04 October, 2004

Writing, rewriting, thinking, rethinking...

The last few days have been consumed with research, except for Saturday and Sunday. Saturday I went to see my family in Fredericksburg, and I had a chance to spend time with my nephew Winstonino (as my mother likes to call him). He's grown huge over the last few months, and he was a little grumpy Saturday, thanks to four vaccinations.

It was a hard trip, though: three and a half hours there, three and a half hours back. The sun had sunk below the horizon long before I left; there weren't very many vehicles on Route 1 as I drew near Raleigh. I found myself forgetting to turn off the high-beam headlamps when the occasional car did approach, a mistake made more embarassing by the fact that only half an hour before I had muttered deprecations of other drivers who had forgotten to turn off their high-beams near me.

A fog had rolled over the roads; it hung thick enough in some places that I slowed down. As usual, the contemporary music stations didn't have much interesting to offer, so besides listening to classical, I indulged with a CD of Taizé chant. I lowered it into the CD player with some anxiety; I worried that it might relax me and promote drowsiness. To the contrary, I found it invigorating.

I make such trips rather frequently — once a month — to visit my parents in Newport News, or my friends in Northern Virginia. I haven't done a one-day trip like this one in quite some time, though.

As for research, my advisor and I are collaborating on a paper that we will submit Real Soon NowTM. We've written an introduction, and the most important theorem is ready, as is its proof. My advisor sees things that I don't see, though, and right now he's consumed with the question of how to structure the paper. On Friday, he suggested that we add a few theorems. It's obvious that the theorems he suggested would illuminte the idea; it's not so obvious what those theorems are; it required additional research. They looked straightforward enough, at first. We worked on them, and believed we had answers for each one. Alas, no: at the end of the evening, he found a defect in one of the proofs. He went with his family to watch Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow; I went to have my car's engine oil checked (it was leaking oil something terrible) and then go to sleep, for the drive to Fredericksburg.

The defect he found in the proof irritated me at a profound level: the strategy I had used for the proof was identical to the one I'd used for the main result. This might reveal a fatal flaw in the main result, not the most entertaining of prospects.

I looked at it today, and discovered (a) the precise source of the flaw in Friday's proof, and (b) that this flaw did not exist in the proof of the main result. What a relief!!!

Meanwhile, we press on with our work... I was hoping to finish this by the end of the week, as I am facing my Preliminary Oral Exam October 20th, and have no great interest in dividing my attention between both of them. Besides, I want to start applying for jobs immediately after the Prelim, and it would be nice to have a note on my CV that we've submitted a paper; however humble it may be, it would look better than no submissions at all.

Last item: two Sundays past, I watched a Russian film, Возвращение (The Return). What a sad film! It reminded me a little of Mystic River: mistaken impressions lead to tragedy; but also a nihilistic outlook devoid of any sense of God.

Is any hope left in the world? or have we become so self-absorbed, and have we deified man and matter so thoroughly in our culture, that we cannot see past our immediate blindness? Is it just me, or have our artists, our poets, our novelists, and our musicians forsaken the transcendent?

Perhaps I am a little severe, and painting with too broad a brush. In any case, I enjoyed both films. They are well-acted and well-directed. I wish we could have more films like them — yet not too much like them.


Anonymous said...

Many have forsaken transcendance. But there are also writer/directors like Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Or these authors:

jack perry said...

I've been wanting to watch one of his films for quite some time, actually. It seems as if the only ones I can find are Red, White, and Blue, and I haven't yet motivated myself to watch them. A regular product of my culture :-)

That book list is great! I've read quite a few of the books on it, which makes it very different from most of the lists of 20th century books. I am definitely going to keep it in mind for future reading... uhm... one day... if I ever finish my current list of books...

Anonymous said...

You could try "Heaven" starring Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi, which was written by Kieslowski and directed by Tom Tykwer (dir. of Run Lola Run). And/or the episodes of the Decalogue are only one hour each.

I haven't seen Red, White, or Blue myself.