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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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Pink for a shovel

Friday, 26 April, 2019

Since the early 19th century, the colour pink has been used as a gender signifier.

Shovel


Matt Taibbi: The Hoax That Was Russiagate

Thursday, 25 April, 2019

“It’s shocking to see national media voices after the release of Robert Mueller’s report patting each other on the back, congratulating themselves for a three-year faceplant they must know will haunt the whole business for a long time.” So writes Matt Taibbi in The Press Will Learn Nothing From the Russiagate Fiasco. The piece, by the way, appears in Rolling Stone and that’s deserving of attention because the publication has been resolutely hostile to Donald Trump from the outset. Maybe we’re seeing a sobering up. Probably not, though, because Taibbi shows that the MSM is still inhaling the stuff that’s not in the Mueller Report. Snippet:

“You know what was fake news? Most of the Russiagate story. There was no Trump-Russia conspiracy, that thing we just spent three years chasing. The Mueller Report is crystal clear on this.

He didn’t just ‘fail to establish’ evidence of crime. His report is full of incredibly damning passages, like one about Russian officialdom’s efforts to reach the Trump campaign after the election: ‘They appeared not to have preexisting contacts and struggled to connect with senior officials around the President-Elect.'”

This isn’t Matt Taibbi’s first foray into the Russiagate Hoax, either. On 23 March he published “It’s official: Russiagate is this generation’s WMD.” It’s a brilliant rubbishing of the entire charade and a devastating critique of the MSM: Quote: “But what retraction is possible for the Washington Post headline, ‘How will Democrats cope if Putin starts playing dirty tricks for Bernie Sanders (again)?’ How to reverse Rachel Maddow’s spiel about Russia perhaps shutting down heat across America during a cold wave? There’s no correction for McCarthyism and fearmongering.”

Bear that in mind the next time you browse the headlines: “There’s no correction for McCarthyism and fearmongering.”


A familiar feeling

Wednesday, 24 April, 2019

Alessandra Olanow is an illustrator living in Brooklyn, New York City.

Proofreading


Butterfly iQ: ultrasound for all

Tuesday, 23 April, 2019

Medical imaging creates visuals of the inside of a human body for analysis and treatment. It includes radiography, ultrasound, endoscopy, magnetic resonance imaging and nuclear medicine techniques such as positron emission tomography. Sadly, 4.7 billion people around the world don’t have access to medical imaging, and even in the developed world, the cost of an MRI or a CT scan can be prohibitive.

Enter the Butterfly iQ, an invention that may yet revolutionize global medicine. As portable as a stethoscope and costing $2,000, it’s a hand-held ultrasound scanner that generates clinical-quality images on a smartphone. These are then uploaded to the cloud, where any medical expert can analyze them. “A fusion of semiconductors, artificial intelligence, and cloud technology has made it possible to create a ubiquitous imaging solution that is clinically significant and category defining,” say Butterfly Network, the US company that developed the device.

The Butterfly iQ scanner could play a critical role in rural Africa, Asia and Latin America, where the nearest X-ray machine might be days away and the only CT and MRI scanners may be in the major cities. Jonathan Rothberg, Butterfly’s founder, had the idea because one of his daughters had a disease that caused kidney cysts needing regular scans, and he has now donated iQs to medical charities working in more than a dozen poor countries. Example: Several have gone to Bridge to Health, a Canadian group that works closely with Kihefo, which is based in Uganda.


Sri Lanka: The new jackals are the old jackals

Monday, 22 April, 2019

British journalist Simon Reeve began investigating the 1993 World Trade Center bombing just days after the attack. The result was a book titled The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the Future of Terrorism, which was published in the UK and USA in 1998. Classified information cited by Reeve detailed the existence and aims of a shadowy terrorist group named al-Qaeda, and he concluded that an apocalyptic terrorist strike on the West by al-Qaeda was almost inevitable. Snippet:

“Officials from the CIA and the State Department were soon channeling other theories into the FBI’s command centre. On the same day as the World Trade Center explosion a bomb had been placed in a small coffee shop in Cairo, killing four people. It was one of the worst acts of political violence in the Egyptian capital for years — perhaps there was an Egyptian connection. ‘The modus operandi of the bombing was very similar to what we’d seen with Islamic extremists overseas, but we really didn’t know. We looked at several different groups that we thought were capable of doing something like this,’ said Neil Herman. ‘We started to get a series of investigative leads, none of which really took us anywhere.'”

Eight years later, on 9/11, those “Islamic extremists overseas” arrived in the US and then delivered the apocalyptic strike that Simon Reeve had anticipated.

Yesterday, in Sri Lanka, a similar act of barbarism was carried out by another pack of jackals, the Islamist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath. It’s a strong supporter of the global jihadist movement and such groups now act as subcontractors for Islamic State and al-Qaida. Worryingly, many Muslims from Sri Lanka and the Maldives fought for IS in Syria and Iraq and now that their caliphate has been destroyed, the foreign fighters are coming home with barbarism in their jackal hearts.

Sri Lanka massacre


Wilde Easter

Monday, 22 April, 2019

As Oscar Wilde lay dying in Paris in November 1900, the priest who received him into the Catholic Church was Father Cuthbert Dunne. When the Dublin cleric ended his days in Mount Argus Monastery, the young Brendan Behan was living nearby in Kildare Road. Like Wilde, he also became a professional wit and, referring to that last-minute conversion, Behan commended Wilde for shedding his sins as life ebbed away. He also reminded the world slyly that the two of them had enjoyed their bisexuality:

“Sweet is the way of the sinner
Sad, death without God’s praise
My life on you, Oscar boy,
Yourself had it both ways.”

Oscar Wilde’s Easter Day was published in 1894, six years before that famous deathbed conversion in Paris. It’s a bitter-sweet poem.

Easter Day

The silver trumpets rang across the Dome:
The people knelt upon the ground with awe:
And borne upon the necks of men I saw,
Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome.
Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam,
And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red,
Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head:
In splendour and in light the Pope passed home.
My heart stole back across wide wastes of years
To One who wandered by a lonely sea,
And sought in vain for any place of rest:
“Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest,
I, only I, must wander wearily,
And bruise my feet, and drink wine salt with tears.”

Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)


Happy Easter!

Sunday, 21 April, 2019

Frohe Ostern! Buona Pasqua! ¡Felices Pascuas! Joyeuses Pâques! Vrolijk Pasen!

Easter

Daffodowndilly

She wore her yellow sun-bonnet,
She wore her greenest gown;
She turned to the south wind
And curtsied up and down.
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
“Winter is dead.”

A.A. Milne (1882 – 1956)


Houellebecq on restoration beyond Notre-Dame

Saturday, 20 April, 2019

It has been described as “an ecumenical, conservative and, in some views, neoconservative religious journal.” It’s First Things and among the contents of the May issue is an essay titled “Restoration,” which is an “exchange of views on religion between Michel Houellebecq and Geoffroy Lejeune.” What can one say about Houellebecq? He’s a French author of international fame whose latest novel is Serotonin. There’s much, much more, of course, but that’s sufficient for now, and Geoffroy Lejeune? He’s the editor of Valeurs actuelles, a French conservative weekly news magazine published in Paris.

Their conversation took place quite some time before Monday’s catastrophic fire in Notre-Dame cathedral, but whenever Houellebecq is involved, prescience is to be expected. Snippets:

Houellebecq: “In a Romanesque cloister I feel at peace, connected to the divinity. With Gothic cathedrals, it’s already something different. Beauty takes on a character there that Kant will later call sublime (beauty accompanied by the sensation of danger, such as a great storm at sea, or a thunderstorm high in the mountains). In a baroque church it’s no good at all, I could just as well be in a palace, or at the theater.”

Lejeune: “If you choose to go by architecture, there is indeed a striking aspect: In the time of the cathedrals, monumental places of worship were erected and their construction lasted longer than a man’s lifetime. The cathedrals of Chartres, Reims, and Paris were built in 75, 134, and 182 years, respectively. At that time, preference was not for the minuscule. By comparison, Trump Tower in New York was designed, constructed, and delivered in four years, between 1979 and 1983. You can say that motorization, technological progress, and materials explain this difference. So much for the business angle, but when we see the ugliness of modern churches, these unhappy cubes of faded cement, sometimes so hideous, which hardly ever tower above the horizon traced by the surrounding houses, one understands above all that what differentiates us from the Christian builders is ‘functional thinking,’ instead of dedicating the construction to God. It was better before, when the supernatural was seen everywhere, even in the cathedral spires pointing toward heaven.”

The big question posed by First things is: Can the Catholic Church regain her former splendour? Lejeune feels it probably can but the road will be long: “Today, the Church in Europe has shrunk back into certain hard cores, sociologically very homogeneous – a social class – cut off from the majority of souls. Its embourgeoisement is perhaps, in the end, the greatest scourge that strikes the Church at the beginning of the twenty-first century.”

Houellebecq, noted for his pessimism, is more optimistic: “Can the restoration of Catholicism to its former splendour repair our damaged civilization? Here we are in agreement – it’s much simpler, almost self-evident. The answer is ‘Yes.'”


The Extremadura Pietà

Friday, 19 April, 2019

The Counter-Reformation in Spain was dominated by mystics such as Saint Teresa of Ávila, Saint John of the Cross, Teresa de Cartagena, Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Juan de Avila. The artist who painted their prayers was Luis de Morales (1509 – 1586), who was born and buried in Badajoz, a remote town in Extremadura near the Portuguese border. Talent will out, however, and despite his relatively isolated location, Morales acquired fame and some fortune, as this snippet from his Prado profile highlights:

“For a large part of his life, Morales had an active artistic career that frequently obliged him to travel to arrange commissions, execute them or oversee their completion by the workshop. Otherwise, like many other artists in the region, he rounded off his finances with other sources of income. He owned houses and land in the city as well as vines, olives and livestock in the surrounding area. The markedly rural profile of both the artist and the milieu he lived in is evident too when we recall that Bishop Juan de Ribera paid him for several commissions in kind: wheat and barley, or ‘a Friesian horse with bit and saddle'”.

Luis de Morales completed his Extremadura Pietà sometime between 1565 and 1570. The figures of Mary and her crucified son are marked by grace and beauty despite the prevailing mood of anguish and grief. The Italian word pietà means “pity” or “compassion” and today, Good Friday, is when we should show some.

The Extremadura Pietà


The shock and awe of the Röttgen Pietà

Thursday, 18 April, 2019

Gothic art sought to create an impact. The Röttgen Pietà, sculpted in wood circa 1300 and now in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn, succeeded in spades. It was created expressly to evoke an emotional response in its viewers. What did they feel when they saw it? Shock, awe, terror, horror, disgust, distaste, fear, fascination… It’s obvious that this Christ clearly died from his crucifixion, but it’s also obvious that this undernourished man led a hard life. The message is that he’s one of us mediaeval folk.

Then, there’s Mary. What does her expression convey? Traditionally, she’s often depicted at peace because she’s aware of the impending Resurrection so her son’s death, while tragic, is temporary. This Mary, however, appears to be bewildered and aggrieved There’s no hint that she’ll see her son alive again. Again, the intent of the artist is to show that God and his mother experienced enormous pain and suffering.

Röttgen Pietà

Our week of pietà meditations began on Monday in Spain and that’s where it will end tomorrow with another graphic work that seeks to get viewers to feel a personal connection to the pain and death of the divine as painted by “El Divino”.


Giovanni Bellini: Pietà di Brera

Wednesday, 17 April, 2019

One of the most elegant parts of Milan’s Centro Storico district is Brera. The streets are lined with upmarket food shops and hip fashion boutiques, and the cobbled alleys fill up at night with people enjoying fine Milanese dining at sidewalk restaurants and cafés. A must-visit is the fresco-filled, 15th-century Santa Maria del Carmine church and, soul saved, the next stop has to be the Pinacoteca di Brera, with its magnificent collection of Italian art spanning the centuries.

One of the great treasures of the Pinacoteca di Brera is the Pietà di Brera by Giovanni Bellini, which dates from around 1460. When it was first revealed, the pietà was accompanied by verses composed by Propertius, the great poet of the Augustan age. He speaks of the capacity of an image to provoke tears — and anyone looking at the faces of Mary and Christ here cannot be unaffected by the the mother and son drama being played out. The pain depicted by Bellini reflects all human suffering and solitude.

Pietà di Brera