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The O-Zone: The dark side

New Year was eclipsed by sneaky civil servant pay cuts, the death of a great character and the mini-Van website hoax

MONDAY

Hic! Well, thank Christ Xmas is finally over. The OZone seriously couldn't drink another treble brandy and port (mainly because all the bottles are empty).

So happy birthday, Santa! Until next . . . hic!

In the evening to The Twelve Hotel in Barna for a gig by mega-talented singer-songwriter Ruth Dillon-- check out www.ruthdillon.com -- followed by an unusual art event called The Blind Seal.

Based on a true story written in 1832 by William Hamilton Maxwell, The Blind Seal powerfully combines music, prose and painting to tell the story of an ill-fated domesticated seal about to be forcibly evicted from the home of a Connemara fisherman.

As TG4's Darach O Tuairisg reads the story, Grammy-winning musician Vinnie Kilduff (best known for his work with U2, The Waterboys and Clannad) creates an evocative soundtrack and artist Dara McGee rapidly paints a series of illustrative oil-paintings. When the story reaches its shocking climax, McGee arranges the four canvasses together to reveal a totally new picture. A really simple idea, wonderfully executed.

They've been sporadically touring this brilliant show around arts festivals recently and will continue to do so in 2010. Catch it if you can.

TUESDAY

Grim day. Someone I know always dies at Christmas, and sadly this year has been no exception. To a city-centre funeral home to pay my last respects to inimitable local character Frank McCarthy who passed away unexpectedly on St Stephen's Day.

While I never figured out exactly what he did, Frank always seemed to be around musical and theatrical productions and was a real legend around Galway. Despite the driving sleet, hundreds of people have shown up.

Somebody gave me a gift of this great little book called Sum. Written by a neuroscientist named David Eagleman, it's subtitled Forty Tales from the Afterlives. Basically, Eagleman has written 40 short, but hauntingly thought-provoking, imaginings of what happens to us after we die.

One of them, Metamorphosis, begins thus: "There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time."

It'll be many, many years before Frank McCarthy has his third death. RIP.

WEDNESDAY

Cranky music legend Van Morrison, is reported to have become a father again at the ripe young age of 64. I've never interviewed Van the Man myself, but some of the horror stories my journalistic colleagues have told me are hilarious.

About 20 years ago, Liam Fay interviewed him -- or attempted to, at least -- for Hot Press in a London restaurant. His questions didn't go down well; within minutes Morrison was shouting at him and trying to grab the tape recorder. Fay fled the restaurant and walked swiftly for a few streets. He eventually stopped for a breather outside the gates of a house. Unfortunately, it turned out to be Morrison's.

A minute later, the singer hurricaned up the street and started roaring again, accusing Fay of door-stepping him. A hair-raising chase ensued.

My favourite Morrison story, though, has to be Eamonn McCann's. In his book War and Peace in Northern Ireland, McCann recounts how he once approached Morrison after a show in Belfast and asked if, as a bow to political correctness, he might henceforth like to be known as "Van the Person."

As one of Morrison's minders explained after the subsequent explosion: "Van doesn't do jokes!"

THURSDAY

Oops! Turns out that the mini-Van story was false. Apparently somebody hacked into his official website and started the rumour.

Ice, ice, baby! Shortly after 7pm, I brave the Arctic conditions to stand out in the backyard and marvel at the first New Year's Eve lunar eclipse in more than 350 years. The bright and discoloured moon looks like somebody's bitten a big chunk out of its lower edge. Harney again!

Seems as good a time as any to make a wish for 2010: "Moon, while I'm truly grateful for all the fame, fortune and fanny I've been granted throughout my life -- a little more wouldn't hurt. I'd also like Bertie Ahern to lose all of his money on bank shares and bad horses. Cheers!"

FRIDAY

All is quiet on New Year's Day. I spend most of it catching up on all the newspapers I bought, but had no time to actually wrap chips in, over the past week.

It was shocking to hear about Brian Lenihan's illness. He seems like one of the few halfway decent individuals in power in Ireland.

However, it's even more shocking to read about the craftily timed Department of Finance U-turn on budgetary cuts.

The day before Christmas Eve, they released a press release which announced that the 15pc pay cut for senior civil servants earning over €200,000, and the 12pc for those on between €165,000 and €200,000, has now been lowered to between 3pc and 5pc, respectively. Happy Christmas lads!

SATURDAY

At this time of year, every day seems like Saturday. Today is no exception.

SUNDAY

Happy new year, readers, and all the very best for 2010.

It seems we're collectively cursed to live in interesting times, but all we can do is hang on and try to enjoy the ride.

Speaking of which, The OZone has to go now . . .


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