Music Channel In Music Shock! [rave]
Over the last few years MTV has devoted less and less of its time to actually playing music. We're currently at the point where under tighter legal rules they would have to get rid of the 'M' - I mean, you turn on Sky Sports you expect sporting action, even if it's only a 0-0 Premier League match from 1995. Turn on MTV and you will get awful reality TV programs, or you will get C-list celebs showing off their gigantic egos, I mean, their gigantic houses. I try to say that Americans aren't stupid but the prosecution has Jackass as exhibit A. In short, if you are one of those people who are worried that civilization is about to collapse because of the decadence of today's youth then don't turn on MTV, your worst fears will be confirmed, and then some. I once read a report that said that in 1950s America the number one problem for teachers was chewing gum. I try to persaude myself that on balance we're better off in 2004 than we were then, but when you turn on MTV it's close run thing.
That's why it's such a relief that NTL have added The Music Factory (TMF) to their cable offering. The channel starts broadcasting at 7pm after Nickelodeon finishes and actually plays music videos (except for a blip during 9-10pm when it does the fashionable reality dating thing). Some of these videos are actually ok, and amazingly some of them are more than 6 months old.
29/05/04 TV Watch [observation]
Number of episodes left in current seasons of American imports:
Smallville (E4): 1
Angel (Sky One): 2
Star Trek Enterprise (Sky One): 2
The West Wing (RTE1): 2
The Gilmore Girls (RTE1): 2
Felicity (N2): 2
Scrubs (N2): 3
The O.C. (TG4): 5
26/05/04 Alcohol Saves
Lives Shock! [rave]
"Today is a great day. In fact, today is perhaps a day which will go down in the annals of time as the greatest day since booze was invented - because today is the day we can tell you that according to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine, alcohol actually saves more lives than it kills. Okay, I can understand people who might point out that the number of people saved every year by, say, St Bernards with those cute little barrels of brandy on their collar is rather smaller than the number of people who are killed by drunk drivers. But bear with me. Because according to the good people at the London School, while booze may kill 13,000 people a year in Britain, it actually saves 15,000 lives as well. The report even goes on to say that 'among men overall, 11,000 lives were saved through alcohol, while 9,000 were killed'. The positive effects are centred around the pulmonary system, apparently, and a bit o' the ould crathur does wonders for the system." (Ian O'Doherty, "The Irish Independent")
26/05/04 Back From
I love going on holidays but I hate packing, I hate flying, and I hate being jetlagged - which is the state I'm currently in. My body doesn't know whether it's coming or going - getting up for work tomorrow morning is not going to be easy.
11/05/04 A 21st Century
"George W. Bush needs a second term at the White House. This US presidency is halfway through an experiment whose importance is almost literally earth-shattering. Its success or failure could be a beacon for the future. I want to see that experiment properly concluded." (M Parris, "The Times")
Those are not the words you expect to read from an anti-war writer such as Matthew Parris, but he goes on to explain his reasoning:
"Failure takes time to show itself beyond contradiction. The theory that liberal values and a capitalist economic system can be spread across the world by force of arms, and that the United States of America is competent to undertake this task, is the first big idea of the 21st Century. It should be tested to destruction... The President and his neoconservative court should be offered all the rope they need to hang themselves. When they do, when they fail, when America's dream of becoming the new Rome dies, there should be no possible excuse, no straw at which Republican apologists can clutch."
I disagree with Mr. Parris in that I hope that the neoconservative project in Iraq succeeds, but he deserves credit for correctly identifying what's really at stake in Iraq - unlike so many others on the anti-war side of the fence.
10/05/04 What's Right?
What's Wrong? What's Left? [rave]
Online encyclopedia Wikipedia is a simply brilliant site packed with information on every topic under the sun (and then some!). This article on the various meanings applied in politics to the terms Right and Left is well worth a look.
08/05/04 I Hate Jesper
In today's big Premier League soccer match, Manchester United were held 1-1 at home by Chelsea, which means that Chelsea take the runners-up spot and the automatic European Champion's League spot that goes with it. Jesper Gronkjaer scored Chelsea's goal. I am a Manchester United fan. On Wednesday night, Chelsea were knocked out of this season's Champion's League by Monaco. Chelsea stormed into the lead through a freak goal from one Jesper Gronkjaer - I say freak because every other cross and shot that he hit during the game was awful - before being pegged back by Monaco. These extracts of RTE's commentary from the game (via Football365's Mediawatch) should give you some idea of what it was like to watch his performance...
> Full marks to Network 2's commentator Johnny Giles for not holding back his views on Jesper Gronkjaer during coverage of Wednesday's match. Not convinced that the Dane's goal was deliberate, a distraught Giles opined, "Knowing the way he usually crosses, I'd be very surprised if he meant that. I mean he's not that good at all."
> And that was followed up five minutes later - when everyone else was watching Monaco hit the post - by: "He's done it so many times before, just hit it wildly across the goal..."
> Not content with that musing, some 20 minutes after Gronkjaer's goal listeners were still finding Giles stuck on the same tune as the Dane hit another bad cross. "That's more like it," declared a happy Johnny. "There's no way he could have picked out the keeper like that. He couldn't have!"
> Presumably after a quiet word by the producer at half-time, the sight of Gronkjaer blazing a sitter over the bar five minutes into the second found a more restrained Giles. "I'm not going to say any more about Gronkjaer," he announced.
> Apparently having second thoughts during the one-second pause that then followed, he then added: "I mean even the way he hit it was wrong, with the side of his foot, but I'm not going to say any more about Gronkjaer."
> So after 69 minutes: "Well that's three substitutions and I said I wouldn't mention it again, but how Gronkjaer is still on the pitch is beyond me."
> Finally, with five minutes to go, as Gronkjaer stepped up to take a corner: "Oh God [pause]. Maybe this one will go into the top corner, too."
> If Mediawatch hadn't have also watched the match it would have swore that Jesper had nicked his missus.
01/05/04 Mayday [rant]
"It is the very people the anti-globalisers say they wish to help, namely the poor, who would be, and indeed are, their pre-eminent victims.... In 1993 Senator Tom Harkin proposed a piece of legislation to the US Congress called the Child Labour Deterrence Act. This would have banned the importation of textiles made by child labourers. Anticipating the passage of his Bill, Bangladesh unilaterally sacked 50,000 children from its textile factories. What happened to these children? Their parents couldn't afford to keep them at home, much less put them into school, so they had to go out to work anyway. That's why they were in the textile factories to begin with. The problem was, many of them ended up working in far worse places than those factories. Some of them even ended up working as prostitutes, a decisive step backwards for them, you would have thought." (David Quinn, "The Irish Independent")
Today is Mayday, and across the world thousands of spoilt deluded muppets (for there are no other polite words for them) march in protest against a system they barely understand. What do they offer to help the poor of the world? They protest against child labour in multinational companies. But there are worse fates than that, in fact, of all the options that are available to some Third World children, working in Nike is the best available. First World muppets take that option away from them, and offer them what? The only way to help is by increasing the options available, not by removing the best one, however hard if affects out 'consciences'.
Unintended Consequence of Smoking Ban [observation]
So smoking is banned in pubs in Ireland, and so there are no ashtrays in pubs either. But you know, it wasn't just cigarette butts that went into ashtrays - what is the etiquette now for getting rid of littles pieces of rubbish in pubs, such as tissues or chewing gum? It somehow seems rude to me to stuff them into an empty glass. Are you supposed to carry them into the toilet? I bet Micheal Martin never thought of that one...
English by Jeffrey Kacirk [observation]
Lipwisdom: An appearance of wisdom in discourse without practice.
(Reference in Daniel Fenning's "Royal English Dictionary", 1775)
27/04/04 The Station
"It's really funny how people see me and treat me, since I'm really just a simple, boring person."
This is a gem of a movie, a beautifully observed study of the one Finbar McBride (Fin to his friends), a man who would be considered rather boring were it not for one thing, he's only 4 feet 5. But when you see how he carries himself and copes with what life throws at him, he cannot but engender respect. Not a whole lot happens in this film, there are only a few full-out giggles, but I have to say I enjoyed it tremendously. Roger Ebert has a theory that many of the people who disliked "Lost In Translation" saw it on a small screen at home, where there couldn't appreciate the mannerisms and reactions of the cast. This not a film with extravagant effects, or visually breathtaking scenes, and yet all the same I think it should be seen in a theatre for the same reason. In many ways, it reminds me of my favourite book of last year, "The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break" by Steven Sherrill. Both stories tell of a physically extraordinary, but vulnerable, individual seeking to lead a humdrum existence in small town America.
26/04/04 In The Home
The filler episodes are out of the way as most of the current batch of US TV programs on British & Irish channels near their season (and series) finales. Now it's time to roll out the big guns, and bring stories to their conclusions (hopefully!). After over a month's absence, new episodes of "Friends" return on Network 2 (who are now matched by E4) as its final season progresses. You can count the number of remaining "Angel" (Sky1, Tuesdays@9) episodes on one hand, so savour each one. Fred was cute, but I'm strangely drawn to Illyria...
"Smallville", "The West Wing", "Scrubs" and "Enterprise" are nearing the end of their seasons, but there should be more on the way next year. Come June there will be a dearth of watchable shows, so be even more thankful for the extended debut season of "The O.C".
25/04/04 Oil for Food
"We are left to contemplate a UN system that has engendered a Secretary-General either so dishonest that he should be dismissed or so incompetent that he is truly dangerous and should be dismissed."
The true extent of the UN Oil For Food (or as it turns out, just about anything but food) scandal in Iraq is only now emerging. As Iraqi children starved and died due to lack of food and medicine, UN officials and Saddam took billions of dollars in kickbacks. This ABC article charts the progress of the story.
18/04/04 A Disgraceful
In disgust, I've just switched off Agenda, TV3's current affairs program. In a discussion of the Sunday papers between presenter David McWilliams and commentators Damien Kiberd and Eamonn Dunphy, Dunphy launched a tirade, backed up by Kiberd against Mark Steyn, calling him an overt racist because of a piece in last monday's Irish Times. This had been preceded by Kiberd and Dunphy arguing in turns that the US was stifling any debate of the Israel-Palestine issue - apparently anyone who criticises policy in Iraq or Israel is tagged an anti-semite or an appeaser. They seem blissfully unaware of the cases in Britain and Ireland where Israelis were refused positions at universities, and refused accomodation in guest houses, simply for being from Israel.
What annoyed me most about the program was not Dunphy's accusations. I have not read the article, and we all know he can get carried away, but the fact that McWilliams completely lost control of his own show. Getting Dunphy and Kiberd on to rail against America, Israel, the Irish Times and Mark Steyn for 10 minutes is not balance. Allowing someone to hijack your show to make allegations of racism against a fellow journalist is not control. If he knew Dunphy was going to make that allegation he should have made sure that the other commentator was from The Irish Times. If he didn't know that Dunphy was going to make that allegation he should have at least challenged Dunphy on the basis of his accusations, and not allowed Agenda to become a vehicle from Dunphy. He did none of these things, and this smacks of incompetence on McWilliams part. I have lost almost all respect both for him and his show.
English by Jeffrey Kacirk [observation]
Momist: A fault-finder; [from] Latin momus... a Greek divinity, the god of ridicule who, for his censures upon the gods, was banished from heaven; hence, a captious critic.
(Reference in James Murray's "New English Dictionary", 1908)
15/04/04 What's Wrong
With Clubbing Seals [rave]
"I don’t know who handles the PR for these Canadian seal-clubbers, but it must be a hell of a job. Can there be any group, on the entire planet, that so excites the hatred of the British public? Not the Korean dog-eaters, nor the Italian butterfly-shooters, nor the Spanish goat-headyankers — no, not even the French, who, as we all know, eat our children’s ponies — no one can match the Canadian fisherman for provoking the Briton to tears of rage; and one can see why... but I put it to you none the less that the Canadian fisherman has as much right to go out clubbing as the average British 18-year-old."
In a week when the Canadian government approved the cull of hundreds of thousands of seals, Boris Johnson steps up to the plate in "The Telegraph" to give a defence that is both witty and intelligent.
12/04/04 American History
"The network they (forts) form within the geography of North America is an essential key to the understanding of its natural barriers and highways and so to the military and thus the human geography of the continent. Chance was to make the continent home to mankind's most elaborate and sustained effort to found a revolutionary civilization, based on philosophical principle, freed by distance and inaccessibility from external interference with its process of development. No one interested in mankind's history can ignore that of America."
On a bit of a history buzz at the moment, specifically North American military history. Have just finished reading "Warpaths" by John Keegan in preparation for a visit to some of the same battlefields he describes. Accordingly, I've created a page with quotes from that book, and a page for another John Keegan book, "A History of Warfare".
11/04/04 Films on TV
This friday night take a chance on one of two films - "Office Space" or "Pauline a la Plage" - you might just like one of them a lot. Office Space (BBC1) is a cult American comedy, think a live action version of Dilbert, about an IT worker who decides one day that he doesn't care if he gets fired. Pauline a la Plage (TG4) is a delightful French comedy about the adventures and misadventures in love of two sisters as they spend their summer by the sea. In line with the rules governing good films on TV, they both air after 11 o'clock.
English by Jeffrey Kacirk [observation]
Muscular Christianity: That robust, healthy, religious feeling which encourages and takes an active part in the harmless and healthy amusements of life, as opposed toa puritanical, ascetic or contemplative form of religion.
(Reference in Edward Lloyd's "Encyclopaedic Dictionary", 1895)
05/04/04 Should They
Stay or Should They Go? [observation]
It is ironic that many Irish people would be delighted if American troops stopped using Shannon airport as a transfer point to Iraq; whereas Germans are concerned that America will redeploy troops out of German bases - even though the majority of people in both countries opposed the Iraq war.
Many Europeans think that America spends too much on defence, forgetting that the US picks up the defence bill not just for North America, but for Western Europe and Japan aswell, and did so throughout the Cold War. German people near US bases fear for their livelihoods should the American troops leave - but surely Germany is big enough to take care of its own defence now?
Writing in National Review, Victor Davis Hanson argues that US-European relations will be improved by withdrawing the troops.
04/04/04 TV Watch [observation]
The O.C. continues to be by far the most entertaining thing on television in these islands, with TG4 about 8 episodes ahead of E4. The West Wing has fallen somewhat from it's high standards but remains worth watching, if only for Josh and Donna. RTE continues to mess about with the scheduling of its US imports, airing The West Wing later and later on Thursday nights; not giving any indication as to when it will air new episodes of Friends, and moving The Gilmore Girls from Sundays to Saturdays, telling viewers that the last Sunday episode was in fact the *last* episode but continuing to run promos advertising it on Sundays. That's public service for you.
On Mondays Enterprise (Sky1), Smallville (E4) and Scrubs (N2) are hit-and-miss, but are at least diverting. On Tuesdays the final season of Angel is bound to throw up a few suprises so tune in.
Wednesday is a night for football and films; this Wednesday Network 2 show the inventive Canadian scifi film "The Cube" at midnight. The Rule of Films on TV is that 90% of good films air after 11 o'clock.
English by Jeffrey Kacirk [observation]
Fluffing: Fluff is railway ticket clerks' slang for short change given by them. The profit thus accrued are called fluffings, and the practice is known as fluffing.
(Reference in John Camden Hotten's "Slang Dictionary", 1887)
The High Price of Fresh Air [observation]
"It was reported this week that the government of Ireland wants to ban smoking in all the country's pubs. Today, the Irish parliament said, 'Sorry, when we proposed that, we were really drunk.'"
(Late Night With Conan O'Brien)
"Health, you cry: smokers are clogging up the hospitals. Rubbish. Smokers subsidise the rest of us through their taxes and considerately kill themselves before they clog up the old people's homes.
In the 1960s I couldn't wait to get out of Ireland, for I felt stifled by its authoritarianism. Nothing has changed, it seems to me, except that those bossing everyone around now are the forces of political correctness rather than religion."
(Ruth Dudley Edwards)
Today the ban on smoking in workplaces comes into effect in Ireland. Speaking selfishly as a non-smoker I am delighted about it. Regardless of any potential health risks, I hate smoky pubs. When you leave your clothes and hair smell like an ashtray. It irritates your throat. But I have concerns about the practical implementation of the ban - outside pubs will be chaotic - and about the principles involved. The Nanny State has won a victory, but what will be next? Alcohol? Fast food?
28/03/04 United In
"An investigation into the United Nations oil-for-food programme in Iraq is to name more than 200 people, including British and European politicians, businessmen and senior UN officials who may have profited from Saddam Hussein’s regime... Investigators fear that tens of billions of dollars may have been distributed improperly under the auspices of the aid programme. " (from The Sunday Times)
What can you say? Is it any wonder Anglo-American attempts to liberate Iraq via the UN failed when so many UN officials were lining their pockets at the expense of the Iraqi people? Why were Iraqi children starving? How was Saddam funding his military programs and paying for new weaponry from France? Anyone who before the war blamed America and Britian for the suffering of the Iraqi people should really examine their conscience.
26/03/04 Watch Kerry
Flip and Flop [rave]
"Q: How many John Kerrys does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: At least four. One to unscrew the old lightbulb. One to simultaneously announce his courageous commitment to replacing the old bulb. One to vote against funding the new light bulb. And one to denounce George W. Bush and America's Benedict Arnold CEOs for leaving everyone in the dark."
(Mark Steyn, "Chicago Sun Times")
24/03/04 Busting Myths
"Strangely enough, the products which are the most demonized are not necessarily the worst."
(Jean-Michel Cohen and Patrick Serog, authors of "Savoir Manger")
Which is more unhealthy? A Quiche Lorraine or a Big Mac? An intrepid duo of French nutritionists put together a book comparing 5,000 food items on their protein-to-fat ratio and found out that - quelle surprise - the much maligned Big Mac comes out better than expected.
English by Jeffrey Kacirk [observation]
"Burn Daylight: A proverbial expression derived from the lighting of candles or lamps by day, and applied to wasting time in superflous acts."
(reference in Rev. Alexander Dyce's "Glossary to the Works of Shakespeare", 1902)
17/03/04 Happy Saint
Patrick's Day! [rave]
"Top of the morning to ye on this gray, grizzly afternoon. Kent O'Brockman live on Main Street, where today everyone is a little bit Irish, except, of course, for the gays and the Italians." (The Simpsons)
"Ireland's most precious gift to the world has been the Irish. No nation has benefited more from the talent of the Irish than the United States. Today over 44 million Irish-Americans reinforce the natural bond of friendship between our nations." (George W. Bush, Patrick's Day Message 2001)
17/03/04 Did the Irish
vanish from my screen? [rave]
"Where are the Irish on TV these days? Remember the glory decades of all the offensive stereotypes? The drunk. The priest. The pregnant daughter. The family of cops. The drunk. The cross-bearing mother. The brawling drunk. The sprawling multigenerational family, everyone blue collar but the star, who went on to become a doctor and moved out of Hell's Kitchen and left the cursed clan behind -- to drink? Ah, those were the years. Now we've left it up to the Italians to carry the torch for silent, oppressed ethnicities." (Tim Goodman bemoans the lack of Irish people on American TV for SFGate)
15/03/04 These Guys
Want To Kill Us Anyway [observation]
"If Islamic terrorism were as rational as Irish or Basque terrorism, it would be easier. But Hussein Massawi, former leader of Hezbollah, summed it up very pithily: 'We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you.' You can be pro-America (Spain, Australia) or anti-America (France, Canada), but if you broke into the head cave in the Hindu Kush and checked out the hit list you'd be on it either way."
Writing for "The Australian", Mark Steyn explains how appeasement and surrender won't stop Muslim fanatics.
07/03/04 This Blog
Is On Holiday [observation]
Your humble blogger will be spending the next week getting away from his everyday life and seeing a historic part of England. Expect me when you see me!
06/03/04 Why Is It?
Trashily entertaining US teen drama series "The O.C." starts this weekend on Channel 4 and E4. It's been running on Irish station TG4 for the past 2 months. And guess what, it only starts to get attention in Irish papers when it gets picked up by British TV. TG4 pull off a coup by being ahead of the game and get zero credit for it from the Irish media. The same thing happens with shows like Friends and Scrubs. Irish stations start the new seasons weeks ahead of their British counterparts but you'd never know it from reading Irish newspapers!
06/03/04 An Unbelievable
"It goes to show that Dermot MacMurrough was wrong to invite Strongbow in in 1171 or whatever it was." (George Hook after Ireland beat rugby world champions England in Twickenham)
My interest in rugby is purely patriotic, that is, I cheer on Ireland and Irish teams but don't know very much about rugby in general, and barely appreciate it as a sport. But as an Irishman, rather than as a rugby fan (though I hear they enjoyed it too), boy, what a match.
English by Jeffrey Kacirk [observation]
Inhabitiveness: Love of home and country; desire to locate and remain in one spot; attachment to the place in which one has lived.
(reference in O.S. Fowler's "Phrenology Proved, Illustrated, and Applied", 1855)
30/02/04 Let Them Eat...
"It's the liberals who practice 'let-them-eat-cake economics'. They just don't know enough of the facts to realize it."
Before you use the phrase "Let them eat cake" again, you simply must read this biting article from Jonah Goldberg, in which he traces the real history and meaning of the phrase.
Football365 can be relied upon for the latest soccer news, and wittiest commenting on same. The website celebrates 6 years of existence with a rundown of some of its proudest moments.
28/02/04 : What I Watch
These are the shows that are currently airing new episodes and merit at least Three VCRs:
Mondays: Enterprise (Sky1), Friends (N2), Scrubs (N2) & Smallville (E4)
Tuesdays: Angel (Sky1)
Wednesdays: Manchester United losing in the Champion's League :(
Thursdays: The West Wing (RTE1) & Good Morning Miami (TG4)
Fridays: Apparently people under 30 aren't supposed to watch TV on Friday nights
Saturdays: The OC (TG4), Tanks (Discovery) & Jonathon Creek (BBC1)
Sundays: The Gilmore Girls (RTE1), Malcom In The Middle (Sky1) & Agenda (TV3)
For those of you who missed the start of "The OC" on TG4, you can catch it from the start on Channel 4 with E4 repeats from next Sunday. On the film front, the stylish sci-fi film noir "Dark City" airs on Network 2, this Sunday at midnight.
27/02/04 : Levels of
If you want to keep abreast of the latest news on TV shows stateside, you can't do much better than TV Gal over at Zap2it.com. Aside from news, spoilers and opinion TV Gal has a pretty good ranking system for shows:-
Five VCRs: This show is so wonderful I don't leave home when it's on for fear the VCR will fail and I'll miss an episode (examples: "Alias," "24" and "Buffy" ).
Four VCRs: This show is in my TV rotation and will be taped every week (examples: "The West Wing" and "Scrubs")
Three VCRs: I won't tape this show, but if I'm home, I'll make a point to watch it (example: "The Guardian" and "Third Watch")
Two VCRs: If I'm home and I need to watch something while I'm folding laundry and paying bills, I might watch this show. (example: "Judging Amy")
One VCR: If I'm home, I won't turn on the TV for fear this show will be on (example: "The Bachelor" and "Providence")
No VCRs: This show is so bad that it almost makes me wish I didn't own a television. (example: "Off Centre")
21/02/04 Missing: A
Sense of Humour [observation]
"So you're French and Canadian, yes? So you're obnoxious and dull?"
"You're in North America, learn the language!"
Who would have thought that a hand puppet from a late night talk show could set off an international incident? But that's just what happened when the legendary "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog" from "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" was let loose in Quebec. I've been to Quebec, it's a lovely city with many lovely people, but boy, it needs a sense of humour!
English by Jeffrey Kacirk [observation]
Zonam Solvere: To deflower a virgin. Young maids, when they were married, were wont to have a marriage girdle tied about their middle, which their husband the first night of their marriage did untie.
(reference in Thomas Blount's "Glossographia", 1656)
15/02/04 Wonder Where
The Money Goes? [rant]
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports: "Investigators from the European Union anti-fraud office (OLAF), who are looking into allegations that the Palestinian Authority diverted money from European donors into terror activity, have concluded that documents the Israeli Defence Forces seized during Operation Protective Shield are authentic."
There are reports that the European Parliament wants the EU budget increased - examples like this show that the EU has more than enough money to throw around.
14/02/04 Don't Just
Sit There, Do Something! [rant]
"I'm not shooting for a successful relationship at this point. I'm just looking for something that will prevent me from throwing myself in front of a bus. I'm keeping my expectations very, very low. Basically, I'm just looking for a mammal. That's my bottom line, and I'm really very flexible on that, too." (Bye Bye Love)
"How is it you don't go to a movie, watch tv, stare at a wall, play tennis with a friend, make amorous advances to the person who comes in mind when I speak of amorous advances?" (John Barth)
12/02/04 Don't Just
Sit There, Evolve! [rave]
"Let me lay my cards on the table. If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone ever had, I'd give it to Darwin, ahead of even Newton or Einstein and everyone else. In a single stroke, the idea of evolution by natural selection unifies the realm of life, meaning and purpose with the realm of space and time, cause and effect, mechanism and physical law. It is not just a wonderful idea. It is a dangerous idea." (Daniel Dennett, "Darwin's Dangerous Idea")
Today is Darwin Day, the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Celebrate Darwin Day by looking at the creatures that inhabit the world and ask yourself why? Why are they here? Why are they the way they are?
English by Jeffrey Kacirk [observation]
Nightfoundered: Distressed for want of knowing the way in the night.
(reference in James Barclay's "Dictionary of the English Language", 1848)
09/02/04 The Consequences
of Stifling Debate [rave]
"Senator O’Toole would no doubt be horrified at the comparison but his hysterical Nazi outburst carried echoes of the witch-hunt mentality displayed by another famous senatorial Joe - Senator Joe McCarthy, the zealot who led the notorious purge of communist sympathisers in 1950s America. The accusations made by both men are as damning as guilty verdicts.
There are many Irish citizens, not least in deprived areas where limited resources are already stretched to extinction, who believe that the government’s immigration laws are far too lenient. These people are not Nazis but their opinions have nonetheless been deemed verboten by an arrogant political and media elite that recoils in feigned disgust at anything which deviates from the prescribed orthodoxy about the unalloyed joys of multiculturalism. The grim irony is that nothing more effectively ensures the growth of a genuinely fascist constituency than the stifling of reasoned debate about immigration.
If members of the self-styled liberal intelligentsia keep recklessly bandying about words like Nazi and carry on trying to silence the views of others with high-handed charges of racism, they might not have long to wait before they’re faced with the real deal, jackboots and all."
(Liam Fay: "Liberal hyperbole gives racists an opening", "The Sunday Times")
Senator Joe O'Toole has attacked the Irish Government's recent immigration bill as being worthy of Nazi Germany, because it sought to refuse entry to non-EU nationals with mental disorders. If the Senator had any grasp of history, he would realise that what would be worthy of the Nazis would be letting such people in - then rounding them up and executing them. In the Sunday Times, Liam Fay outlines the dangers of such reckless language, and I fully share his concerns.
08/02/04 Nanny State
"There are far greater dangers in rural Ireland than an occasional Big Mac and fries. Indeed, last week showed that popping into McDonald's may be less injurious to health than simply turning on the tap at home and pouring a refreshing glass of clean, fresh water from a group scheme. Or not so clean and fresh, as it happens." (Eilis O'Hanlon, The Sunday Independent)
In a bizarre, and hopefully illegal move, Ireland's Western Health Board are attempting to block a new McDonald restaurant in Ennis by asking the County Council for an Environmental Impact Study - claiming that the restaurant will lead to an increase in obesity in the area. Not only is this a further example of Nanny State madness, it looks like a dangerous subversion of planning laws. This news comes out in a week when a study of Irish water group schemes reveals alarming levels of human and animal waste in tap water. The Western Health Board aren't competent enough to do their own job properly.
Maybe we should give them a choice - eating a Big Mac meal or drinking a litre of infected tap water?
In War [rave]
"The events of 20-21 May 1941 in Crete demonstrate one of the most important of all truths about the role of intelligence in warfare: that however good the intelligence available before an encounter may appear to be, the outcome, given equality of force, will still be decided by the fight; and, in a fight, determination, again given equality of force, will be the paramount factor."
This is one of the conclusions from John Keegan's latest book, "Intelligence In War", in which he examines "knowledge of the enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda". Keegan's knowledge of military history is amazingly broad, but in this book he also focuses on examples from military history - such as the Battle for Crete, Nelson's chase of Napoleon , and the Falklands War - to shows the uses and limits of intelligence. I've put together a page of key quotes from this informative book.
04/02/04 Web Watch
Make a map of all the countries you have visisted with the ingenious My World.
In need of a laugh? Watch Triumph The Insult Comic Dog trash Star Wars fans.
"Who says sex and politics don't mix? We all got concerns, views and what not. For many here, politics is what defines us. But sometimes, even politically minded people need a break. Sometimes you wanna meet others. Take long walks on the beach. That's where LoveInWar.com comes in." (that's their blurb!)
English by Jeffrey Kacirk [observation]
All sorts: A slang term designating the drippings of glasses in saloons, collected and sold at half-price to drinkers who are not overly particular.
(reference in Sylva Clapin's "Dictionary of Americanisms", 1902)
03/02/04 WMD Intelligence
"It must be remembered that British intelligence was attempting to penetrate the mentality of a man and a regime which were not wholly rational. It now seems probable that most of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed in the early 1990s, either by the first UN inspection team (UNSCOM) or as a precautionary measure on Saddam's own orders. Saddam was, however, unwilling to admit to such a loss of power, because of the prestige his possession of WMD brought him in the region. His policy of disposing of his WMD while refusing to admit the disposal was completely illogical."
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, John Keegan uses his vast knowledge to put the question of Iraq intelligence in its proper historical context, whilst at the same time delivering wise analysis of current events.
02/02/04 Jonathon Woss
"Good evening to all our Arab viewers and apologies from Kilroy. How can anyone claim that the Arab nations haven't made a positive contribution to our culture? For a start, you've got rid of Kilroy."
As much as I think that the treatment of Kilroy by the BBC has been shameful, Jonathon Ross still manages to put a hilarious spin on it.
Forgotten English by Jeffrey Kacirk [observation]
Quidnunc: One who is curious to know everything; one who is perpetually asking, "What now? What news?" One who knows, or affects to know, every occurence.
(reference in Edward Lloyd's "Encyclodpaedic Dictionary", 1895)
18/01/04 TV Watch [observation]
Somebody in Network 2 must like Kate Beckinsale, because on Monday at midnight she follows up her "Golden Bowl" appearance with "The Last Days of Disco", a witty drama set around a group of Yuppies, also starring the versatile Chloe Sevigny. On Tuesday night, BBC2 are showing "The Other Boleyn Girl", a BBC4 produced-drama which tells the story of sisters Mary and Anne Boleyn and their involvment with Henry VIII. The cast includes Natasha McElhone, Jodhi May and Jared Harris.
Next Saturday, BBC2 air the Oscar-winning documentary "Into the Arms of Strangers" which tells the remarkable story of the "Kindertransport" evacuation of 10,000 Jewish children to Britain from Germany prior to the Second World War.
18/01/04 Science and
"The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus.
...I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way."
Michael Crichton speaks out against the damage that science has done to itself in another brilliant speech.
11/01/04 TV Watch [observation]
Scorpio's Horoscope from BBSpot.Com : Your week will be filled with intrigue and romance as you conclude your soap opera watching marathon.
Well, not quite, but the onslaught of new American shows on our screens continues unabated this week.
My guilty pleasures of the schedule are "The OC" & "Good Morning Miami", airing on TG4. I wouldn't say these shows are good, but I would say that the are entertaining. The OC is like Melrose Place for teenagers, with added wit - let's hope it can move up a notch from the formulaic first episodes. Miami is redeemed by its watchable cast, because, I have to say they are far better than the material.
Two intriguing films on next weekend are the horror flick "Ravenous", and period piece "The Golden Bowl". Bowl is an adaptation of the classic Henry James novel, and features two of my favourite stars in Jeremy Northam and Kate Beckinsale. Ravenous is an interesting take on the vampire theme, set in a 19th century US army outpost on the frontier, starring Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle.
10/01/04 The Goodman
In the last presidential election, third-party candidate Ralph Nader got just over 2.6 million votes. Do you know how many people watched the first episode of "American Idol" last week? More than 26 million. Another 19 million watched "Joe Millionaire." A manufactured TV candidate as a real political threat? Nah, couldn't happen. (Tim Goodman, "San Francisco Chronicle")
Tim Goodman is a TV columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, and his columns are full of insight and wit about the Darwininan life and death struggle that is US Network television.
08/01/04 Two Earthquakes
"In the last days of the year there were two earthquakes – one in California, one in Iran. The Californian one measured 6.5 on the Richter scale, the Iranian one measured (according to its government) 6.3. The Californian earthquake killed two people and did little physical damage. The Iranian earthquake killed somewhere upwards of 40,000 people and reduced an entire city to rubble. Everything fell down, not just the ancient stuff from 1,000 years ago, but the schools and hospitals from the Eighties and Nineties."
Mark Steyn is on top form with this column for the Jerusalem Post (registration required).
03/01/04 Brace for
They're here! The new seasons of US shows are arriving on our television screens. Tomorrow, "The Gilmore Girls" is back on RTE1 at 630 with its third season. Next Monday sees the start of seasons 3 of Star Trek Enterprise (Sky1), Smallville (E4) and Scrubs (N2). The West Wing returns on RTE1 next Thursday. The following week Sky 1 also have Angel, to compliment such new shows as Nip\Tuck, Jake 2.0 and The Handler. Finally, in a somewhat surprising move given their mission, TG4 offer American teen shows "The O.C." and "One Tree Hill" on Saturday nights. Too much TV beckons...
02/01/04 World Idol
I was pleasantly surprised by the result of the "World Idol" competition last night. The contest drew together the 11 winners of the "Pop Idol" franchises from across the globe - Kelly Clarkson from the US, Will Young from the UK and winners from Australia, Germany, South Africa and the Arab League. The eventual winner was Kurt Nilsen of Norway, who impressed me with a storming rendition of U2's "Beautiful Day". It was as if a 20-year old Bono was singing it. I didn't believe that Nilsen, who was described by the Australian judge as looking like a hobbit, would win the phone vote across the world, but amazingly, in country after country, Nilsen won out ahead of Kelly Clarkson. Even in Canada, where Clarkson would be pretty famous, Nilsen won - the camera showed her reaction as one of stunned horror as this total unknown beat her. My faith in humanity has been slightly restored.
- Dec 2003
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