Monday, May 9, 2016

The Bee Gees

1958: not quite teenagers, the three brothers are moved to Australia with family; baby brother Andy had just been born; the boys were born in late 1940s


Barry, the oldest
fraternal twins, Maurice and Robin

Barry and Robin: the voices
Maurice: deeper voice

Australian speedway;
Bill Gates promoted them; Bill Gates radio show
Bee Gees

1960: next big break -- television
first television appearance; Australian appearance; the first among many

Beginning to play at fairs, etc.
Father, Hugh, was manager.

The clubs around Sydney, Australia.

1963; giant leap forward; record contract; unique: wrote their own songs
Their very first release was a Barry Gibb original: "Kiss Me Twice"

The brothers were supporting the family.

1964: everything transformed; The Beatles came to Sydney; the Bee Gees were in awe; Beatles -- three-part harmony, just like the Beatles singing in 3-part harmony.

1965: started hitting the charts with self-penned songs, like "Wine and Women"

At this point, Barry definitely still looks older.

Boys realize that if they are going "to make it" they need to return to England.

One last song before leaving Australia: "Spicks and Specks"

Five-week boat trip back to England; blind faith.

Parents did not want to go; the boys wanted

Brian Epstein, Harry Lewis, Herbert Wilcox.

January, 1967: boarded ship to England; in Indian Ocean, "Spicks and Specks" hit #1 in Australia

No one in England had heard of them.

Five weeks later in England; dominated by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc.

1967: discouraged in England after arrival, but pressed on.

Demo tapes to agents in London; no one liked the demos except Robert Stigwood who had partnered with Brian Epstein (Beatles). Stigwood liked the Bee Gees; gut instinct.

Robert Stigwood: manager, 1967 - 1981.

Bee Gees did club act for Robert Stigwood, including songs from Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Robert Stigwood: 5-year contract.

Just like Brian Epstein and the Beatles.

Sir Tim Rice speaks.

"Mining Disaster" -- demo studio; elevator shaft; Stigwood asked them to write a song; near the elevator shaft, imagined themselves in a mining disaster; echo was fantastic in the elevator shaft; added two Australian friend/musicians: Colin Peterson o drums; Vince Maloney on guitar;

Most significant new talent in 1967 -- Stigwood. Immediately compared with the Beatles which they said helped them.

Tmothy White, editor, Billboard Magazine: speaks

In less than 6 months, from unknown to having hits. Plunged into "first fame."

Robert Stigwood kept them balanced.

Emotional depth in their songs.

Otis Redding.

Wrote song specifically for Otis Redding. Song wrote; Otis dies.

The "Otis Redding" song: "To Love Somebody"

Year not given.

BG's cut it themselves; one of their most beloved songs.

Barry had married Maureen in Australia, but marriage ended with success.

Marriage fell apart in one year.

Maurice: fell into swinging London scene. Partying with the Beatles; 18 - 19 year  old; money, booze.

"Message To You"

Robin dates; gets married in 1968. Marries Molly; secretary in Stigwood's office. 

November 5 (1967 or 1968), Robin and Molly -- train wreck; 48 deaths;

Brings out pathos in Robin.

"Massachusetts." #1 in England; first #1.'

First international #1.

Confirmed their decision to move back to England. Very, very emotional.

Time White speaks of their harmony.

Bee Gee harmony.

Sir George Martin noted it also.

Two distinct voices; Barry's soulful, and Robin's vibrato.

"I Started A Joke"

The vibrato was a "killer"

No competition in pop music for Robin's vibrato.  It could have been a "negative." Worked for the Bee Gees.

Undeniable strength: song writing. Prolific. Compared to Lennon-McCartney.

Sir George Martin: an affinity between the Beatles and the Bee Gees -- great hook.


Barry: sex symbol of the group.

Barry: a rogue.

Linda and Barry; "Top of the Pops" -- "Massachusetts" #1  at the time.

Robert Stigwood and Barry to California; Barry says he's going back to England and to Linda.

Married September 1, 1970.

"You're A Holiday."

1968: Robin and Molly marries.

1969: Maurine marries Lulu.

On the surface, things seemed find but fame ripping them apart.

Relationship among the brothers started to change.

Became individuals, rather than part of a group.

Sir George Martin opines challenge of fame.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Atom: An Odyssey From The Big Bang To Life On Earth ... And Beyond, Lawrence M. Krauss, c. 2001

The way this book is written seems to make it very, very difficult for me to understand.

I will see if I can make any sense of it by going through it slowly.

The author says this is the story of a specific atom: oxygen.

Part One: Divine Wind

Chapter 1: The Universe in an Atom

Talks about compressing the universe to the size of a baseball, but the chapter doesn't seem to go anywhere.

Chapter 2: The Right Stuff

Relates the collisions at the time of the very early universe with the collisions at CERN.

Introduces the idea of matter and anti-matter, and says the "lives of our atom" truly began at the moment when the amount of matter and the amount of antimatter in the universe started to differ.

The story of cosmic background radiation (CBR) ... again.

Where did the background radiation come from. If matter/anti-matter had been equal, the only thing in the universe would have been energy. Instead, in a ratio of 1 to 1 billion: 1 proton to every 1 billion photons.

One particle of matter to every 1 billion "particles" of energy.

Had there been no protons, there would have been no atoms; there would have been no visible universe.

Why the asymmetry between matter/anti-matter?

Conservation of energy. If the universe started with no net electric charge in the universe, it has to remain with no net electric charge.

Gauge symmetry:  explains why photons alone of all elementary particles have no mass.
  • gauge symmetry: a hidden symmetry in nature
  • discovered in the early 20th century
  • name of this symmetry coined by Herman Weyl
  • gauge symmetry forms the basis of all four forces we know today
  • two long-range forces: gravity, electromagnetism
  • two short-range forces: strong and weak forces; operate at the nuclear level
But charge stability, alone, cannot explain the stability of matter -- see page 28 -29
One of the basic building blocks of nature is unstable: "free" neutrons -- half-life ten minutes

Mass of proton / neutron differ by 1 part in 1,000. Without this difference in mass, life could not exist. "The bad news" is this: this small difference in mass means neutrons are unstable and can decay.

A free neutron decays into: a proton, an electron, and an antineutrino.

Think about that: if neutrons did not decay ... would whatever there was after the Big Bang, that's where we would be? Stable universe with no changing? No life?

The free neutron is just slightly heavier than the sum of its parts, the proton, the neutron, and the antineutrino, and thus just barely able to decay into those particles.

Bottom of page 29, why the nuclear proton-neutron is stable. At the nuclear level, the neutron is slightly lighter than it would be if it were free.

None of the four known forces account for the stability of the proton. The author suggests that the stability of the proton is a "complete accident."

Lifetime of protons: proved, discussed, bottom of page 30.

Ends the chapter leading us to the next chapter in which the author says that recent discoveries in physics have explained how one can start with nothing (Big Bang) and with something (life as we know it today).

"What's more, this mechanism could preserve the long-term stability of matter today. I think it is far to say that this is one of the great, largely unheralded, surprises in modern physics. And without it, our atom is literally nowhere.

Chapter 3
Time's Arrow

Sakharov asked the prescient question: how could the universe generate a matter-antimatter asymmetry if none existed at the beginning?

The nut: we are concentrating on an asymmetry between the fundamental particles making up the bulk of visible matter, protons and neutrons (and their anti-particles). Proton and neutrons are baryons. Sakharov realized there needed to be interactions that could independently change the number of baryons in the universe. [Baryons and mesons: made up of quarks; baryons made up of 3 quarks; mesons made up of two quarks.] That interaction had to be very, very weak otherwise it would continue today.

More importantly, Sakharov determined that two additional subtle conditions must also exist:
a departure from "thermal equilibrium"
time had to have a direction

His three "ideas" languished. Physicists trying to sort out all the elementary particles being discovered in the 1970s.

But things moved quickly.

1973: quantum chromodynamics -- explains the strong force; analogous to quantum electrodynamics, the quantum version of electromagnetism.

The interaction (the strong force) between quarks gets weaker the closer they approach each other. 

1975: while the strong force gets weaker with decreasing distance, the EM force and the newly understood weak force get stronger with decreasing distance. Perhaps these forces all converge --> grand unified theory (GUT).

1960's: the weak force that governs beta decay had been discovered.

Mid-1970s: physicists determined that the strong force and the weak force could be combined wiht the EM force into a simple mathematical framework. Many things explained, including why all elementary particles have electric charges that are integer multiples of the charge on the electron. The resulting theory: GUT.

The problem: this happened on a scale 15 orders of magnitude smaller than physicists could measure: not testable.

Page 43: the picture of "our" atom's birth. One extra quark produced in the early universe for every 1 billion quarks and antiquarks would be enough to account for all the matter we observe in the universe today: one billion photons were discovered in the cosmic radiation background for every proton in the universe.

Break, break.

That extra one quark was all the difference that the universe required for matter.

But has not been "proved" through tests. That's what they are doing in Japan with that tank of water deep underground: looking for a proton to decay.

Two quarks need to get close enough for the proton to go "poof." -- p. 46.

To get 10^30 protons: a tank of water with that many protons.

What signal do you search for: proton-decay --> two quarks convert into an antiquark and a positron.

Has never been seen. 

By the 1980's large underground water experiments had ruled out the original GUT model and its predictions of proton decay.

So, physicists had to come up with another explanation. They came up with supersymmetry. But supersymmetry requires that every known particle in nature should have a new partner -- and none of these have been observed.

It turns out, those large water containers: useful for detecting neutrinos.

Neutrinos come from beta-decay (neutron decay) and by nuclear reactions inside the sun and stars.

1987: 19 neutrino events.

So, even though GUT has not been confirmed and supersymmetry seems a stretch, the author presses on, suggesting that the oxygen atom was created at the time of the Big Bang (or shortly thereafter).

Chatper 4 
Nature or Nurture

A new accelerator at Brookhaven National Laboratory: RHIC -- relativistic heavy ion collider. Purpose: to look for quarks and see behavior of quarks that might have existed at the time of the Big Bang (or shortly thereafter).

Another reactor, near Williamsburg, VA, also looking for quarks.

After the Big Bang, by 10 billion degrees (cooled way down), essentially all the protons now existing had been formed -- before that, still quarks.

It took the universe about 1 second to cool from primordial baseball era (how this book began) to a temperature of 10 billion degrees.

Author calculates number of collisions:
  • the sun's 5 billion years of burning: 10^55 collisions in each cubic centimeter
  • the first second from Big Bang to 10 billion degrees: 10^89 collisions
At one millionth of one second old, free quarks were everywhere. 

Impossible, so far, to create a single, isolated quark.

Page 54 -- quarks coming together -- definition of protons/neutrons arbitrary.


Chapter 5
Ten Minutes To Die

Chapter 6
One Hundred Million Years of Solitude

Chapter 7
Things That Went Bump In The Night

Part Two: The Voyage

Chapter 8
First Light

Describes nucleosynthesis due to gravitational collapse of massive protostars.

Big Bang (p. 100) had produced only:
  • hydrogen (nucleus; P)
  • helium (nucleus: P+N)
  • "a dash of lighter elements": lithium (#3)
With gravitational collapse of star and nucelosynthesis:
  • 10 million years of hydrogen burning
  • 1 million years of helium burning
  • 100,000 years of carbon burning
  • 10,000 years of oxygen burning
  • 1 single day, the rest: silicon --> iron (along the way deuterium, He-3, lithium, beryllium)
Chapter 9
A Pretty Big Bang

Page 122:

500 million years after the Big Bang: 8 of the initial protons and one (1) nucleus of helium (2N, 2P) have fused to form carbon.

So, again the numbers confuse me -- "8 of the initial protons and one nucleus of helium" fuse to form carbon? That's 10 protons and 2 neutrons -- 12 nucleons -- oh, that makes sense -- if the initial 8 protons flipped back and forth between protons and neutrons. Was this a typo? Did the author really mean to write 8 of the initial nucleons?

Then long discussion on carbon. How unique it is with ability to bond with other atoms.

This is amazing. In the expanding dust bubble, oxygen atoms created in the explosion combine with C to form carbon monoxide. Ten CO molecules exist in the gas cloud for every million or so hydrogen atoms. Nevertheless, carbon monoxide and water represent the dominant molecular components in the gas, next to hydrogen.

And then the process begins: first CO, then CO2; then methanol (CH3OH); and then ethanol (CH3CO2)OH; and, so on. 

Carbon molecule even reacts to form CH2O (formaldehyde), when then reacts with ammonia and other nitrogen-bearing compounds on the dust surface until it finds itself part of the structure NH2CH2COOH -- glycine -- glycine is the lowest-carbon-number amino acid associated with self-reproducing life.

And we're only about halfway through the book.

On page 133, the author begins the story of the oxygen molecule: "The stage is now set for the ultimate formation of the atom we find today on Earth. Over the next 3 billion years -- the author doesn't specify when this began, but it appears it must have been about 500 million years after the Big Bang -- over the next 3 billion years, our carbon atom and the new helium atom, adrift in the evolving galactic sea of stars, will somehow find each other (C: 6P, 12 nucleons; He: 2P, 4 nucleons; oxygen: 16 nucleons).

Over the course of the first 5 billion years (p. 134) in the life of our galaxy, more than 100 million stars end their lives in supernova explosions....everything to the dustbin of history.

Author's sense of drama suggests that oxygen was formed in the very last supernova whose products directly created our very own solar system.

A supernova explosion: most likely the third most abundant element would have been oxygen; followed closely by carbon (16 nucleons vs 12 nucleons). In some supernovae, carbon slightly beats out oxygen, as in the explosion that produced the carbon progenitor of our atom adrift in the galaxy. But as oxygen on average beats out carbon in the census of elements now existing in the universe, it is reasonable to assume that this last supernova we will focus on went with the flow, and produced more oxygen than carbon.

"Let us imagine that the oxygen atom that is the hero our story achieved its final form just in time....." Again, "just in time." Fortuitous, huh?

See last paragraph, p. 135, in which the author recapitulates the story:
  • Big Bang: 16 particles
  • in the first moments after the Big Bang: 13 particles, becasue one nucleus of helium formed (2P, 2N = 4 particles, becomes 1 "particle" -- 16 - 4 = 12 +1 =13 particles.
  • a few hundred million years later: 7 particles, as a third helium is formed (12 nucleons - 8 nucleons = 4 particles plus 3 helium (6 nucleons): so 7 particles (4 free-nucleons; three helium nuclei)
  • 5 particles quickly occur as the 3 helium atoms merge to become carbon
  • in this configuration, 1 carbon and 4 hydrogen nuclei, they persist for billions of years
  • finally, 2 particles, the nucleus of carbon and the nucleus of helium are brought together from originally disparate parts of the universe, with completely different individual histories, to make a single nucleus, the nucleus of oxygen.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Privileged Planet, Guillermo Gonzalez, Jay W. Richards, c. 2004

Chapter 1: Wonderful Eclipses

Perhaps that was the necessary condition of planetary life: your Sun must fit your Moon. -- Martin Amis

Chapter 2: At Home On A Data Recorder

Chapter 3: Peering Down

Plate tectonics plays at least three crucial roles in maintaining animal life -- it may be that plate tectonics is the central requirement for life on a planet and that it is necessary for keeping a world supplied with water. -- Peter D Ward and Donald Brownlee

Chapter 4: Peering Up

The combined circumstances that we live on Earth and are able to see stars -- that the conditions necessary for life do not exclude those necessary for vision, and vice versa -- is a remarkably improbable one. -- Hans Blumenberg

Chapter 5: The Pale Blue Dot In Relief

Chapter 6: Our Helpful Neighbors

At each step along the way, the Solar System has served as a perspicacious teacher, posing questions just difficult enough to prompt new observations and calculations that have led to fresh insights, but not so difficult that any further study becomes mired in a morass of confusing detail. -- Ivars Peterson

Chapter 7: Star Probes

Chapter 8: Our Galactic Habitat

Chapter 9: Our Place in Cosmic Time

The progress made in our understanding of the universe during the twentieth century is nothing short of stunning. -- Michael S. Turner

Chapter 10: A Universe Fine-Tunes for Live and Discovery

There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all ... It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature's numbers to make the Universe ... The impression of design is overwhelming. -- Paul Davies

Chapter 11: The Revisionist History of the Copernican Revolution

If Copernicus taught us the lesson that we are not at the center of things, our present picture of the universe rubs it in. -- Robert Kirshner

Chapter 12: The Copernican Principle

Because of the reflection of sunlight ... the Earth seems to be sitting in a beam of light, as if there were some special significance to this small world ... -- Carl Sagan

Don't you just love the Sagan alliteration in that last quote?

Chapter 13: The Anthropic Disclaimer

The next battle of the Copernican revolution is thrust upon us. Just as our planet has no special status within our Solar System,and our Solar System has no special location within the universe, our universe has no special status within the vast cosmic melange of universes that comprise our multiverse. -- Fred Adams and Greg Laughlin

I can't wait to re-read this chapter.

Chapter 14: SETI and the Unraveling of The Copernican Principle

Chapter 15: A Universe Designed for Discovery

Chapter 16: The Skeptical Rejoinder

A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question. -- Charles Darwin

I wish the warmists would accept that. I have.

Conclusion: Reading the Book of Nature

Thursday, March 31, 2016

When Shakespearian Plays Were Written

Hamlet: while Shakespeare was incarcerated in The Tower. He was incarcerated for his role in the Essex Rebellion, in which the conspirators sought to overthrow the monarch; Hamlet is a play about overthrowing a king.

Measure for Measure: Shakespeare's first play upon being (unexpectedly) released from The Tower. From wiki: believed to have been written in 1603 or 1604. Originally published in the First Folio of 1623, where it was listed as a comedy, the play's first recorded performance occurred in 1604. The play's main themes include justice, "mortality and mercy in Vienna," and the dichotomy between corruption and purity: "some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall." Mercy and virtue predominate, since the play does not end tragically.

 Chronology of Plays

First, the tetralogy of his family (Henry VI and Richard III).

Then, the seven comedies.  – the Italinate comedies – seven plays in the four years after 1593 – all except two categorized as “comedies” – set in places he had visited in Italy.
  • Titus Andronicus
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • The Comedy of Errors
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost – set in France
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream – set in Greece
The eight years before he was sent to France, 1599; writing 8 plays; the most productive writing years of his life.
During this period –
  • plays more profound
  • created his most popular character, Falstaff
  • his most patriotic play, Henry VI
Just before the Falstaff plays –
  • King Richard II
  • King John
Richard II (~ 1595) has always been linked with the rise of the Essex circle (Essex rebellion – 1601)

1 Henry IV – first play featuring Falstaff. Arguably S’s most satisfyingly single play.

TMWOW – lots to say about it (p. 117 – 118).

Then – the two final plays of this period – 2 Henry IV and Henry V – considered two of his best-known plays.
Falstaff banished from plays, when Shakespeare banished from England -- sent to France as England's ambassador.
In France: alone, frustrated, angry bored;
  • As You Like It
  • Twelfth Night
  • Much Ado About Nothing – probably written earlier
Then the Essex Rebellion and incarceration.
A gap of about a year between Twelfth Night – just before the Tower – and Hamlet – in the Tower – needed a year to regain balance.
  • Troilus and Cressida
  • All’s Well That Ends Wells
  • Possibly also in the Tower, Othello (the 2nd of his 4 great tragedies).
Many of the sonnets written while in The Tower. 
Post-Tower plays:
Measure for Measure, was the first (see above). A very dark comedy; the first of the so-called "problem plays."
Increasingly needed money:
1604 – 1608: three of his greatest tragedies – Macbeth, King Lear, and Anthony and Cleopatra and three other tragedies: Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, and Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
1609 - 1615: toward closure:
  • Cymbeline
  • Winter's Tale
  • The Tempest: his last substantial play
Died: 1615 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Trivia From Shakespeare Plays

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: while visiting Tycho Brahe in Denmark, Shakespeare found the names and the coats of arms of both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on the border of Tycho Brahe's portrait. An engraving of this portrait was sent to Shakespeare.

Macbeth's castle: while on diplomatic missions to Scotland for Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare and his entourage were billeted at the Glamis castle. The setting for Macbeth was Glamis, even though the historical Macbeth was not associated with that castle.

Posthumous. One of Shakespeare's many aunts was Elizabeth Hoby. One of Elizabeth Hoby's sons was named Thomas Posthumous (1566 - 1640) because he was born after his father died. Posthumous is the name of a Shakespearean character in Cymbeline. In addition, scholars often cite incidents in Posthumous' life are often mirrored in Twelfth Night.

Aunt Elizabeth Hoby also provides a more ghastly story for Shakespeare. It was rumored that Shakespeare's aunt once beat one of her sons until the blood ran, all because he would not or could not learn his Latin. She then locked him in the attic where he starved to death. Shakespeare's aunt Elizabeth was then seen thereafter sleepwalking and trying to wash the blood off her hands -- an incident which famously appears in Macbeth.

Shakespeare was the first playwright to stage sword-fighting scenes on stage -- think of the Crazy 88 scene in Kill Bill. Or Zorro. Or any number of other such scenes. Whatever. Shakespeare's baptismal record -- May 10, 1564 -- was recently found on Blackfriars property in London. While growing up in and around Blackfriars, one of Shakespeare's many neighbors included an Italian fencing master. Source says area residents "could walk out into the courtyards and be confronted by duelling men wielding sharp steel" at all hours of the day.

Ghetto. Source: "Shakespeare's visit to Venice is of particular interest. At the time, Venice contained the world's first Jewish ghetto, and it is the origin of the word "ghetto" which affords" further insight into the Shakespearean plays. "'Ghetto' comes from the Italian 'to throw" or 'to cast,' and it was so called because the area of the city known as the Ghetto was where the old bronze cannons were cast. Eventually, it became the center for making iron cannons too, so Shakespeare [who had inherited a cannon foundry] certainly had reason to visit the area. German Jewish workers were imported there because they were already skilled in all kinds of metalwork. In The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1, Shylock actually mentions his German origins."

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Dorothy Parker

From April 7, 2016, article in The New York Review of Books

Edith Wharton: 1862 - 1937
Coco Chanel: 1883 - 1971
Dorothy Parker: 1893 -  1967

Ernest Hemingway: 1899 - 1961
Ayn Rand: 1905 - 1982

The Algonquin Hotel threesome: Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Robert Sherwood.

Algonquin Round Table
Volney Hotel, in later years

Dorothy Parker:

1915, age 22 — Vogue; $10/week; proofreading, captions, fact-checking

Shortly thereafter: Vanity Fair; her first poem appeared there; three years as scribe-of-all-work

About age 26: chosen to replace the departing P. G. Wodehouse as the magazine’s drama critic; not only the youngest by far of New York’s theater critics, but was the only female drama critic.

At the magazine she met Robert Benchley, the closest friend of her life.

Also met Robert Sherwood, long before his four Pulitzer Prizes.

A threesome; lunched at Algonquin Hotel.

Another threesome drifted in, graduates of Stars and Stripes:
  • Alexander Woollcott
  • Harold Ross
  • Franklin Pierce Adams (as “F.P.A.” the most influential newspaper columnist of the day)
FPA made Dorothy Parker a celebrity quoting her bon mots.

Very pretty, very sex, somewhat checkered personal life.

Born a Rothschild, but not of the Rothschilds. She married Edwin Parker; he went in army in 1917; but ended soon after he returned from overseas.

Many amours later, all ending disastrously.

A frightening abortion which probably resulted in many miscarriages later; never able to have a child that she dearly wanted.

The father was Charles MacArthur (The Front Page).

1920: Vanity Fair fired her at the insistence of Broadway producers. Benchley resigned in solidarity; Sherwood had already been fired.

A turning point in her life, for liberal causes, 1927 — to Boston to protest the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti.

Other writers in solidarity with her on that: John Dos Passos, Edna St Vincent Millay, Katherine Anne Porter.

Second husband, probably gay, Alan Campbell, while in Hollywood — never worked out.

In addition, too many young deaths:

  • Ring Lardner, her idol, 48 (1885 - 1933)
  • Robert Benchley, her soulmate, 56 (1889 - 1945) -- too many wars
  • F Scott Fitzgerald, 44 (1896 - 1940) — WWI, Jazz Age, but not WWII
Who was left? Edmund Wilson was still around. They had almost had a fling back in 1919. Now he paid her painful visits to the Volney, where she was an alcoholic, dying.

Still devoted to the Golden Couple, Gerald and Sara Murphy. From wiki:
Gerald Clery Murphy and Sara Sherman Wiborg were wealthy, expatriate Americans who moved to the French Riviera in the early 20th century and who, with their generous hospitality and flair for parties, created a vibrant social circle, particularly in the 1920s, that included a great number of artists and writers of the Lost Generation. Gerald had a brief but significant career as a painter.
By the mid-1950’s, finished with fiction, she went back to her first field — criticism.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Doctor Zhivago

This will be "in progress" for several months, perhaps a year, as I read this novel for the first time this year, reading not more than a chapter each night, at most.

I am surprised how easy this book is to read. The names of the characters are daunting. When one comes across a new character or a name one has forgotten, it is important to get an "image" of that character in one's mind before moving on. Once the image is in my mind, it makes the following passage that much easier to understand.

I know I would not have enjoyed this book without having first seen the movie (several times). Much like  "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," I had to see the movie first to be able to understand / enjoy the book.

While reading, one has to watch carefully for references to social changes going on, to the various causes that the characters belong to, etc. The "clues" are very subtle but make for interesting reading. Also, one learns much about Russian culture at that time, including such "banal" things as horses and carriages.

It is important to look up place names, feast days, etc. 

Chapter One
The Five-O'Clock Express



This is the funeral scene. Almost identical to that in the movie. What do we learn in 1-1-1 (Part I, Chapter 1 - subsection 1)?

Yura (not Yuri as they say in the movie) is 10 years old.

Mother's name is Maria Nikolaievna.

Nikolai Nikolaievich Vedeniapin: Maria's brother; Yura's uncle.

Uncle Nikolai was also "Father Nikolai": he had been defrocked at his own request.

Interestingly, the little girl in the funeral scene in the movie is not in the book or if she is, I missed her. She is the daughter of Uncle Nikolai, I believe.


I don't think the name/location of the cemetery / monastery is given.

We learn that the day following the funeral, they are to proceed to a provincial town on the Volga where Uncle Nikolai works for the publisher of the local progressive newspaper.

Uncle Nikolai is very, very Christian; very religious; we will see Pasternak talk about philosophy/religion as the book develops.

This chapter is just like the movie; of Yura being frightened during the night.


Immediately we learn that the Zhivagos has been extremely wealthy, but his father had abandoned his family early on. We learn here or later that Yura does not remember his father, so his father probably abandoned his family when Yura was less than two years old.

Zhivago the father apparently ended up in Siberia.

Zhivago factory, a Zhivago bank, Zhivago buildings, a Zhivago necktie pin, a Zhivao cake (a kind of baba au rhum). Pasternak has a real knack for the banal, the little things that paint an entire picture -- he was a poet first.

Suddenly that was gone; the Zhivagos were poor.


A date is given: 1903; we will later it is probably on/about November 4. This is uncommon in novels to provide a specific date, at least to my way of thinking. But this helps put things in context.

Yura and Uncle Nikolai, in 2-horse open carriage, on their way to Duplyanka, the estate of Kologrivov, a silk manufacturer and patron of the arts. Nikolai was to meet with Ivan Ivanovich Voskoboinikov, a teacher and author of popular textbooks.

Feast of the Virgin of Kazan.
A holy icon of the highest stature within the Russian Orthodox Church, representing the Virgin Mary as the protector and patroness of the city of Kazan. It was considered a palladium of Russia for centuries, until its theft and likely destruction in 1904. Two major Kazan cathedrals, in Moscow and St. Petersburg, are consecrated to Our Lady of Kazan, as are numerous churches throughout the land. Her feast days are July 21 and November 4 (which is also the Day of National Unity).
Kazan; Tatar: Cyrillic Казан, Latin Qazan) is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia; the eighth most populous city in Russia. Kazan lies at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers in European Russia. The "Third Capital" of Russia; the "Sports capital of Russia"; the city hosted the 2013 Summer Universiade, 2014 World Fencing Championships, the 2015 World Aquatics Championships, and one of the host cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
In a later chapter we will see evidence of "racism" / slurs against the Tartars.

There is a discussion about whether the fields belong to the landlord or the peasants. Again, it is a very natural discussion to have; it is not out of place, and it helps the reader get a feeling for where and why the book is headed. In this case, it is even more specific: The textbook author Voskoboinikov is writing a book on land ownership and has to be exactly right (and probably politically correct) due to increasing censorship.

Pavel is mentioned: Pavel is the "publisher's odd-job man" but it is not clear who the publisher is; perhaps Kologrivov is the publisher. Uncle Nikolai works for a publisher of a newspaper; he is not the publisher here, nor is the teacher.

It appears the publisher is Kologrivov (bottom of page 6) and he tells Pavel, "the people are getting out of hand here."

This was Yura's second trip with his uncle to Duplyanka (Bryanskaya Oblast, borders central Eastern Europe; extensive farm fields, go on forever).

Foreshadowing: uncle Nikolai will eventually be a famous Russian writer, university professsor, philosopher of the revolution, a man who shared their ideological conern but had nothing in common with them except their terminology ... they clung to some dogma or other, satisfied with words and superficialities, but Father (see I-I-I) Nikolai had gone through Tolstoyism and revolutionary idealism...he thirsted for something new.

His uncle reminder him of his mother.

Duplyanka also reminded him of his mother. Poetic.

Eager to see Nika Dudorov, a 12-year-old (two years older than Yura) who we will learn has his "issues" with society.


Ivan (the teacher/author) convinces Uncle Nikolai to stay overnight due to an approaching storm. Because of his friendship with the estate owner Kologrivov, he has access to a cottage for Uncle Nikolai.

Oh, that's right -- this would be the cottage that Yura returns to later in the movie with his own son and Tonya. Wow! It all comes together!

I had to read this slowly, a second time, and then get a picture of the "cottage" in my mind and then the I remembered the movie, and it all connected.

This scene, of course, was not in the movie and now we get the background to that.

The cottage had its own small garden which we will also see Tonya working later in life. Wow, this is an incredible love story, nostalgia, etc.

Pasternak calls Kologrivov, a "millionaire" (p. 9).

Mention "Soloviev, Kant, Marx."
Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov: January 28, 1853 – August 13, 1900; a Russian philosopher, theologian, poet, pamphleteer and literary critic, who played a significant role in the development of Russian philosophy and poetry at the end of the 19th century and in the spiritual renaissance of the early 20th century
They talk philosophy: "individuals seek must be true to immortality -- true to Christ!" Compares Ivan's countenance to that of Abraham Lincoln's, of all things -- emancipator of the slaves.

Asks whether Ivan was anathematized when he was defrocked (at his own request); says he was not.

He was banned from government jobs for awhile and could not go to Moscow or Petersburg for awhile after being defrocked -- that's how close the state and religion were. This was probably about 1880 or so, I suppose. Important read about the church history, here, for quick review; much was happening at fin de siecle, 19th century.

The church had undergone a resurgence just before all of this; "conservatives" were still adherents; folks like Nikolai were questioning. Nikolai was very, very much a Christian: "Christ's Gospel is its foundation."

They talk metaphysics, p. 10.

Then this: the 5 o'clock express from Syzran is stopped on the tracks.

Voskoboinikov notes it, but uninterested; wants to go in for tea.


This will be a huge chapter, foreshadowing events in the next chapter; it provides the back story to Yura's father which we do not know about in the movie.

The chapter starts with Yura looking for Nika, the 12-year-old, who is hiding from everyone.

Yura falls unconscious; distraught for his mother; prays for her. When found, he delays praying for his father, saying "He can wait." This is where we learn that "Yura did not remember him at all."


It begins with a scene in the second-class compartment of the stalled train.

Misha Gordon, 11-years old -- right between the age of Yura and Nika; his father a lawyer, traveling from Orenburg. His father, Grigory Osipovich Gordon (an interesting last name) was being transferred to a new post in Moscow. Mother and sisters had gone ahead to set up the apartment.

Pastnak philosophizes a bit about trains, traveling, religion, people, etc.

Misha was chronically unhappy; he struggled with the concept of being a Jew.

Misha was upset because the passengers blamed his father for pulling the emergency release to stop the train to try to stop the "madman" from jumping off the train and killing himself. This says much about the sensitivity of the Russians in this area, at this time -- no compassion for a "madman" about to commit suicide when all they wanted to do was get to Moscow on the train. But now the train was stopped and Misha's father was being blamed.

The suicide is noted.

A widow Tiverzina is mentioned. Her husband had been burned alive in a railway accident (again, the railroad). She compared the suicide to her own husband's death, and may have explained how Russians looked at death: fate or Christ's will or both.

The suicide had actually spent a lot of time in Misha's compartment talking with his lawyer dad.

The suicide, according to Misha's dad, was "a well-known millionaire, Zhivago, a good-natured profligate not quite responsible for his actions." He talked of his (Zhivago's) own son (Yura), a boy of Misha's age, and about his late wife -- would this be the one that was just buried? Then he would go on about his second family, who he had deserted as he had the first. At this point he would remember something else (will we be told about it later?), grow pale with terror, and begin to lose the thread of his story.

Was Zhivago heading back to see his late wife or Yura, or was he simply coincidentally passing through on the 5 o'clock express to return to Moscow?

Another train pulls up; police take charge of the suicide; Misha's train moves on.


Nika was still hiding. In this chapter, we learn he is 14 years old, which means Yura is now 12 years old.

Nika talks about God.

Nika's father was a terrorist, Dementii Dudorov, condemned to death but reprieved by the Tsar; now forced labor. His mother was a Georgian princess of the Eristove family, At the beginning of the book where the principal characters are listed, Nika's full name is given as Innokentii Dudorov. Innokentti probable relates to "Innocent." Dementii, of course, is pretty obvious.

I'm not sure Pasternak explains how Nika and his mother came to live with Ivan Ivanovitch Voskoboinikov. 

I don't know if Pasternak introduces Nadia earlier but all of a sudden on page 18 she shows up in the Voskoboinikov household; age 15 years old, she must be the latter's daughter. Nike doesn't like Nadia either; wants to drown her in the boat. Of course, doesn't.

That ends Chapter 1.

This will get way too long for a blog, so I will continue this elsewhere.