Lost 3 ends on a high note

The season three finale of Lost was aired on Irish TV on Sunday night. Fantastic. Really, really excellent. The first half of the third season was weak – still good compared to most prime time TV, but just nowhere near as accomplished as the previous two series of Lost. However, the second half of the series has just been fantastic.


***** spoiler alert*****

If you haven’t seen this yet and consider yourself a Lost fan, probably best to not read on. Anyway, they killed the hobbit. Charlie is dead. Sorry to see him go, but his character’s reason for being there had been resolved as he kicked his heroin habit, and so there wasn’t much left for him. Desmond’s premonitions have turned out to be accurate and the story has taken a fundamental shift with the introduction of ‘flashforwards’.

Flash backs have been part of the show for the last three series, filling in the back story of all the major characters on the island. But now we’ve been shown Jack and Kate three years AFTER they get off the island. Jack is a drugged up mess and Kate is shacked up with Him, whoever Him is –we don’t get to fid out yet. It’s not Jack at any rate.

And who’s funeral did nobody turn up to? Interesting, but the most intriguing question was raised when Jack ranted at his new boss at the hospital. He’s accused of being drunk, and Jack shouts back “Get my dad down here and if I’m drunker than him, you can fire me!”

From previous flashbacks, we know Jack’s dad was also an alcoholic and used to be Jack’s boss – but he died. In fact, the reason Jack was on that fateful oceanic flight to Australia was because he was going to collect the body. So is he dead or isn’t he? Or is Jack just so messed up he doesn’t know? Quality television. 72 hours of broadcast TV and I’m not even vaguely bored yet. Whoo hoo!

EDIT – I’ve just received an irate phone call from a friend, complaining that I’d broken some kind of unwritten blogger’s code, by revealing that Charlie bites the big one. Come on? What serious Lost fan in the US or Europe hasn’t seen the Series Three finale? This episode was shown in Ireland on Sunday and in the US last week. I feel no shame and am unrepentant! (Besides, I’m not entirely sure Jon wasn’t just bored in work and felt like making a crank call.)

EDIT – I’ve talked it over with Jon, and he’s got a point. I can see how this could annoy Lost fans who haven’t seen the show yet, so I’ve changed the headline and added a spoiler notice.

Blog stats redux and the term gun

I’ve been away from the blog for a little while – went on holiday, had to catch up with lots of work, attended a budo seminar in Athlone, hosted a visiting shihan for a class, got back into some fiction writing – in short I haven’t had a load of time to blog. The result was that the massive number of people who had been viewing this blog – north of 450 a day – dwindled away. They were attracted by the post I made on the Virginia shootings and in particular they found this blog through search engines when they searched for terms like ‘gun’.

So earlier today I looked up my wordpress blog stats to see how many people have been visiting and for the last few weeks it’s been very low – down to nine or ten a day before jumping up to 500 or more over the last few days. Why? I have no idea, for some reason hundreds of people are again searching for terms like gun in every possible permutation and gramatical variation from gun to Gun to GUn to GUN to ‘gun’ to “gun” to . . . well, you get the picture.

So far today, 280 people have searched for “gun” and wound up here, with the second most searched term being “Michael Crichton.” Two people searched for that.

Presumably something happened in the US again which prompted people to go searching blogs using these search terms but it’s interesting to speculate what causes trends like this to happen.

Neon Bible and The Arcade Fire

It’s a long time since I’ve heard an album that’s just grabbed me from the first track and been excellent all the way through. If you’ve never heard of them, check out The Arcade Fire and their album Neon Bible. Play it loud.

A week in Mallorca

Myself and some friends have just gotten back from a week’s hols on Mallorca – and had a fantastic time. We rented a villa in the hills outside Pollensa and kicked back. We also managed to fit in some yacht-shaped fun and spent some time cruising around the Island. Really, great fun. If you haven’t been to Mallorca, odds are you probably associate the place with Ibiza-style foam parties and cheap and tacky holiday resorts. It does have those things – and I’ve had the misfortune to end up there in a previous incarnation as a travel journalist.


However, on a different occasion, I stopped off in the Island’s capital city of Palma and discovered that there is an entire other side to this island that is simply fantastic, and I’ve been back to the island three or four times since.


Resorts like Magaluf and Santa Ponsa soak up 90 per cent of visitors to the island, with the result that many people will leave the island totally unaware that it boasts one of Europe’s most beautiful and cultured capital cities.


While Palma is a thoroughly Spanish city – complete with tapas bars, siesta, buzzing mopeds and authentic Spanish food – in ways it looks and feels quite different to other Iberian towns.


This is a walker’s city, and the old town features some of the most beautiful street architecture found in the region. Originally established by the Romans, the city was later conquered by Arabs, and even today influences from both these cultures can clearly be seen in its architecture.


Palma can really be split into two halves – the new and the old. Most of the city is relatively new, and the tree-lined avenues of La Rambla and Passeig des Born were built in the l9th Century. However it is the old town, or Casco Antiguo, and the Calatrava quarter, which starts directly behind the city’s famous seafront cathedral, that is likely to have most appeal for tourists.


The magnificent 13th century Gothic cathedral is a must see, as are the city’s 10th century Arab Baths, but it’s also possible to spend a highly enjoyable couple of hours simply wandering through the old city’s narrow winding streets. Many of the oldest houses are tall and constructed close together, providing welcome shade to the streets below. Other attractions include the beautiful harbour and marina, museums, theatres and a fantastic selection of restaurants and bars.

Palma is a bustling shopping city during the day, with plenty of bargains on offer and branches of all of Spain’s best known chain stores, but it is at night that the city really comes to life. Like most Spanish cities, it’s best not to venture out too early — locals tend to start their evenings at around 10pm, and will stay out until 3am, so to avoid sitting in empty bars and restaurants, do likewise and have a late supper. The local cuisine includes all the stables of Spanish cuisine, as well as regional favourites like scrambled egg and prawns, and Piemento de Padron, a dish of mild green chillies fried and salted.

On the internet, nobody knows who you are.

Somebody sent me a link to an article on the nature of how people present themselves on the internet. It’s interesting, and I know I’ve seen the behaviour detailed within the article continually over the years.

When people have the opportunity to separate their actions from their real world and identity, they feel less vulnerable about opening up. Whatever they say or do can’t be directly linked to the rest of their lives. They don’t have to own their behavior by acknowledging it within the full context of who they “really” are. When acting out hostile feelings, the person doesn’t have to take responsibility for those actions. In fact, people might even convince themselves that those behaviors “aren’t me at all.” In psychology this is called “dissociation.”

You can find the full article at


It makes for interesting reading.

Australia by bus? Are you insane?

That’s what I thought when the press release fell into my mail box this afternoon. I get travel related press releases all the time, but I nearly dropped my coffee when I saw this one. There is a new company offering a bus service to take you from London to Sydney . . . by bus!

My god. Can you imagine? It takes 12 weeks and costs a massive £3750 sterling for the privledge, taking in England, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Nepal, China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia East Timor and finally Australia.

It’s completely nuts. You could fly there business class in 24 hours for less than the cost of 12 weeks in a bus, camping and doing chores by the roadside. I also particularly like the way it takes in some of the World’s most dangerous hot spots on the trip. But wait, there’s more:

Duties can include: cooking, truck/camp cleaning, shopping and security watch; the tour leader may organise a roster at the beginning of the tour so that everyone does their fair share. The advantages of this are meeting local people when shopping in markets, helping the environment by keep campsites and nature spots tidy as well as meeting and getting to know all your fellow travellers. Flexibility is key, an open mind will introduce you to the local delights of the area you are travelling through as well as allow you to enjoy the tour to its fullest.

Ha ha ha – security watch! It sounds great – I’d love to do that. You can find out more www.oz-bus.com

Review: Hellfire by Mia Gallagher

Powerful story of hope and heroin
Published Sunday, September 10, 2006 – Reviewed by Alex Meehan
Hellfire, by Mia Gallagher, Penguin Ireland, €19.10.

As any writer knows, the problem with writing about inner city heroin addicts is that it’s hard to make a lying, thieving, violent scumbag your main character and still ask your reader to like them and care what happens to them.

The thing is though, smack addicts are real people with hopes and dreams and aspirations, and in Mia Gallagher’s Hellfire, the lead character shows how good people can come to do bad things.

Much of Hellfire is concerned with how an innocent 15-year-old girl messes her life up with drugs, how she is influenced by those around her and how she sets out to take revenge on those who led her down the path she is now on.

The book takes its name from the infamous Hellfire Club, the hunting lodge in the Dublin Mountains behind Rathfarnham which was reputedly the site of satanic rituals and 17th-century debauchery presided over by the infamous Buck Whaley.

In Gallagher’s debut novel, the Hellfire Club is also the name of a teenage gang, a group of kids from Dublin’s north inner city obsessed with drugs and the occult in late 1980s Ireland.

At the centre of the group is Lucy Dolan, a streetwise teenager with a talent for reading tarot cards. For most of the book, Lucy is 15 years old and living with her dysfunctional family, which has been shattered by drugs, poverty and marital break-up.

She lives with her aging fortune teller granny and her street trader Mam, but the Dolan house is not a happy home – Lucy’s brother Micko is a heroin addict while her dad, the once dapper mod, Jimmy Marconi, is no longer on the scene.

The story starts in 2003. The adult Lucy has just been released from jail and is trying to make sense of her troubled life and the need she feels to confront her nemesis, Naylor, the two-bit gangster who introduced her to heroin.

Over the course of the story we see her degenerate into drug-fuelled desperation and insanity, before she comes out the other side, haunted by her memories of a night spent at the Hellfire Club.

A first person narrative delivered by Lucy to Naylor, Hellfire is written entirely in a Dublin dialect that takes some getting used to. Few books are written in this manner and with good reason: first person narratives restrict the writer enormously in that they can describe only what their lead character experiences or remembers.

This makes it hard to describe the world the story is taking place in and, as a result, first person novels can feel shallow and unfulfilling.

However, Hellfire is the exception that proves the rule and the first person narrative works well. It emphasises the restricted viewpoint of a character that lives in a small world, that of Dublin’s north inner city. Lucy has trouble relating to the potential for normality that exists beyond it.

Overall, this is a remarkable debut novel. The writing is lively and lyrical, the story exciting and startlingly original and the characters well drawn and engaging.

Hellfire is a dark book, but reading it is not a dark experience. The main character is a teenager with all the optimism that goes with early adulthood. Lucy is streetwise but naive, brave but afraid, all at the same time.

Her world is an invigorating place in which to spend time, but her descent into heroin addiction and psychosis is all the more upsetting because, by that stage of the book, we know Lucy well and believe bad things shouldn’t happen to girls like this.

The hell of the addict’s existence is rendered normal through Lucy’s eyes and it is horrible to witness. That we care so much speaks highly of a character drawn well with a believable narrative. This book could have been about the ugliness of heroin but instead it’s about the beauty of hope.

The only minor criticism that needs to be levelled at Hellfire regards its pacing: this is a whopper of a book, even more so when you consider it is a first effort. It clocks in at 660 pages but the first 150 could easily have been cut to make for a more energetic read.

This first section of the book deals with Lucy’s early childhood, her family and her relationship with her influential grandmother and absent father. It is beautifully written and a great introduction to the world in which the novel takes place but not a huge amount happens that is relevant to the story itself. However, when the story really gets going, it’s a page-turner.