Friday, February 04, 2011


This used to be quite a good blog. I was reading some old posts the other day, though what brought me here I don't recall, and came across some musings on Magritte, and, wow, that's not a bad analysis—not, by any stretch, art criticism, but there are interesting ideas, and that hysterical (in the sense of overwrought, not funny) essay by Hillier was well worth recalling (I had completely forgotten ever digging it up, and indeed don't remember, nor am reminded by the post, what brought it to my attention; probably it was just a Google-hit when I was looking for a freely available copy of La reproduction interdite).

OK, it used to be a good blog, and then the shininess of this platform, and the feeling of celebrity that comes of having a reader or two, both wore off, and I was distracted by other endeavours (of which—but, no, I've said it too many times already; let me just do it in lieu of making further promises) but felt too guilty simply to leave it behind, and so I followed the slow sad death spiral of unwanted blogs everywhere, making desperate grabs for topicality—not to say that I didn't care about the ouster, for I really did, but what useful commentary was I adding with that sad pun?—and increasingly rare updates with promises of more to come, and—uh, OK, you know what? I just looked back over the archives, and at least it wasn't that long a death spiral, as apparently I managed to keep most of the promises to myself rather than posting them here. Well, there goes some of that guilt.

(By the way, speaking of death spirals that aren't so very spiral-y, one finds that already in my very first post I was jealously eyeing a snappier URL that was occupied only by 8 posts made over the course of 5 months, and which was for that minor reason forever—3 years at that point, and 8 years now *—denied to me. Well, I suppose that I am not now in a position to complain about Google's failure to evict blogsquatters.)

Anyway, reading over those old entries made me want to make some more postings of interest, rather than little once-a-year checkings-in; and I figure that there is no better way to revive the subtlety and erudition that were once the hallmarks of this blog than by discussing television. That's right, Chuck! “But wait,” you say, you my faithful reader, “suppose that we are willing to indulge you in the idea that weighty and ponderous discussions of television shows as if they held some cultural weight are somehow a way to make your come-back in style. So suppose. Are you not nonetheless merely duplicating existing work, especially since”—and here you indulge in a bold, but correct, guess—“you intend only to talk about old episodes?” Yes, reader, you are quite correct, I will be duplicating existing work—indeed, work that I am reading myself, running off after each episode with such eagerness that I'm sometimes not sure which I enjoy more of the episode or analysis—but here is the twist: I will do so badly ****. I should also warn you that I will issue spoilers with stunning cavalierness, feeling myself justified by the fact that the episodes I'm watching are new only to me. (Of course, this attitude can be abused; I was reminded just yesterday of this by a Harry Potter spoiler—OK, maybe only technically, but still a spoiler; cultural Neanderthal that I am, I have not read beyond HPOoP.)

Actually, I stumbled on the AV Club blog only after I'd already watched a few episodes of Chuck, and I was shocked; here I thought that I had seen an episode that—actually, you know what? I have no memories of what I thought after watching the first few episodes, none at all. I remember that I enjoyed it, scarcely a stretch given that I have been consuming it at a steady clip ever since, and I remember that it struck me that it had certain unique qualities, but in retrospect I have no idea what they were. “A unique perspective on geek culture”?—I was about to write something like that. Well, what do I know about geek culture? I'm a mathematician; I'm not even the cool kind of geek. (I do know that I was inordinately proud of myself for catching the Zork reference, but I'm pretty sure that it was not on that basis that I decided to continue.) Anyway, whatever it was, it was enough for me to keep watching, and so I was shocked to read Steven Hyden's vitriolic take on it. I couldn't resist reading ahead, and it may well have been Steve Heisler's much happier perspective that led to my current addiction. It's a bit funny to be following through the will-they-or-won't-they drama—I mean NBC and picking up new episodes, obviously—after it's long since unfolded, with obvious result.

Hi, reader! Do you know what I've just done? I've just spent about an hour writing, not what I wanted to write, but about what I wanted to write; and now I am out of time, but I am actually rather pleased with this post, light on content though it is, because I'm writing again (such as it is), and I've really missed that. Almost certainly I will lose my momentum, and forget what I wanted to say, and not be able to find the mood, but surely I won't leave a post like this hanging as I did all the others, right? Surely I've righted that tailspin, no? Well, maybe. Let's see.

* A group of my graduate-school classmates and I got together, after all our classes (or, rather more significantly, all our exams) were finished, not just for the quarter but forever—most everyone, I guess, gets to say that at some point, but it is perhaps a particularly compelling moment for a professional academic—and sat down to go through our notes and see what is the biggest number that was mentioned explicitly in a mathematician's education. It was 5 ** .
** Achieved twice, once in the proof of the Vitali covering lemma *** and once in a discussion of non-Abelian, simple groups.
*** About this number, a classmate asked “Is that really 5?” (meaning, is it just some random number that's big enough, as when one takes δ = ε/30); and the instructor, flustered, replied “It is 5. 5 is 5. 5 is not 3.”
OK, technically, it was the order of the Monster, which was mentioned in an off-handed way once, but that doesn't make for such a good story.
**** Remind me some time to talk about my indecisiveness over the grammatical function of colons. No, I won't do it now, no matter how you beg!


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