Freed from the shackles of party politics, what would an alternative cabinet look like?

Extreme times call for extreme measures and that’s just what happened this week, when Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti (“Super Mario”) set up a technocratic cabinet to pull Italy from the jaws of almost certain economic catastrophe.  To say it’s a radical move is an understatement.  With no politicians on board, his cabinet consists of academics, CEOs, diplomats and business professionals.  Some have criticised the move, saying it will be extremely difficult for Monti to pass unpalatable measures to deal with the financial crisis through the Italian parliament.  Others have given the appointments a guarded welcome citing the severing of ties with the banks and the independence of cabinet as crucial at a time when Italy’s polarised society needs to pull together.

So, freed from the shackles of party politics and the ever-present barometer of the polls, what would a non-political Irish cabinet look like?  Here are my suggestions for just some of the portfolios. Read more

The most iconic image of the 20th century?

In the week that Vietnam ratified the Hague Convention on Intercountry adoption, paving the way for Irish couples to adopt from that country once more, images of Kim Phuc immediately raced through my mind.  As a nine-year-old Vietnamese girl, her photograph was beamed around the world and to this day, remains one of the most memorable  and iconic images of the 20th century.

Taken by Pulitzer Award-winning, Associated Press (AP) photographer, Nic Ut, the image was so powerful, so vivid and so haunting, some would argue it influenced the course of the war in Vietnam.

It was June 8th, 1972 in the small village of Trang Bang in South Vietnam. Some days earlier, the village had been captured by North Vietnamese forces.  Kim Phuc (full name Phan Thị Kim Phúc) and her family had joined a group of civilians and South Vietnamese forces and were preparing to move southwards towards safety.  However, a South Vietnamese airforce pilot mistook the group for enemy North Vietnamese and dropped a Napalm bomb on the small village, with devastating consequences. Read more

Four Seasons by Candlelight at the NCH – a real treat for the senses with true cross-genre appeal

The Four Seasons by Candlelight, National Concert Hall
Saturday, 5th November 2011

Performed by the Mozart Festival Orchestra and directed by David Juritz

It was the meeting of old and new.  Against the modern backdrop of the National Concert Hall, the Mozart Festival Orchestra performed a selection of the finest Baroque music, in authentic 18th century period costume.  The audience of young and old delighted in the evocative candle-lit style setting, which transported them back in time to enjoy classics from Bach, Handel, Mozart, Purcell, Charpentier and Vivaldi.

World-renowned trumpet soloist, Crispian Steele-Perkins delivered a delightful performance of Handel’s “Trumpet Suite in D Major”.  In a distinct change of mood, young soprano, Ruby Hughes performed a truly bewitching interpretation of Purcell’s “Dido’s Lament” from “Dido and Aeneas”, an operatic work based on a slow descending baseline, which created a wonderful, haunting ambience.  A varied program of Baroque classics followed including well-known pieces such as Mozart’s “Eine Klein Nachtmusik” and Bach’s “Air on the G String”. Read more

I was shocked. This was the first time in ages that I experienced quality customer service and a retailer who didn’t want or try to rip me off.

At Vision Express this morning with my 14-year old daughter, she got her annual eye test as well as a supplemental retina examination (we have Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) in the family which is a degenerative eye condition).  The last time I was here, I left the premises €280 lighter.  Teenagers with deteriorating eyesight and fussy tastes in designer eyeglasses are an expensive business.

I was delighted to hear that she didn’t need a new prescription this time around.  Obviously, her sight has settled down somewhat since the last test.  But with my husband having given me the cost of a new pair of glasses, I was already scheming and plotting of ways to spend it. Yes, some retail therapy together with a toasted Chicken Caesar bagel would indeed go down well on a Friday morning.

I went to the desk to pay.  But before doing so, asked the sales guy for a hard case for her existing glasses.  He produced a lovely Converse-branded case, with a couple of shammies – just what a teenager wants.    Mmm, I thought to myself.  The euros are clocking up.  He then politely informed me that the eye test was half price at just €13.50.   First pleasant surprise of the day. Read more

“The Snowman” by Jo Nesbo – It’s a real page turner which keeps you guessing ’til the end

He has been heralded as the next Stieg Larsson and the comparison is worthy.  Jo Nesbo’s latest crime thriller, “The Snowman” is a dark, gripping, gritty and ultimately rewarding work, which leaves the reader crying out for more.  His fifth novel to be translated into English, the story is set against the cold, bleak and desolate backdrop of the Norwegian landscape, focusing on the mysterious disappearance of several young mothers and subsequent hunt for a serial killer.   The investigation, led by Detective Harry Hole is an intricate affair, punctuated by moments of graphic violence, taut suspense and several layers of plot, which seamlessly weave their way through an utterly absorbing narrative.

Hole, is a flawed character, battling alcohol addiction and with little in life except a fleeting ex-partner, a young stepson, which makes him reflect on what might have been and of course his career.  In many ways, Hole is reminiscent of Michael Connolly’s Harry Bosch character. Read more