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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.

With a pull of faux smoke from my e-cig

Wednesday, 22 April, 2015 0 Comments

For his “clear-voiced poems that bring readers the news from 21st Century America, rich with thought, ideas and histories public and private,” Gregory Pardlo has won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Pardlo’s verses are noted for “language simultaneously urban and highbrow… snapshots of a life that is so specific it becomes universal.”

His Wishing Well is rich in elegant imagery: “Central Park exhibits / the frisking transparency of autumn / Tracing paper sky, leaves like eraser crumbs gum the pavement.” Excerpt:

Gregory Pardlo Outside the Met a man walks up sun
tweaking the brim sticker on his Starter cap
and he says pardon me Old School he
says you know is this a wishing well?
Yeah Son I say sideways over my shrug
at the limpid smooth as spandex behind me.
Throw your bread on the water.
I tighten my chest wheezy as Rockaway beach
sand with a pull of faux smoke from my e-cig
to cozy the truculence I hotbox alone
and I am at the museum because it is not a bar.
Because he appears not to have changed
them in days I eye the heel-chewed hems
of his pants and think probably he will
ask me for fifty cents any minute now wait
for it. A smoke or something. Central Park exhibits
the frisking transparency of autumn. Tracing
paper sky, leaves like eraser crumbs gum
the pavement. As if deciphering celestial
script I squint and purse off toward the roof
line of the museum aloof as he fists two
pennies from his pockets mumbling and then
aloud my man he says hey my man I’m going
to make a wish for you too.

The cakes of love

Tuesday, 21 April, 2015 0 Comments

“Destiny cuts
the cake of love,
Three slices to some,
To others, a crumb.”

Stefano Benni, Margherita Dolce Vita

Cakes of Cork

Stand up!

Monday, 20 April, 2015 0 Comments

The haptic sensor in the Apple Watch sends pulses to remind the owner to stand up every hour, along with a text message. “You’ve been sitting for a while. Take a minute to stand up,” a sample text reads.

“If I sit for too long, it will actually tap me on the wrist to remind me to get up and move, because a lot of doctors think sitting is the new cancer,” says Tim Cook, the Apple CEO. Cancer is a disease; sitting is a behaviour, but the point is taken. So, stand up today and take a walk. The London-based Art&Graft design studio shows how it’s done.

Edible bodice

Sunday, 19 April, 2015 0 Comments

In Cork city, spare ribs are referred to as bodice. The etymology is unknown, but the similarity of the cut to the shape of the whalebone stays in the female garment referred to as a bodice may have may have influenced the port’s butchers. Boiled and eaten with potatoes and turnips, bodice is simply delicious, say Corkonians.

Bodice in Cork

Hey! Said my name is called disturbance

Saturday, 18 April, 2015 0 Comments

It’s 1968 and 70,000 North Vietnamese forces launch their daring Tet Offensive. Meanwhile, in the other major theatre of the Cold War conflict, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invade Czechoslovakia and snuff out the Prague Spring. A year of living dangerously, then, and a perfect time for the Rolling Stones to release Beggars Banquet. Key tracks: Sympathy for the Devil, which conjures up the decline of Western civilization, and Street Fighting Man with its brazen demand for “a palace revolution”. Hat tip to Ian for the loan of the album.

“Hey! Said my name is called disturbance
I’ll shout and scream, I’ll kill the king, I’ll rail at all his servants
Well, what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock ‘n’ roll band
‘Cause in sleepy London town
There’s just no place for a street fighting man.”

Gatsby was cool

Friday, 17 April, 2015 0 Comments

By the 1920s, the word “cool” had changed from being associated solely with temperature to a term of appreciation. In 1924, Anna Lee Chisholm recorded Cool Kind Daddy Blues, and Zora Neale Hurston, in her short story The Gilded Six-Bits, wrote of a male character: “And whut make it so cool, he got money ‘cumulated. And womens give it all to ‘im.” When he came to write The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald knew that the alluring masculinity of Gatsby was summed up by “cool”:

“Who wants to go to town?” demanded Daisy insistently.
Gatsby’s eyes floated toward her.
“Ah,” she cried, “you look so cool.”
Their eyes met, and they stared together at each other, alone in space. With an effort she glanced down at the table.
“You always look so cool,” she repeated.
She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw. His mouth opened a little and he looked at Gatsby and then back at Daisy as if he had just recognized her as someone he knew a long time ago.”

With this excerpt, our tribute to the 90th anniversary of The Great Gatsby, first published on 10 April 1925, draws to a close. We look forward to 2025 and the centenary of the masterpiece.

Fitzgerald sings Fitzgerald

Thursday, 16 April, 2015 0 Comments

“We’re celebrating 90 years of The Great Gatsby by indulging in some roaring classics from Fitzgerald’s jazzy times.” So writes Scribner Magazine as it presents its Great Gatsby 90th Anniversary Playlist. Topping that list is the Beale Street Blues, composed in 1916 by W.C. Handy. The title refers to Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, and from the 1958 film St. Louis Blues, starring Nat King Cole, here’s Ella Fitzgerald delivering a fine rendition of a song sprinkled with the liquor that fueled the Gatsby era.

If Beale Street could talk, if Beale Street could talk,
Married men would have to take their beds and walk
Except one or two, who never drink booze
And the blind man on the corner who sings the Beale Street Blues.

Goin’ to the river, maybe, bye and bye
Goin’ to the river, and there’s a reason why
Because the river’s wet and Beale Street’s done gone dry.

The eyes have it

Wednesday, 15 April, 2015 0 Comments

The Great Gatsby turned 90 last Friday and the publisher has reissued a commemorative edition with that famous jacket art by the Catalan artist Francis Cugat, for which he was paid the grand sum of $100. Those two melancholy eyes and the red lips in the blue of the night sky, hovering above a glowing skyline, evoke the glamour and sorrow that are central to the story.

In a letter to his editor, Max Perkins, Fitzgerald requested that Cugat’s art be retained exclusively for the novel. “For Christ’s sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me,” he wrote, “I’ve written it into the book.” What exactly Fitzgerald meant by this is not clear, but it might be that Cugat’s image reflected the billboard for Dr. T.J. Eckleburg that watches over one of the key moments in the novel:

The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic — their irises are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away.”

The Great Gatsby

Tomorrow, here, the Ella Fitzgerald connection.