Tornare a Ventotene

I participated last week to the wonderful Ventotene 2017 Conference, a worthy continuation of Ventotene 2015. Reaching the island required this time even more of the stamina that the conference website recommends, since the weather was rough enough that the faster hydrofoil boat did not run (stranding about 30 of the participants in Formia on Sunday evening), while even the rather bigger one behaved more like a large scale roller-coaster than most people would wish.

After arriving at the island, Monday was still a bit unpleasant (it was much more for those who were unlucky to be exposed when one of the few short but very violent rain showers fell…), but the remaining of the time was beautiful. On the way back, I had to stop in Rome for a night, and tasted the most delicious ragù bianco di coniglio that one can imagine.

Bird
Bird
Sun
Sun
Cat
Cat
Lizard
Lizard
Festive balloon
Festive balloon

I’m already looking forward to the next conference…

A dragon of genus one

I just came back from Hong Kong, where I participated in a conference on automorphic forms and all their applications. Among the talks, I especially enjoyed to hearing about the current status of the Jacquet-Langlands correspondance from Badulescu, and also the definition and properties of uniform pro-p-groups in the talk of Jiu-Kang Yu.

I stayed two days after the conference and had time to do some visiting and shopping. My favorite browsing time was in the Yue Hwa Chinese Emporium (the address was suggested by Yuk-Kam Lau, who also suggested the restaurant where we had our best dinner). I couldn’t resist buying the torus-shaped box that I saw there.

Dragon torus box
Dragon torus box

According to my wife, this is certainly intended to hold necklaces and bracelets. It is decorated with a dragon and what I think is a phoenix (maybe representing two elements of a basis of the homology or cohomology of the torus). I haven’t yet measured it to check if it has complex multiplication.

I took a few animal pictures, although the rather oppressive weather made it a bit difficult to spend time walking leisurely outside.

Birds
Birds
Raptor
Raptor
Dragonfly
Dragonfly

And I saw a rather melancholy piano in a side street…

Piano
Piano

Musically, I think there is a minor modernist masterpiece to be written based on the rings, whistles and noises of the Octopus card system, recorded at one of the more important exits of the MTR subway at some of its busier hours of operation.

Who wrote the “New Oxford Shakespeare”?

At the very least, nobody from the University of Oxford (except if some of the Anonymous collaborators of some of the plays were professors there). Indeed, all the editors listed on the covers come from other institutions.

In comparison with the 1987 edition (called more modestly, if apparently inaccurately, “The complete works”), the new version identifies more works where Shakespeare was involved, and (taking from the other hand) finds also more plays where other writers participated. This is all explained in fair detail in a companion book full of statistical studies of proportions of rhymes or of feminine endings, or other fine points of prosody. Maybe most interesting (to me) is the play “Arden of Fevershame” that is now attributed in part to Shakespeare at the very beginning of his career, since its theme (the story of a then fairly recent murder most foul committed among England commoners) is rather far from the themes of most of his other plays.

The impressive volumes also make for excellent book-ends.

Books aligned
Books aligned

And there is still apparently a further volume (or two) to come, of “alternative versions” of those plays that are known in two or more substantially different early texts (e.g., “King Lear”).

I am eagerly anticipating a similarly ambitious scholarly N.O.W (New Oxford Wodehouse); in fact, I am happy to volunteer for the exacting role of editor of the Jeeves & Wooster canon. Or, if objections are raised against the attribution of such a crucial part of the oeuvre to a Frenchman of Polish and Breton origins, I will gladly take responsibility for the volumes encompassing the acts of the fifth Earl of Ickenham, fewer in number but by no means in importance.

Two biographies

Coincidentally, I finished reading two biographies in the last few days: R. Ellman’s “James Joyce” and R. D.G. Kelley’s “Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of American Original”. Although I admire both Joyce and Monk, there is no question who is my favorite: on a desert island, I would take Monk’s records with me. And yet, I read through Joyce’s biography in barely more than a week, and only read Monk’s rather slowly over a few months — obviously, it is much easier to write about the life of a writer, quoting liberally from his letters and limericks, than to write about a musician without an accompanying CD or recording.

P.S. Ellman’s biography at least convincingly corrects the story I mentioned in an earlier post about Joyce moving frequently in Zürich because of his inability to pay the rent: his Zürich years during the first World War coincide with the time when he finally got a decent income (in principle) to not have to worry about such things. It seems however that he was very inventive in dealing with creditors earlier in Trieste…

P.P.S. The first name “Thelonious” apparently comes from Saint Tillo or Théau or Tillonius, who was active in the late 7th Century in Flanders and France; his feast day is January 7th, and he is noted for having cured the Bishop Hermenus of Limoges by informing him that he (Tillonius) was dying and requested him (the Bishop) to come and bury him.