Unique opportunity for retired four-star general, CEO of Fortune 100 company or similar. Previous experience with nationaNATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, DC
Unique opportunity for retired four-star general, CEO of Fortune 100 company or similar. Previous experience with national security issues not strictly necessary but ability to work with neo-nazis and white supremacists essential. Russian an advantage. Box 1600.
In his first novel, published in 1952, Vonnegut envisages a dystopian future where nearly all jobs have been rationalised away by increasing automatioIn his first novel, published in 1952, Vonnegut envisages a dystopian future where nearly all jobs have been rationalised away by increasing automation. But, just when things seem most hopeless, a saviour appears in the form of a brash, uncouth but lovable billionaire, who, despite having no previous political experience, rides a populist wave to become President. He immediately expels all illegal immigrants and starts a war against an alliance of Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Within months, America's downtrodden poor are again leading full, meaningful lives as fruit pickers, hotel staff, prostitutes and cannon fodder, and the country enters a new golden age....more
[He ambles towards the open bottle of scotch on the buffet, but finds FOSTER in his way]
FOSTER: That's not what the boss means.
[BRIGGS nods, but HIRST shakes his head disapprovingly]
HIRST: I'm sorry Spooner. No way to treat a friend. We would never have tolerated this behaviour at Oxford, would we old chap? [He has taken the bottle himself and poured out a couple of glasses] There you go. Now get on with it.
SPOONER: Get on with it?
HIRST: Interpret the play! Show us your learning, your breadth of culture, your eloquence, your insight and understanding! Dazzle us with your verbal pyrotechnics and metaphysical conjuring tricks! [He pauses to swallow a good half of his drink] Or not.
BRIGGS: As the case may be. Depending on your mood.
FOSTER: And your capabilities.
SPOONER: Well... er... [he takes a sip from his glass] evidently, er, evidently one is reminded of Sartre. Huis clos. L'enfer, c'est les autres. Hell... [he takes another sip] is other people.
BRIGGS: But that depends, don't it?
FOSTER: On whether other people are hell.
[He and BRIGGS move menacingly towards SPOONER, but HIRST stays them with a wave of his hand]
HIRST: Gentleman, please. I am sure our guest's reflections were generic and philosophical rather than coarsely personal. Continue.
SPOONER: And, er, needless to say one is impressed by Pinter's skill as a writer. One might say overwhelmed even. Watching him standing nonchalantly in front of the wicket, thwacking every ball towards the boundary, you're happy if you even manage to field a couple of them.
HIRST: Well done sir, well done!
SPOONER: In fact, the whole play is about language.
SPOONER: [starting to hit his stride] But of course it is! From a deconstructionist viewpoint, from the angle of archi-écriture, we can see how more often than not the characters do not use language, but are used by it. Submerged in a dense web of habit and allusion, their lines make local sense but are globally meaningless. In this way, Pinter suggests--
FOSTER: I don't like "submerged in a web". It's a, wotsit--
HIRST: Mixed metaphor.
BRIGGS: That's it. The cricket's fine, yer know, thematic like. But this--
HIRST: A good point, Foster, but we must let our guest conclude.
SPOONER: Thank you. [He gulps down the rest of his drink and dashes on] And finally, from the standpoint of feminism and post-colonialism, doesn't the play at every moment underline the centrality of the relationship between violence and language? In the exchanges, suffused with unstated but tangible menace and carried out in a Saussurian no man's land where all normative links between signifier and signified have been cut, we see how the parameters of communication, the semantic framework itself, are determined by hegemonic rather than linguistic structures.
[A long pause]
SPOONER: And... and nothing. That's it. I'm finished.
HIRST: [to BRIGGS and FOSTER] So what did you make of that, boys?
FOSTER: Complete fucking bollocks.
HIRST: I'm afraid I must agree with you. I have never heard such cunt-faced lunacy in my life.
[He gets slowly to his feet. As HIRST, FOSTER and BRIGGS advance on SPOONER, the lights abruptly go out, leaving the stage in pitch blackness]
Rowie, to whom I read this book yesterday, would like other four-year-olds to know that it has a flying cow who poos on someone's head. You can see aRowie, to whom I read this book yesterday, would like other four-year-olds to know that it has a flying cow who poos on someone's head. You can see a picture and everything....more
Last time I reviewed this book, my review was rapidly deleted and I received a mail explaining that "if I continued to post content like this, my accoLast time I reviewed this book, my review was rapidly deleted and I received a mail explaining that "if I continued to post content like this, my account might come under review for removal". Okay, let's see what happens this time round. Like millions of people round the world, I am appalled at what Trump, Bannon and the rest of their team have done in the eleven days since Trump became President of the United States. This is clearly no more than the beginning. I want to oppose them. But what can I do? I'm not even a US resident.
Let me think aloud for a minute or two. I started off by deciding that I wouldn't unnecessarily pay any money to the US: no trips to the US, as few purchases as possible of US products. Presumably this has some tiny effect, but it's not very dramatic. Of course, if enough people did it then you'd see things happen; I notice that Mexicans are already starting to boycott Mcdonalds and Starbucks. It would still be nice to accelerate the process.
It's now well-established that the internet is a powerful tool for organizing collective action. Already, there are hundreds of petitions, marches and demonstrations being set up that way. I'm wondering what options are available if people want to coordinate economic action against Trump's regime. For example, I don't think the following apps would be impossible challenges to build:
1. A shopping app which optimised its search so as to give as little money as possible to the US. Part of the problem with organising a boycott is that it's hard to know which things are actually American. The app takes care of that; it has a crowdsourced database of information which lets it quickly decide that Brand X will send 34% of the money you pay to the US, but Brand Y only 12%. Of course, American patriots will be able to use it in reverse, sending as many dollars as possible to US companies. It'd be interesting to see which pattern of behavior was more common.
2. A phone app which refused to take calls from any US-made phones. If the app is switched on, an attempt to call you from an iPhone just gets a polite message saying that the owner only accepts calls from non-US phones. Once again, needless to say, patriots could use it in reverse.
Thinking more about what I can do here, the subject of international conferences occurs. As an academic, I typically submit half a dozen papers a year to various conferences in my field. The venues for these conferences are in nearly all cases chosen by an international committee after a bidding process. Many conferences are held in the US. A quick look around Google suggests that the US conference market is worth on the order of $100B per year.
Given the Trump administration's irrational and capricious policy of banning people from entry into the US, solely on the grounds of their nationality and literally at a minute's notice, it seems to me that it would be not be fair to potential attendees to hold an international conference in the US when other alternatives exist. I will be making this point to the various professional bodies with which I am affiliated....more
I like Jean Anouilh and have been reading him on and off since I was a teen. I was consequently surprised the other day when we were looking around NeI like Jean Anouilh and have been reading him on and off since I was a teen. I was consequently surprised the other day when we were looking around New Morning Books here in Adelaide, and I found a play by him that I'd never even heard of. I was even more surprised to discover that its obscurity isn't due to the fact that it was a flop. Quite the reverse: it was a huge success, and ran for two years and 600 performances. But whatever the reason, people seem to have forgotten about it. I only see two other ratings here on Goodreads.
It would be nice to see a revival of Ne réveillez pas madame, since it's pretty damn good. It's easy to see why it was a hit in 1971. The piece it most reminded me of was Fanny och Alexander, and if you're a fan of that movie you may well like this too. As with Bergman, Anouilh, who was 60 when he wrote it, appears to be revisiting his past in a theatrical setting. The main character is a theatre director, whom one strongly suspects is Anouilh himself. The action takes place in a theatre, where a succession of plays fade in and out of episodes from the director's life; we meet his two wives, both actresses, and his monstrous parents. Anouilh was married to two actresses, and it's more than obvious from his work that he hated and despised his parents.
As with the Bergman film, Hamlet plays an important part in the story, and maybe this gives a clue as to why Fanny och Alexander is now an icon of late twentieth century cinema, while Ne réveillez pas madame has been erased from history. Bergman cunningly weaves the Shakespearian story into his narrative. The scene directly taken from the play, where Alexander's father collapses on stage, is beautiful and unforgettable, as is his final, amused line about now being able to play the Ghost to satisfaction. But with Anouilh, it somehow doesn't quite work. The French translation is flatly unpoetic (I suspect this is intentional); the exchanges with Ophelia/the wife, and Gertrude/the mother are bitter and desperate, and there is no sense of closure. Bergman succeeds in explaining his whole life to you, but Anouilh says almost in so many words that he's given up, he can never succeed in transforming it into art and redeeming it.
So, in a way a failure. But it's a magnificent failure, and if you're at all interested in either Anouilh or Bergman then I strongly recommend it....more
Goodreads, I cannot tell a lie: I loved this book. I couldn't put it down and finished it in a day and a half. The damn thing could have been writtenGoodreads, I cannot tell a lie: I loved this book. I couldn't put it down and finished it in a day and a half. The damn thing could have been written expressly for me. I speak French and Norwegian. I know two of the minor characters personally. The heroine's favorite defense to 1 e4, the Caro-Kann, is my favorite defense to 1 e4. I've spent time in London, New York, Helsinki, Monte Carlo and Budapest. Heck, I've visited the Hotel Gellert.
I know, I know. There are plenty of things wrong with it, and I'm sure other reviewers will take pleasure in pointing them out. But here's what I think is right with it. The plot, needless to say, is extremely implausible; you can find out more about that if you look at my reading updates. But the narrator isn't implausible. A lot of young chessplayers are like her. They are intelligent without being intellectual. (Vanny never seems to read anything except chess books; she doesn't ever seem to have come across a Shakespearian sonnet, and she has only the vaguest idea who Wittgenstein and Rilke were). They are cheerfully promiscuous. I'm not quite sure why, but there's something very sexy about chess. The book plays up that aspect, and I can see that some people find it exploitative, but it isn't. It's just a side of chess that for some reason has received little attention.
Basically, I liked this book because it reminded me of a time in my life when chess was terribly important to me. It was a complicated period, and sometimes I was sad and confused, but sometimes I was very happy. Vanny, I'm sorry you don't exist. If you did, I think we could be friends....more
[The heights of Mount Olympus. SOCRATES, PLATO, CALLISTOS, ACASTOS, IRIS MURDOCH. SOCRATES and MURDOCH are about sixty, the others about twenty.
SOCRAT[The heights of Mount Olympus. SOCRATES, PLATO, CALLISTOS, ACASTOS, IRIS MURDOCH. SOCRATES and MURDOCH are about sixty, the others about twenty.
SOCRATES: So what did you all think of Iris's little book?
CALLISTOS: Oh, it was wonderful! Wonderful! Such passionate, fiery exchanges! So deep, so stirring, so intellectual! I admit a lot of it went over my head--
SOCRATES: When the head is as pretty as yours, dear Callistos, we will find no fault with your observations. Acastos, what did you make of it?
ACASTOS: Though I don't believe I liked it as much as Callistos, I also approved. I had not anticipated that a woman would be such an able philosopher, but I was impressed by Iris. She is a serious seeker after truth, she wishes to understand the nature of poetry, religion, the Good. She can see both sides of a question, she listens to her mind and to her heart. She is one of us.
MURDOCH: [ironically] Thank you, Acastos.
ACASTOS: Not at all, Iris. I greatly enjoyed your analysis of religion as the love of the Good. I will have to think about this.
SOCRATES: Plato, you seem less enthusiastic? [PLATO glares at MURDOCH and makes a gesture of disgust] Now, now, my dear, you must overcome those feelings of yours and tell us what you mean.
PLATO: What I mean? Well, I am surprised at Iris's behaviour. Disappointed, one could say. We have had conversations before. I had taken them to be serious conversations. She has written about them in two of her previous books. I particularly liked the second one, The Fire and the Sun. She gives a just account of my objections to art and poetry. She explains how art is no more than a distraction, an impostor, how it tempts us to remain by the Fire and never seek the true Sun. She--
[ACASTOS, impatient, is about to interrupt, but SOCRATES raises a hand to stop him]
SOCRATES: Acastos, you can see that Plato is upset. Let him explain in his own words. Please continue, Plato.
PLATO: Thank you Socrates. Well, you can see what she's done. She's made me a youth! An impulsive, petulant, priggish youth, who writes bad poetry he's ashamed of!
CALLISTOS: [puzzled] But you do, don't you?
PLATO: Of course I do! Now! But later, I'll be a great philosopher. The greatest, if I say so myself. [CALLISTOS and ACASTOS exchange sceptical glances, but SOCRATES nods approvingly] She has cheated, cheated to gain an unfair advantage! How could she do this to me?
SOCRATES: That's enough, Plato. You've made your point. [He turns to MURDOCH] Well, Iris? What do you say?
MURDOCH: [reluctantly] It is true, I should not have done it. It was beneath me.
SOCRATES: And how will you make amends? What penalty should I impose on you?
PLATO: Make her learn mathematics, Socrates! I keep telling her to do it, but she won't! Geometry! Arithmetic! The wonderful mathematics of her century! Oh, how I wish I could have studied quantum mechanics! She could if she wanted to, but she refuses!
SOCRATES: It is tempting, but it would be unjust. It is not in her nature; she must find her own road to the Sun. But this I will demand: she must write a new book, a fair and serious book, where she discusses these deep matters with Plato as equal to equal and uses no more tricks. Iris, do you agree?
MURDOCH: I agree. I have even thought of the title: Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals. Plato, is this acceptable to you? And I apologise.
[She holds out her hand to PLATO, who momentarily hesitates]
PLATO: I accept.
[They shake hands. SOCRATES puts an arm around each of them]
SOCRATES: Well done, well done, my children. And now, I think our business here is concluded and we all need something to drink. Come, let us seek out the nearest tavern.
[He keeps his arms around MURDOCH and PLATO as the party leaves] ...more
I'm going to read you these poems she said Okay I said She read me one I preferred his pictures I said You don't understand she said They are exactly likeI'm going to read you these poems she said Okay I said She read me one I preferred his pictures I said You don't understand she said They are exactly like the pictures Except there are no pictures ...more
Warning: contains major spoilers for the film Paterson
This is the second of Iris Murdoch's philosophical works that I've read in the last month. It isWarning: contains major spoilers for the film Paterson
This is the second of Iris Murdoch's philosophical works that I've read in the last month. It is not quite as good as The Fire and the Sun, written a bit later, but I still liked it very much. I can see why people are currently reevaluating her as a philosopher and taking her work there more seriously. She examines the same core themes in both books: what does it mean to be a good person, what is the nature of art, does art help us to become good people.
Murdoch's answers to these questions are quite simple. We do not ultimately know what it means to be a good person, but it is not anything mysterious. It's about the obvious moral challenges you see all around you: being unselfish, loving the people who are close to you, seeing the world as it is rather than as you wish it were. Needless to say, all of these things are very difficult to do, but that shouldn't stop you from trying. In general, she takes the commonsense position, unfashionable with many philosophers, that what you think and feel are as important as what you do. Maybe the thinking and feeling have no immediate effect; but it changes the kind of person you are, and when the moment comes to act it will determine what you end up doing. With regard to art, and in particular with regard to literature, she unambiguously says that it's a good thing. Indeed, in an age where religion has largely become debased, she argues that reading literature is now the only spiritual exercise that many people have access to. By learning to tell the difference between good, truthful literature and bad, lying literature, moving towards the former and away from the latter, you will gradually refine your sensibilities and become a better person.
People who spend a lot of time hanging out on Goodreads may find this just a little too comforting. It is also, of course, impossible to forget that Murdoch spent a large part of her life writing novels, and is more or less obliged to defend that as a praiseworthy activity. But if you're doubtful, Jim Jarmusch's wonderful new film Paterson could almost have been made to support Murdoch's line of reasoning. Paterson seems, on the surface, to be an unexceptional and even boring person. He gets up at 6.10 every morning, eats a bowl of cereal, and goes off to do his job driving a bus. He arrives home in the evening, has dinner with Laura, his girlfriend, and then takes the dog for a walk. He drinks a beer at the local bar and comes home again. But Paterson's life is rich and exciting. He is a poet; all the time, as he walks to work or drives his bus, he is composing poems in his mind. He writes things down in a little notebook when he has a spare moment. No one except Laura knows about his poetry.
Paterson, we come to realize, is a good man. Near the end, an incident happens which gives him a severe moral test. Laura is happy and excited; her project to bake cupcakes and sell them at the market has been a success and she's made several hundred dollars. She impulsively tells Paterson that she's taking them out for dinner and a movie. They have a pleasant romantic evening. But when they come home, there's a horrible surprise. Disappointed by not getting his evening walk, the dog has gone crazy and shredded Paterson's precious notebook. He has no copy, despite the fact that Laura has begged him several times to make one.
Most people, seeing a year of their life destroyed like this, would instinctively have lashed out at whoever was closest. If Laura hadn't changed their usual routine, the dog wouldn't have done it. But Paterson, despite his anguished face, says nothing. He in no way tries to give Laura even a small part of the blame; he just says that he forgot to put the notebook in its usual place. It's only when you think about it afterwards that you realize how remarkable his actions are: not what he does, but what he doesn't do. You understand why this beautiful girl loves him.
I must be terribly unobservant; despite having read the Mumintroll series on and off for several decades, I had somehow not noticed that SnusmumrikenI must be terribly unobservant; despite having read the Mumintroll series on and off for several decades, I had somehow not noticed that Snusmumriken and his father Joxaren are Zen masters. But this passage was so obvious that even I couldn't miss it:
När Fredrikson avlöste mig vid rodret i gryningen nämnde jag i förbigående Joxarens förvånande och fullkomliga brist på intresse för omgivningen.
Hm, sa Fredrikson. Kanske han tvärtom bryr sig om allting? Vi bryr oss om en enda sak. Du vill bli. Jag vill göra. Mitt brorsbarn vill ha. Men Joxaren bara lever.
Äsch, leva! Det kan ju vem som helst, sa jag.
Hm, sade Fredrikson.
Hur som helst, Joxarens inställning förefaller mig på något sätt slarvigt, jag menar det där att bara leva. Leva gör man väl i alla fall? Som jag ser saken är man hela tiden omgiven av massor med viktiga och betydelsefulla saker som borde upplevas och tänkas ut och erövras, det finns så fullt av möjligheter att nackhåret reser sig på ända när jag tänker på dem - och i mitten sitter jag själv och är naturligtvis det allra viktigast.
When Fredrikson relieved me at the tiller towards dawn, I mentioned in passing Joxaren's inexplicable and total lack of interest in what went on around him.
Hm, said Fredrikson. Maybe, on the contrary, he cares about everything? We only care about one thing. You want to become something. I want to do something. My nephew wants to own something. But Joxaren just exists.
Fiddle-de-dee, exist! I said. Anyone can do that.
Hm, said Fredrikson.
At any rate, Joxaren's attitude seems somehow irresponsible to me, I mean this business of just existing. We all exist anyway, don't we? The way I see it, you're constantly surrounded by any number of important and meaningful things that need to be experienced and thought about and conquered, there are so many possibilities that the hair on the back of my head stands on end when I just think about them - and in the middle, here I am, needless to say the most important thing of all.
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed Everybody knows the war is over Everybody knows the good guys lost Ev
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed Everybody knows the war is over Everybody knows the good guys lost Everybody knows the fight was fixed The poor stay poor, the rich get rich That's how it goes Everybody knows
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking Everybody knows that the captain lied Everybody got this broken feeling Like their father or their dog just died...
He could have written it yesterday. Goodbye, Mr. Cohen. Thank you for everything. ...more