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Modest Proposals articles


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Business as usual - the rise and fall of Nua

Name the year: in January, a huge earthquake hit Kobe in Japan, in April 169 people were killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, and there was an ebola outbreak in Zaire in May. In October, O. J. Simpson was acquitted of double murder.

In the entertainment world, Sony released the first PlayStation, ‘Forrest Gump’ won the Best Film Oscar, and the album releases included Leftfield’s ‘Leftism’ and ‘The Bends’ from Radiohead.

Economically, things were looking up in Ireland. Encouraged by tax breaks and a skilled young workforce, 30% of all US high-tech investment in Europe was coming to the country, led by companies such as Microsoft and Gateway. Overseas investment in Ireland created 6,500 new jobs in the year. Irish-owned companies were also enjoying success - in April CBT Systems became the first Irish firm to be quoted on the tech-heavy NASDAQ.

Still not sure when all this happened? It was 1995, the year that also saw the foundation of a company that was to become the high-profile poster-boy of Irish internet start-ups.

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsIrelandTechnology
Monday, February 19, 2001

Accidental Autobiography

Should you keep five year-old email messages? I’m currently tidying up the contents of various hard drives and floppy disks (remember them?) to prepare for the arrival of a new machine. But how much to throw out is proving a difficult question.

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsLifeTechnology
Saturday, September 09, 2000

Sick Boy

There’s something entertaining about being mildly ill. As I sit here writing this, it’s almost the first time I’ve been partly vertical all day. A sore throat, fatigue and high temperature has me confined to barracks, but since I know this will pass, I just have to let the illness have its way with me.

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsLife
Tuesday, July 18, 2000

Postcards from home - watching familiar TV abroad

It’s 7:30pm on a Wednesday, and on television the theme from the English soap Eastenders starts up.  Then Ballykissangel comes on, with its gentle humour and relaxed Wicklow pace. Nothing strange there, then. 

Except that I’m watching these familiar programmes in my apuartment on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, and I’m not sure it’s a very good idea.

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsTelevision
Sunday, March 19, 2000

Under Construction - raising a tipi

Last weekend I helped raise a tipi with some friends near Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

On a flat step above a bend in a river we camped out the previous night, sitting round the campfire making s’mores and drinking wine from mugs.  The stars were out above us, and as the moon set behind the hill opposite we picked our way down the steep path to the river.

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsLifeUSA
Saturday, June 19, 1999

Cabin Fever

In the last 15 months I’ve been on over 70 aeroplanes. Since this January, from my base in Kansas, the list of cities I’ve been in seems ridiculous - Atlanta, DC, Chicago, Dallas, Tucson, San Francisco (twice), Dublin (twice), Galway, Cincinnati, Denver, Santa Fe (three times). 

You can spin this unlikely itinerary in a number of ways. Either it’s a fact of modern day business life, and something that an increasing number of people do all the time.

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsUSALife
Tuesday, May 18, 1999

Going deep - why Sports Night is so good

How much do you really know about Joey from Friends? Over countless episodes, all that’s been revealed is that he’s not very bright, he’s a short-term hit with women, and he’s not a very good actor. 

In all the years we’ve spent with him, we’ve rarely glimpsed a deeper side. Likeable but stupid. The same superficiality is true of the other characters - Monica (fat in high-school, control freak), Phoebe (ditsy but caring), Ross (something with dinosaurs - yeah, right), Rachel (um . . .).

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsTelevisionUSA
Friday, March 19, 1999

Natural Technology

Over the weekend, while snow fell outside, I made a unilatleral decision that it was spring, and went shopping online for outdoors stuff. 

The technology was a great help. I trawled through reviews from people who already had the gear I was looking at, and discussion board questions from people going through the same process as me (incidentally, if anyone here has anything good or bad to say about the Specialized Stumpjumper or the Gary Fisher Ziggurat, drop me a line).

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsLife
Sunday, November 08, 1998

Essential Ephemera - should you keep old emails?

As I write, John Glenn and his fellow astronauts are getting used to gravity again with the completion of their Shuttle mission. 

Amidst the discussion of Glenn’s return to space - take your pick:  heroic adventure, science experiment or publicity stunt - a small detail caught my eye.

It seems that Glenn was keeping in touch with his wife by email. On the one hand this shows how pervasive a form of communication email has become (forget ‘Houston, we have a problem,’ now it’s ‘Fwd: Top Ten things we want Samuel Jackson to say as a Jedi Knight’).

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsTechnologyLife
Thursday, May 28, 1998

To David, with fear and loathing

Not so long ago, I went to a public reading given by Hunter Thompson and Johnny Depp, promoting the new film of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. 

The whole thing was a surreal experience - a hero of the counter-culture appearing at a media event in the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, New York - but one of the strangest parts about it was the realisation that the audience weren’t really there to see either Hunter or Johnny. They were there to get their books signed.

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsLifeBooks
Friday, January 16, 1998

Office Liaisons - workplace romance in TV shows

Opinions vary wildly on the subject of relationships in the workplace, from ‘Don’t crap in your own nest,’ to wedding day ‘I do’s’ between work colleagues. But there’s definitely a difference between the real world and the world of tv. 

On TV, relationships in the workplace are a perfect way to build suspense and excitement - you don’t have to introduce any new characters, and the audience know both protagonists equally well.

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsTelevision
Friday, January 09, 1998

TV Dinners

Cooking programmes, I love ‘em. As if we weren’t stuffed enough already, over the holiday period, British TV was full of food being prepared. 

It used to be that cooking shows were just cooking shows - Delia Smith, the 70s queen of the kitchen - just gave it to us straight. ‘This is what I’m going to cook,’ she’d say, ‘And this is how I do it.’ We watched and learned, but we weren’t entertained. 

That was fine, if a little pedestrian, and heading into the 80s cooking as a spectator event faltered a little, being relegated to slots on daytime shows like This Morning or the fondly-remembered Pebble Mill at One.

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsTelevision
Thursday, December 11, 1997

Documenting Reality

In the last month, the best tv shows I’ve seen have all been documentaries. And all of a particular type. 

Not for me the hard-hitting expose of big business corruption or political shenanigans, nor the tragic and moving story of an ordinary person’s fight against illness or adversity. Nor for me gutsy journalists on the front line in Bosnia, or with refugees in Rwanda. 

No, the only type of documentary I’m watching these days is fly on the wall programmes covering (supposedly) normal life.

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsUKTelevision
Thursday, December 04, 1997

Advent adventures

When I was very young my sister and I would both have advent calendars on the mantelpiece. The idea of sharing one was unthinkable, and so every December morning between the toast and Marmite, the tea and the Today programme on Radio 4, we’d dash into the living room and each open another window.

Some years we’d re-use them from the previous year, and so when we opened the doors, we’d have to be careful not to tear them off, as other more reckless friends did. That way, we could push them all flat again for next year.

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsLife
Thursday, November 20, 1997

Mad Max and Englishmen - the British in American film and TV

The arrival of Dr Elizabeth Corday in ER set me thinking about the fate of English actors in US mainstream film and tv. Firstly, Corday is about as un-English a name as I’ve come across, which isn’t a great start.

Secondly, poor Alex Kingston is hidebound by playing a jolly hockey sticks plummy stereotype. She’s all pearls and spunk, and acts like she’s stepped out of a 1930s film.

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Posted in • Modest ProposalsFilmTelevision
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