Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Futures in bear-pits

1. Wikipedia on Ned Alleyn, found (circuitously) via "Alleyn on the right":

He went into business with Philip Henslowe, his father-in-law, and eventually became wealthy. He became part owner in Henslowe's ventures, and in the end sole proprietor of several profitable playhouses, bear-pits and brothels. Among these were the Rose Theatre at Bankside, the Paris Garden and the Fortune Theatre on Finsbury Fields. The Fortune was built for Alleyn and Henslowe in 1600, the year after the rival Globe Theatre was completed south of the river, by the same contractor Peter Street, but was square rather than round;[9] it was occupied by the Admiral's Men, of which Alleyn was the head.

He filled, too, in conjunction with Henslowe, the post of "master of the king's games of bears, bulls and dogs." On some occasions he directed the sport in person, and John Stow in his Chronicles gives an account of how Alleyn baited a lion before James I at the Tower of London.

2. Via the indispensable seventydys, an old James Wood review of V.S. Pritchett:

He died earlier this year, but he had disappeared while still alive into a vague posterity. He had become cloudily venerable. [...] In 19th-century Russian fiction, especially in Gogol and Chekhov, he found characters who float on the cushions of their own fantasies--people whose most intense relations are not with others but with themselves.

[...] He Russianized English character, finding a kind of Russian madness or instability in what appeared to be mere English eccentricity. (Eccentricity, he once wrote, is "practical madness.") In mild disguise himself, he was alert to the broken disguises of others. "The Fall" (1936) is typical. In a drab provincial hotel, a group of accountants is meeting for its annual dinner. One of them, Charles Peacock, would be a nonentity were it not for his famous brother, who is a movie star. Peacock has a trick, which is that he can mimic perfectly his brother's celebrated stage fall. Early in the evening, Peacock performs this trick a few times to the strained amusement of his colleagues. But he gets drunk, and persists, accosting complete strangers. Each time he falls, he stays a little longer on the ground. By the end of the evening, he is alone in the hotel's ballroom, falling again and again. The pathos of the story flows from Pritchett's determination to see things simultaneously from outside and inside Peacock's head. We see how boring and foolish Peacock has become, but the story makes us stay with him when all the guests have left. We are always on Peacock's side, and at the end we join him on the carpet with his toppled yearnings.
Re floating on cushions, cf. Pritchett describing Mr Beluncle: "his face was bland, heavy in jowl, formless and kind, resting on a second chin like a bottom on an air cushion." Wood remarks elsewhere in the review re poet-critics broadly understood that "All of them have a certain competitive proximity to the writers they discuss, a competition registered verbally. The writer-critic is always showing a little plumage." (I suppose 1998 was before Wood wrote his novel?)

3. Michael Atiyah on doing mathematics (quoted in Gowers, "Two cultures of mathematics"):
MINIO: How do you select a problem to study?
ATIYAH: I think that presupposes an answer. I don't think that's the way I work at all. Some people may sit back and say, \I want to solve this problem" and they sit down and say, \How do I solve this problem?" I don't. I just move around in the mathematical waters, thinking about things, being curious, interested, talking to people, stirring up ideas; things emerge and I follow them up. Or I see something which connects up with something else I know about, and I try to put them together and things develop. I have practically never started o with any idea of what I'm going to be doing or where it's going to go. I'm interested in mathematics; I talk, I learn, I discuss and then interesting questions simply emerge. I have never started off with a particular goal, except the goal of understanding mathematics.
(Relevant b'se of future-work-related pondering re why I should care about what I do.)

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