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Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald

Ex-pat Irishman keeping an eye on the world from the Bavarian side of the Alps.

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Composed on Christmastide 1819

Sunday, 21 December, 2014 0 Comments

“Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home,” said G.K. Chesterton. William Wordsworth Minstrels The minstrels played their Christmas tune To-night beneath my cottage-eaves; While, smitten by a lofty moon, The encircling laurels, thick with leaves, Gave back a rich and dazzling […]

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The night Bob Dylan played for a single Swede

Saturday, 20 December, 2014 0 Comments

Fredrik Wikingsson went to a Bob Dylan concert. Not exactly newsworthy, that, except he was the only fan sitting in the auditorium of the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Dylan isn’t known for doing cover songs, but he played three for Wikingsson: Buddy Holly’s Heartbeat, Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill and Chuck Willis’ It’s Too Late (She’s Gone). The mini-concert was arranged by the Swedish TV show “Experiment Ensam,” which enables people to experience individually those things that are normally shared by large groups.

Castro’s hipster apologists

Friday, 19 December, 2014 0 Comments

In the Daily Beast, Michael Moynihan names and shames them: “Here is Matt Bradley, Middle East correspondent for the Wall Street Journal: ‘I really hope I can make it to Cuba before McDonald’s, Starbucks, etc.’ And progressive radio host Matt Binder: ‘Booking my Cuba vacation now before there’s a Starbucks, a McDonald’s, and a bank on every block.’ BBC producer Jeane McCallum: ‘May be time for a return to Cuba before McDonalds moves in.’ And Jonathan Eley of the Financial Times: ‘Cuba: visit now before McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks et al move in. It’s a unique place.'”

That’s just a sample. How predictably predictable they are.

The QR code piano man

Thursday, 18 December, 2014 0 Comments

Last Wednesday, the Swiss composer and performer Julian Layn tweeted, “I’m off on my end-of-year-tour starting today in #genova | tmw thursday #milano | friday #padova | saturday #munich | sunday #vienna.” It was a pleasure to see him perform in public on his QR-coded piano. The music is creative, classical and complex, which is inevitable given that Layn holdds a PhD in theoretical physics.

Julian Layn

D’oh

Wednesday, 17 December, 2014 0 Comments

The Simpsons are not politically correct, but they are human. Created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company, the dysfunctional cartoon family have appeared in 561 episodes since the show had its debut on 17 December 1989, and the 26th season began in September this year. But the Simpsons is not simply a TV series; it’s a language says Chris Turner, author of Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation. As to the precise nature of the language the Simpsons speak, linguist Mark Liberman called it Homeric.

Best episode? Take your pick. Ours is “Homer’s Enemy”, the 23rd episode of the eighth season. During a “Design your nuclear power-plant” contest for children, Frank Grimes alters the competition poster in hopes of embarrassing Homer, but Homer wins the contest in typically surreal fashion. Filled with rage, Grimes goes mad and, well, no spoilers here. The subversive message of the story is that sloppy sloth is OK. The punctual, efficient, ambitious Grimes is a bore. Homer, by contrast, is happy. D’oh.

Young Asian men buying up infant milk

Tuesday, 16 December, 2014 1 Comment

Odd sight in the local supermarkets. Young Asian men filling suitcases with powder infant milk. Maybe they are all delighted fathers who cannot get enough of the excellent European formulation for their babies. Perhaps their muscle is needed to carry the packed suitcases to distant places. The latter seems to be a more likely explanation when one considers the New York Times report of 25 July 2013: Chinese are buying up infant milk powder everywhere they can get it, outside of China.”

Shopping till they drop

Good for baby

PEGIDA fever sweeps across Germany

Monday, 15 December, 2014 0 Comments

It will be cold in Dresden tonight, but that won’t stop an expected 10,000 people from taking to the streets to voice their support for PEGIDA. What exactly does the acronym mean? PEGIDA stands for Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes or “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West”. Such is its appeal that similar movements have sprung up in several cities around Germany: “Bogida” in Bonn, “Dügida” in Düsseldorf”, “Kagida” in Kassel and “Wügida” in Würzburg. There are lots of cities in Germany so it’s expected that PEGIDA will expand to fill the alphabet.

PEGIDA

Unease at the record number of immigrants and refugees from North Africa and the Middle East arriving in Germany seems to be one driver of PEGIDA’s popularity: According to the OECD, a total of 465,000 newcomers moved to the country in 2013 — more than double the number in 2007. But it’s the stated opposition to the “Islamization of the West” that is troubling Berlin, which dreads a clash of civilizations acted out on the streets.

The staunchly middle class nature of the PEGIDA movement is another worry for Germany’s political establishment. The elites are uninterested in politics, so long as the parties don’t touch their wealth, and the underclass is disinterested, so long as the politicians don’t cut welfare. But it’s the emergence of a “squeezed middle” in search of political expression that has alarmed the centrist parties, whose credibility is based on achieving compromise. Might the populist AfD make capital from the emergence of PEGIDA? Might the populist Linke gain traction from the growth of PEGIDA?

In his superb New Yorker article, The Quiet German: The astonishing rise of Angela Merkel, the most powerful woman in the world, George Packer looks at Germany and sums it up thus: “A political consensus founded on economic success, with a complacent citizenry, a compliant press, and a vastly popular leader who rarely deviates from public opinion — Merkel’s Germany is reminiscent of Eisenhower’s America.” And then along came PEGIDA.

Water: no matter how much, there is still not enough

Sunday, 14 December, 2014 0 Comments

“Just as I can’t give up smoking because I don’t smoke, I can’t give up writing because I have no talent.” So said Marin Sorescu, the Romanian poet, who retained his sense of humour despite the best efforts of Ceauşescu’s censors. In fact, he could even see a bright side of censorship: “You’re sure to find a pair of faithful and attentive readers.” In partnership with Ioana Russell-Gebbett, Seamus Heaney, the acclaimed Irish poet, who died last year, produced this translation of a Sorescu jewel.

Fountains in the sea

Water: no matter how much, there is still not enough.
Cunning life keeps asking for more and then a drop more.
Our ankles are weighted with lead, we delve under the wave.
We bend to our spades, we survive the force of the gusher.

Our bodies fountain with sweat in the deeps of the sea,
Our forehead aches and holds like a sunken prow.
We are out of breath, divining the heart of the geyser,
Constellations are bobbing like corks above on the swell.

Earth is a waterwheel, the buckets go up and go down,
But to keep the whole aqueous architecture standing its ground
We must make a ring with our bodies and dance out a round
On the dreamt eye of water, the dreamt eye of water, the dreamt eye of water.

Water: no matter how much, there is still not enough.
Come rain, come thunder, come deluged dams washed away,
Our thirst is unquenchable. A cloud in the water’s a siren.
We become two shades, deliquescent, drowning in song.

My love, under the tall sky of hope
Our love and our love alone
Keeps dowsing for water.
Sinking the well of each other, digging together.
Each one the other’s phantom limb in the sea.

Marin Sorescu (1936 — 1996)

Baden verboten

The Belmonte club

Saturday, 13 December, 2014 0 Comments

“My mother is Irish, my father is Neapolitan. I was born in London but raised in West Cork. I’m a singer-songwriter living in London.” So says Francesca Belmonte. For the last five years, she’s been the lead singer for trip hop star Tricky, co-writing and performing on his latest album False Idols. Now, she’s striking out on her own.

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

Friday, 12 December, 2014 0 Comments

The most visited Catholic pilgrimage weekend destination in the world? The Vatican, right? Wrong. It’s the the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Over the Friday and Saturday of December 11 to 12, 2009, more than six million pilgrims visited the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of her apparition. Our Lady of Guadalupe

With Mexico reeling from crisis to horror, huge numbers are expected today in the hope of finding solace and hope.

Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, in the form of a retablo (panel painting) by Pedro Antonio Fresquís, is among the items included in “Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea,” a new exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. The show brings together more than 60 works of Renaissance and American art. Blurb:

Paintings by Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi, Orsola Maddalena Caccia (an Ursuline nun who ran a bustling painting studio in her convent in northern Italy), and Elisabetta Sirani highlight the varied ways in which women artists conceptualized the subject of Mary. These artists’ works are featured alongside treasured Marian paintings, sculptures, and drawings by Fra Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Pontormo, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, and others.

Much of Mexico is dynamic and the country wants to succeed in the global economy. But its people urgently need a real commitment from their government to security reforms and anti-corruption measures. Latest revelation: Finance minister Luis Videgaray bought a holiday home from a company that had won several generous public works contracts. And it would help if the elites faced up to risks of ignoring the poverty and anarchy in regions such as the Tierra Caliente. Until they do, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe remains the only source of comfort for masses of Mexicans.

The Mediterranean: The world’s most dangerous sea

Thursday, 11 December, 2014 0 Comments

More than 207,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean since 1 January this year seeking refuge in Europe. Of these, 3,419 perished in the sea — making it the world’s deadliest migration route. Last week, 17 African migrants died from hypothermia when they tried to travel from Libya to Italy in a small boat.

the Mediterranean

Many of the refugees are from Syria, where war has raged for nearly four years, but an increasing number are from Eritrea, where national service, in the form of indefinite conscription, amounts to forced labour. How bad are things in Eritrea? In its 2014 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked the county’s media environment at the very bottom of a list of 178 countries, just below North Korea. It’s high time for the EU to get tough with the brutal regime in Asmara. The root causes of why its people are fleeing and drowning in the Mediterranean have to be addressed, otherwise the numbers at the end of 2015 will be even more grim.