Tag: New Yorker

Hurling: Letter from Ireland (1937)

Sunday, 20 May, 2018

For some people in the Northern Hemisphere, summer begins with the start of the Munster Hurling Senior Championship. It’s a cultural thing that has its roots in an agrarian society driven by grass growth and the arrival of better weather. Today, the festival opens at 2 pm with Limerick vs. Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds.

The connection between Munster hurling and Graham Greene would not be known to most attending today’s game, but the great English novelist was the editor of Night and Day, described as a British rival to the New Yorker, in the 1930s and during its brief life he published a piece titled Letter from Ireland by Elizabeth Bowen, the doyenne of Anglo-Irish writing. Snippet:

“Cork left Cork for Killarney when the All Ireland Hurley Finals were played there. Tipperary won. This was a great day for the whole of the South of Ireland; special trains were run and the roads for a hundred miles round streamed with cars and bicycles, most of them flying flags. The Tipperary contingent passed my way. Those who unluckily could not get to Killarney stood on banks for hours to watch the traffic. This is, in the literal sense, a very quiet country: the Troubles and civil war were fought out in an almost unbroken hush, punctuated by a few explosions or shots. Voices are seldom raised, and you can (so to speak) hear a dog bark or a milk-cart rattle or a funeral bell toll two counties away. But these great Sundays of sport galvanise everything; from the moment you wake you know that something is going on.

Hurley is the fastest game, short of ice hockey, that I have ever watched. It is a sort of high-speed overhead hockey, played with sticks with flat wooden blades, and it looks even more dangerous that it apparently is. Though a game that would melt you in the Antarctic, it is, for some reason, played only in summer.”

There are gems of appraisal and style in everything that Elizabeth Bowen wrote. Her observation that “the Troubles and civil war were fought out in an almost unbroken hush,” is revealing, given that her Letter from Ireland was published just 14 years after the conflict ended, and “Cork left Cork for Killarney” is delightful. Today, some 80 years later, Tipperary will leave Tipperary for Limerick.

Limerick vs. Tipperary


Donald’s Rainy Day

Thursday, 18 August, 2016 0 Comments

“Like a lot of anxious people, I’ve been obsessively watching all the forecasts, predictions, and computer models, hoping for a break in this feverish political season,” Barry Blitt says. Blitt’s cover for the new issue of The New Yorker is the fifth featuring Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy. Given that this blog is inspired by the the idiom of putting (something) aside for a rainy day, it deserves inclusion here.

New Yorker

“Here comes that rainy day feeling again
And soon my tears they will be falling like rain
It always seems to be a Monday
Left all the memories of Sunday
Always standin’ here before the clouds appear
And took away my sunshine
Here comes that rainy day feeling again.”

Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway


PEGIDA fever sweeps across Germany

Monday, 15 December, 2014 0 Comments

It will be cold in Dresden tonight, but that won’t stop an expected 10,000 people from taking to the streets to voice their support for PEGIDA. What exactly does the acronym mean? PEGIDA stands for Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes or “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West”. Such is its appeal that similar movements have sprung up in several cities around Germany: “Bogida” in Bonn, “Dügida” in Düsseldorf”, “Kagida” in Kassel and “Wügida” in Würzburg. There are lots of cities in Germany so it’s expected that PEGIDA will expand to fill the alphabet.

PEGIDA

Unease at the record number of immigrants and refugees from North Africa and the Middle East arriving in Germany seems to be one driver of PEGIDA’s popularity: According to the OECD, a total of 465,000 newcomers moved to the country in 2013 — more than double the number in 2007. But it’s the stated opposition to the “Islamization of the West” that is troubling Berlin, which dreads a clash of civilizations acted out on the streets.

The staunchly middle class nature of the PEGIDA movement is another worry for Germany’s political establishment. The elites are uninterested in politics, so long as the parties don’t touch their wealth, and the underclass is disinterested, so long as the politicians don’t cut welfare. But it’s the emergence of a “squeezed middle” in search of political expression that has alarmed the centrist parties, whose credibility is based on achieving compromise. Might the populist AfD make capital from the emergence of PEGIDA? Might the populist Linke gain traction from the growth of PEGIDA?

In his superb New Yorker article, The Quiet German: The astonishing rise of Angela Merkel, the most powerful woman in the world, George Packer looks at Germany and sums it up thus: “A political consensus founded on economic success, with a complacent citizenry, a compliant press, and a vastly popular leader who rarely deviates from public opinion — Merkel’s Germany is reminiscent of Eisenhower’s America.” And then along came PEGIDA.


The power of WordPress

Wednesday, 15 October, 2014 0 Comments

WordPress “We like to say that WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time,” say the creators of the open-source software that powers the likes of Rainy Day and some 60 million other sites. What began as a basic blogging tool back in 2003 has since matured into a full-featured content management system and now it’s transforming the digital look and feel of the venerable New Yorker.

“With the relaunch, NewYorker.com runs on WordPress, a more robust, user-friendly CMS,” writes John Brownlee in Fast Company. The article is titled “How The New Yorker Finally Figured Out The Internet: 3 Lessons From Its Web Redesign.” Quote: “Because the tools are no longer getting in the way of producers doing their job, NewYorker.com is now able to publish a greater volume of stories every day. The site used to top out at 10 or 12 stories each day: now, it publishes around 20 per day.”

By the way, Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, says the future of the system is in social, mobile, and as an application platform.


Democracy defined

Monday, 5 May, 2014 0 Comments

Jonathan Dimbleby attends a party in St Petersburg and discovers that the concept of “democracy” is not very well rooted there. But what is democracy. In 1943, when democracy was under threat, E.B. White attempted to define it for readers of the New Yorker. Snippet: “Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths, the feeling of communion in the libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere. Democracy is a letter to the editor.”


Daniel Bejar and the other Daniel Bejar

Saturday, 26 April, 2014 0 Comments

“Informed by questions of memory, identity, and the histories found in the present-day, my practice looks to create ruptures within established narratives.” So states visual artist Daniel Bejar on his website. His “Statement” is a classic contender for inclusion in Pseuds Corner at Private Eye, but it gets better. In March 2011, The New Yorker published an article that uncovered Daniel Bejar’s elaborate schemes to impersonate Daniel Bejar, the Canadian musician, thereby muddling the media coverage of the two performers.

In his time, the musical Daniel Bejar has dipped into disco, folk, rock, new wave, pop and ambient electronica. On his tenth recording with the band Destroyer, which was released in 2011, he came as near to perfection as anyone who’s ever attempted to balance intricate song structures and cryptic lyrics with basic pop melodies.

Destroyer’s “Five Spanish Songs” EP was released last year and Daniel Bejar, the musician, had this to say: “It was 2013. The English language seemed spent, despicable, not easily singable. It felt over for English; good for business transactions, but that’s about it.” OMG! He’s beginning to sound like the other Daniel Bejar.


The selfie society

Monday, 25 November, 2013 0 Comments

“Selfies, Selfies and more selfies: so much so it is the word of the year and in order to celebrate and understand the concept of selfie, I decided to curate seven of the best pieces I have read around selfies.” So said Om Malik in his regular “7 stories to read this weekend” feature.” Included is what he terms the “definitive” article on selfie culture by Jenna Wortham.
The major selfie artist of our time is, of course, Kim Kardashian. Her sister Khloe recently gave an interview in which she revealed Kim’s top secret: shoot from above to avoid double chins. The front-facing camera of the iPhone 4 spurred the rise of the craze, but there’s more to the story than hardware as Kate Losse pointed out in The Return of the Selfie in the New Yorker in June:

“For teen-age social-media users, who generally prefer on-the-go mobile applications, like Instagram and Snapchat, the self is the message and the selfie is the medium. The Instagram selfie, with its soft, artfully faded tones, has replaced the stern, harshly lit mug-shot style of years past. The small, square photo, displayed on one’s phone, invites the photographer and the viewer to form a personal connection. There is little space on Instagram for delivering context or depicting a large group of people; the confines of the app make single subjects more legible than complex scenes. A face in an Instagram photograph, filtered to eliminate any glare or unflattering light, appears star-like, as if captured by a deft paparazzo.”

In his list, Om Malik adds a link to the marvellous selfie taken by astronaut Aki Hoshide while working outside the International Space. Next stop for the selfie? Mars. But wait. Been there. Done that.

Selfie in space


Apple ate the BlackBerry

Wednesday, 14 August, 2013 0 Comments

In the New Yorker, Vauhini Vara muses upon “How BlackBerry Fell“. She mentions the real reason early in the piece. (Hint: It’s a five-letter word beginning with “A”):

“Shares in the Canadian maker of BlackBerry smartphones peaked in August of 2007, at two hundred and thirty-six dollars. In retrospect, the company was facing an inflection point and was completely unaware. Seven months earlier, in January, Apple had introduced the iPhone at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Executives at BlackBerry, then called Research in Motion, decided to let Apple focus on the general-use smartphone market, while it would continue selling BlackBerry products to business and government customers that bought the devices for employees. ‘In terms of a sort of a sea change for BlackBerry,’ the company’s co-C.E.O Jim Balsillie said at the time, referring to the iPhone’s impact on the industry, ‘I would think that’s overstating it.'”

Yummy! Blackberries Vara adds: “BlackBerry, of course, wasn’t the only company that made the mistake of ignoring the iPhone and the revolution it portended: engineers at Nokia, which, years earlier, had introduced a one-pound smartphone, dismissed the iPhone because, among other reasons, it failed to pass a test in which phones were dropped five feet onto concrete over and over again, the Wall Street Journal reported last year. Microsoft C.E.O. Steve Ballmer actually laughed at the iPhone. ‘It doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard,’ he said. Nokia and Microsoft, which are now building smartphones in partnership with each other, have, like BlackBerry, seen their share of the market shrink.”

Long before Vauhini Vara came to this conclusion, John Gruber identified the rot at the heart of RIM. On 9 May 2008, he wrote “BlackBerry vs. iPhone” and nailed it beautifully here: “RIM doesn’t really have any lock-in other than user habits. The BlackBerry gimmick is that it works with the email system your company bought from Microsoft. Replace a BlackBerry with an iPhone (2.0) and the messages, contacts, and calendar events that sync over the network will be the same as the ones on the BlackBerry you just tossed into a desk drawer.”

RIP RIM.


Life without air-con

Thursday, 25 July, 2013 0 Comments

On Sunday, in Munich, the temperature is predicted to reach 38C, and it might even touch 40C. Because Germans regard air-conditioning as “American” and, therefore, depraved, unnecessary suffering will be widespread; especially hard hit will be helpless patients in many of the city’s clinics and hospitals.

There was a time, however, on the other side of the Atlantic when air-conditioning was unknown and Arthur Miller captured the hardship of summer in Manhattan beautifully in “Before air-conditioning,” which was first published in the New Yorker in June 1998. Snippet:

“People on West 110th Street, where I lived, were a little too bourgeois to sit out on their fire escapes, but around the corner on 111th and farther uptown mattresses were put out as night fell, and whole families lay on those iron balconies in their underwear.

Even through the nights, the pall of heat never broke. With a couple of other kids, I would go across 110th to the Park and walk among the hundreds of people, singles and families, who slept on the grass, next to their big alarm clocks, which set up a mild cacophony of the seconds passing, one clock’s ticks syncopating with another’s.”

On the other hand, the Bavarians might be justified in their rejection of air conditioning because as Garrison Keillor once noted: “It was luxuries like air conditioning that brought down the Roman Empire. With air conditioning their windows were shut, they couldn’t hear the barbarians coming.”

Munich weather