John Ashbery RIP

John Ashbery

I joked on his last birthday, at the age of 90, how frustrating it must be for the greatest living poet in the USA to share a birthday with Gerard Manley Hopkins.  Sadly Ashbery passed away yesterday, and to add insult to injury he bought the farm on the anniversary of the death of none other than E.E.Cummings.

The beauty for Ashbery was to be so exalted in his lifetime.  His genius was well recognized and celebrated.  Students of poetry will be unraveling his work for centuries to come.  For today we can empathise that if life is a dream this dream has ended and yet has not.

Life is a Dream; by John Ashbery

A talent for self-realization
will get you only as far as the vacant lot
next to the lumber yard, where they have rollcall.
My name begins with an A,
so is one of the first to be read off.
I am wondering where to stand – could that group of three
or four others be the beginning of the line?

Before I have the chance to find out, a rodent-like
man pushes at my shoulders. “It’s that way,” he hisses. “Didn’t they teach you
anything at school? That a photograph
of anything can be real, or maybe not? The corner of the stove,
a cloud of midges at dusk-time.”

I know I’ll have a chance to learn more
later on. Waiting is what’s called for, meanwhile.
It’s true that life can be anything, but certain things
definitely aren’t it. This gloved hand,
for instance, that glides
so securely into mine, as though it intends to stay.

 

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Happy Birthday Sara Teasdale

A fatalist poet, Sara Teasdale may be most famous for her poem “I shall not care” which many people mistakenly believe is her suicide note.  In fact she published that poem in 1915.  Her lover, Vachel Lindsay, took his own life in 1931 and she died from an overdose of sleeping pills in 1933.

I Shall Not Care; by Sara Teasdale

When I am dead and over me bright April
shakes out her rain-drenched hair,
tho’ you should lean above me broken-hearted,
I shall not care.

I shall have peace, as leafy trees are peaceful
when rain bends down the bough,
and I shall be more silent and cold-hearted
than you are now.

-o0o-

Her poems are powerful through their simplicity.  “There will come soft rains” became a Ray Bradbury short story, and you can instantly see why.  The poem could and should be the anthem of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT) who seek to protect planet earth by eliminating mankind.

There will come soft rains: by Sara Teasdale

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
and swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

and frogs in the pools singing at night,
and wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

robins will wear their feathery fire
whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

and not one will know of the war, not one
will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
if mankind perished utterly;

and Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
would scarcely know that we were gone.

Day record

Aubergine

My first ever Aubergine flower.

Very tired so I am just going to record what I did today and then crash.

Woke up, let the chickens out.  They are working out well.  3 eggs a day from 6 hens.  Keep it up girls.

Breakfast was our own eggs poached on toast.  Espresso coffee.

Dropped Esha to the train station with her friend Clodagh, on their way to see “Angela’s Ashes:  The musical”.

Recycled bottles and jars in Thurles.

Jerry drove myself and Gavin to Clonmel, Jerry to practice driving.  Gavin to buy school books for 5th and 6th year.  Last big shell out on school books!  Also hit the oriental shop to buy black beans, butter beans, pine nuts, turmeric, won-ton skins, pickled vine leaves and chick peas.

Dealz for hardback a4 copy books.

Had to go to the health food store for the sunflower seeds and tofu.

Over to Tesco in Clonmel for printer ink, lotto, wine, peanuts, baguette, pens.

Home for lunch.  Blue cheese, baguette, apple, tea.

Jerry cut lawns on ride on, Gavin cut small lawn with hand lawnmower. Picked, shelled, blanched and froze peas.  Cleaned out chicken coop.  Planted out aubergines.  Gavin fed tomato plants.  I weeded a lot.

Planted out some pot parsley plants.

Trimmed some branches of the horse chestnut tree.

Cut grass on the driveway.

Watched a bit of the tour de france time trial.

Fed the dog, walked the dog, watered the dog, cuddled the dog, gave out to the dog when it bit my toes.

Louise made pizza and focaccia.  Time to crash in front of the TV.

Life is what happens when you are making other plans..……John Lennon

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Omar Khayyam

Although we know him best for his poetry it is worth remembering that Khayyam was a mathematician of some note, and an astronomer.  As a scientist he had views on religion that were not popular when he lived when he was labeled a skeptic and a sinner.

In truth he was probably more of an agnostic than an atheist and more of  a Sufi mystic than a sinner.  At heart, as he displays in the quatrain below, he believed that we make our own fate.  He rejects the notion, so beloved of venal faithful of all religions, that you can behave badly on earth and be somehow rewarded in the afterlife.

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And by and by my Soul return’d to me,
And answer’d “I Myself am Heav’n and Hell

Khayyam

Ancient Greeks developed techniques for computer coding

Socrates-Quotes-1

We tend to think of computer coding as something very new, dating from the 1960’s and later. Basic launched in 1963 and many think of it as the first language because it underpins much of modern SQL.

FORTRAN was developed by IBM in the 1950’s

More knowledgeable historians will refer me back to ENIAC in 1946, or project Ultra in 1941.

Even better historians will take me back to 1804 and the punch card programming system used on the Jacquard Loom to weave patterns in silk.

I think we can go even further and wind the clock back to 500BC because coding has a far older history. Today, when we design classes in education we could learn from the ancient Greek method of the Trivium (3 ways).

The trivium was a system of education taught in Greece and Rome to master the art of oration, which is the foundation of all courtroom trials, most business presentations and almost all political speeches and debates.

It involves 3 disciplines, Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric.

  • Grammar: definition of terms, language, limits, data etc.
  • Logic: how to arrange your data, build arguments, test them, link them and test them again.
  • Rhetoric: how to deliver the final output in a succinct, engaging and compelling way.

To any experienced coder the schema above looks eerily familiar:

Input – Process – Output

Does it sound preposterous that the Greeks worked out early forms of programming?  Remember these are the people who gave us much of our mathematics.  By 100 BC they were building clockwork computers such as the Antikythera mechanism.  This level of sophistication was not achieved again in Europe until the 14th century.

antikythera-title

 

Anarchist Cook

William Powell

William Powell, author of the Anarchist Cookbook.

Powell gave Anarchy a bad name.  He was disenchanted as a young man growing up in America in the 1960’s.  He observed a culture of government sanctioned violence.  Police bully tactics, violent attacks on peaceful civil rights protests, baton charging of student protests and all the way up to imposition of the draft sending young men to Vietnam.

His reaction to government violence was to arm the counter-cultural movement with techniques to fight a against the state through guerilla tactics and sabotage.  His book give recipes for home made weapons using commonly available products.  He also included some sabotage techniques for electronics, and some information on home made drugs.

Powell made the mistake of giving control of the publication to the publisher.  The book was published in 1971, and by 1976 Powell wanted it removed from sale.  Many years later he said in an interview:  “Over the years, I have come to understand that the basic premise behind the Cookbook is profoundly flawed. The anger that motivated the writing of the Cookbook blinded me to the illogical notion that violence can be used to prevent violence.”

The book is still in publication and has been blamed as providing the information for a number of home grown terror attacks in the USA.

I have observed many cases in history of angry young men who passionately call for violence and then grow up to advocate the far more difficult path of non-violent, but no less confrontational routes to reform.  Are there cases where young people begin with non-violence and come to a realization later in life that violence is a better path?

 

Still I Rise; by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

De Ma

Skerries

A short few lines about de Ma, because yesterday was the first Mother’s day in my life without a mother.  The photograph above says it all really.  She was always hovering in the background of my life even when she was not in a leading role.  A constant presence. Mothers are a bit like the Fates.  They weave the threads of your destiny, for good or ill, and they are as subtle about it as an anvil in a sight gag from an old slapstick comedy.

In the modern business world you will hear a lot of guff spoken about “Corporate Values” which reflect the “DNA of the Company”.  Values are things that people have.  Not corporations.  If there are values in a corporation they are the values of the senior managers in that corporation.  If those managers recruit staff with similar values this can make it seem like the company has a set of coherent values.

The truth is values are fed to you by your mother with every bite of bread, every spoonful of oatmeal and every sip of juice.  She spreads values on you with sunscreen and antiseptic.  She dabs them on with drops of iodine on scratched knees.  She interviews you about your friends, then she interviews your friends, and their parents too.  She ingrains you with attitudes to the most basic things in life, such as hard work, sick leave, ownership, permission, self-respect, equality, charity, religion, education, racism, xenophobia, curiosity, danger etc etc.

If you are in a company and they decide to “introduce a set of corporate values” ask them how long they plan to take over this exercise.  1 Year?  5 Years?  How many of your personal values were nailed down by the age of 5?  And that was with 100% devotion from your mother.  How can a company even hope to put a scratch on the values embedded in staff by their mothers for over 20 years?  Or 30 years?  Or 40 years?  Because let me tell you, Mother does not stop just because you got married and bought your own house.

De Ma can be a right interfering oul’ witch, sticking her nose into everything, still trying to run your life long after she has any right to do so.  Until she passes away and leaves a great big gaping hole where all that interference used to be, and you realize how much you miss it.

 

In Memory of My Mother; by Patrick Kavanagh

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday –
You meet me and you say:
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle – ‘
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life –
And I see us meeting at the end of a town

On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is a harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us – eternally.