Coffee V

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In the course of compiling these past few caffeine inspired posts I’ve had many coffees, some (most!) of which I forgot to photograph before it was too late. I’ve also lost at least one scarf, become too accustomed to buying good coffee to want to make my own, and managed not to darkened the door of a corporate multi-national.

Some people object to Instagram and other such photo filters. As you’ll have seen with my previous coffee photos, I used a filter because like the effect it creates. Yet I also understand the argument that we’re putting rose-tinted glasses on the present, not just the past, as if reality needs adulterating to make it more palatable.

So here, in all their bare, unInstagrammed glory, is a sample of the cups that were drunk without any particular musing to accompany them, beyond the usual everyday thoughts of ‘to-do’ lists and work, the unsung heroes that have been my caffeine highlight on any given day,…..

And because some of the best coffees are shared…

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Coffee IV

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It’s been a long time coming but I’ve finally got around to my fourth and penultimate coffee post….

Last week I attended an awards ceremony for documentary film makers where the theme was one of social justice and contemporary moral issues facing society. We were lucky enough to be joined by the President (Uachtarán na hÉireann) who gave a very witty but quietly powerful speech. He quoted Welsh academic and left-wing theorist Raymond Williams:

Be the arrow, not the target.

It’s a deceptively simple sentiment but it gave me pause for thought over this equally simple but lovely espresso macchiato in my favourite Italian café…..

With my mind full of social justice issues, it seemed to me as I mulled it over that Williams is asking us to consider who are the rightful targets of our criticism, to whom should we direct our desire for change? And more obviously it serves as a warning not to become complacent, to always have a mind to others affected by our behaviour.

Note: The creamy substance beside the coffee is cremina, a frothy blend of espresso and sugar which can be added to sweeten in place of plain sugar.

Coffee III

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Wednesday. A day the sun forgot. Cold and grey with spluttering dank drizzle. A day when some bright spot was needed, and that bright spot was lunch. All morning I thought about the delicious panino and cappuccino that awaited one of my favourite Italian cafés. These are no ordinary panini, no unloved baguette filled with cheap cheese and synthetic meat. These are warm mouthfuls of crispy bread, olive oil, mozzarella and juicy tomato with just the right amount of saltiness from the cured ham. I could taste it before I crossed the threshold. I took a seat looking out the window, surrounded by suits and hipsters, and gave my order to the waitress without looking at a menu.

“I’m sorry. We have no panini; no bread left.” No! Dashed hopes and disappointment.  “But I can make a sandwich with ordinary bread.” I sighed and agreed to second best, thoughts of warm loveliness receding. Then this arrived:

Faith restored, heart-shaped deliciousness in every bite.

I began to think about expectation and disappointment. Some people ruin an experience by weighing it down with expectation before the event, thinking through every detail, only setting themselves up for disappointment when those expectations aren’t met. I sometimes fall into this category and when I do, I often think how much better off I’d be if I simply allowed events to unfold and somehow managed to redirect my brain when it starts to build imaginary pictures of what might be. Ultimately, it is not disappointment itself but how we deal with it that is important.

He doesn’t always get it right but I like what Alain de Botton has to say on it:

One of the best protections against disappointment is to have a lot going on.

Coffee II

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For Day 2 of my coffee blog/diary I chose a lounge-style café, the type with comfy sofas, stacks of books and nineteen varieties of tea (although I still picked coffee). Rather than trawl online for meaningful quotations, I’m trying to let the ‘thought for the day’ in this little experiment, find me. So I opened a freesheet and immediately saw this from Richard Burton’s recently released diaries:

I loathe, loathe, loathe acting. I shudder at the thought of going to work

It’s serendipitous that I chanced upon this particular quotation since I was on a film set for the first time last week. I saw first hand the discipline and patience required of actors, the inherent silliness they must feel in dressing up, pretending to be someone else, not to mention the skill of giving meaning to their lines in take after take of the same scene. It is an exhaustingly slow process. Small wonder there is so much self-loathing hedonism in the film industry.

The above link is worth a read for a larger sample of Burton’s diaries. Witty, bleak, self-knowing; I may have to take a closer look.

Monday, Monday….

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If there’s a feel-good way to ease into the week it’s with a velvety cappuccino and a few pages of a good book. To carry on that feel-good factor, each morning this week I’ll be trying a different café and scribbling a few lines on a ‘thought for the day’; a sort of coffee-blog-within-a-blog.

Today’s ‘thought’ is courtesy of the oversize chalkboard in this morning’s choice, a very trendy warehouse-style café serving this most delicious, creamy, smooth coffee:

All sorrows are less with bread.

Don Quixote never uttered a truer word. For when we’re tired of food, surely we’re also a little tired of life? Rather than succumb to the fictional notion of ‘Monday blues’, choose to embrace the simple, everyday pleasures – fresh bread, real butter, good coffee. With a full stomach, all else will seem but a trifle.

 

 

New day, new theme

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For the past few days I’ve been thinking about a ‘new look’ for the blog so I’m trying out this one – Chateau. I wanted something slightly more elegant than the one I had been using (Twenty Eleven) and one that would reflect The Dappled Butterfly of the title. I would prefer right-sided navigation for the tag and category clouds but otherwise I’m pretty pleased with it.

So do you think the theme element of a blog is important? Does the appearance enhance the content? I certainly believe a professional, clean layout makes for a more enjoyable reader experience, which is what I’m aiming for here.

Any comments on the change, positive or negative, would be welcome!

F. Scott Fitzgerald reads from Othello

My audiovisual treat today is thanks to Open Culture (via Brian Pickings) with this short but very nicely composed slideshow of F. Scott Fitzgerald reciting a speech from Othello.

There is a quiet thrill in hearing a much loved author whose voice heretofore was simply his words on the page, come alive in languid, flowing tones, all smooth cadence and sad rhythms. We’re so used now to the media treadmill of book releases accompanied by wall-to-wall author interviews but to hear Fitzgerald crackling through the last century into the present is quite special.

As the explanatory note points out, the sound quality suggests more than one take has been edited together to make the recording but here at least is the first part the speech he recites from Othello Act 1, Scene III:

Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors,
My very noble and approved good masters,
That I have ta’en away this old man’s daughter,
It is most true; true, I have married her:
The very head and front of my offending
Hath this extent, no more. Rude am I in my speech,
And little bless’d with the soft phrase of peace:
For since these arms of mine had seven years’ pith,
Till now some nine moons wasted, they have used
Their dearest action in the tented field,
And little of this great world can I speak,
More than pertains to feats of broil and battle,
And therefore little shall I grace my cause
In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,
I will a round unvarnish’d tale deliver
Of my whole course of love; what drugs, what charms,
What conjuration and what mighty magic,
For such proceeding I am charged withal,
I won his daughter.

Sifting the good from the bad

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Amidst the din of competing sites, blogs and other social media, I sometimes find my mind a complete blank when I sit down at the laptop. There is SO much to choose from that I either end up doing nothing, or else traverse the same well worn pages in a routine familiarity. But sometimes I have a feeling that I’m missing out, that there is great content out there if only I had the patience to find it (and more importantly, the time to absorb it when I get there). Of course I glance at some of the many online aggregators but they can be so busy, with a lottery of content that’s as bad as it is good.

Well this morning I happened across a wonderful site that has so much cool stuff, I just want to devote hours to exploring all that I’ve missed. Some of you may be familiar with www.brainpickings.org but for a newcomer there’s a lot to catch up on.

I was especially taken with yesterday’s post on  The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947 and this musing from 1946 which pre-empts the effects of global communication on our personal relationships:

The secret of a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates the vice of procrastination, the sin of postponement, failed communications, failed communions. This thought has made me more and more attentive to all encounters. meetings, introductions, which might contain the seed of depth that might be carelessly overlooked. This feeling has become a rarity, and rarer every day now that we have reached a hastier and more superficial rhythm, now that we believe we are in touch with a greater amount of people, more people, more countries. This is the illusion which might cheat us of being in touch deeply with the one breathing next to us. The dangerous time when mechanical voices, radios, telephones, take the place of human intimacies, and the concept of being in touch with millions brings a greater and greater poverty in intimacy and human vision.

The digital age may enhance our lives in myriad ways but this passage begs the question whether we sometimes overlook the reality and possibilities of the person beside us in our rush to consume online?

And yes, I realise the paradox even in my own post!

Hooked on Game of Thrones

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There is nothing to match the escapism of really great story-telling; a fictional world so complete, so captivating that you can walk around in it, hear the sounds, feel the heat and chill, look on the world with a character’s eyes and lose yourself in a whole other time and place. The writing may sometimes veer towards cliché and the idiosyncratic dialects become too intrusive but there is no doubting the engrossing story-telling at the heart of Game of Thrones (or rather the series of books otherwise known as A Song of Ice and Fire). Having idly started reading a friend’s copy of the first book in the series (A Game of Thrones) I found myself buying my own, reading it in near record time before rushing out to get the next three in the series. For the first time in a long time I felt a real thrill at the thought of getting home to launch into hours of uninterrupted reading. Oh yes, I am well and truly hooked on Westeros.

I know I’m late to the party here but I haven’t been tempted by fantasy fiction since finishing (and loving) The Lord of the Rings years ago. Sure, I’ve had recommendations to read David Eddings and others but I ignored them in favour of contemporary and classic fiction. So, having been away from the fantasy genre for almost a decade, I’m delighted to be back amongst pseudo-medieval characters, places and intrigues thanks to George R.R. Martin.

At the outset these type of novels can seem a daunting task with all their maps and a cast of seemingly thousands (and in my ignorance I didn’t realise how many books there were in this series or how long they are) but what has kept me turning page after page is the thriller-like pacing and neatly divided chapters, each propelling the story in a new or unexpected direction. At the same time I marvel at Martin’s ability to sustain the reader’s attention whilst weaving such a labyrinthine plot.

However he does it, all I know is that the prospect of at least five more novels in the series is no longer daunting but to be savoured. And there’s the HBO adaptation as a bonus once I finish book two, A Clash of Kings.

If there are any other readers belatedly catching up with this series, I’d love to hear from you. (No spoilers please!)

Bourne franchise alive and well

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I’m going to make things easy for myself as I slink back to my poor neglected blog so it’s film review time. Last night, on a whim, we went to see The Bourne Legacy. It is always easier to be surprised when expectations aren’t part of the equation ( The Dark Knight Rises somehow fell a bit short of what I’d hoped for and certainly didn’t better its predecessor). So, unusually for me, without having read a single review I found myself sitting in the dark of the cinema waiting for the fourth Bourne to unfold.

The Bourne Legacy does more than simply take up where The Bourne Ultimatum left off. More of an overlapping sequel, the action initially plays out in parallel with the tail-end of Ultimatum and continues with on-going references to the fallout from events in the third film, especially the FBI investigation following Jason Bourne and Pamela Landy’s exposé of the Treadstone Project and Operation Blackbriar. The effect is an intelligent, layered thriller which plays with any easy assurance that the CIA bad guys might get their comeuppance thanks to Landy and Bourne’s efforts

Of course this is a Bourne without Matt Damon – the net widens as we’re introduced to a fellow black ops agent, Aaron Cross (an excellent Jeremy Renner) whose story demonstrates the extent of the CIA’s dubious intelligence-gathering programme. Its moral ambivalence is personified by Edward Norton’s ruthless character who poses some genuine questions about how far the ‘free world’ will go to keep itself free of threats, real or imagined.

It works as a both thriller and an action movie although there are less car chases than the original trilogy but just as much tension. Of course it leaves the door open for a follow-up (will Bourne and Cross meet?) which on the strength of the first four, I would be queuing up to see.