Monday, December 26, 2005

A Chroí Athbhriste ag an Spailpín Fánach

Cá gcuirfear an muinín anois?Scríobhadh ins an dara sliabh Parnassus seo cheana féin gurbh iad Podge agus Rodge an t-aon beirt amháin ar chlúdach RTÉ Guide na Nollag a chuirfeadh an Spailpín cuireadh chucu le linn na Nollag. Ambaiste, táim tar éis a gclár speisialta an Nollag a fheiceál anocht - nó na píosaí beaga ab fhéidir liom a fheiceál gan tinneas a chur ormsa - agus mar sin táim chun mo chuireadh a thógail ar ais. An tseanseafóid chéana ar chraoladar, agus na réalta RTÉ ag cigilt a ngoileanna eadarthu féin. Mo thrua do mo chean bocht gan chiail, nár shíleas go ndeanfaidís an feall mar a dheantar i gcónaí i nDomhnach Broc.

Téigí amach amárach agus na reiceanna ar shíul agus ceannaígí is iomai leabhar ab fhéidir libh. Léígí iad agus sibhse sa bhaile arís, agus ná bacaigí leis an teilifís lofa fhealltach arís. Seo é tairne deireanach na cónra.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Chavs in Space - the New Doctor Who and the Death of the Clubland Hero

A tall figure, dressed in a travelling cape and deerstalker hat, strides quickly through the fog-shrouded streets of Victorian London. Mr Sherlock Holmes, the internationally-renowned private detective, has just heard word, via a source in Limehouse, that Professor Moriarity, the Napoleon of Crime, is even at this moment in the final stages of a scheme that will be his criminal masterpiece, and only Holmes and Dr Watson, late of the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers and the Berkshires of the Indian Army, retired, can put a stop to it. Quickly, Holmes bounds up the steps to the rooms he rents with Doctor Watson at 221B Baker Street, and burst in the door.

"Get your hat and coat Watson," he cries, "the game's afoot! We don't have a moment to lose!"

"I'm afraid it's quite out of the question," replies Doctor Watson.

"Eh?" says Sherlock Holmes, in that mental state to which he so seldom sank, complete bafflement.

"It's my dear old mum Holmes," continues the Doctor. "You see, she's never got on with the neighbours on the left 'and side of the 'ouse, the Braitwaites. She's always got on well with the Threepwoods on the right hand side, having them round for tea and a bit of a sing-song at Christmas, but this year things have come to a head. You know my cousin Gertrude, that works in 'Ull in the labour exchange? Well, she's marrying this young man that's she's been seeing, 'Erbert, nice chap, met him at the funeral of dear old Uncle Fred ..."

"I'm sure Watsonian Family Politics is a fascinating field of study Doctor," replies the Great Detective through clenched teeth, "but Moriarty is cooking up his most nefarious plot yet - he must be stopped!"

"That's exactly what my dear old mum said about Doris, Mrs Braitwaite," replies the Doctor, unperturbed. "If she's told me once she's told me a thousand times, 'John,' she'd say, 'I 'ate to speak ill of another 'uman being, but that Doris Braitwaite is a complete cow.' Well, I couldn't believe it. She was very upset, mum was, and now it's all got much worse. I say Holmes, where are you going?"

The great detective storms back down the stairs and back into the pea-souper. When you're all that stands between civilisation and the infernal triumph of the Greatest Criminal Intellect the World Has Ever Seen, you really don't give a toss about Doctor Watson's dear old mum.

A penny which has yet to drop for the makers of the New Doctor Who, who insisted on dragging Rose's harridan of a mother into their Christmas special, the jewel in the BBC's Christmas Day crown for this year. The Doctor may claim to a be a Time Lord from the distant planet Gallifrey, but in reality he really is another Clubland Hero - one of the gentleman adventures of England between the World Wars, in the Indian summer of the Empire. The Clubland Heroes stem from Sherlock Holmes, and reached their flower in the adventures of the likes of Richard Hannay, Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond and that dude with the monocle that Dorothy L Sayers wrote about.

HC McNeilie, who wrote the Bulldog Drummond stories under the pseudynom "Sapper," was a fascist in many ways, but he certainly knew how to tell a story. McNeilie wrote once that a good adventure story should be a like a good golf shot - it should begin with a bang, soar for the middle part of the tale and then drop like a stone to a climax. Anything else is a distraction. Consider a situation where Hugh Drummond has got word that Carl Peterson has just kidnapped Gwladys, only daughter of Professor Montague Forsyth, and is holding her captive until the Professor hands over the formula for his top-secret nerve gas to Peterson. Does Hugh go charging in to rescue this flower of English maidenhood from the clutches of her (invariably hook-nosed) captors, or does he sit on his hands in the car while Algy or Jasper of whomever of the boys is inside in the house reassuring his dear old mum that he won't get hurt saving the world and that his under-garments' state of cleanliness is immaculate?

I bloody wonder.

The whole idea of going on an adventure is that you leave mum behind. It's not a bug, it's a feature. The writers of the new Doctor Who's insistence at dragging Mrs Tyler along is only taking valuable story-time away from the Bug Eyed Monsters, and people tune in to see the Bug Eyed Monsters, not somebody's whiny old mum. If they were looking for whining, they've have tuned to Eastenders, wouldn't they?

Mark Lawson and his Newsnight Review Panel nominated the New Doctor Who as one of the television triumphs of the year, causing An Spailpín Fánach to raise a quizzical eyebrow. That the new Doctor Who has been a commercial success is demonstrated by the fact it had its own Prime Time Christmas show, previously the territory of Delboy and Rodney, and Eric and Ernie before them. However, popular does not mean good, as the X Factor underlines with soul-destroying regularly. The new Doctor Who is a success in the sense that it's by no means as bad as the sad way the so-called "Classic Series" finished up, but that doesn't mean that hammers aren't being dropped.

Christopher Eccleston's casting as the Doctor, for one, was a mistake. If you want a guy to play some wrist-slitter out of a Thomas Hardy novel or something cheery about Scousers on the Dole, send for Chris. Otherwise, you need to start thinking Grant - Richard E would be a glorious choice, while a left-field but potentially marvellous casting would be Hugh Grant. Not the stumbling Hugh Grant of Four Weddings, of course, but the bit of a boyo Hugh Grant of Bridget Jones' Diary. Eccleston's casting was part of a political subtext in the new Doctor Who, that was to be a defiant clenched fist against Received Pronunciation and Class Bias and that sort of thing. Which is all fascinating, interesting and worthy of debate but it's no damned use to Gwladys in Peterson's basement, or the innocent and peace-loving planet of Xantantin, about to be terraformed the Daleks, is it?

Because the Muse Calliope is nothing if not capricious in her favours, the new Doctor Who team may have discovered a pearl greater than all their tribe in David Tennant, who made such a bravura debut tonight. The man has huge potential to be a Doctor for the ages, but before he can the creative team in Doctor Who have to decide to whom they're pitching, and tighten up the slack a little.

As is, the Doctor Who writers are inclined to pitch to two distinct and separate groups - children, and the sort of pale and sallow young men that argue about the canonicity of various elements of Doctor Who on the Wikipedia entry. Miserably, this results in jarring changes of tone, as different bones are thrown to the different constituencies. The writers need to realise that you can only serve one master, and cut that cute stuff about the flatulent aliens. Children just aren't grateful and, as Russell T Davis himself said, Buffy has changed everything when it comes to fantasy TV writing. In fact, Davis and his team may have made their biggest mistake in not consulting longtime Doctor Who fan and friend of An Spailpín Fánach Brian, who remarked to An Spailpín that the correct televisual model for a 21st century Doctor Who would be The X Files, thus furthering its ties with another progenitor from BBC past, Professor Quatermass. But maybe Russell T. Davis was too busy trying to sneak in that bit in the final episode of the first series where the Doctor kisses Captain Jack on the lips to bother about consistency of tone. We all have our little agendas, don't we, Russell? Besides, Brian wouldn't be about to come on board as a consultant without a big spond upfront. Lucre comes before Art with that man.

An Spailpín Fánach will continue to watch the new Doctor Who, although the uneven tone, Mrs Tyler and Mickey and the rest of those missed opportunities will be as vinegar and wormwood to him. And in case any of those Wiki-writers arguing canonicity are feeling a little hurt that I had a cut at them, I'm a guy that spent a hour on Christmas Day writing 1300 words on Doctor Who. I'd say An Spailpín could be a bit sallow in the gills himself.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Nollaig Shona Díobh Go Leir

Neither cool nor topical I know, but just think of what I saved on stamps.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

On the Cover of the RTE Guide

Have you seen the cover of the Christmas edition of the RTE Guide, currently in the shops? For those of you that haven't, let me describe. The cover of the RTE Guide featurs some of RTE's best and brightest, all in festive mood with a glass of vino in their paws, toasting the holiday season and us, the Plain People of Ireland.

The stars whom RTE have chosen to dazzle us are Eddie Hobbs, consumer watchdog and self-appointed Nemesis of "Rip-Off Ireland;" deviant glove-puppets Podge and Rodge; Afternoon Show presenter Blathnaid Ni Cofaigh; 2FM DJ and "National Institution" Gerry Ryan, and the inevitable Kerry Katona.

Now, is it just me, or is it a weird reflection on the tax-payer funded State broadcaster that the only ones of that entire bunch whom An Spailpín Fánach would even consider letting into the house are Podge and Rodge?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Clive James on "Sludge Fiction"

There's a marvellous article in today's Times Online, taken from the Times' Literary Supplement, where Clive James reminiscences about the books that he read as a child, and how they inspired him to life as a lifelong reader. Anyone that's spent a goodly part of their childhood with the nose stuck in a book, oblivious to all around, will empathise and be delighted. Not least if you spent that childhood reading the same stuff as Clive, which is Biggles, Bulldog Drummond, Sherlock Holmes and those sort of shams. Marvellous.

The role of what Clive's English teacher described as "sludge fiction" is often under-estimated in literary circles, where it seems the butterflies flit from John Banville to Tommy Pynchon and maybe a touch of De Maupassant (in his original French, naturellement) thrown in for a breather. This is not An Spailpín Fánach's experience, as An Spailpín Fánach, like many of his contemporaries, is inclined to leaven the wheat somewhat by carefully tempering my exposure to heavy dudes with a good shot of sludge. I'm a big John Buchan man ("You inferal cad! I'm going to give you a damned good thrashing!" I mean, where would you get it?) and I am not ashamed to admit that I have read every James Bond book. An Spailpín Fánach's current guilty secret is that he is slowly working his way through Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise ouevre. Ripe as bedamned, but strangely compelling.

Guy Bolton, who collaborated in writing musical comedies with Jerome Kern and PG Wodehouse in New York in the 1920s, once said of Wodehouse that he had read more books not worth reading than any other man alive. That was part of the secret of Wodehouse's great talents, but also that he leavened that with great big chunks of juicy Shakespeare and Tennyson.

Of course, one does rather need to tread carefully, as a lot of the stuff that's masquerading as sludge out there is, in fact, not masquerading at all, but in deadly, stinking, earnest. Your humble narrator once found that out the hard way.

An Spailpín Fánach is a big fan of Newsnight Review, the Arts Show on BBC2 at eleven o'clock every Friday evening - tape it sometime if you can't tear yourself away from the Late Late. The panel can be a bit of a curate's egg (nothing like Bonnie Greer declaiming the PC gospel to see An Spailpín breaking off at a run for a few swift stouts), but poet and critic Tom Paulin is usually very reliable for something interesting. Anyway, a number of years ago, the panel were reviewing a book called "Ralph's Party" by Lisa Jewell, Ms Jewell being then in Britain what Cecelia Ahern is now in Ireland, a bit of a publishing phenomenon. Tom Paulin was in raptures about Ralph's Party - it was such a breath of fresh air, it was so lightly written, it made the heart sing. And yadda yadda yadda from the normally quite stern TP.

Reader, I bought it. And over two or three hundred pages I discovered that spending too much time in the groves of academe had slowly drained the oxygen from Tom's brain. Ralph's Party is not very good at all. But you can't win 'em all, and even as I speak, I can take full comfort in the fact that Ms Blaise is waiting for me at home, hair casually tied back a chignon, all set to take me to Tangiers on another caper. Can't wait.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Glasgow Celtic: An Rogha Ceart do Roy Keane?

Roy Keane agus a gheansaí nuaTá Roy Keane tagtha ina imreoir Glasgow Celtic faoi deireadh. Taispeánadh é don lucht scriobha agus craoltóra inniu, agus d'inis Roy Keane dóibh nár tháinig sé go Parkhead chun críoch bog a chur ar a saothar sacair, ach chun craobhanna a bhuaigh ar son an fhoireann.

Tá sé sin ceart go leor - is fear sárbhródúil é Roy Keane agus is cinnte go raibh a chuireadh amach ó Manchester United ag cur isteach go mór air agus é amach ar boithre iargulta Cheshire ag siúl lena ghadhar. Ach an cheart é, í ndairire, Roy Keane dul suas go Glasgow agus imirt ins an SPL? 'Sé amach ins an Spáinn atá an ghlóir agus an onóir. Ag imirt í leine bán Réal Madrid, b'fhéidir don laoch mór Éireannach seo a tháispeaint don domhan mór - agus go Ridire Albanach éigin fréisin - gurbh é Roy Keane ceann dena peileadóirí sacair is fearr sa domhan fós, cibe blianta d'aois atá sé. Ach níor imigh, agus mar sin beidh Roy Keane ag imirt in Albain, fatach ag imirt i measc abhaic.

Is deireadh brónach é do Kheane, cé nach bhfuil dul amú aige tar eis an clampar a d'éirigh suas idir eisean agus Sir Alex Ferguson. Ach dar leis an Spailpín Fánach, murab fhonn do Kheane dul suas go Glasgow, bhí gaisce amháin fagtha aige le déanamh, rud a mbeadh an rud is crógachtaí a rinne sé riamh. Agus is é sin ná dul suas go Glasgow ach dul ina Ranger, in ionad a Cheltic.

Is docha go bhfuil roinnt smigeanna tar éis an talamh a bhuaileadh tar éis léamh an abhair sin. Ach seo iad mo fháthanna mar ba mhaith liom an gorm a fheiceal ar dhroim leathan Roy Keane.

Gach aon lá agus an Spailpín ag siúl sráideanna Bhaile Átha Cliath, feicim roinnt ápatha agus geansaíthe Glasgow Celtic ar a ndroimeanna. Cén fáth Glasgow Celtic? Ón thírghrá, ar ndóigh. Dár leo, is é Glasgow Celtic an fhoireann sacair is Gaelaí ar an ndomhan, agus ba cheart gach aon Ghael a thacaíocht a thabhairt leo, nó dul amach ón gcófra mar dhúchrónach agus spiaire Shasana.

Bhuel, ní club Éireannach é Glasgow Celtic; mar is léir ona ainm, GLASGOW Celtic, is club Albanach é, a imríonn faoi Bhrat an Ríocht Aontaithe cosuil le gach club Albanach eile. Bhunaigh sagairt Éireannach an club ar dtús, cinnte, ach sin seanscéal anois. Má tá an meid mheais ag an dream tacaíochta Celtic ar an gCaitliceachas, b'fhéidir gurb fhearr dóibh dul chuig an Aifreann Dé Domhnaigh, in ionad dul isteach i dtithe tairbhne ag feachaint ar Sky Sports.

Cé nach dtaitníonn sé go mór liom, is feidir liom a thuiscint cén fáth go gcreideann daoine ins an mbolscaireacht agus ins an bhfógraíocht seo. Sin é an saigheas bolscaireachta chéanna atá ag cur geansaíthe foirne Shasana ar dhroim gach dara mhac Éireannach, ar ndóigh. Ach an rud a choireann mo bholgsa maidir le Glasgow Celtic agus Glasgow Rangers ná an clampar seicteach uafásach amadánach a éiríonn idir lucht Celtic agus Rangers. Támid anseo in Éirinn i bponc leis an fuath olc seicteach seo, ach chun an seanargoint a chur ar siúl i dtír eile, agus a choimead ar siúl níos faide ná céad bhlian? Ba cheart náire a bheith ar gach mac mhathar go léir acu.

Geallann stiúrthóirí Glasgow Rangers agus Glasgow Celtic go gcuirfear coisc ar an seicteachas atá ar a lucht tacaíochta agus deantar rudaí beaga ó uair go h-uair, ach tá fios maith ag gach céann acu gurbh í an seicteachas atá faoi bhun a staideas mar clubanna móra sacair. Dá dtiocfadh Roy Keane, laoch mór na hÉireann, amach ins an léine gorm ag Parkhead, feictear nach raibh ins an seanargoint ná seafóid, agus is féidir leo é a chur taobh thiar de. Ach nuair a thógtar an fuath agus an fhéiniúlacht seicteach ó Rangers nó Celtic, cad atá fagtha agat? Partick Thistle, sílim, agus ní cheannaítear roinnte geansaíthe Partick Thistle.

Is trua nár rinne Roy Keane an gaisce deireanach sin, ach táim go résúnta cinnte ná nach bhfuil na fir móra Rangers ná Celtic ag siúl le deireadh a ngnó tairbheach faoi laithir. Go n-éirí le Roy Keane agus a chlub nua, cibe club é, an t-imeoir sacair na Poblachta na hÉireann is fearr riamh, seachas amháin Liam Ó Brádaigh. Cén fáth an Brádach? Sin scéal eile, mar a dhearfá...

[Gaeilge], [sport], [soccer]

Monday, December 12, 2005

Public Service Broadcasting

JS Bach
The BBC is a public service broadcaster. What this means is that as well as broadcasting shows that the majority of the public want hear, such as Jonathan Woss on Wadio Two, or whatever awful chatshow the Corporation have signed Davinia McCall to present on TV, the BBC also broadcasts shows that most people do not want to hear, that are of interest only to a minority. The reason for this is because worth and value are not democratic notions, because there are some things that should be broadcast and disseminated because they are valuable in and of themselves.

The Bach season on BBC Radio 3 is the latest example of this. In what is a magnificent, epic gesture towards one of the towering giants of Western music, of Western intellectual and artistic achievement, BBC Radio 3 is going to spend ten days continuously broadcasting the complete surviving works of JS Bach. Nobody is going to listen to ten days' of Bach, but that's not the point. The BBC is making a statement of values, that the BBC considers Bach valuable and worth cherishing and celebrating. And we should all rise in a shouted hurrah! at the very notion of it.

While the BBC is the best and most famous public service broadcaster in the world, that does not mean that other public service broadcasters should not try to emulate the BBC standard, even though they cannot match the BBC for resources. Consider YLE Radio, the State Broadcaster in Finland. YLE cannot even attempt to match the BBC in terms of reach, resources or history, but that doesn't mean it doesn't try. In a marvellous statement of who they are and what they believe in, YLE broadcasts a weekly bulletin of world news in Classical Latin. There are very, very few people that listen to this broadcast, but that's not the point. The point is that Latin runs through the weave and woof of our Western Civilisation, and YLE is reminding people, as part of YLE's public service remit, that this is important in reminding us of who we are and where we come from.

RTÉ is a public service broadcaster, supported by a tv license of €155 per set per annum. RTÉ's idea of public service broadcasting for Christmas appears to be a repeat of Showbands, starring Kerry "Chipshop" Katona, the pride of Warrington. "Why do we bother, Fawlty? I didn't know we did, Major," indeed.

Friday, December 09, 2005

King Kong is Getting Monster Reviews

Pardon the pun above, but this is looking a lot like war. Tim Robey in the Daily Telegraph, normally one of my favourite movie critics, goes absolutely nuts about Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong in this morning's Telegraph. You correspondent wasn't expecting this, as I always thought the original Kong was of its time - fantastic, amazing, for 1933, but a bit so-whatty in 2005. But by damn it seems I was wrong - Peter Jackson's movie is, according to Robey, "magnificent in its own right - [it] could be the most loving remake in film history, an elaborate act of homage whose generosity of spirit and sheer sincere rightness, qualify it instantly as one of the great movies about a movie."

And then he starts to say he likes it. Slightly stunned, I visited Rotten Tomatoes, and it seems the Yankees are swooning too, with Todd McCarthy of Variety telling us that "What's up on screen is rarely short of staggering." So there might be something to do this Christmas other than get hammered and fight with your relations after all. Who would have thunk it?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Wretched State of Irish Politics and Irish Political Journalism

Ivor Callely has bitten the dust at last, and the vultures are circling the corpse. The Evening Herald, squalid rag that it is, reports on its front page this afternoon that Callely "begged" Bertie Ahern not to give him the heave-ho. Marie O'Halloran criticises his courage from the safety of the high-minded pages of the Irish Times. And that Old Lady herself editorialises that Ahern had no choice but to put a bullet behind Ivor's ear.

An Spailpín Fánach has a question: If Ivor Callely's head is worth IR£1,500, the value of the freebie he got from this painting contractor, how come no-one is calling for the head of the senior minister at the Department of Transport, Mr Martin Cullen, TD, who famously blew €52 million on voting machines that don't work? What about Jim McDaid, speeding the wrong way down the Naas dual carriageway in a drunken haze? Frank Dunlop is at the Mahon Tribunal names names, times, dates, places and amounts of bribes delivered so the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre could be built, and it's not even getting so much as a stifled yawn from the chattering classes? What in God's name is going on here?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Moral Civil Servant

A Moral Civil Servant, yesterdayOnce upon a time, An Spailpín Fánach had enough of his then day job. In to the boss with him to hand in his notice.

"Behave yourself, you Spailpín Fánach," said the boss, wittily. "We'd hate to lose a man of your calibre. Tell you what, not only will we give you a few pound extra in the dear old per diem, we'll sort you for the company motor as well. How about that?"

"I've never been so insulted in my life!," replied your hero. "A car? Oh, how could you! How could you? I've never been so insulted in my life! Oh boo hoo! Oh boo hoo hoo!" I then collapsed on the carpet, weeping. As you do when you're offered a raise and a bonus.

Front page news on yesterday's Irish Independent today's Irish Times is Junior Minister for Transport, Ivor Callely, whose attempt to bonus an aide to get the aide to stay has blown up in his face. So Minister Callely is now a national laughing stock (when Joan Burton is cracking good ones about you on Rodney Rice's radio show you know things are very, very bad indeed) and poor Ivor was even the lead story on last night's Nine O'Clock News.

Is it just me, or does something stink about this whole business?

Ivor Callely offering or not offering a car to someone who works for him is not news. People get cars through work all the time. Civil servants quitting is not news; civil servants quit all the time, and it doesn't make the news because it's so hard to tell that they were actually working in the first place.

What is bizarre about the Callely quittings is the high moral tone of the departing civil servant/advisor. Corrrect me if I'm wrong, but you have to beat many a bush in Ireland to find this level of probity. Ireland operates on the nod and the wink, the you know yourself basis. Any law in this country is never seen as a constraint, but as a suggestion. The speed limit is 100km per hour but sure how would anyone get anywhere then? I'll shoe it to Hell - sure aren't the guards doing the same thing? Planning permission? Sure once it's up they'll hardly come and knock it, will they? It'll be fine. Don't mind that oul' plannning permission.

And then, out of the wilderness like an Old Testament prophet, come these two civil servants who are callling on the children of Israel - or in this case, Ivor Callely alone - to repent, repent, the day of the Lord is at hand? Minister Callely must be feeling very unlucky indeed that the two civil servants with the a higher level of moral probity than St Simeon Stylites should both pitch up on his watch at the Department of Transport? How odd that they were not in the Department of Health when that big booze-up was organised for Sligo? The preaux chavaliers would hardly have stood for that.

There is no way a political advisor having his feathers ruffled by the offer of a car is front page news. The only thing we should note about this story is that Minister Callely could be as well shot of him, because any man who operates at such a level of innocence will not last jig time in political life. So why is this business dominating the news agenda?

Why don't the media concentrate on what's happening to two of their own for trying to print stories about Irish Ferries? Gerry Flynn, Industrial Correspondent of the Irish Independent, has been taken off the story for writing that Irish Ferries management were thinking about using tear gas in another industrial dispute, and Justine McCarthy, one of the best journalists in the country, has had a story spiked and her column suspended for not toe-ing a party line. Maybe that's a story there?

Or how about what's actually news in political life in this country, where Tom Gilmartin and Frank Dunlop are dueting like matched canaries at the Mahon Tribunal, explaining who was bunged and for how much so that the Liffey Valley shopping centre should be built? Why isn't that being shouted from the rooftops, instead of buried in the graveyards of the inside pages?

Instead of wondering who in the corridors of power are on the take what we, as a nation, perfer doing is getting up early to watch George Best's funeral, and then out to that very same Liffey Valley shopping centre to queue for an hour or two and then buy a hatstand in B&Q. "Nam qui dabat olimimperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc secontinet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, panem et circenses." Like Juvenal's contemptuous remarks about the Romans in the first century AD, the Irish nation is happy with bread and circuses, and place absolute and uncritical trust in our betters. Go bhfoire Dia orainn, agus ár dtír bheag bhocht.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Subtitled Fillums

'But most of all, my panache!''Ave you 'eard that extremely annoyingg ad on ze rrradio, where zere iz zome mademoiselle with an accent thicker zan ze cheeze ze size of a tractor wheel encouraging uz to go to some foreign movie fest-ti-val? Mes amis, is it simply the fevered imagination of An Spailpín Fánach, or is that ad just as crass as having someone in blackface singing "My Old Kentucky Home?" It's not like we think it's Sophie Marceau, and don't know that it's actually some boiler whose day job involves raising the standard on Fair City by acting according to The Method. Specifically, the Ronseal Method, I believe.

Listening to the copy is instructive, though. As advertising copy it is poor, of course, as your faithful chronicler of modern Irish life didn't realise until I came to write this that I have no idea what this festival is for or when it's on. A quick google tells me that the only film festival that's on right now is a German one (meaning we should have some Brunhilde character replace Sophie, shouting "raus! raus! Ze offens are zataway!" I suppose), so that can't be it. The Jameson Film Festival isn't on until February, so it does seem terribly early to be advertising that.

What is interesting however, as we listen to Nat'lie from Fair City trying to sound like Marie Antoniette, is the revalatory insight it gives into the people that run these festivals, and whom they expect to turn up. If we can judge by the this ad, they're not actually looking for anyone who ìs particularly interested in movies. They're just looking for snobs. Someone who wants to go along to a French Film Festival because he, she, or it thinks it'll sound good in Rody Boland's or, God help us, Kehoe's of South Anne Street, later. They'll tell you that the French are so different to Americans, not so bombastic, so much more, I don't know, full of joie de vivre, perhaps? Oh, right, you'll say. So what was this picture about? Oo-er, they say. Haven't a bog.

If they knew their stuff, which of course they don't, they'd realise the French New Wave Cinema of the 'Sixties, the Goddard and Traufaut stuff, was France's tribute to Hollywood, which, like jazz, is a American Art first and foremost. Having a pop at US film, as they do in this film festival ad, is like that vogue in literary criticism that dismissed the Western Canon as simply the work of Dead White Males. If it wasn't for those DWMs, there wouldn't be any literature to criticise, and these goofs would have to get real jobs, instead of wearing black polo neck ganseys and bothering the first years in the Universities of Ireland.

Not that there's anything wrong with a movie just because it's French. I'm just getting a bit annoyed with the notion that everything is right with a movie just beacuse it's not American. The 1990 Cyrano de Bergerac that starred Gerard Depardieau is one of An Spailpín Fánach's favourite movies ("I saw him look at her with his eyes; it was like seeing a slug slither along a rose." Now that's a man that's torching. Quality.) but that's not because it's French. It's because, like any great movie, it takes me to places I've never been and makes me think and feel things I've never thought or all felt. Not because I thought I'd be able to swish around the wine bars of Dublin being gallic and insouciant.

The last movie An Spailpín Fánach went to see in an Art-House Cinema was Sideways, the movie that was billed as a comedy but played very much like a goddamned tragedy to your narrator's terrified eye. I saw it in one of Dublin's leading art-house cinemas, and the biggest laugh of the night, from a two-hour movie, was when George Bush was seen in the background on a TV screen. If you're mixing in a certain society, any reference to George Bush will always get you a cheap laugh. But what's behind the laugh is the notion that we are not some thick like George; we are urbane, cosmopolitan, witty, charming. We wash down our boxty with the finest of fine champagnes. We have a lot to learn.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

ASBOs, Social Order, and What Ireland Can Learn from the Ancient World

Crassus - he didn't take much nonsenseLike anyone else that saw it, An Spailpín Fánach watched the Prime Time show on Monday featuring the feral behaviour of young people beyond the law in housing estates all over Ireland with no small amount of revulsion, revulsion that very quickly turned to anger. Ordinary, decent people are having their lives ruined, blighted and put in very real danger by these hoodlums, while Irish society just wrings its hands and says "oh dear, oh dear, these children have problems, oh dear, oh dear." As remarked in this forum only yesterday, An Spailpín Fánach is only too aware of the dearth of positive role models for these young people, but, with the greatest respect in the world, that's no damned good to the aged, the infirm, the elderly and the helpless who are spending the autumn of their years in terrorised house arrest in their own homes.

It's not good enough. It really isn't. And, in the absence of positive role models, how about a negative role model to be getting along with? Something to remind these young people that, while they may be feeling disenfranchised and isolated from society now, society reserves the right to make them feel a damned sight worse if they continue to act the maggot?

As a proto-classicist, An Spailpín is reminded of the problem faced by Marcus Lincinius Crassus, who was praetor of Rome when Spartacus led a slave revolt in the first century BC. Crassus took on Spartacus' army and defeated it at Capua in 71 BC, but he still needed to make an example, to make it middling clear to all concerned that the Senate and People of Rome would not be standing for any nonsense.

Marcus Crassus had an idea. There were six thousand prisoners taken after the defeat of Spartacus at Capua, and Crassus had every one of them crucified along the 200 miles from Capua back to Rome, as an example of what happens when you start getting notions. Nothing good, in short. Allowing for crucifixions on either side of the road - a very practical people, you know, Romans - that works out at a cross every sixty or so yards on both sides of the road for two hundred miles. Crassus got his point across, and the Empire lasted for another thousand years.

An Spailpín Fánach is not advocating for an instant that we have crucifixions in Ireland at every sixty yards of road. Traffic is enough of a nightmare as it is without the added distraction of Emma Caulfield of AA Roadwatch telling commuters to use alternative routes and plan extra time for their journeys rather than use Merrion Square this evening at rush hour, as the Corpo are nailing up a few boy racers and delays are expected. No; that would be doing the dog on it.

All you need are a couple of high visibility crucifixions, to get the point across. 100,000 men joined Spartacus two millennia ago - we're talking about buckeens here that wouldn't be able to count that high, some of them. A mere handful of crucifixions will get the point across in jig time.

The standard crew to carry out a crucifixion in the Army of Rome was five, which worked out at one centurion and four ordinary soldiers. In 21st Century Ireland, this works out at one ganger, from Meed or some awful place in the midlands, where they don't breed 'em squeamish, and a few Eastern Europeans, who are glad of the work. They make their way out to whatever community is on the list for that evening - and I won't name names, but we all know where they are, don't we? - and the keep their ears peeled. Somewhere there'll be some wiseguy with his acolytes around him giving it socks about how he did six munts in da 'Joy, no worries, them cops are only bleedin' mulchies, I'm well tough, I am. He'll do just fine. Over go Ivan, Josef, Pavel, Nikita and Mick, they scare off the wiseguy's mates, and take the wiseguy himself. I'm not sure how many of these acolytes will go Musketeering with the one-for-all, all-for-one stuff when their dread commander is taken, but something tells me not many. So the crucifixion party take the wiseguy, his mates run away like the gutless wonders they are, pretty good at burning out old people's cars, not so tough at taking on crucifixion parties, and whack, whack, whack, up with the wiseguy the cross, and leave him there. Our hero, who found incarceration in Mountjoy Prison no sweat, won't have half as much jawing when he's a Carrion Crazy Meal for Pakie Preachán and the rest of the boys.

A lot of people will be horrified when they read this. Surely, they will say, this is simply too much. Rome's was a cruel and vicious Empire, which placed no value on human life or dignity. We've moved on from that - that was two thousand years ago, we've moved on.

Well yes, I am willing concede that point. One Roman practice your correspondent would not advocate, for instance, was the old superstition of human sacrifice, of burying people alive to appease the gods. An Spailpín Fánach would never advocate such a measure - in the time it'd take the Corpo to dig the damned hole the sacrifices would have died of old age, and An Spailpín will not stand over such a cruel end. But as for going for the lámh láidir with anti-social behaviour, I really don't see why not. It's going to come to that anyway, as the generations breed out a population that's more and more distanced from any sort of authority. And the longer it takes society to make a stand, the bloodier that stand will be. Make up your minds.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Growing a Social Conscience While Travelling with Dublin Bus

An Spailpín Fánach boarded a city imp bus in Dublin city centre this evening at sevenish on his long journey home from another day's slavery in the Salt Mines. I made my way to the back of the bus to find living space, eventually squeezing in beside a Russian welterweight who had a bagful of teddybears - to remind her of the motherland, no doubt. I stuck my snout in my book, as is my custom and advice to all commuters, and switched off from my environment.

Until I was dragged from the 16th Century to the back of a city imp bus in the 21st Century by the wailing and squealing of an infant on the back seat of the bus. I glanced up at him, and understood all. This was a bad boy - he's a bad boy in the sense that if his parent(s) brought him to visit middle-class you in your middle-class home, his squawking would cause middle-class mortification, and you would remark, on his exit, that Mrs Whatever is letting that child run wild, wild! But that's not a bad boy in this young fella's world - not being so strung out on smack so that you look for all the world like a tracksuited rat, twitchy, furtive and utterly useless, is not being a bad boy in this young fella's world. Anything else is very small beer indeed, such as being loud and rude and a pain in the ass on the bus home from town in the evening.

I started to feel sorry for the poor little hoor then. What chance has he, really? Not only is he doomed, he doesn't even know he hasn't a hope, thus damning his chances even further. I looked further for the mother - spotted her easily sitting in the corner beside him. Fat, tracksuited, blinged, pasty complexion, careworn, beaten. You know the type. And then I started to feel sorry for her - you can't even look after yourself, I thought, and now you're in charge of this fella as well? Musha God help you.

I looked back at your man. He was slugging the last of his bottle of Sunny Delight, the head tipped back, the bottle tipped up to its extremity so as not to miss a drop of industrially treated chemical goodness. Ara God help him, I thought, and his poor mother -

My reverie was stopped suddenly, when I looked back at Ma, and saw that she was now a mirror image of the young fella - head tipped back, and chalice tipped back so as not to miss a drop. But where the young fella was treating himself to a spot of Sunny Delight, this lady was refreshing herself with a 5o0ml can of Budweiser, the king of beers.

Call An Spailpín Fánach an old fuddy-duddy if you must, but the back seat of a bus at seven o'clock in the evening while in charge of a five or six year old child is no place to go on the beer. "These are thy Gods, O Israel," I muttered to the Russian girl, my hopes for social justice about as likely as my hopes of playing at stand-off half for the Lions in South Africa in 2009.

She smiled at me - a nice smile. She was pretty, even if a little fonder of the buns than was good for her. I smiled back.

"I said 'enjoy the city,' ma'am," I said as I rose to leave. "It'll be yours in ten or fifteen years' time. We'll never hold it."

I walked off into the night. Oblivious, Mummy took another belt of her Bud.

Lines on the Death of George Best

George Best, RIP.
George Best, you’ve left us; you gave us such joy.
Defender, rest easy. Barmaid, take your rest.
No further to tremble at that wild Belfast boy,
He’s no more to taunt you, that genius, George Best.
His hair too long, his own life too messed,
Ron Harris bamboozled, feet spurning the grass,
The world to command, with looks and talent blessed.
At full-time, these things could he never pass,
A nightclub and a model and a bottle and a glass.

©An Spailpín Fánach, 2005.

Tom Wolfe on the Simpsons

I read in my LA Times this morning that Tom Wolfe, the greatest American writer of his generation, is to make a guest appearance on The Simpsons, the greatest TV show of our, or any other, generation. Gore Vidal, who thinks he's the greatest American writer of his generation, will also be on the show, which is good news in that if he's taping an episode of The Simpsons it means he isn't writing another one of his awful books. An Spailpín Fánach generally operates a one-hundred-page rule, in that if a book doesn't capture my interest after one hundred pages, my conviction that life is short means that I abandon it, and start another.

I had a go at Burr, by Gore Vidal once, and I did not get past the first page. Fact.

Tom Wolfe, of course, is a joy always. I Am Charlotte Simmons is currently sitting proudly on my to-read shelf, and I am looking forward to it hugely. If you haven't read The Right Stuff or The Bonfire of the Vanities of some of Tom Wolfe's collections of journalism, do so at your earliest convenience. You'll learn a lot about the modern world.

In the LA Times interview, Tom Wolfe says that The Simpsons is "the only show of any sort that I watch on television," and gets into the spirit of the thing. Just as his yellow Springfield self is about to be flattened by a boulder, Wolfe shouts "Aaaaagh! My suit - it's gaberdine!"

Gore Vidal, of course, doesn't watch The Simpsons. Which might explain why he writes such awful books.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Team Aniston v Team Jolie

There's a nice and frothy piece of fluff writing in today's London Times by Chris Ayres about how the human race in currently divided into two races of men; those that support the actress Jennifer Aniston, and those that support the actress Angelina Jolie.

Normally, of course, An Spailpín Fánach muses at a far higher level than celebrity gossip, but the Ayres is so well judged, and in such a contrast to Miss Fitzgerald blundering about like a cow in a china shop in the Indo article referred to earlier in these fora, I thought we all deserved a little treat.

Ní a'Tí

An drochshaol i ndán do mná na hÉireann mar atá i ndán dóibh riamh. Faraoir! Faraoir!Bhí bhur Spailpín Fánach gafa idir an gol agus an gáire tar éis an sliocht seo a léamh ins an Irish Independent ar maidin inniú. Scríobhann Jacqueline Fitzgerald faoin léíriú ag an ESRI a fhoilsiú inne ag rá go ndéanann mná na hÉireann i bhfad níos mó obair bhaile ná mar a dhéanann fir na hÉireann. Cuirtear an t-amhrán "The Bogs of Mayo" in aigne an Spailpín nuair a léigh sé í, agus an amhránaí ag tabhairt aire dona deirfiuracha gan bac leis na fir ar chur ar bith:

"To the pub every evening mo dhuine does go
While I'm rocking the baby on the bogs of Mayo."

Tháinig brón mór ar an Spailpín nuair a chonaic sé go raibh drochscéal na mbán comh dona sa lá atá inniú ann ná mar a bhí sé ins na caogóidí. Lean sé ar aghaidh ar selig, chun níos mó a fhail amach faoin léiríu ESRI (Gender Research Unit) tubáiste seo.

Fuair sé na h-uimhreacha ins an Irish Times, i sliocht ag Frank McNally. Scríobhtar ansin go gcaitheann na mná cúig uair a chlog gach lá seachtaine ag ní a dtithe, i drochchomparáid leis na fir, a chaitheann uair agus leath. Ní aithríonn na h-uimhreacha seo ach beagán ar an ndeireadh seachtaine.

Spéisiúl go leor. Comh spéisiúl, ar ndóigh, gur thóg an Spailpín amach a áíreamhán agus bhuail sé cúpla chnaipe. Tuigim as seo go gcaitheann mná na hÉireann cúig uair is trocha ag ní a gcuid tí, ach is docha go bhfuil sé níos mó mar sin mar, cé nach ndéanann An Spailpín Fánach, mar is buachaill é, pioc tada níochán, déanann sé an chuid is mó den phioc tada sin ar an ndeireadh seachtaine. Ag feachaint ar an léiriú seo, caithteamar daichead uair a chlog in Éirinn ag ní ár gcuid tithe.

Cad atá ar siúl i dtithe na Éireann nuair is gá dúinn seachtain oibre, daichead uair a chlog, ag ní? An bhfuil na muca isteach againn ins na tintéain mar a bhíodar fadó? An bhfuil clabárchoraíocht ar siúl i dtithe na hÉireann um tráthnóna, in ionad an paidrín a rá mar a bhí fadó? Nó an bhfuil uimhreacha, léiriú agus gach aon rud eile ag baint le Gender Research Unit an ESRI ina phraiseach ceart?

Fagann bhur Spailpín Fánach le huacht nach bhfuil duine dá laghad, idir fir is mná, ag caitheamh cúig uair a chlog gach chuile lá ag ní a theach féin. Níl an t-am acu ar dtús - más gá duit taisteal chun obair thuas anseo i mBleá Cliath, agus tú amach ón leaba ag a sé agus abhaile arís ag a seacht tráthnóna, cá gheobaidh tú an t-am chun dul ag ní? Más féidir le éinne cúig uair a chlog gach lá ag ní a teach, b'fhéidir go seolfá a h-ainm chugam? Tá aithne agam ar cúpla ospideal ina bhfuil an galar MSRI ina rí ann - bá bhreá doibh 'sna h-oispidéail sin sármná níochána dul isteach agus an ruaig a chur chuig an galar uafásach sin.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Looking for a Start in the Smoke

There's a marvellous article in this morning's Washington Post about the huge population of people that's moving from Eastern Europe to Ireland to find work. The writer, Kevin Sullivan, follows a guy called Janis Neulans on his way from Riga to Lucan, and extrapolates then from Neulans' micro-case to the macro-case of how Europe is changing. The parallels with Neulans' journey and experiences here are so close to our own emigrant stories as to be frightening (Kilkelly, Ireland, eighteen and sixty, my dear and loving son John. Dear God).

Fascinating, informative, well-written, insightful, thoughtful, all in just twenty-five hundred words. Makes you wonder why we never read this sort of stuff in our own media, as we ourselves are surely the ones most affected by these demographic changes. Funny that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ceist Cé Imreodh Rugbaí?

An Cathmhaolach, Phil Orr agus an Duagánach - ní bheidh a leithid arís annTháinig scamall dubh eadóchais ar lucht tacaíochta rugbaí na hÉireann nuair a d'fhógair Eddie O'Sullivan a fhoireann a n-imríodh i gcoinne an Rómáin an Sathairn seo chugainn. Tar éis an dhá theip i gcoinne an Astráíl agus an Nua-Shéalainn, bhí na tacadóirí ag tnúth le tús nua. Níl stár nó trádisiún rugbaí na Rómáine comh fada ná stár rugbaí na hÉireann agus, mar sin, beirfidh Éirinn an bua is cuma cé h-iad na h-imreoirí a chaithfidh na geansaithe glása. Ba seans é an cluiche seo d'Eddie agus don IRFU imreoirí óga nua a chur amach, chun blás an lá mór i Lansdowne Road a thabairt dóibh.

Ach níor thóg Eddie O'Sullivan an seans sin. Tá seans maith ag an bhfoireann a d'fhógair Eddie imirt i gCraobh na Sé Náisiún, tá sé comh fada ar an mbealach anois, agus comh cleachta i gnó rugbaí idirnáisiúnta. Níl ach fear nua amháin ann, an tUlach Kieran Campbell atá chun imirt lena chara chuige, David Humphries, agus an tUmph curtha ina chaptaen Dé Sathairn. Ba imreoir den chéad scoth é David Humphries, ach ní fhóglaimfear rud ar bith nua faoi tar éis an cluiche Rómáine. Cén fáth nár thugadh seans d'fhear éile? Cén fáth go bhfuil imreoirí comh cleachta mar Peter Stringer, Girvan Dempsey, Ronan O'Gara agus Simon Easterby ar an mbinnse? Ar bhfuil faitíos ar an Súilleabhánach go mbeidh foireann na hÉireann i dtróblóid Dé Sathairn, agus beidh ar O'Gara no Girvo an lá a shamháil?

Má tá, tá rugbaí na hÉireann i bpraiseach i bhfad níos measa ná mar a thuigtear. Tá dhá fhreagra ann chun an foireann seo a míniú. Is é an chéad míniú ná gurbh amadán ceart é an Súilleabhánach, míniú eadóchasach ach b'fhéadair go bhfuil an ceart ann. Tá an dara míniú níos eadochasaí - tá an foireann seo ag imirt Dé Sathairn mar níl éinne eile ann ab fhéidir leis an Súileabhánach a chur isteach.

B'fhéídir gur fheach Eddie O'Sullivan agus fir mhóra an IRFU ar gach imreoir féideartha, agus níl an scíl acu. Mar sin, is gá duinn cad atá againne a úsáid go dtí go dtagann imeoirí níos fearr, cosúil le foireann iomaint Uíbh Fháilí. Bhí Jerry Guscott, Austin Healey agus Brian Moore ar an mBBC Dé Domhnaigh, scóth na h-imreoirí rugbaí go leir (seachas an tÉileach, ar ndóigh), agus iad ag plé cluichí an deireadh seachtaine. Iarradh ar an Mórgach cathain ba cheart d'Éirinn a foireann a athrú, agus Corrán an Domhain ag teach i 2005. "Tá sé ró-dheanach dóibh anois," arsa an Mórgach. Sin drochscéal duit agus tú ag feachaint ar Éirinn ag strácáil leis an Rómáin Dé Sathairn.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Willie O'Dea

Anyone unaware that the current Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea, is a proud son of Limerick will have their doubts comprehensively dispelled by the picture of Minister O'Dea on the front page of this morning's Irish Times.

What a maroon, as Bugs Bunny likes to remark in similar cases.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Behind the Wire at the Railway Cup

Thorny wire, yesterdayAn Spailpín Fánach damn near spat his morning cheroot right across the room this morning on reading a very self-congratulatory report in his Irish Times about the Railway Cup football final, played last Saturday in Dublin's Parnell Park.

"McEniff Sees Progress as Crowds Return," reads the headline, and the body of the text says that "a combined total of well over 12,000 supporters [have] attended the three M Donnelly Interprovincial football games this season," an attendance which that grand old man of football, Brian McEniff lauds as "a great boost for the Railway Cup."

You'll notice that one of the reasons why McEniff is such a great man is that he refers to the Railway Cup as just that, and not this spurious occupants of interplanetary craft mararkey. What caused the gag reflex in your correspondent is this joy at the size of the crowds. I can't (nor wish to) speak for the majority of citizens of Dublin, but I can assure Brian McEniff, the GAA, M Donnelly and all associated bodies that the crowd would have been bigger at the Railway Cup Final by two, at the very least, if the GAA, in its wisdom, would only open the fecking gates so people could go in.

The situation is this. An Spailpín Fánach and a very dear and close friend, Banríon Mhór na gCispheileadóirí, had decided, early in the week, that if we could not score two tickets for the rugby (and what a mixed blessing that might have proved, eh?) we would stroll up to Parnell Park and take in the Railway Cup final. Nothing much else to do in Dublin on a Saturday night, you know. The rugger did not work out, which leaves us, at about seven on Saturday night, with An Spailpín cooling his heels in his Dublin domicile, and BM na gC gunning her motor back to Dublin, the cabin no doubt clouded in cooling clouds of mentholated tabaccy smoke.

An Banríon arrived in the door at eight, and we decided that we'd head up to the game. We had missed the first half, but nothing could be done about that now. And at least we'd see the end, and the presentation of the cup.

We drove up to Parnell Park, and fluked parking near the ground. We strolled down to the grounds, where we remarked on how quiet it was, especially considering that there was a football game on. Six thousand people were being terribly quiet. Still, on we strolled.

Until we were stopped by the great big gates and many miles of thorny wire that surround Parnell Park. There was no way in.

We went around and around, but no point of admittance could we find. At one point, one of the great gates swung open, to allow certain urchins to exit. We started veering towards the light, but sentries must have sensed our movement just as the Ninja do, and they quickly swung the portal shut again. An Banríon looked at me; I looked back at an Banríon. We turned on our collective heels, and went back to the car, the cheers of the crowd not echoing behind us. At all.

I've spent the days since wondering what happened them when they didn't open the gates. They do it all the time at home. Here, in Dublin, that place that famously deserves to win an All-Ireland on a regular basis, they do not open the gates at half-time, and the reason can only be because if they did, no native would turn up for the first half. Instead, they'd huddle over their JP Blue butts down the road, rather as they do outside the bars at half-time on Sky Soccer Sundays, and wait there until they were sure of getting getting something for nothing. God help them.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Gleam of Sanity, in all the Muck

Maybe we won't disgrace ourselves as a nation on Saturday after all. The great Keith Duggan has a lovely piece in this morning's Irish Times about an All-Black visit to Ramelton in Donegal yesterday. The All-Blacks were paying tribute to Dave Gallaher, whose family emigrated from Ramelton to Canterbury in the 19th century. Gallaher returned to the British Isles as captain of the New Zealand "Invicibles" touring side of 1905, who won 35 of the 36 matches they played. Gallaher, who died in 1917 in Belgium in the Great War, remains a hero among his own, as the speeches by Sir Brian Lachore and Tana Umaga indicate. Thanks be to God, sighs a relieved Spailpín Fánach.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Have These People Ever Even Seen a Rugby Match?

Old Henry Devil himself, if you believe some peopleAn Spailpín Fánach is bitterly disappointed to report the latest in this utterly spurious Tana Umaga controversy, as a well-known Dublin publican, one Charlie Chalke, is making a fool of himself by trying to cash in on this "poow Bwian O'Dwiscoll, rotten Tana Umaga" controversy. Chalke, who owns a scatter of pubs around the city, has banned Tana Umaga from every one of them, and put up posters to that effect. Ireland of the Welcomes, indeed.

I wonder has Charlie also banned Colin Meads while he's at it? Meads is considered the greatest New Zealand rugby player of all time, but he's also the man that pulled the Australian scrumhalf Ken Catchpole from a ruck with such violence that Catchpole's groin muscles were torn, and Catchpole never played rugby again. Surely much worse than the six-month layoff expected for "Drico."

Maybe Charlie has also issued the dreaded vitiners' interdict on Francois "Mannetjies" Roux, presuming Roux has not moved on to that Great Veldt of the Sky of course? Who was Francois "Mannetjies" Roux? He was a fighter pilot who stuck a late head on the Lions' stand-off half Richard Sharp during the Lions' South African Tour of 1962. As recalled in the Observer last Sunday, the tackle on Sharp was so late that even the Saffies blush at the memory, and those Saffies can be shameless customers at the best of times.

Dickie Jeeps, who played scrum-half on that 1962 Lions Tour, is quoted in the Observer remarking that something must be done before someone gets seriously hurt - meaning crippled or killed, of course. And Dickie Jeeps is right - the escalating violence, coupled with the escalating (supplement-driven) strength and power of rugby players, means that someone is going to seriously hurt unless the rules of the game are looked at, as, in fairness, the RFB are very good at doing. But when that rule revision is taking place, where will the band-wagon jumpers be then?

I can't believe that people are thinking of shelling out big money to go to Lansdowne Road solely to boo New Zealand, the greatest rugby playing nation in the world, and the greatest rugby playing nation in the world for the past one hundred years. But maybe that's just me being silly. They booed Martin Johnson when he arrived with Leicester last Spring, the only man ever to lead two Lions tours, and Zinezine Zidane was booed at Lansdowne Road in September at a soccer match. We have a lot to be proud of.

FOCAL SCOIR: The lonely Tana Umaga can take some comfort in the fact that he has literary company in his exile from Charlie Chalke's boozeramas - your humble correspondent was damn near ran out of The Bankers on Dame Street only this summer, a joint in Charlie's ownership I believe. It was eveningtime, and An Spailpín and a very dear friend met up after work for a chat and a gossip. We went to the Bankers; the lady had a glass of dry white wine, An Spailpín Fánach drank tea. After delivering our beverages, the waiting staff were hovering around our table for the next hour like we were valued members of the Travelling People, just dying to get us to move along, get along, move along, get along, go, move, shift.

Which is exactly what An Spailpín Fánach would have done, but the lady was made of sterner stuff. In a moment of mutual madness, the same lady briefly dated a very dear friend of your Spailpín Fánach, and that same man assured your chronicler of modern life and mores that, magnificent woman though she is, this same lady has got a bit of a temper. Spurned and seething in the Bankers, she considered the weapons available to her, made her choice and marched to the bar. She demanded the bar manager and, when that same scoundrel was produced, he got a both barrels of a Force Three Bollocking from the same lady. She informed him that she would not returning her custom, swivelled on the heel of a stylish shoe, and strode from the bar, head held high. There ain't nothin' like a dame.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Brian O'Driscoll - Lig Uait, a Bhrian, Lig Uait

BOD - Stócach nó Sidheog?Dá ndéarfadh Brian O'Driscoll, captaen foireann rugbaí na hÉireann, focal dá laghad eile ar an bhfeall a dhéanadh air agus é ina chaptaen na Leon ar a dturas Nua-Shéalainne, ba cheart gúna na gcailíní scoile a chur ar a dhroim in aonad geansaí glas na hÉireann.

Sular chuaigh na Leoin go dtí an Nua-Shéalainn ba mhór an meas a bhí ag lucht rugbaí an domhain ar O'Driscoll mar imreoir den chéad scóth. Ba shoiléir go gcuirféa ina chaptaen na Leon é ins an tEarrach mar ba lear gurbh é O'Driscoll an t-imreoir rugbaí is fearr idir na ceithre thír a dhéanfadh suas foireann na Leon. Ach níorbh amháin í a imirt a bhí faoi taobh thiar tuairime mhóir na luchta rugbaí ar O'Driscoll - bhí pairt laidir ag a mhisneach, a chrógacht, fréisin i gclú O'Driscoll sa domhain rugbaí. Níorbh "fancy Dan" é; ní raibh eagla air ar an obair crua nó ar bhaol an rugbaí.

Tá an clú crógachta sin beagach cailte go leir ag O'Driscoll faoi láthair, ag is é a leabhair an fáth. Gach uair a oscailítear páipear nuachtáin nó a churtar an téilifis ar shiúl, seo é O'Driscoll ag caoineadh ar cad a thárla dó ins an chéad Chluiche Trialach amach ar thuaras na Leon. Cé gurbh uafásach an feall a dhéanadh air - agus ba fheall é, gan dabht ar bith - ní scríosfaidh an beicéal seo ó O'Driscoll as stár an tsaoil é. Tharla cad a tharla - is ceart do Brian O'Driscoll na h-eachtraí atá caite a chur taobh thiar dé, agus a aghaidh a thabairt ar an dtodhchaí. Ní dhéanfaidh na agallaimh agus na sliochta nuachta aon dífríocht ar a ghualainn nó ar a shaol, ach seans a thabairt dá criticeoirí a rá nárbh imreoir misneach é - éist ar a mbéiceal anois tar éis an samhraidh Nua-Shéalainne?

Cé gurbh uafásach an feall a dhéanadh ar O'Driscoll, ní cheart dearmad a dhéanamh gurbh cluiche foréigneach é an rugbaí, go tharlaíonn foréigean go minic i gcluichí rugbaí, isteach agus amach as dlíthe an cluiche. Sé tráidisiún an cluiche dearmad a dhéanamh ar eachtraí foréigneacha nuair a shéideann an fhéadóg dheireanach, agus eachtraí na pairce a fhágail ar an bpáirc. B'fhéidir nach ceart an rud é, ach sin mar a bhfuil ó lá William Webb Ellis, agus níl sé chun athrú ar ball.

Bhí Moss Keane ag caint le Matt Cooper ar a chlár raidio, the Last Word, tráthnóna Dé hAoine, agus a dhírbheataitnéas scriofta aige. D'iarr Matt ar Moss cad a shíl sé ar an bhfeall a dhéanadh ar O'Driscoll, agus an compairéad a dhéanamh idir an feall sin agus an feall a dhéanadh ar Willie Duggan, agus Duggan ar Thuras na Leon 1977. "Tháinig Willie ar ais," arsa Moss go cnéasta. Tar ar ais arís a Bhrian, agus déan dearmad ar 2005, Tana Uamaga agus Sir Clive Woodward. Níl aon maitheas ann.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Rome - The Miniseries

Atia and Diana - Sisters Under the Skin
The Roman Republic lasted for the guts of five hundred years, from the overthrow of Tarquinius Superbus, the last of the Etruscan kings in the sixth century BC until Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon and appointed himself Bosso Solo in the first century BC. Viewers of the new miniseries, Rome, on BCC2 on Wednesday night, will have felt every one of those five hundred long years go by during that first episode, and can only dread the dull and buttock-numbing horror of the eleven more episodes to come.

$100 million invested in sets does not great drama make, and if there is no great drama there is no earthy reason for the sensible viewer to leave the Champions League early to visit the Eternal City. With historical drama, the creators have three choices; they can go with the historical figures themselves, a la Neil Jordan's Michael Collins; tehy can concoct a rich stew of all sorts like Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus, or they can see the great world through the eyes of the little guy which, believe it or not, is the structure used in Ben-Hur.

It's the last-named that the producers of Rome have gone for, allowing us the point of view of two soldiers in the Army of the Republic, but they can't seem to stop themselves from reaching for the broad strokes of Spartacus, and end up where everyone ends up that falls between two stools - on the floor.

If the stories of the two soldiers are not in themselves interesting - and they are not - then what is the point of having them there? There is no point in having them there. The backstory - how a republic sank into tyranny - is plenty dramatic in and of itself, without having the action cluttered by the boring, boring antics of a cuckold and a drunk. Who cares?

There is only one character in the show that makes it particularly watchable, and she is Atia of the Julii (Atia Juliorum, surely? Tsk.), played with lip-smacking relish by Polly Walker. After a cursory glance at the script, Ms Walker clearly spotted the canine qualities of true dog, canus verus if you like, and as such she's decided to give Atia all the oomph she can muster. And that's some oomph - if she were a man, she would twirl a nonchalant moustache while expertly scheming and working her wiles. Think John Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons and you're nearly there.

Ms Walker vamps it up to such a degree that your Spailpín Fánach - who is now as old as the very fog, you know - couldn't help but cast his mind back to Jane Badler's haughty and imperious performance as Diana, Chief Science Officer of The Visitors on the 'eighties sci-fi miniseries, V. All we need is a scene in which Ms Walker double-jointedly snaffles back a live hamster or two for the lunch and we will have a perfect match. Sisters under the skin.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Irish Transport Policy

An Irish Rail Commuter Train, yesterdayThis surely is a great little nation. That Wise Old Owl of fiscal prudence, Minister for Transport Martin Cullen, today announced that the Government is to spend €34 billion on improving the Irish transport infrastructure. And isn't it badly needed, to link those blue and red hub towns that house all those decentralised public servants? Time for a reality check. As a nation, we've managed to build 22 miles of M50 motorway in 25 years. We've taken eleven years to build this LUAS that we're all clapping ourselves on the back about, despite the fact that all it's done is depopulate the bus routes proximal to either of its two lines. The LUAS effect on actual traffic is minimal. Decentralisation of public servants is a stupid idea in the first place, decentralisation of Dublin's urban sprawl will never happen as there are too many vested interests making too much money out of it, and An Spailpín Fánach is sick, sore and tired of listening to this shit all his life. I don't hear much yap out of Eddie Hobbs about all this either. Go bhfoire Dia orainn agus ar ár dtir bheag bhocht.

Monday, October 31, 2005

A Swashbuckler, a Sprog, and a Horse's Ass

Don't look now, but I think the nag's in the Teamsters
Oh God, they've done it again. They've made a sequel to The Mask of Zorro, and they've bunged in a sprog. As if it wasn't going to be awful enough.

An Spailpín Fánach was quite a fan of The Mask of Zorro when it was released - it was old style movie swashbuckling, and it was the big screen break of Catherzine Zeta-Jones, whose pre-Raphaelite beauty, those gorgeous cascading raven tresses of hair and, if I may make so bold, that top-notch chassis, lit up the screen the way it hadn't been lit up since the glam glory days of Jane Russell or Ava Gardner. But what can I tell you? That was then, this is now, you can never go back because there is no there there anymore.

Your faithful narrator will not be darkening the door of the Savoy for this one - his heart remains broken after going to see the sequel to The Mummy, The Mummy itself being one of the best bad movies of recent years, and seeing that they bunged a sprog into that one to - no doubt at the behest of some squarehead in the Morketing Department, who doubtless had demographic charts to back up his monstrous plans. He might have turned a buck, but he'll port in Hell for exposing the frayed nerves of the cinema-attending public to one more blond-haired, blue-eyed child with a cursed lisp. And rightly so.

There was only ever one correct use of a child in cinema in recent years, and it occured in a movie that most of you have not seen. An Spailpín hasn't seen it in years, but he remembers every frame of this classic scene as if it were yesterday.

The movie was released nearly twenty years ago. It is called Warlock, and it stars Julian Sands, Richard E. Grant and the appalling Lori Singer. The story is this: Sands plays a warlock, a practitioner of black magic, about to be burned at the stake in 17th Century Boston who escapes to 20th Century Boston, and has a cut at destroying the world from there. Grant is the warlock hunter who goes through the time portal after Sands to catch him, and Lori Singer is the token skirt.

After much good business, Singer and Grant are pursuing the escaped warlock, Sands, across the United States. Sands is a good piece ahead of the pursuit, but he's lost his wheels and he's stuck in a small town in some midwestern state. Sands is stumping around, wondering what he's going to do now, and he gets talking to this portly young child, swinging on a swing. It's been years, but as I recall it, the conversation goes something like this:

Well, says the Warlock. Well, says the young fella. Quiet round here, says the warlock - where is everybody? They're at Church, says the young fella. And how well you're not at Church, says the warlock. Nah, my folks don't believe in that kind of stuff. I've never been, says the young fella. Close up on Sands, who's suddenly beaming.

CUT TO Richard E and Lori Singer, who've caught up with the warlock's wrecked wheels. We have him now, exults Richard E - the only way he'd be able to get away now would be if he made a flying potion! A flying potion, says Lori, how would he make that? He can't, says Richard E, the eyes popping out of his head, unless he can get the fat of an unbaptised child!

CUT BACK to Sands the Warlock, flying through the air just like Superman, smirking like old Henry Divil.

He must have boiled up the young fella and drained the fat with a ladle. Now that's cinema.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Drinking in a Chimney - Kehoe's of South Anne Street

Abandon hope all ye who enter here
"The weekend, wha'?"
"Yeah, magic."
"I love going for a few scoops on the weekend. I love me few pints, I do."
"Yeah. But it's hard to find a good pub in town, but."
"Yeah. It's so busy in town, it is."
"Yeah. All those mulchies."
"Yeah. It's hard to find a real Dublin pub anymore - you know, one with a few Dublin characters. Everywhere's so big now, it is."
"Yeah. But I'll tell you where's a great pub in town."
"Kehoe's of South Anne Street."
"Kehoe's? I know it, I do. Kehoe's of South Anne Street."
"You get a lovely pint of Guinness in there, you do."
"Yeah, magic."

If Dublin has nothing else, it has its shibboleths. You get to recognise them after a while - that Damien "Duffer" Duff is currently our greatest soccer player (God forgive you if you say his only rival as a diver is Jacques Cousteau - such a quip would be infra dig, bud), that Dublin needs an All-Ireland, that the queues are very long at B&Q in Liffey Valley and that Kehoe's of South Anne Street is one of the great bars in the city.

Well no, it's not. Or anything like it.

An Spailpín Fánach has been a regular communicant at Kehoe's of South Anne Street since 1996, and it's time to say that the Emperor has no clothes. Drinking in Kehoe's of South Anne Street is like drinking in a chimney only now, thanks to Herr Martin, not as smoky. Kehoe's has sheer walls that climb to the skies, and winding staircases within. And clinging to such furniture, cornices and precipices that will keep them from either falling into the abyss or being trampled beneath each other's hooves, boots or kitten heels, are the punters. The citizens. Those poor schmucks that are the butt of the all the city's jokes.

If you get bored tonight and have the ill-luck to be trapped in the city, take a stroll into town. Walk down Grafton Street, studiously avoiding the beggars, eyes peeled for the junkies and potential violence. Turn left off Grafton Street, and identify John Kehoe's by the humanity bursting out from its doors and onto the rain-swept streets, like the horsehair bursting from a superannuated sofa.

Take a deep breath, open the door, drop the right shoulder and start twisting your way into the bar - ducking, diving, bobbing, weaving. Try to get as little drink spilled on you as possible. If you're wearing white, regret your choice immediately. Don't gag on the methane - that would only spoil it for everyone else. Don't be shocked that there's no room for you on the ground floor. Identify the stairs at the end of the ground floor. Ascend. Duck, dive, bob and weave your way to the bar. Order two stouts - one of self, one for friend. Pay over eight clams for privilege of same. Don't be hurt by rudeness of staff. Hand one stout to friend, keep one for self. Take slug of stout to reduce its chances of spillage on your next journey. Curl your stout in your hand next to your ear, fashioning your arm into the double helix pattern popular with Deoxyribonucleic Acid.

Observe surroundings. Wonder why everybody looks the same. Roar bon mots and philosophical reflections at friend to overcome ambiance and "friendly atmosphere." Imbibe porter. Repeat ad nauseum - literally. Go home - taxis and nightlink buses permitting, of course. Call it a good night out in Dublin. Pray for deliverance.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

'Sé an tOcras an tAnlann Is Fearr

Kerr imithe go dti an tSíoraíochtFuair Brian Kerr an píléir ag deireadh scríbe areir. Bhí crinniú lucht uisle an FAI thus ins an Great Southern Hotel ar chul aerphoirt BÁC, agus fograíodh tar éis é gur chaill Kerr a phost mar bainisteoir foirne sacair na hÉireann nuair a shéideadh an fhéadóg dheireanach De Céadaoin ag an gcluiche Eilvéise. Má chaill, cén fáth gur bhuail mo bhuachaillí suas go dtí an Great Southern Hotel aréir? An dtaitneodh leo cleith adhmaid a chur trí chroí Brian Kerr comh maith, ar eagla na heagla, mar a dhéanadh Buffaí ar an dtéilifís?

Ach is cuma. Tá deireadh ré tagtha ar sacar idirnáisiúnta in Éirinn, agus ní fhios cathain a mbeidh a leithid arís againn. Is ait an cluiche é, an sacar. 'Sé an cluiche is coitianta ar fud an domhan, ach an bhfuil sé coitianta toisc go bhfuil sé go maith, nó an bhfuil sé coitianta toisc go bhfuil sé comh h-easca a h-imirt agus a h-eagrú? B'fhéidir go bhfuil an thréith is spéisiúil a bhainneann leis an sacar - go bhfuil dífríocht mhór, uaireanta, idir an imirt agus an scór - an rud is coitianta agus an rud is damanta leis. Cé comh dona atá tú, déanann Dia meangadh gaire uaireanta agus is féidir leat cluiche a ghoideadh nuair ba cheat duit dul faoin bhfód agus seacht nó h-ocht gcúl tugtha suas agat.

Tá suim mhór ag seoiníní ins an sacar i gcónaí, toisc gurbh é an cluiche is coitianta ar an "mórthír." Ach is cuma leis an Spailpín Fánach leis na seoiníní - más bhreá leo iadsan a cheapadh mar Éireannaigh toisc go bhfuil geansaí foirne Albánaigh ar a ndrómanna, ar aghaidh leo. Tá spéis ag an Spailpín ina múintir féin, muintir na tuaithe, muintir na hÉireann, agus an tionchar atá ag an sacar orainn.

Ó laethanta m'óige, ba thréith neamhspleachais í an súim ins an sacar. Feach ar na cuimhní bhreá a scríobh John Waters faoi laethanta a óige ins an Irish Times cúpla bhlian ó shin, agus an páirt a bhí ag an sacar ina aithne agus aithne a gcairde:

"This distance, the topography of my youth, is distinguished not by hills or rivers but by three interconnecting phenomena: soccer, cars and rock 'n' roll. The connection was that all three represented windows facing onto the possibility of escape. All three came replete with heroes - George Best, James Hunt, Rory Gallagher - and enabled the environs of Roscommon to be reconstructed into a fantasy location that might have been anywhere. But their centrality in our lives bespoke, ultimately, a desire to leave Roscommon behind. In a sense, we lived not in Roscommon at all but in the shadow of Old Trafford, within earshot of Silverstone, down the road from Woodstock, by the side of a clear crystal fountain, in the field where the wild flowers grow. Tostao. Rivelino. Jairzinho. Waters. Pelé."

Fad agus a bhí an liathróid ag a chos, níorbh é buachaill tuaithe an tUisceach ach an oiread, a thón ag teacht amach óna bhríste agus an bád Shanasa i ndán dó. Ba fhearr den chéad scoth é - peileadóir oilte agus an domhan faoi smacht a bhinnchos chlé.

Do bhain blás an fhinscéil leis an sacar liomsa agus le mo ghluinnse le fada. Ba iad foireann Brasáile í 1982, foireann Zico agus Socrates, a chur an ruaig ar an bparóiteachas dúinn. Agus túsa i do shuí no i do luí os comhair na téilifíse ag feachaint ar imirt bhreá Brasáile agus a leiní gheala buí orthu, bhí fios agat cad í draoícht agus go raibh tú faoi gheasa cheart.

Agus ceithre bliana ina dhiaidh Comórtas an Dhomhain sin, tháining Sasanach anseo a d'éirigh níos Éireannachaí ná na hÉireannaigh féin, Sasanach a chonaic spiorad tróda na hÉireannach agus a chuir faoi smacht é ar son an fhoireann sacair náisiúnta. Níor thaitín feallsúnacht sacair Jack Mhóir le cach - shíltear, i gceantar tráidisiúnta an sacair, go raibh a stíl rógharbh, gurbh cheart don bhfoireann an cluiche a h-imirt níos galanta ná an liathróid a bhuailleadh go tromchosach agus na imreoirí a rith ar a tóir mar fir as meabhar. Is cuma - bhíodh daoine ag feachaint síos a sróna ag pobal na hÉireann ó aimsir Strongbow, agus cad dífríocht a dheanfadh cúpla cinn eile? Fad a bhuadh an fhoireann, ba chuma leis an náisiún cad a shílfeá fúinn.

Tagann deireann ar gach ré, agus nuair a chuaigh Jack Mór ar ais go Shasana, d'éirigh a chaptaen, Mick McCarthy, ina bhainisteoir. Bhí an ghluin óir Poblachta na hÉireann - Moran, McGrath, Whelan, Aldridge, laochra go leir - ag éirí níos sine, agus ní raibh a leithid ag teacht suas ón ghluinn seo chugainn. Ach bhí seod amháin ag McCarthy ag deireadh an Fichú hAois, agus ba é sin Roy Keane, peileadóir nár chonacthas ríamh, agus nach bhfeicfear, is docha. Agus gach rud a titim isteach os comhair é, chuireadh Roy Keane an seó go leir suas ar a mhullain agus thóg sé iad chuig Comórtas an Domhain i Seapáin agus an Chóiré Thuas. Bhí scéal McCarthy ag an gComórtas sin cosuil le scéal Othello agus Desdemona - chaill an Ceartach péarla níos fearr na a threibh go leir, agus an bainisteoracht fréisin cúpla mí ina dhiaidh. Ba é Roy Keane an t-aon Éireannach amháin ag an gComórtas gur shil go raibh buaint Craoibhe an Dhomhain níos tabhachtaí ná laethanta fada ar an drábhlas ar oilean Saipan, agus mar sin, cuireadh abhaile é.

Tar éís an tubáíste ag Comórtas an Dhomhain, chuir an FAI a bhfear féin ina bhainisteoir foirne sacair na hÉireann. Tar éis ré Jack agus Mick McCarthy, ba chosuil le tús nua í bainisteoreacht Brian Kerr ach níorbh í - bhí sacar idirnáisiúnta tagtha arís ins an áit a bhí sé sular tháinig Jack Charlton agus aimsir tabhartha na lashanna. Fear áitiúl, Éireannach le grá mór ar an sacar, ach fear beagán neamhchleachta ar an tArdán Mór is ea Brian Kerr. Mar cé hé Brian Kerr ach Eoin Hand níos óige? Cé hé Damien Duff ach Steve Heighway a thiteann níos minic?

Tá nios mó foghlaimthe ag mo ghluin anois ná mar a bhí in aimsir Zico, Dexy's Midnight Runners agus Superman a Dó. B'fhéidir gurbh é an aois, ach níl laochra cosuil le Paolo Rossi nó Zico nó Michel Platini ag imirt faoi láthair. B'fhéidir go bhfuil Michael Ballack agus Ronaldinho comh tabhachtach don lucht óige anois agus a bhíodh Zico dúinn ag an am. Ach nílim cinnte; pé scéal é, ní dóigh liom go bhfuil an sacar idirnáisiúnta comh tabhachtach leis na h-imreoirí faoi láthair agus a bhíodh le Zico agus Socrates. Is fir saibhre iad go leir anois; cén fáth go mbrisfidís cos ar són a dtíortha agus pótaí mhóra airgid le bailliú anois ar ais ag Manchester United nó Real Madrid? 'Sé an t-ocras an anlann is fearr, agus níor chaith imeoir sacair lá gan dínnéar le fada. Agus ní chaithfidh, mo thrua dó.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Coisc Curtha ar an Spailpín Fánach Amach ins an tSín

An Cathaoirleach MaoIs bróduil an lá é seo don Spailpín Fánach agus don suíomh idirlíon seo. Fuaireasa amach ó mo dhuine san Oirtear, mo Mharcó Póló más maith libh, go bhfuil coisc curtha ag Rialtas na Síne ar an suíomh seo, Is cuma má tá tú i Beijing i measc na huaisle nó i lár na tire i Xian i measc na gnáthphobal, ní féidir leat smaointe breá an Spailpín a léamh seachas bheith i dtróblóid le gardaí síochána na Síne.

Agus cén fáth? Is annamh go critheann uaisle na gCommanach na Síne gach uair a léiann siad tuairimí laidre an Spailpín ar cheisteanna móra an lae - cén fáth nár imir Austin O'Malley ar fhoireann Mhaigh Eo sular an samhradh seo, agus mar sin de. Sin é ba chuis de - nó b'fhéidir nach bhféidir cuairt a thabairt don suíomh seo agus tú thar saile sa tSín mar tá na hamadáin céanna ag na Síneach mar sáreolaithe ríomhaire mar atá againne anseo in Éirinn ins an Roinne Sláinte. Tá blás na fírinne ar an dtuairim sin freisin, sílim.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I Don't "Believe" It

The gap between the Irish Times and the Plain People of Ireland appears to be yawning into a chasm by the hour. The Times started out as the paper of the Ascendency, but in latter years it has been seen, as certainly liked to project itself, as the paper of the educated middle classes, the drivers of the Celtic Tiger. However, there are always little tell-tale traces in there that show that the Irish Times knows about as much about what goes on outside certain postal addresses in south Dublin as the Irish Civil Service knows about fiscal responsibility.

This is most prevalent in the Times' GAA coverage, of course. What could be more alien to the Times that "bogball," and the lurchers that follow it? A friend of An Spailpín Fánach takes a certain bitter glee in taking note of the false notes of the Irish Times' GAA coverage - referring to a team as a "XV," for instance; using "AN Other" instead of "Duine Eile" if a position on the team has yet to be filled as they wait on recovery from injury.

The lip of that great Gael will curl with extra venom as he scans the sports pages over his porridge this morning. The sports pages of this morning's IT announce that the new manager of the Limerick football team is "Mick 'Ned' O'Sullivan."

Well I'll "be" damned. How does this sort of thing get past the subs? An Spailpín Fánach can only guess that when Ms. Mulcahy was writing her infamous "People We All Know" column in that awful Saturday magazine that anyone with a double name, so common in the country, is below the salt in the Irish Times' world. And then there was Eileen Battersby's hilarious account last week of her visit to the Ballinasloe Horse Fair, and the goings-on that she saw there. What on Earth did she expect? Something out of Jane Austen?

The Mick "Ned" thing has me baffled. I read often about what a GAA guru Big Tom Humphries is on D'Olier St - could he not take them aside and explain that the "Ned" is not a nickname, but Mickey's father's name, put in Mickey's name to distinguish him for other Mickey O'Sullivans in the locale? Or does the Irish Times even care?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Nooo! Not the Smurfs!

Hell unleashed on the Smurfs, of all peopleUnicef, the United Nations' children's charity, is running an ad campaign to alert the Belgians to the plight of child soldiers in Burundi and hellholes like that. Only thing is, the Belgians realise that having Belgium's answer to Fintan O'Toole emoting for thirty seconds on the correct response to war on primetime TV won't amount to a hill of beans. So, in order to show just what war can do, they've gone and wiped out the Smurfs.

They've raised the Smurf village to the ground. The ads start off with the normal Smurf music, which is instantly recognisable, and then you hear the drone of the bombs dropping from the azure vault. Kaboom. The only survivor is Baby Smurf, wailing his head off, while the rest of the Smurfs are, in Shakespeare's words, quartered at the hand of war.

The ad can only be shown after the watershed in Belgium, and rightly so. It was shown as a news item on Belgian TV news, and any kiddies that saw it by accident are now in severe emotional trauma. Go and a have a look if you think you're hard enough, but I have to warn you - you'll need to listen to a lot of Katrina and the Waves to cheer yourself up after it.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Ár gCáca Againne agus É á Ithe

Ceist mór an lae á phlé ag An Spailpín Fánach
Is breá leis an An Spailpín Fánach, tar éis lá fada oibre, a scith a ligeadh i gcomhluadar a gcarad, piontaí dubha phórtáir in ár lámha, agus cursaí an tsaoil á phlé againne. Tar éis an plé fada feallsúnachta seo, sílim go bhfuil dhá rud ag cur isteacht ar phobal na hÉireann, nó an chuid phobail atá cosuil le cairde An Spailpín Fánach. Uaireanta cuireann cursaí eile isteach orthu, Uachtatán na Stait Aontaithe agus a ghníomha, mar shampla, nó rud eigin thar saile mar shin, ach de gnáth, nuair atá duine againn bréan den tsaoil, is é ceann amháin nó ceann eile den dhá rud seo atá taobh thiar de.

Rud a hAon: Tá an saol agus an saothar ró-chrúa againn sa lá atá inniu ann. Táimid go leir ag obair ró-dhian, tugaimid an iomarcha aimsire sa ghluaistean ag dul go dtí an oifig nó ag dul abhaile, agus nuair a buailimid abhaile, táimid go leir ró-thuairseach chun rud éigin a dhéanamh seachas feachaint ar chac ar an dtéilifís agus dul suas a chodladh. Cad a tharla don saol a bhí ag ár dtuismitheoirí, nuair ab fhéidir leo sugradh lena bpáistí nuair a shroicheadar abhaile tráthnóna? Cén fáth go bhfuilimid ag obair comh crua nuair nach bhféidir linn caighdean tsaoil cheart ghabail dúinn?

Rud a Dhó: Cén fáth nach bhfuil duine dá laghad in ann buile oibre amháin a dhéanamh, seachas bheith ag rith chuig an gceardchumann, a lámh amach agus níos mó airgid á lorg aige? Bhíos thíos ag siopadóireacht i Liffey Valley Dé Domnaigh agus thug mé cúig nóiméad is fiche - CÚIG NÓIMÉAD IS FICHE! - ag cíuáil le roinnt amadán eile, ag tnúth le rud éigin a cheannach ins an siopa breá nua-aosach den Chéad Aois is Fiche seo! Cá raibh na freastáilí? Ní mhaith leo bheith ag obair, sin é a bhfadhb. Fagaim le huacht, más gá dóibh imeacht ar an long uaigneach chuig Shasana agus an píc agus an sluaiséad a crothú acu ó chéad solas na maidine go titim dubh na h-oíche, beidh siad buiochach go leor bheith ag obair í siopa breá seo. Tá an cheart ag Mícheál Ó Learaí agus Ryanair - sin é mo dhuine. 'Sé an Learach ab fhearr duinn bheith ina Thaoiseach ná hÉireann, in aonad na hasail a raibh againne sula seo. Ó, cinnte - 'sé an Learach mo laoch!

'Sé an feallsúnóir cliste a fheicfeadh an bealach caol caoin idir an dhá scoil tsaoil seo, sílim. I bhfád níos cliste ná haon Spailpín Fánach, faraoir.

On the Session with the Department of Health

A civil servant, yesterdayOpposition leader Enda Kenny makes front page news in today's Irish Independent with the shock-horror revelation that the Department of Health - you know, those bucks that close down the hospital wards and have superbugs running about in the ones they keep open? - spent €40,000 on the session in Sligo to celebrate the installation of a computer system that doesn't work.

To which your humble Spailpín Fánach can only reply well Jesus, Inda, what else is new? All Government Departments spend money like sailors on shore leave after a three year voyage. They shoot that stuff out the door - or across the counter, depending on the time of day. Ask anyone that's involved in private industry what it's like to work with a civil service or semi-state body. The reaction will range from the cynical laugh, like Bogart in High Sierra, the nervous palsy brought on by extreme trauma, or the hysterical weeping of one who has seen and suffered too much, too young. Think of Farmer Oak in Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd when he sees his flock of sheep driven over the cliff-face by the world's most stupid sheepdog and you get a fairly good idea of what it's like to deal with these apes.

So where's Eddie Hobbs when you need him? The popular demagogue (pardon my tautology) is nowhere to be seen on this one, for the same reason that there are two hopes - Bob Hope and his brother, No - of any Government ever doing anything about the criminal waste of the country's money by sheer and willful incompetance in the civil service. It's the same reason that both Napolean Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler failed to invade Russia - there are just too many of the hoors.

This country is rife with people who are on the public purse. It's like Soviet Russia only without the space program, classical music, gulags and chess grand masters. If any politican or political party gets up on his hind legs to denounce muppetry and waste in the public service, and pledges to eradicate it, that means he's asking this great big chunk of the population to vote for the end of their job security and to ensure their heads get wrecked at work from now on until it's Gold Watch time. And no turkey is ever going to vote for Christmas. No wonder we're a nation of alcoholics - the ordinary tax-paying Joe is driven to drink by despair as a temporary release from the insanity of it all, and the boys in the Department of Health, according to Inda, are getting it all bought for them! God help us all.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

International Fools' Football

Strewth - it looks like a bit of a blue!The GAA media is all atwitter at the prospect of the upcoming "International Rules" series between Ireland and Australia. And why wouldn't they be? If An Spailpín Fánach was on his way off to Australia for three solid weeks of beer, birds and barbies, his frown would turn upside down too. But if you're some sort of innocent that wants to see Gaelic Games prosper and thrive, then you have to realise that sponsoring debauched junkets to Australia isn't going to cut it.

The official selling point of the "International Rules" series is that it offers our players a chance to play our games at the highest level, and to wear the dear old Green of Mother Ireland, that emerald gem of the Western World, for so long set in the crown of a stranger, and now taking her place among the nations of the Earth. A really good GAAman will get teary-eyed reciting all this, eventually leaving you with the conclusion that the reason we play "International Rules" is because Patrick Sarsfield would wish it, aye, and Wolfe Tone too.

That the boys are only going on the Three B Bender beyond in Oz, a hemisphere away from the trouble the strife, is only something an anti-national bowsie would think - an anti-national bowsie who's about to lose his press privileges too, young sonny Jim, so just shut your big mouth and get on-message.

The reason the Aussies play their part in the farce is even more cynical.

The Australian game lasts for two hours, and it's played at a pace and in a manner best described as rambunctious - that is to say, it's unusually violent. That means in turn, of course, that a footy season is rather heavy on the livestock, and they Aussies need new recruits. So why not pick 'em from Ireland? Bring over a few young lads, show them the bright lights of the big city, then show them a good big cheque. And if they die in service, send the remains home draped in the proud old colours of Hawthorn, sponsored by HSBC Bank, Mitsubishi Motors and Foster's, the Australian for beer.

In the 'eighties, when all Spailpíní were young, the visiting Australians had a certain glamour. There was the bearded Dipper, who was big, and the long-haired John Platten, who was small. Then the games began, the pucks landed home, and we realised the Aussies were more Irish than the Irish themselves. But that was then, this is now. There was still a certain innocence in 1984 in Ireland, but right now we do the hard sell as hard as any Yankee.

And I'm sick of it. I've sick of reading a lot of bollix in the papers about pride in the jersey of a game that no-one plays. And I'm sick most of all that Aussies are sleep-walking through the whole thing. The best Australia players couldn't bother their arse going through the motions for a bunch of Micks on the beer in Brisbane, and playing a little footie in between times. If they did, they'd do more bitching about the round ball. If they did, their best players would play, which they don't.

We're only fooling ourselves. At the end of this month, the Railway Cup, once the St Patrick's Day jewel of the GAA, will be played, and no-one will notice. Once it was ne plus ultra of Gaelic sports, where giants like Ring and Mick O'Connell played at the highest level of hurling and football, alongside men who, through being born in the wrong place or at the wrong time, never got the chance to play at the highest level but who used to make the most of their chance in the Railway Cup on St Patrick's Day. Men who were better served by the Railway Cup than by Seán Kelly's insulting and patronising Ring, Rackard and Murphy Cups.

If you still think the "International Rules" series worthwhile, can I ask one question, asked by Mickey Harte, now the series' biggest opponent (his ire fired by the Aussies' attempted poaching of Seán Cavanagh, no doubt): if the "International Rules" series of games were played in Scunthorpe and Manchester instead of Sydney and Melbourne, do you really think anyone would give a XXXX about pride in the jersey and Ireland's honour? No; neither do I. End this farce now.