Twofish's Blog

September 2, 2006


Filed under: hitchcock, movie, personal, Wife — twofish @ 3:08 am

I was reading some analysis of the movie Vertigo, which I saw a long time ago. There are a few things that I noticed that most analysis miss about the Jimmy Stewart character Scottie. The first is the use of names. People refer to Scottie as Johnny-O, John, or Scottie, and it is very significant how each character refers to him. There is a long scene in which Mandeline finally refers to him as John, and it is interesting that the Judy character refers to him as Scottie.

The second thing that people don’t point out is that Scottie seems to be very wealthy for a police officers. He has money that seems to allow him to leave a comfortable life without working. He has a very wealthy college friend. And then there is the weird relationship between the two/three women, Midge, Madeline, and Judy. The curious thing is that Madeline is in many senses a total ghost. We know absolutely nothing at all about the real Madeline Ester and the only thing that we see is Madeline through Scottie’s eyes.

The other thing that I haven’t seen in any literary analysis is what must be going through Scottie’s mind at the end of the movie. I think what should be there is “should I jump?” (There is epilogue usually unseen where Scottie ends up in Midge’s apartment looking outside the window which serve as a bookend for the story.)

The thing about Vertigo is that it opens up the entire question of what is real and what is illusion. Death is real, but love exists in that tenuous state between what is real and what is imagined.

The other thing is that the first scene with Midge and Scotty seens quite normal, domestic, and cheerful with well adjusted people talking about well-adjusted things, behaving rationally. It doesn’t take too long before everything falls apart and the normal people aren’t quite as normal as they first seem.

One other connection. There are a lot of connections between the movie Vertigo and the movie Bladerunner. The first scene of Vertigo is very similar to one of the last scenes of Bladerunner, and there are some interesting connections in the notion of “invented women.”

Also, I first saw Barbara Bel Geddes in the television series Dallas. One of the things that I find interesting is to look at how an actress ages. Barbara Bel Geddes in 1958 versus Barbara Bel Geddes in 1978, or Diana Rigg in 1965 versus Diana Rigg in 2006. Something that is interesting to think about is that all movies are merely a small fragment on someone’s live. It will be interesting to think about (assuming he doesn’t jump) and Scottie and Midge will be like in five or ten years after this incident.

One final mystery, I’ll leave you to ponder. What am I really talking about?

July 27, 2006

Marriage, school, and 19th century China

Filed under: academia, china, father, history, Wife — twofish @ 11:50 am

One of the fun things about reading is that you learn a lot of interesting things that bring up questions. One useful question that I’ve found is to ask “so where did this idea come from anyway?” For example, it would be interesting for someone to do a paper (or point me to one) that talks about the idea that the “personal” and the “professional” should be separate just like the “science” and the “humanities” should be separate. I have a feeling that a lot of these ideas come from Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” which talks about specialization. However, there is probably a lot more to that than this.

Also, what are the historical roots of current ideas on dating, relationships, and marriage?

Anyway, I lot of what I went through at MIT and what I’m going through now, make a lot more sense now that I’ve read “Education and Society in Late Imperial China, 1600-1900” and its chapter on “The Education of Daughters in the Mid-Qing.” There is this paragraph….

In addition, the ideal of woman-as-scholar—popularized in the opera that retold the story of Chu Ying-t’ai—conflated scholarship and romance, and held out the possibility, very much alive during the Ch’ing period, of a companionate marriage that included intellectual exchange and shared aesthetic experiences as well as household management and reproduction. So fathers interested in educated women were also concerned about wives for their sons and husbands for their daughters: a good education for one’s child, regardless of gender, was a key to successful matchmaking in the upper classes.

Oh…. So now I get it. Something else, if you take the ideal of “woman as nuturer” to its conclusion, then you don’t end up with a Chinese woman in engineering or physics, you end up with them in biology and/or early childhood education. Hmmmmmm…..

July 26, 2006

Becoming a Ph.D.

Communication is difficult when you are talking to people with different backgrounds.

For example, what does being a Ph.D. mean?  People aren’t Ph.D.’s assume that it’s just a like a masters or undergraduate degree, where you go through the factory assembly line and come out at the other end with a piece of paper that gets you some money and prizes.

But that’s not the case.  You don’t *get* a Ph.D., you *become* a Ph.D.  If you have a Ph.D., it’s not a statement about a piece of paper or certification, it’s a statement about who you are, what you have seen, and how you look at the world.  The certification really doesn’t matter much.  My degree is almost useless as a ticket for money and prizes, but it is a statement about who I am and what I’ve seen.  If you want to erase my degree, go ahead, I don’t think it matters that much.

Being a Ph.D. affects all of my relationships.  It affected who I married, and what my children are like.  I can’t separate my “work life” or my “school life” from my “personal life.”  As you can see, being a Ph.D. affects my feeling toward other people, and it’s part of my marriage.  My wife is a Ph.D. candidate in early childhood education.  An essential part of our marriage involves professional collaboration and respect.  I learn about educational theory from her.  She uses me as a peer briefer to look over her data.  We’ve created more together than children, we’ve created some new insights as to how the world works.  (See next year when her dissertation comes out.)  The professional collaboration I have with my wife is part of our love, it’s part of our marriage, it’s part of how we are, and it’s something that people on the outside of academia don’t quite understand.

Let me give you an example of how bizarre my world might seem to someone who isn’t living in it.  Right now I’m studying the dynamics of volatility smiles.  I’m getting any grades or certifications from this.  I’m not taking any formal courses.  I’m just reading and learning.  Now the stuff I’m reading is also stuff that MFE’s can read, but suppose some were to tell me that the obstensible purpose for what I’m reading is “useless.”  In other words, someone tells me that I’m destined not to have a job on Wall Street.

I….  wouldn’t…. care……

If it turns out that it is *impossible* for me to make any money on what I’m studying.  I’d still study it about as hard.  Because it is interesting.  It’s cool math.  It challenges my mind.  It makes me a better person when I understand how foreign exchange volatility smiles work.  And in my life, the important thing isn’t destination, it’s the journey.  When I think I understand something, my first reaction is to go and find something new that I don’t understand.  When I seem to have mastered a skill, I go and find something I’m incompetent at.
None of that has anything to do with whether or not I become a quant or not, and it’s really hard to explain to headhunters and HR people.

Blog at