Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios

Popcorn Shakespeare: "The Hollow Crown I - Richard II" by Rupert Goold, Starring Ben Whishaw

 

Well, was last night's "Richard II" well worth watching? 

 

The director conveyed the story, the plot, as clearly as any director is ever likely to. And the location shooting was superb, both indoor and outdoor, truly aiding the action and showing off this island's ancient history to the global market. However, although "Richard II" is entirely written in carefully-designed and charming verse, one only heard snatches of it, and then only from the actors David Suchet (expected from such an experienced and accomplished actor) and, surprisingly, from young Ben Whishaw. If other actors in this production thought they were delivering the verse, they failed to convey it. Rory Kinnear (Bolingbroke) seemed to have learnt his lines entirely unaware that they were not written in the form of prose. And how my heart sank when occasionally Shakespeare clearly intended for us to hear two adjacent lines rhyme but the actor intentionally avoided it, minimising it, as if honouring Shakespeare's intention would create a detraction or distraction!

 

 

If you're into Shakespeare and Richard II in particular, read on.

Complex Patterning: "Alfred Bester" by Jad Smith

Alfred Bester (Modern Masters of Science Fiction) - Jad Smith

“These stories not only show Bester’s writable approach in the making but also reveal that his aesthetic had its roots in bricolage, or the practice of drawing on heterogeneous sources and writing styles to create unexpected narrative tensions and unities. Bricolage works by a logic of excess and encompasses more local strategies such as extra-coding, pastiche, intertextuality, and allusion. By definition, it re-orders reading protocols, requiring the reader to switch codes and synthetize incongruities.”

 

In “Alfred Bester” by Jad Smith

 

 

Alfred Bester was the first postmodernist SF writer. I won’t dwell on it again. If you’re interested, you can find additional information here.

 

I haven't been an adolescent for quite some time, but I still remember sitting in stone stairs in the side yard of my mother’s rural home in Alfaiates. I had just seen Star Wars and so my eyes were devouring a twilight sky waiting for the stars and planets to appear. This was my gateway to the imagination. In my unsophisticated mind, once so consumed by simple mysteries written by adults about girls not much older than myself, something unfurled. I began to see a world so much bigger than my own, and not just the universe laid open before me. SF made me think beyond myself, perhaps for the first time, and I became alive with ideas, possibilities. In this world, I could spiral deep into my own psyche or travel out to infinity. It was a spark of light in the night and I followed it.

 

 

If you're into literary criticism of the SF kind, read on.

Octaviasdottir: “New York 2140” by Kim Stanley Robinson

New York 2140 - Kim Stanley Robinson

“Did you ever read Waiting for Godot?

“No.”

“Did you ever read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead?”

“No.”

“Did you ever read Kiss of the Spider Woman?”

“No.”

“Did you ever read---“

“Jeff, stop it. I’ve never read anything.”

“Some coders read.”

“Yeah that’s right. I’ve read The R Cookbook. Also, Everything you Always Wanted to Know about R. Also, R for Dummies.”

“I don’t like R.”

 

 

In “New York 2140” by Kim Stanley Robinson

 

 

After having read the latest Stanley Robinson, a scene in Kurosawa's 'One Wonderful Sunday' from 1947 popped up in my mind, where at the very beginning two young lovers plead with the cinema audience to support young lovers everywhere and clap and cheer as they imagine themselves performing Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony.

 

If you're into SF. read on.

Champions League 2017: Real Madrid vs. Juventus (4-1; Ronaldo scored 2 and made a huge difference in the game)

 

Just going to come out and say it, I am an unashamed, unadulterated admirer of Cristiano Ronaldo. As a football fan I remember his debut season well at Manchester United. The step overs, the pouting, the diving, the pouting was all commented on ad nauseam but what I remember most was a young man willing to get stuck in and work his socks off for the team. One game in particular stood out for me. United vs. Everton boxing day 2003. It was billed as some sort of clash between the two überwonder kids of the Premier League at the time. The honest, hardworking, running knuckle that was Rooney versus the precious, waspish, fancy foreigner. It was clear where some people wanted this narrative to go. But my recollection is Ronaldo bossed it. Rooney resorted to thuggery in the second half to try and stop Ronaldo as did other Everton players but it did not stop Ronaldo. Get up and go at them again, harder. Ronaldo was fantastic. The work that man has put in to get to where he is is phenomenal. That's something to be admired. I know United fans like to paint the picture of Ronaldo arriving at United as vital to his development as a global football mega star but I don't believe that is so. I honestly think wherever he went at age 17 he would have worked just as hard to ensure that he got to where he is today.

 

If you're into football and Ronaldo in particular, read on.

Frog in a Pot of Cold Water Over the Fire: "The Four Thousand, The Eight Hundred" by Greg Egan

The Four Thousand, the Eight Hundred - Greg Egan, Dominic Harman

After reading the latest Egan’s work, I got thinking about the Caribbean Islands. I understand that the Caribbean Islands were discovered by successive explorers from Europe. I understand that Slaves from Africa were taken to these Islands as were White Indentured Workers, a polite name for White Slaves, by the people that had purchased Estates on these Islands. In this process the Indigenous peoples of these Islands the Carib Indians were to all intents and purposes wiped out, so for people of African descent to claim that they have a right to present day Islands is a nonsense. Drawing a parallel with the two factions in Egan’s work, I do not deny it benefited some people, but don't kid ourselves that it boosted the living standards of the ordinary people. This myth was invented back in the 50's or 60's by some Caribbean professor to give those of African descent a sense of grievance against those that imported their ancestors, mind you he stopped short of saying that it was their fellow Africans that enslaved them in the first place. I suspect the feeling of distrust is true of all Countries, it’s well known and it’s called Xenophobia. That’s what a stake in Egan’s piece using the trappings of SF.

 

if you are into SF, read on.

 

Professor of Something: "Learn Better" by Ulrich Boser

Learn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, or, How to Become an Expert in Just About Anything - Ulrich Boser

“The act of writing is a good example of metacognition because when we think about composing sentences and paragraphs, we’re often asking ourselves crucial metacognitive questions: Who will be reading this? Will they understand me? What things do I need to explain? This is why writing is often such an effective way to organize one’s thoughts. It forces us to evaluate our arguments and think about ideas. […] some describe writing as a form of “applied metacognition”.

 

In “Learn Better” by Ulrich Boser

 

 

When I was a kid, we played football (the European version; I hate the word soccer) all day and must have been well over 10K hours. None of us got near even semi pro football. My son could do sprint training for 4 hours every night but he's not going to be Usain Bolt. There are thousands of musicians who have put in the practice but they're all on the 9 to 5 as well like myself (well, I’m more on the 08:30 to no-end-in-sight schedule, bit that’s just me being my usual obnoxious self…). Are we supposed to believe a la Gladwell that if we put in 10K hours we’ll become experts at something? I don’t believe this number, and neither does Boser. I think it’s just a number which Gladwell thought would look good in one of his books (I forget which).

 

What about thinking about learning? Is there something there?

 

 

 

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

 

 

Micro-Fiction, Text 008: "The Moon" by Myselfie (Dedicated to My Father)

 

here.

WannaCry Ransomware

Question? As Linux is open source, is there not the chance that hackers can find vulnerabilities more easily?

Answer: No. Since it is open source, defects are easily found by competent engineers and patched quickly, as you'd know had you any competence yourself.

 

We are frequently told that proper architecture and solutions are too expensive and that they need to be more "pragmatic" (i.e. cheaper) in their approach and everything will be fine. The reality is that it doesn't work. The direction comes from the top; project and program managers are under pressure to reduce costs as their number one priority. Ministers take the line from those who tell them about cost reduction, not from experts who are "just being perfectionist" and "scaremongering".

 

If you're into Computer Science and Computer Viruses in particular, read on.

Portugal and the Portuguese language are still fashionable... Who would have thought?

 

We cheated by bringing a quality song to the Eurovision Song Contest, and we didn't need any dancing bears, baking granny's, or rockers dressed as monsters. (*smile*)

Benfica's 36th championship. 200k people celebrating!

The 4th Pope in Portugal (6th visit of a Pope to Portugal): Fátima's 100 Years of the Prophecies

 

 

Some atheist friends of mine keep saying this Pope faces a daunting challenge not faced over most of the 2000 years since a hastily assembled collection of short stories made it onto the bestseller list: the march of science. There was a time when the church could just impose rules and people knew they had to live by them because heaven or hell awaited. They knew this to be true because there were no alternative narratives. Sure, there were competing sects but these said pretty much the same kinds of things: god is in charge, do what we tell you he says. In the last 100 years, science has looked at the cosmos and found no god; it has looked back to the beginning of time and found no god; it has considered the building blocks of matter and found no god; and it has considered the formation of life and found no god. It is almost as though there is no god. The harder the church makes it to be a Christian the greater the incentive to accept what science is saying: that god is how people understood the world before people understood the world.

 

But I prefer to think otherwise.

 

If you're into this kind of thing, read on.

Luminiferous Aether: "Four-Day Planet" by H. Beam Piper

Four Day Planet - H. Beam Piper

“I went through the gateway, towing my equipment in a contragravity hamper over my head. As usual, I was wondering what it would take, short of a revolution, to get the city of Port Sandor as clean and tidy and well lighted as the spaceport area. I knew Dad's editorials and my sarcastic news stories wouldn't do it. We'd been trying long enough. The two girls in bikinis in front of me pushed on, still gabbling about the fight one of them had had with her boy friend [sic], and I closed up behind the half dozen monster-hunters in long trousers, ankle boots and short boat-jackets, with big knives on their belts. They must have all been from the same crew, because they weren't arguing about whose ship was fastest, had the toughest skipper, and made the most money. They were talking about the price of tallow-wax, and they seemed to have picked up a rumor that it was going to be cut another ten centisols a pound. I eavesdropped shamelessly, but it was the same rumor I'd picked up, myself, a little earlier.”

 

In “Four-Day Planet” by H. Beam Piper

 

I used to read/watch SF and was also always careful to be scandalized at how little regard the genre got until I realized that ... well ... an awful lot of it does suck. Or at least, an awful lot of it is an awful lot like an awful lot else. The same five characters, the same one plot. There's good stuff out there, but the signal to noise ratio is lower than almost any other genre of entertainment or literature. Vast, vast, vast swathes of the stuff is bug-eyed monsters, buzz-cuts with guns, female eye-candy, and explosions: the power fantasies of 15 year old boys, in other words. Okay okay, okay, there's some good stuff -- someone will always point out the celestial Octavia Butler or Ursula Le Guin -- but the fact remains, you need to swim through an ocean of silicone and lasers to get to the good stuff.

 

 

If you're into vintage SF, read on.

Convoluted Crime Fiction: "She Died a Lady" by John Dickson Carr

She Died a Lady - Carter Dickson

Just about every book written by John Dickson Carr is a locked room mystery, and all of them try to play fair (thus also trying to drive the reader nuts), but I always feel Carr tried too hard. His books are so convoluted that they become almost unreadable. I’m a bit reluctant to continue reading books wherein the intricacies become utterly unbelievable (why do some authors bother to impinge on our consciousness crap like this?) I’m better off reading Agatha Christie. This Carr was me being back to 'easy' reading after a hard week reading hard stuff. This one is among his middle-rankers. The method of murdering two persons close to a cliff with only his own footprints on wet sand was clever - maybe a bit too clever-clever - and the characters a touch clichéd - but then you do meet the same people over and over again in a Carr novel. The fun is in trying to out-guess him, and in the wonderful, spooky atmospheres he creates. Unlike Christie, the Carr’s leave a lot to be desired. In this case the solution just doesn't hang together. The characters and motivations are there but the explanation of the murder is just too weird. Carr once again didn’t play fair.

Tor2Web Proxy: "The Dark Net - How to Stay Anonymous Online Even from the NSA" by Peter Johansen

The Dark Net: How to Stay Anonymous Online – Even from the NSA - Peter Johansen

Tor2Web Proxy: https://zqktlwi4fecvo6ri.onion.to/wiki/Main_Page

 

 

The darkness exists in the human mind not the technology.

Victorian Portugal was full of dark secrets that have had a negative effect on

this society ever since, far more than the internet has.

 

 

There's the "dark web" - i.e. the web you need to use Freenet or Tor or something like access (and those two are just examples, and they form distinct non-interconnected webs). And then there's the "deep web" - this is websites whose content is not indexed by search engines, because you need to register or pay to access the contents, or has Flash front ends, or is otherwise unavailable to a search engine. This is the thing that is likely much larger than the freely available web, and it's usually because there's money to be made by gate-keeping access to it. There's very little illegal, immoral or otherwise dodgy about the deep web; most of it is for-pay services, which are usually easy to clamp down on if they're illegal - just follow the money. 

 

Am I missing something here?

 

 

If you're into Computer Science and the "Dark Web", read on

Dated Crime Fiction: "Sunset Express" by Robert Crais

Sunset Express - Robert Crais

Gosh, Robert Crais! I really want to like you, but after lots of books in and it still feels like gawky blind dating rather than true love.  I should be really digging these Crais novels, but I’m not. A smart-aleck gauntleting detective with a mean-as-hell friend is something that I can’t get enough of in other books. But something just isn’t coalescing here. From Crais first novel, I thought that Crais was doing a west coast version of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels and that feeling continues here. It isn’t Crais’ fault that I’m reading these over many years after he wrote them and that they seem dated in a lot of ways to me; having said this, there are still just too many clichés for me to overlook in this. Plus, Elvis is just such a dogged know-it-all that he tends to get on my nerves. Characters like Marlowe, Spenser or Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie can be wise asses and tough guys, but it feels like Cole can’t let the mildest thing go by without trying to act like a comic at karaoke night. What saves this book Cole’s quick jokes. So quick, he had me laughing like crazy a few pages in. That's pretty darn quick.

NB: According to BL/GR/LT this is my 400th/396th/394th book review. I believe BL is correct.

 

Nuanced SF: "Crackpot Palace - Stories" by Jeffrey Ford

Crackpot Palace: Stories - Jeffrey Ford

There are two kinds of "favourite books," I always say. There are the ones that you recognize as original in concept, extremely well written, and strong in theme. Then there are the ones that say something personal to you so that you identify with the protagonist, live in that society, laugh at the jokes and thrill at the adventure, but also realize that the style may not be so good or the theme so strong. I ain't half the SF geek I was when I was younger - you know, before I discovered characterisation and inner life - but I still appreciate a good novel of ideas. So often, it comes down to a tug-of-war of definitions and false differences of opinion. The mundane literary establishment tends to demean SF. Yet, the works of Cormac McCarthy, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood and Kurt Vonnegut are just as much SF, using the same devices to advance the same thought experiments and commentary on society as many other SF writers can do.

 

 

If you're into SF, read on.

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