Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

The deep, dark music of Marissa Nadler

Saturday, 24 January, 2015 0 Comments

“Running through the song is the refrain ‘Nothing like the way it feels to drive,’ which made me think of the French artist Bernard Faucon, whose recent work is shot entirely from the front seat of a car as he travels all over the world.” So writes Naomi Yang, director of the video clip for Marissa Nadler’s Drive.

Marissa Nadler was busy last year. She issued an album titled July in February and followed up with an EP of unreleased songs. Like Edgar Allan Poe, who played a key role in the American Romantic Movement, Nadler has Boston in her bones and there’s Poesque mystery and dark romance in Drive. The deep woods of New England and the lonely highways of Bernard Faucon linger in this music.

Behold the HoloLens

Friday, 23 January, 2015 0 Comments

“Holograms are the next evolution in computing. Microsoft HoloLens, together with Windows 10, introduces a powerful new holographic platform. The era of holographic computing is here.” Finally, Microsoft is promising something different. Regardless of how HoloLens turns out, there’s one thing it won’t be — Google Glass. HoloLens will be worn in private, for work and for play and, given the projected size, it should be a more powerful, more useful device than the one envisaged by Sergey Brin. Unlike his predecessor, Steve Ballmer, it looks like Satya Nadella has got the vision thing.

August in January for Burns Night

Friday, 23 January, 2015 1 Comment

Tonight is Burns Night, the annual commemoration of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. In honour of the occasion, we present Dick Gaughan’s Glaswegian rendering of the beautiful Song Composed In August. Its origins date back to 1775 when Burns, then 16, was still at school. The object of his affections was Margaret Thomson, whom Burns described as, “a charming Filette who lived next door to the school. She overset my Trigonometry, and set me off in a tangent from the sphere of my studies.”

Now westlin winds and slaughter’n guns
Bring Autumn’s pleasant weather;
The moorcock springs on whirring wings
Amang the blooming heather:
Now waving grain, wide o’er the plain,
Delights the weary farmer;
And the moon shines bright, when I rove at night,
To muse upon my charmer.

The partridge loves the fruitful fells,
The plover loves the mountains;
The woodcock haunts the lonely dells,
The soaring hern the fountains:
Thro’ lofty groves the cushat roves,
The path of man to shun it;
The hazel bush o’erhangs the thrush,
The spreading thorn the linnet.

Thus ev’ry kind their pleasure find,
The savage and the tender;
Some social join, and leagues combine,
Some solitary wander:
Avaunt, away! the cruel sway,
Tyrannic man’s dominion;
The sportsman’s joy, the murd’ring cry,
The flutt’rin, gory pinion!

But, Peggy dear, the ev’ning’s clear,
Swift flies the skimming swallow,
The sky is blue, the fields in view,
All fading-green and yellow:
Come let us stray our gladsome way,
And view the charms of Nature;
The rustling corn, the fruit at thorn,
And ev’ry happy creature.

We’ll gently walk, and sweetly talk,
Till the silent moon shine clearly;
I’ll grasp thy waist, and, fondly prest,
Swear how I love thee dearly:
Not vernal show’rs to budding flow’rs,
Not t’Autumn to the farmer,
So dear can be as thou to me,
My fair, my lovely charmer!

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 — 21 July 1796)

Selfish

Thursday, 22 January, 2015 0 Comments

Yes, the European Central Bank’s belated embrace of quantitative easing will dominate today’s headlines, but given the widespread disaffection with the continent’s out-of-touch leadership and the gnawing sense of being left behind in an increasingly globalized world, Europeans are switching off. Instead of the dismal Mario Draghi, people want the fascinating Kim Kardashian. And she’s everywhere today.

First: Mrs Kanye West took to Instagram on Tuesday to share some snow shots while wearing a “Furkini” that shows off her big booty, flat tummy and signature boobs. She captioned the pic: “Boots with the fur…

Second: Medium has a marvellously nerdy piece titled “How PAPER Magazine’s web engineers scaled their back-end for Kim Kardashian (SFW)“. Snippet: “The first thing Knauss did was get a big honking server to run on the Amazon cloud, with a large hard drive. He copied all the images and files from the smaller original web server to the new, big server. Then he installed a piece of software called Gluster, which allows many computers to share files with each other—it’s sort of like a version of Dropbox that you can completely control.”

Third: On 28 April, Selfish, by Kim Kardashian, will be published. Blurb: “Kim has mastered the art of taking flattering and highly personal photos of oneself. For the first time in print, this book presents some of Kim’s favorite selfies in one volume.”

Over to you, Mario.

Selfie

Bartosz Kosowski illustrates

Wednesday, 21 January, 2015 0 Comments

“I am an illustrator working in Lodz, Poland” is the very simple “About” statement of Bartosz Kosowski. Such modesty. The the Society of Illustrators in Los Angeles has just awarded him its Gold Medal for his “Lolita” poster, which was created for September’s Spoke Art Stanley Kubrick exhibition in San Francisco.

Talking of last September, on the 24th of that month, Bartosz Kosowski posted the following entry in his blog: “Yesterday I learned that my portrait of Putin was used without my knowledge and permission by a Russian nationalist website Sputnik & Pogrom. First, it is a blatant copyright infringement and there is no excuse for that. Second, I would never allow any nationalist media to use my illustration!” When he positioned their website graphic beside his mock-up of a TIME cover, Kosowski added, “Actually they did award him this title a few years back (sic!).”

Person of the Year

Note: The TIME Magazine Person of the Year 2007 was Vladimir Putin: “His final year as Russia’s President has been his most successful yet. At home, he secured his political future. Abroad, he expanded his outsize — if not always benign — influence on global affairs.” Bartosz Kosowski’s mock-up captures perfectly the man behind the mask, at home and abroad.

We need to talk about Greece

Tuesday, 20 January, 2015 0 Comments

The latest poll before Sunday’s election in Greece show the anti-bailout party Syriza getting 33.5 percent of the vote. Should this translate into a majority for the left-wing agitator Alexis Tsipras, the cat will be truly among the euro doves and hawks next week. Note: Syriza has promised to enact a law preventing banks from seizing the homes of people who have fallen behind on mortgages on primary residences valued at less than €300,000.

Greek euro On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported: “Adding to the air of trepidation ahead of the vote, Eurobank and another lender, Alpha Bank SA, have requested access to an emergency cash facility run by the central bank. Both said the moves were only a precaution and that neither faced an immediate funding crunch.” The report’s next sentence is a classic: “People familiar with the matter said the banks are seeking a few billion euros between them.” Just like that: “a few billion euros between them.” Not hundreds, not thousands, not millions; just a few billion.

The Journal article moved Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle to write a piece headlined “It Might Be Time to Panic About Greece.” Money quote: “I rush to note that we are hardly in the end days yet; bank officials told the Wall Street Journal that this was only a precautionary move, and they were not facing an immediate cash crunch. One is always pleased to hear that bankers are being cautious. But the Journal also reports that $3 billion has fled Greek banks over the last two months, and there are rumors that other European banks are reining in their lending to their Hellenic counterparts. Which means that, unfortunately, their caution seems more than warranted.”

Wait until Monday. Meanwhile…

Michel Houellebecq reads in Cologne

Monday, 19 January, 2015 0 Comments

Topping the bestseller list at Amazon.fr is Soumission by Michel Houellebecq. Is his vision of a supine French “submission” to a gradual Islamic takeover a farce or a warning? Tonight, in Cologne, people will have a chance to make up their own minds when the controversial author makes one of his rare trips abroad to speak about his work. Unsurprisingly, the Lit Cologne event is sold out.

Soumission is set seven years in the future, in the year 2022. Mohammed Ben Abbes becomes president of France and immediately all women must be veiled in public, state secondary schools adopt an Islamic curriculum, and the protagonist, François, is told that he cannot return to his university job unless he converts to Islam. He happily submits to the new order, not for any religious or philosophical reasons, but because the new Saudi owners of the Sorbonne pay far better — and he can be polygamous. As he notes, in envy of his new boss, who has converted already: “One 40-year-old wife for cooking, one 15-year-old wife for other things… no doubt he had one or two others of intermediate ages.”

For those who are not fortunate enough to have a ticket to see Michel Houellebecq in action tonight, this Paris Review Q&A, “Scare Tactics: Michel Houellebecq Defends His Controversial New Book,” is essential reading. Snippet:

Have you asked yourself what the effect might be of a novel based on such a hypothesis?

None. No effect whatsoever.

You don’t think it will help reinforce the image of France that I just described, in which Islam hangs overhead like the sword of Damocles, like the most frightening thing of all?

In any case, that’s pretty much all the media talks about, they couldn’t talk about it more. It would be impossible to talk about it more than they already do, so my book won’t have any effect.

Doesn’t it make you want to write about something else so as not to join the pack?

No, part of my work is to talk about what everyone is talking about, objectively. I belong to my own time.

Soumission by Michel Houellebecq

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Sunday, 18 January, 2015 0 Comments

The Latin phrase Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is found in the Satires of the Roman poet Juvenal. The literal translation is “Who will guard the guards themselves?” and the question is commonly posed when referring to the problem of controlling the doings of people in positions of power, which brings us to Saint Fanahan.

It is said that he arrived in Brigown in County Cork in the seventh century and founded a monastery there. Over the generations, a cult of prayer and pilgrimage developed at St. Fanahan’s Well, just a short distance from the ruins of Brigown Church, which is all that is left of the monastic settlement. In the 13th century, a Norman family named “de St. Michel” founded “Villa Michel” in Brigown and the name evolved to Mitchelstown. Every year on 25 November, people from the community pay homage to Saint Fanahan, who now sits in stone in front of the Mitchelstown police station, guarding the guards.

Saint Fanahan

And the merry love the fiddle

Saturday, 17 January, 2015 0 Comments

As well as playing the fiddle, Toner Quinn has numerous strings to his bow. Together with Benedict Schlepper-Connolly and Simon Doyle, he publishes the award-winning Journal of Music, and he gives lectures, talks and concerts at home and abroad. Galway was the venue for this splendid performance with Malachy Bourke and Brian Bourke.

“For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance.”

The Fiddler of Dooney, William Butler Yeats

The Warmth of Other Suns

Friday, 16 January, 2015 0 Comments

In 2014, more than 276,000 people immigrated to Europe illegally. That’s almost 140 percent more than in 2013, according to figures published by the EU. The most of these migrants sailed across the Mediterranean, and the newest method of trafficking them is cruel and effective. The smugglers buy cargo ships from scrapyards, pack hundreds of people onto them and collect thousands of dollars from every one. Then, in the middle of the Mediterranean, the captain sets the auto-pilot for Italy and jumps ship.

Migrants

Isabel Wilkerson addresses the mass movement of people in the The Warmth of Other Suns and while her focus is the American South during the 20th Century, the eloquent conclusion she reaches is universal:

“The migration was a response to an economic and social structure not of their making. They did what humans have done for centuries when life became untenable — what the pilgrims did under the tyranny of British rule, what the Scotch-Irish did in Oklahoma when the land turned to dust, what the Irish did when there was nothing to eat, what the European Jews did during the spread of Nazism, what the landless in Russia, Italy, China, and elsewhere did when something better across the ocean called to them. What binds these stories together was the back-against-the-wall, reluctant yet hopeful search for something better, any place but where they were. They did what human beings looking for freedom, throughout history, have often done.
They left.”

The warmth of sun

Robots rising

Thursday, 15 January, 2015 0 Comments

The title of Martin Ford’s new book, due out in April, is Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future. Snippet:

Rise of the Robots “Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making ‘good jobs’ obsolete: many paralegals, physicians, and even — ironically — computer programmers are poised to be replaced by robots. As technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer jobs will be necessary. Unless we radically reassess the fundamentals of how our economy and politics work, this transition could create massive unemployment and inequality as well as the implosion of the economy itself.”

No industry will be spared. In “precision farming,” for example, a “nurse” robot will tend to individual plants, injecting water, pesticide or fertilizer in the exact amounts required — instead of spraying an entire field. And “picking” robots are going to take over back-breaking jobs that would otherwise go to migrant workers.

Meanwhile, San Francisco startup Modbot is designing industrial and hobby robots that will piece together like Lego. Typically robots like this might cost $25,000, but the modular nature of the Modbot could reduce the price tag to $2,500. The picture is completed with a simple smartphone app that would control your robot.