Sunday, April 30, 2006

In A Lifetime

Five years ago today was my first day in my current job in Cork. In one way it seems like so long ago and in another it feels like only yesterday. What I will always remember is that first evening, sitting in my room in a B&B looking out the window after an horrendous first day and thinking that I had made a the biggest mistake of my life by moving. I'd say it took me at least two years to get over those first few days and weeks. Now? No regrets, even if I'm still not as settled as I'd like considering how long it has been. I'm prone to nostalgia at the best of times, but today I'm remembering my three years in Shelbyville with a fondness that probably doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Another Day

The 'chasing didn't go according to plan and I'm now reaping what I sowed for winding up the gallant Gaels of Munster for the last couple of weeks. I really set myself up for a fall from a height of skyscraper-esque proportions. Still, all a bit of fun.

More importantly, and to my surprise, the 'pool came out on top against the team built by flogging the Russian peoples' resources. Happy days! Gonna try and go to the final now. Jose Moaninho is turning into a right-cock. Pretty soon, when people are referring to the blueshite, you'll have to check if they mean Chelski or Everton.

A slight downer was Louth throwing away a commanding lead to allow Donegal bring the game to a replay next weekend. Still, I'll get to see it now, which means they'll lose! A bigger downer was Shelbyville winning the Setanta Cup after yet another 1-nil victory. They're now calling themselves 'Champions of Ireland'. The mockery just doesn't stop with that lot.

Friday, April 21, 2006

You'll Never Walk Alone

The single biggest weekend of sport of the year so far for me got underway last night with Dundalk winning their third match on the spin after being in this astoundingly embarrassing situation a couple of weeks back...

Onwards and upwards for the Lilywhites methinks. After that, tomorrow, hostilities resume between the forces of good and evil, when the 'pool take on Chelski in the FA Cup semi final. I don't fancy this one at all. Ever since Benitez made the mistake of claiming Roman's mercenaries were scared of his Rafalutionaries, Chelski have upped their performances against the reds and have tended to outclass them. Here's hoping.

Then on Sunday Louth are back in the Division 2 final for the first time since winning it in 2000 (the last time I actually saw them win a game would you believe).

It'll be nice to have something to shout about in the Gah for a change. Since moving to Cork I've been on the outside looking in every summer as, seemingly, every other county gets its day in the sun.

And, of course, there's the egg-chasing. Now, in an effort to show what good sports they are, all the rugger fans are banging on about "rugby being the winner" and "whoever wins, we'll all support them in Cardiff". That's the kind of crap that makes peanut-hugging a mockery of a sport. If these people are really able to believe/act that way then they don't have a clue what it is to truly, totally and irrationally love a team. It's that kind of blind commitment (that makes little sense beyond parochialism/tribalism), which makes supporting a team more than just enjoying a spectacle, like you might enjoy a film or a concert. But the band-wagon jumpers clearly don't know what that feels like. It's hard to know who deserves the pity - them or me!

Anyway, while still disliking the 'sport' intensely, I am gagging for Leinster to give Munster a good spanking. I'll be in the Rob Roy in Cork on Sunday - an island of blue in a sea of tailored red... hmmm, I just realised how rare it is for me to not follow the red team in a game! Anyway the Johnny-Come-Lately, bog-hopping, bandwagon jumpers better get used to this...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Overpowered By Funk

Saw The Spinto Band (with, maybe, 50 others) in Cyprus Avenue in Cork last Saturday night. Well worth a look.

Then saw Razorlight in the Olympia on Monday. Razorlight really know how to work a crowd - like proper rock stars - and the new stuff leads me to believe I'm going to like their new album. But, strangely, they seemed to either screw up the endings of some songs or just let them peter out. Still a great gig though.

3hive have linked to Irish band Butterfly Explosion. Just downloaded the tracks this very minute.

Monday, April 17, 2006

This Is England

Last week Geoffrey Wheatcroft penned a pretty impressive Lord-Laird style "Easter Rising leaders were a bunch of fascists" piece in the Observer (complete with mathematical cock-up in the sub-header). Wheatcroft is well known for his contributions to both Eamon Dunphy's and Matt Cooper's radio shows and, personally, I like the guy's analysis and dry wit. But his piece was pretty reprehensible stuff.

First there are the daft attempts to impose modern democratic sensibilities onto a time when Europe (and the world) was carved up by competing imperial superpowers engaged in the most pointless mass slaughter in the history of mankind. Maybe the unfortunate Irishmen of the time were persuaded by British plays on their sensibilities about what the hun were up to in "Little Catholic Belgium" but any serious study of that time shows that attempts to brand the protagonists as "Good" and "Evil" a lá WWII do not stand up to scrutiny.

Then there's the stuff about: "In 1916, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a democracy with limited representative government and a rule of law." This is plain dishonest revisionism. As we are taught in our history classes (and as Northern and British kids aren't) The Unionist minority on the island of Ireland, together with their Tory partners, actively opposed and prevented the Home Rule desired by the majority for thirty years.

When Home Rule was finally pushed through by the Liberals in 1912; the Unionist minority and its Tory sympathisers imported arms with the intention of resisting Home Rule by violent means. So hearing Unionists bleating about 'democracy' sticks in the throat somewhat. World War 1 probably saved Ireland from a sectarian civil war far worse than what happened during the Troubles.

Yet this fact - the Unionist attempt at a veto-via-violence - is always glossed over when 1916 and the subsequent independence struggle is discussed. That threat of violence sowed the weeds of the ultimate partition of the island. So we shouldn't have to be brow-beaten by ignorant Northern Unionists and Brits when they yammer on about democracy or treason or any of the rest of that guff.

Eddie Holt, a Shelbyvillain as it turns out (explains his anti-incinerator stance!) did a good debunk of Wheatcroft’s article in the Irish Times on Saturday. Also the Observer’s letter writers got stuck in on Sunday as well.

I would have preferred to see the State wait until the 100th anniversary before renewing the celebrations, but Sunday’s military parade was very well done – as tasteful as something like that could have gotten (despite our hilariously underfunded Air Corps and lack of kick-ass missiles on trucks!).

Friday, April 14, 2006

Until The End Of The World

In Slate Christopher Hitchens claims that "Iraq did go uranium shopping in Niger." He also tries to play games with our memories of 2002 by saying "The European intelligence services, and the Bush administration, only ever asserted that the Iraqi regime had apparently tried to open (or rather, reopen) a yellowcake trade "in Africa." It has never been claimed that an agreement was actually reached. What motive could there be for a forgery that could be instantly detected upon cursory examination?" Yeah, right. That's how it was sold.

Anyway in the Private Eye of 6th January this year there's an article on the Niger uranium, which I'll just reproduce here in its entirety without comment for the sake of comparison with Hitchens' piece...

Tony Baloney (copyright Private Eye)

Just before Christmas a former top official in the French equivalent of MI6 revealed that in 2002 his agents had told the Americans that claims about Iraq seeking uranium from Africa were "bullshit".

Alain Chouet, who until the end of 2002 led a 700-strong unit at the DGSE investigating terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, told the Italian and American press about French investigations of Saddam's atomic ambitions. As well as causing further embarrassment to President George Bush over the fake claims made about Iraq's WMD, Chouret's tale also calls into question British statements about Saddam's nuclear plans.

Chouet told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that from 2001 onwards the CIA repeatedly warned its French counterparts about intelligence that Iraq was trying to get 'yellowcake', a uranium ore, from Africa. As French companies ran the main uranium mines in former French colony Niger, the DGSE felt compelled to investigate. According to Chouet: "Between the end of May and June 2002, my men were in Njamey, the capital of Niger... Five of our best men were part of the team, with a deep knowledge of Niger and of all the issues connected to yellowcake. My men stayed in Africa for a couple of weeks and, once back, they told me a very simple thing: 'The American information on uranium is all bullshit'."

Chouet says the DGSE told the CIA there was no truth in the Iraq-Niger claims in 2002 - around a year before President Bush made his controversial State of the Nation speech in which he said specifically that Saddam was trying to get his hands on African uranium.

Chouet's story also raises more questions about Britain's Niger uranium claims. In Tony Blair's September 2002 dossier it was asserted that "there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa"; and it was this statement Bush relied on in his speech. However, while America has withdrawn its claims after documents purporting to show a Niger atomic plot were shown to be forgeries, the British government still claims it has separate intelligence that is not tainted by the fakes. However if the French DGSE were investigating and discounting the Niger-Iraq story in 2002, British claims of extra "foreign intelligence" on the issue look even less convincing.

Chouet also says that even as far back as the summer of 2002 the CIA sent the French papers outlining a Niger-Iraq uranium deal, but that he later noticed the substance of these claims was almost identical to the story about the "500 tons" of yellowcake ore that eventually appeared in the fake documents that came to the US from the disgraced former Italian intelligence officer Rocco Martino in 2003. This suggests that the many tales knocking about western intelligence before the Iraq war were simply different versions, transcripts or summaries of the Niger forgeries.

Chouet told the Los Angeles Times that his French experts believed the statement in Blair's September Dossier was "totally crazy because, in our view, there was no back-up for this". If French intelligence actually told MI6 that its claims were "totally crazy", then the UK's pre-war dossier looks even more like simple propaganda and less like "intelligence".

Private Eye tracked down Chouet to ask him if the DGSE had indeed told the British authorities that there were no grounds in the Niger claims at the same time as it told the CIA the Niger claims were "bullshit". Unfortunately M. Chouet has clammed up a little since speaking to Italian and American journalists. He told the Eye: "Unfortunately, since the so-called 'Nigergate' issue is now under police or justice inquiry in several countries including France, I'm no more entitled (ie it's totally prohibited for me...) to talk any more on the topic with anybody and specially to deliver any interview to the press."

In France, Italy and the US there are now criminal investigations into the "Niger forgeries" to discover if Rocco Martino or any other conspirator is guilty of a fraud that helped to start the war on Iraq. There is no such investigation in the UK.

While Chouet may no longer be able to talk openly about the issue, the British Government, or the Parliamentary Intelligence & Security Committee, could look into the issue. Unfortunately, unlike the Europeans and Americans, all these bodies seem to have "moved on" and express no desire to find out whether British officials were warned about "crazy" claims.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Complete Control

A month or so ago I read in Private Eye about the number of English footballers either in the process of taking legal action against various newspapers, or just refusing to cooperate with them due to previous 'revelations' about their private lives. The main thrust of the story was how Wayne Rooney intended suing The Sun and The News of the World over reports he'd slapped his girlfriend, Coleen McLoughlin, in a nightclub.

Private Eye pointed out that, in the run up to the World Cup, the tabloids couldn't afford to have the English players refuse to talk to them and advised readers to watch for fawning pieces about both Wayne and Coleen (and others like John Terry) in advance of an out of court settlement prior to the World Cup.

The Mediawatch column on Football365 took up the watch and over the last few weeks documented every instance of Wayne Rooney being made man-of-the-match for YooSA by The Sun and every instance of a picture of Coleen complete with fawning caption about her beauty etc. This, remember, after they had spent years referring to her as a chav and slagging off her penchant for spending Rooney's cash.

The big story in Britain's press since the weekend has been Rooney's alleged gambling debts of £stg 700,000. Yet just one paper felt it wasn't worthy of a headline - front or back page. It was, of course, The Sun. And so it has come to pass that, rather than find itself in court with England's potentially World Cup winning hero, The Sun has settled out of court with Wayne Rooney for a figure of £stg 100,000. So now he just needs to find another 600K.

If Music Could Talk

Stuff I like that I've downloaded from 3hive recently...

The Ms (I'm not putting an apostrophe in - stupid Americans with their bad grammar).

Tapes 'n Tapes - There's definitely a lot of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah going on there.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

If God Will Send His Angels

Sunday's Observer (not on the site, it seems) reprinted a Rolling Stone article on Scientology, which I only got around to reading yesterday. It's quite interesting - if nothing new for anyone who has bothered to read up a bit on it before. Katie Holmes, after what seems to have been a never-ending pregnancy, is due soon. With reports that poor Katie has to stay silent through her birth (she'll have a big dummy to help in that regard, *snigger*) and, apparently, that she is not allowed to have any contact with her sprog for a full week afterwards, the Scientologists - or more specifically that wacko, toothy dwarf Cruise - are back in the news. I would feel sorry for her for having to put up with such guff, only she appears to be a total airhead. So instead I feel sorry for the child. God only knows what they'll call it.

Monday, April 10, 2006

A Sort Of Homecoming

Via Auds, I had a go at this. When it popped up that I 'belong in Dublin' I was amused but not surprised. I don't mind giving these pyscho-babble yokes a twirl, even if I'll totally forget what they say within a matter of minutes. I should point out that when I picked my second choice in each question I ended up with Dublin anyway and only got Paris or Barcelona after serious attempts at subversion.

You Belong in Dublin

Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.
You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.


But seeing as it suggested Dublin I might as well explain how I had the chance to move to back there recently and didn't take it. An equivalent position to what I do currently had opened up in the Big Smoke and I almost applied for it without thinking. I'll have been in Cork five years at the end of this month and it seemed like a good time to try pastures new without having to sever my links with my present employer. Also I'm just not enjoying the project I'm on at the moment or having to work in such close proximity to the much-maligned Lenny, which has my world fried. But I didn't go for it it - because I realised I like Dublin too much.

You see Dublin and Dundalk are my two boltholes, my get away from Cork places. When I'm in either of those places I'm miles from my job, miles from the people I work with, miles from the type of job I do and the type of people I work with. The conversations are different, the nights out are different, the people you meet and the options you have are different. They're like weekend breaks away to wind down and recharge that I get every three or four weeks. The Cork people I work with don't have that luxury.

So I was afraid I'd lose that if I moved back to Dublin. My friends there are pretty much guaranteed to make the effort to meet up with me if they know I'm heading up and so I always have a great time. The danger would be that I'd expect that all the time if I lived there and, to be realistic, it would be unlikely to happen. Furthermore I've no reason to believe the new people I'd meet through work would be any more likely to want to socialise outside of work than the bunch here in Cork (most of whom I get on with well, to be fair).

Using pretty much the same reasoning I have no intention of moving back to Dundalk any time soon either (that, and the total non-existence of jobs in my field). This week, five years ago, I finished up my previous job in Shelbyville and, a week later, I was moving to Cork having only set foot in the place once in my adult life. I knew no one and had no idea what was ahead of me. Also I always thought it would be relatively short term and that I would head back to the East Coast at some point... right up until a couple of weeks ago. Now it has hit me that it looks like I'll be staying here. That's a realisation I'll have to get used to.

Armagideon Time

I'll have to watch myself and my muiscal tastes for a while...

"A phone salesman was hauled off a London-bound plane by police after his taste in music aroused terrorism fears.

"Harraj Mann, 23, asked a taxi driver to play The Clash's London Calling through the vehicle's stereo.

"But the cabbie rang police after he heard the song which includes the line: "War is declared and battle come down". Police said Mr Mann, from Hartlepool, was released without charge after his arrest on board a Bmi plane at Durham Tees Valley Airport."

But, then again, I'm white. Then again John Charles de Menezes wasn't exactly a towel-head either. I particularly like the bit about how "Durham Police said a security check revealed he did not pose a threat. A spokeswoman also said that it was not just the music Mr Mann requested, but the "overall impression" he gave that aroused the taxi driver's suspicion."

Call me cynical if you must, but I have formed the 'overall impression' that the cabbie's suspicion was aroused by a) the song and b) the fact the guy was middle-eastern looking. I'd be confident there isn't a c).

Friday, April 07, 2006

Deny

Poor oul Plank Kenny. The Broadcasting Complaints Commission upheld a complaint by the boss of Irish Psychics Live that Kenny had made a "gratuitous attack [on the] vulnerable minority" of psychics in the country. It was good to see RTE attempted to stand up for themselves in the face of such nonsense... "The only purpose of Irish Psychics Live is to exploit vulnerable people by prolonging their phone calls and in the process extract the maximum amount of money from callers." Well, duh!

But obviously someone at the BCC believes astrology and its ilk have some degree of merit (i.e. they're morons)... "[T]he Commission believes that the interviewer in both tone and content persisted with statements and allegations in a partial manner and concludes that the interviewer dealt with the subject in an unfair manner."

Mr Irish Psychics, meanwhile said that "It was all terribly unfair and inaccurate". I think he was referring to his RTE interview and not the psychic 'services' he provides. It's ridiculous that his complaint has been upheld. I'm telling you, this country is going to hell in a handcart.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Egg Chasing Time

I'm sitting here beaten, my will has cracked, all resistance has finally been broken. Saturday afternoon was pleasant - all the middle classes were off the streets and it was, for a few hours, safe to walk the streets of first Dublin and then Cork. However, in a moment that remains hazy, I was run over by a speeding bandwagon as the middle class hordes took to the streets in celebration. Their dream had been realised. A 21st Century Irish Civil War is in the offing - Leinster v. Munster; O'Connell v. O'Driscoll; 'ken v. Hoyno.

For eight years and more I've maintained my resistance to the mockery that is Peanut Hugging. I've made grown men cry as I articulate just how superior sports played with balls that roll properly actually are. Typically they prepare a confused and pathetic riposte in expectation of a reminder that there just isn't anyone of the class of a Terry Henry, a Ronaldinho or even a Jamie Carragher playing their 'sport'. Instead I, in a flanking movement, surprise their blindside by pointing out just how much more skilful the League code is and how much more tactical the American code is. Finally, fun ruined and ass-flicking towels dropped limply at their feet, I administer the coup de grace - I remind my beaten opponent that, in fact, cricket is infinitely more popular in Australia than egg-chasing... and then the tears begin.

As for the women, the best defense they often muster is that "soccer is boring" or, slightly more strangely, "soccer players all cry/dive/look like women", any of which, were it to come out of the mouth of a bloke, would rightly earn him a slap. Now a technical discussion on just why watching Terry Henry at work is like watching poetry in motion; or just why the manner in which Liverpool won the 2005 Champions' League was the sporting moment of the decade; or even just why watching your local football club perform one last, great act as a domestic Muhammed Ali before finally succumbing to the ravages of time leaves memories to treasure for the rest of your days, is wasted on the rugger-hugger lay-dees.

Instead they're quickly embarrased into red-faced silence by the following exchange... Me: "Watching and enjoying big blokes flattening each other and scrapping in the mud for 80 minutes is all just a bit primal for me and leaves me a bit cold." Them: "But they're real men." (or some other such rubbish) Me, in Fast Show mode: "Really? Does it turn you on, watching that? Do you like it? Does it give you a warm feeling inside?..." etc. That shuts them up.

However the enemy is multiplying faster than it can be vanquished. Like a (non-gay) Spartan at Thermopylae, I have fought the good fight to the end but, finally, the bandwagon has crushed me. Yet there is a twist in my tale, for I am now a Leinster fan - Go Loins! If I still lived in Dublin this would never happen - the rogby tossers in Kiely's of Donnybrook from my UCD days are forever etched in my memory. But I live in Cork now, home to the biggest sporting bandwagon since Italia '90 - Munster rugby.

In 1996, less than 500 people turned up in Thomond Park for an interprovincial match against Leinster. Ten years on tickets for the same two teams in a 45,000 capacity stadium are expected to be impossible to get hold of. For another yardstick it can be pointed out that, at a Celtic League game in Musgrave Park between the same two teams over Christmas, the attendance was just over half the stadium's capacity. Shurely shome mishtake?

Having been run over by the bandwagon I now have the chance to jump on it, and I'm grasping the opportunity with both hands,( while simultaneously maintaining my hostility to all things Munster rugby) AND none of them can say a word to me! For ALL Munster fans (that advertise the fact) are a bunch of Johnny-Come-Lately bandwagon jumpers and ALL Munster fans are glory hunting, to-see and be-seen, sunshine supporters. The same is true in Leinster, of course, but I'm not in Leinster, am I? And at least I'm from there. There's a line actually used here, and with a straight face - "Ireland born, Munster by the grace of God" (I've just vomited on my keyboard). So one lone, proud, middle-class jackeen I've just become. Ever the controversialist...
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