Or as Oprah says “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right!”
It’s 1999 and I am reading in a special issue of Time magazine about the geniuses of the second millennium: Einstein, Einstein, Einstein and finally a short article about this “mad looking” guy and W O W…I discovered a wandering dervish, a nomadic mathematician: Paul Erdos!
Both his parents were high school mathematics teachers. Erdos (pronounced AIR-dosh) was as generous as he was brilliant with his ideas—never hoarding them and always sharing them with whoever was ready to give him a place to stay and work with him on the joyous and collaborative activity of mathematics: he would show up at their doorstep and say:” My Mind is Open!”
And this is how the myth of the Erdos Number or the “collaborative distance” between an author and Erdos was created: Erdos himself is assigned Erdos number 0. Mathematicians who have written papers with Erdos (511 by 2007) receive Erdos number 1. Writing a paper with someone having Erdos Number 1 earns the author Erdos Number 2, etc…
I made this image of the name of the 8,162 people with the Erdos Number of 2:
Addicted to coffee and amphetamines he was most of the time, super alert, achingly lucid. He wrote papers with more than 500 people, the optimum” intellectual promiscuity”…
Finding that “property is nuisance,” Erdos had no home, no car, no checks to write and no income taxes to pay; a mathematical pilgrim with no home and no job: the real wandering dervish who founded the field of discrete mathematics, which is the foundation of computer science. “In the years before the Internet, there was Paul Erdos.”
To check out the funny side of the ‘collaborative distance” visit xkcd.com:
Here are some funny quotes by Erdos:
“Finally I’m becoming stupider no more…”
“God may not play dice with the universe, but something strange is going on with the prime numbers.”
“There are three signs of senility. The first sign is that a man forgets his theorems. The second sign is that he forgets to zip up. The third sign is that he forgets to zip down.”
To see Erdos tell a funny joke go here
To see parts of N is a number, a documentary about him by George Paul Csicsery, go here
Today is my blog’s third anniversary!
Iran may be United States’ best/only ally in the hellish war of the tribal belt region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
An ignorant approach to the Afghan realities and the “benevolent negligence” regarding Pakistan will have more dire consequences for the U.S. and the schizophrenic government of Iran (saddled by Iraq and Afghanistan’s unrest on both sides) may be a necessary ally in the necessary war…The Islamic Republic will do anything to avoid facing up to the “enemy within” (aka millions of unhappy/angry Iranians)
Look at the map of the world’s most dangerous place; most of the 4,000,000 Pashtuns who live in the tribal belt between Afghanistan and Pakistan refuse to recognize the British-drawn Durand Line, which divides the two nations and splits families. Afghanistan, the fifth poorest country in the world with a life expectancy of 44 is deservedly called the “graveyard of empires”. It has been in a civil war in the past three decades.
The above picture, Exodus from Afghanistan, from the formidable photojournalist Reza Deghati has haunted me for years—the silence of this cold journey moves me deeply. I almost forget the picture was taken just twenty years ago; “Time” has indeed suspended its flight in this godforsaken country…
I met Reza in Paris last month at the opening of the exquisite exhibition (organized by my friend Anahita Ghabaian) of 165 year of Iranian Photography at the Quai Branly Museum. Stay tuned for next week’s post about PhotoQuai.
I was once again impressed by Reza, the great master photographer. We talked about his humanitarian work at Aina, a media & Culture center in Afghanistan. His extraordinary talent deserves a post all to itself—I became a fan years ago thanks to his National geographic’s photos like this one:
Only a few months ago, the Pakistani military was still inclined to view the Taliban as agents of influence able to provide their government with help to contain the Afghanistan in the west as it confronted India to the east. As Roger Cohen puts it: “the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing—the result is self-amputation. Even Pakistan’s competent General Kayani, noted for his patience, diligence, intelligence and sheer determination, may be doing the wrong move in the right direction, too little too late.
Today’s news that Abdullah Abdullah has pulled out of the Afghanistan’s runoff election exasperated me even more; I can’t believe his official explanation for doing so but as Churchill says:
“in wartime, Truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of Lies”
and Afghanistan is deeply at war…
Take a look at Reza’s Webistan here.
Visit Aina here.
Visit the PhotQuai here. (click on “honoring Iranian Photography” to see some great photos)
I still remember the outrage in the voice of my friend, Lino Bottaro, trying to defend his native city, Venice, against the Las Vegas Venetian hotel: “how dare you suggest that they did an ok job in Vegas? Haven’t you heard of great architects like Palladio or Brunelleschi?”
Of course I have heard of those two great Italians but I have a weakness for the 20th century STARchitects like the great Mies van der Rohe above, who’s more known for his Barcelona chair than his great buildings! Mies’ visionary architecture has ushered in the glass-and-steel skyscraper era.
I fell in love with Louis Kahn’s work after watching the movie, My Architect.
A density of purpose, a phenomenal sense of place and an intense spirituality define his works. There is a silence about his buildings, they have a sense of quiet…
Just look at this enchanting blue staircase in Brasilia…
Cutting-edge buildings designed by globe-trotting architects have changed the face of today’s cities and there is no monopoly of architecture, a sensuous and intellectual art, like in the time of Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies:
Of all of today’s self-indulgent “star architects”, I still have a soft spot for Frank Gehry’s curves; you have to be in one of his buildings to see the frozen poetry in Bilbao, Prague, Los Angeles, etc…
His Bilbao museum is the 20th century’s iconic architecture according to the architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable.
Last but not least, Rem Koolhaas’ unconventional designs are a force to reckon with:
I shouldn’t even get into the Diva, Zaha Hadid or Jean Nouvel, Herzog and de Meuron or Tadao Ando (the great light and water architect)…Those will be for another post, another day. Richard Meier, Taniguchi and the phenomenal Charles Gwathmey have to wait their turn too. As you can see I am passionate about architecture…
“Less is more.” Mies van der Rohe
“The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.” Frank Lloyd Wright
p.s. Renzo Piano is missing from my list because I have not forgiven him for his wild Pompidou Center design and his Broad Contemporary Art Museum in Los Angeles has not helped his case!
the photos of Prague, Bilbao, Venice and Seattle are from my own archives.
Should I be jealous of Uhura kissing Spock? After all, he is my first love and I’ve known him since he was speaking Persian to the good old James Tiberius Kirk and they were called Pishtaazaane Fazaa…
I have grown up like millions of Iranians with Star Trek—my cousin, Anousheh Ansari, was inspired by them (she even made the vulcan salute before going to space!)
I still have his picture in my bedroom to prove my unchanging love for Spock:
I went to see the movie yesterday and I liked it a lot—I am a hopeless Trekkie and all the holes in the plot didn’t bother me a bit. I was relieved to see the first Enterprise where the shield wasn’t leaking energy every few minutes; maybe as Roger Ebert suggested, they did get new batteries…
On a more serious note, I saw a couple of great movies this week: Il Divo, an Italian film about Gulio Andreotti—I loved it in spite of my ignorance about the politicians involved (and the Mafia),
Somebody called the new Star Trek movie operatic—they have to see Il Divo to see how a governement can be operatic! That clown Berlusconi is not helping the Byzantine image of Italian politics…
Another very interesting film I saw was Examined Life; I only knew a couple of the Philosophers but it didn’t diminish the pleasure of watching some intelligent thoughts on screen:
It reminded me of Saul Bellow’s funny quote: Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ My revision is, ‘But the examined life makes you wish you were dead.’
not bad for a young Persian dude…
You can watch him with Charlie Rose here.
A good movie to me is the one that stays in your mind for a little more than the two hours that you are spending in the theatre and these films will stay with me for a while like my last year’s favorite, Starting out in the evening or Michael Apted‘s unforgettable Up Series about the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old, up to now (the next episode will be in 2012).
Imagine seeing the same people grow old in front of your eyes every seven years—it took 42 years to make it—now that’s a documentary!
I do watch entertaining films like the Batman series/Iron Man/Duplicity but from time to time it is refreshing to watch something that makes you stop and think.
Last but not least, today is Mother’s Day in America so please don’t forget to love your mother.
Visit my best movie post here; these films are really worth watching again.
“Real security is the ability to tolerate mystery, complexity, ambiguity—indeed hungering for these things.” Eve Ensler
Behind bars, these tulips have lost their beauty and have only gained a false sense of protection.
Real security means contemplating death, not pretending it doesn’t exist. We are prisoners of our fears or the fears of our fathers; uniformity becomes the only acceptable way…
“When security becomes the center of your life, you can’t travel very far or venture too far outside a certain circle. You can’t allow too many conflicting ideas into your mind at one time as they might confuse you or challenge you. You can’t open yourself to new experiences, new people, and new ways of doing things.”
Self-imposed rules prevent potential disasters but they also ensure mediocrity—Salieri’s mediocrity against Mozart’s genius…Too scared of trying new things, we stay secure, in control and alone.
According to Charlie Jones , “the only difference from where you are right now, and where you’ll be one year from now, are the books you read and the people you meet.”
For a great example of passion for life and risk taking that leads to success see my popular post about Gustavo Dudamel.
A night with George Steiner and Gaelle Boissonnard—now that’s a curious ménage! Late caffeine kept me up until 6:30 this morning and I spent the night with these two.
Steiner took me from an old Transfuge to wikiquotes and Cornel West; there goes 3 hours pf precious sleep and when my mind was too tired to absorb anything more, Boissonnard’s images were there to help with their delicate originality.
“There is something terribly wrong with a culture inebriated by noise and gregariousness.” Steiner
Boissonnard is everything our “noisy” culture isn’t—serene, quiet, tranquil…
She has started working with a new company; I hope this move makes her work more available to international markets. Just found out that my friends in Paris, La Banque de l’Image, mention her in their company’s blog!
I love this quote of Steiner: “the most important tribute any human being can pay to a poem or a piece of prose he or she really loves is to learn it by heart. Not by brain, by heart; the expression is vital.” This is what I have learned by heart long ago:
“Le tout est de tout dire, et je manque de mots
Et je manque de temps, et je manque d’audace
Je rêve et je dévide au hasard mes images
J’ai mal vécu, et mal appris à parler clair.” Eluard
دلم گرفته است
دلم گرفته است
به ايوان مي روم و انگشتانم را
بر پوست كشيده شب مي كشم
چراغهاي رابطه تاريكند
چراغهاي رابطه تاريكند
كسي مرا به آفتاب
معرفي نخواهد كرد
كسي مرا به ميهماني گنجشكها نخواهد برد
پرواز را به خاطر بسپار
پرنده مردني است
I feel sad,
I feel blue.
I go outside and rub my fingers
on the sleek shell of the night.
“I see that lights of contact are blocked,
All lights of contact are blocked.”
“Nobody will introduce me to the sun,
Nobody will take me to the gathering of doves.”
Keep the flight in mind,
The bird may die.
This post is in the loving memory of the 3 sisters my friend, Marie, has lost in the past few years (the last one two days ago)—all young, all from heart problems…
To see Boissonnard’s blog go here.
“what’s required is a new declaration of independence — from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry.” President Obama
At last, some Law & Order and good riddance to uncurious george! I thought he’d never leave.
These are some pictures from today’s New York Times and they are telling…
The euphoria was not diminished because of the bitter cold, and the whole world smiled on tuesday— a cautious sigh of relief for never having to listen to another incoherent sentence from that idiot bush or to accept some blatant injustice shoved down our throat.
Americans feel proud again and there is this beautiful aura of hope over everybody—in spite all other major problems—a little break.
May all this great energy take care of some of the world’s problems…
I am allowing myself to be hopeful—for a cynic like me, it’s not easy…
January 20th 2009: the End of an Error