Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Zinaida Hippius

Zinaida Hippius

Flowers are most beautiful at night

When wolves hunt the wind,

And Russians, drunk on scent,


[copyright EAC]

NB: The image is deliberately bioptic and double-faced, and designed to be viewed both in naked eye colors and depth, and with 3D glasses as an anaglyph (red left, blue right).

Li Bai : In The Twilight Of The Moon

Li Bai: In The Twilight Of The Moon

On the floor before my bed
the moonlight shines
bright and cold as frost on earth.

Looking up
I stare at the bright moon,
and lowering my head
think of home.

[Tr. E. A. Costa]

NB: This is perhaps the most widely known and admired poem in the Chinese language, and for good reason. There is an ancient dispute about the reading, which varies in a later edition and which dispute hinges on whether Li Bai repeated the characters for ming yue. Since there is an obvious play, in which ambiguity is exploited, it is almost certain that he did, and I accept the printed version with the repetition. The poem, especially in its visual aspect as Chinese characters, is simple and elegant to the point of defying translation. I have tried, in this rendering into English, to elucidate a few of the poetic subtilties that travel across language.

Animation made from original digital photographs by E. A. Costa.

[copyright EAC]

Monday, December 15, 2008

Vexations: A Tale Of Law And Order

Des chevaux ont appris à danser; des araignées se sont tenues sous un piano pendant toute la durée d'un long concert, concert organisé pour elles par un maître respecté du clavier. Et après ? Rien.

Erik Satie

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Six Easy Pieces

There is no historical question being studied in physics at the present time. We do not have a question, "Here are the laws of physics, how did they get that way?" We do not imagine, at the moment, that the laws of physics are somehow changing with time, that they were different in the past than they are at present. Of course they may be, and the moment we find that they are, the historical question of physics will be wrapped up with the rest of the history of the universe, and then the physicist will be talking about the same problems as astronomers, geologists, and biologists....

Richard P. Feynman

Sunday, November 30, 2008

William Empson: Chapter Nine

William Empson: Chapter Nine

William Empson begins an essay titled, "Honest Man", which stands as Chapter Nine of his Structure Of Complex Words, so:

The Highlanders raised cries of "honest man", in Boswell's Tour To The Western Isle, after a farmer's wife had sat on Dr. Johnson's knee. "But what", as Boswell very sensibly asks, "could he have done?". There would have been another puzzle for the biographer if he had tried to explain the word. The cry is both patronizing and cordial, even both mocking and respectful; the farmers meant that he had seemed frankly pleased, therefore a good fellow, but also virtuous, therefore both worthy and absurd. At least that is what I should have thought it meant, but Boswell insists very firmly that this was a "Scottish phrase" and merely "an expression of kindness and regard". He ought to have known, but then he was also concerned to pass things off adequately smoothly. No doubt it is a plausible view that the Scotch had stuck to the older use of the word. One feels it would have been clear enough on the spot; but the text leaves it very doubtful....

Empson is difficult for those who do not go slowly, or go without depth, experience and subtilty of eye and ear.

For someone who is not British the mode may be mystifying, and even so for a Britisher with no interest or sensibility in his own language.

"[I]t would have been clear enough on the spot" indeed. But Boswell himself seems to make a mess of it, exactly because he suggests that there might be misunderstanding of what happened on the spot, and that misunderstanding actually the result of what he had reported in regard to what was said.

Empson clearly understands both the spot and the possibility of misunderstanding, but his main interest is the phrase itself.

The not so obvious conclusion, which might take many readings to see even for the very sensitive, is that Boswell not only reported but also sought to exculpate Johnson of anything "dishonest".

That leads by another path to what Empson is intent upon ultimately--what was "honest" about having another man's wife sit on Johnson's knee, and about Johnson enjoying it, which Boswell hastens to explain as--what else could he do?

But explaining the Scottish usage complicates the matter more intricately, and with a suggestion of the ribald. What did the Highlanders mean by a shout of "honest man" under the circumstances, and is Boswell misleading the reader to protect Johnson or to implicate his physiology, and with Scottish flair?

Empson is not close-mouthed or enigmatic on the subject in the sense that his own suggestive style opens up the possibilities exactly to one who does look closely and deeply, whether or not such a reader is familiar with a learned and sensitive Englishman's--indeed a poet's--tonal range and openness of reference.

To all the rest, the passage--and Empson-- will likely fall on deaf ears.

Empson himself, having titillated with his beginning, then goes off in his own primarily historical direction:

Uses of this kind, very complicated but somehow obvious within their own group of speakers, seem interesting in themselves and likely to bear on questions of linguistic theory. I cannot attempt to explore all the paths that lead from this point, for example, to explain what is considered honest in big business, or why it is only in English that this romance word has come to mean telling the truth....

Chaucer is certainly pertinent, which Empson immediately takes up. On the other hand, what Empson himself may not have known in detail--in this case classics and ancient Latin texts--helps even an American get the gist, and without cleaving to his own meaning of "honest", whatever it may be, thus getting to the heart of what Empson is about.

So one might mention as another dimension and just for example, Ammianus Marcellinus describing himself as an "honest arrival" (honestus advena) among the bluebloods of the Roman Senatorial aristocracy.

Is Ammianus using "honestus" in any sense that might easily be reconciled with what an American, more than a millennium and a half later, and using his own version of English, might mean when he hears or reads or voices, say, the phrase, "He made an honest woman out of her"?

Even most Americans, for whom the phrase itself is now a bit old-fashioned, might not grasp that sense of "honest" on their own tongue, nor be able to distinguish it from "honest Injun" or "honest to God!".

[copyright EAC]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Peep Street AD 2032

"They are two entirely disparate melodies, yet they are related, like brother and sister, through their common parentage. The various motives which make them up are not merely juxtaposed, but grown together; two different ways of growing have produced two different
things. Here is a living realization of the unmechanical, almost biological connection, between part and whole in music...."

Robert Erickson

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Two-Minute Toy Story: Anna Karenina Meets War And Peace

"And there, among the mountains, she appeared to his imagination as a Circassian slave, a fine figure with a long plait of hair and deep submissive eyes. He pictured a lonely hut in the mountains, and on the threshold she stands awaiting him when, tired and covered with dust, blood, and fame, he returns to her. He is conscious of her kisses, her shoulders, her sweet voice, and her submissiveness. She is enchanting, but uneducated, wild, and rough. In the long winter evenings he begins her education. She is clever and gifted and quickly acquires all the knowledge essential. Why not? She can quite easily learn foreign languages, read the French masterpieces and understand them: Notre Dame de Paris, for instance, is sure to please her. She can also speak French...."

Leo Tolstoy [tr. L. & A. Maude]

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Second Rule of Zen

Master Lu said to the First Emperor, "I and the others have searched for zhi fungus, rare herbs, and the immortals, but we can never seem to encounter them. There would appear to be some entity that is blocking us. The magic arts teach that the ruler of men should at times move about in secret so as to avoid evil spirits. If evil 'spirits are avoided, one can reach the status of True Man. If the whereabouts of the ruler of men are known to his ministers, this hinders his spiritual power. A True Man can enter water without getting wet, enter fire without getting burned, soar over the clouds and air, and endure as long as heaven and earth. But now Your Majesty, though ruling the whole world, has not yet been able to attain calm and quietude...."

Sima Qian (tr. Burton Watson)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Haiku Fu

Haiku Fu

Watch every finger.

We all look like food to whom?

Rude swallows pecking.

[copyright EAC]

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ceci N'est Pas Une Mona Lisa (Anaglyph)

Ceci N'est Pas Une Mona Lisa

Ego is always the enemy.

The way out is art.

The world is else than the sum of parts.

(copyright EAC)*

*An anaglyph, to be viewed with 3D glasses, red left, blue right.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Shodoka Topologica

"the proposition

‘All forms point to the formless’

is itself a formal proposition..."

R. D. Laing

Friday, June 6, 2008

Clytemnestra At Aulis (Sirian Transmission)

Clytemnestra At Aulis (Sirian Transmission)

Reverse light year print
taken by the Sirian ship
Ning off Cygnus 7 Luna:

Astral Date of Record: 22002aw4

Comment: Garbled Transmission/ 2nd Millennium Ameranglish TR.

Queen means what, Agamemnon?

Am I mere convenient vanilla,

the nearest sheath

between sheets?

Are we as species


allowing no dialogue?


Everyone found Paris enchanting

at that time of year (it was Spring).

Why all the fuss?

Your brother was always a bore.

Menelaos this, Menelaos that.


The foam giveth and the foam taketh away.

I will not have that gentle white throat

made in my spitting image slashed by hardened Father Figure.

I cannot attend.

I have a splitting headache.

Don't forget your lunch box.


(we will settle all this

when you get home).

[copyright EAC]

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


(Animation EAC 02)

Aphorismatica (2)

Buying And Selling

Alles ist kaufen und gekaufen!--everything is buying and selling.

So some would have it.

Thus also the imperative of the price on their heads.


Cats are strange critters. They come in litters. No one ever sees them leave.


All language is subject to construction”—so goes the old saw of the law schools.

The trouble is the saw itself is language, thus subject to being construed.

Why not then as, say: “Some language is subject to construction”.

“Some”, as any lawyer will tell you if it pays him to do so, is not “all”.

But who is silly enough to pay attention to lawyers, most especially in regard to words and the constructions they find it convenient, and usually very lucrative, to make upon them?


A Britisher asks: “Why are department heads called ‘Chairpersons’ in America?

The answer is simple and elegant: “person” is derived from the Latin persona from personare, that is: “to resound, reecho”.

The “chair” prefix tells you where the sound comes through.

Curtain Fall

The function of the stage curtain is to block sight, thus mark change or discontinuity in what happens on stage.

The fact that in contemporary theater the curtain falls is incidental. Among the ancient Romans, for example, stage curtains rose from below.

Insofar as the medium is the message, and dramatic metaphors find currency in daily life, might therefore the Romans have been comfortable with a day’s end in which, say, “darkness rises”?

In fact one has spent many decades looking about the natural world for a darkness that seems to fall. Instead, what one sees at the end of the day is the light going down, and in the mountains, among other places, the shadows and darkness climbing.

[copyright EAC]

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Frog Went A Courtin' And He Did Ride...

"Animals who move or are in a world that moves around them—as long as there are things moving somehow relative to you—will be selected to have perceptions that are true. We have about a tenth of a second delay between the time light hits the retina and the time of resultant perception, which is considerable given that you move 10 centimeters in that amount of time even if you're only walking one meter per second. That means that if you didn't compensate for this neural delay, anything you perceive to be within 10 centimeters of passing...would have just passed you by the time you perceive it. You'd always be seeing the world as it was a tenth of a second earlier and seeing what the world looks like 10 centimeters behind where you in fact are--if you hadn't run into whatever it is you're looking for...."

Mark Changizi

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sara Teasdale At Fontainebleau

Sara Teasdale At Fontainebleau

she arrives in Etruscan autumn
bearing the gift of ghosts
sighing across centuries of sea.

she sees endless Fall
in halls bare of the dead boar
of Saint Louis.

she tastes victory
under the sign poetess
birthing breathing souls
on the blood red floor
of October foliage.

[copyright EAC]

NB: The animation is a new type of 3D animated .GIF image, which I call the Gasperini Wiggle, after the inventor, Jim Gasperini: http://www.well.com/user/jimg/

The reference of the text is to Sara Teasdale's "Fontainebleau"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Aphorismatica (I)

In The Beginning

Is the letter “C” the first and beginning element of the word “CAT”
because that is the way the word is written, or because that is the way the word is read?

One reads C1A2T3--unless perhaps one is dyslexic--but it could just as easily have been written, as far as most readers know, C3A1T2.

Convention governs reading, technique governs writing.

Applied Science

The aversion of the ancient Greeks to applying mathematics or science to practical ends had little or nothing to do with aristocratic contempt for rolling up one's sleeves, getting one's hands dirty and doing work. Thales made money with his meteorological and astronomical knowledge, in the process inventing the futures contract.

He did it to show how easily it might be done, and too, how worthless it was.

Contemporary Prophet

Contemporary prophets specialize in predicting the past.

Their accuracy? About five right out of ten.

Lacan Before Lacan

Lacan looks in the mirror.

And sees someone else.

Universal Health

It is a singular observation that when the ancient Greek physicians first began their work of untangling the ways of nature, they found the cosmos in good working order.

[copyright EAC]



L’inconscient n’est pas pulsation obscure du prétendu instinct,
ni coeur de l’être mais seulement son habitat.

[Jacques Lacan]

She enters sinuously
between the clatter of rainfall
and the silence of thaw
whispering promises to greybeards:

"Do you have an ear for Spring? Do you reverence green? Is your last winter dead and gone?"

At first you humor her, unbelieving
the faintest giggle of any future.

suddenly--she's all there,
laughing maid with overflowing glass
slightly tipsy, exuberant of all flesh.

[copyright EAC ]

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Un-Geisha

The Un-Geisha

Physis kruptesthai philei...

The geisha mocks with smile

and fans with dancing eyes.

She has sung in the language of birds.

She has fingered the samisen

And lingered over the words of an almost found chord.

She has whisked the foaming green tea.

Now to hide abed bored and boring and be ridden

By blind need....

[copyright EAC]

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cheese Toys R Us

Cheese Toys R Us

She: “Why are you running away?”

He: “Why are you chasing me?”

She: “Because I want to ask you a question.”

He: “You just did.”

She: “Did what?”

He: “You just did ask a question.”

She: “I did?”

He: “You did.”

She:”No, I didn’t. I just answered your question.”

He: “Yes, but before that you asked me why I was running away.”

She: “Well, why were you running away?”

He: “Why were you chasing me?”

She: “I already said—I wanted to ask you a question.”

He: “What’s the question you wanted to ask?”

She: “Do you think my toes are ugly?”

He: “Your toes?”

She: “Yes, my toes. But why are you running away again?”

[copyright, E.A.C Aphorismata]

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Twisted Sister (Ode To La Physique Rottweiler)

Twisted Sister (Ode To La Physique Rottweiler)

"L'esprit de système est dans la physique ce que la métaphysique est dans la géométrie...."


Where were you lost

Before you were born?

How did you find yourself?

In what woods, following

what breadcrumbs?

What frog woke you up

with a kiss?

In what mirror did charming toad

share your secret vices?

When did you wake up

and say it is only I who suffer?

It is only I who am at a loss?

It is only I who can remember

Every which way to Erehwon?

[copyright EAC]

Tuesday, May 6, 2008



It is sung in a noise of earth

that once upon a time mankind

joined in perfect chorus to raise

a monstrous song to heaven from the land.

It did not sound.

As stony silence fell upon the singers

they were thrown into different speech

in tongues no one of them could understand.

It is sung in a noise of earth....

(copyright EAC)

Just War

A: So tell me, my friend, do you support the war?

B: Indeed, most enthusiastically. As long as no one gets killed or injured.

A: But that is absurd, friend. How can there be war with no one being killed or injured?

B: You mean to say there has never been a war in which no one was killed or injured?

A: Not that I know of. Which war would that be?

B: The only kind of war I support.

A: Once more--that’s absurd.

B: But war itself is absurd, isn't it?

A: You mean there are no just wars?

B: Naturally. A just war is a war in which no one is killed or injured.

A: I am not following you. Why would you be pro-war if you want no one killed or injured?

B: Because war is absurd, and folks need a degree of absurdity in their lives. It's healthy. Keeps the blood running. It adds excitement, and a sense of the unknown. They say generals die in bed. So I say make everyone a general. Then everyone gets a shot at medals and glory, all the acclaim and admiration, just so long as no one is killed or maimed.

A: And everyone dies in bed?

B: Sure. Why not?

A: Well, if you are pro-war you certainly support the troops.

B: No. I don't support the troops.

A: You're pro-war but you don't support the troops? How can you be pro-war and not support the troops that fight it?

B: Because it's just war.

A: You mean because you support just wars, and in just wars no one gets killed and maimed.

B: That's right. Why would they need support? In fact, why have troops? It's just war.

A: Just war?

B: Well, because everyone's a general and no one gets killed or maimed, and they....

A: All die in bed.

B: You got it. Easy as pie.

A: As pie?

B: Just war. Easy as pie.

A: In bed?

B: You got it.

A: I see.

[EAC copyright]

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

El Rotochromodrome

"Why, for instance, do we not, like the Hopi, use a different way of expressing the relation of channel of sensation (seeing) to result in consciousness, as between 'I see that it is red' and 'I see that it is new'. We fuse the two quite different types of relationship into a vague sort of connection expressed by 'that', whereas the Hopi indicates that in the first case seeing presents a sensation 'red', and in the second that seeing presents unspecificed evidence from which is drawn the inference of newness. If we change the form to 'I hear that it is red' or 'I hear that it is new', we European speakers still cling to our lame 'that', but the Hopi now uses still another relater and makes no distinction between 'red' and 'new', since, in either case, the significant presentation to consciousness is that of a verbal report, and neither a sensation per se nor inferential evidence...."

[Benjamin Lee Whorf]

Monday, March 31, 2008


"The fish trap exists because of the fish; once you've gotten the fish, you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit; once you have gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning; once you have gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him?"

[Chuang Tzu tr. Watson]

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lucianesque (2)

Adam: You talked to a tree?

Eve: Well, not quite the tree itself. A snake in the tree.

Adam: A snake? What's a snake?

Eve: Well, a little like what you have there [points and giggles] and I don't.

Adam: What did the snake say?

Eve: The snake said this place is a garden.

Adam: Really?

Eve: Really.

Adam: What's a garden?

Eve: What's a garden? Well, the snake said....

Adam: The snake said what?

Eve: Well, the snake said a garden is a little like a bush.

Adam: Really?

Eve: Really.

Adam: A bush? What's a bush?

Eve: Well, it's a little like [points to herself and giggles] what I have here.

Adam: That's a bush?

Eve: Well, Adam, like a bush.

Adam: Really?

Eve: Really.

Adam: Oh.

[copyright EAC January 2008]

Monday, January 14, 2008

Incognito (Animated Anaglyph)

"Of the same sort was what Count Ludovico said to a man who wished to travel incognito through a certain dangerous place and did not know how to disguise himself; and the Count, being asked about it, replied: 'Dress like a doctor or some other man of learning.'"

[Baldesar Castiglione tr. S. Singleton]

An animated anaglyph, designed to be viewed with 3D glasses--Blue right, Red left.