A Genealogy
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The fact that two nights ago was New Year’s Eve means the impossible: that this is now 1913. Alexander Himelfarb lives in Poland. An erstwhile professor of mathematics in Warsaw, he was discredited when he denied the validity of Georg Cantor’s diagonal argument for the different sizes of infinite sets, based on his assertion that “though Cantor might sound good, questions of the infinite should be left to the Rabbi.” Whether he meant that infinity as a concept should be left to religious thinkers, or to him alone (for he often referred to himself as the Rabbi), has no bearing on the inappropriateness of the comment, given that it came from an atheist mathematician. Himelfarb is richer than the chocolate mousse he’s eating right now. His wealth was acquired not through math – in that field he was a middling professional - but through the shmatte trade, in which he excels. It’s the garment industry that has allowed him to pursue his two greatest amateur passions: sweet toothism and zoology. He’s traveled the whole East of Europe hocking his wares, sampling desserts, and collecting local specimens for his menagerie. He has a white husky, an orange tabby, six fine examples of koi fish, a parakeet, and a monkey named Kurt Gödel (of whose namesake Himelfarb has not yet heard).


Otis Clay - "Trying to Live My Life Without You"

Exactly one year has passed since January 2nd 1913, but seemingly a lifetime’s worth of tragedy transpired during that time. For instance, Alexander Himelfarb’s Traveling Menagerie has dwindled down to exactly one animal. The reason for this atrophy is simple enough: the monkey Kurt Gödel is a murderer. He poisoned the husky, garroted the tabby, filleted three of the koi, smoked two others (one like a brick of gouda, the other like a cigarette), and tricked the last into a deadly hunger strike. It’s been almost six months since Kurt Gödel killed the last remaining animal other than himself – he shot the parakeet in the head – and yet Himelfarb is only now beginning to suspect the true nature of the crimes. He wouldn’t believe that Kurt Gödel could harm a living thing, so tender had Gödel been in all his dealings with him; yet lately something sinister had crept into his aspect.

Kurt Gödel had always been jealous, but in the last several months his envy had taken on a higher level of intensity; he’d been weeping loudly and flinging his own waste willy-nilly every time Himelfarb brought a woman home. Himelfarb wondered if his affections for the other animals had indirectly brought about their demise. He has decided to confront Kurt Gödel about this.

AH: Kurt, could one accurately describe your animal jealousy as insane? And, moreover, did you kill every other animal in my menagerie?

Not satisfied with Gödel’s responses – the monkey Kurt Gödel does not speak or understand any language – Himelfarb decides that despite the good times they have shared and the profound love that he still feels for “KG”, their only chance to lead normal lives is to go their separate ways. Kurt Gödel reluctantly agrees to a trial separation.

In February of 1913, Alexander Himelfarb became a perfect sphere, and though he could appreciate the wondrousness of this physical manifestation of a mathematical ideal, he also saw it as a sign that he should lose weight, and accordingly he sacrificed one of his greatest pleasures: the consumption of sweets. Now he is watching Kurt Gödel walk out the front door of his marble-tiled mansion and he is thinking that losing desserts is nothing compared to losing your best friend. He is singing.

Listen, you can hear him.

“Trying to live my life without you, baby, is the hardest thing I’ll ever do.”


Jay Wiggins - "Sad Girl"

It’s a year later, Europe is at war and Himelfarb is dying of an unrelated disease. Bombs have rendered his mansion dilapidated and moribund. He sits amidst the rubble that once comprised something so grand and decides that he prefers his house and his life now that they are both liberated from the strictures of formality. He thinks of the monkey Kurt Gödel with love. Though there had been a fine beginning, what a sublime ending.

[Buy 1914, 1915]

Posted by Jordan at January 2, 2007 5:11 AM

It's comforting to know that though the calendar sheets continue to peel away, some things stay beautiful from year to year.

Best in the New,

Posted by Altman at January 2, 2007 10:38 AM

I appreciate your text.

Posted by Dave at January 2, 2007 12:56 PM

Please, what is this piece of writting?
What does it mean, Why is it here?

Posted by The Bubble Gum Prince at January 2, 2007 1:33 PM

Deal with the fact that the Master(Dutch?) has spoken, and that it behooves the slaves to listen and obey. Well done, Jon. (Yes, I did.)

Posted by Joel Taylor at January 4, 2007 10:44 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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our favourite blogs
(◊ means they write about music)

Back to the World
La Blogothèque
Weird Canada
Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
A London Salmagundi
Words and Music
Petites planétes
Gorilla vs Bear
Silent Shout
Clouds of Evil
The Dolby Apposition
Awesome Tapes from Africa
Matana Roberts
Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
i like you [podcast]
Nicola Meighan
radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater
The Clear-Minded Creative
Torture Garden
Passion of the Weiss
Juan and Only
Horses Think
White Hotel
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin)
Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
Song, by Toad
In Focus
WTF [podcast]
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
The Hood Internet

things we like in Montreal
st-viateur bagel
café olimpico
Euro-Deli Batory
le pick up
kem coba
le couteau
au pied de cochon
mamie clafoutis
tourtière australienne
chez boris
alati caserta
vices & versa
+ paltoquet, cocoa locale, idée fixe, patati patata, the sparrow, pho tay ho, qin hua dumplings, caffé italia, hung phat banh mi, caffé san simeon, meu-meu, pho lien, romodos, patisserie guillaume, patisserie rhubarbe, kazu, lallouz, maison du nord, cuisine szechuan &c

drawn + quarterly
+ bottines &c

casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
passovah productions
le cagibi
cinema du parc
pop pmontreal
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe

Cult Montreal
The Believer
The Morning News
The Skinny