December 22, 2014

Matt and drawing Northern Ireland politics

cartoon by Matt cartoons following the OTR letter scandal
He shared a funny anecdote on Northern Ireland:
"I do remember doing a cartoon about a republican jail break some years ago, and in it they were tunnelling out dressed as a snake. I can’t remember why. But anyway, The Telegraph’s legal team is famously ferocious about copyright. They usually let nothing drop. But when they got wind that the cartoon had been reprinted without permission in An Phoblacht, they thought, ‘actually, we’ll let this one go on this occasion’."

December 20, 2014

George Bernard Shaw on his Irishness, Edward Carson and Home Rule

George Bernard Shaw by Alick P.F. Ritchie
George Bernard Shaw is the venerated and revered Irish man of letters, and a protestant Irishman to the very narrow" of his bones at that. Like all Irish he proclaimed his Irishness but unlike the Irish, he also proclaimed his unIrish roots:
"I am a traditional Irishman, my family came from Yorkshire."
In sharing this Wildean aphorism, Shaw touches on a truth that many on the island can relate to, even if it's uncomfortable in doing so. Shaw also proclaimed his unionism as a protestant Irishman. In a letter to The Irish Statesman, January 10 1920, George Bernard Shaw said:

December 19, 2014

Unionism won

Cartoon by Ian Knox (@ianknoxcartoon), see more here.
Peter Taylor said:
"Who really did win the war? Viewed through the prism of the present, it’s clear that the British and the unionists won, because the Union is secure and the IRA is no more… I wouldn’t be surprised if at some stage in the long years ahead a United Ireland did emerge."

December 18, 2014

Sinn Fein's logophobia of "Northern Ireland"

Cartoon by Ian Knox
Martin McGuinness might be a chief administrator of a devolved province of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, but he can't seem to say the name of the place which he governs, opting instead for the term, "the North". Holywood man Paddy McEvoy wrote a letter to the Irish News about the increasing use of "the North":
"The term “North of Ireland”... has crept into common parlance in recent years. This now seems to be a generally accepted code for those who think they are staying on-side, striking a blow for freedom by refusing to say Northern Ireland, just as some on the non-conformist wing of politics refuse to say the “Republic of Ireland”, they prefer “Free State”, “26 counties” or “the South”."

December 17, 2014

Matt and how he works

Matt Pritchett explaining how he produced his first front page cartoon
Matt is a pocket cartoonist. Son of Oliver and grandson of V.S. Pritchett. Celebrated for his inimitable wit and bite delivered daily, without fail, in illustrated form. As a pocket cartoonist he is one among a "diminishing species" according to Andy Davey. Matt’s big break came on Thursday February 23 1988, the date he first appeared on the front cover of the Telegraph, as above. He explained it like this: 
"I did a cartoon of two people and the line ‘I hope I have a better Thursday than I did yesterday’, which sort of went with the general mood of crisis of the readers."

December 16, 2014

Stormont is a quango spending a budget

Cartoon by Ian Knox, see full gallery from this Hearts and Minds segment here.
[UPDATE - I've read and written that Stormont is a giant ATM, with no link between what is spent and accountability by the devolved regions for that spend]

Our pocket money parliament has no tax-raising powers. It's hasn't even the fiscal maturity of a county council which do have powers to levy and lift taxes. It's all spend and no tax. It's given a budget and then spends or allocates those monies. A parliament that can spend but cannot tax is not a parliament. Stormont is a giant quango. It's the inverted legislative reality of no-taxation with representation.

Northern Ireland is like a fiscal theme park where basic factual and legal realities are suspended. It has fiscal freedom and no responsibility. But without the power to tax it's hard to govern. Newton Emerson said
"Stormont is often mocked as a glorified country council but even councils raise most of their income through the rates, all the rates Stormont collects comes to just 5% of its income. So it's really more of a quango spending a budget."

December 12, 2014

Sinn Fein and the English Language

Cartoon by Ian Knox
When symmetry of scandal is met with an asymmetry of outrage, something is not right, and you have to say something. When an allegation is pointed at the church or an arm of the state, indignation is universally heaped on those named; yet when an allegation is pointed at the party, there is silence - indignation is selective and sectarian, falling along ideological lines.

With no sense or awareness of inconsistency, people can simultaneously support scrutiny of others and stridently oppose scrutiny of oneself; people can simultaneously credit allegations made against another but outright discredit allegations made against oneself. Mary Lou McDonald said in 2009:

December 11, 2014

An American Democrat is a British Conservative

Via The Dish
Andrew Sullivan wrote in November 2014 that 'A British Tory Is An American Democrat':
"Here’s an indication of just how far to the right the American political discourse is, compared with Britain – the developed country most in tune with American neo-liberalism (above). That’s why David Cameron and Barack Obama have long had such an easy relationship. Either one could fit easily into the other’s cabinet. And maybe it does help explain why I still consider myself a conservative. I am, as a Brit."

December 06, 2014

Irish Americans looked and sounded like Orangemen

Cartoon of Bernadette Devlin by Aislin (Terry Mosher)
The words in title are the words of Bernadette Devlin, the youngest person ever to be elected to Westminster, and the figure in the cartoon. You can read her Maiden Speech in the Commons, April 22 1969, here. On her rise to the London parliament and prolific profile her face was seen around the world and she travelled widely, including to America. She was the figurehead of Ireland's discriminated-against and the disposed and had the sympathies of Irish-Americans. A hearing from Irish-America was as natural so as to breath, since animosity based on "England's historic wrongs" were closely and long held. As the Spectator wrote in 1882:
"The hatred of England is cultivated by the American branch of the Irish race “as a sort of religion,” we can well believe. The history of the last two or three years shows it to be so."

December 05, 2014

Five years post-Irisgate

Cartoon of Iris and Peter Robinson by Ian Knox
Five years after the Iris Robinson scandal it is worth looking back on what the Irish-descended, English born, American blogger Andrew Sullivan wrote about the scandal: 
"The fusion of religion and politics and the use of Biblical authority to strip other people of civil rights is not, of course, unique to America. In Northern Ireland, for example, sectarian conflict was accompanied by incredibly repressive attitudes toward sexual minorities and women. When I went on Ulster television for "Virtually Normal" in 1995, it was the first ever broadcast across Northern Ireland dealing specifically with the homosexual question. They invited ten openly gay people to be in the studio audience, and only three had the balls to show up. And so it is not that surprising that a leading politician in Ulster would respond to a brutal gay-bashing by criticizing the attack but adding that she nonetheless believed that homosexuality was an "abomination" and made her feel "sick" and "nauseous". She believed that sexual orientation could be cured by psychiatry. She argued that:

November 27, 2014

100 years of trying to explain the difference between good and bad IRA men

By Martyn Turner (here)
Mike Burke, a lecturer in Politics in Canada, wrote on Anthony McIntyre's blog, the Pensive Quill:
"How could the Irish state… both celebrate its insurrectionary origins and conduct a counter-insurgency campaign against the Provisional IRA, which claimed to be the direct lineal descendant of the insurrectionary impulse that had given birth to the state?"
This is the southern state’s current and constant dilemma.
"So take it down from the mast, Irish traitors,
/It’s the flag we Republicans claim.
It can never belong to Free Staters,
For you’ve brought on it nothing but shame. Then leave it to those who are willing/
To uphold it in war and in peace,
/To those men who intend to do killing
 Until England’s tyranny cease."

October 30, 2014

People always lament the present, Ctd

People always lament the present as marked by decay, decadence, degeneration and decline; exhalting the past as one of radiance, rigour and rectitude. Steven Pinker said:
"Every generation thinks that the younger generation is dissolute, lazy, ignorant, and illiterate."
Hiraeth is the adjective which describes a deep nostalgia for the past. It's described like this: "A homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past." A commenter on Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Dish, wrote:

October 29, 2014

George Orwell on Ireland

Cartoon of George Orwell by famous American political cartoonist, Pat Oliphant

George Orwell wrote that the execution of the Easter Rising leaders was "a crime and mistake". He believed that the dispute over Ulster was caused by "the expansionist racist nature of modern republicanism." In a review of Sean O'Casey's autobiography by George Orwell in the Observer, Orwell wrote in 1945:
"Why is it that the worst extremes of jingoism and racialism have to be tolerated when they come from an Irishman?"

October 28, 2014

Zadie Smith - Typing out the work of other writers

Zadie Smith said in a conversation with US cartoonist Chris Ware:
"I had the same feeling when I’m talking with other artists or writers who wrote a lot when they were teenagers and some how I didn’t do that at all. I maybe wrote about four stories throughout the whole of my adolescence and they were perfect copies, that’s what I did, I copied an Agatha Christie story or a PG Wodehouse story, sometimes to the extent of typing out the story itself and sometimes changing it one way or another but for some reason that was my main instinct… it’s reading that is the practice, it’s not writing. I was reading obsessively, all the time, forever, every day. And that’s where I think you learn to write. Not in the actual writing. The writing was an explosion of 18 years worth of reading all the time."

October 27, 2014

The Lundy Terror, Ctd

Modern unionism is a heterodoxy, not an orthodoxy. It is multi-, not mono-confessional. You can be a ruthless critic of a belief and still be an exponent of that belief. You can be a ruthless critic of unionism and still be a unionism. As the Orwell Method has shown, self-examination and self-interrogation of your beliefs strengthens the precepts and principles that form the basis of that belief.

October 26, 2014

Emaciate and asphyxiate the moderate with promiscuous lawlessness and naked intimidation

Cartoon by Ian Knox, you can buy prints of his work here
A threatening tweet. A bullet in the post. A firebomb through the window. This is the authoritarianism and censor of the jackboot. Citizens, critics and democrats censored by cudgel-wavers. This is the history of Northern Ireland. Emaciate and asphyxiate the moderate and eradicate reason and debate with the veto of violence.

October 25, 2014

If we have Columbus Day and Australia Day, why not Henry II Day?

Simon Carswell wrote in the Irish Times: "The arrival of Columbus in the New World led to centuries of exploitation, disease and genocide." For this fact four US states do not mark Columbus Day, instead celebrating Native American Day. President Andrew Jackson whose parents came from Carrickfergus led campaigns against the Creeks and Seminoles during his military career and signed the Indian Removal Act as President. Also in Australia, "Australia Day" celebrates Captain Cook’s arrival there in 1788. Some people now derisively call the holiday "Invasion Day".

October 24, 2014

The unmoored, uncertain life of the artist

The uncertainty and unpredictability in the life of the writer and artist is universal and perennial. Kurt Vonnegut wrote:
"In an unmoored life like mine, sleep and hunger and work arrange themselves to suit themselves, without consulting me."

October 23, 2014

Roy Lichtenstein - Art is theft, Ctd

The famous Roy Lichtenstein 'Wham!' panel is the above image. The original by Irv Novick is below it.
Roy Lichtenstein is well known for the painting ‘Whaam!’. But less known is that the image was modelled upon an original panel drawing by comic book artist Irv Novick from the “Star Jockey” DC Comic story. Some say homage. I say plain old plagiarism.

October 22, 2014

Joseph Pulitzer on the proper role of journalism

Cartoon of Joseph Pulitzer cartoon. More here.
Joseph Pulitzer was a Hungarian-American Jewish reporter turned newspaper owner, who owned the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the New York World. Joseph Pulitzer introduced the techniques of "new journalism" to the newspapers he acquired in the 1880s. His legacy lives on most prominently through the annual Pulitzer Prize and in an awareness of what the real role of the journalist is. He said that the role of journalism and the fourth estate is:
"An institution that should always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty."
Joseph Pulitzer, May 10, 1883, quoted on the Times plaque. My previous post on the role of journalism here.

October 21, 2014

Artists are labourers to their unconscious

Scottish artist John Byrne with a self-portrait. More John Byrne self-portraits here.
[UPDATE - Zadie Smith said: "[My] writing was an explosion of 18 years worth of reading all the time."
Graham Linehan talked about "practical procrastination" and said: "Your subconscious is this huge glacial thing under water that’s just doing a lot of work when you don’t realise it."]

Agnes B said on Radio 4:
"When you are designer you are like a sponge you don’t know where ideas come from."
John Byrne said:
"I am the labourer to my unconscious."
Michael Longley said:
"The raw material of experience… needs to settle to an imaginative depth where it can be transformed and emerge as art."
Francis bacon said:
"There’s this deep sea which we call the unconscious which we know nothing about. I always hope the most wonderful images will emerge from it."

October 20, 2014

John Banville - Most artists live with other artists, whether physically or in their minds

Cartoon of John Banville, more here.
John Banville said:
"Most artists live with other artists, whether physically or in their minds."
Martin Amis said the same thing of writers. Speaking in 2000, he said that reading and writing is about communion, not communication:
"It was Christopher Hitchens that introduced me to Saul Bellow as a reader. Look at Homboldt’s Gift he told me with a serious inclination of the head on the staircase of the New Statesman in 1977. I looked instead at the victim and after very few pages I felt a recognition threading itself through me whose form of words, more solemn than exhilarated, went approximately as follows: Here is a writer I will have to read all of. Everything else followed from this and it remains the basis of the connection. I see Bellow perhaps twice a year, and we call and we write, but that accounts for only a fraction of the time I spend in his company. He is on the shelves, on the desk, he is all over the house, and always in the mood to talk, that’s what writing is: not communication but a means of communion. And here are the other writers that swirl around you like friends, patient and intimate, sleeplessly accessible over centuries. This is the definition of literature."

October 14, 2014

The anti-Columbus movement, Ctd

Michael Ramirez cartoon of Paul Krugman, arch-opponent of Niall Ferguson
The self-described classic Scottish enlightenment liberal, Niall Ferguson said:
"I think it’s hard to make the case, which implicitly the left makes, that somehow the world would have been better off if the Europeans had stayed home. It certainly doesn’t work for north America, that’s for sure. I mean, I’m sure the Apache and the Navajo had all sorts of admirable traits. In the absence of literacy we don’t know what they were because they didn’t write them down. We do know they killed a hell of a lot of bison. But had they been left to their own devices, I don’t think we’d have anything remotely resembling the civilisation we’ve had in north America."
He also talks about the moral simplification urge here. Christopher Hitchens discussed the progresses versus retrogresses of imperialism. He looked at the Marxian analysis which saw British imperialism as ending the "Millennial stagnation and isolation of India." And said, "if you have to be colonised, don’t be colonised by the Belgians."
Christopher Hitchens in response to Noam Chomsky who is charged by Hitchens of saying that America was not a good idea. Hitchens also notes the change of name from Jefferson elementary to Sequoia.
Christopher Hitchens on militant Islam's "Imperial nostalgia as well as imperialism". George Orwell said:
"Instead of taking the mechanically anti-British attitude which is usual on the Left, it is better to consider what the world would really be like if the English-speaking culture perished. For it is childish to suppose that the other English-speaking countries, even the U.S.A., will be unaffected if Britain is conquered."
You can read Niall Fergsuon with some thoughts on what Britain did for Ireland here and Roy Foster on the positive aspects of Britain in Ireland here. My previous posts in this series here and here.

October 13, 2014

Paper versus digital reading

On the left is Barton Creeth reading a book. On the right, Jason Ashford is reading his phone. In the middle is me drawing. On the weekend of Setpember 26-28 I and a few friends took a trip to Bushmills and some took the chance for a digital detox - to "deassimilate from the cyber hive", as Ray Mears put it.

Charles Bremner (@CharlesBremner) wrote in the Times that "Permanent digital connection is bane of modern life". The Guardian reported that "Germany ponders ground-breaking law to combat work-related stress". The Spectator wrote:

October 12, 2014

The Backfire Effect

The Backfire Effect or Identity-Protective Cognition is when people hold onto their personal and tribal narrative even when it is wrong and unfounded. The antidote to this kind of egregious thinking and groupthink is the Orwell Method. But first, a little more on the Backfire Effect.

Maria Popova is well known for writing, "Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind." This is a painful process, made all the harder by the "Backfire Effect" as Maria Popova explained, changing the mind is a problem many grapple with, however it is hard. Because on one hand:
"The awareness that personal growth means transcending our smaller selves as we reach for a more dimensional, intelligent, and enlightened understanding of the world."
And on the other hand:
"The excruciating growing pains of evolving or completely abandoning our former, more inferior beliefs as we integrate new knowledge and insight into our comprehension of how life works. That discomfort, in fact, can be so intolerable that we often go to great lengths to disguise or deny our changing beliefs by paying less attention to information that contradicts our present convictions and more to that which confirms them."

October 11, 2014

Christopher Hitchens on the Falklands War

A cartoon by Ralph Steadman of Margaret Thatcher being haunted by the ARA General Belgrano
The cartoon is by Ralph Steadman of Margaret Thatcher being haunted by the ARA General Belgrano, an Argentine cruiser leaving the British Declared Exclusion Zone that was ordered to be sunk under her instructions.

In all the polarisation around Thatcher and controvery about the Falklands War, Christopher Hitchens brings some clarity. He held that line that he could not agree more with Thatcher and her position on the Falklands War. Hitchens shared his position on the Falklands War in a conversation with Salman Rushdie, where he said:

October 10, 2014

"Brutal, bilious" cartooning

Cartoon by HM Bateman
In his canonical article, 'The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved', Hunter S. Thompson wrote about Ralph Steadman and his drawing habit. A habit whose product was "brutal" and "bilious" cartoons. Thompson explained:
"[A problem with Ralph Steadman] was his habit of sketching people he met in the various social situations I dragged him into—then giving them the sketches. The results were always unfortunate. I warned him several times about letting the subjects see his foul renderings, but for some perverse reason he kept doing it. Consequently, he was regarded with fear and loathing by nearly everyone who’d seen or even heard about his work. He couldn’t understand it. "It’s sort of a joke," he kept saying. "Why, in England it’s quite normal. People don’t take offense. They understand that I’m just putting them on a bit." "Fuck England," I said. "This is Middle America. These people regard
what you’re doing to them as a brutal, bilious insult. Look what
 happened last night. I thought my brother was going to tear your head
off.” Steadman shook his head sadly. “But I liked him. He struck me as a very decent, straightforward sort.” “Look, Ralph,” I said. “Let’s not kid ourselves. That was a very
 horrible drawing you gave him. It was the face of a monster. It got on
his nerves very badly.” I shrugged. “Why in hell do you think we left
the restaurant so fast?"
Thompson said the "the people there thought that an ugly drawing of somebody is an insult." Ralph Steadman said that "Hunter S. Thompson always used to call my work ‘filthy scribblings’!" Steadman also said
"Hunter S. Thompson… took me [to the Pendennis Club in Kentucky] and I started drawing the people there. It’s a funny thing, but the people there thought that an ugly drawing of somebody is an insult, like tantamount to smacking someone in the face."

October 09, 2014

Fintan O'Toole - Ireland's parallel monarchy

Fintan O’Toole wrote in ‘Enough is Enough: How to Build A New Republic’ (page 28) about Ireland's 'parallel monarchy’ of the Church:
"Having shrugged off one culture of deference to titled nobles, the new state embraced another. The elected representatives of the people always kneeled before a bishop and kissed his ring. The fact that the bishop was addressed as ‘My Lord’ and lived in a house that was always called a ‘palace’ did not seem to cause any great discomfort to Irish people who would have been enraged by any sugges- tion that Ireland should honour an aristocracy. Indeed, Mary Kenny has argued persuasively that the Church occupied the place where the monarchy had been: ‘even the ardent Republicans would find a vehicle for the pomp and ceremony that every society either derives from tradition or reinvents – the Holy Roman Catholic Church would soon fill the vacuum left by the departed pageantry of His Majesty.’7 She points out that the Eucharistic Congress of 1932, which was the Irish state’s first great public ceremonial, ‘followed in almost every detail the format used for royal visits and royal events in Ireland… Not coincidentally, words and phrases previously applied to the monarchy were at- tached to the papacy: “allegiance”, “loyalty”, and “kingship” (of Christ).’ The ‘parallel monarchy’ of the Church preserved all the habits of awe, obedience and humility that might have been thrown off in a genuinely democratic revolution."
In an article in the Irish Times, 'Why do we allow a foreign state to appoint the patrons of our primary schools?' Fintan O’Toole wrote:
"Why do we allow a foreign state to appoint the patrons of our primary schools? If some weird vestige of colonial times decreed that the British monarch would appoint the ultimate legal controllers of almost 3,200 primary schools in our so-called republic, we would be literally up in arms. Why should we tolerate the weird vestige of an equally colonial mentality that allows a monarch in Rome to do just that?"

October 08, 2014

The "Troubles" is a term for the conflict that began in 1916, ended with an ambiguous armistice in 1998 and rumbles on to this day

Cartoon of David Trimble and Gerry Adams by Steve Bell

[UPDATE - "Unfortunately, the "terrible beauty" they [Pearse and Connolly] spawned is even now to be seen in action in the blazing streets of Belfast" wrote John Banville]

Philip Bobbitt said that "Long War" is a term for the conflict that began in 1914 and concluded in 1990. Christopher Hitchens said the identical, that the global conflict that began in August 1914 did not conclusively end until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union.

My argument is that the Troubles should be a term for the conflict that began in 1916 and quasi-concluded in 1998 with an ambiguous armistice, embedded a little further in 2005 but continues to this day with an uneasy truce.

He's a quick overview of history.

October 07, 2014

Live Drawing at @MurphysButchers on @theLisburnRoad

Following a wonderfully enjoyable day of Live Drawing at Arcadia Deli on the last Saturday of August 2014, I did a day of Drawing at Murphy's Butchers on the Lisburn Road on Saturday October 4.

Murphy's was another very enjoyable day, drawing people of all ages and backgrounds. From drawing a little boy who had just finished a morning of mini-rugby at Belfast Harlequins, to drawing Ulster Rugby players Stephen Ferris and Robbie Diack. Please have a look and explore all the drawings and videos from the day.

See the pictures below to see all my work from the day of drawing in Murphy's Butchers. See all my Vine freeze-frame videos here. Also be sure to look and read about my Conference and Seminar Drawing here.

Colin Bateman (@ColinBateman) - The Two Williams, King Billy and a "washed-up drunk"

My cartoon scribble of Colin Bateman
Colin Bateman wrote in 2006:
"I’ve come up with a story called The Two Williams, which features King Billy (that’s King William to you) on the eve of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 accidentally changing places with his modern equivalent — a washed-up drunk whose only job in life is to lead the Orange parade every 12th of July."

October 06, 2014

Michael Bloomberg (@mikebloomberg) - Don't Major in Intolerance

Following the Brandeis University-Ayaan Hirsi Ali controversy of 2014, when Brandeis revoked an invitation it had offered to Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak and receive an honorary degree at the university's commencement ceremonies. In response to this action aagainst the Somali-born feminist and political essayist and others, Michael Bloomberg spoke out against this trend of liberal intolerance. Michael Bloomberg said in his Harvard Commencement speech 2014 entitled, 'Don't Major in Intolerance':

October 05, 2014

America's perception management of Europe

Cartoon of Barack Obama by Morten Morland
Glenn Greenwald wrote in October 2012:
"It is almost certainly the case that an Obama-led attack on Iran would generate far more public support than a Romney-led attack, because most Democrats will almost certainly cheer for the former while pretending to be horrified by the latter, will while Republicans would support both (that's the dynamic that made the very same "counter-terrorism" policies that were so divisive in the Bush years become wildly popular once Obama embraced them)."

October 04, 2014

My work with Michael Deane

[UPDATE - also read this post here]

It all began with a chance tweet and a simple cartoon as explained here in my 'The Artist's Journey' series, and in even more detail my journey is described here. That original cartoon, created on a wet March Saturday afternoon after rugby coaching and before going into town to sit in Waterstones all day, was then used in the Michael Deane signature wine, 'Chez Deano', which you can see below.

Vivisected Northern Ireland - Hugh Muir, be Intolerant of intolerance

I've written before about the vanity of small differences and the vivisection of Northern Ireland and the baleful effects of these egregious habits. In the face of such deleterious habits, I have called upon the need for civil intolerance. We can also learn from a parralel experience. In response to the flying of a jihadist-style flag in a London housing estate Hugh Muir wrote in the Guardian that we must resist those who would Balkanise public space. He wrote:

October 03, 2014

Colm Tóibín on his daily routine and the cult of Law School

Colm Tóibín's explained his daily routine to the Irish Times: 

"Breakfast? No! None of that eating rubbish. You get down with an empty stomach. So you create this system of rewards – if you do this, you can have that. Otherwise you’d never get any work done… I take an hour off and work for an hour. And I work until late, six days a week. The other general rule is, no lunch with anybody. That’s an awful waste of time. And I would never drink in the day. Ever."

October 02, 2014

Shane Smith - The media and establishment is inherently conservative

In 1993 Christopher Hitchens said, "there is one party - that is a beltway party, a Washington party, a permanent party, the party of those in power and most of those in the leadership of the Washington equipe of which the press are members of it and proud of it and lucky and afraid of the possibility of falling out of favour." Shane Smith also speaks critically of the US politico-media establishment. He said:

September 29, 2014

Comparison and self-doubt are the thief of creativity

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote that "comparison is the thief of joy." Comparison is also the thief of production and creativity. It is deadly and antithetical to the artist, the creator and the creative process. Philip Larkin said to the Paris Review:
"Everyone envies everyone else."
He also wrote a poem, 'On Being Twenty-Six':
"I feared these present years, 
The middle twenties, 
When deftness disappears, 
And each event is 
Freighted with a source-encrusting doubt, 
And turned to drought."
Quentin Blake said: "As soon as I knew something was intended for print, I tightened up."

Hitchens wrote, embrace the doubt and comparison:
"The main thing as I keep saying, I never tire of saying is, to keep testing yourself against other writers who are better than you. That’s what qualifies one as a writer I think, permanently running the risk of having to say I don’t know why I bother."
He elaborated on this:
"[With George Orwell] you don’t get the sense for example when you’re reading Proust or Nebokhov or George Eliot that you shouldn’t be in the writing business."

September 28, 2014

George Orwell - Writing is hard, Ctd

George Orwell's1984 is the classic of classics. One of the most celebrated book in the English canon that speaks and sells powerfully to this day. Yes 1984 is a classic. Yet for Orwell, the writing of it was most testing. Early drafts were seen by Orwell as "ghastly" and "dreadful" messes. While writing 1984 in May 1947, Orwell wrote to his publisher Fred Warburg: 
"Of course the rough draft is always a ghastly mess bearing little relation to the finished result, but all the same it is the main part of the job."

September 26, 2014

Will Self - Art is theft, Ctd

Kingsley Amis by Anglo-Polish impressionist painter Feliks Topolski
Will Self (@wself) said during a panel conversation on Dubliners by James Joyce:
"Being pray to the anxiety of influence - and if any writer tells you that she or he doesn’t suffer from the anxiety of influence then they’re a stone-cold liar."
He explained how W.H. Auden notoriously used to write "GETS" in the margins of books for "Good Enough To Steal":
"W.H. Auden notoriously used to write in the marginalia "GETS", in the margins of books for "Good Enough To Steal". So I most re-read James Joyce’s Dubliners to steal stuff."
Will Self also explained that he likes to think he's a good enough writer to thieve. He said in the Guardian:

September 25, 2014

Conference Drawing

My Conference Notes Cartoon of Josh Richards (@Mighty_Ginge) at @Create2014Co, more here.
I do Live Drawing. I also do Conference Drawing. This is where I go to conferences, seminars and talks and document what is said through words and coloured drawings. Think mind maps. Think story boards. A wonderful way to remember the special event and the special ideas and contacts made. Below are 12 images from the 12 conferences and events that I've done Conference Drawing at over the last year. Click the links below to see a full selection of images from each of the 12 events. 

Read more about Live Drawing here. See a full chronology of all the Live Drawing cartoons I've ever drawn on my Flickr page here. See how I work and think and process ideas on my Live Drawing Tumblr portfolio here.

Ireland - A cynical tax haven?

Fintan O'Toole by Jon Berkeley
Fintan O'Toole wrote in May 2013, Ireland needs a better economic strategy than ‘come here to avoid tax'. He said: "An official White House report categorised Ireland as a tax haven in 2009 and last week’s Senate hearings on Apple’s creative accounting embedded the phrase in public discourse. If it takes permanent hold, the consequences could be enormous." He then said:
"I was browsing Forbes, the magazine for billionaires, online about a year ago. There was a piece about Ireland’s status as a tax haven. Apparently through some technological glitch, you could see that two phrases had been edited out and replaced with euphemisms. Thus “Ireland’s tax favoured status” was struck out and replaced with “Ireland’s hospitality”.

And the statement that “US companies can pretend to be headquartered in Ireland in order to avoid US tax” was doctored to say that US companies can “set up shop in Ireland”. This kind of thing is amusing, but it’s also deadly serious."
Fintan O'Toole explained how critical language is to international community's perception of Ireland:
"The Forbes piece is a perfect illustration of how vulnerable the perception of Ireland is to changes of language. Ireland is either a hospitable place where you can set up shop like a friendly village grocer or a cynical tax haven, and increasingly, in the US, it is routinely referred to as the latter.

September 24, 2014

Live Drawing at Arcadia Deli (@ArcadiaDeli), Belfast

Drawing Irish writer and thinker Colm Dore (@ColmDore) at Arcadia Deli
I spent the last Saturday of August 2014 drawing at Arcadia Delicatessan on the Lisburn Road, Belfast. With me being a regular this was a great way to interact with the staff and also meet some of the other customers, and of course draw them. I was operating on a donation system and started quickly. It was the usual Saturday bounce with young children smelling of grass and running about in their freshly used rugby and football kits; mums and dads doing their meat shopping and selecting a choice wine for the weekend dinner party.
It was great to see Irish poet Michael Longley come shuffling into the shop and accept my offer for a sitting. He was a joy to draw and speak with and you can see a Vine video of the drawing and a good selection of photos below. You can also see a full range of my cartoons of the staff and customers if you click to see more below.
This was a great way to lift things for the shop, the customers and the artist, all coming together in a cherry triangle of high spirits. Art, business and shopping - an intoxicating mix!
See my Live Drawing blog here, with a post on drawing Michael Longley here and drawing at Arcadia Deli here. Read about how I do Live Drawing from my website here. See a full chronology on all the Live cartoons I've ever drawn on my Flickr page here, and see how I work and think and process ideas on my Live Drawing Tumblr portfolio here.

The vivisected Northern Ireland

Cartoon if Isaiah Berlin
For the committed anti-sectarian and anti-tribalist in Northern Ireland, I give you Isaiah Berlin and his explanation on monism and why the belief in one unalloyed, fixed, unchangeable doctrine leads, inevitability, to the vivisection of society:
"There is little need to stress the fact that monism, and faith in a single criterion, has always proved a source of deep satisfaction both to the intellect and to the emotions… [However] it is bound, provided it is inflexible enough, to encounter some unforeseen and unforeseeable human development, which it will not fit; and will then be used to justify the a priori barbarities of Procrustes - the vivisection of actual human societies into some fixed pattern dictated by our fallible understanding of a largely imaginary past or a wholly imaginary future."
Also read Kenan Malik on multiculturalism here. Newton Emerson on a vivisected Northern Ireland, he said:
"Census figures for the Upper Ormeau Road… is 57% Catholic and 27% Protestant, yet just 36% describe themselves as "Irish", with the remainder evenly split between British and Northern Irish. So what can explain the DUP’s betrayal of an area that epitomises Peter Robinson’s stated vision of a Northern Ireland "at peace with itself" and "for all of us, not them and us".
Cowardice in the face of loyalism must be a partial explanation, and it is quite some cowardice, as the upper Ormeau Road are believed to barely number into double figures. Electoral calculations in Belfast and more widely against the TUV will also be a factor. However, this retreat from its own policy and constitutional objective implies so much short-sightedness, spinelessness and stupidity that there has to be a deeper explanation.
Is the DUP really envisaging a Northern Ireland that depends on Catholic support which would in turn depend on tolerance, neutrality and equality? The fact that the party sees no value whatsoever in protecting places like the upper Ormeau Road suggests its true vision is a retreat into a patchwork of ethnic laagers, with Northern Ireland becoming a Catholic Bosnia overlaid with a Protestant Republika Srpska. What other explanation can there be when ten loyalists with a ladder outweigh the 40% of Catholics in upper Ormeau who, even now, have made their peace with partition. 
What the DUP wants or fears is not necessarily what will come to pass. Council reorganisation still points more to a “Belgium on the Bann” scenario, with an Irish west, a British east and an uneasily shared capital. But that less-than-ideal future is the best we can hope for and every step the DUP takes to the right brings the Balkans closer into view."
Read more about the divided Bosnian city of Sarajevo here:
"Nineteen years after the war ended, Bosnia operates as two "entities", the predominantly Muslim and Croat Federation, and the overwhelmingly Serb-dominated Serb Republic (RS). The highly autonomous RS was recognised by the peace settlement. Many Muslims regard it as the product of ethnic cleansing, while for Serbs its existence is a guarantor of peace."

September 23, 2014

How Matisse inspired Miffy

The creator of Miffy the Rabbit explained here (45m25) how Matisse inspired him. In an article in the Telegraph, 'I saw Matisse - and came up with Miffy', Dick Bruna said:
"[In Paris] I saw Picasso for the first time and Léger and all those big painters. When I saw Matisse's work – especially his late collages – he became the most important man in my life."
Also here and here. Below is how Matisse inspired other modern graphic designers.

Christopher Hitchens - We are in need of a renewed Enlightenment

Benjamin Frankling, a pillar of the American Englightenment, by Gerald Scarfe, here
Christopher Hitchens said:
"Above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment, which will base itself on the proposition that the proper study of mankind is man and woman. This Enlightenment will not need to depend, like its predecessors, on the heroic breakthroughs of a few gifted and exceptionally courageous people. It is within the compass of the average person. The study of literature and poetry, both for its own sake and for the eternal ethical questions with which it deals, can now easily depose the scrutiny of sacred texts that have been found to be corrupt and confected. The pursuit of unfettered scientific inquiry, and the availability of new findings to masses of people by electronic means, will revolutionize our concepts of research and development. Very importantly, the divorce between the sexual life and fear, and the sexual life and disease, and the sexual life and tyranny, can now at last be attempted, on the sole condition that we banish all religions from the discourse. And all this and more is, for the first time in our history, within the reach if not the grasp of everyone."
Jenni Russell (@jennirsl) wrote that there's nothing inevitable about the victory of enlightenment values. In an earlier post I wrote that Christopher Hitchens said that enlightenment principles need to be fought for and defended by every generation. Scottish historian Niall Ferguson (@nfergus) noted that "the greatest thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment were not nationalists but cosmopolitans".

In Northern Ireland, where tribal acrimony and antipathy govern all levels of public discourse these principles are exceptionally necessary. We need to move away from what David Hume called "the vulgar motive of national antipathy."

In a Letter to Lafayette Monticello in May 1817, Thomas Jefferson said:
"Ignorance and bigotry, like other insanities, are incapable of self-government."
I earlier wrote that we could say that sectarians are mentally and morally unwell. And so as Christopher Hitchens said, "condemnation of bigotry and superstition is not just a moral question but a matter of survival."

September 22, 2014

We are deluding and damaging society if we cannot speak freely of the public dead

Cartoon of Paisley with Harold Wilson, Ted Heath, Jim Callaghan, Thatcher, Major and then Blair and Ahern. By Ian Knox.
[UPDATE* - Ed Moloney spoke about the passing of Paisley on New York radio here, and said among several rich comments that "Although Brian Faulkner was brought down by a broad coalition of Loyalists, the scene was set years before that by Paisley’s agitation."]
[UPDATE II - Clifford Smyth wrote on Ed Moloney's blog that when Paisley began his political career in the 1960s Northern Ireland was a stable and peaceful society and Irish Republicans were reflecting on why the IRA campaign waged between 1956 and ’62, had failed, and how a reshaped strategy might succeed.]

Compulsory praise, homage and adulation. The scurrilous sanctimony of it. I've written about it three time before, the death eiquette (here, here and here), and will go one more time. When Paisley passed, there was as expected, and on schedule, a mass outbreak of moist and dewey eyed encomium and panegyrics. A bombardment of hagiography and neuteured, one-sided reqiuems. Pure, leader-reverent propaganda. Total distortion. Total self-delusion of the worst most self-harming kind. If the man was a thundering bigot, incubator and mobiliser of hatred for over half a century that needs ruthless examination and full public acknowledgement.

Yet death in Ireland is a time for seeing only good and burrying the bad. Fintan O'Toole wrote about it and said:
"Death is one of the things we do well in Ireland. There is a decency, a kindness, a communal instinct to try to lessen a family’s grief by taking a little bit of it onto ourselves...

September 12, 2014

The protocol, convention and etiquette for public figure deaths

Scanlan's Monthly cover by Ralph Steadman of Richard Nixon getting punched
When a prominent public figure dies we are guaranteed a steam train of piety and praise. The media will compliment where compliment is due, this is right, but it is wrong for the media to allow any public figure eulogy to go unchecked. There must be a recognition, public airing, examination and learning from the bad, their wrongs and their mistakes, their misrule, misdeeds and misbehaviour. The deceased public figure is not untouchable, the deceased public figure is not a sacred cow; a unifying consensus of reverence does a disservice to the public and to posterity.

I will punch that sacred cow. Yet the establishment wont. Glenn Greenwald calls this The Protocol For Public Figure Deaths.  A convention and etiquette that outlaws honest criticism and imposes a vow of silence. In his obituary for Christopher Hitchens, Glenn Greenwald criticised both the convention of non-criticism and Hitchens himself,  saying here:
"The death this week of Christopher Hitchens and the remarkably undiluted, intense praise lavished on him by media discussions... Hitchens was an extremely controversial, polarizing figure. And particularly over the last decade, he expressed views — not ancillary to his writings but central to them — that were nothing short of repellent. 
Subordinating his brave and intellectually rigorous defense of atheism, Hitchens’ glee over violence, bloodshed, and perpetual war dominated the last decade of his life. Dennis Perrin, a friend and former protégée of Hitchens, described all the way back in 2003 how Hitchens’ virtues as a writer and thinker were fully swamped by his pulsating excitement over war and the Bush/Cheney imperial agenda: 
I can barely read him anymore. His pieces in the Brit tabloid The Mirror and in Slate are a mishmash of imperial justifications and plain bombast; the old elegant style is dead. His TV appearances show a smug, nasty scold with little tolerance for those who disagree with him. He looks more and more like a Ralph Steadman sketch. And in addition to all this, he’s now revising what he said during the buildup to the Iraq war."
And so:
"Nobody should have to silently watch someone with this history be converted into some sort of universally beloved literary saint. To enshrine him as worthy of unalloyed admiration is to insist that these actions were either themselves commendable or, at worst, insignificant. Nobody who writes about politics for decades will be entirely free of serious error, but how serious the error is, whether it reflects on their character, and whether they came to regret it, are all vital parts of honestly describing and assessing their work. To demand its exclusion is an act of dishonesty.
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