Fun_People Archive
18 Aug
La Boite Bleue

Date: Thu, 18 Aug 94 14:04:41 PDT
To: Fun_People
Subject: La Boite Bleue

[Recent discoveries of unarguably authentic documents have shown that the
impressionists, not content with their formative influence on Cajun music (see
"The Impressionist Two-Step" by Hansen & Wagner), appear also to have been in
the programming vanguard for many years...  -psl] 

Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Forwarded-by: (Andrew Cherenson)
Forwarded-by: (Paul Haeberli)
Forwarded-by: Jeff Piazza <>
Forwarded-by: Alan Bawden <>
Forwarded-by: (Willian A Rennie)

                               La Boite Bleue

                         translated from the memoirs of
                              Jean Turing-VonNeuman
                a minor 19th century post-impressionist programer

             I will never forget that Spring, that day.  Paris had an air 
        of revolution.  The week before an exhibition of Seraut's 
        listings had caused a sensation.  In his unrelenting quest for 
        simplicity he had reduced all of programming to three machine 
        instructions.  The resulting 6,000 line bubble sort had shocked 
        the critics.

             My own recent efforts had been received poorly.  I had cut 
        and slashed through my programs, juxtaposing blocks of code in a 
        way that exposed the underlying intensity of the algorithm 
        without regard to convention or syntax.
             "But it doesn't compile.", they complained.
             As if programming was about adhering to their primitive 
        language definitions.  As if it was my duty to live within the 
        limits of their antiquated and ordinary compilers.
             So it was that I came that day to La Boite Bleue, seeking 
        solace and companionship.

             La Boite Bleue was where we gathered in those days. The wine 
        there was cheap, the tables were large and they kept a complete 
        set of language manuals behind the bar.
             As I entered I heard Henri's measured accents above the din.
             "...that complexity is not the salient characteristic of 
        exemplary style."
             Toulouse-Lautrec was seated at a table spread with greenbar.
        Manet, redfaced, loomed over him.
             "Damn your recursion, Henri.  Iteration, however complex,
        is always more efficient."
             Manet stormed away from the table in the direction of the 
        bar.  He always seemed angry at that time.  Partly because his 
        refusal to write in anything but FORTRAN isolated him from the 
        rest of the Avant-Guarde, partly because people kept confusing 
        him with Monet.
             Henri motioned to me to join him at the table.
             "Have you heard from Vincent recently?"

             We were all concerned about Van Gogh.  Only a few days 
        before he had completed an order n sorting routine that required 
        no additional memory.  Unfortunately, because he had written it in 
        C and refused, on principle, to comment his code, no one had 
        understood a line of it.  He had not taken it well.

             "No. Why?", I replied.
             "He and Gaugin had a violent argument last night over 
        whether a side effect should be considered output and he hasn't 
        been seen since.  I fear he may have done something ... rash."

             We were suddenly interrupted by the waitress's terrified 
        scream.  I turned in time to see something fall from the open 
        envelope she held in her hand.  Stooping to retrieve it, I was 
        seized by a wave of revulsion as I recognized that the object in 
        my hand, bestially torn from its accustomed place, was the mouse 
        from Van Gogh's workstation.  The waitress, who had fainted, lay 
        in an unnoticed heap beside me.

             By the evening, the incident had become the talk of Paris.

[=] © 1994 Peter Langston []