A Bit of George Boole

George BooleOn this day in 1734, the American explorer Daniel Boone was born. I think of him as part of the leading edge of imperial expansion. The man was basically at war with the native tribes his whole life. He’s not exactly a hero, but he’s entirely typical of “great men” of the period. I was surprised that he lived to be 85 years old. [I originally noted this back on 22 October, but that was the old calendar. I thought I would move him here because it is the right date and I want to focus on just what a villain Boone was.]

Marie Antoinette was born in 1755. Were she and her husband Louis XVI all that bad? Not especially. But as I warned in The Revolution Will Be Televised, people are not that rational when they rise up. So if the people of the United States ever rise up from behind the finals of Dancing With the Stars, it won’t just be the “bad” rich like the Koch brothers who get hanged; it will also be the “good” rich like Warren Buffett. And do you know what? I don’t really care.

A couple more living conservative villains have birthdays today. First there is Paul Johnson who is 85 today. He’s one of the great apologists for conservatism. I remember reading Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the 1980s. In it he makes the case that imperialism was mostly a good thing and didn’t the British lose out with all the money they sent to India. Remember: Johnson is a sober, establishment type of conservative. He is all you need to know to counter this argument that today’s conservatism is so much more extreme than it used to be. If you mean now compared to 200 years ago, maybe. But throughout my lifetime it has been just as extreme, just not as stupid.

The respectable neo-Nazi Pat Buchanan is 75. He’s interesting in that it shows that no level of extremism and racism will keep you off the television. But his level of racism will get you labeled outside the mainstream of conservatism. As we know, a big part of the support for conservatism is racism. But the movement expects this racism to be subtext. I say to all conservatives: embrace Buchanan! At least he’s honest about what he thinks. (Actually, he isn’t. Like most conservatives, he tries to finesse his opinions. But he’s more forward than most and that’s how we know what he is. I’m sure if Buchanan and Ted Cruz were off alone, there’s little they would disagree about.)

KD Lang is 52 today. Look: I mean no disrespect. But this nonsense with the lowercase letters causes all kinds of problems for typesetters. So I’ll admit that she goes by “k.d. lang.” But even that raises lots of questions. Is there a space after the first period? And if not, why is there is there one after the second? I don’t think she’s quite thought this all through. Anyway, she is a fine singer. Here she is doing an excellent version Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”:

Other birthdays: the great character actor Ray Walston (1914); comic book artist Steve Ditko (86); songwriter J D Souther (68); and reformed conservative David Brock (51).

The day, however, belongs to the great mathematician George Boole who was born on this day in 1815. He did a lot of different work during his lifetime including important work on one of my favorite things: differential equations. But he is known as the founder of computer science because of his important work in algebraic logic. This is why “Boolean arithmetic” is named after him. The amazing thing about this (and I love this stuff too) is that so much can be done with it. You start with basic assumptions like what an AND operator does. And you end with streaming this great little video about George Boole’s work:

Happy birthday George Boole!


Why has Google not created a doodle for George Boole?!

0 thoughts on “A Bit of George Boole

  1. No disrespect to (lowercase) Lang. I love her; she’s done some of my favorite recordings, and "Shadowland" is one of my favorite albums.

    But . . . can we be finished now with everyone doing covers of "Hallelujah?" Nobody paid attention to that song until the perpetually stoned (I saw him in concert once, he was borderline incoherent) Jeff Buckley nailed it to the wall. Nobody’s ever going to do a better version than Buckley’s. There are many great Cohen songs to cover. Don’t do "Hallelujah," Buckley’s is unsurpassable, and don’t do "Democracy," Cohen’s is. The rest are fair game.

    Nobody fucks with Louis Armstrong singing "What A Wonderful World." Nobody does "New York, New York," because Sinatra owns it. Buckley may not have lived up to his potential (how many of us do?) but he defined "Hallelujah" for good and ever. Leave it alone.

    I did like (lowercase) Lang’s version of "Helpless," though . . .

  2. @JMF – My we are testy today! Normally, I would have picked a song that she had written or an earlier one at least. But I wanted to hear the song. I’ve actually listened to at least four versions of it this morning. And the video is so beautiful. Also, it is a showcase song. It is great for showing off what a singer can do.

    I’m also very fond of the song. Like many Cohen songs it is ultimately about hubris and that’s on my mind a lot these days. He’s right that if you are to praise God, it has got to be hard and filled with traps. For almost all Christians, God is easy. Just "believe." What bullshit! I have far more respect for God and I don’t even believe in him!

    But just to make up for my [i]faux pas[/i], here is a wonderful version of Howard and Walker’s "I’m Down To My Last Cigarette":


    I disagree with you about "New York, New York" (not to be mistaken for "New York New York"). I first heard the song by Liza Minnelli in the film. I love Sinatra’s version, but I still prefer her version (there are even better live versions):


    And Joey Ramone did a great version of "What a Wonderful World" (I use the introduction to both versions in my videos):


  3. My SO teaches piano and voice lessons, and uses Lang as an example for voice students. The lower in your diaphragm your vocal power comes from, the richer your tone, and the less damage you do to your vocal chords. That’s why trained opera singers and someone with terrific form like Lang can belt it every night, while rock performers usually lose their voices halfway through a tour. Or so the SO explains it to me.

    You can’t go wrong with any of her songs, I didn’t mean to be cranky. And of course there are other good versions of almost everything. It’s just that nobody, but nobody, covered "Hallelujah" before Buckley killed it, and now, when you’re watching a show or listening to one on the radio, and the vocalist says, "I’d like to do a song by one of my favorite writers, Leonard Cohen," it will always be "Hallelujah." Every time. I wish they’d say, "Jeff Buckley did a great version of this, which highlighted one reading of the lyrics, and I’d like to highlight my own take on what he meant." But I suppose that would be boring for inter-song concert chatter!

    (Of course, that’s what makes much of Leonard so great; his best stuff works on more than one level of interpretation.)

    I have the album "Hymns Of The 49th Parallel," and I like it, though I can think of other Canadian writers Lang might have knocked out of the park. Gordon Lightfoot, say. But I suppose the point was to do secular hymns, songs about surrender to something larger than yourself, and Lightfoot’s stuff is very earthbound. Still, Lang rocking it out to "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" would be awesome.

  4. @JMF – I was a fan of Cohen going back to my mid-teens. But a big moment for me was when Jennifer Warren released [i]Famous Blue Raincoat[/i]. That was the first time I realized what someone could do with his songs when they could really sing. I like Buckley’s version, but it doesn’t really do that for me. It is a great version, but it is very much like the way Cohen himself does it. I know that Rufus Wainwright explicitly got the song from Buckley, but his version really does belt out the song. That’s even more true of Lang.

    Here is Jennifer Warnes doing "I Came So Far for Beauty" (the video is kind of screwed up):


    (Do you know the album? It has a great duet with Cohen doing the part of Fire on "Joan of Arc." Highly recommended!)

    One could easily write a whole book about the many great interpretations of Cohen’s songs. The man has been blessed in that way.

    Interesting you should mention Lightfoot. I just went on a jag of listening to him. Beautiful stuff. Grounded, but very spiritual at times. Another Canadian: Bruce Cockburn. Or Jane Siberry. Lots of spirituality up north!

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