31 August 2008

We shall fight them in the bedrooms....

Roald Dahl is best known as the author of bestselling children’s books such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. However, according to an article in today’s Sunday Times he was the sexiest British spy in America.

A new book, The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington by Jennet Conant draws on a previously unpublished trove of Dahl letters and other documents may prove the most comprehensive account of Dahl’s raucous wartime exploits as a charming RAF attaché.

Injured during training as an RAF pilot, Dahl fought in the Middle East before he was declared unfit to fly and was shipped to the Washington embassy in 1942. He immediately cut a swathe as a 6ft 6in battle-scarred pilot who was nonetheless horrified to find himself “in the middle of a cocktail mob in America”.

He struck up a friendship with Charles Marsh, a self-made Texan newspaper magnate who was a fan of Winston Churchill and a ready ally in the British effort to win American support against Adolf Hitler. With Marsh’s help, Dahl became close to prominent American journalists and senior US officials, notably Henry Wallace, the isolationist vice-president. His social-climbing skills attracted the attention of William Stephenson, the Canadian spymaster, who was running a clandestine British effort to draw America into the war (although by 1942 America was already at war with Germany)

Dahl leapt at the chance to join the world of codenames and secret passwords. His job, writes Conant, was “to be as engaging as possible, a bright and breezy presence at table, and encourage confidences from those in the know”. At a British embassy dinner, Dahl was deliberately placed next to Clare Boothe Luce, a right-wing congresswoman and the sexually frisky wife of the publisher of Time magazine - her anticolonial tirades and distaste for Churchill were worrying British officials. It was Dahl’s job to get close to Boothe Luce, which he managed only too easily. She proved such a tigress in bed that Dahl later claimed to have begged his superiors to take him off the assignment (complaining that Boothe Luce, 13 years his senior, had left him “all f***** out” after three nights of bedroom capers). He was ordered back to the bedroom, and told to close his eyes and think of England!

Roald Dahl after 3 nights with Booth Luce

During the course of his kissing and telling career, Dahl managed to pass on several useful intelligence titbits and a couple of purloined documents. He came to believe from his visits to the Roosevelt family home in Hyde Park, New York state, that the crippled president was having an affair with Crown Princess Martha of Norway, who had been granted asylum by the US.

A previous biography of Dahl described him as “one of the biggest cocksmen in America”, and Conant seems to relate how he earned the accolade.

I will have to put this book on my reading list. It sounds as if Dahl’s activities in the US were a case of “They also serve”... or should that be “They also service?”

Disinformation pigeons

Reports of declassified papers are often interesting or entertaining. This one is no exception. According to report MI5 drew up plans to use pigeons to spread false rumours about the impending D-Day landings.

Germany had been intercepting pigeons carrying Allied notes so MI5 moved to drop false information. It planned to put extra pigeons over the west coast of France to give the impression the invasion would be there. The revelations come in newly-released files on World War II called “Channels for deception”.

A to a Capt Guy Liddell said: “On average about 10% only of the birds dropped on the Continent return to their lofts in this country - it must be assumed that a great number fall into German hands. During the past few weeks I also understand there has been a great concentration on the Brest and Brittany areas. It might therefore be possible to deduce that we have considerable interest in this region.”

The deception operations (Operation Fortitude) surrounding the Normandy landings are considered by some historians to be the most important of World War II. They were overseen by the London Controlling Section (LCS), a special unit formed in 1942 within the Joint Planning Staff at the War Cabinet offices. LCS controlling officer Col John Bevan was said to be “quite delighted” with the pigeon plot, according to the files.

The first mention in the documents of using pigeons to thwart the enemy comes from MI5’s Lt Col Tommy Robertson. He said: “The pigeon is sent in a cardboard container - which can quickly be buried or burnt – with a little bag of corn and a questionnaire. These birds are dropped over a chosen area in the hope at least some of them will fall into the hands of... supporters of the Allied cause. It occurs to me that this is a possible means of putting deception over to the enemy by the careful framing of the questionnaires as presumably the Germans must, if they capture some of these birds, take notice of the type of question asked.”

The documents make it clear arrangements were made to go ahead with the plan, but it is unclear if it was carried out. The official historian of MI5, Christopher said “Because pigeons are used to pass on messages, it’s understandable someone thought of this. It must have seemed like a really good idea at the time but possibly not the next day.”

29 August 2008

Photo Hunt - Beautiful

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is beautiful. This is the not-wife watching television while Robyn looks at her.

Will the end of Dracunuliasis be Jimy Carter's enduring legacy?

I don’t usually bother with newspaper columnists or commentators. Most irritate or infuriate me, including Johann Hari. But today one of his articles caught my eye.It is about what will hopefully be the imminent demise of Dracunuliasis, a particularly unpleasant parasitic infestation

And now for the great news... some time next year – or soon after – a beautiful moment in the history of humanity will come to pass on the Western shores of Africa. An excruciatingly painful disease that has stalked humans for millennia will end – forever.

The story of how this came to pass begins just 20 years ago, in a tiny village in Ghana. The former US President Jimmy Carter stumbled across a crying woman who appeared to be cradling a baby to her right breast. He stepped forward to talk to her – but he reeled back when he realised a 3ft-long worm was inching its way out of her nipple, at the centre of an engorged, purpling breast. It was one of 11 guinea worms taking a month or more to crawl out of the young woman's body that summer. One was burrowing out from her vagina. The woman couldn't speak; she could only howl.

She was living through a guinea worm infestation. One survivor, Hyacinth Igelle, says: "The pain is like if you stab somebody. It is like fire. You feel it even in your heart." ... The worm's head causes a blister that often develops deadly tetanus; if the victims survive, they can starve because they have not been able to farm their fields for months. Many scholars now believe that when the Old Testament Israelites were afflicted by "fiery serpents" in their flesh, they were meeting this worm for the first time.

When Jimmy Carter first encountered the disease, some 3.5 million people were riddled with guinea worm. Tens of millions of people had endured it from Europe to Asia; it was regarded as an intractable, eternal problem. The idea of eradicating it was mocked as "utopian". But today, the number has been slashed by more than 99 per cent. Fewer than 10,000 people, in a few remaining pockets of Ghana and Sudan, still suffer – and soon, there will be no one at all.

This achievement is all the more startling when you realise there is no vaccination or cure for the disease. Guinea worm eggs are carried on the backs of a tiny water-flea, and glugged down by humans with their drinking water. The eggs hatch in your abdomen, growing over a year to 3ft long – and then they begin to dig their way out. They can choose any point of your body to emerge from: your eyeball, your penis, your feet, destroying as they go. As they do, they spew millions more eggs into any water they come into contact with. Once the worm is within you, the only help doctors can offer is to wait until it bursts out and wrap the worm's head round a stick to try to very gently tug it out a little faster.

But you can stop people contracting the parasite in the first place – and Carter has, on a massive scale. The practices are startlingly simple: the distribution of egg-catching water filters that cost around 60 pence each, and mass education about why they matter. But it took a vast effort to get them in place, including brokering a "guinea worm ceasefire" to the Sudanese civil war that allowed aid workers free access. So Carter raised $225m (£123m) from governments and private donors, and used it to drive the worms off the earth, one village at a time. At 84, he is determined to outlive the last of these little parasites.

This Carter-led programme is sending guinea worm to the mourner-free graveyard of eradicated diseases, along with smallpox and (soon) polio. But it doesn't end there. In a cynicism-drugged age, it is a reminder of what we can do, if we have the determination.

Our governments are very good at building weapons of mass destruction – but for a fraction of the cash they could unleash weapons of mass salvation, eradicating disease after disease. This programme... proves money from outside, if used intelligently, can massively improve the lives of ordinary Africans. Indeed, it can achieve goals that seemed at the start like utopian fantasies.

I was not aware of the Guinea Worm eradication programme especially since it is apparently so close to success. It certainly shows what is achievable if there is the will to make a change. Carter is to be praised for his efforts. He may not have been a distinguished president but this is legacy to be proud of.

Click here for more information about the eradication from the Carter Centre.

28 August 2008

Call that the evil eye human?

Robyn is unimpressed. This week's entry for Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats

Dead Sea Scrolls to go online.

This was in today’s Guardian. When it is up and running it will definitely be one of those “what makes the internet truly worthwhile” places.

Scientists and scholars in Jerusalem have begun a programme to take the first high-resolution digital photographs of the Dead Sea Scrolls so that they can be shown on the internet. In a project that could take five years and cost millions of dollars, the fragments will be photographed first by a 39-megapixel digital camera then by another digital camera in infra-red light. Finally, some will be photographed using a sophisticated multi-spectral imaging camera.

Eventually all the fragments will be available to view online, with transcriptions, translations, scholarly interpretations and bibliographies provided for academic study. "The aim is that you can go online and call up the scrolls with the best possible resolution and all the information that exists about them today," said Pnina Shor, head of the artefacts treatment and conservation department at the antiquities authority.

The work has already brought to light new revelations about the scrolls. The infra-red photography has picked out letters not previously visible to the naked eye. The detailed colour photographs of papyrus fragments may help to identify pieces that fit together and fragments written by the same scribes. Scholars hope that this information will enable them to piece together more of the fragments and so come closer to putting complete sections of the scrolls together.

27 August 2008


As sung by Esther Ofarim

and by Ofra Haza

Mr Bad Example

Warren Zevon

Miss Sister Italy?

It sounds as if it could have been straight out of an episode of Father Ted but according to the BBC an Italian priest intends to organise the world's first beauty pageant for nuns. Antonio Rungi says The Miss Sister Italy online contest will start on his blog in September. "Nuns are - above all - women, and beauty is a gift from God," he told Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.

He is asking nuns to send their photos to him, saying that internet users will then choose the winner. Father Rungi stressed that nuns were not being invited to parade in bathing suits (for shame!), saying it will be up to them whether they pose with the traditional veil or with their heads uncovered. "This contest will be a way to show there isn't just the beauty we see on television but also a more discreet charm," he said "You really think all nuns are old, stunted and sad? This isn't the case anymore," he said, pointing out that many young nuns had arrived to Italy from around the world.

He added that the idea of staging such a contest had been suggested by nuns themselves...

Hmm.... on the other hand when lined up against the Craggy island v Rugged Island all priests over 75 five a side football match it’s pretty mild!


Sadly FrRungi has cancelled the contest, claiming that his intentions were misunderstood.

“I wanted to make a blog on vocations, one where everybody could bring their own experiences. “I wanted to create a showcase for the pastoral experience of nuns.Instead, they made it look like it was a catwalk a la Miss Italy,” he said. “I have been misunderstood.”

Ah well it was a wonderful if absurd idea!

26 August 2008

25 August 2008

Forough Farrokhzad - The Conquest of the Garden

That crow which flew over our heads
and descended into the disturbed thought
of a vagabond cloud
and the sound of which traversed
he breadth of the horizon
like a short spear
will carry the news of us to the city.

Everyone knows,
everyone knows
that you and I have seen the garden
from that cold sullen window
and that we have plucked the apple
from that playful, hard-to-reach branch.

Everyone is afraid
everyone is afraid, but you and I
joined with the lamp
and water and mirror and we were not afraid.

I am not talking about the flimsy linking
of two names
and embracing in the old pages of a ledger.

I'm talking about my fortunate tresses
with the burnt anemone of your kiss
and the intimacy of our bodies,
and the glow of our nakedness
like fish scales in the water.
I am talking about the silvery life of a song
which a small fountain sings at dawn.
we asked wild rabbits one night
in that green flowing forest
and shells full of pearls
in that turbulent cold blooded sea
and the young eagles
on that strange overwhelming mountain
what should be done.

Everyone knows,
everyone knows
we have found our way
Into the cold, quiet dream of phoenixes:
we found truth in the garden
In the embarrassed look of a nameless flower,
and we found permanence
In an endless moment
when two suns stared at each other.

I am not talking about timorous whispering
In the dark.
I am talking about daytime and open windows
and fresh air and a stove in which useless things burn
and land which is fertile
with a different planting
and birth and evolution and pride.
I am talking about our loving hands
which have built across nights a bridge
of the message of perfume
and light and breeze.
come to the meadow
to the grand meadow
and call me, from behind the breaths
of silk-tasseled acacias
just like the deer calls its mate.

The curtains are full of hidden anger
and innocent doves
look to the ground
from their towering white heigh

From forughfarrokhzad.org

A sign too far

Yesterday’s Times carried a report on a campaign against grammatical incorrectness by two young Americans, Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson. The pair have roamed across America using marker pens and Tipp-Ex to correct bad spelling and grammar on less-than-literate signs. However when they amended a historic, hand-painted noticeboard at Grand Canyon National Park they were arrested, given probation, ordered to pay a $3,035 (£1,640) repair bill, and banned from all US national parks.

The two are the brains behind the Typo Eradication Advancement League (Teal). In March, it launched an Outreach Mission to correct apostrophes and spelling faux pas. Deck and Herson travelled nearly 12,000 miles in 73 days, and identified 423 instances of signage marred by mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar. They made 231 corrections.

A star of local spelling bees as a child, Mr Deck set up Teal after attending his five-year reunion at Dartmouth College. He said: "I was speaking with some of my classmates who were becoming doctors and lawyers, and other people who could have an impact on the world and I started to wonder how I might be able to do that... fixing typos was what I came up with... I've always been aware of typos wherever I go [and] I figured that it was a national problem".

Soon Mr Deck had founded Teal, complete with a website, blog and a typo correction kit. The tour began on 5 March from Mr Deck's town of Somerville, Massachusetts, and led the pair through more than 20 states correcting public signs and "other venues where innocent eyes may be befouled by the vile stains on the delicate fabric of our language," according to the Teal website, jeffdeck.com. Asked if it had all been worthwhile, he said: "Certainly! There are a lot more people out there now carrying Sharpies [a brand of marker pen] around with them."

At the Grand Canyon National Park, the men had found a 60-year-old sign with a misplaced apostrophe and a missing comma. They duly whipped out Tipp-Ex and pen, and made the corrections. They then spotted that "immense" was spelled as "emense". They were shocked, but stayed their hands. Mr Deck later wrote: "I was reluctant to disfigure the sign any further.... Still, I shall be haunted by that perversity, "emense" in my train-whistle-blighted dreams."

24 August 2008

WWI veteran roundup -Last female veteran dies

According to the Wikipedia list of WWI veterans Gladys Powers,the last female WWI veteran died on Friday aged 109.

Gladys Powers was born in Lewisham in 1899 in 1915, she volunteered as a barracks waitress for the WAAC, later she transferring to the WRAF. In 1920, she married Edward Luxford, a Canadian soldier and moved to Canada. She was the last WWI veteran alive in Canada.

In a statement Greg Thompson, Canadian Minister of Veterans Affairs said “The First World War was not won by one country alone. Allied forces from around the world came together and fought alongside one another for a common goal," "This year, as the world marks the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War, and as the number of Veterans from the First World War grows smaller, we unite once more with a common goal -- to never forget."

June saw the death of the penultimate Italian veteran. Francesco Domenico Chiarello died on 27 June aged 109. He was the last the last soldier in the world to see action in both World Wars.
Called up in 1918, he spent three months in training and then served as an infantryman at Cosenza. First sent to the front line in Trentino he was later sent to Albania. He was called up again in 1940 but discharged after six months.

April saw the death of Stanley Charles Stair , an infantryman in the British West India Regiment, He was the last known Jamaican veteran.

At present there are 12 known surviving veterans, three or which have been added to the list this year: Frenchmen Fernand Goux, (who was called to service in April 19, 1918 but excluded from French government lists as it only counts those with more than three months of combat service) and Pierre Picault and Briton Ned Hughes who was in training when the war ended.

The Wikipedia list of surviving veterans seems as good any to useas it strives to be as comprehensive and accurate as possible. It counts anyone who was in uniform as a veteran regardless of whether they saw active service or not.

Iran continues to oppress union activists

Razani and Kheirabadi

From Labour Start

“Repression against labour activists in Iran is intensifying. In recent weeks, there have been numerous cases of arrests and jailings. Most shocking perhaps was the sentencing of two women labour activists (Sousan Razani and Shiva Kheirabadi, pictured) to 15 lashes and four months in prison -- for the "crime" of participating in a May Day celebration.

Additional cases which concern us include:

Mr. Abdullah Khani, 40 lashes and 91 days in prison
Mr. Seyed Qaleb Hosseini, 50 lashes and 6 months in prison
Mr. Khaled Hosseini, 30 lashes and suspended prison sentence
Mr. Farzad Kamangar, a Kurdish teacher, sentenced to death
Mr. Afshin Shams, arrested
Mr. Mansour Osanloo, leader of Tehran's bus workers, in prison since July 2007

We call on the Iranian government to immediately release these prisoners and to cease all repression of labour activists.”

Two days ago Labour Start announced
that. Sousan Razani’s sentence had been increased to 9 months in prison and 70 lashes.

There are many things wrong with this country but I know I am not going to be imprisoned and beaten for attending a May Day celebration. If you are a Trade Unionist (or if you aren’t) you can register your protest at the above link. It may look on the surface like an empty gesture but international pressure can and does work.

23 August 2008

Photo Hunt - wrinkled

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is wirnkled. In the absence of any photos of shar peis, or crows feet I offer this shot of a morning glory that bloomed today and is now dying.

21 August 2008

Wedge tomb

A wedge tomb a few miles from Millstreet

A fortunate rebuff for my father

Ask my father why he left Eire join the RAF armed with a doctored birth certificate he will say that it was because he wanted adventure. Ask him if it was for ideological reasons and he’ll tell you that if he thought he had an ideology he’d go to the doctor!

Before he tried to join the RAF he says he tried to get a post as a Cabin Boy on the SS Irish Pine, a vessel owned by Irish Shipping Ltd. He was told at the time that he was too young to go to sea.

This rebuff was just as well: on 16 November 1942 the Irish Pine was en route to Tampa, Florida to load a cargo of phosphates bound for Dublin. At 00.14 hours, U608 commanded by Kapitanleutnant Rolf Struckmeier fired one torpedo at the Irish Pine which hit the stern. The crew began to abandon ship, but it sank rapidly at 00.17 hour. All 33 perished:

Bent P. (Carpenter), Cashin K. Charles (O.S.) Clery Patrick (Fourth engineer) Connolly W. (Third mate) Conway J. (A.B.) Crichton Robert L. (Wireless officer) Cowzer Fred. (A.B.) Cusack Michael (Third engineer) Cusack Thomas (Chief steward) Daly Thomas (W.T.O.) Donagh Eamon (O.S.) Dooly M. (Greaser) Duffy Joseph (Cook) Fanning P. (A.B.) Flynn M. (A.B.) Hartnett A. (Second mate) McCarthy John (Greaser) Murphy Frank (Fireman) Nolan John (Donkey-man) O'Brien G. A. (Chief engineer) O'Callaghan Michael (Assistant steward) O'Connell James (Second engineer) O'Connor J. (First mate) O'Donoghue Thomas (Cabin boy) O'Neill M. (Master) Ryan Sean (Fireman) Sheehan P. (A.B.) Smith S. (Bosun) Talbot R. (A.B.) Tobin A. (A.B.) Tracy Francis (Fireman) Ward H. (Greaser) Young H. (Assistant cook)

As with other Irish vessels at the time, the Irish Pine would have been brightly lit. As can be seen from the above photograph it had the words Eire and the Tricolour on both sides. Why it was attacked is unclear.

I have no idea if my dad is telling the truth about the Irish Pine but by November 1942 he was spending an inordinate amount of time giving German AA crews something a target to shoot at....

Some sources of information on Irish shipping during WWII

U boat.net

Irish Ships

Cork Local History

Irish Seamens Relatives Association

20 August 2008

Want to discover a new species? Try eBay

According to the BBC a scientist who bought a fossilised insect on the web auction site eBay for £20 has discovered that it belongs to a previously unknown species of aphid.

Dr Richard Harrington, vice-president of the UK's Royal Entomological Society, bought the fossil from an individual in Lithuania. He then sent it off to an aphid expert in Denmark, who confirmed the insect was a new species, now extinct. The bug has been named Mindarus harringtoni. "I looked at it with my team and we thought we could identify it down to the level of genus, but we had no idea what the species was." He said.Dr Harrington sent the specimen to Professor Ole Heie, a fossil aphid expert in Denmark. "He discovered that it was something that hadn't been described before,"

The insect itself is 3-4mm long and is encased in a 40-50 million-year-old piece of amber about the size of a small pill. "I had thought it would be rather nice to call it Mindarus ebayi, Unfortunately using flippant names to describe new species is rather frowned upon these days." said Dr Harrington

Well if eBay will sell people’s lives and virginities I suppose an undiscovered species is pretty mundane....

Bob Marley and the Banana Splits?

Bob Marley (seated)

Following allegations last year that Avril Lavigne plagiarised the Rubinoos an item on the BBC website notes a striking similarity between the Banana Splits' theme song and Bob Marley's Buffalo Soldier.

Listen to Buffalo Soldier - key lyric "Woy yo yo" - and The Tra La La Song, and there are distinct similarities. But while the Banana Splits came onto the scene in 1968 as hosts of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, Bob Marley & the Wailers' Buffalo Soldier did not appear until the posthumous release of Confrontation in 1983.

According to the Bob Marley Foundation in Jamaica, the reggae legend would probably never have heard of the Banana Splits, let alone be inspired by them. Spokesman Paul Kelly says he is unfamiliar with the TV show, and nor has he dealt with other inquiries about the Banana Splits.

...." it's reggae - it's got the 'one drop beat' of the bass guitar and drums. The Wo yo yo is just Bob Marley being creative; it is Jamaican slang, an exclamation, a joyful noise the Jamaicans make when they laugh at a joke." he said. The song has a serious message: "In America, the red Indians used to say the black people resembled buffalos because of their dreadlocks - so 'Buffalo Soldier, dreadlock rasta' - and the song is about them being 'stolen from Africa, brought to America, fighting on arrival, fighting for survival' about 400 years ago."

Fleagle in concert

But a musicologist, who asked not to be named for professional reasons, says the songs are "strikingly similar. The main differences are in bars two and six, where the timing and inflection in Buffalo Soldier is more jumpy and Marley sings with a groove, whereas the Banana Splits theme song is "straight". And in bars three and seven, a note is gained in Buffalo Soldier or omitted in The Tra La La Song. "The other difference is in bar four - where the final note goes down to a C in Buffalo Soldier but up to an E in Banana Splits. In bar eight they both go down."

Well there you have it. Will the Bob Marley foundation be required to pay royalties to the creators of a kid’s show? Somehow I doubt it but I wish I could get that damned banana splits song out of my head... Oh oh Chongo!

19 August 2008

WW - Staigue Fort

This is the Staigue_stone_fort near Summer Cove, County Kerry.This week's entry for the Tuesday and Wednesday edition of Wordless Wednesday.

18 August 2008

An old bullfighter and an older joke

There’s an old joke that goes something like this:

A guy on holiday in Spain goes into a restaurant. While deciding what he wants to eat he catches the waft of a delightful smell. He sees another diner eating a huge meal which looks absolutely delicious.

He asks a waiter what the dish is. The waiter tells him that is bull testicles in a special wine and herb sauce. When he asks the waiter for a serving he is told that there is none left but if he were to come back the following day after the bullfights there would be more available.

The following day he returns to and true to his word the waiter presents him with a meal which is n utter delight. However one thing puzzles him so he calls over the waiter and asks why the portion was so much smaller than the one he saw the previous day

To which the waiter replied." Sometimes senor the bull wins”

Meanwhile according to today’s Times Frank Evans, 66, from Salford, has valiantly overcome a badly damaged knee and a quadruple bypass heart surgery to appear in a charity bullfight (+presumably not for the Spanish equivalent of the RSPCA).

Known professionally as El Inglés since the 60s Evans completed his performance by driving his sword into the bull’s neck to the hilt, earning the applause and the waving white handkerchiefs of an Andalusian crowd.

“This confirms what I’ve been telling all those doubters, that I’m fit enough to do this,” Mr Evans said after his bull was dragged from the sand and he was presented with the animal’s ears. “

Mr Evans wants to arrange a professional fight in the autumn and then head to South America in the winter to complete his objective to fight in every country that kills bulls in the ring (He has yet to fight in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador).

Perhaps a tourist in Andalucía (perhaps Ecuador, Peru or Colombia) will be disappointed that his plate of cojones are from El Ingles rather than El Toro. No tears will be shed at Hope Cottages.

A bit more Darya Dadvar

Can't remember if I've posted this one or not but what the hey.

Ride 'em Jewboy

By Kinky Friedman - an excerpt of perhaps the only country song about the Holocaust. This is definitely not one of the Kinkster's funny songs

17 August 2008


A statue of Dr Pat O'Callaghan, Banteer, County Cork, who won Olympic gold in the hammer competition at the 1928 and 1932 games.

The Mormon Manacler, a burglary and a three legged horse.

Just when the Joyce McKinney story seemed to have plumbed the depths of absurdity (see my earlier post ) something new turns up. It now seems that McKinney is wanted wanted on burglary charges involving a three-legged horse in the United States. According to the Sunday Times McKinney allegedly told a 15-year-old boy to break into a house in Tennessee so that she could get money to buy a false leg for her beloved horse.

A police report says that she was arrested in November 2004 in Tennessee in a van with the 15-year-old boy. Ms McKinney, then living in neighbouring North Carolina, needed money to help her three-legged horse, said David Crockett, her lawyer in the case. “She loved it dearly,” said Mr Crockett. “She was a rather bizarre character, and seems to have a strange circumstance now.” He said he had not heard from her since she skipped a court date in early 2005 but recognised her in television coverage of the dog-cloning in South Korea.

She was charged in 2004 with criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary, contributing to the delinquency of a minor. However, she skipped a court summons in early 2005 but prosecutors may now revive the case after learning of her whereabouts. “It will depend on where she is now, how important the case is, how much it would cost the taxpayers and whether witnesses are still around,” said Melanie Widener, an assistant district attorney in Carter County, Tennessee.

The sheriff said that there was also an outstanding warrant for her arrest for a separate offence of allegedly “communicating threats”.

The three-legged horse was unavailable for comment

16 August 2008

The House is Black

Part 1

Part 2

A short film by Forough Farrokhzad

Photo Hunt - Colourful

The theme for this week's Photo Hunt is colourful. This was taken at Annes Grove Gardens in Castletownroche, near Mallow in County Cork. It may be heavy on green but it is lush and green is colourful!

15 August 2008


Ten years ago today the so-called Real IRA planted a car bomb in Omagh which killed 29 and injured a further 220 others. It was the worst single atrocity during the last troubles. The victims were young and old; Catholic, Protestant and Mormon, British, Irish and Spanish. One family lost three generations.

The victims

Olive Hawkes, 60, Omagh

Jolene Marlow, 17, Omagh

Deborah Cartwright, 20, Omagh

Mary Grimes, 65, Beragh, County Tyrone

Avril Monaghan, 30, Aughadarna, County Tyrone (Daughter of Mary Grimes)

Avril Monaghan's baby daughter, Maura,
18 months, Aughadarna, County Tyrone

Sean McLaughlin, 12, Buncrana

James Barker, 12, Buncrana

Oran Doherty, 8, Buncrana

Geraldine Breslin, 43, Omagh

Brenda Logue, 17, Carrickmore

Philomena Skelton, 49, Drumquin

Gareth Conway, 18, Carrickmore

Brenda Devine, 20 months, Donemana

Lorraine Wilson, 15, Omagh

Samantha McFarland, 17, Omagh

Julia Hughes, 21, Omagh

Elizabeth Rush, 57, Omagh

Ricio Abad Ramos, 23, Madrid, Spain

Fernando Blasco Baselga, 12, Madrid, Spain

Esther Gibson, 36, Beragh

Anne McCombe, 48, Omagh

Veda Short, 46, Gortaclare

Aiden Gallagher, 21, Omagh

Alan Radford, 16, Omagh

Fred White, 60, Omagh

His son Brien White, 26, Omagh

Brian McCrory, 54, Omagh

Sean McGrath, 61, Omagh.

They died in a murderous attempt to derail the peace process in Northern Ireland. They failed. For those who believe that this sort of act represents some form of justice I hope you choke on your perverted ideologies. You are vermin.

Mimi - The lights are on but nobody's at home

Mimi: pretty but stupid! This week's entry for Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats

14 August 2008

Big Read meme sort of thing

I saw this at Rullsenberg Rules and thought I’d give it a go myself

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you love.
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated. (I see no reason to restrict ‘books I hated’ to school - there are only a couple of books on the list I really disliked, and neither of them was a school text.)
5) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve only read 6 and force books upon them.

1.The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien (see the Hobbit)
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling (just not interested)
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights
, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien and I hated every second of it!

26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath
, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol
, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy

49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher

51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens
, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce Or finish... I’ve tried nine times so far!
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm
, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

Hmm more than six but less than some I think. I doubt I’ll read any of the children’s books either. If I had anything to do with the Big Read (and could stuff the ballot box) The Third Policeman, A confederacy of Dunces and Master and Margarita would be in the top three spots....

Lord Byron’s fan mail

"My Lord, Tho I have not the honor of being personally known to you, I yet venture to address you; tho, I cannot offer any other excuse for the Liberty I take, if the irresistible desire I feel of thus (unknown) paying my humble tribute at the Shrine of Genius, be not deemd any apology... I have hung in rapt attention over every Line of Child Harold, I am not a Critic but an inexperienced young Woman, but the language of genius & of nature must be felt & never makes its appeal in Vain to my heart..."Letter from a girl who signs her name Anna, dated September 1812

He may have been mad , bad and dangerous to know but that did not stop women from deluging him with fan mail accroding to the Independent . The unpublished letters show the ardour of Byron's fans, who often laced their notes with daring sexual undertones and breathless fantasies. Contrary to the popular opinion of Byron as an aloof and reclusive poet who did not invite public adoration, the letters suggest that he relished being adored and wrote suggestive poetry that "flirted" with his readers, inviting them to respond in kind.

Many of the notes were brief and untidy, and were kept by Byron despite the fact that most of their female authors asked him to dispose of them, as their language would have scandalised respectable 19th-century society. That he ignored the women's pleas and apparently kept the correspondence as "trophies" further undermines the myth that Byron was a reluctant literary hero.

While the letters of notable women who wrote to Bryon have been studied in the past, such as those from the novelist and aristocrat Lady Caroline Lamb, these 45 epistles – the remains of hundreds of unnamed fan letters that Byron admitted to receiving – have never before been published.

"Turn not from this address because the writer is anonymous... You are unhappy – a being feared and mistrusted, even by those whom the fashion of the hour leads to flatter you – you are "alone on earth" – There needs no more to excite a deep interest for you – but, the interest I feel – the eager wish for power to contribute... to your happiness – arises from sympathy adding strength to compassion...Letter from an anonymous writer, 7 May 1812

Ms Throsby, who has transcribed all the anonymous letters in Scotland's Murray Archive, said that Byron's admirers were often literary themselves. The letters, she added, marked the advent of celebrity fan mail which became a staple phenomenon in the 20th century but was rare in Byron's lifetime.

"They were often personal outpourings – some were written as poetry and some cast him as one of his own poetic characters," she said. "The women, who ranged in age and social class, may have been spurred on by Bryon's cultivated image as the brooding Romantic hero who had suffered heartbreak in early life, she added.

The letters often contained sexual metaphors, as well as poetic elements such as one note written in verse that said: "Why, did my breast with rapture glow?/ Thy talents to admire? Why, as I read, my bosom felt?/ Enthusiastic fire." The writer later spoke about "trembling" as she gazed at Bryon's portrait.

The correspondence, which is soon set to be digitised for public view by the National Library of Scotland, also reveal a darker side to his devotees' zeal. A woman who called herself Echo wrote to Byron as a "kindred spirit" who might be able to heal his "wounded heart". But the language in a second letter is far more ominous, suggesting a meeting after midnight and casting herself as a sexual predator.She wrote: "Should curiosity prompt you, and should you not be afraid of gratifying it, by trusting yourself alone in the Green Park at seven o'clock this evening, you will see Echo. "If this evening proves inconvenient, the same chance shall wait you tomorrow evening at the same hour ... "Should apathy or indifference prevent your coming, adieu forever!"

On 15 July 1817, Byron wrote to his publisher, John Murray: "I suppose in my life I have received at least 200 anonymous letters – aye – 300 – of love, literature, advice, abuse, menace or consolation, upon all topics and in every shape".

"My Lord, You cannot retire to any part of the civilized globe, where you will not be followed by the echoes of the world's applause. You must be satiated with the sound of public praise – but you may yet endure it in the still, small voice of a retired and nameless individual who has admired your splendid abilities from their very dawn."Excerpt from a letter by "A Stranger", 17 April 1819:

Award! Award!

It's been a while since I've received an award from a fellow blogger then what do you know! Four turn up at the same time!

My old online friend Siani thinks I rock. Thanks Siani

A Brilliante from jmb. I can add a bar to that award thanks to Benbbeng

And finally this prestigious award from Maddy

As ever the ceremony was filmed:

Thanks everyone. As for passing the awards on. I love each an every one of my visitors. Consider yourself awarded!

13 August 2008

Crab spider and teasel II

Lefties of the world unite

Today is international Left Handers Day the one dayof the year where sinisterity is celebrated! All across the world ciotogs rise up against the dextrous oppressors!

Interestingly Stone Age implements discovered seem equally divided between left and right and studies of cave drawings have indicated a preference for the left hand. It is only when tools became more sophisticated that a clear hand preference emerged. The right hand preference may have originated in sun worship.

In the Northern hemisphere you have to face south to follow the sun and move from left to right until the suns sets in the west. This gave moving to the right and the right hand side a great significance. Another theory says that as the heart is on the left hand side, a shield would have to be in the left hand to defend it and any weapon therefore had to be held in the right, which became the dominant hand.

Ah who knows if these theories are true but today is our day in the sun.

Oh dear, what a shame, never mind!

According to a BBC report The French National Front, is in dire financial straits and has sold its headquarters. Leader Jean-Marie Le Pen has confirmed that the party base has been purchased by a Shanghai university.

Apparently the party has already sold its bullet-proof car on eBay. The party has a total debt of some 9m euros according to Le Monde, partly due to a poor showing in the 2007 legislative elections which meant it had to cover its own campaign costs. The organisation has already had some bank accounts frozen after disagreements with creditors.

My heart truly bleeds for Le Pen and his rabble. I would have loved it if the headquarters to had been turned into a refugee centre - just to see the look on his face!

11 August 2008

Bumble bee and cephalaria

Perhaps we won’t need to steal cloaking technology from the Romulans after all

The BBC (and a load of other media outlets) are reporting that researchers at the University of California in Berkeley may be closer to developing materials that could render people invisible. Researchers have developed a material that can bend light around 3D objects making them "disappear". They could one day be scaled up to make invisibility cloaks large enough to hide people.

The findings, by scientists led by Xiang Zhang, were published in the journals Nature and Science. The light-bending effect relies on reversing refraction, the effect that makes a straw placed in water appear bent. Previous efforts have shown this negative refraction effect using microwaves but the new materials work at wavelengths nearer to the visible part of the spectrum.

Two different teams led by Zhang made objects made of so-called metamaterials—artificial structures. One approach used nanometre-scale stacks of silver and magnesium fluoride in a "fishnet" structure, while another made use of nanowires made of silver. Light is neither absorbed nor reflected by the objects, passing "like water flowing around a rock," according to the researchers. As a result, only the light from behind the objects can be seen.

Although the materials might ultimately be used in developing cloaking devices it is more likely that there will be immediate applications for the devices in telecommunications and in the production of better microscopes which allow images of far smaller objects than conventional microscopes can see.

As ever I am not sure if this will lead to cloaking technology but it is fascinating stuff. It’s a shame that Kirk won’t get to seduce a Romulan captain after all!

10 August 2008

Was the Mormon Manacler unmasked by a Pit bull’s ear?

I must admit that news of the first cloning of a pet dog for a paying customer totally passed me by. The Daily Mail along with many other papers reported that RNL Bio, a Seoul cloning company has produced five pit bull puppies from a piece of the original dog’s ear. They are genetic doubles of Booger whose death from cancer two years ago left his owner Bernann McKinney so bereft that she sold her house to raise the £25,000 needed to bring him back to life so to speak.

Miss McKinney, 57, who was described as Californian scriptwriter named the puppies Booger McKinney, Booger Lee, Booger Ra, Booger Hong and Booger Park, after herself and the South Korean scientists behind their birth.

Ms McKinney, also described as a former beauty queen, said Booger became an indispensable part of her life after intervening in the mastiff attack which led to one of her hands being amputated. When she was left wheelchair-bound following reconstructive surgery, the pit bull became her hands and legs, fetching clothes from the dryer and drinks from the fridge, opening doors and taking off her shoes, she said.

McKinney? 57 years old? Former beauty queen? It did not take long for a notorious case from the seventies to be dusted off...

Again the Mail , along with many other papers gives the Manacled Mormon back story

Joyce McKinney was born in North Carolina, in 1949 and first made the headlines in 1972 when she was crowned Miss Wyoming, She subsequently enrolled as a drama student at Brigham Young University, in Utah and it was there that she met 19-year-old Kirk Anderson, a 6ft 4in fellow drama undergraduate, some seven years her junior. There was a brief fling but Anderson, a devout Mormon, apparently sought advice from his bishop, who told him to sever ties with McKinney and move away from Utah. McKinney was not prepared to be spurned so easily. Using private detectives she traced him to Ewell in Surrey, where he was living as a door-to-door Mormon missionary.

In the summer of 1977, McKinney flew to England with an architect friend called Keith May. Armed with an imitation revolver, May confronted 21-year-old Anderson on the steps of Ewell's Church of the Latter Day Saints, and drove some 200 miles to Okehampton in Devon, where his kidnappers had hired a 17th-century 'honeymoon' cottage. May chained the prisoner to a bed. For two days, McKinney tried to persuade the missionary to marry her and father her children. She even read Scriptures with him in bed.

When this failed to melt his opposition, McKinney reverted to Plan B. This involved slipping into a 'see-through nightie', playing a cassette of 'romantic music', having Anderson 'spread- eagled' and sexually stimulating him. She claimed this was a bondage 'game' played with his full consent. He later told a court: 'I couldn't move. She grabbed the top of my pyjamas and tore them from my body until I was naked. 'I didn't wish it to happen. I was extremely depressed and upset after being forced to have sex.'

Fearing he would be kept prisoner for weeks Anderson promised to marry her. But after she loosened his chains, he escaped and went straight to the police. McKinney and May were arrested three days later and charged with false imprisonment and possessing an imitation firearm.

McKinney spent three months on remand in Holloway Prison before being released on bail on grounds of her failing mental health. McKinney and May and the pair fled to Canada, using false passports and disguised as deaf-mute mime artistes.

McKinney resurfaced in 1984, when she was arrested near Salt Lake City Airport, where Kirk Anderson was working. In her car, police found a length of rope and a pair of handcuffs. The implication was clear that she was about to make a second kidnap attempt, but she failed to show up in court and the case was dropped.

By the late Nineties, McKinney was back in North Carolina, dogged by ill health and often in a wheelchair, living on benefits in a remote smallholding with only three ponies and a fiercely devoted pitbull called Hamburger for company. Anderson meanwhile is an estate agent in Utah and understandably reluctant to rake over his past misfortunes.

What, then, of 'Bernann McKinney' who has had her pitbull Booger cloned and claims to be a Hollywood scriptwriter and university lecturer?

Joyce will be celebrating her 59th birthday this week, while Bernann claims to be two years younger. It is a fact, though, that former beauty queens (and even less celebrated mortals) often reduce their ages later in life.

Both Joyce and Bernann use wheelchairs, while the latter's late pitbull Booger sounds very similar in name to Joyce's faithful Hamburger. There is no record of a Bernann McKinney living in Los Angeles, nor does anyone of that name belong to the Screenwriters' Guild.

No university drama department we contacted has heard of any such teacher. It is an undisputable fact, however, that Joyce was once a drama student. But perhaps the most persuasive circumstantial evidence to suggest that Joyce and Bernann are the same woman is that a Joyce Bernann McKinney is registered as living in Avery County, North Carolina - birthplace of the Mormon sex slave kidnapper.

To be honest it looks like the two newsworthy McKinneys are one and the same person. The press, both tabloid and broadsheet, had a field day with the Manacled Mormon case back in the seventies and is having a field day again. McKinney was a very disturbed woman but for a while she briefly the biggest news story in Britain.