Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kate Upton is Making a Terrible Mistake

You always leave the toilet seat down. You leave the bins out every Monday evening, without fail. You go easy on the porter, drink wine and even let on that you like the filthy stuff. But when you’re told that it’s time to shave your body hair, it’s time to man up and put the foot down.

Not even if it’s Kate Upton herself who’s doing the asking. If La Upton isn’t the most perfect woman on the planet, she’s close enough to that magical mark to make no practical difference. Kate Upton is a woman so beautiful she makes a man want to write ballades of courtly love, howl like a dog on the street and twist his own head off and kick it down the street, all at the same time.

But when Kate says, as she says in the ad above, that she doesn’t like hair on gentlemen’s backs, it’s time to put a loving arm around her shoulder, bend to her shell-like ear, and say “Kate, a stór, you’re just going to have to grin and bear it.”

Grooming is important in a gentleman. A man should look smart, and shouldn’t smell like he’s been sleeping in a shed with some goats, or fell into a brewery on his way to work. And if he’s working in Dáil Éireann as an elected representative of the people, he should damn well wear a suit. On €92k a year, he can afford it.

But there’s only so much grooming a man can do and remain a man. Conditioner in hair isn’t a great sign. Hair, in the first place, isn’t great either, if we’re going to be honest. Anyone who saw Leinster rugby star Ian Madigan’s remarkable mop on Friday night will be in full agreement on this point.

Skin creams, gels and otherwise unguents: no. Grand for the ladies. Not for the gents, except as an emergency measure to quieten a squeaky hinge because you’ve run out of WD-40.

And now here’s Kate Upton, handing you some sort of device and telling you to get busy on the back if there are to be any smoochies later on. Well, dream on Katie. Men ought to look like John Wayne, talk like Orson Welles and drink like Richard Burton. None of those boys shaved their backs.

Do you think Brian O’Driscoll hands Paul O’Connell an electronic razor before going out to play England and says he’ll shave Paulie if Paulie shaves him? I don’t think so. The two boys break a few bricks off each other’s heads for sport and away they go.

The only time back shaving is remotely acceptable for a man is if he’s in the barbershop and the barber notices that his customer’s back hair has grown to sufficient luxuriance to peek up above the shirt collar. This creates a jarring effect for the people behind the customer – at Mass, say, or in McHale Park – and as such the conscientious barber is within his or her rights to tug back the shirt and give it a once-over. But anything more extensive is nonsense.

A hairy back is a sign of breeding, masculinity, temperance, good humour and stamina. It is also a tremendous way of making a little money, if one is sufficiently hirsute. Your correspondent has never seen it done, but a friend of a friend used to make pocket money by entering different bars with a friend of his and betting the patrons that no gentleman in the bar had more hair on his chest than the friend had on his back.

It’s a classic sucker bet. People know that the guy laying the odds must know how hairy his friend’s back is, but can’t believe any back could be hairier than a particularly hairy chest. Therefore, they convince themselves that they’ve outsmarted the catch and a group of hairy chested but badly advised men line up.

And then the friend takes off his shirt, turns around and displays a back so covered in hair it looks like the top of his head, only flatter. Razor? A scythe wouldn’t cut through it.

It’s not the sort of thing that would work in a Big Jessies’ boozer like The Market Bar or one of those joints on Dawson Street, but there’s big money to be made in the Barn House and joints like that. If Kate Upton doesn’t like it, that’s her loss. But when that poor misguided woman hooks up with some boy who’s almost as pretty as she is and goes into the bathroom some morning and finds out he’s used up all her face cream – again – all we can say is it’ll be her loss.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Have We Learned Anything in the Past Five Years?

Des Geraghty, late of the Workers’ Party, Democratic Left and SIPTU, said something in passing when reviewing the papers on The Week inPolitics yesterday that should have made the nation stop and take notice. Presenter Seán O’Rourke asked Des about Cyprus. Des replied that “unfortunately for Cyprus, it’s the latest part in the on-running saga about the Eurozone. The crisis seems to shift from country apart from our own.”

Apart from our own. At the start of the Eurozone Crisis, which itself is a subset of of the worldwide Great Recession, Ireland was identified as one of the countries most at risk of economic collapse, the so-called PIIGS – Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain (it’s only last week that anyone outside of either Cyprus or Greece found out that Cyprus was even part of the Eurozone, of course). If the crisis is, as Geraghty says, shifting from country to country apart from our own, does that mean that our country might have – gasp – done something right? Might have weathered the storm? Might yet take her place among the nations of the Earth?

You would think, after the long hard years of austerity and Morgan Kelly prophecies and IMFs and Troikas and the rest of it that there would be some sort of national holiday declared. That the Taoiseach would address the nation with this happy news, that the nation is at safe harbour once again.

Of course, a reason not to do that would be that Ireland may not be in safe harbour at all. So much unexpected doom has descended from clear blue skies in the past five years that the Taoiseach would be forgiven for taking nothing for granted. But that said, Cyprus has been an object lesson in what happens when you try to bluff the financial world’s royal flush with your miserable pair of fives. You get whomped, and whomped good.

And how could it be any other way? People talk about right and wrong in these things. There is no right or wrong in financial markets. There is only capital – who’s got it, and who wants it. Nothing else.

The government, both this one and the last one, recognised that from the start and got with the program. That is why you’re reading this at your leisure now, rather than queuing at an ATM for your daily ration of what was once your own money.

The tragedy for the nation is that the nation doesn’t know this. As far as the nation is concerned, Angela Merkel is the worst oul' wagon since Maggie Thatcher, we’re all slaves to Europe and musha, I don’t know what we’re going to do at all.

There is a fundamental disconnect with how politics is conducted in this country and how its perceived by the electorate – the people who mandate the politicians to conduct the politics in the first place. We elect politicians to fix drains and get harangue low grade and underpaid civil servants to get pensions for people who don’t deserve them. When it comes to global economic catastrophe, having one over on a county manager somewhere doesn’t really cut it.

This week sees the Meath East by-election, where the favourite to be elected is the twenty-six year old daughter of the man who’s tragic death caused the by-election in the first place. She is surely doing her duty by her lights, but it’s a lot to ask of anyone who’s been through that trauma to just step up like nothing happened. Meanwhile, the other candidates are usual suspects, with the exception of a Captain Birds-Eye lookalike who makes Mick Wallace look like Pericles of Athens.

After the crash we were told things would never be the same again. Things are exactly the same again. The world has changed. Ireland has gone through the valley of darkness and come out the other side, but the people haven’t really noticed. And two years on from the Moriarty Tribunal, it’s very much business as usual behind the closed doors of Irish public life.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Those St Patrick's Day Government Drinking Arrangements in Full

A source close to the Government has reacted with shock, horror, outrage and disgust at the suggestion that it was good times all around for St Patrick’s Day as the cabinet jetted all around the world to drink Irish porter on foreign soil. The junkets seem especially excessive in the light of the program of austerity currently being implemented by the Government. Is there not a certain irony in the cabinet fiddling while Ireland burns?

The very suggestion was hotly denied by the source close to Government, who responded to a series of questions from the assembled media. Asked if the nation should buy shares in the Molson Brewing Company on the basis that the Minister for Keeping the Best Foot Forward was going to lorry back a small sea of Bass during his St Patrick’s Day trip to London, the source hotly retorted that the very suggestion was a sentiment held only by corner-boys and anti-national interests.

The Minister for Keeping the Best Foot Forward was going to London by ferry to Holyhead and then by bus to the great city. Once arriving in London he was going to sign on straight-away, as every penny counts when you’re working for Ireland.

If, from time to time during the execution of his offices, the Minister’s hosts thought to offer him a libation, it would be just as rude for him to refuse as it would have been for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II to ask President McAleese why she didn’t put down more spuds for that dinner in Dublin Castle. This was something the Minister himself wondered at the time, and often meant to bring it up with the former President before her own recent run for the Papacy, the source pointedly added.

The source condemned as a “dirty lie” propagated by “bowsies and communists” a rumour, persistent in Dublin media circles for a number of days, that the Minister for Belt-Tightening has arranged to have his tab temporary transferred from Kehoe’s of South Anne Street to O’Donoghue’s of 156 W 44th Street, New York City, for the duration of his visit to New York.

The source told the assembled media that the Minister for Belt-Tightening is a gentleman and a patriot, a man who has done more for his country than a lot of people the source could mention, and is now sacrificing himself once more on the mean streets of Gotham that Ireland might take her place among the nations of the Earth.

The source didn’t expect the “gentlemen of the press” to know it, as if any of them were to even think about going onto American soil they’d be wearing the orange jammies beyond in Guantanemo before you could say Jack Robinson, being a notorious pack of ne’er-do-wells and good-for-nothings, but the New York St Patrick’s Day Parade starts at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 44th Street, a five minute stroll from O’Donoghue’s.

If the Minister were to entertain prominent businessmen and members of the Irish-American community, each more eager than the last to invest in the dear little island of green, wasn’t a house near the start of the parade only ideal? No, he didn’t know how Kehoe’s got dragged into it. No, he did not know who ran a tab in there. The source expected that, if anyone had a tab in Kehoe’s, it would be the gentlemen of the press but then, what sensible landlord would ever trust the likes of them to pay it?

The media quizzed the source close to the Government on plans for a trip to Doha. The source smiled widely and spread his hands, like the pope at the balcony of St Peter’s. “Lads,” he said, “what can I tell you about Doha? We’ll be staying the hell away. The flesh is thrilling but the spirits are weak.”

The thaw quickly melted at the bon mot. He was always a gas ticket, the journalists nodded knowingly at each other. The source glanced at his watch, and looked up at the media. “Palace?” he asked. “Palace!” they all chorused happily, and made their way to Fleet Street, arm-in-arm, contented and happy.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mayo Are Better Than People Think

Sources in the Eternal City indicate that among the first things the new pope will do is lift the Lenten obligation from the people of County Mayo, Ireland. It seems that agonizing over the League performances of the Mayo football team is a far greater penance than giving up the sweets, the smokes or the sauce combined.

Years of disappointment have warped Mayo football people’s ability to see the game steadily and to see the game whole. Mayo fans focus on all the opponents’ strengths, and all of Mayo’s weaknesses. There is never balance.

For instance, when Tyrone beat Mayo a few weeks ago in Castlebar there was general distress that Mayo were behind the times when it came to dealing with the blanket defence of the modern game. No reckoning was made of the fact that Tyrone’s own blanket, while all-enveloping in its pomp, has been somewhat threadbare in recent years.

Dublin are not easy to beat in Dublin. Fourteen men often beat fifteen in Gaelic football. Mayo were unlucky on Saturday night in Newry, but sometimes that happens. It doesn’t mean the sky is going to fall.

James Horan has sustained a certain amount of criticism for not making correct tactical switches to win games. This assumes that Horan’s chief priority is to win these games, which is not necessarily correct.

One thing we did learn after last summer was that Mayo may be one or two players short of an All-Ireland team. Horan’s job in the League is to find those one or two players and find out how they combine with the automatic selections, and he’s only got seven games to do that.

Seven games isn’t enough to run through all his permutations and, if Horan chooses to start someone and it’s not working out, Horan has to give the debutant time. If Horan starts a man and then calls him ashore after twenty minutes or a half, how does he then repair that man’s confidence and show him that Horan trusts him to do a job if he’s called on to do it later in the year?

These are what Horan has to think about. Ideally, the team wins as well. That’s ideal for two reasons. Firstly and most obviously, winning makes everybody feel better. There is no game worth playing that is not worth winning. Secondly, it’d be nice to stay in Division 1 of the National Football League.

However, Horan is surely thinking that winning is secondary to looking at players. Horan’s critics say that he isn’t looking at enough, and certainly he’s not ringing the changes that he rung during his first year in charge. But he doesn’t have to – he’s clearly happy in most positions, or as happy as the manager of the Mayo senior football team can ever be. It’s only those missing few that he’s hunting down, and how to combine them. Sufficient wins should add up to keep Mayo from the drop, and if they don’t, they don’t.

The short nature of the National Football League makes it something of a lottery. Mayo went into their last game last year looking at the drop and ended up in the playoffs instead. This means the League isn’t a true contest. It’s a lottery, a coin toss. It has no worthwhile meaning.

The people of Mayo, before rending their garments and setting their hair on fire in distress, should first conduct a thought experiment. Instead of looking at the team as the Mayo team, look at them at Meath, in the old Kepak golden-grid jerseys. Take away the agony of those lost All-Irelands, and replace it with the Team Who Were Never Bet. What do you see?

Well, you see a fullback in Ger Cafferkey who has grown into his craft to such an extent that extra-curricular impacts are necessary to put a stop to his gallop. You see a midfielder in Aidan O’Shea who may be the best in the country come the summer. Barry Moran beside him isn’t far off, and it was hard not to cheer when Moran made those barging runs into the Down defence on Saturday night.

In fact, those runs by Barry Moran may have excited the imagination to wonder what a Mayo full-forward line of Doherty, B Moran and Conroy – the very blueprint of a Mayo footballer – might do. A lot of the Mayo forward question depends on Andy Moran, of course, and what he can do when or if he returns, but in the meantime, the pieces are there. If the ball can stick inside, Doherty and Conroy can rattle up the scores and then where will we be?

Mayo stormed through the League in the first and last years of Johnno’s Second Coming and a lot of good it did them. This year, eleven weeks until hostilities commence in Salthill, Mayo are doing just fine, thank you.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

They Are Spartacus - Where to Now for Off the Ball?

The Off the Ball team seem to have had an “I am Spartacus” moment. Resignations are rare in Ireland, not least when it’s so very hard to get another job. Principles don’t pay the rent or put food on the table.

For a mass resignation like that of Eoin McDevitt, Ciarán Murphy, Ken Early, Simon Hick and Mark Horgan (MMEHH from here on in) to happen is either an inspirational show of solidarity, or else a mad moment of hubris that the people involved may live to bitterly regret.

The fans of Off the Ball, and they are legion, will hope it’s the former. Off the Ball was like no other sports show on radio. That said, the path ahead is difficult for MMEHH  - Ger Gilroy kept the show on the road last night and paid the missing members a lovely tribute. And then Gilroy did what a good pro does, and got on with business as usual. If they were listening, did a cool chill run through MMEHH’s bones as they realised just how easily business can go on as usual?

The big plus for MMEHH is that thing called chemistry. Nobody knows what creates it or destroys it. We only know it when it’s there.

Chemistry was present in spades on Off the Ball. The diverse mix of the MMEHH presenters complemented each other perfectly, for no reason other than the fact they just did. But once that spell is broken, neither all the king’s horses nor all the king’s men can ever put it back together again.

Just last week, the BBC arts show, The Review Show, was moved from BBC2 to BBC Four and will now broadcast monthly, instead of weekly. When it started twenty years ago The Review Show, then know as Late Review, was essential watching.  Panelist Tom Paulin represented the highbrows, Tony Parsons the low and Alison Pearson the reasonable middle. The debat was chaired by Mark Lawson, and it was perfect.

And then the team split up and it was never the same. The BBC moved different people in and out, but they could never bottle lightning again. Newstalk are currently emphasising the fact that Ger Gilroy is the man who invented the Off the Ball format in the first place, but everybody knows there’s a void there, and it’s a void that will be hard to fill.

For MMEHH, there is a question of where do they go from here. In Newstalk’s worst-case scenario, a deal has already been made with a competitor and there will now be a battle royal between the official and continuity Off the Balls. This will be about who gets the regular contributors – will they stay loyal to the brand or the boys?

Newstalk is not a station that makes money but it is powerful because of its ownership. If MMEHH thought that the contributors would prioritize personal over professional relationships, they could be in for something of a rude awakening.

There also the issue that media organisations tend to hire singly, rather than a group. If MMEHH hope to replicate the format intact on some other station, there is then the question of exactly which media organisation will sign up for that. Bear in mind it’ll be broadcasting against the Newstalk Off the Ball, which will sounds very, very familiar to MMEHH version. A Continuity Off the Ball will require listeners tracking them down by moving the dial, something that Irish radio listeners are surprisingly reluctant to do.

There is also the fact that there aren’t many stations that could broadcast the show. Newstalk, Today FM and Dublin 98 are all owned by the same entity. Will this resignation be held against MMEHH by Newstalk’s sister companies?

What about RTÉ? Tweeters are clamouring for Off the Ball’s appearance on the national broadcaster but, amidst all this speculation, your correspondent will lay you Carnaby Street against a China lemon that there is no way on God’s green Earth that RTÉ sport will throw open their arms to welcome the smart arses who’ve been laughing at them for years. Life’s not like that.

There is also the question of what happens when individual approaches are made. Does a man hold out with his comrades or does he think he’d really like to pay the mortgage this month?

In a time of clouded media ethics we can only admire a resignation that’s been made on principle. But we also only have to look at how effortlessly Savage Sunday replaced Sam Smyth’s show on Today FM to find out that Irish media is not a sentimental business.

We won’t know until we hear their side of the story, but MMEHH’s own personal situation is precarious in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately industry. Off the Ball as we knew it could never have gone on forever but nobody could have expected its end to be so sudden. The best of luck to Eoin, Ciarán, Ken, Simon and Mark in their future careers. They made housework painless for a generation of men, and there are very few things that can achieve that miracle.