Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Learning to Sail in Dublin Bay with

You can tell there was no wind as I was able to take some photographs with my iphone during the Level 2 Sailing course with Irish National Sailing School. Towed in, towed out! That's Andrew our fantastic instructor, Mark and Olga. We're all now experts, of course. Fully fledged sailors ready for the high seas. Har har! Now I know what Dublin Bay is really for - having gazed at it from on land for so long. Pirates!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sir Bob, The Slovenian Ambassador, his Wife and WB Yeats at the NLI

How lovely on Friday evening to run into Franc Miksa, and his wife Amalija
at the National Library of Ireland on Kildare Street where Bob Geldof, no less, was
escorting us through a personal selection of Yeats's poetry, telling us what it meant
to him, and how like song lyrics some of it was. Franc and Amalija's going away do is
on tomorrow, as sadly their time is up in Dublin. Amalija is starting back as a reporter
on Slovenian TV from August 3rd! Franc has written a massive tome on Irish literature
during his time here. They asked me to get a pic of them with Bob, and of course I was
happy to do that, introducing them rather grandly. I just forgot to say hello or get one
with myself!

I caught Marina Carr at lunchtime reading from "Marble", "The Giant Blue Hand", and talking a bit about WB Yeats. This is a wonderful, free, series of talks, "Summer Wreaths" - hope to
catch a few more of them if I can find the time...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

BLOOMSDAY: 4th Double Dee Bookclub, at the Stephen's Green Hibernian Club


We had a full contingent of beautiful minds at the 4th Double Dee Book Club in the candle-lit Ladies Waiting Room of the St. Stephen's Green Hibernian Club on Bloomsday 2009. There were renowned interior designers; experts on historic buildings; bankers; radio producers; Arts Administrators; Company Owners; writers; a professional PILOT and captain!, and the talented actress and sculptor Una Kavanagh who had
flown in from Monte-Carlo where
she was nominated for Best Actress in a TV Drama alongside Isabelle Adjani, and Julie Walters, no less! There we were, all focused on the notorious Idina Sackville, and put-upon Georgianna, Duchess of Devonshire...

We all ooh'd and aaah'd at Idina's racy
antics, and collectively
wondered what "stunting" meant exactly. (Any ideas?). Some of us made gestures towards dressing like the ill-reputed Idina Sackville and her naughty
"Happy Valley" entourage - with a long string of pearls, for example. The only difference was, in The Happy Valley they would have been wearing the string of pearls, and nothing else!
(Way too cold here for that). Some of us were infuriated by Idina, because she never seemed to learn anything on her roller-coaster life-journey. Some of us felt sorry for her, especially for being deprived of her children. Some of us admired her. The conversation went on and on, under the fresco of the goddess "Grammar" in the former Lady's Waiting Room of the elegant and impressive Stephen's Green Hibernian Club until late in the night. The candles in the many candleabra's dotted around the room relaxed too, melted, and gradually accrued a character all of their own. We alluded to Georg-ayy-na, her entourage, her very strange predicament, and her fashion sense, which, we agreed, was her only form of self-expression. Empowered women? Different rules. Some of us loved Kiera Knightly as "G", some didn't. All in all, delicious food for thought for a collection of avid readers, in an inspirational setting - Thank-you to our gracious host, Ray Mooney and the SGHC!


The inaugural Double Dee Book Club took place in Residence Private Member's Club on Stephen's Green in February. We marvelled over the bleak and beautifully written "Revolutionary Road", by Richard Yates, and compared the protagonists, as painted in the book, with Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet's portrayal of that charming couple in the movie version. Some of us wore dainty cardigans and red lipstick in keeping with the Revolutionary Road set.

For the second Double Dee Book Club in March, we discreetly donned bindis and saris, as we mulled over "Slumdog Millionaire" upstairs in the Odessa Club on Dame Court. We played some basement bhangra, ate lentil curry, and considered which was better - the book or the movie. Also - is it true that "it is written"? We got all philosophical. Whether the future be written or not, we couldn't avoid coming to the conclusion that "it is badly written" (the book, that is). Just goes to show you - bad writing didn't stop it being transformed into an Oscar-winning movie by Danny Boyle!

In May, tying in with the New Yorker online book club, we grimaced our way through "Down and Out in Paris and London". We want to make it clear that the slimy and hellish Parisian restaurant the down and out George Orwell evokes in the book so DIDN'T inspire the venue for our book-club - L'Geueleton on Fade Street. We love L'Geueleton! Yum yum. It was a case of opposites attract? On the side, we also grazed on Lorrie Moore's short stories "Birds of America" for that one. Some of us couldn't stand the hopeless birds she sketched, but many of us adored her writing style, her turn of phrase, even if sometimes we felt her straining for an unusual metaphor. I particularly loved "Dance in America".

Some Yang to balance out all that Yin: After summer break, in our 5th Double Dee Book Club, we have decided to get into the good place of Barack Obama's psyche by plugging into his bedside
reading, "Netherland", by Joseph
O'Neill. Along with that we'll read,
and re-read his fantastic autobiography "Dreams From My Father", in our effort to try and figure out what's resonating with him in "Netherland". What has cricket got to do with anything? Cricket? And - with a little help from one of our members, we may even get Joseph O'Neill on Skype!
And Obama, I hear you ask? Well, we could put a request in via his website - why not?!!!!

Our philosophy? Stay upbeat. "Think Fantastic". Our motto?: ROBUST INTELLECTUAL CONVERSATION...

Bring it on. Happy reading and have a wonderful summer....

Thursday, June 4, 2009

ART 250 - "Everyone is an Artist"!

Just thought I would share the below New York Times article with you, on the power of culture in the West Bank. It compliments my experience at the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival nicely, and puts it in a wide context of other fantastic international cultural initiatives in the area, and their positive effects on the people.

And now - on another aspect of the power of culture - this time in Dublin (thank God!), here is some info on a wonderful big democratic Art initiative that I am part of: "ART 250" in the building formerly known as Habitat on Suffolk Street - opening tomorrow, June 5th, 5 - 8pm! Get in early, play blindman's buff and if you're lucky you'll get yourself a masterpiece, for a song - €250. Or just get a painting you like (what a concept!). Hidden anonymously among the "pop-art" there will be a Donald Teskey, a Charles Tyrrell, a Mick Mulcahy, a Suzy O'Mullane, a Mr. Pussy (!) - and more. Check it out! All in aid of Cill Rialaig Artist's Retreat, County Kerry.

New York TImes Article on Music in Ramallah...

June 2, 2009

Amid West Bank’s Turmoil, the Pull of Strings

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The young man was handy with tools. A carpenter’s nephew, he liked to fix chairs, windows and door locks. At other times he would stand idly on the street corner.

Ramzi Aburedwan noticed him. Like the Pied Piper, Mr. Aburedwan, a French-trained violist raised in a Palestinian refugee camp, was trying to lead Palestinian children into the world of music: namely, a music center he was establishing in an old quarter of the town.

But he had other ideas for the young man. The center had received dozens of donated string instruments from Europe: instruments prone to cracks, broken bridges and damaged scrolls.

The young man, Shehade Shelaldeh, would become the violin repairman.

And so, two years later, after absorbing lessons from visiting volunteer luthiers and a three-month apprenticeship in Italy, Mr. Shelaldeh, 18, has his own instrument repair shop. It is in a former garage around the corner from the music center, Al Kamandjati (“the Violinist”). He has learned to fix instruments and replace the hair on bows. He has already made two violins, one with a tiny Palestinian flag on the tailpiece, which anchors the strings.

“It’s a beautiful feeling,” he said one day in late April. “I want to work here and teach people.” It is the precision of the work that appeals to him, he added, as well as the peace that comes from working by himself, late into the night.

In a place all too familiar with the sounds of gunfire, military vehicles and explosions, he said, “Al Kamandjati taught us to hear music.”

The center, and Mr. Shelaldeh’s acquisition of a trade born in the workshops of 17th-century Italy, are part of a recently kindled interest in classical music, both Western and Oriental, in the occupied territories. Parents, students and teachers here say it comes from the realization that culture is an effective assertion of national identity, particularly at a moment when the prospects for a Palestinian state seem to be receding. It is also a way to give idle young people something to focus on.

In Mr. Shelaldeh’s case, classical music means a career. One of his main teachers, Paolo Sorgentone, reached at his workshop in Florence, Italy, last month, said that while the young man had a lot to learn, he was a natural, “both in his hands and in his head.”

“From the beginning he showed a rapidity and intelligence to understand exactly what needed to be done,” Mr. Sorgentone said. “He has an intuition for this.” In a few years, he added, Mr. Shelaldeh will become an “excellent luthier.”

Mr. Sorgentone said he had advised Mr. Shelaldeh and his family that he should gain real training and suggested Newark College in England, well known for its violin-making and restoration program. He applied and is waiting to hear whether he has been accepted, and whether there will be enough money to send him.

Mr. Shelaldeh’s story, in a way, reflects the biography of Mr. Aburedwan, Al Kamandjati’s founder. As a boy in Al Amari refugee camp near here, Mr. Aburedwan was an industrious newspaper seller who slept in a room with his grandfather. Together they would listen to classical Arabic music on the radio. During the first intifada, which started in late 1987, he was photographed throwing a rock at Israeli soldiers. The picture was widely circulated.

One of his newspaper buyers, a vocal opponent of the Israeli occupation, would take foreign journalists to interview him. The same woman suggested to a visiting violin teacher from Amman, Jordan, that the boy might be a good prospect for a string workshop the teacher was offering.

The teacher showed him a viola. “Immediately I fell in love,” said Mr. Aburedwan, now 30. He began studying locally, and the American and European teachers who periodically passed through took an interest, struck by his curiosity and rapid absorption of technique. He spent a summer session at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in New Hampshire. The French Cultural Center in Ramallah gave him a grant to study viola at the conservatory in Angers, France.

Toward the end of his eight years at the conservatory, Mr. Aburedwan decided to establish a music school in his hometown. He rounded up donations of money and instruments, invited colleagues to the area for workshops and pushed for the renovation of a building in Ramallah’s old town. Al Kamandjati opened in January 2006. Operating on a shoestring budget of about $400,000 a year, it now has about 400 students studying both Western and Oriental instruments.

“I want these children to achieve something,” Mr. Aburedwan said. “That’s my dream, that they have a way of expression, a way of living. I want these kids to participate in the building of a Palestinian cultural future.”

Mr. Aburedwan said he saw the young Mr. Shelaldeh, whose family — including eight children — lived nearly next door to the center, loitering about. He eventually lured five of Mr. Shelaldeh’s siblings into music lessons. The oud and the violin did not quite take with Mr. Shelaldeh. But Mr. Aburedwan knew of his propensity to work with his hands.

“He was like a technician of everything,” Mr. Aburedwan said.

So when two violin makers, one French and one Belgian, came to work on the center’s instruments, he pushed Mr. Shelaldeh to spend time watching. They gave him small tasks, like cleaning tools, and began showing him basic woodcutting skills.

Every few months, luthiers sympathetic to the project would visit to fix instruments and pass lessons on to Mr. Shelaldeh, giving him the kind of personal attention the average violin restoration student would not normally receive.

“The instrument makers were touched,” Mr. Aburedwan said, and gave as much as they could.

The first thing Mr. Shelaldeh learned was how to cut wood for tools and how to hold a knife. Some Italians taught him how to make bridges, pegs and a sound post. An American showed him how to fix bows. Gianluca Montenegro, an associate of Mr. Sorgentone, came from Florence for a month, and they worked together all day, every day. Mr. Shelaldeh learned how to make a finger board.

Then he was invited to Italy for three months, starting last July, to apprentice with several firms, spending a week in Cremona, the Italian violin-making center, where he bought a special machine used to curve wood.

There he finished his first instrument, a violin based on a Stradivarius model, with a small Palestinian flag decal on the base. He also took back books on violin-making and history. Mr. Sorgentone gave him a video on violin-making, Mr. Shelaldeh said, “if I forget something.”

He built his tool collection slowly. The center bought a batch, and visiting luthiers left some behind.

In his workshop a string held bridges lined up by size. Another string held five violins in various forms of undress. Tools were arrayed on the wall over his work bench: a row of chisels (not nearly enough, he said), a tiny hacksaw, needle-nose pliers, clamps, curved instruments used to get inside the violin through the f-holes. A yellow paper outline of a violin was pasted above, the shape of the Guarneri del Gesù King Joseph from 1737, a renowned instrument.

At work one day, his hair fashionably gelled upward, Mr. Shelaldeh applied himself to replacing a poor-quality, ill-fitting bridge on a Chinese violin. He clamped a block of wood to his workbench and put the new bridge in a slot on the block. He removed the blade from a plane and carefully sharpened it on a moistened stone, then passed it over a lathe. Sparks flew.

“My dream,” he said, “is to become a famous instrument repairer.”