Sunday, June 28, 2015

Grasping the Tiger by his Fung-Shei

While looking for Hardy Myer's March 2004 opinion on same-sex marriage, I stumbled over this old journal entry:

Date: Mon, 5 Oct 1998 12:44:22 -0700 (PDT)

"What Immortal Hand or Eye, Dared Grasp Thy Fearful Symmetry."

Mark and I had just finished a very late Saturday brunch of bagels and orange juice and were meandering back towards his apartment, when we walked past a furniture store called *Scan Design*.  I glanced into the window.  There, suspended on three eighteen inch diameter polished marble spheres, was a rectangular plate-glass plane.  It was a table, and on top of the table was another eighteen inch diameter polished marble sphere with a flower arrangement in it.

Immediately grasping that this table was a statement of Euclid's
definition of a plane in a three dimensional space, I uttered a long-drawn out, "Cool!" followed by "Hey Mark!  Come take a look at this."

Wrapped in my enamorment of this particular piece of furniture, I had failed to realize that Mark had continued to walk past the shop window and was silently chanting to himself, "Keep walking, keep walking, don't slow down."  

As soon as he heard my hail, he cringed and let out with a loud, "No bowling balls in the living room!"

Passing by the storefront several days earlier, Mark had immediately
recognized two things about the table.  One, it was classic "John
Furniture."  Two, he hated it.

But wait, it gets better.

The afternoon was spent shopping for shower curtains, flower pots, plant racks, socks, and bulbs.  

During this quest we walked into a *Fred Meyer* outdoor garden supply area.

It was lined with over twenty gazing globes of gold, silver, and blue hues set on cheap plaster pedestals.  About the same time that I was saying, "Oh Mark!  Aren't these cool?" 
Mark was yelling, "Augh!  No silvered bowling balls!" and running to another part of the area.

Mesmerized, I went over to the line of spheres.  The wall behind them had a horizontal seam, and the pavement under them had a whole grid of seams.  Perspective warped the straight seams into arcs, with reflections bouncing everywhere to create a recursive string of blue, silver and gold spheres.

"He's looking at himself again," muttered Mark.

"I am *not*," I replied, "I'm looking at the reflections." and proceeded to point out the ray-tracer's nightmare in front of us.  "I think I'd have to get three of these things and put them in the garden."

"My, what an interesting lay-out in your garden," said Mark pretending to be a visitor to our future, hypothetical house.  
"Well," continued Mark, pretending to be himself, "this side of the garden is *my* side, and that part is John's side."

"Oh come on," I said, "these things are really cool."

"Well," he said, breaking character, 
"you shouldn't have them in a straight line like that.  You need to set the middle one back and bring the outer two forward," which he proceeded to do.  The result was astounding.

"Wow!" I said, "you're really good at this!"

"Help!" yelled Mark, "I'm getting sucked in!" and ran away from the now staggered line of reflective spheres.

"Oh, don't worry," I said, "these are kind of cheap, especially the
pedestals.  When I get some, I'd want to get some high quality ones."

"OK.  If you get silvered bowling balls, then I'm going to put little concrete dwarves in my side of the garden."

"Auugh!  NO Dwarves!"

"Oh listen to *you,* Mr. Cast-Bronze-Griffins!"

"Those Griffins are tons better than still-life Dwarves!"

"The Griffins are pretentious, that's what they are."

"OK.  But if you get those Dwarves, I can't be held responsible for the consequences."  Pretending to address a future, hypothetical Mark, I continued, "Sorry Mark, but the Griffins were hungry and the Dwarves were right there...."

"Augh!  You fed my Dwarves to the Griffins?!  Well two can play that game, mister!" and he addressed a future, hypothetical John, "Sorry John, winter was coming on and the griffins said they'd be happier in Miami just before they all flew away!  And I'm taking my concrete dwarf carcasses and I'm going back to Mother!"

By this time, the silliness of the 
conversation was too much for me and I laughed and kissed him.  "Tell you what," I said to him, "when Thanksgiving comes, you can hook up with my Dad and go over 'We're Not Buying This' strategies he's used with my Mom.

Now there's fearful symmetry for you.
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