Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios

Leopold Bloom, A Man For All Time: "Ulysses" by James Joyce

Ulysses - James Joyce


I started off thinking Ulysses was a pile of incoherent drivel, even though I'd never got past the first page. At 20 I would sit in the uni bar getting pissed and slagging off literary types and lecturers who mentioned it (some of them were pretentious posers; some of them weren't). At 30 I decided to put up or shut up by actually reading it so that I could explain why it was incoherent drivel. The result was that I was drawn into it and have read it five times cover-to-cover. Like a lot of challenging literature, it requires a bit of life experience to get into.


If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Causabon's Key To All Mythologies with Guinness and Opera: “Finnegans Wake” by James Joyce

Finnegans Wake - James Joyce


"We'll meet again, we'll part once more. The spot I'll seek if the hour you'll find. My chart shines high where the blue milk's upset."

In “Finnegans Wake” by James Joyce


Joyce could really write. “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” is exquisite, and “Ulysses” is a masterpiece. I see Joyce as a product of his 'modernist' era, certainly, but a sincere one. He was reaching for something, a kind of synthesis of prose and poetry that came close to the true language of the mind. It's remarkable how much of Finnegans Wake is comprehensible, in spite of the fact that Joyce's words don't actually exist; we know what he means, or we can guess at it, which would be impossible if it was just gibberish. 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Stat rosa pristina nomine: "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco

The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco


"Stat Rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus"


In "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco




As a novelist Eco blends the style of Arthur Conan Doyle with that of Cervantes in a most intellectually entertaining way but with surprising heart, also. It makes me keen to explore the labyrinth of his philosophy, which seems to exist in a realm of its own immune from the tedium and drudgery of most contemporary attempts at philosophy. Do you remember pictures in which you can see a nice girls or an old woman depending on the perspective you are using: What I like of Umberto Eco's books is the indeterminate aspects of described situations which often are a surprise for readers. You can never predict how the story will develop and this is true for his first "The Name of the Rose" and his last "Numero Zero" book.

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

The Revelation of the Identical:"Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco

Foucault's Pendulum - Umberto Eco, William Weaver


"You cannot escape one infinite, I told myself, by fleeing to another; you cannot escape the revelation of the identical by taking refuge in the illusion of the multiple."


In "Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco



I've always been a keen follower of Prof. Eco's books, both literary and academic. If there's one question I would like to ask him is this:

"What about the question of being, as the Greeks first raised it? Do you think Professor that this question is no longer a question, perhaps entirely dissolved by the sign and/or the 'language game'? Ontology dissolved by epistemology (in the modern era) and which is in turn also dissolved by the signs humans come up (post-modern era). William of Ockham, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein rule supreme -- matter closed. No question of being. Is that it, Professor?"

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Islamic Thought: "Dune" by Frank Herbert

Dune - Frank Herbert


A great book full of grand themes.

Time has only made it grander in its vision. I mean, there was a time when Islam wasn't the great, dangerous "other" to Western eyes. Moderate Islam had an appeal to the west, for example, Goethe's west-eastern Divan. Dune stands in this tradition. It describes a world which is full of Islamic thought. It is world in which Islam probably pushed aside Christianity to become the world's leading religion. In demographic terms, Herbert will most likely turn out to be correct. Also, Paul Atreides is a soldier as well as a religious leader, that means, he is not a Jesus figure (who was not a soldier); he is a Mohamed, the leader of a state and of a religion. Then there are the themes of climate change, genetic engineering, the artificiality of religion, which were prophetic. Herbert had a keen eye for the themes that would dominate the next decades (centuries?)

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Gravity Curves Space-time. That’s It: "On Gravity: A Brief Tour of a Weighty Subject" by Anthony Zee

On Gravity: A Brief Tour of a Weighty Subject - A. Zee


“That space and time are replaced by spacetime immediately tells us how a field, be it electromagnetic or gravitational, varies in time once we know how it varies in space.”

In “On Gravity: A Brief Tour of a Weighty Subject” by Anthony Zee


“Einstein says the space-time is curved and that objects take the path of least distance in getting from one point in to another in space-time. The curvature of space-time tells the apple, the stone, and the cannonball to follow the same path from the top of the tower to the ground.”

In “On Gravity: A Brief Tour of a Weighty Subject” by Anthony Zee


“Gravity curves space-time. That’s it.”

In “On Gravity: A Brief Tour of a Weighty Subject” by Anthony Zee



On August 17, 2017 two neutron stars collide (Zee references this in his book). 

Let me hypothesize: consider a particle on the surface of one of the neutron stars belonging to a pair, about 10 km from the centre. It's being pulled downwards by an enormous gravitational force - about a hundred billion times stronger than gravity on the Earth's surface (if I calculated it right). But if the particle is going really, really fast (for example, close to the speed of light) it's still able to escape the star and not get pulled back in.

There's more stuff on the other side of the rainbow: you can read the full review.

The Silent Ships: "Childhood's End" by Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke


“No one of intelligence resents the inevitable.”

In “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke



One of my favourite long novel is `Childhoods End`, but commenting on it without revealing the ending is difficult. That is the whole point after all, but still, think the early 80`s TV mini series/series of `V` - with Jane Badler as a seriously sexy, sociopathic alien - think they really were benevolent and took humanity to generations of peace and prosperity. Well, not exactly many `generations`!

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

The People of the Sea: "Dolphin Island" by Arthur C. Clarke

Dolphin Island - Arthur C. Clarke


“Johnny Clinton was sleeping when the hovership raced down the valley, floating along the old turnpike on its cushion of air. [..] To any boy of the twenty.first century, it was a sound of magic, telling of far-off countries and strange cargoes carried in the first ships that could travel with equal ease across land and sea.”


In “Dolphin Island” by Arthur C. Clarke



“Dolphin Island” was one of the very first proper book I read, or tried to read, in English, when I was 10 or 11, in primary school, and I loved it. My dad had given it to me, because he thought it would make a good first read for a boy who was trying to teach himself English at the time. 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Swallowed by the Sea of Thirst: "A Fall of Moondust" by Arthur C. Clarke

A Fall of Moondust - Arthur C. Clarke


“He was a boy again, playing in the hot sand of a forgotten summer. He had found a tiny pit, perfectly smooth and symmetrical, and there was something lurking in its depths—something completely buried except for its waiting jaws. The boy had watched, wondering, already conscious of the fact that this was the stage for some microscopic drama. He had seen an ant, mindlessly intent upon its mission, stumble at the edge of the crater and topple down the slope.

It would have escaped easily enough—but when the first grain of sand had rolled to the bottom of the pit, the waiting ogre had reared out of its lair. With its forelegs it had hurled a fusilade of sand at the struggling insect, until the avalanche had overwhelmed it and brought it sliding into the throat of the crater.

As Selene was sliding now. No ant-lion had dug this pit on the surface of the Moon, but Pat felt as helpless now as that doomed insect he had watched so many years ago. Like it, he was struggling to reach the safety of the rim, while the moving ground swept him back into the depths where death was waiting. A swift death for the ant, a protracted one for him and his companions.”


In “A Fall of Moondust” by Arthur C. Clarke

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL: “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke

2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke


“I can never look now at the Milky Way without wondering from which of those banked clouds of stars the emissaries are coming. If you will pardon so commonplace a simile, we have set off the fire alarm and have nothing to do but to wait.”

In "The Sentinel” by “Arthur C. Clarke"



“The time was fast approaching when Earth, like all mothers, must say farewell to her children.”

In “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke 



"Open the pod bay doors, HAL"


In the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick



As a 15 year old I was about to start watching a Saturday matinee film (it may have been Thunderbird) when a future presentation advert came on. It looked like a fantastic space adventure so a week later I went to see it. I was amazed - incredible looking spaceships - computers which weren't just rows of flashing lights - shots which looked like they could have been taken on the moon and a fantastic space station. I just couldn't work out how they'd made it in the same way I couldn't work out the ending (nor could many others as I recall because there was a collective 'Ay' when Bowman turned into the Starchild). I saw it again about 2 years later - after I'd read the book - with a slight air of smugness knowing that I probably had an edge on many others. It's a great film that raised so many bars but of course at the time I was far too young to be able to 'trip' out on it unless you include sherbet dabs.

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Unglücklich das Land, das Helden nötig hat: "Das Leben des Galilei" by Bertold Brecht

Bertold Brecht: Leben des Galilei - Wilhelm Große



"Galilei: Ja, wo ist sie jetzt? Wie kann der Jupiter angeheftet sein, wenn andere Sterne um ihn kreisen? Da ist keine Stütze im Himmel, da ist kein Halt im Weltall! Da ist
eine andere Sonne!
Sagredo: Beruhige dich. Du denkst zu schnell.
Galilei: Was, schnell! Mensch, reg dich auf! Was du siehst, hat noch keiner gesehen. Sie hatten recht!
Sagredo: Wer? Die Kopernikaner?
Galilei: Und der andere! Die ganze Welt war gegen sie, und sie hatten recht. Das ist was für Andrea! Er läuft außer sich zur Tür und ruft hinaus: Frau Sarti! Frau Sarti!
Sagredo: Galilei, du sollst dich beruhigen!
Galilei: Sagredo, du sollst dich aufregen! Frau Sarti!
Sagredo dreht das Fernrohr weg: Willst du aufhören, wie ein Narr herumzubrüllen?
Galilei: Willst du aufhören, wie ein Stockfisch dazustehen, wenn die Wahrheit entdeckt ist?
Sagredo: Ich stehe nicht wie ein Stockfisch, sondern ich zittere, es könnte die Wahrheit sein."


In "Das Leben des Galilei" by Bertold Brecht


I watched this play in 2006 in Lisbon at Teatro Aberto starring Rui Mendes as Galileo. There was a repartee between Galileo and Arturo Ui that I'll never forget.

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Addled Knight Goes Looking for Trouble and Finds It: "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes

Don Quixote - Roberto González Echevarría, John Rutherford, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra


“El que lee mucho y anda mucho, ve mucho y sabe mucho.”


In "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes

 


Don Quixote is one of my favourite novels, exasperating though it is at times with all those stories within stories knockabout humour and cruel practical jokes. Simply because it’s so complex, we both admire and laugh at Don Quixote. When he speaks we are inclined to share his world view. And then Cervantes reminds us of what a ridiculous figure he is and undermines the effect. Until Quixote opens his mouth again. This happens again and again - until we end up seeing the novel - and the world - in two incompatible ways at once.

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

GOFAI vs AML: "Common Sense, the Turing Test, and the Quest for Real AI" by Hector J. Levesque

Common Sense, the Turing Test, and the Quest for Real AI - Hector J. Levesque

 

 

“Its is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.”

 

 

S. I. Hayakawa, quoted by Hector J. Levesque In "Common Sense, the Turing Test, and the Quest for Real AI"

 

 

The problem here is in the frequent ambiguity of the English language caused by its excessively simplistic grammar, made so by the collision between Germanic and Romance that produced the English language of today, essentially a creole construction. It would not arise in a language that is less mixed and more precise, e.g., German (my favourite language for rigorous thoughts and statements). Yet, it should be easy enough to fix, by making the parser look up idiomatic expressions and test them against the context of the conversation. The devices of gender and declension, present in German, allow for quite precise associations.

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, read on.

 

Willing Suspension of Disbelief: “The First Lensman” by E. E. Doc Smith

First Lensman (The Lensman Series) - Jack Gaughan, E.E. "Doc" Smith

"Nobody does anything for nothing. Altruism is beautiful in theory, but it has never been known to work in practice."


In “The First Lensman” by E. E. Doc Smith


In many or most written SF, certainly in SF films, the canny audience member engages in a willing suspension of disbelief. The question for me often comes down to just a couple considerations--is it a bridge too far, just too many stupidities of too gross a scale for me to be able to buy-in? And am I enjoying myself on other levels--is it just so fun or cool or exciting, or are the characters and story just so damned compelling, that I can't help but have a good time? So, if I'm not offended by the stupidity, and the work in question as a narrative, then I'm happily able to suspend my disbelief and enjoy it. 

Ok. it's only SF but..

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

RIP Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929 – 2018: The Earthsea Quartet (Earthsea Cycle, #1-4) by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Earthsea Quartet - Ursula K. Le Guin


"To light a candle, is to cast a shadow": Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929 – 2018


Who now has the stature and respect to call out poseurs like Atwood and Ishiguru? Who is there who can be relied on to correct the lazy and meretricious? She led lead by example, not just in speeches or reviews. The world is poorer for this but it's going to be decades before we really see how much.

Ursula k. Le Guin is one of my lifelong favourite authors who I return to often. I first read “A Wizard of Earthsea” when I was 8, in between the Hobbit at 7 and The Lord of the Rings at 9 (precocious child…), followed by the rest of the trilogy, and then later books like “The Left Hand of Darkness”, “The Lathe of Heaven”, “The Dispossessed” and on and on.

What a writer - in the six Earthsea books alone, she said more, and with more purpose and clarity, than any other fantasy author, except Tolkien, at least in my opinion. 


If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Realistic Sounding Nonsense: "Triplanetary" E.E. "Doc" Smith

Triplanetary - E.E. "Doc" Smith


"Immediately before the Coalescence began there was one,and only one, planetary solar system in the Second Galaxy; and, until the advent of Eddore, the Second Galaxy was entirely devoid of intelligent life"

In "Triplanetary" by E. E. "Doc" Smith


There are only three real approaches to physics in SF:

1. Absolute hard core real physics with speculative aspects;
2. Realistic sounding nonsense;
3. Unrealistic sounding nonsense.

 

(my own English edition bought in 1999)


I am personally a fan of approach 2. This gave us stuff like "Triplanetary", "First Lensman", etc.

In response to those suggesting that dissecting the science in SF novels is redundant and possibly silly, I would argue for a dichotomy. 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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