“Where’s The Moon? I Don’t See The Moon!” Or, Mathematics To The Rescue

I was dragging myself up the stairs of Founders Hall.  The cement steps and barren walls reflected the darkness of the time ahead.  For, my next class was Speech Communication with Professor B.  I was not doing well in the course.  As my current lady would say:  “You’re going down, down, down!”  And so I was.  But perhaps, I should tell you something about Miss B and how I got into trouble.

Miss B was a tall, wiry lady with sharp, unforgiving eyes and a total lack of manners.  We didn’t get along from the start.  I remember her saying with a sarcastic tone:  “Look at that!  A little boy wearing his tennies!”  She was frank, if nothing else.  And when I tried to act out a favorite childhood verse, she would yell out:  “Where’s the moon?  I don’t see the moon!”  At the time, that comment stunned and hurt me, because I was quite fond of the verse I was interpreting.  Later, Professor B told me that the only thing that could save me was the final, which was a monologue of at least ten minutes.  I thought and thought about possible selections.  I knew if I picked something well-known I could be compared with the greatest and I’d come up way short.  Fortunately, at that time, I was reading some wonderful mathematical stories from Clifton Fadiman’s Fantasia Mathematica.  Bruce Elliot’s story, “The Last Magician” really appealed to me.  The main character was an old man who was fond of a magician’s helper and commits murder because of the cruel way the magician treats her when a futurist society has condemned her to death for misceganation(She was Martian and became pregnant by the magician from Earth).  So, the story had intrigue, action build-up and the main character was an old man.  And, growing up next door to my Dad’s parents, I knew my Grandpa Johnny quite well, so I thought I could act out the part with some accuracy.  Also, the story dealt with the magician trying to escape from a supposedly real Klein bottle

Attempt to picture a Klein bottle, a three dimensional surface that has only one side, which is impossible.

An attempt at constructing a Klein bottle, a three dimensional surface that has only one side, which is impossible.

and was mathematical in nature, so probably few, if any, people had seen it performed.  When I thought about all the advantages, I thought it would be an excellent choice for a monologue.  I would need to trim some parts, though.

Finally, the long-awaited day arrived.  Everyone was busy rehearsing their lines and trying to get into character.  Wouldn’t you know it?  I was the first person Miss B called on.  I knew if I wanted to do well, I was going to have to become an old man in every way.  I tried hard to imagine my Grandpa Johnny and become him.  I tried to walk with difficulty, struggle to get some of my words out and look confused.  And as I reached the podium, the words did come out.  “The harder he worked the worse he treated Aydah…  It seemed as if every time I turned around I’d find her hiding in some corner, crying… I knew she would have to die.  That was why I had pressed the button that switched the bottles the first time, before she ever did…  I guess I must be getting old;  lately I’ve taken to wondering about King Solomon.  He knew so much, I wonder if he knew about Klein bottles…”  Then, a loud applause.

“Well, Bob just disappeared!  A feeble old man replaced him!”  Professor B’s eyes sparkled with admiration and respect.   Mathematics had come to the rescue.



Something To Think About: A Filipina Secret: “Tossing The Dog”

The Philippines are a series of small islands dotting the Pacific Ocean.  Its people are predominantly Roman Catholic, except for the Muslim population of the southern-most island, Mindanao.  Therefore, divorce is not recognized and annulment is prohibitively expensive.  A Filipina’s main weapon in an unhappy and troubled relationship is “tampo”(“the silent treatment”), which can last for hours and even days.  During “tampo”, the Filipina’s soft facial features turn to stone and her eyes stare out with a cold ferocity.  But there are times when even “tampo” does not work, and if a Filipina does not have sufficient funds for an annulment, and since divorce is not accepted, it would appear that she is stuck in a miserable relationship for life.  But Filipinas are known for their tenaciousness in solving problems, so they came up with “tossing the dog” as a permanent solution to this disturbing problem.

Filipinos are known for their close, extended family relationships.  Thus, there are always a lot of relatives to assist a Filipina in a time of despair.  Making use of this fact, the Filipina always has other Filipinas to rely on when she needs to “toss the dog”.  “Tossing the dog”  is certainly a last resort, but is used more often than one might expect.  Briefly, it consists of this:  Late at night when the unsuspecting offender is in a deep sleep, a group of the Filipina’s female relatives creep up to the offender’s room.  By applying a cloth with a knock-out chemical to his nose, the Filipinas ensure that he continues to live in the land of dreams.  They then bind him with strong coiled rope and put him in a vehicle, parked conveniently near his home.  Then, they drive the unfortunate man to Pangitka Bay.  There, like looming shadows of the night, using their combined strength, they carry the offender up a rocky cliff.  When they reach the top, they give out tribal screeches and curses and “toss the dog” into the shark-infested waters of Pangitka Bay.  The offender is never seen again and his disappearance is called an unfortunate accident.  Thus, the ingenuity of the Filipina overcomes a persistent obstacle and she is at last free to breathe the air of joy and freedom.