Your Other Lives- ‘I considered myself a circus artist’- The Irish Times, July 2010

My brother and I, at a young age, frequented the bannisters of our house, sliding down, climbing up, dangling from them- you name it, we chanced it.

Every time, I considered myself a circus artist, clambering higher and higher to provide entertainment to screaming hordes below. I intended to do this for the rest of my valid life.

My career was cut short when I was but five years old. Casually clinging to the highest bannister in the house, some 20 feet above any kind of solid ground (solid ground that was nothing more than stairs, so doubly dangerous), I realised I simply could not hang on any longer.

After that night, my career path changed; I simply was not meant to reach those heights.

Egregiously trusting in the imagination that once made me a circus performer, I followed a different path- I became a writer.

Roxanne

I recently found myself in the strange land of De Wallen- otherwise known as a Red Light District of Amsterdam. This was not a social call, you understand. I found myself with a group of my buddies in Amsterdam for a few hours on the way back home, and well … what else is there to do in Amsterdam, right?

In fact there’s loads of other stuff to do in Amsterdam; the buildings are so crooked that it’s entertaining. The city is like a whole other world, and the small streets and cobbles allow for a large amount of exploring. But the fact remains that the hash cafes and red lights of Amsterdam are the best documented, so that was where we headed- after asking directions of a number of locals, somewhat without shame, it must be said.

You get desensitised to it pretty quickly. We passed many women in windows, one or two sitting on stools bored shitless with a phone in hand, probably texting a friend to say “work’s a drag” like you or I would. The windows lit up the lonely streets with crass neon intention; the girls inside them were just settling in to work.

The women (and odd few men) in the windows become less like people and more like objects the farther down the streets you walk, and – there are moments when you see the real underworld- take a picture of anything and a pimp might cut your hand off. There are tiny streets where the lights remind you that this is a business; this is a commercial buy and sell.

Nonetheless, the knocks on the windows and the tiny rooms with beds visible and shady characters milling around ought to remind you that it’s a business you don’t want to be in. Attempts to glamorize it fall by the wayside, and there are a set of stark facts regarding the

safety of the women involved. A 2006 survey points out that 7% of the women in the Amsterdam sex industry have HlV or AIDS. All EU workers can legally go to De Wallen and work the sex trade.

My (better) advice would be not to get into that industry at all. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime lists the Netherlands as a primary destination for human trafficking. 75% of prostitutes in Amsterdam are Eastern European, African or Asian~ In 2004, a police report from Amsterdam indicated a list of 76 pimps with violent criminal backgrounds, of whom only three were Dutch natives. These are indications that the tourist attraction is funding criminality; that those who purchase the services available or enter the shops and museums all around, are finding an underworld that has been legalised, but not legitimised.

In similar situations worldwide, notably the diamond mines of Sierra Leone and the subsequent Kimberly Accords, we as a human race have acted to prevent our delights leading to such depravity. De Wallen, and the other red light areas of Amsterdam seem to be immune

to this type of action. Most action seems to be symbolic, rather than substantive. A statue was placed in De Wallen in 2007. Inscribed on it are the words “Respect sex workers all over the world”. Which is fine for a tourist to see and feel better about, but it damn sure doesn’t help the workers.

Karena Schaapman, former prostitute and member of Amsterdam’s local council, stated in an interview with Netherlands Radio that “There are people who are really proud of the red light district as a tourist attraction. It’s supposed to be such a wonderful, cheery place that shows just what a free city we are. But I think it’s a cesspit. There’s a lot of serious criminality. There’s a lot of exploitation of women, and a lot of social distress. That’s nothing to be proud of.”

And having been there, I can with safety say that it wasn’t all that pleasant at all. I felt mean for even walking those streets, even with the giggles we did have. With the gift of hindsight, I maybe might have felt better about seeing the city- and not Roxanne.

And the Kudos Goes To….

After interviewing the majority of the candidates for the next Student Union, and making friends with pretty much all of them, I found myself in the unhappy position of having to actually vote. They did not make it easy for me. There were policies I liked and policies I loved. There were people I knew well, and people I knew better than that. And then there was the fact that whenever I walked across campus, I was greeted with shouts and whoops and sweets in attempts to win my vote.

Along the way, many people told me that they loved the Sexpress. You have no idea how much work went into the Sexpress News Section, to present all candidates fairly to the student body. There were 20- something candidates, each with an interview and a group photo shoot, something I had never organised before. There were phone calls, text messages and over 6 hours of taped conversations with candidates- all of which had to be typed out and then edited down to size.

Over 25,000 words were typed in the space of four days. And [ can with safety say that I have never had such fun. I have never met so many people at once. and I have never so easily made so many new friends in such a short time. I was not without help- John Whyte Hourihan, Elaine Rosney and Paudie Prendergast were with me the whole way through. I wanted to involve more people but our time limit of less than week made this a virtual impossibility.

When the polls closed, I found myself in Cork Campus Radio at 3am, waiting for results, wearing killer heels I’d worn to STARS, and passing phone numbers for candidates over to the CCR team, who were absolute legends for the night.

The point of this editorial is to extrapolate (to borrow a word Mark Khan taught me) that what happens behind the scenes is often left out when it fact it ought to be revered. The Express team who stood behind me, CCR who stayed up all night and did a great job on reporting results, the campaign teams who walked UCC and pulled in voters, made cakes, gave away hundreds of euro worth of sweets, and in one memorable case, handed out chicken wings- and the people who stayed up all night to count our record breaking 4800-odd ballots over and over again, immense kudos is due.

And to the SU- Eoin Hayes, who joked with me in CCR at half two in the morning, Rebecca Murphy, who almost fell asleep in Devere Hall during the count, Ian Power, who passed us messages through Facebook, and Shelley Conroy, who looked stellar and talked calm into candidates at STARS- those guys deserve mucho appreciation.

And for the newly elected, Siobhan, Tara, Padraig, Greg, Daithi and Keith- all those things you lot promised me for UCC media, I will hold you to them with steel grit and determination.

Weird Wide World March 2010

Florida Woman Beat Man with Meat

A Florida woman is accused of beating a man with a piece of raw meat, according to the Associated Press. Police say that 53-year-old Elise Egan admitted to slapping the disabled man “so that he could learn,” but did not admit to attacking him with meat.

An Honest Thief

Police in Kentucky say they caught 32-year-old Derek Kidd with his hands in the cookie jar … pretty much literally. Just an hour after being released from jail, Kidd found himself right back in — because police say on his way out he tried to steal two candy bars and a police hat. Stanley Wright of Ohio allegedly stuffed several hundred dollars worth of clothing under his shirt and down his pants. Then, strangely, filled out a job application, using his correct address before leaving.

 Damp Laundry

When Thomas Schultz’s neighbour’s laundry was continually damp she installed CCTV cameras to find out what was going on- only to discover that he was coming into her house at odd hours and urinating on her clothes.

 The Great Bee Exodus

The California Highway Patrol said eight to 12 million honey bees escaped from the crates in which they were stored when the truck they were being transported in overturned on the road in Sacramento, California. The truck was carrying over 400 beehives with 30,000 bees in each.

Cork Online Law Review Launched

The Cork Online Law Review (usually known as COLR) was launched in the Staff Common Room in UCC on the 11th of March, at an event hosted by the Editorial Board of the publication. The Cork Online Law Review at

University College Cork, Ireland, is a non-profit Law Review which provides an opportunity for undergraduates and postgraduate students, lawyers, academics and doctorate students worldwide to have their work published.

The Law Review was revolutionary when established by law students who had the vision of forming Ireland’s only online law review to be run solely by law students. The Cork Online Law Review is internationally renowned and universities such as Cambridge in the UK and the University of St. Louis in the United States have links to COLR from their websites.

Committees have gone from strength to strength in establishing this Review as a respected and reliable legal source. As always the students of UCC play an important role in the success of the Review and the Editorial Board encourages feedback on how the Review can be improved. The Law School at New York University has also recently stipulated that COLR is one of Ireland’s leading legal publications despite the fact that it is run by students.

The Editorial Board received 114 submissions and over 150 enquiries from law students all over the world as well as  from students in Ireland. The countries from which the Law Review received submissions this year ranged from Canada and the United States to Russia, Pakistan, Singapore, Belgium and Australia, as well as many others. They also received articles from student interns in the European Court of Justice, NATO, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, numerous UN Bodies and Interpol. As expected, many submissions came from Irish Legal institutions, including UCC.

Editor in Chief of the Review, Anna Marie Brennan, told the Express that “Being involved in a student activity such as COLR has been a great experience for me personally. I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with a brilliant team who ensured that the edition was published on time. COLR continues to go from strength to strength and has gained international recognition.”

The Editorial Board and Chief State Solicitor also made a presentation to the student who wrote the overall best essay in this year’s edition. The winner of this year’s Gold Medal is Jennifer Hourihane. The presentation consisted of a Gold Medal along with a hard copy of the edition.

Ms. Brennan continued to state that “We are also very grateful to the Law Faculty for their continued assistance in reviewing submissions and advising on how to publish the edition according to a particular House Style Guide. Without their assistance this would not have been a success. Being involved in COLR has been a great experience for me personally. I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with a brilliant team.”

Campus Picnic Cancelled

On Tuesday morning, the 16th of March, it was announced via the CollegeRoad.ie Facebook page that Campus Picnic has been cancelled. The event was due to see Tinchy Stryder, Noisettes, The Coronas, Chicane, Example, Iglu and Hartly and The Hoosiers perform to UCC students, with others to be announced. Tickets were set at a price of €54.50.

The event was originally planned to take place on the Quad, but Student Union Deputy President Ian. Power relayed that “Health & Safety objected to the number of students we proposed despite us having independently calculating that 9,000 people could be evacuated in the case of an emergency- nowhere near our planned capacity.”

The event was then set to take place at the Cork Docklands, more familiarly known as the location for the Summer Cork at the Marquee festival. When asked by the Express how much money was spent by the SU on the venture, and in the presumption that this money was now lost. We were informed that no money from the SU budget was spent on Campus Picnic, as the decision was made originally that “any liability arising out of the event would be borne by the promoters.”

Further to this, Mr Power stated that “We recognise that students didn’t have the money to spend on this event due to economic circumstances and we recognise that was part of the reason why the event is not going ahead. We were very encouraged by the ticket sales however and confident that the event will be successful in couple of years time. UCD and Trinity lost in excess of €50,000 the first time they held their events, we weren’t prepared to take that hit in the current circumstances.” He also said that he was aware the SU could not adequately appeal to all 18,000 UCC students, but maintained that the acts set to perform at the event were larger than most that have played at UCC before.

The Students’ Union has suffered criticism on sites such as boards.ie and on several Facebook pages as a result of the cancellation of the event, but Mr Power related that “We are happy that we tried our best and that the feeling from the majority of students overall has been very positive. We are well aware that there will always be people who will take a negative slant on any initiative by the Students’ Union which is sad, but that’s life.”

Tickets will be refunded through the campuspicnic.ie website.

Order a True Blood from Sookie Stackhouse

Long before Edward Cullen was even a thought, there was Eric Northman. Eric is over 6 foot tall, blonde, blue eyed and is a 1000 year old Viking vampire with the hots for the resident telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse. The only flaw in the plan is that Sookie loves a different guy: vampire Bill Compton, Eric’s underling.

When Charlaine Harris began her Sookie stories in 2001, she never thought that they would take to the small screen in the form of HBO’s explosive True Blood. Ten books and two series later, Harris is still keeping fans caught up in the turmoil of Sookie’s day to day life with vampires in Northern Louisiana.

And here is the thing; these are vampires that aren’t afraid of sex, drugs and rock ’0′ roll. They can, and do, kill- mercilessly. They can feed on humans, and do so frequently. Oh, and they are legally recognised as additions to society – they have come out of the coffin, as it were.

Harris created a political system for the vamps. There are kings, queens, sheriffs and investigators. There are werewolves, shapeshifters and fairies – and there is the antagonistic fellowship of the Sun also. Sookie does not live a perfect life; she is a telepath therefore dating is a nightmare. She lives in one of the poorest regions of the United States – an issue that Harris -is not afraid to tackle head-on. The lines between faith and faithless are blurred throughout the books; deciding who the bad guy is often impossible.

While the books are rarely now known as the Southern Vampire Mysteries, that was how they started; In Dead Until Dark, Sookie is caught up in the schemes of a serial killer in her town of Bon Temps. It just so happens that her brother is the most likely suspect. Sookie is all too aware of the whispers and judgements of the people around her, but she has to get to the bottom of the puzzle it’s too late.

Charlaine Harris has made some amazing characters. They each have inner conflicts and problems ranging from class, ethnicity and prejudice which all come into play throughout the story. Eric never does something unless he gets something in return, Bill is a jealous and possessive lover and Sookie’s brother Jason has a lot of Sookie is an endearing heroine. As a blonde size ten, she is stubborn and headstrong – well able to fight her way out of a tight comer, she can be vicious and bloodthirsty.

Her hard choices are coupled with her job at Merlotte’s bar, her relationships with those around her, and her liking for tanning and books. She has a lot to learn about the world she inadvertently stepped into- and Hurricane Katrina hits in the middle of the series, to add to her troubles.

Think The Sopranos. Only with vampires and Southern accents, violence and romance. Yum. Twilight it ain’t, that is for sure.