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Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

There Will Be No More Birthday Celebrations, and Other News

September 28, 2016 | by

The insignia of a master.

  • Mike Davis was an artist, and the irate company-wide memorandum was his canvas. Few in the history of humankind have recognized the savage beauty of this lowliest of media. But Davis—the erstwhile head of Tiger Oil Company, and now dead at eighty-five—shattered the limits of the form with routine ease, showing us just how big an asshole one man could be to his employees. Consider his memos a spin-off of the Theater of Cruelty: “ ‘There will be no more birthday celebrations, birthday cakes, levity or celebrations of any kind within the office,’ the boss wrote on Feb. 8, 1978. ‘This is a business office. If you have to celebrate, do it after office hours on your own time.’ … ‘Do not speak to me when you see me,’ the man had ordered in a memo the month before. ‘If I want to speak to you, I will do so. I want to save my throat. I don’t want to ruin it by saying hello to all of you.’ ”
  • It’s hard enough to get a human being to pay to read your book. Now robots are refusing to pony up, too. Google has just “fed” some eleven thousand books to its artificial intelligence, hoping to teach it how to talk like a real boy. But even though they’re rolling in the dough, Google didn’t pay any of the authors of these books, Richard Lea writes: “After feeding these books into a neural network, the system was able to generate fluent, natural-sounding sentences. According to a Google spokesman—who didn’t want to be named—products such as the Google app will be ‘much more useful if they can capture the nuance of language better’ … ‘The research in question uses these novels for the exact purpose intended by their authors—to be read,’ [Authors Guild executive director Mary Rasenberger] argues. ‘It shouldn’t matter whether it’s a machine or a human doing the copying and reading, especially when behind the machine stands a multibillion dollar corporation which has time and again bent over backwards devising ways to monetize creative content without compensating the creators of that content.’ ” 

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Photograph in C#, and Other News

July 25, 2016 | by

Jeff Louviere and Vanessa Brown, Photograph in C#, 48" x 48". Image via Nautilus

  • Wherever there are Freudian dynamics afoot—whenever latent sexual tension and homosocial tendencies take the national stage—there you’ll find our country’s fan-fiction writers doing their best work. You can only imagine, then, the hay they’ve made of the 2016 election. Talia Lavin spoke to one especially fecund writer who goes by Chuck Tingle: “After the Brexit vote, Tingle published ‘Pounded by the Pound: Turned Gay by the Socioeconomic Implications of Britain Leaving the European Union.’ Another recent Tingle story is about a character he calls Domald Tromp. In Tingle’s fictional universe, Tromp is the presumptive Republican nominee—although, unlike Donald J. Trump, Tromp has faked his birth certificate and is really a native of Scotland. More specifically, he is the Loch Ness monster in disguise. (‘There is something incredible about being taken by such a strong, patriotic beast, even if he is really from Scotland,’ the narrator, a twenty-two-year-old journalist, thinks at one point.)”
  • When politicians aren’t behaving like fictional characters or remaking the world in a kind of proto-fictional mold, they do, unfortunately, attempt to write nonfiction. Here, too, they are often thwarted. Take the case of Boris Johnson, Brexit architect and all-around turd—the Guardian reports that his “widely anticipated biography of Shakespeare is on ice, indefinitely. Originally scheduled for release this October—rather late for the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death back in April—Shakespeare: The Riddle of Genius ‘will not be published for the foreseeable future,’ says its publisher, Hodder & Stoughton … Among professional Shakespeareans—think the conspirators in Julius Caesar, only with sharper daggers—there has been a mixture of glee and remorse. On the one hand, many thought the biography wasn’t likely to be very good. On the other, everyone would have had a great deal of fun saying so. Even before the announcement, speculation was rife that not a word had actually been written, and that several prominent academics had been begged for last-minute assistance.”
  • Now that I’ve got you in a pessimistic frame of mind: the early photos in a new survey at the Whitney Museum, “Danny Lyon: Message to the Future,” remind of all varieties of sociopolitical turmoil. As Max Nelson writes, “Lyon has always taken risks to earn the status of sympathetic insider in the communities he shoots. The photographs he took across the South in his early twenties were forceful enough visions of outrage and disgust—a group of young black women languishing in the Leesburg stockade; a protestor splayed out in midair as the object of a violent tug-of-war contest between an onlooker and a pack of riot police—that the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) soon made Lyon their staff photographer … Lyon would never align himself so completely with another group’s mission and goals, but most of his subsequent projects have involved a similar degree of intense, life-consuming commitment. To make The Bikeriders (1968), the first book of photographs for which he had sole credit, he spent a year as a member of the Chicago Outlaws; for Conversations with the Dead (1971), his third book, he lived in Texas for still longer taking pictures in the state’s prisons.”
  • Maybe the only solace is in art without people. Resonantia, a series of portraits last year by the artists Jeff Louviere and Vanessa Brown, finds beauty in cymatics—the patterns produced by sound waves in physical objects. “Louviere was struck by the idea that each note produces a particular shape in liquid. To investigate these patterns, he rigged up a contraption involving a frequency generator on his laptop, a rebuilt amp with a speaker pointing upward into a plastic vitrine filled with ink-black water, and a guitar tuner. Louviere vibrated the water with the amp by adjusting the generator’s frequency … He used his tuner to seek out the frequency of each of the twelve notes—A, B, C through G, plus the five halftones. While Louviere dialed the knobs, Brown stood on a ladder above the contraption illuminating the water with a ring light, her camera in hand. When the tuner registered a note—reading 220 hertz, the frequency that produces an A, for instance—Louviere stopped adjusting. As each note’s unique vibration induced its characteristic pattern into the water, Brown captured it with her camera. The pair worked together to obtain a ‘portrait’ of each of the twelve notes.”

The Whole Rigmarole

June 30, 2016 | by

Ben Jonson bares all.

drummond-johnson

From left: Ben Jonson, William Drummond.

Pretty soon it will have been four hundred years since Ben Jonson (1572–1637) walked from London to Edinburgh. I don’t know the whole story. I know he stayed at some length with William Drummond of Hawthornden, a few miles south of Edinburgh. Jonson was around forty-seven at the time; Drummond was around thirty-four.

Both of these guys were poets, were into languages, bought a lot of books. Jonson was of course right in the middle of things in London. He knew Shakespeare, knew Donne. Drummond, meanwhile, had money.

People still read Jonson, with how much love I don’t know. There are a number of famous lines. “Drink to me only with thine eyes.” “Though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek.” Drummond got a boost with Palgrave’s Golden Treasury (1861), eight items to Jonson’s three. Still, these days, if you love Drummond’s poetry (I do) you pretty much feel you have him all to yourself. Read More »

Triumphantly, Brilliantly Kaleidoscopic, and Other News

April 22, 2016 | by

San Francisco City Hall, April 21, 2016. Photo via Instagram: alightningrod

San Francisco City Hall, April 21, 2016. Photo via Instagram: alightningrod

Lousie

April 21, 2016 | by

Detail showing delousing from Jan Siberechts' painting Cour de ferme ("Farmyard"), 1662

Detail showing delousing from Jan Siberechts’s painting Cour de ferme, 1662.

PEDICULARE, the lousie disease, that is when the bodie is pestred and full of lice and nits.
Iohn Florio, A Worlde of Wordes, or Most Copious, and Exact Dictionarie in Italian and English

Think of the above as an indirect nod to Shakespeare’s birthday: living as he did in a particularly pestilential period of London’s history, the bard had reason to reference “the lousie disease” with some regularity. The plague of 1593 famously shuttered all of London’s theaters; ten thousand people died in this outbreak alone. Even in nonplague years, typhus was a major killer. And at the best of times, lice were a quotidian nuisance and a marker of hygiene. 

Indeed, lice of various kinds come up in Titus Andronicus and King Lear, and that’s just for starters. The reason I am not quoting them is because most of these references are very lascivious and vile indeed. The only context in which Shakespeare uses lice is as an insult: always insulting someone’s cleanliness to sexual hygiene. (Which seems harsh in a time when vermin of all kinds must have been fairly rampant.) Surely not only slatterns and villains were prone to the pestilence! What about Thomas of Beckett, with his hair shirt running with lice? Shakespeare was most definitely a part of the problem.

And the shame and stigma in the modern classroom are alive and well, even in places well-fortified with antibiotics and running water. To wit: On a downtown subway platform, I heard one little girl in a Catholic school uniform—maybe six—turn to her friend and say, “Pinkie swear you’ve never had lice. Pinkie swear. Duly sworn in, the two then walked down the platform and approached a third little girl, standing alone.

“Have you ever had lice?” they demanded sternly. The loner looked around in a panicked sort of way. “N-no... ” she said uncertainly. 

“Will you pinkie swear?” demanded the ringleader.

I have! I wanted to tell her. It doesn’t make you dirty or weird, even if you happen to be sort of weird and lonely! And maybe dirty! Anyone can get it! And those nit combs and that horribly painful shampoo are punishment enough! And then one day you’ll just be a grown-up on the platform and no one will even check if you wash your hair! It will be okay! 

And blessedly, then the train pulled in. 

Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.

Bodies Moving Through Space

April 12, 2016 | by

How Blutch’s graphic novel Peplum shatters the Satyricon.

In an interview after Peplum’s first publication in book form, Blutch tells of a reader who asked him why he was such a difficult author. “But I don’t feel like I’m difficult at all!” he exclaimed. “I don’t understand why I get asked that. What I do is fairly simple, and not at all intellectual. In my stories, I try to favor action.” And in action, Blutch’s book abounds: stabbing, stoning, amputation, eye-gouging, sex, seafaring, Attic dance, pirate attacks. Yet these sequences are as artificial as they are visceral, feral, and formal at once. Taking as its title the European term for the sword-and-sandal cinematic subgenre, Peplum offers a decidedly different take on the toga epic—one of aporia and ambiguity, a fractured tale of antiquity in all its alien majesty. Read More »