I’m a drinker with writing problems.

Brendan Behan
Interviews and Recollections

saw a sign that said ‘Drink Canada Dry’. So I did.

Brendan Behan
The Quare Fellow

scíth a ligean

I know it is a sign of ingratitude on the part of the author, if he raises both hands against a certain popularity that has befallen something which is called his spiritual brainchild; for that matter, he is aware that by doing so he can no longer change a thing. The author was silent a goodly time and kept his own counsel, while the notion that robots have limbs of metal and innards of wire and cogwheels (or the like) has become current; he has learned, without any great pleasure, that genuine steel robots have started to appear, robots that move in various directions, tell the time, and even fly aeroplanes; but when he recently read that, in Moscow, they have shot a major film, in which the world is trampled underfoot by mechanical robots, driven by electromagnetic waves, he developed a strong urge to protest, at least in the name of his own robots. For his robots were not mechanisms. They were not made of sheet-metal and cogwheels. They were not a celebration of mechanical engineering. If the author was thinking of any of the marvels of the human spirit during their creation, it was not of technology, but of science. With outright horror, he refuses any responsibility for the thought that machines could take the place of people, or that anything like life, love, or rebellion could ever awaken in their cogwheels. He would regard this sombre vision as an unforgivable overvaluation of mechanics or as a severe insult to life.

The author of the robots appeals to the fact that he must know the most about it: and therefore he pronounces that his robots were created quite differently—that is, by a chemical path. The author was thinking about modern chemistry, which in various emulsions (or whatever they are called) has located substances and forms that in some ways behave like living matter. He was thinking about biological chemistry [sic], which is constantly discovering new chemical agents that have a direct regulatory influence on living matter; about chemistry, which is finding—and to some extent already building—those various enzymes, hormones, and vitamins that give living matter its ability to grow and multiply and arrange all the other necessities of life. Perhaps, as a scientific layman, he might develop an urge to attribute this patient ingenious scholarly tinkering, with the ability to one day produce, by artificial means, a living cell in the test tube; but for many reasons, amongst which also belonged a respect for life, he could not resolve to deal so frivolously with this mystery. That is why he created a new kind of matter by chemical synthesis, one which simply behaves a lot like the living; it is an organic substance, different to that from which living cells are made; it is something like another alternative to life, a material substrate, in which life could have evolved, if it had not, from the beginning, taken a different path. We do not have to suppose that all the different possibilities of creation have been exhausted on our planet. The author of the robots would regard it as an act of scientific bad taste if he had brought something to life with brass cogwheels or created life in the test tube; the way he imagined it, he created only a new foundation for life, which began to behave like living matter, and which could therefore have become a vehicle of life — but a life which remains an unimaginable and incomprehensible mystery. This life will reach its fulfilment only when (with the aid of considerable inaccuracy and mysticism) the robots acquire souls. From which it is evident that the author did not invent his robots with the technological hubris of a mechanical engineer, but with the metaphysical humility of a spiritualist.

Well then, the author cannot be blamed for what might be called the worldwide humbug over the robots. The author did not intend to furnish the world with plate-metal dummies stuffed with cogwheels, photovoltaic cells, and other mechanical gizmos. It appears, however, that the modern world is not interested in his scientific robots and has replaced them with technological ones; and these are, as is apparent, the true flesh-of-our-flesh of our age. The world needed mechanical robots, for it believes in machines more than it believes in life; it is fascinated more by the marvels of technology than by the miracle of life. For which reason, the author who wanted—through his insurgent robots, striving for a soul—to protest against the mechanical superstition of our times, must in the end claim something, which nobody can deny him: the honour that he was defeated.

Karel Čapek
Karel Čapek: the Man Who Gave us Robots
Lido’vé noviny, 43, 9 June 1935
Trans. Cyril Simsa

Dead Voices

January 16, 2020

All the dead voices.
They make a noise like wings.
Like leaves.
Like sand.
Like leaves.

Samuel Beckett
Waiting for Godot

Hell

December 31, 2019

What is hell? Hell is oneself, hell is alone, the other figures in it merely projections.

TS Eliot
The Cocktail Party

memory

November 21, 2019

Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart. The interior is therefore rather dim and poetic.

Tennessee Williams
The Glass Menagerie

love an artist

September 28, 2019

This is what it is to love an artist: The moon is always rising above your house. The houses of your neighbours look dull and lacking in moonlight. But he is always going away from you. Inside his head there is always something more beautiful.

Sarah Ruhl
Eurydice

pure smut

August 4, 2019

Who knows what dirty story, what even better dirty story, it may even be one we have not heard before, told at some colossal pitch of pure smut, beats at this moment in vain against our eardrums.

Samuel Beckett
Murphy

Antigone is different from every other Greek tragedy because rather than being a story about a human being who struggles against the logic of the universe and loses, it’s a story about a human being seeking to assert her conception of a just and rational universe against a man who thinks that he can bend the universe to his own will. It’s a clash between two people, not between a person and the gods. and ultimately what it asserts is that powerful men do have the ability to distort reality to suit their will, but not without creating destruction. It’s the only tragedy whose hero is trying to assert the will of the gods rather than defy it.

Evie
The Hopeless Dream of Being

the smell of smoke

June 23, 2019

We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.

Tom Stoppard
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

expression of sexuality

June 16, 2019

In Dracula, blood is of utmost importance. The novel opens with Jonathan Harker’s experience in Dracula’s castle, the first proof of the supernatural power and unnatural pull of vampires, and the first few examples of their overwhelming appetite for blood. The act of taking blood and allowing blood to be taken is eroticized in the novel, and the absolute necessity of blood for vampires in order to survive connects the creatures and their blood lust to exaggerated, violent sexual images. Built on many aspects of Gothic horror with these tropes of Dracula’s castle shifted to and set against Victorian-era London later in the novel, Dracula emphasizes the corrupting foreign influence of the Transylvanian vampire and his hunt for blood as he invades the patriarchal society at the center of the story. The lead characters are modern and chaste, as per the era’s societal expectations, directly in opposition to Dracula, an inhuman demon, a creature on a constant hunt for young blood, a predator whose influence tests Victorian conceptions of gender roles and the expression of sexuality. Dracula directly attacks women, so the men seek to protect the women and their innocent forms from the sexual outsider, Dracula, but in turn, the men are tempted greatly by the corrupted females with their inviting, vampiric tendencies. These warped women appear first in the form of Dracula’s brides, three vampiric beings exerting a tempting force on Jonathan Harker, and later Lucy Westenra becomes a threat as well in her vampire form. Mina Harker’s possible transformation into a vampire leads up to the climax in the novel, as the male characters race to prevent her change into a monstrous and hypersexualized form.

Sean Bernhard
The Blood is the Life