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Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald

Ex-pat Irishman keeping an eye on the world from the Bavarian side of the Alps.

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Show of hands

Sunday, 26 May, 2019

Loves Me, Loves Me Not, Loves Me is a track from the album The Space Between by the pianist Chad Lawson. To get the sound he wanted, Lawson placed extra felt between the hammers and strings and then placed a microphone close to the hammers.


May was histrionic. June could be historic.

Saturday, 25 May, 2019

When Prime Minister Theresa May stepped up to the lectern outside No. 10 Downing Street yesterday to announce she was stepping down as Tory leader on 7 June, a weary press and public exhaled a sigh of relief. Yes, there were pious expressions of sympathy from pundits declaring to be moved by her emotional statement, but their tears, unlike those of the genuinely upset Mrs May, were of the crocodile kind. Theresa May will be judged as one of the UK’s worst leaders. That’s the harsh reality. She took office at a time of crisis, but also opportunity. The Brexit vote was a democratic demand for change, but she wasted that opportunity, and then drove Great Britain deeper into crisis.

Theresa May was a technocrat, and the kind of politics preferred by technocrats is best exemplified by the Brussels bureaucracy. Not everyone wants that kind of politics, though. So, what next? Brexit means Boris writes Stephen Robinson in The Spectator. This bit will strike a chord with all those members of the typing class who have struggled with deadlines:

“I can’t say I know Boris well, despite our once having been Telegraph colleagues, mostly on different continents. I cannot say I even like him that much. I resented him when I edited the paper’s comment pages for filing his column three hours late, which meant I couldn’t get home to see my infant children.”

In the end, May was histrionic. June could be historic.


Banksy in Venice

Friday, 24 May, 2019

“If you don’t own a train company then you go and paint on one instead,” said Banksy in the book Banksy: You Are an Acceptable Level of Threat. The street artist was referring to the British government’s decision to privatize rail networks “to make millions for a cabal of financiers, largely at the taxpayers expense.” Is Banksy a genius? Some have criticized the “obviousness” of his work and accused it of being “anarchy-lite” geared towards a middle-class hipster audience, while the satirist Charlie Brooker wrote in the Guardian that “…his work looks dazzlingly clever to idiots.”

Still, if you don’t own a cruise ship, you go and paint one in Venice instead. Hilarious.


Huawei’s sinister EU campaign

Thursday, 23 May, 2019

With friends like these…

“The European Union is a great success story. Since the historical Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950, the integration process has brought Europeans unprecedented prosperity and stability.” So begins the sermon from Huawei, a front corporation for the Chinese Communist Party that also makes network equipment and phones. Two days ago, in its Orwellian-named Cybersecurity Transparency Centre in Brussels, this least transparent of companies, held a “debate” at which it “reaffirmed its commitment to roll out 5G” the ‘European Way’, whatever way that is.

Huawei’s Abraham Liu, who sports the title of “Chief Representative to the European Institutions”, declared that “Huawei has been respecting all applicable laws and regulations. Now Huawei is becoming the victim of the bullying by the US administration. This is not just an attack against Huawei. It is an attack on the liberal, rules-based order.” When a tool of a regime that bans freedom of expression and holds minorities in internment camps utters the word “liberal” and the phrase “rules-based order” you know it’s time to reach for a non-Huawei phone.

Huawei


Metamorphosis: The butterfly effect

Wednesday, 22 May, 2019

Our image today is by Dublin photographer Willie Poole, who captured this composite of nature in all its beauty. The butterfly is a well-known symbol for life after death because of its metamorphosis from an ambling caterpillar to an almost ethereal flying creature. This symbolism is of great personal meaning to Willie Poole in these days.

Butterfly by Willie Poole

“How does one become butterfly?’ Pooh asked pensively.
‘You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar,’ Piglet replied.
‘You mean to die?’ asked Pooh.
‘Yes and no,’ he answered. ‘What looks like you will die, but what’s really you will live on.” — A.A. Milne


Will Huawei get its masters to ban the iPhone?

Tuesday, 21 May, 2019

US companies are now banned from supplying Huawei with components, which covers both software and the chips to go into its network equipment and phones. This is serious because Huawei is on track to become the largest supplier of smartphones in the world by volume. And we’re not talking low-end here anymore. Thirty percent of smartphones sold in Europe in Q1 this year were Huawei. Despite the argy-bargy with Washington, Huawei can still use Android because it’s open source, but it might have to do without Google’s layer of popular applications, depending on the politics of the dispute. For now, Huawei hasn’t revealed its hand, but it must have a Plan B for its own app store, and because it’s a front corporation for the Communist Party, it may get its masters to ban the sale of iPhones in China. We haven’t heard the end of this.

Huawei


Blue Monday

Monday, 20 May, 2019

Femme assise au fichu (Melancholy Woman) was painted by Pablo Picasso in 1901. The woman here is probably in a cell in the Saint-Lazare women’s prison in Paris, which Picasso visited several times to make drawings for the paintings of his “Blue Period”. With these portraits, Picasso developed a way of representing poverty and isolation at a time when many would have preferred to avert their eyes from such subjects.

Femme assise au fichu can be seen at The Young Picasso — Blue and Rose Periods exhibition until 16 June at the Fondation Beyeler, near Basel in Switzerland.

Picasso


Israel’s Eurovision Song Contest won

Sunday, 19 May, 2019

The Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence won last night’s Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv with his song Arcade, which topped the leader-board with 492 points in the public vote. Italy finished second with 465 points and Russia third with 369 points. Madonna also sang but most viewers regarded her performance as flat, musically and artistically. Iceland’s heavy metal act Hatari displayed Palestinian flags. Inevitably, this act of pubertal thickness was hailed and highlighted in the “popular” press.

Bob Dylan’s song Neighborhood Bully appeared on the album Infidels, which was released in October 1983. In the song, Dylan deployed sarcasm to defend Israel’s right to exist and the lyrics included references, some direct, some oblique, to history, near and far. The Six-Day War and Operation Opera, Israel’s bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981 are in there, as is the enslavement of the Israelites by the Romans. The shadows of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union loom as well.

Neighborhood Bully

Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He’s always on trial for just being born
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize.
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He’s the neighborhood bully

He got no allies to really speak of
What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
He’s the neighborhood bully

Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully

Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
No contract he signed was worth what it was written on
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
He’s the neighborhood bully

What’s anybody indebted to him for?
Nothin’, they say. He just likes to cause war
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
They wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed
He’s the neighborhood bully

What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully


Herman Wouk: Who wanted to unite Europe?

Saturday, 18 May, 2019

The author and screenwriter Herman Wouk has died at the age of 103. He was born in the Bronx on 27 May 1915 and passed away yesterday in Palm Springs. Wouk won the Pulitzer prize for fiction in 1951 with The Caine Mutiny and he topped the bestseller lists twenty years later with The Winds of War, which was made into a popular TV series in 1983. The novel begins six months before Germany’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 and ends shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Here, the character Natalie Jastrow speaks:

“I’m sorry. I’m impressed with Hitler’s ability to use socialist prattle when necessary, and then discard it. He uses doctrines as he uses money, to get things done. They’re expendable. He uses racism because that’s the pure distillate of German romantic egotism, just as Lenin used utopian Marxism because it appealed to Russia’s messianic streak. Hitler means to hammer out a united Europe… He understands them, and he may just succeed. A unified Europe must come. The medieval jigsaw of nations is obsolete. The balance of power is dangerous foolishness in the industrial age. It must all be thrown out. Somebody has to be ruthless enough to do it, since the peoples with their ancient hatreds will never do it themselves. It’s only Napoleon’s original vision, but he was a century ahead of his time.”

The Caine Mutiny was made into a hit film in 1954 and Humphrey Bogart gave one of his finest performances as the paranoid Captain Queeg. The author knew whereof he spoke. He enlisted in the US naval reserve in 1942 and served in the Pacific aboard destroyer-minesweepers.

Herman Wouk Apart from epic historical novels of family and war, Herman Wouk’s literary output was devoted to an understanding of Judaism, especially the American Jewish experience. His religion was central to his work.

“Religious people tend to encounter, among those who are not, a cemented certainty that belief in God is a crutch for the weak and fearful. It would be just as silly to assert that disbelief in God is a crutch for the immoral and the ill-read.” — Herman Wouk, This is My God: A Guidebook to Judaism


Smell the sea, and feel the sky

Friday, 17 May, 2019

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

John Masefield, Sea Fever

Yohan Terraza

Image: The French photographer Yohan Terraza was born in 1980 in Bordeaux. His style of landscape photography is influenced by romantic painters such as J. M. W. Turner.


Facial recognition in the multiverse

Thursday, 16 May, 2019

Urban environments, with their never-ending interactions of individuals and groups, fascinate the Tokyo-based filmmaker Hiroshi Kondo. And he captures this restlessness perfectly in his fast-moving short films. His latest work, “multiverse”, focuses on scooter commuters in Taiwan as they travel in swarms, but Kondo never loses sight of the faces of the individuals in the mass.

“A crowd moving in one direction. People who flow in a moment.
A scene where the difference with other people disappears and looks uniform.
There are many different kinds of life there.
You can feel invisible energy when you see a large mass of individuals.”

Hiroshi Kondo