Monday, January 31, 2011

Wexford Sights (XXVIII)

It was bitterly cold this morning; although the chill was not nearly as fierce as last month, it was still enough to leave a thin coating of ice on the inside of our kitchen window. The above pictured scene was what I could see through the same window. Around this time last year, on January 11th, 2010, a young mother of two froze to death in a flat in Ballymun in Dublin because the council turned her heating off (see here and here). Whoever made that decision should at the very least face charges of criminal negligence causing death (or whatever the proper legal term is). Welcome to NAMAland: where the rich spend their winter in the sun after their gambling debts are paid off by the State, while the poor freeze to death in their homes and it takes a year before the media even notices. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An Amusement (XXVII)

While doing a bit of rambling through the dusty pages of old newspapers on th'internet, I stumbled across this absolutely hysterical piece of hagiography about Brian Lenihan Jr by none other than Senator Shane Ross, called 'Breeding and Brains of Brian' and published in the Sunday Independent on May 11th, 2008. I encourage you to read the whole thing (here), not just for how startling wrong it was about the man who, less than six months later, destroyed Ireland's future by guaranteeing her insolvent banks, but for Ross's breathless, fawning adulation of The Hero he seems to admire so deeply; the thrusting capitalist hard man who gives two fingers to those fearful, scowling bureaucrats who dare to reign in his natural dynamism by, horror of horrors, exercising caution! Like Conan the Cimmerian in a bad suit, Lenihan the Mighty would pull the beards of those pesky trade unionists; sweep through the halls of the stultified mandarins, leaving paper and dust swirling behind him; and release the awesome, volcanic power of the Irish Entrepeneur! Long would profit and growth reign in the Halls of Erin! Well, not for those who'd have their meagre wages or welfare cut back to the bone in the name of competitiveness, but it's their own fault for not being dynamic enough! Hmmm... it didn't turn out quite like that, did it?
Here's a few choice quotes. My absolute favourite is: "His intellect could one day propel him into the ranks of the immortals in the FF pantheon of Ministers for Finance." Well, he's certainly earned his place in the history books, and not just in Ireland; people the world over will speak of Brian Lenihan Jr in a cautionary tale of what happens to a country when a person, for reasons still not fully known, does something as gargantuanly stupid as guarantee a bunch of utterly insolvent banks with debts running to many multiples of the country's total income.
"Lenihan not only has brains to burn. He has pedigree. He is both mentally and politically fit for the Finance portfolio. He is an egghead by accident and a politician by blood. The Lenihans are a formidable political family. Brian's grandfather, Paddy Lenihan, was a TD. His talented aunt, Mary O'Rourke, and his equally able brother Conor have both held high political office; but comparisons with his father, Brian Snr, a giant in Fianna Fail folklore, are inevitable."
"Brian Senior, although an intellectual powerhouse himself, tended to hide his light under the nearest bushel. Brian Junior does the opposite. He shines it, blindingly, into your eyes. Lesser political mortals do not like being dazzled. Brian's brazen intellect could prove his Achilles' heel. His agile mind has not always made him flavour of the month in the parliamentary party. Some FF colleagues think that he talks down to them. He does not suffer fools gladly. Nor is he eager to mix with them ... His intellect could one day propel him into the ranks of the immortals in the FF pantheon of Ministers for Finance, but could simultaneously hold him back from his ultimate target: the Office of Taoiseach. And make no mistake, that is where he is heading."
Update: It's nice to see that, in these turbulent and uncertain times, the Sunday Independent is still printing fawning articles about Brian Lenihan (even after he was voted Europe's worst Finance Minister for two years in a row by the Financial Times). Last week we had some surreally weird drivel from the decayed brain of Eoghan Harris (here) and this week there was a torrent of gush from Brendan O'Connor. Choice quotes:
"He cribbed a bit at the beginning about being made the Finance Minister that was going to oversee the worst financial and economic crisis in the history of the State. And who could blame him? But then, he got up and started fighting. He fought his way into the brief and he fought his way through it -- admittedly with mixed results." [Quite possibly the understatement of the decade, if not the century. Can Mr O'Connor point out to me the positive aspects of Lenihan's policies since May 2008?]
"Cowen was the leader and Lenihan was the one in charge of the economy, which was tanking. But somehow the people loved Lenihan and not Cowen." [The people? What people? Does that include people outside the offices of the Irish Independent?]
And the bould Shane was back at it again last week, crying out that Brian should show some gumption and annoy the "mandarins" by appointing outsiders to forthcoming vacancies on bank boards. "So Brian should tell the mandarins in the Department of Finance to stuff it; insisting that he is going to appoint a banker who knows something about banking, an honourable man who is not a Fianna Fail supporter and has never been a member of the golden circle." I find this utterly laughable; the idea that Brian Lenihan, the Minister whose every decision has benefitted the golden circles and privileged insiders, the man responsible for the guarantee and NAMA and the Credit Stabilisation Bill, who comes from one of the country's most conservative and worthless family dynasties, whose father was a close supporter of uber-crook Charles Haughey, is somehow, in his last days in office, going to rock the boat!

But let's put a bit of perspective on this: here's the story of someone who was, indirectly, a victim of the decisions of the likes of Brian Lenihan, and the ruling caste to which he belongs. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wexford Sights (XXVII)

I don't really have anything to add to the above photograph, which was taken in the forest on Oulart Hill recently. It's a place that I love for two reasons: firstly, there are spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, the light through the trees is often breathtakingly beautiful, and in the summer it's full of mushrooms; secondly, there's rarely anyone there, so I can let the hound off the lead to gallop about the place without having to worry about encountering other dogs or people (not because he's aggressive; more that he's wildly friendly, and believes the best way to introduce himself to other dogs is to hurl himself at them, which some people find disconcerting). 

Below is a picture taken just a few minutes ago, on the beach near my house. It's a bit blurry, even though it was taken with a tripod, but I like it all the same.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Some Amusements

Happy New Year, y'all!
I recently picked up a copy of John Carpenter's Halloween on DVD, not because I particularly like it but because, as one of the most influential horror films ever made (although, sadly, not in a positive sense), it's worth having in my collection. For fans of correct English, though, the horror begins on the box itself, as the blurb on the back opens with: "Fifteen years ago, Michael Myers brutally massacred his sister." 
Massacred? Massacred?[A Doubtful Egg's voice rises to a shrill, outraged scream. He takes a deep breath and mutters "calm blue ocean calm blue ocean calm blue ocean" until the red mist subsides.]
Obviously, you can no more "massacre" an individual person than you can "murder" a crowd (although you can murder several individuals within a crowd or commit mass murder). A massacre has a very specific meaning: to kill many people, usually in a fairly indiscriminate and bloody fashion (you can "murder" or "massacre" a song as well, of course!). The copywriter obviously wanted to make the blurb as sensational as possible, and plain ol' "killed" (or even "murdered") just didn't seem strong enough. Will the next edition try to outdo this one by saying that Michael Myers brutally genocided his sister? Puh-leeeze!
There's nothing more amusing than watching a Fianna Fail TD (in this case, our Great Leader, Brian Cowen) coming out with a statement so blatantly untrue that you begin to question your own sanity when you hear it. Forget fridges and double-decker buses; the Moon's circumference is over 10,000 kilometres, and it would be easier to swallow that in one mouthful than to swallow Cowen's story about his contacts with former Anglo chief Sean FitzPatrick at this point. To call his attitude towards the people of Ireland "contempt" is far too understated, I think. 
A quote from Michael Innes' novel, Stop Press (1939):
"Timmy's voice and the rattle of the train's subterraneous plunge were alike drowned in awful and bewildering clamour. A pandemonium of sound, latrant, mugient, reboatory, and beyond all words, reverberated between the walls of the tunnel." 
If you know what latrant, mugient, and reboatory mean without referring to a massive dictionary or the internet, my hat goes off to you (because I certainly didn't!).
Ice on the river on Xmas Day, seen from the bridge just outside New Ross (on the Enniscorthy road).
And to finish my ramblings, here's a song that I find myself humming every now and again:

I woke up this morning, stumbled out sans coffee, and checked my messages, only to discover that the title I'd thrown on this this post last night (in a state of exhaustion, and with my mind focused on watching Mario Bava's dreamlike Gothic Operazione Paura (known in English by the the rather silly and inappropriate title Kill, Baby, Kill!) was both illogical and contained a blatant misspelling. Boy, is my face red! Feel free to pour thick, steaming ladles of abuse upon me...