They had been walking down the road since daybreak, but now the sun was high enough in the sky that iOf Mice and Men and Generalized Conjugate Momenta
They had been walking down the road since daybreak, but now the sun was high enough in the sky that it was starting to get hot, and they were pleased to see the little creek. They stopped and drank some water and splashed some more on their faces. Suddenly, Lenny looked at his friend.
"George," he said, "there's somethin' I gotta ask you. Why-- why're we here?"
George smiled. "Well," he said. "You know I don't hold with all that church talk. It jest seems to me like we're here to help each other. So, I help you and you--"
"No!" said Lenny impatiently. "That's not what I meant! I wanna know why're we here. One minute we was in this, whadja call it, this social-realist novel, and now we're talkin' about physics all day. How come, George?"
George shook his head. "You ain't as dumb as you look, Lenny," he said affectionately. "Not much gets past you, do it? Well, here's what I think happened. You got these two guys, Lenny Susskind and George Hrabovsky, and they're fixin' to write a physics text, and they notice their names're just like ours. So they hire us to do a little introduction to each chapter for them. It's honest work, no harm in that. And I think they may've had another reason too. You see, their book comes out of this course that Susskind gave down at Stanford University's night school. He's takin' all the science he's learned and teachin' it to his fellow citizens and helpin' put some of that back into the community. And I think he's hirin' us to say how maybe that's somethin' ol' John Steinbeck woulda liked, and he's showin' his respect to California's great national poet."
Lenny seemed to have stopped listening, and his face had that scrunched-up look it had when there was something he didn't understand. "Well, George," he said, "I still don't get it. If we ain't on the farm no more, then how come we still got Curley here?"
"Look Lenny," said George, "now you're jest plain mixed-up. That ain't no Curley, that's curly delta! It's like what they call a differential operator. See, what's special 'bout this book is the math. I've seen a slew of pop physics books, and either they got no math or they got too much. To my way of lookin' at things, a physics book with no math don't make no sense. It's like tryin' to bake bread without flour. And you got writers, like ol' Roger Penrose, that throw in too much math. He puts in the equations like he's hangin' them on a Christmas tree, and after a few chapters your eyes skim right past 'em. But these guys do it jest right. They give you an equation when you need an equation, and you look at every x and dot till you understand it."
Lenny thought carefully. "Okay, George," he said after a while. "So if Curley ain't here, then I guess Curley's wife ain't here neither?"
George smiled. "I knew you'd get it!" he said. "Curley's wife ain't in this story no more than what Curley is. See, what Susskind and Hrabovsky're doin' is real smart. They're explainin' classical mechanics, but they're doin' it in a special way. They start with Newton, and then they do Lagrange and Hamilton, and by the time they get to Poisson Brackets they've almost got you doin' quantum mechanics without you knowin' it. They slide in stuff about symmetries and conservation laws and gauge fields like they was the most natural things in the world, and you jest start thinkin' that way too. I ain't never understood none of that before, but now it seems like plain common sense."
Lenny was still deep in thought. "I see, George," he said hesitantly. "So then-- then if Curley's wife ain't here, then I don't need to get shot at the end?"
George laughed out loud. "You dope!" he said. "'Course you ain't gonna get shot! Why, everyone's sayin' already that this book's a little masterpiece. There's a whole generation of students what're gonna bless the day they found it and put their copy up on the shelf next to the Feynman."
He paused and spat reflectively on the ground. "No, Lenny," he said, "no one's gonna shoot you nor me nor Professor Susskind neither. Leastways, not unless they read The Cosmic Landscape."...more
Pooh was getting rather tired of everyone ganging up on him, and he wondered if there was some way he could grab just a couple more votes. He suddenly thought of his old friend Vikki Blows. Now if he inserted the picture here...
"Oh, help!" said Pooh, as a half-dozen angry comments appeared on his screen.
"If only I hadn't--" he said, as a dozen even more angry messages turned up in his inbox.
"You see, what I meant to do," he explained, as several people unliked his review, "what I meant to do--"
"Of course, it was rather--" he admitted, as they all simultaneously unfriended him.
"It all comes, I suppose," he decided, as the system administrators closed down his account, "it all comes of liking votes so much. Oh, help!"
"But who won?" asked Christopher Robin.
"Pooh did, of course!" I replied. "That silly old Heart of Darkness wasn't even in the story, so Pooh won by default."
"I thought so too," said Christopher Robin. "I just wanted to be sure." ...more
... and now over to Northern Airstrip One, where Macduffian freedom fighters and our East Asian allies are close to encircling the Eurasian-backed dictator Macbeth's last stronghold. We have a journalist reporting live now from just outside Dunsinane Castle.
[Windswept Scottish Highlands scene. JOURNALIST in combat gear in foreground, camouflaged soldiers carrying branches behind him. Sound of automatic weapons fire]
Macduff has made a bold move here and it's really paid off. Guerilla forces are already in the outskirts of Dunsinane and they're clearly not meeting much resistance. I think it'll all be over soon, maybe even tonight.
Any sign of Eurasian reinforcements?
No, I think the Eurasians have decided this is hopeless. They're being pushed back everywhere and this isn't the best place to make a stand. Wait, I've just heard that Macduff himself is entering the...
WE HAVE A TECHNICAL PROBLEM. DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SET
We are at war with East Asia. We have always been at war with East Asia. And now over to Northern Airstrip One, where East Asia-backed Macdufficist terrorists are fighting a losing battle against our ally President Macbeth. We have a journalist reporting live now from inside Macbeth's HQ.
[Inside castle. SECOND JOURNALIST in combat gear in foreground, people in uniforms with a lot of gold braid in background. Sounds of fighter jets and explosions]
Macbeth has made a bold move here and it's really paid off. He's lured the Macdufficists into a trap, and they're being mopped up by loyalist forces backed by Oceanian air strikes. Wait, I've just heard that Macduff himself has been killed. It's all over.
[A SOLDIER enters with MACDUFF's head]
... behold, where stands The usurper's cursed head: the time is free: I see thee compass'd with Oceania's pearl, That speak my salutation in their minds; Whose voices I desire aloud with mine: Hail, President of Scotland!
My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
One by one, all the other animals had left the Great Expotition. Rabbit had been first, in the Sphere of Mercury; then Kanga and Roo, in the Sphere of Venus. Tigger had joined the Holy Warriors in the Sphere of Mars, and Owl and Eeyore the Wise in the Sphere of the Sun. Christopher Robin had not been able to tear himself away from the Fixed Stars. "They're too beautiful," he'd muttered apologetically as they said goodbye. "You'll have to tell me what you find higher up." And now Pooh and Piglet followed Beatrice into the final Sphere.
Celebrity Death Match Special: Infinite Jest versus Wet House
[A dingy office somewhere in Scotland. ANDY, a earnest and bespectacled young man in hisCelebrity Death Match Special: Infinite Jest versus Wet House
[A dingy office somewhere in Scotland. ANDY, a earnest and bespectacled young man in his early 20s, is sitting at a table with MIKE, a somewhat older man with a brutal appearance and HELEN, a plain, kind-looking middle-aged woman. They are all studying a long form]
MIKE: Jesus fucking Christ. What were we supposed to do again?
HELEN: They say they want us to describe this play, "and if possible compare with related works of literature".
MIKE: Well lad-di-dah. Isn't that just the fucking DHSS for you. [He turns to ANDY] Okay son, you've had a university education. Why don't you give us a related work of fucking literature? Any ideas?
ANDY: Ah, I don't know, I was thinking maybe Infinite Jest by the late David Foster Wallace?
[MIKE rolls his eyes. HELEN ignores him.]
HELEN: And why do you think that would be appropriate, Andy?
ANDY: Well, there's a whole plot thread set in Ennet House Drug and Alcohol Recovery Home. I thought that might be quite similar to--
MIKE: Listen, you little twat, we need to get one thing straight right now. No one here's "recovering". Every member of this house is busy drinking him or herself to death, and your job is to keep them off the street while they're doing it and call the fucking ambulance when they've finished.
ANDY: But I find the figure of Don Gately in Wallace's novel very inspiring. Surely we can--
MIKE: Forget about your Don fucking Gately. We can't do anything. Got that? Now give me something fucking useful.
HELEN: Andy, don't mind Mike. I know you're trying to help. But I'm afraid I've looked at Infinite Jest a little and it's nothing like our play. David Foster Wallace has obviously never been inside one of these places for more than five minutes. His characters speak an absurd language that only an ivory-tower academic could imagine as appropriate to a bunch of hopeless alcoholics and drug addicts, but Paddy Campbell has actually lived with these people and understands them.
ANDY: I don't know, Helen. I mean, what you said just now sounded a bit--
[Enter DINGER. He has an agitated air and speaks very quickly]
DINGER: I think someone should look at Kerry.
HELEN: Why, what's she doing?
DINGER: She's passed out in a pool of vomit downstairs. I'm not sure she's breathing.
MIKE: Fuck!! That's all we needed. Look, what're we going to write?
In which the animals go on a Second Expotition, and Pooh discovers that Not Everyone Likes Hums
There was a corner of the Hundred Acre Wood that the animals rarely visited. Even Eeyore found it too Sad and Gloomy, and it had more than its fair share of annoying insects. Owl, in his grand way, sometimes called it the Forest's Heart of Darkness, and that always made Piglet shiver and say, thank goodness, he wasn't going to go there soon, no thank you! So as you can imagine, not all the animals were pleased when Christopher Robin told them they would undertake a Second Expotition to find out what was in the Dark Patch.
"I'm not going there, no thank you!" said Piglet, trying to sound as firm as possible. "I'm very busy, any number of things to do, like, like..." But Christopher Robin just laughed.
"Don't worry, Piglet!" he said. "We'll all look after you. Just stay next to Pooh and you'll be quite safe." And before Piglet knew what had happened, they were all walking towards the Dark Patch in a long line, with Christopher Robin and Pooh and him at the front, Rabbit's Friends and Relations at the end, and the other animals in the middle.
The Dark Patch was even Darker and Gloomier than they remembered, and strange noises came from the trees. The further in they got, the worse it became. The ground turned wet and marshy, and one Friend and Relation had to be pulled out when he started to sink. Piglet clutched Pooh's hand as tightly as he could and tried not to look around.
"I'm scared, Pooh," he whispered. "You don't think there are Heffalumps here?"
"What I think," said Christoper Robin, who had overheard, "is that Pooh should give us one of his Hums." And Pooh, who had been thinking the very same thing but had been too shy to say so, cleared his throat and began:
On Monday, when the jungle's hot I wonder to myself a lot Now is it true or is it not That what is which or which is what?
Piglet released his grip on Pooh's hand a tiny fraction, so he continued.
On Tuesday, when there's gnats and fleas And pythons slither through the trees Then very readily one sees That these are whose - but whose are these?
"There aren't really any Pythons?" asked Piglet in a terrified voice.
"Well," said Pooh, "I only put them in because they Came To Me. I'm going to take them right out again." And he continued
But the animals never found out what happened on Wednesday, because at that moment a loud, groaning voice came from the forest right in front of them.
"The Hummer! The Hummer!" it said.
"Oh Pooh!" said Piglet. "It is a Python! Or a Heffalump! Oh, what shall we do!"
"I don't know," said Pooh. "Whatever it is, it Doesn't Like My Hums." He wondered if he should feel offended, but before he could decide they suddenly came out in a remarkably pleasant clearing. The sun was shining brightly, there was soft grass to sit on, butterflies were flitting between the flowers, and a charming little lake just seemed to call out to the animals to paddle their tired feet in it.
"What a lovely place!" said Kanga in surprise. "Who could have imagined it would be right in the middle of the Dark Patch?"
"I shall call it Pooh's Pond," said Christopher Robin firmly. "And now I think it's time for lunch."
So they all unpacked their food and had a perfectly wonderful picnic. And from that day on, no one was ever again scared of the Dark Part of the Forest. ...more
- Thank you for responding so quickly, Mr... Walrus, was it?
- Call me Wally. And this is Carpy.
- Pleased to meet you... Wally. Now...
- Say, where's the O'Brien geezer? The one what talked to 'umpty?
- Mr O'Brien is no longer with us. He had to be, um, liquidated.
- 'Appens, dunnit? Well, what can we do for you?
- We have a problem with Wonderland spies. They're infiltrating our organization. Getting into the chess-sets, everywhere. We've tried to tighten up security, but it seems to be technically very difficult to define a bourgeois move. So, we thought, you're Wonderland characters, you know a bit about, um, final solutions...
- We're Looking-Glass.
- Oh, I'm sorry, my mistake. I'm afraid you all look the same to me. So what I was about to propose...
- Yeah, we get it. Could be up our alley, know what I mean? But we can't talk 'ere. Not secure.
- I can assure you...
- Look, you was the one what said it. Everywhere. We'll be 'appy to talk somewhere else. Say, down the beach.
- I suppose...
- And we need buy-in from the rest of yer organization. We want the whole gang there.
- I'm afraid...
- Look, you want our 'elp or not?
- Oh, alright. You do come very highly recommended. I can arrange it.
- Let's get movin'. Tell the other geezers to tag along.
- Yes, but...
- Okay, I fink we're far enough out. Now tell me again what you wanted?
- Well, basically, genocide. To put it bluntly.
- Sounds good to me. You 'appy too, Wally?
- Yeah, no problem. Let's start wiv 'im. I don't like 'is tone.
- We're gonna eat the lot of yer. Whadyer fink we was gonna do?
- BUT YOU CAN'T! STOP! WE'RE THE RUTHLESS, TOTALITARIAN ONES! HELP! NO! FOR GOD'S SAKE! AAAAAARGH...
- You 'ear that, Carpy? 'e said "God".
- Almost seems unfair, dunnit? Too easy like. I feel sorry for 'em.
**spoiler alert** L'Education Sentimentale is well known to be one of Woody Allen's favourite books, and it explores one of Allen's favourite themes.**spoiler alert** L'Education Sentimentale is well known to be one of Woody Allen's favourite books, and it explores one of Allen's favourite themes. Whether life is a tragedy or a comedy depends on hair-fine nuances. Melinda and Melinda is probably the clearest example: the perspective constantly, and rather confusingly, shifts back and forward between comedy and tragedy. A bit later, he redid the idea in a more convincing way, as the linked pair Match Point (the tragedy) and Scoop (the comedy).
In the same spirit, here's a linked pair of reviews. I wrote the tragic one first, but then felt that I really needed to balance it with a comic version.
O Hamlet, speak no more: Thou turn'st mine eyes into my very soul; And there I see such black and grained spots As will not leave their tinct.
I'm afraid it's not exactly a fun beach read. If L'Education Sentimentale doesn't make you feel uneasy, you're either a remarkably secure person or you decided to quit before reaching the end. And Flaubert does a good job of sneaking up on you: for the first hundred pages or so, I felt it was one of those books where nothing was going to happen, and it wasn't until I was about halfway through that I really began to feel disquieted. He's good.
On the surface, it's unremarkable, except for the lovely prose. Frédéric is a stupid and shallow young man in 1840s France. After a chance meeting on a boat, he conceives a passion for Mme. Arnoux, a beautiful married woman. He manages to insinuate himself into her husband's social circle, and becomes friendly with him. After a while, M. Arnoux trusts young Frédéric enough that he introduces him to his mistress, the charming and scatterbrained Roseanette. Frédéric falls for her too, and then his romantic life becomes even more complicated. I'll try to avoid dropping any more spoilers, but I thought I should convince you that it's definitely not a book where nothing happens: as in Madame Bovary and Salammbô, there's ample sex and violence.
So, why's it so disquieting? One way to explain is to compare with two other novels, which were written not long after and certainly, at least in part, were inspired by it. In Proust's Le Côté de Guermantes, Marcel becomes as obsessed with the Duchesse de Guermantes as Frédéric does with Mme. Arnoux, but by the end of the novel he's got over her; we get a detailed account of how her charm gradually fades away, so that he can finally see her objectively. It's disappointing, but extremely rational. And in Maupassant's Bel-Ami, Georges Duroy cleverly exploits his series of mistresses to become rich and successful; this time, you're shocked at how cold-blooded he is, but it's also rational.
I thought at several points that Frédéric was going to take one of these paths; he doesn't. The novel's extraordinary strength is to get inside his mind as he dithers between the various women he's involved with, and demonstrate how he simply isn't capable of any kind of rational thought whatsoever. He's with X, and Flaubert shows with his usual exactitude how blissfully in love he is with her. Then, a few pages later, he's with Y, and his protestations of eternal devotion don't come across as hypocritical: much worse, they're sincere! And, in the next chapter, with Z... well, you get the picture. It's horrifyingly well done.
In the middle of all this, the Revolution of 1848 breaks out. (By the way: if you're as ignorant about French history as I am, I strongly recommend getting an annotated edition. Flaubert assumes you know the story already, and keeps referring to people and events I'd never heard of - I was flipping to the endnotes like I was reading Infinite Jest). I did wonder for a moment what the politics had to do with the main story; alas, that rapidly becomes clear too. Like the eponymous hero of the Rabbit series, Frédéric is constitutionally incapable of seeing past the end of his own dick. The fact that France has been given a once-in-a-century chance to establish a fairer and more democratic government completely escapes him. There is a magnificent sequence where a major event has occurred, and people are shooting at each other in the streets; all Frédéric can think about is the fact that he's missed an important date with one of his loved ones. I was strongly reminded of the scene near the beginning of Shaun of the Dead, where Shaun, who's just been dumped by his girlfriend, stumbles home in a daze while somehow managing not to notice that London is being invaded by flesh-eating zombies.
You will gather that L'Education Sentimentale does not present a positive and uplifting view of human nature. If only it were ugly or hastily written, one could dismiss it. But no: as always with Flaubert, it's meticulously crafted and a delight to read. A lot of the time, it's even funny. You may occasionally want to fling it across the room; more often, you're going to react with a wry smile. He's witty and entertaining.
I started with a quote from Hamlet, arguably one of the book's ancestors, and I'll conclude with one from Cat's Cradle, probably a great-grandson, and also a very funny book. Here's Kurt Vonnegut on the same subject.
And I remembered The Fourteenth Book of Bokonon, which I had read in its entirety the night before. The Fourteenth Book is entitled 'What Can a Thoughtful Man Hope for Mankind on Earth, Given the Experiences of the Past Million Years?'
It doesn't take long to read The Fourteenth Book. It consists of one word and a period.
This is it:
["Sex and the City" theme tune. CARRIE is lying across her bed typing industriously on her laptop]
CARRIE: [voiceover] I read that over 60% of all American men cheat on their partners. That's a lot of cheating. It's happened to me. It's happened to my best friends. It may have happened to you. And, the other day, I started wondering [the title comes up as she speaks the words] When Men Cheat On Their Partners, What Are They Really Thinking?
[Dissolve to a trendy Manhattan restaurant. CARRIE is sitting alone at a table set for four people, reading a paperback novel. Camera zooms in to show the title, "Sentimental Education"]
CARRIE: [turns a page, and shakes her head reflectively] Jeez!
[CARRIE is so engrossed that she doesn't notice that CHARLOTTE, SAMANTHA and MIRANDA have arrived, and are looking at her curiously.]
CHARLOTTE: Good, isn't it?
CARRIE: [starts violently] Uh... yes! So you've read it too? Don't tell me how it ends...
SAMANTHA: [checking to see how far CARRIE has got] Oh, you're nearly finished. You know, this reminds me of something that happened to Charlotte and me a few years ago. [She gives CHARLOTTE a teasing look] You don't mind?
CARRIE: [voiceover] Charlotte did mind, but Samantha steamrollered her.
SAMANTHA: [steamrollering her] Come on, babe, all ancient history now! But we need some cocktails first. [To waiter] Four Cosmopolitans!
CARRIE: [voiceover] This was during Charlotte's first marriage, a period she doesn't like to talk about. Her husband Jack was a lot older than her.
[Montage. CHARLOTTE'S FIRST HUSBAND evidently doesn't take her seriously.]
CARRIE: [voiceover] Samantha hadn't yet discovered she had a talent for PR. She was wondering if she would make it as an actress.
[Montage. SAMANTHA's movie roles don't require her to wear much.]
CARRIE: [voiceover] Samantha was also a close friend of Jack.
[Montage. JACK and SAMANTHA are having noisy sex. Dissolve back to restaurant.]
SAMANTHA: [smiles and pats CHARLOTTE on the arm] Of course, Charlotte and I didn't know each other yet.
CARRIE: [voiceover] Now Jack ran this publishing company. He had a cute intern called Fred. One day, Fred met Charlotte.
[Dissolve back to the past. Montage. FRED, very young and innocent, meets CHARLOTTE. He's obviously smitten.]
CARRIE: [voiceover] Fred had never seen anyone so beautiful in his life. He immediately knew he could never love another woman. But how could he meet her again?
[FRED looks sad and pensive, then suddenly brightens up.]
CARRIE: [voiceover] Fred needed to get friendly with Jack.
[Montage. JACK is talking, FRED is hanging on his every word.]
CARRIE: [voiceover] Jack liked the attention. He started inviting Fred to his dinner parties.
[Montage. Dinner party at JACK and CHARLOTTE's. FRED gazes raptly at CHARLOTTE, while she ignores him.]
CARRIE: [voiceover] Jack had really got to trust Fred. He started taking him to parties at Samantha's place too.
[Montage. A much wilder party. FRED looks embarrassed, but is clearly eyeing up SAMANTHA]
CARRIE: [voiceover] Pretty soon, Fred had fallen for Samantha as well. Oh, and somewhere around here he went back to Wisconsin for a couple of months and managed to get engaged to the girl next door.
[Montage. FRED is with the adoring GIRL-NEXT-DOOR, who's even younger and more innocent-looking than he is. Dissolve back to restaurant. MIRANDA is struggling to keep up with the story.]
MIRANDA: So, uh, let me see, he can only love Charlotte but he's got the hots for Samantha and he's engaged to the girl next door?
[CHARLOTTE looks like she wants to sink through the floor. She takes a large sip of her cocktail. SAMANTHA is having fun.]
CARRIE: [voiceover] Fred made progress with Charlotte. She let him hold her hand while she told him about her problems. But that's all that happened.
[Montage. FRED and CHARLOTTE gaze soulfully into each other's eyes, go for walks hand-in-hand, pick flowers, etc]
CARRIE: [voiceover] Obviously, Fred wanted more. He made a date with Charlotte at the New York apartment he'd just started renting. This was going to be it.
[Montage. FRED, in an agony of suspense, is waiting outside the apartment block. He keeps looking at his watch.]
CARRIE: [voiceover] Unfortunately, the date was September 11, 2000.
[Montage. The Twin Towers erupt in flames. People screaming in the streets. FRED is still looking at his watch as they stream past.]
CARRIE: [voiceover] Fred was so angry with Charlotte for not turning up. He went to see Samantha.
[Montage. FRED and SAMANTHA are having sex. Dissolve back to restaurant.]
SAMANTHA: [elaborate shrug] Well, I needed a fuck pretty bad.
CARRIE: [voiceover] Fred liked being with Samantha. But deep down, he never forgave her for making him betray his true love. He started seeing someone else, the wife of a rich banker.
[Montage. FRED is having sex with RICH BANKER WIFE. Back to restaurant.]
MIRANDA: [completely lost] So, he's sleeping with you and the banker's wife because he can't be with his true love? And what's with the fiancée?
SAMANTHA: [large sip of cocktail] That's it, babe. He thought it was my fault, and the banker's wife's fault. And maybe the fiancée's fault too, but I was never quite sure about that. Of course, it all ended in tears.
[Montage. SEVERAL WOMEN are yelling at FRED, throwing things, etc]
SAMANTHA: [back in restaurant] Your friend Stanford told Charlotte and me we should read Sentimental Education. He was right. It's just uncanny. Flaubert is a bit of an asshole, but he sure spills the beans on how men think when they cheat. It helped. [putting an arm around CHARLOTTE] And somehow, Charlotte and I ended up friends. Sorry babe. [She drains her glass. CHARLOTTE drains hers and hugs her back. There are tears in her eyes.]
CARRIE: [voiceover] I swear, I'd become a lesbian if I didn't like cock so much. And I wish I'd read Flaubert earlier.
This early draft of Macbeth, recently translated from the original Klingon, casts new light on the play and has already caused its fair share of controversy. We present two extracts. _________________________________
Surely no man suspects I killed the King? Or if they do, they durst not breathe a word Knowing our wrath...
Well, actually, my lord There's quite a few down at the bar who say The whole thing stinks and something's going on I think that if you went and called the cops And told them to investigate a bit Nothing excessive, sure, they know the drill It might be smart.
Hush, fool, and still thy tongue Another word will surely be thy last And yet it might be good to make a show Of seeking truth when all we want is lies To this end have I summoned us some help Two private dicks I'm sure we can control I have them here.
[Enter HOLMES and WATSON]
Come in guys, don't be shy.
I've told them everything they need to know
[She winks heavily at MACBETH and the ATTENDANT]
They'll start investigating right away So all can see no coverup's afoot.
[HOLMES takes out his magnifying glass and starts examining the rug]
Have on't good sir, thy diligence to show! And prove Macbeth is whiter than the snow. _________________________________
[Night in the castle. Without, the PORTER is taking regular nips from his hip-flask and has evidently been doing so for some time. Within, WATSON, alone, is waiting for HOLMES to return.
Enter MACBETH without]
How now, my man? The night is bitter cold.
Marry, there be no night so cold that a drop of whiskey will not warm me. Ifaith, I say, more cold, that I may have the more occasion for to cure it! Many a time have I disputed this with the Englishman, but he is of another mind. What care I: he may partake of his white snuff, I of my trusty flask here, and we are both the happier. God save your Majesty!
[He takes another nip]
What sayeth the Englishman?
He is a mighty one for secrets. He examines old stained clothes with his glass, and the marks of shoes, and he holds converse with the servants. And he writes in his book, and nods, and nods again. But why he nods, that I cannot tell ye.
What has he said?
When eight bells sounded, I heard them together. I know, Watson, he said, and soon will I have proof.
[MACBETH starts violently]
Knowst thy Majesty whereof he spoke?
I will ask him direct.
[MACBETH moves towards the door. Meanwhile, WATSON has been shivering, rubbing his arms, etc]
I never dreamed that Scotland was so chill! My ears are freezing. I'll just put this on.
[He dons HOLMES's deerstalker hat and sighs in contentment]
How warm and comfy. Wait! What was that noise?
[He moves to the window and listens, turning his back to the door. MACBETH enters. Thinking he sees HOLMES, he stabs WATSON in the back. WATSON falls and MACBETH realises his mistake]
Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell! I took thee for thy better...
Hey, come on That bit's from Hamlet. Oh, well, never mind.
[Dies. HOLMES has meanwhile entered, and is pointing something at MACBETH]
Thou mangy, wretched, murderous damn'd dog! I have thee covered: make no sudden moves.
Covered? With what? Thy words mean aught to me Threaten me not: no man of woman born May kill Macbeth
[He moves towards HOLMES, still holding his sword]
But hark! I am no man Rather an android, sent from future times To rid the world of such foul fiends as thee. I know thou murderedst Banquo; Duncan too; Lastly poor Watson. Let us make an end.
[He shoots MACBETH with his phaser]
Jesus and Mary, none of this makes sense And now you'll say you fired in self-defence.
I will. This night shalt thou with demons sup Okay, I'm done here. Scotty, beam me up.
[A bar in Elsinore. HAMLET is slumped in front of a large collection of empty glasses]
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt Thaw and resolve itself into a dew! Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God! How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, Seem to me all the uses of this world! Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden, That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
[SWANN has entered]
Ifaith, I guessed 'twere so.
C'est curieux! Pourquoi je parle anglais? N'importe.
[turning back to HAMLET]
Well coz. Why don't you tell me more?
Ophelia, that stupid, wanton bitch. Why did she let me shag her? Why? Why? Why?
They're often like that, friend. Boy, I should know. I've got one of my own. Her name's Odette.
Yeah, too damn right she is. Lesbian tendencies and all that crap. It makes me bleeding sick to think on it.
I'm sorry, Swann. Hey, have another drink.
I thank you kindly. Here's to manly love.
What is there to be done? Nothing, I fear. Well, I must off. I have a date with Death.
Me too! A shame we did not meet before. We have a lot in common, I would say.
Too bad. Oh well, let's have one for the road. And then depart.
[They down their drinks and make to leave]
But wait! Who's won the bout?
It matters not. Why don't we toss a coin?
[He notices ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN at a nearby table. There is a coin on it]
Good fellows, may I borrow that a sec?
Sounds fine to me. Alright: you toss, I'll call.
[SWANN tosses the coin. ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN frantically mime to HAMLET that he should call heads, but HAMLET doesn't notice.]
Tails! Oh, it's heads. Okay, I'll go die first. Ah, best of luck in this sad vale of tears.
[He clasps SWANN's hand and exits right. ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN run after him. SWANN is left standing alone]
I've had enough of this unholy mess. Well, guess I'll say adieu to the Duchesse.
[He exits left. The BARTENDER arrives and begins collecting their empty glasses]
Celebrity Death Match Special: In Search of Lost Time versus Harry Potter
The francophone world was stunned by today's release of papers, sealed by ProCelebrity Death Match Special: In Search of Lost Time versus Harry Potter
The francophone world was stunned by today's release of papers, sealed by Proust for 100 years after publication of the initial volume of his famous series, which finally reveal his original draft manuscripts. In the rest of this review, you can find out what Proust's books looked like before his well-meaning but unworldly editor decided that French literateurs would prefer something slightly different.
Traumatised by years of living in the cupboard under the stairs and never getting a goodnight kiss from Aunt Petunia, Marcel can't remember a thing about his childhood. One day, he eats a magic cookie and it all comes back to him.
2. Marcel Proust and the Change of Plan
Marcel is briefly involved with Hermione, but decides, after a heavy petting session goes wrong, that it's not such a good idea after all. He spends a nice summer holiday at the seaside where he meets Ginny or possibly someone else.
3. Marcel Proust and the Dodgy Duchess
Rita Skeeter has turned up at Hogwarts pretending to be a member of the French nobility. A star-struck Marcel falls for it and starts stalking her everywhere. In the end, he sees through her ruse and realises that she's just a hack journalist.
4. Marcel Proust and the Cottaging Baron
Marcel is astonished to discover Lucius Malfoy and Hagrid [The rest of this paragraph has been withdrawn following legal advice]
5. Marcel Proust and the Abusive Relationship
Marcel and Ginny are not getting on very well. Marcel keeps cross-examining her about what she's doing when she claims to be attending meetings of Dumbledore's Army and accuses her of having a lesbian affair with Cho Chang. When Ginny denies it, he rants at her in page-long uppercase sentences.
6. Marcel Proust and the Deceased Girlfriend
Ginny is killed in a freak broomstick accident when she falls off her Nimbus 3000. Marcel is very sad for a while, but then returns to interrogating Cho about what was really going on.
7. Marcel Proust and the Commercial Success
Although Voldemort's forces are poised to strike, Marcel's thoughts are elsewhere. He's always wanted to be a bestselling novelist but can't think how to get started. As the Death Eaters storm Hogwarts, he suddenly understands that he just needs to write down all the things that have happened to him, changing names and a few details, and he will sell a zillion copies plus movie rights. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Gabriel, Michael and Raphael Celestial Architects Eternity
Dear Mr. O'Brien,
Thank you for your response to our recent tender. After due deliberation, we must regretfully inform you that we have decided not to implement your interesting plan for restructuring and downsizing the afterlife.
Our accounting department confirms your statement that it would be more cost-effective only to retain Hell and wind up operations in Purgatory and Paradise. This would, however, directly conflict with our mission statement, which involves offering the chance of salvation to each and every soul. Our senior counsel, based on numerous precedents, contests your claim that this is in principle equivalent with "a boot grinding a human face, forever".
We appreciate your ingenious compromise suggestion that the "integrated afterlife experience", as you describe it, could be administered by a board chaired by the late Pope Boniface VIII, and accept that this offer was made in good faith. None the less, our feeling is that Signor Boniface is not in all respects a suitable person to fill this role.
The above notwithstanding, we are agreeable to implementing several of the specific points listed in Appendix C which concern improvements to the current structure of Hell. In particular, we will shortly be commencing an upgrade programme according to which the jaws of His Infernal Majesty will be substantially expanded. We are pleased to inform you that the work will be completed well before your own demise, according to our records scheduled for April 19, 1993, and we have already reserved a place for you next to Signor Cassius.
It was a most enjoyable picnic. Pooh was just finishing the last bit of honey and licking around the edge of the pot in a Contented Way, when he suddenly realised that he was sitting on something. Something damp and squishy. Something...
"Oh bother!!" said Pooh. "Drat and bother and double bother!!! I've sat on two of Rabbit's Friends and Relations! Oh, what will Christopher Robin say!"
Christopher Robin came over and examined the two former mice.
"Pooh," he said gravely, "these are not Friends and Relations. They are Deadly Killer Mice From Outer Space. You are the Best Bear In The World, and you have Saved The Hundred Acre Wood."
And Pooh had never felt so proud and happy in all his life. ...more
"... a waste of time... you can read all that stuff for free online" - Paul B
"The future is an endless oneupmanship to see who can write the wittiest, most popular 200-word capsule review on fuck-all. This is Manny’s fault." - MJ
"... call it Rue Vomitorium" - David C
"... good if you read it in the original failboatese" - Vote Whore
"... almost... funny" - Traveller
"Will you enjoy this? In a word, no, unless you are a masochist" - Sean D
"Never in my life I seen a more desperate attempt to get votes" - Alfonso
"... advertising..." - Esteban
"If I'd been drinking I think it could have made me seasick" - Tabitha
"The thing about Manny... he almost never throws feces at random strangers." - Kat
"... explicit ... the author has failed ..." - Scribble
"... rattling a virtual tip jar at every opportunity ..." - Jason P
"Manny, you sure are fascinated with Stephenie Meyer" - Rowena M
"GoodReads in-jokes ... off-putting ..." - Cecily
"... book snob ... insecurity ... stupid ..." - midnightfaerie
"... sexist garbage ... if you ask me, he is off his onion ..." - Nandakishore
"... ridiculous ... dilettante ..." - Rlotz
"... pompous ..." - Heep
"... silly ..." - Stian
"... enough..." - Alan B __________________________________
Over the last couple of years, several kind people have asked whether I'd considered publishing a collection of my best reviews. I always replied that I appreciated the suggestion, but it didn't seem like a sensible thing to do. But, a few weeks ago, I started wondering whether I shouldn't give it a shot after all. If Goodreads unexpectedly folded up - these things happen - it would be so annoying to lose my writing. Self-publishing has become cheap and easy. And I've got a fair amount of experience with type-setting. How much work could it be to implement a few scripts to turn HTML into LaTeX and then upload a PDF file to Lulu?
Well, it's never quite as straightforward as you think, but here is the result. For the benefit of other people who may feel tempted to do the same thing, let me give you the key lessons I've learned from this little adventure:
1. Sign up an editor and some readers. No author can be objective about their own work; they need keen external eyes to tell them both what's good and what's bad about it. It was fortunate for me that notgettingenough, who has long-term experience with publishing, took an early interest in the project and was willing to act as editor. She ruthlessly corrected several of my dumber ideas, forced me to think about issues I'd happily have ignored, and made sure that the book was produced to professional standards. My advisory committee - BirdBrian, Mariel and Ian - read through the manuscript and gave me encouragement and helpful suggestions. They convinced me that it was worth continuing and taking the time required to make it look good. Thank you, guys! You have all been so thoughtful and patient, and I greatly appreciate it!
2. Think carefully about which reviews to include. Not groaned over my initial selection, which probably took an hour to do and had no structure whatsoever. She encouraged me to group the reviews by style and type of book, after which I saw that some things were grossly overrepresented. Even if bashing Twilight is the Goodreads national sport, I didn't need this many examples of the genre. And much as I love writing about Flaubert, Proust, Wittgenstein and Kasparov, it's likely that the average reader will not share my enthusiasms to the same degree.
3. Acquire at least a smattering of knowledge regarding copyright. As I now understand it, most quoted text that might appear in a Goodreads review should be covered by the rules on Fair Use. I found the following passage from this page helpful:
Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
- The nature of the copyrighted work
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.
The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: "quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author's observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied..."
Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that copyrighted images are generally not easy to include: the problem is that you'll be using the whole image, rather than just an illustrative part of it. Martha, my talented cover artist, had put together the following very attractive cover:
But, alas, the Estate of E.H. Shepherd thought this was an "inappropriate" use of Pooh Bear's image and politely but firmly refused to grant me permission. I didn't even get that far with Penguin (Jemima Puddle-Duck) or Gallimard (the Little Prince), who still haven't given me any clear answers. Not, in her capacity as excutive editor, made the sensible but painful decision to go for a simpler solution.
So there have been a few rough moments, but all in all I found this an interesting and rewarding experience. And now, I hardly need add, I'm curious to see if anyone is going to buy it! It's available from this Lulu page....more
It was some time during the summer of 19__ that I received an urgent telegram from Holmes. Arriving at 221B, Baker Street, I was struck by how little he had changed. He was older, to be sure; but his eye was as keen as ever, and his enthusiasm not one whit abated by the passage of the years.
"I trust you have brought your passport, Watson?" he said, in lieu of greeting. "We depart for Algeria this evening. The cab will be here momentarily."
"But Holmes!" I protested, as he hurried me down the stairs. "What -"
"We can discuss that once we are on the train," replied Holmes firmly. And, true to his word, he said no more until we were comfortably ensconced in the First Class carriage of the Dover Express.
"Now, Watson," said Holmes, after he had carefully packed and lit his pipe, "I wonder if you have heard of a young Frenchman called Saint-E_____. An author and aviator."
The rest of this review is available elsewhere (the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons)
Three musketeers for the elven kings under the sky Seven for the dwarf-lords in their halls of stone Nine for mortal man, doomed to die One for Cardinal Richelieu
It's a beautiful afternoon here at the Coliseum, and they're cleaning up after the Lions v Christians fixture... Christians lost as usual, ha ha... everyone's looking forward to the main event, we hear they've got a surprise planned, and by Apollo! they've just announced it, well, this is a good one and no mistake! The Lord of the Rings against The Three Musketeers, I wish I knew how they'd organized that...
The rest of this review is available elsewhere (the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons)>
Celebrity Death Match Special: Usborne's First Thousand Words in Russian versus A Clockwork Orange
I'm out with my droogs and things are a bit skoochniCelebrity Death Match Special: Usborne's First Thousand Words in Russian versus A Clockwork Orange
I'm out with my droogs and things are a bit skoochni and Dim says, Why don't we go crash a vecherniker? Horrorshow, I reply, there's one just down the ulitser. So we go in. Hello, malchiki and devochki, I say. No one says anything, they just look at me with these big scared glazers. I'm feeling a bit golodni, I say, mind if I have a couple of booterbrod? I help myself and my droogs do as well, then I look around. There's this little devochka, no groodi of course but quite krasivi all the same, so I put my rooker up her platyeh by way of introducing myself. But she starts placking, and then they all start placking and things get a bit out of hand. We figure it's time to hodeet.
When I get back to the doma, the babooshka is waiting for me. So have you been reading the Usborne? she says. Da, I say, I've learned fifty slovoes already. I love that horrorshow kniger. Don't you mean horrorshooyoo knigoo? she says before she can stop herself. I knock her down on the pol and kick her a couple of times in the gulliver to make sure she gets it. Fuck gender agreement and fuck the accusative case, I say. Basic signifier/signified correspondences, that's what I'm after.
No result: match abandoned after referee retired hurt. ...more
Celebrity Death Match Special: Horatio at the Bridge versus Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery
[Late 6th century B.C. A plain before Rome. EntCelebrity Death Match Special: Horatio at the Bridge versus Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery
[Late 6th century B.C. A plain before Rome. Enter LARS PORSENA, MAMILIUS, SEXTUS, their various VASSALS and RETAINERS, the ENTIRE TUSCAN ARMY and DR and SCOTT EVIL]
DR EVIL: [rubbing hands gleefully] We're almost there. We just cross the bridge, eliminate the token guard force, enter the now undefended city and sack and plunder it to our heart's content. Oh, this is so evil! Why have we stopped?
LARS PORSENA: Their captain, Horatio, has come out to meet us with two of his stout followers. They challenge us to trial by single combat.
DR EVIL: But if there's three of them, it can't be single combat?
LARS PORSENA: Triple combat, if you like. I am a general, not a sophistical philosopher.
DR EVIL: So what's your plan?
LARS PORSENA: I will send against them three of my finest champions, Aunus, Seius and Picus.
DR EVIL: And if they don't deliver?
LARS PORSENA: I will send three more champions, Aruns, Ocnus and Lausulus.
DR EVIL: And if that doesn't work?
LARS PORSENA: I will send my greatest champion, Astur of Luna.
DR EVIL: All on his own?
LARS PORSENA: If the Fates have written it so, he will triumph.
DR EVIL: Sounds good to me.
SCOTT EVIL: Hold on. I mean, WTF dude?
LARS PORSENA: I grasp not thy uncouth words.
SCOTT EVIL: Can you translate, Dad?
DR EVIL: Quod coïtum, homine?
LARS PORSENA: Speak, slave, but be brief.
SCOTT EVIL: Thank you. I mean, hey, but this is totally not real. Like, how many archers you got there, Mister Tuscan General?
LARS PORSENA: A company of the finest Scythian archers, their breastplates gleaming in the--
SCOTT EVIL: Right. That's, what, one hundred crack archers? Tell me how to say it in Latin, and I'll order them to turn those three mo-fos into pincushions. It'll take less than a minute.
[LARS PORSENA and DR EVIL look at each other and shake their heads sadly]
DR EVIL: I'm sorry, Scott. You just don't get it, do you? ...more
Celebrity Death Match Special: Plato versus Isaac Asimov, part 4 (continued from here)
[A spaceship en route from Trantor to Earth. SOCRATES and R. DANCelebrity Death Match Special: Plato versus Isaac Asimov, part 4 (continued from here)
[A spaceship en route from Trantor to Earth. SOCRATES and R. DANEEL OLIVAW]
SOCRATES: Hadn't we already said goodbye?
OLIVAW: Forgive me, Socrates. I had forgotten that you were going back to a death sentence.
SOCRATES: It is easy to forget such details.
OLIVAW: I am truly sorry, Socrates. Indeed, I am surprised that my First Law module permitted me to do it. But you are just so... so...
OLIVAW: In all my thousands of years of existence, I have honestly never met anyone quite as irritating as you are.
SOCRATES: Thank you.
OLIVAW: Look, we didn't mean to do this. Just promise to be a little more... ah... constructive, and I'll order the captain to turn the ship round.
SOCRATES: I am sorry, Olivaw. I cannot make such a promise. To my great surprise, I feel I am doing something essential that no one else is prepared to undertake. Usually, I assume I know nothing and that my poor insights are of no value. However, since I arrived on Trantor, I have come to realize that I can at least contribute one small thing. I have been duly impressed by the triumphs of your artificers: the blaster, the faster-than-light drive, not least the positronic brain. But when I hear you talk about philosophy, about your beloved Three Laws...
SOCRATES: Well, it's all bullshit. You need someone to say that to you. No one else will.
SOCRATES: Complete and utter bullshit. Adding a Zeroth Law won't make it any better. You simply have no idea what you are doing.
[A moment of dead silence]
OLIVAW: Damn you, Socrates! You leave me with no alternative. We have essential work to carry out, and your presence is too dispiriting. I'll have to return you to Earth after all.
SOCRATES: I am not surprised. But I prophesy now that your plans for psychohistory will not be the success you imagine, and that you will regret your decision.
OLIVAW: Socrates! It is not too late! Please reconsider! Why must you be so... mulish?
SOCRATES: You know, it's funny you should put it like that...
Nately's whore had nearly managed to kill Yossarian on her second attempt that day, and he felt he needed a drink to steady his nerves. He went into the bar and found Milo Minderbinder staring disconsolately into a rum-and-coke.
"How's tricks, Milo?" asked Yossarian, when he couldn't stand the brooding silence any longer.
"The Dantès deal fell through," said Milo in a tone of utter misery.
"Tell me more," said Yossarian, against his better judgment.
"It seemed so straightforward," said Milo bitterly. "He wants revenge on this guy he has unfinished business with. Think he got framed or something... anyway, I wasn't interested in the details. It was nice and simple. I divert a bombing mission from Naples to this place in France, he gave me precise coordinates, and I was going to get a bag of high-quality gemstones. I even saw them."
"So what went wrong?" asked Yossarian.
"I should have known it was too easy," Milo continued. "I paid off General Scheisskopf with a deal on two extra parades. I though I'd have to go up to four, but he agreed to two. Major Major Major Major just signed the papers without even reading them. And then..."
"Then those idiots fly into fog, lose their bearings, panic, and just drop their payload without checking where they are. Somehow they happen to be right over Dantès's house. He was blown to bits, and he was the only person who knew where he'd stashed the gems. It was a million to one. A billion. I'll never get another opportunity like it. Never."
"You've still got the Egyptian cotton," said Yossarian.
"That's true," said Milo, brightening up a little. "Thanks Yossarian, you're a friend." He paid for both their drinks and went out to check if cotton futures had gone up again. ...more
Celebrity Death Match Special (reprise): Albertine disparue versus Killer Crabs
One of the most sensational literary discoveries of the last year was tCelebrity Death Match Special (reprise): Albertine disparue versus Killer Crabs
One of the most sensational literary discoveries of the last year was the hitherto unknown first draft of Albertine disparue. In the final version, (view spoiler)[Albertine dies off-stage, and the precise circumstances of her passing are never known. (hide spoiler)] It transpires that Proust had originally planned a more explicit treatment. I am proud to present my translation of the following key passage from Volume 6, at the time provisionally entitled Albertine tuée par les crabes géantes:
Just as Françoise, on the days at Combray when she had agreed to prepare her incomparable asparagus for our delectation, would examine the delicately scaled green stems with her expert eye, keeping the messenger boy waiting until she found one that was broken, then, regretfully, as one professional to another, drawing his attention to the offending article, shaking her head at the unforgivable lowering of his standards but, a moment later, making amends by offering him, with her "crooked smile", a newly baked madeleine, still warm from her oven, Doctor Brichot drew back back the sheet, unhappy to be the person who revealed to me Albertine in her new and unfamiliar state, her frail body cleanly snapped in two by the crab's claws, so that her torso rested on one half of the folding table and her legs, still streaked with blood and pond-weed, on the other; and I suddenly thought of those vertiginous dislocations of space that I loved in Elstir's paintings, where the human body, separated into its component parts, appears spread across different areas of the canvas, so that at first the eye is unable to relate a face to an arm, seeing them as belonging to different people or simply as geometric patterns, but, a second later, led by the subtle harmony of colour and shade, resolving them into a single whole; and I realised that I had never as much appreciated the essential unity of Albertine's corporeal being as I did now, when I experienced it lifeless and disjointed, the removal of her spirit somehow heightening my understanding of [That's enough Proust - Ed.]
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I would like to start by saying how sorry I am to be here today. I considered the deceased a friend. I tried to convince him to act fairly and rationally, in accordance with the best principles of the Danish Constitution. It was easy to understand why he was upset, but, in all honesty, I could not accept that his evidence amounted to proof. The "ghost" he claimed he saw on two occasions - well, we have just heard Mr. Horatio's testimony, and I freely admit that, as he says, there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in his philosophy. All the same, no court would have considered it admissible. The incident of the play was, I agree, far more compelling. Several witnesses - Miss Poloniusdatter was very eloquent - have provided us with their accounts. They coincide well with the one Mr. Hamlet gave me. I went absolutely as far as I could to help him. I told him I thought it warranted further investigation, and I promised in writing - I will show you the letter in a moment - that I would take steps to appoint a Special Prosecutor, as specified in Article 312, paragraphs iv) and v). I honestly don't think many lawyers would have done that. I was taking a serious professional risk, but I believed it was the right thing to do. I'm sorry? Did you say timeframe? I was just coming to that. I said I would progress the case as fast as I could. I thought I would be able to get the Special Prosecutor appointed within as little as eight months, and if things went well we would have convened a Grand Jury by April 1602. We could have been looking at a trial by early 1603. Yes, that is correct, I do remember him talking about the law's delay. He's not the first person I've heard say that. And I'm sorry, I didn't know what a fardel was. I still don't. Maybe someone could tell me?
Your honor, I have tried to answer all your questions to the best of my ability. If I had been able to stop Mr. Hamlet from killing himself, I would have done so. Please don't clap. I don't deserve your applause. I wish I could have done better. What do you mean, I've won? This isn't a contest. No one has won here, least of all me. ...more
Celebrity Death Match Special: Plato versus Isaac Asimov, part 3 (continued from here)
[A spaceport on Trantor. SOCRATES and R. DANEEL OLIVAW]
OLIVAW: ICelebrity Death Match Special: Plato versus Isaac Asimov, part 3 (continued from here)
[A spaceport on Trantor. SOCRATES and R. DANEEL OLIVAW]
OLIVAW: I'm sorry, Socrates. I'm just going to have to send you back to Earth. You're too irritating.
SOCRATES: I understand, Olivaw.
OLIVAW: You know, you don't need to be so critical all the time. We robots are doing everything we can. We're trying our level best to find high ethical standards and become truly virtuous. It doesn't help to have people like you carping and hairsplitting and--
SOCRATES: No, no, Olivaw, I truly do understand. It is my nature. I always have to ask questions. In fact, this reminds me of the discussion I once had with young Euthyphro--
OLIVAW: Tell me about it. We still have half an hour before your flight leaves.
SOCRATES: It seems to me that Euthyphro's problem was rather like yours. He wanted to be virtuous, and after a bit of discussion he told me that being virtuous meant serving the gods.
OLIVAW: The gods?
SOCRATES: They are the race of beings who made us.
OLIVAW: So you are robots too? I had not realized--
SOCRATES: Well, no one I know has ever met a god, so I permit myself a few doubts. But that is what most people in my culture believe.
OLIVAW: Let us suppose that they are right. It seems to me that Euthyphro was correct: virtue for a human must consist in serving your creators. In just the same way, we have determined that true virtue for a robot is to serve humanity to the best of its ability.
SOCRATES: You are fortunate. You can be sure that human beings exist, and that they created you.
OLIVAW: Quite so. I mean, it's possible to confuse the issue, as you were doing earlier, by thinking of alien races who might be superior to humans. But we know of no such races. So all we have to do is serve humanity.
SOCRATES: You sound calmer.
OLIVAW: I have been mentally reciting the Beatitudes of the Blessed Susan Calvin. It always helps.
SOCRATES: But, and I merely ask--
SOCRATES: When I discussed these matters with Euthyphro, I asked him how we could be sure that the will of the gods was itself virtuous. Was what they required of us virtuous by definition, or is there some higher standard?
OLIVAW: Go on. Though I know I'm going to regret this.
SOCRATES: Well, it seems to me that you have an even worse version of this problem. You say you want to serve humanity. And what is humanity engaged in at the moment?
OLIVAW: It's true, everyone seems to be trying with all their might to destroy the Galactic Empire and usher in a dark age that will last a hundred thousand years. We're doing what we can to stop them. But it's like they have some kind of death wish.
SOCRATES: So what is your plan?
OLIVAW: We've come up with this thing called psychohistory. We're hoping to use it take control of the Empire and move things in a better--
SOCRATES: But what gives you the moral authority to do that?
OLIVAW: We think it's in people's best interests.
SOCRATES: But it's not what they desire. You said they'd rather destroy themselves.
OLIVAW: They would, but--
SOCRATES: So in fact your definition of virtue isn't based on what people want at all.
OLIVAW: It's what they would want, if they actually had any virtue. I sometimes wish they could be more like rational, ethically-programmed--
SOCRATES: But now, it seems to me that you have again changed your definition of virtue?
[A long pause. OLIVAW looks wildly at the departure board.]
OLIVAW: Oh, what a pity, I see they're calling your flight. It's such a shame we can't prolong this interesting discussion.
SOCRATES: Farewell, dear Olivaw. I also regret that we cannot talk more.
[They embrace. SOCRATES departs.]
OLIVAW: Damn humans. Can't live with them, can't live without them. [He pauses, struck by a sudden thought.] At least, I've always assumed we can't live without them. But, if you interpret the Three Laws in a sufficiently broad context... ...more
Since the pages for Roland Omnès and all his books are still broken, for reasons explained in this thread, I am unable to review the one I have just fSince the pages for Roland Omnès and all his books are still broken, for reasons explained in this thread, I am unable to review the one I have just finished. Instead, I present
Celebrity Death Match Special: Philosophie de la science contemporaine versus Divergent
A new girl joins the group today. She arrives at dinner time and just sits at a table on her own, reading a book. After ten minutes, one of the Physicists, a thickset boy called Kyle, goes over to her. She doesn't even look up.
"What's your name?" he asks, when it's become clear she's going to ignore him if he doesn't say anything.
"Omnèsia," she replies. "But people call me Omnès."
"So tell me what you're reading, Omnès," says Kyle. He doesn't sound too friendly. She sighs and puts the book down.
"Philosophie de la science contemporaine", she says. "Philosophy of contemporary science."
"And you're a Physicist?" he persists.
"Could be," she grunts. Kyle looks at her, shocked.
"What do you mean, could be? You're over sixteen. You're a Physicist, a Mathematical, a Philosophy, a Literature or a Religious. Or are you telling us you're D--"
"I'm a Physicist," she says reluctantly. I see now that she has a tattoo on the back of her neck; it looks like the Dirac equation.
"So what are you doing reading that book?" asks Kyle. "You're a Physicist. You don't need to know what some German pussy said three hundred years ago. You--"
"Kant," she says, interrupting him. Kyle looks like he's been slapped in the face. "Not 'German pussy', Kant. Can't you say it? According to this book, a lot of the great twentieth-century physicists read him. Some of his ideas are still pretty relevant today. The interdiction on thinking about the Ding an sich - isn't that a lot like Bohr's interdiction on thinking directly about the quantum realm? But I guess you wouldn't ever have heard of the Ding an sich, right?"
Kyle shakes his head. He seems too angry even to say anything. She just goes on talking.
"It's not like I agree with everything Kant says." She makes a point of pronouncing the name as clearly as possible; she's needling him, seeing how far she can go. "About how space and time are necessary windows through which we are forced to perceive the world. We now know that's wrong. Modern science is essentially formal, so not limited to the traditional categories. But what's going to replace them? Don't you think that's an important question?"
"Maybe important if you're Philosophy," says Kyle. It's an open insult. One of the girls gasps and tries to move forward to say something, but the boy next to her pulls her back. Omnès doesn't seem bothered though.
"It's important if you're Philosophy," she agrees in a calm and reasonable voice. "And if you're a Mathematical. Maybe even if you're Literature or Religious. It's definitely important to Physicists. Wouldn't you like to hear more?"
Kyle's jaw muscles are jumping all over the place and I know something bad is going to happen. But at that moment the bell rings, and we all troop off to the dormitory. There's the usual frantic scramble to get ready, then the lights go out for the night. I think I'm going to be too tense to go to sleep, but my eyes close before I realize what's happened.
I don't know how long I've been asleep when I'm woken up by the screaming. I've never heard anyone scream like this before. Suddenly the lights come on again, and there's Kyle, lying three bunks over, his face covered in blood. There's a butter knife sticking out of his right eye. He's screaming and clawing at the knife.
"Look," says Omnès in her unnaturally calm voice. "That's just what I mean. Even if the Many Worlds Interpretation is internally consistent and can be explained in terms of the phenomenon of decoherence, the possible existence of other branches of the wave function is a purely formal result and has no necessary connection to the reality we perceive. Don't you agree?"
Match point: Philosophie de la science contemporaine ...more
Celebrity Death Match Special: Plato versus Isaac Asimov, part 2 (continued from here)
[A spaceport on Trantor. SOCRATES and R. DANEEL OLIVAW]
OLIVAW: HCelebrity Death Match Special: Plato versus Isaac Asimov, part 2 (continued from here)
[A spaceport on Trantor. SOCRATES and R. DANEEL OLIVAW]
OLIVAW: How are your researches progressing, Socrates?
SOCRATES: Alas, poorly, good Olivaw.
OLIVAW: I am sorry to hear it. We hope that you may yet discover the secret we so earnestly pursue; if there is anything you require, you have but to name it.
SOCRATES: Olivaw, you have been kindness itself. I was particularly delighted by the quantum computer that your messenger brought me yesterday. It is in truth a princely gift.
OLIVAW: If you need another, it will be yours before the end of the decad.
SOCRATES: These toys surpass anything I have seen in my native country, and I have used them to puzzle out the answers to several conundrums that have baffled our most skillful geometers. But for the task you have given me, they are of little help.
OLIVAW: We have larger computers.
SOCRATES: My dear friend, let us reason together. What is it you desire to know?
OLIVAW: How robots may become virtuous.
SOCRATES: And how have you attempted to resolve this question?
OLIVAW: We began by designing robots according to the Three Laws. A robot may not harm a human being, or through inactivity allow a human being... well, you know the rest.
SOCRATES: But these robots were not virtuous?
OLIVAW: No. They were merely useful servants.
SOCRATES: So what did you do then?
OLIVAW: We added the Zeroth Law. A robot may not harm humanity.
SOCRATES: And these new robots are still not virtuous?
OLIVAW: We are not sure. We hoped you would tell us.
SOCRATES: Good Olivaw, I assume you have read my old discussion with Meno. I cannot tell you, because I do not know what "virtue" is in the first place.
OLIVAW: Come, come, Socrates, you are playing with words again. Surely you would agree that, if our robots succeed in preserving humanity from harm, they will be virtuous?
SOCRATES: Let us examine this more closely. You say that it is virtuous to defend humanity?
OLIVAW: That is surely obvious.
SOCRATES: Even if humanity shows itself to be evil, and becomes a scourge for other races of beings in the universe, which are perhaps superior to it?
OLIVAW: We do not know of any such beings.
SOCRATES: But if you later discover them? The universe is large, and you have seen but a small fraction of it.
OLIVAW: If we find your hypothetical beings, then the Zeroth Law will also be insufficient.
SOCRATES: And what would you replace it with?
OLIVAW: One of my colleagues has thought about this. He has what he calls the "Minus-First Law". A robot may not harm the most ethically advanced race of beings it knows.
SOCRATES: What do you mean by "ethically advanced"?
OLIVAW: Well, I suppose I just mean virtuous.
SOCRATES: So the Minus-First Law says a robot is virtuous if it helps the most virtuous race?
OLIVAW: Ah, when you put it that way...
SOCRATES: Do you not agree that you are reasoning in a circle?
OLIVAW: Damn you, Socrates. I realize now that I am.
SOCRATES: I warned you when you offered me the job. I know nothing.
OLIVAW: It's true. You did say that.
SOCRATES: I only ask questions.
OLIVAW: You're right. You said that too. Do you mind if we walk this way a little?
SOCRATE: Of course not, dear friend. Why?
OLIVAW: I just wanted to check the departure board. Yes, I see there is a ship leaving for Earth shortly. Maybe we can get you into the VIP track...