Sunday, October 22, 2006

Spy School – What’s that all about?

One of my correspondents asked me about Spy School, so I thought I would maybe talk a little about it. First of all, it is not actually called Spy School, and I am not actually studying to be a spy. Obviously, I would say that. What I am actually doing is studying for an MA in International Relations from Dublin City University. The Spy School name comes from someone on the Internet.

For many people the term International Relations conjures up no mental image. I think of it as being to do with world politics, but also global economics, cultural interaction, the law of nations, and everything to do with the world. Maybe saying what courses I have studied would give a better impression. Thus far I have done two compulsory courses, one on International Relations Theory, the other on International Law. I have also taken two elective courses, one on Eastern Europe (mainly political), one on Latin American (mainly economic, or at least about the region’s attempts to achieve equitable insertion (snigger) into the world economy). Also available were courses on peace processes, terrorism, and international trade law. Since the end of September I have been taking two required courses, one on Development and one on International Political Economy. Then in 2007, I will have to choose one optional subject from four offered, likely to be American foreign policy, African politics, political Islam, and some boring law one. Then I have to write a dissertation about something over the summer.

Sometimes people ask why I am studying this course. Partly I am doing it for the laugh, and partly because I want to change the way my life works, with the course as a stepping-stone towards my doing something more intellectually engaging for a living. Sadly, it is still not immediately apparent what exactly I can do with an MA in International Relations. What I would ideally like is to find some way of supporting myself by thinking and writing about world affairs. Or maybe just thinking about it, all that writing really tires me out. If you spot any openings for lazy self-styled intellectuals, let me know.

I notionally write about what I learn in Spy School on my other blog, Hunting Monsters , although as is the way of these things I am a bit slack about updating it. Some of my classmates started another blog (The Dublin School of International Relations) and I have signed up for that too. And if you are really mad for the International Relations, there is always the Helicopterview mailing list.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Let us build a House of Free Creativity!

The BBC reports: "Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov has personally inaugurated a massive book-shaped building dedicated to the free media."

The House of Free Creativity provides state of the art facilities and a comfortable working environment to any journalists who might find themselves in Turkmenistan. This should help prevent any further deaths through natural causes of journalists in police custody.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"He has surprised us all, we all envy him"

Putin goes madder. But his comments on Israel's President may have been misinterpreted. "Russian is a very complicated language, sometimes it is very sensitive from the point of view of phrasing," explains a spokesman.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Children of Men"

I expect to talk about this film at greater length in the pages of Frank's APA, and thus here in a month's time when it has left the cinema, but for now let me just say that this is the most impressive film I have seen in ages. It is emotionally involving in a way that very few films are, and it made me think of many things largely unconnected with the central premise. I recommend seeing it in the cinema, as the whole second half in particular gains from being seen on a big screen in a cinema with a big sound system.

A salty sea dog

You may recall me mentioning Bamse, the brave Norwegian dog who served onboard a Free Norwegian ship during the Second World War. The statue in his honour has finally been unveilled. The BBC have the full story.

Apparently Bamse is Norwegian for cuddly bear.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Unless you share my love of East German music, you have probably never heard of Klaus Renft, who died last week. Or maybe you recall his appearence in Anna Funder's book Stasiland. In the Klaus Renft Combo and later just as Renft, he was a one man counter culture during East Germany's long rule by the communists. As is the way of these things, Renft's bands never made much impact in the west, while the years after unification do not seem to have been particularly kind to him either. Oh well, such is life.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Baboons happy with new home

The BBC reports that a troupe of Baboons in Knowsley Safari Park were so annoyed when workmen started demolishing their winter quarters that they had to be separated by an electric fence. The stand-off was only settled by the installation of a new home for the Baboons, one featuring running water and electricity.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Gig: The Telescopes (Lazybird)

They said I would never make it to a Lazybird gig. They were wrong. Putting on a band I am an old fan of did the trick. You may remember The Telescopes back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when they were one of the first bands to follow in My Bloody Valentine's footsteps. Since then they dropped below the world’s radar and possibly split up and stuff. Now they are back, with an all new direction based on not playing any of their old tunes or guitars or any shite like that. Instead they operate a hardline policy of all drone all the time, mostly played on synths though possibly with slide guitar or heavily treated actual guitar (READER'S VOICE: I thought you said they didn’t have any guitars). Deadly stuff, though I felt the lack of the lady band member who always used to face away from the crowd at gigs in the Camden Falcon. The support act was pretty good too, although I did not catch the fellow's name; maybe it was Magnetize.

One thing that has to be said about Lazybird – it is a great place to pick up chicks. And they're gagging for it – one of my mates regularly goes home with 25% of all the women present on any given night.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hey cats, draws include all survivors

Mojo reports Jimi Hendrix was a great man for the Risk. He used to play it any chance he got. The wild man of rock used also to play the board hard, and was regarded as a dangerous opponent in London boardgamer circles of the late 1960s.

One has to wonder what might have been accomplished had Hendrix lived. Would he have made the transition to more mature games like Diplomacy?

Disturbing News For Civil Servants

Andrew Sherman reports that the European Court of Justice has ruled that it is discriminatory for employees at the same grade to be paid different amounts of money based solely on their length of service.

This is worrying news for all civil servants who like to put their feet up and watch those increments roll in rather than have to compete for promotions. Christ, I might be better off in the private sector.

The Guardian: 'Higher pay for long service ruled illegal'

Monday, October 02, 2006

Britain's Greatest Record Shops

The Guardian has a most enjoyable article on Britain's 20 greatest independent record shops: Plastic Fantastic

Of the ones they mention that I have been to, Monorail would have to be my favourite. I mean, come on, a record shop in a pub, what's not to like?

If you ever find yourself checking out Selectadisc in Nottingham, make sure to visit Page 45 while you're at it... it's just down the road or round the corner. Mind you, you need to be careful in Nottingham, it is a very dangerous city. I was shot several times the last time I was there.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Dublin Theatre Festival

So what are you going to? I'm off to see Orestes tonight, this being a performance by some British troupe of the play by Euripides. This is set after Orestes and his sister Elektra have murdered their mother to avenge their father's mother at her hands. Deadly stuff. Next week we're off to see La TempĂȘte (Canadians perform an adaptation of Forbidden Planet in that crazy foreign language of theirs) and The Vacationers (Omsk state drama company perform some play by Maxim Gorky). After that we'll be off to Emilia Galotti (famous German play) and Rattledanddisapeared (loose adaptation by Hungarians of Kafka's The Trial). So, only one thing in English! I am so cosmopolitan.

I am not going to Came So Far For Beauty.