Saturday, January 31, 2009

The curious case of the new U2 video and YouTube copyright

It's my last post on this, I promise (other than an update perhaps). I just wanted to tell those interested what happened. I'm not sure whether to be impressed or scared.

So I saw the video was posted on Facebook yesterday and blogged the link. I then searched YouTube for it, couldn't find it anywhere so I downloaded the Facebook video and uploaded that to YouTube. All good so far, I embedded it on the blog and things were fine.

I then get a note from YouTube at 19:10:

Subject: Information about your video

Dear darraghdoyle,

Your video, u2, may have content that is owned or licensed by UMG.

No action is required on your part; however, if you're interested in learning how this affects your video, please visit the Content ID Matches section of your account for more information.

- The YouTube Team
So I visited the site, spent some time reading the guidelines and decided to submit a claim to their dispute centre, filled out their form under
2. This video uses copyrighted material in a manner that does not require approval of the copyright holder. It is a fair use under copyright law.
which, given the fact that U2 don't seem to have an official YouTube channel and hadn't uploaded the video themselves, seems fair enough to me. I don't own the copyright, neither though do I profit in any way from it being on YouTube. Neither though do I dispute the fact it's not mine, so if YouTube decide it's not, then fair enough...

At 01:30 this morning I received an email from YouTube Support:
Subject: Copyright claim dispute - U2 - Get On Your Boots

Dear darraghdoyle,

In response to your dispute regarding a content identification match, UMG has reviewed your video U2 - Get On Your Boots and confirmed their claim to some or all of its audio content. As a result, your video is no longer available.

UMG claimed this content as a part of the YouTube Content Identification programme. YouTube allows partners to review YouTube videos for content to which they own the rights. Partners may use our automated video/audio matching system to identify their content or they may review videos manually.

Please take a few minutes to visit our Help Centre section on Copyright Tips, where you can learn more about copyright laws.

The YouTube Content Identification Team
A minute later at 01:31 I received this email:
Subject: Copyright claim removed on U2 - Get On Your Boots

Dear darraghdoyle,

The claim on your video, "U2 - Get On Your Boots", has been removed by UMG. Your video has been restored to its original state.

Please take a few minutes to visit our Help Centre section on Policy and Copyright Guidelines, where you can learn more about copyright laws and our Video-Identification Service.

Yours sincerely,
The YouTube Content-Identification Team
Then at 01:32 I received an email word, for word like the original:
Subject: Information about your video "U2 - Get On Your Boots"

Dear darraghdoyle,

Your video, U2 - Get On Your Boots, may have content that is owned or licensed by UMG.
The video I had uploaded and embedded on this blog had been working. Right now, just like some of the other Get On Your Boots videos uploaded in the last 24 hours, it's muted. There are many others that aren't though. I've submitted another dispute form asking for clarification, just so I know what's going on.

In the meantime I embedded the video from a No Line on the Horizon blog which is working, like the others above. I'm curious to find out why those videos are allowed but mine isn't. It's the reasons why not rather than just the "principle" of the thing. A strange situation, eh? I'll let you know...

Ben & Jerry's Ireland are now on Facebook and I'd love a tub.

It's just gone noon and I'm starving. To have this in front of me:

Tub of ben & Jerry's Ice cream on a table, surrounded by chocolate pieces, ice cream and a flaming baked alaska

which is about Ben & Jerry's Baked Alaska, vanilla ice cream with marshmallow swirls and white chocolatey polar bears:

A big tub of Ben & Jerry's Baked Alaska

and to see that 'Yes, Pecan' is a mixture of chocolate ice cream with white and dark chocolatey chunks with pecans, walnuts and chocolatey covered almonds

a tub of Ben & Jerry's Yes, Pecan which shows President Barack Obama on the front

Well, it's just torture. Time to go shopping I think. I must actually dig out my Ben & Jerry's scooping certificate - I'm a trained and certified Ben & Jerry's ice cream scooper - one of the best things about working in the cinema, I reckon.

You can become a fan on Facebook here and check out their website.

What's your favourite film? People in Dublin tell JDIFF

Last month, a video was filmed as part of the 2009 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival where people were asked to name their favourite films. Here it is:

I do apologise. Blame Anthony - he sent me the email saying

The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival would like to know what your favourite film of all time is? We need one hundred people to help us with an exciting new marketing campaign that features you!

All you need to do is come along this Saturday the 6th December and have your picture taken and tell us what your favourite film of all time is and then do the same thing all over again to camera. Pictures taken will be featured as part of a fabulous print and online campaign for the 2009 festival.
So I went and I did it and now I'm part of the advertising. In fact I'm apparently on a big poster in the window of Filmbase, Temple Bar, one of the "lucky" ten. People are emailing/texting me along the lines of
"Can you imagine how frightening it was to see your face enlarged by about 100 times plastered on a poster on the front window of Filmbase?"
When we were at the Festival launch on Monday in the Odeon, I walked into one part to find the monstrosity below staring back at me. Bizarre is one way of describing it. The lighting was pink, explaining the poster. Even worse I found out I adorned a pillar outside too.

Jameson Film Festival Poster bearing picture of me with La Vita é Bella (Life is Beautiful) listed as my favourite film.

Poster as described above wrapped around a pillar outside Dublin's Odeon bar

So there you have it. It's the 1997 Roberto Benigni film La Vita é Bella for me, at 2:40 in case you're that interested. In defence of my wardrobe, that was the day I filmed the Hibernian Ad - I don't dress as well as that normally!

What's your favourite movie? Can you limit it to just one?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Personal choices for the 2009 Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

I'd started this post differently but have edited to keep it a tad shorter. I'll move the other waffle to a new post, so now let's talk about the films in the festival with particular reference to the ones I'm going to see.

It's the seventh year of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. It's on from Thursday February 12 to Sunday February 22. It features a staggering - by my count - 121 films - or 132 events according to the website - some new, some old and all worth a look. Now, I have no intention of seeing all of them, but there are some that just beg to be seen.

Image shows still shot from film Doubt

The opening gala - Doubt - is now sold out but would be my top choice for the entire festival. Featuring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, the film has been winning awards left, right and centre. It's on Thursday 12 February in Savoy 1 at 8:30pm, tickets are €18.


Friday 13 sees Three Colours: Blue (link) return to the big screen, again in Savoy 1 at 2pm. This 1993 film starring Juliet Binoche is a choice of broadcaster Zbyszek Zalinski who will participate in a short Q&A after the screening.

At 6pm in Cineworld we have Armando Ianucci's In the Loop (link), a comedic farce starring James Gandolfini. The director is to attend the screening.


Valentine's Day has Revolution (link) starring Al Pacino, Donald Sutherland and Natassja Kinski. The 1985 film is about the American War of Independence and director Hugh Hudson is participating in a Q&A afterwards.

image shows shot featuring Viggo Mortensen and Jodie Whittaker from film Good

Good (link), in Screen 1 at 4:30 pm stars Viggo Mortensen, Jason Isaacs and Jodie Whittaker in a film with a simple question ' What turned normal "good" Germans into people capable of sending millions to the gas chambers during the Second World War'.

Image shows two men and a white seal pup

At the same time in Cineworld screen 9 there's an interesting documentary about Paul Watson, the so-called 'Pirate for the Sea' who "takes the law into his own hands on the open seas, confronting, by any means necessary, the hunters who indiscriminately slaughter whales, seals and sharks".

Bronson (link), in Screen 1 at 6:30pm looks promising, giving a biopic of notorious criminal Charles Bronson who has spent 28 of his 34 years in prison in solitary confinement.

image shows scene from Confesstions of a Shopaholic starring Isla Fisher

I can imagine though that Confessions of a Shopaholic (link) in Movies@Dundrum at 8pm, starring Isla Fisher, John Cusack and John Goodman will be a sell-out. It's the one where Fisher stars as Rebecca Bloomwood, a New York city girl addicted to shopping and drowning in a sea of debt.

The French Gala screening of The Class (Entre les Murs) on the same evening is also sold out.


Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino

Sunday morning will see me in Savoy 1 at 11am for Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino (link). I saw the trailer last weekend - it looks brilliant, much better than Mystic River or Million Dollar Baby.

"At 78, perhaps the only actor in the history of American cinema to convincingly kick the butt of a guy 60 years his junior, the hard-headed, snarly mouthed Clint Eastwood of the 1970s comes growling back to life in Gran Torino."
Also that night is Coraline 3D in Movies@Dundrum at 8pm. Based on the Neil Gaiman book, I'd say it's the one that David Maybury and Debs, who'll be sharing their popcorn with us are most looking forward to.

The world premiere of Margaret Corkery's Eamon is also on that evening in Screen 9 of Cineworld at 8.30pm.


Monday sees the start of 'Irish Blog Week before the Blog Awards so I'm a bit limited in my choices here. But Franklyn (link), in Cineworld at 6pm has been getting great reviews in the UK. Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (link) has Chris O'Dowd in a sci-fi comedy with the basic premise "Three men walk into a bar; two geeks and a cynic."

Scene from Synecdoche, New York

Charlie Kaufman follows up Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Adaptation and the superlative Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind with Synecdoche, New York (link) starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. That's at 8.30 pm in Cineworld 17.


On Tuesday 17 I'll be attending Were The World Mine (link) in Cineworld 9 at 6pm. A fun, dazzling and amusing musical-of-errors; a magical modern interpretation of Shakespeare. The directors Tom Gustafson and Cory James Krueckenberg are in attendance at the screening.


Image shows scene from Religilous featuring Bill Maher standing beside a man dressed like Jesus

Whitnail and I is on Wednesday 18 February in Savoy Screen 1 at 2pm. Religulous (link), the documentary following comedian Bill Maher around the globe interviewing people about God and religion is on in Cineworld 17 at 6pm.


Rupert Grint, Robbie Sheehan and James Nesbitt will be in Cineworld on Friday 20 February for the screening of Cherrybomb, a fast-paced Belfast based drama centering on two teenage friends whose furious rivalry for a gorgeous yet cunning girl has shocking consequences.

Still from Genova showing Colin Firth

Colin Firth is also in Dublin for the screening of Genova, Michael Winterbottom's film in Cineworld 17 at 8pm.


Liam Neeson joins James Nesbitt for the special screening of Five Minutes Of Heaven (link) on Saturday February 21 at 6.15 in Savoy 1. The next day sees Marley and Me in the same screen at 11am.


Still from The Secret of Kells showing a young girl's eyes peering out through green leaves

The closing film is The Secret of Kells (link) featuring the voice talents of Brendan Gleeson, Mick Lally, Evan McGuire and Christen Mooney. Set in the 9th century Kells Abbey where they're illuminating the Book of Kells, this animated film is apparently breathtaking, according to Gráinne Humphreys, the Festival Director.

Other events during the festival include Hospital Screenings, an over 55's Film Quiz, and panel discussions including Creative Cinema on February 18 at 4pm:
“Film is a battleground. Love, hate, violence, action, death... in a word, emotion.”

So veteran director Samuel Fuller defined Cinema in Jean Luc Godard’s classic Pierrot le Fou. But how true are those words when you are making your feature film debut, working with small budgets and tough shooting schedules.

How can you create and maintain the energy and momentum to stay true to your story and characters? Three emerging filmmakers who have impressed many with their debut features will discuss the emotions of filmmaking and other stories in a panel discussion about staying true to your creative voice.
and Star Rating on February 20 at 6pm in the IFI:
"Established three years ago, The Dublin Film Critics Circle offers the city’s professional movie reviewers an opportunity to pool opinions on recent releases, consider movie heritage and whinge about each other’s shortcomings.

This year, the Festival has invited a panel from the DFCC to chew over their favourite films screening at the event. Five DFCC members will be joined by a distinguished foreign critic and, following debate, will announce their awards for best film, best performances and best Irish films at JDIFF 2009.
The discussion, which will be broadcast on RTÉ Radio, is to be hosted by veteran broadcaster Dave Fanning. Expected a blend of high-falutin’ cinema-speak and old fashioned bickering.
The film event though I'm most looking forward to is on February 19 in the IFI at 18:30. The Irish Film Board Shorts features nine short films (for €10) including Nicky Phelan's Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty:
Granny O’Grimm, a seemingly sweet old lady, loses the plot as she tells her version of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ to her terrified granddaughter.
and the delightfully named Hoor from John Kennedy:
Hoor tells the short story of three young lads paying a visit to the local prostitute in order to lose their virginity. Only with the last boy, Ciaran, clearly the youngest and most nervous of the boys do we see what Desire is really up to.
So there you have it. There's LOADS more on, much more than I could fit in a single post (though I'd give it a go) but you'll find the complete list of films here and you can book your tickets and more on the website, Also worth keeping an eye on will be the Festival blog - a task I don't envy that blogger at all!

Watch the official new U2 video for Get On Your Boots here

UPDATE: I've been allowed to upload it to You Tube. So here it is, even before the Irish Independent's so called "exclusive"!

According to the guy who posted it on Facebook today, Jaime Andres Rodriguez:

Alexandre Courtez directs this visual explosion of a video that twists and turns with color, energy and abstract themes.

The first official video out of No Line On The Horizon, due in stores March 2, 2009.

Thanks a million Donna - you're a star!

Mother of octuplets has six other children

Possibly one of the scarier headline in the news today.

The mother of a woman who gave birth on Monday to octuplets said her daughter already has six children at home and was undergoing fertility treatment.
That's 14 children for her to feed and clothe from now on. As says:
In her written statement the woman who delivered eight babies in five minutes said she would soon make public the details of her "miraculous experience."

"We understand that you are all curious about the arrival of the octuplets, and we appreciate your respect for our family's privacy," she said.

"The babies continue to grow strong every day and make good progress. My family and I are ecstatic about all of their arrivals."

"Needless to say, the eighth was a surprise to us all, but a blessing as well," she added.

The six boys and two girls -- ranging in weight from 1 pound, 8 ounces to 3 pounds, 4 ounces -- are doing well following their Caesarean-section delivery at the Bellflower hospital, doctors said. They were born nine weeks premature.

Dr. Mandhir Gupta, a neonatalist, said all but one of the octuplets are now breathing on their own. That baby might be taken off breathing equipment Friday.

Doctors initially thought the mother was pregnant with seven fetuses. She was hospitalized seven weeks ago and ordered to bed rest.

During the seven weeks, a team of 46 physicians, nurses and other staff members prepared for the births. When they started the delivery Monday, they were in for a surprise.

"After the seventh baby was born, we were taking a sigh of relief," Maples said.

"It was a surprise of our life when we in fact discovered there was an eighth baby," she said. "We never had an assignment for baby H nurse or baby H doctor. We just had to go on the fly and figure out what to do."

I can only imagine what this woman must be thinking or planning. Of course in the back of my mind the Kilkenny man is thinking "All she needs now is one more for a hurling team."

The new U2 video for Get On Your Boots delayed

Damn you U2. You big tease you.

Update: 5:24 pm - From the Indo:

Delivery of the video for U2's new single, 'Get on Your Boots', has been delayed.

Universal Music have issued the following statement:

"The video is going really well but unfortunately it just wasn’t finished in time for the premiere today. Alex Courtes is an amazing director and we can assure you that it will be well worth the wait."
Mark Crossingham, Managing Director Universal Music Ireland

You will still see the video here first at

Despite the Irish Independent's claim that they'll have the exclusive first showing of the new U2 video live on their site at 4:55pm today, it seems to be delayed:
"3.10 pm

Delivery of the video for U2's new single, 'Get on Your Boots', has been delayed.

We are waiting for an official statement from the band and their record company.

More details will follow."

Update: the same page now (17:10) reads:
"We are waiting for a new premiere date from the band and their record company."
Come on the conspiracy theories - anyone guess why the delay?

BODIES... The Exhibition in Dublin: I'd go again when it's quieter

Photo shows exterior of Ambassador Theatre, Dublin with perhaps 50 people queing outside BODIES: the exhbition

Last Sunday, Sinéad, Jen and I went to see the BODIES exhibition in Dublin's Ambassador Theatre. Opening weekend as it was, the place was packed, the queue for tickets long and the experience rushed. Given that, I came away with some learnings.


If possible pre-book your tickets online. Again, it was opening weekend so crowds were probably higher, but the difference between the queue outside at 2pm and 2.15pm was actually a good twenty people. However, those with prebooked tickets can just walk right in.

We braved the queue and bought our tickets for a later time so could do the same. To give you an example, below is the queue outside on Sunday at 2pm, before they put up the barriers and formed multiple lines just an hour later.

image shows similar shot to previous of Ambassador with less people outside


Neither are allowed in. I was quite disappointed about the camera rule, given that photos could serve to only pique curiosity rather than repulse most people, but there you go. There is a free cloakroom where you can deposit your stuff. If it's busy, I'd recommend putting your coat in as well - it gets warm!

On a side note, I'd forgotten notebook and pen so scrawled down my impressions on the back of postcards with a borrowed biro. Therefore the below may be subject to inaccuracies as I try to decipher my almost illegible scribbles.


Well, they've painted the Ambassador apparently, so the short walk down to the first room is not as foreboding as you might imagine. Signs are placed on the walls, reading:

The specimens in this Exhibition have been treated with the dignity and respect they so richly deserve
Why all this interest in the human body? The answer to this question seems quite clear to me. Your body is the one thing that you carry with you from the moment you are born until your very last breath.
- Dr Roy Glover, Medical Director

Image shows body without skin, halved vertically to show insides. Clearly visible are lungs and stomach protruding
Photo from National Geographic

HISTORY: Where the bodies come from

Dr. Roy Glover is "Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Michigan and the chief medical director of the University of Michigan Medical School Polymer Preservation Laboratory. He serves as Chief Medical Advisor and spokesman for BODIES... the exhibition". That's according to Google anyway.

In the various articles I've researched, a couple of things come up - how were the bodies acquired, what was done to them and if it's ethical.

Firstly the website for Bodies Revealed reads:
"How were the specimens on display in our exhibition obtained and prepared? All of the bodies and organs came from individuals who chose to donate their bodies to medical science for the purpose of study and education."
A recent Irish times article reads how the exhibition has been:
'... dogged by controversy with suggestions that the exhibits were either executed Chinese prisoners or were people who had not given their consent to have their bodies shown after their death.

Dr Glover said: “We have practiced due diligence in obtaining the bodies. We work with a partner that we have the utmost amount of trust in – the Dalian Plastination Facility in Dalian, China.

“The person I work with it is a personal friend of mine. We have been in the same professional organisations for many years. He has sworn affidavits to the effect that the bodies were those who have died of natural causes.

“We have examined every one of the bodies who come into the show for any evidence of trauma or any kind of physical abuse.”'
A 2007 interview with the Washington Post reads:
All of the bodies were obtained through a credited medical university in the People's Republic of China. Asia possesses the largest and most highly competent group of dissectors in the world, and they are highly skilled in preparing the bodies for educational and scientific purposes. Currently, human specimens in medical schools in China, the United States and other countries throughout the world are donated or unidentified bodies.
Finally in a 2006 article on
Roy Glover, spokesman for BODIES... The Exhibition, says its cadavers -- all from China -- did not come from willing donors.

"They're unclaimed," Glover says. "We don't hide from it, we address it right up front."

image shows human head and neck without skin or hair and with chest cavity exposed showing the top of ribs

So there you have it. They are bodies from China that may or may not have been willing participants in the project. Does that matter? Does it make a difference to your knowledge of the exhibition once inside? For me, not really, because far from being the 'ghoulish' and 'gruesome' spectacle the ever-reliably tabloid Indo claims it to be, the bodies are displayed in a museum or gallery exhibit format.

There's not much to be squeamish about and the Polymer Preservation process involved was by far much more of interest to me.

ROOM ONE: Entering the exhibition.

You walk down a hallway and into a big room with a lot of glass cases and "models" on display, and, in my case, a lot of people. I'm not a crowd person so before I joined the fray I spent a bit of time just observing. Though not of the Dublin exhibtion, of which there are few photos that I can find, the below should give you an indication.

Image shows two ladies looking into an exhibit in a glass case

Image shows man looking into glass case at indistinct exhibit

On the walls around the exhibition are signs and projections. They both feed back into the educative theme behind the exhibition, telling you things like 'Compact bone tissue carries your weight' or how the projections are artists impressions of the cells and tissues in your body. 'More than 200 different kinds of cell and 75 trillion cells in total make up the body'; 'Fibroblast cells build and maintain cartilage, skin and bone' and so on.

The first few exhibits I crowded in to see were bones - knee joint cartilage, an elbow joint, the top of a skull, the sacrum and lower vertebrae. Interesting stuff indeed, though not really that awe-inspiring. As the crowds parted I got my first glimpse of a body, behind which a sign proclaimed
'The study of human anatomy has always operated on to see is to know.

This exhibition uses dissected human specimens to provide you with a visual textbook to your own body, offering you a profound insight into your body, its functions and its needs or health and longevity.'

Dr. Roy Glover, professor emeritus of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Michigan and chief medical director for 'Bodies - The Exhibition', which opens in Dublin this Saturday looking at a model in running position but with muscles distended. Photo: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

This Dara Mac Dónaill/Irish Times photo of Dr Glover with one of the specimens should give you an idea of what you'll be seeing, far better than those on the website. They are as they're advertised - bodies without the skin, but showing everything (minus the blood) that's beneath.

One model shows muscle attachment and layering, showing the four muscle layers separated from their points of origin but connected to the points of insertion. One case held the muscles of the arm and leg, giving you the opportunity to see both limbs up close.

Image shows figure in orchestra conducting pose with baton in air but again no skin or skull structure around the face, allowing us to see inside his head

You can walk around most of the full figures. The one above (adapted from an Irish Times photo) shows a male figure, metal filling still in teeth, which purports to "illustrate the nearly countless number of tasks the brain executes from basic to highly complex actions".

image shows entire seated figure with muscles showing in chin on arm pose as if it's pondering. The cavity in the head showing into the brain is visible
Image from The Seattle Traveller

Another fascinating exhibit was the seated figure with an exposed brain. The meningus gyrus and grey matter were apparently prominently visible, but the poignancy of the piece overlooking a case containing disected brains was quite something.

Again, each part in the case was labelled clearly and familiar parts from crime novels or CSI episodes became much more than "somewhere in the head".


Room two was dedicated to blood - the vessels, the muscles, the arteries and valves. Special dissections revealed blood vessels and specimens like the heart with coronal cut, the arteries of the kidneys and those of the stomach and thorax are, pardon the pun, very illuminating.

image shows the heart and blood vessels of the lungs
"Using a technique called corrosion casting, the blood vessels were first injected with a coloured polymer which hardened, The remaining body tissue was then chemically removed, revealing the delicate matrix that transports the blood."
The full body blood vessel map of a male body has to be seen to be believed.

"On average a pack of cigarettes shaves 3 hours and 40 minutes off your life. Leave your cigarettes in this gallery and stop smoking now".
Smokers beware - this is not a good room for you. Given that the first specimen in this example of smoker's lungs (I didn't embed it because it's quite gruesome), while it may not put many smokers off the habit, it's certainly a warning for the rest of us not to start, especially when compared to the model of the healthy lungs.

This room also went into the digestive functions, with a body displaying how the whole viscera, the vital organs of respiration, digestion, circulation and reproduction are all contained within the thoracic, abdominal and pelvic cavities.

There is also a specimen showing the distribution of fat on an overweight female, sectioned as she is, vertically, into four or five pieces.


At this stage now I was tired. Tired of the crowds, of being hurried from exhibit to exhibit as more people crowded around to see the next in line. Hardly the organiser's fault but it was quite an assault on the stimuli. The sign outside this room read
Please pause a moment and consider if you wish to enter. All foetal and embryonic specimens perished in utero from complications during pregnancy as well as birth defects teat occurred during this time
I learned a couple of interesting facts in this room. One, that the sperm is the smallest cell, the female egg is the largest. Two, that the phrase "miracle of life" is indeed very apt and three that foetal development is an astounding process.

On one side of this small room, we see foetal bone development at 11, 13, 15 and 16 weeks due to a process involving Alizarin, a dye which binds to calcium to measure the stages of skeletal development. In others we get cross sections of foetuses in various stages.

I came out from there ready now to go, as awe inspiring as I found that particular section. On the steps outside was a young fella, possibly around 13 or 14 in floods of tears for some reason.


image shows skeletal structure laid horizontally and divided into 60 or so pieces allowing a cross section of inside the body and bones to be seen

image shows little boy looking at the exhibit above apparently shocked by what he has seen

The last room was much bigger and contained interesting specimens of bodies in cross section, diseased or cancerous parts of the body and so on. I didn't linger though, I just popped into the very pricey gift shop (t-shirts €22, keyrings €5) and then headed out.

Before I left though, I spotted and wrote down the following from a sign, that quite probably should be at the start of the exhibit:
'We live in a world surrounded by technology, information and cement; fast paced living with little time for reflection.

When an illness is severe and our mortality comes into question, we may take this time to stop and ponder our existence. But cured, we are off again, not thinking about the extraordinary, complicated human beings we are.

Our bodies are indeed intricately more complex than all the computers and gadgetry that surrounds us today. Yet many of us do not really know what lies beneath our skins, how our bodies function, what they need to survive , what destroys them, revives them.

BODIES... the exhibition is an attempt to remedy this unfortunate set of circumstances. Take the knowledge gained from this exhibition, expand on it and use it to become an informed participant in your own healthcare. This involves more than improving your diet or beginning a long overdue exercise program.

It involves partnering with your doctor to understand what you - and your unique body - need to sustain a full and rewarding life.'
Taking all that into account, BODIES... The Exhibition is well worth seeing. The price is hefty at €20 and repeat visitors should be offered half price tickets. I think too there should also be "quiet hours", where, once the initial rush has died down, the organisers offer to let only a set amount of people in to see the exhibition and to take their time. Given it's booked for six months, this may become a reality.

You'll need to take one, maybe two hours to properly see the entire exhibition. We entered at 3pm and were out by 4.05pm but that was more due to the crowds and the heat. It sparked interesting conversation, but ultimately each of our experiences were personal, were unique and we all saw things the others didn't.

Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely. It left me with a high regard both for the human body and the healthcare professionals who deal with it. Reading all the recent articles regarding how right it is, the rights of those whose bodies are being used, of their families, the sourcing of the bodies and indeed the promotion of the show as an educational rather than a commercial experience, I still feel a sense of awe for the process, the intricacies involved, importantly the science behind it and most importantly the delicate but fascinating chance to see what's under the skin, in a human body, up close.

Steph has her review here while Aonghus recommends not getting the audio guides as they have the same information as the display cards.

I uploaded two short videos from the BODIES The Exhibition website today. Take a look. Though American and obviously promotional, they'll perhaps give you a better idea than the Dublin website can:

The exhibition is open 10AM to 8PM Sunday to Thursday and 10AM to 10PM Friday and Saturday. You'll find more information on the website here.

All photos in this post are sourced from here and here unless otherwise stated.

This past week

This week I have mostly been sleeping.

Not just eight hours but solid eighteen hours during the day. My body seemed to need it and my mind didn't disagree. I woke up this morning feeling great - blood pumping, neurons racing and thoughts flying. My not-as-much-online week has done me well. I feel energised and a wee bit rambly.

That's not to say I haven't been busy. Not at all. I started, read and finished my first Haruki Murakami novel, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and have to ask how I have gone so long without ever encountering him before. An amazing, enthralling book that prompts me to go and buy his others.

I watched movies. 12 Angry Men again graced our screens and I've promised myself to buy the screenplay and see it on stage before year end. It's just a magnificent piece of drama. I also caught the end of Little Miss Sunshine on RTE's midweek movie and forgot how much I liked that film.

I met some interesting people. Not in my bedroom of course, I did venture out, but this week more than the last three has reminded me just how diverse people can be and how simple it is to make a difference once you try.

I became a poster boy. Literally. I must get a good shot of it (post to follow) but there's been few reactions stranger than walking in to a crowded bar and seeing your own face staring back on a poster. We laughed, a lot.

I didn't involve myself in discussions. In forums I used to frequent, on blogs I read and even through Facebook I saw conversations to engage in, harsh words to react to and staunch defences I could have made, but didn't. Sometimes it's more interesting to stay outside of these things and let them fizzle out, particularly when it's all women and they're talking about personal issues. What's that quote about fools rushing in?

I've been researching. I had forgotten how much I enjoy going through the books, websites and blogs of online marketers, of industry and thought leaders and gleaning the knowledge they have to impart, to pick and choose and help form my own ideas. Looking back on the last ten years of my working life, I can see how each position I've held, be it cinema manager or community manager has given me a view on how people should be treated online.

I've been planning. I have loads to do with both this blog and my online presence. I have two more blogs in mind, which I hope to have completed by the end of February. I have a ton of videos to shoot, interviews to post and a complete redesign to plan. There's a lot coming up in the next while that I'll be involved in so time to start making the most of it.

Now, where do I begin? Well, a warm thanks for all the comments this month and to those who nominated any of my posts for Best Blog Post in the Irish Blog Awards. Much appreciated. The list is very impressive - many there I haven't read and look forward to perusing in the following week. Congratulations to all nominees.

I was looking for some way to finish this post when my eye caught upon Once Upon A Wicked Eye again, Pat Ingoldsby's new book, and I thought I'd give you a wee flavour:

Moc San Aer

I have never yet come upon a pig in helmet and goggles
that has crashed into a tree. Oh they can fly alright.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Is there a non-blogger in your house?

I have a favour to ask, please.

My friend Sinéad has created a survey for college for bloggers and blog readers and has had loads of replies from bloggers but not from non-blogging people.

So if you can grab someone who doesn't blog, but reads them in your house/place of work/on the train and ask them to spare five minutes - that's really about all it takes to fill this in, I know she'll be ever so grateful.

The survey is here.

She's also giving away prizes of gift vouchers and hugs* as thank yous. You'll find all those details and more about the survey here.

Thank you!

(*Hugs not guaranteed, but I'll see what I can do. Hugs probably dependent on who and where you are. Terms and conditions probably apply.)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Teaching my younger sister an important lesson about the internet

We were recording the Pinkerton's video. I left the room to get something and Andrea must have recorded this on the camera while I was gone. She said nothing about it and I only found it coming home on the bus Thursday night. Niamh and I were in stitches. It's too good not to share.

She probably didn't think I'd upload it. There's your lesson right there, missy. Revenge is sweet. ;-)

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo...

The amazing lyrebird of Australia

The Lyre bird does Seinfeld. Pretty funny, eh?

Except, when I went to research the bird and saw the original video that it's based on, from BBC Worldwide, I could hardly believe it. Impersonating the Kookaburra, the calls of twenty different species, car alarms, camera shutters, chainsaws.

The most elaborate, complex and beautiful birdsong in the world is from a bird that is very remarkable in many ways.

You have to see it to believe it. It's not April 1 yet, is it?

Film review: Milk - I was bored until near the end

There's a few major problems I had with Milk.

  1. I don't know enough of the history to gauge the film as an accurate reflection on the effect Harvey Milk had at his time.
  2. It seemed too camp, and camp just for the sake of it; and
  3. If it hadn't been based on a true story and didn't have Sean Penn as the lead, it would have flopped as unbelievable.
I gauge every film I see in one simple way - how long does it take before I look at my watch. With Milk last night it was about 40 minutes, enough for the story to unfold and the viewer to get a sense of where this is going. In fact, before the end, I must have looked at least three times more. I'd wanted to see the film.

Harvey Milk seems to have been a great guy. The movie tagline - His life changed history. His courage changed lives - is borne out by the articles written about him. The failing of the movie though is that it just didn't go far enough with the impact his election in San Francisco had. This event made national headlines, it was a big deal in the LGBT community and he achieved a lot through his activism, his ideas and his personality. He stood up to be counted.

The film followed this route for a while but seemed content not to explain, just to apparently assume the audience knew what a big deal Proposition 6 - the Briggs Initiative - was, what wider social impact a ban on gays and lesbians, and possibly anyone who supported gay rights, from working in California's public schools would have. It made token references towards the wider influence and inspiration that Milk was providing and failed miserably at showing how the work he did could positively affect people's lives.

Instead the film focussed on those around Milk and here was its biggest failure and most disappointing aspect. The emphasis on campness (as opposed to homosexuality) was almost unbelievable. Brokeback Mountain gained notoriety from the fact two straight actors were playing homosexual men. Milk decides to up that and has every actor, including Penn, mincing, simpering, camping it up for the camera and basically diluting their believability as credible characters. Even if it's a genuine portrayal, the over-acting contributes nothing to the film other than hammering home the point again and again - these men were gay. Okay, got that.

I actually found watching it slightly offensive - not the kissing or gay sex scenes which were overdone but that's Hollywood - but the continued barrage of showing that these men were gay and that the actors were playing gay men was just overwhelming at times. It's most visible in the quieter scenes, one for example where the new female campaign manager is introduced and the men present practically faint (and then bitch fight) in the presence of a woman. A throwaway quote from Milk "A homosexual with power... that's scary." is hard to believe in both its context and given the fight he's had to get here.

Another, the film's coverage of Milk's relationship with his partner Lira - the film version factually inaccurate - detracts from the significance of the campaign by taking up screen time which could be better spent. The uber effeminacy and exaggeration of characters, especially Emile Hirsch's portrayal of Cleve Jones seemed a nod to the character of Lieutenant Jim Dangle from Reno 911!: Miami more than anything else, as if this was going to win them the awards, because, you know, it was so different and daring for the actors to do. Perhaps it's very accurate, meticulously researched and genuine, but it just didn't seem that way to me.

This is what I mean by how, if it was fictional, it wouldn't be believable. It's assumed we know the history, assumed we realise how far things have come and how people like Milk who put themselves out there are responsible for so many civil rights being restored (or not taken away) and why their lives were so important. But not everybody does and I think not knowing that is a major disadvantage in watching the film. Important scenes are rushed, the more sexual scenes lingered over. Where Milk has connected with others is lost, the focus on his camp personality over played. We never get a sense either of Harvey Milk the politician or Harvey Milk the man.

It's not until the last five minutes (including the credits) that I got what the film maker had tried - and failed - to do, which was to show how much what Harvey Milk did mattered to people. He changed politics. His approach - apparently flamboyant, fiery and media savvy is lost in this film. He encouraged people to come out of the closet, to bring the issue that homosexuality was not anything but how people were from behind closed doors and to everyone's attention:
I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. For themselves, for their freedom, for their country ... We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets ... We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I'm going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives... All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.
And it's at the end, when you see how he had the support of somewhere estimated between 25,000 and 40,000 people. You see how like Milk Sean Penn is and how well cast the others were in terms of looking like who they portray that the real genius of the film is evident. While around me all the girls were crying into their sleeves, I felt disappointed that I'd had to wait that long to see what Gus Van Sant was trying to do. I think he failed and it's a pity he did.

I look forward to seeing how it does at the Oscars. I don't think Penn deserves best actor, especially against Langella in Frost/Nixon. I certainly don't think Van Sant deserves best director or even Josh Brolin for best supporting actor. Costume design perhaps, writing, perhaps, Best Picture - no way. It's certainly a debatable one.

If the film has any legacy, I hope it's that people want to find out more about how one man managed to make such a difference, and inspire them to do the same. If it can do that, then maybe it's not that bad a film after all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Keeping old text messages

Every time I get a text message these days, I have to erase the one I've gotten before. From a phone with a capacity for 200 texts, I have 197 messages dating from November 4, 2005 to January 21 of 2009.

Am I the only one who does this?

Anyone who spends time with me will tell you I'm a divil for distraction, needing to do a couple of things as well as try, often in vain, to focus on what I should be doing. I think that's why I twitter so much at events - my mind refuses to be idle. I've tried to get out of the routine of checking the phone compulsively - unless I'm waiting for a call or text - but it's become such a habit for me that I predictive text without looking and will, very rudely, just interrupt conversations at times to check my phone, reply to a text, check the email or take a call. I'm trying to stop but as with any habit-breaking initiative, it's taking time.

Photo by Grannymar

Words are important to me. Far more than photos or dates, words about a time in my life, a specific event, a personal feeling, a connection with someone evoke a glad, almost visceral feeling within that I revel in. The first time I read a particular book, the first time I hear certain lyrics, the congratulatory email for a job well done, the first time someone says they love you. All these and so much more are important and if I had been any good a diarist through my life, I'd have been able to keep track of them. For now though, I only have texts. Emails disappear into the vast recesses of Gmail, stumbled upon usually, looking for something else.

I scroll through my phone occasionally, ordinarily on the bus, both to find a particular text or to see what's there. Don't worry, I haven't got all the 'Meteor would like to offer you' texts, the impersonal 'Happy Christmas to all my phonebook' texts or the redundant 'grand, see you there' texts. They're deleted if and when they're replied to.

I gave up keeping negative, abusive or pointless angry texts a long time ago - I don't see the point. Mid a failed attempt at reconciliation last year, someone told me they had "kept all the emails and texts as a record", which means that they're carrying around useless words that exoke a negative reaction every time they read them. I fail to see how it would help. Erase, remember, learn, move on.

My texts are either positive or funny or from a really good experience. Ranging from the very first, romantic:

I love you! I'm so happy we're together! Xxx 04/11/2005 07:19:05
to the thoughtful (I was living in London at the time):
Ul b happy to bear that theres a big crowd arnd Pat Ingoldsby's new book launch on d path. His sign says 'Join my book club and pay double for everything'... 18/11/2005 15:35:06
To the gratifying
Darragh thank you so much for all your help. The night was a great success. Your help was invaluable. Helen.
03/12/2006 11:18:54
To the first text messages
Hi Darragh, Niamh here. How's ur evening going?
13/02/2007 19:31:37
To the random
Is have to o wake up in two hours and i have a drunk girl on me arm so going to mobil u naill email you tomorow is that ok? 17/05/2007 01:20:49
To the inappropriate but funny forwards
I went 2c the nurse for my annual health check this mornin She said, "I think u should stop masturbating" I asked, "why?" She said, "Because I'm trying to examine u" 28/06/2007 18:01:53
To the confessions
I never told you but when you first moved to London, and we met at Dun Laoighre, I sat on the pier bawling listening to fix you bu coldplay. Watching the ferry. 26/07/2007 21:13:59
To the zeitgest
Spiderpig, spiderpig, does whatever a Spiderpig can. Can he hang from a web? No he can't 'Cause he's a pig
28/07/2007 21:36:05
To the "you'd really have to have been there"
Sleeping in jeep 04/08/2007 02:55:44
To the hard to believe but true
House closed at 3.30 today. Your bags are about to be given to security as UNCLAIMED. You need to pick them up in the next 15 mins or they will be destroyed. PLEASE COLLECT NOW 17/12/2007 15:57:48
To the utterly sentimental
Never say ur happy when ur sad, never say ur fine when ur not ok, never say u feel good when u feel bad and never say ur alone when you've got me 13/03/2008 22:33:46
To the self fulfilling prophecy
You and I need to have that couple of pints a bit more often. 19/03/2008 18:46:40
To the ah brilliant!
I have news anne just agreed to marry me were engaged 26/04/2008 14:33:37
To the spotted
That u on failte towers? 09/08/2008 22:21:32
And even in my sent items, the five I keep portray a rather poignant, if somewhat random and personal insight into my mind or the focus on the recipient at the time of sending:
The road to my hell is paved with my good intentions.
"How can your life be satisfied with small realities if your heart has big dreams? Read the quote and thought of you.
I love you. first instinct impressions are always right. x x
But, while you sit there either laughing at my attachment issues, shaking your head in despair at my disclosure, in disbelief at the shameless expression and with pity for someone who keeps such texts, let me tell you - it used to be a lot worse.

A whole lot worse

I used to write them down.

Yes indeed, pre 2007 and the phones that came with bigger memory capacity, when I didn't know the current posse of amigos I'm blessed with, I would spend time faithfully transcribing, as above, all the texts into notebooks. The front for to-do lists and all that, the back for the text messages. They were mostly - if not all - from the girlfriend at the time. You know, something to show the grandkids when we got older? 'Look kids, here's when your Gran and I went on a date and she said it was good'. 'Look here, it's when we arranged to meet outside of Trinity one day she'd finished college early'. Honestly, it's acutely embarrassing to look back at how naive I was.

I went through one the other day. I always wondered if it would make the basis for a good book. Seems not. I cringed at some of the memories. But, the blog needs feeding and I thought someone, somewhere just may keep their text messages, may like the thought that at some stage in a day, someone thought enough about them to tap words into the phone and that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't such a

*beep beep*

Hang on. There's a text on my phone.

Warning about feeding the ducks at St Stephens Green


Photos ©Phil O'Kane

Thanks for the photos, Phil. Couldn't have photoshopped them to make me look less scaredy cat, no? At least Niamh got one of me looking fairly decent.

No pigeons - or 30 year old bloggers - were harmed in the shooting for this post. Honestly.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wordle of Obama's Inauguaration speech

Wordle: Obama

Hat tip to Darran for the link :)

Barack Obama's Inauguration Speech - the full text

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you, God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

[Speech, apart from the last bit which I did type meself as President Barack Obama spoke it, as provided by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.]

Frost/Nixon review - five quick points

I saw Frost/Nixon in Dublin's Lighthouse Cinema last night. It opens on Friday.

  1. It couldn't have worked as a fictional story - it just wouldn't have been believable. Even if you know nothing of the history, the man who was Nixon or have little or no interest in US politics, the story behind the film is so strong that you couldn't make it up.

    Images from Slashfilm

  2. The acting is superb. Just superb. Frank Langella plays Nixon as a tribute to him - he's uncompromising, personal, humorous and intelligent. Whether the intention or not, Langella's portayal of Richard M Nixon left me with a respect for Nixon, an understanding of what he was trying to do and who the man was.

    The best I can say is to ask you if you've seen Jim Carrey play Andy Kaufman in the 1999 film 'Man on the Moon'? Remember Carrey in the Mighty Mouse scene? Here's Kaufman in the original. It's virtually identical. That's how good Langella seems.

  3. It's funny. There are genuine laugh out loud moments. The dialogue is interesting, witty and intelligent. It doesn't assume you know, nor does it assume you don't. It seems faithful.

  4. It makes the interviews look interesting. I've never been inclined to look at them before but the way that Michael Sheen plays Frost and the interaction between his character and Nixon in this film - well, if it's only half the chemistry between the real life counterparts, the last part of the last interview must be truly great TV.

  5. Finally, probably most importantly, it's a damn great film. If you're looking for something with great dialogue, a brilliant story and interesting characters, this is it.

The Academy has some challenge ahead in deciding this year's Oscars, that's for sure.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Want to help the homeless? 'Get real' says John Bird, founder of Big Issue

In November 2008 I interviewed John Bird, founder and editor in chief of The Big Issue magazine.

It seems in Ireland some people are happy to let the government take a stand on homelessness (as evidenced by this survey on and some believe they should figure it out for themselves. Although in a recession and donations are dropping, people are still giving money to homeless people to help them.

John Bird says in order to help the homeless you should "Get real. Go and help the homeless to help themselves to get out of homelessness. If you give something away for nothing you enslave the recipient because you give them a reason to come back again and again.

One of the major problems with people in need is that they are kept in this constant state of living on pocket money that we hand out as and when we see fit. Get real - go and help the organisations. Petition the government to create the kind of support that is necessary to get people out of homelessness.

There are few people who can talk the talk as well as John Bird, because he has walked the walk. Born to poor London Irish parents, homeless when he was five, in a reform school at 15, expelled from college, spent time on the run from the police and social security, was a revolutionary in Paris and became a businessman all in the first part of his life.

17 years later, in September 1991, the first issue of the Big Issue magazine was launched. He was 45, had never managed anyone and his sales team was made up of homeless people who he describes as "the most unreliable workforce on God's earth".

photo of Big Issue magazine editor John Bird
Photo from

When I found out that John was speaking at Chain Reaction, a conference in London for social entrepreneurs, business leaders, community activists and more, I put him on my "would love to meet" list.

I'd read about John, followed his story, admired the uncompromising way he achieved things. He gave a talk during a busy lunch, interrupting people with a loud shout into the microphone to "Shut up. We are talking here, trying to change the world in a lunchtime." The room fell silent as he continued to speak on his ideas on business, his experiences with the homeless and the work that Big Issue does.

After the talk he was immediately swamped with admirers and business people wanting his advice. In the end I had to grab him during his lunch for a quick, off the cuff and slightly less formal interview than I had planned.

Background information:

John's first involvement with helping the homeless came through being homeless. When he went to present to the establishment homeless charities, their reaction was:

'What do you know about homeless people? Who are you? Have you got a degree in it? You haven't worked at a shelter through the night, been on a helpline, been on a sleep out, rattled cans in the street, or wiped a homeless person's arse.' I replied: 'I've been homeless, I've been a rough sleeper, and I've had drink, drug and violence problems. Maybe it's time that someone who's had the problem of homelessness was able to get involved in making the decisions'. They were completely bollocksed by that.
Homeless charities vs work:
When we started out there were literally hundreds of charities just in London alone for the benefit of the homeless. I didn't want to do a charity because charities piss me off. The ones I met were full of 'nice' people who were totally sentimental about homelessness and I wasn't interested in sentimentalism because I thought the world was a shit hole.

I thought homeless people were treated abysmally, especially by themselves, and that charities were not tough enough to say to homeless people 'Look you're causing these problems yourself. The world screws you over but you've got to sort yourself out'.

The charities we met were all about giving homeless people another handout rather than giving them the one thing they needed: opportunity. Opportunity to a homeless person is a job; in fact what keeps most of us from falling to pieces.

Work gives you social association, friendships, a sense of responsibility and the chance of making your own money so that you don't need to ponce off the state and ponce off your parents.
As a charity you can't give work to the disposessed; you can only be nice to them, and give them some soup and a roll as they sit in their doorway. This isn't opportunity, it isn't even respect: it's a kind of unconditional love normally reserved for little children. It seemed utterly logical to me to give people that have fallen to pieces the thing that keeps you and I sane, and that is work.

Photo from here

Don't give cash to homeless people, give it to the charities:
Far harder than retraining the homeless is persuading the public not to throw cash at homeless people: nothing has done more to create a dependency culture amongst the dispossessed than the indulgent attitude people have to giving. It's almost as if they're walking around with cash in their pockets saying: 'I'm really upset with this pound. But hang on, look there's someone over there who looks sad and they've got dirt on their face. Here you go...'

Even now, with the paper out there making sure homeless people are selling rather than begging, we haven't managed to control that impulse; people want to pay £5 for a magazine that costs £1.40. No homeless person is going to say 'hang on, I don't need your money', it's going to make them think that being dirty and living on the street is a sustainable way to make money.

What people don't realise is that if you give something away for nothing you enslave the recipient because you give them a reason to come back again and again. I was homeless, I was living on the streets. I hated the people who gave me money and I loathed the people who didn't. It changes your mind. It screws your life.

If you indulge homeless people and give them no barriers or limitations they demand more and more attention like a high maintenance lover.
Still a way to go:
I still think we haven't come within a mile of our potential and that's my biggest concern. The very idea that you take people who are in crisis and instead of saying 'this is what we're going to do for you' you say 'what are you going to do for yourself?' is really revolutionary and of course could go way beyond homeless people.

If you took the Big Issue concept and used it in a doctor's surgery, a school, in nutrition... actually getting people to take responsibility for their issue, that's the potential of The Big Issue and it's huge.

We also need to be a bit honest: our intervention into the lives of homeless people is not without its issues. A third of the people we help will use the money to stick stuff down their throats and unto their arms. This is life, let's not kid ourselves that we can achieve 100%.

Another third of our vendors will say: 'ah, I've got a job for life. I can sell 200 papers a week, and I can live off that'. Like all interventions our solution has created a new dependency, and yes, it's better than begging, but it's still dependency. We have to find new methods of moving people on.
What people can do:
Get real - go and help the organisations, the charities that work in the hostels. Go and help the homeless to help themselves to get out of homelessness. Petition the government to create the kind of support that is necessary to get people out of homelessness. Now that is around drink, drugs, psychological help.

We need to make a very heavy investment in the lives of single people, single homeless people. We need to give them a Rolls Royce service, the kind of service that the posh can give their children in order to get them out. The thing is, the homeless cost more money than the posh spend on their own families. It's like that.

One thing you can do right now, if you haven't already, is click here to buy a copy of Homepages, a collection of stories from Irish bloggers. it will cost you €14 and is a great read. Proceeds go to Focus Ireland, a charity which people out-of-home.

To read more about John Bird, including his thoughts on social entrepreneurship and business, you could buy Everyday Legends, the stories of 20 great social entrepreneurs, on which this interview and post was heavily based.

Featuring John, Jamie Oliver, Bob Geldof, Trevor Baylis, Siobhan Freegard and more, the book is a fascinating insight into how ordinary people can play a part in changing the world.


[I am aware at the end of the video, I say "and now, over to you" - over to who I'm not sure, it was just to the lovely person holding the video camera. It was very, very funny at the time.]