Dangerous politicians, Orwell and more Feb17

Dangerous politicians, Orwell and more...

One of the books I got recently is James Gilligan’s Why Some Politicians are more Dangerous than Others. He’s a psychiatrist and was trying to work out why there are periodic spikes and dips in lethal violence in The United States. He was able to use data to demonstrate that there’s a direct correlation between Republican presidents and rises in lethal violence and falls during the tenures of Democratic presidents. He tells us on page 3 that “When [he] subjected these yearly changes to statistical analysis, [he] found that in all three cases – for suicide, for homicide, and for total lethal violence (meaning suicide and homicide rates combined) – the association between political party and lethal violence rates was statistically significant.” What’s more, the data shows that murders and suicides rise and fall together which is remarkable because, as Gilligan rightly says, we don’t see suicides (the people that is) as being very similar to murderers. Suicidal people “are generally considered to be either sad or mad; they are patients usually seen in a psychiatric office or hospital. People who commit homicide are usually seen as criminals and considered to be bad. They are commonly regarded as needing not treatment but punishment, and they are found, for the most part, in prison, not mental hospitals or private offices.”  On the subject of motivation for murder and suicide, Gilligan argues that “shame [is] the proximal cause of violence, the necessary – although not sufficient – motive for violent behaviour.” He wonders whether “unemployment, relative poverty, and the sudden loss of social and economic status have been observed to increase the intensity of the emotion of shame.”  Orwell on Nationalism Then I turn to George Orwell’s essay, Notes on Nationalism. He writes that this is...

Americans, Brains and Ezra the Scribe Feb02

Americans, Brains and Ezra the Scribe...

The Monroe Doctrine This was what would now likely be termed an isolationist policy adopted by the Americans which stated that the Europeans had no business interfering in any way on the continents of the Americas – that is, Central and South America. The Americans supported independence movements in Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. They were the first to recognise Brazilian independence in May, 1824. The British approached the Americans in 1823 to make a joint declaration to the effect that ex-Spanish colonies in the Americas were irrecoverable to Spain. In the end, the Americans decided not to make a joint statement but a separate one stating, in a word, “Hands off the Americas, Europe!” (Source: The Treasury of the Encyclopædia Britannica, Viking Penguin, 1992 Brain Surgery Henry Marsh, in his book, “Do no Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery,” admits to causing harm to a patient in an attempt to help her. His efforts to remove a tumour from her brain resulted in paralysis. He writes that “[He] had been insufficiently fearful.” He wouldn’t feel at peace again until the next successful operation had been completed. (Source: Marsh, Henry, Do no Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery, Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, 2014 Ezra, the Scribe After the Judeans were banished sometime around the 6th century B.C.E. they were allowed to settle in Nippur, near Babyon. One of their tribe was Ezra, a scribe. He and some followers were tasked with going to Jerusalem by Artaxerxes, king of Persia. They had his protection but his interest wasn’t altruistic: he wanted them to establish an imperial outpost. Ezra was horrified by what he found in Judea: it was nearly deserted, and those who did live there were ignorant farmers who’d shed their...

Dull like the black star by Mannan Nazar...

The stars they spread their gaze on the platter we live, They see me but I fail to see, It is the uncertainty I have been told, They say the weather is not suited for the occasion, Weeks, years, months I am a boy longing for the sight, Is it selfish to ask, is it selfish to want the sparkles they have? To shine so bright like a black...

Words – by Mannan Nazar...

Phrases letters sentences full stops, They bring order like nature, though nature is hard to master, I find it daunting nonetheless,  a little less advantageous but by others your ideas are considered ranch, indigestible. Sorry, I can’t master the sea of words,  No one has taught me the ropes,  And the tides are now so much rougher than before, I hold my head higher than the tides looking out to the plot of land, Stretching my hand as far as I can in hopes for just a touch of what it has in offer,  But my hands like the rain get lost  Absorbed by the spongy...

Everything Passes Lyrics by Tom Healy...

From the cool side of the pillow  To the dark side of the street From smiling with my eyes To looking at my feet From the first rush of emotion To the dark side of the moon  From fixing dates in stone To saying yeah, real soon And everything passes And everything ends From running to meet up  To hoping we’ll be friends Yeah everything passes And everything ends From trying hard to breathe To trying to pretend  From thinking that you’ve got it made To wondering how you got here From thanking your lucky stars  To crying in your beer From seizing every moment  To wishing time away From trying to get closer  To vanish in the haze And everything passes And everything ends From running to meet up  To hoping we’ll be friends Yeah everything passes And everything ends From trying hard to breathe To trying to pretend Because nothing stays the same And entropy is real And everything passes That’s just the...

Creatures by Mannan Nazar...

Creatures live, Creatures die, Creature become sick and tired of lullabies, They cry, they wage wars, They even run your corner stores, They build buildings as tall as mountains,  They destroy them into ash fountains. Why you might ask? For the grass that grows or is it for what grows on the grass? I reply with an answer as simple as the intricacies of life, Ask my dad.  The face of...

Immrama Travel Writing Competition...

This is the 4th year of the Schools Travel Writers competition sponsored by Aer Lingus. It is affiliated with the Lismore Travel Writers’ festival held in Lismore between June 12th and 16th (inclusive.) The prize for the winner is a Chromebook and an Amazon voucher worth 100 euro. Students need to write a 500 word “Letter to Home” about their favourite holiday or journey. The winning stories will be published in Cara, Aer Lingus’s inflight magazine. There are two categories – Junior Cert. and Leaving Cert. For more information please go to...

Cork City Libraries short story competition, 2019...

Cork City Libraries are hosting a competition again this year which invites 14 to 18 year olds to write and submit a short story. More information can be found on-line. Also, the writer John Boyne will be in town over Easter on April 24th. More information about that can be found by contacting eibhlin_cassidy@corkcity.ie. To enter the short story competition you’ll need a cover sheet. I can provide you with one of these or you can go on-line and print one off...

The Cloud welcomes a new writer: Review of “Glass” by Robert Palmer Jan26

The Cloud welcomes a new writer: Review of “Glass” by Robert Palmer...

Warning: This article contains spoilers for “Unbreakable,” “Split”, and minor spoilers for “Glass.” “Glass” has a strange existence. It is a sequel to M.Night Shyamalan’s previous movies “Split” in 2016 and “Unbreakable” in 2000, released 16 years apart, and is a collaboration between Universal and Disney who made the previous two films. The big twist ending of ”Split” was that it was a sequel to “Unbreakable.” This means the trilogy’s completion took 19 years for most of which nobody knew it was a trilogy. However, the film is as strange and confusing as the circumstances of its production. The film begins with David Dunne (Bruce Willis), the protagonist of “Unbreakable,” encountering Kevin Crumb (James McEvoy), the antagonist of “Split,” on the street and using his powers of seeing visions of others, tracks him to a warehouse where Kevin has kidnapped a group of teenagers. Kevin has 24 separate personalities, known as the Horde, and one of them, The Beast, possesses superhuman strength. David and Kevin fight only to be taken into custody by a mental asylum once they are found.  The asylum also has in its care David’s nemesis, Elijah Price (Samuel Jackson), also known as Mr. Glass. Glass has brittle bones but has superior mental capabilities. The lead psychiatrist aims to prove that people with superhuman abilities are simply traumatised people with a medical condition. Remarkably, the titular character doesn’t appear until around half an hour into the movie and doesn’t get a line of dialogue until the hour mark has passed. Still, he steals the show in most of his scenes and where he doesn’t Kevin’s personalities take the spotlight. The way McAvoy can change his body language and accent in a single scene ranging from a nine-year-old boy to a polite mother to a teenage girl to the feral Beast is spectacular. The cunning plan by Glass is also one of the highlights and is a joy to watch unfold. The music is only present when necessary and drastically improves the atmosphere of a scene. This is where I stop singing this movie’s praises. The side characters in this movie don’t get much room to grow and all the characters introduced in this movie exhibit stiff acting or dialogue that is painful to witness. In particular, Casey, the returning protagonist of “Split,” is reduced from a smart character that escapes from the clutches of the Beast to a mere plot device that only serves to calm him down and also seems to have developed a sort of Stockholm Syndrome which I found disturbing. The pacing fluctuates between relatively fast to a snail’s pace, especially in the second act, where it also seems that David disappears for what feels like a long time. This is slightly redeemed by Mr. Glass and the Horde, who are simply more interesting characters. There are also many, many coincidences that only exist to advance the story, such as: why there are only around 3 security guards in the area where the three most powerful men in the world are being held? Why do all the main characters just so happen to be in the same location at the climax of the movie without contacting each other or some not even knowing each other? Now, the ending. Let me just say that Shyamalan’s trademark ending twists appear here in full force. One of them makes some sense in the story and the barrage of twist after twist and false ending after false ending made me wish for the end. David also had the table scraps of what seemed like a character arc but it was concluded simultaneously in the worst and funniest way possible. The grand conclusion to the heroics that appears in all three movies involves a puddle. I am not even joking. The last scene had some potential but went in the complete opposite direction of what I think should...

Cloud of Think competition and latest ideas: Spring, 2019...

CloudofThink – 2018 Creative Writing Competition AND MORE! CATEGORIES for COMPETITION THEME: THE ONE AND THE MANY: THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE COMMUNITY OR HOW TO BE ALONE WITHOUT BEING LONELY. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN INDIVIDUAL? WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING ALONE AND BEING LONELY? IS IT MORE DIFFICULT TO BE YOURSELF TODAY THAN IN THE PAST? HOW DOES A PERSON MAKE THEIR STAMP ON THE WORLD? WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CREATIVITY IN INDIVIDUALITY? CAN IT BE LONELY BEING ONESELF? Flash Fiction (50-250 words or between a quarter of an A4 page and a whole page)Short Story (500-2500 words or somewhere between two and ten pages)Poetry (unlimited but generally will fit in one page.) PRIZE DISTRIBUTION Winning entry in each category to be published on CloudofThink and also in Spioraid Signals at end of year. Book vouchers will be awarded too; the winner of each category get a €15 voucher for Waterstones.Runner-up entries in each category to be published only on CloudofThink. DEADLINE: MONDAY 25TH OF FEBRUARY IDEAS FOR MORE Is there time to invite a writer to the school? Could be done in conjunction with the launch of the competition. For example, Cork performance poet Billy Ramsell (very cool guy, worth looking up – if anyone could change a student’s mind about the value of poetry, it’s him). I believe Poetry Ireland has a fund for writers to visit schools (must be confirmed).Book Club Vibes and Scribes Wordsworth Classics (out of copyright). You can buy books that are out of copyright for very little in Vibes and Scribes. Bletchley Park idea:  a challenge on the website every week. Collaboration Book in teams, each team doing a different category. Social Media Reddit  – sub-reddits, different category: writing prompts. Opinion piecesPrinted anthology History of the school?WATA?...

Two letters from fathers to sons Dec10

Two letters from fathers to sons...

Julius Rosenberg wrote a letter to his son Michael on August 16th 1951. Julius was, a few months earlier, sentenced to death by Judge Irving Kaufman for selling atomic secrets to the Russians at a time when the US was “engaged in a life and death struggle with a completely different system,” that is, Communist Russia. Julius’ crime was to threaten democratic institutions not to mention American lives since the atom bomb was “a missile of destruction which can wipe out millions of Americans.”  A few months later Julius wrote to his son Michael saying that he was confident that he and his wife Ethel, “will be set free because Mommy and I are innocent and we will fight in every possible way and through the courts to win our freedom as soon as possible.” In that August 16 letter, Julius wrote to Michael that he’d make more pictures of trains, buses, cars and boats if he liked. He signed it, “Your own Daddy – Julius.”  A couple of years later Francis Crick wrote to his twelve-year-old son who was also called Michael that he had, along with Jim Watson, discovered the basic structure of DNA. He tells his son that “[their] structure is very beautiful” and that “D.N.A. can be thought of roughly as a very long chain with flat bits sticking out.” He draws a diagram of the double helix for his son. He goes on to assert that “we think we have found the basic copying mechanism by which life comes from life.” In 1962 Crick and two others received the Nobel Prize for their work.  References from Schrecker, Ellen, The Age of McCarthyism: A Brief History with Documents, St. Martin’s Press, 1994 and Usher, Shaun (ed.) Letters of Note: Correspondence...

If Martin Luther could tweet Nov19

If Martin Luther could tweet...

I, Martin Luther are disgraced with the Catholic Church. They proceed to lie about the Bible to the innocent people who cannot speak Latin. They sell indulgences to people who are rich. This means that people whom are rich and bad can go straight to heaven, the poor people who are poor and good will spend a long time in purgatory. I believe that you must suffer to go to heaven. Check out my web page of 95 theses of how awful the catholic church is....

Doubt Nov13

Doubt

I recently spoke with a man who met Robert Kennedy. There can’t be too many of them left about the place. It was years ago now, back in the sixties, I think, when he was in Washington DC on some kind of GAA junket, probably to promote the sport, to remind the Diaspora in the States of what it had left behind it back on the Emerald Isle. Robert Kennedy was his brother Jack’s Attorney General, the chief lawyer in the country, the legal adviser to the president, the representative of the law. I thought of politics back then and how it must have seemed that the country was being remade what with Civil Rights and the Cold War, the Red Scare, McCarthyism, the era of Free Love and the rise of the Teenager with a capital T. This was the eve of the Vietnam War and the exportation of at least 58,000 American lives, young men for the most part who never grew to be old men. I thought of that word “veteran” and reflected that my interlocutor was in his way, in his own ways, a veteran too, like we all are. We grow into that identity, fill the long cloak of that stature the more we live, the greater the repertoire we amass. Story after story gets told and experiences come and go; we encounter others and their lives and compare them with our own and probably never fully appreciate the full story, the complicated richness of existence. Then the silence. When, upon the next scandal or concern or affair of state, we think we see a pattern, something to decry over a pint or in a breathless fashion between two daily chores, we arrogate to ourselves a wisdom, the illusion...

Aesop’s Fables Oct05

Aesop’s Fables

I recently bought a collection of Aesop’s Fables for a few euro somewhere. It’s got the hare and the tortoise on the cover and the tortoise, without looking behind him, seems to be able to sense the hare’s presence. His neck is outstretched and his mouth is tight; he wants to win alright and hasn’t had a rest. “I’ve worked too hard for this to let it slip from my grasp,” he appears to think. The hare is alarmed, his ears drawn back, his body stretched out, his eyes alert. He knows he’s been complacent. He thought he had it in the bag as it were. He had over-extended himself, if only in his imagination, too early in the race, oddly enough by having a sleep. Now he’s really under pressure. It’s reminiscent of another Fable, that of the Astronomer who goes about at night looking up at the stars in wonder and not looking where he’s going. Inevitably he falls down a well and a stranger appears at the top of the well and says to him, “Why, in striving to pry into heaven, do you not see what is on earth?” I thought about all the money we spend on exploration of space and on self-driving cars and Presidential dinners when there are so many more deserving causes like homing people and feeding the starving children of the world. Why are we always reaching for things that are far away and reflecting on how great we are when we manage to reach them when, within our grasp and without too much effort or ingenuity, we could help those who need help now? There’s a fable for every occasion, it seems. In that of The Hart and the Vine, a hart is chased...

Open Night 2018 Sep20

Open Night 2018

1.  Go ahead, judge a book by its cover. What does it look like? It’s got an elephant on it and he’s jumping in the air only he’s wearing pyjamas and he’s got a cigar in his mouth. There’s a lot of yellow behind him and you think first it’s the sun but it’s actually an enormous orange and it’s rolling toward him and the book is called Get Out! Get Out Now! 2. You’re having lunch with a friend. Your friend gets a call in the middle of the meal. Write down your friends part of the conversation. Yes I gladly go with you there is a brilliant movie in! Yo’ll go That’s great I’ll look forward to seeing you at eight. see ya there! 3. The general manager of the New York Yankees’ personal to do list LOSE TO THE RED SOX!!!!!!! 4. Write a bucket list for your favourite superhero Die Eat Drink Walk (optional) run 5. Describe an eccentric person in action. Mr. Wilson threw a basketball at my cat then splashed me with holy water and mooed at me. He then proceeded to yell a story about Jesus fighting Donald Trump. 6. Write an ode to an onion. Oh dearest onion, You are so fun-ion, You have many layers, Not that I care!...

The media and the way they handle shootings by Michael Keohane Sep03

The media and the way they handle shootings by Michael Keohane...

I’ll begin by saying that unlike many I understand that most news is biased. It’s an unavoidable fact of life and something I’ve learned to live with. That said, regardless of the political allegiances of  news companies, the way that they handle mass shootings (and smaller ones) is just purely idiotic. I am, admittedly, pro gun. I think that they are a good thing to have in society. Contrary to what many might believe, that does not mean that I love mass shootings. I despise them and their perpetrators. Chances are that I care about shootings that happen in the U.S more than most liberals do. My solution just happens not to be banning firearms in the U.S. There is, however, one thing that really annoys me about news networks’ coverage of mass shootings and that is the way that they handle the perpetrators. This is a problem for both conservative and liberal news agencies. I get that news of the tragedy must be spread, that’s fairly obvious. What is unnecessary, however, is plastering the name of the shooter all over your network and website etc. I don’t know the names of any mass shooters and if I did I would refrain from saying them. Why? Because that’s what they want us to do. People go on rampages because they have nothing left. They want to be remembered for good or for bad. So why in God’s name would you go around making the shooter a rockstar for several weeks, or even years in some cases? This is a problem for both liberal and conservative news networks, but I see it on liberal networks more often. It’s truly ironic, wanting to stop mass shootings and then granting the final wish of the very people...

Fairy Tale of New York by Daniel Dilworth...

Fairytale of New York is a 1987 hit Christmas song for Irish-British band The Pogues. Fairytale, although having an enduring popularity in Britain and Ireland, only peaked at No. 2 in the British charts that Christmas, beaten by Pet Shop Boys’ song Always on My Mind. This song was a cover of a song previously released by Elvis Presley. Elvis Presley, one of the best known singers of the 20th century, originally became popular in the 1950s, a decade synonymous with the emergence of many singers and entertainers, including Little Richard, Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin. Darin, an actor as well as a singer who died in 1973, was the subject of a 2004 biopic Beyond the Sea, which was co-written, directed and starred the actor Kevin Spacey. Spacey was, as of the time of writing, a subject of many allegations of impropriety and, as a result, was recast in the film All the Money in the World just weeks before its theatrical release, and was replaced with Christopher Plummer. “All the Money in the World” is the story of the infamous kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, grandson of the industrialist J Paul Getty. Getty was, in his day, one of the wealthiest men in the world, and is remembered for his frugality. John D Rockefeller is similarly remembered as one of the world’s wealthiest men; he was, in fact, the wealthiest American of all time. Rockefeller opened the Rockefeller University in New York and endowed his new foundation with part of his fortune. Rockefeller University was not the only university in the United States to be founded by a magnate; Carnegie Mellon University was formed through the merger of Mellon Institute of Industrial Research and Carnegie Institute of Technology, which was founded by Andrew Carnegie, a man as well-known for his business acumen as for his philanthropy. Carnegie donated large sums of money to various good causes,...

From Francesco Goya to Francesco Goya...

Francesco Goya was a Spanish painter and portraitist whose career reached its peak in the late eighteenth century. He was a contemporary of another painter, a British one, Joseph Wright of Derby. Another British artist you might have heard of is Mick Jagger and despite what some of you think, Wright and Jagger were not contemporaries. However, one of Wright’s most famous paintings is called An Experiment with a Bird in the Air Pump. Now, you might have heard of the word “pastiche” and in case you haven’t I tell you what it is: it’s a work of art by one artist that closely resembles that of another’s, but in a respectful way – this differentiates it from a parody. The Rolling Stones’ 2005 album, A Bigger Bang, features as its cover a portrait of the band but with strong resemblances of Wright’s aforementioned painting. On that album is a song called Back of my Hand. It’s a song about a clairvoyant, a visionary who can “read [the future] like the back of [his] hand” but specifically he see “paranoias” and, yep, you’ve guessed it – Goyas, that it is to say, paintings by Francesco...