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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.”


Why Paul Fussell thanked God for the Atom Bomb

Thursday, 6 August, 2015 1 Comment

The great American cultural and literary historian, author and academic Paul Fussell landed in France in 1944 as a 20-year-old second lieutenant with the 103rd Infantry Division and was wounded while fighting the Germans in Alsace. When his Thank God for the Atom Bomb (PDF) essay appeared in The New Republic in August 1981 it was received with howls of rage by leftist revisionists who accused Fussell of justifying a “war crime”. Unlike his detractors, however, Fussell knew whereof he wrote.

During the storm, Fussell remained firm in his conviction that the two bombs ended World War II. Along with saving the hundreds of thousands of American lives that would have been lost in a protracted invasion, they also saved millions of Japanese lives that would have been sacrificed in defending Nippon. Snippet:

“John Kenneth Galbraith is persuaded that the Japanese would have surrendered surely by November without an invasion. He thinks the A-bombs were unnecessary and unjustified because the war was ending anyway. The A-bombs meant, he says, ‘a difference, at most, of two or three weeks.’ But at the time, with no indication that surrender was on the way, the kamikazes were sinking American vessels, the Indianapolis was sunk (880 men killed), and Allied casualties were running to over 7,000 per week. ‘Two or three weeks,’ says Galbraith.

Two weeks more means 14,000 more killed and wounded, three weeks more, 21,000. Those weeks mean the world if you’re one of those thousands or related to one of them. During the time between the dropping of the Nagasaki bomb on August 9 and the actual surrender on the fifteenth, the war pursued its accustomed course: on the twelfth of August eight captured American fliers were executed (heads chopped off); the fifty-first United States submarine, Bonefish, was sunk (all aboard drowned); the destroyer Callaghan went down, the seventieth to be sunk, and the Destroyer Escort Underhill was lost. That’s a bit of what happened in six days of the two or three weeks posited by Galbraith. What did he do in the war? He worked in the Office of Price Administration in Washington. I don’t demand that he experience having his ass shot off. I merely note that he didn’t.”

The atom bomb was a a terrible weapon, but it was used to prevent a more terrible slaughter.

Robert Conquest RIP

Wednesday, 5 August, 2015 0 Comments

“There was an old bastard named Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in
But where he did one in
That old bastard Stalin did ten in.”

Robert Conquest, born 15 July 1917, died 3 August 2015.

“Of his many works on the subject, perhaps the most important was The Great Terror, published in 1968 and detailing the full enormity of what Stalin had done to the Russian people in the 1930s and 1940s. The Mexican writer Octavio Paz paid the most succinct tribute to this book when he said in 1972 that The Great Terror had ‘closed the debate’ about Stalinism.”

That’s a snippet from the Telegraph obituary for the late Robert Conquest, who died yesterday aged 98. In the foreword to The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine, Conquest noted: “By the deeds that are recalled here, it was not 20 people per word, but 20 people per letter in this book who were killed.” And this was the ideology that was idealized by the Left?

Georgi Derluguian’s recast of Russia in 2001

Tuesday, 4 August, 2015 0 Comments

“If Putin emerges as even a moderately successful ruler, the likely outcome over the next ten years will be a protectionist, semi-authoritarian, inescapably corrupt but somewhat better-off Russia, helping to police the remnants of an unstable former empire. The West has every reason to look to it for assistance in keeping this part of the world under the lid. Naturally, whatever else endures on either side of the Oxus, it is unlikely to be freedom.”

Prophetic words, indeed, and all the more impressive when one considers that they were written in the late autumn of 2001 by Georgi Derluguian. His “Recasting Russia” appeared in the New Left Review. Here’s another valuable snippet:

“The Russian state faces perhaps uniquely acute dilemmas today, not simply because of its abrupt shrinkage in size, but because its major assets and traditional orientations have been devalued. Capitalism in its globalized mode is antithetical to the mercantilist bureaucratic empires that specialized in maximizing military might and geopolitical throw-weight—the very pursuits in which Russian and Soviet rulers have been enmeshed for centuries.”

Those who where such enthusiastic proponents of the failed “reset” should consider a realistic “recast”.

No smoking

Monday, 3 August, 2015 0 Comments

“Who knows whether, if I had given up smoking, I should really have become the strong perfect man I imagined? Perhaps it was this very doubt that bound me to my vice, because life is so much pleasanter if one is able to believe in one’s own latent greatness.” — Italo Svevo

No smoking

Smoking in public in Ireland was banned on 29 March 2004, making it the first country in the world to enact an outright ban on smoking in workplaces. Under the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts, it is illegal to smoke in bars, restaurants, clubs, offices, public buildings, company cars, trucks, taxis and vans. The law exempts private dwellings, prisons, nursing homes and psychiatric wards.

Carver’s grief

Sunday, 2 August, 2015 0 Comments

In a New York Review of Books article, Thomas R. Edwards described the fictional world of Raymond Carver as a place where “people worry about whether their old cars will start, where unemployment or personal bankruptcy are present dangers.” The diagnosis of lung cancer inspired him to write verse and his poems are characterized by a reliance on storytelling and sentence sounds. Raymond Carver died on this day in 1988.


Woke up early this morning and from my bed
looked far across the Strait to see
a small boat moving through the choppy water,
a single running light on. Remembered
my friend who used to shout
his dead wife’s name from hilltops
around Perugia. Who set a plate
for her at his simple table long after
she was gone. And opened the windows
so she could have fresh air. Such display
I found embarrassing. So did his other
friends. I couldn’t see it.
Not until this morning.

Raymond Carver (25 May 1938 – 2 August 1988)

From Italy to Ireland

Saturday, 1 August, 2015 0 Comments

Born in Brescia, Matteo Bertoli now lives in Dublin, where he works as a freelance director and cinematographer. He took a trip to the south of the country with his girlfriend and shot this video of Cork and Kinsale with a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. “Cork is built on the River Lee which divides into two channels at the western end of the city,” he writes. “The city centre is located on the island created by the channels… Kinsale is a popular holiday resort for Irish and foreign tourists… The town is compact with a quaint air of antiquity in the narrow streets.” Pieces of Ireland perfectly captures the fleeting nature of an Irish summer. Blink, and it’s gone.

The only other option is breakup

Friday, 31 July, 2015 0 Comments

Germany is running the show and writing the rules says Philippe Legrain. Why, then, he wonders, is France proposing even deeper integration? “The Last Thing the Eurozone Needs Is an Ever Closer Union” argues Legrain in Foreign Policy. Snippet:

“The conceit in Paris is that a eurozone government would be shaped by France. But why would it be? Berlin rules the roost in the eurozone, so it is scarcely going to subordinate itself to a Franco-European institution in Brussels. When German officials talk about fiscal union, what they have in mind is not the Keynesian eurozone treasury that France would like, but a supranational fiscal enforcer that could rewrite national budgets at will. That would entail an extension of German power, not a reclaiming of French influence.”

Legrain’s conclusion is worth pondering: “A flexible eurozone would be good economics and sound politics. Trying to impose a single, rigid, and deeply flawed Germanic model on the eurozone is not. A French-style eurozone government is a pipe dream. The only other option, of course, is breakup.”

Singer sewing at 87

Thursday, 30 July, 2015 0 Comments

Mother celebrated her 87th birthday yesterday with some essential stitching using grandmother’s vintage Singer sewing machine. Life goes on.

Singer sewing machine

“I am certain that a Sewing Machine would relieve as much human suffering as a hundred Lunatic Asylums, and possibly a good deal more.” — Margaret Atwood, Alias Gracee