Happy Birthday Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash

Born in 1936 on this day Kris Kristofferson is well known as an actor and singer.  He was also a song writer and a pretty good lyricist.  I am not a big fan of Country & Western music but when it’s good it’s good.

I remember a few years back when Maurice Pratt was head honcho in Super Crazy Prices, the supermarket chain that evolved from Quinnsworth and was subsequently taken over by Tesco in Ireland.  Maurice did an interview on radio about his career in marketing that always stuck with me.  When he was asked what his favourite song was he nominated “Sunday Morning Sidewalk”.  Made famous by Johnny Cash, the “Man in Black” the song was penned by Kristofferson.  Reading the lyrics you may wonder what kind of life Maurice Pratt was living.

But Maurice said it was not the words themselves that he loved, but the sentiment.  Working in the Supermarket industry he was a busy man 6 days a week and an early riser.  His Sunday mornings were the times he could chill for a while and they were precious to him.  For Maurice “Sunday Morning Sidewalk” is not about the booze and cigarettes of the night before.  It is all about the Sunday Morning vibe, not having to go out onto those “Sleeping City Sidewalks” unless it’s for your Sunday Paper.

Sunday Morning Sidewalk; by Kris Kristofferson

 

Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad so I had one more for dessert
Then I fumbled in my closet for my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt
And I washed my face and combed my hair And stumbled down the stair to meet the day

I’d smoked my head the night before with cigarettes and songs I’d been pickin’
But I lit my first and watched the small kid playin’ with a can that he was kickin’
Then I crossed the empty street and caught The Sunday smell of someone’s fryin’ chicken
And it took me back to somethin’ that I’d lost somewhere somehow along the way.

On a Sunday morning sidewalk I’m wishing Lord that I was stoned
Cause there’s somethin’ in a Sunday makes the body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’ half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk Sunday morning coming down

In the park I saw a daddy with the laughing little girl that he was swinging
And I stopped beside a Sunday school and listened to the songs they were singing
Then I headed up the street and somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringing
And it echoed through the canyons like the disappearing dreams of yesterday

On a Sunday morning sidewalk I’m wishing Lord that I was stoned
Cause there’s somethin’ in a Sunday makes the body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’ half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk Sunday morning coming down

 

Hot, hot, hot.

kinks

The Kinks lazing on a sunny afternoon……in the summertime

Today is summer Solstice and in Ireland we are “sweltering” in a heatwave.  A heatwave in Ireland is like a warm spring day in somewhere like Madrid, Kansas City or Cincinnati.  In other words, it’s not really that hot.  26 degrees Celsius or 79 degrees F is a heatwave here.

Something else that is hot is the lyrics of Ray Davies, one of my favourite songwriters who set the tone for the Kinks.  It is Ray’s birthday today, so here is one of his song lyrics.  What made Davies such a good writer was his mix of relevant social commentary with cutting wit and downright great tunes.  Ray, you’ve really got me.

Muswell Hillbillies is about the impact of slum clearance from city centres, a process of moving people from dangerous and unhealthy housing in vibrant communities out to safe accommodation in soulless housing estates in the 1950,s and 1960’s in the UK and Ireland.  Communities were ripped apart and families were left floundering trying to come to terms with a new paradigm for living.

 

Muswell Hillbillies : by Ray Davies

Well I said goodbye to Rosie Rooke this morning
I’m gonna miss her bloodshot alcoholic eyes
She wore her Sunday hat so she’d impress me
I’m gonna carry her memory ’til the day I die.

They’ll move me up to Muswell Hill tomorrow
Photographs and souvenirs are all I’ve got
They’re gonna try and make me change my way of living
But they’ll never make me something that I’m not.

Cos I’m a Muswell Hillbilly boy
but my heart lies in old West Virginia
Never seen New Orleans, Oklahoma, Tennessee
Still I dream of the Black Hills that I ain’t never seen.

They’re putting us in little boxes
No character just uniformity
They’re trying to build a computerised community
But they’ll never make a zombie out of me.

They’ll try and make me study elocution
Because they say my accent isn’t right
They can clear the slums as part of their solution
But they’re never gonna kill my cockney pride.

Cos I’m a Muswell Hillbilly boy
But my heart lies in Old West Virginia
Though my hills are not green
I have seen them in my dreams
Take me back to those Black Hills
That I have never seen.

Happy Birthday Paul Muldoon

Paul-Muldoon-600x340

One of a gang of Northern Irish poets who flowered in Queens University, Belfast, during the worst of the Troubles, Muldoon is often compared with Seamus Heaney.  He maintained he was a poor student and should have dropped out of college.  He has gone on to become one of the most honored writers of the 20th Century, Professor of multiple universities including St. Andrews,  Princeton and Oxford, winner of Pulitzer and TS Eliot prizes, poetry editor for the New Yorker magazine.  The list goes on.

Here is a poem about the birth of his daughter.  I love the way he contrasts the magical world of apple-blossoms and chanterelles with the clinical sterility of the hospital with its scubs, shears and stables.

 

The Birth; by Paul Muldoon

 

Seven o’clock. The seventh day of the seventh month of the year.
No sooner have I got myself up in lime-green scrubs,
a sterile cap and mask,
and taken my place at the head of the table

than the windlass-woman ply their shears
and gralloch-grub
for a footling foot, then, warming to their task,
haul into the inestimable

realm of apple-blossoms and chanterelles and damsons and eel-spears
and foxes and the general hubbub
of inkies and jennets and Kickapoos with their lemniscs
or peekaboo-quiffs of Russian sable

and tallow-unctuous vernix, into the realm of the widgeon—
the ‘whew’ or ‘yellow-poll’, not the ‘zuizin’—

Dorothy Aoife Korelitz Muldoon: I watch through floods of tears
as they give her a quick rub-a-dub
and whisk
her off to the nursery, then check their staple-guns for staples

Happy Birthday to Sam Walter Foss

Today I have a new great nephew, Andrew, born to Cillian and Jenny Clancy.  My nephew Seamus O’Malley is 21 today.  My daughter Esha is sitting her physics exam in the leaving cert.  We may have a cat.  The cat moved in over the last few days.  This morning I was woken by it’s singing.  Esha is rehearsing for the show “Cats” and it seems her practice has born fruit.  We’ll see if it sticks around.

Today is also the birthday of the poet below, and this poem touches on a topic dear to my heart.  Always avoid those awful words “because that’s the way it’s always been”.  Challenge your habits and those of society.  At heart be a child and always ask “Why?”

 

The Calf-Path; by Sam Walter Foss

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.

Since then two hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bell-wether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bell-wethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made;
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ‘twas such a crooked path.
But still they followed — do not laugh —
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked,
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare;
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed the zigzag calf about;
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah! many things this tale might teach —
But I am not ordained to preach.

Happy Birthday Henry Lawson

Drought

Summer has hit Ireland, it’s a heatwave out there!  Well, in Irish terms.  Today is the birthday of an Australian poet who had a better understanding of heatwaves and drought.

 

Andy’s gone with Cattle; by Henry Lawson

Our Andy’s gone to battle now
‘Gainst Drought, the red marauder;
Our Andy’s gone with cattle now
Across the Queensland border.

He’s left us in dejection now;
Our hearts with him are roving.
It’s dull on this selection now,
Since Andy went a-droving.

Who now shall wear the cheerful face
In times when things are slackest?
And who shall whistle round the place
When Fortune frowns her blackest?

Oh, who shall cheek the squatter now
When he comes round us snarling?
His tongue is growing hotter now
Since Andy cross’d the Darling.

The gates are out of order now,
In storms the `riders’ rattle;
For far across the border now
Our Andy’s gone with cattle.

Poor Aunty’s looking thin and white;
And Uncle’s cross with worry;
And poor old Blucher howls all night
Since Andy left Macquarie.

Oh, may the showers in torrents fall,
And all the tanks run over;
And may the grass grow green and tall
In pathways of the drover;

And may good angels send the rain
On desert stretches sandy;
And when the summer comes again
God grant ’twill bring us Andy.

Happy Bloomsday 2017

Bloomsday

The day has dawned bright and sunny and warm and augurs well for feather boas and straw boaters.  Dust down your butchers shop delivery bicycle with the large wicker basket on the front.  Break out your dickey bow and your silver handled cane.  Hunt out a monocle and a fedora.  Throw your self back to 1904 once again when Leopold Bloom perambulated his way about Dublin in his reenactment of the trial of Odysseus.  It is a day to be Homeric!

 

Ulysses; by Alfred Lord Tennyson

 

It little profits that an idle king,
by this still hearth, among these barren crags,
match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
unequal laws unto a savage race,
that hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
life to the lees. All times I have enjoy’d
greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
for always roaming with a hungry heart
much have I seen and known,- cities of men
and manners, climates, councils, governments,
myself not least, but honor’d of them all,
and drunk delight of battle with my peers,
far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met;
yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
forever and forever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
to rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
were all too little, and of one to me
little remains; but every hour is saved
from that eternal silence, something more,
a bringer of new things; and vile it were
for some three suns to store and hoard myself,
and this gray spirit yearning in desire
to follow knowledge like a sinking star,
beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
to whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
this labor, by slow prudence to make mild
a rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
subdue them to the useful and the good.

Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
in offices of tenderness, and pay
meet adoration to my household gods,
when I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
there gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me,
that ever with a frolic welcome took
the thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
free hearts, free foreheads, you and I are old;
old age hath yet his honor and his toil.

Death closes all; but something ere the end,
some work of noble note, may yet be done,
not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
the long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
‘t is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
to sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
it may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
and see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
we are not now that strength which in old days
moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
one equal temper of heroic hearts,
made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

VR is future tourism.

Newgrange

When I was a teenager I was lucky enough to be trucked around Europe by my parents.  We visited attractions such as the Tower of London, the Eiffel Tower, Peniscola in Spain, Chamonix Mt Blanc, Seville Cathedral, the Alhambra, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the British Museum, Stratford upon Avon, Nimes Amphitheatre, the Pont-du-Gard etc etc.

Later, as a young adult I visited the Parthenon, Ephesus, the Palace of Minos at Knossos, Mycenae, Venice, the Vatican Museums, St. Peters Basilica, Il Duomo in Florence, the leaning tower of Pisa, Pompeii etc etc ad infinitum.

The last times I was in London, and Paris, and Rome and I saw the length of queues for the major tourist attractions I pitied those who have not seen them yet.  The queue for the Vatican Museums (I don’t remember any queue in 1986) was about 4 hours, just to get in the front door!

Tourism is killing the very attractions that stimulate tourism.  There is a sea of humanity trekking to tourist sites and filling them up with……tourists.  So many tourists that you can no longer see the attractions, let alone appreciate them.

Many, if not most, of these tourists have little real interest in the attractions, other than ticking off some box on a virtual bucket list, taking a selfie and posting it on Facebook.

In some circumstances this sea of humanity is causing physical damage to the attractions.  Last time I visited the Alhambra I was told (very sensible I thought) to take the backpack off my back and wear it on my front, to prevent the bag from banging the delicate tile mosaics.

Sensitive sites like the Galapagos islands are under serious environmental threat.  Governments the world over are struggling with the balance between protecting heritage and permitting access to it, with all the attendant economic advantages.

The future is VR.  Not Victoria Regina, but Virtual Reality.  We can allow all area access to our most fragile heritage sites using the wonders of both Virtual and Augmented reality technologies.  Virtual reality will allow us to tour sites in an immersive way using a VR headset without having to visit the attraction.  Augmented reality allows us to tour real places and imagine what they looked like in the past.  We can experience the New York Wall Street of the 17th Century as we stroll down the modern street of today.

By visiting the Coliseum in Rome without ever leaving your home you incur no flights, no taxis, no carbon footprints.  The challenge facing the worlds great heritage sites will be a balancing act.  How to monetize worldwide VR access is step 1.   How to price the remaining restricted access to the sites is step 2.

One example that tourism operators might like to consider is Newgrange in Ireland.  This iron age passage tomb is in extreme demand for one day a year, the winter solstice.  On that morning, if the sky is clear, the site is transformed from passage tomb to ancient timepiece.  Access to this rare event is by lottery.

Using VR we can reopen access to sites that have already been closed such as the prehistoric cave paintings of Lescaux and Altamira.  The future is now.

 

 

A Grain of Sand:  Robert William Service

If starry space no limit knows
And sun succeeds to sun,
There is no reason to suppose
Our earth the only one.
‘Mid countless constellations cast
A million worlds may be,
With each a God to bless or blast
And steer to destiny.

Just think! A million gods or so
To guide each vital stream,
With over all to boss the show
A Deity supreme.
Such magnitudes oppress my mind;
From cosmic space it swings;
So ultimately glad to find
Relief in little things.

For look! Within my hollow hand,
While round the earth careens,
I hold a single grain of sand
And wonder what it means.
Ah! If I had the eyes to see,
And brain to understand,
I think Life’s mystery might be
Solved in this grain of sand.