Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Gerrit van Honthorst. Sólon e Creso. 1624

O diálogo clássico entre Sólon e Creso. Sólon fala sobre a felicidade e a instabilidade das coisas humanas. Conforme Heródoto, História, 1, 30-3 (tradução do The Perseus project):

XXX. So for that reason, and to see the world, Solon went to visit Amasis in Egypt and then to Croesus in Sardis. When he got there, Croesus entertained him in the palace, and on the third or fourth day Croesus told his attendants to show Solon around his treasures, and they pointed out all those things that were great and blest. [2] After Solon had seen everything and had thought about it, Croesus found the opportunity to say, “My Athenian guest, we have heard a lot about you because of your wisdom and of your wanderings, how as one who loves learning you have traveled much of the world for the sake of seeing it, so now I desire to ask you who is the most fortunate man you have seen.” [3] Croesus asked this question believing that he was the most fortunate of men, but Solon, offering no flattery but keeping to the truth, said, “O King, it is Tellus the Athenian.” [4] Croesus was amazed at what he had said and replied sharply, “In what way do you judge Tellus to be the most fortunate?” Solon said, “Tellus was from a prosperous city, and his children were good and noble. He saw children born to them all, and all of these survived. His life was prosperous by our standards, and his death was most glorious: [5] when the Athenians were fighting their neighbors in Eleusis, he came to help, routed the enemy, and died very finely. The Athenians buried him at public expense on the spot where he fell and gave him much honor.”

XXXI. When Solon had provoked him by saying that the affairs of Tellus were so fortunate, Croesus asked who he thought was next, fully expecting to win second prize. Solon answered, “Cleobis and Biton. [2] They were of Argive stock, had enough to live on, and on top of this had great bodily strength. Both had won prizes in the athletic contests, and this story is told about them: there was a festival of Hera in Argos, and their mother absolutely had to be conveyed to the temple by a team of oxen. But their oxen had not come back from the fields in time, so the youths took the yoke upon their own shoulders under constraint of time. They drew the wagon, with their mother riding atop it, traveling five miles until they arrived at the temple. [3] When they had done this and had been seen by the entire gathering, their lives came to an excellent end, and in their case the god made clear that for human beings it is a better thing to die than to live. The Argive men stood around the youths and congratulated them on their strength; the Argive women congratulated their mother for having borne such children. [4] She was overjoyed at the feat and at the praise, so she stood before the image and prayed that the goddess might grant the best thing for man to her children Cleobis and Biton, who had given great honor to the goddess. [5] After this prayer they sacrificed and feasted. The youths then lay down in the temple and went to sleep and never rose again; death held them there. The Argives made and dedicated at Delphi statues of them as being the best of men.”

XXXII. Thus Solon granted second place in happiness to these men. Croesus was vexed and said, “My Athenian guest, do you so much despise our happiness that you do not even make us worth as much as common men?” Solon replied, “Croesus, you ask me about human affairs, and I know that the divine is entirely grudging and troublesome to us. [2] In a long span of time it is possible to see many things that you do not want to, and to suffer them, too. I set the limit of a man's life at seventy years; [3] these seventy years have twenty-five thousand, two hundred days, leaving out the intercalary month.1 But if you make every other year longer by one month, so that the seasons agree opportunely, then there are thirty-five intercalary months during the seventy years, and from these months there are one thousand fifty days. [4] Out of all these days in the seventy years, all twenty-six thousand, two hundred and fifty of them, not one brings anything at all like another. So, Croesus, man is entirely chance. [5] To me you seem to be very rich and to be king of many people, but I cannot answer your question before I learn that you ended your life well. The very rich man is not more fortunate than the man who has only his daily needs, unless he chances to end his life with all well. Many very rich men are unfortunate, many of moderate means are lucky. [6] The man who is very rich but unfortunate surpasses the lucky man in only two ways, while the lucky surpasses the rich but unfortunate in many. The rich man is more capable of fulfilling his appetites and of bearing a great disaster that falls upon him, and it is in these ways that he surpasses the other. The lucky man is not so able to support disaster or appetite as is the rich man, but his luck keeps these things away from him, and he is free from deformity and disease, has no experience of evils, and has fine children and good looks. [7] If besides all this he ends his life well, then he is the one whom you seek, the one worthy to be called fortunate. But refrain from calling him fortunate before he dies; call him lucky. [8] It is impossible for one who is only human to obtain all these things at the same time, just as no land is self-sufficient in what it produces. Each country has one thing but lacks another; whichever has the most is the best. Just so no human being is self-sufficient; each person has one thing but lacks another. [9] Whoever passes through life with the most and then dies agreeably is the one who, in my opinion, O King, deserves to bear this name. It is necessary to see how the end of every affair turns out, for the god promises fortune to many people and then utterly ruins them.”

XXXIII. By saying this, Solon did not at all please Croesus, who sent him away without regard for him, but thinking him a great fool, because he ignored the present good and told him to look to the end of every affair.

Creso só entende a lição depois de ter sido capturado e condenado à morte por Ciro. Prestes a morrer, ele fala a Ciro. O rei persa se admira e manda libertá-lo. História, 1, 86-9:

LXXXVI. The Persians gained Sardis and took Croesus prisoner. Croesus had ruled fourteen years and been besieged fourteen days. Fulfilling the oracle, he had destroyed his own great empire. The Persians took him and brought him to Cyrus, [2] who erected a pyre and mounted Croesus atop it, bound in chains, with twice seven sons of the Lydians beside him. Cyrus may have intended to sacrifice him as a victory-offering to some god, or he may have wished to fulfill a vow, or perhaps he had heard that Croesus was pious and put him atop the pyre to find out if some divinity would deliver him from being burned alive. [3] So Cyrus did this. As Croesus stood on the pyre, even though he was in such a wretched position it occurred to him that Solon had spoken with god's help when he had said that no one among the living is fortunate. When this occurred to him, he heaved a deep sigh and groaned aloud after long silence, calling out three times the name “Solon.” [4] Cyrus heard and ordered the interpreters to ask Croesus who he was invoking. They approached and asked, but Croesus kept quiet at their questioning, until finally they forced him and he said, “I would prefer to great wealth his coming into discourse with all despots.” Since what he said was unintelligible, they again asked what he had said, [5] persistently harassing him. He explained that first Solon the Athenian had come and seen all his fortune and spoken as if he despised it. Now everything had turned out for him as Solon had said, speaking no more of him than of every human being, especially those who think themselves fortunate. While Croesus was relating all this, the pyre had been lit and the edges were on fire. [6] When Cyrus heard from the interpreters what Croesus said, he relented and considered that he, a human being, was burning alive another human being, one his equal in good fortune. In addition, he feared retribution, reflecting how there is nothing stable in human affairs. He ordered that the blazing fire be extinguished as quickly as possible, and that Croesus and those with him be taken down, but despite their efforts they could not master the fire.

Apolo salvou Creso. Choveu.


Artamène ou le Grand Cyru. Maior romance de todos os tempos. Sucesso quando lançado. Número de páginas da edição original: mais de 13000. Vai encarar?


Gosto muito do Heródoto. O livro é fantástico. Vale a pena enfrentá-lo.

Parece prolixo. Vive contando histórias de pescador. Mas aí que está. Não é que ele seja crédulo. Nem que goste de enrolar. Todas os fatos importantes e/ou maravilhosos merecem a atenção do Heródoto. Outra coisa. Talvez ele seja um dos gregos que menos olhava para o próprio umbigo. Vivia na periferia do mundo grego. Estava mais próximo de outros povos. Só mais tarde é que foi para Atenas. Era mais fácil para ele ter uma visão de conjunto sine ira et studio. A introdução não deixa dúvidas. O assunto são os feitos gloriosos dos gregos e dos bárbaros. Tudo culmina nas Guerras Médicas. Os fatos são registrados para que não caiam no esquecimento. A inspiração é quase estética. É a descrição do maravilhoso nos acontecimentos humanos. Os editores mais tarde dividiram a obra em nove livros, cada um com o nome de uma musa. Não foi por acaso. São cantos em prosa. Nem é por acaso também que as pessoas gostassem tanto de ouvir aqueles relatos. O livro do Heródoto é uma epopéia em prosa. Uma Ilíada fruto da investigação filosófica daqueles tempos. Afinal, ele era filho de uma Jônia que tinha dado tantos filósofos ilustres.

Nem é justo dizer que o Heródoto não tinha senso crítico. Pelo contrário! A delimitação do assunto, a busca pelas causas da guerra entre gregos e persas, a citação de testemunhas... Existe método sim, senhor! O livro parece às vezes frouxo porque nenhum assunto maravilhoso pode ficar de fora. Sem contar que só um mestre pode articular tanta coisa, sempre com um único propósito. Também é impressionante como ele dá liberdade de direito às fontes. Várias vezes ele põe em dúvida o relato das testemunhas. Mas é um juiz imparcial. Elas têm o direito de contar as versões delas.

Uma das maiores diferenças entre Tucídides e Heródoto é o papel do homem na história. Ambos colocam o homem no centro dos acontecimentos. Mas Tucídides busca uma explicação política dos eventos. Heródoto achava que tudo estava submetido à roda da fortuna. Existe uma instabilidade misteriosa no mundo. Como explicar a derrota do poderoso império Persa? Até hoje, por mais elaboradas que sejam as explicações, aquele acontecimento sempre parece misterioso. Heródoto diz que existem sinais do que vai ocorrer. Porém a gente vive como cegos. Entendemos mal os avisos. A sorte momentânea cria uma ilusão. Só um grande sábio como Sólon tem consciência "antecipada" da fragilidade da vida. Esse tema abre e fecha o livro. Ele é explicitado na vida do Creso e desemboca na desventura do Xerxes. O surgimento e a destruição dos impérios são apenas a manifestação em grande escala dessa verdade. Ela é aplicável à vida de cada pessoa (a vida do Creso une essa verdade nos dois aspectos). Não deixa de ser uma concepção pessimista dos assuntos humanos. Até trágica. Só que existe o outro lado da moeda. Tudo isso é evidência do fantástico. Se as causas estão afastadas de nós, então o que vemos são rastros do divino. A História é também um testemunho piedoso.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

One hundred billion dollars

Uns meses atrás, o governo do Zimbábue emitiu uma nota de 100 bilhões de dólares para ver se dava um jeito na economia. Lógico que salvou. As girafinhas da nota estão felizes agora (os fofoqueiros disseram que elas casaram).

Achou o valor bizarro? Você não sabe de nada... A Hungria já foi bem mais punk. Em 1946, ela lançou a notona de um sextilhão de pengo (nome do antigo dinheiro de lá). Para quem gosta de ver número, é assim:

1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000

Saca só a nota dos caras (e coitada da dona que passou a vergonha de ser estampada nesse lixo):

Só serviu para dar trabalho aos garis húngaros.

Mas que mané salvar a economia do Zimbábue. O Dr. Robert Mugabe quer é salvar o mundo! Ele bolou um plano para enganar o Dr. Evil!

Será que o vilão cai nessa?

Dá-lhe, Dr. Mugabe! Depois de fazer tantas faculdades na cadeia, tinha que virar mesmo um grande humanista!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Tempestade e sol

O PT levou uns 20 anos para chegar à presidência. A esquerda levou uns 30 anos para se firmar no poder. A militância esquerdista vem de uns 80 anos atrás.

Eles não vão abandonar fácil o poder.

O Olavo vive dizendo que a direita foi destruída. Que devemos refazê-la. Que só mais tarde ela terá frutos na política.

Um exercício. Tome as informações acima e responda quando a direita chegará ao poder. Eu chutaria entre 2075 e 2110. Se o mundo ainda existir, claro.

Mas o negócio é ouvir Queen! É uma das bandas que mais gosto. Original (às vezes não, porque é preciso botar comida na geladeira), divertida (ou burlesca?) e com grandes músicos (mas a voz do F. Mercury é superestimada). Todos os shows eram fantásticos!

O vídeo a seguir é de um show em 79, Japão. Músicas: We will rock you e Let me entertain you. Excelentes! Uma pena a qualidade do som estar meia-boca. Agora, e o visual sado-masô-oficial-SS do F. Mercury? Até que está elegante perto do ele costumava usar... (Na década de 80 eles começaram a ter um visual mais decente. Uma pena. A extravagância fazia parte.)

Tenho que colocar mais uma música! Que tal Ogre battle? O som está uma beleza.

Para fechar, Liar. É do primeiro álbum. Às vezes acho que ele é meio datado. Não sei. Mas gosto bastante dele. (Essa versão é de estúdio).

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Eleição carioca

"Sempre ouvindo asneirões, calado sempre!
O fel conter da sátira, não posso."

Vou lá exercer meu direito de cidadã, qué qué qué.

Acho que essa gente merece August 1968 também:

The Ogre does what ogres can,
Deeds quite impossible for Man,
But one prize is beyond his reach:
The Ogre cannot master speech.

About a subjugated plain,
Among it's desperate and slain,
The Ogre stalks with hands on hips,
While drivel gushes from his lips.

Combo recitado:

Friday, October 03, 2008

Camille Flammarion: Astronomy for Amateurs


The Science of Astronomy is sublime and beautiful. Noble, elevating, consoling, divine, it gives us wings, and bears us through Infinitude. In these ethereal regions all is pure, luminous, and splendid. Dreams of the Ideal, even of the Inaccessible, weave their subtle spells upon us. The imagination soars aloft, and aspires to the sources of Eternal Beauty.

What greater delight can be conceived, on a fine spring evening, at the hour when the crescent moon is shining in the West amid the last glimmer of twilight, than the contemplation of that grand and silent spectacle of the stars stepping forth in sequence in the vast Heavens? All sounds of life die out upon the earth, the last notes of the sleepy birds have sunk away, the Angelus of the church hard by has rung the close of day. But if life is arrested around us, we may seek it in the Heavens. These incandescing orbs are so many points of interrogation suspended above our heads in the inaccessible depths of space.... Gradually they multiply. There is Venus, the white star of the shepherd. There Mars, the little celestial world so near our own. There the giant Jupiter. The seven stars of the Great Bear seem to point out the pole, while they slowly revolve around it... What is this nebulous light that blanches the darkness of the heavens, and traverses the constellations like a celestial path? It is the Galaxy, the Milky Way, composed of millions on millions of suns!... The darkness is profound, the abyss immense... See! Yonder a shooting star glides silently across the sky, and disappears!...

Who can remain insensible to this magic spectacle of the starry Heavens? Where is the mind that is not attracted to these enigmas? The intelligence of the amateur, the feminine, no less than the more material and prosaic masculine mind, is well adapted to the consideration of astronomical problems. Women, indeed, are naturally predisposed to these contemplative studies. And the part they are called to play in the education of our children is so vast, and so important, that the elements of Astronomy might well be taught by the young mother herself to the budding minds that are curious about every issue--whose first impressions are so keen and so enduring.

Throughout the ages women have occupied themselves successfully with Astronomy, not merely in its contemplative and descriptive, but also in its mathematical aspects. Of such, the most illustrious was the beautiful and learned Hypatia of Alexandria, born in the year 375 of our era, public lecturer on geometry, algebra, and astronomy, and author ofthree works of great importance. Then, in that age of ignorance and fanaticism, she fell a victim to human stupidity and malice, was dragged from her chariot while crossing the Cathedral Square, in March, 415, stripped of her garments, stoned to death, and burned as a dishonored witch!

Among the women inspired with a passion for the Heavens may be cited St. Catherine of Alexandria, admired for her learning, her beauty and her virtue. She was martyred in the reign of Maximinus Daza, about the year 312, and has given her name to one of the lunar rings.

Another celebrated female mathematician was Madame Hortense Lepaute, born in 1723, who collaborated with Clairaut in the immense calculations by which he predicted the return of Halley's Comet. "Madame Lepaute," wrote Lalande, "gave us such immense assistance that, without her, we should never have ventured to undertake this enormous labor, in which it was necessary to calculate for every degree, and for a hundred and fifty years, the distances and forces of the planets acting by their attraction on the comet. During more than six months, we calculated from morning to night, sometimes even at table, and as the result of this forced labor I contracted an illness that has changed my constitution for life; but it was important to publish the result before the arrival of the comet."

This extract will suffice for the appreciation of the scientific ardor of Madame Lepaute. We are indebted to her for some considerable works. Her husband was clock-maker to the King. "To her intellectual talents," says one of her biographers, "were joined all the qualities of the heart. She was charming to a degree, with an elegant figure, a dainty foot, and such a beautiful hand that Voiriot, the King's painter, who had made a portrait of her, asked permission to copy it, in order to preserve a model of the best in Nature." And then we are told that learned women can not be good-looking!...

The Marquise du Châtelet was no less renowned. She was predestined to her career, if the following anecdote be credible. Gabrielle-Émilie de Breteuil, born in 1706 (who, in 1725, was to marry the Marquis du Châtelet, becoming, in 1733, the most celebrated friend of Voltaire), was four or five years old when she was given an old compass, dressed up as a doll, for a plaything. After examining this object for some time, the child began angrily and impatiently to strip off the silly draperies the toy was wrapped in, and after turning it over several times in her little hands, she divined its uses, and traced a circle with it on a sheet of paper. To her, among other things, we owe a precious, and indeed the only French, translation of Newton's great work on universal gravitation, the famous Principia, and she was, with Voltaire, an eloquent propagator of the theory of attraction, rejected at that time by the Académie des Sciences.

Numbers of other women astronomers might be cited, all showing how accessible this highly abstract science is to the feminine intellect. President des Brosses, in his charming Voyage en Italie, tells of the visit he paid in Milan to the young Italian, Marie Agnesi, who delivered harangues in Latin, and was acquainted with seven languages, and for whom mathematics held no secrets. She was devoted to algebra and geometry, which, she said, "are the only provinces of thought wherein peace reigns." Madame de Charrière expressed herself in an aphorism of the same order: "An hour or two of mathematics sets my mind at liberty, and puts me in good spirits; I feel that I can eat and sleep better when I have seen obvious and indisputable truths. This consoles me for the obscurities of religion and metaphysics, or rather makes me forget them; I am thankful there is something positive in this world." And did not Madame de Blocqueville, last surviving daughter of Marshal Davout, who died in 1892, exclaim in her turn: "Astronomy, science of sciences! by which I am attracted, and terrified, and which I adore! By it my soul is detached from the things of this world, for it draws me to those unknown spheres that evoked from Newton the triumphant cry: 'Coeli enarrant gloriam Dei!'"

Nor must we omit Miss Caroline Herschel, sister of the greatest observer of the Heavens, the grandest discoverer of the stars, that has ever lived. Astronomy gave her a long career; she discovered no less than seven comets herself, and her patient labors preserved her to the age of ninety-eight. And Mrs. Somerville, to whom we owe the English translation of Laplace's Mécanique céleste, of whom Humboldt said, "In pure mathematics, Mrs. Somerville is absolutely superior." Like Caroline Herschel, she was almost a centenarian, appearing always much younger than her years: she died at Naples, in 1872, at the age of ninety-two. So, too, the Russian Sophie Kovalevsky, descendant of Mathias Corvinus, King of Hungary, who, an accomplished mathematician at sixteen, married at eighteen, in order to follow the curriculum at the University (then forbidden to unmarried women); arranging with her young husband to live as brother and sister until their studies should be completed. In 1888 the Prix Bordin of the Institut was conferred on her. And Maria Mitchell of the United States, for whom Le Verrier gave a fête at the Observatory of Paris, and who was exceptionally authorized by Pope Pius IX to visit the Observatory of the Roman College, at that time an ecclesiastical establishment, closed to women. And Madame Scarpellini, the Roman astronomer, renowned for her works on shooting stars, whom the author had the honor of visiting, in company with Father Secchi, Director of the Observatory mentioned above.

At the present time, Astronomy is proud to reckon among its most famous workers Miss Agnes Clerke, the learned Irishwoman, to whom we owe, inter alia, an excellent History of Astronomy in the Nineteenth Century; Mrs. Isaac Roberts, who, under the familiar name of Miss Klumpke, sat on the Council of the Astronomical Society of France, and is D. Sc. of the Faculty of Paris and head of the Bureau for measuring star photographs at the Observatory of Paris (an American who became English by her marriage with the astronomer Roberts, but is not forgotten in France); Mrs. Fleming, one of the astronomers of the Observatory at Harvard College, U.S.A., to whom we owe the discovery of a great number of variable stars by the examination of photographic records, and by spectral photography; Lady Huggins, who in England is the learned collaborator of her illustrious husband; and many others.

* * * * *

The following chapters, which aim at summing up the essentials of Astronomy in twelve lessons for amateurs, will not make astronomers or mathematicians of my readers--much less prigs or pedants. They are designed to show the constitution of the Universe, in its grandeur and its beauty, so that, inhabiting this world, we may know where we are living, may realize our position in the Cosmos, appreciate Creation as it is, and enjoy it to better advantage. This sun by which we live, this succession of months and years, of days and nights, the apparent motions of the heavens, these starry skies, the divine rays of the moon, the whole totality of things, constitutes in some sort the tissue of our existence, and it is indeed extraordinary that the inhabitants of our planet should almost all have lived till now without knowing where they are, without suspecting the marvels of the Universe.

* * * * *

For the rest, my little book is dedicated to a woman, muse and goddess -- the charming enchantress Urania, fit companion of Venus, ranking even above her in the choir of celestial beauties, as purer and more noble, dominating with her clear glance the immensities of the
universe. Urania, be it noted, is feminine, and never would the poetry of the ancients have imagined a masculine symbol to personify the pageant of the heavens. Not Uranus, nor Saturn, nor Jupiter can compare with the ideal beauty of Urania.

Moreover, I have before me two delightful books, in breviary binding, dated the one from the year 1686, the other from a century later, 1786. The first was written by Fontenelle for a Marquise, and is entitled Entretiens sur la Pluralité des Mondes. In this, banter is pleasantly married with science, the author declaring that he only demands from his fair readers the amount of application they would concede to a novel. The second is written by Lalande, and is called Astronomie des Dames. In addressing myself to both sexes, I am in honorable company with these two sponsors and esteem myself the better for it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pró Beethoven (e Händel)

Já que não escrevo mais nada por aqui, melhor ouvir Beethoven. É o último movimento da Sonata para violino e piano em sol maior op.96. Se a sua alma arrebentar, peça ao caça-Beethoven de plantão um remendo.

Será que sua alma não dilacerou na primeira música? Ela vai estourar com certeza na ária Empio, dirò, tu sei, da ópera Giulio Cesare.

Situação. O César (com voz de contralto) está puto da vida depois de ver o "presentinho" do Ptolomeu... A cabeça do Pompeu! Então ele diz para o Áquila (funcionário estatal e puxa-saco do Ptolomeu) o seguinte (e saca só a coloratura dessa ária):

Vamos agora torcer para que os caça-Beethoven não arrumem tempo para excomungar o Händel também.