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All our Saints’ Day

Thursday, 1 November, 2018

Initiated by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Pantheon to the Virgin Mary and the martyrs on 13 May 609 AD, All Saints’ Day may have been intended to co-opt the “Feast of Lemuria,” which the old Religio Romana used for placating the restless spirits of the dead. The Christian holy day was established on 1 November in the mid-eighth century by Pope Gregory III as a day dedicated to the saints and their relics.

Our saints

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
— Saint Francis


The Shamrock Shore before the backstop

Wednesday, 31 October, 2018

How the Irish border backstop became Brexit’s defining issue” was the title on yesterday’s Financial Times Brexit feature by Alex Barker and Arthur Beesley. It’s a vexed matter, the backstop, and it has the potential to do significant harm to all the actors in this drama. Brussels is playing with fire here as it ignores the fact that the UK has long supported open borders with the Republic of Ireland and it continued to allow travel to and from Ireland without a passport, even when IRA terrorists were bombing British cities and murdering shoppers and commuters, police and politicians.

Whether a new border, patrolled on land by French gendarmes or by the German navy in the sea, will be set up in or around the “Shamrock Shore” in case of a “no deal” Brexit remains to be seen, but the issue highlights the never-ending debate about the rights and wrongs in the historic relationship between the islands. The Acts of Union 1800 are a case in point. The loss of the Irish Parliament was greeted with dismay in Dublin and most subsequent disasters were blamed on that pivotal legislation.

All of this was aired in April 1976 when Paul Brady sang a wonderful, unaccompanied version of The Shamrock Shore ballad in the village of Clondra in Longford. The verses are filled with poignancy and what’s especially poignant is that the person seated to Paul Brady’s right in this clip is the magisterial piper Liam O’Flynn who died of cancer on 14 March this year. Our grief at his loss remains unabated.

“John Bull, he boasts, he laughs with scorn
And he says that Irishman is born
To be always discontented for at home we cannot agree
But we’ll banish discord from our land
And in harmony like brothers stand
To demand the rights of Ireland, let us all united be
And our parliament in College Green
For to assemble, it will be seen
And happy days in Erin’s Isle we soon will have once more
And dear old Ireland soon will be
A great and glorious country
And peace and blessings soon will smile all round the Shamrock Shore”


The beginning of the end of Merkelism

Tuesday, 30 October, 2018

Prediction: Angela Merkel won’t be Chancellor of Germany this time next year and the shambolic coalition government she leads will be history. And how will history regard Angela Merkel? Very critically, very harshly, in fact. Her decision in 2015 to demand that Germany and, by default, its neighbours, absorb a vast migration on an unprecedented scale of cultural difference was based on the illusion that Germany’s past sins could be forgiven with a reckless modern humanitarianism. The damage done has been immense. Germany is polarized as never before in its post-War phase and brittle members of the European Union, such as Italy and Poland, are riven by divisions that they claim have been sharpened by Merkelism.

But the Merkel miasma was not confined to Germany. Shortly after 9 November 2016 and the election of Donald Trump as US President, the deranged elites crowned her “Leader of the Free World”. Not content with naming her “Chancellor of the Free World” earlier, they upped the ante and beclowned themselves even further. Still, an upside of the Merkel era will be the introduction of urgently-needed term limits in Germany. Two terms should be the maximum. The 12 years of Merkelism were much too much.

Merkelism


Bolsonaro Wins Big In Brazil

Monday, 29 October, 2018

How can we explain Jair Bolsonaro? Simply put, he represents a desire for radical change. Given the inability of political systems unable to provide it, radical change will increasingly come from outside the political system and be directed against it. It’s happened in the USA; it’s happened in Italy and it’s happening in Germany.

Richard Fernandez nails it: “Events like this pose a real intellectual challenge for the Third Way crowd. It can’t just be Trump that’s causing this, can it? There must be some unacknowledged problem with the old global world that is driving this. Whether you are for or against the obvious revolt, perhaps more urgently if you are against it, there is the necessity to understand the causes of the crisis beyond the explanations offered by late night comedians.”

The MSM is at a loss to understand what’s happening and is unwilling to face the facts. The BBC is typical, and seems to think that the its totemic labels like “far right”, “fascist” and “racist” will return things to the status quo ante. But the spell has been broken. It doesn’t work anymore. Sure, some members of the elite may sense that Trump and Bolsonaro and Salvini are symptoms, not a cause, but they refuse to admit that each one is a symptom of their own abject failures.


Dracula: pre-Halloween reading

Sunday, 28 October, 2018

In May 1897, Dracula, a novel by the Irish author Bram Stoker, was published in London at a price of six shillings. It had a print run of 3,000 copies and the book was bound in plain yellow cloth with the one-word title in simple red lettering. Dracula In time, Dracula would become the supreme example of horror fiction. The critic Maurice Richardson described it as “a kind of incestuous, necrophilious, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match”. What’s not to like?

It begins thus:

“3 May. Bistritz. Left Munich at 8:35 p.M., on first May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late. Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets. I feared to go very far from the station, as we had arrived late and would start as near the correct time as possible. The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule.

We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here I stopped for the night at the Hotel Royale. I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem., get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called ‘paprika hendl,’ and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians. I found my smattering of German very useful here; indeed, I don’t know how I should be able to get on without it.”

“The blood is the life!” — Bram Stoker, Dracula


Word order

Saturday, 27 October, 2018

Things native speakers of English know, but don’t know they know.

Word order


Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler

Friday, 26 October, 2018

“When was a word first used in print? You may be surprised! Enter a date below to see the words first recorded on that year.” So heralds the Merriam-Webster dictionary its new Time Traveler service.

I was born the same year as agribusiness, big bang theory, consultancy, DIY, exurbia, free agent, gangbusters, hidden agenda, information science, juicehead, kegger… Why stop at “k”? Well that word kegger, “a party featuring one or more kegs of beer,” is worth a look. Surprisingly, in Merriam-Webster’s list of eight example sentences featuring the word, there is no mention of “Kavanaugh”. And that is startling because “kegger” was one of the main words used in the demonization of Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his nomination to the US Supreme Court. Here’s a Roll Call headline from 5 October: “Protesters Throw ‘Kegger’ at Mitch McConnell’s House Ahead of Kavanaugh Vote.”

Anyway, Time Traveler is an entertaining and informative tool for the word sleuth and, particularly, for the teacher of English needing an extra activity to keep learners busy.

*An important note on First Known Use dates: “The date most often does not mark the very first time that the word was used in English. Many words were in spoken use for decades or even longer before they passed into the written language. The date is for the earliest written or printed use that the editors have been able to discover.”


Siracusa: home of the world’s best sandwich

Thursday, 25 October, 2018

Described by Cicero as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”, Siracusa (Syracuse) is one of Sicily’s most historic places. It’s mentioned in the Bible in the Acts of the Apostles 28:12 as Saint Paul stayed there, and its patron saint is Saint Lucy, who was born there. Her feast day, Saint Lucy’s Day, is celebrated on 13 December.

Today, Siracusa is home to a street-food artist who makes the very best sandwich in the world. Watch this.

Back on 19 September, our post here was about the affordable and delicious street food sold at markets and train stations and from ‘pojangmacha’ (carts) in most of South Korea’s urban areas. The featured Korean Egg Toast was made with remarkable efficiency and an almost Confucianistic solemnity, and while we’re warned today by our PC overlords about comparing cultures, we’re still allowed to express preferences and the making of this sandwich is Siracusa wins. It’s craft and art; it’s theatre with an enthusiastic audience; it’s loving, passionate, creative and, especially noteworthy, it nourishes a community that appreciates good food prepared with local ingredients.

Talking of the ingredients, one very thoughtful YouTube commentator has listed them:

Filoncino bread, olive oil, Parmesan, dried ciliegini (sweet tomatoes) with basil, fresh salad (radicchio + lettuce + lemon juice and lemon zest), fresh tomatoes, grated Caciotta, grated sheep Ricotta (the same he serves on a plate in the meanwhile). The one in the plate has been aromatized at the moment with fresh garlic, olive oil and oregano, more Ricotta, olives, red sweet onions and some more dried ciliegini.

The filling roll: Slices of a massive Caciocavallo cheese, mashed potatoes with parsley and oil, ham, more Ricotta, more sweet onions (with a drop of lemon this time), parsley.

Divine. Sublime. The way the ham is added is magical.


Titanic II and the tabular iceberg

Wednesday, 24 October, 2018

Australian mining tycoon Clive Palmer says his Titanic II cruise ship is set for a 2022 launch. The two-week maiden voyage will be from Dubai to Great Britain, before she begins her regular service, sailing back and forth between Southampton and New York, retracing the route of the original ship, which was not the Titanic I. The Belfast-built ship that was called The Titanic, sank on 15 April 1912 after hitting an Ilulissat Icefjord iceberg during her maiden voyage. She was carrying 2,224 passengers and crew, but had only 16 lifeboats, which held just 1,178 people. Titanic II can accommodate 2,435 passengers and 900 crew and, crucially, will have lifeboats for 2,700 and life rafts for an additional 800. What the ship won’t have, Clive Palmer has suggested, is internet or TV.

Meanwhile, NASA’s Operation IceBridge, a long-running aerial survey of polar ice, flew over the northern Antarctic Peninsula on 16 October and during a scan of several glaciers Jeremy Harbeck spotted a rare tabular iceberg just off of the Larsen C ice shelf. Photo: NASA/Jeremy Harbeck

Iceberg


Political correctness has deranged the Democrats

Tuesday, 23 October, 2018

Tyler Cowen, host of the economics blog, Marginal Revolution, identifies PC as the cause of the derangement of the Democrats in this Bloomberg column:

“Imagine the perfect political and intellectual weapon. It would disable your adversaries by preoccupying them with their own vanities and squabbles, a bit like a drug so good that users focus on the high and stop everything else they are doing.

Such a weapon exists: It is called political correctness. But it is not a weapon against white men or conservatives, as is frequently alleged; rather, it is a weapon against the American left. To put it simply, the American left has been hacked, and it is now running in a circle of its own choosing, rather than focusing on electoral victories or policy effectiveness. Too many segments of the Democratic Party are self-righteously talking about identity politics, and they are letting other priorities slip.”

Political correctness is harmful, and not just to the deranged Democrats. It has led to the creation of a new entitled class: professional “victims” who demand to be protected from any offence. And it has also produced a suffocating atmosphere in which we must all walk on eggshells in case we commit a language “crime”.


European Elites And African Babies

Monday, 22 October, 2018

Why are European elites worrying about African babies? Ross Douthat claims that the angst is being driven by what he terms “Macron’s Law,” which postulates that with wealth and education birthrates fall — and fall, and fall. In Fear of a Black Continent, he examines Western-supported population control efforts in the developing world:

“So why are they creeping back into the discussion? For three reasons: Because African birthrates haven’t slowed as fast as Western experts once expected, because European demographics are following Macron’s Law toward the grave, and because European leaders are no longer nearly so optimistic about assimilating immigrants as even a few short years ago… This trend would have revived a certain kind of population-bomb anxiety no matter what, but the anxiety in Europe is a little more specific than that – because over the same period, Europe’s population is likely to drop by about one hundred million. (Western Europe’s leaders are a vanguard here: Neither Macron nor Angela Merkel nor Theresa May have any biological children.) In the late 1990s Europe and Africa had about the same population; a hundred years later there could be seven Africans for every European. And the experience of recent refugee crises has demonstrated to European leaders both how easily populations can move northward, and how much harder assimilation may be than they once hoped.”

Bottom line: “But focusing on European fertility has at least one moral advantage over Macro’s finger-wagging at African babymaking: It’s the part of the future that Europeans actually deserve to control.”