Archive Page 2 of 66



Police report: “Romeo and Juliet” scam

Police report of “Romeo and Juliet” Confidence Scam:

Location of crime:  Upstairs Foyer, Greenwood Theatre, Guy’s Campus, King’s College London.

Date of crime:  Evenings of 5th, 6th, 7th February 2014.  The crime may also have been “rehearsed” before these dates on unwitting spectators.

Financial sponsors:  A group calling itself King’s College London English Literary Society.

Nature of crime:  Deconstruction of playwright’s text without single reference to post-colonial or feminist perspectives.   Co-conspirator “The Friar” tore out pages of “Romeo and Juliet” text to manifest true nature of crime.

Key victims:  William Shakespeare, women.

Perpetrator:  Unknown.   Calls himself “The Director”.   Identity: Elusive.  Real identity unknown.  May use pseudonyms: W. Nash, Rookie Monster, DPR, Edward Snowden.

Known Co-conspirators:  Marcus “The Friar” Bazley, Hillary “The Counsellor” Chua, Laura “Juliet” Deering, Jackie “Lady Capulet” Edwards, Matthew “Romeo” Hodson.  Others involved in supporting the scam thought to be:  Catherine Walters, Elena Gillies, Emma Lawrence, Aja Garrod, Aggi Cantril, Sophie Omar, and Kate Gardener.  Notes found at crime scene indicate others may also have assisted, almost certainly without realizing the consequences.

Modus Operandi:  Perp takes out-of-copyright play text, reducing number of characters, even using unwitting mark in audience to play role in deception.  Play cut down and cut up, and done as crime scene investigation, with scenes “reconstructed” by “actors”.  Legal counsel present to narrate events and give illusion of objectivity.

Perp uses intelligence and wit to produce amusing, clever, and sophisticated version of play, which is used as a “script” that is then executed (“performed”) by co-conspirators in front of marks.   Performance of script of professional standard, and very realistic.  Thus, marks easily deceived and soon suspend disbelief.    Only one of the known co-conspirators is believed to actually make his living in theatre.  Remaining co-conspirators possibly being groomed.

Co-conspirators take on “roles” to execute script.  Thus, “The Friar” is a Cockney ex-junkie offering life advice to the other conspirators, along with marriage ceremonies and store-and-forward messaging services;   “Romeo” is a lovestruck young man, writing dreamily in his Moleskine; “Lady Capulet” is a tyrant of the household, a dictator of the local.    The different “roles” cleverly interleave, and jointly enable confidence scam.  Indeed, witnesses report that the acting was so intense that it approached the threshold of caricature, but without ever crossing  that threshold,  making the performances thrilling to watch.  Co-conspirators all appear to be under direct influence of Perp.

Co-conspirators use a variety of names, including real names, to confuse audience about when co-conspirators are “acting” in their “roles”, and when not.   Humour and wit used to distract attention of audience from reconstruction of double suicide, following madness of young love, set amongst inter-gang warfare in urban Italy.

Toying with nature of “acting” indicates this is crime of real sophistication by people with extensive experience in deception and illusion.   Perp and co-conspirators may have worked in Elizabethan theatre before.  Crime shows many hallmarks of two known literary deceivers and wits with Elizabethan previous, Thomas Nashe and Kit Marlowe.  Neither likely involved:  Nashe believed deceased, Marlowe either deceased (Deptford Regional Office view) or living in exile in Italy.

Production involves post-coitus scene, drugs, violence, suicide, and death.  No rock and roll, but.   One person injured by vicious slap.   Music deployed very effectively to “set the scene” and relax audience in preparation for confidence scam, and at various times during the operation to manipulate emotions of marks.

Use of Barber’s Adagio for Strings obviously intended as subtle allusion to FDR’s funeral and Oliver Stone’s film about Vietnam.  This double allusion should allay concerns of English Department about absence of references to post-colonial oppression and the wickedness of US global hegemony, as well as providing a warm glow of self-satisfaction to the one person who caught the allusions.

Related scams:  West Side Story, High School Musical.

Known beneficiaries of scam:

  1. Perp and co-conspirators
  2. KCL English Literary Society
  3. Greenwood Theatre
  4. King’s College London
  5. The Horseshoe Inn, Melior Street, London
  6. The London theatre world
  7. The audience.

Progress of investigation:  Police seeking the 132 witnesses to garner further information.

Public warning:  These people are armed with professional acting skills and very dangerous.   Perp may be serial dramaturge, intent on career in intelligent theatre or deception.  Co-conspirators capable of superb acting at the highest level.

Deptford Regional Office reports rumour that next confidence scam may take place in Copenhagen.

Conspirators also believed to hold raucous after-play parties to celebrate success of scam, involving alcohol, tobacco, witty conversation, and profound arguments about the existence of God and the nature of relationships.  Kit Marlowe would feel at home.  US State Department Advisory:  Americans visiting London particularly at risk.

Note:  Potential side-effects of scam include reviews written as police-reports, pretentiously imitating style of the production itself.




Actions creating beliefs

 

zazen

I miss reading the posts of the late Norman Geras, over at Normblog.   His views were always interesting, and his arguments very often acute.   For all his mental incision in general, however, he had a blind spot when it came to religion, as I argued here.  His blind spot marked him, despite his lack of religious beliefs, as a person of the post-Reformation confessional view of life:  the view that thinking does (and should) preceed acting, and that thinking leads to considered beliefs.  This is a peculiarly modern, western view, a view not shared by most of humanity, neither now nor in the past.    The entire weltanshauung of Zen Buddhism, for example, is that beliefs (in the form of enlightenment) are the consequence of religious practices, not necessarily their cause.  Norm, western philosopher to his fingertips, never got this.

S. Brent Plate makes a similar criticism of a recent questionnaire aimed at ranking US cities by their “Bible-mindedness”:

The assumptions of the pollsters betray a larger misconception concerning who religious people are and what they do. Questionnaires are still mired in the mostly-Protestant notion that religious people read holy books and have “beliefs” in their heads. It makes for good fodder on the religion news circuits but necessarily leaves out the lived realities of religious existence. For religious life in these United States, the potluck is just as important as the preacher. The soup kitchen as important as the scriptures.

What if we had polls that were indeed about religion and society? What would this mean? How would we ask? Who would we ask?  

At the least, this would require the work of bodies, of actual breathing, eating people. We’d find that we social beings might believe things, but more importantly, we behave in particular manners. Our bodies move with other bodies in private and public ways, singing and swaying, seeing and smelling.

We don’t act out our beliefs as much as our beliefs are created through our actions.




Mao Tse Tung, music teacher

Szabo-Daniel-hands

Learn to “play the piano”. In playing the piano, all ten fingers are in motion; it will not do to move some fingers only and not others. However, if all ten fingers press down at once, there is no melody. To produce good music, the ten fingers should move rhythmically and in co-ordination. A Party committee should keep a firm grasp on its central task and at the same time, around the central task, it should unfold the work in other fields. At present, we have to take care of many fields; we must look after the work in all the areas, armed units and departments, and not give all our attention to a few problems, to the exclusion of others. Wherever there is a problem, we must put our finger on it, and this is a method we must master. Some play the piano well and some badly, and there is a great difference in the melodies they produce. Members of Party committees must learn to “play the piano” well.”

Mao Tse-Tung [1949-03-13]: Methods of Work of Party Committees. Selected Works, Vol. IV, p. 379.  The hands are those of Hungarian jazz pianist, Szabo Daniel.




Economic models as fables

PNM-logoDifferent knowledge disciplines mean different things by the verb “to understand”.   For economists and physicists, a domain or a problem is not understood unless and until it is modeled, and often only by a particular type of model.    For most economists, for instance, agent-based models do not provide understanding, because they only show sufficient and not necessary conclusions.    For mechanical engineers, understanding usually only comes from a physical prototype.  For computer programmers, understanding happens through and with the writing of a software programme for the problem.  For legal scholars, it arises with and from the writing of a narrative text reflecting on the problem and its issues.

Here is economist and game theorist Ariel Rubinstein on models in economics:

Continue reading ‘Economic models as fables’




Auburn addictions

LaGhirlandata-Rossetti

I went three times to his studio, and met him at two evening parties – where I had good deal of talk with him, always excepting the times when ladies with beautiful hair came in when he was like the cat turned into a lady, who jumped out of bed and ran after a mouse. It did not signify what we were talking about or how agreeable I was; if a particular kind of reddish brown, crepe wavy hair came in, he was away in a moment struggling for an introduction to the owner of said hair. He is not as mad as a March hare, but hair-mad.”

Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) on the Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rosetti (1828-1882), in a letter to Charles Eliot Norton (25 and 30 October 1859).  The image shown is Rossettti’s painting La Ghirlandata (The Garlanded Lady), for whom the model was Alexa Wilding.  Bridgeman Art Library, London.




Bateson on rationality

Mere purposive rationality unaided by such phenomena as art, religion, dream and the like, is necessarily pathogenic and destructive of life; and  . . . its virulence springs specifically from the circumstance that life depends upon interlocking circuits of contingency, while consciousness can see only such short arcs of such circuits as human purpose may direct.”

Gregory Bateson [1972]: “Style, Grace and Information in Primitive Art.”  Page 146 in: Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York, NY: Ballentine Books.

George Santayana said something similar in his Sonnet III:

It is not wisdom to be only wise,
And on the inward vision close the eyes,
But it is wisdom to believe the heart.




The New World versus the Old

Propose to an Englishman any principle, or any instrument, however admirable, and you will observe that the whole effort of the English mind is directed to find a difficulty, defect, or an impossibility in it.  If you speak to him of a machine for peeling a potato, he will pronounce it impossible:  if you peel a potato with it before his eyes, he will declare it useless, because it will not slice a pineapple.  Impart the same principle or show the same machine to an American, or to one of our colonists, and you will observe that the whole effort of his mind is to find some new application of the principle, some new use for the instrument. ”

Charles Babbage, 1852, in a paper on taxation.  Cited on page 132 of Doron Swade [2000]:  The Cogwheel Brain:  Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer. London, UK:  Little, Brown and Company.




Human anxiety

Man, in contrast to other animals, is conscious of his own existence.  Therefore, conscious of the possibility of non-existence. Ergo, he has anxiety.”

Woman speaking at party, in Shadows, a film by John Cassavetes, 1959. 

I am not convinced that man alone is conscious of his own existence, not when elephants go to specific places to die and other elephants avoid those places, and not when dogs play jokes on their owners, and nor when some birds seem to enter into relationships with humans in which they present their offspring proudly as if to a grandparent.




All Africa within us

There is all Africa and her prodigies in us; we are that bold and adventurous piece of Nature which he that studies wisely learns in a compendium what others labour at in a divided piece and endless volume  . . . There is no man alone, because every man is a microcosm and carries the whole world about him.”

Thomas Browne [1928]: The Works of Sir Thomas Browne (Editor: G. Keynes), Volume 2. London.




Musical ignorance

You won’t find this blog doing late-breaking news or commentary.   Web-browsing, I am led to a report of an interview given by Cambridge academic George Steiner to a Spanish newspaper in 2008, in which he is quoted as saying:

“It’s very easy to sit here, in this room, and say ‘racism is horrible’,” he said from his house in Cambridge, where he has been Extraordinary Fellow at Churchill College since 1969.

“But ask me the same thing if a Jamaican family moved next door with six children and they play reggae and rock music all day. Or if an estate agent comes to my house and tells me that because a Jamaican family has moved next door the value of my property has fallen through the floor. Ask me then!”

In his essays and books, Steiner is a model of erudition.   But his knowledge of music is quite evidently lamentable.  In my experience, almost nobody likes BOTH reggae and rock music, and certainly no Jamaican I have known.  

Ignorance of reggae seems to be a special attribute of the literati.  VS Naipaul once described its beat as “pseudo-portentous”, a property which I have never been able to hear in the music itself.   I doubt he could either; he just liked the phrase and disliked the music.  And - like Charles Rosen with Mendelssohn – used his sharp verbal skills to seek to justify his prior musical tastes.  In both cases, the attempt fails. 

In response to Steiner’s ignorance, I decided to listen to the Master in a superb chilled-out remix:

  • Dreams of Freedom:  Ambient Translations of Bob Marley in Dub. Remix Production by Bill Laswell, Creative Direction by Chris Blackwell. Brooklyn, NY:  Island Records, 1997.

followed by some of the best industrial noise:

  • Shinjuku Filth.  Darrin Verhagen.  Melbourne: Iridium, 1999.