Some one million horses, mules and donkeys were sent to the Western Front to assist the British Army in World War I and served in squadrons such as the Northumberland Hussars and the Warwickshire Horse Artillery, where they pulled heavy guns, transported supplies, carried the wounded and dying to hospital and took part in cavalry […]
Combine the incomparable fiddle playing of Martin Hayes and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh with the sean-nós singing of Iarla Ó Lionaird and back it up with the guitar of Dennis Cahill and the keyboards of Thomas Bartlett and the you’ve got The Gloaming. They’ve just recorded their first studio album, but their natural setting is the live performance.
Thugamar Féin An Samhradh Linn is a traditional Irish song that was sung on May Day (Lá Bealtaine). In his notes on the song, the 19th century music collector Edward Bunting wrote that it “is probably extremely ancient”.
Bábóg na Bealtaine, maighdean an tSamhraidh,
Suas gach cnoc is síos gach gleann,
Cailíní maiseacha bán-gheala gléasta,
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn.
Samhradh, samhradh, bainne na ngamhna,
Mayday doll, maiden of Summer
Up every hill and down every glen,
Beautiful girls, radiant and shining,
We have brought the Summer in.
Summer, Summer, milk of the calves,
That’s the question posed by R.J.W. Evans in “The Greatest Catastrophe the World Has Seen.” His engaging tour d’horizon of the latest World War I books includes belated recognition for Le origini della guerra del 1914 (“The Origins of the War of 1914″) by the Italian politician and journalist Luigi Albertini, which was published in 1942–1943. As Evans notes: “Silenced by the Fascist regime, Albertini immersed himself in all the sources, and added more of his own by arranging interviews with survivors. That lent an immediacy to his wonderfully nuanced presentation of the individuals who actually made (or ducked) the fateful decisions.”
The fateful decisions taken in London were “entrusted to the tentative grasp of the country squire Sir Edward Grey”, who “wobbled both before and after Berlin’s foolhardy démarche, and was determined at least as much by parliamentary frictions and civil disturbance at home.” This “disturbance” included “the ferocious clashes over Ireland’s home-rule legislation.” Grey, does not emerge well from the books reviewed by Evans, but like many of the other players in this drama he was unprepared for what was coming in July 1914. “Communing with nature on his country estate, for he passionately preferred live birds (he was an acknowledged expert in their observation) to the feathers on an archduke’s hat, he had already reached the conclusion that ‘if war breaks out, it will be the greatest catastrophe the world has ever seen.’” And it was.
No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they’re ‘longing to go out again,’ —
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died, —
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride…
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.
1914 — 2014: Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, compared the leadership of China to the German monarchy of Wilhelm II ahead of the First World War. Beijing Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang responded by calling the Japanese World War II criminals commemorated at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo “Nazis in the East.”Tweet
Before becoming Latin American editor of the Financial Times, John Paul Rathbone worked as an economist and writer at the World Bank. He is also the author of The Sugar King of Havana: The Rise and Fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba’s Last Tycoon and his latest FT column, “Cubans lose fear of criticism as reform fireflies start to flicker,” combines his passion for the island’s economy, politics and culture with lyricism. “Is Cuba really reforming?” That’s the question being posed by Habaneros today and here’s how John Paul Rathbone responds:
“There is no short answer, although a poetic one might compare the reforms to small and hesitant flickerings, akin to the fireflies that Cuban women of society sewed into their hair and silk gowns before grand balls in colonial times. The effect was reportedly bewitching: something beautiful that would briefly illuminate itself and then fade. The viewer might even be unsure that he had seen anything at all. Yet then the fireflies would sparkle again, much like Cuba’s reforms. The question for outsiders is now to encourage them.”
On Monday, in a Neue Zürcher Zeitung article titled “The Third Empire,” Ulrich Schmid looked at how the Russian culture scene is being exploited by Putin’s authoritarian state for its imperialistic propaganda goals. “Largely unnoticed by the world press, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was awarded the ‘Imperial Culture’ prize in January 2012 for his ‘resistance to Western expansion’. The patrons of the honour were the Russian writer’s guild, the Russian literature foundation and several Orthodox organizations.”
Schmid notes as well that the steppes of Russian cinema have been experiencing something of a Mongolian invasion of late. Films such as Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan (2007), The Secret of Genghis Khan (2009) and The Horde (2012) have been big hits. All of them portray the image of strong ruler who created a gigantic empire thanks to his unconditional demand for discipline. The not-so-subtle message is that Mongolian harshness and the Russian capacity to endure suffering are the perfect platform for empire building. This interpretation of history, writes Schmid, hews close to the ideology of Eurasianism. Seen through that prism, the Western model of the market economy plus representative democracy appears alien to a Russia that was, in parts, dominated by the Mongols for more than 300 years. Eurasianism claims that Russian culture is different its European counterpart due to this Asian impact and that Russia, therefore, must follow a separate path. The popular enthusiasm for all things Mongol plays into Putin’s hands as he’d like to create a Eurasian Union, which in terms of economic power and political weight, would act as a counterbalance to the European Union.
He’s got big dreams, that Vlad.Tweet
It was Brendan Behan who famously said that Dublin’s Abbey Theatre was the best-fed theatre company in the world because, every time there was a crisis in the kind of plays it staged, someone put on a pan of rashers.
Behan’s jab, which was delivered in the 1950s, was directed at the provincial, smug and flabby nature of the company, but it has lost none of its sting over the subsequent decades. According to a recent report by a group of assessors, some Abbey productions do reach “an acceptable standard for professional theatre presentation.” The assessors gave just four of 12 recent Abbey productions ratings that were “very good” or “excellent,” or very close to it. Four were ranked as “good” and four were judged to be somewhere between “acceptable’ and “good.” For the Arts Council of Ireland, the report is troubling as it gave the Abbey Theatre grants of €7.1 million last year. One could buy an awful lot of rashers with that kind of dosh.
This just in: The Director of the Abbey Theatre, Fiach Mac Conghail, has accused The Irish Times of “cruelty” in publishing independent reports critical of his theatre’s productions.Tweet
For an entire swathe of useful idiots, Edward Snowden is a hero. In fact, however, he’s a thief. Worse still, he’s a traitor. In an eye-opening account of Snowden’s amorality, Warren Strobel and Mark Hosenball of Reuters reported that he gained access to his cache of documents by persuading some 25 of his fellow employees to give him their logins and passwords, saying he needed the information to help him do his job as systems administrator. Most of these colleagues were subsequently fired. It should be noted also that Snowden signed an oath, as a condition of his employment as an NSA contractor, not to disclose classified information, and he was well aware of the penalties for violating that oath. But he stole an estimated 1.7 million documents, anyway.
Then there’s Snowden’s admiration for the enemies of freedom, which became public in a statement he made in Moscow last July, soon after Vladimir Putin granted him asylum. He thanked the countries that had offered him support. “These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, have my gratitude and respect,” he declared, “for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful.” Earlier, Snowden had said that he sought refuge in Hong Kong because of its “spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.”
The man is either naïve or evil. Take your pick.
On Friday, President Obama limited Snowden to two mentions in a more than 5,000 word speech as he criticized his “unauthorised disclosures.” There was no suggestion of clemency, and there will be none. “It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard, and the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can be frustrating,” said President Obama. “No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs, or Russia to take the privacy concerns of citizens into account.”
Edward Snowden has sentenced himself to life in Russia, which is ruled by an unpleasantly authoritarian regime. He deserves his fate.
This just in: “The heads of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees suggested on Sunday that Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, may have been working for Russian spy services while he was employed at an agency facility in Hawaii last year and before he disclosed hundreds of thousands of classified government documents.” The New York Times
Note: It’s telling that Snowden has not released any documents detailing the cyber-operations of Russia or China, even though he must have had access to the NSA’s reports on the hundreds or thousands of hacking campaigns that they have carried out over the years.Tweet
The abbey of Holy Cross near Thurles in County Tipperary takes its name from the True Cross or Holy rood, a fragment of which was brought to Ireland by the Plantagenet Queen, Isabella of Angoulême, around 1233. She bestowed the relic on the Cistercian monastery, which was subsequently named Holy Cross Abbey. The modern Stations […]
The story goes that on 24 May 1966 at a concert in l’Olympia in Paris, Bob Dylan refused to return to the stage unless Françoise Hardy agreed to meet him. Later that night, during his 25th birthday party celebrations at the George V Hotel off the Champs-Elysées, he took Hardy to his suite and serenaded her with I Want You and Just Like a Woman. She recalled that he looked like a vampire with yellow skin and long yellow fingernails. Françoise Hardy was 70 yesterday. Joyeux anniversaire!
at the seine’s edge
a giant shadow
of notre dame
seeks t’ grab my foot
whirl by on thin bicycles
swirlin’ lifelike colors of leather spin
the breeze yawns food
far from the bellies
or erhard meetin’ johnson
piles of lovers
lay themselves on their books. boats.
clothed in curly mustaches
float on the benches
blankets of tourists
in bright red nylon shirts
with straw hats of ambassadors
(cannot hear nixon’s
dawg bark now)
will sail away
as the sun goes down
the doors of the river are open
i must remember that
i too play the guitar
it’s easy t’ stand here
more lovers pass
from the walls of the water then
i look across t’ what they call
the right bank
Well, that’s what it says at the freedom-loving Guardian. The title of the post? “Forget funeral selfies. What are the ethics of tweeting a terminal illness?” The removal took place on 8 January and on Tuesday this week, Guardian readers were treated to another Orwellian notice: “Removed: article.” Is Alan Rusberger going rogue?Tweet
When the temperature reached 43.3 degrees at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne yesterday, the referee, Wayne McEwen, deemed the conditions to be unsafe for players so he applied the “extreme heat” policy, suspending all play on outdoor courts. For the BBC, this was a golden opportunity to trot out the old tropes. “2013 was recently declared Australia’s hottest year on record,” it reported, adding, “The Climate Council report attributed the development to climate change, caused by greenhouse gases.”
Despite the hardships experienced by the tennis millionaires and their fans, however, 2014 is set to offer cold comfort to the global warming believers. Paradoxically, it looks like being a very good year for unbelievers in the cult of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming). Those frequent-flyer UN jags to negotiate a global climate treaty have been discredited; the notion that the US Senate would ratify a climate treaty sounds farfetched; austerity has sobered up the EU to the point where increasing energy prices as a way of reducing carbon emissions is off the agenda, and China and India are not remotely interested in giving up their development objectives for the goal of carbon control.
To be sure, global warming sceptics don’t have a platform like the BBC to promote their cause, but the absurdity of the activists is a gift that keeps on giving. In December, warmist scientists and reporters sailed to Antarctica to find signs of the global warming they claim has changed that continent since Douglas Mawson explored it a century ago. Instead, they found sea ice where Mawson didn’t and their ship got locked in. Who rescued them? China and the US. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Tom Switzer declared: “Game finally up for carboncrats.”Tweet