9/11

Twintowers.jpg

A great day for Scotsmen, who celebrate the victory of William Wallace over the British at the Battle of Sterling Bridge in 1297.

A great day for Maltese, who celebrate the lifting of the Great Siege of Malta when the Knights Hospitallers defeated the might of the Ottoman Empire at the height of its power in 1565.

A remarkable day in the history of New York, when Henry Hudson discovered the Hudson River and Manhattan Island in 1609.

A mixed day for the Duke of Marlborough and his allies in the war of the Spanish Succession.  They defeated the French at Malplaquet in 1709 but it was something of a pyrrhic victory as the allies lost twice as many men as the French.

A better day for the Americans in 1814 at the battle of Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain when they defeated the British in the war of 1812.

A bad day in 1916 when the central span of the Quebec Bridge collapsed with the deaths of 11 men.

A worse day in 2001 with the loss of 2,296 people in terror attacks on the Twin Towers.

Today we are not sure yet how bad a day it has been for the people of Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

This ebb and flow across one date in history reminds me of the following sonnet.

 

SONNET 64; by William Shakespeare

When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defaced
the rich-proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed
and brass eternal, slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
and the firm soil win of the watery main,
increasing store with loss, and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
or state itself confounded to decay;
ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate
That Time will come and take my love away.

This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

 

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Happy Birthday Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver
Famously private, multi-award winning and one of Americas most successful poets.
Olivers poetry is deeply rooted in nature and reflects her upbringing in rural Ohio.  Her work is replete with the search for divinity in the small things and the search for the core of the self.  Seeker and philosopher, happy birthday.  I love (as a Dubliner) that her partners name is Molly Malone Cook.  I wonder does she wheel a wheelbarrow filled with cockles and mussels?
Where Does the Dance Begin, Where Does It End? : by Mary Oliver
 
 
Don’t call this world adorable, or useful, that’s not it.
It’s frisky, and a theater for more than fair winds.
The eyelash of lightning is neither good nor evil.
The struck tree burns like a pillar of gold.
 
But the blue rain sinks, straight to the white
feet of the trees
whose mouths open.
Doesn’t the wind, turning in circles, invent the dance?
Haven’t the flowers moved, slowly, across Asia, then Europe,
until at last, now, they shine
in your own yard?
 
Don’t call this world an explanation, or even an education.
 
When the Sufi poet whirled, was he looking
outward, to the mountains so solidly there
in a white-capped ring, or was he looking
 
to the center of everything: the seed, the egg, the idea
that was also there,
beautiful as a thumb
curved and touching the finger, tenderly,
little love-ring,
 
as he whirled,
oh jug of breath,
in the garden of dust?

 

Fishtrap

LobsterPot

Easy to get in, very hard to get out.  That is the principle of the fish trap.  The photo above shows how this is done in a traditional lobster pot.  The fish can swim in from the top down into the heart of the trap to eat the bait.  Once the bait is eaten the fish swims around the perimeter looking for a way out.  But that is the trick, the exit is in the middle, not at the edge.

What has this to do with anything?  The fishtrap sums up every software company ever.  They make it easy to get in and very very difficult to get out.

An example is mobile phones.  Anyone who has ever tried to move from one technology to another will understand the pain.  When you join a mobile phone company they do everything they can to make it easy for you to import your data to their system.  All your phone contacts, all your social media and as many files as they can get from you.  They provide you with plenty of space at setup to store your photos and documents.

It is a different story when you try to leave.  If you move from Apple ios to Windows, or from Windows to Android, or from Android to Chrome etc you will find every barrier thrown in your path to prevent a seamless move.  Like the Hotel California “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”.  Or as Maurice Sendak said “Oh please don’t go, we’ll eat you up we love you so!” (Where the Wild Things Are).

When you decide to invest in a technology for the next 18 months to 2 years it is a wise researcher who looks at the exit costs.

To this day I have a list of mothballed contacts locked up in Apple cloud storage that has been there since I last owned an iPhone – I think that was 2014.  I have a stack of photos that I hope I can retrieve at some later date.

I would like to sign up with a technology company that did not treat me like a plump fish to be landed on their plate.  I am not a net profit, a cash flow, an income line or a revenue stream.  I don’t love their marketing lure or their sales hook.  I want a fair exchange.  I’ll swim with you a while, but when it’s time for me to leave I don’t want to have to escape your grasping claws.  Let me go gently and I just may return one day.

 

The Fish: by Elizabeth Bishop

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
– the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly-
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
– It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
– if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels- until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

Groceteria

Shop

In the 1890s the concept of a self-service restaurant developed in the USA.  Based on the Scandinavian model of the smorgasbord it was given the Spanish name “Cafeteria” by John Kruger when he was serving food at the World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago Worlds Fair).  Perhaps it was the association of Columbus with Latin America that inspired Kruger to call his format the Spanish for Coffee Shop.

On this day in 1916 the first self-service grocery store opened in Memphis Tennessee.  The Piggly Wiggly opened by Clarence Saunders was originally marketed as a grocery version of the cafeteria and was called a “Groceteria”.  You entered through a turnstile.  You were offered a basket or a grocery cart for convenience.  It offered self service, price marked goods and a customer checkout.  The supermarket was born.

I have seen the rise and fall of many groceterias over the years, including the Ballymun Cash Stores (which was in Finglas), H. Williams, Superquinn, Quinnsworth, Crazy Prices, Super Crazy Prices, Roches Stores.  The rise and survival of Iceland, JC Savages in Swords, Nolans in Clontarf, Musgraves/Supervalu, Dunnes Stores, Tesco and most recently the German invasion of Aldi and Lidl.

As a kid growing up in Dublin I was always exposed to supermarkets.  On the other hand my summers were spent in Kilkee in the West of Clare.  There were no supermarkets in 1960’s Clare.  I have vivid memories of my mothers frustration, on her holidays, having to queue at the butchers and at the grocers to be served one at a time with a long line of other mothers.  I always had the enjoyable job of going to the bakery.  Picking up fresh loaves, hot from the oven and bringing them back to the house for breakfast time.

Travelling to the continent in 1976 was an eye opening revelation.  The French Hypermarche was a decade ahead of Ireland.  All those wooden barrels full of olives, who knew olives were so popular?  Those were the days when you bought Olive oil in a pharmacy in Ireland to treat an ear infection. Very different days.

Happy Birthday Robert Fergusson

Sean-Connery

Sean Connery in gude braid claith.

Before ever there was Robert Burns the voice of Scotland was Robert Fergusson. Born this day in 1750.  He died only 24 years later in a Bedlam asylum called Darien House but left a lasting impression on Scottish culture, defining a  voice for Scottish English as well as writing in Lowland Scots language.

Braid Claith; by Robert Fergusson

Ye wha are fain to hae your name
Wrote in the bonny book of fame,
Let merit nae pretension claim
To laurel’d wreath,
But hap ye weel, baith back and wame,
In gude Braid Claith.

He that some ells o’ this may fa,
An’ slae-black hat on pow like snaw,
Bids bauld to bear the gree awa’,
Wi’ a’ this graith,
Whan bienly clad wi’ shell fu’ braw
O’ gude Braid Claith.

Waesuck for him wha has na fek o’t!
For he’s a gowk they’re sure to geck at,
A chiel that ne’er will be respekit
While he draws breath,
Till his four quarters are bedeckit
Wi’ gude Braid Claith.

On Sabbath-days the barber spark,
When he has done wi’ scrapin wark,
Wi’ siller broachie in his sark,
Gangs trigly, faith!
Or to the meadow, or the park,
In gude Braid Claith.

Weel might ye trow, to see them there,
That they to shave your haffits bare,
Or curl an’ sleek a pickly hair,
Wou’d be right laith,
Whan pacing wi’ a gawsy air
In gude Braid Claith.

If only mettl’d stirrah green
For favour frae a lady’s ein,
He maunna care for being seen
Before he sheath
His body in a scabbard clean
O’ gude Braid Claith.

For, gin he come wi’ coat threadbare,
A feg for him she winna care,
But crook her bonny mou’ fu’ sair,
And scald him baith.
Wooers shou’d ay their travel spare
Without Braid Claith.

Braid Claith lends fock an unco heese,
Makes mony kail-worms butterflies,
Gies mony a doctor his degrees
For little skaith:
In short, you may be what you please
Wi’ gude Braid Claith.

For thof ye had as wise a snout on
As Shakespeare or Sir Isaac Newton,
Your judgment fouk wou’d hae a doubt on,
I’ll tak my aith,
Till they cou’d see ye wi’ a suit on
O’ gude Braid Claith.

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.