Frayn is on record as regretting his fate - to be an all-rounder inspired in limitless ways. If he were only a translator or columnist, only a novelisFrayn is on record as regretting his fate - to be an all-rounder inspired in limitless ways. If he were only a translator or columnist, only a novelist or philosopher, only a playwright his talents in any of these would see him more highly regarded than he is today for being wonderful at all of them. He would make more money too. If only he lived in a period where a man was admired for talent that went in many directions, instead of in a period in which specialisation is worshipped and we view with suspicion those who are constitutionally unable to live the narrow life, or think the narrow thoughts, that result from specialisation.
This collection of writings about his theatre work, both his own plays and his translations, being a renowned Chekhov translator in particular, spans his career from the very beginning. And I do mean very beginning, with hilariously charming accounts of his productions as a small boy in which he took on all roles - writer, producer, set designer and maker, cast maker in the case of his puppets. The diversity is astonishing, from his discussions of the difficulties in developing his farces to a detailed behind-the-scenes look at the history that inspired one of my favorites, Copenhagen. Throughout, however, two things stood out for me.
I gotta gotta gotta read this. Like right now this moment even though I'm in the middle of the riveting Girl Dragon book.
My first choice was to hit JaI gotta gotta gotta read this. Like right now this moment even though I'm in the middle of the riveting Girl Dragon book.
My first choice was to hit James on the head today and take his copy. But I'm staying somewhere which has an excellent selection of classics and so I figure, not necessary to kill my only nephew. But I get back here, rush out to water the tomato plants (my life is not worth living if something happens to them) rush back in to the classics bookshelf and aaahhhhhhhhhhh.
Fuck classic bookshelves. I really mean that. They are there to torture us. Whatever book you want is not on that shelf. Honestly, if I wanted to read Stendahl, there'd be at least two copies of Les Miserables staring at me. It is how classic bookshelves work. They are not fixed, they float, they are whatever you don't want them to be. If you are looking for the sake of it, you are sure everything is there, just everything. But.
Sigh. Gutenberg it is then. Rats.
I don't know if I actually want to read the whole book, but pages 680-1 are brilliant, and I guess I have to plough through the introductory 1-679 first. ...more
p. 3 Well, I've been getting the smallest idea of SLT over the last months, but I mean small. I only just know where the oThoughts while reading this.
p. 3 Well, I've been getting the smallest idea of SLT over the last months, but I mean small. I only just know where the on/off switch is on my computer, so my perspective is of somebody completely ignorant.
The first thing that comes to mind, reading the introduction, is what an incredibly difficult, ambitious thing it is, SLT. I'm sure the authors do not oversell it when they say, p. 2 that if it could fulfill all its aims it would transform human society.
The second thing is that this book was written in 2000 and, as far as I can see, not revised for the 2007 edition. Surely much must have changed. And surely the resources of larger computers make an ongoing difference?
It must be incredibly frustrating to be in fields where one is waiting, waiting, waiting for what is ongoingly inevitable, the increasing power of computers that will permit progress. To have to wait for technology to catch up with ideas. Oh dear.
The next thing I find myself thinking, when the authors discuss the need for accuracy, is the difference between a human translator and a computer. I wonder if an important aspect of intelligent translation is that a human, having made a mistake, may well soon enough recognise and correct it in whatever way might be appropriate.
Can SLT do that? Is this something it would need deep reasoning capability to achieve? Is it possible? It seems to me that however accurate one hopes to make the system, the possibility of being able to recognise mistakes would be a great asset.
Well. Food for thought as I cook dinner. All my technology is up to the task, I'm so lucky.
A couple of days later...
By p. 6 (!) I thought I was on a roll....but suddenly, as you read p. 6, your eyes are disconcertingly drawn to p. 7. They hit you with something that made me get out my garlic necklace, worn as a rule only when reading Manny's Stephanie Meyer reviews. Little did I know it would come in handy for a science text book. So, I put on my garlic necklace and anything else I hope will ward off evil. Dear reader, you are probably already thinking 'oh no, not -' Yes, I'm afraid so. It's a flow chart. My eyes glaze over and I dare say yours too.
Now, my attitude when I picked up this book was to do it properly. The authors wanted me to read a flow chart, I'd damn well read it, if it killed me. Back in a bit.
8 hours, 16 cups of tea and 5 scones later, I have a pain in my stomach. It's this $%#&@ chart. So, I've tried. Honestly I tried. But it is time to move on. And then I discover something that wll make life easier for the rest of you. The flow chart is explained in words. Ladies and gentlemen, I am back in business.
I wrote to Sacks just after starting this, suddenly thinking he was the man to answer a question I'd been asking musicians for years.
When I was littleI wrote to Sacks just after starting this, suddenly thinking he was the man to answer a question I'd been asking musicians for years.
When I was little I played violin and piano to a high standard, but although I was technically supposed to be equal in both, the fact is I was a fine violinist and a crap pianist. I never really liked the piano.
Being lefthanded, it never surprised me that I was good at the violin, since, after all, the left hand does more or less everything whilst the right hand saws away with the box. Righthanded violinists hate it when you say this. They all think sawing away is the important bit, but obviously it isn't.
When I was first learning the violin, my parents wondered if I should learn on a left-handed violin, so that I was playing as a righthander would. Luckily they did not choose that path for me.
However. I have subsequently had an idea that this is exactly what they should have done for me as a pianist. In general the left hand, the bass, goes boom, boom, and the right hand does all the work. So quite clearly, it suddenly seemed to me some years ago, if I'd been able to play piano in reverse, maybe I would have felt it was part of me, the way I did the violin. Maybe I wouldn't have sucked at piano.
Nobody has ever answered this question for me, much as everybody thinks it is interesting.
However, just yesterday at lunch, Luke, a man with an IPhone and a net connection looked it up and now there is a pianist, lefthanded, who felt exactly as I did. Christopher Seed, an accomplished professional pianist decided he'd play even better if his left hand could do all the work.
Question answered, though more data would be ince.
Sacks never responded. I'm still going to read the book, but.
What a dreadful pile of drivel. UNFINISHED. I didn't even care how the darn thing concludes. AND I feel like I must havIrritated and inelegant. Sorry!
What a dreadful pile of drivel. UNFINISHED. I didn't even care how the darn thing concludes. AND I feel like I must have been completely wrong to treat the other volumes with such enthusiasm.
Longwinded tripe excruciatingly badly written. After having just finished a Chabon - there is a man who cares about every word he puts to paper - I felt so insulted to read something by somebody who clearly didn't give a brass fuck.
What I don't understand is how this happens? Did he have no editor? Did the editor not give a fuck either? Do authors become so high and mighty that editors don't get to do their thing any more? The point I am making is that authors turn out rubbish all the time, but once you have arrived as a writer, you get somebody on your case that sorts out the rubbish.
Not that this is his worse sin in this book, but seedpod beings. I mean to say. Fuck me dead.
I should be in bed, it's practically time to get up, but.
At dinner this evening, we started talking about chess variants: Kriegspiel and Transfer chesI should be in bed, it's practically time to get up, but.
At dinner this evening, we started talking about chess variants: Kriegspiel and Transfer chess. Somebody said Transfer chess is 'just fun' isn't it? And, as usual, the answer to that is people who are really good and ambitious at something aren't likely to separate the notion of 'fun' from 'trying hard' and 'winning'. So, no, not 'just fun'. What about a Grandmaster? I imagine the better you are at chess, the harder you'd try and the more removed it would be from this notion of 'just fun'.
It made me long to play again, talking about Transfer Chess, it is really a great variant of the game.
Kriegspiel must be too, but I've never played it. I did notice a rather interesting looking paper on it recently:
Kriegspiel must be much harder than real chess, much harder than blindfold chess. Somebody asked this evening if Nunn was a particularly strong practitioner. I haven't found this out. I'm a bit surprised there don't seem to be world championships...not for humans, anyway....more
from Randall Munroe. Mouseover says: 'This is the reference implementation of the self-referential joke.'
I know, I know, I kno
from Randall Munroe. Mouseover says: 'This is the reference implementation of the self-referential joke.'
I know, I know, I know. I'm just kidding myself. I'm as likely to read this as a book on string theory. (Please don't. Please don't tell me I have read a book on string theory, I'm trying to forget the whole sordid story.) But. I hope you like this.
A friend of mine, Professor John Spiers, http://www.debretts.com/people/biogra... established The Harvester Press in the 1970s. He did it on a wing and a prayer, he was a young teaching academic who couldn't find in print the old literary books he wanted to use as texts and so he set about publishing them. He was probably as surprised as anybody when the idea quickly became viable. He put together a list of books, sold them as a subscription to libraries and away he went. He wasn't an academic any more, he was a proper publisher with a strong reputation for intellectually high end output.
At some point he got sent a completely insane looking ms, ridiculously long, bits of paper stuck on bits of paper, all these pictures which hadn't any copyright permission, and as for the title...well, who was going to buy a book called that....he sent it back with a polite letter.
Some years later he was in NY lunching with the boss of Basic Books, a US academic publisher. He wanted to publish this strange ms. he'd been given. As he was describing it, John interrupted with 'Godel, Escher, Bach I presume?' Evidently Hofstadter had gotten lucky and had on loan a very early word processor. The whole thing was no longer the shambles it once was. Basic Books was keen.
John got talked into taking some thousands of copies. This turned out well for him, but. What he had lost. Ouch. Godel, Escher, Bach in English and in translation would have made him many millions. I won't say he cried about it, but he did ask for a discount on the books he was buying. After such a sad tale it was impossible to say no. ...more
This was my orginal thoughts with which I was never satisfied:
Until I saw this my gut feeling was that it would be impossible to take Jim Thompson toThis was my orginal thoughts with which I was never satisfied:
Until I saw this my gut feeling was that it would be impossible to take Jim Thompson to the screen, but I stand corrected. Fabulous movie which precisely captures the spirit of Thompson’s writing. I first suggested seeing this to a male who refused on the grounds that ‘horrible things happened to women’ and they do, but I have no idea why this would be interpreted as being about ‘male hate’ ‘misogeny’. Like most people, I guess, my reactions are that although at an intellectual level extreme violence against men is as dreadful as against women, at an emotional level that simply isn’t so. However, I can’t see that this movie is any more visually violent than, say, Pan’s Labyrinth and Red Riding Trilogy, the violence being sickening in both. In both of these I recall violence against men. I don’t think violence like this should ever be shown as ‘entertainment’. It diminishes the nature of violence, it does desensitise, it does make it normal, even as we complain about it.
There we were talking about the fact that a picture can give an impression which if read instead would be found cheap and coarse. At the time I suggested that the reverse would surely sometimes be true, that a nasty picture could be ennnobled by a description in words and this kept coming back to me in the movie. One of the things Thompson does is describe violence in the most gripping, gut-wrenching way which makes one feel there and part of it. I say that as one who finds descriptions of violence generally tedious, both visual and by word. His writing of this kind of thing is staggeringly good. And although I haven’t read this book yet, I’ve read enough Jim Thompson to be sure that the scenes where Winterbottom attempts to force us to watch women (as it happens) being punched and kicked to death, would have been utterly readable in a way they were not - and indeed should not have been - watchable. However real Thompson’s descriptions are, they still have not been robbed of the reader’s imagination in the way film steals. I wish more film directors understood that suggestion is so much more powerful than blatancy. Strangely, I think the way to transfer to the screen what I expect to have been the explicit nature of Thompson’s description of these scenes would have been to draw back from the explicit. Maybe this is because in the end, in a movie, you are watching rather than taking part in the way you are when reading.
Jim Thompson, out of favour for decades, has suddenly become flavour of the month, his books are back in mainstream print and now this movie. All I can say is that he should never have been out of fashion, he is a splendid writer and I don’t want to put a genre on that any more than I would on Simenon’s non-Maigret books. They are part of a movement of mid-to-late-twentieth century studies of sociopaths which are, in my opinion, a very important part of the literature of that period. So get trendy and read him…and yes, by all means see the movie too.
And express a reconsideration. In retrospect, I consider the way in which the violence was portrayed here to be absolutely legitimate. Maybe there are other ways of doing it that would have worked. I think of the film The Boys in which there is almost no explicit violence and yet the threat looms far larger than the execution. But still, in order to get inside the head of the killer I can see that the approach taken by the director maybe worked in a way that was utterly horrific but still meaningful. I do not think that of either Pan's Labyrinth or Red Riding Trilogy where the violence served no purpose whatsoever.
I feel like I've failed this book, so I'm starting again...
It was watching the movie of this book that gave me one of those moments of understanding.
There are the ones who say what they believe, who say what they mean. Then there are the ones who believe what they say, who mean what they say. This second group is convinced that their very act of saying something makes it true. ‘I’ve said it, therefore I mean it, therefore it is true.’
The – I really don’t know what to call him, villain??? – kicks and punches to death a woman. He explains as he is doing it that he has to do it, it cannot be helped and, of course, he has said it, therefore in his view of the world, it is true. In a deeply moving moment as the woman is lying on the floor, dying, a gentle pool of her urine growing on the floor, she reaches for her handbag. Why? Is there something with which to belatedly defend herself in there? Her hand doesn’t make it. She dies first. Later we find that she was reaching to find a letter she had for this man, her love. I suspect some critics thought we were supposed to see this woman as weak, not putting up any resistance as she was so brutally assaulted, but they don’t get it. She loved the man who was kicking her to death. Not at any point did that love waver. It was strength, not weakness that we witnessed in this scene. She loved this man. She wanted to deliver her letter. ...more
It wasn’t actually the pope calling, it was one of his vatican underlings when my friend Kathryn picked up the phone.
‘Are you a Catholic?’
‘It wasn’t actually the pope calling, it was one of his vatican underlings when my friend Kathryn picked up the phone.
‘Are you a Catholic?’
‘Would you do your work for a Catholic?’
‘I do my work for anyone who needs it.’
‘What is the cost?’
‘I do not charge’
‘The pope needs a board for communicating. It needs to be in Latin, Polish and Italian.’
Kathyrn’s fame is world-wide if you are in the know. When the last pope was dying, he needed one of her boards to communicate. It is a combination of algebraic notation and Bliss symbols. She gave this example to me that she’d recently put together. It was for an English-speaking surgeon working in an operating theatre in Indonesia. Along the top is the local alphabet and along the side the local numbers for 1-10. This much the surgeon learns. In each square, referenced algebraic style is his word for something and then the Bliss symbol. Underneath is the local word for it. The Bliss symbol is most necessary in the case of users who have little or no literacy. The surgeon can also point, if necessary.
I’ve been finding out a little about speech recognition and translation between languages computer-style lately. It was eye-opening to see this technologically primitive method. According to Kathryn what she does is in demand because it is most reliable, both in terms of understanding between languages without hiccups and in terms of being technology free. It isn’t going to break down. It isn’t going to run out of power. In the field – and she gave the example of disaster situations – it is looked to because it works. I’m guessing also that these her boards can be developed very quickly for specific situations. I don’t know when software will be able to do that. Maybe it will transpire that however brilliantly software assisted speech recognition ends up developing, nonetheless at the level of disaster/emergency something like Kathryn’s system of Bliss symbols will always be used. Ie maybe the two methods will complement each other.
Bliss would be thrilled that his work was being recognised and utilised in such a way. When it was finally picked up in the early 1970s in Canada it was for the use of children to communicate who otherwise had difficulties. A laudable application, but Bliss had in mind something grandiose. He wanted a language of symbols to break down linguisitic barriers throughout the world and with that the negative cultural aspects of language. Growing up prior to WWII, being imprisoned in camps for a while, he associated language with evil intent in a way sociologists would deny these days, but which drove his ideas.
Another thing drove him. When he was young his father took him to a lecture given by a group of North Pole explorers. He was utterly taken by their fearless dedication to do this irrespective of danger to themselves. It gave him the desire to want to do great things, to give to the world. Like so many European migrants who came to Australia with wonderful gifts (he was a chemical engineer) to give in the post WWII period, he found he had to take on a manual factory line job. But perhaps it gave him the intellectual freedom to dedicate himself to the huge task he’d set himself to help mankind. Reading this reminded me of some of the scientists Smolen looks at in The Trouble with Physics, the ones who do the important big work are often not the ones in academia, who tend to spend a remarkably small amount of time doing research – ie thinking – but the ones who support themselves, again in menial labour, that frees their brains to do the important thinking that leads to major scientific breakthroughs.
An amazing man, I’m wondering now about visiting the NLA to look at his papers. I expect some fascinating tales are buried therein. ...more
I'm just SO tempted to make a couple of these...just not sure how much I can mess around with the yarn. I'd want them to be smaller, but how to changeI'm just SO tempted to make a couple of these...just not sure how much I can mess around with the yarn. I'd want them to be smaller, but how to change the stitch gauge without affecting the row gauge...hmmmm. I'm nervous already. ...more
My career as a scientific investigator ended when I was five.
I'd discovered that if you scratch your skin with your fingernail, it goes white and thenMy career as a scientific investigator ended when I was five.
I'd discovered that if you scratch your skin with your fingernail, it goes white and then if you lick it - or otherwise apply water - the scratch will disappear. I thought this was pretty interesting and I wanted to explore the idea more. I looked at the car. I got my metal cap gun. Just don't say a thing, okay? I did a pretty good job of ruining the paintwork, confident in the idea I was merely going to wash all those scratches away.
Post-grad chemists, I gather, learn that in fact at least 85% of what they do for the rest of their lives will fail. I had an early one out of one a hundred percent lesson.
You might think it is weird that I wanted to be a saint when I grew up, but honestly, being boiled in oil or eaten by cannibals just seemed so much more - well, civilised - that what happens to intrepid scientists.
You won't have heard of Jane Marcet. Female, you see. But maybe the most important, inspirational writer in education in the late eighteenth and then nineteenth centuries. She made Faraday what he was. Or so he later said. Here is both a discussion of her and a link to an online version of this book: