Crying monsters hidden smiles

It was smiles all around Upstairs in Whelan’s as Dublin duo Cry Monster Cry launched the group’s debut EP, The Fallen, to a sold-out room last May.

Those familiar with the delicately introspective title track were in for a surprise as Cry Monster Cry delivered a gritty performance of upbeat folk rock, with touches of traditional Irish music and an energy which at times bordered on Dropkick Murphy-esque punk.

Acoustic numbers were peppered throughout the set, showcasing the brothers’ signature harmonies, while the band kicked in regularly for extra instrumental and vocal support.  This left the crowd clapping, whooping, singing and attempting to dance in the jam-packed venue.

With just a couple of minor bum notes during some the five-voice harmonies and the rarest of rogue strings, the set was engaging and professional. Richie and Jamie Martin have different but complimentary voices, working in unison through silent glances with an ease that belies the youth of the band.

Cry Monster Cry are starting to develop a distinctive style – hints of Simon and Garfunkel powered by a lifetime of listening to all types of music including Tom Waits, the Dubliners, the Frames and Bob Dylan. This style emerged throughout the 11 tune set, including an engaging cover of Dylan’s “You ain’t goin’ nowhere”.

While polished and perhaps a little sleek on the EP, the music and vocals of Cry Monster Cry truly bloom in a live setting.  In person, the group demonstrates that certain something which transforms a pretty studio track into a gripping tune that stays stuck in your head long after the lights go on.  A very promising debut.

Communion: Headlining the Academy 2 next Friday night, July 20.
Knockanstockan, Wicklow: July 28
Castlepalooza, Offaly: August 4
Jack Of Diamonds, Dublin: August 19
Spirit Of Folk, Meath: September 22
Upstairs at Dolans, Limerick: September 27
The Sugar Club, Dublin: September 28
Roisin Dubh, Galway: September 29
Fred Zeppelins, Cork: September 30

To purchase the EP:

Tower Records – Wicklow Street
Elastic Witch – Abbey Street
E2 Music – Dame Street

You can also buy the digital version which includes bonus track “This New Country” from itunes


Networking as gaeilge with Des Bishop on Abair Leat!

Comedian Des Bishop was in Dublin this morning to launch a new Irish-language social networking site called Abair Leat.  Abair Leat was created by Coláiste Lurgan, an Irish-language school in Connemara which Des Bishop attended as part of his show “in the name of the Fada.”

Hear Des and Principal of Coláiste Lurgan Mícheál Ó Foighil explain what’s behind the initiative

Read about the background to the project and about Irish-language social networking:

A new educational social network dedicated to the Irish language was launched today by Des Bishop to encourage Irish speakers of all levels to use the language. The site, called Abair Leat, will offer users interaction and access to language support tools such as translation, spellcheck and a specialised dictionary.

Abair Leat!

Abair Leat!

It’s the brainchild of Coláiste Lurgan, an Irish-language school in Connemara which embraced the web a few years ago by making materials available to its students in what it calls an online language lab.

Principal of Coláiste Lurgan Mícheál Ó Foighil explains that the distinguishing feature of Abair Leat is the language determination capability, which ensures that any content posted to the site contains over 70% of Irish native words. Content can be linked to Facebook, but not the other way around.

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The letter that fetched 50,000 euro

A letter by Paul McCartney dating back to 1960 was discovered before Christmas 2011 at a car boot sale in Liverpool and was sold for nearly 50,000 euro.

Photograph of The Beatles, Author=United Press International,1964

Photograph of The Beatles, Author=United Press International,1964

To find out what’s behind the fascination of owning rock and pop memorabilia and what Ireland brings to the scene, I interviewed Mr Ian Whyte, Managing Director of Whyte’s and Sons, one of Ireland’s specialist auction houses.

Ireland and the Antarctic

Scientists are coming to terms with the news that Russian Antarctic exploration teams managed to break through nearly 4 km of ice last week, to reach Lake Vostok in Antarctica which has been sealed for at least 15 million years.

Lake Vostok is the largest of over 140 lakes found under the surface of Antarctica and is similar in size to lake Ontario, though contains 3 times more water. The presence of these lakes was discovered by calculations first, then by radar.

National Geographic greeted the news by saying that sub-glacial lakes could offer new information about climate history or reveal previously unknown life-forms. Any findings are eagerly anticipated by scientists studying fresh water organisms but could take years to surface.

Location of Lake Vostok in Antarctica. The original is a composite satellite photo from NASA.

Location of Lake Vostok in Antarctica. The original is a composite satellite photo from NASA.

The team, which has now left the station, can only work in extreme conditions during the summer months. The Vostok station holds the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded on earth: a teeth-chattering -89 C.

As the world erupted with a mix of praise, fear and anticipation at the conclusion of over 20 years of drilling, experts agree that this puts Antarctica back in the spotlight as a place of many resources, both scientific and commercial.

In Ireland, it brings up the fact that Ireland has not yet signed the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS). The ATS ensures among other things that the continent will be used for peaceful non-military purposes only and encourages scientific cooperation, but does not address the issues of territorial sovereignty.

Christopher J. Wilson, a Wexford-based environmental consultant and co-founder of the Wildside association, is actively involved in lobbying the government to ensure they sign the treaty as soon as possible.

“Ireland is the only country of the heroic age of Antarctic Exploration that has not signed the ATS, the last country to sign up was Malaysia in October 2011,” said Mr Wilson, who is also the great nephew of Dr Edward A. Wilson who died with Captain Scott and his party on their return from the South Pole in 1912.

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Breastfeeding on the menu for Facebook

Breastfeeding was on the menu this morning at the Facebook headquarters in Dublin, as a group of nursing mothers, babies, fathers and supporters gathered outside to protest against the deletion of images depicting breastfeeding and the suspension of accounts. These actions are often linked to the reporting of images as inappropriate by other Facebook users.

The Dublin gathering was one of over 30 similar protests taking place around the globe, to highlight perceived discrimination against breastfeeding mothers on the social networking website.

Protesters and press were initially invited into the lobby of the building by members of the Facebook team but the protest moved outside again when Facebook staff asked the press to stop interviewing and recording the event inside the premises.

Mothers and babies protesting at the Facebook HQ in Dublin

Mothers and babies protesting at the Facebook HQ in Dublin today

Chris Finn, the national coordinator for the Friends of Breastfeeding group, spoke on behalf of the group saying that they wish there weren’t here today because breastfeeding should be such a non-issue:

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After the floods what next?

I put together this simple radio package after the big floods in October 2011 which devastated a lot of South Dublin and Wicklow. It highlights the challenges faced by home-owners who had to move out.

The dirty business of campaigning for US President

I’m watching with fascination as the presidential campaign trail unfolds around the New Hampshire Primary. First of all, the ads. The ads are incredible. Sophisticated, expensive, like movie trailers with action music, each showing the candidate as a Bond-like figure ready to make things right again. Hair is flowing, teeth are white, faces are set in a kindly but determined mask, there are strong graphics and sound effects. That is the shiny side of campaigning. There is also a dark underbelly.

Take Jon Huntsman. He’s a candidate that is seen to have made a surprising come-back in the last few days, swiping 2 votes, neck and neck with Romney, in the tiny Dixville Notch midnight poll. Huntsman is seen as the Republican that Democrats can adhere to. He was US ambassador to China under Obama.

When Romney attacked him about serving under Obama, Huntsman responded by slamming Romney’s attitude as symptomatic of what is truly wrong in the US and how Republican vs Democrat war was taking precedence over the bigger picture. And then out popped rumours that an ad – which accused Huntsman of being anti-American and commented on the adoption of his daughters and which he countered in an emotional address during his campaign – could actually be linked to his own campaign trail, who could have disseminated the ad against him to make him look good…

Romney also put his foot in it when he declared that he “likes to be able to fire people that provide services to me”. His opponents quickly ran with this, using it to tear at his time at Bain Capital, where he was said to have made a lot of money and made a lot of people redundant and was branded a “predatory corporate raider” by a pro-Gingrich group. Another film is said to be about to target Romney for the next round of votes in Carolina about “corporate raiding”, again linked to a group or PAC, not Newt Gingrich directly, the trailer of which looks like it belongs to “Wall Street” or “The International”.

Who knows at this point who did what, but that is how dirty political fighting is done! In comparison, Dana-gate and Gallagher’s Brown-envelope-gate during our own presidential campaign make it look like the debate was just heating up!

This morning a financial expert on CNN made a comment which I thought was relevant in highlighting why this year’s campaign is perhaps a little different due to the current world wide recession: “The Republicans are arguing about the DNA of profit making”. It’s true, in the case of Romney, the Republicans sound like they actually oppose capitalism…

Romney is still in the lead as I type. Meanwhile, the Doomsday clock is ticking on CNN, bringing us closer to the end of the world which is planned on 21 12 2012.