Amadáns Abroad by Cormac Larkin...

Hello readers, this week’s segment is domestic in origin for once. So back when I used to play loosehead prop for Ballincollig RFC’s U15 side, I was in the car with my coach and some team mates on the way to a match. Nothing unusual yet – it was just your average overcast Saturday morning – but as we neared Clonakilty what caught my eye? We were coming up to a junction with a left and right turn and a hill straight in front of us. There were two men working up on the hill, but that wasn’t the strange thing. Now I’d like to point out the absence of any form of infrastructure on this hill, so it was very surprising to see none other than a “men at work” sign in the middle of the field! I mean there was nothing there to warn: there weren’t any houses nearby or livestock either, just two lads digging a hole and a bright orange warning sign! I know it does good and all, but health and safety is going too far these days I think. That’s all for now:...

Amadáns Abroad by Cormac Larkin...

Hello again readers. This week’s anecdote also comes from my most recent trip to Gran Canaria, but holds its genesis in a previous one. It all began last Easter when my parents and I discovered the local jamonal, a specialist ham and wine shop similar to a deli. We were greeted by a highly knowledgeable staff member who knew all about the products, from the fine Rioja wines to the Pata Negra ham costing €150 per kg. The man himself was very refined and cultured. But alas, times must have gotten tougher between my visits, as on my return at Christmas what did I see? Only the same guy busking with a cello, that’s what! It was a stark contrast to what I’d seen at Easter, and he even had the same t-shirt embroidered with the logo of the jamonal. Now I know there’s the old saying about “playing your violin” but this truly took the biscuit. That’s all for this week....

Amadáns Abroad by Cormac Larkin...

This is a new series of humorous anecdotes from our resident globetrotter, Cormac. I’ll recount the things I’ve seen and heard on my travels and write them for your bemusement,  starting with this gem from when I was away at Christmas. So I’m walking to the beach in Puerto de Mogán in Gran Canaria, and what do I see? On my way from the Marina, just next to the bridge I see an elderly man sitting on the side of the pavement with a nasal cannula and an oxygen tank beside him. Poor guy, you might think. But what was he doing while this was happening? He was smoking a big fat Havana, that’s what! This fogey there with his emphysema and then puffing away! Like something out of Harry Hill it was! I’d say it “took my breath away” but that’s probably a bit insensitive. That’s all for now, there’ll be a new one soon....

The Tom Crean Diary of Polar Exploration Jan16

The Tom Crean Diary of Polar Exploration...

Dear Thelma, We’re all hungry. Cooper ate his shoes. Tawny’s been looking at me funny. He said he liked my thighs but not as much as liked my “glutes” (?) Scott suggested we improvise a rope with knots on it to measure the distance we’ve travelled. The scheme would involve throwing a stick, to which the rope is attached, in the direction we’ve come and counting out the knots. Each knot is roughly the length of Scott’s chifferobe, the one he saw in the Sears Roebuck catalogue and has been carrying around on his back. He’s invented a new unit of measurement called a “chiff” which is, I presume, short for “chifferobe.” “Won’t that mean going home before we’ve reached the Pole?” asked Browny. Scott looked at him and closed his eyes; he rubbed his temples and asked the Lord for patience. “How else are we going to know how far away the Pole is from home?” He said Browny didn’t “get it”; nobody did, except Scott and Cooper’s aunt. Palmer’s had a pet chicken hidden in his chicken-box. It was discovered when he’d forgotten to nail the top down and the creature poked its head out and sneered at Browny. The latter was discovered talking animatedly to the thing about corn when Scott demanded to know who was responsible for saturating his pin cushion with an 1878 Chateau Lafitte. “Never mind the bloody pin cushion,” I said, “who’s been keeping this bloody wine secret all this time?” “Never mind the bloody wine!” Tawny Owl yodelled, “who’s been hiding this pheasant?” “Chicken,” said Scott; “it’s a chicken.”  ...

The Scottish Premiership by Daniel Dilworth...

The Scottish Premiership has been dominated in recent years by Celtic and Rangers, collectively known as the Old Firm Derby. The Old Firm Derby involves these two big teams from Glasgow. Glasgow is the biggest city in Scotland but isn’t the capital; the capital is Edinburgh. Another example of the administrative city being smaller than the biggest city in the country can be found in Canada, where Ottawa is the capital but Toronto (and Montréal) are bigger. Toronto is home to the CN Tower, one of the tallest buildings in North America. Another tall building in that continent is the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower. Willis Tower is located in Chicago. Chicago is a city which had a crime-ridden past with such “luminaries” as Al Capone resident there. Al Capone was eventually imprisoned in Alcatraz, not for killing anyone, but for tax evasion. Alcatraz is located on an island just off San Francisco. San Francisco is twinned with Cork but Aer Lingus doesn’t fly between the cities; instead, from next April, they will fly from San Francisco to Dublin. From here, you can make a connection flight, still on board Aer Lingus (albeit Regional) to Aberdeen. In the 80s, Aberdeen, along with Dundee United, were known as the New Firm Derby. At this time these two teams dominated a league called the Scottish...

Eric Clapton by Daniel Dilworth...

Eric Clapton is a famous guitarist, with the nickname of Slowhand. Many other musicians have nicknames, such as Frank Sinatra, who was known as Ol Blue Eyes. Sinatra was at the height of his career in the 50s, at the same time as Bobby Darin. Darin was played by Kevin Spacey in the 2004 biopic, Beyond the Sea. Kevin Spacey also appeared in The Men Who Stare at Goats, a comedy film which also featured Ewan McGregor. McGregor, around the time, also appeared in the film adaption of Robert Harris’ The Ghost. The Ghost was directed by controversial film-maker Roman Polanski. Polanski is controversial, though not quite in the saem way, as Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino directed the film Reservoir Dogs, which featured on its soundtrack Stuck in the Middle with You, by Stealers Wheel. Although considered a one-hit wonder, their lead singer, Gerry Rafferty, had a successful solo career. The same case with the band Derek & the Dominoes, who are remembered for a single hit – Layla – but whose lead singer went on to bigger things, and his name was Eric...

Audi by Captain Shamrock...

Audi owns the car company Lamborghini. Lamborghini is Italian, as is Ferrari. Ferrari is one of the most famous brands in the world, and has a chain of shops around the world, including in Venice. Venice is a city built on a series of marshes and canals, similar to St Petersburg. St Petersburg is a Russian city, built by Tsar Peter the Great. This Tsar started the procedure of modernising Russia. Another man to do this was Josef Stalin.  Stalin was a communist, along with Leon Trotsky. Trotsky fled the Soviet Union when Stalin took power and moved to Mexico. Mexico is a country in Central America, famous for the taco, sombreros and drug cartels. Central America is features a few other countries, notably Costa Rica, a country famous for being relatively peaceful in this turbulent area of dictators, possibly due to the fact the country has no army.  Iceland is in a similar position, except it is a member of NATO. Another member of NATO is Germany, home to the German car brand...

Fool Proof: The French Revolution Apr23

Fool Proof: The French Revolution...

In the beginning there was the AR, the Ancien Regime. This was a system that gave disproportionate power to the king and his nobles. They were the PC: the privileged classes. AR = PC Not everyone was happy: the Third Estate – TE – wanted a bigger slice of the cake. The Middle Classes – MC – belonged to the TE; they were educated and ambitious: EA MC = EA Because of a bad recession, the king called the Estates-General (EG) to raise taxes. Nobody liked this, especially the TE and the MC. They took the Tennis Court Oath (TCO); this meant they were going to fight for change. EG v. TCO The TE/MC set up their own, alternative parliament, the National Assemby (NA) which wanted a constitutional monarchy. (CM) Now there were two parliaments: the EG and the NA. The king outlawed the EG. The NA was the only game in town. NA wants a CM The National Assembly wanted guns to protect their parliament. The guns were in the Bastille. They stormed it. SOB = Storming of the Bastille Louis freaked out and tried to escape but he was caught. The NA became the National Convention (NC) and it wanted something new: a republic (R) NC wants an R The king is killed by guillotine. The NC goes all paranoid, with good reason: it institutes the Reign of Terror (ROT) which was run by the Committee of Public Safety (CPS). All suspected and actual enemies of the Revolution are either arrested or executed. Robespierre (Rob) did that, mostly.  The Directory (Dir) had Robespierre killed. ROT   Rob.   Dir. The Revolution calmed down a bit, and even inspired other countries, like Ireland. AR, PC, MC = EA,  EG v. TCO,  NA wants a CM, ...

From Tom Hanks to Tom Hanks by Daniel Dilworth...

Tom Hanks resided in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York, as did the Italian-American writer Mario Puzo. Mario Puzo wrote a book called The Family, a novel about the Borgias. The Borgias were one of the big families of The Renaissance. Another important family at this time were the Medicis. The Medicis ruled the city of Florence, home to the Statue of David. This is a famous piece of art by Michelangelo. Michelangelo also worked in the Vatican. Another famous artist commissioned by the Pope to work in the Vatican was Raphael, who painted The School of Athens. This painting featured Raphael and his mentor and idol, Leonardo da Vinci (it also has a sulking Michelangelo.) Another famous Leonardo is Leonardo DiCaprio, the famous film star. He starred in Catch Me if You Can alongside Tom...

From Jeremy Renner to Jeremy Renner by Captain Shamrock...

Jeremy Renner appeared in the 2009 film The Hurt Locker which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Bigelow was the first woman to win the Best Director award at the Oscars, beating her ex-husband James Cameron. He was nominated for his film Avatar. Avatar is the biggest grossing film of all time. A previous film to hold this coveted title was the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation. The Birth of a Nation was a film set around the time of the American Civil War. The music video to Some Nights is also about the American Civil War. Some Nights is a song by the American band Fun. Fun is an American band, fronted by Nate Ruess. Ruess recently did a collaboration with Pink. Pink has featured in Happy Feet Two, as did Matt Damon. Damon starred in three of the four Bourne films. The star of the other Bourne film was Jeremy...

The Tom Crean Diary of Polar Exploration Apr04

The Tom Crean Diary of Polar Exploration...

Dear Thelma We awoke to the sounds of Scratcher and The Shifter howling at the snow. Scott was already up and about and had found time to fashion a kind of bowl for trifle or punch from the abundant supply of ice and snow all around us. Browny busied himself making a fire upon which we would later toast onions and he’d toast his digits. Cooper though, was sleeping so deep that Scott declared him dead and ordered us to leave him where he lay and decamp. Were it not for The Shifter in a moment of canine canniness sticking his tongue into Cooper’s open mouth, forcing our companion into wakefulness, he might have died of sleep. As Scott later jocundly remarked, too much of a good thing can kill you. He was of course referring to sleep. Meaning of course, that we’d have left Cooper, with no food, and he would have starved. Thus is a roundabout way of saying the sleep would have killed him. When we got the joke, we guffawed and chuckled to ourselves, inhaling deeply from our pipes, which we had previously stuffed with what little hair was left over after Palmer’s preening and some stale tobacco Tawny Owl had kept for a rainy day behind his tonsils. The going became rough at about ten to eleven that morning by our reckoning. Time is hard to gauge out here, and pocket watches have to be wound. We had all, at one time or another, forgotten to wind our watches, and now we shared a range of times, from early morning to early afternoon. We devised a system to best judge the passage of the hours through a formula of long division and adding, taking the earliest time, adding it to the latest time, and dividing the result by the number in our party. Tawny felt the dogs...

From McDonnell Douglas to McDonnell Douglas by Daniel Dilworth...

McDonnell Douglas was a major aircraft manufacturer formed by the merger of McDonnell and Douglas. Boeing purchased McDonnell Douglas in the 90s. Boeing were based in Seattle. Another famous product of Seattle is Nirvana. Nirvana were a rock group who were headed by Kurt Cobain. Cobain was married to actress/singer Courtney Love. Love appeared in the movie Trapped, so too did Dakota Fanning. Fanning also appeared in Charlotte’s Web, a film that featured a pig. Another pig-related film is Babe. Babe also had one of the worst sequels in a long time, though not half as bad as some other films. Another film considered by many to be poorer than its predecessor is Quantum of Solace.This film starred Daniel Craig in his second outing as James Bond. Craig has also appeared in Munich. Another actor to appear in this film is Geoffrey Rush. Rush won the Best Actor Oscar in 1996 for his role in Shine and was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor in The King’s Speech. The late Heath Ledger did it the opposite way:  he won the Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Dark Knight, posthumously, and was nominated for the Best Actor award for his role in Brokeback Mountain. He also appeared alongside Mel Gibson in Roland Emmerich’s The Patriot. Emmerich is from Stuttgart, the sister city to St Louis. In a suburb of this city was the headquarters to the aircraft manufacturer McDonnell...

The Tom Crean Diary of Polar Exploration Apr03

The Tom Crean Diary of Polar Exploration...

We’ve been walking today, for a change. Scott suggested it. He reckons all the sitting around not eating and firing little rolled up balls of dead skin at each other is sapping our pioneering spirit. Walking’s such a drag though. It’s such a vast tundra. There’s a whole load of nothing. Tawny Owl lost his favourite pair of ear muffs and is using Scott’s dog’s pair for the moment. Scott deigned to offer them but I could tell it was killing him. But now the dog hears his orders and is far more useful. Scott has a real way with the dog. He rubs his belly and scratches his groin and the dog watches and seems to enjoy the performance. Browny and Cooper were giving each other piggy backs because it’s such a long walk. Cooper is a lot heavier than Browny so Browny carries Cooper for as long as it takes to sing “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes,” but Cooper always sings it real slow and tenderly just to get a longer piggy-back. Scott doesn’t approve of the song choice. “Why couldn’t you sing something that we could all sing along to?” he wondered, “like ‘Little pants on a big, big girl’ or ‘You’re gonna make me lonesome when you eventually die’?” Neither Cooper nor Browny had ever heard of either of these songs. I was remembering Kerry this evening, especially an old neighbour of ours who’d call for a cup of tea and some poteen, a man named Spastic Dan. He wasn’t a spastic, not in the way people mean nowadays. He came from a long line of shoe salesmen. He said none of them had anything he wanted and there were no shoeshops that time where I...

Jeezny Horrorshow Apr02

Jeezny Horrorshow

Betraying your mother Zhang Hongbing, along with his father, denounced his mother during the Cultural Revolution in China. Some of Mao’s enforcers are now in their seventies and wish to atone for their sins. Chillingly, Zhang says denouncing a parent was de rigeur in China for a time: “The whole country was doing it.” His mother tore down Mao posters and her arrest meant certain death, Zhang admits. He’d begun to see her as a monster. (The Guardian, Thursday, March 28th) The Cyprus Scandal Fintan O’Toole alluded to Renton in Trainspotting complaining that the Scottish couldn’t even find a decent country to be colonised by. He compares the Cyprus scandal to our Wizard of Oz moment, where our supposed rulers are exposed as fools. Then he likens it to the story of The Three Little Pigs, with the Southern and Western European pigs and  their flimsy homes and the Northern European pigs with their sturdy equivalent. The Euro, he reminds us, was a German idea. German banks’ greed fed the myth that the Germans are industrious and wise while the Greeks are lazy. German banks are under investigation while our role is to take our medicine with gratitude. But people power in Cyprus prevented more stupidity. All unaccountable institutions, such as the Troika, are dangerous; the Troika is undemocratic. (Fintan O’Toole, The Irish Times, March 26th 2013)   Amanda Knox The Supreme Court’s role is to analyse what the Appeal Court does. However, in the case of the recent Amanda Knox ruling, the Supreme Court appears to have gone right back to the original trial’s evidence and ordered a retrial on that basis, thereby leap-frogging the Appeal Court. The original ruling came in December 2009 when Amanda Knox and her then boyfriend Rafaelle Sollecito were...

Nickelback to Nickelback by Daniel Dilworth...

Nickelback are a Canadian rock band. Their song from 2001, How You Remind Me, reached No 1 in the Billboard Chart. It was the last song to do this until Viva la Vida, seven years later. Viva la Vida was a song by English band Coldplay. Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin is married to actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Paltrow won an Oscar for her role in Shakespeare in Love. Judi Dench also won an Oscar for her role in the film.  Dench appeared as M in the James Bond franchise, but was replaced by Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes appeared in the major Oscar winner The English Patient. That movie swept the board in 1997 with nine Oscars but was beaten the following year when Titanic won eleven. Titanic was directed by Canadian director James Cameron. He is from Ontario. Another famous person from Ontario is singer Avril Lavigne. Lavigne is married to fellow Canadian Chad Kroeger, who is the lead singer of...

San Marino to San Marino by Daniel Dilworth...

San Marino is considered to be the oldest continuous country in the world. In 1993 Davide Gualtieri, a former Sammarinese forward for the national team, scored the quickest goal in professional football in a World Cup qualifier against England after eight seconds. England went on to win the game 7-1 but failed to qualify for the World Cup Finals in the United States. Brazil won it for the fourth time, and so are the country to win the World Cup most often, with five titles; Italy come next, with four. They won the 2006 World Cup in an epic game which featured French legend Zinedine Zidane head butting Marco Materazzi. So Zidane got sent off in his very last game for France. Italy’s win was overshadowed by this and a match fixing scandal involving Juventus, AC Milan and Fiorentina. Juventus come from the famous city of Turin, home to Fiat. Fiat recently took control of Detroit-based car company Chrysler. Chrysler was founded by the same man who built the art deco Chrysler Building in New York, which was at one point the tallest building in the world. It was overtaken by the more famous, and arguably uglier, Empire State Building. The Empire State Building is one of the most iconic buildings in America. Both are in the top 10 on the list of America’s Favourite Architecture, compiled by the American Institute of Architects. Another building on this list is the Lincoln Memorial. This honours the sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, before he died, happily received an honorary citizenship to the small, European republic of San...

What’s so bad about…the Recession? by Daniel Dilworth...

So, let me ask the question: what exactly is so bad about the recession? It’s a serious question. At the time of writing we have the Cypriots protesting, much to Turkey’s amusement, one might suspect. We have Greeks throwing bricks, furniture and anything else they can get their impoverished hands on. Here in old Eire we remain disgruntled yet docile and even show signs of having forgiven Fianna Fáil (my spell checker tells me the fada is not necessary.) But let’s consider the benefits of this catastrophe we have been thrown into by Seánie Fitzpatrick, Michael “Fingers” Fingleton et al. Firstly, day to day costs have come down in price (mostly.) Now, it is a pity chocolate is going up but, otherwise, we now have more competition between the German shops and our own over-priced ones. As the adverts tell you, vegetables can be bought for as little as twenty or thirty cents – ditto for clothes. Some prices may still be high but now the wool you could sheer off the old sheep yourself and knit for half nothing costs a lot less in the high street shops. However, we have learnt a bit of cop on (temporarily, at the very least.) Secondly, houses aren’t springing up like mushrooms. These days there are stricter regulations on one-offs and sprawling drug estates are not as numerous, though the ones currently around can be sorted easily, so quit complaining. During the Celtic Tiger money was as plentiful as jobs. Hence, on this understanding, ugly, often unpainted houses were built, notably in more rural areas. These were buildings which rivalled their 70s counterparts for the (un)coveted prize of ugliest architecture. If these houses were left unpainted they were nearly always suffocated in brickwork on the façade....

Ray Cooney to Ray Cooney by Aaron McCarthy...

In 2012 Ray Cooney founded a portal of creative thoughts known as Cloud Of Think. Aaron McCarthy is a  frequent contributor to the Cloud. In January 2013, Aaron published a modern “book-form” adaptation of the Shakespearean play “Macbeth“. Macbeth has been turned into a film many times including an adaptation by Roman Polanski. In 2011 Polanski directed and released the comedy film Carnage. Carnage stars Kate Winslet who got her boobs out for Titanic. In Titanic, Winslet’s character, Rose says, “Look Jack, I’m flying!” The Jack in question was played by Leonardo DiCaprio who recently starred in Django Unchained. Django Unchained was directed by Quentin Tarantino, who also directed the cult classic Pulp Fiction. Pulp Fiction features a song called Son of a Preacher Man. This song was performed by Stacey Solomon who came third in the 2009 X Factor. The year after Stacey, a boyband placed third in the X Factor. This boyband is known as One Direction. One Direction has five members: Liam Payne; Harry Styles (the one who went out with Taylor Swift); Louis Tomlinson; Zayn Malik and the naturally brown-haired, Irish, Niall Horan. One thing that Niall Horan, according to Twitter, does not want to talk about is his “opinion on GAA”. GAA stands for “Gaeilic Athletic Association” and in 2008 a Cork man was elected as its president. This man’s first name is Christy and he shares the same surname as another famous Corkonian, a teacher and writer known as Ray...