Monday, March 30, 2015

The Verdict And The Books That Follow

The verdict in the sordid murder case was handed down three days ago and the printing presses were cranked up, running at full speed to get the first book into the shops while public interest is still hot.

For months, Graham Dwyer was on trial in the murder of Elaine O'Hara. The case had all the elements to captivate the general public: a woman's disappearance, the discovery of her remains months later, and a murder investigation that led to an underground world of kinky sex via online hook-ups, The characters in the drama were intriguing as well, with a well-heeled architect standing accused of murdering a child care worker with some mental health issues.
A guilty verdict, a last chapter written and the book laid down with no time to lose

Mr. Dwyer was found guilty of killing Ms. O'Hara as part of some sick sexual fantasy. Over the course of the trial, the whole sordid story was told from recovered text messages that painted a very disturbing picture.

Who wouldn't want to read all about it, including the bits that didn't make it into the daily newspapers?

Niamh O'Connor is first past the post. Her book is hitting the shops, ready to go, while the trial is still a popular topic.

The crime writer sat through the trial, tweeting and taking notes. She had only to organize those thoughts into paragraphs of more than 140 characters and there was the book that would set the mark for all other books to follow.

Why do we consume these tales? There is the titillation aspect, especially with the Fifty Shades phenomenon playing out in movie theatres. Bondage is supposed to be good, not-so-clean fun, but the relationship between Mr. Dwyer and Ms. O'Hara was nothing like that portrayed in a series of books that were best-sellers.

Are we seeking some insight into Mr. Dwyer's soul? If we could determine why he had a compulsion to kill a woman to achieve sexual climax, maybe we could find some clue that would help the authorities catch another, equally disturbed individual, before they killed some innocent woman who had emotional problems of her own. How could a man who had the intelligence to become a successful architect lead such a thoroughly concealed second life? Were there clues left behind as he played the master to Elaine O'Hara's submissive?

Were there other women gone missing years ago whose disappearance might be linked to Graham Dwyer?

The first book will not be the insightful expose. That sort of story takes some time to research and write. This is the first, the more basic presentation of the facts as heard in the courtroom, with the prosecution painting one picture and the defense painting quite another.

But the first book is the one that sells through when it arrives within days of the verdict. It won't be the Irish version of In Cold Blood. It isn't meant to be. This book is just supposed to sell a lot of copies so the publisher can make as much money as possible.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Wisdom Of The Clergy

She should have been home.

That was the wisdom offered by a parish priest in Melbourne recently as he spoke to a group of primary school children. Why did he mention the name of a woman who had been raped and murdered in 2012? Was he providing some lesson in Catholic morality that would give the wee little ones a firm foundation for their teenaged years when the hormones started to raging? Teaching them what the Catholic Church believed was proper behavior for the female congregation?
Murder victim Jill Meagher
He held up a picture of Ms. Meagher, a woman who had been walking home from a pub at 1:30 am after a night out when she was attacked.

People do that sort of thing, go out to nightclubs or pubs or concert halls to have fun. Men and women both are known to stay out late. But if you are a woman in Melbourne, you are doing what you have no business doing, according to the wisdom of an Australian clergyman.

She should have been home in bed, the priest told the children, and not out at all hours. It was her own fault, then, if you follow the clergyman's logic, that she was killed by a serial rapist. A woman should be living a faith-filled life, you see, kids, and all you girls take note. Never leave your homes. The Muslims have the best idea, don't they? Don't allow women to walk about without a male escort, or they are fair game for the thugs and killers. So there's the lesson for you boys. Women are not entitled to respect, unless they are cloistered behind the four walls of the family home, in bed by 10.

The Archdiocese of Melbourne has apologized for the comments, calling them inappropriate.

And offensive as well.

But what they failed to explain as they extracted an apology from the priest who upset the parishioners is why they continue to employee a priest whose mindset is so dangerously archaic . They never said the priest was a feckin' eejit for blaming a victim, yet that is what the laity thought of the man.

When a murder victim is called out for not living a more "faith-filled" life, there is a bigger problem than that of a single priest. That he would even think to instruct children on proper morality by using an innocent, brutalized woman as an example of what not do reflects a mentality that harkens back to the Dark Ages.

The same concept of morality led to the creation of a gulag designed to contain female sexuality in Ireland, a system that remained in effect until the mid 1990's. That mindset has not been erased with time or corrected with teaching.  It starts in the classroom, with the children learning the basic tenets of their faith. And so it is perpetuated ad infinitum, until the priests are taken out of the classroom and kept cloistered behind the four walls of the parochial house where they can't cause so much trouble for the public at large.

She should have been home in bed at that time of night, the priest told the impressionable children in a parish in Melbourne. What an incredibly stupid thing to say. What a pathetic way to think about women.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Dream Lover: A Book Review

Disclaimer: I received this book from Penguin’s First To Read programme.

I have never read any of George Sand’s books, and know little about her life. Perhaps her writing was too risque for young minds, and then avoided by those who did not study literature at university. So I came to the book with an open mind, and my lack of knowledge made Elizabeth Berg’s “The DreamLover” a pleasant introduction to a very remarkable writer.

The novel opens with George Sand leaving her husband, certainly a fateful day in real life and an intriguing point to begin a novel. For the first half of the book, the story is presented as intertwined narratives of Sand's childhood and her new life as a woman of letters, a woman with a small fortune who could afford the luxury of writing. After the two story lines merge, the remainder of the novel focuses on Sand’s career and her continuous quest to find love.

The contrast between a desire for female emancipation and a desire for romantic love is well presented in fictional form. George Sand might have been a feminist, but her numerous affairs as shown in “The Dream Lover” create a character of great depth. The complexity of Sand’s emotions makes for a compelling read as she searches for some impossible ideal in a man, the dream lover of the title. I am guessing that some of the action portrayed was based on Sand's own novels, in the guise of a writer writing what she knows. You may feel motivated to pick up one of her early novels and see for yourself. Or at any rate, to see how all the sex was hinted at in French literature of the 1830s and 1840s.

There is more than enough name dropping to thrill the literati, with appearances by Flaubert, Delacroix, and Chopin, among others. And then there is the actress Marie Dorval, who may have had a romantic entanglement with George Sand in real life, and enjoys a very brief affair in this piece of historical fiction.

Unfortunately, the novel loses steam in the end. Following the defeat of the Communards in 1848, and Sand's own advancing age, the pursuit of love came to an end and so too did the driving force behind the novel. A reader will see that Sand's emotional outlook matured as she aged, and the closing chapters plod along as if waiting for Sand to die.

All in all, the book is well worth reading for fans of historical fiction.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Onward Christian Soldiers With Payments In Arrears

No money in Christianity
The Family Christian chain of bookstores has gone into receivership because there is no money in Christian books, apparently. Look at Christ's teachings and you see that there is no money in Christianity in general. It goes against the general set of beliefs. If you're giving away all you have to follow Him, there's no room in there for you to accumulate wealth.

What happens when a firm goes under?

There are unpaid bills to be balanced against what little might be in the till, which means some creditors get nothing while others get next to nothing. And when it comes to Family Christian, there is quite a line of Christian publishers realizing that they are about to be left out in the cold. After all, you can't squeeze blood out of a turnip, no matter how religious it might be.

Vendors who supplied Family Christian shops with product did so under the assumption that they would be compensated for their goods. As it turns out, the best of intentions doesn't create profit. After the rent was paid and the utlity bills managed, there was no money left over to pay for the books and gift items.

The publishers who provided the books sold at Family Christian stores had expenses of their own that were going to be recouped by payments that, it turns out, will never materialize. Where does a publisher then get money to keep its own doors open when it gets hit with a loss?

For many of the Christian book publishers, that moeny comes from royalties due the authors who wrote the books.

It isn't just a chain of shops that has gone bankrupt. A chain of authors who thought they had made it in the industry are discovering that a corporation's word is not guaranteed to be kept, no matter what the Bible says.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Render Unto Caesar The Things That Are...Stephen King's

Stephen King contemplates his next novel's antagonist
In Stephen King's next novel, there will be a character who will suffer some horrible fate. The victim of the author's pen will be a thinly veiled version of the current governor of the state of Maine, and that character will die in an excruciating way, and only after readers have come to thoroughly despise him. Indeed, they will cheer when the character who is remarkably similar to Paul LePage gets what's coming.

Mr. King lives in Maine, a state associated with rocky soil and people hardened by a perpetual struggle. And lobster, of course. When you think of Maine you think of lobster but that's only along the coast. Other than that, it is the sort of place that is not an economic powerhouse like New York, or quaint tourist haven in a Vermont sort of way.

Given all those negatives, it is no wonder that the government is quite sensitive to people trying to avoid rendering unto the state that which is the state's. In other words, Governor LePage tends to criticize the tax-dodgers.

A popular tax dodge in many of the United States is to move to Florida where the taxes are low, and thereby keep more of your money. Caesar's cut is smaller in Florida and as long as you reside there for six months and one day, you are an official resident subject to the local tax rules. You could keep your house in Maine, which would be of use in the summer when it is too hot in Florida. You'd linger into the autumn for the foliage, and then head back to your official place of residence to prepare your annual tax return, happy that Maine isn't getting as much as they would if you were a full-time Maine-iac.

Mr. LePage called out Stephen King as such a tax dodger recently. The author is, of course, fabulously wealthy after finding success in writing, and fabulously wealthy people employ tax accountants who tell them to move to Florida and save a few dollars. He just happens to have a home in Florida, and someone in the governor's office connected a couple of dots and drew a line that did not actually connect to reality.

There is no love lost between author and executive. Mr. King has criticized the governor in the past, and it's likely that Mr. LePage was so happy to be handed something negative to say about his nemesis that he forgot to check the facts before presenting his theory.

Now Mr. King is demanding an apology that will most likely not be forthcoming. About all that Mr. LePage did was to delete the anti-King comments from the version released to the press, as if the words were never spoken.

Without the apology, Mr. King is free to retaliate in a way that only he can, because he is a highly successful author with a huge coterie of fans. Few will have heard Mr. LePage speak, but many will read Mr. King's response.

As Mark Twain once noted, it is not wise to pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. But then again, who ever said that Governor LePage was a wise man?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Take Advantage Of The Favorable Exchange Rate

The euro is nearly on parity with the US dollar, which means the bargains in Europe are there for the taking. What better bargain could you find than a castle? Yes, your very own castle.

All is not perfect, of course. You would be the proud owner of a pile in County Antrim, but if you are part of the Irish diaspora that fled Ireland to escape Protestant rule, this could be your best chance at revenge for your unfortunate ancestors. Antrim was once the seat of the clan O'Neill, but the native Irish were booted off their land so that the Ulster Plantation could take root and wash out Irish culture. Wouldn't your people be proud of you if you re-inserted a little piece of Irish-Catholic culture back again?

A man's home could literally be his castle if he had one million dollars on hand, plus a little loose change to cover the difference. As mansion go, it almost sounds too good to be true. But, again, this is in Antrim and not London or New York City.

Craigdun is the second castle to sit on the site, with the original castle torn down in the 1860s. The stones, however, were recycled, so in a way you'd be getting something from the time of James I.

At one time, the occupant of Craigdun was a fierce unionist who once threw a book at his nemesis, Winston Churchill. How delightful would it be to accept the keys to your new abode and then promptly have the local parish priest come in to exorcise that particular demon?

And it would not require much sacrifice to move in. The home has been renovated and brought up to modern standards, making it eminently comfortable for an old house. At the same time, the gardens maintain the feel of baronial splendor, where you could walk in the evening and imagine that you, too, are a lord of the manor.

Looking for an investment? The castle is currently used for destination weddings and appeals to those looking for a unique venue for their party. Book enough groups and you could pay the mortgage from outside income, while keeping an apartment for yourself. It's how it's done these days, to make such places affordable. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

You Can Cancel That Trip To Ireland Now

As a publicity-garnering gambit, the 15 euro air fare rumour got people to sit up and take notice of Ryan Air. When the New York Times writes up a piece about it, you've arrived in the land of free publicity.

Sure you'd be made to pay extra for a sip of water or the key to the jacks, but fifteen euro to travel from New York To Dublin? You could manage to travel light and dehydrated. Look at the exchange rate between the dollar and the euro! How could you go wrong? That return to the homeland was suddenly within reach for the millions with a drop of Irish blood and a yearning to see what their ancestors left behind.

Now that Ryan Air has your attention, they wish to announce that they were not, actually,planning to offer such impossibly low rates for trans-Atlantic travel.

Something just slipped out of the board room, or something like that.

Michael O'Leary, who founded the cheap airline, was just dreaming and his flights of fancy turned into actual flights. He wants to expand his little airline that has all but killed off the old Eurorail pass that was once the cornerstone of gap year travel. Students fly Ryan Air all over Europe, and what CEO would not want to expand on that success? The trans-Atlantic route is the obvious place to go next.

Unfortunately for corporate relations, the banter in the board room leaked out. In truth, they say now, the executives discussed adding the new service and then realized that they couldn't afford it within the limits of their budget. As for a fifteen euro fare, that might be a nice price point, but it is not realistic. Imagine the loss on a single, full flight of 15 euro seats and you start to wonder who came up with the figure in the first place. It's not as if the till is filled to overflowing and something has to be done to spend all that money.

The low fare was hyped and now the low fare has been declared a misunderstanding.

Wavering in financial matters does not endear a corporation to the flying public, and for Ryan Air it is doubly unfortunate. Their no frills flights, awash in gimmicks that annoy the uninitiated, have plenty of detractors who don't really enjoy the Ryan Air experience.

So when the airline does come up with some sort of loss leading offer, the flying public is likely to ignore it as another attention-getting device with no substance.

No firm wants its clients to lose faith.

There are always competitors ready to capitalize on such mistakes and siphon off a few travelers looking for a bargain and willing to fly like a kipper in a tin.