Points on the tesseract

First, in rampant defiance of Dennis Perrin’s kind welcome to the blogosphere [why a sphere? why not a tesseract? – ed.], in which he identified me as a key source for “your high-end cultural needs” — and thus, by the way, putting me under instant and enormous pressure to actually become capable of serving needs of that kind (Ah well. Better go find my copy of Brewer’s, I guess) — I offer you a glimpse of something which is clearly not high culture at all. But on the other hand, it’s clearly not low; it’s, well, it’s a cartoon. But a damn good one — that is, if you think that the style and mindspace of Jules Feiffer mixed with a computer science convention sounds like fun. ‘Nuff said: via Blue Girl in a Red State, it’s xkcd (“a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language”).


Second, for those not yet exposed to his blog, Bob Harris’s site is well worth visiting regularly. Go there for his funny and highly intelligent commentary, but stay for his pudus (you’ll find out). He wins extra points because of his unconcealed soft spot for Canada — “a country where wars aren’t rushed into, health care and education are truly considered public issues of real import, and the environment is more than just a place to get and put junk”.

Bless his American soul, he has seen the light.

Lastly, in this happy season of Nobel Prizes, I want to link to a beautiful poem written by the winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature (awarded “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”), Wislawa Szymborska. Jon Schwarz drew his readers’ (and my) attention to it today as his favorite poem (excellent taste, that man), and the poem itself, “Reality Demands”, can be seen on Mike Gerber’s site here. And to encourage you to go read that poem, here’s another by Szymborska, on an all too timely (and all too timeless) subject:


Nothing has changed.
The body is susceptible to pain,
it must eat and breathe air and sleep,
it has thin skin and blood right underneath,
an adequate stock of teeth and nails,
its bones are breakable, its joints are stretchable.
In tortures all this is taken into account.

Nothing has changed.
The body shudders as it shuddered
before the founding of Rome and after,
in the twentieth century before and after Christ.
Tortures are as they were, it’s just the earth that’s grown smaller,
and whatever happens seems right on the other side of the wall.

Nothing has changed. It’s just that there are more people,
besides the old offenses new ones have appeared,
real, imaginary, temporary, and none,
but the howl with which the body responds to them,
was, is and ever will be a howl of innocence
according to the time-honored scale and tonality.

Nothing has changed. Maybe just the manners, ceremonies, dances.
Yet the movement of the hands in protecting the head is the same.
The body writhes, jerks and tries to pull away,
its legs give out, it falls, the knees fly up,
it turns blue, swells, salivates and bleeds.

Nothing has changed. Except for the course of boundaries,
the line of forests, coasts, deserts and glaciers.
Amid these landscapes traipses the soul,
disappears, comes back, draws nearer, moves away,
alien to itself, elusive, at times certain, at others uncertain of its own existence,
while the body is and is and is
and has no place of its own.

– Wislawa Szymborska


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