Archive for November, 2006

Ghost Dog, Said and induction

Posted in culture, movie, philosophy with tags , on November 24, 2006 by Philonous

I suppose this might turn into a bit of a rant blog about films that perhaps I’m not qualified to judge. Then again, maybe having seen them and having fingers and a keyboard is all the criteria requred by that sublime medium, the mother of procrastination, free speech and the banal. In any case. I watched Ghost Dog last night. Most interesting movie. In case you are a philistine, having neither heard of nor seen Ghost Dog (I counted myself among that unhappy gathering but a day ago), I ought to explain. The story is that of a hired gun used by the mafia for hits. He sees himself as bound to his master, the mafioso who calls the hits, by an honour code which he derives from that of the samurai. Various things begin to go wrong and essentially, the whole thing turns into a thriller. The interesting part of it is that every one of the characters in the film has a different background. Ghost Dog himself is black and American, the mafiosi are obviously Italian American, the ice-cream guy is Haitian. I think the point is to highlight to some extent how little it really matters what you look like rather emphasising the importance of what goes on inside. Ghost Dog himself is a Samurai in the present day and in the hood.

In the last day, this seems to be a recurring theme in much that I have seen. I was listening to one of those heavenly podcasts, this time about Edward Said. He and Chomsky were apparently proponents of what I thought was a rather lovely sentiment. They asserted that the concept of nationality or perhaps cultural heritage should be seen, rather than as some label or definition with which people are to be branded, as an invitation for the possibility of entering into that culture. Living in Manchester certainly fills many people with a feeling of a Manchesterness inside them (or perhaps it’s just me). Ghost Dog follows a similar line. He is not really a black guy who lives in the hood. He really is a samurai. These distinctions of race, physical attributes and even something so fundamental as language are really independent of the essence of the human being. It seems to me that this is somewhat similar to Locke’s criticism of the principle of induction justified by his ideas of architypes. What I’m trying to say is really nothing more profound than “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

I apologise to anyone who actually reads this – many of the things written herein are simply the half-baked mental meanderings of someone who is exposed to a cacophony of culture on a daily basis, and distinguishes a few ideas from the din without necessarily understanding anything.

Fanny and Alexander and insomnia

Posted in movie on November 16, 2006 by Philonous

For some reason, I’ve not been able to sleep so much lately. It must be the weather. In any case, I had to find something to do other than maths and leafing through the Argos catalogue so I took a few movies out. Tonight I watched Fanny and Alexander. Goodness. It left me not really knowing what to think. It was one of those movies where you are totally absorbed in the plot, but at the same time, it’s rather difficult to know if anything has really happened. I suppose it reminds me a little bit of An Inspector Calls in that respect. Essentially, the movie is about taking the lid off a relatively affluent Swedish family at the end of the 19th century. Hmm… most curious.

Oh, and I’ve discovered the wonder that are podcasts. What a Godsend! There are so many on just about anything you could imagine. I’ve been listening to a slightly odd one on French verbs. Or so I thought… It turns out it was actually Relaxation and French Verbs. No sooner had I pressed play and I was transported to a world of deep breathing and Scottish accents. I tried, I really did. I just couldn’t keep a straight face when told to imagine I was on a beach in southern France, the waves lapping up against my feet, the tide going in and out, in…. and out… Check it out at

Axiomatic Sheaf cohomology/Aural Objets Trouves

Posted in art, maths with tags , on November 12, 2006 by Philonous

… Updates, updates… Well, right now I’ve learnt the axioms of axiomatic sheaf cohomology. Which is nice. The only problem is that everything is rather esoteric at the moment – apparently every fine torsionless resolution of the constant sheaf defines canonically a sheaf cohomology theory. Not only that, but later in the book, it proves that every sheaf cohomology theory is isomorphic for the same choice of the base principal ideal domain K (the sheaves are sheaves of K-modules). This seems nuts right now, but I guess it must be a little less crazy than it sounds. Actually a sheaf cohomology theory seems to be rather a big beastie and so if you pick K as the field of real numbers, the cohomology theory that you get must encapsulate all the classical cohomology theories like de Rham and Cech. Crazy eh?

On a lighter note, I found out about an awesome experimental music project called Milkcrate. The idea of the whole thing is to make, I guess, unconventional music. It’s awesome. The rules are essentially that all of the objects that you use have to be explicitly non-musical (egg cartons and yoghurt pots?) and they have to all fit inside a standard – presumably Australian – milkcrate. Oh, and it all has to be completed in 24 hours. It seems to me that this is bringing the idea of objets trouves to music in a whole new electronic way. Hurrah for the internet!


It’s been a while

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on November 6, 2006 by Philonous

Oh dear. It has been a long time since I wrote anything in this blog. Perhaps that was because of the overly academic way in which I was writing before. These days, time is at a premium so writing a blog isn’t top of the list. In any case. I’m starting with this PhD thing at the moment. Trying to learn goodness knows what, goodness knows how fast.

Last week I managed to go to a conference in Paris. I think I’ve recovered my passion for mathematics which had begun to wane. It was one of those birthday bashes for great mathematicians who have reached the grand old age of 60. This mathematician was Michel Broue (with an accute). He seems like a pretty genial fellow, and pretty laid back too – I suppose you can afford to be when you’re head of the mathematics department at the Ecole Normale Sup.! Well, it was an awful lot of fun to go and see these guys speak. By these guys, I mean the likes of Jaques Tits, Pierre Cartier and Jean-Pierre Serre. My favourite had to be Cartier, who gave an awesome talk on the differences and similarities between the Lie theory of symmetries of differential equations and the Galois theory of symmetries of roots of polynomials. He was really genuinely excited about the mathematics and exuded “great mathematician” without forcing it or being condescending.

What a guy….*sigh*.

Perhaps one day I’ll end up like him. In the mean time, it’s sheaf cohomology for me. It’s crazy stuff, buried in a technical mire, but maybe that’s because I don’t understand it yet. Essentially a sheaf cohomology is just defined as a way of assigning a homology group to every pair (X,S), where X is, in the most general case, a topological space and S is a sheaf of K-modules for some principal ideal domain K. Essentially, you get a load of homology groups H*(X,S), one for each sheaf S over X. After that, they have to satisfy the Eilenberg-Steenrod axioms etc. It turns out that special cases of sheaf cohomologies are de Rham, Alexander-Spanier, Cech and various others. Seems pretty cool to me. Although right now, slow going. Perhaps I should go and see my supervisor soon. I definitely ought to get some work done before hand though. So Adieu.