Last week was all manner of crazy, so the poor chatter box got neglected, but with some new characters popping up here I can’t resist. First, a big thank you to everybody who bid on our gulf piece, and particularly to he/she who won it! It means a lot that you reached into your pockets for our silly work.
Now, as to this comic, we’ve met composer Modest Mussorgsky before. His life was tragic, brilliant, and brief, which is to say Russian. As he spiraled further into despair he threw himself into thorough going alcoholism, treating it as an artistic stance and, at the time, it more or less was.
Nikolai Lobachevsky is familiar to Tom Lehrer fans, where in the song Lobachevsky he is made out to be a mathematical plagiarizer, though Lehrer, himself a math professor, said that he didn’t actually mean to insult Lobachevsky, but rather chose him because the flow of the name worked in the meter of the song. Anyway, he was AWESOME. Not only did he come up with one branch of Non-Euclidean Geometry, thus breaking out of 2000 years of mathematical tradition, but he also almost single-handedly upheld the reputation of his university. He was in charge of its major collections, of building up its faculty, of maintaining its independence from the tsar, of its library, and even swept out some of the buildings when there was nobody around to do it. He devoted his life to the place and then, when an unfavorable regime arose, they booted him out for absolutely zero damn reason. And then a hundred years later Lehrer kicks him in the nads for reasons of meter. Poor Lobachevsky. But, then again, Lehrer also wrote The Vatican Rag, and New Math, which are both entirely awesome, so it balances.
Anna Akhmatova is one of my favorite poets. She comes out of the early 20th century and, though translated poetry is, according to people of good breeding, an abomination, here is one of her pieces rendered in English:
Now nobody will want to listen to songs,
the bitter days foretold come over the hill.
I tell you, song, the world has no more marvels,
do not shatter my heart, learn to be still.
Not long ago, as free as any swallow,
you rode the mornings out, you braved their dangers.
Now you must wander as a hungry beggar,
desperately knocking at the doors of strangers.
-1917