Archive for April, 2007

Scientists establish link between pregnancy, train travel

Today I offered my seat on the train to a pregnant woman. So far so good, but it turned out she wasn’t pregnant. I heard her mother (who was with her, and who also refused the seat when her daughter refused) say to her a couple of minutes later: “looks like your tummy hasn’t made its way back in after the baby yet”.

I wanted the earth to swallow me there and then, but realised that this would kill everyone else on the packed train. So I stared into space, feigning oblivion.

If they can spend 250 billion Euro on ticket checking machines for Connolly, Tara and Pearse stations, Iarnrod Eireann could spend 80-odd Euro on ‘Yes! I AM Pregnant’ stickers for any woman who needs them, to be collected at any train station. Any party that brings that in will get my vote.

Vote Notes

Though an Irish citizen, I have never voted here before. A woman came round a few months ago asking me to fill in a form. I thought it had to do with signing up to the electoral register (but I was worried about what was happening in Eastenders at the time, so I may not have been fully on the ball). Well, I’ve checked the register, and I’m not there. Those bastards. This is clearly a tactic to stop me from voting.

So maybe I’m a moron. But I’m new around here, if 7 years can still be considered ‘new’.

I plan to register though, so I checked the form.

It says:

If you are applying after an election or referendum has been called, please note that the application must reach the City or County Council concerned on or before the fourteenth day (Sundays, public holidays and Good Friday excluded) before polling day in order to be considered for inclusion in the supplement for that election or referendum.

It’s 30th April now. The election is the 24th May. The fourteenth day before polling day, then, by my calculation, would be the 8th of May, or tomorrow week. Not a whole lot of time for a hard workin’ man, considering I have to go to the Garda station with my application and send it off and that.

Voting fever eh? So exciting. The only candidate to doorstep me so far has been the Fianna Fail candidate, for whom I would never vote in a gazillion years, but he was a nice enough chap. Some sort of goalkeeper, apparently.

I Bleseech Thee

I recently discovered that ‘bleg’ is a blog entry that asks for something.

This is not one of these. This is a blemand. Or a bleseech.

I was sniffing round Hodges Figgis the other day, amid the glossy books that could double up as murder weapons, when I came across this one. I was unaware of its existence, despite my admiration for Spain’s Road To Empire, by the same author.

So buy it for me.

It costs 44 Euro.

No, don’t buy it for me. I’ll get it myself.

No, do buy it for me.

No, don’t. I still haven’t got through my pile yet, and a couple of infiltrators have snuck onto it in the meantime, leapfrogging the likes of Brian Dillon, whose first 50 pages of his memoir of drab (not the same as a drab memoir), In The Dark Room, had me feeling like my teeth were yellowing and damp was setting into the living room, however much he referred to the likes of Bachelard and Borges to keep me interested. An alternative title of Rotting Penny Apples springs to mind. But that would be too cruel. The infiltrators include Eric Hobsbawm’s Revolutionaries (seriously good) and Terry Eagleton’s The Meaning of Life (not as satisfying as After Theory).

Another book I spotted was Why Blame Israel? The only reason I recall said book was not because I found it in any way enticing, but because it had been ‘blurbed’ by Julie Burchill. The blurb says (according to an Amazon reviewer – I can’t recall it verbatim):

“There exists a quite striking bias against Israel. Neill Lochery’s excellent, accesible book is a must read for anyone wanting a tonic to this persistent and illogical prejudice”.

This came to mind when reading the following passage by Cosmo Landesman (Julie Burchill’s former husband) in his profile of Naim Attallah in today’s Sunday Times:

Still, I always hoped I’d get the call, until he approached my then wife Julie Burchill and asked for an interview for his forthcoming book about prominent women. He thought Julie would be flattered to be part of such esteemed company as Germaine Greer, Tina Brown, Joan Bakewell, Margaret Drabble and Clare Short. She replied, “No, I won’t be in your book. One, because I don’t like Arabs in general. Two, because I don’t like Palestinians in particular. And three, because I particularly don’t like you. Now sling your hook.”

When I suggested to Julie that perhaps a simple “no, thanks” might be a more appropriate response, she called me “a weak, gutless, self-loathing Jew”.

Who better than Julie Burchill, then, to write blurbs making reference to ‘striking bias’ and ‘persistent and illogical prejudice’?

There are lots of dead rats on the roads

I have never seen so many dead rats in all my life. They are lining the roads where I go out running.

Ever swallowed a fly when out running? I have, and it brings me out in a violent gurgle, like an emptying sink, as I try to expel it from my organism.  Not very pleasant.

Well, all the dead rats are attracting flies, so I am now running long stretches with my mouth closed. Great for endurance training, not so great for feeling at one with nature.

Ugly Betty is on now..

I love Ugly Betty. It is the best thing on TV now that Life on Mars has finished. And that’s despite the fact that Jim Robinson from Neighbours is in it. I remember I bought a Neighbours magazine one time, in about 1988 which profiled all the actors and their lives. Jim Robinson’s actor posed in it with his collection of sports cars, and when he was asked about his favourite musical instrument, he said a cool flute, played by a beautiful woman in bed beside him. I remember thinking how stupid. It would sound the same if it was an ugly man beside him in bed. I was 11.

It just occurred to me

listening to Dinosaur Jr’s Where You Been, for the first time in about 13 years, that J Mascis:

sounds a lot like Chris from Family Guy:

and now I’m finding it hard to take his music very seriously, despite his immense talent.

Fascist Northern Ireland, in 10 easy steps

The more I think about Naomi Wolf’s article of yesterday, the sillier it becomes.

A Cedar Lounge Revolutionary is right:

Nowhere in the piece does Wolf exhibit any kind of understanding of what fascism actually is or was (I’d recommend Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism for a serious and informative discussion of the subject). Rather she picks the definition that fits the examples she can find which, while certainly to credit to Bush and the rest fall far short of the kind of tyranny Wolf seeks to invoke.

In a moment of boredom this morning, I decided to test her 10 easy steps by applying them to another country: ‘Troubles’-era Northern Ireland. What follows are my attempts to make Northern Ireland fit the bill of a fascist tyranny according to Wolf’s prescriptions. So -lest anyone is tempted to argue the contrary- I’m not trying to imply Northern Ireland was fascist.

That said, SS RUC! (only joking)

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy



2. Create a gulag



3. Develop a thug caste

Ulster Defence Association.


4. Set up an internal surveillance system

Confidential telephone: 0800 666 999, if I recall correctly.


5. Harass citizen’s groups

Bloody Sunday.


6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release



7. Target key individuals

Pat Finucane.


8. Control the Press

OK, I can’t think of any germane examples here. The dubbing of Sinn Fein voices is a bit feeble. Someone have a go.

9. Dissent equals treason

Pass. Someone else have a go.

10. Suspend the rule of law

Collusion with loyalist paramilitary forces.

So there you go. As I have amply demonstrated, Troubles-era Northern Ireland was a fascist regime, by the criteria Naomi Wolf lays down.

One problem with this sort of writing (hers, not mine – mine is immaculate) is that it resorts to an preoccupation with categories as a means of gaining publicity.

‘Fascist’ is a word that pushes certain buttons, in the same way that ‘racist’ does. As in ‘Jade: I’m No Racist!’. In this case, the concern is not with the actions of the person herself and their effects, but instead with whether or not they ought to be branded racist. Likewise, in Wolf’s piece, importance is weighted upon the resonance of the category of ‘fascist’, and the sensation this might provoke among her readers, rather than the brute reality of life under the Bush administration, and the system that gives it legitimacy.

Anyway, here’s Youth Against Fascism by Sonic Youth. In the original version, I believe the lyrics are ‘and yeah the president sucks/he’s a war pig fuck’.

Good song.

Life on Earth

New ‘Earth-like’ planet found.

Spanish property market takes a tumble.

Basic laws of supply and demand, innit?

Voice Over Matter

Myers has a funny piece on Aer Lingus. His conclusion, however, is that things will improve once it is ‘sold to shareholders who like good manners and who keenly study bottom lines’.

If I may don a bowtie and furrow my brow for a moment, there is no basis for assuming that shareholders are on the lookout for good manners in their investment. If this were the case, why would anyone invest in Eircom?

Last night I was on to them again. The experience is alienating, and I mean that in a marxian sense and not just an “I friggin’ hate Eircom” sense.

You call 1901, and you get The Voice of Eircom. This is the voice recording of a man who cannot decide if he is a Jesuit trainee or a 2FM DJ.

In technical terms, this is known as an Interactive Voice Response system (IVR). When we talk about interactions, we usually understand it to mean interacting with another person. They do stuff, you do stuff in response, this is known as interaction.

The recorded media files of The Voice of Eircom take the place of a person. So anxious is The Voice to be a person that the noises it makes simulate those of a man talking about himself. It makes sounds like “In order to answer your query, I need to transfer you to a customer service representative”.

When you push the buttons or speak in response to these noises, you no more ‘interact’ with this system than you ‘interact’ with your toilet when you pull the chain. But because the sounds it makes are like those of a person speaking, you respond as though it were another person talking to you.

The alienating effect comes from the fact that your behaviour -in this case, your speech- must correspond to the demands of the system. Since language is fundamental to our understanding of who we are, it is difficult to see how a person can retain the original conception of oneself as a free human being and yet speak with an automated systems as though it were some form of human being.  Our acceptance of objects as containing some element of humanity must, at some level, alter the way we think about ourselves.

Happily in this case, the funny thing about The Voice, though, is that although it is designed to give the appearance of humanity, it has no conception of itself. This is made obvious when, after it says that it is transferring you to another line, The Voice starts up again: “Welcome To Eircom Blah Blah Blah”. The Voice has no memory of you. You, for it, do not exist.

Of course, the problem is that The Voice of Eircom really is the voice of Eircom. It is the closest thing you can get to its shareholders’ word made flesh.

Listen carefully – it speaks the truth.

Spire of Density

You cannot be serious.

“It is simply the demonstration, on a world scale, of what we went through,” Dean McKelvey said on Tuesday.

“It altered the way America, in particular Irish America, thought about terrorism – that it was no longer acceptable and that there had to be a better way of solving difficulties and disputes.

“That message came very clearly across from America to many of our politicians here and in Dublin.”

What a crock.

First, it’s a bit selfish to commemorate the deaths on the 11th September 2001 as some sort of turning point in Northern Ireland’s history. In other words: so sorry you were killed, but in the end things turned out fine for us at least. It seems a bit like commemorating Hitler’s invasion of Poland because it led to the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

Furthermore, the ‘better way of solving difficulties and disputes’ to which Dean McKelvey refers has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. But still, as long as Northern Ireland is moving up in the world, who gives a shit?

I on Twitter

April 2007