Viewing posts tagged modernity

Sarcasm and Chips

Every time I read The Prince I become more convinced that it is a work of sarcasm.  Not conscious sarcasm perhaps, but sarcasm nonetheless. 

It is the product of bitter disappointment and disillusion.  This man, Machiavelli, had been a fierce Florentine patriot, a republican, a defender of the revolutionary city after the popular ousting of the plutocratic Medici psuedo-kings.  He lost the game and, having been tortured and exiled, he sat and wrote what is supposed to be a job application to the triumphant Medici... and it turns into the first open admission (in modern European letters) that ethics and politics are separate and often irreconcilable. 

It is coded, deliberately or not, to imply that the failure of Republican hopes in the face of the Medici stemmed from a failure to be sufficiently ruthless against them, to be as utterly cynical as the Medici themselves.  In the process, Machiavelli praises Cesare Borgia as the perfect Prince.  The Medici had regained their status in Florence partly owing to an alliance with the bellicose Pope Julius II, who had been one of the Borgia's most implacable enemies. 

Gramsci famously argued that the book ...

11

Adric has found the Doctor sulking in the TARDIS cloisters.  The Doctor has lost Romana and K9.  He's feeling his age.  His ship seems to be falling apart too.  The stone pillars, overrun with vines, crumble under his fingers.   And, to cap it off, Adric wants to be taken back to Gallifrey.

"I sometimes think I should be running a tighter ship," he says sadly.

"A tighter ship?" gasps Adric, as though this is a threatening notion.

"Yes. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is taking its toll on the old thing. Entropy increases."

"Entropy increases?"

"Yes, daily.  The more you put things together, the more they keep falling apart.  That's the essence of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and I never heard a truer word spoken."

It's only fitting that the Doctor should fight one of his most elemental battles against omnipresent entropy.  The Doctor has encountered entropy many times on his travels.  The Tribe of Gum were dangerous because their world was dying in the cold, all heat drained away.  The Moroks froze entropy in an attempt to freeze their own declining imperial history.  Skaro ...

22

The Doctor, Romana and Duggan have found a painting hidden behind a panel in the basement of Count Scarlioni's house in Paris.

"It's the Mona Lisa!" says the Doctor.

"Must be a fake," replies Duggan.

The Doctor says he doesn't know what's currently hanging in the Louvre, "but this is the genuine article".

Duggan's astonishment increases when the Doctor folds back yet more panelling to reveal yet another Mona Lisa.  And another.  And another.  Eventually, six identical copies are revealed.

"They must be fakes," says Duggan again.

"The brushwork's Leonardo's," the Doctor asserts, "It's as characteristic as a signature. The pigment, too."

"What," blithers Duggan, "on all of them?"

"What I don't understand is why a man who's got six Mona Lisas wants to go to all the trouble of stealing a seventh."  (The Count has been casing the Louvre, preparing to steal their Mona Lisa.)

This is Duggan's area.  "Come on, Doctor, I've just told you. There are seven people who would buy the Mona Lisa in secret, but nobody's going to buy the Mona Lisa when it's hanging in ...

Grinding Engines


The mechanical sciences attained to a degree of perfection which, though obscurely foreseen by Lord Bacon, it had been accounted madness to have prophesied in a preceding age. Commerce was pursued with a perpetually increasing vigour, and the same area of the Earth was perpetually compelled to furnish more and more subsistence. The means and sources of knowledge were thus increased together with knowledge itself, and the instruments of knowledge. The benefit of this increase of the powers of man became, in consequence of the inartificial forms into which mankind was distributed, an instrument of his additional evil. The capabilities of happiness were increased, and applied to the augmentation of misery. Modern society is thus an engine assumed to be for useful purposes, whose force is by a system of subtle mechanism augmented to the highest pitch, but which, instead of grinding corn or raising water acts against itself and is perpetually wearing away or breaking to pieces the wheels of which it is composed.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Philosophical View of Reform, 1819-1820 

Silence. It flashed from the woodwork and the walls; it smote him with an awful, total power, as if generated by a vast mill. It rose from ...

Skulltopus 2: Bad Night at Fang Rock

Further to this post, in which I sketched out the ideas of the author China Miéville concerning the relationship between the tentacular and the Weird, and the superpositioning of the Weird and the hauntological in monsterology (please read that before you read anything below), here's my first attempt to look at Doctor Who through that lens.

'Horror of Fang Rock' (1977) seems like an obvious first port of call.  Set just before the First World War (in other words, in the years of the rise of the semiotic octopus, just before the explosion of the Weird), the Rutan is a tentacular monster, though the tentacles are rarely seen and, on the whole, the creature seems more like a jellyfish (even down to its "affinity with electricity").


It seems to be a manifestation of the nebulous electrified military modernity that the character Reuben so resents and fears.  It seems permeated with technology through its affinity with electricity.  It uses the generator, speaks of its ability to shape-shift as a "technique" and leaves bits of its own alien tech all over the place, including a "signal modulator" that chimes thematically with all the concentration on the lighthouse's wireless telegraph ...

Recent Posts

Archive

Tags

Authors

Feeds

RSS / Atom