Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald

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

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Delivering the news

Friday, 5 July, 2019

“The question is not how to get cured, but how to live.” — Joseph Conrad

The Ward


The sound of LA

Thursday, 4 July, 2019

He won an Oscar in 2002 for Best Original Score for Frida and for this clip, Gavin Heffernan used another soundtrack by Elliot Goldenthal. It’s from the 1995 thriller, Heat. Very LA. Happy Fourth of July.


Family photo taken by my mother in 1948

Wednesday, 3 July, 2019

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.” — C.S. Lewis

Home from home


USA 2 – England 1

Tuesday, 2 July, 2019

Football, innit? Sport. Life. Joy. Heartbreak. Great game.


Limerick fans celebrate

Monday, 1 July, 2019

Munster Senior Hurling Championship Final result: Limerick 2-26 – Tipperary 2-14. It was a rout in the end but there were sunny Sunday moments to savour at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Some of the scores were beautifully taken, some of the skills displayed were exquisite and some of the hits that went in were so hard that the spectators felt them. All in all, a memorable day out.

Limerick fans celebrate


The gardening gift

Sunday, 30 June, 2019

What a life! Diplomat, dissident, defector, poet, Nobel Prize winner… Czesław Miłosz did it all, and more. After World War II, he served as Polish cultural attaché in Paris and Washington but, disillusioned with Communism, he defected to the West in 1951. His resulting book, The Captive Mind, exposed the pernicious effects of Marxist orthodoxy on his generation of idealists. “Written before the Berlin Wall went up, The Captive Mind was a key factor in eventually bringing it down,” noted Clive James in Cultural Amnesia.

When the Polish intelligentsia was being “wiped out half by one set of madmen and half by another”, Miłosz found strength in the Bible because it “provided a standard of authenticity against a much more dangerous language, the language of legalized murder,” writes James, a confirmed atheist. Of his own position regarding the Good Book, James declares: “But without the scriptures we poor wretches would be lost indeed, because without them, conscience itself would become just another disturbance of the personality to be cured by counselling. We are surrounded by voices telling us that everything will come right if we learn to love ourselves. Imagine the torment of Jesus in his passion, if, on top of the sponge of vinegar and the spear, they had offered him counselling as well.”

From 1961 to 1998, Miłosz was professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley, and he punctuated his stay in the USA by winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980. Fellow Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, described Miłosz as “among those members of humankind who have had the ambiguous privilege of knowing and standing more reality than the rest of us.” Born on this day, 30 June, in 1911, Czesław Miłosz died on 14 August 2004 in Kraków.

Gift

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

Czesław Miłosz (1911 – 2004)

Our garden


“I don’t use a machine,” the gravedigger said

Saturday, 29 June, 2019

“He was walking back through the cemetery to his car when he came upon a black man digging a grave with a shovel. The man was standing about two feet down in the unfinished grave and stopped shoveling and hurling the dirt out to the side as the visitor approached him. He wore dark coveralls and an old baseball cap, and from the gray in his mustache and the lines in his face he looked to be at least fifty. His frame, however, was still thick and strong.

“I thought they did this with a machine,” he said to the gravedigger.

“In big cemeteries, where they do many graves, a lot of times they use a machine, that’s right.” He spoke like a Southerner, but very matter-of-factly, very precisely, more like a pedantic schoolteacher than a physical laborer. “I don’t use a machine,” the gravedigger continued, “because it can sink the other graves. The soil can give and it can crush in on the box. And you have the gravestones you have to deal with. It’s just easier in my case to do everything by hand. Much neater. Easier to take the dirt away without ruining anything else. ” — Philip Roth, Everyman

Grave


The English of the Future is English

Friday, 28 June, 2019

On 29 November 1968, at the 58th annual meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English in Milwaukee, the late Neil Postman gave a talk entitled “Growing Up Relevant” as the main part of a session entitled “Media Ecology: The English of the Future.” The talk was later published as a chapter in High School 1980: The Shape of the Future in American Secondary Education (PDF), where it appeared as “The Reformed English Curriculum.” Postman’s 1968 address marked the formal introduction of the term “media ecology”, which he used as the name for a field of study he defined as “the study of media as environments.”

In Postman’s time, the internet, texting and emoji were as distant as GN-z11 so his comments on the future of English have to be seen in that light. Snippet:

“Perhaps what I meant to say at the conference was that there ought not to be such a subject as English by 1980; that English as it is commonly taught, is shallow and precious, is not very interesting to most children and, above all, has very little survival value for people who are going to live most of their lives in the seventies, eighties, nineties, and beyond.

I will not take time here to catalog the shortcomings of English. If you have not already noticed that English is withering away, being consumed by its own irrelevance, the chances are slim that I can make you see that this is, in fact, the case. I do want to point out, however, that what happens in school should have survival value (or what’s an education for?) and that the soundest reason for having such a subject as English has always been that children need to be competent in using and understanding the dominant communication media of their own culture. When these media were largely limited to such forms as novels, poems, and essays, the content of English made some sense. My purpose here is to suggest an alternative to English for the high school of 1980 when we will be so deeply immersed in the nuclear space age.”

Given that English has become the lingua franca of a global economy, Neil Postman was spectacularly wrong on this subject, but on many others, especially media ecology, he was spectacularly prescient.


Heat interruptions unwelcome

Thursday, 27 June, 2019

“I can easily bear cold, loneliness, hunger and toothache, but I cannot bear noise, heat interruptions, or other people.” — Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith


Coming up roses

Wednesday, 26 June, 2019

“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.” — Maud Hart Lovelace

Roses


Kwela: Nelson Makoka and Solomon Sibiya

Tuesday, 25 June, 2019

Central to kwela music is an instrument known as the pennywhistle or tin whistle. Malawian immigrants to South Africa and Zimbabwe mixed their music with southern African sounds and thus was kwela born. Many of the best practitioners preferred the Hohner whistle, which was popular before the advent of the modern variety with its plastic mouthpiece. The Hohner whistle consisted of a straight metal tube with a metal plug that sealed off the end to make the mouthpiece. This allowed the instrument to be inserted deep into the mouth and led to the characteristic embouchure that produces the distinctive timbre of kwela. Take it away, Nelson!

Hohner Musikinstrumente GmbH & Co. KG is a German manufacturer of musical instruments, founded in 1857. The company is identified with harmonicas and it produces more than a million of them a year, but Hohner also makes accordions melodicas, kazoos, recorders, banjos, guitars and electric/electronic keyboards. It’s innovative keyboards such as the Cembalet, Basset and Clavinet and the ADAM Digital Synthesizer helped form the sound of modern music.