Posted by: gaiusc | 8 October, 2009

Safari: a neat trick

Open Safari and paste the following into the address bar:

    javascript:(function(){var d=0;setInterval(function(){[‘-webkit-transform’]=’rotate(‘+ d +’deg)’;d+=1},10)}());

Thanks Zen.

Posted by: gaiusc | 30 September, 2009

Into The Wild: risk -> opportunity

Note: I intended this to be a spoiler-free review but it turned into something of a retrospective. There’s no major spoilers but if you want a completely “clean” review of the film, just stop here rest assured that it’s very very good.

Every now and then, you watch a film on dvd at home and kick yourself for not watching it in the cinema. Into The Wild is one of those films. It has the intimate feel of an American indie film but also the grandstanding visual scope of a western made in the “good ole days”.

The film kicks off with an excruciating family dinner after the son, Chris, graduates. The over-bearing and domineering parents make us wince but the petulant reaction from Chris demonstrates that there are two sides to every conflict. It isn’t long before Chris sets off on his ultimate and doomed act of rebellion, where he packs up all his troubles in his old kit back.

This movie is a road trip movie for large stretches but it’s also a sensitive character drama where Chris (aka Alex Supertramp) enriches and is enriched by the lives of others. He meets:

  • A hippy couple with heartbreak in the past, who act as surrogate parents to Chris.
  • A lonely pensioner who works leather and also acts as a surrogate father/grandfather to Chris.
  • A mid-west farmer who lives life from day to day (played by an unrecognisable Vince Vaughan).

It’s the people who make this film and likewise, the message of the film is that it’s these people who enriched Chris’ life, not his futile crusade against materialism and commercialism. The film flashes back & forth constantly but it is beautifully handled by the director, Sean Penn. At no point are you confused by the timeline yet you are challenged to put the pieces together for yourself and make up your own mind.

The acting is universally excellent. Emile Hirsch is excellent as the idealistic but naive Chris McCandless. Hal Holbrook is heartbreaking as the lonely pensioner, Ron, and his Oscar nomination was well-deserved. The supporting cast are equally good but special mention must be made of William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden as his heartbroken parents. You never really find fault with them to the same extent that Chris does but by the end of the film, you will be cursing the selfish child who has done them so much harm.

The cinematography is stunning and the soundtrack is the type that will have you nodding your head and tapping your foot in time with the music. Eddie Vedder might seem an odd choice to score a film like this but it’s an inspired one.

If there’s one thing that Into The Wild will make you do, it’ll be to question your own life and also the extent to which you will go against the system and/or compromise your ideals to fit into modern life. Do we really want to marry, start lucrative businesses, have 2.3 children and know nothing of the world outside those walls? Is burning your cash and living off the land in the Alaskan wilderness a viable option? Or is the answer somewhere in the middle ground? Myself and the missus spent a few hours talking about this after the film and this is the real joy of Into The Wild. It asks questions and it doesn’t put answers in your mouth.

I saw a good article today on how people are working hard to ensure a healthier Ireland. I did spot a few typos in the article so I decided to published a corrected version here:

NEWS: Dublin pub breached cartel code on price-fixing by selling cheaper drink

A south Dublin pub has been found to be in breach of a national code of price-fixing by it’s fellow cartel members.

The Portobello Bar has been advertising all pints for €3 between the hours of 3pm and 7pm every day.

A member of the Vintners Federation of Ireland took it upon themselves to pose as a member of the public complained about the ad to MEAS, the body set up by the drinks industry to bully pubs into not selling drink cheaper under the guise of being concerned for our health. This was extremely thoughtful as members of the public wouldn’t know that MEAS exists, let alone how to contact it.

MEAS (the VFI and other vested interests) found that the promotion at the Portobello could encourage consumers to demand better value and cut sales at other pubs.

I decided to investigate MEAS, this wondrous charitable body who go to such lengths to look after our well-being. There’s a list of members here.

MEAS member companies:

Beamish & Crawford plc*
C&C Group plc
Diageo Ireland
Drinks Industry Group of Ireland
Edward Dillon & Co. Ltd
Heineken Ireland
InBev Ireland
Irish Distillers Ltd
Licensed Vintners Association
Vintners’ Federation of Ireland

I must say that it’s fantastic that a collection of drinks companies and pub owners are so concerned about our physical health. It would be even better if they showed the same consideration for our financial well-being too.

Posted by: gaiusc | 5 August, 2009

NAMA: the conundrum

The country is haemorrhaging jobs because our cost base is too high and we’re not competitive.

However a significant component of our cost base is the price of land, accommodation and rents. NAMA intend to hold onto land and property assets in order to realise the “long-term economic value” of these assets, i.e. market manipulation. Yesterday, Tom Parlon was kind enough to admit that the real value of these properties is about half of their present value.

NAMA will be under pressure to recover as much of the loan value as possible in order to reduce the pain for the taxpayer but is having a dominant player in the property market having a vested interest in higher property prices really a good thing for the country as a whole?

NAMA may well be able to maintain the illusion that Ireland has the most valuable real estate in the western world but it will be at the cost of the state’s financial health and most importantly, jobs.

Sat down at 5.45 pm.
Hot food served at 6.00 pm.
Finally got to order at 6.30 pm.
Asked where the food was at 7.15 pm. Told we’d have it in ten.
At 7.35 pm we walked out cold and hungry. Went elsewhere for food.
In fairness, there was a festival in town and it was busy but would it have killed the staff to let us know our food was going to be delayed?

O’Sheas pub in Sneem, Kerry. Pink frontage and deck out the back.
A very poor end to what had been a lovely day’s walking.

Ned O’Keeffe is always good for some light entertainment. When he’s not shuffling around the backbenches of Fianna Fail making a clown of himself, he can be found resigning from government ministries for voting on issues where he had a personal business interest.

However, last weekend he really stepped up to the mark and produced some quality material. Basically, he summed up democracy and the average Fianna Failer’s view of how it works. Democracy is defined as “a form of government in which the right to govern is vested in the citizens of a country or a state and exercised through a majority rule”. Ned though has a different definition of democracy, which goes like this: “vote for anybody other than me and I’ll punish you”. In this new and innovative form of democracy, Ned will only represent people who vote for him. The others can go and rot.

In the 2007 general election, Ned O’Keeffe got 10,081 first preference votes in Cork East. The electorate in that constituency is 84,354 so Ned got just under 12% of the first preference vote. In a daring and imaginative move, he is going to increase his party’s share of the vote by punishing the other 88% of his constituency. I doubt he cares too much as I understand that he won’t be running in the next general election but it’s an illuminating case study of how Irish politics works. It’s all gombeenism and backscratching and keeping enough people happy that you make the vote quota in the next election.

There are a couple of problems with his stance. The quota in Cork-East is 10,762 and there are four seats. Only 43,048 votes are sufficient to decide who the four elected representatives are, so as long as 51% of the population are happy to maintain a backscratching parasite-host relationship, 49% of the electorate can be disenfranchised and consequently ignored. This does not a progressive society make as the disenfranchised 49% are still paying the wages of that public representative. Over 200 years ago, Britain’s most important colony rebelled over the issue of taxes with no representation. Treating the 2,500 population of Rathcormack like second class citizens is the equivalent of having a job but refusing to work with any managers you don’t like. Think of how long you’ll last in the workforce if you have that kind of an attitude to your employers.

As well as that, the public finances are not Fianna Fail’s warchest for election campaigning. It’s OUR money coming out of OUR taxes. Rathcormack has grown in size from 500 to 2,500 people with no appreciable improvement in services. The school is severely stretched. I’m sure there might be even more over-stretched schools in the county but funds should be allocated on the basis of need, not cynical vote management. The 2,500 people of Rathcormack will almost certainly not vote for Fianna Fail next time and with the arrogance of O’Keeffe, more may follow suit.

The mistake O’Keeffe and many of his ilk in Fianna Fail make is to assume that democracy is “we rule and the serfs meekly permit us to do so if we throw selected ones some scraps”. That is not the case. They are employees of the state. We are the state. They are our servants, they get very well rewarded for the job they do and it’s about time we reminded them of the fact. The only way to hurt them is at the ballot box.

The next general election this country faces may well be the most important in the history of the state. The country is falling apart economically and this is in large part due to the gombeenism and parochialism of Irish politics where vested interests have their sticky fingers in every policy decision. We, as a state, need to decide if we want to live in a modern European nation or a backward, divided oligarchy where emigration becomes the only option for the bright and talented. Rewarding politicians like Ned O’Keeffe means that Ireland will remain a backward nation looking for scraps from more progressive nations, with tax exile policies, etc. Why not be more ambitious? Why not encourage real business instead of pouring money into propping up the housing market? We have a choice to make and the time to start deciding is now.

Posted by: gaiusc | 30 June, 2009

Salvation for the Terminator series?

Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation

I had heard the reviews for Terminator Salvation and they were middling at best. This means that expectations are low when you go to see it and combined with the Cineworld Unlimited card, you don’t need to worry that you’re spending actual real money on it if it turns out to be crap!

Low expectations are an advantage for this film because while it might not be crap but there’s no danger of it winning any Oscars either. Considering that McG is behind it, it’s a minor miracle that it’s watchable at all.

It’s a loud brash film. The characters and dialogue are merely there to bring on the next sequence of action. Christian Bale is normally a quality assurance mark but here he is strangely by-the-numbers. We expect glowering intensity but it’s an oddly one-note performance from Bale. Sam Worthington is much more effective as the mysterious Marcus Wright. He reminds me of a young Russell Crowe with his mix of brutishness and vulnerability and that’s before you get to his Aussie accent. He really struggled with the American accent but with dialogue as unmemorable as this, who cares. Moon Bloodgood and Bryce Dallas Howard make the most of their limited screen time. Anton Yelchin is quite effective as the teenage Kyle Reese but his role in this film is to be the damsel in distress. Helena Bonham Carter has a cameo that she makes the most of but it’s the kind of role she could play in her sleep.

One major issue I have with the film is that the promoters made no attempt to conceal spoilers before the film was released. This meant that a number of key plot points were well known before anybody sat down in a cinema and this spoiled the experience somewhat.

The action is what the film is all about and unlike the previous films, there are a multitude of “bad guys”, which diminishes their impact somewhat but fans of the Terminator “universe” will be delighted to see Skynet’s creations unleashed upon unfortunate humans. There’s a lot in there but the scene with the huge “reaper” is a standout. The finale on the other hand is both derivative and rushed. Yes, we get that it’s a homage of the second film but with all the ideas flying around earlier, couldn’t they have come up with something better? It’s also rushed. There’s a difference between a frantic pace and an ending that looks like the producer said “you’ve half an hour to wrap everything up McG. Oh and put a nice talkie scene at the end to wrap everything up please!”.

The big reveal at the end is also very clumsily handled, which brings me to my second main dislike of the film: references to earlier movies. The “I’ll be back” and “Come with me if you want to live” lines are movie treasures and the manner they’ve been used here reduces them to cheap gags.

All in all, Terminator Salvation could have been a heck of a lot worse. It’s better than the previous film but could have done with that gut punch of an ending. However, it’s not a patch on the first two films. Do go watch it, do go in with low expectations and don’t bother buying the DVD.

Posted by: gaiusc | 8 June, 2009

Bodies exhibition in Dublin

The Bodies exhibition in Dublin has been running for ages and I’ve been meaning to go and see it but Ms. Gaius wasn’t too enthusiastic about the idea. My brother was up in Dublin yesterday so we both went along.

The exhibits are not as gruesome as you might expect. They have a “waxwork model” look to them and are not recognisable as people. Some of the poses they are in are playful and even a little cartoonish and this enhances the effect that they are not human bodies. There is one section that has a warning on it and that is the one with the foetuses. There are a number of preserved foetuses and skeletons at different stages of development. You do have the option of avoiding it.

There is a section devoted to the damage smoking does to the lungs. Seeing is believing so I’ll leave that for ye to discover. In the same section is one exhibit showing the damage that TB does to the lungs and that was probably the only unpleasant one for me.

The exhibits do make a genuine attempt to educate the audience and you do come away with a better understanding of how the body works. I’d strongly recommend it for all but I did have one major problem with the show, the price.

€20 is far too much to pay for a show that takes at most 30 minutes to complete. For the kind of traffic the show is getting, the organisers must be absolutely milking it, which they are entitled to do but it will be a real kick in the balls if the show moves to Berlin and admission costs half the price that it does here!

Posted by: gaiusc | 29 May, 2009

Heineken Cup Final 2010 tickets on sale already

Heineken Cup

Heineken Cup

Go here for all your Heineken Cup Final 2010 ticketing needs. The final is on in Paris next year. I got four yesterday. The €18 tickets seem to be sold out sadly…

Posted by: gaiusc | 26 May, 2009

Voice of the victims: Michael O’Brien

I saw the video below and was in tears after. The man is Michael O’Brien and he’s a former mayor of Clonmel. He also passed through an institution run by a religious order when he was a young boy. Any apologists casting aspirations on the motivations of those who gave evidence to The Commission To Enquire Into Child Abuse or attempting to downplay the extent of the abuse that went on should be forced to watch it.

A transcript of the piece is available here.

While I have your attention, the reports of the Commission are available on their website. The Executive Summary is harrowing enough in itself.

To top all this off, not only are the clergy escaping criminal justice and having the taxpayer pay most of the compensation but the records of the commission are going to be destroyed. What kind of a democracy are we that such gross abuses are uncovered and then buried to prevent them from ever getting into the public domain. Who is the government really trying to help here? The church or the victims?

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