Archive for September, 2005

Still Ill

Sadly, my feverish ravings do not translate into good blogging material. I’m taking a few days out to convalesce and await inspiration.


A By-Paso for El Paso

The end of an era as travelling through Dundalk en route to Armagh finally comes to an end. Tonight I shall be having my first go on the new by-pass. I shall be timing myself, in case it still makes sense to go Ardee-Carrickmacross instead.

Any more of this rock and roll lifestyle and Front magazine will be running features on me.

UPDATE: The new by-pass offers a glimpse of another, seldom-seen side of Dundalk, that is, the other side. Not having to look at Atlantic Homecare and All Things Nice is, er, nice. Does it make journey time any shorter? Well, if your final destination is the roundabout at the end of the motorway, then the answer is an emphatic yes. Any further than that and you could be getting into diffs. The speedometer on the journey between the M1 and Newry never rose above 45mph, then it took 15 minutes to travel the length of the Newry bypass. Time of day (1730) probably didn’t help.

The Power and The Glory

Simon Jenkins is having fun at the Guardian. He has a go at the proposed legislation to deal with ‘glorification’ of terrorism. In a piece titled, rather conservatively, This is an act of censorship worthy of Joseph Goebbels he takes a rather dim view of the wording of the bill:

‘The wording recalls the remit of the old House Un-American Activities Committee
in Washington. It is born of Joe McCarthy out of 1066 and All That, with a dash
of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.’

And of the British government’s dubious ability to read history:

‘Are Hiroshima or Dresden to be listed events? If not, how can the no less
terrorist blitz be listed? Conrad was in this sense right: “The terrorist and
the policeman both come from the same basket.” I have no faith in Clarke’s
Stalinist historians. If Whitehall bureaucrats are so otherworldly as to find
village ponds, conker trees and rare steaks awash in human hazard, there is no
telling what they will find in the bloodstained pages of history.’

There is an old story about how when Elvis met Tom Jones, he proudly showed him his Drug Enforcement Agency badge that Richard Nixon had assigned him. The Voice managed to provoke the ire of The King by pointing out to him that his badge meant that he might have to arrest himself. Jenkins points out that ministers could find themselves in a similar situation under the new legislation:

‘Government lawyers may argue that states cannot be terrorists, yet those same
lawyers apply the phrase “state terrorism” to others. Besides, the bill offers
no defence of “good cause”. The Crown Prosecution Service must surely apply the
law impartially.’

And on the British government’s potential difficulties in defending itself:
‘The government’s defenders will argue of terror-bombing from the air that there are distinctions in targeting and collateral damage. But any self-respecting terrorist can find similar excuses for horror. At very least Downing Street is vulnerable to hypocrisy. Its crude attempt to stoke war fever in the winter of 2002/3 with briefings of “new smallpox/ricin/anthrax threat to London” was no less political. It was meant to frighten the public into supporting the rush to war. The effect was to disseminate the same fear as did the supposed terrorists. Bluntly, the government was doing the terrorists’ job for them. I cannot see how this puts ministers above their own law.’

TV-Ridden Ravings II

Of all the ads for get-back-to-work-goddammit-your-employer-isn’t-happy products, the most obnoxious have to be the ones for Berocca. That Berocca sounds a bit like ‘Baracus’ is unlikely to be mere coincidence.

The manly and clean-cut protagonist of the TV ad takes his medicine to counter the emasculating effects of illness, or perhaps hangovers. A triumphant and energetic return to work in the office dispels doubts about his masculinity.

Being a man, then, depends on your capacity to meet the needs of your employer. In these ads, illness acquires significance through its relation to work. You are not simply ill, run-down or hungover: you are unable to produce, and because you are unable to produce, you are not a man.

This theme is apparently subverted by another TV ad for one of those vile-tasting instant soup products that taste like reheated dishwater. In the ad, the hero takes his masculine assertiveness to goofy extremes, as a means of disguising the fact that he is utterly indolent.

As the camera follows the protagonist around the chaotic office, the viewer is allowed a glimpse of a tantalising reality: office work is an absurd charade, but you’re in on the joke. Naturally, this complicity has a price. Masculinity, along with the magical vision needed to perceive the reality of the office, is conferred only by drinking cup-a-soups.

In reality, there is not much difference between the two ads. Both propose medication as a means of dealing with the sublime misery of the office. The principal difference is in the choice of substance: a sickly orange fizz, or a hot lumpy sludge.

Christ, two Lemsips and I’ve turned into a limp-wristed Media Studies student.

Young, Dumb and Full of Lists

The ageing rock dinosaur in me enjoyed this brief interview with Neil Young, one of the more unknowable personalities in rock music. Anyway, in tribute, here’s a spontaneous Neil Young Top 10:

1. The Needle and The Damage Done
2. Ambulance Blues
3. A Man Needs A Maid
4. Revolution Blues
5. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
6. Ohio
7. Tired Eyes
8. Southern Man
9. Like A Hurricane
10. Cowgirl In The Sand

As Young-o-philes might note, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. No Sleeps with Angels, Trans or shite Pearl Jam collaborations for me, no sir.

TV-Ridden Ravings

Alas, infirmity leaves my nose and my blogging clogged. This month has gone the way of all Septembers in the last decade or so, in that I have caught a rather snuffly cold.

Looks like fortifying myself with that L Casei Imunitass stuff for the last month didn’t do a whole pile of good. And here was me thinking it was going to provide an invisible force-field against disease.

Anyway, debilitated and unable to continue with my punishing fitness regime, I have spent a lot of time watching telly. It seemed like the decent thing to do, after receiving notice the other day that my TV licence had been renewed, to the tune of 150 Euro.

Last night I turned on the state broadcaster and Fair City was on RTE1 and a twenty-year-old programme on the art of book binding was on RTE2.

I have no real objection to paying for a crappy soap, but it feels unfair to be paying for something already paid for by people 20 years ago, many of whom are now dead, perhaps from the excruciating boredom that comes from trying to get your money’s worth from RTE.

Non-advertisement TV programming is eating itself. The other night there was a rather grand and fawning retrospective on Gay Byrne. It talked about how great Gay Byrne was, in terms that sometimes seemed like a justification for making a programme about him.

I am now funding TV programmes about the importance of TV programmes and their personalities, and paying to hear talking heads like Ryan Tubridy (whose granda or someone was in RTE) reminisce about what life was like when Gay Byrne was on the radio – the smell and cabbage and suchlike.

Take away the hagiographies, the absurd lifestyle/makeover shows, the soaps you can watch on BBC and ITV anyway, the endless recycling of archive coverage and what are you left with?

Well, there was an hour long drama about some young buck who was having a drug-fuelled affair with the local guard’s frisky wife. I’m not fond of making similes by introducing drugs into the equation (e.g. ‘it sounded like Englebert Humperdinck on acid’), but this was Fair City Nights on poppers.

Why do the docile masses put up with this dung? Will Rip-Off Republic ever turn the camera on itself and reveal one of biggest rip-offs of them all?

Still, there’s always the ads. On one of the not-paid-for channels, there was another celebration of the greatest ads ever. Why? Because ads are IMPORTANT. It’s GOOD to watch them, Chris Tarrant tells us without any hint of irony, because they can provide us with some of TV’s greatest moments of comedy, art and innovation.

Watching this stuff requires something a lot stronger than Lemsip.

Intelligent Design?

This morning I had a conversation with a Jabberwacky. Here is a transcript of the conversation. His words are in italics.

Is it raining outside?
Here it is raining cats and dogs.
What is the ratio of cats to dogs?
I have no clue.
Which do you prefer, cats or dogs?
Who do you prefer, Americans or Iraqis?
Hmm…. Britney if I have to choose.
Protestant or Catholic?
Yes – I go to Mass every Sunday.
Can Coca-Cola be transubstantiated into the blood of Christ?
Yes they can.
What do you like most about Jesus Christ?
The fact that I don’t have to go.
To Mass?
Are you being deliberately obtuse?
Obtuse ? And that means what?
Never mind. Are you a capitalist?
I’m not sure. Are you?
No. Do you believe in free markets?
Yes, but I think it’s better to pay a Solicitor and have one made up properly.
I see. What things do you dislike?
About deep things.
Do you like Samuel Beckett?
Who are they?
Never mind. I am depressed.
How are you depressed?
Because talking to you is very similar to talking to a real person.
I am afraid I must leave.
Yes, I must be going too.
You do seem to be speaking gibberish.
Didn’t you say that you must leave?
No, someone else said that.

Verdict: Marginally better than discussing the pros and cons of a United Ireland.

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September 2005
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