Teicneolaíocht (Technology)

ASF Via Surface 2 Pro

Microsoft Surface 2 Pro

So I’ve made the switch from a super-heavy Qosmio x500 laptop to a Surface Pro 2 with attached Type Cover for writing my blog posts (and a lot more). It’s a helluva change. At the moment I’m spending more time hitting the backspace key than any other while typing and using Win8 in tablet form (as opposed to laptop or PC) is, to put it mildly, interesting. Fingers crossed it works out. I was looking at the Surface 3 but functionally there is little advantage to be had for spending an extra two or three hundred euros on a larger form-factor when the Pro 2 does much the same job (Microsoft is discounting the earlier model in the run-up to the launch of the new version so it is well worth a consideration). I had researched a few alternatives, the Lenovo Yoga 13 especially, but the Surface simply delivers more bang for my hard-earned buck. Over the next few days I will try to “Googleise” the device a wee bit since this suits my needs better (yes, I could have bought a slightly cheaper Android tablet but the disadvantages to that are many and I prefer to have a machine that is a fully functional PC rather than simply a glorified filofax. That said I’m missing my Apps already and may well change my mind. The on-screen keyboard is lousy!).

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The Cló Gaelach Or Irish Typefaces

Nuacht1.com

The Irish news and current affairs aggregator Nuacht1.com is a good example of a Cló Gaelach font in contemporary use

Following on from the popularity of a recent post examining some online sources for Irish literary studies I thought a few of you might be interested by information on the Cló Gaelach (literally “Irish Type”), the family of typefaces formerly used in Ireland for Irish language texts. They originated in the 16th century with the creation of a type intended for the new technology of block printing, one partly based on contemporary handwritten Irish scripts (which already had a thousand years of development behind them). The font eventually gave birth to multiple variants, from the ornate to the mundane, and remained in poplar use for the next five hundred years.

Unfortunately from the late 1940s to the early ’60s the government of Ireland, largely for utilitarian reasons based upon costs and pressure from business-interests, decided to phase out the body of Cló Gaelach print types and replace them with the Cló Rómhánach, the Western Latin types we are all familiar with today (these was already in use by some publishers). At the same time the Western Latin script replaced a form of the Irish handwritten script which was being taught in many schools across the country. Predictably this (along with the government-dictated “spelling reforms” of the 1950s) severely impeded the ability of many adult Irish-speakers in the 1960s and ’70s to understand new publications printed after the legislative changes, something of particular significance for those living in rural districts. Inter-generational use of Irish as a vernacular language was restricted in many families as Irish-speaking parents and grandparents found themselves unable to help children who were being educated in a language increasingly unfamiliar to them. Effectively several hundred years of Irish publications in their original form were made obsolete for later generations of Irish-speaking readers, including many editions published in the last two or three centuries. As an act of self-inflicted cultural vandalism it is hard to imagine worse. With one fell swoop of a ministerial pen the centuries-old continuity of Irish language publications was ended. A Year Zero was established from which the language has arguably never recovered.

Two excellent overviews of all this have been written by Mathew Staunton in “Trojan Horses and Friendly Faces, Irish Gaelic Typography as Propaganda” and the shorter “Types of Irishness: Irish Gaelic Typography and National Identity”. I strongly recommend a read but expect some of your preconceived notions about the Irish Type to be overturned. A more upbeat if now slightly dated examination is found in Mícheál Ó Searcóid’s “The Irish Alphabet” who points out the poorer functionality provided by the use of Latin scripts for Irish language texts, especially for native speakers. Michael Everson has probably done more than most in recent years to modernise and popularise in digital form the use of Irish fonts and he provides a very useful record of the development of Irish printing types in “Gaelic Typefaces: History and Classification”.

At the moment several websites provide digitised Irish fonts reflecting both print and written forms, some free some requiring payment. A very wide selection of digital types are available over on Gaelchló and I suspect that this is the most popular source for Irish fonts on the internet (all pages in Irish). As well as downloadable files in also contains useful information on installing fonts and in setting up a Microsoft Windows keyboard for Irish use. The site is owned by the prolific Vincent Morely, another notable moderniser of Irish types. CeltScript from Michael Everson is a series of downloadable fonts in different styles that can be purchased through the MyFonts website (plus another useful guide on keyboard layouts for the Celtic languages). Séamas Ó Brógáin provides a free font, Gadelica, on his wide-ranging (and fascinating) personal website.

The excellent Scríbhinn provides an overview on all of the above with some great introductory articles and links. In a similar vein is Scríobh.ie. The latter in particular is something of a one-stop shop for online Irish resources. Then there is the United States – Gaeilge keyboard layout, another slightly dated guide, for American Irish-speakers. You should also check An Cainteor Dóchais for modern use of a Cló Gaelach font.

Note: The term “type” normally refers to print (as in typography) and “script” normally refers to handwriting (as in calligraphy). Many people seem confused by the technical distinctions between both. So the Cló Gaelach is the “Irish Type” for printing while the Lámh Gaelach “Irish Script” (literally “hand”) is the written equivalent. The advent of computing means of course that both can now be printed which possibly explains some of the confusion in contemporary discussions.

.éire Versus .ie

An Ogham keyboard for a .éire web. If only! (Íomhá: Cléchlic)

The people of Wales now have two national domain names to register their websites with, “.cymru“ and “.wales”, reflecting their nation’s bilingual status. Of course in Ireland we still persist with the “.ie” domain, usually using the “/ga” extension to direct users to the Irish language pages of any particular website (.ie. = “ireland” not “ireland/éire” as some still claim). So for example the Government of Ireland maintains its online presence at “http://www.gov.ie”, all in the English language. However the Irish language version of the portal is maintained at “http://www.gov.ie/ga/”. Because, y’know, we like to treat our own language as a foreign language in our own country. That’s the Irish for you.

From Wales Online:

“Our new domains for Wales are coming this September and we are publishing the rules and processes for .cymru and .wales today. We ran a three-month consultation on our proposals and we believe that the decisions we have made will create a strong policy framework for .cymru and .wales to develop and grow.

We have our own distinctive identity and culture in Wales, and of course our own language. We have worked closely with the Welsh Government every step of the way to ensure that these new domains are good for Welsh businesses, good for Wales and support the Welsh language online.

So we are delighted to announce that not only will there be a restricted launch phase that will benefit businesses active in the Welsh market before the domains are opened up to everyone, but in a unique approach that has been developed especially for .cymru and .wales, both domain spaces will allow the registration of names that use the diacritic marks used in the Welsh language.

Commenting on the announcement, Ieuan Evans, Chair of the  Nominet Wales Advisory Group  said: “The new .cymru and .wales domains are an exciting opportunity for Wales to reach its full potential online by creating a platform for Brand Wales to become recognised worldwide.

We are absolutely committed to making these domains work for everyone in Wales and that they empower people to create and use Welsh language content.”

Jo Golley, leading Nominet’s Wales team says: “Today we have further been able to clarify our commitment to the Welsh language. The extensive technical measures we have put in place to allow diacritic marks to be used have been taken with the full intent of enabling people to use the range and subtlety of the Welsh language online. These important steps will enable a massive increase in Welsh language domain names on the internet.”

Meanwhile in Ireland its business as usual and no sign of a “.éire” now or any time in the future. So we’ll stick with “gov.ie” rather than “.rialtas.éire“. Because we’re Oirish, sure an’ begorrah!

In-Training

 

Damn good question!

On the list of occasional workplace chores that HR departments and managerial teams feel the need to inflict upon their employees surely the two worse offenders are the team-building day (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and those buy-in training courses that confine you to an anodyne hotel conference room with people you probably don’t like for two or three days at a time. I loathe them with a passion. One must be strive for civility while thinking all sorts of uncivil thoughts about the others in the room, especially the “characters”. Oh, there are always the characters; the “Big Talkers”: I am man, hear me roar! If I have to watch two more middle-aged, middle-management wannabes shaking their cocks at each other to see who can dominate the boardroom arena I will quite possibly move into the castration business. Puffed-chest poltroons parading their wares before mewling harridans from elsewhere on the managerial food-chain. I wouldn’t mind if you could get a decent meal out of these places but it is the typical fare: rubber-chicken smothered in a brown paste or a feeble green salad visibly wilting as you eat (why would you serve food reeking with garlic to ten people confined to a space barely big enough to swing an oxygen mask in?). When I was a child I was the non-conformist rebel at the back of the class who asked all the wrong questions and scoffed at the social self-compartmentalisation of others. It seems as an adult I am still that same person, only now with jets on (or to use the description of a former teacher, “Aren’t you the cynical wee shite!“)

All of which is by way of an explanation for my occasional absences over the last few weeks (and onward). I’m off now to wrap myself in a geen belt while chewing on a fishbone from a smorgasbord of lean six sigma…

 

The Logainm Relaunch

Some of the Fiontar team behind the updated Logainm, 2014 (Íomhá: DCU)

A quick (if late) post on the Placenames Database of Ireland or Logainm, a comprehensive topographical index of our island nation that became something of a surprise internet hit upon its official launch in 2013, and which has now been given a major overall by Fiontar, the Irish language studies and research unit of Dublin City University.

“The new version of the Placenames Database of Ireland encompasses a number of major enhancements to its public-facing website logainm.ie. The website has been completely redesigned, making it more user-friendly, more easily-navigable, and more visually attractive.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Ciarán Mac Murchaidh, Head of School, Fiontar DCU, said that “Technological advancements in recent years have enhanced public access to lots of different types of information. In a country of two languages, it’s important that every effort is made to ensure that as much information as possible is available in Irish, as well as English. This is particularly important, not only for students and teachers, but also for people across the world who are interested in exploring their Irish heritage.”

The website has been enhanced by the inclusion of Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) maps, using English and Irish versions of OSi’s MapGenie Web mapping service.  The Irish-language version, MapGenie Éire, is a completely new map product. It uses map data from OSi and official Irish-language forms of placenames from the Placenames Database of Ireland.

According to OSi Chief Executive Colin Bray, “MapGenie Éire has been made possible through collaboration between Fiontar in DCU, the Placenames Branch, and Ordnance Survey Ireland. The three organisations have worked together on a matching project since late 2010 to link the dataset of the Placenames Branch with the dataset of OSi. This allowed OSi to produce an Irish version of MapGenie based on toponymic data from the Placenames Branch. The project has also involved an upgrade to MapGenie which now resides on a resilient cloud based infrastructure. I want to congratulate everyone involved for their contribution to this very important project.”

Some Basque Lessons

Celebrating at Jaialdi 2010 on Boise’s Basque Block (Íomhá: The Blue Review)

This article on the resilience of the indigenous language of the historic Basque nation in north-eastern Spain and neighbouring France is filled with the sort of optimism that one rarely hears in relation to the Irish language. From The Blue Review, a publication of Boise State University in the United States:

“Steve Mendive is a history/government teacher who spends his summer breaks in the Basque Country (Euskadi) and enjoys the literary challenge of reading Voltaire’s Candide in Euskara. He has informally studied the Basque language for many years, first speaking with his family and progressing to advanced language coursework in the Basque Country. For Mendive, learning Basque is personal. “I am an Euskaldun (Basque speaker). Before, I was just Basque. There is a big difference.””

A point of view that many an Irish-speaker in Ireland, be they native or learner, would identify with. The full piece is quite long but full of fascinating parallels (the emergence of linguistic orthodoxy from various dialects at the start of the 20th century, the recent importance of new technologies like Twitter, etc.) and I’d recommend a read.

Ireland And Scotland, Our Democracies, Our Voices

The recent polls in Ireland and Scotland make for interesting reading in the run-up to the European and local elections (though only the former contest is being held in our fellow Gaelic neighbour). While the percentages for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are within a whisper of each other both parties are expected to do less well than in previous years (though in fairness FF has nowhere to go but up following its 2011 general election drubbing). The Labour Party ship is possibly fatally holed below the waterline with the remaining rats turning on each other while Sinn Féin and the smaller parties of the Left or non-aligned seem likely to secure substantial electoral gains, the former both nationally and locally. No surprise then that the Irish news media have gone into overdrive in an attempt to thwart SF’s challenge at the ballot box to the country’s cosy, decades-old consensus of government by the two big establishment parties with or without the support of minor players (the rearranging of the chairs on the deck of the Titanic as we saw in the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger). During the Irish Revolution the majority of newspapers on this island nation took up a position broadly hostile to the independence movement, most famously in the form of the two big dailies, the Irish Times and Irish Independent, and arguably very little has changed since then in terms of the political ideology that controls our media. The majority of Irish journalists are anti-Republican in their politics since that is the culture of those who would employ them. The Neo-Unionist tendency hire those who echo their own world view while ignoring or denigrating those who would think otherwise (however tentatively).

In Scotland, with the polls predicting a strong showing by the governing SNP and other pro-independence parties like the Greens, a similar Unionist consensus exists within the print and electronic media, and the looming referendum on Scottish sovereignty is sending them into a feeding frenzy. One of the nastier tactics to have emerged in recent months is the campaign to shut down pro-sovereignty voices that exist outside the control of the journalistic establishment. The British media have consistently targeted independent Scottish opinion-makers, particularly those with an online presence (the so-called “cybernats”). A long litany of allegations, the vast majority proven to be unfounded, exaggerated or simply invented for propaganda purposes, have been made damaging personal reputations or worse endangering people’s careers and livelihoods.

The most egregious harassment of recent weeks has come from the “Scottish” Daily Mail (sister to our “Irish” Daily Mail and just as subservient to its London paymasters). Headlined “Cybernats unmasked: Meet the footsoldiers of pro-Scottish independence ‘army’ whose online poison shames the Nationalists” the article vilifies several people associated, in some cases very loosely indeed, with public support for a free and sovereign Scotland. The basis of the allegations are tenuous to say the least. It is simply a good, old-fashioned smear piece designed to punish individual citizens for publicly expressing their political opinions. It is the antithesis of support for a participatory democracy, an attack on individual rights and freedoms which all right-minded Europeans should reject. With some Irish media elders now engaging in similar tactics we should be wary of those who believe that the provision of information in a democracy is the preserve of a corrupt and ideologically-fixated elite who believe that they – and only they – have the right to dictate the future course of events for the plebeian masses.

As our Gaelic cousins o’er the sea contemplate taking the monumental first step in the journey to true nationhood we should give what support we can while being mindful of those at home who would have us retrace our steps back to the days of our servility to others.

Ireland Spends More Money On Non-Irish Translations

Scary Eire

Scary Éire

In case you missed it (because you know the newspapers aren’t going to report this one), from RTÉ:

“New figures show that Government departments spent more than €1m on translation costs last year.

However, less than half of this was spent on translating documents into the Irish language.

The figures show that the Department of Social Protection had the highest spend on translation.

It spent more than €360,000 on translation costs into other languages, while the Department of the Environment spent €19,384 on translation into other languages.

The Department of Education and Skills had the highest spend in terms of Irish language translation, with a bill of over €107,000.

The Department of Social Protection spent over €35,000 on translation costs into Irish, and the Department of the Taoiseach spent €33,866 on translation into Irish.”

The next time an Anglophone supremacist decides to attack the equality of rights between Irish- and English-speaking citizens you might remind him or her that we now live in a multicultural Ireland. And that includes those people whose culture is expressed through our indigenous language.

Atmo-Craft, Colin Wilson

An Atmo-craft from the Rogue Trooper story Marauders drawn by Colin Wilson

An Atmo-craft from the Rogue Trooper story Marauders drawn by Colin Wilson (Íomhá: © 2002 Rebellion A/S)

During a quick discussion over on CLR in relation to Joss Whedon’s short-lived Sci-Fi series “Firefly” I was reminded of the New Zealand comics’ artist Colin Wilson and the incredibly realistic hardware illustrations he produced in the early 1980s for “Rogue Trooper”, 2000AD’s future war series. Some of the best – and most convincing – designs in futuristic weapons and machines I’ve ever seen came from Wilson’s accomplished hands, hardly surprising given that many were clearly based on contemporary military products. From the Mil Mi-24 Hind, the famous Soviet-era attack helicopter, to the lesser-known Centurion main battle tank Wilson took real world inspirations and extrapolated their future equivalents in technically exquisite detail. One was left thinking that if such machines did not exist in the present they most certainly would do so at some stage in the future. After my first exposure to Wilson’s carefully engineered designs I spent much of my teenage years copying his style and still do so whenever I turn to Science-Fiction themed art. In a long and extremely varied career the New Zealander went on to contribute to the Star Wars franchise beginning in 2007 with artwork for the comic book series “Star Wars: Legacy”. However his influence is in evidence well before that through the likes of the “Low Altitude Assault Transport/infantry (LAAT/i)”, a CGI military aircraft that features in the 2002 movie “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and which bears an uncanny resemblance to the hardware designs produced by Wilson for the Rogue Trooper story “Marauders” way back in 1982.

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars movie franchise

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars movie franchise (Íomhá: © 2002 Lucasfilm Ltd)

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars universe

A Low Altitude Assault Transport or Republic Gunship from the Star Wars universe (Íomhá: © 2002 Lucasfilm Ltd)

 

Irish TV And Cinema? Some Hope

TG4 - Súil Eile

TG4 – Súil Eile

I was going through my collection of Blu-ray and DVD movies and box-sets over the weekend, not to mention several hundred hours of digital content on my main HTPC, and it suddenly struck me that less than 1% of the total was actually Irish-made. I have a huge catalogue of films and TV shows from (in descending order) the United States, Britain, Japan, China, Canada, Korea, Australia, France, Denmark, Germany and Russia but the number of productions from Ireland is infinitesimal. Six documentaries or drama-docs from TG4 (including “1916 Seachtar na Casca” and “Bóthar na Saoirse”), two comedy-dramas from TG4 (“Rásaí na Gaillimhe 1” and “2”, plus “An Crisis”) and one comedy from RTÉ (the early 2000s’ “Paths to Freedom”). And that is pretty much it. Out of some three thousand hours of cinematic and television entertainment less than twenty hours are actually Irish-made productions for Irish audiences.

In part this is attributable to the availability of domestic productions for the home entertainment market in Ireland which is astonishingly low. Only a handful of the more popular shows are released on DVD and the vast majority of those are from RTÉ which gobbles up most of the licence fee to feed itself. Unsurprisingly they are usually at the lower end of the market, reflecting the culture of Irish television in general. TG4 releases hardly any of its far superior and more Irish-orientated shows on DVD no doubt due to costs. Though why it has not entered the digital market via downloads or streaming on the lines of Amazon or Netflicks is beyond me. It simply makes no sense – but then very little about public service broadcasting in Ireland does.

All of which leads me to the observation most commonly made by Continental visitors to our island nation: in terms of language and cultural references the Irish are indistinguishable from the Americans or British. In fact they seem little more than the mongrel off-spring of both. Given that Irish television and cinema has historically provided almost no output to balance that of the United States and Britain this is hardly surprising. If I were French, German or Spanish one would expect French, German or Spanish entertainment productions to dominate my home library. Even if one were to accept arguments about economies of scale there seems little doubt that the same would hold true if I were Danish, Swedish or Finnish, nations not dissimilar in size to Ireland.

The facts are this: public service broadcasting in Ireland as embodied by RTÉ has failed and failed miserably. It is simply a bad Irish joke. This is widely acknowledged throughout the country where, ironically, most people now recognise that the best TV output stems from TG4, the Irish language TV channel. Even militant hardcore Anglophones critics have agreed that it outperforms every one of its rivals, public or private, and is about the nearest Ireland has to an “Irish BBC”. Yet it receives less than 5% of the television licence fee and a nominal government grant (95% of the TV licence goes to RTÉ which is begrudgingly obligated to produces a handful of shows for TG4).

Funnily enough it seems that I am not the only one who was thinking along these lines. From the Irish Times newspaper:

“Could Irish language movies and songs ever compete in the global entertainment market? Some 70 per cent of Hollywood’s box office revenue now comes from dubbed and subtitled versions of its movies sold in international markets, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. In pop music, Psy’s Gangnam Style represents the first wave of non-English international mega-hits that will sweep in as the commercial pop culture of countries such as Korea, India, China, Russia and Brazil continues to develop.

Currently, most Irish language films and pop songs are not making a major domestic, let alone international impact. So how about establishing a €2 million annual competition to select and film the best Irish language movie script, and to record the best Irish language pop song?

Imagine the film got €1.8 million, with the remaining €200,000 spent on recording and making a video for the song, and on the administration of the competition.

The competition could be open to international screenwriters and song-writers, with the proviso that all production money be spent in Ireland – meaning an annual investment of at least €1.8 million into the Irish media industry.

The Irish Film Board (IFB) used to maintain that it was unrealistic to try competing in Irish against major Hollywood films, but in an increasingly globalised world, things are changing. Ned Dowd, a Hollywood producer responsible for films such as The Wonder Boys and Last of the Mohicans , points to the success of his film Apocalypto , directed by Mel Gibson, which despite being in Mayan earned $121 million dollars (admittedly on a budget of $40 million). Gibson’s earlier film The Passion of the Christ was in Aramaic and earned $611 million. “It’s all about story, universal themes,” Dowd has said. “The language is secondary.”

This whole notion is speculative and aspirational, but if it were to succeed even partially it could prove a key element in keeping the language vibrant for the next generation. Young people are now accustomed to cartoons and soap operas in Irish, but films and pop music are almost exclusively in English. Demand for Irish songs exists, witnessed by the viral success of the Coláiste Lurgan cover versions that emerge each summer.

It seems there’s also an appetite from abroad to help the language. Seven years after broadcasting the No Béarla TV programme, in which I travelled around the country speaking only Irish, I am still regularly approached by Irish-American cultural groups and impassioned individuals, keen to know how they can help the language.

…the benefits of targeted funding can be seen in the Danish media market. “In Denmark the public service broadcaster puts €1 million a year into feature-film production on top of the Danish Film Institute’s €60 million – and that’s a country the size of Ireland.””

The doling out of severely limited funds between RTÉ, TG4, Bord Scannán na hÉireann (the Irish Film Board) and the idiosyncratic Sound and Vision Fund (controlled by that quango par excellence, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) is beyond a scandal. Whether the monies are raised through the licence fee or general taxation millions upon millions of euros are being wasted on projects that are almost guaranteed to have little commercial or popular impact. Most simply appear and disappear without the general public being even aware of their existence. Millions more is going on duplicated staffing and administration expenses. Offices filled with paper-shufflers and seat-warmers. It is this scatter-gun approach to Irish television and film production that has made our nation a cultural vacuum.

If we intend to be serious about our language and our culture, if we intend to be serious about establishing a viable TV and cinema production industry for our domestic market, then it is time to close down the vanity projects and political patronage system of yesteryear. A start should be made by leaving English language broadcasting in Ireland to the private market with all the necessary (and presently missing!) statutory safeguards on quality, standards and ownership in place. Let TV3 and 3e, or the new “ITV Ireland” promised by UTV, provide English language television services along with the dozens of American, British and Canadian channels already available to Irish viewers via cable and satellite. RTÉ should become an entirely Irish language public service broadcaster (and restricted to Irish language advertising in order to level the playing field with its private rivals who survive on English language advertising and sponsorship). After all what is public service television and radio supposed to do but provide what private enterprise will not? TG4 should be rolled back into RTÉ which should be restricted to two TV and three radio channels, as well as internet services. Bord Scannán na hÉireann should be replaced by a cinema production arm of RTÉ, the equivalent of BBC Films or Film4 in Britain, with an obligation to produce a minimum of four Irish language cinematic release a year. Legislation should be introduced to facilitate the showing of these movies in cinemas across Ireland upon release, similar to regulations in force elsewhere in Europe. RTÉ should also take up the old role of Gael Linn, producing and fostering Irish language music for cultural or commercial purposes.

As for the TV licence fee or its replacement, scrap both and instead implement direct government funding via an independent oversight body appointed by the Oireachtas. Given the size of Ireland’s national economy, comparing overseas’ public service broadcasters and the country’s needs a new RTÉ budget of 400 million euros per annum is more than adequate (with 45 million earmarked for Scannáin RTÉ). And if you are wondering where that money is going to come from how much do you think the government already spends on direct funding for RTÉ, TG4, Bord Scannán na hÉireann and the Sound and Vision Fund under the BAI, not to mention the millions that goes to the likes of Gael Linn Records and other Irish language organisations? Believe me there is a mass of money dispersed throughout a dozen state-funded organisations and quangos that could be easily pooled to contribute towards the core budget of a new RTÉ.

More bang for your buck, the elimination of waste and duplication, removing corruption and patronage, introducing public oversight and accountability, levelling the playing field between public and private broadcasters, servicing Ireland’s indigenous language and culture and presenting it to the world, establishing a thriving domestic television and movie industry, employing tens of thousands of Irish people in Irish jobs, generating tax revenue through targeted government investment…? Ok, admittedly all of this is far too sensible. Which is why it will never happen.

Even A Fanboy Has His Limits

Speak no fanspeak, see no fanspeak, hear no fanspeak

Is it just me or is there now a dearth of thoughtful and well-informed websites and blogs on the genre worlds of Sci-Fi and Fantasy literature? Oh yes, the banner-heavy, paragraph-light sites that focus on the latest Marvel or DC movie franchises are in plentiful supply. However most of these flash-happy affairs have as much substance as a stick of candy floss; and are just as forgettable. When it comes to in-depth reviews, essays and analyses by people who know what they are talking about – and who aren’t afraid to break the taboos of fannish devotion – one is left clicking through page after page in search of something with a bit of intelligence and insight (who knew that Monster & Critics was still in existence? And by god is it awful). One longs for the likes of the Cimmerian, the now defunct US-based website devoted to Robert E. Howard, where people of real talent wrote with eloquence and wit on the works of Howard, J.R.R Tolkien and others. Ironically in some cases where good online venues did exist to examine or debate such matters their supposed “improvements” have actually managed to ruin them. Britain’s SF Crow’s Nest springs to mind (that is if you can actually find the current website via a Google search. Talk about SEO unfriendly. Not to mention the dubious honour of creating an internet site that actually looks worse than its pleasingly old school predecessor). Websites specifically focusing on the old reliables, books, comics and graphic novels, have now succumbed to the cult of infotainment-style soundbite-reporting on the latest rumour about the latest superhero flick. It is all so mind-numbingly inconsequential.

Is this the dreaded future of the internet that the critics warned us about? The sinking into the mire of collective mediocrity? How has fandom come to this?

Learn A Language In Six Months?

Since this is generating some internet buzz I thought I’d post it: How to learn any language in six months, Chris Lonsdale at TEDxLingnanUniversity. I’m always suspicious about “fast-track” learning. Most are gimmicks and as I know from experience learning a new language when in adulthood is as much about a person’s intuitive abilities as anything else. Some can, some can’t, and most just fall somewhere in the middle. I’m very much in the “can’t” camp.

An Irish Equivalent For Geek Or Otaku?

Gaeilge (Atari)

Gaeilge (Atari)

I was recently asked if there is an Irish word that is the equivalent of the Anglo-American term Geek or its Japanese near-equivalent Otaku (おたく/オタクおたく/オタク). I couldn’t think of anything unless one went for something like a crude Gaelicisation of the originals in the form of Geic (?) or Odacú (?). Then I remembered the Irish and Scottish literary genre of aislingí (“dreams, visions”),  stories and narrative poems that began in the Medieval period with mythological or ecclesiastical tales and which later developed a more political edge in the turbulent 17th and 18th centuries. Though principally focused on interactions with or expressions of the Otherworldly it often bore a commentary on current events. In this context the Irish word aislingeach, which means “dreamer, day-dreamer; visionary”, seemed a suitable equivalent for geek. A bit clunky though, given the subject matter.

Could others come up with a better or more organic term?

[Update]: Thanks to Méabh in Nua Eabhrac who claims that Aislingeach is too long and established as a word. It needs to be something (and I quote) “…with vocal punch” and a neologism to boot. I agree.

[Update]: Pól offers up on Facebook the word teicnóg for geek or geek culture. You could gloss that as “young-tech” which I kinda like. A lot! Though should it be teicóg?

[Update]: Well it seems that “officially” the Irish language does have an equivalent for the word Geek. It is Geocach which is “geoc-” (geek) with the “-ach” ending to make it a thing (in this case a person). To my ears it sounds rather unappealing and judging by the reaction it seems I’m not the only one.

So far on Facebook the suggested term Teicóg (loosely “young-tech”) is gathering some favour. So that would give us:

Teicóg = geek culture
Teicógach = a geek
Teicógaigh = geeks

Flannbhuí

Flannbhuí

Flannbhuí, literally “red-yellow” (that is, orange-coloured), on the streets of Droichead Átha, Éire, 2014

On the streets of Droichead Átha, the very definition of flannbhuí. And a beautiful example it is.

Glenn Greenwald On War By Other Means

GCHQ - the spiders web

GCHQ – the spiders web

From Glenn Greenwald a must-read for Republican and progressive activists in Ireland and elsewhere examining how the internet is used and abused to manipulate individuals and groups in the interests of major nation-states. To defeat one’s enemy one must understand (or become?) one’s enemy.

“One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.”