Schrödinger’s Cat panels at the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies

The Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies was established in 1940 by Eamon de Valera’s government with three constituent schools of Cosmic Physics, Theoretical Physics and Celtic Studies. By far the most famous name attracted there was Erwin Schrödinger. He gave the lectures that became his book, What Is Life?  there in 1943.

The DIAS now stands on a rather unprepossessing building in Dublin 4:
Along the basement windows, however, are panels illustrating the thought experiment Schrödinger is most famous for:

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While I could explain the idea of the experiment easily enough to my children (well, not the equation) I struggled to explain its significance… obviously their focus was on the welfare of the hypothetical cat and not entanglement or whatever. This YouTube video was no help at all:

 

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You are not a product: Phil Lawton on Dublin as a hyper-competitive city

Back in 2015 I attended the inaugural symposium of the Health Research Board’s Trial Methodology Research Network (TMRN), which I blogged about here. The meeting (which was excellent) was in the Gibson Hotel in Dublin’s docklands. I found walking this part of Dublin somewhat eerie – within a short distance of some of the most deprived areas of the North Inner City we had this rather sterile, pedestrian-free, street-life-free zone.

As it happened, that day I came across a post by my friend Philip Lawton  which helped me understand some of my unease in what is, after all, my native city. I suppose Sue King-Smith’s post on writing in the age of person-as-product brought this back to my consciousness. Anyway, here are Phil’s opening paragraphs:

 

Dublin is so caught up in a maelstrom of ‘hyper-competitiveness’ that it barely has time to even think about what it is or what it means. At the centre of this is the tech industry, which influences everything fromlivable city agendas to housing discussions. It is a form of competitiveness that is presented in manner that makes it seem almost matter of fact or inevitable. When faced with this, the responses to recent announcement that the up-coming Web Summit will leave Dublin come as no surprise. The common mantra from various media sources (here and here) is one of ‘loss’, ’embarrassment’, and a sign that we must improve our infrastructure to cater for and attract events such as this. In a manner that would seem almost absurd to many, The Irish Times even went so far as to publish an opinion poll asking ‘Is the loss of the Web Summit a blow to Ireland’s reputation abroad’. In as much as such approaches are so dominant, it becomes completely accepted that the response must be for Dublin to reaffirm itself and ‘stay in the game’ or lose out. There is little reflection on what the level of mobility and ‘choice’ afforded to contemporary companies or organizations means for the city and for thinking about long-term sustainable approaches to economic development.

There are a number of factors worth remembering here. For one, the Web Summit is part of a culture of expectation, where every want and need is answered. If not, there is every chance that the relevant companies will move on. This reality is made explicit in this case, with the Web Summit blog stating: “We know now what it takes to put on a global technology gathering and we know that if Web Summit is to grow further, we need to find it a new home. Our attendees expect the best.” Thus, with one foul swoop, the birth-place of the Summit is rejected, with pastures new willing to cater to the wants and needs of the tech world. This is a world that is held aloft as proclaiming the arrival of a new world order of progress and betterment. Although most of us never experience it, it offers a luring image of inventiveness, youth, and progress all framed in a chic background of converted shipping containers and bright colours. Yet, in as much as this industry needs constantly innovate to remain competitive, it makes for a highly unpredictable outcome for host cities.

The Web Summit also forms part and parcel of a form of competitiveness that perceives and believes that any small dent in the shiny and glossy image of the city will end in a catastrophic result. It is yet another element in the firm belief of a ‘trickle down’ approach to economic betterment, even if we don’t know where it’s trickling. It is so normalized that it now presents itself as common sense – ‘we’ must fight for this agenda at all costs because these the outcome is ‘good’. As is nearly always the case, there is little to no questioning of why pursue this approach in the first place and of possible demerits.

 

Beshoff’s Chip Shop Founder was Last Survivor of Potemkin Mutiny

From his 1987 New York Times obituary:

Ivan Beshoff, the last survivor of the 1905 mutiny on the Russian battleship Potemkin, a harbinger of the Russian Revolution, died Sunday, his family said today. His birth certificate said he was 102 years old, but he contended he was 104.

Born near the Black Sea port of Odessa, Mr. Beshoff abandoned chemistry studies and joined the navy, serving in the engine room of the Potemkin.

The mutiny over poor food was the first mass expression of discontent in Czar Nicholas II’s military and later came to be seen as a prelude to the 1917 Russian Revolution.

The mutineers killed the captain and several officers. The entire Black Sea fleet was ordered to suppress the rebellion, but crews refused to fire on the battleship, and it sailed for 11 days before surrendering.

Mr. Beshoff had said he fled through Turkey to London, where he met Lenin. He settled in Ireland in 1913, saying he had tired of the sea.

Mr. Beshoff worked for a Soviet oil distribution company and was twice arrested as a Soviet spy, but became a beloved figure in the Irish community.

After World War II, he opened a fish and chips shop in Dublin. His sons opened branches elsewhere in the city.

Weirdly (to my mind) Beshoff’s don’t mention this on their website… although we do have this historical tidbit:

Grandfather Ivan Beshoff came to Ireland from Russia in 1913 and lived to 104 years. His father lived to 108 and his grandfather to 115 – enough said about the goodness of fish.

“The whirligig of time” : A note on Fr Pat Noise

“The whirligig of time” : A note on Fr Pat Noise

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Seeing that this documentary is to be broadcast next Saturday I thought it an apt time, though any time would be an apt time, to post about my own research into the obscure career of Fr Pat Noise…

Some years ago, when lecturing in UCD, I was working on a presentation on conditions in some ways connected with the passage of time. The best known being deja vu, the perception when in a new place or situation that one has been here before, or the same thing has happened before. Of course, there is a whole psychological science of time.

In those days I had the chance to read more deeply and broadly for this kind of thing than since. I used what was then the UCD School of Medicine in Earlsfort Terrace. It was the last few months of it being part of UCD. The librarians were working on transferring stock of the main UCD Library and many older and more obscure volumes were out and about on various trestle tables. Among these was one which I had dimly heard of but had also come up in some of my reading, Vico’s The New Science. Vico believed that history went in a curve or spiral, and that events recurred.

In the middle of the book, presumably used as a book mark at some stage, I found a faded, worn prayer card. I could barely make out the text on it except for a request to say an Our Father and a Hail Mary for the soul of Fr Pat Noise, and below this the following words:

Do you want to see what human eyes have never seen?
Look at the moon
Do you want to hear what ears have never heard?
Listen to the birds cry
Do you want to touch what hands have never touched?
Touch the earth
Truly I say that God is about to create the world.

This struck me as somewhat unusual content for a prayer card. Again, having more time than now, I was able to follow up with some research on Fr Noise in the Dublin Diocescan archives in All Hallows. I think I had a vague idea about writing some kind of paper. I am not a historian and was seeking not truth nor likelihood but astonishment. So I found out somewhat more about Fr Pat Noise.

Noise, like Fergus Kilpatrick and Dungarvan native John Vincent Moon is a figure who has somehow been forgotten, by and large, in the so called Decade of Centenaries. Unfortunately, at the time , I made my notes in a file on a laptop which is long defunct.

In the archives what we read about Fr Noise is entirely through the words of others, him being a curate in Berkeley Road who dressed in an extremely flamboyant manner, who was unambigious in his support of the workers in the 1913 Lockout, and also as proposing theological views not entirely Orthodox. However one letter describes him as travelling to the furthest reaches of orthodoxy, but not going over the precipice.

This was contained in another letter from a priest that was otherwise quite hostile to Fr. Noise. According to this priest, Fr Noise stated that there are no two moments alike and every moment is a new moment and that history is in a cycle and life is in a cycle because every moment is new again. The poem that was on the prayer card was reproduced in this letter; apparently Fr Noise read it at a ceremony. It is unrecorded what the congregation in Berkeley Road made of this.

Fr Noise’s sympathy for the 1913 Lockout and for the poor of Dublin seems to have, in a similar way, gone right to but not past the limit of what the Church hierarchy could tolerate. There are hints in another letter, by an anonymous outraged parishioner, of accusations of Socialism and Communism, but in this area Fr Noise crafted his sermons in the words of Christ Himself, and remained at the dangerous edge of orthodoxy.

The link with Peadar Clancy came through being one of the genuine customers of Republican Outfitters. This was a well known meeting place for the IRA in Dublin. Dan Breen said that really if you were an IRA man you shouldn’t stay there too long. In the letters about Noise it is mentioned that he wore quite elaborate capes and top hats which were sourced from Republican Outfitters.

He also apparently translated Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar into Irish, but there is no trace I could find of this. There is also a clipped article by Fr Noise, but from an unidentifiable periodical, on Festspiele – festivals in Switzerland in which thousands of people , possible the whole population of a town or area will renact historical events in the place where they happened. In this piece he suggests that this is something that Ireland and Dublin should emulate and and there were all these hints that the 1916 Rising was a reenactment of a previous event that had happened before in history.

Fr Noise pops up in letters beween Peadar Clancy and Sean Treacy and also seems to have been an intermediary for Clancy. Surprisingly these activities do not make it into the accusations of his various foes, and in the letters what Clancy describes are purely philosophical and theological discussions.

Fr Noise is now commemorated with a plaque on O’Connell Street, but otherwise his life is nearly totally forgotten by both the worlds of the Church and of Official Ireland. Perhaps in the narrative of commemorations and the rather self-congratulatory rhetoric about How Far We Have Come, a priest with cosmopolitan intellectual influences does not fit neatly into our perceptions of a cleric or a revolutionary. His plaque is, by coincidence, on the spot on O’Connell Bridge beside which the Millenium Clock, a digital clock inserted into the Liffey in 1994 but which was beset by all sort of problems, including time running backwards.

Stained Glass from Church of St Laurence O’Toole, Kilmacud, Dublin

Opened on December 14th 1969 by Flann O’Brien’s English teacher the Church of St Laurence O’Toole in Kilmacud is one of those very late twentieth century ecclesiastical spaces in Dublin which are oft-derided but I find personally quite congenial (another example is Newtownpark Avenue

There isn’t all that much stained glass, with a striking window above the entrance.

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Some details here:

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There are also two small images in a chapel of Perpetual Adoration which have a satisfyingly questing air:

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While not stained glass per se, I liked this icon of St Laurence O’Toole:

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Alt Hist No More

Sadly, Alt Hist has published its final issue. Or rather, Mark Lord has understandably, given multiple demands, decided to step back from publishing it.

Mark published two of my own stories in Alt Hist – Dublin Can Be Heaven and Lackendarra – but aside from that, I am grateful to him for 10 consistently interesting, thought provoking collections of historical fiction with a bit of a twist.

A while back I blogged that another outlet for my writing, The Dabbler, was no more. However it is now back again I am glad to report. So perhaps this will not be the end of Alt Hist forever – but obviously that is Mark’s decision to make in the future.

“Dublin Can Be Heaven”, Alt Hist. December 2011

This is my first fiction piece published outside of nthposition.com. I gave the background to the piece in an interview with Alt Hist’s editor Mark Lord you can read here . The original publication is in Alt Hist issue 3, which can be purchased through here .

One online review said this was too abrupt and sudden a story, and like much of my fiction things happen too quickly and somewhat arbitrarily. If I was minded to defend myself, I would say that this what life is often like, but really I have to accept the critique. I tend to have a single idea behind a story which I nervously unleash without doing the proper work of scene-setting.

DUBLIN CAN BE HEAVEN

All those grease-laden plates. Bacon. Eggs. Toast. Black

pudding. White pudding. Piled high, more meat on one plate

than he ate in six months in the mountains. For Harry, there

could never be enough. The ability to walk into Bewley’s on

Westmoreland Street and order a breakfast, freely available

(at least if you could hand over the funds) – this signal fact

was reason enough to love Dublin. What had Dublin, or

indeed Ireland, been to him before? There were names –

Michael Collins, de Valera, the Mayor of Cork on hunger

strike, a vague sense of a desperate struggle – but nothing

definite. Now Dublin was food, Dublin was breakfast,

Dublin was lunch, Dublin was dinner. Also, Dublin was no

ration cards, and no queuing. Every morning he ate slowly,

relishing the sensation of gradually filling up. As he chewed

he looked out at the street, or over towards the Liffey. How

different all this was from those months before coming to

Dublin, cadging coupons from the rest of the Balkan flotsam

and jetsam that ended up in London, being ignored by the

Foreign Office. Three years after the War, and still the British

lived like a defeated people. Here in Ireland, money could

talk as eloquently as ever.

He felt no embarrassment about spending his days

drinking coffee and eating well. He was enjoying the Dublin

spring. What else could one do? Only a few years before, he

had been used to sleeping in the open in mountain country,

eating husks and dirt. The mildewed flat in London, where

the Organisation worked and dreamt and slept, would have

seemed unimaginably luxurious to him in 1943. And as for

this city … well, anywhere that a man could walk into a cafe

and buy a fine cooked breakfast was a long way from where

he came from. A land where his name was not Harry, no one

had heard of Bewley’s, or Westmoreland Street.

Harry’s time in Dublin was turning into a failure. There

was no trace of Andrija Artukovic, the man Harry was in

Dublin to kill. They knew he had come here, via Switzerland,

in the last months of the War. Various clerical and political

personages had facilitated this passage; it seemed likely that

the Irish authorities were unaware of the nature of the

resident they hosted. Harry had obtained lists of foreign

nationals kept by the Gardai, had staked out the lodgings of

the few Croatians in the city, had walked the streets of

Galway, Cork and Athlone checking up tenuous leads that

went nowhere. He had lived rough for a week here and

there, staking out monasteries; rapidly he realised that Irish

Franciscans were rather different from their Croat confreres.

He had sent a telegram from the GPO in O’Connell Street

back to the Organisation in London:

THE BULL HAS NOT BEEN SOLD STOP REQUEST

FURTHER ADVICE STOP

Less than an hour later came the reply:

WILL SEND UPDATED PEDIGREE WHEN POSSIBLE STOP

MEANTIME STAY AT MARKET STOP

Staying at market would not be a problem. Harry had

been in the fields when the Ustaše came. He never looked

back, as he crawled from field to field, and then into the

mountains. He felt relieved that his mother and father had

died years before the War. He did not allow himself to think

about his brothers and sisters, and nephews. In the

mountains, he crawled through scree and dirt. Eventually he

stopped, lay there, and waited to starve. Then he realised

that the thirst he had begun to feel meant that he still wanted

to live. He met others, who had been hiding in the caves, and

they found a monastery atop a cliff that escaped the notice of

all the various empires which had tried to impose themselves

on the land. Here, they had formed the Organisation. Here,

they had fought back.

Artukovic was not the most senior figure in the puppet

Croat collaborationist state; but he was the one the

Organisation held most responsible for the fate that had

befallen their people. His words had unleashed a storm of

shootings, hangings, rapes, burnings, each act performed

systematically, part of a plan set out in cramped, precise

handwriting in endless memos from an anonymous office.

One of his associates had written that the Serb people ‘will be

converted to friendship, or will cease to exist’; while

Artukovic himself had been careful not to commit such

sentences to paper, he had gone a long way towards

achieving the latter aim.

At times they lived on grass and water’ sometimes

supplies were dropped in by air – bully beef, dried cereals,

and a few Webley revolvers. They had some contacts in the

villages, and through these via the underground had links to

the world beyond Festung Europa. A few Special Operations

Executive men visited courtesy of the RAF; one smashed on

the crags after his parachute didn’t open (they assumed), one

got captured and dismembered by the enemy immediately

on landing, and one landed successfully and went on to stay

with them for months. He provided them with a short wave

radio and was blown up by one of his own bombs, not before

providing the finishing touches that turned the loose band of

survivors into real partisans.

They had joined up with other groups, and they had been

the ones to rout the local Ustaše, they had driven most of the

Germans out too, and then suddenly Tito controlled all of a

country whose existence they were less than enthused by,

and they were expected to forget all that happened in the

name of brotherhood and piece. The Organisation left its

homeland, and ended up in London, thanks to some

sympathetic former SOE men and Foreign Office people.

Harry watched the Dublin crowd walk by. Men in sharp

suits, thin corner boys, nuns, priests, young country girls

looking frightened and virtuous. These Irish, so prim, so

pious, so neutral. Some of his colleagues in the organisation

had been scathing about this – to be neutral was to be at one

with them. He did not share this. He would have liked to

have had the chance to be neutral, and now he saw it as a

pretty thing, something to be cosseted and cherished and on

no account to be wilfully shattered, like the innocence of a

Then he saw him. Across the street, sauntering, heading

towards O’Connell Bridge. The feet that had walked into

offices and placed themselves under desks, from where he

had sent the orders for hundreds of thousands to be

butchered and violated, sauntering. The hands that signed

those papers, fat and pampered at the end of arms swinging

purposefully and confidently. That face, that face, the face

they had all studied and argued over – what it would look

like bearded, moustachioed, after three years of privation?

None of them had ever considered that it could be

unchanged. It was the same face as in the few photographs

he had ever allowed to be taken, that ordinary, rather

bumpkinish face—chubby cheeked, cherubic. There was no

sign of murderous conviction or righteous intensity, none of

the air of the demonic Harry had expected.

He hadn’t even lost weight. He was snug inside a three

piece suit, clearly expensively tailored. He too had been

enjoying the ready availability of meals in Dublin. He hadn’t

even lost a night’s sleep. Harry realised he was clutching his

coffee cup so tightly his knuckles were whitening. He

breathed in and out. He motioned to the waitress, threw

down a ten shilling note, galloped downstairs leaving the

staff initially startled and then delighted, and ran out onto

Westmoreland Street. He knew this would attract attention,

aware that Organisation had warned him to be discreet, and

to contact them if he became aware of Artukovic’s presence

in the Irish Free State before trying to do anything himself.

But this was him, right in from of his face, a vision from the

hell of his imagination; here he was, incarnate, banal,

everyday.

And where was he? Artukovic had disappeared. No –

there he was, a little further along. Harry’s view had been

obscured by a bus. He mastered his urge to race across the

street, and crossed as casually as he could, glancing each way

for traffic, He hurried his pace as he realised Artukovic was

almost at the corner, and could possibly double back into

D’Olier Street and disappear into some premises or other.

Harry saw with relief Artukovic had walked on, and was

about to cross the road to the central pavement of O’Connell

Bridge.

Harry quickened his pace again, to a kind of silent

almost-run. He looked around for any bodyguards, any sign

that the Dubliners knew what monster walked amongst

them. All the time, he ensured that he could always see the

back of Artukovic’s round head. The distance between them

shortened. Still, even as he was being pursued by vengeance,

even after all that blood and all that suffering, Andrija

Artukovic was sauntering, sauntering. Strolling along the

pavement in the middle of the bridge without a care in the

world. Harry felt the Webley Mark IV, a legacy of the SOE

man’s intervention, hanging in its holster inside his jacket.

Now they were feet apart; ten, eight, six, three. He

reached inside the jacket, and lifted the revolver out of the

holster a little, while keeping it concealed. He clicked the

safety. They were about two-thirds across the bridge. Harry

paused for a second. He could avenge the souls of his family,

his village, his people. Right now. This was a moment out of

legend, a moment for heroes.

He wanted to see that face. He wanted him to know what

was happening, even for a second. They had nearly reached

the end of the bridge, so close he could almost reach out and

touch him. He could almost reach out and touch him, this

man who signed the paper that sent armies of the night out

He could almost reach out and touch him, this man who

killed his family. Then, he did reach out and touch him.

Harry brushed Artukovic on the left shoulder. As he turned,

Harry pointed the Webley at his face, and began to stammer.

He wanted to tell Artukovic his name, the name of his

village, his father’s name, his mother’s name, his sisters’

names, his brothers’ names, his niece’s name, and to tell him

about the burnt out villages Harry and the rest the

Organisation walked through. He wanted to tell him that his

people had not died or converted, and that Artukovic was

facing the eternal damnation he deserved. He wanted to say

all this, but he had no words. He pulled the trigger.