION is not
so accounted. The book is for young teachers, and its
conception and execution are admirable. Philosophy,
experience, illustration are blended in an exceedingly
interesting manner. No teacher, young or old, but will
have a higher conception of his work after reading the
book. It is an inspiration, it is practical, it comes from
a man who knows what he wants to say and how to say it.
The young teacher who begins a course of reading with
this book, must read others, because of interest awakened
and stimulated by Doctor Seeley. Of two hundred books
on pedagogy on our shelves, there is none we would sooner
put into the hands of a a young teacher.--Education
(Boston), April, 1902.


Recent Media
Silver on the Tree, Susan Cooper. The final book in the Dark is Rising sequence. A lot of children's books I read, mostly horror stories, fail to scare me. I remember every bone in my body trembling as I read some of these books as a child, but now they only entertain me. Perhaps I was more able to believe at the time that maybe the book wouldn't have a happy ending. Will these characters make it out alive? Of course they will. However, it's a testament to Susan Cooper's writing that she still fills me with suspense and anticipation, and I can't always tell myself that her characters will end up okay.
A Caribbean Mystery, Agatha Christie.
Blue Velvet, David Lynch, dir., 1986. Hail, hail, David Lynch. At first I was suspicious. I didn't understand Mulholland Drive and often wondered if I could still love it, or if maybe I loved it because I thought it was genius because I didn't understand or maybe it wasn't worth my love because the point wasn't conveyed effectively and I was just moved by the pretty pictures. Then I read an article he wrote for Jane magazine about how scientists theorize strings that compose topological surfaces which are the basis of all reality, and the vibrations of these strings create a subconscious vibration in the universe...and blah blah blah. You know how these artsy types like to sieze on physics and try to make it a philosophy for life. Nevermind when I finally understood string theory and topology I totally had an orgasm. But Blue Velvet cemented my love of David Lynch, and he can do whatever he wants with physics. I love how he uses ambient music to convey a sense of another layer to reality, something you can sense but not quite comprehend. I love his playing off of lightness and darkness with the two women. I love how he juxtaposes the weird and normal, the natural and unnatural, reality and imagination. Sometimes I see a movie or read a book that makes my heart bleed in its beauty and because I know I could never create something so complete and beautiful. Such was the case with Milan Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being. Man, that book just about floated right out of my hands when I finished. Everyday I contemplate that novel, even though I read it over a year ago. God has given these men his voice.
Chicago, Rob Marshall, dir., 2002. I was pleasantly surprised, because I didn't really have high hopes about this. I'm not a big fan of musicals, although like any genre, there are great musicals and bad ones. And I was really confused by this movie at first, until I realized it was based on the musical (I knew that before, but my neurons just weren't firing), and then I really enjoyed it. Queen Latifah was surprisingly good. I mean, you can put her in anything, and I'll pretty much like it, because she's that type of person, but not because she's the best actress. But she wasn't given a challenging part--her part was written well for her, and she gave the best performance possible within it. I thought she'd just be a novelty in the movie. Anyway, Renee Zellwiger annoys the shit out of me, but she was just about perfect as a show girl. So now she's okay in my book. It's so hard with big Hollywood movies, because celebrities are so famous and so over-publicized that I can never believe that they are who they're trying to be and not just themselves. It's almost like, see Nicole Kidman in the civil war south, see Nicole Kidman scared, see Nicole Kidman act like a total idiot in Moulin Rouge.
City of God, St. Augustine. For Columbia's philosophy class, which just about everyone has to take, we were assigned about 200 pages from this 1000 page tome. And those I can't quite confess to reading. I always liked St. Augustine, however, and it always struck me as humorous that I often wished that modern day Christians were more like this 5th century one. I also feel bad, because it's not like he wrote this for the general education of college students. We read a little of it and then put it on our bookshelves or sell it, never to look at one of the greatest written works in human history ever again. So I'm reading it. Wish me luck.
La Dolce Vita, Federico Fellini, dir., 1960. 

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Friday, April 15, 2005
  See Emily Sink

Confession: I still have to take Columbia's swim test. I've said before that I kind of zoned out senior year, and of course I put it off until then. I actually had decided to do it on the last day available, but the day came, and I forgot.

Explanation: Columbia requires a swim test for graduation. Three laps, any way you like it, and I'm a great big dork.

Reaction: I told a friend at the end of the year, after the last opportunity passed, that I hadn't taken the test. Her eyes widened, and she screeched, "Oh, my GOD! You haven't taken the swim test?!? What are you going to do?" While she stood gaping at me in horror, I explained that I was actually trying to forget the fact that this would prevent me from getting my degree until I overcame my laziness. I thought it would be the next week, maybe, or in a month, but Columbia drained the pool over the summer--pubic hair caught in the drains, pass it on--and I never did take it.

Solution: Will be in NYC next week. Plane arrives at La Guardia, and two hours later I'm slicing through Columbia's lagoon, a.k.a. Dodge Gym swimming pool, dodging the pubes, that is.

Recent Media
Salsa, again. Spun till I was dizzy. Some people are obviously there to find a mate, like the girl in front of me in the queue. The guys, who are outnumbered by the girls, stand in a circle around the gym. The girls stand in a circle on the inside and switch dance partners every few minutes. I've explained this before. Your questions tire me. She was in front of me, and everytime we had to switch partners, she'd still be chatting and flirting with the guy, and I'd stand there like a tool until I was noticed. She seems pretty cool, though. I kinda wish she would pick me up. As a friend, because I've got a boyfriend. Also, there was this British guy who looked exactly like Prince Charles, but younger, and man, he danced like a white guy.
The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder, John Belliars. Occasionally, I read children's books. I always felt that it was unfair to have to give up favorite authors after a certain age. I stride proudly into the juvenile lit. section of the library, and I take those books off the shelves, and I do check them out. Hallelujah.
Groundwork of Psychology, G.F. Stout. More on this one later!!!!
Rebel Without a Cause, Nicholas Ray, dir., 1955.
Shadow Puppets, Orson Scott Card. This is like fan fiction. And not the good kind. Did I have to specify that?
The Ghost in the Mirror, John Belliars.
Scotland, PA, Billy Morrissette, dir., 2001.
The Mirror Crack'd, Agatha Christie. 

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Friday, April 08, 2005
  PA'd

When I was in third grade, I went to Jordan Acres Elementary SChool (sounds like a kiddie farm) in southern Maine. The school had a new age-y philosophy, and instead of classes, we learned in pods. The school didn't have any walls--this was its main selling point--but the classes were divided by, uh, dividers. All the classrooms, er, pod spaces were situated around a central library. First thing in the morning, we'd all leave our classes and fill up the library to hear the morning announcements made by the principal over the PA system. This meant a half hour of standing still. Then we'd get to go back to our classrooms and settle down and the principal would play over the PA that country song that goes, "Proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free..." I guess this was during the first Gulf War, and we had to show our patriotism.

In high school, when I lived in WV, the principal would do a similar thing. On mornings of big football game days, he would blast over the school's shitty sound system, "I believe I can fly." I had Latin class as my first class of the day one year (half the members of the class are linked to from this blog), and it was in a big closet off a biology classroom, so the room wasn't wired to the PA system. When I first told Mike about this, I also said that our Latin teacher would let us close the doors. But now I can't remember if that is true, because sometimes he was unreasonably cruel. Like the time he showed us Ben Hur, and because no one paid attention and just raised a ruckus, he gave us a pop quiz on the movie. One question was, "What was Ben Hur's first name?" I wrote, "Benjamin."

The first time I related the story about the PA system to Mike, I concluded, "Yeah, you kind of have to be a little subversive to be a Latin teacher." He responded, "No, you don't."

Recent Media
Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood. All the praise printed on the back of the book was for The Blind Assassin, which had me a little suspicious. But I've never been disappointed by Margaret Atwood, and I wasn't this time. I guess the book wasn't that deep or anything, but she is an excellent storyteller.
The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster. Columbian writes hard book.
The Groundwork of Psychology, G.F. Stout. This is a really boring psychology book from 1903. I'm still debating whether or not to read it. I hate not finishing books I start.
Pere Goriot, Honore de Balzac. Hehe, Balzac.
Salsa. Mike bought salsa dancing lessons for the two of us. I take this as Mike's nice way of telling me he's embarrassed to take me to bar mitzvahs, because I got no rhythm. And he's starting me on the clave! We had to switch partners every few minutes, because girls outnumbered boys. It was kind of like a high school dance, and you be really shy and kind of embarrassed. We introduced ourselves, shook hands. Should I curtsey? It was pretty cool dancing with all those complete strangers. Physical contact with strangers makes me real happy. One guy was older, and on his left hand he was missing a few or all of his fingers. The teacher said that when a guy is getting ready to spin you he'll make his hand flat, and I was stressed out because if he didn't have any fingers, how could I tell if his hand was flat or not? He was a pretty good dancer though. 

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The story of how I became a very, very bad physicist. But not really.

Other People's Business

Mike (the boy)
Al
Al's portfolio (give her a job)
Christian
Jenny
Paul
Rod
Tia
Todd


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