Monday, December 28, 2009

Sometimes It's Good to be Wrong

Munster's win over Perpignan in France last week was probably their best performance ever - in fact it may be the best performance by an Irish rugby team ever - except maybe for Leinster's win over Munster in last year's Heineken Cup semi-final.

The secret was motivation, as it was in Leinster's case. The triumphant cupping of the ear to the crowd by the Perpignan wing Burgur as he scored their third try in Limerick the previous week showed a lack of respect. Some loose quotes in the French press from a Perpignan player about Munster playing like an academy side added salt to the wound.

The whole team was immense, but O'Connell and Leamy stood out for the intensity of their efforts. What a loss Leamy will be.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gimme Shelter

A classic depiction of the Stones in their pomp and the debacle that was Altamont. Much is made of Altamont being the obverse of Woodstock - the place where the hippie dream died. Hardly. Altamont happened because the Stones and their advisors bought into the romantic outsider myth of the Hells Angels and made the disastrous decision to hire them as security for the concert. The Hells Angels took over and did as Angels do. There's one telling scene where a phalanx of them and their bikes drove straight the assembled crowd to a vantage point beside the stage. The peaceful blissed out crowd parted like the Red Sea to let them through. As the concert progressed the Angels grew more drunk and belligerent - crowding the stage, emanating menace, administering random beatings, and at one stage taking over the PA system. For all the Stones posturing with Sympathy for the Devil and Street Fighting Man, when confronted with the real thing all they could do was bleat ineffectually. There's a great scene involving a bearded ponchoed Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, blinking like some great wooly woodland creature as a lackey told him of the mayhem on stage "they hit Marty man". The Dead returned to their chopper and fled.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Leinster Wax and Munster Wane

Was that Heineken Cup semi-final last year a glitch from an over-confident team or the first sign that a great team was in decline and that Leinster had overtaken them. The evidence of this week's matches suggests that the latter is true. Leinster, without their brave new outhalf, were sensationally good. They have added a formidable pack to their brilliant backs. Elsom and Jennings were not missed as the backrow of Heaslip, McLaughlin and O'Brien ran amok. Nacewa was behind a lot of the creativity, aided by D'Arcy and Horgan - O'Driscoll didn't need to perform his normal miracles. I can't see them losing to anyone except perhaps Perpignan.

Munster on the other hand were defensively lax and stolid in attack. The pack did well, especially Leamy and Quinlan but the backs could do nothing with all the possession. Howlett missed tackles, Mafi ran into trouble, Warwick was undistinguished. It all looked stale and flat. Only that O'Gara found his kicking boots they would have lost to an admittedly very impressive Perpignan side. I think their glory days are over for a while.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

De Valera's Fault - Again

Reading extracts from the recent report on clerical sex abuse confirmed what we'd discovered earlier in the report on the physical abuse carried out at industrial schools by nuns and brothers. The religious orders treated their schools and churches like seraglios - if they weren't beating those in their charge, they were buggering them. And in either case these acts were carried out knowing that the law would not intervene. For in the Ireland designed by that spoiled priest De Valera (a regular visitor to his old friends the Redemptorists (Ok, Ok, the Holy Ghost fathers - same shit different name) in Blackrock), the state deferred to the church. The Gardai knew their place in the pecking order. Who can forget that image from the past of Bertie in the Dail on Ash Wednesday with an ostentatious display of ashes on his forehead. "Remember man thou art but dust" could apply now to his reputation. And of course we must remember John McGahern's sacking on moral grounds from his teaching job, not to mention the Mother and Child debacle. Rome ruled. Casey and Cleary fornicated. The priested peasants doffed their caps.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Recent Reads

Ship of Fools by Fintan O'Toole: Read this book and weep at the way we have allowed a collection of crooks and thimble-riggers to ruin us. O'Toole's polemic would inspire a revolution if had a critical mass of people in the country who actually read serious books. It is an expose of the cosy and corrupt cartel that runs this country. He's particularly good on the Ansbacher debacle and the abject failure of the Central Bank to police what was going on - even the sainted Peter Sutherland gets a slap in this section. The ruling classes, politicans, bankers, and the professions blatantly laundered their money off shore and the Central Bank turned a blind eye. When it became too obvious, the government introduced tax amnesties lest the great and the good suffer the wrath of the Revenue Commissioners. He also examines the disgraceful sale of Eircom at a time when we were trying to build a knowledge economy. There's lots of colour in this truly depressing book - most notably when describing the vulgar and ostentatious displays of wealth by the political elite and their paymasters in banking and the building business.

Blood's a Rover by James Elroy: Elroy's staccato mannered prose is only bearable in short chunks so this is the kind of book you dip into. Also, the narrative is so fractured that you are constantly trying to orientate yourself as the action constantly shifts locations and personae. But it's worth persisting with as every now and then you encounter perfect pithiness in the language - usually of a scatological nature: James Dean is "hung like a light switch", Sal Mineo "has a well travelled chute" (don't ask). Real live characters mix with the fictional ones so we encounter Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover and Sal Mineo along with sundry killers, junkies, CIA operatives, and mysterious molls. The time is around the Robert Kennedy asassination and the action moves from LA, to Las Vegas to Haiti.

The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave: Mildly diverting. Way too many masturbation scenes. Lively language, monstrous character, tedious story. And what's so special about Avril Lavigne?

Blood River: Tim Butcher: Surely to God it's impossible to write a boring travel book about the Congo in its current state? Butcher manages this unlikely feat. You get none of the sense of danger, violence and the randomness of life in is this benighted country. You do get lots of boring historical padding.