18/08/09 Carolina Liar@The Academy [rave]
If you've never heard of this band it's probably because you don't watch TV shows like Greek, or Gossip Girl. You're listening to an episode and the song playing in the background catches you... Once the episode finishes you go on to the official site for the series and there's the full list of all the songs played in the episode and links to ITunes so you can buy the song. Clever marketing? But of course it only works because the music is radio-friendly. Their music reminds me of similar acts like The Fray and Matchbox 20. The band's first headline Dublin gig is in the Academy and I think the songs are actually better live, they have a rockier sound. It's not a long set - they've only one album but the young crowd go home happy. Support was from local Irish act Fox Avenue, whose energetic brand of power pop certainly warmed up the audience.
Side note: The lead singer is from South Carolina, the rest of the band is from Sweden. I'd love to know how they met...

03/08/09 The Hero With A Thousand Faces [rave]
I've always been interested in mythology, but have have only now gotten around to reading this famous 1947 book, where Joseph Campbell takes a higher level view of myths from around the world to identify the elements common to the myths of humankind. As an Irishmen, I found his retelling of the Celtic myth of Niall to be fascinating:
A story, for example, is told of the five sons of the Irish king Eochaid: of how, having gone one day ahunting, they found themselves astray, shut in on every hand. Thirsty, they set off, one by one, to look for water. Fergus was the first: "and he lights on a well, over which he finds an old woman standing sentry. The fashion of the hag is this: blacker than coal every joint and segment of her was, from crown to ground; comparable to a wild horse's tail the grey wiry mass of hair that pierced her scalp's upper surface; with her sickle of a greenish looking tusk that was in her head, and curled till it touched her ear, she could lop the verdant branch of an oak in full bearing; blackened and smoke-bleared eyes she had; nose awry, wide-nostrilled; a wrinkled and freckled belly, variously unwholesome; warped crooked shins, garnished with massive ankles and a pair of capacious shovels; knotty knees she had and livid nails. The beldame's whole description in fact was disgusting. 'That's the way it is, is it"?' said the lad, and 'that's the very way,' she answered. 'Is it guarding the well thou art?' he asked, and she said: 'it is.' 'Dost thou licence me to take away some water?' 'I do,' she consented, 'yet only so that I have of thee one kiss on my cheek. 'Not so,' said he. 'Then water shall not be conceded by me.' 'My word I give, he went on, 'that sooner than give thee a kiss I would perish of thirst! Then the young man departed to the place where his brethren were, and told them that he had not gotten water."
Olioll, Brian, and Fiachra, likewise, went on the quest and equally attained to the identical well. Each solicited the old thing for water, but denied her the kiss.
Finally it was Niall who went, and he came to the very well. " 'Let me have water, woman!" he cried. "I will give it," said she, 'and bestow on me a kiss.' He answered: 'forby giving thee a kiss, I will even hug thee!' Then he bends to embrace her, and gives her a kiss. Which operation ended, and when he looked at her, in the whole world was not a young woman of gait more graceful, in universal semblance fairer than she: to be likened to the last-fallen snow lying in trenches every portion of her was, from crown to sole; plump and queenly forearms, fingers long and taper, straight legs of a lovely hue she had; two sandals of the white bronze betwixt her smooth and soft white feet and the earth; about her was an ample mantle of the choicest fleece pure crimson, and in the garment a brooch of white silver; she had lustrous teeth of pearl, great regal eyes, mouth red as the rowanberry. 'Here, woman, is a galaxy of charms,' said the young man. 'That is true indeed.' 'And who art thou?' he pursued. '"Royal Rule" am I,' she answered, and uttered this: "'King of Tara! I am Royal Rule' " 'Go now,' she said, 'to thy brethren, and take with thee water; moreover, thine and thy children's for ever the kingdom and supreme power shall be. .. . And as at the first thou hast seen me ugly, brutish, loathly—in the end, beautiful — even so is royal rule: for without battles, without fierce conflict, it may not be won; but in the result, he that is king of no matter what shows comely and handsome forth.'"

01/04/09 The Condition [observation]
I've created a quotes page for The Condition, an interesting novel by Jennifer Haigh. It tells the story of a family around the pivotal event of the diagnosis of the daughter, Gwen, with Turner's Syndrome, a rare medical condition. The novel is more about characterisation than events, but is very well written:
"Summer comes late to Massachusetts. The gray spring is frosty, unhurried: wet snow on the early plantingsm a cold lesson for optimistic gardeners, for those who have not learned. Chimneys smoke until Memorial Day. Then, all at once, the celing lifts. The sun fires, scorching the muddy ground. At Cope Cod the rhythm is eternal, unchanging. Icy tides smash the beaches. Then cold ones. Then cool. The bay lies warming in the long days. Blue-lipped children brave the surf."

07/02/09 History's Judgment [observation]
George Will, in Newsweek, with a balanced assessment on George W. Bush's presidency:
If history's judgment is that the Iraq war was positively related to the fact that there was no attack on America after 9/11, then history's judgment of the commander in chief will be much less severe than today's unhinged critics of him can imagine. Furthermore, some, and perhaps many, Americans probably are alive today because persons conspiring to commit mass murder were thwarted by the president's ferocious focus after 9/11... The administration's failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina were real but secondary to, and less shocking than, the manifold derelictions of duties by the governments of Louisiana and New Orleans. A failed nomination to the Supreme Court, that of Harriet Miers, was, however, indicative of the obduracy, arrogance and frivolity that at times characterized this administration. On the other hand, among Bush's excellent legacies, gifts that might keep on giving for decades, are two justices—John Roberts and Sam Alito... Just as Bill Clinton's presidency was costly for the Democratic Party, which had fewer senators, representatives, governors and state legislators when he left the White House than when he entered it, Bush's presidency has taken a terrific toll on the Republican Party's sense of itself. Consider: By grafting a prescription-drug entitlement on to Medicare, just as the demographic deluge of the baby boomers' retirements was beginning, the president expanded the welfare state more than any president since Lyndon Johnson created Medicare in 1965... Actually, however, the contraction and self-marginalization of the Republican Party began before Bush entered office. In 2000, he became the first Republican to win the presidency while losing the North. In 2004, when he won re-election by winning Ohio, that was the only large state he carried outside the South. That year Bush became the first president since his father in 1988 to win more than 50 percent of the vote. This was a costly achievement, attained by embracing a sterile template of politics: Get your base riled up—it does not much matter about what—and hope that your base is a bit larger and angrier than the other party's, and that swing voters are a small slice of the turnout.
The president does not depart an angry man. He takes his leave with the serenity of someone sustained by a providential sense of history, as well as by wide reading of presidential histories, which contain many accounts of miseries. He leaves in eager anticipation of resuming life where he has been happiest, deep in the heart of Texas.

07/02/09 Fianna Failure [rant]
Kevin Myers charts the disastrous record of Fianna Fail in governing Ireland in the Indo:
We were not invaded by Nazis, as was most of Europe, or conquered by the Soviet Union. We were spared the harrow of war, and yet, out of whatever available metal, we have repeatedly make rods for our own backs. Why, we even had our own needless war: 1970-96. We are, it seems, addicted to endless re-enactments of national dysfunction.

29/12/08 New Year's Thought [observation]
Courtesy of Mary Kenny in The Irish Independent:
Life is hard. Nobody has it easy... To withstand the inevitable woes of life, you need strengh of character. This was why people traditionally imposed sometimes harsh disciplines on children, to develop such character. You also need courage. They used to say to young children, facing a nasty medicine or a stinging remedy: "Be a brave soldier and don't cry." That was to develop courage. The world of the 21st century will have many challenges. Despite our best endeavours, there will be wars, poverty, disease, atrocities. Valour will be required, both of the physical and moral type.

21/12/08 Christmas TV Preview [observation]
Continuing a little personal tradition, I always buy the Christmas RTE Guide, looking out for the main events and hidden gems tucked away in the Christmas TV schedules.
Monday 22nd: An interesting mini-series starts on BBC4, Crooked House, airing over three nights. A dark tale from League Of Gentleman star Mark Gatiss.
Christmas Eve: Put yourself in the festive spirit with A Christmas Carol (C4) starring a fine Patrick Stewart as Scrooge. And for classic movie fans, there's the The Big Sleep, late night on RTE1.
Christmas Day: BBC1 roll out the big guns— new stories from the Dr Who and Wallace & Gromit teams. I'll be watching Setanta Sports at 3pm as The Special One (aka Mario Rosenstock's Jose Mourinho) delivers his speech.
St. Stephen's Day: I'll be focusing tonight on Irish content, the best of Apres Match (RTE2) followed by Kings (TG4), a film about Irish immigrants in London starring Colm Meaney.
Sunday 28th: Hopefully the new version of The 39 Steps will be better than recent BBC remakes, fingers crossed Rupert Penry-Jones comes through this time.
New Year's Day: After a long absence, Jonathan Creek returns on BBC1.

21/12/08 Year in Review: TV [observation]
(a) Best TV Series: The Wire (possibly the finest TV series ever made)
(b) Honourable Mentions: Lost, Moving Wallpaper
(c) Jump the Shark Award: Heroes (does anyone care about the characters anymore?)
(d) Biggest Disappointments: The Devil's Whore (needed more focus on Cromwell), Burn Up (woeful)
(e) DVD Classics: Marlowe Private Eye, Wives & Daughters, The Manageress, Churchill The Wilderness Years, Queen, EZ Streets
(f) Farewells: The Gilmore Girls, Stargate Atlantis
(g) Diverting: John Adams, Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother, Supernatural

20/12/08 Year in Review: Books [observation]
Non-Fiction Pick:
    Empires of the Atlantic World by JH Elliott
Special Mentions:
    Nemesis by Max Hastings
    The Cases That Haunt Us by John Douglas
    Homicide by David Simon
Fiction Pick:
    Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
Special Mentions:
    South of the Border by James Ryan
    Star Trek Day of the Vipers by James Swallow

20/12/08 Christmas Reading List [observation]
    Shakespeare Is Hard, But So Is Life — Fintan O'Toole
    Inverting The Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics — Jonathan Wilson
    Manchester United: The Biography — Jim White
    Jonathan Strange And Mr. Norrell — Susanna Clarke
    Star Trek: Vendetta — Peter David
    Star Trek Myriad Universes: Infinity's Prism — James Swallow

19/12/08 Year in Review: Movies [observation]
Batman: The Dark Knight is my pick of the year. While not perfect, it offered some challenging ideas as well as some kickass action sequences. Following close behind are the films out of nowhere that captured people's hearts, Juno and Once.
    1 Batman: The Dark Knight
    2 Juno
    3 Once
    4 The Lives of Others
    5 Gone Baby Gone
    6 No Country For Old Men
    7 In Bruges
    8 Forgetting Sarah Marshall
    9 The Bourne Ultimatum
    10 Stardust
    = Atonement; Quantum of Solace; Honeydripper; The Counterfeiters;
    = There Will Be Blood; Before The Rains; MR-73;
    = Cashback; Cloverfield; Waitress; Get Smart; The Fall; Indiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull;

And in the Rewind\Reply section, I caught up with some my usual fare of classics, noir and recent films that made it onto TV:
    1 Dial M For Murder (1954)
    2 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
    3 Red Rock West (1994)
    4 Red River (1948)
    5 Night Moves (1975)
    6 The Narrow Margin (1952)
    7 L'Auberge Espagnole (2002)
    8 Russian Dolls (2005)
    9 Pascali's Island (1988)
    10 The Wedding Crashers (2005)
    = Saved (2004); Kill Me Again (1989); Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005); Hard Candy (2006);
    = The Company of Wolves (1985); My Best Friend Is A Vampire (1988);

18/12/08 Spectator TV Review [observation]
Simon Hoggart on 2008 TV in The Spectator:
So what were we watching in 2008? The multiplication of television continues at speed. If you have cable TV you might have, say, 80 channels to choose from, most of them having nothing to offer you whatsoever. Some have almost no viewers. You could afford to advertise a missing cat on some of them, except that nobody who might have seen your cat is watching. Richard and Judy have been demoted from terrestrial TV to a hopelessly obscure channel — ratings at one point dropped to 21,000 — yet their book club continues a sort of phantom existence, selling huge quantities of paperbacks even though almost no one sees R&J plugging them.
Supporters of the new dispensation claim that this is an ideal situation; nobody would go to a supermarket that offered only five different foods. Yet there are drawbacks to all this choice. Television costs a lot of money to make. Not as much as feature films, of course, but a drama with decent production values is going to cost at least 1 million an hour. That’s why so much is co-production, often with an American company such as Home Box Office or Public Television’s WGBH in Boston, or sometimes with an entire European Union of backers, such as the recent ’tec series Wallander. (There is, by the way, a new cable channel called Alibi, which offers nothing but detective stories, from gritty ones such as Taggart to the stylised improbabilities of Poirot.)
But cable draws off enough viewers to bring the numbers sharply down. We will never see again the kind of figures Morecambe and Wise got at Christmas: fully half the population was watching. A year ago, the biggest Christmas audience was for the EastEnders special, which got nearly 14 million — less than one in four of us.
So what do we like? Sport, mainly. Nearly 15 million people watched Manchester United beat Chelsea in the European Champions League, but even minority sports pull in the viewers if the occasion can by hyped enough: the Wimbledon final, Federer versus Nadal, took 12.7 million, only a touch more than the 12.5 who saw Lewis Hamilton win the Formula One championship. Even rugby matches can pull in eight million and an astonishing seven million watched the Boat Race. British success at the Olympics produced massive audiences, even for sports such cycling, which probably gets around 13 viewers for the rest of the year.
We still seem to like ‘reality’ shows, though heaven knows where the reality lies. I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! remains enormously popular, even if we haven’t actually heard of this year’s winner, whoever he was. (Some soap star, I believe.) But there are huge ratings for ‘talent’ shows, including Strictly Come Dancing, which comfortably survived the departure of John Sergeant. The Apprentice and MasterChef did well too, so the BBC has milked the MasterChef formula ruthlessly. The apparently good news for persons of discernment is that Big Brother seems to be limping to its conclusion, at the worst time for desperate, cash-strapped Channel 4. This year’s final got barely five million viewers, and the winner was: all together now, er, um...Sadder than you might think, though, because BB helped pay for the good stuff.
So, the year’s successes, in no particular order: New Tricks became the most popular drama series on television, in spite of the BBC’s early indifference. It is now to return, as probably is ITV’s Foyle’s War. Both were victims of ageism — they got huge audiences but of older people, and advertisers and managers hate that. They would love it if all persons over the age of 40 were obliged to watch something called The Wrinkly Channel and not clog up their youthful demographics.
Doctor Who continued its stately progress, and no doubt will again with David Morrissey as the Doctor. Criminal Justice was a fine series. So was Little Dorrit, though the half-hour episodes dotted about the week clearly annoyed many people, and audiences dwindled towards the end.
What won’t we see again? I’d be startled if Bonekickers came back, or Harley Street. Trinny and Susannah seem to be nearing the end of their catwalk. The Wire was hailed as the greatest television series ever made, but it was on FX, a cable channel, and nobody watched it. And now that Britain stands no chance at all, the Eurovision Song Contest may be coming to an end, on our terrestrial TV at least. Perhaps Graham Norton can revivify it now that Wogan has left. But I rather doubt it.

18/12/08 The Christmas State We're In [rant]
Rod Liddle in the festive edition of the Spectator:
In Santa’s grotto at a top London department store, Santa in his big white friendly beard sits on a bench — and there is a large ‘X’ marked on the bench a couple of feet away where the child is firmly directed to sit, allowing a wide corridor of clear and unsullied air between the child and the potential kiddie-fiddler from the North Pole, with his red cheeks, strange reindeer and unaccountable affection for children. Santa is not allowed to touch the child. The child is not allowed to touch Santa. Happy Christmas, war is over. This is where we are now...
A couple of years back, in the tropical Australian town of Cairns, another Santa was sacked from his grotto in a department store for having said ‘Ho, ho, ho’ to the children waiting before him. According to the store, he should have said ‘Ha, ha, ha’ — but he was a Bad Santa, he forgot — or was of an independent frame of mind. ‘Ho, ho, ho’ might be perceived as being derogatory to women, it was strongly argued. A ‘ho’ is American black vernacular for a prostitute, or at least a woman of loose morals, so you can’t say it any more. I don’t think there are any black American women in Cairns, but Santa was sacked nonetheless. Ha, ha, ha. This is where we are now...
The Santa Claus in a department store in Louisville, Kentucky was sacked because the children kept pointing out that he had extremely large breasts. This is because he was a she, one formidable lady called Marta Brown. But the breasts were not what the kids expected on Santa Claus, not when viewed in tandem with the traditional beard and stuff — so they took the piss. Marta was consequently sacked by the department store — but good news, she is suing the firm for $67,000 through the state commission on human rights, for injured feelings and sexual discrimination. This is where we are now...
In my lovely old home town of Guisborough, in Cleveland, they used to have Santa on a sleigh riding through the part-cobbled old market high street, dispensing sweets to the kids. It was just a Christmas thing, you know? Not any more. The insurance monkeys and the health and safety monkeys got together and decided that it would cost £20,000 in future to safeguard and insure such an event. So of course it was stopped. This is where we are, etc.
In the north of England a boy was not allowed to attend his school’s Christmas party because his parents had insisted, ever since he joined the school, that he should not be required to attend lessons in Religious Education. The school presumably thought that they were being scrupulous in abiding by the wishes of the parents — but apparently not. The boy’s mum, a Ms Dawn Riddell, was incandescent at the ‘cruelty’ inflicted upon her poor son. Christmas parties, she said, have got ‘absolutely nothing to do with Jesus’. I think that’s one of my favourite quotes of this year or any year. And that’s where we are now, too...
Those Santa-based examples above, drawn from the liberal, developed, democratic world, do not contain absolutely everything which annoys people about how we are now, but they cover a fair few bases. Utter stupidity and ignorance, an irrational and institutionalised fear of paedophiles, an institutionalised but perfectly rational fear of litigation, vexatious litigation, the triumph of health and safety legislation over everything (allied to a fear of vexatious litigation), the notion of equal rights taken to absurd conclusions, the ability of an individual to become enraged when an imagined right has been infracted, corporate and local council obeisance to a PC agenda with which no sane person would concur, and so on. It has become a cliché, every Christmas, to point out this sort of thing — so much so that it has its clichéd corollary in the liberal press, its equally steadfast mirror image, that none of it is true. But it is true, colloquially and in fact; even though my examples above might be dismissed as singularities by those who, for reasons I do not quite understand, wish to deny how things are...
I don’t know why the Left is quite so defensive about this stuff, only that it feels it has to be, to its public detriment. There is no ideological left-wing reason why we should assume that all men over the age of 30 are potential paedophiles, for example — unless it is a hangover from the old feminist notion that all men over the age of 30 (or indeed younger) are potential rapists. Or that big business, through a terror of losing money, should impose insulting restrictions upon the rest of us. Or that personal injury lawyers are in the vanguard of the socialist revolution. The problem, of course, is that while the Right has won most of the foreign policy and economic arguments these past 25 years, the Left has absolute hegemony in social services, council departments (regardless of what party they are run by) and the education system — so if the Left worries about this stuff, we all feel the consequences.
But it is our fear of paedophilia, or fear of litigation provoked by the intimation of paedophilia (which is, when it comes down to it, much the same thing), that is the most corrosive and damaging. One of the most telling and important political contributions of 2008 came from an old semi-reformed radical Marxist, Frank Furedi, now a professor of sociology, who delivered an attack upon the strange and ambivalent manner in which we view children these days. There was all the stuff the leftist writers would have you believe never happens — can’t take photographs at a child’s Nativity play, need humiliating criminal record bureau checks if you’re going to run a kids’ football team, can’t touch a child for fear of being hauled before the courts or accosted. All the sorts of stuff which resulted (when followed through) this year in a woman in Southampton being apprehended by security guards because she took a photograph of an entirely empty open-air swimming pool. ‘We cannot organise the world around the default position that we are all paedophiles,’ Furedi lamented in a magazine interview. He talked, too, about the other side of the coin, the control which children seem to have over parents these days. Furedi called it ‘reverse socialisation’, the kids being told to tell their parents to eat healthier food, or recycle their rubbish properly, or not to smoke in the home. And much of it can be dragged back to what Furedi called the ‘pre-political authority’ of parents disciplining, or failing to discipline, their kids. They do not have an idea any more of right or wrong, he suggested.
Well, indeed; but whose fault is that? Place it alongside all the stuff I mentioned above and it would seem to be the logical consequence of an agenda driven by the liberal middle-class Left over the past 30 years, in which the common denominator is the yearning for an artificial world which is entirely risk-free. Certainly there must be no risk to life or limb, even if that risk is vanishingly small. No risk, either, that anyone could possibly be offended by anything, no matter how barking mad you would have to be to take offence. No risk that anyone’s sensibilities (religious or otherwise) might be offended, no matter how thin their skins may have become over the years. It is an aspiration towards a pretend world, a confection every bit as make-believe as Santa’s grotto. Still, have a good Christmas now. And remember: it’s got ‘absolutely nothing to do with Jesus’.

21/06/08 A Lisbon Mystery [observation]
Why did Irish voters reject the Lisbon Treaty? One week after the vote, we finally get the results of a mysterious poll, comissioned by the Irish government in conjunction with the EU (how impartial is that?), some of whose contents were leaked (but nobody says by whom) to Irish newspapers during the week in such a way as to put the spin that No voters were either stupid or closet racists — by alleging that No voters didn't understand the treaty, thought it could be easily renegotiated (though that phrase doesn't appear in the actual poll) or voted No because of concerns on immigration (though only 1% of No voters cited that as a reason).
Richard Delevan took up the case of the missing poll on his blog earlier in the week:
"Why was there no RTÉ (or pool) exit poll from the referendum? Why hasn’t the Eurobarometer post-referendum poll been released? This thing gets more farcical by the hour...
Since about 10.30 last Friday morning, when it became clear it would be a ‘No’ to the Lisbon Treaty on the early tallies, seemingly everyone in Ireland and everyone in Europe had an opinion about why Ireland voted No.
Knowing the ‘why’ was essential for a lot of reasons:
1. Apportioning credit and blame amongst campaigners, for which arguments carried the day.
2. Using that credit and blame as a basis for the authority of campaigners on either side as the debate continues
3. For those in Leinster House and Brussels for whom No doesn’t mean No, addressing the motives for voting No is the only way to eventually reverse the decision.
As imperfect as it might have been, an exit poll commissioned by the Irish media and conducted by an Irish research firm, as is common practice with general elections would have given some answers.
On Friday, as the result was confirmed, EU commission vice president Margot Wallstrom told RTÉ that - becasue it was essential to find out why Irish people voted No - there would be a “flash Eurobarometer” poll conducted. “Results” are leaking out. But why don’t we have the poll itself?
On Tuesday, the Indo’s Fionnan Sheehan reported excerpts from the findings of the “published” Eurobarometer poll... The Irish Times gets it a day later - or rather, they seem to have sight of a memo ABOUT the poll prepared for European Commission presdient Barroso - and it’s referenced all over the Dail debate Wednesday. So where is it?"

01/06/08 In Defence of Man Utd [observation]
In a letter to Ireland's Sunday Independent, Andrew Meehan of Dublin responds to jibes from one of the paper's columnists about 'bandwagon' Manchester United fans. I couldn't have put it better myself Andrew!
Sir -- I make a point of reading Tommy Conlon's articles each week as they are normally accurate and funny. But his piece (Sunday Independent May 25, 2008) -- let's just say -- touched a nerve! In the piece he says that United fans "would be prepared to risk everything by signing up to a club that has won a mere 20 trophies in 18 years". Now to the uneducated that would seem like an easy thing to do but let's just dig into that little quote a bit further. It took United under Ferguson four years to win the FA Cup and seven years to win the Championship after a 26 year gap. Now that doesn't seem like an easy ride for a Manchester United fan after all does it? Do you know what it was like to be a United fan back then and listen to that as soon as you told people who you followed?
I am 34 and when I went to school I had legions of Liverpool fans in class going on about this and that because my team couldn't win anything and their's was winning all around. There is another fact you may be interested in. On any given Saturday when United plays at home there are 20,000 people from Ireland in Old Trafford so somebody must be getting off their pub seat and going. I'm a season ticket holder in Old Trafford and I was brought by my dad to my first game when I was nine. I don't drink and I don't smoke. I get my enjoyment out of following my team. The reason I won't watch a match in a pub is because it is full of plonkers from all walks of life.
The fans from Liverpool, the recent Blue brigade who haven't got the slightest idea who Peter Osgood is but they know everything about United. And then there are the Dubs! Now before you think I'm not from Dublin I am, born and bred, proud of it too. No doubt they will be out in their masses soon dusting down the jersey or tipping into Arnotts to get the new model. The majority of Dubs fans don't even know what the league is. But as soon as the championship comes around, it's off to Croker singing Molly Malone and blocking up the streets with their 80,000 seater stadium built in the middle of a housing area with parking for 100 cars. The gardai will never say or do anything because half of them are the backbone of the GAA. The only thing a good friend of mine who is a garda does say, is that he loves when the Dubs are playing as it means you won't get two things -- crime or a taxi -- as they are all at the game.
It's easy to jump on the bandwagon when a team is winning but this sort of thing has been happening since the dawn of time. Do you think if Celtic was Gretna and winning nothing they would have the following they do in this country?
Was I wearing my red jersey on Wednesday night? Yes and I did behave like a child when they won and I shed a tear because they couldn't do anything about it -- the ABUs -- it was ours and nobody could take it off us for a year now, even the oil baron who is slowly killing football. I don't tell people I am a United fan unless they ask if I follow football. You see happiness comes from within and what I got the other night sitting in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow was a feeling, that as long as I live, nobody can ever take away — Andrew Meehan, Artane, Dublin.

14/05/08 Lisbon Treaty [observation]
Have added a section to my quotes page for Ireland about upcoming Lisbon Treaty — it should be pretty clear from some of the quotes which way I'll be swinging...

15/04/08 Bloggers of the World Unite... [observation]
An interesting Irish blog worth checking out is Hibernia Girl — a blog devoted to free speech, Western Civilization, and an honest & open debate on immigration issues.

06/04/08 Ten Years' Worth of Quotes [observation]
Sometime back in 1998 this site really got going, hosted by Redbrick, my old college computer society back in DCU. It's grown a lot since then, branched out into sports, politics, history... I did a re-check on some of the first sites that kick-started my collection. And a few of them are still around, and are still worth checking out:
AM Kuchling's Commonplace Book
loQtus Quote Collections
Durge UK

12/01/08 TV's Vast Viewing Figures [observation]
A very interesting article by Nick Harris in Wednesday's Evening Herald looks at the facts behind the claims that "1 billion people are watching" a particular sporting event. This claim, of course, relates to total potential viewing audience — if everyone who *could* watched it did watch it. But these are the 2007 figures for actual viewers:

# Event Where When Average* Reach**
1 Super Bowl Miami 4 Feb 97m 142m
2 Brazil Grand Prix Interlagos 21 Oct 78m 152m
3 UEFA Champions League Final Athens 23 May 72m 148m
4 Rugby World Cup Final Paris 20 Oct 33m 61m
5 100m Final Osaka 26 Aug 24m 70m
6 Baseball World Series Game 4 Denver 28 Oct 24m 72m
7 Handball World Ch'ship Final Cologne 4 Feb 23m 56m
8 US Masters Golf (last day) Augusta 8 Apr 21m 76m
9 Wimbledon Final London 8 July 21m 52m
10 Twenty20 Final Cricket Jo'burg 24 Sep 20m 40m
11 Tour de France Paris 29 July 12m 26m
12 NBA Finals game 4 Cleveland 14 June 12m 42m
13 Arsenal v Man Utd English Premier League London 3 Nov 8m 27m
14 Cricket World Cup Final Barbados 28 Apr 7m 25m
15 Ice Hockey World Ch'ship Final Moscow 13 May 6m 18m

*Average global audience is the number of people watching the entire event live.
** Reach is the number of people worldwide watching at least three minutes live.

07/01/08 Types of Atheists [observation]
In a very considered article in National Review, Michael Novak summarises what he sees as the different types of atheists:
(1) Those rationalists who believe in science, rationality, and truth, and who abhor relativism and nihilism, and who have very firm moral principles grounded in reason itself — but who see no evidence for the existence of God.
(2) Those relativists and nihilists who do believe, as Nietzsche warned, that the "death of God" has also meant the death of trust in reason and science and objective rules of morality. Such atheists, therefore, may for arbitrary reasons choose to live for their own pleasure, or for the joy of exercising brute power and will.
(3) Those who do not believe in the personal God who heeds prayers, and is concerned about the moral lives of individual human beings — the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. Instead, some who call themselves atheists actually do recognize a principle of intelligent order and even awe-inspiring beauty in the natural world... They are at about the same stage in thinking about morality and metaphysics as the ancient Greeks.
(4) The “Methodist atheists” — those who maintain all the qualities of niceness and good moral habits and gentle feelings associated with the followers of Wesley down the generations, but do so without believing in God. In other words, they remain indebted to inherited Christian moral sentiments, even while they seldom or never darken church doors. They have come to think that believing in God is a little like believing in Santa Claus. They have outgrown the metaphysics, but not the ethics.
(5) The merely practical atheists — that is, those who by habit remain members of a religious faith, and who share a certain pietas regarding their family gods, and continue going to church according to the old routines, but whose daily behavior and speech show that they actually live as if God does not exist.
(6) Those like Friedrich von Hayek, who wished he could be religious but confessed that he seemed to have no 'ear' for it, just as some people have no ear for music. He felt he was an atheist by defect.

29/12/07 Extras Christmas Special [rave]
It was worth watching for this rant alone:
"The papers lap it up. They follow us 'round and that makes people think we're important, and that makes us think we're important. If they stopped following us around town taking pictures of us, people wouldn't take to the streets going 'Oh quick! I need a picture of Cameron Diaz with a pimple!' They wouldn't care, they'd get on with something else. They'd get on with their lives. You open the paper, and you see a picture of Lindsay Lohan getting out of a car, and the headline is 'Cover up, Lindsay, we can see your knickers'. Of course you can see her knickers, your photographer, is lying in the road, pointing his camera up her dress to see her knickers. You're literally the gutter press."
        - Andy, on celebrity culture

22/12/07 Christmas TV Preview [observation]
Armed with the traditional Christmas RTE Guide, I pick out the main events and hidden gems from the Christmas TV schedules.
Saturday 22nd: I've wanted to see Merry Christmas (also known as Joyeux Noel), a film about a Christmas truce on the Western Front during WW1, and BBC2 obliges this afternoon.
Christmas Eve: If you don't mind ridiculous plots, you might just enjoy National Treasure (RTE1).
Christmas Day: Robbie the Reindeer returns in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (BBC1). Fun for kids of all ages. The Doctor Who Christmas Special features a cameo turn by Kylie Minogue to brighten up a new Christmas tradition.
Stephen's Day: Prepare the DVR\VCR because there's a clash between BBC1's Ballet Shoes starring Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame, and ITV's The Old Curiosity Shop with the ever reliable Derek Jacobi.
Thursday 27th: It has to be the series finale of Extras (BBC1).
Sunday 30th: I'm going to skip The Shadow of the North (BBC1) starring Billie Piper as Philip Pullman's heroine Sally Lockhart. I was left cold by last year's The Ruby in the Smoke.
New Year's Day: BBC1 show the first part of a three-part adaptation of the Jane Austen classic Sense and Sensibility.
Wednesday 2nd: Classic film time, Humphrey Bogart stars in Dead Reckoning, late night on BBC2.
Thursday 3rd: If you haven't already seen it, prepare for Sin City (RTE2) — it's flawed but it's visually breath-taking. A feast for the eyes.
Friday 4th: I enjoyed the book by Michael Crichton, but will the adaptation of Timeline (C4) be any use?

22/12/07 Year In Review: TV [observation]
(a) Best TV Series: This year Heroes just edges out Lost. Yes, it's flawed; yes, it has seriously annoying characters; and yes, the season finale was a big disappointment... but when it all comes together, it just sweeps you along in the rush.
(b) Honourable Mentions: Lost, Friday Night Lights, Veronica Mars
(c) Jump the Shark Award: Battlestar Galactica — it has left the realm of science fiction and has now become a surrealist fantasy.
(d) Biggest Disappointment: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
(e) DVD Classics: Twin Peaks, The Sandbaggers, Slings & Arrows, Our Mutual Friend, Roots, State of Play
(f) Farewells: Veronica Mars, The OC, Stargate SG1
(g) Special Mention: ITV's American Football NFL Playoffs highlights presented by Gary Imlach. A perfect little package for explaining a 'foreign' game.

22/12/07 Year In Review: Film Releases [observation]
The Departed is my pick for film of the year. There are some quality films in the list and some guilty pleasures such as Transformers and Superbad. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed 300 and Casino Royale. Sunshine should have been the film of the year but it lost its way badly in its third act.
    1 The Departed
    2 The 300
    3 Sunshine
    4 Letters from Iwo Jima
   5 The Kingdom
    6 Apocalypto
    7 310 To Yuma
    8 Transformers
    9 Stranger Than Fiction
    10 Casino Royale
    = Superbad
    = Hot Fuzz
    = Knocked Up
    = The Lookout
The worst film of the year, and probably any year is "The King". Not just badly plotted, but morally offensive.

12/12/07 Year In Review: Music [observation]
A disappointing year on the music front, I don't remember any one album blowing me away the way a great album should. There were some honourable mentions, albums which had some individually great songs, or created a mood — On the Run by Tina Dico, How to Save a Life by The Fray, Boys & Girls in America by The Hold Steady; and some interesting TV soundtracks — Bear McCreary's score for Battlestar Galactica, and Explosions in the Sky's instrumentals for Friday Night Lights.
The Gig of the Year award goes to The Hold Steady, playing a packed Temple Bar Music Centre in February. The lads may not look like your average rock stars, but boy, they can play and they know what a crowd wants.

05/12/07 Year In Review: Film Rewind [observation]
I like to catch up on classics and obscure gems that I missed first time around — whether 'cos my tastes were different, I was too busy, or I was busy being born.  These are the best 'rewind' films I've seen this year. There's screwball comedies, thrillers, black comedies, period pieces and intriguing dramas.
    1. A Slight Case of Murder (1999)
    2. Some Like It Hot (1959)
    3. Notorious (1946)
    4. 36 Quai des Orfèvres (2004)
    5. Thoughtcrimes (2003)
    6. Following (1998)
    7. Last Night (1999)
    8. Operation Petticoat (1959)
    9. Team America — World Police (2004)
    10. At Close Range (1986)
         = Matewan (1987)
         = The Cotton Club (1984)
         = Valmont (1989)
         = An Ungentlemanly Act (1992)
         = Foreign Correspondent (1940)

05/12/07 Christmas Reading List [observation]
I hadn't planned on reading any more American Civil War books after last year, but then fate intervened in the form of a generous present of Bruce Catton's epic civil war trilogy — The Coming Fury, Terrible Swift Sword & Never Call Retreat. I'm not sure how far I will get? Past Fort Sumter, and on to Gettysburg and Vicksburg perhaps. Also on my list:
        The Victorians — AN Wilson
        Acts of War — Richard Holmes
        Enemies of Society — Paul Johnson

05/12/07 Year in Review: Books [observation]
It's December again. The years fly by so fast once you start working. Time to start handing out some awards, and first up it's my award for the best book read during 2007.
Book of the Year: The Face of Battle by John Keegan.
John Keegan is the world's foremost living military historian, and this book, from 1976, is both a brilliant work of military history and something more — an analysis on the very nature of military history itself.
Honourable Mentions:
    Shelby Foote — The Civil War: Volume 2 (the audio chapters read by Foote himself are a treat)
    Daniel J. Boorstin — The Americans: The Democratic Experience
    Gianluca Vialli — The Italian Job

08/09/07 Fingers Crossed [observation]
I hope my experience of Ireland's airports is better than the angry souls at the Irish Air Rage blogspot!

08/09/07 America Calling [observation]
I'm about to depart on a long-awaited holiday to America. I'll be visiting some sites from America's colonial period — Boston, heart of the Revolution, the battlefields of Lexington and Concord, and Salem, famous for its "witch" trials. In advance of this, I've been devouring books on American history, especially Daniel J Boorstin's "The Americans" trilogy, and finally Paul Johnson's epic "A History of the American People".

25/08/07 Road Rant [rant]
Fed up with the craziness that is Irish roads and Irish traffic law? Where to start? The hundreds of thousands of unqualified drivers? The dreadful state of the roads? The random speed limits? Then check out the Irish Road Rant Community.

01/07/07 The Wisdom of Thomas Sowell [rave]
People can get attention either from their accomplishments or from their deliberate attempts to get attention. Today, almost everywhere you look, people seem to be putting their efforts into getting attention. Wild hairdos, huge tattoos, pierced body parts, outlandish clothing, weird statements — all these have become substitutes for achievements. Some parents give their children off-the-wall names, as if that is the way to give them some kind of individuality. On the contrary, it means joining a stampede toward showiness. You don't need a crazy name to become famous. It would be hard to think of plainer names than Jim Brown, Ted Williams, Walter Johnson or Michael Jordan. It was what they did that made their names famous... A lifetime of making major contributions to the health, prosperity, or education of a whole society will not get as much media attention as organizing some loud and strident demonstration, spiced with runaway rhetoric. In a "non-judgmental" world, what is there to determine who deserves notice, except who can make a big splash? We not only live longer today, we are more vigorous in our sixties than earlier generations were in their forties. But can you name even one person or one enterprise that conferred this enormous benefit on millions of people?
...The problem is not that particular people do particular things to get attention. The problem is that the society at large no longer has standards by which to deny or rebuke attention-seekers who have nothing to contribute to society. Do not expect sound judgments in a society where being "non-judgmental" is an exalted value. As someone has said, if you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.
(You can read the entire column here).

25/06/07 A Model for the World? [rave]
Let's be honest - the United Nations must be the most morally bankrupt, pernicious and counter-productive organisation this world has seen since the League Of Nations stood by and watched as the Japanese flounced out of their last meeting. In recent years, the UN's hall of shameful failure includes Mostar, Srebrenica, Rwanda, the Durban conference, and now...St Andrew's College. And how did this venerable South Dublin education factory become embroiled in a United Nations scandal? Well, step forward 20-year-old Sean Creagh, who was one of the participants in a student UN Model debate. This saw numerous students adopt the role of delegates from the real UN and then have a debate based around the concerns of each country. But, in a case of life imitating farce, events took a turn for the weird when Creagh was roundly abused by the other delegated because he American accent. Spookily replicating what we see in the real United Nations General Assembly, the delegate with the Yank accent was mocked by the other delegates. They not only abused him but also stole his passport. Nice to see the student delegates so faithfully recreating the attitude towards America that exists in the grown-up version of the UN.
[From Ian O'Doherty's column in the Irish Independent]

05/06/07 Random Thought [observation]
My favourite album of all time is The Joshua Tree by U2. For me, it is more than just music, it is history and geography. When I listen to some other albums, I'm reminded of the time in my life when I first heard it. But Joshua Tree evokes a place I've never been, America's Mojave Desert. Maybe there are other albums that are musically better, technically or creatively, but I don't know any other album with that power.

21/04/07 Forgotten Years: Books in Review [observation]
2006 Book of the Year: Battle Cry of Freedom - The Civil War Era by James McPherson.
Honourable Mentions: The Civil War by Shelby Foote; Persian Fire by Tom Holland.
2005 Book of the Year: The Narrow Ground by ATQ Stewart.
Honourable Mentions: John Adams by David McCullough; Britons by Linda Colley.

02/04/07 Studio 60 & TV3 [observation]
I've been watching the latest series from West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin — Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. There is so much to like about the show: The leads Matt (Matthew Perry from Friends) and Danny (Bradley Whitford from West Wing) are great, they act like old buddies; The dialogue is sparkling, probably the best on TV right now — sharp, playful, intelligent; Lucy, the English staff writer last seen as Dawn in The Office is cute as a button... But the show doesn't quite gel. The tone of the series is a lot like the West Wing, and it's just hard to take the production of a TV show as seriously as the running of country; consequently we don't care about the plots, or the characters the way we should; and I think the two female leads have been miscast, they might even have been better off just switching roles. Both are fine actresses, but just not right for the roles they are in.
Studio 60 started out on Thursday nights, but recently switched to Mondays. This initially bothered me because it clashed with The OC on TG4, but then I remembered I could watch The OC on Tuesday nights on E4, so everything's ok.
I found out about this move thanks to TV3's continuity announcer, who signed off his last day for TV3 after tonight's Studio 60. It was a pleasant surprise to have an announcer who told you useful information, such as the fact that your program had switched nights; Of course that could just be 'cos TV3 mess about their schedules more than most stations...

17/01/07 Favourite Films? [observation]
Sometimes I'm asked to list my top 10 films. It's an almost impossible task, I mean, how can you compare a comedy with a gritty drama, or either against a fantasy epic? I suppose if you were asked to pick 10 DVDs to bring to a desert island, you'd probably pick a balance of different genres. But for making a favourite's list, I think you can only do it split by genre, so here goes, in no particular order:
Drama: Memento, Falling Down, The Sweet Hereafter, Exotica, LA Confidential, The Untouchables.
Classics: The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, A Matter of Life and Death, Gone with the Wind, The 39 Steps (1935 version).
Historical: Last of the Mohicans*, The Bounty.
Fantasy: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Excalibur, Being John Malkovich.
Sci Fi: Star Wars (Original Trilogy)*, Terminator*, Alien, Aliens, Bladerunner, Predator.
Adventure: Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark & Last Crusade, The Princess Bride, Pirates of The Caribbean, James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies, Die Hard, Top Gun.
Comedy: Austin Powers #1, Monty Python: The Holy Grail & The Life of Brian.

Then there are the films which are so much about the time and place you are at in your life — childhood, being a teenager, and for that moment you think they are fantastic: War Games, Daryl, Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Lost Boys, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, The Commitments, Gregory's Girl, National Lampoon's Animal House, House Party.

20/12/06 Year in Review: TV [observation]
(a) Best TV Series: This year I'm going to have to go with a tie between Lost & Veronica Mars. Lost is a better show, but well I just enjoy Veronica Mars so much. Unlike Lost, with Miss Mars on the case you get answers... if you have the patience to stick with it for the full season. It helps that the scripts are so sharp and Kristen Bell is cute as a button.
(b) Honourable Mentions: Battlestar Galactica, Deadwood, Stargate Atlantis
(c) Jump the Shark Award: The OC
(d) Please, We Enjoyed It, Now End It: Stargate SG1 & Smallville
(e) Farwell, You Had Class: The West Wing & Arrested Development
(f) Biggest Disappointments: Torchwood & Rome
(g) They're just good fun: How I Met Your Mother & Supernatural
(h) Worst Scheduling Award: RTE wins it again. Whatever black hole The Gilmore Girls fell into, RTE have thrown Veronica Mars in there too. Moving it from weekday afternoons to saturday evenings without so much as a whisper... thankfully Living TV rescued me.
(i) Commentary: The common theme with so many of the shows listed above is trepidation... yes, I'm enjoying the shows, but do I trust the writers that created them to stay true to their qualities? Deadwood may or may not return with special TV movies to conclude its story. The OC seems to be heading for oblivion and a major overhaul. Both the Battlestar Galactica and Veronica Mars season 2 finales left me cold, though both redeemed themselves somewhat with their strong season 3 starts. And how long can Lost keep us hanging without giving the game away? Fingers crossed.

18/12/06 Christmas Reading List [observation]
Once again, a strong American theme with:
        Battle Cry of Freedom - James McPherson
        The Civil War: Fort Sumter to Perryville - Shelby Foote
        The American Civil War Sourcebook - Phillip Katcher
        Albion's Seed - David Hackett Fisher
        Churchill - John Keegan

17/12/06 Christmas TV Preview [observation]
It's said every year, but this year I think I believe it. Christmas TV isn't what it used to be. I suppose DVDs are largely to blame, but there's no one thing that jumps out from the screen saying watch me. For what it's worth, here's what caught my eye in the schedules:
Saturday 16th: I like a good mystery, and ITV conclude their saturday matinee mystery season with "Evil Under the Sun" starring Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot. I've seen the more recent made-for-TV David Suchet version, so it'll be interesting to compare versions.
Sunday 17th: Sky One have a big-budget adaptation of Terry Pratchett's "Hogfather" which concludes tomorrow night. Pratchett's novels are great but quite tricky to film, so I'm curious to see how this plays out.
Christmas Eve: You should really catch one of the many versions of "A Christmas Carol" that are on today to put you in a festive mood.
Chrismas Day: The main event on BBC1 is the Doctor Who Christmas special. How will the Doctor do without Rose (Billie Piper)?
Stephen's Day: Try a comedy double-bill tonight on RTE2. The lads from Bachelor's Walk are back for a special, and there's the Apres Match Christmas Special also.
Wednesday 27th: Speaking of Billie Piper, she's the star of BBC1's adaptation of Philip Pullman's novel "The Ruby in the Smoke."
Thursday 28th: It's a strange time to show it, but BBC1 have another take on the Dracula story with an impressive cast including David "Poirot" Suchet.
Friday 29th: If you are a musicals fan you can see why Disney's "High School Musical" is selling so many DVDs on BBC1 today.
Saturday 30th: Lovers of classic movies should keep on eye on RTE2's midnight slot. They are running a "Hell hath no fury..." season of tales featuring femme fatales. Tonight's is Gilda, a film noir starring Rita Hayworth. BBC2 are also using the late-night slot to show the series of 1940s Falcon movies.
New Year's Day: Back to normal TV viewing and RTE2 are using New Year's Day to debut the latest American hit series "Ugly Betty", which is getting good reviews across the Atlantic.
Tuesday January 2nd: This Life is back. After 10 years BBC2 have brought back the original cast for once-off reunion. Expect fireworks.

13/12/06 Year in Review: Film [observation]
First off, the year's best films, an eclectic mix of drama, intrigue, comedy and adventure. I should clarify that when I say 'best', I mean what ones I enjoyed the most - this is a subjective list and I'm sure most critics would say Downfall is a 'better' film.
        1. Serenity
        2. Downfall
        3. The Wind That Shakes The Barley
        4. The Prestige
        5. Brick
        6. Cache
        7. Little Miss Sunshine
        8. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
        9. The Descent
      10. Match Point

Next, the "rewind" section, for classics and obscure gems I first saw this year. There's a strong 'noir' feel to it, as I've been trying to catch landmark films from that genre.
        1. Flirting (1992)
        2. Casablanca (1942)
        3. Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
        4. Body Heat (1981)
        5. Farewell My Lovely (1975)
        6. Chinatown (1974)
        7. The Hot Spot (1990)
        8. The Big Easy (1987)
        9. The Shining (1980)
       10. Christianne F (1982)

For me, the disappointments of the year were The New World and Where The Truth Lies. I expected so much from both of them, given the premise of The New World and the track record of Truth's director Atom Egoyan, but both left me cold.

09/12/06 Interesting Blog Link [observation]
Another Irish blog worth checking out is Pretty Cunning - you've gotta love the name and the blogger in question is a fellow Firefly fan. That'll do.

25/11/06 This Life [rave]
Before there was "Big Brother", there was "This Life", a quintessentially mid-1990s BBC2 drama series that took us inside the house shared by 5 very different junior lawyers. It was just like living with Miles, Anna, Milly, Egg and Warren. They argued and acted and 'shagged' like real housemates. These were real, complex, flawed, believable, three-dimensional characters. Jack Davenport (Miles) has since gone on to star as Norrington in "Pirates of the Caribbean" and Andrew Lincoln (Egg) became the star of "Teachers". BBC2 are currently re-running the entire series, midnights on BBC2, with a special episode re-uniting the cast 10 years on airing on BBC2 over Christmas. Hopefully the special will be true to the original. Because with plots and characters this good, why would you bother with the 'reality' version?

19/08/06 Green or Red? [rant]
Mr Gormley says the Greens would support the peacekeeping mission (to Lebanon) only if it did not have a mandate to disarm the guerrillas because this could worsen the conflict and give the impression that the international community is siding with Israel. [from News]
What sort of peace does Mr Gormley expect with a heavily-armed terrorist organisation on Israel's borders? Does Mr Gormley think it's acceptable for Sinn Fein\IRA to possess its own arsenal? What planet does Mr Gormley live on?

14/08/06 Veronica Mars [rave]
The best show on TV at the moment is Veronica Mars, airing weekdays on RTE1. The premise does not sound promising: a cute high-school girl whose dad is a private detective tries to solve the murder of her best friend. But this is a show written with wit, passion and intelligence, which doesn't treat its audience like morons. Veronica Mars is as much neo-noir as it is high-school drama. For the record, I managed to figure out the show's central mystery with three episodes to go using Roger Ebert's "Law of Economy of Characters". But there are twists and turns and sledgehammer shocks along the way. Irish interest is heightened by the fact that the show's creator, Rob Thomas, once played support to Irish band Something Happens, whose brilliant "Momentary Thing" plays over one of the key moments of the series.
I've created a page with quotes from season 1 of the show. Season 2 starts tomorrow with new mysteries for Veronica to tangle with...

09/09/06 Summer Fun [rant]
In a clever move, TV3 has launced a "World Cup Free Zone" for women, sponsored by a drink only drunk by woman, Bacardi Breezer. One of the lynchpins of this is a show called "Beach Girls" starring Rob Lowe and one-time leading English rose in Hollywood, Julia Ormond. Lowe plays a widower who moves back to his wife's hometown with his teenage daughter. I must be getting old, when I see Rob Lowe and teenage girl in the same sentence I'm thinking something entirely different, but after his turn in "The West Wing" Rob is now beyond suspicion. The show is obviously aiming for the OC market, unfortunately for a summer series it seems to be shot in Canada. But the show is called Beach Girls so we get lots of shots of freezing but hot (in a different sense) teenage gals and guys. The temperature can be judged from the fact that when they are not in bikinis, they are all sensibly dressed in jeans and windbreakers. The series also stars Chris Carmack (formerly Luke in the OC) with a midjusged David Beckham-style haircut, circa. 2000. The OC also started out as a 'summer' series but every shot was basking in glorious sunshine. Also watch out for the number of Canadian actors playing bit parts, you can tell by the way they pronounce 'about' and 'like. This show could make an amazing drinking game...

09/06/06 Go-go-go-GOAL [rave]
After four years it's come around again. The world cup, the festival of football, will take over the world for the next 4 weeks. The only downside is that Ireland aren't there, having thrown away a commanding position in their qualifying group, so all eyes will be on England, whether you love 'em or loath 'em. Savour it while you can! I'll be adding all the best quotes from the competition, with special attention to RTE's coverage, to my Tournaments page.

08/06/06 Curious? [observation]
What's this all about then? Post Expression - death ends a life, not a relationship. Intrigued? Your guess is as good as mine.

18/02/06 We're All Agreed Then [observation]
That in Ireland the most attractive weather girls are on TG4, and the best-looking lounge girls are in Murphy's newly re-opened Laughter Lounge — now if only they could find some better comedians!

11/02/06 Ancient Rome [observation]
You know you've been reading about and watching programs about ancient Rome too much when you hear the word 'Pompey' spoken by a football pundit and you think of the Roman general Pompey instead of Portsmouth FC. I've created a new page for quotes by historian Tom Holland, based on his works Rubicon and Persian Fire.

31/12/05 Happy New Year! [observation]
Well, hopefully it will be a happy one, could it be any worse than 2005 for terrorism and disasters?

31/12/05 Thoughts on Watching "Last of the Mohicans" [observation]
Most of the books I have read over the course of this year, including the Christmas period, have been set in the 18th century. I'm especially interested in Colonial America and the Seven Years War - there are very few modern films about Colonial America. "Last of the Mohicans" is my favourite film. By comparison, Mel Gibson's "The Patriot" is risible. Daniel Day-Lewis is a brilliant actor, unlike other renowned actors such as say, Al Pacino or Robert De Niro, he completely submerges himself in the roles that he is playing. Compare the characters he plays in "My Left Foot", "The Age of Innocence" and "Last of the Mohicans" - you completely believe he is his character. One quote about his preparation for "Mohicans" stays in the mind:  "Daniel Day-Lewis is one of four guys in America who can reload a flintlock rifle at a full run..."

23/12/05 What Will They Pin on Bush Next? [observation]
WASHINGTON, DC—The recent leak revealing Santa Claus to be "your mommy and daddy" has been linked to President Bush's senior political adviser and deputy chief of staff Karl Rove. Rove, who stands accused of revealing the non-existence of Santa. "If this devastating leak, which severely undermines the security of children everywhere and has compromised parent-child relations, came from the highest levels of the White House, that is an outrage," said former Bush counterterrorism adviser and outspoken Bush Administration critic Richard Clarke. (from The Onion)

18/12/05 Most Quotable Person [observation]
Once again, there's little to choose between Mark Steyn and Roger Ebert. However, though they say few words themselves, in football, Jose Mourinho (Manager of English Champions Chelsea) and Roy Keane (formerly Captain of Manchester United and Ireland) generate an astinonishing amount of quotes, analysis etc Keane is even the star of the comedy-musical "I, Keano" featuring Mario Rosenstock, who also perfectly captures Jose Mourinho in his spoof song "Jose and his Amazing Technicolour Overcoat". Shut up Makalele...

12/12/05 Christmas TV Preview [observation]
As usual, the films on TV this Christmas are disappointing, perhaps because of DVDs. In normal schedules, there seems to be a rule that good, intelligent films can only be shown after midnight. At Christmas, we don't even get those! But there are still a few gems that might be worth investigating, so, armed with the Christmas RTE Guide, here's what I'll be checking out:
Saturday 17th: I love historical films, so might watch "The Lady and the Duke" (RTE2) a French film set during their Revolution. If you haven't already seen it, "Zero Effect" (TV3) is an amusing modern take on the Sherlock Holmes story "A Scandal in Bohemia".
Sunday 18th: BBC2 are showing the US version of their hit "The Office", starting after midnight. It stars Steve Carrell of the hilarious "Forty Year Old Virgin", and will be interesting to see what the Yanks have done with the show.
Monday 19th: More clever programming from BBC2, you can catch the 1933 version of "King Kong" starring Fay Wray. Sky One are showing a TV-adaptation of "Moby Dick" weekdays at 9, starring Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame.
Wednesday 21st: Aside from my usual viewing of Rome and "Stargate Atlantis", there's the satire "The Second Civil War" (TV3), a thought-provoking drama about immigration in the US.
Thursday 22nd: Not much on, there's the charming "Bend It Like Beckham" on BBC1, and RTE2 have the old-fashioned (despite being about internet dating!) romance "You've Got Mail".
Christmas Eve: Just getting into Harry Potter? BBC1 are showing the first film, "The Philosopher's Stone", which is a bit kiddish, but provides the backstory to the now epic series. My favourite of the recent Bond films is "Tomorrow Never Dies", and ITV are airing that at 3pm, which means it must be heavily edited. You can also catch the timeless "Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles" on BBC2, this time it's the Basil Rathbone version from 1939. The beautiful\talented\angelic Cara Dillon is the highlight of BBC2's repeated "Lagan Live", which is followed by a festive TOTP2 which will show every classic Christmas song (which you've heard 100+ times already this month). Get into the spirit of the season with Channel 4's "A Christmas Carol" starring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge. The most irreverent show on TV tonight will be RTE2's "The Blizzard of Odd", giving Colin Murphy ample opportunity to take down all things Chrismassy - hopefully that'll include Pat Kenny's dreadful performance on the "Late Late Toy Show".
Christmas Day: For the kids there's "Ice Age" (RTE1) and Shrek (BBC1), aswell as the annual showing of "The Snowman" (C4) and a festive "Creature Comforts" (ITV). The standout film of the day is the awesomely entertaining "Pirates of the Caribbean" — it's got pirates and Royal Navy warships, ghosts and treasure, the beautiful Keira Knightley and a scence-stealing performance from Johnny Depp. What more could you ask for? RTE get something right at least! On BBC1, you can get your first proper look of the new Doctor Who, David Tennant, in "The Christmas Invasion".
Stephen's Day: It's back! It's a strange day for it, but the new season of "The OC" starts on TG4 tonight. Sun, sand, and probably fist-fights, it's not very seasonal, but there you go. The "Apres Match Christmas Special" is on RTE2, and ITV have a new period adapatation — Thomas Hardy's "Under the Greenwood Tree". If you haven't seen it, then "Minority Report" (BBC1) is an intelligent and inventive scifi-thriller starring Tom Cruise and a low-key (for once!) Colin Farrell.
Tuesday 27th: Tape "The Muppet Christmas Carol" (RTE2) and watch it next Christmas Eve. Who puts a film like that on *after* Christmas Day? I just don't know...
Well, enjoy!

11/12/05 Coming Full Circle [rant]
I have been saying for several years now that it is no longer possible to do business by phone. Since the web can be even more dangerous and business ignores snail mail entirely, the only way to deal with your problems is in person. It is very time-consuming, but it is difficult to ignore a human body sitting in your office. So we have come full circle in 100 years of technological advance. The amazing thing to me is how much trouble these same companies will go to in order to get your business in the first place. Rather dumb to then run you off by their terrible business practices.
        - from a letter to "National Review"

11/12/05 Crazy People [rant]
In the part of Dublin that I live in there's a guy who goes around in an ice cream van. Now, this seems like a reasonable thing to do in summer, and into September and maybe October. It's now December, freezing cold, and he's still going around. Why? Who is buying ice cream outdoors in December in Dublin?

11/12/05 Christmas Reading List [observation]
The Americans: The Colonial Experience by Daniel J. Boorstin
Captives: Britain, Empire and the World  by Linda Colley
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

10/12/05 Year in Review: Film [observation]
First off, the year's best films, ranging from comedies, to epics, daring fantasies and thought-provoking dramas:
        1. Sideways
        2. House of Flying Daggers
        3. Batman Begins
        4. Million Dollar Baby
        5. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
        6. Pride and Prejudice
        7. Sin City
        8. Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire
        9. Friday Night Lights
       10. The Woodsman

Next, the "rewind" section, for classics and obscure gems I first saw this year:
        1. The Bounty (1984)
        2. The Big Sleep (1946)
        3. Liberty Heights (1999)
        4. The Bourne Identity (2002)
        5. The Bostonians (1984)
        6. Black Robe (1991)
        7. The Impostor (2002)
        8. Ararat (2002)
        9. Tombstone (1993)
      10. The Wings of the Dove (1997)

And finally, the Turkey-of-the-Year award goes to the overblown Alexander. See my rant below on how much of a mess this film was. I also considered War of the Worlds, which I was very disappointed with because I expected so much more, but it was merely average. Alexander was awful.

08/12/05 Year in Review: Television [observation]
(a) Best TV Series: Lost. A television series with the budget and quality of a movie. From the very first scene you felt like you were riding a whirlwind and didn't want to let go. What is the island about? There are so many questions, and the writers will have their work cut out to avoid the "Twin Peaks" effect — people are going to want answers, they'll only watch mysteries for so long and when they get answers, will the show be worth watching?
(b) Honourable Mentions: Deadwood, The OC, Stargate Atlantis
(c) Jump The Shark Award (When Good TV Goes Bad): Spooks
(d) Worst Scheduling Award: RTE, for airing the entire fourth season of The Gilmore Girls on weekday mornings in March. The show's audience is either in school, work or college at that point. Despite this, Alexis Bledel continued to be the most believable teenager on television, and found time to star in Sin City; whilst Lauren Graham fell for Billy Bob Thornton's Bad Santa. My video was quiet busy.
(e) Commentary: Lost blew away the competition and the viewers, and seems to herald a resurgence in scripted dramas instead of "reality TV" shows, which is ironic as its premise is quite similar to Survivor. Deadwood, The OC and Arrested Development went through their difficult second seasons, and it looks like Arrested Development will end up a casualty. The West Wing staged a mini-revival with a change of focus to presidential contenders Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda. Doctor Who was resurrected on BBC1 with a first-rate cast, if only the scripts were meant for adults not kids! Rome promised much, and while it's a decent show, it could be so much better. On the science-fiction front, Star Trek Enterprise was cancelled after only four seasons, a victim of the show's premise and abject cowardice on the part of the writers. Surprisingly, the "re-imagined" Battlestar Galatica was everything Enterprise wasn't — daring, dark and not afraid to re-interpret a classic story for the 21st century. In an unusual move, viewers on this side of the Atlantic saw the series before it aired on America's Sci-Fi Channel, which seemed to help generate a positive internet buzz about the show that drowned out the voices of fans of the original series upset at the changes. Expect to see several more "re-imagined" shows soon. Stargate Atlantis managed to upstage its "parent" show with some wonderfully entertaining episodes and a cast who are obviously enjoying themselves and not taking things too seriously.

04/12/05 Year in Review: Music [observation]
It was the year of the retro bands. The Killers "Hot Fuss" combined critical acclaim with that intangible 'cool' factor — topped off with a guest appearance on The OC. Following in their wake were bands like Interpol and The Kaiser Chiefs but The Killers stood out from the crowd. But please, if you like them, try some Smiths, or Clash, or Jam, instead of a Killers clone. My gig of the year goes to Kathleen Edwards's April gig in a packed Whelans. The Canadian singer-songwriter making something of a trans-Atlantic breakthrough on the back of her brilliant "Failer". Kate Rusby's October gig in Vicar Street was a close second. On the Irish scene, I was a little disappointed with "Short Stories", Autamata's follow-up to "My Sanctuary". By going more commercial, it didn't quite have the uniqueness that made "My Sanctuary" so special. U2 played to half the population of the country in Croke Park, and showed they still have what it takes — if after 25+ years your songs are still played on the trendiest show on TV (The OC) you're doing something right.

30/11/05 Accent This [rant]
Here's the situation: you're an American actress, and you've been cast to play a 6th-century English princess. You decide that you need to put on a (bad) English accent, and by English accent, I mean a Jane Austen-type clipped accent. Why would do that? Whatever a 6th-century English princess would have sounded like, it'd be nothing like that! English hadn't even been invented yet. If they sounded like anyone alive today, it'd be someone from the Celtic fringe of Scotland, Wales or Ireland. It seems that in TV\Movies if you're playing royalty — whether in the Rome of Julius Caesar or 6th-century England — you have to use that accent. Observed whilst watching ER's Julianna Marguiles in "The Mists of Avalon".

30/11/05 Leader from The Times [observation]
Let us be deep and crisp and even crystal clear: we approve of Christmas. We applaud wise men. We follow stars. We admire lateral thinking in the use of agricultural outbuildings. We can withstand moderate seasonal exposure to Johnny Mathis. We like Christmas carols, tinsel, turkey, stuffing and bad puns printed in China for insertion into explosive crackers. We are relaxed about the niceties of virgin birth and have no philosophical objection to the environmentally responsible uprooting of millions of young conifers. But the basic principles of party planning, not to mention the oft-neglected interests of decorum, do force us to ask: isn’t it still November?

30/11/05 Err [observation]
So the weblog died a bit of a death this year, but I'll be putting some new stuff up with my review of the year's music, film, television etc

29/01/05 Life's Consolations [observation]
My grandfather used to say, ‘Learn to like art, music and literature deeply and passionately. They will be your friends when things are bad.’ It is true: at this time of year, when days are short and dark, and one hardly dares to open the newspapers, I turn, not vainly either, to the great creators of the past for distraction, solace and help.
(from Paul Johnson's latest column in "The Spectator")

09/01/05 The Little Things [rant]
I rarely agree with the Sunday Independent's Gene Kerrigan, but in today's article he highlights something deeply wrong with the present Irish government. Sometimes it's in the little things that character is revealed, and the below article highlights the patronising arrogance and incompetence at the highest levels:
"One firm got €3.4m over two years to tell us about the 'Race Against Waste'. A fortune was spent on a frightening TV advert, showing our children threatened by a tsunami of waste. Suddenly, they switched the mood. Now, they have the cheerful celebrity gardener, giving recycling advice to a woman who seems to have the hots for him. There's no shortage of money for consultants and advertising agencies, and more consultants, and websites, and more consultants and advisors and the woman who has the hots for the celebrity gardener.
What there doesn't seem to be is enough money for the collection of recycled waste - or the provision of proper centres, properly staffed, efficiently emptied when full, and open all hours. Are we supposed to drive around looking for a recycling centre that's open, with space left in its skips? What if you don't have a car? Or, if you're a serious environmentalist and you don't like polluting the air as you drive from one recycling centre to the next?
What's going on isn't a recycling campaign. It's something that looks like a recycling campaign. And that's what our politicians specialise in - spending money on things that look like they might be what they're supposed to be."
If Martin Cullen, Minister for the Environment, had a shred of integrity, he would have resigned long ago.

08/01/05 Alexander [rant]
What a mess. I mean, I really wanted to like this film, and I know there's been talk about papers about it getting bad press because it portrays Alexander as bisexual, or because of dodgy 'Oirish' accents, or even dodgy acting. But really, a decent script hides a multitude of sins, people can forgive dodgy accents, and even dodgy acting (though I thought Farrell did as good a job as anyone could have) if there's a story to follow and characters to identify with. The film's disastrous box-office performance probably spells the death knell for 'swords-and-sandals' epics revived by Gladiator. What I'd like to see a film set in those heroic times about an imagined figure, someone not from history, so that the writers can concentrate on coming up with a great story and action, rather than having their hands tied by sticking, however loosely, to history. If you want to know why Alexander was called 'Alexander The Great', read a book on the man, you won't understand why from this film.

07/01/05 You Know He's Going To Lie So Why Ask? [rant]
"Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to prosecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing." (Vaclav Havel)
Why on earth does RTE news persist in interviewing Martin McGuinness, on any Sinn Fein-IRA mouthpiece? Of course they're going to deny that the IRA carried out the largest bank raid in the history of these islands. You may as well have interviewed Goebbels and asked him how the Jews were getting on in those lovely concentration camps.

06/01/05 Metric Madness [rant]
Why is the Republic of Ireland switching its road signs to kilometres from miles? I've heard the explanations, and I don't believe any of them. Road safety? How is it safer to make it harder for a driver to control his car? It is easier to drive Irish cars observing miles per hour than kilometres per hour, because of the way the speedometers are set on the vast majority of our cars. Isn't the changeover going to confuse the hell out of drivers from Northern Ireland and Britain? How many drivers from the North on January 20th (the day of the changeover) coming into the Republic do you think will observe the kilometre speed limits? We drive on the same side of the road as they do, wouldn't it be more consistent for travellers from further afield to keep our signs in miles? The money spent on replacing signs and advertising the change could have saved lives, had it been spent on fixing accident blackspot roads, or putting crash barriers down our motorways. Who has ever died because our speed limits are in miles per hour? You can sue car companies if they build unsafe cars, but who do you sue when your government makes your roads unsafe?

06/01/05 Beauty and the Beast [observation]
"It's a family sitcom tradition that spouses are ill-matched looks-wise, but until recently, the mismatch has usually consisted of a beautiful actress, whose glamour is partly obscured behind the clutter of everyday life, and a comparatively plain actor. In these sitcom marriages, the husband was at least shown to compensate for his obvious lack of studliness by being what Tony Soprano would call a good earner - or at the very least a mensch. In the current sitcom lineup, by contrast, several shows pair extremely attractive women, who are often clad in plunging tops and tight jeans suitable for a Maxim photo spread, with TV husbands who are not only not studly, but downright fat, and a couple who are not only not mensches, but are ugly on the inside, too."
(Matt Feeney, "Beauty and the Beast", MSN Slate)

06/01/05 What Is A Mensch? [observation]
From Dictionary.Com > A person having admirable characteristics, such as fortitude and firmness of purpose: "He radiates the kind of fundamental decency that has a name in Yiddish; he's a mensch." (James Atlas)
I'd never heard of it either...

02/01/05 An Actual Natural Disaster [observation]
"The point is that it isn't natural disasters which kill people, so much as poverty which prevents them protecting themselves. Had the tsunamis struck Scandinavia or the west coast of America, people would have died but in nothing like the numbers who died on the shores of the Indian Ocean. A flood warning system such as that employed in Britain after the catastrophic floods of 1953 would have evacuated most people to safety well in time. Global warming has become a dogma from which no dissent is to be tolerated. And so the world persists in a policy that will do little to abate global warming – such as it is – but will certainly prevent third world countries attaining the living standards of the West. The overall result will be to leave their populations more vulnerable to natural disasters. Natural disasters are just that: acts of nature that have no human cause but whose effects may be reduced by industrial development. The world's poor are being sacrificed in a misguided effort to save them."
(Ross Clark, "Disasters Don't Kill People, Poverty Does", "The Telegraph")

29/12/04 Quote of the Day [rave]
"Look over there, it's a newly married interracial gay couple burning the American flag."
(Brian, distracting the angry mob, "Family Guy: To Live and Die in Dixie")
There, did that get anybody's attention?

29/12/04 Chronological Snobbery [rave]
I am not the only person unimpressed with "Sherlock Holmes & The Case of the Silk Stocking", in today's Irish Independent David Quinn writes:
"Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not write 'Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking', nor would he have been able to. First of all, readers back then would never have accepted a Holmes half so dark as the one portrayed by Rupert Everett. Secondly, Conan Doyle himself would have found the plot - pervert with a foot fetish tortures and kills nubile young women - repugnant. Back then, the transgressive was out. These days, it's almost de rigueur."
Quinn goes on to argue that this is an example of one of the conceits of our age, 'chronological snobbery': "More and more, we are projecting our own values on to those who lived in the past as though there can be no other way to live, or to think, than the way we live and think now... All ages have their prejudices. We're no different. We are different in one respect, though. Ours is the only one ever to think that it has nothing at all to learn from the past. One result of this is that it has become all but impossible for us to make a drama set in the past in which a credible character doesn't think exactly like us. The writer CS Lewis called this kind of attitude 'chronological snobbery', meaning the belief that the latest thing is always the best. We're all chronological snobs now."

27/12/04 Oh Dear [rant]
You get together a top-notch cast, and create a lavish period drama... but if your plot is a turkey, then you've got a turkey. That was the case with the BBC's "Sherlock Holmes & The Case of the Silk Stocking" last night. Rupert Everett made for a capable Holmes, not in the same league as the great Jeremy Brett, but more than adequate, but he was let down by a contrived plot. If you can easily spot who the killer is after 10 minutes, there's something seriously wrong with your murder mystery. As for the 'complicating' factor as to why we start thinking the killer isn't the killer, well, without spoiling things, surely it was the last resort of a stumped writer. If only they'd gotten David Renwick, creator of "Jonathon Creek" to come up with a worthy conundrum. A big disappointment.

25/12/04 Alternative Christmas Message [observation]
"In world events, the friendship between America and Britain is stronger than ever. You're like Mini Me to our Doctor Evil, helping out in all our zany schemes to take over the world."
This year, Channel 4's "Alternative Christmas Message" was presented by Marge Simpson.

21/12/04 Christmas Reading List [observation]
American Colonies: The Settling of North America by Alan Taylor
Drink: A Social History of America by Andrew Barr
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
Food: A History by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
The Bonfire of the Vanities - Tom Wolfe

20/12/04 Christmas TV Preview [observation]
Didn't Christmas TV used to be better than this? I've seen almost all the films already... so I'm checking the schedules for some made-for-TV specials. The standout is the new Sherlock Holmes story which airs on BBC1 on December 26th starring Rupert Everett. Worth watching for curiosity value alone, you can compare Everett's performance with the late, great Jeremy Brett's - his "Hound of the Baskervilles" is on December 23rd on BBC2. After that I'm kinda left scratching my head...

19/12/04 End Of Year Review [observation]
I guess it's that time of year again, to recount the 'best ofs', so while your humble blogger is floored by illness, here goes...
Best TV Series: The OC. The smash hit teen TV show packed some punch, literally, with a charming cast, witty dialogue and fairytale storylines. Awesomingly entertaining, it makes for perfect escapist television.
Honourable Mentions: Deadwood, Angel, Arrested Development.
Jump The Shark Award (When Good TV Goes Bad): The West Wing.
Best Book: The best book I read in 2004 was ATQ Stewart's "The Shape of Irish History". There are countless books on Irish history, but this one takes a wider view of the forces underlying historical events in Ireland.
Honourable Mentions: "Drink" by Andrew Barr.
Best Gig: Kate Rusby (The Village, 27/10). The Village was the perfect, intimate venue for English folk singer Kate Rusby's talents - she has the most evocative voice of any singer I've heard. While I'd have preferred to hear some more of her earlier work, this was still easily my favourite gig of 2004.
Honourable Mentions: Cara Smith (Whelans, 02/05) & Mindy Smith (The Village, 28/07).
Best Film: The Station Agent. You will either love or hate this film, not a huge amount happens, but what does happen is perfectly captured. The story of one man's attempt to lead a normal life in small-town America, the catch is that he's only 4 foot 5.
Most Quotable Person: It's a toss-up between Roger Ebert, for his excellent film reviews, and Mark Steyn, for the punch he brings to politics.
Most Important Quote of the Year: If you want to know why Americans went for George W. Bush over Senator John Kerry, this quote that Kerry used to justify voting against funding for US troops in Iraq just about sums it up: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." None of Bush's entanglements with the English language show him in as bad a light at that quote shows Kerry.

12/12/04 Christmas Thought For The Day [observation]
"Scrooge has been called ungenerous. I say that's a bum rap. What could be more generous than keeping your lamps unlit and your plate unfilled, leaving more fuel for others to burn and more food for others to eat? Who is a more benevolent neighbor than the man who employs no servants, freeing them to wait on someone else?" (Steven E. Landsburg, "What I Like About Scrooge", "MSN Slate")

07/12/04 The Ancestor's Tale [rave]
"The platypus bill seems comic, its resemblance to that of a duck made the more incongruous by its
relatively large size, and also because a duck's bill has a certain intrinsic laughableness. But humour does an injustice to this wondrous apparatus. If you want to think in terms of an incongruous graft, forget all about ducks. A more telling comparison is the extra nose grafted onto a Nimrod reconaissance aircraft... Platypuses have about 40000 electrical sensors distributed in longitudinal stripes over both surfaces of the bill... they swing the bill in movements called saccades, side to side, as they swim. It looks like a radar dish scanning... when you think of a platypus, forget duck, think Nimrod, think AWACS; think huge hand feeling its way, by remote pins and needles; think lightning flashes and thunder rumbling, through the watery mud of Australia."
There are few writers who can capture the deep beauty of life on earth the way Richard Dawkins can. The wonderful description of the duck-billed platypus above comes from his latest book, "The Ancestor's Tale". Dawkins takes the style of his book from Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales", and moves backwards in time, starting with humans, until he reaches Canterbury - the dawn of life. The creatures that Dawkins 'meets' each have their own tale to tell, and if only every tale were as amazing as that of the platypus, then the book would rank alongside the best of Dawkins other works. As it is, this handsome book is still well worth a read and I have created a page of quotes from it.

29/11/04 Filed for Later [rant]
"One of the biggest studies into drinking has found that wine, beer and even a daily tot of whisky can lengthen your life and protect the body against the diseases of ageing.
Scientists have found that regular but moderate consumption of alcohol by the middle-aged can protect against some of Britain’s biggest killers, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. The effect of up to two drinks a day for women and three for men is so marked that some researchers believe that middle-aged people should treat alcohol like a dietary supplement."
As "The Times" reports, and the brilliant polemical work "Drink: A Social History" by Andrew Barr argues, the consequences of alcohol are far more complex than our governments and most doctors would like us to believe. Next time you hear a Government minister talking about the evils of alcohol, shove this in his face.

27/11/04 Has Been? [rave]
"I have saved the world in the movies so naturally there's folks who think I must know what to know.
I'd love to help the world and all its problems but I'm an entertainer, and that's all,
So the next time there's an asteroid or a natural disaster,
I'm flattered that you thought of me but I'm not the one to call." (Real)
Surely the most bizarre album recently released is "Has Been", a spoken word album by William Shatner (aka Captain James T Kirk). What's even more unexpected is that the album works! The most accessible song is a cover of Pulp's "Common People", as Shatner's perfect delivery is backed by the musical talents of Joe Jackson and Ben Fold. The angry "I Can't Get Behind That" should become a mantra for our age:
"What about the men who say 'Do as I do. Believe in what I say, for your own good, or I'll kill you!' I can't get behind that!"

26/11/04 Passing The Torch [observation]
British high-street electronics chain Dixons has announced that it plans to stop selling video players. I'm half in shock. For someone of my age, videos have always been there, so convenient, you never think that they aren't going to be there - and now I'm a bit worried that soon my collection of video tapes will be obsolete and unplayable! The news led to a spate of articles in the media assessing the effect that the video had when it was first introduced, Mark Lawson's one "Ghosts In The Machine", was probably the best.

25/11/04 Dumbing Down? [observation]
"What important results followed — the raising of the siege of Orleans, the Gunpowder plot, the Scottish rebellion of 1639, the surrender at Yorktown, the battles of Bannockburn, Bosworth, Ethandune, La Hogue, Plassey, and Vittoria."
"Name the British possessions in America with the chief town in each. Which is the most important."
How would you fare with questions like that? How do you think 16 year old schoolkids would fare with questions like that? Believe it or not, those questions are taken from the entrance exam to St. Edwards School in Birmingham in 1898 - and entrance exam for 11 year olds. More exam questions are available from "The Spectator".

24/11/04 In Perspective [observation]
I have often ranted about the DART, Dublin's commuter train service... but this story from The Times puts things in perspective:
"A year-long national campaign against bottom-pinching in Japan has failed, with nearly two thirds of young women saying that they have been groped on trains or at railway stations. Most say that there should be separate commuter trains for women. Efforts by police and the courts appear to have had little effect on the activities of Japan’s increasingly devious sukebe, or perverts."
Bloody Hell!


2004 -> 10 ~ 09 ~ 08 ~ 07 ~ 06 ~ 05 ~ 04 ~ 03 ~ 02 ~ 01
2003 -> Nov - Dec ~ Aug - Oct ~ July ~ June ~ May ~ Mar - Apr ~ Jan - Feb
2002 -> December ~ November

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