Before the Law

In front of the law there is a doorkeeper. A man from the countryside comes up to the door and asks for entry. But the doorkeeper says he can’t let him in to the law right now. The man thinks about this, and then he asks if he’ll be able to go in later on. ‘That’s possible,’ says the doorkeeper, ‘but not now’. The gateway to the law is open as it always is, and the doorkeeper has stepped to one side, so the man bends over to try and see in. When the doorkeeper notices this he laughs and says, ‘If you’re tempted give it a try, try and go in even though I say you can’t. Careful though: I’m powerful. And I’m only the lowliest of all the doormen. But there’s a doorkeeper for each of the rooms and each of them is more powerful than the last. It’s more than I can stand just to look at the third one.’ The man from the country had not expected difficulties like this, the law was supposed to be accessible for anyone at any time, he thinks, but now he looks more closely at the doorkeeper in his fur coat, sees his big hooked nose, his long thin tartar-beard, and he decides it’s better to wait until he has permission to enter. The doorkeeper gives him a stool and lets him sit down to one side of the gate. He sits there for days and years. He tries to be allowed in time and again and tires the doorkeeper with his requests. The doorkeeper often questions him, asking about where he’s from and many other things, but these are disinterested questions such as great men ask, and he always ends up by telling him he still can’t let him in. The man had come well equipped for his journey, and uses everything, however valuable, to bribe the doorkeeper. He accepts everything, but as he does so he says, ‘I’ll only accept this so that you don’t think there’s anything you’ve failed to do’. Over many years, the man watches the doorkeeper almost without a break. He forgets about the other doormen, and begins to think this one is the only thing stopping him from gaining access to the law. Over the first few years he curses his unhappy condition out loud, but later, as he becomes old, he just grumbles to himself. He becomes senile, and as he has come to know even the fleas in the doorkeeper’s fur collar over the years that he has been studying him he even asks them to help him and change the doorkeeper’s mind. Finally his eyes grow dim, and he no longer knows whether it’s really getting darker or just his eyes that are deceiving him. But he seems now to see an inextinguishable light begin to shine from the darkness behind the door. He doesn’t have long to live now. Just before he dies, he brings together all his experience from all this time into one question which he has still never put to the doorkeeper. He beckons to him, as he’s no longer able to raise his stiff body. The doorkeeper has to bend over deeply as the difference in their sizes has changed very much to the disadvantage of the man. ‘What is it you want to know now?’ asks the doorkeeper, ‘You’re insatiable.’ ‘Everyone wants access to the law,’ says the man, ‘how come, over all these years, no- one but me has asked to be let in?’ The doorkeeper can see the man’s come to his end, his hearing has faded, and so, so that he can be heard, he shouts to him: ‘Nobody else could have got in this way, as this entrance was meant only for you. Now I’ll go and close it’.”

The Trial, Franz Kafka
via Project Gutenberg

Two monks and one woman cross a river

Two monks, one old and one young, were on a journey. They come to a river. By the river stands a woman. She asks if they can help her across.

The older monk picks up the woman and carries her to the other side.

The younger monk says nothing but is disturbed. It is forbidden the monks to touch women. They continue with their journey.

Hours pass. The younger monk says, “Carrying that woman was a transgression. How could you do thus?”

The older monk looks at him and says, “I set her down hours ago, why are you still carrying her?”

The blind men and the elephant

A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: “We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable”. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said “This being is like a thick snake”. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said, “elephant is a wall”. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.

via wikipedia

Higher Naivete

Now, you might think of this as, indeed, gullible. A former colleague of mine put the thing very, very well. He spoke about, and I like to claim this approach, the position of scholarship to which we call the higher naiveté. The way this works is, you start out, you don’t know anything, and you’re naïve. You believe everything. Next, you get a college education and you don’t believe anything, and then you reach the level of wisdom, the higher naiveté, and you know what to believe even though you can’t prove it. Okay, be warned; I’m a practitioner of the higher naiveté. So, I think the way to deal with legends is to regard them as different from essentially sophisticated historical statements, but as possibly deriving from facts, which have obviously been distorted and misunderstood, misused and so on. But it would be reckless, it seems to me, to just put them aside and not ask yourself the question, “Can there be something believable at the root of this?”

And just to give you some small defense of that approach, I always like to ask students, “Suppose we didn’t have a single historical record, no newspaper, no diaries. You know nothing totally reliable for what happened in the latter part of the eighteenth century in America.” Would we know anything about what happened? Of course, we would. We would know that there was a revolution; it was against Great Britain. I’m sure we would know that the French assisted in that. I am certain we would know that George Washington was the commander of our forces in our battle. Those are easy. There’s no getting around reading those things, and then it gets to be more interesting as we speculate. We would know as a fact that George Washington threw a silver dollar across the Rappahannock River, except that it’s impossible. So, we would dismiss that one. We would be told that he was very honest and told his father he chopped down a cherry tree, which would be baloney, but we would be told that too. But I think we would be told also very many true things, which came down to us. So, the hard job would be to select among these legendary things, to see what fact can be found, and it will never be easy or deadly certain. But that’s what I’m talking about here.

CLCV 205: Introduction to Ancient Greek History
Lecture 3 – The Dark Ages (cont.), Donald Kagan

Pessimistic Meta Induction Theory

DUBNER: Right now, we’re talking in the year 2017. A lot of people now are convinced that the U.S. government and many others erred terribly in declaring fat to be the cause of obesity. Many people now believe, as you argue, that sugar is a much bigger villain. How do we know you’re not the guy that’s wrong this time, that you’re not just another — perhaps well-intentioned — big-brained do-gooder who is making a massive mistake?

LUSTIG: An awfully good question. This is known as the pessimistic meta-induction theory. What it says is, “Everything we knew 10 years ago is already wrong, and everything we know today will be wrong 10 years from now. Why should we do anything differently when we know that whatever it is that we believe today will end up being wrong?” If you play that game, then you might as well never do any research, never do anything at all, and live with the current dogma.

– FREAKONOMICS podcast – There’s a War on Sugar. Is It Justified?

Pessimistic induction @ wikipedia

The Summoning of Everyman

After a brief prologue asking the audience to listen, God speaks, lamenting that humans have become too absorbed in material wealth and riches to follow Him, so He commands Death to go to Everyman and summon him to heaven to make his reckoning. Death arrives at Everyman’s side to tell him it is time to die and face judgment. Upon hearing this, Everyman is distressed, so begs for more time. Death denies this, but will allow Everyman to find a companion for his journey.

Everyman’s friend Fellowship promises to go anywhere with him, but when he hears of the true nature of Everyman’s journey, he refuses to go. Everyman then calls on Kindred and Cousin and asks them to go with him, but they both refuse. In particular, Cousin explains a fundamental reason why no people will accompany Everyman: they have their own accounts to write as well. Afterwards, Everyman asks Goods, who will not come: God’s judgment will be severe because of the selfishness implied in Goods’s presence.

Everyman then turns to Good Deeds, who says she would go with him, but she is too weak as Everyman has not loved her in his life. Good Deeds summons her sister Knowledge to accompany them, and together they go to see Confession. In the presence of Confession, Everyman begs God for forgiveness and repents his sins, punishing himself with a scourge. After his scourging, Everyman is absolved of his sins, and as a result, Good Deeds becomes strong enough to accompany Everyman on his journey with Death.

Good Deeds then summons Beauty, Strength, Discretion and Five Wits to join them, and they agree to accompany Everyman as he goes to a priest to take sacrament. After the sacrament, Everyman tells them where his journey ends, and again they all abandon him – except for Good Deeds. Even Knowledge cannot accompany him after he leaves his physical body, but will stay with him until the time of death.

Content at last, Everyman climbs into his grave with Good Deeds at his side and dies, after which they ascend together into heaven, where they are welcomed by an Angel. The play closes as the Doctor enters and explains that in the end, a man will only have his Good Deeds to accompany him beyond the grave.

wikipedia

The Penguin Book of Hell

“I think hell’s a fable,” the famous professor proclaimed—a surprising declaration not only because it was made in the late sixteenth century, when very few people would have dared to say such a thing, but also because he was at that moment in conversation with a devil to whom he was offering to sell his soul. The professor in question was Doctor Faustus in Christopher Marlowe’s great Elizabethan tragedy. Bored with his mastery of philosophy, medicine, and law, Faustus longs for forbidden knowledge. “Where are you damned?” he asks Mephastophilis, the devil whom he has conjured up. “In hell,” comes the prompt reply, but Faustus remains skeptical: “How comes it then that thou art out of hell?” The devil’s answer is quietly devastating: “Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.”

Damn it All, Stephen Greenblatt reviews –
The Penguin Book of Hell
edited by Scott G. Bruce
Penguin, 279 pp., $17.00 (paper)
|
@ New York Review of Books

Set design visualization exercise – Quartermain’s Terms, Simon Gray

The Set
The staff room of the Cull-Loomis School of English for foreigners, Cambridge, or rather a section of the staff room – the last quarter of it. On stage are French windows, a long table, lockers for members of the staff, pegs for coats, etc., and a number of armchairs; on the table a telephone, newspapers and magazines. This is the basic set, to which, between scenes and between the two acts, additions can be made to suggest the varying fortunes of the school. Offstage, left, a suggestion of hard-backed chairs, and off left, a door to the main corridor of the school, where the classrooms are.
The Period
Early 1960’s

How would you do it? How does it look in your head? From two different productions:
Continue reading “Set design visualization exercise – Quartermain’s Terms, Simon Gray”

United Artists – when inmates took over the asylum

800px-Fairbanks_-_Pickford_-_Chaplin_-_Griffith
Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith in 1919

Founded in 1919 by D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, the studio was premised on allowing actors to control their own interests, rather than being dependent upon commercial studios.

…Pickford, Chaplin, Fairbanks, and Griffith incorporated UA as a joint venture on February 5, 1919. Each held a 25 percent stake in the preferred shares and a 20 percent stake in the common shares of the joint venture, with the remaining 20 percent of common shares held by lawyer and advisor William Gibbs McAdoo. The idea for the venture originated with Fairbanks, Chaplin, Pickford and cowboy star William S. Hart a year earlier. Already Hollywood veterans, the four stars talked of forming their own company to better control their own work.

They were spurred on by established Hollywood producers and distributors who were tightening their control over actor salaries and creative decisions, a process that evolved into the studio system. With the addition of Griffith, planning began, but Hart bowed out before anything was formalized. When he heard about their scheme, Richard A. Rowland, head of Metro Pictures, apparently said, “The inmates are taking over the asylum.”

via wikipedia

Vermeer – The Little Street

Johannes_Vermeer_-_Gezicht_op_huizen_in_Delft,_bekend_als_'Het_straatje'_-_Google_Art_Project

While generally agreed to depict a contemporary street scene in 17th-century Delft, where Vermeer lived and worked, the exact location of the scene Vermeer painted has long been a topic of research and discussion, with studies arguing for the Voldersgracht, where the Vermeer Centre is located, or the Nieuwe Langendijk at the present-day numbers 22 to 26.

via wikipedia

Sonder / Copenhagen


All those people in their cozy little apartments from CozyPlaces

via reddit

sonder
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Rereading, the key to

Let’s reread Nabokov on rereading. On first approach to a novel, Nabokov claimed, we are overwhelmed with too much information and fatigued by the effort of scanning the lines. Only later, on successive encounters with the text, will we begin to see and appreciate it as a whole, as we do with a painting. So, paradoxically, then, “there is no reading, only rereading.”

When we perceive something new for the first time we cannot really perceive it because we lack the appropriate structure that allows us to perceive it. Our brain is like a lock maker that makes a lock whenever a key is deemed interesting enough. But when a key—for example, a new poem, or a new species of animal—is first met, there is no lock yet ready for such a key. Or to be precise, the key is not even a key since it does not open anything yet. It is a potential key. However, the encounter between the brain and this potential key triggers the making of a lock. The next time we meet or perceive the object/key it will open the lock prepared for it in the brain.

It’s an elaborate theory and in fact the reader turns out to be the philosopher and psychologist Riccardo Manzotti. Intriguing above all is the reversal of the usual key/lock analogy. The mind is not devising a key to decipher the text, it is disposing itself in such a way as to allow the text to become a key that unlocks sensation and “meaning” in the mind.
Is Manzotti right? And if so, what does it tell us about reading?

The Key to Rereading, Tim Parks
https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2015/07/11/rereading-unlocking-the-mind/