Author Appearance: The Dalkey Book Festival

The Dalkey Book Festival
The Dalkey Book Festival

Dalkey, that “vestibule of a heavenly conspection,” as Flann O’Brien has it, is having a book festival this weekend (16th-18th of June). It already kicked off, in a sense, in town at the Born Gais Theater with Bernie Sanders giving a brief shout, but this weekend is when it all really kicks off, in the village proper. Marlon James will be here, Maggie O’Farrell, Sebastian Barry, and a whole gang of other writers, talking about a variety of subjects.

I’ll be there, since I’d have to make an effort not to be there, and it’s very unlike me to make much of an effort at anything. If anything, it’s a chance for me to add to my list of stories about author meetings, if I’m not arrested, or worse, beaten up by Elif Sharak or anybody else.

Primary school kids getting ready for Bloomsday
Primary school kids getting ready for Bloomsday

This is the town where the kids are encouraged to dress up for Bloom’s Day (and about a stone’s throw from the James Joyce museum in a Martello Tower down in Sandycove — I have been asked to tell people not to throw stones at the James Joyce tower) and have a book festival in the spring and a “creates” festival in the autumn, and it’ll be infested with writerly types all weekend long. And (not to jinx it), it’s supposed to be nice weather all weekend, as if the gods of literature said, “Sure, let there be a bit of light, some sunshine, and we’ll see how many of these fe*kers we can burn” (the gods of literature are a bit more coarse in and around Dublin).

The Gutter Bookshop, from what I understand, will also have exploded out of its own premises and into the streets. Sure, you can’t buy any of my books there, but it’s still worth supporting other authors and your inveterate reading habit, anyway.

I really can’t think of a better place to be.


So if you’re in town and happen to see me, be sure to say hello, unless, of course, I’m stalking John Banville or arm wrestling Jennifer O’Connell or hiding in a tree, spying on the ghost of Flann O’Brien.


Shawn Thornton Reflecting on a Career as an Enforcer

The Globe carried an article recently about a Sports Illustrated article about Shawn Thornton’s retirement, one of those spiritual brothers of William Murphy of my novel, Trip to the Quiet Room.

“I’m just enjoying the thought that I’m never going to have to get punched in the face ever again for the rest of my life.”

Hang ’em up

Guys like Shawn, PJ Stock, Bobby Robins, Georges Laraque were all models for Will: those bruisers who made their living on the ice with their fists and all the attendant worries and dangers. But every single one of those guys, off ice, have drawn rave reviews for their treatment of the fans and local charities where they play. I think, as people, as characters, they’re a fascinating group. Will, of course, toiled mostly at a level below where these guys did, which makes him even more torn on his retirement (Will didn’t win two Stanley Cups like Shawn, barely got more than a cup of coffee and a concussion in the NHL).

I just hope, for Thornton’s sake, that his wife doesn’t happen to be a plumber, working on a prospective time machine in their home bathtub…

Out of a Rain Delay

Well, we’ve emerged from the rain delay, but the numbers aren’t looking a heck of a lot better:

What inning are we in again?


And if you prefer the old Boston Garden hockey scoreboard look, that empty, soul-sucking void is racking up an impressive number of penalty minutes:

Author Time on Ice: a very long time

Cahokia — Sub-Par Maya Ball Game Team?

Annalee Newitz has an interesting article on the ancient city of Cahokia in modern day St. Louis-ish that’s worth a read. Of course, this whole city was predicted (years after it was found) by the fascinating and edifying History of the Mayan Ball League. As a major stop on the Mayan Ball League All Stars tour, the Cahokians had to adapt their game of Chunkey to the more physical ball game.

Ancient Mayan TempleOf course, Chunkey was played with spears, which helped the Cahokians overcome the physical advantage by simply chucking spears at the opposing players, and may also have contributed to the downfall of the Mayan Ball League. But their fans were super-polite about the spearings…

Facebook’s fake news crisis deepens — BBB News

Mark Zuckerberg probably facing down an angry mob of Facebook employees
Mark Zuckerberg probably facing down an angry mob of Facebook employees [photo from AP, stolen from the BBC]

Despite repeatedly insisting that it’s not his fault, Mark Zuckerberg had to face down an angry mob armed with pitchforks and torches, the burning kind, not the more gentle, battery powered Irish and British kind.
Continue reading “Facebook’s fake news crisis deepens — BBB News”

Dr. Belly, I Presume

Listen, I think Chad Finn is the business. I don’t think I’ve ever disliked an article or column he’s written. He’s usually thoughtful, measured, and eloquent.

And he nails it again this week, with this article “Rick Porcello and the best out-of-nowhere extraordinary seasons in Red Sox history.” He takes us on a nice road trip down memory lane, celebrating some of the unexpected delights coming out of Fenway.

Further Fenway Fiction
Further Fenway Fiction

It’s almost like the very reverse of my story, “The Curious Case of Doctor Belly and Mister Itcher”, which was part of the excellent Further Fenway Fiction.

In that story, one loosely based on what happened to Matt Clement, a promising pitcher takes a ball off the noggin and proceeds to meltdown for the remainder of the season. He starts the next season on fire again, and like some phantom echo of the hit off the head, he collapses in the home stretch again. It’s been really, really fun watching Porcello turn from Mr. Itcher into Dr. Belly.

The collection’s worth getting, if you’re going to get any of the Fenway Fiction anthologies, as I think it’s got the strongest work, by far; a collection of Red Sox fan writers who were still writing in that afterglow of having seen a Red Sox team win a World Series in their lifetime. So go read Chad’s article, then go buy Further Fenway Fiction to read in between innings.

The Making of: Indu in #VOOM2016

There’s a worthy Irish startup out there called Indu, and it’s been trying, for the last week or so, to get people to vote for it in a contest, at the end of which they’d get to pitch to Richard Branson. If they get in the top 80.

Well, I told a series of Twitter stories, starting with a real-life, live-tweet of the time Carol, the founder, got locked in a hospital. I followed it up with another live-tweet of the time VOOM’s website wouldn’t let you vote and we assumed that Indu had broken the internet. And then I had the idea that Indu’s marketing was hard at work on a sequel to the popular Liam Neeson vehicle, Taken, in an effort to appeal to more people.

And, like all ideas that suck up all your time, I thought, “Hey, let’s make a real film for Indu…” I’ve been on a real scriptwriting kick for contests like NYC Midnight’s short screenplay contest, I enjoy the work, I have two children I can employ as cheap labor, and my wife loves directing them, so I figured we should give it a shot.

My Name Is Carol

We started with a rough idea of a script, the kids found some Lego characters we could use to represent Carol, Richard, and a whole slew of them for the other people pitching to Richard. We even had a green screen-ish platform if we flipped over the slats on the Lego table the kids have had for 8 years.

Original Script Notes
Original Script Notes

With the rough notes, we used an app called iStopMotion, from Boinx software, to shoot our scenes. iStopMotion lets you use an iPhone as a remote camera, so we used the iPad to capture the shots and moved the iPhone around on a little stand we got from Target where you can adjust the legs and angle at which the phone is pointed.Setting up the table

We tried a couple shots on the Friday night, but in the cold light of Saturday morning they were a little blurry… and someone didn’t consider the messy closet behind the shot, so we figured we’d have to re-shoot a good deal of it. As we weren’t using a Lego base we were essentially building a set of Lego dominoes… when we repositioned an arm or leg or head to make the characters look more alive we were under constant threat of the whole line of people falling over. After a day of soccer, volleyball, and baseball, we got back around 4:30 to start our principal shooting, working off that rough script.

Spot the Easter Egg
Spot the Easter Egg

With stop motion the part the kids had the most fun with was dropping little Easter eggs in the production (like the moving AT-AT walker in the background that became an integral part of the story or the little kid who gets chased off by an assistant during the glamping person’s pitch). We wrapped up shooting around 6 o’clock and stitched the separate movies for the different scenes together in a rough cut in iMovie on a laptop in a matter of minutes. At this stage, we needed to record some audio, and the kids are far cuter than me, so I wrote up a quick script (you can download an autographed copy! You’re so lucky!) and we recorded their separate parts in Garageband on the laptop. Some people had trouble with their lines.

The audio took a bit longer… titles, transitions, but by 2am, kids long in bed, their contributions done a little earlier, we had our finished film.

We hope you enjoy our little film. And please vote for Indu in the VOOM campaign, this is the last day to do so, and she really deserves a spot in the top 80.

Indu in #VOOM2016 from Matthew Hanlon on Vimeo.

Young Man Discovers New Mayan City… Inspired by “The History of the Mayan Ball League”?

So this young man in Quebec has discovered, without leaving his home, mind, a new Mayan city. He did it using the Mayan constellations, laying them down on the map and figuring out that there seemed to be one corresponding city missing.

The Pyramid of the Magician
The Pyramid of the Magician

But I suspect he may have just been studying his “The History of the Mayan Ball League” texts:

“The All Stars versus locals match ended very badly in Quebec, their first stop on the tour. The traveling referees, misunderstanding the intention of the tour, beheaded the local players, whom had lost, 15−1, and the All Star team was driven out of town by the first of what would become many generations of angry Quebecois, justifiably so.”

Excerpt From: Matthew Hanlon. “The History of the Mayan Ball League.” iBooks

The short book mentions many other expansion cities for the Mayan Ball League, and while this teenager’s approach of using the stars and science to discover hitherto unknown Mayan sites, I do hope that the scientific and archaeological community will spend a bit more time reading up on their fake histories and investigate.

“However, the next year the Board of Governors overruled Chichen Itza and added two new franchises to the League; San Juan and San Diego. San Diego was not particularly ready for a franchise, but a wealthy tribal king in the area promised to have a 20,000 seat arena completed by 270 A.D., and for now the team would play its matches at the downtown market, which could be cleared out on Saturdays and removable hoops would be installed on the side walls. The removable hoops were something of a hazard, to both players and bystanders. Even non-bystanders were at risk, as the hoops had a tendency to break off their moorings and roll down the streets for some distance before coming to a stop in a fruit stall or on a collection of people discussing politics or the weather. The tribal king insisted the new stadium would be ready within five years, and how many people would die in hoop-related deaths in that time, anyway? It turns out the answer was 117.”

Excerpt From: Matthew Hanlon. “The History of the Mayan Ball League.” iBooks.

In the Jungle
Who knows what other ballparks are out there to be discovered?

The book is free from the iBookstore and $0.99 from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. So start your research today, and you may just catch up to a fifteen year old from Quebec, in terms of Mayan archaeology.