Reads of the Week #59

This week I’ve been trying in vain to avoid Trump and focus on History. I didn’t succeed, but found some great reading in my attempt to escape.

 

Umberto Eco’s Ur-Fascism is a fascinating description of the conditions that need to exist, or at least need to be presented as existing, for fascism to exist. It isn’t much of a stretch to see the ways Trump espouses Mussolinismo.

 

This piece by Michael Waters is a study of how to resist tyranny and cultural assimilation: how 19th-century Lithuanians smuggled books to save their language.

 

Mark Bailey has the best argument for teaching History I’ve read in a while: it teaches you how to run the country,  if you need help figuring that out.

 

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic makes the case for a feminist foreign policy, putting the advancement of women’s rights at the centre of foreign affairs is worth thinking about.

 

Maximillian Alvarez writes in The Baffler that I think, therefore I am entitled to my opinion isn’t helpful. All opinions aren’t equal and don’t deserve, by right, to be treated equally.

 

In Aeon Magazine, Barbara J King asks here that if they are smart and sensitive, how can we justify continuing to kill pigs for food? Food for thought?

 

Podcast of the week is The language of female friendship from Lexicon Valley. I’m about to leave behind a world where I have been privileged to hear a bit of this language over the last few decades and I will miss it.

 

Picture of the Week is of  the Boulevard de Clichy by Vincent van Gogh, 1887. It’s very different now, but isn’t everything?

Reads of the Week #58

This week I was reading about cause and effect: an athlete who cleaned up his life and won gold at the World Championships; the neglect of good government in Trump’s US and how it’s not all just surface stupidity, it runs deep: the long road to being an astronaut and the hassle if you’re of Iranian descent: the legacy of insular leadership in Albania; a heartbreaking podcast and a painting from another place in time. Good week.

Donald McRae is one of the great sportswriters of this generation. His book, A Man’s World is a classic examination of the dangerous tightrope sportspeople walk between a public and private life. This piece on Luvo Manyonga former crystal meth addict and now World Champion Long Jumper is from last December but it is so engrossing and rewarding it more than deserves a recommendation. And the story of the Irishman who helped Manyonga is another reason to read on.

Michael Lewis wrote this piece on the US Department of Energy for Vanity Fair. This is the week of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki anniversaries, something that seems to have passed the President by. The article is an examination of how the $30 billion agency, which oversees everything from the US nuclear arsenal to the electrical grid is being run into the ground by proposed budget cuts, mismanagement and just plain ignorance. It reminds us that Trump is not a joke, that his amateurism is deadly dangerous.

Robin Wright in the New Yorker details the career of  Jasmin Moghbeli, whose Iranian parents fled to Germany after the Revolution in 1979, where she was born. They subsequently moved on to the US and now she’s an Astronaut. The bit inbetween is very interesting.

Dave Hazzan, writing for Roads and Kingdoms, has found one of oddities of History, the bunkers, built in the 1970s and 80s that litter Albania. This essay on what they are used for, and what they mean is fascinating.

Podcast of the week in an episode of Human/Ordinary I first heard through a rebroadcast from the Strangers Podcast. I don’t want to spoil it but it has the power to break your heart and heal you all in one listen.

And picture of the week is a painting by William Orpen that I used in school a few years back. It’s of Mrs Oscar Lewisohn, who has an interesting story of her own, which places her all the way to the right of the canvas. It makes her the object of our gaze, but peripheral, and the pensive look on her face say only loneliness to me. This is a review of the painting from Vanity Fair in 1915.

Reads of the Week #57

August has arrived and with it the countdown for the return to school begins. An interesting year awaits and I seem to be drawn this week to writing about goodbyes, reflections, competence and incompetence, and reality dawning.

First, on his goodbye from Morning Ireland, Here's Cathal MacCoille on leaving RTÉ, how early morning radio works and, or course, getting up in the middle of the night.

This piece by Amber Leventry is about a boy in her daughter's school who triggered a recollection of where she herself came from. Powerful. The Boy With the Coin-Filled Cellophane Cigarette Wrapper, and Me.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect, the illusion of competence, will be familiar to many readers, even if the label wasn't in your vocabulary. Here's Kate Fehlhaber for Aeon.

This piece, and pictorial on the Ghost Villages of Newfoundland describes how a government resettlement program cleared fishing villages over the decades after WWII. Reminded me of a trip to the Blasket Centre a couple of years ago. It's by Luke Spencer for Atlas Obscura.

This is a great topic for a podcast: The Irish Passport explores the difference between what people think they know about Ireland and where the truth lies. This series is my podcast find of the summer.

This weeks picture is A View of the Square in the Kastel Looking Towards the Ramparts by Christen Købke which we saw in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh last Easter. Beautiful understatement rewards close inspecting.

Reads of the Week #56

I’ve been going through old tweets this week, so some of these choices are from the past few months. I lament the change of ‘favourite’ to ‘like’ on twitter: something I favourite for future reading isn’t always something I like. So. Education, History, sport and swimming across New York City.

First Alex Quigley on why whole-school literacy programmes are doomed. Interesting reading given the rush to reconfigure Irish education to address a panic over PISA scores. I wrote about that here.

Geoff Barton is mentioned in my first choice and he wrote the second: Teachers , you’ve earned your right to a guilt-free holiday. No further explanation needed there!

This is a fascinating read from RTE about four Early Christian manuscripts recently restored at Trinity College Dublin: Meet the Ancestors of the Book of Kells.

This is a brilliant contextualisation of Conor McGregor in Irish sport by the always thought provoking Dave Hannigan: Race to the Bottom.

Dwight Garner got to attempt to recreate John Cheever’s short story The Swimmer (read it here) by swimming around New York City’s luxury hotel pools. Tough gig!

 

Podcast of the Week is The Trials of Dan and Dave from ESPN Films 30 for 30 about the Decathlon, advertising and ultimate redemption is fascinating.

Picture of the Week is Girl in Red Kimono by Georges Hendrik Breitner that I saw here first. Beautiful.

redkimino

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reads of the Week #55

A diverse mix of subjects caught my interest this week. Writing on politics, history, newspapers, the Beatles, and Brexit stood out, even though my week away from reading was dominated by the movies. I've seen seven films in the last ten days!

First pick this week is by Matt Hartman for the Awl. Against Personal Politics is about how strands of political activism have become about the advantage gained for the individual though they purport to be about the collective. There populism lies.

Hannah Jewell wrote this, 12 Historical Women Who Gave No Fucks, a while ago but it's a great read on how women have had to ignore the prevailing attitudes to make progress. Still do.

The amount of work Damian Shiels has done to illuminate the landscape of Irish involvement in the American Civil War is extraordinary. This story of Johanna Barry, an emigrant domestic in Ireland and America goes further and continues to see the pension records of those left behind to investigate their lives. Long many he continue.

Next is more history: these photos show the making of the New York Times, step by laborious step in 1942. What struck me was the number of Irish names and how so much of this kind of work is gone. Compiled by Alex Q Arbuckle.

Bill Wyman ranked all 213 Beatles Songs from worst to best, argue with the order of you like but this is a history of the Beatles too. Great stuff.

There are 100,000 new Irish passport holders in Britain. As the Brexit crisis deepens Mary Bourke wants to give you a guide to what's expected of you. Hillarious!

Podcast of the week is the first episode in the very good Irish Passport series. It's on the Irish border and it's an excellent place to start with Irish history and politics.

Picture of the week I got here, it's called the Love Letter, I think and it's by Nakajima Kiyoshi.

Reads of the Week #54

We were away in Spain, or Catalunya to be exact and a bit political, so this is the best of  the what I’ve read over three full weeks. 

Two pieces on holidays struck me over the last few days. The first is by Heidi Stevens, a favourite writer. She picks out the good with the bad of every family holiday here with honesty and necessary humour. Hilary Fannin’s piece is about some of the same summer things, that time of year that memory always marks as the good old days, but with a glance back and forward to children and grandparents to provide us with some perspective on aging. 

This account of the tragic aftermath of the 1916 Rising for Thomas MacDonagh’s family by Ronan McGreevy reminds us that the after effects of the Rising on the families of the executed are little discussed.  

The anniversary of the signing of the Versailles Treaty brought me to reading this amazingly detailed New York Times piece from the time

Two podcasts this time the first is from Radiolab on how Henrietta Lacks changed modern science and, eventually, her family’s understanding of itself; and from BBC Radio a look at She Moved Through The Fair, an episode of the brilliant SoulMusic series.
From Atlas Obscura how the Great Hanoi Rat Massacre of 1902 did not go as planned, obscure but fascinating history. 
And finally, Sonny on the Causeway, kinda. 

Reads of the Week #53

This week, the week the State Exams finished for 2017, also marked the finishing of my school work. I manage the Book Rental Scheme in our school and that means waiting until late June to stock take and look at the order for next year. It’s an opportunity for listening to radio while I work and for finding reading material that distract me from textbooks. 
Earlier in the week I read a piece by Michael O’Loughlin to mark Bloomsday in the Irish Times on James Joyce as a European. I liked this line in particular ‘There are few other nations whose foundation myth is based on the notion that we’re not actually from around here.’



Last week Fintan O’Toole won the Orwell Prize for his coverage of Brexit and in this article for the New York Times, he deftly puts British turmoil in an Irish context: perhaps some of us in Ireland can be allowed a moment of schadenfreude as we look across the sea and ask… the question the English so often asked about us: Are the English fit for self-government?



For Fathers Day, Esquire published this moving piece by Tyler Coates on his father’s voice which is moving and real: The last remaining evidence of my father’s voice, the final thing that roots him and his existence in my brain, will eventually cease to exist–just like VHS tapes, and the accent he spoke with, and my memories of him, too.



To my friends’ baby girl: I hope you grow up to be Wonder Woman by Heidi Stevens is essential reading for anyone with a daughter. [You were born] the same week a female superhero (finally!) started kicking butt at the box office… a signal of our fondest hope for you: that you grow up knowing you can choose your own path and fight your own battles and change the world.



Here, Pasi Sahlberg reckons we should be concentrating on ‘small data’ to improve education, ‘small data’ emerges from the notion that in a world that is increasingly governed by binary digits and cold statistics, we need information that helps us to understand better those aspects of teaching and learning that are invisible or not easily measurable. 



Organising Teaching: Developing the Power of the Profession from Howard Stevenson and Nina Bascia has seven challenges for teacher unions to reorganise and it is essential reading for teacher trade unionists. 

Podcast of the week is the conversation between Tom Sleigh and Paul Muldoon about Seamus Heaney’s In the Attic and Tom Sleigh’s own The Fox On the New Yorker Poetry Podcast, which, mainly due to Paul Muldoon’s knowledge and geniality is a always a treat. 

And finally, this weeks picture of the week is of  Ballinaboy, County Galway, Ireland, 1965 by Edwin Smith which I found on twitter from Anne Mortier. Beautiful landscape, ominous skies, homestead in between, the perfect vision of Ireland.