An intoxicating mix of chemistry, biology & Celtic folk music for Ireland’s national saint. NPR’s Adam Cole creates a modern Irish folk song that traces the development of brewer’s yeast and the subsequent effects of alcohol on the brain and the body. His witty ditty also goes some way towards explaining the next day’s hangover. Happy St Patrick’s Day to one and all around the world. Sláinte!
It was with some joy that I opened the above text message on my phone yesterday. As you can see, I’ve won the not inconsiderable sum of 300,000 Great British Pounds in a rather wonderful competition called the Ongoing UK COCA-COLA 2011 PROMO. Not bad, eh? It sounds even better when you convert it into other currencies. For example, it’s worth a third of a million euro and nearly half a million dollars. The funny thing is I don’t remember entering the competition and I’ve yet to visit the UK this year. I don’t even drink Coca Cola! I haven’t phoned or emailed them yet in case they tell me that it’s all a mistake. I suppose I should’ve been spending my day wondering how I’d spend this sudden windfall, but instead I put together a playlist. The first three songs are about people dreaming of winning the lottery and wondering how they’d spend the money. It’s holidays and vacations for Harry, a new car for Bruce and a jet plane for Patti. The Format, Ani DiFranco and, in particular, The Walkabouts offer their own interpretations of these songs. The final three tracks deal with luck as Junior Tucker and the Easy Star All-Stars delve into reggae, while Frenchman Noël Akchoté delivers an instrumental version of Kylie’s debut hit. Its title and words should leave nothing else to be said about my apparent good fortune
Today’s the longest day of the year and it always reminds me of an earlier summer solstice I spent in Germany five years ago. You may recall that the 2006 World Cup was taking place at the time and some of my German friends had invited me over to check out the atmosphere. I even managed to convince my brother to tag along as I knew he’d get a kick out of it. Our flight was in the early hours of the tournament’s first Wednesday of football and Jack and I started out as we meant to go along. On the eve of our departure we went out in Limerick for a few pints and ended up playing poker at a friend’s house until a little later than expected. We got a taxi back to my place where we just had enough time to pick up our bags and head out to Shannon. A few hours later we arrived at sunny Frankfurt-Hahn where we had the first of many fine beers before getting a bus and a train to Bamberg, the beautiful Bavarian town where we would be based for the week. My friend Anja took great care of us and I also got to introduce Jack to some more of my friends, including a late visit for breakfast on the Sunday. Sorry about that, Katrin.
Every year some nutter announces that the end is nigh and that the world is about to end. This time it was the turn of a US Christian radio presenter named Harold Camping. He’d been telling everyone who would listen that this thing called the Rapture was going to happen on May 21st, 2011. The Rapture is something theological that says that God’s chosen people will be taken up to Heaven and they’ll do so without footwear as their shoes will be left behind. Perhaps slippers and sandals will be big in the afterlife. According to Camping, 200 million people were supposed to have been raptured yesterday. May 21st came and went and it looks like Harold got it wrong. Of course, this is not too surprising as Camping has form in the prediction stakes. He made the same prediction back in 1994 and, rather rudely, failed to explain why he got it wrong. Camping has pencilled in the end of the world for October 21, 2011, which is five months after the Rapture. I’m confident that the world will keep on going after that date, but here are a few tunes for Harold to while away his remaining days
Last August, the Irish Times ran a story about two American grammar lovers who drove around the States in 2008 in an attempt to find and correct punctuation and grammar errors that they could find on public signs and in printed material in restaurants and other businesses. The author of the article noted that it’s primarily small businesses that tend to be guilty of such errors and he wondered if the duo would be busy with their correction fluid and markers in Ireland. Personally, I think they’d have a field day. The above photo shows part of a poster that is prominently displayed on the window of my local pharmacy. The poster is obviously aimed at smokers who want to give up the dreaded weed and it should, in fact, say “It’s Arrived” or, to be more correct, “They’ve arrived”. This particular pharmacy is not a small family-run business, though it is a family-run independent chain that owns twenty pharmacies throughout Ireland. The Limerick branch is the only one that’s situated on the western part of the country, though I’m sure that the poster can also be seen at the remainder of their stores along the eastern coast. The company’s website could do with a bit of a makeover as well and there’s even some confusion there about whether the name of the company should have an apostrophe or not
I was going to wait for another week to put up the Christmas decorations, but a story caught my eye that completely filled me with the spirit of Christmas. You may remember that 77-year-old Willie Nelson was caught with 170g of cannabis a couple of weeks ago. Well, another old-timer in Germany has gone one better than Willie. Earlier this week, police searched the home of a man they referred to as an “old hippie” and an “old 68er”. They found 150g of marijuana, but that wasn’t all they discovered. A closer inspection of the man’s six foot Christmas tree revealed that it was, in fact, a marijuana plant! The man with the green fingers informed the police that he had planned to add more decorations to the tree and put presents beneath it, as was his custom. The incident occurred in the small town of Montabaur near Koblenz and he’s not the only German pot-lover who’s in trouble this Yuletide. A 21-year-old man was also arrested in Munich this week when police took an interest in his Advent calendar. Rather than containing the customary chocolates behind each door, the tabs on his calendar opened to reveal, you guessed it, marijuana. He claimed that it was given to him as a present, but it looks like he could be facing the same fate as the man in Koblenz
An actor who has made me laugh more than most passed away on Sunday. Shirley Leslie Nielsen was born in Canada in 1926 and, after brief stints in the Canadian Air Force and as a radio DJ, he stumbled into acting in his early 20s. He got his first break doing television dramas and you may still catch him popping up on re-runs of Hawaii Five-O, Columbo or Murder She Wrote. He always played the straight guy in these shows and was just as likely to appear as either the villain or the good guy. He reprised these roles for cinema, though his only real successes up until the end of the seventies were in Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). I guess he was destined to be one of those guys you often recognise, but were unable to put a name to the face
There’s been a lot of anger directed at the Irish government for a while now and some of that frustration erupted onto the streets this week. On Monday, the Minister for Health was sprayed with red paint by a member of a socialist party named Éirígí. Councillor Louise Minihan had been elected to Dublin City council as a member of Sinn Féin and chose red paint to symbolise the blood that she believes is on Mary Harney’s hands. The words pot, kettle and black spring to mind. Members of Sinn Féin and Éirígí were back again on Wednesday as they hijacked the peaceful protest that was organised by the Union of Students in Ireland. The USI have distanced themselves from a small number of participants who turned aggressive towards the end of the rally. The riot police were called in and they too seemed to use overly aggressive methods as they forcibly removed protesters who had staged a peaceful sit-in at the Department of Finance. On Thursday, the government announced that the forthcoming budget would include €6 billion in cuts and taxes. However, the announcement by the Minister for Agriculture the next morning really took the biscuit. In an effort to take attention away from the budget, Brendan Smith decided to announce that free cheese would be made available to the poor and needy around the country this month. Lots of politicians and voters have been whining about this news and I can understand why they might be a bit cheesed off. Still, as a cheeselover I hope to take advantage of this offer and I’ll be as happy as a Cheshire cat if I can get my hands of some free cheddar. I don’t know where you stand on cheese but, personally, I prefer to tread Caerphilly. Here are a trio of cheesy tunes from Nirvana, Jimmy Buffett and The Rutles