Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Cool Bacteria of the Day

and it's Irish.
From Scientific

biologists at the University College Dublin in Ireland have found that a strain of Pseudomonas putida can exist quite happily on a diet of pure styrene oil--the oil remnant of superheated Styrofoam--and, in the process, turn the environmental problem into a useful, biodegradable plastic.

As the article ends - Apparently, bacteria recycle too.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Women of Islam

All Things Beautiful quotes Wafa Sultan, an Arab-American psychologist and provides a link to an interview with her on  Al-Jazeera where she said -  The Jews have came from the tragedy (of the Holocaust), and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror, with their work, not their crying and yelling. Humanity owes most of the discoveries and science of the 19th and 20th centuries to Jewish scientists. 15 million people, scattered throughout the world, united and won their rights through work and knowledge. We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. The Muslims have turned three Buddha statues into rubble. We have not seen a single Buddhist burn down a Mosque, kill a Muslim, or burn down an embassy. Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results.
The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.
It's a pity the Irish Muslim women who appear on the Late Late show, etc sharing their religious experiences, refuse to acknowledge this fact.    
The transcript is available here.
Wafa Sultan is the real deal – you should watch the part where the Muslim cleric she’s on with dismisses her –
Wafa Sultan: I am not a Christian, a Muslim, or a Jew. I am a secular human being. I do not believe in the supernatural, but I respect others' right to believe in it.
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: Are you a heretic?
Wafa Sultan: You can say whatever you like. I am a secular human being who does not believe in the supernatural...
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you, since you have blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran...
Wafa Sultan: These are personal matters that do not concern you.
Wafa Sultan: Brother, you can believe in stones, as long as you don't throw them at me. You are free to worship whoever you want, but other people's beliefs are not your concern, whether they believe that the Messiah is God, son of Mary, or that Satan is God, son of Mary. Let people have their beliefs.


New Springsteen Album in a Couple of Months

I know - it's, like, so totally, the best news ever.
According to, the source of all that is Bruce related, tell us that it's a solo studio album in tribute to Pete Seeger. Pete Seeger has written some amazing songs that I know of (and loads more that I'm not aware of) - such as If I Had a Hammer and Turn, Turn, Turn - which Bruce will only do credit to. (Note lack of doubt in this fan - it's like I'm brainwashed or something! At this rate the impossible could happen - I might become a Communist like Pete!)
E Street work is put on hold and there is a two-month, small-market tour is in the planning stages for the late spring, with Springsteen to be accompanied by a group of musicians from the record.
Here's hoping that tour came to Dublin.


The Sundays on The Riot

I haven’t been out yet, but this is the Sunday papers coverage online -
Sunday Times – from what I can see, the British version focused on the other march of yesterday – the Oxford pro-vivisection march, organised by a brave and passionate 16 year old, Laurie Pycroft.
The Irish version has substantial coverage –
The Planning - THE text messages were sent out to republicans and sympathisers early yesterday: get to the GPO at 10am, they said. Between 150 and 200 people responded to the call, but they did not congregate so as to avoid coming to the attention of gardai.
The Rest of O’Connell Street
The Authorities, and The Blame
The Reactions
The Editorial McDowell must discover whether complacency and poor planning lay at the heart of the riots, but Irish republicans of all shades must ask themselves whether they have the capacity to understand a people who share their island, but not their beliefs.
The Charlie Bird (AKA Greatest Reporter Ever) Like Potato, the ST wonders how Charlie Bird manages to become the story.
The Loyalists
They also have an article on informers and the security services.

Sunday Business Post
Short News Report
I think that’s it from them. And that’s pretty pathetic.

Sunday Independent –
Blame the Gardai
How an ugly and organised mob fought for the city – the report
A triumph for thugs and bigots – the editorial
Thirteen charged after day of mayhem – the charged. One was from Georgia – didn’t know the Rah were active there.
How gangs of thugs took control of the city centre – the timeline
Fireworks and rocks rain on unprotected gardai as cars burn and marchers flee well-organised terror
Crazed thugs beat 'Orange b****rd’ Bird – apparently he may have a hairline fracture in his cheek.  
Men of violence chose their city battleground well - But my God the idiocy of allowing any kind of march to take place on O'Connell Street yesterday. What were the authorities thinking?
Sectarians are the 'syphilis of our passions' – by Eoghan Harris (who else? ;- ) )
Unionists are not allowed to show they too have suffered – Maurice Hayes -  What has happened in O'Connell St (and it is still unfolding as I write) is a refusal to allow any other version of events in the North than that created by republican militants and monitored and censored by them. There was only one set of victims, one oppressor, no other option but armed struggle and terror, one lot totally in the right, the other irremediably in the wrong, the one entitled to celebrate success in song and story, the other a shameful history not allowed to breathe its name.
In case anyone had forgotten, violence is what republicans do – Brendan O’Connor - And let's not scurry to blame the people who've been repaving O'Connell Street for what seems like a decade now. Let's not blame the people who left that street like a building site, or a rioter's dream. We can't stop leaving building blocks lying around in case someone might pick them up and throw them at the cops. Should we ban glass bottles as well? They are the kind of precautions you need to take in a mad house.


One Quick Thought on the Riots

While I was asleep in bed all day, most Dublin bloggers were on O’Connell St. (see below for details).
Like other bloggers, I learnt about what happened from bloggers.
Now as I drink the last of my flat 7UP and Diarolyte before I go to back to bed, I have only 1 thought – if I go down to O’Connell St next Saturday will I meet loads of Irish bloggers with digital cameras?
I don’t know if other bloggers have this experience but I occasionally think about my blog while I’m in the hospital or shopping or something, and marvel at how I can be this blogger online whose real identity is hidden to my readers – but yet I have disclosed a lot about myself here. And how my blog is hidden from my friends and most of those I spend my days with. (Yes, I’ve a crazy spilt up life).
I just find it kinda awesome that so many Irish bloggers were around town today, and were there independent of each other and all those around them. Not many ordinary Irish people are even aware of the Irish blog world, and here are a group of ordinary people who took it themselves to take picture, videos, write eyewitness reports about something happening in their city. And most people around them will never be aware of what they’ve done. And that’s a shame.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sticks, Stones and Scumbags

The riots today, a 10 minutes walk from my apartment, were missed in their entirety by this blogger, who was sick in bed all day.
My opinions on a United Ireland are at best tepid. I’m perfectly happy with the way things are at the moment and like most Irish people, a United Ireland wouldn’t make all that much difference to me.  Today’s riots just show how out of touch so-called Irish nationalists are with the rest of us. I know Sinn Fein will tell us they had absolutely nothing to do with today’s shameful behaviour, but all those involved in leaving O’Connell St like a war torn ghost town, probably have voted for Sinn Fein. And Sinn Fein will have to answer for that element of their party.

Irish bloggers are all over this one – Dossing Times providing excellent coverage.

Slugger has picked up loads of comments and Dick at BackStreet Drivers was there with his camera. Planet Potato injects some realism.   Kevin at Disillusioned Lefty, a Northside boy, remained on the Southside. (Even worse, all their drunken running made me spill some of my coffee on my arm. The bastards.)

Check out – Free Stater (who has some videos up); Gpshewan; Metroblogging; Georgiasm (2,3,4); dpup; redmum.

The Nationalist bloggers all condemn the riots. Balrog (they left their barstools to free Ireland!), ElBlogador (Those who engaged in violence are not Republicans. Nor are they Nationalists. They are scum.) and 2; United Irelander (O'Connell Street, to me, epitomises Dublin and today's scenes insult Dubliners, and indeed Irish people, everywhere.)

Flickr has loads of photos – at these tags (Dublinriots, loveulster) and these users (johnnew; phibsboro; O6scura; dickobrien)

Sicilian Notes attempts to find meaning in it all.

More =
Slugger on RTE reporter Charlie Bird getting a beating for being an “Orange Bastard” (huh?)
Richard Delevan raises the point about the lack of RTE coverage all afternoon – while Newstalk suspended sports coverage, RTE kept going – he asks the question If RTE 1 had gone away from sport for the afternoon, might some people have turned their cars around and stayed home today? Didn't RTE have a responsibility to fulfill its remit here? Wasn't the most serious riot in the capital in a generation newsworthy enough?
Piaras Kelly on the PR implications - The events seem to portray us as a nation that cannot forget its past, whereas in actual fact the average Irishman doesn’t even think twice about the North. Armchair republicans that were determined to cause trouble on the day have shamed the nation.
United Irelander on how 3 of those up in court this evening are not Irish – who are they so?Richard Delevan has a blow by blow account of what he saw of the riots and the "stock clearance".    

Also =
Ann, an American in Dublin, provides her eyewitness report and a few pictures.
Via Disillusioned Lefty, a video of some thugs overturning a car on Nassau St and chanting “IRA”.


Friday, February 24, 2006

For Desperate Housewives

and messy singles.....
Cathy Seipp reports on a new book by Cheryl Mendelson entitled "Laundry: The Home Comforts Book of Caring for Clothes and Linens" a follow up to "Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House"

"She applies social theorist James Q. Wilson's famous "Broken Windows" idea of urban policing to household mess; just as Wilson argued that unmended broken windows send a message that no one cares and invite criminals to do worse, Mendelson sees even a little household mess as the first step to domestic chaos."

I think I'll be buying this book - just for more lines like this -

"The old rules no longer seem to work," she writes in Laundry about the current devolution of sorting habits, "and the standard consequence of a breakdown in rules and values has ensued: the youth have become skeptical and nihilistic. They do not believe it is possible to figure it all out. They do not sort their clothes for laundering, and they sneer that sorting makes no difference. But they are wrong."

I must now go do my washing, if only to play my part in keeping total societal breakdown at bay.

Fashion for the Irish Blog Awards

Make Tshirts with your own blog's word cloud printed on them.

I don't think I'll be able to make it - but if you want to go you should register soon.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Crunchy Cons

now have a spiritual homeplace in the blogging world - at National Review. (which is apt, given that Rod Dehrer writes for NR)
He describes Crunchy Cons here and the blog is here.
I posted about Crunchy Cons before here. I'll keep my pink Birkenstocks, but I think that's as far as I'm going to go!

Killing Me Softly With These European Lovey Dovey Feminist Policies

Newsweek reports that European women are lagging way behind American women - For all the myths of equality that Europe tells itself, the Continent is by and large a woeful place for a woman who aspires to lead.
In the US, women make up 45% of high level decision makers, unlike the U.K. where the figure is 33% and shock, horror, the Swedish utopia comes in at 29%.
Newsweek attributes these "sad statistics" to Europe's labor markets, lingering welfare-state policies and corporate leadership as they do about its attitudes toward women; and that Europe has consistently unable to tap the highest potential of its female workers, who represent half of college graduates in most countries. Women, it seems, can have a job—but not a high-powered career.
Europe is killing its women with kindness—enshrined, ironically, in cushy welfare policies that were created to help them. By offering women extremely long work leaves after children, then pushing them to take the full complement via tax policies that discourage a second income, coupled with subsidies that serve to keep them at home, Europe is essentially squandering its female talent. Not only do women get off track for long periods, many simply never get back on. Nor have European corporations adapted to changing times. Few offer the flextime that makes it easier for women to both work and manage their families. Instead, women tend to get shuffled into part-time work, which is less respected and poorly paid.

I'm pretty much a capitalist so the solutions Newsweek mentions suit me quite well -

More entrepeneurs - Europe's business culture is still more hierarchical and less flexible than America's. Women tend to thrive in less formal, more entrepreneurial environments where they can help set the rules, as in the United States.

More flexible time for ALL workers (not just women) - most global and best-managed companies tend to be those offering employees the best work-life balance—flexible hours, job sharing, time banking and working from home.

Reduced regulation of child care - to bring down the cost, create more jobs for women and allow all women more real choice in their career.

And the last one that I think is quite important (and disagree with the authors of the article on) is the empowerment of women who stay at home. That they won't be castigated by feminist icons like Mary Robinson for letting the side down, that they can make a free choice for their families - choosing what is best for them.

UPDATE - Stanley Kurtz has an article on Sweden, marriage and crazy feminist policies.

Lived in Bars and Danced on Tables

I stopped Cat Power on my iPod at this point, to listen what he was saying to her. The music playing in my ears created a cocoon of silky liquor on the tongue and relaxed slow dancing in a dark bar. The couple across from me on the Luas looked like table dancing was a thus unknown fantasy – they looked exactly like John.
Like Patrick Kavanagh, for whom “every old man I see reminds me of my father”, every stumbling character with that distinctive wild eyed look I see, reminds me of John.
He was the first patient I ever talked to while in my new shiny white coat.
He was the first drug addict I had ever met in my life and I was fascinated by him.
He probably mistook my intense curiosity as a doctor finally taking interest in him, as I was asking all kinds of questions from how much heroin cost to how long did it take him to get expert at finding his own veins. I was particularly fascinated by what exactly he did all day – did he have breakfast in the morning? And then did what – do some light housework, watch some Oprah, read the paper, buy some drugs?
His life’s passing was not marked in hours or days, but in ever increasing desires for another fix and short lived buzzes, and intense personal tragedies. He never knew his father, his mother died in a heroin overdose and his granny, who died the previous year, raised him. She kicked him out of her tiny flat when he started coming home drunk most days at 15. He drifted from hostel to cold footpath to hospital trolley to prison to eventually ending up at the age of 26 (looking like an ill 40 year old) with a 3 year old daughter in care who he hadn’t seen in 1 year, and grieving her mother, who had also died from an overdose. He described how his financial situation worsened when he met his girlfriend – he was now “jumping counters” for 2 (armed robberies).
While I only spoke to him for a half hour nearly 4 years ago, his story pops into my head on a nearly weekly basis.
At the time, I had been on a number of ward rounds and was quickly picking up the medical lingo used to describe patients in a professional but euphemistic way. No one might have cancer – there are, however, a number of queried mitotic lesions. (Which is fair enough, we really can’t go round the hospital talking about “queried cancer” when someone has a cough and a bit of a flu)
Likewise, people like John, probably have a “dual diagnosis” with their “chronic substance abuse” and “poor social supports” (read no home, no family, no job). He also had an “end stage retroviral disease” (HIV).
When I presented his history to the consultant back then, I was told it was excellent. I had used the appropriate catch phrases and probably carried a slightly world-weary “a drug addict – sure you know yourself” look about it all.  I knew the associated medical and psychosocial issues to ask about and include in the plan for ongoing care, which would based on a multidisciplinary approach. I naively considered myself quite the expert on the life of the heroin addict after talking to John. I had conveniently reduced his life to a series of related events, neatly fitting them into the typical pattern of “the drug addict”, I had talked the talk and disregarded the man. A man that had potential, dreams, hopes – and was now just a drug addict.
And numerous drug addicts later, I still don’t have a clue.
I always want to cry when I talk to them. I want to go down to the nearest “flats” and tell the kids hanging around stairwells that stink of urine that they’re worth something. That they’ve a place in the world that doesn’t have to be found in a warmed intravenous amber liquid.
It is too easy to write off their experiences as being too different from ours to be relevant. That the needle and the pain holds their world safely away from ours – a life of fulfilment, achievement, enjoyment, relationships…and maybe some joy in small moments.
This evening I turned off my iPod to observe the couple across from me.
She was leaning over him, her uncombed hair in clumps of varying stages of highlights, her coat dirty and her voice stumbling and coarse. He was stroking her head and mumbling “I love you”. Love was a word with about 4 syllables in his thick inner city accent. His eyes were slightly protruding, his eyelids not quite sure about staying fully open. His pale scarred face remained free from expression. They both had a vaguely disorganised look, like they should be somewhere else but not quite sure where that might be.
She then produced a butt of an eyebrow pencil from her pocket. He held up the reverse of a badge for her to see what she was doing. With an unsteady hand, she attempted to bring the pencil near her eye – and missed. And again she missed. He took the pencil from her, muttering how beautiful she was, and held her forehead like those make up artists in the Max Factor ads. He slowly and meticulously controlled his shaky hand to circle her eyes with the liner pencil. He gently brushed her scraggy hair off her face to reveal a weather beaten face with reddened eyes. She then checked her appearance in the back of the badge and pronounced it unsatisfactory. He decided that instead of redoing her eyebrows, he would proclaim his love for her for all the world to see – with the eyebrow pencil he haltingly wrote “Dec Heart Ros” on the window of the Luas.
She grabbed the pencil, dropped it - I picked it up and handed it back to her and she started telling him who romantic he was.
He started again with the eyebrow pencil – and then asked me if I thought she looked okay. I told her the shade suited her eyes and that she looked very well.
They got off – and walked like so many characters around Dublin - despite the gentle breeze, they were hunched over and waiting for their foot to hit the ground, before knowing where it is.
Bent over, together fighting the wind and the world, fighting the moments of empty pain before the salve of heroin, with fresh eyeliner and love immortalised on a tram window.
And I got off, carrying useless medical terms in my head, some vague ideas about drug addicts and an appreciation for their small moments of joy and romance and a hope that one day, dancing on tables is something they too might do.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This is not a Cardinal post

like my last 2. A random coincidence - I didn't realise I was that interested in Cardinals until I saw my dashboard and the proliferation of little Cardinal posts.

Instead it's a very brief post about the 2 albums I've been playing on the iPod today - M.Ward's Transistor Radio and Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan's Ballad of the Broken Seas. Both are very good.
And I'm much impressed with my 2006 section of my iPod - I can put it all on to 1 playlist and not skip.

This is, in fact, a worthless and superfluous post, as most of my posts tend to be. But I just didn't want to leave this week's blogging output just about Cardinals - I have only read 2 novels about Cardinals and neither of them protrayed Cardinals in a good light - the first was Ethel Lillian Voynich's The Gadfly (which terrified me when I read at 14, have re read it since and enjoyed it much more) and Brian Moore's Colour of Blood - he's such an excellent novelist. But both have Cardinals with a whole fathering children, revolutionary thing going on.
I've also read Tom Clancy's The Cardinal of the Kremlin - but that's about the KGB/CIA thing with Jack Ryan flying about the place saving the day.
I haven't read The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman by Louis De Bernieres - it's about a Cardinal who's pregnant with a monster.
Are there any novels about a relatively nice Cardinal, whose sins don't end up causing madness, insanity or murder? Can't they not be like the rest of us and just end up in Purgatory for a few venials?

Cardinal Schonburn Approves Blessing of Gay Couples?

Via Andrew Sullivan from Tablet writer Rocco Palmo - apparently the rector of the cathedral in Vienna blessed a number of gay couples in a St Valentine's Day "ceremony of love".
He answered the question whether Cardinal Schönborn was happy with his statements and activities by saying that his initatives had obviously been discussed with the cardinal and approved by him.
Like most people who have followed Cardinal Schonborn's output from a distance over recent years, I think this is a rather surprising development. That is, if he did actually approve of it.
The Schonborn blog has said nothing about yet - but this should be an interesting story if it transpires Cardinal Schonborn actually and expressly approved of it. I can't see where it would all be going though - the Vatican's position on marriage is crystal clear, has been for millenia and looks set to continue - but will blessing of non married couples in this way become an universal pastoral/liturgical practice?
Blessing of gay couples is something a family friend who is a Bishop in another country has been doing for years. He did make the observation once though that most couples he blessed were seldom seen again - he does suggest that going to confession beforehand would be good spiritual preparation for the blessing, but it is an offer than is rarely accepted. But then, most affianced heterosexual couples don't view confession as that important either.

UPDATE - According to the Cafeteria is Closed blog, who read the original article in German, Cardinal Schonborn had nothing to do with approving blessings of homosexual couples - any homosexuals present were blessed as individuals.
Gerald's translation -
As far as homosexual attendants are concerned he stated that the relationship was not being blessed, instead the individual receives a blessing. Father Faber points to the guidelines of the Austrian Bishops Conference which states "To avoid misunderstandings, the difference between a blessing of couples and individuals has to be pointed out."

Monday, February 20, 2006

Archbishop Martin soon to be a Cardinal???

He's name is mentioned in this Catholic News Service article about the rumours surrounding Pope Benedict's first batch of Cardinals.
I doubt he's all that popular in Rome - his pronouncements have remained on the safe side of wibbly wobbly wonders.
Perhaps like Jack in Father Ted, he won't get it - those Jesuits have it all sewn up.


Is That It?

Just saw Shani Davis, the American winner of the men's 1000m speed skating race at the Winter Olympics being interviewed on Sky News' ABC Nightline.
The interviewer asked him how it felt to be the first African American male winner at the Winter Olympics - he said "I'm very happy".
She then siad "Is that it??"
What did she want him to say?
To break down like Halle Berry at the Oscars making his achievement into an achievement just for African Americans, not all Americans and making his win an issue of race, not talent.
He is quoted in the above news article as saying "I just want to be the best I can be, regardless if I'm black, white, Hispanic, whatever."

I'm Gonna Get Me One of Them Live Strong Wrist Bands

I actually have one already, but I might start wearing it. (I've bought a lot of them for different causes and have yet to wear one)
ProfessorBainbridge reports that Sheryl Crow broke up with Lance Armstrong because "Lance didn't just support Bush, - he'd go off and fight if the president asked him too."

I saw them both on Oprah and thought they looked like a really cute couple (even if I don't like Sheryl Crow's music).
Lance Armstrong seems like too good a guy to break up with just over politics.
But then Bush is that powerful (you know, able to create hurricanes and the like) that he could easily dissolve other people's relationships if he wanted to.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Death in the name of Allah

is something that we witnessing more and more in recent weeks.
15 Christians churches were burned by Muslim cartoon rioters in Nigeria killing more than 15 people.
It just doesn't seem like ending anytime soon - and that is a truly terrifying prospect. If groups of Muslims, even in tiny numbers proportionally, continue to believe that violence is an acceptable response to things said about their religion in a cartoon, in a newspaper, in a country that is not a major world cultural leader - and will keep rioting with such intensity until they get their way. The real scary part is what is their way? What, exactly do they want the countries whose embassies they've attacked to do?

All Things Beautiful has a post entitled The Grave Injustice Of A Senseless Death Sentence about the murder of Father Andrea Santoro in Turkey last week.
Her musings about Turkey's continued discrimination of non-Islamic religions are worth thinking about as Turkey becomes closer to being a full EU member.
Fr Andrea Santoro died on his knees witnessing to the God of Love whom he believed to be incarnate in Jesus Christ. He may have displayed literature about that love in a language that Turks could understand. He, against all the odds, bravely worked and prayed in a provincial Turkish city, simply for the love of the people around him.

Has the time come for Turkey to shed her misplaced antique suspicion and fear of a reasonable liberty? Should Turkey now draw on the industry and experience of her wonderful expatriates around the world who have dynamically proved the potential of Turkey in art, commerce, cuisine, diplomacy, academia, the law, and indeed every kind of labor abroad in freer climates? Should Turkey draw on the great breadth of her history and open herself up to the reasonable norms – as expressed in the European Convention on Human Rights - of the societies whose friendship she now espouses?

She quotes the Sigmund, Carl and Freud blog -
We do not need to assure Muslims that we are caring. We do not need to bestow a status upon Islam that we not bestow upon other religions and other faiths. Muslims are not special and they are not deserving of special status.

Why? Because in a free society, we don't care about your beliefs. We do care about your actions and behavior. You are free to integrate and to assimilate into our society in whole or in part. We really don't care. Do not tell us we need to care about your beliefs and your concerns above all else and above our own beliefs. If you do try to make that assertion, you will soon be surprised at how easily you will be marginalized and resented- not for your beliefs, but rather, for your attempt to jump to the head of line. You are not more important than anyone else.


A Good Man Is Hard To Find

so how's polygamy gonna work?
Slate has an article on the economic case for polygamy. It's about the new HBO show, Big Love about a man with several wives. I saw the trailer when I was in US and it looks lovely and glossy in a Desperate Housewives way.
The Slate article by Tim Hartford provides a number of examples where polygamy would be useful -
Polygyny would be the solution for states where there are large number of young men in prison -
Their (women) problem is not merely that some who would want to marry won't be able to. It's that the available men—those not in prison—suddenly have more bargaining power. Goodbye to doing the dishes and paying the rent; hello to mistresses and wham, bam, thank you ma'am. The women whose potential partners have had their ranks thinned by prison are less likely to marry, and when they do marry, are likely to marry a man less educated than they are. Meanwhile, the remaining men, finding a surfeit of marriage partners, suddenly seem in no hurry to marry. And why would they?
And polyandry would help in China -
When men are taken out of the marriage market by war or by prison, women suffer. The reverse is probably true, too: When women are taken from the marriage market, men suffer. In China, the policy of one-child families coupled with selective abortion of girls has produced "surplus" males. Such men are called "bare branches," and China could have 30 million of them by 2020. Perhaps polyandry—women with multiple husbands—would be the logical response to the situation in China. What will happen instead is that these lonely, wifeless men will end up sleeping with a relatively small number of women—prostitutes—with severe risks of sexually transmitted disease all around.

In reference to the title, I always thought that Bruce Springsteen took the title of that song (it's on Tracks) from Flannery O'Connor's collection of short stories by the same name. But when I think about it, I don't think one of my literary heroes was copying another one of my other literary heroes (note how these observations all come back to me, me, me!) O'Connor's story is a pretty horrifyingly brillant funny story which ends with a gruesome family murder. Springsteen's woman is a lovelorn single mother abandoned by her man.
I love Flannery O'Connor's precise observations, even if her stories give me the creeps.
She describes the grandmother's clothes in AGMIHTF as -
"A navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the bim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Kyoto Targets - Are We Better Not Meeting Them?

There’s a different take on the Kyoto treaty in the today’s Daily Mail.
This is the first time I bought the new Irish Daily Mail since it started as it’s not on sale in the shops on my daily route.
David Quinn reports on how implementing the Kyoto treaty to the full would have drastic effects on the economy – he quotes Constantin Gudriev who said it would lead to a “wholesale exit of international and domestic exporters from Ireland”.
According to the EPA, we are at 23.5% over the 1990 levels even though we committed to be no more than 13% about them.
There is also an editorial comment which asks the question if we really want to risk damaging the economy for doubtful returns.
I have posted before about the wisdom of Kyoto and whether or not the money spent on it should be spent on more worthwhile and effective programmes. As I said then - 1 year’s spend on Kyoto (which will only delay global warming by 6 years) could provide clean water to the 1 billion people worldwide who need it.

Little Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds??

NHS Blog Doctor has an excellent post on ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and some of its critics.
I'm not altogether comfortable with the widespread medication of young children, who a short time ago, would just have been considered "bold".
As NHS blog doctor says -
Children are bunged on amphetamines after an assessment that I regard as too short, and I am not happy with the follow up they receive. I am now close to the point of refusing to continue prescribing these drugs on their behalf. I am not obliged to. If I prescribe a drug, I share the responsibility for any problems that arise. If I refuse, it will cause inconvenience to the parents and more work for the hospital, but the prescribing only devolved onto GPs as the result of a cynical, budget-dumping exercise which I have described elsewhere.

Dr Crippen does believe that an ADHD syndrome exists and accepts, with some reluctance, that it may occasionally be necessary to prescribe these unpleasant drugs. He thinks that genuine cases are few and far between. He believes that these drugs are grossly and inappropriately over prescribed. He believes that there is a Big Pharma conspiracy not only to promulgate the drugs but to promulgate the condition itself. He believes that the drug companies cannot be trusted to highlight the side effects of these drugs. He believes that thousands of children are now on these behaviour modifying drugs to suit the convenience of society
- and that is a very serious issue for all for us to consider.

Friday, February 17, 2006

New Music and Mustard Friday

I’ve bought a lot of music in the last few weeks, but have only gotten round to listening to it in the last few days. This is due to Caoimhin Vallely’s album which I listened to every time listening to music was appropriate!
So the other stuff is –
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat
Really good. I got it in Washington and only started playing it this week. Some fantastic songs like “Rise Up With the Fists!!!” and “Rabbit Fur Coat” which has a great opening line – “I was of poor folk but my mother had a rabbit fur coat  and a girl of less character pushed her down the LA River”
She has a rather impressive line up for a cover of the Traveling Wilbury’s classic “Handle with Care” Bright Eyes, Ben Gibbard, and M. Ward (whose new album I must get this week!)

Tortoise and Bonnie Prince Billy – The Brave and the Bold
Surprisingly it’s not the perfection that one expects automatically from BPB. I bought this out of loyalty – it’s a covers album that makes no nod to the originals – you’d wonder if they ever even heard them - which is great! Springsteen’s Thunder Road probably the best (but I would say that about any Springsteen song).
I had never heard of Tortoise before and I don’t think I’ll be running out to get their album, but anyone going to Bonnie Prince Billy in Whelans should find it a good EP to pass the time. (Not going – all sold out, and I’ve prove my “safe doctor” credentials the following day before I can start working, make money and buy more CDs!)

Cat Power – The Greatest
It’s quite an enjoyable listen even if sometimes it sounds like she’s playing down the bottom of a well. I have “You Are Free” as well, but rather this one.

Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy
I bought this because I really liked the cover. The last time I remember doing this was for Ryan Adams’ “Heartbreaker”. While I’m not disappointed with the content, they’re just okay. (Unlike Heartbreaker which nears perfection in parts)

Beth Orton – Comfort of Strangers
I like this one at lot. It’s more folky than her albums, but not that much different – her voice and how she sings is quite unique. I especially like “Comfort of Strangers” and “Safe in Your Arms”.

Abigail Washburn - Song of the Traveling Daughter
I got this recommended to me at Amazon because I had bought the Duhks album (which is brilliant!). It’s stripped banjo folk. I particularly like the 2 songs she sings in Chinese. I’ve developed a thing for bluegrassy folk being sung in foreign languages – I went through a phase of Russian bluegrass over the summer – a young band, Bering Strait (who are more Nashville than Moscow) and Kukuruza, who were playing bluegrass under Communism. I want to find more foreign language bluegrass – I know it sounds crazy, but it’s actually a superb combination.

Mustard Balsamon
Which I got in Fresh in Smithfield yesterday evening – absolutely gorgeous Greek mustard made with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and honey. It’s so nice I had it on toast this morning for my breakfast.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

St James's, Next Stop Cuba.

Wulfbeorn, Watching has a post on Sinn Fein's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin's wish to learn from the "Cuban Health Care Experience."

Wulfbeorn goes out on a limb and surmises that "he wasn't referring to the thousands of people who've risked their lives trying to escape the dictatorship on homemade rafts and converted vehicles. That doesn't seem like much of an "experience" to me."

Perhaps, Deputy O'Caolain prefers this sort of Cuban Experience. (All photos here)

I suppose some eagle-eyed microbiology spotter will tell us that Irish hospitals are as dirty. I've worked in 5 of the major Dublin hospitals and a few of the regional ones - let me assure you that they're not.

We believe in advancing healthcare for patients, not advancing fairy tales for revolutionary propaganda.

The "I'd Rather go Hunting with Dick Cheney

than driving with Ted Kennedy" mug.

That's all I'm going to say on this bizarrely-controversial-but-should-barely-be-a-news-in-brief story.

Peggy Noonan has an article without any bite, that discusses who Dick Cheney should possibly be replaced with. We want names, woman, names.

In the very improbable and unlikely event of Dubya checking this blog for advice, I'd suggest Condi.

Update - Charles Krauthammer on the contradictory media reaction to Cheney and the cartoons - from today's Washington Post -
But it was an accident, and the event has no effect on national policy, national security, national anything. Something happened involving the vice president that was interesting and unusual, but of no great significance beyond that.
Secrecy? This was hardly an affair of state. And it was hardly going to be kept secret. Arrogance? The media laying these charges are the same media that just last week unilaterally decided that the public's right to know did not extend to seeing cartoons that had aroused half the world, burned a small part of it and deeply affected the American national interest. Having arrogated to themselves the judgment of what a free people should be allowed to see regarding an issue that is literally burning, they then go ballistic over a few hours' delay in revealing an accident with only the most trivial connection to the nation's interest or purpose.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Sooner I Get This Bilocation Craic

sorted out the better.
I will be able to attend gigs that I want to go to, even when I’m somewhere else, instead of just reading excellent reviews.
First would have been Broken Social Scene in TBMC – reviewed by Paul @ - Now all the critics, journos and humble, yet dedicated, gig-goers like ourselves on In Fact, Ah can soldier on through the musical landfill for another year or so armed with the memory of last Saturday night. After all, we don't enjoy the trauma of having to revise our list of all-time-greatest gigs too often.

Then I would’ve seen Hem, who played the Allen Room in NYC, a gig and venue I dearly would love to witness! Reviewed by the NYT
Hem's music is organized around Mr. Messé's long, flowing melodies, most sung by Sally Ellyson in a plain, sweet and slightly mournful voice over which the group sometimes applies two- and three-part vocal harmonies like delicate brush strokes.

But Hem's best original songs are as sturdy as any of the material the group covers. My favorite, "Receiver," has the ring of a potential folk-pop classic. The narrator, facing the imminent departure of a lover, muses: "I'll always love you like I do/ The song is fading still it's true." That departure is likened to the grabbing of a "loose thread hanging from the gingham sky" and disappearing into the sky. Beautiful.


Blog Awards

I only realised that I am nominated for a Blog award when I see a few people have arrived here from there. I’ve been nominated in Best Personal Blog category – waaay down the form.
So if you like what you read here - please vote for me.
If you don’t, leave a comment, or better yet, just don’t tell me.
Voting ends Friday.

Chocolate, Sex, Valentines and Popes

My ultimate consumerist St Valentine’s Day fantasy would be a dark chocolate Matthew McConaghey with his accent somehow being expressed in the confection (warm, melting caramel perhaps?). Or Matthew McConaughey feeding me chocolate.
This St Valentines Day I’ve a date with my surgery textbook (the chapter on stomas actually – riveting, page turning stuff) but before I do that, I’m finishing Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI’s 1st encyclical.
And the first fantasy pales into comparison with what Il Papa is saying.
You might ask, why on earth is she reading this stuff? Has she no life?
I have a thing for encyclicals about love. John Paul II started off his philosophy-ing with Love and Responsibility, a book I recommend to anyone who wants to know what the Catholic Church thinks about sex. (And please differentiate it from the Jansenist heresies that have held force here in Ireland for way to long – sex is not dirty, bad, guilty etc) I started reading it because I was quizzing my mother about it after I read Patrick Kavanagh’s Tarry Flynn and found the mission speeches on sex rather perverted and sterile. My mother, in her maternal wisdom told me that the Catholic Church believes that the joy of orgasm is akin to joy of everlasting love and the communion of saints. Needless to say, given the choice, I preferred reading about the Church’s position on orgasm than listening to my mother talk about it.
I learnt that this is not only true, but JPII, as Karol Wojtyla in Love and Responsilibity, says that husband should make whatever sacrifice necessary for his wife to orgasm. At which point, I was thinking, wow, this is rather far away from Kavanagh’s Monaghan Redemptorist mission.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about romance, love, sex and how we view and relate these things. While it hasn’t taken on here yet, in the US, St Valentine’s Day, a day of soppy poems, red roses and chocolate is being transformed by some into V-Day, a day about vaginas. I’m as fond of my vagina as the next woman, but I don’t want to talk about it and I don’t find discussion of it, either scientific or dramatic (Vagina Monologues) that romantic. I’d much rather schmaltzy red rubbish than reclaiming my vagina’s authentic voice.
Then, this week is SHAG week in Trinity – I’m all for everyone being educated about sex – but leaflets about premature ejaculation just aren’t my cup of tea. (nor do I think decorating the stall with pink hearts makes it romantic either)
I’m not saying anything particular about vaginas or sexual health, but I feel that there is a loss of romance, a loss of mystery, a loss of wonder at human sexuality. And this is lamentable. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice the awe in our desire to be responsible and educated about sexuality.
Anyway, back to B16 (Benedict), Deus Caritas Est is much more readable and accessible than JP2, and JP2 was quite accessible.
He’s pretty straightforward –
Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united; the challenge of eros can be said to be truly overcome when this unification is achieved. Should he aspire to be pure spirit and to reject the flesh as pertaining to his animal nature alone, then spirit and body would both lose their dignity. On the other hand, should he deny the spirit and consider matter, the body, as the only reality, he would likewise lose his greatness…………
Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure “sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man's great “yes” to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will. Nor does he see it as an arena for the exercise of his freedom, but as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to make both enjoyable and harmless. Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere. The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness. Christian faith, on the other hand, has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to a new nobility. True, eros tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.
I guess I’m pretty unusual (certainly among my circle of friends) that I accept the above passage and reject the casual sex that is an integral part of our culture. I don’t think it’s just sex –just pleasure, just reproduction, just fun – but something more.
I feel pretty vulnerable even blogging anonymously about this – it’s something I’m kinda reticent about discussing. I don’t like the funny looks or the patronising comments that “you’ll find someone”. It’s not from lack of opportunity (wounded pride screaming out) but rather a conscious decision that I don’t have sex.
There are a lot of things that are taken for granted in terms of healthy sexuality – one is that you must have sex. The 40 year old virgin was a trip in the hilariously uncharted waters of the ultimate middle aged saddo. I guess my life could be viewed as being similarly strange. I don’t even snog randomers on a Friday or Saturday night (or any other night).
Maybe I’ve been reading too many Georgette Heyer novels recently, but I don’t get the romance of scoring. Of “being with someone”.  Of waiting for text messages from someone you’ve shared body fluids with. I don’t believe that sex with someone you barely know is the best way to start any kind of relationship.
I don’t think I’m a prude. I don’t have a problem with everyone else in the world “getting some” (even though I hate that phrase) – I don’t think young teenagers are mature enough to make fully informed and free decisions about their sexuality and should not be encouraged to have sex.
Yes, the sexual revolution brought us freedom. I’m using mine to not have sex.
I had an unusual experience a few years ago during SHAG week in college. I handed back the brown paper bag containing condoms, information and plastic gloves to the girl handing them out. She ran up to me, telling me how important it was to have safe sex. I told her I wasn’t having unsafe sex, I wasn’t having any sex. She laughed and then tried to give me back the bag, saying you never know. I told her I did know and that I would certainly not be having any consensual sex anytime soon. (Even if Matthew McConaughey came along). She then told me that being repressed is not healthy.
No, it’s not. Neither is sleeping with anything that breathes.
But there’s nothing repressed about wanting something more than just sex. There’s nothing passive about waiting for it. There’s nothing asexual about not having any. There’s nothing immature about a little self restraint.  There’s nothing prudish about believing that sexuality is God’s greatest gift to creation, as is its product – a new love, a new person. There’s nothing strange or delusional in expecting that a grand passion will someday come my way and believing that my sexuality is something sacred to me, irreducible to a fleeting encounter, will be worth it.
And there’s nothing quite as romantic as reading a white haired celibate priest on love on St Valentine’s Day!
It is part of love's growth towards higher levels and inward purification that it now seeks to become definitive, and it does so in a twofold sense: both in the sense of exclusivity (this particular person alone) and in the sense of being “for ever”. Love embraces the whole of existence in each of its dimensions, including the dimension of time. It could hardly be otherwise, since its promise looks towards its definitive goal: love looks to the eternal. Love is indeed “ecstasy”, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God.          

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Mary McAleese, Al Gore and Speaking on Your Behalf

The Jeddah Economic Forum looked like the place to be this weekend.
Not only did our own Mary McAleese tell the world that we all abhor and condemn the publication of the cartoons, but Al Gore told the JEF that America Arabs had been "indiscriminately rounded up" and held in "unforgivable" conditions.
Captain’s Quarters has all the dirt on Gore. Who, not being a president, was thankfully not speaking on any country’s behalf. And was speaking through his hat.
Irish bloggers who are giving out about McAleese’s comments, which were spoken on our behalf –
Irish Eagle wants to know if there’s a poll – do we all abhor the publication of the cartoons? I certainly don’t and I have misgivings about them – namely should we go out of our way to annoy moderate Muslims? Where is that going to bring us in the War against Terrorism?
It goes without saying that we all abhor violence (doesn’t it?) but my father was saying that even on the Late Late on Friday it seemed that most supported the publication of the cartoons and the right to publish the cartoons.

Planet Potato says she does reflect the official Ireland stance - But I would expect that the President of our country would have had a better response prepared than the spineless response that was given - a response that panders to those who would dictate that because of "multiculturalism" we must adopt our own society so as to avoid giving offence to other cultures. I might give out, but I think the President reflected the words of Ireland inc quite correctly.
Unfortunately this is too true.

United Irelander says - Imagine then my surprise and outright disgust to learn that Irish President Mary McAleese, the woman supposed to represent myself and the Irish people, has actually come out and CONDEMNED the publication of the cartoons in question!...... Her comments are atrocious. Who the hell are this 'We' you refer to, Mary? How dare you tar all Irish people with your sad and pathetic views!I for one completely support the publication of these cartoons because I believe in freedom of speech. I am not a Muslim and have no desire to live my life based on Muslim laws. I have no problem personally with people poking fun at religion.

Little Green Footballs’ thread on the issue degenerates in to Irish stereotyping which is quite unfortunate.
This Saudi blogger was much impressed with McAleese.

Medh Ruane wrote about this trip in Saturday’s Irish Independent. It’s quite a good article apart from a lapse into some liberal brain disconnect - President Bush faked a commitment to women's human rights when he pretended to promote democracy with the Saudi elite. He even used the repression of women as a reason why he was waging war in Afghanistan and Iraq. So when PBS, the US TV station, decided to rerun Death of a Princess last year, Bush was able to silence American dissent for a few more months.
Is it just me, or does that paragraph smack of hysterical paranoia determined to never trust Bush, regardless of the facts?
Ruane goes on say –
And to her shame - ours also - Ms McAleese will not show solidarity with Saudi women, under the guise of protocol. She'll wear one of her amorphous Irish designer outfits and has actually agreed to having her Irish female companions wear abayas.
The only reason Saudi protocol 'allows' her to dress as a woman is that it never anticipated having a female Head of State. So McAleese is sending a symbolic message that oppressing women is a matter of culture, not human rights.
What if she made a symbolic statement instead - by wearing the abaya herself? Taking on the mantle of oppression literally would be totally respectful to Saudi protocol but would show that this woman, this Ms McAleese, prefers to abase her own status rather than prop up a system no decent citizen should support.
Protocol and the ability to protest are difficult aspects of the Presidency. That’s why Presidents get to make speeches.
It’s a pity McAleese brought up the issue of the cartoons in the context of speech that should have had better and more important soundbites, like the treatment of women, democracy and the importance of economic freedom.


Ever said anything to a reporter that you don't remember?

I feel like some dodgy politician. According to this United Press International article about the Blogs4Life conference, I told the reporter -
A number of international bloggers attended the event such as "Auds" (who also asked to remain anonymous), blogger of and a student from Ireland who came to Washington for the first time this week.

According to Auds, the Irish media have not reported adequately on the issue. And with the recent emergence of political blogs, Auds predicts more anti-abortion bloggers will appear as more individuals adapt to technology with the introduction of broadband, she said.

I don't remember talking to a reporter , but I must have. I don't remember saying the Irish media have not adequately reported on the issue - I actually think they do report loads on it.
And I don't know if we need specifically pro-life bloggers in Ireland - just more bloggers. And more people who read blogs. And hopefully I'm right about broadband - which is little more than just introduced.

Kind of funny to read about yourself and not recognise yourself. As I asked in response to that "who are we?" meme - Am I Me?


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Ann Coulter Under Fire from Fellow Conservatives

And rightly so. She has been described as the Michael Moore of the conservative movement, always waiting and willing to throw the cheap shot.
Unlike Michael Moore however, I don’t know how well known she is in Ireland. Not very, I would think – I have yet to see any of her books in our book shops while I’m tripping over Moore’s.
I’m sure if I actually read her stuff on weekly basis I could find plenty I disagree with. Her recent comments calling Muslims “ragheads” are just stupid, low and bigoted. (She also had some other clangers in the speech, including fantasies about killing Clinton and a couple of Supreme Court justices)
Michelle Malkin has links to right wing bloggers criticising Coulter.
I find all this very interesting as I’ve just finished reading Malkin’s “Unhinged, Exposing Liberals Gone Wild”. I was really quite surprised at the amount of completely whacky things people inside the Democrat/Liberal movement have said, and are still feted and welcomed back into the fold. (The craziest to my mind, remains Cameron Diaz’s appearance on Oprah where she started tearing up over the Bush’s proposed plan to legalise rape – despite this not being part of any Bush campaign statement, or general principle of the Republican party)
It is a very healthy sign that so many conservative people are slapping Ann around the head (metaphorically!). It’s a pity that many of those listed in Malkin’s book don’t get a similar treatment from their fellow travellers.
Getting back to Coulter’s comments, this is a critical time for the West. In recent weeks the Arab Street has gone wild – burning flags, embassies, effigies, Danish Lego and anything else that might look like a cartoon. This is not a good thing.
Yes, we should have the right to say whatever we want about any religion, but more importantly we should have the right to say what we want and not get killed for it. I posted the infamous cartoons on this blog. I then changed my mind (but left up the cartoons as I think we need to see them to be rational and sensible in this debate).
One of the reasons I changed my mind is that famous Arab Street – if we truly want to fight terrorism, we should be willing to enter in a dialogue with those who disagree with us. Especially those that disagree with us in such an angry, all-encompassing obsession that has led to too many tragic deaths of innocent people. I’m not suggesting that dialogue or diplomacy will cure all terrorists – I still support the Iraq war. But hand in hand with what ever military conflict that becomes necessary, we must remember the ordinary people that we are fighting on behalf of – not just the free citizens of the West, but the hearts and minds of those who the terrorists claim to fight for.
It is too easy to simply throw our hands in the air in despair at the OTT actions of the Arab Street and decide that if they’re that mad anyway, why should we compromise our rightly valuable and cherished ideas of freedom and democracy.
Sister Souljah, a right wing American blogger that I have recently discovered puts it quite succinctly - this is not about whether or not someone has the right to say something; it’s about whether or not it is right to say.
There is nothing to be gained in further inflaming a vast group of people who are already feeling disenfranchised and at this stage are taken over by a fervent zeal and a mob mentality that seems to viscerally hate everything “we” stand for. Our task is to convince them. Not to intentionally anger them. The way we do things is already vexing enough for them – even simple issues like how women dress here are intensely contentious.
If we want to be safe from the threats of Islamic terrorism, suicide bombers, Bin Laden et al, have we not an obligation to work on convincing moderate Muslims that we genuinely care for them and their societies? That we want the best outcome for all – the continued security of our free societies and whatever arrangement that grants citizens of the Arab/Muslim world dignity and freedom. That democracy can work for them. That allowing women to drive cars will not be the end of the world. And that free society works when we all subscribe to some basic tenets of respect, equality, dignity and liberty.
Ann Coulter is not on the side of terrorism. These comments show that she not on the side of those fighting it either.


Where I'll be the last weekend of July...

if I'm not on call, that is - Midlands, a new country music festival to be held in Meath.
Apparently country music is now "more hip than hick" but this blogger knew that all along.
Among those playing will be Ryan Adams, Lambchop, Kenny Rogers, Emmylou Harries and Albert Lee and Hogan's Heroes

Tickets to go on sale on Feb 18th.

Update - hattip to Hickory Wind - apparently Lindsay Lohan is dating Ryan Adams. Scary or wha?


Friday, February 10, 2006

Music to Marry and Have Babies With

Rufus Wrainwright’s music was described as such by a friend of mine.
I disagree on numerous levels - Rufus is not that good and I’d be committing musical adultery as I’m marrying Caoimhín Vallely’s music and having loads of little tinkling babies.
For those of you not aware of Caoimhín Vallely, he’s a member of that famous Armagh Vallely trad family and he plays the piano like some piano god.
Irish piano music is usually relegated to some poor old sod “vamping away” in the corner to the same old chords, shoved in the back of the ceili band.
Míchéal Ó Súilleabháin has done much to show the beauty and versatility of the ivory keys in interpreting trad music. But of all his achievements, his training of Vallely must be his greatest.
When I was about 16 I tried to play Allan’s Irish Piano Player and got mind numbingly bored after a while. Not only were my fingers hurting from trying to emulate Ó Súilleabháin’s, I couldn’t get any of the little twitches that I got effortlessly on the violin. I felt like I was torturing the poor Boys of Bluehill more than they even deserved – and the way they’ve been played over the years, they do deserve it. More to the point, I sounded suspiciously like the ceili band I played the violin in – regimented, tinny and monotonous. (I don’t like ceili music – it’s a different sort of diddly eye!)
At the time I couldn’t get enough of Ó Súilleabháin’s collaboration with the awesome bodhran player Tommy Hayes – An Ras. I wanted in on the action. Their album was tight, inventive and so rhythmic all you wanted to do was shake your booty.
But Vallely is way better. He has much of Ó Súilleabháin’s style but with a sensuality that grabs you. You just want to live in his grand piano and listen to it forever.
He starts with a jig, Strayaway Child which is one of those rare jigs, an inherently upbeat piece of music that has a strange pathos. Vallely’s contrast between the A part and the rest, accentuates the quiet sadness. He then moves on to The Drunken Sailor, a minor hornpipe that lilts gently, swaying in a pale moonlight, truly sounding like some  drunken navvy weaving his happy way through damp docks.
The band (made up of his family mostly) starts the Bunch of Keys and the brother Niall’s snappy concertina leads up to an equally punctuated piece of piano. His version of Paddy Fahy’s is jazzy and sexy. Unapproved Road, a jig composed by his brother Niall is fresh and crisp. Paddy Kelly’s is a reel that I played to death for a Fleadh competition. Normally those Fleadh tunes are the ones I hate – the ones I learnt in a fixed but appearing spontaneous way, afraid to do anything that might insult the Comhltas ear. Vallely’s version is light and delightful. As are his version of contemporary reels by Brian Finnegan and Jim Sutherland. Piano and concertina fight at the start of The Kitchen Piper but in comes the other brother, Cillian on the uilleann pipes and joins it all up for a syncopated rousing finish on Corsie’s Goose. His version of Reavy’s The Whistler of Rosslea is full of Ó Súilleabháin influences but is smoother and practically transcendent.
But the reason I want to live in Caoimhín Vallely’s piano is number 4. Sean O Duibhir a’Ghleanna. I grew up in an old fashioned pub run by my family. There used to be an oak straight backed piano up against the far wall, its lid marked with generations of pint slop. On Sunday mornings, my granny would go down to the pub after first Mass, and before she would finish cleaning up from the night before, she would open the piano and play for a while. She’d always start with something slow and mournful. In my romantic imagination at the time, I would imagine the notes gliding over the smoke from the freshly lit stove, covering over the ashtrays and empty glasses before curling around the weird spiky plaster job on the yellowed ceiling. Their delicate purity would drown out the constant humming of the ancient cooler in the corner, from which we would be given a treat of a glass of TK red lemonade.
Vallely recreates this memory for me with the achingly hesitant notes at the beginning before warming into a slow air that seems to suspend time. It’s just like the morning after the night before – he’s almost afraid to be too loud, as if volume or speed might disturb a shaky balance between peaceful melancholy and a barely started hangover.
Buy this album. In Claddagh Records (no other record shop has it). Today. It’s as spiritual as it virtuosic and I challenge the most hardened diddly-eye hater not to enjoy it.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Querying

On a hot white chocolate study break, chatting with my flatmate and our conversation moved to the Death Notices and differences between our respective home local radios.
Shannonside FM has a little spiel that goes something like “the staff and friends of Shannonside FM wish to extend their deepest sympathies to all those bereaved” and Radio Kerry apparently has no such line.
I was wondering if we’re the only country that devotes roughly 5 minutes every few hours on local radio to listing off all the dead and their funeral arrangements.
I think it serves a healthy reminder of our mortality, something we are culturally quite comfortable with.
So, does any other country do radio death notices??
Update – on re-reading this post I realise that my life appears very pathetic – drinking hot chocolate and talking about death notices is not the cool hip life of students, but study cabin fever has set in.

What's Wrong With The World

Chesterton did not include this particularly horrendous scandal in his book, but Iron and Wine and Calexico are touring Europe in April.
They are not coming to Dublin.
This is the greatest blow to my person so far this year. It is truly awful.
In The Reins, their joint EP effort, is most played in my iPod for ages. A History of Lovers is quickly becoming my favourite song ever (neck and neck with Bruce Springsteen's Youngstown)

Why not go see them in Europe if you're so obsessed?
Well, to add insult to injury they're in England when my final are on. That said, I do like the idea of a trip to Treviso, Italy to see them on 10th May.

If you're a fan of I&W download the "exclusive" itunes live session EP. It's really good. Not quite finished listening to it as have just downloaded it.

The Grammys and Schadenfreude

U2 won 5. Coldplay are disappointed. I’m so happy. Not for U2 but because the Grammys did not honour that Coldplay, a show band of singles. I don’t like Coldplay.
They just annoy me. I bought Parachutes and thought “not bad”. A Rush of Blood did nothing for me. Didn’t even bother with the last album.
U2 did however beat Springsteen in several categories, which did sadden me a little, but Coldplay’s pulverisation at U2 hands cheered me up.
The rock/pop categories never interest me as much as the categories further down the list.
Bruce Springsteen won “Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance” for Devils and Dust.
Best Alternative Music Album went to the White Stripe’s “Get Behind Me Satan”. In that category I would have put Death Cab for Cutie’s “Plans” and the amazing Arcade Fire’s “Funeral” ahead of it.
Best Female Country Vocal Performance went to Emmylou Harris, by far the best of the other nominees – Faith Hill, Gretchen Wilson, Lee Ann Womack and Trisha Yearwood.
Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal went to Restless by Allison Krauss – one of my favourite AKUS songs. It’s really brilliant.
They also won Best Country Instrumental Performance (beating Nickel Creek, who are in Dublin next week) and Best Country Album.
Best Country Collaboration With Vocals went to Faith Hill and Tim McGraw for some schmaltzy crap, skipping over the powerful Emmylou Harris/Rodney Crowell version of “Shelter from the Storm”.
Best Bluegrass went to the Del McCoury Band who are consistently excellent. Their collaboration with Steve Earle “The Mountain” is well worth getting.
The Folk category went to Tim O’Brien, a superb musician whose albums with his sister Molly are fantastic. John Prine’s Fair and Square got Best Contemporary Folk.
Not being a big fan of Senator Barack Obama, I was unpleasantly surprised with his award for the spoken word. I haven’t listened to it so probably shouldn’t judge, but still.
The only album which I don’t already own and want to own from the Grammys has to be The Complete Library Of Congress Recordings By Alan Lomax and John Szwed which sounds cool and won best album notes and historical. It includes Make Me A Pallet on Your Floor which is one of my favourite folk songs.
The only classical album I recognised that won was Mendelssohn: The Complete String Quartets by the Emerson String Quartet which my mother has.  I’m not at a stage of classical music appreciation where I can appreciate performance that much – I tend to get things just because I recognise composers or then just the soloists – Vanessa Mae, Nigel Kennedy, YoYo Ma, Jacqueline du Pre, Katherine Jenkins, etc Il Gardino Amronica is probably the only group I’m able to recognise.

Abortion - Kid Rock, Reasons for, Men and Adoption

I started replying to the debate at Colm Bracken’s post on infactah in the comments, but moved it here after it reached a certain word count.

There were a few things I wanted to reply to so here goes –
So starting with Sinead’s comment
I agree that abortion should never be used as a form of contraception, but anyone I know who has had one wasn't for something as glib as having their "lifestyle disrupted". What about contraceptive breakdown?
As a famous woman once said, if men were the ones getting pregnant, abortions would be like a lunchtime visit to the dentist.
And then her 2nd comment
Men should never be excluded from having a say on abortion and I don't doubt they are affected as much. However, until men have the ability to carry children, they can pontificate about abortion from the comfortable position of never having to have one. The last remark - as I pointed out - was not made by me, I was paraphrasing a quote (by Susan B. Anthony possibly?) and I think there is a certain amount of truth to it.
and her other comment
Also, no one has mentioned the number of women (6,000-7,000) travelling to the UK for abortions every year - any proposals on how we address this?
And then Colm
Yes, it's appalling that so many have to travel to the UK. But unless abortion on demand is legalised here, this will continue.I would really like to get my hands of information/data that gives us a better view as to why women feel the need to abort their pregnancies.
And PmcC’s final comment
As men it is much easier to say 'I am against abortion on demand' when you will never have to make the decision.

Okay, just cutting and pasting has taken me 10 minutes.
So quick points –
Abortion, contraception and lifestyle – most women who I know who have had abortions, had them because of contraceptive failure. That fact in itself, questions the wisdom of solely relying on contraception to reduce the abortion rate. But contraceptive failure leads to pregnancy which leads to lifestyle disruption, which is not a glib response but rather a reflection of why a woman feels she needs an abortion, as way of out of that disruption and “back” into her life, as she had planned it.
We all plan our lives to some extent or another and becoming pregnant has a funny way of tearing that plan asunder.
Studies into the psychological reasons and decision making processes for choosing abortion have found that it is the concept of life disruption, of loss of her own “life” or so perceived, plays a major role in deciding to have an abortion. (I can’t find the exact reference that discuss this concept at the minute but will look it up if you don’t trust me!) This is not a negative reflection on the woman who makes the undoubtably difficult decision to abort, but rather an insight to the turmoil she’s feeling. From a sociological perspective, it shows us how we can prevent the loss of life her child and the hurt she might experience, by addressing her needs.

As for Sinead’s possible Susan B Anthony quote – not only is it definitely not from her as this quote is – she was fervently pro-life, as were many of the early feminists and suffragettes –
Not only did she refer to abortion as “child murder”  she also said  - "Guilty? Yes. No matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; But oh, thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime!"

And the men and abortion link – men too feel hurt from abortion.
Because of this blog’s obsession with music, I can refer you to a song about abortion from a man’s perspective – none other than the Kid Rock himself - Abortion, from A History of Rock (who I view as a guilty pleasure).
Kid Rock’s high school girlfriend, who he later married, underwent an abortion while teenager. His pain, guilt and frustration are expressed in the violent terms of his desire to commit suicide to meet his aborted son and his drug abuse to hide or numb these feelings.
“Living in the shadows of a man I've never seen dreaming like a lonely child, I know your brothers and your sister and your mother too, Man, I wish you could see them too”
“I'm dying in the shadows of this man I've never seen, I'll see you soon now where's my gun?”
“Let me open your eyes, Let me see who you are, I am you, you are me”
“You know you make me so lonely, I am so alone……and I will pray and then I'll cry”

In another life, I presented this very topic at a conference on abortion – men and abortion. I just have the paper references (but will look for the hyperlink references sometime tomorrow)

Men can have a number of positions in the abortion decision making process. They can encourage or support the woman to choose abortion; pressure her to abort; abandon her to make the decision alone; unsuccessfully oppose the abortion; or learn about the abortion only after it has been done.
The last option – of only learning about the abortion after it has happened, happens in 15-20% of cases – and this isolation can really intensify the fathers’ pain.
“They felt isolated from the decision and especially if they opposed the abortion - emasculated and powerless.” (Shostak A, McLouth G, Seng L Men and Abortion New York: Praeger, 1984)
1 small Italian study had some interesting findings - 90% of men reported fear, anxiety, and tension after the abortion with 20% being affected by long term painful memories. The effect of abortion on relationship is very deleterious with 50% of relationships suffering serious breakdown and in 16% of cases the final break up was attributed directly to the abortion.  (Schelotto G, Arcuri C.  “Supposing It Hurt Me Too? Abortion: the Anguish Experienced by Men”  IPPF Eur Reg Inf. 1986 Spring;15(1):25-34)

And this excellently written article on abortion from the male perspective sheds a very different light on abortion.  From that article –
By the time I turned 23, I had already denied five children their lives through abortions…

On the morning of the abortion, as my lover was being prepared for the procedure, she refused my hand, choosing instead to hold another woman's, her sister's. I felt useless and unwanted. It was only then I realized that abortion was not just like putting stitches on an open wound. Abortion itself was a wound - a wound that needed time for physical, psychological and emotional healing.
I don't think any state legislature should determine what a woman does with her body……for many of the women I have been intimate with, pro-choice was, I believe, a euphemism for pro-abortion. Their decisions to abort were rapid and seemingly made without real reflection. I was rarely consulted.
I am not taking a moral posture. My story is a personal meditation shaped by clinics, deep love I've known and concern about my sometimes-too-carefree attitude toward life.

I have loads more on this topic but am feeling the tumbleweed roll around my brain so will leave it at this.

So just the reasons why women have abortion.
Colm will be delighted, I’m sure, to find out that there’s mountains of research on that very question, including the Women and Crisis Pregnancy carried out in Trinity in 1998. (Not available online though)
The main reasons cited in this study for abortion were career, job-related and educational concerns, the stigma of lone motherhood, the needs of the child, financial worries and feelings of not being ready or not being able to cope.
Other international studies have echoed these reasons – so the reasons pushing women into abortion are roughly similar. In fact 1 of these studies found that 47% of women would not have had an abortion if she had support from her partner (Husfeldt C et al Ambivalence among women applying for abortion. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 1995 Nov;74(10):813-7)
I’ve the references for all these studies, if you’re interested. Or just obsessed with studies like me.

Just quickly on adoption, the Irish Women and Crisis Pregnancy Study found that most women felt that they would not be able to part with the baby afterwards if they continued with the pregnancy.  It was complicated and an unsure outcome compared to abortion.
Those who chose adoption felt that it was not necessarily the end of the relationship with child and that they were making a childless couple happy – which really should make us more aware and active in creating open adoption situations etc.
This view of adoption is again common in international literature – women tend to view it as a worse alternative than abortion, mainly because of the attachment they felt to the child and felt that the circumstances necessary to continue the pregnancy and give birth were not available to them.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Just another little bit more about abortion

In response to Fiona’s post.
Fiona said I discussed abortion and not legislation. The argument that abortion and the legislation of it, are in fact 2 separate arguments doesn’t make that much sense to me – for example, some people think all recreational drugs should be legalised. I don’t believe in legislation because I believe drugs are bad (simple argument here!) and damage both users and society. It is not sensible to say, well, actually I think using heroin is wrong, bad and stupid but I don’t mind the State legislating for it because its people’s own choice anyway, and sure, legislation doesn’t mean condoning when it’s all about choice.
And from my point of view, abortion legislation would legitimise the ending of another human being’s life. That, to me, regardless of where I stand on freedom of choice issues, makes abortion a special case.

Fiona says this point is only valid if “you accept that a foetus is a human being”. Believing that a foetus is not a human being is akin to wilfully believing that the earth is flat and revolves around the moon. It flies in the face of all scientific evidence about human embryology.
Most of the philosophical justification for abortion has been based on the concept of personhood, not humanity.
I can understand the argument that a foetus is not a person (even though I thoroughly disagree with the notion that we have to fulfil certain personhood characteristics set by philosophers/lawyers etc before we have any standing in the world), but I can not understand the “foetus is just cells” arguments.
Without going in to a big birds-and-bees discussion, I want to explain the very basics of human reproduction – because believing foetuses are not human beings or are some other species is just mad, Ted, mad.
Human sperm and eggs have only 23 chromosomes – they are not human beings, they are human. They’re not bovine or canine. Sperm and eggs go through a very complicated process where they started as primitive germ cells with 46 chromosomes and are cut up in different ways until they’ve 23. (This is not a scientific paper so excuse the generalisations! But remember meiosis from the Leaving Cert!)  
They meet up and join and become something else entirely.
This new “thing” is a zygote, a brand new human individual that never existed before – with 46 chromosomes. It immediately starts growing (by division) and making all kinds of human proteins etc which make up human cells which then starting migrating up, down and all over the place which over time forms various parts of the body (which is already male/female!) Embryo is the term used after 1 week, a foetus after 8 weeks, an adolescent after 12 years, a pensioner after 65 years – the substance of our humanity has not changed since we began our existence – at the end of the process of fertilisation.
As for the argument that somehow the zygote can’t human until the potential for twinning as passed, it makes no sense either – scientifically. Monozygotic twins are essentially natural clones. But this implies that a unified being (that’s human) had to exist beforehand, for the 2nd twin to clone it. If not, then neither are human.
But even if you are to accept that unique human beings exist only after the last stop for twinning, abortion still denies the right to life of that human being. Twinning will have happened well before a woman misses her first period.  
Anyway – that’s beside the point of these points that Fiona makes.
Fiona says that “In terms of advancing equality for women the prohibition of abortion tends, at the very least, to perpetuate inequalities between women where wealthy women can afford to go abroad for safe and clean abortions if they want them but poor women generally can’t and tend to suffer the dangers and difficulties of illegal abortions to a disproportionate extent.”
I do not accept this at all. If anything, abortion legitimises and continues the situations that leave poor women facing no choice but abortion. My point about abortion not always being safe was to illustrate that legalising something does not make it safe. Talking about illegal abortion in the Irish context is disingenous as we do not know enough about illegal abortion here to make an informed decision about it.

Disregarding the right to life of unborn children so that we can equilibrate the access to abortion among all social classes is not a good enough argument for abortion (even among socialists, I would imagine). Especially when the evidence available to us is pointing more and more in the direction of the universal harm that abortion does to women.

As for the arguments about the absence of debate on reducing crisis pregnancy and abortion rates check out this transcript from Prof Patricia Casey and Breda O’Brien from 2000 at the Joint Committee on the Constitution’s public hearings on abortion.

And on Saint’s arguments that the real victims (the foetus are inevitable victims) in this are the women coming back in the veil of secrecy. In serious need of supports. If abortion services were supplied in the state a better after care services could be provided and women would not be suffering in silence on this issue. Also in the state women could be allowed to see all the options or maybe after counselling more would chose adoption or to keep the child.
That’s just wrong. Several agencies provide post-abortion counselling already here (Life and Cura). In fact, this is one area where the Crisis Pregnancy Agency could really help women, and have failed to show leadership to date anyway.
Having abortion in Ireland is not going to reduce the number of abortions. It’s not going to reduce the number of women who need counselling after an abortion (we have no evidence, ancedotal or otherwise that travelling plays into any negative effects a woman might feel after an abortion – the abortion is why she needs counselling, not the trip abroad).
Arranging for a woman to have something that might potentially do her harm in Ireland, just so she can access services to deal with that harm in Ireland, makes no sense.

Nor does Saint’s other point about extreme cases in his poll. Changing the situation with regard to abortion legislation will not affect current medical practice in matters of life, death or otherwise. Irish pregnant women have access at the moment to all medical services they might need. Full Stop. There is nothing else that abortion can offer in this regard.
Saint’s post, which follows the debate, and his poll (which I still can’t find on the page) are worth a visit.


Am I Me???

My answers to the meme thingie-me-bob. I was tagged by Fence and Richard. Tried to keep them short – which compromises on fudging.

Gender: Female
Age: (1-18; 19-30; 31-45; 46-60; 60+) 19-30 (22)
Nationality: Irish
Country of residence: Ireland
Sexual Orientation: heterosexual
Do you have a disability? No
How would you describe your political philosophy? Conservative
Level of education (primary; post-primary; third-level; graduate; professional) Third Level,, I guess – apparently have a BSc but will be Dr Auds, MB, BCh, BAO officially on June 16th , if I ever get over these exams – so then will be professional.
If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (Ireland)? PD/FF
If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (UK)? Tory
If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (USA)? Republican
Where do you stand on the EU? Yes to Free trade etc. No to all the other crap – especially the sensitive big state that’s too wimpy and allows the US take all the superpower flack.
Did you support the invasion of Afghanistan? Yes
Did you support the invasion of Iraq? Yes
Do you continue to support either or both of those conflicts? Yes. Both.
What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing Irish politics? Infrastructure/Quality of Life – from transport; housing to health care.
What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing European politics? Tolerance/Multiculturalism on an ever shifting amorphous base of politically correct platitues.
What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing international politics? Terrorism. Poverty. And how they’re linked.
Are you, have you ever been, and do you ever wish to be involved in politics in a party political manner? No. Yes. Yes (if living in USA) Doubt it (if living in Ireland)
Who would you have voted for in the past US Presidential Election? Bush and Cheney. Would have voted early and often. 4 More Years!

I tag Eagle, Chris, Deagla and all