Friday, March 30, 2012

It's Not Only Priests Who Are Celibate

While the Catholic Church pretends that priestly celibacy has nothing whatsoever to do with attracting men of distorted sexual emotions, we would do well to remember that it isn't only priests who are celibate.

Add writer Chris Jones to the list.

Not that he intentionally took a vow to eschew contact with the female sex, but he won't be getting any for a long while.

Mr. Jones is now to be forever known as the man who penned the Esquire article that accused women of not being very good in bed.

When she asks if the dress makes her look fat, son, you lie. The same goes for the sex. If the earth didn't stop rotating on its axis, it's best to keep it to yourself, or whinge away with your best mates over a few pints.

Because it's your fault.

You complain that they're unresponsive, bored, not interested in all you have to offer? Once they're back home, they'll be ringing up a friend to laugh about your inadequacy and how they were sorry they'd gone home with you and what a waste of time that was.

It's your fault.

That's how it is with women. They're very different from the male of the species, and in ways that have a great deal to do with which genes on the X chromosome are turned off to gain equal amounts of genetic material to a male's Y. Yes, different genes do not function, and which genes are turned off varies from female to female, and that's why no two women are alike.

They're raised differently, no matter what you might be thinking about liberation and equality and all the rest. So when you expect them to be more like you, and they're not, and you're not happy about the sex because of it, well, it's your fault.

There's that, you see, for something consistent in women. It's the man's fault.

So go back and write another article that says she's right, you're wrong, and you're sorry.

Or you'll find out what it's like to live the ascetic life of a monk.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Throwing Money Away For A Thrill

I've been invited to be a guest blogger and I should be working on a post, shouldn't I, but instead I'm scrounging under the sofa cushions for some spare change.

Megamillions! Hundred of millions! Record-setting pay-out!

For once, the lottery officials in Illinois managed to time a new offering at just the right time.

You can buy Megamillions tickets on line, in your PJs, from the comfort of your home. As easy as online shopping. Point and click.

We all know the odds of winning are so minute as to be laughable, but there's that little thrill we all get when we're gambling. Maybe we'll win. Someone has to win. Maybe it's my turn this time.

So the writing is pushed aside until I can gather up a couple of dollars to buy myself a winning ticket. Or two.

Depends on how extensive my housecleaning project becomes...wonder if he's got some forgotten folding money in those suit pants he hasn't worn for the past year?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Harry Potter Crashes The Kindle

The big news was the release of all the Harry Potters in digital form.

Granted, you'll be buying from Pottermore, with other suppliers like Amazon or BN only acting as gateways. Apple's not on board just yet, so take that, tech addicts. No Potter for you. And if you're trying to get online down under, Apple has asked that you return your sparkling new tablet because it won't work in Australia's 4G system.

At any rate, fans of the boy wizard were snatching up their copies when others noted that particular books were suddenly not available for purchase on Amazon.

Kindle users, and that would include those with the Kindle app on their smart phone, were being met with big green buttons that did not say "BUY" but "This Title Is Not Available In The United States."

Why did this bizarre error occur?

Amazon isn't talking. They blame a website issue, which is corporate speak for a variety of problems that could include someone screwing up, a hacker incident, or goblins in the system.

Things are working now.

Copies of A Terrible Beauty and The Leaven Of The Pharisees are only a click away. Happy reading.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Now That You've Asked, Don't Tell

According to Monsignor William J. Lynn, he asked.

His boss told him not to tell.

Therefore, Msgr. Lynn cannot be guilty of harboring pedophile priests in the Philadelphia archdiocese.

Case closed. Let's all go home. And pray.

The monsignor is going to trial, accused of not telling what he knew. As the man in charge of locating perverts in dog collars, he had plenty of information compiled. What he didn't do was turn his evidence over to the public sector for criminal prosecution. He says his boss wouldn't let him.

Obviously, Msgr. Lynn never thought to take it upon himself to mutiny against authority and accede to the highest authority (that would be God) and protect the children of Philadelphia. For that, he is to be put on trial? For being a coward?

In essence, yes.

Msgr. Lynn says he collected a list of complaints lodged by the faithful against priests within the diocese. In keeping with protocol, he gave the list to his superior, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who had the authority to remove offenders...or turn them over to the police for investigation and prosecution.

The Cardinal, who has since (and conveniently) died, took that list and tore it into bits.

So did the monsignor take it upon himself to over-rule what was clearly wrong? Hell no. He washed his hands of the mess, and returned to his parochial house with a clean conscience. He'd done his bit, followed the rules, tried his best within the framework provided.

Didn't think outside the box.

To do otherwise would be to bring scandal down on the Church, and it was imperative to protect the institution, rather than the individuals within it.

Except, of course, that all that they tried to hide was revealed by victims who dared to come forward.

The attempts at hiding the facts backfired, and you have only to look to Ireland, once the most Catholic of countries, to see that the Church is on the verge of bankruptcy. The faithful have lost faith. The churches lost donations, and nothing runs without money.

By not doing the right thing, Msgr. Lynn faces charges of conspiracy and endangering children. If convicted, he would spend a long, long time in prison.

There was another group of criminals who pleaded their innocence by insisting that they were only following orders. No one bought their excuse, either.

Monday, March 26, 2012

How To Find Success In Self-Publishing

For anyone who has slaved away over a novel, only to find the gates to publishing slammed shut against them by the gatekeepers, there is a secret to doing it yourself.

Step One: Flip off Penguin.

Step Two: Wait for Penguin's legal department to file a suit against you.

Step Three: Publicize the suit, and then sit back to watch those books fly off the shelves.

It's a technique that's worked for David Thorne, author of I'll Go Home, It's Warm And Has Chairs.

That gesturing penguin on the cover of his self-published collection of material, much of which previously appeared on his website, struck a nerve with the publishing house that also features a penguin logo, albeit without the single-fingered salute.

A cease and desist order has been issued. Mr. Thorne has posted it on his site, a clear indication that he's not exactly quaking in his boots over the threat.

Instead, the author is riding it to financial success. The book is only available in paperback, not heavily discounted, and it's selling rather well, judging by its Amazon ranking.

Are we to expect a rash of satirical caricatures of penguins, dolphins or running dogs?

You do what you have to do. It's a difficult business, this literacy.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The High Price Of Sex In The UK And Ireland

Two million British pounds for sex.

That's an expensive bit of snogging.

It's the price that Thomas J. Carroll has to pay to avoid having an additional ten years added to his sentence for keeping brothels in Ireland and the UK.

Mr. Carroll was a sexual entrepreneur, in a manner of speaking. He opened up brothels in Ireland and Northern Ireland, shuffled girls around the various houses, and then sat back to count the cash. His business was highly successful.

When an entrepreneur chooses to enter a business that is entirely illegal, however, there are costs to be paid, which tend to eat into the profits---and up-end one's entire business strategy.

After a lengthy investigation, Mr. Carroll was arrested in Wales and found himself in a London courtroom, facing a lengthy list of charges. Once convicted, he was ordered to turn over the proceeds of his multinational corporation. You can't keep the money if you didn't come by it honestly, a point which Mr. Carroll chose to dispute.

He tried a not-so-clever manuever in which he changed legal teams, representing himself in the interim, and then had the new clutch of solicitors cry foul. His human rights was being denied, they was, and they cried long and hard. The poor lad had no legal representation when the Court tried to confiscate his money that he pretended he didn't have.

The judges didn't buy into the excuse, which was flimsy at best.

Mr. Carroll is already serving seven years on the brothel-keeping charges. If he doesn't meet the confiscation order, he'll see another ten years.

His employees will be rather old for the sex business after that much time has passed. And it isn't easy to start up a new business in a very old industry, especially when suspicious gardai are keeping an eye on a pimp.

Too much regulation.

That's why the economy is in the state it's in.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sometimes Imagination Goes Into Hiding

Now that LACE CURTAIN IRISH is out in the world, and the manuscript I was working on after Newcastlewest Books picked up the novel is edited and resting, I've gone back to work on an idea I had some time ago.

There's a rough outline of a narrative arc, the characters are alive in my head, and I know where the story is going.

It's the getting there that's a fleeting fantasy in my head.

As usual, the story tumbles around and tells itself, which makes it very distracting when I'm driving.

What's happening this time around is that I sit down to write the words that are just waiting to be put on paper, and before long, the string dies out and I'm left there to stare at a blank sheet of paper.

I think it's a case of over-thinking.

After going through edits on LACE CURTAIN IRISH, I learned some things about writing and the construction of a novel. Certain things have to happen by a certain time or the reader will lose interest. Characters that pop up over the course of the narrative have to pop up often enough for the reader to remember them, who they are, why they matter.

Instead of just telling the story, I find that I'm getting hung up by my inner editor.

It's a fight to beat that editor back into submission, but I'm working on it. That's the goal for this weekend. Get past the sticking points, concentrate on writing without worrying about the details, and send that inner editor a pink slip.

You're fired. Now let's write.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Skewed Vision Of Carry-on Baggage

Airlines charge fees for checked luggage so anyone who flies will cram a single, small, carry-on bag full of what they need.

Many of us need something to read, however. It stands to reason that an airline passenger will make use of that which serves the purpose but is small, compact and/or lightweight.

All due apologies to Mr. Frank O'Mahony, but to accuse Ryanair's carry-on limits to a drop-off in summer holidays sales at his bookshops is a head-scratcher.

He admits that e-book sales have risen, and he knews that e-books have cut into his sales of hard copies. Even so, he claims that it's Ryanair that's to blame for a portion of the loss.

Ryanair is akin to a flying bus, with cheap airfares and nothing resembling a single frill. No matter how inexpensive the airfare may be, the economy is still scraping along at the bottom and fewer people are traveling at all. They aren't buying all that many books, either. Knowledge is grand, but food is better if you have to choose between the two.

Even those who can manage a summer holiday aren't buying three or four or five books because they can't afford them, and then pay for a flight and lodging and meals and entertainment on top of that.

What they will buy are e-books, which are much cheaper than their paper versions. Best of all, those five or six books all fit onto a compact e-reader, or that smart phone the tourist is carrying anyway.

And when they get to where they're going, if they find that they have time for leisure, they can download an e-book whenever the mood strikes.

They won't be jetting back to Limerick or Tralee to peruse the stacks at O'Mahoney's.

It isn't Ryanair. It's the changing way in which we obtain and read books.

Not that paper and ink will go away completely. There's nothing like bookshelves filled with volumes to add warmth to a room. But casual reading, impulsive shopping, and the cost savings that accrue from packing light, combine to put added pressure on the bookselling business.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Sad, Slow, Stupid Death

Once upon a time, in a long ago place when tigers prowled the streets of Dublin, Barry O'Callaghan swallowed up a mighty publisher, and then he sucked up another.

He created an enormous whale of an educational publishing behemoth, but it was sadly bloated by so much debt that most of the wise men predicted its demise.

Bits and pieces of this whale sloughed off, with residue left in Arab lands, but alas, the sheik who ruled that land was going under as well and had to go begging to pay for the world's largest skyscraper. There was little he could do to resuscitate the whale.

 John Paulson took on the bulk of the hulk, investing his hedge fund money into a publishing house that, on paper, seemed like it stood a chance in spite of the wheezing that resembled a death rattle.

The now emaciated whale, known to the world as HMH (from the merger of Harcourt and Houghton Mifflin), has been further reduced by those who rate investments.

HMH debt is down to Caa3.

According to Moody's, the debt is unsustainable unless some significant revenues appear, but those revenues are dependent on textbook sales. State coffers being close to bare, there has been a marked decline in textbook purchases and there is absolutely no indication that buying is going to tick up in the near future.

The only hope of survival is to restructure the debt. Again.

In June of 2014, two years from now, HMH will have to pay back $2.6 billion in loans coming due. Given the current economic climate, it doesn't seem possible to raise that kind of capital in that short a period of time.

Until Barry O'Callaghan came along with his dream, both Harcourt and Houghton Mifflin were muddling along. Now the firms are choking on the very debt that was generated by the minnow when it undertook to swallow a whale.

It doesn't seem likely that the creditors would write off much of the remaining loan, given that they already waved good-bye to $4 billion past due.

Someone, somewhere, might be interested in buying up some minnow-sized pieces in a structured bankruptcy. There's a chance that Harcourt and Houghton Mifflin could survive after shedding all the excess weight that is the debt load.

Oh, yes, and the Celtic Tiger? It's quite dead.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cooking Up A Good Story

Take a good look at Chris Martin.

Does this man look like he eats much at all, let alone gourmet samplings worthy of cookbook? As for the missus, Gwyneth Paltrow has legs like twigs and there's a woman who could use a spud or two in her diet.

So pardon me if I, too, don't believe she was solely responsible for writing My Father's Daughter.

Julia Turshen claims that she helped Ms. Paltrow, although it's unclear if her role was ghostwriter or taster or quantity-checker (remember, a teaspoon in Ireland is heaping but a teaspoon in the States is level).

The dust-up began in an article in the New York Times, in which a cookbook ghostwriter makes the claim that celebrity chefs don't do all their own writing or recipe research, and Gwyneth Paltrow is just another one of the many in that category.

Ms. Paltrow took offense, denying that she needed that kind of help. Somehow or other, through self-instruction or meditation or sheer willpower, she's redesigned herself as a culinary marvel, the sort of cook Rachel Ray would be if Rachel Ray was the daughter of actors and was rolling in the kind of dough that turns into fully equipped kitchens with Aga ranges.

I don't much care, nor do I think the average cookbook buyer cares.

If someone buys Ms. Paltrow's book, they're more interested in the verbiage in between the recipes, to satisfy their curiosity about how the Paltrow family, celebrities all, gathered together. After all, the rich are different from you and me, and it might be fun to discover how and in what way when it comes to celebrating holidays.

As for the recipes? There isn't all that much difference between most of them.

I can't say that I'd want to cook like Ms. Paltrow. To come out at the end, looking like a walking stick? I mean, is the food any good at all if her husband is borderline emaciated?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Silence Is Golden So Don't Blow That Whistle

The Vatican was red-faced once again, thanks to insiders who leaked documents pertaining to the business management end of the Catholic Church.

So the Vatican will be investigating the allegations of cronyism, of corruption and fiscal mismanagement?

No, indeed, you'd say, if you possessed the slightest bit of knowledge about the Holy See's mindset.

It's the whistleblowers who are going to be outed.

Silence is golden in Vatican City. Anyone trying to save the Catholic Church from the hierarchy has been labeled as disloyal. They broke the Vatican's trust in not keeping the secrets safe, and their revelations have hurt the Pope.

It's not the facts hurting Benedict XVI, no. Everyone loves a CEO who protects the criminal element operating within a multi-national corporation.

Bureaucrats in the Church hierarchy have only to look at all those victims of clerical child abuse who dared to come forward. Look where that led. Never again, says the Vatican. Secrets must be protected at all costs. The laity doesn't need to know anything, as long as they keep sending in their money.

The Vatican police force will conduct the investigation, and they are authorized to prosecute the guilty parties to the full extent of Vatican law.

All of this will end up in newspapers, one way or another. Obviously, no one at the Vatican realizes that the faithful will not view the leaking as a crime, especially in light of the facts that came out about cardinals engaged in power struggles, to say nothing of the Mafia-like running of the city's infrastructure and the enormous funds that ended up in the pockets of a connected few.

The abuse scandal that circles the globe has damaged the Church to no small degree. Punishing the innocent and protecting the guilty yet again won't get those pews back to full on a Sunday, either.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Who's Here? From Where?

Chicagoans are blissfully unaware that Enda Kenny is in town.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel knows, of course, because he was invited to the dinner where Mr. Kenny was the keynote speaker.

The biggest selling newspaper in the city failed to mention anything at all about the visit, but given the fact that there's not much left to that paper after Sam Zell worked his magic, it's safe to say that they didn't have enough reporters available to cover everything.

That's because there's a presidential race going full gallop and the Republican primary is being held on Tuesday and there's all those stump speeches to cover. Then President Obama showed up to raise money for his re-election (and steal a bit of thunder from his rivals), so there's how many more reporters needed?

Let's not forget the college basketball tournament that started on Thursday, while Ireland's own An Taoiseach was jetting across the water. Add in the usual murder and mayhem, and it's a full slate.

No room for Mr. Kenny's visit or speech in which he assured Chicago business folk that Ireland was poised for a rebound.

According to some reports, Mr. Kenny and Mr. Emanuel chatted about their fondness for cycling, and Mr. Emanuel half-jokingly suggested that he'll be coming to visit Dublin soon.

So today, when you're standing on the kerb watching the St. Patrick's Day parade pass by, and every politician who's anyone in Chicago is marching, that very Irish-looking (i.e., pale) gentleman at the head of the line is the Prime Minister of Ireland.

How things have changed.

The Mayor of Chicago doesn't have a drop of Irish blood in his veins, and most of the descendants of the Irish diaspora lit out for the suburbs as Chicago slid under the weight of mismanagement and corruption and cronyism.

Alderman Ed Burke, famous for his ear-splitting rendition of "Danny Boy", lords over a segment of the city that's largely Hispanic.

And there's no big news stories about An Taoiseach coming to call and marching in the parade.

After so many decades, it's as if the Irish don't matter in Chicago any more.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Robber Baron Role Reversal

The bosses used to be rich and the workers used to be slaves.

Unionized workers couldn't hardly be considered slaves these days, and the bosses aren't rich any more. They're going bankrupt, or struggling to keep their heads above water.

The unionized employees of The Strand Bookstore in New York City, however, think the shop's owners are still wealthy robber barons trying to steal bread from the mouths of hungry laborers.

They're bringing in non-union workers, those evil bosses. They want to bust the union.

And that's not the worst of it.

The workers are now expected to pay more for their health care, get fewer paid sick days, and the automatic raises aren't automatic anymore.

You'd think people who work in bookstores would be more well-read, but then again, if they're mostly into fiction it's to be understood that they aren't aware of the steep decline in book sales. And they're clearly not browsing the economics tomes or they'd understand how businesses operate in a free market.

The Strand is trying to keep its doors open in an area where rents are high. They look at the bottom line, which is shrinking, and then look at the overhead which includes things like salaries and health care premiums and rent and utility costs, and see that those are going up.

It's not too hard to figure out that costs have to go down while profits slide, or pretty soon there's no money left to pay any sort of laborer at all. 

Unless the union members would prefer to be unemployed.

Is it any wonder that union membership has plummeted over the years? When someone is barking at you to cut off your nose to spite your face, pretty soon you figure out that you're better off without that kind of advice. You're better off working with your evil boss to keep the place open, instead of acting like the struggling store owner is the enemy.

That's what happens when the party's over and the revelers don't want the music to stop. The scene gets ugly. And it won't be long before we'll be hearing that The Strand is closing its doors for goods, citing high operating costs in a climate of declining revenue, while the disgruntled employees claim a Pyrrhic victory for the working man.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Doing The Bunny Hop


That's the sound the bunny made when the photographer stepped on it.

PETA forgive me, but this is the funniest story I've heard this year.

In Germany, a rabbit was born without ears due to a genetic defect. The zoo where the seventeen-day-old bundle of fluff was residing called the press to announce the exciting news, that little Til the earless bunny was going to be put on display so everyone could see what an earless rabbit looks like.

Poor Til.

Never heard the photographer's feet slapping the ground. Never had a chance to hop away out of danger.

At its moment of glory, Til took fright and hid in a pile of straw. The unsuspecting photographer merely took a step back from where he was standing, and the rest is history.

It was a direct hit, according to the zoo's director.

Bunny pancake. Sans ears.

The moral of the story? Don't give your child a baby bunny as an Easter present.

I know that has nothing to do with the story, but you shouldn't be giving children small animals on a holiday. That ought to square me with PETA, so.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

To Convince The BEA To Come To Chicago

Listen up, Book Expo America.

You're wondering if it's time to move the annual convention out of New York City's Javits Center, and if so, where to go. Chicago or Vegas, you're asking your members.

Please. Come to Chicago. The city needs your money. Desperately.

There's plans in the works to install speed cameras near every single school and park. That's how bad things have gotten financially. Mayor Rahm "Tiny Dancer" Emanuel is squeezing blood of resident turnips by sending them speeding tickets in the mail for driving too fast around schools, and at times of day when the kids aren't even there.

Have you been getting some pressure from his brother Ari, agent extraordinaire? You will soon.

Come on, Vegas? Really?

It's in a desert and all they've got to offer is gambling and a museum dedicated to the Mob.

Chicago has the actual Mob, the real people who descended from those memorialized in an old building in Vegas.

And who needs gambling? You're a bunch of book sellers. You want art and culture, and if you were a fan of Devil In The White City, you want to get yourself over to the Museum of Science and Industry because that was the art pavilion back in 1893. An actual building from the World's Columbian Exposition, and you can go inside and wander around to your heart's content. And the lagoon, and the Wooded Island, are all still there.

It's time to leave New York and get gouged in Chicago, where the taxes are high and the residents pray that someone will come from out of town to help pay them.

Willa Cather came to Chicago. The Fine Arts Building mentioned in one of her novels is still standing. Edna Ferber, Saul Bellow, Sherwood Anderson and James T. Farrell all helped put Chicago on the map.

Who can Vegas claim, when it comes to books? Lefty Rosenthal?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Not All Tea And Cakes Or Roses Or Whatever

I've spent the better part of the past two hours trying to make the cover of LACE CURTAIN IRISH more palatable to the taste of Amazon's "Search Inside The Book" team.

How is it that Barnes & Noble could get the image down so clearly all on their own?

And then sell the book much cheaper than the competition?

I did what I could, and figured out what more I might have done after I'd sent Amazon the file. Too hasty, what with the book going live on Saturday. Readers need to at least peruse the back flap copy before making a decision, but that isn't possible until we're all on the same page, me and Amazon.

In the meantime, there's the opening pages posted at Newcastlewest Books. Click on the link and read about the Hanlon clan, in all its dysfunctional and messy glory.

However, it's asking too much of a potential buyer to navigate from site to site. All that's left to do is wait on Amazon, again, to see if I've made the cut, or if I have to copy and paste from to get a better image. And wait again.

Then there's the other alternative. We're still giving away free copies for those brave enough to fill out a form and take a chance.

The cover's lovely, really. It follows the underlying theme that runs through the novel, as expressed by Daniel Hanlon. The slaughterhouse, where a burly Irishman knocked cattle senseless day in and day out, is real life in a compressed form, but the Hanlons saw that life through a haze of white lace curtains.

Read the book. You'll see how perfect the cover is....even if Amazon is having a little difficulty with the quality of the image.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Let's Get The Party Started

With only days to go before LACE CURTAIN IRISH hits the market officially, there's not much left to be done here.

I'm ready to start the launch party. But if you don't have copy yet, you're not part of the fun.

If you haven't entered the contest to win a free book, you'll want to move along to Newcastlewest Books and fill out the form. That's all you need to do, and the odds are fairly decent that you'll win yourself a free copy of a novel that will transport you to Chicago.

1890's Chicago, yes, but read a few pages and you'll soon realize that things haven't changed all that much. New arrivals, whether Irish or Mexican or Chinese, all experience the same difficulties in finding their place in the strange new world that is America.

And you'll notice that families haven't changed at all in the past hundred years. There are still expectations and burdens and duties that seem to have been assigned by an unseen hand. The pull of the Old World still tugs at the children born in the New World, to bring them back even as they do all they can to walk away.

The book is well worth the price of purchase, but if you can get it for nothing, why not give it a try? There's no strings attached. And the novel won't give you a hangover like that disgusting green beer.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Marketing To The Irish Via Paddywhackery

Some will call it Guinness with training wheels, but you can walk into an Irish-themed establishment in the States and order a mixture of Guinness stout and Bass ale. It's called a "Black and Tan".

Naturally, when Nike decided to market a new range of runners to the Irish market, they picked up on the color of the shoes and called the dark ones "Guinness" and the black/brown ones "Black and Tan".

Brilliant, Nike.

Did your marketing geniuses never think to research the term "Black and Tan" before pasting it on a shoe?

They learned nothing from Ben and Jerry's fiasco in 2006, when they named an ice cream flavor after one of the most notorious paramilitary groups that ever wore a British uniform. Nor did anyone go to their Netflix account to watch Michael Collins, where the Black and Tans figured prominently. And not in a good way.

The shoe is being released today, compounding the injury with St. Patrick's Day only a week away.

It's a case of paddywhackery, in which someone who isn't familiar with Irish history takes a page from the marketer's guidebook and creates a sales campaign that is clearly based on ignorance.

Unless the Nike marketing team is made up of unionists who think the Black and Tans were the victims of bad press and Irish-Catholic thuggery, it's a really, really, really bad name for a shoe.

We should be getting an apology before long....definitely before next Saturday, when Irish eyes will be smiling and Irish shoe buyers will be aggravated by the insensitivity of a shoe company with its knowledge of all things Irish coming from the decor of Bennigans.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Everyone Loves A Wedding

I'm in a wedding drought.

All of my friends are married, cousins paired up, and distant relations united in holy wedlock.

No one has children of marrying age.

There's no weddings to look forward to for the next several years, and who doesn't miss that grand party?

Oliver Killeen loves weddings so much that he's had, let's see, as many as nineteen is it?

A native of Mayo, the man is possessed of a singular charm. Con men are usually quite charming, aren't they, as they scam their way through life.

He had a predilection for beating his wives as well, and even though his marriages were short-lived, he didn't bother with unpleasant divorce proceedings. He simply moved on.

He advertised himself as a "media psychologist" but like so much else about him, the university degrees were bogus. That didn't stop him from earning a considerable living through therapy sessions, media appearances, and all sorts of high profile activities.

Mr. Killeen's travels brought to life the image of a sailor with a wife in every port. Clearly he was mad for weddings, but who isn't? The drinking, the food, the happy times---and if you can't wrangle enough invitations to suit your fancy, why not just stage your own?

He's finally been sentenced in Toronto for a fraudulent marriage that took place in 1978, but he'll only have to serve 90 days, all of it on weekends because he's 75 and is entitled to the senior discount.

Yet he managed to serve out his bigamy sentence in England in 2004 without needing special treatment.

Those Canadians. Always so polite and considerate. Perhaps they, too, enjoy a good wedding celebration and can't sincerely fault a man who enjoys a good time.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Collusion And The Agency Model

Ever since the electronic book was invented, publishing houses have struggled with pricing.

There's no paper or printing or trucking. It doesn't cost much to produce or distribute. What's the author's cut? What's in it for the publisher? How much can they get away with before the public stops buying?

The last component of the price equation is based on what the competition is doing. You won't last long if your competitor undercuts your price. At the same time, your competitor risks bankruptcy through excessively deep cuts, which isn't an ideal situation either.

If you could only get together and come to some mutually agreeable price point.....

Which you can't do if you do business in the U.S. of A., where collusion on pricing is forbidden.

As far as the Justice Department is concerned, the 'agency model' of pricing on e-books smells a lot like collusion, with publishers trying to fix the price so they all make money at the expense of the book-buying public, instead of allowing competitive pressures to bring prices in line with the free market.

Word is, several of the big houses are looking to settle the anti-trust lawsuit that's been threatened.

Steve Jobs is the one to blame.

In the dark ages before digital, a publisher would sell a book at 50% off retail and the seller could set the final retail price. Along came Steve Jobs, who thought it best that publishers sell e-books to one and all at a fixed price, with the seller (Apple in this case) getting a 30% cut for the effort. Every book wholesaler had to agree to that price, or be cut off from the supply.

That's why Congress, many years ago, made it illegal to fix prices. There's nothing in it for the consumer, and the robber baron publishers get to rake in the cash without limit.

The agency model has been much debated, with literary agents wondering if it's best for their clients or damaging to an author's financial picture.

Now the Feds have stepped in, and are about to settle the matter.

Good-bye agency model. There are no short-cuts to profitability. There is no easy road away from red ink.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Too Smart/Too Stupid

By all accounts, Donncha O'Cearbhail, Darren Martyn and Jeremy Hammond are brilliant. They are also exceedingly stupid.

Smart enough to bypass all sorts of cyber-security and hack into computers.

Stupid enough to not understand the gravity of the offense.

Mr. O'Cearbhail and Mr. Martyn are college students, 19 years old, and when you think back to yourself at that age, you shake your head in understanding. You were pretty stupid back then as well, but at the time, you thought you knew it all. You thought you were infallible.

Jeremy Hammond was raised to be a genius, trained from birth to be a great brain. His Irish colleagues in hacking earned high marks on their Leaving Certs. Their parents might have dreamed of great things, shining futures, for their brilliant boys.

What the young men didn't learn, apparently, were social skills.

Isn't that the definition of a geek, however?

Mr. Hammond is on his way to New York to stand trial, where his juvenile brain will be hard-pressed to process the fact that he's come up against authority that is not malleable like his father, or sympathetic to the cause of social justice as a no-holds-barred sport.

Mr. Martyn claims he is helping the gardai to unravel the hacking network. There's a lad who's smart enough to understand that he's in a world of trouble and he's grabbed the only lifeline that's been thrown his way.

He's not particularly interested in a one-way ticket to New York.

Did someone explain to him how extradition works? Or is he taking a page from the purported leader of the hacking crew, Hector Monsegur, who has been singing like a chirpy parakeet to the FBI since his arrest last August?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Texas Is Not The Best State In Which To Be Arrested

Tourists need vital information as they travel across the vastness of the United States.

They have a tendency to think they're in one country, or something like the European Union where there's some degree of consistency across borders.

For example, Christopher Tappin was taken into custody in Texas, and now his poor wife is discovering that Texas isn't at all like Manhattan. You'd think someone would have put up a sign at the border, for feck's sake, to warn the man that he's not in New York City any more.

How about some kind of warning? Why not proclaim, in reflective lettering: "You are now entering Texas, a highly conservative state in which dealings with America's enemies will be treated far more harshly than in, say, liberal New York City."

Then Mrs. Tappin wouldn't have been shocked that her husband, arrested for trying to smuggle batteries for surface-to-air missiles to Iran, wasn't granted bail.

She wouldn't be shocked that her hubbie is behind bars in El Paso and likely to remain there.

How will he bear up, she'd like to know. He's in a cell for 23 hours of the day...ah, and there's the need for another sign.

Some of the other inmates, this being west Texas, are no doubt less than pleased with Mr. Tappin's business strategy. It's more likely that they have friends or family in the military, as compared to, say, the lock-up in New York City. Mr. Tappin is safer in his cell than out of it. But there again, how would Mrs. Tappin know this without some sort of tourist-geared advice?

Friends of Mr. Tappin are pressurizing David Cameron, but there's not much he can do.

The jail is in west Texas, not Washington, D.C., and it's an election year.

So they can bark all they like about the harmless 65-year-old granddad. The fact remains, he tried to sell military supplies to Iran, and he was arrested in El Paso.

Can someone please advise Mrs. Tappin about the mindset of the jury that will hear her husband's case? Don't want her fainting dead away when he's sentenced to the maximum.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Not A Good Time For A Reconciliation

It's sad when a mother is estranged from any of her children. There's something almost unnatural about such a situation, even though there are countless good reasons for the split.

We don't know why Matt Topham and his mother Julie Gamble haven't spoken for years.

We do know that Ms. Gamble picked a really, really, really bad time to attempt a reconciliation.

After her son won E54 million in the lottery.

According to Ms. Gamble, the two hadn't spoken since 2004, when the Topham marriage fell apart. Matt went with his dad, but it wasn't a case of a teen-aged boy needing a father's guidance. His mother lived down the street and he could have maintained a relationship with ease---if there'd been any desire on his part to do so.

Julie Gamble watched her son win all that money and for some reason she thought it was a brilliant time to sit down and pen a three page letter. To better set the table, she stated clearly that she had always wanted a relationship with her boy, just in case he might be thinking she was asking after money.

Whether or not Matt got that far in his reading, if he read it at all, is unknown. His reply wasn't particularly warm, in that it was addressed to "Julie" and not 'Mum".

As for the reconciliation, well, good luck with that.

Mr. Topham and his fiancee are not going to have anything to do with Julie Gamble in the future. She won't be seeing any future grandchildren and she's not welcome in their lives at all.

She wasn't invited to the celebration party, either. It was held at Matt's dad's house.

Perhaps if she'd started the reconciliation business a little earlier?

Saturday, March 03, 2012

A Day For Family

And you thought it was all about drinking green beer.

St. Patrick's Day is all about family. It used to be about religion and going to Mass, but as Archbishop Diarmuid Martin will tell American audiences on Sunday night, there's not much Mass-going at all, at all.

So that leaves family. Getting together, re-uniting, socializing, and maybe even tucking into a heap of boiled bacon and cabbage---that's the genuine way to celebrate the day.

President Barack Obama is doing St. Paddy's Day the Irish way. He's invited some Irish relations to dinner at the White House.

Henry Healy and Ollie Hayes, descended from common ancestors on the maternal side, plan to set off on the journey made by so many emigrants, albeit in the comfort of a modern airplane rather than a coffin ship.

Now, the event won't be held exactly on the 17th of March, what with Mr. Obama's busy schedule and all, but come 20 March, Moneygall's proud sons will be made welcome in Washington, D.C.

Ever since the Irish came to America in droves, it's been important to sew up the Irish vote. Not that anyone would accuse a man in the middle of a re-election campaign of pandering to any particular electorate---but will photos taken at the event become part of the campaign literature reaching every demographic, or only the Hibernian one?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Remember Me But Not In Europe

Google starts its new privacy policy and the world is on edge, wondering how it will all play out.

Are we being spied on? We'd like to know how much Google will remember of us, and where it's keeping those precious memories.

As far as France is concerned, Google is going too far with its plan to track individual users and store up their search history for future reference.

That being the case, the European Union has asked France to investigate this new Google policy to see if it does, indeed, break various EU laws on privacy. And then what? No more Google in the EU?

Moving with its usual speed, the French Data Protection Agency will be submitting questions in mid-March, which is obviously a couple of weeks after the fact. In the meantime, any European who googles is an accessory to a crime. Possibly. The Agency will get back to everyone on that in due time.

The EU did ask Google for some time to get things together, but Google said "non, nein, no" and launched its service today just the same.

Part of the issue is that you can't just opt out of Google doing this to you. Use Google and they spy on you. If you don't want to be spied on, you have to use another search engine but if you've used other search engines, you know that they don't work as well as Google.

There's the problem for the EU and every other country with privacy laws. Google has become too big and too powerful. The search engine can laugh off fines and you know that if any country threatened to ban Google, the populace would be up in arms.

Except those holding stock in Yahoo. They're all for that outright ban.