Viennese squares

Artist Mark Francis

“Layered Composition” by Mark Francis, exhibited at London Mathematical Society, De Morgan House, Russell Square, London, December 2016.


Artist Helen Sawyer

Sublime minimalist textile art by Helen Sawyer at RBS, 280 Bishopsgate, London (photos show part of the installation.  The horizontal yellow lines are image artefacts caused by the room lighting, not part of the art.). Kudos to RBS for commissioning this work.






London life

View of Tower Bridge and the City Hall precinct from an office tower in the City of London.

The year of ICOs

2017 yas been the year of Initial Coin Offers, or ICOs. Some US 4 billion has been raised by ICOs this year. Nor, for the first time, an ICO has been advertised on the London Underground.


Poem: Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree by James Merrill, from here.

Transitions 2017

People who have passed on during 2017, whose life or works have influenced me:

  • Kenneth Arrow (1921-2017), American economist
  • John Berger (1926-2017), British writer and art critic
  • Chuck Berry (1926-2017), American musician
  • John Clarke (1948-2017), New Zealand & Australian comedian
  • John Charles Rowell Fieldsend CJ (1921-2017), Zimbabwean Chief Justice
  • Jerry Fodor (1935-2017), American philosopher
  • Joel Goodman Joffe (1932-2017), South African lawyer and defender of Nelson Mandela at Rivonia trial
  • Ahmed Kathrada (1929-2017), South African democracy activist and political prisoner
  • Liu Xiaobo (1955-2017), Chinese writer and democracy activist
  • Peter Luck (1944-2017), Australian TV journalist
  • Maryam Mirzakhani (1977-2017), Iranian & American mathematician
  • Rory O’Donoghue (“Thin Arthur”, “Flash Nick from Jindavick”) (1949-2017), Australian comedian
  • Josh Parsons (1973-2017), New Zealand philosopher
  • Raymond Smullyan (1919-2017), American logician and taoist
  • Herman Toivo ya Toivo (1924-2017), Namibian freedom fighter and politician
  • Tony Vinson (1935-2017), Australian sociologist
  • Vladimir Voevodsky (1966-2017), Russian & American mathematician
  • Heathcote Williams (1941-2017), British poet, writer, playwright, actor.

Past editions of Transitions can be found here.

Musical influence

Listening to the string quarters of Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842), his Basque composition student Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga (1806-1826), and those of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), we can hear the influence of musical ideas. I thought it interesting to list their quartets in the order they were composed. (In the list below, each quartet is prefaced by the composer’s initials.). Arriaga’s three quartets were published in 1824, but may have been written well before.  It is interesting that Cherubini had only written one string quartet before meeting Arriaga, while after Arriaga’s three were written, Cherubini then wrote another five.

1814: LG Quartet No. 1 in Eb major

1822 October: Arriaga moved to Paris from Bilbao

1824: JA Quartet No.1 in D minor

1824: JA Quartet No. 2 in A major

1824: JA Quartet No.3 in Eb major

1825 Spring: Mendelssohn’s father took his son to Paris to visit with Cherubini, and while there Mendelssohn may also have met with Arriaga

1825: FM Octet in Eb major, Op. 20

1826: Death of Arriaga

1827: FM Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13

1829: LC Quartet No. 2 in C major

1829: FM Quartet No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 12

1834: LC Quartet No. 3 in D minor

1835: LC Quartet No. 4 in E

1835: LC Quartet No. 5 in F

1837: LC Quartet No. 6 in A minor

1837: FM Quartet No. 4 in E minor, Op. 44, No. 2

1838: FM Quartet No. 3 in D major, Op. 44, No. 1

1842: Death of Cherubini

1847: FM Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80

1847: Death of Mendelssohn.


Andrew Sullivan on religion

In his latest weekly column in New York magazine (scroll down), Andrew Sullivan presents a rebuttal to the religious views of the late Norman Geras:

What I draw from that is the same I draw from Pascal’s inability to complete his own comprehensive defense of Christianity (he left behind fragments that are now known to us as The Pensées). It is definitionally impossible to understand what cannot of its very nature be understood. If God is God, then God is beyond our understanding, beyond ideas, beyond words themselves. It is a categorical error to attempt to summarize all of “godness,” as it were, with precision or confidence. There are only “hints and guesses,” as Eliot put it. Much of what has gone wrong with religion, in my view, is the attempt to nail it down, to turn the scriptures, for example, into literal truth (an insane exercise) or to construct an infallible Magisterium of the Truth, with a capital T. In the end, this is absurd. Religion is simply a way of life, lived under the influence of some kind of revelation; a practice, not a doctrine. Orthodoxy is to religion what ideology is to politics — a necessary reflection, perhaps, but an abstraction nonetheless. It is only when we leave ideology and orthodoxy behind that politics and faith can begin. The rest, as someone once said, is silence.”

Chanukkah in Valencia

A group of about 40 people, from babies to great-grandparents, in a joyous private ceremony in a cafe behind the Cathedral, and including visitors from Israel, the USA, and Australia, and also a local Catholic priest.  Live music, mostly secular carols, provided by a violinist and an electric pianist.

Meanwhile, outside the Cathedral a choir of about 30 people sang traditional Christmas carols to a crowd of 200 or so.