Friday, January 30, 2009

Technology Trends

Ah, the wonderful world of The Onion:

Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

The MacBook Wheel's predictive sentences are priceless. And the final snippet: "Police warn that the Sudoku Killer will killer either 1, 4 or 9 victims next..." Bless 'em!

Have a great weekend :-)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Email to smile to...

A friend just sent on a great quote:
"It's love," they say. You touch the right one
and a whole half of the universe
wakes up, a new half.

—William Stafford

I scooched around online to read more by Stafford - loved this quote of his:

"Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn't music."

Ah, so true...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Breakfast options

A friend of mine loves baking, and is supremely talented at it, and often when we meet she'll bring a box of tasty delights for me.

And on the mornings following, as the pot of coffee is gurgling to completion, I consider:

Healthiest granola in the world served with soya yogurt?

A brownie.

Like that could even be classified as a 'choice'...

Twenty seconds later: the same friend just emailed with the news that John Updike died, yesterday. Over on, there's a lovely programme of Updike reading from The Terrorist. Charming, intelligent, astute. A great loss.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

words words words

Spent happy hours today talking about books.

In this month's Book Club, up for discussion was John Updike's Gertrude and Claudius, which on finishing, made me want to go back through Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead and then pore over all the original sources. Then, I might be ready to re-read Updike to discover a few of the delightful in-jokes and intertextual references that surely slipped past the first time around. But that's a whole separate endeavour... Also discussed was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - filled with resonant quotes, along the lines of "Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life". Both treaty selections.

After Book Club was coffee and catch-up, which inevitably turned to book talk. And now I'm sitting, trying to decide between two things I've been loaned: whether to start reading The Kite Runner (I know, I am probably the last person on earth to read that book; there aren't even enough of us to play bridge) or to start watching a newly unwrapped Brideshead Revisited (663 minutes of viewing pleasure). Decisions decisions...

And the Shona Voice in my head pipes up: Why not have a drink while you're deliberating?

So helpful, that lady :-)

Breaking News

Broadcast News was just finishing up when another headline announced itself through the ether: Dial2Do is shortlisted for the MoMo Peer Awards in Barcelona, "among the most influential events in the mobile industry".

And rightly so!

Congratulations Sean! Soooo pleased for you :-)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Reading between the lines

So, I was just meandering around online, looking at pretty examples of Hebrew micrography. [The nerdy backdrop: traditionally, there's no ornamentation in Torah scrolls, but when Torah is in book form, scribes often got playful, writing out the Masorah [critical notes] in teeny-tiny writing swirled into decorative borders or miniature menageries of fantastic beasts or hounds chasing rabbits, or a deer grazing on some fine leaves...

A picture that you can literally read. Okay, here endeth the lesson.]

Anyhoo, there I was, reading some guy's conference paper on some book [keen eye for detail, me] and I thought: That book description sounds familiar. I know that book. I used to take care of that book. I knew it as 'The Seville Bible' - an elegant Torah manuscript with borders full of elaborate micrographic designs - just scrummy. And you couldn't look at it without this sense of heartbreaking poignancy, because it was completed in 1468, and within a decade the Jewish population were expelled (or worse) from Seville. And not only did this manuscript feature in this man's paper, but at the end, in the Thanks, Couldn't Have Done This Without The Help Of... section, is my name.

Now, I'm off to think a little about names and scholarly conversations (or find a photo of the guy), but in the meantime: you know those 'Did I miss a meeting?' moments. This is one of mine.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Birthday Post

I suspect that yellow flowers may feature in the Birthday Girl's afternoon, but - sweetheart that she is - she'll be the one doing the giving.

And so these yellow flowers are for her, from a sunshiney afternoon in Bordeaux, where I played among a world of sunflowers...


Friday, January 23, 2009

Tangents and treats

On something of a writing tangent today; a story involving steel pans and smushed trains. But on the lighter side, I tripped over a brilliant scene from A Day at the Races, laugh-out-loud funny, with Harpo trying to get the key plot message across to Chico (you can see it here, but unfortunately Harpo has already launched a frenzied attack on the shrubbery to convey 'Hackenbush'): "Dr Hackenbush... There's a woman... She got a wooden leg? She got a woodpecker? She got a headache??" Too funny...

And here's a treat from Neil Gaiman, The Day the Saucers Came, illustrated by Jouni Koponen, and brought to e-life by the infinite canvas lab.

I went out for a walk as dusk was settling; wandered along the shore, watching oystercatchers picking through the shale for treaty things. Very purdy.

Have a great weekend folks.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A mind led forward...

Ah, a morning of pretty words... idling around, listening to some fine readings of Neruda, and smiling at Jonathan Carroll quoting Tony Hoagland "There was a kiss that changed the history of my mouth" - great line!

Several moons ago I wrote a note to a friend. When next we spoke, she said she couldn't even throw away the envelope because it was so prettily written, and I said, 'Let it go. I'll write something for you to keep'. Over the months I looked for some perfect words for her - I was thinking of something about music or creativity or friends or family or overcoming loss. But nothing seemed to quite fit. We were talking last night, and planets came into alignment:

My Country Awake, by Rabindranath Tagore

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

And here's an inspirational Martin Sheen, reciting the poem beautifully. And now all I need to do is choose what kind of paper, and what colour ink. Decisions decisions...

And in other news:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Serendipitous Learning

I was reading some of Thoreau's cool quotes yesterday - you know the type of thing, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life... and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Very DPS.

I thought, I should read more about that guy; and I also thought that he'd make an ideal subject for In Our Time. And lo and behold, as I'm refreshing my podcasts, Melvyn's latest programme was on all things Thoreau. Off to listen now...

And on an entirely different note, congratulations to Dial2Do for their MoMo Peer Awards Nomination. Fingers crossed for the 26th & Barcelona!! Exciting :-)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Final notes

CNN reporting: "Hail to the Chief is being played to President Bush for the last time..."


Monday, January 19, 2009

Graveyard books

That MacNeice reference to 'books in graveyards' has been loitering in my mind for the last few days. It reminded me of this post over here, exploring how some artists are giving books a new life. Surreal, beautiful images.

But 'books in graveyards' also reminded me of a man I met once - a Coptic scholar. While excavating a cemetery for the poor (called Al-Mudil) in Middle Egypt, a manuscript was found under the body of a 12-year old girl, and he was called in to consult with the antiquities inspectors. They dated the scene to the fourth century. Before burial, someone laid the book in the grave, like a pillow, and then lay the body of the child down, resting her head on the book.

Today (pretty much as then), the manuscript is priceless, one of the oldest 'books' (as in, sewn in quires and bound) in the world. No-one could explain its presence in a poor grave. It was the Book of Psalms - I remember us idling over possible precious words that might have meant so much to her, or those who buried her.

And I was thinking of those fourth-century psalmey words when I watched Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream' oration, filled as it is with biblical allusion.

I don't think I had ever seen the complete speech. Extraordinary.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Well trained

Rosscarbery beach was deserted when I arrived this afternoon. I wandered along its crescent line: the sea raging against the cliffs; wind-lines etched across the sand; half-buried, wet mussels looking like lapis lazuli.

When I had gone as far as I could, I turned back. A figure was walking at the far end of the beach, with two dogs. One of them - a little black fellah - started down the strand towards me, followed by a massive grey sheep-woolly poodle (complete with pom pom tail). They hared over, circled me twice, stopped to be rubbed hello. Satisfied, they took off again, but instead of returning to their owner they ran straight for the car park.

The solitary figure watched them leave, and then he abandoned his walk; following obediently with slow, heavy steps.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Crunch Time

Yikes. The Arts Council is terminating all funding to the Irish Writers’ Centre. With immediate effect. The IWC press release (full text here) notes that the decision "comes at the end of a notably successful year for the Centre, a year which has seen audience numbers and the Centre’s participation in the country’s literary culture at an all-time high".

Obviously, lots of voices are being raised in protest, and hoping for a reversal of the decision.

The news brought to mind To Posterity by Louis MacNeice, probably my favourite poem of all time:

When books have all seized up like the books in graveyards
And reading and even speaking have been replaced
By other, less difficult, media, we wonder if you
Will find in flowers and fruit the same colour and taste
They held for us for whom they were framed in words,
And will your grass be green, your sky be blue,
Or will your birds be always wingless birds?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Reading for fun

One of the treatiest things about this book-in-progress is the research aspect: indulging in hours of reading about medieval art or deco architecture or the eclectic group of artistic types that once inhabited the studios of Carnegie Hall.

This morning has been all about flora & fauna. The Medieval Garden Enclosed - the blog emanating from The Cloisters - focuses on the three cloister gardens within the museum. It places their distinct plantings within a larger context of medieval culture, life, ideology, while still offering a practical how-to approach that would appeal to a gardener (click away, Mom!).

Each Christmas the gardeners, volunteers and staff work to deck the halls, creating beautiful, symbolically-laden wreaths, swags and arches (just taken down last week). Last year I visited around this time, and people were still enthusing about the decorations: the clear winner was the enormous wreath hung in the Romanesque Hall. It's made from golden wheat, bay and hazelnuts (nuts: purdy to look at; gakky to eat).

Its neat lines and segments reminded me of Madeiran decorations (how they love making carpets out of flowers), and one in particular - the highlight of Canico's onion festival:

An onion gown. How would that even occur to someone?

Anyhoo, back to botany. Tum de dum...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Weather matters

Strange day, in terms of weather. The skies of West Cork were filled with rainbows, amidst blinding sunshine and brooding clouds. Despite mild temperatures, a freak hail shower left Bandon looking like the gods had emptied out hundreds of bean bags over the town.

Speaking of the gods and kooky weather, an undergrad Stanford lecture series on The Aeneid is all iTuned up, over here. And while we're on the subject, I'm reminded of a tweet from Jonathan Carroll the other day, about the weather in Vienna, I guess:

"In the snowstorm, watching a little boy touching snowflakes to his chest like he was trying to put out little fires there."
Great image. And speaking of that, NASA's picture of the day yesterday was a treat:

These wacky light pillars (over Latvia) are apparently caused by ice crystals falling over bright lights. There are a few more images over here.

Any now, dusk is falling :-)

Monday, January 12, 2009

All wrapped up

Aaah, Saturday night in Casey's - the official wrap party for the play. Because we clearly haven't spent enough time in each other's company. An award-filled evening, with everyone in top form.

Casey's have a series of montages lining its walls, marking big events over the years. There's a new addition: The Swan - named for an evening (or more accurately, an early morning) where we were all given a posing-for-photos tutorial. Seriously, the things other people know about...

Anyhoo, The Swan is a lovely thing, filled with glossy images of a beaming cast & crew. When it was being passed from person to person on Saturday night, I caught an upside down glance, then leaned in to investigate a peculiarly bright pink colour. Was that one of us? Could we have gone so very wrong with make-up?

It was a penguin. A day glo, plastic penguin.

I think the drama group may have found its mascot.

And now that the Wilde times are over, it's time to restore the regular order. Hmm... there's something very medieval about this - a return to normal after a Christmas season of topsy turvydom. Not that we had the guiding force of an official Lord of Misrule to preside over the revels, but we muddled through...

And now to work :-)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Open to interpretation

Crisp sunshiney day here.

Someone stopped me this morning in Skib, declaring flatly: "I know who you are. You're Mrs Cheveley!" I stopped, kind of awkward, "Er, yeah. That's right..." They continued with gusto: "Everybody is talking about Mrs Cheveley!" - which happens to be a line from the play. And I paused, wondering whether they were saying this to me or quoting this at me.

Not that I asked them for clarification. Half the fun is pondering the possibilities of meaning.

And in other news, this evening I shall be raising a glass to a certain lady, now locally renowned for her long slinky black velvet gloves (which will be returned forthwith. Promise. Sigh.)

Have a great weekend, folks.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Slip-sliding away

Okay where are we now - the eighth??? Yikes.

The week's been productive in many ways. Got back from Dublin last night: I now have an unsmushed car and unsmashed glasses. My yoga test-run (to see how messed up my back & neck were) went pretty well. And the house is creaking back to normal. I'm still behind on email, but there's progress.

Today: er... not quite as much achieved as expected: a valiant start, scuppered when an afternoon coffee turned into a smidge more. Still, playing an epic game of The Simpsons Monopoly was good fun - this version abandons cash, so you swipe debit cards through at each turn. I kind of missed the drama of people flinging cash at each other, or stealing it behind their little sister's back. That's right, stealing. From your baby sister. Yes, you know who you are.

However, despite the fun & frolics, I am aching to reacquaint myself with the book-in-progress, to immerse myself and see what words rise up. Ready now :-)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Star Quality

Over the Season, there were a few "What presents did you get?" conversations. I wombled through a list: art, scarf, limoncello glasses, Nordic gnome... but there was always one present that drew the most attention.

A penguin snow cone maker.

Yep. Turns out that if you let extremely clever three-year old twins pick out a present for their auntie, this is what they'll come up with.

And the other night at our impromptu wrap party, there was only one star. Mr Penguin was passed around, the guests posing for photos with him in all his day-glo delight.

And so here's to Jack & Molly, and their audacious, inspired choice of gift. Thank you!!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

All is quiet...

So, the final show: sold out, a smidge ropey in places, but we made it through and the audience was brilliant. Went for drinks in Annie May's afterwards, where we were well taken care of (and I was informed that I was a "lighting bitch" - in the play, that is). Then I came back with a friend to Baltimore, thinking it would be just the one drink...

And so, at 6am this morning I said goodbye to the last of the party guests. Most of the cast & crew reappeared in Baltimore, and my place was nominated as the Place of Continuation. Good craic, and it marked the occasion perfectly.

Today was my own official New Year's Day - which I love to have as a soulful, quiet day. And although the day became unexpectedly sociable (my "nipping out to the shop" ended up taking four hours - I met a lovely Malahide couple I used to babysit for a zillion years ago), it has been a delight.

And it was on this day that An Ideal Husband debuted many years ago - as they'd say in The Big Chill, there's a certain symmetry to that :-)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Normal service to resume soon

Another time lapse. Well, the season continued as it began, leaving me in a state of exhausted elation. Had a friend visit for a couple of days, which was faaaabulous - she had sent me over long black velvet gloves to wear in the play; when I introduced her to locals, her identity was already known: "You're the Black Gloves Lady?" She was made to feel most welcome :-)

Tonight is the final performance, in Skibbereen Town Hall. I just wandered into the village, which was like running the gauntlet of fear-inducing comments:

"The Big Stage tonight. [Shakes head wisely] Skib like their plays. It'll be a tough audience."
How tough? Like, rotten vegetables tough? Someone else says they've heard tonight's show is sold out. Like that only makes matters worse. I tried to take sanctuary in the shop...

"I heard last night's rehearsal was ropey. Not good. [Shakes head wisely] Skib take their plays seriously. Rotten tomatoes seriously..."
Alrightey then. Time to practice lines I think!

In the meantime, here are some snaps of the New Year in Baltimore:

And the Martha Stewart-esque displays that my sister conjures up without any apparent effort...

And finally, the many champagne corks reminded me of The Fisher King...

A belated Happy New Year to all :-)