Archive for August, 2007

Still Dead

Thus ends 10 years of Diana being dead. For me, it feels like there are some things that I really should have done before she died that I still haven’t got round to doing yet. Not that I knew she was going to die, but you know what I mean.

Here’s an example. A few weeks before she died I had been reading The Buenos Aires Affair by Manuel Puig. Now that’s not a book I think I started, but never finished: no, I still think of it as a book that I’ve started, but just haven’t finished yet.

Similarly, I’ve been planning on doing proper weight training since before she died. I had been going to the gym regularly up till a few weeks before her death, and I haven’t gone back since, yet I still seem to think that I can still feel those months working in the gym in my biceps.

Then there’s a friend of mine whose hand I shook in June 1997 and whom I told that I’d be in touch over the summer, but I never got round to it, and I haven’t spoken to him since. I like to think that we have an unspoken agreement in which he’s not too bothered about the fact that I haven’t made the effort yet. Friends shouldn’t have ‘use by’ dates anyway.

And then another friend of mine swiped my copy of The Colour and The Shape by the Foo Fighters in August 1997. Every now and again I tell myself that I should get pick up another copy, as though the songs are fresh in my mind, even though I can scarcely recall one song on it, and I don’t even know if it’s any good any more.

Canine Asinine

OK. You can shut up about dogs now. Last night’s Panorama programme is still headline news for BBC Northern Ireland TV. It’s enough to make you want to run out and kneecap someone.

Snoop Dog

I watched that Panorama programme last night about the dog fights and Tyrone player Gerard Cavlan’s role in it. Fierce stuff altogether, though Cavlan was not much of a leading man.

Whilst undoubtedly a very good footballer, is Gerard Cavlan really ‘one of the most talented of his generation’, as the reporter claimed? He’s been around for a while, but hasn’t won an All-Star award, which, while not the definitive indicator of anything, would be a good basis for making sensational claims.

And when the reporter said that he was ‘a role model’, I had to wonder if she had ever watched a GAA match. At such matches, many such ‘role models’ bend the rules to knock as many lumps out of one another as the referee’s wall-eyedness allows. But of course, she isn’t the only one to call GAA players role models. This trend strikes me as something new. When I was learning to kick and catch a ball, I can’t recall anyone referring to the likes of Ciaran Duff or Eoin Liston as role models.

These days, I get the feeling that the idea of the GAA role model comes from the fact that there is something attractive about the extent to which the sport has become professionalized in training methods and approach. Banks and other businesses that sponsor GAA events tend to emphasize the discipline and preparation of the players involved, and the heavy metriculation of all elements of the national sporting match has echoes in the modern national pursuit of profitability. GAA players are an embodiment of an ideal ‘work hard, play hard’ disposition, one which many business leaders want to see replicated in their subordinates.

Anyway, back to the programme. There were echoes of a programme some 12 or so years back, where a cock-fighting ring had been exposed in the east Tyrone area. Dark deeds are uncovered in the rural underworld by the harsh light of urban truth-seeking. That programme sticks in the mind for the uncompromising language of the man under investigation:

Take that fuckin’ looksee (camera) out of here or I’ll stick it up your ass.

Now, I’m very much opposed to dogfights, which I think are cruel and depraved, and I think that anyone who participates in such things has serious issues. The owners’ projective identification with the dogs (a common thing among any set dog owners) was disturbing, with people saying things like “he’s torn far bigger dogs apart, so he has”, or, in the case of Cavlan, “a real hard-mouthed dog”.

But, I also find highly dubious the whole practice of producing documentaries that rely on the use of hidden cameras to expose corrupt individuals or groups.

If, as a hobby, you use a hidden camera, filming your friends and acquaintances in their own home, meeting them for coffee and getting them to reveal their private concerns, and you then post footage of it on the internet, people will think that you have serious issues. However, people are not expected to object when such a thing is done in the service of a good cause, such as saving dogs from violent slaughter, or exposing the dodgy practices of plumbers.

There was one scene last night where the covert film-makers were in the house of the Finnish dog-breeders, and you could see that they were having some sort of pastry for breakfast. It’s this sort of inevitable excess of detail that -to my mind- typifies why this enterprise is disturbing. To know the truth about dog-fighting (which is what the documentary supposedly allows us to do), we don’t need to know what these people had for breakfast, or what their kitchens and living rooms look like, or what the logo on their t-shirt says. But we are generally happy go along with being told about it, even if the information is obtained via a process of snooping.

Fly By Night Merchants

I was in Heathrow again yesterday. That place is a waking nightmare of the urban.

If weblog posts are messages no-one forces you to read, and to which you are generally free to reply if you wish, in the way that you choose, the experience of the airport is a series of messages (commands from security staff, security notices, advertisements) you are forced to endure, with no way of replying.

If the act of replying is to mean anything, you must have the prior expectation of some form of dialogue, that your views will be taken into account. But what you have in an airport is a sort of dictatorship. You must comply with the commands, or be removed, by armed guards if necessary.

When I was talking about my trip the other day -about the absurdity of the security checks in particular- with a colleague, she said, “I know it’s all in a good cause, but it’s bloody ridiculous”

Of course, everything that takes place in a dictatorship is in the service of a good cause, but we can leave that aside. It seemed odd to me that she should describe security as ‘a good cause’, since there’s nothing especially good about not wanting to get blown up, and it struck me that she was talking about it -the whole ass-sickening rigmarole of taking off your belt and shoes, smearing yourself with the remainder of whatever unguents you have stored on your person, and so on- as though it were some sort of common project, as though we were all in this one together.

Well, it is a common project insofar as no-one wants to be blown up, but people differ quite a lot in the extent to which they don’t want to be blown up.

I, for example, would be perfectly happy to take my chances boarding an aeroplane upon which people were allowed to carry umbrellas. As most know, it rains in Dublin, but the security staff were telling one man that he would have to leave his umbrella behind, or check it in.

What with the monstrous queues and the additional charges, and the fact that he’d come all the way from Hong Kong with aforesaid umbrella, he wasn’t happy. So, after initially leaving the umbrella at the gate, he snuck behind the security staff’s tables and lifted the umbrella, heading in the direction of the queue for the scanners. He apparently had a gammy leg, and was using the umbrella as a sort of crutch. When stopped at the scanner by an operator, he was told to wait. The operator went to talk to his supervisor.

A minute later, the man came back and said, my supervisor says that we can ask your airline for a wheelchair on your behalf, but you cannot bring the umbrella with you. At the airport, my supervisor says is a stock phrase of the established dictatorship. It is another way of saying that there is no need for reason or consideration of your personal circumstances here: the higher power says that it this is just the way it is, and I am merely a vessel for conveying its messages.

In Hollywood films, when an evil hostage taker puts a gun to the head of the hero’s family member, you are used to hear something like ‘oh for god’s sake just do whatever he says’. That’s precisely the reaction that airport security is designed to solicit from you; in fact it is what the rest of us expect, and it was the reaction that eventually came from the limping umbrella man’s wife, whose limp -like the one in the final scene of the Usual Suspects- loosened up and disappeared upon turning the corner in the direction of the shops. Airports: they make liars and criminals of us all.

Terrorism dial turned all the way up to 11

In a characteristic piece of modesty, George Bush has called Iran the ‘the world’s leading supporter of terrorism‘.

This is a worrying development. Relations between the US and Iran have not been as tense since the Iranian occupation of Mexico, when Iran accused the US of supplying arms to Mexican insurgents. This was thirty years or so after the overthrow of the brutal Iranian-backed dictatorship in the US.

If Iran decides to bomb the US this time, with the intention of overthrowing the Bush regime, insiders say that the Iranian leadership can count on the support of the majority of the population, said to be the most pro-Iranian in the region.

One senior Iranian official said that the decision to bomb the US is based on the calculation that “We will fight them over there so we do not have to face them in Iran”.

You’ll Be Worryin’ My Bentley

According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, City buyers were behind a 20% surge in farmland prices last year as the high-rollers moved to buy up a chunk of the countryside, often surrounding a weekend retreat.

Christ, that’s all the countryside needs: a shower of filthy rich ponces trying to grow turnips while reading Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Not that the countryside is all it’s cracked up to be: these days it’s full of hikers from urban areas out to savour the fresh air and get shot of the sound of burglar alarms for a bit. And they’re armed to the gills with hiking equipment, flasks, telescopic staffs and compasses, even though they’re only walking across a few fields with cows. Sure I crossed worse in me first communion suit.

We were out for a spin in the countryside around Collegelands in Armagh the other day. It looks as though the taste for middle-of-the-road chicken that has been in vogue in the Republic for a while now is starting to become quite the rage north of the border too. By middle-of-the-road chicken I don’t mean a bird in chasseur sauce: I mean where one driver refuses to lie over on his side of the road, and the other must either hold his nerve and keep his line, or swerve in the direction of the sheugh.

There is a variation of this played with runners too: the driver will try and force the runner off the road into the ditch by holding his line until the very last minute. I am getting very good at this game: if you stare the other driver in the eye, they usually pull away. And if they don’t, and force me to step into the ditch, well, I carry a trusty stone in my pocket. I fancy my chances against any car in a dash across hedge-lined fields. It hasn’t happened yet, though.

Marching Season Ends

Phil Ochs. There’s a beautiful comment on the youtube page where this came from. It says:

If it wasn’t for those people who did do the marching this piece of shit wouldn’t be able to sing the shit he sings…….You Liberal bastards make me sick wanting your freedoms and right but loving to hate the men and women that make those freedoms and rights possible

Amen to that.

I on Twitter

August 2007