Halloween and the Scientist

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Shadows of a thousand years 
Rise again unseen,
Voices whisper in the trees
‘Tonight is Halloween!’
Dexter Kozen

These last few days, I have been doing some research on Halloween and found a poem that “chilled me to the bone.”   The poet was Dexter Kozen.  Who was he?  I didn’t have any clue.  Another mystery to solve!  It turns out that Dexter Kozen is an American theoretical computer scientist.  Among other things (and there are a lot of other things), he is known for his seminal work at the intersection of logic and complexity.  Was this really the person who penned this poem?  It didn’t seem possible.  That is, until I found out that he is also a guitarist, singer, and songwriter in the band, “Harmful if Swallowed.”  He is also the adviser for Cornell’s Rugby Football Club.

Tonight is Halloween – even Scientists are scared.

The Great Pumpkin

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“Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to. I don’t see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”

Linus, from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

Every year, I watch for the Great Pumpkin. And every year, I look for the most sincere pumpkin patch! I found one. Linus would be proud.

The Witches’ Brew

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“Double, double toil and trouble; 
Fire burn and cauldron bubble”
William Shakespeare – Witches in Macbeth.

This week celebrates two events: Halloween on October 31st and All Saints’ Day on November 1st.

Halloween is actually a contraction for All Hallows Evening, which signifies the eve of the Christian feast of All Hallows. There is some debate about Halloween’s shrouded beginnings – harvest festivals, festivals of the dead, pagan Celtic traditions etc. – but no one pays any attention to origins when you’re out trick-or-treating. It’s a community event that promises lots of fun, chocolates and candy, goblins and scary movies.

My favourite witches’ brew comes from William Shakespeare in Macbeth. Imagine a castle and the mists coming over the Scottish Highlands.  If you look very closely, you will see the three witches stirring up trouble…

Eye of newt, and toe of frog, 
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”
William Shakespeare  – Witches in Macbeth.

 

Tea for Someone

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“When you have nobody you can make a cup of tea for, when nobody needs you, that’s when I think life is over.” Audrey Hepburn

The art of making tea is not about getting the water temperature right, or setting the table with rare and delicate China teacups, or serving the most expensive tea. It is about taking care of each other and creating an atmosphere where fellowship is welcome and honoured. It is not about being served tea – it is the humble task of serving it to another fellow traveler. In doing so, our life has meaning, relevance and purpose.

 

Never Too Much

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“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S. Lewis

Britain – 1800’s: tea consumption reached an all-time high. Everyone wanted to drink tea but the price was considerable, especially with the amount of import tax levied by the government. It was only a matter of time before the smugglers took over with a vengeance. With supply limited and demand growing exponentially, there was money to be made. The East India Company was not pleased that their monopoly was being challenged. They used their powerful lobby in Parliament (many MPs were their shareholders). William Pitt the younger became Prime Minister in 1783. Even though he was only 24 years old, his strategy was brilliant. Rather than taxing tea imports, he introduced a massive tax increase on windows. In one simple move, tea smuggling came to a standstill.

An Artist Takes Tea

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 “After tea it’s back to painting – a large poplar at dusk with a gathering storm. From time to time instead of this evening painting session I go bowling in one of the neighbouring villages, but not very often.” Gustav Klimt

I never connect ordinary daily routine events with artists who are almost bigger than life.  I imagine them contemplating a colour, agonizing over a brush stroke or impatiently throwing open window shutters to bring more light into the room.  It seems that even greatness must stop for a cup of tea.

Belvedere Palace at the end of the day.

The residence of the legendary painting “The Kiss.”