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Cavan for Christmas

Saturday, 14 December, 2013 0 Comments

In January, The Strypes will play gigs in Toronto, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, but on the 27th, 28th and 29th of December they’ll be in the Town Hall in their native Cavan. The band’s debut album, Snapshot, was released in September. From it, here’s What a Shame.

“The way he spat at the mike his lyrics couldn’t be fresher
They say he’d be a superstar if he could handle the pressure
After they put it to paper, they took him to tea
And told him just a couple changes that they wanted to see

They said his hair would be better if he coloured it black
And that he wouldn’t sound as harsh if he could tone it all back
They dressed him up in a craze to make him look pretty
They said the kids would dig if he looked like he came from the city”


Frederick Forsyth has al-Shabab in his Kill List

Thursday, 26 September, 2013 0 Comments

The Kill List “Eighty percent of success is showing up,” said Woody Allen, famously, but what about the critical remainder? Success is tied to timing so which part of good timing is due to good luck? Or is good timing a function of hard work? These questions are worth discussing in light of the latest thriller from Frederick Forsyth, The Kill List. What makes its appearance right now so uncanny is that much of the story plays out in Somalia, home to the terrorist group al-Shabab, which provides sanctuary for the fanatical Islamist at the centre of the novel. Following the weekend slaughter at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, the name al-Shabab, meaning “The Youth” in Arabic, is now associated with butchery and horror as fact intersects with fiction.

In Forsyth’s novel, the evil sermons of the wicked “Preacher” are being broadcast in immaculate English from a command centre in the Somali port of Kismayo, and in the real world on Monday a man identifying himself as Abu Umar, an al-Shabab commander in Kismayo, spoke impeccable English as he offered details on the identity of the terrorists and the siege that suggested a command centre inside Somalia was running the operation. Forsyth is concise on the tragic story of this wretched place, which once had comprised French Somaliland, British Somaliland and the former Italian Somaliland. Snippet:

“After a few years of the usual dictatorship, the once thriving and elegant colony where wealthy Italians use to vacation had lapsed into civil war. Clan fought clan, tribe fought tribe, warlord after warlord sought supremacy. Finally, with Mogadishu and Kismayo just seas of rubble, the outside world had given up.

A belated notoriety had returned when the beggared fishermen of the north turned to piracy and the south to Islamic fanaticism. Al-Shabab had arisen not as an offshoot but as an ally to Al-Qaeda and conquered all the south. Mogadishu hovered as a fragile token capital of a corrupt regime living on aid…”

Frederick Forsyth provides much more than a page turner when he writes thrillers. The Kill List is history, geography and a warning to the civilized world as well. As events at Westgate Mall have shown, the barbarians are at the gates.


The Unknown Known

Saturday, 7 September, 2013 0 Comments

“There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns — there are things we do not know we don’t know.” Donald Rumsfeld, former US Secretary Of Defense, speaking at a press briefing in February 2002 about weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and Iraq.

The great American documentary film maker, Errol Morris, picked Donald Rumsfeld as the subject for his latest work, The Unknown Known. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Morris revealed how the film came to be made.

The Daily Beast: How the hell did you get Rumsfeld to agree to do this? Were you chasing him down?

Errol Morris: No, not at all. I wrote him a letter, enclosed a copy of The Fog of War, heard back from him very quickly, went to Washington, and spent a good part of the day with him. We started it under the premise that he would do two days of interviews, I would edit it, and if he liked it, we’d sign a contract and continue. If he didn’t, I’d put the footage in a closet and it would never see the light of day.


The Shady Grove of Orkney

Saturday, 6 April, 2013 0 Comments

The islands of Orkney in the cold waters of the North Sea are the most remote of Scotland’s whisky-producing areas. Along with Arran, Jura, Mull and Skye, Orkney is part of the Islands whisky region. Today, there are only two distilleries on Orkney: Highland Park and Scapa. Apart from whisky, Orkney has given the world the excellent Kris Drever.

Wish I had a banjo string
Made of golden twine
Every tune I’d play on it
I wish that girl were mine

Wish I had a needle and thread
Fine as I could sew
I’d sew that pretty girl to my side
And down the road I’d go


Milestone week for Twitter and YouTube

Friday, 22 March, 2013 0 Comments

One of the problems with sleeping is that it prevents one from tweeting. Joe Weisenthal, Executive Editor of Business Insider, @TheStalwart, admits as much and he’s clocked up a remarkable 116,313 tweets to prove that he’s doing his best to keep awake and alert 24/7.

Would Joe Weisenthal be a happier, healthier person today if Twitter hadn’t been invented seven years ago? It’s too late now to ask that question because all changed, changed utterly on 21 March 2006 when Jack Dorsey sent Tweet No. 1. Since then, the service has expanded to 200 million people writing 400 million messages a day. And talking of success, it’s worth pointing out that YouTube is just one year older than Twitter and it announced a milestone of its own this week: one billion unique monthly users. Every minute, 72 hours of video is added to the channel, so it was appropriate that Twitter should turn to YouTube to celebrate its seventh birthday.