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Monday, 17 August, 2015 0 Comments

Crubeens (from the Irish crúibín) are pig’s feet. They are regarded as a delicacy in Cork, where they are traditionally battered and fried and eaten by hand. An alternative is to boil them with onions, carrots, cabbage and serve them with mustard and a glass of Murphy’s or Guinness. The term “corned”, by the way, comes from the treatment of the meat with large grains of rock salt, called “corns” of salt.


Food for poetry

Sunday, 16 August, 2015 0 Comments

In Irish, the word “Ballymaloe” means “the townland of sweet honey”, from baile (town), lua (sweet) and meal (honey). Ballymaloe is located in Shanagarry, which means “old garden”, and Ballymaloe Cookery School is set in 10 acres of organic gardens, which are surrounded by 100 acres of East Cork farmland. The school is the generous sponsor of the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize, in association with The Moth magazine, and there’s a total of €13,000 in the pot.

The American poet Elizabeth Bishop was an accomplished cook and here she creates food for thought with the repetition of the words crumb and coffee. The coffee turns from a drop to a cup into gallons, while the crumb evolves into a roll, a buttered loaf and finally “my mansion, made for me by a miracle.” It should be noted that she wrote the poem during the Great Depression when she saw the jobless lining up for coffee and bread. They were dependent on the charity and goodwill of the “man on the balcony”, who represents the elites and the bureaucrats, who never hunger or thirst. The miracle Elizabeth Bishop’s masses hope for alludes to the Biblical story in which Jesus fed 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish.

A Miracle For Breakfast

At six o’clock we were waiting for coffee,
waiting for coffee and the charitable crumb
that was going to be served from a certain balcony
— like kings of old, or like a miracle.
It was still dark. One foot of the sun
steadied itself on a long ripple in the river.

The first ferry of the day had just crossed the river.
It was so cold we hoped that the coffee
would be very hot, seeing that the sun
was not going to warm us; and that the crumb
would be a loaf each, buttered, by a miracle.
At seven a man stepped out on the balcony.

He stood for a minute alone on the balcony
looking over our heads toward the river.
A servant handed him the makings of a miracle,
consisting of one lone cup of coffee
and one roll, which he proceeded to crumb,
his head, so to speak, in the clouds — along with the sun.

Was the man crazy? What under the sun
was he trying to do, up there on his balcony!
Each man received one rather hard crumb,
which some flicked scornfully into the river,
and, in a cup, one drop of the coffee.
Some of us stood around, waiting for the miracle.

I can tell what I saw next; it was not a miracle.
A beautiful villa stood in the sun
and from its doors came the smell of hot coffee.
In front, a baroque white plaster balcony
added by birds, who nest along the river,
— I saw it with one eye close to the crumb–

and galleries and marble chambers. My crumb
my mansion, made for me by a miracle,
through ages, by insects, birds, and the river
working the stone. Every day, in the sun,
at breakfast time I sit on my balcony
with my feet up, and drink gallons of coffee.

We licked up the crumb and swallowed the coffee.
A window across the river caught the sun
as if the miracle were working, on the wrong balcony.

Elizabeth Bishop

Curaçao dushi

Saturday, 15 August, 2015 0 Comments

The Dutch Caribbean country of Curaçao is famed for beaches, coral reefs, pastel-coloured colonial architecture and a liqueur flavoured with the dried peel of the laraha fruit (Citrus aurantium currassuviencis), grown on the island. The culture is a mix of Arawak, Dutch, Portuguese, French, Spanish, West Indian and African influences.

The locals speak Papiamentu (Papiamento), a Creole language based on Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish and several African dialects. It’s very much a spoken language, not a written one, hence the spelling variants. Essential phrases: Con ta bay? (“How are you?”), Mi ta bon, mi dushi (“I am well, my love.”) That word, dushi, has lots of meanings, most of which centre on sweet, nice or good. It’s the word Ken Wolff, once of Aruba and now of Amsterdam, picked for the title of this clip.

“The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage”

Friday, 14 August, 2015 0 Comments

Reporting from Tokyo for the Financial Times, Robin Harding writes: “On the night of August 14 1945, as Japan prepared to surrender to the Allies, a group of rebel officers launched a coup d’état and seized control of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace.” Seventy years on, Harding tells this dramatic story in “Japan’s longest day: plot that nearly prevented war from ending“. Here’s a thriller-like scene: “Determined to fight on, even if it meant the annihilation of their country, the plotters ransacked the palace looking for the prepared recording of Emperor Hirohito’s surrender message and very nearly prevented the end of the second world war.”

For all those who continue to peddle the notion that Japan would have somehow surrendered in a moment of rationality, Harding’s article should be recommended reading. With its fascist leadership and genocidal agenda, Japan was intent on turning Asia into a colony that would be ruled by the Shin guntō, barbarically. In the end, however, the plotters didn’t find the recording of Emperor Hirohito’s surrender message. It was successfully smuggled out of the palace in a laundry basket of women’s underwear and broadcast to a nation that had never heard their “God” speak.

In his speech, Hirohito noted, with historic understatement, that “the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage”. Finally, he said: “However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.” No word of remorse, though, for the horrific crimes that were committed in his name and with his sanction.

From the FT comments on Robin Harding’s article:

Harold Godwinson: “Surely the message is that in fact the use of nuclear weapons saved many millions of lives. Japan then is comparable to Daesh now. Fanatics who believe their cause is beyond value in human life must always be opposed.”

Sell oil, buy drugs

Thursday, 13 August, 2015 0 Comments

“The Board believes that the healthcare industry, particularly the biopharma sector, is experiencing strong momentum and there exist significant M&A and value creation opportunities for both small cap and large cap companies.” We all know that the healthcare industry and the biopharma sector are experiencing growth and that both are set for more, so that remark would be unremarkable were it not for who is issuing it. Namely, an oil exploration company. Fastnet Oil & Gas PLC is listed on the Dublin and London alternative investment markets and on Tuesday it informed shareholders of the following change of policy:

“In light of the current economic climate within the oil and gas sector, the Board has determined that it is not in the best interests of Shareholders to either pursue M&A opportunities in that sector or to expend further resources on the Company’s existing oil and gas assets.”

On the same day that Fastnet signaled its retreat from the coasts of Ireland and Morocco, the socialist paradise of Venezuela, which gets more than 95 percent of its export revenue from oil, was hit with more bad news: its huge gold reserves are losing their value, fast. Meanwhile, biopharma deals are booming and there’s no end in sight.

Moral of story: Sell oil, buy drugs.

I’ve told you once and I’ve told you twice

Wednesday, 12 August, 2015 0 Comments

Our intermittent series on the great songs of 1965, that pivotal year in modern music, continues with The Last Time, the first Rolling Stones single written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. It became the band’s third song to reach No. 1 in the UK charts, spending three weeks at the top in March and early April that year and although it’s credited to Jagger and Richards, “Keef” has admitted that it was based on a traditional gospel song called This May Be The Last Time, recorded by The Staple Singers in 1955.

That was a material fact in 1997, when the former Rolling Stones business manager Allen Klein, whose company ABKCO Records owns the rights to all the band’s material from the 1960’s, sued The Verve for using a sample of The Andrew Oldham Orchestra recording of The Last Time in their Bitter Sweet Symphony hit. The Verve had obtained a licence to use the sample, but Klein successfully argued in court that the band used more material than the licence allowed. The Verve had to relinquish their royalties to ABKCO and the songwriting credit was changed to Jagger/Richards. Following this, Andrew Loog Oldham, who owns the copyright on the orchestral version that was sampled, also sued The Verve. Litigious lot, eh?

BTW, the footage here proves that the distinctive Last Time riff was played by Brian Jones, while the chords and solo were played by Keith Richards. Oh, and look out for legendary Manchester United footballer George Best jiving at 1.37.


Tuesday, 11 August, 2015 0 Comments

“We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search!” Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet, the new Google “Operating Structure”.

The domain name is clever as it indicates that Alphabet will cover everything from A to Z. And the alphabet offers endless food for Alphabet wordplay as Jean-Marie G. Le Clézio illustrates in Mondo et autres histoires. Snippet:

“At the same time, he spoke to Mondo about everything there was in the letters, about everything you could see in them when you looked and when you listened. He spoke about A, which is like a big fly with its wings pulled back; about B, which is funny, with its two tummies; or C and D, which are like the moon, a crescent moon or a half-full moon; and then there was O, which was the full moon in the black sky. H is high, a ladder to climb up trees or to reach the roofs of houses; E and F look like a rake and a shovel; and G is like a fat man sitting in an armchair. I dances on tiptoes, with a little head popping up each time it bounces, whereas J likes to swing. K is broken like an old man, R takes big strides like a soldier, and Y stands tall, its arms up in the air, and it shouts: help! L is a tree on the river’s edge, M is a mountain, N is for names, and people waving their hands, P is asleep on one paw, and Q is sitting on its tail; S is always a snake, Z is always a bolt of lightning, T is beautiful, like the mast on a ship, U is like a vase, V and W are birds, birds in flight; and X is a cross to help you remember.”

Irish seaside signage

Monday, 10 August, 2015 0 Comments

Ireland sea sign

Home Is So Sad

Sunday, 9 August, 2015 0 Comments

On this day in 1922, the English poet Philip Larkin was born. “I can’t understand these chaps who go round American universities explaining how they write poems,” he once said. “It’s like going round explaining how you sleep with your wife.” The savage brilliance of Larkin’s epigrams continues to impress: life (“slow motion dying”), sex (“almost as much trouble as standing for parliament”), health (“Depression hangs over me as if I were Iceland.”).

In Home Is So Sad, Larkin says that our home protects us and is a safe haven. When you leave your home, it feels empty and it is only complete when you return.

Home Is So Sad

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

Philip Larkin (1922 – 1985)

That vase


Saturday, 8 August, 2015 0 Comments

“After walking camino in spain , i went to porto for having a break time in portugal. And then, i fell in love with its scenery, people, colors and so on. I decided to capture its beauty and stay more than i expected.” So writes Lee Hang Gab, a South Korean film/design artist with an eye for beauty and an ability to capture it.

Andy Warhol buys Brillo

Friday, 7 August, 2015 0 Comments

“We spend much of our life working to reach some kind of better place: to have a nicer house, to buy better things, perhaps to move to a different country. We are often down on average things and positive about the exotic: a meal from Panama with Japanese infusions, a holiday in Tbilisi. It is normal to feel that the exciting things are not where we are. Andy Warhol aims to remedy this by getting us to look again at things in everyday life.”

That’s according to the Book of Life, which is an offshoot of the School of Life, which is the brainchild of Alain de Botton. As regards Andy Warhol and Brillo, de Botton says:

“Warhol wants us to realise that we are already living an appealing life — to stop being down on ourselves, and ignoring ordinary experiences — filling up a car with petrol, dropping something off at the dry cleaners, microwaving a pre-made meal… We don’t need to fantasise about other places. We just need to see that the things we do all the time and the objects around us have their own merits and are enchanting in their own ways.”