Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kill Me, Kiss Me

Goddamn Killers!

Lost his voice!?! My hole.

I had just gotten my head around driving to Dublin and back in that horrendous weather and all.

Seriously not happy.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Somebody Got Murdered

I have my own theory about that former KGB colonel who died of radiation poisoning in England - I think it was his own fault. I don't mean suicide, I think he was handling something and screwed up. You don't just swallow (radioactive) heavy metals unbeknownst to yourself - it's not a tablet that dissolves in a drink like in some dodgy spy movie - and lie in a hospital wondering what could have happened and there are far easier ways to kill someone without the whole thing turning into a freakshow. I admit my fondness for Russia and Russians clouds my opinion, but I'm serious.

The billionaire exiles, like Berezovsky, that fell out with Putin's Kremlin are not some kind of modern day dissidents. Most of them are stinking-rich criminals and known conspirators and Litvinenko was one of their lackeys. Who knows what kind of things they could have been planning for their own ends?

Note how firstly he was reported to have been poisoned by Thallium - where did that detail come from? Then there's the statement, read by his 'friend' Goldfarb after his death, supposedly composed the day before his heart attack, that includes the statement: 'You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life.' I wouldn't bet on that, and do they really sound like the words of a dying man who supposedly knows exactly how Russia works? Did anyone question how genuine the statement is? Will anyone remember even this time next year?

Also the police still don't consider the case to be a murder investigation. It has been confirmed that traces of the radiation were found in Berezovsky's offices and he has refused to comment. Strangely the BBC mention this as a by-the-by and don't follow up the potential implications. Well I think Berezovsky and Litvinenko were up to something, using the Polonium, and Litvinenko screwed up. When he realised he was brown bread, he went through the charade of blaming the Kremlin to keep the authorities off the scent of whatever he and Berezovsky were up to. Does anyone benefit more than Berezovsky and Goldfarb to have the blame all pinned on Putin?

All the Kremlin denials make perfect sense and next to no one had heard of Litvinenko until he took ill. Why kill him and no one else? If they could have planted Polonium in Berezovsky's office then why not just take out Berezovsky? What could Litvinenko do that Berezovsky and pals couldn't? Besides, an operation that's being talked of in every pub and canteen in Britain and Ireland and beyond is not exactly in the realm of the 'shadowy world' of secret agents, is it? Remember that the Russians pretty effectively poisoned the Chechen warlord without any protracted hospitalised circus.

The Russian state didn't do this and the Brits know it or, at least, know they can't prove it did.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Beautiful Day

All hail the Town!!!

For the uninitiated Dundalk came from a goal down to defeat (and fully deserve to) Waterford Utd in Waterford 2-1 on Saturday night in the League of Ireland play off.

Normally this would mean we'd be back in the Premier Division where we belong. However a complicated new selection criteria that takes off-pitch structures and (unfortunately for us) the last four seasons' standings into account means we may still be playing Division 1 football next season.

The previous experiment with a ten team League, when we became the first and only team ever to finish tenth out of twelve and still get relegated, in 2002, nearly killed us. Now, having finally recovered and earned our place in the top flight again we might miss out because of those previous changes. Not good.

I forgot my camera so I have no shots of the victory and crazy celebrations. However I can assure you the winning goal by Trevor Vaughan was pretty much exactly like this...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Joyeux Noel

I had been looking forward to seeing this film for ages and finally saw it last night. It's simplicity is its strength and it's quite moving (although there are nagging feelings that some of the fraternisation was overegged a tad). This is the trailer...



and this is a couple of scenes (obviously when I saw it it was subtitled!)...



I still say the final scene of Blackadder Goes Forth is one of the most moving war scenes I've ever seen...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Complete Control

The Irish Examiner is a pretty piss-poor paper. From its style and layout to its headlines, lead articles and content, the whole thing smacks of an amateurish, jumped up Oirish Daily Express.

It is, however, far more widely read in Cork City (its spiritual home from the days when it was the Cork Examiner) than its two national rivals. This means you become exposed to it and what's in it on a daily basis in the canteens and in pub conversations and so on.

Anyway, nationally, it's a fairly distant third in circulation terms behind the Indo and the Times - being virtually non-existant outside of Munster - and, as a result, every now and then, it goes in for the shock front page - an act that instantly writes off any publication in my eyes. The last time I mentioned this it was after a front page splash about Ireland's 'arms trade' (computer chips, not missiles, i.e. bullshit fake indignation).

Today the front page is a full-page picture of a slightly bloodied clenched fist on a black background, with a number of shock-phrases at the bottom in different font-sizes like 'RAPE' - all to denote a series of articles on domestic violence. The content of today's article can be found here, but it's the front page and the decision to go with the story as the lead item, rather than the content of the story itself, that bothers me.

Domestic violence is one of the hidden evils of the world we live in and probably exists, to some degree, in every society on Earth and probably since the dawn of human history. There is nothing to debate on the rights and wrongs, I feel, although the statement that 'the problem has reached epidemic proportions' is surely nonsense. While any level is unacceptable that statement is a) unlikely; b) unproveable and c) a total misuse of the word 'epidemic' to suggest that things are, here and now, getting a whole lot worse - as is implied. I mean worse than what and when?...

What bothers me is why today? What has changed since yesterday to warrant that front page? What do we now know that we did not know before to warrant that front page? Nothing. So then what is the reason for it? Has the Irish Examiner suddenly become aware of, and sufficiently upset by, the issue of domestic violence to champion its victims? I doubt it. So the only explanation I can think of is that they went for the most shocking front page they could think of, on a topic likely to be of interest to many in society (as opposed to e.g. Iraq or the murder of that Lebanese Government Minister) to maximise sales today.

You'll see from the link that the piece is the first in a three-part series. Did they not know something about domestic violence before today's paper went to the presses that they're about to find out? Of course not. They are, to put it bluntly, milking it.

Now someone may well say the issue is serious and that any publicity is *good* in this case, and I suppose that's true. But, to me, that does not warrant cynical sensationalised front page reporting that is clearly sales-related. And, to me, papers that go in for this kind of thing (e.g. the Daily Mail famously running 'House Price' headlines and the Daily Express' 'Diana conspiracy' headlines in Britain) are contemptible.

So another reason in my book to remain apart from my neighbours and stick with the Times...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Somebody Got Murdered

I made a mistake in my previous post when I said those kunts broke into the house, threw petrol around and lit it with the intention of burning people to death. What actually happened, and I quote the report, was that "The couple were attacked on November 6th at their home at Foley Road, Tassagh, near Keady, by a gang of up to six people. Both deceased were beaten with hammers and doused with petrol before being set alight. Ms McClatchey fled the house and ran to her neighbour's property after the attack with her clothes on fire. Mr O'Hare also left the burning house and was later found lying on fire and suffering from a series of wounds to his limbs and head thought to have been inflicted by a hammer." Sweet Jesus. If you heard that it had happened during the genocide in Rwanda you'd probably be sure such savagery would never happen in the 'West'.

In the meantime "Northern Ireland has been named as one of the 'must-see' travel destinations for 2007 in the latest edition of Lonely Planet's Bluelist..." Apparently "There is no better time to see Northern Ireland than now... Freed from the spectre of the gun by ceasefires and political agreement, it's abuzz with life: the cities are pulsating, the economy is thriving and the people, the lifeblood that courses through the country, are in good spirits." I'm fond of Belfast, or at least the parts that don't have mini-Berlin walls all over them but there's nothing in any Northern city that isn't in any Southern city, or any half-decent English city for that matter.

There's also this: "Lonely Planet co-founder Maureen Wheeler, who grew up in Belfast, extolled the city's merits. She said: 'The landscape of Northern Ireland is astonishingly beautiful, the people are warm and genuine, and yet it is still relatively undiscovered, which makes it the perfect destination.'" It is very beautiful, it's true - the Mournes and the coast are as nice as any other part of Ireland's coast - but the people? Obviously they're not *all* scumbags and, as individuals they are genuine, and often more likeable, than the cute-hoors I put up with in the South but as a society they are bigoted, insular and xenophobic. In fact I often think that they are an amalgamation of the worst of boorish British and thick-headed Irish behaviour. And I make no apologies for being of that opinion.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hate And War

I haven't vented on the North for a while. Thankfully I've been busy enough to be able to ignore that fucked-up, diseased shithole. Unfortunately the news is starting to come thick and fast as yet another deadline approaches.

So first it turns out that the Shinner leaders are facing death threats from their former comrades in blood-sport. We know this because of some pretty piss-poor graffiti that sprung up somewhere, and because they've told us so. Now either it's true, in which case all the more reason to sever their links with the nutjobs once and for all and shop them to the police; or it's rubbish designed to stall the inevitable, in which case we have conclusive proof that the Shinners are only capable of anti-state politics on either side of the border.

Then we had the news that Unionists are against any attempt by the ESB to purchase Northern Ireland Electricity on the basis that the ESB is a semi-state company and that, somehow, gives the Irish Government political control over an aspect of Northern Irish life. So just to avoid upsetting some poor, precious, morons the rules of economics and international commerce just get chucked out the window? Jesus wept.

Lastly, and putting those first two in context, that poor young woman has finally died from her horrific injuries. She's better off, frankly. I mean breaking into a house, throwing petrol around and lighting it with the intention of burning people to death? What kind of utter kunt do you have to be to do something like that? I hope the fuckers who are being treated for the burns (i.e. the ones who did it) manage to live a long life, hideously scarred and in constant pain.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

In A Lifetime

Last year (and since 2000, probably) I justified not buying a house to myself on the basis of actual cost (as opposed to perceived costs) over the period of a mortgage, which would effectively equate to my entire working life.

Since that time the banks have started offering 100% mortgages and repayment periods of up to 40-years, directly fuelling another staggering jump in house prices this year. Well we're now at the point where only those with a vested interest (the banks, the landowners, the developers and the auctioneers and, I suppose, those who have been buying in at the top end since early 2004) in seeing the madness continue genuinely believe it can.

The rest seem to think the tipping point has finally been reached. Wage inflation has been an average of about 12.5% from March 2003 to March 2006 yet house prices will increase by that figure this year alone! Also rents are actually static over the last 5-years!!

Despite the guff that's written, the SOLE reason for house-price inflation is the ability to pay back on a month-to-month basis. It doesn't take an actuary to know that giving people 100% of the purchase price at 5-times gross salary over 40-years compared with 90% at 3-times over 25-years will feed directly into the price. There's really nowhere left for the banks to go in throwing money at us.

The Germans have finally come out of recession and interest rates are rising accordingly and there's no reason to believe that won't continue. Finally the vast bulk of the new 20-something middle classes have bought the houses in the commuter belts that they craved and obsessed over, while the birthrate collapse of the 1980s is now feeding into the university system (too many places for too few school leavers) and soon will hit the demand for owner-occupier dwellings.

It's still a fact that a substantial proportion of new houses are bought by investors - people relying on a permanent increase in the demand for rental accomodation. If it wasn't for migration from Eastern Europe these people would be in a lot of trouble by now. As it is, despite the huge influx of people, rental-price inflation is static (therefore does not match house-price inflation, directly affecting yield).

As mortgage repayments creep upwards 'small' investors will start to bail out of the market and take their profits. Then the race will be on to get out before the prices fall and that panic will cause the prices to fall. It's coming - after all why are the banks themselves bailing out of all those lovely buildings in our town and city centres only to rent some of them back? The lemmings chased the prices up and they're going to chase them back down. It's just a matter of how soon at this stage...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rebel Waltz

Much hilarity for me today living in Ireland's equivalent of Leeds. The City Manager is attempting a bit of a land grab by proposing to move the city boundaries. In truth suburbs like Douglas (where I live), Glanmire and Wilton are as much a part of Cork City as Ranelagh or Drumcondra are a part of Dublin City.

However the County Councillors are apopleptic at the notion (cynicism time... would that be anything to do with future electoral prospects?) with one saying the move is 'akin to Napoleon's move on Russia' and 'doomed to the same fate'. Class! As the city expands everyone will die of cold and starvation? Nice one!

Crumbs From Your Table

In March of next year it will be 10-years since the release of Pop (which is a fine album with some superb tracks - Do You Feel Loved?, Last Night On Earth, Gone, Please - and which hindsight has judged waaaay too harshly).

Since then U2 have released just two studio albums, both of which have some masterpieces (Stuck In A Moment, The Ground Beneath Her Feet; City Of Blinding Lights, Original Of The Species) but also some really mediocre tracks and a couple of pisspoor turkeys (Grace, Miracle Drug...). The trouble with both albums was that they were released in a time of a resurgence of post-punk styled guitar rock, which resulted in both sounding a bit staid when compared with a couple of debuts like Razorlight's, Franz Ferdinand's and Interpol's.

Anyway, also in that time, two 'Best Of' compilations have been released: 1980 - 1990 and 1990 - 2000. So, being a bit of a completist at the best of times when it comes to collections (it's fools like me that are feeding the dvd 'box-set' boom), I bought both despite there being barely a song on either I didn't already possess. Therefore the news that U2 are releasing an album called U218 - a singles compilation - is more than a tad annoying.

The 18-singles are actually 16 previously released singles plus two bonus tracks of, as yet, unknown quality. The deluxe edition has nine live songs from the Vertigo tour, three of which members of U2.com will already have. Needless to say all 16-songs already featured across the two Best Of discs.

Also, given that they have released a whole pile more than 18-singles in their time, the track list is pretty shocking. The blurb on the website claims that "U218 Singles is the first single disc collection to span the band’s career from Boy (1980) to How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (2004)". That's one way of spinning it, I suppose. Being pedantic, New Year's Day released in (late) 1982 is the oldest track on here.

In fact their pre-Boy EPs, Boy itself, October, War and Unforgettable Fire are represented by just New Year's Day, Sunday Bloody Sunday and Pride (Sunday Bloody Sunday wasn't even a proper single release at the time). There is nothing off Zooropa or Pop, and just two from Achtung Baby, continuing the 'actually everything we said in the '90s was a lie' theme from the past few years and, amazingly, seven of the 16 songs are releases since 2000.

To be honest, as much as I love the band's music, this is fan-exploiting cynicism on a Beatles-esque scale, is damn disgraceful really and worthy of contempt. As a protest I'm going to wait at least 3-weeks to buy it.

Gone

Well that was the week that was - one wedding, two funerals and three concerts.

Things I learned:
  • Weddings are still a crap-arse waste of money unless you either a) have no social life; b) meet a shed load of people you haven't seen in donkeys or c) you're the bride.
  • Homeopathy, unsurprisingly, was a clutched straw that ultimately (as things have turned out) did no more than, briefly, get my aunt and her family's hopes up... RIP.
  • My concert stalker (the 6' 6'' git who deliberately stands in front of me at every gig I go to) taught me to never attempt to evade his presence again. Having cunningly positioned myself behind the sound desk in The Ambassador for The Futureheads last Wednesday; at Tapes n' Tapes in The Village on Thursday night *he* was there and, not only did he stand in front of me, he positioned two of his basketball-playing (presumably) giant buddies either side of me thus boxing me in for the duration. A cunning stunt on his part - I must admit defeat.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Silver And Gold

I flogged tickets on eBay recently - for the two gigs I was supposed to go to last week (We Are Scientists and Sufjan Stevens). You see I'm going to a pile of the Bud Rising Winter Festival gigs this week instead (TV on the Radio, Tapes n' Tapes and The Futureheads).

Anyway the tickets I had went for a total of €236.50, which includes €14 postage (two packages by Swiftpost). Paypal took a total commission of €8.74 and eBay took a commission of €13.41. That works out at pretty much 10% of my sale. You'd nearly wonder why you'd bother...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

One

The National Lottery (or 'tax on poor and/or stupid people) started guaranteeing a minimum prize of €2 million per draw last night - and have advertised the fact extensively for the last ten days or so. The strapline for the ad is 'Think Bigger'.

What is less heavily advertised is that the pick of numbers is now six from 1 - 45. The odds of winning the Irish Lottery are now 1 in 8,145,060 ([45 x 44 x 43 x 42 x 41 x 40] / [6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1]). The odds previously, when the pick of numbers was six from 1 - 42, were 1 in 5,245,786. For something that, technically, was never going to happen anyway the odds have got a whole lot worse (and continue to do so exponentially as numbers are added).

I think the original game back in the day was six from 1 - 33 (odds of 1,107,568) and guaranteed a minimum IR£250,000 (€317,435) payout.

The English Lottery is six from 1 - 49 (odds of 1 in a fairly staggering 13,983,816) and the guaranteed minimum prize is only stg£2,000,000 there. In other words the payouts come nowhere near matching the odds.

All of which makes lotteries possibly the most foolish form of gambling aroiund, gambling being a mugs game to begin with (as I discovered again when Copenhagan somehow managed to beat Man YooSA last night).
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