Archive for the ‘Tuesday writing conversation’ Category

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

March 28, 2017

Are Books Dead?

 

This question about the future of reading arises now because of an essay by Scottish fiction writer Ewan Morrison entitled “Are books dead and can authors survive?”

Morrison goes on to explain: “”E-books and e-publishing will mean the end of the ‘writer’ as  a profession.  He argues that every information stream that has become digitized has inexorably slid toward free no-charge access. We’ve seen it happen with music, we’ve seen it happen with movies, and even with long-distance telephone calls.

In other words, the public now demands its media to be free.

I must admit in my own case, I read fewer and fewer books.  Instead I read upwards of half a dozen newspapers a day including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Montreal Gazette, the Globe and Mail and the Irish Times.  I read the last to keep abreast of the dreadful Catholic sex abuse crisis in Ireland.

However, I do belong to a book club.  We meet once a month in each other’s home, have a lively discussion and enjoy refreshments.  Our last book was a biography of  Pierre Trudeau.  Our next book will be a biography of Lucy Maude Montgomery.

What was the last book you read?  Are you reading anything now?

Is reading in decline?

Are books dead?

What do you think?

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

March 21, 2017

Because spring has arrived, here is a poem translated to English from the Irish language.

Anois teacht an tEarraigh

Spring is now coming

Now with the springtime
The days will grow longer
And after St. Bride’s day’
My sail I’ll let go
I put my mind to it,
And I never will linger
Till I find myself back
In the County Mayo.

In Clare of Morris family
I will be the first night
and in the Wall on the side below it
I will begin to drink
to Maghs Woods I shall go
until I shall make a months visit there
two miles close
to the Mouth of the Big Ford.

I swear
that my heart rises up
as the wind rises up
or as the fog lifts
when I think about Ceara
or about Gaileang on the lower side of it
about Sceathach an Mhíle
or about the plains of Mayo.

Cill Liadain is the town
where everything grows
there are blackberries and raspberries there
and every sort of fruit
and were I to be standing
in the center of my people
age would depart from me
and I would be again young.

There is always wheat and oats
growing barley and flax there
rye in branch there
flower-bread and meat
the folks who make moonshine
without a licence selling it there
the pride of the country
playing and drinking.

There is sowing and plowing
and fertilizing without manure
and it’s many the thing there
of which I have not yet spoken
kilns and mills
working without rest there
with hardly any talk about a pennys rent
or about nothing of that sort.

 

 

Written by the famous Irish language poet, Antaine Ó Raifteirí.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

March 14, 2017

cover-inside

How in the world did Polly Noble, a bubbly little girl with freckles, born just outside Dromore in January 1837, live to become the subject of a biography more than a century later in Toronto.

It was on her father’s farm, an old Coach Road between Dromore and Enniskillen, that Polly spent an idyllic two years with her parents, George and Jane Noble.  Then disaster struck.  On January 6, 1839, the Big Wind rose out of the sea and swept across Ireland, wailing like a thousand banshees.  It flattened whole villages, burned down farm houses, and finally killed her father.  It changed Polly’s life forever.

Two years later, Polly’s mother, Jane, married William Fleming, the handsome widower across the road at Bridgewater Farm.  Soon Polly began to walk back and forth the mile or so to the one-room school run in Dromore by the Kildare Society.

But she also found time to plant potatoes, milk the cows, look after the goats, pull flax, chase the hens and run bare-foot in the meadows.

Then disaster struck again.  The potato crop failed and famine and typhus threatened Bridgewater Farm.  Like thousands of others the Fleming decided they must escape.

They packed what they could and traveled by horse and cart to Londonderry/Derry, drinking in their last views of the green fields and hills of Ireland.  On the 14th of May, 1847, along with four hundred and eighteen other passengers, they boarded the three-masted sailing ship Sesostris.

After an appalling voyage, during which some of the passengers, including Polly’s darling little brother and sister died, they docked at Grosse-Ile, the quarantine station on the St-Lawrence River, about an hour from Quebec.  After three years in Montreal,  where she met her future husband, Polly was now ready for her next adventure in a vast unknown land called Canada.  Her destiny would be linked with a dozen children who had called their mothers, one of them a future mayor of Toronto.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

March 7, 2017

The Blackbird of Derrycairn

by Austin Clarke

The Blackbird of Derrycairn by Austin Clarke. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Stop, stop and listen for the bough top

Is whistling and the sun is brighter
Than God’s own shadow in the cup now!
Forget the hour-bell. Mournful matins
Will sound, Patric, as well at nightfall.

Faintly through mist of broken water
Fionn heard my melody in Norway.
He found the forest track, he brought back
This beak to gild the branch and tell, there,
Why men must welcome in the daylight.

He loved the breeze that warns the black grouse,
The shouts of gillies in the morning
When packs are counted and the swans cloud
Loch Erne, but more than all those voices
My throat rejoicing from the hawthorn.

In little cells behind a cashel,
Patric, no handbell gives a glad sound.
But knowledge is found among the branches.
Listen! That song that shakes my feathers
Will thong the leather of your satchels.

The poem is about the dominance the Catholic church held over the government in Ireland.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

February 28, 2017

A passage from Neil’s book: Neil McKenty Live!  The Lines Are Still Blazing.

Appendix

Earlier Years

Neil’s first speech given when he was nine years old

WHEN GRANDDAD WAS A BOY

I don’t see why the power has to go off just when we are listening to the last game of the world series.  I was cross and crosser still when Granddad, who was sitting on the porch next to me, began to chuckle.  ”Well, when I was a boy,” he commenced.  All thoughts of baseball and even the most thrilling game of the World Series were forgotten, for I knew that when Granddad began that way I was sure to hear something more interesting.  ”In those days we did not have radios, and not even electricity,” he went on, ”We used candles instead and we had to make them at home.”

”But Grandfather, how do you make candles?  I though you bought them from a store?”

”Well, the tallow was rendered from sheep and beef, poured into metal molds, perhaps a dozen at a time and allowed to harden.  My part of the work began then.  Often when I came home from school, I helped mother undo the knots at the bottom of the molds and pull them out from the top.  There were no flashlights in those days either.  We did the chores by the light of a home-made lantern in which one of those candles was placed.  By the light of those flickering tallow candles we studied our lessons.

We didn’t have the long summer holidays that you have now.  At one time they were only one week, then two weeks, and later they were for three weeks.  I spent mine at home helping with the crops.”

”Bur Grandfather, you work all the time – didn’t you have any fun?”

”Oh yes, but it was different from what you call fun.  We used to sit around the fire in the evenings when someone told stories, most often ghost stories.  There I would sit in the corner, listening and shivering, to creep off to bed as thirsty as I could be, because to run through that awful darkness from the house to the pump was more than I dared.  We all looked forward to getting to the fall fair.  It was one of the most important events of the year, and we certainly wasted no time in seeing that the potatoes were dug by the second week in October to make sure we could go.  We often went to our neighbours  to kelp with the work too, logging, threshing, husking, and woodcutting.  Then there was time for fun when we finished.

In those days we did not use a binder, but cradled the wheat.  Once fall at our farm, five or six men cradled 50 acres.  We had no time to bin the grain, but tied it with a band of the straw.  When the grain was threshed we took it to some of the nearest towns, Peterboro, Colborne and Trenton.  Once I had to take a load of 65 or 70 bushels of grain to market.  There were five or six teams, travelling and going to Brighton.  We got up at two o’clock in the morning because it was a whole day’s journey.  We took along hay to feed the horses as it was such a long trip.  The teams kept coming in from the whole countryside so that by nightfall there were 100 teams in Brighton.  When I went back to look for my team I couldn’t find them, there were so many horses in the barn.  Wen we went to church in those days the whole family went in the wagon for there were no buggies.  The first buggies were used around 1870.  They were rather clumsy, and there weren’t many of them.

”How far did you have to go, and how long did it take, Grandfather?”  I asked.

”It was about two miles and it took a half an hour.”

surely a difference from the few seconds it took me to get to church in my dad’s car, I thought.

”There were no milking machines or separators in those days either,” he went on.  ”We had about 18 or 20 cows at home.  The milk was put in earthen pans and set for the night.  In the morning it was skimmed.  We used dash churns to make the butter and it often took hours before any signs of butter appeared.  Butter was packed in firkins, small wooden tubs made by coopers in the nearby village.

Washing the sheep in the spring was hard work too.  They were sheared and wool rolled in a sheet or blanket, was pinned with thorns and taken to the carding mill in the village.  After that was done the rolls were taken home and the wool was spun into yarn by the women of the household on the spinning wheel.  It was now ready for the weaver, perhaps some local farmer, who had learned the art in the old country.  Then the full cloth and flannels were taken home to be made into clothes.  A tailor would go from house to house, sit on the table , and make the cuts.  Every boy had a new full cloth suit, bound with black braid, to start off to school in the fall.  And a new pair of boots, which were made by hand.  We made our own sleighs too, out of the staves of barrels with pieces of boards to hold them together.  We had just as much fun with them as you do now with a new toboggan.

 To be continued…

Around the World on a Sailboat

February 22, 2017

Click below to hear Catharine discuss her time at PACE magazine and Neil’s early experiences of writing.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

February 21, 2017

With the smart phone more and more popular and the increase in sales and the competition more fierce than ever:

Do we know everything about them?

Are they really a necessity in today’s world?

Are we getting a fair deal in Canada?

———————

Here is a post from Neil on the subject.

Posted on Exchange in May 2010

DO CELLPHONES CAUSE BRAIN CANCER?

After studying the matter for 10 years in 13 countries including Canada, the experts have come up with a puzzling answer about mobile phones and cancer.

Here is the bad news.  Heavy cellphone use, defined as chatting on mobiles for more than half an hour a day over 10 years,  was associated with a 40 per cent increase in risk of a rare and deadly brain cancer known as glioma, the same kind of cancer that killed Senator Kennedy.

The good news is that the study also found that low and moderate amounts of cellphone use seemed to offer a modest protection against developing the disease.

This means that the debate over cell[phone use is unlikely to go away soon.

The fact is that using a cellphone amounts to placing a small radio transmitter next to your head, exposing the brain and ears to microwave radiation.

Do you use cellphones?

Are you concerned about a risk of brain cancer?

Would you stop using cellphones for that reason.?

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

February 14, 2017

A passage from the book  Neil McKenty Live! 

McKenty’s Two-Rule Golf School.

”Keep it simple, stupid!”  Imagine if those four words were applied to the golf swing.  It would revolutionize the game.  Since I left my television show 12 years ago, I have been trying to master the golf swing.  Let’s face it, the swing has more rules than a monastery: bend your elbows, incline your knees, swivel your hips, flex your ankle, equalize tour weight, overlap your fingers, and address the ball.  In trying to keep all this straight, the danger is you begin to hallucinate.  You wake up in the middle of the night yelling ”Fore” and you haven’t even hit the ball.

Is there any way to get a handle on this jumble, any way to ”keep it simple, stupid?”  As a matter of fact I think there is.  It came to me the other day at Meadowbrook where I try to play several days a week.  Of course all golfers have their own theories about the golf swing.  For what it is worth, here’s mine.  It seems to me you can reduce all these rules and regulations to two.  One relates to the head, the other to the feet.  Keep it down and don’t move.  Simple, but not easy.  How can I tell if I’ve moved my head during my golf swing?  Simple again.  The ball dribbles along the fairway like water dribbling from a garden hose that’s lost its pressure.  Whereas if I keep my head steady the ball arcs gracefully into the air every single time.  So it’s not your elbows or your wrists or your knees.  It’s the head, stupid.  And I would argue that if you don’t move your head, you are halfway to a good golf game.  So do I keep my head still.  Not every time.  But often enough to keep me coming back.

After the head there’s the feet.  What about them?  Move them.  The exact opposite of what you do with the head.  To be more precise, you don’t exactly move the feet.  What you do is move your weight from one foot to the other, and in the process, both feet move in different ways.  So how exactly does this work?

When I address the ball I try to keep mu weight evenly on both feet.  Then on my back swing I try to move most of my weight from my front foot to my back foot.  And on my follow through I try to move the weight from my back foot to my front foot.  I don’t often do it correctly bu I try.  In going from back to front, the rear foot pivots so that the end of the swing you are standing on your rear toes facing the target.  So, it’s true that both feet move in different ways.  But the purpose of the whole exercise is to move or transfer the weight.  Again, simple, but not easy.  The fact is that most of the time I can’t manage it.

How can I tell if I have moved my feet (transferred my weight) correctly?  I can tell every time.  If I haven’t, the swing has no power and the ball won’t go far.  It’s ike a gun the has lost its charge.  The bullet has no velocity.

So, to resume.  If I move my feet, I get distance.  If I don’t move my head, I get height.  If you have both height and distance you are a long way toward an enjoyable golf game  Just for the record, I have this other idiosyncrasy that makes my game still more enjoyable.  I don’t count.  So instead of logging a triple bogey from the last hole, each hole for me is a fresh start.  And believe me, I don’t need to count to tell whether my swing is working or not.

If you are a golfer you may disagree with my diagnosis of the golf swing.  But you have got to admit, it’s simple.  And if I could find a partner, I think we could make some money.  We’d start the Two Rule Golf School.  ”Don’t move your head, move your feet.”  We couldn’t lose, could we?

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

February 7, 2017

Here is a poem from Thomas Gray, Catharine’s favorite.

Elegy written in a country of Churchyard.

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;
Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the poor.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault,
f Memory o’er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.
Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.
But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er unroll;
Chill Penury repressed their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.
The applause of listening senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation’s eyes,
Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,
The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.
Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Yet even these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture decked,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
Their name, their years, spelt by the unlettered muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.
For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e’er resigned,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?
On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev’n from the tomb the voice of nature cries,
Ev’n in our ashes live their wonted fires.
For thee, who mindful of the unhonoured dead
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely Contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,
Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.
There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove,
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or crossed in hopeless love.
One morn I missed him on the customed hill,
Along the heath and near his favorite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;
The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne.
Approach and read (for thou can’st read) the lay,
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.’
The Epitaph
Here rests his head upon the lap of earth
A youth to fortune and to fame unknown.
Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy marked him for her own.
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Misery all he had, a tear,
He gained from Heaven (’twas all he wished) a friend.
No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
There they alike in trembling hope repose)
The bosom of his Father and his God.
What is your favorite poem?
Have you ever written a poem?

Tuesday Writing Conversation: writing for the internet

January 17, 2017

Neil had no idea when he started to dabble with blogging that it would become a great passion for him. The immediacy of the digital world suited his habit of reading through several newspapers and putting together some thoughts, and a question or two, to share with his readers. As a writer he could jot down some ideas quickly and get them out there, while working on larger articles for print.

Do any of our readers have their own blog? What is your experience of blogging?

_ _ _

Below: a hotch-potch of Neil’s posts to the blogosphere.

The first post to the blog: SHOULD DON CHERRY GET THE ORDER OF CANADA?

Even before the dust has settled on Dr. Morgentaler’s controversial nomination to the Order of Canada, the drums have started to beat for another divisive public figure. I speak of Don Cherry who is lauded for the Order by Rex Murphy in today’s Globe and Mail.

Read original post

A popular early post: IS RELIGION A HOAX?

Bill Maher is one of my favourite comedians. He is funny and he is caustic.

Both these traits are on grand display in Maher’s documentary film, Religulous, in which he visits religious communites around the world from a trucker’s chapel in North Carolina to the Vatican and concludes that religion has done more harm than good.

Read original post

ARE WE LOSING OUR PRIVACY?

Neil had a knack for sniffing out the most important issues of the day. Here is a posting to the blog where he wonders about new technology and privacy back in 2009.

Read original post

Neil always kept a keen eye on Quebec politics and society: SHOULD QUEBEC BE A SECULAR STATE?

A Montreal based lay group that would like to see fewer religious symbols in Quebec is calling on the provincial government to draw up a new “social contract”   making the province secular and banning religious garb for anyone working in the public sector.

Read the original post

He also kept an eye on the past….

Now that I am here in the good old USA for a month, my mind has turned to the history of American-Canadian relations.  Turned to the war of 1812 whose bicenntenial anniversary occurs in two years time.

War of 1812

The most popular post:IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MAPLE SYRUP AND TABLE SYRUP?

This is always on the top 5 of the posts on the blog

Pancakes at dawn