(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Stoppard

“The future, said Herzen, was the offspring of accident and willfulness. There was no libretto or destination, and there was always as much in front as behind”*…

 

Herzen

 

Over the past few years, I have become increasingly interested in, and admiring of, plurality. Plurality—a condition of society in which people who hold widely different beliefs and are committed to quite different values nevertheless find some way to live in relative peace with one another—is to be distinguished from pluralism, which may be described as a conviction that a society in which people pursue a great diversity of ends is intrinsically superior to a more unified society. That I don’t believe. I think that our society would be better off if we were all united by a deeply shared set of convictions—my convictions, as it happens. (Imagine that!) But I would want such singleness of vision to be freely chosen, which will obviously never happen. So in default of my ideal, I say: Better plurality than tyranny, and better a tyranny presided over by others than a tyranny presided over by me.

From this point of view, the most zealous on the contemporary American left and the contemporary American right have something fundamental in common: They never ask the question, Am I fit to rule others?” I see this self-blindness not only in electoral politics but also in intra-religious and academic disputes. They take it for granted that the rightness of their convictions makes them fit: that the justice of a cause can make a perfectly straight thing out of the crooked timber of their humanity. To be sure, I continue to say, better a tyranny presided over by others than a tyranny presided over by me; but I also say, better that none of those zealots ever achieve the power they lust for—because their very confidence in their right to rule is the most absolute disqualification for rule that I can imagine. This Alexander Herzen understood.

The central figure in Tom Stoppard’s great dramatic trilogy The Coast of Utopia (2002) is Herzen (1812–70), the first Russian socialist. From exile in England, Herzen published The Bell, which the great American critic Dwight Macdonald, the editor of an English-language edition of Herzen’s memoirs, called perhaps the most effective muckraking magazine in radical history.”…

What distinguishes Stoppard’s Herzen—which I think is a reasonably accurate portrayal of the real Herzen— from Marx and Chernyshevsky is simply that his thought is more historical than theirs. Both of them believed themselves to be deeply historical thinkers, but they had, in their different ways, settled on a complete and wholly enclosed understanding of the point that history is coming to, the point at which it will effectively conclude. They shared a sense of the telos, the goal, or end, of history...

Herzen… didn’t know where history was going or how it would get there. He understands himself to be in the midst of a great procession, one of many both before and after him to take up the cause of justice and freedom. History is plurality, even among those who share a commitment, a cause. 

This is Stoppard’s image of the true scholar and the true activist alike. In Stoppard’s 1993 play Arcadia, Septimus Hodge consoles his pupil Lady Thomasina Coverly when she cries out in grief for all the lost plays of the Athenians”: We shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short.” And Stoppard’s Herzen, near the end of this magnificent trilogy, finds the same consolation and expresses it with some of the same words, but even more concisely and beautifully: The idea will not perish. What we let fall will be picked up by those behind. I can hear their childish voices on the hill.”…

Why the great Russian thinker refused to pick up the axe to advance his cause: “Alexander Herzen and the Plural World.”  From Alan Jacobs, distinguished professor of humanities in the honors program at Baylor University, a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, and proprietor of a consistently-interesting newsletter, Snakes and Ladders.

* Tom Stoppard, in an essay on Alexander Herzen

###

As we ponder plurality, we might recall that it was on this date in 1834 that slavery was abolished in the British Empire, as the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 came into force (though it remained legal in the possessions of the East India Company until the passage of the Indian Slavery Act, 1843).

200px-Official_medallion_of_the_British_Anti-Slavery_Society_(1795)

“Am I Not a Man and a Brother?”, 1787 medallion designed by Josiah Wedgwood for the British anti-slavery campaign

source

 

Written by LW

August 1, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Country music has always sort of been country music”*…

The DeZurik Sisters, Mary Jane and Carolyn, began performing on St. Paul’s KSTP in 1935, when they entered and won a talent contest.  The next year they moved to Chicago to appear weekly on National Barn Dance, and later, also Purina’s Checkerboard Time, at WLS-AM.  The girls called their act The Cackle Sisters…

Read more about the singing siblings– and their place in the annals of yodeling– here and here.  And find an remarkable collection of acetate transfers of their work at the ever-extraordinary WFMU. * Miranda Lambert

###

As we marvel at Minnesota throat-singing, we might send dramatic birthday greetings to Sir Tom Stoppard OM CBE FRSL; he was born on this date in 1937.  A journalist and drama critic, he turned to playwriting in 1960– and has since written such prominent works for the stage as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Real Thing, Jumpers, Travesties, Arcadia, and The Coast of Utopia.  Sir Tom is also an accomplished screenwriter, whose many films include BrazilThe Russia House, and Shakespeare in Love. He’s won four Tony Awards and one Oscar.

How the hell do I know what I find incredible? Credibility is an expanding field… Sheer disbelief hardly registers on the face before the head is nodding with all the wisdom of instant hindsight.

– George, Jumpers, Act I

 source

 

Written by LW

July 3, 2014 at 1:01 am

Freezing the fugacious…

source

Performance artists have long felt the urge to record their creations so that they could be shared and performed again as created.  Musical notation dates back (at least) to 2000 BCE (a  cuneiform tablet that was created at Nippur, Sumer); dance notation, to the early 18th century.  But it wasn’t until the early 1980s that jugglers had a way to record and share their moves.

Invented by Paul Klimek in Santa Cruz, California in 1981, Siteswap (as the system is known) was further developed by Bruce “Boppo” Tiemann and Bengt Magnusson at the California Institute of Technology in 1985, and by Mike Day, Colin Wright, and Adam Chalcraft in Cambridge, England in 1985.  (In the U.K., the system is known as “Cambridge Notation.”)

Its simplest form, often called “vanilla siteswap,” charts throws as though one were to watch someone from above as they were juggling while walking forward– an approach sometimes called a “space-time diagram” or “ladder diagram.”

 source

But over the years, the system has gotten more sophisticated, embracing more elaborate representations, like the “state diagrams” (that capture the positions of juggled objects in the air at any point, and allow the deduction of available options for next tosses).

 source

As Slashdot reports,

‘Siteswap has allowed jugglers to share tricks with each other without having to meet in person or film themselves,’ says James Grime, juggling enthusiast and math instructor for Cambridge University. Still unclear on the concept? Spend some time playing around with Paul Klimek’s most-excellent Quantum Juggling simulator, and you too can be a Flying Karamazov Brother!

###

As we struggle to keep all of our balls in the air, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers premiered at the Old Vic in London.  A satire of academic philosophy– likening it to a less-than skilful competitive display of gymnastics and, yes, juggling– the play is set in an alternative future in which British astronauts have landed on the moon… leading to fears that the landing  would ruin the moon as a poetic trope and result in a collapse of moral values.

Egad!

Michael Hordern as philosopher George Moore (from the playtext cover). Moore is about to loose the arrow and disprove Zeno’s arrow paradox.

 source

Happy Groundhog Day!

 source

 

Written by LW

February 2, 2013 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: