Monday, July 12, 2004

Saturday with the Irish Times

For the first time in many moons, I bought the weekend Irish Times yesterday. I found myself at the only paper shop in the city which seems to stock it, in Old Compton Street in the heart of gay London. It's right next to the blacked-out storefront with a closed door used by Janus, which seems to be a well-stocked purveyor of written and audio-visual materials equivalent to Dublin's Veritas, although devoted to sado-masochism rather than religious education.

Perhaps I was thinking of the Irish blogger meeting, which I wasn't able to attend. I was stuck in London, having just come back from a trip on Friday morning, and committed to helping out with the Saturday features journalism class. Needless to say, excluded from this highlight of the social calendar, I went home to read it, sitting alone in a dark and bare room, in a puddle of my own urine (Yes, I am looking for sympathy, and more links -- especially more links!).

As I have written before, I ended up editing one of the two magazines we had to produce as part of the class. The technology, using Apple Macs, was dreadful - I couldn't share files across the network, save onto floppies, access my gmail account or even print reliably. Finally, after producing the damn thing, neither the team nor the lecturer have an electronic copy, after the files I saved yesterday turned out to be irretrievable garbage to my computer.

I learned a few things as editor. The most important is that I think that I'd like to do it for real, so I'm thinking about how I could put together a small little magazine of reviews and opinion.

Bad as the technology was, the personnel issues were calamitous. We had one extremely loud lady, who walked out of our group within an hour, then walked out the other team by the end of the day.

I took what I felt was a well-earned detour on my way home, taking in a burger and a while at Borders reading books by Robert Gilpin, who seems to put Niall Ferguson to shame in his clarity and multitude of perspectives in writing about international political economy.

If nothing else, at least the London College of Printing lived up to it's name, and I managed to print out the whole of the book on the economics of global warming by Nordhaus and Boyer, which I have been reading with intense interest recently.

The paper had really useless column under the Drapier nom-de-plume, suggesting that Aer Lingus is as vital to Ireland's national security as the Naval Service or Air Corp, and so cannot be privatised. I'd argue that, if anything, the airline is MORE important, as it has done far more over the years to keep foreigners out of Ireland than either of the two armed services. Personally, I'd imagine there could still be a good case for allowing privateers, maybe Donegal fishermen once they've exhausted their quotas, to seize Spanish trawlers, drug importers and arms smugglers and share the ship's sale proceeds with the state.

Also on the Defence Forces, retired Colonel Dorcha Lee writes in a tone of lip-smacking glee, as if he were Genghis Khan contemplating a newly-built pyramid of severed human heads, on the success of the Irish representatives on the EU Military Committee.

In the Weekend supplement, we had John McGahern commenting on John Gray's book "Al-Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern". I don't know how prevalent violent Islamic fundamentalism is in Monaghan, but perhaps this is another example of the literati commenting on affairs far outside their experience and competence, as in most of Fintan O'Toole's output.

They had a review of George Dempsey's book as well, although this was by Trinity lecturer in Ecumenics. He complained that the extensive footnotes break up the flow of the book, and I'd agree. On Iran, he queried Dempsey's defense of US actions in the light of recent documentary evidence. In many examples, such as the effects of depleted uranium, although the evidence strongly supports Dempsey's argument, he doesn't cite it. Taken together, these are by far the biggest faults of the book, which otherwise hits many targets with a minimum of collateral damage.