Monday, May 21, 2007

Pure Pop For Now People Strikes Again

Came across these guys. They have a new album out today. They're from Wakefield. That's in Yorkshire. I think I can find it in myself to forgive them.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Electoral Alzheimer's Strikes Ahern

It's a sad fact that the tragedy that is Alzheimer's disease can strike anyone at any time. The tell-tale signs can be quite subtle at first; the odd lapse of memory, the misplaced fact, the small failure to distinguish fantasy from reality.

Not even high ranking cabinet ministers are exempt from its toll, a fact which emerged today in an interview of sorts with incumbent Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern on BBC Radio 4's World at One today.

The programme was covering the progress of the Sinn Fein electoral campaign in the Republic and raised the important question of electoral pacts and alliances. If push came to shove, would either of the major parties consider taking Sinn Fein on board as a possible coalition partner if it meant keeping a hand on the tiller of the ship of state after May 24th?

Speaking for Fianna Fail, the 'other' Republican party, Dermot left the BBC interviewer in no doubt about his party's position by uttering the Louth equivalent of General de Gaulle's famous keep the-Brits-out-of-Europe 'Non!'.

When pressed for an explanation of his firm rejection of a potential alliance with the Shinners, our Dermot cited Bairbre de Brun's activities as Health Minister in the North during the last short period of devolved government up above there. 'We wouldn't be going into a coalition with a party that closes down hospitals,' he said, or words to that effect. When pressed further he repeated his rejection and cited the same grounds as a reason. Forming a coalition with a party that closes hospitals would not be the kind of thing of which Fianna Fail, the other Republic Party either condones or supports.

His firm protestation can only be interpreted as symptoms of some form of degenerative mental condition for two reasons. First, as far as I can discover, de Brun never closed any hospitals down in her brief tenure as Northern Health Minister. There was a decision which she inherited from the Northern Ireland Office on taking up the post regarding the rationalisation of maternity services between the two main Belfast hospitals . Subsequently there was a further report on local health services which recommended the closure of full A&E services in some of the smaller regional hospitals west of the Bann. Again, as far as I could ascertain, any action on her part with regard to this was forestalled by the collapse of devolved government in 2002.

Secondly, I live not 200 metres from Crumlin Children's Hospital which is about to be closed down by Minister Mary Harney of the PDs. These lads, as I recall vaguely, form part of the present governing alliance and come the election may well do so again.In addition, the good people of Monaghan might be very surprised to hear that Fianna Fail would not take kindly to partnering up with a party that closes down regional hospitals given the shenanigans up there the past year.. Only a cynic might suggest that Dermot's emphasis on Sinn Fein's hospital closing proclivities could have something to do with the latter party's success in mobilizing votes around the whole hospital service health care failures of the present regime.

No I prefer the Alzheimer's explanation. It also explains what happened to the issue of Irish neutrality while Dermot's been in the Foreign Affairs chair. He just forgot about it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Carry on Doctor, but leave the Teddy Bears out of it.

While meandering from my house to the shops yesterday I came across the election poster shown on the left. It gave me a fairly nasty turn, I can tell ye without a word of a lie. If only because thinking about poor Ted nearly had me incurring injuries of me own in a clash with a particularly poorly hung Enda Kenny street poster dangling from the next lamp-post along.

Apart from the fact the good lady doctor looks like she's recently lost a pair of ruby slippers and lives in a gingerbread cottage with its own fully fitted, child-sized spit-roast, Teddy Bears in the hands of politicians always induce a profound feeling of nausea in me. It makes me think that some kind of vaguely paedophilic grooming process is about to commence, if it hasn't already.

Be-bandaged Teddy Bears make me feel, if anything, sicker still. I spent a lot of time in hospital as a young child (I know, it shows) and, in a bizarrely Proustian way, the sight of a bandaged bear still conjures up the sounds and smells of a children's surgical ward for me: The tears, the moans and cries and the strange smells of ether, disinfectant and hospital soap (the brown kind that if it got in your eyes would give you a foretaste of purgatory), and that was just the nurses.

But I digress. Back to the politics. Despite the fact that she's standing in the Dublin South Central, the interesting thing about Nanny Og's campaign is that if she's elected, she has no plans whatsoever to save the current children's hospital. What she seems to want, if you can get past the peculiarly clipped and stilted style of her webspeak, is a wholly new edifice somewhere out beside the M50. Great. A new hospital has to be better than a re-jigged Victorian one, but out beyond the M50? Impossible to get to unless you have a car and even then you'd be faster on foot during the day. Is she going to pay for the helicopters to ferry emergencies in? I think not. And anyway, who in their right mind would put a children's hospital in a part of the county where they still eat their young, for God's sake. Think it though, Rosie, think it through!

Given her campaign, the kind witch of the South might at least be excused for throwing in the odd ursine Edward, but what's that man Callely up to in North Dublin?

Having already crossed swords with Standards Authority over sticking his ugly mug over the Operation Noflow traffic posters back in the day, the lad who put the wheels under the Department of Transport has now employed marauding gangs of men disguised as teddies to loiter around the gates of schools on deh Nortside accosting the young ones as they emerge from another stressful day in the murder machine.

One mother Damaris O'Brien, from Killester, expressing her distress at the canvassing of her four year old daughter fresh from junior infants said :
Who the hell are these people in bear suits? I mean you just don't know who people are anymore and you hear all these horror stories about kids.
Indeed you don't, Damaris, indeed you don't. Especially when they've got a big false Teddy head hiding their ugly gobs. But rest assured. Old Ivor didn't get where he is today by just letting anyone pull on a Teddy outfit and go off about the streets scaring the little ones on his behalf. He'll have thought it through like almost every other decision in his political life. Those boys'd be screened and trained to within an inch of their lives, so they would. And other canvassers better watch out too. Try to stop them sticking a Callely No1 sticker on a rising 5 and they'll have you maimed and gutted faster than a grizzly can empty a camp full of Canadian backpackers.

Anyway, I have to get back to my latest job writing election promises for the highest bidder. My latest is to offer a free SSIA with every new hospital bed. Any takers?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

'I have never met a bigger one than Bertie Ahern'

Tony Blair

I assume they're still counting the silverware over beyond at the palace of Westminster after Bertie's visit yesterday. I know I would be.
Balkan Bloc-vote Buggers Boggers

I realise this is a bit late coming (I've been busy, ok?) and much as I hate to say I told you so, (but I did) the tragedy for Irish musical aspirations that was Saturday's Eurovision Song Contest went entirely as predicted. Only a handful of stray Albanian votes saved the nation from the ultimate humiliation of a dreaded 'nul pwonts' result.

In a fit of whatever is the opposite of hubris, John 'I'm the Daddy' Waters tried to offer a sociological explanation for the simultaneous Irish implosion and the success of Serbia.
The central questions gravitate around the cultural implications of the still relatively recent collapse of the Berlin Wall. The taste gap between East and West can be addressed in one of only two ways: radical introversion or a more enthusiastic opening up to the new. I prefer the latter. They can't stop the spring. We can't stop the spring. Who could possibly want to stop the spring?
Well everyone in Europe except the Albanians it would seem. I can think of rather less binary ways of addressing the East-West 'taste gap' and John you're welcome to join me to broaden your analysis down the Czech Inn any night of the week.

In the meantime, Johnny boy, I'll stay out of journalism if you leave sociology to us pros. The only possible implication of the fall of the Berlin wall is that these guys can now enter the competition. The fact that it kept out the kitsch retro-lounge bar sounds of the former Eastern bloc was one of the few good things to be said for old-style Soviet Communism, if you ask me.

Both Terry Wogan on the night (yes, I did watch the voting section of the show) and the Irish Times suggested that the result which left Ireland last and England second last was the product of dodgy bloc voting deals done by the Balkan states. But I think the vote rigging at fault, at least in the case of Ireland was part of a darker design hatched by the denizens of Donnybrook as a means of avoiding the poisoned chalice of another Irish victory. A cunning scheme known to fans of Father Ted as the 'My Lovely Horse Stratagem'

The RTE boys don't like winning the old Eurovision at at all. It costs too much and they'd much rather spend the money on suits, tanning sessions and personal trainers for Ryan and Pat. So since the spate of wins in the 80s and 90s they have adopted an approach to the competition which uses all the guile and cunning with which only a UCD education can equip one.

It starts with the short listing of the songs from which the gullible Irish public has to choose and continues right up to voting on the night. A new refinement was added this year though. When Linda with the lovely tan (although I'm not sure ochre is her colour) announced the Irish votes, the poll actually thrust us into last place by giving votes to Lithuania and the UK. This was not, as the old lady of D'Olier Street suggested, a result of enthusiastic polling by our Eastern European immigrant communities.

Quite the contrary, it was all part of Operation My Lovely Horse 2007. Phoney results submitted to ensure that Dervish would crash and burn and demoralise the nation so severely that we won't care ever again about the old boom-banga-bang fest. Next year's choices will make John Waters and the whirling Dervish's effort seem cutting edge by comparison and My Lovely Horse more than some Norwegian elevator music.

Anyway so, for those of you who've forgotten or those who never saw it in the 1st place, I give you the best Eurovision entry Ireland never had.

A serendipitous postcript : Coming back from Dublin airport late on Monday night I had the remarkable good fortune to be driven home by an Albanian taxi-man whose surname was, I kid you not, Dervish. Oh how we laughed about that one, he and I, until he chucked me out of the cab for taking the piss out of his name.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I shall say this only once....

I guess the City of Manchester must have finally run out of virgins for Alex Ferguson to sacrifice to the great Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies.

Spot the difference:

Liverpool 1 Chelsea 0

AC Milan 3 Manchester Utd 0

Meanwhile on Merseyside the police wish to interview Frank Lampard about the burglary at Jose Reina's house. Apparently no-one can vouch for his whereabouts between 7.45 and 10.15pm on Tuesday night.

Thanks to Football365 for that little gem

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Black skin, brown envelope

A recent report from the the Migration and Citizenship Research Unit above there at UCD condemns the neglect of ethnic minority inclusion shown by the major parties on this island. As its authors note:
..... the integration efforts of Irish political parties are, as of yet, minimal. This is a crucial issue. Politicians are key actors in debates about immigration and integration. They are expected to provide leadership. Yet their own specific institutions, the political parties, remain amongst the least diverse, the least responsive, the least capable of leading by example when it comes to representing the diversity of twenty-first century Irish society. This is unsustainable and potentially dangerous to social cohesion in the long run.
Ever an organisation to grasp an opportunity (not to mention a brown envelope or two), I understand that the Fianna Fáil political machine has immediately swung into action and responded to the challenge of integration and equal opportunities.

Spooky Glockenspiel Music and dissolve to:

Party Headquarters,
Mount St Lower, Dublin 4
where a candidate selection interview is taking place

INTERVIEWER: Top of the morning to you O' Benjamin. Will you take a cup o' tay or a drop of that Nigerian lager I hear is popular amongst you people.

CANDIDATE: Good morning, it's Obenjwe-Amin, actually. Tea would be fine thank you.

INTVR: Sit you down, sit you down. That's a chair over there or you can just squat on the floor if that's more comfortable for you. Sure we'll not stand on ceremony here. So now tell us a bit about yourself. What part of Nigeria are you from?

CAND: I'm not from Nigeria, I'm from Crumlin.

INTVR: Would that be anywhere near Lagos, then? I hear that's a fierce wild place for the old brown envelopes, if you follow my drift.

CAND: No, it's in Dublin, near Drimnagh.

INTVR: Ah, Der-im-in-ah, is it? They're such exotic names you're after having beyond there in Africa. Sure can't I only see the lions and the monkeys up the palm trees and the dusky maidens with the long necks doing the fertility dances. So, how long is it since you left Nigeria, then?

CAND: I told you. I'm not Nigerian.

INTVR: Of course you're not, me darling girl (WINKS THEATRICALLY). Like the last fellah before you wasn't Rumanian, either. Told us he was a Bulgarian, so he did, but we all know they like to do that before they put the grip on yeh for a copy of deh Big Issues, hah?. (MIMES A NUDGE AND WINKS AGAIN)

CAND: I'm from Crumlin, it's in Dublin, that's in Ireland. Not Nigeria, not anywhere in Africa.

INTVR: So it is, so it is, ye fine thing, yeh. Anyway so, must press on. Time's a divil and waits for no man, hah?. So what would a fine Nigerian lassie like yourself think you could bring to the Fianna Fáil party?

CAND: Well I have a degree in law and a Master's in political science. I've worked with NGOs in my local community on adult literacy and welfare rights and I was auditor of my college Cumann of Fianna Fáil. I'd say I was pretty plugged in at a grass-roots level.

INTVR: Well an education that grand must have cost a fine penny or two. I expect the family pulled some strings to get you in, did they? Would there be diplomats or former dictators in the family then? Maybe an ex-Government minister?

CAND: No. I took the Leaving Cert like everyone else.

INTVR: Nothing to be ashamed of a bit of the old nepotism, eh? Sure there's many a man not an asses roar from here who wouldn't be where they are but for having a Daddy or an Uncle in the right place at the right time (WINKS AGAIN). Anyway so, back to the interview script, them maggots at the Equalities Authority give us a divil of a time if we don't treat everyone the same.

Would you be after playing any sport now? Sure a fine thing like yourself would be a wonder to behold in a camogie kit.

CAND: Well I played a bit of soccer and tennis at college and .....

INTVR: (Nods slowly and prints, even more slowly, 'NO GAA!' on the sheet in front of him). Perhaps you like watching the lads play rugby or the old golf then?

CAND: I don't really have much time to watch sport because of the advocacy work I do with Asylum Seekers in the evenings and weekends.

INTVR: Asylum seekers, is it? No votes in them lads worth speaking of, hah? Still they'll do a good job building a conservatory for the right price should the need arise. Or would that be the Poles? I'm always after mixing them up.

CAND: I think that would be Polish people. Asylum seekers aren't allowed to work.

INTVR: No, and a good job it is too. Sure wouldn't they be after taking the bread from the mouth of the honest Irish working man who fought the Tans to free this nation from the Saxon yoke. (His eyes glaze over and he begins to hum A Nation Once Again).

CAND: Could we get back to the interview, please?

INTVR: Ah yes, the interview. Well, as you know what with the forthcoming election and all, there's going to be a major drain on the auld finances. Them street posters aren't cheap, even with them asylum seekers on nixers to put them up for us. The ideal candidate for our party would be someone who has the kind of talents that could give us a dig-out when the time comes. Would you be that sort of candidate Miss O'Benjamin?

CAND: Well I've done several fund-raising campaigns for the local hospital, fun runs, sponsored walks, that kind of thing....

INTVR: Very good, very good. But I was after thinking of something that could pull in a more substantial contribution. Would you ever have done anything with the auld emails, perhaps? You know the kind of thing, hah? Your people are past masters at it, so I'm told. (PUTS ON A BAD NIGERIAN ACCENT) 'My name is Joseph I am orphan whose parents died in famine. I need money to make sure I get good Christian Catholic education. Please sponsor me Only $200 a month.' Pulls on the auld ones' hearts-strings and their purse strings at the same time that one does. My favourite's about the 11 Million Dollars belonging to the deposed fellah in a numbered bank account. Send on your bank details and the vacuum cleaners have gone to work on it before you can say 'Mazarawe's your uncle'.

CAND: I don't think I could condone that sort of behaviour. It's unethical and almost certainly illegal.

INTVR: Don't be after getting on your high horse with me now, wee girl. This party was built on a lack of ethics and a disregard for the letter of the law. Didn't old Dev start it with the Hospital Sweepstake? Wasn't Charlie the beneficiary of many a brown envelope? And isn't deh current leader after hiding a few skellingtons in his fiscal wardrobe even as we speak? We're a party of tradition but we're not afraid to move with the times. You don't think we're interviewing Nigerians and Rumanians for the fun of it, do yeh? It wouldn't be for the votes you'd bring in that's for sure. It's the scams me dear, the scams. We could do with a few new ones, now the tribunals have copped onto us. The brown envelope has gone the way of the dinosaur. We need fresh blood and fresh ideas if we're to keep the coffers full. And there's always the fact they'd never go after a black face for the fear of being called a bunch of racists. Liberals, hah?

CAND: (Leaves with only the slamming of the door behind her)

INTVR: And what would be the problem with her I wonder? Come in, Mr Caecescu.
Election Smelection Part 2

Sorry Enda, the mean streets of this fair city were a fuck of a lot safer before some eejits started sticking up posters at just the right height to take an unwary pedestrian's eye out.

And just who came up with that slogan anyway, the wife's cousin?