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Lobachevsky -- Tom Lehrer

Guest poem sent in by Matt Chanoff
(Poem #1316) Lobachevsky
 Who made me the genius I am today,
 The mathematician that others all quote,
 Who's the professor that made me that way?
 The greatest that ever got chalk on his coat.

 One man deserves the credit,
 One man deserves the blame,
 and Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.  Oy!
 Nicolai Ivanovich Lobache...

 I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
 In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize!

 Plagiarize,
 Let no one else's work evade your eyes,
 Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
 So don't shade your eyes,
 But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize...
 Only be sure always to call it please "research".

 And ever since I meet this man my life is not the same,
 And Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.  Oy!
 Nicolai Ivanovich Lobache...

 I am never forget the day I am given first original paper to write.  It
 was on analytic and algebraic topology of locally Euclidean metrization
 of infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifold.
 Bozhe moi!
 This I know from nothing.
 But I think of great Lobachevsky and I get idea - haha!

 I have a friend in Minsk,
 Who has a friend in Pinsk,
 Whose friend in Omsk
 Has friend in Tomsk
 With friend in Akmolinsk.
 His friend in Alexandrovsk
 Has friend in Petropavlovsk,
 Whose friend somehow
 Is solving now
 The problem in Dnepropetrovsk.

 And when his work is done -
 Haha! - begins the fun.
 From Dnepropetrovsk
 To Petropavlovsk,
 By way of Iliysk,
 And Novorossiysk,
 To Alexandrovsk to Akmolinsk
 To Tomsk to Omsk
 To Pinsk to Minsk
 To me the news will run,
 Yes, to me the news will run!

 And then I write
 By morning, night,
 And afternoon,
 And pretty soon
 My name in Dnepropetrovsk is cursed,
 When he finds out I published first!

 And who made me a big success
 And brought me wealth and fame?
 Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.  Oy!
 Nicolai Ivanovich Lobache...

 I am never forget the day my first book is published.
 Every chapter I stole from somewhere else.
 Index I copy from old Vladivostok telephone directory.
 This book, this book was sensational!
 Pravda - ah, Pravda - Pravda said: (Russian double-talk)
 It stinks.
 But Izvestia!  Izvestia said: (Russian double-talk)
 It stinks.
 Metro-Goldwyn-Moskva bought the movie rights for six million rubles,
 Changing title to 'The Eternal Triangle',
 With Brigitte Bardot playing part of hypotenuse.

 And who deserves the credit?
 And who deserves the blame?
 Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.
 Oy!
-- Tom Lehrer
This current mathematical theme made me think that it's time once again for
Minstrels to put out something by the great Tom Lehrer.  The following was
referred to in the commentary on Lehrer's one previous appearance, Poem #490,
The Elements. The Elements is more interesting poetically, but on the
other hand, this one is funnier.  Attached to #490 you can also find links
for info on this peculiar genius, who, three decades after he stopped
performing publically, still leaves us wanting more.

Matt Chanoff

[Martin adds]

This one really, really, really needs to be listened to to be fully
appreciated. It's not just the music - the performance is sidesplittingly
funny, and maintains the mix of patter and singing most impressively.
Luckily for the current generation, Lehrer's works have been recenely
reissued in a three CD box set titled "The Remains of Tom Lehrer". Highly
recommended.

martin

46 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

nick blackburn said...

Poisoning Pigeons is even better:

All the world seems in tune
On a Spring afternoon
When we're poisoning pigeons in the park

And maybe we'll do in
A squirrel or two
When we're poisoning pigeons in the park

We'll murder them all
Amid laughter and merriment
Apart from the few we take home to experiment.

etc.

Cheers

Nick

nick blackburn said...

p.s. whatever happened to my Snap Dragon collection?

I spent hours on that.

Nick

Manu Varma said...

I listened to a version of the song just now. Amazing stuff.

Just a note - the actress mentioned in the version I am listening to is
Ingrid Bergman and nor Bridget Bardot.

mnu.

Ruth Temple said...

Tom Lehrer is still teaching math at UC Santa Cruz, and apparently also has
given a seminar on contemporary American satire, admission to which is by
audition!

best
Ruth Temple

Martin DeMello said...

"There is more connection between geographical place-names and poetical
inspiration than is generally recognized; one of the chief reasons why there
are so few really great poems about Russia in our language is that you can't
possibly get a rhyme to names like Smolensk and Tobolsk and Minsk."

Clovis spoke with the authority of one who has tried.

"Of course, you could rhyme Omsk with Tomsk," he continued; "in fact, they seem
to be there for that purpose, but the public wouldn't stand that sort of thing
indefinitely."

-- Saki, "The Recessional"

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