‘[She] was captivated by the beauty of … hyperbolic geometry.’

The first woman to win a Fields Medal, Maryam Mirzakhani, has died at the age of forty from breast cancer.

“She had a sort of daring imagination,” [said her Harvard mentor.] … “She would formulate in her mind an imaginary picture of what must be going on, then come to my office and describe it. At the end, she would turn to me and say, ‘Is it right?’ I was always very flattered that she thought I would know.”

Just before she became ill, she talked about her “big plans for the next chapters of her mathematical story. She has started working … to try to develop a complete list of the kinds of sets that translation surface orbits can fill up.”

What a sweet, late in life victory for Renee Rabinowitz.

And of course since it’s part of the endless legal and moral battle against Israeli’s ultra-sexist ultra-orthodox, this story also stars UD‘s beloved Anat Hoffman, a woman who spends her life filing one successful lawsuit after another.

The suits are virtually all successful because it’s ultra-obvious that discrimination, physical assault, property destruction, and other shit Israel’s wild and crazy haredim routinely do in defense of their way of life is illegal. You just have to file a case against them and you’ll win.

Not that your victory will mean much. Do they pay financial penalties? UD doubts it. Do they change their ways? Well, if you denied the legitimacy of the Israeli state, would you obey directives from its courts?

*****************

El Al airlines, however, is another matter. El Al is not a medieval cult. El Al is a modern corporation which has been kissing the ass of the ultra-orthodox by humiliating the female passengers they refuse to sit next to.

Move it, lady! This guy finds your devil-stench disgusting and you must take your foul carcass away pronto or things will get ugly because he and his friends will stand in the aisle of the plane and refuse to move so we won’t be able to take off until you slink away like the guilty thing you are to whatever seat we can dig up for you..

And listen, hon. It’s really no big deal. It’s not really a humiliation at all. Think of it as like that adorable little genital nick Alan Dershowitz has been all excited about lately. Just an in-flight version of the ritual nick! Just a tickle! Just a very small sacrifice for womanhood and for the larger community!

***************

El Al! Is this the airline whose pilot ended a terrorist takeover of his plane by suddenly throwing it into an unbelievable dive that killed one of the attackers and knocked out the other? And now they can’t stand up to random obnoxious ultra-orthodox?

So 83-year-old Renee decided fuck that – After she was put through this humiliation, she got together with Hoffman and they sued El Al and of course Hoffman just racked up another win because the whole thing is so ultra-bloody-obvious.

************************

The real question now is how long it will be before El Al designates an entirely separate fleet of planes for use by the ultra-orthodox.

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It’s a victory over “the gender segregation that Israel has been battling for more than a decade — all of the attempts by the ultra-Orthodox community to push women out of the public sphere.”

Beach Blanket …

Burqa.

***********

UD thanks Barney.

UD and her friend/colleague/cowriter Jenny just exchanged the news about Bob Dylan in the English department hallway…

… and both admitted that they cried on the metro when they read he’d gotten the prize. Not sure why Jenny cried, but mine were classic Old Hippie tears, as much about my youth as about the greatness of Dylan.

First song to start whirling in my mind? For some reason, Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.

And Don DeLillo? Well, DeLillo’s novel Great Jones Street might have been titled Great Bob Dylan.

*************

Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh, author of “Trainspotting,” decried it as “an ill-conceived nostalgia award” made for “senile, gibbering hippies.”

YES!!

**************

The full quote’s great but has a little less to do with me:

… an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies.

Might have been fairer if Welsh had said:

… an ill conceived nostalgia award dragged from the wrinkled dugs and wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies.

A hugely accomplished woman…

… using her expertise as an economist and her far-ranging speculative intelligence to improve the world, has been stabbed to death.

Molly Macauley, a vice president at the think tank Resources for the Future, was walking her dogs in the evening near her Baltimore home when she was attacked.

Her cv reveals a workaholic, a person profoundly committed to the care of the earth and environs (“No Free Launch: Analysis of Space Transportation Pricing”). An adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins, she was also (among many other responsibilities) on the board of advisors for the William & Mary public policy program.

Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said “her loss is a loss to all of us, whether family and friends, colleagues, or the community in which she lived.” In an email, Pace characterized her as “an incredibly intelligent, energetic, and caring person who brought both warmth and rigor to her profession and the space community. … She combined high personal standards with a willingness to mentor and care for others that is often too rare.”

Professor Avril Henry, whose life work was one of utter delicacy and beauty…

… as she devoted her considerable intelligence and visual skill to the understanding and preservation of England’s medieval heritage, lived alone in a Devon cottage. In retirement, she was active in her town’s affairs, in the continued pursuit of her research, and in the right to die movement.

Because of what she called, in her suicide note, “the illogical, cruel British law” which forbids assisted suicide, once she became too debilitated and ill to want to go on, she had to die an undelicate and ugly death, alone, days after having been harassed by the police for having imported certain lethal drugs.

The note is a model of incision and self-control — and pathos, as she arranges “burial in my orchard” and specifies that she washed the pills down with “a miniature bottle of Cointreau.” Meticulous and courteous to the end, she notes that

If I have fouled the bath in death, please please be kind enough to wash it down: Dettol is provided.

A sad death for a proud, autonomous woman.

*******************

Mary Warnock has written:

When opponents speak of “life being precious”, they forget that life isn’t a kind of stuff, like water, which has an objective value, and which we can be urged not to squander, but to preserve. If a human being has got to the state where her life is hateful to her, no one else can insist it is valuable. It is for her to judge its value.

Warnock also points out that better palliative care, while a solution for some people, would be insupportable for others.

I do not believe that everyone would prefer palliative care. There are those for whom it would be a nightmare and who would prefer death to the drawn-out process of being kept alive and conscious, however kind, attentive and competent their carers.

This is the second right-to-die professor UD has taken note of on this blog. She tends to agree that this is one of the great human rights issues of our time, and she will approach the controversy by following stories about professors who act on their belief that reasonable people deserve the freedom to decide when they have had enough of life.

**********
UD thanks dmf.

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A comment on the religious argument:

The main idea here is the “sanctity of life” — the belief that life is precious and death should never be hastened. I can understand this point of view, but I think it should apply only to believers. Why should the rest of the population be held to this standard?

Zaha Hadid, a Great Architect, Has Died.

There will be plenty of commentary on her difficult work and personality. UD posted about one of her buildings here.

Give, so that others may afford their medicine.

This fall, [Katie] Uva started an online fund-raising campaign to match a $1 million donation from Mr. Shkreli to Hunter in the hope of persuading the school to return the donation. So far, the campaign has raised about $800 from 16 donors.

Back in whenever, UD noted the embarrassing one million dollar donation Martin Shkreli gave his high school, a place affiliated with Hunter College. She asked then if anyone would do anything about it – like return it, or keep it and direct it to anti-Shkreli uses.

The school said and did nothing.

But with Shkreli’s arrest, things are hotting up a bit on that front. The New York Times today features a student (again, note that the moral courage here comes from a student, not the school) who has launched an anti-Shkreli fund-raising campaign.

Giving to that campaign seems to UD an easy and efficient way of responding to the tendency of this country to nurture monsters.

Women’s Liberation.

liberation

A woman casts off her burqa
as she escapes ISIS.

Details here.

—Love, says Bloom. I mean the opposite of hatred.

Ireland says yes.

O Little Infinity!

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.

Neruda’s words in English.

Valentine’s Day 2015.

Charb.

When I got to the scene there were cordons… People didn’t want to tell me he was dead… One of his security guards was killed because he didn’t have time to take out his gun because the terrorists had Kalashnikovs…

I didn’t want to leave; I didn’t want to leave his body…

He died standing. He defended secularism; he defended Voltaire’s spirit… He was executed with his comrades, as he would say; not companions, comrades…”

Jeannette Bougrab, professor of law; and companion, Charb.

Elsa Cayat, a Free Woman, Killed at Charlie Hebdo.

A writer, a psychoanalyst, she’s remembered here by one of her patients.

In her big messy office buried under annotated books and crumpled papers, with a cigarette on her lip and a coffee cup in her hand, and always perched on very high heels, she drew me into hard-hitting therapy sessions that invariably began Sooooooo, tell me


Dans son grand bureau foutoirdesque, croulant sous les livres annotés et les papiers froissés, la clope au bec et un petit noir à la main, toujours perchée sur ses talons vertigineux, elle m’aspirait pour des séances sans concessions qui démarraient invariablement par « Alooooooors, racontez moi… »

Cayat

“[W]hen Hanna’s mother, who was in the middle of a divorce, tried to pay with a credit card, she found that her husband had canceled her credit. As Hanna fought back tears, a saleslady took out scissors and cut up the plastic card. It was not until the law changed two years later that women became entitled to credit without their husbands’ sponsorship…”

“In July 1999, the little girl who had seen her mother’s credit card scissored became a tenured law professor with all the associated stature and job security.”

This blog is authored by the daughter of a suicide – a man who, like Vermont Law School’s Cheryl Hanna, had one of the world’s great jobs (he was a branch chief at NIH who did cancer research) as well as family happiness (Hanna told an interviewer “I was sort of getting to that point in life where it probably wasn’t going to happen… Now I have this crazy family. I thought I was just going to have a career.”) – and University Diaries has from its beginning discussed both particular university suicides and the larger national problem of suicide (most recently Robin Williams’ death has had people thinking about it).

In this nicely written brief review of Hanna’s sad and traumatic youth, and then her socially committed, successful academic career, UD senses the same complex mix of painful early years and strikingly successful adult years that characterized her father’s life. There’s also the same strange onset of a total determination to die (her husband describes “the rapid onset and severity of Hanna’s depression”) on the part of a person everyone recalls as – in the words of a colleague – “a vibrant, enthusiastic person who was fun to be around.”

“People seemed to run out of their own being,” Philip Roth writes in one of his novels, as his character tries to figure out why even people with what look like great lives kill themselves. It is an odd thought – that just as each of us is given a physical life of a certain length, so each of us has a — call it a spiritual allotment…

Maryam Mirzakhani…

challenging the Summers model.

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