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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Mad, bad, and dangerous to know

"She’s mad but she’s magic. There’s no lie in her fire."
 — Bukowski

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"I know the purity of pure despair"

In a Dark Time

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;   
I hear my echo in the echoing wood—
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,   
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!   
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.   
That place among the rocks—is it a cave,   
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,   
And in broad day the midnight come again!   
A man goes far to find out what he is—
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,   
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.   
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,   
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.   
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,   
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

Theodore Roethke, "In a Dark Time" from Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke.  Copyright © 1963 by Beatrice Roethke, Administratrix of the Estate of Theodore Roethke. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Word of the Day

entropy, n.

Frequency (in current use): 
Etymology:  < Greek τροπή transformation (lit. ‘turning’), after the analogy of energy n. 

 1. The name given to one of the quantitative elements which determine the thermodynamic condition of a portion of matter. Also transf. and fig. In Clausius' sense, the entropy of a system is the measure of the unavailability of its thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work. A portion of matter at uniform temperature retains its entropy unchanged so long as no heat passes to or from it, but if it receives a quantity of heat without change of temperature, the entropy is increased by an amount equal to the ratio of the mechanical equivalent of the quantity of heat to the absolute measure of the temperature on the thermodynamic scale. The entropy of a system = the sum of the entropies of its parts, and is always increased by any transport of heat within the system: hence ‘the entropy of the universe tends to a maximum’ (Clausius). The term was first used in English by Prof. Tait (see quot. 1868), who however proposed to use it in a sense exactly opposite to that of Clausius. In this he was followed (with an additional misunderstanding: see quot. 1875) by Maxwell and others; but subsequently Tait and Maxwell reverted to the original definition, which is now generally accepted.

1868   Tait Sketch Thermodynamics 29   We shall..use the excellent term Entropy in the opposite sense to that in which Clausius has employed it—viz., so that the Entropy of the Universe tends to zero.
1875   J. C. Maxwell Theory of Heat (ed. 4) 189 (note) ,   In former editions of this book the meaning of the term Entropy as introduced by Clausius was erroneously stated to be that part of the energy which cannot be converted into work. The book then proceeded to use the term as equivalent to the available energy...In this edition I have endeavoured to use Entropy according to its original definition by Clausius.
1885   H. W. Watson & S. H. Burbury Math. Theory Electr. & Magn. I. 245   As in the working of a heat engine, the entropy of the system must be diminished by the process, that is, there must be equalisation of temperature.
1925   A. Strachey & J. Strachey tr. Freud Coll. Papers III. v. 599   In considering the conversion of psychical energy no less than of physical, we must make use of the concept of an entropy, which opposes the undoing of what has already occurred.
1933   W. E. Orchard From Faith to Faith xi. 280   The deduction which one of our greatest physicist astronomers draws from the second law of thermodynamics: namely, that since there must be a maximum entropy, there must have been once its maximum opposite.
1955   Sci. Amer. May 124/2   Certain combinations of balls yield a greater change in entropy than others. Those combinations in which entropy change reaches maximum value lead to solutions.
1955   Sci. Amer. June 64/1   This equilibrium the thermodynamic condition of maximum entropy—the most disordered state, in which the least amount of energy is available for useful work.
1965   Financial Times 11 Aug.   Moralising by those whose industrial entropy is an accepted fact of life is neither likely to persuade the workers nor assist the trade unions in the task of trying to meet the nation's difficulties.

 a. Communication Theory. A measure of the average information rate of a message or language; esp. the quantity −Σpi log pi (where the pi are the probabilities of occurrence of the symbols of which the message is composed), which represents the average information rate per symbol.

1948   Bell Syst. Techn. Jrnl. 27 396   Consider a discrete source of the finite state type... There is an entropy Hi for each state. The entropy of the source will be defined as the average of these Hi weighted in accordance with the probability of occurrence of the states in question... This is the entropy of the source per symbol of text.
1953   S. Goldman Information Theory 329   The amount of language information (i.e., entropy) in the sequence is..a measure of the choice that was available when the sequence was selected.
1953   D. A. Bell Stat. Methods Electr. Engin. x. 145   Since entropy increases as the arrangement of a system becomes less distinguishable from other possible arrangements, while the value of a pattern for conveying information depends on its uniqueness, the information capacity of a signal is the negative of its entropy.
1960   D. Middleton Introd. Stat. Communication Theory vi. 301   H(X) is called the (communication) entropy of the X ensemble, is the direct mathematical analogue of the more familiar entropy measure of statistical mechanics.
1964   Language 40 210   The basic probability concept, ‘entropy’, and its quantum, the ‘bit’, are now part of the metalanguage of linguistics.

 b. Math. In wider use: any quantity having properties analogous to those of the physical quantity; esp. the quantity −Σxi log xi of a distribution {x1, x2,…}.

1951   Jrnl. Royal Statist. Soc. B. 13 60   The idea of selective entropy provides us with a new and important concept in the analytical theory of probability.
1961   Proc. Cambr. Philos. Soc. (Math. & Physical Sci.) 57 839   The analogue of Boltzmann's H-theorem is not a statement about the monotonicity of the entropy of the chains..but a statement about the ‘entropy’ of the frequency distribution (s1,
1968   P. A. P. Moran Introd. Probability Theory i. 50   Since −x log x is a convex function the entropy of a finite set of events is a maximum when their probabilities are equal.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Still I Rise...

Lady Lazarus

By Sylvia Plath
I have done it again.   
One year in every ten   
I manage it——

A sort of walking miracle, my skin   
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,   
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine   
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin   
O my enemy.   
Do I terrify?——

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?   
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be   
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.   
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.   
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.   
The peanut-crunching crowd   
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot——
The big strip tease.   
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands   
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.   
The first time it happened I was ten.   
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.   
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Is an art, like everything else.   
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.   
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.   
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute   
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.   
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge   
For the hearing of my heart——
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge   
For a word or a touch   
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.   
So, so, Herr Doktor.   
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,   
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.   
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——

A cake of soap,   
A wedding ring,   
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer   

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair   
And I eat men like air.
Sylvia Plath, “Lady Lazarus” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Analogy of Simile

It's like pain yet also unlike pain
It's like feeling yet also unlike feeling
It's like love and yet

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

Life Story

By Tennessee Williams
After you've been to bed together for the first time,
without the advantage or disadvantage of any prior acquaintance,
the other party very often says to you,
Tell me about yourself, I want to know all about you,
what's your story? And you think maybe they really and truly do

sincerely want to know your life story, and so you light up
a cigarette and begin to tell it to them, the two of you
lying together in completely relaxed positions
like a pair of rag dolls a bored child dropped on a bed.

You tell them your story, or as much of your story
as time or a fair degree of prudence allows, and they say,
       Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, until the oh
is just an audible breath, and then of course

there's some interruption. Slow room service comes up
with a bowl of melting ice cubes, or one of you rises to pee
and gaze at himself with the mild astonishment in the bathroom mirror.
And then, the first thing you know, before you've had time
to pick up where you left off with your enthralling life story,
they're telling you their life story, exactly as they'd intended to all along,

and you're saying, Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
each time a little more faintly, the vowel at last becoming
no more than an audible sigh,
as the elevator, halfway down the corridor and a turn to the left,
draws one last, long, deep breath of exhaustion
and stops breathing forever. Then?

Well, one of you falls asleep
and the other one does likewise with a lighted cigarette in his mouth,
and that's how people burn to death in hotel rooms.
"Life Story" by Tennessee Williams, from The Collected Poems of Tennessee Williams, copyright © 1937, 1956, 1964, 2002 by The University of the South.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Endless Return

The Gardener 

by Rabindranath Tagore
An unbelieving smile flits on your eyes when I come to you to
take my leave. 

I have done it so often that you think I will soon return.
To tell you the truth I have the same doubt in my mind.
For the spring days come again time after time; the full moon
takes leave and comes on another visit, the flowers come again
and blush upon their branches year after year, and it is likely
that I take my leave only to come to you again. 

But keep the illusion awhile; do not send it away with ungentle

When I say I leave you for all time, accept it as true, and let a
mist of tears for one moment deepen the dark rim of your eyes.
Then smile as archly as you like when I come again.