31/11/02 Greatest Fictional Briton
AA Gill, the Sunday Times TV Critic, and one of the advocates for William Shakespeare in the Great Britons series, proposes a new competition in his column today :
"Next time, could I suggest that to even up the dearth of writers in the list, we might vote for the top 100 fictional Britons and have Sherlock Holmes battling it out with Falstaff, Mr Darcy, Winnie the Pooh and Bridget Jones."
I think I'd vote for Holmes, but I suspect that James Bond or Harry Potter would come out in the lead.

31/11/02 World AIDS Day
Today is World AIDS Day, and over this weekend ads have been appearing on TV paid for (I presume) by the Irish government informing us that they have been spending €40 million to combat AIDS in the Third World as part of "Ireland Aid". €40 million really isn't that much money, it's about the price of a world class footballer, should the government really be spending tens of thousands of euros in an exercise in self-congratulation? AIDS isn't beaten, people are dying, and not just because of AIDS. Wouldn't the money spent on the ads be better spent in Africa?

30/11/02 Beauties and the Beasts
Andrew Sullivan nails the controversy over the staging of the Miss World contest in Nigeria in this Salon article. In the West, the Miss World contest is regarded as something of a joke. To the Islamo-Fascists its something to kill for. Sullivan rightly castigates those who attempt to blame the organisers, and asks you to consider who would be blamed if Christian fundamentalists in America went on the rampage over a play they considered to be offensive.

29/11/02 Babe Watch
November's Babe of the Month is Melinda Messenger. She is currently participating in Celebrity Big Brother, and as much as I dislike "reality" TV shows, it has put her back into the spotlight. Aside from her adorable looks, she has the one of the most delectable accents around, and she could "smile for England."

28/11/02 Hell On Earth Watch
There are few more unpleasant experiences than getting a rush-hour train on a wet day. You walk in the rain to the train station, stand on an exposed platform waiting\praying for the arrival of a train. The first train arrives and you can't get on because its too full. You wait another five minutes and this time you squeeze your way onto a carriage. If you are wearing glasses they will immediately steam up, and you can't take them off to clean them because you are clinging onto a pole with one hand, and using the other to hold your umbrella, which is dripping onto you.
I remember hearing a politician extol the virtues of public transport, outlining the stress that drivers experience stuck in rush-hour traffic. Bad as being stuck in rush-hour traffic is, at least you endure it in a warm, dry seat, not squashed up against complete strangers. Human beings were not meant to be that close to strangers.

27/11/02 TV Watch - The Life Of Mammals
As usual, David Attenborough presents us with a magnificient natural history series. The stars of tonight's episode were bats, and their amazing ability to navigate using "echolocation", similar to radar and sonar. Donald Griffin, the co-discoverer of echolocation in bats (along with Robert Galambos), recalled the scenes when he published his findings at a seminar 1940 :
"One distinguished scientist seized Galambos by the shoulders and shook him while complaining that we could not possibly mean such an outrageous suggestion. Radar and sonar were still highly classified developments in military technology and the notion that bats might do anything remotely analagous to the latest triumphs in electronic engineering struck most people as not only impluasible but emotionally repugnant."
In 1940, radar was the weapon that gave the RAF the edge in the Battle of Britain. Bats had been using it for millions of years to find their way. Evolution is a wondrous thing.

27/11/02 TV Watch -  Friends
The ninth and (according to reports) last season of Friends starts on Ireland's Network 2 next Monday night. Although it lacks the sharpness and bite which it displayed at the start, it can still raise a laugh.
Apparently, NBC have lined up an American version of BBC2's comedy Coupling to replace it.
December is very early to start showing a new season of an American show, I'm pretty sure that there will have to be a break to show repeats because all the new episodes won't have been shown in the States by the time Network 2 catches up.
Note : I'm using 'season' in its American sense, the Irish media will announce it as a new 'series', but I believe that the American usage is superior because the British\Irish usage doesn't convey the difference between a new television program (in American, series) and a new run of episodes (in American, season) for an existing program.

26/11/02 Author Insanity Watch
I am being driven slowly insane by an advert that Sky are running on Irish and British TV stations. The ad itself is fairly bland, but it is the music that is doing the damage. I know that I should know what song is playing in the background, it is an instrumental piece, melodic, I think it is from a film. I have even tried Commercials Breaks and Beats which is usually excellent for this sort of thing, to no avail. This will do my head in until I figure out the name of the song.

25/11/02 The Greatest Briton
Much to the relief of the BBC Winston Churchill came out first in their 'Great Britons' series. I'm sure they would have been a little embarrassed had the wonderfully-named Isambard Kingdom Brunel (helped greatly by Jeremy Clarkson's advocacy) or Diana won it. Churchill would have been my first choice aswell, with Newton & Darwin close behind. Who would the greatest Irish person be? Michael Collins? Sean Lemass? Bosco?

23/11/02 The First Entry
Inspired by the example of Andrew Sullivan's weblog, I have started to keep a weblog (or blog, for short) to record my rants and raves. We all need to let off a bit of steam every now and then. The entries for before this date were written retrospectively.

23/11/02 Political Correctness Watch
Have you noticed that no matter what Palestinians terrorists do, they are never ever called Palestinian terrorists by the Irish media? They are radicals, or gunmen, or militants, or... there seems to be a list of euphemisms somewhere that they are all working off. What would a Palestinian have to do before the Irish media would call him a terrorist?

22/11/02 On The Bookshelf
My 'Christmas' books have arrived, so called because it will probably be Christmas by the time I have a chance to read them. It's a fairly diverse collection : Thomas Sowell's "A Conflict of Visions", an examination of the differences between the Political Right and Left; Jared Diamond's historical masterpiece "Guns Germs and Steel" in hardback, my paperback version is getting a bit dog-eared; Bill Bryson's "Made In America", a witty look at the history of the English language in America; David Friedman's "Hidden Order", an accessible account of the economics of everyday life; and finally the 1300-page "Penguin History of the Second World War", which I intend to use as a reference book rather than try to read straight through.

21/11/02 Consumer Watch
On my summer holiday to Italy I acquired a taste for Iced Tea, specifically Liptons' Lemon Iced Tea. However, much to my disappointment, it seems that in Ireland it is easier to obtain class A drugs than to obtain Liptons' Lemon Iced Tea. Snapple do a passable Iced Tea, as do the LIDL chain, but Liptons', which is by far the best, cannot be got for love nor money. Apparently Liptons withdrew from the Irish market but may be coming back in January. Fingers crossed.

20/11/02 Irish Politics - The Teflon Minister
Bertie Ahern, Ireland's Prime Minsiter is often called the Teflon Taioseach, because no matter how many rumours or scandals erupt around him, nothing ever sticks. It seems to me that in his cabinet he has a Teflon Minister, the Minister for Health, Michael Martin. In the media the government is criticised because it has doubled the health budget but there has apparently been little improvement in the quality of the health service, it is a black hole for money. Somehow, however, Martin never seems to come in for criticism for this (perhaps Teflon is not the best analogy, nothing is thrown at him that could stick). He is the minister responsible, and yet if you look at opinion pieces in the media about the government and the wasted money, the criticism is directed at Charlie McCreevy, the Minister for Finance. Shrewdly, McCreevy's new defence when asked about where the money is going is to direct the journalist to interview the Minister responsible for that department.

19/11/02 Poseur Alert
MTV and local radio stations are playing Avril Lavigne's hit "Complicated" on heavy rotation. It is a very catchy song, but I have this weird gut feeling about the song and\or the artist (it is rather vague) that put me off it. Normally I adore Canadian girls, and Miss Lavigne is quite cute, but a female friend commented that she is a total poseur and then it hit me - that is exactly what's been putting me off the artist and consequently the song.

17/11/02 Sport - GAA
UCD have won the Dublin Gaelic Football Championship, comfortably beating St. Vincents. UCD are not a club, they are a university. They offer scholarships to some of the finest inter-county players in the country. They are making a mockery of the Club Championships. I should declare my bias here, I am a former player of St. Vincents, however, I would have preferred Na Fianna to be in the final instead of Vincents, if they went on to beat UCD.

16/11/02 DVD Review - Lord Of The Rings
At long last, the Special Extended Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring has been released. I did not buy the original theatrical release, as I was waiting for this version, which has an extra 1/2 hour of footage. Some scenes have been extended, some scenes have been added - Lothlorien in particular makes a lot more sense now. This is the definitive version of the film. The only minor quibble that I would have with it is the absence of any theatrical trailers, especially as "Fellowship" is the first part of a trilogy. I was sure that there would be a trailer for "The Two Towers" on it. "The Two Towers" is out December 18 - after rewatching "Fellowship", I don't think I can hold out that long...

14/11/02 MTV Europe Music Awards
The MTV *Europe* Music Awards and not one of the main awards went to a European artist. On average, about 20% of the main nominees were European, so I suppose it was only to be expected.

14/11/02 Government Madness Watch
I've noticed that whenever it rains for any length of time, floods accumulate wherever ramps have been laid down. Did no one stop to think about the effect these ramps would have on the drainage systems of the roads? Ramps are supposed to be there to reduce accidents, however, on a wet night, they seem more likely to cause accidents, as people do their utmost to avoid having to drive through the floods.
The people responsible are probably the same people who have put apple trees onto the streets of our suburbs. Where exactly did they think the apples were going to magically disappear to after they fell off the trees?

12/11/02 TV Watch - War Walks
I have been watching the repeated run of War Walks on BBC2. This is an excellent military history program, presented by Professor Richard Holmes. I am continually surprised by how well Holmes can evoke the atmosphere of a particular battle simply by standing on the battlefield and explaining what happened. This week's battle was the Boyne, a battle of crucial importance to Irish history. Once again, the mass of Irish people supported the wrong side in a British power stuggle, backing James II (technically the legitimate King of England) against William of Orange (Parliament's choice), and suffered for it. William even had the blessing of the Pope in the battle - Irish history is not the simple clash of religions that some would like to make it.
I am writing a War Walks page, which will contain the opening narration to each episode.


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