img.latex_eq { padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; }

Saturday, 31 May 2008

I may be wrong, but I believe that . . .

Well, I picked this meme up off the Exterminator. And yes, I know I owe at least two of you a meme from way back that I may or may not ever get around to giving you (sorry about that), but this one just sort of looked like fun. The rules are:

Think of some things you believe that may be wrong. Write them on your blog. Don’t tag anyone, but drop the hint that if your friends really care about your feelings, they’ll follow through with their own lists.

1. My passport has vanished off the face of the Earth and if I'm going to get a visa in time I'll need to apply for a new one pronto. Pity. That passport was an old friend.

2. String theory is not an accurate description of reality on the small scale. Oh, and we're stuck with quantum weirdness. The sensible way to react to quantum mechanics is simply to accept that many things that we would consider basic truisms are actually merely the product of having evolved at a level where quantum effects are not perceptible.

3. Death is the end. When you die, you cease to exist.

4. It's not quite so evil to download Series Four of Doctor Who off the internet if you've already paid the show quite a lot of money by buying the whole of Series Three.

5. Philosophy is not a waste of time.

6. If I turn up to this cute, witty short guy's show on Thursday, I've got half a chance of kissing him if I can get him alone. Hope my cold has cleared up by then.

7. Nobody reading this really cares whether I end on a 'lucky' number like seven or a perfect number like six.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Wonderfully mad.

It's been a while. Sorry. I have been somewhat busy -- notably with the wonderfully mad 48 Hour Filmmaking Competition last weekend. I know so many great crazy people here. Why did I want to leave, again?

(It's not till September, mind, but I've made my choice now. I'm going to be in California, that's as much as I've decided to say on this blog. Perhaps wonderfully mad people won't be so difficult to find over there, either.)

Speaking of wonderfully mad people, last night I had the absolute privilege of taking part in a public reading of an unfinished play written by a friend of mine. It's the first proper creative interaction I've had with her since I got back from the UK, actually. I walked into the auditorium where the reading was taking place and the first thing I noticed was the smell of incense. The second thing I noticed was that -- well, of course -- she'd had the sense to eschew the separation between stage and seats in favour of setting up cushions and a few benches on the stage itself. She had candles and nibbles, and a few friends along to help her out, and when she asked me how I was, I felt the uncomfortableness in my simple 'fine' (who is ever simply 'fine'?) -- but she said nothing of it and I knew I'd loosen up. It's been too long since I've entered one of her spaces, carefully and fearlessly imagined with absolute openness. She was playing the Beatles over the sound system while she set up and I had the odd urge to dance. The last character I played for her loved to dance. It was my character's central metaphor (she was a poetic type). I think my character would have liked to be a dancer, actually, but she worked in a craft shop, which she liked, too, because it was fun to play a small part in helping people make stuff. And yes, that's mostly just back-story which only made it to the stage in little things like having her knitting in one scene.

My playwright friend believes in a hundred things that ought to be anathema to my skeptical self. She believes in astral projection and yoga whatnot and in a sort of global consciousness and I don't know what else. If it wasn't her, maybe I'd say more often that I don't believe a word of it, maybe I'd make more firm statements like I do when my best friend from high school starts talking like she thinks Tarot cards could actually tell you something. But it is her. This is her space and I worship her space with its free-flying creativity. Cutting takes place elsewhere; this is where things grow. I just can't say 'Don't think that'.

She almost never asks anyone else to believe along with her. She asks people to imagine. I think she prefers imagination. She believes in the power of the mind to subtly influence the world, and for that purpose an imagined thing might even be stronger and more organic than a believed thing. And so, in her space, I leave behind the truth of the world and accept the truth of myself. This is subjective space. Objective space is important, too, but it can wait.

Thursday, 1 May 2008


This post is for the Nonbelieving Literati; I'm afraid it may be less comprehensible if you haven't read the book. We've been reading 'A Room of One's Own' by Virginia Woolf.

I have been there.

I have been there, and they did not refuse me entrance to the library but bade me enter and write my name in a red book, as Newton once did. They gave me a room of my own with a desk and a bed and filled my mind to bursting six mornings a week.

Once a week I'd make my way to formal dinners, to sit with gowned humanities students getting drunk on nearly-free alcohol and discussing everything from politics to philosophy to pornography. We'd stay out late and optimistically propose meeting in Hall for breakfast the next morning.

They never did meet me, of course. Breakfast closes at 9am, no matter what day of the week it is. Nobody gets up for breakfast before 9am when they've been out drinking the night before. Nobody but me, innocently without a hangover, gazing out the window after the alarm had gone off and getting fired up on morningness like a child who has never seen the world before. I'd walk, run, dance through the garden, across the road, down the Avenue. I'd step with carefree possessiveness through those arches, into the nearly deserted Hall at breakfast on Saturday morning, and eat my fried eggs across from whichever portrait on the wall took my fancy.

There are no women on the walls.

I swapped Emmy Noether stories with another young woman one night. Did you know her father tried to stop her? And have you heard the quote about "Emmy is the centre of co-ordinates . . ."? And of course you know what Hilbert said, gosh but that was a good one.

We cling to Emmy Noether, just a little, we young algebraists and theoretical physicists. There are no women on the walls, but once upon a time in another place there was Emmy Noether . . .

Yet when I see the shallow layers worn away on the steps, worn down by the shoes of students -- those shoes are mine. Though they were all men, or most of them, their shoes are mine and my feet step in their footprints and they belong to me and I to them. Once this place was barred to us but we have found our way inside and the men who once lived here belong to us now, too. Their legacy is ours.

Our legacy will be yours, some day.

EDIT: The next book is my choice, and will be 'Zadig', by Voltaire. You can get it from Amazon or from a library, of course -- or if you don't mind reading it off a screen you can get it here for free.