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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.

We must save the Yazidi

Thursday, 7 August, 2014 2 Comments

Vian Dakheel, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi Parliament, pleads for immediate help in repelling the genocidal Islamic State, which has captured the mainly Yazidi towns of Sinjar and Zumar, killing nearly 2,000 and forcing 200,000 to flea into the nearby mountains without food and water. This is heartbreaking.

Boris said

Wednesday, 6 August, 2014 0 Comments

“My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.”

“Chinese cultural influence is virtually nil, and unlikely to increase… Indeed, high Chinese culture and art are almost all imitative of western forms: Chinese concert pianists are technically brilliant, but brilliant at Schubert and Rachmaninov. Chinese ballerinas dance to the scores of Diaghilev. The number of Chinese Nobel prizes won on home turf is zero, although there are of course legions of bright Chinese trying to escape to Stanford and Caltech… It is hard to think of a single Chinese sport at the Olympics, compared with umpteen invented by Britain, including ping-pong, I’ll have you know, which originated at upper-class dinner tables and was first called whiff-whaff. The Chinese have a script so fiendishly complicated that they cannot produce a proper keyboard for it.”

“Try as I might, I could not look at an overhead projection of a growth profit matrix, and stay conscious.”

“The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more… Consider Uganda, pearl of Africa, as an example of the British record. … the British planted coffee and cotton and tobacco, and they were broadly right… If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain. You never saw a place so abounding in bananas: great green barrel-sized bunches, off to be turned into matooke. Though this dish (basically fried banana) was greatly relished by Idi Amin, the colonists correctly saw that the export market was limited… The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.”

“My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.”

Despite giving all these hostages to fortune, Boris Johnson has his eyes on the No.10 prize.

Ian Rankin sums it up

Tuesday, 5 August, 2014 0 Comments

Back story: F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone pays to end bribery trial

August 1914

Monday, 4 August, 2014 0 Comments

Born in Bristol and raised in London, Isaac Rosenberg was sent to serve on the Western Front in France in June 1916. He was with the 11th Battalion of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment when he was killed at dawn on 1 April 1918 during the German spring offensive in Fampoux, a town north-east of Arras. He was first buried in a mass grave, but in 1926 his remains were identified and reinterred at Saint-Laurent-Blangy in Pas de Calais. In The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell’s benchmark study of the literature of the First World War, the author declares Rosenberg’s Break of Day in the Trenches as “the greatest poem of the war.”

August 1914

What in our lives is burnt
In the fire of this?
The heart’s dear granary?
The much we shall miss?

Three lives hath one life —
Iron, honey, gold.
The gold, the honey gone —
Left is the hard and cold.

Iron are our lives
Molten right through our youth.
A burnt space through ripe fields,
A fair mouth’s broken tooth.

Isaac Rosenberg (1890 — 1918)

The Socratic Method

Sunday, 3 August, 2014 0 Comments

There’s a story that Socrates had a student who asked him, “How can I get wisdom?” So, Socrates walked him down to the beach until they were both standing waist-high in the water. Then he grabbed the student’s head and pushed it underwater, holding it there while the student struggled and kicked. When he let go and the student stood up, gasping for air, Socrates said, “When you want wisdom as much as you wanted that next breath, you’ll get it.”

Jenny Lewis: Just One of the Guys

Saturday, 2 August, 2014 0 Comments

“The voyager’s in every boy and girl / if you wanna get to heaven, get out of this world.” So sings Jenny Lewis in the title track of her first solo record in six years. The Voyager was produced by Ryan Adams and Mike Viola, with an assist from Beck. The result is, as one would expect, a pleasure. Here, Anne Hathaway, Kristen Stewart and Brie Larson step in as the backing band.

Blogging in Russia gets regulated

Friday, 1 August, 2014 0 Comments

Everyone should read Behind the Scenes in Putin’s Court: The Private Habits of a Latter-Day Dictator by Ben Judah. It’s one of the finest pieces of magazine writing in ages. Not a sparrow seems to fall in the forest that the Kremlin leader is unaware of. Take blogging. Putin recently signed an amendment to Russian communications law that allows the creation of a registry of bloggers. From now on, any blogger with more than 3,000 readers is invited to sign up, but registration is mandatory if the Russian telecommunications regulator, Roskomnadzor, demands it. Oh, an registered bloggers have to disclose their identity, avoid hate speech and obscene language.

Among those who have received notices include satirist Mikhail Zadornov, travel photographer Sergey Dolya, political writer Eduard Limonov and Ashot Gabrelyanov, CEO of News Media. Not that their leader really cares about their obscure postings. According to Ben Judah:

“The President rarely uses the internet. He finds the screens within screens and the bars building up with messages confusing. However, from time to time, his advisers have shown some satirical online videos: he must know how they mock him. His life has become ceremonial: an endless procession of gilded rooms. His routine is parcelled up into thousands of units of 15 minutes and planned for months, if not years ahead. Following his morning review the schedule folders embossed with the eagle are presented to him. After glancing at them, he follows the plan: without a smile or a joy.”

The chimera of a two-state solution

Thursday, 31 July, 2014 0 Comments

Jonathan Freedland poses the awkward question: “The failure of Oslo, the failure at Camp David, the failure of Annapolis, the failure most recently of John Kerry’s indefatigable nine-month effort has prompted the unwelcome thought: what if it keeps failing not because the leaders did not try hard enough, but because the plan cannot work? What if the two-state solution is impossible?”

That’s taken from Liberal Zionism After Gaza in the New York Review of Books blog. Here, Freedland outlines the dilemma:

“A single state in all of historic Palestine, dominated by Jews but in which Palestinians are deprived of the vote, might be Zionist but it certainly would not be liberal. A binational state offering full equality between Jew and Arab would be admirably liberal, but it would seem to thwart Jewish self-determination, at least as it has traditionally been conceived, and therefore could not easily be described as Zionist.”

The painful reality for those who dream of compromise and closure in this savage conflict is that there is no prospect of a two-state solution. This leaves us with some equally awful scenarios, which cannot be contemplated until many more lives have been lost.