For many years now, Mr. Danny Kaye, who has been my particular idol since childbirth, has been doing a routine about the great Russian director Stanislavsky1 and the secret of success in the acting profession. And I thought it would be interesting to ste... to adapt this idea to the field of mathematics. I always like to make explicit the fact that before I went off not too long ago to fight in the trenches, I was a mathematician by profession. I don't like people to get the idea that I have to do this for a living. I mean, it isn't as though I had to do this, you know, I could be making, oh, 3000 dollars a year, just teaching.
Be that as it may, some of you may have had occasion to run into mathematicians and to wonder therefore how they got that way, and here, in partial explanation perhaps, is the story of the great Russian mathematician Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky.2
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.3 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!4 Pravda - ah, Pravda - Pravda said: "Zhil byl korol' kogda-to, Pri njom blokha zhila" ("It stinks"). 5 But Izvestia! Izvestia said: "Ya idu kuda sam tzar' peshkom hodil" ("It stinks"). 6 Metro-Goldwyn-Moskva bought the movie rights for six million rubles, Changing title to 'The Eternal Triangle', With Brigitte Bardot playing part of hypotenuse.7 And who deserves the credit? And who deserves the blame? Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name. Oy!
1 For comparison purposes, here are the lyrics and patter to Stanislavsky:
by Danny Kaye
Transcribed from The Jack Benny Show, May 28, 1944
BENNY: Stanislavsky? KAYE: Why of course, his method is famous all over the world. BENNY: It is? KAYE: Of course it is, let me give you a picture of one of his disciples. [Music] Who is the world's greatest actor? And how did I get that way? Who made me a genius, the greatest projector [?] who ever wore a toupee? Who made me most miserable Hamlet, the deadest Romeo who died for his bride? Who made me most awful Dr. Jekyll? And then made me Hyde? Staaaaanislavsky! Stanislavsky of the Moskia Theater, Stanlislavsky, a director from the heart! I will never forget the day I first meet the great master. He took me by the hand. And BEAT... my HEAD... AGAINST... the WALL! And in one word... In one word he told me the secret of the great Stanislavsky Method: SUFFER! That's all. Suffer! You must live before you give! Suffer! You must ache before you make! Suffer! You must think before you stink! Suffer! Suffer! Suffer, suffer, suffer, suffer, SUFFER! Hello. Suffer, and the audience suffers with you. Staaaaanislavsky! Stanis... I will never forget the day They give me first part to play. I'm supposed to play part of sail. But first I must SUFFER! What... I'm going... to do? I join navy, become sailor. First day out, BEEEEG storm! At first I was afraid I was going to die! Then I was afraid... I wasn't going to die! But I suffered! I came back to Moskva and in this part I was Wow! Here is what the great critic, Georginya Sasha Vladimir Nathan say: [string of to-me unintelligible Russian] "Just like in America, three and a half stars." So if you want career on stage, you mustn't dream of merely acting. Use the Stanislavsky Method of Mental Chiropractic. Be a tree, be a sled, Be a fearful [?] spool of thread. Be a storm, a piece of lace, A subway train, an empty space. Take it fast, take it slow, Hello Moe, Hello Joe, I just got back from a wonderful show! Staaaaanislavsky! Stanis... I will never forget the day Louella Parsons said I steenk. I wsa playing part of stable boy. It was in great Russian tragedy. It was beautiful. Everybody died. I also play part in great Russian comedy. Hee, hee, hee. Everybody died. But they died happy! This makes it funny. But I will never forget the day of my greatest triumph. I was playing part of antique mahogany bureau. So convincing in the third act... My drawers fell out. And who is the man who loosened my screws? Who pulled me all apart? Stanlislavsky! Stanislavsky of the Moskiaaaaaaaa! BENNY: Danny. Danny, that was great. I'll find room for that in my picture if I have to cut myself out of one scene.
2 Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky; 1793-1856
3In the studio recording these two lines are slightly different:
This I know from nothing. What I'm going to do?
I think of great Lobachevsky and I get idea - haha!
4In the studio recording these three lines are slightly different:
This book was sensational!
Pravda, ha, well Pravda says:
5Translation: "Once upon a time a king had a pet flea", the first line of Mephistopheles' Song of the Flea by Modest Petrovich Musorgsky (1839-1881). -- [contributed by Dmitry Ostrovsky]
6 Translation: "I should go where the tzar himself has walked", a slang phrase meaning "I should go to the toilet". -- [contributed by Dmitry Ostrovsky]
7 In the studio recording the part of the hypotenuse was played by Ingrid Bergman
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