Monday, 28 November 2011

Alice in Time

I am always fascinated by the overlap between literature and other scholarly and scientific fields. My last article combined Vivaldi's Gloria with Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape and in June, I combined Christina Rossetti's In an Artist's Studio with Botticelli paintings. In this post, you can read an article written by Gillian Beer, professor emeritus of English literature at the University of Cambridge UK. Here, she looks at the role of time and space in Lewis Carroll's Alice books. Charles Dodgson was a prominent mathematician and logician at Oxford and was known to let these scientific areas colour his literary output.

To read the article, click each page and enjoy. Below the article is Beer's lecture on the topic at Harvard University.

Sources: Text, Lecture

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Vivaldi and Beckett Brought Together

Last night, there was a storm. A chaotic rumble of branches flying about, windows and doors slamming and gusts of wind hammering my abode. Today, the wind is all but gone and a cold, greyblue silence has taken its place. One which calls for subdued reflection.

It is under these conditions that two works of art appear to me as profoundly appropriate. The first is the second movement from Antonio Vivaldi's Gloria (RV589), Et in Terra Pax. This peaceful piece of music beautifully complements a scene from Samuel Beckett's one-act, one-character play Krapp's Last Tape. A melancholy and disillusioned old man, Krapp, sits by himself listening to diary-like tapes he recorded when he was younger remembering episodes with joy, but also regret. The scene included here is one of those episodes.

My suggested method for reading this is allowing Et in Terra Pax to run in the background while reading the scene. If you would like to read Beckett's complete play, you can find it here.



--Back on the year that is gone, with what I hope is perhaps a glint of the old eye to come, there is of course the house on the canal where mother lay a-dying, in the late autumn, after her long viduity (Krapp gives a start), and the--(Krapp switches off, winds back tape a little, bends his ear closer to the machine, switches on)--a-dying, after her long viduity, and the--

Krapp switches off, raises his head, stares blankly before him. His lips move in the syllables of "viduity." No sound. He gets up, goes back stage into darkness, comes back with an enormous dictionary, lays it on table, sits down and looks up the word.


(reading from dictionary). State--or condition of being--or remaining--a widow--or widower. (Looks up. Puzzled.) Being--or remaining? . . . (Pause. He peers again at dictionary. Reading.) "Deep weeds of viduity" . . . Also of an animal, especially a bird . . . the vidua or weaver bird . . . Black plumage of male . . . (He looks up. With relish.) The vidualbird!

Pause. He closes dictionary, switches on, resumes listening posture.


--bench by the weir from where I could see her window. There I sat, in the biting wind, wishing she were gone. (Pause.) Hardly a soul, just a few regulars, nursemaids, infants, old men, dogs. I got to know them quite well--oh by appearance of course I mean! One dark young beauty I recall particularly, all white and starch, incomparable bosom, with a big black hooded perambulator, most funereal thing. Whenever I looked in her direction she had her eyes on me. And yet when I was bold enough to speak to her--not having been introduced--she threatened to call a policeman. As if I had designs on her virtue! (Laugh. Pause.) The face she had! The eyes! Like . . . (hesitates) . . . chrysolite! (Pause.) Ah well . . . (Pause.) I was there when--(Krapp switches off, broods, switches on again)--the blind went down, one of those dirty brown roller affairs, throwing a ball for a little white dog, as chance would have it. I happened to look up and there it was. All over and done with, at last. I sat on for a few moments with the ball in my hand and the dog yelping and pawing at me. (Pause.) Moments. Her moments, my moments. (Pause.) The dog's moments. (Pause.) In the end I held it out to him and he took it in his mouth, gently, gently. A small, old, black, hard, solid rubber ball. (Pause.) I shall feel it, in my hand, until my dying day. (Pause.) I might have kept it. (Pause.) But I gave it to the dog.



Friday, 18 November 2011

Wodehouse for Medical Purposes

This article from The Times explains the healing powers of Wodehouse-induced laughter. It also goes a long way in exemplifying the distinction between author and person. Enjoy the enlightenment!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Another Song for the Exhausted

My Fridays are always harrowing. If you were to say; "Look at that fellow, Sir Bunbury, he is a nervous wreck" you wouldn't be far off. Giving lectures for hours on end can really take it out of a poor blighter. In these situations, T Rex' We Love to Boogie and particularly this youtube rendition is like ointment to the wearly limb.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Naked Woman in Dead Horse: Played Star Wars

This "man bites dog"-type story is too amazing not to post here. Words can hardy suffice, but The Seattle Weekly has tried.


Jasha Lottin, Portland Nudist, Broke No Laws by Killing, Gutting Horse, then Posing Naked Inside Carcass

Jasha Lottin says she can't understand why people are so interested in why she bought a horse, killed it, gutted it, then posed naked for photos inside the carcass and posted them on the Internet.

Lottin, a 21-year-old and nudist from Portland was questioned at length by Washington County Sheriff's Deputies recently after she posted on the Internet gory photos of herself naked inside a horse that she bought, shot, gutted, posed naked inside of, and ultimately ate.

Joshua Washburn, a North Carolina man, had come across the pics online at the website 4chan and reported them to deputies.

Those sheriff's deputies recently concluded that no animal abuse had been committed and therefore no laws had been broken.

Regardless, since Lottin wanted to publish the photos herself anyway, here they are uncensored as provided by the WCSO.

We'd recommend people not look at them while eating.

Via Washington County Sheriff's Office

According to a police report Lottin and her friend John Frost had purchased a 32-year-old dying horse in Richfield, Wash. Shortly after buying the animal Frost shot it in the head with a .300 Winchester Magnum hunting rifle (the horse had apparently been scheduled to be euthanized already), then the two skinned and gutted it before finally beginning their photo shoot.

 The reason for climbing inside the animal was later explained to deputies as Lottin's desire to "be one with the animal."

That and her love of Star Wars.

From the police report:
Lottin said in the movie Star Wars the character Han Solo cut open and animal with his light saber and placed Luke Skywalker inside the animal. This was due to Luke freezing to death in cold weather. Lottin said there was nothing religious about what she did and didn't intend to offend anyone.
Washington County Sheriff's Office Sgt. David Thompson tells Seattle Weekly that while the case is "truly bizarre", deputies aren't interested in telling people what weird stuff to put or not put on the Internet.

"We've definitely never seen anything like that," Thompson says. "People do bad stuff to people and animals, but in this case it appears that animal was put down humanely, so there's really nothing to compare it to. It's just bizarre."

After posting the photos online, angry readers at 4chan apparently started harassing Lottin and Frost to the point where they pulled their Facebook profiles offline.

Reached by phone yesterday Lottin refused to comment other than saying she doesn't understand what all the fuss is about and that the reason she did what she did was "just spontaneous."

What do you think?

Is this perverted, horrid, deviant, original or just plain colourful? This is one of those stories you could not make up if you tried. It is stranger than fiction. In that light, do you know any equally absurd news stories? If so, feel free to post them or links to them in the comment field below!
Comments on The Tale of Sir Bob are always welcome!