Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

White Baby Donkey

My parent's neighbour keeps donkeys, and when I was at home yesterday, I saw that he had an adorable white donkey foal. He kept fairly close to his mum, so it was hard to get some pics, but here you go.


American Rust - Philipp Meyer

A rusty brad adorns the cover of this debut novel from Philipp Meyer. Set in the Rust Belt of the USA, it is a story of a decaying community and the ties that bind the different inhabitants together.

It is two years since best friends Isaac English and Billy Poe graduated from high school, but they still haven't left their hometown. Brilliant Isaac didn't go to Berkely but stayed at home to mind his invalid father, who was injured in an accident in a steel mill. Billy, a talented football player, turned down the chance to leave town and go to college on a scholarship. However, Billy has a bent for trouble, and skirts the outside of the law, protected by the sheriff who is seeing Billy's mother.

The two contrasting friends find themselves in situation where a homeless vagrant end up dead, and so begins an insightful piece of crime fiction, as well as social commentary. Their friendship and loyalties are tested, as are those of their families and friends.

The author's descriptions of the once-bustling, now quiet towns, rusting steel mills and beautiful countryside add to the poignancy of the tale, where Meyer skillfully creates and builds his characters. With echoes of Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" this is a masterful and intense debut from an author to watch in the future.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Manning's Emporium, Ballylickey, Bantry, Co Cork

I was home this weekend in Kilnamartyra in order to have my Dad check out our new secondhand car. Despite much tutting and humming, he finally (grudgingly) gave it a clean bill of health.

But I did have to get two new rear tyres for the car. As it's a rear-drive car, there really was no point in putting it on the long finger, and as my Dad didn't have the tyres in stock, he arranged for us to collect a set from Bantry Tyre Centre.

It's a lovely drive back to Bantry, going through Ballingeary and Ceim an Fhia. As we passed the turn off for Guagane Barra, I regretted not bringing my camera with me. The sun was starting to shine through the morning haze and there should have been some lovely photos to be had.

Anyway, with 2 new tyres in the boot, we hit the road back home. And promptly stopped again about 2 minutes later in Ballylickey to visit Val Manning's fantastic Emporium. Now, I have fond memories of Manning's treasure trove shop. It is the place where I first tasted prosciutto, nearly 16 years ago. It's also the place where I first tasted a lot of good Irish cheeses. And true to form, Val was handing out the samples again today.

I was delighted by a sample of Hegarty Farmhouse Cheddar, from Whitechurch in Cork. When he heard I was from Kilnamartyra, Val also insisted that I try a piece of the local cheese, Coolea, only this sample was from a matured block. Absolutely divine.

We also picked up some Sliabh Luachra air-dried beef from Jack McCarthy's in Kanturk. McCarthy's are award winning craft butchers with an on-line shop and we also bought some of their low-fat Butcher's breakfast sausages and some delicious looking rashers.

As we chatted, Val mentioned how tough times were for small retailers. He mentioned that he didn't expect to last the year if things continued as they were. Tourist numbers were down and overdrafts are hard to come by from the banks. I was shocked to say the least. Val's shop has been in action for years, and has helped numerous artisans start out. And to think that it could all be gone so quickly is just an awful thought.

So my little trip to Bantry to buy new tyres has turned into a plea.

Get out there and support the small retailers who have given us so much over the years. If you know a small shop that you love, give them your contiued custom. We don't want to wake up in a few years when everything is better and find out that we've lost these great little shops.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sabor Brazil - Dublin 2

Ireland has welcomed many Brazilians to our shores in recent years. Many settled in Galway, eventually making up one-third of the 3,500-strong population of Gort. But what about our fair capital? Brazilian restaurants haven't worked here in the past but Sabor Brazil, located on a quiet street off Camden Street, aims to buck that trend. Camden Street appears to be undergoing a bit of a facelift and regenesis lately. The absolutely fantastic Green Nineteen has been heaving at the seams ever since it opened, while Hell Pizza has recently started selling its funky pizza combinations. Can Sabor Brazil add to the scene?

Myself and himself went there last night to have a recession-friendly, celebratory meal. Plenty of options had been thrown around during one of our usual day-long email conversations. The usual favourites got mentioned, but to be honest, eating chinese food 24x7 is prbably not the best idea. So Brazilian got the vote instead.

When we arrived, we were immediately impressed by the nice decor inside the restaurant and we were shown upstairs by our extremely friendly waiter. Some walls are papered in smart designs while paintings adorn other walls. Menus are already present on the tables and the selection is short and simple.

He went for Pastel, little Brazilian pastries, which were filled with cheese. These came served with a house vinaigrette while my air-dried beef Bolinhas (beef mixed with breadcrumbs, wraped in pastry and deep-fried) came with a 'citrus mayonnaise' (but bore of a resemblance to tartare sauce). Both starters were nice, but due to their fried nature, felt a little stodgy. The bolinhas were declared the unaminous favourite.

I had chosen the famous traditional dish of feijoada, which is essentially a black bean stew containing brazilian sausage, pork and bacon. It came served with rice, orange slices (?) and delicious garlicky green cabbage. I found the stew to be hale and hearty and ideally suited to a winter meal. It was definitely a bit much for one person on a summer's evening. He had chosen the Bife a Role which consisted of sirloin strips wrapped around some smoky bacon and carrots. Again it was served with rice, as well as little bowls containing chillis, more of the house vinaigrette and farofa (toasted manioc flour).

Total cost for the meal, including two large bottles of sparkling water came to E55. Sabor Brazil don't currently have an alcohol license, but you can pop to the nearest off-license to purchase alcohol is you want. No corkage will be charged.

What did I think overall? All the food was good, hearty and filling. Service was very friendly and helpful, but I just wasn't excited by the food. I don't know if this is general of Brazilian cuisine so maybe another visit to another restaurant is required. I won't give up on Brazil just yet. In the meantime, Sabor Brazil also do lunch and coffee, so give them a whirl.

Sabor Brazil, 50 Pleasant Street, (Off Camden Street), Dublin 2. (01) 475 0304

Monday, May 25, 2009

Squirrel in the Botanic Gardens

The Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin are a fantastic place to go for a Sunday walk. Wide open spaces, beautiful old greenhouses, lovely plants and flowers but best of all it's free.

I was looking out for one particular little guy at the Gardens - a very curious little squirrel who I'd seen on a previous visit. After spending a while wandering the gardens, we eventually came across a group of camera-happy people. Bingo... squirrel found.


Coraline 3D

"Be careful what you wish for" - you might just get a stunning movie with a fantastic story. Dakota Fanning provides the voice of Coraline, a young girl with two struggling, busy parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) who feels ignored, isolated and unloved. They've just moved into the Pink Palace, a dilapidated boarding house, which is also home to two aging actresses and a mouse-training Russian gymnast.

While exploring her new home, Coraline comes across a small door, only to find that it has been bricked up. However, at night she discovers a tunnel to another existance, an existance where her 'other mother' cooks fantastic meals and her 'other father' cheerily plays the piano and sings songs about his Coraline. Everything is perfect in this other world, where every little thing is full of enchantment and wonder. Or is it...

Coraline makes fantastic use of stop-motion animation and 3D technology to deliver a disturbing yet captivating magical fairytale. The only word of caution, it may be a little too dark for very young children, but adults will love it as much as younger audiences.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Channing Tatum plays the part of Shawn, a young man from Alabama making a living by selling bootleg DVDs and books on the streets of New York. When hustler Harvey (Terrence Howard) witnesses Shawn defend himself in a streetfight, he takes him under his wing and introduces him to the underground, bare-knuckle scene. When Shawn wins his first fight through a lucky fluke, you are left wondering where this film is taking you. Is he destined for success, or are we being sold an old nag masquerading as a stallion?

The fine performances by the cast (Tatum, Howard and Zulay Henao) give this film a lot more class than the script deserves. Howard shines as Harvey, the hustler who is trying to establish himself after years of trying, while the stunning Zulay Henao is great as the initially reluctanct single mother love interest. I think that Channing Tatum has a great career ahead of him, if only he can break free of the semi-moronic persona that he appeared to adopt here. I genuinely could not tell if the character of Shawn was meant to be 'special' or not. Additionally, for a film based on bare-knuckle fighting, the fight scenes are annoyingly hard to watch.

Overall, I'm unconvinced.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bad Mother - Ayelet Waldman

I'm finally beginning to make an indentation into the big stack of ARC books that has accumulated over the last few months. I thought that I had read them all, only to realise one day that my postman has been diverting my post to my work address (off his own bat I may add). So when I did check my lockbox, I found another 10 books waiting.

Amongst this stack was Ayelet Waldman's memoir Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occiasional Moments of Grace. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Waldman is the author of a series of murder mystery novels, The Mommy-Track Mysteries. Lately, she has turned to more emotionally serious topics, and drew extensive criticism for her essay Truly Madly Guiltily, which was published in the New York Times, in which she stated that she loved her husband more than her children. This article lead to a savaging of Waldman on the internet forum community and blogosphere. What I didn't know until a few chapters into the book, is that Waldman is married to the famous prize-winning author, Michael Chabon.

This book is a collection of essays surrounding the topic of motherhood. These essays are Waldman's own thoughts on family and children. While some are light-hearted, others are more serious and even heart-breaking. Her writing style is direct and engrossing and the pages turn themselves. While I could not say that I agreed with her point of view all the time, I was impressed by her honesty and I believe that overall she is doing a good job as a mother.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Angels & Demons

This was actually a better film than I expected. I tend to rate the emotional capacity of Tom Hanks to be at the same level as Keanu Reeves i.e. planklike, but emotion isn't quite a neccessity for this film.

Simply put, the Catholic Church has just lost a progressive and beloved pope and the faith is under pressure from a modern world. A message is sent to the Vatican purporting to be from the Illuminati, a secretive scientific Catholic society who were once persecuted and driven underground by the church. Four cardinals will be killed followed by the destruction of the Vatican by means of an anti-matter bomb.

The Vatican police call on Harvard professor, Robert Langdon (Hanks), a symbologist and Illuminati expert to help unravel the puzzle. What follows should be an exciting chase, but somehow it falls flat and dull on the screen. The magnificent buildings and piazzas of Rome start to blur as Hanks races from scene to scene.

Overall, it's a decent action film, but a reading of the novel would be beneficial to provide more detail. The smaltzy final few minutes detracts from the overall effect, but it's a decent lightweight piece of entertainment.

Moonlight - Series 1

Mick St. John (played by Alex O'Loughlin) is a private investigator based in Los Angeles - possibly not the wisest of choices when you're also a vampire. Mick is a somewhat reluctant vampire, shunning fresh blood in favour of blood from the blood bank. His speed, strength and senses are useful in his chosen career. As a relatively young vampire, (a mere 85 years old), he relies on one of his closest friends, the 400 year old vampire Joseph (Jordan Belfi).

Many years ago, Mick accepted a case involving a child kidnapping. Tracking down the child, he discovered that the kidnapper was his beautiful ex-wife, Coraline, and the woman who turned him into a vampire on their wedding night. As he rescues the child, he kills Coraline by trapping her in a fire.

Over the years, Mick kept a protective eye on the young child from the shadows, but one day their paths cross at a crime scene. Beth Turner is there in her capacity as an investigate journalist, and there is an immediate connection between the two. As their relationship develops, Mick struggles with revealing the dark side of his nature to Beth. Later in the series, Mick's past resurfaces and threatens both him and his fledgling relationship with Beth.

Moonlight follows Mick as he rediscovers his human side, all the while combining action, mystery and a good dose of romance. The series is an interesting addition to the vampire genre. Clever writing, good action scenes, camerawork and interesting lead characters lift this series above the norm. It's a pity that it looks like there won't be a second series - it would have been interesting to see how the story developed. Console yourself with all 16 episodes of the first series on this boxset.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mixed Value from Insomnia

I was passing Insomnia Coffee in Rathmines the other day when I noticed the above sign in their window. The food deals look like good value, especially with the 'any coffee', but what caught my eye was the small print underneath.

This promotion is excluded from the Insomnia Loyalty Card programme

Personally I don't like that. They should continue to show a bit of loyalty to the customers that support them.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Campaigning Politicians No 2 - Eoghan Murphy

I try to walk to and from work most days. This means that I'm becoming very familiar with all the the politicians standing for election in my locality. As I walk along, it's "Howya Edie" or "Hey there Proinsias".

There are also a lot of young politicians starting their careers in these elections. Let me introduce you to Eoghan Murphy, a cadidate for Fianna Gael. He has a fine head on him. Seriously, he beams down from the posters, young and confident with a fine head of hair.

Don't most politicians realise the power of hair? Young Eoghan has clearly copped onto that and is certain to go a long way.

On a more serious note, I don't know the man nor his politics. But it is good to see younger people involved and I wish him the best.

The Blue Notebook - James Levine

The Blue Notebook centres around Batuk, a 15 year old prostitute in Mumbai. Given up by her impoverished familty, her virginity is sold to the highest bidder and she is then turned over to work out of a small cell on Common Street. Having been hospitalised as a child in a missionary hospital, Batuk knows how to read and write. She begins to write her thoughts and observations in a blue exercise book with a pencil stub obtained from one of her patrons.

Batuk's imagination and acceptance of her world is simply remarkable. Every horrible graphic detail is recorded without emotion. Instead it is her memories of her father, family and childhood that elicit emotion from Batuk and protect her from the degrading and horrible world in which she lives.

James Levine is a respected doctor at the prestigious Mayo Clinic, but he draws from his personal research to write this harrowing and disturbing book. How does a middle-aged american male put himself into the mind of a poor, teenaged Indian prostitute? According to the promotional material accompanying the book

"interviewing homeless kids on a famous street of prostitution in Mumbai known as the Street of Cages. A young woman writing in a notebook outside of her cage caught his attention, and he interviewed her at length. The powerful image of a young prostitute engaged in the act of writing haunted him"

I think that the character of Batuk is designed to be somewhat emotionless - it is the actions and atrocities that she suffers that will stick in your mind long after you read the book. The awful acts that humans are capable of inflicting upon someone they consider beneath them are nothing new, but still shock. The author is donating all proceeds from the U.S. sales of this book to International and National Centres for Missing and Exploited Children - highly appropriate.

On an aside note, I highly liked the shade of blue used in the cover artwork - but was disappointed to see the book listed with a yellow cover on

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Horse Dancer - Jojo Moyes

Firstly, a big thanks to Waterstones for sending me this ARC of The Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes. The photo of the rearing horse and barefoot rider on the cover gave me some thought for pause as I wondered if I had received a young adult novel.

Natasha is a successful London solicitor advocate in the process of getting divorced from her husband Mac. A series of miscarriages have driven a wedge between them and recent cases at work have left her distrusting her judgement.

Sarah is a young teenager living in a London council estate with her elderly grandfather, Henri Lachapelle. In an effort to protect his granddaughter from the crime that surrounds then, Henri has taught his granddaughter all he knows about Le Cadre Noir, an exclusive French riding school, dedicated to the finest horsemanship. Not only that, but he bought a horse for Sarah. Not any old pony, but a fantastic Selle Francaise called Boo.

The paths of these two speparate women entwine when Henri suffers a dehabilitating stroke, leaving Sarah to fend for herself. It's a bit of a cliched tale, but the lonely women and the hurt and angry teenager help each other to feel more human again.

This book surpassed my expectations. Moyes has a deft touch for human relationships. It is a romantic story and has the expected happy ending, but somehow it is also more. It is an interesting look at the disintegration of a marriage under the pressure of repeated miscarriages and the failure of the system to care for lonely teenagers. Highly recommended reading.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek

Wow! What a fantastic reinvention! The new reworked version of Star Trek pays respect to the classic version, but pushes it into the future at warp speed. Gone are the musings of long-term Starfleet bastions such as Piccard, Sisko and Janeway. In their place is a young, eager and dynamic crew.

I was a little apprehensive that J.J. Abrams had been named director for this latest film in the Star Trek franchise. There's no doubting that he has vision and a creative bent (Alias, Lost, Cloverfield), but there is something undefinable missing in a lot of his work - some sense of conclusion perhaps. But Abrams is not the writer for this film - that burden falls to Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, both of Transformers fame.

Dedicated Trekkies (myself included) will love this rockfest, high-octane version and it should bring a whole new generation of young fans to the Star Trek series.

Campaigning Politicians No 1

This leaflet appeared in my postbox today. It's from Cllr. Edie Wynne who currently represents Pembroke/Rathmines on Dublin City Council. It's bad enough to be continuously trekking from my postbox to my green bin to dump unwanted junk mail, but junk mail from a politician promoting recycling takes the biscuit. We've already received leaflets from Dublin City Council and from Greyhound Recycling about waste management. Why waste more paper doing this?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sweet Basil Thai - Rathmines

I've been a bit of a economic doom-monger for the last 3+ years. I was flabbergasted for years at the prices us Irish paid for property (and take-away coffee). Us Irish are suckers for trends and the Celtic Tiger gave us the money to follow any trend we wanted. Still though, there's no satisfaction in seeing the recession bite. However, one thing hasn't changed and that's our liking for a good trend. That and the fact that most Irish people wouldn't recognise good cooking if it bit them on the b*llocks. We tend to like what we're told to like.

The new trend is frugality and value-hunting. Blogs, websites, papers and magazines are suddenly all full of articles about the best bargains and deals. So much fuss has been made about restaurants offering value menus. This is all good, but we're getting so carried away in our enthusiasm that we're ignoring restaurants that were always good value.

One case in point for a restaurant that's always been good value is the Sweet Basil Thai Restaurant in Rathmines. All evening, every evening, you can have a starter and main course for E12.50. (Seafood for E15.00 and fish for E19.00). The restaurant is sparsely decorated and can feel a little cold, but at these prices, I won't complain too loudly.

I ordered prawn tempura and duck red curry while he went for the soup and beef in chilli oil. My 3 prawns were plump and juicy. They may have been frozen (I'm not sure) but the crispy batter was light and served with a delicious fish-sauce dip. A good thai soup has the chicken just cooked in the soup before serving and that was the case here. Excellent.

Mains were just as good. My curry was flavoursome and creamy with plenty of veg and duck. It wasn't very spicy in its own right but there were plenty of chili slices present to add some bite. The beef chili sauce stir-fry was perfectly balanced.

My favourite Thai restaurant (at the moment) in Dublin is the Siam Thai in Dundrum. I think the food is good and the dining room is beautiful. But it is pricey - even the lunchtime menu is E25 per person. For the same money we can both eat in Sweet Basil Thai with next to no loss in taste and flavour.

Total cost for our two starters, two mains, one white wine and one beer (Chang) came to E33.50. If you can get over the decor, you will be immensely pleased with the delicious food and great value offered by the Sweet Basil Thai.

Sweet Basil Thai, Lower Rathmines Road, Rathmines, Dublin 6. 01 - 497 0000

New Toy for Hamsters

I'm amazed at the energy that my new little Roborovski hamsters display. They're like little elastic balls bouncing around the cage. Their level of activity means that I'm going to have to buy a new cage but in the meantime I decided to get them some new toys.

I went into my local petshop on Camden Street today and bought the Super Pet Puzzle Playgrounds Junglegym - talk about a mouthful. Assembling the damn thing proved a wee bit frustrating - to be honest it nearly went out the window a few times. It looks simple - a snap together assembly, but in reality, if you apply too much pressure, it just falls apart and you have to start again.

But it's been worth it. The hamsters are now buzzing around the assembley and they've already moved past the stage of trying to eat it. I tried to take some photos, but the little fellas just move too fast. Here's the best that I've gotten so far.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Two new Roborovski hamsters

Afer a suitable period of mourning for Grumpty, Mojito and Zorro, I've become the owner of two new dwarf hamsters, Roborovskis to be precise. They're still quite small and are unnamed as of yet.

Roborovskis are noted for being much more active than the other breeds of dwarf hamster, and I've already noticed that my new little dudes are clocking up the miles on the wheel. They're also quite adept little climbers. As a result I feel that I have to buy some additional tubes and climbing stuff to keep them occupied. Hence the hamster suspension bridge available for purchase on eBay.

The other thought that's currently brewing in my head is a little project to measure exactly how far the hamsters run over the course of a night. A little bicycle computer should do the job, but at 54cm in diameter, the hamster wheel is at the small end of what bicycle computers are typically designed for. I'm still searching for a suitable non-contact revolution counter.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - Katherine Howe

Katherine Howe is a descendant of two women accused of witchcraft during the Salem trials of 1692 and this is basis for her debut novel "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane". I received an ARC copy of the book and was immediately favourably impressed by the artwork and texture of the cover.

Connie Goodwin is a postgraduate student at Harvard who has recently been advanced to candidacy for her PhD in American Colonial history, meaning she now needs to find an original material source upon which to base her thesis. Her supervisor, the elite Manning Chilton, head of department, is applying pressure to choose a topic. On top of all this, Connie's mother Grace, an eccentric new-ager, contacts her and asks Connie to clean out her deceased grandmother's house in the town of Marblehead.

It is while cleaning out the ancient house that Connie stumbles upon a little mystery. Hidden inside the pages of an old family bible, she finds an old key with a hollow shaft in which is a rolled-up piece of paper bearing the words "Deliverance Dane". This discovery places Connie on a voyage of discovery, both historical and personal.

Howe skillfully draws on her impressive knowledge of colonial America to create a novel which moves between the modern day and the days surrounding the Salem Witch Trials. It is testament to her ability that while you are reading one side of the story, you are eagerly anticipating the events to come in the other side. Howe has also taken a distinct and fresh perspective on this terrible history and uses it to explore the roles of "cunning" women (women typically skilled in herbal lore and medicine) who have often been persecuted as witches throughout the years. It is ultimately a story about self-discovery and family and a very enjoyable read.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Loutus Asian Cuisine - Maynooth

We were staying in the Glenroyal Hotel in Maynooth last weekend. It was pouring rain on the Saturday night and we thought that we'd eat in the hotel bar/bistro but the extortionate prices on the menu quickly changed our minds. All the food around us looked deep-fried, there was no salad on the menu and E22-odd for chicken supreme was pulling the proverbial piss.

We reckoned that a quick run in the rain would be better than suffering those prices, thus we ended up in Lotus Asian Cuisine. It also doubles as a take-away but the main dining-room is decorated in shades of cream and white and feels quite light and bright. The menu is a mix of Thai and Chinese food and we quickly settled on Spicy Thai Yuk Sung as a shared starter. It arrived accompanied by perfect bowls of iceberg lettuce and resting on a bed of crispy noodles. It was spicily hot and delicious.

For mains we went for Mongolian Chicken and Spicy Thai Beef. The Mongolian chicken was served on a sizzling platter and turned out to be a strong hoisin-type sauce. The Thai beef consisted of beef stir-fried in a sweet Thai chilli sauce, (as opposed to proper Thai flavour) but was quite tasty.

Overall, we enjoyed our meal in the Lotus, although we did feel that E4 for a portion of rice was pushing it. Total cost for one starter, two mains, two rice, two chinese beers and one glass of white wine came to a total of approx E70. Not a cheap meal but we enjoyed it a lot more than the food on offer in the hotel.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tesco Pricing Error

I was in Tesco Maynooth today and I picked up a small bag of coriander. I then saw that there was a larger bag available was better value. Looking closely at the shelf labels, I realised that someone at Tesco clearly can't do maths.

30g bag costing E1.29 or E43.00/kg

80g bag costing E1.99 (so better value) but the shelf label records the price per kg as E9.99, when a quick calculation tells you that the real price per kg is E24.88/kg.

So although Tesco aren't making you pay more per kg for the bigger bag, it's clear that their pricing isn't accurate.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Hugh Jackman returns to the X-Men franchise in his fourth outing as the invincible mutant, Wolverine. It attempts to deliver the story of tortured hero Wolverine, but ultimately does nothing to enhance the X-Men series of films. Jackman is in fine physical form for this film, but the flat and dull storyline sucks the action out of the film. Liev Schreiber delivers a great menancing performance as Sabretooth, Wolverine's brother but nothing is quite enough to save the film from itself.

Go see it if you're an X-Men fan, you won't be disappointed, but I doubt that you'll be delighted.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Birds have rhythm!!

Two recent studies have suggested that some birds have a remarkable talent for dancing, as published in the journal Current Biology. This was all sparked by the appearance on YouTube of videos of Snowball, a dancing cockatoo with a penchant for the backstreet boys.

Further investigation reveals that the birds have an innate sense of rhythm. Researches varied the tempo of Snowball's favourite music and discovered that he varied his routine in accordance with the beat.

All well and good, and in fairness, it makes for amusing internet videos. But why is this news? Why is deemed valid scientific research? Birds sing after all. It is fundamental to their recreation. Surely they are more musical than us? (Though that doesn't explain why Snowball likes the Backstreet Boys).

Ultimatum - Matthew Glass

Ultimatum is the first novel from English writer Matthew Glass. It's set in the near future, 2032 to be precise, and Joe Benton has just been elected as President of the United States of America. Before he takes office, the incumbent president asks to meet him in private. What he tells Benton is shocking. Global warming is accelerating much faster than anticipated and action must be taken quickly. The previous administration had been in talks with the Chinese trying unsuccessfully to reach a bilateral agreement to cut emissions.

This news radically changes the focus of Benton's administration. He had been planning to push through a series of laws to reform education and health, as well as funding a Relocation plan, to help move people from areas affected by climate change. Now he needs to find the time and resources to deal with this new crisis. Benton is a man who genuinely wants to make change, meaningful change that is, but the world is frighteningly close to catastrophe.

Ultimatum gives detailed insight into the pressures and actions of an American president and his administration. Like Lincoln, Benton appoints a cabinet who are not always unified in their views. As Benton tries to formulate a plan, he also has to deal with warring cabinet members. At this stage, the book is filled with dialogue and detail, but somehow, it stays interesting.

As a result of his desire to truly make a difference and create a better world for his children, Benton takes the USA down a decisive and controversial path, leaving America stranded on the global stage. As he faces the consequences of his actions, it is interesting to see how he questions his actions and responsibilites.

Ultimatum is billed as an environmental and political thriller, but it's not quite balanced on a knife-edge. It does deliver keen insight into modern global politics and the current greenhouse gases crisis. It is unsettling and thought-provoking, but with the overlying dullness of a scientific paper.
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