Friday, December 31, 2004

An Unexpected Visitor

While drowsing in front of the fire just now, An Spailpín had a very strange dream. I dreamt that the sitting room floor opened up in front of me and who should arise from the hole with a whiff a sulphur only the Devil himself.

"A Spailpín," he said, for the Devil has the Irish of course, "I am He that was called Lucifer, the Brightest of the Angels while in Heaven, and am now called Satan, which means The Enemy. I am risen from my infernal pit to ask you to make one of three choices: you may either watch the RTÉ smugathon that is The Panel, or you may watch Showbands, the Kerry Katona vehicle which RTÉ seem to have pumped money into even though there are many fine holes in the ground that need filling, or you may come with me to the hob of Hell itself, where you will be sautéed for all eternity. Cad a thaitníodh uait, a Spailpín? We have no time to lose?"

"A Nick, a chara," sez I back to him as I put my arm around his scaly shoulders, "is there any chance I could bring me own briquettes?"

I'm awake now of course, and I realise that it was all a dream but do you know, I'm not sure if I wouldn't make the same choice sober? RTÉ are some boys.

A New Year's Resolution for the Irish Nation

There's a fascinating story in today's Independent that may tell us something about who the Irish are and where we are going as a nation while 2004 makes its exit and 2005 takes its bow. It seems that the considerably majority - fourteen out of a total of seventeen - of accidents invoving the LUAS, the new light rail system in Dublin, are caused by cars running the lights.

This type of accident is unique to the Irish experience. It does not happen in other countries. In the report, Ray Allen, CEO of the Railway Procurement Authority, who are in charge of the LUAS, cites one accident where the first car that jumped the light missed the tram - it was the intellect in the second car, the one chasing the first red light breaker, who wasn't so much late for the last green as early for the next, that got broadsided.

Ray Allen says that there isn't a head left unscratched between the Gardaí and the RPA from trying to figure this mystery out, these accidents that are atypical of experience anywhere else that has a system to comparable to the LUAS. Perhaps I may make a suggestion?

Red light jumping is endemic in Dublin. An Spailpín himself has often floored it on the first twinkle of amber, not so much from a need for speed on my own part but blind terror that the foglamped yahoo behind my was going to bash into my stopped motor at the lights if I didn't exit and try my luck. The next time that you jump a light in Dublin - and, friends, we all know that you will, whether you want to or not - take a peek in the mirror, and you'll see you have one follower at the very least.

What is the reason for this idiocy? Well, the fear of getting rear-ended is An Spailpín's chief gripe. But I have also noticed just how much of a hurry we're in, how high the pressure builds when you're in traffic and how much, after a pronlonged period of being stuck, you're inclined to make the most of the open road. Factor in the fact that, if you don't cross the lights now, the standard of driving in Dublin is so extraordinarily poor that there's a good chance some goose will simply block the junction from incompetence or raw selfishness and you'll be another hour on Pearse St - well, while we can never forgive we can very easily understand.

The reason that the traffic is so very badly congested in Dublin is spectacularly poor planning, of course. The standard whine from the Corpo or Dublin City Council or whatever it is they're calling themselves now is that heavy traffic is the price of our fancy city living and we must accept it. Just as we were supposed to accept dysentry, cholera and streets strewn with sewage before some saint invented the flush toilet. Or just as we accepted that we got wet in the rain before someone invented the anorak. For God's sake, what sort of an excuse is that, that it's just the way it is? Surely these goons' job is to ensure that nothing is ever the way it is, that they're working their buns off to make sure everything is getting better and better all the time? What else is the point? Do you want proactive or reactive public administration?

The planners are several years off the pace with how quickly Dublin has developed. The developement of Dublin is therefore and in consequence highly unplanned, and the bizarre traffic and housing patterns are a result of this tremendous and glaring lack of planning. And the reason that development outstripped planning is because greedy and avarcious politicans couldn't stuff the gelt into their pockets quickly enough. And the reason these venial swine were in charge in the first place was because we voted them in. We, the people, in whom all authority derived from God is invested, may use that power as wisely or as foolishly as we see fit.

For 2005, let's try to wise up a little, before the whole Eastern seaboard breaks off into the sea? Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Midlands Eviction

"It's well I do remember on a bleak November's day,
The landlord and his agent came to drive us all away;
He set my house on fire with his demon English spleen
And that's another reason why I left Old Skibbereen."

Today's news that the Minister for Justice, Mr Michael McDowell, and his wife, Professor Niamh Brennan, have finally been granted planning permission for their home outside Roosky, Co Roscommmon, will have come as a relief to all concerned citizens of the Republic. Not alone is the Minister's decision to move to Roosky a fine blow in the Government's continuing fight for decentralisation, as, of course, most people in that area are high-tailing it in the opposite direction, but the memory of eight hundred years of oppression and eviction is far too strong in the peasant folk memory for the nation to have been able to withstand the pain of seeing Mr McDowell and Professor Brennan put out on the road while the henchmen and hired thugs of Roscommon County Council razed the little homestead to its very foundations.

How terrible it would have looked on television, the battering ram of the Ros (and how appropriate that is in the land of the sheep stealer) crashing through the front door of the family home, that same door that had sheltered Michael and Niamh and all the little McDowells from the harsh winter of the Irish midlands. The Council overseer twirls the ends of his moustache, watching Michael make one last dash for the house, the home, the castle that he had raised from the mortal clay with his very hands, only for McDowell to be fiercely and fiendishly driven back by the scoundrels in Roscommon County Council's employ, smelling vilely of today's Woodbines and last night's plain porter.

Professor Brennan, the ever-loyal wife, rushes to where her man lies beaten and broken on the roadside, lying in the ditch among the nettles. She cradles his head in her arms and wraps him in her shawl to protect him from the driving sleet. "A Mhícheál, a stór, a rún," she croons, "don't be worrying yourself - tomorrow is another day, and the if the green land of Erin can find no place for you and I and our family, then the golden island of Amerikay, where you can look a man in the eye without tipping your cap to the gentry, will find us refuge."

"Do you hear that, you black hearted swine!," she cries, fiercely shaking a wiry fist at the moustachioed overseer, "there've been McDowells in the Ros, the constant heart of Ireland, since 2002 and it's neither you nor your sleevens that'll be driving us away!"

And then she goes back to comforting her man, while collecting the shards of his shattered spectacles that lie on the roadside. The children huddle together, numb from the cold and frightened of the future, while the flames begin to break through the roof of that place that once they had called home.

I'm telling you, it would have looked just terrible on the Six O'Clock News this evening. I am relieved.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Are Champion Sports Branching Out?

An Spailpín was just driving through the city at night, having an Iggy Pop moment, listening to Friday Night Eighties on the wireless in his chariot, when he heard the most remarkable ad.

The ad was for Champion Sports. It concerns a young man who unwraps a gift from his mother.

"What's this?" says he.

"It's the strip of your favourite team," replies the mother.

"But it's the away strip. I wanted the home strip. Everyone knows the home strip is better than the away strip. You've ruined it," says the stripling, before finishing with "I hate you."

And then the strangest thing happened - some sort of reverie descended, possibly due to my driving through a cloud of that gamma radation that made so much money for Dr David Banner's tailor. Either way, something got into my system as I thought, I laboured under the illusion, I somehow got the impression, that the ad went out to say that if mothers didn't want to face such harsh words from their succubi, they ought leg it down to Champion Sports fairly lively.

But I know this can only be the awful side effect of that gamma radiation, a cloud of which must have been blowing in from Wales or somewhere. Surely no sane person would run an ad like that and expect to sell soccer shirts to the mothers of petulant young men as a result. As such, I can only presume that Champion Sports are branching out into the corporal punishment business.

I'm sure that in the real world, instead of attempting to blackmail mothers who went through God only knows what to deliver of the infants in the first place, Champion Sports are supplying a corrective, a coporal punishment solution, to put manners on one's stripling in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

It can only be the case, then, that Champion Sports are pleased to introduced a product like Dr Whippy's Stingray, hand crafted by artists from the two most basic of woods - the ash plant, for flexibility, and the sally rod, for durability. Dr Whippy's Stingray makes a lovely ffffttt! sound as it whizzes through the air, before connecting smartly with the botty of the chastisee. Next time out, if Junior is delivered the away strip of Accrington Stanley, he will say thank you, and say it pretty damned promptly. So that's a relief.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

An MBA Ain't What It Used to Be

Trinity Southern University, Texas, is one of those Halls of Academia that awards online degrees. For $299, they awarded an MBA degree, a Masters in Business Administration, to one Colby Nolan of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Nolan did not have to attend any classes - it isn't entirely clear if any classrooms actually exist at Trinity Southern - but was awarded the MBA on the basis of Nolan's resume, which listed Nolan's experience in retail management and baby-sitting.

There is only one little snag - Colby Nolan is a six year old black cat belonging to a deputy attorney general of Harrisburg, PA, and Harrisburg, PA, is currently engaged in suing Trinity Southern University con brio - the state is seeking permanent injunction, civil penalties, costs and restitution for violating consumer law and restrictions on unsolicited e-mail ads. You can read about it on - once you pick yourself up from the floor.