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Archive for January, 2011

His Person
Balzac on the threshold of asserting his genius with ‘Cromwell’ was particularly ugly, in spite of his intelligence that sparkled in his small eyes. A stout thick set figure, untidy black hair bony features a large mouth and defective teeth. His timidity and lean purse could not afford him the distraction the city of Paris offered. ‘A very ugly man ‘ is how one of his contemporaries described him. Balzac neglected his personal appearance and his acquaintances noted with distaste, the thick grease on his leonine mane, the decaying teeth the way he dribbled when he spoke quickly, his unshaven chin and untied shoelaces. Whereas the bucks of the age far below in intellect and determination could insinuate themselves with a woman with supple phrases and time tested tactics he was tongue tied and ashamed of his looks. Balzac knew that his massive shoulders and bull-like neck and short legs would only make him look ridiculous if he tried to imitate the dandies of his day. ’Oh to have the feeling that one is made for love and destined to make a woman happy and yet never to find a single one… to have to carry treasures about with one in a beggar’s knapsack and meet nobody..who wants to admire them! I was often in despair that I was near to putting an end to my life.’
By a phenomenal absorption in his work he managed to stave off the demands of the flesh.
benny

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Space and Time as an idea.
As rational beings we conceive time to separate two events that impress on our consciousness. By the time man has seen them as such there has been many events occurring elsewhere and his concept of time naturally is invalidated since he has no grasp of their significance. I shall illustrate this by a simple analogy. It takes 8 minutes for the light to travel from the sun and to impress on our retina. Even as we think we are counting time there are events actually happening around us to which we have no inkling off. But what if a bullet shot two blocks away by one ricochets and strikes us? What occurred elsewhere and significance of which was lost to us, is connected to our timeframe. As much as we may account for and place these events in our context there are many more that are so far removed from us to be of relevant to us. Even so these events separated by time can only be understood as relative to us. How the destruction of rainforests whether in the Amazon basin or in Indonesia creates chain of events and is integrated into our time frame in another corner of the earth is at best relative.
Consider how far back in space or time we can go and we would be still far short of the idea of Time or Space.
I used the capitals here to account for all the time frames that may be used by others simultaneously in relation to our time frame.
If there is a valid time frame for me there shall be Time that validate every other time frame elsewhere. If my will has determined time as a concept to separate two events it is possible that there is a Will in control of Time and Space.Our abstract thinking validates such a supposition.
Is it not then valid if I attribute that Will to God? God as a concept since we can work at best with concepts.
benny

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Mr.Know –it- all one of the party at a feast told Mulla Nasruddin,’This pilaf is made from the finest rice and clarified butter.’
Mulla held his hand up as he went on and on, ’No use telling my ear,’
Nasruddin said after wiping his mouth,’while my tongue is at work.’
benny

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Descriptive Passages in the Opening chapter of Béatrix
Balzac has often been criticized for going off into a tangent instead of tackling the story directly. While taking up Beatrix the reader has the prospect of wading through the minutiae of the physical reality of hotel du Guaisnic. Was it really necessary? We see time and time again how in Balzac’s vision the narrow world within which a character lives stamps on him certain characteristics. Think of all those characters whose lives crossed in the unforgettable Pension Vauquer. ‘It was not one boarding-house in particular but of many as the Baron du Guénic was an epitome of all Breton noblemen’. Balzac stressed certain physical features of the world while throwing others in shadows in order to heighten the mood and inner state of the character. Thus the faded wallpaper of the boarding house will resonate with the ravages of a father’s passion pursued to madness.
Most of the characters Balzac employed to keep his story moving are composite part of himself and those whom he knew and observed from close. Some are transformed in order to keep their identity from being blown. These belonged unlike the physical world to his inner world. In Balzac’s creative vision the recurring characters made their entry and exit and also would become gradually more fleshed out as their models in real world. Insights into them also vary. Rastigniac is largely uncorrupted in Pere Goriot ( He has a minor role in the Wild Asses Skin) and in another he has already arrived and learned to make use of the system to his advantage.
Subject for stories caught up up by his memory and imagination, like the pull and push of tides also brought the stock characters along. On one hand his need for wish-fulfillment and on the other need to avoid pain in his case mountain of debts that were in the offing made his world of imagination and life experience trade off to give his works their force and integrity. One way was to make his characters to the fore or set them in the background according to the exigencies of the work where their physical world had a hand on them as in his case. In this context the stagnation of the fortified town and the feudal home of the Baron was essential to his purpose. ( Let me digress here: the grand design of La Comédie humaine was already coalescing in his mind as he became sure of his vision and craft.) One key to understand and appreciate Balzac’s writing is to accept the dictum, ‘ man as the creature of his environment’.
The novelist in Beatrix lays out the theme of an antique world of Guérande being destroyed by the modern world by using a number of metaphors. A trefoil as an architectural feature is much more in the hands of Balzac‘…the mansion was built by a Venetian architect…the trefoils of the hotel du Guaisnic have four leaves instead of three. This difference plainly indicates the Venetian school depraved by its commerce with the East, …, give four leaves to
clover, while Christian art is faithful to the Trinity. In this respect Venetian art becomes heretical’. By pointing to the crisis of faith owing to the influences from the East, Balzac points a parallel between Venice and the ancient city by the onslaught of Industrial Age. ( Also noteworthy is a number of references to Venice in the opening chapter.) ‘Modern industry, working for the masses, goes on destroying the creations of ancient art, the works of which were once as personal to the consumer as to the artisan. Nowadays
we have products, we no longer have works
benny

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His School Days

While Balzac inherited from his father vitality and joy in telling stories it was from his mother that he inherited his sensitiveness of feeling. At the age of seven he was packed off to do a six year stint in a miserable boarding school of the Orotorian Brothers. Not a single one of these harsh priests of Vendôme gleaned an iota of genius in this chubby boy suffering already physically and spiritually by his mother’s total unconcern and her preference of her love-child to him. This precocious boy who could learn a page by heart merely by scanning it once was saved from his predicament by a nervous breakdown. At sixteen the boy was haggard with large scared eyes came out to face his parents who were shocked at his appearance. ‘So this,’ Grandmother Sallambier observed, ‘is how the college returns the healthy boys we send them.’

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Giffords, 40, is a moderate Democrat who narrowly won re-election in November against a tea party candidate. During his campaign effort to unseat Giffords in November, Republican challenger Jesse Kelly held fundraisers where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle. (Kelly is a former Marine who served in Iraq and was pictured on his website in military gear holding his automatic weapon and promoting the event who sought to throw her from office over her support of the health care law.)
What triggered this outrage was in course of a routine business conducted in the Capitol. The House passed the overhaul of the Healthcare while the Republicans want a repeal of the Bill introduced by the President. Should such matters erupt in violence? In a country one in 8 (I may be wrong as to the exact figures.b) suffer from some kind of mental disorder and gun culture so deeply embedded in national life, tragedy was waiting to happen.
Bipartisan politics still rule America and last March Giffords’ Tucson office was vandalized. Now looking back one can see it was a wake-up call of violence that was to follow. In an interview after her office was vandalized, she referred to the animosity against her by conservatives, including Sarah Palin’s decision to list Giffords’ seat as one of the top “targets” in the midterm elections.

“For example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the cross-hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action,” Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC.
The sheriff blamed the vitriolic political rhetoric that has consumed the country, much of it occurring in Arizona.
Sarah Palin as we all know is in a hurry to occupy the White House. In her gray cells least troubled by wisdom, political acumen or fair play, rhetoric is all that matters. Luckily for her there is a large group of lunatics who mistake intemperate speech as speaking the mind straight.I suppose there must be still sane people on both sides who can make a correct choice when time comes.
Listening to the Republican Congressman from Tennessee today made me laugh at the humbug that is aired about. Naturally the GOP is on damage control. ‘The assassin reads Marx’ is what Rep. Lamar has to stress about the incident. (State of the Union-CNN). Implying a man who shoots to kill after so much of venom and hatred being spewed around by the Tea Party Movement, is not one of them must make an ostrich take Rep. Lamar for its peer. (The assassin is a white male. No one was quick to resort to a racial profiling shows some improvement in the manner mass media reported the news.)
The dead includes a 9 year old girl and a District Judge who had dropped by to see the victim. .(AP News- Pauline Arrillaga)
benny

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NIELS BOHR (1885-1962) Danish
Physicist
Niels Bohr is best known for the investigations of atomic structure and also for work on radiation, which won him the 1922 Nobel Prize for physics. His son Aage Bohr also won the prize in 1975.
Giving up the idea of philosophy he opted for Physics and in 1912 he joined Ernest Rutherford at Manchester University. His earliest success came with his model of atomic structure in 1913, as a result of improving on Rutherford’s nuclear structure. He incorporated several ideas that were being formulated at that time( Max Planck’s quantum theory* and Heisenberg’s concepts),and his model has stood the test of time.
On the basis of Rutherford’s theories, Bohr published introducing the theory of electrons traveling in orbits around the atom’s nucleus, the chemical properties of the element being largely determined by the number of electrons in the outer orbits. Bohr introduced the idea that an electron could drop from a higher-energy orbit to a lower one, emitting a photon (light quantum) of discrete energy. This became a basis for quantum theory. In 1918 he returned to Denmark becoming in 1918 director of the newly created Institute of Theoretical Physics.
During the Nazi occupation and in the face of Hitler’s nuclear ambitions he fled (via Sweden, UK) to the U.S.
Niels Bohr was part of a team of physicists working on the Manhattan Project.
He has been described as one of the most influential physicists of the 20th century.
Note*
Planck’s Constant
Is a physical constant used to describe the sizes of quanta in quantum mechanics. It is named after Max Planck, one of the founders of quantum theory. The Planck constant was first discovered as the proportionality constant between the energy of a photon and the frequency of its associated electromagnetic wave. This relation between the energy and frequency is called the Planck relation or the Planck–Einstein equation.
Planck supposed,- and it turned out to be correct, energy could not take on any indiscriminate value but must be some multiple of a very small quantity or ‘quantum’.
benny

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Honoré Balzac-(1799-1850)

(Excerpts from the biography by Stefan Zweig (pub: Cassel-London)
Balzac and Cromwell
One day in the spring of 1819 Balzac suddenly leapt up from his stool in the notary’s office. Laying aside files open at his desk he abandoned the idea of working his way up and he was resolved not to enter any of the bourgeois professions. His future as he saw lay in literature. He was determined to become an author and by virtue of his masterpieces to achieve independence, wealth and fame.
This decision could not have come at a more inopportune time. The family fortunes were at its low what with the Balzac Sr’s salary of 8000 fr put into speculative undertakings and was going badly. The family was reduced to live on a measly pension in lieu of the salary that was tied up against his ventures. If his parents thought to have him off their hands for good he made the startling announcement not only he wanted to become an author but that he expected his parents to finance him in his ‘idleness.’
Balzac’s parents rallied to their support all friends and relations and they tried to make him change but to no avail. After a hard struggle lasting for days they reached a typically bourgeois compromise. The family agreed to subsidize Honore’s questionable talent for not less than two years and if he had not become a great and famous author by then he would have to return to the notary’s stool. After carefully working out a minimum standard of living the parents bound themselves to pay 120 francs per month during his ‘voyage in search of immortality.’

Under the pretext of looking after his welfare his mother accompanied him to Paris. She helped him to rent a room at 9 rue Les diguières, a dismal garret with its dirty yellow walls that reeked of misery and was icy cold in winter and scorching in summer. The lodging cost him 3 sous a day and the dismal view from his garret over the grey roofs of Paris would have wilted anyone other than Balzac.
The only consolation that allowed him was a practical one. He had to buy his bread, fruits and coffee which was the indispensable stimulant for his overwrought nerves. Such visits afforded him the greatest pleasure and it cost him nothing! He could stroll along the streets studying the denizens in their natural habitat. His library back in his garret, real people he observed and an eye capable of penetrating everything whether thoughts or happenings, these were enough to construct a world of his own.
His genius was vetted by his straitened circumstances and people supplied the stimulus and was a spiritual experience.
Balzac was ready to proclaim his genius by producing in the two year test period with a masterpiece. He was conscious of the force within but had no idea what he is going to write about. “Without genius I am lost!” he seemed to have said on choosing a play, a tragedy in verse, no less!- ‘Cromwell’ as his subject.
Genius he had in abundance but little did he know himself. He had no gift for rhyme and the rigidity of form that the tragedy demanded was against the grain. Worse still he was unfamiliar with the technique of the stage. His genius was like a cataract and to harness the impetuous torrent of ideas and apportion them to characters and make them sound believable required much more than two years. Naturally his first play was a fiasco.
benny

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2.
Yeats as an old man returned to Dublin after wintering in Spain for his health. He brought with him a letter to Oliver St. John Gogarty, his doctor. He glanced it and the line ‘We have here an antique cardio-sclerotic of advanced age,’and he knew it was the death sentence. So Dr. Gogarty silently shoved into his pocket. The old poet rolled the words ‘cardio-sclerotic’ over and over his tongue. ‘Do you know Gogarty,’said he solemnly, ‘I’d rather be called cardio-sclerotic than Lord of Lower Egypt.’
Here we have the poet’s ear for words, the pure delight in the sound of words, which enabled him to take the sting out of death itself.
3.
In his manner to strangers he was courteous, stately and formal. At times he seemed remote behind a mask of exaggerated dignity. With people whom he liked and felt he understood he would unbend and become by turns eloquent and laughing. All that he did or said had an air of ceremony. He loved to quote Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s proud taunt,’As for living our servants will do that for us,’ and he seemed to carry it into his daily life as though as an article of faith.
Rather than disturb a cat that had settled comfortably on his fur coat left in the green room of Abbey Theater he asked for a pair of scissors. The wardrobe mistress duly brought one and he cut away half of his new fur coat. After claiming the abbreviated coat the poet observed that cat was ,‘I believe in his magical sleep. It’d have been dangerous to wake him.’
On another occasion when attending to some business that demanded his name on several cheques he signed them all, ‘Yours Sincerely, W.B Yeats.’
benny

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