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The annual Gatsby reading

Wednesday, 20 August, 2014 0 Comments

Reading The Great Gatsby is an annual Rainy Day event. Here’s a favourite snippet:

“By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums. The last swimmers have come in from the beach now and are dressing up-stairs; the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.”

The Caliphate Delusion

Tuesday, 19 August, 2014 0 Comments

Ghaffar Hussain, managing director at counter-extremism think tank Quilliam, nails it. Snippet:

The Caliphate is a political construct of the past that bears no relevance in the modern world from a theological or political perspective and most Muslims around the world realize that. Seeking to resurrect such an entity is no different to Italians seeking to bring back the Roman Empire, it is illogical and unworkable. However, the fact that sane and seemingly rational people are calling for such a thing in the modern world is a sad indictment of the state of political thought in Muslim-majority societies.

From “The Caliphate Delusion: the political construct that bears no relevance in the modern world” in Left Foot Forward.

Dear Prime Minister, Iraq and IS

Sunday, 17 August, 2014 0 Comments

The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nicholas Baines, writes to Prime Minister David Cameron. Snippet:

2. The focus by both politicians and media on the plight of the Yezidis has been notable and admirable. However, there has been increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, driven from cities and homelands, and who face a bleak future. Despite appalling persecution, they seem to have fallen from consciousness, and I wonder why. Does your Government have a coherent response to the plight of these huge numbers of Christians whose plight appears to be less regarded than that of others? Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?

The inaction of Cameron and Obama in the face of Islamic extremism is very disturbing, and their apparent embarrassment in addressing the plight of persecuted Christians is alarming. Once again, the West is sleepwalking towards a catastrophe.

Daphne Guinness

Saturday, 16 August, 2014 0 Comments

Along with being an heir by direct descent of Arthur Guinness, the 18th-century Dublin creator of the dark beer that still bears his name, Daphne Guinness is an artist who has experimented with fashion, design and photography. Now, she’s turning her hand to music and her debut album is set to be released next month.

This time it’s different

Friday, 15 August, 2014 1 Comment

Before watching the video, read AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs from the Pew Research Center. After watching the clip, have a look at the reddit thread.

The Afghan Girl of our time is a Yazidi

Thursday, 14 August, 2014 0 Comments

At the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Afghanistan in 1984, National Geographic Society photographer Steve McCurry captured an image of Sharbat Gula that became known as “the First World’s Third World Mona Lisa.”

Afghan Girl

Today’s Afghan Girl is a young member of persecuted Yazidi sect. Youssef Boudlal of Reuters found her at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour. The wheel turns, but the refugees keep filling those camps.

Yazidi girl

The shame of Robin Williams SEO

Wednesday, 13 August, 2014 0 Comments

Jim Romenesko posts a memo from the deputy managing editor of entertainment at the digital New York Daily News.

Thank you to everyone who did a great story [sic] with keeping our stories SEO strong with the * Robin Williams dead at 63 * header for the first 24 hours. Starting tomorrow morning, we can scale back on the robot talk (meaning no death header) just as long as the stories continue to *start* with his full name and include buzzy search words like *death, dead, suicide, etc.*

As Romenesko points out, the strategy is working. But what does it say about the present and future of journalism?

David Foster Wallace on Robin Williams

Tuesday, 12 August, 2014 1 Comment

The writer David Foster Wallace committed suicide on 12 September 2008. He was 46. For those trying to make sense of the severe depression that Robin Williams battled, here’s how Wallace saw the condition and the despair it produces:

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

August Sunday poem

Sunday, 10 August, 2014 0 Comments

Writing about the work of Derek Walcott, fellow poet Joseph Brodsky said, “For almost forty years his throbbing and relentless lines kept arriving in the English language like tidal waves, coagulating into an archipelago of poems without which the map of modern literature would effectively match wallpaper. He gives us more than himself or ‘a world’; he gives us a sense of infinity embodied in the language.”

A Lesson for This Sunday

The growing idleness of summer grass
With its frail kites of furious butterflies
Requests the lemonade of simple praise
In scansion gentler than my hammock swings
And rituals no more upsetting than a
Black maid shaking linen as she sings
The plain notes of some Protestant hosanna —
Since I lie idling from the thought in things —

Or so they should, until I hear the cries
Of two small children hunting yellow wings,
Who break my Sabbath with the thought of sin.
Brother and sister, with a common pin,
Frowning like serious lepidopterists.
The little surgeon pierces the thin eyes.
Crouched on plump haunches, as a mantis prays
She shrieks to eviscerate its abdomen.
The lesson is the same. The maid removes
Both prodigies from their interest in science.
The girl, in lemon frock, begins to scream
As the maimed, teetering thing attempts its flight.
She is herself a thing of summery light,
Frail as a flower in this blue August air,
Not marked for some late grief that cannot speak.

The mind swings inward on itself in fear
Swayed towards nausea from each normal sign.
Heredity of cruelty everywhere,
And everywhere the frocks of summer torn,
The long look back to see where choice is born,
As summer grass sways to the scythe’s design.

Derek Walcott, 1930

Malcolm Holcombe

Saturday, 9 August, 2014 0 Comments

Singer-songwriter Malcolm Holcombe is a wild natural in a world that adores the Photoshopped fraud. A native of North Carolina, he tells tales of small-town life battered by hard times. The lyrics are filtered through a sour-mash voice and the distillate is folk, blues and country in its content and colour.

Pyongyang POV

Friday, 8 August, 2014 0 Comments

Born in Toronto, JT Singh is described as a “place-branding pioneer”. His focus is on cities, especially emerging cities and his work offers an overview of what’s happening in our urban world. This clip of Pyongyang, could be regarded as propaganda, but there’s more to it than meets the casual eye. Behind the scenes in the “Hermit Kingdom”, there’s movement and, as Markus Bell points out, officials an Tokyo and Pyongyang are working on a resolution of the plight of the Japanese abductees currently living in North Korea.