Friday, November 28, 2008

Shelter from the Storm

There’s a chill wind a blowin’ through the Irish blogosphere as the Recession Christmas looms. Sarah Carey is gone. Irish Flirty Something is gone. Twenty Major, awarded the prize for the Best Blog at the Irish Blog Awards since what seems like forever, is gone.

An Spailpín Fánach, however, is going exactly nowhere. I’m staying right here. Don’t all cheer at once.

An Spailpín Fánach got an idea of his influence when Jo’Burger in Rathmines won the award for best restaurant this year. The same Jo’Burger to which An Spailpín devoted a 642 word hammering in these pages back in August. It’s like driving a DeLorean, or drinking that white porter. A man feels so out of step.

But just because people are looking down snouts at you doesn’t mean you should stop doing what you’re doing. Perhaps being thankful that you’re not sporting a porcine proboscis yourself is the first step. Irish Flirty Something, for instance, didn’t care for ladies in the city noticing that she spoke with a "country" accent. Baby, that’s not a bug; that’s a feature. So many things are matters of perspective.

And as such An Spailpín Fánach shall continue to wear a green and red heart on his sleeve, and live and die with the Mayo County team. No bones shall be made about enjoying the singing of Mrs Cole and her friends and Anna Netrebko equally, even though they till different fields. You could be a prop forward or a flying wing, but your team still needs you.

The mysteries of the city of Dublin and my repeated inabilities to find an escape route from same will continue to get coverage, and you’ll also get your spot of Gaeilge every now and again, because it’s good for you and good men took bullets for it.

An Spailpín knows very little, but I do know it’s very hard to even know your own mind, and to be comfortable in your own skin. To try to know other people’s minds, and to try to please them as well, is a bridge too far. So I’m happy enough to rant along happily to myself here by fire, and all are welcome that want to come along. If the opera bores you, call back some other time and please God we’ll be on the football, or vice versa. And if you don’t like it all – sure bejapers why did you bother your head coming down this far at all? Isn’t life short enough?

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Three Cheers for the Gallantry and Glory of the New Zealand All-Blacks

What a wonderful sporting occasion that was at Thomond Park last night. It was a game that existed both out of its time, in the fact that it was played at all, and very much of its time, with the soon to be world famous Munster haka, demonstrating that there’s more to modern Munster multi-culturalism than the traditional mix of Cork and Limerick.

The very fact that New Zealand agreed to the game is astonishing in itself. The last time the All-Blacks played a midweek game, which were once regular features of the tours, of course, was seven years ago, and the last time the All-Blacks played a provincial or club side was when they visited Llanelli at Stradley Park eleven years ago, taking terrible revenge for their defeat there against Delme Thomas’ Scarlets in 1972. Rugby was only turning professional in 1997, but it’s full on now. Making the All-Blacks’, the biggest marquee name in the world game, decision to play Munster last night and turn the clock back to an earlier era, an era of glory before gold, admirable indeed.

It’s fashionable in the rugby press here to have a go at New Zealand as being cynical towards the game. What could be further from the truth? The New Zealanders’ appreciation of the game’s rich history and their own part in it shines like the silver fern on the jersey.

When Tana Umaga was being treated disgracefully here by bandwagon-jumping publicans, the people of Donegal showed their real appreciation of the All-Blacks by giving them such a warm welcome when the New Zealanders made their way to Letterkenny in Donegal – not noted as a rugby heartland – to pay tribute to Dave Gallaher, captain of the “Originals” that toured the British Isles. Letterkenny is the nearest town to Ramilton, the homeplace of the Gallahers before they immigrated to New Zealand, and the local rugby club named their pitch after him.

Always aware of who they are and what they represent, Umaga and the All-Blacks made their way up to open the pitch. There was no glory there. Letterkenny RFC is far from the great cathedrals of the game in Christchurch, in Durban, in Cardiff, but the All-Blacks are aware that the jersey carries duties as well. The game has no finer ambassadors.

There was concern that the game last night would be a massacre when, in an indication of just how professional the game is now, the IRFU didn’t countenance for a second the release of the Munster players from the international squad, with the game against Argentina coming up on Saturday. But last night’s combination of Dad’s army and boys brigade clung to the fundamental core of rugby that lies behind all this old blather about second phase go forward give and goes; rugby is fundamentally a game about smashing. Munster smashed for all they were worth last night; it would not surprise your correspondent if some of those fellas can’t walk this morning as a result. But what a game. What a spectacle. What an event.

The mutual respect for both sides was astonishing. When was the last time you heard complete silence for an opposition kicker? When did the haka, one of the great spectacles of the world game, receive so rapturous a reception? New Zealand can do the dog on the haka, but the reception it got in Limerick last night, including the challenge laid down by their own exiles, was just exhilarating. The Welsh wouldn’t let the All-Blacks perform the haka the last time New Zealand were in Cardiff. An Spailpín Fánach hopes the Welsh won’t let themselves down again this time.

Irish rugby is in a period of transition right now – the golden generation now look likely to hang them up and live the rest of their lives as under-achievers, while the phenomenal success of Munster ironically could prove to be the undoing of the national side. How many provincial sides will risk an Irish player learning his trade at stand-off half when you can go shopping for a Paul Warwick? But these are debates for another day. In the meantime, what a treat to have seen this game, and three loud cheers for New Zealand and their tremendous and endearing sportsmanship. Go n-imrí na Lán-Dubhaigh uaisle go deo.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Marian Finucane Radio Show This Morning

One of Ireland’s leading journalists was a member of the panel on Marion Finucane's radio show this morning. The discussion was about the US Presidential election, and the leading Irish journalist expressed her joy and relief that Sarah Palin did not become Vice-President of the USA.

A guest made the point that, while Palin had her flaws, she was a thrilling public speaker, second only to Obama himself. The leading Irish journalist conceded this point, but went on to accuse Sarah Palin of covert racism in her speeches. The leading Irish journalist went to on say that she heard vox pops after Sarah Palin’s speeches and the people would make comments like “I don’t want no baby-killer in the White House,” or “I don’t want no terrorist in the White House.”

Three points struck your weary narrator about this.

  1. The fact some members of an audience make racist comments does not make the person addressing the audience a racist. You can watch Bosco, for instance, and still be in favour of genocide. That’s not Bosco’s fault.

  2. The question is moot in the example cited anyway, as being anti-abortion and anti-terrorism are not racist positions. Abortion and terrorism are race independent, equal opportunity interests. Anyone can have a go.

  3. When the leading Irish journalist quoted these vox pops, she did so in cod white trash accent, thus betraying an interesting interpretation of racism herself.

An Spailpín likes to think that someone else on the panel stepped in and made these observations, but I don’t know if anyone did or not. And that’s because at that point I turned the radio off, resolving never to listen to Marian Finucane’s Sunday show ever again.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Whom Do Podge and Rodge Think They're Kidding?

The picture above was taken in Smyth's toy store in Blanchardstown last night. It was on a display of Podge and Rodge toys, and it reads (for anyone with monitor issues):

"Podge and Rodge Products
Customers please note that due to strong language this item may not be suitable for younger children."

An Spailpín is curious to know at what age exactly are soft toys and strong language both appropriate for children. An Spailpín hopes never to meet such horrors, whoever they are. And I want to meet their parents even less.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Placido Domingo Duets with Miss Piggy

I found this on You Tube last night and it's so wonderful that I had to post it. If you're having a bad day, if you got perished at the bus stop this morning, if you're listening to a lot yakkety-yak at the office and it's three long weeks 'til payday, give yourself five minutes to listen to Placido and Piggy sing "Sometimes a Day Goes By." Fantastic.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, November 10, 2008

When is a Cork Hurler Not a Cork Hurler?

As the Cork hurling nightmare drags painfully on An Spailpín Fánach can’t help but notice that there is an issue of nomenclature that is being overlooked in the dispute. An issue of nomenclature that, if resolved, could see a radical change of perspective and quick resolution of the dispute.

This is the issue: the group of thirty or so men who like issuing press releases to the Examiner newspaper are referred to in all media as “the Cork hurlers.” And this is plainly not the case.

The question of who hurls for Cork, or for any county, is at the discretion of the manager of that county team. Just because one has hurled for Cork in the past does not mean that one will do so again. In fact, because this is now the off-season, you could argue that there are no Cork hurlers as Cork aren’t actually hurling.

It’s very difficult not to think that Dónal Óg Cusack and his comrades are displaying a stunning level of arrogance in presuming some sort of automatic right to the jersey. If Tomás Mulcahy, John Fenton and Kevin Hennessey, for instance, issued a statement backing the current Cork County Board – who are just people who are passing through as well, of course – would the papers headline the statement as coming from “the Cork hurlers?” Don’t Mulcahy, Fenton and Hennessey deserve the title just as much as Cusack and his comrades? What have John Gardiner and co done on the field of honour that Tomás Mulcahy hasn’t?

The only issue, perhaps, maybe, would be that Dónal Óg still has a role to play in inter-county hurling. An Spailpín Fánach would question that assumption that also. These gentlemen’s inability see bigger pictures would make you wonder just how much a team game suits them.

It’s common in the media to defend Dónal Óg and his comrades by saying that they only want to play – Tom Humphries writes in Saturday’s Irish Times that it “isn’t about playing for Cork. It’s about winning for Cork.”

Up to a point, Lord Copper. All any team can do is play; whether they win or not depends on other factors, not least of whom are the other fellas, who may just fancy winning themselves. Playing a game is an end of itself – winning is an ancillary benefit. It is certainly not something that can be guaranteed.

But, just for pigiron, let’s give Dónal Óg and his comrades the benefit of the doubt. Here’s what Keith Duggan wrote in Sideline Cut on Saturday, where he may have summed up the whole dispute in an aside.

“For the Cork hurlers, it is simple. This group have always been about the very quality Kilkenny have been rightly lauded for - the pursuit of excellence. They believe there is no point playing at all unless the preparation and the attention to detail are second to none.”

No point in playing at all unless everything is just right. One of the common features of children who are spoilt is that they have no interest in playing unless everything is just to their satisfaction. The better brought up children will make the best of things as they are. The latter are more likely to enjoy it, and to enjoy greater benefits from it. Perhaps its not Kieran Mulvey whom is needed by the Cork hurlers but Ms Jo Frost, television’s Supernanny? Would a few hours on the naughty step cause certain parties to get over themselves and get with the program?

Six years since their first strike action, An Spailpín Fánach is still struggling to understand what exactly it is Dónal Óg and co want. After all, Cork have won over one hundred All-Ireland titles across all codes and age groups. Just how bad can the preparation be? How many would they win if they had been prepared correctly?

There’s a fierce amount that doesn’t add up in any of this and the Dónal Óg and his comrades are not being made accountable for their wild statements. For instance, John Gardiner was on Prime Time on Thursday night claiming that Frank Murphy wanted “absolute power.” Miriam O’Callaghan did not ask him to define the term “absolute,” which is pretty far ranging. Does Frank Murphy want the power of life and death, one of the rights enjoyed by the absolute monarchs of Europe before Napoleon and Age of Revolution? This is what we need to know. If Frank is bad that way, then certainly we should be told. But if he’s not, then maybe they shouldn’t say he is.

Miriam asked John Gardiner if it was about pay. Gardiner said “we have no interested in being paid at this time.” The last three words are interesting, aren’t they?

To An Spailpín’s mind, the solution is simple. Gerald McCarthy has only one option. It’s time to phone Eddie Hobbs and, if he’s still elegible, Gerald needs to tell Eddie to start doing laps; he’s going in top of the right on Sunday week for that challenge in Fermoy. Keith Duggan remarks that no-one wants to see a shadow team line out against Tipperary next summer. An Spailpín will sooner see that than see the Association torn asunder by the selfishness of a few who can’t seem to understand that they are only minding jerseys for someone else who’s coming along.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Barack Obama, President-Elect of the United States

How extra-ordinary, how surprisingly moving it’s been to watch footage of events in the United States yesterday, when Barack Obama became President elect of the United States. It’s been a long time since An Spailpín could afford to be an idealist and as such proved resistant to Obama-mania as it swept through the summer and autumn months. I even remember being in Phil Ryan’s bar on the North Circular Road and remarking to a veteran Midwestern Democrat who had been out on the stump for Hubert H. Humphrey that I feared the Democrats had selected themselves another Adlai Stevenson – a lovely man but utterly unelectable. I can only hope if that proud American reads this he can deliver your Spailpín the fool’s pardon.

There’s a very good article in this morning’s Washington Post about the election, and how the economic collapse delivered the White House to the Democrats. McCain was riding high in the polls after trumping Obama’s convention speech with his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, but the economic crisis changed all the rules.

McCain went to Washington to sort it out, but when he returned with one hand as long as the other McCain suddenly looked like a busted flush. And An Spailpín can’t help but get the feeling that McCain himself knew it – one of the significant moments of the election was footage from one of McCain’s town hall meetings when a lady who may not take the New York Times every morning remarked that Barack Obama was an Arab; McCain took the mike off her and paid an eloquent tribute to his opponent, something that you can’t really afford to do when you’re the underdog in a two horse race.

John McCain was unfortunate – not for the first time in his life – in being in the wrong place at the wrong time as the wheel of history turned. He is a patriot, a man that took one for his Uncle Sam and who was smeared shamefully in the North Carolina primary by the Bush campaign in 2000. Interestingly, his greatest contribution to his country, now in the autumn of a life of service to the flag, may be in how nobly he conducted his campaign, never resorting to cheap shots or dirty campaigning. In everything he has done, he has put his country first.

The entire campaign was run by both candidates with such nobility, dignity and patriotism that it’s hard not to think that the shade of Pericles himself may have allowed himself a smile. One of the highlights, one of the great moments of hope, in the campaign was the Al Smith dinner, when the candidates ribbed each other in their speeches with such dignity, such wit and good humour, and such a tremendous level of respect for each other, that you couldn’t help but think that there may be hope for us all yet. And even the most dedicated hater of Sarah Palin had to admire Palin’s moxie – such an American word! – for sharing a stage with her arch-tormentrix, Tina Fey, on Saturday Night Live.

Tina Fey herself came up with one of the great lines of the campaign when she remarked, in character, that listening to Obama was like “listening to angel whisper in your ear.” Watching the President elect in Chicago’s Grant Park address his faithful and attempt to sum up his journey – with a possibly even more arduous one ahead of him – it was hard not to think that Fey, as ever, was exactly on the money. He really is a beautiful, beautiful public speaker.

An Spailpín is not himself a black American and has been spared a Bono complex by a merciful God but it has been extraordinary to see the reaction among major figures in that community, not least Condoleeza Rice, who gave a press conference today in which she nearly broke down in tears of joy. And Condi is on the other side entirely.

And that’s what makes all this so thrilling. The thrilling thing is that democracy does work. That anybody can be President. That there are no barriers to talent. That if you work hard, you can get there. That everybody has a shot.

It always fashionable to deride America, to say the United States was just as bad as her enemies, ignoring the fact that every four years America elects who she wants, and nothing comes in the way of that process. Lincoln was right when he said that freedom was of the people, by the people and for the people and every four years America underlines this. Nothing comes in the way of that. She has made her decision how, and all the world must hope that the road rises for the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Scéal Bertie Ahern Aréir

Nárbh fíor-spéisiúil an clár teilifíse aréir ar Bhertie Ahern, iar-Thaoiseach na hÉireann? Shíleas féin, ar dtús, nach mbeidh ann ach obair sneachta, mar a deirtear i Meiriceá, ach taispeánadh cuid Bertie nár thaispeánadh riamh. Bíonn Bertie cúramach, cúramach, cúramach go deo, ach seo é an chéad uair riamh nuair a bhfuarthas sracfhéachaint ar an bhfear féin.

Bhíodh Bertie Ahern agus ré Bertie, ré an Tíogair Cheiltigh, go dtuga Dia trócaire ar an bpiscín bocht, á chánach riamh nár bhaineadh creideamh éigin taobh thiar an ré. Dúirt Alan Dukes, an Taoiseach is fearr nach raibh againne riamh, nár shíleadh sé go raibh radharc éigin ag Bertie conas an thír a feabhsú, a dhéanamh níos fearr ná mar a bhíodh. Agus is léir ón gclár aréir go raibh an cheart ag Dukes; níor bhac Bertie agus a dhream le tada seachas an chumhacht.

Toghadh Bertie don gcéad uair i 1977, agus d'adhmail sean-chairde Bertie Ahern, a bhí ar an sráideanna ar a shon an aimsir sin, nach raibh suim dá laghad acu i bhFianna Fáil ná an polaitíocht. Cheapadar gurb a dtáirge é Ahern, agus bhí orthu é a díol le daoine an cheantair mar a dhíolfadh mála prátaí. Ní mbaineann mórán uaisleachta leis an straitéis sin, agus bá léir go raibh daoine i bhFianna Fáil curtha amach leis fós, tríocha bliain slán uathu anois.

Agus Bertie istigh i gcumhacht anois, bhí air a chumhacht a feabhsú agus a choinneáil níos daingne arís. Scrios Bertie agus a dhream - an "Drumcondra Mafia" - roinnt sean-chumann a bhíodh sa cheantar le fada, fada an lá, agus níor thaispeánadh mórán meas ar an seandream sin - cuid acu a sheas le Dev féin, is dócha - aréir. "The Yellow Rose of Finglas" a chur duine acu ar Jim Tunney, fear a rinne rud ar son a thíre, agus bhí blas gránna ar an gcaint sin. Dúirt duine eile acu nárbh ann sa sean-chumainn sin ach seandaoine ag bualadh le chéile "ar son tae agus bogchaint ar 1916." Is tír eile an t-am atá thart dár leis na Maifiosi seo.

Ní chóir gan scríobh go bhfuil fíor-bhua polaitíochta ag Bertie Ahern, gur thug sé síocháin sa Thuaisceart agus saibhreas sa Dheisceart, rud nach mbíodh ag ceachtar acu céanna seo. Ach tá boladh gránna ann freisin maidir leis an dtóir cumhachta seo, agus an drochmheas a thaispeánadh ar an seandhream Fianna Fáil, daoine dá leithéid George Colley nó Jim Tunney. Agus déanann Bertie an madra le chuid dá scéalta. Mar shampla:

Déantar roinnt cainte i gcónaí maidir le Bertie agus a grá spóirt. Bhí an bhogchaint seo ar an gclár aréir, agus Bertie ag bladaráil maidir lena óige mar pheileadóir. Ach níor chonaiceamar ach pictiúr amháin, agus sa phictiúr sin cé go raibh na buachaillí eile ag caitheamh léinte spóirt, bhí a éadaigh sráide ar Bertie. Nuair a chonaic do Spailpín é, tháinig na sean focail Chathail Uí hEoghaigh arís im' chloigín: "An fear is cliste, is glice, is neamhthrócairigh don gcuid go léir." Táim ag tnúth go mór leis an dara chlár.

Technorati Tags: , , ,