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The Cat Of The House

Sunday, 3 May, 2015 1 Comment


The Cat Of The House

Over the hearth with my ‘minishing eyes I muse; until after
the last coal dies.
Every tunnel of the mouse,
every channel of the cricket,
I have smelt,
I have felt
the secret shifting of the mouldered rafter,
and heard
every bird in the thicket.
I see
Nightingale up in the tree!
I, born of a race of strange things,
of deserts, great temples, great kings,
in the hot sands where the nightingale never sings!

Ford Madox Ford (1873 – 1939)

But the fighter still remains

Saturday, 2 May, 2015 0 Comments

Tonight, Floyd Mayweather will fight Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas. It’s an event so big that everybody is talking about it because the two are widely recognized as the best boxers in the world, and it is rare to have two all-time greats fighting in the same weight division at the same time.

Boxing is not a romantic affair, but its sometimes beautiful brutality can be inspiring. To quote Brian D’Ambrosio, “Boxing is the most extreme metaphor of personal liability — you enter the ring alone and compete the same way.”

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame,
“I am leaving, I am leaving.”
But the fighter still remains

Beautiful, Beguiling Violence

Friday, 1 May, 2015 0 Comments

Here is John Schulian writing about the Hagler-Hearns fight that took place on 15 April 1985 and which The Ring called “the most electrifying eight minutes ever.” This is good:

“As Bo Derek, Joan Rivers and a lot of TV stars who don’t deserve to have their names in print gaped and gawked, the champion woke up memories of dingy arenas where the air is solid cigar smoke, human flesh is the only thing anybody has to sell, and the showers never work. It can be a miserable business, this fight racket, and maybe Hearns forgot that with the kind of money he and Hagler were making. The price tags on this one said $5.6 million for the champion and $5.4 million for the challenger, and you can get your head turned around by a payday like that.”

Manny Pacquiao, who may earn as much as $120 million tomorrow night, is easier to like than Floyd Mayweather Jr. Explosive in the ring, he’s humble outside it, where he donates considerable amounts of his winnings to fighting poverty. “The social welfare system in the Philippines is called Manny Pacquiao,” quips boxing promoter Bob Arum. Pac-Man’s rise from poverty to fame, winning titles at eight different weights (a record), has given him deity-like stature among Filipinos, who have accepted the quirks — a fondness for drink and affairs — that nearly ended his career and his marriage before he found Christianity. Already a congressman from Sarangani province, he might become president of the Philippines someday. What’s not to like?

Ego fighter

Thursday, 30 April, 2015 0 Comments

Norman Mailer raised the bar high for those who write about boxing with the opening lines of King of the Hill, his take on the “Fight of the Century” between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1971. Snippet:

King of the HIll“It is the great word of the 20th Century. If there is a single word our century has added to the potentiality of language, it is ego. Everything we have done in this century, from monumental feats to nightmares of human destruction, has been a function of that extraordinary state of the psyche which gives us authority to declare we are sure of ourselves when we are not.

Ego is driving a point through to a conclusion you are obliged to reach without knowing too much about the ground you cross between. You suffer for a larger point. Every good prizefighter must have a large ego, then, because he is trying to demolish a man he doesn’t know too much about, he is unfeeling — which is the ground floor of the ego; and he is full of techniques — which are the wings of ego. What separates the noble ego of prizefighters from the lesser ego of authors is that the fighter goes through experiences in the ring which are occasionally immense, incommunicable except to fighters who have been as good, or to women who have gone through every minute of an anguish-filled birth, experiences which are finally mysterious.”

Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. has the ego thing. “All roads lead to Floyd Mayweather,” he’s fond of saying. He has filmed himself surrounded by heaps of dollars, and he likes to have $10,000 in cash in his pocket as walking-around money: “You never know when you might need a Brioni shirt.” As a child, he saw family members destroyed by drugs and he learned early on to look after Number One. HBO boxing commentator Jim Lampley called Mayweather “an often aggressively distasteful human being whose behaviors are a blight on the boxing landscape.” In the ring, though, he is one of the great defensive specialists in boxing history, as his 47-0 record shows.

Action Bronson raps on Mayweather vs. Pacquiao

Wednesday, 29 April, 2015 0 Comments

His father is an Albanian immigrant and his mother is a Jewish New Yorker. Before embarking on a career as a rapper, Arian Arslani worked as a chef and had his own online cooking show titled “Action in the Kitchen“. Then, he broke his leg. Cuisine’s loss was rap’s gain and Arian Arslan reinvented himself as Action Bronson. With Floyd Mayweather Jr vs. Manny Pacquiao dominating the news cycle, even rappers have an opinion.

Nabokov on Goddard, and Wilde, and Beckett

Tuesday, 28 April, 2015 0 Comments

Before the anticipation of Mayweather-Pacquiao there was the historical fact of Breitensträter vs. Paolino. The date was 1 December 1925 and the venue was the Sports Palace in Berlin. The fighters were the German Hans Breitensträter and the Basque Paolino Uzcudun. Ringside among the 15,000 spectators was the young Vladimir Nabokov. His account of the bout was published as “Breitensträter–Paolino” on 28 and 29 December in the Latvian émigré journal Slovo. It is filled with delightful observations. This bit on Goddard, and Wilde, and Beckett, the boxers, is especially good:

“I have had the luck to see Smith, and Bombardier Wells, and Goddard, and Wilde, and Beckett, and the miraculous Carpentier who beat Beckett. That fight, which paid the winner five thousand, and the runner-up three thousand pounds, lasted exactly fifty-six seconds, so that someone who had paid twenty pounds for their seat had only enough time to light a cigarette, and when he looked up at the ring, Beckett was already lying on the boards in the touching pose of a sleeping baby.”

When the Times Literary Supplement published the first English translation of Nabokov’s “Breitensträter–Paolino” three years ago, Thomas Karshan, one of the translators, noted, “In our translation we have tried to do justice to Nabokov’s dashes, staccato or metaphysical, his commas, apprehensive or explosive, and his inversions, abstract or gutsy, all so important in a piece devoted to testing how far art can go in formalizing even those parts of life that might seem most resistant — even boxing, even blood and pain. We have also tried to catch those moments, so far from the oracular pronouncements of the opening, in which Nabokov mimics the brusque street-talk of the boxing fan or commentator, mixing his voice with the voices of the crowd — a democratic ventriloquism unique in his work.”

How pay-per-view KOd boxing

Monday, 27 April, 2015 0 Comments

Why has boxing lost the popular touch? In this week of Mayweather-Pacquiao, it’s a valid question. One of the reasons, surely, is the paradox of the pay-per-view business model. On the one hand, it bestows vast riches on the best fighters, but on the other, it hastens the decline of the sport by taking it off free television, thus removing boxers from everyday conversation. Jonathan Mahler of Bloomberg noted two years ago:

“HBO — and later Showtime — didn’t have to worry about satisfying advertisers; it could underwrite fights by making them pay-per-view events. This may have worked as a business strategy (Mike Tyson, in particular, was a cash cow for HBO), but it helped to turn boxing into a niche sport followed only by those willing to pay $59.95 or more to watch big bouts.”

One cannot imagine a Rocky or Raging Bull being made ever again, nor can one imagine a future author writing this:

“And so the match came to an end, and when we had all emptied out onto the street, into the frosty blueness of a snowy night, I was certain, that in the flabbiest family man, in the humblest youth, in the souls and muscles of all the crowd, which tomorrow, early in the morning, would disperse to offices, to shops, to factories, there existed one and the same beautiful feeling, for the sake of which it was worth bringing together two great boxers, — a feeling of dauntless, flaring strength, vitality, manliness, inspired by the play in boxing. And this playful feeling is, perhaps, more valuable and purer than many so-called ‘elevated pleasures'”.

Breitensträter — Paolino by Vladimir Nabokov

The Man with the Beautiful Eyes

Sunday, 26 April, 2015 0 Comments

“The poetry of Charles Bukowski deeply inspires many of its readers. Sometimes it just inspires them to lead the dissolute lifestyle they think they see glorified in it, but other times it leads them to create something compelling of their own,” writes Colin Marshall in Open Culture.

Marshall continues: “Jonathan Hodgson’s adaptation of The Man with the Beautiful Eyes puts vivid, colorful imagery to Bukowski’s late poem that draws from his childhood memories of a mysterious, untamed young man in a run-down house whose very existence reminded him “that nobody wanted anybody to be strong and beautiful like that, that others would never allow it.”

Link: Charles Bukowski

Olivia Chaney

Saturday, 25 April, 2015 0 Comments

With her classical background, traditional English repertoire and modern approach, Olivia Chaney is in a category all of her own. On Tuesday, her debut album, The Longest River, will be released and among the gems are two 17th century songs: a setting of There’s Not A Swain by Henry Purcell and a version of the English ballad, The False Bride. This, meanwhile, is by Joni Mitchell.

The Gruffawn and the goose

Friday, 24 April, 2015 0 Comments

The Gruffawns were noted for their wit and quick thinking. It is said that one of them stole Father Barry’s best goose but, overcome with remorse, he decided to return to God like the “prodigal son” and to acknowledge his sins in confession with true sorrow before his representative on Earth, the priest, who happened to be Father Barry.

Gruffawn: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. My last good confession was three weeks ago.”
Father Barry: “My blessings upon you, child. What sins have you committed?”
Gruffawn: “I stole a goose, Father.”
Father Barry: “Well, that is a grave sin, indeed, child, and you’ll have to make restitution and accept penance.”
Gruffawn: “I know, Father. I know. But I was thinking, Father…”
Father Barry: “Yes, child.”
Gruffawn: “Father, would you take the goose?”
Father Barry: “Oh no, my child. I couldn’t possibly do that. You’ll have to return it to the rightful owner.”
Gruffawn: “But I have offered it to the owner, Father, and he wouldn’t take it back!”
Father Barry: “Well, in that case, my child, you may keep it and because of your genuine attempts at restitution, your penance is three Hail Marys.”

Roast goose

Shop closed for lunch

Thursday, 23 April, 2015 0 Comments

The English Market, Cork

Seen in the English Market, a municipal food market in the centre of Cork City.