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Scallops

Sunday, 26 March, 2017 0 Comments

Pan-fried scallops, curried parsnip pureé, crispy capers, raisins and poached apples at the Fern House Café in Kilmacanogue, County Wicklow. Big thanks to Noel, Patricia, Ann and Brian. Great people, great food, great night.

Scallops


Unboxing a book of Vermeer

Saturday, 25 March, 2017 0 Comments

The trend of making videos of the unpacking of a newly-purchased box containing a desirable gadget has given dictionary makers the word “unboxing.” Example: “Did you see Juan’s unboxing of the new super-thin Asus ZenBook UX305?”

A book can be unboxed, too. Here, Vermeer — The Complete Works by Taschen, the art book publisher based in Cologne, is unboxed by Annie Quigley, owner of Bibliophile.

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) painted during that extraordinary period of exploration, trade and creativity that occurred during the Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century. The modern eye is tempted to compare his works to photographs, but deeper observation reveals far more. His paintings are, in fact, exquisitely designed compositions of light and shadow, colour, contours and shapes.


Waugh on travel and terror

Friday, 24 March, 2017 1 Comment

“I See Nothing But Boredom… Everywhere” was the ominous title of a piece by Evelyn Waugh that appeared in the Daily Mail on 28 December 1959. The future of travel was the great man’s theme. Like all newspaper prophesy, it was ignored as soon as it was read, and because Waugh was extremely contrary, his predictions were dismissed as the bitter reproaches of an ageing man (he died in 1966). A rereading, however, shows that he had imagined our future with incredible prescience and was rightly appalled by the vista.

He said: “One went abroad to observe other ways of living, to eat unfamiliar foods and see strange buildings,” but in the future, he foretold, the world would be divided, on the one hand, into “zones of insecurity” dominated by terrorism and, on the other, vulgar tourist traps consisting of “chain hotels, hygienic, costly, and second rate,” to which people would be transported by the uniform jet. Well, we’ve got the terror now, we’ve all stayed in ghastly, modern hotels and air travel began its journey towards industrial conformity and security nightmare some while ago.

Today’s increasingly uncomfortable, stressful, fearful flying experience stands in remarkable contrast to what was once charming and civilized. On a flight in the 1930s, the great traveller and writer Paul Bowles observed: “I had my own cabin with a bed in it, and under sheet and blankets I slept during most of the flight.”

What to do about our dystopia? Stop travelling altogether is one option. Preferable, though, is to document and publish the horrors in the hope that the travel business can be brought to its senses and the good fight against terror will be won.


Indiscriminate wickedness in London

Thursday, 23 March, 2017 0 Comments

The sheer evil of fanatics like the one responsible for yesterday’s terror attack in London is incredible. The crowded places they pick and the massive suffering they inflict suggest a mindset that’s beyond comprehension, but in an attempt to learn something, anything, about their strategies, this blogger turned to The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror by Bernhard Lewis, which was published in 2003. He writes:

“For the new-style terrorists, the slaughter of innocent and uninvolved civilians is not ‘collateral damage’. It is the prime objective. Thanks to the rapid development of the media, and especially of television, the more recent forms of terrorism are aimed not at specific and limited enemy objectives but at world opinion. Their primary purpose is not to defeat or even to weaken the enemy militarily but to gain publicity and to inspire fear — a psychological victory…”

Concerning the willingness of the perpetrators to kill and maim the innocent and the ruthlessness with which they execute their missions, Lewis asks if any of these actions can be justified in terms of Islam. The answer is a clear no, and he adds:

“The callous destruction of thousands in the World Trade Center, including many who were not American, some of them Muslims from Muslim countries, has no justification in Islamic doctrine or law and no precedent in Islamic history. Indeed, there are few acts of comparable deliberate and indiscriminate wickedness in human history. These are not just crimes against humanity and against civilization; they are also acts — from a Muslim point of view — of blasphemy when those who perpetrate such crimes claim to be doing so in the name of God, His Prophet, and His Scriptures.”

After the 9/11 massacre in New York, the response in the Arab press was, to quote Lewis, “an uneasy balance between denial and approval”. Let’s hope that the responses to yesterday’s outrage will be clear in their condemnation of this “indiscriminate wickedness”, this “blasphemy” and these ongoing “crimes against humanity”.

Bernard Lewis


Expressive video, says Apple

Wednesday, 22 March, 2017 0 Comments

Cupertino, California — “Apple today introduced Clips, a new app that makes it quick and fun for anyone to create expressive videos on iPhone and iPad. The app features a unique design for combining video clips, photos and music into great-looking videos to share with friends through the Messages app, or on Instagram, Facebook and other popular social networks.”

That’s how yesterday’s PR release from Apple about its new Clips app begins. The word “expressive” does not appear anywhere in the Clips text so the curious reader has to search further for enlightenment. Is expressive video like immersive video? Or is it a format like FLV video, MP4 video or AVI video?

Susan Prescott, Apple’s VP of Apps Product Marketing, has the answer: “Clips gives iPhone and iPad users a new way to express themselves through video, and it’s incredibly easy to use.” Ah, so obvioius. And it’s incredibly easy for Apple to create new video categories. After expressive video, we can expect communicative video, indicative video, demonstrative video and assertive video, no doubt.

The most interesting aspect of Clips is what Apple calls “Live Titles.” This feature lets users create animated captions and titles using their voice. Effects include speech bubbles, shapes and posters. The captions are generated automatically, as you speak, appearing on screen synced with your voice and you can change them by adding your own text, punctuation or emoji.

Live Titles supports 36 different languages and the Clips app will be available for free in the App Store at the beginning in April. Over to you, Samsung.

Clips


Martin McGuinness obituary

Tuesday, 21 March, 2017 0 Comments

The death has taken place of Martin McGuinness, a key figure in the IRA terror group that killed more than 1,500 people before its political wing, Sinn Féin, embraced the compromises its peaceful opponents had articulated from the 1960s onwards.

Martin McGuinness was a cold-blooded killer who morphed into a dove but his many victims should not be forgotten in the coming rush to sanctify a legacy and burnish a myth. The poet Desmond Egan summarized the cruel futility of McGuinness’ quest in The Northern Ireland Question. It’s concise but the four lines perfectly capture the random barbarity that Martin McGuinness once practiced and endorsed.

The Northern Ireland Question

two wee girls
were playing tig near a car

how many counties would you say
are worth their scattered fingers?

Desmond Egan


“We’re building a world-size robot”

Monday, 20 March, 2017 0 Comments

So says Bruce Schneier, the cryptographer, security professional and privacy specialist. His robot alarm is expressed in a New York magazine piece with the very clickbait title “Click Here to Kill Everyone.” Schneier is worried about the Internet of Things (IoT)and says we should think twice about what we connect to the net and reverse the trend to connect everything to it. With the IoT, we’ve started building a world-size robot, he claims, but we haven’t stopped to think about how we might control it. Bottom line:

“The world-size robot we’re building can only be managed responsibly if we start making real choices about the interconnected world we live in. Yes, we need security systems as robust as the threat landscape. But we also need laws that effectively regulate these dangerous technologies. And, more generally, we need to make moral, ethical, and political decisions on how those systems should work. Until now, we’ve largely left the internet alone. We gave programmers a special right to code cyberspace as they saw fit. This was okay because cyberspace was separate and relatively unimportant: That is, it didn’t matter. Now that that’s changed, we can no longer give programmers and the companies they work for this power. Those moral, ethical, and political decisions need, somehow, to be made by everybody. We need to link people with the same zeal that we are currently linking machines. ‘Connect it all’ must be countered with ‘connect us all.'”

Some of these issues will be discussed this afternoon in Hannover by the CeBIT panel on The future of IoT and society/technology/policy. Participants include Kenichiro Yamanishi, Chairman, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Ammar Alkassar, CEO, Rohde & Schwarz Cybersecurity, and Henning Kagermann, Global Representative and Advisor Plattform Industrie 4.0.


Beautiful Lofty Balscadden

Sunday, 19 March, 2017 0 Comments

In his poem Beautiful Lofty Things, W.B. Yeats mentions meeting his beautiful muse Maud Gonne at the Howth train station in Dublin. Yeats lived at Balscadden House on Howth Head for three years and the final line of Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, which is quoted on the wall plaque that commemorates his residency, is a reference to Maud Gonne: “I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

Balscadden House is in a beautiful lofty place and we plan to walk there next weekend.

Beautiful Lofty Things

O’Leary’s noble head;
My father upon the Abbey stage, before him a raging crowd:
‘This Land of Saints,’ and then as the applause died out,
‘Of plaster Saints’; his beautiful mischievous head thrown back.
Standish O’Grady supporting himself between the tables
Speaking to a drunken audience high nonsensical words;
Augusta Gregory seated at her great ormolu table,
Her eightieth winter approaching: ‘Yesterday he threatened my life.
I told him that nightly from six to seven I sat at this table,
The blinds drawn up’; Maud Gonne at Howth station waiting a train,
Pallas Athene in that straight back and arrogant head:
All the Olympians; a thing never known again.

W.B. Yeats (1865 – 1939)

Balscadden House

Howth Head


Paglia on Elitist Garbage & Contemporary Feminism

Saturday, 18 March, 2017 0 Comments

Camille Paglia is in the news thanks to her new book, Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, and Feminism. It’s a collection of her thoughts from 1990 to the present, and in an interview with Vice she argues that feminism is now dominated by educated white women at the expense of working class women and men. Snippet:

The book argues that construction workers and other working class men’s work have gone unnoticed. How has society ignored their contributions to society?

It is an absolute outrage how so many pampered, affluent, upper-middle-class professional women chronically spout snide anti-male feminist rhetoric, while they remain completely blind to the constant labor and sacrifices going on all around them as working-class men create and maintain the fabulous infrastructure that makes modern life possible in the Western world. Only a tiny number of women want to enter the trades where most of the nitty-gritty physical work is actually going on—plumbing, electricity, construction. Women have played virtually no role in the erection of those magnificent towers in every major city in the world. It’s men who operate the cranes or set the foundations or wash windows on the 85th floor. It’s men who troop out at 2:00 AM during an ice storm to restore power to neighborhoods where falling trees have brought down live wires. It’s men who mix the stinking, toxic cauldrons to spread steaming hot tar on city roofs. Last year in a nearby town, I drove by a huge, chaotic scene where emergency workers in hazmat suits were struggling with a giant pipe break, as raw sewage was pouring into the street. Of course all those workers up to their knees in a torrent of thick brown water were men! I’ve seen figures indicating that 92 per cent of people killed on the job are men—and it’s precisely because men are heroically doing most of the dangerous jobs in modern society. The bourgeois blindness of feminist leaders to low-status working-class labor by men is morally corrupt! Gay men, on the other hand, have always shown their awed admiration of working-class masculinity and fortitude. It’s no coincidence that a buff construction worker in a hard hat was one of the iconic personae of the gay disco group, the Village People, during the Studio 54 era!

The women Camille Paglia admires do not insult or denigrate men. Instead, they demand the right to show that women can match or surpass men. Her quarrel with contemporary feminism is that male-bashing is now its default mode and the fanatics are in charge. She cites the case of Kate Millett whose “life has been a series of mental breakdowns and hospitalizations.” Paglia wants women and men to be free to determine their own identities and interests “without intrusive surveillance and censorship by women with their own political agenda.”

Fearless in the face of political correctness and unapologetic in her quest for freedom Camille Paglia loves the highway and loathes the airport: “I’m a driver. I love my car, where I can be free as the wind! Air travel these days is like being caught in a mass flight of ragged, hollow-eyed refugees from war-torn Berlin.”


Shamrock of stone

Friday, 17 March, 2017 0 Comments
Shamrock of stone

When the British poet and war-time diplomat Sir John Betjeman visited the west of Ireland in the 1940s, he stayed with Lord Hemphill and his beautiful American wife Emily. She had met her titled husband while riding in the Borghese Gardens in Rome in 1926 and they married a year later in New York. The couple then moved to Tulira Castle, the Victorian bastion built in Galway by Edward Martyn and immortalized in George Moore’s Hail and Farewell. By the time Betjeman arrived, however, Emily was involved in a passionate affair with Ion Villiers-Stuart, as she revealed to him when they cycled through the primeval-looking landscape of The Burren. That day’s events led to one of Betjeman’s finest poems, Ireland with Emily. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Ireland with Emily

Bells are booming down the bohreens,
White the mist along the grass,
Now the Julias, Maeves and Maureens
Move between the fields to Mass.
Twisted trees of small green apple
Guard the decent whitewashed chapel,
Gilded gates and doorway grained,
Pointed windows richly stained
With many-coloured Munich glass.

See the black-shawled congregations
On the broidered vestment gaze
Murmer past the painted stations
As Thy Sacred Heart displays
Lush Kildare of scented meadows,
Roscommon, thin in ash-tree shadows,
And Westmeath the lake-reflected,
Spreading Leix the hill-protected,
Kneeling all in silver haze?

In yews and woodbine, walls and guelder,
Nettle-deep the faithful rest,
Winding leagues of flowering elder,
Sycamore with ivy dressed,
Ruins in demesnes deserted,
Bog-surrounded bramble-skirted —
Townlands rich or townlands mean as
These, oh, counties of them screen us
In the Kingdom of the West.

Stony seaboard, far and foreign,
Stony hills poured over space,
Stony outcrop of the Burren,
Stones in every fertile place,
Little fields with boulders dotted,
Grey-stone shoulders saffron-spotted,
Stone-walled cabins thatched with reeds,
Where a Stone Age people breeds
The last of Europe’s stone age race.

Has it held, the warm June weather?
Draining shallow sea-pools dry,
When we bicycled together
Down the bohreens fuchsia-high.
Till there rose, abrupt and lonely,
A ruined abbey, chancel only,
Lichen-crusted, time-befriended,
Soared the arches, splayed and splendid,
Romanesque against the sky.

There in pinnacled protection,
One extinguished family waits
A Church of Ireland resurrection
By the broken, rusty gates.
Sheepswool, straw and droppings cover,
Graves of spinster, rake and lover,
Whose fantastic mausoleum,
Sings its own seablown Te Deum,
In and out the slipping slates.

John Betjeman (1906 – 1984)

The Building, Ballylanders, Limerick, Ireland


The dark wine of Patrick’s country

Thursday, 16 March, 2017 0 Comments

“I’ve a thirst on me I wouldn’t sell for half a crown.
– Give it a name, citizen, says Joe.
– Wine of the country, says he.
– What’s yours? says Joe.
– Ditto MacAnaspey, says I.
– Three pints, Terry, says Joe.”

The Guinness stout that nourished those Dublin characters in the “Cyclops” episode of James Joyce’s Ulysses has been sold in Africa since 1827. Today, 40 percent of worldwide Guinness volume is brewed in Africa and the continent’s biggest markets are Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Cameroon, Uganda and Namibia. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinness is produced by the Bralima brewery in Kisangani.

Talking of the Congo, the Sapeurs (Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes) are a group of tastemakers and elegant people who turn the art of dressing into a cultural statement. When these men go out on the town, the streets of Brazzaville are their fashion runway. Afterwards, they enjoy a bottle or two of the wine of the country.