Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Syzygy and The Dark Crystal

Today in Topics in Algebra, my professor, a Welschman whom I believe to be an alcoholic and one of the most engaging speakers I've had the pleasure of experiencing, used the word syzygy.  That's the kind of word that makes you stop slinging poo, cock your head to the side, and pay attention.  Siz-uh-gee.  It has a nice ring to it, not to mention the awesome spelling.   

In the context of the class, the word refers to a relation between generators of a module.  Normally, we just use "relation", regardless of whether the creature we're studying is a module or a group, but the word was coined to distinguish between modules and groups.  What does all that mean?  Well, it isn't really important if you aren't a mathematician, and let's face it, if you aren't you probably skimmed over this paragraph. 

The more common use of the word is in the realm of Astronomy, where the word refers to an alignment of three celestial bodies, a conjunction.  I don't know about you, but when I see or hear the word "conjunction," the first thing, the very first thing, that pops into my mind is Jen ramming a shard into the dark crystal.  Second, I see Aughra's whirling orrery in her observatory. 

I LOVE that movie, a freaking masterpiece of Jim Henson's that you simply cannot fully appreciate if you didn't see it as a child.  Of course, you can appreciate the fact that not a single human or puppeteer is visible in any part of the film.  You can stand (or sit) in awe of  Brian Froud's stunning work (he drew all the art that became the characters, critters, and contraptions for this movie and The Labyrinth).  You can be stunned and overwhelmed by the beauty of the sets and the story.  But, if you didn't see it as a child, you don't feel that magic.  You don't fear the violence, anger, and corruption of the Skeksis.  You don't respect the peaceful, nurturing urRu.  Your eyes don't pop wide open with wonder and longing when you see Kira's wings, and you don't cry when she sacrifices herself for Jen and their world. You would probably still laugh at Fizzgig though.  Damn.  Now, I need to go watch it.  Not want.  Need.

If you love the movie as much as I do, check out the book THE WORLD OF THE DARK CRYSTAL (cover art shown).  It contains all of Brian Froud's sketches for the characters, new art, full backstory and mythology for the world, and production notes for the movie.  It is one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen, much less purchased.

Oh, and third, I sing "Conjunction Junction, what's your function?" 

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