Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

The third post of pre-Christmas 2018: March

Saturday, 15 December, 2018

The review of the year as echoed in Rainy Day post continues with our 15 March reflection on the magisterial uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn. “For he had gone alone into the island / And brought back the whole thing,” as his great friend, the poet Seamus Heany, wrote. And, indeed, Liam O’Flynn brought back the whole legacies of Leo Rowsome, Willie Clancy and Seamus Ennis for future generations of pipers. RIP.

********

Fulsome are the tributes that have been published following the death yesterday of the uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn. And deservedly so, as he was unique. That mastery of an ancient tradition imbued him with the confidence to place his music before a restless, modern audience demanding progress but still wishing to retain some links with the past and the enthusiastic resonance — from Clonnmel to Copenhagen — ensured the success of the groundbreaking group Planxty.

Liam O’Flynn was charming and erudite, witty and cultured, polite and professional and, above all, human. Those fortunate enough to have known him know how much he’ll be missed. At this time, it’s appropriate to paraphrase C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed: “His absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”

Tomorrow, here, the fourth post of pre-Christmas 2018. One of our most fascinating April subjects was the notorious Silicon Valley scam artist, Elizabeth Holmes.


The second post of pre-Christmas 2018: February

Friday, 14 December, 2018

As we continue with our review of the year that began yesterday, it’s worth noting that along with the word, the image is mission critical, as the jargon merchants say, at Rainy Day. On 15 February, the subject was a black-and-white photo taken by Michail Christodoulopoulos.

********

For its Black and White Quest, 500px asked for submissions that were stronger without colour. The winner is Michail Christodoulopoulos with this evocative Semana Santa image. Why did the judges pick it? “This is a perfect use of black and white — it emphasizes its mood and tone. The shallow depth of field and composition makes the viewer’s eye go back and forth through this line of men and their expressions.”

Semana Santa

And the story behind the winning entry: “This photo was taken in Malaga last year during the Semana Santa / Holy Week,” says Christodoulopoulos. “I’ve been living in Spain for almost 14 years, but I never miss the processions from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, where the confraternities of Malaga carry their floats, representing the Passion of Christ from His entry into Jerusalem to His Resurrection.”

Tomorrow, here, the third post of pre-Christmas 2018 review is from March and it’s about the great piper Liam O’Flynn. “His absence is like the sky, spread over everything,” to paraphrase C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed.


The first post of pre-Christmas 2018: January

Thursday, 13 December, 2018

We’re kicking off the Rainy Day review of this year’s postings with an entry dated 3 January. The title was “New Year’s reading: CRISPR.” Here goes.

**********

We’re devoting time this week to the books that were the presents of Christmas past. On Monday, it was The Best of A.A. Gill, a gift from Noel Donnelly, yesterday it was Five Escape Brexit Island, put in the Rainy Day Xmas stocking by Ian McMaster, and today it’s Change Agent by Daniel Suarez, a gift to this blogger from himself.

At the end of March last year, The Hollywood Reporter posted an “Exclusive” story titled “Netflix Options Upcoming Sci-Fi Novel ‘Change Agent’.” So, before the publisher had stocked up on ink to print the novel, its author was laughing all the way to bank. Nice one! What’s all the excitement about, then? Well, Change Agent is thriller about genetic engineering that combines CRISPR with non-stop action in Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar. At the centre of the story is Kenneth Durand, an Interpol agent who’s given the face and body of a scary villain, thanks to some deft in vivo gene editing that threatens to eliminate the very notion of individual identity. In telling the yarn, Suarez creates a near-future world of cryptocurrencies, drones, surveillance, AR glasses, trade and terror. Snippet:

Early evening and Durand sat in the conditioned air of a private autonomous comcar as it merged into the close coordination of rush hour. His daughter’s wrapped birthday gift sat on the seat beside him. He leaned back and felt the stress of the day leave him.
In the distance he could see the glowing logos of synbio firms on the Singapore skyline. Licensed AR video ads played across the surfaces of several skyscrapers — although they were really only being beamed into Durand’s retinas by his own LFP glasses. The contract for his LFP glasses required exposure to specific layers of public advertising. At least he’d opted out of the low-end ads, but opting out of all AR advertising was prohibitively expensive.

Just the same, Durand frowned at the shoddy data management employed by the advertisers. He was clearly not in the target demographic for an ad gliding across the neighboring buildings, alive with images of Jedis, Starfleet officers, and steampunk characters: “Singapore’s premier Star Wars, Star Trek, and steampunk cosliving communities…”

Cossetted young professionals at the big synbio firms were a more likely demo for their product — single people with a couple million to blow on living in a theme park.

But by then the ad had shifted to CRISPR Critters. Gigantic, adorable neotenic cats cavorted from building to building, pursuing a virtual ball of yarn.

Durand decided to close his eyes.

He clicked off and followed other commuters down a narrow lane between old brick buildings. This MRT crowd skewed young — twenties and early thirties. Lots of expats. Well dressed and all talking to people who weren’t there. Snatches of conversation floated past him in Hokkien, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, English, Russian, Swahili, German, Korean — and more he didn’t recognize. They’d no doubt come to Singapore to make their killing. To work threads in a blockchain corporation or license their own cellular machinery. XNA programmers. Genetic engineers. Entrepreneurs. And they all had to have impressive CVs to get a work visa in the city.

Change Agent

Tomorrow, here, the second post of pre-Christmas 2018: February.


The 12 posts of pre-Christmas

Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

This year, like every year, Rainy Day has posted daily about the good, the bad and the ugly of life in this best of all possible worlds. Now, with 2018 drawing to a close, it’s time to look back at the year’s posts and in the coming 12 days of pre-Christmas we’ll be posting an item from each month this year, starting tomorrow with January, which began with the fireside reading of a thriller that turned out to be quite topical many months later even though it’s set in the year 2045. You see, it’s very much about CRISPR and genetic crime and black market labs in Asia that perform “vanity edits” on human embryos… for a price.


How “checkpoint therapy” changes cancer treatment

Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their work on cancer therapy “by the inhibition of negative immune regulation.” Their discoveries mark a milestone in our understanding of cancer because they reveal that the immune system can be recruited to fight malignant tumours.

Cancer is one of humanity’s greatest health challenges. It kills millions every year and casts a huge shadow over the lives of their families and friends. But relief is on the horizon. By stimulating our immune system to attack tumour cells, Allison and Honjo have established an entirely new therapy principle.

Allison studied a protein that acts as a brake on the immune system and realized the potential of releasing the brake and thereby freeing immune cells to attack tumours. He has developed this concept into a new approach for treating victims. Meanwhile, Honjo discovered a protein in immune cells and demonstrated that it also operates as a brake. Therapies based on his discovery have proved impressively effective. The new “checkpoint therapy” based on work of Allison and Honjo promises to change fundamentally the way cancer is managed.

Here, James P. Allison from Alice, Texas, cancer scientist and part-time harmonica player with Willie Nelson’s touring group, the Family, delivers his Nobel Lecture at the Aula Medica, Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.


Street Fighting Man in Paris, then and now

Monday, 10 December, 2018

Fifty years ago, the Rolling Stones released their Beggars Banquet album. It contained what’s been called the group’s “most political song,” Street Fighting Man. Mick Jagger said that he found partial inspiration for the song in the violence among student rioters in Paris during the run up to the civil unrest of May 1968. Quote:

“It was a very strange time in France. But not only in France but also in America, because of the Vietnam War and these endless disruptions … I thought it was a very good thing at the time. There was all this violence going on. I mean, they almost toppled the government in France; de Gaulle went into this complete funk, as he had in the past, and he went and sort of locked himself in his house in the country. And so the government was almost inactive. And the French riot police were amazing.”

To mark the 50th anniversary of Street Fighting Man, the band have released a video of the song featuring the lyrics. Uncannily, this is again a strange time in France. Whether M. Macron will go into a complete funk and lock himself into his house in the country remains to be seen. Those French riot police are still amazing, though.


Camille Paglia on 2020 and beyond

Sunday, 9 December, 2018

We are sleep-walking through the “graveyard of liberalism, whose once noble ideals have turned spectral and vampiric,” says author, academic and thinker Camille Paglia. Speaking to Spectator USA, she discusses, inter alia, 2020 and Trump. Snippet:

“If the economy continues strong, Trump will be reelected. The Democrats (my party) have been in chaos since the 2016 election and have no coherent message except Trump hatred. Despite the vast pack of potential candidates, no one yet seems to have the edge. I had high hopes for Kamala Harris, but she missed a huge opportunity to play a moderating, statesmanlike role and has already imprinted an image of herself as a ruthless inquisitor that will make it hard for her to pull voters across party lines.

Screechy Elizabeth Warren has never had a snowball’s chance in hell to appeal beyond upper-middle-class professionals of her glossy stripe. Kirsten Gillibrand is a wobbly mediocrity. Cory Booker has all the gravitas of a cork. Andrew Cuomo is a yapping puppy with a long, muddy bullyboy tail. Both Bernie Sanders (for whom I voted in the 2016 primaries) and Joe Biden (who would have won the election had Obama not cut him off at the knees) are way too old and creaky.

To win in the nation’s broad midsection, the Democratic nominee will need to project steadiness, substance, and warmth. I’ve been looking at Congresswoman Cheri Bustos of Illinois and Governor Steve Bullock of Montana. As for Hillary, she’s pretty much damaged goods, but her perpetual, sniping, pity-me tour shows no signs of abating. She still has a rabidly loyal following, but it’s hard to imagine her winning the nomination again, with her iron grip on the Democratic National Committee now gone. Still, it’s in her best interest to keep the speculation fires burning. Given how thoroughly she has already sabotaged the rising candidates by hogging the media spotlight, I suspect she wants Trump to win again. I don’t see our stumbling, hacking, shop-worn Evita yielding the spotlight willingly to any younger gal.”

Where is Oscar Wilde when we need him? He cut through “the insufferable arrogance and preening sanctimony in his era’s self-appointed guardians of morality,” says Paglia and someone similar is badly needed now to expose and ridicule the virtue signalers and social justice warriors who are determined to destroy civilization.

Camille Paglia


Biro drawing of David Bowie

Saturday, 8 December, 2018

This Bic biro drawing of David Bowie is by the amazing Mark Powell, formerly of Yorkshire and now of Brick Lane in East London. Why a biro? “I choose a biro because it is the most simple and readily available tool to hand. I want to show how easy it is to have the chance to create. I want it to inspire people to give it a go without feeling the need to spend money on arts and crafts.”

Biro Bowie


Merkelism II: aka AKK

Friday, 7 December, 2018

Dreadful decision by the CDU. Replacing Angela Merkel with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is a vote for dullness, tedium and monotony, but with a name that’s more difficult to pronounce. On the other hand, it’s a triumph of the art of cloning, just like Zalando is an unexceptional German clone of Amazon. Zalando doesn’t offer as much variety as the original, but it keeps the home crowd happy.


Miraculous medals

Thursday, 6 December, 2018

During her lifetime, my mother supplied a constant stream of medals, some of them “miraculous”, it was claimed. She knew that they’d be needed some day and so it came to pass. And the medals have, indeed, worked miracles. One of the results is that the first drop of stout since the far-off sweltering days of July will be tasted tonight.

As Dostoyevsky said: “Since man cannot live without miracles, he will provide himself with miracles of his own making.”

Stout miracle


Dier and football’s nominative determinism

Wednesday, 5 December, 2018

Following Arsenal’s spectacular 4-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, one expected Arseblog to react euphorically, and that’s exactly what happened on Monday. Intro snippet: “I think the fact that I’ve tried — and failed — with about six different opening lines to this blog is the best illustration of how I’m feeling this morning. As I said in yesterday’s preview, some games are more than just three points and yesterday’s 4-2 win over Sp*rs was 100% one of those. Yes, we won. Yes, we took three points. Yes, we went ahead of them in the table. But it felt like all of that and more, as a quite extraordinary afternoon played out at the Emirates.”

Apart from the euphoria, there’s vitriol and much of it is directed at the Spurs defender and England midfielder, Eric Dier. This is good:

“Dier, football’s greatest example of nominative determinism since Alf Crap, shushed the Arsenal fans, and you knew something was stirring within the Arsenal camp when the celebrations sparked a bit of handbags. Stephan Lichtsteiner was there (of course) and Matteo Guendouzi ran down the line to get hold of Dele Alli. Lovely stuff really, because it was different, it spoke to an attitude within this squad that hasn’t always been present — even in this particular fixture. Dier apparently told Aaron Ramsey, also involved, to ‘sit back down’, which he did … temporarily.

… We might have been punished after a Bellerin mistake, but Leno saved from Son who was probably thinking about how to dive before he shot and thus didn’t find the accuracy he needed, and then Ramsey won the ball in their half and fed Lacacazette. He still had a bit to do, but cut inside and his left-footed shot deflected off Dier and into the bottom corner off the post. Shhhhh that you balloon-headed wankpot. YOU sit down, eh?!”

Football. It’s all about passion. Innit?