Archive for February, 2007

Behind Him All The Way

I know, I’m a filthy cur, and it isn’t even funny, but it’s Friday and I have lost the will to do anything of import, and when I first spied it I thought it a story with a certaine Chauceriane qualitye.

Spotted here.

All Apologies

Peter Hain has apologised for Northern Ireland’s role in the continued occupation of Iraq:

the man who commanded the FRU during the height of its depredations — Lt. Col. Gordon Kerr — is in Baghdad now, heading the hugger-mugger Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), a large counter-terrorism force made up of unnamed “existing assets” from the glory days in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.

No, wait a minute. Did I say Iraq? Sorry, he actually apologised for Northern Ireland’s role in slavery. Dammit, this not wearing a proper pair of trousers on a Friday can affect one’s grip on reality.

Like Shoe Business

At times I frown at the depths of my own cynicism. A couple of months ago I went into a shoe shop that sells only one particular brand of shoe. I don’t know if the shop is a franchise or owned by the manufacturer, but that’s not important right now. I tried on a couple of different pairs, and picked out one pair. It so happened that I was wearing the same brand of shoe that the shop sells, and when I approached the counter to pay for the shoes I had chosen, the girl behind the counter said:

“So, are you a fan of (the brand name which shall remain brandless)?”

To be fair to the girl, I am now sure this was just her way of making polite conversation, just as other people talk about the weather, or the number of people in town or what have you. Yet, and this is where the cynicism comes in, I immediately took her words to be part of some sort of pre-rehearsed butter-up-the-idiot-customer spiel. So, rather than smile and nod, or whatever it is that you’re supposed to do when asked a dumb question, I paused. Then I raised my eyebrows (I can’t do only one eyebrow). And I peered at her over the rim of my imaginary pair of glasses and said:

“Well, if it’s somehow possible to be a fan of a shoe, then I suppose I must be.”

Which was neither witty nor particularly nice. She smiled, but behind the smile was a poorly concealed “oookay, whatever, asshole”, which was probably justified. But -and this is the point- would it have been any better for me to have simply said, yeah, I’m really a fan of your shoes? I think I’ve reached a stage where I can’t bear conversations like this anymore, where people talk openly and honestly about love for mass manufactured items. I have nothing against such items, but people blathering on about them make me feel like I’m suffering brain death by a thousand stupid cuts.

Small talk – the weather, the roads, the, ah, weather- is fine, I suppose, and there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘your coat looks fabulous’ but people getting unduly excited about stuff -or, even worse, cool stuff– and rhapsodising about how wonderful it is, that just does my nut.

I would prefer not to be this way, especially as I’m starting to feel like I’m from another planet.

Faux Geste

My two cents on the possibility of Peter Hain laying a wreath at Croke Park:

  • Cent 1: It’s a silly piece of peace process choreography, like the meeting between the DUP and the Roman Catholic Church. This time, however, it is designed to burnish the legacy of Tony Blair as he prepares to leave power.
  • Cent 2: Apologising for an atrocity in the distant past is meaningless when the current government is complicit in far greater crimes in Iraq.  Unless Irish lives are worth more than Iraqi lives, it seems hypocrisy to accept any such apology. The request to lay a wreath should be refused.

Water Wet, Heat Hot and Other Pressing Concerns

Anyone, anywhere who falls for this endless barrage of lies to even the most infinitesimal degree is, as they say, too stupid to live. That is doubly true since all this propaganda swamps us less than five years after the last, almost identical episode. On every point that mattered, it was all lies then, and it’s all lies now.

Arthur Silber, as usual, says it better than anyone.

Leroy Leroy Lama Sabachtani?

I was thinking about the use of ‘Allah’ to mean ‘God’ in English when talking about Muslim worshippers.

Brian Whittaker had a good piece in the Guardian on this recently:

There is no logical reason for this. Why use an Arabic word in English-language news reports when there is a perfectly good English word that means exactly the same thing?

Various Arabic words – “jihad” and “sheikh”, for example – have crept into everyday usage because no precise equivalent exists in English, but “Allah” is not of that type. It is simply is the normal word that Arabic speakers use for “God” – whether they are Muslims or not. Arab Christians worship “Allah” too, and the first verse of the Arabic Bible informs us that “In the beginning Allah created heaven and earth.”

This is what he ascribes the phenomenon to:

Essentially, this is a modern version of the orientalism that Edward Said wrote about in the 1970s, where western portrayals of Arab and Muslim culture highlight its “otherness” in order (Said argued) to control it more effectively.Since Said wrote his influential book, however, we have also seen the rise of another phenomenon which might be called “reverse orientalism”, where Arabs and Muslims deliberately “other-ise” themselves in order (they hope) to better resist western influence.

I would agree, but also highlight that what is happening here -where a word or phrase is lifted from one language to be used in another, like a fish out of water, to affect knowledge and therefore power-isn’t something confined to the western world’s relationship with the Islamic east.

Continue reading ‘Leroy Leroy Lama Sabachtani?’

Safe As Houses

Didn’t get much sleep last night. When it’s raining hard outside, I sweat like a… sweaty thing, for some reason. Maybe this is the same sort of thing as when you put a sleeping person’s hand in a bowl of warm water and they wet themselves.

We got a leaflet for a neighbourhood watch programme the other day, which made a change from the We Need Your Unwanted Clothes To Help The Poor People In Solidarity With The United Nations Please No Cash Donations stickers that come through daily.

(I have built a makeshift greenhouse out the back with the bags that accompany these stickers. I am growing Tomatoes And Scallions And Butternut Squash To Help Feed The Poor. All Vegetables Will Go To Poor People In Developing Countries So That They May Enjoy Decent Living Standards Because Of The Failure Of Their Governments)

Anyway, the neighbourhood watch thing got me thinking about burglars. Our house is the only house on the street that has no burglar alarm. Two main reasons:

  • There is nothing of resale value: if nosy evening strolls are anything to go by, we have easily The Worst TV Set In Town;
  • I’m damned if I’m going to get up in the middle of the night to turn off a burglar alarm because some pigeon has eaten too much alcohol-soaked egg fried rice vomit.  This does not mean that I do not often think about getting a burglar alarm. I do not like the idea of taking on a gang of baseball bat-wielding intruders in a t-shirt and underpants. (To clarify, that’d be me wearing the t-shirt and underpants)

Thinking about burglars had me dreaming about them. They were in our kitchen, rifling through the cereal boxes to locate the Really Important and Valuable Object that I had hidden, in what seemed perfectly rational in the course of the dream, at the bottom of a box of organic Weetabix.

Once they located the Really Important and Valuable Object, and made off with it, I was doomed. My life would fall to bits, not least because I would have to attend the Garda station in my t-shirt and underpants, where I would have to share a waiting room with assorted rapists, murderers and rugby supporters.

As I awoke to the sounds of the rain battering the windows and the creaking guttering outside, I was, quite naturally, convinced that the burglars were downstairs. I figured that I had been dreaming about burglars because I had heard them rustling about.

I thought about defence. There are very few useful weapons in our house. Oddly enough, we have a large ceremonial sword, but this has only ever proven useful in hillside battles where there is room enough to swing it. In the confines of the house, it is worse than useless. I would end up cracking a vase over one of the burglar’s heads instead,  sprinkling the episode with a hint of melodrama.

After a couple of minutes, reason had been restored, and I was sure there were no burglars, so I went downstairs and closed the bathroom window that had been left open. I rolled over and went back to sleep, cussing the Gardai and all those neighbours with burglar alarms and massive TVs for making me feel unsafe in my own home.

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February 2007
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