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Death and the Volvo

Friday, 13 January, 2017 0 Comments

Dorian Lebherz and Daniel Titz are students at the Film Academy of Baden-Württemberg in Ludwigsburg and the city’s suburbs provided them with an English-village backdrop for shooting the morbidly hilarious “ABC of Death”, which is conceptually indebted to Edward Gorey’s book, The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

Note: Volvo says: “Our future cars will be able to navigate without human input, equipped with sensors that read the surroundings, adapting to changing traffic conditions.”


The green solution

Thursday, 12 January, 2017 0 Comments

When the leaders of the Irish Free State started to shape their post-colonial nation, they began by changing place names. Kingstown reverted to its old Gaelic name of Dún Laoghaire, Queenstown became Cobh and Maryborough became Portlaoise.

In February 1922, the Provisional Government issued “Public Notice Number 4” which stipulated that “Irish be taught or used as a medium of instruction for not less than one hour each day” and schools were urged to make “the necessary arrangements to ensure the directive was carried out.” As a result of this revolutionary zeal, the Post Office was renamed Oifig an Phoist and it invented new Irish words like “Telefon”. Other changes were more cosmetic and involved painting red post boxes green.

Post box


The dreary quarrels of Northern Ireland re-emerge

Wednesday, 11 January, 2017 0 Comments

In a time of global turbulence, when we should be focused on issues that will affect stability and prosperity, Northern Ireland threatens to divert attention with a crisis fueled by, well, fuel, and headlined “Cash for Ash”. The bizarre Renewable Heat Incentive scandal is exposing the old tribal antagonisms and the brittle peace is endangered. Nothing new, however. Let us pause for a moment and go back a century to Winston Churchill describing the aftermath of World War I:

“The position of countries has been violently altered. The modes of thought of men, the whole outlook on affairs, the grouping of parties, all have encountered violent and tremendous change in the deluge of the world. But as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that have been unaltered in the cataclysm which has swept the world.”

High Dive The integrity of that quarrel is central to the latest novel by Jonathan Lee. High Dive centres on an event that took place at the Grand Hotel in Brighton on 12 October 1984. Then, the Provisional IRA terrorists group attempted to assassinate Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, who were staying at the hotel for the Conservative Party conference. Although Mrs Thatcher narrowly escaped injury, five people were killed including a Conservative MP, and 31 were injured, by the long-delay time bomb planted in the hotel by the IRA.

Jonathan Lee’s book doesn’t offer an analysis of violent Irish republicanism or Tory party politics, but it excels in describing the particulars of the English hospitality trade. Lee, like so many members of the writing class, harbours some sympathy for the “rebels”, but the reader should be aware that the characters in his novel are no idealists. More than three decades after the Brighton bombing, the antagonists of Northern Ireland have turned their dreary, squalid feud into an industry that supplies their claques with cash from ash and other combustibles. The integrity of their quarrel is endless.


Happy Birthday, Sir Roderick!

Tuesday, 10 January, 2017 0 Comments

“Well, a musician’s life is a lot easier and I can also get drunk and make music, and I can’t do that and play football. I plumped for music…” So said the singer who was born on this day in 1945 — Sir Roderick David Stewart. Football’s loss was music’s gain and today is a good occasion for revisiting one of his greatest works, Every Picture Tells a Story, which was released in 1971. The second track on the second side, Mandolin Wind, was written by Rod himself. It’s a simple declaration of love and loyalty in hard times:

“I recall the night we knelt and prayed
Noticing your face was thin and pale
I found it hard to hide my tears
I felt ashamed I felt I’d let you down
No mandolin wind couldn’t change a thing.”


iPhone: It was ten years ago today

Monday, 9 January, 2017 0 Comments

“iPhone is an essential part of our customers’ lives, and today more than ever it is redefining the way we communicate, entertain, work and live,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “iPhone set the standard for mobile computing in its first decade and we are just getting started. The best is yet to come.”

On this day in 2007 in San Francisco, Steve Jobs casually took out of his pocket a product that would change how millions of people communicate. Everyone knew it was going to be a phone, but no one outside Apple had any idea what kind of phone. The “respected” technology commentator John Dvorak had this to say in response to the presentation of the iPhone:

“Now compare that effort and overlay the mobile handset business. This is not an emerging business. In fact it’s gone so far that it’s in the process of consolidation with probably two players dominating everything, Nokia and Motorola…

…The problem here is that while Apple can play the fashion game as well as any company, there is no evidence that it can play it fast enough. These phones go in and out of style so fast that unless Apple has half a dozen variants in the pipeline, its phone, even if immediately successful, will be passé within 3 months.”

And Nokia and Motorola phones today? Exactly. And Apple? In Cupertino on 27 July last year, Tim Cook announced that the company had sold its billionth iPhone.

iPhone


Cronin and Kavanagh in a bar

Sunday, 8 January, 2017 0 Comments

The Irish writer Anthony Cronin, who was born on 28 December 1923 and who died on 27 December 2016, recalled arriving arrived into McDaid’s pub in Dublin one Sunday morning in the late 1950s to find the poet Patrick Kavanagh with the day’s newspapers strewn around him. This impelled Cronin to remark that the News of the World was running extracts from an autobiography of the retired English jockey Tommy Weston.

“He must be broke,” Cronin said.

“Any man at all that’s writing anything whatever is broke. Don’t you know that by now?” was Kavanagh’s answer.


Epitaph in a country churchyard

Saturday, 7 January, 2017 0 Comments

“He thought himself awake when he was already asleep. He saw the stars above his face, whirling on their silent and sleepless axis, and the leaves of the trees rustling against them, and he heard small changes in the grass.” — T.H. White

RIP


A cold coming we had of it

Friday, 6 January, 2017 0 Comments

Was it the birth of a new world (Christianity) or the death of an old one (polytheism) that caused his crisis in belief? The speaker in The Journey Of The Magi says that since returning home following their visit to see the infant Christ, he and his companions have felt uneasy among their compatriots, who now seem to be “an alien people clutching their gods” (in contrast to the believers in the newly arrived Jesus, who worship one god only).

T. S. Eliot converted to Christianity in 1927, the same year he wrote Journey of the Magi in a single day, one Sunday morning. “I had been thinking about it in church,” Eliot told his wife Valerie years later, “and when I got home I opened a half-bottle of Booth’s Gin, poured myself a drink, and began to write. By lunchtime, the poem, and the half-bottle of gin, were both finished.” This is for the Feast of the Epiphany.

The Journey Of The Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

T. S. Eliot (26 September 1888 — 4 January 1965)

A cold coming


How Donald Trump tweets

Thursday, 5 January, 2017 0 Comments

Evan Puschak studied film production at Boston University and he’s been making videos as The Nerdwriter since 2011. After a stint at MSNBC in New York, he moved to The Discovery Channel in San Francisco, but left to pursue The Nerdwriter full time. His videos are about “life”, which he believes is a philosophical, political, moral, psychological, financial, artistic and scientific web of interactions.

He published his most popular video last Saturday. Titled “How Donald Trump Tweets”, it’s an analysis of the president-elect’s Twitter style and his conclusion is that Trump uses speech-like language, not written language. Puschak’s take: “Instead of asking us to read, he forces us to hear.” There are some people who don’t like Donald Trump, but they have to admit his use of Twitter is superb.


Winter Trees

Wednesday, 4 January, 2017 0 Comments

Although he respected the work of T.S Eliot, William Carlos Williams was critical of Eliot’s highbrow style with its use of foreign languages and allusions to classical literature. Instead, Williams preferred colloquial American English.

Winter Trees

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

William Carlos Williams (1883 – 1963)

Cullane winter


The Fable of Edward Snowden

Tuesday, 3 January, 2017 0 Comments

Book of the Year? It’s a bit premature at this point to be talking about annual awards but How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft by Edward Jay Epstein will be a contender for the title come the end of 2017.

How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft Epstein gave the world a preview in the Wall Street Journal on Friday and the subhead encapsulated the story: “As he seeks a pardon, the NSA thief has told multiple lies about what he stole and his dealings with Russian intelligence.” Snippet:

“The transfer of state secrets from Mr. Snowden to Russia did not occur in a vacuum. The intelligence war did not end with the termination of the Cold War; it shifted to cyberspace. Even if Russia could not match the NSA’s state-of-the-art sensors, computers and productive partnerships with the cipher services of Britain, Israel, Germany and other allies, it could nullify the U.S. agency’s edge by obtaining its sources and methods from even a single contractor with access to Level 3 documents.

Russian intelligence uses a single umbrella term to cover anyone who delivers it secret intelligence. Whether a person acted out of idealistic motives, sold information for money or remained clueless of the role he or she played in the transfer of secrets — the provider of secret data is considered an ‘espionage source.’ By any measure, it is a job description that fits Mr. Snowden.”

He’s a thief and a traitor, is Mr Snowden.