Thursday, December 1, 2011

Irish Poem Of The Month

77 comments:

adrian mckinty said...

Of course the dirty little secret of the Pogues is that none of them are actually Irish...

adrian mckinty said...

To get into the ancient Irish warrior band the Fianna you had to recite poetry flawlessly while men threw spears at you. I was reminded of this after reading this reminiscence by one Christopher Hitchens's friends in today's Observer:

The human brain is said to be the most complicated object in the known universe. Christopher's seemed to be living proof of that. One night in Manhattan in the days when Christopher was just hitting the big time in America, we wound up in the only bar open in Midtown. We had been out to dinner with our editor at Vanity Fair and Christopher's great champion, Graydon Carter, and surfed into the bar on a modest wave of booze at about two in the morning. When Christopher was recognised by a drunk who came up and belligerently doubted he was as smart as he made out, he reacted with his usual courtly manner and calmed the man down. At length it was agreed that he would test Christopher's knowledge of poetry: if Christopher remembered the lines of any poem he chose to name, he would buy us a round of drinks.

Well, of course, the man didn't stand a chance.

His first challenge was the short poem by W B Yeats, An Irish Airman Foresees his Death. Christopher slowly plucked the first few lines from the air: "I know that I shall meet my fate/Somewhere among the clouds above/Those that I fight I do not hate/Those that I guard I do not love;" the rest tumbled out. He followed this with Robert Frost, Rudyard Kipling and, for good measure, a fair portion of Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol, by which time he held the attention of the nighthawks of Midtown. Next day, with a blinding hangover, Christopher ordered devilled kidneys.

seana said...

He did have the courage of his convictions. Some of his convictions were wrong, though.

Anonymous said...

Adrian,
Thanks for the Pogues clip - very pretty & very sad.
Please don't hate me for being stupid. Watched Blair get Hitch-slapped. Wonder now if I never really understood NI. Michael Ignatieff blamed The Troubles on ''the narcissism of petty differences''. I wonder if he was right. Am I way off the mark?

lil Gluckstern said...

They did have a nice go at it. I read the piece about Hitchens and his poetry quoting. And I was just overwhelmed. One of the news channels (MSNBC)here did a pastiche of Hitchens commenting on the 2008 elections. He made mincemeat of of McCain and Palin. Not only did he love literature, but he loved language. Listening to him talk, was mind expanding. I'm afraid to ask what deviled kidneys are.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

No one can be 100 percent right all the time, that would be creepy.

adrian mckinty said...

Anon

Thats partly it. Cultural differences between Catholics and Protestants in N.I. are largely bogus, like differences between Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda. Bogus and dangerous.

adrian mckinty said...

Lil

He should have been hired by MSNBC or ABC as a colour commentator during the elections but I think they were too afraid of his intellect instead they make do with lightweights.

seana said...

No, but it would have helped my opinion of him if he hadn't been so recalcitrant about Iraq. It's baffling because he was so bright. It's kind of a big thing to get wrong.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hitchens seemed willing and able to make many intimidating subjects accessible to ordinary readers like me. Does he have any potential successors?

Anonymous said...

This is a very minor, lightweight point, but in his VF essay "Why Women Aren't Funny", I think the Hitch overlooked two key facts: women might not rely on humor to win guys over, but they do use it to make friends with other women; and women tend to be funnier when guys aren't around. You'd think one of his woman friends might have clued him in on that.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

I'm not as certain as you are that the Iraq War was demonstrably a bad thing in the long term. The way I feel about the Iraq War is the way I feel about Hiroshima. About 100,000 people were killed at Hiroshima, almost all civilians but Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war before Operation Downfall, the invasion of Japan. I think its safe and pretty conservative to say that between 2 and 5 million Japanese would have died in Operation Downfall, so as horrible as Hiroshima was it was actually better for the Japanese and the allies that the bomb was dropped.

If you look at what Saddam Hussein was doing to his own people, especially the Kurds, perhaps long term the Iraqis will consider the invasion was worth it, I dont know, but probably its still too soon to say one way or the other.

adrian mckinty said...

Anon

I'm not going to wade into that one but I will say that "the exception that proves the rule" Tina Fey has never made me laugh.

I did laugh twice in the film Bridesmaids.

seana said...

I am not as a hundred per cent against going after Saddam Hussein as you might think, but I think the American people were brought into it in a very duplicitous way, which will probably leave our relations to the region murkier than they were before. The way the West aided the help in the toppling of Khaddafi is a lot more compelling an approach to me. Anyway, we've all been over this ground before. My point is really that Hitchens was such a probing mind and conscientious to boot that I don't understand why we aligned himself with the likes of those who crafted the plan. I guess it will always baffle me.

Who are the Pogues if they aren't Irish? It was a good song, though the story reminds a bit of that Rhiannon one.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

To put it in a Star Trek analogy, W Bush was very much a Captain Kirk whereas Obama is clearly a Captain Picard.

The Pogues are all English, every man jack of them, but its ok as most of the greatest English singer songwriters are really secret Irishmen: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Johnny Rotten, Morrissey, Noel Gallagher etc. etc.

seana said...

Right but you still haven't explained why Hitchens allied himself with a Kirk.

As to women and comedy, I don't find Tina Fey so funny either, which would make me a pariah in Santa Cruz if that ever got out. But I always find it amusing that men and sometimes women make such amazing generalizations about women and their inabilities to do such and such a thing. I just read an otherwise wonderful book called Embers by Sándor Márai, which is all about a complex lifelong friendship and then in the middle of it he has to add a totally unnecessary line about how only men are capable of friendship.

Of course in the book the friendship doesn't actually go so well as all that,so maybe in the original Hungarian it was meant to be ironic.

But I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Seana and Adrian,
Funny; I don't much care for Tina Fey's humor, either. A friend urged me to see Bridesmaids, but I missed it. I'd recommend Muriel's Wedding, though.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I don’t know; Jane Austen was pretty funny.

Have I left anyone out since?
================================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

seana said...

Tootsie.

Just kidding.

frankie said...

John Lennon is English. Paul McCartney is Irish. Te he!

Salman Rushdie is getting his usual threats from the lunatic fringe on Twitter.

Regardless of whether one agrees with what Hitchens or others say, we have to protect the right to say it, otherwise life is boring.

seana said...

Absolutely, Frankie. Although I might have said dangerous rather than boring.

frankie said...

Paxman meets Hitchens is on BBC2 right now. Paxman asked Hitchens if he regretted anything he had said and Hitch replied, No.

Nice work fella.

Anonymous said...

Peter,
Parts of Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor are funny. No Bones, a novel about Belfast by Anna Burns, will take you to some emotional extremes, but much of it will make you laugh out loud. Camille Paglia, Wanda Sykes, the actresses in Best in Show and A Mighty Wind, and sometimes the poet Sharon Olds all strike me funny.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Flannery O'Connor: Darkly humorous, yes.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Why? Well maybe because he was fed up seeing his Kurdish friends being gassed and massacred by Saddam Hussein.

adrian mckinty said...

Frankie

I think he comes off rather well in that interview. I like it when Paxo winces and covers his face when the topic of chemo comes up.

adrian mckinty said...

Anon

You lost me at Wanda Sykes.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

But not laugh out loud funny is she? Flannery I mean not Austen. There are very few women (just as there are very few men) who can just be funny by their very existence.

This will date me but Ralph's wife on the Honeymooners was like that.

adrian mckinty said...

Not many laughs on this 100 best list

http://www.thebookescape.com/Feminista.html

frankie said...

My response to the Hitchens humour debate is he could be right about women not needing to be funny to find a mate and stuff, but my response would be that men don't want to find women funny. Just like when I changed a guy at work's tyre, he didn't talk to me properly again. They see it as their job.

Anonymous said...

Adrian,
I laughed at Hazel Motes and especially at Enoch in Wise Blood a bunch of times: when he goes to the movies, the gorilla suit saga, when he asks the stranger in the cafe for a part of his newspaper and the guy automatically hands him the funnies...

Anonymous said...

PS Lainie Kazan: surely she's funny just by her very existence? (She starred with Peter O'Toole in a very funny movie called My Favorite Year.)

Paul Lefevour said...

Great old vid, but Shane has the
worst teeth in the entire UK !

seana said...

Frankie, I think you've hit the nail on the head. And the truth is that men often find women funny, but not in a way women find amusing.

And it must be said that men often think that they themselves are a lot funnier than they actually are...

No, Hitchens never did think he was wrong about Iraq, but that doesn't mean he wasn't. It's not like anyone was exactly for Saddam Hussein and his regime,and that he had taken some higher moral ground. But why the false linkage with 9/11? Now the war has ended a lot of people who are not Saddam Hussein are dead, the pullout is quiet and rather shamefaced, and no one knows what the future will bring there.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Havel and Hitchens gone within days. Not a great week for humanists or the letter H.

frankie said...

Seana, I discovered this about humour after dating a man who was very loud, confident, maybe funny, in a sexist way. When things ended and I was in his company, he said, "I didn't know you were funny" And I said, "that's because you didn't give me room to be anything".

Peter Rozovsky said...

Can Shane McGowan be said to have the worst teeth in the UK if he has barely any teeth at all?

adrian mckinty said...

Frankie

Is there anything worse than a humourless man?

Good looking people of both genders can get away with being dull, stupid and humourless. In a way they are to be pitied.

adrian mckinty said...

Anon

I wondered if this quote from My Favourite Year would be on youtube and low and behold it was

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7z-M92N4L8

adrian mckinty said...

Paul

He has lost the record because he has no teeth left at all nowadays.

seana said...

Worse than a humorless man?

A bad punster. From such, there is no escape.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I havent read God is Not Great but I really think you'd like the memoir Hitch 22.

seana said...

Also, how can men who make crass jokes about women be in the evolutionary advantage set?

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Hitch never tied 9/11 with Saddam Hussein.

I also dont know what the future will bring for Iraq but the present looks fairly rosy: a multiparty democracy, a virtually autonomous Kurdistan in the north, GDP higher than its ever been, GDP per capita higher than its ever been, freedom of religion, the right to join a union, the right to travel, a limited freedom of expression and of course little of the turmoil we see in Syria, Egypt, Iran or other regimes that have to transition from dictatorship to democracy. It's not Germany circa 1950, but its not the apocalyptic place Democracy Now! would have us believe either.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Are there good punsters?

Best not to get too deep into this. Its a touchy subject for me. I have a high toleration for the pun.

adrian mckinty said...

Leave the cannoli, take the pun.

Peter Rozovsky said...

"Good looking people of both genders can get away with being dull, stupid and humourless. In a way they are to be pitied."

Haven't you insulted George Clooney enough already?

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

If the sun goes down without a Clooney insult its a day wasted.

seana said...

Adrian, you and Peter both are fine to continue punning because you have your moments. But there are some who shouldn't.

I guess we'll have to disagree about whether going along with the deceptive plan to get into Iraq that way was honorable or not. I don't happen to think it was. Hitchens, who could have said plenty about it being a dishonorable way to go about it, didn't.

Perhaps the future is better in Iraq for the people who aren't dead, wounded or traumatized forever by the war. I wouldn't know.

Peter Rozovsky said...

” This will date me but Ralph's wife on the Honeymooners was like that.”

The crime novel I am reading now has an epigraph from Ralph Kramden.
=================================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

seana said...

I always saw her as kind of a straight woman.

No pun intended.

For a woman who is funny in themselves, give me Gracie Allen.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

As far as I can see there were three big falsehoods about the Iraq War:

1) Saddam was somehow mixed up in 9/11
2) Saddam had weapons of mass destruction
3) We would be welcomed as liberators.

Hitch fell for 2) and thought 3) was likely. He was wrong but I don't think he deliberately misled anyone.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

And speaking of people I like to insult there's an error and cliche riddled piece in today's NYT by John Banville about the Irish in exile. This from a man who has lived in Ireland all his life. Oh the chutzpah dicker as we say in Carrickfergus.

What are the errors? Well that Ireland didn't get any aid under the Marshall Plan for one.

seana said...

He was wrong but he never amended his viewpoint in light of new information. I think you're saying that he still was okay with going into Iraq because Saddam was bad and the pretext didn't matter. I think the pretext did matter, and I think it's why there is a sour feeling even among the believers in the cause as we draw this episode to a close. Americans would like to feel proud of this moment, but I don't get the sense that people do, they'd rather just push it under the rug and talk about the payroll tax.

You are normally such a stickler for errors, I'm a bit surprised this one doesn't bother you.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

No this is one of the cases where Hitchens disappointed me. For example he continued to make the case for the yellow cake uranium long after that was shown to be completely bogus.

And yes you're right the feeling is so nasty in our mouths because we never knew why were in Iraq in the first place. Was it to impose democracy, to kill Saddam, to find Al Qaeda? The reasons changed week upon week. Speaker Boehner was on Meet The Press yesterday saying that we should still be in there. But the obvious follow up wasnt asked...why?

I wouldn't have gone in to Iraq. And I certainly wouldnt have gone in without Turkey, but if I was going to go in I wouldnt have wasted a moment on the WMD argument, I would have said that Saddam had violated his 1991 peace treaty obligations by firing on allied aircraft and therefore he and his regime had forfeited their right to exist.

Peter Rozovsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Rozovsky said...

I’m sure the Times will acknowledge its error– as quickly as it acknowledges misusing, as it happens, chutzpah.
=======================================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

seana said...

Then we are in agreement, Adrian. And I expect you have read much more of Hitchens than I have, and so can put it in perspective better, but I find this part of him an obstacle.

Peter, yes, they got that wrong. And it's kind of funny that the New York Times, with a large demographic that certainly knows what chutzpah is, hasn't corrected even now.

Peter Rozovsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I remarked upon that at the time. I suggested that the Times' misuse of the word was an effort to rebut scurrilous anti-Semitic allegations about who controls the paper.

Alas, I fear this is not the case. Instead, the Times is just headed the same place the rest of us are, albeit not quite as fast.

seana said...

Yes--the same old drift...

Peter Rozovsky said...

I think of it as slope rather than drift. Some are a bit less steep than others is all.

seana said...

Yes, a better metaphor.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I'm not even going to let them know about the Marshall Plan, whats the point.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

Two more Hitchiana for you. Douglas Wilson the fundamentalist who debated Hitchens on a few occasions wrote a nice piece in Christianity Today:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/decemberweb-only/christopher-hitchens-obituary.html?start=1

And Hitchens's former friend Alexander Cockburn really gives it to him in a way he probably wouldnt have dared to if he'd been alive:

http://www.counterpunch.org/

Cockburn's explanation for the Iraq war support is that Hitch wanted to ingratiate himself with the great and the good which seems ludicrous.

frankie said...

Will someone agree with me that John Candy was the funniest person? I miss him

Adrian, there's always really clever people who suddenly think of a reply when its too late. They would have been Hitch slapped before.

Anonymous said...

Frankie,
I thought John Candy was a riot on SCTV and especially in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
The whole cast of Bad Santa, esp. Bernie Mac and John Ritter, was great.
Tony Blair was a good sport about getting Hitch-slapped.
I hope the guy whose tire you changed at least gave you a thank-you note or a gift card in return for your kindness.

frankie said...

Ha ha! No. Ungrateful git. I thrashed him at pool the day before aswell. I cant help being good at stuff. Just am.

John Candy in Uncle Buck putting pants in the microwave to dry and getting them out with a tong. So, so funny.

Peter Rozovsky said...

”I'm not even going to let them know about the Marshall Plan, whats the point.”

The result would likely be the same either way. But by god, the Times’ “After Deadline” will fearlessly acknowledge any dangling modifiers.
======================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

seana said...

I'll check those pieces out when I get home today. But you're right, that doesn't sound like motivation for the Hitchen we've come to know and love/revile.

Peter Rozovsky said...

The Wilson piece is nice; I can't find the Cockburn.

I didn't know Alexander Cockburn was still alive. He once wrote a defence of P.G. Wodehouse. A rather tortured piece it was, but a nice thing to do nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Frankie,
That guy from work is lucky to have you as a friend.
John Candy was also hysterical in Splash.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Cockburn's Hitch piece here:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/12/16/farewell-to-c-h/

adrian mckinty said...

Frankie, Anon

Yeah Planes Trains and Automobiles. LIked his cameo in the Blues Brothers too. Orange Whip anyone?

Peter Rozovsky said...

“One awful piece of opportunism on Hitchens’ part was his decision to attack Edward Said just before his death, and then for good measure again in his obituary.”

Mmm, Cockburn writes that sentence without a hint of detectable irony.
======================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

John McFetridge said...

Yes, John Candy was one of the funniest people ever. Greatly missed. And if you're looking at SCTV then you're also seeing two very funny women in Catherine O'Hara and Andrea Martin.

Anonymous said...

I'd never read Andrew Cockburn before. I find it hard to believe his claim that Hitchens was a writer whose range of prose was limited. I hadn't known that Hitchens had had a falling out with Edward Said.