Saturday, December 27, 2008

Harold Pinter (1930-2008)

Video of Harold Pinter's lecture on the occasion of being awarded the Nobel prize in Literature (46 min.)

Text of Harold Pinter's Nobel lecture

I remember seeing The Caretaker at the Tricycle in Kilburn last year and being duly impressed by it. The production was taut and somewhat reminiscent of Beckett in the rundown sets and characters. There was a continuous sense of imminent menace or violence, and a sort of case study in bullying. [After I posted this I remembered thinking that three or four of the lines clunked a bit in one scene, where there was a sense of the voice of the author coming through rather than a particular character.]

He wrote about power, its fluctuations, development and interactions. In the film the Servant, power migrates with feeble resistance from the ineffectual employer to the butler, through his inexorable and merciless coercion.

Those are the two productions I remember. There were those late, angry political essays and poems that I saw as well from time to time, in Granta for example. You can find examples of his poetry and make your own mind up about it: here.

His Nobel lecture is fascinating both in the introductory remarks about the inspirations for his literary work and separately, when it turns to politics. Others are far better qualified to comment on what he says, and have done and continue to do so. All I will say is that he has me convinced, and I was convinced anyway from bits of what Chomsky and others had already said. For all the good it does.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's a long way from Tipperary

Mon 12 January
Pulp Net Short Story Cafe
7-8pm, £5/£3
In association with Costa, Pulp Net launches the Short Story Cafe at Costa Piccadilly

An hour of short stories a month in the comfort of a London coffee-house – what more could you ask for? In the first of this event series Pulp Net presents: award-winning short story author Helen Simpson, story writer and debut novelist Chris Killen, Costa writer-in-residence Davy Spens and Willesden’s finest, Stephen Moran.

Run time: 7.30pm – 8.30pm.
A suggested donation on the door of £3 is requested towards running costs. Note: Places are limited to 40, assigned on a first-come first-served basis from 7.15pm.

Lower Ground Floor, Costa Coffee, 15 Lower Regent Street, SW1Y

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas cactus

 



The flowers look more spectacular every day, especially on this sunny morning. The petals are like fine satin or silk.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What I've been listening to/watching on YouTube

Note: The videos below are being decimated by WMG copyright injunctions. The George Best tribute used to be to Ordinary World by Duran Duran, which was an excellent soundtrack, but now has some maudlin song that I don't like at all.

I know I've been going on about this, but I also want to add that Last.fm and iTunes do not show what I have been mainly listening to, because lately it's mostly YouTube music videos, which are not counted. The playlist recently has been:

Leona Lewis "Run" (embedding not allowed): Link

Johnny Cash - God's Gonna Cut You Down:



Odetta - Cotton Fields:



James Taylor & Carly Simon - Mockingbird:



The Pogues - A Pair of Brown Eyes:



The Incredible String Band - Witch's Hat:



Each one is favourite for a while but some, such as the Duran Duran/George Best tribute and David Bowie "Bring me the disco king" and Blondie (hachachacha) - can't resist - Atomic, terribly louche but so evocative of the era; I can see that there are troubling images in it, perhaps "glamorising drug-taking" (a stupid thing to do) but also what's with the lady with the black eye?; still, for the music. (Some versions of the video cut off the naff intro bars.) Also - partly for the local connection - "Duffy - Warwick Avenue" (embedding not allowed). There are others, too many to list but you can find them all here.

Blondie - Atomic:



David Bowie - Bring me the disco king:



Duran Duran - George Best tribute/Ordinary World:



As I look back through my favourites list, I feel the enthusiasm coming back, but I can't list them all again. Unfortunately some have disappeared (and keep reappearing and disappearing) from YouTube, such as everything by Diana Ross and the Supremes, though I've managed to capture some of them with Real Player. I think the best pop video ever is probably the Supremes "You keep me hanging on", for the sheer joie de vivre - it makes me smile all the way through. So does the live video of "Where did our love go", one of the best live videos, I think, though the audience are like statues and the dancing is a bit lame, but the sound - ah, the sound. I have a soft spot for the Ed Sullivan Show clip of "Love Child" too - a great song and a great Diana Ross performance.

And I've just remembered, I've been enjoying Oasis (how many years late?), at least these two superb videos. "The Masterplan" is inspired by L. S. Lowry's paintings - beautifully drawn, especially at the beginning and end.

Oasis - The Masterplan:



Also this one, "Stop crying your heart out", which would have made the perfect and sinister lament had Barack Obama not won the US presidency in November, which thankfully he did. So we are left with this incendiary, ambivalent image of either doom or hope, not sure which.

Oasis - Stop crying your heart out:



I've also been playing some of the ones embedded elsewhere in this blog, which you can find by scrolling down, and some of the ones on other people's blogs, which you can find by clicking on the links to the right. I don't want to duplicate what others have posted, including some of their own creations and favourites (Mikey's, for example).

Monday, December 08, 2008

Here again again

I think I said this before, but it just came up in discussion tonight. Agnostics cannot say they believe in God, therefore they are a subset of the set of all atheists. In no way can they be called believers, they are merely in denial of their atheism. They cannot be a subset of the set of all believers because their set does not intersect with the set of all believers, they are non-believers, their belief is non-existent, it is a dead parrot.

I don't believe that anybody educated and conversant with manifest reality truly believes in God. Anyone who claims to is only fooling himself or herself, but they all get together and play "let's pretend" and "la la la we're not listening".

I'm not happy that there is no God but then as somebody said, "if God lived on our street people would break his windows."

Update 22/2/2016: Agnosticism and Atheism have been divided by some philosophers into Agnostic Atheism (don't know what's what but don't believe in gods) and Agnostic Theism (don't know what's what but accept the possibility of gods).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Facebook can get stuffed. Again

Facebook to enable members to track friends on other sites

"Social networking website Facebook has launched what could yet prove to be another controversial application in the form of a tool that allows users to track 'Facebook friends' activities on other sides." (Telegraph)

If they keep it up, I'm going to bin my Facebook pages and membership.

Chewbacca



Eating a Scooby snack sans a few teeth

My top most played tracks on Last.fm

I think my Last.fm profile gives a truer picture of my listening habits for the past year than my iTunes chart (below) because it tends to consist of things I choose to listen to, not what I happen to have hoovered into iTunes from some ancient cheap cd or whatever. With Last.fm you can play whatever you want to, pretty much - though it has some limits on how many times. I see that according to my profile, my top ten for the past twelve months are:

1. Katmandu - Cat Stevens
I played this free, but I've since bought it. It is gloriously tuneful and with interesting lyrics. I love the little bell it starts with, and everything about it.

2. Jealous Guy - Youssou N'Dour
I love the way he pronounces things and he comes across as a very gentle sort of person, counterpointing Lennon's sharp edges.

3. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
Moody and magnificent. I've tired a little of it now, but it's a classic.

4. Gordon Lightfoot - Beautiful
I found this on Last.fm and the clue is in the title. It is. It amazes me that it should be fourth in my list for the year, though. There must be something wrong with these statistics, I think.

4 (equal). Gordon Lightfoot - Sundown
In spite of the daft lyrics, I love the sound, just the impressions of sensuality hinted at. "I can see her lying back in a satin dress/In a room where you do what you don't confess". I don't know why this one is here and not some others, can't remember listening to it that many times but it's a sort of "old reliable", I guess.

6. Elvis Presley - Flaming Star
What I like about this is it has that sound that you sometimes hear when in town you stray into a record shop and it's bouncing and bumping on the speakers and you think, everything should sound this great. It's quintessential of its type and very moody, with a strange folksy intimation of mortality. It's like cool water when you're thirsty.

8 x 3. Two Katie Melua's - actually I've decided that these are unlistenable. I was in love with her voice for a while but the words are dreadfully trite and the tunes are actually just one sweet hook with a load of clunking, laboured bridges. I'd really far rather have Dusty Springfield here and perhaps Joan Baez, but I listen to them on a CD player in the kitchen on Sunday mornings so Last.fm can't count them.

The last one is Al Green - Tired of Being Alone: just always hits the mark - also nonsensical lyric-wise, but who cares?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Let's reunite Ireland as a British dominion*

It's never too late. Step back, rewind, start over. A united Ireland under the British crown as before, with its proud capital in Dublin and its own sovereignty the same as Canada's or Australia's. I am a republican in the generic sense not a monarchist, but the petty nationalists have divided Ireland. That's exactly what they've done, not united - divided. I expect to be reviled by all sides for this idea, but this is the way to a united Ireland. It does not entail any loss of real sovereignty, laws or anything else, and it incorporates Northern Ireland into the Republic. If you claim to be for a united Ireland, you've got to start loving your unionist countrymen and give them what they want. Within a family, one sacrifices for the benefit of another. We should sacrifice our separation from Britain in order to regain our own unity on the island of Ireland. Does anyone doubt that countries such as Canada and Australia are independent? We had unity before, which was worth more than the present botched independence, but we squandered it. That is my opinion and I might be wrong, but there it is.

Update 22/2/2016: In the year of the anniversary of the 1916 rising, I am less inclined to believe that the above is a practical proposition.

Monday, November 10, 2008

From one of the Dublin Fusiliers

To My Daughter Betty, The Gift of God

In wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
To beauty proud as was your mother's prime,
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You'll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
And the dear heart that was your baby throne,
To dice with death. And oh! they'll give you rhyme
And reason: some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it in a knowing tone.
So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,—
But for a dream, born in a herdsman's shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.

-- Thomas Kettle

(Born 1880. Died 1916, battle of the Somme. Ref:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Kettle)


I used to have a book of poetry by Thomas Kettle, which I was given as a gift, and it had its pages uncut. I wish I knew where I left it. I must have given it as a present to somebody. I think I know who. It can't be found now for love nor money, just the exact one. It's possible it was never properly published. Of course I did cut the pages, and it had this poem and one of the others I remember I used to like was called "Ennui" - it wasn't mainly war poems.

Thomas Kettle was an interesting character, a leading nationalist who followed John Redmond's decision for his Irish Volunteers, a nationalist movement, to enlist in British regiments to fight "for the rights of small nations" after Belgium had been invaded. It was on the promise of Home Rule for Ireland, which had been passed by Westminster in 1914, at Gladstone's third attempt, but then suspended because of the outbreak of war.

Whether it would have followed had not Pearse et al struck in 1916, who knows? Even in the treaty negotiations later an offer of dominion status similar to Canada's, was spurned. Wouldn't that have been far better though, even from a nationalist point of view, because afterwards they might have voted away the link anyway, like Australia keeps threatening to do? Oh well. Let's invite the Queen to Dublin, it's past time. Let the dead bury the dead. I'm not very sure what it means, but it's something a little short of letting bygones be bygones, perhaps.

The following, if it's still there (they come and go on YouTube) is a lament for a son going off to war, "Oh Danny boy, the pipes - the pipes are calling..."



(Diana Krall with the Chieftains)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I'm giving up writing

The world doesn't need any more writers, any more poetry or any more fiction. There's far too much already. Everything that needs to be said has already been said very well. You wouldn't spend your time writing if you knew the world was about to end. So why do it now, when it is?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

You heard it first here - I can explain

From Glass Hombre: "Well, I have very exciting news [...] I've just signed a contract with Future Fiction London, an imprint of Creation Books, to publish my novel Balzac of the Badlands" Steve Finbow



Steve Finbow, hotfoot from Japan, started the evening off with a virtuosic, almost musical recital in effect, of an excerpt from his extraordinary 'Balzac of the Badlands'. If that is not a novel in poetry, then...there is no then—it is. (From: There Now: Launch of New Short Stories 1)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Spotted in the wild


morning / re-reading
Originally uploaded by mf delgado
Several thoughts contend. I hope the text hasn't put the reader off that marvellous-looking coffee. (One of the stories is set in a coffee house.) I was very lucky to have the art of Stratos on the cover. And a sort of wonderment.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Still smiling

Your roving reporter met Bobby's Girl (broken link) Julie Rayne at Litcamp, and I'm glad to report she's still smiling. (That's one of those records that was always on the radio back in the day, I think, or some version of it.) I also bought a copy of Down the Angel and read her memoir of 1960's London with interest.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The New Writer's Handbook, Volume 2: Books for Writers: Scarletta Press



I have an article in this. Just got my free copy today. (Amazon/Willesden Herald partner link)

The intro by Ted Koooser is interesting. He was US Poet Laureate for a while. He talks about writing "from life" and the comparative poverty of writing from imagination. In one example he says that when describing the scene at a birthday party, it's the lace that's coming away from the edge of a table cloth, or the bent tine on a fork that will evoke it, and not the candles flickering on top of the birthday cake. In other words, he claims that imagination will tend to the cliched. He makes a strong case, but I'm not sure he didn't imagine that lace himself just then, if you see what I mean. It's worth getting hold of the book just to read his intro, really, but there are loads of other interesting articles as well.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Literary day out

Litcamp

I particularly enjoyed Jay Barnard's (link) poetry reading and Courtia Newland's story, which I'd already read somewhere. It is going to be on BBC4 Afternoon Story next week. There was a very funny story from Gavin Inglis, as well as lots of other delights, some from people listed in my links over there ->.

I offered to provide "post-it note critiques" for short stories, simulating the conditions of reading for a short story competition. About twenty or so landed on my table in the reading room. One thing that occurred to me was that this was a very good way to make enemies and fail to influence people. I felt that I should have worn full Venetian masquerade get-up, like Salieri in the film Amadeus: it was I who needed anonymity, not the writers.

Anyway, I really like reading this way and commenting, though I'm completely unqualified. I wrote on large post-it notes, mostly having to write on the reverse as well, and also marked up the text. There were one or two I'd seen before, amazingly enough.

I left some copies of this competition flyer (A4 version) on the books table there. Here is a version for Letter paper size. Please feel free to pass them on, copy, republish, etc.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I'm an uncle again!

Thanks to my sister Pauline, and Rocker. All best wishes and love to little Harry Christopher and all the family.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I raise a glass to Boris Johnson

When given a choice, always vote for the one who would not side with mass murder for any cause, that's what I say. Boris Johnson would be the first politician to be hanged by any tyrant - such as Livingstone, if he could - because Boris speaks as he finds and he stands up for the human, not for dogma. He does not finesse with questions of human rights with hanging mullahs and truck bombing terrorists etc etc. Etc.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sacred River cover (2001)

 

This was a magazine project that I tried to initiate but it never happened. The brilliant picture (from Egypt) is by Anne Warwick © 2001.

Man can't fly



Forget the Wright brothers, those stupid jerks. We've wasted a century, getting hurled through the air in metal cylinders. We've hardly even started to think about flying.

Monday, March 24, 2008

For my sisters



Antony and the Johnsons (feat. Boy George)

So many memories
There's nothing left to gain from remembering
Faces and worlds no one else will ever know
...You are my sister, and I love you.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hello young lovers



Dad and Mam in Dublin (O'Connell Bridge, 1952-4?) caught by a street photographer, one of those who used to give you a ticket to get the photo later.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I like London in the rain*



I wanted to write something about Lewisham, where I was last Thursday evening. It was raining and just still light, with the street market closing. I love the half light - and rain, and rivers. There's a river called the Quaggy that runs through Lewisham. It used to be called the Lee Bourn, according to an information plaque. I was a bit tired - hadn't slept since Tuesday night - and didn't feel like taking pictures but everything was ravishing, especially the tables covered in bunches of bright yellow bananas put out in front of market stalls for workers going home, and more ranks of darker things further back, as the vendors were packing up. I really didn't want to go anywhere, and if not for convention I would have stayed there gazing around (and maybe slept in a doorway - no not likely) but I had to move on.

The trees along the banks of the Quaggy are infested with plastic shopping bags, by the way. If one-use plastic bags are banned, as seems likely, places can be cleaned up and it will be well worthwhile. It has been in Ireland.

* Blossom Dearie

Sunday, March 16, 2008

1956 production



Dublin Arts Theatre program 1956, The Plough and the Stars



Dad's name is there, Christy Moran as Young Covey. I remember Matt Farrelly, an old friend of Dad's. He let me pretend to drive his VW when I was a small boy, and he and Dad took me to see Shamrock Rovers.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Kerfuffle

There's been a bit of controversy over my our short story competition at the Willesden Herald. Articles have appeared in national newspapers, The Sunday Times and the Telegraph as well as Guardian Online etc etc (and there are quite a few etc's). I'm not going to say much about it, I'll just give you a link to the February archive so you can see for yourself, if you're interested. For a while, the WH blog page was getting over 250 visitors per hour.

It's been strange to have people telling me about the competition as if it were a great big thing that I had nothing to do with, as if there were some mysterious powers behind it whose sandals I wouldn't be fit to tie. I've been hushed and shushed, people have complained about 8,000 people being upset (an extra zero added from 800) etc. You can see how the ancient hero tales were worked up till, as I think Flann O'Brien said, forty teams of youths could play handball against the width of Finn's backside.

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's your noble call, Dad



Giuseppe di Stefano - Catari, Catari (Core 'ngrato)

Dad had a lovely voice, powerful. He used to sing this. It was his party piece, this or Golden Earrings. "It's your noble call." That's what we used to say when it was somebody's turn to sing or give a recitation ("There's a green-eyed yellow idol to the north of Katmandu" as likely as not). And it was a noble call - a very good name for it, however it originated.

Christy (dad) used to sing it in the English translation, which goes "I'm calling, calling you/ my beloved what can I do?/ Under the stars and moon beside the ocean/ You promised to be mine" etc. and he would put in a verse in the Italian in the middle, if he didn't stop early, which he mostly would. In this video, Giuseppe di Stefano is very like my dad singing it, and he even looks a bit similar.

I feel now that Dad must have known this version, not Mario Lanza's as I previously thought. Lanza's rendition is not very like Dad's version.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist

My Dad died last night in the Mater hospital, Dublin. He was born in Dublin (Rotunda) on December 1st, 1933. He was a member of the Young Socialists and later secretary of the Irish Labour party Ballymun branch. His working life was spent in "the rag trade" where he was a cutter and later general manager of a small factory in Leitrim. In that role he combined selling to department stores, such as Arnotts and also Marks and Spencer. In his last years he was chairman of the Ballymun Mens' Centre, an educational and social project to which he was very committed. The following is a copy of a message posted on 21/7/2006.



Christy Moran, in his prime...

The picture was taken when Dad was General Manager of a shirt factory in Leitrim. It's from a two-page spread in the Irish Farmers' Journal about the factory, which was owned by locally famous business tycoons, the McCartin brothers, one of whom was and is still a prominent politician. The brothers' homespun technique for wealth creation (which ultimately ended in bankruptcy) was the way they had been taught to pick fruit, to take one tree at a time and pick it clean. They bought farms, milled and produced feed to supply to the farms, provided engineering etc. After creating hundreds of jobs for men, the McCartin's setup the shirt factory to provide work for local young women who might otherwise have had to leave the area.

My Dad, Mam and my sisters (I have no brothers) all worked in the rag trade, and so did I for the first six years of my working life. (Imagine our delight the year Rag Trade won the Grand National! That Saturday in 1976 I was working overtime in a factory in Smithfield, Dublin when everybody took a break to watch the race in a pub around the corner. A great day—but that's another story.)

Dad was at a garden party this week in Áras an Uachtaráin, as chairman of Ballymun Men's Centre (BMC). In spite of an inauspicious address (Lift Shaft 4, Shangan Road) the BMC is a great facility, a warren of rooms with a computer network for training, meeting room, office etc, though scheduled for demolition together with the rest of Ballymun.

Amongst many other things, Dad was formerly Secretary of our local Labour party branch. He resigned when they decided to go into coalition with Fine Gael (many years ago.)

One of his favourite books is The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, and he is as genuine Dublin as you can get. He has a highly developed sense of the ridiculous, which I'm glad I inherited, and no time for pretentious tomfoolery. Here he is in the Ballymun Men's Centre, trying to keep a straight face while pretending to point at something for my camera.