Yeah, I’m a day late. So sue me.
This Tweet made me laugh.
Evan Siegfried @evansiegfried said: “Beware the ides of March.”
Yeah, I’m a day late. So sue me.
This Tweet made me laugh.
Evan Siegfried @evansiegfried said: “Beware the ides of March.”
Who? He’s the patron saint of Paris (and France, by some accounts), and possessed people. Take a look at this statue, from the “left door” of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche). He was martyred by beheading, in about 250 C.E.
Our trusty friend Wikipedia explains:
According to the Golden Legend, after his head was chopped off, Denis picked it up and walked two miles, preaching a sermon the entire way. The site where he stopped preaching and actually died was made into a small shrine that developed into the Saint Denis Basilica, which became the burial place for the kings of France. Another account has his corpse being thrown in the Seine, but recovered and buried later that night by his converts.
Clearly, he is the guy to pray to about Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Rush Limbaugh, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, intelligent design, and the Texas State Board of Education, no? In 2013, we added Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louis Gohmert, the entire Tea Party, and the entire GOP crew of the House of Representatives. You catch my drift. In 2018 we could add a raft of people: Marsha Blackburn, Ryan Zinke, Sid Miller, Denny Marchant, Jeff Sessions, Sarah Sanders, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham. We’ve left 253 Republicans off for lack of space.
Perhaps you can use this factoid to some advantage, enlightenment, and perhaps humor. In Catholic lore, St. Denis is one of the “14 Holy Helpers,” and his aid is sought to help people with headaches, or who have been possessed.
Crazy GOP members who I suspect of having been possessed give me and America a headache. St. Denis seems to be our man. Or saint.
Who else do you know of in this modern, vexatious time, who keeps talking after losing his/her head?
As Rod Stewart sang, just “let your imagination run wild.” Maybe St. Denis is listening.
Yes, this is mostly an encore post. I had hoped to have to retire this post someday. I still hope. Perhaps this will be the last year we’ll have so many wackaloons running loose. Pray to St. Denis.
May 11, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Richard Feynman (born 1918, died 1988).
Most Feynman fans are celebrating through the entire year — appropriately, for a man so much larger than life and unable to be constrained after death.
We should mark the actual day, I think. It would be a good thing to celebrate science on May 11 in his honor, I think. And, there are lots of other good ways to commemorate a great guy.
Feynman’s birthday falls on Statehood Day for Minnesota. You can fly your flag for both causes, if you wish, Minnesota’s statehood AND Feynman’s birthday. No proclamation will issue from the White House, but you can fly your flag any day.
Why Feynman Day? To celebrate invention, physics, interesting characters, and that essential, American quality of je ne sais quoi.
In addition to his winning the Nobel Prize for Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), Feynman popularized the critique of science and other enterprises with what we now call Cargo Cult science, or education, or whatever, where people follow the dance steps, but without the rhythm and music.
Those two things alone would make him a remarkable man. But, like a product offered for $19.95 as a good buy in a 2:00 a.m. infomercial, with Feynman, there’s more. With Feynman, there is always more.
I got alerted to Feynman in the first days of the old Quality Paperback Book Club, when they featured his new memoir, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! QPBC was hot on the book, and with a title like that, how could I resist? When I got the book a week or so later, I read it within two days, while attending law school and working full time. I remember Feynman.
Norton published the book — and their description, alone, should make you want to read it:
A New York Times bestseller—the outrageous exploits of one of this century’s greatest scientific minds and a legendary American original.
In this phenomenal national bestseller, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman recounts in his inimitable voice his adventures trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein and Bohr and ideas on gambling with Nick the Greek, painting a naked female toreador, accompanying a ballet on his bongo drums and much else of an eyebrow-raising and hilarious nature.
All true, and that’s not even the half of the outrageousness, all done with great good humor, about a life lived in great good humor through what should have been a memorable age, but often was just terrifying.
I think sometimes that Feynman’s calm alone, borne of that great good humor and insatiable curiosity, may have gotten us through the birth of the Atomic Age and the Cold War.
Feynman was a giant, and we don’t revere him enough. Consider:
USPS authorized a special postal cancel (United States Postal Service) to honor the 80th birthday of Richard Feynman. This cancel was used in Lake Worth, Florida. For this special day the post office was renamed “Feynman Station.”
The Feynman Diagram used for the postal cancel on this envelope depicts what is known as a “bubble process.” It shows a high energy particle, for example, a cosmic ray (a) from a distant supernova, which emits a high energy photon, for example, a gamma ray (b). The photon, in turn, creates a particle (c) and an anti-particle (d) that exists for a brief moment and then recombines.
As Feynman liked to point out, an anti-particle is the same thing as a particle with negative energy traveling backward in time (which is why the arrow at (d) points backwards, i.e. to the left). So you could say the photon created only one particle that, at first, traveled forward in time (the bottom semi-circle) and then reversed and went back in time (the top semi-circle) and annihilated itself! By inventing diagrams like this, Richard Feynman made it much easier to understand what is going on in the interactions between sub-atomic particles without getting lost in tremendous amounts of tedious math
There’s more — a lot more. Feynman outlined our current generation of computer memory devices — in 1959. No, he didn’t patent the idea. He did patent an idea for a nuclear-powered spacecraft. Another delightful story.
Feynman served on the board that approved science books for the California school system –– his stories of that work will shock some, but it will make others shake their heads as they recognize the current crop of cargo-cultists and political bullies who dominate textbook approval processes, knowing nothing at all about what they are doing, or why.
No, I didn’t forget his brilliant work on the commission that studied the Challenger disaster, for NASA. There’s so much stuff to glorify!
In history, Feynman should be remembered much as we remember Thomas Jefferson, as a renaissance man in his time, a man who put great intellect to great work for his nation and all humanity.
The sages say we shouldn’t have regrets, but I do have one. When the Challenger Commission was meeting in Washington, D.C., I was working on another commission up the street. I knew Feynman was ill, but our work was important, and we’d heard his disease was in remission. I didn’t goof off a day and go to any of the hearings to see him, to get an autograph, to meet the man. I thought I’d have other opportunities to do that. Now I regret not having met him in person.
In print, and in film, I know him well. In our family, reading Feynman is something everybody does. Feynman’s memoir was one of the last books I read to our son, Kenny, as he was growing up, and growing into reading on his own. Even reading about Feynman, together, was an adventure. Our son, James, took us into the real physics of Feynman, and though I struggle with it more than James, we still read Feynman, for humor, and physics.
What would be appropriate ways to mark Feynman’s birth? At some future date, I hope we’ll have public readings of his books, showings of the documentaries about him, recreations of his lectures, perhaps. And then everyone can get in a circle, beating drums and singing about getting some orange juice, before sending postcards to our friends in Tuva.
Richard Feynman, we still need you, and miss you dearly.
There will always be “More” about Richard Feynman, if we’re lucky:
Richard Feynman, unlikely leader, from Open University
It’s sort of a game: Which four people should be ensconced in much larger-than-life stone sculptures on the side of a mountain (preferably an ugly mountain that is not sacred to any First Nation, but I digress)?
Found a puzzle slanted toward a Rushmore of science, featuring Einstein, Curie, Newton and Darwin.
We’ve featured the Rushmore of Chicago blues here before, Mount Bluesmore, featured in Buddy Guy’s Legends bar and music venue. I understand the painting moved when Legends moved.
Heck, this could be a great game: Name four people in any profession, art, field of endeavor, who should be featured on a Mount Rushmore-style monument. Above we’ve got science and Chicago blues. On the real Mount Rushmore, we’ve got the Rushmore of U.S. Presidents.
What other monuments could we have? Painting? Picasso and Rembrandt . . . but there are so many.
Renaissance painting. Abstract painting. Landscapes, portrait painters. Architects. Rock musicians. Classical musicians. Baseball. Football. American football. Fiction authors. Engineers. Women scientists. Tuskegee airmen (that would be tough; every one of them deserve it).
Who do you nominate, for what field? Put nominations in comments. Include pictures if you find one.
Others have played this game:
Adel’s original, in 2007, featured Warren G. Harding in place of Trump.
A ghost Rushmore, featuring Native American leaders:
A classical music proposal (would you choose differently?)”
Sioux tribes have undertaken a drive to respond to what many consider a desecration of their sacred lands, with a massive monument to Crazy Horse, still being carved, and incredibly impressive (if you visit, spend a lot of time at the museum):
Tribute to Sonny Boy Williamson at the Chicago Blues Festival, 2010:
My iPhone made this video from shots I took on March 17, 2016 — better job of editing than I could have done.
Should I let iPhone make more movies?
Our family, our sons and my wife, will recognize this thread, in spirit at least.
Then . . .
My family? Well, there was that tour of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth a few years back . . .
For the record, we tend to seek out modern art pieces that compare to Flavin’s work now, having found some in later visits to Fort Worth, some in the Dallas Museum of Art, and some in the Whitney Museum in New York, and in other places, that offer wonderful opportunities to ponder modern life, what is art, and to laugh.
Why December 2?
(You couldn’t make this stuff up if you were Monty Python.)
Peruvian guano has become so desirable an article to the agricultural interest of the United States that it is the duty of the Government to employ all the means properly in its power for the purpose of causing that article to be imported into the country at a reasonable price. Nothing will be omitted on my part toward accomplishing this desirable end. I am persuaded that in removing any restraints on this traffic the Peruvian Government will promote its own best interests, while it will afford a proof of a friendly disposition toward this country, which will be duly appreciated.
Did any other U.S. President spend so much time thinking about guano? Did any president ever mention it in a State of the Union Address? The curious case of Millard Fillmore, Seer, just grows.
Guano, or bird poop (and its relative, bat poop), contains phosphorus, which is an essential element for life. Consequently, it turns out to be a key ingredient in effective agricultural fertilizers. In international competition for supremacy in farming and farm exports, guano became a key resource to fight over, in the 19th century.
It’s almost safe to say the fights were economic; but guano did play a key role in wars in South America (see Andrew Leonard’s article, noted below).
Fillmore figured out that the substance had great importance, coupled that with the rather esoteric knowledge that sea birds tended to deposit guano in great abundance on certain islands, often unoccupied, and ordered the U.S. Navy to claim islands found to contain guano deposits that were not claimed by other nations.
By the American Civil War, the importance of phosphorus to the production of gun powder became an issue for the armies of the North and South. Millard Fillmore had set the stage for the North to win an important advantage in gun powder production, just one of many that led to the defeat of the South.
It’s one more thing we should thank Millard Fillmore for doing. Our study of history should inform us that it is, indeed, important for politicians to understand the importance of guano.
Fillmore knew his guano.
Take a moment on December 2 to toast Millard Fillmore’s prescience, on Guano Day!