Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald

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

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“No longer fit for purpose” is no longer fit for purpose

Saturday, 27 July, 2019

A list of rules has been sent to the staff of the new Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, asking them to stop using words such as “hopefully” and phrases such as “no longer fit for purpose”. The guidelines, obtained by ITV news, were drawn up by the North East Somerset MP’s constituency team years ago, but have now been shared with staff in Westminster. It should be noted that as chair of the European Research Group, a hard-Brexit Tory backbench alliance, Rees-Mogg has become increasingly influential in Parliament in recent years.

Much ridiculed already by the PC crowd, the Rees-Mogg guidelines contain a vital call for accuracy. Staff are told: “CHECK your work.” Other directions include “Organisations are SINGULAR” and a request for no comma after the word “and”. Among the words and phrases considered unacceptable are: “very”, “due to” and “ongoing”, as well as “equal”, “yourself” and “unacceptable. “Rees-Mogg’s aides are also barred the use of “lot”, “got” and “I am pleased to learn”. Much of this is admirable, much is personal taste, but a double space after a full stop made more sense when people used typewriters. Still, much can be clarified and communications can be improved if a style guide, especially one that’s fit for purpose, is used from the outset in an important office.

Jacob Rees-Mogg style guide

The Romans wrote it down

Friday, 26 July, 2019

Why do we know as much as we do about the lives of ordinary Romans? Mary Beard offers an answer in SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. Snippet:

“The reasons why we can tell this story in such detail are very simple: the Romans themselves wrote a great deal about it, and a lot of what they wrote has survived. Modern historians often lament how little we can know about some aspects of the ancient world. ‘Just think of what we don’t know about the lives of the poor,’ they complain, ‘or of the perspectives of women.’ This is as anachronistic as it is deceptive. The writers of Roman literature were almost exclusively male; or, at least, very few works by women have come down to us (the autobiography of the emperor Nero’s mother, Agrippina, must count as one of the saddest losses of classical literature)… The complaints, however, miss a far more important point.

The single most extraordinary fact about the Roman world is that so much of what the Romans wrote has survived, over two millennia. We have their poetry, letters, essays, speeches and histories, to which I have already referred, but also novels, geographies, satires and reams and reams of technical writing on everything from water engineering to medicine and disease. The survival is largely due to the diligence of medieval monks who transcribed by hand, again and again, what they believed were the most important, or useful, works of classical literature, with a significant but often forgotten contribution from medieval Islamic scholars who translated into Arabic some of the philosophy and scientific material. And thanks to archaeologists who have excavated papyri from the sands and the rubbish dumps of Egypt, wooden writing tablets from Roman military bases in the north of England and eloquent tombstones from all over the empire, we have glimpses of the life and letters of some rather more ordinary inhabitants of the Roman world. We have notes sent home, shopping lists, account books and last messages inscribed on graves. Even if this is a small proportion of what once existed, we have access to more Roman literature — and more Roman writing in general — than any one person could now thoroughly master in the course of a lifetime.”


In the end, it was a break moment for the hoax gang

Thursday, 25 July, 2019

The Putin Hoax

Like tears in rain

Wednesday, 24 July, 2019

Near the end of Blade Runner (the original, not the remake), the leader of the rebel replicants faces death, having failed to find a way to extend his artificial life. In the film, Roy Batty, played by the late Rutger Hauer, is the bad guy who needs to be stopped by Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford. So they pursue each other through a bleak, rain-sodden cityscape. When cornered, the dying AI android, utters five sentences that speak to the possibilities of the future. He helps us imagine a scenario where humans will live among the stars, where new wonders are waiting to be experienced.

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

Boris Johnson and the rich

Tuesday, 23 July, 2019

British politics is about to get an injection of passion when Boris Johnson becomes the new leader of the Conservative Party today. Instead of the dullness of doctrinaire Corbynism and the snot-green provincialism of OTooleism, the next Prime Minister will bring wit to where there is staleness and badly-needed energy to where there is lethargy. As we await the opening of the envelope, here’s Boris on the very rich:

“We should be helping all those who can to join the ranks of the super-rich, and we should stop any bashing or moaning or preaching or bitching and simply give thanks for the prodigious sums of money that they are contributing to the tax revenues of this country, and that enable us to look after our sick and our elderly and to build roads, railways and schools…

…There is no point in wasting any more moral or mental energy in being jealous of the very rich. They are no happier than anyone else; they just have more money. We shouldn’t bother ourselves about why they want all this money, or why it is nicer to have a bath with gold taps. How does it hurt me, with my 20-year-old Toyota, if somebody else has a swish Mercedes? We both get stuck in the same traffic.”

Know that you aren’t alone at evening

Monday, 22 July, 2019

The novelist and poet Vikram Seth divides his time between India, England and the USA. His most famous work is A Suitable Boy, which was published in 1993. With its 1,488 pages and 591,552 words, the book is one of the longest novels ever printed in the English language. The very first work that Seth published, however, was a book of poems and All You Who Sleep Tonight, from which this is taken, appeared in 1990.

At Evening

All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right
And emptiness above —

Know that you aren’t alone
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.

Vikram Seth

Evening candle

“Life is not easy for anyone here. Loss and fear, failure and disappointment, pain and ill-health, doubt and death – even those who have escaped from poverty have no escape from these. What makes life bearable is love – to love, to be loved, and – even after death – to know that you have loved and been loved.” — Vikram Seth


Sunday, 21 July, 2019

The artist Gregory Ferrand says, “My paintings explore the disconnection and alienation we often feel despite (and sometimes because of) the close proximity in which we live to one and other.”


Hasselblad on the Moon

Saturday, 20 July, 2019

The Hasselblad company was established in 1841 in Gothenburg by Fritz Wiktor Hasselblad. His son, Arvid Viktor, was interested in photography and started the company’s camera division. The Hasselblad website quotes him as saying, “I certainly don’t think that we will earn much money on this, but at least it will allow us to take pictures for free.”

The most famous use of the Hasselblad camera was during the Apollo 11 mission when the first humans landed on the Moon, 50 years ago today. Almost all of the still photographs during this mission were taken using Hasselblad cameras.


Note: In 2015, the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI acquired a minority interest in Hasselblad, and in early January 2017, reports indicated that DJI had acquired the majority interest. Last July, DJI’s Mavic 2 PRO drone was the first to carry a camera featuring the Hasselblad branding.

Narrative judo from the NYT and the WaPo

Friday, 19 July, 2019

The objective of narrative judo is to cast the victories of the opposing tribe as defeats. In this case, the opposing tribe for both the New York Times and the Washington Post is the America that sent the first man to the Moon. The narrative judo used by these two newspapers has to be seen in the context of their intense hatred of everything that does not accord with their elitist view of past, present and future.

NYT narrative judo

WaPo narrative judo

NYT narrative judo

Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore

Thursday, 18 July, 2019

Filmmakers Ciaran Vaughan and Myles Shelly made a short video accompaniment to Seamus Heaney reading his poem Postscript. The clip was filmed in County Clare — mainly around Finavarra, where the poem is based.


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open

A Pagan Place

Wednesday, 17 July, 2019

“The towns were the colour of a creamery tank, pewter.” The novelist Edna O’Brien was born in Tuamgraney in County Clare. Many of her books are infused with that peculiar Irish sense of locality. The father in A Pagan Place (1970), in which every character is frustrated to the point of madness, had this Celtic notion of place to an uncanny degree in those pre-GPS days. Snippet:

“When the car crossed from one county to the next your father knew although it was not written up. He knew the fence or the stone wall, or the tree, or whatever it was that marked the boundary between one county and the next. If there was something in particular that he pointed to, you tried to focus it but your stomach began to sway and the sway interfered with your vision. Excitement got the better of you. Each time when he said ‘Look’, you got dizzy and couldn’t see.”

A Pagan Place