Saturday, February 17, 2007


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Put. The Candle. Back

When I was in high school, I watched Young Frankenstein a few times too many, and so did some of my friends. We would sometimes reenact the "Sit down please. No, no, higher" gag at inappropriate times, or say "What a filthy job" when the weather threatened rain, and repeat our favorite lines ("You take the blonde, I'll take the one with the turban," "he is going to be very popular," "A.B. Normal") for no particular reason. Overall, I knew the movie pretty much by heart, in Italian, that is. (In Italy, foreign movies are dubbed, often by famous actors, not subtitled.) And the "quiet dignity and grace" scene is always with me whenever the excitement of the proof of a major result gives way to the realization that the proof has a fatal flaw.

I have never, however, seen the movie on a big screen. That's about to change, because the Castro Theater, that has already delighted me with big-screen showings of Manhattan, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Vertigo, 2001: A Space Odissey, The Rear Window, Rashomon, The Seven Samurai, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and several other movies that came out before my time, is showing Young Frankenstein this weekend!

The funniest scenes in the movies are surreal and incongruous, so the context in which the movie is being screened is oddly appropriate. The movie will show on Saturday at midnight, preceded by a show by Heklina (of Trannyshack fame) and Peaches Christ (of Midnight Mass). What do drag queens have got to do with a nerd cult classic that, as far as I can see, is not camp at all? And then, the whole thing is somehow part of the International Bear Rendezvous of 2007. The bigger (and fatter, and hairer) question then being what do bears have got to do with drag queens and Mel Brooks?

All I can say is that this is the kind of thing that in New York, for all the superior choice of several art movie houses, cannot be found. Score one for San Francisco!

And The Seventh Seal is going to play next week! Now if only they would show The Blues Brothers...

[Update 2/19. I stand corrected. Now I see that every good comedy ought to be preceded by a drag show and to be seen with more than a thousand roaring bears.]

Monday, February 12, 2007

What Is Good Mathematics?

A very interesting "opinion piece" by Terry Tao. I liked the list of five "hypothetical" ways in which a mathematical field can lose its ways. And the story of Szemeredi's theorem, used as a case study of good mathematics, is so beautiful that it's always good to hear it told.