Thursday 30 August 2007

Boldly go where almost no one has gone before

As a sci-fi writer - and as someone who believed as a kid that I was from another planet - I am of course fascinated by the sky at night. Probably the only downside I can think of to living in Berlin is the fact that the ambient city light means you can never get a good rich view of the night sky.

A small compensation for this is a number of websites I've found.

Recently, Google have just set up STELLARIUM which I downloaded as soon as I read about it. It's a wonderful site.

This site has views of the Earth and the Moon.

While this one is a NASA site dedicated to Mars exploration. And then there's the ESA Mars site to explore.

A fantastic site is this one for the HUBBLE space telescope. I have often download screen images from their 'wallpaper' section.

For news on astronomy, this magazine is very extensive.

But of course if you want to know what life IS REALLY LIKE OUT THERE, then this is the site to go to.

Friday 17 August 2007

My Brother the Bag Man

Here's the new online shop set up for my brother Kevin's THE BAG SHOP ONLINE. It is a new 'branch' of what is already a nationwide chain of stores in Ireland.

Kevin and I go back a long way. I've known him almost 55 years now (this is not a recent photo of him and me and our sister Ethel - Kevin was taller then). I have to say I like the guy. I also wish him every success with this new venture and I hope you'll pay the site a visit. He tells me it is already a fine success; only a week up and running yet people are finding it and - most important of all as far as Kevin is concerned! - buying bags.

Kevin is a strange guy. I have strolled with him some Sunday afternoons as he went visiting various Bag Shops in the city, and he simply sees the world through a different lens; he recognises when people are using a bag bought at one of his shops, and he is particularly delighted every time he sees a 'Bag Shop' carrier bag.

He designed the store logo himself, by the way. Not as handsome as me - but a smart guy is my bro.

Thursday 16 August 2007

The best Guitar Site

Okay. Let me not overstate this; here is the best website for guitarists anywhere in this galaxy. The site has everything. You learn chords. You find the name of chords you have discovered by moving the 'dots' to the frets and pressing 'search'. You can hear how chords sound by pressing 'strum' on the guitar body. You have links to fellow guitarists. You can have accompaniment as you play. You can tune your guitar. It has a link to free lessons on how to play songs. This site could be your friend for life!!!

I mean really - how good can a website be?

I enjoy playing guitar, and have gone to lessons over the years. I write songs and here's one you can download. Details of it are in my previous blog. I regularly go hunting for guitar chords, and my favourites are Dylan, Cohen, Cash and Taylor. My wife's son Noam asked me to learn this song - 'lean on me' - which he is very fond of.

Sunday 12 August 2007

A Song from Me

I seem to have figured this out; this should lead to the download of a song of mine. The song is called HUMAN, and is a reflection on the fact that we all do the best we can in our reaching out for love - even if the best we can do is not what the other person needs. And vice versa.
It's just singing and playing guitar - recorded at a friend's small studio here in Berlin.
I was able to do this upload/download thanks to this great website.
for some reason, trying it again recently it failed and yet I could get the song by going directly to where it should be;

Any feedback?

Saturday 11 August 2007

Virtual Dublin

I've been living in Berlin for over five years, and I don't miss Dublin. But there are many ways for me to stay in touch with life in Dublin - aside from picking up the phone to call a brother or sister or friend.

My favourite online connection with Dublin is this chat forum where I am a member under - guess what! - my own name. I had set up a Barney and Molly page - spreading the word about my book - this link is also to the slide show of photos from the book. Yes, this is a plug for my book!

There are other links and blogs for Dublin and Dublin life which I dip into from time to time.

But this site, of Virtual Dublin, was set up by a friend of a friend of mine and is a fascinating enterprise - if you're into that kind of thing.

I sometimes check in with the RTE website or even with the Irish Times newspaper site to find out what my countrymen are up to.

If you're interested in Dublin nostalgia, I wrote and edited THE DUBLINERS' DUBLIN, a one hour film made in 1988 that gives a potted history of Dublin (for the year of Dublin's Millennium) along with a string of classic Dublin songs. I had the pleasure of working with Ronnie Drew in writing the script - and even have a brief cameo!

I have to confess that there's little about Dublin that I miss aside, of course, from friends and family there. I miss a little my favourite pub, the Long Hall, or more so going for walks in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains. I find Dublin nowadays has a reduced quality of life; all the frenzy of a boomtown.

But from this distance and with contact to some Dubliners, I can remain feeling fond about the place.

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Sunday in Berlin

It was a fairly simple suggestion, but as usual Berlin had some surprises up its sleeve. The weather here has finally turned lovely and on Sunday I suggested to Claudia that we get on our bikes and go to Tiergarten for a bit of exploring and maybe to find somewhere quiet to sit and read.

Tiergarten might be compared with Manhattan's Central Park, though in fact the amount of greenery in Berlin is seven times the size of Manhattan! Berlin is over 40% forest, park and lakes.

What I've always enjoyed about Tiergarten is that you come upon the unexpected there. Admittedly, cycling along by the Spree we were seeing all the usual things; tour boats and tourists.

I halted at this splendid looking place, which is where Chancellor Merkel hangs her fitted jackets.

But as Claudia and I sat for a drink by the river we heard the noise of bells and we went exploring.

At a memorial belfry beside Haus der Kulturen der Welt, a free performance was about to begin which was a combination of prerecorded computer music and live bell ringing. Claudia and I lay back on the grass with the other sixty or so people and enjoyed the performance of the three pieces. If I knew how to upload a file other than an image file I could put up a sample few minutes of the music - but I don't know how!

On the way home, we stopped off at a famous ice cream café in the gay Motzstrasse area of Berlin.

It was a lovely afternoon in this most enjoyable of cities. Man am I lucky to be living here. If you ever feel like exploring Berlin by bike, check out this website.

Sunday 5 August 2007


I wrote my third children's novel, PEG LEG GUS, for my daughter Ellen. In a nutshell, the book is a magical story of a friendship that grows between a young girl and a lame old horse who had once believed he could fly. Ellen loves the book, and I am happy to have written it for her.

But I would also like it to be bought and read by others!

The aim seems reasonable, but achieving the aim has evaded me. This is a good book. Its one review on Amazon is very positive and those who have read it always come to the end with a tear in their eye but having enjoyed the story. The book has not (yet) found its way onto bookshelves. So I'm trying to market it online from my desk. So far.... the book is not selling.

I tried various websites dedicated to books about horses, which seemed like a good idea. I sent them a kind of 'sales pitch'. I never got an answer from any of the sites.

I tried websites recommending books and asking if I could send review copies of the book. Again never a reply.

I then discovered this site and realised just what I was up against. Are there more children's writers than there are children? It almost seems that way. Certainly, they all have mighty impressive website. My pal Don Conroy, who did the cover for PEG LEG GUS, has a brilliant website.

I have two other children's books in the pipeline, WELCOME TO EARTH and THE DREAMIST. My novel MOTHERSHIP will be coming back into print as it is now being developed as a feature film that I will co-write and direct. Maybe when I have a body of work I'll sell more books or be a more attractive proposition to a publisher?

My very successful brother Bill once asked me 'what's the one thing you do?' and I couldn't answer him. I do lots of things. 'I tell stories,' might be an answer to his questions, or 'I am creative'. But I'm not solely a writer for children and so perhaps that weakens my chances of drawing attention to my new children's novel. If anyone out there has an idea for how I could promote sales of the book - please let me know. And if anyone out there is looking for a warm, moving story for girls in the 8-10 age group: please buy PEG LEG GUS!

Friday 3 August 2007

Is there anybody out there?

My son Bernard (this, I admit, is not a recent photo of him), who set up my website and taught me how to set up this blog, has now created a link between my website and this blog. This is good for me - I have no idea how the website works but can post regular blogs here. So hopefully people will find their way to regular news from me here - I plan on writing one or two new posts a week. It would be nice to know if anyone is reading them!

I am also hoping to use this blog as a way of drawing attention to my books and films and whatever else I may be up to. The next blog I'm going to write will be about PEG LEG GUS, the children's novel I wrote for my daughter, and I'll be writing the blog in the hope of selling some books!!! I'll write more often about life in Berlin - in the hope of drawing advance interest in my now completed book A DUBLINER'S BERLIN which I now have out and about seeking a publisher. I'll also be writing about family research and related subjects as a way of drawing interest to the book I wrote about my parents: BARNEY AND MOLLY: A TRUE DUBLIN LOVE STORY. I'll also be spreading the word in a few months' time when my film THE BOY FROM MERCURY is released on DVD.

But mostly I'm hoping that a blog will be a good way of connecting to people and of connecting people - as for instance Bernard attempted when he set up this myspace site for the book about my parents.

So there you go - this is kind of a mission statement! From here on in I take an active regular interest in this blog in the hope of getting connected to whoever is out there!