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

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Predatory Wasp of the Christian Fundamentalists is Out to Get Us!

Maman Poulet is fact finding again.

Based on her previous attempts at this, I wasn’t expecting any great emphasis on facts.

For example she dismissed Professors Patricia Casey and Linda Waite as wingnuts not so long ago – a difficult claim to make in isolation, as at the time, one of their “opponents” in the Zappone-Gilligan case was Professor Daniel Maguire, a man well known for his own brand of fictional moral theology. She also dismissed Dr Finola Kennedy for being a mouthpiece of the Legion of Mary, ignoring her academic and professional qualifications for her appointment to the Working Group on Domestic Partnership – I was expecting a similarly detailed post on each member of the working group but was destined to be disappointed.

This time, in what is fated to be one of the most boring “watches” in the Irish blogsphere, she is letting loose with the “David Quinn watch”.

David Quinn, like most journalists, has moved between 4 papers in the last 6-7 years - not exactly a flighty career trajectory. Unusual among many Irish commentators (Vincent Browne, for example) he has principles based on a world view and remains fairly true to them. Quinn has now moved on to a new venture – the Iona Institute. The Iona Institute is fairly upfront about its aims - it’s dedicated to the strengthening of civil society by making the case for marriage and religion. It also helpfully provides a list of patrons and directors with minibiographies.

Hardly nation threatening stuff.

Suzy of course disagrees – she’s expecting Michael McDowell to go after Iona with a big stick. Why?

Well, as any self-respecting Irish liberal knows, anything resembling a conservative view point is always funded by American christian fundamentalists. (And of course the funding is always secret)

The possibility that something like Iona might be funded by Irish donors – business people or ordinary people – is simply inconceivable (although in this case, I suspect, very true)

It’s funny how seldom we see claims that oganisations like the KALcase fund or the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (picked at random!) are being funded by shady revenues from an Elton John single.

Suzy also stoops to easy (and lazy) ridicule describing the research Iona intends to do in inverted commas and mentions the word “fiction” a lot.

Her hysteria about a new Irish organisation, honest about its aims and structure, headed by a man, David Quinn, whose opinions are well known and to my mind, well articulated seems rather excessive. Especially when dialogue about the issues the Iona Institute are interested in, is pointless in the echo chamber that Suzy seems to prefer.

(post title is a tribute to the great Sufjan Stevens – whose Christmas albums are still keeping me enthralled)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Vatican Embraces Wilde

Father Leonardo Sapienza, head of protocol at the Vatican embraces Oscar Wilde's literary and Catholic legacy in a new book entitled "Provocations: Aphorisms for an Anti-conformist Christianity. The author says he wanted to “stimulate a reawakening in certain Catholic circles”. Christianity was intended to be a radical cure, not a humdrum remedy for the common cold: “Our role is to be a thorn in the flesh, to move people’s consciences and to tackle what today is the No 1 enemy of religion — indifference.” I love Oscar Wilde's work and find his life fascinating. It'll be interesting to see the reaction of more "conservative" catholics to this development.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Sad News

Whien I read that Elizabeth Fox-Genovese had died, I was saddened that I would not be reading any more fantastic books like "Feminism is Not the Story of my Life".
Robert P. George says this about her in NRO -

"Elizabeth Fox-Genovese was a scholar as notable for her bravery as for her brilliance. After what she described as her “long apprenticeship” in the world of secular liberal intellectuals, it was careful reflection on the central moral questions of our time that led her first to doubt and then to abandon both liberalism and secularism. Needless to say, this did not endear her to her former allies."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Not Santa's Little Princess

If my mother wrote this article on Christmas Eve, I'd have low hopes for getting what I want for Christmas. Peggy Ornstein wrote this fantastically feminist piece for the New York Times on Christmas Eve. And by fantastically, I mean fantasy. It's such shrill scaremongering that it's quite hilarious. Apparently Disney's fastest growing franchise is "Princess", a generic pink royal character that every girl wants to be. Or at least, play dress up to look like one. And Peggy's outraged."More to the point, when my own girl makes her daily beeline for the dress-up corner of her preschool classroom — something I’m convinced she does largely to torture me — I worry about what playing Little Mermaid is teaching her. I’ve spent much of my career writing about experiences that undermine girls’ well-being, warning parents that a preoccupation with body and beauty (encouraged by films, TV, magazines and, yes, toys) is perilous to their daughters’ mental and physical health. Am I now supposed to shrug and forget all that? If trafficking in stereotypes doesn’t matter at 3, when does it matter? At 6? Eight? Thirteen? On the other hand, maybe I’m still surfing a washed-out second wave of feminism in a third-wave world. Maybe princesses are in fact a sign of progress, an indication that girls can embrace their predilection for pink without compromising strength or ambition; that, at long last, they can “have it all.” Or maybe it is even less complex than that: to mangle Freud, maybe a princess is sometimes just a princess. And, as my daughter wants to know, what’s wrong with that? "
I particularly like the my-3-year-old-as-intentional-princess/patriachary-annoyance theme. Well, Peggy's very quick to sweep all the perceived ills of modern girls to the feet of the Princess and lay the blame right at her twinkle toes -There are no studies proving that playing princess directly damages girls’ self-esteem or dampens other aspirations. On the other hand, there is evidence that young women who hold the most conventionally feminine beliefs — who avoid conflict and think they should be perpetually nice and pretty — are more likely to be depressed than others and less likely to use contraception. What’s more, the 23 percent decline in girls’ participation in sports and other vigorous activity between middle and high school has been linked to their sense that athletics is unfeminine. And in a survey released last October by Girls Inc., school-age girls overwhelmingly reported a paralyzing pressure to be “perfect”: not only to get straight A’s and be the student-body president, editor of the newspaper and captain of the swim team but also to be “kind and caring,” “please everyone, be very thin and dress right.” Give those girls a pumpkin and a glass slipper and they’d be in business.
Of course, there are no studies declaring princess=bad. Common sense (if we’re allowed to use such a commodity when discussing princesses), would dictate that the very women who have realised the feminist dream of independence played with dolls. And didn’t need feminist reconditioning to forget the experience. Foisting feminist interpretations every game played by preschoolers and the colours of their dress up is madness – can you imagine a pink Batman to remove the violent, masculine tones of the current black?

Peggy shares her great fear, a rather rare fear among parents, I would imagine - that by denying the princess, you'll run the risk of messing up their "gender constancy"  - What if, instead of realizing: Aha! Cinderella is a symbol of the patriarchal oppression of all women, another example of corporate mind control and power-to-the-people! my 3-year-old was thinking, Mommy doesn’t want me to be a girl?.....By not buying the Princess Pull-Ups, I may be inadvertently communicating that being female (to the extent that my daughter is able to understand it) is a bad thing.
Of course, no article about children's toys would be complete without celebrating the toy-serial-killer that lurks in every princess -  There is spice along with that sugar after all, though why this was news is beyond me: anyone who ever played with the doll knows there’s nothing more satisfying than hacking off all her hair and holding her underwater in the bathtub.

Then there's a rather long section about superhero princesses who have "grit and grace" and princess that resuscitated the fantasy of romance that that era of feminism threatened, the privileges that traditional femininity conferred on women despite its costs — doors magically opened, dinner checks picked up, Manolo Blahniks. Frippery. Fun. Why should we give up the perks of our sex until we’re sure of what we’ll get in exchange? Why should we give them up at all? Or maybe it’s deeper than that: the freedoms feminism bestowed came with an undercurrent of fear among women themselves — flowing through “Ally McBeal,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Sex and the City” — of losing male love, of never marrying, of not having children, of being deprived of something that felt essentially and exclusively female.

Peggy, selflessly on our behalf, braves the world of children's toys - from the innocent pink of princess to the hot, sexy pink of the porn star slut waiting to burst forth your average 8 year old.  She faces the dilemma – early sexualistion of children or the early patriarchal pink brainwashing? I would choose the innocent pink, but then again, unlike the children featured in the article, I didn’t get to go on trips to toystores or demand every toy I saw on TV. My mother, in her wisdom, exerted full control over what toys got brought into our house. Such a discipline almost seems too simple a solution to the quandary Peggy’s warring feminist notions poses.

But Peggy's story has a happy ending - no doubt, through Peggy's careful questioning and constant feminist scrutiny, her daughter wants to be a fireman. Is this the moral of this (long) story? If you're a good enough feminist mother, ever on the watch out the devious anti-feminist Disney consumerist moves, you can let your little princess wear pink and she'll turn out alright? Alright is defined by Peggy as " I still hope she’ll find her Prince Charming and have babies, just as I have. I don’t want her to be a fish without a bicycle; I want her to be a fish with another fish. Preferably, one who loves and respects her and also does the dishes and half the child care."

Is Peggy making the point that the alternative is the truly frightening vista? That the pink princess marks the decline of womanhood as we know it - the next generation of women will be pink wearing, alternately obese and anorexic, non-softball playing, depressed, pregnant “little women at home"? Men will take over the world again and professional feminists like Peggy will be able pinpoint Matteo and Disney as the great architects in the mass exodus of the most well-educated and long-living female generation back to their cage at the kitchen sink? Rest assured though, we'll have always have women like Peggy, author of the forthcoming book "Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, An Oscar, An Atomic Bomb, A Romantic Night and One Woman’s Quest to Become a Mother", to point out the traps and the obvious (non-research based) "atomic bombs" placed in the princess's path to becoming a fireman.


Pondered Them In Her Heart

Christmas was short as I was back at work today. I hope all of you had the laidback, indulgent and peaceful Christmas I had.
One line from midnight Mass has been playing in my head over the last few days.
Luke 2:19 - And Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.
Regardless of what way you look at it, the Bible is a remarkably succinct and blunt book to read – if you believe the birth of Jesus was truly God becoming man, the plain words contrast the fanfare one intuitively expects for such an event and if you think it’s a load of codswallop and a great conspiracy to extend power through centuries, it’s hardly a gripping page-turner.
But the quiet introspection of a young woman, who, contrary to all her dreams, has just given birth among animals in a cave to a baby that an angel told her was the Son of God, seems unrealistic in this day and age.
I was trying to imagine myself in Mary’s place – fair enough she headed off fairly quickly to spill the beans to Elizabeth, but I can’t imagine pondering such things in my heart. First of all, I’d expect a digital camera to be somewhere in the vicinity to capture any moments I might have missed out on (probably because I was trying to get the zoom right on the camera). More than likely, there’d be some video footage for youtube too. Most of my friends know me as a rather bitchy venter, so the mobile would start hopping and the story would be told with gasps and soundbite wisdom. I’d probably blog about it and look up virgin births on wikipedia. Then Jesus would be sent to a crèche in Lucan, I’d be commuting to the city every day and the next time I’d sit down to have good think about the whole thing is during an ad break.
I recently heard a priest talk about giving retreats to married couples – one of the exercises he had them do was to sit in silence with each other for 20 minutes. Most of them found the time interminably long and afterwards, were amazed at the power of that silent togetherness to rediscover something about their relationship.
I must confess to a disturbing lack of pondering and silence in my life – probably the only time I regularly do anything in total silence is when I clean the toilet as there’s no in there and wearing one’s iPod while using Domestos just seems wrong.
I used to go on a weekend silent retreat once a year – by the time I got into the silent thing, it was time to go home again (which reminds me to book one for next year).
I regularly crave silence, and appreciate it but often feel like I’m missing out on some indefinable action. And yet when I’m buzzing about the place, accompanied by friends, music and radio, I feel like I’m a spectator with no time to appreciate, to savour, to understand – to ponder.
From the perspective of the Christian, Mary was spectacularly gifted, blessed among women for many things, but from my current perspective, the gift of unadulterated pondering seems the sweetest.

The Year of The Inkifada

Back in Feburary, I vacillated between being for and against those cartoons. I was rather conflicted and confused.

Reason's blog Hit & Run links to an interview with the editor of the magazine responsible for the cartoons, Flemming Rose.
They exercept this interesting point from him -
I think the left has betrayed its own ideals in this case, because the publication of the cartoons is exactly about what the left has been fighting for in the past 150 years—free speech and the right to challenge religious authority and to challenge a religion that, in fact, favors the oppression of women. [Muslim extremists] do not accept the equality between the sexes. They do not accept equality from representatives of different religions. They specifically say, "Our religion is better and should have favorable treatment compared to other faiths."

But I think it has to do with the fact that the left—at least in Europe, I can't speak about the left in the United States—views the Muslims as the new proletariat. They're the new oppressed minority that they have to defend. It shortcuts all rational thinking. [Islamic radicals] can say and do almost anything, and it will be explained away by saying, "These people are victims."

It also has to do with the legacy of the Second World War and the Nazis and the establishment of the United Nations and the fact that it became taboo to speak about cultural differences in Western Europe because of the imperial legacy. It's very sensitive to be critical toward a culture. It's taboo, no matter how oppressive that culture might be in itself.

They left out the next 2 paragraphs -
It was once an underlying understanding in the West that when these immigrants come to our part of the world, they would become like us. If they just stay long enough, they will become like us. But that changed. OK, if they can't become like us, then we'll have to accept and acknowledge them as they are. And so the West developed this ideology of multiculturalism—that you have to accept and recognize any culture on its own terms, no matter how oppressive it might be.

The left is trapped in that position. It's very counterproductive toward the Muslim community, because by treating them like a weak, victimized minority, they in fact make it far more difficult to Muslims to integrate.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Best of 2006 Albums (according to me)

Making my “Best of this year” list is always a rather difficult chore for me (check out my 2005 version which featured 19). This year out of the 127 2006 albums I’ve got I’ve picked 25, with notable others bringing the total list up to 54.
The Irish blogosphere’s best ofs  - Sinead Gleeson ; In Fact Ah; Fergal @Tuppenceworth.

  1. Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
I listened to this so much when I bought first that when the 3 concerts in the Point came around last month, I didn’t think I’d be able to listen to it again. The concerts were amazing and the album withstood the fatigue test.

  1. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
The first song, Crane Wife Part 3, is possibly the best rock/indie song of the year.

  1. The Weepies – Say I Am You
Deb Talan’s delicate voice brings their lyrics to perfection – “Thunder rumbles in the distance, a quiet intensity / I am willful, your insistence is tugging at the best of me  / You're the moon, I'm the water / You're Mars, calling up Neptune's daughter / Sometimes rain that's needed falls  / We float like two lovers in a painting by Chagall”

  1. Cat Power - The Greatest
It’s certainly her greatest album.

  1. Alejandro Escovedo – The Boxing Mirror
I was a little bitter with Alejandro after I bought a fairly standard tribute CD to him to support him with his Hepatitis C. The Boxing Mirror has assuaged that bitterness and more.

  1. The Gossip – Standing in the Way of Control
Missed them in the Temple Bar Music Centre, and while I don’t like the politics, the energy on this album is amazing.

  1. The Minus 5 – The Minus 5 (Gun Album)
The Minus 5’s “Down With Wilco” album didn’t prevent Wilco and REM bandmembers from singing Scott McCauughey’s songs. (That version sounds better than mentioning that Wilco of course played on “Down with Wilco”)

  1. Hem – Funnel Cloud
I love Hem. I know not many people have heard of them, but they’re making some of the most consistently beautiful music today.

  1. Seth Lakeman – Freedom Fields
I blogged about this album back in April - But unlike Damien Rice, Dempsey or any other of these new folk/acoustic/singer-songwriters from these islands, Lakeman is an original, singing his own songs about, well, “Freedom Fields” is about the 1643 Civil War. And he sings about it like he was there. (I doubt Damien Rice could even spell 1643.) He plays the violin like he means it. The production is immaculate and the album was made in his Devon kitchen. The drums are reminiscent of red-coated garrison men, marching with the sun reflected in their brass buttons, before their canons explode. He sings about mermaids, mariners, riflemen, soldiers who came “a courtin a maid, took her home, stole her beauty, took no gold” and the like.

  1. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat
Rising up with fists.

  1. Isobel Campbell with Mark Lanegan – Ballad of the Broken Seas
A surprising duo delivering the goods.

  1. The Killers - Sam’s Town
From track 5 on, it’s superb. Pity about the first few songs.

  1. The Blood Arm – Lie Lover Lie
Almost standard 2006 indie rock, but as the track 7 says “Do I Have Your Attention?”, one is tempted to throw fists to the wind and scream wildly.

  1. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - The Letting Go
Unless he developes a latent ambition to become 6th member of Boyzone or record a duet with Red Hurley, The Prince, will always be on my top albums list
  1. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar
It’s a standard choice for 2006 best albums list, and it deserves it.

  1. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings The Flood
A great album. And a great concert in Crawdaddy a few months ago.

  1. M. Ward - Post War
An Americana triumph.

  1. Shooter Jennings – Electric Rodeo
My effusive praise back in May still applies - This album inspires me to get to a greasy bar stool in Carolina with a large bottle of Jack Daniels before driving away in a beat up pick up truck with Shooter beside me and playing loud on the stereo. “You can’t see the tears behind my aviators” and his heartfelt admissions of caninicide – I’m in love. Or lyrical lust or something. My holidays are over, so I’ll have to settle for the next best thing. Men of the Red Cow Inn watch out

  1. Amos Lee – Supply and Demand
His sophomore album seems to be more lyrically memorable and RnB tinged than his first – and is way better. Night Train is simply gorgeous.

  1. Kelley Stoltz – Below the Branches
Introduced to me by Sinead, she’s dead on about this one.

  1. Eric Church – Sinners like Me
Probably the only artist on this list that I wouldn’t mind having a poster of in my bedroom – Eric Church is a pretty gorgeous country singer – and what’s a rightwing girl to do but swoon when she hears lines like this – I believe that gas is too damn high / The tax man and the devil share the same address / I believe dogs are better than cats / And I believe that Jesus is comin' back before she does”. He’s even got Merle Haggard singing a tribute song to himself. As he sings himself - I know where I come from: How 'bout you?

  1. Old Crow Medicine Show – Big Iron World
Perhaps the most raucous bluegrass band around, this album is faithful to a tradition that deserves the creativity and virtuosity of this group and their producer, David Rawlings.

  1. Ollabelle – Riverside Battle Songs
Gospel, bluegrass, country – it’s all here with fab vocals.

  1. Bob Dylan – Modern Times
Better than some of the new stuff, not as good as some of the old stuff, but holding it’s own.

  1. The Wailin’ Jennys – Firecracker
Named after Waylon Jennings, these girls know how to sing folk.

Best of the Rest –  (kind of in order)
Sparklehorse - Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain
Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out Of This Country
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones
The Be Good Tanyas – Hello Love
Amy Milan – Honey from the Tombs
The Duhks – Migrations
Crooked Still – Shaken By A Low sound
Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
Joanna Newsom  - Ys
The Pipettes – We Are The Pipettes
The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
Drive by Truckers – A Blessing and A curse
The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
Calexico – Garden Ruin
T Bone Burnett – The True False identity
TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain
The Subdudes – Behind the levee
Howe Gelb – ‘Sno Angel Like you
Lambchop – Damaged
Ray LaMontagne – Till the Sun turns Black
Paul Simon – The Surprise
Damien Jurado – Now That I’m In Your Shadow
Matisyahu – Youth
The Little Willies – The Little Willies
Josh Ritter - The Animal Years
Islands – Return to the Sea
The Mountain Goats – Get Lonely
Slaid Cleaves – Unsung

The Leftovers = (I had them all typed up to make the list so here they are) =
ALO – Fly Between Walls / Muse – Black Holes & Revelations / Ben Harper – Both Sides Of The Gun / Regina Spektor – Begin To Hope / Imogen Heap – Speak For Yourself / Joan As Police Woman – Real Life / Built to Spill – You In Reverse / Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris - All the Roadrunning / Tom Waits - Orphans / Yo La Tengo-I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass / Allison Moorer - Getting Somewhere / Rosanne Cash - Black Cadillac / Van Morrison – Pay the Devil / Tom Petty – Highway Companion / Thom Yorke – the Eraser / Shearwater – Palo Santo / Sarah Harmer – I’m A Mountain  / Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man Soundtrack / Roseanne Cash – Black Cadillac / Lou Rhodes – Beloved One / Carrie Rodriguez – Seven Angels on A Bicycle / Josh Rouse – Subtitulo / Jolie Holland – Springtime Can kill you / Jerry Lee Lewis – Last man standing / Hem – No Word From Tom / The Elected – Sun, Sun, Sun / Cara Dillon – After the Morning / Califone – Roots and Crowns / Bonnie Prince Billy/Tortoise  - The Brave and the Bold / Beth Orton – Comfort of Strangers / Pajo – 1968 / Band of Horses – Everything All the Time / Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – Etiquette / Centro-Matic – Fort Recovery / Dave Alvin – West of West / Deftones – Saturday Night Wrist / Elvis Costello / Allen Toussaint – The River in Reverse / Emily Haines – Knives Don’t Have Your Back / Fionn Regan – End of History / The Fratellis – Costello Music / G. Love – G. Love’s Lemonade / Johnny Cash – Personal File / John Legend – Once Again / Jolie Holland – Springtime Can Kill You / Julie Roberts – Men and Mascara / Kasey Chambers – Carnival / Lindsey Buckingham – Under the Skin / Magic Numbers – Those the Brokes / Mary Lorson & Saint Low – Realistic / Mindy Smith – Long Island Shores / Peter Bjorn and John – Young Folks / Rhett Miller – The Believer  / Rhonda Vincent – All American Bluegrass Girl / Shawn Colvin – These Four Walls / Shawn Mullins – 9th Ward Pickin Parlor / Teddy Thompson – Separate Ways / Tom Russell – Love and Fear / Willard Grant Conspiracy  - Let It Roll / Willie Nelson – Songbird / Jens Lakeman – Oh You’re so Silent Jens / Brigitte Demeyer – Something After All / Richard Buckner – Meadow / Chatham County Line - Speed Of The Whippoorwill /


Sunday, December 17, 2006

How Many Albums Did You Get in 2006?

Attempting to do a best of 2006 album list. I got a little confused with 2005 albums I listened to in 2006 and 2006 albums so I decided to make a list of the 2006 albums in my itunes.

I’ve 127.

Heard Harry Crosbie talking about music and property on Eamonn Dunphy’s RTE radio 1 show on Saturday morning and he discussed how there is simply too much music/books/TV/films and now quantity has replaced quality.

I know there are several albums in that 127 I’ve long dismissed, but still, I think I might have an addiction.


Blog Binge

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. Work, sick sisters (who are fully recovered now – thanks for all your caring comments), socialising and that common blogger complaint – the editor that lives in your psyche and tells you not to post that crap, have all contributed to my radio silence.

However, I have been fairly up-to-date with my reading of other blogs. Unfortunately many of the blogs that I once looked forward to reading have fell into disrepair – Richard Waghorne, Fiona deLondras, alt tag, Gavin, Disillusioned Lefty while I have began to read some newer ones – Cedar Lounge Revolution, Fatmammycat and Semperidem.

So here’s a little binge – a compilation of posts that I have clipped over the last few weeks….

It will come as no surprise to regular readers that I disagree with the lowering of the age of consent or the recent case of the couple who fought over their IVF embryos in the High Court. Cedar Lounge Revolution has a good post on embryo research, even though I disagree with them - especially in light of the news that umbilical stem cells have been used to grow mini-livers, currently used in drug testing.
The other heart wrenching case involving parents fighting over children was the Baby Ann case – Sarah Carey had a good post on it.

I’m not that big a fan of David McWilliams, and wasn’t overly impressed with his tv series – Sarah wasn’t either. And An Spailin Fanach highlights the case of the celtic tiger mums who can’t “bake” Rice Crispie buns.

Rainy Day by Eamonn Fitzgerald is one of my favourite blogs – his posts on “Lord Baker” and “In the Well Below the Valley” are typical.

Irish Eagle links to an article that I found thought provoking – John O’Sullivan on how dictators are judged – Pincochet bad, Castro not quite so bad (Well, Gerard Depardieu’s certainly fond of him).

David Quinn and Richard Dawkins had a fantastically robust debate about God on Ryan Tubridy in October – transcript and mp3 here. While Quinn beat Dawkins there in my opinion, Damien Mulley links to YouTube video of Dawkins having a go at a Christian college student.

There was a “storm in a 32AA cup” as infactah blogger, Colm put it. He summarises it, but essentially it’s about female bloggers. I won’t go into my I’m-not-a-feminist-and-therefore-don’t-care-if-women-blog diatribe again (but you know I’m thinking it).  I appear on the pro-female version of the expert list under Health as a student doctor. Thankfully I’m a student no longer.

Which brings me onto my must-read-every-day blog – NHS Blog Doctor – I’m just after filling out my IMO survey on the role of doctors in Ireland. The HSE is planning to implement a “hospital at night” policy similar to the 1 run rather unsuccessfully by nurses in the NHS. Dr Crippen produces a frightening read  - especially about nurse practitioners - useful in small doses but very dangerous when they turn into “quackitioners” – prepared to be scared when you read these posts - quackitioners; what New Labour is doing to the NHS and a houseman’s tale.

The Democratic party’s performance at the recent midterms, while unsurprising, disappointed me a little – however this article perked me a little – Jonah Goldberg on the GOP - The GOP came to power in 1994 promising lean government, and became the party that needed to unbuckle its pants and loosen its belt two notches after every lobbyist-paid meal. The GOP once had the reputation of being able to run government like a business and wars like a finely tuned machine. But under compassionate conservatism, government became a faith-based charity….. It's to the Republicans' electoral advantage to take positions that shock the conscience of Rosie O'Donnell. It's also true that the Iraq war is unpopular; that's because it's not going swimmingly. If it were otherwise, Iraq would be a political boon to the GOP. Now, you might say, "Yeah, and except for the brief unpleasantness, Mrs. Lincoln had a wonderful time at the theater." But it is not the conservative position to botch wars. And contrary to the slanderous codswallop you've heard for the last year, conservative principles do not require flooding New Orleans. While we're on this point, corruption and cronyism aren't core planks in the conservative platform either. Rep. Don Sherwood (R., Pa.) lost his seat because of an alleged personal scandal, but I can assure you there's nothing in the works of Edmund Burke that says a good conservative should try to strangle his mistress.In other words, just as Democrats insisted, the GOP's drubbing had more to do with incompetence and scandal than program and ideology. Indeed, if the conservative base hadn't been disgusted with Republican management, and if so many Democrats hadn't run as social conservatives, the GOP might have done just fine in this election.Republicans lost because they behaved like self-indulgent politicians, not purists. Conservatives care a lot about ideas, so that's where we'll try to assign blame. But the ideologues aren't to blame. The Republicans are..
And Richard Delevan lays out the bad news for the Irish when the Dems win.

And to probably the most important current affair recently – Britney’s underwear, or lack thereof = Cathy Young links to a Hit & Run post by Kerry Howley on vaginofascism. As she said - Appeasement is futile; the only proper response to vaginofascism is total war.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

If You’ve A Few Extra Euros this Week…

Please pass them on to the Meningitis Research Foundation.

I have spent the last few days in ICU with the baby sister who developed meningococcal septicaemia despite being vaccinated against meningitis C. 4 days later she’s off the ventilator, lost the central line and now has the strength to brush her own teeth – and is coming to terms with how lucky she is to be alive.

She’s 17 and if my mother hadn’t recognised the symptoms of meningitis and convinced the locum GP who saw her to give penicillin, she’d probably be dead today.

I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if Monday wasn’t a bank holiday and she would’ve been back up in college.

So – please support the Meningitis Research Foundation.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Not Prostitutes, Styrofoam Helmets

Was how Ryan Adams described the meaning of his song “Starlite Diner” (I think!) tonight in the Olympia. One could also use the line to describe the vast character difference between the 2 live Ryan Adams – the one I was disgusted with after his last concert -  an hour long, Jack Daniel’s fuelled narcisstic “Rock n’ Roll” performance – and this one – the sensitive, witty, intense songwriter/musician with the Cardinals, his tight and talented, if slightly ugly band.

He played right up to 11, playing everything from old favourites such as Firecracker, New York, To Be Young, Shakedown on 9th Street, Bartering Lines – sounding like fantastic covers of his own songs to new stuff – Peaceful Valley, A Kiss Before I Go, Let it Ride and The End.

The old Ryan has returned – the one who invented Whiskeytown and stole my heart with that delightfully sexy photo on Heartbreaker – indulgently lying back with a cigarette clamped between his lips. He ended the concert by saying “text me later, we’ll talk”. With a performance like that, I don’t want to talk – I just want to hear it all again. And soon.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Crazy Animal Lovers Watch

I wish I had time to make a series out of crazy animal lovers - I've posted before about some nutty animal rights activists.
Fatmammycat has a beautifully ranted post on PETA's new ad campaign -"FEEDING KIDS MEAT IS CHILD ABUSE!". No it's not, it's common sense and good parenting.
Those animal rights activists do my head in, they do.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Came So Far For Beauty

Was a very long concert – after 4 hours of some beautifully arranged Leonard Cohen songs, I’m fatigued in a happy-tired way. Some were not so good and I wonder if Hal Willner had adhered more tightly to the adage “leave them wanting more” would I think it was a better concert.
Beth Orton was amazing as was Nick Cave, Teddy Thompson, Antony (minus the Johnsons), Perla Batalla, Jarvis Cocker and the Handsome Family – actually, Separate Ways by Teddy Thompson and Through The Trees by the Handsome Family are playing as I type!
The highlight was of course Cohen’s writing – stunningly beautiful as ever, even in the arrangements I didn’t like – Gavin Friday + Mary Margaret O’Hara’s Hallelujah or Robin Holcomb’s Closing Time. Gavin Friday is a person I can barely stand – but slouched with his hands shoved in his pockets, warbling through a surprisingly good version of Everybody Knows, I briefly liked him. He dedicated it to Bertie Ahern – meet Dermot Ahern on the way into the concert – I don’t know if he was still there to hear it.
IF you can get tickets for Thursday night – go along, it’s a great evening.

(And if you can’t, here’s a link to Teddy Thompson’s superb cover of “Tonight Will Be Fine”)


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I’m Voting for this Tory Toff

Just saw Jacob Rees-Mogg on Newsround, discussing the Conservative Party’s selection process. When asked about the Tory’s ability to represent a cross-selection of British society, he answered (and I paraphrase) “you are elected to govern not to merely represent”.

I like it. Unadulterated disgust for politically correct notions of quota based political parties – and apparently he carries “a copy of the European Union's Directive relating to the shape of Bananas with him at all times.”

Monday, October 02, 2006

Go On, Shows Us Your Boobies

Despite the impression the title of this post might give, I have not turned into some mad breast fetishist – I’m referring to the 5th annual blogger Boobiethon – an online fundraising initiative for breast cancer.

Apparently “"If they're worth looking at, they're worth saving!" and the way this bare breasted gang of bloggers are going about raising money it is to post pictures of breasts – covered ones for free and naked ones in a paid members section.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually agreed with a post (with not being a feminist and all that) but I found myself in the unusual situation of nodding along to this post- I don't like the implication that certain parts of women's bodies are "worth saving" because they're sexy. Boobiethon is sending a message that breast cancer should be stopped because it claims beautiful breasts as its victims-- not because it's a horrible disease that's killing women. I'd almost prefer a website that featured women naked from the belly button up, and showed their faces. Because at least then you can see that this disease affects real women, not just disembodied breasts.  

I disagree with this campaign for number of reasons – the feministing reason above would be one.
Others would be that the objectification of breasts can’t be a good thing simply because it’s for a good cause.
Breast cancer is not about breasts, sexy or otherwise, it’s about women (and the small number of men) who get cancer. And cancer affects your body, your physiology, your person in a holistic way – it spreads, it attacks, it can kill all of you.
I’m nearly anti-breast cancer campaigns because they’ve become so woman/breast focused. I’m all for breast awareness, in the same way I’m all for young men knowing that lumps in their testicles should be checked out and middle-aged men with dribbling and hesitancy should be worried about their prostate – or smokers with heavy coughs, their lungs. Cancer awareness is about knowing the symptoms of early cancer that we can do something about – not just about standing up for breasts.

There are many other cancers that people get and their pictures aren’t as sexy – I doubt all but the most intense gastroenterologist could get excited at a picture of healthy pink colonic mucosa with normal glandular architecture – unfortunately live video footage of colonoscopies aren’t going to make every person who spends a little too long straining on the loo wear a little brown ribbon and walk for rectal cancer. Nor would pictures of healthy cervices make women run out for Pap smears.

Breast cancer is not a gender issue, it’s not a political issue. It’s a health issue. The funding of cancer research is something public and private interests are occupied with – ordinary people’s involvement with cancer research allows relatives and “survivors”/patients to contribute something. Saving women should become before saving boobies and fighting cancer as a disease entity should come first – which should translate in to things like urgently trying to reduce the number of women smoking as lung cancer kills more women than breast cancer, even though breast cancer is more common.

Sorry to disappoint, but my boobies are remaining covered and offline.


Johnny Cash's Worst Mistake

will be released on DVD at Hallowen entitled "Johnny Cash In Ireland – 1993".

Forget drink and drugs, as all Irish Johnny Cash fans know Sandy Kelly was his worst mistake.


I'm Not the Only One

who is against PDAs.

Not the Personal Digital Assistant thingies (am a newly proud owner of a little Dell one) but Public Displays of Affection.
I realise that I'm fairly weird but it really irritates me to see couples swooning over each other in Coast in Dundrum Shopping Centre, for example. Yes, man with spiky hair, your girlfriend looked nice in that white skirt with black patterns, but you didn't have to snog her in front of the mirror while other people (namely me) wanted to see how they looked in a nice black coat (for those of you interested, not nice enough to justify the 400euros).
Also, most people don't lose the capability to use table cutlery to feed themselves when they enter relationships - so you don't need to feed your significant other wilting potato salad in Brambles in Dundrum at 3pm on a Sunday.

And in a general note to the increasing number of people I know personally who read this blog, (even though I'm blogging less) my reluctance to hug you merely stems from an acuter awareness of my entitlement with regard to personal space than most. I don't need to hug you, nor do I need to be hugged/kissed/patted unless I'm crying.

I am therefore very gratified to read the online source of record, the Onion's report on Dave Petrun and Julie DeSimone, "the happiest goddam couple in the whole world"....

Though their initial May 30 joint outing went largely unnoticed, public opinion toward the couple dramatically shifted after it was revealed that DeSimone spooned frozen yogurt into Petrun's mouth during their second date three days later.

By the second week of June, their approval rating dropped below 40 percent in most national polls, after Petrun and DeSimone were spotted wedging their hands into each other's back pockets as they walked through an Oak Park neighborhood. By July, the rating plummeted even further after DeSimone asked Petrun which of her physical attributes he found cutest, and Petrun responded with a detailed list.

According to a Sept. 25 Zogby poll, 36 percent of Americans grimaced when Petrun playfully nudged DeSimone for no evident reason last Thursday, and 45 percent emitted a loud, annoyed sigh after Petrun sent flowers to DeSimone's workplace last Tuesday. One in three Americans characterized the way Petrun touched the small of DeSimone's back as he led her into the backseat of an awaiting taxi on the evening of Sept. 19 as "completely unnecessary."

On Wednesday, support lines across the country were flooded with calls complaining of moderate or intense nausea after DeSimone refused, and then eventually accepted, Petrun's hooded sweatshirt during an evening walk.

Online anti-canoodling blogs, such as the popular, are buzzing with rumors that Petrun and DeSimone broke into a brief, spontaneous slow dance near a Lake Street fountain on Sept. 20.

Unavailable for comment, Petrun and DeSimone are reportedly making plans to go backpacking across Europe during their six-month anniversary in November, prompting fears that their demonstrativeness could escalate international tensions.

May I add that my singleness has nothing to do with sense of deep empathy I share with those in daily contact with Dave and Julie.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Killing Me Quickly

I have yet to actually hold my Killers tickets for the Point but I know the friend who has them is minding them carefully. Up to this evening, based on “When We Were Young”, I wasn’t overly excited at the prospect of the concert, the new album, the whole “we think this is our best album” thing that every interview with them seems to have.
Now I have “Sam’s Town” in my sweaty paws and have spent the evening making Nigella Lawson’s Brownies (which makes 48 brownies, a fact I didn’t realise until I saw the mixture in the tin) and then eating same brownies, all while listening to it. Unlike the cool kids among you, my brownies have only 1 chemical substance – chocolate – and despite being 72% solid, it’s not enough to make me this excited. Sam’s Town, however is a different prospect – discounting “When We Were Young” and “Sam’s Town” – the album is brilliant – complete with enterludes/exitludes  (we hoped you enjoyed your stay…) – especially from track 5 (For Reasons Unknown”) onward.
I’m very excited – about the concert, about listening to this album over and over again, about the rest of my life. It’s that kind of album.


Monday, September 18, 2006

I just want to move to Stockholm

With my husband and invent a currency for cats and dogs to use. – Ali G’s character in Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

I never thought I’d say it – mainly as a stand against all the socialists who want to get their heart attacks in Sweden – but I could live in Sweden.

Sweden has rejected the Feminist Initiative, who failed to get the 4% necessary to join the parliament, a feminist party who had Jane Fonda and Eve Ensler fly in to rally the troops prior to the election.

I could learn Swedish. I think.

Sometimes Sorry is the Wrong Word

I’m not a theologian but…. (yes, any sentence beginning with one’s admission of lack of expertise followed by a “but”, is not a very promising start)…I don’t think Benedict should have apologised.

No doubt God would like us all to apologise when we’ve been wrong or hurt someone (even the other “Oh wise one” sings about “Sorry seems to be the hardest word”), but there are times when we should just resist.
In this Pope-versus-Islam celebrity deathmatch type showdown, Benedict 16 should have stood his ground. Admittedly his apology doesn’t actually retract the substance of what he said, he merely expresses sorrow at being taken out of context in the middle of large scholarly speech, but he shouldn’t apologise. It may be hard to stand your ground in the face of burning effigies and angry mobs killing nuns and the like – but dialogue about religion can’t be stopped every time someone of 1 faith disagrees with someone of another.

In the age of spiritual people and candle burnings, tenets of religious life have been reduced to morsels of love, peace, forgiveness, acceptance, tolerance and deep-breathing. You can be a tepid Buddhist or a “modern” Catholic nun (or like my grand-aunt, a nun, be both) and still have a bit of “whatever you’re having yourself”. But away from our birth crystals, there exists the structured nuances of religions – the Bible for Christians, the Catechism, Councils and Crinkly Old Church Fathers of Catholicism, the Koran for Muslims etc. While the reason of the 2nd millennial babies is vastly different to the Reason of Thomas Aquinas, both exist in our hearts as part of the continual questioning of our personal faiths. And when those faiths meet head on in the public arena of the world, stark dogmas must fight it out. Islamic thought unashamedly carries a by-the-sword ideology, while Christianity, despite a robust defence/just war exception beats those swords into ploughshares. We all can’t go home crying to Mammy everytime someone challenges something about our religion. While it’s trite to say, as some Christians do, “look at me, I didn’t burn pictures of Crucifixes in Urine when my faith was defiled in museums”, there is a contrast in our experiences of perceived disrespect. Democracy is something that is fully compatible with the Christian person, the “imago Dei” notion of all us, and with the recognition of our human nature, we’re more than happy with the whole Western democracy set up. Fair enough, not enough people want to go to Mass on Sundays, but we’re not going to round them up with swords or Bazookas (most parishes attempt more lethal versions of “This little light of mine”) or even subject them to capital punishment as one London based Islamic cleric called for.

To bridge these differences, robust debate is called for, where religious voices dialogue with the confidence of their convictions, from which respect is built. Having to apologise for statements of fact or having to hide out under couch from fear of fatwas is not advancement. The onus lies not on the Christian religions, and by extension the Western world to step up to the mark, but on leading political and religious figures in the Islamic tradition, particularly in Western countries to engage without fear and quick recourse to the “you’ve to say sorry” rallies.

For a few interesting articles on the whole point of the speech – religion and rationality – Thomas Madden in NRO; the Cedar Lounge Revolution (disagreeing) and the Anchoress has a comprehensive round-up post.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

How to Behave in Class

Before Miss Abigail Time Warp Advice became the cool blog it is now, I was a big fan.

In this installment from Abigail's massive collection of vintage advice books, this post, featuring excerpts from the little known classic "Everyday Manners for American Boys and Girls by the Faculty of the South Philadelphia High School for Girls (New York: MacMillan Company, 1923)" deals with behaving in school.

This post is aimed both at Northsiders (the Disillusioned Lefties) and at Culchies (the baby sister) who are starting college in coming days/weeks.

The traffic rule, Keep to the right, applies to classrooms as well as to streets and corridors. If you keep to the right, and leave a passageway at your left, you will make entrances and exits easy.

When you enter a classroom go at once to your own seat. Put into your desk everything you will not need for that period. Nothing looks worse than a roomful of desks littered with piles of books, packages of lunch, baseball gloves, and oranges.

Never borrow books, inkwells, pens, or pencils from the teacher's or a pupil's desk without asking permission. Never sit in the teacher's chair unless the chairmanship of the lesson has been given over to you. Never stand close behind a teacher's desk, except when talking to her. The books and papers on her desk are her private property. You have no more right to examine her papers or read any writing there than you have to read other people's letters.

Interruptions of any sort are just as rude in the classroom as anywhere else. If you raise your hand while another pupil is reciting, you interrupt him. Often the sight of hands waved madly in the air breaks one's train of thought and makes it impossible for one to go on. If you wish to ask or answer a question, wait until the one who is reciting has finished and until the teacher recognizes you. Try to break the hand-waving habit.

Never ask a new question until the one perviously asked has been answered. That, too, is an interruption. Do not answer a question addressed to some one else.

If you do correct some one, do it tactfully. It is often the manner in which the correction is made, not the correction itself, that hurts. The one who is corrected should accept the criticism courteously.

Do not make fun of other's mistakes. To laugh reasonably at an amusing remark or happening is natural, but it is rude and unkind to make a boy or girl feel ridiculous.

At the end of the period, do not gather up your books until the signal for dismissal has been given. Never rattle paper or stand poised for flight while some one is talking.

If you are the first one to leave the room, fasten the door back. If it cannot be fastened, hold it open for the person behind you. He should hold it open for himself as soon as he reaches the door. Doors should never be slammed, but always closed quietly.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New Music

I've put up some of the newish albums I'm listening to at the moment in the side bar. Will try to review some of them soon.
There's something for everyone there, except for fans of Backstreet Boys - there's this (or the ever touching real thing.


Common Sense about Rape a blog I read a lot and should link to more has a very interesting piece on date rape , slutty behaviour and that red-light trigger word "deserve".

Drinking until they pass out, acting with sexual aggression, celebrity pole notching, kiss and tells, dressing like porn stars and taking more and more risks.
It is an unpopular thing for a woman to say-I know I always get slated by my female friends whenever I say it- and sister of my friend gets particularly angry about it, but while yes, every woman has the right to be safe and not assualted or raped, those rights must go hand in hand with good sense.
If you are a young woman, staggering down a dark street, blind drunk, with hardly any clothes on, in the middle of the night, it does not mean you 'deserve'(I am really starting to hate that word) to get raped, far from it. But if you do get raped following the above scenario, you do need to ask yourself, did I practice good judgment? I don't deserve this, but was there anything I could have done to minimise the danger I put myself in.
At the end of the day rapists doesn't give a fiddler's fuck about rights, girl power, deserve, Sun campaigns, bloggers or consent. What the rapist is looking for is vulnerability. And that is something where we women can hold the upper hand.

Camille Paglia's opinions on date rape have had a similar ring of common sense about them -
"...feminism, which has waged a crusade for rape to be taken more seriously, has put young women in danger by hiding the truth about sex from them.
"In dramatizing the pervasiveness of rape, radical feminists have told young women that before they have sex with a man, they must give consent as explicit as a legal contract's. In this way, young women have been convinced that they have been the victims of rape."

(happily culled from Wendy Elroy's site - tried finding a different quote from Sex, Art and American Culture but my paperback version doesn't have a search function)


Monday, September 11, 2006

Blood Red Circle on the Cold Dark Ground

I hadn’t listened to Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising in a long time – then last week when I was reodering the CD shelf (well, shelves, stacks and bendy free standing holder thing), I decided to put it on again.

While some part of my mind registered the 911 anniversary bit, I was struck with emotion hearing it again – of all the post-911 stuff I have, The Rising speaks directly to the heart of the matter, “tears on the pillow darlin' where we slept”. The prosaic agonies of loss –  “your house is waiting for you to walk in”, those left behind when their loved ones act on honour - “I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher somewhere up the stairs into the fire”, the sense of a shifting centre “God's drifting in heaven, devil's in the mailbox I got dust on my shoes, nothing but teardrops” .

While on holidays in New York in May (and following a particularly disastrous experience of American baseball), I took the subway back into Manhattan from Yankee stadium. Standing beside me was a tall well built guy, chatting to his friends about his job as some sort of financial analyst. I know I shouldn’t eavesdrop on other people’s conversations, but I just can’t help it – he spoke about his best friend who was lost in the WTC and how this was the 1st subway ride he taken since 911 – he just wasn’t comfortable with the subway since.
While reading the plaques around ground zero a random business man approached us – he was from Chicago and everytime he came to NYC he came to appreciate the “nothingness” where “everything once was”.

I’m one of the few who supported, and supports various wars on terror and damning of evil axes, but regardless of where you stand, things were “forever changed in a misty cloud of pink vapour”.


And I’m A Junior Doctor

After a 36 hour shift – my 2nd Sunday on call in a row – with less than 3 hours sleep. And I’m watching other doctors do the same on the TV. And blogging about. Why am I not in bed?

More importantly, what do you, my readers (the few that’s left!), think of the Junior Doctors show and the life of the pond scum in the hospital, the junior doctor?
The main thing I’ve learnt so far in my internship is that I have to do what no one else will do – wheel patients down for scans, run to pathology, carry stuff from one place to another because porters don’t seem to “port”, nurses aren’t “certified” to do anything and no ECG machine ever seems to work. And in some bizarre twist of fate, the most reluctant of medical students has become 1 of the few interns in the hospital who’s actually enjoying the 80odd hour week.

Next week promises to be good – the interns fight back.