Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios

2017-Sommerfrische: Der Berg und der Strand rufen

 

Follow-up.

 

Chiastic Rhetorical Devices: “Shakespeare's Symmetries: The Mirrored Structure of Action in the Plays” by James E. Ryan

Shakespeare's Symmetries: The Mirrored Structure of Action in the Plays - James E. Ryan

“MALVOLIO

M, O, A, I; this simulation is not as the former: and

yet, to crush this a little, it would bow to me, for

every one of these letters are in my name. Soft!

here follows prose.

Reads

 

'If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I

am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some

are born great, some achieve greatness, and some

have greatness thrust upon 'em. Thy Fates open

their hands; let thy blood and spirit embrace them;

and, to inure thyself to what thou art like to be,

cast thy humble slough and appear fresh. Be

opposite with a kinsman, surly with servants; let

thy tongue tang arguments of state; put thyself into

the trick of singularity: she thus advises thee

that sighs for thee. Remember who commended thy

yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever

cross-gartered: I say, remember. Go to, thou art

made, if thou desirest to be so; if not, let me see

thee a steward still, the fellow of servants, and

not worthy to touch Fortune's fingers. Farewell.

She that would alter services with thee,

THE FORTUNATE-UNHAPPY.'

Daylight and champaign discovers not more: this is

open. I will be proud, I will read politic authors,

I will baffle Sir Toby, I will wash off gross

acquaintance, I will be point-devise the very man.

I do not now fool myself, to let imagination jade

me; for every reason excites to this, that my lady

loves me. She did commend my yellow stockings of

late, she did praise my leg being cross-gartered;

and in this she manifests herself to my love, and

with a kind of injunction drives me to these habits

of her liking. I thank my stars I am happy. I will

be strange, stout, in yellow stockings, and

cross-gartered, even with the swiftness of putting

  1. Jove and my stars be praised! Here is yet a

postscript.

Reads

 

'Thou canst not choose but know who I am. If thou

entertainest my love, let it appear in thy smiling;

thy smiles become thee well; therefore in my

presence still smile, dear my sweet, I prithee.'

Jove, I thank thee: I will smile; I will do

everything that thou wilt have me.

Exit”

 

In “Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare

 

“Chiasmus – a mirror pattern in which key elements are repeated in reverse order, either with or without an unrepeated central element (ABCBA or ABBA) – is a common organizing principle, employed both rhetorically and structurally. [..] the best-known episodes in Shakespeare’s plays, such as Malvolio’s tortured reading of Maria’s letter in ‘Twelfth Night’, are structurally emphasized in this way.”

 

In “Shakespeare's Symmetries” by James E. Ryan

 

Dear, darling Shakespeare! How long is it, how many times hath Phoebus' cart gone round Neptune's salt wash, since you gave us the bad news of your imminent demise? I have been seated here those many years, tearing, fearing, lest, at any moment I should receive the grim testimony of some ugly, unwanted newshound. But, of course, you can never die, dear heart! You have bequeathed us a canon of literary and televisual wisdom like no other, such as would take any man a lifetime to dissect and absorb. And I believe you are working on yet another volume of pretty words, of poetry. Hurry it along, Shakespeare, for I am keen to drink in thy paroles!   

 

 

If you're into Shakespeare, read on.

There Are no Golden Ages: "New Maps of Hell" by Kingsley Amis

New Maps Of Hell: A Survey Of Science Fiction - Kingsley Amis

“No wife who finds her husband addicting himself to science fiction need fear that he is in search of an erotic outlet, anyway not an overt one.”

 

In "New Maps of Hell" by Kingsley Amis

 

To put it in another context, imagine I'd be teaching F. Scott Fitzgerald to undergraduates, some of whom would be of African descent. Do we look at the casual racism found in the books and say "that's wrong?" No, we assume that everyone "gets" that it's wrong. But we look at the fact that this was considered normal/acceptable in F. Scott's day. He's still a magnificent writer, but he reflects his own era. Scott’s similar to Amis. His attitude to women is a reflection of the times. We can't shy away from that and pretend it isn't so, and we can't negate him as a writer, because of it.

 

Imagine yourself living in Lisbon as a young woman; wouldn’t you dread the endless comments, abuse, physical assaults that were part of your everyday experience. Maybe this young woman dreamt of buying an electric cattle prod and zapping those who threatened her. But it was the times in which they lived back then. Women had no rights in the 60s. The literature of the times, reflected that. Shall we zap Amis with a cattle prod for being a man of his time? No. First of all, I believe that all good books, whether niche or mainstream or somewhere in-between, must have an implicit message they are trying to put across, which should stick out almost like a sore thumb. That said, I in no way think this should make books programmatic. Writing a novel with the sole purpose of creating a text more politically correct than anything that has ever been written might take away, all at once, all the drama and conflict that all good novels - needless to say, I am merely expressing my own point of view here - play with to a certain extent. Secondly, SF (fantasy and science-fiction), possibly more so than any other genre, and even at their most mechanically chlichéd, are written and read not simply for "idle entertainment", but as a platform for escapism. And "entertainment" and "escapism" are definitely not the same thing. Sure, escapism includes enjoyment, but there are many other elements to it as well. 

 

 

If you're into SF Criticism, read on.

Micro-Fiction, Text 012: "Go Team Portugal!" by MySelfie

 

Here.

Progressive Rock SF: "Devices and Desires" by K. J. Parker

Devices and Desires - K.J. Parker

When Tom Holt uses his K. J. Parker heteronym, at his best, is a very good genre writer: which is not to say that genre writers can't be as good as (if not better than) their literary counterparts - but they have not been taken as seriously, which is true even now. I must admit I found Gene Wolfe's work to be good too, rather than something to be proselytised for, or raved about. Moorcock's essay "Epic Pooh" is a good analysis in some respects (though perhaps influenced by Terry Eagleton et al, and Marxist Lit-Crit in general) and admits the fact the LOTR writing is at least accomplished. Of Moorcock's work "The Dancers at the End of Time" series is both funny and readable and "The Condition of Muzak" to me seems still his best. Folk finding Peake to be overwritten just proves what sort of literary world we now inhabit: Orwell's plain English has come back to bite us on our collective arse, and we can no longer cope with sentences with sub clauses, or paragraphs full of metaphor via elision. Oh, well. It's just that when folk write stuff like "The Book of the New Sun" is the best fantasy ever written, I must assume that they haven't read much to compare it to, genre fantasy or otherwise.  No doubt all shall be well in the ground of our beseeching, if that's the phrase I'm stretching for. 

 

 

If you're into SF, read on.

 

 

Perambulations

The Quest for Immortality, variant no. 843: “A Calculated Life” by Anne Charnock

By Anne Charnock - A Calculated Life (Paperback) (2013-10-09) [Paperback] - Anne Charnock

“’That’s the heart of the problem. I haven’t lived enough. My character is just the combination of my intellect and my faults. I haven’t had time to become more complex, more interesting. […] I’m not sure if you realize this but without my flaws I’d be pretty dull. You should know that.’”

 

In “A Calculated Life” by Anne Charnock

 

 

For the sake of argument let me be devil’s advocate.

 

The scientific materialist assumption is that the body is the primary organ and consciousness is secondary. This is not so; consciousness is the primary experience and the body and all other experiences are secondary. The body is a construct of consciousness. Forward thinking scientists are just beginning to realise this. Man might be able to prolong life but a 'machine' existence will never happen because the 'reality' of phenomenal existence is simultaneously 'real' and 'not real'. People, including scientists tend to see everything in terms of being a binary system. Yes/no, off/on, is/isn't, 0/1, true /untrue. Reality is not that simplistic. Mm, that's some good pseudo bullshit. Preventing aging is almost certainly more achievable soon than consciousness transfer, but ultimately the latter offers greater security and opportunity. Immortal DNA is all very well, until you suffer catastrophic injury or brain damage. With transferable consciousness, you get the immortality, along with the option to backup and restore in the event of a fatal accident, as well as the ability to travel at light-speed as a digital signal to be reawakened on arrival. And that's before we even get into the idea of truly inhabiting the virtual world as digital consciousness. With an infinitesimal fraction of the earth's current energy use, you could have untold trillions living in a virtual utopia, with a near infinite diversity of cultures, worlds and lifestyles. Nevertheless, is it misleading to talk about 'transferable' consciousness? What would be uploaded would be a facsimile of your consciousness. As far as the exterior world, interacting with the facsimile, would be concerned it would be you. However, it would actually be a totally new instance of you, with no continuity of your original consciousness. It's what's always troubled me about the idea of Star Trek-type teleportation - the thought that disintegrating someone in one place and then reassembling them in another, would effectively mean the death of the original, internally-experienced consciousness (although nobody else would notice or care!). 

 

 

If you're into SF, read on.

Mathematical Artifacts: "Shakespeare and Co.: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher and the Other Players in His Story" by Stanley Wells

Shakespeare & Co.: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher and the Other Players in His Story by Stanley Wells (2008-03-18) - Stanley Wells

As a Shakespeare dilettante, I find some of the attributions regarding collaborations slightly worrying. I'm not quite sure why this has been worthy of research. One of the more risible of 'evidence' put forward, I forget where, was that Middleton was co-author of “All's Well That Ends Well” (incidentally Wells also professes this attribution). The argument was: 'As an example, the word "ruttish" appears in the play, meaning lustful - and its only other usage at that time is in a work by Middleton' or something to that effect. So, creative writers are supposed never to have used a word only once in their entire oeuvre? This is quite typical of academics who have no idea how creative writers - and particularly dramatists - work. But the most preposterous of all must surely be their citing of the stage direction 'all': '"All" (preferred by Middleton) only occurs twice in the Folio - both times in All’s Well.' Playwrights were writing their plays on the hoof to impossible deadlines. Stylometric analysis is a method which has been seriously challenged and is evidently flawed because it takes no account of how writers write. Only a few obsessives really care, those of us who can bring ourselves to watch Shakespeare, generally just enjoy and don't really worry about whether he might have had assistance from this or that writer. We know he collaborated as a matter of habit, so one for the historians to mull over, the rest of us will focus on what is best, the often-astounding dialogue...

 

Statistics is a very dangerous tool for someone to use who is not experienced with the kind of mathematical artifacts which can be produced in complex analyses. It is VERY easy to amend the modelling parameters slightly to produce the answer you are hoping for, and few people will ever delve into the workings of a complex statistical algorithm to see whether the weights put on different variables are justifiable or not. In practice, skilled English professors are not going to have the mathematical experience to challenge the findings.

 

 

If you're into Shakespeare, read on.

The Wars of Academia: "Shakespeare’s Modern Collaborators” by Lukas Erne

Shakespeare's Modern Collaborators - Lukas Erne

“An example of Taylor’s creative approach to emendation in his edition of ‘PericIes’ in the Oxford Complete Works, which contains a number of passages rewritten by the editor with the help of the novella ‘The Painfull Adventures of Pericles Prince of Tyre”, by Shakespeare’s collaborator George Wilkins.”

 

In “Shakespeare’s Modern Collaborators” by Lukas Erne

 

Right! Gary Taylor is one hell of a creative editor of Shakespeare. As the Oxford Shakespeare editor, he is an iconoclastic who just loves to chip away at the national bard. The problem is that disintegration of the authorship of the Shakespearean texts is nothing new, and older theories have been exploded or superseded by newer theories.

 

For instance, Shakespeare's contribution to “Henry VI Part 1” was once seen by almost all editors to have no more than apprentice work, retouching the work of older playwrights such as Nashe, Greene, and Peele. Tillyard in 1942 may have been the first modern editor to attribute the play entirely to Shakespeare, but John Dover Wilson in 1952 was equally adamant in assigning the work mostly to Nashe. Modern editors, not incidentally having discovered that the work is actually a lot better than traditionally thought, have tended to reassign the play to Shakespeare. Naturally, Taylor is an exception.

 

 

If you're into Shakespeare, read on.

Best of my blog: 11 years, 630 posts, and 137K hits later

 

10 years are a goner... Now it's time for the best of my blog: 11 years, 630 posts, and 137 K hits later.
 
Blogging is the one thing in life I did before it went mainstream in 2004 (the blog you're reading exists since 04.08.2006; before that I'd two other blogs: the first in 2004, in Portuguese, no longer exists; the second, in German, still exists). I can’t say that about anything else at all. In fact, I’m usually behind the times, but blogging — blogging is something I loved the minute I found out about it.
 
If you're into stuff like this, read on (some of my favourite posts)

Downbeat and Offbeat Fiction: “The Shadow Year” by Jeffrey Ford

The Shadow Year: A Novel - Jeffrey Ford

"Her small stature, dark, and wrinkled complexion, and the silken black strands at the corners of her upper lip made her seem to me at times like some ancient monkey king. When she’d fart while standing, she’d kick her left leg up in the back and say: ‘Shoot him in the pants. The Coat and vest are mine.’”

 

In “The Shadow Year” by Jeffrey Ford

 

The world-wide craze for superheroes is obvious. We all see ourselves as passive victims and don't expect to rescue ourselves.

 

There's also the national craze for vampires and zombies in books, TV, movies, and the web. It may seem odd that a deeply Christian country is also obsessed with vampires, but as Joseph Glanvill wrote in the 1600s, if you deny the existence of demons and witches, you deny god. I see it as another form of projection: a few survivors are surrounded by the dead, i.e., the masses of the unemployed and soon-to-be-unemployable. I’m thinking USA here.

 

Magical realism is a bit like SF, where colorful, fanciful personas, places and technologies are used to explore all too real attitudes, trends and prejudices. It could be said that Ford's take on it is America's second exploration of the genre, since it was also prevalent in the 50's and 60's (and to some extent the 70's) with the proliferation of pulp magazines, SF publications (also the birth of the modern comic book) and SF movies and TV shows (Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, Star Trek).

 

 

If you're into SF, read on.

Chess Shenanigans: "Mortal Games - The Turbulent Genius of Garry Kasparov" by Fred Waitzkin

Mortal Games: The Turbulent Genius of Garry Kasparov - Fred Waitzkin

The K-K sequence of matches is unrivalled in competitive sport. In Portugal at the time there was much information regarding this match, but I remember following it on the weeklies chess programms with expert commentary on the chess as well as insights into all the backstage shenanigans. The introduction, playing Prokofiev's Dance of the Nights to the backdrop of snowy Red Square was unmissable and a brilliant entré to the great chess battles that followed. After the resumption in 1985, the climax came with game 16 when Kasparov paralyzed Karpov on move 16. I just had to look it up to freshen my memory. Karpov couldn't move a piece without provoking disaster to his position. Perhaps the most brilliant display of Kasparov's genius and unlikely that any grand-master has ever achieved such a dominant position in a chess championship match before or since.

 

The rating system in international chess (Elo, designed by Arpad Elö) is incapable of comparing playing strength between players from different time periods. It is designed to facilitate a comparing of a closed group of players. More so up until the seventies there was no rating-system in place. You also have to take into account that the rules have significantly changed over time, specifically time-limits. 

 

If you're into chess, read on.

Android App: "Spinner Portuguese Style" by MySelfie

 

If you're into Android Apps, read on.

Weird Ideas: "“Falstaff: Give Me Life” by Harold Bloom

Falstaff: Give Me Life (Shakespeare's Personalities) - Harold Bloom

“What makes us free? What makes me free is the capaciousness of Shakespeare’s soul. He is the knowledge of what we were and of what we have become.”

 

In “Falstaff: Give Me Life” by Harold Bloom

 

“Weird" is the word that comes to mind after having finished his take on Falstaff. We all know about his fixation on Falstaff. No problem with that. I’ve also a kin interest on Hamlet. So, what? My problem with Bloom lies on a different plane. “Weird Ideas”. That’s Bloom all over. His ideas can be interesting - and, at their crankiest (as in “A Map of Misreading”, Shakespeare: Invention of the Human and his Genius book) quite funny - but there's far too much of Bloom the frustrated bard-oracle in them, which is why they fail to stand up beyond the books in which they appear. Show him a half-decent poet and he'll construct around him a new view of human history centred on an ancient Gnostic text and full of juicy prophetic names for things already perfectly well named (e.g. "The Chaotic Age" for the 20th century). There's an element of trying to out-crazy the crazy totalising schemes of Blake or Yeats. Bloom trying to out-poet the poets, or at least match them in inspired, over-learned nuttiness. 

 

 

If you're into Shakespeare, read on.

A Country Without (SF) Readers: “Antologia Cyberpunk” by Editorial Divergência

Proxy - Divergência

Published 2016.

 

“O Neuromante foi publicado por mim em Portugal apenas dois anos depois da primeira edição em língua inglesa. Talvez tenha sido a primeira tradução para uma língua estrangeira. Estremeci de alegria quando o livro veio à estampa. Pensei: agora sim, agora os detractores da FC vão engolir mil sapos.

Infelizmente esqueci-me de que vivemos em Portugal. Num país sem grande futuro, nem mesmo o do Gernsback. Um país sem leitores. Trataram-no como se nem sequer existisse. Ou como se se tratasse de mais umas tantas páginas de lixo escapista. Nas livrarias, foi parar às secções de literatura infantil ou às prateleiras de estudos informáticos. Enfim, não vendeu. Nas Feiras do Livro que se lhe seguiram, foi vendido a retalho por tuta e meia, como se o quisessem oferecer a um pobre. [….] E por não ter vendido, nada de nada, foi razão mais do que suficiente para o Editor me olhar, imbuído de um triste desprezo, me dizer que eu só escolhia coisas muito más, e que por isso teria de pôr fim à colecção de FC. Meu dito meu feito.”

 

("Neuromancer was published by me in Portugal only two years after the first edition in English. Maybe it was the first translation into a foreign language. I jumped with joy when the translation first came out. I thought: 'Yes, now the detractors of SF must bite the bullet.' Unfortunately, I forgot that we live in Portugal. In a country with no great future, not even Gernsback's. A country without readers. They treated the translation as if it did not even exist. Or as if it were some more pages of escapist junk. In the bookstores, it went to the sections of children's literature or to the shelves of computer studies. Anyway, it did not sell. At the Book Fairs that followed, it was sold to retail stores for nothing, as if they wanted to offer it to the poor. [....] And for not having sold anything at all, it was more than enough reason for the Editor to look at me, imbued with a sad contempt, to tell me that I only chose very bad things, and thus end the SF collection. No sooner said than done.")

 

In the foreword by João Barreiros in “Antologia Cyberpunk” by Editorial Divergência.

 

 

I've been reading some old best-of-the-year SF anthologies lately, bought on eBay, as well as this one by Editoral Divergência, a Portuguese book publishing house; it was the last one of the bunch, and in there the cyberpunk trope seems to be swimming in foreign waters, literal and figuratively speaking. While the cyberpunk stories in these anthologies are generally good, there's a distinct sense of hardening sub-genre assumptions about them -- the shared idea that computer criminals would largely be members of street gangs seems particularly far off. By the 1989 anthology, most of the authors who'd been doing cyberpunk had gone on to other things. What about 2016 when this Portuguese cyberpunk anthology came out?

 

 

If you're into SF, read on.

Beyond the Usual Alpha-Beta Search: "Deep Thinking - Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins” by Garry Kasparov, Mig Greengard

Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins - Garry Kasparov, Mig Greengard

“In 2016, nineteen years after my loss to Deep Blue, the Google-backed AI project DeepMind and its Go-playing offshoot AlphaGo defeated the world’s top Go player, Lee Sedol. More importantly, as also as predicted, the methods used to create AlphaGo were more interesting as an IA Project than anything that had produced the top chess machines. It uses machine learning and neural networks to teach itself how to play better, as well as other sophisticated techniques beyond the usual alpha-beta search. Deep Blue was the end; AlphaGo is a beginning.”

 

In “Deep Thinking - Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins” by Garry Kasparov, Mig Greengard 

 

My personal experience with Go dates back at least a decade. I remember getting slaughtered every time by the free GNUgo software, just as I had been by every human opponent for the last 20 years. Never got the hang of it, though I was school chess captain back in the day. Totally different mindset. I first came across it in a little-remembered crime series called 'The Man in Room 17', with Richard Vernon and Denholm Ellit eponymously solving crimes without leaving their office, where they were always playing go. I also remember a funny little story while I was attending the British Council. Back in the 80s, a Korean guy gave me a game. After every move I played, he stifled a laugh and started a rapid fire of, "No! Cos you purrin ['put in', I presume] there, then I purrin here, after you purrin there an' I purrin here, you lose these piece" None of which made anything clearer. At chess, the first (okay, tenth) time I got mated on the back row by a rook, I learned not to leave the king behind a wall of pawns. Never got my head round the simplest 'joseki' (corner opening) at Go. Beautifully elegant game though.

 

If you're into Chess, and Computer Science of the AI variety, read on.

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