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Cavafy in April on Candles

Sunday, 29 April, 2018 0 Comments

Hosted by the Cavafy Archive and the Onassis Foundation, the International Cavafy Summer School will take place from 9 to 15 July in Athens. “Knowledge of Modern Greek is not a prerequisite, but familiarity with Cavafy’s work is,” say the organizers.

W.H. Auden famously observed that the poetry of Cavafy seemed to survive translation remarkably well, and that it was marked by “a tone of voice, a personal speech immediately recognizable as a poem by Cavafy; nobody else could possibly have written it.” Born on 29 April 1863, Constantine P. Cavafy died on 29 April 1933.

Candles

Days to come stand in front of us,
like a row of burning candles —
golden, warm, and vivid candles.
Days past fall behind us,
a gloomy line of burnt-out candles;
the nearest are still smoking,
cold, melted, and bent.
I don’t want to look at them: their shape saddens me,
and it saddens me to remember their original light.
I look ahead at my burning candles.
I don’t want to turn, don’t want to see, terrified,
how quickly that dark line gets longer,
how quickly one more dead candle joins another.

Constantine P. Cavafy

Candles in Milan


Flow sweet river flow

Saturday, 28 April, 2018 0 Comments

In 1966, Ewan MacColl wrote Sweet Thames Flow Softly for an experimental radio production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in contemporary London. When Planxty recorded it in 1973 on their eponymous first album, Christy Moore was the lead singer with the group. He’s joined here by Neill MacColl, son of the composer, and Sinéad O’Connor, in a version of the song from 2001 that’s made all the more poignant by the mental illness that has plagued her over the past years.

From Shadwell Dock to Nine Elms Reach we cheek to cheek were dancing
A necklace made of London Bridge her beauty was enhancing
Kissed her once again at Wapping, flow sweet river flow
After that there was no stopping, sweet Thames flow softly
Richmond Park it was a ring, flow sweet river flow
I’d have given her anything, sweet Thames flow softly


Peace: Stone meeting Water in Korea

Friday, 27 April, 2018 0 Comments

Kim Jong-un today became the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea by crossing the military line that has divided the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953. In a moment rich with symbolism, the South Korean president Moon Jae-in and Kim shook hands at the border. Just months ago North Korean rhetoric was warlike, but now the talk is of peace and the ending of Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

Who deserves the credit for this? In the Sydney Morning Herald, Daniel McCarthy argues that “Donald Trump deserves the Nobel Peace.” Snippet:

“The Nobel Committee and the community of opinion that looks on the Peace Prize as an affirmation of liberal pieties may find Trump distasteful. Nevertheless, he is set to be the man most deserving of the honour. If that seems shocking, it is a shock that ought to prompt a rethink of how international relations really work. Decades of conventional diplomacy with North Korea only led to the Kim dynasty acquiring nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them between continents. To make peace demands a new approach, and President Trump has found one.”

One of the highlights of our trip to Korea was the time spent on Jeju Island in the Korea Strait, which connects the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan. Its fascinating Stone Park is devoted to “the history of stone culture” and the park’s combination of stone and water suggests that opposing elements can be united.

Jeju Stone Park

Jeju Stone Park


Musk’s Cyborg Dragon and Kanye’s dragon energy

Thursday, 26 April, 2018 0 Comments

These are not easy days for Elon Musk. Consider: A Tesla Model S recall was followed by allegations by the Center for Investigative Reporting about workplace injuries at the company’s factory in Fremont. On top of that, there’s the dizzying cash burn because of the billions invested in preparation for the production of the Model 3. But Elon Musk is no ordinary businessman and crises that would sink any other entrepreneur seem to act as incentives for even more stimulating ideas. The latest? A cyborg dragon.

Elon Musk tweets

Say what you will about Elon Musk, the man knows how to tweet and he knows his dragons. After all, the “Dragon” is a reusable spacecraft developed by Musk’s SpaceX. On the other hand, this may go deeper. Kanye West loves cruising around in his Tesla and now he’s praising President Trump, saying “We are both dragon energy.” It’s hard to keep up with it all the dragons these days.


The Good Hat: Ms Bowen and Mrs Trump

Wednesday, 25 April, 2018 0 Comments

First lady Melania Trump wore a dramatic white hat yesterday as she and her husband Donald hosted French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron for a White House state visit. The wide, flat-brimmed creation was designed by Hervé Pierre and not since Pharrell Williams wore a 10-gallon item to the 2014 Grammys has a “tit for tat” (Cockney rhyming slang) created such waves. Social media users immediately compared the look to Beyoncé’s black “Formation” hat.

Talking of hats, in 1950, the great Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen provided an introduction to The A B C Of Millinery by Madame Eva Ritcher. Snippet: “For centuries, Woman has desired that her head-covering — be it cap, bonnet or hat — should in itself be a thing of beauty. A thing which shall at once express and flatter the wearer and be, gaily, in tune with her own time.” When she was right, she was right.

Bowen concludes her introduction: “My advice to readers who cannot hope to embark on the actual making of hats is this — take what you’ve learned from these pages to heart when you go shopping. No longer will you, in show rooms, find yourselves adrift, depressed and confused. Let this book be your guide to the Good Hat.” Chapeau!

Flotus with hat


The decline and fall of grammar and style at Inc.

Tuesday, 24 April, 2018 0 Comments

“One of the most common conversations among business travelers have among each other is to discuss how to pack optimally for your next trip. As someone with more than two million miles of experience under by belt, I have developed several tricks and hacks to pack light…”

Wut? You might be inclined to think such a rubbish sentence was created by some badly programmed AI, but it wasn’t. In fact, it’s the opening of an article published by Inc. that’s so riddled with grammatical and stylistic errors that it’s comically unreadable. “How Many Pairs of Underwear Should You Pack On Your Business Trip? 2 Million Miler Packing Secrets” is the title of this gem and it was “written” by one Jim Schleckser, who styles himself “CEO, Inc. CEO Project”.

Inc.

History: Inc. was founded in Boston in 1979 by Bernie Goldhirsh, an MIT-trained engineer who had worked at Polaroid before founding Sail magazine, which he sold for $10 million. He used the profits to launch Inc.

In 2000, the terminally ill Goldhirsh sold Inc. to German publisher Gruner + Jahr for a reported $200 million. It was the peak of the dot com mania, after all. In 2005, after sobering up, Gruner + Jahr offloaded Inc. for $35 million to Joe Mansueto, CEO of Morningstar. Now, apparently, Joe the billionaire cannot afford to employ copy editors.


Shakespeare’s Words

Monday, 23 April, 2018 0 Comments

The world celebrates William Shakespeare’s birthday today. He was born on 23 April, the same date he died in 1616, aged 52. Actually, while his death is documented officially, we’re not fully sure about the exactness of his birth. What we do know is that he was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1565 and that his baptism was recorded in the Parish Register at the Holy Trinity Church on Wednesday, 26 April 1564. Given that baptisms usually took place within three days of birth back then, it’s believed that the Bard was born on this day, 454 years ago.

To mark the occasion, linguist David Crystal and his actor son, David, have released the 3.0 update of their ShakespearesWords.com. “The financial side of the site is now administered by Professor D Crystal & Mrs H Crystal Business Partnership,” we learn in the History of the site section, and the funding model allow ten free page views “for anyone who just wants a quick browse or query.” After that, one has the option of purchasing a day ticket, a month ticket, a year ticket or a 10-year ticket. Website management is costly and bills have to be paid.

“But the comfort is, you shall be called to no more payments, fear no more tavern bills.” — First Gaoler, Cymbeline, Scene 5 Act 4

Background: Posthumus Leonatus is in prison, and the warder is saying that while he’s not in a great place, the upside is that he doesn’t have to pay his bar tab.

And a favourite for the day that’s in it? This from Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 2:

Give me my Romeo. And when I shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.


Champion of breakfasts

Sunday, 22 April, 2018 0 Comments

Ingredients:

  • Half a cup of oatmeal
  • Tablespoon of chia seeds
  • Handful of blueberries
  • Handful of pomegranate seeds
  • Half a cup of almond milk

Method: Mix and store in fridge overnight. Eat early morning. Greet the day.

Breakfast


G&T weather

Saturday, 21 April, 2018 0 Comments

It’s going to be warm today. Up around 28C, they say. Ideal for gin & tonic and the shops are filled with the same; now that gin has become the drink du jour. A local outfit is selling both Roku and Sipsmith, the best of Britain and Japan, as it were. In Japanese, roku means “six” and Suntory’s premium gin contains six quintessentially Japanese botanicals: green tea in the form of sencha and gyokuro; cherry, as blossom and leaf and then yuzu citrus and Japanese pepper.

We invested in Sipsmith, which is distilled in London by Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall. They called their distillery Sipsmith because they see themselves as “sip-smiths”, just like writers are regarded as wordsmiths: “I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race,” wrote James Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Galsworthy and Hall forge Sipsmith and their smithery is a mix of philosophy and artisanal delight made with 10 botanicals: Macedonian juniper berries, Seville orange peel, Spanish lemon peel, Chinese cassia bark, Madagascan cinnamon bark, Bulgarian coriander seed, Spanish ground almond, Belgian angelica, Spanish liquorice and Italian orris.

The result is floral and mellow and splendid. The bold juniper is matched by an invigorating freshness and there’s sweetness and dryness in that mix of lemon and orange. This is gin at its finest. Try it straight, to savour the balance, before adding the tonic, ideally, to complete the London picture, BTW.

Roku and Sipsmith

Cheers! Today is the 92nd birthday of a woman who likes to take gin with lunch.


Rainy Day in the Galtee Mountains

Friday, 20 April, 2018 0 Comments

Regular reader and intermittent poet, Liam Murray, is so captivated by this blog’s title and header photo that he has combined the two in verse. The Galtee Mountains pictured above were the fons et origo of our great mother, God rest her soul, and they remain our spiritual home. The Golden Vale mentioned below was a tract of nearby pasture land that represented a form of earthly paradise for mother and father, who cultivated their own fields and gardens as if they, too, were golden. And they were.

Rainy Day in the Galtee Mountains

The gathering clouds announce a change
The Galtee Mountains turn a shadowed blue
Quieter birds in hedge rows sense the mood
Distant rolling thunder fills the ear.

Clouds carrying rivers of rain
Continue to flow across the plain
Bushes shake in windy salute,
In the moist filled air across the Golden Vale.

The deluge pours on expectant fields
Blades of grass glisten; laced with rain drops
Sails of cloud continue to unfurl,
Above it all the sun still shines.

Liam Murray

Cullane Garden


Fish on Trump

Thursday, 19 April, 2018 0 Comments

“Verbal fluency is the product of hours spent writing about nothing, just as musical fluency is the product of hours spent repeating scales.” So wrote the great Stanley Fish in How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One. Today, the literary theorist, legal scholar, author, newspaper columnist and intellectual Stanley Fish will celebrate his 80th birthday and we wish him health and happiness for many years to come.

Stanley Fish wrote his final New York Times column in December 2013, but he returned to the paper’s pages in July 2016 with a warning to academia titled Professors, Stop Opining About Trump. According to Fish, historians “are merely people with history degrees, which means that they have read certain books, taken and taught certain courses and written scholarly essays, often on topics of interest only to other practitioners in the field.” It’s not degrees, says Fish, but the strength or weakness of the arguments that tells in the end. Fish returned to Trump later that year in his book Winning Arguments: What Works and Doesn’t Work in Politics, the Bedroom, the Courtroom, and the Classroom. Snippet:

“And yet that performance has a method. Trump’s artlessness, like Mark Antony’s, is only apparent. Listen, for example, as he performs one of his favorite riffs. He begins by saying something critical of Mexicans and Chinese. Then he turns around and says, ‘I love the Mexican and Chinese people, especially the rich ones who buy my apartments or stay at my hotels or play on my golf courses.’ It’s their leaders I criticize, he explains, but then in a millisecond he pulls the sting from the criticism: ‘they are smarter and stronger than our leaders; they’re beating us.’ And then the payoff all this has been leading up to, the making explicit of what has been implied all along. Stanley Fish ‘If I can sell them condominiums, rent space to them in my building at my price, and outfox them in deals, I could certainly outmaneuver them when it came to trade negotiations and immigration.’ (And besides, they love me.)

Here is the real message, the message that makes sense of the disparate pieces of what looks like mere disjointed fumbling: I am Donald Trump; nobody owns me. I don’t pander to you. I don’t pretend to be nice and polite; I am rich and that’s what you would like to be; I’m a winner; I beat people at their own game, and if you vote for me I will beat our adversaries; if you want wonky policy details, go with those losers who offer you ten-point plans; if you want to feel good about yourselves and your country, stick with me.

So despite the lack of a formal center or an orderly presentation, Trump was always on point because the point was always the same. He couldn’t get off message because the one message was all he had.”

Stanley Fish was, and is, sharp.