The Eternal Frustrations of Modern Life

Have you ever been caught up in a flash-mob nobody told you about?

And you are looking around, and you really want to dance, but you don't know the steps?

Extending the metaphor (what metaphor?), what if you just strum guitar chords over and over, but you don't know the lyrics? Here is Eternal's I Wanna Be the Only One.

The Survival Girls Book Review

The Survival Girls book:

Among her other achievements, Ming Holden gained the top prize in a Glimmer Train fiction contest in 2013. The email announcing her win came into my busy inbox one morning last year, and I almost deleted it. I clicked on it, more to get it marked as read than anything else, and I glanced at some words of acceptance from the prizewinner of the latest story competition, with a quote from Madeleine Albright and something about the power of intentionality.

“Politics and philosophy,” I thought. When I clicked through beyond the teaser (which DID NOT do her writing-advice piece justice, although quoting a Democrat-appointed cabinet secretary, and a bit of philosophy will - surprisingly - get me clicking at anything), there was a wonderful Obamaesque idealism in Holden’s jesuitical plea to write for others, once you have an intended readership in your head. That readership can be the EMO kids, the dispossessed, the refugees, the voiceless, any people who need to read your words, or equally important are those whose stories must be told. (I am paraphrasing, but that was the gist. Actually, I'm not even paraphrasing. I'm just describing nebulously.)

KABLAMMO! “Sold!” I said, like I'd been smacked in the gob. “I needed that today!”

Glad I didn’t delete the pep-talk from my email, I tweeted my delight to Ming on her wonderful piece, and looked up some of her other shizz. She had a book coming out, apparently. And she’s a secular bloody saint.

In The Survival Girls, Holden describes how Congolese refugee women and girls are her primary focus in a development project which took place in 2011, and The Survival Girls is the name given to a theatre group of these same Nairobi-based, Congolese refugees, which is established with Ming’s assistance as director. Their initial aim is to perform an original play for a showcase that will be attended by Kenya’s Prime Minister on World Refugee Day.

Dealing with the bureaucracy and politics surrounding what is supposed to be a safe place for the girls is a thread in the nonfiction novella, and provides just some of the tension within the pages.

Holden has a List of Characters page at the outset of the work.

While it’s appropriate (and clever) for a book with a loose theatre-as-therapy concept at its core, it’s an unnecessary, albeit useful, enhancement. Holden's suggestion – a near apology – that many characters populate the slim tome, and some have been culled, justifies the character list. However, any reader will find the book an emotionally-rewarding and thought-provokingly fluid read without the need to refer back to the helpful aid. (The book does makes you think, but in a good way. And in a way that causes a buildup of the snots, the upshot of keeping tears off the cheeks, coz I am a Big Boy!)

Writing about the victims of trauma also seems an excellent tool for instructing others in how to look after their needs. However, the author-narrator admittedly takes a carefree approach to her classes in Kenya, describing her usual process at one point beautifully as “my devil of inertness” – a clear exaggeration. The freewheeling nature of things is also necessitated – no doubt in part – by the pliability of the circumstances in which Holden finds herself hurled. Regardless, the author's gifts for empathy and intuition are obvious. Her consciousness of the horrific events the girls have experienced, and their need for catharsis, are of primary importance to her. Holden's willingness to fight for them, and her own doubts and reflections over promises made to them, are evoked - juxtaposed, perhaps - alongside the descriptions of the girls' horrific past experiences.

What Holden does provide through the book, rather than a straight blueprint on how to establish similar projects, is an understanding and awareness that might be replicated. Among a plethora of great messages that can be teased out are the primacy of the individual, the importance of being an ear or a shoulder for that person, and an admonition that if you say you’re there for them, you'd better be.

Holden also discusses a variety of techniques and methods on which she relies, or has studied, and how she draws on them in her work with the girls, and in encounters with others.

You'll come away understanding a lot more about Kenya too, and chaotic Nairobi traffic, and the heat, and social strata, and all sorts of other poetically-described, scene-setting ephemera.

The book’s concise and wonderful short chapters are enhanced with artwork by Jody Joldersma between each, often bold and bright in African greens and golds. They are subtle complements to the narrative, while warranting standalone appreciation too.

The slim tome is startlingly frank. There is vivid description of the nuances of Holden's personal-professional relationships at the UN and elsewhere. The author is forced to navigate these sometimes problematic friendships in part because in unreconstructed, pre-fem layman’s parlance, from what can be seen of her online, she is absolutely farking larvly looking (as Janet Street-Porter or Loyd Grossman would say).

Inadvertently, she turns to chaps who misread her signals, or try it on, or get the wrong end of the stick, or give her the unwanted glad eye. The perfect pitch descriptions of these frustrating dynamics require a little digging beyond the subtlety of the writing, as Holden never once cites her cuteness as a reason for their interest.

Bigger problems for our gorgeous protagonist include issues around funding and sponsorship, and dealing with mean or tired people, and contrition, and anger, and Glee-club like auditions, and “non-issues”, and dismay over unforeseeable circumstance, and, and, and...

If there is one fault, the book probably has as many emotional endings as The Return of the King. Fetch your tear-sponge out of the utility room and be ready to dab at your ducts, people! It is beautiful and touching (and it’s not a Richard Curtis movie so you won’t feel like a sap). Holden is very, very good at relating the girls’ stories, and at giving Clemence, Dianne, Nana, Palome, Sofia and Valentine voices on an international platform beyond the stage.

The aid worker’s devil-may-care approach has a fantastic outcome: A talented, self-sustaining theatre troupe of refugees. It may have been possible to publish the stories of the refugees, in their own words, if they had desired that, had a writing circle been the result of Holden’s work in Nairobi.

What we have instead is a drama group of amazing and talented girls and women, capable of writing as well as performance whose emotional immediacy can be appreciated more viscerally by their audiences – removing the filter of the written word, on a continent that still values the oral tradition and performance, in ways that aren’t appreciated elsewhere.

The establishment of The Survival Girls would be enough. The accompanying account, by a writer who understands how to transmit text with at times a descriptive beauty, and at others a bare-bones simplicity – conscious of both the limitations and the profound power of words and literature – is an added bonus. A fantastic and courageous way to generate awareness of the ongoing Congolese crisis, as well as the plight of refugees everywhere.

Proceeds from the book go towards funding a number of The Survival Girls’ college educations in a variety of fields. Buy the book today at Amazon. It's published by Wolfram Productions. Follow Ming Holden on Twitter.


Ireland's First Missing Person's Day Deemed a Success

Ireland's First Missing Person's Day has been deemed a major success by all involved.

At one event yesterday evening, American actor Anthony LaPaglia made an appearance. He talked about his television role on the series Frasier, playing the part of Daphne's Cockney brother. LaPaglia's character went missing for more than a day in an episode of the show, while he was extremely drunk.

Unfortunately, contractual negotiations prevented Mr. LaPaglia from discussing a more pertinent role he has played on the tv series that rhymes with the phrase "Bithout a Brace".

Another, less formal event was a Missing Persons coffee morning, held by Swords-based housewife Fidelma Turney. She was both delighted and surprised when four of those missing persons publicised by the government for the Missing Persons Day actually turned up for tea and biscuits, alongside a dozen of her neighbourhood friends.

"I was going to charge my neighbours five euros a head," she explained. "But when the missing people showed up, the ladies handed the money straight to them. It was fantastic, because then they only had to pay four euros instead of the five, because they were cutting out the middle man. It was like if Briege showed up with Mr. Tupperware, alongside her Tupperware, on one of her days! You just could've given the money straight to him at cost price, instead of retail."

One of the four, known as Alin Petrescu to his friends, had been missing since 2007. Now 21, the young man was happy to show up at the event. He wanted to prove that many of the international minors who go missing from state custodial care are still alive and living in the state, enjoying life.

"I say my friends and family and Garda men investigators from long ago - I say 'Helloooo!'" he declared, waving and smiling. "I okay now. I taken away by man two-oh-oh-seven in big green van who say I work like St. Patrick - he say me work with sheep. Me work with sheep two years, three years, lots of photos, then me run away when me sick from the sheep! Now me work coffeeshop dishwasher in Ratoath. No sheep for me! Happy days!" he added, with a thumbs up.

Fidelma hadn't realised that the events held around the country for Missing Persons Day are to encourage the missing persons to come forward - she had thought they were simply awareness-raising events. However, at prompting from backbenchers, Enda Kenny addressed the Dail last week, encouraging missing persons to actually come along to the events. The success of the venture means that almost every missing person has turned up at one of the many events around the country.

Fidelma's coffee morning is believed to be the most successful of the Missing Persons privately held events.

Win A Luxury Cruise Vacation in our Photo Competion!

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Claim: TV Serials Mistaken Daily

Canadian television serials mistaken for US TV shows

Every day - and night - millions of British and Australian subjects of Her Majesty are fooled into watching Canadian network dramas by mistake. The issue is becoming a growing problem. As they arrive home from work, and switch on their televisions, they are expecting imports from the United States of America. Instead, they are met with Canadian television imports - and because there are little differences in terms of accent and intonation, they are ultimately disappointed.

Even worse, Canadian dramas do not have to have a warning preceding the programming, marking it out as an inferior product.

However, a list of seven differences between the two kinds of shows have been drawn up by the Royal Office of Taste and Good Upright Trading (ROTGUT). The organisation's patron is Prince Philip.

It is hoped that British and Australian viewers will be able to spot the differences, and channel hop if they fear that they are watching Canadian shows.

Typical Canadian shows, according to ROTGUT:

1. HAVE a theme tune that features wind chimes.
2. ARE likely to be wholesome, but will lack the Christian tone of wholesome shows south of the border, aiming for more godless secularity.
3. MIGHT be a little TOO quirky - described by ROTGUT as "unsettling quirk, that appears to be related to budgetary constraints, rather than quirk for the sake of quirk".
4. CAN have fewer guns and violence. While American detectives are likely to pull out an Uzi, a Canadian gendarme will pull out his sock with a pool ball in it.
5. WILL be picked up again the following year after a first season run of 13 episodes.
6. WILL be on television at 2 or 3 am, instead of 9 or 10 pm.
7. CAN have rude language, even in wholesome programming. Not just words like "bollocks" as found in American network shows, which make British people look at their watch to see if it's really only 7.30 pm. Canadian shows also have real cursewords that scare Americans - like "shit"!     NOTE: When the Americans say "We don't use bad language in our programming" and then Chief O'Brien on Star Trek, or Spike on Buffy says "BOLLOCKS WANKER BOLLOCKS!" this is language that falls under the Queen's Very Rude Programming umbrella. Incidentally, when the VRP umbrella is rotated 180 degrees, it looks like the NBC peacock.

Before and After shots of a high tide...

A not completely aberrant event in Ireland these days, with the Sea taking part in a RECLAIM THE STREETS protest. It calmed down a little later on.

 Again, it calmed down a little later on...

High tide and low tide below - low tide would usually be the high tide, but the high tide this time was a REALLY HIGH TIDE, and the low tide was in fact HIGH TIDE TAKING THE MICK. And for those who might say stuff like "Yaaaa, in my country this is narmal" you're quite correct. But the world is a-changing. And it truly is the end of d--[SPLUTTER, GURGLE!].

Low tide...